Saturday 30 September 2023

Personally I can't see past the cowardice

Rishi Sunak mocked in leaked WhatsApps as grassroots Tories vow to 'go to war' with party's liberals

The Conservative Party Conference is set to start in Manchester this weekend - potentially the last before the next general election. Last year's was marred by infighting over the mini-budget and the leadership of Liz Truss.

Gosh, are we seeing a glimpse of sanity in the Tory ranks? Tory infighting is certainly welcome, especially if this is the kind of thing being said - 

One activist said: "It's time to go to war … unfortunately it's with the liberals in our party. Needs to be done we need the party back."

They go on: "Listening to my local party's WhatsApp broadcast it's like the last days of Rome… carrying on with the same old policies that have lost year after year. Ignoring actual conservatives and a conservative message… preferring to appear liberal to appease the middle class liberal climate guilt voters…. Personally I can't see past the cowardice…. I'm pretty sure that's all the public see too."

A Reminder

Its bland assumption of authority

Another Dorothy Bowers quote. It refers to the BBC of course. 

The mute acceptance by their audiences of whatever they cared to give them was too much taken for granted. What was it to be outspoken when nobody could call your bluff? Mr. Flood had reminded him of his portable wireless at home; how often had its bland assumption of authority provoked in him a desire to shout it down!

Dorothy Bowers - Shadows Before (1939)

Friday 29 September 2023

Her teeth were ingratiating

One of the attractions of Kindle books is serendipity - it is quite easy to find obscure writers who wrote well but for various reasons are now largely forgotten. One I came across this year was a writer of detective stories, Dorothy Bowers.

Dorothy Violet Bowers (1902-1948) was born in Leominster, the daughter of a confectioner. The family moved to Monmouth in 1903 where her father ran his own bakery until he retired in 1936. Educated at the Monmouth High School for Girls, Bowers received a scholarship for Oxford and, displaying the dogged tenacity evident throughout her short life, sat the Latin entrance exam three times before she was finally accepted.

There isn’t much online biographical information beyond the above link. Bing AI says there is no biography and a web search is liable to throw up a photo from an Italian site which is the wrong Dorothy Bowers. 

What information there is suggests she had a difficult time of it before achieving success, only for a very promising career to be cut short by her untimely death from TB in 1948. Although she took on temporary jobs teaching history and English, her books suggest she never enjoyed it, maybe even loathed it.

THOUGH Miss Betony had been governess to successive generations of children for the best part of thirty-five years, there was not one of her pupils with whom she had since kept up a correspondence, except Grace Aram. The reasons for this were inherent in her own character. In the first place, she had no sentimental feelings about children, whose obscure cruelties had never ceased to make her wince. Privately, she thought them odious, and wondered increasingly why the thought should have to be private.

Fear for Miss Betony (1941)

“And then, still more surprising,” went on Miss Tidy, who had not heard him, “she continued with her sickening old routine job as if nothing had happened! It was the talk of the place.”

“Dear me,” Lecky said jocularly, “is teaching as bad as all that?”

“I taught once. Believe me.” She sounded grim.

The Bells at Old Bailey (1947)

She also compiled crossword puzzles for John O’London Weekly under the pseudonym “Daedalus”, yet eventually Dorothy Bowers managed to have five books published, being sufficiently highly regarded to become a member of the Detection Club. I’ve read three of her books because she could certainly write, sometimes reminding me of Josephine Tey.

There is a robust clarity to her writing, which for this reader is a constant reminder that her times were not ours. In the first few chapters of Fear for Miss Betony, she paints a vivid picture of retired teacher Emma Betony in the midst of finding reasons to avoid the genteel temptations of an almshouse for “Decayed Gentlewomen”. 

Part of Miss Betony's antipathy towards the security of almshouse life is that socially she is not quite a “decayed gentlewoman” and has no wish to see herself in that way, her father having been a grocer. The alternative is a increasingly untenable existence, surviving as best she can on a small income in Mrs Flagg’s London boarding house. After that, the parish.

It was nearly teatime when she got in. The hall was dim and a little odorous still. Noon, with its attendant aroma, lingered overlong at Mrs. Flagg’s. Emma glanced left at the table where the afternoon post might be found. There was nothing there, but as she went by to the stairs a door on the right opened and Mrs. Flagg, in a whispering brown dress, came out of her private sitting room. In the quick gush of light from her own window her rigid black hair looked more than ever like a wig. It seemed to Emma for one flickering second that she had moved towards the hall table. The next she was coming up to her with something in her hand. “Your letters, Miss Betony.” Her teeth were ingratiating.

Fear for Miss Betony (1941)

On track to be the same or worse

Sweden: Military could help tackle 'unprecedented' surge in violence

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is considering how the armed forces can help police after the country's deadliest month since December 2019. The violence has been linked to a feud between the rival factions of a criminal gang known as the Foxtrot network.

It is not until the end of the article that we are given a hint about the source of the violence, already well enough known to everyone who pays attention.

Sweden had liberal immigration policies for many decades and took in more immigrants per capita than any other European nation during the 2015 migration crisis.

Around a fifth of Sweden's 10.5 million inhabitants were born abroad.

More than 60 people died in shootings last year in Sweden, the highest figure on record.

This year is on track to be the same or worse.

Thursday 28 September 2023

The nature of the problem

Ben Sixsmith has a useful Critic piece on predictable hand-wringing responses to Suella Braverman’s multiculturalism-critical speech.

Contra Braverman’s critics

Liberals and leftists wring their hands while avoiding the real issues

Now the dust has settled following Suella Braverman’s multiculturalism-critical speech to the American Enterprise Institute in the United States, it’s worth looking at some of the claims of her critics. Such is their tone of moral opprobrium and intellectual haughtiness that they must have torn the Home Secretary limb from rhetorical limb — no?

We can skip over the likes of Mehdi Hasan, who can’t get their heads around the fact that a child of immigrants might be critical of immigration. I thought it was us villainous right-wingers who were meant to believe that individuals should be defined solely by their ethnic heritage, but apparently it’s nice progressives. Ah well. You live and learn.

Easily the dumbest responses come from people who deny that there are problems at all. “What is the basis for the claim that many arrivals live a separate existence in a parallel society?” Gavin Barwell chirrups. “I live in one of the most diverse parts of the country. You’re talking about my friends and neighbours. It is untrue and deeply offensive to suggest they’re not part of our society.”

Sixsmith then goes on to blow Gavin Barwell out of the water by reminding us of a list of multicultural failings. The whole piece is quite short and well worth reading as another hint that the pendulum may just have begun to swing back. Probably too late though.

The plain fact is that there are no smoothly effective means of integrating immigrants on the scale that they have entered Western European nations — and, contra Braverman, one cannot draw a clear distinction between legal and illegal immigration here. Combine a lot of different ingredients together in one dish, in great quantities, and your cooking methods become less than wholly relevant. This is not to denigrate immigration, still less immigrants (full disclosure: I am one). It is a question of numbers, and our chin-stroking, forehead-rubbing discourse in the normal language of border management is not up to the job. Braverman at least appreciates the nature of the problem — even if, after decades of Conservative promises, words sound a lot cheaper than they should.

An obvious incapacity

An obvious incapacity for abstract conceptions made him peculiarly susceptible to the magic of generalization, and one felt he would have been at the mercy of any Cause that spelled itself with a capital letter.

Edith Wharton - Crucial Instances (1901)

It isn’t only the magic of causes or even Causes. An incapacity for abstract conceptions divides people, as does a susceptibility to the magic of generalisation. Compare the two as Wharton did and perhaps we have a major political divide because the political classes love the magic of generalisation. So do I because that’s a generalisation too, but easily observed.

It is another aspect of the magic of simplicity versus the effort of nuance and complexity. Take the Russell Brand case as an example. Swamping the abstract conception of innocent until proven guilty, we had the immediate magic of generalisation - a rampant libido casting the shadow of guilt. So powerful is it that innocent until proven guilty seems like a legalistic quibble.

We see another example with climate change where the magical generalisation of “almost all scientists agree” outweighs the scientific method, the abstract conception which brought us here. The generalisation isn’t even sound, but it doesn’t have to be because the magic also dispenses with the need to check. Again it’s the magic of simplicity versus the effort of tackling nuance and complexity.

Or take this example where the Labour party has stated its intention to extract more money from private education.

Last night, reports emerged that Labour has U-turned on its plans to remove the charitable status of private schools.

However, it has now emerged that, while Labour still plans to force independent schools to pay VAT, it will no longer remove their charitable status.

A party spokesperson said: "Our policy remains. We will remove the unfair tax breaks that private schools benefit from, to fund desperately needed teachers and mental health counselling in every secondary school.

The supposed need for mental health counselling in every secondary school is one of those magical generalisations, aligned in this case with long-standing political spite. The far more complex and politically difficult question of why the counselling is needed in every school is evaded by the generalisation. 

Wave the magic wand of generalisation and another can is kicked down the road.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

It might have been better to educate them

Climate change: Six young activists take on 32 governments in court case which could be legal 'game-changer'

The largest climate case ever heard by the European Court of Human Rights has opened in Strasbourg. The "unprecedented" case could force governments to accelerate their climate change efforts and set a precedent for future legal battles.

The six activists - aged between 11 and 24 - have filed the case against the 27 EU member states as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey.

Impeach the mutt

Joe Biden's dog bites another Secret Service agent - for an 11th time

Joe Biden's dog has bitten yet another member of the US Secret Service - the 11th time such an incident has happened.

The US president's German shepherd attacked the agent at the White House on Monday evening, a Secret Service spokesperson said.

The female officer needed medical treatment on site after the incident but is now "doing just fine", according to the Service's chief of communications, Anthony Guglielmi.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

In thrall to St Greta

Roger Watson has an interesting TCW piece on the increasingly woke nature of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is in thrall to St Greta

IF anyone reading this can afford it, could they please pay the money to whoever it is who has captured the Roman Catholic Church and is holding it to ransom?

The past two years have seen an increasing level of politically charged nonsense from CAFOD (Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) — of which the Catholic Church increasingly seems like the religious bit that is tagged on — on climate change and families (which was also about climate change).

Leaving Mass on Sunday morning, I noticed a pile of glossy leaflets and picked one up. I wish I hadn’t. This leaflet described ‘An environmental policy for our diocese’ (Middlesbrough).

As I walked home before reading it, I made a mental note of some ‘trigger’ words and phrases that would get my goat and, sure enough, they were all there. Thus, the reader is treated to the evils of ‘capitalist economies’, ‘global warming’, ‘green energy’, ‘disinvest[ment] from fossil fuels’, ‘solar panels’, ‘consumption of meat’ and questioning ‘whether we need to fly’. And there was more.

Even for outsiders the whole piece is worth reading as a reminder of a more general issue, the issue of leaders who follow instead of leading. As if many modern leaders have been inserted into their positions because of that politically useful characteristic.

Of course, we should ‘reduce our consumption of meat’ and ‘give careful consideration to whether we really need to fly’. It seems that the Catholic Church really has been captured by left-wing environmental activists who simply want to make life more miserable for everybody. I don’t suggest for a minute that the Church should ‘stay in its lane’. But, instead of issuing advice, much it based on dodgy data, it should be providing a balanced view of social and political issues, including environmental issues, and get back to telling us how to be, rather than what to do.

How to stay warm during those dark winter evenings

Fossil fuels ‘becoming obsolete’ as solar panel prices plummet

Solar costs down nearly 90 per cent over last decade in huge boost for renewable energy

The falling costs of batteries and other renewable technologies could also help supercharge the trend towards cleaner energy and meeting climate targets.

“Some calculations even suggest that the world’s entire energy consumption in 2050 could be completely and cost-effectively covered by solar technology and other renewables,” said Felix Creutzig, who led the research.

An image too far

Lib Dem with their tails in the air? That's an image too far for me.

Lib Dems have their tails in the air once again - just don't mention Brexit | Beth Rigby

The Lib Dems have struggled at general elections since their coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, but they are daring to dream of becoming Westminster's third-biggest party once more when voters next go to the polls.

Monday 25 September 2023

In an impassioned debate

Her feeling of defiance had reached such a pitch that she preferred that no one should understand. She was content to be justified by the impassioned sincerity of her desires.

F. Scott Fitzgerald – All the Sad Young Men (1926)

Lib Dem members defy leadership on housing target

Liberal Democrat members have defied the party leadership by voting to keep the party's housebuilding target for England.

Party bosses had wanted to shelve the 380,000 annual target, arguing it had failed to deliver necessary new homes.

But members backed a motion from younger activists to keep it at the party's conference in Bournemouth.

In an impassioned debate, the activists said ditching an overall target risked alienating younger voters.

It's not dissimilar to playing poker with buttons. Those younger activists want to play with more buttons. Oh well - it passes the time and there are no real consequences. Hence the impassioned debate, it's what Lib Dems do.

Back to the pre industrial age

Derrick Berthelsen has a useful Critic piece on the inescapable consequences of Net Zero. Nothing we don't know, but worth saying again and again.

The new normal of net zero

A dash to net zero requires significant lifestyle changes

Last week, PM Rishi Sunak made a speech on the UK’s net zero policies. The BBC described it as an overhaul of the government’s green commitments, designed to meet net zero targets the UK has made internationally.

Rishi himself has been quick to make clear that nothing in these changes reduces his commitment to reach net zero by 2050, however. Despite one of the stand out policies being a delay to the end of petrol and diesel car sales in the UK from 2030 to 2035 (moving to be in line with the EU), motor industry sources have been informed that government plans to force manufacturers to meet minimum targets for selling electric cars will still come into effect from next year.

In other words, the changes appear to be more about presentation than a fundamental shift in Government policy. It is clear that the policy will require significant lifestyle changes if it is to be achieved.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder that eventually we will be expected to accept and build our lives around an intermittent electricity supply which largely depends on the wind blowing and the sun shining.

People should be completely clear what this means. We are looking at a world where energy use returns to the pre industrial age: dependent on the weather. People may not be able to have a cup of tea or a shower when they want. Watch the TV when they want. Wash their clothes when they want. Put the heating on when they want. People may have to run their lives around when the wind blows or the sun shines. It could take society back to a time when the weather ruled over our energy use and life choices.

Sunak may be making presentational changes to his policies, but the plan is still the same. He claims he wants to be honest with people about what the plan means. If so, he should start by telling people the truth — that the dash to net zero before the technology exists means significant changes to the way people live their lives.

Is that what you want? What you voted for?

Sunday 24 September 2023


I picked up on this article after reading Macheath's post on modern witchcraft and irrational magical beliefs. There is a lot of it about in our supposedly rational, secular age.

Kate Moss ‘moonbathes’ to absorb lunar energy as part of her wellness regime

Kate Moss has revealed that she spends her nights lying under the light of the moon to soak up lunar energy in an ayurvedic practice known as “moonbathing”.

The supermodel told The Sunday Times that she had adopted the ancient technique in order to absorb the lunar rays, which are believed to have numerous health and spiritual benefits.

Moonbathing, believed to be thousands of years old, flips the concept of sunbathing on its head, and involves lying down or going for a walk in a restful and private place under the moonlight.

Proponents claim it helps to treat diseases such as hives, rashes, hypertension, migraines, and other inflammatory conditions, as well as soothing excess heat and anger.

Ms Moss, 49, said she uses the full light of the moon to cleanse and charge her crystals, which she puts on a tray and leaves outside in the garden.

To reflect the will of the nation

Lib Dem conference: Steve Coogan and Carol Vorderman lead rally for proportional representation

The comedian and the presenter are among high profile backers for the party, using video messages to call for electoral reform and "reflect the will of the nation".

Statistics from the party said the Conservatives now have 56% of seats in the Commons, despite only receiving 44% of total vote share at the last election.

Lib Dem parliamentary representation in the Commons amounts to a mere 1.6%, even though they secured 11.6% of the vote.

Once in power, none of the main political parties has any interest in trying to "reflect the will of the people", whatever that means. A more equitable distribution of seats would reflect the power of the media, propaganda and voting habits, but that's what happens now. 

Seat numbers aren't particularly important if government policies are almost entirely passed top-down from the permanent administration, which they most certainly are. All Lib Dems would do is present things slightly differently, bungling and totalitarian incompetence would become more virtuous. 

It's not easy to see why celebrities endorse political parties. No good can come from mingling with charlatans and nutters.

Saturday 23 September 2023

Broken social contract

Ed Dorrell has a very interesting CAPX piece on how lockdown has changed parental attitudes towards school attendance.

Covid has broken the social contract between parents and schools

I spend a lot of time talking to parents in focus groups about all sorts of educational issues, but it still took me ages to get to the bottom of why school attendance has fallen off a cliff.

I had absentmindedly assumed that it was down to a grim combination of a few things: the many mental health troubles affecting young people today that relate to the pandemic; remote working making it easier for parents to keep their kids at home with a sniffle; the cost-of-living crisis biting in such a way that there are many more families who are struggling to get the basics right.

But I was missing the mark. While all of those factors play some role in the fact that persistent school absence has doubled since the end of the pandemic – the main reason is deeper, more intractable, and much more worrying.

In short, the social contract between parents and schools was broken by Covid. A report that I co-authored and that was published yesterday found that parents across the country – and across all classes – no longer believe it is their responsibility to get their kids to school full time.

The idea of mandatory full-time schooling appears to be dying.

The whole piece is well worth reading, in part because other attitudes may have changed and other social contracts may have been broken. 

Attitudes towards GP services for example. In a wider sense, lockdown may have changed attitudes in ways which have yet to become apparent, such as attitudes towards services which are important and those we could do without because during lockdown we did do without them.

The messaging – which is factually correct, by the way – that every single day in school matters simply doesn’t wash anymore. If schools were shuttered for six months during Covid, then why would a day or two off to go to Alton Towers matter, went the argument I heard time and again.

One working class mum put it like this to me: ‘Pre-Covid, I was very much about getting the kids into school, you know, attendance was a big thing. Education was a major thing. After Covid, I’m not gonna lie to you, my take on attendance and absence now is like I don’t really care anymore. Life’s too short.’

Ed's Crisis List

Rishi Sunak 'does not give a damn' about climate change, Ed Miliband claims

The shadow net zero secretary said Mr Sunak saw the drive to cut emissions as an obligation forced on him rather than an economic opportunity.

"We face three crises as a country," Mr Miliband told the online conference of Labour's sister Co-operative Party.

"We face a cost-of-living crisis, we face a long-term economic crisis and we face a climate crisis."

It isn't easy to see this as a criticism, especially from a weird chap claiming to be "shadow net zero secretary". It's feeble, but Ed always was feeble. 

How did he rise to a position where his feeble speeches are reported nationally, as if they contain something of interest?

Friday 22 September 2023

A Ford salesman won't sell you an Audi

Alexander McKibbin fires a hefty TCW broadside at our political leaders.

Shake the money tree – Sunak’s answer to everything

EVERY day it seems that Great Britain sinks deeper into a quicksand of imbecility, ignorance and fantasy, largely of its own making. Mere denizens of this benighted land can only watch in silent horror, spectators to a slow-motion train crash, the ending of which we can envisage with blinding clarity.

Hearing the increasingly ludicrous pronouncements of MPs, like many others I ponder a simple question: ‘Do they live on the same planet as me?’

Last week we were treated to a bumper crop of absurdity, no more so than our own Prime Minister passing comment on the alleged Chinese spying at Westminster. Addressing the media throng, Mr Sunak put on his most serious face and accompanying pious voice, declaiming the ‘sanctity’ of Parliament. Millions watching must have bellowed ‘Pull the other one’, or perhaps something more excoriating. The Prime Minister has remained strangely mute on the list of establishment panjandrums on the CCP-run Huawei’s payroll. No pertinent views expressed on the sanctity of these former senior civil servants and quango bosses, and therefore of Whitehall and Government?

It is well worth reading the whole piece because another bumper crop of absurdity will arrive before along.

MPs, with a handful of exceptions, have shown themselves to be a largely lacklustre group of individuals, incapable of independent thought and analysis, who have routinely voted through reams of misguided legislation. Perhaps most crippling was the 2008 Climate Change Act, piloted though Parliament by pantomime villain Ed Miliband. This outrageous Act will have catastrophic consequences for every single person in the UK. Currently we are merely suffering the tip of (a no doubt melting) iceberg.

This cheerful TCW comment is where the post title comes from. Puts it very well I'd say.

Personally I think we’ve had it.

Todays MP is not driven to serve his constituents, he’s a salesman for state policy. It’s all top down. You may as well try to get a Ford salesman to sell you an Audi. They’ve determined what’s ‘good for us’ and their goal is to give us what they’ve decided we need. They speak with one voice like Lords of the Manor handing down the Kings proclamations. Asking why is a waste of effort - because the King said. so shut up serf - but politely of course “we/I understand your concerns ..blah, blah, blah… but we’ve carefully crafted this policy to make all our lives utopian.. “ so we are going to ignore you.

Let them eat cake

From the video description -

Following in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette, on September 21, 2023 members of the World Economic Forum met in Versailles. They promote net-zero for the peasants.

The Ghost of Jo Swinson

Lib Dems gear up for 'celebratory' conference - but can they keep up the momentum?

As the party heads to Bournemouth for its annual gathering following a raft of by-election wins, we reveal the key themes for the weekend and why there is still trepidation when anyone mentions coalition governments.

The morning after the last election, the Liberal Democrats were left licking some pretty deep wounds.

The single issue ballot saw Boris Johnson and his Tories bring home a landslide victory with their promise to "Get Brexit Done", while Jo Swinson's pledge to reverse the referendum saw Lib Dem numbers in the Commons shrink from 21 to 11 - with even the leader ousted from her seat.

It is surely odd that anyone still takes the Lib Dems seriously enough to pick up their voter's crayon and put a cross against the name of a Lib Dem candidate. 

Nothing good will come of it - apart from Lib Dems the entire universe knows this. Jo Swinson did us all a favour by exposing its creepy, rotten little middlebrow 'we know best' heart.

Not that the Tories and Labour are any better but it's a low bar, so surely the Lib Dems should make more effort. Getting rid of "Sir" Ed Davey would be a start.

And my dad has a Hillman Minx


Thursday 21 September 2023

Painfully non-essential

An interesting question for historians of the future - why was drivel so widely addictive among official communicators and the media? Here's an example from last week.

Derbyshire County Council could stop non-essential spending amid £46m debt

Derbyshire County Council could stop all non-essential spending and implement a recruitment freeze as a £46m budget black hole brings it to the "edge of bankruptcy".

It said the overspend had prompted "very painful" budget decisions...

Many of Derbyshire County Council's services are not statutory - meaning it does not legally have to provide them.

A freeze on all but statutory services may be issued if the authority cannot meet a balanced budget or if its reserves fall to "unacceptably low levels".

How can it be "very painful" to stop spending which is non-essential? Why spend on anything non-essential in the first place? Rhetorical questions of course, they have been doing it for decades.

The Myths Roll In

After a grey and very wet day yesterday, we've been treated to a pleasantly sunny morning here in our bit of Derbyshire. Not that highly variable UK weather is surprising, but it set this chap wondering about surprises.

We navigate through life by avoiding surprises, it’s how our brains function via the least energy principle. We could also add that our technical culture has been extraordinarily good at removing surprises thrown at us by the natural world. As we once knew, it has done this by seeking out better and better objective explanations.

Our explanations of everything from evolution to thunderstorms, from the chemistry of copper to solar eclipses, from antibiotics to aircraft design have suppressed a vast array of surprises. We have, or did have until recently, an astoundingly successful knowledge culture built on the search for objectively better explanations.

Yet it seems clear enough that there has been a turning point in this knowledge culture. We appear to have passed a point where the utility of technical explanations reached a peak, opening an ancient door to myths as easier explanations. Not that the door was ever closed, but new myths have begun to supplant better explanations of reality. There are some simple and obvious reasons why this might have occurred.

Myths facilitate mass assimilation where technical explanations do not. Myths provide simpler and more widely accessible ways to guard against surprises, just as belief in witchcraft did. Burn the witch and if that doesn’t work there must be another one lurking somewhere.

As our knowledge culture declines, myths are supplanting objectively sound technical explanations. Especially apparent in areas of uncertainty where there are vast amounts of money to be made and international political games have become playable.

For example, one of the most striking aspects of the modern world is that some words and phrases are myths masquerading as technical terms. The “climate emergency” is one such term. In almost all contexts it is a myth which purports to explain unusual weather events.

The human point to be made is that the climate emergency myth is much simpler than any technical, scientific, statistical or historical analysis of unusual weather. The simplicity of the myth is its power over people. It may be used, and is used by the media to explain any unusual weather event whatsoever.

Linked myths circulate around sustainability, clean energy, carbon footprints and so on, but there are other myths purporting to be explanations. Myths about diversity, multicultural myths, gender myths, myths about male and female roles, about the importance of the family.

Some myths are more powerful than others because in certain obvious cases the technical explanation is as old as humanity. Gender myths for example are weaker than ancient knowledge of human biology.

A knowledge culture decline seems to be real, driven by money, politics and mass media habitually avoiding technical explanations. Smoothing the way is the simplicity of myths as explanations. We evolved to accept simplicity before complexity and many people never move on from the simple to the nuanced and complex.

Knowledge culture decline won’t go into reverse simply because myths are myths. Only when they fail in ways which are too simple to ignore, only then are they likely to be discarded. It’s how our brains work.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Predicted Collapse

This video pulls together some of the bad news which has been coming out of China for a while. Predictions of outright collapse may or may not turn out to be sound, but a significant risk of major upheaval seems sound enough. It's not looking good.

Headline writes itself shock

Politics latest: PM accused of 'electorally stupid' and 'environmentally damaging' weakening of green policies

An almighty row has broken out in the Conservative Party after it emerged last night that Rishi Sunak is set to delay net zero policies, including the switch to electric cars. Meanwhile, consultants and junior doctors are striking together in England for the first time.

Crikey, 'electorally stupid' and 'environmentally damaging' sounds bad. 'Who said it?' I unwisely asked myself.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's MP, was asked on Sky News if she thinks the prime minister's apparent backtrack on net zero is in the wake of the surprise Uxbridge by-election win due to backlash over ULEZ.

Ms Lucas replied that if that is the case, "he's wrong, that he's taking a huge gamble with the lives of people in this country, but also, crucially, in terms of people's livelihoods."

Ah - Dependable Caroline.

Hobbyist Loons

It's grey, wet and windy outside so thoughts naturally turn to hobbies, especially some of the strange modern hobbies portrayed by the media.

For example there are people who seem to join a movement because it offers opportunities for the hobbyist loon. Personal conviction seems more like enthusiasm for a hobby than conviction. “Listen to what I’m saying and watch what I’m doing” it goes.

The advantage over stamp collecting, train spotting and bird watching is that lunacy can be a fashionable hobby for unattractive or untidy people who are not naturally fashionable. Unlike traditional hobbies, family, friends and even casual acquaintances have a weird kind of moral duty to sooth the hobbyist’s lunacy and just listen or watch.

Hobbyist lunacy also has many opportunities for building something akin to a collection. Stunts completed, sermons, stories of defeated evil, morality tales, chanting sessions and popular exhortations for example. They all give the hobbyist loon many opportunities to build and curate an interesting collection of loon tales for future generations.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Titans of our time

Alexander McKibbin has an entertaining TCW hit piece on George Osborne and David Lammy.

Osborne and Lammy, titans of our time

SOMETIMES it’s the small things in life that add a spring to your step. Patting a dog’s head, hearing birdsong in the city, or perhaps reading something by George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Since vacating 11 Downing Street, the industrious Mr Osborne has seen more jobs than a job centre in Liverpool. Talented doesn’t begin to describe his broad range of abilities which have seen him employed variously as editor of the London Evening Standard, adviser at BlackRock, holder of fellowships at the Hoover Institution and Stanford School of Business, partner at 9Yards Capital, partner at investment bank Robey Warshaw, chair of the northern Powerhouse Partnership, chair of the investment management company Lingotto – it’s a dizzying roster of employment. One can only imagine that with such an impressive hinterland, his CV is now available in paperback.

The whole piece is well worth reading, the link between Osborne and Lammy being a Spectator article written by Osborne.

One can safely assume him, with such an impressive track record, to be an astute judge of character, able to identify wheat from chaff. Which in a circuitous way is how we come to David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.

In the current Spectator, Mr Osborne writes about speaking at a conference on transatlantic relations with former US national security advisers Condoleezza Rice and General H R McMaster. But it was the following passage that drew my attention.

‘Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy was at the conference, and I noticed all eyes on him as the coming man. Power is where power goes.’

Yes, I had to read it again too as I thought there must be some mistake.

Name Change

Elon Musk: Social media platform X could go behind paywall

Elon Musk has suggested that all users of X, formerly called Twitter, may have to pay for access to the platform.

In a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the billionaire said a payment system was the only way to counter bots.

"We're moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the system," the Tesla and SpaceX boss said.

Maybe Musk knows what he is doing, but it seems an odd decision - renaming Twitter as X. It has resulted in an array of names such as -

X, formerly called Twitter
X formerly known as Twitter
X Corp

Maybe the BBC should also change its name to reflect its priggish global outlook and lack of interest in British people, history and culture.

Monday 18 September 2023



Oh dear

Russell Brand allegations: Accuser claims BBC car took her from school to star's house when she was 16

"Alice" told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour the alleged abusive relationship left her feeling "cheap and dirtied" and went on to say Brand's denial of the accusations was "insulting".

One of Russell Brand's accusers has claimed a BBC car took her from school to the star's house when she was 16 years old.

I have never liked Russell Brand and never found him entertaining, but have no views on the allegations. At the moment it seems another of those opaque allegation and denial cases. Not worth following in any detail, but the BBC car may be mildly interesting. Not that anything ever sticks to the Beeb.

Sunday 17 September 2023

For working people

Sir Keir Starmer fails to rule out tax burden rise under Labour

In an exclusive interview with Sky News, the opposition leader also rejects as "complete garbage" Tory accusations Labour planned to join an EU-wide migrant quota scheme as part of efforts to tackle small boats crossings in the Channel.

Sir Keir Starmer has refused to guarantee the tax burden - currently the largest since the Second World War - would not increase under Labour.

While the opposition leader told Sky News' Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme he wanted it to come down "for working people", his "laser focus" was on growing the economy.

To save the reader trouble, I mention here, that Sir Keir Starmer has a habit of introducing words such as “for working people,” as everybody is aware who has the honour of knowing him, without relation to their meaning, but simply to caulk, as it were, the seams of his sentences, to stop them where they open, and save his speech from foundering for want of this trifling half-pennyworth of oakum.

Adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu. I’m sure he won’t mind.

A Prophesy Fulfilled

Activists spray paint on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in call for climate action

Climate activists sprayed orange and yellow paint on the columns of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate on Sunday to push demands for a stop to the use of fossil fuels by 2030.

"Members of the so-called 'Last Generation' sprayed the columns on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate with orange paint from fire extinguishers during the morning," Berlin police said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"We will not stop our protest unless a pivot is initiated. We have to exit oil, natural gas and coal by 2030 at the latest," it said.

If Germany does exit oil, natural gas and coal by 2030 then they could well turn out to be the last generation. But that's not what they expect to happen.

Saturday 16 September 2023


One of our regular café haunts has window seats looking out onto the road with a row of shops on the opposite side. Not scenic but it’s a handy café with a relaxed atmosphere and it serves good coffee.

On some mornings, if it 's early enough we’ll see a woman come out of one of the shops to wipe the windows and the black panelling beneath the windows. It’s a small clothes shop so presumably she is the owner just opening up.

One Sunday morning when the little clothes shop was closed, a middle-aged couple strolled along the opposite pavement with a dog on a lead. The dog stopped to cock its leg up against the black panels of the clothes shop while its owners casually waited for it to finish before strolling on.

Now we know why the clothes shop owner has to wipe the panelling on the front of her shop.

All gregarious functions

But then railway travelling – all gregarious functions – are rather dehumanising. They evoke enterprise and selfishness, even at the ‘festive season’.

Walter de la Mare - A Froward Child (1934)

I’ve used this quote before. A chilling one, because it is so easy to think of modern examples where de la Mare’s “enterprise” has expanded enormously to official, political and cultural functions.

An obvious example de la Mare would certainly have recognised is air travel which is certainly dehumanising. Regimented and prescriptive to the last degree, there is no freedom, no humanity in air travel. Except when flying first class perhaps, but this too is characteristic. First class is always less dehumanised than the rest, it’s what people pay for.

Shopping centres, supermarkets, the Olympics, the World Cup, Christmas, Halloween, Red Nose Day, music festivals, political rallies, a great variety of modern gregarious functions are rather dehumanising. Television too, that can be a weirdly gregarious activity even in the home when merely using up a long evening.

How about electorates as major elections loom large? A fixed political allegiance is not dissimilar to a gregarious function. Not always an enthusiastic one perhaps, but it’s a herding function. Guided to tick the right box with logos, slogans and emotive rhetoric. Political rallies, conferences, parades and stunts. All rather dehumanising.

Modern life, for all its wealth and variety is rather dehumanising in its intensity, its forced gregariousness, its endless pressure to be involved, to listen, pay attention, react and respond to the crowd, the consensus, the right side of history, the woke.

Maybe this is why we seem to end up with dehumanised institutions which do not appear to know what they are doing or why, including political parties and government departments. As for elites, they make their escape via first class as they always did.

Friday 15 September 2023

Spot the difference

French senatorial hopeful admits digitally tweaking campaign photo

Juliette de Causans says enhancing her looks is more likely to boost her party’s cause of supporting Europe and the environment

A use for AI

XL bully dogs: Why adding the controversial breed to the Dangerous Dogs Act may not work

The proposed change in legislation comes after a man was mauled to death by two "suspected" XL bullys in Stonnall, Staffordshire, on Thursday afternoon.

They are the fifth group of dogs banned in the UK - joining the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and the fila Brasileiro.

But despite the prime minister's promises to "keep people safe", one dog behaviourist has told Sky News it's not as simple as just adding the dog breed to the legislation - because it's not actually a breed of dog at all.

Maybe an AI system could be trained to identify the horrible creatures with some degree of accuracy. It could probably identify typical owners too. So could most people of course.

Steaming ahead

Minister unable to say if HS2 will reach Manchester - but insists levelling up agenda 'steaming ahead'

Chris Philp said he didn't know whether the line would go to Manchester as planned but that trains would go "very fast from London".

Thursday 14 September 2023

All Roads Lead to Oligarchy

Even a Labour Government--supposing that in spite of the Press it did win through--what would be its fate? Separated from its base, imprisoned within those tradition-haunted walls, it would lose touch with the people, would become in its turn a mere oligarchy. If the people are ever to govern they must keep their hand firmly upon the machine; not remain content with pulling a lever and then being shown the door.

Jerome K. Jerome - All Roads Lead to Calvary (1919)

Asylum policies open up pre-election divisions between Labour and Tories

PM rules out ‘burden-sharing’ deal with EU as Keir Starmer says he is seeking closer cooperation with bloc

The Labour leader, who was holding talks at The Hague with officials from Europol and other bodies on Thursday, has suggested that an agreement to send back people who cross the Channel could involve accepting quotas of asylum seekers via the EU. In interviews, he would not be drawn on the number of people he would be willing to take in under the deal that Labour believes it can reach with the bloc.

The media did the spiralling

Laura Perrins has an excellent TCW hit piece on the Captain Tom phenomenon.

Captain Tom – all part of the great Covid con

I tell you what, that Captain Tom saga is a real humdinger. That Captain Tom debacle is a gift that keeps giving, unless you actually gave a gift to the Captain Tom Foundation, in which case I would say, more fool you and do you require some time in the Hannah Ingram-Moore family pool and spa complex to calm down?

The whole piece is well worth reading as a yet another reminder of how cynically and ruthlessly we are manipulated. It is also a reminder of how the media are tightly integrated into the manipulation. It's what they do - manipulation. They appear to enjoy it too, or possibly they find it amusing.  

It seemed to him that these men, who wrote the words and proclaimed the truths which had turned his life and reformed his soul, were themselves but playing with what they taught. Were they only actors — or amusing themselves?

Anthony Hope - A Change of Air (1893)

Three years in, the media are running a kind of, oh well that was then and this is now, we are back to doing our jobs. A columnist in the Times explains the propaganda war that was Captain Tom as follows: ‘This small, sweet story swiftly spiralled into one of national importance. This is partly because it happened in the early days of lockdown, when the national mood was completely bananas.’

Just pause there one moment: this is all a bit too passive. The reason why it ‘spiralled’ was because the media did the spiralling. The reason why the ‘national mood was completely bananas’ was because the entire mainstream media whipped everyone up into a state of fear, where most people did indeed go bananas. These things didn’t just happen by accident. It was intended to be that way. It was designed that way.

Today, three years too late, we have got to ‘Captain Sir Tom Moore’s daughter received more than £150,000 from charity. Payments were made to Hannah Ingram-Moore and companies she controls with her husband.’

Even the NHS is not so wonderful any more: it has taken a bit of a hit with the baby killer on the ward. Never good for one’s reputation, that.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Went the Day Well?

Went the Day Well? Ours did, but some days are like that. 

Bounced up* at 6:30 for the school run and everything went swimmingly from that point. School run completed on a reasonably fine day, whizzed off to Matlock afterwards to do some wandering about followed by shopping for a few odds and ends such as food.

Washed the car when we returned, then more shopping for few things we only buy from Lidl while telling ourselves that we ought to buy more from Lidl because it's so much cheaper than not shopping at Lidl. Back home for coffee and dark chocolate, booked the next Tesco delivery then sorted out a holiday destination for next year.

Some days are like that, they go well and things just seem to slot into place and get done. Other days - not so much.

*A loose term which doesn't imply unrestrained enthusiasm.

Occam and the aliens

UK's top UFO expert gives his verdict on Mexican 'alien' corpses

The UK’s leading UFO expert says Mexico’s unveiling of two ‘alien corpses’ could be ‘the greatest discovery of all time’ – if true.

Speaking the day after journalist and ufologist Jaime Maussan revealed what he reported were two 1,000-year-old fossilised ‘non-human’ beings, Nick Pope said he hoped scientific analysis proved they were evidence of aliens, but was not getting his hopes up.

‘There’s not much middle ground here,’ said Mr Pope. ‘Either it’s a fake, or it’s the real thing, and DNA analysis and other scientific tests are the key to determining this. Such tests would have to be done under rigorous conditions, and the results peer reviewed.

‘I’d be thrilled if this turned out to be true, as opposed to a hoax, as this would probably be the greatest discovery of all time.

‘However, the principle of Occam’s razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually correct, so I’m not getting my hopes up!’

An obvious aspect of all this is how the wave of media interest appears to have occurred before the scientific analysis suggested by Nick Pope. Maybe it's the media making the best of it before it falls apart under scientific scrutiny  - Occam’s razor suggests that too.

Tuesday 12 September 2023


Smirnoff heiress filmed driving through Hyde Park while on her phone by ‘CyclingMikey’

TV star Marinika Smirnova was one mile from her £4.7m Kensington home when she was recorded by the road safety YouTuber

“CyclingMikey”, whose real name is Michael Van Erp, was walking his bike through the park when he spotted Smirnova at the wheel of her red 3.8 litre Porsche, with personalised number plate SM11NOV.

He has posted the Smirnova encounter on his YouTube channel for the benefit of his 100k followers and the footage was also played in court to the magistrates.

The average speed of London traffic is reported to be 7.8mph so the dangers posed by a distracted driver are obvious.

Fighting words as pot attacks kettle

Politics latest: Tory levelling up policies are a 'sham and a scam', Labour's Angela Rayner to warn

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner is due to set out Labour's plans on workers' and union rights at the TUC conference in Liverpool as the party sets out its stall ahead of a general election, expected next year.

The deputy Labour leader, who was appointed the new shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary in a reshuffle last week, will address the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Liverpool on Tuesday.

In a nod to her new role, and long-standing affiliation with trade unions, she will draw on her own past in order to show "the real-world link between levelling up and unionised jobs".

It takes a certain kind of person to devote themselves to the promotion of ideas which don't mean anything. As shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary, Ms Rayner has two meaningless ideas in one title - "levelling up" and "communities secretary". 

I don't think she cares, it's just words. She's amusing herself and having a fine old time spraying the words around. Not very well, but who cares?

If outcome points to intention

I only know that as one grows older one calls things coincidence more and more seldom.

Hugh Walpole - All Souls' Night (1933)

As we know, the Blair government made postal voting available on demand in 2000. As we knew at the time, it has certain obvious security weaknesses as a democratic voting mechanism. Reported to be a very minor issue here in the UK and successive governments choose to keep it.

The tinfoil hat question is obvious enough - outcome may point to intention. If the weakness is there then it is supposed to be there. A relaxed political attitude to petty fraud is not necessarily the whole of it. The elephant in the democratic room is that it could also function as a backdoor security measure for the permanent administration.

This doesn’t imply it ever has been used or is even likely to be used, but in a political situation viewed as sufficiently threating, it could provide protection against a radical populist viewed as dangerous. The precise mechanism may not exist in any formal sense, but the exploitable weakness does.

Yet intense propaganda is very effective and clearly the preferred option, we know that now, if we didn’t know the power of it in 2000. Legal and bureaucratic harassment is effective too, we caught glimpses of that with Boris Johnson and the Partygate silliness. The pandemic debacle and Net Zero offer much more than a glimpse.

On demand postal voting is inherently dubious, but rather like an old nuclear bunker it may already be a relic of the past. With Brexit still recent and from the perspective of the permanent administration, it could still be seen as naïve not to leave an exploitable possibility in place - just in case. That’s what postal voting looks like - a relic of the times when voting mattered. Off comes the tinfoil hat.

Monday 11 September 2023

My actions are justifiable

James Esses has a useful Critic piece on green activists breaking the law.

Justified sinners

Green activists want to do the crime but not the time

Traditionally, when someone is accused and charged with committing a criminal offence, responses are black or white. The accused either protests their innocence and fights for justice — or they admit to the crime, plead guilty and face the consequences of the law...

Take Greta Thunberg, one of the most infamous climate protesters of the modern era. She was arrested back in June after stopping traffic in a port terminal in Malmö, southern Sweden...

In a confused and inherently contradictory statement, Thunberg told the Court: “It’s correct that I was at that place on that day, and it’s correct that I received an order that I didn’t listen to, but I want to deny the crime.” She was both admitting to and denying the offence.

She went on to say: “My actions are justifiable. I believe that we are in an emergency that threatens life, health and property.” In other words, “I committed a crime but I was justified in doing so”.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how often this kind of criminal activity is referred to by the media as a "protest". That's what it is of course, but the inflexible, moralising narcissism is far more important, even though it slips under the media radar. Yet this is the core of it, this is what poisons the debate to such an extreme degree that there is no debate.

The likes of Thunberg and Rumbelow appear to view life through a lens of moral supremacy, bordering on narcissism, in which their cause is far more important than anyone else’s cause, or indeed anyone else’s life.

There is neither moral nor legal justification for their actions. The sooner that our police and courts clamp down on them, the better.

It's grim if you can't even be a useful idiot


Sunday 10 September 2023




Blimey, while sitting here tapping away at my laptop I just saw a Lancaster fly overhead. I'd bounced up from my chair before I spotted it because the sound is unmistakable.

Reported to the UN

UK government to be reported to UN over strike law by TUC

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says it is reporting the UK government to the United Nations watchdog on workers' rights over a new strikes law.

New rules on strikes will require some employees to work during industrial action - or face being sacked.

The TUC said the legislation fell short of international legal standards.

The government said the new rules "protect the lives and livelihoods of the general public" as well as access to public services.

That would be the UN we didn't elect. The same UN which for decades has been promoting futile and destructive climate policies. The UN currently failing to mitigate the effects of the war in Ukraine. The UN which never seems to escape or deal with fraud and abuse scandals.

Yet as the TUC effectively owns a major political party, it probably doesn't have much to worry about.

Fish, Chips and Experts

Politics latest: Rory Stewart compares running government to fish and chip shop after prison escape

Mr Stewart says is "completely mad" how ministers are moved in with no knowledge at all.

He says his book is about being "honest about how bad it is".

Citing the fact that there have been nearly 10 different prisons ministers since 2010, Mr Stewart says it "cannot make sense to put somebody into a job as important as [prisons minister] for just a few months."

He says we should look towards the American system where experts are appointed to the cabinet.

A splendid idea, all the cabinet has to do is use its expertise to expertly select the most expert experts then all will be well. They would be experts we haven't voted for of course, the experts running things already.

Maybe his book is better than this, but I don't think I'll be taking the trouble to find out.

Saturday 9 September 2023

We've lost one

David Shipley has an insider's view of Daniel Khalife's little jaunt beyond the prison walls. Worth reading, although so far it's outside my direct experience. 

If you’ve been in Wandsworth, a prisoner escaping won’t surprise you

A former soldier charged with terrorism and espionage escapes from prison by strapping himself under a delivery lorry and being driven to freedom. It might sound shocking, far-fetched or like something from an action film. However, having been imprisoned at HMP Wandsworth in 2020 I’m not shocked at all.

The most fundamental job of a prison is to secure its inmates, but Wandsworth struggles to do that. In my time there the prison would often go into ‘lockdown’ with all movement halted because a prisoner had gone missing. Invariably they would be found in the wrong cell or even in another wing. How can this happen?

It’s important to understand Wandsworth’s unusual inmate mix. The prison serves as an extradition hub for the south of England. Of the ~1600 men imprisoned there, about half are foreign nationals awaiting or fighting extradition. Many of those men speak little or no English. The rest of the prison population is a mix of remand prisoners like Daniel Khalife, men serving short sentences and those who received longer sentences and are awaiting transfer to another prison. The prison is constantly full and receives more inmates every day from the courts. Even compared to the rest of our prison system, Wandsworth’s population is highly transient.

Quick off the mark

I've just ordered a fan to use in the bedroom during this warm spell. We've never used a fan before, or even owned one. In the past, sleeping downstairs has been our way to keep cool during warm nights. 

Might get to use it once before the weather changes.

Friday 8 September 2023

Repelled by the darkness

Rev Daniel French has a most interesting TCW piece on the difficulties of being an anti-woke vicar.

Thought crimes of an anti-woke vicar

LET me begin with two stories, one of which is true and took place earlier in the summer, the second (sadly) fiction. I pen this as an ordinary English vicar of 25 years, who runs a parish in a stunning seaside town but finds himself increasingly bewildered with the direction of travel of his home denomination.

Submerging Ben, 29, fully into the seawater I sense something malignant leave him, a dark force. It’s difficult to describe, but when a person is under a spiritual oppression you know it. By the third invocation of the Trinity, his baptism complete, he emerges soaking, misty-eyed, panting like a man who’d completed a marathon. ‘It’s all gone, you are free.’ The words come to me unplanned. He nods, grinning and repeating: ‘I know!’

The second story is a fantasy about the ghastly Archbishop of Canterbury showing genuine and entirely non-ghastly leadership during the pandemic debacle. Fat chance, but the whole piece is well worth reading. Even as an atheist, this passage struck a powerful chord with me. Repelled by the darkness - indeed we are.

Young adults like Ben give me hope. He tells me he wants to work unequivocally for Christ and he doesn’t care what the pushback is. He is typical of men and women who say that they have migrated from New Atheism, psychedelics, Wicca, Marxism or whatever and awoken to a post-lockdown world which feels decidedly creepy, evil, a new Dark Age hanging over the West. They mostly come to God not through the light but repelled by the darkness.

Just another game

Has Australia cleaned up its act on climate?

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese came to power last year promising the country would leave the climate "naughty corner".

"I want to join the global effort," Mr Albanese told the BBC, minutes after his victory speech.

The country is one of the world's biggest polluters per head of population, and it has failed to make any significant cuts to its core emissions despite signing up to global pledges.

This of course is the political game favoured by China - focus on emissions per head rather than per country. A way to point the finger at countries which cannot possibly make a significant difference whatever they do. Australia for example. The UK is another example.

In this game, a single person could be among the worst polluters in the world. One of those habitual private jet climate conference attendees for example.

Or maybe it could even be a large TV broadcaster which sends enormous numbers of people to cover major international sporting events. 

Starmer and the Starmerettes

Emma Burnell has an interesting CAPX piece on Keir Starmer's shadow cabinet. Interesting as a piece of antique political writing where it is still assumed that political leaders have a pool of talented MPs in which to go fishing for their top team.

What does Keir Starmer’s new shadow cabinet stand for?

Labour has a new top team to go into the next election. It is a strengthened front bench that looks ready for government. But the reshuffle has created some pushback from across the party.

Much of the reaction has been about the demotion of Lisa Nandy. That’s fair. She is one of Labour’s best performers and the idea that she shouldn’t be at the heart of the next Labour government exposes a nervousness of Starmer’s team about anyone who might be seen as the next leader.

The whole piece is well worth reading as another insight into that weird, BBC type world where political government and the greasy pole must never be presented as futile and damaging political theatre.

The localism brief being this important and high profile speaks of an understanding that what happened to Labour in 2019 wasn’t just about Brexit. It wasn’t just about supranational issues but actually about a feeling of a sense of place that Johnson briefly tapped into while never actually doing much to address. People are rooted in their places and they need to feel that the places they love are valued. If Labour can put an understanding of this at the heart of their offer – with a spokesperson in Rayner who is seen as absolutely authentic – it will go a long way in shoring up their unexpected but very real lead in areas that Labour is not traditionally strong in such as rural communities.

Thursday 7 September 2023

One of those oddities

One of those oddities which crop up from time to time in old novels. This one comes from a detective story by Henrietta Clandon which was one of John Haslette Vahey's various pseudonyms.

"Sergeant Smith and his chaps are going over the house and grounds pretty carefully, sir. Shouldn’t wonder if it was a job done with one of those rubber truncheons they sell to motorists, for bandit-scaring.”

Henrietta Clandon - The Ghost Party (1934)

I've no idea if motorists ever did buy rubber truncheons for bandit-scaring. Seems unlikely. Wouldn't be allowed now, but we could say that about many things.

The Silent Killer

UK heatwaves a 'silent killer' for people who can't afford to escape them

England is expected to hit a new September heat record today - but for some there's no respite from sustained high temperatures.

People on lower incomes often work in jobs where they are more exposed to heat and do not have adequate insulation or cooling systems to avoid the "silent killer" when they return to small urban homes, according to climate scientist Professor Hannah Cloke.

This must be why nobody ever takes a summer holiday in Mediterranean countries and why we won't see any holiday ads when Christmas is all over.  I knew there must be a reason. 

This morning we visited Carsington Water in the MX5 with the top down, completely unaware of the silent killer lurking in the delightful blue sky over our heads. I made sure the car heater wasn't switched on though, maybe that saved us. 

After coffee we strolled to a couple of bird hides on the edge of the reservoir but didn't see a single official warning about the dangers. Lax I call it. On our return we spent a few pleasant hours reading in the garden, but we'll probably need more coffee and dark chocolate to get over it all. 

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Great Swathes

Health heat warning: NHS braced for influx of patients during heatwave as officials urge public to be cautious

Britain could enjoy the hottest day of the year so far today as temperatures are expected to soar to 33C (91F) after some areas entered an official heatwave for the first time since June.

But health experts fear great swathes of the population, especially the elderly and those with dementia, will be hit by heat-related sickness — increasing demand for NHS services.

We had a warm and pleasant day here in our bit of Derbyshire. Not excessively hot, but warm enough to sit out in the garden. It's time health experts did learn to fear great swathes of the population, especially during the next general election. Not likely though.

As an aside, Great Swathes sounds as if it could be a village in Norfolk.

Just tell it as it isn't

Failed Darwin Award

Man arrested after trying to run from Florida to London in a makeshift hamster wheel

Reza Baluchi was spotted in a "manifestly unsafe" vessel, which resembled a hamster wheel, around 70 miles from the east coast of the United States. He refused to come off and had threatened to blow himself up, in what turned out to be a hoax.

Reza Baluchi, 44, was spotted about 70 miles off Georgia by the US Coast Guard (USCG) - and allegedly claimed he wanted to keep going all the way to the UK on 26 August.

According to court documents, the USCG judged the makeshift boat was "manifestly unsafe" and kept afloat by buoys and wiring.

He's done it before of course - seems to be one of those Darwin Award folk. Never quite earned the award though. A consolation Nuisance Award would be no good - there are far to many potential competitors for that to work.

This marked the end of Mr Baluchi's latest run-in with the coast guard, the papers allege, with previous incidents involving a similar homemade vessel in 2014, 2016 and 2021.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Dramatic surge in the Don't Care vote

Voters prefer Rachel Reeves to Jeremy Hunt for chancellor, poll shows

Exclusive polling by YouGov for Sky News shows that 21% of voters think Ms Reeves should be the next chancellor, compared with 14% for the incumbent Mr Hunt...

There are still 65% of the public who say they don't know, offering a significant opportunity for the Conservatives.

Think of the children

Something else which is very familiar, the virtue-signalling put-down. Often seen in mainstream media comments.

‘Made a good sale this afternoon,’ the little man went on. ‘Head of Balzac by Rodin. Sold it to that fellow Litehouse, the big tobacco man. He’s collecting pictures and things. Doesn’t know anything about art, but we look after him — see he doesn’t get anything rotten, you know.’

‘Much better,’ said Bendish gloomily, ‘if he gave his money to children’s hospitals or something like that.’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ said Frederick, suddenly irritated, because nothing exasperated him so much as this very popular sentiment; ‘it would be an awful world if there weren’t any beautiful things in it, and who’d go on making beautiful things if nobody ever bought them?’

‘I don’t see that,’ said Bendish. ‘Pictures are only a luxury.’

Hugh Walpole - All Souls' Night (1933)

Gone utterly and for ever

A theme which runs through all of our lives – those endlessly grinding wheels of irreversible change.

We were all young and hopeful then, we could all live on a shilling a year and think ourselves well off, we could all sit in front of the lumbering horse ‘buses and chat confidentially with the omniscient driver, we could all see Dan Leno in Pantomime and watch Farren dance at the Empire, we could all rummage among those cobwebby streets at the back of the Strand where Aldwych now flaunts her shining bosom and imagine Pendennis and Warrington, Copperfield and Traddles cheek by jowl with ourselves, we could all wait in the shilling queue for hours to see Ellen Terry in Captain Brassbound and Forbes-Robertson in Hamlet, we could all cross the street without fear of imminent death, and above all we could all sink ourselves into that untidy, higgledy-piggledy, smoky and beery and gas-lampy London gone utterly and for ever.

Hugh Walpole - All Souls' Night (1933)

Walpole writes of the world he knew as a young man before the Great War, but it’s an experience we all know very well indeed. Often too well as the familiar slips into the past, never to be recovered - people, places, times.

Much of the world I grew up in, the myriad impressions, the fascinating, foolish texture of the times which made it the fifties and sixties, that has gone forever. 

Even mundane physical details such as the farm along the lane where I cycled to buy eggs. The farm house and farmyard are long gone - vanished forever under a compact gaggle of houses.

Monday 4 September 2023

Slick Fix

We recently acquired a crack in the car windscreen. It had been struck by a stone a few weeks before but although the stone made a very loud bang at the time, we couldn’t see any damage. Later a crack began to snake out from a spot just by a windscreen wiper, the area we missed when looking for stone damage.

Mrs H rang the car insurance phoneline and without having to wait in a phone queue she found herself speaking to a bot which first of all explained that it was a bot. It took all the details then transferred the call to a person who by then had all the information passed on by the bot.

This person then sent Mrs H a link to the Autoglass website which automatically assessed the crack as unrepairable, ordered a new windscreen and booked us in for a mobile repair on the next available day. The mobile repair chap turned up on the appointed day and on time, replaced the windscreen and off he went.

Our overall impression was how remarkably slick it all was. The modern world can be slick when systems and processes are defined, built and refined by people who know what they are doing. 

It is perhaps unfortunate that it also creates an ever-widening contrast between people who know what they are doing and the usual suspects.

A mother explains


Sunday 3 September 2023

No matter what

Labour reshuffle: Sir Keir Starmer to shake up shadow cabinet

The long-awaited change of Labour's top team coincides with MPs returning to Westminster from their summer break.

There is much speculation over what role Sir Keir may give his deputy leader Angela Rayner...

Angela Rayner was directly elected to be deputy leader by party members, meaning she will keep that position no matter what.

Escape Route

Today we came across a chap who sells table lamps. He makes them from all kinds of discarded items such as an old wood plane, a bathroom tap and lengths of copper tubing. It's the industrial, upcycled, repurposed look and certainly imaginative, but lots of people are doing it so I don't know how successful he'll be.

Mrs H heard him tell someone he'd been a primary school headmaster for some time but with Ofsted and all the pressures he'd finally had enough. He appeared to be in his forties - I hope he succeeds in his new venture.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Doom Loop UK





A view of Saint Giles Church, Matlock taken today after walking down from the War Memorial on the summit of Pic Tor where there are fine views over Matlock. It's a sobering memorial with many names on bronze plaques. There are frequent repetitions of the same surname, perhaps from the same family. Six with the surname Fox, five Bagshaws.

From the monument it is possible to gaze across Matlock and just about imagine it as it was in 1914 with all the modern buildings gone. A small town in a limestone valley, considerably smaller than today. There are a few war graves in the graveyard, but most of those young men must have been buried elsewhere. 

The Doom Loop


Friday 1 September 2023

Level Four

Dr. F (Ian Williams) has an enjoyable piece in A Voice for Men. It begins with a story about an encounter with an old chap drinking grappa who tells him about the “four levels of knowing” or the Quattro livelli di conoscenza.

Now you have to understand I’m not retelling this moment with him as an earthbound Yoda or a swami in a cave with a beard as long as his name. This was just a man who knew something interesting and wanted to tell me about it and he did. Now I’m going to tell you about it and I’m using an analogy here with chess.

Level 1. Unconsciously Unaware:

When you are a toddler you know nothing of chess. You’ve never seen a chess board and you have never heard the word “chess” before. It’s here at level one you are not even aware that you know nothing of chess. You don’t know that you don’t even know.

Level 2. Consciously Unaware:

For the first time you see a chess game in play. Someone says “look, they’re playing chess.” You now know that there is a game called chess but you have no idea how to play it. You are at level two because you know that you are aware that you know nothing of chess. You know that you don’t know.

Level 3. Consciously Aware:

You are playing the game and you are very new at it. As you move each piece you have to remind yourself how each piece moves differently. The rules of the game are always in your mind, and it’s this that makes the play of the game a battle not on the board but in your head as you try to remember them. You not only know of chess, you can play it. This is the third level because you know that you know.

Level 4. Unconsciously Aware:

Years have past and you play at a competition level. You never give a thought about the rules and now you think of tactics only. While you play your mind may wander a moment to something else like a song or a conversation you’d had years before. You can think these things and play chess at the same time and your game is the same. You’re an expert. You’re at the highest level because when it comes to chess you are not aware that you’re thinking about the game while you’re playing it. You are so aware it has you asleep to how aware you are.

That’s just chess. There’s all the other things out there that have you at “competition level.” You tie your shoe laces up while wondering if warm beer’s better than cold. When you drive a car you listen to music and make words from the number plate in front of you.

Not an unfamiliar angle, but the whole piece is well worth reading.