Thursday 29 February 2024



From the latest Rohan outdoor clothing catalogue.

Presumably a fleece offering off-grid warmth in an outdoor clothing catalogue is okay to wear outdoors. Good to know. 

Maybe it's something like the off-grid wellies I use for gardening. 

The Voter's Gamble

While pondering acts of street violence it is worth remembering that whatever action the government takes, it will be solidly aimed at containment. Containment becomes institutionalised as it always has to be, yet government containment does generate its own rewards for the governing classes.

At a lower level we see a preference for containment in the way demonstrations are handled in the UK. Instead of water cannon and rubber bullets we see a much milder form of containment which ensures two things. Firstly there will be other demonstrations. Secondly, visible acts of police containment suggest that something is being done. 

We see something similar with illegal drug use. Less clear cut, but containment is the preferred option. In this case the obvious advantage of containment is the occasional big win as a major drugs consignment is intercepted - something is being done. Another advantage is the constant trickle of less dramatic stories which again suggest that something is being done.

The effect is not dissimilar to the attraction of gambling, the compulsive lure of intermittent rewards B.F. Skinner wrote about. With containment we see intermittent indications that something is being done. As with gambling, there is also a suggestion of the big win for punters, or voters as we sometimes call them. The big political win is just around the corner when elections are just around the corner.

It keeps enough voters voting, gambling on the big win, the perpetual hope that a really major reform may be pushed through even though it never is. It never will be because the dice are loaded.

Little people in big jobs


Wednesday 28 February 2024

More hair than wit

Tories are ‘political wing of Flat Earth Society’, taunts Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer taunted Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, 28 February, by referring to the Conservative party as the “political wing of the Flat Earth Society.”

The Labour leader said the Tories have been “claiming that Britain is run by a shadowy cabal made up of activists, the deep state, and most chillingly of all the Financial Times,” referring to Liz Truss’s comments at CPAC in the US.

The former prime minister blamed the “deep state” for “sabotaging” her controversial tax-cutting plans from Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-budget.

There's many a man hath more hair than wit.

William Shakespeare - A Comedy of Errors

Vouchers for loved ones


We'll never be rid of it

MPs under pressure to continue broadcast TV and radio services until 2040s

Campaigners have urged ministers to help safeguard the future of traditional broadcast TV and radio until the 2040s.

They particularly want to protect access for low income families.

The warning comes as the government's Media Bill returns to parliament in the House of Lords today (Wed).

Under current plans TV transmitted through an aerial - used by 17 million people - is guaranteed only until the mid-2030s.

The majority of people will then be able to watch television only via high-speed internet.

The Broadcast 2040+ campaign is calling on Peers to encourage ministers to get behind its call for the big "switch off" to be pushed back to the 2040s at the earliest.

It would be astounding if this has nothing whatever to do with preserving and protecting the BBC beyond 2040. However dire, however biased and dishonest, we'll never be rid of it. 

Echo chambers

Anyone who is at least moderately alert will listen to King Charles speaking about climate change knowing well enough that he does not understand the issue in any meaningful technical sense. He speaks from a climate echo chamber, not even a specifically royal echo chamber.

The metaphor ‘echo chamber’ where people merely echo the words of like-minded people is a good one, although it tends to be misused by being relegated to a term of abuse. A pity because echo chambers are an essential aspect of how we all acquire and maintain our ideas.

Whereupon I may proceed laboriously to create and modulate my opinion, groping perhaps to a final epigram, which I say expresses just what I think, although I never thought it before.

Such is my discourse when I am really thinking; at other times it is but the echo of language which I remember to have formerly used, and therefore call my ideas. It is clear therefore that even in expressing my own mind when I conceive what I have felt, I have never really felt just that before. My report is an honest myth.

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

Ideas are almost always remembered language, usually the echoes of echo chambers. We think and as we think we talk to ourselves with or without speaking while mulling over remembered language. This is what thinking is. There are no ideas in the sense of facts and analytical structures lodged in the brain.

We recall images, feelings and emotions too, because remembered language doesn’t come without baggage. Yet this remembered language is the intellectual basis of what we experience as an idea, there is virtually nothing else. To say so is no more than a change of perspective, but it can be useful.

When activists chant their radical ideas in the street, they are almost always chanting remembered language, nothing else apart from the baggage which can be equally prominent. No carefully structured reasoning, no facts and analytical structures lodged in radical heads, only remembered language inserted via an echo chamber.

Nobody is immune. The MP who stands up in the House of Commons to pontificate about Net Zero is almost certainly repeating remembered language and nothing else. Given the composition of the House technical understanding is unlikely anyway. 

Similarly, most UK voters vote for red, blue or yellow echo chambers. Unfortunately, the voter’s echo chamber is not the MP’s echo chamber, still less the government’s echo chamber.

This is the point to be made - nobody is immune from echo chambers. It’s what we do. We use the word ‘idea’ because we must, but ideas rarely have any depth to them, they are almost always remembered language. As is this blog post, built from the remembered language of B.F. Skinner, George Santayana, King Charles and a host of others imperfectly remembered. 

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Blunt skewer

Biden skewers Trump’s ‘old ideas’ as he defends own age in surprise appearance on Seth Meyers show

President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Monday and was faced with questions about his age, Gaza, all the way to the Taylor Swift conspiracy theory...

Meyers put forward a question to the 81-year-old president about his age, asking him how he can address many voter concerns over his seniority.

“Take a look at the other guy, he’s about as old as I am," said Mr Biden, who is less than four years older than 77-year-old Donald Trump.

Now Biden's incapacity is far too obvious to hide, there is an attempt to link his age with Trump's and thereby hint that Trump might be in a similar situation. Crude and a little too obvious, but probably effective enough for mainstream media to wave it around.

Didn't they foresee this? 

Wouldn't be one of my three wishes

Democratic Senate hopeful says he wishes Biden, 81, was '10 years younger': Rep. David Trone tells supporters the president does 'talk slower' and 'move like he's older,' but still insists he is doing a great job

Rep. David Trone, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, was frank to a group of voters when discussing President Joe Biden's age, saying he wished the president was '10 years younger.'

At 81, Biden is the country's oldest president and his advanced age has become one of the 2024 race's defining issues.

Monday 26 February 2024

European Union’s brown deal

Belgian farmers spray police – and the EU – with manure

Brussels police officers were sprayed with manure by angry farmers who used their tractors to storm cordons in a protest over the European Union’s green deal.

Demonstrators hauled barbed-wire fences to the side of the road to create room for the agricultural vehicles to barge through the barricades.

Footage of one of the incidents showed a handful of police officers, wearing full riot gear, failing to stop the farmers as they approached a meeting of EU agricultural ministers nearby.

Baton-wielding police were doused in manure from one truck which blockaded a road in the city.

It's odd how the EU calls it a 'green deal'. People don't usually make deals with themselves. Having more than one party to a deal is what makes it a deal. Green diktat or green ukase might be more accurate.

Behind Everything


A strange poverty in their minds

From over a century ago we have a powerful insight into the art of reason as a cultural heritage, which of course it is. Santayana uses it to point out that revolutionists are inevitably disinherited from their cultural heritage and thereby disinherited from reason.

The life of reason is a heritage and exists only through tradition. Half of it is an art, an adjustment to an alien reality, which only a long experience can teach: and even the other half, the inward inspiration and ideal of reason, must be also a common inheritance in the race, if people are to work together or so much as to understand one another.

Now the misfortune of revolutionists is that they are disinherited, and their folly is that they wish to be disinherited even more than they are. Hence, in the midst of their passionate and even heroic idealisms, there is commonly a strange poverty in their minds, many an ugly turn in their lives, and an ostentatious vileness in their manners. They wish to be the leaders of mankind, but they are wretched representatives of humanity. In the concert of nature it is hard to keep in tune with oneself if one is out of tune with everything.

George Santayana - Winds Of Doctrine (1913)

It is still a powerful insight today, uncompromisingly bleak in its implications but powerful. Substitute ‘revolutionists’ for ‘progressives’ and today we have the same grim and intractable problem. 

When we see progressives, preach their progressive views, do we see a strange poverty in their minds? Of course we do, we see that an essential aspect of their cultural heritage is missing.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Ignoble horseplay

Was the whole of life to be given up to ignoble horseplay?...She spoke with increased rancour because of the increasing thump and rumble of the air-raid...Of course the politicians were ignoble beings that, before the war, you would not have thought of having in your house...But whose fault was that, if not that of the better classes, who had gone away leaving England a dreary wilderness of fellows without consciences or traditions or manners?

Ford Madox Ford - No More Parades (1925)

I’d like to add something to that, things being they are now, but it isn’t easy. Ignoble horseplay says it well enough. I’ll go and make another cup of tea instead of trying to improve on it.

Probate backlog

Grieving families plunged into probate hell by bureaucratic chaos

The sorry saga of thousands of bereaved families waiting up to a year for the probate office to approve vital documents needed to deal with their late loved one's affairs is growing more shameful by the day.

Grieving families already wait up to an hour to speak on the phone to a civil servant and must wait 16 weeks before asking for an update on an application.

Now documents seen by The Mail on Sunday show the extent of the meltdown at HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) as it tries to get a grip on the enormous backlog of probate applications. These suggest the system is no longer fit for purpose.

Another example of various clues which suggest the permanent administration can't do administration. Presumably there are a number of reasons for this mess and at least some insiders must know what they are. Maybe a significant number of staff are still working from home for example.

Yet a more sinister possibility certainly flickered across my mind, as it must have for many others. An outside observer is bound to wonder, however briefly if higher levels of excess deaths are having at least some impact.  

A country without a memory

Starmer accuses 'weak' Sunak of harbouring 'extremists' in his party

Sir Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of harbouring extremists in his party after a senior Tory MP was suspended for "Islamophobic" comments.

A country without a memory is a country of madmen.

George Santayana

Saturday 24 February 2024

The Death of Tony Hancock


One of the very few comedians I look back on now and still think was funny.

Slamming on the breaks

'I moved to a Derbyshire town and the pothole problem is worse than I thought'

One day I had to slam on my breaks after a car crossed onto my side of the road

I recently moved to a Derbyshire town that has potholes on seemingly every corner - my question is, 'Why?' It's no secret that Derbyshire residents are disgruntled about the state of the roads and, just weeks after moving to Belper, I share that frustration.

That's enough blogging for this afternoon, time to take a brake.

Probably Stolen By Aliens

Scientists issue call for help with images of comet without a tail

Amateur stargazers have been asked to help space researchers by attempting to catch a comet with a missing tail on camera.

The comet, known as C/2021 S3 PanSTARRS, is about the same distance from Earth as the Sun and researchers from the University of Reading are keen for pictures from space enthusiasts to help with meteorological research.

Researchers are attempting to develop ways to improve and further analyse space weather.

It's a sign of the times, the comet's tail may be on Galactic eBay by now. It's a mistake to assume that aliens will turn out to be benign or evil, they may turn out to be nothing more than interstellar looters. Our elites should fit in quite well.

As for space weather, wait for BBC and Guardian news that our consumption is having a catastrophic effect on it.

Friday 23 February 2024

Suppressing populist common sense.

Kurt Mahlburg has a useful Mercator piece on the obvious bias of so-called misinformation experts.

Do conservative misinformation experts exist?

I just found out that there’s a peer-reviewed journal dedicated entirely to the topic of misinformation.

It was brought to my attention this week in a tweet by Bjorn Lomborg, who had evidently been browsing its pages.

Misinformation Review is the publication’s rather benign title. Launched in 2020, the open-access journal is run out of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School — Harvard University’s school of public policy and government. Wheels within wheels and all that.

The journal’s website boasts that “over 40 misinformation experts from over 20 different universities and institutes” serve on its Editorial Board, and that its pages are viewed hundreds of thousands of times annually.

What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, according to Bjorn Lomborg.

Some will have seen this before, but the whole piece is well worth reading. It's a reminder that the rise of so-called misinformation experts seems to be associated with the realisation that ordinary people could become too well-informed for elite requirements. As Mahlburg says, what is being attempted here is the suppression of populist common sense - it is this which we see every day and which is so striking.

It’s no secret that the vocabulary of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation invaded mainstream discourse with a vengeance shortly after Brexit and Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 election victory.

The internet’s fabled democratisation of information — buoyed by the rise of social media and the smartphone in the mid-to-late noughties — had been far more successful than ever anticipated. Brexit and Trump sounded the alarm: trust in Western institutions was in tatters. With the help of independent journalism, the masses had started forming their own views away from the ubiquitous narratives of the legacy press and the bureaucracy.

In short, the misinformation industrial complex was a belated reactionary movement of the elites aimed at suppressing populist common sense.

Seasonal Latest

Money latest: Big drop in energy bills from April - here's how you can get them even cheaper

Ofgem, the energy regulator, has announced the new price cap, and it's 12% lower than the current level. Read about this and more in the Money blog, your place for consumer and economic news. And share your thoughts on any of the stories we cover in the form below.

Does this mean the weather gradually becomes warmer so we use less energy for heating? If so, maybe we need it to be explained in more detail.

Oh, to be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes up Ofgem
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lower bills and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

Not quite Robert Browning

Thursday 22 February 2024

Soap World

TV soaps could be made by AI within three years, director warns

Television soaps could potentially be created by AI within the next three to five years, according to a leading director. James Hawes, vice-chairman of Directors UK and director of the Apple TV+ Gary Oldman spy drama Slow Horses, told parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee inquiry into British film and high-end television that digitally made scripts will soon be upon us – particularly for soaps.

“We at Directors UK held a forum about Doctors, the BBC show that’s been cancelled,” said Hawes. “One of the members there started talking about AI and it sent me investigating how long it would be before a show like Doctors can be made entirely by generative AI.”

I'm surprised this isn't the case already. In fact I have my suspicions about the latest House of Commons spat because it looks very much like a TV soap to me. Unfortunately, many of the "MPs" involved are hardly any more realistic than Max Headroom

It's a work in progress I suppose.  

The revolving door revolves again

Britain backs outgoing Dutch premier Mark Rutte for Nato secretary-general

Britain has given outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte its backing to be the next Nato chief.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Rutte has “serious defence and security credentials” to be the alliance’s next secretary-general.

Nato is looking to appoint a successor to Jens Stoltenberg, who by October will have been in the job a decade.

Mr Stoltenberg had his tenure as the organisation’s top civilian official extended by a year in July, with Nato leaders opting to keep him in place during a period of global instability.

The Critic 21 November, 2023
Mark Rutte may already see himself in a prominent international position, such as NATO secretary-general, but his international record is not that impressive. In the run-up to Brexit, Rutte was considered by British Prime Minister David Cameron to be the most reliable and sympathetic ally to bring in EU reforms to ensure the British stayed in the EU. These amounted to strengthening national control over EU policy making and preventing a dangerous centralisation of power. Throughout Mark Rutte’s 13 years in power, the number of Dutch people wanting fewer powers for the EU increased from 46 to 54 per cent, but in practice the EU only gained more power.

The easiest litmus test


Sitting by the window

But the incomprehensible part of the business is that it was observed that useful people, and people who had really learnt something, went away in ever-increasing numbers to Switzerland, to England, to America, in which countries Socialism has not succeeded in getting itself established. Architects, engineers, chemists, doctors, teachers, managers of works and mills, and all kinds of skilled workmen, emigrated in shoals.

Eugen Richter - Pictures of the Socialistic Future (1893)

Woke up to heavy rain and grey skies this morning. Here I am sitting by the window wondering how things will work out in the long term. Over coming decades it is easy to imagine significant numbers of people leaving the UK for a better climate because our winters can be so tedious.

Especially people with relatives or close friends in warmer countries. Or less crowded and more relaxed countries where official nagging is toned down and even cities are less horrible than ours. Significant numbers of people have always tended to be internationally mobile, but who knows how far that could go? 

With a Starmer government added to a poor climate and incompetent administration, we could see the beginnings of a long-term exodus.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

A health and safety issue

Trident: Second nuclear test failure forces Government to defend deterrent

A Cabinet minister was forced on Wednesday to stress the Government’s “complete confidence” in Britain’s nuclear deterrent after a second failed test.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, on the media round for the Government, insisted the latest mishap was down to an “anomaly” and that it had been “event specific”.

She was questioned on the issue after a Trident missile tested as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme failed for a second time - with the dummy reportedly “plopping” into the sea beside the Royal Navy submarine it was fired from.

I'm not sure why the Health Secretary had to respond, but presumably those responsible won't come out of their bunkers. Maybe they have told her it's a health and safety issue, which in a sense it is. 

Perhaps this also means the UK has the most dangerous nuclear arsenal in the world. I'll email my MP and suggest the Health Secretary could be asked to comment on this too.

Intractably useless

Robert Jessel has a useful Critic piece on a familiar problem, the outsourcing of values to third-party organisations. A useful piece because it is a reminder of how intractably useless our government is and will continue to be after the next election.

The slick glide through the institutions

When values are outsourced to third-party organisations, everybody suffers

I am not a philosopher. I don’t have the intelligence or patience to understand the complex origins of social phenomena, including the modern mania for all things “woke”. But seven years as a footsoldier in the culture wars has taught me why the childish inanities of social justice ideology have been allowed to persist in public life for so long.

My first foray into campaigning was Fair Cop, the organisation founded in 2019 to expose the police’s harassment of gender critical women for expressing perfectly legitimate views. Part of my work involved submitting Freedom of Information requests to all 43 constabularies to obtain their spending on Pride-related activities. We discovered almost every police force was signed up to Stonewall, paying upwards of £2,500 a year of taxpayers’ money to display the charity’s logo on their websites.

The whole piece is well worth reading because the childish inanities of social justice ideology have been allowed to persist in public life from the top down. This includes Parliament, all major political parties and the entire permanent administration. Fail to resolve that and nothing is resolved.

This shirking of responsibility infantilises all of us. It sends the message that we are not thinking, moral individuals; that far from being informed citizens with developed consciences, we’re cattle to be driven in the direction of righteousness by self-appointed herdsmen.

Almost exactly a year ago, Sue Gray resigned as the Cabinet Office Director of Propriety and Ethics to join Keir Starmer’s team. As Charles Moore commented at the time: “Ethics are a matter for every single human being and cannot be delegated to a priestly caste, often taxpayer-funded.”

Quite so. You don’t need a Master’s in Philosophy to know what’s right. Nor do you need one to see what’s going so terribly, terribly wrong.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg


Tuesday 20 February 2024

Mangle the constitution and ban things

Henry Hill has an entertaining conservativehome piece on Labour plans for citizens' assemblies. 

An arch-mandarin like Gray must know that citizens’ assemblies only enhance the bureaucracy’s power

One of the many challenges that Sir Keir Starmer will face if and when he becomes prime minister is what a Labour government is to do when there isn’t all that much money to spend.

After the final (or at least latest) abandonment of the £28bn green investment commitment, the Opposition’s policy offer at the minute is very thin indeed...

My own guess for what Labour does with no money is “mangle the constitution and ban things”, and things certainly seem to be going in that direction – for example, reports that it now intends to really ban fox-hunting. Much worse, however, is news that Sue Gray is apparently drawing up plans for “policy juries” (citizens’ assemblies by another name) to “bypass Whitehall” and make “key decisions”:

The piece is well worth reading as a reminder that citizens' assemblies are only being proposed because they won't work. As Henry Hill says they will merely enhance the power of the bureaucracy. 

Perhaps this is simply a way of kicking awkward topics into the long grass. Starmer has wisely backed away from Lords reform following warnings from Labour peers, and the Shadow Cabinet is reportedly unenthusiastic about Gordon Brown’s awful constitutional reform plan. If citizens’ juries end up merely being an eye-catching way of substituting process for action, that will be the least-worst outcome.

Weird but real

At this time of year it’s usually cold at 7:30 in the morning when Mrs H and I set off on the school run. The car thermometer might show 5C for example, but it could be anything from a frosty -2C with ice on the windscreen to a mild 8C.

By the time we are tootling back from the school run at about 9am, the car thermometer is likely to show a slightly higher temperature, maybe a couple of degrees higher depending what kind of weather we’re having. In summer the temperatures will be considerable higher of course.

As everyone knows this is such a normal part of life that even mentioning it seems like a footling thing to do. In which case, how is it possible to persuade supposedly rational people to pretend they are worried about trivial global temperature rises far smaller than those we experience throughout the year and in daily life?

A good answer is that it isn’t possible unless mass conditioning is real. In which case, mass conditioning is real. It may seem weird to see real people in real life repeating the conditioned phrases, but they do. Weird but real.

Monday 19 February 2024

The mice shall rule

Now and then a bold mouse stands upon his hind legs and addresses the others. He declares he will force his way through the walls and conquer the gods who have built the house. "I will kill them," he declares. "The mice shall rule. You shall live in the light and the warmth. There shall be food for all and no one shall go hungry."

Sherwood Anderson – Poor White (1920)

Food activists occupy Palace of Holyroodhouse dining room

Activists have occupied the royal dining room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh as part of an ongoing campaign to slash food prices.

Nine campaigners from This Is Rigged entered the palace at about 1.15pm on Monday carrying banners with slogans including “Is treasa tuath na tighearna”, which is Gaelic for “The people are mightier than a lord”, and “change begins in the kitchen, not the boardroom”...

They claim that one in four Scots have experienced food insecurity while 1,000 children per year are taken to hospital with malnutrition.

They criticised supermarkets’ actions in increasing prices as an “act of corporate violence”.

Hypertwaddle trends

What is Hopecore? TikTok's heartwarming trend explained

If you've been on TikTok, then you'll know all about the different aesthetics and '-core' trends that emerge on the app - and the latest one that has been taking over everyone's For You page is "Hopecore."

Previous trends such as the clean girl and mob wife aesthetics, are fixated on changing our outward appearance.

But hopecore focuses on our inner beauty and strength while also inspiring optimism through sharing motivational quotes, mood boards and scrapbooks.

Often on the viral compilation videos, there will be positive messages such as "Life is beautiful," "Family is everything," and "Life is about moments."

The pale hands of the past

Occasionally the antiquity of political futility raises the bigger spectre of human futility, perhaps the most dismal spectre of all. Like a wagging finger reaching out from the past, it says “you haven’t learned anything.”

The pale hands of the past had reached out and gathered us together again.

Thorne Smith – Dream’s End (1927)

Best wave those hands away and move on, but they won't be waved away –

Monferrand, the strong-handed man of government, who undertook to bury the African Railways scandal by bringing about a Commission of Inquiry, all the strings of which would be pulled by himself.

Emile Zola - Paris (1898)

Sunday 18 February 2024

Environmental subjugation

Tom Jones has a useful CAPX piece on Sadiq Khan, the Blob and what he calls environmental subjugation .

Sadiq Khan, the Overground and the reification of ‘the Blob’

Are you familiar with environmental subjugation? You may not be, but it’s certainly interested in you.

Kenneth Clarke once wrote that architecture could be considered a social art; ‘an art by which men may be enabled to live a fuller life.’ Perhaps that potential is why so many politicians are drawn to grand architectural ambitions. Dictators, Presidents and Prime Ministers have all seized on the ability of buildings to make physical statements; they have been used to terrify, to impress, as examples of state power, as expressions of ideology, to make bids for immortality and to satisfy monumental egos...

Sadiq Khan received widespread – although not universal – condemnation for such environmental subjugation after a rebrand of six Overground lines ‘with names inspired by the capital’s and the country’s diverse modern history’; Liberty, Lioness, Mildmay, Sufragette, Weaver and Windrush.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how the Blob only talks to and listens to itself. To achieve this, Blob language must somehow be inaccessible the the peasants, which in a sense it is. 

In a connected digital world, exclusivity is difficult unless Blob language is made socially exclusive somehow. After all, it must be accessible to Blob midwits. To get round the midwit issue, Blob language seems to rely mainly on pretentious gibberish which is easily learned but which normal people avoid. Not dissimilar to aristocrats of Tsarist Russia speaking French in front of the servants.

Through an ‘extensive research programme’, DNCO interviewed leading historians, academics and transport specialists, ‘delving into topics such as LGBTQ+ histories, East End migration and the fascinating world of London slang and linguistics’. It should come as no surprise that those interviewed as part of a Blob-delivered project should espouse the same progressive views as the interviewers. It is notable that London slang and linguistics, of course, did not have any influence on the final names. Further to this, DNCO hosted workshops with London’s writers and creatives where they ‘explored themes of decolonisation, queer histories, intersectionality and young London’s perspectives’.

In order to astroturf a decision already taken, then, the taxpayer has spent almost £7m on a process that has consisted of the Blob talking to itself. For any future right-wing government, fighting and beating the Blob will be essential, but perhaps we will have to retake the Overground as well as Westminster.

Doom Spirals

Clergy warn of ‘doom spiral’ as church attendance drops off at record rate

Sunday church attendance is just 80 per cent of what it was in 2019, Telegraph analysis has revealed, despite the Church of England claiming that it has “bounced back” after the pandemic.‌

The figures reveal that church attendance has more than halved since 1987, prompting clergy to warn: “This is a doom spiral of the church’s own choosing.”

‌In 2023, The Telegraph published an investigation which revealed that parishes are closing at a record rate, prompting fears that the Church had been “dealt a death knell”.

‌The investigation found that almost 300 parishes have disappeared in the past five years alone – the fastest rate since records began in 1960.

I know almost nothing about this issue so naturally I have an opinion - 

That Welby chap doesn't appear to be doing anything constructive about it. Whether he could do something I don't know, but clearly identifying partisan political issues and maintaining a sceptical distance from them would be a start. The fictitious climate doom spiral comes to mind.

Holy Malice

Modern politics in one sentence –

I am filled by the holy malice of chastisement.

Victor Hugo - The Man Who Laughs (1869) 

Saturday 17 February 2024

Bound to be easier

Labour will deal with Trump if he becomes president, says Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has said that a Labour government would work with whoever becomes the next US president, amid questions about what a second Trump administration would mean for Nato and transatlantic ties.

Naturally enough, Starmer is bound to find it much easier dealing with Trump compared to a president who doesn't know what "UK" stands for or what a prime minister does...

Although thinking about it for another second or two, I don't know what a prime minister does either. I can walk downstairs though.

Bad idea - he isn't good with steps

Biden 'contemplating' steps to punish Moscow as world leaders blame 'monster' Putin for Navalny's death

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described Mr Navalny as the "fiercest advocate for Russian democracy", while French President Emmanuel Macron said his death shows the "weakness of the Kremlin and their fear of all opponents".

He doesn't appear to be strong on contemplation either. A chap is bound to wonder if Democrat voters are contemplating steps this year.

Missing it all

Scanning media headlines can be a dispiriting thing to do. Sitting here with my mug of tea, gazing out at the garden while thinking “do I really want to know?”

The tediously familiar exaggerations, distortions, celebrity prattle, and pumped up drama isn’t inspiring. Not even inspiring enough for me to finish my tea and wander into the kitchen to make coffee. It’s tempting to consider ignoring it all by much more restrictive and selective internet browsing.

Yet it could be difficult. How difficult isn’t easy to judge without actually doing it, as the fictional conversation below attempts to highlight –

Missing it all

The other day I met up with my old pal Dr Baz Broxtowe of Fradley University. We met at Cromford and toddled off for a short walk through the woods before the steady climb up to Hearthstone Lane.

Naturally enough I asked Dr Baz about his media isolation research as up until then I’d heard nothing about it.

“It didn’t really come to anything,” Dr Baz began as we paused for a breather by an old stone wall overlooking Cromford. “I isolated myself from the media shortly before the pandemic, stayed in an isolated cottage on the coast owned by a mate of mine.”

“How isolated?”

“Oh very isolated, no TV or WiFi. I had to use my phone for online grocery orders but was very strict about not using it for anything else, I just got on with my book and went out for quiet walks. I never knew what it was all about until my book was finished and I left the cottage and ended the experiment. By then it was mostly over and people were only interested in getting rid of Boris.”

“So you missed all the lockdown stuff with masks and daily briefings on TV?”

“All of it. I knew something was going off obviously.”

“What about all the signs and notices?”

“I didn’t see many and didn’t pay too much attention to those I did see,” replied Dr Baz, “and didn’t seem to make that much difference to me really. Online deliveries didn’t change much although I knew something was going on because I saw very few people on my rambles. Those I did see tended to avoid me.”

“So you knew something was going on but what on earth did you think it was?” I asked as we resumed our walk onto Hearthstone Lane.

“I’d no idea, but one of my wilder notions was an experiment in population control designed to make people more malleable and more reliant on government expertise. All done through the media of course and this was my working hypothesis. I made copious notes about it.”


“Later I realised my wild notion wasn’t outrageously wild.”

“No… no it wasn’t.”

“And it was certainly experimental,” mused Dr Baz.

Friday 16 February 2024

Academic mercenaries

Still relevant 97 years later –

“No doubt you’ll think it rather ridiculous of me,” he said at last, “but there was a time when I wanted to become a leader. I thought it would be a splendid thing to educate the world. I felt that if I succeeded in clearing up only a few universal lies I should be accomplishing a great deal, but on my first attempt I found that all the roads to knowledge were already securely held by an established army of educators — academic mercenaries. There was no way of getting at the people. Even when you broke through the lines, the lies still surrounded the non-combatants like a picket fence. The people hid behind the lies and steadfastly refused to be disillusioned. They are doing it to-day.”

Thorne Smith – Dream’s End (1927)

Still Trudging Towards Serfdom

Richard M. Reinsch II has a fine Law & Liberty piece on Friedrich Hayek's book, The Road to Serfdom.

Still Trudging Towards Serfdom

Friedrich Hayek remarked in the original preface to the 1944 publication of The Road to Serfdom that, “This is a political book.” Hayek was an academic economist who had argued with John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s regarding his Treatise on Money, and published The Pure Theory of Capital (1941), among other earlier works. But now he had become embroiled in a tremendous debate over the nature of government planning and the dismal consequences that he believed everywhere ensued from it. The Road to Serfdom was a kind of cri de coeur, venturing into the dark nature of collectivist logic, whose purported love of new freedoms, Hayek argued, always served to justify expanding control over people, property, incomes, currencies, and career opportunities by a small sect in government who held the whip hand over their fellow citizens.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how easily, even in a democracy, collectivist logic can, step by step, work against the interests of voters. 

In his introduction to the 2007 edition published by the University of Chicago Press, Bruce Caldwell notes that the book began as a memo by Hayek in the early 1930s to the Director of the London School of Economics, Sir William Beveridge, contesting Beveridge’s well-worn claim that fascism was the dying gasp of a failed capitalist system reacting against socialism. Fascism, Hayek argues, was just socialism in an embedded nationalist framework, embracing statist outcomes through the methods of socialist technique. The capitalists, such as they existed in fascism, were either vanquished or under the direction of the state for its purposes. Hayek’s memo grew into an article in 1938, titled “Freedom and the Economic System,” and then into this book that landed with an unsettling thud on the reading public in both Britain and America in 1944.

While The Road to Serfdom was not an academic text, it was an attempt to state clearly, and with great certainty, that Britain’s leadership class—in its love for planning—was steering the nation in the same direction as Nazi Germany or fascist Italy. To be sure, Hayek argues, Britain in no way resembled or was close to approaching the homicidal mania of Nazi Germany. Yet an intellectual process favoring socialism and planning had been manifest in Britain since he arrived as an émigré in 1931. Once principles are accepted as norms for policy, then their logic begins to run very quickly in official state operations. He who says A must say B.

Please, Sir, I Want Some More

Labour delivers record hammering - and Tories will fear it's terminal

It has been a stonking night for Labour - winning two more by-elections in safe Conservative seats on substantial swings.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Glass Box


The man who lives in the midst of thirty servants is like an insect in a glass box under the magnifying glass of a naturalist. Not one of his acts escapes their notice: he can scarcely have a secret of his own; and, if they cannot divine what it is, they at least know that he has one. From morn till night he is the point of observation for thirty pairs of eyes, interested in studying the slightest changes in his countenance.

Émile Gaboriau - The Widow Lerouge (1866)

It's a strange ambition which has hold of those two coves, especially as their glass boxes are scrutinised by rather more than thirty pairs of eyes. 

Presumably the role attracts natural glass box dwellers which possibly explains a good deal about them and why they throw stones at each other. One box is their ambition. 

The depths of divine ignorance

Oh! to believe, to believe with his whole soul, to plunge into faith for ever! Doubtless there was no other possible happiness. He longed for faith with all the joyousness of his youth, with all the love that he had felt for his mother, with all his burning desire to escape from the torment of understanding and knowing, and to slumber forever in the depths of divine ignorance.

Émile Zola – Lourdes (1894)

In Zola’s sense, we could say that when a climate scientist or a journalist makes an absurd claim about climate change, then for susceptible people it is an offer of escape. An escape from reality is an escape into the comfort zone of shared belief, an escape into what Zola described as the depths of divine ignorance. It may be frustrating for sceptics, but widely shared ignorance can be popular.

From another angle, it has been said by B.F. Skinner and others that fear is not what causes someone to run away. The running away is the fear - running away is one criterion of what fear is. A climate change analogy would be running away from the social consequences of scepticism - again towards Zola's depths of divine ignorance. There is fear in there too.

Conversely, a sceptic may well be trying to avoid that same ignorance, but is clearly not running away from anything. There is no fear either, except perhaps the fear of ignorance.




Woman: A little more soda, please. And just a trifle less impudence. What book ought one to be reading, then?

Man: Socialism’s the thing just now. Read Wells on Socialism. It’ll be all over the theatrical world in a few years’ time.

Woman: No fear! I can’t bear Wells. He’s always stirring up the dregs. I don’t mind froth, but I do draw the line at dregs.

Arnold Bennett – Buried Alive (1908)

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Ultra-processed rules

Confusion over ultra-processed food labelling- study

Labelling foods as ultra-processed might not be so helpful for consumers who want to know how healthy a product is, UK experts say.

Currently, packs must show whether a food item is high in fat, salt and sugar but not how processed it is.

Scientists who analysed different products say it is too simplistic to brand all ultra-processed foods (UPFs) as very bad.

Technically, sliced bread is ultra-processed, for example.

Though many UPFs are clearly unhealthy, some could fall into the "healthy" green category of the "traffic-light" system.

This was the case for meat-alternative products, the University College London team said, and some people may be unaware what they were buying was ultra-processed.

As we know, "scientists say" is another agenda flag. Nothing to do with science.

There is also an entertaining obsession with rules here. The current rule seems to be that ultra-processed foods are very bad. Unfortunately meat alternatives are often ultra-processed foods. Look at the ingredients of  many plant-based meat alternatives on supermarket shelves. 

In which case they have to concoct another rule which says ultra-processed foods are very bad except when they contribute to making ordinary folk poorer via climate racketeering. In which case they become very good. Something like that.

The Agenda

A familiar enough issue of windy exaggeration, but remarkably blatant. 


Tuesday 13 February 2024

Eccentric times call for eccentric measures

Ben Sixsmith has a fine Critic piece on the value of eccentric thought.

Britain needs eccentric thought

Lewis Goodall is wrong about the “radicalisation” of the Tory right

There’s a fascinating sentence in a recent article by Lewis Goodall in the New Statesman. This is itself an interesting sentence, because you don’t expect to find fascinating sentences in articles by Lewis Goodall. But fascinating it remains...

Here’s the sentence that interested me. Goodall is talking about how the “PopCons” have “positions” like “obsessive culture wars”:

"The media, both new and old, which should act as a guard against eccentric thought, is often where these ideas germinate."

A guard against eccentric thought? Interesting. Perhaps it’s just a thoughtless choice of words — and we’ve all been there — but it could also be deeply wrong-headed and revealing. A guard against irrational thought? That would be fine. A guard against hateful thought? Understandable. A guard against eccentric thought? Weird.

The whole piece is well worth reading as it does highlight the stultifying narrowness of modern progressive thought. Even its banal conservatism.

I’m not saying it is untrue that anti-establishment thinking can mutate into irrational and destructive forms. I’m not pining for a British Marjorie Taylor Greene (entertaining as that would no doubt be). Right-wing Conservatives should remain truthful and principled, because there can indeed be tantalising incentives to demagogic behaviour in opposition. (If their leader is the very liberal Liz Truss then I suspect this will not be an issue but it is worth saying nonetheless.)

Yet however British institutional life can be restored, the solutions are bound to seem “eccentric” to someone whose idea of normality is so cramped. Eccentric times call for eccentric measures.

It's time to disempower the charities

Suella Braverman: stop making people feel guilty for being white

White people must not be made to feel guilty for being white, Suella Braverman has said amid a row over claims that the countryside is racist.

In an article for The Telegraph, the former home secretary says that suggesting the countryside is not welcoming to ethnic minorities because it is a “predominantly white environment” is wrong, dangerous and disempowering.

Her comments come after a group of wildlife charities, including the National Trust, RSPCA and World Wildlife Fund, said that the British countryside was a “racist and colonial” space where people of colour were often framed as “out of place”.

It's a good Telegraph article, but the problem has been obvious for years. Far more could be done about charities playing their tedious political games, especially as Ms Braverman makes a key point about the divisive nature of this particular game. Removing charitable status would be a start, but it won't be done by any of the main parties, including the Conservatives.

She says: “To claim that the countryside is racist is one of the most ridiculous examples of Left-wing identity politics. It’s a symptom of a deeper problem within our society – the urge to constantly view everything through the lens of race or gender, plead victimhood and point the finger at an oppressor.

“Whether it’s the patriarchy, or colonial masters, this desperation to divide society is ripping through our institutions, creating a culture of fear and self-censorship. This is why it’s essential to challenge this ideology relentlessly, wherever we see it.”

Agenda Flags

UN reveals animal species under threat of extinction

Some 97% of fish are also at risk of being wiped out - with humans posing the biggest threat through hunting, fishing and other forms of exploitation.

It's interesting how headlines such as this have become flags for worthless content. In this case it's the phrase "UN reveals" - as if the UN is revealing some incontrovertible conclusions securely based on scientific integrity.

Yet anyone paying attention knows well enough that the phrase "UN reveals" is an agenda flag. The UN has a global agenda and publishes nothing outside that agenda. 

Certainly there are threats of extinction across the whole biosphere, with a complex array of causes, but the UN fosters its agenda before anything else. Scientific integrity comes nowhere, it too is under threat of extinction.

Monday 12 February 2024


Labour withdraws support for Rochdale candidate after Israel claims

Labour has withdrawn its support for Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali, following criticism of remarks he made about Israel.

Mr Ali had apologised after he was recorded suggesting in a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party that Israel had taken the October 7 Hamas assault as a pretext to invade Gaza.

A party spokesperson said: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.

“Keir Starmer has changed Labour so that it is unrecognisable from the party of 2019.

Unrecognisable? Oh I don't know, I don't have any trouble recognising Labour as Jeremy Corbyn's party. Where is he by the way?

Only 1700 years to go

Atlantic ocean at threat of collapse, study finds

The system that circulates water in the Atlantic, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is heading for a tipping point, according to new research...

Andrew Watson is a Royal Society Research Professor and professor at the University of Exeter who said in a statement: “This sounds alarming, but it's important to note that this is not the same as saying collapse is going to happen imminently.

"They have to run their model for a long time (1700 years) and push it quite hard to make the collapse happen, so, assuming they are right, the ‘route’ could still be a long one and there may be time for us to change it."

Too ludicrous to analyse, apart from suggesting that those who come up with junk like this could be employed more productively. Filling in potholes would be a start.

The headline is ludicrous too.

Purely mechanical and perfectly mediocre

The Tories are dire and apparently beyond reclamation, but viewing this guy as a realistic alternative is futile. He's a product of the transnational political machine which some time ago left national parties and their voters behind.


He was one of that large class of purely mechanical and perfectly mediocre persons connected with the practice of the law who will probably, in a more advanced state of science, be superseded by machinery.

Wilkie Collins - Man and Wife (1870)

Not far off if we count AI systems as machinery.


The other day found Mrs H and I strolling through town when I spotted a chap who was the spitting image of Klaus Schwab. Seated on a bench near the pub, chatting to a woman, he could have been the identical twin of the world famous totalitarian.

With our profound sense of social empathy, Mrs H and I often refer to that bench as Loser's Corner because this is where local drunks often hang out. Initially is seemed odd to see Klaus Schwab there, but is fairly obvious that he has been cloned by some kind of genetic wizardry in order to pass the WEF message around the world.

"You'll own nothing and you'll be happy"

In which case, it is surely appropriate that the message has now reached Loser’s Corner.

Sunday 11 February 2024

The chalice is already poisoned

Sunak should ‘swallow some pride’ and bring back Johnson, says Kwarteng

Mr Kwarteng, who announced this week that he would be quitting Parliament at the general election, also said the Prime Minister needed to “work on his outreach with backbenchers” to prevent more from standing down.

He told GB News on Sunday: “I’ve always been a big Boris fan. He had a very good success as an electoral force.

“You know, we’re 20 points behind, and the polls haven’t really moved in the last year.

“So, it’s not time to simply say, ‘more of the same’. Something has to change for us to have a chance of winning.

I'm sure Boris isn't particularly keen on climbing up onto the bridge merely for the opportunity of going down with the ship. That's Sunak's job now.

Although Starmer isn't remotely impressive and Boris isn't afraid of a challenge. Interesting times, but probably not that interesting.

Glendale Road

Being on a slightly higher elevation than the rest of the town, the street was happily called “Glendale Road.” It is rather terrifying to think that the real estate promoter responsible for this name is perhaps still unhung and busily engaged in giving equally stultifying names to other nice little streets in other nice little towns situated in other nice little localities throughout the United States.

Thorne Smith – Topper (1926)

Certainly not the most cringeworthy example, but this was nearly a century ago and new streets on new estates have to be called something.

Further thought tells me I wouldn’t mind that job, making up street names for new estates. An ideal job for retired people I reckon.

Saturday 10 February 2024

The BBC Damages Our Culture

Another video which demonstrates how the BBC is unable to deliver rational analysis of current affairs and how it and the political class tacitly supporting it are beyond reform.


Low Wattage Fans

Even Swifties are struggling to defend Taylor’s private jet use

Among the many updates this week on Taylor Swift – Grammy record-breaker, cultural bellwether, billionaire pop star and NFL superfan – is the revelation that she recently offloaded one of her two private jets.

The move to reduce her jumbo-sized carbon footprint was dented, however, when it coincided with news that the singer had brought the heft of her mighty legal team down upon a college student who uses government data and automated bots to track the planet-heating emissions from these private jets, then shares that information on social media.

Low Wattage Celebrities

Anyone paying attention will have noticed this, so it’s not original, but many celebrities don’t seem to be particularly bright. They imitate fashionable memes, phrases and topics of conversation but don’t venture beyond the safety of the orthodox and the banal. The media pretend otherwise but that’s their job.

The obvious suspicion is that many celebrities stick with vapid chat because they aren’t equipped for anything else. As if their status as a celebrity is only maintained by the team behind them, manager, agent, publicist and so on. They have something which can moulded into a celebrity, but not without help and they don’t have much else beyond the job of being a celebrity.

Putting aside the issues surrounding him, Prince Harry is a prime example. He clearly isn’t equipped to be a public speaker, raconteur or capable of holding an audience by his wit, wisdom or comedic talent. He is where he is because of what he is, but isn’t able to take it an inch beyond that. Meghan’s mistake.

Similarly there are famous actors who can act but cannot extend their public persona much beyond the acting. Even the most gushing interviews tend to bring this out, the banal nature of their views on life, a tendency to imitate fashionable sentiment and topical outrage while adding nothing of their own. Not that fans generally care of course, but a few must wonder.

Many politicians are much the same, even senior and well-established politicians. Far too many are professional imitators and plagiarists, not originators. Not adept enough to have veracity and reform work in their favour, they end up trying to make political theatre and lies do the job instead. Starmer is one of those.

Friday 9 February 2024

Mindfulness, wellbeing and sleep space

The BBC launches three new channels in shake-up to much-loved stations

The BBC has announced plans to launch "new, distinctive digital music stations as extensions" for its long-running radio outlets BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 3.

The broadcaster shared the news this week. It said the proposed platforms, which include three new extensions, if approved by the relevant regulators, will "look to delve deeper into specific genres and periods of music with context, curation and storytelling"....

The final extension planned is for Radio 3, featuring "a wide range of classical music," both new and known, "intertwined with voices and soundscapes" to create "a fresh, distinctive sound that transports listeners to a place of calm". It adds that it will include content that "leans into the mindfulness, wellbeing and sleep space" with both speech and music.

All I can think of at the moment is that people are paid to write such stuff. I wonder if anyone knows what it means?

No problem with "storytelling" because that is something the BBC does.

There is a problem with "context" because that is something the BBC avoids.

No problem with "curation" because BBC news does that all the time.

Getting there I suppose. Not sure about "sleep space" though.

Basic facts

Laura Trott accused of not knowing 'basic facts of her job' after questions over debt

A Treasury minister has been criticised for claiming debt as a percentage of GDP is falling - something that contradicts official forecasts.

A Treasury minister has been accused of not knowing "the basic facts of her job" after struggling to answer questions about the rise in national debt.

Labour said it was "terrifying" that Laura Trott is in charge of the country's finances after she was challenged for repeatedly claiming that debt is falling as a proportion of GDP.

This from a party which doesn't appear to know the basic facts of human reproduction within a House of Commons which doesn't appear to know the basic facts of electricity generation or anything else beyond the basic facts of fashionable discourse.

Of course to say this is merely to state the basic facts of political life. 

Good grief these people are dreadful.

Thursday 8 February 2024

That sphere of falsehood and strategy

However, can one ever be certain of anything in that sphere of falsehood and strategy? The surest things, the things prophesied with the most certainty, became, at the slightest breath, subjects of distressful doubt.

Emile Zola - L'Argent (1891)

How Labour ditched its flagship £28bn green investment pledge

Labour’s pledge to spend £28bn a year on green investment is to be ditched, two and a half years after it was announced to cheering party members as an eye-catching flagship policy.

It has been at the centre of a public and private struggle since it was announced, with factions inside Labour arguing against moves to water it down.

The decision on Thursday is to be defended on the basis of uncertainty about public finances as Labour moves to finalise its election manifesto. Nevertheless, voices from different sections of the party and from business are mourning a failure of ambition.

Anxiety shared...

Stephen Fry praises King for making cancer diagnosis public

Stephen Fry has praised the King for revealing his cancer diagnosis to the public, but said he is “anxious” for him.

The 66-year-old actor and comedian, who had prostate cancer in 2018, said Charles’s “very swift modernising” of the monarchy now includes “an openness about something as personal and indelicate as a cancer”.

Not wishing to be churlish and naturally I don't know what King Charles might think, but Stephen Fry's anxiety wouldn't do much to alleviate mine.

Becoming slightly picturesque

UK weather – live: Schools closed as Met Office gives amber warning for heavy snow

The Met Office has issued further weather warnings for Thursday with widespread snow and rain forecast across large parts of the country.

All schools in Flintshire have closed as locals prepare for the blast of cold weather, while commuters have been warned of risky driving conditions as temperatures plummet.

We have a steady fall of climate collapse going on here in our bit of Derbyshire, but nothing to become excited about. It was sleet during the school run earlier and now it looks like wet snow. The garden is gradually becoming slightly picturesque as gardens do in the snow. Not yet worth a photo.

Oh well, we'll be off out to lunch with relatives in a couple of hours so we'll be bunging some more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That should sort it.

Hoboes and Cold Weather


From the past - useful cold weather tips for a Net Zero future.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

A sort of loathing for real life

We are so divorced from it that we feel at once a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded of it. Why, we have come almost to looking upon real life as an effort, almost as hard work, and we are all privately agreed that it is better in books. And why do we fuss and fume sometimes? Why are we perverse and ask for something else? We don’t know what ourselves. It would be the worse for us if our petulant prayers were answered.

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes from Underground (1864)

Here in the UK with a general election looming, we see the loathing Dostoevsky saw over a century and a half ago. Our political classes have built it into the necessary art of political life, pandering to petulant prayers which must never, ever be resolved by consultation with real life. Below the pandering, the projects nobody voted for may continue. 

Real life would destroy everything, all of our political games, fantasies and the political screen behind which we are not supposed to look. Keir Starmer and his Labour colleagues have no interest whatever in providing answers to anything real. No interest in correcting anything from the vast pile of failures the Tories have left, no interest in anything which could possibly be measured against real life.

The result is a mendacious swamp where nothing can be interpreted against a reliable yardstick because that would open the door to real life. There is no point trying to make sense of the swamp on its own terms because tomorrow those terms will have shifted. Real life is loathed and those who insist on referring to it may find themselves loathed too.


Mr Bean actor blamed for slow electric car sales

Rowan Atkinson has been blamed for "damaging" the reputation of electric vehicles (EVs) and contributing to slow sales.

Thinktank Green Alliance gave its views on the main obstacles the government faces in its bid to phase out petrol and diesel cars before 2035, and said a comment piece by the Johnny English star published in June 2023 was damaging to the cause.

As it's a cause, presumably the thinking is over and done with. In which case, maybe the thinktank would be more accurately described as a causetank. Although that does suggest the cause is tanking, but we already knew that.

Terminal re-education

N. Korea cuts re-education camp sentences to reduce death count

The changes "focus on releasing prisoners into society through pardons as soon as possible so that they don't die in the camps," a source told Daily NK

A change in re-education camp regulations last year was aimed at reducing the number of deaths in the camps by returning inmates to society as quickly as possible, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source in North Korea told Daily NK last Wednesday that the authorities conducted a general review of conditions in re-education camps nationwide last March. “In June, the camps received an order ratified by the Supreme Leader [Kim] and implemented the amended regulations on shortening sentences in July,” he said.

Strewth, things aren't so bad here after all. At least we'll probably have the opportunity to snigger at Keir Starmer trying to be Prime Minister. 


Tuesday 6 February 2024

A lost corner of the world

Even today there are lost corners of the world, peacefully remote and curiously sad as Thorne Smith’s fictional character still finds the salt marshes of his youth. One or two quiet Derbyshire dales have a similar feel to them, especially where the curlew is heard. Norfolk salt marshes too, when released from the grip of the holiday season.

To me this is the fairest spot in the world, and the saddest. In the days of my youth when I first came upon it, I recall how I crept through the rushes and sat watching, as now I watch, the water trails in the marshes fill up with purple and crimson shades as the sun made down the sky.

I have always heard that disappointment follows the footsteps of those who retrace their paths back to the scenes of their youth. Mountains diminish to hills, I am told, and rivers change to muddy streams, nor does the sun ever shine so brightly or the sky seem quite so blue, I have not found it true in this case. If anything, time has intensified the beauty of these marshes. The influence they exert over me is as strong to-day as it was many years ago. I look upon them now, not with diminished vision, but with added appreciation. They have become a vital part of my life.

Through all the years that I have fled this place memory has held it ever fresh in my eyes; and now, as I behold it once more in reality, nothing seems to have changed... even the peculiar stillness hovering over the spot, the sensation of finding oneself quite alone in a lost corner of the world still lingers in the air, holding the soul within me in a calm but watchful hush.

Thorne Smith – Dream’s End (1927)

A negative risk

Government risks falling behind on EV targets

  • Report says high purchase prices and insufficient public charging are hurdles
  • MPs also warned that government's mixed messaging risks slowing EV adoption

The Government needs to seriously accelerate its transition to electric vehicles (EVs) if Britain is going to meet net zero targets in time, a House of Lords inquiry has found.

Surely that's a negative risk in that missing EV targets benefits the UK. Presumably that's what the EV market is telling us, but the Conservatives don't believe in markets. 

Apparently they do believe in the Demon Gas of the Skies, or carbon dioxide as we usually call it.

A willingness to pretend

The most natural feelings are those we are least willing to confess, and among them is fatuity.

Honoré de Balzac - Gambara (1837)

As much of the world must know by now, King Charles has an undisclosed form of cancer. I wish him well, but it raises a detached perspective in that he is just another chap from my generation unfortunate enough to have cancer.

The detached perspective also wonders why we pretend that this very ordinary man is a monarch. Officially of course he certainly is a monarch, but the role degenerated long ago to that of a figurehead and most of that is a willingness to pretend he is something more.

It's not easy to say whether this is healthy or not, this willingness to pretend. Sometimes justified by the horrible prospect of President Blair as an alternative which is pretty convincing. 

Yet so often it's what we go for - the lesser of two evils. Understandable enough, but there is a certain fatuity about it. The fatuity is there in the background now. 

Monday 5 February 2024

Missing secrets of the universe

Giant 'supercollider' could find missing secrets of universe, say CERN scientists

The current machine has been unable to unlock more information about dark energy in the universe - but it is hoped its giant successor will be given the green light for construction to begin in the 2040s.

Scientists at CERN - home to the world's largest particle accelerator - have put forward proposals for a new "supercollider" which it is hoped will help uncover the secrets of 95% of the universe.

The Future Circular Collider (FCC) is seen as the giant successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which sits in a 17-mile tunnel beneath the ground near Geneva, Switzerland - but the new machine is also facing criticism for its £17bn price tag.

This kind of development used to be fascinating, especially for those with scientific interests. Not so much now we know more about the pernicious influence of funding and the equally pernicious influence of mediocrities angling for professional status. 

It's something we never thought would happen, but the shadow is already there.

The Orphanage



While wandering through an antiques centre yesterday, I spotted this print of St Christopher's Orphanage in Derby, otherwise known as the Railway Servant's Orphanage. Not a very good photo and it wasn't a particularly good print. Priced at £10, I didn't buy it. 

I remember St Christopher's quite well as it stood next to my primary school. I also knew one or two children from there because of course they were bound to go to the school next door. They all wore matching pullovers if I remember rightly. This was the nineteen fifties, but it seems like another age now and I suppose it is.

Sunday 4 February 2024

The Shiny Table Effect

Sometimes it helps to trivialise important issues where there is a core of egregious absurdity, so here’s an example –

When we consider Drax power station burning wood chips to make electricity, it is worth taking a sideways look at the thing via shiny tables.

Vast acreages of trees are chopped down thousands of miles away in the US, turned into wood pellets, transported thousands of miles to Drax and burned to make electricity and save the planet. Where shiny tables come into it is that a group of people almost certainly sat round one and came up with a decision to go ahead with this lunacy.

It was probably a shiny table, which isn’t relevant but it sets the scene. A group of important people sat round it, discussed the Drax plan in a sober, high-level manner and at great length with profound earnestness then made the village idiot decision to go ahead and subsidise it.

What enticed them into the asylum in the first place? Picture them sitting round the shiny table with a big thick project report plus iPhone, iPad, notebook, pens, a cup of coffee, plate of expensive biscuits, bottle of water, some graphs on the whiteboard and so on.

There is one other aspect of this imaginary scenario. Those important people all knew the scheme was absurd. They must have known - the absurdity is just too obvious to miss. Except round a shiny table.

The Midwit Cuckoos

Ben Sixsmith has a fine Critic piece on the looming disaster that is Keir Starmer.

Fear the Keir

Starmer is Blair 2.0 — but this time, things can only get worse

Most Conservatives, I think it’s fair to say, have all but given up on winning the next election. No, it’s not impossible. Keir Starmer could suffocate a kitten on live TV while announcing his membership of the Church of Satan. But it would probably take an incident on the scale of gleeful Satanically-inspired felicide for Sunak to have a realistic chance...

Still, this does not mean that we should be complacent about the prospect of Prime Minister Starmer. It is tempting, given the Labour leader he replaced, to see him as serious and responsible. Liberal Conservatives respect him for rooting out the Corbynites and exiling their hero with Soviet relish.

Frankly, I think that it has been an ignoble affair. Claiming that you wouldn’t wave across the street at a man you once called a colleague and a friend, as Starmer did of Corbyn, is low, cowardly stuff. Perhaps that’s politics but, well — politics sucks.

The whole piece is well worth reading because UK political prospects are horrible enough to offer a certain fascination. Much like our fascination with Darwin Awards, but this time we'll be going after the award if we vote for Starmer as PM.

Yet Keir Starmer is a Blair for 2024 — not the smiling managerialist of an age of cultural confidence and economic success but the grim-faced managerialist of an age of cultural neuroses and economic decline. Let’s call him Stony Blair.

Peter Mandelson himself has said that Keir Starmer is “the nearest thing to Blair”. Granted, as a close acquaintance of the financier Jeffrey Epstein, Mandelson can hardly be alleged to have the best judgement when it comes to people, but he knows Sir Tony. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday 3 February 2024

Are we ruled by Midwits?

The interesting point here is that Parliament no longer attracts bright people, they go elsewhere. I do like one of the comments -

In South Africa we can only dream of being ruled by midwits.

Too Much Incompetence

Tom Jones has a useful CAPX piece on housing and immigration. Useful because it reminds us yet again of the mind-boggling incompetence of our government, both political and permanent.

Yimbys need to start talking about immigration

Will Britain’s housing crisis only be solved via the supply side?

That’s certainly the opinion of Yimby thought leaders, who relentlessly – and rightly – mock the attempts of Conservative governments to try yet another demand-side reform to meet the 300,000 homes target (which it hasn’t met since taking office).

But the idea that the housing crisis can only be solved through supply-side reform is as ludicrous as thinking we are just one more demand-side subsidy away from paradise. Far from it being solely a party problem, housing is a political one, and a systemic one; no government has hit the 300,000 homes target since 1977.

And even this as-yet unmet target isn’t high enough, particularly given near-sequential years of all-time high immigration figures. The 300,000 homes target is based on a projected immigration figure of 170,500; yet immigration into the UK last year was 745,000 – 339% of the projected level.

Familiar enough, but the whole piece is well worth reading. It highlights an extraordinary inability to take numbers seriously. The issue is not complicated, the numbers are not higher mathematics, the conclusions are blatantly obvious. The only real mystery is the incompetence, but maybe that is not a mystery either. Social and political malice may be a better explanation.

Not only would lowering migration help alleviate the housing crisis by reducing demand, it may also provide a tool to help defeat the entrenched Nimbyism that prevents further supply; as Andrew Orlowski has previously pointed out, ‘voters want to see demand addressed before talking about supply.’

However the housing crisis is solved, it will involve a combination of both supply and demand-side reforms. But after this CPS briefing, it is time to accept that reducing immigration will be a key ingredient in that mix.