Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Driver restaurant















Lunch at The Driver restaurant today, in Wharfdale Road just off York Way.

Because of the people I was with I thought it best to have the vegetarian risotto.

If everyone in the United Kingdom had one less meat meal per week it would go a long way to help meet the national emissions targets.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Premier Wen Jiabao is visiting the United Kingdom

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is visiting the United Kingdom.  I have been looking at some of the PR aspects of the visit.  So far the visual PR has been excellent.


















Above:  this photo was in The Times, quite prominent on the page (but well within the newspaper - page 12 I think).  Here Premier Wen visits Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon.  This is a wonderful image.  Happy smiling faces, attractive blonde women, beneficent sunshine.  Surrounded by the monuments of the world's greatest literary shrine, the world leader appears completely at ease, surrounded by friends.  The accompanying text was more nuanced, but it is the picture that tells the story.



















Above:  this image appeared in the Guardian, much smaller than the Times picture.  Despite the smaller size it still has a lot of impact.  MG logo, strong colours, implicit action.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wim Crouwel exhibition at the Design Museum

















Above:  having read a review (here) of the Wim Crouwel exhibition at the Design Museum I felt sufficiently motivated to go and see it, although the Design Museum is not the easiest place to get to.  I entered the exhibition expecting to experience coldness, aloofness, alienation.  And it was all of those things.  But surprisingly this austere astringency was not unpleasant.  The entrance was guarded by a gigantic portrait of Wim Crouwel in a white suit (looking starched and inhuman).  Mostly flat visual displays, white space everywhere, hushed tones from the visitors.  No photography allowed, preserving the uncommercialised integrity of the great man's canon of work.  A section described Wim Crowel's early interest in modern architecture, and I immediately felt I understood him.  His typography is type trying to become three-dimensional buildings. 

While I was in the Design Museum I also had a look at the Designs of the Year exhibition, which was much more accessible. 



















Above:  clothes on intimidating-looking mannequins.



















Above:  book designs with sensibly narrow blocks of text (the eye gets exhausted if expected to read more than ten words per line).



















Above:  design for a "self-build" house.  A first sight very attractive, but that white wouldn't stay clean for very long, and the yellow light that looks so inviting would be irritating after a while.  And I guess that the white exterior and yellow dazzle isn't meant to be real anyway.
















Above:  the United Kingdom pavilion at last year's Shanghai Expo.  There was nothing inside the building - was this meant to be symbolic?  The Victorians would have filled their pavilion with manufactured goods, so does the empty interior symbolise our modern dependence on intangible services?



















Above:  just as interesting as the exhibits were the people.  What sort of people go to design exhibitions?  Who are they in terms of age, gender, socio-economic group, median income, geographical location, post-graduate education etc?



















Above:  when I first saw the sign I thought the exhibition was of British insurance designs of the year (perhaps some of their direct mail).  A bit specialised I thought, but might be worth seeing.  It was only when I got up there that I realised the exhibition was sponsored by British Insurance.












Above:  battered old 1988 anthology that includes a short story by Michael Bracewell.  Called Missing Margate, it is about a jejune modernist architect who decides to destroy his own buildings, one of which is called the Museum of Corporate Finance.  I like to think that somewhere this museum exists, with perhaps an exhibition of British Insurance Designs of the Year.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Midsummer



















Above:  one of the most significant days of the ritual year is Midsummer, which is celebrated on St John's Day 24th June (not to be confused with the Longest Day which is on 21st June).  Midsummer is traditionally the day on which "Midsummer Fairs" are held, but as the day fell on a Friday this year the fairs were rescheduled for the weekends either side.  Rather than go to the fair on the 19th I waited until yesterday (25th) and went to a fair in the south-west of the county.















Above:  one of the features of the pastoral landscape as I neared the village was the blood-red appearance of the fields, which were covered in wild poppies (the common corn poppy or Papaver rhoeas).


















Above:  the crossroads at the centre of the village was marked by the Crossed Swords Inn, which seemed a martial name for a pub (public houses are often of great antiquity, and often preserve in their names clues as to the past social activity of the village - was this pub the venue for fencing / jousting or a quasi-military club of some kind?).















Above:  the fair was held in the sports ground behind the village hall.  I got there quite late so the sparse appearance of this photo is not a true indication of the attendance.  Dog show, stalls of various kinds, a display of motor cycles.
















Above:  I left the fair and walked up a gentle hill to look at the manor house - stone, like most buildings in the village.  Pevsner says this building is 17th century.  There was a fine dovecote nearby.


















Above:  near the manor was the village green with this truncated cross, obviously of great antiquity (often these crosses pre-date the church, so this could be Saxon).


















Above:  an embroidery inside the church said that the cross was a "Moot" place where village elders would meet - a sort of miniature witenagemot.
















Above:  approaching the church, which was on the summit of the little hill, I noticed that it had a chapel of some kind on the south side - possibly a chantry or a guild chapel.















Above:  looking inside the chapel it was now used as a tea room.  There were no monuments, so presumably it had not been a chantry chapel.  Possibly it was the meeting place for a guild (or guilds).



















Above:  in the north wall of the chancel were two crusader gravestones.  This one had been reused in 1730, hence the inscription.  The Listed Buildings website says that both gravestones are thirteenth-century.



















Above:  the second gravestone, slightly more worn.  The church was dedicated to St James, so is it fanciful to imagine the village was a recruiting ground for crusaders wanting to go on the crusades to support the Spanish kingdom of Galicia rather than those to the Holy Land?  A guild, meeting in the south chapel, would raise money to recruit, equip and support knights (they would do this by promising indulgences), and the knights before leaving might put on jousts at the crossroads inn to raise additional funds and generate enthusiasm and support from the local community.

All conjecture I know.

















Above:  before leaving I went back to the fair to watch the Tug-of-war.  Village sports such as this were originally intended as demonstrations of strength.  Tug of war was also a popular event at medieval tournaments (sorry to keep harping on about this subject, but I found the various connections, slender though they are, to be intriguing).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A tussle over who is to do an interview - the past week at work

Monday

During the morning I ploughed through the paper on my desk, occasionally getting up to go to speak to various people.

Another of the interminable meetings about a guide the NGO is producing.

In the afternoon a meeting in the Innovation department discussing a telemarketing campaign (using an outside agency) to promote one of the Innovation schemes.

Tuesday

Producing a Powerpoint presentation for the Innovation department. 

A tussle over who is to do an interview for regional television.  Operations director Ryan M was insistent that he should do the interview and not CEO Alec Pressberg.  "If necessary I will tell him that" he said (as if I care).

PR Officer Josie S sat in on this meeting but was subdued and didn't say a word (she is having an affair with Ryan M, but her mood of distracted serenity has changed to a sulky sort of depression).

Then a meeting with the all-women ad agency who are producing the next issue of the NGO's magazine.  There has been a lot of criticism over this magazine, especially its vacuous self-publicising content.  This may be the last issue we produce, as the NGO needs to make cuts.

Wednesday

At my desk I looked at the post (including my boss Tom D's post as he is still away), drank some coffee and sent off some urgent e-mails.  Then up to the Board Room for a meeting to discuss income generation for the NGO, since the grant from government is being cut.  I was surprised at the number of good ideas this meeting generated.

As a number of outside guests had been invited to the meeting we all went to lunch at a nearby hotel - wine and sandwiches in a little room off the bar.

In the afternoon office junior Leo had to be told off for truculent and defiant behaviour towards my deputy Meryl (his line manager).

The Marketing department has been doing a lot of work for the Operations department lately, so I told Josie to do a report to remind them how much we have supported them.

Thursday

A discussion on unemployment in the office.  Kate from the Operations department revealed that her first job had been at a "U-bo" (an Unemployment Benefit Office, now called a Job Centre).  "My recurring nightmare is that I have to go back to a U-bo in south London" she said.

Harriet D, one of the NGO's directors, was about the offices - slight trace of a Suffolk accent, grey hair in tight curls, deceptively motherly manner (but actually a ruthless and unpleasant character).  This is only the second time I have seen her all year.  She seems to be on permanent leave, and only comes in to deputise when CEO Alec Pressberg is away. 

Tony in the Operations department is getting married at the weekend (his second marriage) so we all squashed into the Operations office to see Harriet D present him with various gifts.

Friday

The television crew arrived and I took them up to the tea room and asked questions about how they were going to handle the item.  I then briefed Ryan M on what he should say.  The interview went fairly well

"Marks out of ten? Ryan M asked later about the interview.  "Ten out of ten" Josie said.  I said nothing.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hares



















Above:  for some time I have been thinking about the cultural significance of hares (Lepus europaeus).  Every year the media reports the appearance of "Mad March Hares" in a ritual sequence that announces the end of winter and the arrival of spring.  Hares feature regularly in literature - the March Hare in Alice In Wonderland; The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal; Masquerade by Kit Williams etc.


















Above:  silver representations of hares in a jeweller's shop in Burlington Arcade.  Hares are traditionally associated with bravery and cunning.  Boudicca queen of the Iceni (a tribe in Iron Age Norfolk) took a hare with her everytime she went into battle.


















Above:  sculpture in central London of a leaping hare, crescent moon and bell.  The sculpture dates from 1988 and is by Barry Flanagan.  Hares are associated with the moon.
















Above:  a couple of weeks ago I walked through this field in a lonely part of the county and saw dozens of hares running about.  I managed to photograph two of them (you might need to click on the image to enlarge it).  It was a perfect summer evening - warm sun, peaceful atmosphere, and the magical hares running about.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

25% of state school pupils are from an ethnic minority















Article in the Guardian today by Jessica Shepherd saying that 25% of state school pupils are from an ethnic minority.

This is a huge change in the composition of the general population, and is likely to be permanent (since as they get older they will form relationships and have children of their own).

It raises some interesting questions about the future nature of British society.  25% is probably too large a number to be integrated into the general population, therefore within ten to twelve years (when the 25% will achieve voting rights) we will start to see changes.  The positive benefits of this diversity are so familiar they hardly need repeating.

But there are some negative aspects that need to be considered.

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that do not have functioning democracies, are they automatically going to value the British parliamentary model?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that do not have trial by jury or the principle of innocent until proven guilty will these legal concepts survive?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies where trade unions are not recognised how are trade unions going to recruit from this segment of the population?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies where corruption is endemic, will that become an increasing feature of British society?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that place no value on animal life, will animal welfare standards start to regress?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that do not value women's rights, will women experience a rise in discrimination?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies where the death penalty is a familiar part of the justice code, will there be pressure to readopt this into the British legal system?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that enforce sexual taboos, will these become a feature of British society?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that do not have a good record on the environment, will that change the nature of the environmental debate?

If the 25% of newcomers are from societies that do not have established consumer behaviour, how is this going to affect the way goods are marketed?

Ten per cent, and you could say they would be integrated (even though there are no official policies for national integration).  Twenty-five per cent is too large a sector to integrate.  Therefore there are going to be changes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Facebook has reached a tipping point












Interesting article by Mark Prigg in the Evening Standard on Monday about the slowdown in the growth of Facebook. He argues that Facebook has reached a tipping point.  That users are becoming bored with the existing format and are looking for more "boutique" social networks.


Which makes me ask, at an anthropological and psychological level, what is Facebook for?

On a superficial level it allows people to have their own web-page, keep in touch with people and publish short pieces of text.

On a more fundamental level I would suggest that Facebook is a machine for generating self-actualisation (which is at the summit of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs).

Facebook users are able to use the site to invent the person they most want to be, projecting a highly stylised and mediated version of themselves to the "outside world". They are able to edit and reinvent this persona, and even create multiple personas. By doing this they are able to satisfy a deep psychological need.

However Facebook is a very imperfect "self-actualisation machine". It may satisfy students (for which it was designed), but other demographic groups find it limiting. Therefore we can expect to see a kaleidoscope of different self-actualisation machines developing.

Also self-actualisation machines tailored to different societies (China, Russia, Brazil etc).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Asianization of the Global Economy (世界经济的Asianization)














Yesterday I went to Birkbeck College to hear Professor Andrew Jones talk about The Asianization of the Global Economy.

Professor Jones is Professor of Economic Geography at Birkbeck, and is author of the Dictionary of Globalization as well as several other books on the topic and about thirty-five articles.

The lecture began with a brief review of globalization over the last twenty years and the growing view that globalization was unraveling because of nationalism, protectionism and the fragmenting of the EU. 

This view, although understandable, is not valid.  Far from faltering, globalization is entering a new phase of intensity.  Two examples of relative European decline - the IMF is no longer in the forefront of globalization (for obvious reasons related to the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn); Glaxo Smith Kline are undergoing a global restructuring, and not only closing their production facilities in Europe, but also moving their research to China.

We are witnessing a rebalancing of the world economic activity, especially as over the last five years the global downturn has not really affected the emerging economies.  The West is failing to appreciate what has happened.  We are probably at a tipping point in the shift of the centre of gravity from West to East.

If you put the word "globalization" into the Amazon search box you get tens of thousands of books but the focus is very narrow.  Globalization has been confused with Westernization or Americanization.  Now definitions need to be widened to include political, technological and cultural aspects as well as just economics.

What we are seeing is the growing inter-connectedness of human society.  Times have changed since Peter Dicken wrote the highly-influential book Global Shift.  We are now in a new sort of globalization.

Especially the global economy has become very complex - complicated, uneven, geographically dispersed.

This has masked what is really happening in the world, so that almost unnoticed we have arrived at a tipping point.

Why has this happened?

We need to look back over the last five years at the economies that have been growing and the economies that have been contracting.  This has been a very unusual recession - the rest of the world did not follow the US into recession.  Over the last five years The West has had non-existent or very low growth while all the time China has been booming.

We are now looking at the Asianization of the global economy - a period of far-reaching change with perhaps Asia approaching dominance.

Five factors to consider:

1  In 2010 China leap-frogged over Japan to become the world's second largest economy.  By 2020 China is expected to overtake the US as the largest economy.  Over Asian economies are following so that we are looking at a majority of the top 20 economies to be Asian (Australia is the only Western economy still growing, and this is as a result of growth in Asia).

2  Look at the growing size, number and dominance of Asian corporations:  eg five of the top ten investment banks are Japanese (the Bank of China is number 14); nine of the ten largest steel firms are Asian-based; five of the top ten car manufacturers are Asian-based etc.

3  Be aware of the on-going upskilling and capacity of the Asian economies to do what the West is doing in terms of services.  Consultancy, IT and software companies have mushroomed across Asia.  Also finance and business services - they will not be looking to western consultants for much longer.

4  Consider the rising power of Asian capital.  When George Osborne talks about "the need to appease the markets" he is talking about China.  The largest holder of UK sovereign debt is China.

5  Asian countries are a growing power in the governance of the world economy.  They want voting rights on the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the UN.  The recent challenge by emerging economies to European dominance of the IMF is an indication of how things are likely to develop. 

There will be limits to the Asianization of the global economy, and these will depend on a number of issues - economic, political, cultural, linguistic.  But Western dominance looks ever more fragile.  What will count is the absolute size of economic activity.

In the future Western companies may have to adapt to Asian capitalist norms.

The talk came to an end.  In an adjoining area white wine was available.  When I left the Clore Management Centre it was pouring with rain.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green smoothies















I got very drunk over the weekend.

All of today I have been drinking just green smoothies and water - no food at all.

It seems to be working..

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The atmosphere of the place was almost tangible

Now the evenings are light until 9pm I often make little excursions on my way home.  One day during the week I went to look round a village in the south west corner of the county.  It wasn't much out of my way, and saved me going back there at the weekend.















Above:  the Ordnance Survey map shows evidence of crusader activity to the north of the village, and this is supported by records and archaeological excavations.  Note the way the bulge of the hill overlooks a little valley.  Also the plentiful supply of water.

















Above:  the village itself has an enclosed, slightly claustrophobic aspect, with terraces of stone cottages arranged in narrow little streets.



















Above:  I had to ask for the church to be opened (the church is dedicated to John the Baptist, often associated with Templar sites).  The door was decorated with medieval heads and flowers.  On either side of the door (not immediately apparent) are obscene carvings of the male and female genitals. 



















Above:  inside there were a number of clues that suggested a Templar presence.   The building was small, but had transepts which indicate the existence of chapels for guilds and confraternities (useful in raising money and recruits for crusading activity).  The font has carvings of lilies, which are a Judean symbol of Jerusalem (as well as a symbol of the Virgin Mary).



















Above:  most interesting of all is this huge grave stone behind the organ, surrounded by clutter.  The crusader cross is unmistakeable.  At the top of the stone there is a very crude portrait of a head (the head of John the Baptist, supposedly one of the Templar symbols?). 



















Above:  a display board had details of the excavations on Temple Hill, which took place in the 1960s.  As you can see, the site included its own chapel.  Why the name "Temple" Hill - was this supposed to imitate the Temple Mount in Jerusalem?



















Above:  I drove out into the countryside to the north of the village.  I was able to easily identify the site by the location of the streams.  It was about 7 o'clock, the evening beautiful, the air humid.
















Above:  you can see my car parked down by the stream.  I walked back up the hill looking for a gap in the hedge.  Lush wild flowers covered the roadside verge.

















Above:  dog roses in the thick hedge.  The exertion of walking up the hill in the humid air made me feel enervated.  Eventually I got into the field by climbing over a gate.















Above:  the field was completely overgrown with weeds and undergrowth.  I had been hoping to see the outline of the site in the ground, but this was not possible.  The atmosphere of the place was almost tangible - secretive, sagacious, presentimental.



















Above:  later at home I reread Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith's article on Confraternities in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.  Much work still needs to be done in this area.  For instance, there are thousands of medieval wills that have not been published, and I am sure that they some of them will show donations to confraternities supporting crusader activity.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We discussed various problems - the past week at work

Monday

My deputy Meryl seemed sullen this morning.  Office junior Leo was co-operative.  I have given up trying to understand their moods.

What did I do all day?  Looking back, it is hard to identify anything specific.  I briefed a designer.  Then I endured a presentation from a sales rep for a commercial radio station.  I talked to Research manager Felix about the art of writing e-mails copied to everyone in the NGO (he claims this is an effective means of personal PR).

PR Officer Josie (who is having an affair with Operations Director Ryan M) was in a strange mood and made a number of bitter comments ("Sometimes I hate working in this place... it's such a complicated hostile organisation... I never really know who my friends are...").  I suppose if I were truly her friend I would tell her not behave so stupidly over someone who is never going to leave his wife.  But if I did that she would not forgive me.

The working day drew to a close and I stepped out of the office into the late afternoon sunshine.  Rather than listen to PM (on Radio 4) I put on the commercial radio station I had been discussing earlier.  Karen Carpenter was singing Goodbye To Love. 

Tuesday

Communications Director Tom D has gone away for two weeks, leaving Felix and myself in charge (which in the NGO is called "acting up" - we are equal grade).  We sat in Tom's office discussing opportunities to do things while Tom is away.  Change things, influence things, perhaps even cancel things.   

The documentary about the NGO was filmed today, with the film crew wandering around the building interviewing people.  This project started as a series of radio documentaries, and has grown into an eleven-episode film series (five minutes per episode).  I had given Josie the task of minding the film crew, and she flapped about, getting annoyed when people were not ready for their spots.

Because the NGO Board was being filmed in the evening I had to stay late (just in case something went wrong).  I used the time to catch up on some outstanding work.  I talked to Ryan M about the National Awards he has asked me to organise.  When I told him to expect a call from a journalist he said to me brazenly: "The thing is, is she nice - is she a goer?"  I avoided answering the question and we talked jokily for a few minutes before he disappeared.  When I went up to check the filming was going smoothly he was at his usual place at the Board table, talking seriously to the other directors, a glass of orange juice in his hand.

Wednesday

Today I finally came to the conclusion that I did not like working at the NGO and would not apply for a permanent position.  I have decided this in the past and then changed my mind, but this time I was determined there would be no more second thoughts.  Talking to Felix did not help as he is so fatalistic about everything. 

Thursday

The weather has changed again so that it is now chilly and damp. 

One of the great advantages of Tom D being away is that I can park in his parking space.

The national directory distribution got under way today and I visited the mailing house to make sure it was going out as specified.  I am more confident about the success of this project.  The opposition to it was at times daunting.

Friday

A call from a business magazine asking for an interview.  The only director available was Ryan M so after a brief explanation I put him through.  When I asked Kate, who works in his team, how the interview had gone she said he had been awful.

Lunchtime I went to the Red Lion with Felix, and over pints of beer we discussed various problems.  The Meryl problem.  The Carmel problem.  And again and again we returned to the Tom problem.  How he was disorganised, did not communicate, openly lied about things.  We were there about two hours, and when we returned to the office I felt in no condition to do any work. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Leaflet from MBNA


















Above:  normally I resent getting mailings from financial institutions.  Usually I just throw them away unread.  With a slight worry that there might be something in the small print that is going to cost me money at some point in the future.

But this leaflet from MBNA immediately caught my attention. It says: See inside to find out how this benefits you. I actually wanted to open it up and read it!

Marketing is not just about the big expensive campaigns - sometimes just changing a few words is the best thing you can do.

Cuckoo

I heard a cuckoo this morning.  First time I have heard this call for many years.  In 2009 the cuckoo was added to the RSPB's list of endangered birds.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

UEFA Under-21 Championship



















Given the importance of sport to the functioning of a well-balanced society, it's disappointing that the Under 21 Championship is not available free on terrestrial television.  Disadvantaged homes cannot afford Sky television, and it is not good to encourage young people to go into pubs to watch matches (which they can't do anyway until they are aged 16).  The department of Media Culture and Sport needs to intervene.

Coverage in the printed media has been poor.

Portillo on Salmond on BBC2

Michael Portillo's documentary on Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond, broadcast last night on BBC2, was almost entirely empty of any real insights, analysis or explanations.

I was no wiser after the programme than I was before.

For instance, when addressing Alex Salmond's motivation in adopting nationalism as his chosen political philosophy Michael Portillo showed us a view of Linlithgow Palace and thought "perhaps" Alex Salmond had been affected by some kind of affinity with Mary Queen of Scots.  This is crass, lazy and misleading.  Why didn't he simply ASK Alex Salmond what his motivation was?

Michael Portillo attempted a Kitty Kelly deconstruction of the Alex Salmond biography by assembling various people who have known the Scottish nationalist over the years.  But there were not enough of them to make the exercise credible.  And they didn't really say anything revealing.

In the sequences when we saw Michael Portillo actually talking to Alex Salmond they simply exchanged Westminster-type joshing comments.

You can see it:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0116snp/Portillo_on_Salmond/

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lecture














After work I went to a village on the western border of the county.  Torrential downpours of rain, so violent that I had to stop the car and wait for the deluge to ease.  Then just as suddenly the rain stopped, about a mile away from my destination.

At the manor a garden party was being held for the county's architectural society (of which I am a member).  I was a little late, and felt apprehensive as I walked down the drive, seeing the guests walking about on the lawns to the left of the house.  The manor-house itself was like a large doll's house, swathed in roses and bordered in lavender.

The was a little bar under an awning where I got myself a glass of white wine (very good wine, but not really chilled properly).  I walked around the garden nodding to people I sort-of knew.  Although it was nearly 8pm the heat of the day continued, unbearable in its intensity.

A set of ornamental lakes, placid horses standing in a meadow, secretive walks leading to flowered arbours.

I felt a few spots of rain falling, and suspecting what might come next I walked hurridly back to the main lawn.  I warned people that it might be about to rain, but they seemed unconcerned.  More spots fell so that I hurried on to the gate in the garden wall that led into the churchyard and went into the church where the lecture was to be held.

A couple of minutes later the storm broke, the rain falling down on the roof with shocking ferocity.  The noise was incredible.  In through the north door the other members of the architectural society rushed, all of them completely drenched.

After a short introduction the wet speaker, a professor from a midlands university, climbed up into the Jacobean pulpit.  The subject for his talk was scholarly clergymen from the Victorian period.  He talked for about an hour and then took questions.

 "The gentleman scholarly cleric was a type of parson that hardly exists today...  probably they had failed to get a university fellowship and went into the Church as a second choice...  they would have a grand rectory, servants, and retire into their books and documents - to them Sunday services were an interruption to their researches...

"The meeting point for these clerics was the county's architectural society...  they discussed restoring churches to their gothic purity...  a standardised approach to writing church guidebooks was developed...

"They worked on the Victoria County History with a team of young female historians who had studied at universities but in that era were unable to take their degrees...  they published uninteresting books from original sources...  vast quantities of their work has never been published..."

The meeting came to an end.  There was a vote of thanks and we all applauded.  Various people were presented with bunches of flowers and bottles of wine.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Looking at Ed Miliband from a PR point of view


















Above:  interesting articles by Patrick Wintour and Michael White (in the Guardian) and Rachel Sylvester (in The Times) discussing Ed Miliband's failure to make an impact as Labour Party Leader.  In many ways this criticism is unfair.  There is a huge amount of work to be done before Labour can develop a programme of new ideas to put before the electorate.  All leaders aspiring to fundamental change have to go through this "wilderness" phase (Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle even Ayatollah Kohmeini).  During this phase the emphasis has to be on purgation of unhelpful elements and the development of an integrated programme that includes at least nine completely original policies (less than nine looks light-weight, more than nine and you start to lose people).

There is evidence that the Conservatives are already engaged on a programme of reinvention, even while they are in office ("we are already planning for the next term").












Above:  looking at Ed Miliband from a PR point of view, there is little he can currently do to create an impact as leader of the Opposition.  This is because the role of Opposition has become increasingly usurped by the Liberal Democrats from within the Coalition.  Thus arguments against Coalition policies can be played out by disgruntled Lib Dems (and sometimes Conservatives), a faux row played out for the benefit of the media, and the policy adjusted (but not too much) to suggest the government is listening and responding.

I am unsure whether this is just the way things are happening or (this may be too machiavellian to be true) is deliberately being choreographed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.