Monday, April 30, 2012

When the Speaker of the House of Commons starts to interfere in party politics and indulge in partisan stunts we know that the democratic working of parliament is imperilled.

The annual cleevers harvest















The recent rain has made this year's crop of Galium aparine lush and plentiful.  Galium aparine is also known as Cleevers or "sticky weed".  It grows everywhere - you probably have some in your garden.

I use the word "crop" as right up until the Second World War local villagers would collect the weed and dry it.  It was then used as sort of primitive beauty aid - young girls would make a daily hot drink by steeping cleevers in boiling water for about five minutes.  The drink was supposed to improve their complexion.

The annual cleevers harvest has long gone.  Hardly anyone remembers it.  Galium aparine is just a weed to most people.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The free-fall in wages















Above:  Perceptive article by Deborah Orr in yesterday's Guardian.  It looks crumpled because I have read it several times.  Essentially she is discussing the labour market and why some workers are paid more than others.

I think she overlooks the issue of "barriers to entry".  With highly specialist workers (surgeons for instance) the barriers to entry are high, and so supply is restricted, and therefore the workers are able to demand higher rewards.  With less skilled workers (care workers or cleaners or production line operatives) the barriers to entry are low and so if the supply of labour is unlimited the rewards will fall to the minimum wage and below.

The working class can only sell labour.  This labour is sold, on an individual basis, to the highest bidder.  Therefore if you want to raise the value of unskilled and semi-skilled labour you must restrict the supply.

Until the 1970s the inward movement of low-cost labour was relatively restricted.  During this time employers had to compete for employees and not only were wages and salaries adequate there were also other benefits such as final salary pensions.  This was paid for by relatively higher prices for goods and services and higher taxes for state provision.












Above:  Article by Zoe Williams in the Guardian some weeks ago basically admitting economic illiteracy among the "Left".







Above:  In the Zoe Williams article I was interested in the line "Real wages in this country have been falling since 1968".  The late sixties was the period when the immigration of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, which began as a trickle after the Second World War, began to have a substantial effect.  If the free-fall in wages is to be halted inward migration must stop.

Obviously I realise that immigration is a taboo subject and must not be discussed.  Even writing these few lines on an obscure blog could lead to me being called a "bigot" or a "hatemongerer".  You would have to be very brave to publicly challenge the inward flow of migrants, even though it is a policy that has never been democratically endorsed.

An example is provided by the experience of Barry Sheerman MP.  A few days ago he made an appeal for restaurants to employ more British workers (rather than the ubiquitous eastern Europeans).  Immediately he came under sustained abuse of the most offensive and bullying kind.

This is not a "fascist" or a "xenophobe" or a "hatemongerer".  This is a respected Labour MP who has sat in the House of Commons since 1979.  If Barry Sheerman is bullied into silence what hope is there for a rational discussion of the most fundamental social change of modern times?









Above:  a screenprint of part of Owen Jones's Twitter page (you might need to click on the image to read it properly).  Here you can see that soon after Barry Sheerman MP's comments were reported in the media Owen Jones accused him of doing something shameful (shameful even to discuss immigration) but he also chose to retweet a comment by someone called Hali accusing Barry Sheerman of "hatemongering".  Owen Jones did not actually make the hatemongering slur himself, but by retweeting it he was presumably endorsing the abuse (Owen Jones is someone who appears on news programmes and politics programmes and writes for various newspapers so he is not a nobody like myself).

So you see how this works.

As soon as anyone speaks there is an immediate move to shut down debate and silence people.

Owen Jones claims to be a supporter of the working class.

I don't think so.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Currently watching Newsnight.

The reason the United Kingdom has tipped back into recession (possibly) is that we have tied our economy to the European Union.  It's a crazy economic policy.  All of western Europe is trying to produce and export the same things.

Decanted

I was interviewing someone yesterday and he revealed he used to work for Newham Council in the 1980s and 1990s.

I couldn't resist asking him about the current attempts to "decant" benefits claimants from Newham to Stoke (and elsewhere).

He said that many of the benefits claimants originally came from Westminster when that borough was being cleansed of socio-economic group E. 

The then Newham council encouraged this (against the advice of their housing department) as they felt they were getting thousands of additional Labour voters.

Now that Newham wants to "gentrify" and also reduce financial pressures many of these people are being decanted again - presumably to areas like Stoke where Labour voting fodder will be welcome (though perhaps not by Tristram Hunt MP - as an Old Etonian "parachuted" into Stoke against the wishes of the local party he is not going to be keen on thousands of destitute people with housing problems cluttering up his weekly surgery, especially as these "Old Labour" voters would probably prefer someone a bit more like themselves as MP).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I can't see how Jeremy Hunt can survive.

Certainly he needs to stop smirking when reporters are asking him deadly serious questions.

Very interested to read in the Guardian that Major offered Blair a pact to deal with Murdoch.

It must be very tempting for the government to just order MI5 to get rid of that "organised criminal gang".

Perhaps bundle them into an RAF jet and allow them to disappear into the rendition gulag.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My fear vis-a-vis Leveson is that the politicians are going to be stupid enough to allow the Murdochs to play them off one against another.

Will it be possible for the political parties to unite for once and destroy the evil Murdoch hydra?

Or will they put short-term point-scoring before the long-term national interest?

A covert New Labour policy

The main item on the Today programme this morning on BBC Radio 4, just after the 8 o'clock news, was concerned with the "social cleansing" of benefits-dependant people from the London borough of Newham (the Labour council is hoping to relocate them to Stoke on Trent where the Old Etonian Labour MP Tristram Hunt has said they are not wanted).

Why are there 32,000 homeless people in Newham (on the council waiting list)?  Who are these people in terms of age, sex, socio-economic class etc?  How has this problem arisen?

"Decanting" problem families from failed estates was a covert New Labour policy (an example is the Woodberry Down estate in Hackney).  The theory was that socially mixed environments would benefit all the residents.  Instead it seems to have created resentment on all sides.

Also depressing is the on-going gentrification of the East End.  You can't move in the area for media-types, creative-types, and poseurs of all kinds thinking that an East End address gives them the cachet of being working-class horny-handed sons of soil and toil.  Bethnal Green Town Hall is now a luxury hotel and gourmet restaurant, the old docks are lined with hideous yuppie flats and Shoreditch has become one vast open-air new-media boutique.

My grandparents and their seven children lived in a privately rented two-up two-down house in Tomlins Terrace.  No-one helped them or gave them benefits (and they would have scorned any suggestion of charity).  If any council official had tried to "decant" them they would have shoved him head-first down a manhole (traditional East End way of dealing with troublesome outsiders).

Monday, April 23, 2012

In an article in today's Guardian arguing that the metropolitan elite were out of touch with the ordinary people John Harris used the word poujadistes.

I had to look it up on Google.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dolce & Gabbana advertisement


















Fabulous Dolce & Gabbana advertisement in yesterday's Guardian. 

Everything about this ad works - the position (inside front cover), the size (half-page), the use of full colour.

Above all, the creative impact is superb - brave and confident use of a wonderful photograph combined with the Dolce & Gabbana logotype (nothing else!). 

There are so many ways in which this photograph works, but I am particularly impressed by the figure of the woman.  I have no idea who the photographer is, but I would guess he is an Italian fully cognisant of Renaissance iconography.  This is a classic "madonna", and the gaze of her sunglass-shielded eyes is one of rapture (note the tiny starburst in one of the lenses, as if she is exhibiting the Stella Maris).




















Above:  detail from Guido Reni's painting Disputa "the spotless Virgin in glory adoring the name of God".

All desire (sexual desire, material desire, desire for power etc) is supposed to be sublimated desire for the presence of God (did EH Gombrich say that? I can't remember).













Above:  recently I read Richard E Spear's book on Guido Reni and his work.  For all his prurient speculations about Guido Reni's sex life it is a very dull book and towards the end I was just skim-reading.  I bought the book ages ago and it became lost under heaps of other books so that I have only just worked my way down to it (published in the mid-1990s it was in pristine condition and still shrink wrapped).

What will happen to the Liberal Democrats










Above:  quote from Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer.  He is a very experienced political commentator.  But in this instance I think it is possible he may be wrong.

On Sunday Politics this afternoon Andrew Neil interviewed Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Everyone is waiting to see what will happen to the Liberal Democrats in the council elections on 3rd May, and to draw conclusions for the general election in 2015.

My own view is that the demise of the Liberal Democrats can only benefit the Conservatives.

Since the mid-1990s there had been an unofficial, barely acknowledged, "get the Tories out" agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  In Conservative seats where Labour was second Liberal Democrats would vote Labour.  In Conservative seats where a Liberal Democrat was second Labour supporters would vote Liberal Democrat.

The 1997 landslide and subsequent Labour victories only make sense if you factor in Liberal Democrat votes.

The Coalition pact of 2010 broke that unofficial understanding between Labour and the Liberal Democrats (in that respect David Cameron proved himself to be a master of strategy).

Therefore as Liberal Democrat support evaporates their vote will atomise in a mercurial fashion, but the chief beneficiaries in the 2015 election can only be the Conservatives.

The May council elections need to be analysed with caution.  The pattern to look for is what happens in council seats where Conservatives are second to Labour or second to Liberal Democrats.  That might indicate what will happen in 2015.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Always I have the feeling I am trailing behind deadlines - the past week at work

Monday

My PC crashed this morning so that I had to ask IT officer John Johnson to fix it.  He chatted amiably while he worked ("I used to be an assistant professional golfer... didn't get paid much, just fifty-five pounds a week for long hours... used to work in a Ford showroom...").  His conversational manner switches oddly between great confidence and hesitant nervousness.  His fingernails bitten down to the quick.  Wearing a polo shirt and chinos (because he crawls around fixing things he is excused from wearing a formal shirt and tie).  Faint scent.

Although I had allocated most of the day to write the copy for a new publication, most of my time was taken up organising photography for the illustrations.

I also had to liaise with Deputy Director Lois Cooper and Development Manager Tim Watts.  As usual, it took a great deal of effort to ensure they did things properly.  Lois Cooper complaining of stomach pains.

I stayed until 8pm writing and redrafting copy.

Tuesday

Another day spent writing copy.  I am dependent on Tim Watts supplying me with the research properly interpreted, and this he is very slow in doing.  I found myself getting irritated at his failure to deliver things on time.

Again I worked until 8pm, Lois Cooper also working late.  She said that Accounts Manager Marcia Walsh had once complained to Director Vijay Singh about Campaign Manager Keith Chandler's involvement with the freemasons.  Vijay Singh had told her off (implying he was also a mason).
 
Wednesday

"Have you prepared" Vijay Singh asked me just before the planning meeting began.  Actually I had done no preparation and had to hurriedly gather papers together.  As well as Keith Chandler and Vijay Singh, Alec Nussbaum attended representing our "sister organisation" and Peter Whitgift was there from the tiny Birmingham office.  The meeting went well.  It was my turn to be in the chair, and I worked through the agenda.  Alec Nussbaum talked the most.

Lunch was brought in - rolls and pastries and orange juice.

After lunch a long discussion about the new database to be set up and the literature that needs to be prepared.

The meeting lasted five hours.  Afterwards I returned to my desk where the new publication still had to be worked on.  Gradually it is getting done, but always I have the feeling I am trailing behind deadlines.

Once again I worked until 8pm, Vijay Singh and Lois Cooper also staying late and helping with the publication.

Thursday

Today I reached the point with the new publication when I knew it would all be done on time.

And at last the photography has been done to everyone's satisfaction.

Vijay Singh complimented me on chairing the meeting yesterday:  "We did well, we achieved all our objectives."  This mystified me, as I had not been aware that we had been following any covert agenda.  I suppose anything that keeps Alec Nussbaum happy must be considered an achievement.

Office Manager Bridget O'Farrell, who has been away on maternity leave, brought her four-day-old baby into the office.  "His name is Niall" she told us.  "After the River Nile?" quipped Vijay Singh.

I worked until 8.30 pm, helped by Lois Cooper.

Friday

I had intended to make progress with the publication today, but a long three-hour meeting intervened, combined with demands for case studies from our "sister organisation".

Compared to Saint Thomas a Becket?




















Canon Giles Fraser started a weekly column in the Guardian today.  It was advertised in the right-hand corner at the foot of the front page of the newspaper.  Is Giles Fraser happy to allow himself to be compared to Saint Thomas a Becket?

Steve Evans talking about Germany's asparagus harvest

Normally I enjoy From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4, but the programme earlier today was marred by Steve Evans talking about Germany's asparagus harvest.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17753372

He shouted his piece as if he was standing about five feet away from the microphone, which added a hectoring tone to the broadcast.

He also talked very slightingly about British seasonal food, saying that the tradition of seasonal food had been "lost" in the United Kingdom.  Possibly for urban media luvvies inhabiting a city-based bubble of ignorance and social dislocation this may be true.  But for the majority of people who live outside the city sprawl seasonal food is celebrated just as much as it is in Germany.

Stephen Evans also repeated the urban myth "We know that chicken tikka massala is the British national dish".

How do we know this?

I cannot find any evidence to support this other than a throw-away remark in a speech by Robin Cook.

If there is no evidence about chicken tikka massala being the British national dish perhaps the BBC could stop repeating it.

Or does the BBC no longer care about accuracy?

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Land of Veiled Women by John Foster Fraser
















I am currently reading The Land of Veiled Women by John Foster Fraser.

It is an account of the author's "wanderings" in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.  It's dated 1908, but that adds to the charm.  Also it's nice to read about the Muslim world without all the current tensions and assumptions intruding.

I am trying to learn more about Africa.

I have at least one reader in Gabon - I country I know nothing about.

Hale















Warm sunshine in the morning turning to heavy rain.

Then hale began to fall, so remarkable I went outside to take a closer look.

The ferocity of the halestorm was such that the tiny new buds on the trees were dashed to the ground.
Despite being really busy at work today I managed to watch Daily Politics at lunchtime.

Agnes Poirier said she would move back to France if Sakozy loses the French presidential election.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Shelter earlier today










Press release issued by Shelter earlier today suggesting pressure on rents (http://blog.shelter.org.uk/2012/04/when-you-are-told-your-rent-increase-is-not-a-rent-increase-that/?appeal=1051300 ).

But there is no mention of the impact of inward migration on the availability of private rental properties.

If you even hint at such a link you will be called a bigot (or worse).

And yet it is impossible for one million Polish people (to take one migratory group as an example) to move to the United Kingdom and not outbid existing tenants for rental properties, especially as they are willing to tolerate occupation levels that most people would regard as outrageous (one three-bed semi occupied by ten or twelve people is not unusual).

The migrants have to live somewhere.

You might blame the landlords (and their agents) for profiteering in this way, but it would be illegal to discriminate against Polish people (or Irish people or non-Eu migrants etc) and only rent to local people.

You might say the landlords should say no to the offers of higher rents, but this is expecting too much of human nature (I would guess that most buy-to-let landlords fear interest rates going up and want to maximise rents in case this happens).

You might say that the government should impose rent controls, but when this was tried in the past all that happened was that the supply of private rental properties dried up - rent controls can only be considered in tandem with an expansion of Council Housing (which can only happen if taxes go up to pay for the investment, unless the government borrowed the money and there is zero chance of that).

Buy-to-let landlords are a demonised section of society, but most of them are not fat cats.  Most seem to be elderly people putting their lifetime savings into property (often combined with a mortgage paid for by the rents) because pensions and annuities have performed so badly over the last ten years.  It is no accident that the buy-to-let sector in the United Kingdom took off in the years 2000 / 2001 following Gordon Brown's tax raid on private sector pensions.

The most straight-forward solution is to reduce inward migration, but you will be called a bigot if you even try to raise that suggestion.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is the "opt out" trade union political levy any different to the PPI mis-selling scandal?










Above:  the main editorial in today's Guardian addressed the issue of party political funding.

The more I think about the trade union political levy the more convinced I am that it cannot stand up to scrutiny.

Is the "opt out" trade union political levy any different to the PPI mis-selling scandal?  Big companies and corporations try this "pre-ticked" scam every so often, and almost always have to abandon it in the face of legal review or consumer watchdog condemnation.  How can the trade unions get away with this?

Presumably the levy is intended to "buy" for each member political representation from the Labour Party?  If the levy is not voluntary but has been "pre-ticked" by the trade union then surely it is illegal and the Office of Fair Trading needs to intervene?  Surely the Labour Party realises that money gained through such a technique is not worth having?

Instead of going down the "pre-ticked" route why don't they simply sign up Labour Party members at the same time as they enrol people into the trade unions?  They will have access to the trade union membership lists.  Selling Labour Party memberships is no different from any other subscription sales campaign - all they have to do is demonstrate the features and benefits of Labour Party membership in a way that convinces people to buy.

I also want to see the Tory Party convert itself into a mass-membership organisation.

Political institutions are too important to be funded by vested interests.

There is no place for big money in politics - it corrupts everyone and corrupts everything.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Currently watching Press Preview on Sky News - so far it has been very acrimonious.

The trade union political levies

Political funding of political parties has been in the news today, including the trade union political levies.

It is not all that easy to opt out of paying the political levy if you are in a trade union.

There are many examples of local shop stewards who have a cosy relationship with local managers - the union official and his/her mates get looked after in return for not causing trouble (and the rest of the workers are just drones to be exploited).

If you want to opt out of the political levy you have to have the courage to challenge the shop steward and get a form out of him/her and hope there will be no repercussions in the future (last in the queue for overtime, no protection from a bullying supervisor, first on the list for job displacements etc).

But you only have to look at the general election voting figures to realise trade unionists do not automatically vote Labour.

"Opt out" subscriptions are a form of inertia marketing and are highly unethical.

Would we tolerate insurance add-ons that were opt-out?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What did I do today? - the past week at work

Monday

Bank holiday.

Tuesday

More complaints from a printer about not getting enough of our work (they had been the main supplier until I carried out a review).  "I felt gutted over the weekend" the print company's MD told me when he called into the office this morning.  I talked to him politely but I do not trust him an inch and I suspect he will go over my head in an attempt to get the contract back.

Answering e-mails took up an unreasonable amount of time.

In the afternoon liaison with Deputy Director Lois Cooper about innovation and development - she is so disorganised that nothing concrete came out of the meeting. 

Wednesday

A review meeting with the Institute's Director Vijay Singh.  Despite his reputation for being unreasonable, I seem to get on with him quite well.  He praised the work I have done so far.

In the afternoon a meeting with Vijay Singh, Lois Cooper, Development Manager Tim Watts and Telephone Surveys Manager Abi Reed.  The meeting lasted over two hours and focused on innovation and development.  Once again the work of Lois Cooper and Tim Watts was criticised.
 
Thursday

What did I do today?  I was in the office all the day but cannot think of anything significant that I did.  A long conversation with Lois Cooper about networking (something Vijay Singh is very keen on).

Friday

 At last the publications list for the next six months is decided.

Now that the projects have been pencilled in I can begin to draft the research into a coherent set of arguments.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The "misconstrued" Livingstone remarks about wealthy Jews

Ken Livingstone, candidate for London Mayor, has been repeatedly associated with anti-semiticism. 

You might think that this is an easy enough slur to throw at someone.  Also something difficult to refute, since most anti-semites are likely to say their best friends are Jewish.  And is it likely that Ken Livingstone would be stupid enough to put his re-election at risk by promulgating a racial theory that most people would regard as mad?

So as routinely as these accusations against Ken Livingstone arise, one tends to just put them to one side as a misunderstanding, a complex argument misinterpreted, a phase simply taken out of context.

But always little niggles of doubt remain.

For instance, in an article about Ken Livingstone in today's Independent (on pages 14 and 15 alongside the main Opinion column) the writer Owen Jones explains away the "misconstrued" Livingstone remarks about wealthy Jews.







http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-the-1-per-cent-have-an-interest-in-demonising-ken-livingstone-7640660.html

Nothing wrong with this you might think.  In an important election one would expect the Labour claque to rally round their candidate (although the last paragraph of the article does tend to damn Ken Livingstone with faint praise - "an imperfect Labour candidate").  Even Jonathan Freedland's public withdrawal of support for Ken Livingstone is not likely to derail his campaign.

Therefore eminent columnist Mehdi Hassan (who writes for the New Statesman and the Guardian) is to be expected to produce an article endorsing the Livingstone cause:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/11/dont-want-boris-vote-ken

Again, nothing wrong with this you might think.

Except...

...only a couple of months ago Mehdi Hassan himself used the phrase "Jewish financier" in an entirely gratuitous reference to David Cameron's ancestry





 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/12/steve-jobs-david-cameron-immigration).

"Wealthy Jews", "Jewish financier", "Gnomes of Zurich" - only a short step away from actually saying "Elders of Zion" is it not?

So you can see why I hesitate.

Ken Livingstone makes a slighting reference about the Jewish community.  Shortly afterwards a leading and highly respected Asian-heritage journalist endorses the Livingstone campaign.  Am I "misconstruing" all this, or are these people talking to each other in code?
One of the (admittedly trivial) aspects of the opening-up of Burma is the possibility of Jonathan Meades giving a televisual tour of Naypyidaw (perhaps with Pyong Yang and the palaces of Saddam in an analysis of how architecture can be used to intimidate and over-awe).

Monday, April 09, 2012

Stella Creasy MP




















The G2 section of the Guardian today had a big four-page article on Stella Creasy MP. 

Stella Creasy is Labour MP for Walthamstow.

Yet another "rising star" in the political elite who has an Oxbridge background.  The article mentions her father was an opera singer.  Her Wikipedia entry mentions she has aristocratic relations.

And yet the article includes a full page full colour photograph of her sitting in a pie and mash shop (with what suspiciously looks like a cafe latte ). 

This member of parliament is entitled to have a comfortable middle class background, a la-di-da Oxbridge degree and to slurp cafe lattes while being interviewed by the high-brow press.

What she is not entitled to do is pose in a pie and mash shop as if she was working class.

Pie and mash shops are part of MY culture not hers.  My father wasn't an opera singer he was a welder.  My grandfather didn't have aristocratic relations he was a refrigerator engineer (and before that a porter for a coal company).

I mention this because people like Stella Creasy, by posing as working-class, are appropriating a culture they have no right to.

There was nothing romantic about working class poverty, and thank goodness my grandparents and parents managed to get out of the East End, but that doesn't mean their past can be colonised by cultural tourists such as Stella Creasy.

And on the subject of Oxbridge, how is it that these two institutions have such a stranglehold on the "glittering prizes" (to quote Adam Raphael)?

Oxbridge graduates are not noticeably more intelligent than other graduates. 

And yet this finishing school for the elite grabs every position of power and influence that's going.

It matters little that half the entry every year comes from "bog standard" comprehensives - the Oxbridge experience will co-opt these people into the elite.

I'm not complaining about this.  I know that life is not fair.  But I do object to Oxbridge graduates sitting in pie and mash shops, or queueing up at Greggs, or drinking from enamel mugs as if they were mere hoi polloi like the rest of us.

It's the hypocrisy that is so objectionable.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday













Today is Easter Sunday.

At the morning service, in altostratus clouds of incense, we sang:

Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky
Heaven thunders forth its victor cry.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Unusual newspaper review on Sky News last night with Henry Bonsu (Oxbridge graduate) indulging in a sort of sexist jeering of Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

There are many valid reasons to oppose Sarkozy, but dissing his wife as some kind of bimbo is not one of them.

I suppose Henry Bonsu was just a tokan invitation to the news review - no-one really expected him to behave responsibly.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Michael Gove's education reforms




















Surprising editorial in today's Independent endorsing Michael Gove's education reforms (surprising because the Independent, despite it's title, is a left-wing publication).

In the same newspaper Owen Jones attacks the government for betraying young people and giving them an astonishingly bleak future "colder, hungrier, lonelier, duller, less secure, more indebted and, overall, poorer."  He blames cuts in government grants and benefits for this projected outcome.  It is an alarming article.

However it is not state grants that will provide a better future for young people but good education.  It is the education professions (especially the teachers) that have most betrayed young people with indolence, incompetence and modish social experiments.  In that respect Michael Gove's reforms are essential.

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

Easter is a festival of light, with the moon and the sun at an optimum state (this has been explained to me several times, but I still don't entirely understand it).

Earlier today Bach's St John Passion was broadcast in its entirety on BBC Radio 3.

Ritual food on Good Friday includes hot cross buns.  According to Professor Hutton bread baked on Good Friday had miraculous and curative properties - possibly there was a placebo effect from eating this holy bread.  Hot cross buns, marked with a dough cross, are still widely consumed on Good Friday throughout the United Kingdom.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Debate on Newsnight yesterday featuring the candidates for London Mayor.

Although I agree with Ken Livingstone that reducing tube fares would have a regenerative effect on the local economy, he would be the wrong choice for Mayor.

He looked old and tired, and did not radiate enthusiasm in the way that Boris Johnson did.

Ultimately political success is a transfer of enthusiasm from the politician to the voter.

The other two candidates were nothing-people.  They had no real contribution to make.  Pointless having them there.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Newsnight yesterday discussed the Bradford West shock by-election result and its implications for politics more generally.

Jeremy Paxman crushed George Galloway, which was worth seeing.

Jeremy Paxman was in turn trampled upon by Lord Bell, which again was worth seeing.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Anything rather than go out and meet the ordinary people
















On yesterday's Sunday Politics Michael Dugher made the dubious statement about the Bradford West by-election:  "I think this was the first by-election in history fought and even won on social media".  This claim was requoted by Juliette Jowit in an article in today's Guardian.  But is it true?










If you go to George Galloway's Facebook page you find that there are 83,000 "Likes".  This is not the same as 83,000 supporters (as Juliette Jowit maintains in her article).  A "Like" is an ephemeral momentary jab of an index finger by anyone anywhere around the world - to interpret these eighty-three thousand finger jabs as committed support from people within the Bradford West constituency is stretching credulity.
















If you go to George Galloway's Twitter site you can see he has 67,000 followers.  You can look at who these followers are (and if you were a thorough journalist, actually do a survey on them).  They are a disparate group, even including Guardian journalists, but from my brief overview they do not strike me as being Bradford West residents.

In any case Bradford West is a very poor constituency - is it likely that the disadvantaged and dispossessed who voted for George Galloway are the sort who can afford laptops and the kind of indulgent lifestyles where social media is a significant factor?

It seems to me that Michael Dugher MP is trying to find excuses for what must be reckoned a lamentable performance by Labour.  He is trying to imply that forces outside of Labour's control were responsible for the defeat of the Labour candidate.  In reality, Labour probably lost because their team was lazy and complacent.

If Labour had carried out a full canvass of the constituency so that everyone on the electoral roll was marked, then had tellers at all the polling stations, and then "got the vote out" on the night it would have been impossible for them to be taken by surprise.

But politicians (all parties) are too lazy to do this with any degree of consistency.

They would much prefer to issue Tweets and update their Facebook pages.

Anything rather than go out and meet the ordinary people (which is what George Galloway seems to have done).


https://twitter.com/#!/georgegalloway


http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/apr/01/labour-muslim-women-bradford-west

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dzbg7

Sunday, April 01, 2012

How God Made The English, written and presented by Professor Diarmaid Macculloch




















Yesterday I watched the last of the series on BBC2 How God Made The English, written and presented by Professor Diarmaid Macculloch.

Professor Macculloch is a revered academic, knighted in 2012 for his services to scholarship, so one would normally hesitate before criticising a person of his stature.

Notwithstanding Professor Macculloch's academic standing however, I feel bound to say that I found the arguments he put forward to be on the whole bogus, intellectually dishonest and comprised of a series of half-truths.

For instance, right at the start of the series he repeated the recently-developed canard "English people are confused about their identity".  Who are these English people who are so confused?  I've never met any.  He produced no proof to back up this statement.  He told us much later that his mother had French ancestry, and as his father must presumably have Irish ancestry it is possible that on a personal level Professor Macculloch may himself be confused about his own identity, but he has no right to extrapolate his personal feelings across a whole population.  Especially as identity politics is such a controversial subject in the United Kingdom.

Later (in yesterday's programme) he told us that only 5% of the DNA of the English population is Anglo-Saxon and the rest is indistinguishable from the populations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales (and most of northern Europe) and that this ancient population "came from Spain" about fifteen thousand years ago.

On the face of it this might seem a reasonable theory, but if you examine it more closely you can begin to spot the half-truths.  For instance Spain did not exist fifteen thousand years ago, and the post Ice Age migration started from a part of the European landmass that thousands of years later became Spain.  Perhaps Professor Macculloch assumed that everyone would know what he meant, but equally one suspects he is peddling the political message "there are no English people they are all immigrants and hence post-war mass immigration is justified".

Also, if the whole population of British Isles and northern Europe "came from Spain" thousands of years ago how is DNA technology going to pick up the later migration from northern Europe to the Roman colony of Britannia in the early dark ages?  It is possible the DNA mutated when it was in northern Europe, but if it had presumably Professor Macculloch would have advised us?  So another unconvincing grey area.

















Returning to Professor Macculluch's statement that only 5% of the English population is of Anglo-Saxon ancestry, this statement is at variance with the research presented in Robin McKie's Face of Britain which tells us that DNA evidence reveals the population of English is 50% Anglo-Saxon and 50% ancient British (Robin McKie is Science Editor for the Observer).  Is it 5% or 50%?  Or are both assessments wrong and the correct narrative is the one written down by dark age commentators such as Bede and Nennius?

If I had the time I would identify other dubious statements made by Professor Macculluch.

Does any of this matter?

The biological "purity" of ethnic groups is a nonsense, and clearly demonstrable as a nonsense.  For instance there can be no more "English" author than John Betjeman, and yet his ancestry was Dutch.  Where Professor Macculloch is guilty of misleading us is by implying that only the English have mixed origins and that therefore this is just a big melting pot in which no-one has any indigenous rights (and therefore post-war mass immigration is justified, the English are not indigenous and have no indigenous rights etc etc).

No ethnic group anywhere in the world can prove biological "purity".

Therefore the English people have no more indigenous rights than any other nation, but equally they have no less indigenous rights than any other nation.

Professor Macculloch made a great fuss about telling us that Saint George was from the Middle East, which is such a well-known fact that one wonders why he bothered to state it.  But he failed to tell us that St Patrick wasn't Irish, St David wasn't Welsh and St Andrew wasn't Scottish.  So what was the point he was trying to make?

If English national identity is to be condemned as some kind of fraud, then surely Irish, Welsh and Scottish national identities are equally fraudulent?

All national foundation myths are, as the phrase implies, "myths".  This was true of the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Aztecs, the medieval English, the medieval French, the modern Chinese, the modern Indians etc.  This does not invalidate the importance of these myths in determining a community's self-identity.

Throughout the series I continually found myself watching Professor Macculloch and asking the question:  what are you up to?

A clue came right at the end where he gave a whole-hearted endorsement of multi-culturalism.  It was the big punchline of the series.  We're all just a big coffee-coloured melting-pot.

Professor Macculloch is entitled to endorse multi-culturalism and post-war mass immigration (which he omitted to mention has occurred against the wishes of the majority) but he is not entitled to dress this up as impartial historical fact.


How God Made The English was worthless propaganda - clever and well-researched and well-presented propaganda, but propaganda nonetheless.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01flnyq/How_God_Made_the_English_A_White_and_Christian_People/