Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I am reading, while I wait for Newsnight to come on, the Newsletter of the Egyptian Exploration Society.  It has a wonderful article about the photography of Flinders Petrie and the way in which the images he created filtered through to 1880s London and influenced the way the late-Victorian world thought about Egyptian civilisation.  Inscribed lintels from the Sixth Dynasty tombs at Dendera etc.

Friday night was an ecstatic triumphalist moment

The writer of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Frank Cotterill Boyce, appeared on Newsnight yesterday, interviewed by Emily Maitlis: 

When asked whether there was a political message encoded in the ceremony he smirked and waved his hands and talked about the volunteers.  Unusually Emily Maitlis did not make him reply to the question.  I have tried to capture his smirking in the above screen print, but this has proved impossible - although he smirked frequently, he did it so quickly that by the time my finger had been depressed on the SysRq button he had closed his eyes.

The idea that the production was just a chaotic unstructured mish-mash thrown together in a few brain-storming sessions and that in any case the "volunteers" made all the running on deciding content is, to my view, highly expert dissembling.

Perhaps I am being over-suspicious in all this?

Perhaps I am, in the sweeping words of the Prime Minister, being "idiotic" in identifying a covert subliminal layer of messages when everyone (almost everyone) is saying how wonderful the ceremony was, how there was no political agenda, and that we should all just chill out and enjoy the rest of the show.

And there is, of course, a risk of appearing obsessed in revisiting an event most people have already begun to forget with their conscious minds.  Of becoming just another on-line nutter chuntering on about things that are completely unimportant.  Of not being able to let things go.

But the reason I am fascinated (as well as appalled) by what happened on Friday night is because it was, on a technical level, so good (and I realise now my first shocked reaction of "it's bad" seems ridiculous in retrospect - it was not bad at all, but in its own terms very very good, although in my judgement also profoundly disturbing, perhaps even evil).

For a few hours on Friday evening Danny Boyle and Frank Cotterill Boyce convinced almost the entire population of the United Kingdom of several key concepts:

  • That multi-culturalism is an established and accepted national policy.
  • That mass immigration is a popular, uncontroversial and on-going national benefit.
  • That society means socialism.
Of course many people sincerely hold these views, and to them Friday night was an ecstatic triumphalist moment.

True socialists believe that capitalist society cannot be reformed, it has to be destroyed and rebuilt again (destroyed by bloody revolution or destroyed by gentle imperceptible degrees, but ultimately destroyed).

In the United Kingdom in the post-war period one of the main agencies of this destruction is multi-culturalism.

Multi-culturalism has become a policy that is impossible to oppose without being pilloried as a "racist" (as Aidan Burley can no doubt assure you).

So you see the genius of what was done on Friday evening.

A great advance for socialism has been made. 

And even the two main leaders of the Conservative Party are on message. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

The 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony

After the (strenuously denied) left-wing imagery of the Olympic Opening Ceremony one wonders what the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony is going to be like.

The director is Kim Gavin, and he has already said that he wants it to be as "inclusive" as possible.

As perhaps you have already realised, use of the word "inclusive" is an Orwellian code.  Everyone will be included who matches the criteria.  No-one will be included who doesn't.

And as a sop to the stupid they will play the Eton Boating Song.
It is not true that mutuals are better than commercial banks.

Norwich & Peterborough Building Society have just sent me a letter saying they are reducing my overdraft by £20 a month until it is zero (it is currently £330 - this is an account I only use for a specific purpose).

I have never (in my life) defaulted on any debt and my credit history is as good as you can get.

Pink campion or silene dioica.

Walking on the plain with the dogs I saw that clumps of pink wild flowers filled all the roadside ditches.

I think they are pink campion or silene dioica

Apparently a favoured food for moths and butterflies, although I have hardly seen either this summer.

I used to think that Boris Johnson was extremely clever

On the politics.co.uk site Ian Dunt writes about Boris Johnson's denials that the Olympic Opening Ceremony was left-wing http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2012/07/30/boris-olympic-opening-ceremony-wasn-t-left-wing

I used to think that Boris Johnson was extremely clever to hide his tactical cunning and political guile under the pretence of being a bumbling fumbling buffoon.

I now realise that it is not a pretence.

The man IS a buffoon.

And a lazy one at that.

Eton Boating Song indeed!  How is that of any relevance to the English conservative-voting working class?  Are there not rather too many Old Etonians filling places in the elite?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why the Olympics Opening Ceremony should concern us

Big article by Tim Adams in the Observer today about the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The near-adulatory coverage throughout the media (with some exceptions) would make anyone hesitate to criticise the production and risk being described as "curmudgeonly" by Tim Adams.

A Member of Parliament who attacked the multi-culturalism of the parade has been so digitally kicked and slapped that we have the irony of a show supposedly celebrating "dissent" not tolerating dissent of any kind.

But as Oscar Wilde reminded us, there is nothing so false as approval of what is approved of.

So for the third day running I am going to write about why the Olympics Opening Ceremony should concern us.

Of course it was spectacular, and the crowds cheered.  But the 1938 Tag der Deutsche Kunst in Munich was spectacular and the crowds cheered.  The great cultural processions in 1950s Moscow were spectacular and the crowds cheered.  Even today spectacular parades in Pyong Yang are capable of being cheered.  The spectacle and the cheering do not validate the content.  The comparison with totalitarian circuses is deliberate - what we saw on Friday was a paen to totalitarian socialism.

Sports pundit Stan Collymore exultantly tells us the ceremony director Danny Boyle "put us ALL there, all of us".

This is not true.

Not everyone was there.

What was missing from the parade was English conservatism (small c, although the big political C variety was also non-existent).

This matters because British identity is, for me, inconceivable without reference to English conservatism.  To airbrush this out of "where Britain is these days" is both chilling and sinister.  Chilling because is illustrates a depth of socio-ethnic hostility seldom so overtly expressed; sinister because it indicates what English people might be in for as the incubus of anti-Englishness gains respectability and goes mainstream.

Of course, you might argue, there is no particular reason why Englishness should have any part in the Danny Boyle production.

Danny Boyle is from a cultural background of Irish socialism.  Writer Frank Boyce is from a cultural background of Irish socialism.  Many of the commentators whooping it up on the night (Newsnight's Paul Mason for example) are from a cultural background of Irish socialism or Scots-Welsh socialism or Indian or West Indian or African socialism.

What do they know of England who do not know anything about England? (as Rudyard Kipling did not say).

And of course I appreciate what a fine joke Danny Boyle has played on the politicians he obviously despises (according to the Observer Sebastian Coe, Boris Johnson and David Cameron could only look at the plans for the ceremony in the presence of, and presumably mediated by, Danny Boyle and his coterie).  

And is it not a grand laugh that so many of the big wigs in the government, overwhelmed by the sensationalism of the night, have already praised the ceremony to the skies so that they cannot now resile without looking stupid.

We were warned that the Labour party intended to rub the noses of "the right" in the policy of multi-culturalism.  I think we saw a manifestation of that on Friday evening.  It makes you wonder what further surprises might be in store.

Surprisingly candid comment by Tristram Hunt MP in today's Observer.  By the evidence of Friday night the Left have indeed won the Culture War.  And since the economy of a society is subservient to the culture of that society this does not bode well for the future.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Is it possible that the left-wing bias of last night's Olympic Opening Ceremony has scuppered any chance Boris Johnson may have had to lead the Conservative Party?

The one event that should have been political neutral

I have thought a great deal about last night's Olympic Opening Ceremony and whether anything can be salvaged from it.  It is intensely depressing that such a global event should have been manipulated to a partisan political cause.  It was subtle (mostly) and done with great skill, but anyone who has worked in advertising will know how the messages have been encoded into the production.

And at times the imagery was not even subtle, but very blatant.

And even while the ceremony was still continuing a member of the Newsnight review panel identified that it was partisan.

One only has to look at the cock-a-hoop reactions among left-wing commentators to see that they are adopting the ceremony as their own:

(on the subject of the flashmob creation of the CND logo, I thought commercial, religious and political logos were banned from the Olympics? - CND is about as political as you can get, and only supported by a small minority of the population).

So all this is depressing because the one event that should have been political neutral has, in the words of Toby Young, become an advertisement for the Labour Party version of history.

Shame on you Danny Boyle.

Did we campaign against Rupert Murdoch's malign manipulation of impressionable minds only to have it replaced by YOUR corruption of one of our biggest media events?

But anyway.  What is the point of complaining when all I have is this disregarded little blog that no-one reads?  What can someone as unimportant and disenfranchised as myself do about any of this?

So although I was looking forward to attending the Olympic Games, and had paid £65 for a ticket to see the men's water polo on 6th August, I think the only realistic reaction I can make to last night's propaganda is to tear the ticket up and have nothing more to do with the 2012 Olympics.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Even though I switched it off over an hour ago I am still cringing at how awful it was.

£27 million!

Personally I want my money back.
Is it unreasonable to ask who signed-off on the Olympic Opening Ceremony?

How much of our money has been spent on this garbage?

Who (who EXACTLY, and if it was a committee let's have the names of the committee members) appointed Danny Boyle?


Danny Boyle was appointed in May 2010 in the last days of the New Labour government.

That explains why it was simultaneously so superficially glitzy and yet intellectually bogus.

The last gasp of Blair's Cool Britannia.

Olympic Opening Ceremony

It was bad.

Bad, bad, bad.

"The Dome" all over again.

Danny Boyle indeed!

What a load of old rubbish.

Awareness of "the Games" is currently overwhelming

Less than an hour until the Olympic opening ceremony (which I am apprehensive about, since it is promising us a "vision of what it means to be British today" - presumably thousands of choreographed Heath & Safety officers).

Awareness of "the Games" is currently overwhelming.

Some examples:

Above:  this e-mail pinged into my computer today, with lots of "must have" merchandise.  The style of the Games is deliberately kitsch, and no attempt has been made to achieve timelessness.  I don't mind kitsch, but whoever did the logo has produced something so horrible it is beyond comment.

I am not being anti-Games.  I want them to go well.  But whoever did the logo needs to go in the stocks and have rotten fruit pelted in their direction.

Above:  in Asda this evening the staff were in Team GB t-shirts, and Olympic-themed items were everywhere.  Everyone seemed to be rushing, presumably because they wanted to get back in time to watch the Opening Ceremony.  On impulse I bought these Olympic caramel shortcakes - I guess they are own-brand as there is no logo on them (apart from the 2012 logo).


Above:  I was intrigued by this e-mail campaign for Damart.  Their customers tend to be elderly and price-conscious, so you would think they would be the last people to spend discretionary income on souvenirs.  What possible motives might they have to allocate some of their pension money on these items?  Elderly people tend to be isolated and lonely so possibly they will respond to an invitation to "join in".  They also have low self-esteem, so the idea that being British is fabulous will make them feel good.  It is also nostalgic in style, which again would appeal to this demographic (no trace of the Olympic logo - this is a "Jubilympics" range).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ley lines

When you first hear the theory of ley lines it sounds crazy.  The idea that ancient sites (medieval churches, iron age tumuli, Roman dykes etc) are arranged in absolutely straight lines is incredible.  Or coincidence that could be matched by randomly lining up petrol stations or telephone boxes (except that they don't line up).

Then you look at a map and find that you can make the historic sites line up.

But nothing prepares you for actually following the route of a ley line and finding that the landscape shows you exactly where it is.

Above:  marked in the golden corn on a summer evening.

Above:  or made evident by distinctive trees planted on top of a prehistoric burial mound.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We urgently need to diversify British trade

Article in today's Guardian on a report issued by the risk analysis firm Maplecroft which shows how membership of the EU has made the United Kingdom economy weaker not stronger as the European enthusiasts claim.

We urgently need to diversify British trade - and this will not happen with a pro-European enthusiast like Vince Cable as Business Secretary.

The pro-EU lobby also needs to take responsibility for the mess they have got us into.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Body fascism

The London Olympics are due to start this Friday.

This is an opportunity to ask a before and after question:  how will the United Kingdom be changed by the Games?

From an advertising point of view I think we are about to enter (have already entered) a sustained period of body fascism in which models with unattainable physiques are used to sell products, places, things.

Above:  for instance, a near-naked Adam Senn has been featured for some months to advertise the Dolce & Gabbana Sport fragrance.  Everything about this ad is heroic - full page, full colour, colossal creative impact.  The subliminal message of the ad is that you only have to splash on some of the magic liquid and you will also be transformed into a perfect physical form (without the tedium of doing any exercise).

There was something about the composition of this image that seemed familiar.  And then I realised that this is an updated version of Guido Reni's St Sebastian.  Considering this appeared on the back page of the Observer (one of our most atheist newspapers) this is a very seditious campaign.

Above:  Guido Reni's St Sebastian.  One of the most complex and influential paintings of the Rennaissance.  Not just a religious image, but also claimed by others (see http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/arrows-of-desire-how-did-st-sebastian-become-an-enduring-homoerotic-icon-779388.html).

Above:  the Guido Reni painting has inspired artists as varied as Yukio Mishima (left) and Pierre et Gilles (right).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Owen Jones and the London Riots One Year On - an article in the Independent

Above:  in a previous Independent article (1st May 2012) Owen Jones linked reactions to the riots to a variation of chav-hate rather than the race tensions he writes about today.

As we approach the first anniversary of the "London riots" one gets the impression that commentators of all kinds are itching to write about them, and in the absence of any actual excuse (there have been no riots so far this summer) seem determined to get their copy out, however strangulated and tendentious the excuse might be.

One example is Owen Jones and The London Riots One Year On - an article in the Independent (which you can read here:  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-riots--one-year-on-owen-jones-commences-a-series-of-special-reports-7965142.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

This is an intensely annoying piece, not least because Owen Jones is a skillful writer and his style is engaging and his conclusions plausible.  He has visited Tottenham, interviewed the local people, allowed them to speak from the heart.  The image of a resentful Tottenham, barely suppressed and about to explode is both alarming and cogently argued.

However anyone who is familiar with the north London inner suburbs will know the situation is far more complex than just resentment of the police.

For instance, Owen Jones says in the article that the police are to blame for the culture of mistrust in Tottenham (quoting someone called Stafford Scott "The average young person in Tottenham believes that the police discriminates against them, oppresses them and harasses them").  What motive would the police have for doing this?  Even supposing it is true, what are the motives?  Owen Jones makes no attempt to find out.  He does not ask any members of the police either officially or unofficially.  It is as if he does not want to know.

The article indicates that resentment of the police by the local black population (20% of the total according to YouGov) was due to "a bitter history of racism" without really detailing the chronology of this history.  Quoting someone called Brown, Owen Jones writes that black people in Tottenham were "not given full status as British people".  I would have liked to see this explored far more thoroughly.  In one telling phrase an interviewee said the distrust could be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s "when black people moved into this community".  Is it possible that the black people of Tottenham feel rejected because society has in fact rejected them?  And that this rejection is because the north London majority community regards immigration without consent as illegitimate? (as one person has put it to me: mass immigration without consent is an act of violence against a community).

These are hard questions and they need to be asked, but Owen Jones is not asking them.

Feeble paragraph in which Owen Jones attempts a class analysis of the riots (the way people dress inflames police sensibilities according to a sociology student he interviewed, but again without saying why).

So on the whole a provocative article, and one that raised (obliquely) all sort of questions, but ultimately unsatisfying.

It is as if Owen Jones went to Tottenham determined to write a socialist analysis of the fulcrum of the riots, unwittingly uncovered all sorts of other issues, then put together his piece without fully understanding the importance of what he is saying.

On his Twitter microblog earlier today Owen Jones refers to a music video directed by Diamond Dogs for the Will Young single Jealousy which he interprets as an illustration of unrequited gay love.  Knowing what we know about Will Young (and which he restated on BBC Question Time) it might seem reasonable to jump to this conclusion.  However if you look at the video (link below) you see that it is far more nuanced, subtle and unresolved - Will Young could be jealous of either the male or female acrobat.

This reinforces my view that Owen Jones makes connections that do not appear to be borne out by an examination of the evidence.


Sunday, July 22, 2012


Above:  early sunflower (helianthus annuus) in a field of growing sunflowers.

Sunflowers are grown locally mainly to supply bird seed retailers, although at least one baker makes sunflower seed bread.

Sunflowers have been grown as a crop in the county since the sixteenth century.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All those people were bozos who would just take our money and laugh at us - the past week at work


News this morning that Gary (Assistant Librarian in the Reading Room downstairs) became a father over the weekend of a baby boy.  He looked bashful and proud when he came upstairs to tell everyone about it.  Later a card was circulated and a collection made.

Endless struggle to get things up to date.

In the afternoon a meeting with Simon C to discuss a campaign plan.  He is supposed to be in line to take Keith Chandler's position as Campaign Manager.  Northern, bearded, twitchy.


A day's holiday.  In the morning I stayed at home and read books.  Endless rain.

In the afternoon I went to look at a building scheduled for demolition.  Wayside plot in the middle of nowhere, with yews, holly trees, and diseased stumps covered in fungi.  Broken flagpole.

Sir Ninian Comper had been the architect.  Scintillating 1902 timber-framed structure Germanic in style.  High facades, arched windows of clear glass, tiny bell turret.

I was mystified - why should such a showy structure, by such an exalted architect, be put up in a remote spot where few would see it and fewer still appreciate its refined symbolic language?

The building was visibly crumbling, with the timbers rotten and the brick and plaster in-filling cracked and falling apart.  Sir Ninian's exquisite design had been put up using shoddy materials and what money had been available had obviously gone into fashionable effect at the expense of sustainable durability.  I particularly liked the castellated rainwater heads to the drainpipes.

Inside it was disappointingly empty - there had already been a clear-out.  East window by Sir Ninian Comper added in 1920 as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War.  Very depressing to see all this desolation - could nothing have been done to save it?


At my desk I drank coffee and thought about the day ahead. 

I drafted an article for a magazine and dealt with e-mails as they came in.

Once again a wasted lunchbreak spent at the dry cleaners.

In the afternoon Alec Nussbaum suddenly appeared, talking to Director Vijay Singh in the Reception area as if they were old friends.  Anne Boswell-Urquhart was with them, looking around with proprietorial interest.  I went over to the photocopier so I could hear what they were saying.

"In a way Gordon Brown was a true revolutionary" said Alec Nussbaum, "he altered the balance of British society by expanding the public sector so that a worrying percentage of voters now have a vested interest to vote socialist."


All of today spent in meetings discussing our website and general internet strategy.  Simon C wanted to employ a digital communications agency. I told him all those people were bozos who would just take our money and laugh at us.


Gary came in with his new son, and was gushed over by the admin team.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Any Questions on BBC Radio 4

Currently listening to Any Questions on BBC Radio 4.

It seems an unusually bad-tempered programme, with lots of booing from the audience.

Although I agree with Owen Jones that some services need to be public ownership, he does not explain how they are going to be "accountable to us".  The public sector has a tendency to inefficiency because there are too many hiding places.  Perhaps directly elected chiefs of public services might be the answer.

But on the whole the programme was predictable, and the entrenched positions made it boring.  Norman Lamont was right to say that Owen Jones is a prisoner of his ideology.  And Kelvin MacKenzie hasn't yet realised that 1990s boorishness is long out of fashion.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It makes you wonder who is advising the PCS union.

As a PR event, disrupting the Olympics to draw attention to their cause is likely to backfire badly.

Assuming the strike goes ahead and the Olympics are disrupted, the loss of public sympathy would be profound.  And not just for the PCS union but for the trade union movement as a whole.  Which would allow the government carte blanche to attack the trade unions with impunity.

Labour Isn't Working

On Newsnight this evening (technically yesterday) Political Editor Allegra Stratton referred to the famous 1979 poster Labour Isn't Working and said parts of it had been "photoshopped".

Surely she has made a mistake (or perhaps she just made it up because it sounded good?).

Photoshop was an invention of the late 1980s.

Allegra Stratton is an Oxbridge alumnus (this is so predictable for the media elite that it is hardly worth mentioning).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

120,000 dysfunctional and "troubled" families

Fascinating report on the Today programme this morning about how the Government aims to target 120,000 dysfunctional and "troubled" families.

As soon as you start to define a demographic you can analyse it, and with analysis will come solutions.

Personally I would like to know what sort of houses (or flats) these families live in - type of property; sense of security; access to gardens / green areas; access to "a room of my own"; eating arrangements; proximity to extended family etc.

Also (and this may seem a frivolous aspect) the style of architecture of the property they live in.  I am interested in whether it is possible to improve someone's self-image simply by changing the architectural style of the place where they live.  Do children from communal concrete residences have a poorer self-image than children who live in individual houses with gardens.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The c-word

In the aftermath of the John Terry court case, given the gleeful way in which the media has printed the c-word (including broadsheets like the Guardian publishing it on their front page where it can be read by children in any newsagents) are we to assume that this word has now entered common everyday parlance?

Much as the f-word became conventional in the 1970s?

We are fast running out of taboos.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Two Twitter authors, Mark Pack and Owen Jones, have just appeared on BBC News 24 discussing the future of the Coalition government.

Owen Jones said that the Liberal Democrats have not put up much of a fight over deciding policy in the coalition, and when they have it has been on obscure subjects such as House of Lords reform that the majority do not care about.

It's a caustic assessment, but probably accurate.

Coopers Lane Estate

Constructed in the 1970s, the Coopers Lane Estate in Somers Town (Camden) is a reasonably competent exercise in social housing.

There is a barracks-like appearance to the flats, softened by the courtyard design and the use of trees.

The first priority of social housing designers should be to create an environment where residents feel safe.  The fortress style of Coopers Lane Estate, combined with gates and barriers at the entrances, seem to be attempting this.  There was no-one about, so I couldn't ask what people felt about living on the estate.

The area has been blighted recently by noise from nearby construction work.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

As former Home Secretary John Reid is a Director of G4S, why did he not inform his Labour colleague Yvette Cooper about the difficulties in providing security for the Olympics?

Presumably they must bump into each other all the time in the corridors at Westminster.


Chrysanthemum leucanthemum or oxeye daisy

Walking the dogs yesterday I noticed huge drifts of wild daisies have suddenly flowered on a bank alongside one of the fields. I think these are Chrysanthemum leucanthemum or oxeye daisy, not Bellis perennis the lawn daisy.  Probably the incessant rain followed by a day of hot sun has created this profusion of wild flowers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

There are too many potential confrontations - the past week at work


Over the weekend I had worked at an exhibition, looking after the Institute's stand.  This meant getting up at 6 am, driving two and a half hours, and standing around most of the day (even when I went into the seminars I often had to stand at the back).  So when I got to work this morning I was exhausted.

As soon as I arrived in the office Institute Director Vijay Singh wanted a debrief on the conference - who had been there, how many of them I made contact with, what the follow-ups are going to be.  I had to explain to him that the stands had been in a separate building from the conference and so not many of the attendees had made the effort to walk across (especially with the torrential rain).  So my networking was limited to the coffee breaks and lunchtime.

More contretemps in the Admin section, with Pat B openly rowing with Kayla.  Later in the day Vijay Singh told me that Pat B had resigned.  Later still IT person (not sure what his title is) John Johnson told me that Pat B's MG sportscar (which she is inordinately proud of) had been vandalised with a gigantic scratch, and that everyone thought Kayla was responsible.

Most of the day I spent preparing for meetings later in the week.

A presentation on innovations in communications technology - but it was a bore.


Instead of going to the office this morning I went by train to London and arrived at Head Office shortly after 10.

Immediately I arrived on the fifth floor I was called into Alec Nussbaum's office (he must have been looking out for me) and asked to give a account of the conference.  This was the first meeting I had had alone with Alec Nussbaum.  Fussy, prissy, permanently irritable.

Then into a production meeting with the Editor of our sister organisation's magazine.  She was hostile to the Institute in an oblique sort of way.  "Do you think people will be interested in the same thing over six pages?" she asked dismissively ("Depends on the quality of the writing" I told her).

Afterwards I went to see Kathy W in the Media Relations section.


Another day at Head Office in London.  The receptionist remembered me from yesterday, so I didn't have to go through all the security stuff.  Then down to one of the basement meeting rooms.

Vijay Singh was already in the meeting room with about six other department heads.  Discussion on how the Institute can be integrated into the work of Head Office.  Is this the end of the Institute's independence and the triumph of Alec Nussbaum?

The meeting was dominated by Anne Boswell-Urquhart, a pear-shaped opinionated young woman in a baggy black trouser suit.  What an unpleasant person!  She seemed ready to pick a fight with anyone.

Then to the Membership section to discuss membership - the Institute has a database of supporters they want to contact.  Fairly good meeting.  I hope good relations have been restored (they had become quite strained when Vijay Singh had told me not to release the data).

Finally to Media Relations, ostensibly to talk to Kathy W about Channel 4, but actually we talked about office politics.  She warned me about Anne Boswell-Urquhart and how she was being talked about as a new Director of the Institute (replacing Vijay Singh).  If this happens the whole of the Institute will be moved back to London and set up on the third floor of Head Office.

Then I melted away (leaving the building by the back stairs so I would not be noticed.  I dislike being in Head Office.  There are too many potential confrontations.


An extremely quiet day, with many people out.

Deputy Director Lois Cooper extremely ill with cancer and not expected to return to work.

Another quiet day.  I spent most of the morning reading PR Week.  Then a surge of e-mails came in which I dealt with.

Kathy W telephoned me about developments at Head Office ("I've just walked into a hornet's nest...").

Friday, July 13, 2012

G4S the bungling former supplier of security services to the Olympics was awarded the contract in March 2010.

It would have been helpful if, when he made his statement in the House of Commons yesterday, Keith Vaz MP had admitted that this was a contract Labour awarded, and Labour set the terms on.

Lies of ommission are still lies.

The John Terry verdict

Within minutes of the John Terry verdict being announced it was re-announced by Diane Abbott MP on her Twitter microblog.  Note that she did not write anything, she merely "retweeted" what someone else had written, therefore sidestepping making an actual comment (having been given a good kicking by Ed Miliband earlier this year for making racist statements herself viz "white people like to play divide and rule").  Perhaps she is being archly ironic with this "Just saying" form of commentary, perhaps she is being intellectually dishonest.

Personally I am pleased John Terry has been found not guilty.

I am more than pleased, I am delighted.

Since the incident occurred John Terry has been treated by many people as if he was guilty.  In particular, left-wing commentators (in the Mirror, Guardian and Independent) have been salivating over the prospect of a guilty verdict.  It has been a witch-hunt, both unpleasant and unjust.

It benefits no-one if the principle of innocent until proven guilty is abandoned.

Some of the nastiest vilification of John Terry has been carried out by Guardian writer Marina Hyde (she practices a Roland Freisler style of journalism).  Is she now going to apologise for her evil words? (rhetorical question, of course she won't).  But at least we can be pleased for John Terry and happy that he has an unblemished character and will continue as a great player and (I hope) great future manager.

Presumably the FA will have to apologise, and there will have to be resignations at the highest level.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nauseating piffle from Michael Portillo on This Week about long-term care for the elderly.

This is obviously someone who has never struggled to pay a mortgage and does not realise the effort working class people have made to buy their own homes.

And if the Conservative party cannot protect private property from state seizure then what is the point of it? 

State seizure of private property ("in the collective interest") is what fascist and communist regimes do.


Bizarre statement by Labour activist and Independent columnist Owen Jones on his Twitter microblog "massacres have never been committed by self-described atheists".

Considering that Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all atheists and pursued official atheist policies (to the point of eradicating religious people in the territories they controlled) this assertion is difficult to understand.

Owen Jones studied history at Oxford - this sort of tweet does not reflect well on his alma mater (or perhaps an Oxbridge education is just a bogus affectation without the intellectual rigour of less self-publicising educational institutions).



The tweet was meant sarcastically.

Just shows you how careful you have to be.  

Return of Tony Blair to a position of influence in the Labour party

What should one make of the possible return of Tony Blair to a position of influence in the Labour party (he has always been influential of course, but I am referring to the position of formal influence he has apparently been offered).

There are advantages - unique experience of winning elections, a huge and effective network, a charismatic ability to motivate people.

On the downside the Blair brand is associated in the popular mind with "duplicity".  In my opinion it is not possible to change this perception.  It might be possible to modify it to "wily ruthless competence to get things done" but that will require a skilled campaign.

There is also the issue of the Blair "package".  Tony Blair will not re-enter politics as an individual but as a magnetic force that will attract (and no doubt repel) others.  He cannot help but change the nature of the current Labour party as an institution.

Have we not been down this road before?  When Gordon Brown brought Lord Mandelson back into government it was to bring some "magic stardust" to a lacklustre party image, and to bring a sense of competence to the organisation.  Has the Mandelson come-back been analysed properly?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It is difficult to avoid the suspician that Nick Boles is an idiot.

What must the constituents of Grantham & Stamford think of his crackpot idea to take welfare benefits away from "wealthy" pensioners?

Presumably he has overlooked the fact that a lot of the "wealthy" in his own constituency are going to be from farming familes who can never realise the wealth tied up in their land unless they disinherit the next generations.

If he upsets the local farmers he will be deselected quicker than you can say "The NHS is safe in our hands".

I am tempted to do a quick survey standing outside Burtons the Bakers in downtown Bourne.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Someone's appearance should have no relevance to how their statements are received by others.

Usually if a critic makes a reference to someone's appearance they are conceding they have lost the argument on substantive points.

However Diane Abbott MP is probably not the best person to appear on Newsnight lecturing about obesity.

Yes, food companies need to be condemned for the foul way they have corrupted the eating habits of the general population.

But probably Diane Abbott does not have sufficient credibility to talk convincingly on the subject of overcoming obesity.

Monday, July 09, 2012

I am not an expert in body language, but watching on Newsnight Paul Tucker's evidence given earlier today to a Commons committee it seems he is not telling the truth.

When asked about Ed Balls and Shriti Vadera he looks down and to the right, which supposedly means he is accessing the creative side of the brain (in other words telling lies).

Article in today's Guardian in which Mehdi Hasan expresses bewilderment

Above:  article in today's Guardian in which Mehdi Hasan expresses bewilderment and regret at the amount of abuse currently being hurled at the Muslim community in the United Kingdom.

I think Mehdi Hasan is reading the situation wrongly when he says that the abuse (which is nasty by any standards) is directed specifically at Muslims.  The abuse is intended for all immigrant communities, and all spokespeople from those communities will have the abuse directed at them if there is an opportunity.  The reason that Muslims are on the receiving end at the moment is due to a number of factors that "allow" Muslim-averse statements to be made by people who would normally keep their true feelings about post-war immigration well hidden.

This is not to condone hostility towards immigrant communities or verbal / physical abuse of individuals from immigrant communities.

But the liberal elite are deluding themselves if they think that only an isolated extremist minority are likely to indulge in this sort of behaviour.

Post-war immigration is an issue about which the majority feel completely disenfranchised.

This is not a situation that can continue indefinitely.

Disenfranchised populations must eventually rebel. 

Perhaps it would help Mehdi Hasan to understand the situation if he were to compare post-war Britain with post-war Palestine.  In both territories a controlling elite, ignoring the wishes of the majority, allowed unrestricted immigration.  The result in Palestine was the creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent intifada by the people who call themselves indigenous Palestinians.

Therefore, to continue this analogy, Mehdi Hasan should regard the abuse being directed at him as a sort of British intifada, with insults being thrown instead of rocks and bombs (I realise this is a tendentious comparison).

The tragedy of post-war immigration into the United Kingdom is that we are now in a situation where we cannot go forward and we cannot go back.  We cannot go forward because in my opinion if large scale immigration continues a very serious situation will develop (and you only have to look at Northern Ireland to realise that British "tolerance" is capable of breaking down).  We cannot go back because to reverse immigration would require levels of state violence that most people probably would not accept.

But we can at least stop fooling ourselves about a "diverse multi-cultural society" that does not exist.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Prunella vulgaris

Have been at a small conference yesterday and today, looking after the Institute's stand.

Because of the dogs I had to drive home yesterday, then get up at 6am this morning to get back to the conference before today's sessions started.

So I am totally exhausted.

I only really had to be on the stand during the refreshment breaks and the lunch, and the rest of the time I mostly sat in on the seminars (which were very earnest and ever so slightly dull).

But I skipped one session yesterday and went for a walk.  The weather was warm and humid, torrential showers alternating with intense sunlight.  In the woods around the conference centre I found a wide clearing covered with bright blue flowers (see above).  I later identified these as Prunella vulgaris, a wild flower indigenous to northern Europe.  Apparently these little plants were used to flavour soups and stews.  The sap is antibacterial.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

I'm working at an exhibition this weekend, not getting home until late.

So I missed seeing the film Nice Guy at the East London Film Festival.


Long-term care for the elderly

I'm not happy with either the Coalition or Labour proposals on long-term care for the elderly.

This needs to be free at the point of delivery for everyone who needs it, either in a claimant's own home or in good-quality residential homes for the elderly.

There is no point in saying this is unaffordable - it is the will of the majority (as you can prove for yourself by just carrying out a poll of the options) and so the government must MAKE it affordable.

Having any kind of charge, even one that is "capped", will just lead to subsequent increases and qualifications so that it becomes as unfair as the present system.

Social welfare (NHS, unemployment benefits, as well as long-term care for the elderly etc) needs to be funded entirely by National Insurance, and when the costs go up National Insurance should be increased to pay for it.  This was the original concept in the wartime plans and post-war implementation of the welfare state.  Unfortunately both the Conservative government of Macmillan and the first government of Harold Wilson funked increasing National Insurance for short term political reasons (now long forgotten).

The result is that National Insurance has become just a meaningless extension of general taxation.  Right-wing politicians (all parties) attack the welfare state on the general libertarian premise that "taxation is theft".  Labour politicians manipulate and corrupt the system to buy votes, particularly bloc votes from immigrant communities who have no right to welfare assets they have not paid for.

And yet the popular will is for long-term care for the elderly free at the point of delivery (and if it were paid for by a hypothecated tax the funding would not be controversial, unlike the present system of general taxation where it all goes into a big pot and we are told "trust us, we are politicians, we will spend the money wisely on your behalf").

Unfortunately the politicians are so stupid they cannot see what a vote-winner this would be.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The moral state of the Establishment

Interesting discussion on Newsnight this evening about the moral state of the Establishment.

Disappointed that no-one defined the Establishment - there was just an assumption that it is a collective entity made up of individual institutions.

Owen Jones dominated the discussion and made all the running, although Anne Atkins expertly corrected him on the Victorians as reformers rather than exploiters.

Neil Hamilton, appearing like a caricature roue, called Owen Jones a spartacist.

A banker (whose name I didn't catch) made conciliatory noises without really saying anything.  He mentioned the origin of Cadbury's as the caring face of capitalism, but failed to point out that globalised capitalism has trashed Cadbury's and asset-stripped the company.  And I think he was right to mention unbridled globalisation as a source of moral corruption but he did not develop the idea.

But the discussion needed at least an hour, not just twelve minutes or so.


The new roof at Kings Cross

I can't make up my mind about the new roof at Kings Cross.  It is undeniably beautiful, but not as beautiful as the central court at the British Museum (and I even have mixed feelings about that).  Also I think I agree with Rowan Moore that it obscures the facade of West Side Offices - it dominates rather than complements.

There is a hint of the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey.  Also the Long Gallery at Strawberry Hill.  But gothic revival sits awkwardly on the stiff wedding cake facades of West Side Offices and the Great Northern Hotel.

As David Watkin advised us, architecture is important to Society (big S) because of its relationship to morality.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Kirsty Wark interviewed Labour Leader Ed Miliband about the Barclays Libor scandal

On Newsnight this evening Kirsty Wark interviewed Labour Leader Ed Miliband about the Barclays Libor scandal.

Several times she asked Ed Miliband whether he had spoken to Gordon Brown about what happened and whether the Labour government was involved in the Libor fixing.

Incredible as it may seem, Ed Miliband said he had not asked Gordon Brown.

Which makes you think he didn't ask because he didn't want to know.


The Shard skyscraper opens today.

There was a rather vacuous item on the Today programme this morning, entirely uncritical.

Doesn't the Shard tell you everything you need to know about the last government.

Toweringly remote, prestige for the sake of prestige, "modernity" for the sake of modernity, intimidating big "solutions" unrelated to individual concerns, pushed through with a contemptuous regard to opposition voices, all surface dazzle, awash with money from dubious regimes etc.

No wonder they had to go.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

"The riots one year on"

There is a wistful recherche tone to the Guardian's coverage of "the riots one year on", as if it were an exquisite case study in popular revolution, with all attributes the Guardian most approves of (anarchistic insurgency, ethnic grievances, cutting edge use of social media etc).

It's almost as if they are hoping for it all to kick off again.

The police, especially the Metropolitan Police, would have to be very negligent to allow any repeat of the riots of last summer.  Especially with the Olympics about to take place.  The consequences would be very serious - not just for anyone caught rioting, but also for the police hierachy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Mournful experience walking the dogs (one by one, they are too much trouble to take together).

Dark overcast gloomy evening, trying hard to rain.

Hundreds of black slugs on the wet surface of the lane.

The air very mild.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Archway to Highgate 6

The last part of my walk took me through the former Burdett-Coutts estate and up to Highgate tube.

The "Tudor cliffs" built in the 1920s along Langbourne Mansions, Makepeace Avenue and Oakeshott Avenue are in fact social housing.  They were originally constructed by Lady Workers' Homes Limited to provide accommodation for single women living in London (flats and bedsits).  The blocks are now owned by Camden Council on a 150 year lease and the single-women-only restriction has been lifted.

Wide private roads (protected by gates), generous provision of trees and garden areas, and use of high-status "Tudorbethan" architecture make this a highly-desirable location.

Above:  the Tudor detailing is just a facade, and round the back you see utilitarian 1920s services, enlivened by a few balconies.  Modernists would hate this estate - for them the idea of a facade is anathema.  And yet any philosopher will tell you that to be fully human is to live behind facades (both metaphorical and literal) and no-one can survive for long in the full glare of "truth" and "honesty". 

Above:  I love this mini recycling centre.  It appeals to my sense of order, categorisation, care for the environment.  If I have my way I would put a Grade 2 order on this little area.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Morality and ethics among the elite

On Broadcasting House this morning (BBC Radio 4) Patience Wheatcroft and Owen Jones discussed morality and ethics among the elite.

The discussion just skirted around the issues. 

Owen Jones said the elite had a sense of "one rule for them" without really explaining how this "rule" had developed.  It is counter to the noblesse oblige of the traditional ruling classes, and also counter to the public school ethos (service, duty, sacrifice) that is supposedly instilled in the independent schools.  Although I am perfectly willing to accept that wide swathes of the establishment have become corrupt (the evidence for this is overwhelming) I want to know why and how this has happened.

Patience Wheatcroft said "people without ethics are more prevalent".  This implies that society has become less ethical.  Which makes you ask how ethics are transferred from one generation to another and why this transmission has broken down (is it a failure in the schools? or the receding influence of the established church? or the collapse of family life? or a lack of role models? or a crisis of confidence? or a lack of political leadership? etc).

Earlier in the week I read the Owen Jones article on the Independent website in which he talked about his days at Oxford. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-if-rigging-rates-isnt-antisocial-behaviour-what-is-dude-7897001.html

In one paragraph he describes how when he left his door unlocked an inebriated member of the rowing team urinated in his bed (presumably involuntarily).

This mirrors the moment in Brideshead Revisited when Charles Ryder leaves his study window open and Lord Sebastian Flyte, drunk after a dinner, puts his head through and vomits copiously.

Which makes you wonder, in the Owen Jones case, what happened next...