Wednesday, October 31, 2012

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 10

"The key (to Atlantic supremacy) has been politics and more especially political institutions" - can we ascribe the decline of the West in part because of the decline and corruption of political institutions?

"Niall Ferguson in Civilisation... competition is one of the six explanations Ferguson puts forward to explain the path of Atlantic dominance.  The others include science, property rights and the growth of consumerism..." - socialism repudiates all of these except for science.

"...inclusive, pluralistic institutions which allow extensive debate of ideas and possible ways forward combined with a consumer society whose demands are met by continuously competing and therefore innovative businesses whose property rights are protected in law.  The individual, therefore, is simultaneously consumer, worker and citizen" - I really like this definition, and it indicates why British society is sometimes faltering - public policy needs to encourage individuals to be simultaneously consuming, working and participating fully in issues of citizenship.

Is it possible that David Cameron has just taken the Labour Party hostage?

Remember that the Prime Minister is a long-standing Euro-sceptic and not averse to leaving the political union in Europe (but not the economic free trade area).

In that respect there is no real split in the Conservative Party - the issue is one of timing, not direction.

By fighting the next election on a Euro-sceptic platform it is possible that he would neutralise the credibility of Ed Miliband and the Shadow Cabinet.

Observance of rituals is a deep-rooted human need

Today is All Hallows Eve.  Tomorrow is All Saints Day.  Friday is All Souls Day.

The local minster (which is high church Anglican) has designated from today until Sunday as "All Souls Tide".

The Anglican church has debated recently about the creeping nature of pseudo-Harry Potter fun-paganism that is infecting "Halloween".  They need to counter this by taking back public commemoration of the day.  For instance, they could reinstate the ringing of church bells on All Hallows Eve - meant as a tribute to the living mourning the dead.

Observance of rituals is a deep-rooted human need and will not go away.  The Anglican church needs to either take control of ritual days or recognise that if they don't they will be ceding control to others.  Allowing "Halloween" to develop along its present course and to continue to influence the imaginations of children is not good for society.

Perhaps Nairns could bring out an annual "special edition" oatcake for All Souls Day as oatcakes are a ritual food associated with the day.
"One thing that has changed over the last year towards Europe is that a British Prime Minister is now talking easily about using the national veto, and that's a genie that's not going back in its bottle."
"The problem with Michael Heseltine is that no-one takes him seriously.  In the one big moment of his life he lost, and he has never overcome that aura of being a loser.  Bringing him back now reminds me of Gordon Brown bringing back Peter Mandelson, it smacks of desperation."

(I cannot attribute these words unfortunately).


At Prime Minister's Questions the cameras showed, briefly, some of the sledging by Ed Balls towards the Prime Minister - the Speaker does nothing about this.

The Labour leader struggled to land a blow - The New Statesman's view: 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Graph just now on Newsnight showing that the economy grew during the Labour years and yet wages stood still

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 9

"In many people's minds innovation, invention, and great creative achievements are both individual and momentary flashes of inspiration" - I think I subscribe to this view, the flashes of inspiration occurring when unexpected connections between disparate pieces of information are made in a well-educated mind.

"Analysis of the places where innovation has occurred and where it has not" - one thinks of the city states of ancient Greece where you had the diversity of the independent cities within the cultural homogeneity of Greek culture.
I have seasonal affective disorder - since the clocks went back.  It happened immediately, almost as if a switch had been turned on.  The worst thing is that I know I have it and yet can't do anything about it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The health of the economy

The New York Times a couple of days ago announced they were backing the Obama campaign in the American election, citing the Obama healthcare policy as being a prime factor for doing so.

Although I fully support the NHS, and would endorse national healthcare free at the point of delivery, someone in the United Kingdom needs to advise the Americans that there is no point in having big ideas if the ordinary people do not have the money to pay for them (either through taxes or insurance).

We've learned that from hard experience.

The health of the economy must come first.

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 8

"California public schools, which 40 years ago led the world, are now among the worst in the US, which itself compares unfavourably with much of Pacific Asia" - what happened to American schools, did they suffer the same modish corruption of education standards as the United Kingdom?

"Growth in the US economy, including California, has been sclerotic since 2008 and commentators there spend much of their time debating when, rather than whether, the US will lose its global leadership position" - every trajectory I have seen shows America and the USA ahead of every other country in per capita wealth, and although China and India will grow rich on a collective basis the average Western family will still be much richer than the average Chinese or Indian family in 2050.

James Purnell's article in today's Times

I have to say I was confused by James Purnell's article in today's Times about internet policy.

Expert analysis of the situation, interesting comparison with international competitors, and then he tells us the answer is to have another departmental reorganisation.

As if shuffling civil servants around would solve the problem.

The then Labour government was contemptuous of the countryside

Anyone who loves the English countryside will know how serious the threat of disease is to the country's Ash trees.  There is going to be a lot of anger if the Ash trees go the way of the Elm trees.  Especially if the devastation could have been avoided.

So it was a shock to see on the Guardian website news that "the government" knew about the risk in 2009 and refused to do anything about it.

There is however an error in the Guardian's report.  They say "the government" (present tense) when they should say "the then Labour government".  Lazy editing.

The then Labour government was contemptuous of the countryside and the people who lived there.

Cathy Newman is about to report this on Channel 4 News.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 7

"Innovation requires iconoclasts" - iconoclasm is a British trait, particularly in the tabloid press.

"Loyalty to an extended family has been a powerful feature of Pacific Asia's rise, enabling governments to invest less than they might otherwise have done in welfare spending" - which makes me wonder whether in the West we can trace a correlation between increases in welfare spending and the decline of family structures.

"A combination of uniformity, deference, attachment to order and the strength of the family, each of which has contributed to success in the past, might stand in the way of Pacific Asia's success in the future" - I think the authors of the report ignore the examples of history as Victorian Britain valued uniformity, deference, attachment to order and the strength of the family and still managed to become a global power (arguably the greatest global power) and British decline is historically mirrored by a decline in uniformity, deference, attachment to order and the strength of the family.

"In Japan the major corporations remain remarkably innovative, producing 20 per cent of the world's patents" - here the authors undermine their own argument.

The restoration

I am on the committee of a small architectural trust that gives out grants to local historic buildings.  Mostly secular buildings, occasionally ecclesiastical ones.  The grants are small and come from a bequest that set the trust up in the 1950s.

This afternoon I went to look at some work being carried out on a church.

Pouring with rain, although it was not cold, and there was a period of sustained sunshine in the early afternoon.  Despite strict warnings from the doctor not to go out (because of my illness) I grew restless in the house and went out at 2pm.  Drive of forty minutes across the plain. 

The church of St Mary - Early English gothic, although the tower is Perpendicular and leans to one side (this has been cleverly corrected in the view from the road).  The building had been restored in 1885.  As I parked my car I could hear the current work going on - a constant sound of movement, banging and shouts.

No service today as the building is closed while the new lead is being put on the roof.  One of the church wardens was waiting to meet me, a stout woman in her sixties.  She seemed a bit disappointed when I arrived, and perhaps she had been expecting someone older and more erudite.

One enters through the south porch, which is of considerable interest being wide and square with low stone benches against either side, under arches of slender columns.  This area had been developed as a sort of mini-mausoleum in the Victorian period, and on the floor were five red granite slabs ornately carved with stylised flowers.  Supplementing these gravestones were, on the walls, five large brass tablets, again very elaborate.  These monuments dated from the 1870s to the 1890s and related to intermarried families of local farmers, forming a little clan linked by alliances of blood and property and displaying tremendous pride in their collective lineage.  Heraldry (possibly assumed), floral flourishes, meticulous references to family connections.  Now the porch was used as the entrance for the workmen whose boots walked on the graves (how are the mighty fallen).

Inside the church the churchwarden showed me the restoration (the trust had only paid for a small part of the work).  Scaffolding at the back restricted access to the old carvings which are folk art and record a local legend.  The celebrated font was covered by thick sheets of polythene.  In the vestry the churchwarden showed me the architect's drawings.  Also there was a framed proclamation dated 1815 with red seals and signatures of the then churchwardens saying:  Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Glorious Victory obtained over the French of Sunday the Eighteenth Day of June.  Also a painting of the Virgin Mary portrayed as a young woman standing on a cloud supported by happy fat cherubs holding Madonna lilies, the Virgin wearing clothes of delicate pastel blue with a darker blue cloak billowing out to one side and long dark hair wafted by a breeze.

When we went outside the rain had stopped.  The churchyard had been laid out as an arboretum by one of the Edwardian incumbents.  He planted approximately three hundred specimen trees, all of them different.  A hundred years later they are now fully mature.  Even in late autumn they created an exotic, delicate and feathery canopy above the graves.  We walked around trying to identify some of them. 

Then I drove home and began coughing.
The clocks went back an hour last night, and I was looking forward to an extra hour in bed.

But all that happened was that I woke at my usual time and the clock said 9am instead of 10am (getting up at ten is lazy I know, but it is a habit I have fallen into).

Downstairs I made a cup of coffee and watched, for the first time, the Andrew Marr Show - Harriett Harman in a cardigan and a necklace that looked as if she had made it herself, calling for an over-arching enquiry into the Savile scandal.

Then I went over onto Sky News and a preview of the morning papers - we were shown a sofa with John Sergeant in formal clothes and a poppy, Mary Macleod MP in formal clothes and a poppy, with squashed between them Owen Jones in tighter than usual jeans and ubiquitous checked shirt, also wearing a poppy.

The Savile scandal (John Sergeant defending the byzantine "system" of the BBC, saying that it ensured journalistic independence); the disease afflicting ash trees; resources available for childcare (Owen Jones compared Sweden with the United Kingdom, overlooking the fact that Sweden has a fraction of the population and four times the physical resources so is obviously a much wealthier country per capita).

Discussing councils switching off street lights at night Owen Jones sounded a little patronising talking about women walking on their own.  A ding dong developed over why councils needed to make cuts, an argument that Mary Macleod MP won (Owen Jones has yet to learn that one has to stoop to conquer to win an argument on television - it is not enough to just loudly declaim a point of view, one has to politely acknowledge the opposing view then demolish it).

Update:  on the subject of Owen Jones, has he seen the latest research by Progress:

There is no mention of it on the website of Centre for Labour and Social Studies: 

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 6

"China's Hurun Report which track's the country's wealthy" - this is useful to know.

"Pacific Asian societies value order, respect for authority and submission of the individual to the group much more highly than Western societies" - presumably as Chinese funds buy British companies these values will become familiar in the United Kingdom.

"the solutions are worked out behind closed doors by experts working for the leader and then tested in the real world and refined as necessary; a rational process not inhibited realities of the Atlantic democracies" - but isn't that exactly what happens here, no-one can argue that public policy is under popular democratic control.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Clean, fresh, pure

View from the rain-spattered window of the inner kitchen across the north field.

After weeks of mild clammy damp the cold has arrived - clean, fresh, pure.

Before the rain started I walked the dogs to the end of the lane.  A hard wind blew from the east.  Although it was painful to be in such a wind, there was also a feeling of exhilaration as if I was awakening to life after the somnambulance of summer.

Talking to Phillipa (who never seems to be busy) - the past week at work


After all the research interviews of the weekend I was looking forward to an easy day.  I reasoned that Director Vijay Singh could hardly complain if I had a little rest after working so hard.  But at our initial meeting this morning he was urging me to work night and day to get the briefing documents written as soon as possible.

My illness mostly gone, although I still have a slight cough and feel a bit delicate.

At 11 the general management meeting was held, chaired by Vijay Singh.  One by one the heads of department gave their reports and were subjected to painful interrogation by Vijay Singh.  But when my turn came there were no moments of anxiety - he praised the south London interviews I had done.

A timetable was outlined for production of the briefing documents, and I just agreed to what was said, although privately I was alarmed at the tight schedules.

In the afternoon a meeting with Vijay Singh and Acting Deputy Director Marcia Walsh to discuss the Head Office plans for pan-national digital communications.


How boring it is to be ill.  I have acute pneumonia.  Once again to the hospital and I was there almost the entire morning having x-rays done.

Later, back at home, perplexed over the failure of the new vacuum cleaner - I am completely impractical when it comes to items of machinery.


Gary from the Reading Room downstairs is an enigma.  He has no interest in books, and is the most unlikely person to be training as a librarian.  Probably he does the job because he can't get anything better (the pay is tiny).  Whenever he comes upstairs he always stops by my desk, although I don't know what to say to him.  All he talks about is sport.  Slim, pale gold hair (thinning), aged early twenties.

During the morning I briefed Joey by 'phone about the design and layout of a new publication.

At one o'clock was a meeting for the Birmingham working group.  The meeting held in Vijay Singh's office, which was rather too warm.  In the middle of the table sandwiches and orange juice. 

I gave my report which was actually quite full considering how little work I have done for the project over the last month.


A meeting with Campaign Manager Callum Smith to discuss yet another initiative.  He wants my support for his idea to limit the work of the Institute so that we focus on fewer areas.  Vijay Singh is unlikely to agree to this, as it would mean curtailing his ambitions.

Gary came to my desk with advance copies of a publication dropped off downstairs ("I'm a delivery man today").  He told me he gets his hair cut every two weeks, which I thought unnecessary.  There has been something about his mood this past couple of weeks that I find difficult to pin down.

In the afternoon Vijay Singh asked me to draft a letter.

I prepared for my visit to Head Office tomorrow.


I caught the train that left just after 9.

At Head Office I went up to the second floor intending to base myself at Carol Reynolds' desk, having checked she would be out for the day.  But when I got to the desk there was a scrawny teenager with ginger hair sitting there.  "This is Ross, a temp" said office supervisor Abi. 

I sat at the next desk, which happened to be empty.

The Exhibitions meeting was cancelled, Kathleen Q apologising.

I filled the vacant time by going to Publications and talking to Phillipa (who never seems to be busy).

At one o'clock the digital communications meeting began.  Initially it just included Marcia Walsh (who had come down from the Institute) and Martin B, but after the first hour more people came into the room so that almost all the departments were represented.  The project is very ambitious and aims to put everyone (literally everyone) on a single database colour coded.

I left Head Office at 3.20, and despite my medication I drank bottled beer on the train back.

Friday, October 26, 2012

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 5

"Julia Gillard...accelerating the pace of innovation will require diverse cities, great universities, great new and established businesses and extensive interactions between them... individuals who are open to ideas and argument and who are part of teams in which vigorous debate, dissent and discomfort exist" - to my mind the Australian Prime Minister seems to be advocating control by an intellectual elite, and there is no mention of democracy driving the pace of change.

"Tony Blair... states which have predictable rules that are evenly enforced and do not have closed elite circles" - this sounds fine, but the Blair regime (one can hardly call it a democratic government) comprised a small circle sitting on sofas in Downing Street and lying to the electorate to sustain themselves in power.

"In press freedom, lack of corruption and the rule of law much, but not all, of Pacific Asia lags behind the Atlantic region.  The same is true of human rights" - but going forward will China and India copy the West, or will the West adopt the lower standards of Pacific Asia?

"Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, said:  we argue strongly that you can't build a high-end, very sophisticated economy with active censorship" - and yet Western society is saddled with the censorship of political correctness.

"Many of the cities in the region, Seoul and Tokyo among them, are some of the most homogenous cities on Earth" - and yet Japan and South Korea are incredibly innovative economies.

In my mind I would like to be that person

If asked about music I like to pose as a sensitive soul, with serious affliliations to Shubert, Schumann, Mahler.  And in my mind I would like to be that person.  But too often I have the Chartshow channel on, and through the simple process of repetition become enslaved and enthralled to music I would never openly admit to liking:

Swedish House Mafia

Taylor Swift


I am addicted to Asda own-brand diet cherry cola

Went to a talk by a nutritionist, a very inspiring teacher.  Have long suspected my diet is not good.  Among the many things she said was to cut out completely all processed foods.

Especially, no fizzy drinks.

This causes me a problem as I think I am addicted to Asda own-brand diet cherry cola.

I used to drink diet cherry Coke, but gave it up because of the aspartame (after watching David Catudal on diet and exercise).  I switched to the Asda brand as it has sucralose, which is supposed to be safer.  But now even this has to go.
Is Andrew Neil wearing an Old Etonian tie on tonight's This Week?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Grove Park in south London

Above:  recently I went to Grove Park in south London to do some research interviews.  While I was there I had a look around the "highly aesthetic" suburb created by Lord Northbrook in the 1880s.  A ruined suburb, but still with poignant traces of the rus in urbe rural romantic dream. 

Above:  the railway station is in the characteristic barracks-style of the London Bridge to Sevenoaks line.

Above:  one felt very close to the genesis of London suburbia - one can imagine the first pioneering pooterish families coming here from the inner city and thinking they had arrived in Eden.

Above:  a stretch of former water meadows is at the centre of Grove Park and incorporates a Peace Garden opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu - as the name implies, the Peace Garden is very peaceful.

Above:  this little cul-de-sac of council houses caught my eye.  It has a quiet sense of integrity.  The trees seem almost surreal in size and shape.


Above:  the wonderful Baring Hall Hotel, now boarded up and about to be demolished.  Built in 1882, it was designed by Sir Ernest Newton whose great work Sketches for Country Residences caused a sensation among architects of the late-Victorian period.  As you can see, the hotel is itself in the style of a small country house and Sir Ernest has created on the difficult sloping site a picturesque building that conferred on the petit bourgeoisie (travelling salesmen, clerks, coal merchants etc) all the reassuring status and comfort of the landed gentry.  It is a scandal that this hotel is to be destroyed.  Can nothing be done, even at this late stage?  Or is the Philistine to triumph even in Grove Park?

Possibly the Baring Hall Hotel may be saved - the demolition notice has been revoked for the time being.

Press release from the Badgers Trust

I have been following the various developments in the planned trial badger cull, now abandoned (for good I hope).

The latest press release from the Badgers Trust:

I am concerned that policy is not being devised within Whitehall but is merely responding to lobbying.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 4

"...the next half century demands innovation in social and economic realms and indeed fundamentally in human relations" - for this to happen there will have to be global standards of morality, which is hardly likely in the foreseeable future.

"The fundamental question is how to create the conditions in which unprecedented innovation can take place..." - perhaps social media has a role to play here, allowing individuals in the West to interact with individuals in China, Russia, India and Brazil.

"...leaders need to focus on creating the conditions in which the necessary innovations can take place, and in which countless individuals with leadership responsibilities are well-educated enough to make good decisions..." - perhaps using the model of the Rhodes scholarships (in which Oxford mores and values have come to dominate the political elite of the Western world).

What morality in public life means "in practice"

Owen Jones asks Philip Blond what morality in public life means "in practice".

Assuming the question is sincere, it suggests he does not know the difference between moral and immoral behaviour.

One cannot condemn him for this.

As someone who has had an atheist upbringing, and who stridently asserts his atheist beliefs (if that is not a contradiction) there is no reason to expect him to subscribe to Western standards of Christian morality (do not kill, do not steal, do not tell lies etc).

But it is an indication of how far society has fallen, and why the Establishment has become corrupt.

War was shamelessly used as an instrument of foreign policy

Discussion on the Today programme this morning on BBC Radio 4 about "poppy fascism".  This is a tendentious description of the undoubted public pressure on public figures to wear commemorative poppies, especially on television, in the period before Remembrance Sunday.  The debate on Remembrance conventions is not new - in the 1970s Labour Leader Michael Foot courted controversy by wearing a green "donkey jacket" at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and was widely condemned for not wearing black.

Given the state of profound disgrace that currently envelopes the BBC, it will be interesting to see whether Newsnight presenter Paul Mason will have the nerve to appear on the programme without a poppy (as he did last year).  In a period of fast-eroding support for the Corporation this might be one provocation too far.  Possibly Newsnight will send Paul Mason abroad somewhere until after 11th November.

On Tuesday 11th November itself I will switch over to Channel 4 News to see Jon Snow make his (by now conventional) annual protest by refusing to wear a poppy.

Note added 25th October:  when Jon Snow interview Chairman of the BBC Trustees Lord Patten on Channel 4 News this evening it was very noticable that Lord Patten was wearing a poppy.

As soon as one starts to consider amending the traditional ways of commemorating "the fallen" all sorts of issues begin to arise.  Presumably Jon Snow deeply disapproved of the settler administration in colonial Rhodesia, and yet the Rhodesian contribution to the war effort was proportionally greater than any other part of the then British Empire and rebel Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith was himself a former Battle of Britain pilot.  Are we to disregard the efforts of people and communities of whom many people disapprove? (Bomber Harris, Jan Smuts, Lord Kitchener etc).  Would a Jon Snow-style sanitisation and historical cleansing of the Remembrance commemorations refocus on aspects of conflict approved of by the left and in a way that the left finds palatable?

Or is it better to leave things as they are?

On the Today programme this morning a Dr Harrison said he wanted to avoid glorification of war.  The most straight-forward way of doing this would presumably be to advise people not to vote Labour.  In the post-war period Labour has been the most bellicose of all the political parties, and under the Blair administration war was shamelessly used as an instrument of foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq ("the People's War"?), generating thousands of additional casualties and "fallen" to be commemorated annually by their families at least until 2060.

It is ironic that without the Blair wars the vast quasi-imperial ceremony in Whitehall would probably be coming to an end as the last of the Second World War veterans passed away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

That rotten decade

Watching Newsnight reporting on the latest revelations in the Jimmy Savile scandal, I can't help feeling that it is the 1960s that is also on trial.  That rotten decade with its culture of permissiveness, free love and "anything goes" created people like Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter and no doubt other celebrity gropers yet to be exposed.  And I also have the feeling that it was always going to end like this - corruption spreads until it rots everything it touches.

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 3

"...the regulation of the global economy; the resolution of conflicts..." - but who is to do this regulating and resolving and how are they to obtain democratic legitimacy? (surely it would be better to have these matters decided by nation states rather than some kind of trans-national leadership).

" population having passed 7 billion recently and heading for 9 billion by the middle of the century..."  - what is driving this population explosion and where geographically is it happening? 

"Ian Bremmer's case that we live in a G-zero world where for the moment there is no obvious leadership which can overcome the barriers to global co-operation..." - maybe this is a good thing, as global co-operation might mean some form of government by an elite (an aristos).

"Clayton Christensen describes in The Innovator's Dilemma how dependence on gradual sustained improvements results in the downfall of companies; the same concept applies to nations and the global leadership as they tackle the challenges facing us.  Innovation will be required - faster, deeper, more disruptive innovation than ever before." - not sure this is true, Japan after the Second World War went from a bombsite to the world's leading industrial economy by applying the philosophy devised by Dr W Edwards Deming of gradual incremental innovation and improvement.

The really important things were about to be said

That awful time, about three o’clock in the afternoon, when one has had a good lunch and is sitting in a small audience listening to an economic briefing. I dearly wanted to close my eyes and sleep. But I knew that the really important things were about to be said.

“The current situation involves the on-going threat of recession, the aftermath of the banking crisis, the legacy of the budget deficit, the problem of national debt, the pensions catastrophe, and perennial short-term political decision making…

“The Labour Party is wedded to what Joan Robinson called bastard Keynesianism. This means they are picking out only the bits they like. Keynes specifically referred to running a government deficit as ‘abnormal spending’…

“One particular Keynesian assumption need challenging – the idea that governments can intervene to smooth economic peaks and troughs. And even if they could intervene (which they can’t), whether it is morally right that they should. Hayek told us that government intervention is ALWAYS at the cost of freedom…

“Look at the study done two years ago by the LSE and the University of Maryland, telling us that in a world open to trade and with floating exchange rates the effect of the Keynesian multiplier was zero…

“The Austrians believe that boom cycles move too fast for effective government intervention and by the time they get round to it the economic cycle has moved on…

“Treasury figures show domestic borrowing AND corporate borrowing are both at one hundred per cent of GDP. In any case, GDP measures expenditure, so is never a good measure. Most people do not realise this…

“Healthcare and education should not be run by the free market…

“Gross UK debt is probably three hundred per cent of GDP if you add in bank bailouts, PFI and public sector pensions…

“The government has an interest in inflation being as high as possible…

“Ludwig von Mises demonstrated that if you don’t stop a credit bubble you end up with a collapse…

“If there is too much money in the system the price of money goes down, in the same way that oversupply of any other commodity leads to a fall in price…

“We need a written constitution insisting on a balanced budget…

“You cannot control the money supply unless you are prepared to control bank lending…

“With such low interest rates no-one can expect to fund their retirement…

“Long term the enemy is inflation, not recession…

“A big problem is career politicians. For a politician a problem deferred is a problem solved. At a time like this we do not need career politicians, we need leaders…”

Monday, October 22, 2012

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation - 2

"The rise of China and Pacific Asia, and the implications this has for global leadership, is a major transformation of global circumstances that cannot be ignored" - but China's "rise" cannot surely be expected to be without problems?  In the year 1900 one British newspaper carried the headline that the 20th century would be the German Century.  In fact it turned out to be the American century.

"The continuation of present trends ad infinitum is unlikely" - at the very least, there are not enough raw materials in the world for all of the global population to achieve Western levels of materialism.

"If the Pacific economy and its constituent parts are destined for global leadership in the future what are the implications for humanity?" - we are so used to quasi-Christian standards of morality in the West (do not steal, do not tell lies, do not kill etc) that it is sometimes a shock to discover that in some cultures stealing, lying and killing are not necessarily immoral.

"Global order in issues such as climate change, the sustainability of the oceans, biodiversity and the regulation of the extraordinary scientific revolution symbolised by the cracking of the genome" - are we aware of Chinese policy in each of these areas?  Is anyone watching China on a consistent basis?  Is the West making any attempt to influence public opinion in China?

His activities appear to be only in the public sector

I am not one of those who subscribe to the artificial dividing line in British society between public sector and private sector - I think a healthy one-nation society needs both.

It seems neo-Orwellian to adopt and adapt the 1984 slogan by saying "public sector good, private sector bad" (or vice versa).

But it did strike me that Jimmy Savile was able to carry out his crimes seemingly exclusively in public sector and not-for-profit organisations.

We are told that the private sector cares only about profit and nothing about people and their needs (including the need for security from predators).

And yet it was in the so-called "caring" public sector that Jimmy Savile was able to dazzle people with his celebrity status and commit crimes with impunity.

Which makes me wonder whether the private sector is better at focusing on the job, whereas the public sector thinks any old standards will do.

Of course I might be wrong about this, and hundreds of private sector abuses by Jimmy Savile might yet come to light, but so far his activities appear to be only in the public sector.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Racism in football"

"Racism" in football is being discussed in the media.

In today's Observer footballer David James (in an article endorsed by Salma Yaqoob no less) writes about the "boiling point" of "a group of black players so incensed by the authorities' lack of action" (over John Terry).

On his Twitter microblog football pundit Stan Collymore tells us about a radio discussion on Talk Sport on the Rio Ferdinand and Kick It Out "situation" (note - in the image I have grouped the Twitter comments together).

Taking a contrarian view, on the Mirror website Brian Reade tells us "there is nowhere better in Europe for a black footballer to be playing".

What are we to make of all this?

We are encouraged to think that the Whig progression of history is at work.  That English football was once (in the 1970s) racist both institutionally and individually, both covertly and overtly, both unthinkingly and with malice aforethought.  That things have "moved on" and that now only a few bad people still insist on being racist, and that these refuseniks need to be crushed with the full force of the of the FA and the criminal law.

It would be easy to go along with this view.

Especially as anyone with the indiscretion to talk publicly about "race" is immediately going to be called a "racist" and hounded until they are silenced.

However there are a number of aspects to the "racism in football" that make me uneasy.

Racism is a response to migration.  The more migration a population experiences, the more racism that migration will engender.  This is because mass migration is irretrievably linked to dispossession, and dispossession leads to anger and resentment among the dispossessed.

Only 2% of the population is "black" (Afro-Caribbean).  And yet 40% of footballers are black.  Therefore two per cent of the population has, in this sector, dispossessed thirty-eight per cent of the non-black population.

We are told that there are no essential differences between ethnic groups (indeed, it is illegal to say that one ethnic group is better than another).  Therefore this statistical imbalance must represent "racism" in some form.  The Kick It Out claque seems uninterested in examining the causes of what appears to be institutional racism in English football.

Note - the above image was taken from today's Observer editorial, printed in full in a Sunday newspaper where young children can see it.

When the infamous "fbc" remark was made, was it an example of a lone "bad" person being racist?

Or was it symptomatic of the inarticulate anger of the white working class being dispossessed from a sport that they created, that is part of their culture and heritage, and which heretofore has represented one of the few ways in which they can escape the poverty and hopelessness they are born into?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A 6% increase is significant. 

From the 2011 census in southern Ireland:

"Church of Ireland - There were 129,039 members of the Church of Ireland in April 2011, an increase of 6.4 per cent on 2006. This included 13,667 primary school aged children and 8,809 of secondary school age. One in ten Church of Ireland workers had occupations in agriculture and related activities." 

An expenses cover-up

I am going away for a couple of days.

But I pause in my rush (already I am late in packing and leaving) to ask why Speaker Bercow is obscuring the latest MPs' expenses scam.

Perhaps Bercow will have to go the same way Michael Martin had to go when he was caught in an expenses cover-up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

David Miliband's article about "reform" of the state

I'm not convinced by David Miliband's article about "reform" of the state:

In many ways over the last twenty years we have had too much reform, which has created a sense of chaos and permanent revolution, and undermined the capacity of institutions to steer society.

The answer is to devolve state power down to institutions and encourage those institutions to create policy that can be enacted by central and local government.  This requires allowing the nexus between charities, professional associations and private companies to flourish.  This can only come from the state investing status (through recognition, honour and devolved budgets) down to insitution level.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The tragedy of post-1960s Western civilisation

In this brief comment on his Twitter microblog James Ball sums up the tragedy of post-1960s Western civilisation - no-one knows what is moral and immoral anymore.

The abdication of leadership by the Establishment means that morality is now entirely relative and effectively meaningless.

Which leads you to the default position:  if it is not expressly forbidden in law you can do it (no matter how greedy or lazy or disgusting the behaviour).

The Establishment is still around of course, but it has become a mutual benefit organisation (a sort of Co-Op for the wealthy and privileged).  Members of the British Establishment no longer provide leadership for the institutions of society.  They are now exclusively concerned with looking after themselves (and their friends and their family). 

Monday, October 15, 2012

In a snapshot, the Chinese economy

This slide is also quite revealing (and will have to be the last I reproduce here since the presentation is confidential and I am not supposed to be seeing it).

PMI refers to Purchasing Managers' Index.

This is, in a snapshot, the Chinese economy (sort of).

Car sales are down, inflation is up, companies are not purchasing (and therefore presumably not investing).

Of course, it is an axiomatic argument to say that if the West is not buying then countries that export to the West are going to experience a downturn.

Also China has sucked a lot of money out of the world economy by refusing to spend savings (both sovereign debt and household savings).

You can understand their reluctance to reflate the whole world.

But they could just splurge their money in one easily controlled area and let it seep out into the West.  The United Kingdom would be perfect for this.  They could make us the Hong Kong of the Atlantic economy.
Overheard:  "You know, if there is no clear result in 2015 a national government is not out of the question.  Strip away the rhetoric and the differences in position are not insurmountable.  We could then tell the lib dems to get stuffed."

When the Labour party told us they had "abolished boom and bust" they were lying

I find this slide fascinating.

Does it indicate the next boom has already begun?

Would certainly explain the beneficial unemployment figures.

PS when the Labour party told us they had "abolished boom and bust" they were lying.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

Have just finished reading The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.

It's a near perfect novel. 

I will have to read it again to work out how he writes so engagingly. 
Walking the dogs this afternoon, there was a wind blowing from the north. 

A cold steady wind. 

Refreshing but cold. 

There was also a warm sun, slanting down from the west (this was about 4pm). 

The warmth of the sun just mitigated the cold of the wind. 

But only just.

Abortion is funded by general taxation

Mehdi Hasan writes a piece about abortion for the New Statesman:

Someone called Hopi Sen writes an ill-tempered (he admits to being angry) riposte: and is immediately feted by the Left who all insist on the right of individual women to have abortions.

On their insistence that abortion is an individual choice the pro-abortion lobby are really saying there is no such thing as society.  Society must not have a view on what women do with their bodies.  Even (in one extreme position) that men should not express a view on abortion since they will never have need of the operation.

As abortion is funded by general taxation all taxpayers are entitled to have a view (and a vote) on the subject.  No taxation without representation (as the Americans say).  If Diane Abbott MP, and Suzanne Moore and all the rest of the pro-abortion claque want to shut down debate on the issue they are really denying the principle of democracy, transparency and accountability in public finances.

The last episode of Good Cop

I was disappointed by the last episode of Good Cop on BBC1 last night.

It just left everything hanging in the air, with nothing resolved.  Is there going to be a second series?  Or was it hurridly re-edited to take out any controversial scenes (the series was interrupted due to the shooting of two policewomen)?

Or perhaps the philosophical, romantic and social issues were resolved in the last episode, and I am too dense to see them?

Or perhaps it is meant to be an existential and anarchistic drama that mimics real life in the sense that real life does not tend to have any resolutions?

Warren Brown's performance was exceptional.

Everything had been prepared and tested - the past week at work


Director Vijay Singh and several other managers already at the conference, so the offices had an empty and directionless feel to them.

Ferocious pace of e-mails, so that all I did was reply to them as they pinged onto my computer.

At midday Gary (assistant librarian in the Reading Room downstairs) helped me carry boxes down to my car, and then I set off.  The drive took me about three hours.  The hotel not lavish.

Difficult night, mainly because my room was so cold and I felt nervous.

The seminar

I got up at 5.30 and had breakfast in my room.  I went through the seminar plan once again (for what felt like the millioneth time).  Then at 8am I met Campaign Manager Callum Smith and we walked across to Vijay Singh's hotel.

Later we were in the room where the seminar had been booked.  Everything had been prepared and tested and there was nothing more for me to do until lunchtime.  I felt absurdly superfluous.

In the concourse area countless numbers of people were milling around.  I sat in one of the cafe areas, in one of a small circle of very low black leather armchairs.  Shortly afterwards a group of angular young women, all of them far too thin and dressed in expensive-looking black clothes, sat down in the chairs around me and began a meeting.  They were obviously activists, possibly employees rather than volunteers.  They conversed entirely in "head office speak", and although I am familiar with that language even after ten or fifteen minutes I still did not have any clear idea of what they were discussing.  Certainly something very serious seemed to be going wrong with a project they were working on. Their pretty faces expressed concern, unease, even a little fear.  So intimate was my presence, right in the middle of their circle, that I half-expected one of them to turn to me and ask: "What do you think?"  The time came for me to go back to the seminar room, so I did not hear what conclusion they reached.

Although many people had been invited to the seminar I had been afraid that only one or two people would turn up.  I need not have worried, the place was packed, with about forty latecomers standing at the back.  Simon C and Marcia Walsh stood at the door and made sure non-one drifted in who did not have an invitation.

There were a number of high-level people attending, in a little group gathered around Alec Nussbaum.  These included one man of real power, smiling to everyone as he breezed up to the front row of seats.  He is possibly the most conceited person I have ever met, his smugness having an almost tangible quality.

The presentation was delivered by Vijay Singh and Callum Smith.  The audience applauded, the questions were animated, various PR photographs were taken.  I stood at the side with the other Institute staff, and we congratulated each other on how well it had gone.

A buffet lunch had been ordered for the audience, and after the formal part of the seminar came to an end they waited in their seats expectantly.  But no lunch arrived.  We waited and waited, and various people began to get up and walk away.  With a feeling of slight panic I rang the caterers on my mobile and asked where the lunch was.  After a while a harassed individual appeared and explained that lunch had been laid out in the room next door.  He showed me a door in the partition which led to the room where the food was spread out with two waitresses in attendance. 

Helped by Tim Watts (Innovation Manager) I herded the audience through into the next door room.  The lunch was excellent, and I felt a little guilty over such luxurious self-indulgence (I had ordered the food myself from the most expensive menu options).  No wine on the orders of Vijay Singh, but the coffee was of the highest quality.

During the lunch I felt it wise to talk to Mary McF from Head Office Media Relations (late fifties with a wheedling Scottish voice) as the feud between us has grown a little out of hand.  We chatted amiably enough, and possibly relations may be improved.  I also talked to Carol Reynolds who told me some of the rumours circulating about Vijay Singh.

Towards the end of the lunch I saw an elderly lady with a walking stick helping herself to food.  She had not been in the seminar, and I wondered if she was a gatecrasher.  She turned out to be Alec Nussbaum's mother, and consequently a useful person to know if I could only be bothered to make use of such contacts.

When the lunch was finished I went back to my hotel and slept.

Woken at 6 by a call from Vijay Singh asking me where I was and thanking me for organising the seminar.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The First World War only makes sense in terms of nationalist triumphalism

Above:  article in today's Guardian by Richard Seymour sneering at the idea of commemorating the First World War (announced by the Prime Minister yesterday).  Richard Seymour tells us "2014 is being scheduled as another zenith of nationalist pride".  He adds "...the first world war can hardly be recalled as a glorious moment in the history of nationalism".

Above:  on Twitter microblogs there were also comments from lefties promulgating "the message" that the Left wants to impart to the anniversary - specifically that "the horror of WW1 is no cause for triumphalism, patriotism or nostalgia".

This is an anachronistic reading of history and wilfully ignores everything we know about the motives of the people who fought and died in the conflict - the experience of the United Kingdom in the First World War only makes sense in terms of nationalist triumphalism.

It is not for the living to usurp the motives of the dead and to project our liberal sentiments on past generations.  We can choose to ignore the anniversaries or we can choose to mark the occasions in expressions of nationalist triumphalism.  What we cannot do (because it would be bogus and dishonest) is to pretend that struggle and victory in that conflict was motivated by anything other than nationalism and imperialist aggrandisement (feelings that permeated even down to the lowest classes - including my own East End family that had nothing but still gave three men, aged 20 to 34, who all died in the same week in April 1918).

The numbers of protesters against British involvement in the war were tiny, so small that statistically they do not even register (despite a few individuals writing some fine poetry).

Above:  village memorial proclaiming "greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends".  Psychologists tell us that in the actual moment of battle soldiers tend to forget family and community (and certainly forget abstract ideas) and are motivated to fight by a sense of loyalty to the people immediately around them.  Later that feeling becomes rationalised into a very intense affinity with the group ideological view - which in the case of First World War combatants would be youthful aggression towards the enemy, a braggadocio attitude towards survival (actually neo-Darwinian in its acceptance of survival of the fittest), and a music hall nationalism that was both tawdry and sincere.

Above:  memorial in a village church in which the war dead are written into the reredos behind the high altar, so that every Sunday the community appears to be worshipping the ancestral dead of the First World War.  Venerating the dead must imply venerating the ideals they held.  When Labour activist Owen Jones says "I'm calling for the lives of millions to be mourned, just not for their murder to be glorified" he is attempting the impossible (unless one stoops to hypocrisy, and that would not be very edifying either for the living or the dead).

Above:  can storied urn or animated bust back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?  

In the grief that followed the Armistice mourning was mixed with majesty.  The British Empire reached its greatest zenith as a direct result of the conflict.  The Versailles Conference was marked by contemptuous domination of the defeated powers.

We might wish that things had been done differently, but that is how it was.

Victory meant victory in those days, and that is the only valid concept that can be commemorated (unless you propose to betray the dead).  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It seems inevitable that we will move to a qualified franchise

There was a moment on the Today programme this morning when Lord Forsyth referred to "whisky and sandwiches in Edinburgh" when discussing the possible lowering of the voting age in Scotland.  "Beer and sandwiches at Number 10" became political shorthand for backstairs dealing and trading.  It came from a notorious incident in the 1970s when the trade unions were dictating terms to the government and the Labour Prime Minister sent out for beer and sandwiches in an attempt to mollify them.

I'm not sure whether 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote. 

However it may become necessary, in an era of "open borders" and unrestricted (and apparently uncontrollable) migration to look again at voting entitlement.

It seems inevitable that we will move to a qualified franchise based on education and / or ownership of property.

I am absolutely opposed to this, but I can see it happening if we cannot control migration flows.

The alternative would be to effectively give up control of the country and have some form of perpetual "technocrat" administration (we are already on the way to this with the identikit nature of current political parties).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The most important words from David Cameron

The most important words from David Cameron were contained in the stark warning about our hour of reckoning.  At last a politician has had the courage to tell the country what globalisation means.  It is a sombre message, but not a moment too soon.

He is telling us to wake up, the enemy (economically) is at the gates.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Uncle Rudolf by Paul Bailey

Have just finished reading Uncle Rudolf by Paul Bailey. 

I'm afraid I didn't like the book.  It seemed trivial and unconvincing.  After the Go Compare commercials I cannot take opera singers seriously.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

We talked about Tuesday - the past week at work

Monday & Tuesday

"You go there with Simon.  No-one will recognise you two.  Just stay on the edges and don't draw attention to yourselves..."


At my desk this morning, no-one asked me how yesterday had gone.  I worked on a new briefing document, becoming irate (over the telephone) with Innovation Manager Tim Watts over the time he was taking to provide me with information.  Research of possible celebrity endorsers.

In the afternoon, after a late lunch, I was called into Director Vijay Singh's office and with Simon C we talked about Tuesday.


Because of Monday and Tuesday I am allowing myself to take things easy the rest of the week.  The seminar is more or less under control, and next week is completely absorbing all the attention of Head Office, so that I am left alone.  I spent most of today proof-reading.

Vijay Singh called a management meeting to discuss next week, telling us:  "We must be careful".

I am only going there the day of the seminar.


No post this morning, which was unusual - I usually get something.

I wrote an article for a magazine, the deadline at 3pm.

Friday, October 05, 2012

What factors motivate the Latino vote in America

In an article for The Guardian Ed Pilkington and Amanda Michel in New York consider what factors motivate the Latino vote in America.

No mention was made in this article of the devout Catholicism of the Latino peoples - a religious affliliation that will chime with the profound Catholic outlook (one could almost say philosophy) of Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.

The One Nation trope brilliantly positions Labour

Disappointing article by Andrew Harrop on the Fabian Society website.

Discussing One Nation Milibandism he tells us:

"One Nation provides not just intellectual synthesis for the left. It challenges the practice of our politics too. The One Nation trope brilliantly positions Labour on the side of the small businessman as well as the public sector worker; and against sectional interests in favour of the national interest. In this Ed achieved something Tony Blair never managed, by defining himself as ‘for’ the whole nation, and the private sector in particular, without being ‘against’ the unions and public sector workers." 

As the left, post-Callaghan, became a coalition of sectional interests it is unclear how the new One Nation policy is going to achieve "synthesis" of these often competing interests. 

If this means the Shadow Cabinet is going to put national interests before the sectional interests of their supporters this is going to make for an combative next two years.

There have been One Nation leaders of the Labour Party in the past - Ramsey McDonald and Clement Attlee come to mind.

But is it possible that the current Labour leadership will have the strength of character and resilience to confront and face down sectional lobbies and put the nation first?

And implicit in the concept of One Nation is an acceptance that the nation is the organising unit of society.  Not the working class, not the unionised public sector, not multi-cultural communities, but the nation.  Lefties such as Owen Jones, Zoe Williams,  Diane Abbott (and many others) are not going to like this!

If something is not absolutely forbidden in law it is OK to do it

As the financial situation becomes tighter for everyone it seems that morality is suffering.

Companies and individuals are looking to protect their income by unethical behaviour - not in a major way, but little things that they hope will go unnoticed.

Special offers that are not really special, and may actually be more expensive (or special offers that are not in stock when you go to the store but were just a ruse to get you to go there).

A Council deciding it will pay housing benefits in arrears instead of in advance.

Charities using telesales people on commission to get donations (but not telling the donors they are doing this).

The cult of respectability, in force until the 1950s, may have been stifling and repressive, but at least the moral climate of society was regulated.

If a leading figure said something was immoral it would stop, without any need for legislative regulation.

Now we have moved to a system (which I will call the Tony Blair philosophy as he practised it so much) - if something is not absolutely forbidden in law it is OK to do it.

A study needs to be done.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day (marked by a bizarre performance of a poem about a sunflower on the Today programme, and a special news-orientated commission on Newsnight).

The poetry I am currently reading is by Thomas Hardy.  I have the complete poems in a Wordsworth edition that cost about £2.  I read one a day, before going to bed, and so far have spent two years on the project with about another year to go, the book handled so much it is almost falling apart.

Melancholy, stylistically varied and innovative, occasionally despairing (if I had known Hardy was an atheist I would never have picked the book up).

One of the most toxic issues for the Labour Party - immigration

With great skill Ed Miliband capitalises on the success of his speech on Tuesday to tackle one of the most toxic issues for the Labour Party - immigration.

Perceptive article by Andrew Woodcock in The Independent:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Philip Blond in tomorrow's Guardian says "One nation is the new common ground of British politics". 

Ed Miliband's deliberate invocation of Benjamin Disraeli

Above:  the speeches of Disraeli repay careful study - Disraeli was the policy "wonk" of his day, creating a full ideology for the most unideological political party (the Conservatives) in the most unideological nation (the United Kingdom).

What should we make of Ed Miliband's deliberate invocation of Benjamin Disraeli yesterday at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester?

It has been in my mind a lot.

At first I thought it might be just a spoiling stunt, like Gordon Brown posing with Margaret Thatcher on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

But after a while, I realised he meant what he said.  If you read the text of his speech it is possibly even more forceful than hearing the words.  "One Nation" is now official Labour Party policy.

Clever, nuanced, multi-layered.

This does not mean that the Labour Party has adopted 19th century Toryism (in the way that the 1980s Conservatives adopted 19th century Liberalism).  I cannot see Ed Miliband joining the Primrose League, were that organisation ever to be revived.  Nor does it mean that Disraeli's ideology of imperialism will be making a comeback any time soon, for all the overseas quasi-imperial wars waged by Tony Blair - Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

But it is perhaps a signal to the Labour Party membership that the class war is over.
Apologies for not updating these past two days - I have been working "undercover".