Thursday, January 31, 2013

This must be the most boring Question Time ever.

Ken Clarke, Minister without Portfolio, on the Today programme this morning

Long interview with Ken Clarke, Minister without Portfolio, on the Today programme this morning.  Ken Clarke is very slippery and evasive, and John Humphrhys found it difficult to pin him down on the subject of British membership of the EU.  Ken Clarke tells whopping lies in such a reassuring and avuncular way that even in the pantheon of parliamentary liars he is pre-eminent (it is perhaps very fitting that he is partnering Peter Mandelson in the Vote Yes for Europe campaign).

So although the interview rambled on for some time, it did not reveal much in the way of hard facts, and the supposed benefits of EU membership, often referred to, were not made clear (what exactly does "our clout in the world" mean to the average voter?).

You can see the Clarke strategy here.  To deflect discussion into such boring and mundane "process" topics that the major issues will go unexamined and the vote will be won on default.  Ken Clarke is a master on whipping up apathy and no doubt the EU Directive on Chlorofluorocarbons and other such tedious issues will be used to muffle any voice that has the temerity to ask: what has the EU ever done for us.

However if you talk to ordinary people you soon find that "Europe" in their minds equates to "telling us what to do", pettifogging health and safety restrictions (not, to be fair, always caused by the EU), and "all these Europeans flocking over here" (a quote from Gillian Duffy).

As migration is the most in-your-face EU issue that concerns voters it was surprising that Ken Clarke was not asked about it.  He would have replied that the free movement of peoples cannot be renegotiated - which is why there is a sense of unreality about the Vote Yes argument.  Unless the political class gets to grips with the issue of migration volatility within the EU the prospect of an Out vote is a lot more certain than most people realise.



















Labour activist Matthew Reilly tells us he is sickened by this headline in the Daily Express.  However newspapers (especially tabloids) only put on their front pages what they think will sell copies.  Do Labour activists not stop to ask themselves why any mention of migration will cause a spike in circulation?

Is it not a clue that people are starved of information on the subject, feel powerless and misled by the political parties, and despite all the pious entreaties about "having a national debate on immigration" that debate never happens?










Labour activist Steve Akehurst complaining earlier today about rising rents in Lambeth (and elsewhere, becoming especially an issue he claims in "swing seats").  How can rents rise if demand is not rising?  How can demand rise if the population generally is not increasing?  Some of the increase will be due to divorce, some to lack of social housing, some due to internal migration.  However a large percentage will be caused by the arrival of migrants.  This fact goes unacknowledged, "proof" is produced that "demonstrates" migration does not cause rents to rise - and yet the millions of migrants who have arrived in the last ten years are obviously living somewhere, and the majority will be in rented accommodation which puts pressure on supply and allows landlords to increase rents.

But if you try to raise the economic consequences of volatile migration the discussion is immediately turned to the issue of race, and the implication made that only racists are concerned about immigration.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jonathan Meades documentary Joy of Essex














Last night I watched the Jonathan Meades documentary Joy of Essex on BBC4  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qfr95/Jonathan_Meades_The_Joy_of_Essex/

The programme was an examination of utopian and quasi-millennarian planned communities in the county over the last hundred years or so, as expressed in architecture.  Almost everything in the documentary was new to me, although I thought I knew Essex fairly well.  The Jonathan Meades style is detached and deliberate - there are no extemporary touches (interviews for instance), just carefully composed lucid narration combined with beautiful images.

So convincing is Jonathan Meades as a presenter that one can unwittingly fall into the trap of agreeing with him.

He is an unrepentant champion of modernism, and dismissed the reluctance of elderly people in Frinton-on-Sea to live in modernist houses as mere snobbery.

Modernist houses can, of course, look wonderful.  One thinks of High & Over in Amersham, one of the most beautiful houses in the northern home counties (ie you count Buckinghamshire as a home county).  However it is important not to be taken in by the surface beauty.

As Le Corbusier told us, modernist houses are machines for living in.  Modernism represents the industrialisation of architecture in the same way that machine guns and conscription represent the industrialisation of war and totalitarian faiths such as Marxism and Fascism represent the industrialisation of politics.  Industrialised architecture means commitment to a social ideal of maximum utility (maximum beauty, maximum efficiency, maximum control over every aspect of the designed life).

This is fine if you want to live a life designed by someone else, but even the most ardent enthusiast must eventually tire of it.

It would be like being patted until you bruise.

Allow "top" police officers to be recruited directly


















Above:  Lucy Manning, ITV News, highlighted the story on her Twitter microblog earlier today.

Main story on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning was the proposal to allow "top" police officers to be recruited directly instead of working their way up through the ranks.

I am not keen on this idea.  Either it will result in an "officer class" emerging, made up of public school Oxbridge types, and yet another institution will become alienated from ordinary people.  Or it will become an exercise in diversity window dressing, with random people inserted into senior and responsible positions for no other reason than that they match an arbitrary diversity template (one thinks of Bonnie Greer on the Trustees of the British Museum).

I am also concerned that we seem to be introducing throughout public life a policy of positive discrimination without this appearing explicitly in any manifesto or having been voted for by the people.

In a front page article in the Guardian the argument for positive discrimination was forcefully made on Monday:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jan/27/law-police-diversity






The article included an extremely provocative quote by Peter Fahy from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) saying that "policing... needs to be legitimate within the community".

Presumably this is the policing-with-consent insisted on by David Lammy MP (and many others) for BME communities in London and other major cities.

Since the Guardian and Peter Fahy have raised the issue of legitimacy, do they mind if I ask what legitimacy exists to justify large-scale inflow of BME migrants into British cities in the first place?  A very provocative question to ask I know, but calling for migrant legitimacy is perhaps no more provocative than calling for police legitimacy.  And was it not always going to be the case that illegitimate migration would eventually lead to this policing disconnect?

Immigration as a growth strategy














Rather disingenuous blog post by Jonathan Portes, Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, on the subject of immigration being good for growth:  Immigration as a growth strategy  (http://notthetreasuryview.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/immigration-as-growth-strategy.html ).

Jonathan Portes tells us:

"So the changes to skilled migration introduced by the government - a set of new burdensome and bureaucratic rules and regulations, including a quota on skilled migrants - are new labour market regulations. Indeed, in contrast to almost all other such regulations, which are at least designed with an eye to ensuring that the benefits to employers and employees outweigh the costs, these changes were designed expressly to make it more difficult for businesses to employ the workers they want. As a consequence, they will reduce growth and make us poorer."

This is a half-truth.  If a company is unable to import workers from abroad one of three things will happen:  the company will stagnate and fail; or the company will relocate overseas; or the company will be forced to train and develop their own skilled staff from the pool of labour immediately available to them (perhaps using some of the money that would normally go to Directors' salaries, bonuses, and dividends to shareholders).  I suggest that the third option would be the more likely course of action, and the outcome that has most benefit to the whole population of the United Kingdom.

Indeed, perhaps Mr Portes and his organisation could give some thought to the possible correlation between the absolute collapse (over the last twenty years) in company training schemes, the stratospheric rise in director remunerations, and the ability to import cheap fully-trained personnel from abroad.

And in reference to his more general point that growth comes from immigration, how does he explain the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century which happened spontaneously in what the left sneeringly describes as a "monoculture" ?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brian Cox? - what a load of old rubbish.

Understanding the B demographic 15

Police tactics in some areas, designed to prevent anti-social activity, has been interpreted by the demographic as harassment.

Fashions adopted by the demographic can sometimes be viewed by outsiders as intimidating, and so reinforces their alienation.

"Gangs" are often no more than associations of friends, with no overtly criminal intentions.

Is graffiti art vandalism or a valid form of cultural expression?

The police are in an impossible position as often the local community is insisting that they carry out "zero tolerance" tactics that are seen by the demographic as harassment.

Social housing - 2

The transfer of social housing to housing associations has removed the direct link between local political consent for social housing and the management of the estates.

PFI has further complicated issues (instead of allowing councils to finance new social housing by borrowing against the asset value of the estates they previously owned) - New Labour should be held responsible for this development.

The transfer of council housing to housing associations has resulted in control over social housing being exercised by unelected (and perhaps easily manipulated) quangos.

It is the New Labour policy of transferring council estates to housing associations that has resulted in significant erosion of the national stock of social housing.

Destruction of thousands of ancient manuscripts

Very saddened by the news that the crisis in Mali has resulted in the destruction of thousands of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu (report by Alex Crawford for Sky News http://news.sky.com/story/1044015/mali-french-troops-advance-in-timbuktu ).

This has of course happened before. 

During the chaos that engulfed Bosnia, there were attempts to destroy the records of the Muslim people who lived in Sarajevo, presumably in an attempt to deny Muslim people ever lived there.

In 1922 the IRA burned all the Protestant parish registers in the Four Courts - virtually all the parish registers on the island of Ireland, most dating back to the 16th century.  Presumably this was an attempt to deny that "Anglo-Irish" people ever lived in Ireland (the population was once half a million, or 14% of the total).  The IRA has never apologised for this act of cultural cleansing, or indeed the ethnic cleansing that accompanied it. 






Historian Caroline Shenton warns what happens when attempts are made to edit the past.

Steve Bell interrupting and shouting-down Stephen Pollard

Steve Bell came across as a bully on the Today programme this morning in a discussion with Stephen Pollard (editor of the Jewish Chronicle). 

The discussion (about anti-semitism) was dominated by Steve Bell interrupting and shouting-down Stephen Pollard so that he was hardly able to speak. 

And is not bullying the single most characteristic feature of a Steve Bell cartoon?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ridiculous fripperies like pensions






I hope Paul Mason is going to mention the fact that free movement of cheap labour has meant that employers no longer have to attract employees by providing a good final-salary pension scheme - they can now just stream people in from abroad, work them to death, and replace them with new ones when the existing workforce starts getting truculent or asking for a living wage or for ridiculous fripperies like pensions.

No idea what "223" means.

Social housing - 1

Social housing is a relatively direct and straightforward way to instill ideological values into a demographic (particularly a failed demographic such as the so-called "underclass").

Margaret Thatcher carried out the process in reverse when she allowed social housing tenants to become property-owners at a subsidised cost.

Social housing represents an under-utilised mechanism to reform individuals and families.

"If you wish to control a section of society control their housing" - VS.

The stock market is booming because of inflation







Does Cathy Newman (Channel 4 News) really have to ask this question?

The stock market is booming because of inflation.  The mind-boggling sums of money released into western economies by "QE" (started in the United Kingdom by Gordon Brown let us not forget) are being used to inflate the prices of assets - all assets including shares.  Presumably this will also mean a house price bubble, especially as it will be impossible to control the money supply by putting up interest rates (if they did that there would be very large scale house repossessions which would mean the end of any government in power at the time).

As Margot Channing would advise:  fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

The erosion of trust














Very perceptive article by Gary Younge in today's Guardian about the erosion of trust vis-a-vis the elite vs the rest of us:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/27/we-ought-to-care-beyonce-faked-it

The old-fashioned term for this is corruption.  Everything has been corrupted and degraded, so that authenticity and honestly are now remarkable.  This is not, however, the first society that has become rotten (rotten from within like a very beautiful piece of ripe fruit that preserves intact a brittle outer skin of glossy perfection but inside has degraded into a corrupt sweet mush that is being devoured by parasites).

Talking about the corruption of the foodchain with horsemeat Gary Younge says:  "British consumers were given contaminated meat courtesy of foreign farmers, pliant retailers and lax regulations."

And as I read this I thought of Environment Secretary Owen Paterson telling us we may as well get used to eating GM food as it is already in the food chain (and his department has done nothing about it and, it would seem, does not intend to do anything about it apart from lecture us on how wrong we are to choose what we will eat and what we will not eat).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Equality" In Sport

Interested in the "Equality" In Sport organisation.

Is this a way of producing BME sporting celebrities to front-up any discussion on "diversity" and justify the previous government's policy of multi-culturalism?

"Equality" used in this context has a politicised meaning.

http://www.equalityinsport.org/

Is it possible that taxpayers money has been used, without legitimate and democratic authorisation, to fund covert positive discrimination?

Scamp by Roland Camberton

















Have just finished reading Scamp by Roland Camberton.

It is an hilarious novel about a left-wing bohemian waster living in post-war Bloomsbury - attempting to found a lefty magazine (Scamp); cadging money from innocents; seducing women.

It is also a very moral work, and all the anti-social tricks Ivan Ginsberg plays on other people are played on him, only more so.

The book also leaves you in no doubt as to the superiority of life in the countryside as opposed to the iniquity of the city.

But it is the gallery of minor characters (dozens of them) that are the chief treasure of the novel - Camberton describes them so well that you feel as if you have known them all your life.

Was he really praising David Cameron?


















I couldn't believe my eyes when I read Nick Cohen's article in the Observer today.  Was he really praising David Cameron?  Was he really saying he is a better Prime Minister than either Blair or Brown?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/27/right-focused-capitalism-flaws
I'm afraid I cannot take Boris Johnson seriously.

He seems destined to be another Heseltine.

And I despise Heseltine and the way he behaved.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

If I could only overcome all this procrastination - the past week at work

Monday

The internet was a distraction this morning, and I spent too much time idling.  Replying to e-mails took up what remained of the pre-lunch period.  When Gary brought round the post I received a magazine with an article by me in it, and I was so pleased at how it looked that I sent a copy to several friends.

Therefore it was after lunch that I got any real work done.

Especially I managed to make progress with the new website, although it entailed a telephone conversation with IT at Head Office that lasted forty-five minutes.

And towards the end of the day a strange thing happened in that all the projects that seemed to be causing me stress in recent weeks were reduced to manageable proportions.

I even managed to get the communications budget for 2013 drafted and e-mailed to Director Vijay Singh and Deputy Director Marcia Walsh.

Tuesday

The server down all morning which was a relief as it meant I could get on with my work without any distractions.  I drank coffee and looked through some more questionnaires that came in.  "Are these real people" Marcia Walsh asked me.

In the afternoon temp Alison (chatty, Scottish, artistic, sensitive), who had worked at the Institute for nearly four months, left - I was sorry to see her go. 

In the afternoon I did a little work on the e-mail survey process although I am not convinced that e-mails are as accurate as paper surveys (they are quicker to send out and get back, and the data is a lot easier to process, but the results often seem superficial and do not tally with other indicators).

The cold weather unbearable.

Wednesday

Euphoria in the office when I arrived.  Vijay Singh beaming with pleasure and over-flowing with goodwill towards everyone.  No-one did any work, and the whole day was spent talking through scenarios and visualising "what if" outcomes.

In the afternoon Vijay Singh received an e-mail from Alec Nussbaum in Head Office and circulated it to all staff in the Institute:




"Credit due to you Vijay. You have been consistent on this subject since I have known you (30 years this year!!) Though you might have some explaining to do about the attached photo."

Thursday

Why am I so lazy?  My life would be so much easier if I could only overcome all this procrastination and get things done.  Do it now is the message on the paperweight on my desk - a message I entirely ignore.

Friday

A new supervisor for the Admin team - Gladys Y.  Several people took an immediate dislike to her.  The Admin team cut back to just two people now.

I wrote two articles and sent them off without any revisions. 

Long meeting with Tim Watts about development of various "solutions" papers.  He is supposed to be an ideas man, but I was the one who was making all of the suggestions.  The meeting was such hard work that I felt exhausted at the end of it.

Realisation that I had not booked a key speaker for one of the sessions at the Institute's AGM in April.  How could I have overlooked this?  I rushed about at the end of the day trying to track him down and ask him over the 'phone, but he was permanently in meetings.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Katwala: What’s driving immigration concern?

Very silly report from British Future puzzling about why areas that have relatively low levels of immigration seem to register high levels of concern about on-going mass migrations of people.

Katwala: What’s driving immigration concern?:
 http://www.britishfuture.org/blog/katwala-whats-driving-immigration-concern/

If British Future bothered to do surveys professionally (ie ask the same question a number of different times in different formats instead of just recording the first answer they are given) they would understand that "white flight" (to use a crude and imprecise expression) will be radicalising the areas that the "fleeing" people move into.

Anyone who has lived through an episode of mass migration will not easily forget the experience.  This often entails finding that within a few years the area you might have been born in, lived in all your life and call home (in the most meaningful sense of that word) has become a completely strange environment, sometimes resembling a location in a deprived part of the developing world.  Friends and family move away, local services and amenities no longer work properly, house prices fall (and for working class families a house is probably their one asset that they have almost killed themselves to obtain).

For elderly working class people who cannot move this experience is exceptionally cruel.

Of course, for middle class people it's delightful to have in the next suburb cheapo servants (I'm thinking Baroness Scotland here), exotic restaurants, somewhere to go slumming so that they can prove how liberal and diverse they are.

And the Labour party is ecstatic when mass migration happens as it means yet more safe wards where the community elders will deliver a bloc vote.

But for the people who have been crowded out of their settled homes the experience is not so nice, and they are hardly likely to forget or forgive what happened.

Which is why BME and Eastern European community leaders should apologise for mass migration.
Referring to David Cameron's speech on Europe, I am intrigued by the phrase "with all my heart and with all my soul".

Has any other recent Prime Minister acknowledged the existence of the immortal human soul?

Is the Tyrell Corporation planning to move into The Shard?

The more I see of The Shard the more I am reminded of the gigantic monolithic structures in Blade Runner.

Is the Tyrell Corporation planning to move into The Shard?

A monument to Labour's dehumanising contempt for ordinary people crushed by the corporate elite.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Watching the reactions on Twitter to Question Time this evening the left seems to get very agitated when national borrowing and debt is compared to "maxing out the nation's credit card".

If it was a crass analogy they would simply ignore it.

The fact that they are spurred to a reaction suggests they fear the analogy.

Which is useful to know.

Ask yourself - are these the actions of a pro-European?

So far David Cameron has:

1 Taken the Conservatives out of the pro-federalist European Democrats grouping in the European Parliament ignoring howls of rage from Anglea Merkel and defection of one Conservative MEP to the Liberals (forget who it was).

2 Used the national veto at a European summit - the first time the veto has been used EVER, by anyone.

3 Announced yesterday that he wanted (and will facilitate) an In - Out referendum on British membership of the EU.

Ask yourself - are these the actions of a pro-European?

Therefore I would argue that it is perfectly reasonable to envisage David Cameron leading the "Out" campaign in the European referendum.

However before this can happen the economic case for leaving needs to be made absolutely clear and coherent and endorsed by eminent economists.  Ordinary people have to see, in understandable terms, that they will be better off Out, and this argument needs to be underpinned by unshakable economic theory.  The Conservatives will have to develop all this - Labour "outers" are not capable of economic analysis and UKIP are just howling at the moon.

A clue that a "No" outcome may be officially planned is that there simply isn't time to negotiate comprehensive new terms between the United Kingdom and the EU by 2017.

But obviously this needs to be done step by step, and proving at every stage that we have been reasonable and patient and it is only EU intransigence that has led to the inevitable course of action.














As the little girl says at the end of Mika's Grace Kelly:  "We are leaving".

Is it possible that our memories are being saved in the water in our brains?















I am completely agnostic about homeopathy.  I have no idea whether it works or not.  I know farmers give it to animals and it seems to work, so it cannot solely be due to the placebo effect.

But I am interested in the claim that homeopaths make that water has a "memory".

Scientists are not sure how the human brain stores memories.

As the human brain is 70% water, is it possible that our memories are being saved in the water in our brains? (and presumably when the brain becomes dehydrated we should expect to see memory loss).

This is just an idle thought I am throwing out into the world.

I don't want anyone to go off and start experimenting on animals or anything.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2267120/Homeopathy-rubbish-shouldnt-available-NHS-says-chief-medical-officer.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Farm shops







Very interesting discussion on the Today programme this morning about childhood obesity.

I think one initiative that would help would be to give farm shops (genuine farm shops, supplied by collectives of local farms and producers) incentives to open on High Streets - low rents, no taxes, refunded VAT.

Even the most urban areas are less than twenty miles from the countryside where food is produced.

This would help farmers by-pass the supermarkets; deliver low-cost fresh unprocessed food into High Street locations (helping to revive the High Street); and also re-establish the social connection between the food we eat and the farmers who produce it.

Note:  it is not really acceptable for Diane Abbott to disassociate herself from the inadequacies of the last Labour government as if it were all nothing to do with her.  She campaigned to elect that government, supported it with her votes through thirteen dreadful years, and in 2010 was STILL wanting that administration and those people to be sustained in power.  She could has resigned from the Labour whip and sat as an independent, but as she choose to stay with the Labour party she must answer questions about what Labour did in office.




If Suzanne Moore were to do this there would be a lot of ineffectual pushing and shoving (virtually), several people would drag her off, and someone would shout "leave her, she's not worth it".

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I will do all I can




















Listening to the Today programme this morning was genuinely exciting.

And it has been an extremely interesting day (with Newsnight still to come).

I feel so re-invigorated.  I feel ready to take on the world.  When 2015 arrives I will deliver leaflets, I will canvass houses, I will give money, I will clap and cheer speakers, I will engage with social media, I will campaign and campaign and campaign.

I will do all I can to ensure victory.

Positions on Europe decide elections






Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie tells us that Lord Ashcroft warns of indifference among the electorate on the issue of "Europe".









James Morris ("former Miliband speechwriter and... polling and strategy adviser to the Labour Party") cautions that there is no "academic" evidence that positions on Europe decide elections.

However there is plenty of evidence that unrestricted out-of-control immigration is a big issue with the electorate (particularly C2, D and E groups), as Gillian Duffy will confirm.

As leaving the EU will allow the British people to control (or indeed stop if they wish) unrestricted immigration, "Europe" is likely to be a bigger issue than either Lord Ashcroft or James Morris calculate (of course, there are other trade groupings which also facilitate mad levels of population movement, but a Westminster government in full control of the borders will be able to face this down).
What a great leader David Cameron is proving to be.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Out and into the world

Some Belgian nonentity on Newsnight saying that the United Kingdom is "sleep-walking towards the Exit" in Europe.

He needs to be advised that we are not sleep-walking at all - we are walking determinedly towards the Exit and we intend to slam the door after us.

Labour signing the Lisbon Treaty without a mandate was an arrogance too far.


*Guy Verhofstadt apparently - never heard of him before today.

Understanding the B demographic 14

The B demographic resents the older generations for their lack of practical achievement in roles of power (as opposed, I assume, to the window-dressing we see everywhere).

The demographic adopts an extreme libertarian standpoint when discussing drugs policy.

Part of the perceived bias of the police towards the demographic revolves around the issue of drugs - the demographic genuinely and sincerely does not believe possession and trading of drugs is wrong, and therefore regards the attitude of the police in suppressing drugs as simply a manifestation of their bias.

Sentences related to drugs offences are keenly discussed, and everyone is aware of the latest cases before the courts (even the most marginal ones).

Inter-gang hostility and violence is not seen as anti-social, but as a "normal" part of life - attempts to curb such violence are regarded with contempt.

Prison is talked about as if it were the continuation of everyday life but in a confined institution.

"Manhood" starts at ridiculously early ages in the demographic, and even very young teenagers are referred to as "men" (or self-refer themselves).

The lazy adjective "Dickensian".






Guardian writer Patrick Butler, referring to an article by a fellow Guardian writer Philip Inman, compares current United Kingdom "inequality" to the sort of extremes described by Charles Dickens.  Anyone who is familiar with the Patrick Butler Twitter microblog will find that he is fond of the adjective "Dickensian" (he has used it a number of times in the past few days).  Perhaps his hyperbole is just due to an ultra-keen macho-lefty desire to attack the Conservatives no matter how silly the metaphors used - conveniently forgetting that present-day inequality didn't happen overnight, it is a direct consequence of Labour's incredibly relaxed attitude to economic filthiness.









Kaya Genç in a review of the Owen Jones demography Chavs (published in the Los Angeles Review of Books) refers to Owen Jones as "the new Dickens in town".  Does Mr Genc feel that when writing for an American audience everything must be exaggerated to extremes so incredible that they cause the average reader to gasp with incredulity?  Or perhaps Mr Genc genuinely believes Owen Jones is "the new Dickens"? (which doesn't say much for his literary judgement).








In an excellent article in the Observer (which I have re-read several times) DJ Taylor quotes Orwell's caustic reaction to JB Priestley's comparison with Charles Dickens, calling the analogy absurd.


Charles Dickens was one of the greatest writers of all times and all cultures.  He cannot be compared to any other writer and no other writer can be compared to him.  The social conditions he examined were unique to 19th century England and comparisons cannot be made, even obliquely, to present-day circumstances - to do so rightly deserves to be called absurd.

So perhaps we can all stop using the lazy adjective "Dickensian".

Monday, January 21, 2013

The way in which a society can transmit "character" from one generation to the next













Very thought-provoking article by Libby Purves in today's Times about the way in which a society can transmit "character" from one generation to the next.

Character means consistency of behaviour, and integrity means that all the elements of a personality are integrated one with another.

However I think Libby Purves is expecting too much if she is hoping that teachers are going to instill good characters into future generations.  Teachers are too often lacking in estimable character themselves (lazy, hypocritical, bullying, dishonest even with themselves, uncaring, self-important - I am basing this on the teachers I encountered at my own "bog-standard" comp).  Joan McVittie, Head of Woodside High School in White Hart Lane in north London, openly said on the Today programme in September 2011 that she ignored the law as it related to school assemblies, hardly an example of good character for the young people in her care.

Good character can primarily be transmitted in families, but traditional family structures are no longer as ubiquitous as they once were and the new forms of family life are often too transitory for children to be brought up consistently.

Good character can also be refined through the institutions (formal and informal, major and minor), but many (perhaps most) of these have become corrupt.

Society needs some kind of catharsis to purge it of corruption, bad character and lack of integrity (the Second World War was an accidental catharsis that established good character for the following forty or fifty years and echoes still today as the standard we wish people to aspire too).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Capital




















At the chancel arch was a fabulous Saxon capital.  Is this meant to be a Corinthian capital?  If so, how did this classical motif come to be carved in such a remote place?

However the way the leaves curl at the ends indicate that the foliage might be meant to represent ferns which are common in the locality (ferns are some of the oldest plants on Earth and emerged about 55 million years ago).


Danny Alexander interviewed by Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics

I watched Shadow Foreign Secretary Danny Alexander interviewed by Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics earlier today.

It is puzzling why the current discussions about the possibility of a referendum on membership of the European Union make no mention of the European Elections in 2014.

If, as expected, UKIP does well in the Euro elections the pressure for an In-Out referendum may well become irresistible.  Labour may well find itself boxed in by its current pro-EU position.  Therefore the Prime Minister needs to keep open the prospect of an In-Out referendum as a way of outflanking Labour, nixing UKIP and achieving an outright majority in 2015.

The alarmist talk currently circulating about "uncertainty driving away investment" needs to be discounted.

The United Kingdom is still the fifth largest economy in the world, with a large and sophisticated consumer market.  If the United Kingdom were to leave the EU and the EU were to be so foolish as to put up trade barriers, all that will happen is that the part of the British market currently being satisfied by European imports will suddenly be up for grabs.  In that scenario non-EU companies will rush to invest here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A good image is as valuable as a good narrative - the past week at work

Monday

The office was quiet today as our Director Vijay Singh has once again been summoned to Head Office.  As well as being quiet, the upstairs floor was cold.  I spent the morning trying to make some progress with various projects including drafting campaign letters (a task that has been hanging around for ages).

In the afternoon I continued with the supplements for various key reports.  This involves trawling through the questionnaires and looking for patterns in the data.  Several times when an insight occurred to me I rang down to Abi Reed in the Tele Surveys team and they rang up five or six respondents to test whether the hypothesis might be correct.

I rang Maria B at Head Office and got on with her quite well, although at all times I have to be careful what I say - she is one of Alec Nussbaum's attack dogs.

Before leaving for the day I proof-read the latest version of the Training Course Guide.  This meant staying until 5.30, but at least I had the relief of knowing the booklet was on the way to the printer.  I also looked at databases of volunteers, trying to work out who to send it to (probably we will send it to people who have requested our publications in the past, as that probably indicates sympathy with our aims and objectives).

Tuesday

Tedious and time-consuming task of sourcing images for the supplements.  A good image is as valuable as a good narrative.  Always I am torn between using stock images (which are immediately available, but often look a little unreal) and commissioning photography that is authentic, but takes ages to happen.

Despite the cold Gary from the downstairs reading room continues to go running in just a t-shirt and shorts at lunchtimes.

We became aware of various inflamed discussions on the internet criticising some of the projects the Institute has been involved with.  Vijay Singh called an emergency meeting to consider whether the criticism could be an "inside job".  We reached the conclusion that the opposition was not organised and nothing really to worry about.

The temps in Admin made so much noise I could hardly concentrate.

Wednesday

I spent the day refining the database for distribution of the Training Course Guide.  The intention is to pre-select volunteers we think are broadly sympathetic, invite them to a free training course and then use the occasion as a covert interview of their suitability.  Those who pass Vijay Singh's personal vetting (he is attending every course) will be offered membership of the Insitute, the subscription paid for one year by our backer.

As the AGM is in April we do not have much time to get all this organised.

A telephone call from Sweden about photographs for the supplements - it comes to something when Swedish scenarios look more British than the British do.

More of the flaming messages on the internet, the references just a little too particular to be dismissed as the usual hothead ventings.

Thursday

"We need to understand the trends that are controlling society" said Vijay Singh, greeting people as they arrived.

The first of the training days, held at a motel so bland and featureless I am unable to describe it adequately.  Ten people plus Abi Reed, Vijay Singh and myself.  The attendees were already known to the Institute, and as long as they are agreeable we have already decided they will be offered membership.  The training was delivered by Vijay Singh himself, in a little room off the main Reception area.  The window had a view of a hedge with, in the distance, the motorway and the traffic constantly moving past.  Despite the snow everyone managed to get there on time.  

At lunchtime we went through to the hotel's dining room, and our table was the only one that was occupied in the hour and a half we spent over the meal.

Instead of going on until 5pm we stopped at 4, which I think was a great relief to everyone.

Friday

Hardly anyone in the offices today.

I decided it was time to tackle the huge backlog of e-mails that has built up over the last few days.  I printed out the most urgent, about forty or so.  Then I worked through them one by one, mostly ringing people up to resolve things quickly.

Hints from Abi Reed that a key research project is going badly.

Friday, January 18, 2013

If it's good they will get landslide support, right?








Rather weasely editorial in the Independent today.

If immigration is so good, all the politicians have to do is put it in their manifestos and ask the electorate to vote for it.

If it's good they will get landslide support, right?

Except that immigration is good for big business which gets an endless supply of dirt-cheap throwaway workers.  And its good for the Labour party as it gets another million or so destitute outsiders it can sign up to their bloc vote gerrymandering.  But the rest of society is not so keen.

Stupid and ignorant remark by Mary Beard on last night's Question Time quoting a Boston Council report saying immigration in the town is beneficial - she obviously does not know that all public bodies have a statutory duty to report "diversity" in a positive way (in other words it would be against the law to say anything negative - which is why that law must be revoked so that people can discuss immigration honestly).

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/editorial-stop-all-the-demonising-of-new-eu-migrants-8456428.html

Taylor Swift




















Taylor Swift wears a subtle, but unmistakable, Union Jack t-shirt in her latest video I knew you were trouble  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNoKguSdy4Y

The video was directed by Anthony Mandler and filmed in Los Angeles.

Taylor Swift, a the age of 24, has sold over twenty six million albums and seventy five million digital downloads.

We have to make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow

Increasingly I am convinced of the view that one of the key differences between left and right is short-term vision vs long-term vision.

Socialists are concerned with immediate gratification, conservatives are more prepared to plan for the future.

Very interested in a statement issued today by American politician Paul Ryan:  "Our challenge is twofold: We have to pay our bills today, and we have to make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow".

The left would say we can avoid paying our bills today by rolling the debt through into the future and by the magical Keynesian process of gentle inflation the bills will disappear (except that this never works in practice - the politicians are too greedy, the inflation is stoked too high, and the debts just accumulate until payback time arrives - in more ways than one).

http://budget.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=317187

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Asinine comment by Diane Abbott MP

 
 
 
 
 
Completely asinine comment by Diane Abbott MP, referring to a Guardian article that quotes someone called Thom Yorke boasting about legal action he would take IF his copyright was infringed.
 
Why is something that has not happened, and not likely to ever happen, being reported so gleefully by Diane Abbott?
 
Is this woman a fantasist?
 
Doesn't she have enough to do?

Ed Miliband on the Today programme this morning talking about the EU

I listened to Ed Miliband on the Today programme this morning talking about the EU.

He has developed a very effective style of parrying questions by reframing them as alternative questions and then giving the answers he wants to give.  Many politicians attempt this technique but few are able to do it as successfully as Ed Miliband this morning.  You could sense in his replies that he is someone who seriously analyses texts (one can imagine him indulging in the FR Leavis habit of close reading).

Of course, any discussion about the EU must address the issue of unrestricted immigration, and Ed Miliband was duly asked about the accession of Bulgaria and Romania and the expected migration to the United Kingdom of hundreds of thousands of people from this region over the next few years.

His answer was to say "I'm in favour of a multi-ethnic diverse Britain".

This is of course a non-sequitur as Romanians and Bulgarians are not a different ethnicity to other Europeans. 

What we see here is the usual Labour trick - as soon as someone tries to discuss immigration they turn the subject to race.  The implication is that anyone who questions immigration is a racist.  Therefore they can be ignored as "bigots".

However the arrival of even a quarter million desperately poor Romanians and Bulgarians is going to have an impact on job opportunities in the United Kingdom, particularly for young people, the unskilled and the semi-skilled.  This may well agitate traditional Labour voters (C2s, Ds, Es).  If the Conservatives are taking a hard line on the EU and Labour is being "intensely relaxed" about EU migration the result could be interesting in 2015.






Ben Page from Ipsos MORI demonstrates that C2s, Ds and Es are not enthusiastic about the EU.








 
 
 
 
 
The Green Benches site warns against Labour complacency http://www.greenbenchesuk.com/2013/01/ordinary-labour-voters-want-eu.html

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Grandeedom



















What is the "grandeedom" that Toby Helm refers to?  Michael Heseltine has no popular following in the Conservative Party, not even a residue from the days when he was Deputy Prime Minister (everything he touched in those days withered and blackened like some cursed unfortunate created by the Brothers Grimm).  Nor can grandeedom refer to the old buffers in the Carlton Club, most of whom even now would prefer Margaret to return to the helm.  Possibly grandeedom is a reference to the Tory benches in the House of Lords, but again I think you would struggle to find much sympathy for Baron Judas of Thenford in the County of Northamptonshire.

Alex Salmond interviewed by Sarah Montague

I listened to Alex Salmond interviewed by Sarah Montague on the Today programme this morning.  As a unionist (both big and small U) I hope Scotland stays within the United Kingdom.  However this will not happen without intelligent arguments from the pro-union politicians.

The answer to the "the case is unarguable" is to develop coherent arguments, not this silly yah-boo response from Ann McGuire MP - unfortunately Anne McGuire and her party are failing to argue effectively against the SNP (as anyone who has watched the Scottish Parliament debates on the Parliament Channel can testify). 


Emily Thornberry MP is being disingenuous here.  The EU is a bully, and like most bullies they will back down when confronted.  If Alex Salmond were to be successful in winning a Yes to the independence referendum then he is quite right to suggest that all sorts of backstairs deals, secret huddles, and clandestine arrangements would ensue - this would be quite separate from the public posturing for public consumption.
 

 
 
 
 
 
Sundar Katwala seems unaware that in tests of public opinion in Scotland a majority would favour leaving the EU.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ed Miliband has a lot to learn about "One Nation" ideology














I have been reading Ed Miliband's One Nation speech to the Fabian Society as reported on the New Statesman website http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/01/ed-milibands-speech-fabian-conference-full-text

Especially the section that looks at the private rental market and has three clauses that sort of comprise a policy.

Rooting out rogue landlords?  Of course.  Everybody wants this to happen.

Stopping families being ripped off by letting agents?  Absolutely.  Letting agents are too close to estate agents, and we know how dodgy they are.

Giving new security to families who rent?  Sounds good, but security at whose expense.  Note Mr Miliband is referring to "families" here, which implies children.  If a family in rented accommodation suffers during the economic downturn and their income drops significantly (perhaps through redundancy or illness) they are going to look to save money.  Currently if they do not keep up with the rent they could be given two months to leave and then have to seek help and housing from social security.  With "security" of tenancy they could simply stop paying the rent and coast along without any undue consequences.  Ultimately presumably even Mr Miliband will acknowledge they should be removed from the property, but by that time many months, perhaps years will have elapsed at the expense of the property owner. 

Socialists will argue that this is good.  Buy to let landlords are bad for society.  Who cares if they lose money.

But what Mr Miliband is actually advocating is that private landlords should take on the burden of housing families who cannot afford to house themselves - this is a duty properly of the state, and to push this onto the private rental sector is immoral.

You also cannot describe as "one nation" a policy that encourages one section of society (tenants who can't afford their rent) to steal from another section of society (private landlords).

Ed Miliband has a lot to learn about "One Nation" ideology.

Perhaps he should devote some time to reading Coningsby.

Monday, January 14, 2013

So much for Sky - the dish is so encrusted with snow I can't get a signal.

I will have to watch Newsnight via the laptop (if the battery will last forty five minutes).

Did the squarial have this problem?

Sundar Katwala is not justified in his claim

Sundar Katwala from the think-tank British Future was allocated a column of commentary in two full pages of yesterday's Observer that discussed issues around immigration http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/13/immigration-diversity-state-of-nation

"Nobody is complaining" says Tracy McVeigh fatuously (who would they complain to? - they can only complain to politicians and they will either ignore you or call you a bigot).

There is so much woolly thinking in Mr Katwala's column that it would take a considerable amount of time to address everything.

But I do wish to examine one point he makes:










"...a multi-ethnic and multi-faith Britain is an ineradicable fact" he tells us.  "It ain't gonna change" Bonnie Greer said when discussing immigration on Newsnight (raising her voice as she did so, indicating she was trying to convince herself as much as convince us).  Mission accomplished, as President Bush might say. 

Let us leave on one side the fact that post-war immigration is founded on an injustice (the setting aside of the democratic will of the majority), and that a society built on an injustice cannot endure.

Let us just focus on the proclaimed ineradicability of multi-ethnic, multi-faith populations.

Is this supported by the historical record?

I would suggest it is not.  There might be less anxiety about post-war immigration could anyone point to a happy, stable multi-ethnic multi-faith society in the world today (the best you could hope for is Canada, and that is not an example that would inspire any indigenous peoples).  Here is a very brief overview of multi-ethnic multi-faith societies over the last hundred years:

1920s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Turkey was eradicated following the 1922 war with Greece, and the Greek and Jewish populations who had lived alongside their Muslim Turkish neighbours for centuries were expelled (or worse).

1930s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in southern Ireland was eradicated (via burnings, shootings, boycotts etc) as Eamonn de Valera reversed centuries of English Protestant immigration into Catholic Ireland.

1940s - the long-standing multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Poland was eradicated in circumstances too infamous to need detailing.

1950s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Egypt was eradicated following the events of 1956, and Greek, Jewish and other communities that had lived in the area for millennia were expelled.

1960s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Zanzibar was eradicated and the Arab and Indian populations destroyed in a now forgotten act of genocide.

1970s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Uganda was eradicated by the expulsion policies of the Ugandan government.

1980s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Zimbabwe was eradicated as a consequence of the Africanisation policies of Robert Mugabe.

1990s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Bosnia and Herzegovina was eradicated.

2000s - the multi-ethnic multi-faith society in Iraq was largely eradicated in what can only be described as a war of unintended consequences.

And today?  Burma is carrying out a process of eradication against the Rohingya (with the apparent complicity of secular saint Aung San Suu Kyi).  Fiji is an unhappy land that has already experienced convulsions.  Israel-Palestine hardly needs any comment.  Syria is an on-going crisis.  Northern Ireland appears to be experiencing a process of cultural cleansing.

Of course, I am aware that a marxist historian could take each of these examples and "prove" they are the result of capitalist exploitation of the workers, the legacy of imperialism etc.

But there is enough in the historical record to allow us to say that Sundar Katwala is not justified in his claim about ineradicability - sooner or later, in a moment of national crisis and breakdown, one group of people will attempt the eradication of another group.

The only sure way of avoiding this is through an overt policy of assimilation.  But assimilation is not even being considered.  We are not even considering integration with any degree of seriousness.

In the bland words of Tracy McVeigh "no-one's complaining" therefore let's do nothing. 














I know it is cold.  I know it is inconvenient.  I know it is potentially dangerous.

But the falling snow is at times so beautiful it can break your heart.

When you are in an abusive relationship the ONLY option is to walk away



















Robert Shrimsley from the Financial Times points to data that suggests a referendum on EU membership would result in a majority wanting to stay http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/01/14/britain-europe-fear-factor/

There is no doubt that fear of the unknown will influence some people to opt for the status quo.

But as any feminist will tell you, when you are in an abusive relationship the ONLY option is to walk away - no matter what threats are made about loss of income, of no home to go to, of how everyone will laugh at you etc.
Welcome to the reader currently accessing this site from Georgia (in the Caucasus).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Northern blueness















A winter sky of such northern blueness that despite the freezing air it exhilarated me.  I felt giddy with the blueness of it all.  And that precious moment when I am about to explore somewhere new, and see marvels for the first time (for there are always marvels, even in the most humble places).
Also in today's Observer I was amused by the irony of Nick Cohen's article in which he used 1,114 words to ask why people are obsessed with gay sex.  One thousand one hundred and fourteen words seems like pretty obsessed to me.  Is it possible that Nick Cohen's article is part of the problem not part of the solution?

"Why this obsession with what gay people do in bed" is a question we could ask Mr Cohen himself, with considerably more justification.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/13/why-cant-homosexuals-have-sex-life?INTCMP=SRCH

Julie Burchill makes a defiant defence of her "brilliant" friend the writer Suzanne Moore




















An unusual article in today's Observer in which writer Julie Burchill makes a defiant defence of her "brilliant" friend the writer Suzanne Moore who has been accused of defaming a minority group.

Julie Burchill is now herself on the receiving end of hysterical invective (as she must have known she would be).

Well now they know what it is like.

For approximately twenty years the left has used the bogus cod ideology of political correctness to silence debate and shut up opponents.  Over this time offenders against political correctness have been denounced in ever-nastier and dehumanising terms so that people are damaged, careers are ended, whole categories of people are negated as "nasty" and unworthy even of life (I am not exaggerating). The fact that political correctness is nothing more than censorship is irrelevant to the perpetrators.

To understand why you should realise that socialism cares nothing for individuals.  The collective is everything, and ordinary people are mere economic units within a predictable theory of society.  The eternal soul is dismissed as an opiate fairy-story and human personality is simply a bourgeois invention.

This is what these people are like.

This is why they must never get back in.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/13/julie-burchill-suzanne-moore-transsexuals 

Update 14th January - Suzanne Moore writes an article about her previous article, but without once mentioning Julie Burchill.

   










http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/09/dont-care-if-born-woman 

Those who live by political correctness shall die by political correctness, to paraphrase the old saying.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

If you look at any one project in isolation nothing seems to be getting done

Monday

On the drive to work, the road a straight line across the flat empty rural plain, I saw high in the air two swans flying and the sight filled me with an anxious hope that they would be alright.

A hurried cup of coffee when I arrived in the office and I spent twenty minutes tidying up the communications report, most of which I had written at the weekend.  Then into the monthly campaigns meeting.  I gave my report which was (if I say so myself) interesting and compelling and completely masked the fact that I have not done very much over the last month.

Everyone else who gave a report came under attack from Director Vijay Singh.

The meeting lasted four hours, and afterwards Vijay Singh, Abi Reed and myself had another of the secret huddle meetings to discuss the Institute's AGM planned for April.

A late lunch mostly consisting of collecting dry cleaning.

In the afternoon I prepared for the Competition meeting tomorrow, sending out by e-mail an impressive agenda.

Tuesday

Unexpectedly there was no Vijay Singh in the office today, which made the Competition meeting rather flat.  In the absence of our Director I chaired the meeting myself.  We spent two hours working our way through the agenda.

Most of the day I found it difficult to get anything done, mostly because e-mails kept arriving with issues that needed to be settled quickly.  The Exhibitions programme soaks up a huge amount of my time.  Also I wrote up the minutes from this morning's meeting.

Wednesday

Most of the morning I spent on writing literature for a training course the Institute is to offer volunteers.  I read through the modules (which had been put together by Deputy Director Marcia Walsh) and translated the dry prose into something reasonably attractive.  The course is to be offered free, as a way of identifying possible supporters for the Institute.

In the afternoon I reviewed my To Do list.  Each week I seem to make a tiny amount of progress in each of a wide range of projects.  Cumulatively the work is significant, but if you look at any one project in isolation nothing seems to be getting done.

Thursday

I kept my desk completely clear, wanting to just concentrate on one thing at a time ("that'll never work" said Librarian Stan D helpfully).

Lunchtime it was far too cold to go out, so I just worked through.

Friday

Generally the office was busy, with lots of meetings taking place.  I took the first steps in producing a new supplement (we update key publications as new research becomes available).  I rang Maria B at Head Office - she is supposedly a firebrand but seemed quite meek when I spoke to her, quite unlike her ferocious e-mails. 

I went for a walk at lunchtime, which was a mistake as it was still below freezing.

In the afternoon the proof copies of the Training Course Guide arrived - at last I have something tangible to show people.