Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Mitchell Affair: A Very Personal View

Political history is littered with the cadavers of careers that 'might have been'. One thinks often of the remarkable 'Rab' Butler, one of only two politicians to have served in three of the four 'Great Offices of State'. A combination of factors led to Butler failing to make it to the very  top job, though the vulgar interventions of lesser men and irreverent satirists certainly played their part. 'Rab' is now sadly an increasingly forgotten figure; had history been a little kinder he might have kept the ghastly Wilson out of Downing Street in 1964 and the Beatles from their MBEs. 

It has long been my opinion that the paths of most political lives are not dissimilar to a 'continental breakfast'. From the moment one embarks upon one's choice, there is an element of chance involved, a frisson of danger as to what might be coming and invariably, a certain degree of disappointment when one is finally handed the plate. As one sits looking at one's limp croissant, paltry offering of jam and the inevitable 'slice of meat', one can find oneself questioning one's judgement, lamenting one's direction and pondering increasingly upon what it all means. At this point, in a moment of deepest despair one might glimpse a 'full English' arriving at an adjoining table, manned by uncouth fellow diners who have given little thought to their order, but been amply rewarded nonetheless.

Which leads us inevitably to the depressing saga of the former Chief Whip.

One is not for a moment comparing Andrew Mitchell to the great 'Rab' Butler, or even a continental breakfast, but while one can think of many great men whose political lives have been brought crashing down by unfortunate peccadillos, indiscreet staff, or death one can think of only one whose career has been ended by swearing at a police officer. While in no way condoning the use of foul language, it does seem grossly unfair, that while the public is on record as saying that they wish their politicians to be 'more normal' the very moment a government minister resorts to the 'language of the street' they are upbraided for it.

Last night's revelation that the term 'pleb' was not actually deployed adds a further layer to this increasingly tiresome business. As was pointed out at the time of the incident, that now appears never to have occurred, plebeian is a noble word whose principle meaning is 'citizen or free man' and its usage as a term of abuse might well have been unknown to Andrew had he indeed used it (which it appears he did not). 

Clearly there is much tension between the government and the Police Federation at the moment and one does wonder whether Mr Mitchell has fallen victim to what some might term a 'rabid conspiracy'. More pertinently, it clearly demonstrates that the decision in the 1970s to stop teaching Latin in secondary moderns has had far more terrible consequences than anybody could have foretold.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Women Bishops: why faith should be done properly or not at all.

Faith is an intensely personal and private matter. One man's meat can quite literally be another's Leviticus chapter eleven verse seven. For generations and even before the Edict of Worms in 1521, the devout merrily set about burning, beheading and excommunicating each other at the slightest provocation, while legislators and politicians struggled to keep up with who was (quite literally) 'hot' and who was not. 

England itself experienced well over a hundred years of 'to-ing and fro-ing' between the Roman Church and the voguish delights of Anglicanism, involving civil wars, banned Christmases and the murder of Carthusians before finally settling on the Protestant faith. With the passing of the Stuarts, things settled down, but the argument was not fully settled. As you no doubt know, one of the first acts passed by the Parliament of William and Mary in 1689 was the Toleration Act, which granted 'liberty of worship' to all Protestants (except quite rightly the Unitarians) but no mercy to Roman Catholics, who remained enemies of the state for the best part of nearly two hundred years.

There is a good case to argue, that Anglicanism from its very inception was a 'middle class' faith, with all the trappings and preoccupations of that particular social group. It shied instinctively from the grandeur and cerebral delights of the older church and has fussed ever since over the form of things. It reminds one in many ways of the sort of people who, having come into money, worry about whether it is correct to say 'pardon' or 'what' and wring their hands at the thought of being introduced to a Cholmondeley. While Catholicism, like aristocracy, sensibly refused to budge one inch from its sacred beliefs, from the late eighteenth century onward, the Anglican Church became desperate to please. Over the years we have heard of English Bishops questioning Genesis, wondering aloud whether Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, saying 'sorry' for the unpleasantness at Tyburn and regretting the glories of Empire.  Indeed, as recently as 2008 the Church of England was apologising to the very firmly deceased Charles Darwin, for not having taken the trouble to fully listen to his hair-brained theory that we are all descended from baboons.

Which brings us - and I hope you are still paying attention at the back - to the decision yesterday by the General Synod to refuse the ordination of women Bishops.

The Bible is very clear on the matter of women priests. It is written in the first book of Timothy verse 2 chapter 12:  διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ’ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.* Of course there are some who argue that these texts were written at a 'different time' and that we are living in the 'modern age'. The problem with taking that approach to faith, is that if one keeps changing things, one takes the very real risk of throwing the newly baptised infant out with the holy water. The very point of Christianity and indeed all other faiths is that they are written in stone. 

In this respect Christianity has long reminded one of Monarchy. One should either do it properly or not at all. The word of God, is the word of God. If said God had wished his Bishops to be women, he would have made it very clear that they should be so. If the English Church is to survive it should resist the temptation to 'modernise' and perhaps spend more time reading its sacred texts and less time waving its hands about to rock music and shaking a 'tambourine'.

*I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over a man, but to be in silence. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Quo tendimus interretium? How an internet Magna Carta could mean the end of 'trolls' and bad spelling.

Some months before the general election a tiresome blog, purportedly written by 'Jacob Rees-Mogg' appeared on the internet. This badly spelled, clearly fictional nonsense, was widely assumed to have been written by myself. It was in fact the work of a student at Bath 'University'. After considerable cost, my lawyers managed to track this chap down and make him sign an affidavit agreeing to cease publication of this irreverent drivel. One hoped that the message would 'get out' and that my experience of 'lampoon by internet' was over; unfortunately it was but the beginning. Over the ensuing years a cacophony of fake twitter accounts, blogs and even 'Wikipedia' entries rang forth from the web. Of these assaults, the 'Wiki' nonsense was perhaps the most distressing. This so-called 'encyclopedia' at various times described me as a 'world expert on lettuce', a champion beer barrel roller, a founding member of the Keynsham 'Hell's Angel' chapter and an authority on the life of 'Nick Kershaw'. I confess that prior to this last 'alteration' I had never heard of Nick Kershaw, let alone been troubled with the details of his life. 

Almost every innovation in history has brought with it a cavalcade of annoyance to those in positions of power and influence. From the moment Ts'ai Lun, a first century eunuch in the Chinese Emperor's court, invented paper it caused chagrin. The new medium, cheap, flexible and durable, was perfect for spreading tittle-tattle and Lun himself was eventually hoisted by his own petard. Implicated in court intrigue, he was moved to dress in his finest silken robes and drink from a poisoned chalice. I confess that in my darker moments, I have occassionaly wished that 'internet trolls' would take a leaf out of the irksome eunuch's book.

The invention of 'social networking sites' coupled with a growing 'work from home' culture and increased unemployment, has created a 'fish-wife' phenomena wherein millions of time rich individuals can lean on a virtual garden fence and exchange slander, rumour and 'ideas'. Where once opinions were the preserve  of trained 'journalists', politicians or mutually agreed 'sui generis', now anyone with a computer and fingers to type is able to express an idea, write a sentence, or abuse those who can. 

Melanie Phillips has described this phenomena as tantamount to 'a sadistic mob rampaging across the web' and certainly I could not put it better myself. Those familiar with the 'twittersphere' have long sensed that there was a 'McAlpine' moment coming. As the good Lord has now had his name cleared and is very sensibly pursuing anyone who 'retweeted' this libelous nonsense with extreme intolerance, we might now pause, reflect and ask quo tendimus? Or where do we go from here?

It is clear that the 'internet' can no longer be covered by acts of law. The Rubicon has been crossed and we are in need of something much greater. An electronic 'Bill of Rights'; a 'Magna Carta' for the technological age. I have yet to thrash out the articles of this grand project and would welcome ideas from anyone with expertise, but most sensible people would probably agree on the core principles:

  • An end to anonymity on the internet;
  • A stricter adherence to the rules of the land in which the 'author' is writing or in which his words might be read;
  • The introduction of a licensing system for bloggers or those engaging in social media. Users could perhaps start with three 'points' and lose them should they act without due diligence or care; once lost the person in question might be banned or forced to take a test before 'logging on' again;
  • Stricter rules about who can blog or tweet and a tightening of regulations pertaining to persistently poor spellers;
  • Internet courts, where legal issues relating to the web could be quickly decided by 'web magistrates' and justice meted out.
There may be those among you who feel this to be an over-reaction. There may be those who have yet to suffer the fall out from a 'twitter storm' or the dreadful public humiliation that comes when one is told one is 'trending'. To such people I say hodie mihi, cras tibi. To the rest I bid good day.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Yes to an Empress Elizabeth of Europe, No to a President Blair

Speaking in Berlin on Monday, the now frankly cantaloupe coloured Tony Blair called for a directly elected President of the European Union. Mr Blair's flagrant self promotion was only the latest chapter in the EU's erratic 'make it up as we go along' approach to this whole unfortunate 'project' and while one would hope that the British people long ago realised that 'Teflon Tony' was turning increasingly rusty, there is always the fear that our European neighbours might be a little slower on the uptake.

If the EU were not draining every penny of the English taxpayer's hard earned loose change, in the pursuit of duplicate bananas, one might be tempted to say that this issue was of no great import. However the failure to freeze our tribute to the senate in Brussels, despite my own and Peter Bone's valiant efforts, leads one to the inevitable conclusion that we are, in the continental fashion, to be quartered before we are hung. In spite of this I would ask those of you contemplating an 'Easyjet' flight to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to take a moment's respite. For there is no need of a President Blair, when we already have an Empress Elizabeth in waiting.

When Mary I ascended the throne in 1554, she was not simply crowned the 'Queen of England' but also of France, Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily as well as the Archduchess of countless amusingly names territories from Burgundy to Tyrol. By the time George I stepped up to the plate, further titles had been added including, crucially, the role of Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. While not in fact the 'top job' an Elector played a significant part in deciding who the chief honcho was to be and under the very clear edicts of the Golden Bull of 1356, could indeed be elected Emperor if there was no other suitable candidate for the vacancy.

You have no doubt spotted that there is indeed no current incumbent on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. The last holder of the post was the negligent and pontifical Francis II of Austria who 'gave it up' limply in 1806 to pursue instead his penchant for vulgar furnishings and an 'Austro-Hungarian' empire. As the seat is vacant it clearly needs to be filled and one can think of no better gift befitting a monarch who has outshone all the contemporaneous crowned heads of her age, than to add 'Empress of the Holy Roman Empire' to her current styling. As such she would become the hereditary ruler of everything west of the Bosphorus and south of St Petersburg and Mr Blair would be sent scuttling back into the 'tanning salon' from which he managed to escape.

At this point no doubt you are contemplating the French and their foolish experiment with 'republicanism'. Inevitably these cheese eating revolutionaries and their fellow anti-monarchist friends might object to the leader of the EU being decided on British hereditary precedent. To which I would respond by saying that simply because one has inadvertently invited a vegetarian to the Christmas luncheon, one should feel no obligation to serve all of the guests lentils and 'tofu goose'. The greatest victories of European history have been British led and a union that forgets our history, is doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past. Let us evoke not the spirit of dull care and eurocratic compromise, but rather the grace of the Holy Roman Empire and boldly move forward together, or not at all. One hopes for the former, but rather fears we will be left with the latter.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Heathrow 3rd runway: the lessons to be learned from an 11th Century monk

On a bright spring morning in the year 1010, a young monk called Eilmer climbed up onto the roof of Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, attached two wings fashioned from wattle, birch-tar and goose feathers to his back and launched himself forth into the air. In an act inspired by the legend of Daedalus and his half-witted son Icarus, the slightly built Benedictine floated gracefully through the air and alighted some 600 feet away on a spot just off the 'High Street'. Fatuous and feeble-minded souls have long claimed that the 'first flight' was performed by a couple of American bicycle repair-men called Wright. They are wrong. Accurate scholarship proves that along with most other innovations of note from democracy to the inter-web, flight originated in Britain. 

It is a curious fact, oft noted, that while the English are very good at creating things we are exceptionally bad at elaborating upon them. Having troubled to invent aviation we seem to have rather sat on our laurels over the matter for some nine hundred years. It was only when the predictably emulous French flew one of their chaps over the white cliffs of Dover in 1909 that we finally pulled our stockings up and got on with the job. Inevitably once we did so we rapidly surpassed our 'continental' rivals and produced a string of outstanding aircraft from the unforgettable Sopwith Strutter to the Harrier 'jump' jet.

In recent years the emergence of the 'green' movement has put paid to our aviation heritage. Through fear mongering and often disgraceful lobbying the 'do-gooders' of the left and their fellow travellers in the 'ecological movement' have managed to convince millions that aeroplanes are a 'bad thing'. Heathrow airport, once the greatest aerodrome in the western hemisphere, has been allowed to languish while our EU 'partners' have goose-stepped ahead, giving themselves a not inconsiderable advantage in the process. Enough frankly is enough and unless we take swift and immediate action to rectify the situation it may well take another millenium to seize back the initiative. 

There are those who argue that airport expansion takes time and needs considerable consultation. One can only be grateful that such nincompoops were not around in the months leading up to the Battle of Britain. By the end of the second war the United Kingdom boasted hundreds of airports. The sad decay of these historic sites is a matter for another day, but to argue that the country has 'no room for flight expansion' is not just rot, but 'sandal wearing rot'.

The eminent medieval historian 'William of Malmesbury', writing of Eilmer's astonishing achievement nearly a century after the event, relates how the Abbott was so enraged by the monk's astonishing feat, that he set about him with a wooden rake and forbade him from ever attempting to emulate fictional Cretans again. One trusts that the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, will be inspired less by the Abbott and more by his monk. 

Capax infiniti.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Of Posh Bashing, Benedict Cumberbatch and Noblesse Oblige

Mr Benedict Cumberbatch, the popular television actor, has sparked a mixed reaction following an interview with the Radio Times in which he has complained about "posh-bashing". In the said 'parley' Mr Cumberbatch rails against the 'predictable' and utterly tiresome treatment he has received on account of his being an 'Old Harrovian' who was not born into 'new money'. In what will no doubt be a heart-breaking pronouncement to his many 'female' fans, the thespian concludes the interview with a blunt ultimatum. In no uncertain terms he warns his tormentors that should this persecution persist, he will consider leaving the country and setting up home in 'LA'.

Mr Cumberbatch's asseveration that Britain has exchanged its centuries old tradition of contempt for the lower classes for one of open season on the 'upper', will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the media's rapacious assault on those from privileged backgrounds over the last few years. The Prime Minister in particular increasingly seems to be judged less and less on the undoubted merits of his term and more and more on whether or not he owns a top hat. Studying the photographs of his current sojourn in 'Majorca', a destination clearly chosen 'by committee' for its plebeian reputation, one was put in mind of Henry II who, following the unfortunate death of St Thomas a Beckett, felt obliged to walk the streets of Canterbury barefoot, dressed in a horse-hair shirt to satiate the anger of the mob.

Class obsession is of course largely a fixation of the lower upper middle, middle, lower middle and upper working classes. I was raised to believe that the very mention of another's social standing was at best 'rude' and at worst downright common. One has been delighted to note over the years that one of  the many commonalities between the working and upper classes is a shared opinion on this matter. One rarely meets a gardener, domestic or 'general labourer' with powerful prejudices against their betters. By and large such people appreciate that the 'landed classes' have given much to this country. In turn those of 'good birth' long ago acknowledged that with power comes great responsibility.

Indeed the notion of 'noblesse oblige' trickled unabated merrily down the ages, until in the late 1960s it was dammed up by a conspiracy of chumps and left leaning 'satirists'. These very types have dominated the media ever since and one concludes that it is they, burdened  by their very real sense of inferiority who have so enraged Mr Cumberbatch by 'type-casting' him in an endless stream of high profile 'posh' roles.

One very much hopes that 'Benedict' shall rise above all this and that he shall not feel the need to follow the example of brave Thucydides and go into exile. I have never been to LA but I am led to believe that it is  a gruesome place, chock full of grasping, rather ghastly little people with ideas well above their station. It would be a dreadful stain on the British nation if we were responsible for condemning this young artist to such a monstrous fate. Ad astra per aspera!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Some advice for the young.

Much mischief has been conjured out of David Cameron's key-note 'welfare' speech at the Bluewater Shopping Centre on Monday. Unsurprisingly perhaps those Trotskyist bulwarks of the media, the BBC and the increasingly erratic and tiresome Guardian 'newspaper' have attacked the PM for his perceived assault on the 'poor' and 'needy.' The fact that he quite pointedly underlined his commitment to those groups most in need of state assistance was conveniently ignored by these drab and opportunistic drones, in favour of a predictable assault on his 'out of touch' 'nasty party' values.

Like vultures circling an orphaned lamb, leftists have long been waiting to pounce on the PM's 'social care' principles and tear his credibility to shreds and one could almost hear the flapping of the raptors wings as he left the podium in Dartford. 

David's eminently sensible idea, the removal of housing benefit for the under 25s is just that, 'eminently sensible'. The cost to the state, by which of course one means the 'tax-payer' of these scroungers and layabouts is a very considerable £2 billion per year. What is more, it is a totally unnecessary handout to people who should be making their own way in the world, rather than leeching off hard working middle class people.

Of course one should never forget the urgency of youth. It is not surprising that after leaving 'uni' many among the 'young', having supped at the chalice of 'freedom' for three years, should wish to set their own bed-times and not live under the same rooves as their parents. For my part, I well remember coming down from Oxford in the early nineties and realising with a kind of horror that I was (momentarily) 'listless' and reliant on my family for 'handouts'. Happily a couple of short phone calls and a few brief weeks later, I was off making my own way in the world, but contrary to popular belief I do appreciate the very real struggles that other less connected people have after graduation.

One thinks indeed of a certain unfortunate acquaintance who, fresh out of a 'red brick' and with a rather 'second class' degree, was forced to 'slum it' in a succession of menial jobs at various tabloid newspapers for what amounted to little more than a five figure salary. Happily his life was turned around eventually and he has indeed managed to make a success of himself out of a combination of 'hard graft' and 'good cheer'. 

Should the state have supplemented my chum? Of course not and neither frankly should it aid any whose parents are still living and are able to offer their children a bed, a room or even a spare annexe at the family home. With a little creative thinking, outbuildings like stables or defunct follies can quickly be converted to offer much needed breathing space to both parent and 'young adult' alike. For those without such facilities a caravan or 'camper van' can always make a good temporary bolt-hole, whether one rests one's head in it or not.

As the PM stressed on Monday, there are always some for whom an exception must be made. The very poor have long brought little to the 'party' but this is not a reason to 'put the bouncers' on them. Indeed 'welfare folk' often remind one of a certain 'other' acquaintance from Notting Hill days who would routinely arrive at the door with a 'screw top bottle' of Antipodean wine and then proceed to quaff their hosts superior Margaux. Quite rightly the customs of the state prohibit us from hurling such people from our circle, however much we might be tempted to do so from time to time. The meek shall, like the Liberal Democrats, always be with us, although one doubts very much (in both cases) as to whether they shall indeed inherit the earth, let alone the Kingdom.

Leaving the very poor aside, my advice to normal people under the age of 25 is this. Enjoy the precious time you have with your Ma and Pa. Do not run gaily from the familial home until such time as you can afford to stand on your own two feet. Use your contacts wisely. Take not that which you do not need. And always avoid those who come bearing gifts of inferior blended wine.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Bono, Facebook And The Envy Of The Mogg

It was Socrates who said ὁ φθόνος ἕλκος τῆς ψυχῆς* and as with so many ideas gifted us by that great thinker, his words are as pertinent today as when he first uttered them beneath the olive trees of Athens some two and a half thousand years ago.

In the last twenty four hours 'Bono', the front-man of pop music group The U2 (pictured above) has been accused of everything from hypocrisy to rapacity for having the effrontery to make himself an honest billion from a day's work.

Having taken a stake of 2.3% in the 'social networking' site Facebook in 2009, Mr Bono's private equity fund Elevation now stands to make a decent sized return on that initial capital investment. Estimates have put the figure at anything between one and two billion pounds, which is by any reckoning a significant gain on a clever and savvy financial venture.

Mr Bono has done nothing illegal, nobody has been hurt, no horses have been scared and yet his accomplishment has been broadly lambasted and ridiculed, raked over and assailed.

The poor chap has even been driven to deny his good fortune telling the Belfast Telegraph: 'Contrary to reports, I'm not a billionaire or going to be any richer than any Beatle (sic).' Leaving Mr Bono's tenuous grip on even the rudimentary elements of grammar aside for one moment, this sentence says much about the modern insistence on 'debasing' success. Instead of celebrating his company's performance he has felt obliged to talk it down. Why?

The general sentiment seems to be that as this well-meaning beatnik has a history of wandering about the place, telling the great and good that they should save impecunious 'Third Worlders' from poverty, he ought to now put his money where his mouth is and jolly well rescue them himself. To which one feels the urge to respond as follows: Balderdash.

'Pop sensations' rarely wish to have MP's riding to their salvation and I very much hope that Mr Bono shall not object to me weighing in on his behalf. However, having perused the facts of this storm in a sherry glass, it is quite clear to me that this brouhaha has little to do with genuine indignation on the part of the 'mob' and quite a lot more to do with 'envy'. Those lambasting this 'windfall' clearly have little understanding of how an investment company works. It is not a 'piggy bank' into which one can dip at whim. It is a business, employing people, creating jobs, boosting the global market economy. Sadly, such arguments rarely wash with those most in need of a bath. One wonders how many of those dread-locked, vegetable eating, 'anti-capitalists' decrying  this singer his success, would do what they implore of him were the contents of their bank accounts to amount to much more than the sum earned from their 'weekly giros'.

Of course these British Isles (and I very much include 'Eire' in this) have a habit of decrying success. For Mr Bono to have been able to rise from the sort of abject poverty where his parents clearly could not afford the expense of a second name, or even elocution lessons, should be a cause for celebration. It frequently feels that those left behind in the 'pit of pauperism' are too busy throwing potatoes at the chaps who have clambered up a step to bother lauding their achievements, or better still set out to achieve the same for themselves.

Perhaps I am being unfair. It is of course not only the bottom rank who envy success. Most of us could, with the help of a few friends, quite easily have rustled up the initial £150 million investment made by Elevation and popped it into Facebook for ourselves. The fact that we did not is the real agent of this unseemly onslaught of covetousness. We are all too often prey to the unsettling sensation that 'every time another succeeds, a little part of one dies'. Let us strive to rise like Rome against this 'Alaric' of jealousy and slay it before it crosses the Triumphal arch of our reason.

I bid you all good cheer.


* 'envy is the ulcer of the soul'  

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A Downton Economy: Why we should subsidise great houses not tax them.

A Stately Home Economy

'Vince' Cable has upset many this week by suggesting that in place of a fifty pence top rate tax, the 'Liberal Democrats' would be favourably disposed towards the idea of a 'Mansion Tax' instead. Of course, one's immediate suspicion is that this is yet another slightly disingenuous attempt by our increasingly mendacious coalition 'partners' to throw a tiger among the starlings by sowing seeds of innuendo and envy among the electorate. The veiled implication clearly is that those living in a two million pound home are most probably 'wealthy' and therefore more likely to vote Conservative. Any subsequent dismissal of the idea can then be attacked by Vince and his friends on the sneering basis that 'the Tories are against taxation of large homes because they live in them'. All very Daily Mirror.

However, let us for the moment give Mr Cable the benefit of the doubt and assume that his motives are honourable and that his purpose is fair. A mansion tax may well raise the £1.7 billion in revenue that analysts predict, but it would also directly hit hard working families already struggling under the burden of large leaking rooves, wings in desperate need of refurbishment and the bills associated with the tending of the large gardens, follies and box hedge mazes that are invariably part and parcel of these dwellings. There is a widespread misconception that because one lives in a big house one must ipso facto be 'wealthy'. This is of course poppycock. Many of the very poorest people of my acquaintance live in some of the very biggest homes. The upkeep of these piles, well documented by Noel Coward as early as 1933, is immense and every last penny is routinely hurled at them - but though the Van Dykes frequently have to go and the Bechstein Grand is more often than not 'pawned', the good people who have acquired these wonderful buildings strive to keep them standing.

In many respects this is a public service. A selfless act of financial martyrdom, which generally results in offspring being sent to second eleven public schools or the number and quality of domestic staff being reduced to the bare minimum.

It has long been my thesis that the answer to most of our current problems can be resolved by doing the exact opposite of whatever it is that the Liberal Democrats are proposing. On this basis, perhaps rather than taxing the owners of homes worth two million pounds and upwards, we should be giving them money instead. In so doing we would create a thriving 'Downton Economy'. Large homes were built to be staffed. The number of domestics needed to run a medium sized (fourteen bedroom) Great House in the early twentieth century was anything between ten and thirty servants, which in turn provided a good employment opportunity for many. Sadly the rising costs of staff, coupled with the invidious growth of 'socialism' spelt an end to these employment prospects and 'service' today no long affords the cachet of respectability that it once had.

It is a modest proposal perhaps, but instead of sending our young jobless to work for little or nothing at 'Tesco' or 'Aldi' could we not provide them with employment in our larger houses? The taxpayer could dispense some sort of financial incentive to the landowners and indeed a thriving 'stately home sector' could be established leading to a boom not only in the servant and service industries but also in the education of these listless young people. Scullery maids need 'training' as much as any car mechanic or pastry chef and perhaps instead of wasting years studying 'nail technology' at 'Lewisham College' young women might learn something useful, such as how to most efficiently polish a candelabra, starch a collar or clean out a fireplace.

It has long been my impression that Liberal Democrats are driven primarily by envy. They remind one of the Ronnie Barker character in the old That Was The Week That Was sketch, caught in an unenviable position that is neither looking up nor looking down. In all matters pertaining to these yellow perils one is certainly best off listening politely - and then looking away.

Thursday, 23 February 2012


One has rather depressingly hit the headlines once more for all the wrong reasons. During Tuesday's invigorating debate on the remuneration of EU staff, I employed the word 'floccinaucinihilipilification' while describing the frankly tiresome behaviour of EU 'judges'. One's contempt for these 'European' drones is a matter of public record and I do not intend to dwell on them, their dubious pronouncements on 'Human Rights' or the size of Abu Qatada's cauliflowers, for frankly they are no more deserving of my digital type than a wasp is of a picnicker's angry fist.

No, I am afraid my purpose in today's blog is one of pure pedantry; for my employment of the word, with whose meaning you are no doubt familiar (to adjudge something worthless), has unleashed a veritable rash of articles wrongly claiming that it is the 'longest word in the English language’. You have no doubt laughed gaily along with me at the utter ignorance therein displayed, for the most elongated lexeme in our rich and abundant vocabulary is in fact:

methionylglutaminylarginyltyrosylglutamyl- serylleucylphenylalanylalanylglutaminyl- leucyllysylglutamylarginyllysylglutamyl- glycylalanylphenylalanylvalylprolylphenyl- alanylvalylthreonylleucylglycylaspartyl- prolylglycylisoleucylglutamylglutaminyl serylleucyllysylisoleucylaspartyl- threonylleucyl isoleucylglutamylalanyl- glycylalanylaspartylalanylleucylglutamyl leucylglycylisoleucylprolylphenylalanyl- serylaspartylprolylleucylalanylaspartyl- glycylprolylthreonylisoleucylglutaminyl- asparaginylalanylthreonylleucylarginyl- alanylphenylalanylalanylalanyl- glycylvalylthreonylprolylalanyl- glutaminylcysteinylphenylalanyl- glutamylmethionylleucylalanylleucyl- isoleucylarginylglutaminyllysylhistidyl- prolylthreonylisoleucylprolylisoleucyl- glycylleucylleucylmethionyltyrosylal- anylasparaginylleucylvalylphenylalanyl- asparaginyllysylglycylisoleucylas- partylglutamylphenylalanyltyrosylal- anylglutaminylcysteinylglutamyllysyl- valylglycylvalylaspartylserylvalylleucyl- valylalany laspartylvalylprolylvalyl- glutaminylglutamylserylalanylprolyl phenylalanylarginylglutaminylalanyl- alanylleucylarginylhistidylasparaginyl- valylalanylprolylisoleucylphenylalanyl- isoleucylcysteinylprolylprolylaspartyl- alanylaspartylaspartylaspartylleucyl- leucylarginylglutaminylisoleucylalanyl- seryltyrosylglycylarginylglycyl- tyrosylthreonyltyrosylleucylleucyl- serylarginylalanylglycylvalylthreonyl- glycylalanylglutamylasparag- inylarginylalanylalanylleucylprolyl- leucylasparaginylhistidylleucylvalyl- alanyllysylleucyllysylglutamyltyrosyl- asparaginylalanylalanylprolylprolyl- leucylglutaminylglycylphenylalanyl- glycylisoleucylserylalanylprolyl- aspartylglutaminylvalyllysylalanyl- alanylisoleucylaspartylalanyl- glycylalanylalanylglycylalanyliso- leucylserylglycylserylalanylisoleu- cylvalyllysylisoleucylisoleucylglutamyl- glutaminylhistidylasparaginylisoleucyl- glutamylprolylglutamyllysylmethionyl- leucylalanylalanylleucyllysylvalylphenyl- alanylvalylglutaminylprolylmethionyl- lysylalanylalanylthreonylarginylserine

- the chemical name for ‘titin’ and the largest know protein. Please feel rest assured that the very moment the subject of 'molecular springs' arises in the Commons I shall be ready, nay itching, to deploy this redoubtable noun.

I am afraid that is all we have space for this week.



Wednesday, 15 February 2012

What happened at Bideford and the allure of silence

The parliamentary recess is with us once more, affording me the opportunity to experience an increasingly rare delight. For as one goes about London during the week, whether sitting through debates at Westminster, or mixing with 'friends' in restaurants, or even lying in one's cot contemplating matters of state and the reason for Lembit Opik, one is rarely if ever afforded the luxury of  'complete silence'. The incessant throb of our great capital city is unfortunately, like the threat of gout or a branch of 'Tesco Metro', never very far away. It seems, increasingly, as if people in general are afraid of stillness; that if they were to switch off their 'walkmen' or reduce their verbal babel they might, like Echo, fade into nothingness.

Last week, the High Court in London decreed that councillors in the town of Bideford in Devon were breaching the terms of the 1972 Local Government Act, by choosing to hold prayers prior to their sessions. It seems that one of their number, a certain Mr Bone, had 'got Dawkins' and subsequently taken umbrage at the religious devotion of his fellow members. I need hardly add that Mr Bone is a representative of the Liberal Democrats, whose leader is such a fan of the oddball 'Professor' and his crackpot views, but one cannot help feeling that this victory is a hollow one, a shallow one and a rather sad reflection on the sort of noise obsessed, spiritually shy, society in which we live.

Both Houses of Parliament start their day with brief prayer sessions.  This tradition, thought to date back to the mid sixteenth century, affords Members of the Commons and the Lords the opportunity to reflect on their duty and in the case of the Lords to thank their maker for giving them the chance to see another day.  These sessions are a wonderful moment to stand silently, before the hurly burly, rough and tumble business of democracy 'kicks in' and although they are often poorly attended, for my own part, I am always very grateful for the meditation they afford.

I am sad to report that having won their first scalp at Bideford the agnostic rabble have now turned their gaze on Westminster. While consoling oneself with the fact that The Established Church remains an integral part of the constitutional framework of our nation, one does increasingly fear that 'political correctness' and this populist 'fad' for atheism may yet win the day. Should this happen, we will not only lose a rather superb tradition, but yet another moment of rare silence in the cut and thrust, hither and thither, shout and mumble ‘culture’ of our depressingly modern world. 

One day perhaps, when faith has been reduced to an echo and the Narcissus Dawkins remains - staring fondly at his eyebrows in a stream - we may think back on what we have lost. And weep.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

How The Failure Of McCarthyism Turned Cbeebies Red

When I was what is now fashionably termed a 'young adolescent', my parents decided that I was not watching enough television. In fact I was watching none. I am not ashamed to admit that the reason for this was a mixture of suspicion and snobbery. Popular culture in the 1970s and 1980s was characterised by men with long hair shouting, while women in dungarees prevailed upon young viewers to follow them through a series of square, circular and triangular windows. One's recent invocation of 'Bagpuss' in a speech to the House was wrongly assumed to be a tribute to the fluffy old cloth cat. In fact one was always far happier reading Horace than 'catching up' with the antics of that soporific feline and a soundtrack that consisted of 'folk music' being played on a 'banjo'. Worse. Even then, one could not escape the feeling that there was a hidden agenda at work. That somehow beneath the japery of Brian Cant and the tom-foolery of 'finger mouse', young minds were being indoctrinated, rewired, 'socialised'.

As long as pictures have moved there have been forces at work wishing to manipulate them. You are no doubt familiar with the history of early Soviet Propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s. The Romanoff family, who had for centuries selflessly served the interests of the Russian peasantry, were portrayed in a series of films as nepotistic despots, concerned solely with their own preservation, while their people starved and wept. Rot of course, but effective rot - and as was the case in one of our bathrooms last year, the rot spread.

By the 1950's the charismatic American Senator 'Joe' McCarthy had cottoned on to the fact that Hollywood itself was stuffed full of Communist sympathisers and Soviet Fifth Columnists. In a series of spectacular interventions  he proved beyond any reasonable doubt that, among others, Charlie Chaplin, Edward G Robinson, Marilyn Monroe, 'Zero' Mostel and even Daffy Duck  were part of a deeply entrenched Marxist conspiracy intent on corrupting the minds of American youth and the wider world with their 'socialist ideals'. Sadly, pressure by influential 'stars' ended the trials before they could finish what they had begun and many of the lesser known 'artists' (mostly writers) managed to slip through the fingers of the FBI. The grim determination of the 'Red' is well documented and I am sorry to say that many of them made their way to Britain.

From around 1950 these writers in exile, many operating under assumed names, found work in our nascent television industry. Perhaps the best known example was the shameful series The Adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, which was written by a number of blacklisted writers. In this 'entertainment' Robin is seen not as a foul villain of history, which he undoubtedly was, thieving from hard working burghers and embattled local politicians, but as a sort of hero, 'redistributing' wealth to the work-shy poor. Although originally aired on what is now called 'ITV' it’s terrible influence spread, as those responsible for its creation hired like-minded 'creatives' and instilled a 'leftist' agenda in British 'TV' that continues to this day.

As ever, the main target of this propagandist filth was youth. By the 1970s one could hardly tune in to 'Watch with Mother' without being assaulted by a cavalcade of populist Marxist causes. The Wombles were a clear and obvious attempt to inculcate young viewers with 'green' ideals. Illegal immigration was brazenly glamorised and sanitised in the tale of 'Paddington' a stowaway purporting to be from Peru (his documents are conveniently ‘lost’) who arrives in West London and is hidden from the authorities by a family of well-meaning liberals called 'The Browns'. One can hardly bring oneself to mention the odious 'hippy' values of The Magic Roundabout or the innuendo filled 'design for living' as proposed 'a trois' by the presenters of 'Blue' Peter. Later televisual insights on working class children provided by first Grange Hill and later 'Byker' Grove convinced one of two things. The need for more affordable 'private' education and the true extent of socialist 'infiltration' within the medium.

Suffice to say, the liberal indoctrination of young minds by children's television and particularly the BBC continues to this day. The bias displayed in the average edition of 'Newsround' as ‘leftist’ disguised as 'good’ causes are promoted, is enough to drive one to burn one's license. It continues to astonish me that the superb 'Fox News' Channel, routinely comes in for a bashing from the left, whilst this brazen ‘socialism’ slips by. One has no doubt in one’s mind that last year’s riots were at least in part caused by befuddled minds, enraged by a babyhood spent parked in front of the ‘Teletubbies’.

What can be done? The answer is very simple. Monitor what your children are viewing. Encourage them to question the veracity of their news sources from a very early age. And under no circumstances read them those dreadful 'Gruffalo' books. Give them Horace instead.

My warmest regards to each one of you.