Verbal retail therapy

Here in “old” York we are about to get yet another out-of-town retail park — a promised:

… top retail destination in York.

A total of 339,000sq ft of retail and restaurant accom[m]odation 

Such things need imaginative naming (and — see above — loose spelling). This one, for no obvious reason, is to be “Vangarde” — a variant spelling not known in English since the reign of Henry VII— though Gavin Douglas came close:

And Podalirius with drawyn swerd list nocht ces
Alsus the hird to persew throw the pres,
Quhilk ruschis abak for feir, his life to save,
In the vangart throw mony a poyntit glave.

Let’s go shopping!

A cry that brings pain and grief to many a male heart.

Yet, whence came “shops”? Presumably, in the days before manufacture and “retail” went their separate ways, “shops” were places where manufacture, display and sale were not segregated. Where they still exist (craftsmen furniture makers, for an obvious example) they are worth the visit. We may even be returning to that mode, with on-site craft breweries and the like.

Even by the time of John Dryden, there was a whiff of sulphur about “shops”:

In Gospel phrase their Chapmen they betray;
Their Shops are Dens, the Buyer is their Prey.
The Knack of Trades is living on the Spoil;
They boast e’en when each other they beguile.

Then we come to the verbal-noun, defined by the OED as:

The action of visiting a shop or shops for the purpose of making purchases or of examining the goods exposed for sale. 

The OED finds its first usage in:

1764   Zeal Seasonable Alarm London 13 (note) ,  Ladies are said to go a Shoping, when, in the Forenoon, sick of themselves, they order the Coach, and driving from Shop to Shop [etc.].

That’s a new one on me, so a moment’s googling provided the answer:

A Seasonable Alarm to the City of London, on the Present Important CrisisShewing, by Most Convincing Arguments, that the New Method of Paving the Streets with Scotch Pebbles; … Must be … Pernicious to the Health and Morals of the People of England. By Zachary Zeal, Citizen

From which, I guess, we are in the area of eighteenth-century contrived satire. Sure enough, Citizen Zeal proves to be a prototypical Little Englander/UKIPper (here without his long “s” and emphatic italicising of all key proper nouns):

ZealA great Commoner once said, America was conquered in Germany; and I can, with equal truth, affirm that England will soon be lost in America: of this, can there be a more striking and melancholy Proof, than that Carelessness and Indifference, that total want of true old English patriotic Concern, with which most of our Countrymen site tame and listless Spectators of the dreadful Devastation, occasioned by the Introduction of Scottish Administration, and of Scotch Pebbles, into this Metropolis. Not content with the Ascendant, they have so unduly obtained over us, they take this method of publishing it to the World, by razing our Streets, and pulling down our Signs; so that in a short time we shall not have a Foot of English Ground to walk upon, not will there be a Sign of an Englishman left, in the Metropolis of England.

The faithful Pen of History records, that Conquerors, in antient [sic] times, used to throw down the Houses, and to plough up the Streets of the Cities of the subdued Land: The Scots have not yet proceeded so far: Thank Heaven  we have still our Houses to live in; but these Houses so bared, so spoiled of their Ornaments, that many of our Streets seem not the same they were six Months ago; and they are perhaps left standing, only in the hopes, that they may in time be inhabited by these Emigrants, or their Posterity; who,  as the Goths and Vandals over-ran Italy, will, I am afraid, at length overspread and ravage this unhappy Land.

Citizen Zeal anticipated Thackeray, whose pen had a somewhat lighter touch:

vanity-fair… the life of a good young girl who is in the paternal nest as yet, can’t have many of those thrilling incidents to which the heroine of romance commonly lays claim. Snares or shot may take off the old birds foraging without—hawks may be abroad, from which they escape or by whom they suffer; but the young ones in the nest have a pretty comfortable unromantic sort of existence in the down and the straw, till it comes to their turn, too, to get on the wing. While Becky Sharp was on her own wing in the country, hopping on all sorts of twigs, and amid a multiplicity of traps, and pecking up her food quite harmless and successful, Amelia lay snug in her home of Russell Square; if she went into the world, it was under the guidance of the elders; nor did it seem that any evil could befall her or that opulent cheery comfortable home in which she was affectionately sheltered. Mamma had her morning duties, and her daily drive, and the delightful round of visits and shopping which forms the amusement, or the profession as you may call it, of the rich London lady. Papa conducted his mysterious operations in the City—a stirring place in those days, when war was raging all over Europe, and empires were being staked; when the “Courier” newspaper had tens of thousands of subscribers; when one day brought you a battle of Vittoria, another a burning of Moscow, or a newsman’s horn blowing down Russell Square about dinner-time, announced such a fact as—”Battle of Leipsic—six hundred thousand men engaged—total defeat of the French—two hundred thousand killed.” Old Sedley once or twice came home with a very grave face; and no wonder, when such news as this was agitating all the hearts and all the Stocks of Europe.

The Yorkshire connection

If we started with the Vangarde Retail Park, York, we have arrived — by association — about twenty miles away.

Hampsthwaite 01

A couple of years back, I spent Christmas in a cottage (about where the gent with the hat stands, above) in the village of Hampsthwaite. It’s just on the edge of Nidderdale, and noted for having a record succession of six consonants in its name.

A few doors down, also facing the village green (where the finger post, or its later successor, still stands), is the alleged family home of the Thackeray family. The family seem to have been hereditary parish clerks of Hampsthwaite during the late 17th to the early 19th centuries. William Makepeace T’s dad was Richmond Thackeray (that forename is a declaration of good Yorkshire roots, surely).

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The really nasty party

I had my suspicions when I read the opening of The Times first leader:

A year and a half ago reporters working for another newspaper found themselves speaking to a special adviser working for Maria Miller, who was then (and at the time of writing still is) the Culture Secretary. Their conversation concerned the discovery that what Mrs Miller had described as her second home, for which she had claimed more than £90,000 in allowances, was also the home of her elderly parents.

“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment,” was the response of Jo Hindley, the adviser, “so I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about.” Miss Hindley went on to suggest that the reporters should speak with “people a little higher up your organisation”. Shortly afterwards she herself contacted a senior executive at that newspaper group to complain.

That’s nasty — though the argument in The Times goes on to whinge about press regulation, which is not the relevant point.

Moreover, the Telegraph‘s full reveille is on-line for all to see, from December 2012.

So, as expected, to the real dirt:

David Cameron’s director of communications earlier denied putting pressure on the Daily Telegraph over the expenses story.

The newspaper’s former editor Tony Gallagher used an interview with the Today Progamme to repeat claims that he had received a call from Craig Oliver in 2012, warning that the Culture Secretary was “looking at Leveson”.

In a statement to the BBC, Mr Oliver said: “It is utterly false for Tony Gallagher to suggest he was threatened over Leveson by me in any way. My conversation with him was about the inappropriate door-stepping of an elderly man.”

But Mr Gallagher hit back this afternoon, telling the Daily Politics that Mr Oliver hadn’t addressed “the key issue” of his complaint.

“In rushing out a denial he’s made the story about Craig Oliver, rather than about the far more substantive point which is this all about press freedom and the threats to press freedom,” Mr Gallagher said.

I have to admit I missed the Today programme: blame it on those bottles of Caberet.

A Malcolmian aside

To be honest, I doubt that the crux of the issue is just “press freedom”. The glory of innovations like Twitter and this platform is that, sooner rather than later, the whistle blows, the gun smokes, the gilt comes off the gingerbread. We all could all (and some of us did) remember a story in The Guardian in 2009. The Guardian wrapped it up a bit (doubtless for the lawyers), but the New York Times read the runes, and spelled it out:

The Guardian said confidential files compiled by Britain’s official information commissioner showed that one private investigator tracked down by the police had received a total of 13,343 requests, from 305 reporters, for information that typically required hacking into confidential databases, including tax returns, phone records, social security data, bank statements, records of drivers’ licenses and information on police computers.

Mr. Yates, named in April as the chief of counterterrorism at Scotland Yard, said the practices reported by The Guardian had been subject to “careful investigation by senior detectives” and by the Crown Prosecution Service, which is responsible for filing criminal charges, during a wide-ranging investigation in 2006. The inquiry was prompted by a case involving a News of the World reporter, Clive Goodman, who received a four-month jail term in 2007 for hacking into more than 600 messages left on cellphones belonging to three members of Britain’s royal family.

“No additional evidence has come to light since this case has concluded,” Mr. Yates said. He said that his checks on Thursday indicated that many of the cellphone-hacking cases cited by The Guardian in its chronicle of breaches by The News of the World, including the case of John Prescott, a former deputy prime minister who was embroiled in a scandal involving an affair with an office assistant, never actually resulted in the tapping of the cellphones that were targets of hacking.

Assistant Commissioner John Yeats, the News of the World, where are they now?

So, even before the New Dispensation of  Maria Miller, or whoever, these things would come to light. There are, thank goodness,  a few dirt-diggers and successors to the reptiles that used to frequent the dives behind Fleet Street.

To come to conclusion:

Mrs Maria Miller is a cheat. The Independent Standards Commissioner reckoned she had over-claimed on her mortgage payments by £45,000, which should be repaid. The Committee on Standards reduced Mrs Miller’s pay-back by a trifling 88%. For the record:

Mr Chope also used his additional costs allowance (ACA) to fund the £10,377 repair of the roof of the 200-year-old London house that he jointly owns with his wife. He kitted out the property with a bathroom costing more than £2,600 to buy and install – again on the taxpayer.
In March last year the MP submitted the bill for £881.25 to strip down and recover the Chesterfield sofa. The Dorset craftsman sent the invoice to Mr Chope’s constituency home even though he claimed the cost for his second home.

  • Nick Harvey,the Lib Dem MP for North Devon, had an interesting moment when he attended a Remembrance Day commemoration:

Ex-Wren serves Nick Harvey an envelope

Yes: upstanding personages, well capable of adjudging what is a justified parliamentary expense.

To which we can now fairly add:

Mrs Maria Miller would like to be a bully.

She’s just an incompetent one.

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Sing when you’re winning …

… spin like hell when you’re not.

cities_in_flightThe Dillon-Wagoner Graviton Polarity Generator under Downing Street must be at full stretch:

The spindizzy field was up. It was invisible in itself, but it was no longer admitting the air of the Earth.

The myth…

Everything in the Tory garden is lovely. And is under strict instruction to remain so for the next fourteen months.

Anticipating All Fools’ Day, yesterday we had Gids Osborne anticipating “full employment”. We can expect to hear more, much more of such twaddle over the next year.

Dress it up and it looks like this:


Note the little ConHome symbol in the bottom left corner. Consider what that graph would look like were it framed less narrowly.

However even ConHome are not wholly convinced:

it’s worth noting that “full employment” doesn’t actually mean having everyone who can work in work. In truth, it kinda means whatever you want it to mean. Some take “full employment” to mean an unemployment rate of around 5 per cent. Some prefer to see it as an employment rate of 80 per cent. Some think it’s got something to do with phases of the moon and ley lines.

51pnFR8xNcL._SY300_Should anyone think “full employment” means what it used to mean — the Beveridge’s 1944 notion of 3% natural churn — forget it. Even Osborne (and we’re still with ConHome here) doesn’t quite mean “full employment” when that is what he says :

So what is Osborne’s definition? He spelt it out pretty plainly in his speech. “To have more people working than any of the other countries in the G7 group,” he said, “That’s my ambition.” Which means, in effect, overtaking the employment rates of Germany (73.5 per cent), Canada (72.4 per cent), Japan (72.2 per cent). We’re currently languishing in fourth place, on 71 per cent.

The zero sum game

What we don’t know is more telling that what we are told in the hum of the Spindizzies: how many of these jobs are full-time? How many are zero-hours contracts?

Well, perhaps we have some sort of idea for that:

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, attacked the government after the figures released by the Office for National Statistics found that 582,935 workers were on the contracts in 2013.

The big increase in the figures, which is three times higher than the number given for the year the coalition was formed in 2010, follows a change in the way that the ONS assesses zero-hours contracts last summer. This meant that it increased its estimate for the number of workers on the contracts in 2012 from 200,000 to 250,000. The new methodology helped to produce the high figure for 2013.

Even that may not be the full accounting:

There is suggestion that the ONS might still be underestimating the figure. Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, has cited research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which has said that 1 million workers are on the contracts. Dilnot instructed the ONS to examine the CIPD work in its new assessment. The union said: “Unite believes that, in general, zero-hours contracts are unfair, creating insecurity and exploitation for many ordinary people struggling to get by.”

If getting real numbers for zero-hours is difficult, having the ConDem government to recognise realities is far more so. Yesterday’s Hansard:

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): Thanks to the Government’s long-term economic plan, youth unemployment is falling. I am particularly pleased that long-term youth unemployment has fallen by 38,000 over the last year…
Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): Of the young people the Minister just mentioned who have a job, how many have gone on to work on zero-hours contracts?
Esther McVey: As the hon. Lady will know, the number of zero-hours contracts has remained fairly stable since 2000. They are called zero hours or casual hours, and they are used by Liverpool city council and Wirral council, which are Labour run. The worst council for using them is Doncaster.
We are having a full review of zero-hours contracts, and if they are exploitative we will bring about changes. Our report is due in July—something that Labour did not do for 13 years.

Pants on fire

article-2455471-18ACD5CC00000578-288_634x672-1On the contrary, Miss McVey (as left), the number of zero-hours contracts has increased disproportionately.

A report by Matthew Pennycook and others, for the Resolution Foundation, argued:

Establishing a precise estimate of the scale of zero-hours contract use is extremely difficult. Statistics relating to zero-hours contracts are not only likely to suffer from a significant degree of reporting error (many of those working under such contracts fail to accurately self-identify themselves as such) but there is also widespread ignorance among those on such contracts about their precise contractual situation.

There are two main sources of statistics on zero-hours contracts: the Office of National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS). According to LFS estimates from the three-month period October to December 2012, 208,000 people reported that they were on a zero-hours contract (0.7 per cent of the workforce). This was up from just over 134,000 (0.5 per cent of the workforce) in 2006. Given the data limitations detailed above and strong evidence to suggest extensive use of zero-hours contracts in particular occupations and sectors (the National Minimum Dataset for Social Care, for example, estimates that 150,000 domiciliary care-workers alone are employed on zero-hours contracts7) it is clear that these headline figures are likely to be an extremely conservative estimate. Yet even on the basis of conservative estimates a clear upward trend, as shown in Figure 1 below, is apparent. 

So let’s have Figure 1:

Zero-hours growth

The Pennycook Report erred by deriving the available “official” statistics. As we saw above, the latest ONS figure is 2¾ times that again: 582,935.

Truth or Consequences

 Once known as Hot Springs, Truth or Consequences New Mexico is a small resort town with a year-round population of slightly more than 6,000.

Nearer home, the consequences of the banking Crash and the subsequent Slump it induced is:

Nearly half the jobs in parts of Britain pay less than the living wage, theTUC has said, as it steps up its campaign on Tuesday for workers to earn enough to cover the basic costs of living.

The TUC said a breakdown of official figures showed that on average around 20% of workers are earning less than the living wage – an informal and unenforceable benchmark – but that this rose to almost 50% in some parliamentary constituencies.

Designed to top up the legally-binding national minimum wage, the living wage is set at £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 for the rest of the country. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, says he wants to include the idea as part of Labour’s 2015 manifesto, while David Cameron says he supports a living wage in principle.

The TUC said that in total around 5 million people were being paid less than the living wage, with some of the areas with the greatest concentration of the low paid seen in parts of outer London.

What Osborne doesn’t say

There may have been good reasons, back in 2008-9, to spread the jobs around. Half-a-decade on, what we have is a low-wage, low-productivity economy.

The Financial Times‘s post-budget analysis was scathing:

… by far the biggest cloud hanging over the UK economy remains the productivity crisis.

While output per hour worked used to grow annually by about 2 per cent, it has not expanded at all since 2007. Without this productivity growth, there is no means of raising living standards except in the short term if people spend more than they earn.

The puzzle of why productivity appears to have stopped growing is no closer to being solved and it casts a shadow over Mr Osborne’s Budget. Even in the Autumn Statement last December, which included the economic revival in its forecasts, the picture of the longer-term outlook for the public finances was worse than last March. The deficit would certainly be lower with faster growth, but without productivity improvements, the OBR could not honestly predict the economy would keep expanding at its current pace for the next five years.

So, what exactly does Osborne’s “full employment” amount to?

If it is more of the same — low-paid, low-quality, labour-intensive, poor-productivity jobs — that is promised continued misery for millions. There will also be a short-fall in tax take, which means a squeeze on welfare and services.

It means, too, a weaker Britain, because Britain is no longer making it any more. Our marker of failure is that a quarter of all the containers going out of British ports came in full of goods, and are going out full of air.

Take a bit of historical perspective, from Larry Elliott in The Observer:

Forget Harold Wilson and the jumbo jets that allegedly cost Labour the 1970 election. Forget Nigel Lawson and the import binge of the 1980s. Britain has never seen bigger current account deficits than those it is notching up right now.

Back in the 1960s, a deficit of 1% of national output would have been seen as dangerously high. A 3% deficit would have had investors heading for the exits, prompting a run on sterlingThe shortfalls in the third and fourth quarters of 2013 averaged 5.5% of GDP, we learned last week, and yet the pound is seen as a safe-haven currency.

Which all might explain why I’m looking for hidden meanings in Blish’s Cities in Flight:

There was money aboard the city, but no ordinary citizen ever saw it … It was there to be used exclusively for foreign trade — that is, to bargain for grazing rights, or other privileges and, supplies which the city did not and could not carry within the little universe bounded by its spindizzy field.

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The weather is being driven by hot air currently over the Low Countries


No, not the Great British Obsession with Brussels and all things EU. Just the Evening Standard coming to grips with the killer photo-chemical smog shrouding Londoners:

… the Met Office said there was a pollution warning level ten, the highest on their scale.

A level this high means adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity, according to the Met Office.

People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often, according to their advice.

People are advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.

Things have been grim much of the month, and it’s not yet summer. Nobody in authority seems keen to address the problem. It really is a problem:

It is estimated that fine particles have an impact on mortality equivalent to 4,267 deaths in London in 2008, within a range of 756 to 7,965. A permanent reduction in PM2.5 concentrations of 1μg/m3 would gain 400,000 years of life for the current population (2008) in London and a further 200,000 years for those born during that period, followed for the lifetime of the current population. For the current population, this is equivalent to an average 3 weeks per member of the 2008 population, with the expected gains differing by age. 

A measure of the ambiguous posturing of Mayor Johnson was encapsulated in a prize quotation:

A spokeswoman for the mayor said although the figures were hypothetical, he took the issue “extremely seriously”.

Yeah, BoJo, so “hypothetical” that we have official warnings to stay indoors, avoid exercise which may add to breathing the filth.

2012 measures

The London Olympics were a particular example of how Johnson took the issue “extremely seriously”. £5million was thrown at remedies. These amounted to:

  • planters along the designated route network (i.e. the roads marked up to bring officials to and from the Olympic site);
  • applying sticky to the roads adjacent to monitoring stations, in the hope this would glue down the pollutants.

Another trick was simply to deny that some monitoring stations existed at all. Brent Council has such a station at Neasden Lane, on the heavily-polluted North Circular Road. It regularly records the kind of pollution levels that would get us into trouble and cost with the EU:

Across London, a network of boxes monitor the level of pollution that we breathe in. There are limits on the amount of pollution allowed, which were agreed over a decade ago by our government and all the others in the Europe Union. Many of the boxes around London regularly measure pollution exceeding that amount. The UK should get fined an estimated £300m by the European Commission if any one station measures unsafe pollution levels for more than 35 days in the year. 2011 was one of several years that have landed our Government in the dock, and the Mayor and the Government are [d]oing everything they can to wriggle out of their responsibility for our health.

Since that’s from Jenny Jones, her detractors would sniff (understandable in this climate) and mutter something along MRDA lines.

Note that “if any one station measures unsafe pollution levels“. Ms Jones has that one nailed:

The Government only get away with it, by not telling European Commission that the monitoring stations exists. They claim it doesn’t meet the standards the Commission sets, but the local authority and the experts who run the London air quality network both agree that it does. 

But, wait!

There is a cunning plan! Close the monitoring sites!

The closures could save councils nearly £50m over 10 years, Defra suggests. The proposals only apply to England, and have been rejected by the Scottish government on the grounds that they “would deliver no obvious benefit”.

“The UK government wants to hide air pollution and cares nothing for public health,” said Simon Birkett, director of the campaign group, Clean Air in London…

He added: “Worse, the changes would mean the loss of key protections in the planning system and the very monitors and expertise needed now to improve air quality.”

Prof Duncan Laxen, the managing director of Air Quality Consultants in Bristol, said that much of our understanding of air pollution has come from local authority monitoring: “It will be a retrograde step if the government’s preferred option is to lose this local knowledge.”

Defra insisted that the aim is to “reinvigorate and refocus” local air quality management. It said that the current regime was “diagnosis driven” and that “the level of local reporting can distract resources”.


Let’s follow and adapt Mr Punch:


If you had been planning to visit London, Don’t.

booksAs for the second zinger Mr Punch has there, try Jules Feiffer’s 1959 cartoon story, Boom! — you’ll find it in Passionella and Other Stories. At that time the nuclear powers were popping off tests on a regular basis, to the extent that, as Feiffer imagined, the air was filling with big black floating specks. Official solution: posters declaiming “Big black floating specks are good for you”.

Seems familiar.



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That Murdochian agenda, again

Last week the Sunday Times screamer was all about the usual YouGov poll. Let’s be a trifle less biased and less hysterical, and get it from Anthony Wells:

The full details of YouGov’s weekly Sunday Times poll are now up online here. Topline voting intention figures are CON 36%, LAB 37%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 11%.

That means two polls today, from YouGov and Survation, both show a reduced Labour lead of just one point. As ever when you get a couple of polls indicating a shift straight after an event it’s tempting to conclude the event has had a big impact. Be a bit cautious – the YouGov and Populus polls conducted Wednesday night and Thursday morning didn’t show a narrowing, it’s these two polls conducted from Thursday to Friday that show narrower leads. They aren’t necessarily contradictory (many people in those initial polls wouldn’t have seen the details of the budget or the media reaction yet), but it means the evidence isn’t all one way. Wait a bit to see if this pattern continues into the week.

Well, the general pattern of a reduced Labour lead did persist through the week, and was — but naturally — hailed by the Tory press. The gem — again, but naturally — was the Daily Mail‘s spin:

Labour MPs demanded that Ed Miliband beef up his economic policies last night after his ‘lame’ response to the Budget gave the Tories a poll bounce.

And in further dispiriting news for the Labour chief, a survey revealed that voters think he is the ‘weirdest’ party leader in Britain.

The YouGov poll for BuzzFeed showed that 41 per cent think Mr Miliband is either ‘very weird’ or ‘somewhat weird’, while 34 per cent thinks the same of Nick Clegg and only 27 per cent believe that David Cameron is weird.

If that’s a strange, even weird, bit of polling, stranger still is the quality that was generally omitted from the commentaries: Miliband was seen as the most honest of the three party leaders.

And so to this week’s Sunday Times.

The regular poll is still on the front page, just. It is no longer the main headline. In fact, you have to scroll six paragraph through a very different story (on Labour will take axe to student fees) to find:

Miliband will take comfort from a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times that suggests Labour has beaten off the Conservatives’ post-budget bounce by opening a seven-point lead. The party is backed by 40% of voters, against 33% for the Tories. But another poll, by Opinium, shows a lead of just one point.

Note how the Sunday Times rubbishes its own paid poll, by puffing the Opinium poll in the rival Observer.

And, note too, how ConHome’s Newslinks manages to ignore the hard-Tory-linew Sunday Times (sales: 850,000ish) poll in favour of the liberal-lefty Observer‘s (sales 220,000-dh) Opinium. I cannot think why.

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Everyone remembers their first …

This one started with a Paul Waugh tweet:


The link would take you to a BBC web-site with David Laws doing a interview with school students.

And why not?

To be honest (something Laws wasn’t over his expenses), the teddy-bear’s name question is:

  • a terrific idea for an interview;
  • as good a way to humanise a politician (or any other figure) as comes along.

So, to join the fun, and win brownie points, mine (not just first, but only) was boringly “Teddy”.

The rest is a bit different.

Teddy-bears, new, were not a readily-attainable consumer item as the Second World War moved on after Alamein to complete the conquest of North Africa. I adopted Uncle Derrick’s cast-off.

He was a previously well-loved and well-worn specimen, presumably from a couple of decades earlier. His limbs were loose, so my mother sewed them back on. His paws were even more threadbare than the rest of him, so she made cut-outs from yellow dusters, and sewed those as well.

He was in due course discarded into the toy-box (my grand-father’s old cabin-trunk), and his later whereabouts remain unknown. Three daughters later, he could well be in the attic, in one of the many boxes of soft toys we seem still to be lumbered with.

The cabin trunk lives on

It occupies a corner of the Pert Young Piece’s bedroom, packed with her complete (I believe) collection of annual Harrods’ teddies, plus Ellis (a skinny, gingery, super-hirsute and rather frightening beastie).




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Nazi crap

It started with this:



Mr Hughes hasn’t learned his manners since he:

was Mayor of Royston, Chairman of North Herts District Council and twice a Parliamentary Candidate

In one of those candidacies (the only one I can immediately find), in 2005 for Wentworth constituency, he came second with 17.33% of the poll, just 42% behind Labour.

He is, moreover

a key economic adviser who … will advise newly appointed Ukip economic spokesman Steven Woolfe.

Furthermore, he is a:

like-to-think-he’s-seen-it-all ‘Digital Strategist’ who uses highly targeted eMarketing techniques on Facebook (which let’s face it is still in its infancy in this regard) to target young people.

His LinkedIn profile is interesting. Consider:


Elsewhere you may find that the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner is, and will be until 2016, David Lloyd, elected as a Conservative.

UKIP put up a candidate, Marion Mason, who finished bottom of the poll.

On past experience of Kippers, we shall doubtless hear more of this wunderkind. And that past experience should lead us to expect nothing good.

More Herts crap

Down the road a bit, and in the same local rag, we find this:


It was them fascist plods, wot dun it. Obvious.

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