I don’t care if you can unscrew the inscrutable. I just don’t get it with these self-exculpatory ultra-Corbynistas:

Corbyn himself has received death threats, it seems that there are head de balls on both sides most of whom are probably hopping on the wagon just to stir it up.

Err, no.

The incoming nastiness is all from one direction.

There are a whole series of clues:

  • When you recall the various (and overlapping) trot factions (IMG, SLL, International Socialist, London Labour Briefing, Socialist Organiser) that clustered around the weirdos and with which Corbyn and co. were deeply involved, you wonder about motivation.
  • When you remember how those factions combined to take over Islington North, de-select Michael O’Halloran, block Keith Kyle, and enstool Jeremy Corbyn as their surrogate, you are entitled to see the germs of a familiar pattern.
  • When you notice the many, many Socialist Worker banner and placards at Momentum gatherings, you begin to wonder which party is involved.
  • When you’ve had a close associate of Corbyn thrust you to the Council Chamber wall, and tell you, “We’ll fuckin’ get you” (and that was 1982), you despair that we are going through the same intimidation and thuggery.
  • When you hear of foul-mouthed threats screeched down a blocked ‘phone at long-serving party stalwarts, at 2 a.m. in the morning …
  • When an individual is arrested in Paisley (Paisley!) for a death-threat to Angela Eagle, you wonder how such a cretin was inspired and why she/he bothered.
  • When you hear about the serial threats (death, rape) that women MPs have to endure, you marvel at their commitment.
  • When you have decent, not-front-line CLP officers having to change their telephone numbers because of the threat of abuse, you ask, “Why bother any more?”

Let’s get to the bottom-lines:

  1. It should never have started.
  2. It has got to stop.
  3. None too long ago, the Labour Party was a decent, principled place to be.

Heracles’ Fifth Labour: Cleaning the Augean Stables:


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There are times …

… when the excesses of the Murdoch press are so grotesque, they defy imagination.

Today’s very-shady Sun has this, from the Honourable Toby Young [1]:

If the new Prime Minister is serious about taking us out of the EU, we need a Foreign ­Secretary who’s upbeat about Britain’s post-Brexit future, not another doom-monger. [2]

It will be the job of Britain’s 150 ambassadors to sell this new vision of the UK to the rest of the world, so it makes sense they should be led by someone who believes in it. [3]

Boris is a pretty good salesman in his own right. As Mayor of London, his main job was to attract business and investment to our capital — and the transformation of the city’s skyline [4] is testament to how effective he was. If he can do the same for UK PLC, Britain’s depressed northern cities will be lit up like Las Vegas. [5]

[1] Toby Daniel Moorsom Young is the son of Baron Young of Darlington, major contributor to the 1945 Labour Manifesto, and a distinguished sociologist. The Moorsom is for his mother, Sasha, who kept the BBC Third Programme and elsewhere culturally sound, and wrote a couple of decent books herself. As such, the offspring is entitled to be an “Hon”.

This fruit has fallen far, far from the Muswell Hill tree.

[2] Up to a distant point, Lord Copper.

It obviously hasn’t dawned on the Honourable Toby that Theresa May, in her wisdom, has made quite sure BoJo will have little to contribute on #Brexit. Were he even considering so doing, he would collide forcibly with the adamantine David Davis, Secretary of State for #Brexit. That would be an event where it would be would be worth having the popcorn franchise. Essential differences are that Davis does his homework, knows his stuff and is licensed to kill.

[3] Even further from the point, Lord Tinplate.

Theresa May has delegated International Trade to Liam Fox, the one Tory outstanding for being more devious, more self-seeking, more duplicitous, more venomous than BoJo. If Davis leaves a bloody BoJo corpse at the Cabinet table, Fox can be guaranteed to boot it on the way out.

[4] Ah, yes.

Generations yet unborn will hail BoJo for his architectural significance. He did more for the London skyline than the Luftwaffe. His greatest hit [sic] ought to be the car-killing 20 Fenchurch Street, a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie.

[5] Either the Honourable Toby has smuggled an irony past the Sun sub-editors, or this has to be further proof of the man’s excellence in crassness.

The architect of Carbuncle-of-the-Year is Rafael Viñoly. A previous “commission” (read that as you please) was the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas. This was Viñoly‘s previous attempt to build a death-ray. The curved frontage, as at Fenchurch Street, focuses the sun, with the result that sun-bathers can have their hair scorched and their loungers melted.


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A tradition of national ineptitude

The tradition of Lord North (who lost British North America), Neville Chamberlain (who came close to losing the Second World War before it had really got started) and Anthony Eden (who lost out over Suez) is a dishonourable one.

Just when I assume things cannot get worse, Theresa May springs a new foreign calamity on us:


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Taken aback, a long way back

I remember teaching Chaucer and explaining why the Merchant in the General Prologue, lines 278-279, provided a precise dating:

He wold the see were kept for any thyng
Betwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.


The Staple was (and already I’m questioning my use of tense there) a taxation device. All English wool sold across the Channel had to pass through an English trading company: the Merchants of the Staple. In 1363 just 26 English merchants, located in Calais, had the monopoly of all English wool sales. The Staple shifted around, depending on political conditions in the Low Countries. Between 1384 and 1388, it was located in Middleburg on the island of Walcheren. So, that gives us a definitive reference and dating.

Come to think of it, like the Merchant, we are still in the thorny post-#Brexit business of keeping the route open,  for any thing and at any price, between Ipswich (though the port of Harwich is more contemporary) and the Continent.

I had assumed the Staple was something of and for the history (and, in my case, literary history) books. Then, today, at the Great Yorkshire Show I was confronted with:


The Lady in my Life accosted a worthy, and was told, yes, indeed it was a survival. I looked it up:

The Company of Merchants of the Staple is one of the oldest mercantile corporations in England.

It is rare, possibly unique, in being ‘of England‘ and not bounded by any city or municipality. It may trace its ancestry back as far as 1282 or even further. A group of 26 wool merchants apparently first started the Company. The Dukes of Burgundy and Counts of Flanders granted it charters. The Merchants were in Bruges in 1282, Dordrecht in 1285, Antwerp in 1296 and St Omer in 1313. The Company controlled the export of wool to the continent from 1314. The Duke of Flanders awarded a grant to the English Merchants in 1341.

The Company’s commercial significance in the 14-16th centuries was in the control of the export of wool to the continent of Europe through Calais and later Bruges.

Today the Company runs a growing charitable trust with scholarships and projects in the wool, textiles and agricultural sectors, as well as university student travel bursaries.

The Staple company has over 120 Freemen who meet and dine in Yorkshire and London. It is governed by its Court of Assistants; the Mayor serves for one year from the Michaelmas Court meeting in October.

Watching the sheep-shearing demonstration I heard the term “staple” used again, to define the length of the clipped wool. Sure enough, Oxford English Dictionary: staple, n.3:

The fibre of any particular variety or sample of wool (in later use also of cotton, flax, or other material for textile processes) considered with regard to its length and fineness; a particular length and degree of fineness in the fibre of wool, cotton, etc.

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Just a thought:



June 25, 2016 · 11:26 am


51NccgkfMYL._SY445_I passed a Saturday lunch-time TV. It was running Pal Joey.

Couldn’t stop. Busy.

Admission: I’ve never watched it all the way through.

I wanna! I wanna! Gimme! Gimme!

So it’s back to Amazon, huh?

By the way, Rita Hayworth’s non-strip is still one of the most erotic moments in ’50s movies.


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Northern snobbery

From Redfellow Cott to the magnificent Beningborough Hall is half-a-dozen miles, three hundred years of history, and an infinite number of social classes.

BeningboroughAbout 1716, and a fine place to be on a Bank Holiday.

So having wandered the grounds (my Fitbit scored 2.53 miles), observed the munching Aberdeen Anguses (Mac spell-check tried to edit the “g”, thus nearly managing a wrong’un there), and educated the grandsons in the nature of a ha-ha, we were into the accommodation.

What it isn’t, strictly, is a “stately home”. In one of those we might expect the family’s second-best crockery laid out on banqueting tables to impress the yobs. Beningborough has been cleaned out repeatedly, and the furnishings — though adequate — are more about filling space than flaunting hereditary opulence.

The last of the Great Personages to inhabit this glorious monster was Enid Edith Scudamore-Stanhope:

Whose full-length portrait hangs properly over one of those grand fireplaces, which require half-a-tree or the labour of a small pit-village. Lo! Enid Wilson, just into her twenties, and about to be married to a nob/knob twice her age and become Countess of Chesterfield.

By then a widow, she moved into a farm cottage in 1941. The Hall became an Air Force billet for the bomber crews at nearby Linton-on-Ouse, from which it was redeemed by the National Trust. Since Countess Enid, the RAF’s and RCAF’s land-lady, a grand-niece of the Iron Duke, was still in the vicinity, keeping a shrewd eye on the doings, life must have been less-than-easy for the CO of 76 Squadron, deputed as liaison officer and peace-keeper, one Squadron Leader Leonard Cheshire.

Beningborough is now a regular out-house for the National Portrait Gallery. At one level, this means the walls are well-hung with decent oils of various worthies of the eighteenth, and into the nineteenth century. I even hit on a John Singer Sargent. Two items gave me particular pleasure:

At the top of the stairs, on the second floor, as introduction to the peripatetic NPG bit is Henry IX, the Cardinal King of Britain, the last of the Stuarts (and probably as near total sanity as that lot came):

No eight-year-old should be dressed that way; and he’s pointing to the White Cliffs of Dover, where he’ll never get (though George III paid him a pension when the Stuart monies ran out). The importance of the strange dog eludes me.

Then, in the galleries, a breath of modern fresh-air: Tom Wood’s beguiling portrait of a Yorkshire and National hero, Alan Bennett:

Now the viewer needs to explain the impedimenta: the mug, the paper bag, the plug-and-cable, even the glow in the background. Awareness of Bennett’s work solves the mysteries.

Definitely  a day not wasted.

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