Monthly Archives: May 2013

Think of it as evolution in action

Those who read SciFi in the ’80s will know that one.

The rest can wait for illumination.

Yesterday’s Observer had a combative piece by Rory Carroll:

How wealth of Silicon Valley’s tech elite created a world apart

Private shuttles taking workers to and from Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter in San Francisco are becoming symbols for alienation and division as residents struggle with crowded municipal bus services and poor facilities

Its opener is:

Every morning and every evening the fleet glides through the city, hundreds of white buses with tinted windows navigating San Francisco‘s rush hour. From the pavement you can see your reflection in the windows, but you can’t see in. The buses have no markings or logos, no advertised destinations or stops.

It doesn’t matter. Everyone knows what they are. “Transport for a breed apart. For a community that is separate but not equal,” said Diamond Dave Whitaker, a self-professed beat poet and rabble-rouser.

The buses ferry workers to and from Apple, Facebook, Google and other companies in Silicon Valley, an hour’s drive south. They hum with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. They are for the tech elite, and only the tech elite.

This month Whitaker, 75, and a few dozen other activists smashed a model Google bus piñata to pieces. They cheered each blow. The British and US governments may feel the same way, it emerged last week, when politicians in London and Washington accused Google’s Eric Schmidt and Apple’s Tim Cook of dodging corporate taxes.

The internet titans barely flinched. They denied wrongdoing and hit back at what they said were archaic tax codes unfit for the digital era. The defiance startled those unfamiliar with Silicon Valley’s power and confidence.

It did not come as news to San Francisco. The city knows better than anyone that technology companies like having things their way, whether it be taxes, transport or lifestyle. This dominance, critics say, has produced a cossetted caste which lords it over everyone else, a pattern established during the dotcom explosion a decade ago and now repeated amid a roaring boom.

To add a bit of spice we also got the Commentary by Robert B Reich, Bill Clinton’s Labour secretary:

Why should Apple have access to consumers if it refuses to pay its fair share of taxes?

Countries are competing to provide the biggest tax breaks, the cheapest labour and the easiest regulation to attract the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon, to the disadvantage of their own citizens.

Et cetera. Et cetera. As a previous autocrat would say.

It’s like déjà vu all over again

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, Uncle Malcolm had to spend the odd hour or so each way, each day, commuting across north London. Thanks to the Wicked Witch of Finchley, who believed those who travelled by public transport deserved all they got, that one hour could extend to two or three. The only up-side was that the waiting and the delays made ample time for cheap reads.

140One of which was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: Oath of Fealty.

The conceit is Todos Santos, a huge “arcology” adjacent to Los Angeles — and no relation to the small town at the tip of Baja California. Being Niven and Pournelle, the message is a long way from ultra-liberal. What they did here was to extrapolate the decent notions of (the recently-deceased) Paolo Soleri, who aimed to establish communities where architecture and ecology merged. And very nice, too.

In Oath of Fealty, Todos Santos also integrates what was, at the time of publication in 1981, all kinds of technologies (communication, surveillance, monitoring, defence …) which were only just envisaged. It is a bastion of security in a surrounded by dystopia. Its inhabitants sacrifice individuality and independence for a fortress of safety.

The punch-line is that Todos Santos declares itself sovereign, with no ties to the outside community.

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Filed under broken society, History, Observer, reading, United States

I’m out of here!

Malcolm has never, ever, felt the urge to go skiing. In his advanced years he never will.

From time to time he may need to be assured this is a decent position to hold. As soon as an acquaintance turns up with a splint, a plastered limb, or even complaining of a “wrench”, he know he is quite right.

And then, catching up with a back issue of The Spectator, he finds Pippa Middleton (sister of the less-famed Duchess of Cambridge) showing us her Alpine Notebook:

I took comfort in my thermals. On the Haute Route, thermals are your best friends. You wear them day and night, for breakfast, lunch, supper and bed — the tighter, the better. Practicality becomes style. Of course, I spent hours each day debating whether to wear the bodyfit 200 Icebreaker crew or V neck, the Odlo breathable ‘ninja’ long johns or the 100 per cent merino wool onesie with rear flaps.

Oh, for heaven’s sake! 

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Follicly challenged

timthumb.phpYes, Dave.

You are definitely losing it.

Your comb-over may work indoors, as in the Commons Chamber (though even then peevish types like Simon Hoggart note the incredible moving bald spot).

In a Downing Street headwind, the forehead is expanding northwards to meet the space available.

[Source: BBC website]

 

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Dave revisited

Way, way back, when Malcolm’s Home and Away Services were blogspotted, he found himself pre-occupied with the multiplicity of Daves.

twangThat was prompted in part by George Strait’s 2009 album, Twang. Then newly-released it was thoroughly raspberries by Steve Morse, reviewing it for the Boston Globe. Across the Great Divide, Randy Lewis for the LA Times nailed it as:

a pretty nifty summation of what commercial country is, circa 2009.

Note that “commercial”. It is not a compliment, but it makes one wonder what “uncommercial country” must amount. Particularly so when it’s a “big hat”act.

Anyway, Twang includes a song, Arkansas Dave (a folksy old-fashioned C&W morality, credited to Strait’s son):

He rode up on a winter day,
Steam rising off the street, they say.
Said, “You probably know my name:
If you don’t it’s Arkansas Dave.

He talked of fifteen years ago,
And how he got to play hero.
Said he killed a man in Ohio:
First man he killed, first horse he stole.

Marty Robbins did this kind of thing with more style, and more originality, a half century gone.

Johnny Cash could, and did, do it sequentially — starting with Don’t Take Your Guns to Town in 1958. When Strait’s boastful (and totally forgettable — Malcolm wishes he could purge it from his memory) Dave ends up miscalculating the odds, and dead in that same street, we are not prostrate in bestaggerment.

Still, let’s hear the good stuff:
 
Davery

In honour of Diddy Dave Cameron, who hasn’t been having a good few days of late, what other lyrics celebrate the forename of the moment?

11021614438_3-W231His Name is Alive, on the King of Sweet album (not Malcolm’s sort of thing, at all, but if you have one, don’t shout about it: it’s worth the odd bob) did two in a row: Ode on a Dave Asman and A Dave in the Life.

Boomtown Rats achieved something eponymous and a bit better known (Pete Townsend rated it), as the opener for The Long Grass album:

But please,
Believe,
The view from on your knees
Deceives
Keep going, Dave.

That one was deep into the trans-Atlantic deep doodoo. The US executives thought it odd that a man might sing a love song to a “Dave”. It had to be re-recorded and issued as Rain. There is a clip on YouTube, but it’s blocked in the UK.
 
Then we have Caffein(UK punk-rockers, on the road less-taken — unfairly so) doing Dave’s Song (In Slow Motion):

I looked up to the sky, and I saw a figure
It was small with shiny lights;
And out of this, this little blue figure,
With the small shining lights
Stepped a little blue man,
With a little blue figure
And he said to me “Do you believe?”

Some kind of psychological profile is emerging here; and it doesn’t flatter Daves.

Let’s go to the movies …

Dave (1993)On the great Silver Screen (but more at home on off-off-peak sitting-room TV), there was Kevin Kline’s 1993 outing as Dave.

In Malcolm’s view, that was a more than decent movie: light, frothy, with a heart in the proper place. It references two recognisable characters:

  • the scheming, creepy, on-the-make Bob Alexander (played by Frank Langella), the inspiration for subsequent melodramatic villains of the Dubya coyer: Karl Rove and Veep Cheney;

and

  • the decent, honourable Vice-President Nance (a cameo for Ben Kingsley). He takes the name from “Cactus Jack”, FDR’s first Vice-President, John Nance Garner, and his unacceptably-progressive (except in the company of such as President Jed Bartlet) ideology from FDR’s second, Henry Agard Wallace. In historical terms, just as well that FDR’s death precipitated his third pick, Harry Truman, who deservedly gets into everyone’s Top Ten of all time, into the job.

The slogan on which Dave was advertised went:

In a country where anybody can become President, anybody just did.

The US of A allows even a self-confessed “mutt, like me” to reach the highest office in the land, but, as far as Malcolm can recall, the only time a real “David” made it into the White House, he was David Dwight Eisenhowe (and he didn’t make too bad a show of it). In the UK, of course, it helps to see a Dave through if he has royal cousinage, is descended from the mistress of a royal princeling, has a wife with connections to the Astors, and some £20 million of inheritance money.

david-golden-balls-1345794682Why are some Daves unfailingly “David”?

In particular, why was “Golden Balls” always given his full birth name, never abbreviated — or when he was, he became “Becks”?

Even St David of Wales is allowed to be “Davey”, but that’s largely because he is also Dewi Sant. If one is the author of all those psalms, you get your full moniker, and pass it on to all the others. Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim and Daibhidh a Briuis, as the two Kings David of Scotland, are historically dignified without shortening. And if you were sculpted by Bernini, by Donatello, by Michelangelo or by Verrochio, you get the full five-syllables, though one of you spends eternity in the buff.

David, Prince of Wales, got the top job (briefly) and was recycled as “Edward VIII”, before he become “Duke of Windsor”. But he was just one of three Princes of Wales with that forename, along with Dafydd ap Llywelyn and Dafydd ap Gruffydd. Perhaps we should throw David Lloyd George into that mix.

Musicians seem to tend to Dave rather than David: Brubeck; Davies; Edmunds; Matthews, Swarbrick, Van Ronk. Apart from the economist Davids (Hume and Ricardo) Hume and the playwright Mamet, the most obvious literary David was always elided down to D.H.

Still, most peculiar that the demotic never accepted “Dave” for Beckham..

On the box

Nor should we overlook Freeview channel 12. Here we find the BBC’s marketing vehicle for antique video-tape. It’s Dave, tending to laddishness (and named on the principle that “Everybody knows a man called Dave”), the 1998 fifth reboot of a repeats channel. Stephen Fry and TopGear seem never far away from the schedule.

In recent years Dave has  has has spawned a whole litter of siblings, and even got around to the odd original (if dirt cheap) studio shows never knowingly oversold as:

150px-Dave.svg

full of complete and utter wits

Or as:

The home of witty banter

Read those very, very carefully. Any miscue is deliberate.

The posters for Dave, common on the London Underground, are unfailingly striking, and frequently zoological:
 
DAVE-TV_1695774c
 
At least it is switch-offable or channel-hop-able. And isn’t based entirely on prat-falls and mis-speaks of the Cameron kind.

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The end of Swiveleyesation as we know it?

Another magnificent coinage by the great Steve Bell:

Steve Bell 21.05.2013

Yesterday Malcolm was attempting to find some kind of historical context — or, failing that, the comedy of errors — which has led to the present Great Tory Bad-Hair Day.

Today Benedict Brogan writes his Morning Briefing for the Telegraph blogs, and sweepingly assumes it’s all water down the sink. Happy Days are Hair Again. The skies above are clear again. So we’ll sing a song of cheer again:

Well, almost:

Cast your eyes along the waterfront this morning after the night before and you might conclude that things are fairly dire for Dave. He’s suffered another major rebellion (I know, I know it was a free vote, but he still failed to persuade his colleagues to follow his lead), there’s lashings of backbiting, and he’s been reduced to sending a pleading ‘Dear Mr Loon, I still love you’ letter to his members, something even American commentators have picked up on as a bad look. Nick Watt, a keen reader of Tory runes, spots a sea-change in attitudes to Dave among MPs and raises the prospect of a move against him in The Guardian, with more letters going in to Graham Brady. As I mention in my column, grown ups inside No10 realise that they are stuck with a number of what they refer to as ‘legacy issues’, from not winning the 2010 election to the gay marriage idea.

200px-Candide1759The rest of Brogan’s musings stretch for, but don’t quite reach a Panglossian optimum:

Much of what has excited us in recent weeks will have passed the voters by, and after tonight’s vote gay marriage will be on its way to becoming law, and passing out of the current political debate. With the economy slowly improving and Labour wallowing, the Tories surely should be able to claw themselves off the rocks. This will require a fair wind, and a commitment by Mr Cameron and those around him to sharpen up. It also means not surrendering to the bullying disguised as advice from those agitating against Dave, whether it’s David Davis or Lord Ashcroft. The recess starts today, a good opportunity for everyone to calm down and for the PM to have a think about how he organises himself from now on.

[For the record, Voltaire in 1759 is parodying Leibnitz of 1698: not many people know that.]

Legacy issues

Such was the vein into which history-mining Malcolm was driving his shaft with yesterday’s piece. Let us then consider what rich ore Brogan has found:

Gay marriage served as a stark reminder of just how far removed Dave’s world view often seems from his troops. As The Guardian notes, the inter-generational divisions in the Tory party were particularly stark. Sir Gerald Howarth, the former defence minister last year knighted on the PM’s advice, warned in yesterday’s debate of an “aggressive homosexual community” in the country. Edward Leigh lamented that the “outlandish views of the loony left of the 1980s” had become “embedded in high places”.

Really? Really! It’s all those gays? Hardly!

Brogan concludes by passing us and the tar-baby onto Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. Ganesh asserts it’s 2010 and All That:

… the election that should detain David Cameron is the last one. The prime minister’s estrangement from his party has many causes – the inexhaustibly vexed question of Europe, the same-sex marriage bill he takes to Parliament this week – but the rancour really set in with his failure to win in 2010. This original sin led to coalition with the Liberal Democrats, a political miscegenation that turns Tory stomachs, and broke the unspoken covenant that allows a leader to be as autocratic as he likes as long he delivers. Last week, a prime ministerial ally was reported to have disparaged the party’s grassroots as “swivel-eyed loons”. “Arrogant losers” tends to be the rejoinder.

Ganesh then reprises the course of the 2010 Tory election campaign, concluding:

For all the campaign’s haplessness, the Tories ended it with roughly the same poll lead over Labour as they began it. Mr Cameron was still preferred by voters to his party. The campaign was a non-event, as they usually are. The real reason for the Tories’ failure had more to do with the economic insecurity that nagged at voters when shown blueprints for austerity by a party they already mistrusted. That the economy was slithering out of recession at the same time hardened their risk aversion. Fiscal clarity made for bad short-term politics, and yet the blame has somehow gone to other, softer aspects of the Tory offering.

The Conservatives did not fail because they were seen as high-minded metropolitans, but because they were too redolent of the same old Tories. They had changed too little, not too much. The people who should have been vindicated by 2010 were the modernisers. But their chronic passivity, their lordly distaste for a fight, has allowed a misremembered version of that election to become the definitive history. This is undermining Mr Cameron and shaping a future in which only the ideologically orthodox can lead the Tories.

That is indeed the “high-quality journalism” that the FT prudently reminds low-life, thieving types (like Malcolm, shamelessly ripping of those extracts) needs paying for. [Again, for the record, Malcolm happily pays for the print edition, especially at weekends, if only to pre-empt what he knows the Sundays will regurgitate as original thought.]

Two small details (1):

Those televised debates (and Cameron’s foolish participation in televised debates that he flunked) really screwed up the opinion polls. In a different context (to which we may come in a moment), Malcolm was reviewing just how the 2010 polling went. The answer is not very well:

2010 polling

Got that? The main impact of the televised debates was to flatter the LibDem vote by anything between 3% and 6% (which amounts to gross “data artifact“), while under-rating Tory support just slightly, and Labour’s quite significantly. One might feel that Cameron & co. have been blinded by those errors ever since.

Two small details (2):

On their perception of the election result, and of the “reliability” of the LibDems, the Cameron & co. “modernisers” entered their Mephistophelean pact with Clegg & co. — two capitalist combines monopolising the market for their short-term profit. Let’s have another 18th-century great intellect’s view on that:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (see page 111 in this e-text)

An alternative history

Wind back to Friday, 7th May, 2010, with the last of the 649 results coming in (the 650th, a safe Tory seat — Thirsk and Malton, was delayed by the death of a candidate). This is what we saw:

  • Tories: 305 (and bound to be 306);
  • Labour: 258, plus Caroline Lucas, the Green for Brighton Pavilion, and Sylvia Herman, likely to attend infrequently but then vote with Labour (so call it around 260);
  • Lib Dems: 57, plus Naomi Long for Alliance in East Belfast (so 58 at a pinch);
  • DUP: 8;
  • SNP: 6;
  • SDLP, Plaid Cymru: 3 apiece.

The Speaker is neutral, though votes for the government in a tie, and Sinn Féin are non-attenders (so, n=650-6). A cynical calculation is the cash-strapped sand bruised Labour and LibDem contingents aren’t too keen on a quick re-run; but, more to the point, there are at least a score of odds-and-sods turkeys there who can’t afford to vote for Christmas (sayn n=650-26). The most basic “working majority” would be, in practice, well short of the nominal 326 (the calculation above suggests 312 at most)— and Dave’s Tories are within a spit of just that.

So, in the short term, Dave’s Tories could talk the talk, cobble a “confidence and supply” arrangement with even the DUP (306+8=314), and walk the walk through until a second election in the autumn. By which moment Tory coffers, uniquely among the main operators, would be topped up by the grateful and expectant clique of bond-traders and hedge-funders.

A second election, please note, that could have been contrived by losing a vote of confidence on some populist issue (immigration?). A second election, too, in which the Tory economic record would be buffed up by the tail-end of Alistair Darling’s economics (it was only in the autumn of 2010, thanks to Osborne’s austerity, that the UK economy went into flat-lining).

In short, had Cameron done the right thing, the Tory thing, he would now likely be sitting on a secure Tory majority, and figuring his way to calling the next election at his choosing, on his terms, and not on those of the LibDem dictated Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He would also have enjoyed the benefits of a greater patronage for Tory backbench nonentities, not having to service the self-esteem of LibDem nonentities.

All the Tory back-benchers, and the wannabes out in the cold have done that math. The iron has entered their souls.

One last thing

We were looking there at how the polling companies had cocked it up. Enter the new-boy on the block, Survation. Ben Brogan (see above) gave that a nod in passing:
The fightback could just start here. Though from a low base if you believe a new Survation poll in The Guardian. It has the Tories down to 24 pc – just two points above Ukip.

Look closer, and we find The Guardian, doesn’t give Survation more than the time of day.

Andrew Sparrow counters with the YouGov/Sun numbers:

Last night Survation released a poll showing the Tories just two points ahead of Ukip.

Here are the figures.
Labour: 39% (down 1 from YouGov in the Sunday Times)
Conservatives: 31% (up 2)
Ukip: 14% (no change)
Lib Dems: 10% (up 1)
Labour lead: 8 points (down 3)
Government approval: -34 (up 5)

Finally, let’s hear it from Anthony Wells (whose shock-factor is also set to minimum):

Survation have put out a new poll, the topline voting intention figures are CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6). The 22% for UKIP is the first poll to show them breaking the twenty percent mark.
In many ways the high UKIP score here shouldn’t come as a surprise, for methodological reasons Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support so if ICM have them at 18% and ComRes at 19% I would have expected Survation to have them in the low twenties. Striking it may be, but the increase in UKIP support is actually in line with what weve seen elsewhere, just using a method that is kinder to UKIP.
More interesting is the drop in Tory support, down five points on Survation’s poll in April. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday so at least partially after the “swivel eyed loon” story broke (it came out in Saturday’s papers, so broke about 10pm on Friday night). All the usual caveats I apply to any poll showing sharp or unusual results apply. Sure, it might indicate a shift in support, but just as likely its a blip – wait to see if it is reflected in any other polling. As Twyman’s Law of market research says “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”.

As Wells implies, there, swallowing Survation might not produce the glorious summer the Kippers expect. More likely, “up like the rocket, and down like the stick”: UKIP is hardly the best-presented pyrotechnic in the box.

Swiveleyesation may endure yet.

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Filed under Alistair Darling, Autumn, BBC, blogging, Britain, Conservative Party policy., Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, democracy, DUP, economy, Elections, fiction, George Osborne, Green Party, Guardian, History, Homophobia, Literature, policing, polls, Steve Bell, Tories.

Poacher turned game-keeper

The Pert Young Piece flags this one up.

Back in 2008 there was a furore about the police rummaging Damien Green’s parliamentary office.

Green had been arrested on suspicion of “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office” and “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office”. A junior Home Office clerk, Christopher Galley (previously a Tory candidate in local elections), had leaked confidential papers to Green. Galley was later dismissed for “gross professional misconduct”.

David Cameron was reportedly “angry” at the arrests and the search. He published a video of the search on his personal website. The loudest protests came from Dominic Grieve, then shadow Home Secretary:

“These pictures document a dark day for democracy. They show Officers from the Metropolitan police searching the office of Damian Green – an MP who was guilty only of doing his job.

“MPs are not above the law. But they must be allowed to bring the Government to account and to put into the public domain information which may be uncomfortable for Ministers.”

Time moves on …

… to this Sunday:

Police have searched the Commons office of MP Nigel Evans in relation to a “serious arrestable offence”.

The search, which took place on Sunday, was conducted after a warrant was approved by Preston Crown Court.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said he had considered the warrant personally and taken advice from the attorney general before allowing the search.

Mr Evans was arrested this month in relation to allegations of sexual assault. He denies the allegations.

These “allegations” seem to date from way back. However, the Speaker made a statement at the start of Monday’s business:

Mr Bercow said he had consulted the attorney general and the solicitor general before granting the police’s request and had also sought the advice of the Clerk of the House, who advises the Speaker on procedure and parliamentary privilege.

In a statement at the start of parliamentary business, Mr Bercow said he had been advised “there were no lawful grounds on which it would be proper to refuse its execution”.

He told MPs that the “precincts of Parliament are not a haven from the law”.

The highlighting there reminds us who the attorney-general has been since May 2010: Dominic Grieve QC MP.

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Civilized men are more discourteous than savages …

The Tower of the Elephant… because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

Once upon a time, when the world was youngMalcolm worked out how to write audience-pleasers.

His audience then were the academics, the teachers, the lecturers and the professors who would opine on his laboured thoughts, and respond with a simple — usually disappointing — grade and a cryptic — usually demoralising — comment.

The strategy Malcolm evolved (and he boasts it was self-devised and taught by nobody) amounted to:

  • having an eye-opener opener, which could be reprised in the closing sentence or two;
  • 51ZoZ+EXWwL._SY445_which opener would employ a knowing literary animadversion (though Robert E. Howard’s pulp fiction, or Robert A. Heinlein, both as above, would neither be a good choice, at least for that audience);
  • a use of well-chosen, precise and extended vocabulary, though not so much to be pretentious;
  • marshalling expression as tri-partite Ciceronian expressions;
  • deliberately opposing constructions, by use of colons, by antitheses and by jarring shifts of style.

That’ll do for the time being.

Some of those techniques may persist in his writing to his present senility.

James Kirkup, with his politics blog for the Telegraph, is up to similar tricks.

He starts one effort today:

Gay marriage and David Cameron: what he could learn from Conan the Barbarian

There’s a scene from the first season of the West Wing when Josh Lyman tells President Bartlet: “We talk about enemies more than we used to.

It’s either touching or cloying, depending on your perspective, but either way, it touches on an essential truth of politics: to govern is to make enemies. For better or for worse, the exercise of power is almost always a zero-sum game. Every choice you make will make someone happy and someone else unhappy.

Any friend of Josh is invited to be a friend of Malcolm.

The rest of Kirkup’s neat little essay has some nice throw-aways:

… Gordon Brown, a man who could write several books about political feuds and political enemies. Mr Brown’s view of political dissent was formed in the unforgiving world of Scottish Labour, whose culture was once described as “Dog eat dog, and vice versa.” Despite the odd appeal to the punters, the Brown approach to enemies was built on machine politics and sheer aggression, a willingness to demolish utterly those who stood in his way.

Sometimes, to speak to Team Brown was to be put in mind of a line from Conan the Barbarian, when Conan is asked: “What is good in life?”

He replies:

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Kirkup, a bit naughtily Malcolm feels, is citing the film there, not the text.

Is that admiration or criticism, young James?

Let us trip lightly over Kirkup on the (ambiguous?) motives of Tim Loughton and his civil-partnership amendment. In the context, clearly Kirkup sees a malevolence here.

Instead let us relish Kirkup’s closure:

Anyone in power for any time will find themselves, like Josh, talking about enemies. Mr Cameron and his friends need to do more than talk. They need to think of something to do about those enemies, and soon.

Hug them close. Bribe them. Charm them. Go over their heads. Kill them all and plough their fields with salt. What’s the best choice? It’s not clear. But one thing is clear: ignoring your enemies won’t make them go away.

220px-Scaramouche_book_coverIn any political generation there may be just the singular political spadassinicide [woo ! woo! Sabatini gets a look in! Change of genre, Malcolm!]. One who could be wholly ruthless, as alien as a Martian … as real as taxes but he was a race of one [which gets back to the Heinlein: sneaky, huh? And you were expecting Conan].

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