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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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:

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,
The view from on your knees
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;


  • 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:


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:
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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“Dave, where did it all go wrong?”

Malcolm would welcome the source of the famous George Best anecdote, with that punch-line. Some claim it was from George himself.

But where did David Cameron’s woes begin?

Nick Robinson hasn’t — as far as Malcolm can see — offered his definitive analysis yet [UPDATE: see here]. That cannot be long in coming. His most recent utterance was Europe – That Tory row ‘made simple’, which took the tale back as far as last week. Which cannot be the authoritative version.

James Forsyth, in the Spectator and still pre-occupied exclusively with the Europe thing, went back only to last October:

Shortly before the Conservative party conference last year, the head of the Fresh Start Group of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs went in to see the Prime Minister in Downing Street. The group had heard that David Cameron might make his big Europe speech at the gathering and its head, Andrea Leadsom, wanted to set out what to ask for in any renegotiation.

When Leadsom returned from the meeting, her colleagues were desperate to know what the PM had said: which powers did he most want returned from the EU? What would be the centrepiece of his great diplomatic effort? All Leadsom could do was repeat what Cameron had told her: ‘I don’t like shopping lists.’

This sums up Cameron’s attitude towards this renegotiation: announcing it is enough for the time being. When he eventually did make his big Europe speech in January, it contained nothing as clear as a shopping list. There was lots of hifalutin’ language but painfully little detail.

Of the same parish (and the Speccie is about the best barometer of the local Tory weather), Alex Massie throws  gay-marriage into the argument, and then takes it further:

Gay marriage has cost the party members in (I think) every constituency in Britain. That does not make it a bad policy but it demonstrates, again, that it is better to win the argument than to impose something of this sort upon the party and expect everyone to fall into line because the thought of Prime Minister Miliband is enough to trump all other concerns. There comes a point at which people simply say Sod it, I’ve had enough.

The bigger problem still, however, is that the Tory party increasingly does not look very much like Britain or, especially, England. Worse still, it frequently – and despite all the talk of modernisation – does not seem comfortable with modern England. This is, for sure, in part a feature of the conservative temperament but it does make it harder for the party to recruit new members and harder for it to retain existing members. It is caught in a cleft stick.

The single sex marriage Bill

RoydenOne day, in retrospect, we may untangle why this became so important. At one level, Malcolm wonders if it is not a form of code, a catch-all for a whole series of gripes and grievances (see below).

The Church of England is no longer the Tory Party at prayer (which axiom the Catholic Herald once attributed to an anonymous 18th-century wag; though it seems more likely to be derived from the suffragist and Congregationalist Maude Royden, reported in the Times, 17 July 1917). We live in a secular (even aggressively so) society, where even the remaining Tories of the shires do not seem the most observant of worshippers. Yet this non-issue has become a cause of massive grief to vocal Tories.

It has to be more signifier than substance: a shibboleth to distinguish “us” from “them”. One to watch here is that pillar of the Tory Right, John Redwood. In February he blogged his view:

I have found this a difficult and divisive issue within my constituency and in the Conservative party. I came to it with no preconceptions.

As a modern Conservative I understand the wish to allow people to live their lives as they choose, as long as they do not harm others.  There is a strong impulse to freedom in Conservatism which can pioneer desirable social reform. I suspect the reformers will win the vote today on the grounds that the law should not prevent same sex people marrying if they wish.

I also understand the strrength of feeling of many traditional Conservatives, who say Parliament should not change or reform long established institutions without good reason. They write to me to say they support civil partnership,  but for religious, historical and legal reasons think marriage has to be defined as a relationship between a woman and a man.  They do not write as bigots, though they are often criticised as such. They point out that the Conservative Manifesto of 2010 did not contain a pledge to change the law of marriage. They point out my personal Manifesto did not do so either.

He then voted “no”: the absence of a manifesto commitment being more important than freedom … which can pioneer desirable social reform.

Cameron: a poisonous, slippery individual

Malcolm has serially rehearsed the view of Ian King, published by The Sun (then still in the Labour camp), on the eve of Cameron becoming party leader:

Along with other financial journalists, I was unfortunate enough to have dealings with Cameron during the 1990s when he was PR man for Carlton, the world’s worst television company. And a poisonous, slippery individual he was, too.

Back then, Cameron was far from the smoothie he pretends to be now. He was a smarmy bully who regularly threatened journalists who dared to write anything negative about Carlton -which was nearly all of us. He loved humiliating people, including a colleague at ITV, who he would abuse publicly as “Bunter” just because the poor bloke was a few pounds overweight.

A recent Sun interview with Cameron generously called him a former Carlton “executive”. No, he wasn’t. He was a mouthpiece for that company’s charmless chairman, Michael Green, who operated him the way Keith Harris works Orville.

The financial press had one thing in common with Cameron  — he hated us and we hated him.

If we had any doubts, Cameron insisted on proving King correct: the oft-stolen bicycle (with his papers in the following Lexus),  hug a hoodie, the useless wind-generator on his Notting Hill house, the huskies …

Even then, there were rumblings:

What, many wondered yesterday, did the leader of a major political party hope to gain by dressing up in a duvet and driving a dog sled across the Arctic during the local election campaign? …

[Tory officials] fear Mr Cameron’s snowbound adventure will be seen as a photo-opportunity that will serve only to reinforce the impression that he is a nice chap without any firm policies.

That from the Telegraph, no less.

The Lisbon Treaty kerfuffle

Matters got serious with Cameron’s September, 2007, promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty; and his breaking of that commitment in 2009. Barry Legg, ex-MP, Iain Duncan Smith’s Chief Executive of the Tory Party, was incandescent:

The Tory leader stands condemned by his own words.
David Cameron’s future European policy is now incoherent, disingenuous and utterly unconvincing. This is a dark day for the Tory party, but a worse one for Britain.

That opinion did not stand on just one Legg. As recently as this January, Melissa Kite was regurgitating that, significantly again in the Spectator:

Tory MPs have fallen for David Cameron’s cast-iron pledges to hold a referendum before. So are they right in buying into his latest promise? …

Cameron has form on evolving his cast-iron pledges as he goes along. He promised in opposition to allow the British people a vote on the EU Constitution, then when it morphed into the Lisbon Treaty, and was ratified, he said rather legalistically that this meant a referendum was no longer possible or relevant. Then he promised that there would be no new ceding of powers to Brussels – and once the Coalition was formed that pledge was broken as well.

I hope the initial confidence being shown by eurosceptic Tories about his latest promise proves founded.

A life of grind

And, of course, the feet of clay were again spotted. Cameron, was called to order by his back-benchers, and had to up the ante with the nonsense of the draft bill on a 2017 referendum.

There are umpteen very obvious reasons why that one will fall short:

  • it won’t get support outside the Tory party;
  • it won’t get parliamentary time for the same reason;
  • it attempts to bind a future government;
  • it requires the Tories to win outright a General Election;
  • it needs the co-operation and complicity of the other EU nations (all more than a bit pissed at Cameron’s inadequacies and posturings);

and — perhaps above all —

  • it defies prime ministerial life-expectancy. Let’s assume that all the above “ifs” came to pass; and by Wednesday 1st November 2017 a mythical Prime Minister Cameron was launching his in/out EU referendum campaign. Cameron would, by then, have occupied Number 10 for 7 years, 5 months and 22 days (2732 days in total). That would make him the 15th longest-serving PM of all time, all the way back to Robert Walpole. Longer than Baldwin, nearly as long as Harold Wilson’s two sessions.

Cameron’s juvenile tendency

The starting gate for Malcolm’s ramblings here was Steve Richards in today’s Guardian. The headlines suggest this is quite an “end days” offering:

Cameron had the chance to defy the ‘swivel-eyed loons’ and remake his party. He failed

This week he’s been exposed. There was little thinking on what modern Conservatism might be like. Now he can only busk it

Richards starts with the Tory Party itself:

Relations between the leadership of the party and its activists are more strained and complex than at any point since the removal of Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Focus on the policy trail rather than the Harold Macmillan-like emollient character of the prime minister and Cameron is implementing a radical agenda that should largely delight his activists. He has delivered an economic policy to the right of the Republicans in the US, overhauled the NHS and welfare in a way that Thatcher would not have dared, and offered an in-out referendum on Europe. Yet the so-called loons are not content and want much more.

That is quite provocative. We are back where we started: where did it all go wrong?

Richards argues it isn’t that the Tory grassroots have gone “loon”, or Tea-Party, or are lost in the elephant grass to the far right of the fairway. It’s the inconsistency of the whole programme:

The Tory activists have a case too. They have been subjected to a clunky, unsubtle “modernisation” project in which social liberalism, while sincerely espoused, has been added on to the rightwing programme partly in an attempt to secure broader appeal. There has been little deep thinking from Cameron about what a modern Conservative party might be like, but rather a shallow effort to retain most of the thinking on Europe and the state that lost the Conservatives three successive elections, with the addition of support for gay marriage.

The result is an unsatisfying, insubstantial clash between unreformed dwindling local parties and a leadership that acquired the top positions far too early in their careers with only half-formed ideas about what they wanted to change in relation to their party and the country.

Ooof! There’s one deep in the solar plexus!

Now for some archaeology

For Richards, the cleaving goes back back:

The likes of Cameron and his senior advisers make their tentative moves at the top of a Conservative party that has changed fundamentally. None of Thatcher’s successors has addressed the nature of the change. Famously, she transformed the party from the top, making it much more ideological. Much less reflected on is when it became far more rebellious in spirit. The change from below can be precisely identified, taking place at two key moments in its recent history.

That’s the trouble with ideology: once the bacillus is out of the test-tube, the plague is imminent. Particularly so among Tories, who had no previous exposure to any -logy, and so had no immunities.

Then Richards retraces to two seminal moments:

The first was the activists’ response to the introduction of the poll tax in the late 1980s. Previously ultra-loyal Conservative councillors, the rock on which the party was based, were passionately opposed – and for the first time in their lives vented their anger in public…

The next key event was the Conservative conference in the autumn of 1992, held after the government had been forced to leave the European exchange rate mechanism. The anger aimed at the then prime minister, John Major, in speeches from the platform was unyielding and, crucially, the insurrectionists were starting to enjoy themselves.

That’s quite convincing. It traces a direct life-line from the Bruges Group, through John Major’s “bastards”, to (the wasted talent of) Hague, to the loopy enstoolment of Iain Duncan Smith as Hague’s successor, the “dog-whistle” politics of Michael Howard’s 2005 Campaign (when Lynton Crosby whistled to a dog that wasn’t there), through the growing distaste for Cameron’s PR-style, to the present “loons”.

Richards may be in error in several respects:

  • He omits the anger over Cameron’s double-standards and double-dealing at the time of the expenses scandals. Some Tory MPs went to the wall, while other offenders (Gove, as one example) were exonerated.
  • He misses the further resentment over Leveson, that Cameron turned loose a beast that came back to rend his natural allies in the Press. Clearly, The Daily Telegraph does not easily forget and forgive, even if Murdoch may.
  • He glosses over the NIMBY factions, all steamed up over wind-turbines, HS2, lessened building controls, loss of local authority powers (and revenues). Malcolm suspects all, and more, of that is in the sub-text of resistance to “gay marriage” — someone, something has to be blamed for the diminution of Tory power in the shires.

There’s three ways in which Cameron has offended the Code, betraying the old loyalists, the Press barons, and the “turnip Taliban” (remember them?).

  • And over his assumption about Labour:

They [“the insurrectionists”] have been enjoying themselves ever since while Labour, though with its own deep structural problems, has acquired an iron discipline in public.

And again:

Cameron had an opportunity to remake his restive party and perhaps widen the membership when he won the leadership in 2005, although it would have been a titanic struggle. In terms of daunting context he was much closer at that point to Neil Kinnock, who acquired the Labour leadership 1983 and began a long, painful, arduous journey. Cameron opted for the primrose path instead, declaring that his party must be nice to the poor in Darfur and being photographed on a council estate or with huskies. This did not amount to a significant challenge to activists in the way Kinnock and then Tony Blair updated Labour, partly because on many issues Cameron was at one with his grassroots.

The Stolen Bacillus

Ah! we’re into H.G.Wells at last! We’ve been waiting for this!

Indeed. In the ’70s, in Opposition, Labour took the ideology wholesale. It didn’t infect all-comers. It did inoculate the host, though it took many years for the infection to clear the body. And Labour is not readily going to take the Kool-Aid so soon again.

Now it’s the Tories’ turn. We must observe closely to see if their infection becomes the UKIP pandemic we are promised (Malcolm suspects not).

As H.G. finishes his neat little tale of the bacteriologist and the purloined bacillus:

“You see, that man came to my house to see me, and he is an Anarchist. No – don’t faint, or I cannot possibly tell you the rest. And I wanted to astonish him, not knowing he was an Anarchist, and took up a cultivation of that new species of Bacterium I was telling you of, that infest, and I think cause, the blue patches upon various monkeys; and like a fool, I said it was Asiatic cholera. And he ran away with it to poison the water of London, and he certainly might have made things look blue for this civilized city. And now he has swallowed it. Of course, I cannot say what will happen, but you know it turned that kitten blue, and the three puppies — in patches, and the sparrow — bright blue. But the bother is, I shall have all the trouble and expense of preparing some more.”

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If you prick us, do we not bleed?

“Easy!” says Malcolm. “Shylock to Salarino, Merchant of Venice, Act III, scene 1″. And so it is.

For pricks have been a big topic around these parts of late. The matter had been raised (ahem!) by Ms Treneman of The Times, in connection with James Wharton MP:

His majority was tiny (332) and he had made the news for being linked with a company that sells stone statues of giant penises.

What Malcolm had not fully appreciated was the full story of …

james-and-the-giant-peachJames and the Giant Peach Penis

The full story is courtesy of the Chronicle (Malcolm’s regular read in his first teaching post on Teesside), under the arresting title:

Stockton Tory MP’s bid to get cash for his pal
A NEW Tory MP tried to help a former Conservative colleague who sells giant penis statues get £30,000 in Government aid.

The credited author, Adrian Pearson, continues:

Stockton South MP James Wharton is facing criticism after he wrote to jobs quango One North East asking them to speed up a grant to Trocabart, a company run by his former Conservative party pal Jason Hadlow.

The newly elected MP asked spending chiefs to hand over £30,000 as “a priority” to his mate whose other company Simply Dutch was at the centre of a media storm earlier this year when police seized a four-foot tall sandstone statue of a penis following indecency complaints.

Mr Hadlow, a former chairman of Yarm’s Conservative Association and now an independent councillor, hopes to create dozens of jobs in Teesside by expanding the secondhand goods market. To help his business plans, Mr Hadlow asked One North East for a grant but soon hit a problem after the Conservative party nationally ordered the development agency to freeze business support.

As the cuts began to bite, Mr Wharton contacted One North East in June saying he had met with the firm and wanted to know why it hadn’t been given any cash yet. The MP had campaigned against the need for a jobs agency in the run up to the General Election. When spending chiefs explained to him that they were powerless to act because his own party had ordered a freeze, Mr Wharton took the issue to Parliament and asked written questions to the Department for Business in July to see when the grants would be freed up again.

Let’s get that straight:

  • Our James had campaigned for one policy, and promptly (once elected) reversed his position.
  • He was lobbying against a ConDem policy he had voted for in Parliament.
  • He was doing so out of personal friendship and fellowship.
  • He had the notion that a national policy could be reversed for his political and local ends.

Yes. We’ve got that. Sounds eminently … err … reasonably. Well, subjectively so.

… his former Conservative party pal Jason Hadlow

Malcolm knows when he is hearing a bit more than is said.

Jason Hadlow is a fifty-something (+/-) who was six years the perpetual mayor of that nice little, tight little town of Yarm.

  • In October last year he announced his intention to resign his position.
  • He walked out of a council meeting, and declared that any subsequent business was illegitimate.
  • He had been involved (literally) in a spat with a fellow councillor (an elderly lady, Cllr Marjorie Simpson of the Yarm Independents, whom we shall meet later in this post). Hadlow said she had spat upon him and punched him. Despite his submission, the Police did not proceed with any charges.
  • He had deliberately infringed the parking restrictions, as a way of challenging the regulations (this whole business — Yarm versus Stockton — cost Yarm some £70,ooo in legal costs).

Simply Dutch

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpgThat was the curious name of Mayor Hadlow’s store in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire. Last year he suddenly closed it, sacked his staff, then as suddenly re-opened:

selling unusual furniture, homewares and antiques.

It was, apparently, all the fault of the weather. Simply Dutch seems also to operate via the Internet, with strong lines in replica guns, samurai swords and  “militaria” (as right).

That apart, let’s be honest: what do things “Dutch” imply in the lowest popular mind? Oak furniture (Mayor Hadlow’s version)? Or could it involve 200 hundred coffee shops — which are definitively not the same as cafés — in Amsterdam and their Bond van Cannabis Detaillisten (and there’s a clue)?

On that basis, what was HM Customs to believe when Mayor Hadlow imported a vast fibreglass dinosaur through the port of Hull? Right! They impounded it, and sent for the sniffer dogs, on the possibility that it might have “contents”.

Subsequently Simply Dutch went for the Big Time. A huge sandstone phallus, apparently one of 200 hundred made in Indonesia for which English gardens were in crying need, was put on public display in the shop window. Susceptible passers-by complained. The Police (spoilsports!) confiscated the object. A public order offence was issued: Mayor Hadlow was fined £80. He fomented a “Free Willy” campaign (Geddit?), and involved Janick Gers of heavy-metal rockers Iron Maiden,  a North-Easterner from Hartlepool, whose family home, coincidentally, is in Yarm.

Further back …

The earliest connection Malcolm sees between Hadlow and Wharton is in October 2007:

Following the local elections in May 2007, Yarm Town Council was made up of 9 Conservative councillor and 2 independents. Four months later James Earl resigned. The Local Government Acts 1972 states that once a resignation is received by the appropriate person, it takes effect immediately. Four days later James Earl withdrew his resignation.

The Council Chairman, (then-Conservative Councillor), Jason Hadlow, took the advice of a trainee solicitor, James Wharton, already the prospective Conservative candidate for Stockton South. At the subsequent Council meeting Hadlow first admitted he had read the letter (which made the resignation absolute and legal — that was also the advice of David Bond, the Director of Law and Democracy of Stockton Borough Council), then was advised by our trainee solicitor Wharton that he had not read the letter. So he hadn’t.


It is remarkable, too, how often in Mr Wharton’s estimation Mayor Hadlow makes “an excellent speech”: not only at Yarm Fair (October 2009) but again at the lighting of the Christmas tree (December 2009). Was it the same speech? And then there are those repetitive mentions of Yarm’s excellent Conservative run Town Council and how Jason leads an excellent team of Town and Borough Councillors.

As to how many occasions Wharton spent some time discussing the issues facing Yarm with Town Council Chairman, Jason Hadlow, only Google may tell us.

♥ It must be love ♥

Not all are so taken.

Andrew Calcutt does a blog at newscompositor. He did a little skit on Clockwork Orange (where a giant penis is also a participant):

There was me and my three droogs, that is Dave, Georgie and Dim, and we sat in the Metrovia Milkbar trying to make up our rassodocks what to do about Europe. Dim, also known as Jim Whart, announces he’s up for a bit of the old in-out, in-out referendum on EU membership. Better to resolve the situation, he says. Release the pent-up frustration among grassroots activists so that afterwards we can focus on that which ordinary malchick- and devotchka-voters are worrying about all the time, namely ‘the cost of living’.

When he used that antiquated phrase – viddy well, oh my brothers, ‘the cost of living’ was last spoken of before there were even videos – the bile in me started to rise. I thought I could hear the blissful music of dear old Ludwig Van urging me to visit some actual ultra-violet upon Dim and his ilk; upon all the mad, swivel-eyed loons who populate the party with their outdated, provincial customs and embarrassing clothes.\

I looked across the table at Dim-Jim: still in his twenties and already the first signs of the-comb-over-to-come; veteran of the Officer Training Corps at Durham University where he studied law – making him the conservative conservatives’ conservative.  Why, oh my metrosexual brothers, is the party stuffed with such Dim antediluvians, dinosaurs who would stamp the life out of our ultra-modern, frictionless Westminster Village with their flat feet encased in socks and sandals? Watching his pudgy round face – surely the face of a boy who’s been carrying a briefcase since his first day at secondary school – I thought of the giant, model penis we had nicked from an artist’s house earlier that night, and I couldn’t stop thinking of ramming it right into him.

The latest thing

There is a delicious account, in — of all places — the Daily Star, of Hadlow’s more recent doings. It begins:

A MAYOR has quit after claiming he was assaulted, spat at and punched in town hall bust-ups with other councillors.

Tory Jason Hadlow alleged one of his political rivals turned up drunk for a town council meeting clutching a pint of cider, then chased him and another councillor out of the chamber.

The mayor said he has been sent poison pen letters and last May found posters all over his neighbourhood alleging he ran the town like former Chilean dictator General Pinochet, who tortured and killed political opponents.

Other posters appeared portraying the mayor of Yarm as Pinocchio – the Disney character famous for telling lies.

We are deep into Miss Marple territory here:

Last October Cleveland Police confirmed a man had been cautioned for sending poison pen letters to the mayor.

The notes had been sent to Mr Hadlow’s home, his ex-wife’s house and to Yarm Town Hall. He said he also received abusive fax messages, some calling him a “little shit and liar” and others saying “I hope you die”.

Welcome back an earlier acquaintance:

But the mayor’s rivals on the council claim the only person to turn up worse for wear from drink at meetings was him.

Councillor Marjorie Simpson said: “People who sit near him at meetings know he’s been drinking before he comes. He goes to the Black Bull. I’ve got a 100% attendance record at the council meetings and I’ve never seen the mayor or anyone else being chased out of the town hall.”

Let’s end at our beginning, with the ex-Mayor and his willy:


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The worst of Times

There’s a letter, indeed the featured one, bold type ‘n’ all, in today’s Times.

On-line (though not in print) the correspondence is sub-headed:

The metropolitan liberal elite show contempt for the population of rural England and the democratic choice some of them have made

It is all a response to a piece by David Aaronovitch. As far as Malcolm’s comprehension goes, Aaronovitch was presenting the “modernist” case, particularly in one respect:

Prime Minister’s Questions … had begun with a warning about the almost imminent collapse of A&E services in England and bad unemployment figures across the UK. Yet of the six Conservative MPs who stood to ask questions, no less than five were talking about when to have a referendum on Europe. They might as well have been in Caracas.

But they are all MPs and all honourable men, I thought, so this difference in perception is probably mutual. Where they sit for in Essex, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire or Wiltshire, the EU may indeed be more important than it is to me in London. On questions such as immigration, perhaps my metropolitan attitude seems as peculiar to them as their parochialism does to me.

And it suddenly occurred to me that this difference in perception helps to explain the divided nature of Boris Johnson. When he is being touted (as periodically he is) by right-wing Tories as an acceptable successor to the backsliding Cameron, Boris can appear something of a shire hero. But when he’s actually talking seriously about the future of Britain, he’s a full member of the metropolitan elite.

Yes, Malcolm thinks he has a grasp on that.

So here comes Michael Patterson of Swineshead, Lincs:

Sir, David Aaronovitch seems shocked by the realisation that, outside London and the great cities and university towns, there exists an England that does not buy into the cosy liberal certainties of “an outward-looking, open-minded polity” (“Unshackle London from the backward shires”, Opinion, May 16).

He cites Boston, Lincolnshire, where the immigrant population — virtually all from EU countries — is now about 10 per cent. An unremarkable proportion in a capital city perhaps, but in this traditional market town a change that has come about within ten years, putting enormous pressure on housing, schools, the NHS and policing.

Mr Patterson suggests whom to blame:

[Aaronovitch] is largely right to suggest that these immigrants are filling agricultural jobs that locals are no longer willing to do. He seems to view the latter’s interests as unimportant in comparison with an immigration policy that is bringing about a radical change in the character of British society without the explicit support of the people.

Hold your horse, Mike!

That’s not the whole story, at all, at all.

The essential fault, if there is one, lies with agribusiness, and — at one remove — its unwholesome dependency on the big supermarket chains. Which makes us consumers and our demand for cheap food — at two removes — also culpable.

The economics mean that the whole food-chain relies on the gang-masters. Let’s hat-tip another Tory, worthy in one respect: the MP for Boston and Skegness is Mark Simmonds, Mr Patterson’s elected representative. Simmonds may feel a hunted man with the UKIP surge on his patch; but he deserves respect for his extended campaign to make gang-masters fully responsible.

Lincolnshire immigrants

Malcolm feels a letter to The Times coming on. Like all his other great thoughts, it will likely go unpublished.

He would wish to express sympathy to Lincolnshire folk threatened by alien incursions.

In his North Norfolk youth he recalls similar griefs being expressed.

Even after thirty years in the neighbourhood, one particular social out-cast was regularly denounced as a “furrener” [Sc. “foreigner”]. He was a yeller-belly, an incomer from Lincolnshire, one of the scab-labourers brought in by the local farmers to break the farm-workers’ strike of April 1923.

What goes around, comes around.

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