Category Archives: Guido Fawkes

A quick fisking

Two prefatory notes:
1. Each week-day morning I get three emails:

    • The Times is usually first out of the traps with Matt Chorley’s Red Box;
    • Paul Waugh shrewdly chips in with Waugh Zone, the political lead of HuffPo UK;
    • and, trailing the rear, because he has been mulling yet another excruciatingly-brilliant punning headline, comes the New Statesman‘s Stephen Bush.

2. Back in the days of yore, when social media were in their infancy, we took umbrage at the utterances of Robert Fisk. Because we were so much more intelligent than Fisk, we would “fisk” his columns, with counter arguments.

So, this grey Yorkshire morning, I’m fisking Paul Waugh.

REALITY BITES

Way back in 2010, David Cameron made the Liberal Democrats “a big, open and comprehensive offer” to join him in Government. Tomorrow, Theresa May will make what looks to Labour like a small, closed and limited offer to prop her up in power.

Without exception — and for once even the Torygraph is on board — the commentariat do not like the idea.

May’s relaunch speech has been well trailed overnight and includes a line that she will accept “the new reality” of her loss of a Parliamentary majority. But given her lifelong instinct of trusting only a tight-knit team around her, can May reach out to her own party, let alone Labour and others? May rightly wants to build consensus on areas like social care, but just ask Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham how open to cross-party working she has been in the past. On the Today programme, even the impeccably moderate Damian Green underlined the difficulties of any cross-party working, ridiculing Angela Rayner over the cost of wiping out all student debt. No wonder Labour’s Andrew Gwynne dismissed May’s olive branch, saying “they’re having to beg for policy proposals from Labour”.

We are not — heaven forfend! — to see this as a “relaunch”. Such lèse-majesté would deny the glory of Number 10.

The rest of that paragraph amount to a recital of so many current metropolitan political memes. Memes they may be; but they seem copper-bottomed. The jibe about student debt should not be over-looked: all sides are now coming around to recognising what a total disaster, educationally and financially — as well as electorally, the ConDem government inflicted by cranking up student fees and debt to the highest in the developed world. Predictably, the Tories continue, officially, to impale themselves while, behind the arras, scratching around for a way to climb-down.

If the UK were Germany, we might have seen some sort of ‘grand coalition’ in the wake of the snap election, driven by a sense of national mission to deliver a consensual Brexit (I remember Gisela Stuart floating the Tory-Labour coalition idea if the 2015 election had seen a hung Parliament). But we are not Germany and it takes world wars, rather than impending trade wars, to make our opposing parties work together on that level.

The essential differences between English and continental political practices derive from:

  • the shape of the Commons chamber, itself a distant legacy from the choir-stalls of St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster. Once there are two sides, each individual member of the Commons had to decide whether he (and it was always a “he”) was right of the Speaker (the Administration) or left (Opposition). Not for nothing are the two front benches traditionally two swords’ lengths apart.
  • over the centuries, the main supply of parliamentarians has been the Law, they are a contrarian, disputatious and forensic lot. Each argument has to be set against a counter-argument. Remember Swift’s satire of the Little-Endians versus the BigEndians.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s success so far has been built on vigorously opposing the Tories, not working with them. And everyone in Parliament remembers just how badly burned the Lib Dems were by the Tories in coalition, never given credit for the good stuff, blamed for the bad stuff. May will say tomorrow that through cross-party working, “ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward found”. But in fact she’s admitting the reality that just 7 Tory MPs is all it takes to defeat the Government. And critics will say the only true way to get her to make concessions is to threaten rebellion after rebellion.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s success so far“: notice two presumptions there. “Success” in practice amounts to gaining 30 seats when all the indicators were for a possible loss of as many as sixty. However, in all truth, Labour opposition has been remarkably limited: in particular on the #Brexit thing. When 49 Labour MPs voted against the Government to keep the UK in the single market, they were abused and worse by Corbynite supporters.

One person who could more credibly make a genuinely big, bold offer to Labour is David Davis, precisely because he would be trusted by his own side not to sell out on the big principles, while being pragmatic enough on how to deliver them. I’ve said before that DD is the Martin McGuinness of the Brexit movement, capable of compromise without abandoning his supporters’ main strategic goal. And despite errors from key allies like Andrew Mitchell, he looks increasingly like the favourite in any Tory leadership race. Green this morning reiterated David Lidington’s line about “the warm Prosecco problem” of Tory MPs gossiping about the leadership. But Mitchell’s parties feature only the finest Champagne, and DD himself likes a pint of bitter. That’s the kind of cross-class, party consensus that May will need to worry about most.

For little obvious reason — but mainly, one has to suspect, for want of a better — David Davis has emerged as the Tory front-runner for a new leader (and, in the present dispensation, Prime Minister). I cannot help musing the Waugh over-eggs his pudding with the “trusted by his own side”. The ultras on the frothing right of the Tory Party trust no-one but themselves — which is why Theresa May keeps head-bangers and second-raters like Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom as household pets. As of now, Davis’s key strength is keeping in line. Were he to go rogue, he could easily bring down the whole shebang.

One final, dislocated thought:

John Rentoul (another commentator of value) is, but of course, cocking an ironic eye there. Irony on irony: that Paul Staines (by name and by nature) felt moved to protect “the establishment”.

On Saturday I was at the Big Meeting, the Durham Miners’ Gala. The Red Banners flew free. The Red Flag was sung, and — uniquely — the singers knew more than the first verse and chorus.  Tee-shirts proclaimed ¡No pasarán! and La lutte continue! I even heard a scratch band bash out The Internationale. I could have bought books, badges and posters celebrating Lenin, Trotsky, James Connolly.

It was all festive, and slightly tongue-in-cheek. For all the revolutionary ardor, these subversives were set on little more than getting down the next pint.

And yet, according to Guido Fawkes: they had already won! These north-easterners had voted #Brexit. They were successfully challenging the Establishment.

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Filed under Beer, Britain, British Left, Conservative Party policy., democracy, Europe, Guido Fawkes, International Brigade, John Rentoul, Labour Party, leftist politics., Paul Waugh, politics, socialism., Spanish Civil War, Theresa May, Times, Tories., Vince Cable

Cor! S’well!

Most Guido Fawkes rhetorical questions are either malicious or born-between-wind-and-water (we’ll come back to that one). Or both.

Then there’s this:

Carswell

Actually, old chap, that does look very like party colours. Just not the Kipper ones.

So, there are four possibilities here:

  • Carswell is doing the right-and-proper thing. He is offering himself to his constituents, regardless of party affiliation. I’m no fan of things Kipper, but — if one must — Cardwell is about as couth as they come.
  • He, or whoever laid out that sign, has some concept of design. It doesn’t look too bad, which is a step up from most things Clactonesque, Here, on a busy day, is Station Road, Clacton:

Clacton

Red brick and plastic fascias, banks, building societies, charity shops, nick-knackeries, a large branch of Sports Direct, geriatric aids and letting agencies — one of which is now Carswell’s office.

  • Carswell is looking to a near future when he severs links (or is severed) with the Kippers, and is welcomed back into the Tory ranks. His parliamentary activity is that of a TIABuN (Tory is all but name). Independent-minded he may be: parliamentary “independent” he is not.
  • Fawkes, as is usual with that source, is making it up.

Now to more interesting matters

Between wind and water are we born is the epicene version of (not, despite Internet sources) Saint Augustine’s Inter faeces et urinam nascimur. A better author may be St Odo of Cluny — but even that is in doubt, for that attribution depends on Gershon Legman.

A Malcolmian literary aside

The expression appears in a different context. In the days of sailing ships, the area exposed by heeling away from the wind was “between wind and water”. Damage there — in this case from a cannon shot — would not be immediately obvious.

MrMidshipmanHornblowerC.S.Forester uses this device in the (chronologically but not as published) first of his Hornblower stories. Midshipman Hornblower has been given his first command, a brig loaded with Louisianan rice, and told to Take her into any English port you can make.

At first Hornblower is alerted by the lack of water in the bilge. Then the captain of the captured brig:

… seemed to be feeling the motion of the brig under his feet with attention.
“She rides a little heavily, does she not?” he said.
“Perhaps,” said Hornblower. He was not familiar with the Marie Galante, nor with ships at all, and he had no opinion on the subject, but he was not going to reveal his ignorance.
“Does she leak?” asked the captain.
“There is no water in her,” said Hornblower.”
“Ah!” said the captain. “But you would find none in the well. We are carrying a cargo of rice, you must remember.”
“Yes,” said Hornblower.
He found it very hard at that moment to remain outwardly unperturbed, as his mind grasped the implications of what was being said to him. Rice would absorb every drop of water taken in by the ship, so that no leak would be apparent on sounding the well—and yet every drop of water taken in would deprive her of that much buoyancy, all the same.
“One shot from your cursed frigate struck us in the hull,” said the captain. “Of course you have investigated the damage?”
“Of course,” said Hornblower, lying bravely.

Hornblower has himself lowered to find out:

Now he was waist-deep in the water, and when the brig swayed the water closed briefly over his head, like a momentary death. Here it was, two feet below the waterline even with the brig hove to on this tack—a splintered, jagged hole, square rather than round, and a foot across. As the sea boiled round him Hornblower even fancied he could hear it bubbling into the ship, but that might be pure fancy.
He hailed the deck for them to haul him up again, and they stood eagerly listening for what he had to say.
“Two feet below the waterline, sir?” said Matthews. “She was close hauled and heeling right over, of course, when we hit her. But her bows must have lifted just as we fired. And of course she’s lower in the water now.”

A Biblical observation

Notwithstanding 5th-century St Augustine of Hippo and 10th-century St Odo of Cluny, or not (one, ironically, the patron saint of brewers, the other of rain — which suggests together they patronised Watney Mann), the Ob/Gyn truth of the observation must predate either.

When I was sitting, pre-adolescently bored, in the choir-stall of St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea, with only a hymnal and a prayer-book for diversion, I began to realise there was a certain earthly and earthy humour in Joshua bar-Joseph’s utterances.

Try this one, in the light of “wind and water”:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

All that’s missing is the chuckles of the knowing Jews in the audience.

Oh, and one last thing …

In June 2004 the biographer Edmund Morris had a piece in The New Yorker:

Perhaps the best of Reagan’s one-liners came after he attended his last ceremonial dinner, with the Knights of Malta in New York City on January 13, 1989. The evening’s m.c., a prominent lay Catholic, was rendered so emotional by wine that he waved aside protocol and followed the President’s speech with a rather slurry one of his own. It was to the effect that Ronald Reagan, a defender of the rights of the unborn, knew that all human beings begin life as “feces.” The speaker cited Cardinal John O’Connor (sitting aghast nearby) as “a fece” who had gone on to greater things. “You, too, Mr. President—you were once a fece!

En route back to Washington on Air Force One, Reagan twinklingly joined his aides in the main cabin. “Well,” he said, “that’s the first time I’ve flown to New York in formal attire to be told I was a piece of shit.”

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Another gem from the piss-artist

This morning Paul Staines (the best-named by-name-and-by-nature in the political shadows until Roger Bird) excels in one-eyed ignorance:

Fawkes

Ghost_cover_scan_Well, there was a certain previous book (broad clue to the … err … right.

I have an immaculate first-edition on the shelves behind me, should anyone wish to make a substantial offer (though it’ll be cheaper and in bulk at your local Oxfam bookshop).

It was published by Hutchinson in September 2007. Harris is, of course, a featured writer for the Sunday Times (proprietor: Rupert Murdoch). He enjoys what seems a happy working relationship with the BBC, who have serialised his previous work. In 2010 the film version (titled, as the novel, The Ghost Writer outside the UK), directed by Roman Polanski, was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The film came courtesy of 3.5 million DFFF funding from the German Government.

Of course, a film which barely-fictionalises the assassination of a living ex-Prime Minister requires certain warnings and ratings to be attached: Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference.

By comparison the collection of Hilary Mantel short stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, which BBC Radio will put out late at night, to an eclectic audience, finally arrives at the title episode in the last paragraph of the last story. Even then, two hundred and fifty odd pages into a complex text, the act is suggested, rather than detailed:

High heels on the mossy path. Tippy-tap. Toddle on. She’s making efforts, but getting nowhere very fast. The bag on the arm, slung like a shield. The tailored suit just as I have foreseen, the pussy-cat bow, a long loop of pearls, and—a new touch—big goggle glasses. Shading her, no doubt, from the trials of the afternoon. Hand extended, she is moving along the line. Now that we are here at last, there is all the time in the world. The gunman kneels, easing into position. He sees what I see, the glittering helmet of hair. He sees it shine like a gold coin in a gutter, he sees it big as the full moon. On the sill the wasp hovers, suspends itself in still air. One easy wink of the world’s blind eye: “Rejoice,” he says. “Fucking rejoice.”

And that, folks, is what this synthetic fuss is all about.

But then Tories frothing-at-the-mouth rarely need any cause for their froth and self-aggrandisement.

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Snarf! Snarf!

The whole #Clactongate business has been a delight and an amazement this Thursday afternoon.

The vid of Farridge having to play second fiddle to the Main Attraction, the otherwise publicly-unnoted Carswell, was delicious in itself.

Since when, the entertainment value has got better and better. Hence the snarfing.

And then, at the bijou domain of ane Guido Fawkes, I came across this:

Fawkes

Do read that final Update II with great care. Next try to enunciate it, preferably with a rising volume and tone, especially as one reaches the final sentence.

Then experiment, again, with a theatrical Reichsführer-SS Himmler intonation.

Works, huh?

Ordnung muss sein!

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Why the GMB story isn’t what they say it is

This morning you don’t have to look too far across “the usual suspects” (ConHomePaul Staines by-name-and-nature … the Daily Mail) to find general satisfaction that the GMB union is slashing support to the Labour Party.

On the one hand, it is supposed to be the spiteful pay-back for Ed Miliband’s “reforms”. On the other, Paul Kenny sees it as the inevitable recognition of individual membership:

The GMB said its decision to reduce its funding for Labour reflected its estimate of the number of union members who would be willing to affiliate themselves to it individually following Mr Miliband’s change.

At the moment the union automatically affiliates 420,000 of its members to Labour, at £3 each per year,

It estimates about 50,000 of the 650,000 GMB members would actually choose to affiliate with Labour. This figure is derived from the number who took part in the Labour leadership contest in 2010, it said.

That amounts to saying no more than “no double membership”, which is far, far less than the Tory spin on a “Labour financial crisis”. On the contrary, if by some act of collective will all 50,000 committed former affiliates were to sign up for full Party membership, the Labour Party would be well into pocket:

  • 420,000 @ £3 per head per annum = £1,260,000 a year
  • 50,000 @ £3.71 per head per month = £2,226,000 a year.

But, then, reason and logic are not what is expected from “the usual suspects”.

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Any hope of realities here?

Malcolm had forsworn utterances — there are other priorities in his complex existence.

Then came the forked-tongues of the spinners of the English County Council elections.

So, let’s start from the top

We are talking of the shire counties. These are, largely, where the fox is routinely pursued by the unspeakable after the uneatable. They amount to a moderate part of the UK populace. But no cities. Not London. No metropolises at all, at all.

The big news is that, among the hicks and rubes and bumpkins, the weirdos (hereinafter “UKIP”) got one-in-four of a less-than-30% poll. That will be front-page news on Saturday. The Earth is expected to tremble.

Where it mattered, the forces of decency (hereinafter the “Labour Party”) seemed to do quite well. There was a parliamentary by-election, which Labour took at a stroll. Of course, the mainstream rightist media won’t say that, but take away a top-name and drop an odd percentage point, and you might think differently. Anyway, Labour took South Shields with a plurality.

Misrepresentatation

Now there was Paul Staines (by name, by reputation) of Guido Fawkes telling us:

the extent of Labour’s thoroughly underwhelming day becomes clear

This, incidentally, before the final results are in.

This odd presumption had to be reinforced by reference to Mark Pack, the Lib Dem snake-oil salesman. Odd, isn’t it, that Fawkes — who normally has a hot-line from Tory Politburo — has to reach out to Pack?

Pack had taken an incomplete return and quantified it, to “prove” that the Labour vote was down by more than either the LibDems or the Tories. Wonderful things numbers. Here are some more:

Tonight there are:

  • 26% fewer LibDem County Councillors;
  • 23% fewer Tories;
  • 1838% more UKIPpers; and
  • 217% more Labour councillors.

Apparently it would in Tory terms have been a massive disappointment had Labour not gained 300 seats. They didn’t. It was only 291.

Similarly, the prognostication from Labour was that the Tories could lose 200 seats … and hooray! Well, 335 Tory county councillors are now without a seat. Sad, that.

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Fawked tongue

A day or two back, Guido Fawkes — in full self-wetting mode — was ecstatic that:

Hidden in the gilding on the walls of 10 Downing Street, the small, subtle but powerful image of a thatcher climbing the cornicing. A golden legacy…

thatcher-gold

That is lifted from a flickr.com sequence. Three images along, in the same sequence, is another non-Thatcher, non-tribute (these things predated the old bat by some distance in time). A lizard? A salamander?

Lizard

A poem from Oliver Herford:

The Salamander made his bed
Among the glowing embers red.
A Fiery Furnace, to his mind,
Hygiene and Luxury combined.
He was, if I may put it so,
A Saurian Abednigo.
He loved to climb with nimble ease
The branches of the Gas-log Trees
Where oft on chilly winter nights
He rose to dizzy Fahrenheits.
Believers in Soul Transmigration
See in him the Re-incarnation
Of those Sad Plagues of summer, who
Ask, “Is it hot enough for you?”

Hint: the glowing embers red are out-living whatever she wrought.

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