Time’s wingèd chariot, etc

middlemarch-160lThank you so much, John Rentoul, I really needed this cold drench of mortality:

I was jolted by one a few years back when someone pointed out that the Sex Pistols were closer to the Second World War than the present day. Last year, the same became true of Margaret Thatcher’s election as Prime Minister, the first election in which I could vote (I voted for Sunny Jim Callaghan). And when the Rolling Stones played Glastonbury in 2013, someone pointed out to the young people rushing to see them that it was as if young people in 1964, when the Stones had their first UK hit, had clamoured to see a band that was first big in 1915.

By that token, I was born closer to the publication of Middlemarch than to that of The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

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And a merry New Year to all our reader…

Angry. Now, there’s a word.

It’s a well-endorsed truth that all the things that come closest to us use good Anglisch. Those Norman-French and other imports are only for the poncy stuff. So the root here is angr- and that’s rooted deep in Old Norse and elsewhere.

It’s often a good thing. It get things done. It narrows one’s options, and focuses the mind marvellously on what matters. Anger in others tells us as much of their character as we need to know.

An example?

Despite the gloss the schoolmen try to put on him, Shakespeare’s Henry V is a bastard. Not genetically, but psychologically. Shakespeare keeps giving us hints (and the presentation of Hank Cinq stems directly from twisted Prince Hal). Consider the way Henry plays with the conspirators in Act II, scene ii; his cruel joke on the common soldier, Williams, in the fourth Act; his cynical wooing of Katharine. And this:

I was not angry since I came to France
Until this instant. Take a trumpet, herald;
Ride thou unto the horsemen on yon hill:
If they will fight with us, bid them come down,
Or void the field; they do offend our sight:
If they’ll do neither, we will come to them,
And make them skirr away, as swift as stones
Enforced from the old Assyrian slings:
Besides, we’ll cut the throats of those we have,
And not a man of them that we shall take
Shall taste our mercy. Go and tell them so.

No way can that be delivered with bombast.

So, to my own cold anger

It stems from the coincidence of two horror stories — one of the present, one implied for the future — i9n today’s press.

Here’s the one:

Hospital A&E units recorded their worst ever performance in the week before Christmas as NHS emergency care services struggled to deal with an unprecedented number of patients arriving, new figures released today show. 

What the NHS calls type 1 A&Es, emergency departments based at hospitals in England, treated and either admitted or discharged just 83.1% of arrivals within the politically important four-hour target in the week ending Sunday 21 December. 

The NHS Constitution says that 95% of patients should be dealt with within that four-hour timeframe, a deadline ministers have promised to meet. 

The 83.1% is the lowest performance against the target since records began in 2004. It came in the week that emergency departments faced a new record high number of A&E patients – 289,530.

Here’s the other:



Lay aside the macro-economic Big Issue, the Elephant-in-the-room, or (to deploy the ultimate cliché) David Cameron’s repetitious tripe about his long-term economic plan for hard-working families. Get this, folks: the “plan” extends all the way to Election Day on May 7th — after that you and your family are on their own.

What’s left is what has made Britain tick this last seventy years: Nye’s Health Service, free at the point of need from cradle to grave, and Rab Butler’s flawed-but-visionary education system, which delivered the shift from a predominantly working-class population to the bourgeoisification of suburban Britain.

Both are now being dismembered by the toff-class. As Kevin Maguire (I trust, in anger) declares:



Can the stupid party be this stupid?

The anger that attacks on the NHS and education can generate are just what is needed to motivate Labour grass-roots members to tramp streets, knock on doors, stuff envelopes, work on phone-banks. And the Tories (and their LibDem co-conspirators) are stoking up just that. They do offend our sight And not a man of them… Shall taste our mercy.

That’s a bit of good news, this dull, grey first week of January.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, economy, education, Guardian, health, Kevin Maguire, Labour Party, Tories.

MRDA endures

Mandy Rice-Davies Applies

[This is a much-abbreviated rehash from a long-decayed earlier post.]

MandyAs an acronym. this is ever-useful, implies that someone (especially a politician) is lying to protect their own interests. The expression should be kept in good working order, both to remind us that politicians only lie when their lips move, and to memorialise a good working girl.

Famously (and much regurgitated in the obituaries of the last few days) during the trial of Stephen Ward (who was falsely charged with living off the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Rice-Davies), the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied any involvement with her. Rice-Davies replied, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

Mandy Rice-Davis should remains a legend in her own bed-time for two things:

  • The technicians in at least one television news-studio expected a full drinks-round from any newscaster guilty of the predictable spoonerism: “Randy Mice-Davies”.
  • This bon-mot over the involvement with Lord Astor.

That would be John Jacob Astor, 3rd Viscount Astor of Hever. The present and 4th Viscount Astor is his son, William Waldorf Astor.

No, no! stick with it! It suddenly becomes interesting!

One thing to be guaranteed among Tories (apart from involvement with unsuitable young females — Miss Rice-Davis was all of just eighteen when she became an “acquaintance” of 55-year-old Astor) is serial monogamy.

So the present Lord Astor is not only a Tory in the House of Lords, he is Samantha Cameron’s stepfather.

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Filed under Conservative family values, culture, History, Tories.

Trumpton UKIP strikes again!

Oh, come on! You must admit this is so neat:


Also explains why Richard Desmond and the Express look like committing to the Kippers, but are reluctant to expose their full demographics.

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Filed under Daily Express, UKIP

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:


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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Filed under fiction, Guido Fawkes, politics

Eternal verities

A North Yorkshire mid-winter Sunday: recipe for sanity — Castle Howard and an extended pub lunch.

That’s what we did.


If you must have a country cottage, it helps if you own 20-odd square miles of prime countryside (with other bits around the nation), and can prevail upon that nice Sir John Vanbrugh to run you up something suitable. Your descendants will, of course, have to scrabble around to keep the tourists happy, to sell the simple ware, and pay for the utilities.

They do it well, however. And my main begrudging is that view to the north-west, across the Great Lake, toward the cleft in those eponymous “Howardian Hills”. Today, with a leaden sky, there was a luminous brightness in the far distance — which made it all the more magical.

Then, barely a mile down The Stray, turning east and left to Welburn, we were at the Crown and Cushion for an extended, leisurely, liquid lunch.

Let’s all agree not to tell anybody about this place, huh? It’s just too good to share.


Economic programme:

Had I — perish the thought — any handle on UK economic development, I would locate a couple of my key policy directors.

They would be told they were away on a jolly for the weekend. They would be railed to York, decanted into a limousine and whisked to Welburn (or one of a dozen similar joints scattered across North Yorkshire). After a short stroll in good, clean Yorkshire air, they would be sat down to just such a leisurely lunch.

Replete, and rested — their fair round bellies with good capon, or beef, or pork lined — I would deliver the punch-lines:

  • Here is a small, isolated village. It fosters a fine pub with a loyal clientele. That pub provides employment for — I guess — a dozen or more.
  • Across Britain, two-and-half dozen pubs close every week. Yet here we have one (of many in these parts) that seemingly flourishes, prospers and plays its part in local life.
  • So: how can we replicate that across the rest of the nation?

Somewhere in their erudite answers, I hope, would be acknowledgement of a good kitchen, a good cellar, and a passing mention of 5 Wold Rings Bitter from Driffield.


Seriously missing from the above is a nod to Provenance Inns. Not all PubCos are vast, faceless corporations.

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Filed under pubs, Yorkshire

How far from Earls Court to Trumpton?

One event the wikipedia entry on Earls Court somehow fails to mention happened on Sunday, 16th July 1939. Oswald Mosley harangued some 30,000 black-shirted fascists in what must count as Britain’s biggest indoor political huddle. When Mosley raised his arm to invite the fascist salutes of of adoring legions, a voice called out: “Yes, Oswald, you may leave the room!” — to be promptly set upon by unkindly, booted guardians-of-the-piece.

Whatever delights the horrid old hanger has offered since, for many of a certain age — a bit older than my aged self — that taints the spot. Even my visits to the Great British Beer Festival there didn’t wash away the taste. Then again, I was there for the 2001 Eagles concert; and that was less than uplifting.

So, despite the well-meant furore over Boris Johnson’s stitch-up to redevelop the site, and turn it into another barren waste of Qatari-owned flats, I’ll not greatly miss it. That Art-Deco façade deserved better, just possibly.

It’s all a long, long way and while since the Earl’s Court area was “Kangaroo Valley”, bed-sit land for passing (and soon passed-out) Australasian youths — with fag-shop accommodation ads infamously: “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”, posted alongside assorted fly-blown “models”. At least Boris Johnson’s gift to the developers, and a new Asian ownership may lead to an upgrade in tart cards.

A chilling surprise

Cooking that gross of words, I went looking for a Youtube or similar illustration for Mosley. I was presented instead with this:


Thank you, DuckDuckGo, for that useful reminder of the workings of our surveillance and suspicious society.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones

We do indeed live in a connected world.

Out of Oswald Mosley’s gang sprang several post-war rightist groups, of varying unsavouriness. Similarly Archibald Ramsay’s secret Right Club (the subversive, aristocratic, anti-semitic, pro-fascist “patriotic society” of 1939) never really went away. His Red Book (which turned up, in code, after his death) supposedly itemised his Tory sympathisers.

It doesn’t do to scratch too hard at the MI5/MI6 nexus — types like Peter “Spycatcher” Wright and Chapman Pincher, his fellow-travelling journalist mouthpiece — to realise how weirdos festered in our securocrat demimonde.

Then there was the phenomenon that was Enoch Powell. It is difficult to credit that such a sophisticated intellect was ignorant of the consequences of his “Rivers of Blood” speech (20 April 1968) — equally difficult that it was entirely divorced from the 8 May 1968 gathering of Cecil King and Hugh Cudlipp of IPC (the newspaper operation),  Lord Mountbatten of Burma and Sir Solly Zuckerman, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser. Discussion point: a plot to overthow the elected Labour Government with a self-appointed cabal. Zukerman, to his eternal credit, told the others they were into “treason”, and walked out. Later that year, the Times editorial, written by its editor William Rees-Mogg (father of the even more effete Jacob), pressed for a “coalition” administration, with an agenda not too dissimilar to that of the loony King & co.

Yet, when Ted Heath sacked Powell from the Tory Front Bench, a thousand London dockers and meat-porters marched on Westminster to demand his restoration, and repatriation of “coloured” immigrants.

How far is all that from the UKIP phenomenon?

Well, none too far, should we believe the Daily Mail (which knows something about fascist tendencies):

Channel Four News broadcast comments from teachers at Dulwich College that the teenage Farage was a ‘fascist’ and a ‘racist’ when a pupil at the private London school in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A letter from 1981 claims Mr Farage, now 49, was even heard ‘shouting Hitler Youth songs’. The claims did not prevent him being appointed as a prefect at the school.

The Ukip leader last night played down the significance of the claims, which he said were made by left-wing teachers who disliked his views. He denied singing Nazi songs.

Classic stuff, eh? With additional persecution-mania to boot (left-wing teachers at a fee-paying public school? — see also what’s next).

Then came the Telegraph‘s not-quite-earth-shattering revelations:

Few politicians had dared to praise [Enoch Powell] in public until 2008, when Mr Farage, who at the time had been leader of UK Independence Party for two years, named him as his political hero, saying: “While his language may seem out of date now, the principles remain good and true.”

Mr Farage added: “I would never say that Powell was racist in any way at all. Had we listened to him, we would have much better race relations now than we have got.” Then, in January this year, Mr Farage was read parts of the “Rivers of Blood” speech on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme and said he agreed with the “basic principle” of Mr Powell’s words.

Mr Farage has only ever admitted to two meetings with Powell, who died in 1998. In his autobiography, Fighting Bull, Mr Farage described how on meeting Powell as a teenager at Dulwich College, the MP “dazzled me for once into an awestruck silence”.

We have, by this stage made some direct connections:

The knee-twitch bone connected to the <sigh> bone,
The shoulder bone connected to the raised-arm bone,
The brass-neck bone connected to the brain-dead bone.

Which brings us back to small-town persecution-mania. And Mr David Coburn MEP. Who, is a very interesting MEP, indeed.

Obviously he so thoroughly impressed the UKIP selection team that they overlooked his Bexley background, to see in him an ideal nominee to head their Scottish Euro-parliamentary list (a proud Scotsman too proud to live and vote in Scotland). They overlooked, too, his Leeds University law degree (failed) — Kipper selection panels are very generous in interpreting CVs, as with Mrs Boulter. They overlooked a homophobic gayness about him [single-sex marriage is just for some queen who wants to dress up in a bridal frock and in a big moustache and dance up the aisle to the Village People].

However, Coburn — to the greater delight of all sensate beings — has excelled himself:

A parody Twitter account depicting Ukip’s members as characters in Trumpton, the setting of the 1960s children’s programme of the same name, has been denounced by one of the party’s MEPs. 

David Coburn did not see the funny side of @Trumpton_UKIP, which has fictionalised the small town’s politics since September. 

On the parody account, the town of Trumpton has come up against the influx of migration with a roll-call of firemen “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grudzinski . . . wait! what!???” and opposed CHS2, a high-speed train connecting the town with nearby Chigley, promising “vote #ukip Get Steam Trains!”

Mr Coburn has instructed his followers to report the account to the social media site’s regulators. The MEP has also announced plans to take legal action for a breach of copyright.

“Loser! Loser!”

As of the time of writing Mr Coburn has 9,155 Twitter followers. Trumpton_Ukip has 21 thousand.


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Filed under History, politics, prejudice, Scotland, sleaze., UKIP