The cess-pit bubbles over

Yesterday Murdoch’s überTory scandal sheet, The Sun, was offering inducements: Sun190 That should be considered in parallel with Electoral law: Electoral Commission Doubtless a well-paid corporate lawyer will have established why a “case study” doesn’t soon became a barrister’s brief.

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Filed under Murdoch, politics, sleaze., smut peddlers, Tories.

Great misunderstandings of our time

Courtesy of The New Yorker, I find myself asked:

Is this the dirtiest song of the Sixties?

The legend of the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” has been told almost as many times as the song itself has been covered. (There’s no accurate count for either, but both must number in the thousands.) First released in May of 1963, and then re-released that October, the Kingsmen’s version climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart. The song’s popularity among a new generation of rock-and-roll teen-agers brought it to the attention of some concerned citizens. One of them, the father of a teen-age girl, wrote to Robert Kennedy, who was then the Attorney General, to complain about the song’s possible obscenity, prompting an F.B.I. investigation. “This land of ours is headed for an extreme state of moral degradation,” the incensed parent wrote to Kennedy. (Remember this the next time someone tries reminiscing to you about the good old days before pop music was full of sex and vulgarities.)

Allow me to disgust you:

It must be a contender: The Stone’s C*cksucker Blues is 1970, and so can’t qualify.

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Filed under History, Music, New Yorker

“David Cameron looking like a class-A wanker”

That grating noise, everywhere but Tory News Central (who have other griefs), comes from the grinding of teeth by every reptile who didn’t peek down the back hall of Ede & Ravenscroft, the Oxford branch of the supplier of gowns to the lawyering and academic classes.

For — lo and behold! — there  @NickTMutch and @VERSAoxford found this:

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Yes, that pneumatic chest, all pumped up, belongs to none other than David William Donald Cameron, then an ornament of Brasenose College, Oxford. Now disgracing himself nationally and internationally. Soon, I hope, to have much more time to spend contemplating a misspent past.

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Filed under David Cameron, Tories.

V for victory for a fine journalist

The first rough draft of history

That journalist’s credo has more than a bit of history in itself: for the truly dedicated, it is detailed by wikiquote. My favourite is by George Helgesen Fitch (another decent lefty), and from 1914, in the Lincoln [Nebraska] Daily Star:

A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.

He could be describing the old Irish Times newsroom, up the stairs, just off D’Olier Street, and convenient for the Palace Bar in Fleet Street.

Which brings me to 8th May 1945:

IT 8 May1945

Dramatis personae

Every good story needs an antagonist, against whom the protagonist contends. I’m going to make R.M. “Bertie” Smyllie, for twenty years the editor of the Irish Times, my protagonist hero here. So for the hissable villain of the piece I need a conflation of Joseph Walshe (de Valera’s reliable go-fer at External Affairs), Thomas Coyne (a big-wig in the Department of Justice, licensed to implement wartime censorship) and Michael Knightly (chief press censor).

Walshe was a man on a mission — not just to serve assiduously his political master — to elevate Ireland as the Christian state that would take a very real part in bringing about a cessation of hostilities. The idea was to mobilise the other small European states, and the Vatican in particular. Good stuff, Joe! (provided we overlook that meant cuddling up to Pius XII Pacelli, Salazar’s Portugal and even Franco’s Spain).

Of course, Ireland had a head-start in censorship: The Irish Press was the Fianna Fáil party organ (proprietor: de Valera and family); Radio Éireann was a state monopoly; 1,700 books had been banned in the previous decade; films and newsreels were cut (or totally banned), seemingly at whim; in short order, 200 censors (all hand-culled) were working in Exchequer Street to scrutinise personal mail. Walshe could use all this, and wanted more, to promote his neutralism:

Public opinion must be built up on a neutral basis, a neutral-mindedness must be created. A list of the states which are neutral should be frequently and prominently displayed in the Press. The advantages of being neutral should be stressed. The losses and sufferings of all kinds, including famine and poverty, which come upon countries at was should be expressed.

Walshe’s remit was wide, but he demanded more. His particular bête noire was The Irish Times, which featured strongly in his report to de Valera:

The greatest danger, in my opinion, to our neutrality, and conceivably to our continued existence as a State, is the subtle propaganda of an ascendance clique which will undoubtedly use this occasion to promote their dearest wish which is to bring the British back. When a certain paper says, for instance, that the irishmen who joined the British Army in 1914 were the real Irish patriots and the cream of our people, it is essentially a principle completely opposed to the continued existence of an Irish State. Such views should be ruthlessly suppressed.

[Both Walshe quotes are taken from Brian Girvin, The Emergency, pages 85-6]

Our protagonist

“Bertie” Smyllie had evolved the Irish Times from being the mouthpiece of imperial Dublin Castle into a true, small-l liberal paper of record (to the angst of many Colonel O’Blimps), and one with an international perspective unique in Irish journalism. That had to stop, and Michael Knightly was the man for the task.

Smyllie and Knightly waged a day-by-day, hand-to-hand from September 1939 to the following January. Only then, under threat of infinite suspension, did Smyllie concede. After that all matter had to be pre-submitted to Knightly’s office. Apart from the crackles and pops of BBC transmissions, Ireland had become a one-voice media operation. Already, when the Farmers Federation went on a dairy-products strike, it was kept out of the papers for three days (Dubliners knew the cause: that came down the supply chain very effectively) — and the Offences against the State Act was invoked.

Beware the fury of a patient man, wrote John Dryden. Smyllie’s revenge came at D’Olier Street, late Monday evening, 7th May, 1945. Peter Murtagh tells it like this:

… a framed original of Smyllie’s famous VE Day front page from May 8th, 1945. At the time, the newspaper was subject to government censorship, the blue pencil scoring out any hint of partisanship. But with the censor gone home for the night, Smyllie tore up the approved front page and remade one that included seven small photographs – showing King George, President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, General Eisenhower, and Field Marshals Alexander and Montgomery – arranged in a giant V (for victory) shape across the page.

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Filed under History, Ireland, Irish Times, World War 2

Odd man out

Unlike every pollster, snake-oil salesman, journalist, bean-counter and Uncle Tom Cobbley, I haven’t a clue what transpires after Thursday’s General Election.

I somehow suspect Sinn Féin will cling on in West Belfast, Labour in Liverpool, Walton, and the Tories in Richmond, Yorkshire. I like to think North Down kept Lady Sylvia as their elected Member. Beyond that, all is speculative.

What I do know is that stuff like this is wind-and-piss:

Guidocrap

There are two precedents here.

The first was 1945.

The result then came through during the Potsdam Conference. Attlee, as the new Prime Minister, and his equally-new Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin (not, as generally expected, Hugh Dalton — and there are several stories in that), flew into Berlin prontissimo. Only a handful of senior Cabinet posts had been filled; and Attlee instructed the pro-tem Tory ministers, occupying the lesser posts (including some of Cabinet rank) to stay put, and carry on. It comes as a small shock to find that, as the War in Europe wound down, as the atomic age began, as hostilities continued in the Far East, the Commons did not meet between 15th June and 1st August, 1945.

The British Civil Service, at its best, ensured continuity.

Then, the most recent, 2010

By the dawn of 7th May, 2010, we all knew the Labour Government of Gordon Brown looked unlikely to survive. The BBC finally wrung its withers and declared, at breakfast time, we had a hung parliament.

Then the fun began.

The Cabinet Secretary became the ring-master, and in effect ordered Gordon Brown to stay put. Brown did so until the evening of 11th May, formally went to the Palace, tendered his resignation, and advised the Monarch to send for David Cameron.

That weekend there was a quite-extraordinary, and duplicitous campaign against Brown by the Tory press. Th Cabinet Office had briefed all and sundry on the state-of-play, and why it was a constitutional obligation for Brown to rest in his place. That didn’t quell the shrieks that Brown was a “squatter in Number 10″:

Newton-Dunn

 Can’t Ya Lova Plurabumma

Which,

A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to

another arm of Murdoch’s grasping media- octopus, and today’s Times first leader:

Occupy Downing Street

If Ed Miliband tries to oust David Cameron from No 10 with SNP supportthe public will cry foul. The prime minister is right to warn he will stay put

David Cameron is defying Ed Miliband to book removal vans. That is the logistical significance of Conservative signals at the weekend that Mr Cameron plans to stay in No 10 even if he has no overall majority. The political significance is that he is staking an advance claim on legitimacy, because that is what the post-election battle will be about.

And the only response is any thinking Gofer’s:

‘Up to a point, Lord Copper”

The point being when the parliamentary arithmetic is >323, Cameron (or Ed Miliband) has lost it. However, any party leader able to mobilise those 323 votes is legitimate. But until then. over a long-drawn out political argy-bargy, whether the Tory Press like it or not, public opinion wouldn’t wear it. If Cameron tries to sit it out, all the way to a defeat over a Queen’s Speech at the end of the month, he will discover the painful truth:

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The Genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

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Filed under Britain, Elections, Labour Party, Murdoch, Quotations, Shakespeare, Sinn Fein, Times, Tories.

Lunch at the Bull

Sunday for a family lunch to the Bull at Broughton.

This was not the best day for admiring the glories of North Yorkshire, past Wharfedale, up over the one-time “Long Causeway”, round Skipton, all the way along the A59 to Broughton. Wet mistiness clouded the higher hills, as the ewes munched, and the lambs lay around and wondered.

the-bull-carouselThe pub itself was a delight: that promotional image on a far better day. The general effect is stone: walls and floors. Then there’s an extended version of the usual Sunday pub lunch, and — in my case — roast beef to die for (that cow must have been a singularly contented beast). All washed down with a decent house red.

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And four beers on draught — none had travelled too far. I went, in order, for the Dark Horse (before) and the 1709 (after: the significance is the date claimed for the original pub). One way or another, both these beers can claim to be very local, and not just in flavour — Hetton is as isolated as well-trimmed gets, over 500 feet up the dale, half-way to Grassington, with the Angel Inn its star attraction.  The “W.R.” is a memorial that once the historic West Riding of Yorkshire extended this far. Perhaps we should pause for a moment’s meditation about how the perquisites of bourgeois civilisation have penetrated what were, until the fairly recent past, benighted and bucolic wildernesses. [Irony alert!]

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Back of the Bull’s car-park the land drops down to the small stream, here known as Broughton Beck, which joins the River Aire a couple of miles to the east.

Tespestuousness

Across the beck is the grander pile of Broughton Hall, the seat of the Tempest family since the fifteenth century.

HALL-LARGE

Quite how the Tempests rose to prominence (and then kept it for so long) is one of those wrinkles of English history that deserve probing.

In the beginning there were a couple of useful and profitable marriages. Sir Richard Tempest (his dates are usually given as about 1480 to 1537) nailed an heiress, Rosamund Bowling, and thus came into possession of estates across Craven. It helped that Richard Tempest was on nodding terms with both Tudor Henrys, fulfilling various ceremonial duties and attendance at events such as the Cloth of Gold, and all the time hoovering up any lands going begging. He acquired the reputation of being something of a thug, putting the muscle on various officials (the Tempests were accused of at least nine murders). So he came (with help from his dedicated enemies in the Savile family) to the attention of Henry VIII’s heavy, Thomas Cromwell. When Tempest went to London, presumably to defend himself against the Savile calumnies, he was clapped in the Fleet prison, where he died. Tempest’s younger brother, Nicholas, was implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and was beheaded in 1537.

That left Sir Richard’s son, Thomas Tempest, to pick up the threads. Thomas Tempest had kept the Lincolnshire estates in the family by marrying a cousin. He did his bit for the Tudors in the Scottish wars, but carried on the family strong-arm traditions: he was responsible for the odd murder (the land-agent of the Prioress of Esholt) and occasional assassination (notably, of John Jepson at Wakefield had complained to the Council about Tempest’s brutal ways). Thomas tempest then died childless, and the properties fell to a younger brother, Sir Kohn tempest, who seems to have been as incompetent as his siblings were thuggish, and ended in considerable debt.

After which, subsequent Tempests tended to keep out of the public eye. The dynasty ended with a Richard tempest, who served as a royalist colonel of horse in the Civil War, and was serially captured by the Parliamentarians.

What is of interest in all that is how the Tempests held to their Catholic faith, despite the suspicions thereof, all the way down to the 31st generation who still own the Hall.

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Filed under History, pubs, Yorkshire

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff

There’s something very odd about the present Tory excesses against Ed Miliband.

Promoting him from “useless” (Cameron at PMQs, passim) to the most dangerous species in the known universe, and that in only a few days, isn’t so much a “reversed ferret” as a weasel in fast rotation. The two concepts are so opposite, we are seeing an assault on recent memory, and an experiment in mass-psychology, otherwise found only in Orwellian 1984:

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable what then? 

What I don’t grasp is:

that gruff Australian forcing the Conservatives to adopt foreign — and tackily blunt — policies, a win-at-all-costs strategist who is a short-term blow-in.

To his fans — including some of the country’s most senior Conservatives, from Cameron to Chancellor of the Exchequer ­George Osborne and Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson, touted as the next Tory leader — he is the election messiah who can keep the party on message and on track.

Or:

  • whether senior ministers have gone off-message and into shroud-waving mode, in pursuit of something more, and something even more spine-chilling.

Take an earlier model: Sir David Maxwell Fyfe. This character, as Home Secretary, fancied his chances in the succession to Churchill. Maxwell Fyfe was by no means the worst, most shell-backed Tory of that time. Yet, when presented with a petition from a third of the Commons to reprieve Derek Bentley, he still sent that unhappy young man to the gallows in Wandsworth Prison. The main justification for that appalling act still seems to be Maxwell Fyfe buffing his Laura Norder creds with the Tory right-wing.

So, consider:

Whether the Tories come out of this Election as “largest party” with, or without “largest share of the vote” is immaterial, if — as generally expected — Cameron cannot then form a government.

Two things then happen:

  • Cameron goes, or is pushed;
  • The Tory Party, in and out of Parliament, swings further right.

If Dave is trashed, can his close mate, Gids, be far behind? Thus there is a third likelihood: George Osborne, being seen to have inadequately sugared the pre-Election budget pill, is nominated as co-can-carrier. His aura of smart-arsedness gone, he is no longer a runner in the leadership handicap. Which leaves BoJo and May or A.N.Outsider.

Who might be calculating their chances in a post-Dave set-up? It isn’t just the “Leader of the Opposition” job on offer. It’s a place at the Shadow Cabinet table, and well above the salt as well. Hence it will be necessary to have had “a good war” in 2015 Election terms. Just as Maxwell Fyfe woke up to realise he wasn’t getting Anthony Eden’s post, he settled for Lord Chancellor — but still had to put in the work to impress the selectors.

Does that, possibly, explain why Michael Fallon, normally mild of manner and moderate of tone,  has upped the ante?

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Filed under Conservative family values, David Cameron, George Osborne, History, Times, Tories.