Wednesday, 30 November 2016
I genuinely don’t get all the column inches devoted to the slip-up/deliberate revelation that the government’s position on Brexit can be summed up as, ‘have cake and eat it’. After all, notwithstanding the metaphysical fallacy of possessing something which no longer exists, isn’t having all the cake the default starting position for all negotiations? Going in to Brussels armed with the feeble demand that we only want a few crumbs is a stance more suited to the Jeremy Corbyns of the world than to any rational Anglophile.
But the media, perhaps sensing their days of credibility are numbered, are grasping at straws to attract business to their increasingly ad-encumbered web pages, where clients linger for a few seconds before being driven away by the incessant barrage of pop-ups, auto-start video and animations, none of which bring anything resembling ‘enhancement’ to the experience. Even Radio 4’s PM programme had a discussion about ‘Schrödinger’s Brexit’; something which could both exist and not exist until somebody looked at it, when it would then be in only one state of being.
While most of those who voted to leave are quietly getting on with business, or better yet, planning for the opportunities which Brexit will bring and thus preparing themselves to both possess and devour all the cake coming their way, the clamour of naysayers shows no sign of abating. The Schrödinger comparison was actually quite apt in that the world is divided into three camps; those who are intrigued by the whole cat-in-a-box conundrum and will lie awake at night worrying about it, those who know that, alive or dead, the cat isn’t the issue and those who are blissfully unaware that anybody is worrying about a fictional bloody cat.
Asking for predictions about Brexit, complaining that the starting point is wanting everything and all the time talking down our prospects sounds just like petulant teens claiming their parents are ‘ruining their lives’, then locking themselves in their bedrooms and proceeding to stew themselves into a frenzy of loathing, thus bringing albeit temporary ruin to their lives. Brexit will be what we make it and repeatedly shouting that the UK cannot survive ‘on its own’ is hardly helping towards the positive outcomes that, surely, help everybody.
Try telling a child you can't have your cake and eat it.
You hear talk of children ‘divorcing’ their parents; I wish this lot would get on with it. But hey, in the meantime you can amuse yourself by getting in a lather about potentially racist money. The new UK £5-note contains traces of animal and is thus untouchable by vegans and some minority religious sects who haven’t yet worked out that, A) God doesn’t exist and B) If he did, he wouldn’t be worth worshipping if he cared about you coming into contact with what he’d created. All of which goes to prove that even if you did manage to both have your cake and eat it, some people would still never be happy.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016
You are entering a world of pain. A dark forest in which Little Red Riding Hood is swallowed whole by the wolf and instantly dies, to be slowly digested along with grandma as the wolf sleeps off his repast. There is no woodcutter, there is no happy ending. Nature gets its way and they stay dead forever. Is that what you want? Is it? Is it? Well then if you want the happy ending you have to listen up and do what you are told, else it’s the dark, dark woods of truth for you!
It’s only a story, but the swirling mists of disinformation thrive on the primal desire for happy endings and the fear of being thought a bad person. Any deviation from the narrowly defined path is met with stern stares and dirty labels; descriptions such as psychopath and misfit are anathema to a race comprised of individuals who, above anything, want to fit in. So a long litany of epithets exists whose sole purpose is to mark out an individual as a dangerously different from the supposedly settled will of the masses.
Being berated as a racist is losing ground though, as ever more tiny transgressions against approved thought are called out as racist. Wanting to live among people like yourself has been denounced once too often as evidence of ‘far-right’ allegiances when in fact it is nothing more than wanting to feel comfortable and safe. The increasingly desperate lies that organisations like Tell Mama promulgate are beginning to look unhinged; those who cry wolf without a thought are themselves becoming marginalised and irrelevant.
The campaign to leave the EU was never waged by a government in waiting. The referendum wasn’t an election and the suggestion that what we paid to the EU for no net return could be spent here at home on one of the institutions held most dear by the lefties and remainers was only ever that, a suggestion an idea, a possibility. And a clever one at that, in the scheme of things, as it focused attention on how our hard-won public finances were spent. It was a story to appeal to a target audience and it may have done the trick.
Attempts to now call ‘broken promise’ when the promise was in nobody’s gift is disingenuous at best, downright dishonest in reality. But if you honestly thought you were saving the NHS by voting out and now completely regret that decision then frankly you ought not to be voting at all. This is just another fairy tale the remainers cling to, that out-voters didn’t know what they were voting for, while, presumably, in-voters were marvellously well-informed and competent to exercise their ballot.
Among the other lies – and there are many - confected by the losers is the idea that the right is rising. But there is no real organised right as such; the only organised politics is leftist in origin and using terms like ‘far-right’ and ‘extreme-right’ is just driving the wedge deeper between politics and people. All that’s really happening is that the ‘man in the street’ tired of being ignored is saying okay, you’ve had your fun but the world cannot function on advisers and focus groups and studies and experts in things nobody needs to understand. We need machines and tools and food and stuff grounded in reality and all of that requires real work not fancy words.
But still the war of words continues as the increasingly fake news site, The Guardian, does its bit by helping to create the story rather than just telling it. In a preposterous piece of naked propaganda it spins the yarn that in the aftermath of Saint Jo Cox’s death 50,000 tweets ‘celebrated’ her death. Notwithstanding the fact that this number pales into insignificance against the numbers who burned effigies in the streets on Margaret Thatcher’s demise or wish death on Tories on a daily basis, the story is based not on rejoicing in her death but rather refuting the canonisation of a politician not in tune with her party’s core supporters.
"What a big tongue you have, Grand-mama!"
"All the better to lie to you with..."
And never knowingly out band-wagonned, Sunny Hundal leaps aboard the Jo Cox Express to denounce the new Ukip leader as soon as his win is announced with his claim that Paul Nuttall is metaphorically marching death squads to the doors of other Labour incumbents. The hyperbole is almost deafening as the story-tellers of the mesmerised try to maintain their hold on their listeners, while increasingly losing their grip on reality. But it's time to let reality back in. The big, bad wolf won... get over it.
Sunday, 27 November 2016
It’s a strange old world, isn’t it? Man is undoubtedly a pack animal and as such we are always happy to have a set of rules to follow. Rules mean we don’t have to think for ourselves and generally speaking, the majority of humans who have ever lived have done so without needing to synthesize an original thought. The sun comes up; it goes down. It gets warm in summer and cold in winter and the crops respond; learn to make hay while the sun shines and you have the basis of survival despite the tyranny of nature.
Once you get rules you get religion, with a bunch of men dressing funny, saying that god told them to and by the way, here are some more rules. And he said he wanted Keith here to be in charge. Now, call me cynical, but how come nobody called Keith out on his literally ridiculous new dress, his insistence that god wanted us to multiply and go forth and - much as he’d love to help with the graft - toil harder in the fields so Keith didn’t have to? Religion has tyrannised mankind for millennia and devised ever more structures, strictures and controls in the process; the divine right of kings, good ones or bad, is sanctioned by such irrational beliefs.
And we’ve lapped it up. It seems we are never so happy as when we are under some kind of tyrannical regime, doing as we are told – and here’s the best bit – actually punishing each other for falling out of line. The age of religion may be waning, at least in the civilised world, but the need to be bullied into conformity – even the kind of youthful conformity that tries to look different by all dressing and thinking the same – endures, deep in our instincts. Here, in the age of global politics, with the promise of a level of scrutiny over the internet which challenges even the omnipotence of former gods, we still seek the tyranny of thought.
However, when we try to exercise our rights to abide by the common consensus it seems that might is no longer right. The high priests of the new religions, born of post-religious political thought, will not relinquish their hold on us without a fight. And in the new language, straight from the literal word of Marx (peas be upon him) what was once worshipped as democracy becomes, in the words of John Major, the tyranny of the masses. The epithet, 'post-truth', is apt. Up is down, left is right and right is wrong... if those in charge say so.
Castro. G... T... ex.
It is fitting then, that yesterday, post-truth met its apotheosis - its elevation to divine status – as the world acknowledged the death of a man who has been a tyrant to his people for over fifty years, yet lived as a shining beacon of social justice for millions of devoted followers who would never have to bear his wrath. It is interesting to see which world leaders praised Castro, as one of the last bastions of communism began its inevitable descent into destruction. Tyranny of the masses, Mr Major? It looks more like the clear vision of the forgotten. Democracy may yet have its day.
Saturday, 26 November 2016
The watchword of these days is ‘uncertainty’, as if the absolute certainty of all those dire economic forecasts that were to befall the post-referendum nation had been realised and now the only thing that can save us is to believe the same doom-mongers and overturn the will of the people. In the seventies they warned about global cooling. By the nineties it had become global warming and now it is referred to as climate change. Why not call it what it is – climate uncertainty, because it’s uncertainty that is the real evil here?
But that is a bogus claim, as uncertainty is the normal state of affairs in human society, so it is a clever trick that has been performed, to demonise that normal state, blame it for everything and then imply that somehow threatening to ignore the outcome of a vote will restore us to certainty. In fact, people already voted for more certainty; they want the certainty of their wages not being undercut by outsiders with no stake in Britain. They want the certainty that criminals will be deterred from their actions. Most of all, they want the certainty that when the government seeks a mandate and gets it, the government will act on it.
There are few real certainties, other than death and taxes... and Tony Blair seeking a return to public life. But there is one cast iron certainty - to paraphrase the pledge that put us in our current state of turmoil – and that is, whatever happens whatever it costs, somebody, somewhere will be making money from it. Financial gurus, stoking the fears and making the markets, rent-seeking, professional ‘advisors’ attaining positions of influence and altering the circumstances of many without ever having to atone for their mistakes. And of course, the legal profession.
In Dickens’ Bleak House, the law firm Jarndyce and Jarndyce which is, ‘of course’, acting only in the best interest of their clients, emerge the only winners, having spent the entirety of a considerable fortune to pay their fees and thus solved the knotty problem of how that fortune was to be distributed. Recourse to law has been the refuge of both victims and their villains throughout social history and its verdicts have been the source of much anger and frustration. So it is unusual to see the passing of lawyers as the reason for national morning.
But, on one recent occasion there was an enormous turnout to witness the laying to rest of not one, but two prominent local legal eagles. The funeral procession included two horse-drawn hearses behind which walked a man leading a large Rottweiler. A few paces behind, several hundred more people followed the man and his dog. Curious, I approached the man and asked what was going on. “The first hearse carries my ex-wife's lawyer," he said. "My dog bit him and he died two days later. The second hearse is for the lawyer who opposed me in some business litigation. My dog bit him and he also died.”
I pondered for a moment what he had told me and walked a few paces alongside the pair. Like many of us, I have harboured my share of animus with the legal profession. I asked him, with a wry smile as I did, “Could I borrow your dog?” He barely glanced up, but I could see a ghost of a smile on his lips. “Of course, you can. That’s fine by me” he said, and gestured at the procession behind, “but you're going to have to wait your turn, like all the others.”
Thursday, 24 November 2016
Why do we put ourselves through the annual – recently bi-annual - ordeal of suspending our natural inclination to pragmatism for a day in which everybody has to pretend to believe in A) what the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, or B) the opposite of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer says? The big guns of the Office for Budget Responsibility is wheeled in to present grandiose projections of what might happen in the future, always supposing the world doesn’t end tomorrow, after which everybody gets up and A) agrees with the OBR’s projections, or B) flatly refutes the OBRs outrageous assumptions.
The economy, one might paraphrase, is an ass. It is an ass, donkey-wise, in that it is driven by simple desires and it is an ass, sphincter-wise, in that it has the propensity to shit on anybody at any time, unless you have taken the wise precaution to stock up on economic Imodium®. Of course the notion of saving for a rainy day has taken many knocks of late given the ultra-low interest rates and the dangerously uncertain nature of investment in shares, whose value is determined not by reality but by perception.
For a start, there is the sheer generalisation of all the forecasts, assuming that everybody will behave in the same way and not seek to act independently of groupthink. Actually, that’s not so bad an assumption - proportion of people who do actually manage to go off-grid is vanishingly small. But you don’t need to decouple from the economy altogether in order to exert some control over it. There is talk of falling consumer demand; surely a large part of that is down to simple caution. The numbers don’t need to be very large for the cumulative effect to be noticeable.
If every family – say 30 million households – spends £2 a week less, (less than a stupidly-named coffee in Starbucks) that’s £100 per year and thus, at a stroke, £3billion fewer pounds-Sterling per year circulating in the economy. And if an outcome is that Starbucks branches close down, consumers have lost nothing but the spurious notion of choice. Oh, but wait, they have exercised choice in quitting the daft habit of queuing with hipsters to collect an overpriced cup of brown liquid to then wander the streets with. (I never did understand the attraction of portable coffee as a status-signalling fashion accessory.)
But, you object, what of the employees of those now empty cafes? Well, tough, but it may just have the knock-on effect of making those now ex-employees seek more fruitful and useful employment. It might cause more parents to encourage more kids to work harder at more useful subjects than ‘Being Everybody’s Soulmate Studies’ and in a few years Chancellor Hammond’s longed-for increased productivity might actually come about. As gently as you might want to be with others it is my experience that a kick up the arse is often a far better way of focusing the productive mind than groups hugs and clearing-the-air meetings; everyone’s input is not of equal value.
How the budget works...
Of course, everything bad is blamed on Brexit and everything good is just – phew – lucky happenstance. In reality the budget is never either good or bad, it is a simple fucking about with numbers, a political prestidigitation to make believe that somebody, somewhere has their hairy mitts on the levers of economic power. If the media gloom over ‘the cost of Brexit’ manages to achieve one thing – the big kick up the arse that persuades more people to take responsibility for their own budgets, rather than imagining government can do it for them – it will have been worth every penny.
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
The biggest problem in trying to explain what is happening to the west right now is the sheer number of commentators trying to explain what is happening to the west right now. Yesterday I linked to this piece by Paul Mason in The Guardian. Reading it again I am struck by the way he seems to happily contradict himself, and tie his argument up in knots, determined to try and make ‘the facts’ fit his novel thesis that Brexit is a result of a fear of freedom and not the forty-year-long desire to attain that self-same thing. But as all good Orwellians know, freedom is slavery in the same way that ignorance is strength.
I blame psychology, sociology and all the other second-rank ‘ologies masquerading as science and practising the art of making something simple into something complicated. Add enough questionable theory into the process and you can make a career out of it. An ant colony is complex, but its constituent parts are pretty simple. I grant you a human is more complicated than an ant, though in all fairness, not a lot. But we are suckers for flattery, so tell a mob of simple shaved apes that they are marvellously sophisticated and you can lead them quite a long way up the garden path for a pat on their bony skulls.
Leaders have, of course, been exploiting what we now refer to as psychology for ever. Inspire loyalty, fear, loathing and common purpose in the mob and they will roll over to have their tummies tickled. Trump knows this and can appeal to the normal human instincts for self-preservation and unity and a defence of the values that bind ordinary Americans, despite himself having travelled a long way from ordinary. This is why the left-leaning intelligentsia both despise him so much and despair at his popularity. Why, with their superior, big caring brains, were they not able to persuade people against?
See, the trouble with psychology is it works both ways. While you were busy studying away inventing subtle explanations for simple things, we simple things were just getting on with it. After all, somebody has to keep the vending machines filled, put goods on the shelves, move money around and manufacture all that stuff we seem unable to do without. Every now and then we looked up and scratched our heads and wondered what on earth you lot were thinking, but we always imagined, or hoped, you’d grow out of it and come and join us in building a decent society.
But no, the ‘ologies are a rich seam to mine and as you dug deeper into the psychological bedrock you uncovered the fools’ gold of ever more nuanced reasons to feel grievance and hurt. Whatever ails you, you had a reason for it; you’re in the wrong body, the patriarchy is keeping you down, glass ceilings, self-esteem... daddy issues. The worst thing was to invert the simple truth that in most cases what you make of your life is up to you and instead you managed to seduce yourselves into believing your own codswallop, that everything is somebody else’s fault. And that only your acolytes were clever enough to see it.
The left: comfortably numb, uncomfortably dumb
If your investigations had been confined to the merely academic, the findings laid out in dusty, infrequently consulted tomes in library archives then fair enough. Like phrenology, your studies would have been interesting and amusing relics of a bygone, Freudian age. But you managed to persuade the gullible that your complex version of humanity, contrary to your own advocacy of egalitarianism, was superior to the reality of the masses. You succumbed to ‘the precious’ of your own devising. The funniest thing is that as you now reap what you sowed – the disdain of those you disdained – your imagined massive intellects are none the wiser as to how we got here. I think a whole lot of us are going to enjoy Trump’s presidency.
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
Goebbels is widely credited as the master propagandist and often quoted as saying: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The Remain campaigners have taken this advice to heart and far from quietly accepting the referendum result are on an effulgent second wind. And they are everywhere, swamping the media and drowning out any message with which Leavers dare to respond. Watch the news, listen to talk radio, read the newspapers and with very few small islands of optimism the dark prophecies of doom are back.
Yesterday, right at the end of You & Yours on BBC Radio 4, Winifred Robinson asked listeners to contact the programme with their experiences of: “What, if anything, have you seen go up in price since the Brexit vote?” That ‘if anything’ was a meagre attempt at injecting balance but you just know they will eagerly broadcast every single penny on the price of anything at all as a direct and dire result of your foolish, foolish vote to leave the warm and welcoming embrace of the EU. (Conveniently enough, although Remainers will blame Brexit for every calamity, whenever the hoped-for economic Armageddon doesn’t materialise they respond that Brexit hasn’t happened yet.)
But it doesn’t stop at the impersonal; they are also happy with the ad hominem. Are you ironing your Hugo Boss black shirt? Polishing up your death’s head cap badge and getting your swastika tattoo touched up? The revelation that Thomas Mair, the nutter who killed Jo Cox, collected Nazi memorabilia is being reported with barely suppressed glee by the mighty media of state. I don’t think it is reading too much into the language and mood of the news outlets that here, in their view, is an example of that very rise of the right represented by ugly ‘populism’. The subtext is plain to see; if you voted to leave the EU you may not be an actual Nazi, but you are definitely an under-educated, crude Nazi sympathiser.
And the dogs are circling Ukip too, sensing blood. Their current travails, the inevitable result of a collection of divergent base ideologies coming together to fight a common cause – which they nominally won – leaves them exposed and as one after another prominent figure gives up under the constant vilification they are left with ever fewer known applicants to lead what is becoming the un-leadable. Iain Dale on his LBC show asked Diane Abbott about the appeal of Ukip to "traditional" Labour voters, to which Abbott had a ready response. “Nazis, she said” (I paraphrase, but this is what she actually meant.)
She did say, "It's not impossible to understand what the appeal of Ukip might be to someone who in the past voted BNP...the truth is that the Brexit vote was about immigration." Another simple lie, repeated often. The Brexit vote was not simply ‘about immigration’. Yes, mass immigration of an unhelpful kind is the visible face of Blair and Mandelson’s deliberate attempt to change Britain forever, but it is the changing that is the focus of malcontent, not the immigrants themselves; well, ot all of them. Brexit was also not about staying in the single market and the nonsensical use of the term ‘free market’ as if there was no other way to do business is deliberately disingenuous, implying penury otherwise.
Paul Mason bangs the same old racist drum in The Guardian, that figurehead of impartiality in journalism. Ironically, the more the caring left spread their own popular poison and attempt to smear everybody who voted out as some flavour of fascist the more they appear to be behaving like Herr Goebbels themselves. How long before the homes and businesses of Brexiteers are metaphorically daubed with slogans and symbols to mark them out as targets for a bit of ‘persuasive’ action by people who brand themselves as the true British patriots? All the ingredients are there for the left to fulfil their own predictions about the rise of the new Nazis and once again it will be so-called socialists doing the rising, justified by their own sense of entitlement to enforce their views on others.
Quick! Get those history books on the bonfire!
And of course Brexit is being fought from without as EU legal interference and the heads of some member states try to make it sound like an impossible ambition. Brexit is unknowable, but it is far from impossible. The only way to find out what lies ahead is to set out on that journey, which is the only thing Brexit really means; let's crack on and get the job done. But in contrast with the optimism of those of us hoping to see our country independent again, what does seem certain is the terror it holds for those who wish to remain. And as their hysteria rises and the attacks continue the best thing about Remain – The Sequel, is that they are making exactly the same mistakes they made the first time around.
Monday, 21 November 2016
“Mama, take these chains off-a me,” sang Bob Dylan. “Cause I don’t want them anymore.” While the argument rages on about whether Brexit really means Brexit, with the Remain side’s increasingly unhinged spokespeople claiming to know what was in the very heart of the Leavers as they cast their ballot, the truth is very simple. We want to leave. We don’t want to be like Norway or Iceland, or any other country; that is the whole point. We leave the European Union and there’s an end to it. Free trade? Fine, if it’s on offer but hey, we’re not interested in any continued membership disguised as a trade deal.
“Take the chains off?” they seem to be saying, “What on earth can they mean?” and then they go on to suggest that we should leave the chains on and just, you know, maybe lengthen them a little. Because it’s the chains that keep you safe, you see? They are good chains, they are nice chains. They are beautiful, hand-crafted, shiny, tailor-made chains... what’s not to like about the chains? Our response is simply to repeat the perfectly clear original request, but Mama ain’t listenin’.
Okay, so you say – you saaay – you don’t like the chains. But we don’t think it’s the chains that are the problem. We wear the chains ourselves and we quite like them; maybe you just need to wear them a while longer, until you forget they are there? Would a different colour help? Yes, I know you keep saying you don’t want the chains, we get that. And we know you had a referendum on it and all that but not everybody voted to lose the chains. And in any case, what do you mean by ‘take off the chains’? You don’t seem to have a plan to take them off and according to what we tell ourselves we hear, many of you have changed your mind.
What? Oh no, you can’t just take off the chains, not all by yourselves! You see, this is what happens when you campaign for forty years on a single issue. People actually believed you when you said they were voting to lose the chains; can’t you see how irresponsible that was? People actually thought that the chains were the problem and now they don’t understand why you can’t just remove them. Think again; maybe you should ask them all to vote in a second referendum; you might get a better answer. You know, to clear things up.
Still no? We can see the problem here and it is our fault, really. For the low information voters out there – the ones who voted to lose the chains - we clearly haven’t put enough effort into explaining what is good about the chains. We need to spend some money on an information campaign to explain that they aren’t real chains at all, they are only metaphorical chains. Does that feel any better? We can put it in writing if you like, maybe work up some legislation? Would that help at all?
Chains? What chains?
We have listened to your cry for help and our research tells us that it’s not the chains per se that people are objecting to but the wrong kind of chains. In fact, when we really explained it all to our focus groups they told us that, far from getting rid of the chains, what they really want is more chains. And it’s not freedom of movement that’s the worry, it’s losing the freedom of movement that all those chains actually give you. “They’re getting too damn heavy, and I’m crawling across the floor...” No wonder Dylan had to keep on knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Sunday, 20 November 2016
Had Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc had an idea to make a show based on cars, challenges and cocking about it would have been brilliant. Seriously, both are entertaining characters, both have a love of many-horse-powered crazy horses and both are entirely competent in the art of cocking about. The resulting hour of television would have made compelling weekly viewing and everybody would have been be happy. Except for one thing; they tried to take over Top Gear and Top Gear, like Cerberus at the gates of Hades obeys only one master. Well, three, actually.
Sacrificed to the gods of political correctness, cast out like Lucifer and his angels, Clarkson and his left and right hand have returned to wreak terrible revenge the only way they know how; by taking the viewing public with them. By making a show that is better, funnier and rich with ridicule for their former employers. The decision was not taken lightly; the BBC is often revered by its staff and envied by others but it is in thrall to a mean-spirited vision of egalitarianism that stifles non-conformity.
The introductory passage of The Grand Tour was full of barbed, intemperate jibes about new-found freedom and the jocular giving of offence; broadly, JC and his disciples can mock who they like now, without fear of censure by anybody except their audience. And their audience shows no sign of switching off, unlike the response to the much-vaunted relaunch of Top Gear. Back in Broadcasting House they still don’t realise what they’ve done and stand by their rigorously tested codes of correctness.
In the old order of the general left-wing, party politics and those often referred to as ‘the elites’ the way to do business seems to be to demand obedience then stamp your feet when you don’t get your own way, or encourage others to stamp them for you. Like the Remain reaction to the referendum and the Democrat supporters’ reaction to Trump there is an air of disbelief. No, they are saying, this is not how it is supposed to be. Meanwhile the rest of us are quietly chuckling away at Jeremy Clarkson likening the tour to gypsies... but with insurance; the kind of remark that would have the BBC compliance police in incandescent apoplexy.
So, the latest reaction of the EU old order to the UK’s forthcoming ‘negotiations’? To show just how far they really don’t grasp what is going on and declare that they will force a ‘hard Brexit’ as a deterrent to other populist movements. The very fact they don’t understand the democratic irony of declaring majority opinion to be wrong would be hilarious, were it not so worrying. And just to show how little they understand, Labour’s John McDonnell has judged that the time is right to demand a move to make Britain a republic and remove the monarchy.
Top Gear is dead. Long live Top Gear Two
Tis the season to be jolly all right. Jeremy Corbyn is noisily denouncing Trump and Farage and wondering why nobody is listening. The BBC is busy pushing its winter schedule, trotting out the same old fare and wondering where its audience has gone. And politics-as-usual is frantically asking all the wrong people why the plebs voted the wrong way. Maybe if all the sobbing snowflakes could uncritically enjoy Clarkson, Hammond and May they would begin to see why the other Hammond and May are now running the country...
Saturday, 19 November 2016
An un-named fourteen-year old girl who died from cancer has posthumously won a court battle to allow her body to be cryogenically frozen in the hope that one day we will have the ability to revive and cure her. It was popularly supposed that Walt Disney’s body had been frozen after he died in 1966, but if this was true I expect his prior cremation may mitigate against him doing a Lazarus any century soon.
The first person widely known to actually be deposited in a cryogenic vault was James Bedford, in 1967. Examination of his body 24 years later suggests that he is, at the very least, still poorly. But seriously, who would want to commit themselves to the permafrost in the hope that one day you may be brought precariously back to a form of life? Would you have to live forever on life support; would your organs function independently, or at all? Would you retain memory and if so, how would you feel knowing that everybody who was part of your life had been dead for possibly hundreds of years?
And what sort of a society would you wake up to? In Woody Allen’s 1973 film, Sleeper, the re-animated protagonist discovers that all his beliefs have been proved false. What if you were to wake up to discover that there really is a vengeful god whose name is allah... or that there has been final proof that no god exists? Will things be so much better, with high-technology finally delivering all its longed for promises? Or will the Earth have succumbed to all the portents of the tech-hating Green evangelists, reducing humans to once more grubbing about in the dirt?
You may wake to find that, in a post-politics, post-order world your newly galvanised status has value... as a curiosity in a freak show. Or what if you are the first to be brought back and you find you are the sacred icon of a morbid cult? Imagine if you woke up and found you were the last white person on the planet? Or – and this would be the kicker for me – what if the world you wake up to in 2217 is... exactly the same as the one you went to sleep in; with a preserved-forever President Trump and the UK still waiting to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty... and Nicola Sturgeon still strutting her grumpy stuff in all the papers every day?
Wakey wakey rise and shine!
It all sounds far too much of a risk to me. The only possible reason I might want a glimpse into the future would be to see how wrong all the current predictions are, or possibly to look up the long-odds-come-good results on which to place bets in the here and now. In the meantime I think I will restrict my forays into the frozen world to watching the telly and finding out why Mums go to Iceland.
Friday, 18 November 2016
Although there are exceptions the teaching trade – I hesitate to use the word profession - is dominated by leftward-thinking types. Their principal union does them few favours in representing their concerns to the masses and as public servants in the main we ought to expect better of them. Yesterday the NUT were descending on Whitehall for a march and rally to protest and agree with each other about their truly dreadful plight.
Their issues? Class sizes, reduced subject choice and the provision of teaching support staff. Their solution? To demand more money from the already overspent public purse. Of course, no problem, we’ll get right to it. While we’re at it, we actual taxpayers may as well give generously to help out the police, security and armed forces, the NHS local authorities and their burgeoning diversity division, and if we each grab a bag of gravel we could fill in a few potholes on the way. More money, of course! Why didn’t we think of it before.
The revolting teachers and their ilk never seem to stop and think for a moment from whence come their increased class sizes and the need for extra support. Just possibly, opening the doors to a flood of not just workers but their entire extended families might place a strain on resources. Pandering to a touchy-feely, all-must-have-prizes culture may introduce an extra mental burden of make believe to overcome the cognitive dissonance of daily having to face the absurdity of imagining that all actually deserve those awards. And is it not conceivable that their sometimes proud boast that pupils speak fifty different languages is at the same time a statement of inclusivity and an acknowledgement that open borders has brought the curse of Babel upon them?
The left don’t need enemies; they are self-sustaining in that regard, but I guess we all fail the see-ourselves-as-others-see-us test at some time, if not all the time. I like to think I keep myself in trim but when I look in the mirror of a morning I often see a stranger peering back at me. Sometimes it helps if I don’t put my glasses on and grope about blindly for a bit instead of confronting the sharp focus of reality. But every now and then we have to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and thinking about the teachers must have stirred up some early memories of my own school days.
I visited the dentist yesterday. While waiting for my first appointment in the reception room of a new practice, I was perusing the certificates on the wall. One of them had a familiar name and as I trawled through my memory I recalled a popular classmate. This certificate had his exact-same name and as I waited I began to anticipate meeting somebody I hadn’t seen for over fifty years. Alfie Smith; he’d been a tall, handsome lad, played for the school footie team, popular with the girls I remembered. But as the treatment room door opened I began to have doubts.
A stooped, balding man with a deeply-lined face and enormously thick glasses called my name, introduced himself as Mr Smith and invited me in. He looked nothing like the boy I remembered. During the check-up I asked him if he’d been at the local school. He said that yes, he had been. I asked what years he had attended and sure enough he’d been there at the same time as me. I said as much “That was when I was there,” I revealed. “I know you; I remember you from my class!” He looked at me closely for a minute, his eyes screwed up as he tried to roll back the years. Then he asked me, "What did you teach?"
Thursday, 17 November 2016
In this post-truth, post-Clinton, Brexit-bound world the favourite bleat from those who imagine themselves disenfranchised (code for ‘we lost and it’s just not fair’) is that everything is divisive. As if prior to their politically correct ‘rights’ being challenged and shown not to be the majority stance everything was uniform and lovely and we all agreed that the only way was their way. I wonder if they ever took stock, as they nibbled their quinoa and tweaked their chakras and slapped each other on their worthy backs, of how easily assailable their social justice fortress was. Or did they imagine that the dirty clamouring peasants beyond the walls would just go away?
It’s odd though, don’t you think, that the champions of diversity and multiculturalism somehow expect all this differentness to result in an even set of sanitised, uniform, inoffensive views. To allow certain communities to go almost unchallenged as they set themselves apart is, in their view, peace and harmony, but to point out their separation from the rest of us is hateful and divisive. If hypocrisy had a sound it might well be an infant with a chocolate-smeared face repeatedly denying he had anything to do with the disappearance of tomorrow’s advent calendar treat.
You want to know what’s divisive? How about: You’re old, you don’t understand; you’re white, you must be excluded from the discussion; You’re a racist, sexist, disablist, misogynistic, white supremacist, cis-gender pig. I think those accusations tend to establish a bit of a gulf. Diane Abbott saying that white men like to play divide and rule; that’s pretty divisive. The Brexit debate is divisive? Of course it is; it’s divided between those who voted to leave and those who voted to stay; between those who embrace the potential opportunities it brings and those who would try and put the genie back in the bottle
Continually saying that such-and-such is divisive, as Owen Jones does, isn’t helpful. In fact as a statement of the bleeding obvious it is pointless and instead of allowing people to move on and explore common ground it gives permission to dig in your heels and refuse to budge. The same thing is happening over the pond; the exact-same snowflakes and vested interests who want to maintain an interventionist state that protects them from sometimes harsh reality versus those who want the state to butt out and let them rebuild industry to create wealth by making and selling things that people actually want to pay for.
But division can be good; for instance it can tell us things. Let’s divide the UK’s 2016 public spending of £761.9 billion by the supposed 65,260,038 population (as of yesterday). This tells us that the state costs £11,675 per head of population. When we divide that cost by the number of those in work – around 30.1 million - we get an annual cost of £25,312 per head. And when we factor in that 44% of those in work pay no income tax at all that rises to around £45,000 for those who do. Where is it all coming from?
I don’t know how much a diversity consultant gets paid although I do have an idea of how much one is worth. And I’m just guessing but I think I’d be on fairly solid ground if I suggested that those out on the streets, screaming and shouting about how unfair everything is, are more likely to come from the no-tax end of the work spectrum than the other. Rather than repeating that this is divisive, it might be more helpful to examine whether you are on the side that is helping or the side that is making it worse. Next time you get really exercised about fairness and division, do the maths.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Emboldened by the Brexit vote the closeted bigots are taking to the streets and assaulting fragile people because of their colour, their religion or their political allegiance. Or are they? The reporting of ‘hate crimes’ may be at an all-time hysterical high but given that a hate crime is classified as such by those who report it, does the reporting match reality in any way. Also, in the wake of the Trump victory people are taking to social media to report in unconvincing terms, incidents that ‘literally’ never happened. But then, that’s social media for you.
And then there’s this: According to the yesterday’s newspapers, the impression was given that a leaked cabinet memo decried the government’s unpreparedness for Brexit, stating as if a fact, that another thirty thousand civil servants would need to be recruited just to deal with the admin of leaving the EU. “There you go!” cried the Remainers, “Where’s that £350-million a week for the NHS now, huh?” But hold your horses there, boys and girls; the ‘leaked cabinet memo’ turns out to have been written and speculatively punted by Deloitte and is little more than conjecture.
This may well be explained away as a simple misunderstanding but wait a minute. Nothing gets into the public domain unless it is put there. Yet this was no whistle-blower appalled at impending totalitarian legislation; this was no insider-opposition to a company poisoning the water. Rather it was cynical anti-Brexit mischief, created by exactly the sort of organisation that the public who voted ‘out’ distrust the most; big money, the alchemy by which a few words in a few ears makes $billions for people who already have $billions. The very sort of people who are seen as the establishment’s string-pullers.
We are, it is reported widely, in the era of fake news. Prank sites have been around for years. And pre-internet there were Private Eye and many others who feasted on parody, poked fun at the high and mighty and generally enjoyed a good old belly laugh at the government’s expense. But with the advent of the Internet it is getting harder every day to separate fact from fiction. Hence all the ‘I was attacked by Nazis’ stories being touted as evidence of sinister moves by one side and being ridiculed by the other. A common trope of our times is that everything is ‘divisive’; Brexit, Trump, Labour, Tory, climate change. Of course it is; if opinion wasn’t divided it would be whole and unwholesome – we’d be in N.Korea.
This is absolutely true!
But it turns out that all the fuss is over nothing; the proliferation of fake news sites is click-bait for advertising revenue. Like all such phenomena it will either stand the test of time and be recognised for what it is, or it will eventually fail to amuse and fall out of favour. In the meantime, it is far more informative to look at who is spreading the news and why; without provenance it would be wise to treat every supposed news item as fiction and its promulgators as peddlers of partisan lie. Or maybe, just maybe, the reporting of fake news sites is, itself, fake news. You decide...
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Lies, damned lies and politics; it’s a brutal world out there right now... in people’s minds. The power of the narrative is not only demonstrable, but alarming... literally. And there is no requirement that any of the information received by supposed ‘high information’ voters has more than a passing acquaintance with fact. Old footage is being recycled and passed off as new; a short video from the Venezuelan mass protests was recently doing the rounds posing as an anti-Trump rally and was swallowed whole, despite the national flags, distinctly South American architecture and Spanish background chatter. And old photos of physical injuries are doing duty as reportage from the front lines, passed off as evidence of police brutality.
Twas ever thus. The left is telling itself that same old story; go on grandma, tell us again how you met granddad in the war. The folk tales and battle scars and anecdotes from the trenches are important in maintaining the illusion of unity. What is most important is supporting what they insist is the truth; that all aggression is from the right and all the healing from the left. They use the phrase ‘post-truth’ politics a lot, as if the notion of irony had been struck from their collective consciousness. If nothing else the rioting classes love a good slogan and like long words from indelicate mouths an illusion of intellect props up their bluster.
Thousands of distraught, fragile young things are imagining the horrors to come, denouncing them and self-harming like Billy-o. And people like the increasingly unhinged Michael Moore: urges insurrection from his bedroom, I mean Facebook page. (It's hard to remember that Michael Moore is actually a full-grown adult at times) Despite it being proven untrue long ago, the image of lemmings hurling themselves into the abyss is still the one which comes to mind; a fictional natural history illustrating a metaphorical suicide. Even a number of well-known UK rabble rousers are triggered to go postal on Trump, regardless of what he eventually proposes to do. Could it be they are basing their politics on the fact they just don’t like him?
On the other side of the battlefield, the rest of us – there is no ‘right-wing’ remember – are quietly getting on with business. Going to work, paying our taxes and accepting that our individual destinies are ours to command. And while we may look risibly down on the polemicists of the imaginary new order and cast a clout whenever it seems appropriate (which is mostly when it will be funniest) our regard for the mobs is more one of indulgent pity than the hate they tell each other we harbour.
Truth? If they want the truth about post-fact politics they could try looking again at that footage from Venezuela. They could ask the Cubans who have been fleeing their country in a steady stream ever since Castro took power. Ask the East Europeans who, having freed themselves from the Soviets, are currently horrified at what Merkel and her ideology driven maniacs are doing to the west they fought so hard to join. And the next time they sign on the dole they might want to ask where that money actually comes from.
Monday, 14 November 2016
The rise of the right, they’re saying and when they say it they believe and expect you to believe they mean Hitler, who was of course a big state socialist; the clue was in the name that became Nazi - National Socialist German Workers' Party – and yes, they were proper socialists. They may have fought against the Russian Communists, courted populist nationalism and rejected Marxism, but look at what they represented: Anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist, government control of everything and the subordination of individual rights for the good of the state. Oh and the anti-Semitism to which the left-wing still gives succour today.
Yes, there was the racial purity obsession, which probably explains why today’s leftist ideologues put miscegenation ahead of almost everything, but when was going from one extreme to the other the only conceivable option? Of course, Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ wasn’t the middle road along which we could all prosper and get along but simply a beard for personal ambition and the dismantling of Britishness... which was no third way at all. Nope, the Nazis were lefties, just Aryan ones. It’s much like religion; all those groups fighting each other through millennia over the right to define worship of their imaginary friend as superior to all other creeds, yet all believing the same illogical nonsense.
The BNP? Socialists. EDL? A football firm with a hard-on for muslims but no discernible political agenda and absolutely tiny in comparison with the numbers of troublemakers who regularly defile national solemnity over Armistice Day. The bloke who killed Jo Cox? Singular; A. Bloke. Try as you might you just can’t point to a violent, organised, political right-wing as such, because there isn’t one. The opposite of statism isn’t fascism, it’s anarchy and as we know anarchists don’t play well with others. This leaves us with, at one end, extreme and brutal communism and at the other extreme and brutal dictatorships, of which there are precisely none in the developed world.
The right wing, which for outrage purposes is merely anybody who disagrees with the left wing’s authoritative, controlling stance is ‘rising’ not as an ideology in itself, but as a necessity, after years and years and years of self-righteous (pun intended) lefties shitting over everybody’s freedoms. The right wing of their imagination comprises legions of jack-booted, ill-educated lynch mobs, singling out ‘the other’ for harassment when in fact the jack boot has always been the preferred footwear of those who would arrest you for using banned words, or expressing opinion which has been decreed verboten.
The more stridently they scream about rights the more contradictory they become; rights for others, but not for you. The more hysterically they make their demands and the more violent their protests become the more ordinary, non-politically active people feel uneasy about the motives of the mobs in their streets and the commentators on their screens. The more ‘they’ try to represent themselves as the majority and claim they are the public mood, the more those who quietly get on with their lives are inclined to refute their representation... and quietly exercise their rights by voting.
When the left get organised...
The left simply cannot accept that anything is their fault. After all, they have swallowed wholesale the holy scriptures which tell them that they are good and true and the fabled Nazis – who they hate with every fibre of their being – are the hatemongers. When you stand in the middle of a crowd, all chanting the same slogans, it must be almost impossible not to believe it. Wouldn’t you drink the Kool Aid too? Jeremy Corbyn says it is all the fault of the mythical right; that the Trump victory is a wakeup call to the world. In a way he’s right, but his timing is out. The election outcome isn’t the call, it is the response.
Friday, 11 November 2016
Continuing the week's Trumpestuous theme the title of this post says it all. Obama met Trump yesterday and you can just imagine the frost in the room as icicles formed on the bust of Martin Luther King. I expected a peremptory handshake and then down to brisk business but the session lasted over an hour and that is plenty of time to air a few honest opinions. Boy, oh boy wouldn't you have wanted to be a fly on that particular wall? Well, I have news. Thanks to a leaked transcript of a covert recording I can reveal at least a part of that momentous liaison.
After the pleasantries which were decidedly formal and after the quick tour of the ‘facilities’ the two sat down together and hammered out an agreement that the transition will be business-like, polite and courteous. They concurred that following a somewhat tempestuous relationship it was time to bury the hatchet for the good of the nation and yada, yada, yada... that’s the guff you got on the news. What hasn’t been reported, until now, is what they really talked about for the rest of the time. Well, it all began harmlessly enough.
After a brief confusion when Obama whispered something to Trump which sounded like “I can still have you killed” but was hastily repeated as “I can see you have skills” the talk was steered away from the political to the personal as each man recounted anecdotes from the road that had led them to this place. “When I was born...” began Barack “In Hawaii, right?” interrupted Donald. “Uh, yeah, whatever,” said Barack and continued “...we were pretty poor. My mom brought me up to work hard and she told me, 'Son, you can be whoever you want to be'. I set my sights on getting to the top and look, here I am.”
Donald graciously let him finish that sentence but with unseemly haste, not pausing to digest the story, waded straight in with, “Well see, I was bored one afternoon and I wondered what I should be great at next. Then I saw you on TV and decided, there and then, I’ll do that; I can do better than that.” Barack nodded ruefully as Donald carried on “So, I made a few calls and next thing you know I’m on the campaign trail and let me tell you, the people loved me and now, here I am. It ain’t that hard.”
“I tell you what was hard, Donald, growing up in poverty” Obama continued. “After my mom remarried we moved to Indonesia and lived for a while in a tiny shack in Jakarta. There was no running water and we had to share a toilet with three other families.” Trump looked on with an expression party pity, part condescension. “I grew up owning New York City” he boasted, “I could take my pick of where I wanted to live. The Trumps are the embodiment of the American dream.”
Preparations are under way for the inauguration parade
“I didn’t do so bad, though, for a poor black kid” replied Obama, “Look at all this.” He spread his arms to indicate the splendour of the White House. Trump wasn’t impressed. “You call this grand?” he asked, “This is nothing. Why I once had this country estate and I tell you, it used to take me over an hour to drive from the gate to the main house!” Barack Obama looked ruefully over at Donald Trump, momentarily lost for words at his bombastic attitude. It was clear that whatever he said would be trumped by the new President-elect. He just shook his head, sighed and nodded. “I once had a car like that...”
Thursday, 10 November 2016
We shall not be moved, sang the peaceniks of former years as the children of the post-war generation began to exercise their hard won rights to free assembly and free expression and eschewed the taking up of pitchforks that in earlier centuries may have been the last resort of desperate peasants. Freedom and democracy and the brotherhood of man and the right to turn on, tune in and drop out and let’s all hold hands until we get a better world. The young became enfranchised and politically active in a way they never had before and some things genuinely changed for the better.
And on they went, those children to become some of the wealthiest and happiest people on the planet. Maybe because in an age before the instant wish fulfilment of the internet they had the sustained will to organise, spread the word and turn out; it took resolve and stamina to protest back then and it was effective, eventually. But in the present, when 89.5 million people follow Justin Bieber on Twitter, when the world watches Kim Kardashian’s enormous and ever bared arse and a movement can spring up and die in a day without anybody leaving their bedrooms, protests are just a form of entertainment.
“Anything worth watching?” Not really. “Wanna hit the streets, we can get an Uber?” It’s all too easy and ironically, the ease and convenience of the world we live in distorts perception. It might feel like you’re taking up cudgels for a cause, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find you can buy ready-made protest kits from Amazon: V mask, banner, your-own-message-here placards and tips on taking the best demonstration selfies. There are so many gatherings of zombie-like, pre-contribution citizens that if there is any unified message other than ‘Me, me, me’ it is lost in the chaff and clutter of information overload; it just sounds like an enormous flock of roadrunners out there.
As the US Election result became clearer Shaun King, of Black Lives Matter tweeted: “Dear Friends, If Donald Trump wins within the next hour, we still have 70 days before he becomes President WE MUST ORGANIZE OUR RESISTANCE.” Whatever happened to the democratic will of all the people? Once, people demonstrated in order to be allowed to vote. Now they demonstrate, nay demand, that those votes be ignored or overturned and they have marched on Trump Tower in New York City against ‘Trumpageddon’ and ‘Trumpocalypse’... oh and the all-encompassing ‘hate’.
Does any of this sound depressingly familiar? The anti-living-within-our-means protests, the anti-Tory demonstrations, the anti-Brexit movement. How come we didn’t see anti-Labour demonstrations... at least until Blair upset the bien-pensants of the ‘new establishment’. I think it may be down to a matter of confidence. The students always were revolting, to resurrect an old joke, but today’s ‘yoof’ seem to be in thrall to a whole swathe of loosely bound minority rights issues and emboldened by years of soft administrations willing to indulge them. After half a century of moral grandstanding they have come to believe that what they want is theirs by rights and creating mayhem is the way to get it.
You'd better believe it!
Meanwhile the rest of us, too busy getting on with getting on, grin ruefully because we can see what they can’t. While the entitled classes were going about the business of insisting that their needs were met, that their rights were respected and loudly proclaiming that they would reclaim the streets, end globalisation, abolish war, fight poverty and establish universal equality; while the mob was loudly demanding that everybody else listen to what they had to say, they rather forgot to listen. To see the fallout is truly glorious.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Well, it’s settled; everybody who disagrees with you is Hitler. For the last few years this has been an egalitarian phenomenon – that both sides could openly call the other ‘Nazis’ without a hint of irony. Well, make your minds up – you can’t both be Nazis. Just as racist and bigot and homophobe have been largely abandoned as labels you would do anything to avoid, being called a Nazi has taken on the status of being something of a badge of honour. Being ‘heiled’ usually means you’ve won the argument; maybe not in substance, but in staying power and most importantly, amusement value. This is the routine:
Between mutual followers a discussion on social media arises concerning a topic on which, apparently, none of you are qualified or competent to comment. This invalidity is determined by a third party disagreeing with you saying, for instance, that gender fluidity is a vital concern for only a tiny minority, or that uncontrolled low-skilled immigration isn’t an unalloyed good. These are clearly dangerous opinions, which must be corrected. Fortunately, brave souls scour the Internet for the opportunity to right wrongs by wading in, calling you Hitler and then blocking you.
Collect all the hysteria and knee-jerk blocking together and a clear picture emerges. It is overwhelmingly those on the progressive left who call dibs on the morally higher ground. They are simply better human beings than you are. And then they call for book-burning, banning and gagging. Their mother ship is the Guardian, hilariously and unselfconsciously branding everybody else as Nazi dupes while spreading their own messages of hate. Now it seems, posters alerting you to the possible threat of being blown up are – you guessed it – neo-Nazi propaganda.
They talk about this hateful rise of the right, this dangerous nationalist surge, never seeing that the rise is not in reality but in rhetoric. It is projection; if you disagree with them then you must not be rational and thus it is that the left finally separates itself wholesale from the feelings and sensibilities of the working people who, they imagine, they ‘fight’ for. Last night Dan Snow’s visceral howl of pain for US Election Day was: “It's the anniversary of Hitler's 1923 coup. Please please let that be the only fascist takeover attempt that today is remembered for.”
The left-leaning media talk about how bitter and divisive the campaigning has been, which is generally code for “We don’t understand why everybody doesn’t agree with us!” But isn’t this at the heart of it all? For two decades the illiberal left-leaning administrations of much of the first world have had their chance at delivering their ‘third way’ and it hasn’t worked. As it happens, working people, whatever their nationality, have far more in common with each other than they have with their unelected ‘champions’. This goes against the narrative, however, so it must be ignored.
Winter is coming? I cancelled winter already!
And while they’ve been ignoring the voice, the feelings, the real concerns of the bulk of the population, labelling their fears as hate and dismissing their frustration as insignificant against the backdrop of the great socialist dream the people have been looking for a way ahead. Not by organising mass demonstrations. Not by crying Hitler and denouncing every opinion with which they disagree. Not by violence or even very much intemperate language, but at the ballot box, the way democracy is supposed to work. The real Nazis just don’t realise they are the Nazis.
Monday, 7 November 2016
I spent this weekend assessing the ability of a bunch of trainee electricians to carry out fault finding. I spent all of last week assessing the ability of a variety of candidates in carrying out inspection, testing, certification-of and reporting-on electrical installations. And one thing is clear; you can’t build a decent house on weak foundations. I see the same basic errors, time and again and it has been a preoccupation for me to find out why so many trade specialists are so poorly equipped with a foundation skill.
In the forces, trainers are always taught: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” And repeat. At the heart of all that is going wrong is a failure to get to grips with basics, to understand what is being asked and to care about getting it right. There are fundamental issues with the skills, knowledge and attitudes of some of the products of our education system. Literacy is grudgingly and somewhat sketchily demonstrated but numeracy is a mystery, as, it seems, is the desire to actually understand; quick fixes are so attractive compared with going the hard miles to get it right.
It’s not the stupid – people are rarely quite as stupid as I’m often tempted to believe – it’s the lack of preparation and ability to learn. Original information, the first version you hear, tends to be quite sticky, so if education starts out with the wrong premise, it can be hard to alter those incorrect foundations and dangerous to try and build on them before they have been consolidated. The euphemism ‘low information voters’ is a deliberate slur and ‘ill-informed’ means uneducated. If people hear this often enough, the foundations on which their democracy is built will include the notions that they are incapable of understanding complex issues and that their vote doesn’t really matter.
It’s just like my candidates; they show up with a lack of confidence and an unclear understanding of the importance of getting it right and then flounder around, not entirely sure what they are trying to achieve and hoping to, literally, tick the right boxes. So, if voters are told that they have the power and then, when they exercise that power are told they don’t really have the power, is it any wonder that frustration ensues? The ill-informed, of course, occupy both sides of the EU question. Maybe this is why the EU is so keen to avoid referenda; those shaky foundations don’t support the house they want to build.
But it seems that it’s only those who regard themselves as highly intelligent and informed who are in doubt over what ‘leave’ means. As more cracks appear, the current quick fix is to tell themselves that although people voted to leave the EU, nobody voted to leave the Common Market. What will the next patch be? That free movement of people was never on the ballot, that nobody voted to specifically reject legislation from Brussels? That sticky information, the thing that people believe because it was the first thing they were told? Wasn’t that the bit where David Cameron said the people would decide?
Built on Jack...
But let’s say the action to give Parliament a vote one Article 50 was an innocent attempt to enforce the rule of law. And let’s say all the Remain MPs whose constituencies voted to leave do vote to uphold the referendum outcome when they exercise that vote. And let’s say MPs like Hillary Benn don’t try and delay the invocation of Article 50 on the spurious grounds that we have to wait until European elections are over. Do you honestly think Brexit will still mean the Brexit that those who voted for it expected? Our whole society is like the house that Jack built, with one modification built on top of another. We need to get a grip on this before the whole bloody lot comes tumbling down.
Sunday, 6 November 2016
When I was growing up the townsfolk still referred to ‘Squire’ Bell and it was a given that this man, whose family had once owned much of the land on which the town was built, was looked up to. But not everybody felt that way and in a free country – a phrase that was used every day – that was their prerogative. As a mark of respect, however, many of those who wore caps, would still doff them. The class system, for all its flaws, engendered a certain sense of belonging and a rung to perch on between endeavours to climb higher. Our local lord and master, it seemed, had been a worthy one and had earned that respect.
Fifty years later, however, the world is very different. Far from the smoky back rooms of pubs and working men’s clubs, insurgency and revolt can be arranged on the fly. No furtive passing of notes or spreading of pamphlets is needed to know what’s going on (at least in part) and according to the great theme of the age, everybody is the equal of everybody else. The automatic respect for birthright is considered ludicrous and the doffing of caps is merely a metaphorical device, the physical manifestation of which may well be entirely outside the experience of most of those who use it.
Enoch Powell used the old colonial expression ‘the whip hand’ in his infamous speech and as a motif for overbearing entitlement the use of the whip appears regularly in historical drama illustrating the relationship between the pit bulls of the tyrannical and rapacious upper classes and their lowly, working class underlings. Who would defend such an order today? As you will hear every day this week, ‘men fought and died for free speech and we should remember them’ and for two minutes on Friday, all decent people will stand silent in such memory.
Freedoms. The EU’s so-called freedoms of movement, of goods, services, capital and people, are at the heart of our current big debate, but there is also at stake that very freedom of expression whose winning will be silently commemorated during the two minutes. All of which makes it a bit rich for the Bar Council to effectively demand respect for the judges who, on point of law, have aroused anger and indignation and not a little amount of fear in the far-from-silent majority who voted to leave the EU. It is one thing to have freedom to choose; quite another to have ‘freedoms’ imposed upon us.
Claiming that disapproval of the verdict somehow challenges the independence of the judiciary is a pretty far stretch, even for those whose contempt for the underlings on which they serve judgement seems at times to know no bounds. Demanding that the government back up this demand, hiding behind the skirts of the Lord Chancellor and insisting the press have no right to criticise their opinion, only serves to illustrate what people mean when they refer to an ‘out of touch elite’.
It's a free country...
Nobody doffs their cap any more, not by diktat at least. The sequestered huddles of fearful Wizards of Oz; frightened little men, demanding respect and trying to use the mechanisms of state to put the little people in their place and accept the unaccountable decisions being imposed upon them? Isn’t this precisely the system that the derided ‘populist’ movements across the developed world are railing against? They are repeatedly told ‘you just don’t get it’. Well doesn’t their running to mummy demonstrate exactly this? You rule us, judge us and police us by our consent. You can only abuse this old dog so far before it bites back.
Saturday, 5 November 2016
Well, what a rum old do this is. Since the 24th June, although many did indeed accept the admittedly slim outcome of the referendum, some on the remain side have hardly covered themselves in glory by belly-aching at every turn and cheering on every dip in the value of the pound or the FTSE or the employment figures that seemed, however fleetingly to prove their thesis; their thesis that Britain outside the EU could not possibly survive. They seized on every negative announcement as proof that Brexit would bring the sky down but when those expectations largely failed to materialise they did their level best to wish economic and cultural disaster upon us.
It would be impossible to ever calculate, for any turn of events, how much was caused by genuine fears regarding Brexit, as opposed to confected fears spread by influential Remainers. Investment and success in business and in the markets is often founded on and driven by optimism and perception. It is entirely possible to destabilise individuals, companies and even the whole economy by indulging in morbid pessimism. Call it a Ratner moment; telling everybody “We’re shit” is hardly likely to improve things. In the meantime, of course, many £billions will have been made by the fundies and other speculators, relishing the chance to indulge in a bit of profitable mischief.
Whatever else may be at stake, make no bones about it, there are many, in government and beyond, who do not and will not accept the now decried ‘will of the people’ and the referendum promise made by David Cameron’s government has become ‘advisory’. Yes, we know the referendum was not made legally binding – some say to this very end – but it was promulgated very clearly that whatever the electorate chose would be carried out. At the moment, the 48% believe they are the majority; in the future, the writing on the barn door may yet be mysteriously altered to reflect that ‘fact’.
The Remain trope and taunt: “You wanted parliamentary democracy; now you’ve got it you don’t like it!” holds no water. Whether wilfully or through actual ignorance the Remain lobby simply do not understand one of the principle reasons the vote went against them; the sense that democracy had been given away to unaccountable and distant elites. It doesn’t really matter if those elites are in Brussels or here at home, if the machinations of law are too complex, too subtle for voters to grasp then there is something wrong with the law.
Nuance is the problem – if this meaning of law is so friable that we need expensively trained and remunerated lawyers to tell the little people what it means, then the law is no better than the koran or the bible. (Religious scholars are a con; charlatans purporting to interpret the literal word of a non-existent god.) If legal decisions can be appealed and appeals overturned by examining the same texts then we are not dealing with anything solid but shifting sands whose navigable channels can be bought by the highest bidder, the law is, in the eyes of the masses, just wrong. And every legal decision unintelligible to the average man – such as not deporting violent criminals with multiple convictions because they have rights their own actions denied others – heaps mockery on top of suspicion.
The sophistry being used to justify in retrospect that which should have been clear from the outset is not an honourable use of law. I agree we need checks and balances on the power of governments and high officials, but those checks and balances are supposed to return the power to ‘we, the people’. Odd then, isn’t it, that the noisy demonstrations, the hysterical rhetoric, the wailing and gnashing of teeth having largely been ignored as the protests of bad losers, the large part of the establishment who want to remain in the EU are now relying on a supposedly private citizen’s action to get their way. And relying in turn on unelected and possibly biddable lawyers? Because, of course, no judge has never been found wanting in moral fibre or propriety, have they?
I always expected I’d be long dead before Britain became a truly successful, independent nation state again, but I thought I might get to see a glimpse of the optimistic upturn as we left the sinking EU tramp steamer. That is looking less likely by the day. Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I’m beginning to believe that the current interpretation of parliamentary democracy may well be the worst form of democracy.