Thursday, December 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

"For in all countries, in proportion as the love of virtue diminishes, we find the love of talents to increase."

(the anonymous 1841 author of Sketches of the Fair Sex, in All Parts of the World, discussing the women of Ancient Rome - "During upwards of six hundred years, the virtues had been found sufficient to please. They now found it necessary to call in the accomplishments.")

UPDATE - I forgot Glubb Pasha :

"The heroes of declining nations are always the same—the athlete, the singer or the actor. "

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Sheridan and Scabs

I don’t understand, so talk me through this one.

a) Tommy Sheridan visits clubs and fesses up to the SSP when the press find out

b) SSP advise him to ‘lay low and say nuthin’

c) TS decides to brazen it out in the libel court

d) SSP comrades know they’ll be called as witnesses, and as I understand they have no choice about turning up. Their only choice is whether to lie and commit perjury or tell the truth. They (mostly) tell the truth.

e) but TS rhetoric wins the day, and he brilliantly persuades the jury. Result!

f) and immediately afterwards he publicly calls the truthful SSP members ’scabs’ and announces that he intends to ‘destroy them’

Now at this point our SSP comrades, like Colin Fox, are socialists in good standing, who gave TS sensible advice that he ignored. TS, hitherto a socialist in good standing, asserts that their unwillingness to risk jail for his family-man reputation renders them ’scabs’ to be ‘destroyed’ by unspecified means.

OK. At this point, who are the good guys and who the bad guys? The people with the correct analysis or the guy who wants to destroy them because they wouldn’t put their testes in a vice for him? Not for socialism, not for a principle, but to perpetuate a false image of a Great Leader?

Now I’m not too sure about going to the police with affidavits and secret tape recordings. But one socialist has insulted and threatened to destroy other socialists - on completely insufficient and self-interested grounds. Don’t they have a right to self-defence - in the last resort, to destroy the man who’s trying to destroy them?

(this piece of course assumes that d) is correct. My whole analysis rests on the assumption that the SSP exec had no choice about testifying in court.

Is this correct ? I don’t know Scots law. Martin ?

If it’s not correct and they were under no obligation to testify, then my analysis falls to bits - because the exec should then, from an SSP perspective, have lain low and said nuthin - leaving TS in his own juice rather than adding their own.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tommy Sheridan Verdict Shock

When Tommy Sheridan won his libel case against News International four years back, I was gobsmacked. The evidence against him seemed so overwhelming that I couldn't possibly see him winning - yet, representing himself, he persuaded the jury that the Evil Murdoch Empire deserved a good shoeing - which may be so, but nonetheless it was a perverse verdict.

And, defending himself again yesterday against perjury charges, I thought he'd persuade the jury again with his five-hour tour de force :

"I've never been accused of a crime of dishonesty in my life.

"The News of the World, the Murdoch press and the Sun have tried to destroy me and my marriage. But you know what - I'm not frightened of them. I've fought them all my life and I will continue to fight them.

"I'm not frightened of Lothian and Borders Police.

"I'm not frightened of saying they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they've treated my family."

Sheridan then bowed his head, paused, and looked up at the jury.

He went on: "I'm frightened of you. I'm frightened of you because you can do something that the News of the World will never be able to do.

"You could separate me from my wife, you could make me break my promise to my daughter that I'd spend Christmas with her.

"Given what you've heard - and never mind the emotion, because you're not here to judge emotion - I ask you to believe you've heard more than enough reasonable doubt to convince you that I'm innocent of the charges that remain."

At this point, about 100 supporters packed into the public gallery applauded.

Impressive. But a guilty verdict nonetheless.

One thing I can't understand. Other than the alleged tape of Sheridan discussing the libel trial, made by a (presumably) former friend, the evidence against him seemed to be pretty much a rerun of the evidence first time round. Now that evidence seemed compelling, yet the jury dismissed it and found that he'd been libelled. I would have thought that a prosecution for perjury was almost an attempt to reverse a jury's decision, perverse though that decision may have been. Indeed, the BBC report explicitly states that the second jury ruled on matters of fact - and these were matters which had already been presented to the first jury. Isn't there an element of double jeopardy here ?

Any lawyers out there ? Does this mean that anyone exonerated by a jury despite what looks like strong evidence against them is liable to be done for perjury - on that same evidence ?

UPDATE - Martin Kelly puts it well :

"it is a public tragedy that Sheridan has managed to get himself into this position at a time when the people he has claimed to speak for and represent need a tribune of his political gifts more than they have ever done before...

I hope he takes the chance to use his considerable talent and intelligence to help those who come into contact with him. There may be any number of rudderless young men who could benefit from having a mentor like Tommy Sheridan."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eton Rifles

Missed this 2004 Times interview with Paul Weller - another Labour luvvie / working class hero. He was living in West London at the time. I doubt he'd have had to worry about crack and guns in London schools before the Fall :

I ask if his children are in private or state schools. (He has four, two by his ex-wife and former Style Council singer Dee C. Lee, one following a short-lived relationship, and a four-year-old daughter with his girlfriend, Sammi, 34, "very sweet gel, puts up with quite a lot from me".) "They’re all in private school. No, one’s in state school," he corrects himself. "If you’ve got the money, I don’t see how you’ve got a choice, really. I don’t want my kids mixing with crack and guns. I’m not saying it’s all like that, but there’s an element of that."

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Google Ngram Viewer allows you to count the relative occurrence of a word or phrase in the Google Books library for a given year of publication.

From 1820 to 2000, 'coloured people', 'colored people', 'black people', 'aboriginal' for all books published in English. You can see the great rise in 'black' and beginning of the decline in 'colo(u)red' (previously the polite usage for what we now call black) in the late 1960s, coterminous with the post-Civil Rights rhetoric of Black Consciousness and Black Power.

But if you do the same only for books published in the UK, you'll see that 'black' only took off in the 1980s, a good twenty years after the States. That poor officer whose use of the word 'coloured' was held up by the Lawrence Enquiry as evidence of police racism wasn't terribly far behind the publishing curve.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Daddy's Drinkin' Up Our Christmas

A festive cracker - another one by the great Commander Cody (somewhat tasteless video, alas) to escape Norm's Momma 'n' Daddy Collection. Merry Christmas !

Friday Night Country - Mama Hated Diesels

Eureka - a weepie that Norm never found for the Momma 'n' Daddy Collection !

I'm never quite sure that Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen are taking this - or anything else - entirely seriously.

"As the years passed, and I grew older, Mama did too"

Mama Hated Diesels, from "Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers Favorites".

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hot New Revelations of Things We Already Knew

1) Kosovo is run by very nasty gangsters

2) There's a lot of corruption in Africa

3) and Russia

4) and all those '-stan' states that used to be Soviet

5) Blair's outreach to Muslims after 7/7 made little progress. Obviously greater efforts and concessions are called for.

6) African leaders love Chinese investment - no seminars on capacity building, no human rights debate, not much in the way of talk at all, they just crack on and build whatever it is.

7) our electric bills are about to go through the roof to enable our Government's (and the EU's) green fantasies. Stand by for more frozen pensioners as another tenner a week goes onto electric bills.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hmm ...

When I read reports of the Shane Warne / Liz Hurley rumours, I thought ....

a) the most unlikely juxtaposition of names since Racquel Welch's son married Fred Truman's daughter - I would love to have seen those wedding photos .

b) too gossipy to blog. We cover the serious stories here, dammit - like Charlie Gilmour setting alight several copies of Socialist Worker (which would be a praiseworthy act, were they not against the wooden door of a Whitehall building).

Norm's not so proud.

A Small Postette

At Biased BBC.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bang !

Early reports suggest that the New Wave of Swedish Jihad (NWOSJ - © Laban Tall 2010) may be every bit as comically incompetent as the New Wave of British Jihad (NWOBJ - © Laban Tall 2007):

Stockholm car explosion

At least one person was killed and two were injured yesterday in two explosions in central Stockholm that caused panic among Christmas shoppers.A Swedish news agency said it had received an email warning, ahead of the explosions, in which a threat made against Sweden and its population was linked to the country's military presence in Afghanistan. The TT agency said the warning, which comprised sound files in Swedish and Arabic, was also sent to Sweden's security police (SAPO) and was received 10 minutes before the blasts. It also referred to caricatures of the prophet Mohammed by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who became the subject of death threats and at least one assassination plot after cartoons appeared in a Danish newspaper.

The first explosion at around 5pm local time, near the busy shopping street of Drottinggatan in the centre of the Swedish capital, was in a car containing gas canisters. The dead man was found at the site of the second blast about 300 metres away. Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper reported that the man was carrying pipe bombs, as well as a backpack full of nails, although this was not confirmed by the authorities. "The car exploded with a series of minor explosions and there was also some kind of explosion close to where we found the dead man," Ulf Johansson, a police spokesman, told the BBC. "We need more investigation and of course we need more witnesses to give us the information of what actually has happened."

If it is true that the deceased nail-carrier is an Islamist who appears to have gone off prematurely (always a hazard for a shy young man in liberated Sweden), and that the car bomb was the traditional petrol and gas canister type which failed so dismally to take out any 'dancing slags' in London just before the Glasgow Airport attacks, then the Swedes can at least take confidence from their incompetence - and go back to reading Stieg Larsson and worrying about the 'far-right'.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Charlie Gilmour - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Julia is a very perceptive woman. She commented yesterday :

"Well, good grief! The BBC News just ran an interview with Charlie Gilmour, made on the day, before they knew who he was, or what he'd done, and it's pretty clear he's either functionally retarded, or was drunk or stoned at the time."

Not found the BBC video, but take a look at this. He certainly seems to be off his face.

"Forward, break the lines, forward unto death !" With a heroic effort Laban refrains from the obvious response.

Julia : "No doubt Daddy's PR team wrote that statement for him..."

Today's Mail :

"Last night, Gilmour issued a statement through his father's PR firm."

The Mail story also quotes a "friend" - presumably some Facebook friend - as follows:

"Charlie was on acid when he ripped the flag at the Cenotaph. He boasted about being on drugs on his Facebook afterwards but later took down the posts about acid."

Hat-tip to commenter John Horne Tooke at Biased-BBC.

UPDATE - school - Lancing College (via)

UPDATE - you can see how remorseful he was about the trouble at the demo :

and this (via) :

A friend wrote on Gilmour’s Facebook page: “That is you climbing the flag, yes?”

Gilmour replied: “No. Not me. Someone else.

“Whoever it was was obviously on acid and didn’t know what the f*** he was doing and how much of a massive f***ing backlash there would be…”

The pal wrote, “My mistake” – to which Gilmour replied: “My big f***ing mistake.”

UPDATE - this photo from the Mail today - obviously not someone who was looking for trouble. The rock is just a pose and the latex gloves aren't at all the sort of thing you'd find useful when you're doing some 'free shopping' ...

Photo: Steve Burton / Daily Mail.

"Charlie Gilmour has admitted being close to the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall when it was ambushed by paint-throwing demonstrators in Regent Street. At 8.10pm, less than an hour after the attack on the Royal limousine, he was filmed by the BBC outside Topshop in Oxford Street, half-hiding a woman’s lace-up boot under his coat."

UPDATE - the Sun :

"Another picture showed him apparently trying to light a fire by the doors of the Supreme court on Parliament Square. "

Photo : The Sun/Jeff Moore

Hmm. Gets everywhere, doesn't he ? Busy little bee.

Why on earth didn't Chief Inspector Michael Walsh, one of whose officers stamped out the fire, arrest the twisted firestarter?

Photo : Daily Mail/Jeff Moore

Not that I can't understand the appeal of smashing other people's things up as part of a mob. The sound of breaking glass has an appeal to young men of all classes. It's because it's such fun that we have to have strict laws against it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

After Halloween

Sandy loved the sea, which appears everywhere in her lyrics.

"Oh, the sea has made me cry
But I love her too
So maybe I love you,
But tears are only made of salt and water ..."

Public School Prat

Looks like the Student Grants who trashed Central London yesterday really do fit the trustafarian stereotype :

"Privately-educated Charlie Gilmour, whose Pink Floyd guitarist stepfather is worth £80million, said: 'I would like to express my deepest apologies for the terrible insult to the thousands of people who died bravely for our country that my actions represented. I feel nothing but shame. My intention was not to attack or defile the Cenotaph. Running along with a crowd of people who had just been violently repelled by the police, I got caught up in the spirit of the moment. I did not realise that it was the Cenotaph and if I had, I certainly would not have done what I did. I feel additionally mortified that my moment of idiocy has distracted so much from the message yesterday's protest was trying to send out. Those who are commemorated by the Cenotaph died to protect the very freedoms that allow the people of Britain the right to protest and I feel deeply ashamed to have, although unintentionally and unknowingly, insulted the memory of them.'"

Lying toerag. He's doing history at Cambridge and he doesn't know what the Cenotaph is. And he 'just got caught up'.

He feels nothing but shame that it's all over the papers, that's all. Cretin.

UPDATE - cleverclogs Carol Vorderman tweets "Cowardly little liar".

UPDATE - Julia comments :

"Well, good grief! The BBC News just ran an interview with Charlie Gilmour, made on the day, before they knew who he was, or what he'd done, and it's pretty clear he's either functionally retarded, or was drunk or stoned at the time. If you can catch it on iPlayer, I suggest you watch, and marvel at what passes for a Cambridge-educated student these days. "

Anyone seen this interview and got a copy or a link ?

(I think that's the first ever mention of Twitter on this blog)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"to take back Andalusia"

Fascinating Wikileaks despatch from Ankara to Washington, December 2004, covering inter alia proposed Turkish membership of the EU (via). The AKP is the (Islamic) ruling Turkish party, Erdogan is Prime Minister, Gul is now President but was then Foreign Minister (FonMin).

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, you may recall, has said that he will 'fight' for Turkey's membership of the EU. Let's hope that's a cast-iron promise.

My views on the Embassy transcriptions are

a) Wikileaks shouldn't have released them. As Dalrymple points out, secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. As for the US sources quoted, IMHO wikileaks are endangering them.

b) It's not as if they reveal smoking guns, cunning plots or illegal activities (so far) - in which case release might be justifiable - rather they show the US diplomats to be high-calibre and thoughtful people doing their job - to make sense of the rest of the world - to the best of their considerable ability. This task will be much harder now and in that sense Wikileaks action is directed against the US with IMHO no justification. No wonder they're cross and I don't blame them.

c) that doesn't mean I support the harassment of Mr Assange on very dubious charges, supported by a number of useful feminist idiots.

d) Aren't I being hypocritical in quoting them, then ? They're out there. The Turks will certainly have read them - they're all over Turkish blogs. And they throw an interesting light on potential Turkish accession to the EU - an accession which would give the entire Turkish population the right to live and work in the UK.

I don't like it when they build motorways all over the UK, or whack a disgusting dual carriageway down the centre of the Vale of Neath - but I still drive on them, taking the good with the bad. So here.

Emboldening is mine :

¶6. (U) Erdogan indexed his political survival to getting a negotiation date from the EU. He achieved that goal. The Wall Street Journal and other Western and Turkish media have opined that the EU owes Turkey a fair negotiating process leading to accession, with the Journal even putting the onus on the EU by asserting that while Turkey is ready the question is whether Europeans are ready for Turkey.

¶7. (C) But there's always a Monday morning and the debate on the ground here is not so neat. With euphoria at getting a date having faded in 48 hours, Erdogan's political survival and the difficulty of the tasks before him have become
substantially clearer. Nationalists on right and left have resumed accusations that Erdogan sold out Turkish national interests (Cyprus) and Turkish traditions. Core institutions of the Turkish state, which remain at best wary of AKP, have once again begun to probe for weaknesses and to feed insinuations into the press in parallel with the nationalists' assertions. In the face of this Euro-aversion,
neither Erdogan nor his government has taken even minimal steps to prepare the bureaucracy or public opinion to begin tackling the fundamental -- some Turks would say insidious -- legal, social, intellectual and spiritual changes that must
occur to turn harmonization on paper into true reform. The road ahead will surely be hard.

¶8. (U) High-profile naysayers like main opposition CHP chairman Baykal, former Ambassador Gunduz Aktan, and political scientist Hasan Unal continue to castigate Erdogan. But theirs is a routine whine. More significant for us is that many of our contacts cloak their lack of self-confidence at Turkey's ability to join in expressions of skepticism that the EU will let Turkey in. And there is parallel widespread skepticism that the EU will be around in attractive form in ten years.

¶9. (C) The mood in AKP is no brighter, with one of FonMin Gul's MFA advisors having described to UK polcounselor how bruised Turkey feels at the EU's inconsistency during the final negotiations leading to Dec. 17 (EU diplomats in Ankara have given us the other side of the story). Gul was noticeably harder-line than Erdogan in public comments in the lead-up to the Summit, and was harder-line in pre-Summit negotiations in Brussels, according to UK polcounselor.

¶10. (C) AKP's lack of cohesion as a party and lack of openness as a government is reflected in the range of murky, muddled motives for wanting to join the EU we have encountered among those AKPers who say they favor pursuing membership...or at least the process. Some see the process as the way to marginalize the Turkish military and what remains of the arid "secularism" of Kemalism. We have also run into the rarely openly-spoken, but widespread belief among adherents of the Turk-Islam synthesis that Turkey's role is to spread Islam in Europe, "to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683" as one participant in a recent meeting at AKP's main think tank put it. This thinking parallels the logic behind the approach of FonMin Gul ally and chief foreign policy advisor in the Prime Ministry Ahmet Davutoglu, whose muddy opinion piece in the Dec. 13 International Herald Tribune is in essence a call for one-way multi-cultural tolerance, i.e., on the part of the EU.

¶11. (C) Those from the more overtly religious side of AKP whinge that the EU is a Christian club. While some assert that it is only through Turkish membership and spread of Turkish values that the world can avoid the clash of civilizations they allege the West is fomenting, others express concern that harmonization and membership will water down Islam and associated traditions in Turkey.

¶12. (C) AKP also faces the nuts-and-bolts issue of how to prepare for harmonization. In choosing a chief negotiator Erdogan will need to decide whether the risks that the man he taps will successfully steal his political limelight outweigh
the political challenge his choice will face since it will be the Turkish chief negotiator's responsibility to sell the EU position to a recalcitrant Turkish cabinet. It is because the chief negotiator is likely to be ground down between EU
demands and a prickly domestic environment that some observers speculate Erdogan might give the job to his chief internal rival Gul.

¶13. (C) At the same time the government must reportedly hire a couple thousand people skilled in English or other major EU languages and up to the bureaucratic demands of interfacing with the Eurocrats who descend on ministries as harmonization starts. If the government continues to hire on the basis of
"one of us", i.e., from the Sunni brotherhood and lodge milieu that has been serving as the pool for AKP's civil service hiring, lack of competence will be a problem. If the government hires on the base of competence, its new hires
will be frustrated by the incompetence of AKP's previous hires at all levels.


¶17. (C) Inside the party, Erdogan's hunger for power reveals itself in a sharp authoritarian style and deep distrust of others: as a former spiritual advisor to Erdogan and his wife Emine put it, "Tayyip Bey believes in God...but doesn't trust
him." In surrounding himself with an iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors, Erdogan has isolated himself from a flow of reliable information, which partially explains his failure to understand the context -- or real facts -- of the U.S. operations in Tel Afar, Fallujah, and elsewhere and his susceptibility to Islamist theories...
Erdogan's other foreign policy advisors (Cuneyd Zapsu, Egemen Bagis, Omer Celik, along with Mucahit Arslan and chef de cabinet Hikmet Bulduk) are despised as inadequate, out of touch and corrupt by all our AKP contacts from ministers to
MPs and party intellectuals.


¶21. (S) Third is corruption. AKP swept to power by promising to root out corruption. However, in increasing numbers AKPers from ministers on down, and people close to the party, are telling us of conflicts of interest or serious corruption
in the party at the national, provincial and local level and among close family members of ministers. We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding
presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame.

¶22. (S) Among the many figures mentioned to us as prominently involved in corruption are Minister of Interior Aksu, Minister of Foreign Trade Tuzmen, and AKP Istanbul provincial chairman Muezzinoglu. As we understand it from a contact in the intel directorate of Turkish National Police, a continuing investigation into Muezzinoglu's extortion racket and other activities has already produced evidence incriminating Erdogan. In our contacts across Anatolia we
have detected no willingness yet at the grassroots level to look closely at Erdogan or the party in this regard, but the trend is a time bomb.


Two Big Questions

¶24. (C) Turkey's EU bid has brought forth reams of pronouncements and articles -- Mustafa Akyol's Gulenist-tinged "Thanksgiving for Turkey" in Dec. 27 Weekly
Standard is one of the latest -- attempting to portray Islam in Turkey as distinctively moderate and tolerant with a strong mystical (Sufi) underpinning. Certainly, one can see in Turkey's theology faculties some attempts to wrestle with
the problems of critical thinking, free will, and precedent (ictihad), attempts which, compared to what goes on in theology faculties in the Arab world, may appear relatively progressive.

¶25. (C) However, the broad, rubber-meets-the-road reality is that Islam in Turkey is caught in a vise of (1) 100 years of "secular" pressure to hide itself from public view, (2) pressure and competition from brotherhoods and lodges to
follow their narrow, occult "true way", and (3) the faction-and positivism-ridden aridity of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet). As a result, Islam as it is lived in Turkey is stultified, riddled with hypocrisy, ignorant and intolerant of other religions' presence in Turkey, and unable to eject those who would politicize it in a radical, anti-Western way. Imams are for the most part poorly educated and all too ready to insinuate anti-Western,
anti-Christian or anti-Jewish sentiments into their sermons.
Exceptionally few Muslims in Turkey have the courage to challenge conventional Sunni thinking about jihad or, e.g., verses in the Repentance shura of the Koran which have for so long been used to justify violence against "infidels".

¶26. (C) The problem is compounded by the willingness of politicians such as Gul to play elusively with politicized Islam. Until Turkey ensures that the humanist strain in Islam prevails here, Islam in Turkey will remain a troubled, defensive force, hypocritical to an extreme degree and unwilling to adapt to the challenges of open society.

¶27. (C) A second question is the relation of Turkey and its citizens to history -- the history of this land and citizens' individual history. Subject to rigid taboos, denial, fears, and mandatory gross distortions, the study of history and practice of historiography in the Republic of Turkey remind one of an old Soviet academic joke: the faculty party chief assembles his party cadres and, warning against various ideological threats, proclaims, "The future is certain. It's only that damned past that keeps changing."

¶28. (C) Until Turkey can reconcile itself to its past, including the troubling aspects of its Ottoman past, in free and open debate, how will Turkey reconcile itself to the
concept and practice of reconciliation in the EU? How will it have the self confidence to take decisions and formulate policies responsive to U.S. interests? Some in AKP are joining what is still only a handful of others to take tentative, but nonetheless inspiring, steps in this regard. However, the road ahead will require a massive overhaul of education, the introduction and acceptance of rule of law, and a fundamental redefinition of the relation between citizen and state. In the words of the great (Alevi) Anatolian bard Asik Veysel, this is a "long and delicate road."

UPDATE - just to be even handed, here are the Tel Aviv cables. Interesting one on Israeli organised crime, adding new insights to the chapter on Israel in Misha Glenny's McMafia, which mostly focuses on the Russia connection. I note that the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist (by magnetic bomb attached to his car from a passing motorcycle) was a clone of the 2008 Tel Aviv killing of crime boss Yaakov Alperon.

Quote of the Day

Snafu at Not Proud of Britain :

"We don't care what charges you arrest Assange on, just don't cable the details to Hillary Clinton..."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Publicans Gone Wild

The young ladies and gentlemen (and catering staff) of the Royal Grammar School, Worcester, demonstrate the latest dance 'craze' sweeping the nation's youth. Apparently, since the England cricket side popularised The Sprinkler, the Watusi and the Hully-Gully do not 'cut it' and are no longer 'where it's at'.

(The school wasn't always the home of gilded youth. An ancient foundation, it was IIRC a state-funded grammar school until the early 1970s, when Worcestershire went comprehensive and Bromsgrove County High School became North Bromsgrove High School. RGS, independent though state-funded, picked up their ball and went private.)

What's The Story Here ?

Two Asian guys, one unknown, the other Amir Ali from Ridge Road in Crouch End, firebomb with comic ineptitude a pub in West Sussex - the Imperial, in Crawley, in the early hours. While the video is highly entertaining, what are they doing so far from home and who's paying them ?

a/c/t Mail :

Recorder John Hardy QC told Ali his offence was at the top end of the scale, despite the fact his ineptitude had thankfully meant it was doomed to failure.

He said: 'On that day, for whatever reason, you became embroiled in a planned and calculated attack which was part of a campaign of violence and intimidation by the local drug lords in Crawley against the licensees of this pub.'

I know Crawley has quite a considerable Asian population, and I'd hazard a guess that the people who hired Ali come from the same community. Is this a case of heroic landlord keeping the dealers out and being attacked for it, is it a turf war or what ? I'm afraid I'm hopelessly out of touch with the Crawley drugs scene, not to mention the bewildering ethnic patchwork of a town that 40 years ago was almost a byword for boring English respectability.

It was firebombed again last month with little damage. It's a modern (1978) pub on a modern shopping parade (described as 'run-down') on a modern estate. I get the impression there's a lot of social housing and some of the usual issues associated therewith (you're unusually mealy-mouthed tonight, Laban).

The Knowhere Guide is instructive - the Imperial seems to be, at least by comparison, not a bad place to drink in - and I get the impression from a local blogger that the landlord and customers are OK, despite the pub apparently having a 'bad press'.

"If you want a good night out and your staying quit far from the town centre, you can go and visit The Imperial (at the broadfield shops) It is a good place to chat and drink away together with the good old broadfield people. As many people know broadfield is quit voilent, but visiting The Imperial does not get you involved, because most of the trouble-makers are under age and are not allowed in the pub (so they just stand on the street having noting else to do, but causing trouble) The people working in the Imperial and visiting the pub always look after everyone in the pub. They accept you for who you are and where your from."

"the imperial has a bad reputation but it is a lovely place in the summer, where people from all ethnic backgrounds get together. "

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ken Clarke - Management By Cost Centre

For "Rehabilitation Revolution" read "20% cost reduction".

They've been trying rehabilitation ever since the 1950s :

"We all know Grendon's the prison of the future; loving and understanding and getting to know the prisoners is now official policy, not only of the Home Office but of the Prison Officers' Association as well. If you say you don't approve of it, down it'll go in your record; and when you come up for consideration for promotion, you'll find you've been unaccountably passed by."

With conspicuous lack of success :

"They said I was a product of my environment and upbringing. That made me feel it wasn't my fault, so the last person that I looked at was me and that's the first place I needed to look."

But Ken don't care about that. He's been given a job to do - to cut the cost of the Prison Service and the criminal justice system - and by God he's going to do it. That's what makes him the reliable chap that he is, and such a useful man to have in Government. A lesser - or shall we say less useful - man might have argued the toss, pointed out that defending the lives, property and liberty of the citizens is the primary duty of any state, reminded Cameron of the association (however undeserved, if we look at the 1980s) in the public mind of the Conservative Party with a robust attitude to crime and criminals, dug in his toes and defended his budget. Not Ken. It doesn't matter that

a) the costs will be transferred from the State to individuals - in the form of burglaries and assaults for many, rape, bodily harm and homicides for the unfortunate, insurance premiums for householders, quality of life for everyone.

b) these costs will in total be much greater than the amount saved.

c) they will fall most heavily upon the poor and vulnerable. I doubt Ken will be troubled by too much anti-social behaviour in whichever expensive village his mansion is located.

I told you the honeymoon would be short.

The only action of this government which really raised my spirits was a symbolic one - Cameron's refusal to take off his poppy when he found himself in China on Remembrance Day. The Chinese, showing an uncharacteristic botanical ignorance, confused Papaver Rhoeas, as worn by Cameron, with Papaver Somniferum, as forcibly sold to China in one of the less heroic chapters of our history.

For a moment the unconquerable spirit of Private John Moyse flickered - and Cameron followed it up with a visit the following day to the memorial at Imjin in South Korea, where fifty-nine years ago the Glorious Glosters, facing overwhelming odds and eventually overrun, killed and wounded several thousand troops of the People's Republic of China, saving Seoul thereby at the Battle of the Imjin River.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Anyone Know What This Fairy-Tale's Called ?

When my darling and I were reading a lot of fairy-tales at bedtime, we read one which we've not been able to find again since in the works of Andersen or the Brothers Grimm.

A young man is out in a boat on the river, and overturns. Drowning in the weeds at the bottom of the river, he's saved by the river fairy/sprite, they fall in love and he can now live underwater.

But he hankers after his old friends and acquaintances 'up above'. Oh, to see them again and to find out what's happening in the wide world!

So she lets him go, as the Hebridean witch-queen Thorgunna released Lief Ericsson, on condition of his return.

And like Lief, our young man forgets his betrothed and his promise - and eventually is due to marry someone else.

Come the wedding day, and it's starting to rain. By the time bride, groom and guests are in the church, it's raining stair-rods (I paraphrase) and the river is rising fast. Before they get to 'I do', the river is sweeping all before it - church, bride, groom, guests and all. That's what comes of slighting the river-fairy.

I told you my daughter liked the doomy, gloomy stuff.

Anyone know what the story's called ?

Friday Night Music

When I posted The Shins last year, commenter Yaffle asked if I'd heard the Fleet Foxes. Asked my 18 year old and he knew nowt of them. Not so now - it's rarely off the stereo and the car CD.

The whole album sounds as if they'd been listening to Perotin.

Demnation ...

Shorter Harpy :

Do you reject the Lib Dems ?

Student : I do.

And all their works ?

I do.

And all their empty tuition fee promises ?

I do.

You (almost) have to feel sorry for Clegg and Co. Traditionally the Lib Dims have been able to be all things to all men, able to make what promises they would - as they'd never have to live up to them. Must have been quite a shock when they found they had some real power, even if a lot of it's negative - stuff like maintaining foreign aid and not taking a blowtorch to the human rights act. I'm not sure Cameron is twisted with regret about any of these, mind - but he can cite Lib Dem indispensability to any neanderthal back-bencher who'd like to see Learco Chindamo decorating a Tyburn tree rather than consulting his tax-funded lawyers yet again.

The Lib Dem ministers have bitten the bullet manfully and their MPs have (mostly) stayed onside. Amazing what the official cars and the government boxes will do. Given their current poll ratings, mind you, it would be a foolish move for them to bring down the government now.

Interesting times.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"The Sheer Pleasure"

Duncan Campbell sees the Student Grant demonstrations* and relives his glorious youth at CiF :

"One of the most striking features about the wave of demonstrations rolling across the country at the moment is the sheer pleasure on the faces of many of the young marchers."

That's the same sheer pleasure you'll see on the faces of EDL demonstrators in Preston, a hundred-strong group of football supporters up for a weekend in Blackpool, on the streets of Paris in 1968, Genoa in 2008, or Nuremburg in 1936. Paris in 1789, Athens in 2010 or Rome in 1922.

It's the pleasure of being in a large group - the larger the better - with something to unite you and (preferably) an enemy to hate**. Anti-capitalist in Genoa, anti-Jew in Tsarist Russia, anti-Catholic in London.

It's the intoxicating power of the mob.

* Laban expounded on the Great Tuition Fee Disaster here.

** 35 years ago at West Brom's Birmingham Road end, there was a call-and response chant as follows :

"Who are the people ?"


"Who are the ****bags ?"


Monday, November 29, 2010

"The Key Quality of Social Awareness"

The Magistrate is puzzled by a poll question at the Magistrate's Association website :

Regarding magistrate applicants, does the key quality of social awareness cover the need for local knowledge?


Social awareness, as I'm sure we all know, is one of the six key personal qualities looked for in new magistrates. I'd been hoping that 'legal awareness' was in there somewhere, but maybe you pick that up as you go along.

I wonder if my comment was perhaps a bit too cynical?

Well obviously 'social awareness' (as opposed to the old-fashioned, outmoded concept of 'legal awareness') is a key competency for the modern magistrate. The question is, should a knowledge of social conditions in a particular location inform that social awareness or not ?

I'd imagine the correct answer is 'Yes'.

An example would be a case where a minority youth is charged with an unprovoked assault on a stranger. Apart from the broader social context of historic slavery, oppression, racism etc by the host community, something that every magistrate should be aware of, should he also be aware of the local context - let's say a recent EDL rally in the area and the concomitant ratcheting up of rhetoric against minorities, resulting in justified local anger, albeit misdirected?

Another example would be a case where a white youth is charged with an unprovoked assault on a (minority) stranger. Apart from the broader social context of historic slavery, oppression, racism etc by the host community, something that every magistrate should be aware of, should he also be aware of the local context - let's say a recent EDL rally in the area and the concomitant ratcheting up of rhetoric against minorities, resulting in unforgiveable racist assaults which must be stamped out?

Eccentric Hen

After the fox snaffled our last two hens last autumn, leaving a lonely bantam cockerel widower, Susan bought two replacements - a 'full-size' hen and a pretty little black bantam. They're both good layers, and pretty soon little black hen was broody - sitting on about a dozen eggs. It was time to move her and the eggs into the 'broody box' - our mini-maternity unit where she could care for the chicks undisturbed until they've grown a bit.

She went crackers. Obviously upset at being separated from her mate, she shrieked and fussed - almost cried. A seriously distraught hen - it was heartbreaking to hear her. Usually a hen will settle back down in an hour or two - this went on for two days, at the end of which she scattered the eggs in all directions and would only sit on two. One hatched and we now have a fine hen that's the spit of her dad as far as colouring's concerned - the hens all went back together. But what a waste of potential life.

Come early November, little black hen started staying in the coop and rarely emerging. I was worried - thought she must be ill. After a week I thought she must be on the way out.

Then my wife spotted four eggs under her. Hens are supposed to get broody in spring, not winter.

She hatched one a week ago and abandoned the other eggs - we moved mother and baby into the broody box with no complaints this time. The chick will be tough if it lives - the garden thermometer hit a minimum of 12 Fahrenheit (-11 Celsius) yesterday - bare metal was sticking to my fingers. It's quite balmy this morning at 25 (-4 Celsius).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Historical Snippets

I'm reading Adam Fergusson's "When Money Dies" (pdf), about the Weimar inflation, and a few new facts (new to me, anyway) stand out :

1) Germany had been printing or borrowing money (from its citizens in the form of War Loan) all through WWI - in contrast to the British emphasis on taxation. While this printing increased as they headed towards the cliff-edge in 1921 and 1922, to an extent forced by the Allies' unrealistic reparation demands, it was in line with what had gone before. Dr Hjalmar Schacht :

"Germany tried to meet the colossal costs of the war by an appeal to the self-sacrificing spirit of the people. 'I gave gold for iron' was the slogan for the surrender of gold ornaments and jewellery. 'Invest in War Loan' ran the appeal to the patriotic sense of duty of all classes. Issue after issue of War Loan transformed the greater part of German private fortunes into paper claims on the State. Our enemies, especially Britain, took another line. They met the cost of war with taxes aimed primarily at those industries and groups to whom the war spelled prosperity. Britain's policy of taxation proved socially more equitable than Germany's policy of War Loans which lost their value after the war was over …"
And those paper claims on the State proved valueless.

2) The central bankers and politicians seem to have been unaware that the rapid depreciation of the Mark might have anything to do with their printing, while industrialists welcomed currency depreciation as improving their export potential (shades of Darling and Bernanke), but simultaneously moved as much of their wealth as possible either overseas or into hard assets.

Dr Rathenau did his best to explain to the Reichstag what was happening to the mark by alluding lengthily to the vicious circle of an adverse trade balance, the consequent necessity to sell German currency abroad, and its resulting depreciation, followed by the fall in the exchange rate and inevitable rise of home prices, leading to increased costs of materials and labour and so to new rifts in the budget. He expressly and publicly denied that the printing press had any role to play in that permanently spiralling sequence of events ...Most successful businessmen, however, stuck happily to the heresy that only by a continually falling exchange rate could Germany compete in neutral markets.

3) the money-printing, while impoverishing those on fixed incomes, did keep employment up when in the UK two million men stood idle. Basil Blackett, Treasury Finance controller :

In spite of his robust common sense, the man in the [German] street is beginning to believe what some interested industrialists are telling him, so that he seems almost readily to subscribe to the false doctrine that it is good for trade that a government, by inflationary finance, should habitually spend more than its income… Even the German industrialist knows that the present activity of German industry (destroying the export trade of its neighbours) is a sign of fever and not of prosperity. But, as usual, each class in Germany thinks that the burden of taxation should fall on some other class or classes … Even the best disposed are inclined in a fatalistic way to let things take their course and wait for the world to recover its reason. The big industrialists are attempting to save something from the wreck by turning all the paper marks they can into foreign currencies or, failing that, into real things — land, machinery, and so on, which have an independent value … The incentive to saving is gone just when saving is of vital necessity to the State...

The one real temporary advantage is that Germany's workmen are in employ, but even this is mainly due not to successful exporting but to the misdirected consumption of holders of paper marks who want to get rid of them, and therefore to misdirected production, which actually interferes with the proper flow of exports and to some extent increases the amount of luxury imports. That the government has been or is deliberately pursuing a policy of inflation so disastrous for any government that adopts it is sufficiently disproved. It is partly weakness and inexperience which have prevented greater success.

3) I hadn't realised quite what a very bad way immediate post-war Germany was in. Years before Hitler's Munich putsch, right-wing ex-soldiers were attempting coups - and there was a steady drip of right-inspired assassinations, reminiscent of the left-inspired assassinations of late Republican Spain :

One Herr Harden, whom Lord D'Abernon (British Ambassador) described as an acute if somewhat acid observer, explained to him that 'the followers of the Right were perpetually hunting for the old culprits responsible for the downfall of the empire and the old system, but instead of attacking the generals — Ludendorff and company — who were really the cause, or the old gang of princes and sycophants, they reviled the Jews and assassinated the leaders of the Left together with those who did not take their own perverted view.' More than three hundred assassinations among the leaders of the Left had been perpetrated since the Armistice, Herr Harden said, 'and no one is punished.'
All this while hardly anyone had heard of Hitler. The DNVP was the party trebling its vote, and the rhetoric of the right didn't need much tweaking for when people had heard of Hitler.

On August 24 1921, Ludendorff took the march-past of 2,000 war veterans headed by the 39-year-old Prince Eitel Friedrich, second son of the Kaiser. They marched under an archway bearing the inscription 'In Kriege Unbesiegt' (unbeaten in war), and past the royal box in Paradeschritt, Prince Eitel Friedrich throwing his heels as high as anyone else. Then in front of 20,000 spectators there followed a sermon by the Army chaplain which suggested that Germany's greatness could only be recovered by military power, through the monarchy and the Hohenzollerns. There were speeches in the same strain by the three generals present, Ludendorff, Graf Waldersee and von der Goltz. Von der Goltz, who had commanded the Baltic Free Corps, was at pains to attack the 'Jew Government', and thus caused some anti-Semitic incidents in the crowd; but he stole the limelight in any case by producing telegrams of congratulations not only from Admiral Scheer and Grossadmiral von Tirpitz, but from Hindenburg and the ex-Kaiser himself.
I'm also reading Lord Carver's history of the Turkish Front in WWI - in which the author wonders what would have happened had Churchill not decided to requisition (or pinch) two ships being built for the Turkish Navy. Up to that time the Ottoman Navy had been trained by British officers, but the Germans seized the opportunity to offer two similar ships to them - under a German Admiral. Admiral Souchon, doubtless prompted by Berlin, then attacked Britain's ally, Russia, in the Black Sea - and Turkey was in the war on the German side.

At the time Ottoman Turkey had de jure sovereignty over Egypt (in fact British-controlled), Persia, Syria, Palestine and Iraq - in fact the whole Arabian peninsula. Profitable neutrality - and the maintenance of oil supplies to whoever could collect them - in practice Britain - might have made the Turks very rich indeed, and perhaps enabled the Sick Man of Europe to recover his health. Instead, despite the quality of their fighting troops, they lost what was left of their Empire, the last Caliph lost his job and title, the Brits got all the oil (for a time, anyway) and immigration to Palestine began that was to lead to the founding of the State of Israel.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Street Life

Mail :

A club promoter threw himself under a train on the London Underground after missing out on a chance to appear on Big Brother, an inquest heard today.

Allister Logue, 55, made it to the final 80 hopefuls in contention for a place on Channel 4's 11th and final series of the reality show but was not picked as one of the 14 housemates.

And just a month after he appeared as on the launch show of Big Brother on June 9, Mr Logue leapt to his death beneath the wheels of an oncoming Northern line train at Charing Cross underground station.

He had worked as a hair and make-up artists alongside renowned photograher David Bailey in the 1970s and later moved to Ibiza where he became well known as a club promoter and DJ.

Balearics: Allister Logue was a renowned club promoter in Ibiza

Balearics: Allister Logue was a renowned club promoter in Ibiza

But he had returned to the UK from the Balearics last year and moved to the Lancashire village of Crawshawbooth, where was described as 'down on his luck'.

An inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court heard that on the before his death on July 24, Mr Logue had stayed at a Salvation Army hostel in Trafalgar Square.

The following morning at around 8.45am he hurled himself into the path of a tube train at Charing Cross.

It seems - and is - a long time ago that Laban was out clubbing five or six nights a week. This song struck me then, as now.

"Street life - but you'd better not get old,
Street life - or you're gonna feel the cold"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"This Irish Miracle"

Written in 2006, quoted by Joseph Cotterill (his added links and emboldening, too) at FT Alphaville :

Ireland is no longer on the edge of Europe but is instead an Atlantic bridge. High-tech companies such as Intel, Oracle and Apple have chosen to base their European operations there. I will be asking Google executives today why they set up in Dublin, not London… What has caused this Irish miracle, and how can we in Britain emulate it?

… in a world where cheap, rapid communication means that investment decisions are made on a global basis, capital will go wherever investment is most attractive. Ireland’s business tax rates are only 12.5 per cent, while Britain’s are becoming among the highest in the developed world.

World-class education, high rates of innovation and an attractive climate for investment: these are all elements that have helped to raise productivity in Ireland. It is not the only advanced economy to have achieved this uplift. Last week in Washington the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, told me about the impact that the sustained increase in productivity growth had made in generating prosperity in the US…

The new global economy poses real long-term challenges to Britain, but also real opportunities for us to prosper and succeed. In Ireland they understand this. They have freed their markets, developed the skills of their workforce, encouraged enterprise and innovation and created a dynamic economy. They have much to teach us, if only we are willing to learn.

Good job we're slow learners, or we might be in even worse economic shape, were that possible.

But what manner of man can this be, who hails the tremendous prosperity of the US and Irish economies, and obviously cannot see a cloud in the economic sky? Surely, while a talented polemicist, he should be kept well away from any influence over actual decision-making?

Er... oh. Oh dear, oh dear. Most unfortunate.

UPDATE - to be fair, the SNP's Alex Salmond, currently heading up the Provisional Government of Scotland, went one better, lauding the economies of both Iceland(c) and Ireland(r) as the template for a future independent Scottish economy. Had he got his way, it might have been the shortest independence ever and the greatest disaster for the Scottish economy since the Darien scheme - which led directly to union with England.

Big Meteor Last Night

About ten past midnight, east to west - big enough to light up the clouds. I was taking the dog for his bedtime 'ablutions'.

Apparently there are quite a few about. Meteors, not dogs.

Galloway To Stand In Oldham East Re-Run ?

The battle for the Muslim vote at the re-run election in Oldham (see my post here) is really going to be interesting, if this comment, on the story of the EDL disrupting a meeting in Oldham's Pakistani Community Centre (the English Community Centre being unavailable) is correct :

Five thugs attempted to attack a Respect open planning meeting in Oldham. They were completely repulsed, immobilized and Greater Manchester Police were alerted and moved in to arrest. None of those in the meeting were hurt.

The meeting was led by George Galloway and Yvonne Ridley. It was called to consider an electoral challenge in the forthcoming Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. The consensus of the meeting was that a challenge will be necessary.

Hmm. Never a dull moment, is there ?

Those Student Fee Increases

this blog, last week - against the student tuition fee increases :

"the Gove option will mean that a lot of bright working or lower-middle class kids will look at a potential £60,000 debt and they won't bother - unless they're at Oxbridge or doing a course with a pretty much guaranteed career at the end of it. Outside this small subset of courses, university will be restricted to those whose parents can subsidise them - i.e. the very rich.

That's not all bad - I can see cultural studies departments being disbanded across England and Wales. Economic forces will cut away swathes of courses and institutions, correcting the insane growth of the last 25 years.

But at that kind of cost the idea of education as a good in itself will wither away. Who's going to do archaeology without a private income ?"

I'm pleased to say that Goldsmiths Cultural Studies lecturer - now professor - John Hutnyk has got together with some likeminded souls, and very kindly put together a suggested hitlist of disciplines (and indeed, individuals) for the chop.

As he rightly points out, "Browne’s plans will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline" - such fields of knowledge as :

Race and Cultural Studies

Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics

Contemporary Literature and Culture

Cultural History

Women’s Studies

English and Cultural Studies

Media Arts

Women’s and Gender History

Visual Cultures

Memory Studies ( I forget what that is - LT)

I guess every cloud has a silver lining ...


How they got there - good piece at WSJ. The banks, the regulators and the big accountants don't come out well.

Mr. Bacon suggested the government buy loans from the banks at discounted prices, effectively handing them cash and easing doubts about their viability. By insisting on steep discounts, Ireland would be less likely to lose money on the purchases. On the flip side, bargain prices would trigger losses at the banks—which the government would probably have to patch with more capital. The taxpayer would foot the bill either way, but at least Ireland would understand how big it was.

The approach "has the merit of certainty and clarity," Mr. Bacon argued. But, he added, it would only work if "the projection of the extent of impairment is accurate in the first place."

It wasn't.

It seems that the Irish government were given incorrect information, not once but several times, on the extent of the financial damage - on the basis of which they guaranteed the banks and most of their debt.

A correspondent writes :

The British magazine Punch used to depict Irish people as thick-browed, ape-like, half-humans, concerned only about one dimensional matters like eating and drinking. We railed against the racist stereotype. We were wrong. We are, after all, a shamelessly base people that clearly cannot sit at the same table as the more civilised peoples of Europe.

Does anyone ever wonder if the endless process of ethnic cleansing we call emigration, might have had a devastating affect on our gene pool, in a form of natural selection? Have we exported the good genes, and retained the genes for selfishness and stupidity?

A view from the ground - an Irish farmer fills in the politics for the Englishman :

Meanwhile, we have a government with a majority of 2. This arithmetic depends on the green party, who don't have a lot to contribute in the way of sound financial management (!) and 2 independents. One of these independents has told the Government that he will only support the budget (December 7th) if it includes MORE money for Kerry, while overall it must cut total public spending by more than 10%. There's a by-election next thursday, which the government will lose. They know this, which is why they delayed holding it for 17 months and were eventually forced to by a legal action brought to the courts by that well known champion of democracy, Sinn Fein. There are 3 more by-elections which are also long overdue for the same reason, and despite the judgement about the first one, the government is using the delays inherent in the court process to delay holding these three till after the budget. The boss, Brian Cowen, has an opinion poll rating of just 11% and a track record as finance minister 2002-2007.

The excellent Kevin Myers doesn't think much of the new Lansdowne Road either :

The combined resources of the GAA, the FAI and the IRFU could have created a 100,000-seater super-stadium. But instead, the lords of IRFU settled for an almost studio-sized ground at their old haunt on Lansdowne Road: with not the 83,000 spectators at the present Croke Park -- which was filled for every home international including Italy -- and certainly not the 100,000 of some future all-code Croke Park, but with just 50,000.

Which other sporting organisation in the entire world has built a stadium that is known to be 30,000 seats below market demand?

There were as it turns out nearly 20,000 empty seats in Cardiff a week ago, not as I guessed 10,000 - and not many more on Saturday, either. Lansdowne Road had 15,000 empty seats.

A/c/t Kevin Myers, the President of the IRFU earns 400,000 Euros a year - which maybe why they think 430 euros (about £320) is a reasonable price for four rugby matches.

Monday, November 15, 2010

That Oldham Election

The approved narrative of the Phil Woolas brouhaha in Oldham East is :

a) the Lib Dems were gaining on him, leveraging their anti-war credentials to attract Muslim voters

b) Woolas' team saw this, realised they were losing Muslim votes and that it could be touch and go

c) Desperate times, desperate measures - a decision was taken to try and up the turnout among the despised white working class

d) method - leaflets (probably wrongly) associating the Lib Dems with the sort of extremists who call for beheadings, (rightly) pointing out the Lib Dem support for an immigration amnesty (Tory leaflets also mentioned this), and calling on voters to 'Stand By Phil'

Although what probably did for Woolas in the court case was an allegation that the Lib Dims were taking Saudi gold, it was the attempts to 'get the white vote angry' that led white lefties to choke on their lattes.

I assumed that narrative was pretty much OK, until I looked at the actual results :

General Election 2010: Oldham East and Saddleworth[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%

Labour Phil Woolas 14,186 31.9 −10.7

Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins 14,083 31.6 −0.5

Conservative Kashif Ali 11,773 26.4 +8.7

BNP Alwyn Stott 2,546 5.7 +0.8

UKIP David Bentley 1,720 3.9 +1.8

Christian Gulzar Nazir 212 0.5 N/A
Majority 103 0.2 −10.2
Turnout 44,520 61.2 +4.4

Hang on - the resurgent Lib Dems actually lost vote share compared to 2005!

I hadn’t realised that the big difference in Oldham 2010 was the drop in the Labour vote, not an increase in the Lib Dem vote. Lib Dems lost just a couple of hundred votes compared to 2005 (despite an increase in turnout from 57.3% to 61.2%), Labour lost about 3,800.

The Tory vote went up by 3,000 – presumably 3,000 ex-Labour voters. The Tory increase is all the more impressive given that UKIP increased their vote by 900-odd – presumably patriotic ex-Tories. The BNP added 400 votes - probably mostly ex-Labour, too.

The swing to the Tories of 8.2% was more than twice the national average of 3.8%.

So what did 2010 Tory candidate Kashif Ali (11,773 votes, 26.4%) have that 2005 Tory candidate Keith Chapman (7,901 votes, 18.2%) didn’t have ?

Could it be that the formerly Labour Muslim votes were never heading to the Lib Dems, but, on grounds of "friendship, family ties or tribalism" (as the anti-Woolas Muslim Public Affairs Committee put it) to their Tory co-religionist ?

UPDATE - apparently Mr Kashif was parachuted in by CCO against the local party's wishes :

Traditionalists have been angered by Mr Cameron’s plans to take control of shortlists to impose women and ethnic minority candidates to boost their numbers in Parliament. Constituency party chair Mrs Barbara Jackson, an active member for 30 years, claimed two candidates were removed from the selection list at the last minute and others weren’t allowed to stand.

She claimed Mr Ali had threatened management that he would recruit family as members to take over the association if he was not selected.

Mrs Jackson said she had been labelled racist for complaining, but added: “They paint it as a race issue but it’s nothing to do with race. I won’t give in to bullying tactics from anyone no matter what the race, colour or sex. I’m still a Conservative but I’m very disappointed with the party. “The way they have done it is just wrong because the electorate deserve a choice. They have decided who our candidate is and that’s it, full stop. The constituency should be guiding the candidates, not the other way round. Very able people in our constituency have been rejected. Why they think it’s acceptable I can’t understand. It’s an exercise in ticking boxes and positive discrimination. They want women and Asians.”

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Hard Times

Somebody needs to tell the Irish and Welsh Rugby Unions that there's a recession / recovery on. There must have been 10,000 empty seats at the Millennium Stadium for Australia this afternoon (£70, £65, £60, £40, £25 - no reduction for kids and all the cheap (?) ones sold) - and there's a fair bit of space at the strange-looking new Lansdowne Road aka "Insurance-company-formerly-known-as-Norwich-Union-now-with-bland-and-meaningless-name Stadium", where the IRU hiked ticket prices by 21%, then added insult to injury by only selling the tickets in packages of four - one for each of the autumn internationals - at 430 euros i.e. over £320.

After an outcry they agreed to sell them in packages of two, but still at the same overall price. Result - no sell out against the world champions in a 50,000 seater stadium, when Ireland regularly sold out 82,000 Croke Park.

Most odd-looking stadium. One stand (North, replacing the old open terrace?) seems to be almost entirely executive boxes - like the west stand at Gloucester. I bet the atmosphere there is terrific. Capacity at 50,000 is only 2,000 more than the old Lansdowne Road, although it's now all-seater. But as with Wembley, what's the point of spending all that dosh for something that's no bigger ?

The WRU have got many things wrong over the years. One massive thing they got right was paying 'only' £120m to increase capacity from 53,000 to 73,000 all-seated, plus snazzy sliding roof - one of the great stadia of Europe. I love the way you can arrive at Cardiff Central station and it's right there in front of you, at the heart of town - the historic Castle directly to the North and only "Chip Alley" between the ground and the shopping. Cardiff on a rugby Saturday is a great family day out - Techniquest for young kids in the morning, a quick look at the Castle, the game and an excellent shopping centre for those who don't like rugby.

I don't know what the ratio is these days between the gate receipts and the TV rights, but the Welsh and Irish unions need to make sure the grounds are full for big games - and if that means reducing prices, so be it. You're selling an image - a premium event - as well as a game when you sell to TV - and if the fans don't appear to want to see it live, why should the viewer ?

It's wrong that Wales only have junior tickets available for the less popular games. Those are your future adult followers. But in any event, people will be less likely to fork out £200-odd for an afternoon's family rugby for the next few years. Like everyone else, the Rugby Unions are going to have to 'drink water and walk slowly'.

* Note - none of the above applies to Twickenham, where the return of hefty City bonuses will doubtless ensure full car-parks come February.