Monday, 28 December 2009

"Mad" Mel

The we-know-best-and-you-don't left/liberals call her Mad Mel. They never have much to say after a terrorist hit or near-miss. She does. I knew a very noisy left/liberal years ago who said that all terrorism was caused by poverty - a cursory glance at the backgrounds of leading terrorists - especially the current crop of jihadist psychopaths - demonstrates that, like so much contemporary left/liberal dogma, that particular nostrum is fucking poppycock. But it shows you they'll believe anything.

Radicals flocked to the UK, attracted by Britain's toxic combination of criminally lax immigration controls, generous health, education and welfare benefits and the ability to perpetuate their views through the British veneration of the principle of free speech.
Despite 9/11, the 2005 London Tube and bus attacks and the dozens of other Islamist plots uncovered in Britain, the astounding fact is that Islamic extremist networks are still allowed to flourish in Britain, largely through the obsession of its governing class with multiculturalism and 'human rights'.

As a result, Britain remains - to its eternal shame - the biggest hub of Islamic radicalisation outside the Arab and Muslim world.
Extremists are still slipping into the country. The courts are still refusing to deport terrorists in order to protect their 'human rights' abroad.
London boasts the shameful reputation of the world's premier money-laundry for terrorism, which shelters behind a label of 'charity' that the authorities choose not to challenge.
Not only is no action taken against extremist mosques and madrassas, but many British universities have been turned into terrorism recruitment centres.

Rest here.

As Madness once sang, if this is madness then I'm filled with gladness.

Because totalitarian governments always label their opponents insane in the end. See soviet Russia.

Is it "Mad" Mel, or is it "Mad" Gordon, Ed, Harriet and Tony? The answer depends on whether you prefer your head in the sand or not.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Local effing government

After last night weather, I felt moved to ask a friend of mine to stick this the local paper round here:

Dear XXXX,

I will buy you a beer or two if you put this letter in your paper.

Dear Sir,

When I emerged from ****** station at around 12.30am on Dec 17, I found a blizzard blowing. In the space of two minutes I saw three people take heavy falls in the slush - there was, of course, no grit down. Walking through the snow I saw several other people take heavy falls. I called out to one man, who had fallen very heavily and appeared to have done serious damage to his arm, and said: "wonderful, isn't it, that we pay a fortune in tax and AND council tax to keep the council offices full of local government staff who are supposed to be 'managing' everything but they can't even grit the roads and pavements, even when there's 12 hours notice.."
Of course, the above sentence was shorter, sweeter and punctuated with bloodcurdling swearwords.
When I finally reached my road, after half a mile uphill of ungritted pavements and roads, I checked the box at the end of the road to see if there was any salt that residents could use for the road come the morning. Naturally, it was empty - we used it all in the February blizzards and, though the council can have a diversity and green policies of byzantine intricacy and bully everyone into having four different recycling boxes, it cannot refill the salt supply tub for the road.
I would write to my councillor about this but last time I wrote to him he never wrote back.
The moral of the story is what the point of local government? Five intelligent people - who actually live in the borough and understand its needs - could meet once a month in a room above a pub and make all the financial and planning decisions necessary to 'run' this borough. Local government is an expensive, useless racket and it should be abolished now.

William Gazy

Monday, 14 December 2009


Privately educated 'toff' Edward Balls has responded to Andrew Gilligan's Spectator piece about the Labour government giving money to a school where a former Hizb ut-Tahrir campaigner with extremist views is working(see past posts)with a letter to said organ saying that no hardline Islamic attitudes exist within the school because the school's Ofsted inspection didn't find any.
I'll say that again. In a slow, mockingly sarcastic voice. Because Ofsted didn't find any.

This is how socialism does its business. This is how it sleeps at night. The same thinking that results in Baby P and the doctor who couldn't see he had a broken spine and the social workers who filed reports while his father kicked him round the house. Why pensioners lie in their own excrement in hospitals. Why people end up in court for having opinions that the Oxbridge intelligentsia don't approve of. Why Victoria Climbie was tortured to death under the noses of Haringey Council. Why Fiona Pilkington was driven to suicide as the police did nothing. Why a hundred or more teenagers have been shot, stabbed or beaten to death in London in the last couple of years. Why the national debt is heading for £1.5 trillion.

Because Ofsted didn't find any.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Victoria, Midnight

Study for Victoria, Midnight; charcoal on brown packing paper

It was Van Gogh who said that night was just as interesting to paint as day, if not more so. I think he was right.
If you ever come round the corner into Terminus Place, as the area outside Victoria Station is called, on a bus, you will notice how the recorded female voice announces it. She says it quite unlike the way she announces any of the other streets.
She says 'Victoria Station' in the voice of a woman who has just had a very good time in bed.
I like the front of Victoria Station at night. It has grime and grandeur; a monstrous wedding cake left out in sooty rain. I've been coming in and out of that station for thirty years and the front always has something new to show me, if only the way the light catches it.
The impression I want to give here is something vertigious, tottering almost, with immensities looming. Some lights still burning but many switched off.
I hope to work it up into something majestic and damned, like England is.

Post budget record, sing in a Scotch accent, if you please.
Here we are again. The money's all gone. Osborne is right when he says that at least in the past when they'd pissed it all away on their bureacratic utopias they had the balls to take the tough decisions. Not this bunch of devious cowards.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Liddle Incident - Night Thoughts II

Anyone who takes notice of the news and spends significant amounts of time on streets and on public transport in London will know that Rod Liddle has a point - the culture of young black males has been pathological for a very long time now and liberals and the Left cannot face it and have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide/deny it.
If you've seen a fair bit of life from, as Kipling has it 'the underside where the lath and plaster is not smoothed off', you will know that Liddle is being provocative but broadly correct.
(Sorry to bring Kipling in - that won't help anyone's case in the eyes of an urban liberal)
The usual suspects have all howled with rage - you won't see Bonnie Greer or Diana Abbott getting so exercised about Hizb ut-Tahrir - and let them howl. Abbott is one of the biggest and most ridiculous hypocrites in the parliamentary Labour Party - and that is a very crowded field.
She refused to give her son the socialist education her party insists children should have, for the very reason that she did not want her son to become involved with the pathological culture of young black males - which socialist comprehensive culture can do absolutely zilch about, except invent ever more fantastical explanantions and excuses for it.
So she packed him off to a private school, paid for with the money she makes from 'representing' the people whose sons she does not want her son mixing with.
And she calls Cameron and Osborne toffs...
Bonnie Greer was reported in yesterday's papers to have responded to Liddle's piece by saying:
'My response would be that the overwhelming majority of paedophiles, murderers, warmongers and football hooligans are white males and all we got in return was beans on toast and Top Gear.'

Now, doubtless this is sarcasm and I should not bother to refute her outburst on the grounds that I have never seen Miss Greer say anything that even appeared intelligent or wise, even when she had a golden opportunity to do so when she found herself sitting next to that repulsive and stupid man Nick Griffin on Question Time.
But still. They are very intemperate comments for someone who is Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum, don't you think? As well as being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of the Franco-British Council.
Guess who personally put Bonnie on the board of trustees for the British Museum? Gordon Brown, that's who.
The Left can't handle crime when it's done by anyone - but their especial supinity is with black crime. Which is why it has escalated over the Blair/Brown years.
In fact, the near-weekly fatal stabbing of young black men by other young black men which occurred during the late baroque wrongness of Ken Livingstone's mayoralty has only been reduced because that heartless communist and his tame copper Ian Blair were turfed out by someone on the Right who could face the truth and do something about it.

Three cheers for Andrew Gilligan - he's proved that the Labour government ARE funding what amounts to a Hizb ut-tahrir madrasah. Gilligan, no righty he, called Ed Balls a 'disgrace' to his face, which must be a wonderfully cathartic thing to be able to do.

The main evidence that Mr Balls has made a massive blunder is a chapter in a Hizb ut Tahrir pamphlet, ‘Education and Identity’, written by one Farah Ahmed. Mrs Ahmed is the head teacher of one of the two schools, and also a trustee of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation (ISF), which runs them both. If I were a Muslim parent, I would not let my child within 20 miles of her.

Just when bien pensants were about to start playing their well-worn record entitled 'all an invention of the right wing press', old Gilly gets to the bottom of it. Well done son.

I approach Taki in the Spectator with caution. He can make you laugh or he can make you think he's an old Germanic word beginning with c. But he's very funny this week about Dubai threatening to go pop. I particularly enjoyed this bit:

Sam Goldwyn once said that if you want to send a message use Western Union. Hollywood didn’t listen and lots of crappy movies were made. Well, I liked old Sam, not that I ever met him, but we should follow his advice and send a message through Western Union to the Maktoum Brothers comedy act. It should read as follows: Palace intrigue old hat stop decision making lousy stop greed comma arrogance comma and all round hirsute facial ugliness too much stop no longer welcome to rainy comma full of towels already comma London stop. Not that it will ever happen. Because you can fool all the people all the time when you promise them riches. Because that’s all the Dubai debacle ever was. A desert mirage fueled by greed and sold to suckers by tawny types whose ancestors used to sell flying carpets to dumb Englishmen with sunburnt noses, knees, and elbows.

Of course, I'm more struck on the Maktoums than Taki is - I've backed a lot of their horses and won fat sums off them.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Night thoughts

It occurred to me as I gazed out of the train window going past Battersea Power Station at midnight the other week (I work nights) that the seed of Labour’s disastrous years in power was this: when you and your members/supporters are out of office for a generation you start to think you’re right simply because the government of the day is wrong - and so does everybody else. That’s exactly why I warn people from voting Cameron. The prime lesson to be learned from Blair’s tenure was just because it’s all gone wrong don’t think the incoming cabinet are going to be anything other than shit with bad ideas.
The English middle classes and the English working class Tories developed a kind of in-advance version of Stockholm Syndrome about the Labour Party back in the dog days of Major. The media onslaught against the Tories and the recession – remember how thick it was laid on compared to Labour’s recession? – pushed these sections into loving something they normally hated with a passion and they voted and voted for ‘Home Counties’ Tony, and by doing so they entrenched a gang of former and not-so-former Communists in power.
Well, as an old gangerman I knew when I worked in the building game used to say when someone had injured themselves through their own stupidity: ‘that’ll fucking learn yer.’

When are all the young urban liberals – and the comedians, pop singers and DJs who manufacture their attitudes and ideas – going to start shouting about President Barack ‘W’ Obama, as I am pleased to call him?
He announced his upping of the ante in the AfghaniNAM war this week in an assertive speech at West Point that would have made every young urban liberal I know absolutely venomous with righteous indignation – if, er, he didn’t happen to be black and a ‘liberal’.
But I see nothing much about it. If it had been Dubya himself, then it would have been a very different matter. It is this squalid hypocrisy among the young that I find so disgusting – they want to lead us in the fight for a rainbow world of equality, low carbon consumerism, middle-class bummer rock and quality coffee shops, and yet, when confronted with a Jack-and-Jill test of their moral reasoning, they fail at the first. Dear me. All that whining, all the marches and gigs, all those Marcus Brigstocke gags and then tumbleweeds when a Black Democrat does the warmonger boogie.
Do you remember when comedians, pop singers, the BBC and actors used to criticise British governments? It happened for a while during what I call the Luvvies’ Interregnum – the freezing winter of 2002-3 – when, after five happy years of Thatcho-Socialism (that’s where you can be a pig for money, power and privilege safe in the knowledge that your tax money is financing Cultural Marxism) Blair made his fateful, stupid decision to go to war and the Left split down the middle. (You may also remember that apart from the Iraq scrimmage, Labour’s pop culture vanguards never had anything to say about Blair’s other wars)
But apart from that, this appalling government – far worse than Margaret Thatcher’s government and I’ll award ten English pounds to the first person who can write below a convincing explanation of why that statement is wrong – has never had any serious opposition from popular culture and as regular readers of this blog know that makes me mad.
It’s all very well to say that centre-left governments are always the darlings of the arts, media and academe, but when things have become so pisspoor and people who could speak out don’t, then you have to question the intellects and morals of these people. And I do. And I find them wanting and so, therefore, I find the mainstream culture wanting.

One of my strongest dislikes these days are so called stand-up comedians. Among my extensive network of friends and acquaintances I find so many people’s beliefs about how the world works are shaped by men like Eddie Izzard. This amounts to a pathological sarcasm about western civilisation, or rather the defence mechanisms of civilisation – the nation state, empirical thinking, cultural conservatism. See Izzard’s routine about flags, on youtube. I long for the day that people such as Izzard and Stephen Fry get some of their own medicine from a younger generation.
Of course, scratch one of these ‘comic geniuses’ and what do you find? Neil Kinnock. By which I mean dreary, socialist EU fanatics. Izzard is a Labour party groupie and last time I heard an aspirant MEP.
The only contemporary stand up comedian who I find consistently funny is Harry Hill.

A few of useful things that have come out of the Iraq and Afghanistan fiascos: It has clearly demonstrated to the British public that, as ever, a Labour government cannot behave in a responsible manner towards the armed services. We forget that at our peril.
Injudicious comments from ministers have revealed that a major reason Whitehall will not countenance pulling out is because they fear the legal and immigration ramifications a retreat would cause – extraordinary but check Hansard.
Finally, a lot of intellectual bigheads have had to shut their mouths about what a jolly good thing these wars are. You don’t hear so much of C Hitchens and his merry men these days now the whole thing’s gone tits up. I am not an intellectual bighead but I was pro Iraq and I am big enough to admit I changed my mind. As I was writing this I thought about some of the arguments I used to have with a blog called Drink-Soaked Trotskyist Popinjays for War, a group of Australian Hitch-ite left-wing ‘hawks’. They didn’t half like to give it the big one, as they say. I decided to look them up on the net and it looks like they’ve disappeared. I wonder why.
Finally, I like to say to people in regard to the mass media/culture’s attitude to the war in Afghanistan: Imagine what people would say if it was a TORY war…
Good night all.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A song Georgey boy would have enjoyed.

Some months ago I noted with some considerable sadness that Chas and Dave had split up. Dave Peacock could no longer continue touring after the death of his wife.
Anyone who has been to a Chas and Dave gig will know they were the greatest rock and roll band in modern Britain. I do not say that 'ironically' nor facetiously but in the sense that they could play the music known as rock and roll better than any other band at work in the contemporary scene. Get them on the right night and when they played old rock and roll numbers in that propulsive Little Richard/Jerry Lee Lewis style and it was simply magnificent. They were great lyricists as well.
Anyway, I wanted to post a small tribute to them and I forgot to. So now I am. Where does the greatest English journalist come into it, you ask?
Well, click here and you'll hear a song that I think the author of Politics and the English Language would have enjoyed.
They've turned the language upside down
And aimed it out the door.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Quantitative Easing, or, The Coach

Study for Quantitative Easing, or, The Coach. 60x45cm, charcoal on brown packing paper.

Continuing with my drawing project (see this post for more details). A while ago I sat at the bar in the Coach and Horses, Soho, and idly made some small very rough sketches of the room and how the light falls in it - light readings, really - and took some phone pics to back it up. Then I promptly forgot all about them until this evening when I was looking for something else. I used them as the basis for this drawing, which seems to continue the theme.
I slightly warped the perspective here and there, partly to make the viewer feel he is in the bar feeling a bit drunk or emotional; and partly as a salute to Keith Waterhouse's play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, which featured the Coach and Horses all at crazy angles, as if CRW Nevinson had got juiced up and designed the set.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

When the Nomenklatura turned into the Political Class

'...Moreover, because learning, culture and the European spiritual heritage were, for them, symbols of their own inner freedom, and of the national independence they sought to remember, if not to regain, they looked on those things with an unusual veneration. As a visitor from the world of fun, pop and comic strips I was amazed to discover students for whom words devoted to such things were wasted words, and who sat in those little pockets of underground air studying Greek literature, German philosophy, medieval theology and the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

In 1985 the secret police moved against me and I was arrested in Brno; visits to Czechoslovakia came to an end and I was followed in Poland and Hungary. But our team kept going until 1989 when, to our surprise, the catacombs were opened and our friends came pale, staggering and bewildered into the sunlight, to be hailed by the people as the natural trustees of their restituted country. This was a wonderful moment and, for a while, I believed that the public spirit that had reigned in the catacombs would now govern the State.

It was not to be. Having been excluded for decades from the rewards of worldly advancement, our friends had failed to cultivate those arts — hypocrisy, treachery and realpolitik — without which it is impossible to stay in government...'

Roger Scruton remembers his dealings with the anti-communist/socialist underground in Eastern Europe 25 years ago; and how the tentacles of Moscow have been replaced by the chicanery of Brussels. (No, he's not saying the EU is as bad as soviet totalitarianism, but, and there is a but...) The rest here:

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Boom Times

Many thanks for all the good feedback on my drawing.
When I said I undertook it to take my mind off the political situation I didn’t express myself very clearly. What I meant to say was that in the past few weeks I have formulated and even begun to write quite a few posts, but all of them have been abandoned, partly because I’ve seen the same things said better elsewhere and partly because, well, savage indignation and the great morass of cant, lies and bullshit known as contemporary political discourse are draining materials to work with.
I find it interesting that now the political class and Labour government’s mistakes are piling up thick and fast it seems to have a deadening effect on all our moral imaginations, by which I mean we are being worn down by living in the logjam; what would once have shocked me now provokes nothing more than a disgusted sigh: responding freshly to a situation of permanent chicanery, incompetence, arrogance, hypocrisy and moral nullity is hard work for the human brain. As Orwell said, sometimes the hardest things to see are right under your nose.
However, these are a few unpolished thoughts provoked by the past month’s events.

The present government, political class and contemporary culture represent the full flowering of the baby-boomer generation. It is the received opinion of forty years of liberal thought made civil and constitutional reality. In many important areas it has been an utter failure, disguising rather than solving many of the old social problems, while creating many new pathologies and problems, which it often refuses to admit exist and always refuses to take the blame for.
Although socially speaking there has been a welcome easing up of the old class boundaries and social snobberies, these boundaries still exist in education and many of the boomers’ remedies have simply turned out to be wishful thinking: levelling gestures that have punished talent emerging from the lower social spectrum, while leaving the moneyed middle classes to carry on as they were.
To write the above is to generally invite a chorus of sneering retorts along the lines of ‘what, would you rather live in the 50s?’ To which the answer is most certainly not. I simply turn the boomers’ triumphal view of history around a little bit: we know the bad things that have disappeared, but let’s consider what was worthwhile. Sometimes it is worth considering the baby and not the bathwater.
When you consider the burning social injustices that drove most boomers to righteous decaffeinated Marxism – having to wear short trousers until the age of 14; having old men tell them to stand when they played the national anthem; being told to get their haircuts and take their feet of the seats on trains – you have to laugh when you compare them to the injustices these grammar/public school boys eventually thrust on the subsequent generations: the rights of passage now are knives, drug delirium, absent fathers, a landscape of strong and casual violence, gang rapes, feral behaviour, legitimized ignorance, unpunished violence, unexplored potential, low paid work or a life of welfare.
Even the boomer complaint that in their youth difference was severely frowned on – John Osborne’s comment about not being able to walk through a provincial town wearing a yellow cardigan comes to mind – has to be digested in the knowledge that anyone these days who doesn’t conform to manufactured reality of television (the boomers’ superhighway of liberal babel) is liable to be singled out for belittlement: pre-cultural revolution, people were not jeered to self-immolation for having long hair or wearing yellow cardigans. If they were attacked repeatedly the law would do something about it. Now, thanks to boomer government, the police will only act if it is a ‘hate crime’. Anyone who decides this is an exaggeration had better study the recent Fiona Pilkington case in detail.
I wondered what had made the boomers the way they are. I can understand a lot of it: I was a wayward youth and adult, embraced rebellion, sex, drugs and rock and roll plus left wing politics. I still believe that two of the most repellent sights in British politics are young conservatives and old socialists.
But you grow up, you notice the hypocrisies of the new boss, same, as The Who sang, as the old boss – but in the case of the boomers often a deal worse (put Blair next to, say, Macmillan).
That is not to say you suddenly believe that Britain should be run by Mark Thatcher types and that greed and the corporations are good, far from it; but you come to realise that the same problems keep coming up, and that there are, perhaps, reasons for certain attitudes. That standards are there for a reason and that without authority there can be no justice.
But a social democrat boomer would tell you that there has never been more justice – a ministry of justice here, supra-national ministries of justice on the continent; a mantra of social justice running through the media and academe like letters through a stick of rock. But this brave new world keeps producing more and more inversions of justice. While the EU creates a legal framework which protects Islamic terrorists, it simultaneously bans Italian schoolchildren from wearing crucifixes to school.
While we are on the subject of Islam it is always worth repeating that the rise of radical Islam in Britain, while in part was allowed to flourish by the security services, was largely a result of the boomer class's vanity: they considered themselves so non-judgemental (of non-white groups anyway) that even when an organised far-Right death cult began to gain influence all the boomer class did was make excuses for it and give it money (recent example: Hizb ut tahrir - the far Right Islamic group that Tony Blair boasted he would ban - has just received a large grant to run its own schools) This is institutional folly on a grand scale.
The boomer left claims to hate elites and yet it has given its weight to creating and sustaining an anti-democratic elite in Brussels.
Multiculturalism, mass-immigration, the curtailing of freedom of speech – all things that were decided in a wholly undemocratic way by noisy social democratic boomers. The effect? A flagging civil infrastructure, overburdened schools and services and a growing urban tension. A demoralized, low-paid workforce struggling with crippling accommodation bills – the privileged boomers, however, got the cheap au pairs and Polish plumbers. Now fascism is on the rise. Before 13 years of boomer government the BNP was a tiny, fringe organisation with less than 2,000 members. Now it has 20 per cent of the population considering whether to vote for it, two MEPs in Brussels and a regular spot on Question Time to look forward to.
And still Jack Straw (a textbook boomer) would not connect his government and its policies with this alarming rise of support for a fascist party.
The principal of free speech replaced by political license: in the bad old days homosexuality was illegal. This was wrong. It achieved legal toleration. This was right. Now it has become virtually illegal to disagree with it. You are no longer allowed to disagree with the state orthodoxies. Is this the liberty that boomers shouted about? I don’t recognize it as liberty.
Sure, there is more liberty than there was in some respects and what is worthwhile I enjoy. But the boomers’ relativism and hatred of their parents’ manners has dovetailed perfectly with consumer capitalism to create the blank-eyed, ignorant, utterly selfish, burger-stuffing iPodista we sit next to every day on the train. For such people, independent thought means what crap am I going to buy next. Does saying this really make me a soulless fogey? I don't feel like one. I feel young, actually, with a soul. (I'm listening to Otis Redding as I write this - but I do listen to the more melodically pleasing Elgar now and again...)
But why did the boomers become as they were? I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an inferiority complex about the Second World War. They had to grow up in the shadow of it and the achievements and resilience of the people who lived through it and this pushed many of them into a kind of permanent adolescence, rejecting on principal – not reason – anything that reminded them of their parents’ and grandparents’ attitudes (I am not saying that all their attitudes were right and proper).
But it is a good irony that what the boomers’ destroy they eventually need again: hence after years of decrying the suburban archetype of ‘the nosy neighbour’, the government is now planning to have local snoopers, paid by the state. They do exactly the same in the failed Communist state of Cuba, where each block of flats has a party snooper on the look out for any seditious comment or behaviour. Our local snoopers will soon find their list of trangressions to look out for widened to take in the political manias of the boomers.
There is one silver lining, I suppose: the boomers will all retire soon, most of them on fat pensions – they had the good times and queered the pitch for many of those that followed.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Study For A Painting

Study for Our Revels Now Are Ended, or, English Smuts. Charcoal on brown packing paper, 48inches x 19inches

Before the West Pier in Brighton was finally destroyed by arsonists* I used to go and look at it now and then because I love piers and because not only was it the finest pier in Britain it was the finest piece of Victorian seaside architecture bar none.
It also looked magnificent even when it was falling to pieces.
It was designed by Eugenius Birch in 1866 and was finally closed in 1975. I own a plank of decking from the pier: an old girlfriend had a pal who rescued it from a pile washed up on the beach after one of its collapses.
The West Pier has been drawn and painted many times but I have never seen one I much liked. Plus I have always wanted to draw it, even though it has now gone from decomposition to skeleton, as it were.
I hope the following doesn't land me in Pseuds' Corner. I fancied creating some drawings and paintings as a way of taking my mind off the current political situation and to somehow produce a work that says something that writing can’t.
This charcoal study was my first attempt at the West Pier. It felt like a gamble, an adventure in drawing (I haven’t enjoyed drawing something so much in years) and it also felt like taking a reading of the subject.
I dug out some photographs I got a friend to take years ago (I generally hate working from photographs) and felt my way in. I wanted something that had an atmosphere to it; somehow that particular Brighton atmosphere of sunny frivolity and concealed evil; and, in a larger implicit way, the atmosphere of inevitable general decay, of people and all their works.
I want to work towards a painting, perhaps on a larger scale with some figures in the foreground maybe. In a way though, smutty charcoal on cheap packing paper seems to be the way of it, or at least a way into it. My working title is from The Tempest: Our Revels Now Are Ended. But I also like English Smuts, though that is obscure – smuts does play an end of the pier chord, I suppose.
Wonderful set of photographs taken on the decaying pier in 2000, here.

* In Brighton, it is an open secret who was behind the arson attack. I once knew a journalist down there who had the whole story, but he feared for his legs/life. It was all, now I come to think about it, reminiscent of Hale in Brighton Rock.

Monday, 2 November 2009

How Lucky We Are to Be Governed by Educated Moral Socialists

How educated, moral and intellectual socialists run things. A recipe. First, get five to seven million (and rising) extra people into the country for your own political agenda (drive down wages, drive up rents - clever, that). Second, close 2,500 sub-post offices in one year. Then everyone will have to queue, nice and collectively, in the main post office. Clever, isn't it? This queue, very average, consisted of 75 people. Gordon Brown, very clever, moral socialist. Heart of gold. Brilliant.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Sammerthwaite and the Art of State

Sammerthwaite & the Art of State

Sammerthwaite, the ancient poet, whose sole verse collection, Batting Average, might just be found by the determined bibliophile in the more murky corners of Charing Cross Road or Cecil Court, was alive. That fact alone would have surprised most literary scholars – at any rate the rare ones who could recollect his name. They would have expressed further mild surprise to discover this relic of minor literary interest was submerged in Purley, that mock-Tudor arterial two-road town, twenty minutes due south of Victoria on a fast train, where he lived in reduced circumstances, still wrote, and cogitated on selling his letter from TS Eliot.
One thing that would not have surprised those literary students who remembered him, was that Sammerthwaite was poor.
But, though the days when he rampaged through London literary parties were decades behind him, he was alive, and, as old people are obliged to, was drinking bad coffee in a church hall. He sat next to an old man, who was nearly asleep. As ever, he composed idly:

In old age, why do we lurch
To the United Reformed Church?
En masse we make a target for God’s broom
To sweep us from this anteroom

The black rag sniper picks us off
As we prepare our chicken broth
Or starts the canker in our belly
As we browse the daytime telly

A female “organiser” approached Sammerthwaite and handed him a flyer.
‘You may find this interesting,’ she observed. ‘It’s an arts debate.’
‘That means there’ll be wine,’ said Sammerthwaite, who, the organiser noted, smelled mildly of drink.
‘It’s to do with the Prime Minister’s visit, I think,’ she said.
‘That abominable Scotchman,’ said Sammerthwaite in a serious voice. He had no love for Scotland.
He could get by reasonably well for an old man with no savings, but when he was spendthrift with his pension money he often dropped in on various church coffee mornings for the free food. He was thin and had little appetite, which was helpful in the long run.
The flyer interested him for reasons other than just free wine. He had long noted newspaper stories and gossip about the Arts Council and its lavishness with money. For some time Sammerthwaite had resolved to pry money from that organisation, by hook or by crook. He noted the name on the back of the flyer: Jo Grippe, Arts Coordinator.
He left the church hall, invested in a brandy miniature and headed for the council’s offices, in nearby Croydon.

Since falling out of the literary scene in 60s London (his last grand party had ended violently when he attempted to teach an important publisher’s wife how to play ‘Nelson’s Eye’) Sammerthwaite had had many dealings with the council. He knew its landscape, physically, bureaucratically and politically. So it was with ease that he avoided the front desk and was soon knocking on Jo Grippe’s door in the Culture and Leisure department. Ms Grippe proved to be a large, ruddy-faced woman aged about 27.
‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’ she demanded.
‘We spoke a few weeks ago.’
‘Did we? I don’t remember.’
‘Yes, we did, at the library cinema. You gave a talk before that film about the lesbian chickpea and millet collectives in sub-Saharan Africa. I found it most moving.’
She softened. ‘My talk or the film?’
‘Both, actually.’
Sammerthwaite had in fact spent the night in question drinking pints of Ganges bitter and playing pontoon in his local, the Fighting Temeraire. Luckily he’d spotted a poster for the event near Jo Grippe’s door.
‘I’m sorry but I don’t remember speaking to you, but it was a great night. What was it you wanted to talk about?’
Sammerthwaite explained about the flyer.
‘You’re a poet? Cool. Basically, the Prime Minister wants to build bridges in this area with his visit. We want to basically show off the diverse range of artistic activity here: like hip-hop, filmmaking, rap, parkour, street dancing, graffiti art etc. Did you have any ideas for a contribution?’
‘I thought I might recite some Tennyson.’
Jo Grippe’s phone rang. ‘Fucking ’ell,’ she said looking at the number, ‘it’s the mural woman again. She never leaves me alone.’
She picked up the receiver. ‘Jo Grippe.’
There was a long pause.
‘Look, Annunziata, basically we agreed on the content and design weeks ago: giraffes, elephants, children holding hands, map of Africa, fish and the fight climate change and racism logo. Also ‘vibrant’ and ‘diverse’ spelled out (I know you can’t do letters but I’m getting someone for that). You can’t just put Gandhi in it because you saw something on TV about him last night…actually, yeah you can. It’s quite a sweet idea. Steve Biko as well? Who’s Steve Biko? All right, OK, do that.’
She put the phone down. ‘Well, Mr Sam – Mr, I don’t think I’ve got anything for you really.’
‘I don’t mind what I do,’ said the poet; ‘I could do some of my own if you want. I’m writing a huge poem about 20th century history.’
‘I really don’t think there’ll be time. Give me your number and if anything comes up I’ll ring you.’
Jo Grippe had risen and was gently propelling Sammerthwaite out of her office.
‘I’m living in poverty,’ said Sammerthwaite as piteously as he dared.
That word seemed to have great impact on Jo Grippe. As they stood in the doorway she fixed him with her eyes. ‘Basically, I will help, if I can.’
'Poverty,' tittered Sammerthwaite as he rode the lift down to the ground floor. 'Moral poverty more like,' he growled in a fruity colonel's voice.

As Sammerthwaite walked home he found himself near the pedestrian underpass, a series of gloomy concrete trenches illuminated by sallow electric light 24 hours a day. This, he remembered, was the location of the mural. He walked down the ramp. Many schoolchildren ran about screaming while a young woman wearing a mauve pashmina drew Gandhi on the wall. Sammerthwaite stopped by her ladder.
‘That’s a good likeness.’
‘Thank you,’ said Annunziata. ‘What a man.’
‘Indeed. You know what Nehru said about Gandhi?’
‘He said, “it cost a lot of money to keep Gandhi in poverty.”’
Annunziata laughed shortly and uneasily. Sammerthwaite doffed his cap and walked on.
‘Who’s Nehru, anyway?’ said Annunziata to herself.

Sammerthwaite poured himself a reviver.

Nothing from the art of state
Another glancing smart from fate!

The phone rang. It was Jo Grippe.
‘Hi, hi; like, basically, I have got something for you, Mr Sammerthwaite.’
‘Ah, excellent. What is it?’
Jo Grippe told him.
He gulped.
‘Will I be paid?’
‘A hundred quid, basically.’
One hundred pounds!

On the day of the Prime Minister’s visit it was observed that an old man, dressed as a Highland Scot from the time of Culloden, was in and out of the pubs in the town centre, drinking a lot of gin. It was also observed that the man in question was not Scottish.

After the Prime Minister’s party had been shown round the Town Hall, the Library and a bit of the local shopping centre (where an egg missed him by inches) and had sampled some rap, some parkour, some street dancing and some graffiti, Jo Grippe stood up in the Mayor’s Parlour and announced that, in honour of the Prime Minister’s home country, there would now be a short history of Scotsmen in Croydon accompanied by traditional music.
In came Sammerthwaite, his tam o’ shanter set at a rakish angle and with a very perceptible stagger. He was followed by another man dressed in Scottish national costume and carrying bagpipes. Jo Grippe was alarmed to see Sammerthwaite had no notes. There followed a long moment of silence as Sammerthwaite’s rheumy eyes ranged across the audience. He belched quietly. Someone tittered.
Then the bagpipes began.
Instead of advancing to the microphone to recite the history of Scotsmen in Croydon, the poet began to dance an unsteady highland fling.
After a while, the bagpiper was prevailed upon by Jo Grippe to stop playing. Sammerthwaite stopped dancing, drew a toy sword and spoke in to the microphone: ‘“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, timrous beastie!”’
The Prime Minister smiled uneasily and, with prompting from an aide, got to his feet. Political minders moved towards Sammerthwaite, who yelled, in bloodcurdling stage Scottish ‘“O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”’
The microphone was suddenly switched off. The Prime Minister moved away.
‘Tha need na start awae sae hasty!’ shouted the poet in a drunken boom. ‘Hey, you,’ he continued, ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race!’ Sammerthwaite darted forward as he said this and poked the Prime Minister’s belly with the sword. He was quickly surrounded and dragged away. ‘“Wi bickerin’ brattle!”’

And the Press, as they say, had a field day.
Jo Grippe giggled in her office. ‘Basically, it’s bang out of order, BUT, you put us on the map! I’ve seen myself on the news on all channels. Everyone seems to think that publicity of this sort is good. So no harm done, basically. By the way, here’s a council leaflet on alcohol abuse: you can’t be too careful at your age.’
‘So I’ll still get paid?’ asked Sammerthwaite nervously.
‘You would have done anyway. Rules are rules.’

Sammerthwaite stopped at the pedestrian underpass on his way to the pub. Gandhi was gone. Annunziata was painting over him.
‘What’s happened to old Gandhi?’ asked the poet.
‘Not relevant enough, apparently. They want Barack Obama instead.’

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The smoking ban has been good in one way: it has illustrated the purblind, cloistered foolishness of modern British socialism.

What a disaster the smoking ban has been. We are told it has saved 40,000 lives, but so what? Even if the figures are true, that is a high price to pay for the loss of so many public houses and, most importantly, the loss of a coherent social experience.
Even since England “went smokefree” on July 1, 2007, the English pub, already spoiled in too many ways to count here, has gone into precipitous decline.
The first thing that disappeared, obviously, was the aroma of a public house: the mixture of beer and tobacco. I knew immediately this was a great loss, a black-ringed watermark in English history. I first sniffed this intoxicating, deeply adult redolence when I was about eight and was taken in the bar of a pub near where I lived by the publican’s daughter, a friend from school. It still had its Victorian appointments, a splendid circular bar, photographs of famous boxers all over the walls (a previous owner had been a famous fighter) and a space invaders machine that looked like a glass coffee table. That essence of stale beer, fags, cigars and pipes represented, much like onyx table lighters, sports cars and drinks cabinets later, all the heady promise and “glamour” of the adult world.
Incidentally, I walked past that pub a few weeks ago for the first time in many years. The builders were in. I walked up to the door and looked inside: there was nothing: it was an empty space; back to the brickwork on the walls and a new concrete floor, still wet. I can imagine all too well what that interior will be like when it reopens…
So, the smell went. What was left: the astringent aroma of detergent plus B.O and farts. The old internal stratospheres of smoke hid so much.
But this has been well said before. As I say above, the greatest loss is the loss of coherent socializing. Most of my friends are smokers; some light, some heavy. A light smoker, like my colleague Mark Brentano, will toddle out for one perhaps every half an hour. That interrupts the party no more than urination. But most of my other friends smoke far more heavily and, since the ban, have taken to spending the entire evening in beer gardens, regardless of weather conditions, or, when things get truly bad, going out about every ten minutes; but the weather has to be truly appalling for that.
I have to say at this point that I gave up smoking cigarettes in May, 08, because it aggravated chronic esophagitis. I miss them sometimes when I’m tipsy, but not much. But what I really miss is being indoors talking over drink and tobacco. I still like a good cigar, but cigars are an indoor pleasure, and therefore ruled out in pubs.
This will be the third winter I am expected to spend shivering in beer gardens under the sickly glow of the heaters and I have decided I am not going to do it. This means I will see less of quite few people I like, but as Steve Marriott used to say, say lar vee. I don’t enjoy drinking in those conditions.
Now, at this time of year, I find myself thinking nostalgically about something that we used to take for granted: closing the door to the beer garden in October and not stepping foot in it again until the following spring; being inside a warm pub on a cold evening (one with an open fire, preferably), in a mild fug of smoking and conversation.
But I hear a clamour of Cromwellian, socialist repudiation: what about health? What about bar staff?
Health: good and efficient extractor fans and air-conditioning had made pubs far less fuggy than in days of old. Plus there were no smoking areas. Quite often, with some artful arrangement, you could straddle the two areas quite easily, to the satisfaction of all bar the busybodies.
They say it has prevented many heart attacks. Well, certain chain smokers are likely to have delayed their coronaries for a few years, but their bad habits were a matter for them to deal with as individuals.
Bar staff? If you don’t want to work in smoky areas, don’t do it. Do something else. I stopped working behind the bar more than ten years ago because I was sick of serving rude drunks. What is socialism’s non-negotiable legislation for that “social problem”?
In the real world, the world beyond the torturously manufactured arguments that socialists employ to extend their power over us all, people avoid work that does not agree with them. I’m not talking about benefit chicanery here but simply getting another job.
Ah well, our rulers have very little knowledge of being workers.
The smoking ban has been good in one way: it has illustrated the purblind, cloistered foolishness of modern British socialism. In my area, every day, I watch as people – and many children – go about their business, driving, working, walking along the street, openly smoking skunk, an illegal, potentially highly dangerous mind-altering substance, all too aware that the chances of interference from the police are minimal, to say the least. But if I were to walk into a pub and light up a cigarette, the full weight of the law would be soon upon me.
How quickly those fluent and apparently perspicacious politicians of 1997 delivered us into moral insanity. The heavy interference of the state in such matters as smoking, and their apparent “success”, sets a grave precedent to future politicians. They already have their sights on controlling our alcohol intake: note the various powers being handed to councils about how and where drink is consumed; in the north they are starting to limit the sizes of rounds and sometimes having policemen present in the bar. This is all reported by the BBC and other pro-state, pro-political class media outlets quite uncritically and even admiringly. You have been warned.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Patrick Hamilton

2009 is the 105th anniversary of the birth of novelist and playwright Patrick Hamilton. He is a bit forgotten and unfashionable now, but he’ll come round again in a small way, he usually does. Though his chief subject matter of emotional dysfunction, money and alcohol couldn’t be more ‘relevant’, his stage, the old style pub with separated bars and a murky saloon, has largely been dismantled.
His master was Dickens and, though Hamilton has big flaws as a novelist, I think the big fella would have approved, not least because of Hamilton’s talent for characterization and tart humour.
One of the good things about television back in the day was that it still paid higher art forms the compliment of adapting them for its own ends (apart from obvious exceptions, TV largely lives off itself now, so to speak, with predictably banal results). You could discover literary gems through the box. So it was with Hamilton and me. More than twenty years ago ITV adapted his trilogy of novels about a serial killer called Ernest Ralph Gorse. Although I didn’t know to call it that, I was developing an interest in social history, particularly for the period bookended by the two world wars. The Charmer, as the programme was called, therefore caught my attention.
I sought out the novels but found them hard to come by, though I eventually got the Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse, and The West Pier, which Graham Greene judged to be the best novel ever written about Brighton. This was followed by reading Hangover Square and other novels by Hamilton.
Hamilton's novels conjured that gloomy interwar world of intense snobbery and social pretension all mixed up with drink and neurotic behaviour.
Doris Lessing observed that what made Hamilton’s novels ever-relevant was that ‘you can go into any pub and see it happening in front of you’. This is true. As teens, my mates and I spent a huge amount of time in pubs of all types. Then, as now, I liked to observe people and behaviour and, after I’d read a couple of his books, I saw Hamilton as one of those kindred spirit writers you encounter from time to time in life, that seem to be speaking directly to you. You walked into a pub and there, as Lessing said, it all was. Just read his description of a pub’s atmosphere from opening time to closing time in The Plains of Cement.
Although they were changing rapidly and had been pillaged by design fads in the 60s and 70s, some pubs twenty-odd years ago were far closer to the pubs of Hamilton’s era than they are now. The décor, the attitudes, the behavioural codes, the demographics, the drinks all had a closer connection with Hamilton’s saloon bars than they do now. Depending on which set of friends you were hanging out with, you might find yourself in some small side-street pub that hadn’t changed significantly in decades (the sort of pub that is now usually closed or denuded of its decoration and atmosphere in a vain attempt to make it appeal to the tastes of youth). And there, on some dark winter evening (and it's usually a dark winter evening in his books), you’d see a vignette at the bar that had walked straight out of one of Hamilton’s novels. An aged, pedantic bore with his crossword, a youngish alcoholic chasing the pub coquette, who’d come with a party from the office and stayed all evening getting drunk on “whisky and American”, or rum and coke; the overpowering smell of beer and different tobaccos; the illicit affairs and blazing rows.
And it all still goes on, obviously, and with a vengeance in fact, but the point is that it looked and smelled a little more like Hamilton’s world than it does now, and I found that fascinating.
Although they captivated me, his books were not altogether a pleasant read. Although they were amusing and I loved the literary style, the biliousness, depression and dark atmosphere that sustained drinking can cause sweated off the pages, sometimes causing you to feel hungover even if you were not. But you had to go on with them.
As he aged and guzzled two or three bottles of scotch a day (in this era, where every other television personality claims to have ‘battled the bottle’, Hamilton’s intake reminds us what real and hopeless alcohol addiction is), his authorial voice became ever more hostile and negative, but that, in a way, suited his milieu perfectly. He gave in to the temptation of explaining to the reader in a sour and insistent tone motivations that the reader could already see; consequently, he became at times in print the sort of bore he feared in pubs.
However, his best work is powerful and memorable. Take the first paragraph of The Slaves of Solitude, which comes into my head now and again:

'London, the crouching monster, like any other monster has to breathe, and breathe it does in its own obscure, malignant way. Its vital oxygen is composed of suburban working men and women of all kinds, who every morning are sucked up through an infinitely complicated respiratory apparatus of trains and termini into the mighty congested lungs, held there for a number of hours, and then, exhaled violently through the same channels.'

As may be deduced from that paragraph, he was at one time a convinced Marxist (like many on the Left he thought the fascist conflagration of the second world war was a ‘crisis of capitalism’) but apparently later became disillusioned. He must have been savvy enough to know that the paragraph quoted above would be perfectly descriptive of city life in any of the workers’ paradises round the world that have followed Marxist revolution, with, of course, the added element of an all-powerful secret police and no freedom of speech or expression.
I don’t have it to hand but the final paragraph of Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse, a vision of the countryside smothered in mechanical beetles (cars) is prophetic of today’s teeming traffic domination.
After my early 20s I never read Hamilton again, but I occasionally had a dip, just to see if that comic, queasy and slightly depressing world was, as it were, all still there. And it was, and is. If you come across an old pub that's somehow avoided the wrecking ball of the accountants, nip in and drink a toast to Patrick Hamilton.

Monday, 5 October 2009

A Legend: The first horse to win the Arc, the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby.

Watch this amazing performance here. I never thought he'd get through and judging by the comments afterwards I wasn't alone. Note Clare Balding saying: 'no way, no horse can do this.' Note the commentator: 'Perfection in equine form!'
For once, all the superlatives are appropriate: glorious, unique, we'll never see the like again etc. He saw off the best racehorses in the world. I won not a penny on him - too short to be backed, though the BBC's tame bookie reported someone lumping 50,000 euros on him at the last minute. That punter's heart must have been going when Sea The Stars was well back, caught in traffic and boxed in more than halfway round...

LONGCHAMP, France — The Associated Press Last updated on Sunday, Oct. 04, 2009 02:02PM EDT

Sea the Stars made history Sunday by winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, becoming the first horse to win three of Europe’s top races.

The 3-year-old colt, ridden by 50-year-old jockey Mick Kinane, started slowly before powering home to win his sixth consecutive race — two lengths ahead of Youmzain, ridden by Kieren Fallon and trained by former England soccer star Mick Channon.

Youmzain was the runner-up for a third straight year, while Cavalryman, trained by seven-time Arc winner Andre Fabre, finished third under jockey Frankie Dettori.

Sea the Stars is the first horse to win the Arc, the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby.

“I ended up in a position I maybe didn’t want to, but I didn’t want to risk firing him up,” Kinane said of the start. “They were going a nice pace and I knew I would need a bit of luck in the straight, no matter what happened, but I knew I had the pace to go anywhere I wanted. He is a phenomenal horse.”

Kinane, who claimed his first Arc victory 20 years ago on Carrol House, put an Irish flag around his shoulders after the race and waved to the nearly 50,000 fans that gathered at Longchamp, including American movie star Bo Derek and French actor Alain Delon.

Sea the Stars, son of former Arc winner Urban Sea, has lost only once in his career, in his first race last year in Ireland.

“It’s a big relief. Obviously it was the best horse in the race but you never know,” trainer John Oxx said. “It’s the end of the year and it’s easy to get beaten in the Arc.”

Regarded as one of the best horses in the world, Sea the Stars took advantage of perfect race conditions following a week of dry weather in Paris. Oxx had concerns that rain could have softened the ground and hindered the 4-6 favorite’s chances.

The trainer admitted he was a bit worried when he saw Sea the Stars trailing before his stunning burst of speed.

“There was an anxious moment whether he would go out or go in, but once he started to go you knew he would get through,” Oxx said. “No horse in any race has more speed than he has and Mick wasn’t worried when he was a little bit back.”

Oxx added that it was unlikely his horse would race next year, drawing comparison to last year’s Arc winner, unbeaten filly Zarkava, which was retired eight days after winning the prestigious race for her seventh consecutive victory.

“He has achieved so much. I think it’s highly unlikely he’ll run again next year,” Oxx said. “But we’ll have to discuss that. During the week we’ll have a discussion and see where we go from there.”

Friday, 2 October 2009

Monumental errors

Re the conference: Well, that's Brown and co finished. It's not even funny anymore, is it. A bunch of bullying and conniving clever dicks telling lies as the ship sinks.

Brown! It's really beyond belief. When I wrote in 2005 that when he reached number ten he'd be the strongest box office poison since the dog days of Maggie even I didn't think he'd be this bad, this stupid, self-serving, arrogant and ridiculous. I had only an inkling of what an unpleasant piece of work he is. The story below is representative of the Britain this bullying fool of a prig has helped create. I have seen so many variations on it I've lost count. I don't say he or his colleagues did it on purpose but wiser and more worldly people would have seen it all coming a mile off, before dismantling school discipline, legislating against the family, emasculating the police force, diluting penalties, lobotomizing the education system, enabling drug abuse among schoolchildren, creating a moral wasteland where nothing is ever anybody's fault until it is too late. If I hear that 'son of the manse' nonsense from Brown one more time... In regard to Brown and his government I quote Wren's epitaph: si monumentum requiris circumspice - if you seek his monument, look aboutcha!

The family of a man beaten with a hammer by youths after confronting them about their anti-social behaviour has called for society to "make a stand" so people can live without fear.
Ricky Anderson, 17, was given a life term with a minimum sentence of nine years and two months by Northampton Crown Court after admitting the murder of 65-year-old Peter Bryan.

You see, with morons like these you have to go to war with them and break them before they break something precious. Nobody ever stood up to these people - not in school, not at home; not the law, not the courts. Peter Bryan stood up to them and got his head smashed in for it.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Notes on the Liberal Democrats

A friend of mine has announced his intention of voting Liberal Democrat at the next election. As I respect his take on politics it prompted me to consider how I feel about that party (I haven’t given it any serious thought for years), so I scuttled off to find the Lib Dems’ policies and see what I thought.

The William Gazy Overview of the Liberal Democrat Pocket Manifesto, 2009.

1 – The Bits I Like
2 – The Bad News, the Cant and the Doublethink
3 – Conclusion

1. The Bits I Like.

Though the party is totally committed to the EU, it says it will give British people a referendum on the matter of staying in or leaving. I think this is showboating because it knows by the time it comes to power, if at all, the EU will have bullied everyone into the Lisbon Treaty, Blair will be President of Europe and a referendum will be largely academic.

They plan to cut taxes on low and middle-income families. This is a good idea. The Labour policy of taxing these people to lavish cash on the bureaucratic membrane of the public sector was one of the central – and most disastrous – ideas in Brown’s plans.

They intend to ‘cut red tape from the small businessman’. This, within reason, is also a good idea. They say they will reverse the Thatcho-Blair attack on post offices and the Royal Mail by the Labour Party and reinvigorate it with a huge investment (two billion pounds. Shome mishtake, shurely?). This is a good idea, but, like a lot of the Lib Dems’ proposals, you wonder where this money is going to come from (more on that later).

They promise a no-holds-barred Iraq inquiry. Good, if they can manage it.
They intend to re-link increases in the pension system to increases in people’s earnings, which I think is a good way avoiding what we are heading for at present: millions of future pensioners living in poverty.

They intend to provide more support for people with disabilities. I think this is an excellent and humane idea.

They propose building and sustaining a national railway system. Good, but see section number two.
They intend to help independent pubs with tax relief to fight unfair brewery practices. Good. Ditto affordable housing in rural areas and affordable housing generally (see below).

Council Tax replaced with something closer to the old rates system = big house, pay more. Good.

They intend to stop the shockingly poor management of the armed services’ budgets and provisions that has flourished under Labour.

They have also interesting plans for local democracy: elected boards deciding how money is spent on a range of local issues including policing and health. There is a huge flaw in these plans, see below.

They intend to scrap targets in the NHS. I think this is good. Targets were a prime piece of modern socialist thinking – really flash on the surface, corrupt as a corpse underneath. It is difficult to know where to start on the NHS, because such a noble thing has become a behemoth of corruption, waste and abuse by so many different elements.

2. The Bad News, the Cant and the Doublethink.

The Lib Dems’ propose to ‘give power back to the people’ by having a new constitution. Under the subtitle ‘For the People, By the People’, they go on to say:

We will involve the British people in producing a
written constitution. This would reform and reinvigorate the democratic process,
putting individuals back in control. We will simplify the system for petitioning
Parliament and ensure petitions are considered and acted upon. We will lower the
voting age to 16, establish a fair, proportional voting system or elections to
Westminster and local government, and decentralise decision making. We will
reform the House of Lords, replacing it with an elected second chamber.

This written constitution could only be written within the parameters of EU law, or rather deal with matters outside of the EU’s reach – and there isn’t much that the EU doesn’t touch, so this is doublethink, stupidity, or a lie. Just imagine what Brussels would make of a petition for, say, the reintroduction of the death penality or corporal punishment.
The talk of involving the British people in producing the constitution is interesting and harks back to other similar bones thrown at the public during times of national despair. John Major’s People’s Charter and a many later Blairite charades come to mind.
They claim they wish to ‘decentralise decision making’ while simultaneously planning to create an entire new chamber of elected representatives to sit where the abolished lords once sat doing the same job as MPs (correct me if I am wrong but this will add hundreds of new members to the ranks of the political class, something Mr Cable is appears publicly opposed to). Although they say they will tame the expenses and corruption culture (and with all those new upper house MPs they will have their work cut out), in practice I think this will mean that MPs of both houses will demand and get larger salaries in return for not fiddling their additional cost allowances, or whatever that has been renamed as.
Reducing the voting age to 16 is an empty, eye-catching gesture – they won’t vote and the ones that do will likely vote for stupid and dangerous politicians.
The party also says it will:

Support reform of party political funding with caps
on individual donations and procedures to ensure transparency in party spending.

Unfortunately, this was written just a month before the Lib Dems’ own funding troubles with a dodgy donor emerged in August. However, transparency is good, but the rest of the sentence suggests to me that the party will propose further public funding of political parties to some degree (opposition parties already get money to balance the ruling party’s access to the instruments of government). This would be worse than the current unsatisfactory system, not least because in the near future it will inevitably mean statutory payments for the political activities of the totalitarian organisations of all political and religious persuasions that are emerging.

Talking of which, there are five lines about the policy that has caused and continues to cause huge problems and controversy in British society: mass immigration, or ‘migration’ as the political class has taken to calling it. They are tucked away at the bottom of the page on government and civil liberties:

Firm but fair on immigration and refugees – We will create an integrated border
police force bringing back entry and exit controls to monitor movement in and out
of Britain. By running immigration and asylum services fairly and efficiently, we
will ensure that all migrants pay their way through taxes and we will cut the
number who work illegally.

Firm but fair rather reminds me of the infamous ‘Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime’, from 1997. Note the ‘integrated’ that prefixes the border police. Integrated with what? Europe, of course; the very same EU that will control immigration to Britain from Europe and eventually dictate terms; the very same EU that the Lib Dems want to grow closer to. As there is no mention of any commitment to a reduction of immigrants or a coordinated deportation policy for the huge amount of illegal immigrants (the Europhilia of the party would mitigate against this in any case on account of Mr and Mrs Blair’s Human Rights Act*), the final sentence of the paragraph strongly suggests to me that a migrant amnesty will be unveiled early in any Lib Dem government ‘we will cut the number who work illegally’ suggests they will change the law as opposed to applying it. Like Boris Johnson with his proposed illegal immigrant amnesty, the eye is on the main chance of revenue possibilities and no other considerations, such as social cohesion, impact on the poor, overstretched public services.

One would like to believe the party about transport. They claim they can build an efficient national railway network, with new lines and new stations. This should be a flagship policy. Having kept a close eye on transport stories in the media over the past few years I have to ask, where is the money coming from? The other main parties cannot make this commitment because they know there simply isn’t the money for it in their projections – in the case of Labour it has been diverted and wasted on other things; and the Tories destroyed a huge chance to build up the railways when it sent the Thatcherite asset-strippers in and sold it all off to speculators who effectively embezzled a national asset. The Conservatives will continue that policy when elected.

On the subject of crime the Lib Dems say they intend to put 10,000 policemen on the streets, using the budget of the scrapped ID cards scheme. I’m inclined to think that we don’t need more police we just need them to start doing what they used to do before Labour began their wholesale Marxoid interference in law and order. There is nothing in the Lib Dem manifesto that suggests this will be the case.
On prisons, they talk about a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and ‘drug, alcohol and mental health treatment’. I’m curious to know where the money will come from for this in a country where even this spendthrift government is admitting, albeit largely in code, that the money’s all gone and the cupboards are bare. I also predict that this approach to crime will come to be seen by criminals as one more ‘get out of jail free’ card – ‘yur, I kicked his head till his eye popped out but, well, you know, I need treatment for my alcholism, don’t I, your honour?’ Expect a thousand variations on that, with the taxpayer coughing up for it.
On terrorism, this was interesting:

Tackle terrorism – We will reform our courts to prosecute terror suspects more
effectively. Restrictions imposed on people without trial risks increasing support
or extremists. Our reforms - intercept evidence in court, and questioning a terror
charge – will be effective and fair. We will improve co-operation between UK anti-terror bodies and reach out to young men in Muslim communities.

I don’t see how this reform will be able to take place to any great degree if the Lib Dems also desire deeper EU integration. I’m curious to know what they mean by ‘reaching out to young men in Muslim communities’. It sounds like the high cant of the Blair years. What form would this take? More diversity officers, presumably.

In their Culture and Media section they show strong support towards maintaining the BBC as it is now, without actually naming it. No mention is made of reform.
It pledges to boost the Arts Council budget. This will mean a great deal more of the sort of public art we have seen under Labour: dire, lib/left-wing brit art/social engineering ‘urban art projects’, box-ticking, political correctness, coded misandry etc. The project of Cultural Marxism throughout the British art and cultural scene will be safe in the hands of a Lib Dem government.

On green issues, they reject nuclear power and want wave, tidal and wind power. I have yet to read anything about these forms of power that say that they can provide anything but a fraction of what is needed. Of course, like so many idealistic policies in British history, it will only be after a huge amount of money, time and land is wasted and ruined that common sense will prevail. As matters stand, a Lib Dem vote is a vote for an English landscape smothered with wind propellers and a vast new membrane of green public sector jobs. More domestic green bullying – there is no indication of any rethink on recycling, slop buckets, wheelie bins, rubbish limits etc.

On Defence they have this to say:

Play a leading role in European Defence Cooperation – If Britain is to continue to
have the capability to be a force or good in the world that will require far greater
cooperation and collaboration with NATO and EU partners. Through joint
procurement, sharing of equipment and better competition in defence markets,
Britain can still be a force for good and get better value or the tax payer.

This is the thin end of the wedge for a European Army. This is a bad and dangerous idea as it will destroy the character and nature of the British Army as a highly effective defence institution. This will happen through EU diktats and general interference. Ditto the RAF and the Navy. The Liberal Democrats don’t seem to have grasped that you cannot have free and autonomous institutions within a framework of a heavily intrusive socialist supersate. It sounds good but it won’t actually work.
The sentence about ‘being a force for good in the world’ could be read as coded support for Blair’s vanity wars.
While we are on that subject, the Lib Dems appear to have no policy, at least not in the pocket guide, to the war in Afghanistan; a fact I find extraordinary.

On Education they are going big for the youth vote: free tuition at universities. If we had an excellent education system this would be a noble policy; since we have a huge university system in which intellectual and moral standards are in rapid and precipitous decline I think it will be a huge waste of money and further cultivate and licence the culture of mass ignorance in contemporary society and rubber stamp the death warrant for any chance of retaining a real intellectual elite.

3 – Conclusion.

Since the credit crunch, the Lib Dems have managed to raise their profile as a sort of ‘common sense party’ on economic affairs. Vince Cable even got himself a gig writing about economics for the Daily Mail, quite a coup for a small s socialist. However, notwithstanding Cable’s Phd in Economics, it doesn’t take an economic or moral mastermind to observe that the City was out of control and that the Labour government encouraged them to be out of control because the revenue from City excesses well suited Labour’s spending plans for public sector bureaucracy: raw economics financing fake economics. Everyone in politics should now recognise that credit booms are not the way forward for healthy societies.
City reform is dwarfed by the two biggest obsessions of this party: green politics and further integration into the EU, in other words more New Labour than New Labour, Miliband with knobs on. They say they want to ‘reinvigorate the democratic process’, but this is in total contradiction to their commitment to Europe: they have completely misunderstood the European superstate project if they think it will allow any genuinely independent decision-making power by ordinary, non-political class people. In any important aspects this will always be overridden by EU law (it will drive a coach and horses through their ideas of local people deciding policing policy, for example); I guess the party thinks it can bypass the situation of ideologically unsuitable people being elected by operating the big trick of proportional representation: closed list systems – in other words you control the outcome by controlling the entries – a bit like the handicap rating system of the British Horseracing Authority: supposedly very fair but often wide open to artful tacticians.
Climate change and green initiatives recur heavily in the Lib Dems’ policies. Apart from the green lobbyists in the party and the usual across-party PR strategy that climate change is the surest way to colonise media time, it’s obvious why they are so heavily in favour of these green measures: it will be an open sesame to EU subsidies for non-jobs and environmental schemes, which are a central plank in the Lib Dem vision of how the British economy might function in the lean years ahead. In other words, a further expansion of the public sector ponzi scheme thinking of New Labour.
This, then, is the real objection. The Lib Dems remain pretty much what they have always been, a sort of maiden aunt compromise on Tory greed and the sweaty socialism of the Labour Party:’ seventy-five per cent of the same thinking, with a few modifications based on Labour’s glaring mistakes and incompetence and without the union and public sector blackmail. The proposed abandonment of top-down Islington government is eye-catching, but a futile gesture by a party totally committed to the EU, an organisation whose laws grow from the totalitarian Napoleonic law and not the English common law; an organisation not just committed to big government but monster sized multi big government with all its attendent bullying, arrogance and money burning élan.
There is a tendency among young urban liberals to view those who object to the EU as being 'fogies who can't stand change' or are 'clinging to an England that never was' etc. That may apply to some old colonels and cab drivers but the real point is this: you either believe in self-governance or you don't. Even Tony Benn thinks it undemocratic, and when a man who loves Mao says something is undemocratic, well... The Blairite moonshine that you can have it both ways on Europe has been exposed for what it is in the past ten years. Evidently the Lib Dems still believe it.
I dare say the party's leaders have finally got their economic story straight after years of embarrassment when Charles Kennedy simply had no idea of how the figures added up; but the answer to the hard question of where the money will come from seems to be: the EU. In other words, New Labour in funky new threads.


*There is no mention of any plans to overturn this most destructive law, which has aided Islamic extremists to remain in this country.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

From the Sporting Life website. A poem, don't you think?

Newbury 2.50

Pos 1. Almiqdaad 8-12 R Hills, M A Jarvis, 14/1 held up in mid-division, steady headway from 4f out to lead 2f out, ridden over 1f out, in command final furlong, stayed on well opened 16/1 £5000-£300 (x3)

Well, it made me happy anyway.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Fiona Pilkington Case

Another example of the Clockwork Orange society that 13 years of a social democratic approach to policing in Britain has led to, and clearer than ever proof that our current model of community policing was dreamed up and run by fools who are old enough to know much better. Getting harder by the day for people like David Aaronovitch and other Labour groupies to say this sort of behaviour is rare and those who draw attention to it are exaggerating it to suit their - yawn - right-wing agenda. If this case happened under Thatcher you know what all the worthies on the Left would be saying.

Some Labour Party slogans to keep in mind:

'Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime' = give other people's hard-earned money to violent chavs and let them get away with destroying the community.

'Building a Safe, Just and Tolerant Society' = Police can't help you with yobs making life hell for your family - but look at that big housing estate we just built for all the foreigners who conned their way in and jumped the housing queue! Your mate and his young family might have a 14-year wait* but we're helping people from lands the British Empire exploited and, er, countries the empire never touched as well! Aren't we Fabians bloody lovely! And don't moan because your area is full of burkhas and Albanian gangsters or we'll have the law on you for a Hate Crime. New Britain! Hurray!

Question for your Labour MP, if you have one: Why would the working class ever vote Labour again?

*Actual case of an acquaintance.

Betting Shop Dispatches: Sea The Stars

When I walked in the Londonbet shop there was an argument in full swing about Sea The Stars and whether he will win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Del, short, bins, smartly dressed, cockney, fifties, ruddy with drink and blood pressure, cab-driver outlook and immensely genial, is seated at the one table in the small shop. Next to him is Jack, his equally smartly dressed and cockney sidekick. They are in there frequently, Del holding forth on all subjects and Jack occasionally knocking out hooky designer wear and other bits and bobs.
Del backs horses in the shop and lays them over his mobile. The pair of them know their onions, or appear to, and take racing seriously. Jack isn’t always around, but Del is there every day. Effectively it’s his office.
Behind them sat two other men, scruffy and dirty, one tall with wild eyes; one short, with no teeth. They all knew each other.
The tall one with wild eyes was losing his rag: “I’m telling you, Sea The Stars was on drugs at Leopardstown. Simple as that.”
“Fuck off, Johnny,” said Jack.
“He was drugged and they’ll drug him at the Arc and he’ll win. That’s why I’ve lumped on. I’ve got 15/8 and I’ve lumped on.”
“Different race, the Arc,” observed Del gravely. “French. It ain’t like here.”
“’S a fucking horse race, Del.”
Del’s sanguine cheeks flushed deeper and suddenly he became very animated; he tore off his reading glasses and put on his normal glasses and said: “When they run a Group One here or in Ireland they move the fucking fence, so the horses race on virgin ground, right Jack?”
Jack nodded.
Del, vindicated by what he clearly regarded as supreme knowledge made a serene yet I-told-you-so face, highly reminiscent of Jesus in Guercino's The Incredulity of St Thomas.
“…so they race on the best turf. Turf what ain’t been fucked by previous racing. They don’t do that in Paris. That’s ’cos the French don’t, ’cos they’re fucking awkward cunts like that. Chances of him getting stuck in the ground or in traffic is big. It’s a long season, remember, and he’s at the end of it. I wouldn’t bet till the day. I don’t even think he’ll go to the Arc. I think they’ll fucking back out. You got to have luck as well. Look at Zarkava last year. You got to make it through the traffic there, boy.”
“Sea The Stars will have the Arc,” said Johnny, “don’t you worry about that. They’ll drug him, like at Leopardstown.”
Jack looked round in disgust. We’d been alone in the shop that afternoon when Sea The Stars had displayed superstar quality at Leopardstown. When he got up to win we’d both looked at each other with that head-shaking, awed respect you only see men give to phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime performers in any medium.
“Drug him?' said Jack. "Woss the Arc, a fucking Seller at Brighton? He don’t need drugs. He’s a natural athlete. He’s the best horse we’ve seen for forty years. Be sensible.”
“Whatever; he’ll win. Any ground. He’s an any-ground horse now.”
Del’s voice rose and became imploring. “Any ground that ain’t fucked, you mean. You got to think about the ground, Johnny boy, the state of the fucking turf. Wait till the day comes and see then.”
Del focused on the street outside. A hot blonde walked past. “Fuck me, look at her. Look at that. I’d like a bit o’ that. She could do what she liked, she could. She could p*ss all over me.”
There was laughter. Then the man with the wild eyes spoke again: “Sea The Stars will do it, Del, don’t worry. I’ve lumped on.”
“So have I,” said the short man.
“Oh, Kenny,” said Del almost tenderly. “I hope it wins for you.”
Silence descended. A dog race occurred. Del pulled a five-pound note out of his pocket and regarded it. “I’ll get some beers with this for tonight. A fiver’s worth of kip, that’s what that is.”
Then he kissed the ragged note with his eyes shut.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Betting Shop Dispatches

I know several betting shop managers for the big bookmakers and they all say that middle management in their firms is obsessive about creating a friendly rapport between the cashiers and the mugs, sorry, punters.
So it amused me yesterday to find myself in a betting shop, owned by one of the big three and managed by a man who pushes rudeness, incivility and contempt for customers to the limit.
I was familiar with shop, but if I am in that area of south-west London I usually use a nearby shop, owned by the same company but much smaller, where the manager is friendly and obliging. The friendly manager said to me a few months back: “Dunno what he’s doing round there, but all his custom comes round here now.”
I knew what he was doing, that was why I’d stopped going in there.
Yesterday, caught in the rain, I decided to go in the other shop. It was huge and empty, bar two Albanians playing the roulette machine. Dog racing and the early prices at Yarmouth and Lingfield were up on the screens. The notorious manager sat behind the glass at the far end, feet up on the counter, watching daytime TV. Behind him in the back room I could just see his young female assistant sitting at a table eating something with a spoon. The view almost – almost, I say – had the epic banality and numinous profundity of an Edward Hopper painting. The smell of her lunch had wafted through the shop: a gross admixture of oxtail soup and pot noodle.
I’ve made a little study of the manager before and it struck me that he is the epitome of a certain type that infests betting shops and racecourses. He’s about 50, thin, with the face and eyes of a man who has been smoking, bullshitting, crust-swiping and shit-stirring since he was a small child, in other words a sort of hairless monkey (as opposed to naked ape). His hair is cut like a teenager’s, and is dyed the colour of brown Kiwi boot polish.
There’s nothing he doesn’t know about racing and about ‘having it off’ on the horses. This is, presumably, why he is managing a betting shop for a poor salary at the age of 50. He has total contempt for his customers, excepting the coterie of degenerate gamblers, violent small-time builders and football-obsessed morons that constitute his social circle.
What he really admires isn’t winners – he pays out with a furrowed brow and his attitude suggests that your winnings are coming out of his pocket (I dare say his employers operate some arcane bonus system). I won a 200 quid in there one Sunday afternoon on a mad 16/1 shot and he looked furious. No, it’s big losers he admires. Men like him and his friends reduce absolutely everything in life to a sort of virility test. Betting is no exception. He therefore admires the sort of men who walk in, pissed, after a week’s toil on a building site, and, after staring at the screens for three minutes and breathing heavily through their mouths, stick fifty pounds on a dog or a horse, lose it, swear uncontrollably, and then do it all over again and again until they stagger off home to the wife with a score to last them until next payday, muttering about how ‘that dog had shit in its eyes’.
He admires the sort of jack the lad who lumps two hundred quid on an evens favourite to win. Conservative betting is what he despises. I have come to be a largely conservative bettor, on the grounds of personal experience, current financial woe, and by having American writer and horse racing fanatic Damon Runyon’s famous aphorism never too far from my mind: ‘All horse-players die broke’.
I wrote out a 2.50 double and took it to the counter. Slowly, he took his legs off the counter and dragged his eyes round to meet mine. I pushed the slip under; he picked it up. The manager studied it briefly. He regarded it in the way he would if he discovered he had inadvertently got some faecal material smeared on the palm of his hand.
“Can I have the prices on those, please?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said disagreeably, and knuckled down to the intense hard labour of looking up two prices and writing them on a betting slip. “Not much of a pick-up if they win,” he observed.
“Fifty quid’s fifty quid.”
“Put a cockle on, then you’ve got a proper bet,” he advised with a sort of avuncular contempt. I replied quick as a flash and in an unpleasant tone: “Why would I want to give ten quid to you on a stupid bet like this?”
He seemed to realise that it was time to let the customer be right. He pushed the processed slip back under the glass and said nothing. I looked at him. He grunted by way of thanks.
I walked away, and said, ‘stroll on,’ in the manner of Michael Caine in Get Carter. I looked at the screens for a bit while whistling ‘Hey, Big Spender’, then left the premises.
Both horses in the double came fifth.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Mick Taylor and the Whirligig of Time

It’s a shame about Mick Taylor. The former Rolling Stones guitarist has surfaced in the middle pages of the Mail on Sunday, now aged 61, skint as a tramp, fat as a pork butcher and living in a tiny hovel in rural Suffolk with thirty-five years of smack and coke abuse on his doctor’s notes. An ignominious life for an ex-member of the ‘greatest rock and roll band in the world’.
The Stones have made a billion and a half quid out of their records and tours – and that’s without the tons of cash and publishing rights to their most famous songs that Allen Klein swindled them out of – but they stopped paying Taylor his royalties in 1982, when they changed record companies and a lawyer told them to drop him from the payroll.
Taylor was a great blues guitarist and his joining the Rolling Stones was musically providential for him and them: they were musically limited but possessed of classic chops, attitude, preternatural rhythmic ability and steeped in black American popular music of the last seventy-five years; Taylor was a 20-year-old blues guitar virtuoso whose fluent playing put him in the top league of British guitarists back then. He gave them ‘guitar hero’ credibility and ability in the age of Hendrix and Clapton; they stopped him disappearing up his own arse musically. The results of this alliance can be heard across more than half a dozen LPs from 1969 to 1974, which for me constitute the high water mark of the band’s achievement. Everything before was a brilliant rehearsal of that period; everything after was a soggy cliché. As my friend and fellow blogger Mark Brentano has heard me say too many times in public houses: the Stones finished the day Mick Taylor left them.
It is a well known fact among we amateur Stonesologists that Taylor contributed to the songwriting of this period and that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards kept all the publishing for themselves, probably because they’d been so comprehensively rolled by Klein.
It’s seems clear from Taylor’s comments that he was the archetypal aloof musical protégé who thought that great musical talent was an unanswerable Monopoly card that could be used as a proxy for common sense. I’ve got a pal like that, whom I love dearly, and who is currently drinking himself to death in one of southern England’s more deprived seaside towns.
However, the Stones should cough up some cash for Mick Taylor, it’s as simple as that. The band’s leaders are, as has been noted many times, hard characters that take great exception to resignations. ‘A cross between an English gentlemen’s club and the mafia’, was how an insider described the band’s internal workings back in the day. But 35 years have passed and Taylor’s virtually an old aged pensioner. The band members could all give him half a mill and never know it was gone. Taylor says he’s finally going to the lawyers. It will be interesting for Stones-watchers to see if they settle out of court or go for the gamble.
Mick Taylor's fate is ironic, when you think about it: When he joined the band he was a teetotal, non-smoking vegan, five years younger than the rest of them. He became a long-distance drug addict and now looks ten years older than the rest of them (barring the kippered macacque that is Richards). Looking at Taylor’s picture in the paper I was reminded of Feste at the end of Twelfth Night: ‘And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.’