Sunday, 23 August 2009

'The Old People's Town'

'So it’s the consequence of your urban planning, or your colonialism, or your wealth, or just plain you. We’ll blame anything rather than confront the central truth—that when an old, relatively unicultural society admits in a short space of time a large, young, fecund population from somewhere else, you are setting in motion a process of transformation. Caldwell asks the obvious question—“Can you have the same Europe with different people?” and gives the obvious answer: no. “Europe is not welcoming its newest residents but making way for them.”

In the end, that coy French euphemism for the, um, rioters of no particular socio-religious persuasion—“youths”—gets to the heart of the matter: youths are youthful, and ethnic Europeans aren’t. In the heavily North African Paris suburb of Montfermeil, the Muslim children from the housing projects pass on their way to school each morning a neighbourhood of detached houses still occupied by French natives: they call it “la ville des vieux”—the old people’s town.'

Mark Steyn reviews Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.

Friday, 21 August 2009

What Happens When Hippies Think They've Turned Right

2 Rifles has suffered more casualties over the 4½ months of its tour than any British unit serving in Helmand. Twenty soldiers have been killed from the mixed unit of riflemen and fusiliers, including six in the past week. The number of wounded, a figure that cannot be disclosed for security reasons, ranks alongside that suffered by British infantry units during fighting in Europe in the Second World War.

When I read this I wondered, not for the first time, how much longer the British Government can keep 'managing' the 'outcomes' of this war. Can mutiny be far away?

Meanwhile, glad to see that other masterstroke of neo-con foreign policy, Iraq, is toddling along nicely towards stable, liberal democracy. They'll have MTV, no-wage burger franchises, a moronic film industry and valet parking in no time.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Great Dumb Down and A Bright Future

The dumb-Down proceeds apace!

But grade inflation brings devaluation, so... and blimey, even the Guardian's noticing.

Of course, the dumb-down and course-work plodding style of A-levels was brought in to make it easier for girls and penalise boys, to facilitate the gender revolution.

Don't be surprised if the 'intellectual elite' of tomorrow, in politics, the civil service and the media are a bunch of cocky, narcissistic ignoramuses who talk in up-speak. You'll be working in giant Tescos till you're ninety to pay their fat pensions. While we're on the subject, I noted Gus O'Donnell's letter tucked away in the back of the Mail last week, which I can't find online, boasting about how the civil service will be a gynarchy by 2020. What manner of civil servant O'Donnell is can be seen here.

Like the advert says, the future's bright.

I Was Waiting For This

Two months ago, possibly on this blog but definitely in conversation, I predicted that MPs would be on upwards of 100,000 pounds per annum within five years, in return for showing great forbearance in the matter of having their large scale expenditure frauds removed. So, this came as no surprise.


See my post below. Who could do the same thing for the Tories?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Why I'm Voting for Harriet/Afghanistan Elections

And lo, it suddenly hit me. Last Friday. I was going to vote Labour at the next general election and that was that. Now, this may come as a shock to readers of this blog. As you know, I am merely a poor wretch, lately jettisoned from the world of journalism, and now adrift in post-boom Britain, where jobs are scarce (see picture) and are usually aimed at foreigners who savour the small wages here because they are ten times what they get back in Poland/Czech
Republic/Albania/Wherever (Mandelson doesn’t mention wages when he tells the British unemployed to go abroad to work). I liked that advert because it showed that wages for that sort of job have risen about 75 pence in 14 years. I know, because I used to do jobs like that and by the looks of things will soon be doing them again. Thanks, Tony, Gordon and Peter. I love the country you've created. Wages for the poor haven't gone up much but by golly their rents have! Well done, Islington, mass immigration was such a brilliant idea. Excuse the sarcasm and note the truth.
I don’t need to reiterate my criticism of Labour, do I? So why am I going to be voting for them? Because Harriet Harman will, hopefully, be in charge by then.
I was browsing in WH Smith’s last week. I saw The Spectator (a magazine I rarely buy these days, on the grounds that most of the writers are wankers and the whole thing is inching its way further towards being little more than a sort of American Express members’ magazine: adverts for watches and ‘Luxury supplements’ every five minutes. Plus they keep making people I hate ‘associate editors’) and noted that Rod Liddle had had the same thought I’d had a while ago: Labour will be very badly damaged very quickly if Harman becomes leader. Yes, believe it or not Labour can fall a lot further than they have already.
But that’s not the only reason for voting Labour. Another four years of hardline Harmanism would slowly drag the rich into this spitbowl and, quite frankly, seeing as they’ve remained untouched and grown wealthier through whole Thatcher/Major/Blair narrative it’s high time they, like the rest of us, have their lives touched by the compassion and fairness of new Labour, don’t you think? Add to that a growing sense that Westminster is steadily regrouping after the expenses scandal and needs to be taught a real lesson: as Alan Duncan’s remarks last week demonstrated, they have learned nothing from being exposed as swindlers.
A Harman government would compound the errors of the Brown/Blair years while bringing fresh stupidity to the table: She could fully bankrupt the country very quickly and bring Labour’s many hatreds and neuroses to the boil in a trice. There would be a vast new drives to go much further in implementing the policies that have made everyone hate Labour; the public sector would become a sort of Marxoid gynarchy; ‘misogyny’would be ‘stamped out’; billions of borrowed money ploughed into ‘equality’; the current underhand Labour policy of underfunding the armed services and diluting them into a ‘European Army’ would be stepped up, despite the country being at war; Labour’s policy of EU and non-EU mass immigration would be fiercely encouraged; the lobotomy of schools and education would gather greater pace; the monarchy would be closer to abolition than at any time for centuries; the police emasculation will continue apace; violent disorder and organised drug addiction will grow. As now, there will be no money but borrowed money. Taxes will soar. The journey to third world status and third world services, begun under Blair and Brown will be properly under way and steaming ahead all engines firing. The sins of the empire will be atoned for – the wet dream of every Labour ideologue – and England will be smothered. Except for the wealthy, civilised life will be a dim memory. Like now but more so, sirens, hip-hop and the Muslim call to prayer will be the soundtrack to urban living. Recycling will be encouraged at all spare moments, rather like the way that under Mao’s cultural revolution every person with a few minutes spare time had to work at digging a hole in their back yard.
For the sane man the only response will be alcohol abuse or revolt. One can almost believe that civil war would occur, and that, plus revolution, is just what this old country needs. Then we’ll all know where we really are, instead of the micro-managed media mirage of today. At the very least it will make a nice change, as my old granny used to say.
Of course, we won’t get a Harman government we’ll get a Cameron one; and the minute that expenses-fiddling individual sets foot on the Downing Street doormat all the forces of the liberal left, so long quiet about this country’s problems and economic woes, will start shouting and carrying on as if there hadn’t been a Labour government for 13 years. The Specials will probably re-release Ghost Town, even though high streets were boarded up and fascism grew fast under Labour rule. By three months in it will all be the Etonians’ fault and, though I dislike the Tory party, I don’t see why they should get the blame for what Blair and Brown have caused. Also, a Conservative victory will allow the Political Class ideal cover to repair and entrench itself after the disaster of the expenses scandal. This would be very bad for all of us.
So, I’m voting Labour at the next election and I urge you to do so as well. It is, as a politician would say, the only way to make real change happen.

It was sad to see the BBC reporter holding up the fake election papers he’d been sold in Kabul. It makes me angry to think that British soldiers’ lives are being thrown away to ensure a crooked election in a terminally corrupt and medieval country, and all on account of the vanity and stupidity of neo-cons and Anthony Charles Lynton “Tony” Blair.
The war in Afghanistan is lost; we are already defeated in the long run. It only remains for years of government spin to attempt to paper over the cracks, and for inquiries to come to some anodyne conclusions. It and Iraq are the biggest foreign policy mistakes for fifty years and there’s no way round it.
David Miliband, Her Majesty’s Foreign Secretary, writing about the elections in the Daily Telegraph this morning, asserts that Ninety per cent of the Afghan population is ‘reasonably confident that they will be fair’.
The BBC reporter I saw this morning was offered two hundred voting ID cards for a few pounds. The ‘allies’ can stay up there for fifty years and they won’t eradicate corruption or religious extremism.
They certainly won’t stop terrorism, which is the stated aim. It is a peculiarity of this government’s intellectual incoherence that they don’t mind starting wars in distant countries and throwing soldiers’ lives away but the idea of proper border controls, by which I mean burkas off at the airport door and an awful lot of searching and rigorous enquiry, appalls them. Yes, that is because it would disproportionately affect one of the Left’s most favoured minorities. Better to have an endless war in Afghanistan than annoy the Muslim Council of Britain and slow down airlines’ profits.
That’s a little specious, I know, but not so much that it doesn’t provoke the smile of recognition, in this author at least. After all, this government and its predecessors have allowed an extraordinary amount of jihadists to move freely in this country. Over the past eight years, while the Army has been ‘fighting terrorism’ abroad, the Cultural Marxism of this government has ensured that Islamist clerics have operated with near impunity in Britain.
The West must get out of Afghanistan. Those who wish to leave that country ahead of the Taleban rule can be re-located in the country that started the war: America. If the Taleban then wish to allow Afghanistan to become a fort for international Islamic terrorism against the West, the West must respond to any acts of war and aggression by carpet-bombing the country flat. The Taleban cannot win a conflict on those terms.
Otherwise, we should leave the mullahs to their goats and start to sort out the mess in our own countries.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

New fiction: Double Raspberries

I've grown so weary of writing and thinking about the war in Afghanistan and the British government's attitudes to it that I decided to subject it to the artistic process and see what came out. The idea for this story first occurred to me a year or so ago, and then it was to be a radio play called The Self-Serving Bias, about middle-management civil servants and a funding scandal. I abandoned the play on the grounds that Radio 4 (the only producers and broadcasters of radio plays in Britain) would never accept any work that was critical/satirical of or about the kind of decaff-socialist, self-regarding, politically correct, self-serving, deceitful, bureacracy-and-jargon-heavy micro-managerialism that runs Britain today, on the grounds that the modern BBC is run exactly like that and by the type of people who appear in this story. Still, the idea percolated, and, as the late trombonist George Chisholm used to say, it comes out here.

Double Raspberries
By William Gazy

Jamie Sping, junior policy development officer (feeder grade 2, civilian; lower quartile), media unit, Ministry of Defence, was playing a computer game in the office of his immediate superior, Dylan Banner (upper quartile, civilian; pension grade 3), a senior policy advisor liaising between Number 10 and the Ministry of Defence. Banner stood behind him eating a small triangle-shaped egg and cress sandwich – a leftover from the lunchtime meeting on fresh media approaches to the war in Afghanistan.
“Has this got the motionplus feature?”
“Nah,” said Sping. “I did order it but this came instead. It’s crap.”
“Grab the sea-trike: you get points.”
“No, extra life.”
“Well, pick it up.”
“Shit, missed.”
“You’re crap.”
Banner wandered over to the window, chewing. Through the net curtains he could see the back of a statue. Traffic passed along Whitehall.
“I felt like shite in there today,” said Banner. “The Prime Minister was on one.”
“Heavy weekend?”
“Went to Platitude.”
“Who was on?”
“Kung-Fu Jesus headlined – you know, Jody Crunj’s band, he was the drummer in Cyst.”
“Like, I grew up on Cyst. Soundtrack to my teens. Wild night. Got very messy. Done some pills that were like pink callies in the 90s. ’Course, I was mashed all the way back from Oxfordshire – couldn’t even dismantle the tent, left it there – and then everyone ended up round ours and we drank everything I had in the flat. Absolutely battered. Regretted it this morning. Tube was all fucked. Held vom till Waterloo. A mountain of shit waiting for me here.”
Sping laughed. “Bollocks: missed the sea-trike again. Have you got through the zombie swimming pool bit? If you blow their arms off before their heads you get double raspberries.”
The door to Banner’s office opened and Stubb, Ministry-to-Army media policy liaison officer (feeder grade four, civilian; median), walked in. He looked harassed.
“Sebastian’s going apeshit downstairs. His boyfriend’s lost his dog.”
Sebastian was their nickname for a prominent member of the government.
“What’s he still doing here anyway?’ asked Sping. “The meeting finished three hours ago.”
“Because he’s an interfering cunt. Been in an office downstairs with the PM. Kicked up a stink about combing the room for bugs. The dog must have come this way, because there’s a turd out there, so watch out.”
“Who’d be interested in listening to those two?” asked Banner. “I suppose the Taleban might like to get advanced warning on which bands will be playing Kabul?”
“That was one of the things that came out of the lunchtime meeting,” said Banner. “Sebastian reckoned a rock concert in Kabul would be a ‘publicity coup for the West’. ‘Bring people together’, ‘show the West’s good side.’”
“You jest?” asked Sping, turning round.
“Nope. Sebastian’s full of radical ideas at the moment. Maybe he’s in love. He said: ‘it’ll be like the old days.’”
“What does he mean by that?”
“Fuck knows. When this government was popular, perhaps?”
“Have you seen either his boyfriend or the dog?” asked Stubb irritably, “because I’ve been roped in to looking for them.”
“You might get a knighthood if you find them,” said Banner.
A thick-necked sergeant-major, in his 40s, passed down the corridor behind Stubbs, whistling for Sebastian’s dog. “Kisses,’ he called softly, in a heavy Glaswegian accent. “Kisses, where are you?”

Two days later Banner had a breakfast meeting with his boss, Communications Liasion Director (Senior Civil Servant, 99th Percentile Grade) David Hirudine, and Stubb. Hirudine, neat, forties, grey temples and gym slim, was sniffing at an avocado.
Hirudine said, without looking up from the fruit: “Keep getting abusive emails and phone calls from the British Legion asking us why the PM or the Foreign Secretary or someone isn’t meeting the bodies when they arrive back from Afghanistan. What can we do about this?”
“Persuade the PM to do it?” said Banner. “Just the once? Make the gesture, keep ‘em quiet?”
“No, I don’t mean that,” said Hirudine irritably, “what can be done about stopping the bloody British Legion getting through to my voicemail and email? Why have a web team, an internal comms team and whatnot and then end up doing the front of house yourself?”
He turned to Stubb. “The sausages are good, aren’t they? This avocado is good. I had a little moan about catering and it seems to have hit home. Same with the booze: I’m preparing a preliminary beverage report, no pun intended, which you might like to contribute something to. I floated the idea of a wine committee, like they have in the Commons.”
Hirudine turned to Banner.
“Look, it’s not a bad idea to suggest the PM goes down to meet the dead, but you know perfectly well he won’t do it. He’ll say his predecessor didn’t and if he didn’t, then why should, etcetera. I don’t know why Shining One didn’t; he could have got away with it, made himself look good: cried and so on.”
Shining One was the their nickname for the Prime Minister’s predecessor.
“But it might do the PM some good, in a way,” said Stubb. “In the polls, I mean.”
Hirudine changed the subject.
“This rock concert Sebastian was going on about on Monday,” he said. “It’s starting to take off as an idea. Had the BBC on the phone at 5.45am wanting to do a phone interview about it with anyone from here.”
“How did they get hold of it?” asked Stubb.
“Sebastian, obviously,” said Banner.
“Of course,” said Hirudine. “He’s briefed them behind our backs. Complete lunacy, of course. But it’s taking off now and we’ll have to roll with it. Sebastian’s office is already doing a feasibility study vis a vis insurance and agents and talent fees and all that. I had a email from him a minute ago and he wants an office, essentially a media hub, set up in Kabul as soon as possible.”
Banner looked at the front of that morning’s Times. Heavy fighting in Afghanistan, and heavy casualties. Three deaths.
“So this concert, you don’t think it will blow over?”
“No, I don’t,” said Hirudine. “Sebastian says that he has extensive contacts in what he called ‘the rock world’. Says he met Jody Crunj at a backstage party a couple of years ago and, unlike most pop musicians, he wasn’t ranting that Iraq and Afghanistan are evil imperialist adventures.”
“He’s very much in the minority on that one, I’d say,” said Banner.
“Quite possibly,” said Hirudine. “But it’s in motion now and we’ll have to run with it. Sebastian will open the coffers up for it and the funding. In regard to us, it boils down to this: someone’s going to have to go and set the hub up in Kabul and that’s that.
Silence followed this.
“It’ll have to be one of us,” said Hirudine. “Or, rather, one of you two.”
“How can I go?’ said Stubb. “I was downhanded the re-incentivising of our media affiliates, plus the hits-and-clicks web delivery focus group to sort out.”
Hirudine turned to Banner. “Dylan?”
“My workload isn’t exactly light,” he said in a voice more hollow than usual. “I have people in my management line that might be appropriate.”
“That doesn’t strike me as being the best solution. You’d have to make a sound recommendation, which would have to be approved. I’d far prefer it if you went, Dylan.”
“OK, I’ll go,” said Banner.
“Now,” said Hirudine, changing the subject again. “I was briefed by the PM that we, as the Min of Def media, should be briefing everyone that the equipment in Afghanistan is good and getting better all the time. There is an adequate amount of helicopters in Afghanistan and, where there isn’t, there soon will be, which for you means there already is and, furthermore will be more very shortly. Armoured cars and so on are being developed that are invulnerable, etcetera. Everything’s on an upward curve of efficiency and strength; I know this is basic stuff but; never give an inch on this, ever. Never get put on the back foot by reporters over this. Ever. It’s the PM’s new golden rule.”
“Oh yeah?”
“According to Sebastian, some lawyer got arsehole drunk at Chequers the other weekend and said he wouldn’t be surprised if, quote, ‘the fucking lot of you didn’t all end up in court over the two wars’. Rattled the PM, who made the mistake of getting lippy and asking the man ‘what he meant by that’. ’Course, the bloke rattled off a prima facie case that should have been obvious from the start and that ‘they’d all be lying through their teeth till the day they died, just to stay out of a courtroom’.”
“What happened?”
“PM went into a sulk. Then someone said they’d heard that Shining One was now running around in Washington suggesting that ‘the allies’ should invade Zimbabwe.”
“What did PM say?”
“A very rude word. Then he stormed out.”
Banner’s blackberry buzzed. He read the message.
“Two killed last night in North Afghanistan. Corporal and sergeant. No names as yet.”
“Family bereavement media briefing pack four,” said Stubb, apparently as an aide memoir. He wrote something down. “Four B if they’re Scottish,” reminded Banner. “And three C if they’re Welsh.”

The working day was winding down. Jamie Sping was playing the computer game in Banner’s office.
“Get the fucking sea-trike!” yelled Banner, leaning over the screen.
“Got it,” said Sping. “Extra life.”
Banner consulted the time. “Fancy a quick pint?”
They went to the Red Lion, down Whitehall. Banner outlined the situation.
“So, basically,” said Ping, who always used the word basically in any work-related business whether it was needed or not, “someone’s got to go to Afghanistan to set the hub up?”
“Yeah,’ said Banner. “To be honest, like all the crazier policy drives from Sebastian it’ll fizzle out when the initial allocation budget dries up and nobody will sign off more money for it. Then the project will be renamed and only the hardiest FOI-sender will be able to find out where the money went. For you, on the other hand, it represents a chance to do yourself a bit of good. You can shine here. Go to ‘theatre’ and you’ll get points. Double raspberries. You’ll probably go up a grade far quicker than you would have and women will think you’re hot.”
“I am hot,’ said Sping.
“And all you’ll be doing is sitting in an office on fucking facebook all day. Like here in other words, except you’ll be in Kabul.”

The Times, always warm towards Sebastian, went big on the rock concert the next day.
“Fuck me,” said Stubb slowly, as he read the story in Banner’s office. “I like this bit: ‘A source at the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Bob Dylan has been approached for the concert in Kabul’. Genius. Your idea?”
“Yeah,” said Banner. “We-ell, you might as well go to town with it. We did approach him as well – he was playing golf at his Scottish castle – and he got his office to tell us to fuck off.”

To avoid a confrontation with Hirudine and the paperwork involved in sending Sping to Afghanistan, Banner presented at his doctor’s surgery complaining of anxiety and depression and got himself signed off work for a month. He did some housework, web-browsing and bought tickets to Glastonbury for himself and his wife. One afternoon his mobile rang and it was Hirudine.
“I realise you didn’t want to go, but is Sping up to it?”
Banner was prepared.
“Technically, yes. Emotionally, yes. True, he’s lower quartile, but a riser. He’s clearly got potential, otherwise why did we take him from feeder grade? You said yourself at that corpcom meeting that if bigger projects are not downhanded then our technological terrain and crossbriefing interstices will remain at Management Model II.”
“Yes, I did, didn’t I?”
“In your power point presentation you said ManMod III requires nano-dynamism and vision-compliance from the lower quartile. ManMod III will remain non-impactful unless the lower quartile expedite synergistically. Other words, the guy’s a newbie, but I thought Sping was an ideal candidate for this project. If you don’t get the guy a challenge, he’s heading for long grass and bandwidth supervision, which, to be fair, seems a waste.”
“Thanks, Dylan,’ said Hirudine brightly, “I Hope you get better soon.”
Banner clicked off his phone. He switched on the television. The rolling news on cable showed more flag-draped coffins being unloaded at an RAF base.

Banner had been back at work for a month and several more soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan when Stubb came into his office at speed.
“Heard the news?”
“Go on.”
“Sebastian’s downstairs going apeshit.”
“Someone trod on his boyfriend’s dog – and Jody Crunj’s has walked out of the rock concert project.”
“That’s fucked that then. He was their only chance. No one will touch it now”
“Sebastian’s in with Hirudine now. Ranting and raving. Hirudine wants a meeting this afternoon on briefing angles.”
“I won’t be there, thank God – ManMod III aggregation delivery strategy.”

A few months passed. The war carried on with no discernible progress. Retired Generals wrote imploring letters to the The Times and the Daily Telegraph about the government’s duty to provide adequate equipment to the armed services. The media team were kept busy issuing briefings that showed that the Army’s equipment was more than adequate. More soldiers were killed. Fresh Family Media Bereavement Packs Four, Four B and Three C were printed. Meanwhile, the concert project disappeared from the media.
“Sebastian won’t have it mentioned,” said Stubb, who had been in Sebastian’s offices at the Commons that afternoon and was regaling Banner with gossip over lager in the Red Lion.
“I’m not surprised,” said Banner. “Don’t suppose he’s got much to worry about, though. The news coming out of Afghanistan is so bad the papers don’t need to start digging around that particular fiasco. I’ve never looked at the money spent on it but I wouldn’t mind betting it could have bought something useful for the war. If we’re lucky, if the story ever does come out it’ll just be a few pars in the back of Private Eye.”
Both men’s blackberries buzzed simultaneously. They consulted them and said together, “Sping’s been kidnapped.”
Stubb looked at Banner. Banner said, “for fuck’s sake.”
Both men drained their pints and headed back to the Ministry.

It all came out in the media. The rock concert, the money: the bill and expenses for event planning was called ‘eye-watering’. There were front page pictures of Sping; Sping in happier days on holiday and a video capture of him, blurry and crying in a cage – “bit like a Francis Bacon painting,” observed Hirudine, who was doing an evening course in Modern Art at the Tate. There were pictures of Jody Crunj and Kung Fu Jesus playing on stage; pictures of the office in Kabul from which Sping and two bodyguards were kidnapped; pictures of Sping’s parents and girlfriend. A meteor shower of Freedom of Information Requests hit the ministry. More financial details emerged to general outrage. The atmosphere became siege-like. The Secretary of State for Defence, a lowly figure in the cabinet and subordinate to Sebastian, took most of the flak.
“I see Sebastian remains untouched,” said Hirudine at a morning meeting with Stubb and Banner. “The old tricks are the best. He’s relentlessly briefed against and smeared the Minister, who now wants to resign – ”
“Does he?” asked Stubb.
“Of course, he’s had enough shit lately to last a lifetime. This is the final straw. Of course, neither the PM nor Sebastian will let him. Not until they think the moment is right.”
“Have you agreed strategic continuity on the kidnapping?” asked Banner.
“Sebastian, cleverly, has instructed me to request a press blackout in the interests of Sping and the bodyguards’ safety, while the Foreign Office attempts to negotiate.”
“That works in Sebastian’s favour, too,” noted Banner.
“Of course,” said Hirudine. He turned to Stubb. “If you can get that suggested wines idea of yours knocked into a pdf before lunch I can take it into Food and Beverage with me this afternoon. I don’t hold out a lot of hope, but as I said to the Minister, it’s no good serving pub wine in the Historic Rooms. It just makes us look crap.”

The war continued. Video footage of British soldiers fighting in the pink badlands of Afghanistan played daily on the television. The media blackout ensured Sping’s story disappeared. A year later Banner switched on the computer in his office, checked Reuters and learned that the decapitated bodies of Sping and his two bodyguards had been discovered in a cave, one hundred miles north of Kabul. He stared at the screen for a bit and slowly plugged his iPod ear plugs in.
Later, when Stubb arrived, Banner said, “I’m just glad I got that job at Health. Get out of this fucking nightmare.”
“Oh, you got it?”
“Yeah. Upper quartile, same pension grade. Health can be bumpy, but not like this. Fuck this.”
“For a game of soldiers,” said Stubb.

It was down Whitehall at Health, one afternoon some months later, that Banner, while walking down a corridor, noticed some dog shit on the floor. Soon after this Banner was accosted by his immediate superior (SCS, 99th Percentile Grade), who said, conspiratorially, “Sebastian’s in.”
“Yeah, spending a worrying amount of time poking his nose in down here these days.”
On their way downstairs they walked past another dog turd outside Briefing Room six.
“Careful not to tread in the shit,” said Banner.
“That’s what everyone’s saying these days, isn’t it?”

ENDS 2,957

Monday, 10 August 2009

Burke, berks & the BBC

When you switch the BBC on in the morning, be it the TV breakfast show or James Naughtie's socialist briefing on Radio 4, you get the news which corresponds most to the BBC's obsessions, which are the hobby-horses of the grown-rich-on-taxpayers'-money liberal chattering classes: "equality", "diversity", climate change, prison-doesn't-"work", more-immigration-please, I-Love-the-EU, English-culture-embarrassing (except football and anything from the North - except the huge rise of the BNP there)/foreign culture good (and don't mention the honour killings, homophobia and Jew-hating). To this list of the usual suspects can be added a new, bubbling-under category: 'Now smoking has been banished from pubs how can we get drinking out of them?'
Watch this item from BBC Breakfast this morning.
The first thing to be said about the piece is that it fails to ask even one member of the public for their opinion (wot, no "social democracy"?). This is either lazy journalism or the manifestation of editorial approval. The Beeb being the way it is these days it's probably both. The second thing is that when strong-arm anti-liberty measures are proposed which involve police interference, say stop-and-search in areas of high ethnic density, the BBC rigs its coverage to demonstrate why they think the new measures are a bad idea. All manner of people, usually Shami Chakrabarti, are wheeled on to decry the new measures. Not the case with alcohol in Oldham. The ending of street violence becomes a non-negotiable necessity. Very laudable, I must say. But if this story was about a clampdown on violence and drug-dealing/taking in East London or Birmingham, 'community leaders' would be placed upfront in the item, laying out their objections and saying such measures would 'alienate the community'. The white working class in Oldham are not afforded that privilege.
Further thoughts: I'm not defending the loutish behaviour - I wouldn't go in one of those bars if you paid me - but I smiled at the irony when I watched the piece, because the problem of extreme drunken violence and bad public behaviour has been mainly caused by things the modern liberal-left strongly approve of: deeply equivocal and pluralist attitudes to family, education, morality and public behaviour. In other words, letting it all hang out, baby, is all fun until someone loses an eye. Don't expect The Guardian or the BBC to spot this obvious fact. The final thing to say is that if I'd been the reporter instead of that pliant dolt Richard Bilton, I would have finished my piece with these words from Edmund Burke: "Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be from without."

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Social Democracy All at Sea

A fishing hut, Hastings, 7th August, 2009.

Another success for Sofgov*

*Newspeak for Sofa Government of Islington.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Oligarchal Collectivism - the Final Year Begins

This new move to introduce state brainwashing of children is only the beginning. Only a few months ago traditional subjects were deemed a waste of time by Sir Jim Rose in his education proposals. So, out goes history and in comes the Guardian Women's page (except it doesn't have a Women's Page anymore, because every page is. Can a 'Man's Corner' be far away in the Guardian, I ask myself). Notice how it is only crime against females and one-way gender bullying that is being tackled. The fact that men top the lists in, for instance, suicide, alcholism and depression and get a worse deal from the NHS (not that you'd notice from the MSM) will go unremarked and entirely left out of this new slab of socialist interference in education. Note this:
Work on the strategy was first launched by Jacqui Smith when she was home secretary but is also understood to be being driven forward by Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour Party and Equalities Minister.

As I said in previous posts, it's no-going-back, scorched earth policy railroading for the final year. This isn't good news for them either. Not that negative outcomes from their policies ever stop them for a second, but it's interesting that they can't even fiddle the figures properly anymore. Expect 'drives' and 'crackdowns' that are forgotten about in a week.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Letter to a friend concerning Madness, the 80s, the Thompson Twins, sex and Olivia Newton-John

July 27 2009, evening

Hi, Nick-o-Pip,

Just a few lines to say fanks for your present. I last bought a Madness record twenty-four years ago and so I was curious, to say the least, to hear what the old nutties were up to these days. The Liberty of Norton Folgate proved to be a richly rewarding listen.
They have retained that very English mix of melancholy and joy (remember the underrated masterpiece of The Sun and the Rain?) and while their ambitions have grown, they haven’t become pretentious. Suggs, it would appear, has been inhaling a mix of Peter Ackroyd and Tom Waits and it’s done the fella a power of good. The amazing, wonderful and horrible bazaar of London past and present is well celebrated and elegied, if you know what I mean. The whole effect rather wonderful, with each band member doing the musical thing one remembers them fondly for. It was a lovely fruit-cake of a record.
Of course, what album is flawless? A couple of numbers serve to keep Guardian readers happy: a lyrically lazy, meaningless song about Africa, called, wooh, Africa (Suggs, you mess with the tacky God Toto: desist, desist! Don’t play da juju man with that particular middla the roadkill. Bes’ forgottun, realleh!) and another appearing to blame rude boys’ pathologies on ‘gherkin men’. Unless Gherkin Men be some extra-esoteric West Indies slang for players of the pink oboe, I do believe we are seeing some of that old red wedge 1985 malarkey from those old enough to know nuance better. Oh, would that it were 1985 again! (Nick R. appears stage-left wearing a bowler hat and brown carpenter’s apron. Whistling, he unfolds a temporary road sign: NO NOSTALGIA, PLEASE, AS SCOFFING TENDS TO OFFEND) Taggy browsers and shirty hurts (I was a natty dresser, at times). All was simple in the forest, even though it wasn’t! I was in love that year and my two years old copy of Long Hot Summer by the S*y*e C*u*cil was played to oblivion. As was various Madness – including The Prince. BRING BACK THE….WE WANT THE…PRRRRRRRRRIIINCE. What a mixture we lived on in those days: Brighton Rock one minute (I had a recording of them doing it on New Year’s Eve 1975 taken off a radio repeat – in scratchy long wave, my dears! May’s rhythm playing at the start made me put down the wooden Dunlop racket with the purple handle ((worn back-to-wood at the point I liked to strum the solo from the Shadows’ version of Ghost Riders in the Sky some six years previous – I had graduated from strumming the Ward Lock Junior Encylopaedia. Maybe I should get a guitar made to look like the Ward Lock Junior Encyclopaedia. Ron Wood had a toilet seat guitar, after all)) and retrieve my battered classical from the loft – later to be smashed to pieces in Townshendian salute. I couldn’t tape that guitar back together as Daltrey advises in Guitar and Pen.) and the Thompson Twins the next! Pip-voice: THE THOMPSON TWINS! THE THOMPSON TWINS! They had only one record I liked, the name of which escapes me. It was about being in a prison camp, if memory serves, which, I suppose, tied into that adolescent male dreamlife of being a hero of some description – even if one’s greatest struggle was the daily styling of the fringe in or out of the equation. I can see myself now: Shaving mirror door on bathroom cupboard; leaf-pattern frosted glass window; soap-caked radio on windowsill; sound of the Victoria train nearby slowing into Penge East; King in a Catholic Style by…ten points, Nick, ten points*…coming on, and this greasy fringe to contend with.
I’ve just looked up Long Hot Summer on youtube. As you would say: oh, dear! Talbot, the keys player, seems an honest-enough fellow, along for the ride, but one look at Weller…he’s like a devious Neapolitan deckchair attendant. Oh well. Children don’t always spot a mountebank as quick as they are sometimes given credit for. I’d got Frenchified and poncy, thanks to the S. Council’s Our Favourite Shop, which I adored. I took up French fags and loafed around listening to Down in the Seine, Weller’s idea of a Jacques Brel number. I thought it very cool.
I was also fond of a Communist band called the Redskins, I remember. Bring It Down (This Insane Thing). And of course the night Simply Red appeared for the first time on the Old Grey Whistle Test. I was ensconced alone in front of the box with a gin and tonic (the dark mysterious tabernacle of the drinks cupboard having been fully appraised and reconnoitred some moons earlier to vouchsafe a King Edward Imperial to smoke on bonfire night) and the then-unsigned Hucknall’s voice tore at my wounded heart (where my knee would be buried). WINE AND SONG, SIR. WINE AND SONG! A poisoned chalice, sir. ‘The pestle with the vessel, the brew that isn’t true.
But that’s nothing to a musical memory from the 70s: bloke next door in my front room doing an extended Elvis dance in his moccasins to Mud on the telly. TWIGLETS AND BABYCHAM, CHIPBOARD AND PAMPAS GRASS (possibly a new ITV detective series) VESTA CHINESE MEALS and wallpaper RD Laing could get his teeth into. As Roy Batty says in Blade Runner: the things I’ve seen with these eyes.

And, back in the 80s, Madness kept you going. You never took ‘em seriously, but my, how they entertained and, now one comes to consider it, how they have colonised one’s memory of that decade. Along with MR BUYRITES and Farahs. Here’s me on my way to school, winter, 1981,
FISH PASTE SANDWICHES in my carrier bag. I pioneered the shopping carrier bag as against the satchel and sports bag. (That, the fringe, the taste for Razzle and Jackie Collins, Tarzan and Biggles and the biro-smothered hands ((no, not Biggles and The Biro Covered Hands)) perhaps signalling the dysfunction that would overtake me in adult life). A radio plays:
And I never thought I’d feel this way, the way I feel about you…IT MUST BE LOVE, LOVE LOVE LOVE etc
. Much better than Labi Siffre’s original, was Madness’s.
That was a grim old, filthy-snowed under winter. My sister developed a penchant for Godley and Crème’s Under Your Thumb Forever. Sunday nights for her being all about listening to the new Top 40 on Radio One. My antagonism to fashion perhaps beginning with her love of Duran Duran etc. Have you noticed how nobody puts Duran Duran videos up on Facebook? Too fucking embarrassed. Anyway, winter passed and I decided I liked the mad bit in the middle of ABC’s The Look of Love. Following this, as I bounced my skinless leather football up from the playground one lunchtime, three girls from the year above snuck up behind and fondled – a recently learned word, that was- my bum. The most ‘at it’ one, a half caste girl, like a heftier Gauguinian amazon stuck her mauler down my trews. I told her to fuck off, so taken aback was I! But I walked away with leady you could have gone shark-fishing with. IT WAS A LONG AFTERNOON OF DISTRACTION IN MATHS. Something was happening… And lo, the following winter, 1982, we saw the Young Ones go in that boozer, Suggs go ‘You hum it and I’ll smash your face in’ and House of Fun begin. The elemental First Squirt could not be far away; indeed, this song seemed to augur it. THE FIRST NOCTURNAL SQUIRT had already happened before my molestation. During a dream about the television advert for a film called Xanadu starring Olivia N.J and after my nightly prayer that a nuclear war would not occur; I’d had the early warning beacons at Dover pointed out to me and thought, blimey, bit real. My parish priest gave it the biggun about CND from the pulpit and there was enough on TV. My idea of the next war was sort of The Tardis meets Reach for the Sky. That all changed when the BBC put Threads out, right, popkids? Anyway, back to Olivia N.J. Olivia had caught my eye at the cinema in Grease some years earlier, and the idea that you might literally fly off in a 50s car with your loved one remains attractive.
The summer of 1983 was rather wonderful and I seemed to spend all of it riding a bike near Selsey Bill. Which, incidentally, was mentioned in Madness’s Driving in My Car. But the song that summer, apart from Long Hot Summer was Wings of a Dove, WO-AH WO-AH. Released, so wiki informs me, on August 20, 1983. Then there was Our House, which I didn’t like for some reason that I can’t now remember. Then the acutely melancholic Michael Caine.
Oh well. I could go on – the weird winter of 1984 and The Sun and the Rain, the end-of-crush melancholy of Yesterday’s Men and my early pub expeditions with Uncle Sam by Madness playing (My old man thought Uncle Sam was great, he didn't see the anti-Americanism of it) and later their valedictory Ghost Train – but I’d better not: lest Reeves arrive at the Dog and say to Sunshine: ‘fucking old Jackanory Gazy sent me! Cunt wouldn’t shaddap, like usual. The only living boy in Penge East indeed! Who d’yer think you are, fuck sake, GUNTER GR-ARSE? Percy Proose? Clean yer elbows! Eat the Rail. Sit on it, Chachi!’ Sufficey to say that, one way and another, The Liberty of Norton Folgate stirred up a lot of memories for me.

And I never got to tell you about Sunshine and the Tooter’s Hat and how he threw a lighter at me. Oh well, see you in the bar.

I am sir, your royal, loyal correspondent.

The Colonel.

PS: All highlighted items in this letter will form the tracklisting for my next platter

*Nick R says calmly and instantly: China Crisis? What’s the big deal? What was that song about Amsterdam that came out at that time? Was it Lloyd Cole? I quite liked that.