Thursday 31 October 2013

Those who can…

 The row over qualified teacher status continues with yesterday’s  motion for an Opposition Day debate,‘That this House endorses the view that in state-funded schools, teachers should be qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status while they are teaching.’ challenging, or at least giving the appearance of challenging, the coalition’s Free School programme. Labour’s Tristram Hunt has hinted that he may send his own children to private schools as so many hypocritical champions of state education do, thus avoiding any need to confront the outcomes of his proposal.

The debate was entirely predictable, of course, with both sides banging the drum, both sides claiming the moral high ground and both sides ignoring the grim reality that in the view of many, education in Britain is clearly a disaster and furthermore a disaster fifty years in the making. Watching from the inside, as a pupil, I saw my combined Grammar and Secondary Modern school deteriorate over a single school year as it became a Comprehensive just one year behind mine. Add to that incarceration, against their will, of thuggish fifteen year-olds now compelled to attend another year and it was as if the school just lost the will to live.

Teaching is a hot topic worldwide right now, so much so that a World's Top Teacher competition is to be launched next year: But on what basis will the winner be judged? Will their efficacy be assessed over, say, twenty years to show how the kids actually benefited? Or will it, more likely, be based on the number of theoretical pedagogic concepts that can be demonstrated in a twenty minute lesson? In which case it becomes just another example of the pointless exercises in self-justification so beloved of politically motivated organisations. It would be far better to run a competition to investigate and demonstrate just what has gone so horribly wrong in the last half a century to reduce our own state education system to the shambles it quite clearly is.

Or is it actually not a shambles at all but the intended culmination of a series of shadowy conspiracy theories? Is it a Leftie triumph, preparing the mediocre to live out their lives as a client underclass on benefits, creating a justification for immigration and helping to rub The Right’s noses in diversity? Or is it, as some may claim, a Rightie triumph whereby the children of ‘the poor’ are given only sufficient education so as to be useful workers for the children of the rich, as this parody in the Evening Harold illustrates? It’s the same, the whole world over, it’s the poor wot takes the shame, eh?

One thing is for sure and that is the years of steadily declining outcomes – employers and universities have been bemoaning the unpreparedness of their young intake for several decades now – can’t be just entirely accidental. It may be negative feedback originating in the nineteen-sixties obsessions with introducing radical new ideas, each diminished generation passing on their mediocrity to the next, but I somehow doubt it. No, I think there is something worse at the heart of all this – the expert. In a world where even the amount of sugar allowed in jam has to be regulated by government the obsession with pedagogy is almost inevitable. And in such a nebulous area as child development everybody is some kind of expert; which is to say, quoting William Goldman out of context, “nobody knows anything”.

During yesterday’s Commons debate MP Pat Glass said “Qualification is the very basis of a state-run education system.” (Qualification, not Competence.) And there we have it; as ever the argument is for closed shop, state-run institutions because as everybody knows, the state does everything better, doesn’t it? Power generation, health, transport, steel, telecommunications… what could possibly go wrong in a market whose providers and consumers are entirely controlled by such safe hands as the Department for Education?

But what use is education if, afterwards, we end up with adults not only unemployable, but unable to properly read and analyse the issues of the day and then engage in sensible debate? What’s the point if they are unable to discern economic fact from political fiction or earnest pledge from hyperbole? Why bother if we just end up with the same old tribes whose beliefs and votes are based on purely historical precedents; and inaccurate, corrupted history at that? Then again some people probably shouldn't be burdened with the vote no matter how well educated they are.

We don't need no education

One thing is for certain though: much as I rail against a lot of their ideology and unproven, fashionable education theory, teachers must have increasingly broad shoulders, for upon them they carry the hopes of the nation. Qualified or not, only those who CAN, should teach.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Wish upon a Eurostar

Forget about the Rebekah Brookes/Andy Coulson malarkey. Who gives a stuff about the Big Six energy cartel? Litter? Litter was so yesterday… In a timely reminder of how fact can be stranger than fiction not seven days after I wrote about compliant, tolerant-by-law sheeple, comes the life-imitating-art news that the European Onion intends to actually legislate for tolerance. Better yet, they’re going for the Full Orwell and plan “special administrative units" to monitor any individual or group expressing views deemed to be intolerant. (And you really should read that link in full) That’s my blog up the Swanee then. Or is it? Because I have a feeling this may actually be all my fault.

I noticed years ago – when  was still at school myself, in fact – that education is increasingly not concerned with excellence in outcomes and instead focuses more each passing year on creating cookie-cutter, compliant citizens, suitably dumbed down to fit all those round holes. This happens in spite of the almost comically obvious evidence that kids come in all sorts of disparate forms. Tall kids, short kids; ugly kids, attractive kids; sweet kids, nasty kids, thin kids and of course oh-so-thick kids. After years of my observations falling on deaf ears, up pops Michael Gove and suddenly it’s not only news it’s a war.

Why is it my fault? Well you see, democracy is supposed to be that the government enacts the will of the majority of the people, but we all know that is tosh. In fact what they do is promulgate manifesto promises based on their trawl of focus groups, opinion polls and the World Wide Web and then, once in power, wilfully ignore the wishes of the voters that put them there. British governments no more govern than wind turbines decide how much electricity to generate today.  But they must get their policies from somewhere… and I reckon I know where. Me.

In the nineteen seventies I became aware of the self-sufficiency movement and all that lovely hippy shit. Fair enough, I said, local microgeneration and alternative technologies are all well and good for those who can adapt their lifestyle to suit, but for a national energy strategy we’ll always need a mix of coal and oil and gas, and whatever we do we must keep nuclear. No, no, no said the Hippies and the last government used that increasingly loud, green voice as an excuse to spend not one penny on reliable generation, against all my advice. Then last week, hey-bastard-presto, new nuclear.

I used to think that I was always right because whatever I have thought about the events of the day often turns out, contrary to the general opinion and sometimes many years later, to be true after all. Time after time in these past couple of blogging years I have been vindicated: The EU is a bad thing, uncontrolled immigration is plain stupid, a massive, dependent welfare state is unaffordable, borrow and spend IS boom and bust, we don’t build enough houses and politicians never listen. But now I realise what is really going on. They ARE listening after all; they are listening to me.

I wheel out these dystopian bits of fluffery and obviously my monitoring team reads them then, before you know it, official policy. Or an announcement, an admission… even, sometimes, a grudging apology. It is clear now that the guvmint is reading my blogs and proceeding appropriately; every time I forecast bad news, sure enough, bad news. Whenever I call some politician a lying shit; bingo - reshuffle, sacking or public disgrace. You don’t think Chris Huhne ended up in the nick because of Vicky Pryce, do you? Nope it was obviously me; I’ve never liked the man.

Now, I must test my theory, so let’s give it a try. I believe the EU is determined to root out solitary gonzo hacks like me and in an effort to make us all disappear quietly they are using the EuroMillions Lottery to hide the fact that they are buying us off. So, if you’re listening, Mr Van Rompuy, the numbers for this Friday will be 03, 12, 21, 34 & 45, plus 2 and 7. I hereby wish upon all twelve EU stars – one for every law you create and lie you tell each day – for this to come about. Thanks, Big Bruv.

Ven you hit Enter ve vill break down your door.

If you don’t hear from me on Monday you’ll know this is true and I am living on Richard Branson’s island (how do you think he really earned all that money?). Or rotting in a tolerant jail cell in the Eulags.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Keep Britain Tidy

What have the bland sound bites The Big Society and One Nation got in common? Yes, you got it, they are meaningless bits of noise exploited for one reason and one reason only – to garner votes for grasping politicians who have no idea who their voters are and what they really want. When Winston Churchill delivered his wartime speeches on the radio he had a captive audience with a collective need for hope and strong leadership. As a result he became a national hero and a renowned world figure… and the socialists still threw him out when the war was won.

The bitter lesson was learned and since then, in the name of progress, governments have demanded less of the electorate while promising ever more. The job of government is no longer to lead but to provide, to the extent that, for a worryingly large proportion of the population, absolutely everything about their lives is a matter for Parliament to decide. And when I say everything I am hardly overstating the fact. The NHS delivers them, social services monitor them, they are schooled by the state, supplied with unheeded sex education and when they have finally outgrown the ever more outlandish government schemes to keep them in pointless schooling, they are handed over to the Job Centre and the DWP to manage their adult lives.

Even those who do find work have an expectation that the government will shield them from harm, actual or imagined; that their every breathing moment will be cosseted and coddled. The trains will run, electricity will always be there, private companies will not be allowed to make undue profits from them, neighbours, their dogs and their children will be controlled. And when it comes to fighting them on the beaches, stuff that; it’s the government’s job and society is to blame.

This is what Margaret Thatcher meant when she talked about society – there is no over-arching, independent thing – society is made up of you and you and you. And if you simply refuse to take responsibility we get what Joan Bakewell’s documentary Our Dirty Nation highlighted last night; litter. Litter in all its forms is not just the waste you throw away but the human jetsam that washes up on the shore of our big society. Our prisons, drug clinics, sink estates and no-go areas are peopled with the dregs of a system that isn’t functioning because everybody thinks it’s somebody else’s problem, even though it is obviously a problem for us all.

The clear and obvious answer to keeping Britain tidy is litter snipers – they’ll soon get the message – but I expect there will be some namby-pamby health and safety objection to it. And on reflection, maybe prevention is better than cure. Which brings me briefly to the situation in ForemostSchool near Harrogate, where staff have suffered 67 assaults in just eighteen months. Although this is a school for pupils with ‘behavioural difficulties’ it is indicative of what happens when the question is always “what is the government going to do?” and it is only going to get worse.

But it strikes me that it is all about how people grow up and the influences they absorb along the way. Given that we have little control over those influences the answer lies further back in the timeline and prevention is the key. Every single one of society’s ills can be solved by getting rid of society altogether. And as society is made up of people and people can’t help themselves, the only way humanity’s deficiencies are going to be addressed is for us to become extinct. I've already done my bit and avoided making kids. If everybody does the same it will eventually solve the human litter problem once and for all. 

Monday 28 October 2013

There's Prejudice

Here we are, firmly established in the 21st Century and the newspapers still carry horoscopes. Despite the fact that half the population will spend the better part of twenty years in formal education, people still avidly read these sanitised nuggets of bullshit and rely on them for the everyday guidance of their lives. Likewise clairvoyancy, crystals, homeopathy and government – all of them disproven and discredited yet looked to for clues as to how we should behave. It’s almost as if education now serves not to inform but to infantilise.

These days it seems that only the mavericks do anything other than what they are told to do and what is repeatedly reassured is the right thing. Thus, the original wording on the Animal Farm barn which stated “All bigotry is bad.” has been altered by a spidery hand to read “Some bigotry is more acceptable than other bigotry.” It ought to add “…and the party will decide which is which.” For this is where we are come; nobody dare say a word for fear of being in contravention of a raft of unknown edicts.

It appears it is racist to even use the word ‘immigrant’ now, especially if the pejorative term ‘illegal’ appears before it, as Guildford police found out recently. Any reference to a person’s origin is now officially racist and legally actionable, unless those persons' origins are white, British and middle class – in which case feel free to wade in. And to refer to somebody’s status as ‘on benefits’ is a judgemental infringement of their human rights, whilst it is perfectly acceptable to denounce a middle class home owner with a job and no criminal record as a Tory Toff and declare that, should they suffer any misfortune, they had it coming.

On Saturday night I dared to venture out to see a show that a mere thirty years ago would have been denounced as pure fantasy. Created by maverick playwright and all-round bloody good human being, David Tristram, Doreen is an exemplar of modern life and inhabits a world familiar to many of you from the Daily Mail and the Daily Express yet vigorously denied by the Guardian, the Independent and the Labour Party. If you haven’t seen Doreen’s Story on YouTube you are missing a comedy treat – you should click on the link and give yourself five minutes to consider the plight of others - and if you haven’t already got tickets for the stage show you are too late because it’s sold out.

But you can still share the dream of making Doreen’s suffering known to a wider audience. David and his brilliant team of unpaid actors have been working their collective bollocks off to bring Doreen’s world to life. And now, in the great British documentary tradition they are making a movie in which we can all play a part. It will be far more important than Cathy Come Home and a good deal funnier. But everything has a price and even though the Flying Ducks troupe does this for the love of their ‘art’, unlike the Doreens of this world some stuff still costs.

Gill Jordan - Doreen - doing her bit.

So, Doreen – The Movie is being crowd sourced and a more worthy way of spending a few quid would be hard to imagine. Just think, you can 'do the right thing' make millions more 'hard working people' of 'one nation Britain' aware of the devastating reality of Lazy Cow Syndrome and one day you will be able to tell your children how you did your bit for Britain in its darkest hour.  Go on, dig deep and chip in. If you don’t contribute you must be a typical Tory toff or just plain mean and heartless. As the lazy cow herself says, “Let’s be honest, there’s prejudice.”

Friday 25 October 2013

Space Oddity

Flash Gordon had already been saving the world for two decades before shiny, new upstart Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future – exploded into the popular psyche of the nineteen-fifties and for the next two decades they vied with each other for zeitgeist supremacy to the delight of schoolboys the world over.

But in the mid-seventies, punk rock put paid to their fortunes. Suddenly the ray guns and rocket ships were abandoned – even the word ‘cool’ was ditched for spitting, bondage trousers and bin-bag blouses as the Sex Pistols pissed all over tradition. Dreams of hover cars were shelved for many years as rebellious youth called to smash the very system the two heroes had hitherto valiantly defended. As their popularity waned, publications went into liquidation and they both retired to tend their allotments and lick their wounds.

Yet they remained famous the world over. In fact it had become a source of some rivalry between them. One day Flash had popped out to the High Street to buy twenty Rothmans for Dale Arden, the missus, when he bumped into Dan Dare coming out of the post office after collecting his pension. They got to chatting and decided to stop off for a swift half in the Flying Pig to reminisce about old times. As men will do they traded stories of their triumphs, each tale gainsaying the last.

After a couple of pints, as Flash was getting his round in, he turned from the bar and asked of the motley assembly ” Does anybody here know who I am?”

To a man they chorused “Flash Gordon, saviour of the universe!” and started to chuckle; they’d heard it all before.

A little piqued and slightly flushed, Dan got to his feet and asked, “But who am I?”

“Dan Dare, pilot of the future!” they cheered and broke into applause.

And so arose the wager. Each convinced they were more famous than the other they set themselves the mutual challenge of proving it and set out to travel the globe. In the Vatican the crowd asked who the bloke in the pointy hat was, standing up there next to Dan. At the White House tourists wondered who the fly black guy was, shaking hands with Flash. Wherever they went they were equally recognised and the bet was never settled. This was clearly no answer to their contest and they needed a winner-takes-all deciding bout.

Eventually, Flash came up with a solution; “We must travel to the remote regions, away from the modern world!” And so they did. But even then, Dan was recognised in Papua New Guinea and Inuit came out to vigorously shake Flash’s hand in Greenland. Pashtun tribesmen greeted them like old friends and even the Kalahari bushmen mimed ray guns and rocket ships. It was hopeless. Until one day they found themselves travelling by canoe up the Congo River in search of the remote Mbuti Pygmies.

As the trees closed in and the river narrowed, the sounds of the forest engulfed them. Above and around them, from the undergrowth and the canopy they became aware they were being watched. Dan and Flash exchanged a look; for all their adventures this was making the small hairs stand up on their napes. Eventually they came to a sandy river bank and beached their craft. As they alighted from the canoe a rustling from the bushes alerted them to their reception committee. Two dozen diminutive warriors stood poised with spears and blowpipes.

The pygmies stared at the pair with impassive poker faces. Not a glimmer of recognition. This might be awkward. The closest of the pygmies prodded Flash with a spear and by this the pair understood they were to take the track that led into the darkness. After a few hundred yards they came to a wide clearing, surrounded by tree houses. A tied pig squealed and small children gathered round, wielding miniature spears.

The two heroes towered above their captives, sweat breaking out on their brows. They knew this was serious. Forget the bet; who cared who was the most famous? All they cared about now was getting out alive. Above them a sound of creaking wood from the largest tree house. A fat, bald man of indeterminate years, with a huge bone through his nose waddled out onto a makeshift veranda. He held aloft an elaborate spear, decked with feathers from exotic birds and adorned with dangling skulls of small animals. And teeth. Lots of teeth.  The next moment would decide their faith.

The crowd fell silent. Even the incessant noises of the jungle seemed to quieten as the Chief stepped forward and looked down upon his visitors. His chest rose as he drew in breath, waved and in a cheery voice bellowed “Hallo darn dere!”

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Secret of Happiness

Happiness is the Holy Grail, the pursuit of which is deemed so essential to human life that it is central to the US Declaration of Independence as an unalienable right bestowed on mankind by its fantasy creator. Well if there ever was a god he’s left you to it now and the jury is very much out on whether he ever really intended you lot to be happy in the first place. If anything the evidence suggests that humanity – made in his likeness, remember - is an avowed seeker of misery and this is bad news for national unity. So we intend to bring about new legislation to make you happy.

As good socialists we know the danger in relying on observation, lifelong experience and that much discredited instinct ‘common sense’. No, socialism just isn’t socialism (the caring philosophy we remind you, on pain of re-education) without the injection of some good intellectual rigour. From our party mansions in Primrose Hill we have undertaken many post dinner analyses of the plight of the downtrodden workers we used to represent. Polly Toynbee has typed up our proposals and checked for spelling mistakes and we are certain of our findings because they are endorsed by no less a person than Edolphe Ralphson himself.

What, we asked ourselves, makes people unhappy and what, therefore, should we address to reverse that unfortunate state? And it turns out that poor health, despite the glorious workers’ NHS, is principle among the cause of unease. People are plagued by obesity, suffer with dreadful hangovers brought about by drinking away the misery of heaving their bulk about and suffer greatly from lung cancer caused by the smoking which goes hand in hand with alcohol consumption. We know these weaknesses are not your fault – they are proper medical conditions and we have experts to confirm this.

What can we do, we wondered, to regulate the intake of excessive food, alcohol and tobacco? And then it struck us that we should seek not just to eliminate unhappiness but to increase the sum total of sunny joy luck wherever we can. What makes you happy, we asked? It turns out that helping others comes high on the list of human pleasures so a greater serendipity would be hard to imagine. We can both reduce the misery of the addictive indulgences and simultaneously boost sub-minimum wage glee in one easy move by doubling the tax on food and booze and tobacco and using the revenue raised to help the poor, just like we do with the green levy. Everybody wins and that should put a smile on your face. Or else.

Despite those very effective green serenity taxes we know the uncertainty of climate change also makes some of you glum so we will solve that problem for you by the twin actions of making AGW an absolute FACT by decree and slapping a 100% tax on fuel, air travel, holidays and all other leisure activities such as eating out, going to the cinema, football, etc, etc. But to help you cope with all that we will FREEZE the TV license fee for ten years… just as soon as we’ve factored in a big enough pre-freeze price rise to cover the cost. £500 per year should do it.

This has the extra benefit that given you will choose, of your own free will, to no longer take holidays or go out we will know where you are at all times; at home, in front of the telly. And because we know your favourite television programmes are reality shows we can help here too. You just love to keep an eye on each other so your glorious government will fund a two-way telescreen in every room of every home so we can all monitor that our national happiness targets are being achieved.

Wake up Comrades, there is much joy to be had!

In the future you will have Big Brother morning, noon and night. Happiness, comrades. Not just a right, now a legal responsibility. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

We, the sheeple...

I’m no monk. Whilst I like to sit in quiet contemplation of the world, my febrile mind rarely allows me the peace to devote myself entirely to the cerebral; I have to be doing, even if it’s not very much. As for anything beyond my own personal existence I’m so atheistic as to wonder whether that isn’t in itself a religion of sorts. It’s not, by the way, I’m not fanatical about it; the depth of my atheism is such that I really, really don’t care what you believe in except to be fairly certain that my solid lack of belief is far more healthy than whatever depth of delusion the faithful wade about in.

I give in to temptations, to cravings, just as you do but I’m probably better at doing without than most. It certainly seems that way, for even as I stop spending when I hit my limits and cut my cloth to suit, I inhabit a world where to exercise such self-control seems to be folly when somebody else can pick up the tab; this is a time where all you have to do to deserve a reward is to want a reward. I scoff at the professionally needy but, like I say, I’m no monk and it is almost impossible to live a life out of earshot of the clamour of our very odd society.

All around I hear and see the frantic calls to take up cudgels on behalf of some cause or other, the more obscure the issue the louder the voices. We used to be tolerant but that term has been abused and now tolerance is taken to mean bending over backwards to accommodate and assist. It’s not the same thing. Tolerance without activism is somehow not enough any more and we must now take sides with the various apologists; and there’s a growth industry all right. There are apologists for rapists, murderers, islamic fundamentalists, Roma gypsy crime gangs… apologists for the obese, the stupid, the indolent, the looter, the *insert name of favoured nasty here*.

But we don’t have to tolerate everything, why should we? Objecting to something isn’t automatically racist, or whatever other imagined bigotry label you want to apply. Finding something objectionable isn’t a crime, surely? But it’s worse than that – we are even expected to care about things that have nothing to do with us and don’t impact on our lives at all. Why can’t we just be allowed to not engage? We don’t have to be angry about everything but the current trend seems to be to create yet more laws against daring to commit the outrageous offences of not only not being tolerant enough but not actually caring enough.

This is the problem when everything is left to governments; when people are not allowed personal discretion. The more decisions are taken away from individuals the more dependent the sheeple become and sheeple never learn. “Baaah-aan it!” they cry as they demand control of the press, control of speech, control of even thought itself, imagining that this will create a world where we are free of offence. The only freedom granted by statism is the freedom from liberty.

I may not quite manage to be a monk, but I’m damned if I’m going to be a sheep.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

I just haven’t got the energy...

So, the big debate of the moment is happening right ahead of the annual dread reminder of winter. When the clocks go back and British Summer Time ends we are plunged artificially into a self-imposed mini dark age. For the next five months, whatever the reality, it’s as if our primitive animal brains shut down altogether and we go into a form of hibernation – cue the plaintive cries of imaginary SAD sufferers for whom this is akin to the apocryphal theft of days of their lives in the Julian-to-Gregorian calendar shift of 1752. And it’s infectious, this winter retreat from joy; “Woe is me!” we cry as we huddle together to share our misery.

Energy. We all use it, we all need… we actually all generate it. And apart from the ‘need’ bit which is actually very small and can be gained from little more than a couple of chip-shop butties a day, for most of us the other two - ‘want’ and ‘generate’ - are well within our control… if we want them to be. Are you all sitting comfortably for the “When I were a lad…” speech?

When I was a lad, guest houses actually advertised ‘Hot and cold running water’, people dreamed of ‘wall-to-wall carpet’ and the day somebody in the street got colour television was a day to bake a cake and get out the bunting. As some of you know, for the first five years of my life our toilet was outside; early in 1963 it froze solid for a week. And the notions of double glazing and central heating were so far from the reach of poor families as to be almost the definition of fairy tale aspiration. Even loft insulation was an expensive gamble – most of the heat would be whistled away by the draught, through the gaps in the doors and windows.

Heating the house in the morning was a waste of coal, so the standard routine was a bustle from bed to breakfast and out to school and during some of Labour’s finest hours we sat, still wearing our coats, in dark, unheated classrooms – where else was there to go? At break time in frozen playgrounds we were encouraged to run around in a Dervish-like frenzy to keep warm. The point is we not only survived but we thrived because the alternative was to give up and now, as my generation approaches retirement age, I can only be saddened at the loss of that characteristic British determination to win.

Labour’s latest gimcrack soundbite is ‘cost of living crisis’, repeated ad nauseum and the masses are going for it. But just take a look at yourselves; compared to fifty years ago even the very poorest are living in a manner profligate beyond our wildest fancies. Always-on heating, twenty-four-seven entertainment… a phone in every pocket for goodness’ sake? This sort of thing was the stuff of science fiction back then and even then only imagined for the wealthy.

Nobody wants to go backwards but part of the solution to the energy crisis is in your own hands. I regularly walk into houses with heating on and windows open, even in summer time. In winter I see families dispersed around a home, all doors open, all lights on, multiple sources of electronic noise competing for attention and lounging about in summer clothes as money is pissed up the flue. Nobody thinks any more; they just take heat for granted and have little notion of self-reliance, as if it is a human right to be comfortable. It’s not.

David Cameron never said to put on a pullover; Jumpergate was a concoction of journalists looking for a nasty Tory story. He didn't fall for their cynical trap but they told the tale as if he had. But what of it? If he had said it he would have been perfectly right. Everybody should know what their energy costs while they are using it and not just when the bills come in. Get yourselves to energyhive, buy a monitor and get saving. If you can’t save the cost of the forthcoming fuel price rises you’re simply not trying and I'm wasting MY energy trying to help you.

All of this is symptomatic of a wider malaise; an inability to take responsibility for our own lives. I hate the phrase ‘sleepwalking into’, overused by politicians and media to indicate the almost accidental movement towards undesirable outcomes. I hate it because whenever the government or opposition invoke this somnambulistic phenomenon I've usually been watching it coming from a mile off and decades away. And then when government finally wakes up and does something, you lot just moan about it. Too little too late? Maybe, but left to Labour we'd already be turning the lights out.

We knew our national generation capacity was going to be stretched. We knew that so-called renewables were an expensive non-answer to the situation. We knew that delaying and delaying and delaying was not an option and that the longer we waited the more expensive it was all going to be. For most of my life I have been saying that nuclear is the only sensible, practicable, affordable option so Hinkley C can only be a step in the right direction. I reckon the strike price of £92.50 per MegaWatt-hour will look bloody cheap in ten years time. Oh and is it only me that finds the phrase ‘first nuclear power plant in a generation’ unintentionally funny?

Monday 21 October 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare

There are many things that illustrate the utter futility of politics. Every day you can read or watch examples of politicians cynically taking up arms on behalf of populist causes using arguments entirely unencumbered by the truth, their own beliefs, party policy, party track record, their own previous pronouncements or in some cases in direct contravention of the laws of the universe. Some easy examples of the pointlessness of it all are; Labour pretending they understand economics, the Conservatives imagining they will repatriate powers from the EU… and the LibDems.

And as ever the eventual truth – long after the damage has been done – turns out to be what we knew all along. To those of us who have watched from the sidelines for decades it comes as no surprise to learn that the ever-inflated tractor production figures education statistics were just a smokescreen for successive governments to do nothing in the face of oxymoronic ‘progressive wisdom’, allowing fifth columnists to infiltrate deep into the system and make sure our school leavers and future teachers were going to be more a part of the problem than the solution.

The row over the shenanigans at the Al-Mujahideen anything-but-freeschool in Derby has managed to neatly sidestep the deeply islamic root cause of its problems and pretend instead that it is all the fault of hiring ‘unqualified’ teachers. With no respect whatsoever, bollocks. Teaching qualifications are simply an opportunity for an extended Common Purpose brainwashing Alpha Course, the essential elements of effective teaching being conveyed far more effectively through mentored practical experience than the pseudo-intellectual, theory-du-jour and pussy-footing flim-flammery of the PGCE.

Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare is of little use for the children of today, teaching as it does the virtues of methodical application of limited skills. No, today’s little darlings must be enthralled, entertained and most of all cajoled into acquiring learning in a manner that best befits their largely imaginary potential. Hard work and stick-at-it-ness? My word no. Today’s young pioneers need to be multiculturally enthused, variformally synthesized, digitally native and synergistically informed learning clients. That’s how they roll. The hare didn’t deserve to lose. Look:

In today’s story Hare will have been diagnosed with ADHD at an early age, labelled as having special educational needs and been supplied with a classroom assistant barely any more literate than he to do his thinking for him and try to keep a cap on his entirely voluntary Tourette’s-inspired ejaculations. Tortoise, meanwhile, will be largely ignored by the system as he uses up few resources, never complains and just gets on with his homework.

Their school reports differ widely – while Hare’s file is an inch thick, overflowing with notes of praise and indulgence documenting every single time he grudgingly did what little was required of him, Tortoise has barely more than a page with the boxes all neatly ticked and an uninspired impersonal comment at the end. While Hare is vaunted as a major school success story having gained a single grade C in something ‘creative’, Tortoise’s dozen A-to-Cs attracts no accolades at all; it’s only what was expected.

The next time they meet is some years later when Tortoise is required, under a government social engineering programme, to hire the hapless Hare who hitherto has supported his growing brood on state benefits. Tortoise bears no grudges but over time his own health and personal life suffers as he works longer and longer hours to cover for Hare who is habitually late, needs constant supervision and is laughably inept. Eventually Tortoise is forced to hire an Albanian to do Hare’s job because Hare has become the poster boy for the back to work programme and spends more time being interviewed on daytime television as a shining exemplar.

His chippy insouciance attracts curious viewers and a documentary is made as a result of which he is offered a place in the celebrity ‘Jungle’, a book deal and his own afternoon chat show, all the while being paid by Tortoise’s firm for a job he has yet to complete a full day doing. As Tortoise’s mental state declines he nevertheless refuses to give in and continues to work longer hours until the inevitable happens and he succumbs to a heart attack at his desk. He is not discovered until Monday.

Tortoise’s only moment of recognition is an unthinking, throwaway mention on Hare’s new prime time Saturday night chat show. As Hare stares vacuously into the camera he is vaguely aware of his good fortune, which in interviews he attributes to hard work and lifelong perseverance. Internally he can never quite put his finger on how he got here. All he knows is he deserves his success; he won the race.

Friday 18 October 2013

Our Day

Some genius thought that it would be a good idea for local government employees to tweet throughout the day, describing their functions and successes under the #ourday hashtag. For a glimpse into the surreal world of people who believe meetings are an end in themselves I suggest you take a look. Here’s a taste of a few I saw:

“We're busy planting winter bedding in Stratford & carrying out safety inspections in play areas in Stratford & Lighthorne Heath #ourday”

“Today our Housing Needs Service is being assessed for their Customer Service Excellence accreditation. Good luck guys! #ourday”

“The Ethnic Minority &Traveller Service supports schools with young people from ethnic backgrounds: #ourday”

Of course, Twitter is the perfect place for an ambush, so along with the earnest and the self-congratulatory came the finely honed wit of some of Twitters finest:

“10am cup of coffee time. Only allowed Nescafe Gold blend cos of that austerity. FML. :o( Evil tory toffs. #ourday”  

“Yippee! @LewishamCouncil have just elected a Young Mayor; he'll be able to waste up to 30k a year. Not as bad as Senior Mayor. #ourday”

“Council wasters getting upset about hijacking of #ourday tag. Well stop tweeting and do the bastard job I pay you to do.”

 I wondered what it would have been like, living through #ourday in the wild wild west (you have to read it in your best cowpoke accent):


 Howdy pardners. Well yesterday was a humdinger for these parts sure’n’all. Busiest day we’ve had for years and mighty fine for all that. See, me an’ the Sher’ff we moseyed on down to the bar and grill to get our cawfee before callin’ in at the courthouse to counsel a few lonely prisoners. It don’t seem right, somehow, them bein’ behind bars, denied their liberty, when ornery folk are not bein’ likewise o-pressed.

We done okay, here in Deadwood, but there’s always more to be done; we needs to git ourselves some good, strong diversity and equality machinery in the justice department and sort out this berg for good. There’s always a danger we could slip back into the old, frontier-town ways and that’s where we need to be vigilante to keep the peace and maintain har-mon-ee, y’all.

Yes sirree, once upon a time this was a rough and ready town. These lawless streets were home to vagabonds and wasters and drunks and jest ‘bout anybody could do jest ‘bout any thang they dang well wanted. Days was you couldn’t move but there’d be a gunfight, or a saloon bar brawl… or a lynch mob bayin’ at the jailhouse for the Sher’ff to give up some gunpoke or some injun for a bit of rough street justice.

Course, this made plenty of work for deputies and posse members - and later for carpenters and grave diggers and undertakers. Then the bars would mop up the mobs, making work for bartenders and whores… and in time, the docs. Why, in those days, the wives stayed at home cooking and cleaning and keeping house and jest about keepin’ pace with replacing the population lost to those wild old times.

But then we got educated. There ain’t much call for gunslinging hereabouts these days and most young guys don’t really want to do the job. Instead of leaving school they stay on, get soft, then alls they’re good fer is pushing paper. Not that I’m sayin’ that ain’t real work y’hear. The lord knows there’s a lot of paper to push and it ain’t gonna push itself; ever’thang gotta be filled out in triplicate, in eighteen languages.

Strange, the old town don’t seem quite so lively no more, but they say that’s a good thing and who am I, the Diversity Evaluation & Ethnic Efficacy Monitor, to argue? Some say Deadwood finally lived up to its name… I don’t get it.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Oh to be in England now the end is near…

When I used to travel around the world between work tours as an ex-pat oil worker I would take advantage of the bargain prices almost everywhere outside of Europe. Before cheap mass air travel ‘took off’ I could pay for a whole month’s holiday for less than a standard return air fare to the UK. Compared to those who unimaginatively flew back to visit families of whom they were mightily sick after a month, I returned from leave enlightened, refreshed, all-adventured-out and with more in my bank account than when I left. Happy days while it lasted.

The sights, sounds, tastes and norms of alien cultures formed the periodic backdrop to three years of my life in my early twenties before I returned to the familiar and settled down for a while back in the UK. I don’t know why I bothered. The familiar is now not familiar and what was exotic in foreign climes is just plain out of place in Blighty. Men in drab dresses walk down our streets and invisible women clad in dark shrouds congregate outside school gates. Signs are written in a multitude of foreign scripts and our policemen have to be oh-so sensitive, so as not to unduly offend those they arrest.

Perhaps we need some before and after photographs – because you’ve all forgotten (if you ever knew) what it used to be like. The end game of the multicultural propagandists is that your children will never know what being British ever meant. And for those who still have faint memories it’s the reverse of the emperor’s new clothes trick; as if you just don’t want to see what is happening right in front of your nose.

Janet Daley wrote recently in the Telegraph about press freedoms and in particular the way in which the BBC is complicit in presenting an unwaveringly positive portrayal of Britain the way they want to see it. She writes “BBC news output is specifically designed to counter what it sees as ignorance and popular prejudices.” And on the hated ‘right-wing press’: “The BBC approach to news is aimed precisely at those people who read the papers that are hated by its staff. It is intended to offer an alternative vision of reality in which immigration is not a threat to anyone, patriotism is a joke, religious belief (as opposed to ethnic identity) is not taken seriously, conflicting cultural values never create social problems and government spending is inherently virtuous.”

And it’s not just the news. The BBC’s autumn soft crime drama ‘By Any Means’ seems to be predicated on the populist myth that the middle classes are vaguely shady, blithely evade justice and only a dedicated crack squad operating outside the law can bring them to book. Last week’s episode centred around a corrupt, caricature-Tory property developer with connections in government, getting away, literally, with murder. This week the couple under investigation were obvious dopplegangers for a well-known ex-Tory couple, engaged in a caper to cynically rip off a charity

This is the nation’s state broadcaster’s standard cipher for Conservatives, the middle classes, business owners; anybody in fact who makes a net contribution to life in the UK. In contrast their depiction of the lower paid, working or not, is unwaveringly positive, their dabbling in black markets seen as either necessary, unavoidable or simply high jinks, Jack-the-lad antics to brighten up the place.

I can hardly bear to listen to young people any more with their Jafaican patois and their risible groupthink assertions of the opinions of some of their brainwashed teachers. (And since when did tutors start calling their charges ‘mate’? Watch any episode of ‘Educating Yorkshire’.) Yet many susceptible parents are now instructed by their semi-literate offspring that their views of the world are wrong and that acceptance of deliberate and harmful social engineering without question is right.

A spokesman for god-knows-what on The Daily Politics this week repeated the on-message assertion that immigrants are a net benefit; that is they pay more in tax than they take out in benefits. But this is a classic use of numbers to affirm a lie – the net figure, even if it is actually true, hides the real costs to Britain on a one-by-one basis. Take this as an example:

A foreign worker brings his wife and two kids here, where he gets a job on £30k a year and thus pays total deductions of around £6,800 for the 2013-14 tax year. Will he get tax credits? Or housing and child benefit? I don’t know, so I’ll assume he doesn’t. Given that the NHS alone costs about £3,600 a year for every working person in Britain (based on £109bn last year, with around 30 million workers) he is not even paying his way for the kids, let alone a family of four. Factor in the cost of schools, roads, defence and the family on benefits that this family is displacing and it’s clear the numbers just don’t add up. Yet all immigration is still always good immigration.

Traditional Britain - according to the BBC

We already cannot afford this economic, cultural and social illiteracy and it is only going to get worse. But it doesn't matter; superstate EU puppet handlers will simply rob Peter to pay Paul then alter the facts to suit whatever disjointed agenda is the cause du jour. While the Winstons are busy ‘adjusting’ our history they may as well alter old song lyrics too. Remember the rousingTom Robinson classic Motorway, from the nineteen seventies? Let’s all sing together “Two, four, six, eight – manipulate!”

Wednesday 16 October 2013

The truth of the matter?

So the police lied about the actions of former government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell in the grubby Plebgate affair? Was anybody surprised? No matter; their primary objective was achieved. Politicians lie as if it were part of their job description and when they are not outright, bare-faced lying they are evading, obfuscating and misleading as if their lives depended on it. And according to the well-worn phrase, even abstracts such as statistics lie almost by definition.

The will-it-never-go-away McCann disappearance drama has not been kept afloat for six years on a raft of incontrovertible truths; rather, press and social websites vie with each other to construct an ever more complex web of deception, conspiracy and downright evil. Somebody, somewhere knows something crucial and that somebody, or somebodies, is keeping schtum… and keeping a whole shameful industry of deception buoyant in these uncertain economic climes.

Green energy advocates routinely lie about the efficacy of wind turbines while – let’s call them ‘red energy’ cheerleaders – invert their hockey stick graphs and claim they alone know the truth. The lights will go out, the future is orange, the glass is half full, think yourself thin… Bang! And the dirt is gone! Advertisers, mediums, healers, preachers, shaman and charlatans lie to us every day of our lives and we even enshrine some of those lies in weighty tomes we then call holy, allowing people in court to swear on a pack of lies that they will behave for a short while in a matter that is contrary to the acts that landed them in trouble in the first place.

As Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessop put it, we can’t handle the truth. Acting itself is the very art of lying; of pretending to be somebody or something we’re not and we clap and cheer and hand out awards to its best practitioners even as parents – who lie to protect their children from the world – fight a losing battle of trying to teach their children (liars by instinct) that telling fibs is wrong.

Lying it seems to me is entirely natural  - many animal species lie by camouflage, by omission, by stealth in order to hunt, to hide, to protect their broods, to eat… to survive. Why should humans be any different? And it’s a long established falsehood that honesty is the best policy and crime never pays. Both are palpable lies against the evidence of the ages that unthinking honesty can land you in hot water, while a bit of crafty subterfuge can net you huge rewards.

Literature, history and folklore is littered with liars: Walter Mitty, Billy Liar, the boy who cried wolf, Charles Ponzi, Richard Nixon… Pinocchio. The list is long and these are just the acknowledged liars. Delve into society and you soon realise that lying, far from being aberrant behaviour is part of the fabric of human existence itself. You look well, congratulations, oh this old thing, I forgot, I don’t know, the cheque is in the post. We should be ashamed, but we’re not.

So next time you call your kid out on a falsehood, next time you pass judgement on a disgraced public figure, the next time you try to convince yourself that you are holier than your neighbour just remember, you’re probably only lying to yourself.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

The Human Zoo

I rarely watch Channel Five. There are many good reasons for this, principal among them being the dire programing and excessive reliance on lowest common denominator advertising; it makes me feel dirty even going that far up the channel listing. For all their lefty-leaning faults, the BBC does produce some spectacularly good television and I have never called for an end to their funding – merely their overt on-message proselytising.

Anyway, last night saw the screening of Five’s in-your-face offering entitled On Benefits & Proud and while other channels might seek to present such pseudo-documentary footage in a balanced and sensitive way, the narration for this show was written for one purpose only – to stoke the fires of fury against those who would work the system; not so much “How can they?” as “How bloody dare they?” And of course it works. Based on the advertising content – gambling, unsecured loans and trailers for other freak shows – I’m guessing the underclass, as unselfconscious as children, also loves watching its own kind at play.

But surely there’s an even better way and a chance to make it pay? Why not go the whole hog and instead of just winding up the taxpayer via the telly, round up all the determined doleys and place them in a purpose-built, actual zoo? That way, the footfall of paying public would determine the amount of resources they were given. They could literally earn their keep and provide employment for their keepers, by which, of course, I mean their guards. This could really work and if they are entertaining enough their standard of living could be very reasonable. They might even turn a healthy profit, become a growth industry and start actually paying tax!

There is even a possibility that like the panda they may find it difficult to reproduce in captivity thus bringing about the eugenicists dream, although there is little evidence that being closely observed and even openly mocked is likely to have any effect on their rutting instincts. It's unlikely then that there will be any international exchange programme for breeding pairs but there will ample opportunity to experiment with extreme cross-breeding. Maybe we could breed examples which come ready tattooed, for instance? Or with spots? (Strike that last; they all seem to already come with spots...) 

Conversely, should fascination with them wane, we could simply do what other failing zoos have to do with the animals they can’t re-home and put them down. And so there’s another opportunity. You can’t just shoot people like you would a lame horse, can you? No they must be given a fighting chance and a last opportunity to do at least some good in their pointless lives. Many soldiers suffer from PTSD following action, often from realising the enormity of what they have had to do. Well, if we could train them up by letting them cull the worthless, unwanted zoo overspill, they might go into battle suitably hardened. It’s a thought and not entirely without merit.

And just as battery-farmed hens and veal calves know no other life, so the products of what is currently little better than an unrestrained government-sponsored breeding programme anyway could simply be brought up to expect nothing better. Not really all that much different from now, if you think about it. A life in the relative safety of the human zoo, followed by a swift end once their entertainment value runs out. Think of the fortune that would also save the NHS. And if the army isn’t up for it, I have an even better idea and a money-spinner at that.

Hush man, I'm about to bag a brace of Scousers!

Every year, on the twelfth of August, rich businessmen pay a fortune to be let loose on exclusive Highland grouse moors. You can’t tell me that while they are taking aim at the gamey avian targets they are not secretly wondering what would happen if they ’accidentally’ took out a beater…

Monday 14 October 2013

Muslamic Ray Guns

Almost 40 years ago I spent a weekend with a school friend at his aunt & uncle’s place in Brentford. A lovely welcoming couple and a happy home; for us it was a staying-over arrangement to research the London galleries for A-Level Art History. All went well until one day we found ourselves in the company of just the friendly uncle – we’ll call him Bill, because I've forgotten his real name – who, apropos of nothing, asked us if we believed in evolution.

Over the years I have several times had interesting conversations come to an abrupt halt when the earnest interlocutor asked something similar. Fuck, they look and sound just like us! Up until that fateful point, Uncle Bill had been talking about footie but in a single bound he had leaped from the safety of sport to the insanity of intelligent design. It’s the surprise of the thing; the sudden realisation that you have been talking to an imposter; from Spurs to the coelacanth and how God had put it there as a puzzle for science.

And there, in a nutshell is the anti-logic of religion. Uncle Bill wasn't a paedophile, he wasn't a gangster and he would no more beat up his wife and kids than would anybody else of rational and law-abiding British stock. But there and then he revealed to my teenage self that the deranged walk among us whether we know it or not. No rational argument would sway him from his view that the world was about five thousand years old. At least he meant us no harm.

The same cannot be said for others though and in a departure from the traditional fifth columnist methodology of blending in, the islamists don’t even try to hide in plain sight. At every turn they flaunt their differentness; men in dresses walk the streets, grow scarily deranged beards and threaten to kill us. And we simply let them. This wouldn't be an issue for the stoic Brits, if they simply talked the talk, but they don’t; they also walk the walk and bomb the bomb.

Worse than do nothing, we allow the hate talk to continue under police protection yet seek to criminalise those who speak out. It seems it is perfectly acceptable to burn Union Flags, form your own Sharia militias and actively hassle and abuse gay people, courting couples and drinkers but it is entirely intolerable to so much as hold an adverse opinion on the effect of radical islam on our country. There are cities in the UK where any reasonable person would be forgiven for assuming they have been transported to a foreign and entirely alien and hostile land.

Why Labour thought we could absorb islam into British society when even Catholics are still held in suspicion is a mystery. In a largely secular society, where many church attenders pay mere lip service to their god, Catholicism’s insistence that children brought up in mixed Christianity households should be raised exclusively in the Catholic faith is extreme enough to largely prevent such unions. God* only knows how they thought the ushering in of a Middle Ages mentality would work. (*There is, of course, no such thing as god but at least, unlike islam, there is a rich Christian tradition of art in his honour, testament in the main to a belief in the benign, rather than the vengeful.)

Those who do try and start a dialogue are labelled immediately as racists and their cause is not helped by the idiotic and juvenile real racists who hop aboard the bandwagon. This YouTube clip epitomises how the politically liberal classes wish the EDL to be portrayed. The moron being interviewed, no doubt to the inner hilarity of the inquisitor, doesn't actually say ‘ray guns', it’s a rather more sobering ‘rape gangs’, but too late, the damage is done.

Tommy Robinson founded the English Defence League out of the frustration of seeing his home town accepting defeat at the hands of what many millions of others also see as an unwelcome invasion, brought about partly by New Labour’s cynical multicultural revolution but also by islam’s fevered determination for world dominance; dominance over all things in the name of something with absolutely zero provenance, has caused strife wherever it has prevailed and preaches death and eternal damnation to unbelievers.

But despite Tommy’s eloquence in debate and the fact that he authentically represents the views of ordinary decent people, his message is overshadowed by the idiots and those who seek to present fear as racism. He appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live yesterday and charmed even Esther Rantzen with his sincerity as he explained why he had turned his back on the movement he had founded.

I like Tommy Robinson and I respect his restraint. If he can truly strike up a dialogue with ordinary muslims – and there are many intelligent, secular people raised in the muslim faith, who just like we Brits pay only lip service to a cultural tradition – he deserves our support. But some of his former followers are now calling him an imposter, a turncoat, a convert to islam, a media-brainwashed dupe. I hope for all our sakes that they’re wrong.

Friday 11 October 2013

Food Glorious Food

Watching this week’s episode of Whitechapel, the cannibal theme reminded me of the curious story of the late Lancelot Phipps, leader of the secretive Mayfair dining club, the Grosvenor Square Gourmands. In the late nineteen sixties this happy little band of guzzlers and slurpers gathered to masticate their way through the finest and most exotic provender the planet could provide.

Soon the delights imported to this sceptred isle were of insufficient singularity to satisfy the subtle appetites of the more inquisitive members of the group; Lancelot foremost among them. When they tired of whole smoked saffron wren and grew weary of kangaroo twizzlers, locust crunch and mealworm mêlée; when mere exotic meats paled on the palate and the whole gamut of tagines, casseroles, flambés, roasts, pickles, tatins and compotes failed to tickle their fancy, they took their jaded taste buds abroad to find the sources (or should that be sauces?) of their culinary Niles.

Thus did Lancelot and his motley band devour the rotting-flesh-smelling durian fruit straight from the tree in Malaysia. They consumed the fresh blood and still-beating heart of cobras in Indonesia, as much for the ritual and spiritual as for the culinary experience. They tracked down and ate live huhu grubs with the Maori in New Zealand. And on one triumphant day they were led to a seedy alley in Bintulu, Sarawak where they feasted on sautéed strips of long pig in a piquant local sauce. Human flesh; nothing could be more exotic than that.

Satisfied at last Lancelot and his band returned to London where they boasted to their wider dining circle about the sights they had seen, the aromas they had smelled and the delicious things they had tasted, chewed and swallowed… and in some cases regurgitated. Basking in the glory these modern day dandies strutted around London, heroes of the fashionable eatery scene and welcomed with some trepidation by every restaurateur in the capital. Until one day…

One day, in the early nineteen-seventies, while holding court at The Ivy and sniffing desultorily at its unexcitingly sturdy fare, a whisper spread around the room. A shambolic ragged figure was ushered into his presence and Lancelot demanded he speak out. Clutching at a tattered tweed cap the stranger said,

We was just talking about you, in The Two Brewers… Just round the corner like. All I said to my mate…” he indicated his companion, “All I said was ‘I bet he’s never tasted Lhasa Poi.’ and the next thing, we’re being bundled along here, begging yer pardon, Sir.” He cringed as if bracing himself for a beating.

Lancelot rose to his feet, his face alight. A new challenge. After a few minutes of interrogation he gleaned all he needed to know. He would eat this unique dish if it was the last thing he would do on Earth. “Bring me,” he demanded, “John Blashford-Snell!

As luck would have it the ascendant explorer was newly returned from his crossing of The Darién Gap in search of the missing link of the Pan-American Highway and a meeting was quickly convened. Ever in search of adventure an expedition to the high Himalayas was mounted and Lancelot and Bashers set out for Tibet.

The only known source of this rare dish was an ancient monastery, many miles from the nearest road. Winter was fast approaching and the straggling line of Sherpas struggled to haul the equipment along the rocky bed of a freezing cold mountain stream. The mules had been released to fend for themselves after three of them had died and the men who were left were in a race against time and cold and possible starvation.

Eventually, only Bashford-Snell, Lancelot and one wiry Sherpa remained as they made the final ascent to a rocky outcrop in the teeth of a frigid gale that threatened to strip the flesh from their bones. As they neared the monastery a lone bell rang out and an old, wizened monk came out to greet them. Through cracked and wind-burned lips Lancelot Phipps made the entreaty which has passed into history alongside “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”. He steadied himself and asked:

Oh holy father, we have travelled far and journeyed hard to find this place. Along the way we have suffered hardship and lost many men. We have but one thing to ask.

The old man smiled, bowed and asked, “What is it you wish, my son?

Lancelot drew himself up and spoke clearly, “We wish to taste the Lhasa Poi, whose closely guarded secret only you hold.

Of course,” replied the monk, “we eat little else. But I have one question for you before we sit down to eat. What type do you seek?

Lancelot paused, thrown; he hadn’t expected this. He was lost for words and his throat tightened as he struggled to formulate a reply.

The ancient monk continued. “Steak and kidney poi, or chicken and mushroom poi?

(PS: I'm here all week, folks!) 

Thursday 10 October 2013

A Fable

It's not often I write a sequel but, hey, sequels sell. So today is a wee flight of fancy based on yesterday's discussion-provoking account of the BIG Party. Let's just say they did get into government…

It’s 2020 and the Basic Income Guarantee Party has been swept into power in a landslide upset and a rejection of traditional governance. The continuing rows between the Labour and LibDem coalition partners, despite an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons has caused an increasingly sceptical electorate to utterly desert them in favour of a whole new way.

Since the Labour and Conservative parties ended up with exactly the same number of MPs in 2015 and UKIP gained only five seats, even the LibDems meagre 31 returned members was enough to ensure the UK remains shackled to the EU forever. The Tories were frustrated at every turn from then on and many of their supporters simply packed their bags and quietly left the country.

As promised, trading on Labour’s “experience, track record and credibility” Ed Balls set about borrowing as much as the newly emerging prosperity would allow and began to quickly reintroduce levels of public spending last seen in the “no more boom and bust” days.  With the city lost to Frankfurt, educational standards at an all-time low and manufacturing back on the slide, the New-Old-New Labour economy reverted once more to utter reliance on a labour pool drawn from Europe’s poorest countries. Ed Miliband blamed all this on the “race to the bottom” he had accused the Conservatives of pursuing.

Wages fell, taxes rose and as property prices began to fall once more those who could disposed of their homes and joined the exit queues to buy up the deserted villages of Bulgaria and Romania. As houses in the UK were inevitably taken up by incoming migrant workers, the mood in Britain’s cities became rebellious. And finally, after a winter of rioting and looting the broken promises were swept away as the BIG Party took the reins of power in May 2020 and the UK breathed a sigh of relief.

Here at last, they thought, was a party they could work with. Brits on benefits carried on as before, sometimes forming cooperatives to pool their ‘free’ money. Low paid Brits simply left their jobs to the foreign incomers who they assumed would tend to the magic money trees. And for a few months everybody seemed happy enough, but Adam Smith’s invisible hand soon began to weave its spells and the lunacy of the basic income guarantee began to reveal itself.

As prices rose and productivity fell and the country could borrow no more, soon the basic income's value fell and left people with the old choices; heat or eat, health or happiness, sink or swim. But there were no jobs except the Nike and Apple sweatshops, imported to Britain because of the incredibly low wages, subsidised by the basic income guarantee. And these were all taken by the unregistered and unregulated migrant workers.

Far from being taxpayers, much of the remaining economy ran on a cash basis, hidden from the diminished resources of the exchequer. Those who could had already cashed in their pensions and left and as the money supply dried up, society reverted to barter and relied on the direct trading of attainable resources.

Eat, kill or fuck?

The world watched, fascinated, as Britain became the hottest show on the planet, maintaining its meagre financial worth by selling rights to a scripted reality version of a country turning back time. After a ten year run the production crews packed their equipment up and left the decimated population to return to the wild, protected by a United Nations embargo on any further interference with a species on the brink of extinction.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

BIG Ideas

First off Capitalism isn’t so much a political ideology as a system by which humans trade goods and services. Socialism, despite its name, isn’t so much a social system as a political ideology by which human activity is controlled; ideally every second of the day. Advocates  of capitalism are usually busily engaged in the business of getting on and have a healthy despair for the socialists looking to gain from their endeavour. Socialists appear to despise any form of success over and above the ‘average’ and seek to skim off the fruits of capitalists’ labours while simultaneously spouting irrational hatred towards those who provide for them.

Somebody tweeted, “Tax cheats cost us £95bn while benefit cheats cost us £1.5bn, so why do the right go after the benefit cheats?” At first glance a legitimate question but it's not just £1.5bn, is it? Those on welfare, cheats or not, use an incredibly disproportionate amount of state-provided services - health, housing, social services, police, courts, legal aid, jail time, probation and other containment methods, etc. Whereas the 'tax cheats' if illegal are pursued and prosecuted but if legal are doing nothing other than finding ways of avoiding handing over a penny more of their hard-earned wedge for the state to piss away. And of course these ‘tax cheats’ also provide employment, spend liberally and use very much less in the way of the aforementioned state services; it’s hard to avoid the phrase ‘politics of envy’.

The phrase ‘something for nothing’ has also been over-used of late, usually to drive home the point that nobody owes anybody a living… but then I discovered the Basic Income Guarantee Party – the BIG Party – an apparently serious attempt to present a solution to the politics of envy. Click on the link and watch the short video. A clear and obvious spoof, I thought, until I stumbled into a lengthy twitter conversation about it.

The BIG Party has a manifesto and foremost of its pledges are these two: “£11,375 a year Unconditional Basic Income Guarantee paid to every Resident Adult UK Citizen, whether they are also working in other paid work, non-working or retired.” And  “50% income tax on ALL other earned income.” Adding that “The Unconditional Basic Income Guarantee will give you the time and the freedom to do stuff just for the love of it.”

This, it is claimed, will eradicate poverty. The costings are outlined here and involve replacing welfare and tax-free allowances with the basic income guarantee. Again, a rudimentary analysis of the proposals does indeed show that lower paid workers would be better off straight away. For example, somebody on £15k would initially be taking home almost £19k, which sounds superb. A bit more number crunching and you discover that up to an income of around £60k all looks rosy. Above that although the tax burden rises it’s not by as much as you’d think. As the BIG Party says, “what’s not to like?”

What’s wrong with it is, as always, socialism’s failure to account for human nature. Those already on more than £11375 in benefits would immediately be worse off – and that includes many on housing benefit in large cities. The howls would be heard across the land as they bewailed the loss of their entitlement. What do you do, pitchfork them out into the country? Good luck with that; governments have been trying that for decades.

But hey, sod the doleys, what about the workers - the majority will be better off, won’t they?  Initially, yes, but how long before employers simply cut wages? A £15k worker currently takes home around £13k so their wage could be cut to £5k and they’d still be better off... but bloody furious about their pay-cut. Far easier to sack them and re-hire at the lower rate.  A current £13k worker could simply stop working and be no worse off.

Hey presto, what all this does is perpetuate a low-wage, welfare economy the likes of which we have been trying to dig ourselves out of for years. As for “the time and the freedom to do stuff just for the love of it” the fanciful ‘creative bonus’, that is just wishful thinking. Those who are genuinely creative already create however busy they are. The rest of the herd just sits around farting.

Oh and, economics? Simple supply and demand. As wages rise, so do prices. Always. Presumably the BIG Party will also introduce price and rent controls? Oh, hang on; haven’t we been here before? The BIG Party claims to be libertarian but it sounds a lot like New Old Labour to me.