Home » Agony Uncle » The people have spoken, and other insults to the intelligence (Obituary: Dave the Worm)

The people have spoken, and other insults to the intelligence (Obituary: Dave the Worm)

Who’s Moaning now?

The High Court has ruled that the Executive does not have unlimited powers to act without the consent of Parliament – one of the most important constitutional decisions since the Great Reform Act.

Poor Nigel Farage, he’s like a demented dad at a Saturday league match, jumping up and down on the touchline yelling abuse at the referee, who’s just yellow-carded his child.

UKIP’s only reasonable-sounding mouthperson, Hermione Gingold lookalike Suzanne Evans, is calling (she’s not as rational as she sounds) for the three High Court judges (one of them the most senior Law Lord in the land), who ruled that the Prime Minister doesn’t have a legal right to abrogate the Treaty of Rome without a vote in Parliament, to be sacked, presumably on the grounds that she doesn’t like the law. (Judges don’t make law, they interpret laws made in Parliament – at least that’s how it used to be.)

Mr Dacre (67, son of a draft dodger) of the Mail has outed one of the judges on his front page as ‘openly gay’, another as a member of a chambers that operates in Europe… and has described all three as ‘Enemies of the People’, in good old 1930s Völkischer Beobachter, National Socialist style. Sadly, none of them appears to be black or Jewish, but it was a close call. The Sun‘s vilely racist front page brands the Brexit litigant, Mrs Gina Miller as both ‘foreign’ (she is black) and ‘wealthy’ – an Investment Manager no less (not unlike Mr Philip May and Ms Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, in fact!)

Meanwhile I imagine Mr Murdoch and Mr Rothermere – sorry, Viscunt, whatever –  and Mr Desmond of the Excess, former publisher of the hardcore porn site Asian Babes (not racist but racy!), the proprietorsof those scurrilous rags, must be urgently consulting their Investment Managers as to what to do about their depreciating £pounds.

Sooner or later, some wag in a wig will also point out that the Referendum Act specifically states that the result need not be binding on Parliament; while Lord Kerr, who actually wrote Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the clause relating to countries leaving the EU, has been trying to make his voice heard above the hubbub. He’s been trying to tell everyone that Article 50 is not irrevocably binding, but the howling, moaning Brexit mob aren’t in a mood to listen.

And the speculation is that Mrs May will now have to call a General Election to get a popular mandate to govern the country without reference to the Parliament whose ‘sovereignty’ millions voted to repatriate from Brussels, imagining it was hiding over there (it was only visiting on expenses). Otherwise she will have to obey the sovereign will of Parliament by asking them first, and that would never do, she might actually have to come up with a policy for leaving the EU.

The problem being, that she can’t call an election without an Act of Parliament, because Parliament has already got an Act that says we can have general elections only once every five years.

If we had a Reichstag, it would be in flames by now.

“Every area of Government policy must now be subordinated to fulfilling the wishes of ‘the British people’ to sever our ties with Europe; bar that of encouraging, nay begging, European companies to remain in Britain.”

If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it

The Serious Fraud Office has revealed in a BBC Panorama report in association with The Guardian, that it is investigating a global network of so-called Agents in relation to possible bribes paid to middlemen to secure contracts for Rolls Royce, possibly the most prestigious name in British engineering.

This famous ‘British’ company, synonymous with excellence in manufacturing, has a troubled history and a labyrinthine company structure, of which it is difficult to make sense. What we can say is that the famous Rolls Royce marque is no longer made by Rolls Royce. It’s not even British anymore.

The business had been in public ownership since it went bust in 1971, crippled by the development costs of the notorious RB211 aero engine. In 1987 the government sold its shares to a private investment consortium, Rolls Royce plc. The company was split up, the auto-engineering businesses and brands sold in a complicated deal to two German owners, BMW and Volkswagen. ‘Rolls Royce’ no longer makes the famous cars.

All which is quite fascinating, demonstrating the awful complexity of modern business and the impossibility of sorting out anything to do with EU trade in less than ten years.

Be that as it may, I’ve just been reading several stories on the Guardian‘s online news site relating to the SFO investigation of what the Government still likes to pretend is just the kind of  ‘Great British company’ that will enable us to prosper mightily after Brexit.

There’s speculation that, just as the SFO investigation of British Aerospace was quashed by Tony Blair on grounds of ‘national security’ (the Thatcher family was rumoured to be implicated in the bribe of $60 million paid to a Saudi intermediary to secure a contract for fighter-jets), Mrs May could well find a good reason to quietly kill off any unhelpful poking around in the affairs of our flagship engineering business, whoever owns it. After all, don’t all companies with aspirations to be global players not have to bribe their way to success? Haven’t they always?

Every area of Government policy must now be subordinated to fulfilling the wishes of ‘the British people’ to sever our ties with Europe; bar that of encouraging, nay begging, not to say bribing, foreign companies to remain in Britain.

Nobody believes the protestations of Business Secretary Greg Clark that the Government has not offered Nissan Motors a blank cheque to continue manufacturing in Sunderland; the heartland of the Brexit vote, yet an area that would be economically devastated by the loss of 7,000 jobs if the Japanese carmaker decided to jump ship to somewhere more favourably located in the tariff-free Eurozone, as it had threatened to do.

And of course, outside the EU we ought in theory to be free from any constraints regarding Government support for business.

It seems the British taxpayer is going to have to find £billions to retain jobs in the manufacturing, banking and other sectors if a hard Brexit prevents us from remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union; and will have to swallow the very considerable cost of living rises resulting from a permanently weaker pound, that respectable government advisory sources predict will cost up to £3,000 a year for each family.

Ooops. Silly Brexit fuckwits.

But no, I mustn’t disparage your ‘democracy’. The people have spoken.

Something achieved, at least

Two days before he was due to hang for a murder he does not even know he committed – nor is he aware of the sentence passed on him and its ratification by the Pakistani Supreme Court – Imdad Ali has received a temporary reprieve while the Government in Rawalpindi reviews the verdict.

Imdad has been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and lives in an entirely separate reality. Arrested in 2002, accused of killing an Imam, he has been on Death Row since 2014, when capital punishment was restored in Pakistan after a major terrorist incident and a large number of capital cases (including some for blasphemy) were reviewed in the light of the change of policy. A number of prisoners formerly sentenced to prison terms have been executed, not all of them terrorists.

Bizarrely, the Appeal Court ruling contained the news that schizophrenia is not a recognised mental illness and so there was no plea of diminished responsibility possible.

I mention the case, not only because it seems extraordinarily unjust, but because I was one of over 30,000 people around the world who signed a petition organised by the Reprieve charity to halt the execution, which we probably all considered utterly barbaric. Only we were too polite to put it in those terms, it would have been counterproductive.

Imdad is not entirely saved yet. But at least we have achieved something, it seems – and a new defence is being arranged.

Good for us. Now for everyone else….

 

The Irony Lady

I’m getting bored with leaping to defend Margaret Thatcher, as she was pretty ghastly (in public at least – people who knew her privately say she was kind and thoughtful) and left a lasting legacy of bitterness; although, to risk being boiled in oil, I have to say as a single pensioner I’d rather have had the poll tax than pay £120 a month so my local authority can take away two black binbags and waste £100s of thousands paying PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s consultants to do their job for them.

It’s just that her premiership seems to haunt so many people and has become a ‘meme’ almost of demonic possession in the 27 years since her downfall.

This typical remark is from a Comment thread on a George Monbiot piece on the Guardian website today, about the mental-health consequences of social isolation:

“Palming it off as the human condition is bullshit. Remember Margaret Thatcher: “there is no such thing as society…”? That’s what she ensured with her policies and everyone else has built on it.”

So even today, she still drives people mad. Literally, it seems.

The point I keep trying to make about her policies is that they were less ‘sui generis’ than ‘sui temporis’.

In other words, it isn’t clever or good enough to blame her personally for what we can now clearly see was her policy response to a wider world already trending towards neoliberalism and the cult of the individual.

The full quotation from a Woman magazine interview (where she probably thought she was on safe ground as middle-class women tend to think more like this), courtesy of rightwing website, The Commentator, goes:

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.

“There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

In other words, it’s standard Tory Christian thinking, not some evil plot to pull the rug out from under the working-class. Quite the opposite, it enshrines working-class values of thrift and mutual support. It prefigures, for instance, Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ theme; countering the Labour vision of the Big State, it’s an attempt to divest some of the increasingly unsustainable social responsibilities of Government onto other institutions; starting with the family. It was not an appeal to individual greed, but to personal self-reliance.

And, yes, it ignores the plight of the poorest (poverty as I have sometimes experienced is actually quite difficult to escape from even with all your resources of mental strength and resilience intact – opportunity does not always come knocking), but that wasn’t what she was banging on about. It’s a different issue, and while whole communities were being destroyed through de-industrialisation, she did not pull away the safety-net of social security (basic and grudging though provision was) in the way that Cameron, Osborne and Duncan Smith did during the coalition years of 2010-2015.

Her privatisations, Hayekian Chicago-school monetarism, rowing-back the power of Trade Unions*, deregulation of the City of London and the liberation of markets to run rampant over (yet curiously to become more responsive to) consumers, can all be lumped together as Thatcherism if you like, but none of them was her original idea: those things were already happening, here and elsewhere, and it cannot be argued that, despite the casualties, they didn’t make rusty old Britain a more competitive, diverse and tolerant nation in the end.

Sadly, that consensus seems to have fallen apart in recent months.

Subsequent problems such as child poverty, epidemic mental health issues and half a million people relying on food banks have been the fault of successive Governments failing to engineer reform, to support fiscal responsibility and to extend social obligation into the business sector. They are not the intended consequence of Thatcher’s ‘tough love’ policies, but of political faiblesse in standing up to corporations.

Thatcher would not, I suspect, have gone along with the cuts and caps in social welfare prescribed by Osborne and Duncan Smith as the cure for the nation’s ills; but would have sought some means of forcing companies to invest rather than sit on their huge cash piles, waiting out the never-ending crisis. Nor would she have pulled Britain out of the EU, with the consequent economic uncertainties of a weaker pound and possible trade barriers.

Already, according to her stated objectives, with May we are seeing the reversal of neoliberalism ‘red in tooth and claw’. Yet Thatcher would I feel have been horrified by May’s refusal to put Brexit to a vote in Parliament. The 2008 crash revealed that the markets had no trousers on, and not a lot has changed. Hopefully then as we’re not going to get another Labour government for many years, we might arrive at a synthesis between interventionist policies and ‘compassionate Toryism’ to mitigate the worst consequences of austerity.

Mrs Thatcher was less a fan of austerity than, like poor Gordon Brown, of housewifely ‘prudence’. I think you’ll find the welfare bill increased substantially during her reign, whatever her views. She was not advocating the dismantling of ‘society’: she was expressing the view that there really is no such thing.

You can argue that ‘society’ is in essence the culmination of communitarian qualities such as altruism, neighbourliness, mutual reliance and resilience – based perhaps on self-interest – charity, and that these things ultimately result in broader governance based on a pact between government and the governed (that is now in real danger of breaking down) to provide for everyone’s needs; but that there is no intermediate institution called ‘society’ (except in the upper-class sense, that she wouldn’t have known about).

It’s not really such a controversial observation.

*While believing in the importance of Trade Unions, I couldn’t help but give Thatcher one cheer as, twice in my life, union restrictions and mulish obstructionism fatally impeded my career prospects; and when on the one occasion I needed the support of my union, to whom I had been paying dues for several years, they told me to get lost as they considered me to be ‘management’; although I had just been unfairly dismissed.

So actually, I couldn’t give a fuck about the unions.

 

Obituary

Horrible, horrible science persons

On the morning of 4 November Britain woke to the news that a lovable, record-sized earthworm had been found in a garden in Cheshire.

At 15.7″ ‘Dave’, as the son of his finder christened him, was a monster in earthworm terms; certainly for a wild worm. Annelids of a not dissimilar size have previously been bred in captivity, under ‘ideal conditions’ (badger- and blackbird-free).

Outrage ensued, and a Twitter campaign has been mounted (#JusticeforDave) – alas, too late – when it was revealed that, on receipt of the living specimen, the evil scientists at the Natural History Museum promptly had Dave ‘euthanased’ and pickled him for further research and display purposes.

If they can do that to an earthworm, the humblest among us, what can they do to us, I wonder?

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/dave-the-worm-outcry-as-uks-largest-earthworm-is-killed-for-science_uk_581c5d15e4b09d57a9a83da2

By total contrast, proving the milk of human kindness has not been entirely replaced by UHT, another BBC report tells us:

“Park rangers have given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a number of fish (ornamental Koi carp) after the tank they were in was slashed. Forty-five “much loved” fish died at Castle Park in Colchester, Essex, on Wednesday while their pond was being cleaned and they were in a container. Park staff rushed to save a number of fish, managing to successfully resuscitate some of the larger ones.”

An 18-year-old man has been arrested.

 

Postscriptum

Ice-rink officials in the Japanese city of Kitakyushu are to hold a special memorial service for thousands of fish, to apologise to an incensed public for marmorialising the fish in the ice as a form of decorative embellishment for the amusement of skaters.

According to officials, the fish were already dead when they were frozen.

Meanwhile, nothing is seemingly being done to stop the unbelievably cruel ritual each September of herding and slaughtering hundreds of dolphins in Taiji bay by the atavistic baboons of Wakayama, a peculiarly Japanese obscenity which is apparently still tolerated on ‘cultural’ grounds.

 

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