Reports and inquiries, generally speaking, are designed to find what the people who have commissioned them want them to find. Take, for example, the Widgery report into the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry. As the troops were there to stop the province of Ulster descending into total all-out civil war, it was important to exonerate the paratroopers, which it duly did (and let no one tell you that this was a massacre – if Paratroopers had wanted to massacre marchers on an illegal demonstration they would have killed a damn sight more than they did); likewise, when the Government was in the process of selling out the Ulster Protestants and grovelling to the terror gangs of the IRA during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, it was important to find the Army to blame for the shootings, which the Saville Report duly did. Now let’s take a report by the so-called “High Pay Commission” (and doesn’t having ‘Commission’ in the title make it sound ever so important, or, possibly more pertinently, self-important?). It has found that the divide between the pay of executives of British companies and their workforces to be “corrosive” and not good for society. Well, some might think that what private companies choose to pay their executives and workforce is nothing to do with anyone else but them and their shareholders (I don’t really see why Tesco should ask me, anymore than Vince Cable, what it chooses to pay Sir Terry Leahy). But if we look at the “Commission” in a little more detail – which the BBC rather seems to have conveniently ignored – we discover that it was commissioned by a group called Compass, and Compass, you may be surprised to learn, turns out to be a left-wing ‘think tank’ closely aligned to the Labour Party. And supporting the report was the Joseph Rowntree Charity Trust, which, on examination, turns out to be just another left-wing pressure group. So all this news time is dedicated to a left-wing commission set up by a left-wing think-tank supported by a left-wing charitable trust which has come to some left-wing conclusions. My, what a surprise!
The demonstration and camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral raise many interesting questions. One raised by the protesters themselves is, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Well, judging by his past form, he’d wander aimlessly about the desert running off at the gob about being the son of God and believing that he is the only way you’ll ever get to heaven and making stuff up about bread and fish, so that’s not really much help. Well, what are they demonstrating for? No one can say. What are they against? Capitalism, they say, which presumably means they are against people freely agreeing to sell goods or services to someone who wants to buy them at a price they mutually set. Oh yes, and they are probably against people actually owning things, which I wouldn’t be in favour of, as I quite like to be able to hang on to stuff I’ve voluntarily bought from someone else at a price we’ve agreed. Like my clothes, for example, and collection of secondhand Daily Mail editorials I keep to read when I’m feeling down. Valuable, that’ll be, one day. Another question that has occurred to at least one is, what gives a couple of hundred people camping by one of the most magnificent buildings we have give them the right to say they speak for the ninety nine per cent of us who aren’t in the richest one per cent? I’m not within the top one per cent (despite my ownership of a diamond mine in the Congo, which I don’t talk about much) and they don’t speak for me, which would make their maths look rather suspect, I would say. The other thing that they might be demonstrating about is education standards. Judging by the amount of spelling mistakes in the posters and banners (incidentally, isn’t fly-posting against the law? Why haven’t the police done anything about that?) their English isn’t up to much, either. And then, of course, the biggest question of all is, what should we do with the demonstrators? The church doesn’t seem to have much of an idea, and the Corporation of London don’t seem to be taking action. Just to help, I would suggest they ask the Chinese. I recall they have a fairly good idea of what to do to clear a public square of unwanted crowds.
My! What fun! This must surely go down as the Battle of Dale Farm. Leonard hasn’t enjoyed himself so much watching a battle between a violent mob and the police so much since the Battle of Orgreave during Arthur Scargill’s thuggish insurrection against the elected government all those years ago. What larks when one of the mob got Tasered! How I cheered. They ought to have got the bloke who attempted to hit the police with a spade, mind. That must be attempted GBH or something similar one would have thought. And one has to ask from quite what perspective the BBC has been reporting this eviction. Why don’t they ask the Travellers (I suppose we ought to give them a capital T in good Guardian style) what makes them think they can uniquely flout planning laws? Why can’t they move into the accommodation offered to them by the council in the form of bricks and mortar? (I wonder if I go and camp on a local park in a tent whether I would automatically get a council house?). They are clearly not so keen on Travelling as they’ve been there for ten years. And they must have come from somewhere else before they illegally set up their squatter camp. Why don’t they go back there? And it has been reported they own property in Ireland – why don’t BBC reporters ask them about that? Are all their vehicles taxed, MoT’d and insured? Do they pay council tax? Are they on benefits? If so, how come they can afford such flash ‘motors’? Why don’t they ask the villagers whose land they abut what they think? Do you think it might be because the answers might be, well, somewhat in favour of the eviction? And why is it a problem for Basildon in the first place? Basildon, the last time I looked, is in England. They are Irish Travellers. Maybe the key to a satisfactory conclusion might be found in their name. I’ll chip in for a one-way ferry ticket.
Laurie Penny, some dopey bird who pens tosh for The Independent newspaper, writes of the protesters occupying the square outside St Paul’s cathedral in London, “The recolonisation of public space, the forming of alternative communities based on direct democracy where people can meet and realise a common struggle, is an act of defiance with its own solution to the alienation and frustrations of life under capitalism. Those who attend occupations with individual grievances stay because they want to belong to a community built on mutual aid and shared values.”
Well, at the risk of repeating myself, why don’t they just do it? No one’s going to stop them if that’s how they wish to live. It isn’t as if there’s some vast right wing cabal that is going to come along and smash them because of the threat they pose to the profits of banks and and multinational companies. If they all chipped in a few hundred quid I’m sure they could buy themselves some land of their own and build their own community based on “mutual aid” and “shared values”. (While the rest of us enjoy all the wealth that flows from free markets and competition.)
I don’t know how much Independent columnists earn, but I’m sure Miss (money) Penny could help them out, probably along with Polly Toynbee and Will Hutton, who would give them the profits from all their royalties from the books they write and column fees.
Interestingly, though, are the tents the protesters are all using, probably bought from those same multinationals they so lambast. If you don’t want multinationals to have your money, it seems a strange thing to do to give it to them. Perhaps they should have strung something together from string and used umbrellas.
It is sometimes instructive to look at how certain people are portrayed in the press, and consider how they would look if substituted by an alternative. Now let’s take, as an example, bankers. Now personally, I don’t have any problem with bankers. My bank did not need any public funds (as many others didn’t), it looks after my money for free – in fact it pays me for it to look after my money and in return it invests as it sees fit while guaranteeing to return my savings when I see fit. Indeed, some think our current financial difficulties were caused not by bailing out the banks but because of the grotesque amounts of money the government under Gordon ‘No More Boom Or Bust’ Brown borrowed and the fact that all through the boom years the last time there was a balanced budget was in 2001. But back to our bankers. Now particularly in the pages of The Independent and The Guardian, their resident cartoonists regularly portray bankers as greedy, grasping pigs with snouts in troughs, or bloated, pin striped, claw-ravenning cats, day after day, hammering home the message that bankers are evil parasites leeching off society, filling their boots at the public expense. Which all rather reminds me of the way the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer regularly used to depict the Jews. What if we replace all these images of pigs and cats with claw-fingered, hook-nosed (think Alec Guinness in David Lean’s film version of Oliver Twist) Jews stealing people’s savings, railing against them and their evil ways. I wonder how enlightened we’d think The Guardian and Independent were then?
Nick Clegg, our Deputy Prime Minister, a post apparently invented to satiate the ego of some pompous MP, has said that we need to ‘rebalance’ our economy away from its dependence on financial services. Oh god. That’s just what we need in this financial crisis: politicians poking the economy with sticks. How, exactly, does our government expect to engineer this rebalancing? Pass a law saying that companies must manufacture more and export more? Legislate that manufacturers must be better at making things. How does that work? It’s just a politician grandstanding, issuing little gobbets that he believes make him sound important and that he is ‘doing something’ about our situation. The reason we have excellent financial services (and I wonder how much tax they’ve paid over the past ten years compared to what we’ve spent on the bank bail-outs. Every bankers’ big bonus that we moan about is yet another windfall for the Treasury as it’ll confiscate more than half of it) is largely because governments have learned over the years to largely leave them alone. If you have a goose that keeps laying golden eggs it’s probably best not to torment it to the point it either leaves or keels over. If you want less of something, then make it more expensive – if it works with alcohol and tobacco, then it’ll work with jobs. Why should we punish a business with a National Insurance levy for it creating jobs for people? Why not let businesses simply employ who they want for whatever reason they want. The whole industrial tribunal system is just a racket to hold companies to ransom (and I should know; I’ve worked it in my time). Get rid of it all and watch the economy blossom. Not that it’ll happen, mind, but one can imagine.
Fantastic news. The Independent’s star columnist and resident professional homosexual Johann Hari will be returning to his post in the New Year after undertaking a period of journalistic training. Seeing as Hari, the poster boy of the left (although if I were a leftie I wouldn’t want him on my poster), has been a columnist for The Independent for years a period spent training to be a journalist might have been thought useful to start off with, one might think, as opposed to just being a smug, smart-arsed Oxbridge-type, for example. Now for those who don’t know, Hari, who writes in the paper on Fridays, has been suspended for stealing quotes from other journalists and inserting them into his pieces as if they were obtained by himself (plagiarism, theft and misrepresentation – a matter of gross misconduct meriting a dismissal rather than a suspension, one might think), as well as doctoring other people’s Wikipedia entries to present himself in a good light and they in a worse. He has also been accused of inventing an atrocity in an award-winning piece he wrote on the Central African Republic, just to throw a little spice into the stew. One might wonder who on earth is ever going to take anything Hari might write in the future seriously again, but I guess that’s up to the editor of The Independent (wonderfully self-serving so-called ‘apology’ in the paper from Hari at the moment). Personally I welcome his return as I always looked forward to reading his pieces on a Friday and will continue to do so. Sometimes I go back to his archive just to reread articles because I enjoy them so much, as there is no one, no one – not even Polly Toynbee – who fills one with so much mirth at watching Hari at full, red-eyed, hysterical, self-important, unsubstantiated, drivelling screeching flow, probably with dribble leaking from the corner of his mouth as he hammers away in a peerlessly pompous way on his keyboard. Welcome back, Johann.
As we watch the euro thrashing around in what is presumably its death throes, it is interesting to reflect on how we got where we are. After all, when monetary union was first proposed, Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat, wrote twelve really excellent reasons why it was absolutely essential that the UK should join. Does he still think so? Perhaps he will tell us. Or has he recanted, one wonders. Will he apologise for attempting to force the people of this country to hand yet more powers to an unaccountable European Union? I’m sure he is an honourable man, and will soon appear and publicly explain. Indeed, one of the very excellent reasons he put forward as to why we must join, was that it would give us ‘real sovereignty over monetary affairs’. I wonder if the Irish and Greeks, as they watch pathetically from the sidelines and receive their orders from the IMF and Germany while their economies implode, think that they have gained real sovereignty over their monetary affairs? I’m sure Mr Huhne will tell them, being such a clever and knowledgable chap. He also said one interest rate worked for such a large area and would in fact lead to lower interest rates. What a bitter irony that must be for the Irish, who were unable to quell a debt-driven property price bubble by raising interest rates, rates set, essentially, to meet the needs of Germany, probably the only reason the euro has survived as long as it has. I wonder if the Germans are glad they got rid of the deutschmark, as they pour money into the bottomless borrowings of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Italy? Maybe they should have been asked first. These things go down well in democracies. It’s called voting, but our European rulers aren’t so keen on voters – they tend to vote no when asked about some new folie de grandeur the European Commission wishes to foist upon them.
Anyone who thinks comprehensive schools are a good idea (or, perhaps, a grotesquely, breathtakingly stupid one) almost certainly didn’t go to one. Now the two who should have been strung up by piano wire from a lamppost for the destruction of the UK’s tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern and technical schools (which, admittedly, needed reform) would be Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Education in Harold Wilson’s government, who was said by his widow to have once vowed not to rest until he had destroyed “every fucking grammar school”, who went to a public school, and Shirley Williams, who was Secretary of State for Education under James Callaghan and not only attended a public school too but actually contrived (cheated, in other words) to send her daughter to a selective school, an hypocrisy rather like Hideous Harriet Horridperson’s decision to send her son to a grammar school. I went to an ex-girls’ secondary modern school, the worst possible sort of comprehensive one could possibly conceive of, and am embarrassed by my grammar school-educated friends at my own lack of knowledge. Formal grammar? Nah, we won’t bother teaching that. Dates of King and Queens of England? Old fashioned rubbish. Latin? You ‘avin a laugh? And then I read this, and suddenly felt rather well educated: “I aint going to say attack don’t let the media make u believe that was terrorist that did it,” Tweeted Liverpool footballer Nathan Eccleston about the 9/11 attack on New York. Leaving aside the rather, well, dubious, factual assertions, is that really how he has been taught to write or speak? God help us all. To call that sentence English is not an abuse but an abomination.
According to Wikipedia, honoured font of all knowledge, the Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips was “born into a Jewish family”. Quite why it is put that way I don’t know. Possibly because it sounds less harsh than saying “Melanie Phillips is a Jew”. But she can no more give up being Jewish – a race with religion – than I could stop being English, so I don’t think we need to quibble over terminology. Let’s just face it, she’s a Jew. And in a recent newspaper article she said a vote on creating a Palestinian state would be an “act of hostility” towards Israel. Israel is -was set up to be – a state for Jews (we mustn’t forget though that about three million or so Palestinians live there too). I wonder if her race and the country she seeks to “defend” are connected. An ad hominem attack one might say, but possibly justified. And the Jews occupying the land of the Palestinians they drove out through massacres and terrorism justify said occupation on the basis that God promised them the land. Because it said so in some book. Presumably, if the say so of some book justifies an occupation then it would be quite reasonable for me to launch an attack on London’s King Cross Station, slaughtering those waiting for trains, and to start building Platform 9 3/4 because it said in some book that that was the platform from which the train to Hogwarts ran.