Sunday, 9 June 2019

Migration Happens





This is from three years ago on the subject of migration, it might allow a repeat. History tells us of the constant movement of peoples and what happens when they do.

It is a complicated story and means that when discussing movements in our own time you are dealing with the past as well as the present and all the ideas, beliefs and views involved and their inherent conflicts.

Your migration can be my invasion. My expulsion of unwanted people will be your refugees. Our claim to land and authority is also our way of saying who will own and benefit from it. But often we will not agree and the disputes will trigger movements of people. Down the centuries it has often been a bloody business.

In the 1940's we knew numbers of refugees of different kinds.  These included the post war displaced persons, there being a number of places for them in the vicinity. In the 1950's, we have forgotten the upheavals in the East of Europe in 1953 that triggered added movement of people to The West, especially from East Germany and again, Poland and this continued.

In 1955 the winter going into 1956 was very bitter in Germany .  The rivers froze, I recall playing football on The Weser. It was possible to walk across The Elbe into West Germany.  Many did and sometimes even the patrols of the East who were supposed to prevent it. In 1956 there were further events and numbers of Hungarians and others arrived notably in London, to add to the displaced persons already with us.  Not long after the war there had been laws and regulations etc. aimed at closing the camps. Some did, but some were still mini-towns into the 1960's.

As well as the larger camps, some local authorities had patches that were used.  There were plenty of WW2 Nissen huts available.  But many then were housed in the cheaper rental areas and to the fury of many had priority for the envied council houses. Those from the East of Europe were followed  by many from places in the former Empire where political freedom had not necessarily meant peace and tolerance of minorities.

There were divided views about this, not least between some people in the urban areas who were adversely affected and which took most of them and those in other places who could be generous to their small numbers and for whom the principles of free and open movement had little local impact.

Fifty years on we are in a different world.  Only now, instead of thousands the figures are in the hundreds of thousands with the potential to be millions.  Moreover, the arrivals do not come to a land in which they will have to adjust to local laws and lifestyles because there are few other options.

Instead of three channels of British TV then, now they can watch their own versions from their homeland. The internet can bring their place of origin into their own living space.  There is little they need to change in terms of eating or the other routines of life. In short they might be living in one place for convenience, income and housing etc. but their culture, lifestyle, etc. are those of another country.

If the new is more advantageous or generous than they could hope for in their homeland, it is not surprising many will want to come. Our problem is that some will have strict beliefs that are not just alien, or beyond our law but are in conflict with it.  Another, inevitably, is if the proportion of loose young men and the crimes and gangs that are often the core of their activities.

England is one of the most intensively populated pieces of land on the planet, the result of many migrations so just about all of us have migrant forebears to a greater or lesser degree. Back a few generations and all those forebears of mine moved around the Atlantic Isles, some by choice, some after having become unwelcome, some by famine and some by clearances.

The open borders and free movement ideals born out of mid 20th Century and later ideals and beliefs has been encouraged by the idea that the State has an unlimited capacity to provide either by taxation or by creating new money at will. It is obvious that if the population increases by millions then the circulation of state money provided plus extra spending required will have the effect of rising GDP.

The figures can be presented to suggest that this will be good.  But they do not take account of the opportunity costs and the many and substantial other real costs that come in train. In particular they do not allow for very many new migrants not seeing themselves as UK citizens but local communities of other jurisdictions.  Which may mean that the tax does not get paid, tax avoidance becomes common and their money goes somewhere else.

So given the costs of increasing world population there are other issues. What might happen with rising food costs? Or if the money tree stops growing or even sickens, or if some local communities or even nations become ruled by gangs of violent men and not either local or central government?

Currently, there are parts of the world with over a billion population.  If events, disruptions or crises trigger greater movement; say 5% of the population affected how many millions of migrants or refugees is that on the move?

And if up to 10%?  And what were the percentage figures for the Irish Famine and Highland Clearances?

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Sixth Of June 1944





During World War Two at school and sitting alongside a friend, the Head came in to call him to her office. I never saw him again. It was June 1944; his father had been killed in action in France and his mother moved away. In our streets and those around a number of families had men in France.

Who they did not want to knock on their front doors were the Post Office Telegraph Boys, see above, with bad news of one of their men. Also, they did not want the postman to deliver with a returned letter they had sent to someone close. If they were in the armed forces it could mean they had been lost.

We were a "nation at war" as Churchill put it. During one summer holiday I was sent to my grandfather who grew much of his own food and lived in a rural area with clean air and a lot more to offer.

But there was still the war, he had served from 1914 to 1919, a rare survivor of the first intakes and had been at The Somme, Ypres and The Hindenburg Line.

The bad time was when we had a returned letter and learned a few days later of a close and loved uncle who had been lost when his ship was sunk escorting troops to France.

As one of the last generation to have lived then and who later had served in the Army with men who had been in the Normandy Landings too much of what I see on screen or in the media seems to be about a different world from the one I knew.

Perhaps it is too different for the 21st Century to understand.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

London Calls





The media is full of the visit of President Trump of the USA to London with the inevitable overload of anything that did, might or might not happen. Some of us have been here before, notably the visit of President JF Kennedy in June 1961.

This item from Youtube gives a brief video about it. A different man in a different world. One key difference was that Kennedy was one of an Irish American clan who became rich whereas Trump does not have that distinction although in that rich class.


Another one for Kennedy is that he had been a student at the London School of Economics. How far this had been a help in his thinking on policy is a matter of debate. The idea of Trump at LSE simply boggles the mind.

I wonder what are Her Majesty's and Prince Philip's thoughts?

Monday, 3 June 2019

Hot And Bothered




It is now June and I am warm, very warm and need to take care having seen too many in the past who did not under hot conditions and not knowing that their DNA's meant they should try to stay cool. Also, keeping out of the sun, those of us who go bright red after only a short exposure need to know it is not just the skin that is off but other bodily functions.

What does whack the system is the high levels of humidity that can be a trouble. But, if it means that careful is being idle then it is not so bad if you can manage it. But you need to have more liquids and that can where the trouble starts. We keep it to water, tea, some coffee and avoid the high sugar, sweetener and alcohols preferred by so many.

But all those are the basic ones which so many go to and in quantity affect them in various ways. It is ironic that in the past so much of the water available was not fit to drink, in fact dangerous, so it was safer and more sensible to drink the others. Many of our ancestors on the ale etc. could have spent a long hot summer bombed out their minds.

It might explain all those riots and revolutions that historians tell us arose from this or that political and economic situation. Things that people put us with when sober and cool they did not when they were hot, bothered and in situations where the temper was put challenged or their dislikes of others, or other social groups erupted into violence and law breaking.

At the moment, it looks as though those in London will be hotter  and more temperamental than others. Given a General Election could happen, incidentally a collapse of the European system and beyond that space of time are football supporters have no match to go and The Left more angry than usual anything can happen.

We like to put the TV off, because that adds heat, and listen to some music on our new expensive digital radio, every note clear, no  interference and have a cold drink, very cold.

Or perhaps I could organise a demonstration.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

A Meeting Of Minds




In the villages around Stratford Upon Avon in the 50's and 60's there might be a shop or two or perhaps others if they were larger. But for some things you needed to go into town, for example, the chemists. In the village of my in laws it was neighbourly to collect for the elderly for whom visits to town were difficult. So when staying there it was usual for me to have time on my hands because they were busy places and an hour to two wait was routine.

This routine meant spending waiting time in a pub' having a pint or two. Also, I could call at the theatre to see if there were late returns. As this was the time of Peter Hall directing there were some productions that were must see for many people and it was difficult to get tickets on normal bookings. The logic meant that the pub' for a pint close by was The Black Swan.

The main bars were usually busy but there was an unsigned smaller one then that you had to find your way to, which was the preferred one for the theatricals and regarded as their patch. But the barmaid there lived in our village and I was OK. One day there was a table with only a man and a seat available, so pint in hand I sat and gave him a nod as a courtesy, he gave a nod back and that was going to be the lot while he had his beer and I had mine.

Until he was staring at my tie and asked why I had a kangaroo, was I an Aussie? I told him that it wasn't, it was a jerboa. He wanted to know what that was and I told him it was a species of rat found only in North Africa. He realised that this was The Desert Rat and what was I doing wearing it? I told him National Service in the mid 50's with the 7th Armoured Division. He told me he had been in the RAF and a chat about the services.

During this I had mentioned the 4th Hussars, Churchill's old regiment and playing against them at rugby. From his accent I had realised that there was a touch of Wales about him and it was confirmed with the chat moving to rugger. During this I mentioned that playing against Cefneithin because of a misunderstanding.

They were doing a late tour of the Midlands and on the Saturdays had already booked first class fixtures and wanted a mid week one. They thought that Leicester Thursday was a part of the major Leicester club. It wasn't, it was separate and a team for shop workers in the age of mid week early closing which by the 50's picked anyone from a network of local players who happened to be free.

Cefneithin for this tour had called in all their former players who had moved on to top clubs and included internationals. In the first half they had run up so many points that at half time it was agreed to skip the second and go to the bar. Rugger was informal in those days.

From the stares we were getting from others in the bar it dawned on me that this chap was Richard Burton who was killing time between the long gap of the film "Cleopatra" finishing and then being released. It had all been difficult and a very messy business. He was very glad to have someone who stuck to the armed services and rugger, notably Welsh rugger for a conversation.

It was just an hour or so in the pub' and a casual chat and then I was off to return with the shopping. I did not mention it and the family only knew because the barmaid told them. When I look down the cast lists of the plays that were running in Stratford at this time, I wonder what might have happened had Richard married Margaret Drabble or Judi Dench?


Friday, 31 May 2019

A Night Out Long Ago





Going on with the "I was there" theme from memories about how you were somewhere that at the time seemed ordinary or would not have any special meaning or interest that decades later is thought to be something special. When I pitched up in London late in 1956 it was with little money to spare so that when looking for things to go to anything free or cheap might be taken.

As a member of the rugby club with a number of Welsh students who had the same issues this meant sometimes going along with the flow. One evening in the bar one of them turned up with free tickets for the BBC Theatre and it was a  TV play broadcast live on the single channel of the time.

It was "Under Milk Wood" and on the 9th May 1957. The author was Dylan Thomas, a poet and man of his time in Wales a man of words in a new way and moreover one of the post war new age. It was lower class, bold in the sex themes and far removed from the plays and poetry of before. His lifestyle matched this. For some time he was famous, first for his works and then for being famous.

Without putting too much stress on how this broadcast began to change things and stimulated new approaches to poetry and drama in its time that evening was a major TV and media occasion. The play's narrator was Donald Houston and it had an all star cast. It was accepted as a new play in new language for this new age.

For me personally, it was of interest but there were many other things to think about then of immediate concern. But several years later that being there mattered in another encounter I had with one of the leading figures of his time in film and theatre is another story.

A few days later, however, I was at reception given at Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal William Godfrey for Catholic students at the major London colleges. There were not many of us. He and I had something in common, being from Liverpool, but were not related.

However, I did not mention "Under Milk Wood" to him.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Return Of Harry Pollitt





When historians look at the complicated and intricate period of the post World War 2 years often what they make of it is the preconceptions of the early 21st Century. These are not so much from the mass of archives now to be seen or the vast amount of information and opinion on the net.

Things are put in "boxes" or taken for granted. It was not quite like that. A few months after my passing chat with Field Marshal Montgomery in a military headquarters, I was having another chat with Harry Pollitt in the Shaw Library at LSE.

It would seem unlikely to historians that could happen. Harry is one of those almost lost to our history but then was the Stalinist leader of the British Communist Party and then the issue was how much or little influence did he have on the ultra Left groups of the Labour Party.

Harry was particularly involved with the London Dockers and their strikes, notably the 1949 one when the Attlee government was struggling to feed the population, already enduring strict rationing of food. Attlee sent in the troops to unload vital cargoes which the Dockers' unions were prepared to allow to rot in the holds. It was one of worst attempts at blackmail in our history if not the worst.

It could be argued that Harry was among those who cost Attlee his premiership which led to 13 years of Conservative government. At the time there was only one channel TV, the BBC, who did not go near him, much of the press avoided him except to characterise him as a menace to us all. But he retired in 1956 and died in 1960 before our new age began and he was forgotten in the next couple of decades. What was he really like?

I met Harry during the time of Nikita Khrushchev's leadership of the Soviet Union so as well as his interest in British political affairs he was in touch with the divisions in the Soviet Union as Nikita was attempting reform and reorganisation. It was a time for the various groups in Britain on the Left to dispute and spilled over into the Labour Party.

It was at LSE and the rugby club had invited him to give a talk. This may be difficult to understand but as the club had a large number of players from Welsh mining districts it meant that if nothing else he would be well protected from any violence. The talk went ahead without trouble and afterwards a few of us met him.

It was a decade later that Robert Conquest went to press with his revelations of the Stalin Terror in the Russia's and the state of affairs at all levels in the Soviet Union. But what I knew, because I was handling top secret files during my Army time, was that the Soviet Army was far from being what it what supposed to be and were told at the height of the Cold War.

Moreover, East Germany was not the socialist paradise that was being suggested by The Left at the time, if anything it was worse than Britain during the Second World War with the shortages and confusion in supplies and organisation. Harry was in his own kind of political dream world and nothing was going to drag him out of it.

He left his legacy however in what was left of the British Communist Party and its affiliates and in the parts of the Labour Party that looked to the East rather than the West being created by the USA. There were a number of groups and organisations, a few of whom survive in the ideas of the present in parts of the Labour Party and beyond.

Are we going back to the future?