Monday, 29 February 2016

Wake Up At The Back There!

When the previous Labour Government tried to persuade us that equality and all that could be acquired by flinging large dollops of money at the Education system they also went in for some tinkering with the organisation and financing.

But neither they nor the Coalition that followed realised that far more fundamental changes might need to be made and in many respects they only delayed the coming disaster.

The nature of the teacher crisis is a subject in the Huffington Post which suggests that the recruitment of teachers is another "perfect storm" to add to those about to hit the shores of government in the coming years.  There are said to be more teachers but not enough given the criteria for schools today and many leave for other jobs instead of regarding it as a life calling.

Given that teaching is afflicted with management ideology and has changed to meet those rules it must impact on what they are expected to do and to produce.  If the young are "clients" or "customers" and if the product is delivering defined finished human goods according to spec' then this is where you get to.

But given the creation in recent years of sources of information, knowledge and such that are immediately accessible, and facilities for access, contact and the rest to experts and visual modes of instruction and advice, could the whole structure of schools, years, examinations and the rest be now legacies or relics from the past?

More to the point, given the length of school days, I see them going in to start at 9 or after and leaving at 2.30 or so, how much is spent not learning?  Add the time out for holidays the education system has now become an antique, grossly inefficient way of preparing and educating the young.  Then there are the children themselves.

They cannot be the same as the groups of children of the past living as they do in a very different world.  More to the point they are far more varied.  Quite simply, how can a teacher manage to teach by either traditional or alleged "modern" i.e. mid to late 20th Century methods given the children now entering?

We are at the point now where a root and branch change of what goes on in schools, how they access instruction and information, how they provide skills and how they organise the pupils could cover the essential ground in far less time and to better effect.  The social engineering they are supposed to be doing is the kind of work which leaves a car without wheels.

Where do we begin?

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Watch The Birdie

While we in the UK engage in a mutual insult competition in our back garden there are things going on in the street outside.  The world has a lot of troubles and these will affect us one way or another.  They will come as a surprise because our media are wary of telling us.

This duo of articles in Project Syndicate are by George Soros first and Guy Verhofstadt second, both quite brief and clear given the subject matter.  The issue is the crash to come.  Soros tells us that the EU and Putin's Russia are in a race to doom, the question is who will go first.

Verhofstadt puts the case for the EU "Putting Putin In His Place", meaning, more or less, if Russia goes badly wrong first there might be some hope for Europe.  If it does, I am not sure that there is much hope for anybody because the fall out will hit all of us hard.

Given the suggested timing for all this is 2017, it means that whoever the next President of the USA might be he or she will have an early introduction to international politics and crises for which there is no or possibly any obvious solution.

On the other hand in the UK it may be that the vote will be to stay in just before the EU goes into a terminal financial and political crisis.  Or, if we do vote to leave, it may not be at all clear what we are leaving or how we will relate to the bits and pieces left over.

Don't forget to stock up the freezer, that is if our energy policy allows us the electricity to run it.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Dust To Dust

The diggers and sifters of the past have been at work in Illinois researching an ancient society, Cahokia, about which there have been varied opinions on its rise and fall.

The article is linked from Archaeologica dot org Archaeological News from EurekAlert and The Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

I suspect that this kind of debate is unlikely to take place in any UK University.

Social collapse that occurred it is thought might not be due to warming or cooling, or even running out of resources.

You will be shocked to read that it is argued that people might be the problem.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

BBC Radio is older than I am, but TV is younger. Consequently the BBC one way or another has always been there.  It has not been just the sound and vision on the various boxes owned or used.  There have been many live performances or recordings dating from the 1950's when I was there, sometimes alongside the mikes, the cameras and the control decks and in a handful of programmes.

There has been much to be grateful for and many programmes that have been enjoyed or appreciated, although rather fewer these days.  But like many other organisations the BBC now is what is was then and we are in a different digital and visual world.

One reason why the change has seemed to be a rapid one is that for TV it has only been two to three decades since we had only a handful of channels and news sources.  Had we been permitted to have a much greater choice in the past there might now be two or three generations used to far more choice and differences as opposed to one.

For all that the actual organisation itself has grown and grown and has come to epitomise all the wilder theories of managing that can be found in the textbooks on organisation and management.  At the same time rather than be many voices, politically it is becoming one.  Despite all the effort and activity it seems to be more limited in the nature and type of output and far less original.

The news programmes in between the endless noisy self promoting clatter are more predictable, selective and not in the best ways and tending towards the sensational.  The discussion or interviews have become tiresome, aggressive and headline seeking rather than being informative or balanced.  There are a lot of other qualities that have gone missing in action.

In an increasing number of cases the actual research and analysis that goes into key material is becoming poorer and more sketchy.  Whether that is the result of using low paid short term interns to get out stuff for the celebrity presenters or just being in too much of a hurry and having a contempt for the audience is a question.

As a state broadcaster it is only the government that can decide what is to be and who shall do it.  But the government is made up of politicians who do not want bad news or to upset the BBC too much because their running dog can bite and inflict nasty public relations injuries before it is put down.

Also, the leading politicians and the top people at the BBC have similar backgrounds and overlapping personal and financial interests.  They are creatures from the same lagoon.

The only other real contender or competitor is Sky and the Murdoch's.  We have a duopoly that may be more interested in keeping the status quo and the public quiet than any real reform or in having any relatively open media.

So what have we got online, or among the CD's or the DVD's?

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Naming Of Parts

The news that the new London Underground Crossrail line is to be named the Elizabeth Line to honour Her Majesty and make it memorable is one from The Department Of Bright Ideas.

It will be known to most, I suspect, as The Busy Lizzie if the forecasts of passenger use are anywhere near correct and perhaps simply the Lizzie Line.

More to the point is that the name is a little long and not easy on the tongue for those who have had a few.

One of the stations in the central section is Bond Street, a place at the centre of the London fashion and clothing retail trade.

So why not call it the Clothes Line?

Take A Deep Breath

There has been a major report on air pollution issued by the Royal College of Physicians and others that affects us all.

The media coverage has tended to concentrate on traffic which means that some aspects have had little or no mention.

It is worth taking a fuller look at the extent and purpose of the report and the aspects of live and living covered.

It is possible to download the report at 4.23 mega PDF and the body of it is quite readable and clearly structured.

It is worth taking the time because there is a lot to think about.

And to worry.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Sovereignty, Trick Or Treat?

During the noisy racket in the House of Commons Boris Johnson, when declaring for "Out" of the EU uttered the word "Sovereignty".  It is a word that we may be hearing more of in the Long March to June.  If he implied that before we signed up in the 1970's the UK was a sovereign state then I regret he is mistaken, it is more complicated than that.

The concept of sovereignty first came to my notice when I paraded with the 7th Armoured Division detachments on Thursday 5 May 1955 to celebrate the end of the occupation forces with the Federal Republic of Germany alleged to have become a sovereign state. Except it didn't.

Firstly for defence, it was dependent on the USA and NATO with the UK bringing up the rear with a few camp followers from other nations.  For money, it did indeed have the DM at the time which later gained in standing, but this had to contend with the almighty US dollar and rival the UK Sterling Area.

For trade and business it was already committing to joint bodies with other powers which would come to be the European Economic Community and later an imperial supra authority enforcing laws and regulations on its members.  There was also the United Nations and a number of global bodies that made international rules.

In 1956 the realities of the new world order were brought home to the UK with the fiasco of the Suez Crisis when it became clear that the UK could no longer make independent decisions in foreign affairs.  We could no longer be a Lone Ranger, perhaps not even Tonto, the sidekick however much we claimed special relations with the US, more like one of the horses, Silver or Scout.

During Harold Macmillan's Premiership this was glossed over with JFK, whose sister had married the Cavendish (the Devonshire's) nephew of Macmillan's wife, but as the 1960's rolled on the relative weakness and limitations of the UK became all too evident.  An early attempt to link with Europe had been rejected by France's  De Gaulle, who did not want a US horse as a partner.

But what really did for the UK was the disintegration of the Sterling Area, set up after the war as a Pound Block to attempt to keep some sort of authority over the various parts of the former Empire and as a matter of prestige and finance to maintain a "strong pound".  That in fact a strong pound meant a weak economy was not understood and the problems arising meant the Heath government wanting to be in Europe to somehow counter the mounting crisis.

What was clear to some of us by 1970 was that the UK for all the claims of prestige and world power and being at the top table was now a lower order power.  But our leaders were persuaded that somehow going into Europe we would then control it to our own advantage and perversely regain some of our lost authority and for that matter shredded sovereignty.

Back in 1959, as it happens, I had done a long academic think piece as part of my studies, it was on the subject of sovereignty.  Basically, it was suggested that the more embroiled in foreign affairs, whether by empires, wars, alliances, economic needs and obligations that a state was the less it had real sovereignty in that too many compromises and commitments had to be made.

Before 1914 we may have more or less ruled an Empire.  After 1919 increasingly the needs of Empire began to dominate our own decision making.  Our monetary system being international meant we were keeping the pound "strong" when it should have been left to float and find its truer level.  Our trading in goods and especially finance often meant giving way to others at the cost of home affairs.

So going into the 1970's and the entry into the European Common Market we were by no means sovereign.  With time we have given up more and more authority to Europe often reneging on or avoiding past commitments which might have been kept on.  So if we exit Europe we will have to understand true sovereignty.

The need to be able and willing to make up our own minds and order our own affairs and govern properly a democratic and truly independent state is an art we have long lost and will have to learn.

The way Europe is going it will be worth it but it will not be easy.  More to the point it does not mean going back to the 1960's.  Also, it means putting our former colonial cousins, the USA, firmly in their place as well.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Splashing Out

So Boris Johnson has come out to leave to EU and oppose David Cameron.  Cor blimey as us peasants like to say.  There is nothing like an old school and college chum to let you down, sworn friend or not.

What is the last verse of the Eton Boating Song?


Twenty years hence this weather,
May tempt us from office stools,
We may be slow on the feather,
And seem to the boys old fools,
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools,
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools.


I have that sinking feeling.

Paying The Price


We may think that the next four months are fully booked for our attention, but out there the world goes on and is full of nasty surprises.  At home too there are other matters, one being property that is coming to be at the heart of so many problems.

This longish article from the LSE is about "doom loops" in the way our banking system and property market works, or rather does not work.  The implications given a government in hock to the banks and an economy increasing relying on the interaction between banks, debt and property is scary.

The picture above is taken from Zero Hedge, "A Photo Journey Through The Ghetto Of East Baltimore" where 16,000 houses have been abandoned.  There are many other urban areas in the USA were the same can be found.

Could it happen here?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

June Is Busting Out

According to the latest news we are told that Thursday 23 June 2016 will be the day for the EU Referendum.

How appropriate a date that is for us to consider In or Out.

Cameron could hardly pick a better one.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Deal Or No Deal

Perhaps something ought to be said about the Europe caper going on at present.  There was once a type of theatre called "The Whitehall Farce", so-called because the Whitehall Theatre just by Trafalgar Square specialised in putting on this kind of play.

So if you went there, it did not matter too much what the title was, what the plot was supposed to be, if you could work it out and who the actors were, although Brian Rix and Robertson Hare (O! Calamity) were usually around.

Between the in and out through the doors and from the beds etc., the idiocies, misunderstandings, deceptions and collapse of authority, you would get a good laugh.

Nowadays, you do not need to buy a ticket for the theatre, you can just pick up in the media the workings of government down the road.  Sadly, though, there are very few laughs, a lot of misery and in the end you are all going to pay a lot more for it, a lot lot more.

I have tried, 'guv, honestly I have tried to understand the latest Europe game play but I believe the great majority of the thinking population are in the same position.  Which, of course, is precisely what our rulers want.  They want us baffled enough to grasp at anything they say in the hope of belief and relief.

The only comparison I can make it that it is like one of those card games where the cards are marked, the shuffling a fix, the dealing underhand and the players you are faced with both dishonest and ruthless.  As it is Europe, the best I can do is to put up a picture of a masterpiece of European art.

It is "The Cardsharps" by Caraveggio.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Boots Boots Boots Boots

As Syria continues in chaos, war and destruction we have those who declare that now is the time to send in our troops.  Even Tony Blair has popped up to show us his fangs and need for blood again.  But this is one question that might be asked, what troops?

Firstly, just how many?  A couple of hundred or so is not enough.  We are talking about brigade strength at least.  Assuming that they are intended to see action and take the field rather than acting as a defence garrison behind the lines then there is a limit to the amount of time they can be deployed.

So we have a brigade that after a period will need to be withdrawn and placed in reserve for re-manning,  needing new equipment and possibly an element of re-training.  This means that there has to be another brigade to replace them and fully prepared for conflict.

As the first brigade will have suffered casualties and other men will need to be withdrawn, then there will have to be other troops either in reserve or in the UK available.  These will have to had all the basic and essential training.

Also, to have a brigade in action entails a large body of support troops for all the logistics and other crucial services necessary to the conduct of any campaign.  This will not be a static body and also requires other troops to be available for any added or crisis services or for routine turnover and change.

But Syria would be just one commitment.  The Army has other jobs to do and other problems in the world to deal with.  It also has the key role of simply being there, ready and waiting to defend the UK from any of the many and various threats that could emerge.

One issue that too few comprehend, especially politicians and media people is that the troops who see action can only do so much.  So at any given time, a proportion of the troops on strength will be in the last period of service and will and should be going.

Another is that when you send troops into theatre either for action or where action is probable they need to have had the training etc.  So a number of your troops are not yet ready and still going through the training.  These days because of the technical matters this takes longer than in the past.

This means is that given the present overall number of troops in our Army it is not possible to deploy even a brigade force to Syria without taking serious risks of one kind or another.

What is worse is that given the present structure of supply it is probable that any sustained period of action could mean that the troops could soon be at a point when they do not have the weapons, the equipment and the key technical kit to do the job.

And they may well run out of boots.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Raking Up The Past

Watching TV, an item from decades ago, a lovely actress appeared and I realised that long ago she lived three houses up in the same street.  Did we really swing around the lamp post all those years ago?  She left early when her father earned a promotion and they could afford to rent a better house.

This led to a look at other thespians and one thought to be younger turned out to be older although not by much, but in the age range for being liable for National Service, as it proved. As actors can be touchy on the subject of their early life and careers, I am being wary and naming no names.

But it is not surprising that he might be nervous because what he was doing was signals work that was part of the intelligence services monitoring the Soviet forces for GCHQ.  To have that on his CV or well known could be very embarrassing.

It is unlikely he volunteered, if only because being in deep country distant from major habitation doing endless shift work may be a cushy number in some ways but was not a lot of fun.  This is what was involved, deletions needed at a couple of points.


The main object was to determine where any significant Warsaw Pact activity was based, and what type it was; and particularly if there were any significant changes in activity which might indicate the preparations before hostilities. We were also on the lookout for any novel type of signal because this might indicate the introduction to service of a new or modified weapon.

This was done by listening (using steerable directional aerials) to radar signals from ground troops and aircraft. Due to the one way path from the (enemy) transmitter to our (friendly) receiver, the system didn’t incur the enormous losses when signals are scattered from a radar target and a small proportion reflected back to the radar receiver. Consequently signals could be detected by monitoring, way beyond the active range of the radar.

As stated, the signals were listened to via directional aerial systems; and radar receivers of two fundamentally different types. The more sensitive type of receiver was tuned to a narrow band of frequencies, so it had to be re-tuned  in accordance with a schedule so that all sites were listening at the same time to this frequency band.

The much less sensitive technique used a “crystal-video” receiver which was not tuned in any way. This was very basic, and received all the signals in the band to which the aerial and receiver horn responded, but had a relatively short range. In both cases the operators used headphones to listen to the audible tones and pulses from the radar receivers.

Pulsed radar signals differ between types, and after rectification, they can be made audible thereby aiding identification. Airborne radars with a relatively long range had a low pitch whilst shorter range radars used for gun-laying had a higher pitch.

The monitored signals were viewed on a simple CRT display to aid maximising the signal by rotating the aerial dish, and recorded on Ferrograph tape recorders. Comparison between tapes allowed experts to decide which signals emanated from the same radar. This process was helped by recording a coded synchronising track (locked to the BBC pips) on the tape.

Most of the signals being monitored were in X-band (9-10 GHz) with a wavelength of around 3cm, and most of the dish aerials had a diameter of around 1-2m, giving a receptance angle of around 2-5 degrees. (Effective angle would vary with strength of signal being received).

Consequently to be able to differentiate between adjacent sites, the receiving stations had to be set well apart, and this is why in addition to (deleted), (deleted) were considered so important as listening posts.

Simply receiving the radar signals gave us no information on our distance from the transmitter, and transmitter sites had to be deduced by triangulation using the angle information from our aerials. HQ gave instructions as to which sectors and frequencies to monitor.

During my year with (deleted) I worked in the development laboratory giving support to the listening function, testing new techniques and occasionally installing new equipment.


So here we have a young man, quite likely still in his teens, after a limited period of intensive training, engaged in highly skilled work of critical importance.  Perhaps he went straight from school at 18 into the forces.  It is probable that any of it would have been new to him.

This is not an appeal to bring back National Service.  I am flat against that, it can be a harsh tax on the young.  But the question is why we require so many young people to spend years into adult life in academic institutions with lengthy vacations at great cost.

Too many at the end are untrained and unprepared for a working life.  Why is it not possible to provide effective intensive training for many areas of work that take a much shorter time and enable them to earn good money when young?

One intriguing find on the actor in question is that he may have been resident in the Municipal Borough of Finchley in 1959.  That year their new M.P. was Margaret Thatcher, who would have been his M.P. another matter to be omitted.

The past is a strange country.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Seven Ways Of Saying No

There is no equilibrium.

The world of economists spends much of its time trying to work out what the equilibrium is and how it comes about.  A lot of the debate is about the past concerning what should have been and why it did not happen.

The shelves groan with the weight of books about it and the journals are crammed with the arcane debates of persons who have give their lives to the search.  They might as well have mounted a horse, found a Sancho Panza and set off on a quest.

The concept of an equilibrium is an unattainable dream and in reality always has been.  There might have been some sort of economic equilibrium many thousands of years ago before humans began exchanging goods and services, but it all went to hell when some fool invented forms of money.

There is no normal.

Close to sixty years ago I was present at an occasion when the Soviet Ambassador attended by beaming and servile socialist academics at the LSE tried to persuade us that the Soviet Union at that time represented what should be normal for all.

There have been many other occasions when politicians of various stripes and with malice aforethought have told me what should be normal.  Given the way humans behave and how one generation is rarely the same as another change is always with us.

In the past at certain times and places there may well have been a stasis or a relatively static system in place, but never world wide and never one that could really be transferred.  It is better to assume that humans are essentially deranged and kept in control only by appealing to their fears.

There is no certainty.

For decades our weather forecasters tried to persuade us that they could advise us of what to expect.  Nowadays, grudgingly, they admit that they are making educated guesses.  Sadly, many have had a limited education.

The same goes for anyone else making predictions about the future because all our educations are limited and we are only dimly beginning to admit it is impossible to know everything and judge the manifold variations in even simple matters.

There are no right decisions.

Many decisions have a variety of options and implications.  The more complicated they are and the more people involved the more chance that some will be losers. 

Given that there is no normal etc. see above it is very easy to make decisions that will turn out to be wrong for you and those that are right, all too often are bad for someone else.

If only.........

There is no identifiable future.

Look at the past, look at what happened next and where and look at the present.  Could anyone, other than a lunatic, have predicted where and what we are today and have got it right?

There is no one responsible.

Because of our many and various class systems and our love for ordering and stratifying societies some people at the top make decisions for those lower down.

We like to think that they are responsible when all too often the level of their responsibility is about the same as a baby throwing things out of the pram.

The trouble with absolute or class based rule is that it depends on structures which are absolutely loyal, competent, put self interest below duty and capable of doing their jobs properly.  This does not happen.

As democracies in fact need similar qualities relating to people being voted in they have the same problem given that so many democracies have finished up either electing absolutists or people unfitted for carrying any kind of serious responsibility.

There is no way out for the living.

It is not a question of might things go wrong, at present for just about all of us it is when.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Books Do Furnish A Room

Since 1970 around eight to nine age groups have seen increasing proportions of each cohort disappearing from the labour market.  In 1971 the school leaving age went up to 16 and in the last forty five years the numbers staying until later and then going on to one form of higher education or another, or floating on things like gap years has increased.

Certainly, in the past a number left home, but many stayed there, even when in higher education.  We do not know the figures.  In the towns where higher education was provided, the students were often in halls of residence or such or in multiple occupation lodgings or sometimes flats often provided by the institution or a charity.

In the last decade of the 20th and into the 21st Century in many towns and places, the demand for housing for students has increased immensely.  It has become a key feature of the residential housing market in those areas and the increase in provision has very largely been in the private sector.

To a great extent it was provided by local owners both established rental companies and the rising numbers who saw Buy To Let as a main chance way of investing.  In many ways student housing not only looked good on the figures but with its natural turnover and identifiable customers had advantages over other sectors.

There have been developments little recognised among the experts in the property market though very recently.  That is the big boys have arrived in the student market.  Two mentioned to me CRM Students and STUDYINN, Boutique (!) Student Accommodation are present in London and a number of towns.

These are intended to provide accommodation that is satisfactory together often with added facilities for leisure etc.  In their larger blocks it is not houses they are taking over and changing, it can be offices, shopping blocks and other properties.  So long as it is in the right place, planning agreed and conversion not too costly, it is a very attractive financial proposition.

This means that commercial property is becoming housing implying jobs gone.  This is not for families etc. but students and this means student debt.  When the debtors finally seek work, possibly, their spending power and perhaps ability to purchase their own home seriously reduced, so needing to rent, they can only rent very likely in an inflated market or return home as some seem to be doing.

Added factors in the property market are increasing demand in the rental sector for a variety of reasons.  One is the number of migrants needed to fill the large gap in the labour market left by those who have become students.

Then there are the "investment" buyers, sometimes honest, sometimes not, who prefer to leave the properties empty or little used, perhaps someone with a caretaker function. It has also increased a great deal and more than we think.

This is the way the economy goes and it has become an important part of the increases in GDP and money flows generally.  The question is how far is it sustainable and if not when will it bump up against reality.  Looking at the picture, could we have a bear market?

But then, when either in student or ordinary rental housing what you do not want is things that go bump in the night.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Any Port In A Storm

It was not my intention to comment on the situation in and around the migrant camp at Calais because of the extensive coverage in the media and on the net.

It is the result of decisions made too late, that did not consider the realities of the developing crisis and was determined by dated beliefs and ideas rather than any proper analysis of the situation.

Calais was once English when The Pale was taken after the Battle of Crecy in 1346 as this list from Wikipedia of those appointed by the Crown to control the Pale of Calais shows.

It is a list of the great and the good, which suggests that it was a valued possession. During the time of King Henry VIII an ancestor was one of them, so this is personal.

The sorry story of its loss in 1558 under Queen Mary I, is told by this Wikipedia page if you are up for the history.  It is claimed that she said that when she died the name Calais would be found engraved on her heart again indicating its importance.

If the matter of who really owns Calais were to be put to the European Court of Human Rights by an interested party, given their unpredictable decisions there might be a chance of it being restored to England. But whose human rights?

This video and translation is around the web giving the view of a lady of Calais who is talking about the experience of herself and  other residents.  It is at odds with many media items and claims that the French citizens there are being told to stop complaining and to shut up.  They feel deserted by the Government of France.

It is a humanitarian disaster for them in that the destruction of their way of life and town has been imposed on it without their consent and that they have had the protection of ordinary policing and law withdrawn.  This could create an interesting situation.

Quite simply, if the citizens of The Pale wanted to submit to The Crown and become part of England and this could be brought about, then the migrants could be gone from their camps and to wherever they might go across The Channel without hindrance.

Perhaps a number could go up to Crewe to settle and to mediate between the Eastern Europeans and the natives, a complicated mixture of English, Welsh, Scots and Irish origin.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Leading To Leave

It is not looking good, if it ever has been in the last few years.  Those of the doom and gloom schools of thought have more than enough news and information for them to ply their trades.  In the USA a good dump of snow in New Hampshire should confuse a few issues at the Primary elections.

Zero Hedge along with Secular Investor suggest that Deutsche Bank is in trouble and could trigger a great many adverse financial effects.  One relatively minor matter in the great scheme of things is that the bank has a lien on the freeholds of a great many UK leasehold properties.  This could get ugly if as in the USA title to them disappears down the financial computer plugholes.

But it is the EU debate that has had a great deal more coverage.  One serious concern is the lack of clear leadership and direction in the Leave campaign.  Despite the views of many voters it is feared that the initiative could be lost to the big hitters of the In groups who have the leaders of both the Government and Opposition in their pockets.

Despite their obvious interest and own position in the Europe matter we cannot expect The Royals to mix it and to attempt to lead the Out's.  But where I ask is our aristocracy, in particular the Dukes?  They are nowhere to be seen or heard.

The idea of inherited status, wealth and title is out of fashion in these democratic days when we worship celebrities and sportsmen but they are still entitled to have a view and speak their opinions and in something that is extra-Parliamentary to lead if others will follow.

Here are four lists of Dukes, Marquesses, Earls and Viscounts, not complete but just picked out, not quite at random, in a swift look at the titles.  Of the Earls many are left out.  There could be errors in that the present holders are not able to lead but there ought to be some who might.

There are names among them that shout out from our history, the descendants of men who did not and would not surrender.


Beaufort, Wellington, Marlborough, Northumberland, Hamilton, Argyll, Gordon, Fife, Westminster, Sutherland, Manchester, Devonshire, Buccleugh, Bedford, St. Albans, Grafton, Rutland.


Anglesey, Zetland,  Bristol, Ailesbury, Bute, Bath, Salisbury, Huntley, Hertford.


Nelson, Jellicoe, Alexander, Effingham, Grey, Vane, Kimberley, Leicester, Jermyn, Cawdor, Lichfield, Strafford, Wharncliffe, Attlee, Lytton, Selborne, Liverpool, Rosebery, Balfour, Peel.


Montgomery, Alanbrooke, Slim, Trenchard, Hood, St. Vincent, Falmouth, Falkland, Hereford, Bolingbroke, Knollys, Gough, Long.

Where are they when you need them, especially as the Europe vote could be a damned close run thing.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Peace At Any Price

The reaction in the media to Prime Minister Cameron's deal or no deal Euro caper has been interesting.  Yet again we have a PM who is looking like a gone man.  But if after being elected you then say I'm off in three years and leaving it to George you are asking for trouble especially when seeking favours.

One common theme is that his return from Europe evokes the memory of  Neville Chamberlain who between 1937 and 1940 was PM.  In his personal handling of foreign affairs he failed to prevent war with Germany.  The picture that we all know is of him at Heston Airport in 1938 displaying a piece of paper and claiming "peace in our time".

But the picture shows a remarkable event.  In his late 60's he had taken to the sky to go to Hitler to attempt to prevent war in Europe.  This was astonishing given the etiquette and conventions of diplomacy in that age and especially when flying was a far riskier business.  Cameron's efforts are more like those of a charity chugger in the street on a cold wet day.   

Chamberlain did not enter Parliament until he was 49 years of age, the same age as Cameron is now.  Until the First World War he had been concerned with business, local affairs and family and had a reputation for probity and hard work.  Despite a late start he soon was given major responsibilities in government.

To what degree his ideas and policies in the 1920's and 30's until becoming Prime Minister are right or wrong is for debate.  But in 1937 he followed Stanley Baldwin into office having had a full and respected career in senior positions.

He was a safe pair of hands at the time.  Churchill was too wild, distrusted and heavily in debt, Eden too young but Chamberlain had the edge on Oliver Stanley and Duff Cooper, two "might have been" men lost to history.

This was a period when Britain wanted peace and it was clear that a large part of the electorate had that opinion.  There were troubles enough around the Empire and in Ireland and at home and the First World War was a vivid memory of the risks of Europe.  For many Hitler was a joke German with a vicious streak.  Those who did see him as a liar and a serious danger were a minority.

Chamberlain's problem and the source of his misreading Hitler was that he was a businessman cum politician who had been good at doing deals and fixing things.  He could usually find a way round.  Hitler did not do deals.  He might make promises but he would not honour them and Ribbentrop had told him Britain would not fight.

Chamberlain tried and failed to do what he had been used to doing.  He compounded this by a hesitancy in declaring war.  Given that the British armed forces were both unready and not equipped for any major European conflict, a situation he had inherited and begun to correct, it is not surprising.
But this together with how badly things went in the first year and the shock of modern war and the effect on everyone and then the aftermath have meant that he is remembered as a failure.  So we forget his profound sense of duty and application and service to a greater cause.

Cameron is another kind of failure. Essentially,  a media spinner who had risen without trace as a special adviser he managed to swing the vote for Conservative leadership in 2005 on the basis of his image.  He had never held senior office and it shows.  He hopes to scoot off to became a travelling celebrity doing PR for the finance trades.

The coalition situation meant that fudge and nudge was the only way to work.  Now as Prime Minister he has little idea of how to run anything and his deal making skills are far too limited.  You need to know the detail and do the homework.  Cameron doesn't.

If those who study the markets are right and real problems arise, let along all the other issues in Europe and the world we may well find how little he can really to do and will pay the price.  Cameron has not really fixed anything or done any serious deal for our benefit.  And there is no record of achievement in government whatsoever.

He is not in the same league as Neville Chamberlain and never will be.  Chamberlain died in Heckfield in 1940 and there is a memorial to him in St. Michael's Church.  Across the aisle are other memorials of people connected in various ways to the Earl's of Home, the Duke of Wellington, Charles James Fox and the Grey's of Howick.

He is in good company.