Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Music For The Ears

Recently, a good deal of time has been spent not on what is happening at the present but on the longer past. Having access to the local press of previous centuries because of its nature and coverage is as good, if not better than the archives of certain major dailies of the present.

So, one begins to look for this or that, finds something but then has a look at other columns and pages. All sorts of information is there and raises many interesting questions. One striking feature of the past is the scope and nature of the music that people engaged with which leads to who was doing what?

One item found was the picture above from the Manchester Evening News, the first performance of what became the Halle Orchestra. It gives the full programme and it is at the Free Trade Hall in January 1858. But I wonder, who was there?

In 1974 I was at the Free Trade Hall, but all I had to listen to was the Secretary of State for Education singing for her supper. As it was a Mrs. Margaret Thatcher I have wondered since that was it her trips to the Free Trade Hall that inspired her economic policies?

Perhaps This Chorus at three minutes long was all it would need and it  would have been one of the selections of "Il Trovatore".

Because she did go banging on.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Tree Time

It is a commonplace that a lot of trouble is caused by managers making the wrong choices on the basis of inadequate or poor information. There is nothing new about this.

Below is an extract from the author Evelyn Waugh's papers relating to the Second World War when he trained with the Commando's.

It was not a happy period for him and even more unhappy for some of the commandos with him.


Evelyn Waugh writes to his wife Laura, 31 May 1942;

No. 3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and he said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness how clever and he asked them all for luncheon for the great explosion.

So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, “have you put enough explosive in the tree”.

“Yes sir, 75lb.”
“Is that enough?” 
“Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right.” 
“Well better put a bit more.”
“Very good sir.”

And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said, “Subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow.”

“Very good sir.”

Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just that angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.

So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it 1/2 acre of soil and the whole of the young plantation.

And the subaltern said “Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7 1/2 lb, not 75.”

Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.

So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotion in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.


Wikipedia has an article on the Lt. Colonel in question, John Durnford Slater. The picture above is of Kelburn Castle near Largs in Ayrshire, once family seat of the Earl's of Glasgow.

I knew some former commandos, and have often wondered whether they were there. It would have appealed to their sense of humour, I think, as well as mine.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Independence And Europe

This is a long one after a time of short posts. It is based on a 2009 one dealing not only with the Europe question, but putting it into the context of the wider history and implications. This means whether the UK can exist as it has done and our place in the world. Essentially, our politicians and leaders do not know what they are talking about and do not know where they are going.

What does “Independence” mean for the United Kingdom? One theory is that in 1941-1942 when the money ran out was the date it was lost. Also we had been brought to the brink of being unable to feed our population by war. It meant that as the City of London had arrogated itself to be the financial ruler of the world, when it began to falter and weaken, it then became its prisoner.

When Westminster ruled a fifth of the surface area of the world and claimed to rule the seas, the impossible task of maintaining firstly the fact, and then after 1918, the fiction, led the political elite into a series of submissions and obligations, culminating in the accession to the European Community and Brussels in 1973.

Westminster now has less control over many of the affairs of the UK than did the former County and County Borough Councils of long ago. How much real choice will the ordinary English people of today, who are not the same as those of the 18th Century, or even the early 20th Century, have in the matter? Will we soon have an English Parliament or a Parliament in which the procedures allow a specifically English sphere of influence and decision?

If the UK ends and it is free of Scotland, something I suspect desired by the great majority of ordinary English people, then the Six Counties of Ulster may well attach itself to its Scottish homeland. In England we forget that Antrim can be seen from Scotland. Wales may want to go its own way as well. What does the idea of “independence” entail across the key sectors of the economy and the polity of England?

Firstly, will England retain the pound sterling and manage its own monetary system according to its defined needs? If it adopts the Euro then it is not independent, nor is it if it takes on another currency. Also, it is not if the pound shadows or is obliged to be a dependent variable of another currency.

By definition, if it remains within the European Union, then whatever it might call itself, it is not “independent”, especially under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty. It might have a system of modified independence, but this depends on the volume and nature of the legislation and regulation emanating from Brussels. If there is a lot, and its impact is substantial, then England is only a province. Forget any claptrap about being at the heart of Europe. We will not and cannot be.

Would England be able to provide for the bulk of the food needed by its population, and indeed to survive any world wide food crisis? The more dependent it is on food imports, the more limited its effective independence is likely to be and reliant on those territories from where the food is supplied. What about fuel and power? Same again, these are basic utilities, the more under foreign supply or ownership the less any independence can be.

Could England revive and reinstate its own consumer goods industries, or will it be reliant on certain limited sources, e.g. China? Then there are all those international agencies and obligations that the modern world has created. The more we take on, the less room for manoeuvre we have.

In turn, this leads to how an English government can deal with the global mega-corporations that control so many markets in every sort of product or service. We have seen the UK government bow the knee to almost any and every mega-corporation that comes it way, promising jobs and investment, that is so long as this favour or subsidy or given, or that. They take the money, and run when they like.

The great problem for England will be what to do about London. There is the City of London, so long as its activities are of central importance and so long as it remains a largely unregulated participator in the global monetary arena, the less England can do to stay away from the problems. Not least is how far other parts of the Atlantic Isles, including the ancient counties of England, can shake off the grasping hand of The City.

London has become a foreign city as many incomers become the majority of its population. These are not a single body, but are disparate. There are the questions of lines of communication. Just how far can England exert any control over the air and sea around it, or on the global communications systems now in place? I seriously doubt that our navy at present can protect our shores from any determined enemy, criminal gangs, or slave masters.

The gangs are here already, active and politically influential arising from their easy access to UK operated tax havens. In a world where communications are all, if you cannot control your own, you cannot control much else.here is much detritus of the past, internal and external. The Crown dependencies of one kind and another scattered across the globe, many being tax havens, may not be wanted by an independent England wishing to be free of its past obligations, nor might they want to remain attached to it.

If we are being democratic, then they should be able to opt for either full independence or for which part of the former UK they regard as appropriate to their vision of their future. Given that one of the main planks of the recent movement for Scottish independence is Edinburgh as a major financial secrecy jurisdiction, with all that is entailed, it would be logical for the Scots to take them over.

One example of the internal rearrangements is those of surface links. At present the rail links to Wales are largely carried on costs that fall on England. Apart from the line to Cardiff and Swansea, the others could close. Also, inasmuch as the ferry links to Ireland largely benefit the Irish, any English subsidy could cease. As for Scotland, the projected multi billion high speed line, in English terms is a complete nonsense.

In defence policy, if England were to look to its own interests alone, then a great deal could go. There would certainly be a need for a navy, groupings of small, fast, vessels, located from Whitehaven and The Tyne to The Channel and the Western Approaches, packing a punch, and of a very different character, and the same applies to the air force.

The Army would lose some men, who would need replacing and would need to be reconfigured. If the past is any guide, if there are major differences in law, notably on drugs and alcohol, there would need to be effective military policing of the Border with high standards of control given the levels and nature of criminal activity already present in Scotland.

The Atlantic Isles once had a henge culture several thousand years ago. This was tribal in political organisation, but since became the playground of warring incomers and occasional invaders. Too many of these were violent exploitative slave societies, notably the Celts who supplied the Romans, and later others. Such parts might go their own ways according to the relatively recent boundary divisions.

The same considerations, inevitably, apply to them as well as to England. Here the so-called “independence” amounts to unshackling themselves from the remaining and residual corrupt and incompetent London power centre that is failing to deliver government or unity to anywhere in the Atlantic Isles. If members of the EU they will be no more “independent” than the Duchy of Luxembourg, and a lot less than Vermont in the USA.

What would it be like, an England defined in its own terms for the first time since the year 1015?

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

High Society

There are academic journals and academic journals.

For those who are obliged to follow them there could be the opinion are more than enough. But sometimes, the question is will this be useful and might it actually do some good?

Here is a new one  from LSE Press which might or might not on the issues arising from the role of certain states whose economies are outside the law for the most part.

The illicit economies, a nice way of describing it, are those where a high proportion of the money flows etc. arise from drug trading and associated activities considered criminal in most places. It could be argued that the LSE is but a short bus ride from the financial hub of one of them.

Here in the UK we have no need to worry. The impending collapse of the Conservative Government over Europe means we may well have a Labour government who will simply nationalise the drugs trade in the name of the nation.

Who could sniff at that?

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Social Mobility And Immobility

On Sunday watching Everton v Bournemouth I was reminded that Everton was founded in 1878 when a new amusement, Association Football, was coming into fashion. By chance on the same day I was reading the Luton Times And Advertiser for 2nd May 1879 and the report of a society wedding attended by the great and good.

The bride, with a handsome portion, money that is, was the daughter of a local landowner, magistrate and Master of the Oakley Hunt. The first child of the marriage, a daughter, went on to marry a major landowner, magistrate, Master of the Brayton Hunt who became a Member of Parliament in the Conservative Party.

They were close to another of that kind, a William Middleton, nicknamed "Bay", Master of the Pytchley Hunt, who is famed with being close to Elizabeth, (Sisi), Empress of Austria, who turned up at the Grafton Hunt by Daventry with a dozen horses and hunted far and wide in England and Ireland. Bay was alleged to be the natural father of Clementine Hosier, later Churchill.

At that time a cousin of bride's was living close to the Everton ground, working as a watch maker, who died early leaving a penniless widow and child forced to return to her family of skilled workers and become more or less a household servant for the rest of her days. It is all about Social Mobility, as the sociologist said when he was knocked off his bike by a Rolls Royce.

It is fascinating that with a great deal of the local press of the past now available online instead of the weeks and months of travelling and searching, it is possible to see life in the provinces as it was seen to them and not just in the major London press or the prejudiced and limited sources of the academics and theorists of the past.

There are others matters, unmentioned in most history. One is the huge impact the invention and rapid application of wireless telegraph had in communications. I noted that the first indications in the UK that something had gone badly wrong in the British cavalry in the Crimea in late 1854 came from the Russian telegraphs and not from the government.

Quite suddenly there was an immediacy for contact and information sourcing which must have made a radical difference in many fields. One was that shipping intelligence was available saying where the ships had been, where they were and when and where they arrived.

What of the now? Could it be that with this vast store of information to be had on the click of a button we find out that much of what we are told about history and the theorizing of so many of our university and other historians has been based on flimsy and inadequate information and evidence?

It does make me wonder. We are said to have had a long depression in the agricultural industry in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Yet estimating the costs of all the Hunts and hunting and the extent when it was a "must" for the upper landowning classes could this must have impacted on the investment needed for the land. Especially, if you take the horse racing into account.

Instead of money going into improving the land and agricultural production we imported the added food we needed for a growing population while the land became a playground for the equestrian class.

In the media today the trade figures are not looking good and there is all the debate about austerity, budget balancing and the rest. While watching the football I learned that eleven players on the field for one team on Sunday had cost £252 million in fees let alone what they, and their agents were paid.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Piling Down Debt

In the 21st Century we are living in a world of debt and there is nothing in history to guide us because of its scale and nature. In the past there have many examples of large scale debts but nothing on the scale of the present.

Also, we live in a world when the theory is that all should have some kind of education. In the developed world there has been a major shift into education systems that entail study commonly into the early 20's. Which raises the question of how the nature of student debt embroils the older generation as well as the younger students.

When people become involved in credit and debt and it goes wrong then almost inevitably trouble occurs, family or no family. The fact that is might be family and therefore some sort of higher obligation could be assumed may only make it worse.

The potential complications are all bad. Imagine a family where the parents have assumed debt liability for one child only eventually when probate occurs any other children or family losing any possible inheritance. If this includes family who are carers this will add to the trouble.

We are already stumbling into a situation where a lot of younger people are looking at older generations who have done well out of the rampant inflation of the late 20th Century and the easy lending on property, never mind those who have gained decent pensions. 

They are looking at the level of the debts they incurred for study and perhaps being gulled into taking on extra consumer debt as part of the bad boom created by the older generation for their own benefit. On top of that many now have little financial future as the post boom squeeze continues and the jobs market goes sour.

John Mortimer, the late writer, began his career as a barrister specializing in probate and related cases. It was his view that when it came to wills and inheritance and family money this was the boundary where civilization ended and the survival of the fittest began.

There was a time when with my family we used to play the traditional game of “snap”. No more, since they realised I was playing with a pack of marked cards inherited from a thoughtful uncle.

How long will it be before peoples, states or even population groups decide they no long want to play the games of debt, or we have not realised that they are no longer playing according to the old rules?

Friday, 11 January 2019

Who Is Your Friend?

There are things out there from the distant past that we can only wonder at, despair and search for any meaning. What do they tell us ordinary humans of the 21st Century? The Guardian today might tell us.

We have our own in the present world. It is located in a place of mystery and is distant from all of us.

We call it "Parliament" and the effigies are to be found in its deepest depths, The House Of Commons. Many of the members are associated with the LSE and the statue below "Equus" is to be found on the Plaza there.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Marching By The Left

Ten years ago an item was for sale online, said to be an etching made in 1910 of Lenin and Hitler playing chess together in a room. What worried me was the etching. This is skilled, expensive, and takes time and trouble. Anyone recording this event would have been more likely to make a quick sketch of one sort or another.

Also, there must have been many more interesting people in Vienna playing chess or talking together at the time. Hitler was an unsuccessful artist, just turned 20, and going nowhere. Lenin was just another middle aged political thinker and activist on the run from Tsarist Russia, ageing and seemingly with no real future.

The other tale about the travels of Adolf that had attention in the past is the one about his supposed visit to Liverpool between November 1912 and April 1913. Based on a suspect memoir by his sister-in-law, Bridget (born Dowling) known as Cissie, whose husband Alois Hitler; half brother of The Fuhrer, was working as a waiter in Liverpool at the time.

In the 1911 Census they are listed as Anton and Cissie, with their new born child William. The idea of a visit by Adolf became the plot of an imaginative and readable novel by Beryl Bainbridge that was turned into a TV drama. As ever the myth overtook the truth.

Detailed research in Vienna suggests that such a visit was never made, and that Bridget was making up an Irish whimsy later in life to help sell the copies of her life story. It is a great pity, at that time both my parents and their hordes of families were roaming the streets in which Alois and Bridget Hitler lived and worked.

In particular, the local RC Church was Our Lady's of Mount Carmel whose Elementary School headmaster was a grand uncle I once met. He had been a major figure in Liverpool's football circles and one of the founders of the Liverpool team.

I could have come up with all sorts of wild fantasies. A much better prospect for men who might have met and talked is a pairing that many would feel very unlikely. It is Lenin and Hook, one of the 13 men who won the Victoria Cross at Rorke’s Drift in 1879 when just over 100 men held off and defeated a Zulu Impi with a force of up to 4,500. They were certainly in the same place at the same time and for a year, and with interests in common.

In April 1902 Lenin, born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was in London under the name of Jacob Richter, to avoid the attentions of the Paris agents of the Okhrana, the Tsarist Secret Police of Imperial Russia, and he stayed until May 1903. At the British Museum he was issued with ticket number A72453 to give him access to the Library with its vast resources of books, and he spent a great deal of time there researching and writing.

One minor speculation is where he preferred to sit, perhaps seats G7, H9, R7, R8, but the favourite is L13 because of its nearness to the reference shelves. Of the many attendants around, one would have stood out.

Alfred Henry Hook, who had dropped the Alfred early in life, known as Harry, was by then around 50, and perhaps already affected by the TB that was to end his life in 1905. He had been employed there since the 1880’s.

After earning his VC in 1879, and with permanent injuries he had bought out, and in 1881 was working as a groom to a General Practitioner in Monmouth named George Willis. Not long after he was employed at the British Museum as an attendant, and signed up additionally with the Royal Fusiliers, The London Regiment, 1st Volunteer Battalion as an instructor, rising to be Sergeant. The Volunteers were the predecessors of the Territorial Army, and often functioned as feeder units to the regular Army.

There are reasons for Lenin to check Hook out. One was that as a figure of authority he was more likely than most to be asked his opinion about this “Mr. Richter” if the Special Branch had been alerted by the Okhrana and were seeking information.

The logic would have been to test the possibility. Intellectually, however, would anyone with such an searching mind and intelligence of Lenin, miss the opportunity to have an occasional conversation with a man of this experience?

It would not have been difficult, because Hook was temperance, and as busy men both may well have used one of the cheap tea rooms in the vicinity before going on to meetings, as Lenin  would, or the Drill Hall, as Hook would. Even fifty years later, it was surprising who you could just bump into when going into a Bloomsbury tearoom for a quick cuppa and a sandwich.

Imagine, a foreigner with little income, but with a trained legal mind, high academic qualifications, and a great breadth of knowledge, asking plain reasonable questions to an older man to help him towards an understanding of this or that in the news in Britain. The end of the war in South Africa, a new Prime Minister, the crowning of the new King, the British in Somaliland and West Africa, the troubles of agriculture in the Atlantic Isles and more.

Hook was a countryman by birth, one of the many who joined the Army for employment and training. As for Empire, Hook had experienced the full reality of it at the end of his bayonet, and had been involved with many men since who had seen its further shores. He would have been able to make informed and incisive comments about the South African War of 1899-1902 and the business in Nigeria.

It is speculation, and no more, but what might Lenin have learned from Hook? Lenin at the time was interested in agrarian issues, colonialism, political structures, and the extent of financial interests. In military terms, it would have been organisation, discipline, tactics, the ability of a small well trained group with the motivation and leadership to withstand and overcome what was in theory a vastly superior force.

In 1914 the Old Contemptibles, the  small regular British army, stopped the might of the German Kaiser’s Imperial Army by its rifle skills, discipline, and bayonets. To understand Hook you need to forget the film “Zulu” and totally clear it from your mind. It is “Hollywood History”, not as bad or idiotic as most, but certainly with many adjustments to the facts and in particular the portrayal of personalities.

Hook of the film is a travesty, as are other characters, notably Dalton, but to a lesser extent Chard and Bromhead, both highly professional soldiers who at the end of the battle shared a bottle of beer found in a burned out wagon. Hook was a sober, capable man, probably with a West Country accent, literate and able to communicate well enough.

He would have been a good man to talk to. I believe he always remained a country man, because he returned to his home village, Churcham in Gloucestershire, to die. There is no statue to him anywhere; he has only a simple grave in a country churchyard.

If Lenin and Hook did meet and talk a time or two, it might have been this quality and a direct sense of purpose that may have impressed Lenin most of all.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Merkel Moves In Mysterious Ways

For a few days now I have had an item on file about Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and her various views on Europe, what it is for and whom and all her little whys and wherefore.

Chancellor Merkel is from Mecklenburg Vorpommen, that is the northern part of the former East Germany and the long and complicated history of this patch of ground is too much for a short post. But she will not think of Europe as others might do.

The delay in posting has been because having access to the archives of newspapers of the past there have been other things, notably seeing what the provincial press etc. had to see about major events as opposed to officials, the London press and later historians.

One has been the First Opium War of 1839-1842, see Wikipedia where it was said in the Liverpool Mail of 14 March 1840 that Lord Auckland, Governor General of Bengal, had declared war on China in the name of the British Government. He had already gone to war in Afghanistan if only, quote, "there is much excitement among the natives on account of the conduct of the missionaries".

The Liverpool Mail of 4th November 1854 makes a passing mention that "The private telegraph, however, would seem to reiterate and confirm Russian reports of considerable loss among the English cavalry." It seems that HMG at the time wished to keep quiet about the charge of the Light Brigade.

My thought is that it is wrong to see Merkel as some kind of dictator or media crazed politician other figures come to mind. If anything might she be a monarchist at heart, a sovereign ruler of a great empire who is there to command and protect and all that?

Perhaps she has a hope for past glories. There are two persons featured in this, Wilhelm and Nicholas, take your choice.

But we mustn’t mention The War or what did the Romans ever do for us when bringing in Germans in their Legions and Auxiliaries?

Saturday, 5 January 2019

The House Of Lords Yet Again

The blog, along with umpteen others has been saying for that the House of Lords is a bad business, a danger to the nation, an embarrassment to our Constitution and should have been either radically reformed or abolished a long time ago.

It would have been tempting to use a number of other words than Lords to try to make the point, but this would only detract from the seriousness of the situation.

It was bad enough in Mrs. Thatcher's time. But with Blair, Brown, Cameron and May using it as a make shift solution to a number of personal and personnel problems it has now gone beyond any sensible purpose.

I recall in the 1959 election being at a meeting of Labour M.P.'s who were there to discuss what to say to the voters about matters of policy for the future. They agreed that the Lords would have to go, but as the voters were more interested in other things to leave it out.

The Conservative M.P.'s in the area were in two minds, neither of which made any kind of sense and in any case meant keeping some kind of relic in place to commemorate a happier past before the pleb's got the vote.

What changes?

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Chew Over This

To add to our problems of choosing what to eat, where and how the latest sensation is that one chain for foodies, Greggs, now has a vegan sausage roll.

Quote Kent Online:

Vegans and anyone else curious to try the new pastry, will have to get in their car and drive onto the M2.

Only Medway's Moto services on the motorway's coast bound carriageway, between junction four for Gillingham and five for Maidstone, Sittingbourne and Sheerness, is being stocked with the vegan sausage roll.

Not a single town centre branch in Kent made the cut for Greggs' hotly-discussed new product.


Is, I ask, "made the cut" the best way to comment?

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Nine Bright Shiners

We sometimes sing nine for the nine bright shiners and do not know who or what they were. We are now into 2019 so what have the years of the nine done for us? You win a few and you lose a few but nine does not seem to be a winner.

1899 was the year when The Boer War started in a flurry of imperial noise when most people were aware that it wasn't just land or prestige, it was gold and diamonds that mattered. It led to what later became the Union of South Africa. Another place keeping us busy was Afghanistan.

1909 was the year of Lloyd George's budget which marked the beginning of the present forms of state intervention and taxation. It may have begun as tax the rich to pay the poor but become tax all and pay all. It also was the year the fan of France, King Edward VII and Grand Duke Michael Romanov of Russia, living at Keele in Staffordshire, nudged us towards closer to those countries should war occur instead of staying well out of it.

1919 was the year after the War, when demobbed soldiers returned to find not jobs but promises made by a coalition government unclear about anything much, including a peace treaty that was supposed to prevent wars but in effect provided the causes for the next one.

1929 was the year of the Great Crash in finance and economies and the beginning of the end of Empire never mind the dangers of war.

1939 was the year the next world war started as Neville Chamberlain came to regret all those pieces of paper he waved about.

1949 was the year after the war when the lights came back on at last and  rationing began to end, although the sweet ration came back soon when the teeth of the nation began to defeat the dentists. Mao Tse Tung took control of China and Stalin was hovering in the East of Europe.

1959 was the year when Tory Harold Macmillan won the election on a tax and spend manifesto where the spending was to be great but it was not entirely clear where the money was coming from. One place was shifts to local council rates. We had given up the Empire and now relied on the pound sterling to do that job for us.

1969 was the year when it became clear that the pound sterling was now a weak currency in a weak dated economy but Tory Edward Heath, a former Brigadier, believed he could turn it all round by barking orders to underlings and electors. He failed and decided to reorganise local government instead because the high rate increases were causing problems.

1979 was the year when Callaghan's hopes for a planned future and a permanent Labour majority were banged to rights by a heavy handbag wielded by Margaret Thatcher who won the election and had her own ideas, or rather picked them up from a select group of favourites. Russia invades Afghanistan.

1989 was the year when Margaret Thatcher was still there hand bagging away with vigour but hitting the wrong heads. Things were so bad we later got John Major proving the point that nice chaps finished last. He finished out of sight. Russia withdraws from Afghanistan.

1999 was the year when Blair and Brown peaked and we all suffered and went on suffering. Afghanistan in Civil War.

2009 was the year when Brown as Prime Minister told us all would be well if we paid up. We had to pay our dues for NATO etc. because the USA was in Afghanistan.

What next?