In the UK media it is
a commonplace that major events elsewhere or long running issues in other
countries do not get much attention. The
trouble is that there are some critical matters both in the UK and
elsewhere that are long run problems that will come to head. When they do, it will come as a surprise with
all the related flapping about and ill informed comment.
been happening is that in the UK
and other places the various crises and difficulties often have one common
feature. That is they are not just a
political, financial or governance crisis but they are in part to a greater or
lesser degree a constitutional crisis.
Europe and the America’s,
including the USA
and judge what these may be in the context of those states and what might be
involved. There can be current damage,
continuing difficulties, perhaps paralysis in policy making and in some the
real risk of a breakdown in government.
becoming arguable that some of the Western “democracies” are no longer
democratic, are adrift of the rule of law and are becoming ruled by a political
class that is no longer interested in the continuance of democracy and its
needs but only in its own survival as long as possible.
In the UK in 2012 we moved from a situation where we have
a damaged and disabled constitution and a political set up apparently unable to
come to terms with the basics of administration into what is becoming a full
blown collapse of the UK
as an independent or self governing state.
happen in 2013 is that this could become dangerous. We are now at the half way point in the
period of office of the Coalition and it is going nowhere. Yet either the coalition must continue as it
is or the Liberal Democrats decide to join up with the Labour Party as a last
ditch attempt to save their skins.
map produced about the political division of England into a Conservative South
and East and a Labour North and West was a striking example of one of the most
serious weaknesses. It means that Labour
are about one part, plus elements of London and the Conservatives about another
and that based largely on the London economy.
At the same
time pundits point out that a Conservative weakness is its lack of appeal to
some minorities. This means some
marginal constituencies are at risk.
This blog has said often before that one of the most disastrous features
of our electoral system since World War 2 has been the grossly disproportionate
influence that winning the marginal seats has meant.
meant economic policies, government spending and a whole raft of activity
dictated by the needs of small minorities of voters in a minority of
constituencies. We have paid a heavy
economic price for this in the serious distortions that followed.
House of Commons we are now in a situation where the fiddling with boundaries
etc. during the Labour term of office altered the balance in their favour and
this is worsening as time goes by. The
Liberal Democrats have blocked reforms out of narrow self interest.
There is a
House of Lords that essentially does not represent anybody except the Westminster political
elite, with a huge number of members.
They may add to the entertainment but they do not add to effective
government. Again reform is blocked and
it seems impossible to have a really representative second chamber.
combination with devolution on one hand with greater and more pervasive
administrative centralisation on the other has led to local government being
neither local nor government. The alteration
of the Civil Service to an organisation geared to the modern cult of rent
seeking management and doing it badly is another feature of the disaster.
is the larger question of the EU of which there is more than enough comment in
other places. Just what it is, what it
is supposed to do, what it actually does, who is in charge, what are the
control systems and where is the money going are all among the great mysteries
of the universe.
way the coalition has been going, the Conservative government under Cameron
should have been putting up positive policies to deal with the various problems
and especially to sort out the constitutional mess. In the past they could then have gone to the
country to seek its mandate.
But in a
spasm of lunacy they have denied themselves this crucial option which could be
necessary to begin to be effective. We
are now stuck with “five year terms”. In
2010 they took over a situation where the previous government had deliberately
left a “scorched earth” situation and with a dire financial situation. In this situation why on earth tie your hands
in this way?
drifting into a situation where the Labour party who caused the disaster may
come back into power on the back of a grossly unrepresentative electoral system
and a second chamber made up of placemen.
On top of this could be the beginnings of the break up of any idea of a United Kingdom.
This is the
potential constitutional crisis for 2013.
While some minorities would want this to happen all the preconditions
are in place for a wholesale paralysis of government. Only in 2013 there are not going to be any
fun events to distract us.
It is a
long time since politics “got serious” in the UK.
It could be about to happen.
In The Mail
there was an article about what might be taught in History and in particular
those might be held up to the young as Great People and perhaps examples to us
all. The piece contrasted a politically
correct selection with one that listed The Usual Suspects.
is what people were “Great” for. The
Duke of Wellington, for example, for his victories against Napoleon. What is left out of his career often is his
learning curve in India,
his spell as an unlucky Prime Minister and that his military successes were
based on a mastery of logistics that few could emulate.
is that given the time available and the huge amount to choose from any history
taught is going to be highly selective and its emphasis dependent on who drafts
the curriculum to be taught and in the classroom how a teacher might interpret
channel PBS from the USA
there has been a four part documentary on Queen Victoria
and the British Empire. All in all it took around four hours of
screen time. It did try to explain the
era, maintain something of a balance and suggest that it was a good deal more
complicated than many assume.
was free of the usual bossy presenters we see so much of and the tiresome bang
crash wallop computer game imagery whenever violence or war happens. It did make clear that there were nasty and
distressing events but spared us the gore in favour of the narrative.
despite the attempt to “cover the bases” there was a great deal left out and
some simplification. In a way it asked
the intelligent viewer to fill in the gaps but it would take a lot of previous
knowledge to know what was involved and understand.
interesting feature, for example, was how Prince Albert, her Consort who became
guide and principal adviser steered her from one view of Empire , that of power
and glory, to another based on trade and moral imperatives exported to the
world. After his death under Disraeli’s
influence she reverted to the former.
So who was
advising and supporting Prince Albert
and who were they connected to? This is
something I have come across recently and it had some surprises. One is Colonel, later General, Charles Grey,
his Private Secretary from 1846 to 1861, Albert’s death, who then became Victoria’s until his
death in 1870.
Colonel of the 71st Highlanders, mark that, he was a younger son of
Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, the reforming Prime Minister from 1830 to
1836. Henry, 3rd Earl Grey, his elder
brother, had been Secretary of State for the Colonies and another brother
Frederick Grey rose to be head of the navy.
Look around their political circle and you can see where Prince Albert was coming
will not find any of this in any school or even university text. They deal with other ideas and opinions and
the complex realities of this period are lost to them and their students. So what of history today? Do we tell the same old tales of one kind or
another, or do we look at our world now and deal with the relevant history?
In the UK today our
lives seemed to be governed by sport, the media and our economy by the
predominance of financial services. Yet
there is little or no suggestion of putting them into school history. Also, what about the history of energy supply
instead of just talking about the old coal mining industry? Probably, there is hardly anyone around
capable of teaching these.
example, if Women’s History was more entertainment based rather than the usual
collection of worthies? Centred perhaps
on Gracie Fields, Marie Lloyd, Lily Langtry, Maria Malibran, Sarah Siddons and
Nell Gwyn it would be a lot more interesting in many ways.
of sport itself would overlap with politics.
Why shouldn’t John Gully be numbered amongst the Great, along with W.C.
Grace, Fatty Foulkes, Prince Oblensky and Dixie Dean? For many of our leaders politics was just
another form of sport only less enjoyable.
finance, Oscar Wilde’s dismissal of The Fall of the Rupee may have seemed to be
witty, but it had crucial implications for the whole future of British India
and for some us it began the political process leading to Independence.
Who can deny the impact of some of the Great Crashes of history?
has only just begun and it will never finish.
One of the
staple plot themes of the drama, opera and ballet of past centuries is the
business of marriage. Usually, this is
centred on who might marry who and for what reasons. Typically, there is confusion, errors, deceit
and sometimes general mayhem.
What is at
the centre of all this is the marriage contract or settlement with lawyers or
attorneys dealing with the business.
These involve not just the individuals who might marry but also their
families, or guardians or other figures who wield authority.
clergyman is hovering around, sometimes they might have a role in the plot more
rarely are they of much importance.
There are exceptions. Notably, in
“Romeo and Juliet” a whole lot of trouble is caused by a friar who administers
the religious sacrament of marriage without a contract between the families
having been made.
explanation for all this arises from the Christian idea that there is The City
of God and The City of Earth. In this
case a marriage has two forms of existence.
One is that it conforms to the laws of man (Earth) and is a formal
contract about property and family responsibilities.
is that as such a marriage is likely to result in children; that is the
creation of souls, then it is a sacrament which should be blessed and
recognised for the two people who will be afflicted with the burden of bringing
up the children in the faith.
all this is theory, but in the past, as ever, practice too often was distinct
from theory. If I were to trawl through
all the possible variations, interesting that they may be, this would be a very
long post. But when there is marriage,
money and property then at some time there is also probate to consider.
and various situations that arose caused huge numbers of legal cases, often
centred on probate but also about who owned which land or was entitled to this
or that. Common to these was the absence
of any reliable record of a marriage or indeed who were the children of who.
State intervened. In England, as the
Parish was the basic unit of local administration and as there was a state
Church, that became the place of record for marriage and the recording of
births and deaths. This caused immediate
problems for the many who were not of the Church of England and whose records
did not have legal standing, so the cases continued to pile up.
1830’s in England and Wales, later followed by Scotland and Ireland, a new type of Civil
Registration allowed marriages of all kinds, with births and deaths to be recorded
locally, with copies held centrally.
This did tidy things up, but there were still many who did not
have to keep probate in mind in all this.
Many a problem arose because wills were not made or badly drawn up and
so laws were made to determine the basis for distributing inheritances.
speaking, this basic system worked for over a century although with
difficulties in some areas. But what has
happened is that as social habits have changing radically together with the introduction
of complex state benefit schemes, marriage became just one form of partnership
arrangement, albeit the majority one and limited to a male and female.
But as well
as “gay” partnerships, or a male and female partnership outside marriage, that
is relationships with a sexual component, there are other forms of partnership
which have there own validity and have their own value to society as well as
the individuals concerned.
the daughter/niece/son/nephew or other who are in a partnership situation for
the care of the elderly or the severely handicapped? What about two (or more) people who live
together for a social and not a sexual purpose?
always have been and there are many today in that situation. Moreover, many of these are vulnerable under
Probate. If a will is not there or does
not make clear the informal contractual relationship there can be some losing
out in a way that is unjust.
been too many cases where someone turns up at deathbeds with witnesses who claimed
to have had agreement from people who were comatose or had severe loss of
faculties, to sign away their property.
The laws on probate can be easily bent for criminal purposes.
This is the
area that has been forgotten in the row about “gay” marriage. It is just another partnership for a personal
or social purpose. One of the jobs of
government is to try to see the wider issues.
There are many other types of partnership for valid purposes that are
not covered by the protection offered by the status of marriage.
is not just about a man and woman coming together to make and bring up a family
in the context of other family but now means the possibility of a much wider
range of partnerships why are so many of these not considered?
It is typical
government at the moment that the politicians simply give in to a small
pressure group with media sympathy instead of looking at what else might be
necessary or advisable in the much wider social context.
Bernard Shaw had a lot to say about marriage, in “Pygmalion” that became the
musical “My Fair Lady”, Alfred P. Doolittle, having come into money that made
him middle class was obliged to marry after many years being perfectly happy
with more informal arrangements.
before his time…………….
A few years
ago, with time in hand, decided to take a look at the Lord Chamberlains
documents, The Censor, from the 1940’s to see what there was in some of the
acts I had seen live on stage in our local variety hall.
days the scripts for comedy sketches and acts had to be cleared with the
Censor. Also, if the local police were
not too busy a plain clothes constable might be in the audience making notes to
see if there had been any deviation from what had been authorised.
then a major celebrity and comedian with a reputation for ad-libbing and near
the knuckle humour turned this to his advantage sometimes by telling the
audience that he was going to disappoint them because that big bloke at the
back was checking on his performance.
went on to advise them of the jokes cut in such a way that little was left to
the imagination, which both pleased the audience and made any prosecution
liable to difficulties if the case appeared in court. The publicity gained would mean full houses
for months afterwards.
He was not
alone and part of the game between the performers, their audience and The Law
was to see how far it could be taken.
There was a lot of subtlety and play on words that is now lost to us.
of one show turned up which raised memories.
It was called “Soldiers in Skirts” and my parents went to see it having been told it
was made up of females who had served either in the armed forces or in
entertainment for the troops.
In fact they
had been taken in because it was a series of rabid drag acts, all male, mostly excruciating. While verbally “clean” the extremes of dress
and kind of stage business left nothing to the imagination. Despite many complaints the Censors left it
A drag act
is one thing, but over two noisy screeching hours of it without relief quite
another. My parents were not happy and nor
were a lot of other people. I have never
wanted to see another drag act again.
amongst the performers were the comedians Morecambe and Wise, before they took
those names. In all the many programmes
about them etc. this is one show that seems to be missing. It is not difficult to understand why.
always interesting to see what else is missing.
A key feature of the Censorship was a rigorous and detailed control over
anything suggestive of sex of any kind.
But in scripts after 1945 despite the horrors of the death camps and The
Holocaust, anti-Jewish jokes, a staple of many routines, were passed without
note or comment.
How odd it
seems now, careful highly educated men picking their way through pages and
pages of drivel to strike this out and that and all the while when on stage
whatever was said was one thing but the way it was said and the stage business
was quite another.
as though this was anything new. Marie
Lloyd apparently thirty odd years before had demonstrated in court when up on a
charge for being off script that there was more than one way to put a song
over. The normally staid “Come into the
garden Maude” could be gentile or downright ripe with a few winks and gestures.
world has changed and while it is said that political correctness etc. has gone
too far in curbing ordinary banter etc. at the same time it is becoming
impossible to avoid the sex.
It has now
becoming almost compulsory irrespective of having much to do with either the
plot or telling the story. Despite all
the theoretical freedom, it seems that a great deal of contemporary media
entertainment is now far more restricted, narrower in scope and the real humour
been widespread anger and disappointment because Santa Claus (aka Father
Christmas) did not arrive this year. The
default in the Festive Fun market arose because recent EU regulations for
public sector contracts meant that the delivery services were put out to
SC Enterprises Inc. who replaced Lapland Grotto were forced to outsource
deliveries to firms offering the lowest tenders in different regions of the EU.
that firms using second hand cut price vehicles prone to breakdown, little or
no experience of intensive delivery and distribution systems over large areas
had serious difficulties. These were
compounded by adverse weather conditions that had not been factored into the
In Rome, in the Homily at the
Christmas Mass, the Pope alluded to the problems by discussing the failure of
giving being attributable to a lack of faith and imagination.
Washington DC, the Federal Reserve responded immediately by promising that in
2013 it would be Christmas Day every day, to be funded by the savings of
Chinese labourers. However, in Congress,
proposals for a radical shake up were blocked by fundamentalist disagreements
over time zones.
In Brussels, the EU announced that a dedicated Europe wide agency with multi billion Euro funding would
be created to use trained and micro-chipped pigs for surface deliveries taken
from industrial farms unable to sell them because they are unfit for human
The UK government
immediately opted out of this scheme with David Cameron, the PM, reappointing
Andrew Mitchell to the Cabinet as Supremo and Secretary of State for a British
airborne cycle delivery service. The Opposition leaders, Miliband and Balls
announced a new benefits scheme for all based on the taxation of rain drops and
The City have been quick to innovate, creating Freezing Fog and Freezing
Drizzle derivatives at high rates of leverage to fund private equity investment
in delivery systems.
Richard Branson is proposing a new Virgin for Christmas guaranteed
SC Enterprises, whose Head Office and financial services have been relocated
from Lapland to Krakatoa for tax reasons were
unable to comment for legal reasons.
Santa Claus has resigned and a replacement is being sought from Goldman
Senior Elf, now redundant, commented that if it was bad for customers and the
elves, it was a lot worse for the reindeer.
As of soon,
other things have to be done, so posting is light over the next few days. I am only obeying orders.
everyone else is doing a seasonal thing, just for a change so will this blog,
Twelfth Day of Christmas my analyst sent to me.
And of all
the crooks that are in the world the EU bears the crown.
thought on charity.
drone into your home this year at Christmas.
As it is
the Winter Solstice tomorrow and a time for old folk traditions, this is a
repeat of the Sunday 31 May 2009 post.
The Royal Ballet are putting on “The Firebird” again from Saturday
(house full) as part of a Triple Ballet programme.
The post is an
annotated synopsis of the plot to update it into a modern context and a
reminder that while the facts and the people may change, the story remains the
Once upon a
time a Firebird lived in the depths of a dark, dank, dismal forest ruled by The
Immortal Sorcerer Kashchei, aka Kostchei, (a banker), which was once The City
of the land. The Tsar’s heir, Ivan, out
hunting on his own, as heirs to the throne do in fairy tales, sees the
about shooting her (a hostile takeover) but ends up agreeing to a mutual trade
(cartel), and she gives him a magic feather (derivative package). She flies off into the night, and then come
along a Beautiful Tsarevna Princess (a desirable property) and her train of twelve
enchanted Princesses (international subsidiaries).
an approach (initial offer) and gives her a token (futures option) of his
intent (subject to due diligence). She
and the other Princesses disappear, and a big hedge bars Ivan’s way (hedge
funds have this effect), so he tries to get into the Castle that just happens
to be there.
gangs of active predators and consultants who put him under administration,
followed by Kashchei, who makes it clear he has a majority holding in all
on the Sorcerer, causing Kashchei and his minions to into a whirl of market
activity each with a piece of the action in Ivan. Then Ivan remembers the feather, and waves it
in the air.
Firebird returns, the white knights having been enslaved by the Sorcerer; puts
all of Kashchei’s subjects into a
frenzied dance that results in them all falling asleep (light regulatory touch)
along with the Princesses who have watched wondering what this will do their
long term business plans.
wanders back in, disbelieving and needing a new mission statement badly, so the
Firebird points him to the source of Kashchei’s power in a box (offshore
the box, remember, this is a ballet, not a TV show, and finds a large nest egg
(private pension fund) that is clearly at the bottom of the trouble. Clearly he has to do something (financial
sends the nest egg as high as it can go, and when it drops and hits the floor
it is smashed to pieces and Kashchei’s rule is ended.
There is a
pause and then a glorious ending, with a magnificent glissando in the
orchestra. Ivan and the Beautiful
Tsarevna are brought together, and the Princesses are matched to Knights, now
in Ivan’s service.
Kashchei’s servants, before then oligarchs of The City are given back their
former high status. The City is restored
in full splendour, and there is a great parade of public sector employees
giving tribute to the happy couple.
unbounded as Ivan has assumed control of all financial activity guaranteeing
them their former wealth and more for time immemorial, or until the next
If you like
this story, then go to the UK No.10 gov website that is the Prime Minister’s,
where you will find lots of other fairy tales to make you feel happy.
those who wish to see the ballet at the Westminster Comedy Warehouse, because
of unforeseen circumstances the price of seats has risen rapidly, as will other
costs, and will continue to do so until further notice.
company has met with a great acclaim in Washington
tales really do seem to be immortal.
A media feature
item that provides a regular source of material on thin days in thin times is
anniversaries. There is a relentless
trawling of archives and experts to fill in the gaps. For recent performers and entertainers it
gives the opportunity to market back listings or catalogues to turn a reliable
world is particularly fond of or almost dependent on these to retread old
material and make sure the schedules have items that may get the punters
interested. Sometimes it can become a little
be the 200th Anniversaries of the births of Richard Wagner and
Giuseppe Verdi and there is a huge row at La Scala in Milan where the management, instead of
opening in the traditional way with a big Verdi are putting on Wagner’s
This is not
a bundle of laughs and moreover lasts a lot longer than almost all of Verdi’s
works. Quite why this exercise in
Wagner’s odder ideas about religion has been chosen is a mystery, but it is
possible that money may have been involved.
financial and economic situation perhaps a good compromise might be Puccini’s
“Girl Of The Golden West” sponsored by the European Central Bank and starring
Berlusconi’s belles as the saloon girls.
We have our
own in the UK
with the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten. The Royal Opera will be putting on “Gloriana”
to mark both Britten and the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of
This too is
not a lot of laughs and between the grim plot and anguish in 1953 went down
like a lead balloon. It hasn’t been done
much since and is amongst few people’s favourites apart from some dances. But there will be plenty of his music around
for his followers to appreciate.
someone who has been forgotten. It is
the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Leslie Stuart in Southport,
Lancashire at the end of the short commuter line from Liverpool
and one time holiday destination. He was
born Thomas Augustine Barrett but made the name change in the late 1890’s for
has an article “Leslie Stuart” that sets out what is known about him and a
couple of books have been produced by leading musicologist Dr. Andrew Lamb in
the last decade, but other than that there is little to be found.
Yet in his
time he was at the top in musical theatre, seen as one of successors to Gilbert
and Sullivan with George Grossmith, one of their key performers and writers as
one of his partners. Leslie was also big
on Broadway in New York. In 1940, a film was made about him.
hits became staples in popular song for decades and the basis of many of the
vocalists in the music halls of the period.
They helped launch many an artiste’s career and in the case of Olive May
paved the way for her to marry into the aristocracy.
In the USA he was
overtaken by the later major figures in musical theatre. In the UK the grip of the BBC and the
oddities of its musical preferences together with its concentration on dance
bands meant there was no room for him.
Also, Lord Reith, Director, would not have approved of Leslie’s bohemian
lifestyle and bankruptcy.
he was very much of “a man of the people” from a humble background with few
connections other than in the theatre.
The BBC once rejected the marvellous Kathleen Ferrier and it was only
the support of leading conductors that forced them to retract.
moved to Manchester when young and has been
claimed as a Mancunian since, but his first years were in Liverpool. By one of those coincidences, Kathleen’s
father, William, was born just along the road from Leslie, also in the 1860’s.
forgetting anniversaries the BBC etc. have form. In 2006 as well as Mozart it was the 250th
anniversary of the birth of Thomas Linley, which barely drew any attention or
attempt to commemorate his brief life, despite’s Mozart’s high opinion of his
Linley was and who his family were connected to and involved with there were
wonderful opportunities to look and study the London of the mid 18th Century and
it’s literary and artistic life.
It is a pity that our leading media and artistic establishment cannot find any time to
celebrate and let us hear the work of Leslie Stuart, one of our leading musical
talents of the last hundred years, who brought so much pleasure and the love of
music to so many.
Long ago an
uncle taught me semaphore as it was considered then to be a basic and necessary
form of communication. He was a Chief
Petty Officer in the Navy so his views were to be respected, especially if he
was satisfied enough to come up with chocolate as a reward.
many decades for the discovery of wired telegraph and photography to impact on
communications and the popular media. It
took many decades after that for the wireless and other discoveries to impact
on a large scale. Even television took
decades to reach out to almost everyone.
But it is
taken only a couple of decades, if that, for the computer based information
systems, satellite systems and internet to completely transform communications
and information transmission entirely.
It is a
wonder that it is possible look around many sources and pull together
information sometimes in minutes what might have taken days to do,, travel and
maybe a lot of communication manually and by ordinary letter writing.
often travel by train, it has been easy to watch the changes of the last decade
and a little more in the products that people have used. From simple mobile phones there have been
transitions to more complicated devices.
consequence is information and communication overload, in that so many people
are now almost frantic in the attempts to deal with it and to manage their
personal and work lives. They seem to
have less and less time and often do less and less in real terms.
another consequence which is more worrying.
It is that the big stories of the day, or rather what the media might
determine to be the big story is so extensively covered that it obliterates
both other news and more seriously any full coverage or detail of many issues
A case in
point arises from an hour’s programme on Monday on BBC2 which looked at the
economic situation in Spain
and how it happened. This kind of
feature is quite rare, especially if you look at the total of channels
available. You might find its like here and
there in specialist business or documentary feature, but you have to look hard.
programme, however, although at peak time, was up against a good many popular
items, a lot of leading sport and a few other things. So it will have had only a minority audience
and even then the programme, mostly presented with talking heads and linking
descriptive passages was limited in its scope.
it concentrated on the Brit’s involved, notably the expatriates but the
tourists as well, with a figure of 11 million Brit’s a year visiting Spain. It went into the issues of corruption within
the localities, regions and government of Spain, but not in great
At least it
did emphasise that the EU, easy credit, stupid banking regulation, insane
property development and then serious debt overloads were at the heart of the
problem. Because of the limitations of
time and need to make the message easy to understand and the impact on ordinary
people a lot had to be left out.
Brit’s, there are a lot of other people from all around the EU and beyond who
have contributed to the Spanish debacle.
They piled into property on the premise that it could never end. Part of this was the major capital inflows
coming from either criminal or laundered money.
To add to
this was tax or other evasion by the elites in other countries with the money
coming not from the originating source but the many and various regimes that
constitute tax havens, including London. All the usual suspects were there as well as
in Greece and we all know
who matters in Italy.
of the Spanish debacle has been the huge rise in unemployment especially
amongst the young. For many of them, the
only alternative is to get out fast. We
are talking here about the highly qualified and capable and not just those in
the lower and less skilled classes.
there was the problem which the BBC and others will not dare to name. That is the inflow of migrants from North Africa and beyond into the lowest paid menial,
manual and agricultural jobs.
because the international companies who wanted low wage labour wanted them and
now they too are among the ranks of workers without work. Worse, often they have become forced labour
with little or no pay and indeed turned into debt slaves.
problem now in both Greece
and Spain with Italy and Portugal affected is the flight of
capital that under pinned so much of the boom.
It is not going to come back. So
the Euro is now in peril because if Spain goes then the Euro might go.
implications for the UK
for all this was another matter not mentioned.
Where did the flight capital go?
A lot has come into London,
notably in the property market. What
else is there about the UK? A great deal if you look at the profile of Greece and Spain in terms of the key areas of
be in the UK the assumption
that because we are outside the Euro then the worst that could happen is a
devaluation; an option not available in Spain. It is worse than that.
understand and you will not hear it from the main media or anyone in authority
is that the Euro and the Pound are engaged in a struggle. It is a dance of death because one must go or
the other. So what happens in Spain
and these other places is critical to our own future.
But we are
all too busy with our personal communications and major media stories to take
the slightest notice and that includes the government and opposition.
One of the
wonders of our time is just how complicated everything has become, especially
in relation to those things that are supposed to be simple. This has been a theme of this blog so below
is a post from October 2010 as a comment.
How little has changed.
has not been the same since the decline and fall of the Ink Monitors. At one time in an Elementary School (5-14
then leave school) each class might have one.
Mostly “he’s”, they would be a trusted pupil and if they proved
reliable, polite and diligent they might earn a reference to be a shop
assistant or even a clerk.
learned to check the inkpot at each desk, judge the quantity necessary and pour
in the right amount of ink from a jar.
To do this they would have to be entrusted with access to the classroom
cupboard and would both obtain and return the jar properly and without
integral to a whole culture of steel pen nibs and scarce paper when writing was
a form of calligraphy and care needed in the shaping of each letter, the
accuracy of each word and the whole structure of a sentence and paragraph. It is a world long since lost.
of what might have happened in our modern age if ink would be still been in use. It is certain that persons of 15-17 or any
younger age could never be allowed to undertake such onerous duties.
teachers or cleaning staff, it would be outside their conditions of
service. There would have to be Writing
Materials Replenishment Assistants with negotiated salaries and comparable
conditions of service.
take management and to avoid the post code lottery of differences a staff at
local authority level to co-ordinate, manage and supply the needed staff and
materials. Clearly high level
consultancy would need to be brought in to satisfy the auditors and others that
it was all to be done as it should be.
local authorities actually be entirely trusted with matters of this kind? It would cry out for central direction and
thinking. Possibly, it would begin as
part of one government department or another.
recent years an Ink Procurement and Inspection Agency would have been
established with fully staffed at salary levels to compete with senior
management in the financial sector to ensure that all the angles were covered,
the targets set and statistics and supervision ensured.
be research budgets. A new department
would be funded at the University
of East Dunwich or
somewhere to ensure only inks of the highest quality, specifications and safety
standards were in use and to develop new inks.
standardisation of ink procurement would mean major contracts with all that
this entailed. No doubt agreements would
be reached in some foreign place for out sourcing all the production for transport
by container ships. This would help the UK carbon
footprint and rid the nation of all the nasty inky manufacturing pollutants.
miracle of accounting and with all the consultancy, financing and layers of
management and control the filling of inkpots would become critical to keeping
up the GDP and stimulation of the velocity of circulation of public sector
question is given the need to increase the consumption of ink during a time of
economic difficulty whether the use of ink pellets (wodges of paper dripping
with ink used as a missile fired by the skilled use of rubber bands) by alienated
victims of oppression in the classroom should be subject to reduced or no
rubber bands in my desk and can still hit a moving target at fifteen
paces. Will my time come again to cop
the teacher or the Ink Monitor one behind the ear?”
There is no
answer to that.
demands of the season and becoming involved deeply with a major search round
the Census Returns, not 2011, but a century and more before, I have been
running out of time.
this one from the inimitable US
“The Automatic Earth” says a good deal to us about our European
Assembly Required on http://ckm3.blogspot.co.uk/
had an item on Saturday titled “Yes We Have No Bananas” dealing with the
current racket in US
mortgage foreclosures which tells us that not much has changed over there.
we saw the Pasadena Roof Orchestra doing their retro acts from the 1920’s to
1940’s on TV. Very entertaining it was
and with a great performance of “Yes We Have No Bananas”
it is good to go back to source.
visited the Bank of England this week.
Sadly it was not to lead her Household Cavalry to arrest the lot and
chuck them in The Tower awaiting trial for high treason. It was one of those endless state visits she
has to endure talking to boring evasive people with a shifty look about them.
governments have given more than enough of that to do. The media have dutifully told us that down
there in the basement, along with the fine wines and secret expenses files, she
was finally given the answer to why it all went wrong in 2008.
asked the question before when visiting the London School of Economics and the
learned professors, pundits and experts around her gave her some garbled
blather about it was all very difficult and they did not quite know but
somebody must have been to blame but it wasn’t us.
they added that the nice Colonel Gaddafi and family who had been so generous to
the School had been a great help to us all in our time of trial is not
clear. Sadly, one governor, a Mrs. Blair,
was not around to help. Perhaps she was
giving legal advice to people with interests in Libyan oil.
round the Bank experts she talked to had obviously been doing a bit of
searching on Google and not to check on its tax returns or patterns of capital
flow. They had concluded the crisis was
one of unpredictable complexity, as in the science of seismology, earthquakes,
volcanoes, tsunami’s and things from outer space that go bump in the night.
As with the
LSE they asserted nobody predicted the crash because it was not possible to do
so and everyone was taken utterly by surprise.
This may have been the case with the Labour government, The Treasury,
the banks, the dealers and the economists with ever more complicated equations
based on impenetrable assumptions but not everyone.
Me for a
start, who dumped out of all financial and related shares early in 2007 after
realising that the US
property market was going into a tailspin.
Along with this the high leverages and the huge amounts of credit
creation going goodness knows where had all the hallmarks of a big bust to
It was not
me who was the clever one, there were others out there who had worked out that
the pre-conditions were in place for a bad crash and it was only a matter of
time before some event or hiccup blew the fuses.
They were much better qualified than me and made sense.
the corridors of power, the meeting rooms in the banks etc. never mind the
fantasy world of established academic economists the wildly optimistic
believers in the conventional wisdom of the time regarded them as something of
a freak show. If you doubted, then bang
went your political, civil service, academic, media or financial career.
doubters had one common characteristic.
They had read their economic history back for more than a decade and had
taken the much longer view. They asked
themselves what was really going on and just what might go wrong. They looked for examples of the past but
knowing that the past may always be different but the key issue was to look at
if the Bank of England really thinks that unpredictable seismology was the
answer then they have not done their homework.
Those who check out the data on earthquakes and volcanoes and related
events are aware of the history and the patterns. They know what the risks are and where events
are likely to occur.
are aware of the difficulties whilst getting a little better year by year in
identifying high risk areas and giving advice.
For example, you do not urbanise with poor building standards in
earthquake zones. You should not build
too close to a volcano with frequent big eruptions. You should not put a nuclear power station
with dodgy construction on the shoreline where large earthquakes and tsunamis
humanity continues to ignore these ideas of risk in the immediate need for
power and/or profit. Just as so many of
our leaders and their attendants could not and would not see where they were
heading in finance, commerce. and production.
Nor can they see what next could be coming.
there in the vault, I assume the picture of Her Majesty looking at piles of
gold was meant to reassure us that all is well and her that the Crown Jewels were not next on
the government’s sales listings. But all
that glisters is not gold.
question, how much of it is actually “ours” and not just in storage for some
Trusts or “banks” or such that belong to past or future potentially displaced governments
that have systematically raided the people’s purses. Second, if Gordon Brown sold off gold dirt
cheap have we been buying recently at much higher prices? Is this why the national debt remains
how much of it is actually gold and not just adulterated ingots or even blocks
of tungsten coated with gold?
Apparently, out there in the gold markets the rights to gold being
bought and sold are far greater than any estimate of the real quantity of gold
available to the markets. There is real
fear that a lot of fake gold could be around.
time I attended the Ceremony Of The Keys at the Tower of London,
it was my considered opinion that the Crown Jewels could be there for the
taking if wanted by someone who knew what to do. Her Majesty should consider
beefing up the security there.
If we get a
Labour government and the gold goes from the Bank of England, Ed Balls will be
round with our foreign creditors within the week.
Back in the
early 1970’s we have learned that the top civil servants at the time had
reconciled themselves to a UK
in a steady decline which might prove difficult or impossible to stop. Many senior politicians agreed with them but
said little or nothing publicly because of obvious electoral problems.
them they came up with going into the nearest available bolthole, the Common
Market in the hope of delaying the evil day and inflating their way out of debt
while hoping that the common man would not really notice the erosion of his
income or liberties.
At the same
time there were many bits and pieces of Empire that were also a problem. They were poor, with no natural resources and
with populations wanting to have some sort of equality with the better off
nations. Some were so small that any
kind of government needed underpinning to survive.
had to be kept away from communism or other extreme political conditions that
might make them a nuisance. One way was
to divert money and its management in that direction. In 1973 for example, The Bahamas, riding a
tourist boom after the Bond file “Thunderball”, became an attractive place.
Britain already had links with the monied
population there, from The Bay Street Boys of the 1930-1950’s, pals of the Duke
of Windsor, along with City connections.
So in the late 1960’s it began to develop itself as a centre for
offshore banking etc.. During that time
it acquired a representative body with independence in 1973.
liberated state had a clear policy that it intended to expand on finance and
make this one of the lynch pins of the economy along with tourism. The UK government, the high mandarins
of the Civil Service and the leadership of both political parties very quietly
and readily accepted extensive tax avoidance policies in this and other
decade of social disruption, conflicting economic policies and the continued
decline of UK
industry and failures in state planned renewal, those with access to the then almost
secret private banks and advisers managed to take care of themselves. Along with many of our elite were many
leaders in the entertainment industry.
At the same
time the government completely misread the potential of the space industry,
failed to recognise the full implications of container shipping and “invested”
in one doomed scheme after another. At
the same time the oil and gas industries were changing the basis of our energy
supplies, again botched by government.
stumbling, blundering, ineffective governments trashing the economy and
wrecking any national identity. While
all this was going on our media and entertainment industries were feeding us a limited
diet of largely rubbish as either news or entertainments. There were some notable exceptions but these
were not the norm only things we pretend were.
the situation for 2013 its déjà vu all over again.
There is so
much material flying about at present, never mind the seasonal hysteria, that
whilst I would like to comment, it might well just be lost in all the fog and
the hurly burly. But as it is the season
George Monbiot on his blog had something to say which lists him amongst
Scrooge’s media advisers.
It is about
pathological consumption and the urge of humanity to strip the world of its
vital resources in the pursuit of the needless acquisition of goods based on
improvident spending. A point he makes
that a lot of gifts given at Christmas are then little used and cast aside
after only a short time.
coincided with the news that the balance of trade figures were bad and that at Southampton the new world’s largest container ship
arrived chock full of goods for the season for us all to buy. Well, some of us.
At one time
the media and the nation hung on information such as the Balance of Trade
figures and if the news was bad it was regarded as a national disaster. A government would be faced with a bad press
and real trouble and it might put the value of the pound in peril.
neither care nor take much interest and if the pound varies in value the
immediate concern is how much foreign holidays will cost or the effect on
property values. This month the news has
been buried by a flood of other matters.
At first I
wondered whether to agree with George and whilst we will not be shopping as it
happens we will be doing other things.
They will involve spending even more ephemeral than pathological
consumption in that we will be at a couple of performances where there is only
a personal memory at the end.
excuses could be made and justifications that this somehow is good, helps to
increase both gross national product and employment, but the fact remains it is
not in the last analysis necessary and certainly involves carbon
emissions. Like almost all other Western
people we do more than our world share in that department.
George might have made more of one basic resource, water. In the LSE Connect this week, Judith Rees
reminds us that “The pace of urbanisation has outstripped connections to water
infrastructure” under the heading “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to
about the UN International Year of Water Co-operation in 2013. Across the world severe shortages and
problems are arising as populations and demands increase. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and other
problems are increasingly common and governments seem to have little strategy
or awareness of the complexity of the issues.
one response is to create a new academic discipline for the study of
water. The essential issue is the vast
cost of addressing and dealing with both the human and environmental
implications. It bears on food production,
industry, how far urban societies can continue to grow so rapidly and above all
Also in the
last few days a number of leading UK politicians have called for the rapid
fracking of oil reserves to go ahead to meet our critical energy needs. Whatever the for and against arguments for
this, one thing is certain; it needs a great deal of water.
rain is on the way our weather forecasters tell us relentlessly that this is
bad news. Sometimes it may be, but not