Friday, 9 September 2016

The Financial Times and Mrs Theresa May

A couple of recent articles in the FT - the only newspaper worth reading in England - highlight the soon-to-become-visible weaknesses of the new government. Chris Giles and George Parker are both telling a similar story. Since the government came to power in an internal coup - no election, no parliamentary ratification, no Conservative Party ratification -  not surprisingly its leader is insecure even if she was not insecure already.

So remarkably authoritarian tendencies are on display, which for the moment play well with the tabloids but soon won't. There is a High Court case pending to challenge the view that Parliament is a merely consultative body so far as Article 50 is concerned. But the Prime Minister has made plain that, whatever the decision there, she regards Parliament as a Duma for the Tsarina to listen to or dismiss as she sees fit. In addition, Downing Street is offering a running commentary on speeches and comments made by its own Ministers. They too are being told they have no power. The Tsarina will decide everything, and what she decides will always be in everyone's interests for she is the Mother of all the British.

I recall reading somewhere that at the moment he was forced into abdication, Tsar Nicholas had been studying papers relating to the proposal to build new glass houses in the botanical garden of Dorpat's (Tartu's) ancient university. It's a credible story and illustrates the perils of micro-managing. While you are attending to the glass houses, you lose the throne.

Mrs May will lose a Minister sooner rather than later. Either she will sack someone who steps too far out of line or someone will rebel and stalk out. In a previous Blog, I have already put my money on Dr Fox as the person most likely for either because he has his own form for believing he can do exactly as he pleases (See my Blog 27 July 2016)

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Matthew Tate at Hartsdown Academy, Margate

God, The Queen, School Uniform, Pounds Shillings and Pence, Janet and John ...

People like Matthew Tate, headteacher of Hartsdown Academy Margate and in the news today for zero tolerance of young people, can only imagine the future as a tribute act to the past. It's what you might call the English Disease and Margate is the sort of place where it easily becomes endemic.

It's a disease which is sending us over the tipping point into irreversible national decline. We should pay high salaries to those who can enthrall children and young people with Shakespeare or show them how fascinating it is to work out why the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. Or teach them Chinese. But we shouldn't be paying people like Mr Tate at all. He's in the wrong job and doing a lot of damage.

If you need something to cheer you up, a while ago I found some scenes of young people doing impressive things despite wearing tee shirts and trainers. They attend the Cusanus Gymnasium in Erkelenz, Germany - a country where history has taught them to be suspicious of men keen on uniforms. All these secondary school students speak English - the teachers have time to teach English because they aren't spending their time policing ties and skirt lengths or whatever is the latest fantasy of Mr Tate.

To see what you can do wearing tee shirts and trainers, just go to YouTube and enter the school's name and small-town location and enjoy.

Friday, 2 September 2016

David Davis on the Irish Border: Brexit and the Two Irelands

David Davis, one of Mrs May’s Three Brexiteers, has gone to Ireland and promised that Brexit will not bring a Hard Border back to Ireland. People will be able to come and go as they do now. He is in no position to make any such wild promise, for two reasons.

First, on the Brexit scenario table is one option which involves imposing tariffs on goods imported from our former friends next door and allowing free entry for goods from our new friends a long way away, enticed into co-operaton by Dr Fox Enterprises. Under that scenario, the United Kingdom would have to establish Customs posts between Northern Ireland and Ireland in order to control smuggling of former-friends' goods from the Republic.

Second, there is a  Brexit scenario which favours getting rid of European Union regulations and red tape. That could, for example, include offering farmers de-regulation as compensation for the loss of EU subsidies. In that situation, Ireland would want – indeed, would be required by its own commitment to EU standards - to  institute Health and Safety checks on UK agricultural produce being sent across the border. This is not an unusual situation: countries like the USA and Russia repeatedly slap bans on foreign food imports of one kind or another for Health and Safety reasons. It doesn’t happen often in the EU because there are common standards. But there are Brexiteers itching to lower standards in pursuit of someone’s fast buck.

There are lots of other promises out there from Mrs May’s Cabinet ministers. All of them are worthless until such time as Mrs May picks a Brexit plan which other countries will agree to, if indeed she can find any such plan.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

After BHS, Next Up - M & S?

Until recently, you could walk into my local Marks and Spencer and straight down the aisle to the popular Food Hall. Now you can’t. They have created an obstacle course by arranging all the racks of unsaleable women’s clothes into a maze. Get the idea? You will be stopped short by some floral frock and fall upon it before you reach the frozen food.

It ain’t gonna happen. The maze has only increased the obviousness of the pervasive Charity Shop smell, the smell which comes from cheap synthetics even before they have been sweated into. The women’s clothes start out smelling second-hand.

Just as bad, it’s obvious to me – and I am an elderly male not a discerning female – is the fact that all this clothing - with some few exceptions - has been imported from some recycled Soviet factory circa. 1980. The designs are awful – cut, cloth, design, print. It all just says Cheap, Cheerless, Clumsy, Clothing Coupons. On top of that, the racking is dismal, the sheer quantity dispiriting.

It can’t go on much longer. I reckon sometime in the next five years we will see M & S stores go the way of BHS

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Amazing Comeback of Dr Liam Fox

When I began blogging I fancied myself as a political pundit and so on 31 December 2010 I made my Predictions for 2011. I made three and got two right, including the prediction that by the end of December 2011 Dr Liam Fox would not be Secretary of State for Defence. He resigned in October 2011, mired in scandal, but basically because he had used his very major government post to pursue private agendas and, more specifically, to enable one of his friends, Adam Werritty, to pursue private business agendas under ministerial cover. The freelancing was blatant, even as early as December 2010. You just had to read the newspapers.

Now Dr Fox is back with an extraordinary brief to look for new alternatives-to-Europe Trade Deals and within days he is clearly pursuing his own agenda rather than one which has been collectively agreed in Cabinet or endorsed in Parliament. He has his own vision of what Brexit should look like and he is using his new post as trade envoy to promote that. There are two possibilities. Either his vision becomes government policy, by Cabinet decision or simply because Dr Fox got there first (at the moment, government is on extended holiday so if he works through August and September he has a head start on the slackers). Or he will be out of a job by Christmas. It is comforting to think the latter will be true, so I choose it and predict that Dr Fox will have to resign or will find himself moved by the end of 2016 and more or less for the same reasons that he had to resign in 2011. I don't think he understands collective responsibility or the difference between what he wants and what his official post entitles him to do.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

What I said about Jeremy Corbyn on the day he was elected Leader ...

Every few years, there is an event which attracts me enough to watch it live or nearly live: the 2010 Leaders' Debates for the UK General Election, the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, and today the Declaration of the Labour Leadership election - about which I was actually quite excited (though not excited enough to have watched any of the "Hustings" debates).

Oh dear, is this really the best they can do?

Tom Watson gets up and sounds like a one man Tribute Act to the past. That doesn't matter so much. But then we get to the new Leader ...

This is going to go out live and be endlessly played as clips on TV News. It's Mr Corbyn's first big chance to sound like a Leader who means business ...

Mr Corbyn takes from his pocket his notes, and goes through the List of people who have to be Thanked ...

Yes, maybe they do have to be thanked. But not like this. You have just been elected Leader of the Labour Party and thus Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. You hit the ground running:

"Thank you to all of of you who have made me Leader of the Labour Party and - as a consequence, I suppose -  Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. I think we need an Opposition. What is there not to Oppose? The Tories now have all the power in this country thanks to the recent votes of 25% of the electorate. And they have already made it plain that they intend to make the most of that power to serve the interests of the few not the many. That is what we are going to oppose. 

Nor it seems are the Tories going to show any humanity in how they go about things. Mr Cameron's lack of compassion has become clear to everyone in the last couple of weeks. It is to Yvette Cooper's great credit that she found time during this leadership Election campaign to stand up for a decent, generous response to the plight of refugees. That is the kind of thing we stand for. "

Enough said. You work your Thank You's into your speech. You speak to the whole country not just to the party faithful. With a good speech writer, it's easy enough do both at the same time ... and your speech writer can make sure you can find variants on the word "passionate", something Mr Corbyn was unable to do - a real passion-killer that.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Free Preview Chapter from the Book of the Blog ...

Below one short chapter from the 26 in Trevor Pateman's book The Best I Can Do. Information on how to order the book at the top of this page.

Prince Charles is a year younger than me. He has been heir to the throne for so long (since 1952 in fact) that if and when he becomes King and I am still alive, I am sure I shall continue to think of him as Prince Charles. Over the years I have watched his face age and the number of medals on his full dress uniforms increase. One day it occurred to me that most of his medals are birthday badges given to him by his Mum. He is still pinning them on sixty years after most of us stopped. They infantilise him.

In Africa during the past sixty years, kleptocratic and psychopathic tyrants, backed by their old colonial masters, have lorded it over impoverished peoples using a rhetoric of visual ostentation  taken unashamedly from those former colonial rulers – and not just the British. But with no Mum to award them, they have simply had to award medals to themselves, getting some lackey to pin them on until their chests attain the full splendour of which Imperial kitsch is capable. The Emperor Bokassa - every whim indulged by the governments of France (Bokassa had uranium) -  is the all-time outright winner for mirror-imaging the ostentation of the European Imperial powers. His coronation in 1976 cost the dirt-poor Central African Republic more than its entire annual state budget. The images are still worth Googling. You can see a copy of Ruritania’s famous Coronation coach and surrounding Bokassa, you can see haute couture-styled flunkeys like those – all male - who still surround Imperial President Hollande.

Bokassa’s rivals have included General Idi Amin (with a taste for British military top-brass tassels), and Colonel Gadaffi (specialist in Italianate gold braid) and dozens of more forgettable bit players who have strutted and killed for a short while, all of them weighed down by this abject drive to outdo European levels of ostentation.

You would think it would shame Prince Charles into dressing a bit more like Nelson Mandela or maybe the Dalai Lama but, no, when it comes to keeping up appearances he is still determined to provide a role model for the next dictator up. One day, he hopes to live in a Palace where the Guards are dolled up in such a way that they could not guard a goldfish bowl and on hot days, no bare skin visible, collapse from heat exhaustion. It is both ostentation and irrationality. The tourists love it; it’s much more fun than the Zoo.

In Charles’s country, those who are likely to become his Subjects are introduced at an early age to irrational dress. The British not only do ostentatious uniform at the top; they do school uniform at the beginning. They really have a thing about it - some of it part of a long paedophilic tradition - and, if anything, it’s getting worse. Parents off their heads on Janet and John think that education from three years up is about woollen caps and blazers and the more brightly be-ribboned the better for indicating your aspirations. Colour co-ordinated knee socks, striped ties, polished shoes, pleated skirts, boaters for summer, all obsessively listed  in pages of Rules, declare that aspiration as a commitment to maintain Ruritania’s social order and its established Table of Ranks.

British schools devote a great deal of time and money to devising and enforcing their uniform rules. It can be almost a full-time job for one Deputy Headteacher and they don’t come cheap. Some parents grumble about the cost, forgetting that cost is partly what it’s about – about showing that your child is in a different class to the riff-raff child in that school (unfortunately) just down the road. It is sometimes said that school uniform makes social distinctions less visible: you will not so easily spot the poor child in the classroom. But if you work back from the sharp-elbowed one-upmanship which characterises the uniforms of rival schools, it is most unlikely that social distinctions are not still visible in one school’s classrooms. Showing yourself as better than someone else does not stop at the school gates.
British parents do not really find it possible to believe that there are successful countries, not plagued by juvenile delinquency or illiteracy, that manage to function without any school uniform at all. But dreadful as it may seem, they do exist, and  if you want living proof of what can be done without the benefit of school uniform, check out the Cusanus-Gymnasium, Erkelenz, a German High School in a fairly ordinary town of just 45 000 people. It doesn’t have a fancy website but you can get some idea there what the pupils look like. Normal is a word that comes to mind. Go to YouTube and – though I should give you a trigger warning that you will have to look at trai**rs - enjoy listening to the Erkelenz choir, the Oberstufenchor. They do English, of course. And lots more.  Time and money isn’t taken up with uniforms, you see. It’s one reason German education gets better results.

Meanwhile, African dictators can still look to Prince Charles as a role model. British parents will take their cues from how the child known as Prince George is got up for school.