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Politics, The Final Frontier (Politics)
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Mick Harper
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Any demonstration of which the police disapprove, the Stop the War marches for instance, is routinely marked down, whereas demos on which the police look kindly, the Countryside Alliance say, are correspondingly inflated Alan Bennett, Diaries

After a lifetime of listening to Alan Bennett and all his works one cannot help but grant him a large measure of wisdom so it comes as a shock to be reminded, yet again, that whenever politics is involved, however tangentially, wisdom always flies out the window. Can Al the Owl really believe that the police have a corporate view on anything? Devon & Cornwall and the West Riding? Crime is bad, the police are under-resourced, maybe, but a list of approved and unapproved organizations? Which Alan is privy to? And which coincide exactly with -- though in reverse to -- organisations that Alan Bennett approves and disapproves of?

But it is the 'routinely mark down' (and correspondingly up) I particularly object to. I wouldn't mind much if policemen were human beings and tended to see things through blue-tinted spectacles but to have a policy of deliberately lying -- and keeping the policy secret despite having to involve thousands of individuals from bobbies reporting in to an apparat applying the appropriate adjustment upwards and downwards to the PR department supplying the 'figures' to the nation bespeaks of nothing short of a state within a state.

I'm going to organise a demo about it. It's frightening the way people believe this kind of tosh. Are you with me, brothers? Well, not literally, he agrees with Alan Bennett, but the rest of you.

"Ring us at the Yard, if you do, Mick, ask for SB-10."
"Special Branch?"
"Statistics Branch."
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Mick Harper
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And talking of his naivety, Bennett records visiting the Saxon tower at Barnack, Stamford which sent me scurrying to Wiki

The Church of England parish church of St John the Baptist is notable for its 11th-century Anglo-Saxon tower.

Harumph, I said, eleventh century is as much Norman as it is Anglo-Saxon (or even Danish if it comes to that). I must stop addressing my computer as if it were a human companion.

The interior of the church includes a high-quality late Saxon Romanesque sculpture of Christ in Majesty.

Romanesque? Anglo-Saxon? High quality? Anglo-Saxon? By Late Saxon, they can only mean Edward the Confessor who was, at best, Anglo-Norman.

The tower is topped by what may be one of the earliest spires in England, dating to around the 12th Century.

Oh dear. I may have been too confident with my passage in Missing Persons

Talking of fun, the Bayeux Tapestry is due over here soon, Covid permitting, so take the kids along for their first lesson in fake-spotting.
“Aw, dad, why can’t you be like other dads?”
“Quiet or I’ll stop your pocket money.”
“We just used my pocket money to get in.”
“Never mind that, have a look at that. What’s a church with a spire doing on an eleventh century tapestry?”
“I don’t know, dad, I’m going to ask.”
“Well?”
“He said it isn’t a tapestry, it’s an embroidery. Can we go home now?”
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Wile E. Coyote


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One of the beguiling features of the Anglo Saxons is that after you get through the normal fare, ie they had wooden churches etc, you get told that there are some some remains, normally it's an Anglo Saxon tower, still around, and incorporated as parts of Norman churches.

The question is, if they were capable of these stone towers, why did they not conceive of stone castles?
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Mick Harper
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Or stone churches even. 'Castles' might repay your investigation. They started sprouting the same time as the gothic cathedrals. But why, by whom, and why the Romans never went in for these useful devices while being better builders than the Normans/Crusaders are the provisional questions.
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Wile E. Coyote


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The tower is topped by what may be one of the earliest spires in England, dating to around the 12th Century.

Visually the tower is earlier, so they have later built the church around the earlier tower, the spire might help disguise the original function. If the tower was built like a fortification, ie it was difficult/expensive to tear down, then adapting what was standing, say a military watchtower would make sense (?). Ortho is saying that there are no complete A/S churches but some surviving archaeology in Norman churches. It's normally a part of the tower, sometimes a bell tower.

Don't know. I suspect they are watch, warning towers......
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Mick Harper
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I am on my hols which, intellectually-speaking, is a bit of a dearth but it has at least meant I am holed up with The Observer for the first time since I was nobbut. It's like the Guardian but more so.

Item: Nick Cohen on Orban of Hungary. After detailing his crimes-against-democracy, Nick fails to mention that the reason nobody can do very much about Orban is that he is wildly popular among Hungarians. Why so? Well, because having joined the the EU for all the right reasons, they have had liberalism shoved down their throat for twenty years and, having had communism shoved down their throat for forty years, they are kicking over the traces by embracing Orban, a standard and relatively harmless blowhard. But a Hungarian blowhard.

Even Nick kinda understands this, so to get a full page in the Observer op-ed he has had to resort to Will It Happen Here?
1. Orban came to power in 2010, so did the Tories
2. Orban gerrymanders shamelessly, the Tories tried to nobble the Electoral Commission
3. Orban stays in power because the other parties are ... er ... parties; in Britain

Labour and Scottish Nationalist obduracy has scuppered the idea of electoral pacts that would ensure parties step aside to allow the candidate with the best chances of beating the Conservative to have a clear run. Nothing can shift their parochial sectarianism.

Blimey, calling the Scots Nats parochial, whatever next? Calling the Labour Party sectarian, how dare he? Of course electoral pacts will guarantee one-party government i.e. Labour+one, two etc but in case you half-witted, short-sighted, British nincompoops don't do what Nick Cohen wants you to do...

Hungarians are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop a one-party state. Meanwhile their British counterparts are willing to see it stretch on for years without end.

Or 2024 as we call it.
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Mick Harper
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Freedland Takes Up The Cudgels

In plain sight, Boris Johnson is rigging the system to stay in power
Weakening the courts, limiting protest, hobbling the elections regulator. If this was Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, or Poland, what language might we use? Jonathan Freedland OpEd The Guardian

Dear oh lor, how much time have we got to save democracy, Johnno?

Almost unnoticed, perhaps because it’s done with an English rather than a Hungarian accent, our populist, nationalist prime minister is steadily setting out to weaken the institutions that define a liberal democracy: the ones that might act as checks and balances on him. And he’s moving, Orbán style, to make it ever harder for his government to lose power.

Bastard Tories. Eleven years and counting. Talk about a one party state. What was the last lot that tried this on? Labour Party, I think they called themselves, thirteen years they managed. And don't forget Charles the First, 1629-40.

Start with the courts. After all, that’s what Boris Johnson did. It seems petty to suggest that he is out for revenge after the supreme court delivered an 11-0 humiliation over his unlawful suspension of parliament in 2019, but Johnson is acting like a man determined to settle a score.

Just a correction of fact there, Johnno. Boris didn't actually do anything unlawful, he had all the requisite authorities supporting him in doing what he did. It was later declared to be unlawful, to everyone's surprise, by an interventionist Supreme Court. Maybe a bit before your time. You shouldn't believe everything you remember. But, please, do go on...
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Mick Harper
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He set his sights early on a bill to reform judicial review, the process by which courts can overturn unlawful decisions by the government and others.

We call this 'politics', Johnno. Various branches of government vie with one another.

The language is less overt than it was, but that bill stays true to its initial aim of declaring entire categories of government action off limits to judges

Yes, that's what happens. One side comes on strong, then they back down a bit, then... you'll soon get the hang of it.

– and it explicitly bans a particular, 11th-hour form of judicial review often used in immigration cases.

Yes, that's the current problem (not really the proroguing of parliament). Because we're signed up to a whole raft of treaties, legislation and case law designed for the middle of the twentieth century, the government (broadly representing the people) want to change it, the judiciary (broadly representing the existing law) keep making it difficult. Everyone doing their allotted job in a pluralistic society, in other words.

No wonder the Law Society has been sounding the alarm, warning of a threat to essential curbs on “the might of the state”.

You probably didn't know it but the Law Society is the lawyers' trade union so they're, as it were, the 'other side'. Surprising, you being a strong union man yourself. But, please, do go on...
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Mick Harper
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If that enrages you, think twice before taking to the streets. Under the new police bill, ministers will have the power to suppress pretty well any protest they don’t like.

You mean, like now?

That can take a whistleblower or journalist or both, and Johnson is moving against them too.... Even the Sun calls the move a “licence for cover-up”

Possibly, but I'd like to hear what journalists have to say.

More sinister, he is taking steps to ensure it can’t easily be replaced. He wants to tilt the playing field of electoral competition permanently in the government’s favour

The Labour Party will be pleased. They're the bookies' favourites to be our next government.

and his first target is the referee. The Conservatives’ elections bill hands ministers powers over what has, until now, been an independent Electoral Commission.

I think you must have been out of the country for the last fifty years, Johnno. Every successive government -- and they have been succeeding one another with wanton regularity -- has been monkeying with the Electoral Commission left, right and centre.

There is a pattern here, if we’re only willing to see it. A populist government hobbling those bodies that exist to keep it in check, trampling on democratic conventions and long-held rights, all to tighten its own grip on power. We need to recognise it, even when it wears a smile and tousled hair, and speaks in the soothing cadences of Eton College.

Not like you, Johnno, you went to your local comprehensive. Wiki says it was 'University College School, a boys' independent school in Hampstead, London'. Sounds like one of these new-fangled academies, am I right?
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Grant



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University College Hampstead is part of the Eton Group of independent schools, which includes Dulwich College and Eton itself. It’s basically for people who want their kids to have an Eton standard education with all the concomitant connections but without them having to use the E word.
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Mick Harper
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Or leave home to get it. I was myself one of two nominations for a free place at Dulwich College from my primary school. My best mate was the other. He got in, I didn't. I never saw him again. That's the way the social cookie crumbles in Sarf London.

In Hampstead I would think the local comprehensive comfortably outshines most public schools in terms of cachet, education, concomitant connections and so forth. That's the way the comprehensive system crumbles.
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Wile E. Coyote


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As the liberal left now control large parts of the state they constantly worry that the right might change it. Hey comrades, cheer up, you are doing so well, infiltrating the state, you no longer have to overthrow it.
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Mick Harper
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The twin liberal shibboleths of total tolerance of migrants and total intolerance of populist regimes has produced a wondrous situation on the Belarus/Polish border. This is understandably not a route into the EU much favoured by migrants -- a hundred tried it last year -- but this all changed after various EU sanctions against Belarus and Russia. [They, by the way, are not the populist regimes I was alluding to.]

These two easily provoked and highly capable regimes (when will we learn) spotted an opportunity for a cute counter-ploy and started dishing out tourist visas to all who wanted to get into the EU. These were shipped via Moscow and Minsk by air and then onwards to the Polish frontier by bus and decanted. Whereupon the migrants -- ten thousand of them last month alone -- milled around, sometimes on this side, sometimes on that side, mostly it was difficult to tell on which side of the border. This was a clear 'act of war' against the EU and required a clear counter-counter ploy by the EU.

So (a) TV crews were sent from all EU countries to do sympathetic pieces about the plight of the migrants (b) Poland was hauled up on a charge of being nasty to migrants and (c) told to let everyone in as soon as they arrive and start processing them individually to sort out genuine refugees from economic migrants. Since the Poles understood such a policy would result in having to deal with an infinite and ever-growing number of migrants, decided to put up some razorwire instead and told (a) the EU (b) Belarus and Russia and (c) the migrants to solve a problem entirely of their own making. No wonder the Polish regime is so popular.
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Mick Harper
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The One-Way Ratchet

The chief difference between left and right is on their view of The Perfectibility of Man. The Left believes this is a worthwhile project, the Right think it is a will-o'-the wisp. As usual, both are right. The latest example is the £20 boost given to Universal Credit.

This was, you will recall from the old days, given to the poor because -- for reasons not made wholly clear at the time -- of the extra costs of lockdown during COVID. Now it's over the government wants to stop paying it. This being a right-wing government, the left-wing are shouting foul and demanding it be kept in place. What they would have said if a left-wing government was in power is unpredictable. As is whether a left-wing government would have removed it -- all governments have to face all ways all the time. Or as we would say, governments have to be AE-ists to some extent because of the exigencies of the real world.

The overall point though is that all right-wingers think the £20 should be removed without further reflection, all left-wingers think it should stay without reflection. AE-ists should fall into both groups, both collectively and as individuals. How you fall into both groups as an individual is best left to advanced practitioners only. It's certainly above my current grade.
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Mick Harper
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Two Simple Solutions For Africa

1. Abolish the secret ballot. Once everyone knows how everyone voted it will be impossible to rig elections. That doesn't ensure good government but it does ensure the avoidance of interminable civil strife because of the actuality, the perception or the excuse of rigged elections. True, potential danger attaches to people knowing the way you voted but since most everybody votes tribally anyway, what diff?

2. Introduce turnpike roads. Every sub-Saharan state has an economy based round giant trucks negotiating appalling roads. There appears, from decades of experience in every country, no way the state can maintain the existing roads yet still the trucks -- piled high with goods and people -- make a profit going at a grinding pace and oftentimes never arriving. If you build a decent road, they will certainly be able to afford to use it. If -- though I don't think this will apply -- the traffic cannot support the cost, I cannot think of a more effective use for foreign aid than topping up the shortfall.

But will the state and/or the international community allow either? No, because the secret ballot is part of the First World Mythos and nobody is allowed to profit from (actually unavoidable) African governmental mismanagement.
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