Anyone considering voting for their Conservative Party Candidate in the forthcoming election should watch Michael Gove being interviewed by Ciaran Jenkins on Channel 4 News this evening. An extended version of the interview can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO2zT9-B2X4
At particular issue is the Conservative Party’s campaign headquarters’ press office Twitter account. During the head to head between Johnson and Corbyn on TV yesterday evening, the Tory Party changed the name of its usual CCHQPress account to factcheckUK, clearly attempting to masquerade as an independent body. It proceeded to publish ‘factchecks’ on some of Corbyn’s statements. Immediately after the TV debate, the account reverted to its previous name.
In a statement, Twitter said the Conservatives had misled the public and it would take “decisive corrective action” if a similar stunt was attempted again.
Ciaran Jenkins challenged Gove that the Tories had quite blatantly attempted to mislead the public. Gove flatly denied the fact in the most shameless and blatant manner. Moreover, his amused demeanour made it clear that he considered the episode entirely fair and reasonable and that no deception had been practised.
This is a man who has been a minister of the crown, and aspires to be so again in the next government.
In Socrates’ speech from the dock in 399 BC, after he had been condemned to die by the Athenians, he observed: “… in politics, no honest man can live long.” Does this explain our Greek-scholar prime minister’s almost pathological aversion to honesty?
I make no apology for reproducing my rather smug letter to The Daily Telegraph of 25 March 2011, (although I’m horrified to note that it was more than eight years ago). And least anyone is under any illusion, I stopped buying said organ some time since as a protest against its appalling political bias. I’ll admit to photographing the Friday puzzles from copies I can find whenever possible, since they are rather good on that day.
I raise this again now, because more and more I hear the word sanguine being used incorrectly in the media – exactly as I point out in the letter – with the clear meaning entirely opposite to that meant.
Am I just being an anorak? Is this Jacob Rees-Moggery taken to ridiculous extremes? (He recently pulled up an interviewer who had accused the government’s strategy as being a ‘shambles’, by questioning why government activity was being compared with a butcher’s slaughterhouse – which is the original meaning of ‘shambles’.)
Well, I think it is worthwhile to try and maintain some standards in the use of our principal method of communication, and if you don’t agree, I challenge you to listen to any conversation among young people (and some older, who ought to know better), and try to identify a single sentence without the words ‘like’ or ‘kind of’ …
The word sanguine comes from one of the four humours – deriving from bodily fluids – identified by the Greeks 2,500 years ago. This word, and its three associated words, remains a useful way to describe human temperaments. Thus: Sanguine – cheerfully optimistic, Choleric – bad tempered or irritable, Melancholic – deeply sad, and Phlegmatic – unemotional and solidly calm. Use the term incorrectly, and the idea being expressed is meaningless.
It’s a poor example of the importance of the meaning of words, but I used regularly to visit a German company making high-power lasers. Their handbook – printed in English – stated that for testing the output of a laser, it was most important to use a target that was inflammable(!) They had made the thoroughly logical – but totally incorrect – assumption that ‘in’ flammable meant ‘not’ flammable. I wonder how many insurance claims were refused for the fires resulting from users taking that instruction literally.
(I have decided not to mention by name the bodily fluids involved, since people might be reading this at meal times … If you’re interested, you can find them in Wikipedia)
A welcome repeat on the radio yesterday of a comedy programme written and performed by the lovely Linda Smith. A woman goes into a shop and questions the manager: “Is this CD genuine whale song?” “No madam”, he replies, “It’s a cover by a tribute band of dolphins, signature tune, ‘Hey, Hey, We’re the Minkies …’”
Asked once in an interview where she grew up, Linda replied that it was a dreary place on the Thames Estuary in Kent called Erith. "Erith wasn't twinned with anywhere," she said, "but it did have a suicide pact with Dagenham …”
(Amended 5th November after David M - see comment below - points out that I forgot the critical element of the joke ...)
To Borough on Saturday, to the curiously named Menier Chocolate Factory, a theatre and restaurant in a old chocolate factory near the market. The restaurant was excellent, set in an area with great wooden beams, cast iron pillars and rough floorboards. The theatre was small and cramped, and a little challenging for the ‘older’ theatre-goer, with its twists and turns, uneven floor, unexpected steps and bench seats with barely enough room for the ‘modern’ undercarriage.
The play though, was a delight. The Watsons is/was an unfinished book by Jane Austen, interrupted not by her death – she just apparently abandoned it. Laura Wade has taken it and turned it into what I would describe as ‘Jane Austen meets Tom Stoppard’. The first half-an-hour or so is pure Austen, loaded with stock characters and situations immediately recognizable from her books. But then it all suddenly comes alive as the characters take over the plot … To say much more would be to spoil the pleasure of seeing it; there are reviews on line for anyone really interested. It was thoroughly entertaining and real theatre, and deserves a transfer to the West End to a more comfortable venue.
The splendid brick-arch railway viaduct crossing the River Can in Chelmsford’s Central Park was built around 1840; certainly by 1843 it was carrying trains. It has been repointed in many places, some of the facing bricks have been renewed, and the area is subject to flooding every few years. Nevertheless, a structure built nearly 200 years ago – to carry far fewer and much lighter trains than those using it today – continues to function faultlessly.
If only the same could be said for the modern railway using overhead 25,000 volt overhead lines. Yet again, today, these lines failed, disrupting the travel of tens of thousands of commuters using the line between Norwich and London.
It is easy to carp, but I do wonder whether the design margins on these structures are really adequate given the level of use they get, coupled with the cost of disruption when they fail. Furthermore, railway fares in this country are notoriously some of the highest in Europe. Are we not severely short-changing our hard-pressed commuters by demanding premium ticket prices for a barely adequate service?
One more thought occurs: how can we encourage people to leave their cars at home and use the railways when they are so expensive and the wretched trains keep breaking down?
Yesterday’s ‘performance’ in parliament was a shameful episode which should have the prime minister and his attorney general hanging their heads in shame. They won’t be doing so, of course, because it seems they have no shame. They have decided to engage the nuclear option – “Boris and the people against parliament and the establishment”; a very dangerous proceeding which could backfire badly, but the only strategy they appear to have left.
The prime minister says the supreme court was wrong. At least one other tory MP says the supreme court made new law. No. The courts, even the supreme court, do not make the law. Only parliament can do that. The courts interpret the law, but they can set precedents in interpretation under different circumstances. So, one may disagree with the interpretation of that law, but that does not mean the judgement is wrong. In this case, eleven senior justices were unanimous; hardly a marginal decision. And as an aside, surely a child of ten could see that proroguing parliament now, at a time of national crisis, and claiming that it has nothing to do with the EU departure, is just – let’s call it what it is – a damned lie.
Furthermore, it seems that the prime minister has implied that he might not obey the statute that says this country must not leave the EU without a deal. He is treading very dangerous ground there. If citizens decide to ‘pick-and-mix’ what laws they will obey and which they will ignore, anarchy reigns. And this is a tory prime minister, the traditional party of law and order.
I have called before in these posts for compromise and sober reflection on this most divisive of issues. The result of yesterday’s disgraceful scenes in parliament will only have the effect of entrenching extreme views in the country. If the prime minister has any shred of decency left he will reflect on the danger of this situation, and, for once, consider the well-being of the entire country – not just those who voted to leave – and seek a cross-party consensus on a compromise.
One of the more depressing aspects of the climate-change issue, is that there remain a number of high-profile people who refuse to believe that it exists and is either substantially or significantly a result of human activity. Some even get angry when accused of being climate-change deniers, claiming that they are just being ‘open-minded’.
Deniers are usually free-market enthusiasts, almost always well to the right of centre. (Nigel Lawson is one; he has written a rather grubby little book on the subject.) These people insist that the computer models are flawed, there is very little real evidence, there is no consensus among experts, and the undeniable global warming that is taking place could be the result of purely natural processes. They claim also that the costs of stopping or reversing warming are so astronomical, that surely we need more firm evidence before committing the countries of the world to an expense that may, in the end, make no difference. And in any case, if the world is warming, will it really be that bad?
The real question to ponder is this: if there is credible evidence of climate change and the catastrophic effect it will have on the planet and the six or so billion people living on it, can we really afford not to spend money now to prevent it?
Well, allow me to add my twopenn’orth of evidence on the subject. In the early 1970s I lived for a while in the picturesque village of Wivenhoe on the River Colne not far from Colchester. Just over the road from our house was a woodyard receiving deliveries from Polish freighters coming up the river at high tide. Every now and then one of them would get ‘neaped’ – when it went aground near a spring high tide and had to wait two weeks for the next high water to float it off. This grounding was assisted, it was rumoured darkly, by 80% proof Polish vodka, some of which even found its way into the hands of the local villagers…
We had some very good times there and it was a fun place to live, so I was alarmed some years ago to see that a barrier had been built across the river to protect Colchester from tidal surges and the rising sea level. Sea levels are rising at the rate of around 3 mm in a year as the sea warms up – that’s more than five inches since I lived there. And for Essex it is worse, because the land is also sinking … The Environmental Agency spent £14.5M on the barrier, and I now know why. I have been unable to find out what the actual sea-level increase has been at Wivenhoe, but this week I had first hand evidence of its consequences.
Taking advantage of some late September good weather, I took the boat up the Colne from Brightlingsea and moored up on the Wivenhoe Sailing Club pontoons for lunch. The locals told me the Black Buoy was best for food and so it proved to be.
As I walked to the pub I noticed a large puddle in the road which puzzled me, since there had not been any rain for several days. Soon, however, the reason for the puddle was clear. The first picture shows the view from the window of the Black Buoy – the puddle is evident. The second picture shows what caused it …
As the tide came in it lapped the houses at the bottom of the street effectively cutting it off from that direction – although an intrepid white-van-man did drive through it at one point. The flood-barrier was not closed on this occasion, but it has been closed already several times this year.
This is the reality of global warming and the terrifying prospect of climate change. Admittedly, being close to the Autumnal equinox, the tides are particularly high at the moment, but I never remember the water lapping the houses during my time at Wivenhoe, and we lived very close to the quay.
So there is no need to visit the Pacific Islands, the Antarctic ice-shelf, the Greenland glaciers or indeed the now navigable northwest passage to see the evidence of climate change first hand. Come to rural Essex during the spring tides, but do bring a pair of wellingtons …
This was a sight to make any booklover’s blood run cold – a fire engine outside the British Library, with sprinklers in the upper storeys triggered.
The library is an oasis of civilization in a world gone mad. Obviously it is a place to go to use the books and other resources, but it is also so stimulating and calming just being there.
So when, yesterday, I was in one of the reading rooms and the fire-alarm went off, my heart sank. The staff very efficiently ushered us out on to the square in front of the library where the picture was taken.
I had visions of the great Library of Alexandria going up in flames … I said to the person next to me that I hoped it was a false alarm, particularly since my jacket and bag, complete with a ticket for that evening’s Prom Concert, was in a locker inside the building. With horror, I saw that some sprinklers high above us were showering water on to one of the roofs; it was also starting to rain …
But the gods smiled; there had been a malfunction of some sort, the fire-engine departed, and a few minutes later we were allowed back into the building.
Was it, I thought, a metaphor for what is happening to this country? I would like to think that the current situation with the government and parliament is a malfunction, which the big boys will come along and fix, assure us that everything is ok, and allow us back into the real world.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs