I will never be able to forgive the architects of this country’s disastrous participation in the Iraq invasion, based as it was on ‘false’ evidence. One of the most galling episodes that I remember, was the sight of Blair’s attack-dog, Alastair Campbell, turning up at Channel 4 and demanding to be interviewed live on Channel 4 News. This to dispel the ‘misinformation’ that some sort of conspiracy was going on to ‘sex up’ the evidence for WMDs etc. Campbell, along with Blair and Straw, joined my personal Black Museum, and has remained there ever since.
That is until yesterday. Yesterday I heard him on the BBC’s Any Questions, which in spite of the tediousness of Jonathan Dimblebore, who seems incapable of not talking over his guests, is frequently an opportunity to hear some of the movers and shakers discussing important current events. Campbell towered over the other panellists - particularly the ridiculous Chris Grayling who couldn’t shake a jelly if he fell into it - talking not only eminent sense, but with a passion and assertiveness that is sadly lacking in the Labour Party.
It can be the case, that hearing someone intensely disliked espousing a cause in which one strongly believes, can dispel that belief, not wishing to be associated, even by shared cause, with the person concerned. Well, not so with Campbell. He came over very well indeed, and I should also add that Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, was also very impressive.
Why is it that people like these are not leading the Labour Party in the fight-back against the Tories, who as our Prime Minister herself said not too long ago, really are the nasty party? I think Campbell should consider very seriously becoming an MP. He could be leading the party in a few years’ time and God knows it needs some leadership.
In the 1980s I became fascinated by Victorian engineering in general, and the works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in particular. And when, in a book, I came across a reproduction of a 19th century print claiming that Brunel deliberately aligned the Box Tunnel such that the rising sun shone through it on his birthday, I had to find out if it was true. Years later, and having spent hundreds of hours learning how to do the analysis, I was sad to conclude that the story was not true.
Eventually, with the help of Excel, I was able to compute and display the positions of the tunnel and sun for any given date and time. It turns out that the sun does penetrate the tunnel - which is two miles long, dead straight and inclined upwards at a slope of 1:100 towards the east - a few days earlier than Brunel’s birthday, and I started to wonder whether that date was a significant one for Brunel.
The results of this research are described in an article appearing in the December Genealogists’ Magazine; the article may be found by clicking on the button below.
If my whimsical conclusions are correct, then consideration of that fact gives me at least some comfort in an uncertain world, where reality is completely out to lunch...
Early this year I posed myself an awful conundrum: if I could choose one outcome of the two, Trump in the White House or Britain leaving the EU, which one would it be? Either alternative seemed too ghastly to contemplate; the choice would be between pure self-interest, or the greater good of the planet.
But, Richard Dawkins take note, what has happened is the ultimate proof that God exists, and furthermore, he has a wicked sense of humour. For what other possible interpretation can be placed on events, than that God has had enough of mankind’s selfishness and inhumanity to his fellow creature, and has sent Trump and Farage down to earth like two latter-day reincarnations of Mephistopheles in order to sow confusion and dissension and cause as much disruption to human affairs as possible. I can make no other sense of it.
Today I joined the ‘Friends of the British Library’. I reasoned that the very least I could do was to make a minor contribution to a peerless resource that I have used dozens of times over the years. One of the giveaways on joining was a postcard with an illustration by Mervyn Peake from Alice in Wonderland. It shows a grotesque Mad Hatter, being gazed at in adoration by the March Hare, the latter wearing an expression of sublime, cretinous satisfaction. They both appear to be leaning on the Dormouse who is thankfully asleep. It seems such an apt metaphor for Trump, Farage and the United Kingdom…
I’m asked why I have not commented on the US presidential election result. The answer is shock, followed by disbelief, followed by a struggle to articulate my thoughts let alone write anything. Like the result of the EU referendum, the presidential vote is, I suspect, the consequence of a massive revolt among ‘ordinary’ people, fed up with the so-called political class taking no notice of them. I suspect also, that many voters in both elections cast their ballots as a protest, never expecting to be on the winning side... Then there was the truly astonishing revelation by the FBI, just two weeks before the election, that Hillary Clinton was once more under investigation. Truly, historians will look back at these times in wonder.
There is little point repeating what has already been said at length by the liberal press. Clearly the result is unprecedented, and the president-elect is a joke (albeit in extremely poor taste). But there is, on reflection, the faintest glimmer of optimism which can be derived from a consideration of recent US history.
I recall a similar feeling of astonishment and unease when Ronald Reagan was elected to the White House. He was a ‘B’ movie actor, very right wing, who came to power at a time when the Cold War was in full swing. Yet ironically, he presided over the end of that war. It is said that he and Gorbachev got on well together, and for some years following, the world breathed easier. Then the Soviet Union disintegrated, and I think the new Russian aggression in the world is the eventual consequence of that.
But, in the same way that Reagan was a ‘child’ of the cinema, and of his time, Trump cut his teeth in reality TV, and surely TV and the Internet have replaced the cinema of 35 years ago as the primary source of entertainment for many people. It is just possible then, that Trump may be a successful leader of ‘the masses’ for the reality TV, Facebook and Twitter generation. The lowest common denominator rules supreme. One hopes though that his abrasive businessman style, particularly in matters of diplomacy, will be moderated by the Washington bureaucracy; he should not be able to get away with too much use of that time-honoured management tool JFDI (just f***ing do it...)
Of course common sense and decent debate have been flushed down the lavatory, but the root cause of the mass disaffection of voters in the USA and Britain is the fault of the political classes in both countries. They only have themselves to blame; if they have been handed a megacan of worms to sort out, they damn well deserve it. To paraphrase Mercutio, a plague on all of their houses.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs