I am currently researching the writings of a 19th century cleric and JP, whose astronomical theories regarding Silbury Hill and the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury are so absurd, so completely beyond the realms even of science fiction, that in spite of his Oxford MA, I really do wonder whether he was educationally subnormal.
The Reverend Edward Duke was justifying his theory that the ancient Britons had built Silbury Hill – a large conical mound to the west of Marlborough – to represent planet earth, with the twin stone circles (now disappeared) at Avebury representing the sun and moon, and Stonehenge representing the planet Saturn …
Duke had read in a book, Recreations in Astronomy, that the earth is an oblate spheroid – a flattened sphere – and was concerned that people would argue against his designation for Silbury Hill, because a cone was quite unlike an oblate spheroid. He apparently ignored the devastatingly obvious fact that you cannot build an oblate spheroid of the size of Silbury Hill out of chalk and turf …
He said, in justification of his theory, ‘those early astronomers … may not have been quite cognizant of the shape of the earth …’ Quite so.
I was reminded of Mr Duke and his theory when reading the Daily Telegraph today – I do only buy it for the puzzles, but I could not avoid an editorial commendation on the front page:
Mr Johnson believes in B*****, but also in the greatness of this nation and what it is capable of. We urge readers with a vote to support him
I am a patriot, and I too believe in this nation. One of its great attributes is that it supports and nourishes people like Edward Duke and Boris Johnson. I am not at all sure though, that it could survive either of them becoming prime minister …
Yesterday, while walking through the cornfields to the west of Chelmsford – en route to a comfortable pub in Chignal St James – I heard the unmistakable sound of a Merlin engine overhead. Looking up, I saw a single Hurricane flying towards the north east.
The sight was a poignant one, because only the fields, a few trees and the aeroplane itself were visible and I could have been transported back eighty years to when thousands of Hurricanes and Spitfires were intercepting enemy aircraft over Britain every day. The men flying those fighter planes, The Few, undoubtedly saved these islands from invasion.
What would those pilots have thought if they had known what was going to happen to the great democracy, with its ‘mother of parliaments’, for which they were sacrificing their lives every day? A country riven and polarized, that same parliament paralyzed and incapable of decision, and a prime minister in waiting so gaffe-prone, that his minders refuse to allow journalists and the public access to him, in case he makes a stupid ill-judged remark that could cost him the premiership.
My daughter has just given me one of the best books I have ever read. It was an early Father’s Day present, and I have finished it in two days – an unprecedented record for me.
The book: This Is Going To Hurt is by Adam Kay, and subtitled: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor.
As the title suggests, it details the diary of a junior hospital doctor over a six year period.
IT SHOULD BE COMPULSORY READING FOR EVERY MEMBER OF THE GOVERNMENT, and everyone else who uses the National Health Service.
Let the accolades speak for themselves.
The Times: ‘Hilarious and heartbreaking’
The Daily Telegraph (!): ‘… for all the laughs … a devastating account of our National Health Service.’
The Guardian: ‘So funny and important it should be given out on prescription’
The Scotsman: ‘Shocking, sad, funny and alarming … a truly laudable book …’
And many, many more.
There are some events detailed in this book you might wish you had never read – Kay worked in a series of obstetrics and gynaecology departments – but it relates with hilarity and brutal realism what our junior doctors – and every other employee in the NHS – go through every day.
The book was published when Hunt was Minister of Health and presided over the absolutely shameful defeat of the junior doctors. They simply wanted better conditions and rates of pay commensurate with the responsibility they carried and the number of hours they worked. And Kay finishes his list of acknowledgements:
‘With no thanks whatsoever to Jeremy Hunt.’
Hang on, isn’t he hoping to be the next Prime Minister?
In May 2004, my father wrote to The Times. They did not publish his letter, but it seems particularly apposite today; he quoted the original English, but I think it has more impact using modern spelling:
'It seems appropriate at this time of European Union to quote John Donne (1573 – 1631):
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
Is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; nay man’s death diminished me,
because I am involved in mankind.
and therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”'
The imminent arrival of Airforce One in Essex – Trump will probably land at Stansted – reminds me of the one time I saw that aircraft in the air, and its principal passenger on the ground a short time later.
It was the mid 1980s, and I was doing a sales trip in the USA. We were staying on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, and were driving back there from visiting Fermilab, a large accelerator complex similar to CERN, situated in a buffalo park some miles from the city. We passed by the flightpath to O’Hare, and I saw the unmistakable colour scheme of the president’s personal airliner as it was coming in to land.
As we approached Lakeshore Drive, situated unsurprisingly on the shore of Lake Michigan, the traffic was stopped by a policeman, who told us that the president was in town and was about to drive past. Apparently Nancy Reagan’s father had died, and she was in Chicago, along with Ronald, to attend to some business associated with his passing.
We were going nowhere until the Reagans had gone past, so we climbed out of the car and stood with several other drivers, looking towards the road where they would be. It was very bright and sunny, and I had my hand up to shade my eyes. Suddenly, there they were, about 50 yards away, and Ronald, mistaking my raised hand for a wave, waved back at me …
I will admit to not having been a great fan of Ronald Reagan at the time; his idolatry for Thatcher was particularly sickening. But with hindsight, it was he who presided over the end of the Cold War, evidently in no small part due to his ability to form a relationship with Gorbachev, the Soviet leader. A very considerable achievement.
He was also notable for the very moving way in which he paid tribute to the victims of the Challenger disaster.
So yes, I have been waved to by a president, but I will not be at Stansted tomorrow nor indeed anywhere where Trump is likely to be while he is here.
By their friends shall you know them ...
I will terminate the ‘Johnson Papers’ with reference to articles in The Times, Telegraph and Guardian. The latter, of 12 April 2019, reported that the Daily Telegraph had been forced to ‘Correct false B***** claim by Boris Johnson’.
In an article in January of this year, he had said that the majority of the British Public were in favour of a no-deal exit from the EU. The Telegraph said: “In fact, no poll clearly showed that a no-deal B***** was more popular than other options. This correction is being published following a complaint upheld by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.” However, it added, “Johnson was entitled to make sweeping generalisations based on his opinions”.
It also said: “[the piece was] clearly comically polemical, and could not be reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”.
Well, I’m certainly glad they cleared that up.
I do wonder though, whether the editor of the Daily Telegraph is starting to question whether the reported £275,000 per year that he pays Johnson for his weekly article is well spent, if his articles are not ‘serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters’.
Readers of that newspaper, Caveat Emptor! As Johnson might well have said himself …
Everyone should read Matthew Parris’ article on page 23 of The Times of last Saturday, May 25; “Johnson is enough of a rascal to rat on B*****”
He calls Johnson an ‘Incompetent scoundrel’; Johnson has a ‘casual disregard for the truth’ and ‘reckless caprice’, also ‘lazy disregard for detail’, to which is added ‘poor negotiating skills’, ‘moral turpitude’ and ‘his failure as foreign secretary to achieve anything but an extension of his notoriety beyond our own shores.’
Not a fan then.
Actually, having seen the results of the European Elections, does it really matter who leads the Tories? It seems unlikely that they will remain in power for much longer, and I can’t see Johnson having the patience for being in opposition …
The most egregious lie told during the run up to the European referendum, was the message plastered across the battle bus of the Vote Leave Campaign: ‘We send £350M per week to the EU; let’s fund our NHS instead’. It was pointed out endlessly to the leavers during the weeks before the referendum, that since Thatcher’s success in getting an EU rebate, the amount sent to Europe each week, our ‘club membership fee’, was actually £250M. Knowing the parlous state of NHS finances, how many older voters, I wonder, were swung by the £350M argument?
Furthermore, there would be a ‘divorce bill’ that would have to be paid; this was, ‘accidentally’, never mentioned by Vote Leave. The latest estimate for this bill is £39 billion, three years’ worth of our contributions.
Boris Johnson and his friends never dared to mention this to the country, although they must have known that the UK would have substantial financial liabilities, and that they would have to be honoured if the country wanted to retain its credit rating in world finance. I seem to recall Boris himself, when asked point-blank to justify the £350M which was really £250M, waffling in a good-natured way, saying something like ‘the principle was sound if the detail was wanting.’ I paraphrase; I can’t be sure it was him.
The leave group were entirely justified in campaigning to leave the EU for the deeply held reasons they had – although I wonder how deeply held Boris’s were, since he famously took a weekend to make up his mind which way to go, and, it is alleged, wrote two articles for publication in the Daily Telegraph – one in favour of staying, one for leaving. What ‘Leave’ were not entitled to do, was lie to the British Public. That was unforgiveable. Boris was the highest profile Leaver, very eloquent, entertaining and credible when speaking on the subject, and, I suspect, might even have made the difference in persuading many waverers to vote leave.
This is the man who aspires to be our Prime Minister. An opportunist who appears never to shrink from mendacity when it suits his purpose, and, one suspects, his purpose is the greater glory of none other than Boris Johnson.
On 14 November, 2004, Andrew Porter and Nicholas Hellen wrote an article in the Sunday Times. The subject was Boris Johnson, who had been sacked by Michael Howard from his position on the opposition front bench for lying about an extra-marital affair. When questioned about accounts of his activities in the tabloid press, Johnson described them as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’.
Johnson is not the first, and will not be the last politician to come unstuck as a result of sexual peccadillos. Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister for six years in the middle of the prudish 19th century, was known as ‘Lord Cupid’ because of his amorous adventures; Sir John Major, who followed Margaret Thatcher into No 10, famously enjoyed romps with Edwina Currie (immortalized in a wonderful cartoon by Gerald Scarfe). I would add that adultery is a sufficiently common and damaging temptation, that even Moses, more than 3,000 years ago, found it necessary to devote one of his commandments to an edict forbidding it.
The issue was that Johnson lied about it to his boss. Michael Howard, was potentially the Prime Minister of this country, and Johnson would have been a minister in his government.
It is said that John Profumo’s greatest sin, which made his resignation and disgrace inevitable, was not so much having sex with Christine Keeler who was also sleeping with a Russian diplomat, but lying about it to Parliament. Our entire justice system would collapse if it could not be assured that the majority of people would tell the truth in court, when called to do so.
Boris may be an amusing person, a clever scholar and lively and interesting writer, but how, given his track record, can he possibly be trusted to run the country?
On Friday May 20, 1988, The Times printed a story by a young journalist, Boris Johnson. It concerned an archaeological dig that had discovered Edward II’s ‘Rosary Palace’ on the south bank of the River Thames, opposite the Tower of London.
Now the one thing most people think they know about Edward II, if they know anything at all, is that he was supposed to have been murdered in an extremely unpleasant way, thought by his murderers appropriate because of his alleged homosexuality. Boris was only 23 years old when he wrote the piece about Edward’s palace, but he had an eye for spicing up an otherwise dull story.
It is alleged that he fabricated a quotation from Dr Colin Lewis, of Balliol College, Oxford, to the effect that the palace was where the king: ‘… enjoyed a reign of dissolution with his catamite, Piers Gaveston, before he was gruesomely murdered at Berkeley Castle by barons who thought he was too prone to foreign influence’ [A catamite is ‘A boy or young man who is made use of as a (typically passive) sexual partner by an older man; Oxford English Dictionary].
Balliol was Johnson’s alma mater, and Lewis was his godfather to boot, so he probably thought he was on safe ground. Apparently Lewis was not amused, and when the editor of The Times found out, Johnson was fired.
Did Johnson do very wrong or was it just a youthful indiscretion? After all, Edward II was accused of inappropriate behaviour with Piers Gaveston, and he may have been murdered. It was a good story, so what better stamp of authority than a quotation from an Oxford Don? The problem is, that just like the myths surrounding Richard III, historians now believe the truth about Edward II to far from clear. The Thunderer was (and probably still would like to be thought) a purveyor of the truth.
Ultimately, it is a question of trust and judgement. Boris could easily have used the story about the king and Gaveston without attributing it to Dr Lewis; he could have found the details in half a dozen history books. But he couldn’t resist the Oxbridge connection, nor the opportunity of articulating an obscure and salacious word (how many people, I wonder, had to look up catamite in the dictionary – as I did).
But is it possible to trust such a person with the great affairs of state? It is one thing to be careless about the facts concerning a 14th century monarch, quite another to have confidence in that same person to steer this country through the biggest crisis facing it since the Second World War.
Boris was inventing fake news back in 1988, and when you’ve done it once …
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs