A wonderful trip down memory lane this week, care of my old mate Ewan Livingstone at e2v/EEV. EEV—English Electric Valve Company—started life in 1947 making magnetrons and other tubes—we called them ‘valves’ in those days—mostly for military applications. I joined the company in 1980, and managed to avoid getting fired, leaving with many regrets but of my own choosing, in 2008.
The products were world-beating in 1980, and still are. Star performers are CCDs for use in space imaging—I project-managed several. CCDs are light-sensitive computer chips. One of my favourite projects is on board The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite, still sending back spectacular colour images of the Martian surface.
If you are fortunate/unfortunate (which one you choose depends on your perspective) enough to need radiotherapy, there is a very high probability that the machine that provides it will contain a magnetron and thyratron manufactured by EEV in Waterhouse Lane, Chelmsford. (Actually, the company was purchased by Teledyne a few years ago, and a previous MD—operating on the basis that if it ain’t broke, fix it, because it wasn’t his idea—changed the name to e2v; the ‘proper’ name is now “Teledyne e2v”. But it’s still EEV really...)
Two things always struck me about the company, and nothing has really changed; firstly, many of the products are at the same time, state-of-the-art while looking like 1940s technology. The thyratron used in the radiotherapy machine (linear accelerator, or linac), is a large bottle with a hot bit inside; it looks exactly like the myriads of valves/tubes that used to inhabit the insides of radio and television sets, albeit much larger. Tubes in radios and televisions are a thing of the past, but the thyratron in a medical linear accelerator continues to do the job efficiently, effectively, and economically.
The second thing is/are the people. There was, and continues to be, a wonderful feeling of comradeship, togetherness, generosity, being part of a team, pulling together (generally in the same direction) at the company. I came across very few exceptions to that rule at EEV, and the exceptions were nearly always senior people, parachuted in from outside of the company following the departure of the traditional directors who had, as it were, come up through the ranks. When I joined the company, with two notable exceptions, all of the directors were engineers who had joined the company from university. The exceptions were the finance director, and the managing director. The MD had been appointed by Arnold Weinstock, the boss of the parent company, GEC, because the ‘numbers’ were, in his opinion, in need of improving. Actually the new MD, Martin Jay, was one of the good guys and very quickly went native.
My main regret on retirement, was that I would miss—and did miss—my work colleagues. Fortunately, many of them are generous enough to invite me to come and drink with them on a regular basis.
EEV is that rare animal, a world-leading British manufacturer in a UK economy where, I am truly horrified to learn, manufacturing industry currently contributes less than 9% of GDP. I feel genuinely privileged to have worked there.
Dear Vicky Ford,
As one of your constituents, I am writing to urge you in the strongest possible terms to participate in Monday’s debate on the latest report of the Privileges Committee regarding former Prime Minister Johnson's deliberate lying to the House of Commons. I urge you to vote to endorse the committee's findings.
Since a great deal has been said and written about Mr Johnson and his activities, it is worthwhile summarising some points as I understand them:
Item: The Privileges Committee of the House of Commons is always chaired by someone drawn from the Opposition, so the criticism of Harriet Harman is irrelevant.
Item: The chair only takes part in voting when ballots are tied.
Item: The majority of members of this committee are Tories.
Item: Any actions, sanctions etc. arising from findings made by the committee have to be sanctioned by a vote in the House of Commons. [Item added at 23:40, 15 June]
Item: The former Prime Minister’s Trumpian tantrum on seeing the Privileges Committee report, makes it clear that he is quite delusional, and not only has a casual disregard for the objective truth, but also a perceived immunity from the rules that govern the rest of us.
Item: When he was a journalist writing for The Times, Johnson was fired by the editor for fabricating, in a piece he wrote for the newspaper, a quotation from an Oxford don regarding Edward II.
Item: He was sacked from the Opposition Front Bench by Michael Howard for lying about an extra-marital affair.
Item: During the runup to the European referendum he famously wrote two, one-page pieces for the Daily Telegraph, one in favour of Remain, one for Leave, taking the weekend to consider which one to publish. If he believed so passionately in the case for leaving the EU—as was clear from his campaigning—why was it necessary to take two days to make up his mind? Many consider that his decision to support Leave was a cynical ploy, thought by him to be the quickest and safest route to his ambition of becoming Prime Minister.
Item: His decision to suspend Parliament in order to supress debate on the European exit agreement was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court—it has been said that he lied to The Queen
Item: His attempt to change the rules and save Owen Patterson was simply scandalous and rightly quashed by his peers.
Item: His lie that he was unaware of the allegations regarding Chris Pincher led ultimately to mass resignations from his government, and Johnson’s own resignation.
Former Prime Minister Johnson was ejected from office by his own government, and has now been sanctioned for lying to The House of Commons by a committee of his peers. I believe that by the use of his personal charm and ability, Johnson did more than anyone else to swing many undecided voters to opt for leaving the EU, the disastrous consequences of which are now starting to become clear. Furthermore, he did this not out of any sense of public duty or deep political belief, but solely for his own personal benefit. He was not chary of using questionable methods in achieving this end. He smirked and waffled on air when challenged by a journalist on the infamous £350M message on the side of the bus, which he and everyone else knew was a lie, the actual amount being £250M.
In my view this person is entirely unfit for public office, and all steps should be taken to ensure that he can never again be allowed to stand for Parliament.
There is quite definitely a fifth-columnist in the editorial team of the Sunday Telegraph puzzles section. Today’s hidden quotation is from Margaret Thatcher: “No one would remember the good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well”
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs