British Values, seen from far off
We think we are beginning to get on top of this editorial business now, so dear Editor if you are reading this wherever you are there’s no need to hurry back. We would be glad, though, if Monty could spare the time to send something in, if his mysterious mission gives him enough spare time, and anyone who comes across Manos should tell him from us that it’s about time he contributed again whether or not the Germans have decided to invest in the white chlorophyll business (see previous postings!). We are grateful again to Berthold who sent us the piece on political nebulas.
Karela and Maud
Scientific news. In a dramatic announcement yesterday Printapoly, a little-known Cambridge group in the UK, announced that a programme on which they have been secretly working for more than three years has achieved an extraordinary breakthrough. With a combined expertise ranging across the fields of electromagnetism, human biology, and nanoscale material science, and using top-level computer resources as well as data obtained from the national police database, they say they have produced a 3-D printer that is able to print governments. At present their governments will be limited to 30 members, but will all include a prime minister and ministers, guaranteed to have an i.q. of at least 100, for finance, justice and foreign affairs, individually varied for sex according to client choice. Later they hope to offer a wider range including, for instance a Minister for underwater Arctic resources. They will accept orders from the middle of this month, with the initial price for the full set of 30 at $3.5 billion (clothing not included).
Whose interests? (or The self-belief of the bureaucracy) When a ruling group comes to believe that its first duties are to its own ideas and interests and decisions, rather than to those over whom it rules (and this time I’m not talking about the EU establishment in Brussels and across Europe) then you are on the high road to authoritarianism and ultimately tyranny. (But if the group is not too high up the political food-chain in the nation where you live you may still have time to do something about it.) A first-class example: the current challenger for leadership of the Labour Party in the UK – and just in case there might be any doubt I’ll repeat the name of the organisation, the Labour Party – has put at the head of her statement of challenge that ‘the first and foremost’ duty of the leader of the Labour Party is to lead the Parliamentary Labour Party. If you think that the ideas and interests and lifestyle of the average Labour member of Parliament in London are aligned closely with the ideas and interests and lifestyle of the average Labour voter out in the real country then you may also believe that Marie-Antoinette had sympathy for and deep understanding of the condition of the average sans-culotte in eighteenth century Paris.
Challenger of the week : Angela Leadsom. One expert believes: ‘With another few years and the right opportunities, she could give even Tony Blair a run for his money I fear.’
Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems writes on Political nebulas:
If anyone wants to understand politics they might find it worth calling in the scientists who understand fluid dynamics. They might be able to decipher and even predict the movements of these nebulas, strange currents of opinion which hang for years around the head, and body, of a politician, virtually indetectible. Curiously, these nebulas do not seem to have any effect in situations of personal contact and they do not seem to emanate from any particular actual statements or actions emitted the person. Yet they powerfully influence the way she or he is perceived by commentators.
Marine Le Pen is enveloped in such a nebula. I certainly wouldn’t vote for her myself, and I most earnestly wish that she would remind herself twice a day that refugees are actually real human beings. Yet she has levered her party’s centre of gravity back up from a dark and fearsome landscape where strange and threatening beings roam, to occupy a rather displeasingly designed contemporary abode (with admittedly some unruly guards who annoy the neighbours in various ways) on the right-hand side of the political field but still well within sight of other habitations. Nevertheless, other politicians still describe her as an extremist, ostracise her and will not agree to common action even when it would be a mutual interest, while much of the media largely excludes her. Le Pen clearly has a bad aura, very possibly acquired by contagion from her father. Ostracism is almost never a good idea. Contrast the relatively good order, and relatively humane way in which Britain disentangled itself from the ‘insurgency’ in Malaya in 1948, where the British did agree to talk to the communist insurgents, with the experience of the Americans a little further to the east in what was then Southern Vietnam; (indeed some would contrast with American experience in most places where they have decided to fight against what they classified as an insurgency).
Or take a politician who has spent twenty or more years aiming for one reform which she profoundly believes to be necessary for her country, and which she has turned down other lucrative options to pursue; if she eventually achieves her goal, and then gracefully bows out from the scene, she ought to have a good chance of being acclaimed (once safely off the stage) as not merely a reformer but a ‘conviction politician’ who is ‘held in high esteem for her courage and determination even by those who do not share her views’. (Like Antony Wedgwood Benn for instance.) Now change her sex and call her Nigel Farage and is that the outcome which we see? Not at all. Unworthy motives are imputed to his resignation, and comments on his earlier career are selective to his disadvantage. His remarks in the EU Parliament are ‘ugly’ and ‘aggressive’ yet some might call them fair – even measured; when he had first appeared there the majority, confident in their shared opinions and self-congratulations despite the trivial matter of differing party allegiance (just like London today), openly derided him. Unlike Wedgwood Benn who, once his first-stage career booster with its ‘white hot high-tech’ had dropped away, acquired an ever more potent aura, a ‘good’ nebula, Farage has a bad nebula (a ‘malaura’?) as does Le Pen. His case supports the contagion theory, since in the earlier part of his career he was a trader in the city. Wedgwood Benn on the other hand acquired his aura through discarding his allegedly aristocratic title.
The lesson from all this, including the observations on ostracism, is ‘when you speak about or have dealings with an opponent make your words and dealings fit how they are now , not how they were ten years ago, let alone in sepia-tinted photographs fifty years old’.
Infamous and shameful : In April ponderous members of the British House of Lords, no less, very nearly pulled a brick out of the bureaucratic wall erected and maintained by the British government to ensure that as many refugees in need of shelter as possible would be excluded from the country. Their Lordships thought they had a fighting chance of winning, citing the case of an estimated 300 children, unaccompanied and most certainly vulnerable, who had family ties in Britain but who were nevertheless refused admission and were stranded in a squalid camp in Calais. To their credit many in Britain protested and the government announced it was backtracking, and following an announcement by Cameron in Parliament that more would be done for vulnerable children, ministers announced that work would start immediately. Actually, after the close scrutiny of the reports which most did not give to what the government actually said, it turned out that the idea was to ‘consult with relevant parties with a view to seeing what could be done’. Only the most cynical believed that this covered a plan to let things carry on in the same way (perhaps until all the children were kidnapped, murdered, or could be proved either not to have the right DNA or not to be children? [About here, a voice could be heard in the distance shouting ‘Hey, great idea! I have a friend, has a company that can set up DNA tests so they’ll all fail – or we c’d make that 95% just to give it a bit of credibility. Prove they’re actually French – no the Frogs wouldn’t put up with that. O.k. Zambian, or Bolivian or something.]) To resume, the most cynical were proved right. Since then, to quote the Guardian (10-7-2016) ‘Not a single unaccompanied child refugee has been brought into the UK from continental Europe, or even identified, by the British government since David Cameron promised two months ago that vulnerable minors would be offered sanctuary.’ Is that what Cameron meant when he talked in the Brexit campaign about British values?
Quotation of the posting
‘Occasionally men stumble over the truth, but they pick themselves up and carry on as if nothing had happened.’ Winston Churchill, Tory prime minister of the UK (from now on to be read as Untied Kingdom)