This was first posted on Facebook on 7th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network. Every time I tried to begin a post here about politics, since Thursday, I kept thinking “But David Graeber is dead.”
David Graeber died in Venice on Wednesday 2nd September. I didn’t know him personally and my sense of loss is only what I feel when a writer I admire and respect and want to keep writing is gone: there will never be any more clear sharp insightful essays and articles from him, never again. He was 59 and I am old enough to feel strongly that this is far too young to die.
I watched PMQs on Wednesday, and Boris Johnson, fresh from his holidays, reacted to Keir Starmer’s questions with an outpouring of poisonous bile. He didn’t look well, not that his illness excuses his behaviour: as John Crace noted, PMQ is essentially a kind of Westminster performance, something perhaps only political afficionados care to watch: but it is a dance with rules, a question followed by an answer, a follow-up question, a follow-up answer. Boris Johnson was interrupted mid-flow by the Speaker, who very gently and politely told him to answer the question. I don’t think I’m inventing this: Lindsay Hoyle looked worried.
I like new coins.
Some time in June 1982, I got change from a shop that included shiny new 20p coins.
The design was like nothing I’d ever seen before in British money – heptagonal like a 50p piece but much smaller and lighter (the new light 5p and 10p coins were not to appear for another 10 years, and the lighter 50p coins not for five years after that).
I recognised it instantly as a British coin, but a new coin for a different value. I liked it. (I had a similar feeling when the £2 coins first appeared in 1998.) And in 1982, I had had no idea that 20p coins were about to be a thing.
Today, 28th March, new £1 coins appear: dodecagons. We haven’t had dodecagon currency since the thruppeny bit was discontinued in 1971.
Recently, there was a kerfuffle in the Better Together / Yes Scotland camps about would prices rise at Tesco in the event of Scottish independence. Better Together had published a leaflet saying they would: Tesco’s bounced in to say prices would stay the same: Yes Scotland publicised this triumphantly.
How do prices stay cheap in the big supermarkets while maximising their profits?
Supermarkets get what they want from their suppliers. What they want is products cheaper every time. Each 2-for-1 offer, every product not sold by its use-by date or marked down to pence for quick sale, is paid for by the supplier, not the supermarket.
Supermarkets demand cheaper and cheaper meat. Suppliers must provide it. When a scandal hits the media and some meat products are withdrawn, it’s the supplier who pays, not the supermarket – and the supermarkets will cast blame on the supplier, not on their own practices.
Peter/PME2013 points out (quite rightly) that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with eating a horse, if you’re prepared to eat a cow or a pig or a sheep: it is a purely British food prejudice that declares horse to be not-a-food-animal-for-humans. As a vegetarian, I have no dog in this fight.
But the question of food safety is another matter. An animal reared to be eaten for food by humans is in principle at least subject to certain standards of upkeep – which standards are not applied to an animal which it is presumed will not be eaten by humans.
Imagine this. A middle-aged man who, forty years ago, was removed from his family at the age of 7, sent to one “approved school” after another, the last with a reputation for violence, at which he was a troublemaker and learned to take illegal drugs. After he left school he joined a gang of thugs who regularly got drunk and violent. He straightened up, more or less – got married, had children, one severely disabled for whom he claimed benefits: he ran a chain of nightclubs that specialised in getting people very drunk at a cut rate. He became leader of a powerful organisation with strong links to crime, accepting large financial gifts from people who made their money in very shady ways. Despite this, he lives in state-owned housing and claims more than thirty thousand a year. A few months ago, he and his wife were out drinking and abandoned their young daughter in the pub when they went home, and still more recently, one of his close associates was convicted and jailed* for swearing at police officers. This is a problem family.
The Big Food Idea on the BBC Food Programme is supposed to be for
an innovator who is improving the way good quality food is sourced and sold
But one of the finalists this year is not in that category: Sainsbury’s has been nominated.
Sainsbury’s are tax dodgers and Lord John and Lady Sainsbury have dined with David Cameron in Downing Street and have donated nearly a million to the Conservatives since June 2006. Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer.
Conservatives usually claim that they’re the way they are not because they want to make rich people richer and poor people poorer (that’s just the unfortunate side-effect of how their policies of tax cuts for the wealthy, high unemployment, benefits and services cuts for the rest of us, tends to work out). What they want, they usually say (with a nod at Ayn Rand) is to promote self-reliance and personal responsibility.
That even sounds moderately convincing until you take a look at the effect their policies have on children.
What does everyone know about Scottish food?
It’s the haggis. And the whisky. And the deep fried Mars bars.
Scots eat unhealthy food, get drunk, and our iconic national dish is made of the bits of the sheep that you’d have needed to be drunk and hungry to think worth eating.
In the past quarter, between March and May, the number of UK people out of work has fallen by 65,000 to 2.58m. The ONS says “the overall unemployment rate is now 8.1%, dropped 0.1% than the previous quarter” and though there are still over a million people aged 16 to 24 unemployed, youth unemployment also fell by 10,000.
The number of people in employment rose by 181,000 to 29.35m, the highest for almost four years.
Chris Grayling, Employment Minister MP, said: “This is an encouraging set of figures in what is still an incredibly difficult economic climate.”
I got a letter the other day. To clarify this: I don’t own a company and I’m not an employer. But for a few years I was a sole trader using a business name/website, and I still sporadically get advertising calls/letters for that business name. Mailing lists never die.
The Youth Contract – Supporting local businesses in Edinburgh
The letter was from Ingeus, who are doing their bit for the UK economy by taking fees from the government for “helping people out of unemployment”. Ingeus in the UK is now 50% owned by Deloitte, one of the “big four” accountancy firms who helpfully lend staff and donate consultancy work to government departments.
But it was founded by Therese Rein, one of the richest people in Australia, married to Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former Prime Minister. Continue reading