Things the following group of people have decided are A-OK and do not in any way merit criticism and are, in fact, “honourable and compassionate” behaviour:
This was first posted on Facebook on 8th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
Today’s PMQs were less of a fiasco for Boris Johnson than last week’s, despite his Secretary of State for Northern Ireland admitting in the Commons yesterday that yes, the proposed changes to the Withdrawal Agreement did break international law in a “limited and specific way”.
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.
You can imagine the Daily Express editor’s thoughts as he tasked Tom Parfit with writing this story.
“Wait: aren’t we smearing that Corbyn chap? But… THIS IS TOO GOOD. It may not be true… but it’s TOO GOOD NOT TO PRINT. Especially as we have so many photos of David Cameron cuddling pigs! SO MANY. Of David Cameron. CUDDLING PIGS.”
(Helpful subordinate: “Also there was that story a couple of years ago about Cameron getting pig semen from China!” – Daily Express editor “No, that was no relation.”)
The story is that during an “initiation ritual” for the Piers Gaveston Society (which David Cameron joined while he was reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brasenose College, Oxford, between 1985 and 1988) the to-be-Prime Minister put a “private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a pig.
The pig would have been dead and decapitated at the time, of course.
I haven’t written anything about the Hugo Awards on this blog, despite having a vote at the 2015 Worldcon, because the extraordinary mess that a few hundred people made of a popular-vote award really seemed to have nothing to do with UK politics, which is, mostly, what I write about here.
The Hugo Awards are a set of science-fiction awards nominated and voted for by members of the World Science-Fiction Society (WSFS) annually, and presented to the winners at the World Science-Fiction Convention (the Worldcon). Any paid-up member can nominate any eligible work: the works that receive the most nominations are short-listed (generally five works to a short-list, though a tied vote can give six to a short-list). Any paid-up member can vote for any or all of the works short-listed in any category, and the work that receives the most votes wins the Hugo Award for that category. They’re called Hugo Awards after Hugo Gernsback, who is generally acknowledged to have founded modern science-fiction.
The goal of the Hugo Awards is for fans to choose the best works published over the previous two years.
Terry Pratchett: 28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015. He died at home, surrounded by his family.
“rather than let Alzheimer’s take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the ‘Brompton cocktail’ some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.”
Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy in 2007, a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s.
His books live on.
First-past-the-post voting systems don’t lend themselves to coalition government. But that’s what we’ve got, and there are four possible governments we could have after the General Election on 7th May 2015.
How we vote on that Thursday in just over three months time has very little to do with the government we’ll end up with. The rise in support for the Greens across the UK no more translates into increased numbers of MPs than the rise of support for UKIP means they’ll become a major party.
But the SNP are likely to be the third or fourth largest party in Westminster after May 2015. Electoral analysis shows a huge swing to the SNP across Scotland, which – if we had a more representative electoral system – could translate to over forty seats for the SNP (Labour down to seven MPs and LibDems to one), But just as the tremendous fall in LibDem support isn’t likely to be reflected in an equivalent loss of seats – Greens are more popular than LibDems but aren’t likely to do more than retain their one MP – the Labour wipeout isn’t expected to be as extreme as a naive reading of the polling figures would suggest.
Toscafund, an established asset manager based in London and Dubai, chaired by former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir George Mathewson, commissioned Professor Richard Rose to carry out seat by seat analysis of polling across the UK. For Scotland, their report says:
“A uniform ‘national’ movement of votes is unlikely because the SNP must jump from third to first place over different challengers in different parts of Scotland. Because the median Labour seat is held with a margin of 31.6 per cent over the SNP, any recovery by Labour would reduce the depth to which Labour plunged.”
I’m discounting the Voldemort option – Tory majority or Tory/UKIP coalition – because this is not a probable option. The Tories can’t win a majority, and UKIP can’t win enough seats to help them out.
Jim Sillars writes in an open letter:
Bear this in mind: Scotland is involved in a great debate conducted democratically. That means freedom of thought has to be matched by freedom of speech, and that right respected by all. Freedom of speech does give licence to abuse. It is a wise person who does not use it for that purpose. Don’t start to respond by saying the other side are at it too. They are not going to get media coverage. You are.
In every campaign there comes a tipping point. Those of us engaged intelligently in this campaign, yes intelligently, can only hope that your stupid contributions through personal abuse do not lend themselves to a tipping point towards a Yes defeat. Stop playing the game that suits only the No side.
In this letter Jim Sillars recalls incidents of “false friends” – undercover policemen who infiltrated the independence movement and encouraged young enthusiasts to commit crimes with a view to making Scottish independence look like a bad cause. He says bluntly:
In 1979, with only a very weak assembly on offer, MI5 and special branch were involved, as was the CIA – with the US Consul in Edinburgh coming from the CIA stable. That was for a weak assembly, do you think that they will not be more engaged now that independence is on the agenda? Has it ever crossed your mind that by conducting a campaign of abuse, which plays into the hands of the No media, you are opening the Yes side to a dirty tricks campaign?
(There is a response to this letter from within the Yes campaign here.)
I wasn’t exactly disappointed by The Empty Hearse: though I was disappointed that Mark Gatiss ducked out of actually providing the answer to how Holmes did survive. (It’s possible that Gatiss will provide the answer in episodes 2 or 3, but I’m not counting on it.) But I’m looking forward to The Sign of Three.
Moving on to the actual plot – (spoilers follow) Continue reading
If you were Peter Jackson, would you want to stop making Lord of the Rings movies?
I expect not. Which is one reason why the first Hobbit movie took us only to the end of Chapter 6, and the second takes us only to the end of Chapter 13.
In the book – spoilers follow, should you not yet have read it – Continue reading