+Losing weight for someone Johnson’s age and current proportions poses a risk—namely that he will suddenly look a lot older. The previously fleshed out wrinkles will reveal themselves, and he will look more care worn and shot than he does now. Confronting this new physog will the populace be so enamoured with his cheeky-chappie character? Or will the government’s new obesity campaign run on similar lines to the them and us model preferred by Dominic Cummings?
+An appeal to raise money to support Jeremy Corbyn in an impending libel trial launched by John Ware of Panorama infamy has raised around £300,000 in small donations. I am tempted to wonder if Ware launched a similar appeal for his legal expenses whether it would even make it to three quid.
+Under Starmer, Labour’s retreat from its 2019 manifesto has been conducted at full pelt. Under cover of the Coronavirus this does not seem to have upset that many Party members. But how would you know? With no party meetings, and no party conference later this year, the leader has been presented with an opportunity Blair could only have dreamt of.
+The single most prevalent form of litter here in bonny Scarborough is now the ubiquitous, discarded ‘single use’ face mask. Unless I am reliably advised otherwise, I shall wash my ‘single use’ masks each time after going out when I wash my hands. This will also ensure that washing does indeed last 20 seconds or more. It seems to me that there’s going to be a lot of senseless waste during this crisis—along with a lot of useless advice.
In a perverse way, the Labour Party’s best strategy currently is to cheer the Tories on. The more Johnson and Co. dig themselves into a hole, the more in theory we the opposition can benefit from the public’s reaction to that deep pit of despond we are all being plunged into. I suppose it’s an approach familiar to the Socialist Workers (sic) Party and Leninists everywhere. In a milder form, it’s the old saw that governments lose elections, oppositions don’t win them. Polls in the US suggest that this hypothesis will play out well for Joe Biden in November’s presidential election. Trump’s polarisation of support has left him it seems with a greater number of ‘enthusiastic’ supporters than Biden has garnered, but Biden can count on many more enthusiastic opponents of Trump—offsetting the relative lack of his own ‘enthusiastic’ supporters (all this stuff analysed on the FiveThirtyEight website). These sort of considerations will have an impact on those highly paid political advisors who hang around in the shadows of our own political system. Their judgements will weigh heavily on the media orientated behaviour of their frontsmen. Is it a mere coincidence that shortly after Trump began extolling the use of face masks, our own Johnson confessed that his government may have poorly assessed how the Coronavirus was spreading? What political signalling is going on here? A little (possibly too late) show of attrition to appease those who are still undecided about the incompetence of our Liar-in-Chief? I have to say that with this backdrop, had Corbyn still been Labour Leader media pundits would all be having a field day telling us how many open goals Jeremy had missed at PMQs. As it is, Starmer is a wondrous hero of forensic questioning (but he might perhaps remember that new leaders from the centre left-right generally have honeymoon periods) It will only take one (amazing) Johnson big success to put Labour on its back foot. I’ve not seen any evidence that Starmer is preparing for this possibility.
If the Labour Party thinks it is wise to cave in to all and sundry who claim they were libelled in the anti-Semitism, anti-Corbyn smear period, and if, as has been suggested on Labour List that this could cost the Party up to £8 million then it will be on a hiding to nothing. I really do not want to see my membership subs paying off those who rode on this bandwagon. Another irritating indicator of where the Party is heading has been its response to the Russia interference report. It seems we want to out-Tory the Tories, and now our big idea is to call on OFCOM to review RT’s broadcasting licence because it was mentioned in passing in the report of the Intelligence and Security committee. That will have Putin quaking in his boots, but will serve no useful purpose at all, since apparently most consumers of RT’s output get it from YouTube and on the Internet—its TV viewers may number just 0.02% of the whole UK TV audience. Are we worried that these people are like a Rusky equivalent of the anti-Nazi resistance, tuning in to receive their coded instructions? Let people make their own minds up. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a backlash from the right wing anti ‘cancel’ culture brigade.
Of course there will (I imagine) be things the Party is doing which deserve support and aren’t reported in the mainstream media. But since the Party rarely communicates with its members these days (if my experience is anything to go by) it’s hard to tell. I have to rely almost entirely on the British media to find out, and they of course are not biased at all.
+It seems our government has criticised the Russians for testing an anti-satellite weapon in space. One of the objections is that it will create more space debris. This is not an issue we should worry too much about when our rulers have failed to raise any concerns about Elon Musk’s current 400 Starlink satellites perambulating around the planet. Musk’s ambition is to have 12,000 of them in orbit ‘to bring us faster internet.’ Already astronomers are complaining that e.g. the recent passing of the Neowise comet was obscured by this litter. So c’mon Vlad, take aim at some of these interlopers and blast them out of the sky. Meanwhile let us ponder on the question of whether we can rely on Elon Musk more than we can Xi Jingping not to eavesdrop on our top secret communications. The internet and all its paraphernalia is getting out of hand, but those in charge if they are politicians are hopelessly behind the curve, and if they’re tech giants they’re buying the global economy (and maybe politicians too). It’s time the internet giants were fragmented into a million pieces.
+I read the *** report on *** Russian interventions in *** and reading between the lines found it little more than a plea for more legislation and dosh for the likes of GCHQ, MI5/6 and co. One wonders how paranoid Johnson must have been to delay its publication and his attempt to gift the Intelligence and Security Committee chair to Failing Grayling. The new chair Julian Lewis has sounded alarums that Dominic Cummings is trying to take control of the committee’s staff. Cummings will make lots more enemies this way. Lewis is a popular Tory backbencher. Sorry, ex-Tory backbencher.
+In one of the more absurd stories this week, Labour MP Chris Bryant complained in a radio interview that Tory MPs had invaded his space and were more likely to break social distancing rules than Labour MPs. I’m not sure that Bryant has asked himself why it is that Tory ministers are so keen to ‘slap him on the back?’ Is this something his constituents want to hear?
+The decision of the Labour Party’s leadership to roll-over and make a settlement with those who were involved in the defaming Panorama programme on Labour being a nest of anti-Semites surely brings shame on all those who laughingly consider ‘fair play’ an aspiration of any progressive movement. It suggests that under its new administration, Labour’s ambition to be welcomed back into the establishment is utterly untrammelled, as if that is the only route to power. You can only behave as if you look like part of the establishment to be considered a candidate to be part of it. But for the most part, as we’ve seen in the Bryant case above, a slap on the back will be the most you can hope for.
+I received a letter (by email) from the Guardian today. It began
Occasionally, supporters write in asking what they get for their money. There are two answers here. The first is Pythonesque. "What has the Guardian ever done for us... apart from the award-winning journalism, a slick ever-updating website, the holding of power to account, the investigations of crooks and incompetents, the pledge to raise our voice on the environment, the commitment to publish our work free to all regardless of wealth, rank and possession?’
The second answer is simpler: newsletters.’
This came from the ‘Membership Editor’ (a sinister role, surely?) and I am left wondering if this post holder will be in place for much longer. This opening paragraph I guess is meant to be humorous (why else ‘Pythonesque?’) but surely suggesting that there may be something funny about the Guardian’s mission is to undermine its serious intent? I know I regularly bang on about the Guardian’s failures, but it simply lacks the political fervour of say (chosen at random) the Daily Mail. Mail readers can be left in no doubt about what are the proper solutions for society’s ills - and more importantly, who will deliver them. The Guardian never stops fretting. So when a Labour leader comes along with the policies which generally fit the bill, it wets its pants and finds all sorts of reasons to distance itself from the revolutionary idea that the changes it claims it wants to see happen are actually within grasp. Consequently, we are fed the kind of lies about Corbyn which occupied so many of its column inches. Why can’t the so-called left be as clearly ambitious as the right? Is it lack of moral fibre? What exactly? Too much cosying up at dinner parties?
+What a day. On the Today prog this morning a chap who gave evidence to the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC—or should that read sic?), one Bill Browder, a founder of Hermitage Capital was given free rein to assert that the United States (and inter alia the UK) didn’t engage in assassinations, shooting down airliners, etc., etc. Only the Russians do that kind of thing. Mr Browder has an interesting background (see Wikipedia) but despite his obvious success at making money in the City it must have escaped his attention that in 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger jet killing all 290 on board, that the US has vicarious responsibility for the death of democratically elected Chilean president Allende (and God knows how many others), the overthrow of Mossadeq in Iran, starting an illegal war in Iraq on false pretences: the list could go on and on. The report of the ISC to which Mr Browder gave evidence now apparently has come up with the main conclusion that the UK government had not given sufficient attention to the Russian threat to our unimpeachable democracy. This is ‘the line.’ I’ve not read the report yet so cannot comment further on its content. Suffice to say, please ensure that when you go to bed tonight check under your mattress to see whether there’s a Ruskie following your every move. Closely followed by a BBC ’security’ correspondent.
+I’ve not watched a great deal on the telly lately, but I have largely enjoyed the three part BBC4 ‘Being Beethoven’ series. There was a lot of focus on Ludwig’s forlorn love live, which indeed may have inspired a good part of his music. What was largely skated over was the fact that Beethoven was a serious alcoholic. My definition of a serous alcoholic is one who dies young(ish) as the result of cirrhosis of the liver, as did Beethoven. One of the anecdotes recounted at the end of the series regarding his last words were, just as a delivery of wine arrived, he exclaimed ‘Too late!’ What I wonder stopped the series producers delving deeper into this issue—that he drank a lot was alluded to merely as a slight background problem. A regularly featured psychoanalyst didn’t refer to his alcoholism. I think this is part of an agenda. Beethoven’s greatness, for these purposes had to be cast in the light of a great struggle between love and loss, rather than something aided by reference to the booze. I think—speaking as one who knows alcohol well - if it’s a part of your life, it’s not an adjunct, it’s a formative part of your very being (whether you like it or not, and I happen to like it). The protestant instincts of those who would like to think that Beethoven’s music was purely a result of his born genius and a few unrequited love affairs overlook the spirit.
+I’m pleased to report that here in Scarborough (North Yorkshire, not Ontario) the pandemic is completely under control. This at least is the verdict of 99.9999% of people walking up and down the main drag who don’t need to wear masks, physically distance or make any effort to cover their gobs when coughing and sneezing. I am greatly relieved. I imagine most of them to be Johnson supporters.
As the leading nations of the Anglosphere grapple with their calamitous failures dealing with Covid-19, what better than a bit of serious distraction activity? So we have China and Russia to fear. The enemy without. Curious that Johnson has not described these Satans yet as ‘muggers.’ I have no doubt that Russia and China are engaged in nefarious activities—but why should we hold an exclusive licence on such behaviour? The hypocrisy becomes wearying, when e.g. in the case of Trump it is merely about electioneering? The consequences of all this pure-as-the-driven-snow Anglosphere posturing may of course not be all that serious. People talk about a new Cold War, but in the places where that war became ‘hot’ it was on foreign fields which nobody at the time really much cared about, where regime changes were as frequent as portrayed in, if memory serves a Hamlet cigar advert, where the alternating Generalissimos’ portraits were swapped around in the same frame like a tear off calendar. But in all this ridiculous political gung-honess there is an obvious risk for dear old post-Brexit UK. Our heightened tensions with China will, as their UK ambassador has hinted, have consequences. And there will be consequences too in our relationship with the US, albeit of a different variety. These are being hinted at in a Trade Bill appearing in Parliament tomorrow (20th July) which even the Consumers’ Association (Which?) is seeking to campaign against. They reckon it’s an invitation to the import of all those negligent US food standards into the UK post Brexit. The US is our largest trade partner after the EU. The direction of travel in Johnson’s eyes is that the US will replace the EU as the UK’s largest trade partner—and that means we will accept their standards, regardless of ministerial affirmations to the contrary (we know they are witless liars whose commitments are written on rice paper). Earlier today I came across an old news story which rather captures our craven Atlantic relationship. Our government has politely suggested that the suspected dangerous driver Anne Secoolas should be brought to face British justice for the killing of motorcyclist Jack Dunn. The US has simply said fuck off. Meanwhile our justice system supinely proceeds with US extradition proceedings against Julian Assange. Good to know who’s in the driving seat. And all the while Russia and China are creeping up on us! The Great Game.
All the brouhaha over Huawei is a little bit mystifying, unless of course one sees it as purely a Trumpain campaign to impugn China as part of his re-election bid. The idea that Huawei may or may not be a surreptitious arm of the Chinese government is really neither here nor there, since these days any cyber technology can be used for nefarious ends by whomever has the know-how. The concept of cyber security is laughable, as hackers and others mutate and adapt as fast as a virus. The Iranians thought they could develop their nuclear plans without interference simply by not connecting their computers to the internet. But all it took was one fallible(?) human being to plug in a USB stick and the Stuxnet malware did its job. I assume that all these cyber technologies have, by design or not, got a ‘backdoor.’ Was there ever a perfect machine? The Nazis thought they had one in Enigma, and look where it got them. Now it seems that our craven government, following pressure from Trump and his admirers on the Tory backbenches have won the day and Huawei will be expunged from our networks. This it is said will slow down the introduction of 5G in the UK. I confess that doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t need an app to tell me that there isn’t much cheese left in the fridge. Although such information could be of tremendous use to the Chinese, or indeed the manufacturers of Colston Bassett, possibly the world’s best Stilton. Another aspect of this story is that the only way that all the information that is being gathered and utilised by new technology can only be handled by artificial intelligence—there is just too much for old fashioned techniques to digest. It is technology, in other words designed to dehumanise us. In that sense I am quite relaxed about the Huawei ban. Perhaps we have a new iteration of Ludditism, albeit in the company of some curious fellow travellers.
+The BBC’s decision to give free TV licences only to the over-75s on pension credit is of course a decision forced on them by the Tories, not that you would learn that from the Tory press. The government says when the BBC agreed to take on free TV licenses the corporation thought it was the ‘best deal at the time’, to which the Beeb probably would add ‘in the circumstances.’
But pensioners do not need much of a crystal ball to foresee how the lying, conniving Tories will seek to recoup some of the money spent on dealing with the pandemic, and the BBC model paves the way. The winter fuel allowance could be funded by the energy companies, could it not? And soon enough it would be just for pension credit claimants. And bus companies will be pressed into the same approach with free bus passes. This whole process will be camouflaged by a newly reheated debate about whether the triple lock on state pension increases should remain. That decision may be delayed a little while whilst the government ‘consults’ but if the ending of the furlough scheme later this year gives an artificial boost to average earnings, the government will be furnished with an excuse to have at least a temporary pretext to suspend the triple lock next year. We will no doubt soon see the resuscitation of the hoary old argument that pensioners have been getting better off at the expense of the young. If all this comes to pass, one could say it will be poetic justice. Oldies voted Tory. They voted for Brexit.
+Jonathan Freedland smeared Clare Short in the Guardian recently, asserting that she had blamed Israel for climate change. She has had a letter published setting the record straight. I have written to the paper asking when we might expect to see his apology.
+The government—using new ‘freedoms allowed by Brexit’ (hurrah!) - has announced a list of people from overseas who are barred from activity in the UK. Mainly Russians of course, but also a few Saudis implicated in the Khashoggi murder and so on. Strange how Putin has been left off the list, since we’re always told he authorises every evil deed his agents engage in. And Mohammed Bin Salman, widely believed to have ordered Khashoggi’s murder hasn’t featured either. Well, you can only go so far, can’t you? Given we’re a country that gave Pinochet refuge, we shouldn’t expect too much. But I am worried that these displays of our civilised purity will have a devastating effect on the economy—of Knightsbridge that is. After decades—under both Labour and Conservative governments—of courting the rich and generating a feeding frenzy tax haven in the City, I am cynical enough to wonder whether those targeted by these proscriptions are likely to have very much wealth at all in the UK, or indeed whether they somehow neglected (through their intermediaries) to have ever contributed a healthy sum to the Conservative Party.
+The government’s use of £1.6 billion of taxpayers’ money to support the arts and cultural sector is undoubtedly welcome but one is bound to ask how much of it will find its way e.g. into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bank balance or to ‘rescue’ Covent Garden. The ‘talent’ that has grown rich during the good times has pleaded for assistance. But their combined billions seem to have escaped notice during their ‘luvvie’ appeals for support for those who are facing a prolonged period of resting. Perhaps we could ask Damian Hirst to use some of his estimated £315 million fortune to get unemployed artists painting more spots. In the nature of these things, they would all be classed as originals and he could double his money.