Friday, 31 August 2018

May has a lot of catching up to do

So the May caravan is moving on to Nigeria. As Kamal Ahmed pointed out on BBC Business this morning, Mrs May has a lot of catching up to do. Since 2013, there have been French premières' visits to Morocco, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast in 2016, and Tunis in 2017. More significantly, the French president (who has executive powers) has been a frequent traveller in Africa: Tunisia, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Niger, Chad, Guinea and Senegal in 2014, Tunisia, Algeria, Benin, Angola, Cameroon and Morocco in 2015, Egypt, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Morocco, and Madagascar in 2016, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Niger and Mali in 2017. Emmanuel Macron has already visited Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast this year. There has long been a commitment by France linking her growth to that of African nations.

As Kamal Ahmed indicated, the total value of the total African market is much less than that of the EU. Figures are hard to nail down, but in 2016 it was estimated that the GDP of the whole continent was equivalent to that of just one developed nation in Europe. However, the leading African nations are growing fast and Africa is important in geopolitical, not just economic, terms. It is significant that China is a major investor in Africa. Moreover, demonstrating a serious commitment to economic development and encouragement of democracy in our former colonies and in northern hemisphere African nations as a whole should reduce the flow of migrants to the UK.

There is one further visit which Emmanuel Macron has committed to and which Mrs May should surely match. On the anniversary of the devastation wrought by hurricane Irma, he has promised to revisit Saint Martin in the French Antilles. Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, the Turks & Caicos and the British Virgin Isles would surely appreciate an official tour by royalty or by a senior government figure, concerning themselves about the rebuilding and improvement of the islands' infrastructure.

Thursday, 30 August 2018


As a result of listening to The Truth about Britain's Beggars on Radio 4 last Tuesday, I have had to amend my views somewhat. Neath's favourite grit in the oyster Stan (n.b. not Disney's dog with a blog) maintains in comments on the Neath Ferret that the young people we see sat on our streets are not really homeless but are part of a scam and that at the end of the day they gather up the money they have gained from a gullible public, get into their BMWs and drive back to their council houses. It seems that there are people who do have a roof over their head who resort to a bit of passive begging (actually asking for money or even just putting a cap or a tin out renders one liable to arrest as an aggressive beggar) in order to "help out with the electricity bill". There are even instances of exploitation in organised begging, which is probably where the sightings of BMWs comes from. However, these are in the minority. The typical day's take is no more than a few pounds. The story of Luke in Cambridge is more typical, and probably more like those unfortunates we see on the streets of Neath.

Mark Johnson, who presented the Radio 4 programme, knows whereof he speaks, having been on the streets himself and admitting to resorting to drugs to get him through the experience, before getting a job and cleaning himself up. He was fair in giving a voice to the police, who have to serve the majority using the town centres, and to a local tourist official who was concerned about the poor impression which the homeless give to a seaside resort. But the overall impression one had was that schemes helping the street-bound young were few and far between, that nobody was a beggar by choice and that much more needs to be done.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Theresa May supports land seizures in South Africa

At least, that is what one South African newspaper reads into Mrs May's speech on arrival in South Africa. It reports that: 

The UK supports President Cyril Ramaphosa's approach to land reform and believes it could potentially unlock further investment opportunities in Africa.

In her first visit to the continent as UK Prime Minister, Theresa May pledged to become the G7's biggest investor in Africa by 2022, using the UK's development budget to not only relieve poverty, but to create a sustainable investment environment for British businesses.

May was addressing guests of the British High Commission in Cape Town on Tuesday, before meeting Ramaphosa at Tuynhuys.

"The UK has for some time now supported land reform that is legal and transparent and generated through a democratic process. I discussed it with President Ramaphosa during his visit to Britain earlier this year and will discuss it with him again later today," she said.

"I welcome the comments that President Ramaphosa has already made, bearing in mind the economic and social aspects of it. I think he's made some comments that it won't be a smash and grab approach. I think there's an opportunity to unlock investment."

Meanwhile, the South African parliament may well be moving towards the Zimbabwe-style seizure of land without compensation desired by the President. The Expropriation Bill approved earlier this year, which provided for "just and equitable" transfers and for land to be used for the public good, has been withdrawn. MoneyWeb South Africa reports that a constitutional review committee had been

set up after MPs voted in favour of a motion in February to begin a process to amend section 25 of the Constitution – known as the property clause. It has to report back to Parliament on its findings by September 28. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently stepped up SA’s land reform efforts by saying that the ANC had decided to change the Constitution to push ahead with plans to expropriate land without compensation. The public works committee said the published findings of the constitutional review committee might result in a “new parliamentary process including legislative processes and new directions” before the end of 2018.

In other words, the findings of the constitutional review committee might require the Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi to redraft a new Expropriation Bill. This will bring the Expropriation Bill in line with government’s plan to expropriate land without compensation.

Elsewhere, the liberal Democratic Alliance is under threat from a cynical political shift as the socialist EFF, supposedly wedded to the fight against corruption, has teamed up with its former enemy, the ANC. The target is the reforming administration of the council which includes the nation's capital, Pretoria. Much depends on a confidence vote tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

From the Poem of Ecstasy to the Molotov cocktail

An odd nominal connection: Anu Garg tells us that "Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (1890-1986) was born as Vyacheslav Skryabin, but he took the name Molotov (from Russian molot: hammer). During the Winter War between the USSR and Finland (1939-1940), when the Soviets received international criticism for the bombing of Helsinki, Molotov claimed they were delivering humanitarian aid. In response, the Finns sarcastically called those cluster bombs Molotov bread baskets. If the Soviets were bringing bread to the party, the least the Finns could do was bring drinks. They called their makeshift incendiary devices Molotov cocktail and used them to destroy Soviet tanks."

Pianistic prodigy and visionary composer Alexander Scriabin wrote his Poem of Ecstasy in the early years of the twentieth century. There is no evidence that he was related to Molotov.

Monday, 27 August 2018

English irony: Turkish immigrants

The talks aimed at a post-Brexit trade  deal between the UK and Turkey are intensifying, according to the current Private Eye. Turkey is already in a customs union with the EU, but her membership application is stalled indefinitely while the virtual dictatorship of President Erdogan denies human rights. However, Erdogan will no doubt take the opportunity of obtaining visa-free travel for Turks as part of any free trade agreement with a desperate Liam Fox. Thus the spectre of unlimited immigration to the UK from Turkey which was raised by the Leave campaigns and which is not possible while we are members of the EU, could become real if we are outside the Union.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Definition of Zionism

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his statement – made in 2013 – that a group of Zionists had “no sense of irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time”, as he sought to quell the latest bitter row over alleged antisemitism in his party.

The Labour leader sought to clarify remarks he made at a conference in 2013, which had sparked criticism from more than a dozen MPs and led to growing pressure for an apology.

In a statement issued on Friday night, Corbyn said he had used the term Zionist “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people”.

Thus the opening of a Guardian report yesterday. The organ provides a link to a video clip from the speech in question, but this is of little help without the text of the speech Corbyn refers to in turn.

The definition of modern Zionism comes from a conference held in Basle in 1897. Note that there is no reference to religion; the emphasis is on the economic and the political.

Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz­Israel secured under public law. The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:
1. The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Eretz-Israel of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers. 
2. The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
3. The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.
4. Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.

I find it difficult to believe that any group of Jews lacked a sense of irony, from whatever quarter it came, whether Zionist or not.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

BSpoked Enterprises

Good luck to the enterprise for their Summer Fayre, starting at 10 tomorrow. I enjoyed the inaugural event in Neath Abbey a few years ago. Details are here.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Good news for the exchequer, but there is trouble brewing

UK Ltd is financially back to the situation of 2007, when the debt accumulated by Blair/Brown was about to bite us as the transatlantic credit crunch hit. (The media release from the politically-independent Office for National Statistics is here.) Strangely, this good news has been published by the Guardian but I do not recall it being made much of by BBC's broadcasts - though it is on Red Button text.

The debt is still eye-wateringly huge, of course:
Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks) was £1,777.5 billion at the end of July 2018, equivalent to 84.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), an increase of £17.5 billion (or a decrease of 1.7 percentage points as a ratio of GDP) on July 2017.

Public sector net debt (excluding both public sector banks and Bank of England) was £1,584.6 billion at the end of July 2018, equivalent to 75.2% of GDP, a decrease of £30.6 billion (or a decrease of 3.7 percentage points as a ratio of GDP) on July 2017.
Presumably the reduction of the debt ratio is the reason for the increase in the value of sterling over the last few days (as I write, it is at $1.29, two cents higher than a week ago, and there have been similar rises against other currencies). Investors in sterling are increasingly confident of it holding its value and the certainty of return. One would expect both sterling and the euro to rise further if there is a successful outcome to the autumn talks in Brussels or if the A50 application is withdrawn, but it is unlikely that we will see an immediate rise to levels over $1.45 which obtained before the June 2016 referendum. Just as the Brexit vote caused salami-slicing in business decisions rather than the wholesale immediate departure predicted by Osborne, Cameron and other numpties, so the return of international conference will be slow and gradual. The likes of Unilever are unlikely to reverse the major decision to move their HQ from London to another part of the EU, for instance.

Of course I welcome the return to the prudent housekeeping which Gordon Brown promised but never delivered. However, too much has been achieved by cuts in the public sector and not enough from raising money from people and corporations well able to contribute a little extra. There are already signs that Treasury miserliness is opening up cracks in civil society.

The troubles at the second-biggest prison in Europe, culminating in the suspension of its governor, and the more gross failure in Birmingham, point to a lack of investment in staff and facilities. There is a failure to pursue most criminal investigations to the end. Again, shortage of personnel in the police and CPS must be largely to blame. We pay even experienced nurses less than counter staff in John Lewis.

The immediate answer is to raise the tax take, which will probably not require a hike in rates. Simply raising the minimum wage (the so-called National Living Wage, another piece of Osborne sleight-of-mouth) to that determined by the Living Wage Foundation and enforcing its application will go a long way. Raising the wage floor will not only improve conditions for poorly-paid public servants, but also push up pay higher on the wage scale, proportionately increasing income tax.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A grim anniversary

Fifty years ago we in the West heard the depressing news that the Prague Spring had been crushed by the forces of the USSR. From the University of Luxembourg’s

The Communist Party had held power in Czechoslovakia since the 1948 Prague coup. In January 1968, the Stalinist Antonin Novotný was overruled and replaced by Alexander Dubček, a liberal Communist who sought to reconcile Socialism and freedom. The liberalisation of the regime began in the spring of 1968. Censorship was abolished, and Czech citizens were permitted to travel abroad. The First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Leonid Brezhnev, expressed his dissatisfaction, but Prague refused to comply. In fact, as the pressure increased, so did the liberalisation. On 21 August 1968, troops from the Warsaw Pact countries, with the exception of Romania, took advantage of extended training operations to invade Czechoslovakia and arrest the ‘deviant’ leaders. Although Dubček retained his post for a while after his release, he was soon to be replaced by the pro-Soviet Gustáv Husák, who oversaw a return to normality. 

The USSR had demonstrated once more that it would grant only limited sovereignty to its Socialist brothers. The Western powers and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) reacted to the invasion of Czechoslovakia only with declarations of regret.

In those days, the US and UK were all too ready to accept the doctrine of "spheres of influence", but even today - apart from a few pinpricks of sanctions - we seem unwilling to annoy Russia when president Putin sanctions expansion of Russia into former Soviet territory.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Progress on patient records in Bridgend

A Liberal Democrat 1992 manifesto commitment is being implemented incrementally in ABMU this century.

The relevant paragraph from the manifesto is:

Real choice in health care. We will introduce an effeict Patient's Charter, including rights to hospital treatment within a specified time, a choice of GP, guaranteed access to health records, and a comprehensive no-fault compensation scheme. We will require health authorities to publish a Charter of Services, defining basic entitlements, and provide redress where these are not satisfied. We will establish a new National Inspectorate for Health to guarantee a quality service.

Since then, we have had advances in IT which have put a computer in the pocket of any possessor of a smartphone. So software which has already been used in 30 hospitals across England, including Great Ormond Street in London, has been introduced to ten departments in the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend. after a trial in dermatology at Singleton and urology in Morriston. There are more details here.

What is available to those patients now goes beyond the dreams of the drafters of the manifesto, but sadly none of the other aspirations is closer to realisation, either side of the border.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Lobbying part five of five.

This is the fifth set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to on Monday. These firms are still listed by the ORCL. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

Cicero Communications is now Cicero Consulting. Director Iain Anderson had worked for several Conservatives, including Kenneth Clarke.
Clients in 2011 included HSBC, Fidelity, RBS, GE, Aegon, Invesco, Prudential, PWC, Goldman Sachs, AXA, Scottish Widows, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays

Global Government Relations Seemingly, the most EU-friendly firm in this survey, it is the lobbying arm of multi-national law firm DLA Piper. Tim Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat peer, founded the firm and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who had worked for EU commissioners, was a partner until she left for the US law firm Dechert in October 2011.  The head of media was Eben Black, a former political correspondent for the Press Association and thereafter various newspapers in the Murdoch empire. He moved on to Newgate in 2013.
No public list of clients in 2011

Politics Direct;is now Brevia Consulting. The managing director was David Beamer, former advisor to the Conservative party, who had worked with 8 Secretaries of State. He was assisted by
Clients included British Energy, EDF, Nokia, T-Mobile, Lilly, Alliance and Leicester and Allied Domecq.

Portland Managing Director Tim Allen worked for Tony Blair in opposition and in Downing Street. George Eustice MP had worked there as well as Henry de Zoete, adviser to Michael Gove, Education Secretary at the time.
Clients included Apple, Association of British Bookmakers, British Bankers Association, Cable and Wireless, Gazprom, Google, McDonald's, NSPCC, Tesco, Government of Russia, Virgin Media and Vodafone.


What has emerged from this exercise? Firstly, the amorality of most of these firms. Lobbyists are happy to work for charities and companies with a high public reputation as well as tax-dodgers, would-be monopolists and oppressive governments. Most are equipped to work both sides of the political street, government and opposition. The detailed Powerbase entries show that nothing has changed in seven years.

Secondly, the revolving door, drawn attention to by both Powerbase and Private Eye, spins merrily in spite of the supposed oversight of ACoBA. It seems to this cynical observer that the more senior the MP, civil servant, Special Advisor or company director, the fewer obstacles are placed in his or her way in or out of government circles and related areas of vested interest.

Thirdly, either firms exaggerated the strength of their client list (what, lobbying and PR organisations stretching the truth??) or the big corporations hedge their bets by employing several lobbyists at the same time.

So the next time that government resists a progressive proposal or takes a controversial decision favouring a particular industry or company, it is worth looking for possible lobbying links.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Lobbying part four of five

This is the fourth set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to on Monday. These firms are still listed by the ORCL. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

Hill and Knowlton was another company which grew big on the back of the US tobacco industry. It is now part of WPP. Paul Sinclair, a former adviser to Labour ministers Douglas Alexander and Gordon Brown according to Cusick and Milmo (though this does not show on his Bloomberg or Linkedin profiles), was and is head of public affairs there. Oliver Dowden, Conservative MP for Hertsmere and a former aide to David Cameron worked there in 2011.
Clients included Aviva, Intercontinental Hotels, Johnson & Johnson, Serious Fraud Office, Statoil and Visa

Interel Consulting UK Part of the wider multinational Interel Group, it was founded by Andrew Dunlop (now Lord Dunlop) who had been at various times an advisor to Mrs Thatcher, to the Ministry of Defence and at Conservative Central Office.
2011 clients included Agusta Westland, Qinetiq, Rio Tinto, Virgin Atlantic and Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Quiller Consultants had been co-founded in 1998 by John Eisenhammer and Jonathan Hill. The latter went on to become David Cameron's choice of an EU commissioner and is now Baron Hill of Oareford. Others on the payroll in 2011 were Stephen Parkinson, another former Cameron aide, Malcolm Morton a former parliamentary assistant (though not a PPS, as Cusick/Milmo incorrectly stated)  and now Public Affairs Manager at Pension Protection Fund and John Slinger, a former aide and researcher for Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd. Slinger moved to Hanover Communications in 2014.
Clients included Experian, HSBC, UAE, PWC (the former Price Waterhouse Cooper), Capita Group and the City of London Corporation.

Sovereign Strategy founded by Alan Donnelly, a former leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament and a friend of David Miliband, made and continues to make much of its Labour links.
Clients included Bloomberg, FIA, the government of Iceland and Huawei.

Tetra Strategy was founded by James O'Keefe, "a former Labour Party staffer and Bell Pottinger director, and Lee Petar, one of the founding directors of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications Centre)". In 2011, they had recently recruited Julie Kirkbride, former MP and wife of Andrew MacKay (see Burson Marsteller in Tuesday's episode).
Clients named in 2011 were Amec, Cellcrypt, Media Matters for America, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Toyota and Ultralase.

TLG Communications formerly The Ledbury Group and now part of FTI Consulting was and is directed by Malcolm Gooderham, former adviser and press secretary to Michael Portillo. Jonathan Oliver, formerly political editor of The Sunday Times, had joined in 2010 but was to move on in 2011 to the Prudential as group director of media relations.
Clients included Asda, BT, Centrica, the Criminal Bar Association, FlyBe, Honda and the Prudential.

Weber Shandwick the UK subsidiary of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, one of the biggest global PR companies (owned by Interpublic), continues to have strong ties to the Labour Party through its CEO Colin Byrne, a former press officer for the party. However, it had numbered Priti Patel before her election as a Conservative MP and also employed Alex Deane, former chief of staff to David Cameron, and Tara Hamilton-Miller, a former Conservative press officer. Tamora Langley, who had been a Liberal Democrat candidate in the 2010 general election, was head of public affairs until June 2015, when she left to set up her own company. Of Miss Hamilton-Miller, there is no trace after a report of her promotion within the company in 2009.
In addition to the clients listed by Powerbase, Cusick/Milmo cite Asda, Associated Newspapers, Barclays, Bausch+Lomb, Mastercard, Mercedes-Benz and npower.

Westbourne Communications was very Conservative-orientated in 2011, with director James Bethell having worked on David Cameron's party leadership campaign and employing Campbell Storey, former chief of staff to Chris Grayling,  Maurice Cousins, former researcher on Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Cohesion, and Dan Large, a former aide to Edward Timpson MP. The firm was sold to Cicero Communications (of which more tomorrow) earlier this year. All are still with Westbourne, though Storey has set up a separate coaching enterprise.
No client list was published in 2011.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Lobbying, part three of five

This is the third set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to on Monday. These firms are still listed by the ORCL. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

Finsbury Roland Rudd, who was a friend of Peter Mandelson, and Simon Moyse, former adviser to Gordon Brown at the Treasury, were the prime movers in 2011 and are still with the company. Roland is the son of failed stockbroker Tony Rudd and therefore brother of Amber Rudd MP, disgraced former Home Secretary.
Clients then included BSkyB, Vodafone and Boots

Fleishman-Hillard's senior people included Henry Featherstone, former advisor to Conservative MPs including Francis Maude and Sophie Pim, former aide to David Cameron. Featherstone is now director of public affairs at pharmaceutical multi-national Sanofi.
2011 clients included American Pharmaceutical Group, British Insurance Brokers Association, JP Morgan, Marks and Spencer, Pfizer and Scottish Power.

Global Counsel Lord Mandelson's baby, formed with his aide Benjamin Wegg Prosser, a former director of strategic communications for Tony Blair. There was no public list of clients in 2011.

Hanover Communications Charles Lewington, former press secretary to John Major, founded the company. Laura Chisholm, now Laura Swire, a former adviser in Conservative Central Office, is still with the company. James Gurling, brother-in-law of the the late Charles Kennedy, who worked there in 2011, is now with MHP Communications but took time off to run the Liberal Democrat campaign for the 2017 general election.
Clients included Association of British Insurers, BSkyB, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard, Jaguar Land Rover, Nomura and Santander.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Lobbying part two of five

This is the second set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to yesterday. These firms were still listed by the ORCL in 2017. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

ACPO Worldwide  was born out of the US tobacco industry. Its UK arm had strong Labour connections in 2011. Employees included Darren Murphy, former adviser to Alan Milburn, and Razi Rahman, a former Blair aide. Murphy and Rahman went on to found Centreground (see below) which was bought out in 2014 by Bell Pottinger (see below).
2011 clients included British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers, eBay, GE, Microsoft, Netjets, EuropePfizer and RBS

Bell Pottinger is now in administration after exposure of its unethical activities in South Africa.
2011 clients included Axa, Nomura, Blackstone, Kellogg's and Pizza Express

Brunswick was founded by Alan Parker, financial PR guru. Cusick/Milmo report him as being godfather to one of Gordon Brown's sons, that David Cameron attended his 50th birthday party and that Blair attended his wedding. Mike Girling, who had been press aide to Nick Clegg, worked for Brunswick before moving on to work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Pakistan.
2011 clients included BA, BT and Blue Circle

Burson Marsteller, once the largest PR company in the world, is part of the WPP group and as a result of a merger earlier this year is now Burson Cohn & Wolfe. The chief executive in the UK in 2011 was Matt Carter, former general secretary of the Labour party. Former Conservative MP Andrew MacKay was also on the strength. Carter went on to found Message House in 2013.
2011 clients included Bacardi Martini, Danone, Heineken, Lloyds Banking Group and Pilkington.

Centreground Political Communications picked up Jonathan Powell, Chief of Staff in 10 Downing Street in the Blair years and controversial Labour spin doctor Adrian McMenamin. Bell Pottinger took the company over in 2014. No clients were listed by Cusick/Milmo in 2011.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Anu Garg gets political -

 - as Trump, Bannon and their followers over here would have it. I see it as the excellent A.Word.a.Day website expressing concern about the abuse of the English language by those (temporarily, one hopes) in power.

George Orwell predicted it. It’s just that his numbers were a little off. Instead of 1984, it happened some 30 years later (perhaps Orwell didn’t have access to a computer fast enough to precisely account for the retrograde motion of Jupiter).

Anyway, compare:

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
(US President, July 24, 2018)

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
(Orwell in 1984)

In this new reality, real news is fake, faux (also spelled as Fox) news is real.

As an homage to Orwell, this week we’ll feature five words he coined in the novel 1984 that are now a part of the English language.


(NOO-speek, NYOO-) 

noun: Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

Coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984. Newspeak was the official language of Oceania. Earliest documented use: 1949.

Oldspeak is the opposite of newspeak. For example, in 1984, the oldspeak “labor camp” is called a newspeak “joycamp”. But you don’t have to go to fiction to find newspeak.

What is “torture” in oldspeak becomes “interrogation”, or even better, “enhanced interrogation” in newspeak. While “waterboarding” itself is newspeak -- no, it’s not a water sport -- they go one step further and couch it as “enhanced interrogation”. As if in regular interrogation one is suffocated with regular water while waterboarding, but in enhanced they use nothing less than Evian.

“In current newspeak, limiting compensation for unfair dismissal is described as a ‘brave reform’, whereas limiting the gains from stock options that an executive may receive through such firings is seen as demagoguery.”
Alain Supiot; A Labour Code for the 21st Century; Le Monde Diplomatique, English ed. (Paris, France); May 2018. 

See more usage examples of newspeak in’s dictionary.

Lobbying, part one of five

In 2011, James Cusick and Cahal Milmo produced for the Independent newspaper a special report on political lobbying. The stub of that report is here, but unfortunately not the chart of lobbying firms, their key employees and their significant clients. Since that article, the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (ORCL) has been set up. It seemed a useful exercise to compare the current register with the Cusick/Milmo chart so far as is possible with public sources.

The first thing to say is that the chart listed only 26 companies which "[boasted] about their access to the inner sancutms of power". The ORCL lists 159 lobbyists at the time of writing, but not all of the chart's companies have registered. Secondly, only directors, not employees, appear on the ORCL register. Thus, spouses of MPs and former advisers to current ministers who might be thought of as influential do not appear. Thankfully, there is another resource: Powerbase, which "is a free guide to networks of power, lobbying, public relations and the communications activities of governments and other interests. It is a project of Public Interest Investigations and Spinwatch".

My original intention was to follow-up the printed chart, but filling out details of all 26 companies would produce a huge blog post, not to mention taking more than a day's labour. So I shall kick off with some companies which do not appear on both lists.

Starting close to home, we have Haywood Hain which was probably not big enough to bother Cusick and Milmo but surely, with the political connections of Lord Hain, must include lobbying with their other activities and therefore should have registered with the ORCL. One recalls the company's efforts on behalf of the proposed Severn barrage. Perhaps the company's defence would be that they spend more time these days networking in Africa, no doubt preparing for a future outside the EU.

Low Associates (now just LOW and LOWeurope)  was on the Cusick/Milmo chart but soon won a retraction from the Indy. Indeed, they are not registered. but co-founder Brendan Bruce was a director of communications for the Conservative party in the Thatcher years. His fellow founder, Sally Low, is married to the former coalition Minister of Health, Andrew Lansley, who has joined the company after leaving the Commons. So it is hard to see how they can avoid being involved in efforts to influence government. In addition to the politicos at the top, two further associates have worked in government communications and a further three have worked for arms of the EU. 2011 clients included the British Chambers of Commerce.

The PR company Edelman was once registered (it left the ORCL list sometime in 2016), but it is easy to see why Cusick and Milmo thought it worth inclusion in their chart of lobbyists and that it is listed on Powerbase. Edelman had links to three national political parties - Liberal Democrats through Jamie Lundie (the then partner of David Laws and a former adviser to LibDem leaders), Labour through Chris Rumfitt (one of Tony Blair's press officers) and Conservatives through Anthony Marlowe (a former researcher for Justine Greening). Lundie and Rumfitt have moved on but Marlowe is still there and Edelman has also acquired the services of ex-Blair aide Anji Hunter. Clients included Aviva, Diageo, EON, Manchester City FC, News Corp and News International, PepsiCo, Sainsbury, Samsung and Starbucks

Blue Rubicon had a distinct New Labour tinge. Its MD was Chris Norton, former adviser to Alan Johnson. Spencer Livermore, former director of strategy to Gordon Brown and Patrick Loughran, once director of research for Labour and adviser to Gordon Brown were also on board. It is now part of the multinational Teneo, which delisted from ORCL in 2016. Since January 2016, Norton has been Director of Communications (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Facebook. Spencer Livermore went on to be  campaign director for Labour MPs Douglas Alexander and Michael Dugher for the 2015 UK general election before joining "international insight and strategy consultancy" Britain Thinks in 2016. Clients included Heathrow, British Gas, BP, Coca Cola, Facebook, Shell and Unilever.

Butler Kelly delisted from ORCL in 2014. It had been founded in 1998 by Chris Butler, former Conservative Party MP, political secretary at No. 10 and ministerial special adviser in the Office of Arts and Libraries and the Welsh Office; and Phil Kelly, former Deputy Leader of Islington MBC, Chief Whip on the council, and former adviser to the Labour Shadow Cabinet and former Editor of Tribune. In 2011, it boasted two former Conservative MPs - David Nicholson and Nigel Waterson - and one former Labour member, Parmit Dhanda as consultants. Clients included Calor Gas, Saga and Thames Water.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The tide may have turned against Brexit

The Observer today published analysis by Focaldata of YouGov soundings which shows that most of the urban constituencies which voted Leave in 2016 now have a majority in favour of Remain. (There is no sign of any change in rural constituencies, but this may just be down to insufficient data.) Aberavon and Neath are two of those constituencies. The reactions of Stephen Kinnock (a known supporter of EU membership, who nevertheless has voted the Corbyn Eurosceptic line so far) and Christina Rees (a Corbyn loyalist) in the next few days should be interesting.

Part of the swing may be down to a realisation that the various Leave campaigns lied during the referendum campaign and that things are getting worse, not better, since 2016. This is in spite of the main news provider in the country not giving a full picture of the UK's performance relative to the rest of the EU in the last two years.

The main reason for the change is, in my opinion, summed up in the Guardian's special report yesterday from Swansea. It has become obvious to even the most casual observer of current affairs that the government just does not know what it is doing in persisting with Brexit.

The EU promotes public transport

Among other things,

The EU supports city and cross-border transport by carrying out studies and transport policy analysis; promoting the exchange of best practice between local authorities; and helping local authorities to invest in cycle infrastructure and more walkable public spaces through the European structural investment funds.

One wonders how many councils in Wales or even indeed the Welsh government know about this, considering the cuts that both have made in subsidy to local public transport.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Boris Johnson - statesman or music-hall turn?

Guido Fawkes protests that there is no need for an investigation into Boris Johnson's infamous Telegraph column because comedians on Have I Got News For You and other columnists have made similar comparisons. He misses the point that BoJo's friends continue to press for him to be leader of his party and, if there is no general election, therefore prime minister. Mocking other people's cultural customs is not what one expects from a government minister let alone the head of UK's government. I agree with Guido to the extent that other Conservative back-benchers have made worse racist remarks and not had the whip removed or their membership suspended. But they remained on the back-benches, and so should BoJo.

Or is Guido arguing for comedians to enter government, as has happened in Italy? Should we look forward to Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) as Foreign Secretary and Jim Davidson in charge of the Home Office?

The basic premise of Boris Johnson's column I agree with. There should be no ban on all-enveloping clothing or veils if that is what a woman chooses to wear, except on the occasions when there is a conflict with our own time-honoured practices, such as giving evidence in court. We have accepted nuns in full habit on our streets for many years, with concomitant jokes about them from the likes of the late Dave Allen, who was neither charged with an offence nor promoted to government. If only Mr Johnson had not mixed a liberal sentiment with offensive comparisons!

Friday, 10 August 2018

Funny women

After n years on the comedy circuit, including regular appearances on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Natalie Haynes was depressingly asked the same opening question whenever she undertook a media interview: "Are women funny?". (There is more here, including Ms Haynes explaining how the Classics can be made funny.)

Michelle A'Court addressed the question extensively in this Guardian piece in 2014. She has the undeniable qualifications of being a woman and a comedian but I have the advantage of  being older and living through what was probably a significant social change, so here is my two penn'orth.

In the dark days before women's liberation, when comedy was hardly cerebral and women were always ladies to be respected - except for nagging wives and mothers-in-law - and not laughed at. (An outstanding exception from the States is that of Hillary Brooke whose performances as a stooge for Abbott and Costello I came across while writing up my piece on noms de guerre., but I cannot think of a British example.) So the question may have had some point then.

There have undoubtedly been funny women on the stage and later on the screen and radio since each of those media became popular. I recall Jeanne de Casalis (Mrs Feather), Gladys Morgan, Hylda Baker, Gert and Daisy, Joyce Grenfell, Mabel Constanduros and Suzette Tarri* from my youth. Earlier, there were Marie Lloyd, Vesta Tilley and others (who performed songs written by men). However, they were all outside the norm or of a certain age.

The break was probably made on the other side of the Atlantic earlier, but I would put Victoria Wood and Pam Ayres at the head of the revolution in the UK. Here were nubile women, writing their own material, who were not grotesques but who were still laugh-out-loud funny. To be sure, in Victoria Wood's character sketches there is a clear line of descent from Joyce Grenfell and Suzette Tarri (YouTube sample here). It cannot be a coincidence that when she appeared on the Michael Parkinson show, her walk-on music was Red Sails in the Sunset, which was Suzette Tarri's signature tune. Did Ms Wood choose it or did that adroit musical director Harry Stoneham? Since Tarri died when Victoria Wood was not yet in primary school, I suspect the latter.

Since the 1970s, there has been a spate of female stand-up comedians, too many to list. However, there should be mention of the very special Linda Smith who, like Victoria Wood, was taken from us all too soon.

* The wikipedia entry is surely wrong in citing ITMA. Rather, Tarri was a regular performer on variety programmes such as Monday Night at 8 and Music-Hall - and she had a regular show of her own (before my time). The cockney char in ITMA, Mona Lott, was played by Joan Harben.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Who was Clara Beadle?

After yesterday's struggles with a new modem/router, I am back in business with a romantic story and a few mysteries. It all began with watching on Talking Pictures TV The Night has Eyes, a 1942 thriller based on a novel by Alan Kennington (and the research for him proved interesting, too - some dates should appear on IMDb soon). One of the leads was played by (Anne) Tucker McGuire, who I remembered as an authentic voice from the States amid the Canadians and British actors doing their best in radio productions of American plays and novels of the 1940s and '50s. (Bessie Love was another such and her story is also interesting.)  British Actors' Equity, like the Musicians' Union, was very hot in those post-war days in protecting the interests of their members. Immigrants taking British actors jobs were not welcome.

Tucker McGuire was lucky in coming to Britain before the war when interchange across the Atlantic was clearly as free as it is now. She arrived in 1936 as part of an all-American cast of a show which had been doing great business on Broadway since opening in January of the previous year, Three  Men on a Horse. Mystery number one is how she landed a key rôle since I can trace no record of big theatre experience. Clearly someone putting together the London cast (the original continued to run on Broadway) had spotted her talent and took a chance. The romance came towards the end of the run, as told by Michael Bott:

The story goes that, for whatever reason, she had become very disillusioned and was wanting to quit the show and the profession and return to the States. Indeed, she had written a letter of resignation to the management requesting termination of her contract. Part of the reason for her wanting to leave, it seems, was that she wasn't getting the laughs and response she expected from the English audience and had assumed it was her fault and she was no good. The afternoon she was intending to hand over her letter, it was a poorly attended matinee performance - however, although the audience seemed pretty dead as usual, one individual seemed to be enjoying her performance particularly and the laughter of one man could be heard from the back of the stalls responding, it seemed, to everything she did. Despite this very slightly reassuring event, Tucker was resolved and after the show, she made her way to the manager's office to hand in her letter of resignation. There, in the office with the manager, was none other than Noel Coward. It turned out it had been Noel Coward's laughter that had been heard and now, here he was in the office, singing her praises to the theatre manager. Needles to say, the letter remained in her hand, Tucker remained in the show for the rest of the run - her confidence restored. Now the thing is, had Tucker returned to America at that time, she would not have met and married the British actor Tom Macaulay. Tom Macaulay's full name was Chambré Thomas MacAulay Booth - and if you've been paying attention, you'll recognise the latter surname from above. Yes, our good friend Janie Booth (also an actress/writer) is the daughter of Tucker McGuire and Tom Macaulay.

Mystery number two concerns Miss McGuire's travelling companion, as revealed by the Board of Trade shipping lists held by the National Archives and available on-line exclusively through Ancestry UK. Clara Beadle was also bound for Wyndhams theatre where Three Men on a Horse was to be put on. But there is no trace of her in the programme as listed in J P Wearing's analysis of 1930s West End productions. The other female lead was played by Claire Carleton, who had several US stage and a couple of screen appearances behind her. There is no record of Miss Carleton arriving by ship in Britain and the first regular transatlantic flights were a few years in the future. So it is tempting to conclude that Miss Carleton was travelling under the name of Beadle, especially as the ages match. Curiously, there is no Ancestry record of a Clara Beadle being born in the USA around 1913, but there is one in Yorkshire for that year - and I could find nothing further about her in the Ancestry database. Could there have been a Transatlantic adoption? I suppose we will never know.

Another little mystery was solved in researching this piece. It seems the unusual forename Tucker was handed down from an ancestor on her mother's side. St George Tucker was one of the movers and shakers of the American Revolution and later contributed to the jurisprudence of the young US.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Changing suppliers

Some time today, BT will cease to be my broadband and phone provider, and CIX will take over. However, I need to cast some spells over my modem/router which may take some time to get right, seeing as how I haven't had to do this for over a decade. So there may be some gaps in posting to this blog.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Saudia Arabia sanctions Canada

- over concerns expressed publicly about the treatment of civil rights activists in the desert kingdom. One trusts that the Canadians will stick to their principles.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Noms de guerre

It is good to see Jonathan Calder posting about The Magnet again. Since much of it was shot on location (it must have been one of the first British post-war feature films to do so) in Wallasey where I spent most of my teenage years, I have some affection for it. Besides, I used to fancy Barbara Murray rotten. James Robertson Justice appears under a pseudonym (Seamus Mor Na Feasag) and I believe I may have been one of the first to draw the inference that he did so because of a clash with his candidacy in the general election of that time.

In truth, there are many reasons why people in show business appear under different names. A common one is to avoid legal action if one is under exclusive contract under ones own name to another organisation. I seem to recall Carol Vorderman using this device when she moonlighted on BBC when still appearing on ITV. It was especially common among jazzmen in the US in the heyday of the great recording companies - not to mention the artistes who covered pop hits for bargain basement labels here.

Another reason is to avoid typecasting. Clare Woodgate needed to break away from her persona as a schoolgirl in the sitcom 2point4 Children so reinvented herself as Georgina Cates. An earlier example is that of Hillary Brooke who achieved success on screen as an elegant Englishwoman but to do so needed to sever connections with her modelling and brief film career as Beatrice Peterson (or her married name Schute) from New York.

The political angle occurred to me because at the time that I floated it, Welsh Labour were particular antsy about anything which might give additional coverage to their opponents. I recall their trying to suppress a TV interview with a local councillor about a matter totally separate from national politics, purely because said councillor was standing for Plaid in an upcoming Welsh general election. But, as Jonathan Calder points out, there was probably no legal bar.

Perhaps JRJ did the gig as a favour to the producer or director and for reasons of modesty or to avoid trouble with the unions, chose to appear under a Gaelic pseudonym.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

A sensible point of view on EU membership

Isn't it amazing how the BBC and other crypto-Brexiteers in the media have managed to get a People's Vote thought of as a "second" referendum? We had that second referendum in 2016 with an indecisive result, statistically speaking. The first, 1975, referendum had a clear two-thirds vote in favour of staying in the European community, and that after the political implications were aired as they were not to be in 2016.

Michael Morpurgo put the record straight in his Radio 4 Point of View this weekend. He did not shrink from giving the objections to membership their due, but as might be expected from the author of War Horse, he came down in favour of a further vote on membership of a club which has given us peace in Europe for more than a generation, not to mention full employment and the maintenance of the NHS in England and in Wales.

Friday, 3 August 2018

It is possible to deplore the Shoah and sympathise with the Palestinians

Robert Fisk has been condemned as an anti-Semite by the more conservative media here and in the US. My regular reading of his columns in the Independent, when it was a decent print newspaper, led me to the conclusion that his prejudice was against overweening authority. He may well have become more shrill in his condemnation of the Israel government in recent years (I stopped reading the Indy when it went online only to the detriment of the features and columnists who had made it worthwhile), but back in 2006, this article summed up his even-handed approach. He is describing the second volume of diaries of Victor Klemperer, a cousin of the great conductor Otto, a German Jew who escaped Auschwitz by what seems now to be a series of miracles.

[Klemperer] showed great compassion for the Palestinian Arabs of the 1930s who feared that they would lose their homeland to a Jewish state.

"I cannot help myself," Klemperer writes on 2 November 1933, nine months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. "I sympathise with the Arabs who are in revolt (in Palestine), whose land is being 'bought'. A Red Indian fate, says Eva [Klemperer's wife]

Even more devastating is Klemperer's critique of Zionism - which he does not ameliorate even after Hitler's Holocaust of the Jews of Europe begins. "To me," he writes in June of 1934, "the Zionists, who want to go back to the Jewish state of AD70 ... are just as offensive as the Nazis. With their nosing after blood, their ancient 'cultural roots', their partly canting, partly obtuse winding back of the world they are altogether a match for the National Socialists..."

Yet Klemperer's day-by-day account of the Holocaust, the cruelty of the local Dresden Gestapo, the suicide of Jews as they are ordered to join the transports east, his early knowledge of Auschwitz - Klemperer got word of this most infamous of extermination camps as early as March 1942, although he did not realise the scale of the mass murders there until the closing months of the war - fill one with rage that anyone could still deny the reality of the Jewish genocide.

So comparison of hard-line Zionists with the Nazis - and by a holocaust survivor - goes back a long way. To be fair, those words were written before the systematic genocide of Jews and others had begun.

Fisk goes on to condemn the then President Ahmadinejad of Iran (and by implication all those other holocaust-deniers in Middle Eastern leadership positions).

For Ahmadinejad it was who called the Jewish Holocaust a "myth", who ostentatiously called for a conference - in Tehran, of course - to find out the truth about the genocide of six million Jews, which any sane historian acknowledges to be one of the terrible realities of the 20th century, along, of course, with the Holocaust of one and a half million Armenians in 1915. 

 The best reply to Ahmadinejad's childish nonsense came from ex-president Khatami of Iran, the only honourable Middle East leader of our time, whose refusal to countenance violence by his own supporters inevitably and sadly led to the demise of his "civil society" at the hands of more ruthless clerical opponents. "The death of even one Jew is a crime," Khatami said, thus destroying in one sentence the lie that his successor was trying to propagate. 

 Indeed, his words symbolised something more important: that the importance and the evil of the Holocaust do not depend on the Jewish identity of the victims. The awesome, wickedness of the Holocaust lies in the fact that the victims were human beings - just like you and me.

This is the point which Jeremy Corbyn was trying to make when he said that the Labour party condemned all racism. One might take him at his word, if there were not ample evidence of some of his more fervent supporters, particularly those with a south Asian background, repeating the old lies about Jewish control of finance and the media, and even trotting out the blood libel. No meaningful action has been taken against these people.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day 2018

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

 Among the organisations campaigning to push Earth Overshoot Day back is the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Actors are now able to disclose life-limiting illnesses

Alan Alda's declaration that he is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease is confirmation of how the viewing public and TV producers have matured. Alda is not the first prominent actor to carrying on working through a disabling condition. Michael J Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and has continued to work until very recently, even incorporating his handicap in the role of Lewis Canning in The Good Wife. Attracting rather less media attention, Teri Garr's revelation of multiple sclerosis has not stopped her working.

Time was general knowledge of a major disability would have been box office poison. I remember Esmond Knight as a character actor in TV dramas in the 1960s and 1970s. I was unaware that he had been effectively blinded in active service in the Royal Navy. Primarily a stage actor, his fellow RSC members would have known, but he made sure that audiences were none the wiser.