Thursday 31 March 2011

A brief 1961 Hansard trawl, featuring racial minefields, loveydom, exchange controls and rabbit clearance societies.

Some tiptoeing / stomping around in racial minefields:

Mr. N. Pannell asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now state what steps are contemplated to control immigration from Commonwealth countries in view of the fact that the estimated net inward movement for the first two months of this year is over five times the figure for the corresponding period last year.
Mr. Wingfield Digby Is not there enough evidence in the world today of the difficulty of multi-racial societies to give us cause to pause before we go any further in creating a multi-racial society here?

Mr. Awbery (Bristol Central, Lab) Can the Minister give the figures of emigration and immigration? Regarding the point raised by the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), is he aware that when we send English people abroad we help to create a multi-racial state in the places to which they go, and so a difficulty arises there as well?

I make that game, set and match to Awbery.

And there's more:

Mr. Hughes Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, of course, I follow the Prime Minister's speeches? It is our duty to do so. I do not want to embarrass either the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister by saying that this was a very good speech in which he said that a policy of apartheid was anti-Christian, but could the right hon. Gentleman assure us that his right hon. Friend who disseminates information throughout the world will see that this speech is widely distributed throughout Africa?

Mr. Butler It was not a speech. It was in answer to a question at a Press conference. The Prime Minister used the words which have been attributed to him and I have checked with him that that is so. I do not think that the honour of circulating them in the OFFICIAL REPORT or making them into a White Paper is necessarily desirable, as they were answers at a Press conference.
I suppose Butler could not say the comments were only for the benefit of Mac's audience in T & T, could he?

A curious Hansard heading for this, but tis a curious tale:

Universities (World Disarmament)
 Mr. G. M. Thomson (Lab) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider the endowment by Her Majesty's Government at one of the universities of the United Kingdom of a research unit to study the military, economic and other problems of world disarmament.

Sir E. Boyle No, Sir.

Strange thing to fall within the Exchequer's purview, frankly. 

But there's more:

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Lab, and father of that hunt-loving class traitor in the Lords)  Cannot the Government take the initiative in this matter? Surely they are not going to sit back and allow not only the Russians to lead us in propaganda peace appeals but also now the Americans?

Sir E. Boyle  This goes to the heart of our whole system of dealing with the universities in this country. Where it is a matter of a research unit, we would always wait for a university to make a request. That is the whole basis of our system of dealing with the universities through the University Grants Committee. It would be quite a new departure in policy if the Government were to take the initiative in encouraging a research unit of this kind.

Mr. Thomson Is the Minister saying that if we can persuade a university to take an interest in this matter, the Government will sympathetically consider such a request?
Sir E. Boyle I am sure that both the universities themselves and the University Grants Committee will take note of the views expressed by hon. Members opposite.

Oh doubtless, Sir Edward, doubtless .

And the return of the London stage's greatest fan, the MP for Goole (Lab):

Mr. Jeger asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he discussed with the London County Council the future of the South Bank site before making his decision not to proceed with the building of a National Theatre.

Sir E. Boyle   No, Sir. But my right hon. and learned Friend discussed this matter with the Chairman of the L.C.C. on March 13th and further discussions between the Government and the L.C.C. will take place as occasion requires.

Mr. Jeger Is not this a terrible example of the shabby way in which the Government have treated the London County Council? Is not the Minister aware that the L.C.C. has held this site for over ten years and, owing to the deplorable manner in which the Government have handled the question of a National Theatre, there is considerable doubt whether we shall ever see one, and that we shall have to rely on the forward-looking and imaginative boldness of the L.C.C. to provide it?
And so from East Riding theatrical types to civil servant loving Tories:

Mr. Wingfield Digby  asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he proposes to take to reduce the disparity between financial rewards in the higher ranks of the public service and outside industry, particularly among technical civil servants and especially with regard to the benefits in kind which are available in outside industry but not in the public service.

Sir E. Boyle  None, Sir. The Standing Advisory Committee on the Pay of the Higher Civil Service reviewed the situation early in 1959 in the light of the principles recommended by the Royal Commission on the Civil Service. The Government accepted their recommendations and there is no reason to think that another review is called for now.

Mr. Wingfield Digby If the present trend continues, is it not the case that we shall be in danger of losing from the public service the very best people, even taking into account their desire to serve the public and also such questions as honours?
This is rather entertaining:

Mr. Lipton asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much it costs to mint a penny and halfpenny coin, respectively.

Mr. Barber It would not be in the public interest to disclose these figures.

Mr. Lipton Is it correct to assume that it costs more than a halfpenny to manufacture a halfpenny and probably about a penny to make a penny? Is it not very strange and most suspicious that the Treasury is not willing to disclose how much it costs to make these coins?

Mr. Barber No. The answer is a very simple one, namely, that the Mint's foreign competitors do not reveal their production costs, and I therefore do not think that it would be right to expect the Mint to reveal its production costs.
Wasn't some more recent low denom coin reckoned to cost more to mint than it was worth?  I still miss ha'pennies - they made great impromptu screwdrivers.

Sticking with money, one to astonish the children, grandchildren etc:

Mr. J. Howard asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many letters were opened within the last convenient twelve months under the authority of Section 22 of the Exchange Control Act, 1947; and what was the total amount of illegally remitted currency discovered by this examination.
Mr. Barber In 1960 approximately 300,000 letters were opened and £50,000 of illegally remitted currency discovered.
Repeal of this odious and mercantilist law came under Thatcher, and it is to their lasting disgrace that Macmilllan, Douglas-Home and Heath did nothing about it.

Anyone fancy joining a rabbit clearance society?

Mr. de Freitas asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of the rabbit clearance societies is organised as co-operatives.

Mr. Vane  All but one of the societies are registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies' Acts. The arrangements for registration are co-ordinated in England by the Agricultural Central Co-operative Association and in Wales by the Welsh Agricultural Organisation Society.


Mr. Gaitskell In order to assist those who are not so expert, could the hon. Gentleman say what a rabbit clearance society is?

Mr. Vane It is an organisation of interested parties, sponsored by my right hon. Friend, to ensure that the small population of rabbits in this country does not increase again so as to become a serious menace to agriculture.

I, for one, am grateful for Gaitskell's intervention.

And at last we discover why we loom so large in the hearts of the good people of Sierra Leone:

Mr. Pannell asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether it is the intention of the United Kingdom Government to mark the occasion of Sierra Leone's independence by a gift.

 Mr. Sandys Yes. We are making a presentation of table silver bearing the Sierra Leone coat of arms, which could be used on formal State occasions.

However, Pannell is an unspeakable cad for spoiling the surprise.

Europe's Far Left failing to keep step.

A few weeks back I made a moderate amount of hay from Sinn Fein's supporting Gadaffi (to all intents and purposes) via their involvement with the GUE/NGL grouping in the EU Parliament.

In among the GUE/NGL MEPs lurks one Eva-Britt Svensson, flying the red flag for Sweden.  So mark this, found at the ever diverting   

"The Left party agreed Wednesday to vote through the government proposal that Sweden send fighters to Libya when the Riksdag votes on Friday, but continued to support the Greens' and the Social Democrats' line of restricting Sweden's involvement".

These are Swedish Far Lefters we are talking about, so this is pretty astonishing.

To adapt Basil Hume, [this] could be the conversion of the Far Left, for which we have prayed all these years.  Unlikely, however.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Who likes us, who doesn't, and who doesn't even know which street we are on

Gallup have been doing some polling of all humanity, or at least a fairly large representative sample thereof, enquiring as to whether they approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of various countries, including my own, my native land.  So that is what I am going to focus on.  Polling times varied across countries, so some will have been expressing opinions of the Colossus of Kirkcaldy is he is not known, and some of the Cameron/Clegg duumvirate.  And perhaps some will have been thinking of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Battenbergs.

Anyway, onwards - starting with Africa:

Gallup claims that some 91% of Malians and Sierra Leoneans have a positive view of our leadership, which is nice - if not exactly credible.  It would suggest that most of the population of those places has a subscription to The Economist / Le Monde Diplo and is otherwise glued to the World Service or CNN.  I cannot find a figure for UK aid to Mali, which doubtless does exist. Egypt and Libya show rather more credible 'don't know' figures at over 30% in each case.  Equally, they are not among our biggest fans in Africa, with high disapproval figures.  By and large, the strongest disapprovals correlate with Muslim majorities, bar Liberia.  I do not know what we've done to upset them.

Advancing to the Americas, Canada, the US and Chile view us with the highest levels of favour,but note the still high levels of hostility or unawareness.  Haiti would appear to be the most hostile in the Western hemisphere, outdoing Argentina - the one place known to have a beef with out foreign policy.  Nicaraguans are the least able to summon an opinion, followed by Guatemala.  The 30% approval rate from Venezuela suggests that not everyone is singing from the Chavez hymn book.

In Asia-Pacific, five of our six bestest friends are former parts of the Empire,with the Philippines the interloper.  Indians are the least able to muster an opinion, less so than - inter alia - Kyrgystan.  I doubt that the Bishkek Bugle carries much UK news, but what do I know?  Unsurprisingly, it is Muslim majority countries which are least favourable, led by the 75% for the Palestinian Authority. 

Bringing things to a close with our own backyard, Albania and Kosovo (omitted from the chart in error) approve the most whole-heartedly, while other participants in the Balkan wars take another opinion - not much love lost between us and the Serbs and Bosnians.  Note also the hostility of the Germans and the Greeks.  The Portuguese and Maltese find it hardest to come up with an opinion.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Maybe the next President of the US of A - have you heard of him?

Step forward Chris Christie, Republican Governor of Noo Joisey, who despite - apparently - having no intention to take a tilt at the Big One in 2012 is the clear favourite among Republican voters according to a Zogby IBOPE poll:

"New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a man who says he has no plans to run in 2012, leads a field of hypothetical Republican presidential nominees, and is thought to have the best chance of knocking off President Obama.
Of 11 possible Republican candidates being discussed for a 2012 presidential run, Christie takes 19% of the vote and 19% also think he is the most capable of a victory over Obama".

I just dropped the family fortune on him at 50-1.  

And to think I thought banker bashing was out of control in these parts...

This piece of prime idiocy pure malevolence comes from the Netherlands:

"The Lower House wants the cabinet to tax at a rate of 100 percent all bonuses paid out since 2008 by state-aided banks. The House has adopted a motion from the PVV asking the cabinet to levy 100 percent income tax on all financial bonuses paid out since 2008 by state-aided banks including ABN Amro, ING, SNS Reaal and Aegon. If this is not possible, the cabinet must refuse deducibility of the entire bonus sum against corporate tax....The PVV motion was adopted thanks to the support of Labour (PvdA), the Socialist Party (SP) and the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks). The SP immediately asked for a letter from the cabinet on how it is planning to implement the motion".

Fans of coal black ironies will note that PVV stands for Partij voor de Vrijheid, or Party for Freedom.  This is Geert Wilders' lot, from whom one would have hoped better.  

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Relief from the Budget, or the 1911 Hansard trawl

Doubtless it reflects badly on me, but once I know the Budget headlines I find it all almost as dull as I did as a child, albeit without the horror of children's TV being spiked for the day.

Anyway, here comes, or rather there went the Kaiser:

Mr. NOEL BUXTON asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a special invitation will be extended to the Imperial Chancellor, Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, to accompany the German Emperor on his approaching visit to London, with a view to greater expedition in the conclusion of an agreement between Great Britain and Germany on the questions pending between the two countries?

The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey) The German Emperor is coming on a private visit to the King on His Majesty's invitation, and it would not be proper that I should make any other statement about it.
I think they were cousins or somesuch.  I lack the energy to check.

What's up with the Friendly Neighbour to the West?


Are we to consider that Canada is part of the British Empire?

Sir E. GREY  I need only refer to the very explicit and loyal declaration of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Mr. REMNANT  In view of the unsatisfactory answer, I propose to call attention to this matter on the adjournment of the House.

Naked special pleading dept:

Mr. BOLAND asked whether steps will be taken, by way of loan or otherwise, to enable fishermen on the coast of South Kerry to equip their boats with motor engines and to provide fishermen with nets suitable for the herring fishery?
Answered in the affirmative.... 
Mr. BIRRELL The Congested Districts Board are prepared to consider applications for loans for the supply of boats, including motor boats, and fishing gear. Recently the Board have agreed to lend money for the purchase of a motor boat for Dingle.

Why on earth should they have got any help?  Any more than farmers should have loans or gifts of tractors etc.

As before, Irish members do seem to expect omniscience on the part of the Chief Secretary for Ireland:

Mr. LONSDALE  asked the Chief Secretary if he is aware that since 1st March there have been three serious outrages of firing at and wounding in county Clare; and if he will state on what grounds the County Inspector of Clare reported to the Lord Chief Baron at the recent assizes that the condition of affairs in the disturbed area in Clare was steadily improving?

And such faith was well rewarded:

Mr. BIRRELL The Inspector-General informs me that there have been two cases (not three) of firing at and wounding in county Clare since 1st instant.
And again:

The HON. MEMBER  further asked whether on 12th March, at Bally-harrahan, in the Ruan district, about six miles from Ennis, a farmer named Patrick Ryan was fired at and hit in the right thigh, on the back of the right hand, and on the jaw; and whether anyone has been arrested in connection with this outrage?

Mr. BIRRELL  The facts are as stated. One arrest has been made.

One would have to rise very early to be in with a chance of catching out Mr Birrell....

Curious matters Welsh:
Mr. HINDS  asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why no Welsh copies of the information for emigrants are displayed in the post offices of Welsh-speaking districts of Wales; and whether assurances will be given that such notices will in future be supplied, especially in the rural districts?

Hinds was a Welsh MP, and not a Cymrophobe - oddly enough.  Maybe he didn't like being an MP and hoped to have his constituency vanish from under him by emigration.
The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)  I understand that it has not been the practice to translate into Welsh the quarterly posters displayed by the Emigrants' Information Office in post offices in Wales because it was felt that the number of intending emigrants unacquainted with English was not sufficiently large to justify the additional expense.

And so from ethnic cleansing to mud guards:

Mr. LANSBURY  asked the Home Secretary if he is aware that splash-boards for the prevention of mud-splashing are now fixed to the motor-omnibuses plying along one route in the Metropolis; and will he consider the advisability of issuing through the police a regulation compelling all motor vehicles, and especially motor-omnibuses, to adopt those guards?

Mr. CHURCHILL  I am not aware that special devices of this kind are fixed to any motor omnibuses now plying in the Metropolis; but the Commissioner of Police has expressed his willingness to have them tried experimentally; and he has repeatedly told local authorities and others that he is ready to consider the question of compelling motor omnibuses to carry such special mudguards, as soon as an efficient device is submitted to him. None of the mudguards submitted so far have proved satisfactory. I have no power to make any such regulations for motor vehicles generally.

Typical Socialist - thinks legislation is the answer to everything...

Looks to me as though this fellow didn't check his change at the bar:

Mr. HENRY TERRELL  asked the Secretary to the Treasury, if he can state in what manner and under what statute he proposes to proceed to prevent the importation of cardboard tokens in imitation of coins?

Mr. HOBHOUSE The Board of Customs and Excise are being instructed to stop the importation of these "imitation coins" under the provisions of the Revenue Act, 1889, Section (2).
Wild horses will not drag from me the name of the pub, or even the non-metropolitan region where I was given a dodgy fiver in change some time back which the staff then had the temerity to refuse when I tried to bounce it back to them later (my being unaware that it was dodgy up until then).

Sticking with pubs:

Mr. O'SHAUGHNESSY  asked the Chief Secretary, whether he is aware that, recently, the sergeant of police at Broadford, in the county of Limerick, forbade the publicans there to give drink to travellers when attending hurling and football matches or funerals, and that a couple of Sundays ago they were not allowed to supply any drink, though persons travelled over three miles to a hurling match there; whether, if this be denied by the sergeant, he will direct a local inquiry into the matter so that the publicans may get an opportunity of vouching for its accuracy, or take any other steps that he may think necessary?

What a blighter.

Mr. BIRRELL I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a similar question asked on the 16th instant by the hon. Member for North Cork.
And so to this:

Mr. ASTOR asked the President of the Local Government Board, if he will say what are the principal diseases in respect of which aliens are ejected under the Aliens Act; how many have been refused admission into England in 1909 and 1910 by the medical officer; and what number were rejected under each of the specified diseases?  

And the 1909/10 totals were as follows:

Trachoma 299
Other eye diseases 25
Venereal diseases 90
Skin and scalp diseases 25
Lunacu or idiocy 5
Tubercular diseases 8
Miscellaneous diseases 10
Infirmities likely to lead to chargeability (including cardiac disease, deformity, senile decay, paralysis, etc.) 161.

And yes, I am going to make an aside about the doubtful pleasure of investigating aliens for loathsome diseases.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

It's not idle surfing or gawping at the box, it has 'high cultural value'

I am indebted to our French neighbours for coming up with yet another odd survey, with some even odder findings: on which activity has the greatest cultural value (in the opinion of the participant).

Top of the table is reading a book, at 29% (down six points in 14 years), followed by going to an exhibition / museum at 20%, reading a paper at 12%, going to a concert at 12% and my favourite - 8% for surfing the internet, followed by 7% for watching TV.  Regrettably, there is no breakdown by voting pattern, but under 35s skew to surfing and the 65+ cohort to watching TV.

Anyway, onwards.  Asked how many books they read - which includes graphic novels - 10% said none and 20% said 15+.  Reading skews, heavily, to greater levels of education, higher status work and living in Greater Paris.  In among the other questions, I rather like the fact of 18-24 year olds agreeing with the 65+ group that 'there are not as many talented authors as there once were'.  Presumably the youngsters remember their studies.... 

What ever happened to RAF roundels?

(This is, among other things, an excuse to post some aviation pr0n).

Exhibit A - A Sopwith Camel:

Spot those rather attractive roundels on the wings and the fuselage?

Exhibit B - A Supermarine Spitfire:

Handsome isn't it?  The roundels help too...

Fast forwarding a bit, the Handley-Page Victor.  And what a dapper, if somewhat unsung, beast that is:

The roundels add a degree of rakishness, I think.

The English Electric Lightning:


Pretty clear which Air Force those chaps are flying for, wouldn't you agree?

(I'm nearly at the point.  Bear with me)

The Jaguar:

Not such an easy tell, eh?

The Tornado:


And finally the (new) Typhoon:

Looks more like they are representing Jacob's crackers, don't they?

Now I appreciate that identification of friend from foe is more likely to be done with means other than the naked eye, but I still think it is all rather sad.

Taking St Patrick's day a little too far?

This sign, or rather at least a dozen or so of them - including on the front door - was spotted by me while in a City branch of a certain coffee bar chain yesterday  And that is London city rather than Dublin, Cork or anywhere on the other side of the Irish Sea.

While the sentiments remain laudable, does this indicate that the manager is geographically confused, an over keen Hiberno-phile or just not very good at paying attention?

Monday 21 March 2011

The Common Agricultural Policy - a lesson in how it works.

This, from the EU's site:

The Spanish delegation briefed the ministers about the current difficult market situation facing the olive oil sector. Prices for olive oil were at their lowest level for several years and there were still many stocks present on the market at the beginning of this marketing year. This was leading to losses for producers in several member states. The Spanish request to the Commission to activate the optional aid for the private storage of olive oil (article 31 of regulation 1234/2007) is supported by several other member states, in particular those producing olive oil.

Well knock me down with the proverbial - producer special pleading followed by a demand that someone else should bail them out.  

And the CAP ain't going away any time soon:

The Presidency conclusions are the result of a detailed analysis by the member states of the policy orientations outlined in the Commission communication as part of the institutional debate on the CAP towards 2020. In short they.....make clear that the CAP should remain a strong common policy in the future, and acknowledge that the future CAP budget will be established by the European Council.

And this delightful little nugget too:

[it] note[d] significant opposition to the possibility of an upper ceiling for large individual farms.

The 1861 Hansard trawl, featuring bad behaviour in Japan and Leicester Square

I'm in the mood for something a bit more vintage than usual, so here goes:

Infringing Japanese law:

MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS said, he wished to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he can inform the House of the circumstances under which a British subject has been tried at Kanagawa by a Court composed of the Vice-Consul and three Merchants as assessors; whether the Court so composed agreed in the decision come to, and if the sentenced pronounced by the Vice-Consul was fine, deportation from Japan, and three months' imprisonment at Hong Kong; and, lastly, whether the Court at Hong Kong have pronounced the imprisonment unjust and illegal, in consequence of which the British subject referred to has been discharged from imprisonment.

Come on then, what did he do?


said, in answer to the question of his hon. Friend, that the circumstances under which a British subject was tried at Kanagawa were briefly these:—Mr. Moss, the British subject referred to, had gone out shooting, and had killed a wild goose or some other bird. On his way home, when he arrived at Kanagawa, he met certain persons employed by the police of that district, who advanced towards him with their swords. He cocked his gun, and threatened to fire if they advanced; but some other persons behind, employed by the same authorities, took away his gun, which in the struggle went off, and inflicted serious wounds on one or two persons who tried to take it from him.

Right - so breach of the games laws, resisting arrest and GBH.  I think he got off very lightly, frankly.

Further from Russell, smacking of something half way between the melting pot and salad bowl models of multiculturalism:

Mr. Alcock's representation was that between the question of conforming to the Japanese laws and customs on the one hand, and a certain liberty to the British subjects on the other, a line ought to be drawn; but he said that many of the British subjects in Japan thought themselves entitled to violate the laws of that country, whereby they excited on the part of the Japanese a great deal of resentment and complaint. The merchants, on the other hand, said it was absurd to suppose that all the Japanese customs, their mode of dress, and various other things were to be observed by English residents. That might be perfectly true on their part, but he must say he thought that Mr. Alcock was quite right in saying that while on the one hand a fair liberty should be allowed to British merchants and others engaged in their common pursuits, yet that to set at defiance the laws and customs of the Japanese was a course of conduct that was calculated to lead to very serious results.

The things they got up to in Leicester Square:

MR. BERKELEY said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Dement, Whether he is aware that all the London Theatres under the jurisdiction of the Lord Chamberlain were closed on last Saturday evening out of respect to the memory of Her Royal Highness the late Duchess of Kent; whether he is, likewise, aware that all the Music Halls, Salons, Casinos, and the Alhambra in Leicester Square were open upon that day; and whether any attempt will be made by the Executive to prevent the opening of such places on the evening of the funeral of Her Royal Highness; and, if legal means are not existing to accomplish this, whether it is his intention to bring in a Bill for the better ordering of such places of amusement.

Having checked, this particular Duchess of Kent was also known as Mary Louise Victoria, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, or to the then Her Maj, Mummy dearest.  

And the response:

SIR GEORGE LEWIS said, that instructions were given by the Lord Chamberlain for closing the theatres on Saturday last, and he had no reason to doubt that those instructions were all duly complied with. As to that class of entertainments afterwards referred to in the question of his hon. Friend, he could only say that neither the Lord Chamberlain nor the police had any control over them for the purpose of closing them upon such occasions.

I am inclined to think that folk should be left to grieve, or not to grieve in their own ways, and that mourning cannot be compelled.  Somehow I  doubt that Berkeley spent the weekend in sackcloth and ashes praying for the soul of the Duchess

Saturday 19 March 2011

The Arab Spring - what Europe thinks

A French paper has commissioned a poll on the Arab Spring, with the details here at Ifop. Questions were asked in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.   The findings do not suggest that there is very much cheering on of our neighbours from the sidelines going on.

Asked whether the events inspired fear or hope, the Italians split 76% afraid to 21% hopeful.  The most enthusiastic were the Germans - 48%/45%.  We emerge as Europe's mouth breathers with 22% being unable to muster an opinion (it was 8% in France, the next worst) with 53% scared and 25% hopeful.  Right wingers were more likely to opt for fear over hope in all five countries.

Asked the likely consequences, thee numbe one response was more emigration to Europe, followed by Islamist takeovers.  The Spanish mustered 61% for the arrival of democracy in the region to our 50%  Mind you, perhaps the Spanish have rather more recent memories of strong men running the show and what came afterwards.  Again, right wingers in all countries were the most likely to think an Islamist takeover likely.  Asked where EU money should go, the better off opt for development aid, and the less so for tighter immigration controls.

The post would be incomplete without showing what Ifop does with the Union flag in all the 13 opportunities it had:

Maybe Ifop is a den of Irish nationalists which refuses to accept the 1800 Act of Union.

Friday 18 March 2011

A law we *really* do not need in these parts.

From the frequently diverting Croatian Times:

"The 25-year-old T.S. is suspected of setting the European Union flag on fire during anti-government protests in Croatia's capital Zagreb.  He has been accused of damaging the reputation of an international organization, which is considered a criminal offense".
(See interesting, and frankly downright terrifying additional information in the comment by Furor Teutonicus)

Puts me in mind of an old Soviet Union era joke:

An American and a Russian are arguig the merits of their respective nations, and the American avers that he can stand in Times Square and declare the President is an idiot and go unpunished.  To which the Russian rebutts - "If I stand in Red Square and say your President is an idiot they will make me a Hero of the Soviet Union!"

That UN no-fly zone resolution

The text of the resolution and the discussion preceding it can be found in full here.

The list of angels and villains is intriguing, with the following non-permanent members pro-ban:  Bosnia & Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Portugal, Nigeria, South Africa.  Plus us, France and the US.  I do wonder whether the Gabonese are getting value for money from their man in Turtle Bay, Franck Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet (for it is he), as he had nothing to say in the debate, although he did vote.  Maybe he was tongue-tied, maybe he could not think of anything useful to say, maybe, well - who know?  Mind you, he has had his moments:  "Amidst discussions regarding the creation of a United States of Africa in early 2008, he suggested that Gabon's place in the proposed continental state could be comparable to California's place in the United States. Acknowledging with amusement that Gabon was not comparable to California in size, he then suggested that it might instead be comparable to Los Angeles".  

Meanwhile, back at the plot, the abstainers were Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India.  And here are some weasel words, evasions, excuses etc:

Peter Wittig (Germany): "The aim should be to promote political transition in Libya, stop the violence and begin a true political process.  “The people of Libya who have so clearly expressed their aspirations for democracy should be supported,” he said, adding that the Interim National Council was an important interlocutor in that regard"....Germany had decided not to support the resolution and would not contribute its own forces to any military effort that arose from its implementation.

Hmm, if NATO aircraft are attacked, might that not trigger the 'all for one and one for all' collective defence?

Hardeep Singh Puri of India manages to say almost nothing:  "explaining his abstention, expressed great concern over the welfare of the population of Libya and supported the appointment of the Secretary-General’s Envoy.  The report of that Envoy and that of others had not yet been received.  As a consequence, today’s resolution was based on very little clear information, including a lack of certainty regarding who was going to enforce the measures.  There must be certainty that negative outcomes were not likely before such wide-ranging measures were adopted.  Political efforts must be the priority in resolving the situation".    

Maria Viotti of Brazil would appear to be from some other Brazil, perhaps one near Alpha Centauri: 

"regretted that the “strong message” sent by resolution 1970 (2011) had note yet been heeded.  The Brazilian Government had earlier condemned the violence being carried out by Libyan authorities and had called on them to uphold and protect the right of free expression of the protesters and to seek a solution to the crisis through meaningful dialogue".

(QG holds his head in his hands and rocks back and forth)

Li Baodong of the 'People's Republic' of China: "the United Nations Charter must be respected and the current crisis must be ended through peaceful means.  China was always against the use of force when those means were not exhausted.  His delegation had asked specific questions that failed to be answered and, therefore, it had serious difficulty with the resolution".

Or in other words, let Gadaffi finish the job, and no-one mention Tibet, Inner Mongolia etc etc.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Strange bedfellows....

From the London Assembly site:

"The London Assembly today unanimously passed a motion congratulating Her Majesty the Queen on the impending marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton".
And in more precise terms, this:

This Assembly sends a message of loyal greetings to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the marriage of her grandson, HRH Prince William of Wales, to Catherine Middleton on 29 April 2011 and extends its warmest wishes to the happy couple for a long and happy life together. The Assembly additionally sends its best wishes to Her Majesty on the impending marriage of her granddaughter, Miss Zara Phillips. The Assembly instructs the Chair to write to Her Majesty conveying its respect and greetings.”(My emphases)

Having checked the composition of the current assembly, there are '11 Conservative, eight Labour, three Liberal Democrat, two Green Party and one Independent'.  The independent was voted in as a member of the B*P.

A little bit of digging around shows that the Green Party put out a  policy document in 2009 which is distinctly republican:
  • The monarchy shall cease to be an office of government. The legislative, executive and judicial roles of the monarch shall cease. 
  • Peers and members of the royal family shall have the same civil rights and fiscal obligations as other citizens. 
  • A settlement of property held by the current royal family shall be made, to divide it between that required for the private life of current members of the family and that to be public property.
As an unabashed republican, I am not going to feign outrage etc, but I think that Johnson and Jones might have some trouble defending themselves from the charge of hypocrisy.  Unless they send congrats to the mothers of all soon to be marrieds, of course.

No fly zones - the country that's actually walking the walk

Our invariably splendid Danish friends:

"Lene Espersen, the foreign minister, told parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the Air Force is preparing four F-16 fighter jets to take part in an internationally-backed no-fly zone over Libya, should Nato high command decide to act".

It's a start. 

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Decorum and basic humanity - the EU shows how not to do it.

And a sense of proportion too:

The opening line of the statement from the Hungarian presidency runs thus: "To the best of our knowledge, the natural disaster in Japan have (sic) no effect on Europe's population whatsoever said Minister for Rural Development, Sándor Fazekas".  Granted there is a note about previous expression of sympathies, but even so....

Mind you, over at the Korean Central News Agency, the earthquake / tsunami are noted, the Chairman of the DPRK Red Cross Society extends sympathies to the President of the Japanese Red Cross Society but room is still found to run an item about 'domestic violence [being] rampant in Japan'.


The trouble with no-fly zones.... that someone has to police them.  Given that the Royal Navy and the RAF can project two choppers and a custard cream between them, we are not going to be much use to any coalition of the willing and the French (who can project force) lack the will, which leaves, just for a change, our Uncle Sam.

And Pew Global has been kind enough to ask what Americans think and to publish the results.

First up, there is less desire to 'do something' than there was over Darfur, Bosnia and Kosovo - currently 27% think that the US has a responsibility to act. 

Secondly the only option with majority support is increased sanctions - 51%Y/40%N/10%DK - and that is predicated on those coming from 'the US and its allies'.  Enforcing a no-fly zone splits 44% pro and 45% anti. Heavy majorities are against more active involvement, with 23% pro arming the opposition, 16% pro CNN raids bombing Libyan air defences and 13% in favour of sending troops into Libya.  It would be utterly remiss of me not to note the opening verse of the Marine hymn, which might call for a slight reworking if the boots on the ground option was taken up :

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;

Meanwhile, back at the plot, the breakdown of opinion by voters has 33% of Democrats deeming the US to have a responsibility to 'do something', as against 27% of Republicans.  Being of a cynical bent, I suspect that those figures would switch were there a Republican in the Oval office at the moment,

Monday 14 March 2011

A brief 1911 Hansard trawl

The things MPs think worth asking.  Be warned, this is quite surreal.

Mr. HOARE asked the Secretary of State for War whether officers of the Army who inspect boys' brigades or church lads' brigades are forbidden to appear in uniform; and, if so, whether this order could be revoked?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane) Under the King's regulations officers on the active list of the Army are not permitted, if in uniform, to inspect bodies of boys that are not recognised as cadet units by a county association. There is no intention of revoking the regulations concerned.

One has to imagine semi-tame captains dashing to get changed into mufti that they might inspect.  

Viscount HELMSLEY Is not pressure being put upon boys' brigades to become recognised as cadet units?

Mr. HALDANE  Not at all. If they choose to do so they will be very little interfered with: they will be supervised to see that they are efficient. If they are recognised they get certain advantages, but they are perfectly free to remain out.
Viscount HELMSLEY  As a matter of fact is not the provision of officers in uniform to inspect them practical pressure?

Mr. HALDANE No, I do not think it is. But they can hardly have their cake and eat it. They cannot be inspected by officers in plumes and scarlet coats yet say that they have no desire to be associated with the military.
I wonder if naval types were / are allowed to inspect in full uniform.

Mind you, this next one suggests that any misshapen brigade boys might be at risk of sophisticated humour from the officer class:

Mr. BYLES asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to an incident a few days ago, after dinner at the officers' mess of the Army Service Corps at Aldershot, when a quarrel arose because two young officers bearing foreign names were irritated by the persistent ridicule of their comrades; whether several officers have been reprimanded and two placed under arrest; and what punishment, if any, has been administered?

Mr. HALDANE  The General Officer Commanding, Aldershot, reports that the statement that any quarrel took place in the Army Service Corps Officers' Mess, or that any instance has occurred of officers with foreign names having been subjected to ridicule, or that any officers have been reprimanded on account of any incident of a like nature, is unfounded; and that no incidents bearing any similarity to those referred to have taken place.

Not quite the end of the matter:

Mr. BYLES Is the right hon. Gentleman fully aware that in several highly respectable newspapers on Sunday week, and in, I believe, the "Times" of the previous day, the alleged incident was described in great detail: does he suggest, or does he wish the House to believe, that there was no foundation at all for this story?

Mr. HALDANE What I wish to suggest is that a lot of unfounded gossip can be found in the newspapers.

How very different from our own times.... 

As is this:

Captain MURRA asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that drivers of motor cars in London not infrequently make use of syrens, whistles, and motor horns described as of high and penetrating tone and as thoroughly efficient road-clearers; and whether he will give instructions to the police to take steps to prohibit the use of such syrens in London, especially during the hours commonly devoted to sleep?

The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Burns)  My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. The method of signalling the approach of motor cars is at present the subject of a statutory enactment which makes it difficult to make specific regulations on the subject. The point will, however, be borne in mind in connection with any alteration of the law.

Doubtless Murra was driven to distraction by renditions of la cucuracha

Cynics might think that I mentioned that in order to allow a contrived connection to this.  However, it was pure serendipity.

Mr. SANDYS asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information with reference to the situation in Mexico; and whether the Mexican Government is taking adequate precautions for the protection of British subjects and property?

Sir E. GREY I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the question of the hon. Member for mid-Armagh on the 13th instant. In the only case in which it has been necessary to communicate with the Mexican Government on behalf of British interests, I hear that the situation has much improved; and, so far as my information goes, the Mexican Government are doing all that is necessary to protect British subjects and property.

Very good of them, frankly.
An outbreak of an early equivalent of 'just google it':

Mr. CLOUGH  asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can state the number of Chambers, the number of members of each Chamber, the duration, and whether that duration is fixed, in the case of each of the following Parliaments:—Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway,  Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United States of America?

Sir E. GREY The information desired by the hon. Member will be found in the current issue of the "Statesman's Year-Rook," from which, for the convenience of the hon. Member, the following extracts have been made.....
 Maybe Clough had a pub quiz to set.

All the way from Helsinki, the '"reincarnation location generator".

Yes, really.

"You can find out where you might come back in a second go-around on the planet by going to the online site of Helsingin Sanomat's monthly supplement Kuukausiliite, which has built itself a "reincarnation location generator" based loosely on the actions of a one-armed bandit".

Click here to try it out. It is in Finnish, unsurprisingly, but all one has to do is click on the fruit machine picture and then on the bandit's arm three times - once for continent, then country and finally city / region.  Exciting, eh?  In three attempts I have had China twice and India once.  Probability being what it is, that is not hugely surprising.   Doubtless the creators intend the users to feel horribly privileged for being Finns.

Saturday 12 March 2011

The effect of oestrogen on political allegiance...

This from

"Before undergoing a sex change to become a woman, Monika Strub was a member of Germany's neo-Nazi NPD party. But ten years later, she is running for Baden-Württemberg's state parliament for the socialist party The Left".

The paper euphemises somewhat - Die Linke / The Left party is the successor in title to the German 'Democrtatic' Republics' Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands.  It is part of the GUE/NGL coalition referenced yesterday

Meanwhile it does rather make one wonder about some of our home grown extemists and where they might end up if Eves were to become Steves and vice versa.

Friday 11 March 2011

How to say 'hypocrite' in French

I am indebted to France Soir for commissioning a poll of Gallic types on their support or otherwise for UN military intervention in Libya and whether they would want France's military to join in.

Overall support for the first option stands at a not very high 36%, with the Left generally more supportive than the Right - 42% of Socialists to 38% of Gaullists.

Comparing support for UN action with support for French involvement throws up some fairly yawning chasms:

32% of women want 'something done', but only 24% support French involvement.  The gap for the overall Left (Socialists, Greens, Trots etc) is eight percentage points - 39% vs 31%.  The gap for Communists / Left party voters is the broadest - 14 percentage points between the 33% for UN intervention and 19% for French participation. 

The highest level of support for French involvement is the 35% for the Greens - not what I would have expected.  Maybe they are worried about the palm trees.  Credit, I suppose, is due to Frontistes - both options rated 30% support among them.   

Gadaffi's loyal old friends.

This, from the EU press office:

""EU governments need to stand ready for a decision in the UN Security Council on further measures, including the possibility of a no-fly zone", in compliance with a UN mandate and coordination with the Arab League and the African Union stressed MEPs in a widely-backed resolution (584 in favour, 18 against, 18 abstentions). During the debate, only the GUE/NGL group was against this idea".

And what is GUE/NGL, or Gwengle as I am calling it, when it is at home?  The European United Left–Nordic Green Left, which in its own words claims 'We want to see a different Europe, without the democratic deficit which the Treaty of Maastricht served to confirm and free from the neo-liberal monetarist policies that go with it....In order to deepen its ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation with the other countries of Europe, the Union should strive to strengthen the OSCE, where instruments should be developed capable of addressing problems of joint security, while disbanding all those structures which, like NATO and the WEU, are a hangover from the political blocs of the Cold War".

Members using the 'C' word include the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the Communist Party of Greece and French Communist Party.  From these parts, we have Sinn Fein, in the person of Bairbre de Brún.

Those with long memories might recall this:

"...early Libyan arms shipments furnished the IRA with its first RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and that Gaddafi also donated three to five million US dollars at this time...In the 1980s, the IRA secured larger quantities of weapons and explosives from Gaddafi's Libya — enough to supply at least two infantry battalions".

Thursday 10 March 2011

Anecdote o' the day. Read it - you can thank me later.

This is a tale from John Julius Norwich's 'Still More Christmas Crackers' (1990-1999), a collection of 'poetry, prose and literary odds and ends' :

From What's On? - Wiltshire Wildlife Week published by the Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation, 14-22 June 1991:
On Sunday June 2 the Pewsey Group are putting together an unusual combination of attractions, to be staged on the grassy slopes of Martinsell. The centerpiece will be a game of COWPAT ROULETTE.
A held at the base of the hill will be marked out in squares, and participants will stake money on one or more squares. Then a cow is led in and eventually performs on whatever square it chooses to make the winning square. If necessary, a further cow can be introduced for a further round. The field is dearly visible from the flat area above, where there will be a marquee. It can also be seen from the whole path to the summit of Martinsell so if people like to walk to the top of the hill, they can do so while keeping an eye on the cow and their fortunes below.

Always assuming the Viscount does not object, and I can persuade the OCR program to behave, I will be providing further gems when the mood takes me.  

Wednesday 9 March 2011

A 1911 Hansard trawl, featuring an early argument for kettling, the misery of tax collectors and some robust common sense on nationalisation.

First up, a late breaking entry for Man o' the Year, 1911 Edition.  Step forward Sir Frederick Banbury, 1st Baronet, Conservative member for the City of London, and prior to that - get this - Camberwell & Peckham, thus having Mrs Harriet Dromey as one of his less impressive successors.  Anyway, to the man's credentials:

Nationalisation of Railways and Canal Bill:


I am sorry I must oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. It provides for the nationalisation of the railways of England, which, I think, would be a very large order. I see the Secretary of State for War agrees with me on that point. As if the nationalisation of the railways was not enough, the canals are added to the Bill. I wish to ask the House whether the railways and canals of England should be nationalised. The capital of English railways amounts to 1,300 millions sterling. I am now leaving out the question of the capital of the canals. That I propose to deal with later. I think 1,300 millions of capital is sufficient to deal with on a Friday afternoon. I do not suppose that any hon. Member below 1830 the Gangway on either side of the House would get up and say that he proposes to confiscate 1,300 millions of money. Let me ask: the House to realise what the proposal really means. The National Debt of this country is about 700 millions, and if you add 1,300 millions we are going to make the National Debt 2,000 millions, and we are going to do that at a time when by the course of fortuitous circumstances Consols have gone down from £90 to £81. 

Hurrah for that.

If you have tears, prepare to shed them:

Mr. HUGH BARRIE asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that, on 28th January, a mass meeting of the surveyors of taxes was held at Birmingham to protest against the amount of overwork in the Taxes branch; and what action he proposes to take with regard to the promised improvements of the clerical staff in tax offices? 

The tax collectors' friend was an Ulster Unionist, so to speak.

Lord HENRY BENTINCK asked the Home Secretary whether he will give the exact wording of the instruction to make as few arrests as practicable, under which the Metropolitan Police were acting in dealing with the women's deputations on 18th and 22nd November last; whether this order was issued in writing; and whether he has made any inquiry to ascertain by what means it was conveyed to the men and in what form it reached them?

Mr. CHURCHILL No fresh instructions, verbal or written, were issued to the police on or before 18th November. The Noble Lord will, no doubt, appreciate the peculiar difficulties of the police and other authorities in dealing wtih disorderly demonstrations of women Suffragists. If a body of four or five hundred men were to endeavour to force their way into the House of Commons, they would, after being duly warned, be dispersed by charges of police. Many would, no doubt, receive blows from police truncheons; the rest would take to their heels, and very few arrests would be made. In regard to women, and because they are women, no such course is conceivable.

I can't Theresa May arguing for that course of action these days.

And so to his proposed options:

Two alternatives alone remain, each attended by its own disadvantages. First, the police may show great patience and defer making arrests until the conduct of individual women has become so outrageous that their arrest is imperative. This course involves comparatively few arrests, and is confined to persons who have committed serious offences, but has the great advantage of allowing the disorder to continue for a long time, during which the women work themselves into a high state of hysteria, expose themselves to rough horseplay at the hands of an unsympathetic crowd, and finally collapse from the exhaustion of their own exertions. The second course is that the police should arrest disorderly women as soon as there is lawful occasion, with a view to conveying them as speedily as may be to a place removed from the disorders they have themselves provoked. 
Sounds a bit like kettling,doesn't it?。

I rather like this barb of his:  "that copious fountain of mendacity, the Women's Social and Political Union".

A new departure for BritArt?

Given that BritArtists have exhausted their ability to upset / annoy etc Middle England / the boojwahsie and so forth, what about following this template from the DPRK?:

"National and provincial art squads and city, county and district itinerant art squads have conducted agitation activities for increased production over the last week at major coal mines in Sunchon, Tokchon, Kangdong and other areas".

And what's more, 'They have joined coal miners in their work and break, encouraging them to boost the coal output'.  Poor devils - as if coal mining wasn't unpleasant and dangerous enough already.

And while I'm at it, I bet it was not widely appreciated that dogs, parrots and guinea pigs are 'rare':

 "The Central Zoo in Pyongyang welcomed more rare animals. They are 18 pet dogs of six species, more than 130 parrots of eight species and 50 guinea pigs ".

Tuesday 8 March 2011

The 50 year old Hansard Trawl, featuring Edward Heath being right. For once.

Yes, I was shocked too, but here's the evidence:

Mr. Longbottom asked the Lord Privy Seal what advice he is offering to British organisations and individuals invited to the 8th World Youth Festival due to be held in Helsinki in 1962.
Mr. Heath After studying the activities of the organising bodies, the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students, I have concluded that there has been no change in the Communist policy of promoting these Festivals in order to exploit young people for the purposes of Communist propaganda. They are stage-managed by Communist-controlled organisations solely concerned to advance the aims of the Soviet Government. The proceedings at the last such Festival, held in Vienna in 1959, only served to confirm this once again. I understand that Finnish student and youth organisations have themselves declared their opposition to the holding of the 8th Festival in Finland on these grounds.            

I can just hear him saying it too.

Here's one to shock younger readers, or for older readers to regale their progeny with:

Mr. Biggs-Davison asked the Postmaster-General why lawyers are not given priority in the supply of home telephones, whereas such priority is given to Members of Parliament, doctors and others.

Mr. BevinsMy reply of 22nd February to my hon. Friend referred to the principles governing priority in the supply of home telephones.

    It is obviously necessary to limit the number of priority cases; broadly speaking, we give priority to those who may be concerned with matters of "life and death", e.g. doctors, nurses and ministers of religion. In addition, some telephones are needed in the national interest, for example for Members of Parliament, and to meet the special needs of the sick or disabled and for those dependent on a home telephone for their livelihood. It is not practicable to cover all cases of special need by rules, and discretion is, therefore, given to telephone managers. I am sure that the position of lawyers is given due weight. If my hon. Friend has a case of particular hardship in mind I shall be very happy to look into it.
J B-D was not a lawyer, by the way.  He represented the Epping Forest constituency into the 80s, and thus represented my secondary school.  Friends always looked forward to their 18th birthday cards from him.  While we are on this ramble down memory lane, I remember party lines and sometimes think how much amusement could be derived from mobile lines being shared now.  It would certainly make public transport and coffee shops quieter.....

This is a little gem:

Mr. Emrys Hughes asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what are the precise functions of the Liaison Committee 444 that he has set up to assist him in connection with the United States Polaris submarine base at Holy Loch.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing The functions of the Liaison Committee are to create administrative machinery for the protection of the population, to convey to the public the significance of any incident and to re-assure local opinion on the hazards involved in the unlikely event of a serious accident.

Mr. Hughes Is the Minister aware that he also has liaison officers? Is he aware that they have been inquiring on behalf of the American sailors about the increased price of Coco Cola
(sic), whisky, cinema seats and other things in Dunoon? Does he not think that he should make some attempt to get in touch with the local inhabitants in order to prevent the Americans being exploited in case it will make them go Communist? 
Mr. Orr-Ewing I am very surprised that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that constituents near his own constituency are exploiting the Americans. If prices have in fact risen, perhaps this is one of the benefits arising from the deployment of these craft. 
Another one to make one's eyes widen:

Mr. Deedes (yes, that Mr Deedes) asked the Minister of Transport whether his Department has approved the list of shipyards to which the Cunard Steamship Company are about to send invitations to tender for the new Cunarder.

Mr. Marples Yes, Sir.

In our time, the QM2 was built in France, and the Queens Victoria and Elizabeth in Italy .       

Monday 7 March 2011

Gloriously appropriate abbeviation o' the day.

This, from the Turkish Daily News, is far too good not to share:

"Students who throw eggs during protests will receive a disciplinary warning for “polluting the environment,” according to changes set to be made to the student discipline regulations for universities.  According to the changes by the Higher Education Board, or YÖK, the severity of the penalty will be determined by the number of eggs thrown".

The historic Hansard trawl, featuring brigandage, MPs for gun running and 'adopt a Zeppelin'.

A 1911 round up.

A question, one imagines, that would pre-suppose the answer 'no'?:

Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that robberies have recently taken place on the Bushire-Isfahan road, and that further acts of brigandage are feared; and whether representations will be made to the Government of Persia with a view to securing the protection of the road?

Apparently not:

Sir E. GREY The incidents referred to have been reported by His Majesty's Minister at Teheran, who has already made representations to the Persian Government on the subject.

So I'm going to recycle the 'he sees a sparrow fall' line.

Mind you, he's a right misery here:

Mr. MORRELL asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he could yet say whether he would lay upon the Table of the House the Report issued by the Egyptian Commission last September on the question of cotton growing in Egypt; and whether he would give the House any further information as to any action which the Government were now taking in the matter either in Egypt or the Soudan?

Sir E. GREY The report is an already published Egyptian document, with elaborate diagrams, which it would be very expensive to reproduce.

I've had a look at the report, and apart from the vigour of the plants, there were outbreaks of  fish jumping too.

This one's quite interesting:

Gun Running (Persian Gulf)

Mr. LLOYD asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he will state the annual expenditure incurred by the Government of India in regard to the ordinary and the special measures for the prevention of gun-running in the Persian Gulf during the last five years?

Mr. MONTAGU The ordinary measures for the prevention of gun-running in the Persian Gulf form part of the duties of H.M. ships in Indian waters for which a subsidy of £100,000 a year is paid from Indian revenues.

What one might expect, I imagine.  However, someone is not at all happy:

Mr. M'CALLUM SCOTT May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government of India have any legal right whatever to interfere by violence with the citizens of a foreign State who are engaged in the peaceful occupation of increasing armaments?

Mr. MONTAGU I should like to assure my hon. Friend that the Indian Government never do anything which is not within their legal rights.
Alexander MacCallum Scott would appear to be a Liberal non-interventionist.  He ended up joining the Socialists in 1924.


Mr. BURGOYNE asked the Secretary of State for War how many dirigibles are complete, building, or ordered for the French, German, and Russian armies?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane) The German army has nine complete dirigibles, but no official information as to further orders is available. The French army has four dirigibles complete, and eight in various stages of construction. The Russian army has nine dirigibles complete, one building, and four on order.


Mr. BURGOYNE asked the amount of financial provision made for aeronautical work in France, Germany, and Russia during the last two years?

Mr. HALDANE The figures are as follows:— Germany.—1900, Expenditure £54,231.  1910, Estimate £400,000 (including the Zeppelin Subscription Fund, £305,000).

I rather like the idea of a Zeppelin Subscription Fund.  Presumably one fronts the money and in return gets updates as to the health or otherwise of the Zeppelin, flying hours and the like.  And maybe a preferential rate for flying in it.

All will be delighted to know that our military aviators were not going to be left to wing it:

Mr. BURGOYNE  asked whether a special course of training for officers and men in connection with aeronautical work had been decided upon; and, if so, over what period of time this training was likely to extend?

Mr. HALDANE The training of officers and men in aeronautical work is proceeding. No definite duration, of course, has yet been fixed, but officers joining are placed on probation for six months.

And so to this:

Mr. WEDGWOOD asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture what is to be the composition of the proposed committee to inquire into the breaking-up of large estates; what will be the terms of reference; and when is it to be appointed?

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir E. Strachey) I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on this subject to the hon. Member for the Wilton Division on the 2nd instant.

Politically motivated expropriation of private property.  Socialism did not first land here in 1945, did it?

Sticking with Socialists, James O'Grady (Lab) has a question:

 Mr. O'GRADY asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can now state if the Government of Bengal is subsidising a wekly newspaper published in Bengali; how long the subsidy has been paid; and whether it was granted under a guarantee of a certain minimum circulation, or only to secure that Government views should find expression in the columns of the papers?

Mr. MONTAGU The Government of India telegraph as follows:—"An agreement has been entered into between the Government of Bengal and the Editor of the 'Indian Mirror,' Rai Norandra Nath Sen Bahadur, who has undertaken to publish, on the lines of the 'Indian Mirror,' a weekly vernacular paper, of which the Government engage to subscribe for 25,000 copies.

And having suckered Montagu:

Mr. O'GRADY May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the India Office or the Indian Government has taken any cognisance of the fact that the great bulk of the papers in India, whether Anglo-Indian or venacular, have protested against these subsidies, and whether any step has been taken in the matter?

Mr. O'GRADY May I ask who is going to be the authority for putting particular news or a particular feature of politics into this paper—whether it is going to be the Viceroy or the editor?
Mr. O'GRADY Are you going to manufacture their politics for them?

My sympathies are with O'Grady.  First Socialist Governor of the Falklands, apparently.  I expect that frightened the sheep horses

Friday 4 March 2011

An early contender for the Booker?

Newly published "Prospering Land".

The novel, a part of the serial "Immortal Guidance", was written by Pak Thae Su, with the background of the late 1990s when the country was undergoing ordeals.
It is based on the fact that General Secretary Kim Jong Il initiated land rezoning in Kangwon Province and successfully guided the project.
In the novel the leader unfolds an ambitious plan to adjust all the arable land of the country as befitting the features of the socialist country and makes the project start in Kangwon Province with many plots.
Under his leadership, the huge project for improving the layout of fields is completed successfully.
During the project, people come to cherish ardent love for their land.

Sounds thrilling, doesn't it? And yes, I know the Booker is for novels in English.

What's wrong with Otto or Brünnhilde?

I ask, as the results for the top ten names for German newborns in 2010 are in, and neither of those monikers feature (2009 results in brackets)

1. Maximilian (1)
2. Alexander (2)
3. Paul (4)
4. Leon (3)
5. Lukas/Lucas (8)
6. Luca/Luka (5)
7. Elias (6)
8. Louis/Luis (11)
9. Jonas (9)
10. Felix (7)

1. Sophie/Sofie (2)
2. Marie (1)
3. Maria (3)
4. Sophia/Sofia (7)
5. Mia (6)
6. Anna (4)
7. Lena (9)
8. Emma (5)
9. Hannah/Hanna (11)
10. Johanna (10) 

I would think that of that lot only Lukas is a dead giveaway for ethnic identity.  Thank are due to, where I found this.

Headline o' the day

From Unite's media site:

Unite warns against privatisation of the National Blood Service: 'No to Blood Money'.

Not a hint of melodrama, eh?

Meanwhile, the date of the release can be contrasted to this extract from the release:  "On 16 February, the Health Service Journal learned that the Department of Health's commercial directorate held talks with private providers about running parts of the NHS Blood and Transplant service. Capita and DHL are understood to be interested in taking over parts of the service".

Granted, one might argue that HSJ did not necessarily go to press on the 17th (although this website item is dated 16/2...), but it does rather suggest that Unite is not as on the ball as perhaps it might be.

Can't see what the fuss is about, personally, and I will declare an interest as an erratic blood donor.  That's erratic as in the frequency of my donations, rather than as in my blood which I think is something dull like O.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Going backwards - at speed.

Our friends in Brussels have just published the first, ahem, 'Parlemeter' of 2011, which looks at awareness levels and the image of the EU 'Parliament' across the 27.

One of the questions is whether MEPs sit by nationality or political allegiance.  Overall awareness that it is the latter is a less than brilliant 42%.  I will grant that it is not wholly ridiculous to think that MEPs might cluster by nationality, but what is unexpected are the changes in level of awareness over the course of last year:

So, 18 countries saw a higher level of incorrect answers than at the start of the year.  I would suggest that +/- 2% represents a fair margin of error, but that still leaves 14 countries with drops of 3%-10%.  So, just what happened in Finland that some 10% of the population saw its awareness going backwards?  Maybe knowledge of the EU 'Parliament' is not the most mission critical item of information in the mind of the average sane person, but I am bewildered by the degree to which knowledge has been lost.  Have evil trolls been spreading disinformation on the streets of Helsinki, perchance?   Mind you, our figure is down 4% on the year too.  At the other end of the scal, something must have stirred up our Portuguese chums as their awareness climbed 12%.  Looking at overall figures, the Dutch are the most up to speed on these things, with 61% knowing it is political allegiance, whereas only 26% of Czechs know that.  Going off at a tangent, it might add to the gaiety of the nation if Westminster MPs sat geographically - Bercow surrounded by Tories, the Ulster MPs sharing bench space, Wirral West's Esther McVey in a sea of red etc etc.

Elsewhere, I am delighted that we Britons are least likely to think that 'democratic' describes the 'parliament' well.  

Wednesday 2 March 2011

That UN Human Rights Council membership in full

Now that Libya has been suspended, is all rosy in the UN human rights garden?

Here is a list of members of the UNHRC with's rating for its level of freedom, ranging from 1, free via 3, partly free to 7 - unfree.  While Freedom House has its critics - and don't we all? - it is clearly not the plaything of any particular political ideology, bar its bias towards freedom.

Angola 5.5
Argentina 2
Bahrain 5.5
Bangladesh 3.5
Belgium 1
Brazil 2
Burkina Faso 4
Cameroon 6
Chile 1
China 6.5
Cuba 6.5
Djibouti 5
Ecuador 3
France 1
Gabon 5.5
Ghana 1.5
Guatemala 4
Hungary 1
Japan 1.5
Jordan 5.5
Kyrgyzstan 5.5
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya * 7
Malaysia 4
Maldives 3.5
Mauritania 5.5
Mauritius 2
Mexico 2.5
Nigeria 4.5
Norway 1
Pakistan 4.5
Poland 1
Qatar 5.5
Republic of Korea 1.5
Republic of Moldova 3.5
Russian Federation 5.5
Saudi Arabia 6.5
Senegal 3
Slovakia 1
Spain 1
Switzerland 1
Thailand 4.5
Uganda 4.5
Ukraine 2.5
United Kingdom 1
United States of America 1
Uruguay 1
Zambia 3.5

With Libya, the average score is 3.4, which maps to such places as Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Liberia.  Excluding Libya drops the average to 3.3....  Meanwhile, China, Cuba and our friends the Saudis have the chutzpah to pontificate on rights.  Still, at least there's no DPRK.