Happy Thanksgiving to all from this side of the Pond.
There really is very little I can say about the Paris events (the word les événements might acquire a new meaning now and, perhaps, we shall all get over that nonsense of 1968) and their aftermath, particularly as it is still not clear what will happen in the medium and long term. But I thought readers of Chicagoboyz might be interested by news of our own battlefront or, at least, some of it.
I have put up two postings on my blog about debates in the House of Lords where all the interesting political stuff happens: one was the Second Reading of Baroness Cox’s Private Member’s Bill, whose aim is the abolition of Sharia courts, which the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has finally acknowledged as a danger and the other is about a somewhat more idiosyncratic campaign conducted by the Lord Pearson of Rannoch (the word idiosyncratic was invented to describe him) to open up a wider dialogue about Islam. I realize that some of the terminology I use is not always clear to people outside Britain but I shall be happy to answer questions.
I say quite unashamedly that I am a detective story fan and something of a geek as well. I like British and American detective stories of every age (well, obviously not all) and get extremely angry when I see ridiculous comments made by people who have clearly not read much in the genre. No, not all British novels are cosy and not all American ones are tough; and no, Christie did not write silly mystery stories about country houses, which figure very rarely in her works; and yes, there were a good many excellent male detective story writers in the Golden Age on both sides of the Atlantic as well as a number of women thriller writers.
Luckily for me, there are other fans and geeks on Facebook and we have great discussions. Good thing like blogs, collections of essays and conferences grow out of those discussions or around them. Recently it was suggested by Curtis J. Evans that we should have a Tuesday Night Club to imitate the first Miss Marple stories. Several of us posted five Tuesday Night (or, in my case, sometimes Wednesday morning or afternoon) blogs about Christie. The link to Curt’s blog will lead you to all the other bloggers who took part in this enterprise but I thought that just for fun I shall post the links to my blogs here.And you must admit that is a very different them from my usual ones as well as a much happier one.
My first posting, on September 29, was about Miss Marple’s somewhat mysterious nephew, Raymond West and I think I really succeeded in unravelling certain puzzling aspects of his life and relationship with his aunt.
Then, on October 6, I wrote about Christie’s excellent understanding of social changes in Britain during and after the Second World War as well as her attitude to servants, very different from the way it is characterized by people who have heard of her novels but not read all that many of them.
Then I took one Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who appear in four novels and a collection of short stories. In my opinion, two of the novels are quite good, one passable and the last one is a complete mess. The collection of short stories, Partners in Crime, remains one of my favourites for reasons of entertainment rather than superior detection. On October 14 I wrote about the Beresfords in general and on October 21 I dealt with the Beresfords’ reading matter, which reflected Christie’s own to some extent and revealed some interesting facts.
My last posting as part of the Tuesday Night Club on October 27 was about archaeologists in Christie’s work. She knew a great deal about them, having married one and having accompanied him to a number of digs in Iraq and Syria where she took part in the work of uncovering the past. I have to admit to an egregious error: I omitted Signor Richetti (Death on the Nile) from my list of fake archaeologists.
It has been suggested that the Tuesday Night Club carries on with blogs about Ellery Queen, a seminal figure in crime writing, particularly in the US. I have read a number of the novels and short stories but have never been able to work out much enthusiasm for them, considering the atmosphere too hysterical, the character of Ellery too annoying and that of his father Richard, a New York police inspector, too stupid. I may sit the whole month out. Certainly, I have no time to do a posting this coming Tuesday but when I have read what my colleagues have written I may well think of something to say. In the meantime, have fun with Agatha Christie whose 125th birthday we are celebrating this year.
Woop-de-doo! We have a Labour Leader and a Deputy, Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson, so the Tom and Jerry jokes have begun. At the moment nobody has the slightest idea what the new Leader’s policies are as he has never had any before and has not, in fact, had much of a political career. We wait with bated breath but as I have written in my latest posting on Your Freedom And Ours, at least his waffle about the European Union does not indicate any support for Brexit. That would be disastrous as we would lose many votes in the referendum.
It is possible that nobody outside the United Kingdom has noticed that we have been going through a very lengthy and painful process: the election of several party leaders. So far we have done with the Liberal-Democrats and with the Scottish Labour Party (in Scotland three of the main parties are now led by women so one can only wonder what John Knox would have made of that) and are still without a national Labour Party leader. Members of the Scottish Labour Party may have voted for their leader but they are also voting for the national one. Much to everybody’s astonishment the front runner by a long way is Jeremy Corbyn, a hitherto little known extreme left-wing MP, who still holds economic and political views that had been shown to be useless and harmful by the 1970s and cannot possibly be relevant to the modern Britain, who consistently supported the IRA and whose buddies in other countries are, without exception, tyrannical, bloodthirsty, Islamic fundamentalist, anti-Semitic and, in some exceptional cases, Holocaust deniers. In a couple of weeks he may well be the Leader of Her Majesty’s no longer loyal opposition. The mind boggles.
Ah yes, we are told by people who support him and others who hastily add that they do not, he has principles and that is very attractive in the modern unprincipled political world. Needless to say, many of the people who say this scream abuse at the very mention of Margaret Thatcher’s name and yet if ever there was a principled politician, it was she. On the other hand, as all politicians in democracies she also recognized that other people had other ideas and principles, even people in her own party, and their support, too, was necessary.
My own view is that just having principles is hardly sufficient. One needs to know what those principles are and, in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, they are devastating for this country and our Western allies. Let me just add that as a little known and long ago sidelined backbencher, Mr Corbyn has, until now, achieved nothing in his political career. He has made speeches and appeared a great deal on Russia Today and Press TV as well as public platforms that he shared with various terrorists and other jolly people listed above. One cannot help wondering how those principles will stand up to the realities of party leadership.
Here is my blog on the subject that might be of interest to American and other readers.
Happy Independence Day to all my American friends on this blog. I wish you what I wish us, in a way and that is a better and wider knowledge and understanding of history, yours, ours and out joint one.
Happy Thanksgiving from this side of the Pond. We are all very envious of a holiday that has all the good things of Christmas and none or, at least, very few of the bad ones.
And for those brave souls who, sated with turkey and pumpkin pie, would like to read something about the situation over here, I have a couple of links: one to a blog posting about Owen Paterson, a fairly senior back-bench Conservative MP (Cameron should never have sacked him from the Cabinet) calling for British withdrawal from the European Union and another one on a different blog that concentrates on the fisheries issue on that speech and its importance as against the presence of two UKIP MPs in the House of Commons. Hope they will not spoil the festivities.
The lunchtime meeting today had been organized by the Henry Jackson Society, the Left’s particular bugbear, in the House of Commons (luckily in one of the committee rooms where the acoustics were good and the mikes worked). The guest was the eminent academic and commentator, Professor Walter Russell Mead and his topic was an obvious riff on a once highly influential book by Professor Francis Fukuyama: The Crisis in Europe: the Return of History and what to do about it.
As one would expect, Professor Mead gave a very cogent and exhilarating analysis of the many problems the world is facing today but, as a journalist from Die Welt pointed out, we have all heard a great many depressing talks and read a great many even more depressing articles of that kind recently. What did Professor Mead think were some of the answers?
Professor Mead’s main solution was (and, to be fair, we were coming to the end of the session but, to be equally fair, that was supposed to be part of the presentation) that the US should restore its interest in Europe and re-engage in a dialogue with its European partners. Or, in other words, as he said the Lone Ranger, having ridden away, should now return (no word of how Tonto might feel about that).
The European Union, Professor Mead explained, was American foreign policy’s greatest accomplishment; it had been one of the aims of the Marshall Plan (some stretching of history here), had been supported diplomatically and politically throughout its history but has, to some extent been left to its own devices in the last few years. The US underestimated the difficulties European weakness and lack of cohesion will cause to it. Having, as it thought, defeated the bad guys (twice, presumably), knocked all the European heads together, the US announced that it will do what the European had always said they wanted and that is leave them all alone. Apparently, that is not what the Europeans wanted deep down and it is time to recognize this fact.
We’ll be over, we’re coming over
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.
Well, that’s fine, except that it would appear that it is never going to be over, over here. We saw that when Yugoslavia disintegrated into a series of wars in the nineties, the EU though the egregious Jacques Poos announced that “this was Europe’s hour” only to plead with the Americans to come back and sort the mess out after all. It seems that they will have to come back again in the sense of taking greater interest in this pesky little continent and its pesky problems.
Is that really the answer? Obviously, as an Atlanticist and an Anglospherist I want to see a continuation of the existing links between certain European countries and the United States, adding Canada, Australia and New Zealand into that network. But would a greater involvement by the US in the EU’s problems really help anyone? Somehow, I doubt it.
I got a little carried away with my blogging and had to put up two posts on Your Freedom and Ours on the subject of Professor Mead’s presentation, the discussion and my own opinions. So here they are: Post 1 and Post 2.
It is my strong suspicion that the last big reshuffle before next year’s General Election in Britain has gone largely unnoticed in the rest of the world, though it is the biggest political story here. Nevertheless, it is possible that people might like to see what is behind the headlines about the promoting of women, the supposedly eurosceptic Cabinet (no, it is not) and the reshuffle that has been described by no less a person than Charles Moore, as the worst in twenty-five years (can’t remember the others but doubt it). So I have written my own analysis on the subject and present it to CBz herewith.
The one thing I am very pleased about is the replacement of William Hague by Philip Hammond who seems to have a better understanding of reality.
Happy Independence Day from this side of the Pond. We, too, must start mulling those words.
Time to spread my usual Christmas gloom and misery with a few side-swipes at a couple of iconic works of art. Read it on Your Freedom and Ours.
Merry Christmas to one and all.
Posted in Holidays | Comments Off on Bah humbug!
Happy Thanksgiving Day to all Americans and happy Hannukah to all Jewish readers and contributors to this blog.
The news about public opinion and political debate in Britain is not good, I am afraid. My evidence is the recent brouhaha, possibly noticed by some American readers of this blog but probably not. It is, however, important in what it indicates. The fuss is about the Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister in waiting (theoretically) and newly reborn firebrand socialist, Ed Miliband and his father, influential left-wing Marxist thinker and writer, Ralph Miliband. I put up a longish piece on Your Freedom and Ours and my unhappy conclusion is that, for the time being at least, the Ralph Milibands of this world have won the battle for the hearts and minds of the establishment, political and media.
By now, there can be nobody in the United States who is even remotely interested in foreign affairs who does not know that on Thursday the government in Britain suffered a defeat in the House of Commons with a clearly hostile debate in the House of Lords over the question of whether to intervene militarily in Syria.
Much has been made that this is the first defeat for a government over matters of war since some imbroglio in the eighteenth century when the Prime Minister was Lord North. The reason is actually simple: the government does not have to go to Parliament over either declaration of war and actual acts of war. These come under the Royal Prerogative, which is now vested in the government of the day and all attempts to change that through legislation have failed. However, Tony Blair found it necessary to ask Parliament (several times) about the war in Iraq and got his authorization. It would have been impossible for David Cameron to do otherwise but his case was quite genuinely not good enough to pass muster.
I wrote a blog a few days ago, in which I put together some of the questions that, in my opinion, those clamouring for intervention needed to answer. This has not happened to any acceptable degree and even after the vote, those who are hysterically lambasting the MPs refuse to do so, constantly shifting the ground as to why we should intervene.
Since the vote, which was immediately accepted by the Prime Minister, possibly with secret relief, I became involved in ferocious disputations on the subject. In the end I decided to sum up the situation as I saw it in another, rather long, blog. It is largely about the situation as far as Britain is concerned so it may be of interest to readers of this blog.
For the record, I do not think this is the end of the Special Relationship, which exists on many more levels than political posturing. As I say in the blog, if it survived Harold Wilson’s premiership, it will survive the Obama presidency. Some things are more important than immediate and confused politicking.
It was actually late on Friday evening when an American friend put up the news on Facebook: he had heard from another friend and colleague that Ken Minogue had died on the way home from the Mont Pelerin Society meeting at the Galapagos. Why has it taken me so long to write about a man I liked and admired as a thinker, a great force in politics and as a dear friend? Somehow, I feel it is appropriate to write about him on July 4, American Independence Day, when many English and, as some of us say, Anglospheric ideas were codified on the other side of the Pond, even if it meant a break with the mother country.
Although Ken Minogue wrote for the fabled Encounter magazine at the time my father did as well, my own friendship with him is much more recent. Ken was one of the founders of the Bruges Group, chaired it for some years and retained a close interest in its doings. It was through that and other eurosceptic organizations that I knew him and through other friends became friends with him and Beverley. There are few things in my life I am more pleased and proud of than this friendship and few things I shall recall with greater pleasure than the various lunches, dinners, outings to the theatre (once to see the wonderful production of Guys and Dolls with Adam Cooper as Sky Masterson) and the cinema, and the many talks about subjects that ranged from musicals and Hollywood films to serious political ideas.
The rest of the posting is on my blog, Your Freedom and Ours.
To all from this side of the Pond. The third English Revolution.
And here is the other side of the argument. Dr Johnson’s Taxation No Tyranny.
Anyone in Boston? Are you OK? We are all watching in horror.
You guys should come to Britain. Then you would know what bad and stupid politics was. Have you heard of the doctor who was on the list of the Conservative (please note) parliamentary candidates but was suspended because she retweeted a picture of Hitler with a quotation of his in which he explained that the Nazi party was a socialist party? No? Well, here we are. Enjoy.
Happy New Year to all on Chicagoboyz. As ever, my resolution is to be a little more active here in 2013. There will be some interesting developments, I suspect.
This posting on my blog, Your Freedom and Ours is definitely about British politics. We are in a very peculiar situation. There is a deep disenchantment with the main parties, particularly the junior partner in the Coalition, the Liberal-Democrats (known by me and my friends as the Lib-Dims); there is a growing understanding that the EU is generally bad news, which is not accompanied by a firm desire to leave; there is a small party that has been around for twenty years and ought to benefit from all this and yet UKIP is, despite the hype a couple of days ago, is getting nowhere. So I thought I’d have a go at analyzing the relationship between politicians and the electorate but I am hoping that the posting will generate a discussion.
Happy Thanksgiving to all from this side of the Pond. One day I shall ensure that I am on that side for this holiday.
The last Stalinist show trial took place in Prague sixty years ago this week. The defendants were Rudolf Slansky and thirteen other Communist ex-members of the government and former holders of senior positions in the hierarchy. Eleven of them were sentenced to death and executed on December 3. Three months later Stalin died and the Soviet Communist system changed irrevocably.
I have written a long piece on the East European purges and trials on another blog but, just to get people interested, here are the first and last paragraphs of the article:
One morning at the end of November, 1952 a five-year old Czech boy, Ivan, who was staying with cousins of his parents in Bratislava while his mother, who had seemed exhausted and unwell, remained in Prague, wandered into the kitchen, a little surprised and disappointed that the usual appetizing smells of baking were not noticeable. He found his grandmother’s cousin and her daughter sitting tensely at the table, listening to some boring official announcements on the radio. Ivan thought it was silly of them. Then, in response to something said by the boring official announcer, they exclaimed and clutched each other’s hands. One of them burst into tears. Ivan was puzzled. “I thought someone died.”- he said and the women looked at him in shock, then sent him away to play with cousins of his own age. About ten years later Ivan realized that what he must have heard was the announcement that his father, Rudolf Margolius, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade and one of the defendants in the last Stalinist show trial, the Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia, had been sentenced to death. Out of fourteen defendants, eleven received the death sentence, carried out on December 3.
I started with Ivan Margolius’s reminiscences; let me end with my own from several years later, when the system was falling apart. As small children who started school in Budapest in the autumn of 1956 we knew that things were uneasy but failed to understand exactly what was happening. It was morning school on October 6 (mornings and afternoons alternated week in, week out as there was insufficient school space) and we were walking home at lunchtime. I knew my parents would be out and somebody was coming to look after my brother and me. It was a grey day with intermittent rain, which had stopped producing a sort of crystalline clarity with the droplets in the atmosphere making everything look sharper and brighter. There were black flags everywhere. We were talking quietly. Some of us had been told that this was the first time for some years that the Day of Mourning, the anniversary of the execution of 13 Hungarian generals in 1849, was marked. Others had heard another name connected with the day: Rajk. My parents had gone to the reburial of Rajk and those who had been executed with him. (Slansky could never have been reburied as his and his co-defendants’ ashes had been thrown out of the car onto an icy road.) They had gone and had stood through the macabre rain-sodden ritual because they knew that it presaged something bigger. Just over a fortnight later, on October 23, they went to another major demonstration. By the time they returned from that, the city was in the throes of an uprising.
The political and academic historical world of the British Isles seems to have been plunged into mourning at the death of Professor Eric Hobsbawm CH (Companion of Honour), author of many hefty tomes and a life-long Marxist and Communist. People who would rightly excoriate any Holocaust denier weep copious tears over a man who has spent decades denying the crimes of Communism, supporting the most horrible totalitarian system in history, skating over such matters as collectivization, the show trials and the forcible take-over of Eastern Europe after the war and writing history that is pure Marxism. Well, not me, if I may use such an ungrammatical expression. Here is my take on the man.
Greetings from this side of the Pond. Let us all celebrate the third English Revolution. (Mutters: damn rebels.)
I seem to do very little apart from putting up good wishes for various holidays. Must. Do. Better. Anyway, in the meantime: Happy Easter and Happy Passover. Orthodox Easter next Sunday but let me wish everyone happiness for that as well.