Saturday, 30 June 2012

Light and Truth

Don't forget that you can read my novel Light and Truth in real time here. I'm rewriting it and, as each chapter is finished, I'm posting them to my  new blog for your delectation, edification and delight. It's the modern way. It's the way of the future.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Atheists Cock-a-Hoop at Circumcision Ban!



Three cheers for the German court that has decided that circumcision of children before they are old enough to give informed consent to initiate them into their respective religions amounts to child abuse. Quite right too. To argue any other way is moral relativism of the worst kind.

There is absolutely no medical benefit to be derived from circumcision, just an idiotic and dogmatic belief based on a fantasy. If people are stupid, credulous and ignorant enough to believe that their all powerful god really requires them to maim themselves in this way - you would think he would have more important things like murder, genocide and mass starvation to worry about, but apparently spends all of his time on the big issues of the day, like what we eat, whether we show our hair and whether or not we have a bit of skin on the end of our todgers - then that is their affair, although they might also like to ask themselves why our alleged designer bothered to give us such appendages if he then insists on us hacking them off. But doing it to children is just wrong. It's as wrong as denying them blood transfusions because of a peculiar interpretation of one passage of a work of fiction.

Of course much play will be made of the fact that this decision is taking place in Germany. But I say more power to them. Perhaps it means they are finally leaving the past behind them and behaving like the grown up, mature democracy they clearly are by just dealing with the facts. Taking on the vested interests of the religions and making them join us in the 21st century is a sure sign of that. We should follow them there. Like so many issues that the religions kick up a fuss about, in years to come we will look back and wonder what all of the fuss was about and indeed why it took us so long. Remember Sunday trading?

This is not an attack on religion, it is an attack on some of the more bizarre practices and obsessions of religions given protected status for no better reason than this is something that has been done for centuries. It is protection for children who should have a choice. It does not prevent parents bringing up their child any way they see fit. It just prevents them from inflicting a needless injury based on superstition and ethnic identity and gives the right of choice to the individual, which is where it should be.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Is George the New Macavity?


Oh dear, it seems that one of my favourite new MPs and ministers Chloe Smith (she reminds me of a former girlfriend) got into a bit of trouble defending the Chancellor's decisive indecisiveness on Newsnight last night. Was this George being a bit cowardly and sending out his junior officers to take the flak on his behalf? Almost certainly. But even worse does it not remind you of a certain G Brown who also used to go missing when the going got tough and earned the nickname Macavity?

I'm sorry about my continued absence from PMQs reporting. Things do not seem to be going well for Dave. But then you don't need to watch these weekly sessions to know that. Normal service will resume in the autumn, but that's from me, not necessarily from the PM or his government.

I still rather like Chloe though (see below) She's like a young Yvette Cooper who, incidentally, I saw driving through Westminster in a battered and beaten up old Ford Mondeo last week. It seems that the Balls family could do with doing a bit of borrowing to boost the economy and buy themselves a new car.This would be better for the environment too, which of course is bound to concern them.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

In Order of Mediocrity


For those of you still looking back fondly on the wet farce that was the Diamond Jubilee and imagining that our royals are a great and enduring asset to our damp little nation, take a look at this piece in today's Telegraph which reveals what they are really like.

The order of precedence, we are told, has been updated. Essentially this is a ranking for the royals, a list of who is the most important and who must bow or curtsy to whom. Apparently they even do this in private, away from the public eye, which is a sure sign of a family in need of a reality check rather than in touch as some opinion polls recently found.

Arcane nonsense? Of course. But our first family takes all of this kind of thing incredibly seriously. This is a family, after all, who guard with ferocity the right to be called his or her royal highness, even to the point of choosing marriage partners with regard to whether or not they will be able to hang on to it as the late and unlamented Princess Margaret once did.

So it seems that Kate, the new star of the royals and the reason for much of their popularity because she looks so normal and, you know, not pig ugly, must defer to the family who have royal blood and consequent unfortunate looks running through their veins. She must curtsy to the Queen and Phil the Greek, the Princess Royal, the Prince of Wales and his horsey wife, Princess Alexandra, the fat old Duke of York if he's not away on a golfing holiday, and his two daughters who remain princesses and presumably will never do a proper day's work in their lives because they're so important.

Still, blood is all. Actually the easy way for Kate to remember all of this is to note that she must curtsy and give due deference to all of the odd looking people, some of whom wear odd hats and bad outfits for additional convenience that she happens to encounter at Buckingham Palace. It makes them feel important and compensates for the empty and barren lives they lead.

Does any of this matter? Well it does to them you see. This is the sort of thing one worries about when one is born to privilege but can't really explain it or justify it. It is why one clings to the title his or her royal highness. Stop and think about how utterly ludicrous that title is for a moment. They are a person of highness.  What the hell does it even mean? Everything if you belong to the most dysfunctional family on the planet currently riding high in the opinion polls for reasons nobody can really explain.


Light and a New Kind of Truth

You may recall that, back in April, I published on this blog the first chapter of my book Light and Truth. It's been quite popular (thank you to all those who took the time to read it) although thus far has elicited no calls from Hollywood or publishing bidding wars. Anyway, I have now decided that the whole thing needs a rewrite. That first chapter will survive in some form but will no longer be intact or indeed the first chapter.

Good writing, they always say, is in the rewrite. And you, dear reader, are going to be able to enjoy the process with me. I have started a new blog which you can find here. If you prefer it is also available at lightandanewkindoftruth.blogspot.co.uk. It is still called Light and Truth but sadly that domain was taken, hence the longer one for the website. Sorry about that.

Anyway, the idea is that I shall be posting each new chapter one at a time as I write them. They will not of course be the finished article immediately on posting and will need editing. But you will be able to follow the story and indeed the whole writing process as it takes place before your eyes. It's not unlike back in the days of Dickens who published his novels in serial form, although of course he did not have the luxury of the computer and word processor. Any mistakes were there for the world to see and had to be corrected at a later date. The same is true of this novel. Feel free to point out any mistakes or inaccuracies via the comments or the contact methods above. I promise not to take it personally.

So, what is the story about? Well, without going into a blow by blow account which would ruin the story for you, here is a brief precis, a kind of blurb which might one day be found on the back cover of the finished article.

In a post apocalyptic world which wiped out much of the United States caused by a giant super volcanic blast, the world finds itself in a new ice age, under permanent heavy and leaden skies. Humanity is likewise heading back into the dark ages, with fundamentalist religion taking over as humans fall back on superstition and turn on science and technology. 

Fighting against this tide is Britain, under a permanent blanket of snow but putting its faith in science and technology to feed, clothe and keep warm its people, especially in a post oil age now that the new Caliphate across the middle east and spreading westward won't sell its oil any more to the infidel.

But the obscurantist religious tide is coming and is getting ever harder to resist. This proves to be even more difficult when physicists make a shocking discovery in a particle accelerator, a fundamental particle that could be the real god particle, especially when it starts giving its discoverer, the brilliant but arrogant James Carling, god-like powers. Carling's hatred of all things religious knows no bounds, but will he be able to resist the temptation to play god himself? Will he be able to resist the temptation to change the world and the way people think?

Take a look at these first three chapters. Feel free to let me know what you think. Feel free to fly me to New York or LA to discuss terms for a movie franchise.

Subsequent chapters will be published as and when they are finished. Please note that, at the time of writing this post, Chapter Two is not yet finished. But you can read it in its incomplete state for now while I write it. I will post on my main blog every time I finish and publish a new chapter.Oh and, unfortunately, because of the way these things work, if you want to read from the beginning, the first chapter is at the bottom of the page and you will have to scroll down. But this does have the advantage of meaning that each new chapter will be right at the top.

Enjoy!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Michael Gove - A Real Tory


One of the reasons one becomes a blogger is that it allows you to think out loud, to propose solutions to the nation's ills, radical solutions, controversial solutions - think flat taxes, think pulling out of the EU, think bringing back O Levels.

But it seems one doesn't have to be a mere blogger to think this way. One can be a proper Tory and still be a part of this government. Michael Gove. All hail Michael Gove. The man who made Leveson have a hissy fit, the man who is taking on the teaching unions, that most vested of vested interests. The man who, it seems, wants to bring back examinations that represent something and who doesn't buy into this educationalist crap about not letting kids think they have failed. I got it all the time at school when girls didn't look at me, when I got picked last for all sports. But I made up for it by taking O Levels rather than CSEs, proper examinations for people who were  better at some things than others. That's life. But tell that to teachers. Mr Gove is doing precisely that.

Oh and apparently this has upset the Lib Dems. What a triumph!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Spinach - King's Head Theatre, Islington



The King's Head Theatre in Islington's Upper Street is one of those tiny venues which make London such a joy to live in, not least because it is behind a nice old-fashioned boozer. It's part of a noble tradition that goes back to Shakespeare's day, although one that had become purely historical until this one was created in the seventies. It's raw and beautifully intimate, with the actors only yards from the audience and inches if you happen to be in the front row. A mile or two away from the frequent excesses of the West End, this is a more authentic theatrical experience.

Spinach, by Janine Waters, who also directed it, and Simon Waters, is highly unusual and bold in being a sung play. That is to say it is not a musical or an opera - the characters do not burst into song. Instead they sing everything. There is a difference. This of course could put a lot of people off. In fact it quickly becomes incidental, although some of the jokes and plot points might suffer for the choice.


And there are some good jokes along the way, about the implausibly unattractive (to women) Tom, at least when played by the, to my eyes, rather handsome Ben Gerrard, and the did they or didn't they nature of his relationship with the woman, Kate (Cassandra Compton) to whom he finds himself tied. 

That is how the story starts. Two people, who don't know one another, find themselves in a room, tied up, unable to see one another and in clear but undefined peril. Who are they? Do they know each other? What is the connection? Is this an international conspiracy or is the villain someone closer to home? Oh and we find all of this out through the medium of flashback - and of course song.

It is to the writer's and actor's considerable credit that they manage to explore this story entirely through that medium of song, albeit song without conventional structure except in a couple of cases. It's more words set to music. Why did they do it this way? Well, why not? Is it a gimmick? Possibly. But it's very well executed and there are some decent tunes in there too. Of course it is also true that, but for this approach, it would have been a fairly run of the mill tale with more than a hint of a television sitcom about it. 

The format arguably also detracts from the serious points the play tries to make about homelessness and the drugs industry. What points it does make are consequently slight.

Another curiosity of the format is that the minor characters tend to be better sketched than the two main protagonists who barely leave the stage for the entire 80 minute duration. Maureen, played by the excellent and multi-talented Claire Greenway, is given the song of the show which tells us all we need to know about her and her obsession with cleanliness, even if this proves to be of absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. It's an odd choice. Why weren't the other characters filled in in a similar way?

Yet don't let these quibbles put you off what is a throughly entertaining 80 minutes of theatre. The current cast sing their parts beautifully, particularly Cassandra Compton and the aforementioned Claire Greenway and, if on occasion the audience don't laugh when they ought to, then another joke will be along in a few moments. Only at the end did this pace relent as the need to explain why the villain was the villain (not that we hadn't guessed - it's not that kind of show) overwhelm the desire to keep the mood light. The ending indeed is the weak point of the play and could do with some judicious editing. But the final song, which really is a song, allows the full cast to give full vent to their not inconsiderable vocal talents.

Finally, I can only relate that, despite suffering with a high fever and a chest infection, I left having thoroughly enjoyed myself. Maybe there should be more sung plays.

Spinach is playing at the King's Head Theatre, Upper Street, Islington, London until 7th July.

What's A Fair Share of Jimmy Carr's Earnings?


How very typical of David Cameron to jump on the tax bandwagon and condemn Jimmy Carr's tax dodging. Is this the same David Cameron who employed the jet set dodger Philip Green as an adviser not so long ago? If a man who earns 3 or 4 million a year is behaving immorally by routing his tax affairs via Jersey, how about a billionaire whose company is owned solely by his wife and who jets in and out of the country to avoid taxes? I've often thought that it would serve him right if she chose to divorce him. Would he want the case heard in Monaco or back here in England I wonder.

Tax is currently a vexed and controversial subject and politicians like to tell us that we should all be paying our fair share. But what is a fair share? If Carr is paying 'just' 1% on his income, and if that income is as stated in the newspapers then that still means he is paying around 30k a year in tax - much more than most of us. Is that fair? If not, why not?

The fact is that when people start seeing tax rates creep up above 25% they start resenting it. Jimmy Carr is doing nothing different to those who employ people for cash in hand, who buy boxes of cigarettes on their holidays to save money or indeed roll their own fags for the same reason. It's a legal way of avoiding taxes. It's just that it's regarded as okay for the rest of us, just not for the rich.

Yet the rich are actively punished for being rich, which last time I looked was not actually illegal. Not only do they pay more tax, proportionately, than any other section of the population, they have to do so at an increased rate. How is that fair or logical? If we should all be paying our fair share then surely that means that the rate we pay should decrease the more we earn? Thus the exchequer would take 25% of our first 30 grand, and say thank you very much, aren't you doing well, now we'll only take 15% of your next 100,000. Now that would be fair. And the rich would still pay more.

Or of course we could have a flat tax. Everyone would pay exactly the same percentage of their earnings, with a threshold at the bottom to protect those on low pay. The rich would still pay their share, but they would pay the same share as the rest of us. Fortunately, since they earn more, that share would be a lot more money. The chances are that they wouldn't resent it half as much and would feel less need to go off to accountants with their latest dodgy ruses.

It's time we had a debate about taxes but it needs to be a grown up one. Nobody likes paying taxes and we particularly resent it when we can see so much of it going to waste or on schemes dreamt up by politicians so that they can try and hang on to their jobs. But please let us not talk about fair shares. Our current system does not take its fair share. That's why people dodge it.

If Jimmy Carr should be condemned for anything, it is not for his perfectly legal tax dodging, it is for his Ken Livingstone style hypocrisy. There's something rather wonderful when lefties, or even plastic lefties like these wealthy comedians, get caught out in this way. There was a time when people who dodged or even evaded taxes were treated almost as heroes (remember Lester Piggott, Ken Dodd?) how times have changed. But maybe this was because they had the good sense never to criticise those doing the same.   


Monday, 18 June 2012

Greek Pride Before A Euro Fall


So, what has the result of last night's election in Greece achieved? Not a lot. For a start, European politics being what it is, a coalition has to be formed. This is fraught with difficulty at the best of times but is made harder at a time of crisis when the whole world is watching and Greece itself is descending into bitter and divisive anarchy.

But most of all nothing has changed because the Greeks didn't really vote for a government last night, they voted for Greece and their national pride. The thought of being kicked out of the Euro club is more than their pride can stand, poll after poll shows that the vast majority want to remain Euro members. It's just that there agreement ends. They reject the EU (or German) cure for their ills. Thus, given that they are ruling out two options for their salvation, the real result was a resounding victory for the do nothing, hope for the best and then send us a few billion more to tide us over for fear of the alternative club.

This is where we are. The can has been kicked a little farther down the road. But whoever gets to form that next government may well be regretting it very soon as they too try to reconcile the economically irreconcilable with Greek national pride.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Playing Mind Games With England


Have we inadvertently chanced upon the formula for England to do well in major tournaments? They went to the Euros without all of those silly little flags on cars, without the media frenzy and with a manager who, though competent and intelligent, certainly doesn't arouse passions. And, whisper it, they are actually playing rather well and Hodgson looks the part. Clearly, when I called him a potential turnip it was just me playing clever mind games and using reverse psychology. But then you knew that, right?

The only worry is that, after last night's impressive fight back and encouraging tactics, the nation might start to expect again. The flag of St George might be rushed over from a factory in China just in time for us all to be disappointed in a quarter or semi-final. The last thing England's boys need is for England to expect.

So stop it. Pretend not to be looking or to care. Mutter darkly about our poor ball retention. Worry about penalties and metatarsals. Do anything but seem optimistic. If in need of guidance just think about the weather. This is supposed to be summer you know. That sort of attitude is very easy to transplant to our football team. Our boys need us to not care very much. It's mind games, innit.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Decisive Weekend?


It's make or break time for the Euro we are being told across the media yet again this weekend as Greeks head to the polls. But what if it isn't? Surely there is a strong likelihood, especially given what happened last time, that we will have another stalemate with no one party able to form a government and no amount of backroom deals and shabby compromises (as we in Britain have to live with every day under this unloved Coalition) able to bridge the divide between entrenched positions and deal with this crisis.

Many here in Britain are secretly hoping that Syriza, the radical left party, prevail and demand a renegotiation. But Syriza maintain that this is possible whilst remaining in the Euro. It isn't, or at least it shouldn't be.

The chances are that we will wake up on Monday with the only certainty being more of the same uncertainty.    In order for that Grexit to take place someone somewhere needs to take decisive action. This, as we all know to our cost, is not Europe's strength. The Greek people, being given conflicting messages and being told that they can have their cake and eat it if only the beastly Germans be more reasonable, may well fail as a consequence to give the straightforward answer the world craves. This isn't a problem with democracy, it is a problem with politicians.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Paul Owen is Away


Blogging is going to be occasional and sporadic now for much of the summer. This blog is going to be relaunched in the autumn with new features, a new look and an increase in posts. There are other changes I'm looking at too. More will be revealed later in the year. This is not to say that I will not be writing anything. It's just that I will only be doing so when something captures my eye. A Grexit as it keeps being called, will clearly be something I cannot ignore. Otherwise however I am giving myself the summer off and doing a bit of rest and relaxation and a smidgen of travelling too. Pictures and maybe even video will be posted here.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Remember Gordon?


As we stare in disbelief at our leaden and relentlessly wet skies, watch as the EU tries the same sticking plaster approach yet again to the woes of the Euro expecting a different result and wonder if the weather might just be a reflection of the state of our economy, today we had a salutary reminder that it could be worse. Gordon Brown appeared at Leveson.

He used to be our prime minister you know. Does that make you feel better? Things really could be worse.

Two years since we had the good sense to despatch him from office - although of course, typically he clung on for a few days to ensure he couldn't find a way of fiddling an election the same way he used to fiddle the nation's books - Brown remains exactly the same. He remains angry at his fate and in denial about his own culpability for that fate. But more than that the former leader of his party, a party angry to the point of obsession with Rupert Murdoch and his cohorts, is still willing to lie about his own lying, cheating and endless briefing against colleagues including Tony Blair and others whom he regarded as a threat.

As Ben Brogan points out, the Tories have their problems at the moment, but George Osborne actually performed rather well at Leveson today. The Sky takeover, he disarmingly claimed, was something they had no special view on. But they did know it was going to cause them trouble one way or the other. How true. but then that's the nature of government. And contrast his own loyalty to Andy Coulson and his sadness at a friendship now in enforced suspension, with Brown's throwing overboard of those who had done his bidding but got caught out. The anger and resentment of this man knows no bounds, two years since he left office with that phony speech about how he was off to do a more important job with his family. He still cannot accept that he deserved his fate and probably a lot worse. This is a man who plotted and assassinated his way to the top and still cannot understand why he was so loathed. He used to be our prime minister you know. Things could be a lot worse.

Balls to Opinion Polls


Best story of the weekend by quite some distance was that Ed Balls, cuddly, pudgy, Churchill the insurance dog lookalike Ed Balls, is feeling a bit unloved. Indeed not only is he feeling a bit unloved, presumably except by Yvette and the kids, he commissioned an opinion poll to find out why.

And this is reassuring in a way. Normally lefties are very good at splashing public cash and condemning governments that don't, or want to do so a little less quickly as is the case at present, but they tend to be  a touch parsimonious with their own money, which is why they were such enthusiasts for milking MPs expenses rules and saw no reason why they should pay for their own second homes and assorted items right down to towels for the bathroom.

Yet Ed, ambitious Ed, the man who, we are told, would happily, without sulking, accept his wife as leader of the Labour Party rather than him, felt the need to spend his own money on finding out why people don't like him.

The results will not have made him any easier to live with, although they will come in handy the next time he starts heckling in the Commons. The survey is said to have revealed that voters find him uninspiring, untrustworthy and unlikeable. Yet they were clearly being diplomatic. They might also have pointed out that he is a bullying, unprincipled, lying, hypocritical, opportunist, duplicitous creep who makes our flesh crawl. Oh and he was acolyte in chief of Gordon Brown, the worst prime minister and chancellor this country has known in the modern era.

And why do we not back his economic policies? Well, apart from the above, apart from the fact that Labour still refuses to acknowledge that its catastrophic loss of control over the public finances and cynical attempt to buy any and all future elections by expanding to almost all sections of society the reach of the welfare state through absurd and self defeating universal benefits, apart from all of that is the fact that nobody really knows what Labour's economic policy is. This is hardly a surprise since they don't really have one. It can be summed up as being in favour of cuts in principle but opposed to each and every one in practice. That's Ed all over.

So, in summary Ed, you are a nasty, bullying liar who is still in denial about your role in our economic plight. You may have successfully conquered your blinky tendency but you are still fundamentally smug, creepy and unlikeable. No survey required. A more useful one, and comparatively cheap to undertake, would be what on Earth Yvette ever saw in the noxious, charmless creep.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Spain's Bailout


To absolutely nobody's surprise, Spain has today asked for a bailout. But only for its banks you understand, this is not because of Greek style profligacy. Consequently Spain is to get better terms than those offered to Ireland. Yet Ireland too only got into trouble because of its banks lending binge predicated on a property market that they thought was a one way bet. Why is Spain getting better treatment?

It does make you wonder if all of that Spanish denial about this inevitable bailout was so that it happened after the Irish had voted in their latest referendum. Should they now be asking if a yes vote is as conditional as a no vote where Europe is concerned?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Auntie's Rain Dance



You know how I hate blowing my own trumpet, but I feel I should point out that, back in April, when we were officially declared to be enduring yet another worst drought since 1976, I wrote this post pointing out that, whenever we say this, whenever the BBC sends reporters to stand by dried up reservoirs, there is a good chance that the country will soon be enduring flash flooding and sodden misery. And so it has proven.

If the Queen wants to know who was to blame for the wet weather on her big weekend, she should look to the broadcaster that doesn't know when she was crowned, how old her husband is and what her official title is. Oh and she might blame her eldest son and heir who keeps telling us how little time we have left to save the planet.

On the plus side, there is no need for a modern day Denis Howell as minister of rain. We just send in Auntie Beeb, point her cameras at a dried up riverbed and the heavens open.






Friday, 8 June 2012

Back from the Brink


I've just come out of hospital, St Thomas' in central London, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Ironically, the first ward I was in, Victoria Ward, afforded a spectacular view of the H of P and would have been a wonderful vantage point for all of those boats carrying royalty and even occasionally normal people on Sunday.

But I didn't go in until Monday. All I got to see was them raising the royal standard above Westminster on Tuesday as Her Maj, or HRH as the BBC prefers to call her, went there before yet another procession. We do love our processions. We're world leaders in pointless ceremony and silly costumes invented by the Victorians to make royalty signify something for fear of us getting rid of them.

My vantage point from my hospital bed also gave me a great view of our lousy summer weather and the Union flag flying atop Parliament and looking rather splendid in this unseasonably high wind. It is a great flag whatever you think of the weekend's events and London has the rare ability to look great even in drizzle.

And my stay in St Thomas's has shown me the light. I know what is wrong with the NHS. It's not the staff who were almost all lovely, dedicated, caring, patient to the point of sainthood (not with me, I was a model patient) and professional. There were too many to namecheck them all, but I give particular mention to Jemma, Laura and Leon who made me laugh, stopped me from getting bored and, in the case of Jemma and Laura, made me wish I was 10 or 20 years younger, although it should it be mentioned that I have lately been called a silver fox by someone, sadly not them, of a similar age.

So what is wrong with the NHS? I'll tell you. But not yet. It is part of my blue sky thinking package coming up and currently in preparation for when this blog has its big relaunch. Watch this space.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Queen is in the Altogether


Sadly I didn't get to go abroad to miss the bizarre farce that is the Diamond Jubilee. I have an infected foot that is the size of a football and I need rest and recuperation. So not for me the traipsing around in the rain to try and catch a glimpse through the plebeian hordes gathered on bridges and the embankment at a lot of rich and well connected people messing about on the river. And I certainly didn't get an invitation to one of those parties held by those fortunate enough to own a room or two with a view. I did think about taking myself and my bad foot to St Thomas's Hospital which has lots of state funded rooms with excellent views. But in the end I stayed away.

And it rained. Of course it rained. It had to rain. It's June. And this is Britain. On a day when patriotism was allowed and indeed even encouraged by the BBC, it had to rain on the river parade. Rain is what makes us what we are. It makes patriotism look acceptable if it is wet. Rain defines us and gives us our laconic sense of humour and, along with the England football team, our perpetual sense that disappointment and low level misery lie in wait.

Why did people turn out? Is it affection for the royals? I'm not so sure. I suspect that, rather like when the Queen Mother died and people queued to file past her coffin, the people of this wet island just came along to gawp. Of course there were plenty of the usual dopey royalists out to admire and fawn. But most people, I  suspect, saw it as a bit of history to be part of.

But I could be wrong. It could be that we as a nation have simply taken leave of our senses. Of course some, quite a lot actually, have taken this extra long weekend as an excuse for a holiday. But London was packed. The train and tube stations struggled to cope. The various buses, diverted around the multitude of closed roads, must have been a nightmare.

The Sunday Times today revealed that a poll had found that people think the Queen is more in touch with their lives than politicians. Excuse me? How do they know? This is the same Queen who never expresses an opinion in public about anything and who employs hundreds of servants? If politicians succumb to the Westminster and Whitehall bubble then surely the same is true of a family that lives in palaces and indeed has so many of them that the more prominent members each get their own in prime central London within a few hundred yards of each other.

And this sudden admiration of the Queen is remarkably forgetful of recent history too. This is a woman who, lest we forget, only 15 years ago, on the death of Diana, was seen as woefully out of touch and old fashioned. This was 'the firm' that needed advice from New Labour for crying out loud.

It seems that we have also forgotten, in these banker bashing and tax dodging resenting days that the Queen only started paying tax after 40 years on the throne.

I wasn't going to write anything about this jubilee, I really wasn't. I was going to leave it alone. But the fawning adulation is getting on my nerves. It's fine to admire, even I accept that there is much that is admirable about the Queen if not the rest of her family. But I can happily do without the adulation. Honestly, what is that all about. This is a woman who is a poor public speaker, is dowdy, dull and spends her days smiling, waving, shaking hands and cutting ribbons. Can we keep things in perspective?

Yes she has been a model of discretion and remains so as an octogenarian. But she is an octogenarian who has never done a hard day's work in her life, is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, is surrounded by hundreds of genuflecting lackeys, has more homes than even Roman Abramovich and still bitterly resents (although she doesn't say so in public) that she doesn't have a boat like him too. Oh and by and large she probably prefers the company of horses and corgis to people.  

None of this is to say that we shouldn't be celebrating her 60 years. But what we should be celebrating is that we got lucky. We won the constitutional monarchy lottery and got a good one this time around. It is not always the case. And remember that if that man on the Mall had fired live ammunition at her rather than blanks, or if the one who got into her bedroom had chosen to strangle her instead of stay for a chat, we would now be in the reign of her selfish, spoilt idiot son with his high opinion of his own opinions and his expertise gained from talking to people who never disagree with him.

The monarchy is a lottery and with Elizabeth II we got lucky. We got lucky that her uncle David was despatched from the role by the fusty British establishment and, typically, not because of his Nazi sympathies but because he wanted to marry a divorcee and an American to boot.We got lucky that she inherited from her mother, who herself was said to have stridently right wing views kept under wraps by the Palace spin machine, the longevity gene.

The royalists are of course cock a hoop at this weekend's events as well they might be. It would be churlish for me to deny that it has been a triumph. But the notion that this proves the superiority of monarchy is ridiculous and bizarre. It just proves the superiority of one particular monarch in one era for which her dour modesty and sense of duty were uniquely suited. The advantage of elected heads of states is that we get to assess them first and, if we get it wrong, they have to reapply for the job.With kings and queens we're stuck with them unless and until they choose to marry the wrong person or some other excuse can be concocted. Then we need the permission of commonwealth countries to change our head of state.

Monarchy is like religion in many ways as I have pointed out before. It's a trick perpetrated on the masses and which has displayed a remarkable ability to adapt to a changing society and attitudes. But the trick is not to look too closely. The moment you do that you start seeing the absurdities and inconsistencies and people like me, when assailed by weekends like this, are provoked into pointing them out.

Yes the Queen is a model of sobriety and good sense. Unfortunately she is married to a gaffe prone buffoon who would have been railroaded out of public life but for his title. He has also given her a dysfunctional family of not very bright, spoilt, sybarites who would struggle to function without their titles and privileges.

By all means let's celebrate our good fortune in having, quite by accident, landed ourselves with a Queen with the good sense to do her duty and to keep her opinions to herself. But let's not overdo it. If we look too closely we will see that our royal family is starkers and it is not a pretty sight. 


Friday, 1 June 2012

Brendan Rodgers Looks Like A Good Choice



I just thought I would break into my sabbatical since Liverpool have announced a new manager. Notwithstanding my own preference for the return of Rafa, apparently not shared by the Liverpool board, Brendan Rodgers looks like a reasonable and sensible choice and certainly a better one that Wigan's Mancini, if Liverpool want to regain former glories rather than simply be a team that miraculously avoids the drop.

Of course there is no science to these appointments. Some look brilliant on paper and yet somehow don't work out. A brilliant manager at one club can struggle elsewhere, one only has to look at Roy Hodgson who seemed at the time a perfectly sensible if rather uninspiring choice. Or Kenny of course. Did sentiment cloud the issue with the benefit of hindsight?

Once upon a time Liverpool plucked another manager who had been amassing experience and a growing reputation at more lowly clubs. He had modern ideas and was a brilliant man manager and psychologist. His name was Shankly. That was a great appointment, although fans were unenthusiastic at the time. He created the legend that is Liverpool and a legacy that meant the club didn't need to scout around for a new manager for 35 years when the boot room production line finally broke down. Since then appointments have been more mixed, but then they are for most clubs.

But Rodgers has the look of an impressive young manager with confidence in his own ability and methods. He has the potential to be another Shankly or, dare one say it, Ferguson. It's a good appointment. Now Liverpool and its fans will have to be patient.