Britain

#Brexit: Michel Houellebecq makes his move

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016 0 Comments

10 September, 2001: The publishers of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform, Groupe Flammarion, who had been charged with hate speech in France, publicly apologized for any offense its anti-Islamic themes might have caused. The book ends with an Islamist terror attack on a resort in Thailand. On the following day, an Islamist terror attack did take place, not in Asia, but in the USA. However, the 2002 Islamist atrocity in Bali was remarkably similar to the one described in Platform.

7 January 2015: Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission is published. It depicts a not-too-distant Europe losing the cultural civil wars and France drifting towards an Islamic takeover. As fate would have it, the publication date coincided with the Islamist massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

23 June 2016: The day Britain votes on whether to leave the European Union, Michel Houellebecq’s exhibition of his own photography opens in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. Houellebecq is cheering for Brexit: “I’d love it. I’d love it if the English gave the starting signal for the dismantling. I hope they won’t disappoint me. I’ve been against the [European] idea from the start. It’s not democratic, it’s not good,” he says in a Financial Times profile published at the weekend.

“I really like England, I really like the fact of it having been the only country, for quite a while, to have resisted Hitler. I’d really like it to leave, to signal the independence movement.” Michel Houellebecq

The first picture in his Rester vivant exhibition shows a angry reddish dusk seen from his apartment. A line from of his one of his poems: “Il est temps de faire vos jeux” (“It’s time to place your bets”) is superimposed onto the gory sky. Another image, France #014 (1994), shows the word “Europe” carved in concrete. With Houellebecq, the timing is always significant. Place your bets.

Irlande


#Brexit: Alan Posener plays the German card

Monday, 20 June, 2016 0 Comments

“Brexit would be irresponsible. The EU — and liberal Germans EU — need Britain in order to help contain a Germany that may have little to do with the ‘new Germany’ I saw celebrating falling borders not quite a decade ago.” So says the Anglo-German journalist Alan Posener, who writes about politics and society for Die Welt, which describes itself as “liberal cosmopolitan” but is generally labelled as conservative in the German media spectrum. In a new twist of the so-called Project Fear meme, Posener warns that “German nationalism can only be contained by a united Europe” in the Guardian today. To support his case, he cites Margaret Thatcher liberally:

“By its very nature, Germany is a destabilising, rather than a stabilising force in Europe,” Thatcher wrote in her memoirs, explaining why she had tried to get Mikhail Gorbachev to oppose German reunification. She also met with leading historians in order to understand the German “national character”. According to the memorandum of the meeting, this included “angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotism, inferiority complexes and sentimentality”.

Note: Poesner is to be thanked for his translation of “abendländisch,” a word that’s tossed around a lot by the German talking class. It is, says Posener, “a term which is hard to translate, but basically means anti-Anglo-Saxon.”

Demanding that Britain save Germany from itself and that Britain save Europe from Germany is a big ask of the voters, but Posener seems convinced that unless they put a cross next to “Remain an member of the European Union” on Thursday, “Germany could become a danger to itself, Europe and the west.”

Germany_Britain


Rejection to Brexit: from getting in to getting out

Thursday, 12 November, 2015 0 Comments

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron sent a letter to the European Council President Donald Tusk about the the reforms London wants in its relationship with the EU. If these are not forthcoming, Brexit might go from neologism to reality.

Back in 1967, however, Britain wanted to join the European club but couldn’t get past the velvet rope, which was being held by the French. History: The European Economic Community (EEC) was created by the Treaty of Rome of 1957. President Charles de Gaulle of France vetoed British membership on the grounds that the UK was a Trojan horse for US influence. Following de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969, things changed and the UK joined the body on 1 January 1973. Upon the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993, the EEC was absorbed into the EU framework and ceased to exist.

UK EEC


Corbyn and the #JezWeCan crazies

Wednesday, 19 August, 2015 0 Comments

Corbyn “Jez we can! Corbyn draws thunderous support on rainy day”. So reports the Guardian about what actually was a very rainy day in rainy Middlesbrough. Here, at the HQ of the real Rainy Day, there’s no such support.

“Forget, if you like, Corbyn’s regular appearances on the TV channel RT, a state tool of Putinist propaganda; gloss over talk of his ‘friends’ in Hamas and Hezbollah, whom he defended on the grounds that he merely wanted all parties to be involved in negotiations with Israel. Put aside, even, his membership of the famously pro-Assad ‘Stop the War Coalition.'” That’s David Patrikarakos in POLITICO and “God’s gift to the Tories” is how he describes the Labour-leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, the Corbynites and their Obama-inspired #JezWeCan hashtag campaign.

“It is absurd, and it is disastrous: both for the party and for the country,” adds Patrikarakos, noting: “It’s all deeply disturbing of course. But it’s hardly surprising. The left has been indulging dictators and theocrats for almost as long as there has been a left. I don’t like it, but I understand it.”

Hope and change? The loony lefty is winning.

Private Eye


Churchill: The central act was the dead body in a box

Friday, 30 January, 2015 1 Comment

“This was the last time that such a thing could happen. This was the last time that London would be the capital of the world. This was an act of mourning for the imperial past. This marked the final act in Britain’s greatness. This was a great gesture of self-pity and after this the coldness of reality and the status of Scandinavia.”

The state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill took place 50 years ago today and Patrick O’Donovan covered the ceremony for the Observer. Rarely has journalistic prose matched an historic occasion so well. This is magnificent:

“But really this was a celebration. And however painful, most funerals are just that. When a man is buried, those who are still alive crave some gesture of respect that cannot help the cadaver. And this gesture is made over and over again by Christians and Communists and humanists and the unconcerned. It is a proud half-conscious assertion that man is not an animal that dies alone in a hole. It is almost a gesture of contempt to the face of death. And once or twice in a generation, a dead monarch or hero is chosen to epitomise a whole nation’s assertion of continuity and dignity. And because the central, the overwhelming fact was the dead body in a box of oak at a certain time and in a special way was, for all public purposes, Britain and more than Britain, this assertion was unbelievably eloquent over this corpse.

It was a triumph. It was a celebration of a great thing that we did in the past. It was an act of gratitude to a man whom we can no longer help or please. The many heads of state there were appropriate but not important. We were not sad. We knew for whom these bells tolled. We knew the man whose body we removed in such unimaginable splendour. And because he was us at our best, we gave him a requiem that rejected death and was almost a rejoicing.”

Winston Churchill by Robert Elliot


What would Burns have done?

Monday, 8 September, 2014 0 Comments

Born in 1759 in Alloway, Robert Burns died in 1796 in Dumfries. Because of the Acts of Union of 1707, both places are now part of the United Kingdom. But for how long more? The national poet of Scotland savaged the Scottish aristocrats who had been bribed by the English to agree to that 1707 Union of Parliaments in “Such A Parcel of Rogues in A Nation“:

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane —
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Despite this, Burns recognized that there were good sides to the Union, and he saw that an alliance of all the British peoples offered Scotland considerable advantages. He had his loyalist, royalist moments, too, and one imagines that today’s news from Clarence House would have pleased the man who penned “Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat:”

“… For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!”
Burns was even prepared to toast the monarch:
The next in succession I’ll give you’s the King!
Whoe’er would betray him, on high may he swing!

The same poem contains the couplet: “O let us not, like snarling curs / In wrangling be divided.” Depending on how one reads Burns, and when, and where, he can be construed as an “Aye” and a “Nae”.


Boris said

Wednesday, 6 August, 2014 0 Comments

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.”

“Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase… Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all imitative of western forms: Chinese concert pianists are technically brilliant, but brilliant at Schubert and Rachmaninov. Chinese ballerinas dance to the scores of Diaghilev. The number of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, although there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to Stanford and Caltech… It is hard to think of a single Chinese sport at the Olympics, compared with umpteen invented by Britain, including ping-pong, I’ll have you know, which originated at upper-class dinner tables and was first called whiff-whaff. The Chinese have a script so fiendishly complicated that they cannot produce a proper keyboard for it.”

“Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.”

“The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more… Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. … the British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right… If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. You never saw a place so abounding in bananas: great green barrel-sized bunches, off to be turned into matooke. Though this dish (basically fried banana) was greatly relished by Idi Amin, the colonists correctly saw that the export market was limited… The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

“My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”

Despite giving all these hostages to fortune, Boris Johnson has his eyes on the No.10 prize.


A one-woman revolution

Sunday, 6 April, 2014 0 Comments

“A year ago this coming Tuesday, I was travelling to London on a train, correcting the proofs of my biography of Margaret Thatcher. As we reached Charing Cross, I signed off the last page of the book (which concerns victory in the Falklands war). When I got off the train, I discovered she had died.” […]

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Gaitskell’s baths and Cameron’s jumpers

Thursday, 14 November, 2013 0 Comments

Brrrrr! There’s a nip in the air. Back in mid-October, the UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey said that he wears jumpers at home to keep his heating bills down. The next morning, Prime Minister Cameron’s spokesman was asked whether people should “wrap up warm” and wear jumpers. He said: “That’s not a question that I have asked him. Clearly, he is not going to prescribe necessarily the actions individuals should take about that but if people are giving that advice, that is something that people may wish to consider.” The Daily Mirror duly (mis)informed its readers: “David Cameron left sweating as voters hit out at ‘put a jumper on’ energy advice“. The insinuation being that the Prime Minister was a cold-hearted toff. But the dirty nature of what passes for British politics (and the reporting of such politics) is not exactly new as this diary entry by Hugh Gaitskell shows.

14 November 1947: “How easy it is to say the wrong thing! How easy it is not to recognise one has said the wrong thing!

About three weeks ago I made a speech at a municipal election meeting in Hastings, I was very tired when I got there but it was a good meeting. I tried to keep my speech fairly above party despite the coming election and inevitably referred to fuel economy in the course of it [he was Minister of Fuel and Power]. Then I let fall two fatal sentences:

‘It means getting up and going to bed in cold bedrooms. It may mean fewer baths. Personally, I have never had a great many baths myself and I can assure those who are in the habit of having a great many baths that it does not make a great deal of difference to their health if they have fewer. And as far as appearance — most of that is underneath and nobody sees it.’

warm jumper Of course the first sentence was said in a joking manner and the second was a pure joke, and the audience laughed and took it as such. It is the kind of thing I have said again and again at open air meetings to liven things up. After the meeting one of the local people who was driving me round referred to this, and said he would not be surprised if it was in the headlines the next day. Though he, himself, thought it a joke and took it as such. The press did pick it out though not very flamboyantly. However on Tuesday it so happened that Churchill was making his big speech against the Government and he made great play of these remarks of mine. I was not present at the time but everybody tells me that he was extremely funny at my expense. Since then I have become associated in the public mind with dirt, never having a bath, etc. I am told that at the [Royal] Command Performance no less than three jokes were made about this by music hall comedians, though they all seem to have been in quite a friendly manner.

First of all, I did not worry at all. It seemed inconceivable to me that anybody could believe that it was anything but a joke. However, I now consider I really made a mistake.”

Hugh Gaitskell (1906 — 1963)

Talking of baths and jokes, here’s one: What happened to the leopard who took a bath three times a day? After a week he was spotless!


It’s time to take sides says Tony Blair

Tuesday, 27 August, 2013 3 Comments

Writing in the Times today, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that we have reached a crossroads and he wants to know which direction the West will take. Is it going to be talk or action? Blair demands action. Snippet:

Tony Blair In Syria, we know what is happening. We know it is wrong to let it happen. But leave aside any moral argument and just think of our interests for a moment. Syria, disintegrated, divided in blood, the nations around it destabilised, waves of terrorism rolling over the population of the region; Assad in power in the richest part of the country; Iran, with Russia’s support, ascendant; a bitter sectarian fury running the Syrian eastern hinterland — and us, apparently impotent. I hear people talking as if there was nothing we could do: the Syrian defence systems are too powerful, the issues too complex, and in any event, why take sides since they’re all as bad as each other?

But others are taking sides. They’re not terrified of the prospect of intervention. They’re intervening. To support an assault on civilians not seen since the dark days of Saddam.

It is time we took a side: the side of the people who want what we want; who see our societies for all their faults as something to admire; who know that they should not be faced with a choice between tyranny and theocracy. I detest the implicit notion behind so much of our commentary — that the Arabs or even worse, the people of Islam are unable to understand what a free society looks like, that they can’t be trusted with something so modern as a polity where religion is in its proper place. It isn’t true. What is true is that there is a life-and-death struggle going on about the future of Islam and the attempt by extreme ideologues to create a political Islam at odds both with the open-minded tradition of Islam and the modern world.

Blair is right. We cannot be neutral in this clash of civilizations. Which side are you on?


Was the BBC over the top asks the Daily Mail

Wednesday, 24 July, 2013 0 Comments

Congratulations to Jules Mattson for this hilarious Vine, which exposes the hypocrisy and sycophancy of the Daily Mail.