Friday, 25 January 2013

Progress

It's Europe, of course. Cameron's speech was well covered, making the front pages of El Pais, Le Monde, Le Figaro and the Allgemeine Zeitung, to name just the few I browsed on Wednesday. Actually, Le Figaro ran a background piece on Tuesday - and I read in detail both the comments to that piece, and to the report of the actual speech the following day. It was clear Cameron had hit a nerve. The 'before' tone can be summarised as 'The UK can't be allowed to disrupt the European project - and the UK may find that Europe leaves the UK, rather than the other way around'. After the speech report a more thoughtful mood prevailed, with correspondents questioning ' why shouldn't we have the same rights?' The leader of a major European nation stating explicitly the antidemocratic effect of the EU, and volunteering a referendum not even required by that nation's constitution was clearly something new. 

Fraser Nelson goes a little overboard this morning in his fawning encomium to Cameron in the Telegraph, but says essentially the same thing. He reports
Germany’s biggest newspaper, Bild, brilliantly parodied Cameron’s critics: “Most EU countries have tacitly agreed to build Europe above the heads of the people,” it wrote. “The European project is simply too important for democratic participation. And then along comes this Cameron!”
He continues "There is a fatal flaw with Labour’s policies, as Blair – in his more lucid years – understood. Britain is losing faith in hierarchies of all kinds." So when all Miliband has to offer is the wisdom and essential goodness of the all-powerful central State and sod democracy, fewer voters than ever actually trust the venal, corrupt, self-interested and avaricious panjandrums occupying the high reaches of public office either in Whitehall or Brussels.

2017 is of course an age away and some of us will be dead by then. Who knows what else will happen in the world, and the Eurozone itself is unlikely to maintain the current precarious stasis for much longer. In terms of Britain's future, we are no nearer an answer than we were before. However, Cameron's speech has caused more than mere ripples; the message is the same message that both Farage and Hannan have signalled, but coming from Cameron it carries real authority. And so we make progress, perhaps unintentionally, and perhaps in ways unforeseen. But progress. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Medals for the Boys and Girls

Mo Farah with two Olympic golds didn't come up to scratch for a knighthood - but Ursula Brennan, a Whitehall mandarin who "delivered a balanced budget and led a radical overhaul of safety
management" with the MoD, did. Even the bloke on the civil service panel that recommends honours secured himself an MBE. It was, in other words, just the usual New Years Honours list, with all the tastiest truffles snaffled up by civil servants. 


Post-Blair and his cash-for-gongs scam, politicians have lost much of their former say in how the trinkets are handed out. At a time when party funds are strained to the extreme, donors are asking "What, fifty grand and I don't even get the same as a twenty-year Head of Geography at the local comp?". Politicians want to wrest control back from the mandarins, they are using Mo Farah as an excuse to swing more of the trinkets to their political supporters. The mandarins are fighting a rear-guard action, pointing out that only 1 in 11 gongs go to home civil servants. 

It's all a bit academic for those of us down on site. I can't remember when the construction industry last saw an MBE for 'services to scaffolding'. Still, of the 29.6m of us Brits currently in work, only 1.68% are home civil servants - yet they get over 9% of the awards. The mandarins' statement that "We reject the criticism that the government hand out gongs to people for long service. All honours are given to people on their own individual merits. There is no rubber stamping." must therefore mean that those 498,000 civil servants are some six times more naturally meritorious than the rest of us. Well, that puts us in our place. 

With the only honours that can be regarded with honour being the CH and the MVO, both beyond the sticky fingers of mandarins or politicians, the argument between them is two bald men fighting over a comb. So why not just be honest and set a tariff for the rest?

KCB / DCB              £100k or Permanent Secretary for 5 years
KBE / DBE                £75k or Grade 2/3 for 7 years
CB                           £50k or Grade 3/7 for 5 years 
CBE                         £40k or SEO / HEO for 10 years
OBE                         £30k or any grade for >20 years
MBE                         £20k or any grade >15 years

At least this way my good mate 'skippy' the scaffold king, who drives a Bentley already, can buy himself an honest CBE to wear at the local Rotarians meeting without having to befoul himself by touching politicians, whom he loathes as much as I do. 

Well, how about it?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Davos

So, Cameron is now to sneak out 'the most important speech of his career' not at some great European venue, aimed at a continental audience, but here at home, just before he jets-off to meet Davros. The highlights of the speech have been leaked already, and few expect any surprises. It will be the same-old same-old. Meanwhile the date of the much-promised referendum has slipped back again; now it's 2016, after the election. However, UKIP's robbing of Conservative votes is something he can't ignore, and Europe must remain on his agenda. 

On the side of the EU are the big corporations, international finance and the political class - the whole attendance list, in fact, for this week's Davos meeting. Cameron will be there, schmoozing with 'bloody' Blair and 'mental' Brown; Berlusconi will provide the under-age Lithuanian tarts, and maybe let one or two out of the traps for Strauss-Kahn to chase about the hotel. Bob Diamond will have a quiet dinner with George Osborne, Fred Goodwin and Sean Fitzpatrick. The rich and powerful, who avoid any mutual recognition in the public eye, will meet discreetly over fizzy wine and canapes. The official theme for Davos this year is 'Dynamic Resilience'. Or possibly 'Resilient Dynamism'. It really doesn't matter; the real agenda is wealth creation for the wealthy, of ever bigger international corporations, of banks subverting the Vickers reforms. You and I are just 'consumers', the pawns of the economy - and now that we're getting poorer, we are to be relegated as newly-emerging Chinese and Indian middle classes offer better margins.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Trans-ethnic community protests

The English Trans-ethnic Council (ETEC) has protested vociferously to the Observer over the apology printed in today's Observer against supposed insults to the Trans-sexual community. We make no apology for reprinting here Tracy Dugg's moving account of the difficulties faced by the Trans-ethnic community. 

"As a kid when the Black and White minstrels came on TV I used to cry. And whenever Bob Marley came on the wireless, my hips started swaying all by themselves. It was only when I was twelve that I realised that I was a black girl trapped in a white girl's body. At school I would hang around with black girls and after school go home with them and assist as they applied hair-straightener to their beautiful woolly heads, looking in disgust at my own straight shiny blond locks. When I was fifteen I got a recipe for using walnut juice to turn my skin dark, and stole money from my mum's purse to buy 2kg of walnut pieces from the market, but after boiling it all up and swabbing it all over I read the recipe again and it said 'walnut shells'. later, I started using proper make-up and wigs, wore the right street-clothes and even had my ear-lobes strengthened to take the ear-rings, but none of this hid the fact that when I got home at night and took it all off, I was still a white woman. 

The NHS won't pay for white-to-black ethnic changing; the alternative is a Swiss clinic, where the treatment costs £30,000, or £40,000 if you want an authentic 'booty' sculpted as well. I was then jobless, having been dismissed from Newham Council for putting my ethnic origin as Black-Caribbean on my application form. A helpful Bengali grandmother who looked a bit like Frank Bough slipped a card into my hand one day with an address on. Until then I thought I was alone - but when I gathered the courage to go there, I was swamped in love from other Trans-ethnics, brothers and sisters I never knew existed. I quickly learned the code - I was a W2BW; and we hung in a group with B2WW and W2BM . Strangely, we never met any B2WM, though there are lots of white guys wanting to be Asian. Generally they need breast reductions. 

Then I met Andy. Andy was a strapping six-foot lad from Bermondsey with a good job on the highways with Conways but was desperately unhappy. He realised he was actually a small Asian woman trapped in a Guardsman's body - not only Trans-ethnic but Trans-sexual. Looking at his size 12 feet used to make him cry. His bedroom wall was covered in pictures of Thai girls, thin as candles, not one over five feet tall, and all with tiny delicate feet. It must have been a particular kind of hell to suffer those torments of identity. I found Andy (or Mia, as he likes to be called) on the verge of amputating his trouser-equipment with an Alligator site-saw in remorse at watching a porn DVD he had made. Many from the Trans-community rely on porn income to fund their operations. Well, out of comfort really we then got together and have been together ever since - on the surface a well-matched couple to the other families in our Rotherhithe street, but only with the front door locked when we get the make-up boxes and special clothes out can we really get close to being who we really are."