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Saturday 18 July 2020

Keep pushing the BBC - they're wobbling

I wouldn't wish redundancy on anyone who doesn't welcome it, so there is no rejoicing at the downsizing of some 520 news staff now starting at the BBC. But for those fortunate enough to keep a job at the woke behemoth, it's only the foretaste of the chill wind that will blow. I have a feeling in my bones that peak woke has passed, in the UK anyway, and we are now tentatively starting on the pushback.

Charles Moore in the Telegraph describes perfectly today how the BBC has become the enemy of the decent majority in the UK. Moore is old enough to remember a Fleet Street ruled by the tyranny of print unions that had 'captured' the nationals. In those pre-internet, four-channel days of warbling Trimphones the 'Sun' sold some three or four million copies daily - or it did when the chapels allowed it to be printed. Rupert Murdoch and Margaret Thatcher fought that battle. We now need to fight the same battle to end the woke tyranny spearheaded by the BBC - a tyranny that has spread like a plague
Nowhere is this alliance between militant wokery and management cowardice more obvious than in the civil service. Diversity is a tool of producer capture. It allows aeons of management time to be spent thinking about the composition of the workforce rather than the needs of the “consumer” – the Government and the voters who elect it.

I was recently informed that a concept called “reverse mentoring” has entered the civil service. Senior staff of 30 years’ experience are each assigned to a young employee in, say, IT, who observes them at work and reports on whether they exhibit “unconscious bias”, “micro-aggressions”, and other sins which cry to Heaven for vengeance.
The Spectator this week carried several pieces -  one by Stephen Daisley cuts to the heart of the BBC's vulnerability, that having abandoned impartiality it has forfeited its place in the institutional Pantheon
The BBC has a different role, one so important that we are compelled by law to fund it. Yes, it informs, educates and entertains but, as I have argued on CoffeeHouse before, its real service is to national unity. The Corporation cannot unite us while becoming a mouthpiece for one side of a culture war.
Douglas Murray pens a hard-hitting piece for the Speccie, which also featured the resignation letter from Bari Weiss, forced from her job at the New York Times.  Murray writes
Publications like the NYT, who profess to be most opposed to ‘fake news’, continuously turn out to have been the era’s biggest purveyors of the thing they complain of. And campaigning journalists, imagining that they are acting in the name of decency, turn out to behave so indecently that they bully out a minority, dissenting opinion from their ranks.
And indeed Charles Moore is amongst those that make direct comparisons between the NYT and the disgraceful witch-hunts at the BBC such as those championed by Emily Maitlis. Andrew Neil's position at PHG effectively makes him the Speccie's Chairman, a job that has no editorial control, but has nevertheless provoked ill-informed probing, which may have found ears within the woke echo-bubble that is W1A - for Neil's outstanding politics programme itself fell victim to the corporation's axe

Elsewhere, the TPA carries a piece on the BBC's appalling waste - a throwback to the Fleet Street printworks that carried hundreds of unnecessary printworkers when the job could be done by a few dozens, even printing three million papers a day. Which reminds me that I visited the Wapping works back in the 1980s one chill dark November night as the Sun was being printed and one thing that struck me, apart from the size of the rolls of paper, was how much machinery there was, and how few people.

Finally, the rapid growth, funding and public support for the #DefundTheBBC movement must be causing a few wobbles in W1A - Calvin Robinson in Spiked gives an inside view.

It seems the BBC has stumbled into the cardinal error for a news organisation - that of becoming the news, rather than reporting it.

Thursday 16 July 2020

The death of London - but not of the City

Allister Heath delivers the synapse-tingler this morning in the 'graph. The death of London. Of course one needs to remember what pre-war London was like to appreciate the possibilities - and understand the damage wrought by Patrick Abercrombie and the London County Council. 

London was not just an agglomeration of villages but of little towns. Domestic service remained widespread and food was distributed through local shops and markets via the huge food wholesale markets at Billingsgate, Smithfield and Covent Garden. London's docks brought sugar and produce from around the globe. Fresh milk was either from the few dairies still with herds of cows kept stalled in the heart of the city but more often by train from dairies such as Lord Rayleigh's in Chelmsford, built adjacent to rail lines to allow rapid transport of milk.

Light industry was spread evenly throughout the city and small workshops, factories, warehouses and ateliers were scattered everywhere - even up to the walls of the Tower, where a dock connected the Empire to the canal network. After the Blitz, the Abercrombie plan changed it all. Industry was banished to the outskirts, new road networks and warehousing hubs replaced rail, people were to be housed in suburbia and the dense inner terraces were to be flattened (those that the Germans hadn't already flattened, that is) to make way for new concrete office blocks. It was to become a Soviet planned City. But the LCC's planned changes were continued into the 21st century by further phases of more organic change driven by economics and unconnected local planning preferences that had a cumulative effect -
A few years ago, Bridget Rosewell, an economist, revealed how the capital lost 1 million, mostly manufacturing, jobs on radial routes in the suburbs over three decades and created 1 million, mostly high-value-added services jobs in central London. Suburban factories and offices became homes. Economic activity became hyper-concentrated in the centre. This model was seen globally as a triumph of renewal. There were risks: it was contingent on staving off urban decay, avoiding terrorism, making sure taxes were not hiked, ongoing vast subsidies to public transport, continued globalisation, containing property prices – and yes, avoiding pandemics.

As to the downsides: the rest of the UK failed to pull off its own transition, becoming addicted to transfers from London; and the capital’s culture shifted corrosively, becoming the epicentre of Remainia, Corbynite attitudes and intolerant illiberalism.
We have a London that is dangerously unbalanced, seeded with the cankers of disorder in the ugly post-war Abercrombie public housing estates, already drowning the city in a welter of teenage blood. Only the city's wealth and massive levels of public service provision have kept a lid on things. But all that is about to change -
The private sector, for its part, is facing gargantuan structural losses: the economics of offices and retail is predicated on mass commuting and tourism. The former won’t fully come back; the latter will take a year or two. The arts, luxury, fashion, transport, hospitality, restaurant and many service industries face decimation. It’s a full-on biotic crisis: London’s economic ecosystem is suffering an immense decline in diversity. Lower-paid jobs, in particular, are being culled; the population could fall, with tens of thousands returning to Europe.
As Sadiq Khan will shortly learn, there is no more money. This first lockdown has busted the bank.

But what of the City, the square mile, now with an offshoot in Docklands? Well, the City has always been independent of the LCC, the GLC and now the GLA and thus stands a good chance of making decisions to its own benefit. The concatenation of related expertise will keep London's place in the financial world. There may be a retreat from Canary Wharf - those vast towers may empty, along with the thousands of service jobs emptying the bins and flipping burgers for the thousands of clerks as the clerks get their P45s in September. However, the square mile, with its own police force and local authority, will tough it out. Heath is bullish - allow the change, take the hit
Boris Johnson must not seek to prop up bankrupt central London investors. Instead, he must allow the market to work, and encourage Tory heartlands – suburbia, exurbia and smaller cities – to hoover up London refugees, workers who no longer need to commute daily.
London saw house price rises of over 750% between 1995 and 2015. Anyone who hasn't already cashed-up will need to stick it out now - just batten down and wait a decade or two.

Tuesday 14 July 2020


Nothing illustrates the character of the British better than reactions to the mask-up. Here, when just about all but food shops and tobacconists were shut in a lock down, masks were compulsory from Day One. The first few days the law was in force, a staff member stood outside the door handing out masks to anyone who hadn't brought one. It wasn't over-prescriptive; a variety of scarves, pashminas and home-made coverings went unremarked - just so long as mouth and nose were covered. There were no arguments. Everyone complied. It wasn't a big thing.

More remarkably, there was practically no debate in advance over whether it would or wouldn't be effective, whether it was an unbearable imposition on civil liberties or on exactly how it was to be enforced. There were no impassioned declarations of defiance, no rebels vowing to die of starvation rather than don a mask in Tesco, no police chiefs planning cell capacity for mask-rebels. 

That the UK will present an almost totally opposite reaction is actually a good thing. It's part of a British character that would also not have accepted without demur that Jews had to wear yellow stars or Downs children must be handed over for euthanising. And yes, I'm quite sure the PM agonised over it. He really is a libertarian - as Michael Deacon points out in the Telegraph -
We appeared to be watching a wrestling match between two sides of Mr Johnson’s personality. The side that is libertarian, laissez-faire and stoutly opposed to State meddling – and the side that, on the whole, would quite like fewer people to die of Covid-19.
Well, I can only point out that Austria got on top of the first wave very quickly, with a mortality rate much lower than the UK's. How much of this was due to masks and how much to cleanliness, distancing and a very low population density I simply can't hazard an opinion. Mask prices here have fallen from 37.50€/50 to 15.99€/50 and as a second wave is now inevitable - which may actually be more severe than that in the UK - it's a good time to stock up.  

Monday 13 July 2020

Aten vs Amun - Culture Wars reprised

Back in Ancient Egypt the land had many gods, who were worshipped more or less equally, to keep them all happy. Until that is one pharaoh came along and decreed that one god in particular was to be favoured - the disc of the Sun. This chap had been known as Amun-Ra until then; he became Aten. The other gods were to be neglected, abandoned. The world's first recorded culture war had broken out. And just as iconic images of women have changed today to feature huge arses, swollen lips, tiny waists and cartoonish features in a hideous distortion of the human form, they did exactly the same during the cult of the Aten. Distorted, unnatural.

Well the Aten thing lasted only about twenty years. Then the iconoclasts got to work destroying all those images of distorted people and throwing down the authoritarian decrees dictating what they could and couldn't say. Banned words were unbanned, and Egypt got back to normal, with extra sausages for all the gods who had been neglected for two decades and were feeling a bit miffed.

It was never about Sun gods, of course, just as the current culture war isn't really about black lives or pronouns or the rights of girls with todgers. It was an attempted take-over of Egyptian society by a metropolitan elite. That's not to say it didn't have a lasting effect - perhaps a greater prominence for the new ideas, a broadening of tolerance as established thinking shifted in its seat to accommodate the newcomer.

The Polish election is just another skirmish in the current culture war. Right now, as I write, it's too close to call. It's between a metropolitan liberal, comfortable with sexual diversity and open to new values and his opponent, a traditional maintainer of Polish dignity, big in the country and with those aged over 50. Whichever way it goes, it won't be an end of the schism.

And so with our own dear nation. The grounds of the skirmishes are rarely at the heart of the grounds of the war. We will see many small shifts of allegiances and mini-alliances formed and broken as a score of factions, a hundred factions, all jostle to be heard. Hey ho.

Huge arses and trout pouts are a feature of culture wars, it seems