2019 in review, with Fay Kinuise

2019: I couldn’t have written it better myself. The art of satire is dying not through a PC world, but by life exceeding art. In 2019, Patisserie Valerie collapsed, the Woke Lords tightened their grip, oh, and there was some politics too.

Celebrate the New Year, and do not mourn it!

In the meantime, if all serious journalists have written a review of the year, it behoves the rest of us to do so too.

January: ScotRail whacked up its prices: the biggest thing to hit local pockets since the last time the SNP did anything. Greggs used the boost in its sales from the Christmas Number 1 to launch vegetarian sausage rolls, which got their names in the press and boosted sales of the real thing. (Clever, lads, clever.)

Then in Parliament (the real one, not the playtime parliament in Edinburgh) a Grievous soul started a new rebellion, that ended in 230 against the government, in which all the anti-Brexit MPs voted for a no-deal Brexit. No, I don’t know either. (Howsoever smug that soul may have been in January, he was exorcised from Beaconsfield in December.)

The Patisserie Valerie went down, alas for us all! Where the money went I might say, but for libel lawyers. It took months for the viennoiserie to be saved, by which time, hadn’t the mille feuilles in the window gone off?

A retired cop from Yorkshire was questioned by the police for noting that men are indeed men. No one found an actual crime, but expecting the police to limit themselves to crimes is old-fashioned thinking.

Alex Salmond was arrested for multiple attempted rape allegations, presumably by women with broken ribs – it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving chap, Alex, and Fiona Onasanya was sent down for being an idiot, although how the rest of the House of Commons survive on that criterion is incomprehensible.

February: The month started with heavy snows, ice, closed schools and roads and what the Met Office called exceptional weather conditions – and what we call “winter” in the north.

There came another defeat for Theresa May, who thus became officially entitled to the title “The Hapless”. It happened again later in the month.

On 18 February 7 Labour MPs left to form “the Independent Group” as assort of “sane Labour”. Then two days later they killed their own group by admitting three Tories.

March: More defeats for The Hapless Theresa May, leading up to 29 March 2019: the day Brexit should have happened, for which preparation had been made for two years but which still seemed to come as a surprise. This was officially “the day where it all went wrong for Theresa May“. Conservative poll ratings crashed to below 20% – quite an achievement: you go girl! (Actually, do go.)

A tax consultant was dismissed for saying that a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Usually when you hear someone say that he is making a pass. No one thought of sacking the complainant for harassing a fellow employee. Later in the year a tribunal judge agreed that there is no justice in the world, as if there were then there would be no need for tribunal judges. A diversity officer was seen sharpening a blade behind the arras.

L K Bennett collapsed too, in embarrassment after wearing the wrong heels.

April: Edinburgh Waverley finally stopped charging to use its loos. Surely that is the most significant event of the year?

Extinction Rebellion burst out in London, claiming it was to do with climate change, but we all know the real reason, don’t we?

I expect there were more defeats for The Hapless Theresa May, but there were so many I lose track. There was a breach in security too, concerning discussions about the Huawei, which forced Gavin W and his venomous spider out of office. Be fair to the leakers though: they had to get the news out before it reached the Chinese government that afternoon.

In Australia, where men are men, Barry Humphries had his name stripped form an award for suggesting just that. Presumably the judges think that Dame Edna Everage is actually a woman.

May: The end of May at the end of May. Before then, the birth of a new Prince. Oh and a vanity election, won by the Nigel Farage Party.

The political and philosophical worlds were shaken in May, when the thomashobbes blog was founded.

June: ChangeUK (or whatever they were called that week) burst apart and various MPs went in various directions (we lose track of where Heidi hid and Sarah Something sloped off after Chuka chucked it in).

July: Bored with politics now. Have been since about mid-January. Still, a stand-up comedian got into the news this month as he was seen walking into Downing Street unchallenged. It later turned out that he was the Prime Minister.

At the same time Jo Swinson was chosen as brief leader of the Lib Dems. No, I’m not interested either. Even Milngavie wasn’t interested.

James Brokenshire finally crawled in humble apology to the world’s greatest living philosopher (no, not Adrian Hilton – Sir Roger Scruton). Having removed Sir Roger, whom he had somehow never heard of, in a Twitterstorm last year, Brokenshire made this one last repentance before he was promptly thrown out of his office.

Elsewhere, the police informant ‘Nick’ was banged up for perverting the course of justice while being perverted himself. The Met took advice on breaking him out, as he remains the only source of information they really trust. Later they considered exhuming Titus Oates to testify.

August: By this time the year had been going on far too long.

The Met Office said that temperatures were high. It’s what we call “Summer”.

September: Parliament was prorogued and all opposition parties, the Leader of the Opposition now being Dominc Grieve, it seems, proclaimed that a coup was taking place. Foreign observers excitedly waited for tanks to roll into Parliament Square and for dissidents to be shot en masse, but had to be disappointed. Turkish army officers mocked Boris Johnson for not understanding how to do a coup properly.

Attention at last turned away from Parliament to the courts, but still on Brexit, where the Court of Session threw out a challenge by Jolyon Maugham (the one who wears women’s clothes to hunt foxes), then changed its mind on appeal. The Supreme Court joined in the fun. Millions of pounds were spent arguing over four lost sitting days.

In all this, Ruthie left us. Where are ye, lassie? But a bairn on your knee is a joyful burden. No word of the father, but rumours say it is not Boris Johnson.

Police failed to make any arrests in Operation Casement after losing their main source of information, Nick.

Scientists discussed whether the Loch Ness Monster could be a monstrous Sturgeon.

October: Six years after the Clutha helicopter crash, finally the Sheriff Principal made a finding. Oh, and there was more politicking. And Parliament was prorogued, again, and this time Jolyon and Gina did not try to stop it.

Jeremy Corbyn had to tell an audience that his preferred pronoun is “he”. Aye pal: the beard and barely concealed aggression are a bit of a clue.

The Met Office reported to a shocked world that leaves were falling from trees across the length and breadth of the country. Extinction Rebellion came out onto the streets again to protest.

November: Are we not there yet? Finally, a dissolution of Parliament! The nation speaks, and says “Just get on with it”.

Even Brenda from Bristol was begging for an election.

December: Oh thank goodness – an election. A stonking majority and a proud Johnson up front.

The voice of Scotland in the election spoke strongly, to say ‘Where is Ruth when we need her?’

The Met Office declared a crisis of global cooling after measurements showed the whole Northern Hemisphere to be suffering much lower temperatures than when measurements were taken in August.

And sausage rolls again reached number one.

Now can we have Christmas?

A New Year wish: a quiet year please, and Brexit at last.

Peace at Christ-tide

This Melchizedeck was King of Salem, Priest of the most high God, vers. 2. First being by interpretation King of Righteousnesse, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace. Whence it is cleare, that Christ the King in his Kingdome placeth Righteousnesse and Peace together.

  • Psal. 34. Eschue evill and doe good, seek Peace and pursue it.
  • Isaiah 9:6,7. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Sonne is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderfull, Counsellour, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.
  • Isaiah 52:7. How beautifull upon the mountaines are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth Peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Sion, thy God reigneth!

Luke 2:14.:In the Nativity of Christ, the voice of them that praised God saying, Glory be to God on high, and in earth Peace, good will towards men. And Isaiah 53:5. The Gospell is called the chastisement of our Peace. Isaiah 59:8. Righteousnesse is called the way of Peace. The way of Peace they know not, and there is no judgement in their goings.

Micah 5:4,5. speaking of the Messias, he saith thus, He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the name of the Lord his God, and they shall abide, for now shall he be great unto the end of the earth; And this man shall be your Peace, Prov. 3:1,2. My sonne forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my Commandements, for length of dayes, and long life, and Peace, shall they adde to thee.

Thomas Hobbes: De Cive, Chapter IV. That the Law of Nature is a Divine Law.

The War of the Worlds on the BBC – a review

A long-delayed review of the BBC’s War of the Worlds (now that election things are past), and I find myself in a muddle for comment.

There is a snarling, lefty theme in two places which grates horribly and is not in the original, but for that later – as a whole the theme and presentation are ambitious and exuding a pervading cloud of inevitable, hopeless doom, just as in the book.

Peter Harness’s three-part adaptation of H G Wells’s work was broadcast by the BBC in November, and is still available on the iPlayer, and in the shops on DVD for Christmas.  It was greeted at the time of broadcast with some howls of rage from reviewers in advance – anonymous shall be the reviewer who said “it’s all woke in Woking” and others accused it of political correctness gone mad (or words to that effect).  It was certainly different, and with modern preconceptions filling in the gaps, but the main problem screaming out of the box is this: It is not H. G. Wells.

The scene is set in Edwardian Britain, in suburban Surrey and then in London; so far so much like Wells (though Wells wrote in 1898 and hinted at its being set at that moment): the series references the brief war scare of 1904. It begins just as the book does, in a picture-perfect suburban village: Wells’s narrator lived in Maybury, a village now engulfed in Woking, and here it begins, and on Horsell Common where the first cylinder lands (or in this retelling, a sphere). Like the book, the series counterpoints the confident civilisation of the period with sudden destruction to show how fragile the show of empire is.

A major contrast between the book and this series is that the Martian invasion is brief in the book and civilisation begins to pick itself up again afterwards, but in the series the whole world is affected and for many years after. Its postscript world, smothered in the red weed is one in which all civilisation has broken down, in which it resembles more that a later book by Wells, The War in the Air. That book looked at how flimsy an apparently well established society can be when once broken (and don’t we now know it when we look at what was Syria). The War in the Air is more realistically Hobbesian in its picture of a destroyed society than Harness portrays for us here.

In context, Wells was writing in the midst of a fashion for ‘invasion literature’, which is a whole different subject. He even opened his novel with a riff off the book that started the trend, The Battle of Dorking. Today though we have other concerns for our own culture’s fragility.

Wells constructed his book as a personal account, by a journalist or writer describing first-hand his experience of the Martian invasion.  It is wholly centred on the (unnamed) narrator, except for some chapters describing in the same tone the adventures of his (equally unnamed) brother. All other characters come in and out of the action as observed actors, not principals. Even the scene of action is limited: the narrator barely strays from Surrey; his brother journeys from London and Essex, and it is strongly suggested that the Martians go no further either. All the action is over the course of a month or so. That keeps even a world-changing event as an intimate personal experience. Conventional wisdom though is that this does not make for good television so Harness chose another route allowing for dialogue and grand, wasted vista.

In Peter Harness’s retelling of the story the narrator is  named George (Wells’s middle name) and he is modelled on Wells himself and his not-quite-wife and named Amy after Wells’s second wife (though I keep wanting to call her Demelza: she is played by Eleanor Tomlinson and in an identical manner to her portrayal of Demelza in Poldark), and she takes the main role. In the original book, the narrator and his wife are unnamed, though there is a ‘George’ mentioned: the lost husband and last hope of a delirious lady on the road, and in bits, that little narrative reappears here, expanded and applied to the main characters.

It makes it a little puzzling to find bits of the book here and there; snatches of monologue / dialogue from the book, characters becoming other characters, and one character definitively slain by the first heat-ray in both productions turning up alive at the end of this one. It is well done as a work on its own, but what kept getting at me throughout is that it is not H. G. Wells.

It is a hard book to render into a different medium, but many have turned their hands to it. Orson Wells famously panicked America with a radio adaptation in 1938 at the ‘eve of war’; Jeff Wayne wrote a techno-rock musical version, which works well; more recently, in 2005, Stephen Spielberg pulled a blinder with his film version that was far more faithful to the book, and better for it, but then Spielberg is a genius. He got over the monologue problem but having the narrator (played by Tom Cruise) leading his daughter to a hoped-for safety.

Back to the BBC drama though.

Is it woke in Woking?

Well, not as such. Any new BBC modern adaptation will be under suspicion for that, but most of the scene comes out well. The writer tries to be more Wellsian than Wells in setting the scene, for Wells in his ideas was a political radical – anyone who could be thrown out of the Fabian Society for extremism is going it some, and travelling in Soviet Russia, praising in the midst of the terror famine while bunking up with Gorkiy’s mistress is not exactly a shy Tory. He does not let this out in the War of the Worlds though: its strength is in its conventionalism. It was written in his high period, before he lost that magic: as Chesterton said of the later work: “Mr. Wells is a born storyteller who has sold his birthright for a pot of message“.

The opening domestic scenes are not radical: Amy being a capable lady with ambitions to study equally with men, though not in the book, would be nothing unusual for the literature of the late Victorian / Edwardian period nor anything unusual in real provincial society. One trope of retro literature is the ambitious woman held back by a disapproving husband, but that does a disservice to the menfolk of the age, who were more likely to support their wives’ ambitions, and did so, and young, Tory husbands led the way. No, that aspect is not radical nor left-wing.

It does depart from the book – the wife there is a cypher. She is a prime motivation for the narrator’s actions but is not a fully coloured-in character, as to colour her in would change the personal structure of the narrative.

The lefty bit is none of this; it is the class-warfare. No-one is authority is anything but a caricature: the unseen proprietor of the newspaper which employs George, ‘His Lordship’, is portrayed as a cruel patrician, and the Minister who employs his brother is a pompous, out of touch, elderly fool straight out of central left-wing casting. (The actual Minster of War in 1904 was a rather vigorous, 49-year old H. O. Arnold-Forster, who was a writer, Mr Harness might note.)

(On screen, the Minster’s dying concern, portrayed as mad militarism, is how to get hold of one of the Martian tripods as a war-fighting machine. That is in the book as the idea of the thoroughly working-class artilleryman.)

Then at the end comes a swipe at religion, with a preacher trying to drag people to the Dark Ages, but again that is no more than a lefty idea. The alleged split between science and religion is largely the invention of Thomas Huxley, of whom H. G. Wells was a student – Huxley gets a mention in The Island of Doctor Moreau, and in later years his son, Aldous, caused Wells to despair at being surpassed as a writer. This religion as anti-science idea is nowhere in the book though. It is an unnecessary dig.

I might forgive the writer for falling for clichés, but surely he could have tried harder. The story overwhelms such failings though and though it is not H. G. Wells, the overarching theme from the book is here too: as it shows mankind’s differences swept away as a new master race descends, and is ultimately defeated by the humblest of God’s creations (and that line at least did get in).

Books

You’re on your way now, Bill

After three and a half years, it is hard to believe we are finally (almost) there. A joyous Brexmas to us all: the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is through the Commons; and woe betide the Lords should they try to stall it, after they rushed the Surrender Bill through.

When the first Bill was presented during the Zombie Parliament, I wrote a frank if hurried commentary. The one newly passed by the Commons today is almost identical, with some telling changes.

Much fuss has been made about the loss of a clause headed “Protection for workers’ rights”, but the heading of the lost clause is misleading: it had no protection of any rights: all it was going to do was order Ministers to make a statement about it in every new relevant Bill, which was a ridiculous burden with no legal effect. The fuss about it is disingenuous or mistaken. Additional protection in the area is unnecessary: employment law is mostly enshrined in primary legislation with no reference to European rules and so cannot be changed without an Act of Parliament. In those areas which are affected, such as the ‘TUPE’ regulation, it may in fact need technical adjustment to change references to the European Union and European Economic Area, and where limits are defined in euros.

The clause actually protecting foreign workers’ rights remains unchanged.

The headline change concerns extending the Transition Period. The Withdrawal Agreement provides for an agreed extension and the original bill had clauses on that, but as I wrote a few of days ago, the possibility of an extension makes that extension inevitable, and therefore the new Bill forbids any extension. The Europeans’ negotiators may thing they can override that, but it is not Theresa May in charge any more nor her negotiators (if they could be described as that) but Boris Johnson, who is a very different character, as they have seen. Banning extension is necessary.

A second big change is one I begged for before more than once: the clauses that would have tied the Government to clearing every little step of the negotiations with the Commons have gone. Thank goodness: this part would have made impossible what needs to be a swift, nimble-footed negotiation.

It was noted before that there is an extraordinary Henry VIII power at one point, namely power to modify “any provision made by or under an
enactment (including this Act)“. That is only in an administrative Schedule, not the body f the Act, but the wording looks unprincipled. It appears in Schedule 2 which constitutes the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements; once in Paragraph 39(7) and once in Paragraph 40(3), in both cases to allow the transfer of functions from or the abolition of the quango. In that strictly limited context with a strictly limited scope it is not a worry. It is extraordinary though in its wording, for an Act to grant power for itself to be changed, and I hope its appearance here does not become a precedent.

Finally, the Bill still contains a major constitutional error in Clause 39: it (nominally) says: “It is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is sovereign.” No it is not. If “Parliament” is here an abbreviation for “the Queen and Parliament together” then it is correct. If “sovereign” is a loose term, then they can get away with it, but Parliament, meaning the two Houses, is not sovereign and never has been. One hopes that a throwaway line in a narrow, functional Act will not be taken as changing a most fundamental part of the Constitution, but with judges these days you cannot be sure.

See also

Books

Hobbes manifesto: taxes and publique charity

Equall Taxes

To Equall Justice, appertaineth also the Equall imposition of Taxes; the equality whereof dependeth not on the Equality of riches, but on the Equality of the debt, that every man oweth to the Common-wealth for his defence. It is not enough, for a man to labour for the maintenance of his life; but also to fight, (if need be,) for the securing of his labour. They must either do as the Jewes did after their return from captivity, in re-edifying the Temple, build with one hand, and hold the Sword in the other; or else they must hire others to fight for them. For the Impositions that are layd on the People by the Soveraign Power, are nothing else but the Wages, due to them that hold the publique Sword, to defend private men in the exercise of severall Trades, and Callings.

Seeing then the benefit that every one receiveth thereby, is the enjoyment of life, which is equally dear to poor, and rich; the debt which a poor man oweth them that defend his life, is the same which a rich man oweth for the defence of his; saving that the rich, who have the service of the poor, may be debtors not onely for their own persons, but for many more.

Which considered, the Equality of Imposition, consisteth rather in the Equality of that which is consumed, than of the riches of the persons that consume the same. For what reason is there, that he which laboureth much, and sparing the fruits of his labour, consumeth little, should be more charged, then he that living idlely, getteth little, and spendeth all he gets; seeing the one hath no more protection from the Common-wealth, then the other? But when the Impositions, are layd upon those things which men consume, every man payeth Equally for what he useth: Nor is the Common-wealth defrauded, by the luxurious waste of private men.

Publique Charity

And whereas many men, by accident unevitable, become unable to maintain themselves by their labour; they ought not to be left to the Charity of private persons; but to be provided for, (as far-forth as the necessities of Nature require,) by the Lawes of the Common-wealth. For as it is Uncharitablenesse in any man, to neglect the impotent; so it is in the Soveraign of a Common-wealth, to expose them to the hazard of such uncertain Charity.

Prevention Of Idlenesse

But for such as have strong bodies, the case is otherwise: they are to be forced to work; and to avoyd the excuse of not finding employment, there ought to be such Lawes, as may encourage all manner of Arts; as Navigation, Agriculture, Fishing, and all manner of Manifacture that requires labour.

The multitude of poor, and yet strong people still encreasing, they are to be transplanted into Countries not sufficiently inhabited: where neverthelesse, they are not to exterminate those they find there; but constrain them to inhabit closer together, and not range a great deal of ground, to snatch what they find; but to court each little Plot with art and labour, to give them their sustenance in due season. And when all the world is overchargd with Inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is Warre; which provideth for every man, by Victory, or Death.

From ‘Leviathan’, Chapter XXX

See also

Books