THE WALKING DEAD

The most unwelcome endorsement a football manager can ever receive when his team’s results are going against him is that of his club chairman; a public statement that a boss has the full support of the board is traditionally a prelude to the chop. The fact that Boris Johnson has given his backing to Theresa May when the Prime Minister has proven yet again precisely how blind she is to her own shortcomings as PM isn’t necessarily something she should take as an indication she’ll still be around come the next General Election. After all, Boris’s own Downing Street ambitions remain unfulfilled and received a renewed boost following the far-from convincing performance of the Government on June 8. The next Election is pencilled-in for 2022 – just as the last one was pencilled-in for 2020. However, Mrs May’s fellow Tories aren’t exactly queuing-up to echo the Foreign Secretary’s dubious confidence in the PM.

Former Conservative Party co-chairman Grant Shapps remarked that Mrs May’s comments about going on and on were ‘too early’, whilst those who lost their job when May took up hers – such as ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Evening Standard editor George Osborne – were a little blunter when it came to the PM’s future. Tory grandee (and prominent Remainer) Michael Heseltine said ‘The long term is a difficult one for Theresa May because I don’t think she’s got one.’ Theresa May, on the other hand, has declared ‘Yes, I’m here for the long term…not just delivering on Brexit, but delivering a brighter future for the UK.’ To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, well – she would say that, wouldn’t she?

Many reckon Theresa May has managed to cling on due to the Brexit factor; others see the fact she’s still at No.10 is testament to the dearth of a talented contender in her Cabinet. Not that there aren’t a few in there who fancy her job. Boris Johnson may have been thwarted at the eleventh hour courtesy of Michael Gove last year, but May’s unconvincing leadership has given him fresh hope. When your most ringing endorsement emanates from a man who stands to gain the most from your continuing presence as a weak leader, it doesn’t bode well for ‘going on and on’.

The situation for the Tories in terms of a leadership challenge isn’t that dissimilar to the situation Labour found itself in when Gordon Brown lost the 2010 General Election. Granted, in the Conservative case, an ineffective leader unpopular with the general public did actually manage to scramble across the finishing line, but the victory came at a catastrophic cost, most of which has been spent paying the DUP; and the candidates to succeed her are hardly outstanding. Even if one takes a mercurial clown such as Boris out of the equation, we’re faced with a dullard like Philip Hammond or a dimwit like David Davis.

If the Tories regarded Jeremy Corbyn as their greatest electoral asset in the arrogant run-up to the last campaign, Jezza’s strong showing on polling day forced them to examine their own lack of assets; and the only Tories to have failed to come to the conclusion that their frontbench was a pretty woeful collection of nonentities were those too distracted by their self-interested egos to realise they were as mediocre as the next man. All will hope Mrs May stays where she is for the time being, as will the Labour Party; any Prime Minister who can lose a safe Parliamentary majority and can instil such apathy in the electorate as the PM has achieved over the past four months is a far more encouraging opponent than a strong leader with a landslide to her name.

In between bigging-up her ability to survive and prosper, the Prime Minister was waffling on about a ‘Global Britain’ as a means of proving to the doubters that we can trade beyond the borders of Europe without any economic upset; she also came out with the kind of meaningless statement re dealing with ‘those injustices domestically that we need to do to ensure that strong, more global, but also fairer Britain for the future’ that she delivered from the Downing Street lectern the day she moved into No.10. Well, she was able to shoehorn ‘strong’ into her spiel, though ‘stable’ was notable by its absence. At best, the furthest date from the here and now she can feasibly make it to whilst staying in the top job is probably the day we officially withdraw from the EU in March 2019; the thought that she could still be around three years later is inconceivable to anyone other than Theresa May – and…er…Boris Johnson.

The PM cited the example of her predecessor as to how announcing one’s intentions can prematurely curtail one’s premiership; but even though David Cameron revealed he was planning to step down after serving two full terms, there’s no doubt he would still be in the job today had the British public voted Remain rather than Leave last year – and he’d have almost three years left to go. Unlike Dave, Theresa May is head of a minority administration, and having to depend upon obstinate Ulstermen to prop her up is not exactly the most strong or stable foundation for planning to go on and on.

Theresa May is in the most vulnerable position of any British Prime Minister since Jim Callaghan, and were the country not engaged in an unprecedented diplomatic disentanglement that doesn’t need the additional headache of yet another Tory leadership battle, she wouldn’t simply be a dead woman walking; politically, she’d just be dead.

© The Editor

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BLOOD MONEY

£40 million – it’s one of those unimaginable amounts that humble folk such as me and thee regularly hear being bandied about by the powers-that-be, yet its sheer immenseness in comparison to what most of us handle on a daily basis renders it almost meaningless as a number. When Lottery winners scoop £12 million, I often wonder if it’d make that much of a difference to the sudden transformation of their lives if they’d simply won half of that; to people who normally survive on a few grand a year, I would think £6 million would probably suffice, wouldn’t it? Of course, in the hands of government, £40 million is merely loose change. But it still sounds a lot to those members of the electorate bereft of non-dom status. It also serves as political proof ‘something is being done’.

Q: What are you doing about the NHS, Minister?
A: Well, we’ve already promised £40m to invest in the NHS and…
Q: What are you doing about the railways, Minister?
A: Well, we’ve already promised £40m to invest in the rail network and…
Q: What are you doing about the housing crisis, Minister?
A: Well, we’ve already promised £40m to invest in affordable housing and…

You get the picture; we’ve all heard the same words emanate from the ministerial mouth time and time again; and while £40 million is a modest amount when compared to some of the dough divided up and dispensed by the Treasury, it’s still a hell of a lot of money. And that’s roughly the amount of taxpayer cash our lords and masters in the Conservative Government have squandered in their desperate and mean-spirited attempts to prevent the sick and disabled from receiving benefits. FOI requests published by the Independent (yes, it still exists out there in cyberspace, apparently) reveal the extremes to which the DWP will go to reduce the number of disability benefit claimants that Iain Duncan Smith claimed it would during his reign of terror.

Let us not forget the promises made when Theresa May seized power and installed Damian Green in the old IDS hot-seat; the punitive austerity-driven nastiness of the previous administration’s attitude towards those incapable of regular employment was to be phased out in favour of a more humane approach. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t support this ambitious hyperbole. Last year, £22m was devoted to processing appeals lodged by claimants against sanctions – and officials handling appeals are advised to turn down four out of five – whilst those claimants making it all the way to court were fought by a government that spent £17m doing so. Happily, the bastards lost 62% of the cases in 2016, but that still adds up to a large chunk of the public purse spent doing what – saving face?

The 62% of appeal cases lost by government lawyers – government and lawyers; what a marriage made in Hell that is – related to the ESA (Employment Support Allowance). The success rate for the Westminster mafia when it comes to the PIP (Personal Independent Payment), which is for the long-term ill, isn’t much better from their perspective; they lost 65% of those in the second half of 2016, though for all Mrs May’s empty promises of a fresh approach, nothing has changed. Between January and March last year (under Dave), the Government spent £1,166,459 trying to deny ESA claimants money; in the same period this year (under Theresa), that amount has risen 77% to £2,069,849.

The loathsome and rightly infamous assessors going by the name of Atos and Capita have so far been paid £578m to make lives that are already pretty miserable even worse ever since the PIP was introduced in 2013; despite condemnation of these assessments by those at the receiving end of them and an appalling record of mind-boggling insensitivity (not to mention the high number of deaths amongst many affected), their contracts have now apparently been extended to 2019. Ever since private firms were brought in to shave a few million off the figures for those claiming disability benefits (by Gordon Brown), the specific medical expertise necessary to assess a claimant’s ability to earn a living has been deemed unimportant, resulting in the likes of physiotherapists judging on mental health sufferers. This largely appears to be the root cause of the endless inaccurate findings and the consequent appeals.

Ken Butler of Disability Rights UK spoke of how the mistakes made during the initial assessments were as responsible for this appalling state of affairs as the Government’s determination to take on claimants, regardless of the cost to the public purse. ‘If the assessments were better, then you wouldn’t have need for mandatory considerations,’ he said. ‘The system now only functions really to put people off going any further; the whole process is quite lengthy and stressful.’

Anyone reliant upon disability benefits already feels marginalised as a second-class citizen; to then be told by someone not always in possession of the correct medical qualifications that they’re not even disabled enough to receive financial assistance is an additional source of anxiety. Having to go through the complicated process of challenging, and then appealing against, the decision is an exhausting and wearisome drain on the claimant that can drag on for months before it reaches a tribunal; and throughout this period, the outcome remains uncertain. The ever-present possibility and constant worry that it could end badly hardly improves the health and wellbeing of an ill individual.

The Citizens Advice Bureau were last year called on to help out in almost 40,000 PIP appeals, 37% more than the year before; and, lest we forget, the people they’ve come to the assistance of are usually representative of some of society’s most vulnerable. These are the people the Government is intent on mercilessly browbeating – those who are in the worst possible position to fight back. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it.

© The Editor

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DECLINE AND FALL

Coppers indulging in cringe-inducing ‘dad dancing’ at Gay Pride parades or the Notting Hill Carnival; does anybody really want to see that? A dad’s authority extends no further than his family, whereas the police have it over thousands of people. To see them shedding their remaining shreds of dignity on so public a platform could be perceived as an ill-advised attempt to make them approachable; but it has the same effect as seeing Tony Blair saying ‘Am I bovvered?’ on a Comic Relief sketch. A few years prior to starring alongside Catherine Tate, the most media-savvy PM of all time had coined a phrase that has been endlessly exhumed of late.

Having avoided the glut of Diana ‘tributes’ on TV, I’m not sure if there’s been any programme that has examined those events bereft of the fawning ‘People’s Princess’ script; probably not. I doubt any have taken the long view of how our society has significantly altered since – and as a consequence of – August 31 1997. At the time, the coverage of Diana’s death complemented the coverage of Diana’s life; it followed the same narrative and also felt like a media construct. The theory goes that the mass hysteria came not from the media, but from the people; yet the media had created the Diana monster for the people in 1980 and the people had bought it. Therefore, when the public received its lifestyle manual from the media during that week between Paris and Westminster Abbey, it was taught how to react to her death in the same way the media had taught it to be interested in Diana to begin with.

The transformation was remarkably rapid. The way in which Brenda was perceived as being cold and inhuman simply because she wasn’t bursting into tears whenever a camera was pointed in her direction was a good pointer to how a society could change in the space of just a few days. Two decades on, when teenage girls greet their exam results by wafting their tearful faces with a hand acting as a fan to visually articulate their emotional response – just as TV talent contestants do – it chimes with the long-term impact of these changes. That they willingly do so free from any embarrassment, despite knowing they will be transmitted into the nation’s living rooms, isn’t an issue for them when they’ll probably upload videos of themselves doing likewise on social media, anyway. The private is now public – and that extends to every private function, taken even way beyond Diana’s appetite for publicity via ‘I’m A Celebrity Big Brother Island’.

The pernicious trend for television news reporters to persistently ask witnesses to tragedies how what they witnessed has made them feel also reflects this; the triumph of heart over head and the need to seek an emotional rather than intellectual response to upsetting events can be traced back to that first week of September 1997. There’s nothing wrong with sometimes letting one’s heart dictate a response, of course; we are all human, after all. But the heart is not always a reliable organ in a tight spot; handing it life’s steering wheel can often result in reckless actions that provoke regret and a retrospective wish that the head had taken control at the crucial moment.

The cavernous black hole Diana left in our mainstream media was swiftly filled by a series of nominees nominated by Fleet Street in the way Holy Roman Emperors were once selected by the elite Prince-Electors of Vienna. Posh and Becks were the first to be elevated to the obsessive level Diana had occupied for a good seventeen years, eventually followed by the likes of Jordan/Peter Andre and a swift succession of even greater cretins, each more insubstantial than their predecessors and each possessing a shorter lifespan. Not that the excess of coverage has reflected these diminishing returns; advances in technology have intensified it, despite every nominee being akin to a photocopy of the Diana blueprint with the ink cartridge gradually running out as someone from ‘Geordie Shore’ fills the final sheet of paper in the machine.

In her search for something to do with a little substance, Diana may have gradually embraced laudable causes and broken taboos that needed breaking, but her initial appearance in the public spotlight required little more than simply having the right look for the moment. She was the role model for the modern media darlings who are famous for being famous, appearing just as that role was poised to acquire considerable cache. Her successors have regularly viewed the ‘good causes’ clause as surplus to requirements, yet we are still supposed to be interested in them for reasons that appear utterly mystifying other than they prevent the masses contemplating anything with any depth, lest that prompt them into asking awkward questions.

The ground for 1997 had already been laid by the same media that manufactured Diana. Rupert Murdoch’s mission to remake his first adopted country in his own image, to dumb down its population by stealth and reduce it to his own coarse, crude, anti-intellectual level, had been a calculated campaign of creeping corrosion from the moment he installed Kelvin McKenzie as editor of the Sun in the year of the Royal Wedding. By his own admission, McKenzie was a fairly inept journalist, but he was a man with a gift for an eye-catching headline, however ludicrous – a bullish Barnum of bullshit. As editor of Murdoch’s tabloid flagship, McKenzie expanded Murdoch’s philosophy and took it to unprecedented extremes of outrageously gross bad taste and celebratory idiocy. If the chosen paper of the average working man is devoted to telling him what an idiot he is every weekday, chances are he’ll eventually come to believe it and will never know he has the potential to aim a little higher.

Under the stewardship of Kelvin McKenzie, the Sun became ever more reckless in its promotion of stupidity as a virtue; the huge sales figures gave the paper carte-blanche to venture into territory that even the Digger would have initially avoided, and its malignant influence has been immense across the media as well as, it has to be said, the media’s ravenous consumers. The extent to which one of the nation’s windows onto itself – television – has reflected the dumbing down process was highlighted to me when I stumbled upon an edition of ‘Parkinson’ from 1973 on YouTube a couple of nights ago.

When one bears in mind that Michael Parkinson’s long-running chat-show aired on BBC1 and was produced by the light entertainment department, the edition in question seems even more remarkable; it centres around a discussion between Kenneth Williams and union leader Jimmy Reid on the state of the nation. In a pre-‘Question Time’ innovation, it also draws members of the studio audience into the debate and is utterly compelling television that runs for an hour and twelve minutes. The jarring contrast between the level of intelligence from all concerned on the programme and 2017’s equivalent – the inane Hollywood PR charade that is ‘The Graham Norton Show’ – is so stark that it makes ‘Question Time’ resemble ‘Loose Women’. As a barometer of measuring how low we’ve sunk in the space of four decades, it even surpasses disco-dancing constables.

© The Editor

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SATURDAY MATINEE

Even today, when the majority of mainstream sports have switched allegiances to the pay-per-view big bucks of subscription satellite broadcasters, Saturdays still constitute the one odds-on cert of the week when those who resent their licence fee being squandered on sport get rather hot under the collar. Step back in time three or four decades, however, and we have all sporting events spread across the two BBC channels and ITV. Even the sports that the Digger’s empire has held the live rights of for so long that it’s hard to imagine them being screened on mainstream telly now – the most obvious being cricket – had to be assimilated into rather crammed schedules alongside the non-sporting shows. Makes you wonder how they managed it within such a narrow window, but they did.

And let us not forget that every Saturday, spanning the almighty broadcasting chasm from lunchtime to teatime, both BBC1 and ITV handed over roughly five hours to non-stop sport. ‘Grandstand’ and ‘World of Sport’ had complete control of that time slot, as fixed and set in stone as the school broadcasts were on weekdays. If it was one of those drizzly, dreary afternoons that kept the bike locked in the shed, what alternative was there on the box? An afternoon institution by the name of Saturday Cinema on BBC2 – the sole alternative; if you didn’t like sport, you were provided with a glorious cinematic education.

There was a rigid rule in place up until around the middle of the 1980s that kept films with a shorter vintage than five years away from TV screens – ‘Cabaret’, for example (released: 1972), didn’t receive its British television premiere until 1978. The way that British TV dealt with this embargo was to give the kiss of life to the Golden Age of Hollywood. At a time when monochrome shows from the 60s were being junked because nobody in television believed the public, who had forked-out small fortunes for colour TV sets, would tolerate black & white broadcasts anymore, Saturday afternoons on BBC2 were a sanctuary for movies that spurned Technicolor in favour of a lush cinematography that manufactured a unique illusion of the real world in fifty shades of silver, one unlike anything on offer in the expensive disaster blockbusters at the local fleapit.

For those of us who hadn’t lived through the realities of the 30s and 40s, the interpretation of it that we garnered from Saturday Cinema was of fire escapes on the sides of buildings, hats on every head, Art Deco automobiles, raincoats, tuxedos, cigarette holders, Bourbon-on-the rocks, neon lights flashing through venetian blinds, shoeshine boys, speakeasy clubs with dancing-girls, black pianists and chanteuses in sequins, streetwise dames who gave as good as they got, and fast-talking, snarling guys who spoke in a slang that had the infectious rhythm of jazz, guys who’d shoot first and ask questions later.

The look was as startlingly distinctive as the dialogue, as was the music – stabbing strings that emphasised the intensity of the melodrama during the final scene; and someone always died in the final scene. These films opened with the credits and concluded with a simple ‘The End’; they rarely ran longer than ninety minutes; they lifted the young viewer out of the genuine horrors played out on TV news broadcasts and into a parallel past with comforting archetypes and clearly-defined boundaries that were easier to understand, not to mention far more seductive. The women were beautiful and the men were handsome because the cinematographers spent hours lighting the set before shooting actually began; this really was cinema as an art form, utterly separate from reality and re-imagining the world in a way that only the graphic novel is capable of doing in the 21st century.

The incredible on-screen presence of Cagney and Bogart or Crawford and Davis is a world away from the studied mumbling of contemporary movie icons. These were actors who had paid their dues on stage and always carried their voices to the back-row. They predated the Method, but the curious caricatures of real people they played seem just as authentic as the Method because they make perfect sense in the artificial construct of reality they inhabit – just as nobody in a comic book thinks it remotely odd that musclemen in tights engage in fisticuffs that leave their streets resembling war-zones. Who pays for the damage when the Incredible Hulk has a punch-up with the Thing? Who cares?

Children stumbled upon classic cinema in the 70s and 80s because there were no TV alternatives on a Saturday afternoon. Now there are, and it’d be interesting to see how many movie stars from the 30s or 40s any child today could name. Would they recognise Edward G Robinson or Barbara Stanwyck? Would they even recognise Laurel and Hardy? Some of these old stars were still alive when I was a child – and occasionally turned-up in a toupee on ‘Parkinson’; but a lot of them were long-dead. They were before my time, but of my time as well.

In a fragmented television landscape where anything other than talent contests, quiz shows, antique treasure hunts, house conversions and ‘maverick detectives’ hunting down serial killers have been reduced to niche interests and ghettoised via specialist channels, a child would have to seek out these movies now; I didn’t. A paucity of choice actually brought the viewer into contact with programmes only the converted would make the effort to track down today. I welcome the theoretical availability of choice in terms of channel numbers, but I’d like there to be a little more choice within the channels I can receive, not a schedule designed solely to give me more of what I’m already familiar with.

Hope has appeared, however, in the shape of a newcomer to the overcrowded digital TV landscape called Talking Pictures TV, which specializes in precisely this kind of celluloid entertainment; it’s already collected quite a cult following, which is encouraging. The world of ‘Double Indemnity’, ‘White Heat’, ‘The Roaring Twenties’ and ‘Mildred Pierce’ remains as entertaining an alternative to what’s outside the window as any the 20th century invented. And still a bloody good alternative to sport.

© The Editor

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THE TWITS

Twitter does have something of a reputation as an online asylum for the angry, unhinged and immature, and on occasions this reputation is undoubtedly deserved; whilst some may derive enjoyment from petty playground name-calling, I had enough of that at school. The ‘evils’ of Cyberspace discourse are never far from tabloid headlines, and the kind of moral panic once reserved for musical movements such as Punk Rock or Acid House is today more likely to be aimed at social media; the powers-that-be rarely miss a chance to sweep their own failings under the carpet by attributing society’s ills to the internet. Google is already policing YouTube now, having bowed to pressure from government under the dubious pretext that the video forum is a refuge for Jihadi vloggers; and every teary-eyed second-division celebrity to share a daytime TV sofa with a simpering host doesn’t take long before she wails about being a target of trolls during her fifteen minutes in the spotlight.

As with every medium, however, it often takes a patient sift through the surface slurry to discover the gems that make it worth investing in. Spoof Twitter accounts of household names, if done well, are one of the narrow channels in which satire staggers on in the face of increased censorship and a rush to take offence with more traditional media (which has responded by waving the white flag at pressure groups). They serve a purpose in puncturing the pomposity and self-righteous proclamations of annoyingly ubiquitous talking heads whose omnipotence on TV discussion shows and in the pages of broadsheets sometimes make one wonder what their job descriptions actually are.

It’s tempting to wonder if Twitter had existed in the twentieth century what form spoof accounts of the equivalent irritants would have taken; imagine a Malcolm Muggeridge spoof account, or a Sir Gerald Nabarro one. This thought occurred to me a couple of days ago when I was directed to a 1971 edition of Radio 4’s evergreen debating society, ‘Any Questions?’; the subject under discussion was commercial radio and whether or not the BBC’s monopoly of the airwaves should end. One of the guests who was vehemently opposed to the idea was described as a journalist, and though the programme was transmitted at the height of the ‘Permissive’ era, this snooty unknown sounded as if she’d been transplanted from the 1920s – pure Nancy Mitford. What a wonderful spoof Twitter account she could have inspired.

But it’s not as though we’re short of condescending, self-appointed experts when it comes to making up the numbers on the ‘Any Questions?’ panel in 2017, and these are sitting ducks for the spoof Twitter account. One such account goes by the name of ‘Owen Joans’, which accurately parodies the Gerry Anderson puppet socialist and Grauniad columnist who pops up with tiresome regularity on the telly. Owen Joans describes himself as ‘Working class hero, intellectual lightweight, Oxbridge, Faux Northern accent and #religionofpeace advocate. Retweets all sycophants.’ There’s one final – and fairly crucial – word at the end of Owen Joans’ brief biog, and that’s ‘Parody’. A pity Bradford West MP Naz Shah didn’t notice that earlier this week.

You may recall Ms Shah was briefly suspended from the Labour Party last year for making anti-Semitic comments online and had to make a grovelling apology in the Commons that was reminiscent in its absence of sincerity of a child being forced by its mother to say sorry for kicking a football at a neighbour’s window. Having already criticised her ‘disgraced’ Labour sister Sarah Champion for saying out loud what many felt on the subject of the Rotherham grooming scandal, Shah’s scramble to be seen as the biggest box-ticker on the backbenches saw her retweet and ‘like’ a comment from the Owen Joans account that placed her hot on the heels of Jess Phillips in the race to decide who is the thickest Labour MP.

The comment in question was ‘Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of #diversity!’ One hardly needs to be a regular reader of the middle section of Private Eye to recognise a piss-take when one sees it, but a far-from bright button like Naz Shah can’t be expected to distinguish between pastiche and the genuine article. And she didn’t. Only when her embarrassing error was pointed out did Shah delete the retweet and unlike the post, but by then it was too late. The whole thing had been endlessly retweeted and Shah’s spokeswoman was furiously attempting to emphasise the retweet had been a genuine mistake that was rectified in a matter of minutes.

The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath stated the bleedin’ obvious by saying Naz Shah ‘should know better’ and added ‘We need to keep the victims of these horrific crimes at the heart of the debate and always remember that diversity is not served by silence.’ To be honest, though, I wouldn’t have expected anything else from such a vacuum of intelligence as Naz Shah; and Owen Joans, whoever he – or she – may be, has been thrust onto the front pages as a result of one dim MP’s desperate desire to cling onto the diversity bandwagon as her ticket to the frontbench.

The actual Owen Jones, along with his fellow humourless online narcissists JK Rowling, Lily Allen, Gary Lineker and dozens of others, set themselves up for a Twitter fall with every tweet; they provide endless open goals for those that are quite tired of being lectured at by people who regard their fame and fortune as some form of degree in human rights that gives them the authority to tell the rest of us why they’re right and we’re wrong. They need a good satirical kicking, and if every other medium is too scared to put the boot in, at least Twitter when in the hands of the wittily mischievous can provide that function. For now, anyway.

© The Editor

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ALL AT SEA

Considering this maritime nation’s greatest nautical hero was a man who has been rebranded a ‘white supremacist’ by an attention-seeking, box-ticking, virtue-signalling f**kwit writing for the Grauniad (and sod removing statues – let’s just move on to burning books, eh?), the racist Royal Navy has nevertheless occasionally set sail with some remarkable characters whose influence has remained with us. Take the 1831-36 voyage of HMS Beagle, containing a young chap name of Charles Darwin (who redrew the map of the planet’s evolution), a hydrographer called Francis Beaufort (who devised the scale by which we still measure wind speed), and captained by one Robert FitzRoy, who effectively invented an institution which is celebrating its 150th anniversary – the Shipping Forecast.

FitzRoy essentially founded the Met Office in 1854 when the Board of Trade entrusted him with the collection of weather data at sea; this was long after his association with Darwin and a decade after his stint as Governor of New Zealand. His governorship had only lasted a couple of years; FitzRoy was recalled by London when he had defended native Maoris against the illegal purchase of land by settlers. Ah, yes – typical colonial. His concern for the regular disasters at sea due to ignorance of forthcoming weather conditions, particularly the 1859 sinking of the Royal Charter off Anglesey in a storm (500 lives lost), prompted FitzRoy to develop charts to second-guess the climate; he described himself as a weather forecaster, and invented the term in the process.

Utilising the latest technology, FitzRoy’s predictions were compiled via the telegraph; twenty-four land stations wired him daily reports which he then incorporated into his embryonic Shipping Forecast. The Times began printing them in 1861, and though the forecasts were discontinued following FitzRoy’s suicide in 1865, the fishermen of England regarded FitzRoy as someone who had saved countless lives, and their demands resulted in the resumption of the Shipping Forecast in 1867. Bar a couple of World Wars, it’s been with us ever since. As belated recognition of FitzRoy’s achievements, the famous sea area of Finisterre was renamed after him in 2002.

Early pre-World War One radio transmissions included marine weather forecasts featuring gale and storm warnings, though the Shipping Forecast’s association with the radio proper began on New Year’s Day 1924, barely a year after the first BBC broadcasts. The waters around Britain were divided into thirteen different regions and the bulletins appeared twice-daily; in 1949, the expanded roll-call of the 31 regions we’re familiar with today first appeared on the Light Programme, due to its long-wave signal (now occupied by Radio 4) being the clearest that can be received around the British Isles, regardless of the conditions at sea. The only changes to the line-up since then have been the aforementioned renaming of Finisterre, Heligoland changing to German Bight, and the introduction of North Utsire and South Utsire. Otherwise, it’s as you were.

Although the Shipping Forecast is now broadcast four times a day on Radio 4, it’s the final (or first, if one is being pedantic) broadcast at 0048 that most listeners are familiar with. This is the ‘director’s cut’ edition for dedicated night owls, complete with the coastal weather stations, the inshore waters and ‘Sailing By’, the opening theme tune and virtual sole survivor of old-school BBC Mood Music that can still be heard on the airwaves. ‘Sailing By’, with its languorous strings and soporific evocation of gentle, rolling waves, prepares the hundreds of thousands of landlubbers whose reason for tuning in couldn’t be further from the forecast’s purpose for the hypnotic recital to come.

Jarvis Cocker selected ‘Sailing By’ as one of his eight ‘Desert Island Discs’, describing it as ‘an aid to restful sleep’; but it is the strange names of some of the forecast’s locations that add to the otherworldly air of the mantra that follows the tune. Radio 4 announcer and regular Shipping Forecast reader Zeb Soanes once said of the bulletin, ‘To the non-nautical, it is a nightly litany of the sea. It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past. When the listener is safely tucked-up in their bed, the can imagine small fishing-boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170ft waves crashing against Rockall.’

Musicians from Blur, Radiohead and Beck to Wire, Jethro Tull and The Prodigy have either sampled the Shipping Forecast or have name-checked the locations in lyrics; poets have woven these place names into their verse, comedians have parodied them, and they even made a cameo appearance in the sonic tapestry that accompanied the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. To the average listener, either on the coast or hundreds of miles from it, the broadcast paints pictures with words in a manner that serves as a reminder of the uniqueness of radio as a medium. And there are never more than 380 words either.

Despite the fact that seafarers are now more dependent on satellite technology for their weather data, most of them concur that the radio Shipping Forecast still performs a vital function; and in its own esoteric way, it also performs a vital function for those whose experience of the seven seas has been limited to the occasional cross-Channel ferry. Charlie Connelly’s superbly entertaining 2004 book, ‘Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast’, sees the author visit as many of the forecast locations as possible, though it’s telling that there are no photographs of them included. I suppose he sensed it might puncture the individual illustrations of the listener, something even his descriptions can’t manage. And we all know what they really look like in our heads, anyway – and they can never take those away from us.

© The Editor

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CANINE NINE NINE

It’s reassuring to know some things never change; they’re part of the fabric of the nation, upholding Great British traditions and hopefully continuing to do so in perpetuity. The shipping forecast, the Proms, the football results on a Saturday teatime, strawberries & cream, leather-on-willow, the proud ineptitude of the Metropolitan Police Force. When it comes to the latter, what a relief it is that this one particular Great British tradition is determined not to blot its impressive copybook of cock-ups and sheer stupidity.

Seven highly-trained elite officers were dispatched to a danger zone last Friday – bravely going where few mere members of the public would dare to venture, yet again putting their lives on the line to ensure we can sleep safely in our beds. No doubt clad in protective armour designed for confronting irate mobs of youths probably armed with acid and knives, ready for any horrors this sickening society could throw at them, the officers stormed the home of a pensioner in Kingston upon Thames and seized her Yorkshire terrier. Where would we be without our oh-so brave boys in blue?

Scotland Yard sent its magnificent seven into battle following a shocking incident involving a traumatised delivery man whose cry for help was deemed so urgent that it was six weeks before the coppers took action. The luckless chap was delivering a parcel to the doorstep of 73-year-old Claudia Settimo-Bovio; Miss Settimo-Bovio requested the package be dumped on the doorstep on account of her 10-year-old little dog Alfie adopting the territorial approach to unfamiliar intruders most dog-owners are grateful for; but as she opened the door to pick up the parcel, the delivery man had yet to exit via the garden gate and Alfie did his duty, determined to chase the stranger off the property. Unfortunately, the delivery man evidently had a fear of dogs – even Yorkshire terriers – and tripped-up, apparently screaming like a little girl as Alfie approached him.

The delivery man was rescued from being mauled to death via the intervention of a neighbour who casually scooped-up the offending beast, thus enabling the victim of this savage assault to escape to the safety of his van. Considering his performance when confronted by a four-legged equivalent of a kitchen mop, perhaps it was no surprise the delivery man went crying to the police, and the Met responded with its usual sensitivity by turning up at Miss Settimo-Bovio’s home at 8.00 in the morning to seize Alfie under Section 5 of the Dangerous Dogs Act. A bewildered Alfie was taken away to kennels – an environment of which he has no previous experience – and his owner cruelly left without her ‘out of control’ canine companion.

This case says so much about where we are now. The fact that the police turned up mob-handed to ‘seize’ a pet dog smaller than most cats; that, thanks to one of the most misused and damaging pieces of legislation ever passed in this country, they have the right to do so in the first place; and that a grown man responds to being confronted with a yapping lap-dog by dialling 999. Following a highly publicised series of dog attacks on babies and children by a media that still possessed considerable clout at the turn of the 90s, the brief moral panic of a tabloid horror story prompted the worst kind of knee-jerk response from government, leading to the ‘court of public opinion’-inspired Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Four particular ‘types’ of dog were the prime target of the Act – the Pit Bull Terrier, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa, and the Fila Brasileiro; the poor old Pit Bull has been saddled with the ‘dangerous dog’ tag ever since the early 90s media storm, taking the place of one-time canine villains such as the Rottweiler. Owners of the four identified types (rather than breeds – and it takes a court to identify the types) can only own them if they have a special court exemption; they must also muzzle them and have them on a lead in public, as well as having them microchipped, registered (not unlike the dog licence of old), insured and neutered. Problems often arise from deciding whether or not a particular dog is a type specified in the law; by avoiding naming specific breeds, the Dangerous Dog Act has needlessly placed hundreds of family pets on death row over the last 25 years because of wrong decisions made by courts that aren’t helped by the vagueness of the legislation.

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. There are no such things as bad dogs, just bad owners. Dogs are incredibly intelligent, loyal, loving, affectionate and protective animals; give them a home, feed them and walk them, and they’ll be your best friend for life. Dogs can herd sheep, guide the blind, act as live-in helpers for the disabled, sniff out hidden drugs for customs officers, sniff out criminals for coppers, sniff out survivors in the rubble of earthquakes; and they can spell the respectively best and worst words in the English language from a canine perspective: W-A-L-K and B-A-T-H.

Human beings regularly treat dogs appallingly, yet if we show them kindness dogs won’t hold us responsible for the awful actions of one member of our species; if we give them love, they’ll give it back a thousand times over. It doesn’t take much effort to train a dog properly; they’re remarkably fast learners and eager to learn to boot. Badly behaved children are generally a product of badly behaved parents; dogs follow a similar path. Some adults aren’t worthy of their pets and should never be allowed to keep one – just as some parents should have been sterilised before they ever got anywhere near siring their unfortunate offspring. Sadly, the Dangerous Dogs Act has no such clauses and this inadequate law staggers on, making more misery for many responsible dog-owners and resulting in the ridiculous charade that took place at the home of a distraught Claudia Settimo-Bovio last week.

I accept some adults are inexplicably scared of dogs – probably arising from some childhood incident in which a dog frightened or attacked them; and chances are that dog’s owner hadn’t gone to the ‘trouble’ of training it so that the child would see the good in the animal and learn to love the species thereafter. If this fear fails to be addressed and it remains a lifelong one, even a Yorkshire terrier can spark disproportionate panic; but did it really warrant a phone call to the Met? Pathetic response; pathetic police; pathetic law; pathetic country.

© The Editor

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TRAFFIC NEWS

Road safety public information films from the 1960s are less heavy on the horror quota that terrified people into doing as they were told in the 70s; what one notices more than anything when watching monochrome pedestrians approach the edge of the kerb is the ironic emphasis on looking both ways for traffic when there actually isn’t any at all. Most of these shorts appear to have been shot on a Sunday morning judging by the number of cars passing by, and the absence of stationary vehicles lining the side of the pavement is a greater pointer to a different world than the sight of short pants or the black & white cinematography.

The gradual increase in car usage that characterised the end of wartime petrol rationing necessitated road safety being the most recurring topic of the early public information films; hand-in-hand with this growing awareness came improvements to official crossings for pedestrians to try to prevent them making their own way from one side of the road to the other and having to dodge traffic in the process. The first attempt at this was the Zebra crossing, which debuted in 1951, when there were two million registered cars on the roads. They were usually accompanied by Belisha beacons, which had been a regular street fixture since 1935, and the system reached its most notable worldwide exposure via the sleeve of ‘Abbey Road’.

The Highway Code specifies that motorists have to give way to pedestrians at a Zebra crossing, but some ignored the rule then as now; by just the first half of 1960, when registered car ownership had shot up to ten million, 533 pedestrians were either killed or injured at Zebra crossings, prompting a new solution by the Ministry of Transport. The ‘Panda crossing’ arrived in 1962 and was the first to have a pedestrian-level push-button system attached to the Belisha beacons, with instructions reading ‘Wait’ and then ‘Cross’; the design on the actual surface of the road was coloured the same as the Zebra crossings, but consisted of elongated triangles. The newcomer proved confusing for both pedestrians and motorists, and the unsatisfactory Panda crossing was phased out at the end of the 60s.

The successor to the Panda crossing, and maintaining the curious tradition of naming these street landmarks after animals, was the Pelican crossing. This first appeared in 1969 and whilst retaining the push-button aspect of the Panda, the Pelican introduced the familiar static red man and walking green man – though he always resembled a fairly non-binary individual, to be honest. In the 70s, this far more successful system was even promoted on a public information film by the cast of ‘Dad’s Army’ – a curious combination considering Captain Mainwaring and his platoon were mysteriously transplanted thirty years into the future without any of them seemingly noticing the fact.

Bar a few technological adjustments, when it was reborn as the ‘Puffin crossing’ in the 1990s, the Pelican remains the standard system of pedestrian crossing in British towns and cities. Tinkering with technology has also been responsible for a small handful of failed experiments, such as the brief use of a recorded voice by a celebrity that was a variation on the now-commonplace female voice announcing ‘Caution! Two-way traffic’ (presumably an aid to the visually impaired). I swear I’m not making this up, but around ten years ago Leeds City Council tried this out, and whose trusted vocal tones came over the speakers informing pedestrians the moment had arrived to cross the road? Erm…Jimmy Savile.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, children were the prime pedestrian demographic at which road safety programmes were aimed, as demonstrated with the proliferation of lollipop ladies at school crossings, as well as the Tufty Club, the Kerb Drill and the Green Cross Code – though the latter’s use of a be-quiffed old rocker clad in black (Alvin Stardust) or a muscleman in a cape and tights (Dave Prowse) probably wouldn’t be welcomed by kids in today’s considerably queasier climate.

Interestingly, the focus has now largely shifted to the other end of the scale; a study commissioned five years ago revealed that elderly pedestrians were struggling to keep up with the brisk walking pace of the green man. 76% of men and 85% of women of pensionable age were failing to adhere to the recommended international pace of 4ft per second; the findings of the 2012 report stated the average walking pace for over-65s is 3ft per second for a man and 2.6ft per second for a woman; it takes between four and seven seconds before the green man begins flashing (naughty boy), cutting it a bit fine for the plodding pensioner.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are recommending the period for crossing be extended a little, perhaps taking the more plentiful numbers of OAPs into account these days. Zebra crossings present even more of a challenge in that motorists who fail to stop for pedestrians or exercise their impatience by beeping their horns only face a £100 fine and the loss of three licence penalty points; some countries impose a fine of around £2,000. The rules do change slightly if a motorist fails to stop at a Zebra that is a school crossing point, however, with a potential fine of £1,000.

NICE also expressed concern at the pavement furniture that can be a potential problem for either elderly or disabled pedestrians, such as the awful eyesore of the bin parade. Maybe they should have gone a little further and included the infuriatingly annoying charity chuggers that make a habit of invading one’s personal space on the street. They could easily be replaced by the return of the old-school charity boxes featuring admittedly creepy (to a child, anyway) actual-size fibreglass models of disabled children or injured animals that were a regular sight of our streets until the Spastics Society was reborn as Scope and decided they were old hat. And on that subject…

© The Editor

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EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

Better watch what you say in your comments today – disagree with me and I’ll be on the Hate Crime Hotline to PC PC; I’ll have you done for Petuniaphobia, and going by the new guidelines outlined by the Old Bill and their comrades-in-compassion the Clown Prosecution Service, anything can be interpreted as online abuse. Much as some find ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ the funniest thing since sliced Del Boys whilst others would rather be trapped in a lift with Kelvin McKenzie than watch it, definitions of what constitutes a cyber Hate Crime are subjective. Latest statistics reveal the CPS successfully prosecuted over 15,000 ‘Hate Crime incidents’ in 2015-16, though the Hate Crime category is so wide-ranging that it can encompass everything from a long-running vicious vendetta in which death threats are regularly tossed about to the guy who made a joke YT video whereby he manipulated his girlfriend’s dog into making a Hitler salute.

The latter not only highlights the ludicrousness of criminalising comedy (see Paul Gascoigne), but also seems to tie-in with the concerted clampdown on free speech that is well in advance of us on the other side of the Atlantic. An intended free speech rally in Boston at the weekend was gatecrashed by thousands of so-called ‘anti-fascist’ protestors, including the masked left-wing anarchists who go by the name of Antifa; following the heaven-sent Twitter comments of Mr President in response to the trouble in Charlottesville the week before, I wonder if the Donald pointed out that the violence this time round emanated not from both sides, but just the one – i.e. the anti-fascists?

Amongst numerous tasteless tactics in evidence was hijacking the death of Heather Heyer – the one fatality of the drive-in at Charlottesville; the protestors half-inched her image in the same way some here exploited the murder of Jo Cox for their own loathsome ends last year. Now the ‘movement’ has its first martyr, and even the picture of Heyer which was worn like a piece of corporate protest merchandise had a distinct look of the airbrushed Che Guevara photo that was de rigueur for late 60s student bedsits. Whatever she may have been in life, Heather Heyer has now been immortalised as a brand name for the Alt Left. Her family must be so proud.

The rally itself was intended to be unashamedly conservative with a small ‘c’, though everyone attending was naturally labelled ‘white supremacist/KKK/racist’ etc. If you’re not with us, you’re against us; there’s no moderate middle ground in this New World Order. And the world that existed before it actually didn’t exist at all; remove all physical traces of it and it never happened; get Google in on the act and cyberspace follows suit. Simple Ministry of Truth principles apply today. The intolerant McCarthyism of the SJWs has already polluted US campuses and rendered them uncomfortably reminiscent of Chinese universities during the Cultural Revolution, and this mindset has now spilled over into so many facets of American life that anyone daring to lift their head above the PC parapet is shot down in a way that would constitute a Hate Crime were it the other way round.

Back in Blighty, a naive notion of equality whereby cultural, racial and sexual differences are deemed an unnecessary weapon of division is the mantra of the moment, whereas the accompanying word is ‘fluidity’. Schools now generate the fallacy that we’re all the same – something that extends to the school sports day, whereby everyone who competes receives equal billing. Of course, the quality of education a child receives still being dependent on whether or not its parents can afford to pay for the best makes a mockery of this philosophy; and outlawing competition amongst pupils hardly prepares them for the world beyond the playground when it remains a crucial element of the rat-race. Parents that have repeatedly told their offspring how special they are have had such praise reinforced by teachers, yet the insulated Telly Tubby Land these pampered potentates are eventually released from is hardly the ideal training camp for the absence of gormless optimism that awaits them.

As recent as four or five years ago, I would’ve regarded myself as very much on the left, and while I’m a long way from the right (I remain contemptuous of IDS and Gideon), I do feel somewhat stranded at the moment – a bit like one of those athletes in the Olympics who fly under no flag. Politically, I’m stateless. The humourless, censorious finger-wagging serial banners that have taken control of the left are to me no different from the Whitehouse/Muggeridge/Longford collective that once operated from a similar standpoint on the right. It matters not to me which side of the political divide these attitudes inhabit; they go against so many of my core beliefs, and if it is the left that currently exercise these restrictions of freedom of thought and speech, f**k ‘em. I reserve the right to criticise whoever I want to, whichever party of whichever colour they represent. And I can do that without resorting to name-calling Hate Crime.

One of the unfortunate offshoots of being told what one cannot think or say is that it creates a vacuum for rational and sensible debate, one that is then filled by the egotistical gobshites and professional contrarians who love the sound of their own voices – the kind that don’t possess the intelligence or humour of a Christopher Hitchens. As these are then perceived as the only ones who express an alternative opinion to the consensus, anyone who harbours an alternative is inevitably lumped in with them. I detest Hopkins as much as I detest Abbott, so where do I go? I may have voted Lib Dem at the last two General Elections, but that was for a decent constituency MP rather than any party allegiance, and Old Mother Cable carping on about a rerun of the EU Referendum is about as relevant to me today as calling for a repeal of the Corn Laws.

Equality cuts both ways; it doesn’t mean usurping those who kept minorities oppressed and then oppressing the usurped. It should mean everyone – whatever their political persuasion – being on a level playing field and all voices being heard. But, politically, it doesn’t work that way anymore than the Tsar being ultimately superseded by Stalin meant the Romanov’s palaces were burned to the ground and the ruling class of Bolsheviks set up home in a community of garden sheds. The aphrodisiac of power is as appealing to those who don’t have it as those reluctant to let it go; and I’ll still be out in the wilderness whichever side grabs it. In 2017, however, I think the wilderness is the most interesting place to be.

© The Editor

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MADE IN INDIA

William Makepeace Thackeray, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, Vivien Leigh, Spike Milligan, Engelbert Humperdinck, Cliff Richard, Joanna Lumley, my mate Vicky’s dad – all made in India. Considering the British presence in India spanned the best part of 200 years, it’s no wonder some of those born in the Subcontinent left their mark on the artistic and pop cultural landscape; though it’s ironic that when The Beatles visited India to sit at the feet of the Maharishi in 1968, the one member of the band who had been born there was no longer present – Pete Best. However, by the time the last batch of these household names arrived, the days of British India were numbered, anyway; there were only 500 Brits left in the Indian civil service by 1935 and the posting was no longer viewed as the job for life it had been for generations.

For an exit that was, in the end, perceived by many as ridiculously hasty, there had been warnings for decades that the Raj was unsustainable; but it took the draining impact of the Second World War on the Mother Country for the jewel in the crown to finally slip from the imperial grasp. Some Indian nationalists had expected independence – or at the very least the dominion status afforded Australia and Canada – as a reward for the manpower India supplied in the First World War, where a million Indian troops had served King, Country and Empire; but the failure of the British to concede either fuelled the nationalist movement anew, and saw a fresh figure emerge who recognised the power of enigma.

Like Benjamin Franklin two-hundred years earlier, Gandhi had undergone a transformation from loyal colonial subject to unlikely revolutionary; he had written of his younger self, ‘Hardly ever have I known anybody to cherish such loyalty as I did to the British Constitution.’ The man who eventually took charge of India upon independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, had been educated at Harrow and Cambridge and had been admitted to the English bar. But both he and the Mahatma were one-time Anglophiles whose previous participation in the traditional cultural exchange between Britain and India didn’t affect their desire and demand for independence.

The Raj may have been mythologized in the British imagination since 1947, but it was mythologized during its lifetime. Unlike many of its overseas colonies, India was viewed by Britain in the same way Algeria was viewed by the French, as an extension of home soil; Indian sportsmen from the world of cricket and polo were as familiar a sight in the UK as Maharajas were in London society, and we all shared the same King/Emperor. Even if the beneficiaries of the Raj on both sides tended to be small in relation to those for whom it was either an irrelevance or an encumbrance, the idea of another England thousands of miles away baking beneath a sun that never set was one that embodied all of the vaguely comical grandeur of romantic British pomp and circumstance. Even when the British sensed the sun was setting after all, they still anticipated it would take decades after the end of WWII before it happened.

As with the majority of Britain’s colonial possessions, the British presence in India had arisen from maritime trading rather than a military invasion. The trailblazers had embraced the nation’s religions, taken Indian wives and enjoyed the kind of cross-cultural immersion that was frowned upon following the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when direct rule by the British Crown replaced the corporate rule of the East India Company. From then on, there was a strict divide between colonists and natives; the playing fields of Eton trained the governors, administrators and Viceroys, whereas the civil service was open to any ambitious young Englishman, and many ambitious young Englishmen went for it.

For the generations of Brits who lived, worked and died in India, the standard of living for someone working in the civil service was considerably higher than they could expect back in the UK, and the job was an attractive proposition. Army postings on the Subcontinent were also envied; even the future Duke of Wellington had served his dues in India as a young ensign. In retrospect, it was remarkable that so few Brits were able to govern so many Indians for so many decades and for so long. But the system was stretched on several grim occasions, such as the 1919 Amritsar Massacre or the devastating series of famines in 1876-78, 1896-97, 1899-1900, and 1943-44; the total death toll of the first is estimated to have been in the region of 6.1 to 10.3 million.

The cult of Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violent protest in the 1930s contrasted with the increase in Sectarian violence that the British authorities struggled to keep a lid on. The PR sold back to Britain glossed over the realities of the situation as best it could, but it became harder to attract recruits to the Indian civil service in the years leading up to the Second World War. When British barrister Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India in 1947 to deliver the geographical partition he’d drawn up once India’s independence as two nations had been decided, he found the country in a far worse state than he’d been led to believe. Civil war seemed all-but inevitable. In June 1947, the last Viceroy, Earl Mountbatten, announced the date for the end of British India; the remaining Brits had barely two months to get out as the unsatisfactory new map provoked the natives into migration, panic and unprecedented bloodshed.

The shock for the wave of Brits departing the only home they’d ever known upon arriving in Blighty was the jarring comparison with the place they’d left behind. A cold monochrome country, battered by wartime bombing and recovering from a crippling winter was compounded by the sudden diminishing of their social status; from comfortable surroundings complemented by servant staff, most found themselves reduced to living in small, grey homes on small, grey streets and having to accept jobs several notches down from the ones they’d enjoyed back home. It must have been a humbling comedown, and a story rarely told when the end of British India understandably concentrates on the bloody division of the nation the Brits left behind.

A language, an educational system and a legal system are the most visible and valuable legacies of the Raj in India today, surviving and thriving while the statues and monuments to forgotten British figures crumble away with the same slow drift from living memory as those Brits born and raised in the Raj. Not many of those voices have been heard during the media coverage of the 70th anniversary, but this anniversary marks a moment as crucial to the story of Britain as it is to the story of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In its own way, 1947 ranks alongside 1066, 1815, 1918 and 1945 as a pivotal turning point in our fortunes.

© The Editor

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