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“The Band Begins to Play, My Boys”

I’m afraid I can’t do anything but flinch when members of the UK’s present Government wax lyrical about our suddenly “wonderful” NHS. Pass the sick bucket.

(Especially egregious was the spectacle of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak applauding outside 10 Downing Street. A derisory photo-op if ever I saw one.)

This is the same NHS they cynically used to win a referendum on false pretences, that their political persuasion has been denigrating at every opportunity for almost as long as I can remember and that their Political Party has been deliberately running down for the past ten years in preparation for saying that it’s broken and must be sold off. Run down and underequipped so much that it’s not now in the state it could have been to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Their attitude irresistibly reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Tommy:-

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s, “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s, “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

Plus ça Change

I type this just after the UK has officially left the European Union.

Given that the Conservative (and Unionist) party has been in government in the UK for the majority of my lifetime (64% of it to be precise; a ratio of not quite two to one) a quote from The Who seems entirely apposite.

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

Or maybe this-

Stevie Wonder: Heaven Help Us All

The World Turned Upside Down

We were in the Northeast of England last week. We visited Tynemouth, Durham, Bishop Auckland and Sunderland.

Tynemouth was reasonably prosperous looking, quite a few eateries and with a bustling Saturday market, Durham was busy, as you would expect from a Cathedral city. Sunderland was a typical city – in its centre anyway. (I did pass the Stadium of Light but it was in the dark.)

The attraction of Bishop Auckland was the recently refurbished Auckland Palace/Auckland Castle former home of the Prince Bishops of Durham. As part of the entry ticket we were able also to enter both Auckland Tower centrepiece of the Auckland Project (though the tower itself was closed due to high winds) and the excellent Mining Art Gallery just over the road from the tower.

The town itself though was deserted (well, it was a Sunday in England) and very run-down in appearance, empty shops prominent.

I can therefore see why the locals might want change but how on Earth they think voting Conservative will in any way improve their lot is beyond me.

The Tories’ track record in aiding the working person is poor to say the least. And for a former mining area to vote Conservative is an act either of outstanding forgetfulness – or remarkable forgiveness. This truly is a topsy-turvy age.

If I go back in five years’ time I very much doubt the town’s fortunes will have recovered.

By that time we may also have witnessed the NHS even more in hock to private provision (if not sold totally down the river,) judges neutered, Channel 4 and Ofcom eviscerated, the BBC dismantled, Parliamentary constituency boundaries redrawn to favour the Tories even more and voters without photo ID disenfranchised. Not to mention the rise of the cult of Alexander de Pfeffel.

Is all that really what the inhabitants of Bishop Auckland and its neighbouring towns desire?

There’s also a clash of mandates with respect to Scottish independence to resolve. Or not, as the case may be.

And a one-sided trade deal with the US to endure.

Plus I’ve not even touched on the EU negotiations which might still be going on.

What’s to like?

Last? Election Leaflet

The Lib Dem leaflet is up front with its STOP BREXIT STOP INDEPENDENCE BUILD A BRIGHTER FUTURE cover.

Inside, it does foreground rebuild our economy, invest in our schools and tackle the climate emergency before anything else. Not the correct order to my mind, but still.

The local candidate’s puff has one of its sentences broken into two “… too often is overlooked. Making sure that…” I suppose this could be construed as imparting emphasis to the second part but it’s clumsy at best. There is also a cavalier attitude evident in the scattershot placing of full stops in the bullet point statements on its last two pages. Eight are present, six missing.

Could do better.

Tendentious Nonsense

There have been three more General Election leaflets put through my door.

Another from the SNP – no literacy errors.

There was one such error in the Tory leaflet. (Their candidate’s main aim is listed as to stop another independence referendum. The local economy, schools, public services and young people’s employment prospects are apparently of lesser concern.)

The error was contained in a bar graph purporting to show the Tories are in a position to win in my local constituency. Its y-axis was labelled “% increase/decrease in vote GE here in Glenrothes” which is simply gibberish. “% increase/decrease in GE vote here in Glenrothes” would have been more sensible.

The overall graph was a huge attempt to mislead though. Its bars showed the % increase or decrease in the parties’ votes in 2017 compared to 2015. The Tories 11.8% increase appears huge while Labour’s 4.1% and the Lib Dems 1.1% look tiny. On it is emblazoned the words “Labour and the Lib Dems are just too weak to beat the SNP here,” with an arrow from those pointing to the bars, as if % increase is the actual % of total votes.

This is, of course an utter distortion. In 2017 the Tories had 7,876 votes, the Lib Dems 1,208 and Labour 14,027. In other words the Tories had half the votes Labour did. The SNP meanwhile had 17,291 votes.

Assuming everything else stayed the same, in the somewhat unlikely event of the Tories doubling their vote (a 50% increase – about five times the one they achieved last time) they would still only just beat Labour into second place and not come near the SNP total.

The graph (or rather the words describing it) is tendentious nonsense and a deliberate attempt to mislead. Its use and depiction in this way is a piece of mathematical illiteracy, albeit cunningly deployed. Even without all the other stuff about the Tories which I dislike that would have been enough to put me off them.

I’ve ranted too long. Lib Dems another time.

Oh Dear


Today the SNP General Election leaflet came through my door.

It too contained “the Government have” when a single entity not the series of individuals it consists of was the actual subject of the verb and so “the Government has” ought to have been used. (I nearly said ‘making it up’ there instead of ‘it consists of’ – but this Government makes things up all the time.) I fear that, like the Apostrophe Society’s throwing in of the towel, “the Government” treated as a single entity has succumbed to “ignorance and laziness”.

More to the point, in the SNP leaflet we had a comment on the mandate it stated the SNP had to hold a referendum on Independence. It read, “It would be unacceptable for anyone to attempt to instruct that.”

I can only parse that by interpreting it in the sense that, “to obstruct that,” is meant.

“Instruct” for “obstruct” isn’t a close enough resemblance to be a malapropism. It’s just a bizarre substitution.

There were no actual spelling mistakes though.

PS. Re my previous election leaflet post: I have come on reflection to the opinion that “unpresidented” for “unprecedented” isn’t a malapropism. It’s more like a homophone.

Unpresidented Election

You may be aware the UK is in the middle of a General Election campaign. It is possibly the most important of my lifetime and one which has the potential of embedding a harrowing future.

In that context the following is quite trivial, but it still annoyed me.

I have only received one leaflet so far – from the Labour Party. While it does show photographs of the local candidate and Labour’s Scottish leader there is absolutely no sign nor mention within it of the UK leader, one Jeremy Corbyn.

It also has three linguistic irritations.*

1:- “Only the Labour Party will bring unpresidented investment into the UK.”

I suppose there is an outside possibility that this is a reference to T Ronald Dump’s intentions towards the UK and its NHS in any negotiations of a trade deal after Brexit. More likely that view is too generous and it is in fact a malapropism.

2:- “A Labour Government through their Green Industrial Revolution policy…”

Now, the word ‘Government’ can be a noun of multitude (which would take a plural pronoun) and I accept that this is the way in which most people use the word nowadays.

However, in this case it refers to the Government as a whole and not as a collective and so requires a singular pronoun, ‘its’.

3:- “the fact they have not recuited or trained enough staff.”

Recuited? (Recruited, please.)

I hope the literacy (and/or proofreading) standards of any other campaign leaflets I receive in this election will be somewhat higher than this.

Or is that expecting too much?

*Edited to add: Make that four. By the time I’d come round to compiling the post I’d forgotten the leaflet also spelled truly as truely.


I couldn’t help recognising the scene in this photo from Saturday’s Guardian Review:-


It was illustrating an ensemble piece about various writers’ relationship with Europe.

The photo brought back memories of that wonderful trip we took down (and up) the River Douro from just that jetty in the picture and which I featured in this post:-

aBuildings 20 yacht  river bank

And this one:-

Porto Buildings from Bank of River Douro

Curiously an item on Reporting Scotland on Thursday? night about the trip of Rangers to Porto for a Europa League* game also showed scenes of the same jetty. Synchronicity.


A Rabbit Hole

Words fail me.

We stagger on from one absurdity to another.

Can someone tell me how sending an unsigned letter corresponds to complying with a law that says a letter must be sent? After all, if you sent an unsigned cheque through the post it has no legal standing.

Not only is he a blustering buffoon (posts passim) Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson is utterly childish. This behaviour is just one big, “Yah boo sucks,” to Parliament, to which he is now in contempt of. (Not to mention contempt of the law itself and the Queen who signed it.)

Any claim that the UK once had to being a serious country is now lying shattered on the ground. It’s not even a banana monarchy now.

What year was it the world fell down a rabbit hole.

A Land Grab?

An entirely predictable outcome to the announcement of US troop withdrawals from the region, perhaps even co-ordinated with it, Turkey’s military action in the north of Syria cannot be aimed at anybody other than the Kurdish forces which have done so much to rid the area of Isis influence.

The combination of these actions can only lead to resentment on the part of the Kurds towards the US. (They already knew Turkey – at least Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey – was an enemy.)

Erdoğan has long regarded Kurds as adversaries because ethnic Kurds in South Turkey have for as long as I can remember sought for a degree of autonomy from the Government in Ankara. Some previous Turkish governments had had some sympathy to their requests but Erdoğan seems to deny any other ethnicity can exist within Turkey and regards everyone who lives within its borders as only being able to be Turkish. The Kurds also give him a handy scapegoat for any opposition in the south of Turkey to the central government. He calls them terrorists. His designation of north Syria as a “terror corridor” is clearly self-serving but may also be a prediction. I doubt the people living there – including those Syrians displaced there by the civil war in that country – will find Turkish rule any more benign than that of Bashar al-Assad.

Erdoğan’s proposed invasion looks to me like a land grab, designed solely to increase Turkey’s territory. He probably intends never to withdraw from what is actually Syrian sovereign territory. Kurds have had the singular misfortune to live in an area of the world where their population is distributed over the territory of four different countries (not only Turkey and Syria but also Iran and Iraq) – and not had one of their own to call home.

With the restraining hand of the US on Turkey removed, their outlook would seem to be bleak.

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