Tag Archives: Conservative Party

On the Saville Report

One of the few house rules operative here at Fugitive Ink is a prohibition on posts that merely re-duplicate an obvious point almost certainly made better elsewhere. The web, we all know, is too cluttered already. Why advert to the defects of CGT, for instance, or deplore the persecution of David Laws MP, when there’s scope for a 20,000 word piece on some dead diarist’s minor intellectual inconsistencies instead?

All the same, however, despite several hours of trying, I can’t quite stop myself from posting a few quick lines on the Saville Report, published yesterday — less because I have anything distinctive to say about it, than because the obvious things to be said about it are so crucially important, both for our understanding of recent history and for what civilian commentators believe to be the case about our own armed forces, both then and now.

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Filed under politics, Tory things, war & peace

On David Cameron and the Big Society

There is one feature of David Cameron which, it occurred to me while watching the television coverage of the speech he gave in Kennington today, bothers me more than any other.

No, it isn’t Mr Cameron’s allegiance to George Osborne, although for the record, the Ugly Bridesmaid syndrome isn’t exactly improved by transposition to the long-aisled nave of general election politics. It isn’t his distinctly unreliable grammar, disappointing though this must be in the context of what passes these days for a classical education. Nor is it even the weirdly hectoring, bad-tempered tone he invariably adopts in public discourse, although I find this distracting enough, as it always makes me wonder what he’d sound like if — and, admittedly, it’s a counterfactural one struggles to entertain for any length of time — he wasn’t talking down to someone he didn’t much admire in the first place.

No, the worst thing about David Cameron is the way in which he’s always threatening to ‘give’ things to people.

Admittedly, the gift of the moment varies. On some days, Mr Cameron is going to give ‘power’ to us. On other occasions, in contrast, we are to be given ‘opportunities’, or sometimes even ‘rights’. The precise choice of gift, needless to say, is up to Mr Cameron and the clique, err, circle of wise, disinterested, all-but-omniscient folk who advise him. Continue reading

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On the 2010 General Election

Inscribed strip and mounts (image courtesy of the excellent Staffordshire Hoard website at http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/ )

Now that spring is here — dark winter mornings driven away by dawns deafening with birdsong, that bout of pneumonia more or less gone, spindly primroses making a stalwart effort to flourish in unreliable sunshine, the 2010 general election finally underway — my son’s school holidays find us, with a degree of inevitability, spending yet another day exploring the British Museum.

The visit, it turns out, is more worthwhile than ever. At present, a handful of artifacts from the Staffordshire Hoard is on show at the British Museum (until 17 April 2010), after which they’ll return to the Midlands, following a successful appeal to retain these treasures, legacy of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, near the fields in which they were found last year. There’s also a handsome little booklet — £1 of the modest £4.99 purchase price goes to fund the appeal — setting out what little is known thusfar about this recent, remarkable discovery.

There’s something terribly moving about these tiny golden objects, the intricate intertwined forms and cloisonné settings still caked with the clay of their Staffordshire fields, blood-red garnets smeared with mud, crushed outlines not yet smoothed or rationalised — a riddle of riches and violence with its mystery still intact. How, one wonders, did more than 1,600 individual items, some of them absolute masterpieces of metalwork, come to be buried and found together? In truth, although ideas abound, no one is quite certain.

That there’s a provisional quality, however, to the presentation of this treasure does nothing to detract from its fascination. In mediating with impeccable professionalism between tidied-up past and infinitely messy present, museum displays can have the effect of making history look finished — literally done and dusted — reposing slightly outside our own experience. Whereas, the present display of the Staffordshire Hoard implies instead that under every nondescript field, scruffy building-site or suburban garden might lie something unsuspected, surprising, ancient, important, perhaps even staggeringly beautiful. The legacy of the past, in other words, may turn out to be closer than we think.

And indeed, this encouraging message could hardly have turned up at a better time, since the present is, at least at the level of public policy, under-performing to quite a remarkable degree. Is it just me, or is the 2010 general election coverage thusfar literally unwatchable? Continue reading

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Filed under archaeology, history, politics, Tory things

Out to lunch

Out to lunch

Via Guido Fawkes, news reaches us that shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey MP has been spotted lunching at Scotts of Mayfair — for an heroic, credit crunch-busting three hours, apparently — in the company of the accomplished Channel 4 television interviewee, fashion icon and occasional jobbing BritArtist, Tracey Emin.

Like any successful work of art, this is a story that can be enjoyed at a variety of levels. Guido’s readership, baying companionably at each other in the comments section, seem largely to have appreciated it on the level of ‘bloody fat troughing hoon, we’re paying his salary, how dare he, let’s burn something down’. Guido himself, I strongly suspect, took pleasure both in the spectacle of his own apparent omniscience — rather like the Eye of Providence on the back of Great Seal of the United States, but with rather more wi-fi access — and the happy fact that its target was, on this occasion, that rare creature in politics, someone who’s good at being teased.

For me, however — always the contrarian, except of course on those occasions where being a contrarian would be the obvious thing to be — the chief interest of the Vaizey-Emin lunch lies in what it seems to imply regarding the direction of Conservative arts policy. The conclusions it prompts are, alas, indigestible ones. Continue reading

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Filed under art, culture, politics, Tory things

Manchester blues

That's enough Dave for now (ed)

Heaven knows, I really did try to write about Conservative Party Conference last week, back when it was topical. On Monday, though, I ended up doing a lot of dusting, particularly those disregarded places just under the hinges of doors, and the bits of banisters that no normally-configured human being ever actually sees. On Tuesday I bought some boots, learned a little more about medieval Islamic manuscript illumination and picked up the dry cleaning. On Wednesday, I think, it rained a lot. On Thursday I made the mistake of reading the Guardian. And by the time I bounced back on Friday, the week was nearly over. Lucky escape, eh?

Well, not quite, if only because there clearly was something more than the usual combination of laziness, disorganisation and first-class distractions nudging me away from the public contemplation of Cameron’s Conservatives poised on the threshold of government, and I remain puzzled, up to a point, as to why exactly that was so.

Laziness was, inevitably, part of the problem. That comes with the territory here. Yet the strand of laziness in question was, in this case, a specifically Cameroonish one — the fruit of boredom, sired by indifference out of long-congealed dislike. Put bluntly, I only find being Conservative truly difficult when I have to think about Dave, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Theresa May, the words ‘compassionate’, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’, that stupid tree logo, the continuing existence of Policy Exchange, people who ‘get it’ or ‘care’ or wish to ‘seal the deal’, prohibitions on hunting or drinking champagne or indeed smiling in an incontinent manner. The rest of the time, though, it’s really easy. Continue reading

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Filed under picking fights, politics, Tory things

On Rory Stewart’s ‘Occupational Hazards’

I wanted to build a gate for the souk as a permanent gift from the [Coalition Provisional Authority] to Amara, so that there would be at least one enduring trace of our presence. We discussed this with the governor, showed him photographs of traditional souk gates from Egypt to Kuwait, and suggested a competition for the design. The governor returned the next day with a design for a concrete arch, to be faced with bright modern bathroom tiles and fairy lights. Again we had to choose whether to empower the governor. We overruled him; the gate was never built.

Acknowledging failure is never an easy thing. It requires maturity, character and practice, so much so that the spectacle of seeing it done really well is strangely moving — at once levelling and liberating. This, for example, probably explains why even those of us who can’t stomach Orwell’s politics nevertheless regard Homage to Catalonia as a masterpiece. Effective rhetoric matters as much as sincerity: lack of bitterness is as important as the appearance of candour. Irony is necessary, up to a point, yet if taken too far becomes unwelcome, a distraction both from that necessarily wry, ‘what can I have been thinking?’ tone, but also from the flashes of real, still-raw anger, without which the whole exercise fails to persuade or convince.

By any standard, Rory Stewart’s Occupational Hazards (2006) deserves to be set alongside Homage to Catalonia. In September 2003, the 30-year old Stewart — an ex-diplomat whose almost uncannily assured, entirely compelling account of a journey on foot across part of Afghanistan, The Places In Between, appeared in June 2004 — was appointed deputy governor first of Amarah and then Nasiriyah, provinces in the marsh regions of southern Iraq, working on behalf of the occupying Coalition Provision Authority [CPA]. Continue reading

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Blasting & Blessing: a back to school edition

small maddit

Well, that all went quickly, didn’t it?

Yesterday was the first day of the Michaelmas quarter at my son’s school. Hence summer is, for all practical purposes, already receding into the realms of fast-fading memory, at least in this household — cue that much-loved season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, coupled with the novelty of being able to engage in all the more innocuous forms of daytime activity free from extensive cross-questioning, Lego everywhere underfoot and the need to keep up with a five-year old’s pace, persistence and volume. Once again I can make a cup of coffee whenever I like, or pursue a train of thought, or simply spend a few minutes staring into space, listening to soft unemphatic rhythms of cats padding up and down the stairs — or, indeed, should I feel that way inclined, turn my attention to whatever’s been happening in the slightly wider, non-domestic world during the weeks I’ve been away from it. It’s time, in other words, for a bit of autumnal Blasting & Blessing.

First, no matter how broad a swathe of unbecoming emotional frailty I’m exposing by admitting that I notice, let alone care about such things, well — bless this, and this too. Continue reading

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Remembering Ian Wilder

For quite a number of our local councillors, the business of representing a local community boils down to one of two things —  a particularly rotten and unreliable rung on the way up the ladder of their chosen party-political cursus honorum, to be skipped across swiftly, sustaining as little damage as possible in the process — or, conversely, a sort of subsidised long-stay car-park for the local association’s more troublesome old bangers, offering just enough polish and maintenance while keeping them out of the way of those younger, faster models, revving through quickly, leaving an odd smell of opportunism in their wake.

The career of Cllr Ian Wilder, who died this week at the age of 62, reminds us that local representation can be a sort of quasi-sacred vocation, as opposed to a burden or safe berth.

A chartered accountant, Cllr Wilder represented the West End ward — Mayfair, Chinatown and Soho — on Westminster Council from 2002 onwards, having represented Baker Street 1994-2002. He sat as a Conservative. In truth, though, more often than not he surmounted faction through a highly individual combination of charm, unfailing energy and an absolutely passionate commitment to his locality. Continue reading

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Filed under London, politics, RIP, Tory things

Strange but true

Paul Burgin, whose impressive Mars Hill blog has run a series of interviews with bloggers of various sorts, recently interviewed me — you can, if that way inclined, read the result here.

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Blasting & Blessing: a sunstruck edition

tree

When I find myself actually lingering amidst the garish neon colours and pumping Japanese techno-pop in the Oxford Street Uniqlo, whence I’d repaired to buy yet more summer-type T-shirts, just to enjoy another minute or two of air-conditioning, there can be only one explanation: Soho, like much of the rest of Britain, is in the grip of a heatwave. London’s peerless parks come into their own at moments like this, together with — as we have seen — the reliable air-conditioning systems of downmarket clothes emporia, cold showers, iced coffee, torpor and idleness.Since, however, weather on the wrong side of 30 degrees celsius is not exactly conducive to labouring over a hot MacBook Pro for any longer than entirely necessary, by way of intellectual exertions, the following observation will, I’m afraid, have to do. For anything else, it really is just too darned hot.

First, bless Marc Sidwell, whose excellent The Arts Council: Managed to Death, summarised in this Standpoint piece, appeared yesterday. Sidwell wishes to abolish the national Arts Council. While he may not have been the first to try to bring the curtain down on an organisation which, in the course of its 63-year history, has only become more vexatiously managerial, more socially instrumental in its motivation and more profligate in its deployment of taxpayers’ money, rarely can the case have been made so calmly, clearly and near-unarguably. If Sidwell seems to retain, for instance, a little more faith in the efficacy of the DCMS than I do, the sheer reasonableness of his message makes it all the harder to dismiss. Present at the launch of this well-produced and information-packed report was Nick Starr from the National Theatre, an earnest and likeable soul who struggled to explain why the Arts Council somehow needs to know the sexuality of its grant recipients whilst at the same time obviously not using the information to make funding decisions — just collecting data as an end in itself, presumably, as if that were somehow better. Also present was Ed Vaizey MP, Shadow Minister for Culture — typically urbane, jovial and who said absolutely nothing that couldn’t have been said just as plausibly by his Labour counterpart. All of which was, incidentally, just a little bit rather disappointing, as at a time when public expenditure is surely due to come under increasingly rigorous scrutiny, the sort of well-thought-out reforms advocated by Sidwell read less as tinkering for the sake of it, let alone as free market fundamentalism, than as a graceful response to fiscal necessity. In any event, consider Sidwell’s report very highly recommended. Continue reading

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