Tom Dalyell: Father of EVEL?

February 1, 2017

 

Tom Dayell, (1932-2017), was a controversial figure who lived a tumultuous personal and political life. Among his varied achievements and embarrassments he should be remembered for  being the person who posed the West Lothian question, which prepared the way for the 2015 legislation on English votes for English laws, [or EVEL to give it its slightly sinister-sounding acronym.]

I leave others more informed that I am to offer a formal obituary on ‘Daft Tam’ . The BBC offers a thoughtful account.

I will restrict this post to a few thoughts on his much-discussed conundrum, and its connection to EVEL. I make no attempt to hide my view that both are distractions from the needs from a political process of reconciling the rights of minorities within a wider union, be it the EU or the United Kingdom in their present forms.

The West Lothian question

In a parliamentary debate on devolution in 1977, Dalyell first proposed what would become known as the West Lothian Question.

A vocal opponent of Scottish devolution, Dalyell contrasted the town of Blackburn in his own constituency, and Blackburn in Lancashire.

“For how long,” he asked, “will English constituencies and English Honourable Members tolerate at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important and often decisive effect on English politics?”

It was Enoch Powell who coined the term West Lothian Question, in his response to Dalyell’s speech.

 

 

The Guardian, at its socially-sensitive best, had a decent stab at resolving the question.

EVEL is one of the signals of a paranoid streak in politics which manifest from time to time. It is a near-pointless effort to protect English interests against their disruption by pesky minority interests of other members of the United Kingdom. It deserves approval only by the rabid supporters on the now defunct English National Party, although I suspect it has the dubious merits of appealing to British Nationalists, and for all I know to the arguments whirling around in the head of Douglas Carswell, the only UKIP member of parliament at present.

 

The flow chart of the process of implanting EVEL makes a wondrous, if Alice through the looking glass, wall chart.

Today at PM Questions [February 1st 2017] all sides of the house paid homage to the man who lived up to his quote: You must not be afraid to be thought a bore

Anyone who wants to explain how you should have voted in the EU referendum deserves quizzing on how they understand EVEL, and Dalyell’s brain-numbing question.


Roger, Rafa, Serena, Venus. Form is temporary, class is permanent

January 28, 2017

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The Australian Open singles finals became the sporting event of the year when four of the greatest tennis players of their generation faced off for the titles

January 2017: Melbourne Australia. Four great tennis players have battled to reach the finals. None had started the tournament as top seed. The tennis tensions are palpable.

All four have shown astonishing resilience against younger and arguably fitter opponents. It was all the more unusual because all four had been written off before the tournament on grounds of injury, Ill-health, and advancing years.

Andy and Novak battle for top seed

In the men’s game, for nearly a year Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic had been fighting for top dog (or top seed, as they prefer to say in tennis.) Roger and Rafa were left behind.

Roger, after a career of injury-free successes had succumbed to the perils of fatherhood, namely prepared his twins for their bath, and severely damaging his back when turning the tap on. (I couldn’t have written that in a fictional account).

Rafa after an equally-illustrious career but one blighted with injuries was recovering from his latest injury time-out. His appearances now reveal residual damage to knees, legs, fingers (ugh, particularly unpleasant looking.)

Recently they met to share medical reports, dreaming of one day when they might be both fit enough to limp on to court for one last public match.

Serena versus Venus

In the women’s game, the Williams systers had already become medical phenomena with debilitating conditions which has not prevented them from collecting multiple titles individually and just for fun as a devastating doubles partnership.

The younger sister Serena became by far the strongest and most talented and winningest woman player of her generation. Venus, by comparison Spiderwoman to Serena’s Superwoman, would also hold more singles titles (but fewer doubles, probably) if her sister had not been around.

A year ago, Serena reached the pinnacle of her career in the Senena Slam in New York, widely touted as the tournament in which she would be crowned as winner of all four slams in a calander year. Partly through nerves she slipped up. Since then she has won out only on  injury bragging-rights.

However, earlier in the tournament she summoned up her remarkable depths of bouncebackability to sweep past the new British hope Joannah Konta. She is installed as favorite once again.

Age shall nor weary them

Age shall nor weary them. This weekend, the tennis world watches with huge anticipation the battle of the four thirty-something’s. At clubs around the world, the four golden-oldies will be celebrated by millions of mere mortals, some still swinging as the decades slip by.

A tweet from Donald?

Donald Trump used the US Open to launch his political career. He may just find time for a phone-call to Australia or maybe a tweet today.

To be continued


Gina Miller and Theresa May are contenders for leader of the month

January 27, 2017

Gina Miller and Theresa May are contenders for Leaders We Deserve award of the month. Each has supporters and vehement distractors

Two political figures have emerged in the UK as leaders of the month. The stories of Gina Miller and Theresa May intersect, and also relate to Donald Trump’s first tumultuous week as President of the United States (POTUS). As I write, [27 January 2017], Theresa May is embarking on her first visit to meet Mr Trump.

Gina Miller’s campaign

Gina Miller launched a campaign which clarified an important constitutional issue at our Supreme Court of Justice.  The success of her action forced the Government led by Theresa May to back off from efforts to bypass parliamentary scrutiny of their plan for exiting the EU.

A torrent of abuse

Gina Miller’s intervention in the courts threatened a delay in the March deadline for triggering the start of Brexit. This week saw the High Court ruling in her favour. Cue to frantic efforts of damage limitation to the government’s plans to trigger the Brexit button, aka Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty .

Her campaign has brought with it a torrent of abuse. Coincidentally, it took place as women around the world were matching in protest at their treatment, and at the appointment of Donald Trump, seen as epitomising bullying treatment against women. And the week when Theresa May was urged to raise such matters with Trump at their up-coming meeting. [See? I said these stories were inter-related]

Miller’s back story is a fascinating one, yet typical of many high-achievers who overcome early life set-backs which strengthen their resolve.

 

Her sense of injustice stems from childhood experiences of being bullied and left to fend for herself after her parents ran out of money for boarding school. Born into an influential family in Guyana, at the age of 10 she was sent to boarding school in Britain.

She recalls how her mother had given her a bottle of her favourite perfume Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps to take with her so she wouldn’t feel homesick, but the first weekend in school, girls emptied it out and filled it with water.

At 14, her parents’ financial circumstances had changed and she was forced to become a day pupil, living alone with her 16-year-old brother in a flat in Eastbourne, supplementing her allowance with a stint as a chambermaid. [The Guardian 25 January 2017The Guardian 25 January 2017]

 

Theresa backs down skillfully

May had repeatedly insisted that to make details public would reveal too much to European political leaders in negotiations about the UK’s ‘bottom line’. The wisdom or naivety of her point is open for discussion. It is unlikely to be an effective approach for nuclear negotiations where  the ‘finger on the button’ does not want to conceal the intentions of the owner of the potentially Armageddon-triggering digit.

The week, Prime Minister May broke her self-imposed restraint with a prepared statement helped clarify her previously concealed exit (Brexit) strategy. Then at Prime Ministers Question time, she announced the miraculous birth of a white paper, fully formed, and to be presented to the House. [Wednesday 25 January, 2017]

Out means out. Out of the Economic Union. Out of the shared tariff zone arrangements. Out, out damn plots robbing us of controls of our borders.

Deal or no deal

So what’s up for negotiation? Anything which deprives the UK of getting ‘the best deal possible deal’ Err, not quite so clear. The statement did indicate a ‘deal or no deal’ possibility involving the UK from ‘walking away’ from the negotiating table (note please, it’s another metaphor, although a not-unknown gesture of defeated participants in high and low political practices). The no-deal option which secures ‘the best deal for Britain’ has been dubbed by opponents of the Government as heading the country for a bargain-basement low-wage tax-haven society.

A footnote to history?

 

The years 2016-18 may turn out to be of particular interest to students of leadership. The sweep of events touch on humanitarian crises, environmental decay, to political shocks to the system. Donald Trump is likely to grab headlines as the most unexpected political story of the decade and beyond. from his change of job title as an entertainment host to the most powerful leader in the world.

Both May and Trump are untried in the fog of international negotiations. Each utter words or reassurance to their respective supporters. This week they share headlines with Gina Miller. Theresa May will have more chances to demonstrate her leadership qualities. Perhaps Gina Miller will as well. In any event, she has been guaranteed a footnote in contemporary political history this week.

She is my nominated leader of the month.

To be continued


The Beloved Leader and Good King Senselessness

January 25, 2017

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It is Trumpsday Eve. 3003AD [After Donald]. The Beloved Leader King and High Emperor Donald IV looks out across the plains to the great south wall started during the early days of the rule of King Donald I, and partially completed by his rightful heir Donald II

“Well, nearly done, then” he thought, “Only a few residual areas of toxicity holding up completion.”

King Senselessness day celebrations

Tomorrow will be the celebratory burning of effigies of King Senselessness, a mythical figure of fun associated with donating gifts to undeserving peasants unable to cut good enough deals to survive without handouts.

The Truth Fairy

As well as the annual mocking of king Senselessness, he had passed the order banning the practice of deceitful lies about the Truth Fairy. The practice had gotten out of hand. Parents all over the empire still persisted in telling their children that answers to their questions came to them through the Truth Fairy, and that was why they were true. This of course was a hidden way of attacking the truth-of-the-moment broadcast by himself, each hour on the hour, though the Imperial Tweeting Agency.

In some ways, he regretted the absence of opposition. In the bad old days, enemies who should have been locked up were allowed to stay out of goal, even say horrible lies about his ancestors. There was some kind of primitive way of challenging the high Emperor. Records of those times were mostly lost in the great electronic crisis.

He paused to send out the next truth-of-the-moment. He tried to remember the style taught him by his father, who had learned it from his own father.

The Emperor’s thoughts

He remembered tales of the unsuccessful revolt of the remaining aboriginal people to the south, supported by the degenerates from the far eastern territories, before their defeat at the golden shrine of Donald I on the banks of the Trump river.

The rewriting of the constitution in 202AD to ensure the dynastic succession from the Trumpian genepool; the obligatory handing over of power at the age of 100, of King Donald II. The great cleansing of untruths and the establishment of the New World currency of the Trumpkin.

The outrageous remarks about the King which directly prompted retaliation in the airstrikes demolishing the-called great wall of China. Airstrikes which through the new technology all neutron bombing did not hard the hair of a single head on the people even if they deserved a less lenient treatment.

The subsequent removal of the use of the term Chinese Wall in financial terminology to be replaced with Trumpian Wall.

Then the elimination of the old data storage and written words replaced with the purity of orally generated and aurally received signals, permitting the transition to a timeless present unhindered by false truths.

The electronic currency, the eTrumpkin, backed up by boundless wealth lodeged deep below ground in Fort Donald in Texas.

The Emperor smiled at these thoughts, and wondered what presents from his grateful people he would receive in his Senselessness stocking.


Theresa clears things up: A fairy story for our times

January 17, 2017

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Once upon a time (as all good stories start) there was a little girl called Theresa. She was brought up to be very well behaved and always did her homework, brushed her teeth and ate all her greens, even Brussels sprouts which she particularly didn’t like

 

Theresa was always top of her class and so eventually became a politician. Her nice-manners and retentive memory served her as well as her elegance of dress and footwear. So it was, she rose to the very top of her profession entrusted with making great decisions of state. Then there came a grave crisis to which there was no answer. At first, Theresa won time by reassuring words, such as we cannot reveal the answer because our enemies will turn it against us.

But as days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, the crisis deepened. Critics spoke out against her. Theresa had to come up with another plan. Eventually she and her advisors decided what to do.

“I will explain everything,” she said. “There are twelve principles, just like there were twelve Apostles, and the twelve days of Christmas and the twelve angry men. Just listen as I explain them.”

And then she went through them one by one. They were wonderful, and promised everything anyone could wish for.

“Oh, that explains everything” cried the grateful people “That’s alright then, you have saved us from the crisis.”And that was how Theresa became even more popular, and everyone lived happily ever after.

 


What I learned from Michael Connelly

January 16, 2017

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I stared at the book in front of me. “Michael Connelly,” I thought. “You may think you have concealed your secret from your readers. It is time to reveal it for all the world to see.”

No, it’s not as easy as it looks, to write the first words of a best-selling novel. With that end in mind, I choose to study The Gods of Guilt. But I could have chosen any from a wide range of Connelly’s mega-successful Courtroom and Detective dramas.

Connelly’s formula

Connelly writes brilliantly to a successful formula. Broadly, his yarns set up a battle by the (mostly) ‘good’ against the (mostly) ‘bad’ folk. In the Gods of Guilt, his main character and mostly good guy is Mickey Haller, ACA The Lincoln Lawyer.

The formula for the courtroom drama is, of course a subset of the greatest human morality drama, the battle of right over wrong (Star wars, Paradise Lost, The Seven Samurai, King Lear, back to granddaddy Homer’s ripping yarns) The story was turned into a film, and has been reviewed extensively. The New York Times offers an excellent one, saving me from a lot of effort.

 

I want to comment on a few points which I have added to my folder on ideas for improving my writing. The formula is easier to identify than the imitate, as my puny effort above shows. That doesn’t stop would-be students and teachers of creative writers try.

The study notes of mine already drew on several step-by-step cookbooks offered on the Internet some of which I offer below following the advice of police procedural author Caroline Mitchell police procedural author Caroline Mitchell.

 

Tips for Writing Page Turners

 

The Gods of Guilt reminded me of the tips for writing page turners. Forget the damage caused to you by the invisible teacher watching over your shoulder.

Make the first sentence memorable, the first paragraph attention-grabbing, the first page getting somewhere in promising what’s to come.

Here’s how Connelly starts The Gods of Guilt.

“I approached the witness with a warm and welcoming smile. This of course belied my true intent …”

Then he continues setting up plot tensions.  The simple main line has Haller relating the roller-coaster plot from the first-page. Progress is met with setbacks. Assorted sub-plots occur but in a way that suggests all will come together for the better.

The key drama is played out in the Courtroom. He also has a running background theme. In this book it is his struggle with his estranged daughter. This is a hook to offer comforting continuity. Look out for them in TV dramas.

An antidote to the superhero

He remains the hero who hasn’t sold out. An antidote to the superhero. His victories have been interspersed with  setbacks depriving him of material wherewithal. This has resulted in the brilliant memorable idea of operating his legal business from the back of an automobile, the famous black Lincoln)

On conspiracy theories

One last thought. Connelly and maybe much of fiction reinforcing conspiracy theories. Behind the injustices of the world there are evil forces at work. For detective thrillers these are corrupt cops, judges, politicians, business tycoons, lawyers. The system is out to get you. One a few people, the special ones, have the courage and capabilities to lead the revolution against the system.


You won’t believe this special offer and where Donald Trump comes into it

January 12, 2017

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The pun in the title of my book, Tennis Tensions, has done me no favours. It has attracted attention mainly from people interested in the important but unintended issue of the tension in tennis racquets not in tennis players

Now the mighty Amazon organization has helped me clear up the confusions. Click here for more information.

Starting today, [12 January, 2017] a clarification is offered for purchasers of the e-book version. There seems to have been interest from business and sports professionals and teachers.

To encourage would-be customers, the message comes with special offers over the next week, after which the price returns to at least the price of a cookie and latte at your favourite computer cafe.

To explain in my own words:

Tennis Tensions is a case study of forty critical matches played in the course of the US Open in September 2015. It examines the tensions revealed, in order to understand the factors influencing a drop off in performance.

This is the tournament in which Serena William is competing to achieve what became known as The Serena Slam, winning all four Gram Slams in a Calendar year. The pressures to succeed are even more intense than usual.

In the Men’s tournaments, other stories develop. The top seed and favourite for the Singles title is Novak Djokovic. He becomes the prime target for a crop of emerging young talents seeking to beat the top gun. The great Bryan Brothers are suffering a dip in form, and are in danger of failing to win any of the doubles trophies in the four Grand Slam events of the year.

How do players cope with the tensions of the moment and deal with performance anxiety?

And Donald . . .?

Ah, yes. Donald Trump. In a light-hearted passage, I speculate on the motives of a political hopeful who had unexpectedly turned up at the tournament. What happened next? You’ll have to read the book.

There you have it. If you are interested in tensions influencing the outcome of sporting contests, act now to save yourself the cost of a coffee. Oh, and tell your friends.