Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Comment Archives for Malcolm Redfellow

A retired academic, still kicking against the pricks.
  1. Comment on Lissadell, always romantic. But the jinx lingers
    on 13 April 2014 at 3:40 pm


    Yes, Lissadell’s setting is superb (though I trust they have trimmed back the trees so there’s a view to Rosses Point).

    Yes, that window where the poem is set is terribly romantic, but only for that connection (and for the view south).

    But …

    Ever since I visited Lissadell (in the days when it was still a Gore-Booth house), I’ve always felt it to be less than attractive, damned draughty, and not a comfortable joint at all. That gallery is better suited to a municipal building than a home.

    Since the joint was built (I think) in 1832, Yeats is surely wrong to call it “Georgian”.


    Once again the younger sister, Eva, gets airbrushed out of the picture. Yeats was terribly unfair to her:
    I know not what the younger dreams —
    Some vague Utopia — and she seems,
    When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,
    An image of such politics.

    Actually, Willie, she spent two years dying of stomach cancer, not from politics.

    Eva’s politics would have been the obverse of Yeats’s: her suffragism, her involvement in the Labour movement, her pacifism, her work in the slums of Manchester … and her rejection of her class. Better, too, not to mention her and 30 years long relationship with with Esther Roper.

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  2. Comment on Court dismisses case because there were too few present who were likely to be offended?
    on 7 April 2014 at 8:29 pm

    It might all go to show what really matters is what you do and where you do it:

    A man has been given a football banning order after singing an offensive song at a Celtic game.

    Michael Ryan, 33, was caught on camera singing the phrase “The IRA will set them free” along with other fans at the match.

    The court heard he sang those words instead of the real words “The Irishmen will set them free” at the Parkhead ground in Glasgow’s east end on October 7, 2012.

    Ryan pled guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to behaving in a way that was likely or would be likely to incite public disorder and was handed a seven month community payback order by sheriff Stuart Reid.

    The sheriff ordered that Ryan, from Castlemilk, Glasgow carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and be supervised throughout the seven months.

    The sheriff also gave Ryan a 32-month football banning order that he reduced from three years because of the guilty plea.

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  3. Comment on Court dismisses case because there were too few present who were likely to be offended?
    on 5 April 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I’m unsure about the grief being expressed here.

    If it’s that hate crime should be prosecuted to the full extent of the Law, I’m happy with that — even to the extent of “when one or two are gathered together”. The problem is that, often, such occasions come down to “He said … she said … they said.”

    If it’s “freedom of speech”, I’m with that, too. Provided that nobody else is offended, hurt or affronted. And, we can guarantee, on occasions such as this case, someone would be around to be mortally affronted, horribly hurt, and terribly offended.

    So we have to come down to what is presented to the Judge, on each and every occasion. The criteria might be unchanged and unchanging, but it may be a wee bit more difficult to be dogmatic about changing circumstances.

    I’m guessing that any judge would recognise Oliver Wendell Holmes, delivering the unanimous judgement in Schenck v. United States – 249 U.S. 47 (1919):

    The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.

    That may have a peculiar relevance here, since the issue was why anti-conscription leaflets when the nation was at war were not “free speech” under the First Amendment rights.

    Is Northern Ireland in a state of war?

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  4. Comment on Court dismisses case because there were too few present who were likely to be offended?
    on 5 April 2014 at 12:30 pm

    … the Beach Boys’ song?

    Only for those of limited horizons.

    The earliest recorded version (that I have heard of) was published in 1916 by the Liverpudlian-born Richard le Gaillienne. Carl Sandburg (of whom a few here may have heard) included it in his American Songbag in 1927. Sandburg reckoned his source (John McCutchen of the Chicago Tribune) had identified the actual wreck in Nassau.

    Lee Hays of the Weavers polished up the Sandburg version, and you’ll find it on Decca ‎9-27332 (recorded 3 November 1950; issued December 1950). That in turn was picked up by Harry Belafonte in 1955 and the Kingston Trio (Guard, Shane, Reynolds) of 1958.

    Only in 1965 (recording of 22 December) did Brian Wilson get to molest a decent folk song.

    As for The Famine Song … that’s a different story.

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  5. Comment on Welcome to The [Gay] Central [Bar] in Strabane…
    on 27 March 2014 at 5:22 pm

    The [Gay] Central [Bar] in Strabane…

    Obviously an alternative line for:

    The green, grassy banks of the Boyne

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  6. Comment on Commons [empty] threat to remove Royal Assent from Prince Charles?
    on 26 March 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Seamus @ 6:21 pm is largely wrong about that Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill.

    He is correct only in so far that the Queen’s consent would have been required for the royal prerogative to be compromised (which is effectively exercised in any matter by, or on the advice of the Prime Minister). The sponsor of the Bill had declined on principle to seek such consent. So the Deputy Speaker refused to put the question on second reading. That little pas-de-deux avoided the government (with support from the main opposition party) having to vote it down, and left the sponsor to bask in a small glow of self-inflicted glory. It left the main question unanswered, alas.

    Any anorak who must — really, really must — put their minds at rest on this issue should resort to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel guidance, published (after some wrangling) 8th November last.

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  7. Comment on Commons [empty] threat to remove Royal Assent from Prince Charles?
    on 26 March 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Seamus @ 4:16 pm:

    Well, you are half-way there.

    I’m talking (in obsolete Norman-French) of the nonsense of a royal imprimatur after Third Reading. The last time that went astray was 11 March 1708, when Queen Anne refused assent to “An Act for settling the Militia of that Part of Great Britain called Scotland”.

    Even that was not a matter of royal wilfulness. James Edward Stuart, The Old Pretender, had left Dunkirk on 6 March (17 March, NS) and was at sea, on his way to the Forth. Clearly the Godolphins and Marlborough (who were losing the game, but still had the main clout) were uncertain of the loyalty of the Scottish Militia. They therefore pulled the plug on the proposed Act, using the last resort of refusing royal assent.

    You would have to explain to me how:
    on the advise [sic]of Tony Blair, the Queen refused in 1999 to transfer the power to declare war to Parliament.

    Blair contribution came, as I recall, in 2003 when he sought and received Commons endorsement for war in Iraq. He later acknowledged: he could not
    conceive of a situation in which a Government… is going to go to war – except in circumstances where militarily for the security of the country it needs to act immediately – without a full parliamentary debate.

    That seems to be the present convention. In 2011, after a UN Security Council Resolution, there was a parliamentary debate on enforcing the No-Fly Zone in Libya.

    The most recent business, in September 2013 may be even more significant. Parliament was invited to endorse UK engagement in Syria. Recognising that opinion was turning sour (all credit to the antis who pushed Miliband the proper way), the Cameron government watered down its proposition to something little more than symbolic. When the Commons voted against engagement, it effectively strengthened the assumption that parliament would have to agree to future ventures.

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  8. Comment on Commons [empty] threat to remove Royal Assent from Prince Charles?
    on 26 March 2014 at 1:11 pm

    At this rate Norman-French (“La Reyne le veult” / “Le Roy le veult”) will soon be extinguished.

    And then what will we do?

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  9. Comment on Paisley’s legacy: “when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins”
    on 23 January 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Yes, we should (as Brian Walker pontificates) stand back and assess Paisley dispassionately.

    But what about his “Poujadiste” legacy? {Look it up!]

    It amounts to a populist rhetoric which appeals to small shop-keeper and lower middle-class values. And it’s at least half-a-century out-of-date.

    And then we reach this depth:

    “Blasphemous” play cancelled in UK after protests by religious fundamentalists

    Renowned theatre group has Bible show cancelled after complaints

    The Reduced Shakespeare Company has an international reputation. More than that, they are fun, populist.

    Then they hit…

    According to UTV, the company was due to perform The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), at the Theatre At the Mill in Newtonabbey in Northern Ireland next week at the beginning of a UK tour. The RSC is famous for its fast-paced irreverent shows based on great texts. The group describes the Bible adaptation as “an affectionate, irreverent roller coaster ride from fig leaves to final judgement.”

    But local politician Billy Ball, of Reverend Ian Paisley’s ruling Democratic Unionist Party, had called for the irreverent show to be banned. Ball is reported as saying: “For Christians, the Bible is the infallible word of God and it’s not something to be made fun of. These people are treating something sacred with irreverence and disrespect”

    Now, look: I have no objection to Norden Iron being an object of ridicule, but this …

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  10. Comment on Scottish unionism is finding an idealistic voice. There are lessons for their “Ulster” cousins
    on 22 January 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I’m loath to get involved in this one: it’s too visceral to be an open debate.

    Even so, I’d like anyone who postulates a “nationality” as the basis of what goes for an argument to define precisely what is meant by “nationality” in her/his concept.

    Where I sit “British” and “English” are constructs. We might as well pontificate about “Anglian”, “Saxon”, “Cymru”, “Alban”, “Doric” – or further sub-divisions or prototypes thereof. Most would prove as brittle as the attempt to “prove” an identity by engendering “Lallans” or “Ullans” as a dialectical form — which the detractors of Hugh MacDiarmid (for whom, incidentally, I have a lot of time) defined as “plastic”.

    None of us have a convincing genetic purity.

    As for decrying “Britain is beautiful”, how else would one sum up sitting to watch the East Coast Main Line vistas between Newcastle and Dunbar, large stretches of the rail line between metropolitan Paddington and Cornwall? Or those rare, but sumptuous summer views from Skiddaw to Galloway, Arran, Snowdonia and the Mournes?

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  11. Comment on Huge coup for Wrightbus – from Ballymena to Battersea?
    on 7 January 2014 at 5:35 am

    Gosh, Charles_Gould, you’ve convinced me.

    Let’s ignore the NB4L’s obvious failings — for just a few: poor reliability, dodgy finish, fuel-consumption above and passenger-capacity below spec, excess weight, niche market lack of sales appeal, non-opening windows, dangerous stairs and that potentially-lethal rear platform which is therefore rarely open — and concentrate on what it is really, really for. Which, as you rightly (far rightly?) imply should be pro-Tory, pro-Boris feelings.

    Even if such a Panglossian optimism doesn’t equate to what transport “experts” (whom, of course, we must instantly suspect as running-dogs of western socialism) say in this book. Nor clarify why someone, somewhere (i.e. Wrightbus) tried to censor the book. Nor explain why TfL lied, wriggled, misrepresented and obfuscated over Tom Barry’s reasonable FoI requests.

    One small wrinkle: the 38 route takes me from Islington Green, via Angel, Holborn, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, to Victoria. And that renders it “the (non tourist) number 38″? Well, that really is a revelation! Nearly as perverse as TfL maintaining that the 38 route involves “a relatively short end-to-end distance”.

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  12. Comment on Huge coup for Wrightbus – from Ballymena to Battersea?
    on 6 January 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Charles_Gould @ 8:41 pm:

    Really? Are you now, or have you ever been (as Senator McCarthy used to say) a regular bus-user in London, perhaps? On the contrary, NB4L is very much once experienced, never forgotten. Tourists may love ‘em, but hanker even more for those original RTs on the “heritage” routes.

    Now explain to a commuter on the no.38 route why the NB4L introduction meant fewer seats and less frequency. Oddly, that matters each working day at 8 am and 5:30 pm.

    Then there’s the difficulties for wheelchairs.

    Put aside the ridiculous “competition” and the costs of the prototypes: the UK government, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, had to help Boris out by taking leases on LT1, LT2 and then LT3. This apparently was to the considerable relief of Arriva, who had happily operated Mercedes Citaros on Route 38, and were left, stuffed, with the remaining five pre-production models.

    But let’s not forget, over the 4-year contract, the London tax-payer coughs nearly £30,000 extra for each “production” model. Then there’s the excess running costs for fuel and that never present “conductor”.

    Now compare and contrast the Alexander Dennis Enviro series, which does not have that magical “official” UK government Seal of Approval (something which will not soon be forgotten in Falkirk), but is succeeding in world markets. The Boris vanity project has that magic marker, hasn’t achieved a single overseas sale and almost certainly won’t.

    Should we hold Wrightbus to blame here? Most definitely not. Their only fault was to be sucked into a party-political promotion (sponsored originally by Policy Exhange), and be lumbered with a project from a “designer”, rather than an engineer.

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  13. Comment on Huge coup for Wrightbus – from Ballymena to Battersea?
    on 6 January 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Somehow one might have guessed this would end in tears …

    The New Bus for London (a.k.a. NB4L, the “New Routemaster”, the BorisBus and the Boris Boggler) has not been quite the success some, even some here, predicted.

    It is lardy, and has failed its diet. As a result, passenger capacity and fuel consumption are apparently below spec.

    The boasted air-conditioning did not work in the summer heat waves, except as “moving saunas” [Evening Standard, 5 July 2013] and “hotter than magma” [Daily Telegraph, 5 July 2013].

    That dangerous rear-door (four reported casualties to date) remains permanently closed, unless the expensive and useless “conductor” is present — who invariably isn’t.

    There have been well-reported accidents, collisions and breakdowns. We all enjoyed the leaping-out bollard saga at Hampstead’s South End Green [Camden New Journal, 1 Aug 2013]. That raised questions of reliability and/or turning circle.

    It isn’t fulfilling those ambitious claims of overseas sales — or indeed sales to other UK operators. And that despite being traipsed around the world, at LT’s expense, in demo mode.

    Etc., etc.

    And now this:

    The manufacturers of Boris Johnson’s multimillion pound new London bus threatened to prevent publication of a book criticising the design and construction of the vehicles.

    Wrightbus complained that photos in the book of loose ceiling panels and broken light fittings, as well as criticisms of the bus’s green credentials were “defamatory” and risked “serious reputational damage” to the company.

    They ordered publishers Capital Transport Publishing to remove the excerpts from their book Boris’s Bus or face “injunctive proceedings to prevent publication of the book.”

    Solicitors acting on behalf of Wright Bus complained that the book “suggests that there are problems with the design and manufacture of the vehicles.”


    One commentator has it that the publisher’s response to Wrightbus was “along the lines of Arkell v. Pressdram“. Ah! another old friend!

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  14. Comment on Simon Hoggart dies
    on 6 January 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Oh! I see the routine for this thread is to find the finest Hoggartism.

    What about his definition of the job the political sketch:

    “A lot of people read it first, as a way of easing themselves into the serious news. It’s like the chocolate on your pillow. It’s nice to nibble at before you tackle the serious business.”

    Which was in my mind, see previous, but went overlooked.

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  15. Comment on Simon Hoggart dies
    on 6 January 2014 at 4:39 pm

    It has always seemed to me that the saddest thing must be for a parent to bury a child.

    And so to business …

    I have gone all my post-adolescent life somehow in the shade of the Hoggarts. First there was the father, Richard, whose The Uses of Literacy was seminal to so many teachers of my generation. Richard Hoggart, born 1918, is still alive — though, according to a recent piece by Simon, suffering from mental confusion.

    Then there were the daily and weekly efforts of the two sons, Simon doing political news and unmissable commentary, Paul doing reviews, interviews and criticism in The Times and everywhere else in the broadsheets.

    I last saw Simon at a performance of James Graham’s This House at the Cottesloe, shortly before that venue closed. So that — dearie me, how time flies! — must be November 2012. He was with that other political wit of The Guardian, “Sir” Michael White. I find myself linking those two with the likes of Frank Johnson, Alan Watkins and Edward Pearce, as my essential gallery sketch writers since the 1970s.

    Now that Simon Hoggart has gone, who will keep up the traditions, such as Fabricant’s [alleged] wig, or Sir Peter Tapsell’s rhetorical flounces? Anne Treneman, the future beckons.

    Oh, and did Simon invent the list with the ending “I may have invented the last one”? Any previous sightings welcome.

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  16. Comment on Negative pro-Union campaign causes Tory jitters about Scottish independence
    on 4 January 2014 at 3:53 pm

    A few days in Edinburgh: hogmanay — though I wasn’t personally invited to Alex Salmond’s 60th do — gales, driving rain, and poor wi-fi. Hence I’m just catching up on that most essential Slugger item — a Brian Walker thread. [By the way, last time I broke the Times paywall so blatantly, I was censored and chastised.]

    However, allow me to propose a few musings, really no more than snatching at straws in that wind:

    ¶ The “No” camp will win in Edinburgh (and probably across the Lothians). There are just too many careers dependent on the public services, banking and big business for not keeping close hold of nurse, for fear of meeting something worse.

    I sensed that #blogmanay (sorry about that) was not the sold-out sensation expected, despite a decent night. Moreover it was more “neutral” than one might have predicted. The last time I was up, three years back, Dick Gaughan was a featured act — this season Prince’s Street got the Pet Shop Boys. Is there a message in there?

    ¶ The Borders, though lightly populated, are not fertile territory for separatism.

    ¶ It’ll be more mixed northwards. Apart from Aberdeen and the North-East, the population is too scattered to make any great difference unless it’s a really tight thing. And Aberdeen is Salmond’s current stalking ground.

    ¶ So the real brawling must take place across Strathclyde, which, after all, is the most populous bit. That’s why all the main HQs (Yes, No, Scottish Labour) are in Glasgow. Here, let it be noted, the main opinion shift to “Yes” is among the least advantaged (who are also the least likely to vote).

    ¶ Whatever happens in September (and I’d still be betting on a “No” result), the political landscape will be changing. It might be worth noting, though, that pretty well all the opinion surveys are derived from basic 1,000-quota telephone surveys, so adjust the “margin-of-error” accordingly.

    Scottish Labour seems to be edging ahead for the next Holyrood elections (a real problem for parliament seems to be mice infestation — pest control for that iconic building currently costs over £4,000 a year — but officialdom resists the obvious cat). We have yet to see ScotLab’s full response to the White Paper, and they undoubtedly will offer a number of “goodies”, which (provided there remains a realistic proposition of a Westminster Labour government) could be a real poser for the SNP.

    What happens to the SNP if the IndyRef goes badly sour for them? There are as many factions and rifts in the SNP as in any of the other notoriously fractious parties — though, again, Scottish Labour seems to have papered over its cracks for the time being. Any split in the SNP — capitalist liberals hiving off from the dominant 79 Group survivors being the obvious one — must redound to the benefit of the bankrupt Tories.

    ¶ Then there us the bottom line. Any country so badly divided that an IndyRef of any kind is an option is not united, not settled, not wholly stable. Let us see if that rubs off on — for a single obvious example — inward investment across the UK/

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  17. Comment on A is for Activist
    on 29 December 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I am very, very disappointed that, a day into this thread, it takes me to recall the magnificent Alex Glasgow and Close The Coalhouse Door:

    When that I was and a little, tiny boy,
    Me daddy said to me,
    ‘The time has come, me bonny, bonny bairn,
    To learn your ABC.’

    Now Daddy was a lodge chairman
    In the coalfields of the Tyne
    And his ABC was different
    From the Enid Blyton kind.

    He sang, ‘A is for Alienation
    That made me the man that I am, and

    B’s for the Boss who’s a Bastard,
    A Bourgeois who don’t give a damn.

    C is for Capitalism,
    The bosses’ reactionary creed, and

    D’s for Dictatorship, laddie,
    But the best proletarian breed.

    E is for Exploitation
    That workers have suffered so long, and

    F is for old Ludwig Feuerbach,
    The first one to say it was wrong.

    G is all Gerrymanderers,
    Like Lord Muck and Sir Whatsisname, and

    H is the Hell that they’ll go to
    When the workers have kindled the flame.

    I’s for Imperialism,
    And America’s kind is the worst, and

    J is for sweet Jingoism,
    That the Tories all think of the first.

    K is for good old Kier Hardy,
    Who fought out the working class fight, and

    L is for Vladimir Lenin,
    Who showed him the left was all right.

    M is of course for Karl Marx,
    The daddy and the mommy of them all, and

    N is for Nationalisation -
    Without it we’d tumble and fall.

    O is for Overproduction,
    That capitalist economy brings, and

    P is for all Private Property,
    The greatest of all of the sins.

    Q’s for the Quid pro quo,
    That we’ll deal out so well and so soon, when

    R for Revolution is shouted and
    The Red Flag becomes the top tune.

    S is for Sad Stalinism
    That gave us all such a bad name, and

    T is for Trotsky, the hero,
    Who had to take all of the blame.

    U’s for the Union of Workers -
    The Union will stand to the end, and

    V is for Vodka, yes, Vodka,
    The vun drink that vont bring the bends.

    W’s for all Willing Workers,
    And that’s where the memory fades,

    For X, Y, and Zed,’ my dear daddy said,
    ‘Will be written on the street barricades.’

    Now that I’m not a little tiny boy,
    Me daddy says to me,
    ‘Please try to forget those thing that I said,
    Especially the ABC.’

    For daddy is no longer a union man,
    And he’s had to change his plea.
    His alphabet is different now,
    Since they made him a Labour MP.

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