Friday, September 02, 2022

A Shakespearian tragi-comedy

 

Shall I compare Liz to a summer’s day?
She ain’t as lovely nor as temperate.
Rough winds did shake the darling Theresa May
And Bozza’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines
And often is our gold collected in
And every month our pay perforce declines
Through energy costs, tax and inflation.
But this infernal summer gives no shade,
As we work out how much we owest.
Nor shall Kier brag that he hath made the grade,
When all the time interest rates growest.
So long as there's no election to see,
So long lives Liz and exit poor Rishi.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

The Boris, Piers and Jeremy of the 17th century


 Just 380 years after the outbreak of the English Civil War on August 22, 1642, the memoirs of the era’s most notorious, controversial and successful journalist are finally published. 

Marchamont Nedham, who was just 22 at the outbreak of war, became a newspaper pioneer, the most successful publisher of the era. 

In an era when “freedom of speech” did not exist, he was jailed three times, threatened twice with execution and once fled the country fearing he would be hung, drawn and quartered. 

He was as notorious in his day as journalists like Boris Johnson, Piers Morgan or Jeremy Clarkson are today. His “crimes” included attacking King Charles I, attacking Oliver Cromwell, attacking King Charles II. His other offences included: 

·        Revealing leaked Government documents;

·        Publishing illegal reports of Parliamentary debates;

·        Exposing greed and hypocrisy among Puritan MPs;

·        Condemning the politicians who executed the King;

·        Attacking the Scottish, the French and the Dutch.

Nedham’s memoirs are closely based on the 17th century newspaperman’s career. 

In an unrestrained age, when invective was as rife in print as it is on Twitter today, Nedham was a master of the well-aimed insult. 

He first wrote a newspaper in support of Parliament against the King; then a second backing the King against Parliament; his third was the official newspaper of the Cromwell dictatorship. Finally, he was employed writing for Charles II against the King’s political enemies. 

In the 17th century, newspapers were in their infancy. Nedham was a pioneer – the most successful journalist and editor of the era – yet he is relatively unknown today.

Historians accuse Nedham of inconsistency but they disregard his greater achievement – to write, print and distribute three successive weekly news-sheets over a turbulent period of 18 years from the outbreak of the civil war in 1642 to the restoration in 1660. 

The desire for news was insatiable and literacy was surprisingly widespread with about half the population of London able to read. 

News-books were not sold in vast numbers (1,000 copies a week costing one penny each was about average) but they were widely shared and read aloud in many places, especially among the armies involved in the war. Politicians tried many times to rein in the press. They wanted to control what was being reported and, at the same time, they wanted to use the press for their own ends. 

Marchamont Nedham’s writings on constitutional and political issues helped inspire the American revolution. Yet because his allegiances and his opinions shifted according to who he was working for, he has been dismissed by historians as a contemptible “triple-turncoat” of no great significance.

I would contend that there is nothing wrong with being a pen for hire and, in navigating his way through the deep, dark currents of the English Civil War, he not only kept his head above water but laid many of the foundations of journalism that we take for granted today. A martyr in the cause of free speech – jailed three times and fleeing for his life once – he was a pioneer whose importance to journalism should not remain as obscure as it has done for centuries.

Marchamont Nedham, who died of a heart attack in a London coffee house in 1678 aged 58, was belligerent to the end. His last publication was a robust attack on the French who, he said, were “those monkeys of mankind”. 

I have written his autobiography for him, taking the known facts about Nedham’s career and trying to stitch them together by filling in the gaps.

 www.themanwhoinventedthe.news

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Just shut up about freedom of speech

Having just written a book (“The Man Who Invented The News”) about a journalist who was jailed three times and fled the country in fear of his life, I find I must support the campaign to free Julian Assange.

He would appear to be an unattractive man with a distinctly dodgy history but that is not a good enough reason to want to see him deported to America and incarcerated there for, quite probably, the rest of his life.

He published secret information which, according to the Americans, put people’s lives at risk. There’s not much to be said in favour of that – except that it’s a journalist’s job to reveal inconvenient truths. The alternative is an even more secret society than the one we live in most of the time.

The Wikileaks founder did reveal that thousands of civilians were killed during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – the sort of slaughter we rightly condemn Russia for today.

Did we have a right to know the information Wikileaks revealed? I would say we did. It is a journalist’s job to expose inconvenient, embarrassing or incriminating evidence if and when it becomes available. It does not seem reasonable to allow Assange’s extradition just so the Americans can get their revenge.

Hillary Clinton once asked of Assange: “Can’t we just take the guy out with a drone?’

In 1640s, Marchamont Nedham, the most notorious journalist of the English Civil War, leaked the contents of King Charles I’s private papers.

These revealed he had written to the King of France complaining about the behaviour of his sister, Henrietta Maria, Charles’s wife. They revealed the King’s determination not to negotiate with his Parliamentary enemies as well as his scathing private opinions of some of his closest aides.

Marchamont Nedham was jailed when he called the King a tyrant and mentioned that Charles spoke with a stammer. In those days, there was no such thing as ‘freedom of speech’ and journalists ran the risk of imprisonment with every newspaper they published. Later, Nedham was jailed again and eventually fled the country in 1660 in fear of being hanged, drawn and quartered.

Have we really made so little progress in almost 400 years?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ubknv_CxSUY


Monday, June 06, 2022

The birthday-cake coup

 In January I sent this email to my MP Nigel Huddleston:

Dear Mr Huddleston

Please do not fall for the propaganda and take part in the defenestration of Boris Johnson.

He has made some mistakes and the Conservative Party is betraying many of its grass roots supporters by its woke policies, tax rises, unquestioning support for the abominable NHS etc.

But - and it is a big but - he has done a good job over the vaccine rollout and, more to the point, getting rid of him is only worthwhile if the party has a better leader to take his place.

It emphatically does not.

Despite his shortcomings, those red wall MPs and others who are fearful of losing their seats unless they get rid of Mr Johnson should realise they will definitely lose their seats if they do get rid of him.

It is alleged MPs are overwhelmed with emails calling for him to be removed. Who from? His long-term opponents. Please stick with him. How can we endure this birthday-cake farce when the world is on the brink of another war?

Today I followed it up by saying:

Dear Mr Huddleston 

I sent you the email below in January. Nothing has changed except the war is now being fought and is liable to get worse. 

Please do not vote to oust the Prime Minister.

 

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

An open e-mail to Talk-Talk

 I have tried a dozen different ways to communicate with you and failed to get the message through that you have stopped giving me access to my accounts, you continued to send threatening emails demanding money I have been paying.

I informed you some time ago I no longer wanted to receive any 'service' from you and proposed to cancel my ransom payments of £5 a month. Today you send me a demand for £25. You cannot be serious.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Sod the Children

Save the Children turned down a donation of £750,000 to help Ukranian refugees because it came from a North Sea gas producer. As a result I have cancelled my monthly standing order and sent the following email: 

I wanted you to know that I have today cancelled my monthly standing order to Save the Children in protest at your rejection of a £750,000 donation because it is linked to fossil fuels. 

If you can afford to refuse so much money, and deprive potential beneficiaries of that amount, you certainly don’t need my chicken-feed contribution. 

I have for many years believed your highly-politicised organisation, with its excessively over-paid executives, was squandering the money it received from poor idiots like me but I am now quite convinced you are more interested in feathering your own nest, virtue-signalling and playing to the Guardian-reading gallery than you are to saving children.

I do hope you will forward this email to some of those exalted powers-that-be, not that it will make any difference but it would at least alert them to how contemptible they have become in the eyes of at least one long-term supporter.

Mili Sargeant from the alleged charity replied:

Thank you for getting in touch and sharing your thoughts on this matter. 

 

Save the Children is committed to making decisions that are in the best interest of the charity but ultimately in the best interests of children. Our Donation Acceptance and Refusal Policy ensures we do not compromise on our mission and values when it comes to raising income. This policy governs the acceptance and refusal of donations by Save the Children UK where there is perceived risk to our programming, staff, reputation, financial position or brand in accepting the donation and is reviewed regularly by our Board of Trustees and Executive Directors.

 

Our work is focused on meeting the immediate needs of children in crises around the world, as well as protecting their futures. We will take tough but calculated decisions where needed to achieve this. This means raising and spending funds responsibly, but also turning down funding where we believe doing so could have a greater long-term impact for children. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to children’s future and now is the time to do everything we can to minimise the impact of this.

 

We are in the process of reviewing our global policy on accepting donations from fossil fuel companies to ensure it reflects our position on the threat the climate crisis poses to children.

 

We understand that not everyone will agree with this decision, though I hope this goes some way to explaining why we have chosen not to accept funding from Neptune Energy.

 

Thank you again for all the support you have shown Save the Children. As you mentioned your regular contribution to Save the Children via standing order, you will need to cancel this at the bank. If possible, please can you kindly provide me with your address so that I can update your records with us and log your complaint. 

 

I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

 

I responded:

Thank you for your cut-and-paste reply. I can't believe anyone takes this guff seriously.

The long-term impact of climate change is all very well but the immediate and necessary needs of refugees from a war zone surely take immediate priority. Either that or Save the Children now has so much money it doesn't know what to do with it all.

It is deeply regrettable your organisation has such delicate sensibilities it cannot see the pain and suffering before its very eyes.

Monday, February 28, 2022

It's the end of the world as we know it

 If, and it’s a bigger if than we might like, but if we all survive without being vaporised in a nuclear war, then Vlad Putin has done us all a favour.

The monstrous invasion of the Ukraine is the drastic wake-up call the West has needed for some time.

We have been sleepwalking into this disaster ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

We have complacently assumed Russia and China would more or less accept our liberal, capitalist, freedom-loving values and we could all live peacefully side by side.

Their true, sinister, aims have always been visible but we preferred to look the other way. 

We have allowed the Chinese to devastate our manufacturing industry and steal our technology.

We have encouraged ultra-rich Russian crooks, thieves and murderers to launder their money through London.

The disgusting sight of gold- and blood-dripping oligarchs, their vile women and entitled offspring flaunting their ill-gotten gains around our country has been one of the most appalling developments of recent years.

We enrich their dictators’ regimes by lapping up cheap goods made by slave labour in mega-cities like the one responsible for unleashing coronavirus on the world.

The Chinese and Russians between them are destroying civilisation, democracy and innocent lives – genocide or invasion, murder and incarceration, it’s all the same to their barbaric leaders.

What has the West being doing instead of recognising our enemies and dealing with their many threats?

We have spent our time banning free speech in universities in case some non-woke feminist might upset a bloke who wants to pretend he’s a woman.

We have been chucking statues in the sea because someone over 200 years ago did something reprehensible.

We have abandoned any idea of fuelling our own power needs in exchange for ineffectual windmills, Russian gas and Chinese-financed, French-owned nuclear power plants that may never be built.

Oh and we have saved money by giving up on the idea we might one day need to go to war again to defend ourselves. It’s far more important our soldiers and spies recognise their white privilege.

If we see the invasion of the Ukraine as an opportunity to get a grip, recognise what’s really important and realise our way of life is under constant threat from countries which would love to destroy us, some good may yet come out of this terrible war.

Tragically, I doubt if we have the strength of will to recognise just how ridiculously complacent we have become. Meanwhile, the destruction of our freedoms will continue apace.

I hope we recognise the urgent need to change before it really is too late.

Otherwise, the era of peace, freedom and democracy may be coming to an end. Do our leaders – and the rest of us – have the guts to hold back the tide of chaos, dictatorship and destruction? I doubt it.