November 11, 2014
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Political perez hilton this is not
November 11, 2014
Copyright © LeftCentral. All Rights Reserved
April 15, 2014
LeftCentral Book Reviews
When it comes to the American War of Independence, the UK and the USA are two nations divided by a common history, although a general consensus has emerged regarding British incompetence. Professor Andrew O`Shaughnessy has attempted to address this and in doing so has written a beautifully balanced book. It contains ten biographical subjects, George III, Lord North, Sir William Howe, Admiral Lord Richard Howe, John Burgoyne, Lord George Germain, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Cornwallis, Admiral George Rodney and John Montague. There is significant interplay but remarkably no repetition of detail, in a well crafted and riveting book. Read more of this post
January 6, 2014
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
March 10, 2013
Peter D’Sena wonders if Callaghan had won
the election of 1979,
would so-called alternative
comedy and its associated forms of popular
culture have had a very different
genesis, trajectory and influence.
“Ladies aaaand Gentlemen!”, bellows the compere. “Please give a warm welcome our headline act tonight: the one, the only, Jim Davidson!”
It’s a Saturday night in March 1983 and in a new West End club (let’s call it the Comic Shop) the atmosphere is hot, sweaty, smoky and slightly claustrophobic. Our hero struts on and, as this is ‘Sit Down’ comedy, he perches on a stool, Perry Como style, in order to start his routine. A heckler in the crowd drunkenly berates the leader of the opposition (Willie Whitelaw), but even his jibe about the nation’s big, bushy browed soft target falls on deaf ears – the age of political apathy of the ’70s, has by this time grown apace and the passive audience quickly hushes this would-be participant down. And why shouldn’t they? The opposition is becoming merely ornamental. After all, inflation is down into single figures; the labour party seems to be in internal harmony, especially after buying the loyalty of the Liberals and preventing the formation of a splinter group (the would-be SAP); and labour’s deputy leader, Tony Benn, not only seems to be a credible complement and successor to Callaghan, but also likely to capture a greater margin of victory in the general election called for a few months time. Even for the few who are bothered to politicise, there seems to be more to laugh than cry about. Dr Owen’s tactics of submarine diplomacy, in 1982, proved enough to prevent the quirky Argentinian leadership from taking the Falklands; Callaghan has pulled back from schmoozing with the new president – the B-list actor, Reagan and distanced himself from Star Wars; and the death of Brezhnev has opened the door to the possibility of a socialist-dominated Europe moving closer to reciprocal agreements with the new Soviet leadership. Unemployment, which had been a threat in the late ’70s, seems to be turning around, so much so that a TV show called Boys from the Black Stuff won’t be taken beyond its pilot. The show with a character called Loadsamoney looks to have much more potential under Labour than Yosser Hughes. This is an age of parody rather than post-modern irony, and in the media the closest thing to conflict is the TV ratings war, where it’s a close call between Blind Date and Fantasy Island. Read more of this post
January 31, 2013
David Cameron finally gave his long-awaited speech on Britain’s relationship with the EU last Wednesday morning promising Britain an in/out referendum on its membership of the EU. This referendum would come after the next election, and only if he does not succeed in changing the relationship as he hopes to over the coming months, and indeed years. This appeared to be a bold and surprising move from a Prime Minister usually averse to making his position so clear. Beneath the surface it was vintage David Cameron; the Prime Minister distilled into his purest form, in the shape of this one speech.
The promise of a referendum was that special type of promise: the David Cameron promise, the kind that upon closer inspection is nothing of the sort. Making any firm pledge on ‘when-I-win-the-next-election’ grounds is dubious for any politician; it is particularly problematic for David Cameron. With the Lib Dems withdrawal of support for boundary changes he seems increasingly unlikely to command an outright majority after 2015, having failed to win one in 2010 when it was his to lose. We have also seen the Prime Minister twist, turn and weasel his way out of a number of apparently firm positions on a variety of issues throughout his term of office. Most recently, most glaringly and most shockingly, when he overturned his prior assertion that he would adopt the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry if they were not ‘bonkers’. They weren’t, he didn’t, and tellingly nobody was remotely surprised. This is a man whose promises carry little weight, even by politicians’ standards. Read more of this post
January 28, 2013
The modern Probation Service in England and Wales was accorded formal statutory footing in 1907 by a reforming Liberal Government having its embryonic Victorian antecedents in the appointment of Police Court Missionaries who worked in local Magistrates courts to redeem or act as guardians to many of those deemed by society as incorrigibles, inebriates and the socially excluded. The primary duty to ‘ advise, assist and befriend’ was enjoined on new entrants in what quickly became a more professionalised, welfare -oriented community based statutory agency. The union representing Probation staff Napo (National Association of Probation Officers) was formally established in 1912. The social work ethos that informed and shaped the widening casework responsibilities of Probation Officers was facilitated by the development of what was widely seen and lauded as the pivotal role of the professional relationship that the client/offender had with a Probation Officer( and later Assistant Probation Officer grades) . This role was strengthened with additional responsibilities that including work in prisons, parole supervision and aftercare, the provision of social enquiry reports( now known as pre-sentence reports ) to courts on Adult defendants found/pleading guilty to a range of middle ranking offences, as well as the setting up of Bail Hostels. Another significant statutory task which became integral to the Services work was the introduction of Community Service in 1972. Read more of this post
January 18, 2013
I was an audience member in the BBC Question Time broadcast from Lincoln on 17 January 2013, when David Dimbleby chaired a panel which included Mary Beard (Professor of Classics, Cambridge University), Nigel Farage MEP (Leader of UKIP), Caroline Flint MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), Roland Rudd (Chairman, Business for New Europe) and Grant Shapps MP (Conservative Party Chairman).
Whilst the aim of the programme is to entertain and to provoke, attendance prompted thoughts about broader issues and about the underscoring attitudes which inform opinion and which programmes such as Question Time by their very nature fail to address.
Perhaps the most well debated issue was not actually broadcast but took place earlier, chaired by the floor manager to warm up the audience and to check the broadcasting systems. The theme of responsibility for diet was discussed for almost an hour, raising issues such as personal responsibility, education for change, busy working parents and child care, and most pertinently the nature of the food industry. Even with the luxury of extra time allotted only hints of the real issue were addressed – that the function of the food industry is to make a profit, and the easiest way to do this is to create something on which people will spend plenty of money (junk food) which is very cheap to produce and highly addictive (fat, sugar and salt). Read more of this post
January 16, 2013
I am aware that my recent comments concerning social democracy and the golden generation may have been slightly misconstrued. My intention was not to critique those now retired I was actually commending this generation for placing themselves on the right side of the poverty line, a position they and previous generations earned through struggle. I simply wished to highlight the obvious, that future generations who manage to reach the ever distant pensionable age, are going to find themselves in poverty. And we must reflect upon this as social democratic institutions wither on the vine both here and abroad. Quentin Crisp once said that in Britain the “people are cruel but the system kind; while in America the opposite was true”. If we accept this notion, then we need to ask, what happens to the poor in Britain when the system also becomes cruel? Because, I for one am tired of hearing privileged Tories bemoaning the fact that people are simply living too long in this country. We should be rejoicing in this and congratulating some of the social democratic institutions that have made this possible, such as the National Health Service, which is looking increasingly susceptible to privatisation in the future. One thing is for sure; once this privatisation kicks in we will undoubtedly see a drop in longevity levels in the UK, thus allowing the rich to make huge profits while resolving the tiresome problem of the demographic time-bomb. Read more of this post