THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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December 2009

An English New Year's Eve tradition, but not in England

YouTube - Dinner for one.

I was intrigued to learn today (h/t Omnium) that an obscure English sketch was (a) one of the first pieces ever recorded to videotape by German television and is (b) an intrinsic part of the New Year's Eve tradition in the German-speaking world. According to Wikipedia;

The 18 minute single take black-and-white 1963 TV recording featuring British comedians Freddie Frinton and May Warden has become an integral component of the New Year's Eve schedule of several German television stations.

It is always played in the original English, has not been broadcast in England for 30 years and yet is seen by half the population of Germany each year. This year, apparently, it can be seen at 12 different times today on various channels. It seems the Germans do have a sense of humour and that - oddly - it used to be ours.

The full version, with German introduction, can be seen here. The main English course can be seen below. What a strange kind of immortality for long-forgotten (in his own country) Freddie Frinton.

A happy new year to all my readers. Here's hoping for a peaceful, prosperous and successful 2010 for all. And to our weirdly-humoured German friends, Einen guten Rutsch!

The Dishonoured List

No place for MPs and bankers in unflashy New Year honours list | UK news | The Guardian.

Dick I have long believed that the system of "honours" is at the heart of British Establishment corruption. Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong about honouring lifetime achievement or social contribution. There is, however, something very wrong about politicians making the selection.

It is a minor piece of corruption for politicians to "honour" the nation's favourite footballers or pop stars. Like ugly, uncool Prime Ministers inviting beautiful people to Downing Street, they do it to win votes by associating themselves with popularity. That's what leads to such nonsense as rockers with more letters after their name than chords in their repertoire.

But that is the least of it. There are the party apparatchiks who work loyally in the hope of a chance, one day, to lord it (perhaps even literally) over friends and neighbours. There are the newspaper editors who know that to allow their journalists to speak truth to power will jeopardise the knighthood that otherwise comes up with the rations. Even if they don't care for such trifles themselves, they will have a disappointed family to contend with. Perhaps a wife who loses the right to be "Lady X." Or a mother who misses a Buckingham Palace investiture. Such subtle pressures are enough to keep many in line.

Of course, this is all rather English and understated. Rarely does the system shows its fangs. This year's New Year's Honours list, however, features a major, yellow-toothed, foul-breathed snarl;

...the Queen's Police Medal goes to assistant commissioner Cressida Dick, who runs Scotland Yard's specialist crime wing, but was in charge of the operation that led to the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in 2005.

Yes, the jury in the "health and safety" show trial - used by the state to put the matter on hold until it was "old news" - specifically exonerated Ms Dick. Perhaps the lethal errors were all made after she - as Gold Commander - transferred control to CO19. Certainly there is no proof she was involved in discrediting an innocent victim in the disgraceful campaign of lies and spin which followed Jean-Charles's murder.  Perhaps history will even remember her for her role as head of the Metropolitan Police's "Diversity Directorate" more than for that day of national disgrace. Perhaps.

The question still remains. In honouring a woman whose name is tied to that monstrous injustice, what message, dear reader, does our Prime Minister intend to convey?

Smoking doublethink

No smoking prison sparks drop in crime - Telegraph.

As Dick Puddlecote points out, the media can't have it both ways. If a smoking ban can reduce the number of people going to jail, it can also reduce the number going to the pub.


Personally, I give the story little credence. A smoking ban in prisons will only increase the price of snout. Illegal drugs are, after all, widely (if expensively) available inside. If there were truth in the story, however, it should (if any actual thought underlay their positions) present a dilemma for the left. If fear of tobacco deprivation were enough to deter criminals, why stop there? How about banning TV sets? Playstations? Or, for the white-collar criminals, The Guardian? It has to be worth thinking about.

Guardian readers may also like to note that the story suggests crime is a matter of choice. However sad their family or social circumstances; however severe their peer-pressure; however vulnerable the potential criminals may have been, it seems they could choose not to commit crime.

What a heartening thought for the New Year.

Time to draw a line

Ambush Predator: Overstepping Their Bounds?.

JuliaM (you won't see her coming) correctly identifies the issue. No-one should be surprised that a policeman would overstep his authority. After all, it was his desire to boss people about that drew him to the job in the first place. Everyone faced by a man in police uniform should be on their guard. What is shocking about this story is that the (formerly) sturdy yeomen of England submitted in such a docile fashion.

Did no-one in this group of royalist loyalists even think to object? When will the British people understand that the law is theirs. It does not belong to the lowbrow hirelings employed to enforce it?

Woman of the year

2009 in review: MPs' expenses | World news | The Observer.

Heather Brooke gave us our only political hope of 2009. She is what all our journalists should be. She explains her motivations for researching MP's expenses succinctly (and rather sadly) in the linked article;

I was trying to make sense of the way the country worked for myself, having just moved here from America. It seemed crazy, very hard to find out what public money is spent on. In America we think, "We're paying for it and we want to know where every penny is going." Here, there's a terrible apathy.

Britain's apathy is indeed terrible - and terribly dangerous. In my years in Russia I learned that voter expectations set a ceiling on political morality. If an honest man ran for office there, first people would laugh at his naiveté. Then they would disbelieve him, assuming he was laughing at theirs. Soon, given that everyone assumed he was a crook, he would decide he might as well become one.

This is the helter skelter of negative expectation down which Britain is careering. My elder daughter once told my wife "Dad is not a cynic. He's a frustrated idealist." Perhaps so. Certainly, I believe that once a nation truly lowers its sights, it is finished.

Russia is - and has always been - potentially far richer than Britain. It has vast resources, endless land and highly educated people. It has a truly magnificent culture and a strong patriotic spirit. It should be the richest nation on Earth, by quite a long way. But it is a cold version of Nigeria because its people expect too little of their political class. That, ladies and gentlemen, is true apathy. Corruption is its inevitable consequence. Left unchecked, it's terminal.

Next year will see a new government in Britain. Left or Right it will - sadly - be statist. Many politicians know full well that our state has already over-reached, but will continue to pretend. Why? Because they face - like every democratic government - a population clamouring childishly for simple solutions to life's problems. For a politician to maintain his idealism - even the frustrated variety - in such circumstances is tough. We really need them to try though. After a year in which they were caught with their hands in the till, we also need opportunities to catch them doing something right.

I have seen the alternative and it's not pretty.

Quote of the day

Obnoxio The Clown: A good day to bury bad news.

Not Obnoxio's post about another incompetent terrorist (sorry, dear chap) but comment #1:

Good job he was a British engineering student or the ****ing thing might have gone off.

I have been harsh about British education in the past, but it seems we all owe a debt of thanks to the lecturers at the Faculty of Engineering Sciences at University College London.

In the deep mid-winter

Cranmer: Where is Lord Adonis?.

I am far too jolly to blog. My new job is going to be fun. It has taken a year to set up the venture I am going to head and my sense of achievement is deliciously combined with the glow of new challenges ahead (and the anticipation of Christmas cheer before it all kicks off). Perhaps I may even hope in 2010 for:

...the stern joy which warriors feel, In foemen worthy of their steel.

Time will tell. Certainly Shanghai seems a great place to live. My new home is splendid. I have been welcomed warmly, enjoying warm Canadian hospitality at my neighbour's Christmas Party on only my second night. Now I am off again to spend Christmas and New Year with my family in England. I am looking forward to it as I used to when a boy. Last year's Christmas was not cancelled exactly, but - with Mrs P. recently diagnosed with a life-threatening illness - it was certainly muted. This year, the threat dodged (d.v.) we Paines are determined to make merry.

I found myself walking down West Nanjing Road today whistling a happy tune. I know that doesn't sound like the disgruntled, middle-aged libertarian you know, if not love. Bear with me, I am sure it will pass.

It's hard not to laugh, in such a mood, at the climate chaos in England, but there is a serious point. Pace those fools for whom the state can do no wrong, it is incompetence that has the country on its knees, not Mother Nature. For all the decades of my father's career in construction, the local authority had a deal with contractors that, in return for modest standby payments, they would agree to deploy their men and equipment to clear the roads when harsh weather struck. This saved the state the cost of maintaining heavy machinery that would stand idle most of the time. It provided supplemental income to local businesses (just when the weather prevented them from doing their usual work). In short it was sensible, practical and cheap. It was also an informal public-private partnership before that concept was lawyered to death.

The Health & Safety culture has put a stop to that. Untrained amateurs (i.e. the tough guys driving the trucks and diggers and manfully wielding the shovels) engaged in such operations might get hurt. If they got hurt, they might sue. Only operatives specifically employed and trained for such activities can now carry them out. So only designated workers using specialised equipment can clear the roads. It's far too costly to maintain fleets of equipment for such occasional deployment. So the economy grinds to a slushy halt. At a cost in GDP which (impoverished as we already are) we must try not to think about.

The only fools bigger than the fools running our country are the fools who voted for them. Except perhaps for those bigger fools who couldn't be bothered to vote at all because "it doesn't matter." Yes it does. These idiots are in charge because you idiots allowed it.

I may seem to have blogged the spring from my step and the song from my lips, but not really. I am jolly still and looking forward to my flight home. Ten or more hours in the air lie ahead and a man must sleep, so this may be the moment to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas. Unlikely though it may seem with such clowns in charge (and clowns with different costumes warming up in the wings) I hope you also have a prosperous new year.

If you have been, thanks for reading. My blogging this year may have done nothing to aid Mrs P's recovery, but it has helped to preserve my sanity. Thanks for the therapy and here's to better times ahead for all - except those clowns.