While I Was Away 183

Here are some brief comments on events while I was busy biographing:

Prince William to wed Kate Middleton

I really don’t give a fuck. Have you noticed he is strangely getting less bald? They’ll both be middle aged and ugly before they come to the throne. Or hopefully not.

Coalition launch “Starve the feckless” scheme

Multiple orgasms at the Mail, Express and Telegraph at launch of amusingly impossible policy guaranteed to increase crime rate.

Demonstrators trash Tory Party HQ

I don’t really approve of riot as people get hurt. But the only thing that makes me angrier than the tuition fee increases, are the NUS leadership hacks who support New Labour who brought in tuition fees in the first place.

Interesting moral conundrum as to whether pre-emptive murder of NUS executives can be justified. Looking at Straw, Clarke and Aaronovitch, it is certainly a debate worth having.

Possible voluntary reduction in London bankers’ bonuses from £7 billion to £4 billion and then £3 billion later. Anyone remember why the public finances are bankrupt? The bonuses are justified by record profits based on funding and administering government debt, which was incurred by governments borrowing to give to the bankers. What?

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183 thoughts on “While I Was Away

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  • Jon

    As a general note, I should add that I can’t imagine the lovely Kate as growing ugly, and take issue with Craig’s dismissal. She seems quite lovely, and perfectly cute to boot.

    Another note: I wonder whether anyone here has pondered on the peculiar notion that a member of the monarchy might be opposed to their institution? Given that the likes of William are educated to the very best standards, are expected to be widely read and exposed to the maximum range of ideas and human knowledge, I fancy that all the wealth and status in the world would be insufficient to prevent the idea from germinating in at least one member of the family. They are unfairly privileged by virtue of an archaic institution, but they’re not stupid.

  • Alfred


    Further to my earlier response, I evidently misunderstood your point. having been accused of racism here more than once, I took use of the term “racial superiority” as warning of a direct personal attack which obviously it was not.

    Your interpretation of Craig’s position on the monarchy seems entirely plausible.

    If Somebody felt I was unduly assertive, I’m sorry. But s/he called me some things, including a monarchist, a term that to me suggests a kind of sappy adulation of monarchy, something to which I am certainly not inclined. Further I was riled at the time by Vronsky’s outrageous advocacy of murder as a political tool (was s/he kidding?).

    On you last point about monarchy, surely some members of the family could defect as Diana did. But I see no reason for the view that the royal family is “unfairly privileged.” Sure, they live in relative luxury, although I understand that Buckinham Palace is subject to infestations of cochroaches. But that is just part of the game they have to play. As the “dignified” part of the constitution, they have to live on an elevated plane, thereby to engage the awe and respect of the mass of the people. In doing that, they deflect such awe and respect from scoundrels in Parliament, like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, both of whom did their best to undermine the monarchy, presumably to enhance their own influence and power.

    More likely, I would have thought, some members of the royal family might abdicate merely to avoid the hastle of doing all the dumb things they have to do like visiting the embassy in Tashkent or wherever. Presumably it is the tedium of it all that accounts for Philip’s occasional outre remarks: “It gives me great pleasure to open this thing – whatever it is” as he remarked on one occasion while visiting Calgary.

    I agree with you and Somebody that indoctrinating school children with militarist ideas is odious. However, it is not wrong, I think, for society to honor all soldiers, however bad the war in which they serve, provided only that they act with courage and honour in their particular role, for if soldiers took to deciding the merits of their own deployment, we would soon have a military dictatorship.

  • Jon

    Alfred, my comment was not ad hominem and should not have been taken as such, though if you would prefer not to call your topic by one name you are welcome to propose another. But that was not the point of course, and you’ve not answered the main points I put to you.

    The issue at hand is that @somebody is of the view that teaching children to regard military structures and systems positively and unquestioningly is appalling. I agree wholeheartedly, and one does not have to be an anti-militarist to concur.

    You do not also appear to have commented on the salient point that Craig has, in previous writing, specifically mentioned the ‘accident of birth’ (in relation to the Queen). It is fine not to have known this, given that commentators here are not expected to have read Craig’s books, but it would seem sense to develop a fresh understanding in light of this extra information.

    I’ve not read Baghot either, incidentally, but don’t regard this omission as disqualifying me from the right to form an opinion based on what I see. What I see is a pampered and privileged elite held in artificially high wealth and regard based on the peculiar notion of their lineage, and this meme has propagated our class-based consciousness to such a high degree that the notion of the state paying for William’s wedding, at a time of significant public-sector cuts and economic recesssion, does not invite widespread hoots of derision from the whole political spectrum (perhaps we should be grateful that it has subsequently been decided the state will not get an extra bill for the occasion).

    Btw, you’d not guess it, but I am quite fond of the royal family. I am not of the view that they are all appalling or selfish people, and in a sense I would be sad if their institution ended. But it would certainly be the right thing to do – I wonder if troublemaker Charlie might be persuaded to dissolve it during his coronation speech?

  • Jon

    Our posts cross in the ether! We will have to differ on the issue of unfair privilege, but thank you for a considered reply.

    Our only other difference – and it is minor – is about the honouring of all soldiers. I am in favour of remembering those who died in the Second World War, though I regard the recently instituted Armed Forces Day as propagandist, and I am worried that modern war imagery from the Poppy Appeal adds an implicit tone of approval. Interestingly though, the Poppy Appeal were quite (and justifiably) sniffy about accepting Blair’s blood-soaked donation recently, so I don’t see them as a great part of the problem.

    I regard Joe Glenton, who recently did a stint in prison for refusing to fight in Afghanistan on grounds of concience, as an extremely brave individual. But then I think all soldiers are brave, generally speaking.

  • Jon

    Vronsky wasn’t advocating murder as a political tool in any seriousness. The point being made was that, if the elites can do it, then it is only fair that everyone can. This illustrates an absurd situation of course, thus demonstrating that the elite use of murder as a political tool is wrong quite aside from the obvious moral objections.

    For the above to make sense, of course, one has to take the view that the elites +do+ use murder as a political tool. But given the vast array of instances of large-scale avoidable violence inflicted on ordinary people, I would say this was an eminently sensible position. Armed drones, anyone?

  • Roderick Russell

    ALFRED at 12.57 AM – I don’t recall my mentioning Prince William’s name to you at all. You are mixing my comments up with other peoples. This particular thread started with my objecting to the “Larry the Liar type” inferences that you had made in an earlier comment, as I outlined to you in my comment of November 19, 2010 11:18 PM.

    As I also mentioned in this comment, the whole issue started with a nasty slandering and it just led on from there. The intimidation and threats that followed on are also strange ?” but there are plenty of witnesses. Click on my name, below, to see my detailed report on this, and go to page 17 to see a list of precedents where something similar has happened to others. Why do people slander? My wife thinks petty jealousies. They fact is that people do slander; though one has to be a real “piece of shit” to do it. It’s a question I am going to put to several Vancouver headhunters in a publicized open letter. I really am surprised you don’t know any of these people.

  • Alfred


    I have great respect for conscientious objectors. In 1940, my father, intending to be a CO, threw his call-up papers on the fire. Whitehall seems not to have been on top of things and nothing transpired as a consequence. Later he joined the RAF as a volunteer and had an inglorious war in which he failed to kill anyone, no doubt much to his relief. In his memory, and for all those millions whose lives were disrupted or destroyed by war, I buy a poppy. I assume the money goes to aid veterans. Any attempt to use the Poppy symbol for other purposes is surely a disgrace.

    I’ve said enough on this thread except to endorse Suhayl’s encouragement to Richard Robinson to return. And if it’s any incentive to him, I’ll say nothing at all for a decent interval.

  • CheebaCow

    Alfred said:

    “To heap scorn on someone because of their ancestry is a form of bigotry as vile as any other”

    Yes, criticising an institution which grants inordinate power to people for simply being born into the right family is just as vile as hating the weakest in society based on the colour of their skin.

  • ingo

    jon, you a royalist? never…

    Here is why I prefer Willy and his wife Kate to be the next King and queen, a peculiar national urge felt by many and something that could easily result in one of the royals infighting episodes.

    When married to Diana, it was well known amongst the footfolk and servants in Noroflk, that Charlie and his choosen traveller Camilla, were bonking their way through the bedrooms of East Anglia’s hoite polloite.

    Nobody dared to say a word then, but the morals that covered up a sordid affair, were amplified by the media in the perpetuation of ‘the lovely marriage’ and life of Diana and Charles.

    I do not want to mention the families who grudgingly offered their four posters to this sham, but he is not somebody I would like to see squeezing the big head of Camilla into a crown. He had a relationship with Camilla all his life, love you could say.

    Sorry William, but it had to be said.

  • somebody

    Typical, What a greaser.

    BBC webpage

    Cameron: ‘Too early’ to say if Camilla could be Queen

    When asked by Sky News whether he was “up for Queen Camilla”, Mr Cameron replied: “I think the country is getting to know her and getting to see that she is a very warm-hearted person with a big sense of humour and a big heart.

    ‘Too early’

    “But it’s too early to talk about these things and I’m sure that it will all be discussed and debated.

    “It’s too early for decisions about the question you ask, but am I a big royal fan? Yes. And I’m a big Camilla fan too.”


    Yes wait till the old girl pops her clogs Dave. Isn’t SamCam part of the aristocracy by marriage?

    And I would have thought he had many more important matters on which to pass comment.

  • Ruth

    I think the Queen will abdicate in 2012 and this raising of the issue of Camilla is the start of the preparations for Charles to take over.

    I’m personally up for him becoming king because the popularity of the monarchy will continue sliding unless of course anything unfortunate happens to him.

    The monarchy is part of and also a tool of the Establishment. So the sooner it goes the better. And also in a so called democracy the head of state should be open to all.

  • Lucretius

    “Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”

    C S Lewis

    “Parliamentary monarchy fulfils a role which an elected president never can. It formally limits the politicians’ thirst for power because with it the supreme office of the state is occupied once and for all.”

    Max Weber

    “The British love … the comforting security of their hereditary constitutional monarchy, an institution of which the characters are beyond the manipulation of man, an institution guaranteeing continuity, overriding the dissensions of politics. The best governments are constitutional monarchies, and we may yet see some restored in eastern Europe.”

    Yehudi Menuhin

    “In republics there is not a respect for authority, but a fear of power.”

    Sam Johnson

    “Russia under Nicholas II, with all the survivals of feudalism, had opposition political parties, independent trade unions and newspapers, a rather radical parliament and a modern legal system. Its agriculture was on the level of the USA, with industry rapidly approaching the West European level.

    In the USSR there was total tyranny, no political liberties and practically no human rights. Its economy was not viable; agriculture was destroyed. The terror against the population reached a scope unprecedented in history.

    No wonder many Russians look back at Tsarist Russia as a paradise lost.”

    Oleg Gordievsky


  • Suhayl Saadi

    Sorry, Lucretius, but Gordievsky is a deeply questionable and completely compromised source. He’s right about the USSR but he posits a Panglossian and completely inaccurate vision of Czarist Russia (in which people were starving, millions were virtually slaves and the secret police were just as vicious as the NKVD/ KGB would be, later) and allegedly is a mouthpiece of the SIS. The rest I respect – even CS Lewis, who was a bit of a religious freak – and they made valid points.

  • Roderick Russell

    Lucretius – Max Weber was one of the founders of the German Democratic Party at the end of ww1. It doesn’t seem to me that he had much interest in having the German Monarchy back. After all the Party he founded was committed to maintaining a republican form of government.

    And as for Gordievsky’s choice of Nicholas 11 over Stalin ?” Surely Attila the Hun would be preferable to either of them.

    Why don’t we have a referendum in the UK and Canada to decide if we want King Charles 111?

  • Luc

    @ SS

    “Sorry, Lucretius, but Gordievsky is a deeply questionable and completely compromised source …”

    “Source”???? It’s not a question of source. He’s not claiming to reveal some secret knowledge. He’s talking about ascertainable historical facts.


    There’s no inconsistency between a democratic government and a constitutional monarchy. it was the emergence of Parliament as an independent authority that gave rise to England’s constitutional monarchy.

    Kaiser Wilhelm was able to dismiss the Chancelor, Bismark, because the Chancelor was unelected. Therefore, the type of monarchy that Weber advocated was quite different from the monarchy that ended with Germany’s defeat in 1918.

    It would be pointless asking Canadians about the monarchy. They don’t know they have one. Or at least they don’t know what the monarchy is. They are so ignorant that Mrs. Clarkson, when about to become Governor General, referred to herself as Canada’s Head of State. But perhaps Mrs. Clarkson was being not ignorant but insolent. In any case you cannot make a constitutional monarchy work if the political class are determined to destroy it.

  • ingo

    fine words Lucretius, by people of a different age, royalty for me resembles nothing more than good theatre and you are welcome to all of it.

    when CS Lewis said this

    “For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”

    was he talking about his own lax morals?

  • CheebaCow

    Regarding the CS Lewis quote, am I the only one that thinks it would be preferable to honour prostitutes over all the other ‘professions’ listed? Maybe even Jesus would agree, he and Mary Magdalene were very close.

  • Luc

    “was he talking about his own lax morals?”

    Lax morals? C.S. Lewis? Tell us more, Ingo. Or are you merely engaging in innuendo.

    “No British or Canadian Prime Minister has ever been directly elected except by his own constituents.”

    True, but my point about Bismark was that he was a creature of the king, not of Parliament, of which he was not even a member during the time he held the chancellorship.

    It is interesting that after WW2, the US kept the Japanese Emperor on the throne, but in a purely ceremonial role, i.e., as a constitutional monarch, since when Japan has remained a highly civilized society.

    Since WWII Germany has also been a highly civilized society without a constitutional monarch. However, they have been under continuous occupation, which may have something to do with it.

    Had the Kaesar been maintained as a constitional monarch after WW1, Hitler’s rise to absolute power might have been prevented. For one thing, magnanimity toward the Kaesar would have somewhat assuaged German resentment over the post-war settlement.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Gordievsky was lying, in other words. He was simply wrong. He is a source of information. Journalists have sources; we all derive our knowledge from sources of information; it’s not only MI6 officers who have sources, Lucretius.

    But what are facts, to divinely-annointed monarchs?

  • CheebaCow


    If you count Germany as having been under continuous occupation since WW2, surely Japan also falls into the same category.

    Your point about the Kaiser and Hitler is quite speculative. I’m sure I could also speculate about other scenarios that would have prevented the rise of Hitler without requiring a monarch.

  • Roderick Russell

    Luc – Bear in mind that at the end of ww1, the Kaiser chose to run away because even his own Generals would no longer support their Monarchy.

    I don’t think there has ever been any demand amongst the German People at any time since 1918 to have their Monarchy back. Nor in Austria, or France or Russia or Turkey.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Nor in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, nor in Iran, Mexico, the USA, Portugal, Russia, China, Greece, Egypt…

    The Russian people were in a terrible way before WW1, but WW1 really tipped the applecart. The monarchy as an institution indivisible from the aristocracy in Russia was completely out of touch. Russia under their late C19th/early C20th kings remained a ‘Third World’ country. Czar Nicholas was not Peter The Great. An earlier czar – Alexander II – who attempted reform in C19th was assassinated. It became a pressure-cooker. Russia drifted towards revolutions – 1906 and then 1917.

    Kerensky’s big mistake was to continue pointlessly fighting WW1 instead of cutting a land deal with Germany (as the Bolsheviks later did) and focusing on feeding his people. This mistake continued to bankrupt Russia allowed the Bolsheviks to gain power, and the rest is history.

    Monarchy in a state like Russia had become an irrelevance. Gordievsky is being characteristically disingenuous, telling his conservative handlers (oh, sorry, I meant readers) what he thinks they want to hear. A leopard does not change its spot so easily.

  • Luc


    “Gordievsky was lying”


    Are you saying that under Nicholas II the Russian Parliament had no opposition parties? And that Russia had no independent trade unions? no independent newspapers? no radicals in Parliament? no modern agriculture? no industry approaching the European level?

    But you are surely wrong? On the economy, for example, in the 33 years before the outbreak of WW1 Russia’s GDP grew at an annual rate of more than 3% and, by 1913, Russia’s rail network was the largest in Europe and its grain production second only to that of the US.

    Under the Soviets, of course, we know that there were no independent trade unions, no independent newspapers, only yes-men and fanatics in Parliament (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLqplbwD644), an agricultural sector that failed so badly that many millions starved to death, and an industrial program focused almost exclusively on military production.

    And why do you call Lewis a religious “freak”. Is this just a way of expressing anti-religious bigotry, or was there, in your view, something particularly freakish about Lewis’s religiousity?


    “Your point about the Kaiser and Hitler is quite speculative.”

    Absolutely. But the opposite point of view is equally speculative!


    “Bear in mind that at the end of ww1, the Kaiser chose to run away because even his own Generals would no longer support their Monarchy.”

    Well the generals needed someone to blame for their failure to win the war!

    And remember it was the Dumbkopf Hindenberg who first lost WW1 and then in the thirties, as Chancellor, presided over the disaster of the great inflation before handing supreme power to Hitler. Kaesar Bill couldn’t have done any worse and might have done a lot better in dealing with the Nazis.

    As for the demand for monarchy, who knows. And in any case demand is something that ruling elites largely create. Whether it be for monarchy or democracy or the dictatorship of the proletariat. So the interesting question is what, in fact, would constitute the best system of Government.

    A form of government such as constitutional monarchy that keeps egomaniac politicians out of the Palace and and at least in some slight measure in their place (rather than in the place of God, or the palce of God’s appointed) has, it seems to me, considerable merit.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “A form of government such as constitutional monarchy that keeps egomaniac politicians out of the Palace and and at least in some slight measure in their place (rather than in the place of God, or the place of God’s appointed) has, it seems to me, considerable merit.” Lucretius

    You’re not wrong.

  • Luc


    “The Russian people were in a terrible way before WW1, but WW1 really tipped the applecart.”

    As far as the economy was concerned, this is, as just noted, unresearched rubbish.

    “The monarchy as an institution indivisible from the aristocracy in Russia was completely out of touch.”

    That’s true. The problem was that Russia’s government was a largely nonfunctional composite of absolutist monarchy and parliamentary democracy. In other words, Russia was at an early stage in the struggle that England went through in the 17th century, which resulted in the supremacy of Parliament with the monarchy reduced to a ceremonial role: the “dignified part of the Constitution” as Baghot called it.

    Had it not been for WW1, and the outside instigation of the Communist revolution, Russia would most likely have evolved into a constitutional monarchy.

    The feeble-mindedness of the Tsar would have facilitated the process as did the feeble-mindedness of James II facilitate the emergence of Parliamentary government in England.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Alfred – ‘Luc’, I think you are Alfred – Russia was (and is) the biggest country in the world. So, if you build a railway line from one end to the other and plant grain all long it, you will have built the longest/biggest railway-line/field in the world. This means nothing. Gordievsky claims is therefore meaningless.

    I think your argument actually strengthens the argument against absolute (Russian-style, or Bourbon, or Jacobite) monarchy, where most of the people are bonded labour with no rights, as opposed to constitutional monarchy. Voltaire, for example, very much admired what he called ‘the English system’.

    I don;t disagree with you in essence – even though I don’t agree with monarchy as an institution, I do recognise the benefits as well as the drawbacks of constitutional monarchy.

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