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John Lewis to run Suffolk Libraries?

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Thieving  Capitalists Now to Run Suffolk Libraries? 

John Lewis presents 150 year anniversary book to Suffolk Libraries.

That Was last Month.

This month we learn,

Location

Ipswich County Library

Ipswich County Library is holding a ‘Get Connected’ event in partnership with John Lewis.

It’s a chance for anyone to come along and find out more about downloading library eBooks, eAudio books, our Freegal free music downloads and getting practical help and advice on using eReaders, tablets and other devices.

It’s also a good opportunity to come along and use the library free Wi-Fi which was recently installed.

Staff from John Lewis at Home Ipswich will be offering expert advice on a range of eReaders and devices available from their store.” 

Attention comrades:  this is a take-over by the dodgy likes of John Lewis.

My dad was a union organiser in John Lewis after the second world war.

He had a merry tale or ten about the anti-union so-called ‘partnership’.

They have not changed.

I merely cite this, by Dr Abby Cathcart

“My findings challenge the popular view of the organisation as a simple profit sharing entity by emphasizing the radical intentions of the founder, and exploring the principles of democratic participation outlined in the constitution. Workplace partnership in John Lewis is rife with tensions and paradoxes. The tension is not simply a struggle between management and workers, but rather that managers and workers have fluctuating visions of the purpose of partnership and the best way of achieving that purpose. Managers welcomed ‘robust exchanges of views’ and condemned ‘compliance’ and ‘deference’. However, they also demanded ‘loyalty’ and support for the management’s decisions. Non-management partners wanted meaningful voice and a vote on key decisions, but they also indicated their faith in their management, and a preference for seeking participation on operational rather than strategic concerns.

Defend Public Services!

Don’t’ give out Libraries to Private Thieves!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Baroness Warsi Resigns over Gaza: Some Thoughts.

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Baroness Warsi resigns letter

Warsi resigns (1) 

Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi has resigned from the government, saying its policy on the crisis in Gaza is “morally indefensible”.

She wrote on her Twitter feed that she was leaving with “deep regret”.

Lady Warsi, who was previously chairman of the Conservative Party, became the first female Muslim cabinet minister when David Cameron took office in 2010.

She grew up in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and worked as a solicitor before entering politics.

Lady Warsi was demoted from the cabinet to a middle-ranking Foreign Office post in 2012. She was made minister for faith and communities at the same time.

She wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza.”

‘Great unease’

Lady Warsi’s resignation letter says it is “morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term effect on our reputation internationally and domestically”.

She adds that the decision “has not been easy” but there is “great unease” within the Foreign Office over “the way recent decisions are being made”.

BBC.

The Huffington Post reports,

Now that she has quit the government, the Tory peer wants to “speak more freely” on this issue and her first demand after handing in her resignation letter is for the UK to introduce an arms embargo. “It appalls me that the British government continues to allow the sale of weapons to a country, Israel, that has killed almost 2,000 people, including hundreds of kids, in the past four weeks alone. The arms exports to Israel must stop.”

Unusually this has been reported, straight away, on the French media, “Démission d’une secrétaire d’Etat britannique en désaccord avec la politique du pays sur Gaza” Libération.

And the German, “Protest gegen Gaza-Politik: Britische Außenstaatssekretärin Warsi tritt zurück” Der Spiegel. 

This is the right decision and one can only agree with her statement.

Warsi has also made this admirable reflection (November 2013),

Warsi: Christian minorities ‘endangered’ in Middle East

Christianity is at risk of extinction in some parts of the world due to growing persecution of minority communities, a minister has warned.

Baroness Warsi said Christians were in danger of being driven out of countries, such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root.

Syria’s civil war and the instability in Iraq has seen many leave.

Baroness Warsi said politicians had a duty to speak out against persecution and appeal for religious tolerance

But before anybody goes overboard in admiration for the unelected Warsi this  should be remembered,

“Warsi was the unsuccessful Conservative parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury at the 2005 general election, becoming the first Muslim woman to be selected by the Conservatives. During the election campaign she was criticised for election literature which was described as “homophobic” by the gay equality group Stonewall.” Wikipedia.

Unable to get elected this happened:

“On 2 July 2007, Warsi was appointed Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion. To take up the post, she was created a life peer as Baroness Warsi, of Dewsbury in the County of West Yorkshire, on 11 October 2007 and was introduced in the House of Lords on 15 October 2007. On joining the House of Lords, she became its youngest member.”

Then there is this (National Secular Society),

Baroness Warsi’s partnership with the OIC means it is only a matter of time before we are completely silenced in the name of religious freedom, argues Anne Marie Waters.

Baroness Warsi, our unelected “Minister for Faith”, in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington on Friday, stated that the UK is “committed to working with the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement Resolution 16/18.”

We are? I can’t remember agreeing to this – can you?

She then went on to make this hilarious statement: “The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also remains a key partner in our quest to promote religious freedom.”

I genuinely don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It is difficult to know where to begin with this, so I’ll start with Resolution 16/18 – a proposal which received the support of the United States back in 2011. Hillary Clinton, who could well be the next US President, set up a meeting in Washington D.C. that year. The aim of this get-together was to explore ways to implement the provisions of Resolution 16/18 around the world.

Resolution 16/18 calls upon UN member states to combat “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief.” It was initially introduced in March 2011 at the UN Human Rights Council by the OIC. This coterie, dominated by Islamist states, had made several previous attempts to have a resolution passed which aimed to criminalise “defamation of religions” but had failed. This time, due to some clever re-wording, the tactic worked and non-binding resolution was agreed.

Following this, the Istanbul Process was created in July 2011. This meeting was attended by Hillary Clinton who praised the US and the EU for agreeing the resolution at the Human Rights Council. The conference had been convened by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the OIC. This is a man who frequently speaks out against Islamophobia, and calls for a “proper understanding of Islam“.

The Istanbul Process continues and last met in Geneva in June 2013.

Baroness Warsi’s commitment (on behalf of the UK) to work with the OIC to implement Resolution 16/18 seems to be grounded in the idea that the OIC are equally committed to religious freedom. In making such claims, Warsi shows herself to be either a) completely stupid, b) a damn liar, or c) both.

…….

So to summarise; Sayeeda Warsi, a woman who failed to secure an elected place in Parliament in 2005, now enjoys a seat at the Cabinet table despite the fact that she remains unelected. She has used this position to commit the UK to assisting in the implementation of a resolution which will effectively criminalise anyone who dares to tell the truth about what happens in the name of Islam (this would be “negative stereotyping” you see). She has no mandate for this, and she wouldn’t have if the people were ever asked our opinion on the matter.

And if anybody on the left doubts where she stands there is this (November 2013),

Faith is being put back at the “heart of government,” as it was under Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher, a minister will say today.

The Coalition is one of the “most pro-faith governments in the West,” Baroness Warsi, the Minister for Faith, will say. “More often than not, people who do God do good.”

Churchill and Thatcher would have welcomed the Coalition’s promise to protect the right of town halls to hold prayers and the creation of more faith schools under Michael Gove’s Free Schools programme, she will say.

Public policy was “secularised” under the previous, Labour government, Lady Warsi will tell an audience at the Churchill Archives at the University of Cambridge.

But Churchill saw totalitarian regimes as “godless” while Thatcher regarded politics as second to Christianity in defining society, she will say.

“We see flickers of Churchill’s flame and echoes of Thatcher’s sermons in all we do,” she will say. “But this was never inevitable. When we came back into power in 2010, I felt that some of the reverence for religion had disappeared from politics. I found that the last government didn’t just refuse to ‘do God’ – they didn’t get God either.”

The Coalition ruled out a ban on the full-face veil out of respect for religious liberty, she will say, also citing the welcome it gave to a ruling which saw Nadia Eweida win the right to wear a small crucifix at work for British Airways.

Lady Warsi, a former chairman of the Conservative Party, will say that religious groups must be allowed to provide public services without the state being “suspicious of their motives”.

“I know that Mrs Thatcher would have approved of devolving power to faith communities,” Baroness Warsi will say.

“As she once said: ‘I wonder whether the State services would have done as much for the man who fell among thieves as the Good Samaritan did for him?’ ”

Cynics (hat-tip DO), may also recall this (2012),

Warsi demoted in cabinet reshuffle

Update.

And Lo and Behold!

Baroness Warsi’s resignation has more to do with the reshuffle than it does with Gaza

Dan Hodges,

Baroness Warsi has just resigned from the Tory front bench over the Government’s policy towards Gaza. At least that’s the official line. In truth Baroness Warsi has resigned over the government’s policy towards Baroness Warsi.

It’s been an open secret in Westminster that Warsi has been angered since her demotion from Tory party chair. “She’s going to do a Clare Short,” one Tory MP told me a few months ago.

Well, she has done a Clare Short, ostensibly resigning over an issue of foreign policy.

As the first Muslim Cabinet minister Warsi adopted some brave stances on a number of controversial issues – such as proposals to ban veils – and had spoken out about wider Islamophobia. Neither stance saved her from abuse and threats of violence from extremist elements in the Muslim community.

But the reality is Warsi was an ineffective party chair, and an unpopular member of the Government. “She was proof of why most ministers – from whatever party – should always come from the elected House of Commons, rather than being parachuted in via the Lords. She really didn’t understand the grass roots at all,” said one Tory MP on news of her resignation.

The loss of Baroness Warsi is a blow to David Cameron’s attempts to give his government a more diverse face. But her resignation is more to do with events in last month’s reshuffle than events in Gaza.

(1) “Dear Prime Minister

For some weeks, in meeting and discussion, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and our response to it.

My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.

Particularly as the Minister with responsibility for the United Nations, The International Criminal Court and Human Rights I believe our approach in relation to the current conflict is neither consistent with our values, specifically our commitment to the rule of law and our long history of support for International Justice. In many ways the absence of the experience and expertise of colleagues like Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve has over the last few weeks become very apparent.

This decision has not been easy. It has been a privilege to serve for 3 years in your Shadow Cabinet and over 4 years in your Cabinet. Introducing you in Blackpool in 2005 as you made your bid for leadership I had the pleasure of being there at the start of the journey and it would have been rewarding to have been there til the end.

The last decade has given me the opportunity to work with some of the best in the Conservative Party and indeed in Government. William Hague was probably one of the finest Foreign Secretaries this country has seen and has been inspirational. He dismantled foreign policy making by sofa government and restored decision making and dignity to the Foreign Office. There is however great unease across the Foreign Office, amongst both Minister and senior officials, in the way recent decisions are being made.

Eric Pickles has supported me tirelessly in our work on combating hate crime. Challenging anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia and the pioneering work of celebration faith in the public sphere. This new found confidence in Government has allowed me to take the very public International lead on religious freedom, specifically on the ever growing crisis of the persecution of Christians. However, early evidence from the Home Office and others shows that the fallout of the current conflict and the potential for the crisis in Gaza and our response to it becoming a basis for radicalisation could have consequences for us for years to come.

From both Eric and William I learnt the art of reconciling passion and idealism with pragmatism and realism, but I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that.

It is therefore with regret that I am writing to resign.

You will continue to have my personal support as leader of the Conservative party as you continue to ensure that our Party evolves to meet the challenges we face in Britain today and ensure that the Party is relevant and responsive to all communities that make up today’s Britain.

Yours sincerely

Sayeeda

More updating (prompted by reading below).

So Long, Farewell, Sayeeda Says Goodbye

Sayeeda Warsi’s Tory colleagues are really, really sad that she has quit. A Tory source tells Guido:

“Warsi’s resignation is classic Warsi. Attacks her own team, pure grandstanding, and shows that she is a quitter. Her resignation does nothing to help the innocent civilians on both sides who are suffering. She had a much better chance of helping support the ceasefire if she had stayed inside Government. But instead she has thrown in the towel.”

Ben Gummer Ipswich MP: Reshuffled Out?

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Last Known Sighting of Ben: I Make Fun Stuff ! 

Popular Ipswich MP, Ben Gummer (Unofficial Minister for Ipswich, Honorary Mayor of Ipswich, Acting Editor, Ipswich Star, Benefactor of the Shrine of Lady Lane), has been less than visible lately.

His last major political achievement was this, “February 2014 BISHOP’S HILL LIGHTS STOPPED.”

Sadly the sprightly Latin scholar, and author of the definitive guide to the Black Death (1), does not appear to have benefited from the recent Cabinet Reshuffle.

His position as Michael Gove’s PPS has, well, lapsed.

For all his prestigious unofficial and honorary posts, Ben did not figure in the roll of honour that was at the command of Leader David Cameron.

Rumours that Ben is seeking a bolt-hole in the West County have flourished in the absence of any more definitive news.

We hope to be informed of developments on this front.

The fate of the Gummer dynasty is in the balance.

 

(1) Fittingly the last outbreak of bubonic plague in England occurred on the nearby Shotley Peninsula in 1910 (Here). 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

The Work Agenda: What happened to the leisure society? Rory O’Kelly. Review.

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How Should We Look at Work? 

The Work Agenda: What happened to the leisure society? Rory O’Kelly.

Chartist Free E-Book.

O Laziness, have pity on our long misery! O Laziness, mother of the arts and noble virtues, be thou the balm of human anguish!

Paul Lafrague. The Right to Be Lazy. 1880.

One of the sections of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twentieth Century deals with the justification of colossal salaries and wealth. The media, he observes, is full of stories about business ‘stars’. They are used to indicate how graft and talent are rewarded. There is a “just inequality, based on merit, education, and the social utility of elites.” (1) Everything is slanted to suggest that that the majority of high-earners and the well-off deserve their rewards. Criticisms of pay and bonuses come when these are gained without apparent hard work.

Piketty enjoys pointing out that is impossible it is to demonstrate any connection between effort and reward in the modern economy. The part of social wealth going to Capital, and the well-off, increases regardless of individual cleverness or toil. Much depends on “luck”, the ability of top mangers to fix their own pay, and the influence of the wealthy to press for low taxes. Entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates, turn into rentiers, with more cash as they get older, they live off an initial innovation that was rarely one person’s discovery in the first place. In sum, to those that have, shall be given.

Many accept this case. But there are deeper problems. It is not just that certain kinds of elite work are valued, leaving others – the majority – aside. Why is ‘work’ itself such a self-evident virtue that it makes those not-in-work look as if they are afflicted by vice? O’Kelly begins the excellent and thought-provoking The Work Agenda, by stating, “Work is seen as good in itself and maximising the number of people working and the amount of work done as self-evidently right.”

This assumption looks strange in the light of 1960s (and much later) predictions about automation and the ‘leisure society’. Paul Lafargue looked forward to a time when, thanks to the abundance created by technology, slogging your guts out was not the goal of existence. The 1970s and 1980s saw criticisms of ‘productivism’ and the cult of labour in socialist ideology. André Gorz’s Adieux aux proletariat (1981) took up these ideas. He suggested that in a “post-industrial” society people should control what is produced. They could share work according to need, and wants, with a universal guaranteed income, and more and more free-time. More modestly the French left in the late 1990s thought that the 35 Hour week would be a step in this direction.

Today, however, O’Kelly says, the obsession with the absolute value of ‘work’ blocks people from considering a “rational way of sharing the output of a society across all the members of society.” Many people may well spend time on benefits, over the course of a lifetime. Others, of a whole range of reasons, may be on them for much longer. Structural long-term unemployment is a feature of all Western societies, as is the need to help those who are incapacitated

Instead of recognizing this, and adapting social spending to it, governments, from Tony Blair onwards, have tried to push everybody into work – regardless of their medical condition, the needs of the labour market, and the rights or wishes of those to be pushed in this direction.

Putting the Disabled to Work.

The Work Agenda does not dwell on the ideology of work. Instead it is devoted to how the doctrine is used to undermine the basis of social benefits. This is most obvious from changes to the benefits for the disabled. The idea that ‘work is the best form of welfare’ is applied to the sick (which covers a multitude of diverse categories of people). There is an economic rationale, “Getting people into work is pursued primarily as a way of reducing transfers between working and non-working people; in simple terms: the cost of benefits.”

Fitting square pegs into round holes barely begins to cover the injustices that have resulted from these policies. Known to the general public through the scandals surrounding ATOS, and the ‘assessments’ of those claiming disability benefits, these are part of a much wider picture. O’Kelly’s background in the social security system helps him come to grips with the detail. He clearly knows the operations of what is now the DWP inside out, and uses them to great advantage.

The Work Agenda lays out the history and rationale of the present structure, “The driver behind the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the creation of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was the belief that by changing the definition of incapacity sick or disabled people could be made capable of work.” As he notes, “Until recently the medical situation was taken as an objective starting point to which the benefit system then had to respond. The great change in 2007 was to take the needs of the benefit system as the starting point (my emphasis) and to change clinical definitions to conform to those needs.” This was, as we know, a Labour government, or ‘New Labour’,  that made this turn.

O’Kelly argues (on the basis of close acquaintance with the civil service decision-making) that there never was a time when large numbers of people were classified as medically unfit in order to reduce the unemployment figures. There were always rigorous tests. What has changed is that governments have decided to change their nature.

Now it might seem reasonable – and it’s repeated often enough – to assert that there are large numbers of people who “choose” not to work. But in the case of invalidity benefits there is a simple way of determining this: medical advice. Present legislation is designed to alter the character of this criterion. Instead even ill people can be judged “capable” of working – according to a fairly loose test of what being able to carry out basic tasks is, including those even those objectively unwell can do. This O’Kelly says, means. “Effectively moving sick people into employment without improving their health”. This process is “likely simply to transfer the costs of sickness from the benefit system to statutory sick pay and private sick pay schemes.”

The problem then is not that ATOS is a particularly venal organisation – though opinions might differ on this after the company’s dissembling and bleating about being harassed. It is the changed nature of the tests for incapacity that drives the injustices that they have caused.

A persistent case is that mental troubles are rarely easily definable according to a check-list of questions and a short interview with an assessor. There are plenty of other not always ‘visible’ illnesses. As the pamphlet indicates, “It is a striking fact that the classes of people whom the government is most anxious to take off benefits for incapacity overlap very largely with those whom no rational employer (in either the public or the private sector) would want to take on.” As somebody who has sat, during various employment courses, with people with very serious mental-health issues, and others with deep health problems, we might equally ask why they are obliged to take these “preparation for work” training schemes.

Back to First Principles.

Returning to question the principles he began with, O’Kelly makes the observation that “Work (i.e. paid work) is essentially economic activity; the creation of goods and services. It is not a form of welfare, it is not a form of therapy and it is not a punishment. It can of course be used in any of these ways, rather as a stiletto heel can be used to hammer a nail into a wall. It does not do the job very well, however, and it is not very good for the shoe either.”

The work agenda is used, in effect, to “Micro-manage the lives of the poor”. Not only the disabled on what is now the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but anybody on benefits,

are now subjected to close surveillance over their lives. This erodes personal autonomy, and increases dependency. The DWP, and private companies gaining rent from public contracts, are entrusted with the power to grossly interfere in people’s lives. They claim rights over claimants. They have fewer and fewer responsibilities to them.

For those “success stories” who get off benefits, O’Kelly notes, “The present system does also however offer scope for giving notional employment (or self-employment) to people who are able to do very little and who will continue to get the great bulk of their income through the benefit system whether nominally ‘employed’ or not. Some of these people will get psychological benefits from ‘working’; for others the effect will be the reverse.”

It might be suggested, as O’Kelly does, that the Ministers in charge of these policies have little experience of the world of ordinary work themselves. More insidious is the influence of the welfare-to-work industry. They influence policy to an undue degree, essentially with their claims to propel people into the – self evidently good – world of work. That claimants dislike them and that they are unable to meet the demands of their contracts (notoriously over the Work Programme) and capable of dissembling about their operations, is ignored.

In the meantime few people question the absolute value of this “work”, or why so many people spend their lives in low-paid, insecure, unrewarding employment. Or why those with Capital get so much more, including a slice of the revenue of those obliged to claim benefits – forced onto the welfare-to-work schemes run with the profits of wealthy private contractors foremost in mind. The culmination of this process will come when claimants will, as the Help to Work programme intends, have to work for their benefits. (2)

*******

(1) Page 419 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Thomas Piketty. Harvard University Press. 2014.

(2) Picketty suggests that some free marketers propose the following “Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 – 2 Op cit). This is in effect happening in the United Kingdom, beginning with PFI. The welfare-to-work industry in effect is given a chunk of the welfare state and everybody’s taxes are used to pay rent to the owners of their enterprises.

You can read The Work Agenda as a free E-Book by clicking here.

The Media and Trade Unions.

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There are those in the media who are so nostalgic for the days of openly bashing trade unions they are busy recreating a kind of Sealed Knot society devoted to replaying the 1970s.

The Evening Standard was always at the front of these battles.

Today we see this ‘story‘.

Comrade on tour: Steve Hedley poses in a Soviet-style soldier’s hat with an assault rifle.

This is one of the militant union officials fighting to succeed Bob Crow as RMT boss.

Steve Hedley, the union’s Hard-Left assistant general secretary, is pictured on his Facebook page wearing a Soviet-style soldier’s hat and brandishing an assault rifle, believed to be a German weapon from the Second World War.

Messages on the page reveal he appears to relish walk-outs, such as the one which caused misery for Londoners last week. His comments include:

“With 3 different strikes announced today I think ill [sic] enjoy the Easter weekend.”

“Two very good Rmt branch meetings tonight. 1 jubilee south branch want to name strike dates for the job losses dispute. 2 Fleet branch reject job losses and want strike dates. I love the RMT membership.”

Steve Hedly is a member of the Socialist Party. This group, of Trotskyist origins, has, to say the least, nothing  to do with Soviet Stalinism.

The below is from the Evening Standard in December 1970 on Electrical Trade Unionists.

How things change……

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Reasons, again, to Hate St George’s Day.

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St George’s Day: Celebrating Everything English.

 

Celebrations “from the archaic to the eccentric” are planned across England as David Cameron says St George’s Day has been overlooked for too long.

Celebrations will include a feast in Trafalgar Square, bell ringing at churches across the country and an annual “asparagus run” in Worcestershire to welcome in the harvest.

The day has also been commemorated with a Google Doodle, an animation showing George on horseback ready to fight the dragon.

This year, the Prime Minister said that the cross of St George will fly proudly above No 10 as they honour everything it is to be English.

Mr Cameron said: “Up and down the country – including here in Downing Street – the flag of St George is flying high and celebrations – from the archaic to the eccentric – are taking place.

“In Plymouth – a patriotic festival; in London – a great feast in Trafalgar Square; in Leicester – a medieval re-enactment; and in Worcestershire – an annual ‘asparagus run’, to welcome the new harvest.

“St George has been England’s patron saint since 1350. But for too long, his feast day – England’s national day – has been overlooked.

“Today, though, more and more people are coming together on or around April 23, eager to celebrate everything it is to be English. And there is much to celebrate.

Daily Telegraph.

Celebrating everything that it is to be English.

That’s the rub.

Me I celebrate Chaucer, Dickens, and mushy peas (the day they were invented).

Cameron does not figure, some tat in Trafalgar Square, and a bleedin’ asparagus run?  Asparagus originated in Egypt and  was a famous Roman dish, whence the name,  via the  Latin from Greek asparagos .as far as I am aware).

As for the Traflagar Square – Monday apparently – look as this sad commercial do,

Organised by the Mayor of London, the Feast of St George is inspired by St George’s Day’s 13th century origins as a national day of feasting.

There’ll be an English farmers’ market, with around 20 stalls selling mouth-watering treats like hog roast, homemade pies, cakes and freshly squeezed lemonade – all can be enjoyed in a splendid banqueting area seating 250 people between Trafalgar Square’s iconic fountains.

In Cooks’ Corner, supported by Northbank, see live demonstrations from leading London chefs as they cook up English dishes from past and present.

The afternoon’s soundtrack comes courtesy of the Music Medley bandstand with talented young musicians and singers from GIGS, the Mayor’s busking competition.

There’ll be plenty of activities for the kids too with a marquee full of family activities and an outdoor games area where you can try a range of traditional garden games.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson says: “Our Feast of St George is set to be a day of revelry and merriment for all the family, with delicious food and a whole host of activities for all ages.

About the only Englishness I can thole is this kind:

A Ballade of an Anti-puritan

They spoke of Progress spiring round,
Of light and Mrs Humphrey Ward-
It is not true to say I frowned,
Or ran about the room and roared;
I might have simply sat and snored-
I rose politely in the club
And said, `I feel a little bored;
Will someone take me to a pub?’

The new world’s wisest did surround
Me; and it pains me to record
I did not think their views profound,
Or their conclusions well assured;
The simple life I can’t afford,
Besides, I do not like the grub-
I want a mash and sausage, `scored’-
Will someone take me to a pub?

I know where Men can still be found,
Anger and clamorous accord,
And virtues growing from the ground,
And fellowship of beer and board,
And song, that is a sturdy cord,
And hope, that is a hardy shrub,
And goodness, that is God’s last word-
Will someone take me to a pub?

Envoi
Prince, Bayard would have smashed his sword
To see the sort of knights you dub-
Is that the last of them-O Lord
Will someone take me to a pub?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Alain Finkielkraut, France’s Peter Hitchins, elected to Académie française.

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Alain Finkielkraut a été élu à l'Académie française. Entre amour passionnel de la langue et de la littérature et une pensée qui s'est radicalisée, retour avec Jean Birnbaum du « Monde des livres » sur cette entrée polémique.

New Low for Académie française.

I suppose any institution claiming to represent the heights of French culture that includes  former French President and mediocrity Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (still, amazingly, alive, though it’s often hard to tell)  lacks, shall we say, all credibility.

But the election of Alain Finkielkraut to the “immortals” has introduced a new low.

Finkielkraut occupys the same place in French philosophy and culture, as, say, Peter Hitchins.

He began with some, middlebrow, writings in the tradition of Emmanuel Levinas. He celebrated Jewish culture and sometimes offered penetrating insights into post-Shoah Jewish identity. Some may admire his stand on the break up of Yugoslavia, where he was beside himself against Serbia. Fewer, perhaps,  would have admired  his close friendship with Croat leader, and Holocaust denier, Franjo Tuđman.

In recent years Finkielkraut has been distinguished by a relentless hatred of anything he believes threatens French identity.

If anybody wants to distinguish left-republican secularism from what Finkielkraut’s critics call his « républicano-communautariste » it is easy to do.

He explicitly attacks multiculturalism  from the right, offering only a tale of woe and decline faced with immigration and métissage (Mixing, cultural and ethnic). As one can imagine he has had the courage of those going with the grain of conservative prejudice to oppose “political correctness” – a term as wide as it is vacuous.

By contrast Jean-Luc Mélenchon has explicitly defended” ” métissage” as the basis for a new class unifying republican socialist  left.

Over the last year Finkielkraut has become even more obsessed – were it possible – with “l’identité française”.

He complains that France is an “auberge espagnole” (a pejorative term, in this context,  for a mixture of people living together)  in which the ethnically true French dare not speak out. (L’Identité malheureuse, d’Alain Finkielkraut. 2013)

Despite the occasional exalted language Finkielkraut resembles a Peter Hitchins, or a French version of Nigel Farage.

It is with no surprise that we learn that his election to the Académie française met opposition. The columnist scraped in with 16 votes out of the 28 members of the august body.