Peugeot workers and market forces

…when we are gone the waters close over our heads without so much as a gurgle

the capitalist system [is] the best available protection for the interests of the working man, since it is this very flexibility of labour, and mobility of capital, that allows new jobs to be created and all the joy and excitement of industrial innovation

these labour-market conditions .. make the future job prospects of these car workers so much better than on the Continent

thanks to the vibrancy of the industry, and the flexibility of the labour market, your columnist will happily find employment writing headlines for Poultry Breeders Weekly

Ryton workers have a better future than French brothers

It is no consolation to the workers of Ryton and their families who face the misery of a factory closure that one day this column must, with Darwinian inevitability, face the same extinction.

I do not wish to diminish the gravity of events at the Peugeot plant when I say that there will also come a time when the forces of international capital will decree that there is no longer any economic justification for this space to be filled by the manual labour of this particular semi-skilled artisan.

The ancient word-plant will be shut. The gerundive turning-sheds will fall silent. The lathes will cease to hone the metaphors, and no sound will be heard in the vast grammatical assembly lines save the drip-drip-drip from the cracked skylight and the scuttling of rats in the stock of unused similes.

It will be a sad day, my friends, but no matter how tragic the prospect may now appear, it would be very odd to expect any kind of solidarity from my journalistic brethren. Will they down tools at the News of the World? Will the Sun come out in sympathy? Could I even expect any kind of secondary picketing from the lads and the lasses in The Daily Telegraph sports and arts departments? I rather fancy not.

Every columnist, every journalist, is impelled to write by the terrifying knowledge that ranged beneath us, smacking their chops, are hordes of brilliant and pustulant young thrusters, only too keen to show what magic they could produce in our places. Whatever delusions we may have about the affection in which we are held by the readers, the truth is that when we are gone the waters close over our heads without so much as a gurgle.

That is why I very much fear that Tony Woodley of the T&G and Derek Simpson of Amicus are laughably mistaken if they believe that the workers of Peugeot in France will strike in protest at the loss of 2,300 jobs in the UK.

It was in 1864 that Karl Marx stood up in London and announced that the hour of the international proletariat was at hand. If only they could see their common class interest, he raved, the workers could unite across frontiers, dispossess the bosses, and throw off their shackles.

As we all know, Marx was completely wrong. So strong was the feeling of national particularism that, far from uniting, the workers of the world spent much of the next century slaughtering each other. Indeed, the international proletariat has consistently shown that it is loyal to family, community, factory, country – but never to the international proletariat.

The workers of France and Spain will not go on strike for the workers of Ryton, for the simple prudential reason that they know that international capital will always be able to relocate, just as Peugeot itself is building a new factory in Slovakia and global manufacturing is moving to China, and whatever their sympathies for families in Coventry, the workers of France will feel that their first duty is to themselves and their families.

Now put like that it sounds cruel and ruthless; and yet what Marx also failed to understand was that this capitalist system was, in fact, the best available protection for the interests of the working man, since it is this very flexibility of labour, and mobility of capital, that allows new jobs to be created and all the joy and excitement of industrial innovation.

It is frankly rubbish to say that the Ryton closure is a “body blow” to British manufacturing, or even to the British motor-car industry. The amazing truth is that this supposedly services-obsessed economy is currently producing about 1.6 million cars a year – almost an all-time record, and far more than were being produced in the 1970s.

Look at Land Rover, free from the ossification of its design, now going through the biggest sales boom in its history. Look at those wonderful new Minis – brilliant, burly, bustling scarabs – most of them made by the ingenious workforce of south Oxfordshire. The German parent company is planning to pump in another £100 million, pushing sales up from 200,000 to 250,000, and we wouldn’t be able to attract that kind of German money if it were not for the labour-market flexibility now being denounced by Amicus and the T&G.

No one would have the confidence to invest so much in the car industry, and to employ so many people, if they did not have the simultaneous confidence that they could also lay people off when the market became difficult.

The Ryton Peugeot 206s were no doubt excellent machines, and no doubt produced to a very good standard, but they were not only rolling off the assembly line at a time when there is a car glut, with five vehicles being produced for every potential consumer: they were also being created in a piece of industrial heritage.

It is no criticism of the Ryton workforce that they were being asked to build competitively in a 1939 factory that had once produced the Sunbeam Talbot and the Hillman Imp. That is why I am suspicious of the unions’ claim that the factory was otherwise perfect, and only closed because it is easier to lay off workers in Britain than it is in France.

But let us suppose, for a moment, that this was the reason, and that the workers of Ryton are being penalised for our easy-come-easy-go employment law.

The key point, the point the unions wilfully ignore, is that it is precisely these labour-market conditions that make the future job prospects of these car workers so much better than on the Continent, and (as I think I said two weeks ago) it is those 1980s reforms that mean we in Britain have unemployment running at about four per cent, as against 10.2 per cent in France.

One day, perhaps one day soon, shiny new products will emerge from gorgeous refurbished factories on the Ryton site; just as one day this columnar factory will gracefully yield to some gorgeous pouting new agony aunt or sudoku variant, and thanks to the vibrancy of the industry, and the flexibility of the labour market, your columnist will happily find employment writing headlines for Poultry Breeders Weekly.

It’s the market and it’s the only way.

88 thoughts on “Peugeot workers and market forces”

  1. It will always be a ‘blow’ to many when announcements of closure are made. And it is invariably futile to even think these are reversible, more so when a laughable solution of strike action is suggested.

    In my opinion the actual key point is as stated in the article, all these (remaining) marvellous manufacturing plants are owned by (amongst others) American, French, German and even Chinese parent companies (e.g. Land Rover = Ford and Mini = BMW). Given the long term British contempt for Johnnie Foreigner, they in turn shall never hesitate and turn their backs when “Plant Britain” has served their purpose, especially as they never have to fear the weak and impotent British Government and Law.

    “The solution my friend is blowing …….off some wind” at all these foreign-owned companies, and for British individuals and companies to put and invest there money and faith into their own country, marvellous workforce and product.
    BUT, who will dare take such a risk given todays British political and economical climate? The reality is things will be getting much worse and many more closures will happen, IF “Plant Britain” doesn’t pull its finger out.

  2. What they also fail to mention is that Gordon’s ever increasing vice like grip on the throat of British Industry is tipping many borderline companies over the edge.

    The best way to destroy jobs is to increase taxes and introduce reams of regulations. The one thing that Mr Brown excels at.

  3. “So strong was the feeling of national particularism that, far from uniting, the workers of the world spent much of the next century slaughtering each other. Indeed, the international proletariat has consistently shown that it is loyal to family, community, factory, country – but never to the international proletariat.”
    No, you great twerp, the workers were slaughtered because they were insufficiently educated to see through the propaganda of those whose best interests were served by war, and who profited from it.

    I recognise that the last paragraph was full of the same kind of rhetorical nonsense that you spout, but would also assert that your view of the world is just as outdated and erroneous as that of Mr Marx.
    Try living in poverty before preaching about it.
    “It’s the market, and it’s the only way”. Unfortunately, I suspect you and I will both be freed from our mortal coil by the time the natural resources that fuel your bloody market run out, and I will therefore have to forego the opportunity to say “I told you so”.

  4. You know, whenever I read Boris’s stuff it always seems to follow the same general pattern: “yes….yes…..good point….haha….yes….about time someone brought that up….okay….yes…….WHAT!!” It’s the perennial expostulation which occasionally prompts me to suspect that our illustrious e-host is sometimes a little further starboard than is strictly humane. But then he’s been under a lot of pressure lately.

    Boris has made an important point in that the prevalent ‘hire ’em fire ’em’ climate in employment is a two edged sword. As an employer myself, I am more disposed to give someone a chance if I know that I won’t be lumbered with a dead weight for the next twenty years and whom I can’t despatch (with indecent haste) to the local job centre if they don’t turn out right. On the other hand, it often occurs to me that I spend far more time and effort worrying about keeping my staff happy than they seem to in keeping me happy; this latter necessity deriving from a flourishing job market.

    The “…WHAT!!!” in this instance was prompted by the last line: “It’s the market and it’s the only way.” The sad fact of the matter is that, when it’s left entirely to the market, someone gets screwed; Sometimes it’s the employer, sometimes it’s the employee, but one can be certain that one of the two has their trousers down and the other’s holding the Vaseline.

    I recall during the mid nineties when I was paying an IT support engineer more than I paid the company lawyer (and with considerably less satisfaction I am embarrassed to admit). But, I simply had to like it or lump it; more accurately I had to like it or write everything out by hand. The danger this creates is not, in my humble opinion, predominantly to the detriment of the employer (I simply added the additional costs onto the fee notes) it is overwhelmingly to the detriment of the employee because we all (myself included) have a natural, and rather reprehensible tendency, to pay what we can get away with.

    I know, from experience, that when one (unnaturally) mucks about with market forces there are unpredictable, emergent results (Steven Johnson’s excellent book “Emergence” gives some fascinating examples of this phenomenon) consequently, I would be the last to advocate implementing ‘minimum wages’ or increasing the (already overwhelming) administrative burden on small to medium enterprises. However, even with this in mind, I feel very strongly that leaving everything to the market leads to a potentially highly unstable economy which ultimately is bad for business. Mine and everyone else’s. With this in mind I hold that it is important to submerge, to a certain extent, our rapacious capitalistic tendencies in favour of stability. Much the same tactic is adopted in law, whereby we give up certain of our individual freedoms in exchange for protection from the state. (theoretically anyway)

    In my view, leaving everything to ‘the market’ is the commercial equivalent of anarchy (it is important to bear in mind that anarchy means without leaders, not, as is commonly believed, without order).

    As we all know, our world is not ready for anarchy politically, socially or commercially until everyone can control their baser natures.

  5. Oh Boris!

    You’ve done it again! I hope you had your tin hat on. The Direct Works Appreciation Society do not like this!

  6. ‘It’s the market and it’s the only way’.

    There you go again, just like Nanny: ‘there IS no alternative’.

    No. Belay that. It’s not Margaret Thatcher you reminded me of there. It’s Charles I, still babbling that the divine right of kings was the only proper method of governance for the peoples of the British Isles, just before they lopped off his head.

    Turned out there was another way after all.

  7. By the way, I’m not going to stop leaving posts without seconding Vicus on that smartaleck crack about the workers of the world slaughtering each other. Try this for starters:

    It’s about Harry Patch, one of the last survivors of the slaughter (if he’s still with us), describing, after an 80-year silence, what it felt like to take part.

    If that doesn’t help, I’d suggest any book about the Somme. Or Stalingrad. Or Omaha Beach, come to that.

    It’s not the workers that make the slaughter. Never has been, never will. It’s the people that send them.

  8. You see, Boris, you’ve made Mark cross now. That’s the way revolutions start, old aubergine. Don’t come running to me because your neck hurts where your head’s been severed.

  9. With the upmost respect to Boris, I have to say good point Vicus and Joe Mental, that book reference looks interesting to Joe.

    Market forces seem to be causing China to burn fossil fuels like they’re going out of fashion in the most inefficient and polluting ways apparently. But “It’s the market and it’s the only way”? Nope.

  10. I have no faith in the market just an observation that it seems the only economic system that can allow people to rise out of abject poverty, early death from disease and malnutrition and a whole load of other things. It has many painful side effects to which people and governments need pay attention. If the effects of various industries cause pollution and global warming then that is a public bad which government does have a duty to attend to. This is not equivalent to throwing over the market for a socliased economy. I have asked before for evidence of a socialist economy getting anything done and no one came up with anything. If we’re worried about pollution etc. it might be worth comparing the number of deaths at Chernobyl with those at Three Mile Island. That last sentence verges on quippery but I think it has some weight.

    Come on folks! The demand for “something nicer than capitalism” reflects well on you as people but I think we need to give some pointers as to what that might be. I just don’t see an alternative and maybe someone can put me out of my misery. There’s lots I hate about capitalism – television, celebrities, 4*4s, airplanes, the continuing pressure to dumb down, call centres. The threat and reality of losing your job if you have done decent work for years is a lot worse I know. But what is going to happen in France if the stranglehold of the public sector extends so that the increasing proportion in the puablic sector are paid by higher taxes on the decreasing proportion in business and industry? I know those in the public sector pay taxes but it’s just a loop from taxed money to taxed money. The only sources are the private sector. There may be companies producing in the public sector but if the effect of law is to make these have the prime duty of providing employment rather than production then something’s got to give.

    Please show me where I am wrong.

    Any solutions involving Vicus succeeding to the throne are automatically disqualified.

  11. Like Joe Mental I invariably find myself nodding away at some of what Boris writes, and scratching my head in bemusement at others. I would not object to this if it didn’t happen several times in the same paragraph. Please Boris, get a grip, and leave behind your baggage of 1980s ideological arguments.

  12. If you’d like to join in, we are discussing Marxism this week at my blog.

    This is a good post. I have not yet delved into the economic case against communism, I am currently on the philosophical case.

  13. You make a good point Jack and it reflects my own position. Pure capitalism is undoubtedly as ‘evil’ as pure socialism but together provide the Ying-Yang of a stable society (and I hope to Christ that doesn’t end up on Pseud’s Corner) Sometimes we are in need of more of one than the other and the balance drifts between the two, but rarely, if ever, meets either extreme.

    We must also remember that a fundamental premise of capitalism is that ‘things get more expensive’ (inflation) and consequently that it’s cheaper to buy things today than it will be tomorrow. Naturally this posit breaks down during periods of deflation such as those enjoyed in the far east recently (and company economists start painting themselves white to reflect the blast).

    We complain about inflation but, as long as the population of the Earth increases, things will go up in price. This is a fundamental example of ‘market’ in Boris’s terminology. That being said, why there are sporadic, disproportionate increases in inflation is more of a mystery. The Gnomes of Zurich et al would probably have to comment on that one since it defies all other logic.

    Boris, it would seem, leans toward the most ungoverned aspects of capitalism and, apparently, feels that the ineffable ‘market’ is the ultimate arbiter of worth. I don’t; I think that the market is a valuable tool and its views should be treated with respect but it isn’t omniscient nor should it be our lord and master; its unpredictability makes it downright dangerous without some level of regulation. Like an ungoverned nuclear reactor it can leap into meltdown at the drop of a hat or, more accurately, drop of the NYSE. (As anyone with significant investments during the late eighties will well remember, I dropped a bundle believe me!)

    The problem with ‘isms’ is that they are portrayed as a one size fits all, but this is never the case. There can be benign forms of capitalism in the same way that there can be rapaciously violent exponents of Buddhism. Something that often irritates me is the seemingly subliminal way by which the everyone associates Socialism with a caring society, “Social(ism)! Must be about being nice to people then.” Capitalists can be caring; similarly socialists can be (and generally are) autocratic, hard-hearted, mindless Nazis (ring any bells?).

    If capitalism is white and socialism is black, the solution is undeniably grey.

  14. Joe

    I would incline to a major-minor model. The market is not intelligent and so cannot have our best or worst interests at heart. It has evolved because it tended to suit human groups and societies down the ages. I suppose by analogy so has the human body in terms of the problem environment it exists in. The human body and mind have many drawbacks. Do we need the intensity of pain quite so much if its purpose is to avoid danger? What is the point of emotions like despair and jealousy? No doubt the EU Commission is working on the design for a perfect human being (don’t bother messieurs – it’s called an East Anglian). Suppose by genetic science we could eliminate all these unfavourable by products. Do we want to go for that? Or is it better to struggle on with the imperfect using medical science to patch things up?

    My analogy is that the market ‘delivers’ and nothing else seems to. That should be the major. The socialism aspect should be that of compassion for human beings. In fact this is a major as well but the economic and social part of this is a minor in conjunction with the market. It seems as if every attempt to use compassion in directly ordering human affairs leads to sentiment taking over under the guise of compassion and the fuhrers and commissars of sentiment taking charge. The Nazis and the Communists both relied heavily on sentiment and romanticism as policies.

    I suspect I have not explained myself well but I’ve got to get to work! Have a super Friday everyone!

  15. Jack Ramsey –

    ‘The demand for “something nicer than capitalism” reflects well on you as people but I think we need to give some pointers as to what that might be.’

    OK. let’s try.

    Nothing formal, you understand. The last thing we need is another book of rules. This is subtler than that.

    Nevertheless, we need principles. Let’s get the debate started with a few suggestions:

    1/ The polluter pays. And cleans up after himself.

    2/ Wealth is OK, if you know where to stop. Greed is bad.

    3/ Governments are elected to tweak the controls on the machine of society. They shouldn’t take charge; nor should they shrug off all responsibility because ‘it’s the market, innit’.

    4/ Politicians are public servants. The minute they abuse that privilege by lining their own pockets or those of their friends, they’re out.

    That’s enough for now. These are just suggestions: I’m not trying to write the rules. Apart from anything else, I think this is a moral, not a political issue. We can blather on about socialism and capitalism till we’re blue in the face, but none of it means a thing until you start to alter the fundamental beliefs that govern all our lives.

    That’s something politicians can help with, but only if they’ve got the courage. It’s something the media can help with, if the government gives it some autonomy from the pressure of market forces. It’s something we can all help with, if we learn to make purchase decisions on the basis of usefulness rather than image.

    OK. There’s the theory. Now you’re going to say ‘that’s all well and good, but where do we start? What can we do that’s practical?’

    Here’s one off the top of my head. Just a small thing, really, but I know it bugs almost everyone in this country:

    Banks routinely penalise their customers with exorbitant fixed fees every time they slip into overdraft – even by a few pence.

    A ‘market forces’ government will say that this is their right; that we have choice and competition; that the customer is entitled to vote with his feet.

    A moral government would say that this is wrong; that the charge (if at all) should be proportionate; and that the bank in question should at the very least have the decency to telephone the customer before imposing any kind of penalty. They might also threaten legislation, and impose it if necessary: with any luck, and enough vocal disapproval, the banks would be shamed into changing things first.

    To do this, of course, we’d need a government with the courage to take on the banks. Currently, it’s a whole lot easier to go after ‘benefit cheats’ and the like. They don’t fight back.

    Any further suggestions?

  16. Thanks Mark

    1/ The polluter pays. And cleans up after himself.

    This is what I meant by talking about public bads. Just as capitalists are not allowed to enslave people because that goes against freedom so they are not allowed to pollute the public good that is the earth. No problem there.

    2/ Wealth is OK, if you know where to stop. Greed is bad.

    This is a toughy. Some people are amazed that i can get by on my pittance. Others are astounded at the vast amounts of money required to keep me just grumpy rather than murderous. Apart from such sensible laws as preventing monopolies this seems to be a moral question. Most people in our society could be as happy or perhaps happier with less to the benefit of people in other societies. But do we wnat the state to be involved in redistribution?

    3/ Governments are elected to tweak the controls on the machine of society. They shouldn’t take charge; nor should they shrug off all responsibility because ‘it’s the market, innit’.

    Agreed. There is a difference between avoiding intervention that may have worse effects than non-intervention, but providing careful piecemeal solutions to suffering, and absolving oneself because of the market.

    4/ Politicians are public servants. The minute they abuse that privilege by lining their own pockets or those of their friends, they’re out.

    Only in free societies. State socialsit politicians see no other point in being politicians! Of course all politicians should be called to account by elections and by laws concerning their professional integrity. Prior to your collapsing with mirth I would point out that many politicians, locally and nationally, do lead quietly industrious lives often dealing with rather tedious work. No one remembers possibly quite dull people but we don’t half like the villains!

    Tea break over!

  17. Jack Ramsey –

    On the wealth/greed equation. You’re exactly right. It is a moral question. It’s never going to work, getting the state involved in redistribution. But the state (or the media, or the government) COULD lead by example.

    If you can answer the moral questions, you’re going to need a lot less legislation. An example: most of us know that it’s a bad thing to kill each other. We still need laws about it, because there will always be some people who forget what they know is morally wrong. But if we didn’t all pretty much accept the immorality of murder, it’d be a bloodbath out there.

    So maybe we can arrive at a different morality of wealth, too. Not overnight, but gradually, as we start to learn the real meaning of wealth on a finite planet. As to quantity, it’s not a matter of what we want or need, it’s a matter of what we FEEL.

  18. Yes Mark, something subtler than a book of rules – how about our own culture? (remember that?) Now at the risk of people thinking I’m banging a drum, which I’m not, just pointing out that we used to have a tolerant, mostly law-abiding, happier society that was based on Christian values. Not because we all went to church but because that’s what our laws and society was based on: 10 commandments etc. AND EVERYONE WAS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME

    I put that in caps because now we have so many laws and decency and shame (your words) seem to have gone out of the window along with respect and common-sense.

    I can tell I’m not saying this well (sorry folks, still only firing on one cylinder) and please PLEASE don’t think I’m trying to be PH in a dress (he’s prettier than me anyway) so I’d best change the subject and see if you find any merit in my point…

    Jack – happy friday you gorgeous creature you (perfect man did you say??) I found your analogy interesting and liked it but can I offer one of my own and see if you run it up your flagpole:

    Socialism and capitalism: minding a society like minding a child perhaps? Would you give a child what they want all the time? (market forces) Crisps/sweets etc then playstation and porn instead of shakespeare? Or would you completely dominate every area of their lives with the motivation of doing whats best for them (socialism) and leave them no freedom?

    I agree that a mixture of the two is best and Joe this has got to be a record, I’m with you all the way. My only further point is that I’m old enough to know that actually we did have a pretty good system (mac??) and if we could just find a politician/party brave enough to reinstate the GOOD things we’ve lost, we’d be better off. I think if we looked in the attic, we’d find we had the answers all along.

  19. jaq

    I have just got over my blushes but carry on saying it anyway!

    I see your analogy but I think there is a flaw. Sensible people (that’s me and you jaq, with maybe Mark and Joe) know that adults should have a degree of control over children ranging from benevolent near dictatorship when they are very young to that of allowing increasing independence as they get older. Who takes this role for a society of individuals? A subset of those individuals? But why should that subset be any better than their fellows? (Popper made the point that in an open society it’s not about who is best qualified to rule – Plato was an old fascist – but how rulers are called to account for their stewardship. Democracy with elections is a means to that end. Slightly off the point I’m making here). Whilst I wish Her Majesty a wonderful birthday and long may she reign, I’m not sold on hereditary monarchy having absolute power, though it would be fun to see BBC satirists in the Tower. Mark’s point about murder is I think right. If we just a moral ruling then there wouldn’t be a bloodbath as things stand but a lot more people would be murdered. We need a morality that helps us understand and explain the things rightly not covered by the law. You are quite right to point to the 10 Commandments as being a major pillar of morality in this country. As an atheist I have a little difficulty with the first but the second strikes me as very much in line with Kant’s moral imperative.

    I’ve got to go back to work now!

    raincoster the Black and Tan story has hit the Daily Telegraph

  20. You know, very often I read Boris’ articles and think to myself that he’s been given a party line to take on an issue and he goes off and writes whatever he really thinks, right up to the end. At that point he goes “Oh damn and blast, I’m supposed to be supporting the free market this week” and sticks one line on the end, knowing full-well that this is the only line his party bosses will read.

  21. Bit short of time this morning but…

    Jaq – you’re right about the society we’ve left behind. Or some elements of it anyway: all our eyes grow more rose-tinted with age. The thing is, we need to evolve forward. That may require us to rethink moralities that worked in the past, but it also means including moralities that are going to work for this century. Which probably brings me back to the environment, now I come to think of it. Better not go there right now…

    Raincoaster – and sometimes I think he does it just to stir people up. A little bit of the old Germaine Greer ‘I’ll adopt any argument that’s opposed to yours just to make the debate interesting’ approach…

    Jack Ramsey – I’ll think of myself as ‘Maybe Mark’ forevermore…

  22. Mark, I was not just addressing the issue of a subtle rule book outside law with my comments (poorly expressed, I confess, I’m below whatever par I posess) but attempting to draw attention to other truths which indicates our society’s downfall.

    Such as: when I was a child people were happy to take their children to the hospital/doctors without worrying that social services would pay a visit whilst at the same time ignoring REAL abuse.

    Such as: people being allowed to demonstrate against the establishment, but nowadays even pensioners who mutter get carted away by police.

    Such as: the police IGNORING crime on the DIRECT instructions of the government.

    Such as: being able to ask a policeman the time because there WAS one.

    Such as: knowing that children were in school to learn reading/writing etc and NOT to learn about homosexuality – children as young as FOUR where I live.

    What I mean Mark is that I think people don’t have any confidence in authority or the establishment, in fact, I would go so far as to say that they often live in fear of it.

    However you elect those in authority, that’s no way to live.

  23. They left Rover to ‘the market’ trying to sell tarted-up 1994 Honda Civic’s right up until 2005. Any fool could what was coming.

    There is ‘the market’ and then there is appallingly poor management that fail to invest in R&D.

    I for one am no fan of this ‘people in big business can do no wrong’ attitude that Patricia Hewitt (a supposedly Labour trade secretary) adopted with those four con-men that bought Rover from BMW for £10 (with a non-repayable £439million loan thrown in for good measure).

    Nice work if you can get it!

  24. jaq

    Certainly I have sympathy with most of your points. It is interesting that there was a huge police presence when I went to Oxford yesterday so that animal rightists could demonstrate against the labs. I do recall the case of a pensioner who was rounded up in no time for protesting against what he saw as the immorality of homosexuality. Talking to the ordinary policemen and women I get the impression that they are not really always sure what they are for! Can you blame them?

    More controversially the case of the pensioner ejected from the Labour Party conference is perhaps not so black and white. I quote from Oliver Kamm’s website

    It’s a spoof of Tomy Blair’s apology.

    The news from the Labour Party Conference has been dominated by the forcible ejection from the Conference Hall yesterday of an 82 year-old Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Walter Wolfgang, who had heckled the Foreign Secretary’s defence of the Iraq War. Today, Wolfgang returned to the Conference in triumph, and received an apology from the Prime Minister.

    This episode is certainly disturbing, and merited an apology from Tony Blair. By good fortune, I have obtained the full text of the Prime Minister’s statement, and reproduce it here:

    The expulsion of Walter Wolfgang from the Conference ought never to have happened, and I sincerely regret it. After all, Mr Wolfgang ought never to have been in the Conference in the first place, let alone allowed back in today. That he has been a party member for almost half a century is a sobering reflection on the party I have led for 11 years, and I must take responsibility for this oversight. I apologise to Labour supporters for having allowed it to persist.
    Mr Wolfgang, I should explain, has a characteristic not mentioned by his new-found admirers in the Conservative press. His peace campaigning has centred not only on Labour CND but also on an organisation called Labour Action for Peace (LAP). LAP for decades operated with a nominally non-Communist leadership but invariably took the Soviet side of every international dispute over foreign policy and nuclear arms. Its reliably pro-Soviet position dates back as far as the 1950s, when Frank Allaun, MP for Salford East from 1955-83, did his utmost to persuade the Labour Party to accept back into membership – and as a parliamentary candidate – the Communist fellow-traveller Konni Zilliacus, an outspoken supporter of the crushing of democracy in Czechoslovakia in 1948. I regret to say that Allaun’s efforts were successful. My predecessor Clement Attlee knew the score with these people, and expelled Zilliacus along with other MPs, such as John Platts-Mills, whose support for the ideals of parliamentary democracy was very remote indeed. LAP has remained a forum for the most gullible shills for totalitarianism. Take Stan Newens, former MP for Harlow and then an MEP. He edited a pamphlet entitled Talking with Nicolae Ceausescu, in which it was seriously maintained that the mass murderer believed in “respect for the rights of all peoples to self-determination”.

    Walter Wolfgang’s political activism has been in the same disreputable cause of apologetics for the totalitarian enemies of democratic socialism. Unlike the Conservative press, I do not consider allegiances such as these to be personal idiosyncrasies: they are a moral abomination. The party that I lead played a noble role in establishing the post-war institutions and alliances that preserved collective security and eventually liberated Eastern Europe from tyranny. I am proud of the tradition of militant anti-Communism that my party has, at its best, embodied. That position is a prerequisite for a democratic party of the Left, in the same way, and for the same reason, that militant anti-fascism is. Walter Wolfgang has dedicated his political life to another cause. His ejection from the Labour Conference yesterday was a belated recognition of the party’s failure to eject him from membership at any time in the previous five decades. For that failure, I apologise once more.

    Agreed it was a squalid incident as far as the Labour Party and the police were concerned. The man had the right to protest even if he did not support the rights of others in the old Soviet bloc to do so.

    However not all pensioners are the cuddly grandparents the media loves. People in these organisations (LAP) were either very stupid or knew exactly what its relationship to the Soviet Union and other fascist dictatorships was. If this lot had had their way four year old children may well have been learning about the kindness of Uncle Joe rather than homosexuality. The latter I find distatseful, the former I find evil.

  25. I think we also need to understand that we all have (at least) two discrete political personalities; ‘The Utopian’ and The Pragmatist’.

    In Utopian mode, we’re all for sharing our goods, free speech, being generally nice at people, equal distribution, lazing about eating grapes while robots or whatnot get on with the real work. I’m not going to lumber this concept with an ‘ism’, you’ve got the picture. Our pragmatist, however, knows that humans are a capricious (to say the least), egocentric bunch and the aforementioned paradise would be in flames halfway through the second course of ambrosia. Why is this? Because, whenever we create a social system based on equality, some devious bastard(s) will do their damnedest to make it unequal in their favour.

    We know this in our gut. We’ve been through x-million years of evolution to make us like this and the thin veneer (probably measure in Angstroms) of civilisation resulting from the last couple of thousand years is going to do little to change it.

    I think I’ve made my views on ‘the market’ clear: Good tool to keep an eye on things; dangerous if it’s left entirely to its own devices. The market concept, in my opinion, derives from our Utopian personality; everyone is equal in the eyes of the market; everyone can compete on a level footing. What could be fairer?

    The problem is, though, that it’s only fair in concept. We’ve still got the same scaly bastards who want to stitch the system up in their own favour. Cornering the market in Oil (or silver as some of you may recall); creating financial bubbles; Messing about with public perception and appealing to human greed and/or fear. The ‘market’ is philosophically very similar to communism except the dogma goes: “From each according to how much cash they’ve got, to each according to how well they can screw everyone else”

    If some [market] is good, more [market] is not necessarily better.

  26. Joe Mental…

    Can I suggest one more option to go with your Utopian and Pragmatist? How about Darwinian?

    I was watching Melvin Bragg last night, talking about the ten books that changed the world. One was Darwin’s Origin of Species. The bit that stuck with me goes like this:

    Darwin’s phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ is regularly misread for selfish reasons. What he meant by it was ‘Survival of the Aptest’, but people with self-seeking axes to grind usually take it to mean ‘Survival of the Strongest’.

    Let’s assume, just for a moment, that the human race isn’t about to self-destruct. That somehow or other we’ll muddle through this current mess. God knows, we’ve muddled through enough messes in the past.

    If we do, those of us that are left standing will be there because we have brains that are apt to think smarter in the prevailing environment (and i use that word deliberately).

    You can’t force evolution. But it happens all the same. And it happens to brains as well as muscle.

    I can be as pragmatic as the next person about how we get through a specific situation (the mere fact that I just typed ‘person’ rather than ‘man’ is a tiny example). But I guess at the same time I’m not quite ready to give up on humanity.

    We can learn.

  27. If we do evolve, how do you think Homo Sapiens is going to welcome the new species? With retro-eugenics and physical force? Or am I just being cranky today.

    Anyone else read Childhood’s End? Or the Midwich Cuckoos?

  28. raincoster

    I always felt that Childhood’s End had a supernatural element rather than an evolutionary one. The MCs was about a ‘superior’ species from outside.

    Since evolution takes time we wouldn’t notice unless, as I understand about the Neanderthals – much maligned by having certain trade union leaders compared with them, I would rather spend a walking holiday with a cheery Neanderthal than Arthur Scargil – was that they formed a separate branch from our branch and then couldn’t face the competition when the branches met. This should be a lesson to the Rousseauists out there about our noble and gentle forbears and Goldilocks.

  29. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, not normally known to be insane, once proposed that the welfare state was causing “speciation” by which he meant that welfare recipients were turning into a new species. Really, I normally had the highest respect for the man, but he’d obviously suffered some kind of moronic possession when he wrote that piece of tripe. It was really just class hostility dressed up in new Tommy Hilfigers.

    Childhood’s End did have supernatural resonances, but the main point was that the other race came to Earth to shepherd the new species into being, because we couldn’t really be trusted to do a good job of it ourselves.

    And yes, the MCs was about another species, but they used humans as surrogate parents because they believed that humans couldn’t bear to destroy something to which they’d given birth. Wrong-o!

  30. We are verging on the eugenic here. For what it’s worth I recall a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain telling me that it was getting more difficult to find good working class activists because all the smart ones went to university and got middle class jobs.

  31. Joe Mental:
    An apt quote indeed, (albeit slightly altered), suggested by someone who sets up banking systems! Thanks!

    “To each according to how much cash they’ve got: from each according to how well they can be screwed”

  32. For some reason, all this reminds me of a saying: ‘Living well is the best revenge’ seems ‘Living well’ is the ultimate corruption? Only if you’ve never had it, like the union managers of this world. Personally I’ve met a few champagne socialists that are happy to use all their powers to change the world around them whilst remaining cocooned from it in their white bread world. They fight for the rights of this ideal and that working man, but they wouldn’t actually want to

  33. You know, to go full-circle on this, a friend of mine used to have a Peugeot. It was a solid car; nothing ever went wrong with it. The problem was, the way it was designed, they actually had to take it into the shop and take the engine out to change the sparkplugs. So I guess you tell people they won’t have tons of things going wrong with it, so they’ll save money. But every time they do a tuneup, it costs them a week’s wages. Is this some sort of scheme?

    I’m a socialist. OF COURSE it’s a scheme. The maintenance mechanic’s union obviously has more leverage than the repair mechanic’s union. Duh.

  34. When I got my first ever student loan in 1998 I went down the car auction every day for a month or so after college looking for something to spend it on.

    I found a 1989 Peugeot 405 Mi16. It cost me £950, the syncromesh had gone on second gear and the ABS was on its last legs (only credible option is to convert to normal brakes for over a grand).

    But it was the best thing I have ever driven in my life! What an engine! Everyone wanted to be in that car, it just had something special. Every time you got out of it you just wanted to get back in and you didn’t know why.

    It blew away the boy racers hot hatches off the mark and kept up with big V6’s on the motorway.

    Yes, like you say Raincoaster you needed to take the whole thing apart to fix anything. But the engine was fine and after a repair to the gearbox and clutch you could put up with the dodgy brakes. You didn’t have to slow down for the corners anyway, the handling was perfection itself. I lost control of it once and managed to go from being dead on sideways to being dead on sideways in the other direction without leaving the lane I was in.

    Yes it was a ‘nail’ but I still dream about that car today and wake up GUTTED!

  35. Whereas, like a good proletarian, I had a Honda Civic and ended up consoling myself that I could do the valve adjustments myself.

    What! A! Bloody! Thrill!

    Yeah, I preferred my friend’s Peugeot too.

  36. Jack – what are you saying??

    raincoaster – lovely thought but as an engineer let me assure you that you are assuming FAR too much organisation and forward thinking. Classic example: the Ford Pinto – fuel tank dirently behind the rear bumper. One small rear shunt and it burst into flames, yet the engineering might of the great Ford car company was behind that one! Then there’s the Liberty ships, I could go on but suffice to say that so called ‘experts’ are not always brilliant. In fact they often miss the in-yer-face-my-own-mother-could-have-seen-that-one bleedin’ obvious! Which, in my humble opinion, is why it’s so scary having social policy and people convicted of murder based on the ravings on ONE supposed expert in the form of Roy Meadow. A dickhead if ever there was one.

    I’d normally make a joke here and say it was the same as me creating a syndrome for thisthatortheother but some stupid arse with a degree, ambition and not much else would use it and patent it

  37. Bytheway, I’m not a stupid arse with a degree, ambition and not much else.

    Actually I have two degrees, have always been told I have a nice arse, and no ambition.

  38. I’m sure your arse is breathtaking. As is your obvious patience with civilians such as myself.

    Ah, but you never worked for Ford.


    That joke is so old among mechanics that it was current before the Beatles broke up.

    And every time a Pinto exploded, they got to sell another car! Honestly, in North America, in certain cities, you could not drive a Japanese car for fear of having it torched. Although even torched, it probably would have run better than some of the crap Detroit put out.

    Is this the point to tie it in to the China thread? Or just bring up a Grosse Point Blank reference?

    What the hey, I’ve had a couple of Martinis. John Cusack trumps Hu any day. Grosse Point Blank, if you haven’t seen it, is an interesting commentary on America’s engineering decline. As well as a hilarious, retro-80’s dramedy with an awesome soundtrack.

  39. Haven’t seen grosse point thingy and thanks for the tip raincoaster, I’ll rent it.

    Thanks also for the biggest laugh today:

    That joke is so old among mechanics that it was current before the Beatles broke up.
    (I wont try pointy brackets as this pc is steam driven and failing)
    No I’ve never worked for Ford and never did like the Beatles – could never understand why PH hates then with a vengance as in my opinion they were about as dangerous as bubblegum.

    And yes, thankyou raincoaster he was breathtaking but we broke up

  40. You guys are not listening. Get a Peugeot (or Citroen) with one of those fast 16v engines.

    When the 306 GTI6 came out none other than Jeremy Clarkson remarked that ‘on the right A-road it’s as much fun as a Ferrari 355’!

    Nothing really happens until the little red needle hits 5,000rpm. Next thing you know your front seat passenger is cowering behind their raised arms and begging you to slow down. Then you go flying forward into your seat-belt as the fuel cuts out (at about 7,200rpm) and you have to change up a gear.

    Once that surge of acceleration starts it just gets faster and faster and faster and faster and faster. I’ve driven much faster cars but I have never seen anything that scares people like those 16v Peugeot engines!

  41. So, Columbus was right all along.
    He said it WAS John Prescott !!!!!
    And the bloody Labours were picking on our Boris, Melissa?!!!!

  42. “but I have never seen anything that scares people like
    those 16v Peugeot engines!”??

    Then you’re an idiot Steven L – scaring people and putting their lives in danger is neither big or clever.

    Go skydiving, go water skiing, don’t try to scare other people when either they or some innocent bystander could die.

  43. Thought Mrs Prescott’s alleged response to allegations of him having a 2 yr affair was hilarious: apparently she said it was a big weight of her chest. hahahaaa

  44. According to some newspaper report Prescott’s paramour was allegedly spotted ‘…nuzzling Mr Prescott’s neck in a lift.’

    However nauseating the vision this conjures, it must be rubbish; he hasn’t got a neck.

    (or a brain, as some would have it)

  45. You’re obviously a city boy Jaq.

    There aren’t many bystanders in the middle of Northumberland

  46. Oh, and why can’t Sountherners drive in the snow? One centimetre of the stuffin Kent and the whole of the South East is suddenly on some sort of severe weather alert.

    It’s not difficult. Front wheel drive you use your handbrake, rear wheel drive you brake left footed duh!

  47. Hmmm, not sure I agree with that. You don’t see that much snow. Either that or brake repairs are way cheaper there than here.

    I live in Canada, so I have some little experience of snow. What amuses me is that in Vancouver (which gets snow about once every three years, literally) every time it DOES snow the news crews go out and film the eedjuts spinning their tires.

    “So, how are you handling the snow?”

    “Great. Easy. Nuthin to it. I grew up in Ontario, ya know.”

    cut to film of same eedjut spinning his tires and going backwards down the slope.

    I honestly think it’s a matter of pride to these people to forget everything they knew about driving in snow once they come to Vancouver. They are the biggest idiots.

    It amused me when I first moved here to see people carrying umbrellas in snow. The only place I’d encountered that was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But then, I grew up in Winnipeg: one of the first pics of me shows me standing on a snowbank…even with the top of the telephone poles. Some summers the snowbanks would hardly melt by July, and all our Halloween costumes had to fit over snowsuits.

    In Vancouver, when the temperature approaches freezing (once a year or so) they give very serious frostbite warnings and tell you to be sure to take out your earrings, lest your lobes freeze and drop to the sidewalk. Honestly, I kill myself laughing.

  48. Steven L – I rest my case

    Joe – indeed! Laughed at that one but sincere apologies for the impression I must have given to everyone about the affair. It seems that the Mrs was none the wiser and I was given the impression she encouraged. My apologies. I suppose it’s just that most of us WOULD encourage.

    (oh, and by the way, you accelerate faster, generally go quicker, scare better and die faster on a motorbike. Try showing off on that in the snow, rain, floods, even a river once, across continents. Been there, done that, got the T shirt

  49. raincoaster – I rode to Germany once from the UK and was sat on luggage strapped across the seat with cord. I didn’t realise that the cord had cut the blood off to my legs as they still seemed to do what I wanted, until I made a stop in Belgium. Left foot on the ground, swung the other over and crashed to the ground. Then I couldn’t get up. You had to be there.

    Me on skis? Bridget Jones. For skiing in the snow, Melissa is The One. And gorgeous with it I might add – where’s the piccy Mel?

    Anyone see the prog on the Jew that lives with 7 wives here? PH seemed to think that situation preferable to giving support to single mothers. What barmy logic is that?? I’m sure that man is from Krypton and he’s been sitting near Kryptonite for years and doesn’t know it. Yep, definately, underpants on top, blue tights in private and a seriously addled brain. You heard it here first folks

  50. Jaq, OK, yes when I was 18 I was an idiot. Driving fast (unless you do it on a racetrack) is not big or clever.

    For your peace of mind I no longer have a car as I do not need one for uni and will not need one to work in London when I start the real world.

    More beer money suits me fine! Cars just make you skint.

    If you insult me when I’m stressed out trying to finish my dissertation I will probably try to insult you back though.

  51. If possible please stick with insulting Prezza. Oh and go buy a Daily Mirror today (never thought I would say that) the front page is worth framing today though.

  52. Oh, you’d be so proud of me! I looked at the pic posted on Guido Fawkes’ blog and said:


    I dunno what kinda crowd Guido gets, but they seemed to think I was out of line and she was a total hottie. All I can say is hmmmmm…I should come to London. I’d wipe the sidewalks with the competition.

    In North American polygamists always seem to show a marked preference for isolation and xenophobia. This should be encouraged, as it means that within a few generations the’ll be so inbred they’ll be quadruped.

    I know whereof I speak, as in the late seventies a couple of familes of hillbillies were found in the mountains outside Vancouver. They’d been isolated so long they had no idea Canada was a formal “country” (ie for more than a hundred years, four generations) and, of course, they were feuding. Once the media exposure got to be too much, one of the families (the Bergs, if I recall) decided they were better off before, and picked up and moved further into the mountains. Haven’t been heard from since, presumably cross-breeding with grizzlies and mountain lions.

  53. Steven L – that wasn’t insulting, that was caring. Ask around the board honey, if I insult you, believe me, you’ll know about it. Glad to hear you didn’t kill yourself or anyone else and have grown out of that nonsense. Cheers! (clink, glug, ahh happy days)

    Bytheway, I grew out of the motorbike nonsense. Still have the leathers though, there’s just something about the smell……. sorry, had a moment there.

  54. Having said that Jaq, if in a few years I saw a well cared for example in the paper I’d be very tempted.

  55. But who’s that Eliza? Hmm, the plot thickens, or as in John Prescott’s case, the plot fattens!

  56. Oh Steven sweetie don’t be tempted, believe me, a woman is better, she’s got spline curves and everything….honestly!

    Sex within marriage is supposed to be wonderful but you’ll have to apply to someone married to find that out. Try Peter Hitchens – he’s ALWAYS banging on about how fab marriage is, or on this board you’ve got Melissa, Jack, Mark, Mac, and of course Boris.

    Ask away my friend!


  57. raincoaster – I’m suprised they can find the strength to blog at all! Especially Melissa – women always have to do the laundry don’t they?? Men never do.

  58. Laundry? You mean that stuff piled in the hallway? I’ve been waiting for someone to get to that.

    Incidentally, Quentin Crisp was right: after three years, the dust doesn’t get any worse, so why bother dusting?

  59. Who says men don’t do laundry? Here’s one who does, but not out of choice .
    And Q Crisp was right . At least I know where everything is!
    Dust or no!

  60. The SUN had this question yesterday on page 5:
    ” Have you too Laboured under the Deputy Prime Minister – John Prescott – or would you prepared to sleep with him? Give us a call on 020 7782 4068 ( don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone ).”

    Who says John Prescott and Tracey Temple were having sex together? No, they were making pancakes together for wholesalers !!!

    God, now we have to look at their pictures on the front pages everyday. They are both so damn ugly which makes the whole business horribly nauseating !!!

  61. John Prescott’s love affair will make his wife Pauline’s famous hairdo stand on end permanently and this will save her a lot of money on hairsray. Don’t you think?

    Pauline should look on the bright side.

  62. The poor woman’s been cuckolded and you slag off her hairdo!!

    Beauty and attraction are in the eye of the beholder – Ken Livingstone had an affair didn’t he? And some arseh— married Cherie Booth!

  63. I wouldn’t shag ” 2 Shags ” even for one of his Jags.

  64. Eew! just the thought!!

    who’s sexier then – Tory MP’s, New Labour or Dem Libs??

    (and who really cares, oh yes, the admin staff in westminster, ah the ups and downs of government)

  65. Hasn’t someone already likened the subterranean part of Westminster to a rabbit warren. I think Pauline must have demanded that the buck stop here!

    It’s cost him what looks like a total makeover for their turreted home in Hull already, maybe he’ll end up in the moat. A mote is what I rate Two S**gs as anyway.

  66. Someone told me a Prezza joke yesterday at a cricket match.

    She said ‘I was lying in bed with my husband the other day when he asked me “what is a diary secretary anyway?”. I said “I suppose its the person who keeps his diary for him.” To which he replied “There must be a lot of space in it then”.’

    Jaq, that Justine Greening from Putney is by a mile the best looking MP. (Sorry Boris but you’re not my type)

  67. I just loved that women’s program that consulted Edwina Currie on how to maintain marital fidelity. Honestly, the jokes just write themselves!

  68. Steven L – Boris is not your type? Have you read Eliza’s poem ” The Lover ” on this blog ?

  69. To be honest, I have always fancied Duncan. He is so awfully, awfully temptingly sexy. But, it is a case of… suivre l’amour, l’amour fuir… fuir l’amour, l’amour suivre…

    Still, I send him my pure love today and everyday.

  70. I liked what C. Freud said on HIGNFY – in his day they used to pay their secretaried and sleep with their wives. Blair is so keen on paperwork it makes you wonder what these contracts are worth. Is there an insanity clause do you think?

    (don’t be silly, everyone knows there aint no sanity clause, groan)

  71. Tracey Temple’s fiance said: ” Never mind 2 shags … my Tracey was 9 SHAGS. ”
    Tracey must be one fit lady !

  72. Charles Clark did NOT offer to quit last week over the freed foreign convicts scandal.

    He told the BBC that he had offered to go but Blair ASKED him to stay – which infuriated Blair.

    Blair stormed out of the Commons on Wednesday after being humiliated about his refusal to accept the ” phantom ” resignation!!!

  73. So if he lied about Bliar and infuriated him, how come he’s still in post?

  74. Well, Charles Clarke is a brazen hussy.

    Blair is not only a cuckoled wimp but also does not want to disrupt his government just before the local elections- and by the time the local elections are over, ALL these scandals will have been old snows- and Charles Clarke KNOWS that !!!!!

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