AVENGERS ASSEMBLING AGAIN
The Andrew Marr interview with David Miliband gave us all to believe that a Return of the King was on the cards. Marr’s final, big-voice question asked if David would be in Parliament after the next election.
David spluttered. Perhaps he was suffering from his need to say something clever, perhaps caught out in his unspeakable ambition, perhaps he was acting. He came up with the definitive: “That’s not been decided, yet.”
In political discourse, that’s a Yes.
Certainly, he can afford to return. The internet says his job of rescuing international refugees has been making him around $1m a year – and there will be expenses on top of that. There is also his mother’s tax-packaged estate back in England – he has done well. He has made his fortune. Why not come back and do what his brother failed to do – take a leading role in a rampaging Labour Government?
Chancellor David Miliband might add 5% to the swing.
Nor will he be the only one thinking these things.
The mayors of London and Manchester have their second terms running out in May 2024. Will they run yet again, or might they be interested in returning to Westminster, to refresh Labour’s front bench?
Andy Burnham has more experience and more energy than any three current shadow ministers, and whatever you think of Sadiq Khan, he . . . (readers might finish that difficult sentence for themselves).
Keir Starmer must be delighted at the prospect of Labour heavyweights returning to support his ministry, now that the house-cleaning, party-purging and heavy lifting is done.
THE NZ EXPERIENCE OF SEISMIC SHOCK
As we’ve seen in Westminster over the last decade, the Tories denounce Labour’s Marxist idiocies and then put them into their manifestos. The Corbynisation of a conservative party has happened before.
In 1970s’ New Zealand, Robert Muldoon’s National party found that the way to squeeze Labour off the electoral map was to adopt all their policies. He won a couple of elections in that way.
Regulation proliferated; import licensing, price fixing and tariff barriers flourished. The economy stagnated. The country was run “like a Polish shipyard.” Political logic left only one route for Labour – massive deregulation, lower taxes, free trade, elimination of subsidies and the privatisation of 22 of 23 nationalised industries in 18 months.
The boom was heard all over the world.
A NOTABLE STATISTICAL FIDDLE
There is a sly way with statistics that advocates use to promote their schemes. They say, “For every pound spent on such-and-such a project we get this-and-that more back.” The fraud is eternal. It cannot be killed, and it will not die.
Thus: Geraint Davies said that for every extra pound put into the NHS we get £4 back.
David Knott told the DCMS Committee, “For every £1 that was invested [in the Government’s £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund] £1.70 in value was returned . (HC 154)
By this logic, we could have funded Liz Truss’s tax cuts by spending another £15 billion on Health, or another £100 billion on Culture Recovery. The logic promises returns of £60 billion and £70 billion, respectively. Whether the promise is fulfilled is another thing entirely.
AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS WITH MINORITIES
The defence of Lady Susan Hussey relies on her age, class and possible deafness. She surely thinks she didn’t do anything wrong quizzing Ngozi Fulani at the Palace reception, and that people are so sensitive these days. And now we all have to go off for re-education like communists.
In the spirit of painless education, it might help the Palace to include this model conversation with a multi-barrelled courtier to aid understanding of Ms Fulani’s position.
SHE: Ah, now, who are you?
GUIDO: I’m Guido. Have you come far?
SHE: Kensington, actually.
GUIDO: But you’re not from there, are you?
SHE: What do you mean?
GUIDO: You’re from Cumbria, surely?
SHE: Certainly not.
GUIDO: But you married the Earl of Cumbria?
SHE: My father is the Duke of Abergavenny and he certainly doesn’t come from Wales.
GUIDO: So, where are you from?
SHE: I’ve just told you, I’ve come from Kensington.
GUIDO: No, but where you’re really from? Where do your people come from?
SHE: Since you ask, my grandfather was the Count Palatine of Holstein, and –
GUIDO: So you’re German?
SHE: Not in the least.
GUIDO: Was he a Nazi?
SHE: What on earth do you mean? He was a Babenberg.
GUIDO: Isn’t that a Jewish name?
SHE: I beg your pardon?
GUIDO: So, are you saying you’re not Jewish?
SHE: Certainly not! He was an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, and his family came from the royal houses of Sweden and Denmark.
GUIDO: So, you’re really not English at all.
SHE: You are offensive. All these questions. Don’t you know it’s very rude to ask PERSONAL QUESTIONS!
Lady Hussey’s persistent questioning was certainly an error. But the whole episode might have been short-circuited by the younger woman laughing at the older:
“You’ve got to get the hang of this modern small talk. I’m British like you’re British. Our ancestors all came from somewhere else. That’s such a nice brooch, where did you get it?”
With this attitude, you don’t end up feeling traumatised, violated, or erased. It’s a game anyone can win. And not only have you given a working example to younger people of how to cope with these awkward situations – it’s also true that, really, we shouldn’t bully members of a vulnerable minority like Palace courtiers.
ARTIFICIALLY CREATED ART AND PROSE
The above variations on a Guy Fawkes theme were generated by a computer program in a few seconds from half a dozen words of text instructions; they cost no more than a penny each. A graphic designer might have hoped for £1,000 for the work and taken days to deliver it.
The leaps that Artificial Intelligence is making alarms many professionals. Some of us were worried that Polish sketch writers might take our jobs, writing twice as much for half the pay. That didn’t happen – a greater worry might be that robots will sketch the Commons.
If you feed the first paragraph of a sketch into the AI program and ask it to finish, you get this:
. . For one thing, it would give them an opportunity to embarrass him again over Brexit. Plus, just look at what Labour did when it joined the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in backing Conservative amendments on Thursday night. One amendment required ministers to report annually on house building targets while another demanded that May outline her negotiating position ahead of the upcoming talks with Brussels. It may have been clear from some Tories’ awkward demeanour that this wasn’t quite what they wanted either but it doesn’t matter – these three parties have enough votes for the changes anyway . . .
That is amazing.
But, there’s something else interesting. While it reads well, it doesn’t say anything. There is a lifelessness underlying it. It is very like prose in PR documents. Copy that has been cranked out by someone with no interest in the subject being paid by the word.
The problem isn’t that machines will write like humans – it’s the humans will write like machines.