Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The future is bleak for the Conservatives - unless ...

It was 11 o’clock on the morning of the 19th of October, 1922, when a meeting of Conservative MPs was called to order at the Carlton Club.

Mr Stanley Baldwin remarked that Mr David Lloyd George, the then Coalition Prime Minister, was ‘a dynamic force.’ Mr Baldwin also expressed concern that the Liberal Mr Lloyd George might destroy the Conservative Party if he were to be permitted to carry on as head of the government.

It was decided that Conservative participation in the Coalition should cease. It ceased and Mr Baldwin soon became leader of the Conservative Party. Thus was born the 1922 Committee.

Of course, the present Prime Minister is not a Liberal (or is he?). And the present Liberal Democrat leader is neither Prime Minister nor anything to touch Mr Lloyd George. But there is a parallel. The Conservative Party is in danger of being destroyed today. Mr Graham Brady, M.P., is now the chairman of the 1922 Committee.

Many Conservatives believe that Mr Brady should do his duty and rid us of this ConDem Coalition government.

Come out of the shadows, Mr Brady.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Another Amazon review - this is a gem, get it now!

"Despite there being one or two earlier criticisms from others, 'A World On Fire,' at Amazon's present price and with 1,000 plus pages, works out at just over a penny per page. Every page is a gem. Get it now.

This is a great big book so, if prospective purchasers don't fancy great big books, would they please stop reading this review now.

On the other hand, if prospective purchasers can cope with a great big book (9 ½ inches by 6 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches weighing about 3 ¾ lbs.), this is a work or rare genius, and I would go so far as to say that, for general historical readers and for 'Civil War' buffs in particular, 'A World On Fire' is a must-have and the book of the decade. It is wonderfully well written and a really great read.

One of the most insightful quotations in Amanda Foreman's masterpiece is by the British writer, William Michael Rosetti (brother of the artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti), who said that, during the war, expressions such as "'I am a Northerner," and "I am a Southerner"' were 'as common on Englishmen's lips as "I am a Liberal" or "I am a Conservative."' The partisan nature of the terrible strife was as much a part of the then British psyche and political scene as it was in America.

Though I am British, I have known since I was a child that I was a Southerner and I recall as if it were yesterday the day I first set foot in Virginia. I was in my spiritual home. It just felt right. I have never felt the need nor the desire to change my attitude and preference.

My guess is that the author is a Northerner in sympathy, but I absolve her of all partisan feelings as she has done her best to present the respective Northern and Southern causes in a fair light. Moreover, she shows an exceptional understanding of the sympathies of both British and American people, not only those who participated but also those who were interested but powerless bystanders like the hundreds of thousands of cotton workers thrown out of work by what was going on over the ocean.

It has been suggested that Ms. Foreman's work should have been better edited. Editing implies correction or cutting. I see no need for correction - other than the three typographical errors that I twigged - and certainly no need for cutting, for, if anything, the book leaves much out and isn't long enough. I could have coped with another 1,000 pages at least.

I was proud to read of distant relatives of both my wife and myself who had played parts on both sides (North and South) and on both sides of the ocean. Abraham Lincoln and William Henry Seward are studied thoroughly and it is again clear to me that Seward, as a drunk, was no credit to the State Department whilst Lincoln can never be absolved from the prime charge of the people of the South, namely, that he raised a great army to invade their states. That army burned houses and destroyed farms wherever it went, right from the start. Poor Virginia, indeed. Incidentally, the book's title is probably derived from the words of the drunken and irresponsible Seward - 'We will wrap the whole world in flames' (page 189).

An unexpected (to me) Southern hero was the British war artist and correspondent Frank Vizetelly (1830 - 1883), whose drawings graced the pages of the Illustrated London News. I had seen some of them before but I had not known what an important part this man had played, being on hand almost throughout and at the end of President Davis's doomed leadership of the equally doomed Confederate States. The book, already a magnum opus, is made better still by the inclusion of much of Mr Vizetelly's marvellous work.

Hundreds of books have been written about the American 'Civil War' (or 'War of Northern Aggression' or 'War for Southern Independence') and all bar a few describe the bitter divisions between peoples of similar blood and the almost indescribable suffering, especially of those in the invaded South. This superlative and stupendous tome succeeds as well as any other because it includes so many first-hand (and, in some cases, new) accounts of individual participants and on-the-spot observers.

The book's greatest strength - and its primary purpose - is its success in showing how important was the attitude of Great Britain and the British people. There were many occasions when British intervention could (and should?) have ensured the ending of the slaughter and there were more occasions than I knew of when Great Britain and the Lincoln regime might have found themselves at war. The then future of Canada was at stake, as was the governance of Mexico, for which France yearned.

Aside from Frank Vizetelly and many others who are mentioned and quoted at length, two more Southern heroes were Swiss-born Henry Hotze (1833 - 1887), a master of propaganda who worked with my Cambridgeshire-born cousin, John George Witt (1836 - 1906), and James Dunwoody Bulloch (1823 - 1901), uncle of Teddy Roosevelt and one of the Confederacy's principal agents in Great Britain. I have read of both previously, thanks to Amazon. Intriguingly, one of the Amazon critics of 'A World On Fire' is one James Bulloch. If the latter Mr Bulloch is a relative of the former Mr Bulloch, I forgive his criticisms and defer to his knowledge. If he is not, I hope that potential purchasers will give more weight to my remarks and buy this magnificent book that is enormously impressive in both scale and scope."

P.S. Here is the link to the above on

P.P.S. I have bought three copies of this book. One I have read and kept myself. Two I have given to two of my well-read and illustrious brothers-in-law. I hope that each enjoys it as much as I have.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The ConDem coalition lasted until Christmas, but ...

I predicted at the start that the ConDem coalition would last - at most - until Christmas. Well, it's Christmas Day and the coalition has lasted until today, but how much longer bearing in mind that one of its principal ministers is this shady-looking character?

There was a time when I thought that Dr. Vince Cable was the Liberal Democrats' best asset. Now it seems that he is just an ass, the worst of a very bad bunch. He boasted of his massive ministerial powers and his war-mongering to complete strangers to whom, even if they had been 'constituents,' he should not have breathed a word on his or the ConDem government's policy or plans for the BSkyB business. The man was and is an idiot: he can't escape the fact. Dr. Cable and others of his Lib Dem colleagues were gullible when faced with 'constituents' who were, in reality, reporters for the Daily Telegraph. They fell for flattery and they blabbed. More fool them.

But this man and his colleagues are still in government. Why? Because the ConDem coalition would fall apart without them and our rulers have ruled that they can't be got rid of for five years. Though I was wrong about them being gone by this Christmas and though they have ruled that they shall rule for five years, I make another prediction: they will not last for five years; the British people will not stand for it.

Just to cheer you up, seeing that it is Christmas, I include in my blog another picture of Dr. Vince, this time looking not shady but pretty silly. But, hey, what's new?

Have a good day.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bad news: worse just before Christmas for the family. I say, 'Bring them home now' - I believe that you agree

News came today of the death (the 347th) of another brave Britisher in Afghanistan. Here is a link to that news, which is bad enough but, just before Christmas, it must be the worst possible for the family and friends most closely affected.

A friend has also posted me a link to a sad song on YouTube. Go to - 

I wrote to my friend as follows:

"Thank you for posting this beautiful and moving rendition of 'Stop The Cavalry,' James. Though it is commemorative of an earlier and even more terrible war, we can well imagine the present-day suffering and sacrifices of our boys in Afghanistan. The death (the 347th) of another Britisher has been reported today. I say, 'Bring them home now, for Christmas.' I believe that you agree, as do most of my friends."

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Have a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year

Some of my regular readers will know that Sue and I are big fans of Robert Fuller, the well-known Yorkshire wildlife artist.

The portrait above is one of Robert's finest and he has painted perfectly this cock pheasant's magnificent plumage as well as capturing equally well the 'personality' of one of our best-loved country creatures.

A link to the Robert Fuller gallery is below -

- and we recommend in particular the Christmas and other cards on offer.

May we also wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Monday, 13 December 2010

As long as Mr Eric Pickles survives, Alderman Foodbotham lives. And so does dear old Peter Simple

Those of us who are really old can recall the late Michael Wharton's marvellous 'Way of The World' column in the Daily Telegraph. Writing as 'Peter Simple,' Wharton 'sent up' numerous characters and caricatures (brilliantly drawn by 'Michael ffolkes,' whose real name was Michael Davies) of characters, most of whom are listed on-line and may be found through the following link -'s_characters

One of my favourite characters, partly because I knew one or two people whose style was not dissimilar, was 'the late Alderman Foodbotham' (above, by 'ffolkes'), 'the 25-stone, iron-watch-chained, crag-visaged, grim-booted Lord Mayor of Bradford and perpetual chairman of the Bradford City Tramways and Fine Arts Committee.'

As long as Mr Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and former Bradford City Councillor, survives, Alderman Foodbotham lives. And so does dear old Peter Simple.

Mr Pickles is today to announce the new 'Localism Bill' and the possibility of 12 more directly elected mayors.

Here is Mr Pickles.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Mr and Mrs Windsor in harm's way last evening

There has been extensive news coverage of the Prince of Wales and his wife being concerned for their personal safety last evening. The picture below ('borrowed' from The Times) tells the story better than I can.

They are not my favourite people, but I don't want Charles and Camilla Windsor to be harmed (I want them to emigrate, as Charles said he would if fox hunting were to be banned: it has and he hasn't), but someone has some serious questions to answer as to why the Windsors and their car were put in harm's way. What were their people and the police thinking of and doing?

As to the student tuition fees issue itself, I am saddened that we are moving from a period when university education was mostly state-funded to a less-beneficent system. I think that we shall all regret it eventually.

Post Script:

It now appears (from this evening's Channel 4 News) that Charles Windsor may have decided to ignore and/or over-rule the advice of his advisers to stay at home and watch the telly and, instead, to go to the theatre. In which case, he is either very brave or very stupid.

Monday, 6 December 2010

News today of the 346th British death in Afghanistan

A local man was the 246th Britisher to die in or as a result of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan. He died on Sunday, the 3rd of January, this year. Now we have news of the 346th British death in or as a result of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan. 100 more of our brave servicemen have died in or as a result of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan since January of this year. What has been achieved as a result of their sacrifices and the money and matériel that we have also lost?

Have we caught Osama bin Laden?

Is the Taliban nearer to defeat and elimination from Afghanistan?

Is al-Qaeda any less of a threat in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen or elsewhere?

Are the streets of Leeds, Leicester, Luton and London safer?

In other words, what use has been the loss of those additional 100 brave British servicemen?

If the answer is none, then they have been wasted. We must bring the rest of them home before we lose any more on this pointless mission that is achieving nothing and costing a mint.