Hitler’s Last Concert

“He [Speer] also told the orchestra’s manager to schedule a series of last concerts. ‘When I asked them to play Bruckner’s Romantic Symphony, I told him, it would mean the end was near and the musicians should get ready to leave Berlin.'”

The Philharmonic Hall was filled to bursting the afternoon of the 12th April [1945]. Nichlaus von Below wrote of the occasion.

It was unforgettable. I sat with Speer and Admiral Donitz and listened to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the finale from the Gotterdammerung and Bruckner’s symphony. Can there ever have been such a moment, such an experience? Silently the three of us walked afterwards across the totally destroyed Potsdamer Platz back to the Reich Chancellery.

“Electricity was, of course, strictly rationed by then,” Speer told me, “but I had it switched on for this occasion. Absurd I know, but I thought that Berlin should see that lovely hall, miraculously intact, just once more fully lit.”

“What those who didn’t attend didn’t see,” said Annemarie [Speer’s secretary and confidant], “were the baskets offered to spectators on the way out – cyanide capsules.”

Gitta Sereny Albert Speer: His battle with truth pp506-7

Tag Albert Speer, Homo-erotic relationship with Hitler, Terminal delusion,

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Book Review: Kim Darroch ~ Collateral Damage: Britain America and Europe in the age of Trump (2020)

Darroch was Britain’s ambassador in Washington, 2016-19. He famously resigned after a confidential briefing note from him to the Foreign Office was leaked and the leading candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party, Boris Johnson, didn’t support him. His briefing note was entirely accurate but as a public document untenable. Darroch was a victim of Foreign Office ‘office’ politics as well as Trump’s vindictiveness.

As can be expected from a man who’s been senior civil servant for decades he has wonderful insights into people and politics. And he writes beautifully. So here we have a perfect combination of someone who was in the heart of decision making with the intelligence to sift out the background noise from the substantive.

Darroch’s book is of-the-moment having been finished in August 2020. So a comment he passes on Brexit is interesting as he’s the ultimate insider.

His [Boris Johnson] lead negotiator, David Frost, used to work with me in the Foreign Office on EU issues. He has a brilliant mind. But it looks as if he also has an impossible negotiating mandate, essentially around a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU without obligations attached to membership of the single market.” p313

His comments on the lead members of Trumps inner circle is fascinating. Warmly recommended

Tag Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Foreign Office politics, Foreign Office treachery,

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Selected Quotes: The Free School Meals Debate 21st October 2020

Kate Green (Lab)

More than 1.4 million children benefit from free school meals. Nearly 900,000 eligible children live in areas now subject to tier 2 and tier 3 covid restrictions. Their families face an upcoming furlough cliff-edge, an inadequate replacement system and the deep fear of growing unemployment. So the question for Members on the Government Benches is simple: are they absolutely confident that support is adequate and that no child in their constituencies will go hungry?”

Tim Farron (LibDem)

“Does she agree that the holiday periods are always a difficulty—whether or not there is a pandemic—for those children from families on free school meals? They always need that support, and that should be something we are doing irrespective of the pandemic.”

Gavin Williamson (Con) (Secretary of State for Education)

In a brief speech he didn’t mention Free School Meals at all but reiterated comments about welfare reforms (Universal Credit). But he did congratulate the voluntary sectors efforts.

[Much later]

“Now that pupils are back in schools, kitchens are open once again to provide healthy, nutritious meals to all children—including those eligible for free school meals—aiding their academic performance, and supporting attendance and engagement. We have also set out in guidance information for schools and caterers to support free school meal pupils who are self-isolating, through the provision of food parcels to those children.”

A reply to a Conservative MP

“…free school meals have only ever been intended to provide support during term-time periods while children are engaging in activity and learning.”

Paul Maynard (Con)

“….I have some 6,000 pupils reliant on free school meals in my constituency, and I am deeply disappointed by the decision that has been taken at the moment. Will he commit to pushing in the comprehensive spending review for a much more strategic approach that rolls out the school holiday activity fund nationwide—a universal approach to tackling child poverty that does not just stigmatise those on free school meals?”

Tanmanjeet Dhesi (Lab)

“Food bank usage is predicted to be 61% higher this coming winter than it was last winter. That is a mere prediction. It will take a lot more than free school meals to sort out this poverty crisis, but does the Secretary of State agree that that is the least we can do to help support struggling families?”

Neil Parish (Con)

“Does the Secretary of State accept that some of these families are very challenged, and that if we give them money, it does not necessarily get to food for children…..No, it does not. Therefore, I think school meal vouchers are a good way of getting food out to those families that really need it, so will he re-look at meal vouchers for Christmas?”

Brendan O’Hara (SNP)

“….it is remarkable that, in the 21st century, at a time like this, in one of the richest countries in the world, we are even having to debate this or to ask the Government to fund free school meals over the school holiday period to prevent 1.5 million of the poorest and most vulnerable children in England from going hungry.”….. “Sadly, that compassion was not replicated in the Government’s response to the petition reaching 300,000 signatures. Their spokesperson said:

“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays. We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”

Robert Halfon (Con)

“Between January and September 2020, the Harlow food bank gave out 118 tonnes of food—nearly double the tonnage of last year—and nationally, 32% of households have experienced a drop in income since late March. An estimated 1.9 million children have been affected by food insecurity in the same period, according to the Food Foundation, and 2% of adults said they had skipped meals entirely. That is only set to continue.”

Neil Coyle (Lab)

“When Labour left office [2010], 40,000 were using food banks, last year it was 1.4 million people, 7,000 of whom were in Southwark, including hundreds of working people.”

Brendan Clark-Smith (Con)

“Where is the slick PR campaign encouraging absent parents to take some responsibility for their children? I do not believe in nationalising children. Instead, we need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility.”

Daisy Cooper (LibDem)

“The Secretary of State gave us a spectacular display of number theatre: millions for this, millions for that, billions for this, billions for that. There is no doubt that the Government are facing unprecedented demands for money from all sorts of directions, but I simply do not understand why they draw the red line at hungry children.”

David Simmons (Con)

“What does it say about the Opposition’s priorities that all their interests are simply swept aside in favour of spending taxpayers’ money to curry favour with celebrity status [Marcus Rashford], wealth and power?”

Dr Kieran Mullan (Con)

“I ask high-profile campaigners on this issue to urge their hundreds of thousands of social media followers, who are signing petitions and retweeting, to put an equal amount of energy into encouraging their friends and family to volunteer for charities, to mentor young people, to help parents who are struggling and to donate money to local organisations to fight poverty.”

Kevin Hollinrake (Con)

“….’it is the Government’s job to make sure children do not go hungry’. I differ there, and I think lots of my constituents differ there too, because they would be appalled by the prospect of the Government interfering in their daily lives to make sure their children did not go hungry.”

Sam Tarry (Lab)

“Before the covid crisis, more than 4,000 children were eligible for free school meals in my constituency. After the pandemic hit, that figure more than doubled, with many now reliant on welfare support just to make ends meet.”

Mary Kelly Foy (Lab)

“….Government’s initial U-turn on free school meals was a case of them having to be embarrassed into feeding hungry children. Well, it looks like the Conservatives have moved beyond that. They truly have no shame. What astounds me most about this Government’s approach is the complete lack of responsibility. They are acting like child poverty is purely the fault of the parents and ignoring the leading cause of child poverty: Tory Governments.”

Theresa Coffey (Con) Secretary of State Work and Pensions

“We are in a situation where the Government have firmly stood behind the most vulnerable children and people in the country, and I am very proud of our Government for doing that.”

“Nearly a million pensioners are getting £140 off their energy bills later this year without lifting a finger; that is what we are doing to help people.”

“More people have come off the furlough scheme and are now back in work—they can work from home or go to work. Schools are open. The NHS is treating many more people, not just the people with coronavirus. So we need to encourage life to continue as it is.”

Source

All quotations are taken from the Hansard report of the debate 21st October 2020

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-21/debates/79C0CA8D-CADF-4562-9317-5A51810BB5DE/FreeSchoolMeals

Tag Parliamentary debate Free School Meals, Marcus Rashford, Local government finance,

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Going with the flow

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British Militarism: 1919

The British empire grew after the war, despite US president Woodrow Wilson’s self-determination principle. This was intended to break empires up. Needless to relate the only empires broken up were those of the losers: Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottomans and Russia. The British and French had no intention of losing territories after victory. Britain military activities activities grew post-1919. Three examples are Ireland, India and Russia. Britain, as a warrior nation, routinely used military might in global trouble spots.

Ireland: the War of Independence, 1919-21

Sinn Fein favoured direct action to achieve independence rather than the parliamentary tactics of the Irish Home Rule MPs. In 1916 Sinn Fein led a rebellion against British rule in the Easter Rising. This was promptly crushed. They learned from this failure and changed tactics. Instead of full-on confrontation they introduced guerrilla warfare.

Guerrilla warfare and targeted assassinations gave the IRA a decisive advantage during the War of Independence. Prime Minister Lloyd George strengthened the police with an ‘anything goes’ mandate. The police recruited brutalised ex-soldiers fresh from the trenches and prepared to ‘shoot-to-kill’. The 8,000 Black and Tan police committed atrocities trying to impose their will on the civilian population.

The Black and Tan policemen were ill-prepared for guerrilla warfare. They were out-manoeuvred by the IRA and suffered horrendous losses. As one recruit said, “we were mercenary soldiers fighting for our pay, not patriots willing and anxious to die for our country…”* By 1921 the IRA had won and Britain’s second colonial war ended in defeat. The peace treaty was botched with the creation of Northern Ireland. This brought a 100 years of civil unrest.

Note

* https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/black-and-tans-half-drunk-whole-mad-and-one-fifth-irish-1.4113220

India: civil unrest in Amristsar, 1919

All three leaders* of India’s independence movement were British trained lawyers. They’d imbibed British attitudes in terms of political philosophy. India’s case for Dominion status was irrefutable because a million Indians loyally served in the British army during the war.

India’s representative at Versailles, Maharajah of Bikaner, said,“Our aspiration is to see our country attaining… self- government and autonomy which you in this country secured long ago and which our more fortunate sister Dominions (the so-called White Dominions of Can­ada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) have enjoyed for some time past.”**

Amritsar was the scene of peaceful protest following civil unrest involving a few European deaths. General Dyer, the commandant, had had a career suppressing ‘natives’, which favoured an ‘iron fist’ response. He orchestrated a massacre murdering 379 unarmed men, women and children.

Winston Churchill condemned ‘an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation’.***

Regardless of British protestations about India, the reality was it remained a colony without the status of ‘White’ Dominions. The Amritsar massacre is a vivid example of British rule. Dyer was sacked but returned to Britain as a hero to the right-wing press who applauded his stance, “The Morning Post started a Dyer fund which gave him £26,000 (£1.15m in today’s money). By contrast, each dependent of an Indian killed by Dyer received 500 rupees (£176 today) per body. When he died in 1927, Dyer was given an unofficial state funeral with his coffin borne on a gun carriage through Admiralty Arch.”****

Notes

* Gandhi trained at Inner Temple, London; Jinnah was at Lincoln’s Inn; Nehru went to Trinity College, Cambridge and Inner Temple.

** https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/the-rajput-at-versailles/289888

*** https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/amritsar-massacre

**** https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/12/britain-amritsar-massacre-centenary-1919-india

Russia, 1919

The Bolsheviks undermined the Tsarist armies on the eastern front war, which led to Russia’s defeat. The triumphant Germans imposed a draconian peace treaty. Tsarist White armies attempted to continue the war but couldn’t because the Bolsheviks offered an aspirational future: Peace, Bread, Land. The Tsarists’ message was an unappetising return to the status quo ante.

The 1918 assassination of Tsar Nicholas by the Bolsheviks enraged western governments. The Russian civil war raged through 1917 to the end of 1919 with the allies supporting the incompetent Tsarist generals. They refused to cooperate with each other and eventually lost western support.

The Royal Navy supported Allied forces in Russia’s Murmansk and Estonia and Latvia territories. The general consensus was the White armies were useless but some anti-communist politicians still wanted direct involvement, “the Allies were not particularly interested in intervention. While there were some loud voices in favour, such as Winston Churchill, these were very much in the minority.”*

Britain’s involvement ended in late 1919. The principal reason was that Tsarist generals alienated them due to an incoherent campaign. Nonetheless Britain was a participant even after four horrendous years on the western front.

Note

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War

Summary: British militarism continued after the first world war

Britain’s experiences in the first world war were terrible. Industrialised slaughter over four years left hundreds of thousands dead and many more casualties. Senior officers and politicians didn’t change their entrenched attitudes. Woodrow Wilson’s self-determination principle was derided as naive by Lloyd George who’d learned nothing. He pursued policies as though Britain had won a great victory in 1918. Versailles was ignored and Britain continued as they’d done throughout the Victorian era.

Note

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War

Sources

For a very quick summary of the Easter Rising see https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/easter-rising 1916 also saw the battles of the Somme and Jutland and the continuing debilitating trench warfare attritional skirmishes. In context Dublin was a side show.

For the ‘Black and Tan’ ex-servicemen see https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/black-and-tans-half-drunk-whole-mad-and-one-fifth-irish-1.4113220

For a good summary of the Amritsar massacre see https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/amritsar-massacre

For general Dyer’s career see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Dyer For a typical colonial campaign see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seistan_Force

For post 1858 Indian education see SUNDARAM, M. S. “A CENTURY OF BRITISH EDUCATION IN INDIA 1857-1957.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 107, no. 5035, 1959, pp. 491–507. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41368746. Accessed 2 June 2020.

For the post Versailles status of India see Sundaram, Lanka. “The International Status of India.” Transactions of the Grotius Society, vol. 17, 1931, pp. 35–54. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/743028. Accessed 2 June 2020.

For the White Russian coalition in the civil war see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Civil_War

For the Bolsheviks slogan and attractiveness see https://russianlife.com/stories/online/peace-land-bread/

For the Murmansk landings see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War

For the Murmansk intervention see http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/spotlights/allies.htm

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Boris Johnson makes a decision

St Peter said, “I’d like to let you in, but God says you’ve got to choose between Hell and Heaven.” He took Boris to the elevator. Down there he met thousands of friends. They hugged him and reminisced about the good old days. The Devil came across offering a single malt.

“I don’t drink. I’m watching my weight,”

“This is Hell, Boris: you can do what you want and you won’t won’t put on an ounce.”

The day finished and everyone gave him hugs and waved as Boris stepped on the elevator and headed Heavenwards. The next day he chilled out with saints. St. Peter returned, “Well you’ve sampled Heaven and Hell. Now choose.”

Johnson reflected. “Well, I think I belong in Hell.” And with that he returned to Hell. The doors of the elevator opened and Boris saw his friends, groaning in pain and blackened with grime.

“I don’t understand. Yesterday we ate lobster and caviar washed down with cocktails.”

The Devil whispered: “Yesterday we were campaigning.”

Johnnie W.

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Book Review: Martin Williams ~ Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics (2017)

The Daily Telegraph’s expose* of MP’s expenses shook Britain. MPs were engaged, as a group in shameless systemic fraud. It sickened the public and destroyed the reputation of them all, the innocent and the guilty. There were significant changes to the administration of expenses and Williams explores what happened in six sections.

Seven MPs were jailed and some resigned but many were unscathed even if they’d to repay thousands of pounds. Williams notes five singular examples (p209). One was George Osborne, who’s a millionaire by the by. He repaid money claimed for his horse paddock. Embarrassing in 2009: Chancellor in 2010.

Williams worries about direct business interests, which are often unacknowledged in debate. The principal areas of Williams’s concerns are the heavily influenced debates, quasi-lobbying ‘word in your ear’, hospitality, overseas trips, and jobs after leaving office. Parliament is a club, which was why the expenses scandal arose in the first place. Normative behaviour said ‘fiddling’ expenses was OK now it’s using the role of MP as a career move before earning more in the private sector. A very valuable and readable book.

* https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48187096

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Who is this haggard old man?

Did he used to be “Bonnie Bouncing Billy Bunter?”
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Conservative Economic Policies 2010-20: The FTSE 100’s Judgement

The FTSE 100 index lists Britain’s largest companies by capitalisation, it’s dynamic reflecting the state and shape of the economy. Some sectors are over represented but the FTSE is what it is.* The FTSE reflects creative destruction with the old replaced by the new on a three monthly basis. Pro-business governments fine tune the regulatory framework and tax regime to help innovation. Conservative politicians claim they do indeed assist business in this way. Between 2010 and October, 2020, the time of writing, the FTSE’s catastrophic stagnation has been, in part, caused by successive Conservative chancellors not doing anything for British business.

The ten year FTSE graph shows the economy is stagnant. The Covid-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for the FTSE 100

The so-called business friendly Conservative governments of 2010-20 utterly failed. Neither graph corrects the figures for inflation. If inflation is included in, disaster is highlighted. A £100 in 2010 would, by 2019 (latest figures available), have increased to £129.19 assuming co-equality with inflation. If the FTSE index had only increased by inflation in 2019 it would have stood at 7492. In October 2020 it was 5800.

The FTSE is about 30% below the 2010 index figure after ten years of Conservative governments when corrected for inflation.

The comparison with the USA is stark. This is the Dow Jones for the same period. Covid-19 is merely a blip for the Dow Jones

The NASDAQ index in the USA is dominated by high tech companies and isn’t comparable to the FTSE but the key question is why not? the NASDAQ index shows the UK in an even worse light. The bounce back from Covid-19 has been dramatic and the index is up about six fold in the same period that the FTSE lost 30%.

High tech is the quintessence of innovation, which means Britain is apparently incapable of competing in this 21st century business arena. But we are capable. The problem is British short-termism and obsession with dividends. Britain is a rentier society living off capital as opposed to constant reinvestment. British high tech companies are quickly sold off to international rivals.** Conservative businessmen sell the family silver and constantly reduce Britain’s economic status in the world.

The four largest companies in the world have dividends ranging from 0% to 1.4%. The FTSE yield, is 4.3%. (October 2020). Nothing tells the story better than this simple metric. The British invest in what they regard as safety first. They are opposed to investing in innovative companies. A good example is the £83bn ‘invested’ in the government’s lottery, Premium Bonds. A lottery! If Premium Bonds were a FTSE company they’d be the fifth largest by capitalisation.

The Age of Austerity has imposed a savage cost on Britain. Staggering out of the bankers’ recession of 2008-9, the economy needed to be nurtured back into shape. What it got was a brutal unnecessary attack. The FTSE has spoken. The Conservative governments of 2010-20 failed utterly.

Notes

* For a discussion see

https://www.schroders.com/en/uk/private-investor/insights/markets/how-the-ftse-100-has-changed-over-33-years/

For the outcome in the year to date (October 2020) see https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/stock-market

** The most egregious example was the sale of ARM to Softbank for $32bn it has now been sold on to an American company for $40bn. A 25% profit in four years. https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/softbank-group-selling-arm-nvidia-013755907.html

Sources

For the sources for each one of the graphs see, in use order,

FTSE 10 year chart

https://www.hl.co.uk/shares/stock-market-summary/ftse-100/performance

Dow Jones 10 year chart

https://www.macrotrends.net/1358/dow-jones-industrial-average-last-10-years

NASDAQ 10 year chart

https://www.5yearcharts.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/nasdaq-10y

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The very first ‘Boycott’: Ireland 1880

Boycott described his travails in a letter to the editor of the Times of London: On the 22d of September a process-server, escorted by a police force of 17 men, retreated on my house for protection, followed by a howling mob of people, who yelled and hooted at the members of my family. On the ensuing day, September 23, the people collected in crowds upon my farm, and some hundred or so came up to my house and ordered off, under threats of ulterior consequences, all my farm labourers, workmen, and stablemen, commanding them never to work for me again.… The shopkeepers have been warned to stop all supplies to my house.… I can get no workmen to do anything, and my ruin is openly avowed as the object of the Land League unless I throw up everything and leave the country.1

Robert J. Shiller. Narrative Economics (Kindle Locations 4073-4079). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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