Monday, 30 May 2016

Who Owns The Land?

The property market and ownership is and always has been a key area in the economy of the nation at different levels.  The one that obsesses us at present is its prominence in financial services which in turn have become so important.  This can lead us to forget that if affects all our lives and in many ways.

One of the basic services and perhaps the key asset in how we manage and record property in the UK are The Land Registries.  Wikipedia has a page on Land Registration that briefly sets out what it is and what it does and The Land Registry for England and Wales is described.

We take it very much for granted, often just regarding it as one of those bureaucratic fees that have to paid when buying and selling.  But a basic efficient, low cost, reliable and accessible Registry is crucial to getting the business done and keeping a record of who owns what land where.

Without this, as in the past, property ownership, claims to it and buying and selling could become a legal nightmare.  The reason for its existence after 1925 as compulsory as opposed to the late 19th Century voluntary system was the number of court cases, often  costly, and the length of time it took to get even basic decisions.  Also, increasing local taxation depending on property tax needed a reliable base.

Now our government have decided to sell it to the biggest buyer and it is likely that ownership of this basic national legal asset will go to a finance company based abroad and beyond UK jurisdiction.  It will also have an effective monopoly and it is probable that the charges will increase substantially to allow the company to cream off profits at a level for trading purposes and to allow it high leverage.

What has not been considered by the government, Cameron, Osborne and Sajid Javid, are the real potential risks and the implications. Javid's background of Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Bank, the land of lost mortgage titles in the USA and CDO's lost in the ether, does not inspire confidence.  In his time at DB it took out a lien on the company that has most of the UK's retirement properties, which is owned by a trust based in The Cayman's belonging to some interesting people, contributors to the Conservative Party.

If The Land Registry sale were to result down the line in major problems, this will not mean simply some administrative hiccups to be sorted or computer glitches, it could entail a disastrous failure across the property market.  Present Council Taxation needs this information base.  More important one of the most important and key records for both government and private land and property activity effectively could be out of use or even lost.

There may be a reason for this and if it is a factor it should give us all alarm never mind concern.  It is all too clear in London and to a lesser extent elsewhere that a great deal of property has become a store of wealth for people engaged in asset stripping of nations, corruption, embezzlement, crime, money laundering and the rest.

In short, it has little to do with the real housing market and a lot to do with hiding the stolen money with a little help from your friends.  We do know just how friendly a number of our leading politicians recently have been to the super rich and their interests.  If the Land Registry is removed and cannot be accessed by the curious then neither ordinary interests nor tax authorities can check up on property and the money movement involved.

The New Economics Foundation has a blog item from 2015 which is short and to the point  Quite why the media have taken so little interest in this given the number of TV programmes devoted to property and the extent of the typical coverage is a mystery.  The Guardian has just had a brief and superficial comment on the fact that it is a privatisation.  Private Eye has been pursuing this and the latest issue does have something to say.

What next?  An obvious target is The National Archive, all that expensive vellum, paper, space and people.  Why not flog it off to a concrete making company that specialises in liquidised waste paper as part of the fill?  No more hard copy, just digitise the lot and give Google the job.

The simple question is would you really hand over the deeds to your house as a guarantee to a door to door salesman who is selling insurance from a company based in The Caymans funded by some unknown Russians?

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Meddle And Muddle In The Middle East

The centenary anniversary of the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between the UK and France during World War One is not being celebrated but if anything recalled as one of the causes of the present troubles of the Middle East.

Much of our view of the Middle East in that period is gained from Lawrence of Arabia, above, of legend and of film.  It is a complicated and intricate story beginning a century before then that was overshadowed by the events in Europe.

This article in Project Syndicate by Richard N. Haass points out that essentially because of the problems arising from the collapse of The Ottoman Empire its purpose was to avoid conflict between France and the UK as to who had which sphere of influence or control.

The Agreement worked until the Suez Crisis of 1956 when a bungled joint intervention to deal with the ambitions of President Nasser of Egypt led to a collapse of their authority in the Middle East in line with their retreats from Empire.

Then in the context of the 1950's it was the interests of the USA and Soviet Russia that led to a kind of settlement without a settlement.  One upshot of this was the toleration of local despots who had their own ways of dealing with internal opposition or resistance.

Recently, this has broken down and the disintegration within many of the states has led to the present situation.  The urge to meddle in them is not backed by the ability to enforce order or establish a coherent governing regime.

So we may be left with states that are not states and the borders that have existed for a century, the lines on maps, are becoming meaningless.  Historically, it is just another shift in pattern, there have been many of them down the millennia.

But the Middle East is where a lot of the oil comes from and as such is central to both economies and international financial systems.  It is unlikely that Turkey can be a new Ottoman Empire and no other power or combination exists that can.

So it is likely that extremism is probable, conflict between population groups persistent and movement of population substantial.

Welcome to the new millennia, or is it going to be a return to something like the first millennia of the common era?

Friday, 27 May 2016

Hanging Parliament

At Hyde Park in London, there is a place called "Speakers' Corner", where it was possible to stand up and voice almost any opinion, although it is doubtful that it still applies. It is adjacent to the spot where at one time the Tyburn Gallows stood for the public execution of felons and traitors.

The debate on the Referendum on Europe now seems to be engaged at a rather noisier, lower and more confusing level than either of them.  I am for Leave on the grounds of sovereignty and democracy and that historically large complex authoritarian empires always come unstuck and usually badly.

Setting this aside, given what is going on there are risks and what we think we might get or might happen could turn out to be naive or wrong.   The first question is how many people might vote?  If the turnout is on the lower side and the size of the win is marginal then what might happen.  This is simple speculation.

Should the Leave win with a small margin, it may be at best this means only 40% to 45% of the total electorate on a turnout of close to 80%.  With a lower turnout of less than 60%, then perhaps only around 30% to 35% or even less if it is poor.

The theory is that if Cameron "loses" he will resign.  But if the total vote is only around a third to procure a marginal Leave win then he might decide to stay and adopt a dragged heel policy, or even no action one.

His spinners would be happy to dream up a litany of good excuses.  Negotiations would be subverted, crises created and at worst a war or wars begun.

For him to go it would then depend on the House of Commons on a vote of confidence to support or to be against him, the latter usually meaning he should resign.  But given the uncertainties here and with some major groups in favour of Remain, there is no telling what might be. Parliament might be hung as at Tyburn.

Technically, only the Queen can dismiss a Prime Minister.  If she and her advisers are looking at what is a constitutional mess, the sensible thing would be for her to stay out of it and leave the politicians to stew in their own juice.

I have a suspicion that given the financial interests and networks involved there could be a real risk of Cameron carrying on to the 2020 General Election if the Referendum figures are tight and he can get away with it.

He is not a man of his word.  Osborne is now looking like damaged goods and a fight between others for Leadership could be bad for what is left of the Party's credibility.

Looking at what is at stake this is possible even if Leave do win by a better margin given the nature of the commitment of Cameron and cronies and equally the Labour Party and the SNP, to adherence to the higher power and money of Brussels.

Ironically, a strong win for Remain in the Referendum would allow Cameron to hand over to his friends in 2018 or earlier and perhaps move on to work and activity more suited to his particular talents, helping out his local Chipping Norton second hand car dealer.

He could go to the Lords as well, if he chooses, perhaps as the Earl of Loose Chippings.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Football - Abolish Offside

Last weekend I skipped the FA Cup Final to watch something else.  In June it is likely that European International Cup games may not attract viewing.   How come after so long, the footie on TV is gone from a must to a might to a miss?  Is it me or them?

It might be that squads of gym pumped big men who run faster for longer and be highly organised in tactics and especially defence may have made the game far more predictable and less of a joy. Also, watching petulant millionaires is different from players of the past in terms of identifying with a team.

So if more people come to feel like this could the soccer boom start to go down instead of ever upwards?  Big money may have been an attraction in the past, but in the future may the effect on the game of creating squads of lookalike from anywhere players playing to order and the book put it beyond the interest of many?

One answer might be to increase the size of pitches requiring players to cover much more ground.  There is one small snag.  That is that virtually all the stadia around the world are built to the existing size.  What about reducing the number of players, say to nine a side?  Possible, but again may not do that much to help.

Which brings us to the rules of the game.  At present the highly organised defensive systems mean that half, or even less than that, of the pitch at any time is available for effective play.  Abolish the offside rule and you completely change the opportunities for attack and require the defences to be more widely spread.

A secondary amendment might be to limit the goal keeper to stay within the goal area rather than the penalty area for handling.  This might be useful but is relatively marginal.  What matters is opening up the game to more movement and changed tactics for attack.

There are other issues.  The "professional fouling" that is now common place, tolerated if not expected, is a game spoiler in many ways.  Also the theatricals that go with it.  Were referees to be allowed and supported in cracking down on this and sending more off would certainly open up the game for the good.

Would a cleaner, faster and more open game with the full pitch potential for movement and attack be the better way of bringing back the spirit of the game into the football being played?

The picture above is Sheffield FC of 1857, the first established football club in the world.  The club has played to rules that have changed or altered many times in the past.  In 2017 at 160 years young they should have no trouble with another.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Seventy Years On

The trouble with reading history books about a period that you recall is that you may learn some things that you did not know but on the other hand you see the things either missed or left out that you may think were important or relevant.

No, this is not another post on the Roman Empire but about the early 1940's.  I rarely read books about my own times but this was on offer and alleged "Secret History Of The Blitz" by Joshua Levine.  Perhaps there may be some secrets but often this means things left out or forgotten or thought to be unimportant.

There was one part of the book that did catch the eye.  I was not aware that early in the War when oil was critical and supply mattered more than cost there had been over a hundred "nodding donkeys" installed in the Sherwood Forest of Nottinghamshire and district.  Oil men from Texas were brought in to get them up and fast and this was before the USA entered the War.

Not only did the amount extracted matter, it was of high quality.  This allowed high octane aviation fuel to be produced, higher than that of German supplies.  The Battle of Britain was won by the skills and courage of the airmen and by quality engineering such as the Merlin engines, as well as the other support systems but they were helped by that extra bit of boost when full power was needed.

The chapters suggesting that this period allowed something of a sexual revolution and other behaviour raised the eyebrows and not for the usual reasons.  If anything what developed seemed to be a reversion to what had gone on in the Victorian age and beyond that had been curtailed by laws, organised policing, social controls and more settled employment etc.

The War disrupted this on a major scale very quickly. Afterwards for a period the established norms of family life etc of the early 20th Century seemed to return, but that may have been the product of the then housing, welfare, law and order and employment policies of that period. When that began to change in the sixties and seventies people simply reverted to old habits.

But there is one major omission.  The book deals with prejudice and does mention the then relatively small numbers of the minority groups affected, Jews, West Indians, Italians and Chinese.  This relates to our recent issues over race.  What is not mentioned is that a lot of this was down to ignorance in an era with limited education for the masses and at a time when someone from another town a few miles away was regarded as a "stranger" and often with suspicion.

It makes passing mention of class and snobbery but without explaining the extent and nature of this, but this might need a book on its own.  However, one major source of division I recall in that period was religious and the nature and effect of the differences between the Anglicans, the Dissenting groups and the Roman Catholics.

For the RC's the essence of the problem was the strong prejudice of many against The Irish.  Where the Irish were in larger numbers there could be trouble; where they were small they would be discriminated against in many places.  They were not helped by the IRA planting bombs in 1940 or the Irish Republic extending courtesies to The Third Reich when the Irish economy depended so much on UK remittance money.

In the case of the Dissenting Congregations and the Anglicans it turned on local politics and the ongoing struggles for power in many communities at a time when local authorities had control over major services.  This may seem a small matter in these days of central control but not then.

It may be defined as political but there was often the undertow of doctrinal and belief thinking.  A good many problems with local authorities doing their job was that the different groups could not agree what the real work was, never mind who should get the jobs to do them.  After 1939 this had to change and fast.

The enemy may have been at the gates but in too many towns and county offices the factions were wrangling about who should have the keys and hand them over.  It is this general confusion and old disputes taking priority over the War that explains the nature and the stridency of the propaganda of the period.

What the book does explain is that the National Health Service, the welfare state, education and other advances were born in this period with cross party support and to a great extent as a response to deal with the consequences of The Blitz.  The Attlee government confirmed and extended the peace time continuation as this clearly was the wish of the great majority of the electorate in the 1945 Election.

I have not forgotten that many of us in the 1940's, me included, regarded "Bomber" Harris and the men of Bomber Command and their American comrades, as heroes for repaying the Germans with interest.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Pick A Pocket Or Two

You are corrupt, he is corrupt, they are corrupt but I am the soul of discretion.  Ask Osballs or Camblair the EU lovers, whoever.  We need the EU to be bent to our financial will.

This longer but easy read by Ian Fraser in "Naked Capitalism" is clear in its meaning.  If you are looking for the big time classy corruption come to the UK.  They make the rest look like amateurs.

Central to all this are the finance and banking sectors, now the dominant parts of the UK economy.  Below is a long read but is as clear as possible given the subject matter.  It is from Bloomberg with hat tip to Automatic Earth.  If it is too long and intricate for the time, then skip read might be tried.

It is about banking in the world today and how it's self destructive operations that impact so much on society and the world economy might be contained and better regulated.

Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England thinks that regulation might help to save the bankers from themselves in order to benefit the rest of us.

But given the level of UK corruption and its extent it is not likely to happen.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Drawing Fire

As we have seen in recent years, being a cartoonist can be a risky business.

This example turned up in the Dr. Mercola web site as an example of how some companies can react.


Rick Friday is a veteran political cartoonist for Farm News, an Iowa newspaper. That is, he was their political cartoonist up until earlier this month. After drawing more than 1,000 cartoons over his 21-year career, he was fired from the newspaper after one of its advertisers complained.

It’s true that money talks, and this is a clear example of who’s really in control of the press. The career-ending cartoon pictured two farmers talking.

One said, “I wish there was profit in farming.”  The other responded, “There is, in year 2015 the CEOs of Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and John Deere combined made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers.”

As for who complained, it was reportedly “a large company affiliated with one of the corporations mentioned in the cartoon,” according to a Facebook response written by Friday. The company cancelled their advertisement with the paper after the cartoon was published, leading to Friday’s termination.

Monsanto claimed it had no role in Friday’s firing, but a reported email sent by his supervisor said it was a “seed dealer” that cancelled their advertising.

Friday’s cartoon was accurate, by the way, but it doesn’t matter. When you receive advertising money from Monsanto, DuPont and other bigwigs, you have to censor what you say so they — and their products — are painted in only a positive light.

In rebuttal, Friday wrote:

“I did my research and only submitted the facts in my cartoon. That's okay, hopefully my children and my grandchildren will see that this last cartoon published by Farm News out of Fort Dodge, Iowa, will shine light on how fragile our rights to free speech and free press really are in the country.”


I wonder how much of this happens around the media in one way or another?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

See You Later Incubator

Building,  staffing and maintaining prisons is a costly item on the law and order budget.  What is difficult is finding a place to put one.  Telling a community that they have been selected for this kind of public infrastructure investment is a very good way to lose votes.

Many of our heritage prisons originally were sited just out of town or on the edge.  A century or more later they are more in the middle.  So expanding existing ones is not easy. Some, on the other hand were put in isolated distant places and that is not popular for a variety of reasons.

It might be argued that of all those ancient castles there are some of lesser tourist interest that could be converted.  After all, many did have their dungeons.  There might be some others which could be show pieces for our caring sharing prison policy.  Windsor comes to mind.

Not so long ago in the past, we had a robust policy towards dealing with criminals who needed to be separated out.  Many were sent to the America's.  Unluckily, they had ideas above their station and became independent, then look what happened.  As for Australia, I say no more, we should never have taught them cricket.

Another outlet was the Army or Navy for many where they served their King or Queen.  We could not have built the Empire without them.  Sadly, as time wore on they probably played a part in us losing it.  As our present government intends to hand the Army and Navy over to the EU, that option is closed, the EU has enough criminals in its organisation without needing more of them.

In calling prisons possible incubators of reformed and dutiful citizens it is tempting to make a bad or even distasteful joke on the subject of incubators can make you an incubus, but this should be passed by in order to make a more important point.  Why do some people allow themselves to be caught or even risk prison?

It is possible that criminals may have a mind pattern that makes them take risk, or not see a right from a wrong or are chancers who will always take the chance.  Also, there do seem to be some who have no concept of right and wrong.  Not least, there are some who are by nature vicious and destructive.

What we are really looking at is a short term policy fudge, which with some figures manipulation and public relations fibs, will persuade us that something is being done, please look the other way.  If this is not going to work and some serious problems are building up what are we in for?

The answer is trouble and a lot of it.  The population demographics together with income and employment patterns indicate that the potential groups more likely to be active in crime and at the margins are going to increase, perhaps greater than the mean.  If the policing is not up to it on the ground, the courts avoiding prison sentences and indeed prisons run down for cost savings, then we could have much more crime.

In a way it could almost take us back to the time before police, before many of our prisons were built when criminality was endemic and it was every household for themselves.  It is possible.  It is happening elsewhere.  It happens too easily when the structure of dealing with crime disintegrates under the pressures.

But by then our present politicians will be long gone with their loot and with their payoffs.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Glory Days Are Here Again

There has been a great deal of puffing and huffing over Europe recently, because all is not well.  Feelings, if you can call them that, are running high.  Our Prime Minister talks of World War 3.

This is because there will be winners and losers.  As ever in history, those who see themselves as potential losers are often the ones to start a war or two.  With the PM looking like a loser he can only hope.

This jolly five minutes from Youtube will give an indication of some examples from history of what we might expect if the pessimists are correct.

Can't wait, now where did I put my old army boots?

In the meantime there are various booms and potential busts we might have.  This is one that is little known and discussed in The Spectator.  It could be coming soon to a town near you.

Which University could be the first to go bankrupt?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Falsehoods For Sale

On 23 June we are asked to vote in a Referendum to indicate if we want to leave the European Union or to stay as a paid up junior member.  In a real life world, there might be several types of association or membership to chose from, but we are simply asked yes or no, Remain or Leave.

Then hot, perhaps very hot, on the heels of this event will come the long awaited Chilcot Report on the Iraq War of 2003, an inquiry that began in 2009.  The date for this is 6 July, that is thirteen days after.  The obvious question in my mind is what items might be in the report that could relate to the Referendum vote, especially who done what.

By coincidence in the debate on Europe former main men of the Labour Party who led us into the Iraq War are at the forefront of the Remain campaign baring their souls or perhaps selling them for the Euro.  There is a lot of money in this, maybe mine and yours, but theirs if they can get it.

If Cameron and his Tory Remainers want to win and stay in the EU they need this New Labour Prominente on their side, in a way a marriage of convenience.  Another question, which Chilcot may or may not answer, is who in the Tory Party may have been among the warmongers of 2003 and what did they do in the far from great war?

In 2003, the spiel was that the UK was the buddy boy of the USA doing its Special Relationship bit for all those photo-opportunities in the White House with the next election in mind.  What we do not know is how far the USA saw us and how far we were with Brussels, in effect the EU troops.

Inevitably, this raises other questions about NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, our bulwark during the Cold War.  After 1990 it might have been redundant with the demise of the Soviet Union and had to find a new role.  So did it then become in effect a quasi defence ministry for the EU, but under the direction of the USA?

My thinking about this kind of thing is governed by the fact that a good deal of what was important, even critical, at times in the past is not known or may not emerge for many decades.

In the 50's I was involved in matters to do with the Suez Crisis and other things not all of which have yet emerged, if they ever will.  Not long after that during my degree course, I suggested to my tutor that the events of the early 1880's in relation to Egypt were a puzzle.  By luck, she had been given rare access then to the Royal Archive at Windsor and discovered that they told a different story to that in the usual sources.

We have little or no real idea of what has been going on between the UK government, the White House or Brussels and NATO, or what the effective working and liaison arrangements are and have been.  These could be critical to any open discussion about Remaining or Leaving.  The strange and almost manic way that Prime Minister Cameron is reacting to the Brexit debate may tell a tale.

But buried in the more obscure passages of text in Chilcot, or in the small print, or in clauses of weighty annexes there might be clues that all is not what it seems or has seemed to be.  If that is the case then the EU debate is being based on falsehoods.

If we do not know the truth about our present engagement with the EU and it, our government and supposed allies are not willing to tell us or what they intend the future to be then we are being sold a false deal to Remain.

Buyer beware.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Cloud Over The Future

If we do not understand how change has happened in the past, or take a partial or limited view of it, we may be no better at working out recent developments.

When it comes to the future, therefore, we could all be failing to see or badly in error as to what could or will happen.

This article about a future  comes from The Engineer and deals with cloud based design and innovation in automation and aerospace.  It is a something few of us are familiar with and can even grasp.  Try explaining the implications to the average journalist or politician.


“Something is happening. You can take every single industry sub-segment. This phenomenon is happening, which means a new level of performability for newcomers to become world players with very small numbers of people.

“These new teams are creating things never seen before. They are turning things upside down. It’s not the extrapolation of what happened in the past… it’s something very different.”


One feature that is striking is how few people can now do so much so quickly.  This kind of design and engineering work at one time would have involved office blocks filled with people, specialist managers and a number of layers in the organisation.

On a personal level, doing things at home, there are times when I realise that I have dealt with something in minutes that once might have taken hours or days.

Must go, am waiting on deliveries, it is a pity all those shops have gone.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Trump Wha Hae

It is tempting to suggest that Donald Trump could be described as a  Scot who has somehow strayed into American politics but not quite accurate.  Whether it would be unfair to the Scots or to Trump is a matter for a debate I would prefer to avoid.  Nevertheless, there is that touch of Scots acerbity and directness in his approach to the issues in his Presidential campaign.  There is a reason for this.

Donald's Scottish Ancestors  are described here.  His mother was Mary Ann MacLeod (or McLeod) from the Western Isles. This is a notable Highland Clan that turns up in my own ancestry, albeit from another island at a distance.  We should take into account the marriages and other branches that extend the connections.

To see where those of the Macleod name lived in Scotland in the 19th Century there is this diagram.  The family history buffs know that there are close cousins of immediate family, near cousins from say three or four previous generations before and then all the outer cousins and relations from earlier generations.

Mary was a Christian name favoured among the Macleod's, the fact that state registration did not begin in Scotland until 1855 and problems of trying to find people in parish registers of variable quality and accuracy means that there are many unknowns out there.  It is a fair guess that Trump will have many among the ordinary people, some of who may have done interesting things.

There is a chance that some relation or other was with the British Army at Waterloo or perhaps at Bladensburg and Washington earlier; or at sea with Nelson's navy.  DNA testing of those with the surname has led to claims many have a common parentage, if distant in time.

Then there are the ones that he might not want to be one of the wider family.  John Law, an economist, 1761 to 1729, Wikipedia, is a person that he might want to avoid.  Another might be the James Sturgeon, a butter merchant, bankrupted in Glasgow in the summer of 1865.  Evidently a slippery business with other peoples' money being lost.

When the Trump nomination was being flagged as a no-hoper by experts, Prime Minister Cameron went in for some cheap virtue signalling in intervening with some critical comments.  He really is an expert in creating problems for himself in the future.

What this means is that if there is a President Trump, then he will have a President of the USA to deal with who will want to pay close attention to Scottish affairs, indeed someone with a lot of hard cash already invested there.  If Cameron can intervene in American politics then Trump can repay the compliment.

Even if Trump fails to win Office, he might well to chose to give his attention to this field.  He is a man who does deals and there are plenty to be done north of the border.  Quite what, who will be involved and to what purpose who knows?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Coming Soon

At present a lot of attention is concentrated on the EU, its approach to Turkey and the connected migration issues arising from Syria and other countries in the Middle East.

We are reminded that there is much more to come by this R.W. Johnson article in Standpoint titled "Fortress Europe Faces An African Migrant Tsunami". 

Simply it argues that Africa is bigger than most of us think or imagine and that there has been rapid and substantial population increase.

The added pressure on resources will impact seriously on the poor and those unwanted will be heading north.  In other words, the problems are only just beginning.

But to cheer you up this is about California, which could be in for a major depopulation.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The EU An Empire Of The Mind

The EU is becoming and intends to become another form of Empire.  Unusually, it began as an agreement to avoid wars and allow trading and arrangements for mutual advantage.  As Europe had suffered two bloodbaths within thirty years between contending Empires of different kinds, a respite was needed.

Just as treason will out, so human ambition, the nature of politics and the habits of greed and corruption are so tempting.  While the founders of the EEC and EU may have had a vision of unity of equals in a socialist paradise, as history teaches us it rarely, if ever, comes to be.

For those in the UK, the word "Empire" means what was once The British Empire, although that had phases that differed, or The Roman Empire of film, TV and the media.  Even the history of that which is taught has a basic story line that seems simple.

The historian Mary Beard, as on TV, has a book, "SPQR" recently published and I am making my way through the 520 pages of what is analysis and discussion.  It deals with what we think we know as opposed to what might have been the reality.

This involves examining what the Romans thought they knew, which might have been a version removed from truth; and what they wanted other people to know and think about them, perhaps even further removed.  As she comments, it was the Empire that made the Emperors rather than the reverse.

What is striking is that the Roman era involved taking over the remains of other empires and eliminating challengers and other potential empires within or near to theirs.  Given the internal civil wars and other strife within the bounds of the Roman Empire for those seeking power, it meant continual war or preparation for war and bloodletting on a major scale.

This is an empire for which we have some information albeit much has been lost.  Other empires have left us little information.  Some we know more about but only on their terms, for example those of the further East.  As for our own Empire, where more, but far from complete, information is to hand our understanding is impeded by fixed ideas of one kind or another.

Trying to estimate or predict what kind of Empire the EU might become is therefore fraught with problems.  Comparing it with those of the past is a bad idea.  If our understanding of past empires is more limited than we think, then how we predict an empire of the future will be governed and to what purpose then we could be seriously mistaken.

Moreover, there have been many and various empires down the millennia and there might still be remains under the earth or below the waves that are undiscovered and which might have lessons for us.  Even then our preconceptions of what an empire might or should be would be influenced by our present information or lack of it and often distorted ideas about its meaning.

At least I am in a position to make wild guesses and jump to any conclusion I like without fear of losing my political status or job or indeed for anyone to be bothered much, so long as I am mindful about our UK libel laws.  So here we go.

The Empire of the EU will be less democratic that that of the Roman, even at the time of The Caesars and other Emperors.  It will be less well organised and more badly managed than that of the Tsars of All the Russia's.

It will have similarities to the Empire of the Incas.  Its administrative system will be akin to that of the Quin Dynasty of China.  In effect it might for its peoples be similar in rule to that of the Mughals.

That is, if the EU Empire survives.  But as in history when we study the major Empires we forget those that they destroyed or conquered.  So is there out there in the big wide world another polity or aggressive grouping with imperial ideas who might come to control the EU?

China might have been one, but its structural and other problems might be too great.  The sub continent of India and Pakistan is another but compromised by severe local differences.  Russia could if it was organised well enough but history is against this.

Then there is the USA which has been a major influence in Europe.  A Trump Presidency with a German-Scots in charge could seek more and crucial influence, those McLeods get everywhere.  But the USA seems to have too many problems of its own and could be in an unstoppable decline.

If as some suggest there might be a Caliphate of Europe, where might it be centred other than Brussels?  Frau Merkel might give Potsdam, Islam with a Prussian edge.  Italy perhaps Assisi.  The French might offer Domremy La Pucelle.  Spain has old centres of Islam but Santiago de Compostela could be chosen.

The UK could offer Windsor or Wembley, our current holy place, and if independent Scots wanted their own place in the EU with open borders they might well clinch the deal with Arbroath.

To return to Rome, had Julius Caesar not changed his mind one Ides of March, or Caligula stayed longer at the games and in company, then there might never have been an Augustus or a Claudius.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Double The Horn Revenge At Last

When I was very young for work reasons my parents moved from Liverpool to Leicester.  They had family in both places.  An unintended consequence is that I have followed the relevant soccer teams ever since, if only for reasons of diplomacy and getting the extra sixpence from interested relatives.

When Leicester City started the season well, there was hope of avoiding relegation and I would have been happy for them to end up mid table and safe, but they went on winning until it was time to hide in the bathroom when the results came up on TV.

The celebrations go on and there are happy people in Leicester and district and a few elsewhere with the City team taking the Premiership title with two games to play.  It was thought to be an impossible dream but they did it.

It is sad that Joe Melia, the actor educated at the City Boys School, Leicester, around twenty years before Gary Lineker, did not live to enjoy the day.  It would have appealed to his quirky sense of humour.  I was with him a couple of times at matches.

In the spring of '61 the missus and I were living in a ground floor flat within a mile of Filbert Street, then the Leicester City ground. That year the City made it to the FA Cup Final and were up against Tottenham Hotspur and had a fair chance of winning.  That was until full back Len Chalmers was injured after twenty minutes.

There were no substitutes then so Chalmers hobbled around out on the wing to little purpose eventually leaving.  Also, it meant a reshuffle for the City in a hard game as well as being down to ten men. Tottenham scored a couple of late goals for a scruffy win.  There are still people around who remember and for whom this title will have a particular joy.

Meanwhile the media and the web abound with the reasons why City won the title.  My theory is that as their winning run began when King Richard III was buried with full honours at Leicester Cathedral, someone up there is rooting for them.

One aspect all the highly paid experts seem to omit is the way the game has been changing in the last decade or so.  Digitisation is here as well as in so many things.

It has become possible for management to have an abundance of information to hand, statistics, plots and visuals on each player and the team as a whole.  This affects tactics and training as well as the deployment of players in different phases of a match.

What it could mean is that the recent decades of a handful of teams dominating at the top could be over in that more clubs not only have access to the world's best players, but they can be used far more effectively closing the gap between the richest and less rich clubs.

To use a well worn phrase, it makes for a more level playing field. So not only do the top teams take more points from each other but have become liable to drop points playing against teams, thought to be lesser, but who go out there far better prepared to take them on.

We shall see, now where can I find some Everard's?

Monday, 2 May 2016

Gold Fever

It started as a long delayed job to tidy and finish a brief document about a lady in the 19th Century who had a full life and would be a nod to feminists who claim that there are many able and important women ignored in our history.  But as is the case, for completion, perhaps a few things needed to be checked for this and that.

This led me to Cecil Rhodes and the fact that his gold fields project nearly failed because his leading associate, James Rochfort Maguire, upset Lobengula, second and last King of the Northern Ndebele people and the tribal leaders by washing his false teeth in the sacred spring of the Matabele.  It cost a lot of time and effort as well as a great deal of money to sort that one out.

Along the way, Harriet, the lady in the case, according to her granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey McDonnell who wrote a memoir, printed privately, was on the visiting list for the Shah of Persia and the Princes of India, to pay their respects after being received by Queen Victoria.  Lady Jane was the daughter of the 5th Earl of Antrim, Mark Seymour Kerr McDonnell and Jane Emma Hannah Macan, daughter of Harriet by her first marriage to Turner Macan.

Lady Jane married the 21st Baron Clinton and had two daughters, one of which, Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, married John Herbert Bowes-Lyon in 1914.  He had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who married quite well, her daughter, also Elizabeth, is now our Queen.

Of course, it is more complicated than this.  The picture above is of The Marlborough Set in 1906 with King Edward VII sitting in the middle.  They are his "gang" as we might put it.  They liked to go off for informal long weekend jollies in the country untroubled by press or publicity.  At the back, by the King's left shoulder, wearing a boater, is James Rochfort Maguire with his wife, Julia Beatrice, born Peel, yes those Peel's.

The King preferred to play his card games against people who could pay their dues at the end of play.  As Maguire by then was a Director of Consolidated Gold Fields, Chairman of Rhodesian Railways and with extensive other related posts, he would have no trouble, very different from all the aristocrats in hock to their creditors.

James and Julia married in 1895 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, by the Abbey and across the street from where her dad used to work.  He was Arthur Wellesley Peel, Speaker of the House of Commons.  In 1895 he became 1st Viscount Peel on leaving his job after the election of that year.  His grandfather was Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister.  The name Arthur Wellesley was that of the Duke of Wellington, also once a Prime Minister.  Harriet's brother had lived across the fields from the Duke, both old India hands.

The best man at the wedding was Schomberg Kerr McDonnell, brother of Lady Jane and grandson of Harriet.  His Schomberg first name comes from a descent from the Duke of Schomberg, right hand man of King William of Orange.  The Duke fell at the Battle of the Boyne.  Schomberg Kerr McDonnell was a leading figure in the Orange Order.  Schomberg had an interesting and varied career.  At one stage he was Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, from 1888 through the 90's and at the time when Salisbury's government issued the Royal Charter, signed by Queen Victoria in 1889 to set up Rhode's British South Africa Company.

Later, during the Boer War, although by then fortyish, he volunteered for service and was involved in the relief of the siege of Kimberley where Rhodes and Mr. and Mrs. Maguire were holed up.  Later he was a prominent figure in the Conservative Party, had a senior post in Intelligence in 1914 but again in 1915 volunteered for service at the age of 54 as a Major in the 5th Cameron Highlanders.  He was killed in action in 1915 See here.

One of the select Directors of the Company, was Albert Grey, later 4th Earl Grey, succeeding his uncle, Henry, 3rd Earl.  Albert's father was General Charles Grey, Private Secretary to Prince Albert and later Queen Victoria.  Albert's grandfather was Charles Grey, 2nd Earl, Prime Minister at the time of The Reform Act, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.  Albert's sister, Louisa, married William McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim, brother of Lady Jane, above, and was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria.

Harriet, born a Sneyd in 1795, married Turner Macan in Calcutta in 1822.  He was personal aide and interpreter to the Governor's General and a cavalry officer by trade.  His major interest was in the scholarship of the Persian and other languages and he played a major role in rescuing ancient texts, including the Shah Nameh of Firdausi.  His work for the Royal Asiatic Society meant that William Henry Whitbread, head of that brewing family, was a close friend and a few years after Macan's death, Harriet married William in London, setting up something of a salon.

He had money to spare and did well by her family.  The Whitbread's had made marriages with the Grey's, so Harriet's daughter, Caroline Nesbitt Macan, married Charles Conrad Grey in 1845, nephew of the Prime Minister Charles 2nd Earl Grey.  Both Caroline and Charles died young, so Maria, their daughter, was cared for by General Charles Grey, above.  He introduced her to Court and she married the heir to the Earldom of Home, later the 12th Earl of Home, becoming Countess in 1881 and grandmother to the 14th Earl of Home of recent memory.

In Africa, as Lobengula's health deteriorated, he weighed in at 19 stone and led an active life, the Company began to introduce the modern world in the shape of mining, railways, new settlers and urban centres, one named Salisbury.  It was bringing to an end the centuries of pastoral living and endless tribal wars and constant displacement and loss of population.  Lobengula at one time massacred over three hundred of his family in a dispute.  There were two colonial wars in the 1890's in Matabeleland, the first when Lobengula put his large standing army into the field without success and after his death in 1894 another.

The press reports of Maguire's wedding has a lot about the frocks and details all the presents.  It is a roll call of society.  It is no surprise to see the Rothchild's and the Coutt's listed among such as the Duchess of Sutherland etc. The landed met with the bankers and the speculators.  Lord Randolph Churchill is there and one might wonder if his son Winston was impressed and influenced by the example of these men.

In the City of London, the long argument over whether the pound should be based on gold, or a bimetallic system of gold and silver was won by the gold lobby by the 1890's.  A consequence of this was The Fall Of The Rupee in India, whose currency was silver based.  The Treasurer of India at the time was Auckland Colvin.

He was a nephew of Harriet's.  It was a small world in many ways.