Thursday, 19 December 2013

open letter to the Archbishop of Westminster

To the Right Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster:

Dear Archbishop Nichols,

You have asked the Coalition government to review 2012 immigration legislation preventing spouses from outside the European Economic Area from joining their British husbands or wives if they (the non-EEA spouses) earn less than £18,600.

It’s dispiriting to see families with one British member split up. I’ve been in a long-distance relationship, and it hurt; I had cause to remember the French prayer to Our lady of Lourdes, which urges: priez pour ceux qui aiment et sont partis.

But if I may ask you to tune your political antennae to a wider wavelength, I hope you will see that years of poorly-controlled immigration has caused such a population rise in this country that in 2012 we were delivered a stark wake-up call: during the UK’s second-wettest year on record, our drinking-water nearly ran out.

We in Cambridgeshire have seen the benefits immigration can bring with Pinoy – Filipino men and women – coming to do healthcare jobs in the early 2000s and fitting in seamlessly with our Judaeo-Christian heritage. But a proportion of them have been forced out of their jobs due to EU rules saying that when contracts come up for renewal EU citizens must be prioritised.

This, I think is the crux of the matter: British citizens, whom you so rightly point out are suffering, are put in this position because the government has extremely limited powers to act on couples when neither of them are from Great Britain.

Like many others, including members of your flock, I look forward to the day when Britain’s politicians can truly govern within British borders and prevent British people from suffering. I hope you will speak out to say that the desire of British people to be governed solely by British politicians is by no means sinister or toxic, so that injustices like those you have identified can be consigned to history.

Yours faithfully
Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Catholic leader brands immigration policies 'inhumane' Miranda Prynne, The Telegraph, 16 December 2012

Changes to the family migration Immigration Rules come into effect on 9 July 2012 - UK Border Agency

Met Office: 2012 was UK's second wettest year on record -

Drought Declared Across 17 More Counties As Warning That Water Shortages Could Last Until Christmas - Huffington Post, 16 April 2012

immigration laws limit the days of being enriched - 300 words

Monday, 16 December 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary

Principles of Liberalism may be described (at least today) as principles of assessing, and if necessary of modifying or changing, existing institutions, rather than of replacing existing institutions. One can express this also by saying that Liberalism is an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary creed (unless it is confronted by a tyrannical regime).

In Karl Popper’s penultimate Liberal Thesis, he delineates tradition’s role: the means for an institution to evolve as situations change, or – perhaps more sinisterly – as the Establishment’s view of the institution’s purpose changes.

Sir Richard Mayne - click to learn more
One of several institutions I could mention in illustration is the police. While Sir Richard Mayne (right) defined police work in 1829 as "the prevention of crime [and] detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed", as mass immigration changes our national makeup police become increasingly the enforcers of last resort when British culture opposes that of the Establishment’s favoured ethnicities. Thus, we see the English flag described as "racist" and a Christian preacher arrested for saying what has been in the Bible for millenia.

(I’m not criticising rank-and-file police, merely illustrating how Establishment opinion drift causes institution mission drift.)

read more about Democrat quote
In qualifying liberalism’s evolutionary nature with the caveat that it can become revolutionary when confronted with tyranny, Popper recognises the contributions liberal philosophy and politics made to the American, French and various humanitarian revolutions. It’s necessary to remember, though, Public Opinion and Liberal Principles appeared in 1956, before liberal leaders worldwide prostituted the movement’s vitality to the left, causing Ronald Reagan (left) to say "I never left the Democrats, the Democrats left me".

But Popper’s unquestioning acceptance that liberalism’s evolution will be in a socially positive direction contradicts a point made elsewhere in Conjectures and Refutations wherein he takes Hegelians and Marxists to task for assuming the same, through mistaking Kant’s triadic layout of his categories for a statement that syntheses will always be preferable to the conflicts they resolve. That, as institutional mission drift shows, depends on the Establishmentarian agenda regarding the conflicts.

I think Popper would reply that in the open society we can’t afford to make any thinker carry the cross of infallibility.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


History of Policing - Metropolitan Police

Motorist told flag could be racist - Charley Morgan, This is Wiltshire, May 2008

Christian preacher arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin - Heidi Blake, Daily Telegraph, may 2010

"Why Reagan Was 'The Great Communicator' - Craig von Buseck,

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (6) - Utopia is an impossibility

A Liberal Utopia – that is, a state rationally designed on a traditionless tabula rasa – is an impossibility.

As one of the last Enlightenment philosophers – indeed the one whose legacy did most to shut the Enlightenment down – Karl Marx, like many others, set himself the task of planning out a brave new world where people would live happily and without oppression.

This didn’t happen in a vacuum. In 1772 Denis Diderot had published his Supplément au voyage de Bougainville, a year after the eponymous captain had published the accounts of his circumnavigation of the world which including a visit to Tahiti, which he initially described as an egalitarian paridise. He then revisited this opinion, saying he had overlooked the "cruel inequalities" between different ranks on the island.

But before they got to that bit, swathes of European philosophers had acquired what we might call, to mangle a Star Trek phrase, Tahiti Syndrome by Proxy. Marx was one of many to plan out a Utopian future for Europe, not bothering to ask himself when he referred to the work in Capital why Thomas More had set his paradise on a fictional island.

Utopia never materialised in the Paris Commune, and in its first 20th century manifestation it was taken to Russia by Lenin, who was sent there by the Germans as a unique weapon of mass destruction that would take his country out of the war. Cutting all ties of tradition meant, as Popper said in his 5th thesis, that Russia became the opposite of what the Communists had intended: more repressive and more colonial than it had under the Tsars.

History shows a long, painful journey to attain what rights the Russians had in 1916. We had no less a long, painful journey before the Utopian Lisbon Treaty was signed in 2007, sweeping aside centuries of tradition and common law. We need to reconnect our country to its tradition before Utopia takes the path it has always done.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


Supplément au voyage de Bougainville (French) - Denis Diderot - project Gutenberg

Voyage Autour du Monde (French) - Louis Antoine de Bougainville - - the passage about the cruel inequalities (la disproportion cruelle) is on p99 of the pdf

Capital - Karl Marx - Internet Archive - use the search function on your browser to locate quotes about Utopia

Utopia - Thomas More - PDF

The Sealed Train full text of Michael Pearson's book on Lenin's journey to Russia to establish a communist state

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

is the Kenya mutiny symptomatic of wider unrest?

The sit-down strike by soldiers of the 1st Battalion (Yorkshire Regiment) was a very British mutiny. I suppose in a sense Corporal Anthony Brown was lucky to be merely thrown out of the Army: after the 1917 Étaples Mutiny, Cpl Jesse Robart Short was executed for calling an officer a “bugger”.

The present action, taken during the Askari Thunder exercise in Kenya, also stemmed from the actions of people in charge: two commanders – who haven’t had their names plastered all over the press like the enlisted men – got drunk the night before a forced march and were found after the exercise sleeping off their hangover.

Incidents like this never spontaneously erupt; the discontent is usually slow-burning, with a possibly small incident turning into a flashpoint, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It’s also impossible to ignore what’s going on around at the same time. We have the trial of one of Gunner Lee Rigby’s killers, who has been heaping praise on the nursing and medical care he has received, treatment he ensured Gunner Lee would not live to benefit from.

And of course there’s Marine A (Sgt Alexander Blackman), who was sent to Afghanistan to engage with terrorists in irregular warfare, and is facing 10 years in prison for doing precisely that.

There is an inequality inherent in any functional system, without which systems tend to collapse – but that itself can lead to system collapse when the inequality gap is unbridgeable.

This happened literally in the Étaples mutiny, when the officers appropriated billets in the posh resort across the bridge and left troops to fester on the wrong side of the river. If what happened in Kenya is symptomatic of a wider dislocation between officers and enlisted soldiers, perhaps the veteran Fusiliers’ march on London was but the politest of warning shots.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Afghanistan veterans jailed for parade ground sit-in protest over "muppet" officers - The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Court-martial of Cpl Jesse Robart Short - National Archives

Lee Rigby murder trial: 'I’m a soldier just like Drummer Rigby... I killed him because this is war’ - Tom Whitehead, Daily Telegraph, 9 December 2013

Sgt Alexander Blackman: Marine backed by 60,000 people over killing of Taliban insurgent - Daily Mirror, 8 December 2013

Breaking: 100,000 people (the threshold that should trigger Parliamentary time for a topic) support Sgt Alexander Blackman - Daily Mail, 11 December 2013

Click to sign the HM Government e-petition to free Sgt Alexander Blackman (Marine A) - at time of writing 37,691 signatures

Veteran Fusiliers to march on London - ITV news, October 2012

Friday, 6 December 2013

Pi, paranoia and Plato

click to go to the movie homepage

Director Darren Aronofsky doesn’t underplay the paranoid aspect of his 1998 debut Pi: the tagline is "paranioa is faith in a hidden order beyond the visible" – a hook Vigilant Citizen eventually bit on. However, I think the film is a meditation on that classical allegory of painful awakening, The Cave in Plato’s Republic.

The protagonist, Max Cohen, says near both the start and finish of the film that despite his mother’s warning not to look into the sun he did so at the age of six and, after being initially blinded, "something…inside me had changed."

Plato prefaces the Cave with a passage about the sun (Max’s mentor is called Sol), to compare the visible world with the intellectual. The point about the Cave is the contrast between the visible world and reality. The film mirrors the allegory’s four parts:

  1. Prisoners observe "reality": artworks’ shadows cast by a fire behind them.
    Max uses his obsession with numbers to play the stockmarket.
  2. One of the prisoners is turned round and sees the fire.
    Sol alerts max to the vital importance of the 216-digit number displayed by his computer before it crashes.
  3. A prisoner is dragged to the surface to see the sun.
    Max will learn from Jewish Kabbalists that the number represents God (before the Cave, Plato uses the sun to represent the Good).
  4. Should the prisoner return, Plato surmises, his former associates will try to kill him.
    Max was almost killed for his realisation that his number relates to a reality beyond that of the stockmarket.

The lesson I took from Pi is the one thinkers of all traditions tend to conclude: the world that brings us joy is the one we walk upon and share with others, but awakening to that world, forever in front of our noses, involves a long and painful journey.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Pi homepage

""something…inside me had changed" quote from Pi IMDb

The Republic - Plato, Electronic Classics. The allegories of the sun, the divided line and the cave are from p187 (starting with the section marked Glaucon-Socrates) to p196.

Sun, Divided Line and Cave - J.E. Raven, Cambridge University Press (Jstor/The Classical Quarterly, 1952): an academic article that might be of help in understanding the allegories.

Read reviews of Pi at Amazon

Thursday, 5 December 2013

RIP Nelson Mandela: may his legacy endure

If prison should be a place of redemption, as Pope John Paul II said, Nelson Mandela showed that it can be. While there’s been some unsavoury comment on Facebook about his hinterland, there is surely no doubt that he was the decisive factor in enabling South Africa to transition from Apartheid to a fairer way to live.

A friend of mine from the South African diaspora in the UK told me, when Mandela walked free from Robben Island he could have initiated a bloodbath with a wave of his hand. He didn’t. He chose to try and lead his nation down the path of reconciliation.

click for 5 december news at ten
Did he succeed? Only time can tell. There’s certainly a degree of underreporting of the extent to which white people in South Africa can feel embattled. As white left-wing presenters on the BBC’s News at Ten put on their official mourners’ faces, it was left to Johannesburg correspondent Nomsa Maseko (right) to give voice to this embattlement when explaining the strong police presence as the rainbow people, to use Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s phrase, took to the streets to celebrate his life and legacy:
People were worried about what was going to happen…each time Nelson Mandela was hospitalised a lot of South Africans were virtually in the waiting room, except now it was white South Africans saying “please don’t die, because we don’t know what the future is for white South Africans”. Because there is still a belief by some white South Africans that when Mandela goes, which we have now seen here, his long walk to freedom is now ended. What is to happen to them? That is the question that a lot of people are still asking.
Nelson Mandela has fought the good fight and finished the race. May his dream and his legacy be remembered and safeguarded.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

News at Ten, extended edition, 5 December 2013 - Go to 45.50 for a section of Nomsa Maseko's presentation quoted above

Monday, 2 December 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Institutions alone are never sufficient if not tempered by traditions. Institutions are always ambivalent in the sense that, in the absence of a strong tradition, they also may serve the opposite purpose to the one intended…To sum up: Traditions are needed to form a kind of link between institutions and the intentions and valuations of individual men [sic].

Popper’s fifth liberal thesis seems a comment upon the national and international institutions set up in the wave of collectivism that followed the Second World War.

I’d like to look at Great Britain’s welfare state, set up to combat the "five giants" identified by Sir William Beveridge in his report of 1942: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

The welfare state had no traditions in British society and therefore became a political football at elections times, and at other times it housed a massive unelected Establishment intent upon walking a socialist state into our systems, no matter the political hue of the day’s government. The result: Beveridge’s five giants are bigger than ever:

Food banks are proliferating, as are payday loan companies.
The National Health Service is in a perennial state of collapse and, at the last count, 13,000 people have died unnecessarily in just 13 trusts.
The Teaching Times reports that 17% of school leavers are functionally illiterate; this despite unprecedented funds being pumped into education since 1997.
It seems children are found living in squalid conditions every week, with social services aware of their condition. There's countless articles on this - check it out.
Idleness has long been a political synonym for unemployment. School-leavers struggle to find jobs because older immigrants with more mature social skills take bottom-rung positions that school-leavers traditionally occupied. Further strain is put on the welfare system by immigrants who come here specifically to claim benefits without working.

It’s no surprise that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced that the welfare state needs "permanent cuts" if its cost is to be sustainable. Had William Beveridge been less dazzled by the hope of collectivism, he might have seen that the War to End all Wars was never going to come, and cut his cloth – and ours – accordingly.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


Social Insurance and Allied Services Report by Sir William Beveridge (The Beveridge Report

Numbers relying on food banks triple in a year -

13,000 died needlessly at 14 worst NHS trusts - Laura Donnelly and Patrick Sawer, July 2013, The Telegraph

17% of school leavers "functionally illiterate" - Teaching Times

Autumn Statement 2013: Britain can no longer afford welfare state, warns Osborne - James Kirkup, December 2013

Sunday, 1 December 2013

social services snatch baby from womb

Put a frog in cold water and slowly raise the temperature: it will sit there until it dies. This week we heard of the case of a woman whose baby was snatched by social services, not from the cradle but from the womb. The water is starting to bubble.

The woman, an Italian spending two weeks in Stanstead to complete a Ryanair training course, is bipolar and wasn’t taking her medications.

Bipolar disorder is the most common mood disorder. An Australian study found 2.5% of the population were bipolar; in Italy, 10% of patients accessing non-psychiatric medical facilities are bipolar.

An Italian judge found that the lady agreed British social services had authority over the situation – but when she called the police because she couldn’t find her daughters’ passports, they told they were taking her to a hospital to check her baby was OK. It was a psychiatric hospital, where she was later restrained while being forcibly sedated in preparation for a C-section. Her baby was snatched from her womb, which should be its safest refuge.

click to read the Christopher Booker article
The message is unmistakeable: take your medications or lose your children. Didn’t anybody stop to think that many psychiatric meds are contraindicated in pregnancy? Did the NHS operating team know they were working in, to be charitable, a legal grey area?

This isn’t just about mental illness – social services have form in targeting people they consider to be on the verge of public opinion then moving inwards: think how the snatching of foster-children from UKIP foster-parents was prefaced by a similar attempt on an English Defence League member.

In order not to jump out of the water as it heats, the frog has to have its brain removed. If we don’t get angry about this one, I think that description can be fairly applied to us.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


"Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby" - Christopher Booker, Telegraph, 1 December 2013

MP John Hemming to raise Essex forced Caesarean claim -

Bipolar disorder and its diagnosis - Royal College of Psychiatrists; quotes study on lifetime incidence of bipolar disorder in Australia on p9 of the pdf

Disturbi dell' Umore - Epidemologia - Manuale Merck (in Italian)

Incidence of bipolar disorder in 3 UK cities - British Journal of Psychiatry

Wisdom on frogs - Michael Jones, The Atlantic

Council which removed foster children after parents' UKIP membership was discovered finally apologises seven months on - Simon Tomlinson, Daily Mail

Why try to take baby from EDL mother but not from "terrorists"? - Ted Jeory, Daily Express

Friday, 22 November 2013

the acid test: will Lee Rigby's murderers be treated the same as Mohammed Saleem's murderer?

The murder of Mohammed Saleem while he was walking home from his mosque in Birmingham was a callous, cowardly act.

So was the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Every crime is individual. But there is one equivalence between the murders of Lee Rigby and Mohammed Saleem. Mohammed Saleem’s murderer, Pavlo Lapshyn, hated non-whites. Lee rigby’s murderers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, hated non-Muslims.

It’s been said Lapshyn is a racist because of his hatred of non-whites, and I have some sympathy for this, especially when I read of the grief of his victim’s family, who say "He did not do anything to deserve this - other than be a Muslim". However, if you ascribe differences between groups of people to culture, not colour, it soon becomes clear that "white" is no more a race than "non-white". And "Muslim", indicating adherence to a religion as diverse as any other, is no more a race than "non-Muslim".

So why is it that news of Pavlo Lapshyn’s trial was – rightly – all over the mainstream media while Adebolajo’s and Adebowale’s is conspicuous by its absence?

The media blackout of the Somalis’ trial is so deep our increasingly prone press is not even commenting on the blackout’s existence. This must only fuel rumours asserting our masters and their media lapdogs have acceded to the view that "Muslim [jihadi] blood is superior to infidel blood".

go to petition to lift media blackout

That being said, the blackout is not the most important issue. Pavlo Lapshyn was sentenced to life imprisonment with a tariff of 40 years for his repulsive act. Will Adebolajo and Adebowale receive a similar term for their equally repulsive act, caught on multiple cameras? If they aren’t, surely it would be naïve of the government not to expect those effectively declared as being of lesser worth to react accordingly?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


HM Government e-petition: lift the Lee Rigby media blackout

Pavlo Lapshyn's 90 days of terror -

Mohammed Saleem stabbing: Man admits murder and mosque blasts

"Muslim blood is superior to infidel blood" - Raymond Ibrahim, The Commentator, 19 November 2013

Mosque bomber Pavlo Lapshyn given life for murder -

Monday, 18 November 2013

it's time to let JFK rest in peace

click for All about History website

All about History is, for my money, the best of the new arrivals in the burgeoning history magazine market, and this month they haven’t skimped on marking the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination. There’s not only an account of the assassination but an assessment of Kennedy’s achievements and legacy, plus a review of assassinations through history. It’s all good reading, and conspiracies are left to rest in peace.

November’s History Today, the best of the established magazines, counted JFK among its subscribers. Peter Ling, in Killing Kennedy: Cock Ups and Cover Ups, assures readers that this was the reason behind his assassination, before going on to chronicle a catalogue of failings by investigators that would have shocked those who had birthed forensic science decades before.

This is the 50th anniversary, and historians generally agree that it marks Camelot’s sad end passing from current affairs into history. Sharing that view is Colin McLaren, who has been sucked into the Deeley Plaza industry as have many before him. In the Channel 5 documentary JFK’s Secret Killer: The Evidence he brings into the frame George Hickey, who many people, myself, have never heard of before.

When I saw JFK’s Secret Killer I thought, "that’s it!" McLaren’s theory explains the many enduring contradictions and explains cover ups of the sort that, according to Jesse Ventura, breed conspiracy theories. What is most elegant is that he leaves room for what Karl Popper – in Conjectures and Hypotheses – are the marks of authentic theories: unintended consequences.

Then I discussed the programme with a friend who’d served in the forces and had experience with weapons similar to those mentioned and with how bullets behave, and who was not impressed with this or any other theory.

In the end I agree with one thing McLaren says: it’s time to close the door on this assassination. Let’s let the man and his brief shining moment rest in peace.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


All about History

Killing Kennedy: Cock-Ups and Cover Ups - Peter Ling, History Today, November 2013

JFK's Secret Killer: The Evidence Channel 5 - available until 10 December 2013

JFK conspiracy theories abound, despite a lack of evidence - Scott K. Parks, Dallas News, 17 November 2013

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Book of Eli

Helen Keller: find out more

Some years ago I attended a lecture by metaphysician Frank O’ Farrell focussing on Helen Keller (right) who, struck blind and deaf in infancy, had only limited ability to communicate her wishes and feelings to those around her.

Helen’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, had a fruitless time trying to teach her to communicate by signs stroked into the palms of the hand – until one day Helen finally understood a particular sign referred to water. Frank’s point was that Helen’s understanding that a particular sign stood for water, despite sharing no similarities whatsoever with water, enfranchised her culturally.

The most widespread example of our ability to create and store symbols – identified by Ofer bar-Yosef of Harvard University as the one element of the Upper Paleolithic revolution that enabled culture to develop – is writing. The three letters "cat" instantly remind us of the feel, sound and haughty behaviour of the beast, although nothing about the written symbols or their pronunciation resembles any of these.

click to read reviews on Amazon
In The Book of Eli, the Denzel Washington post-apocalyptic fable recently shown on Channel 5, writing is almost totally absent. That’s the point, in more ways than one grasps until the denouement delivers a dizzying change of perspective.

Books have been burnt in the aftermath of a war that destroyed technology through electromagnetic pulses. Order has collapsed – and that’s undoubtedly related to the sun setting on literacy; most people can’t read.

Literacy’s long sunset has started in our real-life culture. Pictures still speak a thousand words, but less and less of them are transmitted through printed pages that cannot be electronically altered, eg as this page can be edited. As literacy declines, gullability rises: witness the cachet of "climate" scientists and related charlatans.

That sunset is not yet a done deed. Go buy a book, read it and give it to a friend.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


About Helen Keller - Helen Keller International

The Upper Paleoloithic Revolution - Ofer bar-Yosef, 2002: " the storage of symbols...leads to the emergence of modernity", p16 of the .pdf

Read reviews for The Book of Eli at amazon

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Curtain - Poirot's Last Case

thanks to David Suchet and ITV
One of the best aspects for me of Hercule Poirot’s apparently needing a wheelchair in ITV’s Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case is that although he is invalid, in the language of the time and for decades afterwards, he is in no way in-valid. His is the obstinate anger of the person who knows his worth, and what’s more of the disabled person who refuses to be perpetually grateful evidence of others’ forebearance and charity.

The issue of invalidity is key to this mystery which, Agatha Christie biographer Laura Thompson tells us, was written in 1940 while Christie was working in a central London hospital during the Blitz. It was by no means certain at that point that Great Britain would be on the war’s winning side, and the Nazis’ ideology of Übermensch and Untermensch come through in a dinner conversation about "unfit lives" and euthanasia, just as the national conversation about whether Hitler was a Good Thing or not would make it into Dorothy L Sayers’ work earlier, when British people at all levels of society were split down the middle on the matter.

Unlike other commentators I see no need to cast aspersion on other screen Poirots in order to praise David Suchet’s definitive interpretation. Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov were exquisite Poirots, and Suchet takes the material and elevates it to those heights of high art that excluded the novels on the grounds that they were readable, ie not literary. With Curtain, Christie gives us literary Poirot and Suchet rises to the challenge wonderfully. We’re still reading Christie almost a century since she started writing, and our descendants also still be watching Suchet’s Poirot a century hence, when it will feel as if it was made for them just as it feels Christie wrote for us.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

What made Hercule Poirot perfect - Laura Thompson, The Telegraph, 13 November 2013

Click to read reviews for Agatha Christie: An English Mystery by Laura Thompson

Agatha Christie's Poirot on ITV Player

Read more about David Suchet and Poirot at

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


click for Cabaret on IMDb
It’s been so long since I’ve seen Cabaret I was really glad BBC1 scheduled it tonight.

I hadn’t left school the last time I saw it. I liked my school, but the history curriculum at the time was abysmal and appears not to have recovered over the decades. So it’s only at this end of a long journey of self-education that I felt able to appreciate the compelling and devastating fable of Germany’s descent into madness.

Michael York plays an overeducated twit who thinks the power of his middle-class contempt will wither the forces of darkness gathered under the swastika, and in this he captures Europe’s mood during the Weimar Republic perfectly. He plays opposite Lisa Minelli, whose talents necessitated changes in the script – in the Broadway original Sally Bowles couldn’t sing.

click for Cabaret on IMDb
Joel Grey’s Joker-like emcee (left) captures both the cosmopolitan freedom that made 1931 Berlin the citadel the Nazis had to capture, and, as the film moves on, the amoral accommodation with the Nazis that was effected by not just the West in general but also that portion of the German elite that realised that the Nazis wouldn’t be pacified after they’d finished with the communists. And, of course, as we see throughout, with the Jews.

In a sense the Nazis stall rage on, through the Final Solution. Post-Nuremberg this was resurrected by Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who’d moved to Berlin 1941 to advise Hitler on the Holocaust and, incredibly, avoided capture as a war criminal. From his new base in Egypt he continued preaching hatred, and many of his followers walked antisemitism right back into Europe.

So it’s fitting that Cabaret ends ambivalently: in the minds of modern Nazis, the last act in their pursuit of Jews – and of every Western freedom – is yet to play out.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Friday, 8 November 2013

all that glitters: the hidden secrets of money?

I once volunteered at the Bath Street Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Glasgow. In 1998, a senior member of staff there said at a public meeting that he could lay his hands on proof that the financial system was configured to produce debt. Shortly afterwards the branch was informed we owed a staggering unpaid debt that nobody had heard of. Before twelve months had passed since that meeting, the branch – the busiest in Scotland – had been closed down. We never had a chance to hear the lowdown on the financial system.

go to Hidden Secrets of Money website
So I’ve no idea whether the answer would have been similar to that of Mike Maloney (right), who has posted a series of four videos on Youtube entitled Hidden Secrets of Money. The last episode, The Biggest Scam in the History of Mankind, has gone viral.

There’s no doubt that Mike is selling something: he runs a company that trades in silver and gold. And if the videos stir up anxiety and even panic about the imminent collapse of global currency systems, that would be to his benefit.

However, I’m left rather disturbed by the videos; they have the ring (no pun intended) of truth. It’s been suggested that Gordon Brown sold Britain’s gold to shore up international banking systems as the financial tsunami that still rages approached, but - as Maloney suggests - could countries holding British pounds have actually been demanding the repatriation of their gold? And I’m left wondering (I emphasize this is me and is not said at any point by Maloney) if the coming influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe has been planned in order to soak up the enormous amount of money being printed by the treasury so prices don't start rising precipitously?

I agree wholeheartedly with Maloney that our greatest investment is education. I recommend you watch these videos, do your research, and make your mind up.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Hidden Secrets of Money - YouTube. Episode 1 - each episode links to the next

The Biggest Scam in the History of Mankind - Hidden Secrets of Money on Youtube

Hidden Secrets of Money website

Revealed: why Gordon Brown sold Britain's gold at a knock-down price - Thomas Pascoe, Telegraph blogs, July 2012

Money Week: The End of Britain - 300 words

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

We are democrats, not because the majority is always right, but because democratic traditions are the least evil ones of which we know. If the majority (or ‘public opinion’) decides in favour of tyranny, a democrat need not therefore suppose that some fatal inconsistency in his views has been revealed. He will realise, rather, that the democratic tradition in this country was not strong enough.

The best-known example of people voting for tyranny is Germany, 1933. However, as Channel 4’s Hitler’s Rise: the Colour Films show, the Nazis had formed part of coalition governments since 1930. Had Adolf died in 1938, writes biographer John Tolland, he would be revered as a great statesman for getting Germany back to work. And, presumably, proto-Holocaust atrocities swept under the carpet. The Germans had undergone the double whammy of a humiliating peace treaty in 1919, and the strategy of printing money to pay the war debts obliterated its wealth come the 1929 crash. They had a psychological need for a strong leader.

The same psychological need can be seen at work in those Greek voters who support the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, in a country which was occupied by Nazis within living memory.

Greece, despite nurturing democracy in classical times, does not have the same democratic hinterland as, say, the Nordic countries and their former colonies, which started producing parliaments in medieval times. Greece didn’t win its independence from the Ottoman Empire until 1827; once that tyrant slipped out of memory another – Ioannis Metaxas, previously a minister in a coalition – took power in 1936.

So can public opinion, when it results in votes for something objectionable, be "toxic", as Business Secretary Vince Cable referred to it in regard to immigration? Christian saints before (like St Ambrose) and even after (like St Anselm) the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity thought so, referring to tyranny of the multitude, and the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia refers to the same thing in an analysis of Rousseau’s The Social Contract.

The problem I have is that today it’s so easy to rig ballots, especially using postal votes, that it’s difficult to work out what the multitude actually wants.

Just watch out for those coalitions.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


Hitler’s Rise: the Colour Films - 4oD

Review of The Social Contract - The Catholic Encyclopedia

Vince Cable: public opinion on immigration is now 'absolutely toxic' - Rowena Mason, The Guardian

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Life Steered

'A life Steered': go to Amazon
I ordered A Life Steered after reading a review of it on author Bertha Mukodzani’s blog by Deswell Chitewe, who champions Zimbabwean authors.

A Life Steered begins with a distressing scene in which the main character’s hard-drinking father finally throws her mother out of the house after many fights. From such a beginning I could not have imagined that the novel would go on to be an uplifiting testament to the strength of the human spirit - demonstrating that while our beginnings are always with us, the wings of our hopes await.

The travails of Zimbabwe are expertly understated through the course of the action and are braided with signposts non-Zimbabweans will be able to orientate themselves by. Not that you need to be from Zimbabwe to appreciate A Life Steered: when you focus down on a small group of people and look at the different ways they choose to overcome their obstacles, you never fail to find the universal interplay of suffering and hope, and which one triumphs is often due more to how people approach them than to random interventions of fate.

click to go to Bertha's website
What struck me particularly is that A Life Steered is set at a time when girls and young women were looking beyond the traditional lot of females in Zimbabwean society, not least the complex politics of polygamy which, whenever that practice arises, seems to favour men. Heroine Sandra’s glass ceilings come not from corporate structures, but the society Bertha describes so lovingly and with such humour. In the UK I don't think we've been totally successful in maintaining what was best about our traditions while we removed our glass ceilings, and would be interested to hear what Bertha thinks. Perhaps food for a future novel?

A Life Steered is Bertha Mukodzani’s (right) first novel, and I was gratified to read on her blog that another one is in the pipeline. I look forward to following her career and to collecting her works.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Read reviews of A Life Steered on amazon

Bertha Mukodzani's homepage

Deswell Chitewe reviews A Life Steered on Bertha's blog

an excerpt from Bertha's second novel

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Marie Antionette: more truth and less cake, please

"Ooh, there's no bread, let them eat cake…" The line comes from Rush’s 1975 hit Bastille Day, about the French Revolution (the 1789 one), and the phrase "let them eat cake" is a reference to Marie Antoinette’s response when she heard of the French people’s poverty not allowing them to buy bread: "qu’il mangent de la brioche" – brioche being an egg- and butter-based bread beyond the reach of said pauvres.

But was she framed?

Marie Antoinette: click to learn more
Marie Antoinette was born on 2 November 1755 and was the mistress of King Louis XVI, and here the attribution becomes shaky: there are no famines recorded during this Louis’ reign. Antonia Fraser, in her biography of Marie, states that the quote was spoken a century previously by Marie-Thérèse (Maria Teresa of Spain), wife of Louis XIV, king during la grande famine of 1693-1694. Marie-Thérèse is said to have recommended "la croûte de la pâté" during the famine. Rousseau managed to get this garbled and recollected in his Confessions that a "great princess" had recommended "let them eat pastry".

But even further back, the 3rd-century Chinese emperor Hui is said to have asked "why can’t they eat meat?" when told his famine-stricken subjects had no rice. That the question still stings is shown by The [Republic of] China Post’s comparison of Taiwan’s President President Ma Ying-jeou to Hui for saying to a student left feeling unfilled by a Bento box "perhaps you need to eat another bento box, or simply endure being hungry".

The attribution of "let them eat cake" to Marie Antoinette is a triumph of misogynistic revolutionary politics over historical fact and it’s woeful that newspapers repeat it on her birthday. Hopefully someday a journalist will interview Antonia Fraser to put the record straight. In the meantime, at least it makes for a good rock song.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Did Marie Antionette really say "let them eat cake"? -

click for more on Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette

1693-1694 : Les années de misère -

Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau - the passage about "the great princess" is on p 255 of the .pdf

DPP chairman gets personal in run-up to Jan. 13 demonstration - The China Post

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

an international anthem for those who love their country

The civilised world has defeated communism in all but name – the Chinese government’s attempts to disguise the fact that communism is unworkable are increasingly lame, and nobody now seriously doubts that the regime in North Korea revolves around a strange god-emperor cult. (But doesn’t that also describe the worship of Lenin, Stalin and Mao?)

So it’s time that The Red Flag was taken by people who love their country, however they might describe themselves, as a reminder of the victory and a solace for the struggles to come. The following verses are sung the the tune of The Red Flag.

Replace "My country’s" with your own country, or keep the original on occasions where more than one flag is flying. There’s only one verse and chorus – who knows more than this in the original?

My country’s flag is flying here
And in my heart I’ll shed a tear
For those who in her colours fell
Their tales forever we will tell.

While with our minds and on the streets
There’s no surrender to defeat,
Let cowards flinch and traitors jeer
My country’s flag’s still flying here.

Gerry Dorrian

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Democracy as such cannot confer any benefits upon the citizen and it should not be expected to do so. In fact democracy can do nothing – only the citizens of the democracy can act (including, of course, those citizens who comprise the government). Democracy provides no more than a framework within which the citizens may act in a more or less organised and coherent way.

This may seem a strange thing for the person who wrote The Open Society and its Enemies during World War II to say. However, in that work, Popper presages Winston Churchill’s bon mot that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried".

Churchill was speaking after the electorate gave him "the order of the boot" in 1945 and might be forgiven for a dash of rancour, but he identified a key element of democracy: all its stakeholders must be prepared to accept outcomes they disagree with.

An occasional plebiscite is no panacea for our problems. For example, immigration still besets the UK despite a party traditionally tough on immigration leading the Coalition. In fact nearly all politicians fail to act as citizens of a democratic nation, regardless of whether they agree with what the bulk of the people demand.

Those individuals and groups who have exercised their right and their duty to "act in a more or less organised and coherent way" concerning immigration and national identity have been damned by the unelected Establishment, which tolerates only views it agrees with, as fascist and racist (add any derogatory "ism" of your choice). Elected politicians of all political hues, with depressingly few honourable exceptions, collude with and even contribute to the smearing.

Is this merely democracy delivering results we disagree with? Well, with most of our rules coming from Brussels and merely being ratified (as opposed to voted upon) by the European Parliament before incorporation into our law, there’s minimal democracy happening. If we can expect no benefits to arise from the mere fact that our government is democratically elected, what can we expect in democracy’s absence save more of what has always accompanied contempt for common folk, witness the Peasants’ Revolt, the English Civil War and the Regency Riots?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary

Monday, 28 October 2013

Quitting the English Defence League: when Tommy met Mo

click to watch on I-player

Quitting the English Defence League: when Tommy met Mo is a documentary about Tommy Robinson’s move into Quilliam, the anti-extremism group.

Since it was a BBC documentary I had low hopes for imparitality, so was dumbfounded to see Tommy his views freely throughout.

The journey – the term speaks volumes about I’m a Celebrity’s impact on broadcasting – started in the company of Mo Ansar, who once agitated for the EDL to be banned. Ansar’s diversionary tactics on explosive Koran texts, such as cutting off the hands of thieves, being shot down by two eminent Koran scholars was amazing TV.

Maajid Nawaz: click to learn more
One of these scholars is Maajid Nawaz (right) of Quilliam who, like Tommy, receives multiple death threats. He and his companion supported Tommy against Ansar in that the phrase "all your right hands possess" from the Koran refers to concubinage, including sex slaves.

Through Nawaz, Robinson spoke to a group of Muslim women who proved as heterodox as any group from any religion. While Ansar was the first in the documentary to speak of “reformed Muslims”, but it was the Koran scholars who gave the notion legs by identifying the disconnect between scriptures over a thousand years old and a pluralist, liberal society where everybody has rights, including people like homosexuals who are executed in Iran.

As Tommy identified, we need to ensure that moderate Muslims, who are indicted as apostates by jihadis who can justify their judgement from the Koran and Sharia, are heard. So, I wonder, after future jihadi outrages, will the BBC and other channels continue to give extremists like Anjem Choudary a voice in the name of impartiality? Or will it eschew extremists and air the views of ordinary Muslims as oppressed by jihad as us? It seems Tommy’s not the only one at a crossroads.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Quitting the English Defence League: when Tommy met Mo - bbc I-player until 4 November 2013


"The Government should ban the EDL - HM Government e-petition, created by Mohammed Ansar (closed with 6,448 signatures)

BBC, ITV and Channel 4 face Ofcom probe over decision to interview hate preacher Anjem Choudary after Lee Rigby's murder - Daily Mail

Surat An-Nisā' Sura 4 of the Koran (Surat An-Nisā or The Wonen), mentions "all your right hands possess" severalk times.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Crime of Father Amaro

Eça de Queirós: red more at Britannica

The Crime of Father Amaro, by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz (right), was translated magisterially by Margaret Jull Costa from the 1880 edition, released at the end of a complicated publication history.

The tale of a priest seducing a woman was highly controversial in Catholic Portugal, but unfortunately sounds pedestrian today.

Eça de Queiroz presents no glib jibes or caricatures. The titular priest was himself presumed by relatives to be seminary fodder and only realised once there that he had sleepwalked into a profession which precluded marriage. He typifies, in Eça de Queiroz’ words, "the man eternally excluded from feminine dreams, the neutral, melancholy creature who prowls the shores of sentiment like a suspicious intruder" and in his innocence can’t believe his luck when he and the prettiest girl in the village – Amélia, herself kept naïve by institutions that allow no middle ground between virgin and whore – develop a neotenous adolescent crush.

The emotional coin of adolescence has limited currency in adult bodies, but Eça de Queiroz treats Amaro’s struggles with compassion and insight.

Up to a point.

The point is where Amélia’s fiancée drunkenly assaults Amaro, having divined his intentions towards her. His punch is ineffective, but the priest colludes with the community in painting João as a heretical thug and driving him out. Just as Aeneas is no longer heroic after ignoring the gods with his naturalistic marriage to Dido, so Amaro’s heretofore juvenile blunderings no longer power a comedic tale with a tragic core. The polarity gradually changes until it seems tragedy must suffocate comedy in its inexorable momentum towards a horrific outcome.

The turbulent political backdrop was but a prologue to the next bloodsoaked century; but for me the operative part of Amaro was the emotionally and morally stunting effects of compulsory priestly celibacy, which continues to produce tragedies from the same template.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Thursday, 24 October 2013

human trafficking: 3 cases showing why patriots oppose open-door immigration

Not long before the 2010 general election, I attended a meeting for domestic violence liaison workers in East Anglia at which a straw poll was taken on whether the Oakington Immigration Detention Centre should be shut, as was being advocated by Cambridge’s MP, Julian Huppert.

Every single liaison worker there, the general mood being vaguely left-of-centre, said they wanted the camp to remain open, because otherwise vulnerable people – mostly women and children – would be exploited and possibly abused; ie trafficked.

As recent child grooming trials show, victims of this vile trade are often trafficked internally; but many are also brought in and their abusers are enabled by Britain’s immigration laws.

Three cases in particular serve to illustrate this: I chose them because they are the most recent three I became aware of.

People who stand for unchecked immigration label their opponents as swivel-eyed racists and far-right activists, but the most cursory look over just these three examples given above shows that a major part of the reason we oppose open-door immigration is that the door is open also to traffickers. Stop the traffic: guard the door.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Deaf girl tells court of "decade of rape and beatings" - The Telegraph

Somalia: girl trafficked into UK for organs harvesting - Somaliland Sun

Sex worker who helped jail gang behind brothels to be deported - Human Trafficking Foundation

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

(2)The difference between a democracy and a tyranny is that under a democracy the government can be got rid of without bloodshed; under a tyranny it cannot.

This second of Karl Popper’s liberal principles – liberal in the traditional philosophical sense, not the modern socialist outpost sense – may strike a chord in relation to happenings in the US where concerns about enormous government purchases of ammunition are fuelling concerns in some quarters about the Obama government’s dedication to the democratic process.

The principle is a step forward from the view that a democratically elected government is ipso facto democratic. Allied observers, for example, might have deduced earlier that Hitler, elected in 1933, had no intention of going for re-election. Once he arrived at that view his government was no longer democratic; it might not have been democratic on the night of his win.

Wisdom concerning Hitler tends to be garnered through hindsight. The majority of Egyptian voters, on the other hand, appear to have perceived very quickly that Mohammed Morsi’s regime had an agenda to close down the country’s incipient majority in the name of jihad, and removed the elected tyranny by force.

Coming closer to home, we come to a question that may in future years become a smoking gun when assessing British politicians’ dedication to democracy. Was Tony Blair aware of the extent of voting fraud when campaigning for what became his 2005 victory? It was postal votes being fiddled, and in terms of raw numbers there were six times more postal votes than the size of Labour’s victory: but a case, of course, remains to be proven. But if Blair knew, Labour’s 2005-2010 government was a dictatorship.

And according to Popper’s second principle, if there was no way of removing the 2001-2005 government peacefully, it was a tyranny.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


Why Does Obama need 1.6 billion bullets? Alex Jones' Info-Wars

Did Labour win the 2005 general election? 300 words

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

"I am Malala"

click for reviews of 'I am Malala'

The book’s full title says it all – I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.

Malala describes a childhood in Mingora in the Swat valley – once known as Pakistan’s Switzerland for its ski resorts – that was idyllic despite its poverty. The human story of her upbringing is a universal one – she comments that although her family were poor, her mother’s door was always open; I remember my mother saying the same thing about her own upbringing. The story of mothers selling their traditional gold wedding bangles reminded me of my grandfather and his peers selling their WWI medals to feed their families.

Then the Taliban came, dispensing jihad through its main delivery system, sharia law, itself dispensed through the barrel of a gun. She describes the suffocating nature of the burka, a garment which is alien to Pashtun culture.

Her shooting and subsequent hospitalisations in Islamabad and Birmingham are well-known and, at 16, her determination to see that girls have the right to education worldwide shows she has more fire in the belly than generations of coddled British feminists. Their silence in the face of Muslim girls being subjected to FGM and being removed from education, in Britain, condemns them. Malala, nowever, is a living sign that jihad and sharia by no means constitute the natural habitat of Muslims, and I wish her well.

As soon as I finished the book my wife snatched it and my daughters have dibs: it’s a book that demands to be read, and I predict that demand will be satisfied. How about putting it on the National Curriculum?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Click to go to Malala Fund, for education for girls worldwide

click for reviews of I am Malala

The mystery of the missing Muslim girls - Fran Abrams, The Independent

British girls undergo horror of genital mutilation despite tough laws - Tracy McVeigh and Tara Sutton, The Guardian Malala Yousafzai's desire to learn shames our schools - Allison Pearson, The Telegraph

Friday, 11 October 2013

Citizen Khan series 2

click for Citizen Khan homepage

It’s not clear whether Adil Ray, creator of Citizen Khan, intended the multitalented Bhavna Limbachia to be the star of the show in her role as daughter Alia, but that series two kicks off with a story centred on Alia shows he knows it now. The result was a comedic tour de force as Mr Khan leaves aside his naked ambition to become Sparkhill Muslim community’s most renowned leader and finds himself unintentionally integrating to get his supposedly observant daughter into a Catholic school. In a scene that I think will make TV history we see Alia convert a hijab into something not unlike a nun's wimple, perhaps making the point that the first garment is not a million miles away from the second.

Alia is, of course, a modern girl enjoying a modern life while letting her father believe she is a devout Muslim. I would identify the relationship between Alia and her father as the conjunctio oppositorum holding the show’s many hilarious expeditions together as two worlds are only just kept from colliding. In the second episode, however, Ray recontextualises this by having his mother-in-law bond with a British man who turns out to be gay.

Hilarity ensues; but the many popular comedies have an edge to them as well, witness Love Thy Neighbour and Till Death do us Part. Citizen Khan’s edge is the peripheral, mute chorus of neighbours who are unhappy, for example, that Alia comes back at all hours.

Ray airs the fears of Westerners of all backgrounds in comic, therefore safer, form, eg "we Pakistanis don’t have bridesmaids; in our culture, your bride becomes your maid". Will he let the chorus step out of the wings and put the views that shock us all in their mouths? Time will tell.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click to watch Citizen Khan S2E1: Alia's college - BBC i-player

Click to watch Citizen Khan S2E2: Naani's Day Out - BBC i-player

Thursday, 10 October 2013

God bless the EDL

The news of Tommy Robinson’s leaving the English Defence League has provoked a deluge of reactions, occupying all points between praise and outrage. And maybe the sheer amount of coverage is something we should look at as well as the direction of Tommy’s journey.

However the EDL emerges from this episode, I’m sure it will carry on, because patriots have arisen, made themselves known to each other up and down the country and beyond, and emerged energised. It has built up a head of steam that cannot simply dissipate.

Things previously unbelievable before 2009 have happened, such as:

  • Victims of child-grooming gangs are no longer being labelled as promiscuous or borderline racists on the grounds of their rapists’ and traffickers’ identities.
  • Politicians are not being seen as racists (except by the usual culprits) for concentrating on immigration.
  • Blue-collar concerns over national identity are being aired much more by the media, even by the BBC.

This has all happened because EDL members have taken all of these and more literally into the public square and have not let politicians forget the inconvenient truth that each one of us has a vote.

But the complex nature of public opinion and debate has also come to the fore, and the full veil is a case in point. Whereas opposition to this identity-smothering garment was initially sidelined as a fringe issue, because of patriots preventing it from dropping from debate the loudest voices now protesting against the full veil are Muslim women. And now the subject is out, bodies such as UKIP – which opposed the full veil under all circumstances – are engaging with its adherents and saying they’ll tolerate it in limited circumstances.

And all because the EDL have not surrendered to bullies, bottles and bricks any more than to far right infiltration – and undoubtedly will continue thus. God bless them.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Monday, 7 October 2013

Al Stewart, Dave Nachmanoff and Tim Renwick at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge

In the early 1980s, aged 17, I went to live in Italy with my head full of vacuum-packed pop. Very soon I met a friend who played me Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat album, which knocked the other music I was listening to into a paper bag. Stewart’s work introduced me to a new world of music that was all around but not necessarily making the Top Ten, and I’ve bought his back catalogue and followed his career since.

So when I saw the ad for Al Stewart playing the Cambridge Corn Exchange with Dave Nachmanoff, missing it was not an option for me or for my wife, who’s heard me raving about Al for many years and become a fan herself.

Dave Nachmanoff opened both sets: he didn’t so much play his guitar as sing to the accompaniment of a six-string orchestra, so I knew this was going to be a good night. One of his songs really spoke to both of us: how he had come to sing Freight Train onstage with its composer, the remarkable Elizabeth Cotten. I love songs that tell stories.

And that’s why I adore Al Stewart’s corpus of narrative songs, many of whose stories are historical. Flying Sorcery, for instance, is a meditation on the history of flight, while Palace of Versailles compares the 1789 revolution with the 1968 riots.

An unexpected guest was Tim Renwick, serial session player, Stewart collaborator and Cambridge resident. Although it was the first time he and Nachmanoff had been onstage together, the two swapped acoustic lead parts as if they’d been born playing together. Then came the curtain-closer: what else could it be? Year of the Cat!

This was the first date of Al’s 2013-14 tour. If you’re able to catch him at any of the other dates, I thoroughly recommend that you do.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click for more details of Al Stewart's tour

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Tom Clancy RIP

Tom Clancy: click to learn more
Much of the comment upon Tom Clancy’s sad death seems to centre around, as the Telegraph puts it, his "gung-ho techno-military thrillers".

However, my own favourite among his thrillers was The Sum of All Fears, which tells the very human story of his serial hero, Jack Ryan, slipping into depression and alcohol addiction as his dream of a lasting peace in the Middle East is sabotaged by extemist Palestinian elements. (That the villains in the film were neo-Nazis shows the extent to which Hollywood, once having slavered at Hitler’s door, now protects his successors.) Clancy is often criticised for his "two-dimensional" characters and seems to hit back in this book with the character of Marvin Russell, a Native American psychopath – a swipe at shibboleths? – who is killed precisely because he is two-dimensional: in the words of his executioner, "there was something missing in this man".

Executive Orders, featuring Ryan as president, starts with a devastating 50-page character study of one of the few people qualified to do politics: one who didn’t want the job.

The death of an artist at the height of his powers guarantees his next work’s sales. Command Authority is expected to be a not-to-veiled analysis of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s past in the Cold War; a war which, he observed through his works chronicling its endplay and aftermath, elevated many but left many more broken.

It’s not clear that Clancy’s departure must needs be that of Jack Ryan and his "dark side" John Clark, but it’s difficult to see who could handle the characters with equal skill. In any case, one of Clancy’s quotes on writing comes back to me as his home country, with its federal government shut down, slides from tragedy into farce: “the difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense”.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

we rightly celebrate Stephen Lawrence's legacy: now what about Charlene Downes'?

click for Stephen Lawrence Unity Concert homepage
It was good to see the Stephen Lawrence Unity Concert, on the 20th anniversary year of his brutal murder at the hands of racist thugs. Doreen Lawrence (Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon), who appeared near the end of the concert, has patiently waited for justice for her son through a process that has, thank God, renewed black-white relations.

Would that all campaigns for a murdered child so electrified the media.

This is the anniversary year of another foul ethnicity-based murder; On November 2003 Charlene Downes, aged 14, was declared missing.

The case is depressingly familiar to those who have followed it and shocking to others for whom it is news.

Charlene Downes: click to learn more
Following Charlene’s disappearance the police investigated a Blackpool kebab shop and two of its workers - Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Reveshi (from Jordan and Iran respectively) – linking them to the grooming of up to 60 girls from the town. Albattikhi and Reveshi were secretly recorded discussing murdering Charlene; but despite this two trials collapsed and the pair were awarded compensation for having been prosecuted.

Mick Gradwell, a former chief detective superintendent with Lancashire Constabulary, later claimed that police were well aware of Blackpool’s grooming gang problem but "investigations were being hampered by political correctness".

I’m not the first to compare Stephen’s and Charlene’s killings; Telegraph writer Sean Thomas, praising the "remorseless, dignified campaigning" of Baroness Lawrence, then asked why Wikipedia had taken down Charlene’s page – following this the so-called encyclopaedia published a page called "The disappearance of Charlene Downes".

I wish Stephen Lawrence hadn’t been killed. I wish Charlene Downes hadn’t been killed. Maybe one day her mother will be ennobled and given help to start a Charlene Downes Foundation; but while British girls continue to be targeted on ethnic and religious grounds – even as Charlene’s relatives are prevented from raising awareness of her death – don’t count on it.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Click to watch the Stephen Lawrence Unity Concert on BBC i-Player until 8 October 2013

Stars perform in Memory of Stephen Lawrence -

60 girls groomed for sex at takeaway shops in Blackpool - Nick Collins, Telegraph

Mother of murdered girl ‘put into kebabs’ runs from court after gruesome testimony - Mail

The murder of Stephen Lawrence and the strange case of the missing Wikipedia entries - Sean Thomas, Telegraph

Charlene's gran upset by T-shirt ban - Julia Bennett, Blackpool Gazette