As Alastair Campbell says (Diary, TNE #305), the Conservative leadership hustings have been an endurance test. When I watch them online – political masochist or what? – I always hope against hope that something original and revelatory will emerge from their mouths but of course it is the same ubiquitous mantras, hand-picked for that city’s audience of devotees.
Alastair’s comparison with the rhetoric of Mikel Arteta, manager of Arsenal, was pertinent, and I have been avidly watching Channel 4’s Football Dreams: The Academy, where young boys are put through their paces for the chance of a two-year contract.
The intuitive, empathetic coaches and mature, eloquent youngsters put our prime ministerial hopefuls to shame.
Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Rishi Sunak says Liz Truss’s economic plans will leave millions destitute, but admits he will still vote for them when she wins. There can be no more telling statement on the Conservative Party. They deserve to be out of power for a generation.
I see Liz Truss continues to blame the French for hold-ups for travellers to Europe.
I recently travelled back to Portsmouth after a holiday in France with my family. Our arrival in France was normal beyond the extra checks that French customs are now required to make; they took perhaps two minutes. Departure from France was similarly trouble-free.
By contrast, when we arrived in Portsmouth, we had to wait well over an hour, at 10 o’clock at night, to get through UK passport control although there were eight lanes open. It took between five and 10 minutes for each car to be checked.
The Border Control staff were perfectly courteous, but it was clear that they were under instructions to make exhaustive checks, including leaving their booth to hold our passports next to our faces to make sure the photos matched the reality.
I have been driving to France on and off now for over 50 years and have never known delays like this. I for one would be glad to hear no more lies about it being nothing to do with Brexit and all the fault of the obstructionist French.
The most instructive things I’ve learned during the Tory leadership election are that Liz Truss hates Priti Patel and Michael Gove, while Kwasi Kwarteng hates Rishi Sunak. You get more nuanced discussion on Made In Chelsea. Surely we can’t afford another two-and-a-half years of these clowns?
Down the toilet
Thanks to Mandrake for his succinct exposé of the malaise of managerialism in the privatised water companies (TNE #305). These damning statistics need to be much more widely publicised.
Managerialism – put simplistically the idea that if you can manage one thing you can manage anything – is a seriously damaging trend that has long afflicted the workplace and infected everything in the UK from health, education and utilities up to and including its currently woeful political leadership.
Riding on the back of free-market fundamentalism and neoliberal economic policy as pioneered here under Margaret Thatcher, this particular revolving door from MBA to shop floor to ever-more ludicrously lucrative contracts and bonuses leaves behind it a trail of socially damaging and life-threatening shit – literally, in the case of the water companies.
Paul Mason draws attention to the madness of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak (“In an energy crisis, why does Truss want to turn off the sun?” TNE #305). Both leadership hopefuls have rejected agricultural land being sacrificed to create solar farms.
I was a little surprised that he did not offer the obvious riposte: there is no need to cover fields with solar panels – just stick them on every roof in Britain.
Pickering, North Yorkshire
It’s obvious why Liz Truss has a downer on solar energy. Rich Tory donors and friends want to frack.
Follow the money. Truss will pursue the energy policy which generates the most money in terms of tax revenue for the government and profits for the energy companies.
Paul Mason’s discussion of solar energy confuses “installed capacity” with “output”: in the UK the average output power is about 1/10th of the capacity. In January and July this year solar electricity was respectively about 1% and 7% of demand. In short, to make a useful addition to the winter electricity supply requires an enormous increase in the area of solar farms.
Re: Sophia Deboick’s choice of Kraftwerk’s The Model as the best European single ever (“It’s the Vinyl Countdown”, TNE #305). The German version, Das Model, is even better, with that extra effect: “Sie trinkt in Nachtclubs immer Sekt. Korrekt!”
The child vote
I agree with Judy Mason’s observation about young people not even voting in the referendum in 2016 (Letters, TNE #305). This reminds me of something said to me by one of my grandchildren soon after the result.
She was then approaching her 12th birthday and told me: “We must have another referendum, and only the children should be allowed to vote.” I rest my case!
Apologies to Vanessa Rogers (Letters, TNE #305) for disputing her linguistic speculations, but Utopia, according to Sir Thomas More (who ought to know), is an Anglicised spelling of Greek outopia, meaning “no place”. The prefix “eu”, on the other hand, indistinguishable in modern English pronunciation, is a Greek adverb meaning “well”, as in “euphemism”, “euphoric”, “eugenics” etc. These spelling conventions in general were standardised by Dr Johnson, who knew his classics.
Similarly, “dys” should not be confused with “dis”, although there is sometimes an apparent similarity in meaning. “Dys” is a Greek prefix meaning “badly”, which we have inherited mainly in medical terms such as “dyslexia”, “dysentery”, “dystrophy”.
Most such words are of irreproachably Greek ancestry, but the prefix has more recently taken on a life of its own, to produce such Greco-Latin hybrids as “dysfunctional”. “Dis”, on the other hand, is a Latin prefix meaning “apart”, as in “distant”, “disparate”, “distinct”, although its presence in, for example, “disaster” or “distemper” could lead to confusion.
I don’t know much about the Beothuk (“The lost tongue”, TNE #304) but I do know that modern “speaking in tongues” is not what the translators of the King James Bible had in mind.
Many Christians think it means speaking a mysterious indecipherable language during worship. Others dismiss it as dubious.
Actually “tongues” means “foreign languages” as explained in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 14, where the writer made it clear that speaking in tongues is to enable foreigners to understand what is being said; no phrase books then.
Regrettably, some Christians develop the ability to speak convincingly in gobbledegook and are believed by some worshippers to be highly spiritual. One told me “it’s easy with practice”. That’s fraud!
TNE is the highlight of my week. It is read cover to cover. It really is an education and I wish more people would indulge in this excellent journalism.
However, I have noticed a few Americanisms creeping into articles. Why? A gripe I particularly have is the use of the word “passing”, rather than “death”. Are we now too afraid to upset people, so try and soften the blow of the “death” or “die” word?
This was highlighted in “Queen of Gen Z Hearts” (TNE #305). As soon as I read “passing” I did just that; I passed to Alastair Campbell’s Diary! Am I the only person who is irritated by the use of Americanisms?
Editor: In this case, “passing” was used to lessen the repeated uses of “death” in a feature about Princess Diana. But point taken, Ruth – and have a nice day!
In her article referencing the new Cate Blanchett film, Suna Erdem (Classical, TNE #305), claims there has never been a female conductor of “a renowned European orchestra”.
Unless the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra isn’t a great European orchestra and Birmingham isn’t a great European city, I suspect the conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who has worked extensively on the mainland, too, would have something to say about that.
It’s always enthralling to read the well-considered pieces of Isabel Hilton. However, her piece on Taiwan (“Island mired in the sands of history”, TNE #304) contained a factual error. The indigenous population of Taiwan did not migrate there from Polynesia; in fact, they originated in southern China about 6,000 years ago, as did many other groups who have populated south-east Asia.
Those indigenous Taiwanese who have not shifted completely to Chinese speak Austronesian languages. Nine of the 10 branches of the Austronesian language family are found only in Taiwan. The 10th and largest, named Malayo-Polynesian, broke off several thousand years ago and spread through island south-east Asia and beyond – including (a couple of millennia before the present) to Polynesia, which was previously uninhabited. Hence the misunderstanding.
Professor of Historical Linguistics and Language Contact
Edge Hill University, Ormskirk
In Nigel Warburton’s column (“Civil disobedience”, TNE #304), he advocates the possibility of civil disobedience by not paying bills from the energy utility companies. He rightly points out that there could be serious repercussions to persons withholding payment and confusion between those who genuinely cannot pay and those who just choose to not pay at all.
Perhaps a better solution would be an escrow scheme where customers pay into a secure account, thus depriving the utility companies of the money, inconveniencing the companies, but not subjecting themselves to potential action for non-payment.
Those who could afford it might pay the full amount, whilst those with financial pressures might pay, for example, the amount the bill was for the same time period last year plus any monies to offset the price rises granted to low-income households by the government.
That way, the customers are showing a willingness to pay at least whatever they can afford and not leaving themselves open to allegations of not paying at all (for whatever reason, can’t or won’t).