Shaming Corbyn doesn’t work. Stopping funding his supporters might

Frankly, I can’t see what the fuss is here:

Jeremy Corbyn met a Communist spy during the Cold War and ‘briefed’ evil regime of clampdown by British intelligence

The papers and social media have been full of revelations these past few days about how Jeremy Corbyn was approached by Eastern Bloc spy agencies, and might well have passed on some information. Well, so what?

One of the things both Britain and the USA (and I expect plenty of other supposedly western European countries) has never acknowledged, let alone addressed, is how much of their establishment – politicians, media, academics, NGOs, and socialites – were either supportive of the Soviet Union or actively working to further its aims. It’s not that we don’t know about this. For example, The Guardian’s one-time literary editor Richard Gott was confirmed to have been working for the KGB, and he treated the whole thing as a bit of a giggle. In the eyes of the British chattering classes there is not, and never has been, any shame whatosever in supporting the USSR and other totalitarian left-wing ideologies. In fact, it’s almost a requirement for entry into large parts of academia and media.

So squealing that Corbyn was dallying with Communist spies during the Cold War is hardly a surprise. Hell, it would be more surprising if he wasn’t working for the Communists: everything else about the man suggests they’d have had his number on speed-dial. People might argue that all of this suddenly matters because he stands a good chance of becoming Prime Minister. Again, so what?

Everyone is fully aware of what Corbyn is like. True, many people wouldn’t have known him when he first took over the leadership of the Labour party, but his past was splattered right across the media during the last general election campaign. We learned he was a prominent IRA supporter, he’s embraced Hamas, Hezbollah, and other despotic anti-Jewish groups, and cosied up to just about every enemy Britain has faced since he first pulled on long trousers. The hapless Theresa May didn’t even both mounting a proper campaign, so convinced she was that Corbyn’s past and present political sympathies would consign him to a landslide defeat.

But nobody cared, and he did surprisingly well. Now if the public didn’t care that he supported Irishmen who murdered children in Warrington and elsewhere, they certainly won’t care that he did what pretty much every university lecturer up and down the country did, and would continue to do if the Soviet Union hadn’t spoiled the party and collapsed. Radical left wing politics is cool, remember?

If the Tories and anti-Corbyn lefties think they’re going to dent Corbyn’s polling numbers by squawking in outrage over his past treachery, they’re sorely mistaken. It didn’t work before, and it won’t work now. The sort of people voting for Corbyn either fully agree with his politics, or they have no idea who the IRA were or what the Cold War was. I spoke to some youngster in Paris a few months back who said she loved Corbyn. I didn’t bother asking why – his appeal to young, slightly dim, bohemian waifs with metal in their face and no job over Theresa May is obvious – but if I wanted her to vote for someone else I wouldn’t bother talking about the IRA. I might as well bring up the Biafran War as the Troubles, for all it would mean to her.

So the Tories need to take another approach, but they can’t. As I’m fond of saying in other areas of my life, if they could, they’d have done it by now, which means they can’t. Corbyn’s success is due in large part to the massive program of government-funded indoctrination which has seen pretty much every institution I can think of taken over and utterly dominated by left wingers, many of whom share Corbyn’s political opinions. Even those who don’t would rather wring their hands and squeal over Jacob Rees-Mogg’s personal views on abortion than criticise Corbyn for actively siding with murderers and terrorists. Many people running government departments, the media, and academia were vociferous in their condemnation of the Presidents Club guests slapping a waitresses’ arse, yet are now churning out excuses for Oxfam’s staff exploiting vulnerable teenagers in disaster areas. For these people, politics is the start, middle, and end of everything. Principles don’t come anywhere near it.

As I’ve argued before, none of this started with Corbyn and unlike many I believe Corbyn and Momentum is the perfectly natural evolution of the New Labour movement that Blair and Brown created. It may differ slightly in degree, but in form I don’t really see much difference. What the idiot Tories should have realised is that a central plank of New Labour’s policy was to flood the country with taxpayers’ money buying political support from millions of people in newly created and wholly unnecessary organisations, which would then infiltrate through every nook and cranny of public life until the whole society comes under the scrutiny of this new army of left wing prodnoses. And this is where we are now, with companies being hounded for advertising in the Daily Mail, perfectly reasonable people being banned from speaking at universities, and ever-greater aspects of our personal lives subject to the approval of the mob who are cheered on by privileged establishment figures.

If the Tories were serious about defeating the left, they’d have yanked funding for this years ago. Without the benefit of billions of pounds of taxpayer-funded political campaigning, Corbyn would have got nowhere. Cameron should have pulled the plug during his first term, but he lacked the principles to do so, as well as the balls. In fact, I’d be surprised if he even knew what was going on. That he promised a bonfire of the QUANGOS, which he never delivered, suggested even Dim Dave was vaguely aware of how his party was being undermined at every level of society, but I expect he was more worried people might say nasty things about him. Theresa May, far from showing any signs of wanting to cut funding to these organisations which despise her, seems delighted they exist believing they’ll help her install the nanny-state she so dearly craves.

The truth is, the Conservatives don’t want to face the disruption such an up-ending of state funding will cause; I expect they’ll even reinstate Oxfam’s taxpayer lifeline once the elites have all agreed on a suitable narrative. Not until the general public get fed up with this state-sponsored corruption of the political process will anyone do anything about it, and we’re a long, long way from that point. Until then, we’d better get used to Corbyn & Co. being around for a while.

Share

Equal Pay for Unequal Work

I can’t see this being successful:

Tesco is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim and a possible bill running to £4bn.
Thousands of women who work in Tesco stores could receive back pay totalling £20,000 if the legal challenge demanding parity with men who work in the company’s warehouses is successful.
Lawyers say hourly-paid female store staff earn less than men even though the value of the work is comparable.

That lawyers think warehouse work is comparable with that in the shop floor doesn’t surprise me: I doubt they have the slightest idea what either is like.  But doesn’t the law say the work must be the same, not merely “comparable” in a way defined by a lawyer?

Paula Lee, of Leigh Day solicitors, the firm acting for up to 1,000 women who are likely to take test cases, told the BBC it was time for Tesco to tackle the problem of equal pay for work of equal worth.
The most common rate for women is £8 an hour whereas for men the hourly rate can be as high as £11 an hour, she added.

I would imagine all Tesco need to is demonstrate there is equal pay between men and women working in the store, something which ought to be rather straightforward. What people – men or women – are paid in the warehouse, under different conditions which are easy to list, is irrelevant.

I suspect the lawyers know this, but have decided to leap on the equal pay bandwagon to give themselves publicity, further the narrative, and maybe shake down Tesco in the process, who might not want the adverse publicity.

That said, if the court ruling goes against Tesco, it may open the door for men working in warehouses to demand equal pay with the powerskirts loafing around in air-conditioned offices. But I think this will be thrown out long before then.

Share

And the real problem is…

Staying on the subject of the British police, this juxtaposition of tweets doesn’t need any additional commentary from me:

In a way this is a good thing. The more they keep this up, the quicker the British public will get the measure of them.

Share

A brave WPC and two unknown colleagues

I’ve found that whenever you criticise the British police on Twitter, people – mostly serving or ex-policemen – leap to their defence. I think that’s what this chap is trying to do in this tweet:

Obviously he’s implying that the story on the right renders my skepticism (on the left) unwarranted. But something smells funny:

PC Laura Curnow was with two colleagues when they managed to disarm a highly volatile armed man…

So who were her two colleagues? If the intention of posting this story is to demonstrate that all-female police patrols can handle dangerous thugs, this detail is important, no?

Laura’s two colleagues received their award for the same incident last year.

A search on the Devon and Cornwall police website doesn’t mention anyone else receiving an award in relation to the incident. A cynic would say that PC Curnow’s two colleagues were male, and her award only reported because she is female. An even bigger cynic might say the decision to award Curnow came late, a political decision to puff-up the role of female PCs, while her male colleagues got the initial recommendation because they were the ones who actually did the heavy-lifting.

But I’ll not be cynical in this instance. For all I know PC Curnow kicked the shit out this chap while her colleagues stood idly by, and I’ll assume she is fully deserving of her award. What I will say, however, is that the story as presented doesn’t do the job this Twitterer thinks it does.

Share

Popular Theft

This tweet caught my eye:

On the one hand, this should appall most decent people. What “help and encourage” means in the context of a government policy is “force people to do it whether they like it or not”.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what people expect. I have argued several times on here that my generation and the one or two that preceded it have utterly shafted future generations by inflating property prices for their own benefit, permanently pricing out anyone who was born too late to take part. The government was happy that cheap credit was giving the middle classes the impression they were rich, the banks were happy to keep lending ever-increasing amounts giving the illusion of a booming economy, and the property-owning classes made damned sure any government seeking to implement policies which would burst the bubble – such as raising interest rates, or relaxing planning laws – would be out on their ear in short order. The property market in the UK was a giant stitch-up of between the property-owning classes and successive governments for their own mutual benefit at the expense of pretty much everyone else, including everyone younger than they are.

Anyone who thinks the Corbyn-inspired millennials are going to just accept this is stupid: they won’t, and they don’t have to. Because another notable achievement of the Blair and Brown years aside from rocketing house prices was the replacement of outdated principles such as freedom and property rights with the notion that anything is justified provided you can get enough people to vote for it. I remember when the fox hunting ban was being rammed through parliament, a common refrain was “this is what the majority want” leaving aside the fact that what rural folk get up to ought not to be subject to the approval of urban lefties. A decade or so later we had the smoking ban, justified on the grounds that “most people approve of it”. For my part, I think it should have been left to individual landlords.

So if the Corbynistas vote in enough numbers to confiscate granny’s house, on what principle can anyone object? We’ve already accepted the idea that anything and everything can be changed on the whim of a majority vote, rights be damned. The irony is those property-owners who will suffer the most from any draconian, illberal, and downright immoral scheme to seize houses from under them will have voted New Labour, and thoroughly approved of each and every piece of authoritarian legislation for which the “will of the people” was wheeled out to justify. And let’s not pretend the Conservatives were any better, or their members voting for leaders who put principles over populism: they’ve given us Cameron and May in quick succession, neither of whom would recognise an individual right which the state may not infringe if it came from behind and kicked them square in the arse.

So I think we can expect to see more proposals like the one in the tweet above, and it’s going to be interesting watching people who were happy to abandon long-held principles for their own short-term political and economic gain suddenly rediscover them, and complain bitterly that the thugs at the door aren’t interested. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Share

Class snobbery masquerading as feminism

Via Damian Counsell, this video:

What this tells me is that feminism in the UK is very much a class issue (as is pretty much everything in Britain). Here we have two women with northern accents doing a job which puts them neck-deep among Britain’s working class, a job they enjoy. Then we have Sally Howard with a home-counties accent who I expect has a university education in a pointless field and works a non-job surrounded by people who think exactly like her. Well, whaddya know?

Since leaving university, Howard has worked as a “charity publicist, copywriter and media consultant for Oxfam GB”, authored “a socio-sexual travelogue investigating Indian sexuality from the open carnality of ancient Hinduism, via the repressions of the Raj, to modern-day Delhi rape uprisings”, and freelances as a “travel and lifestyle journalist” and “investigative and social trends journalist.” Sadly Howard’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t tell us what school she went to, because I suspect it would be a posh private one: her whole profile reeks of upper-middle class privilege bankrolled by a wealthy father.

What strikes me about the hectoring, condescending, dismissive tone adopted by Howard towards the two walk-on girls is how old-fashioned she appears. For all her talk about “outdated” practices and her doubtless conceit that she exemplifies modern women, she sounds for all the world like the harridan wife of a hen-pecked vicar in the 1930s lecturing the lower-classes on morals and the virtues of good housekeeping.

There’s a reason for this: scrape away the virtue-signalling, underlying politics, and competition for sex, and we’re left with good, old-fashioned class snobbery. It’s always been there, and probably always will be. The only thing I don’t understand is how the two northern lasses remained so calm and polite.

Share

In the Aftermath of the Presidents Club Party

On BBC this morning I caught the end of an interview with a vaguely attractive young British woman who was struggling to make a coherent point and seemed to be rambling. This might be because she was unused to doing live TV performances, or it might be because she was a bit dim, I don’t know. From what I could gather she was one of the hostesses working at the now-infamous Presidents Club dinner, or had worked at similar events, and was rather upset by what had happened to her.

So straight up, I have some sympathy. I don’t believe this girl was lying or hamming it up for the camera, I think she was genuinely upset at something and wanted things to change. Where I suspect we differ is what we would like to see changed.

I confess I’ve not delved too deeply into the story, but amid all the outrage there seems to be a distinct lack of actual complainants. I understand that the journalists who broke the story for the FT identified one girl, but the outrage seems to be coming almost exclusively from people who weren’t there. This ought to tell us something, which I’ll get to later.

For now, let’s focus on what people are complaining about. A bunch of rich men attend a dinner where they grope and sexually harass the women serving the food and drinks. There is nothing wrong with this per se, provided the women knew in advance what behaviour to expect (and acquiesce to), and they were paid the money they’d agreed to. The company doing the organising could have easily hired a bunch of out-and-out prostitutes who the men could shag silly all night, or they could have hired a bunch of nuns with wooden rulers to ensure the men didn’t do so much as tell a dirty joke. They’re the two extremes; what they actually tried to do was something in the middle.

They put on an event where some degree of sexual harassment was permissible – flirting, suggestive comments, ass-grabbing, etc. – but not sexual assault. (The difference between one and the other was quite obvious for generations, until recently when placing a hand upon a woman’s knee became synonymous with full-on gang rape. Thanks, feminists.) What should have happened is the people employing the women make it very clear to them what they are expected to put up with, and where behaviours cross the line and they have grounds to complain. The organisers of the function should in parallel have made it very clear to the attendees what behaviours were allowed and what were not. This, after all, is how any strip club works and the rules are so universally well-known they’ve become a cliché. If there is so much as one complaint from any of the women, this should be investigated properly and, if their complaint is valid, somebody ought to be disciplined. This really isn’t difficult.

So did the women get fair warning? I don’t know. Yes, they were told which knickers to wear, which suggests this wasn’t an ordinary party, and I suspect most of the women knew full well what would happen, but I’d not be surprised if this was not spelled out as well as it should have been and someone a bit slow on the uptake got an unpleasant surprise. I’m not prepared to dismiss a woman’s complaint as coming from a feminist harpy on the make, not if she was there wearing the clothes and being groped in person. The organisers could have ensured there were no nasty surprises by explaining things more clearly, or hiring actual sex-workers, but the former requires principled managers and the latter requires spending money. I can’t imagine those who run such businesses specialise in either.

What I don’t agree with is the ludicrous levels of moral posturing in the aftermath of this article. Nowhere amid all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is an acknowledgement that the women who worked that party had any agency whatsoever: according to the feminists now beating the anti-male drums, they were all poor, exploited women who thought they were turning up to a kids’ birthday party only to be sexually assaulted by a bunch of old, white men in dinner suits. A brief Google search one shouldn’t perform at work would tell you that London is absolutely chock-full of highly attractive Eastern European and other foreign women willing to do pretty much anything for a few hundred quid. They’ll even be a few Brits in there too. Unless we’re willing to believe the bullshit spouted by women’s groups and Theresa May that they are trafficked and there exists a thriving, multi-million pound market for men raping emaciated, weeping prisoners chained to beds, these women in the adverts are working of their own free will.

So who’s to say that none of the women at the Presidents Club dinner were also working of their own free will, and happy with the terms and conditions? I can imagine there is no shortage of women in London willing to earn a little extra cash for listening to lewd remarks and having their asses grabbed. The only question is how much extra cash and whether the women are well-informed in advance that sexual harassment will be on the menu.

But we’re back to the contradiction I mentioned yesterday: one minute feminists are telling us modern women are tough, strong, and independent and should be free to engage in one-night stands, orgies, polyamory, and any manner of other supposedly empowering acts of promiscuity; but at the same time they’re clutching their pearls because some women they’ve never met are working in a manner they believe is demeaning. By launching such moral crusades in a manner their Victorian ancestors would have endorsed, they are denying these women any agency whatsoever.

Of course, we already know the reason for this contradiction. Modern feminism is a political movement aimed at maximising the sexual capacity of women while eliminating it for men. Any woman who bucks the trend by cooperating with men in their quest for sexual gratification on mutually agreed terms – as opposed to the ever-changing terms of the woman only – is therefore deemed a problem, and their agency must be denied if they are to continue to demonise men.

There might have been problems with what went on at the Presidents Club, but they are not the ones being talked about. Those foaming at the mouth while attempting to reshape society on the basis of non-existent problems ought to be mocked or ignored.

Share

Unscheduled Constriction

How would a coroner rule this? Death by misadventure?

A snake owner was killed by an 8ft (2.4m) pet python he called his “baby”, an inquest has heard.

Daniel Brandon, 31, died from asphyxiation at his home near Basingstoke, Hampshire, on 25 August.

One of the pets – a female African rock python named Tiny – was found near his body, out of its pen.

Coroner Andrew Bradley said there was no doubt Mr Brandon died “as a result of contact with Tiny” and he recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Mr Brandon had kept snakes for 16 years and Tiny was one of 10 snakes and 12 tarantulas he kept in his room at the family home, North Hampshire Coroner’s Court heard.

His mother Barbara Brandon said her son had owned Tiny since it was small enough to fit in his hand.

She told the court on the night of her son’s death she heard a bang coming from his room, but had assumed it was a dumbbell falling or that he knocked something over.

She later discovered Mr Brandon unconscious in his bedroom and later found the snake coiled under a cabinet.

I once spoke with a chap who knew a bit about pythons, shortly after a pet killed a toddler in Florida in 2011. He said they are more than capable of killing a human being, but they rarely try because there is easier prey around. The key, the chap told me, is to ensure they’re fed; if they get hungry, they’ll start eating things they’re not supposed to.

He never felt threatened by Tiny and was aware of how strong it was, she said, but there were occasions when it would “strike out” if she entered the room.

This doesn’t sound good. Pythons can give you a nasty bite similar to that of a dog. Would you keep a dog in the house that tried to bite people?

Mr Bradley said: “The most likely scenario is that Tiny was engaged with Dan – I have no doubt about that.

“She was coiling around him, at which point I have no idea. There was a point at which either she takes hold of him unexpectedly or trips him up or some other mechanism.”

When playing with dogs you need to make sure you don’t do something which triggers them into reacting aggressively, and dogs are generally amiable creatures which can be trained. What bond a human can have with a snake I don’t know, but I can’t imagine the relationship is ever that secure.

However, reptile expert Prof John Cooper, who examined Tiny at the Brandons’ home in November, told the court Mr Brandon “would have known how to unwrap a python”.

Is that always possible? Presumably it is if a reptile expert is saying so, but I always imagined any unwrapping I’ve seen on TV was done with the consent of the python.

Prof Cooper also inspected the skin that Tiny shed later that month and said if the snake had coiled around Mr Brandon, there would have been scratches visible on the snake’s skin caused by him trying to get the reptile off – but there were none.

Oh! Perhaps Tiny has been framed, then? Either way, it’s pretty sad for his family:

“I cry every day and night and relive that evening all the time,” she said. “All the family wanted was answers to our questions, and I have no idea yet whether we have that or will.”

I am confident my demise will not occur in similar fashion to that of Mr Brandon. I quite like seeing big snakes, provided they are behind an inch of glass and I am in a zoo. Otherwise I’ll keep well clear; they terrify me.

Share

Earth to Earth

When I was a child my parents, in lieu of a television, used to listen to Radio 4, especially at meal times. My mother hailed from Sidmouth and so took interest in a radio series that concerned a remote farming family in mid-Devon who one day blew their own heads off with a shotgun. Chez Newman was a barrel of laughs, I can tell you. I remembered the series, which was called Earth to Earth, and the book of the same name that someone gave my mother shortly afterwards. For no particular reason I tracked it down on Amazon and bought a secondhand copy (it’s now out of print).

The Luxton family had been farming in Devon for around 600 years, and by the 19th century the various branches pretty much owned everything within a day’s ride of Winkleigh, the village around which the events took place. The author of the book, John Cornwell, noted that marrying between cousins was common among the Luxtons simply because the family was so large it was pretty much impossible to cast one’s net beyond their geographical spread in the days when people’s worlds were very much smaller than they are today. Things looked good for Robert George Luxton, born in 1818: he inherited six farms and plenty of assets in the form of stock, dwellings, furniture, and paintings and was the undisputed head of the local aristocracy. Being a rich chap, he indulged in foxhunting, gambling, womanising, and drinking along with his pal the Fifth Earl of Portsmouth, who was even richer and built himself an extravagant mansion in 1854 to which he would invite hundreds of his friends to engage in hunting and pissing it up.

At the same time, Robert George embarked on a large program of upgrades to his farms, investing heavily in new machinery, rebuilding barns, acquiring better breeds of livestock, and adopting more intensive farming techniques requiring large outlays on seeds and fertilisers. A lot of this was financed through loans, which the banks were only too pleased to extend at seven percent interest. His sons and daughters were given expensive educations and preferred to play sport or idle rather than work the land, and soon he began to lose control of his workforce. But what happened next was worse:

The catastrophe, when it came, was more widespread and appalling and permanent than any could have guessed. The background to the agricultural depression of the latter half of the nineteenth century was the influx of cheap food from the United States, Russia, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Steam navigation and the relentlessly spreading tentacles of the railways in every part of the world brought speedier, cheaper transport. The Americans had pioneered the mechanization of crop farming on an unparalleled scale to open up and exploit the vast and fertile prairies. Inevitably the food markets of the world were transformed. It was an era of aggressive free trade and British farming was brought to the edge of collapse. Throughout the 1870s North American grain pushed prices down to levels unknown since before the year 1700. The populations of the manufacturing towns were being fed on Argentine beef, Australian mutton and bread made with American wheat. In the 1880s the cost of a loaf fell to half its previous price. Denmark counteracted the changing market forces by rapidly switching to dairy produce. The Danish farmer fed cheap imported grain to dairy cattle and pigs, and exported high-quality standardized bacon to England.

Many British crop farmers converted their farms to grass­land, hoping to redeem their fortunes by investing in milk production. As a result there were huge milk surpluses and plummeting prices meant they failed to cover their invest­ments. Their attempts to break into the cheese markets were frustrated as they watched American cheese drop to twopence a pound. No British farmer could produce good cheese for less than fourpence a pound.

Compounding the misery of British farmers was the appalling weather I described in this post. The upshot was that many farms went bankrupt, sending thousands of farmers and agricultural workers to all four corners of the globe to seek better fortunes – including many who bore the Luxton name. Robert George was forced to sell land and other assets to pay his debts, before breaking his neck in a hunting accident in 1902 aged 84 and penniless. His pal, the Earl of Portsmouth, killed himself in 1906.

Observing all this, and taking careful notes, was a cousin of Robert George’s by the name of Lawrence Luxton of West Chapple farm. Although the two had grown up together, he was highly critical of Robert George’s extravagant ways, himself eschewing modernisation and spending almost nothing. When the crash happened, Lawrence Luxton was determined to survive with his farm intact. Believing the real danger to a farm lay in outside forces such as markets and money-lenders, and understanding that a farm can be almost entirely self-sufficient, Lawrence Luxton simply shut the farm gate and rode out the storm. Their main contact with the outside world was to barter produce in exchange for items they couldn’t make themselves, such as clothes and boots. What is astonishing is that the family carried on like this for two more generations.

A hundred years later, in the 1970s, West Chapple farm was owned and occupied by the last remaining members of the once-enormous Luxton clan: brothers Robbie and Alan, and their sister Frances, Lawrence Luxton’s grandchildren. Their father, Robert John, had been raised by Lawrence to run the farm and view the outside world much as he did, and Robert John in turn passed this outlook onto his own offspring. As such, the Luxton’s farming practices remained unchanged from those of a hundred years before: everything was done by hand, there was almost no machinery, they used draft horses in place of tractors, and there was no mains water or electricity (at least, according to Cornwell’s book: this is disputed). By all accounts they were excellent farmers, producing good animals and taking tremendous care of their land, and they didn’t spend a penny more than was absolutely necessary. When WWII arrived, and brought with it thousands of American and Canadian soldiers, the world opened up a little for Alan, the youngest of the three siblings. He joined the Young Farmers club and, after long days in the fields, would scrub down, head into Winkleigh, and go drinking in the pub.

When the war ended Alan tried to persuade his elder brother to modernise the farm but Robbie, wedded completely to his father and grandfather’s methods, refused. He allowed the lane leading to the farm to grow over, claiming he wanted it for grazing, and erected gates at either end. Anyone driving by on the public road would just see a meadow on the other side and never guess there was a farm in the valley beyond, hidden completely from view. The family fortunes changed dramatically when Alan met a local woman and became engaged. He approached Robbie and said he wanted to sell his share of West Chapple so he could buy a small property of his own and raise a family, but again Robbie refused: he couldn’t afford to buy Alan out of his share, and to split the farm up was unthinkable. Furious rows ensued and even physical violence, with Frances – who was older than them both – caught in the middle but sympathising with Alan. Eventually, unable to win his brother over, Alan called off his engagement and returned to the farm. He then suffered a complete mental breakdown, locking himself in his room and hurling abuse at everything and nothing, roaming the farmyard dressed only in sacks and incapable of doing any real farm work. He was to remain that way until his death years later.

Frances had a few romantic liaisons but none developed into anything serious, probably because her brothers were so dependent on her staying at the farm. Once it was clear Alan’s condition wouldn’t improve, her fate on the farm was sealed. Robbie, for his part, was uninterested in women believing his sister was all he’d ever want or need. As the siblings grew older the farmwork grew more difficult. They began to think about succession but had nobody to pass the farm onto. Deeply aware they were the last remnants of a great Devon farming family, Frances took to researching their ancestry in the hope of finding a suitable heir. But as time passed and none was forthcoming, the weight of family history bore more heavily upon them. By the time Robert and Frances were in their sixties, and the erratic Alan in his mid-fifties, the farm had become too much for them and they agreed to sell it. Then they changed their minds, then they found a purchaser and agreed to a sale, but immediately regretted it. Witnesses say Frances spent her final days in a sort of delirium over the sale of the farm, repeating over and over that they should stay and die in West Chapple.

One morning, in the autumn of 1975, a grocer’s delivery man approached West Chapple and found Robbie, Frances, and Alan lying dead in the yard with massive shotgun wounds to their heads. The police quickly ruled out the involvement of a fourth person and concluded that Alan had probably committed suicide first, with Robbie following suit an hour or so later having first dispatched Frances who didn’t appear to offer any resistance.

Suicide rates among farmers still remain high everywhere, including in the UK, France, and USA. While most observers focus on economics and isolation, there is often also a great weight of family history pressing down on the shoulders of farmers whose forebears have worked the same land for sometimes hundreds of years before. As the case of the Luxton’s shows, this can exert an enormous psychological pressure on farmers faced with no choice but to sell up. If they have nobody in the family to hand over to, this pressure can become unbearable. Having grown up in a rural area and known several farmers who died early from heart attacks (although thankfully, none through suicide), I can relate to the pressures they are under even if none is exerted on me. Back when I was a kid listening to Earth to Earth on Radio 4, I thought the story immeasurably sad. Now I’ve read the book as an adult I still do, particularly the Luxton’s despair in a world which had passed them by, leaving them stranded on an island able only to look backwards. There is nothing as relentless as the passage of time, and nothing so unforgiving as the march of progress.

Share

Mismatch

From the BBC:

Britain’s armed forces risk falling behind Russia without more investment, the head of the Army will say.

General Sir Nick Carter will say the British Army’s ability to respond to threats “will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries”.

When I first read this story about an hour ago, they used words to the effect of the British Army not being able to match the Russian Army in battle. Since then the BBC have updated it to the above, perhaps realising they were making stuff up.

But leaving that aside, when have the British armed forces ever been able to match Russia’s? Sure, a platoon from 2 Para or a troop from 42 Cdo would likely make short work of a Russian infantry platoon, but the military as a whole? There may have been a period around 1992 when Russia’s military officers hadn’t seen any pay in over a year leaving half of them flogging weapons out the back of the camp and the rest passed out under a missile silo having drunk a litre of distilled shoe polish, but otherwise the British Army hasn’t been a match for the Russians probably since the Crimean War – and especially not on their turf.

For a start the Russian forces have an overwhelming numerical advantage in terms of men and kit, and even if we allow for the fact that their organisation and logistics is likely shambolic and spectacular SNAFUs will be the norm, they still know how to deploy highly effective artillery and air defence systems when they have to. In addition, even though the average recruit in the Russian Army might be uneducated, undertrained, underfed, and ill-disciplined he will probably have the stomach for a decent fight. By contrast, the British Army is fast turning into a social welfare programme where recruits fret over battlefield prayer facilities and a unit’s success is measured not on how many battles it’s won, but on how much diversity it has in its ranks.

Any role Britain has in opposing Russia will consist in its entirety of supporting the Americans as best they can, assuming our Yank friends are interested in getting involved. Otherwise, if Russia is a genuine threat, we’re probably better off learning a few words of Russian and learning how to drink vodka neat from tumblers than increasing the Army’s budget.

Share