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A Suffolk sortie

The Sage of Kettering and I have been on another trip, not to some distant, warm, European setting, but a distinctly chilly Suffolk on a bright early Spring day. Here is my account of our trip to an oft-overlooked corner of England and a dip into the past, focusing on the damage done by the iconoclasts. I am indebted beyond measure to the wonderful Suffolk churches site for inspiration on what to see, and links to pictures.

The first stop was a quick look at a proper windmill, unfortunately under repair, the Post Mill at Saxtead. So much more attractive than the hideous electric-powered windmills that clutter the landscape, sucking up subsidies and slowing down the wind.


Next stop, the focus of our trip, Framlingham Castle, a series of towers with no inner keep, but it does contain an old Poorhouse. Noted as the place where Mary Tudor was when she was proclaimed Queen after the tumult of Edward VI’s death, and she then went on to make her mark with an unwise marriage and her trademark of barbecuing Bishops.

The walls of the castle are impressively high, with an excellent ditch.


Around the towers, there are Tudor chimneys, allowing some local heating.

The castle does not have a keep inside it, it is just a wall with a series of towers. The space inside was used to build a poorhouse.

And in the Poorhouse is a local museum, with a fine collection of curious, including this tribute to General Pershing and his Crusaders.

The Sage decided to try out the headgear, it might be useful with canvassing with local elections coming up.


→ Continue reading: A Suffolk sortie

Samizdata quote of the day

Yesterday the Labour leader posted a video to his social media accounts. Dogged for days by accusations he was complicit in passing information in multiple meetings to the Cold War Czechoslovak agent Jan Sarkocy, and having dodged questions on the topic by the press, Corbyn (or Agent Cob as the Statni Bezoecnost called him) decided he would not answer the questions but attack the press that were asking them.

Matt Kilcoyne

A defeated country? – Lawyers for Britain on Mrs May’s approach.

The good folks at Lawyers for Britain (all donations appreciated) have cut to the chase with Martin Howe QC’s assessment of the situation as it appears to him.

 The European Union’s proposals for the UK’s transition period make grim reading. They are the sort of terms which might be imposed by a victorious power in war on a defeated enemy. They are not terms which any self-respecting independent and sovereign country could possibly agree to, even for an allegedly limited period.

Apparently, we must agree to implement every new EU law while having no say or vote; and we shall not be allowed to conclude trade agreements, even to roll over existing agreements which the EU has with other countries so that they continue to apply to us, without the EU’s permission. We must abide by the rulings of a foreign court on which there will no longer be any British representation.

Apparently, an outrageous and demeaning proposal by the Commission that the UK should be subject to extra-judicial sanctions under which the EU could suspend market access rights is now to be “re-worded”. But that would still leave the UK extremely vulnerable to damaging new rules being imposed on us during the transition period by processed in which we would have no vote and no voice. As reported in the Telegraph last week, the EU has plans to use these powers in order to launch regulatory “raids” on financial institutions on British territory and to make rules which will damage the competitiveness of the UK’s financial services industry

Do not think that this is just a lamentation, there is a perfectly sensible alternative.

What is the alternative? One alternative if the EU persist in offering these unacceptable terms is to walk away from a deal with the EU altogether. That is possible; but there is another way. That is to walk away from the transition arrangement, but still to pursue a longer term trade agreement with the EU.

The post goes on to make a lot of valid points about a way forward, and has an excellent analysis. (Although he is wrong about there being no orange production in the UK, I have just finished a pot of marmalade made commercially from English-grown oranges, albeit on a microscopic scale).

But let it sink it, what we are facing is Finlandisation, a modern-day ‘Treaty of Versailles’ with us as the Central Powers, when it should be a re-run of 1776 and its aftermath.

Antiquated attitudes

Thus saith the EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION to its anointed, to the BBC, whose right hand it hath holden, to subdue the unrighteous before it:

Employers still have ‘antiquated attitude to female workers’

Many employers still live in the “dark ages” when it comes to recruiting women, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says.

In a poll for the EHRC, 36% of employers thought it reasonable to ask a women about plans to have children.

Some 59% agreed that a woman should have to disclose during the recruitment process whether she is pregnant.

The commission said the poll of 1,106 male and female decision-makers showed worrying attitudes.

The EHRC said its study showed that many employers needed more support to better understand the basics of discrimination law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “It is a depressing reality that, when it comes the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, we are still living in the dark ages.

“We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant.

“Yet we also know women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews.”

Other findings from the YouGov survey of small, medium and large firms included:

– 46% of employers agreed it was reasonable to ask women if they have young children during the recruitment process

– 44% agree women should work for an organisation for at least a year before deciding to have children
About one third believe that women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are “generally less interested in career progression”

– 41% of employers agreed that pregnancy in the workplace puts “an unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace

– 51% agree there is sometimes resentment towards women who are pregnant or on maternity leave
The EHRC said its survey revealed antiquated beliefs, including two out of five employers saying women who have had more than one child while in the same job can be a “burden” to their team.

Samizdata quote of the day

When host Andrew Neil said survival rates for some cancers were worse in the UK than in Costa Rica and Brazil, Soubry responded, ‘And?’. When Andrews said, ‘The principle of universal access has been adopted by everyone, but the centralised bureaucratic system has not and that’s why they have better patient outcomes… Can’t we just look at these systems to try to get some better healthcare in the UK?’, Johnson replied, ‘Why?’.

As frustrating as it was to watch their cloth-eared reactions, it at least revealed the absurdity of what has now become the standard response from politicians when it comes to discussing the NHS. This abject denial of any problems within our healthcare system has resulted in the NHS being ringfenced from criticism. Today, criticising the NHS amounts to heresy.

Naomi Firsht

Samizdata quote of the day

I asked my friends how they’d voted last year. Sanjit’s a Tory, but hard-working Annie and Marion, highly trained and usefully employed, said “Labour” without a pause for reflection. I wasn’t surprised, but I am fearful. Think what they’ll do when their generation puts a Marxist like Corbyn into power, eyeing up those assets we prize, those homes we once took for granted. What would be your instinct, if you’d never been able to buy a house, while the generation above you were getting richer by £35 a day, just by sitting in the home they refuse to let you afford?

Graham Archer.

The issue of the housing supply/demand problem has been noted several times before here at Samizdata, such as here, here and here.

The message on those Oxfam T-shirts

Have you ever watched someone make a speech and caught the moment when the speaker lost the sympathy of the audience? Those friendly to the speaker wince, suppress it, and lock their heads and their eyes into looking straight ahead. In contrast the hostile part of the audience exchange glances – did you hear it too?

There can be moments like that when reading a news story too. Suddenly a detail leaps out. The reader who is friendly to the subject of the story winces, while the hostile reader cannot wait to click on the comments. For the Oxfam story I think that detail was the prostitutes half-naked except for Oxfam T-shirts. Without that the story was and is a bit meh.

So men far from home use prostitutes? Meh. They call it “the oldest profession” for a reason. Most people, even those with traditional views on sexual morality, would say that is a private matter.

So women in countries stricken by war or disaster turn to prostitution to survive? In that case the power imbalance makes the picture look uglier – but realistically it is inevitable. There was a sweet letter in today’s Times in which the writer suggested that we send the army to administer aid rather than these NGOs. Like the writer, I have a higher opinion of our armed services than I do of our misnamed “non-governmental” organisations, but consider the centuries old connotations of the term “camp follower”. Where soldiers are, there will be women offering to sell them sex.

Every story on this seems to include the line that some of the prostitutes may have been underage. Serious if proven, but so far, not proven. No one has put their name to a definite allegation citing times and places. May have been underage. Meh.

But this is not meh:

Oxfam in Haiti: ‘It was like a Caligula orgy with prostitutes in Oxfam T-shirts’

“The group lived in a guesthouse rented by Oxfam that they called the ‘pink apartments’ — they called it ‘the whorehouse’,” said a source who says he was shown phone footage by one of the residents of the guesthouse.

“They were throwing big parties with prostitutes. These girls were wearing Oxfam T-shirts, running around half-naked, it was a like a full-on Caligula orgy. It was unbelievable. It was crazy. At one party there were at least five girls and two of them had Oxfam white T-shirts on. These men used to talk about holding ‘young meat barbecues’.”

That image has deeply unpleasant associations. There is not even the fig leaf of buying the girl a drink and making a little awkward conversation to make it feel more like an interaction of equals. Black women are labelled as available for white men by brand name packaging. Think how that must rankle in Haiti.

But we’re libertarians, right? (I have used this line before.) Indeed we are. Neither guilty whites in London nor resentful blacks in Port-au-Prince should have a veto on two individuals making a deal. Subject to some provisos about promises made by either party to their spouses, to local laws, and to agreed conditions of employment, that is still my opinion.

However it is not Oxfam’s opinion. Do a search for the word “Oxfam” on this blog. There were a few sensible noises on free trade from this semi-fake charity fifteen years ago, but in recent years Oxfam has grown fat peddling economically illiterate bullshit on the alleged evils of “inequality” and “speculation”. White guilt and black resentment were its stock in trade. Actual trade was something to be taxed, regulated and eternally prefixed with some veto-word like “Fair” or “Ethical” that showed permission had been given by censorious third parties for the transaction to occur.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Samizdata quote of the day

Over the past 100 years, women have gained so much. Unlike those in 1918, we can vote, work, live independently, divorce, have sex without getting pregnant; we are free agents. Yet too much of contemporary feminism and mainstream politics seem determined to row back some of these hard-won freedoms. To mark the centenary of votes for women, prime minister Theresa May promised to make it illegal to intimidate politicians. She was largely spurred on to this by female politicians’ complaints in recent years that they face abuse online. In the name of ‘protecting women’, May is seriously threatening our right to protest against powerful people.

Ella Whelan

Rod Liddle on Oxfam

The people of Haiti needed help — what they got was a bunch of Oxfam sleazebags

Yet another brilliant party I’ve missed out on. The Oxfam gig in Haiti back in 2011 — the whores, I’m told, were sensational, if a little on the young side. My own fault for having assumed it would be a grim convocation of death and destruction — plus pious white liberals blaming capitalism for everything. Not a bit of it. Those Oxfam staffers know how to party, especially the top brass.

No sooner had they arrived in the earthquake zone than they had set up their bordello, “the pink apartments”, and were ready for — as one of them put it — “young meat barbecues”.

The women were purchased — some of them younger than 16, allegedly — and decked out in Oxfam T-shirts — no undergarments, no jeans or skirts, just Oxfam T-shirts. Then began what was described as a “full-on Caligula orgy”, led by Oxfam’s then country director Roland van Hauwermeiren. Roly is 68 years old — you have to admire his energy. All that misery to sort out, but he still had the time to give some local teenagers a good charitable seeing-to.

Better still, Roland could later appear before the cameras, wringing his hands and saying of the situation in Haiti: “Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities.” You’re not kidding, Roland. You were clear about your own aid priorities, weren’t you? But, hell, what a party. And to think I felt bad about the Presidents Club dinner, where some right-wing men may have touched a woman’s knee.

This scarcely believable story was revealed in The Times: four senior Oxfam workers booted out for engaging prostitutes in Haiti as the country tried to recover from its earthquake. Oxfam complained it was old news and that the press had been told about it at the time.

Oxfam was lying. Sure, we’d been told back then some staffers had been sacked for “misconduct”. But misconduct could have been tearing up parking tickets or referring to a dying earthquake victim by their gender at birth, rather than the one to which she/he had transitioned. I suppose lying is stretching it, mind. Technically, you could say the Yorkshire Ripper was guilty of “misconduct”.

Oxfam also claims it told the Charity Commission about everything. That’s not how it looks. It told me on Friday: “We have written to the charity as a matter of urgency to request further information regarding the events in Haiti . . . This information will be considered as part of an ongoing case regarding the charity’s approach to safeguarding.”

It does give you an insight, though, into the way these perpetually angry and concerned middle-class lefties actually think of the people they are supposed to be helping. So pristine and pious, so sanctimonious towards the rest of us. So aloof from our own national concerns: internationalist to a man and especially in favour of countries where, like Haiti, the whores can be bought for one dollar. Yay, that’s the kind of country we like!

This is the second scandal to affect Oxfam this year: income £408m in 2016-17, almost half of it from government, with huge sums spent on salaries or advertising or lobbying — or indeed whoring. A few weeks ago the charity castigated capitalism for having enmired the Third World in poverty. It was pointed out, fairly quickly, that capitalism had elevated most of the world out of poverty and into affluence.

Oxfam’s assertion was the usual adolescent political grandstanding and weird warping of reality — and ignored the desperate poverty inflicted on hundreds of millions of people by socialism. It was virtue signalling by an organisation that, by now, is denuded of the slenderest vestiges of virtue. Most of the world’s poverty today is occasioned by bad governance and a predatory Third World elite, not by capitalism.

I think the Oxfam staffers know this. I think they know this and it makes them hot. Never give these people any of your money.

I have been known to give Oxfam small amounts of my money. I love a bargain, and if I’m passing an Oxfam charity shop I’ll pop in, and if there is a little something that takes my fancy, I’ll spend a quid or two to have it. Er, not in the Roland van Hauwermeiren sense. Call me over-optimistic, but I would like to think that alongside what Liddle rightly calls Oxfam’s “adolescent political grandstanding and weird warping of reality” – a.k.a. “socialism” – the charity has some employees who are actually quite good at getting help quickly to desperate people after an earthquake or similar catastrophe. That’s my excuse anyway.

By the way, so long as they are over the age of consent, I strongly oppose prostitution or the hiring of prostitutes being an offence in law. However I believe it was the case that Oxfam made a rule forbidding its aid workers to employ prostitutes, then covered it up when senior employees broke that rule.

Much of Oxfam’s sickness comes from its receipt of government money. No longer was it entirely dependent on the goodwill of ordinary people with their naive belief that the money they gave should be spent on medicine or tents or emergency latrines rather than politicking, and their equally tedious preference that their donations not be spent on prostitutes. Freed from all that, Oxfam could branch out into being a political party for people too sensitive to do the hard graft of going door to door and canvassing for votes, and as a bonus it could use government money to advocate for the policies that would keep the stream of government money coming.

Other ways of providing health care

Whenever I have attempted to discuss health care, I am always told about how the US health system fails people. I am sure that this is some combination of untrue (my own experience of US health care was walking in unannounced, paying $100 and being seen and fixed straight away) and unfair. US health care is not wholly private or even very free-market at all, and suffers a high level of regulation. But I do not understand enough about the details.

I occasionally hear good things about other health care systems, such as Australia’s method of having people pay and then possibly having the government refund them. While I can understand that it will be hard to convince people that anarcho-capitalist health care is best, it is interesting in the UK that no changes to the structure of health care at all will be considered. Private companies must not be allowed to make a profit! Such profit can only be gained from killing patients.

However the IEA have recently made an interesting strategic decision to counter-attack the knee-jerk reaction that the only alternative to the NHS is US-style health-care. What if the NHS and the US system are both weird and there are other sane and functional systems in the world? Kate Andrews has appeared on the BBC pointing this out. Guido covered it. Kate Andrews wrote a piece for the Spectator. All this is to publicise the IEA report Universal healthcare without the NHS.

One thing they keep pointing out is that the NHS ranks in the bottom third of the world’s health care systems in terms of outcomes. That will need a lot of repeating if anyone still thinks it is the envy of the world.

It is also, perhaps, a much more effective strategy than attempting to convince people of the benefits of free markets up front. “Let us try to learn something from nice country X” does not require breaking down as many mental barriers as “please abandon a lifetime of carefully cultivated opinions about the unfairness of capitalism”.

By the authority vested, very scantily vested, in me…

The Gambling Commission has said that scantily dressed female croupiers are “unacceptable”.

Gambling Commission condemns outfits at trade show

Scantily clad women are “unacceptable” at a betting industry conference, Britain’s gambling regulator has said.

Sarah Harrison told the BBC that some women working at the ICE Totally Gaming event were wearing “little more than swimsuits”, while men wore smart suits.

The chief executive of the Gambling Commission said the body could boycott future ICE Total Gaming events.

But the event’s manager said the complaint was directed at a “very small” number of firms taking part.

Kate Chambers, managing director of ICE London, also said the show has been encouraging exhibitors to represent women more respectfully.

[…]

Earlier, Ms Harrison told BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme of her dismay at seeing a gender disparity at the show, with some women on exhibition stalls doing promotional work in revealing clothing.

“The men were wearing smart suits and women were being asked to wear not much more than swimsuits. That’s totally unacceptable; it’s not reflective of the modern economy,” she said.

“This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about good regulation and good governance, because businesses that have a more diverse workforce are more likely to make better decisions. And that’s critical from a regulator’s point of view.”

“It’s about good regulation and good governance, because businesses that have a more diverse workforce are more likely to make better decisions” is one of the weirder non-sequiturs I have come across lately. It sounds like someone inputted a load of modern buzzwords into a 1980s Turing Test chatbot program. But that is a side issue.

What part of the legal remit of the Gambling Commission gives it authority to regulate the style of dress of people working in the gambling trade? It is meant to protect “vulnerable people”, that is, gambling addicts or people at risk of becoming gambling addicts. It also has a role in ensuring the law regarding gambling by minors is followed. Women employees who wear sexy dresses at a gambling trade show come into neither of these categories. How dare Sarah Harrison imply that they are either vulnerable or children. How dare she lay down the law on whether their dress is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” to her, when there is no law to lay down. She exceeds her authority.

Poujadisme, in Desborough, Kettering, England

10 ‘Conservative’ Councillors (of the 12 complement) on the Town Council in the little town of Desborough in Northamptonshire have resigned after an apparent hostile response to a 400% tax rise imposed by the local council, and there is an alleged undercurrent of unpleasantness in the local reaction, perhaps the spirit of Poujard lives on.

The BBC tells us:

Desborough Tory councillors’ mass ‘bullying’ resignation

Well, who is the bully?

Is it the Council for ramping up tax by 400% from £19.10 to £96.98 per year on those who have to pay, with the sort like the Chairman, Councillor Pearce, of whom it is reported:

Ms Pearce… …said “with hindsight we perhaps should have sent out some kind of warning it was coming”.

and then went on to say:

“But I absolutely whole-heartedly believe it was the right thing to do and I would do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat,”

That’s a ‘Feck you!‘ if ever I heard one, and which I assume is a reference to the true costs coming through after some financial juggling used to disguise the costs of the Council ended (more like that later). And the article goes on, Ms Pearce said that:

she was “shocked by the ferocity” of the reaction.
“My husband’s taken abuse on Facebook. I’ve had comments made to my eldest child who’s only 15. I’ve had people try to stop children playing with my nine-year-old daughter.

So a frank expression of views and voluntarily withdrawing social interactions is shocking when you start robbing people under colour of law?

Her observation?

“They didn’t ask for that and they don’t deserve that.”

I think that is exactly what the residents are telling you, Madam! Action and re-action, this is not bullying, it is intra-election consultation.

For our more international readers, this council is about the smallest unit of local government that can levy taxes, and this council probably doesn’t need to exist, it can add a local ‘precept’ onto the taxes levied by the other local authorities, (4 layers are possible, 3 with taxing powers), all of which is loaded onto the ‘Council Tax’ bill that households pay, overall bills can be in the region of £1,200 to £2,000+ p.a.

To the resigning Councillors, I say ‘Oh dear, how sad, never mind‘, and count yourselves lucky that you live in such temperate times.

Meanwhile, at a County level, the County Council for Northamptonshire have spent £53,000,000 on a new headquarters, and in true Parkinson’s Law fashion, with the new HQ, matters have started to disintegrate, with spare money running out, so they have had to go to the government and tell them that they have cocked things up and run out of discretionary money to spend.

So having moved into a new HQ in October 2017, they are now looking to sell it to keep themselves going (by which they mean ‘sell it to a company who will lease it back to them, so that they can squander the capital and saddle locals with rent charges’ rather than ‘downsize and cut costs’). It’s just as well that the entire County is not rising up to berate the County Councillors, but perhaps the whole thing is too complicated and remote for people to care.

But at least the spirit of Poujade stirs from time to time, the BBC might think like Durin’s Bane, but actually more like Beorn. There is hope yet in England. And the Sage might wish to maintain a discretion on this one.

Edit: an erroneous ‘r’ removed, my apologies to the Gods of Accuracy, Spelling and M Poujade, and my thanks to Appianglorius, the price of accuracy is eternal vigilance, its true.