Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The ins and outs and boobs of military intelligence

Going in!

In one of those curious foot-notes to history, the United States laid plans for an invasion of Britain. No joke: straight up. Here's the version from American Heritage, "History's Homepage":
A more aggressive example of our Anglophobia was declassified in November, 1975, by the Pentagon, over the protests of the State Department, which called it a “very embarrassing item diplomatically.” The embarrassing item was a set of secret plans for the American invasion of Britain that had been drafted in Washington’s war plans division in 1928-29.

At that time the general staff believed that American inroads on British foreign trade might trigger a war between the two countries. According to the plan, whose color-keyed maps labeled Britain as “red” and Canada as “crimson,” American forces would “Destroy red armed forces in North America and the western North Atlantic, including the Caribbean and West Indian waters; isolate crimson from red; deny red the use of bases in the western hemisphere; occupy such territory in crimson and other red possessions as may be necessary and gain and exercise such control of sea communications as will contribute towards red’s economic exhaustion.”

Finally, an invasion of the British mainland—the first since William the Conqueror’s—would be launched from Ireland with the aid of “irreconcilable elements in the Irish Free State.”
This fantasia needed a cherry on the top, and it is that final nonsense: who were the “irreconcilable elements"? De Valera's Fianna Fáil, on the cusp of elected power? Or Frank Ryan's IRA?

Getting out?

Today's American military is immensely bigger, stronger and better-resourced than in 1928. Today there are one-and-a-half million Americans in uniform: the budget is $505 billion. That lot must cover every possible contingency, perhaps even an invasion of Britain if we don't behave. Well, every contingency except one.

That one is withdrawal from Iraq.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote to the Defense Department on 23rd May, asking whether there were such plans. Actually, what she wrote was:
... to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress—including the Senate Armed Services Committee [of which, of course, Clinton is a member]—with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning...
The Under Secretary for Policy, one Eric Edelman, responded that her question:
reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia...such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Which presumably means no plan, not now, never, ever ... Or something.

Edelman is a career diplomat, and a close buddy of Condi Rice and Messrs Cheney and Rumsfeld. He was whisked back to Washington, from being US Ambassador to Turkey, when Douglas Feith, Rumsfeld's bag-carrier, opted out. Al Kamen, in the Washington Post of 3 December 2004, noted he was
... seen as someone—perhaps the only one on the planet—who can comfortably straddle all the relevant political worlds. He's a career foreign service officer, a former ambassador to Finland who also worked for then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz and for Clinton Ambassador-at-Large Strobe Talbott. But he also worked for Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney from 1990 to 1993 and for Vice President Cheney from 2001 to 2003 and with Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice frequently when he represented Cheney at top-level meetings.
Quelle galère!

So Hillary wrote her letter. And then the roof fell in.

The New York Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton but now fallen on hard times in the Murdoch stable, saw it as:
The Pentagon yesterday launched a blistering attack on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for boosting "enemy propaganda" by demanding the U.S. military whip up plans for withdrawal from Iraq.
msnbc.com ("a fuller spectrum of news") headlined their piece:
Pentagon rebukes Clinton on Iraq
Says the candidate's talk of troop withdrawal reinforces the enemy
and accompanied this with a picture captioned: "Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is being criticized by the Pentagon for her anti-war rhetoric."

Predictably, Fox News ("We report. You decide.") took a similar line:
Pentagon to Sen. Hillary Clinton: You're Aiding the Enemy With Iraq Withdrawal Questions
Hillary 1, Pentagon 0

Now all this was a big mistake: Hillary is not so easily put off; she went for the organ grinder, not the monkey. By the end of the week, most media recognised she was scoring points:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to be getting some anti-war street cred on the left, with a little help from the Pentagon's No. 2.

Clinton is ratcheting up a spat with Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman by going to his boss, Robert Gates.
Gates went belly up:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he is personally engaged in developing contingency plans for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq and emphasized that those efforts constitute a "priority" for the Pentagon...

His letter—delivered by courier to Clinton's office on Wednesday evening—sought to smooth over a series of tense exchanges between the Democratic presidential front-runner and the Pentagon.
Edelman has form

Edelman had misjudged, and needed his boss to cover for him. Collapse of various stout parties.

But Edelman? Why? Did he not realise the folly of his tone? Was he put up to it by Gates? Or Cheney? Or whoever?

The mystery is that Edelman is, or should be wise in the dark arts of dealing with the Press. For it was he who came up with the idea of outing Valerie Plame:
Take Eric Edelman, Libby's former deputy. According to the indictment, Edelman suggested leaking information about the fact-finding trip to Africa undertaken by Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, to rebut Wilson's allegations just days before Libby first leaked Plame's identity to Judith Miller.
Getting it off your chest

None of all this will be of great news to transatlantic news-wonks.

The pity is that a significant issue (and yet another Administration cock-up) was drowned out by an even more important matter:
More than a week after The Washington Post's Robin Givhan's devoted an entire column to Hillary Clinton's alleged low-cut outfit, the controversy over the piece reached new heights this weekend as Sunday talk shows and numerous newspapers referenced the piece.

Among them was "Meet the Press," on which the column drew complaints from NBC's Andrea Mitchell, but support from John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, who said, "When you look ... at the calculation that goes into everything that Hillary Clinton does, for her to argue that she was not aware of what she was communicating by her dress is like Barry Bonds saying he though he was rubbing down with flaxseed oil."

On CNN's Reliable Sources, host and Post colleague Howard Kurtz cited the piece, saying "Now, you're probably thinking, why are we in the media wasting our time on such sartorial nonsense? Maybe because we care so much about how we look, so we assume politicians must have the same obsession."
But British bosoms are bigger and better!

That Givhan story (which is still being recycled even in the New York Times) has extra British inches:
Not so long ago, Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, spoke before the House of Commons showing far more cleavage than Clinton. If Clinton's was a teasing display, then Smith's was a full-fledged come-on. But somehow it wasn't as unnerving. Perhaps that's because Smith's cleavage seemed to be presented so forthrightly. Smith's fitted jacket and her dramatic necklace combined to draw the eye directly to her bosom. There they were . . . all part of a bold, confident style package.
"There they were". So much for the sisterhood. Now, if the piece were by-lined to a male ...

It's all unhealthily reminiscent of the classic dialogue from Yes, Prime Minister:
Hacker: "The Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country and the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who do run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country, the Morning Star is read by people who think the country should be run by another country and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is."

Sir Humphrey: "And what about people who read The Sun?"

Bernard: "Sun-readers don't care who runs the country so long as she's got big tits."
But (back to the top) will the Pentagon recommend invasion if we Brits insist on running our country? Or inviting the Iraqis to run theirs? Sphere: Related Content
What caused Gordon's guffaw?

The Washington Post (one of Malcolm's other journals of choice) has Michael Abramowitz reporting on Gordon Brown in Maryland and Washington.

Readers are urged to make it all the way to the very end for the gem in the piece:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said he detected little effort on Brown's part to distance himself from Bush...

Lantos said he joked with Brown that he had the good fortune to be coming to power with new leaders in Europe -- German Chancellor Angela Merkeland French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who are more congenial to Britain and the United States than their predecessors. "He burst out laughing, and he indicated, in an inimitable English way, that he agrees with me on his luck," Lantos said.

That, presumably, would be the humorous Home Counties banter habitually enjoyed by the gossoons and colleens amid the sun-dappled Cotswold stone of the Tuscan hill-village of Kirkcaldy.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 30, 2007

Green and rank as grass

The most depressing handicap of Irish ultra-republicans is monocular vision. This can be adequately, and inelegantly revealed by any chance scan of 1169 and Counting:
An award-nominated Irish blog on Irish history and Irish politics - from today and yesterday : all 32 Counties!
The essence is to select and scan long-past documents and thereby reveal the horrors British imperialists impose, minute by minute, over the centuries, on one noble but oppressed people. "History", in any objective form, it is not.

The one big lie ...

George Orwell nailed the "Big Lie" technique in 1984:

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has became inconvenient, and when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.
The ultra-republican "Big Lie" depends on one inflexible notion: imperial "Britain" somehow wills and maintains a ruthless police state in the Six Counties, contrary to the will of the mass of the Irish people. Everything must be framed into that perspective; and nothing is further from the reality.

... is the father of other lies

Malcolm takes as the shibboleth the word "Protestant" (and its variant grammatical forms). This is not, primarily, because of any denominational commitment on his part, but because it shows up a critical flaw in nationalist/republican thinking: the need to conflate religious demarcations with political ones.

1169 and Counting seem unrelentingly to use "Protestant" as a pejorative. So, in last November's put-down of the Workers' Party (borrowing from a 1983 article lifted from Fortnight magazine):
... some support centred around the academic world which has contributed to a small but growing new Protestant (sic) membership - there is , however , a considerable gap between the political rhetoric which has attracted such new members , and the reality of the party's organisation.
The (sic) is in the original, by the way. Malcolm is not aware that religious affiliation ever was a disclosure required for membership. This aperçu must, therefore, derive from assuming academics are Prods. Hmmm.

Then again, there is this, from a 2005 rip of a 1984 "History of Armagh Jail":
The women's prison in the North of Ireland is situated in the centre of the Protestant/Loyalist city of Armagh.
It was built in the 19th century , a huge granite building which today sports all the trappings of a high-security jail such as barbed wire, guards, arc-lamps , and closed circuit television cameras.
The accuracy of that can be checked against the Census: in 2001 there were 14, 509 residents of the city of Armagh: 68.3% declared themselves to have a Roman Catholic background. Nor is Malcolm, whose knowledge of Armagh goes back to the 1960s, aware of any mass conversions among its populace.

Whose nationalism?

In the history of Irish nationalism, it was the Anglo-Irish who got there first.

Significantly for the history of the next two centuries, the irritant was taxation without representation. In 1576 "the inhabitants of the English pale" are petitioning the Queen's deputy, Surrey, against the taxes "whereby we are reduced to great decay and poverty". When the new Deputy, Sir John Perrot, called a Parliament in 1585-6:
the speaker Walsh, himself a nominee of the Government, delivered a long address setting out the constitutional position. No Government could be autocratic, using power in an arbitrary fashion, king, lords and commons legislated together in parliament. The subject was protected by his status under the crown and there could, therefore, be no discrimination against one in favour of another.
That, by the way, is James Lydon in The Making of Ireland.

A century later, in 1698, William Molyneux challenged the right of English statesmen to make laws for Ireland:
To tax me without my Consent is little better, if at all, than down-right Robbing me.
That was an argument that would be heard an ocean and another century away. And, of course, it was one Swift would refine in Drapier's Letters.

Those precedents, and their natural successors over three centuries, quickly are lost in the miasma of identifying Catholicism as the only true nationalism.

Historical inevitability

Let's persuade Malcolm to leave that long recitation, as least for this posting. Be warned: he will not be cheated of his detailed exposition for ever.

Let's get closer to now, and consider the other falsehood: the great British Imperial plot.

As Malcolm has repeatedly argued in these postings, if there is one constancy of "British" (increasingly a worrying term in itself) governments over decades, since the end of the "economic war", it has been a wish to be out of Ireland, north, south, east, or west. Once Malcolm MacDonald had managed to convince the British Cabinet that de Valera meant what he said, and that Britain's western flank was, literally, neutralised, only the boneheads and self-appointed "Spycatchers" of Margaret Thatcher's honour guard have diverted from the chosen path.

Any real foot-shuffling has been because Dublin, from de Valera to the present day, has shown no wish to take on the "North-east Ulster" business. Even at the moment when "England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity" that policy did not vary. There is, at the very end of Tim Pat Coogan's De Valera, Long Fellow, Long Shadow, a "Most Secret" internal memorandum addressed to Patrick Kennedy in the Department of the Taoiseach. Dated 24 May, 1941, it lists the myriad ways in which strict "neutrality" was being circumvented to the advantage of Britain. Behind that document lurks the reforming zeal of one Seán Lemass, itching to get out from under the dead hand of de Valera's economics, and seek a rapprochement with a post-war Britain.

A fresh future?

The ultra-republicans are also history. The few remaining firebrands may not yet be capable of eyeing that truth. Today we see greater unity of purpose, across four provinces and the four home nations than was conceivable even a few months ago. Even First Minister Salmond, watchful of his subventions from the Exchequer, is losing his shrillness.

The purblind nationalism issue is dead, and as extinct for all time as the diplodocus.

What matters now is using both eyes, and both sides of the brain in defining a mutual post-nationalism. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gordon goes to Camp David, and says ....

Surely to goodness, someone, somewhere in the Foreign Office has an exit strategy? The one that lets Britain off the Iraqi hook, and allows a proper focus on the Afghan issue. Well, it increasingly looks so.

Malcolm is prepared to put up a few bob that there is such a thing, and it looks not dissimilar to the concoction proposed by Senator Joe Biden (pictured right) and Leslie Gelb last year. [This is in a New York Times article, 0f 1 May 2006, and requires registration.]

The proposal started from observing the way settlement had been brought to Bosnia, through the Dayton accords:
which kept the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of American and other forces, Bosnians have lived a decade in relative peace and are now slowly strengthening their common central government, including disbanding those separate armies...
Biden and Gelb suggested applying the same approach to Iraq:
maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.
The result would be a loose confederacy:
... three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.
The main problem would, of course, be getting the Sunnis on board. As always, subtle bribery would be needed:
... running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.
Three small print items would include:
  • using US aid specifically to protect and develop the rights of women and ethnic minorities;
  • getting US troops out, except as a "small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest", but doing so in a way to avoid "national meltdown"; and
  • achieving a UN guarantee for Iraqi integrity and this new constitutional dispensation.
Cynics, with some good reason, thought Biden was having a laugh. He was about to put his head above the parapet for the Democratic nomination (which he isn't going to get; but he needs traction for a post in Hillary's Cabinet), and he chose a strange day to do it (three years to the day from Bush flying into the USS Lincoln to announce "Mission Accomplished"). George Hishmet, of gulfnews.com was particularly acerbic, and made the valid point that "partition" stank to the highest heaven because of Palestine and 1948.

Biden's outline seems to have been accepted by the State Department, which:
has stressed a proposal to build up provincial reconstruction teams out in the Iraqi provinces, with the goal of strengthening local tribal leaders. That, in itself, points toward greater decentralization in Iraq.
The missing ingredient is the lack of any overt activity on First and 42nd to 48th (the UN compound ... D'oh!).

Which may well be what is in Gordon's breast pocket.

Whatever happens at Camp David is not going to be a group hug. By this stage of the game, in private, the Brits must be demurring from the Cheney/Rumsfeld game-plan ... and even the Emperor must be realising that his new imperial clothes are a big threadbare. Brown will be at least as interested in the next President as the present lame-duck (defunction at noon, EST, 20th January 2009, and counting).

Not much will be said in public, yet. But the various utterances (Douglas Alexander, that classic "deniable denial" gambit) and appointments (Malloch Brown) are straws in the wind. The message has got through to Fox News, fortunately, reading the runes from today's Sunday Times story by ripping Sarah Baxter's story in full:
A SENIOR Downing Street aide has sounded out Washington on the possibility of an early British military withdrawal from Iraq.

Simon McDonald, the prime minister’s chief foreign policy adviser, left the impression that he was “doing the groundwork” for Gordon Brown, according to one of those he consulted.

Brown, who arrives at Camp David in Maryland today to meet President George W Bush, said yesterday that “the relationship with the United States is our single most important bilateral relationship”.

Downing Street remains emphatic that he will not unveil a plan to withdraw British troops, who are due to remain in southern Iraq until the Iraqi army is deemed capable of maintaining security. A spokesman said there had been no change in the government's position.

Behind the scenes, however, American officials are picking up what they believe are signals that a change of British policy on Iraq is imminent.
Movement at last? And complicity with incoming Secretary-of-State Joe Biden? Especially if, together, Joe and Gord present Prez-Elect Hills a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, July 27, 2007

Four "most popular stories"

on the BBC News front page:
  • Can pets sense illness?
  • Diabetes drugs "pose heart risk"
  • Cannabis "raises psychosis risk"
  • Potter author "penning two books"
This depressing list had Malcolm consoling himself with the Dorothy Parker piece:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Time and tide wait for no man

William Hill has opened a book on the next Tory leader. Current betting: Hague 9/4; Davis 5/1; Osborne (ye gods!) 10/1 etc.

Boris a 50/1 outsider.

What fun! Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Die Luft der Freiheit weht.

El Camino Real is the old Spanish road that runs up the spine of California, from San Diego, via the chain of Missions to Sonoma. Much of it lies under the modern Interstate 5, Highway 101, and (through San Francisco) Interstate 260.

At Palo Alto it runs past Stanford University (and that's the University motto at the title of this entry). Someone in the 1960s, observing the local proclivity for hallucinogenic substances, suggested this stretch should be "El Camino Surreal".

Malcolm now suggests surreality applies also to the fine road (the A31) that leads through the County Derry town of Magherafelt. Magherafelt is a "divided town" (which, in Northern Ireland, tends to imply any place where the local Catholics/Nationalists are uppity and do not know their proper place). In Magherafelt, the split is 52-48 to the RCs. Over the years, that has amounted to eleven terrorist deaths — of which three were probably IRA "own goals".

An over-arching conceit

Anyway, like so many in Northern Ireland, at this time of year the road is spanned by an Orange Arch. It transpires that the Magherafelt arch is owned, not as is usual by the local Orangemen (which would be Magherafelt District LOL No. 3), but by the DUP. This is significant.

As Michael Shilliday reported on Slugger O'Toole, this year the Magherafelt arch is subtly transformed. Previous years, the arch had featured the photogenic charisma of the Reverend Doctor himself and the missionary Rev. William McCrea. Now, First Minister (and at least quadruple jobber) Ian Paisley is not a member of the Orange Order: he was expelled for non-payment of dues many years ago, and set up his own shop).

A hero of our time: the Reverend Mr McCrea

McCrea serves the community as Pastor of the Calvary Free Presbyterian Church.
He employs any spare time left over from being
minister of the Gospel ... in a faithful adherence to the old-fashioned message of salvation by faith alone in Christ and an unswerving loyalty to the Word of God
as a District Councillor (indeed, Chairman of the Council), a member of Parliament (for Mid-Ulster 1983-97, and for South Antrim 2000-1 and since 2005), and now as a MLA. If that did not adequately show his mettle,
He was a member of the Shankill Defence Association and in 1971 he was convicted of serious riotous behaviour in Dungiven. In 1975 he led a prayer service at the paramilitary funerals of Wesley Somerville and Harris Boyle, who were responsible for the Miami Showband killings... he shared a platform with the senior loyalist terrorist Billy Wright in September 1996.
Truly, this is a man upon
whom the Londonderry Air of freedom blew and who followed the Master (Matthew 3:16) until:
lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
But wait! There is more!

This year the Magherafelt arch is changed, changed utterly! In place of the youthful (the arch had not been updated for some time) and angelic features of these two reverend and revered clerics (who have been painted out) there is Dan Winter's cottage and a scriptural verse. According to the Mid Ulster Mail:
Magherafelt UUP councillor George Shiels said many in the area have lost faith in the DUP and its members following their decision to enter into devolved Government with Sinn Fein.
"Following the U-turn by Ian Paisley and the DUP many in the district have lost faith in the party and its leadership," he said.
Ploy and counterploy

The dastardly effacement from the arch of Paisley and McCrea did not go without retaliation. The lights went out. Someone switched off the power to the arch. By one of those coincidences which, as Malcolm likes to point out, often aren't, the supply comes courtesy of the local Christian book-shop. Which, as you already guessed, happens to be affiliated to Rev. McCrea's church.

That would be almost the end of the matter, until next year, except for one small after-shock.

Magherafelt District Council has a web-site. Today's "Quote of the day" is from P.G.Wodehouse:
"At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies."
The Reverend Robert Thomas William McCrea, MP, MLA, alumnus of Marietta Bible College, Ohio (motto: "Study, service"), is 59 years old.

How many U-turns make a tangled web?

Malcolm is constantly aware of the manifest truth:
In William McCrea the people of South Antrim found a skilled and articulate public representative who gave an honourable, professional and active constituency service to all those who sought his intervention and counsel.
Yes, indeed. campaigning for the Assembly elections, this honourable and reverent gent. took a firm line:

William has consistently refused to yield to the IRA's terms and accurately warned of the ploy to develop the republican agenda through the Belfast Agreement. Now, only 18 months since the DUP gained the leadership of unionism, the pan-nationalist front has been smashed, the IRA is under pressure never experienced before by it and the heat is being turned up on the Sinn Fein leadership to condemn all IRA criminal and terrorist activity.

This determined stand was rewarded by the offer of yet another job! So it was that yet more burden descended onto those broad shoulders: chairing the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, saving souls by keeping a close eye on the potential for "criminal and terrorist activity" by SF's slimline and multi-tasking Minister, Michelle Gildernew (all that abstentionism must be very time-consuming).

In the Belfast Newsletter last week, McCrea announced victory, and, in a triumph of the will that deserves Leni Riefenstahl herself, crowed that freedom's cleansing winds now breathe upon God's chosen:
Let us celebrate our victory over the IRA. After 35 years of murder and mayhem, we are still part of the United Kingdom and the designs of our enemy have failed.
Sadly, there are those unionists among us who speak republican propaganda, suggesting that somehow republicans have won.
They have not won and could only do so in the future if we let them.
The Provos did not carry out 35 years of slaughter against the unionist people of Northern Ireland to sit in a British Assembly at Stormont and a partitionist Assembly under the Crown and the Union flag.
Every time republican representatives pass through the gates of Stormont, they acknowledge their united Ireland ideas have gone up in smoke.
Unionist-elected representatives must unapologetically block every move by Sinn Fein to cover the embarrassment of their failure.
Sinn Fein will seek to advance their united Ireland strategy but it is up to every true unionist to thwart their objectives.
Those unionists that have given up the fight should be ashamed of themselves. Now is not the time for weak livered representatives. We need real Ulstermen of courage with determination to stand against republican plans.
They've all got it in for me!

Alas and alack! This was misconstrued by many. Cries went up:
It is time Ian Paisley and William McCrea resigned. They cannot continue as ministers of the Free Presbyterian Church while sitting in government with IRA/SF.
Disgusted Free Presbyterian
Even the great and the good joined in:
SIR Reg Empey has joined those calling on William McCrea to clarify his position on power-sharing.
The Ulster Unionist leader said the DUP man’s involvement in the current status quo at Stormont was at complete odds with his long held opposition to doing a deal with republicans.
“William McCrea’s intervention (in the News Letter) last week, when he claimed the IRA was defeated etc, has caused a big reaction,” said Sir Reg.
“Why is this? Answer, because of Willie’s long standing claims that the IRA were determining government policy and because of his list of demands before he would support the inclusion of Sinn Fein in the government of Northern Ireland.
“Remember, it is not that long ago that Willie was demanding the return of the Northern Bank money amongst other demands.
“No money has been recovered and it’s very unlikely that it ever will.
“But furthermore, it was the vicious attacks Rev McCrea made on fellow unionists who supported the Belfast Agreement leaving him now looking hypocritical following his support for the St Andrews Agreement, which by any measure is more pro-nationalist than the 1998 agreement.”
Let it be said that the hero of the hour was brave against such icy blasts:
... he issued a clarification which seemed to throw into question his support for the agreement he originally voted for during the DUP’s internal debate before deciding to enter government.
“Lest there be any misunderstanding over the issue let me make this clear: at no time did this article (in the News Letter) suggest that I was a defender of power-sharing with Sinn Fein,” he noted.
“I have never changed my mind as to the unfitness of Sinn Fein for government.”
There, Malcolm admits, the situation rests. For the surreal, strong-livered, free-windy moment. And all without consciousness-raising additives.

Anyone totally at a loss by all this can have a taster of the 2006 Twelfth at Magherafelt on YouTube.

And, yes, one of the bands does play the old Fenian song The Rising of the Moon.


The Newsletter's take on this developing story (as of 24th July) is on line here.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 23, 2007

Respec' where it's true blue!

The Boy Dave and his cohort are up to their armpits in sawdust and paint at Giribuntu school in Rwanda. Well done those lads!

OK, it was going to be 50 MPs, which by April had come down to a dirty dozen: in fact only eight have coughed up the fare and gone. So what? Celebrate that Dave found two days in his schedule to fit it a bit of classroom decoration, a wreath laying and a speech.

After all, the efforts of these gap-weekenders will see four -- count them, four! -- classrooms added to the school.

And that's probably more than Margaret Thatcher's government managed across the whole of the UK in eleven years. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Made for you and me

The last week has been made purposeful, thoughtful and tuneful by folkalley.com's constant side-stream dedicated to the songs of Woody Guthrie.

That's it, really. Anybody and everybody who might have pursued the rest of this entry should be now have switched. Why haven't you?

The pretext for this Guthrie stream is a bit tendentious: it is based around last week (14th July) being the man's 95th birthday (except, of course, he died in 1967).

Hell, who needs an occasion to wallow in the songs? Like the air we breathe: they're just there. They are the shorthand to a way of clear, clean, decent thinking and being.

Another site, dedicated to Guthrie, will tell you all you don't know yet about his life and his work. It has a quotation from another of Malcolm's constant companions, John Steinbeck:
Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who still listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.
We still listen, and it's more universal than "the American spirit". Sphere: Related Content

Friday, July 20, 2007

A very immodest confession

Now, look, says Malcolm, blushing fuschia to the hairline, I know it's expected of me, and all the other politicos (except the Boy David, of course) have come across and put their hands up. But, well, err....

Look, Malcolm, you haven't done it in years, have you?

Of course not.

So, just come out with it. You'll feel better, and we'll all understand.

Well, it was a long while ago. Very early sixties, you know.

Yes ....

Well, you see, ... we didn't.

What do you mean you didn't?

Well, it hadn't really started to happen in those days. It was the next generation that got into that whole thing.

You didn't? Not even once?

No ... sorry. I don't want to feel I've let everyone down.

That's all right, old man. We quite understand.

But I've used buses in Wood Green, you know. Stood in the bus shelters, waiting. Does that almost count?
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Something old, new and very fine

Late night proms are the place for the different and the deviant. Malcolm recalls John Dankworth and the music of Ellington and Basie bursting into the cultural stratosphere thereby. And quite right, too.

Last night was exceptional, however.

Now, Malcolm's generation did everything: if you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there. And, as a result, some of us never made it here.

Stereo LPs for a start. About 1958 Pye Records (in the UK: it was Audio Fidelity in the USA) brought stereo to the market: Malcolm's generation briefly thought this was the ultimate ear-candy, if only because our prized Dansettes were instantly obsolete. Later, we realised the hell to which the most sin-stained sound engineers should be consigned involves endless bombardment by total separation, as instruments leap across the sound-stage unpredictably.

And so to last night's concert. Alessandro Striggio was a Mantuan, but moved into the court of the Medici at Florence. Cosimo Medici employed him as a diplomat, which brought Striggio to London (where his music inspired Tallis) and Munich (the motet Ecce beatam lucem seems to have been commissioned for a Bavarian Royal wedding). Inevitably much of Striggio's work has been lost, but one piece resurrected itself.

Around 1566, Striggio composed Missa sopra Ecco si beato giorno, which takes polyphony to new levels. Towards the conclusion, in the Agnus Dei, five separate choirs, each of twelve different voices, produce sixty (count them if one can) different voice-parts. As Striggio traipsed across Europe — Vienna, Brno, Munich and Paris — he left copies of his composition behind. All went missing, until Davitt Moroney (now at UC Berkeley) located one in the French National Library.

Last night, for the first time in nearly half-a-millennium, the work was revived.

Occasionally, just occasionally, the human singing voice transcends itself: a single soprano can somehow find the harmonics in the masonry of King's Chapel, and make stone resonate. Last night, the cast iron and brick of the Albert Hall were assaulted by sheer weight of numbers. Catch it for the next week on the BBC Radio 3 website. No sound engineers needed for a wall-to-wall sound.

Eat your heart out, Spector. Sphere: Related Content

One for the cat tray?

It's "put out the trash" day, so Malcolm is in full "bin it" mode. However, he paused for a snortle at the chance combination of four words.

This from The Times Law supplement of 10th July:

What's in a name?
Law to change on "
Slapper's Case Notes

That's it, Malcolm? Just another cheap shot?

Nope, nothing's cheap with lawyers involved. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who do you think you are?

One of the rudest questions, and one of the most civilised BBC programmes.

Since it started in the autumn of 2004, BBC2 has made barely two dozen of these programmes, with another eight promised for this autumn. For the totally ignorant, a celebrity is invited to research her or his family history. Many of these encounters turn out to be profoundly emotional experiences.

A grateful nation was transfixed in January 2006 when Jeremy Paxman, old hard-boiled Paxo himself, was confronted by the hardships of his ancestors. These included the "directed labour" that the Poor Law Commissioners imposed on the Paxmans of Framlingham, Suffolk, transporting them to Bradford, to work in the woollen mills. And Malcolm now refuses to explore the topic, Engels and Anti-Dühring, despite the temptation.

This evening, long overdue, Malcolm caught up with the Stephen Fry episode on one of the minor cable channels. On one side of the family, there had been workhouse and childhood TB: on the other, roots in Slovakia which led inexorably to Auschwitz.

There is always the risk that such "entertainments" can become exploitative and trite tragic-comedy. Malcolm found this Danubian exploration as cathartic as any tragedy. He knows of families who, similarly, have little knowledge or documentation of the fates of their close relatives.

The bitter-sweet truth is that anyone of us will have other, perhaps lesser but still real and emotive stories in our family history. Malcolm's therefore celebrates the lost ancestors. Sphere: Related Content

Southall: storm in a DC cup?

One would think, from the media hysteria, and the foam and froth on weirdo sites like those of Tim Montgomerie and even the usually more-reliable Iain Dale, that there was something cataclysmic happening in Ealing Southall. Wiser heads, like Malcolm's, continues to doubt that.

He feels reinforced in this by the graph of the odds on http://www.politicalbetting.com/ (seen above).

'Nuff said? Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Send for Commissario Brunetti!

The little things are the most bewildering. Size we cope with: you go up against a fully-grown tiger only when carrying serious heat. But then there is the mystery that is Rutland: how can one small area contain so much that is, well, nice.

So what's with Ross Clark's piece in the Spectator: "London matches the glory of Venice in its prime"? This seems to be an extended conceit, finding parallels between La Serenissima, the Queen of the Adriatic, and the Smoke, the Old Tart of the Thames.

The point of departure is itself quite convoluted:
... that London could hack it as a city-state has been entertained at both ends of the political spectrum. For economic liberals independence is a way of freeing London from the burden of its £20 billion annual subsidy to the rest of the country. The Mayor himself, Ken Livingstone, seems to like the idea of a London city-state, too. Returning from a visit to the Far East he declared last year: ‘Having been to Singapore and seen how successful it was, I think anything short of a fully independent city-state is a lost opportunity.’
Much of the subsequent "reasoning" comes down to real estate:
£15 million London houses are being rebuilt as £30 million palazzos...

Should the economy turn, on the other hand, it will become a lot clearer just how many Londoners have become reliant on Gordon Brown’s tax credits and on subsidised housing. In fact, Gordon Brown’s failure to address house-price inflation may turn out to be his eventual undoing.
Malcolm admits those two quotations are separated by four lengthy paragraphs, but they sit uncomfortably in the same article.

Then there's the obligatory European thing, without which modern Toryism might stand a ghost of a chance:
Sadly, Britain’s opt-outs from some EU legislation such as the Working Time Directive and now the European Charter of Fundamental Rights have been neither as extensive nor as long-lasting [as the A.D. 992 compact between the Doge and the Holy Roman Emperor], but the principle remains: if you want to succeed in trade, it pays to join your local trading bloc — but to keep it at arm’s length.
And the usual whinging about welfare:
By the end of Venice’s life as a city-state in 1797 one in six was living on welfare benefits. Sound familiar? They are the same pressures as on London today: a grudging attitude towards economic migrants, ever more rules but increasingly unreliable enforcement of them — sometimes weak, sometimes vindictive. Less immediately obvious, at least while the economy is booming, is the growing dependence upon welfare.
That seems to grate if it is rubbed up against David Cameron's touchy-feely community stuff, or Ian Smith's beer-money subsidy to the married condition.

Curiously, if the roars of St Mark's lion are the coming vogue, they haven't yet been heard up the Archway Road. Outer London Boroughs are clamouring, not for less Government subsidy, but for more. The great cultural divide is still — just — north of Watford: we are not yet pulling the wagons into a circle round the North Circular.

On the other hand, Trafalgar Square flooding each acqua alta, Paolin setting up a gelaterie,
the vaporetto to Heathrow, a nationalised railway with prices one can afford ...

The people's Ken might appreciate the election-for-life, but could he cope with the Doge's hat? Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Chalk and cheese

Malcolm has spent a couple of days reviewing camera specifications. For him this is the equivalent of crossing Africa, armed only with one of those antique maps notable for fanciful imaginings and Heere be Dragons warnings. Equipped with a magazine and numerous googlings, he began to come to a conclusion: a lot of this guff was badge engineering.

The proof positive was finding patently the same devices, in amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, but with different model numbers and, it goes without saying, vastly different price-tags.

The 7% Solution

Tomorrow morning's Sunday papers will show a similar parallel vision. Murdoch's Shagging Record (OK: The News of the World) will show an opinion poll:
Labour 35%; Tories 28%; LibDems 13%, based upon a sample of 1008.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph has a poll:
Labour 40%; Tories 33%; LibDems 19%, based upon a sample of 1008.
Same pollsters; same sample; same gaps. If this were cheese, it would be over-ripe Gorgonzola or Pont l’Evêque, for such results are one of those coincidences that aren't.

Iain Dale, blogging for the class enemy, has the explanation: they are in fact the same poll:
Ian Kirby from the NOTW explains that it was a shared poll with the Sun Tel. He says: "In response to your query about different results, Paddy did a state of the parties question. We asked "which party do you feel warmest to?" (to gauge potential floating voters) and crossed it with how did you vote in the last election".
Well, why not say so in the first place? Any bets that both papers trumpet their "exclusives"?

Malcolm is left wondering if Times Newspapers and the Barclay Brothers (successors to the noble Conrad, Lord Black of Crosshaven) know they have bought regurgitated pap.


A cynic, but never someone as sanguine and benign as Malcolm, might imply there is an ulterior motive at work here. It's the "leading up the garden path" trick. Wouldn't an autumn election fill the columns and sell the papers? It couldn't possibly be such a thing, could it?

Chalking it up to experience

Years back, Malcolm remembers late-summer dining in the garden of a hôtel in Aix-les-Bains. He was irritated by two picky daughters hankering for English bangers and baked beans. Then came the cheese trolley. Malcolm's spoken French is ropey enough, and the second bottle of Savoie wine may not have helped. It was only when the stuff was on his plate, he appreciated the horror to come. A very over-ripe and caprine goat's cheese, and of a commendable size was sitting there.

Silence descended. No more bickering. Four gimlet eyes bored into him. He had to devour the last chalky oozing, and be seen to enjoy. By the same token, those who live by the opinion poll (politicos and journos alike) may be forced to swallow the damn things whole.

Now, if only the difference between a PZ-80 and a CR-82E, which masquerade behind identical photographs and descriptions, were as easily digested. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Our north-western nook of Europe

Malcolm's two-hundredth entry is his first draft at defining what is right and wrong with the weighted names for our home nations, as we relocate ourselves into discrete and smaller "nationalities", within a wider European framework.

In it he uses quotations from Henry Reed's 1942 poem,
Naming of Parts.

A day or two ago, Mark Devenport was commenting on the (long overdue) first British Irish Council meeting. Devenport, the BBC's Northern Ireland political editor is usually reliable, witty and precise. He is also well-used to navigating the minefields of local politics.

Then the politico-linguistics caught him out:
I have just talked on Radio Ulster's Talkback about the summit bringing together all parts of the "British Isles". But I have since been reminded that the Irish government doesn't like this term. So is it the "Council of the Isles"? This gets around nationalist sensibilities, but doesn't help much if you are trying top explain things to someone who lives in the Canaries or another archipelago.

Which brings me to "the Atlantic Archipelago" — a term coined by some geographers. It avoids all political controversy, but would provoke blank looks so far as most people are concerned.

Blame it on Davies?

Norman Davies was a forerunner of this in 1999, when he published
The Isles: A History. Remarkably for a heavy history book, it adapted to audiobook, narrated by Andrew Sachs. Davies consciously has two contexts and a view-point: Europe reunited since the Iron Curtain, and Britain after the Union, but seen always from the peripheries. There is a telling interview by Czech-born, Cambridge-educated John Tusa of Welsh-born, Oxford-educated Davies:
Tusa: ... I suppose the essential part of this discussion is that there's now a tendency to say, well, the Irish know who they are, the Scots seem to know who they are, and at least half the Welsh know who they are. But the English don't, or the English are saying that they don't. Why do you think the English are finding it so hard to define themselves, outside of all the other contexts in which they have existed politically and nationally for the X hundred years?

Davies: The English as the domination nation within the British mix have been schooled for longer than living memory certainly, to confuse their own identify, their own Englishness with general Britishness and of course with the imperial family. If you read Rudyard Kipling, he talks about the English garden; but what he means is all the little boys and girls right round the world, whether they're in Australia or India or Gibraltar or wherever or in these isles, who are part of what you would call the English family. One of the characteristics if you like of the imperial mission of the English, which goes right back before the British empire , the English empire within the Isles, was this sense of this special divine calling of the English, as opposed to the other lesser nations. This reached its height, of course, during the Empire where, as it were, the god-given right of the British among whom the English were — they're usually called English in those days, even if you were Scots — the divine mission of the English was accepted as part of the natural order. And because of this special position of the English as the dominant element within the imperial family they somehow lost the awareness of who they were, other than the rulers of this great Empire. So, now it's gone, of course they're extremely confused; and it's the depth of the confusion which I still can't understand... One meets, you know, highly educated people who don't know the difference between what is English and what is British.
Slugging it out:

Inevitably, Devenport's dysphemism cropped up in the world-famous Slugger O'Toole's Pugilistics Parlour and Flyting Academy. Two contenders raised the old, familiar topic of national awareness in Ireland: that venn-diagram where 32 and 26 counties never overlap, and where any reference to who, what, where and when soon becomes close combat.

Today we have naming of parts.

“Ireland” as a term should be, and generally is universally acceptable. Malcolm was in a pub in the deepest-dyed Co. Down Unionist heartland, watching the 43-13 Six Nations game at Croke Park. There were no doubts there: once the embarrassments of national anthems were overcome, Kermit was proved wrong and it was easy to be green.

Daniel Corkery, way back in 1931, reckoned the three characteristics of nationalism, land and religion distinguished the Irish “national being” from those of England (and Malcolm believes he used that name, rather than any other). Corkery was Corkonian, a committed Fianna Fáil man, and fervid for a celtic-twilight rustic simplicity: today we might dismiss that as parochialism.

... what to do after firing

So, when the 1937 Constitution came about, it reflected the views of Corkery and his like. De Valera's gloss in the preamble proclaims the laudable aims:

that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured; true social order attained and the unity of our country restored and concord established with other nations.

It was, Malcolm acknowledges, remarkably liberal-democratic for that historic moment, when totalitarianism and worse were dominant across Europe. However, the Constitution meant that “Éire” as a term produces serious problems.

... silent, eloquent gestures, which in our case we have not got.

Connotations mean we do not have a value-free translation between two languages. Problems stem from de Valera's inclusion of partisan, political and illiberal elements.

Articles 2 and 3, defining a 32-county republic, were de Valera nodding to the national ideal of a United Ireland: he could do no less. Yet, they played massively for the bone-headed Craigavon clique, who eagerly disseminated and amplified them to the Unionist masses.

Article 44 affirmed the "special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith". This was a compromise: it may have angered the ultras (notably Fr Fahey's theocratic Maria Duce) but was markedly different from the secular 1922 settlement. The result was continued emigration among religious minorities, who were disproportionately merchants and professionals.

“Éire” had its first President in Douglas Hyde, son of the Church of Ireland rector of Kilmactranny. Before independence, 10% of the 26-counties' population were Protestant: by 1990 it was barely 3%. Cork once had Gerald Goldberg as its Lord Mayor. In the 1920s, there were 400+ members of the Jewish community in Cork. When Dick Hogan interviewed Goldberg (for the Irish Times, 17 Feb 1998), there were only eight practising Jews left in the city.

... assaulting and fumbling the flowers

And then there was Article 41:

... the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.

This has to be read alongside Article 45, setting out "the general guidance of Parliament", including:
The State pledges itself to safeguard with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community, and, where necessary, to contribute to the support of the infirm, the widow, the orphan, and the aged.
The State shall endeavor to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength.
... the point of balance, which in our case we have not got

All of which seems, as Peter Berresford Ellis has maintained, radical departures from the 1916 Declaration of Independence:
The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities for allits citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally ...
It certainly alienated the support of many feminists, not least of all Dorothy Macardle, de Valera's hagiographer in The Irish Republic, and provoking her to write him a letter (21 May 1937):
as the constitution stands, I do not see how anyone holding advanced views on the rights of women can support it, and that is a tragic dilemma for those who have been loyal and ardent workers in the national cause.
... please do not let me see anyone using his finger ...

Britain is a name wished on us by the Romans. They were borrowing from the Greeks, who could be borrowing from the Phoenicians, who may well have got it from the Cornish. Even Imperial Rome had problems with the definition.

Julius Solinus (about 260) and Martial (in the first century) seem to think it's the whole lot, while Cicero, Caesar and Pliny distinguish Britannia from Hibernia. Even the Roman province of Britannia was a bit elastic. Then, in the Arthurian period, the Britons are definitely not the Saxons, Scots or Irish, but do include the Bretons, the Welsh and all the way up through Lancashire and Cumbria. Later still, after the Union under the Stuarts, upper-class Edinburgh Scots are quite flattered to become North British (and the North British Railway linked Edinburgh to Berwick). And so we come to 1801, when for a brief while we are the "British Isles", while the North Sea is the "German Ocean", but for 90 years Heligoland is "British".

So "Britain" is a very slippery concept—which has caught out more than just Devenport.
"... soldiered not without glory"

Malcolm sees the [British] National Theatre revival of Shaw’s Saint Joan (four stars in today's Guardian and Times reviews) as significant. That play and Shaw's Preface, written in 1923-4, address nationalism.

Shaw gives Cauchon (the Bishop who sends Joan to the stake) a key speech:

… as a priest I have gained a knowledge of the minds of the common people; and there you will find yet another most dangerous idea. I can express it only by such phrases as France for the French, England for the English, Italy for the Italians, Spain for the Spanish, and so forth. It is sometimes so narrow and bitter in country folk that it surprises me that this country girl can rise above the idea of her village for its villagers. But she can. She does. When she threatens to drive the English from the soil of France she is undoubtedly thinking of the whole extent of country in which French is spoken. To her the French-speaking people are what the Holy Scriptures describe as a nation. Call this side of her heresy Nationalism if you will: I can find you no better name for it. I can only tell you that it is essentially anti-Catholic and anti-Christian; for the Catholic Church knows only one realm, and that is the realm of Christ’s kingdom. Divide that kingdom into nations, and you dethrone Christ. Dethrone Christ, and who will stand between our throats and the sword? The world will perish in a welter of war.

One can read that in the context of 1914-18 or the Irish Civil War, or as a general observation. It follows from a pamphlet Shaw wrote for the Labour Party in 1920: Irish Nationalism and Labour Internationalism. The title in itself tells where GBS was coming from.

This all resonates with Malcolm, but particularly because he was tidying a shelf yesterday, and flicked the last chapter of Jeremy Paxman’s The English. Of which this is the concluding paragraph:

The English are simultaneously rediscovering the past that was buried when ‘Britain’ was created, and inventing a new future. The red-white-and-blue is no longer relevant and they are returning to the green of England. The new nationalism is less likely to be based on flags and anthems. It is modest, individualistic, ironic, solipsistic, concerned as much with cities and regions as with counties and countries. It is based on values that are so deeply embedded in the culture as to be almost unconscious. In an age of decaying nation states it might be the nationalism of the future.

For all these reasons, Malcolm finds much sympathy for linguistic sloppiness like Devenport’s, and squirms when banner-waving mobs, armed with prejudices, catch-cries or shibboleths, take to the barricades.

... all of the neighbouring gardens ...

Today is the Twelfth: Orangeman's Day, which is where the root and branch of the problem lies.

For all of the snot-green spouting that it is "British-occupied Ulster", the Westminster government has always been leery of the Northern Irish connection. Or, to look at that from the other end of the telescope, the Ulster Unionists have good reason to fear a sell-out.

Malcolm has been back into Brian Girvin's The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45. He finds the account of the wheeling-and-dealing of June 1940, Girvin's chapter on "An Offer that Could Be Refused" particularly telling.

Sir John Maffey (the UK representative in Dublin) seems to have spent the weeks after Dunkirk hammering at de Valera's office door. Maffey was reporting back to London that there could be leverage on de Valera's neutrality if concessions were made on the Six Counties. Back in London Ernie Bevin was urging Churchill to look to a post-war reunification in exchange for present co-operation. Chamberlain was on his side. The Chiefs of Staff were pressing for an understanding and access to the 26 counties. Smuts was demanding occupation of the treaty ports, using force. Malcolm Macdonald (by then Minister for Health, but with a track-record dealing with Irish affairs as Dominions Secretary) was twice in Dublin for face-to-face negotiation. Even Churchill is writing a note:
I certainly sh'd welcome any approach to Irish unity; but I have forty years experience of its difficulties. I c'd never be a party to the coertion of Ulster to join the Southern counties; but I am in favour of their being persuaded. The key to this is de Valera showing some loyalty to Crown and Empire.
That was then: there is little to suggest that the view from behind the Westminster arras has not greatly altered over the subsequent years.

The obstructions to reunification, therefore, were (and are) in Dublin and Stormont. And in a mindset that finds it impossible to agree a formula of words to describe the small corner of Europe which we are obliged to share.

Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards

The 26 Counties emerged from the "Emergency" reasonably prosperous: eighth in the world for per capita income, comparable with the Benelux countries and Denmark, ahead of devastated Austria, Finland, France and (of course) the Germanies.

All of the baggage that de Valera had loaded in his 1937 Constitution, and defended with the policy of neutrality, subsequently became burdensome. Nationalism had become protectionism.

Emigration completed the work begun by the Famine: but this time the majority being exiled were women. The proportion of women in work and the marriage rate were the lowest in Europe. The rural communities, Corkery's ideal of Irish society, and de Valera's heartland, were sick to death. In Girvin's conclusion:
For those who continued to live in Ireland, there were attractions. It was safe, stable and conservative, emphasizing traditional Catholic-nationalist values. It was a society largely unconcerned about the outide orld, but perhaps irritated that the outside world did not take notice of it.
Until Harold Macmillan discovered Europe, and Dublin had no alternative but follow...

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