DIARY: Maitlis, Tories, Spring Offensive, Education, Hendry, Eurozone
What is Emily Maitlis on?
Emily Maitlis and Nick Owen on the BBC News Channel
The Newsnight presenter is usually somber and on the ball during her late night appearances in Jeremy Paxman’s chair. But catch her after lunch on the BBC’s News Channel and she giggles like a schoolgirl, often for no apparent reason.
I’m not complaining, it’s good to have a bit of life injected into this often funereal blanket of news.
But what is she on? Either the BBC canteen serves a good wine at lunch, or … she’s very ticklish.
Lots of chatter about “one-term Tories” last week. This golden Labour scenario sounds like it was invented by someone with a vested interest in the Labour leadership and hopes to avoid a generational shift.
Jack Straw or Peter Mandelson, perhaps?
It presupposes that David Cameron gets bogged down in the first years of his premiership and becomes so unpopular that the country turns back to Labour with relief in the subsequent election. Margaret Thatcher’s first period in office is cited. It was fraught with recessionary woes and nearly collapsed but for the Falklands War.
The difference now is that the country gives ownership of the nation’s economic plight to Gordon Brown and Labour. They also know that Brown’s frantic attempts to fix it have failed, with more failure to come.
However bad it gets in the next Parliament, Labour’s wishful thinking will not be granted. Disaster on this scale requires a generation to forget.
With careful stewardship, the Conservatives can count on three periods in office at least. They should develop a To-Do list that will last them for three Parliaments. It will take that long.
The first of March is the beginning of my Spring Offensive. This is when I throw off the torpors of winter through a programme of rigorous diet and excercise.
Last year the American tech blogosphere was heavy with “fatblogging” — a form of ritual torture which not only hammers the body but also gets the sufferer to write about it in detail for the consumption of fellow addicts and bemused onlookers.
Naturally, I’ll not be going down that road in 2009.
Like many another, I put on a few pounds during the months of dark nights and midwinter festivities. This year I have one stone to lose by the end of March. It may not seem much, but that’s quite a lot of weight.
One stone — or 14 pounds — is the equivalent of five copies of The Sunday Times. Next time you’re in a newsagent’s on a Sunday pick them up and feel how much added padding that represents. You’ll be shocked.
So I hope to shed one Sunday Times and a magazine section each week through March. No doubt some weeks I’ll only manage a Mail on Sunday, and may even be heard cursing, “Damn, I’ve put on a News of the World in seven days!”
So exercise has to be part of the plan too. My aim is to similate the fitness of a Mountain Man, who is said to walk up mountains (hills, really) at the same rate as he walks down — no mean feat, and tough on the quadriceps.
As it takes six weeks to reach the maximum fitness you can attain without professional training, I usually start this part of the programme in mid-February.
The diet begins tomorrow the 2nd of March, on the principle that it shows an excessively eager nature to start too soon.
The State education system in Britain just gets worse and worse. Hyperactive jobsworths are forever coming up with new wheezes that dazzle in the headlines for an hour but have no merit in practice.
The entire structure is probably beyond repair after 12 years of scorched earth policies for everything that promotes a well-stocked mind and an understanding of the principles that stand behind ideas and formulations.
The Conservatives have yet to jettison some of Labour’s most pernicious obsessions, like the refusal to allow selection in academic subjects. I have high hopes they will do so in office.
But what should the basic education system provide?
It should give students the ability to position themselves in time and space, with historical narrative as the time axis, and geography as the space axis. Both subjects have been severely downgraded in primary and secondary schooling.
The curriculum should also be shorn of soft “social” subjects better learnt at home or through experience. All attempts at social engineering should be strictly outlawed.
Psychobabble has become a wordy substitute for a true understanding of human nature, which is not a machine. Allied to that, PC (political so-called correctness) has assumed fascist proportions in attempts to control the thoughts of the population. Schools lead the way as mind-cleansing centres of anything with which the government disagrees.
Why do they do that? Because “they” — and we know who they are — want us all to be just like them.
Sorry, we don’t.
A lost generation of schoolchildren from the Labour years will probably never be redeemed and will haunt the future as they carry the mouldy seed of mediocrity forward.
The Conservatives can make a start on creating a new wave of educated young people with a better grasp of the fundamentals and of more use to the 21st-century world.
If you’re looking for a good read on the wild and woolly side, there’s no better publication to start with than The Hedge Fund Journal — there had to be one, didn’t there?
I’m always fascinated at how every niche market has its journal and coterie of followers, often existing in another dimension from the rest of us.
So the Asset Management class, which has produced its own stars, like Hugh Hendry of Eclectica — the Mick Jagger of short (and long) selling — has a journal to keep its members in touch.
To most people hedge funds are so exotic they belong on another planet. They are run by a tribe of self-confessed pirates, some with a single ship, others with an entire fleet.
Hugh Hendry has become a media star, sought after by the likes of Jeff Randall on Sky, and Evan Davis on the BBC. His good humour and Blarney-stoned eloquence, with an irresistible touch of the unexpected, puts him in the top bracket of media performers from the much-depleted ranks of the hedgies.
Will they survive the depression? Just as the world needs hyenas and vultures to clear up carrion, and bacteria to consume dead and dying bodies, I suspect they will.
You have to see it in the round.
Is the eurozone about to break up? Don’t rule it out.
There’s a lot of conflicting talk around at the moment. The Germans are adamantly opposed to taking on liability for the debts of the less disciplined members — the PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain; Emerald Club Med, one might say.
Yet the German Finance Minister has not ruled out a rescue in the last resort. German voters might not take kindly to it though, and there are elections in September.
Now the European Investment Bank (EIB) is being touted as the issuer of new Euro bonds to shore up these profligate countries. The unbending Maastricht Treaty rules this area, of course, but a little matter of law never stopped the Commission bending the rules in the past. The European Stability Pact was a classic example.
Whatever happens next will prove that the present one-size-fits-all system can never survive without either much more beef behind it, or a smaller membership.
At the end of this depression, I expect the eurozone will look very different and carry much less weight in the world.
Quote of the Week
“England, together with the rest of the world, is changing. And like everything else it can change only in certain directions, which up to a point can be foreseen.” George Orwell
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