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After the Telegraph business letter, why do people still write to newspapers?

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2015 by kmflett

After the Telegraph letter, why do people still write to newspapers?

letter

You probably didn’t miss it but a number of business leaders have written to the Telegraph saying they will be supporting the Tories at the May Election. Since the Tories are meant to be the party of Capital this is perhaps not a great surprise. However when you’ve had Osborne as Chancellor for the last 5 years it is perhaps just as well to check that your people are still on board.

It has though posed the question of why they would be bothered to write a letter anymore. Couldn’t they just have tweeted or issued a press release?

In the world of texting, twitter, Facebook, e-mail and much else it may be a surprise that anyone writes letters anymore. They do however. Lawyers do (£300 please) so do HR managers, union officials and even, on occasion First Great Western trains if you complain to them.

But why specifically write a letter to the Telegraph, or the Guardian? Does anyone read them?

Firstly of course (but see above) while the letter to the Editor will still (probably) be in a traditional letter format- name, address, Dear Editor, Yours etc, rather than ‘Hi’, it is likely to be e-mailed.

Secondly we can’t really know how many people actually read the correspondence columns of papers. It is certainly a minority sport, but then so, by the way, is keeping up with twitter rather than doing the occasional tweet.

In other words it can be argued that while huge numbers may not see a letter to the paper, it probably won’t be significantly less than see a tweet- though they may be different people.

Perhaps the key point of difference about writing to the paper however is that despite the proliferation of comments sections in on-line versions of papers where every know right-wing person in the world clearly posts several times a day, newspaper letters columns are edited and hopefully provide a balance and focus that the constant outpouring of social media doesn’t.

In short you may well read in a newspaper letters column views that are not only different to yours but with which you disagree, even though the writer may come from a similar social and political space as you.

That surely is the point of writing letters to the Editor. To contribute to a moderated debate, to challenge and provoke thought.

While there may be few people who write letters by hand these days (though some still make their way to my home address..) the epistolary art is far from finished yet.

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The Telegraph business letter & the politics of the Chartists ‘Exclusive Dealing’

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2015 by kmflett

The Telegraph business letter & the Chartists Exclusive Dealing

chartist

100 business leaders have signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph saying that they will support the Tories at the May 7th Election.

One might say that this is hardly a surprise given that the Tories are meant to be the party of Capital, although it will be a surprise to the small Tory group in my own Constituency of Tottenham who have posted a picture of a leaflet they may or may not have produced proclaiming that the Tories are not the party of big business.

Anyway according to the FT (who have counted) nine of the 100 signatures are from Executives of FTSE Top 100 companies.

That is probably slightly more surprising since on the whole such large companies both don’t want to annoy customers who may not share their views and also will want to work with whichever Government is in office on matters such as policy, and obviously, tax…

Indeed one wonders if those Companies sought the views of their shareholders in the same that a trade union would be legally required to do of its members..

The left has a tactic for addressing the matter however- Exclusive Dealing.

This was something developed in the late 1830s by the Chartists and involved not buying things from shops and pubs that did not support the demands of the Charter and, at Election times, the Chartist or radical candidate.

The history of Exclusive Dealing is quite complex. Some historians argue that it indicates that Chartism and the early radical movement was a consumers as well as a producers movement. One of the aims was to deal only with those who sold decent quality goods and at a fair price.

We can see here the origins of Co-Operation.

Many of those involved were also women, reflecting some division of roles and activities that would, one hopes, but much less usual 175 years on.

It is however Election times that specifically concern us here.

Exclusive Dealing at Election times would involve not just boycotting shops and pubs that backed the Tories but quite often demonstrating outside the premises of those who were noted as particular opponents of Chartism. The modern day equivalent might, I suppose, be the protests at shops of those companies who don’t pay their UK taxes.

As EP Thompson noted no strategy or tactic used in the labour movement ever completely goes away but nor does it get applied as if preserved in aspic in exactly the same way as it was in the past.

Exclusive Dealing might have its place in the 2015 Election given the Telegraph letter.

It’s not just about a boycott- it’s very difficult to avoid buying or using something that is produced by a Company that might support or donate to the Tories.

However those who have signed the Telegraph letter have gone out of their way to underline their support for the Tories. In that sense getting the word out to people that, where possible, an alternative to their business should be used would be very much in the spirit of the Chartists.

And of course without the efforts of the Chartists we wouldn’t have democracy anyway.

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Hirsute Campaigners celebrate the start of April with beard trimming

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

 

PRESS RELEASE

1st April

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

CAMPAIGNERS TO CELEBRATE START OF APRIL WITH BEARD TRIMMING

Electric Shave

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with April underway, it will be a month of the celebration of Spring beard growth.

The vote for the Beard of Spring ends on 3rd April and the winner is announced on Easter Saturday.

Spurs and England footballer Harry Kane, brewer Stuart Ross and England cricketer Moeen Ali are among the front runners.

On April 1st itself the BLF will be celebrating Spring beard growth by testing out a range of beard trimming devices. Trimming of the beard can promote growth in much the same way as it does for hedges.

The campaigners say that while they are not enthusiasts for the shaving industry, devices such as the Gillette Fusion, can help to promote beard growth by trimming.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, Pruning can promote growth in the beard and April 1st is just the day to reach for the shaving device

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The historians & the Tory/LibDem Coalition: not behind closed doors

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2015 by kmflett

The Historians and the Coalition: Not behind closed doors

clegg-cameron-rose-garden1

On Saturday 28th March on Channel 4 a play about how the current Coalition Government was formed in May 2010, written by James Graham aired.

As a sort of documentary/drama I felt it was a little short of where it could have been because it used recreations of events that could have been covered by TV footage. As it was the only actual footage of Cameron and Clegg was the infamous Rose Garden announcement of Coalition.

Even so, while Mark Gatiss as Mandelson was marvellous, it did suggest a couple of angles that I hadn’t picked up from previous reading. Namely that Paddy Ashdown was clear that the LibDems were centre left and on Graham’s reading appeared to go with Clegg and the Tories to retain influence. Secondly that once Gordon Brown resigned, the LibDems were prepared to look at Coalition with Labour but were brought off by a Tory pledge of a vote on AV which as we now know was a good less than what it seemed. Clegg also, on Graham’s reading, did not appear to appreciate the gravity of ditching his tuition fees pledge.

One thing that went unremarked in Coalition was the central role played by David Laws. Laws was Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 12-29th May and then resigned after a story in the Telegraph about his expenses. Some might judge he was lucky to escape the imprisonment that several other MPs were sentenced to for similar misdemeanours. However the point is, one wonders, looking back what frame of mind Laws was in, in those May days.

Any way given that the Election on May 7th is thought quite likely also to end up in some form of Coalition the programme certainly raised some interesting questions.

It’s too soon for historians to form a judgement on the impact of the last 5 years of Government, not least because it will still be several decades yet before a range of official papers will be available.

Recent years have seen a range of measures around Data Protection and Freedom of Information that have provided some kind of framework on how information is held about people, what is held and how people can access this.

Yet as Graham underlined in an article about his play in the London Evening Standard (23rd March) very little is ever likely to be officially known about the five days of discussions in May 2010 that led to the Tory-LibDem Coalition.

Graham writes ‘what happened in those rooms was not recorded. No minutes were taken. The civil servants were sent out of the room’. He goes on ‘if we ever want a truly accurate record of what happened, it’s not the official archive that will do it, we’ll need to be rounding up BlackBerries’. The play itself shows the then Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell leaving the first set of discussions after saying he would take minutes and his offer being declined.

Historians rely on archives for much primary research but of course they are not the only source. Participants in the 2010 talks have written accounts of them and some have clearly also talked to Graham as he was writing the play.

Official records are usually a note of key points and decisions rather than blow by blow accounts but even so their absence removes an important part of the research framework for a modern political historian seeking to establish the realities of political power in early twenty-first century Britain.

The disdain for keeping official records has been underlined since by stories that Ministers such as Michael Gove used private e-mail addresses for official exchanges precisely to avoid these being captured as part of the record.

Of course one can overplay the importance of this. In the days before e-mail that same exchange might have been had face to face (with no witnesses) or perhaps over the telephone where it was possibly less likely to be captured.

One might ask why Governments ever kept records. It was certainly not so that future generations of socialist historians could find out what they had been up to!

The answer is that the ruling class relies not just on the memory of individual figures but on a bureaucratic structure that keeps records of events and decisions. So, for example, if the issue of a Coalition does arise again in May, Civil Servants should have been able to check back for the framework of how this was done in 2010.

The experience of 2010 does suggest that for the purposes of historical research and so that our successors can get to find out what went on in Government, there does need to be some further measure to ensure appropriate records are kept.

Perhaps there needs to be an official Government history department, overseen by elected MPs, specifically charged with making sure that a proper record is kept of all meetings and events.

It sounds tedious but aside from its historical value, it is also about democratic transparency and accountability. In an open society the process of Government should not be going on behind closed doors.

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The Ambridge Socialist: Titchener pledges to ‘shut up’ Jess

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2015 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist

March 29th CONTACT KEITH FLETT 07803 167266

The real Borsetshire Echo: 65 years of class struggle in Ambridge

Titchener pledges to ‘shut up’ Jess

Faced with deductions direct from his wages to pay maintenance for the child he fathered with his ex-partner Jess, Rob Titchener has pledged to shut her up. According to the BBC he plans to do this by finally taking a paternity test. The Ambridge Socialist suspects that he may have already had secret discussions with David Archer about a Plan B.

Hazel is interested in shooting

Hazel has returned to quiz Peggy about whether ‘Daddy’ (aka Jack) ever mentioned bequeathing rights to the shoot (now run by Borsetshire Land) to his daughter. Peggy thinks not. Hazel is miffed. This wont end well

All in it together Update

The village meeting on the great flood of Ambridge has neatly avoided placing the blame where it clearly lies- with Borsetshire Land and its failure to keep ditches and culverts properly maintained. David and Adam spoke out for the greater good of farming, otherwise known as sustaining longer term profitability. Susan meanwhile has decided to back the new road. Justin Eliott could hardly wish for a better ally.

In Other News

The Professor and Robert Snell are still bird watching.

Kate has forgotten to charge her tablet

Hazel has been seen entering the (flood damaged) village shop with a man in an expensive suit.

A Month in Ambridge:

http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/mar/24/a-month-in-ambridge-great-flood-freda-death

 

 

 

Articles

England’s Moeen Ali voted Beard of the Cricket World Cup

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Press Release 29th March

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

England’s Moeen Ali voted Beard of the Cricket World Cup

moeen

The Beard Liberation Front has said that England’s Moeen Ali has won the poll to find the Beard of the Cricket World Cup. He beat India’s Virat Kohli at the culmination of a series of weekly polls over the duration of the series

The campaigners say that the 2015 Cricket World Cup has been the most hirsute ever, with beard power making a decisive impact in some games. However the BLF says that the ICC must now look at the weighting of beards in the game as neither England or India made the final.

Further while the two sides in the final, Australia and New Zealand have hirsute players, there has been an inconsistency and lack of resilience about their beards compared to the sustainability of Moeen and Virat

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, beard Power in cricket has come of age again. It is the second age of W G Grace, and this now needs to be reflected in the way games and competitions are run

Notes

In the beginning was WG Grace but in the twentieth century cricket went to the barbers. So much so that by the early 1960s a major shaving company was sponsoring one day cricket and players deemed insufficiently clean shaven were sometimes sent from the field to sort it out.

In the twenty first century beards in cricket are back from Moeen to Hashim. Its now understood that a beard can have a psychological impact on opponents after Mike Brearley pioneered the point. Beards can also have an aero-dynamic impact on play itself.

Beard of the Cricket World Cup shortlist

Virat Kohli

Brendon McCullum

Moeen Ali

Chris Gayle

Glenn Maxwell

Daniel Vettori

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After Richard 111, 30th January 1649?

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2015 by kmflett

After Richard 111, 30th January 1649?

charlesking

The discovery of the remains of Richard 111 and his re-burial in Leicester has not only sparked considerable media interest but has also drawn crowds to view the remains in Leicester Cathedral. The whole issue sparked some controversy both about where Richard 111 should be reburied and about the ethics of displaying the remains.

Even so history too rarely sparks such interest and even if it is about Kings and Queens its worth pondering if there might be other such historical moments that can be re-created.

One of the most obvious is the final moments of King Charles 1st who met his death in Whitehall on 30th January 1649.

I’m not in favour of the death penalty(not even for treason, the reason for the despatch of King Charles 1st) so I am certainly not advocating as one wit on Twitter suggested a public beheading.  A re-enactment of a historical event, pace the Sealed Knott, is just that a re-enactment and no one should get hurt.

That said the re-staging of that dramatic moment when a Regicide ushered a brief period of Republican rule in England and Wales, well over a century before the events of 1789 in France, is surely worth remembering.

It would be an interesting historical spectacle but also a reminder that the road to our current Constitutional Monarchy and attendant Parliamentary democracy has not always been a peaceful one.

It would also no doubt spark public interest and debate in one of the key moments of our history, and that as with Richard 111, is no bad thing in the age of the 24 hour news channels.

 

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