David Aaronovitch is one of the few Decent-ists that I like and respect. So it’s good to see him stating the obvious truths that more or less everyone (whether left or right) has forgotten as we descend in to a Cassandrine orgy of unwarranted gloom:
Taking modern Britain, for all that any country is beset by problems (lost discs, bingers, drug takers or Scottish Nationalists), the underlying facts were – are – that mortgages had become cheapo, unemployment was low, crime was, in general, falling, the economy was performing better than in most other similar countries and there were huge infrastructural improvements, as evidenced in new school buildings and hospitals.
Still true. Will remain true. And the rest is trivial…
As one ought, I’ve been looking up my ancestors (well, people with my not-especially-common surname) on the Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913 website.
There’s a disappointing lack of criminality among my lot. Only three Bands were prosecuted at the Old Bailey over the whole period, and one of them was acquitted, whereas we seem to have witnessed a whole load of stuff.
The baddest Band was Thomas Band, who nicked five kilos of brass from his boss in 1785, and got transported to Australia for seven years for his pains (which seems a bit harsh if you ask me, but then I’m a bleeding heart liberal…). But that clearly didn’t teach him much of a lesson – he was back in London by 1796 and nicked 13 wooden boards. This time he seems to have dragged his brother John into it as well, since the boards were nicked from John Band’s boss’s shop. But Tom maintained he was acting alone:
My brother has got a wife and five helpless children, he does not know any thing at all about it; for God’s sake, Gentlemen, if there is any guilt in the business let it fall upon me, and not destroy an innocent family.
The courts were unconvinced: Tom got six months; John got 12 months. Adding to the indignity, whoever wrote the sentencing report managed to get John’s last name wrong. This is annoying enough at the best of times (“did I pronounce it with an R? Did I spell it out with an R? No, I spelled it out Bee-Ay-Enn-Dee. Garrrrr”), but I imagine it’s even worse when someone’s just sent you to jail after your dodgy brother nicked your boss’s planks.
I suppose Tom was lucky that the courts’ record-keeping was poor back then: I can’t imagine the court would have been as comparatively lenient (the planks were worth three shillings, while the brass he’d been transported for first time round was only worth five) if they’d known he was a Magwitch-esque returned convict…
Diamond Geezer has an excellent piece on the sterling work that Boris Johnson has done in eradicating crime, misery, poverty, racial disharmony, etc from the town of Henley, and how useful this experience will be if he’s elected Mayor of London…
Would throbbing multicultural London (population seven and a half million) be a better place if it were more like genteel riverside Henley-on-Thames (population ten thousand)? So I headed upriver to Henley at the weekend to find out. And what do you know, I think Boris has it sorted.
No, not “more severe”, just “less effective”:
Firearms offences also increased, up 4% in the whole of 2007 to 9,967… however, gun deaths fell to 49, seven fewer than in the previous 12 months.
What’s wrong with kids today? I’m fairly sure that even when I was 15, I could have achieved a better-than-0.5% hit-rate…
Seriously though, it’s nice to see that crime is falling, both according to police records and to the generally-more-reliable British Crime Survey. Shame the mongers won’t pay a blind bit of attention…
Today’s “this is what the Internet was invented for” site is the automatic random proverb generator.
Favourites it’s given me include:
Blood is thicker than the eye of the beholder.
He who lives by the sword shall die by a vacuum.
A little learning is money.
Quality stuff. From B3ta, obviously. As is this link: a gangsta rap album called Mail on Sunday. There’s got to be some scope for Middle England confusion there…
“Can someone please explain on what basis I am supposed to care more about the plight of the white working classes than that of, say, Congolese people driven out of their homes by war?”
(an oasis of sanity in a thread dominated by horrible bigots)
Here is a table showing projected growth in real GDP per capita [*] for 2007-08, according to IMF data released this month:
In other words, credible independent people who understand economic forecasting (note: not people who couldn’t tell GDP from a CDR but who think the PM is dour and boring and that therefore everything is going to the dogs) believe that the UK economy is unlikely to see recession, and is highly likely to outperform all of the G7 economies except for Japan over the next three years. Most other economic forecasters hold similar views, with a strong consensus that 2008 real UK economic growth will be 1-1.5%.
So why the hell is there such an insanely overhyped climate of doom going on, with people who shouldn’t really know better everywhere pontificating about how the government has ruined everything and left us all in a terrible position? Is it just that everyone who bothers going on about this kind of thing is a miserable get, whereas the people who think everything will probably be fine would sooner talk about Eurovision and football?
It’s partly due to misleading reporting, of course. Hands up who read this morning’s paper and came away with the take-out that UK retail sales fell when comparing March 2008 to March 2007? Wrong: they rose by 1.1%. The fall was in ‘like-for-like’ sales – i.e. new shops are opening faster than people are increasing their spending. That’s not great news if you’re a retailer, for sure – but it also for sure doesn’t mean that sales are falling…
[*] i.e. stripping out the effects of inflation, so you can’t whine about price rises, and done consistently on an international basis, so you can’t whine about CPI vs RPI. Oh, and please don’t slate the methodology the IMF uses to calculate GDP deflators, at least unless you have at least a master’s degree in a numerate discipline with some connection to economics.
A question for the multiplicity of blogging non-bigots [*] who support the Ham & High’s decision to run an advert for the BNP ahead of the current London elections on Voltaire-ish ‘free speech for all, however disgraceful’ grounds: would you have supported the H&H on the same grounds had it run an advert advocating the legalisation of sex with children?
[the advert would be placed by a hypothetical paedo organisation that wanted to lower the age of consent to 10, but explicitly did not advocate breaking the current laws until any change was made - just to avoid any ‘but they’re inciting illegal activity so it's not the same’ get-outs].
If not, you’re already saying that some people should be denied a platform to advocate opinions that they hold perfectly legally, just because those opinions are vile and wrong – in which case, the only difference with the BNP is the degree to which the opinions advocated are vile and wrong. Which means that you’re saying “even though I sometimes believe in media self-censorship, the BNP should still be allowed a platform because they’re not all that bad”.
If you would have supported the editor’s decision to publish the paedo group’s advert, then you’re certainly consistent. I’m not sure that you’re in line with the general public’s moral compass, though…
[*] i.e. people who think that the BNP are scumbags. Those who think it’s possible simultaneously to be a non-bigot and not think that the BNP are scumbags are wrong, and should be ignored.
Tom Lehrer is 80 today. Which is nice, since when I saw references to him on other blogs I assumed he’d died. Sheer genius.
I’m entertained by this comment from CT:
The world really needs more like him – brilliant math teachers who are brilliant parodists and public intellectuals on the side.
Yes, this is precisely what the world needs more of. Relatedly, Dinesh D’souza is an arse.