If anyone wants to comment on the book (if you’ve either bought it, or are reading the installments) you can do so here. Any comments — even really negative ones — are welcome. Flay me alive if you want. I’m a big boy, I can take it. No need to leave a name or an e-mail address.
Ren and Miles are having a coffee at the cafeteria when a haughty-looking man with a beaked face, who looks to be in his mid-to-late thirties, sits down next to them.
‘Hello Miles,’ he says.
‘Hello Lucius. Lucius, this is Ren, who is a new lecturer in Philosophy. He’s doing the TITE with me.’
‘Hello Ren,’ says Lucius, without much interest.
‘Ren, this is Lucius Birch, a senior lecturer in my department.’
‘Pleased to meet you, Dr Birch,’ says Ren. ‘Miles has been telling me about you. You’ve been doing very well, I hear.’
‘Fighting the good fight. As we all must do,’ says Lucius in an abstracted way. ‘But don’t tell me you’re some sort of metaphysician?’
‘That’s me, I’m afraid. Boring old non-political metaphysics.’
‘Such a waste of argumentative talent. Don’t you ever want to turn your attention to something that matters? Like the minimum wage?’
‘Well,’ begins Miles, ‘Ren’s not…’
Ren kicks Miles under the table.
‘Perhaps I should,’ says Ren. ‘What other pressing topics should be grabbing me?’
‘Well, there’s the decline of income equality. There’s global warming. The much-needed championing of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. The great Satan. Racism. There’s no end to the list, is there?’
‘It would seem not.’
‘Why don’t philosophers lecture on the need for more union power, for example?’
‘I’m not sure my Metaphysics students would feel that that was an appropriate topic for a Metaphysics class.’
‘You’re the lecturer. Persuade them that it is. These are the real cosmic issues.’
‘Union power is a cosmic issue?’
‘In a manner of speaking, it is. Which one is a universal issue of our time, a matter of extreme gravity, of interest to the entire human race? The decline of union power, or Descartes saying we can’t know the external world?’
‘That’s epistemology. And Descartes thought we could know the external world.’
‘You need to shift these perceptions. If you teach the same old stuff you just entrench the existing power structures. How is that freeing students’ minds?’
‘Thinking about the basic structure of the world seems pretty cosmic to me.’
‘Imagine if any aliens came to earth. What would they be interested in? The power structures on our planet, or what Aristotle thought about teeth? There’s your cosmic importance right there. And if you really want to stick to metaphysics, why not teach Venezuelan metaphysics?’
‘Is there such a thing?’
‘How do you know if you haven’t looked? Why haven’t you looked? Venezuela is flowering under Chavez. I bet you amazing things are being done in their schools of metaphysics. I’m going in a couple of months to the annual Venezuelan Conference of Psychology. It’s going to be an eye-opener. A pity Miles couldn’t come.’
‘Goodness me Miles, you’re not really going to miss an opportunity like that, are you?’
‘Well, I don’t really have the research funds at this stage in my career…’
‘Put in an application to the Faculty,’ says Lucius. ‘See if they’ll support you. Which I think they will, if I have a word in the right ear.’
‘But I have to be giving a talk at the conference to be eligible for overseas travel funds. And it’s way too late for that.’
‘I’m sure I can use my influence to get you a speaking slot even at this late stage,’ says Lucius.
‘Chance of a lifetime, Miles,’ says Ren.
‘I’m really not sure I have the time,’ says Miles. ‘There is this TITE course which requires a lot of work. Doesn’t it, Ren?
‘Oh, yes, I suppose it does. Pity though. You might have even got to shake Chavez’s hand.’
‘But then I’d never be able to wash it again, would I?’
‘Do I sense a little political scepticism, Miles?’ says Lucius.
‘Ah, well, just a little joke. I do admit to being a bit uninformed about all the latest global political developments.’
‘Perhaps you should spend more time talking politics with your friend Ren.’
‘I find Ren’s political judgements can be, shall we say… off-piste?’
‘But it’s not about repeating the textbook, is it Miles?’ says Lucius. ‘As we always say to our students. You have to make up your own mind.’
‘You mean, make up your own mind about what type of socialism is best?’ says Ren.
‘Exactly. Be a free thinker.’
‘Within reason,’ says Ren.
‘Yes, within reason,’ smiles Lucius.
‘So,’ says Ren. ‘If you had to choose one, would it be Lenin or Trotsky?’
‘Lenin,’ says Lucius. ‘Trotsky was great, but ultimately it was Lenin who got the job done.’
‘Yes,’ says Ren. ‘Trotsky was ruthless, but Lenin even more so. What about Fidel or Che?’
‘Well, that’s a hard one. Fidel stayed the course and kept Cuba Communist for a very long time. But then Che was more of an intellectual, like me. So maybe Che.’
‘Do you have Che pictures on your door?’
‘No, I took them down a few years ago. Didn’t want students to get the wrong idea about my research.’
‘Very prudent. Ho Chi Minh or Mao?’
‘Ho Chi Minh. He really gave it to the Yanks.’
‘So you really think academics should be more pro-active in their leftism?’
‘Definitely. You don’t have to be that open about it if you don’t want to. In fact, that might often be the best policy. But we all have a duty to further the struggle, in whatever way we can. Including undermining our enemies, and always making it difficult for them.’ Lucius drains the last of his coffee. ‘I have to go get ready for a class. Nice meeting you, Ren.’
After Lucius has left, Ren says, ‘So, you still think he’s totally objective in his research? In his research which coincidentally always comes up supporting progressive conclusions?’
‘Uh… that was a bit worrying, I admit. I didn’t realise at first that he was quite so political. I have been trying to extricate myself from his circle, but they keep trying to draw me in.’
‘Just tell him he’s an evil Commie, that should do the trick.’
‘You’re happy to isolate yourself, and be identified as right-wing. I don’t want to be isolated. And I don’t want to be called right-wing, because I’m not. Psychology’s much more collaborative than Philosophy. If you get frozen out at an early stage then you’re finished.’
‘Jesus, he’s the one who should be isolated. He likes mass-murderers.’
‘There are members of my department who are openly members of the Communist Party. And we’re not just talking people from an older generation. There are two younger members of the department in it as well. That’s the reality of modern academia. You can’t be a Nazi, thank God, but you can still openly be a Communist.’
‘You certainly can, like those office doors you pass that have pictures of Che, or Lenin, or the hammer-and-sickle, on them. Some mass-murderers are all right, apparently. Anyway, I’d better go. I’ll see you this afternoon at TITE.’
So let me get this straight. The biggest British political story in decades has just been exposed, and the media are… treating it like a minor piece of gossip.
Steve Baker, one of the government Brexit Ministers, has claimed that Theresa May and her civil servants in the Cabinet Office Europe Unit operated a year-long ‘cloak and dagger’ operation to sideline the Brexit department. If true, this is an outrageous scandal, and Theresa May should have already resigned, along wioth all the civil servants involved. The fact that she hasn’t doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It means that most of the media, and most of the civil service, and most of the Establishment, are just discreetly drawing the blinds over it.
There are at least a story in the Daily Mail, and one in the Express, but there’s no screaming headlines. Perhaps all that will come tomorrow. There’s nothing at all in the Guardian, though. Apparently the big news of the weekend is the usual small crowd of loony lefties protesting against Trump, just as they protest every weekend against something.
Of course, the story may not be true, or it may be an exaggeration (although I think not), but the left-wing media get hysterical all the time over beat-ups with nothing to back them up. The supposed right-wing media conspiracy is pretty ineffective even when one of the biggest stories in years falls into its lap. Here’s how they can make a start:
MAY RUNS SECRET UNIT TO THWART REFERENDUM RESULT
Better suggestions in the comments, please.
Update: This is yet another example of the “chattering classes’ ‘shrug of indifference’ that I wrote about recently. For them, whether X is bad all depends on what the aim is.
Trump ran a secret unit to thwart democracy? Sound the alarms! Run out into the street and shriek and cry for ten years! Burn down buildings!
A Remainer PM ran a secret unit to thwart Brexit? Shrug.
A year or two ago on Samizdata – I can’t find the post – the opinion was floated that the Tories were now in a position to dominate UK politics for many years to come. Brexit was going to happen, the pro-EU wing of the party would become irrelevant, the old Tory divisions over Europe would disappear, they could unite against a hard-left Labour and deliver them a spanking every time.
But useless Tories will find a way to shoot themselves in the
foot head every time. The fanatical Remainer MPs wouldn’t accept a democratic defeat, and the moderate Remainers decided to join them. The party is now toast. The Conservatives were already becoming less and less viable in the modern era, until Brexit and Corbyn gave them a lifeline. They’ve now let go of the Brexit lifering, trusting that the Corbyn lifering will keep them bouyant. But it won’t. It isn’t just that the core voters are already deserting them. It’s that core voters are absolutely furious with them.
For years the core voters have put up with the Conservatives being on the side of the progressives, and allowing the PC police state to thrive. They were already angry enough about that. But many of them were giving the Conservatives one last chance because they promised to be the party who delivered Brexit. Now that’s gone those voters will never come back. The Tories can never be trusted again.
Even the MSM is starting to realise this — compare Peter Oborne in the Mail:
I would go further and suggest that rather than a temporary phenomenon, we could witness the collapse of age-old party divisions in British politics.
Even if May is deposed and Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson takes over, how will that help regain trust in the Tories? The Parliamentary party will still have a majority of Remain MPs, who can’t be trusted. The Tories have to be dumped. Forever. Bring on a revitalised UKIP, or For Britain. Anyone but the Tories.
Later Ren goes to see Compton to find out if he has heard anything more about George’s condition. He hasn’t.
‘I notice,’ Ren says, ‘that Robot is always talking about doing what’s best for the department. With any decision, he always says he’s “guided by what is best for the department”. Yet every decision he makes seems designed to fuck us up.’
‘He is telling the truth in a way. The deviousness comes in with what he means by “the department”. He doesn’t mean, as most of us imagine, the members of the department. He has no interest in what is best for us lecturers. He means “the department” in a more abstract sense. As a metaphysician you’ll understand that the department is not numerically identical to its constituent members. Even if we ignore the students, the buildings, the wider academic and administrative context, and suppose that a department is made up of nothing more than the academics in it, it doesn’t follow that the department is the self-same thing as the current members. Because academics can come and go, and the department remains in existence, so they are logically distinct beings.’
‘Sure, the department is an entity, of some sort, which is something over and above, or at least, non-identical to, the things that make it up at any one time.’
‘Yes. But even that’s not what Robot has in mind, because thinking that way still ties the department’s existence in some close way to its members. But Robot thinks of the department in an even more abstract fashion. Perhaps he’s even a functionalist about it, like Sydney Shoemaker and the mind. The department is a node in a functional system, which takes inputs, such as students, money, admin staff and office space, and produces certain outputs, such as students graduating, good teaching evaluation scores, research papers published, grants won, editorships awarded, keynotes given, etc.
‘Or getting in grad students, because they come with money attached.’
‘Yes. That’s more like what Robot has in mind. So when he says he wants what is best for the department, what he means is, what produces the best outputs relative to the inputs. Which to some degree is a reasonable way to think. To some degree it is the way he should think. But he is misleading us when he creates the impression that he wants what is best for us as a group of co-workers. He has no interest in that at all.’
‘He certainly doesn’t. It’s fair enough for a Head to regard the department’s performance as important, sure’ says Ren. ‘But Robot doesn’t take us into account in any way. He doesn’t care how a change in admin procedures or teaching will affect our research, even though that’s one of the outputs he should be worrying about. We’re just getting pushed to do more and more of our work after-hours. That seems to be a long-term trend, but it’s not sustainable.’
‘It isn’t, but he doesn’t care about sustainability, except in the bullshit green sense. He doesn’t even care about the output metrics, really. All he wants to do is to impress the senior management, so he can get up there himself and double and triple his salary. That’s why the long-term sustainability of our workload doesn’t worry him. He figures he’ll be a Dean or Pro-Vice-Chancellor by the time people start breaking down. He’ll be long gone, and in clover.’
‘Well, in a way it’s good to know that that will never happen. He’ll never get that high up. He’s just too miserable to be around. Even Senior Management won’t be able to stand him. On the other hand, that means we get stuck with him for a long time. It would be good if another place tried to poach him.’
‘That would be good as long as he accepts. But he could use an approach from another place as a way to get more money and power from Grayvington.’
‘Now you’re really depressing me. I’m going home to not drink and get even more depressed.’
That’s one of the things that’s changed recently. The establishment, by which I mean both the old aristocracy and the newer University-educated class of journalists, lawyers, broadcasters, public servants, ‘creative’ media types, etc., have joined forces with the nerds, that is, likes of Mark Zuckerberg, the Twitter creeps, and countless lower-level techies. They’ve united to appoint themselves the new elite, and to wage an intially secret, though recently not-so-secret, war upon anyone foolish enough to stick to outdated views. It’s quite a formidable force. They hold most of the powerful societal positions, and are prepared to use their power as ruthlessly as they can.
Anything that helps break up this unholy alliance is to be encouraged. And there is one hopeful note: not all of the techies have gone along with it. Gamergate turned many of them who were into computer gaming away from the new elite, or at least made them realise that the elite are not on their side.
So I say: Do what you can to bring on the nerd-establishment rift. Encourage the geeks to go back to their rebellious roots, and dump the controlling left. May it be a famous schism that gets written about in future history books.
I wrote last month about the left’s use of double standards as a weapon. Let me elaborate further. Part of the method here is what I call “the chattering classes’ shrug of indifference”. Dozens of Palestinians killed in the Middle East by Muslims? Shrug, and go back to reading your Owen Jones book. Obama put a selective travel ban in place? Pass the balsamic, darling. Right-wing journalists not allowed to enter the country. Serves them right, who’s for some Bolly? People starving to death in Venezuela? Whatever, at least they don’t have Trump.
The always-concerned-about-everything schtick, somehow disappears completely when some awful news doesn’t fit their worldview. Then they become masters of causal indifference. (Lenin, Stalin, and all the Commie leaders were, of course, masters of this.)
Shrug, move on, let it leave your mind instantly. That’s another reason why they don’t like anyone even mildly right-wing to be around, because they might want to talk about this a bit more, and that prevents the old memory black hole from working. Better to not allow them to say anything. Don’t even let them in the country if they don’t have a passport.
What makes it even worse is that most journalists ands news editors are like this now, and they control the media. So when they see a story about, say, black-on-black violence, they just shrug and mentally screw it up and throw it in the bin. It might make p. 27 if they really have nothing else to put in, but these days it’s more likely to not even make the paper, because even if it’s buried away some right-winger might come across it and use it some day. Shrug, and move on. Not relevant. Local news. Shit happens. Of no interest to our readers. Bound to be misconstrued. Regional conflict, no wider ramifications. Wait ’til we can get the right political angle in there. Shrug, and move on.
When this happens at dinner parties, even ones attended by very bright academics, you can almost see the shutters come down in their mind when you bring up some inconvenient truth. It reminds me of when I was younger and I used to argue with Christians about the existence of God. They’d say they were all for discussion about the topic, but as soon as you started talking about it, the shutters would come down, and they’d change the subject as soon as they could. It’s the same with progressives. You bring up, say, the fact that Twitter censors prominent right-wingers, and they shrug and move on. To talk instead about bakers who won’t bake gay cakes.
Not a sarcastic headline. I’m for real. Britain has become a racist country. And it’s toxic. I’m talking about the socially accepted, even mandatory, racism against Anglo-Saxons.
There is, of course, a more general racism against whites these days. But drill down a bit and you find that mostly consists of racism against Anglo-Saxons. Normans and Celts, not so much. The Normans are generally in the ruling class, and the Celts are mostly sympathetic to the ideas of the ruling class, so the animus against them, while still there, isn’t so great. But plain-speaking, no-bullshit Anglo-Saxons, driving white vans and plastering their houses with England flags instead of University degrees, are a threat to the ruling class, and as a result they’re being demonised, while other groups (Muslims, Gypsies) are becoming protected races.
Make no mistake: the establishment wants the Anglo-Saxons gone, replaced with a a state-approved multi-cultural people who will do what they’re told, including going to University to study Sociology, and who will always vote the right way.
(The sad thing is that it’s the Anglo-Saxons themselves who gave the new establishment so much power, by constantly voting Labour for economic reasons, without understanding what those people they were voting for really believed. Bit like the Jews constantly voting for people who think bloodthirsty Jews control the world.)
It is, of course, ironic, that one of the means by which the racists carry out their racist persecution is the accusation that Anglo-Saxons are themselves racist. But this isn’t that surprising when you consider Drummond’s Law, which is that leftists are always themselves doing what they’re accusing the right of doing. Generally, whenever the left says the right is guilty of doing X, then, whether or not the right is doing X, you can be sure that X is what the left is doing.
According to Paul Waugh:
Rees Mogg just told ERG that he will NEVER vote against May in a vote of no confidence
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) July 9, 2018
Mogg tells the private meeting of fellow Brexiteers: "I will vote AGAINST the Brexit deal on a Monday and vote FOR confidence [in the PM] on the Tuesday"
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) July 9, 2018
If true this could be the most damaging miscalculation since… well. since Gove screwed over Boris Johnson and lumbered us with the dull grey dishrag. Two senior ministers fall on their sword. As does Steve Baker, Chris Green and Conor Burns. And all Rees -Mogg can do is TO SAY HE’LL VOTE FOR THERESA MAY? You utter twallop.
If May wins the confidence vote then we’re stuck with her for at least twelve months, a period during which she can’t be challenged. Which means can she can do what she bloody well likes for those twelve months. It doesn’t matter how many ministers resign, or how many MPs call it quits, she can just sit there and wave at them as they go (and she will, too). Just look at Jeremy Corbyn doing exactly that. It is absolutely vital that the confidence vote against her be won, otherwise she’s been handed the Brexit equivalent of a blank cheque, and it’ll be fucking curtains for Brexit. She has to be finished off, and the corpse burned, and then thrown down a deep mineshaft.
I can only assume that the Tory MPs are all terrified of what might transpire with a new leadership campaign. But what should terrify them is the realisation that they cannot win another election now with Theresa May in charge. Do they really think they can go out campaigning on the doorstep representing the party that betrayed the referendum vote?
With these resignations, the fight to the death has begun. It’s too late now to say “We didn’t mean it, let’s go back to being friends”. You fight, or you die.
Remember I said that May would not be going unless she was dragged kicking and screaming out of No. 10? Remember that she said that if she won a confidence vote by even one vote she’d stay?
David Davis may have resigned, but he’s been replaced straight away, and May and her Remain cronies will carry on as if nothing has happened.
So if the Brexiteers want to get rid of May, this is how they have to play the game. There needs to be a steady drip of ‘blows’ to May today, and maybe in the next few days. Her authority needs to be increasingly undermined in the eyes of both the public and the party, until it becomes impossible for her to carry on. Boris Johnson needs to resign soon. Michael Gove may be unwilling, seeing as (a) he has blood on his hands from Boris; and (b) he’s been defending May’s plan, but if he wants to be leader he’ll want May gone, so he’ll have to be brought in at some stage — getting him to play his part may be crucial. Dominic Raab also has to use his newly-won position to bring pressure on May, otherwise he’s just undermined his own side.
Meanwhile May and her team will not be sitting back and taking it, they’ll be playing hardball too, so it’s a fight to the death.
But what worries me is that Tories usually only fight to the death to get rid of Thatcherites, not establishment types.
But surely even Tory MPs can see now that they can’t win an election with a wet Remainer like May in charge?
Update: “When you’ve wrestled the crocodile onto the bank, finish it off. Don’t let it slip back into the water”: this saying should be tattooed onto the head of every Tory MP. Especially in this case, where the failure of a confidence vote means that May will be immune from any more challenges for a year. The rebels will have to make sure it either doesn’t come to a confidence vote, or that they’ll definitely win it if it does.
How come the country that gave us UKIP has gone back to the two main traditional parties, when the rest of Europe is now electing its own versions of the Monster Raving Loony Party?
To understand what has happened, first of all look at Corbyn. The young left decided that rather than build its own version of the Socialist Worker’s Party, they’d just take over Labour. Currently Labour bears little relationship to Blairite Labour. Or even old Labour. So Labour now is an alternative Monster Raving Lefty Party.
The Conservatives regained lost ground recently, but purely because of two things: they were (apparently) the party of Brexit, so there was no need for UKIP any more, and they were the only party who could keep the hard left out of government. But dissastifaction with May’s Conservatives on the right has grown to extreme lengths in the last year, and has now almost reached boiling point since the weekend just gone, when it became apparent to even the most most gullible that Theresa May intends to keep us in the EU in all but name.
The Conservatives are no longer the party of Brexit, and as this news spreads the Conservative vote will dwindle. Some will still vote for them in order to keep Corbyn out, but many of the traditional Labour voters from the Midlands and the North who recently turned to the Tories because of Brexit aren’t so bothered by Labour’s hard-left economics. If they’re faced with a choice between a left-wing and a right-wing party with the same policy on Brexit many of them will go back to Labour.
The Conservative Party will then either die out, as it was doing in the Blair years, and be replaced by a new right-wing party, or else it will be taken over by the right, perhaps led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. Either way, the usual Conservative Party is dead. It is no longer electorally viable. Alternative politics is taking over in the UK, just as it is on the Continent.
Lunch consists of unpleasant triangular sandwiches. The bread tastes like no bread he’s ever eaten before, not even cheap supermarket bread. Some sort of hardened industrial foam, perhaps, that’s been sprayed with a reagent earlier today to bring about some temporary softening. The fillings are possibly real food, but it’s hard to tell because they have been laid out by one of those TV science teachers who are determined to explain to kids just how much space there is between heavenly objects. There’s also a variety of brown objects that vaguely resemble food, and vaguely taste like food, if you’re engrossed in conversation and not paying much attention.
Much of the food, or ‘food’, is vegetarian, and there are ‘Vegetarian’ labels all over the platters, lest a poor vegetarian accidentally ingest the soul of a chicken, and be forced to undergo The Concrete Cure (there are some crimes that even non-retributivists can’t forgive). There are none of the passable chicken sticks he had the previous meeting. Only the bigwigs get to eat average quality food. To get chicken sticks at University you have to be a mediocre academic who has given up on research. Or be a professional – or to be more accurate, useless – bureaucrat who can’t get hired in the private sector. Then you get sandwiches made of real bread. Cheap supermarket bread, to be sure, but wheat-based, at least.
After lunch the meeting carries on, somewhat speeded up, and minus agenda item one, and minus Adelaide, who seems to have decided that turning up and sitting in silence for ninety minutes is as much as can reasonably be expected from her. After another hour they have got through seven more items. Derek and Tristram continue to act as though the sole purpose of the meeting is to make sport with one another. This is going to be a long forty years, thinks Ren. Time to check the academic job situation in Hawaii, perhaps.
At the current moment George is explaining why he thinks the Teaching Subcommittee needs to have an extra meeting in March.
‘The University’s Postgraduate Committee meets on March twenty-three, so if the Teaching Committee can meet a week or two before that they can discuss the issues that always come up in that meeting concerning funding. Last year we failed to…’
George stops talking, looking lost in memory.
‘We failed to what, George?’ says Robot.
Ren has no idea of what George is about to say, because he has not being paying attention to this agenda item. Or any of them, if truth be told. For the last twenty minutes he has been nodding off every few minutes, and then waking up as soon as he feels his head dropping, and all his attention has been focused on trying to stop himself falling asleep. No matter what he does, though, he can’t. He has tried pinching his legs with his fingers as hard as he can, but even that doesn’t prevent the constant nodding off. He’s tried singing songs in his head. He’s tried thinking about Lily naked to arouse himself. He’s even tried to scare himself with the idea that Robot will block his probation if he is seen to fall asleep in a staff meeting. None of those tactics have worked. The narcoleptic spells are relentless, and cannot be stopped. His urge to put his head down and sleep is becoming overwhelming.
He isn’t someone who normally suffers from narcolepsy. Today is just a combination of lack of sleep and extreme boredom. He wonders whether he should excuse himself, go to the bathroom, and throw cold water over his face.
‘George?’ says someone else.
‘We. Failed. To…’ says George, slowly. ‘Prepare.’
George’s head then does exactly what Ren’s head wants to do, which is to crash onto the desk in front of him. It’s almost like his and George’s head have a psychic link, and the overwhelming desire his head has to collapse has bullied George’s head into doing so first.
After a second of frozen horror, George rolls onto the floor, and pandemonium sets in, which is somewhat quelled when Martha Gelber, the building’s first aid person, takes charge, and the departmental administrator, Wendaline Clugston, runs off to phone an ambulance. There’s no danger of a narcoleptic episode now for Ren. George is unconscious and breathing heavily.
‘If this is just an issue with his oesophagus then I’d hate to see something serious happen to him,’ says Ren, who thinks no-one can possibly look this bad without something serious having happened to them.
Martha tells the rest of them to leave the room. The meeting is finally over.
‘Good old George,’ says Compton. ‘He took one for the team.’
Last month I said this about any possible Tory confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership:
In times past a leader would be expected to resign if the confidence vote did not result in an overwhelming victory, but given the Brexit situation, and the way May has clung on to the leadership no matter how bad things have gotten for her, I think we can forget that.
And, lo and behold, I was exactly right about that:
In an act of defiance, Mrs May declared she would be content to “win by one vote” which means Tory rebels would need 159 MPs to boot her out – more than three times the 48 required for a vote of no confidence.
The Establishment are bolting themselves into postion, and they’re not going anywhere, not unless they’re dynamited out.
Let’s hope that doesn’t turn literal.
Last in is Simon Pastygill, a young Senior Lecturer, a publishing success, and a rising analytic star. Or, as Ren thinks of him, a spotty and pale weed with a creepy, lopsided smile, who’s had inexplicable publishing success, and who speaks what Compton refers to as ‘extreme Welsh’. Pastygill regularly confuses people when he speaks, not because of his accent, but because of his habit of asking sardonic questions in a rhetorical tone of voice which leaves it unclear whether or not he’s expecting an answer. For this, and other reasons – in Ren and Compton’s case, his constant complaining about the corrosive effects of capitalism – he is generally avoided. Although Pastygill is an atheist, Compton has dubbed him ‘creeping Jesus’ in honour of the way he will suddenly appear beside you, and the way he makes public pronouncements about the evils that follow from the possession of money. Ren, on the other hand, usually refers to him as ‘Pantywaist’.
One of the other reasons Pastygill is avoided is his tendency to turn all conversation around to his passion for church architecture, especially Welsh church architecture. Pastygill travels extensively in Britain and Europe seeking out churches to view, and is always ready to offer his opinion, should it be sought on such a matter, as to why English and Scottish churches, though they have their undoubted merits and are definitely worth visiting, fall short of Welsh churches on three or four points of interest. Pastygill had never been known to offer a view on the merits of Continental churches versus Welsh churches; perhaps he does have an informed opinion on this matter, complete with half an hour’s worth of pros and cons, but no-one has ever been foolhardy enough to enquire, or to let the conversation get that far.
According to rumour Pastygill has a list of all known churches in Britain and Europe, and is ticking off the ones he has already visited. The walls of his office are covered with pictures of churches, which at least makes a good impression on the students, although it makes some of them wonder if he’s a religious nutter. One of Compton’s tutees once asked him this question; allegedly Compton replied with, ‘Pretty much, although in his case it’s socialism rather than Christianity.’
Robot calls the meeting to order. There is one apology – Panos Costadopolous, known as ‘Costa Brava’ to his colleagues, a nickname he revels in, although perhaps only because it’s better than being called Costa del Sol. Or perhaps it’s just because he’s shameless – he is known for constantly slipping off to the Continent for a short break when he shouldn’t, coming back even more sun-tanned than before. As Robot does not announce what Costa’s official reason is for missing the meeting, everyone expects that he’s gone off to the Continent again. No-one is quite sure whether to be pissed off with him, or admire him. Although those people who have been lumbered with having to do his marking in the past are definitely in the former category.
‘First item on the agenda is a proposal to change the dates that essays have to be handed in for next semester, says Robot. ‘You will see from the first appendix at the back of the agenda that we have three deadline schemes on the table. These by no means exhaust the possible schemes, and it may be that during the course of our discussions we come up with some more to consider. You will see a list of pros and cons for each proposal.’
Robot drones on and on. And on and on. And on and on. Then every possible problem with each of the schemes is considered. Will scheme two not give the students enough time between essays? Does scheme three give too much time between essays two and three? Does scheme one require essays to be submitted too early for first years to be able to handle (assuming this scheme will be applied to semester one next year)? Won’t scheme two be confusing for the students because one of the deadlines is on a Friday, rather than the usual Thursday? Can it be on a Thursday? No, because of administrative and other reasons that Ren has already forgotten.
Ren expected this fairly simple matter to be over and done with within five minutes, but an hour has gone by, and there’s no end in sight. Derek Lucas and Tristram York are the main culprits. Ren can’t imagine that either of them really has much interest in this issue, but it seems that each has nothing better to do than wind the other up. Robot is incapable of drawing matters to a close, and insists on considering in detail everything that is said, no matter how trivial, and even if it’s said merely in jest (his jest detector, it appears never got switched on like it was supposed to).
After an hour and fifteen minutes has gone by, lunch, coffee and tea is brought in by the catering staff, and left in the corner. By this stage everyone is exhausted, even – perhaps especially – the innocent bystanders.
‘Perhaps we’d best take a break at this point, and have some lunch, and come back and consider this further after we’ve eaten,’ says Robot.
Ren looks around, unable to believe what is happening. He is unsure whether it’s his place to say anything, but surely something has to be said? He has a lecture to finish writing.
‘Excuse me, Grant,’ he says, ‘but we’re an hour and a quarter in, and we’re still on agenda item one, out of eighteen items. I don’t see how we’re going to get through the meeting at this rate. I was told the meeting should take two hours, three at most. I have a lecture to finish writing this afternoon, so I can’t sit around all day debating these issues endlessly. Perhaps we should move on and revisit item one at a later stage?’
Robot looks peeved, but finally says, ‘All right, Renford. I’m not sure we are going to get any resolution on agenda item one today, so we’ll move on with the rest of the agenda after lunch and try to hurry it up.’
As the meeting breaks up for lunch, Derek laughs and says, ‘Ren is discovering that everything in academia proceeds at the proverbial pace of a shelled gastropod.’ Well, yes, Ren thinks, but in this case it’s mainly because of you. Derek clearly isn’t in any hurry. No wonder he doesn’t publish much. He’s renowned for endlessly rewriting his papers, regarding them as never quite good enough to send off, no matter how many years he’d spent polishing them, and no matter how good everyone else thinks they are. Ren doesn’t want to be one of those academics who think in decades, but everyone says that’s how you end up, no matter how much of a hurry you are to start with.
If I’m still here at Grayvington in ten years, he thinks – hell, if I’m still in academia in ten years – then I’ll go down to the science area, take what the students call the ‘Elevator to Oblivion’, and hurl myself off the top of Bleak Tower. Bleak Tower, real name Blake Tower, is the monstrous, soot-stained, sixties-era concrete high rise in the science area that, as whispered rumour has it, extra-depressed students used to alleviate their suffering. Alleviate with extreme prejudice, that is. ‘The Concrete Cure’, the student wags call it, nodding towards the Tower as they say it. It’s a pity I can’t legally hire a hitman to take me out if I’m still in Grayvington in ten years, Ren thinks. That’d get me a move on.
In the article he says this:
it seems increasingly hard to deny that, for so many, the overriding attraction of EU membership is that it enables as much politics as possible to be made immune from the need for popular consent
This is hardly surprising. For all of human history those who have thrusted themselves forward to be leaders have wanted to make the rules themselves. Why would we think that today’s leaders are any different? Human nature hasn’t changed that much. It was as true for Lenin as it was for cavemen, so why think that a mere hundred years has turned the power seekers into power sharers?
In short: you don’t spend your life scheming to get to the top of the leadership pole only to hand all the power over to a truckload of ordinary people when you get there.