In Defence of the Male Sex

Male vanity is vital - to win the Ashes and for human survival Daily Telegraph column There comes a point in all our lives when we realise that we are hopelessly out of our depth, and it happened to me yesterday as I was trying, for the purposes of television, to interview an Italian politician. Since we had earlier had some success in striking up conversations in the street I was having a go in Italian. Except this guy wasn't speaking the sweet, slow Italian, in which every consonant is enunciated. He was speaking in a curious accent and so fast that the words were winging over my head like a flock of supersonic pheasants above a drunken shooter. My comprehension rate was falling from just about getting it, to one word in two, to one word in five. And then, just when I thought my brain was about to explode, the Italian stopped. He looked at me quizzically, his velvety eyes boring into mine. I froze. I realised he wanted me to ask another question. "Ma, ma," I said feebly, which is the Italian for "But, but," and as the sweat formed I asked myself why, madre di dio, I had been so rash as to attempt an interview in Italian. My command of the language was verging on the passable but it was not polished enough for a deep exploration of modern European politics, and certainly not at that speed. So why did I do it? My friends, it was male vanity. It was the same unrealism that once impelled me to enter the school swimming competition. I will never forget that feeling of simple bewilderment, as I found myself churning at the back like a harpooned grampuss, while the other kids scythed through the water, their crawls perfected in the pools of St Kitts. I say male vanity, because it seems that this phenomenon - a systematic overestimation of one's own abilities - is particularly male. I found myself once playing croquet with a girl, and she asked me how good I was, and I said, "Huh! Yeah, croquet! Yup, croquet is one of the things at which I excel." Oh good, she said, and wiped the lawn with me, roqueting and croqueting my balls to oblivion. Every study I have seen bears witness to this difference. Asked to give a candid self-assessment, women and girls will stick to "good" or "average" while men of identical abilities will declare that they are "very good" or "excellent." Girls are much more reluctant to put up their hands and show off in class, and yet do as well, if not better in exams. It is a gender distinction that seems to go very deep, as anyone who has children of both sexes will know. Now a female has written the most devastating account of this phenomenon ever published, and it is called Martin Lukes: who moved my Blackberry. It is a bit like Bridget Jones, only far crueller and funnier, and it is about a man, Martin Lukes, a marketing executive, and a slave to all the most embarrassing and useless bits of business jargon. His creator, Lucy Kellaway, has a lethal ear for the way we male executives talk. He is always keeping people in the loop, and walking the extra mile, and calling on his subordinates to be better than their bestest, and events never happen in the future, but always "going forward". He is a "diversity champion" who refers to his "lady wife". He is a hypochondriac who, on being passed over for promotion, decides that he has bowel cancer. But the main point about Martin Lukes is that he deeply and ineradicably believes that it is his destiny to be promoted to the very top and spends his days plotting and shafting to achieve it. He is a deeply pathetic figure. Yet I defy any man who works in an office, any man who wants to get on, any man who secretly fancies his own capabilities - add them together and you have a whole lot of men - not to read this book without a shudder of recognition. One way or another, we men are all Martin Lukes, and I have found the experience of reading this book so chastening that I have felt obliged to construct a defence of the male sex. Here it is. I think we can quite easily posit not just an economic but an evolutionary explanation for this difference between the sexes in our capacity for self-evaluation. Martin Lukes is guilty of chronic and crass over-estimation of his own talents. But isn't this very vice the foundation of capitalism? Surely we need this male cognitive dissonance, this refusal to accept reality, otherwise people would never take the mad risks that have so benefited the human race - going up in aeroplanes, crossing the Atlantic, you name it. Let us consider, as we must, the psychology of Kevin Pietersen, Ashes hero. It is not my impression that Mr Pietersen suffers from a shortage of self-esteem. He has a blue-skunk haircut, swings his bat like a club, and has a deep belief that he can not only pick out balls travelling at more than 90mph, but also hit them for six. This Martin Lukesian optimism has regularly been proved wrong, and he has swung and been out. But in the last match, he swung that bat, and pow - without his self-belief, he might have blocked and poked, and we would not have regained the Ashes. It is not too trivial to point out that this demented male self-confidence is also vital to human reproduction. It is the role of the male to refuse rejection, and to keep plugging on, in spite of all the evidence that he is getting nowhere, and without that male capability for self-delusion, the species would probably die out. In fact, most women have probably long ago worked out that there is no point in telling men the truth about themselves, and coddling male vanity is a vital part of keeping the human show on the road. I think it was Dirty Harry who once said: "A man's got to know his limitations." On the contrary: in my experience that knowledge would be so shattering that it must be avoided at all costs.

83 thoughts on “In Defence of the Male Sex”

  1. Of course you are right Boris

    For it is the weakness of the stronger sex for the weaker sex that makes the weaker sex the strongest sex. Right?

    Vive la différence

  2. Boris, if you ever suffer from the delusion that you are good for anything, please give me a call and I will disabuse you of that notion. It’s the least I can do.
    And I am very good at it.

  3. Surely the participants in these discussions are the living proof of Boris’s thesis. Every male contributor here seems convinced of his ability to run the country – and, not only that, but to do so better than Blair, Brown, Boris and all the rest!

  4. Another thought: is it more grist to the sociobiological mill?

    Did men develop AUVS (Absurd Unrestrained Vanity Syndrome) in order to hunt? There’s not much point going out on a hunt with low expectations and doubting your ability to throw your spear accurately is there? Such doubting cavemen would soon have been eliminated by natural selection. Equally, there was no incentive for the woman to be absurdly optmistic was there? She had to ration resources at home on a worst case scenario basis (“we better not eat up all those berries now in case they don’t come back with anything from the hunt”). So she developed hyper-realism.

    QED (but only in a vainly male sort of way).

  5. “Surely we need this male cognitive dissonance, this refusal to accept reality, otherwise people would never take the mad risks that have so benefited the human race – going up in aeroplanes, crossing the Atlantic, you name it.i”

    Vote conservative?

  6. Look at Tony Blair: if only we could make him realise his limitations, we’d all be much better off! It works for some, but for others it is simply dangerous!

  7. “Surely we need this male cognitive dissonance, this refusal to accept reality, otherwise people would never take the mad risks that have so benefited the human race — going up in aeroplanes, crossing the Atlantic, you name it.” ??

    Ok.
    Iraq — Bush, Blair and conjoined over-confidence.

    But then, Amelia Earhart was a woman.

  8. Iglo seems to have forgotten that Boris is a member of the House of Commons which, with the House of Lords, makes the laws of this country. He will have voted for at least some of the laws which are used to run this country, so although not part of Tony’s crew he does play a (small) part in running the country.

    I put Boris in because I needed another “B” for purposes of alliteration.

  9. The male ego needs massaging as never before, in view of the ever increasing realistion that the female of the species is , as I have always suspected, the superior gender.

    A WOMAN can do just about everything a man can do , only generally better, plus a couple he can’t. And in case anyone wants to bring up the superiority of the respective positions for micturation, forget it. If that is the only ‘superior’ thing that a man can do, it’s a pretty poor substitute for multi tasking isn’t it?
    When you take over girls; remember me : I’m on your side.

  10. Oh spot on Boris, SO true. Your article reminds me of an incident in a nightclub office (Ladies loo – ‘I need to see you in the office when you have a moment’ is code for meet me in the ladies for a chat, that’s why we goes in packs, to discuss you lot). There was a group of about 8 or 9 women (chairs are often provided for this activity), mostly older than me and one young girl of about 18. I watched as the topic of conversation moved onto preference of erm appendage size. (So funny to hear the ‘sweet and innocent’ in full flow – men, you have no idea) After much laughter the conversation stopper was when the young girl said confidently “of course it doesn’t matter how big it is it’s what you do with it that counts” One woman asked “Did your boyfriend tell you that?” at which point the young girls smile faltered “er…yes”, “well that’s quite right dear, he’s your first boyfriend is he?” said the older woman and they all walked out, desperately trying to keep a straight face. Aw, bless!

    You lie, we lie, everybody lies. But there are lies and lies. What you describe is not only true Boris but good and applicable to both sexes. But I won’t explain in public dear, noooooo.

  11. “Sweet slow Italian”? Boris, have you ever heard an Italian speak? Here in Rome it is hard and with the vocals truncated, except when you well the “AAAAHOOOOO” at the top of your lungs to catch the attention of someone at the other side of the city. In Tuscany they put an H in front of every word, in Milan it sounds whiny and shrill, in Veneto they do not open their lips when they talk, but it is very sing song, in the south of Italy you cannot understand what they are saying, it is another language, but if they stick to Italian the Sicilian accent is sweet. It is like expecting that everyone in Britain speaks like the Queen. If you need Italian lessons I can help, but I do have a bit of a Roman accent. But remember, the Italians speak faster than the French, watch the hands to understand in which direction the conversation is going. As for male overconfidence, nothing new, all women have been pestered by the worst specimen at a party or club, he will not take no as an answer, resists sarcasm, is immune from rudeness, the only way to get rid of them is to give a false phone number. On the other hand Macarnie, women will never take over, unfortunately, because for most of us the male of the species is our weak point, and when we fall in love we become perfect idiots. Nature’s sick sense of humour.

  12. Mentioning cricket sparks the thought that Boris and Shane Warne are look-a-likes [relatively speaking]. Their off-field charisma is also comparable, in more ways than one.
    And, they have the ability to grate opposition and detractors alike. Bravo.

  13. “Perhaps what we need is a male prime minister, with a cabinet composed entirely of women?”

    Crikey, no. You know what happens with nuns. You think any PM should deal with a bunch of women all having PMS at the same time?

  14. >

    Reminds me of one chap who attributed every negative comment to PMS (“he will not take no as an answer, resists sarcasm, is immune from rudeness”) and I was forced to remind him that PMS doesn’t last for three weeks – sometimes there really is a problem, it was him. Does the current administration have PMS do you think?

  15. There are enough of them in his horror cabinet to have a 365 day PMS cotinuum. And judging by some of their faces, it wouldn’t surprise me.
    Where does he find tem?

  16. I’ve found this thread very interesting and your comment thought provoking Mac – where does the PM find them? There could be something similar or common to those who seek and gain public office I thought. People don’t want to hear
    “I’m not sure I can come up with solutions to these problems as I have no personal experience in this field and if experts talk to me I don’t really understand what they’re saying but I’ll give it a go”
    they want to hear
    “And I will solve ALL your problems because only I can provide the solutions, vote for me, you know it makes sense”
    People WANT to hear you’re brilliant at croquet.

    Now what type of person is that? What name might I give to those in government? The type of person I was thinking of Mum would call belligerent so I looked it up. Belligerent: adj. aggresive > engaged in war or conflict. n. a nation or person engaged in war.

    For the present government that seems about right!

  17. I know that this thread offers an unequalled opportunity for all we M of the S to show off our wonderful sense of humour but I think there are only seven basic jokes about le difference, and you’ve told them all.

    Sort of apologies for a complete diversion..

    I’ve been supportive of the government on almost all of the measures they are taking with respect to the terrorist threat, although I have started reconsidering my position on identity cards.

    However two things definitely worry me. The first is the idea of a crime of incitement to religious hatred, which we have discussed elesewhere, and the second is the idea of a crime of glorification of terrorism. It seems that the government is going to put itself in an impossible position with either or both of these because the descriptions of the putative offences are so vague. Such vagueness can only give the lawyers opportunities to clog up the courts by either defending those who may well be guilty of the undoubted spirit of the law or prosecuting those who are not. Surely real incitement to hatred of any type is illegal under some other law. Glorification of terrorism might be applicable to that ghastly ex Lib Dem MP supporting suicide bombers, or the Dubliners singing We’re all off to Dublin in the Green. Possibly as a possessor of several CDs by the last mentioned I might be guilty under such a new law. If however some zealot does indeed shout out how wonderful are the suicide bombers in Iraq or London but does not go on to incite young people (or old) to follow their example, then unless his act of glorification might cause a breach of public order in the particular circumstances, I can’t see that we can go as far as charging him with a crime of any sort. I suspect that just as school children push things to the limit to give teachers a run for their money so we might end up with a lot of semi-semi-radicalised youth trying it on with the police.
    What happens to the first person wearing an Osama bin Ladin T-shirt after such a law is passed? Would wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt fare the same? (Che was a nasty little bastard when all was said and done.)

    Further worry was caused when it was usggested that there might be a 20 year limit on acts which could not be glorified (September 11th still out but Birmingham bombings OK) except if they appear on a list of events that still must not be glorified! Ripe material for survinbg Pythons! “Don’t mention the…..”.

    Unlike some of you lot I don’t think Tony Blair is trying to create a police state. This sort of ‘add on’ legislation, like ‘add on’ attempts to solve the problem of education without stopping to consider that the whole strategy/ideology is wrong, has at times more of the farcical aspects of communism than the interrogation centres and death camps. Nevertheless it is still dangerous because it undermines the fundamentally sound aim – that of the state doing what is required to protect the society for which it – the state – is a necessary evil.

    It seems to me that it would be much more worthwhile to apply the laws we have more effectively than to create new ones which are so vague.

    O.K. you can go back to whatever it was now

  18. “It seems to me that it would be much more worthwhile to apply the laws we have more effectively than to create new ones which are so vague.”

    YES, totally agree, but considering Bliar is a Lawyer (allegedly) I’m not sure he’s actually aware of the laws we already have. Could be a case of a bunch of richardheads thumping the table and ordering a taxi when they have a limo in the garage all fuelled and ready to go – they just don’t know how to drive it!

  19. “an unequalled opportunity for all we M of the S to show off our wonderful sense of humour but I think there are only seven basic jokes about le difference, and you’ve told them all.”

    Sorry, what are “M of the S”?

    Didn’t know you required blue/pink jokes, is it just for men or should women tell jokes too?
    Here goes then:

    * Women want humour, converstation, money, presents, intellect, romance, attention, appreciation, emotional support, social status and be able to make you beg.
    Men want you to be naked and have beer.

    My favourite oldie: How do you know an Essex girl is having an orgasm? She drops her chips.

    How does a Tory politician change a light bulb? He doesn’t – he complains to his wife who rings an electrician which the maid supervises. Bless.

  20. I think that the government’s going about the whole terrorism thing completely wrongly… It has been clearly shown throughout history that religions flourish under oppression. With the exception of extreme examples (such as when the majority of a religion is wiped out with genocide), which Blair is not yet proposing, pressure on religion causes those under it to become more devout, and those around it to become more sympathetic, causing it to both grow and become stronger.

    Please note that I’m not casting stones at any particular religion, but all terrorists are following some kind of creed or doctrine, and so the same effect applies.

    The best way to dissipate fundamentalist hatred I think is to acknowledge it, and forget about it, carrying on as normal. You can’t ignore it or they get more worked up, but you can’t introduce measures against it, or those close to it already will be pushed closer. All you can do is be firm in the principles they seek to deter, which includes not curtailing freedom!

    Terrorist acts are so irrelevant in Britain, that the massive publicity and attention they get is unfortunate, but the over-reacting laws now proposed are tragic, and will serve only to create a bigger divide, between those who support the laws, and those who are breaking them or close to it. In a place where terrorism is far more of an issue, such as Iraq, then maybe the measures would be needed, but not here. In our only recent successful terrorist attack, 52 people were killed, and 700 injured. Compare that to the number who die in car accidents, or perhaps take for example that 167 women are raped every day on average in the UK. I’d suggest trying to cut down that number before we turn our attention to the relatively minor issue of terrorism.

  21. Jack Target, I broadly agree with you.
    But I often have to explain to people in far-flung countries on the net that the situation in Northern Ireland was never a “religious war” per se. It is, and always was, a struggle between Nationalists, who happened also to be Catholic by virtue of history, and Unionists, who happen to be Protestant. Despite Paisley’s insults to the Pope (about whom I don’t give a flying fig) the conflict between people in Northern Ireland — and terrorist acts by the IRA in Britain — were never about religion.

    Having said that, since internment didn’t work in Northern Ireland, I don’t see how similar tactics (such as Guantanamo) will work now.
    Or house arrest.
    Or clamping down on free speech, which is essentially what Blair is trying to do. And since the UN failed to even agree on a *definition* of terrorism, putting these proposed new laws into effect is going to be mighty difficult. Courts could be tangled up for years.

    If I say here that I am 100% in favour of a United Ireland (and that the country should never have been partitioned in the first place) am I automatically assumed to be glorifying and supporting past acts of violence and terrorism by the IRA? I think not!

  22. Jaq

    M of the S ==> male of the species

    I made up the ‘fact’ about there being 7 basic jokes about the difference, but since I have now enjoyed three new ones I feel the minor evil of my fib is more than outweighed by the joy and laughter it has caused to readers of this blog. Many thanks!

    Jack Target

    I think you are basically right. If any individual or group actually advocates or incites intolerance of others, who are living by the rules, then I’m pretty certain there is a sensible law to deal with it. Proceeding in such cases will not constitute oppression because it will be in a context of everyone being equal before the law.

    I recall the attempt to make holocaust denial a crime. There is a similarity of intent here. I regard holocaust denial as pretty offensive, usually done with some other purpose in mind. But once you start legislating what is true and what isn’t then you are on a slippery slope. If the BNP or Islamicist organisations want to deny that the holocaust happened then they have every right to do so, unpleasant as it may be to many Jewish, gays, communists as well as the rest of us. In an open society we aim for as few laws as possible to allow a free and liberal life, the trade off being that we will sometimes be offended. As a card carrying grumpy old man I could spend days writing down what offends me (FCUK, Big Brother, Polly Toynbee, disposable cameras – don’t get me started) but it is probably best to get on with what I am free to do and enjoy. There is another aspect to this of course which is courtesy. As an American friend pointed out to me ‘Politeness is what you Brits do to put us in our place but courtesy is what you do to make people feel easy’. I think she had a point though I feel the singling out of we Brits was a bit unfair. (It transpired she hadn’t been to Paris). If we take courtesy in its widest sense, based on my friends definition, then that’s something we have to work for as individuals. You can’t make people courteous by law!

  23. Nora

    You cannot infer from your support for a United Ireland that you glorify or support terrorism. My point is that even if you did glorify it – see my reference to the Dubliners – then you have every right to do so however much it may offend me or anyone else. If that is the level of your support then that’s that. If, however, you knowingly supply goods to them as support, then the state must not tolerate that and must use the appropriate law to bring you to a fair trial. In exceptional cases, which must remain so, the government has an obligation to the mass of the people to use well established procedures that do not go through the normal channels. This is a bit like using a piece of machinery. There may be a good reason for using it with the guard off but if you do so then be very careful. OK so you probably disagree but the point I wish to make is that there is no reason for ad hoccery if the existing laws are well and fairly enforced and there are emergency procedures which are strictly accountable. Not perfect but better than all the alternatives.

    I thought they found that married men don’t live longer, it only seems like it.

  24. Thanks for the comments guys, just a quick clarification Nora:

    I really wasn’t grouping any terrorists into a mainstream religious group, or even putting their motives down to religion. I meant that their fundamentalism is a form of religion in itself, and reacts the same way to pressure. This is regardless of whether the fundamentalism is born from a traditional religious ideal, or a political ideal.

  25. Good grief it seems that Boris is a star everywhere! and why not (forgive me I’m typing in the dark) He’s on the IMDB database: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1296124/board/threads/ but you have to register. Check it out – the discussion is exclusively about Boris and is far more heated than here and judging by the amount of admin deleted posts it’s not so polite, but some of the wisecracks are funny: The Conservative party is the cream of the country… rich, thick and full of clots.

  26. The nub of this debate was in defence of the male sex. I am not a jockstrap, and therefore I have nothing in my psyche which tells me that I must defend the male sex. If a man is not in a position to defend his parts: tough. He should not be allowed out on his own.

    As for the jokes , Jack R. all jokes are a part of a defence mechanism,( until recently, mainly male) , but thanks to our Jaq, not any longer.

    Let’s be fair; a sense of humour is necessary when listening to the Clancy Brothers or The Dubliners, it’s not exclusively an Irish thing. If the ” Irish Question” , one that has been asked for what seems like millenia, were finally answered , we’d have to find something else to moan about: it’s the nature of mankind to be bolshie; isn’t it?

    The truth about Ulster is that mainland Britain would love to be rid of the multifarious problems caused over the years. Bigots and other sorts of manure mixers thrive in an unquiet society, and giving in to terror makes the unquiet worse. Perceived unfairness , anywhere will ferment unrest. And Nora: sorry love , but despite your denial, I do believe that religion has a lot to do with the unrest, much as it pains me to disagree.

  27. Mac,

    Ulster has 9 counties. Only 6 of them are in the UK. Which is why we Irish refer to “Northern Ireland”. Not “Ulster”.

    And the “Irish Question” was not of our making.

    Beyond that I will not go, as it is far too emotive a topic for me. Let me put it this way: Boris wrote here a while back that immigrants to Britain should be taught British history. My question is, “British history according to whom?”

  28. Nora,

    History is written by the winners. The “Irish Question” is as two sided as any major event in history. It all depends on which side of the fence you are looking from.

  29. Macarnie

    I’m not sure what I’m defending myself against when I tell a joke – except madness I suppose – but they are a handy non-alcoholic ice breaker when confronted with a possibility of PC reserve, which makes British reserve look positively Latin American by contrast.

    Nora

    Good point. Judging by my son’s A-level history syllabus it looks as if Polly Toynbee andKen Livingstone are teaching it.

    Can someone explain the following?

    It is considered too bad of we Brits to bang on about the war that ended 60 years ago. The Germans have moved on and are getting faintly bored. British ex-POWs of the Japanese were sharply criticised as racist for turning their backs on the Japanese Emperor a few years ago.

    The Irish Famine happened a century and a half ago. Many hundreds of thousands died who might have been saved had British capitalists not looked to their profits. Once again I stand to be corrected. There was a great outcry from Britain by many who saw this as wrong. Before and since then there was a brutal rule by the British up to the partition. The Irish government, in the way of revolutionaries who have come to power, dealt brutally with the more radical of their erstwhile comrades. They preferred their fellow nationalists in Germany during the war. Catholics in the north were not allowed to play their part in an open society. In the 60’s a Civil Rights movement articulating the just and reasonable demands of the Catholics was hijacked by the Provisional IRA. Ordinary people, Catholic and Protestant could be executed on the word of a Provo leader, for crimes such as comforting a dying British soldier. The IRA showed its internationalism by allying with Libyan terrorists. Meanwhile it prepared for the peace by taking over organised crime on its ‘patches’. Their Protestant counterparts did the same and even came to turf agreements. The British government carried on paying the social security for IRA members. There was great to do about a shoot to kill policy by the RUC but the bomb to kill policy of the Provos was not seen as such a threat to human rights. We all had to pretend that Sinn Fein had no connection with the IRA. This was in marked contrast to how the National Front and other Britsh counterparts of the IRA were seen with respect to their (fortunately lightly) armed wing such as Combat 88.

    Many Northern Irish people, Catholic and Protestant, worked hard in the North to make something for themselves and their families. The McCartney sisters exemplify that. But the Provos don’t like that sort of thing. Like their Islamicist counterparts they want followers to be miserably destitute, without a stake, so they can appoint themselves as leaders.

    I think most British people have looked at their own history, what’s left of it on the syllabus, and seen it warts and all. When is the Irish Republican movement and its supporters going to do the same with its own more recent history?

  30. Paul

    “History is written by the winners. ” Sounds neast! What does it mean.

    (a) the losers also lose the will to write
    (b) the winners confiscate the pens, pencils and word processors of the losers
    (c)…….

    Are there no German historians of the second world war? Do all historians on the winning side pay no attention to what the losing side said?

    Or could it be that this is a neat little quip which saves us the bother of trying to think about things? Like “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”?

    Sorry to be so abrupt.

  31. Why did God create man first?
    Becaue he didn’t want a woman looking over his shoulder.

    [to get back on topic, somewhat …]

  32. Mac dear,

    It pains me too. Which is why I will say no more on the subject here — other than to agree that it’s in the nature of (wo)mankind to be bolshie, at times. And sometimes and in some places more than others. 🙂

  33. Artwork in Portcullis House

    Portcullis House, where the MPs now have their offices, is an excellent little building. Nice and airy inside, designed for people. We visited it yesterday as part of Open House London. Of course, we did not get to see the…

  34. Some males, far from, being being in the position of having to be defended by such worthies as Boris; deserve to be attacked; by all and sundry. There is the types of self styled alpha males , for example, who, having metamorphosed from creatures of the swamp to exalted public figures, are in process of retro- metamorphosing to the gall spitting gastropodic creatures whence they but recently emerged. I have no doubt that everyone will have his / her own favourite possible candidates for the people concerned. I leave it up to you.

  35. Ooh Mac, you tart! you know how to tempt a woman – the list is fat in westminster, and I could name a few at home as well! (and not all of them male if the truth be told)

  36. That’s always been my trouble Jaq, always the bait in the trap, never the trapper. I agree with you about the superabundance of qualified,( for spiflicating), MPs of ALL genders, past and present.

  37. Jack Target –

    It would be nice to think you were right about religious fundamentalism. But I am afraid what you have to factor in with Islam is (a) demographics and (b) the nature of mainstream Islam.

    As regards (a) Netherlands is ahead of us. In their major urban areas births to Muslims are already over 50% of the total. With Muslims having families of 3,4,5 children – and showing no great reduction in this propensity despite rising living standards – and with overseas marriages/immigration, this trend is bound to continue and intensify.

    What’s the problem you might say. After all most Muslims aren’t violent fundamentalists. But I would suggest that most mainstream Muslims do believe that Shariah law – what purports to be divinely inspired law – should replace democrtically sanctioned man-made laws. In other words, Parliament shoudl be dismantled in favour of Shariah, governed by clerical judges. The other major issue is that Muslims stand in opposition to most aspects of modern British culture: women are treated as inferior, children are denied any freedom, consumption of alcohol is frowned upon, freedom of speech is not valued, and Islam is considered superior to Christianity, agnosticism and atheism.

    All of the above might not be a matter of undue concern if the Muslim population stood at 2 million for all time. But when, as you advance in age, and find it approaches 10-20% of the population and shows no signs of reducing, it will become the issue of the next generation – your generation.

    It is vital I would suggest that we contain Islam at this stage. That involves, not so much jailing the extreme fringe but confronting Islam with a bold and self-confident secularism that does not accept its right to have sole command of what its children learn and are exposed to. There are many ways this could be done. To take one example – we could bring in a system of national community service which gets young Muslim women out of the control of their families between the ages of 16 and 20 say.

    I’m afraid that only the state can achieve some of these things. Left to itself, this situation is only going to get worse.

  38. I’m sorry, I read this item’s headline all wrong and immediately thought: “My God, that’s a major policy change for the Conservatives”.

    “In Defence of Male Sex”, indeed.

  39. Also: switching to serious mode, the massive category error in field’s piece above is his belief that the Islamic “other” is some sort of enemy and threat to our way of life.

    And they are – apparantly – breedling like rabbits, and it is only state-controlled brainwashing that’s going to cure this. Are you sure?

  40. Scaryduck: the view held by Field that there is an implied threat, by the ever more rapidly increasing numbers of Muslims in Britain, is a widely held one. It is often discussed , without heat, but with many reservations by politically sensible people whom I know, andI have no reason to doubt that many others are concerned about the trend also
    Some, apparently extremist, Muslims have even been heard to declare , very loudly, on television , that Britain will be run by Islam in the not too distant future.

    Whilst this seems unlikely,the public at large, already feeling , perhaps unnecessarily so, under threat from extremists cannot be blamed for forming the impression that this is what the Muslims want. I do not want to lose my right to be a democrat, I do not want to see the female of the species declassified. I want to remain governed by secular laws. It is less than a century since women were emancipated, and anyone wishing for that right even to be diminished, let alone lost, is , in my opinion , asking for a political bloody nose.
    I don’t think that which Field fears ,will happen, but we ought to make sure it never even gets near. Not to do so would be foolish in the extreme. Use the ballot box; strive for better understanding , and if it has to be , let Britain be muti-cutural , without the ghettos.

  41. Multi-racial/multi-coloured maybe but multi-cultural is a recipe for disaster as we have evidence of all around us. We should have one culture in Britain – British culture. It is impossible for laws in this great but little land to try to cater for all eventualities of general practice of faith or cultural behaviour without division. When laws stop and local rules apply, arguments start which then have to resort to law or government to settle. It’s ridiculus to have one law for one and another for another based on colour or creed and it causes unrest and isn’t working.

    Whilst I’m in favour of progress I disagree with change for change sake. The sixties gave us a legacy of PC bulls**t we haven’t recovered from and it’s about time we did. With the exception of the Johnsons I think Peter Hitchens would run the country single handed better than just about everyone I could name in Westminster. But with both journalists and politicians I’m talking of people who live in a unique pocket of society. Unfortunately those are the people who decide how the rest of us should live our lives. Rather than discussing the pro’s and con’s of guessed feelings and general trends, they should all be tackling real issues.

    Let’s hear it Boz – you’re the best for conveying what your constituents are concerned about. Let your next post be an example of a real issue that’s happened to a real person you represent.

    Or don’t you read the blog?

  42. Jaq

    Please rest assured that in his own oblique way Boris is aware of this blog through and through – he may not show it at times tho

  43. Nora –

    Yes I do have children. Not sure how that is relevant. I was simply making the point that if a section of the population has a much higher birth rate than the others that therefore section will inevitably grow very fast as a proportion.

    I never said “breeding like rabbits” by the way despite what Scaryduck suggests. They are breeding like humans who follower a particular creed which in all sorts of ways encourages a high birth rate.

    Scaryduck – I’d like to know what a religious or political movement (Islam is both combined) would have to believe for you to accept it is a threat to our way of life. Clearly it’s not enough for its followers to believe that democracy and man-made laws should be replaced by Shariah law; or that women should be treated as second class citizens; or that Christians and Jews should be treated as second class citizens.
    At what point is one allowed to say a religion is a threat to one’s way of life? If there were two million Scientology followers in this country, would you allow me to say it?

    Macarnie – I don’t think that there is any likelihood of an Islamic takeover of this country (unless Al Queda were to acquire and be able to deploy nuclear weapons, which cannot be ruled out). The real danger is civil strife and conflict, a chronic state of crisis and the creation effectively independent Muslim enclaves in our country. Muslims don’t have to “do” anything much. These things will follow naturally as the balance of numbers changes.

    The picture I would summon up is that one will have areas where Shariah law will effectively replace the rule of Parliament. In such areas non-Muslim women won’t be able to move freely because of Islamic dress codes and state authority will be in the hands of Muslims. The Imams and Muslim militants will gradually get their hands on state power in those areas.

    This is not fanciful stuff. Who 25 years ago would have thought we could have a situation where a well known author was in danger of being killed by Muslims; that so much of our daily political life should be dominated by the doings and sayings of Muslims; that we are to be banned from critcising Islam; that our cities would be under bonmbardment from UK Muslims; that we would face the threat of attack with WMD from Muslim groups abroad? Very few I would venture.

  44. Actually Field I do see your point and agree with you on this… I’m not sure about your conclusions on the solutions, but one of my best friends is a muslim, who is the eldest one of 11 siblings.

    Your point about Islam being a political as well as religious movement is an important one too. He and I argue regularly about religion, and one of his major criticisms of Christianity is that in contrast to Islam it is not a guide for society. It does not lay down laws or punishments like the Qu’ran does, rather it is a guide to personal morals. As such almost all muslims who actually believe the Qu’ran cannot help but believe in the political guidelines it sets down too.

    Your point about national service is an interesting one. I’ve come accross this parental control a lot in my life. Many of my friends have strict rules placed upon them (not only muslims, but chinese and asian too, although none of them english), some even have a curfew of 10 O’Clock when they’re 19! (and not just women, but guys too) It even extends to universities, with most of them staying in London so that they can live at home (due to their parent’s pressure of course), in fact one of them turned down a place at Oxford because of this. National service might be a good way of dealing with this, I’m not sure.

  45. In response to the first thing Macarnie posted, and in true latecomer style, I can think of one thing that women don’t do as well as men, which is engineering. It’s not that women engineers are non-existent, because there are women in engineering, and it’s not that they’re not good at it, because many of them are, and the ones that are good are often excellent (and occasionally forced to work harder to prove it, which should be unnecessary these days).

    But among the general female population, there seems to be a general lack of interest in engineering and how things actually work – for most women that I speak to, the fact that it works is enough, and there is no need to understand it. Men on the other hand are more likely to pull something apart either in a desire to know how it works or in a (perhaps oft-mistaken, as Boris would have it) belief that they know how it works already and are therefore fully qualified to fix it.

  46. Phil : I am an engineer, and have had dealings with a whole host of female Russian engineers , both mechanical and electrical on huge bi-national , (German / Russian), petrochemical engineering projects ; believe me , they were not behind the males in any department.

    Not for them the coy girlsy approach; the excessively applied lipstick, the flirting manner:they knew what their remit was , and they knew how best to argue for its implementation.

    We have a female engineer here on site , so to speak,who posts on a regular basis: try the theory of female engineering inferiority on her,( if you dare). And don’t forget the ear defenders if you do venture into her domain.

  47. Jack Target –

    Glad you could confirm through your personal experience that what I am talking about is not a figment of my imagination, though I accept when it comes to predicting the future we all have the right to form our own judgment.

    Not comparing myself with the great man here but Churchill was right in the 1930s about the threat from Germany when most people thought he was a war mongering has been. In other words, to hold an unpopular view, one which perhaps suggests that discord rather than unity awaits us, does not mean one is necessarily wrong.

    I think Jaq’s point is the essential one. There can only be one law in this country. But I have never yet met or heard a Muslim (except for a few non-believing secular Muslims) ever state that Islamic law must be abandoned by Muslims.

  48. Macarnie: my point was not that women cannot be as good or better than men at engineering – simply that, in the UK at least, they seem to choose not to, and mostly due to lack of interest. When I was an undergraduate, the only course with a half decent number of women was civil engineering. On my course there were 70 students in my year, including 6 girls. Now, I am a postgraduate research student, and there is one girl in my working group, out of 32 students, research associates, and academics. And I’ve been here for 2 years, and never met her, so I guess she doesn’t come into the department very often.

  49. Phil:
    “But among the general female population, there seems to be a general lack of interest in engineering and how things actually work – for most women that I speak to, the fact that it works is enough, and there is no need to understand it. Men on the other hand are more likely to pull something apart either in a desire to know how it works”
    Maybe men do that because they have the time whilst the women are cooking the dinner, cleaning the house, feeding the baby, changing a nappy, washing the clothes, clearing up cat sick, making sure his red football socks are not in the whites basket, negotiating the subject of chrismas with which family, remembering to post birthday cards, and drinking too much wine whilst wishing they were having sex with Keanu Reeves instead!

    Some men would do better to remember that if it aint broke, don’t ‘fix’ it, said jaq B.Eng.MSc.

  50. Field : have to agree entirely with your post above, especially “The real danger is civil strife and conflict, a chronic state of crisis” Thanks for your comment and wonder if you have read any of Peter Hitchens stuff? I’m not given to posting references here and his writing doesn’t centre on the muslim community but, have a look at this interview if you will
    http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.17392/article_detail.asp
    I found it interesting, eg the final comment:
    ” Capitalism and socialism are quite capable of coexisting. The only thing you have to sacrifice is liberty”
    Your post made me think of a comment Dr Martin Luther King made – something like the worst thing people can do is ignore this and pretend it isn’t happening.

  51. Jaq: Since I only have one female friend with kids, I can’t really comment on half those points, and for the other half, I do my own cooking, washing and cleaning 😉 I was rather thinking of people who are young enough not to have a family yet and therefore in a position to decide what they want to do for A Levels, with a view to what they want to do at Uni. Perhaps many women really do want to stay at home, have a family, and do housework, and that’s why they can’t be persuaded to do engineering?

  52. Phil, I see, I think it has something to do with life during and employment afterwards. If you watch ‘Legally Blonde’ that’s the fluffy version of my life at uni. (I’m not blonde, I don’t wear pink and I don’t drive a porche….damn!) One student was waiting to be seen about his drug abuse and told me I shouldn’t be on the course because I was a woman! Even my friend who was sponsored and got an easy first was given hell by her male collegues after her degree. Sexual harrasment wasn’t the half of it! None of us know ANY woman that’s stayed in engineering after graduating – we just don’t need the grief.

    In fact, a few of my male friends worked abroad because there is more respect for engineers there.

    And I’d just like to say that one of the things that has helped me face every difficulty in life is the fact that such accomplished people as those I met at uni have chosen to be my friend.

  53. I can understand the sense in working abroad: I did , for a very long time. Things are more ordered in some other societies; ones’ standing as an engineer, for instance in Germany; Holland or Norway,is recognized for the achievement inherent in the title. Work is work,( Ordnung nmuss sein), with the formalities respected, and at finishing time, the barriers are lowered; everyone in free time is equal, be they male or female.. The next morning , the formalities are seamlessly re-established. This works because everyone knows the rules and plays by them, whereas here , one is seen as stand offish: haughty,if one wants professional behaviour during working hours.

  54. Just a quick note, I went to Warwick University to study Maths and Physics. It is a very progressive and modern university as I’m sure many of you are aware, being only 40 years old (though the best university in the country for maths according to many). This would imply that it has a better chance of representing people’s actual desires (people go there to do what they want, not what they’re pressured into), and indeed it is, while I was there I didn’t notice any prejudice or stereotyping of any kind (except a few good-humoured jokes).

    However, when I went into one of my physics exams last summer, it was held at the same time as a psychology exam. Looking around the room, the same effect could have been achieved by someone saying “men on this side, women on that side”, and it would have looked pretty similar.

  55. Just to go off topic( so what’s new)slightly, another slant on what women excel in:

    Have you heard the one about The Liar, The Witch, and Her Wardrobe?
    It was reported today that the wife of our aspiring president, the self styled First Lady, is a practicing follower of the Witchcraft cult; Wiccan, together with other gobbledegook New Age practises.
    None of this surprises the followers of the better informed gossip columnists
    She allegedly places amulets in her husband’s clothing to enable him to do a fair imitation of a country’s political leader. Without them, one must assume, he would cease to be an effective leader.

    One’s assumptions? Eureka! THAT must be the reason; he has lost the festering amulet. It must have been dislodged by the frantic arm waving to which he appears to be addicted, and is probably the root cause of his weird , disjointed speech patterns of late.
    Even those wizards of mimicry, with John Culshaw et al, on BBC2, use their arms less than he does, and they are meant be lampooning him, not the reverse, ( by the way that Tom Baker take off is better than Tom’s own) .

    It would, however, take drastic plastic surgery to duplicate the mouth of “My learned friend”, and one wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It would be as abysmally awful as the newly unveiled , expensively de-wattled neck of a certain soap actress, who has an unerring accuracy in mimicking Jonathan Woss.

    Thank goodness for a free press; and thank goodness for our imperfect system of Democracy.
    In contrast : where does Germany stand now? The Ost Deutsche Maggie clone is in limbo, with the ridiculously cursed system of PR.
    No-one gets to govern, everyone gets a bite of the cherry, the cherry which was lost; many moons ago to the PC police, who decided that the first past the post system is unfair. The minorities now will expect, and probably get ; a share of power totally disproportionate to their real importance.

    Poor Angela Merkel, she will not take up Maggie’s sceptre: better luck next time.Auf Wiedersehen,Pet.

  56. Jaq –

    Yes, I am familiar with ex-Trot Peter Hitchens.

    I’m afraid I am not overly impressed with him. It’s true he’s good at pointing out the Emperor has no clothes on but he has been wrong on a lot of things. He failed entirely to see that Islam in the UK represented a threat to our society and used to praise the conservatism of Muslims.

    I am never quite sure what his “conservatism” consists in except for condemnation of the current Conservative Party! It seems in many ways he wants to “turn the clock back” as he says.

    Whilst it is true that 50 – 60 years ago the UK was a much more law abiding society and the streets were much safer, there was much that was wrong about it: grinding poverty for many, hidden sexual abuse, violence towards children, very low levels of educational achievement, unmerited deference.

    Hitchens seems unable to explain how he would keep what I would presume he wants to keep about the advances in society whilst reinstating conservative values.

    My own view would be that he tries to write the state out of the equation, when it really lies within the power of the state to create an environment that would be more in line with his values e.g. by stamping out crime, reducing drug taking and so on. Or to put it another way, he is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks the family and religious observance are capable of being reinstated in their previous form.

  57. field:just one small point: “unmerited deference?” From whom to whom? Who were these undeserving receivers of the deference you describe? The police? The school teacher? Parents? Are you satisfied with the present absolute absence of deference to authority?

    To clarify my question: deference is the respect and esteem afforded to a superior or elder. The honour afforded to some person or institution having claim on a certain degree of deference.
    If I extrapolate your remark as to the merit of absence of same, would there be anyone who has earned, in your opinion, the right to deference?
    Today’s society has lost ALL respect, perhaps that is to your taste?

    Without a measure of mutual respect, or deference , name it how you will, there can be no ordered lawful society. I hardly think that you , as a thinking man, would wish for such a state of affairs.

  58. Jaq – Yes, I am aware of the sexism that goes on. I don’t think it was a problem among the students, at least not on my course, although I wasn’t one of the girls so maybe I shouldn’t comment. I was good friends with a couple of the girls and neither of them mentioned having been subjected to abuse by another student. But I do know of academic related staff who have caused problems, and it does wind me up. One of the best students who graduated here (Uni to remain nameless to protect the guilty) this summer may well not do a PhD because she doesn’t think she can do it, and that’s a shame, because she blatantly could, if she decided to. Having said that, there are other previously male dominated professions where women are breaking through and doing very well, so it’s not impossible that the same can and should happen in engineering.

    Incidentally, the vast majority of everyone on my course decided not to do engineering afterwards, mainly due to being offered a lot more money to do something else. Engineering isn’t just under-respected, it’s significantly undervalued, and the guy that “manages” the engineers as his first job out of Uni probably earns more than the engineers who actually add value to the product, in many cases. Certainly, I remember overhearing some BAe Systems reps complaining that they were having trouble attracting quality graduates at a careers conference, but since they were offering one of the lowest starting salaries, that wasn’t really a surprise to anyone else. I’m not motivated by money – if I was, I’d be a banker, not a PhD student – but if you want the best people, you need to make them the best offer. That always gets trotted out when someone is talking about why some senior civil servant or CEO gets a huge salary, but when engineers ask for more money, it’s suggested that they’re greedy, or that they should get their job satisfaction from enjoying the work. Anyway, rant over 🙂

  59. Field: thanks for your opinion on PH I was dying to know what you thought of him. I was impressed with how Peter Hitchens handled himself when grappling with Jane Fonda on Question Time (could’ve put that better) and resolved to look him up when I had time. I read some stuff and found him intriguing. Like Elizabeth Bennet I tried to make out his character and did not get on at all.

    I assumed, from his picture in the Mail, that he was never captain of the football team at school and spent his time being a swot, developing sarcasm and wit to help his success with the ladies and listening to classical music rather than snogging behind the bikeshed where Boris probably was. His website (yeh, honest – this is the male vanity thread!) holds pictures that suggest that actually he’s not bad looking, so that left my theory in the dust.

    Given his history I wondered whether he’d just altered his political views as he’d learned more about his subject over time or was just a political tart. Having read your comments I wonder now whether he’s gone from Angry Young Man to grumpy older man or he’s just been looking for a home for his unchanging attitudes and is happy to settle into the well-paid position of ‘grumpy old troll’. But people like PH are the modern knights defending the people, as long as it makes good copy.

    For me the jury’s still out, but any man who keeps one woman happy for nearly 25 years must have something going for him!

  60. Phil: see Macs comment about working abroad – in my experience so true.

    The other thing is governments attitude to manufacturing, farming and fishing. ALL industries which seem to be held in contempt by this government. They can’t seem to grasp the reasoning behind creating wealth. They don’t mind having it themselves but encouraging wealth creating industries is beyond their wit. Creating jobs to them is shutting down a manufacturing INDUSTRY and promoting a training scheme for basic level computer operator or making hospitals use contract cleaning then getting immigrants over to fill the jobs because no right thinking person would put up with the pay and conditions. (big breath)

    After a bad road accident that has caused me to be out of the workplace I applied for funding to re-train/refresh skills. Not to the same level I’m educated to just to get back up to speed and back in the swing of things. I’m denied BECAUSE I’m a graduate. The government ONLY provides funding for basic stuff/low paid jobs such as those that would benefit asylum seekers. ‘nough said!

  61. Jaq and Field

    I read PH’s book “The abolition of Britain” – think I’ve the title right – several years ago. I’m getting round to reading his “Abolition of Liberty”.

    I think that temperamentally he is – in the true and unperjorative sense of the word – a reactionary. He would like in many respects to return to the 40’s and 50’s. Overall I don’t think that would be an improvement. More than that it would only be possible in the same way as the young people in the film The Village had been brought up. However his observations on how some of the less desirable things came about through what some of us earlier talked about as the ‘left-liberal establishment’ have a good deal of sound insight.

    In his comments about what might be done he rather sensibly calls for both left and right to emerge from their trenches to talk about what is happening. (Usually I find the left right polarity rather an obstacle than a good way of looking at politics but that’s not his main point).

    Perhaps a central impression I get from PH that I share is the way that many people in any sort of power are more and more carrying on not learning from their old mistakes and thinking up a whole new load of mistakes. This could be power as a local bureaucrat manager or a governement minister. Society does change, whether we like it or not, and new problems have to be faced. But it is very important to see if your solutions are really tackling problems or just providing band-aid for your previous falied solutions. Education is an example. 50 years ago there was a trmendous wastage of human potential because the education system worked in favour of the middle and upper classes, though a significant number of working class mainly boys, did make it through. The solutions of ‘closing every f****** grammer school in the country’ and pushing 50% of the youth into universites were and are becoming worse than the problem. Political correctness and post-modernism have replaced the original socialist view of ‘betterment’. In many respects the working class get a worse deal because, on the whole, they only get one go at education and if the comprehensives are spending some time of being inclusive of hooligans then that one go becomes devalued.

    It is clear in retrospect that Crosland’s and others’ aims were ideological in the same way as Rousseau’s aims. The problem of working class educational under-achievement was not being addressed. It was the perceived need to provide a utopian society starting with education. The problem now is that the educational establishment (another establishment I’m afraid) is loaded with thousands of jobsworths with tinpot degrees, telling real teachers and real administrators what the party line is. These people ‘know they are right’ and if things don’t work out it is someone else’s fault and could we have three new educational outreach workers to reserach what madness to do next please? Look in the education jobs page of the Guardian each week!

    We can’t go back to the 40’s and 50’s and there is every chance we can improve matters. But there is a crying need to break the ruling ideology that resolutely refuses to find out what the real problems are. That is where I think PH and I may agree.

    Incidentally can I recommend Roger Scruton’s News from Somewhere?

  62. Jack Ramsey: v.interesting thoughts. You say “I think that temperamentally he is – in the true and unperjorative sense of the word – a reactionary”. I’m always suspicious of people who seem always to be fighting for a cause (call me cynical) as I’ve found them less interested in the cause than in the fighting of it. Is that what you mean?

    You also say “But there is a crying need to break the ruling ideology that resolutely refuses to find out what the real problems are. That is where I think PH and I may agree”. If you read my comments on the leadership thread you’ll see that I also agree. Perhaps I should email the man himself and allow him to put his twopen’orth – nah, I suspect he’d only be interested when he ceases to be able to cause such discussion. But I think people like him, in a position of influence should follow Bozzas lead and host a discussion forum – maybe HE could then get MP’s to read it.

  63. Jaq

    My impression is that PH would like to go back to the 1940’s or 50’s. So he is temperamentally reactionary. However I am not using reactionary as a term of abuse. It’s not my cup of tea but plenty of decent people would share PH’s attitude. I can have a drink with those sort of reactionaries whereas fascists bring on one of my funny turns.

    I agree about those who prefer the fight to the cause. As I have said before the cause of socialism is, as Priestley said, about ending the horrible waste of human lives but so many socialists will only allow that end as long as it comes by the approved method of the fight in which they have a personal, perhaps psychological (and nowadays professional) interest. As it happens it seems that capitalism has done far more to liberate the working class than any number of Marxists, Fabians or whatever. Karl Popper noted that 20th century democracies, all basically capitalist with varying degrees of planning, had actually fulfilled most the bits of the Communist manifesto that called for bettering the lot of the working class. We know what happened in all the societies under democratic workers and peasants control. Anyway the point of this ramble is that this is not good enough for our post-modern socialists. It hasn’t been won ‘the right way’ and the ungrateful workers have developed false consciousness and ‘just aren’t playing the game’. Hence the desperate search for other sources of ‘oppressed people’ to fuel the cause and the almost comical sight of the SWP (Don’t mention the gays tendency) in alliance with Islamicists, whose views on a whole range of human rights are, to say the least, robust.

    If PH does relish the fight it may be down to grumpy old manhood rather than the somewhat psychotic mindset of the ideological warrior. As another GOM I can say that this might be distressing to the casual observer but causes no permanent damage to the patient.

  64. In the spirit of blogging, and of the above, I offer you this:

    “Engineer’s Love Poem”

    I was alone and all was dark
    Beneath me and above
    My life was full of volts and amps
    But not the spark of love

    But now that you are here with me
    My heart is overjoyed
    You turn the square of my heart
    Into a sinusoid

    You load things from my memory
    Onto my system’s bus
    My life was once assembly code
    Now it’s C++

    I love the way you solder things
    My circuits you can fix
    The voltage across your diode is
    much more than just point six

    With your amps and resistors
    You have built my integrator
    I cannot survive without you
    You are my function generator

    You have charged my life, increased my gain
    And made my maths discreet
    And now i’ll end my poem here
    Control, Alt, and Delete

    [unknown]

    I thought it was going to be about building bridges and railways, but sadly it wasn’t.

    Field:

    I enquired if you had children because I wondered if you want to have control of what your own children learn and are exposed to? And if you have daughters, whether you want the State to grab them at age 16 to get them away from your influence?

    Or perhaps you have in mind one system for Muslims and another for the rest of the population.

  65. Discussing Peter Hitchens, hereinafter referred to as PH:
    He was once, I believe , as has elsewhere been mentioned , a hard-line Communist , a fan of Trotsky,( red) who now aspires to tell the Conservative faithful,(blue), where things have gone wrong.
    I think his initials should be written pH, a measure of the acidity / alkalinity in a substance. He has swung from extreme red, pH=0 to what appears to be extreme blue , pH=14 in a relatively short time.

    He apparently longs for the relative simplicity of lifestyle all those years ago, when we all worked 60 hours a week for a princely sum of 3d , on which we managed to raise a family of 11 children, drive a Ford Pop,smoke 30 Park Drive a day, drink 5 pints of best bitter every night; have 2 weeks holiday a year at Butlin

  66. Macarnie

    I’m not usre that I’m terribly impressed by anything Shaw, and admirer at different stages of both Hitler and Stalin, said. A good quipologist perhaps.

    However I take the point that I think you make. Churchill had a long history of cock ups. Many of his critics had no such record. You’ll never make a mistake as long as you don’t try to do anything. If people would only remember that, we could be – well back in the stone age.

    However I think PH raises some points worth considering. For example he compares the reaction to deaths from smoking to deaths from AIDS. Why are is there not the same criticism of people who indulge in risky sex as there is of people who indulge in risky inhalation? Indeed far from criticism there seems to be an idea that it’s all someone else’s fault – usually George Bush. OK there are children born with HIV and women who have contracted it from being raped. However grotesque it may seem we could see that as the equivalent of passive smoking. The main vector seems to be men, gay and straight, who are aware that they are infected and just carry on.

    That’s one of the arguments PH throws in. I don’t deny there may be things wrong with it but it would be handy to know what. And in that way PH is performing a service.

  67. Jack R: Understand your viewpoint, and in many ways agree. As you say ,” If you do nowt, then you can’t possible]y do wrong”. The difference betwenn Winston and some other politicians I could mention is, they don’t learn by their mistakes, Winston did. You must not take everything I say as gospel: tongue in cheek is a good dessert.

  68. Well y’all, with PH in mind I decided to gird my loins and decended on WHSmith and Waterstones with my family who zoom around the store like Pigwidgeon on speed. I can’t help but announce my arrival to the world with shouts of “NO. come here, NOW” it’s like an excerpt from Bridget Jones, the edge of sanity. Can someone remind me never ever to go into a bookshop again.

    Both places didn’t stock Peter but had Chris (his brother) who has a new book out. I tried to ignore the mayhem and flicked through Chris’s book. It may have been my mood but reading the Bible would have been easier going. I bought Vanity Fair to check Chris’s work out further and I’m sorry but what a waste of money. If you just lurve Paris Hilton and simply can’t choose between a Tag or a Rolex then this is the mag for you. I read The Speccie instead and was faced with an advert that consisted of, well, I’d rather not say. Then saw that The Speccie is trying to get into schools!!!

    I give up.

  69. Nora:
    As an antidote to the surfeit of mutual admiration between engineers, let me offer this:-

    There has been a lot said lately about a person’s outward appearance being a true reflection of the inner being.
    Try the following, and see if you agree with that thesis.

    Chacun a son gout
    ==============

    It wouldn’t be at all surprising;
    If; aging now; you’d lost your bottle
    Just look at your crepe bandage skin;
    Your neck hangs loose, like turkey wattle.

    Don’t you like your current image,
    Now you see how you have changed?
    You should see a plastic surgeon;
    If you’d like it rearranged.

    You don’t like the wrinkled dishcloth
    Hanging there, where once was face?
    But you’re still the self same person:
    Growing old is no disgrace.

    Getting old should make one happy,
    Your general health is up to par,
    Don’t think of the alternative:
    Thank the Lord you’ve got this far

    The cover of the book one’s reading
    Matters not; it’s what’s within,
    Old fiddles play the sweetest music:
    Said Stradivarius with a grin

    But, since this verse is academic:
    And your prowess has been proved
    Reputation’s all that matters;
    The Party waits, it won’t be moved.

    There’s one thing of real importance:
    Your faculties are all in place
    Silly wrinkles; they don’t matter;
    We need you Ken, to win this race.

    It should have been on the other subject, but …

    —————————-

  70. Poets corner then? I wrote this with a movie star in mind but I think it will do just as well for the political ‘stars’.

    Ode to Bliar

    I thought you were a hero,
    I thought you were a saint,
    It seems you were just celluloid,
    some powder and some paint.

    And if I were to meet you;
    a slice of private farce,
    I’d be sounding out your image,
    you’d be checking out my arse.

    Thankyou, I’ll be here till thursday, try the veal.

  71. Oh bravo! both of you. You’re sending me to bed with the biggest grin in my face. 🙂

    Agree absolutely about Ken, Mac, but I have no say in the matter unfortunately!

    G’night all.

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