Boris promotes Scotland’s interests

A healthy, wealthy London is the best medicine for Scotland's ills The capital is the powerhouse for the rest of the United Kingdom. It deserves better, says Boris Johnson
You know, I think we are reaching the limits of Jock-bashing. It is time that we called a halt to this casual anti-Scottish prejudice, before it gets out of control. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard someone joke that the Scots subsist on a diet of smack and deep-fried Mars Bars. I have heard it said in London that we send them our taxes, and they send us their prime ministers – and chancellors, and the whole stream of gabbling Edinburgh lawyer MPs who make up the Tartan mafia. Continue reading Boris promotes Scotland’s interests

Boris in Medical Test Blunder

"You have chronic lymphocytic leukaemia," said the summary
Being sent the wrong health results makes you think about how random and pitiless the universe is, says Boris Johnson.
One of the peculiarities of being Mayor of London is that there is no provision for an automatic succession. If the mayor dies in office – whether he has a cardiac infarct, falls beneath the wheels of one of his own buses or he is cornered in a dark alley and beaten to death by hooded teenage girls with rolled up copies of Jackie magazine – then there is no way he can be smoothly replaced by a deputy mayor. The rules say there must be a by-election, and a by-election is immensely laborious. Polling stations must be booked. Millions of leaflets and ballot papers must be printed. Officials must be recruited to ensure fair play, with UN observers probably flown in from Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. The whole shebang costs about £20 million. Since the Greater London Authority has better things to do with £20 million than keep it in a sock drawer in case the mayor carks it, we have a system of insurance. And because they are being asked to insure the mayor's life for this vast sum – about as much, I shouldn't wonder, as the foot or hand of Thierry Henry – the insurers insist that the mayor must pass an annual medical test. Continue reading Boris in Medical Test Blunder

The Queen’s Speech 2009 (The Mikado)

YouTube Preview ImageDungeekin provides a musical rendition on the Queen's Speech this afternoon

Many of the original words are resonant today. In a break from Tradition, this year saw Her Majesty the Queen deliver the speech at the State Opening of Parliament not in words, but instead in song: As each year for the Government a speech one must propound, One's reading Labour's list - one's reading Labour's list One pretends to be a mouthpiece for a Leadership unsound, And they never will be missed - they never will be missed, One regrets that for Tradition's sake one can't just sit and laugh, At the bare-faced cheek of Labour with their promises daft, Their MP's claiming second homes and cash for this and that, And equating one to vermin, like one was not Royal but Rat, One wishes one could just dissolve the House so they'd desist But instead one sits upon one's throne and reads out Labour's list.   CHORUS. She's reading Labour's list--She's reading Labour's list; And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed. Continue reading The Queen’s Speech 2009 (The Mikado)

The 50p Tax is driving people away

  We should worry that Tracey Emin, Hugh Osmond and Michael Caine are fleeing the 50p tax rate The 50p tax rate will be a disaster for the economy – taking us back to the dark days of the 1970s, says Boris Johnson. Not everyone will miss her as much as I will. Not everyone can relied upon to mourn the departure of Tracey Emin and her duvet. You may have seen that the gorgeous Britart supremo is off to France. She has had it with Britain, says the woman who famously embroidered a tent with the names of everyone she had ever slept with, and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize. Some readers may feel that the country can rub along without her. Take up thy tent and walk, they may say, in the words of the gospel. And then there may be people who don't give a monkey's that Michael Caine is thinking of vamoosing, or that we are about to lose Eddie Jordan, the former Formula One chief, or the milk tycoon Lord Haskins. Some of you may not care a tinker's cuss if the former bookshop king Tim Waterstone deserts these shores, and as for the impending absence of Hugh Osmond, an entrepreneur who has had a role in everything from pizza to insurance, you may feel that we just have to dry our eyes and get a grip on our feelings. Continue reading The 50p Tax is driving people away

Green Spaces in London (and New York)

The Mayor believes parks and open spaces are key to the capital’s quality of life, and will invest over £220 in a new drive to improve London's Great Outdoors - see the new Manifesto for Public Spaces unveiled on 16th November 2009. Previously £6 million was spent in improving the quality and safety of London's parks, funded from efficiency savings from the previous administration’s publicity budget with a high priority on clean, safe and attractive green spaces for all Londoners to enjoy. The Help a London Park scheme was developed as part of his initiative to clean up and improve London’s rundown green spaces.  The scheme improved ten parks across London. Those who live or worked in London had the opportunity to choose which parks were to be improved.  The Mayor announced the winner of his Premier Park award — a grant of £2 million. This is Burgess Park in the London Borough of Southwark. London Open Squares weekend last June gave visitors a chance to explore hidden gardens in the city that many Londoners did not even know about. 
 Gotham Girl:  There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city -- perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly.
I don't know which came first – the song lyric or the nickname but New York definitely lives up to the moniker "the city that doesn't sleep." I love the fact that right outside my door is an inexhaustible supply of activities to engage in. London is like that too. It doesn't matter how many times I've been there before - each visit offers a stunning variety of experiences to be had. Of course, each city has its own unique rhythm but both make me happy. I just love the hustle and bustle. Still – there are some days when I find myself wishing for slightly less bustle. (Such as yesterday on the 6 local train going downtown. I'm not sure rush hour on mass transit is the best time for a strolling mariachi band but that's another story for another day.) When I'm in the mood for a bit of mental "white space" or want to relax, I head to the park. Which park? That's the other beautiful thing about New York and London. There are so many parks to choose from. London's large green spaces (Green Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park to name but a few) are gorgeous and justifiably considered some of the finest urban parks in the world. I am always finding new things every time I visit. For example, I don't know why it took me so long to find the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens – I only came across it three years ago - but as soon as I did, it became one of my favorite spots. It also reminds me very much of the Alice in Wonderland that sits nestled in a leafy spot next to the Central Park boat pond. I've also spent many happy hours visiting the Regent’s Park Zoo, watching the "lively exchange of views" at Speaker's Corner and strolling across Hampstead Heath. These famous green spaces are not the only stars in the London park firmament however. There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city -- perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly. Well, I come across them unexpectedly. I'm sure the people who live near them find them just where they expect to find them. London's vast landscape of "secret gardens" and mega-star parks is one of its most defining features and one that Londoners I know take tremendous pride in it. They are right to be proud. They have some of the most beautiful and best-known parks in the world right at their doorstep. Continue reading Green Spaces in London (and New York)

We should not abandon Afghanistan

To abandon Afghanistan now would be a betayal of the fallen.  The campaign to defeat the Taliban must endure, says Boris Johnson - whatever it takes.
I'll tell you why we are in Afghanistan. I could show you the crater in downtown Manhattan, the place they call Ground Zero. They still haven't built over it, eight years on, and it remains like a great open wound on the American psyche, a reminder of the hideous terrorist attack that was launched from the Afghan lair of Osama bin Laden. We have 9,000 troops in Afghanistan because the Americans have 70,000 troops there, and because America is our closest ally. We enlisted with America in the cause of driving out the Taliban extremists who were harbouring bin Laden. And whatever the Independent on Sunday may demand, we will remain in Afghanistan, shoulder to shoulder with America, for as long as the mission endures. For us to pull out now – immediately, unilaterally – would not only be to let down Britain's most vital geo-strategic alliance, it would be this country's biggest military humiliation since Suez. Continue reading We should not abandon Afghanistan

Sir Christopher Kelly Report

 Our favourite satirist, Dungeekin, back in the ring with The (Grace) Kelly Report YouTube Preview Image The (Grace) Kelly Report
So, Dear Reader, today will see Doctor Kelly lance the festering boil that is the MP's expenses scandal. In his honour, and with the enjoyable spectacle of MPs losing their gravy train ahead, I thought we should have a little song. [spoken] I wanna talk to you! The last time we talked Mr. Kelly you reduced my John Lewis list! I promise you that won't happen again! You tried to redact them, Tried to conceal them behind spin and lies, Dishonest and dirty, Grasping and greedy, Now it's you we despise, The totals are awesome, Really it's loathsome, How you milked us dry! Why were you greedy? Living the high life on the cash we supply? It's time for the verdict of Kelly, (Oooo) He says your expenses were bad, (Aaaagh) The size of your claims were just silly, (Mmmmm) Your sense of entitlement's mad! We paid for your house, Paid for your booze, For you to watch porn on Sky! You were deceitful, You were just venal, Claiming for anything you like! Don't wanna be mean, But you were obscene, Claiming for bath plugs and more! Why were you greedy? Why were you greedy? Why keep on claiming for more?  

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

 The force that brought down the Wall is the force that will get us through the postal strike, and that force is people power
Forget Guy Fawkes – remember, remember the Ninth of November for the fall of the Berlin Wall The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago freed millions from tyranny and poverty, argues Boris Johnson   I am thinking champagne. And cake. And fireworks, of course, not just any old fireworks but some of those truly shell-shocking bits of Chinese ordnance called Harmonious Geese or Whispering Swans. Far more important than the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot, far more benign in its consequences for world peace and prosperity, we celebrate next week the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – the ultimate triumph of simple human instincts over an evil and degenerate system. Without the Fall of the Wall, millions of people in eastern Europe would still be living in terror of the Stasi or the Securitate.
Without the end of Soviet communism, China would never have launched the turbo-charged entrepreneurial drive that has helped fuel two decades of global consumption and growth, and spread undreamt-of material benefits around the world. Without the end of one oppressive regime in Moscow, another one – in South Africa – might have limped on for a few more years.
Without the Fall of the Wall, Nelson Mandela would never have walked to freedom. How much the greatest political event it was in my lifetime, and how much the best. Continue reading The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Ancient Greece : Pericles (Part II)

Temple of Zeus at Nemea II small Boris Johnson has often spoken of his love of Greek history and of Pericles in particular. When asked who his historical pin-up was and why, he replied: “Pericles. Look at his Funeral Speech: democracy; freedom — champion stuff.” Read the full interview. A few years ago he went to the British Museum and bought a bust of Pericles.
 
Meander pebble mosaic 500
 

The First Peloponnesian War : political developments

In 461 B.C., as Pericles became the most prominent Athenian politician, the diplomatic situation in Greece was deteriorating rapidly, owing in no small part to the ever expanding imperial ambition of Athens overseas ; within a year the occasional skirmish had become a war with Sparta.
Pericles - poly sb It should not be imagined that Pericles ran a government and could issue decrees, as does a British prime minister. One of ten elected generals, he influenced political life in Athens with persuasive oratory ; in theory the Assembly held the power (‘would like to be sovereign’ — Aristotle), so, where this article says that Pericles did something, it should be taken that he persuaded the Assembly to order him to do it. Despite the war, political development continued a-pace. Many democratic reforms were instituted : Ephialtes had started the system of payment for members of the boule (Council), responsible for preparing the business on which the ecclesia (Assembly) would vote ; Pericles introduced pay for jurymen, which meant that eligible citizens could sit in judgment in the dicasteria (court) without loss of income. He also extended the classes of citizen eligible to archonship, reducing and then abolishing the property qualification.

In 454 Pericles moved the treasury of tribute of the Athenian alliance (the Delian League), which, since the formation of the league at the end of the Persian wars in 478, had been held at the temple of Apollo on Delos, to Athens.In 451 he promoted a law that restricted Athenian citizenship to those both of whose parents themselves were citizens, a law much more restrictive than a similar one introduced by Solon a century-and-a-half earlier. (To-day we hear much of ‘unintended consequences’ of legislation ; this was a law whose unintended consequences would eventually prove fatal to Athens. Whereas, many years later, Rome would confer citizenship on all that completed service in her legions, securing the loyalty of volunteers from amongst the conquered, Athens, with her restrictive law of citizenship, would not be able to rely on this automatic growth of internal military support.)

The citizenship law did, however, help to ensure that, as the most eligible young men of Athens colonized the far reaches of empire, Athenian girls would not be left behind unwed : something that itself became more important just by virtue of this law ! In 449 the settlement of the perpetual conflict with Persia, under which the Ionian Greek settlements in Asia Minor were freed from Persian suzerainty and known as the Peace of Callias (although his involvement is disputed), motivated the Athenians — at the behest of Pericles — to rebuild the temples on their acropolis, left in ruins since 479. In 446 Sparta and Athens hopefully concluded a Thirty-Year Peace Treaty ; the peace would last just half that time.
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The Building Programme of Pericles

As visible inheritance of Pericles we have the relics of his building programme.Following the destruction by the Persians of the temples atop the acropolis the Athenians had resolved to leave the ruins as a memorial ;  the conclusion of the peace of Callias (secured largely by Cimon, incidentally) was Pericles’s cue to propose the rebuilding of the temples, the centrepiece of which would be a magnificent temple to the virgin (parthenos) Athena, the Parthenon.

Parthenon under clouds

Athens received tribute from around her empire (the Delian League), funds supposedly for the defence of the realm ; however she appropriated a goodly portion of them (the cost of the Parthenon alone would be expressed in to-day’s money in billions) to the new building programme. The sheer extravagance of the project impelled Athens to expand her empire and to demand ever more in tribute, a fact that cannot be overlooked in assessing the causes of the Great Peloponnesian War (below).
Most of the Parthenon’s construction involved Pentelic marble, the work starting in 447 and taking fifteen years ; the famous frieze — the greater part of which constitutes the Elgin marbles on display now in the British Museum — took another four years. That and the chryselephantine statue of Athena were the work of the sculptor Pheidias, a friend of Pericles. Athena - Nashville small (Without entering in to the long running debate of where the marbles ought to be, we ought to mention that Lord Elgin himself bought them from the Ottoman governor of Athens — at such a cost that he fell in to penury — and, whether it were part of his intention or not, his doing so ensured their preservation to the present day.)

During the seventeenth-century conflict with Venice, the occupying Ottoman forces in Athens took refuge on the acropolis, using the Parthenon to house both their ammunition and their women and children. A mortar bomb launched by the besieging Venetians ignited the ammunition ; most of the temple itself and of the northern periptery (the colonnade) — which had withstood two millennia of intermittent earthquakes — was destroyed.  (In the photograph above the northern periptery has been largely restored.)

Temple of Poseidon small Theseum small
The building programme extended to much else within metropolitan Attica, including completion of the Long Walls and fortification of the Piraeus and Phalerum ; even the temple of Poseidon at Sounium.

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Read the continuing story of Pericles in Part III.