The Archers: an everyday story of simple culling  the Archers from the programme folk

Robert Henderson

The  Archers is currently the subject of various story-lines  which bid fair to leave the programme a largely Archer-free zone.

The pivotal Archer  family – David and  Ruth Archer – are in the process of selling Brookfield with the intent of buying a farm hundreds of miles away in the North East of England because planning permission has been given to build a road on Brookfield land.

Jill Archer is planning to move north with David and Ruth.

Pip Archer has been away from the programme for a suspiciously long time  working for other farmers or finishing her  agricultural studies.

Tony Archer lies critical injured in hospital after  being tossed and gored by his prize bull and even if he survives is likely to be paraplegic.

Tom Archer did  a runner on his wedding  day and is now in Canada and seemingly out of contact with his family.

Helen Archer is living with Rob Titchener, a very obvious psychopath,  and is  ripe for being slaughtered in a psychotic rage, by either Titchener or his unbalanced  estranged wife Jess.

Elizabeth  Pargetter  is in the messy aftermath of an affair with Roy Tucker, who will almost certainly sue her for wrongful dismissal after she sacked him as the  manager  of her  events company when the affair went wrong.  This will in all probability result in massive damages for  Tucker  which will undermine the viability  of the country estate (Lower Loxley) on which the events business depends.

Debbie Aldridge has been a long-time exile in Eastern Europe.

Kate Madikane   lives in South Africa with her black husband.

Peggy Woolley  has just turned ninety and is obviously ripe for shuffling off this mortal coil.

This looks suspiciously  like a systematic culling   of  the Archer family to allow the programme to be moulded to a shape more agreeable to the crazed politically correct minds of those who control the show. They doubtless think it is, as they would put it, “ a scandal in this day and age”  to only have a minority  of black, Asian and gay characters in the cast  and desperately want to bring in far more,  but find it very difficult to do so when there are so many white heterosexual characters  tiresomely  blocking their way.

Once the Archers have been reduced to no more than a token presence, what will the programme be like? Imagine Brookfield sold to Mr Singh and the village shop run by Mrs Patel  to join the Hindu wife of the  vicar  who is also the local solicitor and   Amy  the “dual heritage” daughter of  the vicar by his deceased  Jamaican first wife,  with Amy’s Jamaican grandmother taking the place in the storyline of Jill Archer.  The ultimate dream of the programme controllers will probably  be to see Ambridge with a minority of white characters to, as they would put it, “ make Ambridge look like modern England” .

The gay quotient will also be inflated. Already there is Charlie Thomas hovering over Adam Macey with the threat of a bust up with Macey’s  “husband”, the chef at Grey Gables with the hilarious Ian Paisley voice.  The programme makers  will surely  correct  one of their glaring pc omissions  and  introduce a lesbian relationship, although it must be admitted they have been strangely coy to date about girl-on-girl action in this ever increasing tale of simple politically correct folk.

The cull of established characters  may well go beyond the Archer family because the older characters generally are not to the taste of the politically correct. Apart from being all too white and heterosexual, they have be allowed to express, within limits, non-pc views with the intention that such views can be portrayed as anachronistic and soon to die out . Useful as that was at one time, the politically correct mind now sees no need for such “black hat” characters because it sees the process of reforming British attitudes as having moved to a point where no one can safely express non-pc views and they feel that characters doing so at best will seem at odds with the reality of England today.

What  listeners can be certain of is that the Ambridge of the future will be very difficult to recognise as the classic English farming village it was intended to be.


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Film Review – Mr Turner

Main cast

Timothy Spall as Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

Dorothy Atkinson as Hannah Danby

Paul Jesson as William Turner

Marion Bailey as Sophia Booth

Ruth Sheen as Sarah Danby

Sandy Foster as Evalina Dupois -

Martin Savage as Benjamin Haydon


Robert Henderson

This is a curate’s egg of a film about the man generally considered to be England’s greatest painter.  At its centre lies a commanding performance by Timothy Spall as Turner  in the last quarter century of his life. The film is worth watching for that reason alone,  for   Spall is one of those rare  actors who cannot deliver a poor performance;  he does not  have it  in him. Here he has a marvellously varied collection of snorts and grunts to express his feelings to add to his ever present virtue as an actor of seeming to be  someone fully engaged with the rest of humanity.  (Even Spall’s s portrayal Britain’s longest serving  hangman Albert Pierrepoint  managed to make him  curiously sympathetic. ).

There are also first rate  supporting performances  by   Dorothy Atkinson as  Turner’s housekeeper Hannah Danby, who is in love with and sexually exploited  by Turner,   and Marion Bailey as  a boarding house keeper Turner meets on his regular trips to Margate  and eventually takes to London where he surreptitiously sets up home with her.

With the exception of Paul Jesson as Turner’s father (an unremarkable  performance) and Martin Savage as a fellow artist Benjamin Haydon who  was incessantly whining about how his career was being sabotaged by the professional jealousy of other artists whilst he attempted  to borrow money (something which added nothing of importance to the story of Turner’s life) , the rest of the cast have so  little screen time that they do not have  a chance to develop their parts beyond the perfunctory .

But…but…. There are serious weaknesses.  First, it tries to cover far  too much  ground with seemingly every incident  publicly known about Turner in his later life requiring a nod of acknowledgement by the film.  It  smacks of the completest mania of the collector. The result is that  characters (over 80  actors are credited in the official cast list) come and go without any proper  explanation of who they are and what their  significance is for Turner. For example, his two illegitimate daughters and their mother appear briefly at the beginning and near the end without proper explanation of exactly who they are or why Turner is so very  cold towards them.

The second weakness is the implied  assumption by the film that its audience would have a good grasp of British  artistic history during the period.  The portrayal of artistic relations between Royal Academicians and Turner  will  be bewildering for most people who see the film and simply clutter up the narrative.

Take  Turner’s relationship with  John Constable. Constable did not publicly slate Turner but he was jealous of him and like many others privately dismissed his work as just insubstantial fireworks playing with the depiction of  light.  In 1832 at the Royal Academy’s annual show Constable and Turner had paintings hung side by side.  Constable’s painting was The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, a large colourful canvas which had been a Herculean  fifteen years in the composition. Turner’s painting entitled  Helvoetsluys was a rather subdued  affair of Dutch ships.

Constable was putting the finishing touches to his painting using vermillion to paint the flags on barges in in his painting.  Turner came into the room and placed a daub of scarlet paint in the grey sea of his painting. He then left to return the next day (when the paint was still wet) and  shaped the scarlet daub on his painting into a buoy.  Constable took this as taking a rise out of his rather colourful and long time in the making The Opening of Waterloo Bridge and loudly  complained  that Turner  ‘ has been here and fired a gun.’ In the film this episode takes  place rapidly with no explanation of why Constable should have been so annoyed.

To the  poorly developed professional  relationships  can be added the references to Turner’s work both individually and generally.  For those with some familiarity with his work, or at least his  most famous paintings, a  scene, beautifully realised,  with Turner in a boat watching a steam tug towing a warship which had seen duty at Trafalgar would have immediately  evoked Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire . But to someone who had little or no  knowledge of Turner  the scene would have seemed random and of little importance.   The same incomprehension would have been felt by those ignorant of  Turner  when he watches a train rush by  on the new-fangled railways and  the idea of  his Rain, Steam and Speed  is born.

Then there was for me the  most exquisitely enjoyable moment  in the film. This was the look of profound contempt which crossed Spall’s face (accompanied by a particularly meaningful snort) when he sees  some pre-Raphaelite paintings. But to appreciate  the moment  the viewer had to understand that the contempt was  result of  Turner and the pre-Raphaelites being artistic  polar opposites : Turner was concerned with overall effect and the play of light in particular: the pre-Raphaelite’s were fixated with representing the world  in almost photographic  detail.  Spall’s magnificent contempt is born of the man who sees further and farther than others and sardonically views the work of lesser beings who are trapped in their immediate surroundings.

Irritating as all that unnecessary event counting was,  there were plenty of moments of humour which anyone could understand , many simply deriving from the interplay with Spall’s personality  with others, but with a few set pieces  in which other characters provided the humour such as a wickedly savage depiction of a  young John Ruskin (Joshua McGuire ) performing with sublimely unselfconscious pretension . Even if someone did not have a clue about who Ruskin was they could still find the portrayal very amusing.

A running theme throughout the film is an  England on the brink of modernity. At the start of the film Turner makes his regular trips from London to Margate on the Kent coast by ship because that is the fastest means of  making a trip of perhaps sixty miles.  By the end of the film he is catching a train.

A lady scientist visits him and shows him how a metal pin can be magnetised by fragmenting  light  by passing it through a prism to produce a  the colours of the rainbow some of which magnetise negatively and some positively.

Late in the film we see Turner having his photograph taken for using an early an early photographic system called a Daguerreotype.   Turner quizzes the photographer about how things are done in this new means of representing things whilst inwardly fretting that photography will be the nemesis of the artist.  He sighs with relief when the photographer tells him that colour photographs are nowhere on the horizon.

This film could have been much tauter than it is if the director had made it less cluttered with characters and  specific events .  But when all is said and done Spall’s performance rescues it from a disjointed banality.   Go and  see it to watch a master actor in action in a role which fits him like a glove.

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England could be Balkanised by stealth after the 2015 General Election

Robert Henderson

It is quite clear what the strategy is of all Westminster Parties apart from the Tories and Ukip : they are desperate to Balkanise England.  English votes for English laws (EVEL) will not work for practical reasons such as who decides on what is an exclusively English law and the differing  powers granted to the Scottish parliament and  Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. But it is probably necessary for it to be tried and to be seen to fail before the only honest constitutional solution – an English Parliament – is accepted  by the Tories.

The danger is that the next Westminster Parliament will result in either a Labour majority government because of the scandalous way constituency sizes are weighted to favour Labour and the fact that the Labour vote is more concentrated in certain constituencies than that of other parties or , much more probably,  a motley coalition between Labour, the LibDems, the Greens and most poisonously the SNP,  who could well return  20-30 MPs to the Commons.

We could  find after the general election that a Labour government or a Labour led coalition would not only deny England EVEL,  but would enforce some form a devolution upon England, most probably by devolving significant powers to greater metropolitan areas such as Greater Manchester, which would effectively be English regional government by subterfuge. This increase in the complexity of the allocation of powers in England would emasculate  any future attempt at EVEL and  by leaving as little as possible  of English administration at the Westminster level,  would make an English parliament an ever more remote possibility because the less power it would have the less press there would be for a parliament.

Once powers had been devolved within England the new regional political classes they would spawn would provide a serious barrier to taking back their powers and returning them to Westminster. Such regional powers would also set the parts of a balkanised England against one another and the populations of the various regions would  in time begin to defend what their region has rather than considering the national English interest.

The Westminster Parties which want England to be Balkanised do so in the knowledge that there is absolutely no appetite for  a developed England, a fact recently confirmed by an Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR)  report  The Future of England Survey 2014.  Their motives are driven by crude party advantage in the case of Labour and the Libdems which both rely heavily on Scottish and Welsh MPs to make up their numbers in the House of Commons and a desire  by all the pro Balkanisation of England supporters to  hamstring England to prevent her looking out for her own interests – which would include stopping the English subsidy to the rest of the UK – because they fear that it would  be greatly to their disadvantage.  There is also more than a little sheer anti-English feeling as is exemplified even in their leading politicians who in the case of  those from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland never cease to bang the victimhood drum over the wicked English colonial overlord.

Some MPs sitting for English seats  join in the insult of the English, most notably the senior Labour politician Jack Straw who was Home Secretary during the Blair Government. On a BBC programme  in 2000 Straw  stated that the English are “potentially very aggressive, very violent” that England had used their  “propensity to violence to subjugate Ireland, Wales and Scotland”

If anti-English Balkanising government is elected to Westminster next year  without a majority of English seats there would be a dangerous constitutional situation where the English are effectively being misgoverned according to the dictates of the Celtic Fringe MPs. That could be the point where the patience of the English public runs out.

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What is wrong with English cricket?

I have been watching English first class cricket  since the 1950s. During the  2014 season I  watched  eight days of county cricket. The matches  involved  ten of the eighteen counties . These counties  were evenly drawn from the first and second divisions of the County Championship.

There are many differences  between the 1950s  and now,  but the most alarming changes  are  the decline in batting technique, scarcity of spin bowling and poor close catching amongst present day players.

Poor batting techniques

The inadequate  techniques of modern batsmen never cease to amaze me. They are pathetically vulnerable to the short pitched ball, a failing made all the more dismaying because there is not  a bowler in world cricket who  could be described as having the extreme pace of a Tyson or Marshall and precious few who are fast in the sense that, for example, Statham was fast, that is quicker than fast medium but not hurtingly  fast.

This must be down to the amount of protective equipment they wear, especially helmets. Before helmets batsmen had to make a choice. Hook or learn to sway or duck out of the way of bouncers or suffer serious injury.  Some very good players  very rarely hooked, for example, Bobby Simpson and John Edrich. Now every Tom Dick and Harry think they can hook and pull and most make a mess of it,  frequently getting  into trouble through  hooking aerially or  all too often being hit.  All of this  because they have never learnt to duck and sway.  Most disturbing is the frequency with which  even  run-of-the-mill fast medium bowlers hit specialist batsmen on the helmet, either because they are inept at the strokes  or because they simply  do not seem to know how to duck or sway out of the way.

The second major  problem with modern batting technique is the modern stance, which incidentally also contributes to the  vulnerability  against pace.  The  baseball-style  stance is rapidly becoming normal,   being virtually universal amongst those under the age of twenty five . For example, in the Middlesex v Warwickshire  at Lords  this year all eight players who got to the crease on the day I was there can bat and all had variations of the bat waving baseball stance – the  Warwickshire reserve keeper McKay was the nearest to having an orthodox stance. Rikki Clarke – an immense and largely wasted cricketing talent – added to the bat waving with a crouch at the  crease with legs as wide apart as Desperate Dan in the Dandy. Keith Barker wasn’t far behind him in outlandishness.

The ill result of these type of stances in twofold. First, they lock the player into a position from which he has to extricate himself before he can play his shot. Just microseconds to do that  I know,  but microseconds is all you have when facing anyone over medium pace.  If the stance is of the upright type it  puts the batsman in a position where forward play is physically difficult. This is very important  because unless a batsman has  a sound forward play technique he  will always be vulnerable in England to the ball moving,  especially off the pitch.  Where the stance includes a  forward lunge as used by for example Moeen Ali this is particularly disabling,  because although it lessens the difficulty with  forward play, it makes the batsman a sucker for the short ball.

There is a further problem with the baseball stance. Many batsman who adopt it – the ones with the upright bat waving tendency most noticeably – render  the guard they had taken  effectively redundant because they move so far from it. The upshot is batsmen often  do not know where their off-stump is.   (If someone doubts this I suggest that they sit in line with the wicket then next time they go to a county game or watches carefully on television. Both show the failing clearly).

The natural orthodox stance with the bat behind the rear foot both puts the batsman in the best position to form a stroke,   keeps the body and head still and maintains the guard they have taken.

The diminishing amount and quality of spin bowling – see below –  is also affecting seriously the technical ability of batsmen to play it, with the few quality spinners who have survived often making even the best Test players look rather stupid.

The death of spin bowling

There probably is not  a modern county  captain  who understands how to use spinners.  None seem to understand that spinners bowl best in tandem, each one helping the other by strangling scoring.  None think  of them as attacking bowlers. It is always assumed that they need a helpful pitch to bowl on.  This is nonsense. Until the past twenty  years or so, spinners  would regularly bowl fifty per cent or more of the overs bowled in a day.  Not infrequently they would come on as first change on a first morning. They would be expected to bowl for long periods on good pitches and restrain the scoring.  Spinners would routinely operate in tandem.

Good bowlers can bowl regardless of the conditions. After the introduction of the new LBW law in 1935, which ostensibly disadvantaged leg spinners and advantaged offspinners,  quality leg spinners who were established at the time the new LBW law  was introduced continued to be highly successful way into the 1950s, for example Eric- Hollies, Doug Wright, Roly  Jenkins, Freddie Brown , Jim Simms and Peter Smith..

Similarly, after restrictions were placed on the number of legside  fielders behind the bat in the 1950s to render offspinners and inswing bowlers less capable of strangling  runrates, quality offspinners who were established before the law change continued to be successful  for many years after the law change, for example,  Titmus, Shepherd, Allen, Mortimore, Langford, Illingworth .

In both instances the change in the law resulted the popularity of spin bowling styles changing  so there was a decline in leg spinners emerging after the LBW change and fewer quality offspinners making their name following the restriction of leg-side fielders.  In both cases the change happened because it was  thought wrongly that the law change would make legbreak and offbreak  bowlers much less effective.

In the eight days of championship cricket I watched this year not once has 30 overs of spin been bowled in the day and on only one  occasion (Batty and Ansari for Surrey) have I seen spinners bowling  in tandem for any length of time.  A full day’s play between g  Middlesex v Warwickshire  yielded the  first spin  at 3 pm.  Only 13 overs of spin bowled in the day . At  the Surrey versus Derbyshire match at the Oval only two overs of spin were bowled on the day I attended.

All spinners are suffering, but  young spinners are hardly being given a chance. This is partly because of the practice of playing only one specialist spinner in most county sides, but it is also a consequence of counties going for the safe option of choosing foreign spinners such as Patel of Warwickshire  or  an older  English spinner,   regardless of potential of the young spinner . For example, forty-year-old Gary Keedy played for  Notts in the last few Championship matches of the season  despite Notts having a very talented off-spinning allrounder in Sam Wood. Or how about Danny Briggs, the Hampshire  slow left armer who has played for  England in ODI and T20 cricket being  left out because the Pakistani  Imran Tahir was available.

There are other  young  spinners who have recently turned in good second eleven performances ,  but who have not been able to establish themselves in as Championship players, bowlers such as Lilley  (ROB) of Lancs, Beer (LBG) of Sussex, Sykes (SLA) of Leicester,   Taylor (ROB) of Hants,  Craddock (LBG)  of Essex, Leach (SLA) of Somerset and MacQueen  (ROB) of Surrey.  They need to be given a chance soon or else they will simply drift out of the first class game.

It is also worth wondering if  spin bowling talent is simply being ignored. Nick Gubbins  of Middlesex who made his Championship debut this year ,  took ten wickets cheaply in a second XI CC match with his leg spin in 2013, yet  has not bowled much in second eleven games since nor  in any of his first team Championship games.

Returning to uncovered pitches, ending pitch inspectors (see below), ensuring there are reasonable sized boundaries  and restricting the weight of bats would all help to reinvigorate spin bowling in England.

Over zealous pitch regulation

A major part of the reason for the decline in spin is the interference of  the ECB in pitch preparation.  Until the  Championship moved from 3-day to 4-day games counties could prepare pitches as they wished without any fear of having points deducted. Counties used to play to their bowling strength by preparing pitches to suit their bowlers. For example, in the 1950s if a team went to play Derby at Buxton they knew the pitch would be a seamer’s paradise to suit Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin. If a county visited  Bristol  it was a fair bet the pitch would turn on the first morning for John Mortimer, David Allen and Sam Cook to work on. A visit to the Oval would guarantee a nightmare pitch which helped all of Surrey’s great attack of Bedser, Loader, Laker and Lock.  Easy pickings you say?  Yet Peter May averaged nearly 50 on it during the 1950s. Demanding pitches sort out the sheep from the goats.

Counties should be allowed to prepare their pitches as they see fit. Doubtless a cry would go up from the  ECB that it would not produce cricket which prepared players to play for England. This is simple nonsense. In the 1950s, when bowlers were the most dominant in county cricket  they had been since 1914,  England enjoyed arguably its most successful decade, with no series being lost from the end of the 1950/51 Ashes series to the 1958/9 Ashes series.

The 1950s saw county cricket producing  such players as  players: May, Barrington, Graveney,  Dexter, Cowdrey,  Pullar, Richardson,  Sheppard, Tyson, Trueman, Statham,  Loader, Lock, Titmus, Illingworth and  Appleyard,  whilst   players established before the 1950s such as Hutton, Washbrook, Compton, Bill Edrich, Bailey, Evans, Wardle, Alec  Bedser continued to thrive.   If English cricket did not reach the same general level after the 1950s,   it was not because of pitches being too demanding  for batsmen or overly easy for bowlers.

Pitches which give the bowler a chance  do not create a false sense of ability in the bowler because the quality of the batsmen also improves as they learn to counter more difficult conditions.   English bowlers had great success at Test level in the 1950s. No  England bowler who played more than ten Tests in the decade  ended with a Test average of over  30 and only Trevor Bailey (an all-rounder not a specialist bowler)  had a Test average of more than 27 at the end of the 1950s. Laker, Lock, Wardle, Trueman , Appleyard and Tyson all had Test averages of under 22.   This emphatically shows that having helpful pitches to bowl on in county cricket does not inflate  judgements of their ability.

The other objection to doing away with pitch inspectors is that games would be over too quickly. This is  easily countered.    Many four day Championship games already finish early, a fair number of them within three days. It is also true that when Championship games were played over three days on uncovered pitches prepared as counties wanted  to prepare them, a substantial proportion of  games either resulted in draws or contrived finishes with declarations.  Counties also have a vested interest in games not finishing early because it both reduces revenue at the gate and from catering and devalues county memberships.

There is no reason to believe that allowing counties to prepare pitches they choose would make a radical change in the length of matches. Moreover, by allowing the counties to prepare the pitches to suit their bowlers this would produce much more varied cricket than we presently see. That would be an attraction for the spectators.

The decline of close fielding

The outfielding may have improved in recent times, although I think much of this belief may arise from the spectacular nature of the slide tackle stop rather than any massive actual improvement in overall run-saving. What is indubitably poorer today  is the close catching, especially slip catching.  Why is this? I suspect the answer is very simple: the death of the specialist close catcher.    In the 1950s and indeed for almost all of cricket’s first class history close catchers spent almost all their time in the same position. Who ever saw Cowdrey,  Phil Sharp or Bobby Simpson anywhere but slip?  This constant practice improved them and kept them sharp. These days fielders are frequently moved all over the place and the skill level in close positions is inevitably lowered. Come to think of it, this practice may also affect other positions. When did you last see a really top class cover?

The bogus nature of two divisional cricket

The introduction of two divisions into English cricket has three drawbacks:

  1. It is bogus. The oft made claim s by its supporters that the gap between the two divisions is massive goes against the facts, namely, the frequent changes in fortune from one season to the next of clubs, most notably demonstrated by Lancashire winning the Championship in 2012 and being relegated the next year.   Unfortunately, many players buy into the propaganda and also think that the England selectors will not choose them if they play into the second division of the Championship. This is causing many of the best players from the smaller counties to leave for counties which are thought to have the best chances of remaining in division one. The move  sometimes backfires as it has in the case of Nathan Buck who left Leicestershire for Lancashire at the end of the 2014 season and finds himself in the second division because  Lancashire have  been relegated once more.  Nonetheless, it is possible that over time there  really will be a large gap in quality opening up simply because of the propaganda that it already has done and the related idea that the England selectors favour division one players.
  2. The division of   the Championship into two divisions means that cricket followers are deprived of seeing half the county teams if they go top watch the county they support.
  3. It complicates the fixture list – see below.

The chaotic fixture list

The 2014 fixture list was seriously defective because of the way in which Championship cricket was treated.  The Championship season began  on 6 April and ended on 26 September,  a total of 172 or 24 weeks and 4 days.

Each county had to play only 16 Championship games,   so spreading them fairly evenly between 172 days should have been a piece of cake. It did not happen. Instead half the Championship matches  had been played by early June.   The rate of Championship games slowed , Between  15 June and 24 July  a mere  36 Championship games were  played . But this was riches compared with what followed. Between 24 July and 15 August  only a single round of Championship games was held.  The rest of the  Championship season was then crowded into  September when four rounds were played.  This dislocation of the Championship was compounded by many of the games starting on different days.

This unsatisfactory state of affairs was partly down to the wilful disregard for the Championship as a valuable thing in its own right.  The limited overs completions were given unashamed priority. This showed most blatantly in the placing of the 50 overs competition in August which was the reason so little Championship was played in August.  But the existence of two divisions in the Championship and the group organisation of  the T20 and 50 over competitions  also played a large part because they complicated matters. A team in one division would often have to play a  T20 or 50 over game against a team from  a different division of the County Championship.

What would be a better fixture list? I suggest this.

  1. The season should begin on 1 May and end on 18 September, a total of 140 days or 20 weeks.
  2. The Championship should revert to being a single division. With each county playing the others once.
  3. The T20 competition should be a league with each county playing the others once.
  4. Each of the seventeen championship games and seventeen T20 games to be played together. The T20 game would be played on the Friday immediately  followed by the Championship game starting on the Saturday. For example, Yorkshire would play  Lancashire at home with the T20 on a Friday and the Championship game on the Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.   That would allow the players two days off on Wednesday and Thursday.  Such a regime would capture the end of working week audience for the T20 and give two normally  non-working  days in the week  to the Championship match.

As there are twenty weeks in the season there would be three weeks free . Those could be used to  fit in a  50 overs knock out competition at the end of the season and a few matches against touring sides.

Championship cricket has a value in its own right 

The County Championship  has become diminished in the public’s eyes   because  the counties and administrators have too often taken the view that  the completion is purely a breeding ground for  the England team from which most of English cricket’s funding now comes.  This attitude has been increasingly  taken up by the mainstream media which has remorselessly concentrated  ever more on the rapidly  expanding number of international matches England plays  whilst greatly contracting the coverage of county matches. The tabloids have more or less stopped covering Championship cricket , whilst even the  broadsheets such as the Daily Telegraph no longer have match reports on every Championship game as they used to do. The one bright spot in the media  gloom has been  the BBC’s  extensive commentary of Championship matches on Radio 5 extra in the past few years. However, there is no guarantee that will continue, or that BBC local radio will continue to cover matches.

The idea that the County Championship is simply or even primarily a training ground for England players is unsustainable. It may do service for a another decade or so but eventually  it will die if that is the only message which goes out to the public. That is  because it is an uninspiring  idea  which suggests that the Championship  has no value in itself.

If  County cricket dies it is difficult to see where the supply of players for the England side would come  from. Out of city franchises? Regional teams? Back to the future with All-England elevens of various descriptions simply drawing players from club cricket and touring as a cricketing version of the Harlem Globe Trotters? ? Hardly viable? All of those possibilities would have far less resonance with supporters than the counties.

If the healthy condition of county cricket is the best guarantor for  English cricket to be healthy,  what can be done to keep it safe?  At  present Championship cricket  is effectively never advertised to the general public or even to the cricket loving part of it.  The ECB  and the counties need to realise that  spending a  substantial part of the money they get from broadcasting rights  on promoting  Championship cricket would be money well spent.    Make it more publicly  visible  not only would attendances rise but  the mainstream media will be  more likely to take an interest.

There is also a simple way of boosting Championship  attendance which would cost next to nothing. Allow free entry to a Championship match for a day on the production of the ticket stub from an England game of any sort, Test, ODI or T20. As several  hundreds of thousands of people go to watch England in England every summer ,  this could potentially boost Championship attendances very substantially even if  people simply take the free day’s Championship cricket and do not go to other days for which they paid.  Although there would be no entry money such spectators  would  boost sales of refreshments and purchases from the club shop. Moreover,  the experience of a free day’s spectating  could well result in people coming back to pay for entry in the future or even to take out county memberships.  The scheme is worked out in detail here .

Increased attendances  would make Championship cricket more attractive to the mainstream media and to sponsors.  That is the bottom line both in terms of economics and the long term health of English cricket

But if Championship cricket is to be successfully  promoted,  it is essential that the counties ensure that they have the facilities to cope with decent size crowds, that the games are played throughout the season not crammed into the beginning and end of it, entry prices are  reasonable – counties are starting to get too greedy – and the catering is  both decent and not priced to cost an arm and a leg.

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The BBC and “coloured  players“

Robert Henderson

Twice in the past few days  two  interviewees from the football world  on Radio 5 have used the word coloured in connection with  black players  when discussing the possible introduction of the Rooney Rule into English football. The so-called rule comes from America and  in the English context makes  compulsory the interviewing of at least one black candidate where a managerial  or head coach position in a professional football  team is to be filled.

The first occasion was by the Wigan FC owner Dave Wheelan  (3 Oct),  who repeatedly referred to “coloured players” .  Nothing was said during the interview, but immediately it was over the presenter  in best politically correct fashion said in the peculiarly noxious tones of a white liberal affecting outrage that they were apologising for language in the interview “which listeners may have found offensive”.  Interestingly, the BBC  written item which referred to Whelan’s appearance discussing the Rooney Rule subject did not mention that he had used the phrase “black footballers”.

On the Stephen Nolan programme (4 Oct) the very experienced English football manager Dave Bassett  and the black basketball player  John Amaechi   engaged in an extended row over the same phrase  coloured footballers,  plus variations on it (go into to the recording at 35 minutes) .  Amaechi  jumped in after the first two uses  of “coloured players” with ”This is 2014 and I’m listening to someone talk about  using coloured players. For the love of God are  you kidding me?”.

Judged by his  frequent  British media appearances Amaechi  is a naturally petulant and childishly abusive personality. He  proceeded to try  to patronise Bassett, a working-class man without much education, by referring to his (Amaechi’s)  academic qualification in psychology and saying  with heavy sarcasm that he might just have the edge over Bassett when it came to judging human behaviour. This merely made Amaechi look like an unpleasant boor at best and a deeply insecure man at worst.  Amaechi added to this bad impression by constantly insulting Bassett by objecting to any attempt by Bassett to get a word in edgeways by shrieking something along the lines of don’t interrupt me, it’s rude.

The presenter Nolan made precious little attempt to restrain Amaechi’s rudeness or give Bassett a fair chance to speak. In addition, he backed up  up Amaechi by several times saying to Bassett that the word coloured in this  context was “inappropriate” . So much for BBC staff not expressing opinions.

Greatly to his credit Bassett stuck to his guns and refused to apologise , during his time on air or, according to Nolan, afterwards – Nolan said that Bassett had stood by his use of the phrase after he left the airwaves.  Whilst on air he made the very good point that managers and coaches in English professional football frequently did not represent the percentage of the players involved from various groups such as the Northern Irish or Welsh. He also opposed the introduction of the Rooney Rule.

The attempt to stop the use of coloured is a prime example of how racial, ethnic and other minorities such as gays try to exert power generally over society .  This is both sinister  - control of language is the tool of dictators – and  unreasonable, because while  a group may call themselves whatever they choose , they  have no moral right to impose their chosen  term  upon those outside of the group. The moral abuse caused by imposition  becomes  especially  sharp where there is a different word used by the population in which they live which is not abusive.  That is the case with coloured.  The term was for more than a century  the polite term for blacks.   The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was founded in 1909 in the USA and continues with the title today.   There is little serious complaint about the use of coloured in the title of that  organisation, while the  mixed race (white/black mixture)  population of South Africa is still called coloured.  Ironically, the term black  occupied the same position as coloured does now fifty years ago.

On the Rooney Rule question, it would be just another granting of privilege to a racial minority. Nor is  it clear who would count as black in these circumstances. How black would you have to be? One half black, quarter black , one eighth black?  What of someone with one parent who has black ancestry who looks white? (genetics can produce some unexpected results). Would every racial and ethnic minority be  allowed  climb on the bandwagon?

On a purely practical level where would  the large number of black and Asian qualified managers and senior coaches required to meet the  interviewee quota come from? Would it be a very small group who went from interview to interview?  After all, if there are only two black managers in the top 92 English league clubs , who exactly could be meaningfully called for interview? By definition  these would all be inexperienced  so how on earth could many if any be considered for clubs in the  tope toe English divisions, the Premier  League and the Championship?   Even at the level of formal coaching qualifications there would be a problem because few black  or Asian footballers  are taking their advanced coaching badges.

The group which is scandalously under represented in football both as players and managers is of course the English, who have been relentlessly squeezed out since the formation of the Premier League in 1992 and foreign owners, managers and players flooded in as English League  football became ever more lucrative and prestigious.  The result is that the English have become second-class citizens in their own professional football. That is the  inequality which needs addressing.

NB If you want to catch the Nolan programme recording , do so quickly because it will only be available on IPlayer at   fro another 4 days.

Posted in Culture, Nationhood, Sport | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Devolution and an in-out referendum Part 2 – The hard facts to be put before the Celts

Devolution and an in-out referendum

Part 2 – The hard facts to be put before the Celts

Posted on October 5, 2014 by Robert Henderson in EditorialElections // 1 Comment
In part 1 I looked at the UK electoral arithmetic which suggested that England might well  vote to leave the EU  while one or more of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would vote to stay in the EU.  I then proposed a strategy to diminish the stay-in vote in the Celtic nations. This was to bring home the realities of life in and outside the UK for Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland.
The primary matters the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish should be reminded of before they vote to leave the UK are:
  1. Wales and Northern Ireland are economic basket-cases which rely heavily on English taxpayers to fund their public expenditure. To lose that subsidy would cripple them both. Nor would they get anything like as much extra funding from the EU – assuming it would have them as members – as they would lose from the end of the English subsidy.
Scotland is in a better position because it is larger and has, for the present at least, significant oil revenues.  But it is a very narrow economy relying very heavily on public service employment – a significant part of which deals with the administration of English public service matters – while the private business side of is largely comprised of oil and gas, whiskey, food, tourism and financial services.
The figures below are the latest official estimates of the tax raised in each of the four home countries to the end of the 2012/13 financial year. These figures should not be treated as exact to the last million because there are difficulties in allocating revenue to particular parts of the UK, for example, with corporation tax, but they are broadly indicative of what each country collects in tax.  I give two sets of figures to show the differences when oil and gas is allocated on a geographical and a population basis.
UK                England    %           Wales      %       Scotland   %        Northern Ireland %
469,777   400,659 85.3%    16,337 3.5%   42,415 9.0%       10,331   2.6%
469,777   404,760 86.2%    16,652 3.5%   37,811 8.0%        10,518    2.6%
Compare this with public spending for each of three small home countries in the calendar year 2013 (I was unable to find expenditure figures for the financial year but they would be little different) :
Scotland      £53.9 billion  – difference  of £12 billion approx. between tax raised and money spent
Wales            £29.8 billion   – difference of £13 billion approx. between tax raised and money spent
Ireland         £19.8 billion   – difference of £9 billion approx. between tax raised and money spent
NB differences between tax raised and money spent are based on Table 1 figures which give the most favourable interpretation of Scotland’s tax position.
The three smaller countries are accumulating debt at a much greater rate than England.  In addition, small countries which go independent would find raising the money to meet their overspends would be much more expensive than the cost of financing the debt as part of the UK
  1. The vast majority of their trade is with England. Barriers created by England’s departure from the EU could have very serious economic consequences any of other home countries remained within the EU.
  2. Much of what they export to countries outside the EU has to pass through England.
  3. All three countries would be net takers from the EU budget not contributors. The EU is unlikely to welcome with open arms an additional three small pensioner nations. There would be no guarantee that the EU would accept any or all of them as members, but even if it did the terms they would have to accept would be far more onerous and intrusive than they experience now. In particular, they would almost certainly have to join the Euro as this is a condition for all new members.
  4. An England or a reduced UK outside the EU would have to impose physical border controls because any part of the UK which seceded and joined the EU would be committed to the free movement of labour within the EU (more exactly the European Economic Area – EEA). That would mean any number of immigrants from the EEA would be able to enter either England or a reduced UK via whichever part(s) of the UK had seceded and joined the EU.
  5. Being part of the UK gives the smaller home countries great security because the UK still has considerable military clout – ultimately Britain is protected by nuclear weapons – and the size of the population (around 62 million and rising) is sufficient in itself to give any aggressor pause for thought. The proposal for armed forces made in the SNP sponsored White Paper on independence recommended armed forces of 10,000 regulars to start with rising to 15,000 if circumstances permitted.   That would be laughable as a defence force for a country the size of Scotland which has huge swathes of land with very few people on that land.  An independent Wales and N Ireland would be even worse off militarily.
  6. They could not expect to walk away from the Union without taking on a share of the UK national debt and of taxpayer funded pension liabilities proportional to their population, have a currency union to share the Pound, have UK government contracts for anything or retain the jobs exported from England to do administrative public sector work  for England, for example, much of the English welfare administration is dealt with in Scotland.
If this is done, with any luck the enthusiasm for leaving the UK to join the EU if England or England plus one or more of the other home countries has voted to leave the EU will diminish sufficiently to make a vote to remain in the EU unlike or at least reduce the vote to stay in to level where there is not an overwhelming vote to either stay in or leave.
Posted in Devolution, Economics, Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Devolution and an EU In/Out Referendum – The Electoral Arithmetic – UKIP Daily

Devolution and an EU In/Out Referendum – The Electoral Arithmetic

Posted on October 3, 2014 by Robert Henderson in EditorialElections // 2 Comments
Little attention is being given to the implications for an IN/OUT referendum of the ever more potent devolution being granted within the UK.  A policy needs to be developed because there is every chance that England will vote to leave the EU while one or more of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and probably all three) will vote to stay in. That would produce a serious constitutional crisis especially if the three small home countries get much greater powers than they have now.
An England voting to leave and at least one of Scotland, Wales and N Ireland voting to stay is plausible.   This could happen even with a fairly small majority in England voting to leave.   How would the electoral arithmetic stack up?  The official number of registered electors qualified to vote inParliamentary elections are
  • England – 38,837,300, a rise of 0.5 per cent
  • Wales – 2,301,100, a rise of 0.1 per cent
  • Scotland – 3,985,300, a rise of 1.1 per cent
  • Northern Ireland – 1,230,200, a rise of 1.4 per cent
Assuming for the sake of simplifying the example there is a 100% turnout, then 23,176,951 votes would be needed for a vote to leave the EU.  If England voted by 60% to leave that would produce 23,302,380 votes to leave, more than would be required for a simple majority.
But that is obviously not the full picture. There would be a substantial vote to leave in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The combined electorate of Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland in 2012 was 7,516,600.  If 70% of those voted to remain in the EU, that would make only 5,261,620 votes.   There would be 2,254,980 votes to leave.  If England voted 54% to leave (20, 972,142 votes) the votes to leave in the whole of the UK would be   23,227, 122 (20, 972,142 +2,254,980), enough to win the referendum.
(Editor: The way to test this is with a sensitivity analysis, and we add the table below to the article:
Referendum Sensitivity
This shows that if the Celtic vote for OUT is bolstered to 40%, the English vote could go as low as 52%)
Of course that is not how the vote would be in the real world. The turnout would be nowhere near 100% although it might well be over eighty per cent if the Scottish referendum is a guide.   How   Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would vote is of course uncertain, but I have allotted such a generous proportion of the vote to the stay in side in those countries that it is unlikely I have seriously over-estimated the vote to leave.  What the example does show is that under any likely voting circumstances there would not need to be a very strong YES to leaving vote in England to override a very strong vote to remain part of the EU in one or more of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
If there was such an unbalanced result, that is with England voting to leave and the other three countries voting to stay or even if just one of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland voting to remain in the EU, this would ostensibly produce a potentially incendiary situation, especially if  Westminster politicians keep on grovelling to the Celtic Fringe as they did during the Scottish independence referendum., a practice which  grossly inflated the idea of  Scotland’s ability to be independent without any pain in many Scots’ minds.
I said an ostensibly incendiary situation because in reality there would be little appetite to leave the UK if the hard truths of what leaving the UK and joining the EU would mean were placed in front of voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  England or England plus one or two of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be a completely different kettle of fish compared with Scotland leaving the UK with the rUK still in the EU. If any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland wished to leave the UK they would  and join the EU with the rest of the UK or just England outside of the EU they would be faced with an England or a remnant UK state which had regained its freedom of action and would not be bound by EU law.
The strategy of those in who want the UK to leave the EU should be to reduce the idea amongst voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that leaving the UK and joining the EU after a UK vote to leave has taken place would not be an easy choice.  What is required is a pre-emptive strike before the referendum pointing out to voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the realities of their relationship with the EU and the UK in the hope of diminishing the vote to stay in those countries.
This is something which should have been done during the Scottish referendum.  Indeed, the refusal of the Better Together side of the argument to point out these realities was one of the prime reasons for the NO vote not being much larger than it was, handsome as that result was.  The unionist side generally was also deeply patronising to the Scots with their line that only Scots could have a say in the debate and that the rest of the union had to keep quiet for fear of upsetting the Scots and driving them to a YES vote.  It implied that Scots are something less than adults who could not either bear contrary views or have the wit to listen to hard facts about reality.
There will be a second part to this article: The hard facts to put before the Celts.
Posted in Devolution, Nationhood | Tagged , | 2 Comments