Is the Archbishop of Canterbury a descendent of Gladstone ?

My bedtime reading at the moment (and I suspect for several months to come, due to my somewhat plodding reading speed) is Roy Jenkin’s Gladstone. A note by Jenkins against a quote from Gladstone on page 32 caused me to chuckle:

There then follow nine balancing subordinate clauses of a convolution which make the net effect almost impossible to follow.

Remind you of anyone?

Ariel’s delighted Polar Bear: Cause for applause or nausea ?

I must have been desperate for reading material while I ate my muesli (but not a beard or sandal in sight) earlier this week. My brother always used to amuse us at home by reading the text on the side of the cornflakes packet while he ate his breakfast. I reach for the Riverford Organic vegetables box list. On one side it tells you what’s in your box (“Sweet mama squash” is this week’s special attraction). On the other side there is a little homily from Guy Watson, head and chief of the Riverford empire.

Normally this little newsletter tells you about some local event of their like the commissioning of their field kitchen or news of this season’s purple sprouting broccoli.

This week, I found myself reading an interesting treatise on commercialism, spin and the green agenda.

Guy Watson is not a fan of “spin” in green matters:

There is a huge dichotomy between the motivations that business leaders profess to the public (beliefs and values) and those revealed to investors. Behind the closed doors of the business world growth, shareholder value and dividends are King with ethics tolerated as a means of driving sales an d building brand. These individuals may have more altruistic inclinations but within the predominantly macho world of business it is not yet acceptable to admit to them.

Watson quotes the “furore over biofuels” as a case in point. Citing his own research, which quickly showed biofuels to be fairly pointless, he writes:

Why is it that biofuels have formed a central plank in so many companies’ corporate responsibility claims (Tesco, Virgin and indeed our Government)? Either they could not be bothered to do the most rudimentary research or are more consumed with winning short term approval than achieving true responsibility.

So, there is a picture emerging of companies transparently adopting the “green agenda” in order to boost profits. Sometimes what they are doing is not necessarily “green”.

Nowhere is this transparency more remarkably demonstrated than in Ariel’s “Turn to 30” campaign.

When the green agenda extends to washing powder, one of the most cut-throat, low margin businesses, then you know it’s time for a reality check. Procter and Gamble are not known for advertising campaigns unconnected to their “bottom line”. So it was with an outburst of incredulity and nausea that I greeted this TV advert the other night:

That seems to be the moment that green issues got sexy. If you turn your washing down to 30 degrees, the glaciers will suddenly recover and polar bears will let out a little murmur of satisfaction. It is that murmur of satisfaction which got me.

You have to hand it to the advertising wallahs. What a superb, populist advert! All shiny and nice! It’s great to see a large commercial giant like Procter and Gamble embracing the fight against global warming.

But on the other hand….Pass the sickbag, Alice.

After experiencing that advert, I was groping around for reasons to be cynical about it. Fortunately, help was at hand in last week’s Observer magazine. Lucy Steigle wrote an article entitled: “Does my washing at 30C clean up my act?” The short answer is yes, but buying less clothes and extending their wear time in between washes would do just as much, if not more, good:

It began last year with Ariel (the market leader) and you can see what inspired them. We wash hotter in the UK than they do on the Continent, thus wasting 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy a year (but how much of this is the legacy of the industry emphasis on whiter than white whites?)

It almost adds up. Studies on jeans, a polyester blouse and a T-shirt show that laundering accounts for 60-80 per cent of the garment’s total environmental impact. But there’s no denying it’s extremely clever marketing, too, allowing detergent manufacturers to up their planet-saving credentials without particularly changing a product’s ingredients (phosphates and optical brighteners are especially unfriendly to watercourses).

…what lurks in our obese wardrobes are 2.4 billion unwanted items, each of which took huge amounts of resources to be made, shipped and brought to point of sale.

Meanwhile Dr Kate Fletcher quotes Dutch research in her book Sustainable Fashion and Textiles which shows that the average garment stays on the body for 44 days and is worn for between 2.4 and 3.1 days between washing. As we buy more these times are decreased and wash days increase. So a sustainable laundry manoeuvre might also include learning to love stains; a little dried egg or butter grease never killed anybody.

Which brings me finally to a little book for which I have great affection. It’s called “Keep it simple” by Nick Page. Page argues that we all tend to make our lives ridiculously complex. By reducing complexity, he says, we will lead more contented lives. One of the key ways he demonstrates this point is in the area of wardrobe management. If we recycle or donate anything we haven’t worn for a year and concentrate on a few well-loved articles of clothing, rather than a wide eccletic mix (half of which we hardly ever wear), we will actually make our lives far simpler and easier. He uses a quote from Charles Kettering of General Motors which sums up our cultivated desire to buy more and more clothes and, indeed, things:

The key to economic prosperity is the organised creation of dissatisfaction.

So, yes, we’ll all click our washing down to 30C. But it will do that polar bear a lot more good if we stop buying things we wear once and then leave in the wardrobe for five years.

Things would have been so much easier if Charles had been a rubbish leader

I haven’t bought the Mail on Sunday, I feel duty-bound to point out. But I have just read, via the web, the first elements of their serialisation of Ming’s forthcoming auto-biography. You can pre-order it via Liberal Democrat Voice here with some spondoolicks going to the party.

The segment serialised today certainly offers useful perspective on the Charles Kennedy leadership. I say “useful” in the following sense: As Ming says, his father had a drink problem. By writing this article, I think Ming helps to put together another piece of the jigsaw in understanding alcoholism. Several times, his narrative returns to this essential dichotomy: Charles was a superb LibDem leader, but those close around him saw things in a different light.

If Charles had been a rubbish leader, then his passing would not have been too painful. But he was a superb leader. Ming’s rather “so-so” leadership demonstrated that by sharp contrast.

There is also some interesting stuff about Ming and Elspeth.

I still haven’t decided whether to buy the book. Previous experience of politicians’ auto-biographies is that they are interesting up until the point they get into power or leadership. They then tend to become rather sanctimonious exercises in retrospective self-justification. Alan Clark’s Diaries were a shining exception to that general rule.

‘300 Labour members set to defect to Derby Tories’

So reports the Derby Telegraph:

Tories in Derby claim 300 Labour members in the city are to defect to their party tonight. They are confident the mass defection will take place and are bringing party chairman Caroline Spellman MP to the city to welcome them. It follows frustrations within the Asian community about the de-selection of popular Sinfin councillor Hardial Dhamrait. Asian community leaders also say they are disillusioned with Labour policies and are no longer prepared to offer the party the unquestioning support it has traditionally received from their fathers and grandfathers.

Hat tip: Conservative Home

Yet another blow for Cameron

Another poll has underlined the public’s view that David Cameron has “played politics” with the Northern Rock crisis. The Times’ Populus poll puts Brown/Darling four points ahead of Cameron/Osbourne in terms of trust to solve this year’s economic problems. This follows similar findings for the Economist which I blogged about yesterday.

Stephen Tall has blogged about the post-Northern Rock scenario here.

Simon Hoggart’s remarkable feat of endurance

Simon Hoggart’s diary often features references to his atheism.

Today he notes that last weekend he sat through not one, not two, but three Evensongs at Salisbury Cathedral.

He deserves a medal. There are many devout Christians who would draw the line at sitting through three Choral Evensongs over one weekend. For those who aren’t familiar with the routine (I used to be in the choir at a church so I enjoyed many an Evensong, including singing the Te Deum, which of course we never, as school boys, referred to as the Tedium) here is what the service includes:

-A penitential introduction, including the General Confession and the Lord’s Prayer.
Preces — a series of responsory prayers.
-A portion of the
psalter, usually two or three psalms.
-Two lessons (readings) from the
Bible. The first is usually taken from the Old Testament and the second from the New Testament. Each lesson is followed by (one of):
canticles, usually the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, but the various Books of Common Prayer from different countries often offer an enlarged list of options.
Apostles’ Creed.
prayers and responses, including the Kyrie eleison and the Lord’s Prayer.
anthem following the third collect (“In quires and places where they sing, here followeth the anthem,” in the famous phraseology of the 1662 edition of the Prayer Book).
-Further prayers

Mind you, I note that last Saturday’s Evensong at Salisbury Cathedral included the Edward Heath Memorial Piano Recital by John Lill, so that would have been worth listening to. Dear Old Simon was staying in a flat in the cathedral close, so it sounds like a wonderful weekend.

Bush is the only person keeping the ‘General with no name’ in power

It is with considerable satisfaction that I read that the stuffing has been knocked out of Pervez Musharraf.

He is in a ‘sulk’. He is “isolated” and “exposed”. He has retreated into a “mental bunker”. His “aura is fading”. He is “obviously not in power”. He no longer has “fire in his belly”. A supporter says he might not have the stomach for a “Custer’s last stand” against an impeachment motion. Even the police have become half-hearted in their treatment of protesting lawyers (one even shaking hands and smiling with one of the protesters).

Oh dear. How awful!

The one thing keeping Musharraf in power is the stalwart support of George W Bush.

Ironic, really isn’t it ? In 1999 he didn’t even know his name.

Welcome bill for temporary workers’ rights

I have great sympathy for Andrew Miller’s Bill to increase the rights of temporary workers. I have known examples where people have worked in the same temporary job for years without holiday or sickness pay. That’s Dickensian. Thankfully, the better agencies now give a good set of rights to workers after three months of “temping”.

I agree with Lorely Burt that the bill, which the LibDems supported in its second stages, needs amendment before a third reading. One of the crucial points which needs to be worked out is the cut-off – i.e when do temporary workers get the same rights as permanent ones ? If it is from day one, as proposed, this would actually be better than permanent workers, who usually have to work for a six month probationary period before they get sickness rights etc.

And, as Lorely sensibly pointed out in yesterday’s debate, there are many contractors who are paid a premium rate, which comes as part and parcel of their temporary status. This can apply to nurses as much as IT consultants and the rest. Some form of accomodation would have to be worked out to avoid, presumably, a huge drop in pay for these types of workers.

So, generally, I warmly welcome this initiative, but the details need to be bashed out with co-operation from unions and bodies across working life.