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In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The best known of the minority MPs from David Cameron’s premiership — 2010 to 2016 — is Rishi Sunak, who is Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He represents the Richmond constituency in Yorkshire.

Early years

Rishi Sunak’s grandparents moved from the Punjab province of India to East Africa. Rishi’s mother Usha was born in Tanzania. His father Yashvir was born in Kenya. Both are Hindus.

Both sets of grandparents migrated to the UK in the 1960s.

After marriage, Usha and Yashvir settled in Southampton, on the southern coast of England. Usha worked locally as a pharmacist. Yashvir was a general practitioner.

The couple have three children: Rishi, another son Sanjay, who is a psychologist, and a daughter Raakhi, who works on COVID-19 strategy for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Rishi Sunak went to the renowned public (private) school Winchester College, founded in 1382, where he was head boy and editor of the student newspaper.

He then went to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a First in 2001 in PPE, which is nothing to do with hospital gowns, rather Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Whilst at Oxford, he did a brief stint at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

During summer holidays he worked at a curry house in Southampton.

Sunak began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he worked as an analyst from 2001 to 2004.

He then decided to study for an MBA at Stanford University in California, where he met his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, the man behind Infosys. The couple married in 2005. Sunak, a Fulbright Scholar, completed his MBA in 2006.

Sunak and his wife settled in England and have two young daughters.

Prior to entering politics, Sunak worked for two hedge funds and was also the director of one of his father-in-law’s companies, Catamaran Ventures.

Political career

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague represented Richmond, which has been a safe seat for the party for over a century.

Rishi Sunak was elected comfortably to his first term with a majority of 19,550 (36.2%). Once in Parliament, he was appointed to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Sunak was also committed to Brexit and was an early advocate of free ports, having written a report on the concept in 2016, the year of the referendum.

In 2017, with Theresa May as Prime Minister, Sunak won re-election with an even greater majority of 23,108 (40.5%). In Parliament, he continued to support Brexit, voting for Theresa May’s deal and against a referendum on a final withdrawal agreement in 2019.

That year, Theresa May stood down as PM. Sunak supported Boris Johnson in the ensuing leadership contest.

That autumn, during the general election campaign, he appeared on a television debate, representing the Conservatives:

I am sure Sunak did better than Iain Dale gave him credit for:

He also participated in a seven-way debate on ITV.

On December 12, Sunak further increased his margin of victory at the polls to 27,210 (47.2%).

The coronavirus Chancellor — and some inside scoops

Then, in February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson replaced Sajid Javid with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor:

He gave his first budget less than a month later, on Wednesday, March 11, which I wrote about at the time.

The following Monday, March 16, Boris announced social distancing rules and the closure of pubs, restaurants and events venues. Rishi spoke at one of Boris’s televised coronavirus briefings with news of a generous financial package:

Guido Fawkes posted the full video and remarked (emphasis in the original):

You wouldn’t guess he’s only been in the job for five weeks…

Full details are here. Sunak also issued a Twitter thread with a summary:

Then lockdown came a week later on Monday, March 23.

A few days later, Boris was struggling with his bout of coronavirus, as was Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

The Conservatives soared to record approval ratings in the polls:

Early in April, Boris was quietly rushed to St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Rishi did another coronavirus briefing to reassure an anxious nation:

The well-spoken, gentle Sunak appealed greatly to the folks at home. The Independent did not like that one bit.

Society magazine Tatler began running articles on Sunak in March. They could see he would quickly become a cult personality.

On March 18, the magazine posted an article by Annabel Sampson, ‘Everything you need to know about Britain’s new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’.

It begins with this (emphases mine):

The virtues of 39-year-old Rishi Sunak have been extolled many times over; for his charming demeanour, his razor sharp brain and his acute financial sense. Now the man who has come to be recognised as the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’, thanks to his Indian ancestry and Yorkshire home, has been appointed to the highest office in the country, to Boris Johnson’s Cabinet in the role of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the second biggest government job; and the second youngest person ever to take the position.

The appointment follows the ‘Cabinet Reshuffle’ that occurred in February when Savid Javid, the former Chancellor, resigned when he was asked to get rid – reportedly a request linked to Dominic Cummings – of his closest aides. Rishi Sunak’s star has been rising for some time now, so his appointment to the position will have baffled few.

The article has several photos, including one of Sunak in the Yorkshire countryside and one with his dog, which resembles Boris Johnson’s Welsh rescue pup, Dilyn.

Sunak and his wife had a traditional Indian wedding:

Rishi and Akshata were married in her hometown of Bangalore, in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Akshata is a working mother:

Akshata runs her own fashion label Akshata Designs and is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010. Her designs are wonderful; she’s been profiled by Vogue India and been credited for creating clothes that are ‘vehicles to discovering Indian culture’ – comprised of chic silhouettes with bold, Indian design.

Did we know that the Sunaks throw great parties? We do now:

With their combined wealth, they understandably have a generously sized home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire (in Sunak’s constituency). The Daily Mail reports that their annual summer garden party is a county highlight; where uniformed staff loft around serving ice cold champagne and canapés (no doubt prepared by the prestigious Yorkshire Party Company).

Sunak is a natural at politics:

According to the Daily Mail, ‘While many MPs stutter and trundle their way through their maiden speech in the Commons, Mr Sunak’s at-ease manner provided a glimmer of what was to come’. One ally in parliament told the Telegraph: ‘He’s ferociously intelligent and thoroughly decent at the same time’

He was one of the few Conservatives who were let loose on the air waves (14 times in total) and allowed to make public appearances during the election campaign last year. He has even been dubbed the ‘Prime Minister-in-waiting’, we’ll see. His first big challenge was the March budget; and now he is juggling the unprecedented complexity of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. The UK are in safe hands.

The article also has a photo of him supporting Yorkshire County Cricket at Edgbaston.

Early in July, Tatler‘s Ben Judah travelled to Sunak’s home town of Southampton and reported his findings in ‘Inside the world of Rishi Sunak’.

Naturally, Judah went to the curry house where Sunak worked during his summer holidays:

The kitchen at Kuti’s Brasserie, not far from Southampton docks, was not the sort of place, in August 1998, you would have gone looking for a future hedge funder, son-in-law of a billionaire and Conservative chancellor.

That summer – the summer of the France 98 World Cup and the Omagh bombing – Kuti Miah, the eponymous restaurateur behind the curry house, went to have a word with one of his waiters. ‘You’re going to be someone, Rishi,’ he said. The future UK chancellor flashed his famous smile. He was, adds Miah, ‘a brilliant talker’. Rishi Sunak, then 18, was about to go to Oxford, but that holiday he waited tables for Miah, a close family friend, to earn some pocket money. ‘I saw him grow up,’ says Miah. ‘His father used to bring him in his carry cot.’

Miah was fast friends with Yashvir and Usha Sunak, both Hindu Punjabis born in colonial Kenya and Tanzania respectively, whose parents had migrated from India. After India’s independence, both families left East Africa for Southampton in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yashvir and Usha met in Britain and married. He became a local GP and she ran a pharmacy. They were ‘brilliant conversationalists’ and ‘very strong believers’ who ‘worked very, very hard’, according to Miah, who also recalls that they were ‘passionately British’.

Rishi, the eldest of their three children, was cut from the same patriotic cloth. Not only did the young Sunak fall in love with the game of cricket, he fervently supported England over India at any opportunity. His career, too, has followed one of the most traditional and storied of England’s paths to power. Like five chancellors of the exchequer before him, Sunak was schooled at the ancient and distinguished Winchester College; and like three of those same Wykehamist chancellors, he went on, as was expected, to study at Oxford.

The article includes a photo of Sunak with his wife and in-laws.

Ben Judah had met Rishi Sunak before, in 2015, just before the general election that year. They met up in Northallerton, North Yorkshire:

We were a long way from London – from where Sunak had been ‘parachuted in’ for the seat. During the interview, I had a distinct sense of being the only person in the cafe who knew that this slight man in a Barbour jacket was running for parliament. ‘I tell this story when I’m out and about,’ he said, coffee in hand, ‘that you can come to this country with very little… My grandparents came with very little from a village in northern India, and two generations on, their grandson has this enormous privilege of running as a candidate for parliament. For my family, the route was education.’

Well said.

Sunak’s candidacy in 2015 raised some eyebrows:

He was vying for a seat once presided over by Tory grandees William Hague and Leon Brittan. But I had spent days in Richmond and the surrounding area, reporting on the resentment his sudden arrival had stirred up among certain local Tory notables, who felt the seat in the Dales was rightfully theirs. ‘There was a very acrimonious constituency battle,’ claimed one source, with a lot of hostility to an outsider coming in.

Sunak’s wife had also met with some resistance on the campaign trail, says Judah.

However, Sunak’s father-in-law enthusiastically flew to England where he helped to campaign:

Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, NR Narayana Murthy, however, has been so enthusiastic about Sunak’s parliamentary career that he’d flown in, and had even been leafleting on his behalf, wearing a Rishi sweatshirt. ‘To be honest,’ said Sunak in Costa Coffee that day, ‘I think it’s patronising to assume minorities should only run in minority seats.’

The article discusses Sunak’s property profile:

On 7 May 2015, Sunak won, with more than 50 per cent of the vote (a Ukip vote of 15 per cent had appeared from nowhere). He put down roots in his new constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, augmenting a £10 million property portfolio (metropolitan digs in London – a Kensington mews house, a flat on Old Brompton Road – and a place in California) with a £1.5 million Georgian manor in Yorkshire set across 12 acres, including an ornamental lake. Here, he now entertains the constituency membership with lavish summer parties at which uniformed staff serve champagne and canapés. He has been repeatedly dubbed by newspapers the ‘Maharajah of the Yorkshire Dales’.

The general public know less about those details. Nonetheless, Rishi Sunak has become a household name:

In a swift few years, Sunak has become known as many things: Dishy Rishi to the tabloids; one of the richest MPs in Westminster; the second-youngest-ever chancellor of the exchequer, presiding over a £350 billion package to boost the economy (the largest ever recorded in peacetime); and a former hedge funder whose profile has risen faster than stocks in a vaccine manufacturer.

However dazzling all of this is now, things were very different when Sunak entered Winchester College as an adolescent:

… Winchester would come at a price for the Sunaks. No sooner was he accepted than Rishi’s good fortune immediately foundered: he missed out on the expected scholarship. Desperate not to let the opportunity go to waste, his parents decided to take on the high fees themselves, picking up extra work and making what the chancellor has called considerable ‘sacrifices’. His brother would later follow.

One of his classmates discussed Sunak and described Winchester in the mid- to late 1990s:

Tim Johnson, now a lawyer, was in the boarding house next door. ‘Rishi was a good chap, in boarding-school idiom,’ he recalled. Sunak, he said, was a ‘reasonable cricketer’, who stood out in friendliness; and he was a solid, but never number one, student. ‘Rishi was always expected to do something,’ Johnson remembered. But exactly what, beyond Winchester, was vague. ‘He was always expected to be head boy as he was clever enough, reasonable enough and well behaved enough.’ This became Sunak’s thing – hard work and attainment, becoming the first Winchester head of school from an Indian background.

Sunak was different to other sixth formers in Winchester: a lifelong nondrinker, he wasn’t distracted by the allure of the pub. But there was something else that marked him out from the herd. He was a conservative in every sense: not only in his outlook and demeanour but in his religious attitudes, too – a practising Hindu who avoided beef. At school, where few boys were political, Sunak was clearly ‘associated with the Tories’, said Johnson. It was 1997, The Chemical Brothers were topping the charts and the mood was rebellious. Counterculture, New Labour and ripped jeans were in; the Conservatives were out. ‘That wasn’t his intellectual jam. Rishi didn’t play that game,’ Johnson explained.

‘Everyone was chipper about it when Blair won,’ Johnson said. But not Rishi. His family’s story was closer to Margaret Thatcher’s than that of his bourgeois Labourite classmates. Watching the early results of the landslide on election night 1997, Sunak sat down to write a gloomy article for the school magazine, The Wykehamist, lamenting the news. His main complaint: Europe. ‘He revels in the label of a patriot,’ he complained of Tony Blair, ‘but has plans for the possible break-up of the United Kingdom and membership of an eventual European Superstate.’ The seeds of Brexit were already in his mind.

‘Already,’ fretted Sunak, ‘the New Labour rhetoric sounds worryingly pro-European and avid pro-Europeans are being sent to Brussels’

Later, at Oxford, Sunak had a low profile, unlike his predecessor as MP, William Hague:

He was nothing like the young William Hague, who arrived at Oxford fêted and almost a Tory celebrity, or the young Boris Johnson, the blond beast who tore apart the Oxford Union. At Oxford, Sunak was a nobody, much like Tony Blair.

He continued to eschew strong drink:

Oxford acquaintances remember him as a nerdy teetotaller who was ‘just very clearly going into business’. He would ‘make this big thing’ out of drinking Coke in the pub. ‘Rishi was unknown to the student politicians, that gossipy overlapping world, who all knew each other,’ said Marcus Walker, then-president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, now a clergyman. Sunak was never a member.

It is hard to remember how irrelevant and demoralised Tory circles felt after 1997, but some do recall Sunak as a ‘Thatcherite’ and ‘Eurosceptic’. ‘That was absolutely par for the course,’ said Walker. ‘If you were still a Tory after 1997, you were a Eurosceptic. That was all you had left.’

Nevertheless, Sunak did develop a network from his Winchester College and Oxford days. Graduates from Winchester are called Old Wykehamists:

These days, socially, Sunak has been placed by some in Westminster’s Spectator set. He was best man to his lifelong friend and fellow Old Wykehamist James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, at Forsyth’s politician-studded wedding in 2011, to Allegra Stratton, the national editor at ITV Newsand gave what one guest recalled was ‘one of the most touching best man’s speeches I’ve ever heard’. (In fact, Stratton has recently announced she’s leaving ITV News for a job with Sunak at the Treasury. Some have seen this as very Cameron-esque in its ‘chumocracy’.)

Allegra Stratton, also a good friend of ITV’s Robert Peston, now works for Boris Johnson as his notional press secretary, although she has not yet begun to give press briefings, probably because of coronavirus.

Imagine the son of immigrants having ties to Britain’s two oldest — ancient — magazines: The Spectator and Tatler. Wow.

Tatler‘s Ben Judah also spoke with people who had worked with Sunak during his hedge fund days. They painted a similar character portrait of the Chancellor:

After two years in California completing a CV-topping MBA, he returned to London and Mayfair in 2006, where a new type of boutique finance was booming: hedge funds. He was hired by Sir Chris Hohn at The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI). It was a dream job: a big role at an activist firm off Berkeley Square at the peak of their fame. ‘He appears to have been trusted,’ said a source. Indeed, Sunak was made a partner two years later. Contemporaries remember him ever-ready to meet and greet; a mixture of a junior, deputy and a bag carrier; the perfect foil to Hohn’s bolshy swagger. ‘Ridiculously nice.’ ‘Affable.’ ‘Approachable.’ ‘Charming.’ These are the words that come up again and again among Mayfair types who knew Sunak. The charm was of a particular kind: ‘There are two kinds of people at hedge funds,’ said one source. ‘Handsome and thin smooth-talkers who are always on the phone or going out to lunch with clients, getting them to part with their money. And then quants in the back room with their shirts buttoned up badly.’

Sunak was one of the smooth-talkers, his charm honed on calls to investors, getting them on board with whatever drastic moves the fund wanted to make. The kind of charm that prizes clarity and persuades people to part with their money. It worked: but hedge-fund charm is designed to hide as much as it reveals. The atmosphere at TCI was buccaneering and bold; it both led and profited from a controversial banking raid that eventually meant a £45.5 billion public bailout of the Royal Bank of Scotland. (The Treasury and TCI say Sunak was not involved in the deal.) He left when TCI split in 2009, and joined the breakaway hedge fund Theleme Partners. His new firm’s reputation took a knock when its founder was revealed to have used a notorious tax avoidance scheme. The Labour Party researched Sunak’s past during the 2019 election. ‘But he was too little known for us to use it,’ said one source

His reasons for entering Parliament are equally obscure. Those who know him have different opinions as to why. One thing that everyone agrees on is his penchant for order:

Many in Westminster see his motivation as status. ‘He’s not an ideologue,’ said one Tory source. ‘He wanted to enter politics in that old-fashioned way, because it was seen as the good thing to do.’ Good, as in socially ambitious. Whether that’s true is another matter, because first came a stint at Policy Exchange, leading a unit researching black and minority ethnic attitudes. The scruffy but influential Conservative think tank world is seen as a de facto holding pen for future special advisers, but it was nonetheless an unexpectedly technical way into Westminster for someone with means.

Sunak quickly made an impression. ‘He’s got that Blair-like ability to hold your eye,’ says Nick Faith, who worked with him there. Sunak cut a snappy figure amid slovenly suits. ‘He’s into his clothing.’ His is not the fusty establishment Rees-Mogg or Nicholas Soames style, but more the wiry Emmanuel Macron look. Everything Sunak wears, many remarked, is immaculate, even at the end of a Treasury work day, and fits perfectly. Faith says that ‘everything, from how Rishi dresses to how he structures his life, is very well organised’. Sunak’s elegant house in London, with a touch of Indian decor, reflects that. ‘Nothing is out of place. For someone with two small kids, that’s quite an achievement.’

Having learned from his background in finance, Sunak also knows how and when to place his bets:

‘His mind works in Excel,’ said one City contemporary. But like all hedge funders, it also works in bets: and the two biggest bets that Sunak has made in his career have paid off spectacularly – Brexit and Boris. David Cameron knew the gravity of his predicament when Sunak came out for Leave. ‘If we’ve lost Rishi, we’ve lost the future of the party,’ he reportedly said. The same thing played out in reverse in June 2019 when Sunak came out for Boris in The Times with two other MPs during the party leadership elections. This was widely seen in Westminster as a decisive turning point: the one where Johnson won over ‘the sensibles’ and pivoted the backbenchers. The PM seems to agree: all three have been handsomely rewarded.

In Parliament, he keeps a low profile but, to those who know him, is loyal:

‘He’s unknown in parliament,’ said one MP. ‘He doesn’t play the parliamentary game at all.’ Tory Remainers are sceptical of him. ‘It’s Star Wars,’ said one MP, referring to the chancellor’s strange and classically ‘geek-chic’ hobby for minutely detailed models of spaceships and video games. ‘Most of his political philosophy comes out of the Star Wars trade wars that are about the independence of various kingdoms from the Empire. He’s not someone intellectual.’ Loyalty has been his strongest suit. Sunak is a No 10 man. ‘He’s a grown-up,’ said one MP. ‘The only grown-up in Downing Street, despite him being 20 years younger than them.’

At the height of tensions over Brexit last year, he was cheerfully going around Westminster saying he would back ‘no deal’ if push came to shove. He struck the right note, in the right place, at the right time. Tensions between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid’s teams exploded in February, when the then-chancellor resigned after refusing to fire his own special advisers and submit to an unprecedented joint team with Downing Street, effectively under the stewardship of Dominic Cummings. It was Sunak, with high skills and no clear agenda or faction behind him in parliament, whom Downing Street turned to. He quickly agreed to the joint team, once again becoming the perfect foil for an outsized boss

Even now, it’s still too early to say whether Rishi Sunak will become a future leader of the Conservative Party and, as such, a possible prime minister. A week is a long time in politics.

When Boris’s erstwhile special adviser Dominic Cummings broke coronavirus rules in travelling from London to Durham and back during Boris’s time in hospital, Sunak tried to calm the ever-turbulent waters surrounding Cummings, who was never popular with the Remainer media. He tweeted this after Cummings’s lengthy press conference in May:

In June, Sunak was tactful about the reopening of shops and businesses in Britain after the first coronavirus lockdown:

He also warned that his generous financial package could not go on indefinitely:

A few weeks later, in early July, pubs were allowed to reopen:

The Government launched the Enjoy Summer Safely campaign. Pictured below is Piccadilly Circus:

On July 8, he issued a Summer Economic Update, with financial help continuing (more here):

This included the launch of his Eat Out To Help Out plan, which lasted to the end of August:

A lot of Labour MPs didn’t like the plan. I don’t know why. Leftists own restaurants, too.

He cut VAT for the hospitality industry, too.

He also issued a detailed jobs plan, including an apprentice scheme:

Some men in the media were taking a shine to Dishy Rishi, including the leftist Owen Jones of The Guardian and Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine:

At that time, the attention being given to Sunak and Boris Johnson got the better of Conservative MP Caroline Dineage, a Culture minister, who was questioned on masks, which were strongly suggested (mandatory only on public transport) but still optional in what now look like heady days. This was from a BBC interview:

asked why the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had not worn one in public, she snapped: “You’d have to ask the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that, with respect.

“But it is something that is advised and we keep it under review.”

At the end of September 2020, the coronavirus crisis dragged on. Talk intensified about a winter lockdown.

On September 24, Sunak issued a Winter Economy Plan, about which I wrote at the time. When he presented it in the House of Commons, he advised all MPs to live ‘without fear’.

By October 6, Sunak was being blamed for an uptick in coronavirus ‘cases’ (positive test results, not necessarily hospital admissions) for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme:

A US study, which did not cover Britain, showed that hospitality venues were shown to be responsible. However, the study did not cover workplaces or hospitals. Nonetheless, it is still a contentious point even to this day.

The Sun‘s Harry Cole rightly, in my opinion, defended the Chancellor’s restaurant promotion.

Then talk of hospitality curfews emerged. Fellow Conservative MP Matt Vickers defended the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out programme, which had come to an end five weeks earlier.

The calls for a winter lockdown grew. The Chancellor rightly opposed them:

By then, more areas of England had moved into tiers, indicating more coronavirus cases. Sunak increased financial support to those cities and counties. He also offered more help to businesses, including the self-employed.

By November, some thought a storm was truly brewing between Boris and Rishi. Despite all the talk from the Government about people being able to meet loved ones at Christmas — for the first time in months, for many — a pessimistic undercurrent, which turned out to be accurate, seemed to be part of every news cycle.

Rumours circulated that Sunak was ready to resign. However, on November 1, the Daily Mail reported:

A source said there was a ‘collective decision’ to back a second lockdown, and that Mr Sunak ‘accepted it’ – and he did not threaten to resign, as some whispers around Westminster were suggesting yesterday.

The November lockdown was supposed to prevent a Christmas lockdown, but that was not to be. There was a brief re-opening before Christmas, and on December 19, the hammer fell once more.

Interestingly, the minority MPs in Cabinet shared Sunak’s concerns.

By the middle of December, Sunak was clearly worried about how long the borrowing could go on. On Saturday, December 19, the day when Boris announced Christmas was cancelled, The Spectator reported what the Chancellor said about borrowing and quantitative easing (QE):

‘Are you or anyone else going to guarantee me that, for the duration of this parliament, rates might not go back to 1 per cent?’ he asks, pointing out that this almost happened in March, before the Bank of England started printing money to bring rates back down. There is this very large QE thing that’s going on. No one has done that before. There are plenty of smart investors who are also thinking about the risks of inflation over the next 12 months. Because we are now so levered, small changes have huge cash implications. If I have to come up with £10-£20 billion a year in a few years’ time because things have changed — well, that’s a lot of money.’

To Sunak, it’s not just an economic problem but a political one. ‘If we [Tories] think borrowing is the answer to everything, that debt rising is fine, then there’s not much difference between us and the Labour party,’ he says.

The media criticised him for going to his constituency of Richmond for Christmas. To be fair, he did work while he was there, visiting a local hospital and a vaccine centre. He did not rush back to London.

On February 3, 2021, Sunak rightly accused scientists advising the Government of shifting the goalposts regarding lockdown:

This might be causing a rift in Boris’s Cabinet:

On a brighter note, Time magazine has included Rishi Sunak on its list of 100 ’emerging leaders’. On February 17, the Daily Mail reported:

Under the ‘leaders’ category, Chancellor Rishi Sunak landed a spot on the list, being described as the ‘benevolent face of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic’ by Times reporter Billy Perrigo.

The Chancellor’s profile piece discussed the furlough scheme, describing how he approved ‘large handouts’ for people whose jobs had been affected by coronavirus.

The piece also paid respect to Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which the magazine described as an attempt to ‘revive the economy’ by subsidizing dining out at restaurants.  

Although his profile acknowledges that Sunak bears more responsibility than most for his calls to ease lockdown restrictions, Time’s profile for the Chancellor admits he has earned himself a ‘legion of fans’.

Sunak’s accompanying profile points to a YouGov poll showing him to be the nation’s most popular politician and even tips him to be the bookmakers’ favourite as the next Prime Minister.  

Again, a week is a long time in politics. We shall see about the future as and when it happens.

For now, Sunak is focussing on the budget, to be delivered on March 3. He is asking industry leaders for their thoughts.

Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay was one of those leaders:

If Rishi Sunak ever tires of being an MP or Chancellor, a job in media awaits.

He is an excellent interviewer and researched Gordon Ramsay well. The 15-minute video is worth watching.

The list of minority Conservative MPs continues. All being well, more tomorrow.

shaking  hands ryan2point0wordpresscomWe think of the word Establishment to mean those running the country who govern our lives.

However, in the May 2015 issue of Tatler, Matthew Bell tells us (p. 104):

In 1955, Henry Fairlie, political commentator of The Spectator, coined the term ‘Establishment’ … As Fairlie said: ‘The exercise of power in Britain (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially.’

The article goes on to look at what Tatler call A-Grade Entertainers who bring together the notional great and the good. They throw grand parties, host weekends away and introduce other influential people to each other.

Of course, this has been going on forever not only in England but all over the world. Matthew Bell did fine work looking at hosts from a century ago as well as those today. Some are household names, others less so. He also explored what a top host needs to succeed. Besides the obvious connections, money and large house, one also needs bags of charm, endless patience, interest in others and a good sense of humour.

My point is that conspiracy theorists would do better to study these political-artistic social connections rather than focus on Bilderberg and the Masons.

A-listers enjoying champagne and canapés at someone’s home are likely a more representative nexus of power.

Thank heaven for costume dramas.

They answer questions about clothing.

Have you ever wondered why the Amish and similar sects eschewed buttons? Does the Pope still wears velvet slippers? The answers might prove surprising.

Buttons

Prior to the 16th century, sleeve extensions were sewn on to shorter sleeves for extra warmth.

Gaby Wood, writing for The Telegraph, tells us that Wolf Hall is painstakingly faithful to authentic clothing conventions of Henry VIII’s time.

I’ve not been watching it but was intrigued to find out that, just as in his era, Wolf Hall‘s costumes have eyelets with aiglets — points, or fasteners — which allowed a servant to pin sleeve extensions to men’s and women’s attire. Using these holes and fasteners prevented the fabric from tearing.

Pins were used when thread was not. Not surprisingly, pins were easily lost.

This was all part of dressing in cooler weather. It gave us two saying which are still commonplace today:

point scoring: men gambled for aiglets.

pin money: money set aside for the purchase of pins.

Kirby Beard 1023KIRBYbisWhilst pins or aiglets did not break the bank, they did involve household expense. The pins were not terribly good, either. There was no mass mechanisation or uniformity of these items until the 19th century. Two Englishmen, Robert Kirby and George Beard, tried to perfect a pin-making machine developed by an American, Seth Hunt. It wasn’t until 1833 that Kirby Beard & Co. (see second half of post) began successful mass production of pins on a steam-driven apparatus capable of making pinheads directly from wire. The company moved from Gloucestershire to Birmingham. Their needle factory was in nearby Redditch. The picture on the left shows their patent. These pins were prized all over the world. Wives asked their husbands sailing overseas to bring them back Kirby Beard & Co. products. The company later produced luxury goods for the home with shops in the City of London and in central Paris. But I digress.

Back to pins in the 16th century. As well as the stars of the show, even the extras in Wolf Hall are attired in the authentic way with pins or stitching on their costumes.

Meanwhile, in Paris, a button exhibition is running until July 19, 2015, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Véronique Belloir, the exhibition’s curator, told the French online news service l’Internaute that the button was created in the 16th century.

It was considered as much a decorative item as a functional one. (By way of illustration, the article has an accompanying photo of sculpted mother of pearl buttons from the 19th century.)

By the 17th century, wealthy Europeans spent so much money on buttons that various kings instituted laws which limited the number purchased and the ways in which these new fasteners could be used.

Belloir says that ordinary Europeans considered the button to be conspicuous consumption:

It was a luxurious object which shocked Christian morality.

By the end of the 18th century, buttons cost more than the clothing on which they were sewn. Buttons served as class and political indicators.

It is for this reason that the Amish and other religious sects refused to wear them.

In the 19th century, the button became commonplace. In order to be properly dressed, men and women ensured every button was done up.

I remember reading years ago that the more buttons one had on a suit jacket or a dress, the wealthier one was. Boots also had buttons. Every household had button hooks. Without them, getting dressed and undressed would have been impossible.

Even though we now have zippers, press studs (snaps) and Velcro, Belloir says that no fabric fastener in history has enhanced our attire as much as the button:

It implies a certain charm, a certain elegance.

Velvet slippers

Traditionally, a well-to-do Englishman wore velvet slippers with his smoking jacket (or, for more formal occasions, a dinner jacket).

Both items were properly strictly indoor, ‘at home’ attire. The smoking jacket served as a comfortable yet elegant item to wear for drinks and dinner. The slippers were a necessity in an era when streets were so muddy and dirty that boots and shoes had to be taken off once one walked in the door.

Although smoking jackets are still sold, velvet slippers have overtaken them in popularity, not only in England but also in the United States. The online world has any number of shops selling them.

Tatler (March 2015, pp. 90-92) has a feature on the velvet slipper, a précis of which can be found online.

The magazine tells us that thin men are best placed to wear velvet slippers. A trim ankle is de rigueur, just as trim legs are for skinny jeans. Today, the two go together (p. 92):

A clever man in jeans and a shirt and velvet slippers over supper at a house party making you think about the world slightly differently. That’s what we’re after.

So high-WASP*!

But WASPs are not the only men wearing them today. They are very popular with certain rappers and actors, such as Tinie Tempah and Kanye West (p. 91).

And a few shops now make them for women.

Historically, the velvet slipper was not an exclusively WASP footwear item. They have been popular with popes for ages. However, it was Paul VI who put an end to commissioning velvet and silk slippers in 1969 (p. 92). Paul VI requested plain red leather. Pope Francis prefers his in black leather.

A pair of velvet slippers normally costs a few hundred pounds or dollars. Because they are becoming more popular, this style of slipper is now made in other fabrics which can bring the price down accordingly. Less luxurious fabric also makes the slippers suitable for outdoor wear.

This short YouTube video shows the detailed handiwork which goes into making traditional velvet slippers for Herring Shoes in Norwich, England:

* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant

 

In February 2014, Tatler published an article on the stiff upper lip by the UK’s foremost art critic, Brian Sewell.

Sewell, to many of us Britons, is the only critic worth reading. He writes and speaks beautifully. What he does not know about classical painting, drawing and architecture isn’t worth pursuing.

I’ve read many of his columns in London’s Evening Standard and had the pleasure of hearing him give a lecture on art with a generous question and answer session. I was amazed that during this two-hour long engagement, Sewell did not take one sip of water. He was flawless, even though he was in poor health at the time.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that he wrote ‘Chin Up, Britain’ (pp. 62, 63, 143), exhorting us to embrace the stiff upper lip, which we seem to have forgotten about since August 1997, when Princess Diana died. Sadly, we became Americanised that day, in my estimation.

Sewell provided little-known facts about the stiff upper lip (p. 62):

– The term is an ‘Americanism’, dating from the early 19th century.

– It means, according to him, not betraying ‘the slightest hint of fear, funk or perturbation’.

– It signifies Fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues of Christianity. The other three are Prudence, Temperance and Justice.

– Early Christians living in Roman times and many more martyrs thereafter have employed it to endure being torn apart by animals, gladiators and other methods of torture.

– Saint Laurence was sentenced to death by being roasted alive on a spit. When he could take no more flames on his back, he asked his tormentors to turn him over.

– Learning about martyrs at school as part of Religious Education taught centuries of British children how to accept pain and suffering without showing emotion.

– Boys’ books featuring protagonists of a young age never described them as crying or weak.

Sewell deplores the decline of a once-prominent British characteristic. He attributes its decline to a long period of peace, the abolition of National Service and the lack of reading classic boys’ books for pleasure.

Tatler included a side box of nine famous Britons — ‘The Stiffest Upper Lips’ — who positively exude this quality (p. 63). I was happy to see the Duke of Edinburgh mentioned for his resilience and perfect humour during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant which sailed the Thames in June 2012. A nonagenarian and not in the best of health, he stood at the Queen’s side throughout in cold, rainy weather. I watched the entirety on television in amazement. He was taken to hospital the next day for a bladder infection, where he remained for the remainder of the festivities.

Sewell exhorts us to turn away from emotion, tears in particular (p. 143):

Excessive emotion is about us everywhere.

He describes footballers who ‘kiss and cuddle’ each other when the match is going well and ‘weep’ when it isn’t. (This is one of the reasons why I prefer rugby.)

He writes of teenagers losing their self control when they get even mediocre passing exam results.

Elsewhere:

every ordinary birth, death and marriage is the occasion for an unrestrained torrent of tears, joy indistinguishable from grief.

I have noticed that old-school Britons, men in particular, shed a tear only when their children are born and at the funerals of immediate family members. That’s it.

Sewell doubts we can recapture the stiff upper lip as a primary British characteristic. He does not think appeals to schools for proper conduct in the classroom and on the playing field will work:

… these are common times and we’d not be understood.

The only way it might return is if we as a nation find ourselves embroiled in another war.

Sadly, I think he is right. However, that doesn’t mean we should not try to do our part to display Fortitude as much as possible.

The stiff upper lip — exhibiting this Christian cardinal virtue — can and should be learned. It takes time and is well worth the effort.

In the 16th century many parts of Europe experienced an uneasy post-Reformation convergence of politics, monarchy and religion.

In England, Henry VIII’s break with Rome brought decades of unrest, violence and secrecy.

Historical background

His successor and son Edward VI appointed Archbishop Cranmer to write the first version of the Book of Common Prayer. ‘Common’ meant that everyone would worship uniformly as Protestants.

After Edward VI’s death, his half-sister Queen Mary — ‘Bloody Mary’ — sought to restore Catholicism. Dissenting Protestants who came to her attention were burnt at the stake.

After Mary’s death, her sister Elizabeth I, came to the throne and once again restored England as a Protestant country. She passed the Act of Uniformity, designed to unify England as a strong, independent nation of one religion. Those who disagreed with her were given fines or prison sentences.

Catholics secretly practised their faith during this time. The more influential among them hatched plots to bring Elizabeth I’s cousin Mary Queen of Scots to the throne in order to re-establish Roman Catholicism throughout the land. They sought the help of Bloody Mary’s widower, King Philip of Spain. Hence the attack — and Elizabeth’s sinking of — the Spanish Armada in 1588.

During this time of heightened religious tension, Elizabeth declared High Treason on any Catholic priest entering England. Any aiders and abetters were dealt with severely: prison, torture, death.

That said, a number of Jesuits sailed from continental Europe to England to lodge with prominent Catholic families or in safe houses. They supported the dissenters and provided them with spiritual comfort, Mass and the sacraments. England also had its share of Catholic priests who were lying low and seeking refuge. There were also humbler people who did not wish to renounce Catholicism and died for their faith.

Priest holes

Catholics during this time often communicated in secret code and symbols. They practised their faith discreetly and covertly.

Catholics who lived in grander circumstances built hideaways in their homes for their clergy. These are called priests holes. Historic UK describes these structures for us:

Hiding places or ‘priest’s holes’ were built in these houses in case there was a raid. Priest holes were built in fireplaces, attics and staircases and were largely constructed between the 1550s and the Catholic-led Gunpowder Plot [led by Guy Fawkes] in 1605. Sometimes other building alterations would be made at the same time as the priest’s holes so as not to arouse suspicion.

Priest Hole HUKNot surprisingly, although a few larger estates also had secret underground chapels, most priests holes were tiny. Some could only accommodate one man, others several. However, there was little space to stand or lie down. (Illustration courtesy of Historic UK.) Most occupants had to crouch for hours or days at a time. There was no sanitation and no fresh air. Food was at a minimum or non-existent.

Elizabeth’s government had priest hunters called ‘pursuivants’, the French word for ‘pursuer’. The priest hunters were very thorough in their check of suspect properties:

measuring the footprint of the house from the outside and the inside to see if they tallied; they would count the windows outside and again from the inside; they would tap on the walls to see if they were hollow and they would tear up floorboards to search underneath.

Another ploy would be for the pursuivants to pretend to leave and see if the priest would then emerge from his hiding place.

Once detected and captured, priests could expect to be imprisoned, tortured and put to death.

St Nicholas Owen

A lay brother of the Jesuits and a skilled carpenter, Nicholas Owen, built a number of priest holes. He also created a network of safe houses for priests in the 1590s. In 1597, he helped the Jesuit priest John Gerard escape from the Tower of London. After the Catholic Gunpowder Plot failed in November 1605, the authorites arrested Owen and tortured him to death in 1606. Owen was canonised in 1970, which makes him St Nicholas Owen. He is the patron saint of escapologists and illusionists.

His masterpiece of priests holes was built at Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire. The stately home housed the Jesuit Henry Garnet for 14 years:

One hiding place, just 3’ 9” high, is in the roof space above a closet off a bedroom. Another is in the corner of the kitchen where visitors to the house today can see through to the medieval drain where Father Garnet was hidden. Access to this hiding place was through the garderobe (medieval toilet) shaft in the floor of the Sacristy above. A hiding space beneath the library floor was accessed through the fireplace in the Great Parlour.

Tatler magazine had a feature on priest holes in their January 2015 issue (pp. 90-95). These hideaways still exist today in a few estates under ownership of the original Catholic families who hid priests away during this era. The photographs are fascinating.

Equally fascinating is the fact that some of the newer generations did not realise their homes had priest holes until they had structural work done in the 19th or 20th centuries.

Georgina Blackwell’s article, ‘England’s Finest Priest Holes’, profiles four of them from all over the country:

Ingatestone Hall in Ingatestone, Essex (p. 91): The Petre family have owned this estate for centuries. It has two priests holes which date from 1570. (Later generations did not discover them until 1855 and 1905. The children have since used them as spaces in which to play.) The Petres of Elizabeth I’s time harboured a Jesuit, John Payne, for several years beginning in 1576. He posed as the family’s steward but was really their chaplain. A servant betrayed Payne to the authorities. Payne was hanged, drawn and quartered at the marketplace in nearby Chelmsford in 1582. Sir William Petre, who had built the house, escaped prosecution and persecution by actually helping to dissolve the monasteries and then serve as privy counsellor to four monarchs, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. Talk about discretion being the better part of valour.

Coughton Court in Alcester, Warwickshire (p. 92): Coughton (pron. ‘Coe-ton’) Court has been home to the Throckmorton family for 600 years. It was built in the early 15th century. The aforementioned Nicholas Owen built a ‘double hide’ here. A second compartment lies hidden underneath the first. Rediscovered in 1910, it still contains the original rope ladder and bedding. The Throckmortons were among those grand families who attempted to overthrow Elizabeth I in favour of Mary of Scots. The family member who engineered it — Sir Francis Throckmorton — was beheaded. Those men involved in the Gunpowder Plot hid and amassed their ammunition here, too.

Naworth Castle in Brampton, Cumbria (p. 94): Like the Throckmortons, the Howard family also built their home in the 15th century. A family member, Lord William Howard, built a stunning priest hole which is not only roomy but also has a window. Howard was known for hanging Scots — as many as 63 in a two-year time span. The hangman’s tree is still on the estate. A notable occupant of his priest hole was a Catholic activist by the name of Nicholas Roscarrock. Roscarrock is said to have been the last man to die on the rack. Some of the Howards spent a lot of time in the Tower of London. One of them, Sir Philip Howard, spent 13 years there; he was later canonised a Catholic saint. Another ancestor, Sir Charles Howard, played the system. During the English Civil War, he renounced Catholicism and followed Cromwell. Just before the Restoration in 1660, he helped bring Charles II to the throne. For his efforts, he was made Earl of Carlisle. Although he amassed a great deal of wealth, he, unfortunately, earned it via the slave trade. For this reason, the Howards call him ‘a particularly dodgy ancestor’.

Ripley Castle in Harrogate, North Yorkshire (p. 95) – The Ingilby family (originally Ingleby until the late 18th century) did not find Ripley Castle’s priest hole until 1963. They were having the house inspected for death watch beetle and, in the process, discovered a tiny hiding place. It was large enough for a man to stay hidden, crouched down, and had just enough room for a candle and a Bible. Lady Ingilby told Tatler that priest hunters were very good at pointing swords in between floor panels to get an ‘Ouch!’. One of their ancestors is on the route to sainthood: Blessed Francis Ingleby, who was ordained in France before his return to England. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in York in 1586. Francis’s brother David was known as ‘the Fox’ and is considered to be the Catholic version of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He died undetected athough he was known to the authorities. The present day owner, Sir Thomas Ingilby, says that Elizabeth’s I spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, lived in fear of ‘the Fox’. Even later, during Cromwell’s Interregnum, the priest hole had its use. After the Royalist Sir William Ingleby returned to the house following the defeat at Marston Moor in 1644, he sequestered himself in the hideaway. Cromwell appropriated the house shortly thereafter as a billet. Whilst William hid, his sister Jane held up Cromwell at pistol point. The Ingilby family have lived at Ripley Castle since the 14th century.

Thus ends the intriguing story of priest holes. There are no doubt a few more, discovered and undiscovered, in grand houses around England.

UPDATE — September 2017: One of my readers, CherryPie, visited Harvington Hall recently. She wrote about her visit and included many interesting pictures of priest holes. Recommended reading. Many thanks, CherryPie, for sending in the link to your post.

On Monday, November 24, 2014, a three-part fly-on-the-wall documentary about Tatler magazine began on BBC2.

Originally a men’s publication — in a nice way — when it was founded in 1709, it was popular in London’s coffeehouses where wealthy, well-connected patrons could read insider scoops on politics, society and news. It was published thrice weekly until January 1711.

Although a number of bloggers dislike pseudonyms, the Irish politician and writer Richard Steele, founder of the original Tatler, wrote under the name Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire. He is thought to have been the first to popularise writing under an assumed name. This genre was known at the time as ‘characters’. Lord Shaftesbury’s Characteristics of 1711 expanded on the genre.

Pseudonymns helped Steele and his friends gather exclusives from the various coffeehouses where the great and the good met:

Steele’s idea was to publish the news and gossip heard in London coffeehouses, hence the title, and seemingly, from the opening paragraph, to leave the subject of politics to the newspapers,[2] while presenting Whiggish views and correcting middle-class manners, while instructing “these Gentlemen, for the most part being Persons of strong Zeal, and weak Intellects…what to think.” To assure complete coverage of local gossip, a reporter was placed in each of the city’s popular coffeehouses, or at least such were the datelines: accounts of manners and mores were datelined from White’s; literary notes from Will’s; notes of antiquarian interest were dated from the Grecian Coffee House; and news items from St. James’s Coffee House.

Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison also wrote articles for the journal. Addison and Steele co-founded the first incarnation of The Spectator after Tatler folded in 1711. The Spectator was in print until 1714. It would not be resurrected by another publisher until 1818. It is still in publication today.

Several equally short-lived imitations also took the name Tatler in the early 18th century.

In 1830, the English writer Leigh Hunt revived Tatler but ceased publication that same year.

In July 1901 publisher Clement Shorter relaunched Tatler. It has remained in continuous publication ever since. Initially, it was more of a social chronicle which appealed to men as well as women. Although it is certainly considered a woman’s magazine today, and only published monthly, it features at least one investigative article each issue involving well-known captains of industry or old families. It also covers a variety of social trends, such as the popularity of drugs, specifically, the damage ketamine can inflict on the bladder.

The rest of this post contains adult content.

The June 2014 issue of Tatler, featured in the BBC2 documentary, has an article about ‘flexisexuality’. Sophia Money-Coutts described the phenomenon in her article, ‘Feeling greedy? Now you can have it all’ (pp. 126-129).

The article explains that we have moved on from the 1960s sexual revolution into a new phase where sexual activity has become open and includes same-sex and ambisexual encounters (p. 128).

In one sense, this reads to me as if it were describing the swingers phenomenon of the early 1970s. Each generation thinks it has invented sex. And let’s remember that the youngsters who were letting it all hang out in the late 60s and early 70s are grandparents today. However, their grandchildren are taking what happened then one step further by normalising blurred sexual boundaries.

One 26-year old partygoer told Tatler‘s journalist that she has

had sex with three or four women … 

One encounter, she said, took place after a society wedding (p. 128). The other woman made an overture and

the sex was amazing because, you know, women understand what they’re doing with other women.

We learn why girl-on-girl flings have become popular among under-30s, including adolescents (p. 128-129):

– The personal hygiene is better.

– Women have better manners.

– Party drugs such as ketamine put one in the mood.

– Women enjoy sleeping with a beautiful woman.

– Certain supermodels are at the forefront of this trend.

– Girls at private schools have posters of supermodels on their walls and experiment with their peers.

Men are also welcome to join in now and then. One woman revealed (p. 129):

my husband’s watched both times.

For the most part, the interviewees said that they viewed their ‘sapphosexual’ encounters as a phase one goes through in one’s youth. They get married, have children and resume a normal family life by the time they reach the age of 30.

That said, Tatler found that women friends have stronger bonds than before; it’s not unusual for them to go on holiday together (p. 129).

Tatler also discovered that ‘most men’ did not object to their girlfriends or wives having a same sex fling or relationship (p. 129).

As one 22-year old said of a young bride who had an encounter with her best female friend after the wedding reception whilst the groom looked on (p. 128):

It’s not so a big deal … It’s really not a ‘thing’ if you’re our age and seeing someone [of] the same sex.

I mention this because it is a trend to watch for among young people, probably as young as secondary school age.

Parents, clergy and teachers would do well to ensure that our children understand God’s plan for us as men and women. This is given in the creation story in Genesis.

It is reinforced in the New Testament through Paul’s and Jude‘s letters. Emphases mine below.

Romans 1:18-32:

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[a] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

1 Corinthians 5:9-11:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Jude:

7 The people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns around them also did evil things. They gave themselves over to sexual sins. They committed sins of the worst possible kind. They are an example of those who are punished with fire. The fire never goes out.   (Jude 7)

24 Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy. (Jude 24)

One cannot help but wonder if children better understood the divine plan for humanity whether so much same-sex experimentation would be taking place today.

Yes, repentance is possible for past transgressions, however, better not to get involved with sin in the first place.

Most Britons as well as millions in other countries around the world have seen the final series of Blackadder which concerns itself with the Great War.

Sadly for many, Blackadder Goes Forth is the Great War. Yet, there is also the reality in which a high proportion of officers died between 1914 and 1918.

Factual comedy?

Earlier in 2014, the centenary of the First World War, the Conservatives managed to generate a large amount of undeserved negative publicity in their announcements regarding this anniversary, which begins a four-year programme of educating Britons, especially schoolchildren, about the war, with trips to battlefields on the Western Front.

Left-wingers criticised then-Education Secretary Michael Gove for blaming Blackadder Goes Forth as well as plays and films for encouraging the belief that this war was ‘futile’. He added that left-wing academics are only too happy to continue promoting this notion.

Steven Fielding from the left-wing London School of Economics downplayed the idea, saying that today’s students were not even born when Blackadder aired. Whilst that is indeed true, all the various Blackadder series have been rerun several times since then. The people who enjoyed them the first time around now have children of school age. And, once a Blackadder fan, always a Blackadder fan, so it is highly likely that these parents will have introduced their children to the programme. Furthermore, I know several conservatives who were young adults when Blackadder Goes Forth first premiered. They watched it and agree with the ‘accurate’ depiction of bumbling officers in the Great War.

Therefore, Gove was not wrong in what he said.

The BBC Magazine’s History Extra has a column about the possible worth or otherwise of using Blackadder Goes Forth as a teaching aid.

Not surprisingly, the BBC had two supporters of the show’s use — both women — and only one contribution against it — from a man.

Mark Connelly, writing against Blackadder as a teaching aid, is a professor of modern British history at the University of Kent. He says, in part (emphases mine):

Of course teachers have to engage their students, but the real problem is that – through no fault of their own – teachers cannot get it through to pupils that what they are watching is an interpretation of the war, written by someone who was not there.

I find that many of my first-year students [at the University of Kent] believe Blackadder and similar programmes were written in the trenches, and are a primary source.

I love Blackadder, but it is a reflection of a view of the First World War from the 1960s and 70s. You are seeing how [Richard] Curtis and [Ben] Elton were taught about the war.

He adds:

‘the Blackadder effect’ is still lingering – particularly in the teaching of English literature. And my concern is that we are not questioning how representative these programmes are of the millions of men who went through the British Expeditionary Force.

He’s right. This manner of teaching is also no doubt responsible for the aforementioned conservatives I know who also think that Blackadder is funny but factual.

It is the same in the United States; I remember our study of the War Poets was distinctly left-wing. History class was better, although, being an avid reader, I read a lot of op-ed pieces about the futility of the First World War which shocked my parents and grandmother, a die-hard blue-dog Democrat. Two of her brothers were ready for call-up, and one of them did a brief tour in the United States Navy prior to armistice.

We need to be careful in how we handle information and perspectives about the Great War.

The truth about officers in the Great War

Tatler ran a short series remembering the Great War this year. Families and friends sent copies of the society magazine to Army officers serving on the Front. A goodly amount of the content at that time concentrated on the war effort — what socialites were doing to help — and featured upbeat articles or illustrations which boosted morale. Officers passed older issues of the magazine along to their troops, who also enjoyed reading them.

The June 2014 issue (p. 167-172) has interesting articles from descendants of officers who recently toured the battlefields and described their experiences as well as their ancestors.

Rhydian Vaughan, who owns a travel company offering tours of the Western Front, wrote a piece entitled ‘Officers & Gentlemen’ (p. 168). He makes this observation:

The higher social and political classes were hit disproportionately hard by the Great War. Their sons provided the young officers who led the way over the top and whose life expectancy was measured in weeks. Roughly 12 per cent of the British Army’s other ranks were killed in the war, compared to 17 per cent of the officers.

Historian Dan Snow says the same in an online debate, ‘Lions and donkeys: Dan Snow’s 10 myths about World War One debunked by No Glory’ for the No Glory in War site. (I leave it up to you whether what he says is truly ‘debunked’.) Snow says:

Eton alone lost more than 1,000 former pupils – 20% of those who served. UK wartime Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son, while future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law lost two. Anthony Eden lost two brothers, another brother of his was terribly wounded and an uncle was captured.

This is because officers (so-called ‘donkeys’) led their soldiers (‘lions’) into battle. They didn’t spend their days sitting around drinking cups of tea and reading Tatler!

So, how did we get this ‘lions led by donkeys’ saying?

Snow gives us an important explanation about the style of military leadership as well as the new technological challenges which officers had to anticipate:

This saying was supposed to have come from senior German commanders describing brave British soldiers led by incompetent old toffs from their chateaux. In fact the incident was made up by historian Alan Clark [an upper-class Conservative MP]. During the war more than 200 generals were killed, wounded or captured. Most visited the front lines every day. In battle they were considerably closer to the action than generals are today. Naturally, some generals were not up to the job, but others were brilliant, such as Arthur Currie, a middle-class Canadian failed insurance broker and property developer. Rarely in history have commanders had to adapt to a more radically different technological environment. British commanders had been trained to fight small colonial wars, now they were thrust into a massive industrial struggle unlike anything the British army had ever seen. Despite this, within three years the British had effectively invented a method of warfare still recognisable today. By the summer of 1918 the British army was probably at its best ever and it inflicted crushing defeats on the Germans.

This divide between officer and soldier is not as black and white as we portray it today. A bit more investigation would help to dispel the myths we have heard and, perhaps, perpetuated over the past 60 years.

Until a few weeks ago, I was under the impression that ketamine was a lesser ‘party’ drug.

However, an article in the October 2014 issue of Tatler put paid to that notion.

Ketamine is far from harmless.

Some recreational users turn into addicts who end up losing their jobs and friends. An increasing number of habitual users have also permanently ruined their bladders, stomachs and muscles.

In 2014, the UK government reclassified ketamine to a class B controlled drug. Possession now carries the risk of a five-year prison term and unlimited fine.  (The government had declared ketamine illegal in 2006, declaring it a class C substance.)

The Tatler article explains more, both from a clinical and personal perspective. What follows is taken from ‘Ketamine: Only for Fools and Horses’ by Sophia Money-Coutts (pp. 111-116). I was shocked by what I read.

Background information

Why ketamine? It’s cheap (£15-£20 per gram), relaxes the user from a cocaine or MDMA high, makes him giggly and is a hallucinogenic (pp. 111-112).

Any legitimate uses? Ketamine was invented in 1962 in the United States for use as an anaesthetic for animals and humans. It is best known as a ‘horse tranquilliser’. It is still used clinically on humans. Vietnam War medics used it on injured troops; it is a powerful, fast-acting anaesthetic which can suppress pain without affecting vital functions (p. 112).

How did it become recreational? After the Vietnam War ended, psychiatrists began examining the hallucinogenic side of ketamine. It became a party drug in the 1990s and went mainstream after the Millennium. Max Daly, author of Narcomania: How Britain Got Hooked on Drugs calls it ‘the modern LSD’ (p. 112).

Early anecdote? In 1978, Sheraton Hotels heiress Marcia Moore published a book called Journeys into the Bright World in which she wrote that the world would be a ‘Garden of Eden’ if only government leaders and captains of industry took this ‘love medicine’. In 1979, she mysteriously disappeared from her California home. In 1981, her skeleton was found in a nearby forest. It is thought that Moore climbed a tree, took ketamine, lost consciousness and fell to her death (p. 112).

What’s it like? In addition to hallucinations and giggling, the user also experiences floating sensations and numbness. It is difficult to walk straight and a strong enough dose may result in drooling and slurred speech. Mandy Saligari of Charter Harley Street, a rehab clinic, describes the K-hole state after a large dose as the relaxed state one experiences when lying comfortably in bed — with an added hallucinogenic edge (p. 112). Users might wander the streets in a daze. Max Daly warns that ketamine is ‘dissociative’: one can stare at a bed without knowing what it is for (p. 114).

Recent deaths? In 2014, ketamine was attributed to two deaths: that of a 15-year old Londoner and a 26-year old Glastonbury festival goer. In 2013, an 18-year old girl died after taking ketamine at a music festival in Winchester (p. 114).

When do users start? Mandy Saligari, who tours schools giving talks about drugs, says that users are getting younger with an increasing number starting at age 14 or 15. She adds that they are ‘confident’ that they will suffer no negative side-effects (p. 112) However, many more young people begin taking the drug at university, including students who had no prior drug history (p. 114). No doubt ketamine is presented by their peers as being a harmless weekend drug.

One woman’s ketamine story

The Tatler feature ended with an anonymous first-person account (pp. 114-116) by a young woman who began using ketamine at university, where she lived with five friends of hers.

She had no previous drug history, although she did get into trouble at boarding school for drinking.

She was attracted to ketamine because it was cheap. A £20 gram sufficed for an evening out with friends.

Within a few months she began taking ketamine several times a week: a small quantity for a buzz or a larger one for a K-hole with its hallucinations. She described her K-hole experiences as ‘euphoric’ and, even though they lasted only a half hour, she said she discovered she ‘liked getting totally out of my mind’.

Later, she wanted more of an escape. Near the end of her first year at university, she mixed ketamine with valium, coke and MDMA. She passed out. Panicked, her friends rang her parents. She woke up three days later in a rehab clinic, where she stayed for a month.

Only 19 at the time — 2008 — and attending the clinic’s outpatient programme, she resumed drinking and taking ketamine in her flat with the curtains closed. She no longer saw the point in living. Her counsellor suggested going to South Africa to cure the addiction once and for all.

This woman spent three years in a South African rehab centre. She returned to London in 2011 to reconnect with friends and to find a job.

Now 26, she works for an estate agent. She still goes out with her friends but restricts herself to a drink or two. She knows of only one friend who hasn’t taken drugs: ‘Lucky her’.

Warnings to parents

Two people in the know warn parents about the effects that K-holes can have on users (p. 114).

Mandy Saligari of Charter Harley Street urges parents to talk to their children about the dangers of ketamine. She mentions the ‘heartbreaking’ YouTube videos of ketamine users ‘wandering around off their heads’.

Max Daly, author of Narcomania: How Britain Got Hooked on Drugs, says that parents should be ‘really worried’ if their children start taking ketamine, ‘much more so than if they’d taken cocaine’.

Bladder, stomach and muscular damage

The thing that really shocked me was reading that ketamine may cause irreversible bladder and stomach damage.

In fact, the article begins by talking about users in their 20s who are incontinent. British urologists are seeing more and more cases of ketamine users with serious — sometimes permanent — bladder disorders. Some of them are only teenagers (p. 111)!

Users with stomach damage are bent over, holding their gut because of the pain (p. 112). This is known as K-cramp.

Dan Wood, a urologist at University College London Hospitals, said that ketamine is toxic to the bladder lining: ‘it works like paint stripper’ (p. 112).

Urologists held a conference in 2013 — K-Day — to discuss the phenomenon. In some cases, they need to reconstruct a ketamine user’s bladder from bowel tissue — then attach a catheter (p. 112). This is no temporary measure. This is for life.

Other users with bladder problems might need to wear incontinence pants or pads (p. 111). Some might recover, provided they stop using ketamine. For others, however, it will be too late.

Another serious side-effect of extended ketamine use is muscular damage. The drug can stiffen and damage muscles over time. One parent was horrified that his son couldn’t stop ‘walking like a chicken’ (p. 112).

Tomorrow’s post will have more from ketamine users and urologists.

Ketamine is not to be taken lightly or dismissed simply as a horse tranquilliser which is safe for humans. The highs are short and their effect can last a lifetime.

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading the entirety of Tatler‘s 2013 guide to public (private) and prep schools in the UK.

More on that later.

For now, this is what one Catholic headmistress said about advising her students on faith:

We take it seriously but wear it lightly.

How refreshing for a change to read a common-sense, pragmatic — and, best of all, traditional — approach to Christianity.

The July 2013 issue of Tatler has a survey about drugs.

‘Drugs: the terrible truth’ (pp 116-119) is based on the findings of 100 public (exclusive private) school alumni aged 18 to 40.

The findings:

– Around 80% of public school graduates in their 20s take some form of drug, often controlled substances (p. 117).

– The cannabis smoked today is not the same as in the 1980s or earlier. Today’s skunk — ‘hallucinogen-soaked, hydroponically farmed’ — is responsible for most of the casualties of schizophrenia and psychosis in younger adults, from older adolescents to those in their 30s (p. 117).

– More young men than women gravitate towards skunk. Smoking eight or nine joints a day can harm mental health and inhibit memory. One young man who works for a hedgefund had to stop smoking once he realised he couldn’t memorise a string of numbers. On the other hand, one 19-year old said that those who end up damaged by skunk ‘were usually a bit odd to begin with’. Lesson: don’t aggravate an already precarious state of health (p. 117).

Ketamine (horse tranquiliser) is the big drug for adolescents. One 18-year old described it as ‘GCSE juice’. K sells for £20. Those with a bit more pocket money can buy cocaine (£60 – £100, depending on quality) and combine it with K. This mix is known as CK. A 26-year old says of CK, ‘Your limbs aren’t really working and you have lost a lot of motor skills, but you are really hyper and awake’, something he says many users enjoy (p. 118).

K is the drug of choice for those between 18 and 21 at nightclubs, birthday parties and private parties. One student said that snorting too much K will make you lie on the floor ‘thinking you are flying around Mars. Although it might be a very profound experience for you, you will be quite a horrible thing to behold, because looking like you are unconscious-dead can bum a lot of people out‘ (p. 118).

Ritalin is another popular teen drug. One student said, ‘I have an Asperger’s friend who sells it to me’ (p. 118).

Summer music festival goers rely on ‘hug drugs’ — ecstasy (£10) and MDMA (purer ecstasy, £40 a gram). MDMA users dip a finger in the powder and lick it (p. 118). Valium or Xanax are used to ensure a few hours’ sleep at night (p. 119).

Those surveyed expressed ambivalence towards cocaine, although they acknowledged that the boy with the phial is the one who pulls the girls. Cocaine is now known as ‘gak’. One person who objects to it said ‘it’s not mind-expanding’ (p. 118).

‘Postcode drugs’ are those with chemical formula names, e.g. 2C-T-7. They come from China. Tatler describes them as ‘trippier than MDMA but less hallucinogenic than acid, so you can still dance’ (p. 118).

By the end of the summer, one 27-year old said, most users were broke and ‘on antidepressants by September — no money or serotonin left’ (p. 119).

– Then there is the Famous Five — cocaine, weed, MDMA, K and pills. One woman said she once took them and ended up in an ambulance: ‘Racing heart, flashing lights, stomach pains — I collapsed. I just don’t have the constitution and I’m so grateful for that’ (p. 119).

– The average first age of drug experimentation is 15 years, four months (p. 118).

Only 12% of those surveyed (18 – 40 year olds) have never taken a drug (p. 118).

 

 

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