A century ago the rulers of Europe sent a generation off to die. This week they put on their solemnest faces to remind us they’d do it again in an instant.
Like the First World War, the ceremonies saw all classes of society play their role. Manual labourers, street peddlars and domestic servants filled up the tombs. And royals and politicians made speeches about sacrifice.
Focusing on the start of the war allowed them talk about the “pals” who signed up voluntarily, and not mention those forced by conscription. One street in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, got a shiny blue plaque to compensate for its 29 dead residents.
After congratulating them on their patriotism, even the BBC’s official experts had to admit that they had other reasons for signing up. Such as desperately trying to escape overcrowded slums and dangerous jobs and “get three square meals a day”.
Royal correspondents ran commentary on duchess Kate’s etiquette in Belgium, while local journalists looked at a host of new memorials.
Most successful were those abstract enough to please everyone, from ceramic poppies to cement flames. The view from the trenches was less sanitised. Newly released works by war poet Siegfried Sassoon drip with revulsion and fury at the officers and warmongers.
The First World War was among the bloodiest crimes in our rulers’ bloody history. The only respectful way to remember the dead is to keep alive the rage against those who sent them to die.
Rupert Murdoch is moving his media empire’s British base from Wapping to a more modern new office in London Bridge. One advertising director boasts, “People can’t believe it’s News UK—they think it’s Google!”
No doubt this will help them move on from the hacking scandal. Who would ever worry about a firm that looked like Google spying on them?
Blair’s still PM in his ‘weird’ little empire
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is a “puzzling and frankly weird” charity with “ritzy offices in a West End tower block”, says its former web editor.
Martin Bright said he spent “huge amounts of time ensuring the website didn’t embarrass Blair”.
The Foundation is just one of a web of organisations set up by Blair since he left office.
He’s also busy helping push through a gas pipeline to Italy in the face of local opposition. And despite being “Peace Envoy” to the Middle East while Gaza burns, he still found time to organise a lavish celebrity party.
Bright said, “We tiptoed around Blair’s business interests in Kazakhstan, Romania and the Gulf. Stories that he might be advising the new government of Egypt were a nightmare.”
He also said he was given a dressing down when he challenged the Foundation’s use of unpaid interns.
The organisation certainly has enough cash to pander to Blair’s ego—from a ministerial style red briefcase to a team of spin doctors and advisers.
The rent is being slashed by over £1,000 a year for Tory millionaires David Cameron and George Osborne.
Osborne’s bill is to be more than halved to £23 a week, and Cameron’s cut to £35 thanks to a change in the tax rules. The average rent in London is about £320 a week, according to one recent survey.
Our schools are in safe hands. Sort of.
One of Britain’s biggest foxes has been put in charge of the henhouse by new Tory education secretary Nicky Morgan.
She appointed David Hoare, a trustee of Britain’s largest academy chain AET, as the new head of schools inspector Ofsted last week.
In a curious coincidence, it was also last week that Ofsted had been set to publish a report on five AET schools. It had slammed them for “unacceptable standards” last year.
Still, at least Hoare won’t be bogged down with any troublesome baggage like having set foot in a state school.
After a private education he went on to become an executive for Esso, Virgin Express, Laura Ashley and mail company DX group.
But insiders believe Hoare was chosen to be less controversial than the favourite for the job—millionaire Tory donor and Carphone Warehouse boss David Ross.
Is Tory chair in for a Shapp on the wrist?
How does Tory chair Grant Shapps pay for his election campaigns?
One big help is £140,000 from the Hatfield Conservative Club, which has been fined £3,000 for failing to reveal its accounts.
Shapps distanced himself, saying “that’s a club, not my association.”
But the club rents part of the local Tory association’s building, and makes all its members pay it a standing order.
It is run by senior local Tories and generates a “significant part” of the association’s income.
Penthouses that work for everyone
Developers aren’t letting requirements to build a token number of housing association homes stop them milking the London property bubble.
At Redrow-built tower One Commercial Street, social tenants must use a seperate “poor door”.
Would-be buyers of flats worth up to £4.5 million are reassured that it “has been designed so there’s no interaction.
“They have a seperate entrance round the corner. You won’t even see them.”
George Osborne visited the site last year, and said it was “how we will build a recovery that works for everyone”.
THE THINGS THEY SAY...
‘I’ve had people crying their eyes out and saying they are going to commit suicide’
A Capita call centre worker on telling claimants they will lose Disability Living Allowance
‘I am having to lie on a daily basis about why things are taking so long’
The worker on telling people they could have to wait a year before getting its replacement
‘There are lots of ways you can look like you are obsessed with politics and not having children is one of them’
A Tory in Downing Street says Theresa May can’t lead the party as she is not a mother
‘I get a lot of stick from the other students. They call Ukip fascist, racist, xenophobic.It gets tiring defending my case, so I’ve stopped really bothering’
Jake Anthony Painter at the launch of Ukip’s youth wing Young Independence last week