Thursday, August 31, 2006


Some rather grainy footage of Larwood bowling and Oldfield getting hit. Note that the bodyline field is not in place.

There you are.

The art of swing bowling

Before the Reptile realised that right arm medium pace bowlers are ten a penny in club cricket, he used to purvey precisely that action. With a short run up, whippy arm action and a bit of luck, I used to be able to swing the ball round corners, but only ever out. The reasons for this were entirely in my action: wrist position, left arm and so on. Armed with this experience I can tell you that most of the opinions regarding the ball-tampering saga are nonsense.

Take this article by Saad Shafqat, in which he says, basically, that to call it reverse swing is to be part of a western imperialist hegemony - suggesting that 'normal' swing is only present in English conditions. The fallacy about reverse swing is two fold. The first is that it is "just another sort of swing bowling" the second is that if England could do it last year, it means that any accusation of ball-tampering against Pakistan in racist.

Reverse swing can normally only happen if three factors are present. The ball must be scuffed on one side, and maintained on the other; the ball must be absolutely dry; and the bowler must be bowling at 90 mph+. If any of these three is absent the ball should not naturally reverse (that's why I never got it to, natch). If reverse swing does happen with a medium pacer, the condition of the ball has to be extreme. If it happens on a wet outfield, a similar suspicion is aroused. When these circumstances are combined the ball, if pitched up, will swing sharply, late and the opposite direction to what the batsman is expecting.

Last summer in the Ashes three of the England bowlers were proficient at reverse swing: Jones, Harmison and Flintoff, with Jones and Flintoff being markedly the best. The Australians enjoyed sporadic success with Brett Lee and later Shaun Tait, but no-one else.

The reason Jones and Flintoff regularly got the ball to go was that they bowled a consistently fuller length than Harmison or Lee. The other bowlers, McGrath, Kasprowicz and Hoggard, were simply too slow to reverse the ball. This largely explains why England were better able to exploit reverse swing than Australia. There is another point. Last summer was mainly hot and dry, with abrasive outfields and hard pitches: the ideal conditions for reverse swing. There were two exceptions: Trent Bridge and the Oval, where damp conditions dominated. In each of these games reverse swing was nullified. In the first Hoggard got wickes with conventional swing; at the OVal Flintoff bounced the Aussies out.

The suspicions about the Pakistanis is that they get reverse swing in conditions that do not quite stack up to the above equation. In the first innings at the Oval, Mohhamed Asif, who bowls mid 80s, started to swing the old ball prodigiously on a grey day with a damp outfield. It was this that alerted officials, and the hasty decision in the second innings was arguably incited by the behaviour of the ball in the first.

Put simply, reverse swing is a natural but limited phenomenon that should only be seen in extremely limited circumstances. These circumstances can be mimicked very effectively by the act of ball tampering, and it is not surprising that, if reverse swing should appear in unlikely conditions, ball tampering will be the assumption of many. And for God's sake don't tell me that's an imperialist approach. Empirical maybe, but not imperial.

What matters

With regard to my post below, there is another thing that does concern me. For all the hooh-hah that can be kicked up about Africa, for all the accusations of Western Imperialism; of African corruption; of creeping Islamism, the elephant in the room remains. People do notice it, they wear little red ribbons to show how much they care about it, but achingly little is done.

When I was in Zambia a few years ago I used to make occasional visits to an orphanage to play football with the kids (all the staff were nuns, so they didn't get much contact with men). In a country of 10-11 million there were an estimated 2 million orphans, the overwhelming majority through AIDS. Most heartbreaking of all are the infected AIDS orphans: born to a life of no hope and little but misery. This piece by Karen Little, a South African doctor, really gets to the pathos of the whole thing.

Cameron and South Africa

I have every sympathy for David Cameron in his efforts to re-invent the Conservative Party. I think it's best to look at his visit to South Africa, his photo-op with Nelson Mandela and his repudiaton of Thatcherite policy on sanctions in this light. On their merits, however, I'm not so sure. The two specific approaches DC now believes were wrong are the description of the ANC as 'terrorists' and the British opposition to sanctions. James Cleverly offers a nuanced opinion on both these aspects, disagreeing with the ANC-terrorist term but finding some merit in the influence British policiy maintained in South Africa.

The first thing to say is that the ANC was a terrorist organisation - or at least was the political wing of a terrorist organisation. It's relationship with Umkhonto we Sizwe was analagous with that between Sinn Fein and the IRA. That MK was terrorist seems hardly open to question.

In the Amanzimtoti bomb on the Natal South Coast in 1985, five people were killed and 40 were injured. A bomb was detonated in a bar on the Durban beach-front in 1986, killing three persons and injuring 69. In 1987, an explosion outside a Johannesburg court killed three people and injured 10; a court in Newcastle had been attacked in a similar way the previous year, injuring 24. In 1987, a bomb exploded at a military command centre in Johannesburg, killing one person and injuring 68 military or civilian personnel.

The bombing campaign continued with attacks on a series of soft targets, including a bank in Roodepoort in 1988, which four were killed and 18 injured. Also in 1988, in a bomb detonation outside a magistrate’s court killed three. At the Ellis Park rugby stadium in Johannesburg, a car bomb, killed two and injured 37. A multitude of bombs in “Wimpy Bar” fast food outlets and supermarkets occurred during the late 1980s, killing and wounding many people.

In most of these events, most of the victims were civilians, and of all races. Several other bombings occurred, with smaller numbers of casualties. Along with these mainly urban bombings, there was a campaign, from 1985 to 1987, in the rural areas of the Northern and Eastern Transvaal, aimed at the farming and rural communities. There were about 23 deaths, a few being white, farming families, but mainly black labourers. These data were obtained from the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1999).

Whatever the merits of their argument, these are the acts of a terrorist organisation. Thatcher was thus right to describe it as such. The distinction between ANC and MK is so slight as to be meaningless. We can look back at Nelson Mandela and believe that any party which boasted him as a member could not have been terrorist in character, but we should not ignore and re-invent the past.

With regard to sanctions, the arguments against them are well known and well rehearsed. They impact disproportionately on the poorest of the society; they discourage internationalism and promote a laager mentality; they force domestic industry to become more efficient; they unite a country behind its leaders. All of these arguments are considered valid by opponents of Iranian sanctions - the fact that these are often the same people who called for South African sanctions is informative. It is also true that the FW de Klerk Foundation's study found that sanctions had very little impact on the end of apartheid.

It is easy today to look at the modern South Africa and decry any who were less than whole-hearted in their support of the ANC. We should, however, avoid when possible the practice of viewing the past solely through today's lense.

Friday, August 25, 2006

England's best captain

In view of the current little furore, a little historical trip might seem appropriate here. Michael Vaughan won many plaudits for his relaxed, cool and analytical captaincy in the Ashes victory last summer. He followed a man so highly strung that he vibrated in light breezes, yet undoubtedly made England a harder team to beat. Yet in my opinion the title of the best ever captain to pull on an England jersey has to go to Douglas Jardine, possibly the most unpopular Englishman in Australia ever (though Clive Woodward might run him close).

Why so good? Because he saw an inherent problem for his bowlers (an LBW was impossible then in the ball was pitched outside off-stump - a huge advantage for the batsman) coupled with a specific problem: the brilliance of Don Bradman. Since in Australia the ball swung only for the first hour, it often meant that bowlers were little more than cannon-fodder. Jardine formulated a plan that was designed to combat both these problems.

The idea of leg-theory (as illustrated here) was that fast bowling rising chest-head high left a batsman with three options: to hook, to fend or to duck. As can be seen, six fielders fielded close in on the leg side ("the leg-trap") with another close on the off-side. The remaining two were placed at long leg and deep backward square for an aerial hook shot. Two of the three options were thus made very risky, while the third, the duck, removed the possibility of scoring runs. Beautiful, provided you had the bowlers to carry it out.

The reaction to bodyline was staggering. The first two tests were shared, and it was only in the third Test that the fuss really started. The Australian crowd in Adelaide were incensed at the tactics, but their fury was slightly misdirected. The famous injuries that happened here, to the Australian captain Woodfull, and the keeper Oldfield, both ocurred under normal fields, and were simply the result of the batsman missing the ball, or top-edging it. The question as to why the Australian batsman were hit so often during this series is only partly explicable by the tactics: it is clear that they had developed some very curious techniques. Look at this:

Ponsford was cracked on the hand by Voce and ripped his gloves off in agony. Next ball he swayed out of the way of what he thought would be another bullet aimed at his body, only to see the ball smash into his leg stump.

Larwood hit Woodfull between the shoulderblades, causing a delay as he recovered.

Larwood bowled Bradman, stepping back to leg to cut a ball pitched on leg stump

Ponsford's chosen method of dealing with Bodyline was to turn his back to balls aimed at him, and take the blows on his rump and back. He was thus struck at least a dozen times.

It's hardly surprising they found Larwood a handful: they weren't even watching the ball. If you look at the picture you will see that Larwood is bowling over the wicket. To get hit between the shoulder blades by a bowler bowling over the wicket, you have to have completely turned your back on the ball, not a pose to be found in the manuals.

Bodyline was an intellectual response to an intellectual problem. England and Australia each had one overwhelming strength. England had fast-bowling; Australia had Bradman. England adapted their tactics to deal with their opponents', Australia either could not or would not. It's a bit ironic, given that Aussies love to refer to us as whingeing Poms: it's been 74 years since bodyline, and they're still going on about it!

(Refs from this site)

Can some one explain?

Afghanistan is overwhelmingly the world's largest grower of opium poppy. Since the deposal of the Taliban, a short lived slump in production has been bountifully reversed. Some 95% of the heroin in Britain originates from Afghanistan. What can we do about this?

Most coalition attmepts to resove this problem have failed. This is to an extent understandable, Opium is a cash crop, with great retail value and is relatively easy to transport. Attempts to make Afghan farmers grow tomatoes or maize are never going to be likely to succeed. Nor are plans to buy and destroy the crops - we could never afford to out-price drug cartels, and it would be a fantastic waste of money. The Taliban's solution - killing/limb amputation - seems a bit drastic even by NATO standards.

So what do we do? Well, can anyone tell me why this wouldn't work? At present the world's largest producer of legal opiates is the Australian state of Tasmania. Poppy grown there is refined into morphine and medical heroin. The largest developer is Glaxo-Smith-Kline. Equally importantly, in the developing world there is a severe shortage of analgesics. When I was in Africa the state of public hospitals was deplorable, with every basic drug usually unavailable. In this context, it is clear that there is space in the global market for greater production of opiates.

How could it be more expensive or less productive for the coalition forces in Afghanistan to introduce a legal market in opiates in Afghanistan, bringing in private sector expertise (and even capital) to assist in the transformation of a criminal industry into a medical one? It would, of course be a difficult, expensive and lengthy project, but at least it would offer the Afghan farmers money for their poppy, rather than less valuable incentives not to grow it.

I really would welcome reasons why this wouldn't work - or at least would work even less well than current policy.

The role of the media in wartime

I've tried to avoid commenting on the Israel-Lebanon crisis, largely because I considered the entire situation to be rather too nuanced for a typical Reptile post. As a natural Israeli-supporter I was troubled by the stated aims of the Israelis, and concerned that their tactics and strategy didn't seem to mesh. What was the point of a prolonged destruction of infrastructure if not to prevent Hezbollah being re-supplied during the conflict? What was the point of that if not to enable a large-scale infantry assault on Hezbollah fighters?

By agreeing to the ceasefire when they did Israel forfeited the opportunity to attempt a ground-level demolition of Hezbollah, while having already attracted world opprobrium for its bombing tactics. I can certainly see the merit of an argument that says such disapproval was a valid price for a successful campaign, but that is palpably not what happened.

That said, there is an unambiguous lesson to be learned here. That Hezbollah made a concerted attempt to subvert media coverage to gain sympathy for their cause, and that the world media were heavily complicit in allowing this to happen. We have Green Helmet Guy - arch manipulator of the Qana bombing; we have the world's unluckiest home-owner - owner of at least five houses in Beirut; we have the blowing up of an Israeli warship - actually a decommissioned Australian destroyer; we have the curious case of the Red Cross ambulance - comprehensively debunked now.

The doctored Reuters photos were, in and of themselves, not hugely significant. It really doesn't matter whether the smoke cloud over Beirut is big or really big. What does matter is that the press in this war have either systematically been played for idiots by Islamic terrorists, or have actually been complicit in propagandising for them. Maybe the problem is that when a story comes along that neatly confirms all you own prejudices, you look at it with less scepticism than otherwise. Maybe it is simply that all reporters would sell their own grandmothers for a story, and Hezbollah became very good at creating or embellishing them. Damn disturbing either way.


Prozac, the anxiety drug, works partly simply by being a muscle relaxant. Since the body is no longer tense, the brain decides that it must no longer be stressed. Repeating to oneself a message can be self-affirming - think of Steve Coogan as the salesman looking himself in the mirror "You're a tiger!"

Similarly the constant repetition of a theory or message often has the effect of making it a 'fact' rather than an opinion. For a classic example, look at the way Labour constantly sais "18 disastrous Tory years" to cover a generation of general growth and prosperity marred by two recessions. The constant repetition of this mantra had the effect of fixing the principle as 'fact'. Today in the Guardian Richard Adams reveals another of the left's favourite gambits.

Has nearly 10 years of Blairism changed the nation's psyche? While more than a decades-worth of Thatcherism is attributed with increases in greed and consumerism, as well as a shift from the collective to the individual evidenced by Margaret Thatcher's "no such thing as society" attitude, what will the legacy of Tony Blair be?

Two examples here of what might charitably be called intellectual shorthand. First the idea that British society was radically made more selfish by Thatcherite policies. It's a nice assertion to make as, lacking a 'selfishness quotient' it's impossible to prove or disprove. Anecdotal evidece is always used, with the telling argument being a speech made in an American film about traders. It fails my personal bullshit meter, but I have no real way of disproving it, short of - shudder - going off and doing shedloads of research.

The second is one of my favourites, the "no such thing as society" meme. Perhaps the most widely misquoted quotation of all (or maybe second behind "play it again Sam") it is used to demonstrate the rampant individualism and selfishness of Thatcher without recognising that the point of the line was that 'society' is an abstract and not a concrete concept.

The rest of the article, incidentally, is pretty unremarkable, although there's a classic "well duh" moment.

Interestingly, a strong majority of Labour voters agree that they and their family are now better off than in 1997 - 67%, compared with 31% of Tories and 39% of Lib Dem supporters.

That must surely be a co-incidence eh? Nothing to do with the mass expansion of the Labour client state at the expense of the productive sector?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

IHT - draw the sting

Since Stephen Byers popped his head over the parapet to launch his ranging attack on Gordon Brown by suggesting that Inheritance tax should be scrapped, the usual supects have waxed vociferously, from la Toynbee to Chris, saying that IHt is a fair, redistributive tax and should be left alone.

As a conservative I disagree, seeing the 'cascade of wealth through the generations' as a noble aim in itself. However, the politics of scrapping IHT are tricky, since it can easily be presented as a tax cut for the rich. One major problem with IHT is that as house prices soar, more and more families are coming into the band liable to pay it. As in th past, the seriously rich can find ways around the tax altogether, leaving the only ones compelled to pay it those of middle income.

So, to draw the sting from the issue altogether, by solving the problem of fiscal drag, as well as the issue of one over-large asset, the Conservatives should propose to waive IHT on primary dwellings. This exemption is already in place for other taxes (CGT on sale for example) and would at a stroke take the majority of estates out of the band, without it being easy to slur it as a tax cut for the rich. Easy really.

Desperate men

Neal Lawson draws attention to a rough and ready band of desperados, willing to do anything in defence of their ideals: the new A-team for the 21st century. Who else can it be but the Taxpayers' Alliance? A renegade bunch of free marketeers, having broken from Government service, guns for hire...

More on Pakistan

While I stand by my statement that Pakistan's behaviour which ended the fourth Test was over the top and absurdly touchy, I would, however, like also to point out that, under Inzamam, their standing as a team has improved immeasurably. Relations between the team, historically awful, have been excellent on this tour. Bob Woolmer undoubetdly has a good deal to do with this, but in my view the ultimate credit rests with the magisterial Inzamam, as well the much more laid back nature of this England team.

When Danish Kaneria did his exaggerated chicken dance on dismissing Kevin Pieterson (a reference to the Pieterson strut apparently) some England teams of the past would have taken this as a serious slight, an insult to be avenged. This time it was laughed off. There has been much less sledging, much more smiling and no incidents of note between the teams. To realise how much of an achievement this is, look back at previous tours. While ball-tampering is a constant thread, it is by no means the worst thing to have happened. In 1992, the famous ball-tampering tour, Aquib Javed perpetrated just about the worst act I have ever seen in cricket.

Incensed that Devon Malcolm, how could barely see 22 yards anyway, had the efrontery to be batting at all, Javed sent down a succession of bouncers, one of which hit Devon and the rest missed by chance rather than design. Ken Palmer, the umpire, warned Javed for intimidatory bowling, in effect telling him to pitch the ball up. Javed responded by running through the crease (ie bowled a deliberate no-ball off 18 yards) and bowling another bouncer aimed down the legside at the retreating Malcolm.

It is a testament to the captaincy of Inzy that such an event is very difficult to imagine in today's Pakistan side.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pakistan, ball-tampering and Darrell Hair

The chaotic shambles of the fourth Test match at the Oval has been a disaster for cricket as a whole and for Pakistan in particular. Most of the opprobrium seems to have been directed at Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire who famously no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan in Sydney. By changing the ball mid-innings and awarding England five penalty runs, Hair implicitly accused the Pakistan team of tampering with the ball - cheating. Yet by subsequently charging only Inzamam-ul-Haq, the skipper, Hair has conceded that he cannot prove who tampered with the ball.

All these rules have been the subject of exhaustive scrutiny, yet most people are missing the point. The decision was made after 1992, when Pakistan again were the culprits, to make ball-tampering an issue that the umpires could deal with swiftly and non-controversially on-pitch in order to avoid the lengthy delays, arguments and legal shenanigans that the old system brought up. When Hair saw that the state of the ball had materially altered in the fifteen minutes since he had last seen it, he had two choices: to follow the laws of the game and substitute the ball for another of similar quality, or to ignore his suspicions, and thus the laws of the game and do nothing.

Hair may well have been wrong to conclude that the ball had been tampered with, though Doctrove seems to have agreed with him. But the laws emphatically state that it is the opinion of the umpire that matters. Once that decision was made, that was that. In the hearing after the match, the question of the absolute validity of the decision could have been decided, if Pakistan decided to appeal the case. When the BBC witter on about the fact that no individual player is accused, therefore Hair can't prove tampering, they are missing the point: Hair decided that the ball had been tampered with, the question of who had done it was not material at that point.

The walk-out by Pakistan was a gross over-reaction. Once Pakistan failed to appear after tea, and continued to remain in the pavilion after being warned of the consequences, there really was only one choice for the umpires: the rules are very clear indeed. Pakistan say they have an issue with Hair, shrill voices in the Guardian call him racist, but no team can have a veto on who officiates. It is undeniable that Hair could and should have shown more tact; but surely he can hardly be expected to have foreseen that an international team would behave like a bunch of spoiled children?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Warmington's finest

I find this inexpressibly pleasing. I am also aware that I am well behind the curve on this one, but I've been away OK?

Street protests

Via Laban, a less than heart-warming tale of demonstrations. To be honest, when I was up, a girl wandering around in an Israeli flag would almost certainly have caused more vocal reaction than she seems to have attracted. But then Oxford has always been a town that attracts demonstrators for leftist causes. Once I was accosted by a smallish group of them (the beards made me think they were probably from Wadham, but this may be a gross slur) and commanded to sign a petition denouncing the involvement of Wafic Said, the arms dealer/philanthropist, in the new Ocford Business School.

It was my response that first made me aware that it was probably time I left Oxford and moved on. "I won't sign that bollocks," I said: "if it wasn't for the Medicis, there'd be no Florence." Few people, I suspect, can look back at their undergraduate days without some sort of shudder, but Jesus Christ...

How not to run an economy

As regular readers of this blog will know (if there are any of you left after so prolonged an absence) the Reptile was once a student of economics and has retained all the intellectual curiosity and spark of A-level students everywhere. However, and I stand open to correction by real economists, I think I have found a real beaut of a case study.

The situation is this:
1. Inflation is running at approximately 2,000%
2. Unemployment is about 60-70&
3. An AIDS epidemic affects some 30% of the country
4. The currency has devalued from a point where £1 = Z$19 in 1997 to one where £1 = Z$100,000

What do you do? Well if you're Robert Mugabe, you announce a currency revaluation. And that's it. Pure genius really, to take a country with a diversified economy, healthy agricultural sector and significant mineral wealth, add to it one of the ebst educated populations in Africa and turn it all to shit. A post may follow on the reasons for this, but honestly, when a Government decides to print money to meet a cash shortage I think that tells you all you need to know.


Another year, another mild sigh as passrates climb to ridiculius levels (96% for fuck's sake), and as top grades now make up over a quarter of all grades. University lecturers complain that they are having to offer remedial classes in maths, sciences and even, god help us, spelling and grammar to multi-A'd students. Teachers and the Government continue to assert that all results are purely the result of better teachin and harder work. Any criticism is portrayed as a vicious assault on the diligent darlings who have succeeded.

But there are serious questions here. The first is what A-levels are for. When only 10-20% of students went on to university, the A-level was designed to display who the very best were. Now that the numbers have climbed to 50%, all it is supposed to do is be a basic bench-mark of aptitude. In that context, rocketing pass-rates are no surprise. Given the enormous expansion of further education, it is only the relatively few elite universities that really have cause for concern since their traditional requirement - to identify the best - is no longer possible without recourse to interview or private exams.

The second is where we go from here. There are essentially two options. The first is to view A-levels as they truly are: a qualification that sets a very basic bench-mark of achievement. If universities wish to see further differentiation they can either rely on interviews or set their own exams. The second option is to beef the system up, set harder questions, reduce the modular option and return the system to a test of who the very best students are.

Ultimately it is a question of whether A-levels are used as an elitist (in the true sense of the word) measurement of the best or as a qualification that has to be passed as a rite of passage.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Of right and left

It used to be said, with some justification, that while the left sought traitors, the right sought converts. Useless and damaging arguments about 'purity' on the left were worth as much as the medieval discussions of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and gave an impression of an inward-looking clique where normality was rejected. To read accounts of the militant tendency, of the entire 1970s Labour Party indeed, is to read of insiders and outsiders: prolier than thou hierarchy.

On the right, on the other hand, the great ambition was inclusivity - the aim being to stress the similarities rather than the points of difference. Disraeli might have said that a Conservative Government was an organised hypocrisy - but at least it was organised, and at least it was a government.

The current tide of conservative thought - and this is referring to events outside the party, which seems something of a backwater for such thought - is to look for enemies in the ranks, castigating people for being 'unsound'. This is not new, indeed Thatcherism was fundamentally a struggle between the wets (not one of us) and drys (one of us). Yet this is not how conservatism flourishes. The current crisis in the Middle East is revealing fault lines in Conservatism. It is important that these lines should not determine the party

Monday, August 07, 2006

Crossroad for the Democrats?

Joe Lieberman, very nearly the V-P of the US, is in deep trouble in Connecticut. Ned Lamont, protege of the Kossacks and beloved of the radical left in the States, has come from nowhere at all to challenge the veteran for his senate seat. Connecticut is sufficenntly blue-state that the Democrat nominee should walk the election, and the replacement of the last Democrat Hawk for a very anti-war candidate indeed has several implications for the Dems and for America.

Gary Younge likes to see the situation as one of a struggle for the soul of the Democrats; the Kossacks are jubilant at the prospect of a radical Deaniac shift in the party. Yet there is a great danger here. If the Democrats allow themselves to be characterised by the anti-war faction on the their party, people like Diane Feinstein or Dean himself, they risk looking angry, shouty and, worst of all, like losers. It is arguable that, for the sake of American politics, a strong Democrat party, led from something approaching the centre, is vital. In its absence over the last 12 years, since the 94 republican victory led by Newt Gingrich, has allowed the Republicans virtually unchallenged supremacy. The experience has been debilitating for the party, creating an atmosphere where petty corruption has been allowed to flourish, as well as stunting any sense of purpose or direction.

This is all reminiscent of the last days of John Major, where it was the lack of a credible opposition, more than great love and respect for the Tories, that saw the election victory. But the Tories were exhausted, and the calamity of 97 was a just reward for the government. So for the good of American Democracy the Democrats must be strong. And the concern? If Lamont wins in Connecticut there is little chance that the Democratic presidential nominee can be anything but strongly anti-war. And the last time the Democrats entered an election in war-time with a candidate strongly opposed to that war? 1972 and a certain George McGovern. Not an auspicious omen.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Absence explained

I have not, as might have been assumed, been kidnapped by furious Conservative constituency chairmen after my disparaging remarks about Kingsley Wood, I have, instead, merely gone on holiday to Greece where I sit with slightly reddened skin and a truly monstrous shirt enjoying the break.

Back soon though, after another jolly in Italy - the life of a reptile can be gruelling indeed.