31 December 2013

Paris Exhibitions (2) Braque

Two exhibitions currently at the Grand Palais in Paris are coming to a close early in 2014 but both will transfer elsewhere. This post might therefore remain of interest, as could the previous one about Félix Vallotton

Georges Braque 

Georges Braque (1882 – 1963) was one of the 20th century’s major artists and his life and works are the subject of a major retrospective at the Grand Palais. Braque was borne at Argenteuil near Paris and in 1890 moved with his family when they took their painting and decorating business to Le Havre. A year ago I posted about an exhibition then running at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, Le Cercle de l’art moderne Collectionneurs d’avant garde au Havre (The Modern Art Club Avant-Garde collectors in Le Havre):
Between 1906 and 1910, a group of art collectors and artists formed the Modern Art Club in Le Havre with a membership including Braque, and Raoul Dufy … and some of the town’s wealthiest businessmen. They set themselves the objective of promoting modernism in Le Havre, organising exhibitions, lectures, poetry readings and concerts. Guillaume Apollinaire and Claude Debussy supported the Club, which had links to the newly established Salons d’Automne and des Indépendants in Paris. Arguably, Impressionism began in Le Havre when Monet painted Impression, soleil levant there in 1872, so it is not surprising that the Club showed acquisitions by Monet and Renoir at their annual exhibitions. But some of the collectors also took an interest in the Post-Impressionists and the Fauves … buying from galleries (left), auctions or the artists themselves. …
Growing up in this milieu (Braque was taught the flute by Dufy’s brother) it isn’t surprising that the painting business seemed less attractive than becoming an artist. His family were prosperous enough to allow Georges, at the age of 19, to return to Paris where he received both a tradesman’s and an artist’s training by the end of 1904. It is also, given his connections, unsurprising that he would begin his artistic career in 1905-6 as a Fauvist. In fact, for me the most interesting part of this exhibition covers the years before the First World War. In 1907 Braque not only began to be influenced by Cezanne but through Apollinaire met Picasso, saw Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and was introduced African sculpture.  Braque's artistic response was the Grande Nue, 1907-8 (right). Returning to the Fauvist haunt of L’Éstaque in 1908, he moved rapidly away from works like Le Port de La Ciotat, 1907 (The Port of La Ciotat, below left) to a new style as in Le Port, 1909 (Harbour, below right).

Pictures like the latter were rejected by the Salon d’Automne in 1908, and, when exhibited later that year, Matisse, according to Braque, described them as being made of little cubes. In the years that followed Braque and Picasso would develop Cubism, as Braque put it: «un peu comme la cordée en montage» (“a little like two climbers roped together on a mountain”). This would lead by 1911 to what the exhibition calls the Analytical Cubism of Les toits à Céret (Roofs at Céret, below left) and Le Guéridon (The Pedestal, below right).

Between 1912 and 1914 Braque would develop collages (papiers collés) like Violon et pipe, 1913/14 (below left) and La Mandoline, 1914 (below right). Braque was able to make use of his craftsman’s training to create wood effects in oils instead of glueing fake wood and in lettering.

In 1914 Braque enlisted in the French army and received a serious head wound at Artois the following year. He was able to resume painting in 1916 in the style referred to as Synthetic Cubism with a marked dissociation of form and colour, as in Rhum et guitar, 1918 (Rum and guitar, below). The exhibition seemed to gloss over what must have been a major interruption to both Braque’s life and his artistic development.

I have to admit to finding Braque’s later work less interesting but obviously the exhibition provides a valuable opportunity to appreciate it. From the 1920s classical Mediterranean themes appear in his work, for example studies of Canephores and, in the 1930s, Le Duo, 1937 (below, left) and Femme à la palette, 1936 (Woman with a palette, below left).

Perhaps inevitably, Braque’s work during the 1940-45 period would turn inwards: Grand intérieur á la palette (Large Interior with Palette, below top) and Les Poissons noirs (Black fish, below lower) both 1942; and, unlike some fellow artists during the Occupation, he managed to keep his distance from the authorities.

The exhibition has brought together a large number of his billiard table paintings, Le Billard, 1944 (below),

and from his Atelier series, Atelier VIII, 1954-55 (below), produced between the mid-1940s and mid 1950s. The bird theme appears in the latter and again in a series of bird paintings, for example, 1960 (Black and white birds, poster above).

Georges Braque ends at the Grand Palais on 6 January and will be at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts from 16 February to 11 May 2014.

28 December 2013

The Queen and Alan Turing

On 24 December the UK Ministry of Justice announced that “Renowned scientist and World War II code-breaker Dr Alan Turing has been given a posthumous pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen …”. The subsequent media reporting, fairly limited, of course, on Christmas Eve, concentrated on his work at Bletchley Park during World War 2, his being found guilty of gross indecency in 1952 and accepting hormonal treatment, and his suicide two years later at the age of 41 (eg BBC News, MailOnline).

The words "A good day to bury bad news" were never uttered, the actual remark in an email from a government special adviser to her press officer colleagues on 11 September 2001 (9/11) being:
It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?
but the practice of governments releasing information at a time calculated to attract the least attention originated long before then and will doubtless continue into the future. But why was it thought desirable to put out the Turing story just before Christmas - or, alternatively, what was the government hoping to avoid? I can think of a few things. First of all, this type of retrospective apology seems to appeal to politicians who presumably think that their rewriting history will improve their own place in it. Certainly many people believe Turing was treated badly and that his early death deprived his country of an immense talent. But in this particular case the government may want to avoid a debate as to why one homosexual should be pardoned when so many other men with criminal records for similar offences, far from brilliant but still alive, have not. For this reason I am not persuaded by the argument put forward in The Times (£) yesterday by Janice Turner that the pardon was an attempt by the Tories to appear progressive and improve their share of the gay vote – the geek vote, maybe. Nor did she explain why in that case the press release went out on Christmas Eve.

More of a problem for the government is that the pardon is yet another U-turn, having rejected it as recently as February 2012. Also probably best avoided is too much popular attention being given to the machinery of constitutional monarchy. The Ministry of Justice posted the text of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (below), only the third, it seems, in HM’s 62 years:

To a layman it reads oddly, not so much the quaintness of the legalese, but because it is signed by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, although in the form of a notification to him of HM’s intent, which in turn only exists because Grayling requested it in the first place! I daresay in presidential systems there are similarly tangles. There is also the irony that Elizabeth II was head of state when the Crown prosecuted Turing in 1952, the case being known as Regina v. Turing and Murray, though it would almost certainly not have been known to her at the time. What her personal opinions are about the desirability of this pardon are, or even whether she has any, we will almost certainly never know.

The announcement of the pardon can only have been helpful to the forthcoming Turing biopic, The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum who has cast Benedict Cumberbatch, best-known as BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, as Turing (above).

24 December 2013

Paris Exhibitions (1) Vallotton

Two exhibitions currently at the Grand Palais in Paris are coming to a close early in 2014 but both will transfer elsewhere. This post might therefore remain of interest, as could the next about Georges Braque.

Félix Vallotton: The Fire Under the Ice (Le feu sous la glace

If an opinion poll were to ask people in the UK to name an artist beginning with ‘V’, the most frequent answers would probably include Van Gogh (if he weren’t disallowed as a ‘G’, and on that basis, hopefully Van Dyke), Vermeer and, it has to be admitted, Vettriano, but I doubt if many would come up with Vallotton. Félix Vallotton (1865 – 1925) was born a Swiss citizen in Lausanne but moved to Paris when he was 17 to pursue a career as painter, engraver, writer and art critic. Successful in his twenties, he took up French nationality in 1900. Perhaps because he is not easily linked with any particular artistic movement, apart from an association with Les Nabis in the 1890s, and because so many of his works are now in only one museum in his hometown, his work is not often exhibited or well-known.

The Grand Palais show explores, and goes some way to justify, the hypothesis of its title that beneath Vallotton’s cool analytical style of painting, there were often darker preoccupations and sexuality. The curators, instead of a chronological approach, have addressed 10 themes, examples being Flattened Perspectives, Female Duets, Icy Erotism, This is War! In practice this means that works produced at the same time are widely separated in the show. The consequent disruption of sequence in a retrospective can be justified if such themes are sufficiently coherent – I’m not sure that was the case here. On the other hand, the conjunction of themed works is necessary to advance the proposition that the “fire” is close to the surface.

Vallotton’s skill and objectivity seem to be particularly evident in his portraits. Gertrude Stein, 1907 (above left) makes an interesting contrast with Picasso’s much better-known work of 1912 (at the Grand Palais two years ago), although was much less appreciated by the sitter (she called Vallotton “a Manet for the impecunious”), and shows a precision which was already well-developed 20 years earlier in Félix Jasinski tenant son chapeau (Félix Jasinski holding his hat, above right). An example of a Nabi painting with its marked perspective and planes of colour is Laveuses à Étretat (Washerwomen at Étretat, 1899, below left) although this would remain one of his styles after he moved away from the group, for example in La loge de théâtre, le monsieur et la dame, (The theatre box, the gentleman and the lady 1909, poster above). Vallotton’s ability as a wood-engraver influenced by Japanese prints is apparent in La Paresse (Sloth, 1896, below right), one of his Intimités - unsentimental views of contemporary Parisian life.

The Grand Palais exhibition includes numerous examples of Vallotton’s nude studies, for example Le Repos des modèles (Models resting, 1905, below)

and Le Bain au soir d’été (Bathing on a summer’s evening, 1892-93, below), which, at 1 metre by 1.3 metres, provides even more for the viewer to take in than the image below might suggest and leaves one wondering just what was in Vallotton’s mind when he painted it.

The exhibition reveals other aspects of this complex man’s life including his marriage to a widow with three children, his interest in photography and his reaction to the destruction of the First World War (Verdun, 1917 below) which seems to bridge Nabi and Futurist styles.

Félix Vallotton: The Fire Under the Ice continues at the Grand Palais until 20 January 2014 and will be at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam from 14 February to 1 June and at the Mitsubishi Museum, Tokyo from 14 June to 23 September.

(modified 26 December)

15 December 2013

Daumier at the Royal Academy

Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris at the Royal Academy is apparently the first Honoré Daumier exhibition in London since the early 1960s. He is probably best known to British eyes as a lithographer who provided a sharp political and social commentary during a particularly turbulent period of French history (see below). Gargantua 1831 (below left) satirizes King Louis-Phillipe, while Nadar elevating photography to art 1862 (below, right) is a commentary on the aerial photography craze which Julian Barnes touched on in his recent Levels of Life.
The RA’s exhibition reveals that  Daumier could also turn his hands to political caricature in the form of clay busts and sculpture, as well as watercolours (The Sideshow (Parade de saltimbanques), c.1865–66 in the poster above) and oil paintings acceptable to the Salon (The Laundress, (La Sortie du bateau à lessive), 1861–63) and The Painter at His Easel (Le Peintre devant son tableau), c.1870–1875 (below, left and right).

Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris continues at the RA until 26 January 2014.

Anyone visiting Paris in the next few months and interested in the mainstream of the artist’s work should take the chance to see Les Parisiens de Daumier, sponsored by the Crédit Mutuel de Paris at their gallery in the Marais (details on their website, poster above). There are plenty of examples of his drawings for magazines (Le Charivari in particular) satirising contemporary Parisian life. Some depict a world that is now almost unrecognisable, others seem oddly familiar - La crinoline finnisant par être soupçonnée (below, right) should amuse anyone who has been through a security check in the last ten years. The Head of Louis-Phillipe in the form of a pear (Tête de Louis-Phillipe en forme de poire), 1840 (below, left), from the musée Carnavalet, would have been worth borrowing by the RA as a fine expression of the artist's Republican beliefs.

Les Parisiens de Daumier runs until 4 March at Galerie du Crédit Municipal de Paris - 55, rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75004 Paris. Open Monday to Saturday from 9h to 17h, closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Some major political events in France in Daumier’s lifetime: 

1814 Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy (King Charles X) in place of Napoléon Bonaparte
1830 After a revolution, King Louis-Phillipe installed in place of Charles X
1848 Second Republic declared after the abdication of Louis-Phillipe
1852 Louis-Napoléon (Napoléon III) installed as Emperor after a coup d’état
1870 Third Republic declared after Napoléon’s defeat by the Prussians at Sedan
1871 Siege of Paris and suppression of the Commune

8 December 2013

Saving Van Dyck’s Self-portrait

Oh, the perils of social media – post in haste, repent at leisure. Yesterday on this blog’s Facebook page I remarked that I was:
Sending donation to @artfund #savevandyck but awaiting their response to Bryan Sewell
With a link to an article by Brian Sewell which had appeared in the London Evening Standard. Facebook turns posts immediately into tweets as can be seen below:

Not only had I misspelt “Brian”, but worse I hadn’t checked subsequent issues of the Standard for any responses. As you can see, this omission was pointed out by Sandy Nairne @Boathouseman who, much to my embarrassment, is the Director of the National Portrait Gallery. All I can offer by way of apology is to reproduce his letter to the ES (Wed 4 Dec, page 51) below:

I was glad to see that he thinks a system for matching auction bids, as Sewell suggested, might be feasible in the future. And this is the link that matters.

3 December 2013

Scotland and Trident

The Referendum on Scottish independence will be held on 18 September 2014. In November 2013 the Scottish Government published a white paper of 649 pages, Scotland’s Future Your Guide to an Independent Scotland. Its Chapter 6 addresses International Relations and Defence and, since posts on this blog in the past have examined the consequences for the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent of Scottish independence, I thought it might be worth extracting anything in Scotland’s Future which seems relevant to that issue.

In brief, and has been said previouslyScotland’s Future states that an independent Scotland would seek the removal of the RN Trident submarine force which is currently based on the Clyde. An independent Scotland would negotiate to join NATO as a non-nuclear member. It is worth noting that the Scottish Government’s proposed timescale for removal of Trident is within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence. The first parliamentary election in an independent Scotland would take place on 5 May 2016, instead of the election for the devolved Parliament. Although the white paper states various objectives to be achieved during the first parliamentary term, it doesn’t appear to define its duration. The devolved Scottish Parliament has been holding elections every four years since 1999. However, the current term has been extended to five years to avoid a clash with the UK general election due in 2015. The first term of an independent parliament, if it were to follow established practice, can therefore be expected to end in 2020 or, possibly, 2021.

The white paper might have been expected to respond to some of the points raised about Trident in the Ministry of Defence’s paper, Scotland analysis: Defence, presented to Parliament in October. Some extracts from this are also quoted below. As far as Trident is concerned, Scotland’s Future fails to respond to the MoD’s point that the NATO Strategic Concept makes it clear that:
“the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies” (paragraph 2.36)
How an independent Scotland’s view that “Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power” (page 232) can be reconciled with the NATO Strategic Concept is unresolved. But then, so are other significant non-nuclear defence issues raised in the MoD paper, and these in turn are dwarfed by the problems of EU membership, currency, borders and so on which would arise if there were to be an independent Scotland.

Scotland’s Future Your Guide to an Independent Scotland 

Chapter 6, International Relations and Defence, opens with summary points including:

• Our defence plans focus on a strong conventional defence footprint in and around Scotland and the removal of nuclear weapons, delivering a £500 million defence and security dividend in 2016/17
• Scotland’s security will be guaranteed as a non-nuclear member of NATO, with Scotland contributing excellent conventional forces to the alliance (page 206)

Pages 207 to 251 concentrate on Scotland’s international relations, defence, and Defence Why we need a new approach, is addressed from page 232 onwards:
Improving the way defence is delivered in and for Scotland is one of the most pressing reasons for independence. 
For decades we have been part of a Westminster system that has sought to project global power, giving Britain the capacity to engage in overseas military interventions and to deploy nuclear weapons. 
Scotland has been home to one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, despite consistent and clear opposition from across civic Scotland, our churches, trade unions and a clear majority of our elected politicians [Endnote 255 but should be 254, see below]. Billions of pounds have been wasted to date on weapons that must never be used and, unless we act now, we risk wasting a further £100 billion, over its lifetime, on a new nuclear weapons system. Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power. 
Westminster’s commitment to nuclear weapons leaves other aspects of our defence weakened. Costs for the successor to Trident are to be met from within the defence budget, taking money from conventional equipment and levels of service personnel. The Royal Navy will have two new aircraft carriers years before it has the aircraft to put on them. Cost overruns are endemic and major projects have been significantly delayed. Scotland can do better.
On page 237 the five defence priorities for an independent Scotland are identified, including:
• securing the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland
• reconfiguring the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s needs, including the transition of Faslane to a conventional naval base and joint headquarters of Scottish defence forces
On page 244 the following appears:
Reserve personnel make a valuable contribution to defence capability and will do so in an independent Scotland. Our proposals include a baseline requirement for around 1,700 reserve personnel at the point of independence. However as there are currently an estimated 2,200 trained reserve personnel in Scotland [Endnote 264, see below], it would be both feasible and desirable to increase numbers beyond the baseline that requirement suggests, in order to build flexibility and enhance capability. In the longer term the Government envisages the reserve force building to 5,000 personnel after 10 years.
On page 245/6 it is explained that while details will be negotiated with the rest of the UK, the Scottish Government currently envisages that among other things:
• Faslane will be retained as the main naval base for an independent Scotland. 
… The transition of Faslane from a submarine base to Scotland’s main naval base and joint force headquarters will be managed gradually: personnel and equipment will be brought into the Scottish defence forces and infrastructure will be developed, while the personnel and equipment remaining within the Royal Navy are relocated by the Ministry of Defence. The Scottish Government intends the transition to be complete within ten years [Endnote 265 see below]
On page 246/7 the future sharing of defence facilities is discussed, but:
Negotiations on the maintenance of shared capabilities would not include nuclear weapons. This Scottish Government would make early agreement on the speediest safe removal of nuclear weapons a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence. The detailed process and timetable for removal would be a priority for negotiation between the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government. However we have noted the work undertaken by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which suggests that Trident could be dismantled within two years [Endnote 267 see below] 
The transitional arrangements will support both the day to day operations and the workforce levels at the base. We will retain the capacity for shared arrangements with the rest of the UK and other allies, recognising Faslane’s excellent deep water facilities and its geographical position. There are currently 6,700 military and civilian jobs at HMNB Clyde [Endnote 266]
On pages 250/1 International partnerships are addressed, primarily NATO:
Following a Yes vote in 2014, the Scottish Government will notify NATO of our intention to join the alliance and will negotiate our transition from being a NATO member as part of the UK to becoming an independent member of the alliance.
Scotland would take its place as one of the many non-nuclear members of NATO. The Scottish Government is committed to securing the complete withdrawal of Trident from an independent Scotland as quickly as can be both safely and responsibly achieved.
Moving on to Constitutional guarantees, it is stated that:
Only independence will enable Scotland to play a full role working within and alongside the international community in creating the conditions for nuclear disarmament. The development of a written constitution for Scotland would also provide the opportunity to include a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland.
Later, in Chapter 10, further devolution as opposed to independence is discussed. It is pointed out that in those circumstances:
Westminster would continue to take decisions on defence matters and Scotland would remain the base for the Trident nuclear weapon system and its successor. (Page 336)
The last part of Scotland’s Future consists of 650 questions and answers about independence. Those relevant to this post are:
285. Will NATO membership make it more difficult to secure the removal of Trident? 
The removal of Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland will require negotiation with Westminster and liaison with NATO. But the aim of the current Scottish Government is clear – to secure the speediest safe removal of Trident from Scotland and to join the 20 (of 28) countries who are members of NATO without either possessing or hosting nuclear weapons. We believe that a non-nuclear independent Scotland operating within NATO will be preferable, to the UK, NATO, and our other neighbours and allies, to a non-nuclear Scotland outside of the alliance. 
313. Would you sign/ratify the NPT if/while Trident nuclear weapons were still based at Faslane? 
Yes. We have made a clear commitment to secure the speediest safe withdrawal of Trident from Scotland following independence. Scotland’s ratification of the NPT will not rely on the detailed arrangements for the withdrawal of Trident. 
314. Would the removal of Trident from Scotland result in its decommissioning? 
It is the Scottish Government’s preference to see Trident decommissioned, but that will be a matter for the government of the rest of the UK. 
315. How long will it take to remove Trident from Scotland and who will bear the cost? 
Nuclear weapons have been based in Scotland for almost half a century, despite the long-standing majority opposition of the people of Scotland. In addition, Scottish taxpayer contributions to Trident spending could support many more public sector jobs in Scotland than the weapons system currently brings to the Clyde, and every year therefore Scotland loses out because of the continuance of Trident nuclear weapons. The detailed process and timetable for removal would be a priority for negotiation between the Scottish Government and the government of the rest of the UK. However, following a vote for independence, we would make early agreement on removal of nuclear weapons a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence. 
328. Will the armament depot at Coulport remain? 
Our commitment is to securing the earliest safe withdrawal of Trident from an independent Scotland. This includes the removal of all elements of the current system, including the missiles and warheads which are stored for the Vanguard submarine fleet at Coulport. 
534. What powers are currently reserved to the Westminster Parliament? 
Despite many decisions being made by the Scottish Parliament and Government, many key decisions are still taken by the Westminster Parliament and Government, such as: 
… defence – for example, keeping Trident nuclear weapons and going to war in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan
Scotland’s Future Endnotes

Endnote 254 On 20 March 2013, the Scottish Parliament voted conclusively 61 in favour, 16 against and 31 abstentions) in support of the UN Secretary-General’s five point plan for nuclear disarmament and called on the Westminster Government to acknowledge the Parliament’s opposition to Trident. 
Endnote 264 This does not refer to the timeframe for the withdrawal of Trident nuclear weapons and/or the Vanguard submarine fleet, which would be decided and delivered separately as quickly as it can be both safely and responsibly secured. [This Endnote is informative but not relevant to the context it was cited in! ]
Endnote 265 Scotland Analysis: Defence, UK Government, p32. 
Endnote 266 Disarming Trident – A practical guide to de-activating and dismantling the Scottish-based Trident nuclear weapons system, Scottish CND, June 2012. 
Endnote 267 Cancelling Trident - The Economic And Employment Consequences For Scotland.

Scotland analysis: Defence

Chapter 1 addresses Security and protection through integrated defence and describes particular Defence capabilities including the strategic nuclear deterrent (paragraph 1.56, page 39 onwards). There is a text box providing the justification for the deterrent which draws on the 2010 SDSR and 2006 Trident replacement white papers. This is followed by:
1.57 The value of the UK nuclear deterrent to NATO was acknowledged by the Secretary General of NATO earlier this year in a letter to the Secretary of State for Defence, which stated that the UK capability “will continue to play a crucial role as part of NATO’s appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces that both deter and defend against threats to our alliance (Footnote 72, see below).
Chapter 2 addresses Security and influence through international alliances and relationships and a section is given over to NATO membership and SNP policy on nuclear weapons (page 62 onwards) which it is appropriate to quote in full:
2.36 NATO’s Strategic Concept commits the Alliance to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons – but reconfirms that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance. This position was confirmed in NATO’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review, endorsed by all 28 NATO Allies, which concluded in May 2012 that “NATO must have the full range of capabilities necessary to deter and defend against threats to the safety of its populations and the security of its territory, which is the Alliance’s greatest responsibility” and that “the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies” (Footnote 112, see below). 
2.37 All NATO nations, whether they possess nuclear weapons or not, are required to subscribe to NATO’s Strategic Concept. Although only three NATO nations have nuclear weapons of their own (the US, UK and France), a number of other Allies host elements of NATO’s nuclear capability on their sovereign territory in peacetime; and 27 out of the 28 nations participate in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group (the remaining nation, France, is a nuclear power). The SNP’s stated policy on the UK’s nuclear deterrent capability is therefore problematic, and its opposition to nuclear weapons in the round is inconsistent with NATO’s Strategic Concept. 
2.38 An insistence on the removal of the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent from Scotland would likely cause significant problems for Scotland in developing its international relationships on a bilateral as well as a multilateral basis. The Henry Jackson Society think-tank has commented that “Unlike the anti-nuclear stance of some existing NATO members (such as Norway, whose stance is held largely in principle), the SNP’s policy would have very real practical implications. Especially problematic are: the SNP’s commitment to the unilateral divestiture of Trident from Scotland, without agreement from other NATO allies; its opposition to nuclear-armed vessels docking in Scottish ports, a position held by no other NATO country; and the possibility of its demands resulting in the unilateral disarmament of another NATO member: the UK.” (Footnote 113, see below). Similarly, the Scotland Institute thinktank concluded that “IS [Independent Scotland] would have to carefully navigate the diplomatic issues related to joining NATO. If negotiations between r-UK [the rest of the UK] and Scotland were deeply problematic, the Alliance would be apprehensive towards importing r-UK and IS acrimony into the organisation. A likely dispute over Trident would also make accession tricky.” (Footnote 114, see below). 
2.39 Even if nuclear weapons were to be removed from Scotland, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee has suggested that it could take more than 20 years to identify and develop a new base elsewhere at significant cost (Footnote 115, see below). As examples of the potential complexity of these negotiations, Russia’s Black Sea fleet was due to relocate in 2017 from Sevastopol in Ukraine to Russia’s Novorossiysk port, but was granted a 25- year extension in 2010, while the Royal Navy retained access to three Irish ‘treaty ports’ for 17 years after the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921. 2.40 The UK Government has made it clear that it is not planning for Scottish independence. If the result of the referendum were to lead to the current situation being challenged, then options would be considered, but any alternative solution would come at huge cost. It would be an enormous exercise to reproduce the facilities elsewhere. It would cost billions of pounds and take many years. Furthermore, if the nuclear deterrent had to relocate, then so would the whole of the submarine enterprise, including the Royal Navy’s attack submarines and the submarine centre of excellence (Footnote 116, see below). This would have a major impact upon the sustainability of the naval base at Faslane, which is the biggest employment site in Scotland with 6,700 military and civilian jobs, increasing under current UK Government plans to 8,200 by 2022. In its assessment of the SNP’s defence policy proposals, the Henry Jackson Society think-tank commented that “While the SNP propose stationing the Scottish Navy in place of the Trident fleet, that would be unlikely to generate more than 1,000 jobs.” (Footnote 117, see below). The 2010 cross party submission to the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review from the Scottish Government and the main Scottish party leaders concluded that Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde “provides a significant skills base in the area and is a significant employer” (Footnote 118, see below). With personnel numbers and MOD infrastructure investment increasing, the importance of the facility to Scotland as an employer and skills base is also strengthening.
Scotland analysis: Defence Footnotes

Footnote 72 NATO praises Royal Navy’s dedication to delivering security, UK Government, , 4 April 2013. 
Footnote 110 House of Lords Hansard Column GC56, 24 Oct 2012. 
Footnote 111 Scotland couldn’t waltz into the world’s clubs, The Times, 18 June 2013,  
Footnote 112 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review, NATO, 20 May 2012 
Footnote 113 In Scotland’s Defence? An Assessment of SNP Defence Strategy by George Grant, Henry Jackson Society, July 2013. 
Footnote 114 Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland, The Scotland Institute, June 2013. 
Footnote 115 The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident-Days or Decades?, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee Fourth Report of Session 2012-13, 25 Oct 2012. 
Footnote 116 The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident – Days or Decades?: Government Response to the Committee’s Fourth Report of Session 2012-13, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, 9 January 2013. 
Footnote 117 In Scotland’s Defence? An Assessment of SNP Defence Strategy by George Grant, Henry Jackson Society, July 2013. 
Footnote 118 The UK Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010: A cross party submission from Scottish Government and the main Scottish party leaders.

1 December 2013

A Poor Infographic on Brits in the EU

The other day, the infographic below was doing the rounds on Twitter. Note that the source of the data, not necessarily the way it's been presented, appears to be IPPR and that it is undated.

The total of 2.2 million presumably includes the 329k for Ireland which would make the EU about 1.87 million. This can be compared with IPPR’s 2006 figure of 1.5 million in the EU excluding Ireland, which I quoted in a post here in November 2011 about British second homes in Europe.

This is a poor piece of graphical presentation making the sort of naïve error which was criticised by Edward Tufte 30 years ago in his The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. The font size used for the numbering has been scaled to the area (and shape to some extent) of each country, so the 1m in Spain is the same size as the 6k in Poland. Obviously in the real Europe there are about 170 times as many Brits in Spain as in Poland, something which the presenter should have tried to address. He (or she) didn't explain the country shading blue to grey either

29 November 2013

JD Salinger – Short Stories

A few posts back, I made a passing reference to Holden Caulfield, assuming that most readers would know who he was (I didn’t even put in a link to Wikipedia). Caulfield’s creator, JD Salinger, died in 2010 at the age of 91, nearly 60 years after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye. In September a new ‘oral’ biography, Salinger, by David Shields and Shane Salerno was published, to be followed by a film of the same name written and directed by Salerno which will be shown in the US in January.

On 29 November The Times (£) carried a story on page 3 by their arts correspondent, Jack Malvern, Pirate copies of work by J.D. Salinger beat author’s embargo:
Three stories by J. D. Salinger that the author instructed should not be published have apparently been printed illegally in Britain and leaked online. The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, Paula and Birthday Boy have been among Salinger’s works from the 1940s that were available to read only at two American university libraries, but photographs have emerged that purport to show the stories in an illegally produced book. 
… The book appears to have been sold by a British man based in Brentford, West London. When the images of the book appeared on Reddit, a news and entertainment website, the person who uploaded it claimed to have bought it on eBay. The link provided leads to an auction page created by “Seymourstainglass”, which has a listing for a 47-page book containing “three short stories written by J. D. Salinger never published”. The seller, who gives his address in West London, has sold several copies of the book, fetching up to £67.50.
On the same day, a similar article, JD Salinger's unpublished stories leaked online, by Maev Kennedy appeared in the Guardian. Subsequently John Sutherland on theguardian.com expressed his doubts about the affair, As JD Salinger's works leak online, one smells a rat:
… Salinger ordained that these works should not be published until 50 years after his death. It's an edict of extraordinary egotism – not to say spite. Salinger, one deduces, came to hate his contemporaries: not until every single one of them was dead should there be access to the fruits of his genius. 
That prohibition has been overturned by the sale on eBay, of all places, of a so-called book – or what bibliographers call "a ghost"; a non-book that doesn't actually exist – containing the three stories. The copyright page describes it as number six of 25, printed in London in 1999, but there's none of the formal copyright data that a printed book requires. It also contains the misinformation that all three manuscripts are in Texas, whereas the most interesting is in Princeton. The text is clearly not typeset, but word-processed. 
The sale itself is hugely suspicious. Only 14 bids, with the winner paying a derisory £67.50. Everything points to the conclusion the book was mocked up and the sale rigged to get the contents into the public domain, which the website Reddit has duly done. 
… No one will be disappointed by the three Salinger stories. But they have got into general circulation by an elaborate ruse. Who did it? One doesn't yet know. But it is a certainty that some will be applauding – most notably those who believe the internet has made mortmain [a concept in law … meaning the hand of the dead] historically obsolete.
But this isn’t the first time that Salinger’s wish to control publication of some of his work has been thwarted. Nearly 40 years ago I bought this slim paperback:

On the back is a sticker “£1.60” but the book is devoid of any date or publication details. Though not particularly well printed, the stories seem to be genuine and can be identified on the Dead Caulfields website (thank you, Professor Sutherland). Another website, salinger.org, suggests that The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J.D. Salinger were published in two volumes in 1974 in hardback, but this last descriptor is clearly wrong.

On Abebooks a copy like mine is currently on sale for US$150/£95 (approximately). About the time I bought my book, I paid £52,000 for a terraced house near London. If the price of that house had kept up with the book, the current owner would now be asking over £3 million for it, instead of the £0.5 million they might get. Me, I just wish I’d bought Volume 1 as well!

28 November 2013

Paul Klee at Tate Modern

A post here last year about the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery mentioned three painters who had spent time in Weimar and Dessau: Paul Citroën, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Searching on Google, I can find no evidence of a recent retrospective of Citroën’s non-photographic work but Kandinsky is widely exhibited (eg currently at the Guggenheim in New York), and Klee almost as much (eg earlier this year in Rome). Nonetheless, a full retrospective is always worth seeing for any artist and The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee – Making Visible at Tate Modern is the first large-scale showing for Klee in London for over 10 years.

Klee was born in Bern in 1879 and moved to Munich to study painting when he was 19. He began to establish himself as an artist in his early thirties and the Tate exhibition shows 128 examples of his work from 1912 until his death in 1940. Klee produced and carefully catalogued about 10,000 paintings, drawings and other works. In 1911 Klee met Jawlensky, Marc, Kandinsky and others and joined the Blaue Reiter group (Landscape with Flags 1915, left). In 1914 he travelled to Tunisia and its colour, light and landscape would influence his subsequent work. From 1916 to 1918 Klee served with the German air force. His 1920 Aerial Combat (below left) is in sardonic contrast to Nevinson’s Futurist Spiral Descent 1915, seen recently at Dulwich, while his experience of the chaos of postwar Germany reflected in Memorial to the Kaiser (also 1920, below right) shares the viewpoint of his contemporaries like Grosz. Both these works were produced by the oil-transfer method, tracing over painted paper then transferring onto a blank sheet.

Klee joined the staff of the Bauhaus in 1921 at Weimar, moving in 1926 to Dessau. In 1922 in Berlin he encountered Russian constructivism in the form of works by Malevich, Tatlin and others. Klee’s work in his Bauhaus years involved colour investigation in both constructions and imaginative surreal pieces (Pictorial Architecture Red, Yellow, Blue 1923 and Around the Fish 1926, below left and right). In 1930 his work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and that year he left the Bauhaus to teach in Dusseldorf. In 1933 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and within a few months the Bauhaus closed. Klee and his family left for Switzerland in December. In poor health after 1935, he died in 1940, the same year as his father.

Brian Sewell in the London Evening Standard liked the Tate’s catalogue but had reservations about both the exhibition and the artist, as did Andrew Lambirth in the Spectator, although of a different kind. Klee described himself as possessed by colour and since reproductions fail to do justice to the subtlety with which he used it, the opportunity to visit The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee – Making Visible and view source works is worth taking. The exhibition continues until 9 March 2014.

24 November 2013

Bill Condon's ‘The Fifth Estate’

Being no admirer of Julian Assange, I didn't rush to see Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate when it first came out but recently took the opportunity to do so at the Barn Cinema at Dartington. The film is a docudrama about the emergence of WikiLeaks from the time of Assange's partnering with the German IT expert Daniel Berg in 2007 up to the release of classified US information sourced from Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning in 2010 and their association ending. Assange's seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 forms a postscript.

The film must have had a substantial budget because of the large cast, the number of extras, the CGI and the rapid changes of locale. No location seemed to be used more than twice, usually once, and the numerous sets ranged from Berlin squats to Air Force One (or maybe Two or Three), the action not staying in any of them for long. Benedict Cumberbatch turned in a convincing Assange, and, although the film is a male-dominated nerd and journo fest, it provided a couple of strong supporting roles for Alicia Vikander (Queen Caroline in Nikolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair) as Berg’s long-suffering girlfriend and Laura Linney as a senior level State Department staffer having to pick up the pieces after the Manning disclosures. Peter Capaldi, who is irrevocably the foul-mouthed spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker, from The Thick of It for UK TV audiences (the ones who will see this film anyway) until he becomes Dr Who, is cast as Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian.

Unfortunately, in terms of allowing comparisons to be made, the real Rusbridger has been on UK TV recently defending his paper's role in handling the material removed from NSA by Edward Snowden. Snowden and the journalist Glen Greenwald have followed the model Assange pioneered with the initial release of the Manning material by cooperating with mainstream media outlets in the form of the Washington Post (vice the New York Times), the Guardian and Der Spiegel.

Snowden and Co have put material into the public domain of much higher classification than Manning was able to access. The US designation for this stuff is TS/SCI - Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information. Years ago such items might be confined to just a few documents, knowledge of whose existence, let alone accessibility, would be confined to select individuals. But now that kind of data is held on globalised IT systems and system administrators set access permissions for individual users. However, an old question arises: who administers the administrators?

When I last wrote about Snowden, on the basis of the information which had been released at that time (July), I affected what now seems too blasé a view. Earlier this month the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) took evidence from Sir Iain Lobban, Director, Government Communication Headquarters, Mr Andrew Parker, Director General, Security Service and Sir John Sawers, Chief, Secret Intelligence Service. (Interestingly the second and third of these men had studied science at university level, but not the first, whose responsibilities, one imagines, are the most technological). A transcript of their uncorrected evidence is available, and the impact of the Snowden release is discussed on pages 16 to 18. Sawers mentions Snowden specifically:
… What I can tell you is that the leaks from Snowden have been very damaging. They have put our operations at risk. It is clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee. Al-Qaeda is lapping it up ... and our own security has suffered as a consequence.
Further material appearing in Der Spiegel later in the month underlines his point.

In October, one of Lobban’s predecessors, Sir David Omand, had told The Times that the Snowden leaks “eclipse[s] the Cambridge spy ring as the most catastrophic loss suffered by British intelligence”.
“You have to distinguish between the original whistleblowing intent to get a debate going, which is a responsible thing to do, and the stealing of 58,000 top-secret British security documents and who knows how many American documents which is seriously, seriously damaging,” Sir David said. “The assumption the experts are working on is that all that information or almost all of it will now be in the hands of Moscow and Beijing. It’s the most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever, much worse than Burgess and MacLean in the 1950s.”
Omand chose two names from what are often referred to as the Cambridge Five and didn’t mention Kim Philby, although it was these three who finished up as Russian house guests. Whether there was a Fifth Man, and who he was, has been the subject of speculation, the most-fingered suspect being John Cairncross. If so, he was in some ways the most Snowden-like having worked at Bletchley Park during World War 2. But in those days, although primitive computers were in use they certainly weren’t networked, and the only media he could remove was paperwork taken from only one “compartment”, in the form of one of the famous Bletchley Huts.

And who was the Fourth Man? Sir Anthony Blunt made his confession in 1964 in exchange for immunity from prosecution, though the truth (or some of it) would emerge in public in 1979. The Security Service interrogated Blunt because in 1963 an American, Michael Whitney Straight, had told the FBI that he had been a recruiter for Soviet intelligence at Cambridge in the 1930s. Straight was the son of Willard Straight and Dorothy Payne Whitney. Willard died in the Spanish flu epidemic after World War 1. Dorothy remarried and with her second husband, Leonard Elmhirst, came to SW England and in 1925 purchased Dartington Hall in Devon (SW England) where Michael Straight would finish his schooling. Which means this post ends geographically back where it started.


“The film must have had a substantial budget because of the large cast, the number of extras, the CGI and the rapid changes of locale.” 

But nonetheless it seems to have been the biggest cinematic turkey of 2013, according to Forbes’ Dorothy Pomerantz. The Fifth Estate has earned only $6 million at the box office globally on its $28 million budget, on top of which there will have been marketing costs of as much as $25 million. On average studios receive about 50% of the box office takings, so Dreamworks would be about $25 million down.

20 November 2013

Two exhibitions in Bath

Last year the Holburne Museum in Bath showed Presence: The Art of Portrait Sculpture which explored whether sculptors pursue realism or idealisation when they create solid portraits. Their lateset exhibition, Characters: Portraits and People from the Arts Council Collection, looks at the parallel traditions of observation and invention in the painting of people, particularly appropriate since the Holburne’s permanent collection includes some fine British eighteenth-century examples of the genre.

The Director of the Holburne, Alexander Sturgis, and his staff have again demonstrated their curatorial expertise when faced with the challenge of selecting a small number of choice works (Sturgis talks about some of their choices here). The range of artists, all British post-War, is indicated in the poster alongside Richard Hamilton’s Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland 1964. Frank Auerbach, Lucien Freud (portrait of Lord Rothschild above right) and Euan Uglow (German Girl, 1960s, above left) feature among the painters from life and the works of imagination include studies from Peter Blake and Francis Bacon. I particularly liked Maggi Hambling’s Frances Rose (3) 1973 and thought Jeffery Camp’s Laetitia Picking Blackcurrants 1967 (below, left and right) full of period charm, but everyone will have their own favourites. 

Characters: Portraits and People from the Arts Council Collection continues until 7 January 2014.

William Scott: Simplicity and Subject at the Victoria Art Gallery has now closed. Scott (1913 – 1989), although born in Scotland and spending his youth in Northern Ireland, spent much of his artistic life in the Bath area and was for a time Senior Painting Master at Bath Academy of Art. In his twenties he spent time in France and in Cornwall where he met Laura Knight and her husband. Later influences on his work included Picasso and the New York abstract expressionists – Mark Rothko spent time at his Somerset home. Although Scott was an RA and had contributed to the British exhibit in the XXIX Venice Biennale, his work seems to have become less well-known in recent years, so his centennial seems to have been an appropriate time to rekindle interest. Below are his Still Life with Candle 1950 and the more abstract Slagheap Landscape 1953 (from the Arts Council Collection). During a spell working in Berlin he encountered a blue pigment which led to his All Blue 1964. Another striking abstract was Monotone Still Life 1955 in black white and grey. I expect that the owner of that little gem of a painting, Still Life with Pears c1956, is glad to have his or her picture back!

There is a major retrospective of Scott's work now at the final stage of its tour at the Ulster Museum.

19 November 2013

François Ozon’s ‘Jeune & Jolie’

François Ozon seems to work on an annual cycle like Woody Allen, so this is the third post here about one of his films. Jeune & Jolie (Young and Beautiful) is une autre paire de manches from Potiche and In the House and has more in common with the darker Under the Sand (Sous le sable) and Swimming Pool of a decade ago.

The film follows a year in the life of a 17-year old Parisienne, Isabelle (Marine Vacth), spread over four seasons, each introduced with a song by Françoise Hardy (at 69 perhaps not that well-known to French teenagers). It starts in summer when Isabelle loses her virginity during the family holiday in the south of France, and then moves to Paris. In the autumn she embarks on a career as an amateur call girl working the smart hotels. In the winter, it all goes horribly wrong but there is some sense of eventual redemption in the closing shot of the Pont des Arts in the spring, festooned as it is with lovers’ padlocks.

Perhaps it was the numerous scenes of Isabelle having sex with much older men, likely to appeal to middle-aged male film critics, that led to such acclaim as Jeune & Jolie has received so far. I couldn’t help feeling that the plot was improbable for various reasons. Firstly, Isabelle attends a leading Paris lycée, Henri-IV, singled out by Peter Gumbel as one of the top five in France preparing students for admission to the grandes écoles. The workload must be horrendous and, one might think, leave little time for freelance escort work. Secondly, Isabelle and her family, who don’t have much regard for each other’s privacy, live in a small apartment but somehow she manages to equip herself for her secret life. Setting herself up as a pute using her laptop and the internet is as unlikely as the Paris police having a global lead in facial recognition technology of about 10 years.

Having said all that, Ozon attended Henri-IV and filmed there on location, so perhaps Isabelle is based on a real case which was the talk of the 5th and 6th arrondissements a few years back. Somehow I doubt it, but certainly Henri-IV pupils appear with Vacth reciting Roman by Rimbaud, seemingly (but what do I know) the Holden Caulfield of French poetry. The poem, which begins On n’est pas sérieux quand on a dix sept ans, can be found in translation here with the original. I felt that if Ozon’s film had spent less time on sex scenes and more exploring Rimbaud’s proposition that When you are seventeen you aren't really serious, it would have been far better. The psychology of a girl whose libido is not matched by her self-respect and the ambiguities of her relationship with her step-father and (step-?) brother are not really explored. The session she has with a shrink (and pays for from her earnings – who says the French aren’t pragmatic) is one of the better parts of the film, as is the cameo appearance of Charlotte Rampling, memorable in Under the Sand and Swimming Pool. Vacth’s performance in what must have been at times a very demanding role should guarantee her presence in films to come, but no sign of them yet on IMDb.


I didn't realise, but it's not just the Pont des Arts that's festooned with padlocks, another 10 as well - see this article in the Guardian by Agnès Poirier.

17 November 2013

Presenting Poll Data

Back in August, Matthew Holehouse posted on his Telegraph blog a chart produced by Electoral Calculus. The following month John Rentoul was very taken with it, calling it the “Chart of the Year” (version below) in his Eagle Eye blog for the Independent on Sunday.

The chart presents what Holehouse called “the polling trajectories of the last seven general elections”. Perhaps not exactly a trajectory because each of the lines has only three points: the beginnings of the lines mark the polling forecast two years before the election, the dot in the middle marks one year before election day, and the dot at the end is the final outcome. The colour of the line is that of the party in power since the last election, and the colour of the end dot indicates the outcome.

Now, I realise that some people’s start to glaze over with this sort of stuff, so perhaps best for them not to read on. But here are some points which occurred to me:
The 1992 outcome (Con 41.9 %, Lab 34.4 %) seems to be wrongly plotted.
I’ve added the current (mid-November) UK Polling Report Average (Con 31 %, Lab 39 %).
I’ve turned the 2010 result into a purple dot to represent the Coalition.
The points labelled ‘a’ and ‘b’, I will come to later.
I don’t understand the “LIB DEM” area in the bottom left corner.

The last of these made me wonder whether a ternary plot (Wikipedia) might be of help in presenting polling results. This makes use of an equilateral triangle to locate data when three items have to add up in total to the same number (the scales run up the three vertices of the triangle). So Conservative %, Labour % and Other % have to add up to 100 % and the last eight election results can be plotted as in this chart:

All the results lie in the hexagon shown in grey and this can be used to plot the results and add in more detail: It shows the election results since 1970 in sequence, the majority boundaries which were provided by Electoral Calculus in their chart and the UKPR average as above. I’ve also added the 1945 election result for historical interest.

Does this form of presentation add any value? Possibly, (for those who can understand it and are not put off by the cluttered appearance) in terms of illuminating the consequences for the two main parties of votes being cast elsewhere.

For example, current Conservative support is back at the levels of the 1997 to 2005 elections. If Labour’s current support recedes to the level it was at in 2005, then, for the Tories to achieve a majority, the Other vote would have to drop to less than 25%. It hasn’t been so low in an election since 1979.

However, the Lib Dem level of support is currently at 10%, lower than at any election since 1970 and they are at present only one-third of the ‘Other’ vote. If they remain as unpopular but returned to being two-thirds of the ‘Other’ vote (as in elections from 1979 to 2005), the latter would drop to about 15%. The rest of current ‘Other’, (ie about 20%) could return to the two main parties rather than not vote at all. In the unlikely event of all these voters turning to the Tories in 2015, they would probably get a majority (‘a’, horizontally to the right from the November 2013 point). If as many as 5% transfer to Labour, even if 15% vote Tory, Labour has a majority (‘b’).

The poll data is in the Table below. To be honest, while the ternary plot is mathematically correct, I don’t think it adds much to Electoral Calculus’s more conventional form of plotting, which is probably quite enough for a lot of people.

11 November 2013

Viennese Portraits at the National Gallery

When the title of an exhibition includes a date, as does Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900, currently at The National Gallery in London, it shouldn’t always be taken at face value. Certainly, earlier this year, the Courtauld’s Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 was exact as to artist, place and time, whereas in 2000 the Royal Academy’s 1900: Art at the Crossroads covered the decade up to 1900. In 2002 the RA’s Paris: Capital of the Arts 1900-1968 was specific, and, if that example had been followed, the title of the NG show would probably be something like Portraiture in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918. How much less immediately appealing this would have been to those whose primary interests are Klimt and Schiele is hard to say.

As it is, if the well-known Viennese modernists are what you are seeking out, you may feel that you have had to make your way past a lot of their rather less interesting Austro-Hungarian predecessors. But it’s worth it. After all there is only one painting by Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918) in a public gallery in the UK, the NG’s own Portrait of Hermine Gallia 1904 (above right), currently in this exhibition as might be expected. There is now the chance to see, among others, his Lady in Black, c.1894 (above left), Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl 1917-18 (poster above), and Posthumous Portrait of Ria Monk III 1917-18 (above centre).

There are no works by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) in UK public collections, so we should take the opportunity to view The Family (Self-Portrait) 1918 and Erich Lederer 1912 while we can (above left and right). Portraits by Oscar Kokoschka (Count Verona 1910) and Richard Gerstl’s Nude Self-Portrait with Palette 1908 (just before his suicide) are also worth seeing.

Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 continues until 12 January 2014.

31 October 2013

CASD, or not CASD

I have posted here from time to time about the UK’s programme to maintain its nuclear deterrent capability by replacing the current Trident submarines. These posts have mostly been about either the implications of a decision next year by Scotland to become independent and non-nuclear, or the consequences for the formation of a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition after 2015 of the two parties having differing views on the UK deterrent.


As far as the first of these is concerned, the current Scottish nationalist line was made less unclear by Alex Salmond when interviewed by Andrew Marr recently (The Marr Show, BBC1, October 20):
ANDREW MARR: What happens to the submarines at Faslane? Are they- do you order them to sail south and do you know where they would sail to? 
ALEX SALMOND: Well they should be safely removed. The time period for the removal once Scotland becomes independent - and after of course people have elected their first government in an independent Scotland - but if it were to be an SNP government, then we would ask the submarines to be removed from Scotland as soon as was safely possible. And the emphasis obviously on the safety because nobody would want to compromise that in any way. But of course a country has the right to say we don’t want to … possess nuclear weapons - either our own or anyone else’s.  
ANDREW MARR: When you talk to defence ministers in London, they say oh well we might have some kind of leaseback arrangement a bit like the base in Cyprus. That is for the birds as far as you’re concerned, isn’t it?  
ALEX SALMOND: Well yes it is for the birds. I think the Ministry of Defence actually briefed quite recently - I know they did - that they were going to annexe Faslane, but that particular ridiculous scare story just lasted overnight before Downing Street tried to … well did dismiss it. So you know I think the reality is that if Scotland becomes an independent country, if they choose the SNP to be the government, then we would want to see Scotland as a non-nuclear country. Part of the NATO Alliance certainly, part of the defence structures, cooperating on defence, but cooperating from the basis of being … a non-nuclear country.
Since any independent Scottish government would be elected in 2016, the removal would be “as soon as was safely possible” after this, presumably. The costs and practicalities of Trident relocation as a consequence were the subject of a post here most recently in July. I am not aware of anything particularly interesting having come up since.

The Liberal Democrats

The evolution of the Liberal Democrat position relevant to any Labour/Lib Dem coalition in 2015 has been more convoluted. The Lib Dems were for some time advocating a system other than Trident as being more appropriate for the UK. For example, in January Danny Alexander gave an exclusive interview to the Guardian which reported:
The Liberal Democrats demanded a review into alternatives to replacing Trident as part of the coalition agreement, and it was initially led by the then armed forces minister, Nick Harvey. When Harvey was moved from the MoD last September, Alexander took charge of the detailed study, which is due to be completed and published by June this year. In his first interview since taking charge of the review, Alexander said nothing he had seen or heard in the last four months had challenged his view that replacing the Trident fleet was unnecessary – and unnecessarily expensive. He said he doubted it would meet the UK's 21st-century defence requirements either, with experts estimating the whole-life costs of replacing Trident could exceed well over £100bn.
The Trident Alternatives Review was published on Tuesday 16 July. Two days earlier, the Independent on Sunday had run a story, Trident fleet may be cut to two submarines in new Lib Dem plan:
Britain’s fleet of four Trident submarines could be cut to two vessels under plans to be put to the Liberal Democrat conference this autumn. Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Treasury Secretary, will set out the proposal on Tuesday after heading a review of the alternative options to the £25bn “like-for-like” successor to Trident fleet favoured by the Conservatives.  
… Mr Alexander has concluded there is no practical alternative to Trident, party sources told The Independent. But he will detail alternatives for downgrading it, making clear the leadership’s preference is for a two-submarine replacement.
However, on 16 July in a speech to the RUSI about the Trident Alternatives Review, Alexander indicated no such preference:
… We can adapt our nuclear deterrence to the threats in the 21st century by ending 24 hour patrols when we don't need them, and buying fewer submarines. … a replacement nuclear deterrent based on the current Trident system is the most cost-effective in the period we are considering.
[A] Four-boat successor operating continuous at sea deterrence [CASD} is not the only viable approach available to the UK. … The option of non-continuous deterrence does not threaten current security. And by changing postures we can reduce cost at the same time. For instance, ending CAS-D [sic] and procuring one less Successor submarine would make a savings of about £4 billion pounds over the life of the system.
The Trident Alternatives Review had concluded:
32. The analysis has shown that there are alternatives to Trident that would enable the UK to be capable of inflicting significant damage such that most potential adversaries around the world would be deterred. It also shows that there are alternative non-continuous postures (akin to how we operate conventional military assets) that could be adopted, including by SSBNs, which would aim to be at reduced readiness only when the UK assesses the threat of a no-notice pre-emptive attack to be low. None of these alternative systems and postures offers the same degree of resilience as the current posture of Continuous at Sea Deterrence, nor could they guarantee a prompt response in all circumstances. …
and the analysis of Postures had pointed out that:
3.36  Classified analysis about attempting to maintain continuous at sea deterrence with a 3-boat SSBN option showed that the risk of unplanned breaks relates directly to the number of submarines available for operational deployment, which in turn relates directly to the total number in the fleet. The modelling suggests that, over a 20 year period, a 3-boat fleet would risk multiple unplanned breaks in continuous covert patrolling as well as requiring regular planned breaks for maintenance and/or training. Experience to date with the Resolution-class and Vanguard-class SSBNs is that no such breaks have occurred or been required with a 4-boat fleet.
In a Commons debate on an unrelated defence topic later that day, the then shadow defence minister, Jim Murphy, took the opportunity to point out that:
… what we have learnt today is that the Lib Dem part of the Government has taken two years to review a policy and spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, only to conclude that the Lib Dems’ past policy was unachievable. Today they appear to have managed to advocate both a Trident-based system and part-time unilateralism simultaneously. That is a real achievement. The British people will marvel at the incompetence of suggesting that we should pay tens of billions of pounds to send boats to sea, while the media are now being briefed that on occasion they will not even carry missiles. That is like someone having a new, expensive burglar alarm at their home with no batteries and a sign above the door saying, “Come on in—no one’s at home”. (Hansard 16 July 2013 : Column 970)
The Commons debated the Trident Alternatives Review on 17 July, with Danny Alexander providing the Lib Dem interpretation of its conclusions. He told the Commons that:
… ending CASD and procuring one fewer successor submarine would make a saving of about £4 billion over the life of the system. (Hansard 17 July 2013 : Column 1225)
which would appear consistent with Chart 1 of the Review (below).

Kevan Jones spoke for Labour in place of Kevin Murphy and, in response to a question from a Conservative, Sir Edward Leigh, confirmed the Labour party’s commitment to CASD, but went on to state that:
If changes in technology make the nuclear submarines more reliable, meaning that we can go down to three, we will consider that. (Column 1227)
Parliament went into recess shortly after the debate. The next articulation of the Lib Dem view of the UK’s nuclear deterrent was in a paper for their Autumn Conference, Defending the Future UK Defence in the 21st Century, Policy Paper 112. This recommended adopting a “Contingency Posture” which among other things would:
• End CASD but exercise the submarine capability regularly to maintain relevant skills, including weapons handling and nuclear command and control.  
• Issue a declaratory policy of going to sea only with unarmed missiles and store a reduced stockpile of warheads at RNAD Coulport for redeployment within a specified timeframe. (6.3.6)
Of the four non-CASD postures identified in the Review: Focused, Sustained, Responsive, and Preserved, the last seems most similar to the Contingency Posture. The Conference passed the Defending the Future policy on 17 September.

On 7 October, Ed Miliband reshuffled the opposition front bench, and Jim Murphy’s move away from defence drew the attention of the commentariat. Gary Gibbon remarked on his Channel 4 News blog:
Ed Miliband is said to rue the decision to continue with continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD) and four Trident submarines, and there’s bound to be suspicion that the removal of Jim Murphy from defence is part of a plan to move the party to a different place on this (even though the commitment to CASD was only signed up to this summer). In the past, Vernon Coaker, the new shadow defence secretary, has voted in favour of Trident renewal, but I wonder where he stands now and whether it came up in the chat in the leader’s office this afternoon.
Polly Toynbee was even sharper in the Guardian the next day:
Removals may say more than promotions. Jim Murphy, smoothly dangerous, evicted from defence, frees up that policy for changes he would have blocked. Suspected of serial disloyalty, turning this war tiger into a peace-loving pussycat at international development is condign punishment that raises a smile among colleagues.
But Dan Hodges in his Daily Telegraph blog knew better:
Vernon Coaker is determined to ensure that there's no backsliding on Trident renewal.
and on 16 October this News item appeared on the website of John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow and Furness:
THOUSANDS of submarine design and construction jobs in Barrow will be safe under an incoming Labour administration, the new shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker MP said this afternoon (Wednesday). Mr Coaker gave the commitment to replace the Vanguard-class nuclear deterrent boats when accompanying John on a visit to BAE Systems' giant submarine-building complex in the town. Labour's pledge will also protect work carried out by supply-chain companies across the UK and maintain the nation's security.  
John said afterwards: "It's so important that the new shadow defence secretary chose Barrow over all the places in the UK to come first. He's been impressed by the capability he's seen today and the clear signal he's given is that Labour will continue with the programme that we started in government - to maintain the continuous at-sea deterrent by replacing the Vanguard submarines. That's absolutely right, but it's really good to hear it on his first outing.”  
Mr Coaker said: "The important thing is we're maintaining our commitment to an independent, nuclear deterrent. We believe that should be a continuous at-sea deterrent and the Main Gate decision for that will be made in 2016. The workers and management I've spoken to here today are reassured by that."  
Around 5,500 BAE Systems personnel are engaged in submarine design and construction at the Barrow yard with thousands more involved in supply-chain manufacturing and services throughout the UK.
So, in October 2013, about 18 months before the election, the Labour and Liberal Democrat positions on the deterrent are no longer differentiated by choices as to the most appropriate delivery system but by the appropriate “posture” for the Trident submarine force and hence the number of Successor submarines required. My view is that the current Lib Dem position can be regarded as quasi-unilateralist and intended to attract a particular left constituency which would otherwise vote Labour (or Green, or not at all). Labour’s position remains one of avoiding any hint of unilateralism, which the Tories would be certain to capitalise on, and also has an eye to the jobs at Barrow and in the supply chain referred to by John Woodcock. Whether Trident CASD would prove to be a “red line” if a Labour/Lib Dem coalition had to be formed remains to be seen, perhaps not until the possibility of one being unavoidable seems likely.

As a reward for anyone who has bothered to read this post to the end, left is Henry Moore’s Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy), now on display in Tate Britain. The University of Chicago commissioned Nuclear Energy and the full work was unveiled in 1965 by Moore and Enrico Fermi’s widow, Laura, on the site of the first man-made nuclear reaction . Moore, who was a CND supporter, said that he intended the upper part of the sculpture to resemble the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion (Roger Berthoud’s The Life of Henry Moore, page 394).


It is probably worth recording the following exchange at PMQs on 20 November (Hansard Column 1229):

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): If he will rule out the removal of continuous at-sea nuclear deterrence for as long as he is in office. 
The Prime Minister: As I told my hon. Friend when he last asked about this issue, if we want a proper, functioning deterrent, we need to have the best. That means a permanent, at-sea, submarine-based posture, and that is what a Conservative-only Government after the next election will deliver. 
Dr Lewis: May I reassure my right hon. Friend that that excellent answer will remain on my website for as long as it takes for the pledge to be fulfilled? I notice that he used the words “Conservative-only Government”. Will he reassure the House that never again will Liberal Democrats be allowed to obstruct or delay the signing of the main gate contracts, and will he undertake to sign those contracts at the earliest possible opportunity? 
The Prime Minister: I would say a couple of things to my hon. Friend. First, investment in our nuclear deterrent has not ceased. Actually, we are taking all the necessary steps to make that main gate decision possible. Also, we have had the alternative study, which I do not think came up with a convincing answer. I have to say, however, that I do not feel that I would satisfy him even if I gave him a nuclear submarine to park off the coast of his New Forest constituency. [Laughter].