The Light Fantastics

A City Romance (also available for animation)

Meet the Light Fantastics.

This is Lady in Red. This is Green Go-to Guy. They live in two little spaces in a traffic light in the Big City, on a busy corner of Main Street and Crosstown Avenue.

Lady in Red tells people to stop and wait before they cross Main Street.
Green Go-to Guy tells them when to cross Main Street.

They have to wake up early in the morning when they hear the first trucks rumbling down Main Street and be ready for work. Their first walker is always Dust Cart Man. Lady in Red makes him wait. Green Go-to Guy tells him when to cross and sweep the other side of Main Street.

Then come the early workers.

Then come the regular workers.

Then come the schoolchildren. Lady in Red makes them all stop. Green Go-to Guy tells them to cross.

Then it’s the late workers. Some of them want to cross in a hurry, but Lady in Red makes them wait like anyone else, before Green Go-to Guy lets them go.

Then it’s the shoppers. Then the people taking early lunch. Then the people taking regular lunch. Then the people taking late lunch. Lady in Red and Green Go-to Guy tell them all what to do.

Then it’s the schoolchildren and the workers crossing the other way.

Then it’s the people going out for dinner, or to see a play or a movie or a concert.

Then it’s the clubbers. Lady in Red stops them all, Green Go-to Guy lets them cross.

But when the last clubber crosses Main Street to go home, the Big City belongs to the Light Fantastics. They watch the last clubber let himself into his house. They look at each other and slide down the traffic light into Main Street. They stretch… and stretch… and stretch a bit more. And when they are tall enough, they dance… and dance… and dance…

They dance down Main Street. Past all the places where the people work or shop or go to school. But nobody can see them. Through the Big Square with the Victory Arch and the statue of Marshal Law. Past the Town Hall with the statue of Mayor Culpa. Into the park with the bandstand – where they can tap dance. They finish the routine with a big kiss. Then they take a drink at the fountain. And since nobody’s looking they bathe their feet.

Then they walk together, hand in hand, under the stars. They leave the park and walk back to Main Street. This time they reach the part with lots of advertising boards.

Lady in Red stops Green Go-to Guy. She looks at one of the big boards and says “We’ve never seen this one,” and he says “Do you want to try it?” It has a picture of a flashy fast car. An Alfa Pseud. And the two of them jump right into the car – because they own everything in the Big City at night, including the advertising boards and everything inside them.

The picture in the board has the Alfa Pseud all on its own on a long desert highway. Green Go-to Guy opens the door for Lady in Red and lets her drive first. All the way to the end of the highway in the picture. Then they change places and Green Go-to Guy drives it all the way back. Who do you think drives faster? Wrong. It’s Lady in Red. After stopping people all day, at night time she likes to put on a little speed.

Green Go-to Guy parks the car in the same spot in the picture. They get out and jump out of the board back onto Main Street.

“What did you think?” asks Green Go-to Guy. Lady in Red shakes her head and says “It went pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-qweep in sixth gear.”

They walk a bit longer along Main Street and stop in front of another advertising board. This one’s for a big blockbuster movie with the world’s biggest stars – Luke Upward and Stella Cast. But since they own everything in the Big City they jump right into the movie set and Green Go-to Guy says “Luke, my man, do you want to take five?” and Lady in Red says “Stella, honey, would you like to powder your nose?” And the stars leave, so that Green Go-to Guy and Lady in Red can play the big scene themselves. They look at the scripts the stars leave behind.

“You don’t love me any more.”

“I do.”

“You don’t.”

“But I do.”

“Your lips are moving but your eyes are lying.”

“Believe me.”

They give it all they can and then they look at each other and say the same thing. “This stinks.” They call back Luke and Stella and jump out of the board back into Main Street.

They walk a bit further and stop at another advertising board. This one has a tropical beach with nobody on it. They stare and stare at it. They have never seen anything so beautiful in the Big City. Finally Lady in Red says “We deserve a vacation.”

Green Go-To Guy says “We haven’t got much time. You know what happens if we’re missing…”

Lady in Red says “Just a quick swim?” And she takes his hand.

So they jump onto the beach. They kick up a little sand. They look at the clear blue water and run towards it, still hand in hand. But before they can jump in, the whole beach starts to shake. Not just the sand. Not just the sea. But the sky and the sun too. It can only mean one thing. They run back along the beach and look out of the board. It’s the first truck rumbling along Main Street. The Big City will not belong to them much longer. They will not be allowed in the advertising boards – or anywhere else. If they don’t get back to their traffic light in time they could be locked up as deserters.

So they jump back onto Main Street. No more dancing, they just run, and run, and run. Hand in hand. When one gets tired, the other pulls. Run, Lady in Red! Run, Green Go-to Guy! Back into the park… past the fountain… past the bandstand… Past Marshal Law and Mayor Culpa. Past the workplaces and the shops and the schools. They see more and more trucks. Faster, Lady in Red! Faster, Green Go-to Guy! The dawn is breaking over the Big City. At last they reach their section of Main Street.

They can hear the Dust Cart. One final sprint… They reach their traffic light just in time. They help each other up, and shrink again to fit into their little spaces. They are ready for Dust Cart Man. Lady in Red stops him in the usual way. Green Go-to Guy lets him cross in the usual way. He notices nothing different about them and heads down Main Street to sweep the other side.

Lady in Red and Green Go-to Guy watch him disappear. They look round the street. No trucks. No people. They slip out of their little spaces and have one final kiss.

Potential sequels

The plot device in which the two characters inhabit and interact with the images of poster advertising could be used in a series of sequels, with a similar premise at the end: the pair must finish their adventure at daybreak in time to resume their normal duties inside the traffic light. In other possible sequels, Green might have a rival, Bicycle Man, and the two might go into combat using traffic arrows as spears; Green and Red might raise a family of lesser lights; Red could save a child’s life in the busy street (or more exotically, a lost circus elephant); Green and Red could have a peaceful vacation in a remote country township with almost no traffic.

Richard Heller

05. November 2023 by rkh
Categories: Books, Movies | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on The Light Fantastics

The Quality Of Mercer Gets Quite Strained

Two new songs by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen

Any Place I Feed My Cat Is Home (for Theo)

Still a kitten
That’s his style
Life is playtime
Makes me smile
Stalks treats in the
Carpet pile
Shreds paper into
An’ any place I feed my cat is home.

Finds a place
To sharpen claws
But not the scratch-post
He ignores
Stops for grooming and
Licks his paws
Loves his brush and
An’ any place I feed my cat is home.

Flies buzzing in his face
Invade his space
Them all got a nerve
Them he has to chase
No help from me
He’ll take them all on.

Out the door
To call on friends
When he’s back
It all depends
Corridor calling
Now it’s time to
I’ll let him have a wander
Into his own yonder
‘Cause any place I feed my cat is home.

Adapted from “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” by Johnny Mercer, music by Harold Arlen

Sinatra’s Last Over

I’m 73
There’s pain in every joint
Especially each knee.
So give me the ball
I really hope I won’t embarrass you all.
I’m bowling, my friend,
At match end,
And we can’t wait to lose:
So it’s one for the over,
And then break out the booze.

I’ve still got my pride:
I’d hate for them to win
This match off a wide.
I’m bending my back
To make the pitch pitch inside
His half of the track.
Let him hit me for four,
Maybe more,
Any place he might choose.
That’s my one for the over:
Now let’s break out the booze.

You’d never know it –
I once knew how to bowl it
The ball that even Ben Stokes couldn’t play,
A total corker, a late reversing yorker…
But now it’s gone away

The evening’s turned cold,
The ball and I are almost
Equally old:
So thanks for the cheer,
I know you think it’s time
I closed my career.
As I call it a day
I can say
That I paid all my dues.
So that’s my one for the over
Now let’s break out the booze
That long awaited booze.

Adapted from “One For My Baby” by Johnny Mercer, Music by Harold Arlen

Published in The Nightwatchman issue 35 Autumn 2021

30. November 2023 by rkh
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Meeting The Young Marshal

Published in High Life magazine May 1998

An elderly Chinese gentleman and his wife, both in wheelchairs, are leaving the morning service at a Protestant church in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The woman is still beautiful and elegant. Her husband, behind his thick glasses, is alert and soldierly, his features a mask of dignity. The congregation watches reverently as he and his wife are wheeled into their waiting transport.

I catch sight of him again, in Honolulu, being wheeled out of a luxury apartment block. He passes a line of taxi drivers, waiting by their cabs: they stand to attention and bow.

He might have been a last emperor – and he once ruled a state. He was also once a playboy, a gambler and a drug addict. He is Chang Hsueh-Liang, also known as Peter Chang, or the Young Marshal, or the Dancing Despot – and one of the most fascinating people of the twentieth century.

In 1936 he changed the history of the world. He kidnapped China’s ruler, Chiang Kai-Shek and forced him to abandon his civil war against the Chinese Communists and form a united front with them against the invading Japanese. This event in December 1936, the Sian Incident, led to full-scale war between China and Japan: it opened World War II in the East. The Young Marshal became the hero of China. But, in his moment of destiny, he sacrificed himself for the sake of his country and spent more than 53 years under house arrest, so becoming the longest-serving political prisoner in history.

At the age of 90 he was set free. He remains revered as a patriot both in mainland China and Taiwan. In his current home in Hawaii, he is visited by leading politicians from both governments, seeking his blessing. Chang Hsueh-Liang was born in Mukden, capital of Manchuria, on 2 June 1900, the first son of a hunter-turned-bandit-turned-warlord, Chang Tsolin. Young Chang and his eight brothers went to school in Mukden. He learnt English with a Scots burr from his best friend, Jimmie Elder, son of the Mukden railway director.

At 16 he was married, at 17 a father, at 20 a general in his father’s Manchurian army. At 24, he captured two great cities, Peking and Tientsin, and helped to make his father the arbiter of China. But later his father retreated back to Manchuria from Chiang Kai-Shek’s advancing Nationalist army. He never made it. The Japanese had designs on Manchuria. Through their secret agent, Major Giga, planted on Chang Tsolin as his military adviser, they blew up his private train and killed him.

He left his son a fortune of $50 million (untaxed, in 1928 values) and a state the size of Western Europe, with 30 million people, and an army of half a million and huge, largely untapped mineral and agricultural wealth. At 28, Chang Hsueh-Liang, now the Young Marshal, was the youngest ruler in the world.
Sixty-two years later, on his release from house arrest, Chang told Japanese TV interviewers “My father loved me a lot. He had his first victory in a war on the day I was born and it was on my birthday that he was killed. Since then I have never had a happy birthday and I have changed my birthday. Still, every year I remember him.”

Under the ancient Chinese code, it is a supreme duty for a son to avenge a murdered father. It took ten years, but in 1938 a Manchurian hit squad, paid by Chang, finally caught up with Major Giga in Japan.

The Japanese, already pursuing their aggressive and ultimately catastrophic policy of military expansion, expected young Chang to become their puppet in Manchuria. They knew him already to be an opium user (like many Chinese generals he found it relaxing between battles). Another Japanese secret agent became his doctor and gave him a “cure” – morphine.

But Chang was determined to resist Japan. When he found two of his generals plotting with the Japanese he invited them to play mah-jong and then gunned them down over the tiles. The assassination made him massively popular with his subjects.

For the next three years, Chang struggled to modernize Manchuria and rid it of foreign influence. He donated most of his father’s fortune to found training schools. He used his army to suppress civil war and support anti-Communist Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek as sole ruler of China. It was the start of a long relationship as Chiang Kai-Shek’s disciple, brother-in-arms – and sacrificial victim.

Handsome, energetic and affable, Chang attracted admiring profiles in Western media. In his spare time he drove fast cars, danced, held all-night poker sessions for huge stakes, bought gadgets, wore excellent clothes, took up golf, collected beautiful works of art and calligraphy, loved many women and tried to give up drugs.

He also enjoyed his twin-engined silver monoplane, the Flying Palace, equipped with giant sofas, an ornate desk and an icebox. With a long Chinese robe tucked round his knees and his purple bell-boy cap askew on his head he would perform hair-raising stunts and drop messages to his prostrating troops.

But in September 1931 the Japanese carried out their long-prepared plot to conquer Manchuria. They replaced Chang with Pu Yi, the Last Emperor, as puppet ruler. Ironically, Chang himself had encouraged Pu Yi to return to politics. “I told him ‘when the time comes when China elects its President you have just the qualifications to run’”.

When the Japanese struck, most of his army was out of Manchuria, fighting for Chiang Kai-Shek: Chang himself was in hospital in Peking. He appealed to Chiang Kai-Shek for help, but Chiang order him not to resist. He was counting on the League of Nations to act and was in any case determined to fight the Chinese Communists in preference to the Japanese.

This non-resistance policy was deeply unpopular. To spare Chiang Kai-Shek’s reputation, Chang accepted the blame, as he did later when the Japanese pushed south in China and took Jehol and Peking. Chang announced his “retirement”, aged 36.

He went to Europe, met and admired Mussolini, and set up with his wife and family in London’s Dorchester hotel. He tried to enter Oxford University and had the same hope for his teenage sons, who were given the English names of Raymond and Martin and a tutor in Hove. Chang visited aircraft factories, bought Savile Row suits, went to nightclubs (earning the title of The Dancing Despot), watched Mickey Mouse films and turned up uninvited at the 1933 World Economic Conference. Asked if he expected any result from the Conference, he remarked that “it was a great benefit to hotels”.

Above all, during his British stay Chang finally cured himself of drug addiction.

In 1934 he returned to China, at the head of his exiled Manchurian army, fighting Mao Tse-Tung and the Communists on behalf of Chiang Kai-Shek. Observers noticed that he had dropped his playboy habits for a Spartan regime, and that he spent more and more time with young radical officers. They wanted to fight the Japanese and return to their homeland, not to fight fellow Chinese thousands of miles away. Many of his officers admired the discipline and apparent patriotism of their opponents. Under their influence, Chang opened contacts with the Reds, especially Chou En-Lai, whom he later described as “an intimate and trustworthy old friend.”

In October 1936 Chang appealed to Chiang Kai-Shek to reverse his anti-Communist policy and lead a united front of all Chinese against the Japanese invader.

Chiang Kai-Shek flew to the Manchurian army headquarters in the remote provincial capital of Sian (home of the Terracotta Warriors). He intended to give Chang a dressing down and order him into a final offensive against the Communists. But on 7 December 1936 Chang kidnapped him in his night shirt, and forced him to negotiate with Chou En-Lai and to agree to accept the Communists in an anti-Japanese coalition.

Chang then amazed China by releasing his prisoner. In his Japanese television interview he explained why. “If I had kept Chiang Kai-Shek there would have been a war between the civil government and us. We kidnapped him to avoid war, so I decided to take the responsibility of releasing him.” He also faced heavy pressure from the Communists: Stalin was anxious to preserve Chiang’s authority.

Still more amazingly, Chang left his army and accompanied Chiang Kai-Shek back to his capital in Nanking – as his prisoner. Like Stalin, he still believed that Chiang Kai-Shek alone could lead China, and sought to save his leader’s face as he had before over the Japanese invasions. He gave Chiang a public apology. The sophisticated ex-resident of the Dorchester said “I am naturally rustic, surly and unpolished. This has led me to commit an impudent and criminal act.” He offered to accept any punishment, even death, although he expected a nominal sentence.

Chiang Kai-Shek had him put under house arrest. A month later, Sam Goldwyn offered him a starring part in a film epic about Marco Polo. He was unable to accept the engagement. Although he did not know it, Chang had begun 53 years of imprisonment – comfortable, but still imprisonment. He was joined by his lover – Edith Chao. Eight years earlier, as the beautiful teenaged daughter of a privileged family, she fell instantly in love with him as his dancing partner at a ball in Shanghai. Two years later she caused a society scandal by running away to join him (a married man) in Manchuria. She chose to follow him into captivity and in 1964, after the death of his wife, they were able to marry.

Chang remained under house arrest during the war and the subsequent Chinese civil war. In 1948 the Americans and his own advisers urged Chiang Kai-Shek to release him, as the only man who could save Manchuria from the advancing Communists. But Chiang Kai-Shek refused, and instead sent Chang in an aeroplane to Taiwan, where he remained a state prisoner, never allowed to tell his story.

Chang occupied himself by writing poetry and taking up photography. He played a lot of bridge. Most important, he became a Christian, adopting the name of Peter. On Sundays he was sometimes seen worshipping at the church used by Chiang Kai-Shek. The two men were reported to have retained their staunch friendship, although each still claimed that he was right in the civil war.

In 1990, after Chiang Kai-Shek’s son died, his long captivity was ended. He went to Hawaii, where his younger brother Henry had settled. He moved with Edith into an exclusive apartment block.

When I met him, in 1997, his eyesight and hearing were failing and both he and his wife were wheelchair-bound. They worshipped regularly at their Protestant church in Honolulu but otherwise rarely appeared in public. Whenever he did so, he commanded instant attention and respect. His friend, Hawaii’s first senator Hiram Fong, told me “He is very popular and regarded as a great hero of modern China. When Chinese people see him they want to take his picture.”

He has refused all requests for interviews in Hawaii. In October 1996 he gave personal papers and a history of his life to Columbia University in New York, but at his request they are sealed until 2002. They are housed there in the Peter H L and Edith C Chang Reading Room, in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library where there is a small permanent exhibition of his life.

Mr Chang has spoken to his congregation and written about his discovery of Christianity. Their faith clearly meant much to him and his wife: he was a benefactor of his church and she wrote four books about Christianity and Bible reading.

It was at church that I met them both after the Chinese language service which they attended on the first Sunday in Advent. Mrs Edith Chang was still beautiful in her 80s, with dark hair and neat features. She had respiratory problems but appeared bright and composed. Her husband, in his 98th year, kept the soldierly air of the Young Marshal. A figure of great dignity, wearing a check shirt-jacket and a black skull cap, he followed the service attentively. One of the hymns (in Chinese) was Fight The Good Fight.

He shook my hand firmly and when I said slowly and loudly that I came from London, England, he broke into a radiant smile – perhaps recalling happy memories of the Dorchester. He had great personal magnetism, equal (in my experience) to Nelson Mandela. I also sensed a vigorous mind – an impression confirmed to me by his regular mah-jongg partner, Robert Woo: the pilot who flew him to Taiwan on Chiang Kai-Shek’s orders nearly 50 years earlier.

Apart from mah-johngg, I was told that he followed the news each day. His wife’s great-niece, Mrs Li, visited him each day and read him newspaper stories, especially ones about China, international affairs and American politics. She told me that his memories were still vivid and accurate and that he was still in touch with people he had known 70 years before, including Mussolini’s daughter.

But she also told me that he was constantly baffled by his reputation for being a dancer. “I never danced,” he would say, “I was always marching”.

May 1998

Postscript (2000)

At the end of May 2000, Chang Hseuh-Liang had an advance celebration of his 100th birthday, with his wife and family members, and many prominent visitors including representatives of the Chinese and Taiwan governments. A film crew recorded the celebrations and his thoughts on a long and crowded life, which he predicted to last another five years. (Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, widow of his captor, is still alive in New York, aged 103).

But a month later his wife Edith died of pneumonia, aged 88, ending a loving relationship of 72 years. Heartbroken, Chang Hseuh-Liang held her hands tightly as her life ebbed away. A few months later he died peacefully, aged 100.

22. November 2023 by rkh
Categories: Journalism | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Meeting The Young Marshal

What has the ICC done for Afghanistan’s women cricketers?

As Afghanistan’s men rightly celebrate their achievements in the World Cup there are questions for the International Cricket Council about its women. My letter below, repeated twice, unanswered thrice.

Media office
International Cricket Council

I am a British author and journalist who writes regularly about cricket. I am co-presenter of a weekly cricket-themed podcast, with a global following. I would be grateful for the following information about the ICC’s policy towards Afghan cricket, which is not available on its website.

1) What decisions on this matter did the ICC reach in its Board meeting in March this year? Some media report that it gave the Afghan Cricket Board its full allocation of the shared revenues from international cricket (a considerable uplift from the last such allocation) and also offered technical help in the training of male coaches. No conditions were attached. Is this correct?
2) If any conditions were attached, how is the ACB’s compliance being monitored?
3) Have there been any amendments to the ICC’s decisions since then?
4) It was also reported in several sources that the ICC had rejected proposals to allocate part of these revenues to Afghan women in exile, on the grounds that only national boards are entitled to spend money on any aspect of their country’s cricket. Is this correct?
5) The ICC set up a Working Party on Afghanistan in November 2021. How many times has it visited the country since then?
6) The Working Party had no women members. Did it include any female staff? If not, was this a deliberate decision by the ICC and if so, what were its motives?
7) The absence of women in the Working Party would have inhibited its ability to speak to any Afghan women in the country. Did it make any efforts to achieve this and did they have any success?
8) Did the Working Party provide any means for women and other persecuted groups to give evidence to it in secret?
9) Did the Working Party contain anyone with knowledge of the principal languages of Afghanistan, who was able to read a document and understand a conversation in them?
10) The website and annual report of the Afghan Cricket Board show no female members or staff. Did the Working Party see any female influence on the work of the Board?
11) The website and annual report show no cricket of any kind by women or girls in Afghanistan in 2022. Did the Working Party observe any?
12) What impression did the Working Party receive of the actual control over cricket exercised by the Board in all parts of the country (and indeed of the authority of the central government)?
13) Did the Working Party observe any male cricket matches in Afghanistan? If so, were women among the spectators and what conditions were imposed upon them? How and by whom were these matches policed?
14) Did the Working Party understand the public order régime under which cricket matches are played in Afghanistan?
15) Is cricket broadcast and televised in Afghanistan? If so, by whom and under what conditions imposed by the Taliban government or local leaders?
16) In relation to questions 12 to 15, did the Working Party detect any influence by the restored Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Restoration of Virtue? This body made itself detested in the first period of Taliban rule for its cruelty, fanaticism and extortion.
17) Did the Working Party receive any information from male cricketers about the conditions under which they play inside the country? For many reasons they and their families may be especially vulnerable to duress from the Taliban nationally or locally.
18) Many of those male cricketers will have sisters or other female relatives who want to play cricket or at least watch it. Were they asked about them and their ambitions? If so, what responses did they receive? Negative ones would be as instructive as positive.
19) Media reports indicate constantly that living conditions in Afghanistan are deteriorating, especially for women and persecuted minorities. The already exiguous prospects for women cricketers in the country were hit still further by Taliban decrees banning women from public parks, schools and universities and unaccompanied journeys. Stonings have been restored as punishments (possibly in stadiums used for cricket.) Has the ICC sought or received any information on these matters from the remaining NGOs working in Afghanistan?
20) What is the rationale behind the ICC’s decision to maintain Afghanistan’s full member status? What steps has the ICC taken to ensure that the benefits of this status flow to Afghanistan’s cricketers and cricket lovers of all genders, faiths and ethnic origins and are not appropriated by national or local Taliban leaders?

I hope you would agree that these are reasonable questions and that the ICC would find it beneficial to publish a response.

Richard Heller

03. November 2023 by rkh
Categories: Journalism, Politics | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on What has the ICC done for Afghanistan’s women cricketers?

Hands Off Private Eye!

David Wolfe Esq QC
Press Recognition Panel   17 October 2018

Dear Mr Wolfe,

I would be grateful if you could confirm, clarify or deny the report in Private Eye that the Panel intends to carry out “a high-level assessment” of that publication as part of consideration “of how far the public is currently protected from potential harm.” I could find no mention of this assessment on the Panel’s website.

Private Eye quoted the Panel as saying “we are often asked to give a view” on the subject, although it is not clear what subject is referred to. How many requests has it has received for an inquiry into Private Eye, and if there are any at all, has the Panel made any check into their origin? Were they from disinterested members of the public, or did they emanate from any of the powerful people and businesses which have sought to suppress Private Eye over the years?

As you should well know, Private Eye has never carried out any of the practices against members of the general public which prompted the Leveson Inquiry and the ensuing creation of the Panel. On the contrary, it has regularly championed “ordinary people” who have been victimized by incompetents or wrongdoers in high places. The latter will be the only beneficiaries of any inquiry into Private Eye, and this is therefore likely to bring the Panel into contempt.

If the Panel wants a worthwhile subject to investigate, it might turn to the media which have sold themselves to Saudi Arabia, or indeed other interests which have used their power over their content.

For clarity: I occasionally submit proposals to Private Eye but have never been paid by them.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Heller

17. October 2018 by rkh
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You Are The Umpire

Published in the Cricket Society Journal October 2018

For ten summers from 2007 to 2016 the Observer newspaper carried a popular illustrated feature called “You Are The Umpire.” Its creator was the English and international umpire John Holder.

He highlighted unusual situations which he had encountered in a distinguished career. One I particularly remember: a batsman is hit on the helmet by a fast delivery. He is dazed and confused. He wanders into his stumps. The fielding side appeal for “hit wicket.” Umpire Holder’s verdict: not out. Any umpire should call “Dead Ball” the moment he knows the player is injured (he is lucky not to have to call “Dead Batsman”).

Holder’s advice was instructive and beautifully illustrated by a distinguished sports artist, Paul Trevillion. But playing in the lower depths of cricket as I did throughout my career I encountered some situations which would have been beyond Holder’s experience. So over to the Society. What is your verdict on these four events, all of which actually happened? My answers below relate the outcome, right or wrong. In each case the decision was made by a member of the batting side, filling in as umpire.

One: In one match in my later career, when fielders started wearing helmets, the wicketkeeper and the short leg decided to doff their helmets at the end of an over and after much deliberation placed them side by side behind the wicketkeeper. The batsman played one delivery of the over slowly to fine leg. At our level, this often earned two runs. To avoid this humiliation fine leg charged in, gathered the ball and produced an instant but rather wild throw. It struck one helmet and ricocheted immediately onto the other one. The batsman asked for ten bonus runs: the fielders held out for five on the grounds that the two helmets were conjoined as one. How many bonus runs would you award?

Two. Batsmen’s runners always caused chaos at my level. As one match moved to a tight finish, two injured batsmen were at the crease. Each requested a runner. Astutely, the fielding captain agreed: he knew that it would end in tears. Injured batsman A, an indifferent performer, took guard. His runner went towards square leg, level with the popping crease. The runner for injured batsman B (a better performer, with a high opinion of himself) went to the non-striker’s end. There was some doubt where batsman B should stand, but he resolved this himself without reference to the umpires by walking over to the leg side at the non-striker’s end, parallel to runner A.

Batsman A squirted the next delivery just past second slip. Batsman B, seeing the chance to get the strike, wrongly called for a short single. Equally wrongly (but as so often happens) he forgot his injury and started running himself. His runner, who should have called, loyally obeyed his master and set off himself. Batsman A stepped back a couple of paces and wrongly called “Wait!” His runner loyally obeyed his master. In consequence, by the time second slip retrieved the ball four men with bats and pads were at the striker’s end. Predictably, both wicketkeeper and bowler called loudly for a throw. Second slip calmly took the right option and threw to the vacant non-striker’s end. The stumps were broken with a loud appeal. Which batsman would you have given out?

Three: the side batting second in pursuit of a substantial total opened their batting with a shy, nervous boy of about 13. He grew in confidence and as wickets fell around him he took charge of the innings. He passed fifty, found a reliable partner, and brought his team comfortably ahead of the required run rate. He passed quickly through the 80s but in the 90s, on the brink of his very first century, his nerves returned and he could scarcely buy a run. His partner (and extras) took over the scoring and the boy began to lose the opportunity to complete a century. Finally, the scores were level, wickets in hand, but just two balls left. The boy was facing on 96. He attempted a big hit, miscued and sliced the ball. It trickled towards third man. His partner called him for a run and he did his duty for his team and ran to the other end. Backward point was a kindly soul who had been following the scoreboard closely. He chased down the ball, which had stopped, and when he saw the batsmen running he kicked it over the boundary to give the boy his hundred. Did he succeed with this generous act?

Four: one of my teams had a regular opener who was incredibly stodgy. He was very hard to dismiss but even harder to accelerate. He used to announce grandly that his role was to “lay a platform”. In his case, the platform was made of slow-drying concrete. In one match, he had been in for over an hour and gathered ten runs. Like so many greater batsmen, he was “in the zone” where the outside world did not matter. I do not think he even heard our team’s pleas to get on with it. I went out to umpire at square leg. He blocked three more innocuous deliveries. The next was a long-hop. Even he could not resist. He took a big swing. It was mistimed and looped in the air towards square leg. Unfortunately, square leg was missing. I caught the ball myself as umpire, summoned mid-wicket and gave the ball to him. Was the batsman out?

Now what happened next. One: the umpire awarded the batsman five bonus runs only, not because he treated the helmets as one but because he ruled the ball dead as soon as it struck the first of them. I think this was right.

Two: Batsman B was ruled out. The umpires took no account of the movements of the batsmen, only the two runners. Runner A never abandoned the striker’s end and was still in his ground. Runner B had abandoned his ground and was run out when the non-striker’s stumps were broken. I think that this was right under the Laws but I know that both umpires personally disliked batsman B.

Three: the boy was not awarded his hundred. The senior umpire (joined by the scorer) decided that the game was over when the winning single was completed. I think that this was right, but here too there may have been personal factors. The senior umpire was the boy’s father, a dour Yorkshireman and a stickler for “proper cricket.” He told the kindly backward point that a century had to be earned, not gifted. The scorer was the boy’s jealous younger brother.

Four: I persuaded my colleague that the dismissal stood because the ball is still in play when it hits an umpire. The batsman objected that there had been no appeal. I told him that I had heard multiple appeals from the batsmen waiting to go in. This situation is not envisaged in the present Laws.

At my level, visiting umpires were rare but I used to encounter two unusual specimens fairly regularly. One was very modest about his abilities, as shown by this piece of circular logic on any lbw appeal. “I always give the batsman the benefit of the doubt, because I am such a bad umpire there must be doubt about any decision I give.”

The other gave decisions largely on the basis of artistic impression, like an ice skating or gymnastics judge. He would often give batsmen lbw if they were attempting an ugly cross-batted heave, but not if they tried to flick the ball beautifully off the pads. Similarly he would often refuse appeals by boring workaday seamers but grant them to tweakers and mystery bowlers.

I owe him a lot of my early victims.


Richard Heller is the author (with Peter Oborne) of White On Green celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, which was shortlisted for the Cricket Society/MCC Book of the Year in 2017. He is the author (alone) of two cricket novels A Tale Of Ten Wickets and The Network.  He is in the twilight of a long cricket career which never really had a dawn.

05. October 2018 by rkh
Categories: Belles-Lettres | Tags: | Comments Off on You Are The Umpire

Proper rules for peers

Proposals submitted to the House of Lords Sub-committee on Members Conduct

It would be helpful to the general public, and perhaps also to members of the House, to consolidate the Code and the Guide into a single document.

The Code
Paragraph 1, add at end: “Membership of the House is, above all, a summons by the sovereign to the service of the state. Members are unelected and once appointed may sit in the House for life, a provision which is almost unique in the world’s legislatures. The public are entitled to expect that members should adopt the highest standards of personal conduct, both inside and outside the House.”
Paragraph 2: omit final sentence, which adds nothing to the Code and which is not necessarily true. Some members of the House have had long membership of the other place and may have little relevant experience outside Parliament.
Paragraph 3a: omit all after “them” in line 2 and replace with “ the Code does not extend to conduct outside the House except as provided in paragraphs 8, 9, 16 and 17.”
Paragraph 3b: omit all after “in” in line 2 and replace with “the House.”

New text  3. The purpose of this Code of Conduct is:
(a) to provide guidance for members of the House of Lords on the standards of conduct expected of them; The Code does not extend to conduct outside the House except as provided in paragraphs 8, 9, 16 and 17.
(b) to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the House.

Paragraph 8b: replace with “should act always in accordance with the Principles of Public Life, as currently defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.”
Paragraph 8c: omit “any financial inducement” since incentives and rewards may be non-financial.
Paragraph 8d: It might be simpler and clearer to prohibit members from taking any action within the House as the agent of any outside party, whether paid or not.
New text: 8. Members of the House:
(a) must comply with the Code of Conduct;
(b) should act always in accordance with the Principles of Public Life, as currently defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life;
(c) must never accept or agree to accept any financial inducement as any incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence;
I think that it would be an excellent idea to add a new sub-paragraph to paragraph 8 as follows:
(x) must never attempt to use their status to secure any kind of personal advantage or treatment by means which would not be available to a member of the general public. The House will view with particular severity any attempt by members to use any such means in the pursuit of a complaint or a grievance.

In adopting this the House would set an excellent example to other people in public life, especially those who use the sentences “Do you know who I am?” or “I know your editor.”

Paragraph 9: Make the Principles directly enforceable on members and omit reference to personal honour. Omit all after “Public Life” in line 2 and replace with: “Members may face investigation of allegations of conduct inside or outside the House which might be thought by a reasonable person to be in breach of the Principles, and may be sanctioned if the allegations are upheld. These Principles will also be taken into consideration when any allegation of breaches of the provisions in other sections of the Code [or the Guide to the Code] is under consideration.”
Paragraph 16: what happens to peers sentenced to over one year’s imprisonment?
Paragraph 17: add references to disqualification as company director, and disqualification or suspension from the exercise of any profession, trade or vocation. Why should people who cannot run a company be allowed to run the country? Peers are expected to represent the highest standards of their professions – those who fall short should face the possibility of sanctions.
Paragraph 23: insert after “Conduct” in line 2 “or any officer or servant of the House” At end insert: “”No member should approach any complainant directly or attempt to exercise influence over any complainant.”
New text: 23. No member shall lobby a member of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct or the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct or any officer or servant of the House in a manner calculated or intended to influence their consideration of a complaint of a breach of this Code. No member should approach any complainant directly or attempt to exercise influence over any complainant.
Paragraph 25: add after “regard” in line 3 “provided that he or she has given complete and accurate relevant information about the matter to the Registrar.”

New text: 25. A member who acts on the advice of the Registrar in determining what is a relevant interest satisfies fully the requirements of the Code of Conduct in that regard, provided that he or she has given complete and accurate relevant information about the matter to the Registrar. However, the final responsibility for deciding whether or not to participate in proceedings to which that interest is relevant rests with the member concerned.

It may be thought highly unlikely that any peer would try to nobble an Officer of the House, or threaten a complainant, but it is as well to deter such conduct by a reference in the Code, and it would bolster public confidence in the House.

For similar reasons, I would suggest that the Code introduce an in terrorem provision against members who wilfully mislead any Officer or servant of the House on any issue.

The Guide to the Code of Conduct

Some of the changes recommended above will have consequences for related provisions in the Guide. I have not attempted to track all of these.

In Paragraph 3 or elsewhere I think that it would be good to declare that the House has a bias towards disclosure, and that the Registrar will always recommend registration or declaration of a potential interest unless the member can offer convincing reasons for believing that a reasonable person would not expect it to influence his or her conduct in the House.

Omit Paragraphs 6 to 9 on personal honour: they would become otiose if the Principles of Public Life (which are much more explicit) were incorporated into the Code.
Amend or omit paragraphs 10 and 11 if the Principles became directly enforceable.
Omit Paragraphs 17 and 18: they are superrogatory and paragraph 17 almost invites members to argue that there is no distinction between the public interest and any private interest they choose to represent. “The Shropshire Pig Breeders Association has the right to be heard in the House.”
I think that paragraphs 19 to 28 need a great deal of clarification. I am not certain how to achieve this, but it might be enough to reform Paragraph 8 of the Code, as recommended above, ie a simple prohibition on peers from undertaking any action in the House at the direction of any outside body. It might also be helpful to have a general ban on lobbying by peers, with a definition of “lobbying” thus: to attempt to secure any decision on any matter by any government or regulator or public agency or international organization or any individual acting on its behalf.

On registration of interests:
I find incomprehensible the reference in paragraphs 49 and 52 to declaring “the precise source of each individual payment… confidentiality.” Simple inspection of the Register suggests that most peers also find it incomprehensible. It appears to mean that directors and employees should register all the clients of their companies or employers. But that would render paragraph 60 (my bugbear) otiose. If the House decides to retain the references to an established duty of confidentiality I think that the Guide should spell out the professions concerned. Personally, I think that this should refer only to medical, mental and spiritual professions and only in relation to actual human beings as clients, not to companies and other non-natural persons. As will be seen below, I believe that governments and Politically Exposed Persons have no right to privacy as clients.

Paragraph 60: see separate note. This serves no public interest, and allows a small group of peers the right to ignore the standards of disclosure required of the best public affairs consultants.
In any revision, the Guide should define public affairs and services. Here is an attempt based on definitions commonly in use in the industry, including its professional body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants.
“Although members may not engage in lobbying, as defined in paragraph x above, they are not prohibited from providing or assisting the provision of other public affairs advice and services. For purposes of this paragraph, this means any advice or services aimed at improving a client’s relationship with and potential influence over any government or minister or public official or regulator in any country; any international organization; any person or body seeking to influence voters in any country; or any section of the media, or general public opinion, in any country. It includes any training or education aimed at assisting any of these objectives.”
Then provide as follows: “Any member who is a director or partner in any organization providing public affairs advice and services should list all of its clients in the Register, indicating with an asterisk any clients for whom they provide any personal advice or service and any clients whom they have introduced to the organization. Any member who is an employee of such an organization should list in the Register all the clients for whom they provide any personal advice or service and any clients whom they have introduced to it.”

Category 7 I think there is a risk in asking peers to declare only visits “substantially arising out of membership of the House.” Most peers, if not all, have done something else in life, and they can always claim that they were invited in that capacity. This allows peers to withhold potentially embarrassing visits from the Register. For example, if Lord Emsworth wanted to hide his luxurious hospitality from the government of Repressia he could claim to have been invited as President of the Shropshire Pig Breeders association.

I think that peers should declare all overseas visits – or subsidies for an overseas visit – worth £500 or more if paid by the host or any third party other than his or her employer.

There is a curious anomaly that if Lord Emsworth made a speech in Repressia he would have to disclose this, and his subsidized visit, in Category 2. I see no reason for the House to favour shy, silent peers.

An identical argument applies to gifts, benefits and hospitality under Category 8 “which relates substantially to membership of the House.”

New provisions on registration of interests

I think that a new category should be established for members to declare any payment or benefit they receive from any overseas government or public agency or any Politically Exposed Person (as defined in statute) in any overseas country. The public deserve this information. Most but not all of it can be obtained laboriously from the present Register. It would be a great convenience to the public to bring this together in one place, and to allow the public quickly to discover all the peers who have a beneficial relationship with any particular overseas country.

In view of the beautiful language of the writ of summons, there is a case for arguing that peers should not have any such relationship. If they do, they should certainly disclose it.

A draft of this new category of registration follows in the Appendix.

I believe also that peers who are directors or partners in non-British businesses should declare the nationality of the business concerned. There is scope for argument over this in any case, but to me it means the country where the ultimate head office of the company is located (and/or where it is domiciled for taxation purposes.) The public should be able to discover quickly which peers work for say, Russian companies or those registered in tax havens.

For the convenience of the public, members might be asked to declare simultaneously on the Register any donations they are obliged to declare to the Electoral Commission.

Paragraph 110 omit last sentence and matching provision in Paragraph 114. If they have any effect, they may deter complaints from whistleblowers who are within the power of an offending peer. In the case of any reasonably serious allegation, I can see no reason why a peer should know the identity of a complainant. Even if the complainant is malicious or vindictive, the allegations he makes may be true, and if the Commissioner decides to ask questions about them, the peer should be ready to answer them.

Paragraph 121 I think there should be an obligation on peers to inform the Commissioner if they are investigated for any reason by the police or any regulatory agency in any country or by their relevant professional body. Peers should keep the Commission informed of the progress of the investigation. The Commissioner would then decide whether to initiate an inquiry herself. Regardless of her decision, I believe that the House should give itself power to act against any peer who has been sanctioned by the Electoral Commission. If a peer cannot comply with the basic rules of British democracy, he or she should lose the right to influence the law or public policy.


Draft new category of Registration of Lords Interests
Category X: Foreign Governments and Politically Exposed Persons

Members should list under this category any financial or other valuable benefit worth £500 or more which they (or their spouses or civil partners) have received from any overseas government or a Politically Exposed Person (or his or her close family members or known close associates) in any overseas country. They should list the value of each benefit so received, its nature if non-financial (for example free or subsidized hospitality) and the source. They are not obliged to declare the reason for which the benefit was given, unless it is in connexion with public affairs advice or services (as defined in paragraph y).

Members who are directors or partners in any business which has supplied goods or services of any kind to the value of £1000 or more to an overseas government or Politically Exposed Person (or his or her close family members or known close associates) should list under this category the businesses and the customers concerned. Room for argument as to value

Members who have a personal working relationship as employees of any business with any customer who is an overseas government, or a Politically Exposed Person (or his or her close family members or known close associates) should list under this category the business and customers concerned. For sake of completeness

An overseas government includes any official or public agency appointed by national government, but not a local authority, and bodies appointed by or accountable to local authorities.

An overseas government does not include any international organization but members may be liable to declare any financial or other valuable benefit received from a senior officer of such an organization acting in a personal capacity, if he or she is a Politically Exposed Person.

A Politically Exposed Person and his or her close family members or known close associates mean anyone within the definitions used in any current legislation or regulations. A PEP would generally include any head of state or head of government, minister, senior government or ruling party official, member of a national parliament or assembly, high-ranking military officer, ambassador, or justice of the highest court in any overseas country. It would also generally include any senior official of an international organization. Doubtful cases should be referred to the Registrar. Close family members include parents, spouses and civil partners, children and their spouses or civil partners.

Definition of Politically Exposed Person

Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017

12) In this regulation— (a) S.I. 2007/2157. 42 (a) “politically exposed person” or “PEP” means an individual who is entrusted with prominent public functions, other than as a middle-ranking or more junior official; (b) “family member” of a politically exposed person includes— (i) a spouse or civil partner of the PEP; (ii) children of the PEP and the spouses or civil partners of the PEP’s children; (iii) parents of the PEP; (c) “known close associate” of a PEP means— (i) an individual known to have joint beneficial ownership of a legal entity or a legal arrangement or any other close business relations with a PEP; (ii) an individual who has sole beneficial ownership of a legal entity or a legal arrangement which is known to have been set up for the benefit of a PEP.
(13) For the purposes of paragraph (5), a reference to a business relationship with an individual includes a reference to a business relationship with a person of which the individual is a beneficial owner.
(14) For the purposes of paragraphs (9), (11) and (12)(a), individuals entrusted with prominent public functions include— (a) heads of state, heads of government, ministers and deputy or assistant ministers; (b) members of parliament or of similar legislative bodies; (c) members of the governing bodies of political parties; (d) members of supreme courts, of constitutional courts or of any judicial body the decisions of which are not subject to further appeal except in exceptional circumstances; (e) members of courts of auditors or of the boards of central banks; (f) ambassadors, charges d’affaires and high-ranking officers in the armed forces; (g) members of the administrative, management or supervisory bodies of State-owned enterprises; (h) directors, deputy directors and members of the board or equivalent function of an international organisation.

Richard Heller September 2018

26. September 2018 by rkh
Categories: Politics | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Proper rules for peers

A blot on Parliament: the slack rules on peers and public affairs consultancies

The House of Lords rightly expects peers to register and declare any outside interest which a reasonable person might think capable of exercising an influence on their conduct in the House.

Beneath this general obligation, the House wishes peers to list any clients to whom they provide advice on public affairs, or other public affairs services. Again, rightly so. If one reads and takes seriously the beautiful language of the writ of summons one might think that peers should give public affairs advice only to their sovereign. Peers who take money to give public affairs advice to outside interests should take leave of absence from the House. (This might be one convenient way of reducing the present surplus of peers!)

But even if one rejects this purist view of a peer’s duties, it should be beyond challenge that peers should declare to the public any outside interest which benefits from any public affairs advice or services to which they are party. That is the clear and proper intention of the House.

In 2011 the House realized that nearly a hundred peers were evading
this responsibility by hiding their public affairs clients behind the façade of a consultancy. It tried to remedy this in the Guide to the Code of Conduct.

Unfortunately, the House decided to preserve an irrational and unworkable rule that peers were obliged to list only their “personal clients”. I call this the “touting exemption” since it was evidently intended to allow peers to enlist clients for a public affairs consultancy without being obliged to declare them even if they were directors or partners in the consultancy – and even if they were successful in their efforts.

This matter continued to cause difficulties and the House decided to amend the “touting exemption” again in 2015.

This is now paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct. This is a very poor provision in several respects.

60. The types of services covered here are those falling under the broad heading of public affairs advice and services. Where a member receives remuneration from an organisation engaged in such work, the member should list any of those clients with whom the member has a continuing relationship on behalf of the organisation which could not fairly be described as immaterial.

First, it is badly written, relying on a clumsy double negative.

Second, it is actually a step backward from the previous wording. This referred to “public affairs advice and services personally provided by the member”, which is a matter of fact. The current wording makes registration of public affairs clients a matter of judgment – by the peer concerned.

Third, the provision gives unscrupulous peers far too much scope to lie about their personal public affairs clients. A peer can choose to declare Save The Panda as a personal client but continue to hide The Landmine Manufacturers Association behind the veil of his consultancy. House officials have no means of challenging this. Nor have members of the public. Unless by chance evidence of the peer’s activity on behalf of the Landmine Association is publicly revealed, a complaint against the peer will not succeed and will be frustrated by his bare denial.

Fourth, and most important, the whole provision works wholly in favour of peers and wholly against the public. It makes a nonsense of the general obligation for peers to list all the interests which might influence them. To take my previous example, suppose a peer is a director or a partner in a public affairs consultancy. He knows that the Landmine Manufacturers are important clients. He is personally enriched by the profits they generate. Even if he does not directly serve them in the House, he is unlikely to make a fierce speech against landmines there or anywhere else. The public are entitled to know this.

Fifth, the great majority of reputable public affairs consultancies and individual practitioners are members of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), and as such, declare the bare name of all their clients on a public register every quarter. The APPC have told me that this provision has never caused any difficulty. Paragraph 60 has the bizarre effect of allowing peers who are not willing to meet a similar obligation to take a full part in the House. They can run public affairs consultancies and be enriched by all their clients, they can tout for clients successfully, and still withhold the name of clients at will from the public.

Although lobbyists can be peers, the APPC does not allow peers or MPs (or any public affairs consultancies to which they belong) to be members. It believes that peers’ duties are incompatible with public affairs activity for any paying clients. It is curious that lobbyists have higher standards for membership than the House.

I continue to believe that peers who are directors or partners in a public affairs consultancy should be required to declare all its clients on the Register of Interests. I would be glad to know why the House thinks otherwise and what merit it sees in maintaining the present position in paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct.

I also continue to believe that the House should adopt a comprehensive definition of “public affairs”, to include all of the services provided by members of the APPC.

From inspection of the Register, I tried to see how many current peers are involved in public affairs consultancies or something akin to them. My analysis is in the Appendix. I was surprised that the number is so low. It leads me to believe that there would be little objection to a tightening of the rules on public affairs and the removal of an obvious anomaly.

Richard Heller June 2018


Under the present wording of paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct peers who are directors or partners in a public affairs consultancy are required to declare on the Register of Interests under category 3 any clients with whom they have a significant working relationship.

Among over 800 peers, I have found just seventeen who have made such a declaration. They are:
Allan of Hallam
Cooper of Windrush
Harris of Haringey
McIntosh of Pickering
Taylor of Goss Moor

It appears to me that Lords Allan of Hallam, Cormack and Taylor of Goss Moor have been especially scrupulous in making such a declaration, since they do not work through a public affairs consultancy. They have declared public affairs advice given to an employer, or to an organization which the member chairs or for whom the member writes regularly.

A number of other peers declare under categories 1 or 2 personal clients of businesses which may not fall within the category of public affairs consultancies, namely


This may reflect advice from the Registrar, or an especially scrupulous approach from the peers concerned.

I have identified another group of peers in leadership positions in businesses which seem to fall under the category of public affairs consultancies who declare no clients. These are


Finally, Lord Rogan lists no personal clients on the Register but has made a full list of clients of his consultancy, Stakeholder Communications, available for inspection through the Registrar.

It is possible that these thirteen peers have acted on advice from the Registrar. Without such advice, they are relying on their own bare assertion that they are not providing public affairs advice or services or that they have no significant relationship with a client.

My analysis suggests to me that the rules on the declaration of personal clients are not well understood by peers and would benefit from clarification. There is a risk of unfairness to conscientious peers.

Second, and more important, any tightening of the rules would affect only a handful of peers. Even if all of these were so enraged as to leave the House it should be able to stagger on without them.

Richard Heller June 2018

26. September 2018 by rkh
Categories: Politics | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on A blot on Parliament: the slack rules on peers and public affairs consultancies

An example to today’s business leaders who trade with Putin

 A British business leader boycotts Hitler


From The Earl of Woolton’s Memoirs (Cassell 1959)


“In 1938 the world was shocked by the relentless persecution of the Jews in Germany. Many were escaping to this country and to America, including some of the most eminent scholars and scientists in the world. Meanwhile, the ordinary innocent people among the Jewish race were being treated with a sadistic cruelty that was stirring the sympathy of the Christian world and creating both anger and despair that such things could be possible in this supposedly enlightened century – and still more that they could be tolerated by the civilized world.


“When in the spring of 1938 Hitler moved into Austria, I found it impossible to resist making the small effort of protest that a private citizen could make. Lewis’s [department stores] had at that time fourteen buyers in various parts of Germany. I cabled to them, telling them to close their books, honourably fulfil all their contracts, and to return home. A few nights later, I took the occasion of a speech I was making at a Lewis’s sales managers’ dinner at Leicester to express my personal alarm and disgust at what was happening and to say that I thought each one of us individually ought to do what he could to warn the people of Germany of the gravity of the position into which Hitler was leading them. I then announced that as far as Lewis’s was concerned, we should proceed at once to sell all the German goods that were in our stores and that we would have no further trading with German manufacturers whilst the German people continued to tolerate a Government that ‘for no other reason than that of their faith persecuted one of the oldest races in the world.’


“The effect of this speech, which lasted but a few minutes, surprised me. It  was what the public wanted someone to say: it gave the individual citizens something to do – a means of expressing their emotions.”


Sir Frederick Marquis, as he then was, infuriated the Chamberlain government. “I was sent for to appear at Number 10 Downing Street, and there handed what is now colloquially called ‘a high-powered rocket.’ I was told that the Prime Minister strongly disapproved of my action and that I had no right to interfere in this manner in the foreign policy of the country. I remained respectfully unrepentant, and said that I should continue to exercise my rights to trade where I would, and to say what I thought.”


Marquis later became famous as the successful wartime Food Minister and promoter of the Woolton pie. He was also a reforming postwar chairman of the Conservative Party, widely credited for his role in its 1951 General Election victory.

30. May 2018 by rkh
Categories: Politics | Comments Off on An example to today’s business leaders who trade with Putin

White On Green review in the Cricket Society Journal Autumn 2017

Generous and perceptive analysis by John Symons

One year on from the Book-Of-The-Year shortlisted Wounded Tiger: A History Of Cricket In Pakistan, Richard Heller and Peter Oborne return to the topic with a new opus which aims to “celebrate the drama of Pakistan Cricket.” Now, patently, there is a connexion between the two books but this is no series of offcuts or even a sequel but instead a set of short essays of aspects of cricket in Pakistan that could not reasonably fit into a general history but were far too interesting to leave on the discard file.

For an obvious example, there is the case of the “lost” Mohammad brother. Hanif, Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir are well-known as the four who played Test cricket but what of the unlucky one who didn’t – Raees? Still alive and alert and bearing no ill-will (well, maybe a little) towards those who, in the face of what seem pretty overwhelming evidence of his talent, would not select him at Test level. It is here that we find the first of many references to A H Kardar, who ruled Pakistan cricket at various times and treated it as a kind of personal fiefdom. One feels that there must have been a certain kinship between Brian Sellers, Gubby Allen and A H Kardar in the way that they saw cricket and cricketers.

The principles of selection and non-selection are one of the recurring themes throughout the book. “Billy” Ibadulla had to come to England to be recognized as Test class; Miran Bux made his debut at 47; Israr Ali forced his way into the Test team but had the kind of relationship with Kardar reminiscent of Charles Parker and Pelham Warner. Then there is the magnificently eccentric and ultimately tragic Prince Aslam. Talented but wayward, a Prince whose family fortunes suffered under Partition but a Prince who lived as if he were a rich Nawab; skilled on the harmonica [actually the Pakistan harmonium RH]  and prone to perform as a one-man band or arrive late for trains with a pick-up band that he fancied playing along with, he is a character whom no author of fiction would have ever dared to invent.

Legends appear as well. Majid Khan declines to live on past glories but is producing a master plan to restore Pakistan’s cricket back to its heights. Zaheer Abbas, ICC President, talks freely and Intikhab Alam is profiled. Then there are the quirky moments as Tauseef Ahmed recalls how he bowled for a day in the nets at the Pakistan Test team, was invited back the following day as a net bowler, and the day after that found himself as a member of that Test team. The father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrent (if that’s the right phrase) recalls his cricketing days in an interview with Najum Latif and the inevitable A H Kardar turns up on US television on Tell The Truth (no irony intended.)

There are more serious essays on the relationship between Islam and cricket; the brave “suffragettes” of Pakistan cricket who, in the face of sometimes violent opposition, were determined to play the game they loved; cricket under the days of military rule; and the attack on the Sri Lankan tour bus which led to Pakistan being unable to play cricket at home and to decamp to the Emirates.

If, however, you want to find something that encapsulates everything about Pakistan cricket – from the foolhardy, an opener batting in tennis shoes against an express bowler; humiliation, a team losing by an innings and 851 runs; fortitude, a team travelling for nearly a whole day and night to play their first first-class game; an appetite for runs, the experienced team batting on and on until declaring at 910 for 6; and pride, two surviving members of the defeated team speaking in later life of how they felt in representing their team and how they continued to play cricket – one merely has to turn to the account of Railways versus Dera Ismail Khan, still sitting proudly (?) in Wisden as the greatest defeat ever suffered in first-class cricket.

A real page-turner of a book, with nuggets everywhere, and a book to be returned to often and not left on the shelf after a single read.

15. November 2017 by rkh
Categories: Books | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on White On Green review in the Cricket Society Journal Autumn 2017

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