11 May 2015
Letter from Mr Paul Johnston
Reading JR Thomas’ piece on architects in this week’s Shaw Sheet (Issue 103 “Fading Icons:Modernism”) reminded me of a conversation that I had recently with an architect that my company (a property development company) is currently using on one of its schemes.
I introduced him to someone saying “this is Richard, who is working for us on X”
To be quickly corrected by Richard who said “working with, Paul, not for”.
I maintained my usual Zen like countenance but in other times and in other places he might well have been quite forcefully reminded that he was very much working for us – along with all the other professionals on the project who are contracted to provide a service for a fee and who do not appear to have quite such an elevated opinion of themselves.
14th December 2015
Shaw Sheet Magazine
Listed Buildings: Time To Revisit The List?
Lynda Goetz’s fascinating article on listed buildings points out the very bizarre principles of current historic and architectural buildings conservation ideology, where ugly or second-rate alterations that Historic England would never for a moment countenance if submitted to them in 2015, are fiercely protected by virtue of being carried out in earlier, but often recent times, before the building was statutorily listed.
My own particular mid adjusting experience was being an observer – as trustee of a charity that was going to pick up all of the eventual bill – of a fierce and protracted row between English Heritage – as it then was –and the local authority in whose curtilage our building stood. The local authority officers wanted a ramp built up the front of the Grade 1 listed building to allow disabled access. English Heritage were absolutely not prepared to permit any such thing. The drama ran and ran, and ran. Eventually we were told to create a new baroque Georgian door at the back for level access. The cost of all this set back our efforts to repair the deteriorating interior by several years.
But I am not sure that what we need is a major delisting of lesser buildings. Our architectural history and the comfortable fabric of the builtscapes around us need all the protection we can grant them in an age of rampant redevelopment, limited life buildings of dubious construction quality, and ponderable future use statistics, to justify bulldozers almost anywhere. What we do need is a stiff dose of reality injected into the various statutory bodies so that they enable sympathetic alterations and repairs to buildings which maintain the feel and spirit of place but enable modern uses and lives in old fabric.
Which is the same ethos that should drive modern Conservatism also, Mr Cameron might conclude, from his central London Georgian terrace.
Peter Bradshaw Wilson
17 September 2015
Time is running out in the Middle East
John Watson’s article was educational for those of us sketchy about the last days of General Gordon. But I am uncomfortable about the parallels he draws with the current Middle East situation. Gordon was in the Sudan on British government business and had every right to expect unstinting support.
Today, however, we are a pimple on Europe’s backside, sometimes morphing into America’s poodle.
The Middle East is like the gopher whacking fairground attraction where you smack one and another two pop up. Destroying ISIL through military action is not an option.
There are two measures that Europe can deploy.
We can stop selling arms to the combatants. Not a popular option with the defence firms expecting to coin it next week at the DSEI arms fair in the ExCel Centre.
We can exert diplomatic and economic pressure on the people ISIL are selling oil to and the regional powers offering no support to the victims of the carnage on their doorsteps.
If Russia floods the resulting vacuum good luck to them! They might recall Afghanistan in the seventies.
On the practical compassionate side we should invest heavily to help Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Italy to support the refugees. Settling a relatively small number in Northern Europe is more about gesture politics than solving the real problem.
20 August 2015
Mr Corbyn’s priorities
Yesterday, as a registered supporter of the Labour Party I received an email outlining the offerings of each of the 4 leadership candidates, and 5 deputy leadership candidates. Here is Jeremy Corbyn’s:
We can win in 2020, but only if we spend the next five years building a movement – putting forward a vision for a new kind of politics: honest, kinder and more caring. The choice in this leadership election is whether we reject austerity and set out a positive vision for a modern economy in which we all prosper. This is an historic moment: you have the power to change politics.
It was the only one of the 9 statements which did not contain the words “I” and “me”.
I enjoyed John Watson’s article “A Matter of Momentum”. But I take issue with his analysis of the government’s “reform” agenda. “Reform” is a nice positive word, which is why the government forbade its use to describe the clearly reformist Alternative Vote proposals in 2011. The “reform” that Mr Watson refers to covers a number of policies which are either more of the same aimed at increasing the pressure on the poor and vulnerable or are mere fine words. Where is the evidence that this government has done anything to reduce tax avoidance or that they will do anything to tackle tax evasion?
The 2015 general election demonstrated that many people thought that they could trust the Tories to preserve their living standards at the expense of the poor and vulnerable. These voters do not have a reform agenda and are probably bemused by the government’s sterile aktionismus around the health and education services and the provision of housing. Their priority is to stay in a job and keep the barbarians from their gates.
Jeremy Corbyn’s priority appears to be to effect real improvements to core services and improve the lot of needy. He need have no fear of the Tories shooting those foxes. His best chance is that the government’s gormless policies will convince a majority of the electorate that their life chances will be better under a kinder and more caring regime. I wonder if Ken Clarke spotted that.
6 August 2015
I think JR Thomas in Issue 13 might be underestimating the appeal and therefore the chances of Jeremy Corbyn. I write as a lifelong Lefty who has not voted Labour for many years, preferring the policies of the Green Party. I have registered as a Labour Party supporter only because I want to give Jeremy Corbyn his chance. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham are tainted by their years in office under Blair and Brown. Liz Kendall is obsessed with finding out what people will vote for so that she can frame her offer accordingly. Whatever his faults, Jeremy Corbyn has a clear agenda and an unwavering set of principles that have kept him on the back benches for 33 years.
JR Thomas makes much of the Trade Union support Corbyn has attracted. The Trade Unions cut no ice with me personally and I suspect I am not alone among Lefties in being deeply suspicious of the self-serving cliques running most of them. I think that, for once, it will be down to the left-leaning individuals among us who have suddenly spotted the chance of our views being expressed by a Labour Party leader for the first time since Michael Foot. My fear is that Jeremy Corbyn will be too successful and present such a threat to the establishment that he will go the way of David Kelly!
21 May 2015
The Human Rights Act
Sirs, I was disappointed to see the otherwise excellent and balanced “Shaw Sheet” falling under the spell of the little Islanders with the suggestion that the Human Rights Act gives the European Court of Human Rights jurisdiction in the UK. The UK was one of the first signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights and accepted the rights of individuals to take cases to Strasbourg in 1966. This right was made compulsory for all signatories to the Convention in 1998. The Human Rights Act simply brings that right on shore as it were. To divest ourselves of any oversight by Strasbourg the UK would have to withdraw from the treaty and I hope that this is not the intention of Mr Cameron or his party.