Thursday, 31 December 2009

Millennium dreams

The children stayed up to mark the moment when 1999 slipped into 2000. I think we toasted the new millennium. There was a crash of fireworks and a splatter of colour in the sky. Then came the sound of people laughing and singing. I opened the door and saw a dancing procession of neighbours and friends doing the conga round our cul-de-sac. We left the door open and joined in. Suddenly it seemed that the future could be filled with trust and friendship.

Before that, we'd been watching the celebrations from the new Millennium Dome and flashes from around the world. I recall Tuvalu, Sydney and Paris. I remember little of Britain's Millennium celebration. Tony Blair and his family were there, still glossy with the people's love and trust. I noted that, of all the celebrations shown from all over the world, ours was the only one with a guest list and entrance fee - others were free and open to the public. George Carey as archbishop of Canterbury had insisted on a Christian element to the event. He was a late addition to the programme and was squeezed in long before midnight. He stood in the centre of the vast dome and the words of the Lord's prayer echoed emptily. The audience seemed rightly embarrassed - religion was out of place in this monument to commercial sponsorship.

At some point before going to bed, I rang my brother in Canada. "This is the voice of the next millennium," I declared. Looking back on the 20th century, it seemed possible that I'd reached a better time. The Berlin Wall had come down, apartheid had ended and it still seemed possible that the divisiveness and hatreds of Thatcherism would be pushed back. The afterglow of the 1997 election still shed a little light, even though I hadn't brought myself to vote New Labour. I mistrusted the surface shimmer and worried about the number of times Blair urged the voters, "Trust me." Honest people rarely insist that they tell the truth - they simply speak.

On the morning of 1st January 2000, hope persisted. Nations and people could work together. If we couldn't save Tuvalu from global warming, surely we'd welcome its dispossessed people. Perhaps as a world we could learn to love the stranger, just as the dancers in the streets welcomed all comers, regardless of origin or ability. I chose to take the conga as my symbol of the millennium rather than that exclusive, expensive party in London which I'd watched at a distance through the glass of my TV screen.

I don't know when hope dispersed.

I'm not sure it's possible to recover that hope. But the people I meet are so much better than party politicians, gearing up for the election, suggest. There's much more to human beings than the hatred of strangers and blind pursuit of personal profit.

I don't think I'll be able to celebrate the new decade. But, when midnight tolls, if I'm still up, I'll toast it with a small glass of Jura malt, hoping for hope in 2010.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Surveillance in the snow

Snow isn't a problem here - we could cope with a few more inches. The problem is the cold. As people walk in the snow, or as cars drive on the less-travelled roads, the snow turns to slush. Then it refreezes. I don't need to head to an ice-rink for thrills - between home and the station I slide precariously every few yards. My new technique for walking involves checking for crisp, snowy patches and cluching at walls, fences, lamp-posts and railings. What was usually a walk of less than ten minutes required concentration. balance and quick reactions. As my feet slid away from me, I bent my legs and caught hold of the railing, pleased to have avoided a serious tumble.

I was determined to have a day out. I'd booked leave - I'd told my friends I would do something special, even if my ambition had shrunk to a china boot filled with gluhwein and a visit to the exhibition at Nottingham Castle. I was feeling good about it. If nothing else worked out, I could always settle down in a warm café with Les Misérables.

I rang the castle in advance. The man who answered assured me that it was open and, more importantly, that the steep path up Castle Mound was well-gritted. He didn't mention that the steep pavements in the way to Castle Mound were glazed with ice and compacted snow. I staggered and slithered uphill, looking anxiously at the other tottering pedestrians who seemed more practised at walking on ice. Somehow I didn't topple down the slope but, carefully taking small steps, passed the Robin Hood statue and reached the castle gate. At last there were clear paths. I walked up the slope, delighting in the sight of the black branches above the snowy bandstand; the small, cold Christmas tree and even two or three warmly-wrapped children playing in chill of the white playground.

Perhaps an exhibition of art inspired by prisons and surveillance wouldn't have been everyone's choice for a day out but it suited my mood - and my sense of questions that matter in Britain today. I walked up the stairs inside the castle and into the exhibition. The first two exhibits are probably the ones that will stay longest with me. Louise Bourgeois's "Cell (Eyes and Mirrors)" may not comment on wider social and political questions in any obvious ways but it evokes the horror of being imprisoned and watched. It seems right that this horror should provide the basis of any political consideration of prison and surveillance - surely horror is the natural reaction to both.

I don't always spend long in video installations but I caught Manu Luksch's Faceless shortly after it had started and stayed nearly fifty minutes till the end. The film consists entirely of CCTV images, following rules set out in a manifesto. CCTV has also inspired the story of the film, which is told in a voice-over by Tilda Swinton. Again, the film isn't a direct comment on contemporary life - it's set in a future envisioned according to the CCTV trail each of us leaves every day. I emerged disturbed and impressed by the way blurrily familiar CCTV film had been turned into narrative with actors and choreographed dancers performing amid passers by for the mechanical gaze of the cameras.

I blinked as I emerged from the viewing booth and caught sight of the "Millbank Penitentiary" a model by Langlands and Bell of a now-demolished panoptical prison. The idea of the pantopticon was originated by Jeremy Bentham. It envisaged prisoners kept in separate cells, never seeing their fellow inmates but believing that they were watched at all times. A modified version has influenced prison design for many years. Bentham thought up the design as a benevolent model that would achieve reform of the prisoners. When developed to the extremes of Bentham's vision, many prisoners went mad.

I wandered into the next room. The gallery was empty apart from me, the attendant and a man leaning over a computer at a desk. I smiled at the attendant as I passed him and began to concentrate on the exhibits.

First I gazed at a history of imprisonment and death in Nottingham Castle. The past seemed to blend into present as I saw the orange jumpsuits in a nearby photo.

Then my attention was caught by what looked like Lego boxes opened up and spread out on the wall. Looking closely, I realised the scenes involved black-clad armed guards herding, beating and executing white skeletons. The notice beside gave the title and artist: "Concentration Camp Series" by Zbigniew Libera. I gazed some more.

They had captured my attention more than the flayed man in the Marc Quinn sculpture though pictures of Quinn's work had drawn me to the exhibition. Christine Borland's "Air Heads" were similarly powerful but I was following a different trail of thought. I looked at the words projected on the wall ahead of me.

"LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS," I read. "The lady with the LROB bag looks at the Lego posters." I paused and checked my bag. It's my favourite fabric bag from the London Review of Books. I was being watched and my actions were being described in large letters on the wall.

I looked round. The attendant was still sitting in the corner. The man with a computer on his desk was typing. I read an earlier entry projected on the wall. It referred to "desk man." Desk man was watching me.

I tried to forget the presence of desk man and gazed at an exhibit which invited members of the public to operate a surveillance camera. But the exhibit was enclosed in plastic - I couldn't see how this should be done and wasn't sure I wished to watch anything like that, not even plastic trees and houses. I moved on, out of sight of desk man. Looking up at the wall I saw that my uncertainty about the exhibit was now described for new visitors. I moved into a corner where I felt sure I'd be out of sight. Then I saw the joystick to move the CCTV camera. I touched it tentatively and moved it just slightly, catching a plastic house and tree in a dark noose of shadow.

A few minutes later the words on the wall said that I had touched the joystick but hadn't moved it. I stayed out of sight and was glad when a family came into the gallery. Desk man shifted his attention to them and I sidled out into a suddenly sinister collection of Victorian paintings. Every model seemed to be a victim of the artist's gaze.

I made my way down the stairs, uncertain whether desk man - or some CCTV operator - was watching my back. Then I paused in the café for an excellent macchiato and mince pie. I took out my copy of Les Misérables. Jean Valjean has eluded Javert again and is carefully staying out of sight. Reassured by a fictional past, I headed out of the castle to meet my children and enjoy a celebratory gluhwein in the Old Market Square.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Blue tinsel

Perhaps it's the bitter cold or the recession. Perhaps I've missed - or avoided - most of the good Christmas displays. But Christmas decorations seem a little sparse this year.

I don't mind a lack of decoration - it makes the good displays I discover more delightful. I was cheered to find that this year's moving displays in Town Hall Square, Leicester show Paddington Bear and friends and a lively Christmas scene from Wind in the Willows where even the stoats and weasels are having a happy, if malevolent, time. There's the usual nativity tableau as well. Outsiders sometimes assume that Leicester downplays the religious elements of Christmas but posters advertise both the religious festival and the secular feast. Even Advent celebrations (at the cathedral, I think) were proclaimed on official posters.

I don't remember any decorations at Nottingham Contemporary when I made a return visit but there were real carol-singers: the choir of St. Mary's in the Lacemarket. They were dressed in everyday clothes and standing in the gift shop, books of music on the floor before them. I came upon them as they were half-way through "Silent Night" inGerman. It's not my favourite carol but the beauty of the voices held me. I stood to hear a succession of traditional carols from "Hark the herald angels" with descant to "Adam lay y-bounden." As they finished and I went out into the winter dark, I felt more in tune with Christmas than I have for many years.

The memory of the carols helped me through the crowded shops. The queues haven't been long this year - I hardly had to wait in the Post Office when I took my parcels to be weighed and stamped. Perhaps that's why I didn't pause to observe the decorations.

But I have noticed one trend - or perhaps it's a trend from previous years that I didn't notice before. Every so often I encounter blue decorations: blue trees, blue fairy lights and blue tinsel. Gardens that were once bright with white or coloured fairy lights now glow ominously in the falling snow. Walking through streets, I find I'm watching out for faint blue sparkles rather than the old-fashioned red and green. Perhaps blue is supposed to be tasteful. I prefer cheerful vulgarity.

I haven't seen many Christmas tree lights shining through house windows. This strikes me as strange - but that's absurd. As usual, I'm late with decorations. Our decorations are still in the roof and I'm unlikely to get the tree sorted before Christmas Eve.

I'll get the cards up soon. I've enjoyed opening Christmas cards this year. I like seeing the designs friends have chosen or created, reading the messages and hearing snippets of news from the past year. I wish I'd written more in the cards I sent and that my handwriting was better.

Perhaps I should buy some new tinsel for the tree and even a couple of new decorations. I hope I can find things in red, green and gold for my slightly tatty dark-green artificial tree. It won't be tasteful at all but it might be quite cheerful. It may even remind me of my childhood and add some extra comfort as I continue reading Les Misérables.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Voilà Jean

It seems as though I've always known the story. Before I first read Victor Hugo's story in my early teens, there was a classic comic - then a BBC Sunday evening serial. Perhaps my mother told me the tale - it was certainly one of her favourites. Cosette, Marius, Fantine, the Thenardiers and, above all, Javert and Jean Valjean weren't just characters in a book - they were part of the mythic structure by which I understood the world.

These days, fewer people read Les Misérables. "It's too long," someone told me last night." "I was put off by the musical," another commented. "I've read The Hunchback of Notre Dame," was another defence, as if one Hugo novel could stand for all the rest. Mind you, I haven't read much by Hugo. I'd like to find time for the late novels L'Homme qui Rit (The Man who Laughs) and Quatre-vingt Treize (1793). But before I do that, I have to finish Les Misérables and I'm still only 260 pages in. There are about 1200 to go so I'll be busy reading over Christmas.

Last time I tried to re-read Les Misérables, I picked up my old English-language version. It's a bulky tome from Collins, with mock-leather binding and pages as thin as any Bible's. I thought it the height of elegance when I was 13. A few years ago, I found the prose style dull and was bored by Hugo's sententious moralising. I put it down again.

This summer, in one of the French bookshops at South Kensington, I picked it up again - perhaps in an abridged edition - and the magic returned. I hesitated, thought I might buy a copy, then left the shop. I was having a small economy drive and wasn't convinced I'd get through more than a chapter. Besides, the exchange rate means that French books are no longer as cheap as they were. I thought I'd get over it. But throughout the autumn I found myself looking for copies in English bookshops and secondhand shops, checking the prices on-line and wondering if perhaps, for Christmas, for my birthday, I should buy myself a copy.

I didn't expect to find the three-volume paperback edition in the Canterbury Oxfam shop. I checked carefully to ensure it was a complete text, looked at the price (£4.99) and reflected that, even if I didn't read it, Oxfam could do with my money. Most of my long journey home was consumed with work but on the tube, on the bus, when waiting at stations, I started to read ... and I found it hard to stop. Even now I don't want to blog about Les Misérables - I want to read it, and I'm tired from reading it last night when I should have been catching up on sleep.

The first eighty or so pages dragged slightly - they focus on the good bishop who changes Jean Valjean's life. Maybe I needed to read myself into the book or just to get used to Hugo in French. Once Jean Valjean arrived, I found myself at risk of missing my stop on the bus. I've even walked along the road while reading - something I haven't done for at least forty years.

Perhaps it's the focus on the poor that commands my attention. I may respect the bishop but I care about Valjean, Fantine and the other "misérables" of the book's title. Reading in French makes me consider what "misérable" means. It's not "unhappy." I've seen the word translated as "wretched." But surely in France where Catholicism and the Latin Mass were so important, there's a connection to the Latin prayer "miserere nobis" - "have mercy upon us." Many of the people in Les Misérables are wretched and unhappy but, above all, they need and deserve mercy.

Hugo's conviction that mercy is a greater human responsibility than truth, justice or any other accepted virtue is startling in today's society. Mercy isn't restricted to the cute or angelic. When Jean Valjean first appears he is compared to a brute and an animal. His grievances about his treatment in jail have placed him outside human society. He's never been a great part of it. He doesn't even have a proper name. Hugo explains that he's inherited the name "Valjean" or "Vlajean" from his father and that it was simply a corruption of "Voilà Jean" - "There's Jean." He's an individual who has been despised all his life and who has learnt to hate in return.

In Les Misérables, Hugo insists that human beings can learn and change - that mercy transforms lives and communities. He was writing against the trend in his own time. Les Misérables was published in 1862, five years before Zola's
Thérese Raquin, the first of a string of major novels which proclaimed the belief that humans were controlled by the circumstances of their lives and had no means of escape or power over the events that affected them. I may care about Zola's characters but his view of the world doesn't fit the people I encounter.

The world I live in includes people who are cruel and vindictive like the Thenardiers. I've met plenty of people like Javert who obey laws and rules unthinkingly because they assume the forces of law government always know best - people who assume that the wealth and its trappings are a badge of virtue and respectability. But there are also many people like Jean Valjean and Fantine and even the Bishop - trying to do their best, making mistakes, giving way anger and misjudgement but also capable of enormous love and generosity. These are the flawed, good people who are willing to learn and change. They show mercy to others, even at great cost, because they also need and receive mercy.

It's not a very modern view of the world but I'm rushing back to it. I should be in bed asleep but Jean Valjean is on his way to Arras and I want to know - even though I know already - what happens next.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Fantine and the fascists

I could think of many better things to do. Even the housework was looking attractive. I do not like going on demonstrations and this one scared me. The English Defence League was planning to march through Nottingham and, reluctantly, I'd decided to join the counter-demonstration.

It was my son who persuaded me. At 18, he sees the issues clearly. I don't always agree with him but this time it really was simple. The EDL stirs up hatred against Muslims, hatred leads to fear, discrimination and violence - and if I'm not prepared to stand, visibly, against hatred, I have a responsibility for what happens in my absence.

I was afraid. I've known people who were beaten up by fascists, back in the days of the National Front in the 1970s. I knew that a minority of anti-fascists might also want a fight, however much the organisers urged a peaceful demonstration and reckoned my son might be particularly at risk since young men are often victims of attacks. "Dress carefully," I told myself, and chose a thick jumper and warm jacket, in case of inadvertent blows. I reckoned I also looked sufficiently ordinary to melt into the crowd if necessary. There would be plenty of crowds. The EDL had timed their demonstration to coincide with the homecoming parade of the Mercian regiment and a football match between Nottingham Forest and Leicester City. And then there was Christmas ...

Nottingham seemed as crowded as ever. A Salvation Army band was playing carols. Crash barriers were being set in place for the soldiers' parade. Skaters glided on the ice in the Old Market Square and a continental market had joined the traditional German market. Despite police warnings about public safety, there was no shortage of shoppers. I'd met an A-level student on the train who was so visibly a demonstrator that I introduced myself. He'd travelled alone and didn't know his way to the city centre so I led him to the Old Market Square where we started to look for demonstrators among the crowds of shoppers, Goths, stall-holders, army families and British Legion members.

I spotted a small group of badge-wearers near the stone lions of the Council House. Cautiously I scanned the badges. This was just as well. They included a small enamal badge with the figures "18". It could have been an advertisement for a lucky Lotto number but I doubted it. I've known for years about the Combat 18 code by which 18 stands for A.H., or Adolf Hitler. There seemed some irony that a badge-wearer combined his "18" badge with a Churchill "V for Victory" badge, but I decided not to stay and point this out.

We wandered past the stalls of Neapolitan treats and olive oil and the British Legion veterans holding huge flags. Eventually someone ran up to us. "Anti-fascist demo?" he enquired. "Other end of the square."

We joined the small group with its banners. I began to worry that my son hadn't arrived as planned. The music from "The Snowman" floated out from a nearby shop. Eventually my mobile phone rang - my son had joined the other anti-fascist demo, by the Royal Centre. I headed up to join him, glad to be a little further from the Combat 18 group.

Like most demonstrations, it was mostly rather dull. The group outside the Royal Centre waved banners and chanted slogans, watched by curious passers-by. We heard music that suggested the returning Mercian soldiers were parading. I said hello to a friend and joined in a few casual conversations but they petered out after a while. There were speeches which I couldn't quite hear. My son and I were cold and hungry so went for chips from a nearby shop. Then there was a vote and our group marched to join the other demonstrators in the Old Market Square.

There was a moment of pleasure as the stationary demonstrators cheered and applauded our arrival. Then we settled down to the cold and boredom of just being there. My son was joined by a friend. I eased my copy of Les Misérables from my bag, settled my reading glasses on my nose, and continued with the story of Fantine, who had just been abandoned by the father of her child. I looked up when a group of fascists emerged from the pub opposite. I couldn't hear what they were singing and shouting because the people around me were singing and shouting in response. There were police cordons in keeping us and them in place and we were divided by tram tracks. Travellers in the trams gazed curiously and some took photos on their mobile phones. A couple of elderly women walked between the opposing groups with heavy shopping bags. I spotted a couple of Nazi salutes from the group outside the pub. Behind us, the continental market was doing a good trade and the skaters continued to glide proficiently on the ice. Father Christmas and a snowman walked between the groups, escorted by a friendly policeman. Police dogs arrived, tails wagging, and won a predicatble "Aaah! aren't they lovely!" from the demonstrators, which struck me as very English. Everything became quiet again. I read some more.

After a while, I decided to leave the group briefly to buy some sweets to sustain me on the demonstration. I'd already been there for hours. I made my way to the loo in a nearby shop. When I came out, the demonstration was disappearing round the corner towards the castle. I ran after it and the police kindly let me through the cordon so that I could rejoin the demonstrators. I was a little worried as I knew the ELD was planning a rally near the castle - the statue of Robin Hood had been boarded up in preparation.

Of course, the police weren't letting anti-fascists and fascists meet. We were kettled in a short street but it was a benevolent kettle - people with small children were able to leave if they wished, so long as it was safe to do so. Members of the public walked past. The shouting and slogans started again. I returned to Les Misérables. Fantine had just met Mme Thenardier and her daughters. My son and his friend briefly left the kettle and returned with Chinese food and chopsticks. A policeman brought a bowl and water for the police dogs, to the approval of the dog-loving demonstrators. I met a woman of my own age who had joined the demonstration from her shopping expedition. "I think it's important to be here," she said, "just to show that we don't agree with the EDL." I agreed.

We seemed to spend a long time in the kettle and, after a while, we weren't allowed out - not even to put rubbish in bins. In Les Misérables, Fantine's daughter, Cosette, was being abused by the Thenardiers - I worried about her. There was some more lively shouting so I put my book away in case something was going to happen. It didn't. I asked one of the policemen if he knew the football score but he said they didn't get that information. Later I overheard a policeman say "3-0 to Forest" but I wasn't sure I'd heard clearly. Finally there was a speech to encourage us all. We were told that we had shown that this was our city, that Nottingham didn't welcome fascism, that the EDL hadn't attacked us as they threatened. Now we were going to march back to the old Market Square and disperse - in groups, we were told, for our own safety.

The message about marching back hadn't reached the police nearest the square and there was a pause when it looked as though we were going to be held in the kettle. But a couple of minutes later we were on our way back, cheered that we'd been there and that it was all over. We were just about to cross the tram tracks circling the Old Market Square when a number of screaming men hurtled towards us, unfurling banners. I saw a St George's Cross as well as two banners with the red hand of Ulster. I couldn't hear what was being screamed - just a furious screech of hate and threats.

The police escorted us towards our end of the square and formed two lines between us and the screaming men. Behind us the skaters were gliding, bizarrely, to the tune of "Land of Hope and Glory." The continental market was still doing well. A group of youngsters from the anti-fascist protest dodged out of the police lines and headed at speed towards the fascists. Had they been on a football pitch, their supporters would have been cheering - it was so elegantly done. Then, for ten minutes or so, missiles were thrown around the pub. I couldn't see exactly what was going on and shoppers still wandered between the two groups. Policemen on horseback moved in and everything quietened. My son and I discussed what would happen if a policeman rode his horse into the pub but it didn't happen. The police horses seemed incongruous as they stood quietly between a bus shelter and the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society.

It was time to go home to the housework. I decided against olives from the continental market but bought myself a Christmas doughnut from a German stall and headed for the train. Back home, I checked the reports of the demonstrations in the press - it seems that some of the EDL demonstrators attacked the police. Then I checked the football results. Nottingham Forest beat Leicester 5 - 1.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Miss Sayers and Lord Peter

My laptop continues to languish in laptop hospital. I have odd moments when I get at computers but feel strangely cut-off from cyberworld. Fortunately there are still books - and time to think about writing blog entries.

Like most people, I have a pile of popular fiction for soothing bedtime reading. Recently I've returned to Dorothy L. Sayers.

"But she's a dreadful snob," some people respond. "She's a tory writing about an aristocrat."

There's some truth in that but it's not the whole truth. In the later novels, written in the mid-1930s, she sees Lord Peter Wimsey's class as a problem - at the same time as suggesting it is dangerously attractive. This isn't unusual in the 1930s. Winifred Holtby's South Riding - certainly not a tory novel - makes the same observation and shares Sayers' belief that the power of the aristocracy is doomed.

Most recently I've been reading Gaudy Night and remembered the influence it had over my teenage years. It influenced me in two ways. Like many girls, I grew up in a society that was uncertain of the value of education for girls. I remember debates - even in the 1970s - about whether girls should enter higher education or whether this rendered them unfit for their natural destiny as wives and mothers. Sayers painted such an alluring picture of a women's college in the 1930s that I knew university was for me. At Oxford and later I met other women who chose Oxford because they had read Gaudy Night. I have to thank Dorothy L. Sayers for my three years there.

Gaudy Night - and Oxford - attracted me for another reason. Like many young teenagers. I'd fallen into the habit of convenient, self-protective lies. Suddenly, when I was thirteen, I wanted to change that. I realised that the world was confusing and difficult to understand - and that lies and deceptions made it harder to reach the truth. I made a resolution to stop lying.

In Gaudy Night the values that are repeatedly attached to universities and learning are associated with truth and integrity. The dons may behave badly at times but they value evidence, facts and honesty, even when honesty hurts. The subjects of their research - English prosody, the economics of Tudor England, and so on - may have no immediate relevance to contemporary life but the dons' aim is to uncover the truth in their chosen field. Their integrity is set in opposition to Nazi oppression and the risks women run if they submit to their husbands.

There are, of course, arguments against women's equality and education in the novel. Lord Peter Wimsey is never more admirable in my eyes than when he shows, without question, his support for women at universities and for honesty, whatever the cost. It's undoubtedly an idealised view of university life but there's a lot to be said for ideals.

My latest reading of Gaudy Night set me wondering what Dorothy L Sayers would say to a different Lord Peter: the head of the governments Department of Business and Skills, which also has responsibility for higher education. I must have been at Oxford at the same time as Peter Mandelson but I don't recall him there. As minister in charge of the universities, he doesn't seem to care much for some of the values Sayers cherished. While she foresaw the end of the House of Lords, I don't think it occurred to her that universities would be told to sell their scholarship for economic advantage.

Lord Peter Mandelson doesn't look at universities and see scholars motivated by the search for truth. If he saw that, he would probably think it a bad idea. Instead he sees them as part of the "knowledge economy," and wants them to make money and teach the skill of making money. Universities are instructed to teach their students "business awareness" and to ask business people (bankers, perhaps) to come into universities and design courses which academics will deliver. Educations is now a product consumed by students. But students are also the product of education. They are to be prepared for their consumption by business and government. Research is another product and will be judged not for its truth but for its impact on business, the economy and government policy.

Disagreement with government policy or uncomfortable truths about new products. business and the market are unlikely to have much immediate impact. I wonder what value Lord Peter Mandelson places on academic honesty.