312 years ago this week a big week in British politics too: ‘Honours, appointments, pensions and even arrears of pay and other expenses were distributed to clinch support from Scottish peers and MPs … ‘
Happy to share a timely history lesson from The National.
Bribery, corruption and riots
… the passage of the Act of Union
IT never ceases to amaze me how few Scots have actually read the Act of Union. If they did, they would probably be amazed at how such a paltry document could define their existence as a citizen – formerly subject – of the United Kingdom.
For the majority of the 25 articles are concerned with matters such as tax and customs duties and the ramifications of these agreements, such as a unified weights and measures system. Precious little is stated about what the UK would become.
It was in this week in 1707 that the Scottish Parliament met for its final discussions and votes on the Articles of Union. In just three short days, the parliament took the momentous decisions which affect us to this day.
The run-up to the final vote had begun the previous year with the negotiations between the English and Scottish commissioners. The outcome was inevitable since Queen Anne and her supporters outnumbered their opponents in both parliaments.
But the Country Party, as the opponents of the Union were known in Scotland, put up a good fight against the Court Party and the Squadrone Volante who favoured the Union – many, if not most of whom, had been bribed to vote for it.
There was also great public discontent, even riots, across Scotland, as the process of uniting the two parliaments gathered pace. England had sent a spy, the author Daniel Defoe no less, and he reported: “A Scots rabble is the worst of its kind … for every Scot in favour there is 99 against.”
From the outset, the Duke of Queensberry, as the Queen’s High Commissioner, made it clear that the Scottish Parliament had to agree to the Union in order to preserve the Protestant succession to the throne. Article 2 states: “All Papists, and Persons marrying Papists, shall be excluded from, and forever incapable to inherit, possess, or enjoy the Imperial Crown of Great Britain, and the Dominions thereunto belonging, or any Part thereof.”
The Union is therefore institutionally sectarian. If Meghan Markle was Jewish, Muslim or atheist, Harry could keep his place in the line of succession. If she was Roman Catholic, he’d be out.
Back in 1706-07, the Scottish Parliament was only too happy to agree that article, and in return the Court Party and its supporters got what they wanted – access to English markets and consequently the protection of the Royal Navy.
So to the denouement: on January 14, the 25th and final Article was approved by the Scottish Parliament.
It has caused controversy ever since: “THAT all Laws and Statutes in either Kingdom, so far as they are contrary to, or inconsistent with the Terms of these Articles, or any of them, shall, from and after the Union cease and become void and shall be so declared to be, by the respective Parliaments of the said Kingdoms.”
Does that mean that the Henry VIII powers cited by the UK Governmentare still in force? Might be a point to ponder for a lawyer.
The next day, January 15, the draft of an act for ratifying the Articles as “enlarged, explained and amended” was introduced.
On the morning of January 16 it was ordered that the Act for guaranteeing the Presbyterian Kirk be made part of the Act of Ratification. This was the last barrier to the success of the pro-Union party. The Kirk and Scots law were all preserved.
The final vote took place later that day. By 106 votes to 69, as noted in the Parliamentary Register which you can view online, the Scottish Parliament voted for the Act of Ratification, and the Union began on May 1. The public still protested, but the threat of military force against them was very real.
The official website of the Westminster Parliament gives a remarkably fair and accurate account of the proceedings. On the history pages of http://www.parliament.co.uk it states: “In contrast to the abortive negotiations for union of 1702-3, the English this time had gone out of their way to accommodate Scottish demands, particularly over access to English trade.
“Next the Scottish Parliament had to agree to the Articles of Union. This turned out to be arduous and was accomplished against a background of protest, often violent, in many parts of Scotland.”
Nor does the Parliament website shirk from acknowledging the manner in which the Union was put through the Scottish Parliament – corruption, basically.
It states: “Queensberry was appointed the Queen’s High Commissioner for the session and was responsible for a successful outcome. Honours, appointments, pensions and even arrears of pay and other expenses were distributed to clinch support from Scottish peers and MPs.”
In other words, our present Parliament in Westminster acknowledges that the Union was brought about by bribery and corruption.
The list of those who voted Scotland’s independence out of existence included three dukes – Montrose, Argyll and Roxburghe, Queensberry not being able to vote – two marquesses and 21 earls. Those who opposed the Union included one duke, one marquess and clan chiefs such as Sir Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss on Loch Lomondside. It would be interesting to see if the current occupiers of those titles are still for or against the Union.
If you look round the room and you can’t see the sucker it’s you’.
Last week Jaguar Land Rover pulled all of it’s UK digital advertising after an advertisement for the Jaguar F-Pace was found to be running in a DAESH promotional video on YouTube.
Mercedes apparently has encountered similar problems, Citi Group too, and IBM and Microsoft as well as Halifax, Argos and The Marie Curie Cancer Fund.
All of whom at one time or another have found their advertising running in white supremacist ‘content’ and on porn sites.
The latter at least a literal case of the digital emperor really having no clothes.
In a statement Jaguar Land Rover said:
“We take our brands’ reputation very seriously and have decided to stop all UK digital advertising activity until further investigation gives us assurance that we can resume it safely.”
This they have now done but it’s worth noting that the F-Pace ad had racked up an impressive 115,000 views in situ before being taken down.
Exactly how many would be jihadists had by then continued their customer journey to the point of contacting dealerships to book a test drive though is, like so much in the digital world these days apparently, both unquantified and unquantifiable.
The problem, or one of the problems at any rate, is what is known as programatic buying.
Programatic is, if I understand correctly, and if not no doubt one of the legions of digital media strategists that I encounter daily on Linkedin will enlighten me, how computers buy and sell media space among each other.
An adaptation of Forex trading platforms, It appears to work, or not as the case may be, without much in the way of active involvement or supervision from actual human beings.
Now what could possibly go wrong with that? I hear you ask. If, like Jaguar Land Rover, a little belatedly perhaps.
Of the 15% of the 60 billion USD annual digital advertising spend bought programatically it is estimated that as much as 12% of it is probably ‘misplaced’.
And at the risk of sounding a little cynical at this point surely if you don’t know where your advertising budget is being spent then how do you know if it’s being spent ?
Which, moving on from programatic buying, brings us to simple good old fashioned fraud.
In late December, the ad fraud detection firm White Ops uncovered an operation that in their own words: “elevates ad fraud to a whole new level of sophistication and scale”.
Major publishers including The New York Times, The Economist, Vogue, ESPN and Fox News were then between them, they discovered, being taken for “at least 5 million USD a day” by just one highly sophisticated Russian hacking operation.
Like all the best scams it’s remarkably simple. But please don’t try this at home.
By creating spoof versions of publishers’ URLs, which contain nothing more than what’s needed to host advertisers’ real video content, and by then ‘playing’ the content through a simulated browser while a bot creates fake mouse movements, the fraudsters generate ‘impressions’.
Social login information and randomly generated clicks and interruptions mimic human behaviour and help to fool detection.
The numbers are, as digital numbers often tend to be, staggering. In this case alone the Russians had created more than 250,000 spoof URLs and were generating some 400 million fake views a day for several weeks before being detected.
Though, not, of course, actually caught.
For a long time it simply wasn’t polite to talk about any of this in public. It wasn’t that long ago that to talk about the then emerging tech giants in terms of anything so thoroughly old hat as advertising at all marked you out as someone decidedly not ‘digitally native’.
And for a long time there was no worse sin, believe me.
Only four years ago in fact, while co-editing a book on advertising history I found myself caught between the contradictory demands of its co-publishers to either include the word ‘advertising’ in the title (the view of Taschen being that it was familiar and searchable) or not to mention it at all (the view of Cannes Lions being that it was decidedly passe).
For the record the compromise we eventually agreed on was ‘Game Changers.The Evolution of Advertising’.
And very good it is too, even if I do say so myself.
But that was then and this is now. And the days when Facebook and Google got to mark their own homework now finally look like they may at last be drawing to a close.
And not before time. When at least half of your audience isn’t human and a good chunk of the rest is jihadists and white supremacists then it’s not entirely surprising that those who’ve being picking up the tab for talking to them are finally coming to their senses.
Speaking to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting last month Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of P&G, put it refreshingly bluntly:
“P&G doesn’t want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain … the days of giving digital a pass are over … it’s time to grow up.”
If not quite as refreshingly, or as bluntly, as Professor Mark Ritson of The University of Melbourne in a speech which rather rattled the digerati at the time and which if you’ve not already yet seen you most certainly should. And now:
As a one time, and still occasional, adman myself I can only concur.
The last ten years have been a long strange trip for those of us who, like Professor Ritson, were raised on a diet of robust research and properly audited data.
Because if content is king then context is democracy and the rule of law.
Without context, content alone is nothing. Like smoking marijuana it gives the illusion of creativity without the effort of actually creating anything.
So let’s maybe take a little time out for now from our ninjas and our gurus. And tempting though it may be to replace it with ‘delusional’ lets maybe just drop the ‘digital’ prefix from our increasingly ludicrous job titles altogether while we’re at it.
As I believe the agency Adam&Eve DDB, who bring you the John Lewis Christmas ads among others, have recently done.
Strategist? Planner? Writer? Art Director? Hmm, I rather like the sound of that.
Strong and stable, strong and stable
Rose the stench from the May Queen’s stable
A horse long gone, a door just bolted
The demented now monetised, the rest simply revolted
You know the deal.
If it’s never happened to you, it will. Or else to someone you know.
The English have decided to split from their long term live in partner.
The Americans are getting divorced from reality.
They’re sad, they’re angry, they’re confused, they’re hurting. And all at the same time.
Psychologists differ about the effects of relationships that start when one or other of the parties is on the rebound.
But then again psychologists differ about the effects of pretty much everything from smartphones to recreational drugs. Though now I come to write that, of course, I realise that they are actually not that dissimilar.
One thing psychologists are agreed on is that the qualities of compassion, curiosity and doubt make for good psychologists, and good doctors too, and, interestingly, are also present in most lasting healthy relationships.
Doubt in this context, I should explain, means a willingness to work on and to overcome damaging or self-destructive behaviour rather than doubt about the value of the relationship per se.
And while we’re on the psychobabble it may be worth repeating my own little nugget of hard won self knowledge. Forgive me if you’ve heard it before but, in my experience at least, any sense of entitlement is pretty much incompatible with any real happiness.
So the English are on the rebound and the Americans too and, look away now if you are at all squeamish because this could all get very messy indeed, it looks like they’re dating.
A long time ago I was married. And when my in-laws came to visit, as they did both regularly and frequently, the occasion was felt to demand a certain formality, if not actual ceremony. It was known to my children, in fact, as a ‘state visit’.
So with that in mind, as well as the more recent experience of meeting my girlfriend’s father at the age of sixty, me that is not my girlfriend’s father, he’s older. I can only offer Donald and Theresa (that’s Theresa with an ‘h’ Donald, the other one is a porn star, though I guess I can sort of see where the confusion arises if you’ll pardon the expression ) this advice:
Firstly: do not under any circumstances give any thought at all to those who have gone before you. Nobody is judging you against them or comparing you to them in any way.
Donald, you are not Vladimir Putin, the fist Russian leader, by the way, to make a state visit to Britain since Tsar Nicholas 1st in 1843.
You are not Mr Xi. You are not Emperor Hirohito. The USA has not tortured or starved British soldiers to death within living memory.
You are not Ronald Reagan. Yes, the Queen rides horses but no, she does not play golf. That’s her dodgy son with the ex wife who did the Weight Watchers adverts.
You are not even Dubya. Even if you look like you are maybe thinking about taking a leaf out of his playbook sometime soon in Iran.
Secondly: put any embarrassing stories you may have heard about past state visits completely out of your mind.
You are not Nicolae Ceausescu, the first communist head of state to make one. And the first, and so far as we know the only, guest who the Queen has felt compelled to hide in a rose bush to avoid talking to.
You are not King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Who it is said completely failed to see the funny side of Her Majesty driving him around Balmoral herself in her Land Rover.
Theresa, you are not Winston Churchill. You are not Margret Thatcher. You are not even Tony Blair.
The European Union, your ex, you remember?, is not remotely interested in Theresa’s Britain as a bridge to Donald’s America. As Dalia Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian President, pithily put it only last week: “If we want to talk to America we’ll use Twitter”.
And finally, to you both: remember compassion, curiosity and doubt, oh, and don’t forget the entitlement and happiness thing either.
Got that? OK, good. Now while we’re here let’s dispose of a couple of myths about Donald.
One: he is not a clown. He is smart as a fox with the same low cunning. To pretend otherwise is to seek false comfort in intellectual laziness.
Two: he is not unpredictable. Democracy is unpredictable. He, like dictators since time immemorial, is all too predictable. He does pretty much exactly what he says he will do.
On the balance of probabilities I think it is also entirely possible that he will succeed in ‘making America great again’ or at least in making America feel great again. Which will probably do.
It is more than likely that he plans to do so by returning the world to its status quo ante as the shared empire of bi-polar superpowers. And in that he and Vladimir are as one.
Interviewed on The BBC’s Sunday Politics, Sebastian Gorka, formerly National Security Editor of Brietbart, and as of Friday, the White House’s Deputy Assistant on National Security, made it abundantly clear that the Trump administration is agnostic at best on the future of the EU.
“That” he said, “is a matter for the people of the nation states of Europe”. Adding for good measure that Donald Tusk’s recent assessment of America as “a threat to the security of Europe” was “so asinine as to be unworthy of comment.”
America will be great again when the EU is gone. And Europe is divided once more into dozens of bickering nonentities, each one a client state of America or Russia.
Gorka is an interesting man, and someone we will be hearing more of in the months to come no doubt. The London born son of Hungarian refugees, he’s a ‘Marine Academic’. And no, that’s not a marine biologist or an ocean conservationist, that’s a professor with access to helicopter gunships.
His specialism, by the way, is ‘irregular warfare’ though he’s also done a lot of work on the comparative ideological threats of cold war communism and present day jihadism. Which to be fair to him, might actually point the White House in the likely direction of another possible win.
Defeat DAESH, Sebastian, and you’d not just ‘make America great again’ but you might even begin to find that Europe, and some other places besides, could just begin to warm to Donald. But you’re a smart man so I guess you’ve already thought that one through.
And so finally to one small glimmer of hope.
From the land of the man that the Queen hid in a rose bush to avoid conversation with came proof this weekend that sometimes the people can speak truth to power.
And that sometimes power has no option but to listen.
When there’s enough of us we can stop bad things from happening.
And we can change things for the better.
So a heartfelt thank you for that to the 300,000 and more Romanians who came out onto the streets of their towns and cities in twenty below night after night last week.
And to the one of you in particular who wrote my favourite placard.
The one that read: ‘No Country For Old Thieves’.
See you in London in August.
I am in the restaurant of a golf club in Sussex. It is Sunday morning. And the waiter, as it happens, is from Poznan.
I tell him that the soot on the buildings there always used to remind me of Edinburgh. That I used to visit the city often when I lived in Warsaw.
That I always looked forward to jajecznica for breakfast on the train. And that I always liked to follow it with a coffee and a cigarette.
I butter my toast and I unfold my Telegraph. Tomorrow I go back home. And then I can stop pretending that I belong here. I don’t. And of that I am now certain.
I’ve been at a wedding. And I’ve thought it best this weekend, and around these parts at least, to keep that I live and work in Brussels on a need to know basis.
It was my niece’s wedding, my daughters were her bridesmaids, and the ceremony took place in a beautiful village church on a perfect autumn afternoon.
I like England. I lived half my life there.
At last night’s wedding breakfast, at what in Scotland we would call tea time, the conversation turned among the party’s bremainers to their many bremoans.
Well, it’s not really a proper wedding without a fight, is it?
And I found my thoughts returning to what I’ve written here before. Albeit in rather happier times.
For what is the marriage that we have witnessed if not the very definition of union? And what is the pub we are celebrating it in if not living breathing proof of community?
Hardly controversial stuff I know. But had I succeeded in finding a brexiteer still out and proud (and oddly that’s not easy now beyond Westminster or Fleet Street) I doubt that even the hardest of the hard of them would deny the merits of sharing in a union, or of supporting, and being supported by, a community.
Or advocate the wholesale rejection of both to stand proudly alone. For pride, as we know, often comes before a fall.
And that I think is the problem. Or one of them at any rate.
Because the English, let’s leave the Welsh for a moment, having never been able to agree about what it was that they joined in the first place, now can’t agree at all about what it is that they want to leave. Or how to go about it.
Having had their wake up call they’ve now no idea what they want for their brexit: the full english or the continental?
Hard boiled, soft boiled or half baked? It certainly won’t be over easy.
And if they really do still want the bacon and egg, as some do, then the ones who get to be the chickens are going to have break the bad news to those that end up the pigs.
Or as Donald Tusk put it: “I invite proponents of the have your cake and eat it theory to conduct an experiment: buy a cake, eat it, and then look at the plate”.
In Britain’s scorched earth political landscape, you see, up is now down and left is now right. A plummeting currency is thoroughly good news.
A right wing government embraces industrial policy while its left wing opposition denounces state aid.
I should say that you really couldn’t make it up. But that, of course, is exactly what they are doing. Increasingly, in fact, it looks like all they’re capable of doing.
Theresa Puetetre presides over a government spinning out of control. United only in their need to do, or at least to be seen to be doing, whatever it is that’s popular. And then to fail in doing it.
Jermy Corbyn, to our sadness and our loss, seems finally now to have given up all pretence of leading a once potent political party.
And has found instead what seems, to him at least, an altogether more natural role at the head of a popular, if ill defined and somewhat sclerotic, social movement.
Well, good luck with that, Jeremy.
Tim Farron. Who? Exactly.
Thank God, I hear you say, for Nicola Queen Of Scots.
And so to the question of ‘taking our country back’. But which country? And whose?
What of The Full Scottish? And The Ulster Fry ?
Perhaps, maybe, there is a first glimmer of hope in today’s High Court ruling as to who may, if you’ll pardon the pun, and who may not, trigger Article 50.
Let’s hope so.
Because, at the risk of stretching the breakfast thing one last time, I can’t help but feeling that there may well be a difference between what that the english choose to celebrate their divorce with, and what finally ends up on the plate.
Cold shoulder anyone?