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Saturday, 28 February 2015

'A country in which words are met with bullets, and choked with blood', Novaya Gazeta

There can be little doubt that Boris Nemtsov’s murder was a contract killing, but as to who was responsible for this, conflicting narratives are emerging in the Russian press. Outside of Russia, suspicion clearly falls upon Vladimir Putin, of whom Nemtsov has been a vocal critic, for such a mode of dealing with political opposition would seem to be perfectly in keeping with the former’s character, as well as his previous role as head of the FSB.

The Russian liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta has stated that prior to his murder, he had been ‘preparing a report on the Russian Army’s participation in the Ukrainian war,’ and that earlier in February he had voiced concerns that he might be killed by the regime. Clearly, such a report would be at the very least inconvenient for Putin. Moreover, Nemtsov had been organising a protest against the war in Ukraine which is due to be held in Moscow tomorrow. Whoever is responsible, this killing will either have a chilling effect upon opposition in Russia, or galvanise dissident opinion, making it more determined to bring true democratisation and accountability to the country. Six shots, four of which hit Nemtsov in the back, may well intimidate, but it will not kill independent thought in Russia.

Izvestiya, a pro-Putin paper, publicises a different range of scenarios as motivations for the murder of Boris Nemtsov. It should therefore come as no surprise that none of them portray Nemtsov or his supporters in a positive light. These scenarios are:

Firstly, that Nemtsov was with a Ukrainian woman at the time of his murder, who had recently flown from Moscow to Switzerland for an abortion. The paper therefore floats the suggestion that Nemtsov may not have been her only partner, and that another lover may have been behind the murder. Where did this suggestion originate? From ‘a senior source in the law-enforcement agencies’. This tale would therefore appear to be a piece of pure misinformation concocted by the Russian secret services.

Secondly, it was widely known that Nemtsov had travelled to Ukraine on many occasions and had made many contacts with the local political and business elites whom the paper characterises as representing “the party of war.” Izvestiya continues:

They could have provided him with the means for destabilising the situation in Russia. In return for this money, the Ukrainian oligarchs would have expected Nemtsov to split Russian society. However, not only has a split not occurred, but quite the opposite – the consolidation of Russian society. Understanding that their intended result had not been achieved, Nemtsov’s sponsors decided to remove the politician who had not been able to fulfil his task.

Once again, this rather outlandish suggested motive originated with the same unnamed ‘source’.

Thirdly, Izvestiya suggested that the murder could have been a ‘provocation’ staged by political opponents of Putin to discredit the incumbent regime: ‘External and internal opponents may have chosen “a sacrifice” for the sake of destabilising the situation in Russia.’ Once again, this possible motivation was outlined by an unnamed source.

The three motives for Nemtsov’s murder suggested in the pro-Putin Izvestiya appear to be fabrications dreamt up by Russia’s shadowy security apparatus. They are akin to the conspiratorial narratives dreamt up by the Bolsheviks in justification of ‘liquidating’ their opponents, and for Putin, with his professed admiration for the political methods of the Soviet past, ‘liquidation’ is a likely technique to which he turns when dealing with particularly troublesome opponents (Litvenenko and Politovskaya are but two notable figures to have suffered this fate). That Putin is said to be taking a personal interest in overseeing the investigation into Nemtsov’s death does not bode well for its objectivity.

Novaya Gazeta does not concur with the official explanations being offered for the politician’s murder:

The version of events in which this is viewed as the chance murder of a politician does not hold up. Now, it is doomed to become a symbol of the country that we have built over the past fifteen years. A country in which words are met with bullets, and choked with blood.

The paper later commented:

Nemtsov’s murder therefore marks a point of no return, in which a radical destabilisation of the internal political situation in Russia will lead to consequences as yet impossible to predict. Perhaps we will witness official mourning on the part of senior state officials, and then a witch-hunt launched by the secret services and the adoption of new emergency laws to restrict civil liberties.  

The view of Novaya Gazeta is likely to be closer to the truth than that of Izvestiya. With conflict in Ukraine, economic difficulties occasioned by the sharp decline in oil prices and political assassination, Russia is in for a rough time. Whatever happens, policy makers in the UK and the EU should not confuse the actions of the Putin administration with the Russian people as a whole, and thus ought to lend support to dissident voices within Russia, to the likely democrats of the future, rather than to bullishly persist with manufacturing a dangerous and unnecessary military standoff with Russia, which would only serve to cement Russian public opinion behind the Putin regime. Putin must not be permitted to play the victim card.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

70% of French prison population is Muslim

So Newsnight stated this evening. A remarkable figure, certainly, but a surprising one? Islam and France are not compatible, insofar as a vanishingly small percentage of Muslims entertain the concept of secularism. No Muslim who rejects secularism is anything other than an existential threat to France, and to the French way of life.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Channel 4’s Immigration Celebration

Channel 4 is seemingly going into overdrive in the run-up to the election, churning out a greater than usual stream of pro-mass immigration propaganda. Just over a week ago we had its defamatory hatchet job on UKIP with ‘UKIP: The First 100 Days’, whereas this evening we’re treated to an immigration double bill with ‘The Romanians are Coming’, followed immediately by ‘Immigration Street’. Its senior editorial staff are clearly hoping that they can assist in neutering UKIP’s influence on the immigration debate through endlessly repeating the mantras of ‘diversity is good’ and ‘mass immigration is good’, with an aim of making the UK ‘safely’ hyper-diverse forever.

Why is the channel doing this? Well, turning to ‘Immigration Street’, with a director named Afi Khan and a producer called Masood Khan, would we really expect to see a programme that was anything other than ‘celebratory’ about enforced ethnic hyper-diversity?

Channel 4 has also been giving the Green Party a fair amount of airtime. Part of it this evening was perhaps not that welcome, owing to Nathalie Bennett’s earlier bungled radio interview in which she made a fool of herself by being unable to answer basic questions about the Green’s much-vaunted flagship housing policy. The channel’s ‘Political Slot’ after the Channel 4 News allowed Caroline Lucas to talk about the Green policy of renationalising the railways and the goal of cutting rail fares by 12% (although she did not say over what period). How was this to be paid for? By cutting the road budget, apparently. One also harbours the suspicion that the Greens would introduce a swingeingly punitive set of taxes against motorists, being enemies of the car and individualism. Moreover, one must not forget their ridiculous policy of introducing a 20mph speed limit in all urban areas, which would increase pollution and decrease fuel efficiency.

Still, at least it can be hoped that an increase in support for the Greens will damage the Labour Party, although it seems more likely that it will hoover up more former Liberal Democrat voters.

What are your thoughts on ‘Immigration Street’? How has your neighbourhood changed since Tony Blair vowed to destroy the ‘forces of conservatism’? How many of us realised that by ‘forces of conservatism’ he was referring to the very existence of the nation and its continuity of history across the generations?

Monday, 23 February 2015

Review: ‘Children of the Great Migration’, Panorama, BBC1

This evening, the BBC decided to launch an attempt to tug at the heartstrings and to win yet more support for unrestricted mass immigration into the EU in general, and the UK in particular. Its advance publicity for the programme read:

The timing of the documentary has been prompted by the upcoming ‘migration season’ in the Mediterranean, ‘in what threatens to be its most deadly year yet, [for] Europe has cut the number of rescue boats.’ This, intoned the presenter, represented ‘an unfolding tragedy of horrific proportions.’ The capsizing of two of four dinghies carrying hundreds of African immigrants this winter was cited, in which at least 400 died, part of a recent phenomenon that illustrates that people smugglers are attempting to find a way to extend their operations into the depth of winter. A new tactic pioneered this winter employed a seemingly abandoned, crewless cargo ship, the Ezadeen, into which 450 Syrian immigrants were packed, yielding the people smugglers at least £2 million in profits.

What is also alarming is the fact that ‘it’s also shaping up as a record year of arrivals too.’ Last year, it was stated that the Italian Navy’s now discontinued operation ‘Mare Nostrum’ save the lives of more than 160,000 such immigrants. Now though, it has been scrapped, with a new EU Frontex operation providing a scaled-back patrol closer to EU maritime borders. The presenter wondered how this would cope with rescuing the prospective record number of immigrants, whilst this viewer wondered why it was not defending the coastline of Europe, and returning these migrants to their ports of origin.

Panorama also examined one of the major sources for much of the human efflux from Africa: Eritrea. The Sudanese authorities appeared to be eager to help the documentary makers publicise this problem, as hundreds of thousands of Eritrean emigrants have taken up residence, at least temporarily, on Sudanese soil close to the border with their country of origin. Vast refugee camps have sprung up, and the people traffickers have engaged in bloody exchanges with the Sudanese police, killing and wounding many of their number. Whether it is that the Sudanese are neither willing nor able to police their border with Eritrea is not clear, but the border – in their direction at least – is highly porous.

Although Eritrea’s population is a relatively modest six million, it was described as a ‘source of refugees on an astonishing scale’, with many of these departing being teenagers fleeing conscription in a ‘Marxist-inspired totalitarian state’, with a ‘crippled economy’, political detentions and torture. Conscripts, apparently, become transformed into forced labour in state agriculture and industry.

The largest of the camps in eastern Sudan houses circa 35,000 Eritreans and is overseen by the UNHCR together with the Sudanese authorities. In all, there are reckoned to be some 110,000 Eritreans temporarily resident in eastern Sudan, the majority of them wishing to head to Europe; many, including a number of interviewees, to the UK.

To get all the way to Europe can cost $5,000, with the first leg of the trip taking emigrants across the Sahara, and then from Libya across the Mediterranean, typically to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Cameron’s gung-ho and geopolitically myopic intervention in Libya, which contributed to the overthrow of Qaddhafi and created a state of lawlessness in which both people-smuggling and Islamism can thrive, means that an ever-increasing number of people are setting off from the shores of Libya and heading for Europe. It is but 180 miles from the Libyan port of Zuwara to Lampedusa. From there, the immigrants head to Sicily, thence onwards to other European countries, often the UK.

The proportion of children is growing, and they are often unaccompanied for word has fed back to Africa that Europe will never turn children away and will look after them. The African cuckoo knows that the European reed warbler will look after its young at the expense of its own.

Yes, those who come seek to escape from poverty, vile and often oppressive living conditions. Yes, many of them are subject to repulsive abuse at the hands of people-traffickers. However, we cannot provide a lifeboat for the entire World. If we continue to accept this ever-increasing human tide, we will sink. We will go under. Our society will be swamped, fracture and eventually collapse. This is unsustainable, and cannot go on. What should be done? How can this human tide be staunched and turned back? 

UKIP Clowns: 'Meet the Ukippers'

Last weekend Channel 4 launched its anti-UKIP pre-election campaign with its docudrama ‘UKIP: The First 100 Days’, and yesterday evening the BBC waded in with its own effort in the form of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about local UKIP party members in Thanet South, where Nigel Farage is mounting his bid for a Westminster seat in May. As was to be expected, the documentary focused upon the more ‘colourful’ aspects of the lives and views of the featured Ukippers, but to be frank, what was displayed was not so much fly-on-the-wall as foot in the mouth, over and over again.

That the documentary focused more upon personalities than upon policies was unsurprising (it has to be admitted that is hard to focus upon policies when policies largely remain in a state of flux), but given the BBC’s known hostility to UKIP, it would have been expected that those individuals featured would have been a little more circumspect about how they behaved and what they said. In fact, the documentary makers had to do little other than to stick around and wait for certain individuals to politically hang themselves. This was certainly the case with now former-UKIP councillor Rozanne Duncan who stated “I really do have a problem with people with negroid features”, adding that if she were to be invited to a meal where she knew a “negro” would be present, she would decline the invitation. She then made some bizarre reference to this aversion possibly having been acquired in a former life, saying that it would be interest to undergo hypnotic regression to reveal the possible source of the aversion. All of this was played out in the living room of the local UKIP press officer which provided an arresting backdrop of a sea of ceramic clowns; seemingly hundreds of them, for she and her husband were avid collectors of the said items.

This brought to mind some of the other absurdities uttered by another UKIP councillor, David Silvester from Henley-on-Thames, who claimed that the floods of early 2014 were part of God’s punishment for the legalisation of gay marriage. Bizarre? Yes. Fruitcake? Yes. Does this mean that UKIP’s concerns over the EU and mass immigration are bizarre and fruitcake? No. It is exasperating that an aspirant political party that many are turning to as a last straw to deal with these issues is repeatedly making ridiculous gaffes because of the eccentricities of some of its members. If it is to succeed, it has to ensure that its candidates are at least compos mentis, rather than as ridiculous and sinister as a collection of ceramic clowns.

Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind: Pounds Sterling, or Yuan?

Oh dear. Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind have both been caught out in a sting operation staged by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches. The former Foreign Secretaries revealed that they were willing to sell their services to a fictitious Chinese company, with Straw providing the bargain-basement option, only asking for £5,000 – “So normally, if I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge.” Rifkind, by contrast, who could arrange “useful access” to any UK ambassador, stated that his services could be purchased for the region of £5,000-£8,000 per half day. Why was Rifkind doing this? Well, despite being an MP, with the perfectly respectable associated salary and perks, he stated: “I am self-employed – so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income.”

“Self-employed”? Since when has an MP been “self-employed”? In Rifkind’s case, it would seem to be just a slight matter of confusing tenses, for I am sure that should he continue and stand in the next General Election, that voters will grant his wish for him to be “self-employed”, as he will no longer be MP for Kensington. Straw on the other hand, will be standing down in May. The Labour Party will doubtless be relieved.

This evening's Dispatches will make for interesting viewing.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Who will govern after 7 May 2015? Readers' opinions

This year’s General Election promises to be the most unpredictable in living memory. For months, as assiduously documented by UK Polling Report, opinion polls have shown a narrow gap between the two leading parties – Labour and Conservative – with the former generally maintaining a narrow lead over the latter. However, this promises to be no typical General Election, for politics in the UK is no longer the traditional two-horse race that dominated the twentieth century after the demise of Lloyd George’s Liberal Party. Old party loyalties have frayed, with many voters displaying an increasing willingness to lend their votes to newer smaller parties, despite the limitations placed on their likely success imposed by the first-past-the-post system (with the exception of the SNP in this respect).

Labour, having sowed the seed of devolution, are shortly, it would seem, about to reap the whirlwind. Following the SNP’s defeat in the independence referendum but subsequent victory in Scottish opinion polls, we could be about to witness the death of the Labour Party as a national force as its MPs in Scotland are swept away by a rising nationalist tide. The Conservative Party has already undergone this process, having effectively become a party restricted to England and Wales. Given the projections relating to the SNP’s likely share of the vote in Scotland, with its rise in popularity being largely at the expense of Labour, Miliband’s party could be heading for near electoral wipeout north of the border in May. Nonetheless, it is clear that the SNP would make for natural bedfellows with Labour rather than the Conservatives. A minority Labour administration propped up by the SNP is a highly plausible scenario, as well as the least desirable, for Labour has indicated that it is in ‘principle’ against the concept of English votes for English laws, which whilst anti-democratic, plays into the narrow self-interest of the Labour Party. We could well therefore witness a situation in which Scotland effectively holds the rest of the Union to ransom, with the SNP exacting as many financial concessions as possible from Westminster, whilst facilitating the implementation of policies not supported by the majority of the electorate in England or Wales. The SNP leadership probably realises that such a tactic would also cause such an adverse reaction in England that it would prompt mass English support for Scottish independence, so as to be rid of an interfering deadweight. However, quite what the recent OPEC-engineered slump in oil prices will do to the long-term fortunes of the SNP and their budgetary credibility, remains to be seen.

A couple of weeks’ ago, a poll was opened to blog readers to gauge their opinions as to the likely shape of our next Government. Unsurprisingly, few believed that a majority Government will emerge on 8 May: some 7% stated that they believed we would have a Labour majority, whereas 14% thought that a majority Conservative administration would be returned. Readers were presented with a wide range of coalition options to choose from, as well as ‘some other configuration’. A total of 14% of respondents opted for this latter category, so perhaps they are placing their faith in the rather distant prospects of majority Liberal Democrat, UKIP or Green administrations.

Readers clearly did not share the view of the pollsters which currently indicate a Labour-SNP coalition as the most likely outcome, as only 7% selected this as the likely result. Even more surprisingly, perhaps, is that nobody thought that there would be the likelihood of a continuation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition. The second most likely outcome of the General Election was adjudged by 21% of respondents to be a Labour Coalition with the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Topping the list of likely outcomes, securing 28% of this poll’s vote, was a Conservative Coalition with UKIP.

The only clear conclusion that can be drawn either from this readers’ poll, or from national opinion polls, is that there is massive uncertainty around the outcome of the next General Election. A new poll opens today, gauging readers’ opinions as to how many MPs they believe UKIP will have on 8 May.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Richard Dawkins interviewed by Evan Davis

Evan Davis is the sort of man that Islamists believe should be thrown to his death from the top of a tall building. This is not some lurid exaggeration, but a sad statement of fact, but for Davis, as for so many others at the BBC, the concept of the existence of clear, incontrovertible facts is viewed as something unsettling, rather than being something that should be acknowledged. Not so for Richard Dawkins, of course. Dawkins knows not only that Islamists would delight in throwing Davis to his death from a great height, but that this would be fundamentally wrong and barbarous. For Davis though, one almost suspects that he'd view his terminal aerial descent as nothing but another illustration of the vibrant variety of beliefs blossoming in contemporary multicultural Britain; an unanticipated opportunity to celebrate diversity, whilst thrilling to the whoosh of the passing air as he involuntarily attempts base-jumping without a parachute.

The appearance of Dawkins on last night's Newsnight was welcome, but Davis's smug, condescending interview technique was not. Davis evidently does not view Dawkins as his intellectual equal, but as his inferior. This is staggering.

The interview commenced with Davis making reference to the Charlie Hebdo attack, and attempting to equate Dawkins's "militant atheism" with religious dogmatism and fanaticism. A fallacious comparison, of course, but something taken as a matter of 'faith' by Davis and his relativising, multicultural ilk. Evans thus asked if Dawkins was any different to the religious dogmatists whom he criticises, seeking to impose his beliefs on others, to which Dawkins responded that "you should be allowed to believe anything you like, but you shouldn't impose your beliefs on other people." Given this, he said that he was not in favour of a burka ban, although he feels personally offended when he sees someone peering through a slit. Nonetheless, personal offence is no reason to ban something. People should be free to offend.

Dawkins rebutted Davis's suggestion that he did not wish children to receive a religious education, stating that he thought that children should be taught about religion in an appropriate context, rather than being indoctrinated into it. For Dawkins, it is important that schools should teach history, literature and religion as part of a rounded curriculum, but they should not be taught creationism, as "Evolution is not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact, as much as the Earth orbits the Sun." At this point, Davis made an expression indicating that he may hold sympathies for the Flat Earth Society.

Davis seemed to be particularly annoyed by the fact that Dawkins had tweeted that more Nobel Prizes had been won by graduates of Trinity College, Cambridge, than by the whole of the Muslim world. Davis adjudged this to be particularly provocative, and wanted to know why Dawkins had said this. Dawkins replied that he had in fact toned down his comment for the sake of Muslim sensibilities, as he had originally wished to ask how it was that Jews accounted for 20% to 25% of all Nobel Prize winners, whereas the Muslim world had produced scarcely any. The Muslim world may have been at the cutting edge of science in the mediaeval period, but had stagnated scientifically ever since. Fact. Nonetheless, Davis described this as an "invidious comparison" more than once. Davis is not as bright as he thinks, and is playing with fire by trying to legitimise Islamic literalism. The likes of Davis, if they are permitted to get their way, will function as the handmaidens of a new dark age. Davis, to borrow an old term from a different context, is not so much an intellectual, as a useful idiot.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dire: 'UKIP: The First 100 Days'

Should national broadcasters be permitted to run 'docudramas' with the intent of interfering in the political process during the run-up to a General Election?

Last night's Channel 4 offering, 'UKIP: The First 100 Days', was as predictable and dull as it was woodenly acted and blatantly partisan. How could a review conclude anything else? (Admittedly, I've not read the Guardian review, so it may well praise it for its 'objectivity' and great 'public service'). From the outset, it was obvious that this programme had been commissioned and screened with no other intent than to portray UKIP as the new 'nasty' party; a party of not-very-closet 'racists', frightfully white and not very bright. Although Channel 4 sometimes commissions and delivers excellent documentary programmes, such as Dispatches, last night's drama could not be adjudged to meet the broadcaster's often high standards, falling instead into a knee-jerk pantomime Leftism, that characterised anyone with concerns about mass immigration, the undemocratic nature of the EU or globalism, as racist, xenophobic and innately stupid. If it was intended to be political satire, it was about as funny and cutting edge as David Cameron delivering a stand-up routine, or George Osborne shoving an unexpected tax demand in your face.

That its central character - a fictitious female MP of Sikh extraction - should eventually 'see the light' and turn on UKIP, was a known given of the drama as soon as the camera first alighted upon her. What else could such a character do? The writer evidently thought that both she, and the programme's viewers, needed to be awakened from their state of false consciousness.

Although, obviously, the UKIP platform - so far as we can make it out - being anti-EU, anti mass immigration and anti-multiculturalism, lies in direct opposition to Channel 4's pro-EU, pro mass immigration and pro-multiculturalism editorial stance, should this fact alone allow the broadcaster to screen such a programme at this time? If so, surely for the sake of political balance, we ought to see analogous documentaries dealing with the other 'major' political parties operating across the whole of the UK? Channel 4 could portray Ed Miliband as an out-of-touch elitist intent on wrecking the public finances, or David Cameron as a friend of transnational corporate capital selling off the country's economic assets to hostile foreign investors; Nick Clegg as . . . Nick Clegg, or Nathalie Bennett of the Greens as a vegan totalitarian with a soft spot for ISIS (not the Egyptian goddess) and a desire to extinguish Britain in an immigration tsunami from Africa and Asia? That would strike me as being both as fair and as objective as the 'docudrama' that we saw last night.

That complaints should have been submitted to Ofcom in the wake of 'UKIP: The First 100 Days' is perfectly understandable. Will Ofcom take any notice? What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Review: ‘Digging for Britain’, Episode 2, BBC4

This evening’s ‘Digging for Britain’, the second in the series, moved location from Norfolk to the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, to focus upon some of the more significant archaeological discoveries made in the West Country during 2014. One theme which ran through much of the programme was the question as to what extent the population of the region was Romanised, not only during the period of Britain’s formal incorporation into the Roman Empire, but also in the late Iron Age and after the departure of the legions in 410.

Evidence from a number of the featured digs bore testimony to the pre-conquest trade between the island and the continent, with certain goods from the Roman world being imported as luxury items. Some of these – such as chicken and wine – may not be viewed as luxuries today, but in the first century BC, they were exotic and something to be shown off. One excavation at Winterborne Kingston in Dorset, named the Durotriges Bid Dig Project, has uncovered evidence of life in a late Iron Age ‘banjo enclosure’ (an undefended farmstead), with its period of occupation running from the first century BC right through to the fifth century AD. Interestingly, the quantity of characteristically Roman finds from the first century BC to the second century AD remained relatively constant, with the imposition of Roman rule in the middle of the first century AD having no discernible impact upon the material culture of the site. It was not until the third and fourth centuries AD that there was a marked change, making the site appear more ‘Roman’.

A Roman villa had previously been discovered in a neighbouring field, and the Durotriges Dig turned up four burials dating to the middle of the fifth century AD which appear to be associated with it. Judging by the positioning of the skeletons and grave goods, it seems that Romano-British life continued after the imperial collapse. One of the most intriguing items discovered in one of the women’s graves was a Roman earthenware bowl, worn smooth by many years of use, which suggests that it may have been used for 60 or 70 years before being interred with the burial. It is reckoned that she was buried around 450 AD. Elements of Roman culture would seem therefore to have been adopted before the conquest, and retained after the withdrawal of the imperial administration, but the question regarding the depth of its penetration into wider Romano-British society remains open to debate. A further excavation undertaken by Exeter University at Ipplepen in south Devon, also suggested that Roman rule may, to a certain extent, have extended westward beyond Exeter, judging by the Romano-British burials uncovered there.

Back at the Dorchester Museum, the ever-engaging Alice Roberts put her knowledge of anatomy to good use in examining two skeletons excavated from the ‘war cemetery’ at Maiden Castle. Both bear the marks of violent death: one possessing a ballista bolt embedded in a vertebra, the other with a large hole in the top of his cranium and cut and slash marks on his jaw that indicate that someone had twice attempted to decapitate him after death. It would seem that these men fell victim to Vespasian’s campaign at some point during the period AD 43-47.

In terms of burials, the most spectacular featured in the programme were unearthed at Barrow Clump on MOD land on Salisbury Plain. The site dates back more than 5,000 years, but a decision was made to excavate before badgers destroyed the archaeology with their burrowing. After two days, a Bronze Age burial urn containing burnt human bone was discovered, with a second much larger vessel being found buried upside down, but the most interesting finds were from a more recent, although still distant, period. The latter were uncovered by armed forces veterans being introduced to archaeology as a therapeutic activity through a project named ‘Operation Nightingale.’ They discovered a collection of 75 Anglo-Saxon burials dating to the sixth century, the graves of the warriors being found alongside the Bronze Age ones. One group of a dozen bodies were found buried close together, with what appeared to be a symbolic “shield wall” lining the burial area. However, one burial stood out, for no other individual amongst the group was found with a spearhead, a shield boss, a knife and, most importantly, a sword; objects bearing testimony to his high status. X-rays revealed the sword to be pattern welded, forged from three bars of iron twisted together. When new, this would have been a visually impressive object, as well as a terrifying weapon of war.

Other sites visited included Chedworth Villa in the Cotswolds, where a re-excavation revealed a previously unsuspected large mosaic and remains of coloured plaster from the collapsed villa walls, revolutionising archaeologists’ understanding of this site. A leprosy hospital dating back to 1070 was excavated in a field at St Mary Maudlin just outside of Winchester, revealing some gruesomely disfigured skeletons. In contrast to this, in terms of visual appeal, was a horde of three pairs of gold Bronze Age bracelets discovered by metal detectorists in the Forest of Dean. One of them had been made for a young infant, which is quite unusual for such a high status object, indicating that the child’s parents must have been in possession of significant wealth.

Other than the last artefacts mentioned, there were no recently discovered items of high visual appeal, but in the absence of a written record, the bones and remains of everyday life nonetheless have their own interesting tales to tell. The Durotriges and the Romans are gone. Are the English going the same way?