>Millions on the payroll


A special report on the future of jobs in this week’s Economist included a list of the world’s top ten employers. In 2010 the two largest employers in the world were the US Department of Defence (covering all branches of the American armed forces) and the Chinese Army, with 3.2m and 2.3m employees respectively.

The list demonstrates a number of trends, including the rise of China (five of the top ten are Chinese companies (including Hon Hai, who are headquartered in Taiwan)), the scale of state concerns (only three of the top ten are private companies) and the global power of Walmart, whose workforce almost equals the Chinese Army and makes it easily the biggest private sector employer.

The most interesting name for me was the one I had never heard of. Hon Hai Precision Industry entered the list at number 10 with 800,000 employees. Hoovers describe Hon Hai as “the biggest electronics company that you have never heard of”. Its principal subsidiary, Foxconn, is better known following a series of employee suicides and scandals.

Hon Hai are the manufacturing muscle behind Apple’s recent success stories. From iPods to iPads, Hon Hai has provided the components and assembled the products. It has not put all its eggs in one basket and also makes mobile phones for Nokia, computers for Dell and electronics for Sony.

>The escape of the sound of heaven


Gregorio Allegri’s ‘Miserere mei, Deus’ is one of the most devastatingly beautiful pieces of choral works ever composed. It is perhaps the best known example of late-Renaissance music, but, if the strictures of the Papacy had been followed, it would have been unknown outside of the confines of the Sistine Chapel.

The piece was written sometime before 1638 and hadbecome so famous in the next century that the Papacy banned, on thepain of excommunication, its performance outside of the Sistine Chapel. Formany years, the only way of hearing the music would be to attend one of the twoHoly Week matins services in which it was performed.

Rarely can the senses have been so ravished – the Baroquesplendour of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the soaring voices of the Papal Choirand the otherworldly genius of Allegri’s composition provide the evocative setting.At 3 am, theservice would begin, with the light of 27 candles burning brightly, dancingsacred light off the newly painted frescoes. They were extinguished one by oneuntil only a single flame was left. The service was often led by the Pope, andmust have been an experience of religious ecstasy for the Holy Week pilgrims.Rarely can the divine have been so sumptuously invoked.

It was this expression of devotion that was sojealously guarded by the Supreme Pontiff. Whether out of fear of the music’simpact being diluted or a simple desire to retain the celebrated work withinthe confines of Rome and thereby ensure the attendance of devotees, the Papacyforbade the work to be written down or sung outside of the Sistine Chapel.

The music remained largely confined to Rome untilits next brush with genius. On 11 April 1770 Leopold Mozart and his sonWolfgang arrivedin Rome as part of their grand tour of Italy. They had arrived in HolyWeek, in time for Easter and in time to attend the Wednesday Tenebrae in theSistine Chapel and hear the famous Miserere.

The 12-year old prodigy then returned to hislodgings and committed the piece to paper entirely from memory. He returned tothe Sistine Chapel on Good Friday to review his manuscript, and made a fewminor corrections. His father boastedof his son’s achievements in a letter to his wife dated 14 April 1770:

“…Youhave often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prizedthat the performers are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away asingle part of it, copy it or to give it to anyone. But we have it already.Wolfgang has written it down and we would have sent it to Salzburg in thisletter, if it were not necessary for us to be there to perform it. But themanner of performance contributes more to its effect than the compositionitself. Moreover, as it is one of the secrets of Rome, we do not wish to let itfall into other hands….”

Mozart may not have let loose the secrets of Rome,but the composition did soon after find its way to London via Dr Charles Burney. And, oncerevealed, the music became widely available. It is unlikely that Mozart was the sole conduit for its circulation – written copies had been made available to the Holy Roman Emperor, for example – but Mozart was the composer best able to do justice to Allegri’s composition.

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>Leading from the front


6 June 1944 was D-Day.Operation Neptune saw the Allied forces of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, NewZealand and Free France cross an unusually calm English Channel and begin theinvasion of Europe. The Normandy landings saw some of the most intense andbrutal fighting of the Second World War as over 150,000 Allied troopslanded across five beaches.

Amidst the chaos and confusion, the death anddestruction there was little time for anything other than direct militaryengagement. It is therefore somewhat staggering that in the days leading up toD-Day both King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill madeplans to be with the attacking forces on the Normandy beaches.

During their usual lunchtime audience on Tuesday 30May 1944, Churchill mentioned that he intended to watch the invasion ofNormandy from HMS Belfast. The King was enthusiastic, and suggested he wouldaccompany the Prime Minister.

The King’s enthusiasm had diminished by the nextday, and was entirely reversed when Sir Alan Lascelles, his Private Secretary,voiced serious concerns over the unnecessary risk. The King set about changingthe Prime Minister’s mind, but Churchill was not easily dissuaded. His obstinacywas met with constitutional shadow boxing. As a Minister of the Crown,Churchill could not travel abroad without the King’s consent. But, came theinevitable if infuriating reply, HMS Belfast was a British warship and thus hewould technically remain on British territory.

Eventually, news of the plan reached GeneralEisenhower. Churchill’s request to accompany the invasion fleet was immediatelyturned down by the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces. The PM shot back thatEisenhower was not in a position to prevent his adventure, responding:

“Since this is true it is not part of yourresponsibility, my dear General, to determine the exact composition of anyship’s company in His Majesty’s Fleet by shipping myself as a bona fide memberof a ship’s complement it would be beyond your authority to prevent mygoing.”

Eventually, the King consigned his frustration topaper and wrotea letter urging Churchill not to undertake the voyage. A combination ofthreats, pleading and stroking of the PMs ego were ultimately enough to makeChurchill back down.

Churchill was the first of the two to make it acrossthe Channel, visitingNormandy on D +6, or 12 June 1944 on what he called his ‘jolly day’. He wasfollowed fourdays later by the King, whose 16 June 1944 voyage was defended by a flotillaof Royal Navy warships.

>The urge to amalgamate


Amidsta Scottish legislative programme consisting of 15 Bills, a single policy caughtthe media’s attention. Alex Salmond announced plans for the creationof a single Scottish police force and fire and emergency service. This wouldamalgamate today’s eight police forces and eight fire services into one nationalbody for each.

Thepush for amalgamation is not peculiar to the SNP, to Scotland or to the currentclimate of budget constraints. The prospect of reducing the number of Scottishforces was raisedearlier in the year, and again in2010.

Southof the border, moves to rationalise police forces in England and Wales were announced byCharles Clarke on 6 February 2006, only to meet with stiff local and organisationalopposition. The plans were eventuallyshelved in August 2006, but only after £11.5m was spent by police forces onplanning.

Policingis an especially emotive issue, and one in which local loyalties and democraticaccountability trumps the logic of cost savings, scale and operationalefficiency. The SNP move will be seen as a step forward in forging a separateScottish identity – the emergency forces united under the saltire. Such a movein England would create howls of protest and fear of a centralised policestate.

TheBritish system bucks the European trend of having national policeorganisations. France has la policenationale, Germany, the Bundeskriminalamtand Italy, the Carabinieri.Closer to home, Ireland’s national police service, An Garda Síochána, is the same from Malin toMizen. Even the USA, fiercely defensive of states’ rights and home of themunicipal police force, has the FBI. Why doesthe UK have such an expensive array of police forces? And what is thehistorical context for amalgamation?

Althoughnight watches and guardians of the peace were in existence long before the 19thcentury, modern policing in the UK began with London’s Metropolitan Police. In1829, Robert Peel introduced the MetropolitanPolice Act and London’s police force (along with the affectionate nicknameof ‘Bobbies’) was born.

The MunicipalCorporations Act 1835 along with the Rural Constabulary Act 1839 and theCounty Police Act 1840 allowed boroughs and counties to create their own policeforces. With the Countyand Borough Police Act 1856 this was made mandatory (and was mirrored inScotland by the General Police Act (Scotland) 1857).  By 1860, there were around 200 separatepolice forces, and by 1900 thishad grown to 243 forces.

Thepressure for consolidation and amalgamation has existed almost since the inceptionof modern policing. It was the logical solution to stretched police resourcesand duplication of effort, especially when the smallest historic boroughs andcounties had their own separate forces.

Provisionsin the County Police Act 1840 permitted voluntary amalgamations. It facilitatedthe demise of SouthMolton Borough Police (merged into Devon Constabulary in 1877), LauncestonBorough Police (amalgamated in 1883 with Cornwall Constabulary) andChipping Norton Borough Police (into Oxfordshire Constabulary). Given theseboroughs had populations of roughly 16,800,3,600and 18,000respectively at the time of amalgamation, it is hard to see how they couldjustify separate forces (although the existence of an independent ChippingNorton police could have added spice to the media storm around the ChippingNorton set).
Anotherwave of consolidations came under the auspices of the Local Government Act 1888which forcedamalgamation for towns with populations of less than 10,000. Deal,Bideford, Falmoth and Tenterden, along with 12 other forces, merged into theirrespective county constabularies at this time.

Afurther batch of small forces would be rationalised under theDefence (Amalgamation of Police Forces) Regulations 1942. This act focusedon Kent for obvious civil defence purposes, and saw Dover, Folkestone,Maidstone, Margate, Rochester, Tunbridge Wells and Ramsgate lose theirindependent police forces.

Thefirst wholesale, centralised and planned consolidation came with the PoliceAct 1946. This reduced the number of constabularies to 131 and saw thedemise of the splendidly named Liberty of Peterborough Constabulary and thepleasantly obscure Chepping Wycombe Borough Police.

Seriousrationalisation would come under the Police Act 1964, which dramaticallyreduced the number of forces to 49. This saw the first major protests againstforced amalgamations, led by the still infant Luton Borough Police. Luton’sseparate police force had only come into existence on 1 April 1964, and it wasalmost immediately threatened with forced amalgamation into BedfordshireConstabulary. The campaign eventually led to Luton servinga High Court writ on Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary.

Allvestiges of smaller, historic county forces would be swept away alongside localgovernment reform in the LocalGovernment Act 1972, with Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Hull and Bradfordlosing their independent police forces. A similar rationalisationsaw Scottish constabularies reduce from 20 city and county based forces to theeight that are currently facing merger.

Althoughthese reforms left police forces in the same shape as we see today, calls forrationalisation did not disappear. In 1981 the Chief Constable of GreaterManchester, James Anderton, called for 10 regional police forces across Englandand Wales.

Therationalisation of territorial police forces has been accompanied by the demiseof a vast array of special forces, covering the railways, canals, docks,rivers, airports, parks, markets, cathedrals and even Eton College. Some havesurvived, including constabularies for the Cityof London’s Markets, CambridgeUniversity (Oxford’s force, populary known the Bulldogs, wasdisbanded in 2003), SalisburyCathedral and YorkMinster.

Theonly anomaly in the history of multiple police forces has been the position ofNorthern Ireland. The Royal Ulster Constabulary remained as the singlepolice force for the north of Ireland following partition in 1922. It wasthe remnant of the Royal Irish Constabulary that had previously policed thewhole island (with the exception of Dublin’s city constabulary). On 4 November2001 the RUC became the Police Serviceof Northern Ireland as part of the Good Friday Agreement. With the RUC’sdemise one of the bitterest grievances of northern Irish Catholics was tackled. 

Policingin the UK has moved a long way from nearly 250 separate territorial forces anda medley of special forces for everything from cathedrals to markets, ports topower stations. There are now just 39 territorial forces in England, 4 inWales, 8 in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland and four principal ‘specialpolice forces’ (the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, CivilNuclear Constabulary and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency).

Doesthe seemingly relentless move to consolidation, amalgamation and merger signalthe death of local policing? How does it fit in with the Coalition government’slocalism agenda? And, in an age of austerity and severe budget cuts, can weafford to ignore the cost savings, efficiency gains and eradication ofduplication that larger forces may bring?  

>Breaking up is so very hard to do


On 12 September 2011 the final reportof the Independent Commission on Banking under Sir John Vickers will be issued.It is likely to recommend the ring fencing of the UK’s retail banks, and thusthe separation of the riskier investment banking operations. Whether this willbe accepted by the government has been castinto doubt amidst strong lobbying that it will impact on economic recoveryand Britain’s future growth prospects.

Although the current economic crisislooks set to rival the Great Depression in length, it has not yet had quite thesame cataclysmic social and political impacts. It is therefore unsurprisingthat the political response to the credit crunch and systemic failure of thebanking system has not yet yielded reform on a scale comparable with thosepromulgated in the US in the 1930s.

The Banking Act of 1933 is morecommonly known as the Glass–Steagall Act, namedfor the Democractic Senator from Virginia, Carter Glass, and the DemocraticCongressman from Alabama, Henry B. Steagall. It was a revolutionary piece oflegislation for revolutionary times.

It was enacted as part of Roosevelt’sNew Deal legislation, and against the backdrop of thefailure of more than 5,000 banks in the Great Depression. Most totemic ofall was the failureof the Bank of United States on 11 December 1930, which saw one of America’slargest commercial banks collapse.

Confidence in America’s fiscal systemwas already at rock bottom when the new FDR administration attemptedcomprehensive surgery to revive the banks. On Monday 6 March 1933, PresidentRoosevelt issued aproclamation ordering the suspension of all banking transactions, effectiveimmediately. The nationwide bank holiday was to extend to Thursday 9 March,during which time emergency legislation was considered in Congress.

The emergency banking legislation wasfollowed by the Glass-Steagall Act in June 1933. The Act forcedthe separation of commercial and investment banks. Commercial banks couldnot embark on risky trading activities (such as underwriting the sales ofstocks and bonds), and investment banks could not take deposits.

Glass-Steagall wasrepealed in November 1999, and was followed by a wave of mergers thatcreated the banking behemoths – the banks that were “too big to fail”.

The UK is not the only country that isconsidering greater regulation of its banking industry. The US has implementedthe Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The EU hasagreed a new financialsupervision framework, including the European Systemic Risk Board. AndBasel III promises to strengthenregulation, supervision and risk management of the banking system.

But there is, as yet, no new Glass-Steagaland no new Bretton Woods, which is a shame. As economist Paul Romernoted: “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”.

>Mapping the riots


The Financial Times and the Guardian have both published original statistical and cartographical work based on the Londonriots. TheFinancial Times has plotted the home addresses of 332 people charged withriot-related offences in London over the past month. These were then applied toa map with neighbourhoods shaded to represent one of five quintiles ofdeprivation (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation).

The researchreveals that two-thirds of all suspects live in neighbourhoods withbelow-average income, and only 3 per cent hail from the wealthiest 20 per centof areas.

The Guardian’swork focused on the riot incidents, but then applies this to a similar mapof deprivation. There is a similar correlation between the more deprivedlocations in London and reported incidents of riot-related criminality. 

>An island divided dividing islands


The English Civil War pitted fathers against sons,brothers against brothers in the bitter conflict between King and Parliament thatdivided the country. The enmity spread far beyond the borders of England. Althoughroutinely referred to as the English Civil War, its effects were felt inScotland, Ireland and England’s overseas colonies.

Eventhe Channel Islands would succumb to intrigue and division. Jersey, the largestof the islands, remainedin the hands of the Royalists under George de Carteret. It became a placeof refuge for the future Charles II, as recountedin an inscription: “he has been twice received in safety when he wasexcluded from the remainder of his dominions … during the fury of the civilwars.”

Given the rivalry between the islands, it is perhapsno surprise that Guernsey sidedwith Parliament. Well, most ofGuernsey. Castle Cornet, overlooking St. Peter Port and under the Governorshipof Peter Osborne, remainedloyal to the King. One explanation for the people of Guernsey’s anti-Royalistsentiment was the highproportion of Calvinists on the island.

The fortress and town would exchangeintermittent cannon and musket fire for the best part of a decade, riddlingboth the castle and waterfront with shot and damaging many buildings. Castle Cornetsurvived amidst its hostile hinterland by receiving supplies from neighbouring,and Royalist, Jersey. By the end of the Civil War, the castle would be the lastpoint of Royalist resistance in the British Isles, finally succumbing toParliamentary forces on 17 December 1551 (Jersey’s Elizabeth Castlesurrendered on 12 December 1551).

Jersey wasrewarded for its loyalty on the Restoration, with Charles II presentinga sumptuous Royal Mace to the Bailiff of Jersey on 28 November 1663.Guernsey was left toimplore Charles II for his “gracious pardon” for having “quitted theirdutys to obedience to their native Soverain”. Clemency was granted on 13 August 1660. 

>Gilty secret


An interesting graph on the front page of the Financial Times shows the turbulent history of Britain’s 20th century finances through the yields of UK Gilts. The graph serves to illustrate the relatively benign treatment of the UK’s current sovereign debt. Whilst Britain is hardly in the most robust fiscal condition it is being compared to the Eurozone and the USA. A decisive government decision to tackle deficits and debts contrasts with jitters over Eurozone stability and US political wrangling, and sees the UK joining Switzerland as a relative safe haven.

In mid-August, UK ten year bonds were trading at a yield 2.24%, marking the lowest yields on UK sovereign debt since the 1890s. This contrasts with their peak in the mid 1970s and early 1980s, when they pushed above 14%. They shot up to these heady heights amidst the IMF bailout of the UK and the abolition of exchange controls, and were triggered by the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed convertability when the US ended dollar convertability of gold on 15 August 1971.

Yields then generally declined from double figures down to last month’s long-term lows, with a temporary spike above 12% in the early 1990s recession. The comparatively benign outlook from the 1890s ended in 1900, when yields would drift up towards 6%, spiking after the conclusion of the First World War. The fiscal trauma of that conflict did not have as devestating a consequence on UK yields as later recessions, and the Second World War was even kinder, with yields drifting back towards 2%.

Whilst the graph vividly demonstrates that UK borrowing was, historically, much more expensive (sometimes eye-wateringly so). Given the size of the UK debt and the punitive measures being taken to tame and reduce it, it has to be hoped that they continue to reflect the late 19th rather than the late 20th century.

The disappointments and prophecy of Généralissime Foch

Ferdinand Foch was undoubtedly the military colossus of the western front in the First World War. He rose through the ranks of command in the French Army, becoming first Chief of the General Staff and then Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies with the title of Généralissime.


Together with General Haig he planned the Great Offensive of September 1918 which triggered the collapse and defeat of Germany. A grateful nation made him Marshal of France, and he strode towards the 1919 Paris Peace Conference with demands to render Germany incapable of posing a future threat to France.   

He presented a memorandum to the Allied plenipotentiaries which demanded that Germany be denied territorial sovereignty over the left bank of the Rhine and that German power be so permanently weakened so as to render her incapable of military action against her neighbours. 

What eventually emerged as the Treaty of Versailles would fall far short of his demands, so much so that he labelled the resulting peace a “a capitulation, a treason”   His disappointment and disgust produced one of the most memorable and ultimately prophetic quotes. As the peace treaty was signed on 28 June 1919 in the glittering surrounds of the Palace of Versaille’s Hall of Mirrors, Foch was heard to remark:  

“This is not peace, it is an armistice for 20 years.”  

The Second World War would break out just over 20 years later, but Foch would not live to see the fulfillment of his prophecy. He died in March 1929 aged 77.