Electric Cars, BBC Sounds, Best Thing Since Sliced Bread presented by Greg Foot.


ceteris paribus


  1. With all other factors or things remaining the same.
  2. other things being equal; with all other things or factors remaining the same.
  3. all other things being equal

Anyone that has done O-grade economics knows what ceteris paribus means. It means nothing in the real world, because all things are not equal. Since the late nineteen-seventies, year on year, decade on decade things have grown more unequal. A simple question what is better a Vauxhall Corsa powered by an electrical battery, or the around £8000 cheaper petrol motor? Most folk rent cars and don’t buy them outright. Ford motor company, for example, was largely kept afloat not by making cars, but leasing them.When that model no longer worked they were bailed out by the American government. Too big to fail in the money market. Vauxhall admit that around 90% of their cars are leased and not bought. By 2030 they and other car manufactures will stop making cars with an internal combustion engine. If you want to know why Elon Musk is one of the richest men in the world it’s that simple fact. Cars with an internal combustion engine are already been squeezed out of cities like London by hefty tax charges. Other big cities will follow. I’m glad of that. But we’re way behind in the changes we need to make to making it workable. Every home needs a charging point. But not every person that needs a home has one. Millions can’t afford to heat them. EVs win in the neoliberal world of ceteris paribus. It makes sense to be rich and make rational economic decisions. If you’ve got an old car run it into the ground.


Lots of arguments it’s good for the planet. Lots of argument you can save money. That advert made none of those claims.

Huge rise in popularity of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Is it worth switching?

1 in 6 vehicles sold last year, 2021, were EVs. More EVs sold last year (2021) than all of the five years combined.

Should I switch?

Does it really make sense, scrapping my old car, 30 000 miles on the clock, small engine? Or should I just run it into the ground?

UK Government announced a ban on sale of new petrol/diesel car by 2030. But that doesn’t mean if you have a petrol car you need to swap it for an EV by 2030. 

How many miles would I have to do in this new EV before it offsets those carbon footprint of consumption and actually is the greener option?

And new EV thousands of pounds (cost) more than a petrol car. How far do I have to drive the EV before I have to recoup that initial extra cost?

I’m Mike Berniers-Lee, I’m, Professor of Sustainability at Lancaster University. Author on There is No Planet B.

Test the footprint of an EV v a petrol engine or internal combustion engine (ICE) how would we go about doing it?

I would take two microlight products, close to like as like can get. The petrol version of a car and EV. Then I’d estimate the embodied carbon in manufacture.

I’d make an assessment of carbon per mile (cpm) for each vehicle.  

I would do a calculation for how many miles it would take for the EV to break even, or how many miles around the race track.

Predictions from experts and whether Julien should switch from an ICE to EV. 

I’m Dr Euan McTurk and I’m a consultant electro-battery chemist.

Spent over a decade working and driving EVs. Working on chemistry batteries to improve their range and performance.

What is the point you start recouping your costs over ICE car? Any idea how many miles it would take before you start breaking even?

A: The savings you would make, especially, if you are a higher mileage driver—I was doing 12 000 miles per year—for example, and I was still saving a significant sum of money, well into the four figures every year, if you’re factoring in the residual value of the car—what you would get if you sold it—after how many years, that break-even point between buying an EV outright and buying an ICE car outright is probably a couple of years for a lot of people, then you are laughing your way to the bank.

We’re going to test an electric Corsa? To see how many miles we need to drive before we offset that carbon footprint. 

How many miles do you think we’re going to need before we offset?

A: I’d be gobsmacked if it was anything above 40 000. More realistically, finger in the air, around 20 000 miles, worst case. EVs then go sailing past it. I’ll be interested to find out the result. Keep me posted.

Vicky Parrot, freelance motorist journalist. Specialised in EVs, so I’ve been doing this now since about 2006.

Let’s talk about the environmental concerns then, because you have written, in some cases, ‘the greenest option, is to keep driving your petrol car’. Not to switch?

A: Effectively, if you don’t do very many miles. It is potentially, actually, greener to keep an old petrol car on the road, even if it’s only doing 30 mpg or something like that. It’s not just the fuel you burn. It’s also about the energy involved in recycling the car. And it’s crass to just scrap perfectly useable petrol and diesel cars. Despite the fact, I do love EVs and do advocate people buying them. If you’re only doing about 5000 miles per year, which plenty of people do, then you’re not going to make up the cost of a new EV in your fuel savings.

We’re going to test an EV v and ICE, what are your guesses for what that figure will be?

A: Blimey! I’ll get my crystal ball out and I’d say about 30-40 000 miles. To offset the complete manufacturing burden.

The predictions are in. I’ve got my hands on the cars, which means it’s time to test. The race track was we are going to do the experiment. Two pretty identical cars. One notable difference. One of them doesn’t have an exhaust pipe. Vauxhall Corsa. Vauxhall E-Corsa.

We’re here to drive them a set number of laps around the track. To work out the real-world miles-per-gallon and miles-per- kilowatt (KW).

What is that break-even point?   

Should Julien ditch his old petrol guzzling car for a new EV?

Petrol car, first. I’m going to go ten laps around this track. Then I’m going to drive the car to the petrol station and we’re going to fill it up.

Odometer set to zero. Petrol filled to brim. Allows us to know how much we filled up by. How many miles we’ve covered. By that we can work out mpg.

Current price at petrol station 167.9. 1.39 litres at a cost of £2.33. 13 miles to get to the track. 10 laps around the track. Back to petrol station.

E-Corsa. Do it all again. Can’t hear a thing. I’m in the petrol station. Odometer to zero. Battery percentage. Eight bars. We’re at 7.1.

Taking my foot off the speedometer at the first bend on the track. And it’s charging the battery because of that regenerative process. Take your foot off the brake. And they grab some of that energy to put more juice in the battery. Every time I slow down on these bends, it’s giving me a bit more oomph (on the battery).

How much has the battery been depleted?

Battery, 6.6 (out of 8). 82 and a half percent. Drop of 6.5 percent.

I’m told by Vicky and those at TopGear this is the first time a real-world test has been done. Spreadsheet. I’ll put it on social. Where I’m @GregFoot.

ICE = 42 mpg. Cost per mile: 18p. However, with drop in UK fuel duty, typically, came in the day after the test, that becomes 17.5p per mile for petrol Corsa.

E = 4.16Kwh. Cost per mile: 5p. However, got to update this as well. UK price cap that came in last week, means that goes up to 7p per mile.

Petrol, 17.5p v 7p for E-Corsa.

Every mile Julien (hypothetically) would be driving, he’d be saving ten-and-a-bit pence.

The big reveal, how many miles Julien need to drive to offset the price of the car, or where the break-even point where he to buy a new more costly EV or petrol car?

How green it would be to switch?

I need those missing numbers for Mike Berniers-Lee.  

Mike Berniers-Lee: There are some obvious paths of the manufacture of the car, like the big, bulky bits. Like the chassis and the engine, which has clearly got a lot of metalwork. There are also smaller components. Especially, electronic components that have lot of high-spec, very technical manufacturing. A chip may only weigh one gram. Could have a much bigger carbon footprint by just looking at the size of it being a small object.

Best estimate for the E-Corsa with 50KW-hour battery, the carbon footprint will be around 12 tons of CO2 equivalents. A big part of that is that huge battery.

Petrol equivalent, same car, we estimate the CO2 equivalents comes in at just over half that at a much smaller, 6.7 tons of CO2 equivalents.

Greg Foot: Crikey! You mentioned full-life-cycle analysis earlier. This is…I don’t know, because you haven’t given me (we don’t know, how long/far it will be driven). Is this just for the production?

This is for the brand-new car. At point of sale. Before you’ve driven it off the forecourt. 

GF: That’s eye-opening, the electric is almost double the carbon footprint of the petrol.

MBL. Sorry, for a sense of scale. That 12 tons is roughly the total carbon footprint of the average UK person over a year. It’s a similar order of magnitude. It’s a big carbon footprint in terms of personal living.

Switching Julien’s petrol car would roughly double his carbon footprint. I’m ready to reveal the results to Julien.

What do you want to know first for the money or the planet?

Julien: I think I’ll go for the cold, hard cash.

OK, to decide whether you should switch from your working petrol car for new EV, you wanted to know how many miles would you need to drive before the money you saved on petrol covered the cost of buying a new EV.

Each mile on a EV, saves you around 10p, compared to a mile in petrol

Julien: Wow, so that could add up quite quickly, I guess.

Well, not that quickly if you want to save the price of a new electric Corsa at almost £32 000. Your looking to drive almost 300 000 miles. Or if I give you that in terms of average-annual mileage of about 7000 miles. You’d need to be driving more than 40 years. I haven’t factored in the savings you’re going to make on road tax each year. Or maintenance costs. Plus, you’re going to likely sell your old car, which would make the net-cost of that old EV lower. So it would take the time it would take you to offset that initial cost.

If you were at that point where your old petrol car is beyond repair. And that was before 2030. And you’re trying to decide whether to buy a new EV or a new petrol. And again, we’re just thinking of financial then. How far would you need to drive? Before savings covered that initial cost?  

Well, there’s a price difference of around £8 500 between ICE and EV Corsa. Which means that after the recent price risen and changes to fuel duty, you’re looking to be driving at least 80 000 miles, which would take you just over 11 years on average annual driving. That’s quite a commitment on the same car.

It raises the question, can I look at myself and see myself driving this in 11 years to make this financially worthwhile?

And that’s with the cheapest way of buying a car. And that’s with cash up front. And it you’re not going to drive that car for 11 years. You’re probably going to sell it. And EVs seem to keep their value, very well, now.

What about the planet? How far would I have to drive this car to lesson my carbon footprint.

Driving an EV isn’t totally clean. I looked at the energy mix on the day of the test. Fewer than 1 in 3 miles I was driving in the EV was powered by truly renewable energy. Because on that day, which I think is what the energy mix looks like, nearly 40% of energy was coming from fossil fuels. Which means that although it has no hose pipe the electricity that’s gone in there has been made from the result of burning things. Burning gas, specifically. But each of those miles is significantly cleaner than driving them in a petrol car by a factor of 5 or 6.

And when I take Mike’s figure. And our real-world test figures, my best estimate for how far you would need to drive before those environmental savings you’re getting from using electric rather than petrol add up, and start to offset that carbon footprint of making the EV in the first place is a bit over 37 000 miles.

Julien: That’s more than what’s on the clock on my car, already.

Greg Foot. And if you don’t think you’re going to drive it that long, or so far, then you’re likely going to sell the EV, when you’re done with it. Somebody else is going to continue to offset that initial production. So it’s pretty likely that you were at that point, your old petrol car is beyond repair, and you’re going to buy a new car. And you’re deciding whether that’s going to be petrol or electric. That’s before 2030.  Then the numbers change. The additional carbon debt of buying a new EV compared to a new petrol car will be offset when you have driven, best estimate, 16 500 miles. Which would take you on average two and bit years of driving.

Julien, stick or twist?

As things stand now, I don’t drive more than 5000 miles. I get the train. I walk. I haven’t been on a plane in about six years. So to me the arguments for sticking are much stronger.

We put these results to Vauxhall, and we heard from their head of PR. He said that their parent company has the figures for the manufacturing carbon footprints of cars but he hasn’t shared them with us.

He also said very few people keep a car from 11 years. And more than 90% of Corsa customers do not purchase their vehicles outright. Instead opt for a personal contract purchase  (PCP). In this instance it is the monthly cost it is most relevant to consider. And not solely the on the road price. 

Battery life for the EV vehicle will easily outlive the car usage.


Eric Holthaus (2020) The Future Earth: A Radical Vision For What’s Possible in the Age of Warming.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist and he wanted to do something about global warming. He wrote a book and finished it November 2019.

Here is some advice he gives:

‘The key to writing a good book is to write a bad book and then fix it.’

I like that. The key to writing a book is firstly to finish it. Then to fix it. Holthaus managed that. He’s an optimist.

‘In 2035’, for example, he suggests, ‘global emissions finally started to sharply decline—down 50 percent from 2020 levels. Even though the temperature was still rising, we managed to avoid a 1.5-degree rise. We were in the middle of the great Drawdown, a period of rebirth that allowed us to scale back emissions through individualised and collective actions’.

What he imagines for 2050 is international cooperation in a caring and sharing global society in which reparations have been made from rich countries to poorer countries that have contributed less to global warming, but have suffered the worst effects. A third of Pakistan’s landmass, for example, being underwater would immediately by a coalition led largely by America. A Marshall Plan, which provided aid to Western Europe, but covered the world. This would be ratified by the Paris Agreement of 2050.

To paraphrase that old Coke ad, I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

The second decade of the twenty-first century isn’t going as he envisaged.


“Many international bodies and national government are relying on carbon capture in the fossil fuel sector to get to net zero, and it simply won’t work,” Bruce Robertson, the author of the IEEFA report, said.

Despite being a technology still in development, carbon capture and storage has been put forward as a key element in the UK’s plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A further challenge is finding suitable storage sites for carbon sequestration, where the gas will not merely be used to push out more oil. According to the report, trapped CO2 will need monitoring for centuries to ensure it does not leak into the atmosphere – raising the risk of liability being handed over to the public, years after private interests have extracted their profits from the enterprise.

The risk is that CCS technology will be used to extend the life of fossil fuel infrastructure long past the cut off point for maintaining atmospheric carbon at less than catastrophic levels, the report suggested.


Global public subsidies for fossil fuels almost doubled to $700bn in 2021, analysis has shown, representing a “roadblock” to tackling the climate crisis.

Despite the huge profits of fossil fuel companies, the subsidies soared as governments sought to shield citizens from surging energy prices as the global economy rebounded from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the subsidies were used to reduce the price paid by consumers. This largely benefits wealthier households, as they use the most energy, rather than targeting those on low incomes. The subsidies are expected to rise even further in 2022 as Russia’s war in Ukraine has driven energy prices even higher.

“Fossil fuel subsidies are a roadblock to a more sustainable future, but the difficulty that governments face in removing them is underscored at times of high and volatile fuel prices,” said Fatih Birol, the director of the International Energy Agency, which produced the analysis with the OECD.

“A surge in investment in clean energy technologies and infrastructure is the only lasting solution to today’s global energy crisis and the best way to reduce the exposure of consumers to high fuel costs,” said Birol.

“Significant increases in fossil fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, while not necessarily reaching low-income households,” said Mathias Cormann, the OECD secretary general. “We need to adopt measures which protect consumers [and] help keep us on track to carbon neutrality, as well as energy security and affordability.”

The analysis covers 51 key countries and represents 85% of the world’s total energy supply. Subsidies that kept fossil fuel prices artificially low more than tripled to $531bn in 2021, compared with 2020. Subsidies for oil and gas production reached a record level of $64bn. The IEA said in May 2021 that no new fossil fuel projects should be developed if the world is to meet its climate goals.

Richard Powers (2018) The Overstory which won The Man Booker Prize tackles many of the issues Holthaus addresses, but in fictional form. Holhaus imagines a future, a regeneration in which agriculture which takes up half the earth and uses eighty percent of water is abloom with trees.

The nine main characters in The Overstory come together to protect the environment and around their love of trees as a keystone to regeneration of the world they know and love. They are idealistic. They are conservatives, seeking to conserve what is good. They recognise that corporations not only make the laws that protect them, but they run rings around any attempts to curtail profits. Activism, and putting themselves in harm’s way, does nothing to slow progress. And progress, like oil companies rushing ahead to open new fields, before any legislation kicks in dwarves any putative environmental gains and creates black holes and deserts. 

2030-2040: Radical Stewardship.

Holthaus uses a quote from Ursula Le Gun:

‘We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. But then so did the divine right of Kings. Any human power could be resisted and changed by human beings… The name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.’

Holthaus suggests that all it needs is three-percent of the population to turn and act as a vanguard for others to follow.

Similarly, Mark Fisher is often quoted (but not by Holthaus), ‘It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.’

The Bible provides a handy template. Which horse of the apocalypse are you backing? The White Horse symbolises righteousness (so Wikipedia tells me). But hold your horses. White might not be white, but whitewash, or even greenwash. Civil War and Pestilence. The antichrist, moron’s moron, in the White House. A plague and wild beasts?

The Red Horse means war. Sword pointed up to heaven. Division of Empire. Water, water, everywhere, but none to drink. Who owns the land owns the people of the land. But who owns the rivers and tributaries that run through the holy waters?

The Black Horse brings a set of temperature scales and famine. The Black Horse is the only one that speaks. It says all that you see is mine. All that you don’t see is also mine. What refugee I don’t see and you don’t see on that we can agree?

The Pale Rider is death. He is not carrying a weapon. The mushroom cloud leaves death and dying in its wake. Eternal night. Lost illusions? 

I’m backing the White Horse. It’s just getting into its stride. Denial. Doubt. Exceptionalism. Made Great Again.

Ideas versus Idealism? Eric Holthaus has some great ideas. I hope and pray he’s right. But he seems to forget the most important lesson history tells us, seismic shifts are written in blood. The Marshall Plan, for example, was conceived after hundreds of millions died. The second world war wasn’t just for the defence of what was right, but the defence of capitalism. Manufacturing boom and the military industrial complex were products of an arms race. Holthaus’s New Marshall Plan, American made and led, seems to be wishful thinking.

Van Badham (2021) Quanon and On: A Short and Shocking History of Internet Conspiracy Cults.

‘We elected a meme.’

Conspiracy beliefs eat you from the inside. I know this having been brought up a Roman Catholic. Guardian journalist Van Badham tells the reader her book is about two things, i) the internet, ii) belief. It was personal for her.

‘My interest in the internet’s extremist underworld resulted from my experience of its attacks…I found myself on the very public online radar of misogynists, racists, homophobes and outright fascists. I was the subject of attack videos and hateful memes and subject to constant trolling. In the wake of online attacks came offline too. Parcels of anonymous materials began to appear on my doorstep; my Twitter account was hacked; I was stalked, harassed and attacked in the street. International Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer published a hit piece with my photograph and a written incitement to run me over in a car.’

I naively believed that at the soon to be President Trump’s rallies the cries of ‘Lock her up! Lock her up!’ was regarding the Democratic Party’s servers being tapped by the Russian state (FSB) and information about her email accounts being passed to followers of the moron’s moron. She’d acted illegally in not securing them, which was a potentially criminal act (but we all know rich people don’t get prosecuted).  Hillary Clinton publicly apologised. But Trump’s followers wanted her locked up for what I thought was a minor misdemeanour. What I didn’t realise was when she ordered pizza, it was a code word for children to be delivered to her and her paedophilic followers, who would rape and eat them. They would also milk them for a substance, a by-product of fear that would give them eternal life. #PizzaGate wasn’t about pizzas. Badham shows that any relationship with badly scripted B-movies and The Matrix is intentional and unintentional.

The $4 million damages awarded against Alex Jones— his defence costs running at $49 million— were the standout tag for public and political theatre. The right-wing profiteer who said the Sandy Hook school shootings were a hoax, and helped propagate the lie using his site InfoWars as an internet megaphone amplifying lie after lie for personal gain was forced to recant.

Jones’s highly priced attorneys made school-boy errors. They released two years’ worth of text messages from his phone to his legal adversaries and then failed to claim client privilege. A counterpoint to Stop the Steal.

Infowars website was making $800 000 a day from merchandising was one of the facts revealed. His net worth $279 million revealed to the parents of a family of a six-year old boy shot and killed and targeted as liars by Jones’s trolling followers.

Alex Jones, like Trump with ‘Stop the Steal’, ran on paranoia and promoted self-serving lies, all the way to the bank, and beyond the Presidency. The show is still running.

Alex Jones was quick to apologise to the bereaved parents of Sandyhook children. He was willing to admit ‘the attack was ‘one hundred percent real’.

Jones also admitted #PizzaGate was a lie. The Ping Pong restaurant run by James Alefantis in Washington, DC, did not have dungeons and basements which ran underground and fed the voracious appetites of Hillary Clinton and her cabal for very young children, who they liked to torture before eating. #PizzaGate: The Bigger Picture on YouTube.

His YouTube messages to his tens of thousands of followers that he was going down there to investigate was also a lie. He’d no intention of visiting. Online activists, digital soldiers, kept the churn going, until Edgar Madison Welch from Salisbury, North Carolina did visit with rifle in hand. He sent a text message to his girlfriend and children. He was ‘Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many. Standing up against a corrupt regime that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard.’ In other words, Madison Welch was being heroic.

Jones was also forced to apologise for perpetuating lies that a yogurt factory was also a centre for supporting child rapists and the spread of tuberculosis.    

19th August 2020, Joe Biden was announced as the Democratic candidate that would run against Donald J. Trump in the forthcoming election—which he, of course, stole, if you believe the 45th President of the United States and his dim-witted followers.

In the White House, the moron’s moron was asked at a press conference what he thought about QAnon and its followers on social media (and indeed in the White House itself when they invaded it in an attempt to shut down Congress and lynch the Vice President of the disUnited States, Mike Pence).

‘They are people who love their country,’ was the moron’s moron’s reply. Meme speech follows familiar patterns.

When the call came Ashli Babbet and Rosanne Boyland came to Washington, DC, like Maddison Walsh because they saw themselves as heroic. They were willing to die. And they did. Yet they were disowned by QAnon as false-flags. Later to be lionised.

Who or what is QAnon? Van Badham suggests it may have been Steve Bannon. The government insider who played Deepthroat in the deep web of 4chan and 8chan. Or it might have been someone from Breitbart or Cambridge Analytica. Certainly, they had help from Russian FSB. Lieutenant General Flynn is put in the frame. Both received pardons from the then President Trump. Or it may have been lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani. Or it might have been all of them. It didn’t really matter. QAnon went silent after Trump. It helped create a meme as President.

Silicon Valley pioneered computer software to get you clicking on cute cats doing silly things. You became the product. You are part of Big Data sets and A/B testing on server farms.

Amazon, for example, identified me as part of the tens of millions who bought and read Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch. Ninety percent of us finished it.

Amazon knows I’m a sucker for books. I’m also part of the millions of buyers who bought Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty shot down the idea of a trickle-down economics being a shell game using offshore companies to hide profits and help create an ideology that was based on lies. But we lost the propaganda war, by us I mean the poor people that are reliant on wages as their sole source of income and who get to retire when they reach between sixty and sixty-eight (if we’re not dead first). The French economist urged governments to tax the rich. The two leading candidates of the Tory Party vie with each other to go in the other direction. Taxing the poor has always been popular in certain elite groups that don’t eat children.

But Amazon also knows I’m the exception to the rule. Only three percent of those who started Piketty’s book, finished it. I’m glossing over that I forget more than I remember and in an examination I’d fail, but Amazon doesn’t know this. It just quantifies pages turned. And I’m a page turner.

But I’m also part of the growing minority that believes we are living in the end of times. Unchecked global warming will end civilisation in the next fifty years. A YouGov pole at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic found that almost a third of those questioned anticipated a life-changing disaster in their lifetime.

A 2019 survey found that almost half of those polled in US, UK, France and Italy belief that civilisation will collapse in the years to come.


Conspiracy theories thrive in such an environment of fear. It’s not what you think, but what you feel. Van Badham’s prescient book came out before Alex Jones’s trial. In a way it vindicates her work, but nobody is listening to things they don’t want to hear is the real message of this book. QAnon metamorphoses into something more right-wing and hateful and will go on and on destroying lives. Jones shows were the money and political influence lies. It’s not surprising his phone records have been subpoenaed by Congress investigating the role the 45th President had in insurrection and civil disobedience in Washington, DC.   

Preti Taneja (2017) We That Are Young

Preti Taneja (2017) We That Are Young

Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young was listed as Sunday Times Book of the Year, Guardian Book of the Year, Spectator Book of the year, all in 2017. Since I’ve just read it, it’s also my book of the year for 2020.

When I say it’s Shakespearian in scope, I mean that as a compliment. I’m not really into Shakespeare and find his plays boring. The usual response I get is along the lines of I don’t really understand his work, which is true. I also don’t really understand the Old Testament or Maths, or people that like broccoli, apart from my granddaughter, Tilly, who chews away at the green stuff merrily. He (or they, will the real Shakespeare stand up?) has been responsible for more neologisms in the English language than anybody else. I’m told if I watch his plays I’d appreciate them better. I’ve watched Kenneth Brannagh’s Twelfth Night, with Richard Briers and Caroline Langrishe; Roman Polanski’s Macbeth with Martin Shaw in the title role; Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, with Mad Max, Mel Gibson as Hamlet and Glen Close as Gertrude his mother. The best version of Hamlet I saw was The Simpsons, with a renegade knight poring poison in Homer’s ear and it finished in less than ten minutes with a sword fight. Homer won. Homer always wins.  I laughed at that, out loud. I’ve seen a few versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and didn’t laugh once. Not even a chuckle, a hint of that could have been funny. I was sitting an exam and stopped writing about the Fool’s role in Shakespeare’s plays because I realized I was bored with it and didn’t have anything worthwhile to say, or regurgitate. That marks me down as not the right type of person. Not properly educated. A laggard fool.    

I found Grigori Kozintsev’s King Lear tolerable mainly for its black-and-white portrayal of the suffering working classes on the bleak moors. ‘Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, That bide the pelting of the pitiless storm’. Compare and contrast, ‘shacks become a river which rises, rises, rises. It takes only minutes before the shit flows through the [Kashmiri] hovels, bringing with it rats, big as baby monkeys’.

 We all know the story, King Lear dividing his kingdom between his three daughters. The King telling his youngest and favourite daughter, Cordelia, ‘Nothing will come from nothing’. Bend of break and be cut off from parental love and the King’s legacy, which is shared between his other daughters,

Her dying at the end. Lear’s question unanswered, ‘Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life/And thou no breath at all?’ milked to the full, through the ages, by those of thespian mind.

Preti Taneji does something remarkable. She transports King Lear to modern India and makes me love Shakespeare almost as much as the truncated Simpson episode. The story is the same but it is different. If you know your Shakespeare you know what is coming. If you don’t know your Shakespeare you don’t. But the book also makes sense as critique of modern capitalism. Ideology in action.  Self-justification is king. We all know that story all too well. It’s been played out in America and here in Britain.

Taneja begins with the story of Jivan or Jeet, the bastard son of Ranjit returning home from America, where he left his exiled mum and disposable white girlfriend. A first-person account:

‘It’s not about land, it’s about money.’

The United States is on the wane, China on the rise, Indian and new money means the East will overtake the West in the near future. The East is the place to be for an upcoming young man. Devraj’s Company follows the Ford maxim of industrial America. What’s good for Devraj’s company is good for India and vice-versa.

The story of King Lear is also the story of the Earl of Gloucester. Lear has three daughters and no sons.  The law of primogeniture, where the people that own the land, own the people on the land is one remove away. Jivan, like Edmond the bastard son of Gloucester, is at the bottom on a heap. No money. No influence. A gerontocracy in which his brother Edgar has at least a future worth having. Worth stealing. Jeet, the son of Saranjit and his half-brother is himself a thief, but with the complicating factor that he is also gay. In Indian society that puts him lower than a dog, or even a woman.

Mrs Gargi Devraj Grover, granddaughter, daughter, wife, and sister. Her birthday is coming up soon. It’s to coincide with the opening of a new hotel complex in the politically poisonous land of Kashmir.  ‘ Eldest and dutiful daughter of the Devaraj Company, custodian of the keys to her father’s office.’

‘Sin comes in many forms… doubt is one of the worst sins of all.’ Fanaticism and loyalty. Deveraj told her who to marry and when to marry. Her father’s words were law. No one would go against him. Certainly, not the beautiful Radha her sister, whom Gargi mothers, even as a school girl, having no mother of their own. Devraj, in turn, indulges his youngest daughter, his favourite daughter and sends her to England to study. We that are young is a war cry. But  it is Sita, the youngest and most headstrong, that refuses to marry who Devraj tells her, refuses to bow before his mastery. Sita that refuses both the loyalty and the love test.  The stage is set for conflict.