Thursday, 30 August 2007

Psst, Auntie...

The BBC might consider reporting the deep and deepening Labour split, and the emerging one in the Lib Dems, over the EU Constitreaty, instead of giving over entire flagship programmes to Golden Boy Cameron to tell us all how wonderful he is.

"I Wouldn't Bet My Mortgage On It"

So said David Cameron during his Newsnight "interview". On which of his three houses does he have this mortgage?

The Guardian Doesn't Get It

So many councils are now run by Tories that the Guardian is afraid of losing some of the public sector advertising revenue (i.e., taxpayers' money) without which it would go bust. But it is barking up the wrong tree by backing David Cameron, who could not be less like the Tories who actually win elections in today's Britain.

Cameron: No Answers, But Then No Questions To Answer

To no one's surprise (least of all mine, although I have had emails from BBC staff…), not one of the issues that I listed was mentioned much, if at all, during Newsnight's fawning "interview" with the BBC's preferred candidate for Prime Minister. Indeed, almost nothing was. It was like being back in the early days of Tony Blair.

That this 50-minute Party Political Broadcast was ever made is perfectly scandalous. But the Beeb's man has been shown over this summer to be, as if anyone hadn't already known him to be, a vacuous, lightweight figure, and one, moreover, without a conservative bone in his body. So Auntie dutifully came to what she clearly thought was the rescue of her new favourite nephew.

Of course, because she only knows Eurofederalists, she doubtless thought that she was doing him a favour by allowing him to demonstrate (not that it is in any way news) just how rabid a Eurofederalist he is.

But there was no mention of Cameron's membership of a criminal conspiracy, complete with membership lists, officers, a uniform, the lot, specifically for the purpose of smashing up pubs, not to mention of assaulting publicans and their staff.

Nor of the Tories' plan to hand over control over great swathes of life in designated ghettoes to wholly self-appointed local Muslim, Hindu and Sikh leaders in return for getting out the vote for the Bullingdon Boys.

Nor of the fact that the oppression of the black and white English-speaking working class that this will entail is already being experienced in Wales, and is being seriously mooted both in Northern Ireland and in the North of Scotland.

Nor of whether or not Cameron, with his Scots background and his house on the Isle of Jura, would use the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to enact legislation in all policy areas applicable in all parts of this Kingdom.

Nor of just how few members the Conservative Party (like the others) now has, and just how old most of them now are (again, like the others).

Nor of how many people are now determined not to vote.

Nor of the fact that the specific Tories who have done well in Local Elections are as un-Cameroon as anyone could possibly be, these being manifestly the sort of Tories for whom people will vote if they are ever going to vote Tory at all.

Among many, many, many other things...

This Land of Anglo-Saxondales

9:30 this evening, BBC Two, for the best comedy on television this season. Tommy Saxondale is even closer to the bone than Alan Partridge was: this country really is full of men well into middle age who insist on dressing, speaking and acting as if they were still in their adolescent, rock'n'roll heyday. Or, at least, what they see as their heyday, a view which itself says a very great deal, and not in a good way. The last Prime Minister, whose name escapes me, was one such. Due to their demographic predominance as baby-boomers, these people constitute a major economic, social, cultural and political problem. Laughing at them is part of the solution. But only a very small part.

How Meddling Liberals Destroyed The Working Class

The result is murder on the streets, says my friend (even in the Facebook sense - yes, I have succumbed) Phillip Blond, in this superb article for The First Post.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The Threat To Iran

There is no doubt that neither Britain, nor any other country currently mired in either or both of Afghanistan and Iraq (never mind any that isn't), will join the dying Bush Administration in this madness, based as it is on "intelligence" that isn't just false (as in the case of Iraq), but cannot possibly have been obtained already. The question is whether even the Republican Party, whose Convention next year there is talk of Bush's not attending because he has become such an embarrassment, will follow its failed and outgoing leader into Iran. Here's hoping that the authentically conservative tradition will reassert itself.

What Newsnight Will Not Be Asking David Cameron

Try to contain your excitement, but tonight sees "a Newsnight Special" given over to that programme's branch of the chatterati "interviewing" The Heir To Blair. Points mean prizes for anyone who spots any of the following questions:

1. Why, as a member of the relevant Select Committee, did you support the downgrading of cannabis to a Class C drug?

2. Why do you define illegal drug use as integral to "a normal university experience"?

3. Do you regret supporting the invasion of Iraq?

4. Will you restore the supremacy of British over EU law, use this to restore Britain's historic fishing rights, legislate that that no EU law should apply in the United Kingdom without having gone through exactly the same parliamentary process as if it were a Bill which had originated in our own Parliament, adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard, disapply in the United Kingdom any ruling of the European Court of Justice by resolution of the House of Commons (giving this country the same level of independence as is rightly enjoyed by Germany through her Constitutional Court), and ensure that no ruling under either the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights applies here unless and until ratified by such a resolution?

5. Will you repeal the Civil Contingencies Act, repeal the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, and restore the situation whereby a Bill which runs out of parliamentary time is lost at the end of that session?

6. Will you not only oppose but repeal any provision for identity cards, repeal the provision for control orders, repeal existing erosions of trial by jury and of the right to silence, repeal existing reversals of the burden of proof, repeal the provision for majority verdicts (which, by definition, provide for conviction even where there is reasonable doubt), repeal the provision for Police confiscation of assets without a conviction, and repeal the Official Secrets Acts?

7. Will you restore grammar schools, but on the German Gymnasium model, thus avoiding the 11-plus while working to overcome this country's crippling cultural division between arts and sciences, and between academic and technical education, and while recognising that the defence and restoration of schooling at the highest academic level for those to whom it is appropriate (including the restoration of O-levels in place of GCSEs) as intimately related to an emphatic dedication to the defence and restoration of Special Needs Education?

8. Will you ensure that the imperial and metric systems (both of which have long histories of use in this country) are taught and used side by side except where metrication has not already taken place, as in the case of road signs?

9. Will you defend rural services, in particular systematically reversing bus route and (where possible) rail line closures going back to the 1950s, as well as of the erosion of local schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on, the first as part of the development of a national network of public transport free at the point of use?

10. Will you defend real agriculture as the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food), as against American-style 'factory farming'?

11. Will you defend the remaining field sports, and repeal the ban on hunting with dogs?

12. Will you require the supermarkets to fund investment in agriculture and small business (investment to be determined in close consultation with the National Farmers' Union and the Federation of Small Businesses) by means of a windfall tax, to be followed if necessary by a permanently higher flat rate of corporation tax, in either case with strict regulation to ensure that the costs of this are not passed on to suppliers, workers, consumers, communities or the environment?

13. Will you raise the minimum age for jurors at least to 21, restore a minimum property and/or educational qualification for jurors, restore the pre-1968 committal powers of the magistracy, abolish stipendiary magistrates, repeal the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, restore of the pre-1985 prosecution powers of the Police (i.e., abolish the Crown Prosecution Service), and return to preventative policing based on foot patrols, with police forces at least be no larger than at present, and subject to local democratic accountability, most obviously though Police Authorities, although with the mind by no means closed to the idea of elected sheriffs?

14. Will you defend marriage as between one man and one woman (anything else being contrary to the interests of women), refuse to sanction State lying in the form of issuing transsexuals with new birth certificates, introduce a legal presumption of equal parenting, restore the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit is still being paid to mothers, and pay poorer mothers of small children to stay at home with them rather than to hand them over into the care of strangers?

15. Will you develop nuclear power and the application of clean coal technology as at least the core around which other things (wind, wave, solar, et cetera) may operate, since that core offers both the re-creation of strong working-class communities based on high-wage and high-skilled employment (as previously provided by pits, steelworks, shipyards, and so on), and independence from the affairs of the Middle East, as well as from Russian gas?

and

16. Will you cultivate Russia's sense of herself as an integral part of the Biblical and Classical civilisation that is the West, and as that civilisation's bridge both to the world as defined by Islam, and to the world of the Far East, linking them to the West and to each other precisely by reference to the Biblical-Classical synthesis, and so overcoming anything in them that might ever give rise to any "clash of civilisations" such as is absurdly held to be happening at present, while acting as the West's gatekeeper against subjugation to Islam or to anything Far Eastern, and while sharing that historic role with all the Slavs?

But no points, and certainly no prizes, for spotting a question on underwear.

His Brother Is Much Better

"The Baghdad regime is the first oil-producing government to opt for 100-per-cent nationalisation, a process completed with the acquisition of foreign assets in Basrah last December. It was the first to call for the use of oil as a political weapon against Israel and her backers. It gives strong economic and political support to the ‘Rejection Front’ Palestinians who oppose Arafat’s conciliation and are currently trying to outface the Syrians in Beirut. And it has a leader — Saddam Hussain — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser."

Christopher Hitchens, New Statesman, 2nd April 1976.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Caliphate Restored In Turkey - Britain Next?

Abdullah Gul has been elected President of Turkey, where the Prime Minister is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both are members of the Islamist AKP; they are in no sense "former Islamists", and would not have been elected if they were. At least unless there is a military coup, look out for polygamy, shrouded women, limb amputations, the lot in Turkey from now on.

All inside NATO, putatively inside the EU, and with a governing party affiliated to the same European People's Party as the Tories (not to mention several parties of ostensible "Christian Democrats" on the Continent), the same Tories who are planning to make Eid a public holiday wherever the mosque committee shouts loudly enough for it and agrees to deliver the votes for the Bullingdon Boys. That and what else into this bargain?

Who Needs A Referendum?

120 Labour MPs, one third of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are now known to want the following 12 changes to the EU Constitreaty as the price of dropping their campaign for a referendum:

Keep policing and criminal justice away from the European Court of Justice;
Prevent the court using EU competition law to undermine public services;
Scrap the new post of EU foreign policy chief and the EU diplomatic service;
Member states to regain international aid budgets;
Scrap rules that allow EU leaders to introduce majority voting into new areas without the need for treaty changes;
Drop plans for further extension of majority voting and stick with the provisions agreed in talks on the Nice Treaty in 2000;
Drop plans for a list of areas where the EU “shares competence” over policy with member states;
Return powers over regional spending to national governments;
Enable the Government to deport foreign criminals automatically;
Scrap plans to deprive states of national voting rights if they breach EU economic rules;
Abandon plans to give Brussels the power to determine the composition of the European Commission; and
Retain the national veto over trade agreements relating to public services.

All good stuff, but they should be demanding these things anyway, entirely without reference to any call for a referendum. Such a referendum would deliver a Yes vote. In 1975, the federalists managed to convince two thirds of the electorate that they were merely voting for “a free trade area” called “the Common Market”, even though the first clause of the European Communities Act was, and is, a textbook definition of a federal state.

This was achieved by persistently putting up Tony Benn and Enoch Powell to state the case for a No vote. Most people voted instead for the position espoused by politicians with whom they felt more comfortable. The same thing would happen again. Powell’s place would be filled by that nasty fringe which holds his economic views untempered by his romantic Toryism. Such would be the sole No campaigners on at least two out of every three, and quite possibly three out of every four, programmes. The rest of the time, Benn would be back. No Ian Davidson. No Frank Field. No Kate Hoey. Just Wedgie occasionally, and the Genghis Khan Institute the rest of the time.

Even fewer people would identify with Benn now than in 1975. And do even tribal Tories, never mind anybody else, believe in unrestricted immigration to feed unbridled capitalism? Or the total deregulation of alcohol, gambling and pornography? Or the legalisation of drugs and prostitution? Or the wholesale privatisation of health, education and pensions? Or the abolition of farm subsidies?

“Well, then,” the federalists would say, “what makes you think that you agree with these people about this, and this alone? Their position is coherent. It all fits together. And your views don’t fit into it at all. Vote Yes, if only because they want you to Vote No.” And people would.

Instead, Parliament should do its duty by throwing out the Constitreaty without any need for a referendum. Not least, the unions should be refusing to fund any MP who does not vote in Parliament both against the Constitreaty and in favour of securing workers’ rights (among other things) through the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and should instead be undertaking to fund alternative parliamentary candidates who will do both of those things.

For we don’t need the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, we need a proper party like Labour of old, dedicated to just that: securing workers’ rights (among other things) through the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Warsi, The British Gonzales?

Alberto Gonzales epitomised a key aspect of neoconservatism, and, although there is that, I don’t just mean lying on principle to the common herd, apparently defined as including the Congress of the United States. Gonzales was a key figure in the consolidation of the Bush Dynasty’s base of people who could speak English, but who refused to do so, knowing that unbridled capitalism cannot function without unrestricted immigration, so that an America dedicated to the former was just going to have to put up with their adamantly Spanish-speaking ways.

In the same way, one of David Cameron’s new best friends’ prices for getting out the vote for people almost as posh as the Bushes will be the right to enforce in their localities the use of languages barely spoken even by their own communities’ younger generation, certainly not spoken by the majority of people in the areas in question, and not spoken by anyone there whose English would not be perfectly adequate to the tasks at issue, perhaps other than those culturally constrained from undertaking such tasks in the first place.

“Hispanics are the new conservatives”, the American neocons pretend even while glorifying and promoting exactly the economic system that destroys those Hispanic values most obviously fitting this bill, values that would in fact lead in practice to social democracy. The same in true, albeit to a lesser extent due to the general absence of Christianity (by definition including the Christian recapitulation of Greece and Rome, which saved that Classical heritage in every sense of salvation), of the Asians who are allegedly the new conservatives, and the new Conservatives, in Britain.

Hail To The Prescott Dynasty

Snide remarks from the BBC, which cannot cope with any working-class person whom it cannot sack on the spot (or with anyone at all from the North), about the prospect of John Prescott’s son taking over his seat. Well, sooner that than the other possibilities: someone thrown out last time as an MP in the South (or, indeed, in the Yorkshire gin and jag belt...), or some public school and Oxbridge backroom boy, or some Tory defector. Prescott has probably made the announcement so early in order to ensure the succession of his son instead. At least under the circumstances, good for him.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the dear old BBC for depicting Prescott’s legendary OMOV speech as an act of support for Blair (of whom only political anoraks had ever heard at the time, much like now), rather than for John Smith (remember him?).

Where Are The British Gaullists?

Nicolas Sarkozy’s remarks on Iraq and on Turkey show that he is mercifully not as neocon as some had hoped and most had feared. Or, at least, that he has a Gaullist (i.e., an authentically conservative) base to please in his quest for re-election. Britain’s two (soon to be three) neocon parties also have bases that could be so described, but will make make the slightest efforts to please us, believing us to have nowhere else to go. Well, it is high time that we gave ourselves somewhere else to go. I’m doing my bit. What are you doing?

Prussia

Several emails responding to my suggestion that, should Belgium break up, Germany would not only recognise Flemish independence, but would also press a claim to the Eastern Cantons of Wallonia (Wallonia’s independence having been recognised by France), and thus set the precedent of pressing claims to those former parts of the Kingdom of Prussia ceded under the Treaty of Versailles.

Nobody disagrees that this would happen, but, drawing on several most enlightening correspondences, I wish to make clear that a common sense of Prussianness across all areas forming part of that Kingdom during its 1871-1918 heyday would be no bad thing at all, but rather a significant force for peace and stability across Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Poland and Russia.

The best “Prussian values” are not just noble in themselves, but informed the first Welfare State, both they and it being significant forces for unity between Teutons and Slavs, and between Catholic and Protestant parts of Europe. An insistent and concerted witness to this whole heritage, which notably spawned the attempt to assassinate Hitler, on the part of provinces, municipalities and communities could only be to the benefit of Europe, and the world, as a whole.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Doing Something About It

Yet more cuts to hospital services in this neck of the woods. It would be fascinating to see how well or badly, according to every index, the mostly safe Labour seats occupied by people who have been Cabinet Ministers over the last 10 years have done when compared to the mostly safe Tory seats occupied by people who have served in the Shadow Cabinet since 1997. I confidently predict something like a 15-year gap in very life expectancy, just for a start.

Still, to give Hilary Armstrong her due, their might be precious little to show for her 20 years as MP, but she does at least come from the community here, and her concern is real, even if it seldom results in anything concrete. Those who keep piling up the Labour votes in the North East are about to be shown exactly what that party actually thinks of them as Hilary, John Cummings, Ronnie Campbell, Frank Cook, Bill Etherington, and possibly also Chris Mullin and David Clelland prepare to retire.

Each announcement will come far too late for what little local party organisation that there still is to be given the slightest say in the matter of choosing a successor. At best (yes, at best), the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party will impose someone who could not hold onto a seat in London last time: Stephen Twigg, Barbara Roache, Oona King, someone like that. If they turn up to anything at all in the constituency, they will be ludicrously late, having originally taken a train to Manchester Piccadilly, on the assumption that anywhere else in the North must be but a short taxi-ride from that station.

But at least as probably, the apparatchiki whom I remember running the National Union of Students, if they have ever even done anything that demanding, will be unveiled as the new MPs, with only the bother of a pretend election to be gone through.

Are you going to put up with this? I’m not.

Spencerism: The Whig Jacobitism

The Duchess of Cornwall is not to attend the Diana Memorial Service, reportedly because “pro-Diana groups” had been planning to pelt her with eggs. Who are these “pro-Diana groups”? Presumably, they are made of persons disgusted that a daughter of one of the grandest dynasties in English history was treated as they believe her to have been by those jumped up, immigrant parvenus and nouveux riches, the Battenburgs and Saxe-Coburg-Gothas.

Be in no doubt, that is how the Royal Family is viewed by the great noble houses of England and Scotland, including the Spencers, and including Diana when she was alive. At the top of the class system, which anti-monarchists are often stupid enough to believe could be abolished along with the monarchy, are those houses, and not the lot that they regard as nothing more than an unfortunate political necessity, owing its very position to them, and indeed kept solvent by the Spencers for much of the eighteenth century.

For the Spencers were staunch Whigs, periodically emerging, as the present Earl Spencer puts it, to demand that slavery be abolished or that the franchise be extended to the emerging middle class, and then disappearing back to their landed estates for another couple of generations. Yet, just as most Tories eventually balked at full on Jacobitism, so these Whigs seem to balk at what they see as a reigning house of lower-middle-class Germans. Ideology and identity are complicated things, after all.

The dim (or, for few, not so dim) memory of the Stuarts among the Tories has become the very bright memory of Diana among the Whigs, i.e., the economically neoliberal (and therefore geopolitically neoconservative) ruling class now encompassing, as much as anything else, those in control of all three political parties. They are all for the principle of parliamentary, which would now effectively mean popular, choice of the monarch, just so long as that choice was in favour of a proper toff of unimpeachable Englishness, such as a member of the Noble House of Spencer.

In that sense, Spencerism is the new Jacobitism, according to which the throne’s legitimate occupant, at least once the present monarch dies, is the legitimate heir of Diana as identified by popular acclaim (itself, of course, massively media-influenced). In other words, Prince William. Who will, of course, become King eventually, resolving the dispute.

But throughout his father’s reign, and indeed even before it begins, expect the Spencerists to bang on, and on, and on about its illegitimacy, and of course to form an entire subculture which will have as great (though nowhere near as subterranean) an influence as that of the Jacobites had. Indeed, both the emergence of that subculture, and that banging on itself, are already very well-advanced.

What Else?

So, David Cameron, once your new friends who run the mosques, the mandirs and the gurdwaras in areas with many such have been given control over designating an additional three public holidays in each of those areas, over what else are you going to give them control in order to keep them getting out the vote for your Bullingdon brethren? I think we should be told. The restoration at national level of the old ruling class shorn, in these post-Thatcher days, of the traditional social conscience that was by far the best thing about it, is not much of a cause at all, still less is it a cause worth purchasing at the price of localised Caliphate, Hindutva or Khalistan.

If You're Reading This...

A most unexpected communication informs me that this blog is acquiring a readership among Scottish Labour backbenchers at Westminster, now by some distance (and entirely regardless of any former views) the most virulent anti-devolutionists in British politics, with the possible exceptions of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.

Apparently, they quite agree with me, and cannot wait for Brown to bring forward legislation applicable in Scotland across the range of policy areas of most concern to their (and, of course, his) constituents, secure in the supremacy of the Parliament of the United Kingdom over any body merely exercising clearly specified and restricted aspects of that Parliament’s power on a purely devolved basis.

Well, why are they content to appear in Waiting for Gordon? We all know how that ends. Instead, let them bring forward Private Members’ Bills, Ten Minute Rule Bills, and, with most chance of success, amendments extending legislation of which they approve so that it applies in Scotland.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

"Who Wants To Celebrate That The Banks Are On Holiday?"

So asked Chesterton, who rightly wanted instead to bring back numerous examples of "the holiday that is really a holy day". By contrast, read this, and rejoice that these people actually had far less influence than they wanted even in the Thatcher years, as they themselves would be the first to tell you. Let them have ever less and less, until they shrivel up and die.

Why Does Anyone Employ This Evil Man?

Yet another free advertisement, this time from Oliver Kamm, for Andrew Anthony's silly, book-length begging letter for employment by the much better-paying neocon papers. Nick Cohen tried that one, and have you seen him lately in the right-wing Press? Still, here's hoping that Andrew has better luck...

Anyway, is this the same Oliver Kamm who invents multiple identities to email commissioning editors around the world telling them not to employ freelances who give his books bad reviews? Why on earth does anyone employ this evil man?

Will The Penny Drop In Time?

Over on Comment Is Free, some expressions of the hope that the break-up of Belgium "within an integrating European Union" might herald the break-up of other member-states into some "Europe of the regions" in which Socialism would be impossible (far too big, like the US only more so).

Dream on!

No British or Spanish Prime Minister would ever allow either Flanders or Wallonia to join the EU, just as no British or Belgian Prime Minister would ever allow Catalonia or the Basque Country to do so, and just as no Belgian or Spanish Prime Minister would ever allow an independent Scotland (or, hypothetically, Wales) to do so.

The real story here is that, a short train ride from central London and a short boat ride from the South Coast, there is about to be an earthquake on the fault line between Latins and Teutons. Indeed, that earthquake has already begun. Follow its tremors down the Rhine through Alsace-Lorraine and into Switzerland, and on even into the South Tyrol.

At present, most Alsatians are happy enough in France, most South Tyrolese are happy enough in Italy, and so forth. But that state of affairs could not survive if France (certainly) or Italy (very probably) recognised an independent Wallonia, or if Germany followed the Netherlands and recognised an independent Flanders (ditto), or if Germany responded to a Wallonian UDI by pressing her claim to the German-speaking Eastern Cantons (i.e., to Prussian territory lost at Versailles...), and so on, and on, and on.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Canada and Afghanistan

I for one very much hope that Canada will take a lead and simply pull out of the pointless war in Afghanistan. What, exactly, would even constitute victory or defeat there? And why, exactly, would it so constitute?

Neoconservatism is riddled with self-hating Canadians: David "Axis of Evil" Frum, Conrad Black, Barbara Amiel, Fr Richard John Neuhaus, and many more besides. Canada is a fully North American country with close ties to Britain, including both the monarchy and the Keynes-Beveridge model of social democracy. Canada is a fully North American country where a lot of people speak French (but have a monarchist rather than a republican French flag, and are devoutly Catholic accordingly). Canada is, well, a fully North American country which is not the United States. Indeed, Canada is the only such country.

The link with Britain is what neocons really hate above all, not least because it is the way into the Welfare State and so forth. Neocons hate a lot of people and a lot of places. But their most poisonous venom of all is reserved for Britain. They believe in a standard Irish-American saloon-bar rant about a global upper-class Anglophile network, and they particularly see that network as including their own traditional "Country Club" rivals for control of the Republican Party.

Yet there are the Canadians, complete with the Queen, complete with a few retained British variations on the English language, and complete with a British-style social democracy, yet sharing with the United States a continent and the longest land frontier between any two countries on earth. I mean, how dare they! Who do they think they are?

They should indicate exactly who and what they are by withdrawing from Afghanistan. And we should be right behind them.

Proportional Representation?

An article, over on Comment Is Free, about Proportional Representation. I have tried to believe in this, really I have. But I simply cannot see how it would work in rural areas, either for Parliament or, even more so, for local government. Councillors, in particular, would do absolutely nothing except drive around their vast, unwieldy wards, arriving late for everything yet always leaving early in order to arrive late for the next engagement.

Instead, in the course of every Parliament without fail, the two candidates with the most nominations from a party's branches for PPC (at constituency level) or for Leader (at national level), including branches of affiliated organisations where Labour or any of its successors is concerned, should be subjected to a binding ballot of every registered voter in the constituency or the country, as the case may be.

The sort of people favoured by central machines would struggle to get on the ballot at all, and certainly wouldn't be selected. And the same is true of each party's several lunatic fringes (including the single and indivisible one currently running both Labour and the Tories, and about to take over the Lib Dems as well). But they could always then put up under their own steam and see how far they got.

And either this, or PR, or indeed any change whatever to where MPs come from, would kill off the Lib Dems practically overnight. The above system would have historically industrial areas choose totally unreconstructed Social Democrats who were who were indistinguishable from the local right-wing Labour Establishment (and might well have been in it at one time), while agricultural areas would choose totally unreconstructed Liberals who were not only indistinguishable from, but multiply related to, the local "Faith, Flag, Family and Farming" Tory Establishment.

Finally, there should also be public participation in policy formulation. In the course of each Parliament, the 10 policies most popular with each party's branches should be put out to a ballot of the whole electorate, with each of us entitled to vote for up to two, and with the top seven guaranteed inclusion in the next General Election manifesto.

Put all of this together, and it would answer any perceived need for PR, thus safeguarding the vital constituency link into the bargain.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Of Paying, Or Not Paying, The Piper

I have posted a response to the substance of this, although I expect that it will be deleted. If the Guardian persists in publishing articles like this, then the large and expanding Catholic educational and voluntary sectors should stop advertising positions in the Guardian, and Catholic Councillors and others (there being any number in certain parts of the country with very high levels of public sector employment) should take steps to stop such advertisement by their Councils or other bodies. Indeed, Catholics should not vote for any Councillor who does not vote for such withdrawal of advertising.

A Kick In The Privates

So GCSE results are up in state schools and down in fee-paying ones. Not much of a measure of education as such, I grant you. But I have always suspected that the latter were not really that good after all, or at least that they were as likely as the former to be good, bad or indifferent. After all, they have long been in the vanguard of disputing the validity of the current examination system, yet they base their commercial appeal on how good they are at those very same exams. What's all that about?

Bring On The Old Warhorses

Is it any wonder that Chirac, veteran of the war in Algeria, was right about Iraq while the draft-dodging Bush and Cheney were spectacularly wrong? And however wicked the Vietnam War might have been (for we must not forget that that era was one of score draw between Democratic support for Civil Rights and Republican opposition to the war), would there not be a striking historical incompleteness if no one who served in Vietnam ever became President?

So draft Jim Webb in 2008. Failing that, John McCain would be no worse than any of the others, and a great deal better than some, most of all the erstwhile "Co-President" who failed to deliver universal health care but who backed up to the hilt her chickenhawk husband as he bombed Yugoslavia to smithereens.

Webb, McCain, Chirac: such old warhorses might look dreadful on television, but they are extremely unlikely to go shooting up the world.

Apocalypse Now

You have to admire the sheer brass neck of George Bush for daring to mention Vietnam at all. But remember what his lot used to call our lot when we said that Iraq was a Vietnam waiting to happen. And if the problem with Vietnam was American withdrawal rather than American interference in the first place, then does he wish that the Americans were still there? Surely not? For if they were, then, in his current exalted position, even Bush himself might actually feel the need to set foot there from time to time.

Show Them A Menu With Prices

A very interesting conclusion to the Radio Four series Hecklers, summer filler of the slot normally occupied by The Moral Maze. This edition was about the non-domicile tax rules.

I honestly thought that one of the defenders of this racket was going to burst into tears as he flailed about trying to cope with the concept that, yes, these rules are in fact a subsidy, just like the ones that governments in the Sixties and Seventies used to pay to loss-making factories and the like, except that those were to protect the jobs of large numbers of tax-paying Britons rather than to protect the lavish lifestyles of a tiny number of tax-dodging foreigners.

He was like the private schools lobby whenever anyone dares to point out that almost all such institutions would close overnight if it were not for gigantic public subsidies through the tax system, utterly unused to being spoken to in such terms, and practically reduced to blubbering if anyone does so.

The non-doms manage to run businesses in numerous other countries without needing to live in them. But then, only the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic have this bizarre concept of domicile, making London the only one of the great cities of the world where such arrangements are in place.

And these people consciously wish to live in one of the great cities of the world, or else why do they all live in or very near to London, rather than anywhere else in Britain? So the idea that they would move if they were made to pay tax is absurd – where would they go? And in any case, they wouldn’t take their investments with them: I say again, they already have investments all over the place.

Exam Results

GCSE results later today, so expect the usual howls about how exams are getting easier. Well, it must indeed be difficult to distinguish the very best if so many people are awarded top marks. So I have a modest proposal: in addition to the grade would be given, and would be expected to be disclosed ever thereafter, in which percentage of those sitting the exam the candidate’s mark placed him or her.

At A-level, universities could use this, rather than the grade itself, to select among applicants. However, it should be added that universities need to get over themselves where A-levels are concerned: A-level is not a university entrance exam, but a qualification in its own right.

Happy Holidays?

There was much mirth, including here, when it became known that Tory vehicles had toured Ealing Southall proclaiming in various languages that Muslim, Hindu and Sikh festivals were to be made public holidays by the Tories.

But now, that party’s “Quality of Life Commission” (don’t laugh, it’s real) has let it be known that its impending report is going to advocate that “local communities” be given the power to designate three public holidays in their respective localities. In other words, the Tories are going to go around Asian areas at the next Election making this same promise all over again, adjusted according to how Muslim, Hindu or Sikh the particular constituency is.

And who is to make this decision, as to what are to be the new holidays? If this lunatic thing must happen at all, then it should at least be done by the elected local authority. Dream on! Cameron and his courtiers despise local government even by the standards of national politicians, and that is saying quite something. Specifically, they hate their own party’s many Councillors, living proof that, if people are going to vote Tory at all, then they are going to vote for Tories utterly unlike Cameron, Osborne, Gove, Vaizey and the rest of them.

So whoever might eventually decide that people working (not necessarily living, presumably) in Ealing Southall are to be given days off for Eid, Diwali and Guru Nanak’s Birthday, it is certainly not going to be Ealing Borough Council.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Unions And The EU Constitreaty

We don't need the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, we need a proper party like Labour of old, dedicated to securing workers' rights (among other things) through the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Instead of calling for a rigged referendum so that the BBC and the rest of the political class can hoodwink the electorate into voting Yes, the unions should be refusing to fund any MP who does not vote in Parliament both against the Constitreaty and in favour of such rights, and should instead be undertaking to fund alternative parliamentary candidates who will do so.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Defeated

Of course we have been defeated in Iraq! And so have the Americans.

Of course we should get out of Iraq! And so should the Americans.

The Party We Need

Have the Tories changed? No, not really. Their party used to be a dazzlingly effective means to putting posh boys into positions of power and influence, entirely regardless of their views, if any. It is now a laughably ineffective means to that same end. But that’s all. The real change has been in Labour.

Labour used to believe in social democracy. It did so precisely because it had profoundly conservative social and moral values, not least a strong British (and therefore also Commonwealth) patriotism focused on the institution binding together each and both of the Union and the Commonwealth. All of this was, and remains, mainstream opinion in Scotland, Wales, the North, the Midlands, and the decidedly less chi-chi parts of the South. In some such constituencies, turnout last time was as low as one in three.

So there is a huge gap to be filled by the restored party of those Labour MPs who defended the grammar schools as the ladder of working-class advancement. By a party tough on crime because most victims are poor.

By the party of the Attlee Government, which dismissed the European Coal and Steel Community as "the blueprint for a federal state", which "the Durham miners would never wear". Of Hugh Gaitskell calling the Common Market "the end of a thousand years of history" and a threat to the unity of the Commonwealth.

By the party of ardently Unionist Labour MPs from Scotland, Wales, and their adjacent areas. Of Roy Hattersely sending British troops into Northern Ireland in order to defend the grateful Catholics there precisely as British subjects defined by their liberties under the Crown (whereas citizens are defined by their obligations to the State and to the government of the day). Of Roy Mason running Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom, with terrorism treated as a plain and simple security problem. Of Harold Wilson guaranteeing the Anguillan people’s right to be British, explicitly outside the American hegemony that had wanted to re-create there the brothels and drug dens of old Havana.

By the party of those Labour MPs (mostly Methodists) who resisted relaxation of the laws on drinking and gambling. Of those (mostly Catholics) who fought against abortion and easier divorce. Of those who voted in favour only after warning against exactly what has come to pass: abortion more common than having a tooth pulled, and one in three marriages ending in divorce.

That was the party in favour of the Welfare State, workers’ rights, progressive taxation, and full employment. It dissuaded Truman from dropping an atom bomb on Korea, and it refused to send British forces to Vietnam. It opposed the Soviet Union and wider Stalinism on the same grounds, and with the same ferocity, as it opposed Fascism in the Iberian world and elsewhere, as well as apartheid South Africa and its Rhodesian satellite. It won elections on enormous turnouts and in the face of serious opposition.

Britain is crying out for just such a party today. So let’s get on and build it.

An EU Referendum: Why Not?

A referendum on the EU Constitution would deliver a Yes vote. In 1975, the federalists managed to convince two thirds of the electorate that they were merely voting for “a free trade area” called “the Common Market”, even though the first clause of the European Communities Act was, and is, a textbook definition of a federal state.

This was achieved by persistently putting up Tony Benn and Enoch Powell to state the case for a No vote. Most people voted instead for the position espoused by politicians with whom they felt more comfortable. The same thing would happen again. Powell’s place would be filled by that nasty fringe which holds his economic views untempered by his romantic Toryism. Such would be the sole No campaigners on at least two out of every three, and quite possibly three out of every four, programmes. The rest of the time, Benn would be back. No Frank Field. No Kate Hoey. No Nick Harvey. Just Wedgie occasionally, and the Genghis Khan Institute the rest of the time.

Even fewer people would identify with Benn now than in 1975. And do even tribal Tories, never mind anybody else, believe in unrestricted immigration to feed unbridled capitalism? Or the total deregulation of alcohol, gambling and pornography? Or the legalisation of drugs and prostitution? Or the wholesale privatisation of health, education and pensions? Or the abolition of farm subsidies?

“Well, then,” the federalists would say, “what makes you think that you agree with these people about this, and this alone? Their position is coherent. It all fits together. And your views don’t fit into it at all. Vote Yes, if only because they want you to Vote No.” And people would.

Instead, Parliament should do its duty by throwing out the Constitution without any need for a referendum.

Fighting For The Other Mrs Lawrence

Why is Philip Lawrence's murderer being released from prison at all? And it's no use the Tories banging on about either the Human Rights Act or the EU. They have not the slightest idea what, if anything, would be in their imaginary "British Bill of Rights", nor do they have the slightest intention of restoring the supremacy of British over EU law.

Our Associates

John Pilger was largely on fine form last night. But was that elderly nutcase, formerly of the CIA, the only American Establishment figure prepared to speak to him? If so, then that in itself says a very great deal. And Pilger did not differentiate sufficiently, in what was after all quite a long film, among what were often immensely different parts of Latin America's vastness. Scottish separatists should take note if they think that the Americans would ever allow one third of the United Kingdom's land area to leave NATO and set up an oil-funded Socialist state.

Britain has a real opportunity here. Using a formula based on the country in question's own wealth, it should guarantee social democracy (and that is all that, say, Chávez, wants - social democracy with national sovereignty, like the Labour Party back when it really was the Labour Party) to any state on earth which adopted or retained the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, capped and safeguarded by the monarchy; which acceded to or remained in the Commonwealth; which used British Standard English at least as one of its official languages; which used the pound sterling at least as the reserve currency, and preferably as legal tender; which gave priority to British goods, services and capital (the EU cannot stop people from being nice to us like that); which signed a common defence treaty with Britain and every other participating country, and which integrated its own armed forces into an overall British command structure; and which agreed to use any seat on any international body in accordance with British direction, itself formulated in close consultation with all the participating countries.

Those participating countries would be called the Associated States of the United Kingdom. I say again that, subject to the above conditions, absolutely anywhere could become one.

Some sort of deal with the French, Dutch and Portuguese, involving joint membership with bodies based in Paris, The Hague or Lisbon, would be perfectly possible. Spain would be a harder nut to crack, because of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. But it could be done, and would hardly seem necessary anyway, since we'd be offering such a good deal of our own in Latin America.

And the United States? Well, that is a whole other story, involving the raising of each state's consciousness of itself as having an English, Scots, Welsh and Irish economic, social, cultural and political identity, including the strongest possible economic, social, cultural and political ties between these United States and each and all of the United Kingdom, the Irish Republic, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; as having a West African slave-descended economic, social, cultural and political identity, including the closest possible economic, social, cultural and political ties between these United States and each and all of the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean; and therefore as desiring the closest possible economic, social, cultural and political co-operation, both within the US and throughout the world, between the people of West African slave descent and the people of English, Scots, Welsh and Irish descent, on the basis of their shared heritage, including their shared English language and their shared blood ties. But, as I said, that is a whole other story...

Wendy And The Lost Boys

Another uncontested Labour Leadership Election, this time in the Scottish Parliament, where the winner is Wendy Alexander, former employee of George Galloway and stalwart of Scottish Labour Action (for people who should have been in the SNP but, in those days, saw Labour as a better electoral bet), and (like her brother) late of the CIA's British-American Project.

Put the first and third of these aspects of her history together, and we find a classic neocon: a Marxist who has merely changed the ending so that her own bourgeoisie wins in the end, and who owes to the superstate embodying the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie that transferred patriotic allegiance which Stalinists the world over used to owe to the superstate nominally embodying the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Such people hate Britain (they believe an Irish-American saloon-bar rant about a global Anglophile network either opposed to or manipulating the American Empire), and indeed one of their greatest heroines, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, used her position as American Ambassador to the UN to give very strong backing to Argentina during the Falklands War. So it is no surprise that, as a neocon, Wendy is also a Scottish Nationalist.

For be in no doubt: if devolution is "a process, not an event", as she has now forced Labour to climb down and say that it is, then that "process" can having only one possible conclusion, namely separation. That was the rationale for the Nationalist entryism of Scottish Labour Action, which also wanted the Scottish Labour Party to have full autonomy over policy is its considerably extended list of devolved areas. Watch that space. The Unionist majority in Scotland, and not least the working class, now has the "choice" of four haute bourgeois separatist parties out of four.

Meanwhile, what is the bulk of the United Kingdom to do in the face of yet further devolution. Demand an English Parliament? Certainly not!

There is no West Lothian Question. It does not exist. The Parliament of the United Kingdom may still legislate in any devolved policy area (no matter what those areas might be, and no matter how many more of them there might be), with full effect in Scotland or Wales. And that legislation would prevail over any enactment of a devolved body if the two conflicted. At present, Parliament merely declines to do this. But that is beside the point.

There is absolutely no doubt about this. It is written into the Acts creating the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The MPs who voted for those Acts, and everyone who voted Yes in either referendum, voted for this. It is high time that they got what they voted for. After all, don’t Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have views on health, or education, or transport in their own constituencies? I rather suspect that they do. And now they have the opportunity to give legislative effect to those views. They should take that opportunity.

Consequently, there is no need for an English Parliament. Which is just as well, since how many more politicians could this country possibly sustain or endure? Imagine who would vote or stand in the elections to such a thing, elections including the use of closed party lists, and thus barely fit to be called elections at all. Imagine the cost of housing, staffing, securing and generally servicing an English Parliament.

No, there is a far better alternative. The Parliament of the United Kingdom should simply resume giving practical effect to the fact, for fact it is, that there is no state in the United Kingdom except the United Kingdom, and no nation except the British nation. In other words, it should simply resume enacting legislation just as it did before devolution, thereby actually implementing, for the first time, the Scotland and Wales Acts in full. It has a duty to do so, a duty not least to the disenfranchised Unionist majority in Scotland.

Finally Facing Our Waterloo?

Since Sunday's World This Weekend, not a peep out of the British media about the quite plausible impending dissolution of a country whose capital has a direct rail link to central London and contains the headquarters of the EU, and whose Royal House is even called Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Latins (nay, very Francophones) might declare UDI at any moment. Is it conceivable that France and Francophone Africa might recognise such a declaration? Is it conceivable that they might not! And they might very well be joined by Italy, Spain, Portugal, and every country where either Spanish or Portuguese is spoken. Meanwhile, UDI in Wallonia would light the touchpaper for UDI in Quebec.

Or Teutons might declare UDI at any moment. Ever since the incorporation of the Catholic South, there has been a certain inevitability about the eventual annexation of Flanders to the Netherlands should Belgium ever fall apart, even if that would have to be on some sort of federal basis now. Could Germany stay out? She could not, and ever since she disastrously recognised Croatia and Slovenia in some cack-handed attempt to restopre Austria-Hungary, it has been clear that has no desire to stay out of such matters.

Not least, the eastern-most part of Wallonia is German-speaking, and was part of the Kingdom of Prussia until the Treaty of Versailles. The last German World Cup squad included a startling number of players from Austria, Silesia, Alsace-Lorraine and the Sudetenland. Think on.

And then, if this all kicked off, there is increasingly divided and unhappy Switzerland...

At the present time, is there any crisis in Europe more significant than this one? Are there very many in the whole world? And look how very close to Britain it all is. Yet scarcely a word in the British media.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Fiddling While Afghanistan Burns

Of course the injury figures from Afghanistan are being fiddled. I don’t know why anyone is surprised. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone really is. Does anyone believe the unemployment figures? Or the crime figures? Or the inflation figures? Well, there you are, then.

More On An Early Election

The BBC is still campaigning for an early Election. Why? If such a thing comes in October, or even next May, then the only people who will, or arguably even should, vote will be those determined to tell politicians exactly what they think of this distraction, and to require them to get back to work. Gordon Brown should be very, very careful.

Whither Belgium?

Latins and Teutons: never the twain? Well, neither Wallonia nor Flanders is actually going to blink first and forfeit EU membership for ever by seceding from an existing member-state. And French recognition of any Wallonian UDI might seem ridiculous since, if anything, Wallonia is the old, old France – monarchist and Catholic. But the same is true of Quebec, and no one doubts that France would recognise any UDI there.

As for Flanders, purely Dutch support might not seem much of a threat. However, Germany merrily brought havoc to Yugoslavia by recognising the self-proclaimed independence of Slavs with histories of Habsburg rule. How much more likely would she be to back her fellow-Teutons on her own border? And what of the East Cantons? Once the opportunity had been taken to claim back even the smallest territory lost after the First World War...

Ten Years On

Ten years ago, when Princess Diana died, there was genuine sadness, mostly for her two sons (who, incidentally, are not now “boys”, but Army officers). But the outpourings of hysteria reported by the media were altogether exceptional, and largely whipped up by those depicting them. And there was certainly no threat to the monarchy. Just give that suggestion a moment to sink in, and the point is made.

Whatever Happened To Arab Science?

Arab science led the world between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries, above all in astronomy, mathematics and medicine. And then it went into sharp decline as Christian Europe surged ahead at the start of the process that is still going on, and which has now spread throughout the world, including to the Arabs. How and why did this happen?

In part, it was because the Catholic Church insisted on her independence from the Sate, initially with regard to the appointment of bishops, but rapidly, once the principle had been established, in other areas as well. Under her aegis, universities, cities and what we would now call professional bodies became legal entities in their won right, providing forums for free discussion. Islam simply did not, and does not, work like that.

But mostly, there was the impact of theological beliefs on the ability to do science. Many of the Arab scientists were in fact Christians, even if heterodox ones such as the translator ibn Masawagh of Baghdad, and his pupil Hunayan, who translated all the known Greek works into Arabic and Syriac, as well writing many medical treatises. The Christian physician ibn al-Quff of Damascus wrote one of the first treatises on surgery.

In Christianity, it is because God is both rational and free that His universe is both orderly and contingent. Since God is free, the universe is not necessary, and could have been otherwise: He need not have created it, and He might have created it any other way that He chose. If God were rational but not free, then His universe would be necessary and could not be other than it is, so that there would be no need to conduct experiments in order to understand it. Or, if God were free but not rational, then His universe would be so chaotic that there would be no observable order within it, and so science would again be impossible.

In Islam, however, everything is directly dependent on the will of Allah, a view which weakens any expectation to observe rationality and order in the universe, even before considering how capricious that will is presented as being in several verses of the Qu’ran.

Thus was science arrested in the Islamic world even as it soared away in Christendom.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Neocon Sock-Puppets, Take Note

A neocon is an unrelaible witness, certainly in any dispute with a critic of his cult. So that's that: nothing that anyone can say against Neil Clark from that perspective can have the slightest effect on me. I simply don't believe you, and I don't care who or what does. As an anonymous comment below puts it:

"Leo Strauss would have been so proud. And so would Max Shachtman, and behind him Leon Trotsky. "Revolutionary truth" and all that. That's just what neocons do. It's what they are, the point where Trotskyism and Fascism meet."

Quite. In any dispute about truth between a neocon and an anti-neocon, the neocon must by definition be the liar.

Taxing Questions

Inheritance Tax really only exists to prove some sort of point rather than to raise very much revenue, so abolishing it is actually not such a bad idea. But only as part of wholesale reform of the tax and benefits system, such as could never be proposed by John Redwood, nor ever brought about by any of the existing parties.

All income below national median earnings should be made tax-free, and all income above that taxable at a very low flat rate with no further arrangements, while guaranteeing everyone an income of at least half national median earnings by means of single form of payment called, and effecting, Social Security.

This would cost next to nothing to administer. And there's no point claiming that it would benefit the hugely rich, because, on the contrary, they hardly pay tax at all as things stand. This way, they would.

Likewise, every company should have a corporation tax allowance of half national median earnings multiplied by the total number of its employees, so that it had enough to pay each employee that as the minimum wage, and then be taxed at a flat rate as above, finally getting to the currently tax-free profits of the richest companies.

And that flat rate should be permanently higher (with strict regulation to ensure that no cost was passed on to workers, consumers, communities or the environment) on the banks and on the privatised utilities, recalling a Tory and a Labour windfall tax respectively, and yielding the funds necessary to reimburse employers' National Insurance contributions for workers aged 25 and under, aged 55 and over, or for as long as a previous period of unemployment lasting 18 months or more.

Within this, both Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax could be abolished. But not otherwise.

Primary Considerations

Tory consternation that Labour is encouraging its supporters to register for the Tory Mayoral primary election in London. According to the Tories, this is in order to block Boris Johnson, since they remain touchingly convinced that this person is a serious candidate. Frankly, it is much more likley to be the opposite, since he simply isn't. But either way, that's primaries for you. How is any of this wrong within the system in question?

Which is why I'm all in favour of primaries. Imagine if the two candidates with the most nominations from a party's branches for PPC or for Leader were then subjected to a binding ballot of every registered voter in the constituency or the country, and that this happened in the course of every Parliament without fail.

The sort of people favoured by central machines would struggle to get on the ballot at all, and certainly wouldn't be selected. And the same is true of each party's several lunatic fringes, who could always then put up under their own steam and see how far they got.

Of "Right-Wing Breakaways" From "Left-Wing" Parties

Warnings here and elsewhere about "right-wing breakaways from left-wing parties," citing such unhappy precedents as the SDP, and the long career of Bob Santamaria in Australia (though certainly flawed, no single individual deserves more credit than Santamaria for the fact that Australia never came under Soviet domination).

So I must make it clear that I am not proposing "a right-wing breakaway from a left-wing party": as much as anything else, you can't breakaway from something that no longer really exists. Labour was a morally and socially conservative party of British and Commonwealth patriots exactly when, and because, it was most committed to the Keynes-Beveridge-Attlee Settlement; fully informed by both aspects of this heritage, ostensibly "right-wing" and ostensibly "left-wing", it opposed the Soviet Union and wider Stalinism at the same time, and on the same grounds, as it opposed apartheid South Africa and its Rhodesian satellite.

These things were, and are, connected; Labour was cut off from them at the same time and by the same people. In consequence, it took only twenty-two per cent of the eligible vote last time, winning only because the other lot really have collapsed completely. There is an enormous gap to be filled, so let's fill it.

And let's be clear about what it is that binds the "right-wing" and "left-wing" aspects of our heritage. It is best articulated by Chesterton in his magnificient study of Dickens, in which he writes of the need "so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome." Yet so to view the world is precisely to realise "that there is something the matter", which is why pagans have always been "conscious of the Fall if they were conscious of nothing else", since (and this is obviously much more controversial) Original Sin "in the only part of Christian theology which can be proved," so that "the ordinary condition of man is not his sane or sensible condition", but rather "the normal itself is an abnormality." This is of course very like Postmodernism. Only older, wiser, better.

Better not least because, for Chesterton and for us, it was this view of the world's flawed goodness that made Dickens a social reformer and which would mkae social reformers of us, since, like him, we recognise people's degraded dignity. One is made by Christianity "fond of this world, even in order to change it", in contrast to simple (Whig or Marxist, including neoconservative) optimism or simple pessimism (such as that of much of the political Right), each of which discourages reform. We have to "hate [the world] enough to want to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing", for it is "at once an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet our own cottage, to which we can return at evening."

Such was the view of Dickens and of Chesterton; and such is the Christian view, uniquely, as all its critics unwittingly concede by simultaneously accusing it both of excessive optimism and of excessive pessimism. Chesterton presciently predicted that an age of unbelief would be an age of conservatism (in the worst sense), whereas for the orthodox "in the hearts of men, God has been put under the feet of Satan, so that there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration." Furthermore, "A strict rule is not only necessary for ruling; it is also necessary for rebelling", since "a fixed and familiar ideal is necessary to any sort of revolution."

That which inspires and informs our dedication to the "revolution that is a restoration" (the Welfare State, workers' rights, progressive taxation, full employment, and peace and disarmament) is preceisely that which inspires and informs our dedication to the "fixed and familiar ideal necessary to any sort of revolution", i.e., to the best principles of moral and social conservatism in the Western tradition. Furthermore, that "fixed and familiar ideal", with its inherent and constant call to that revolutionary restoration, is embodied in the institution that effects and literally crowns the Union and the Commonwealth that are the indivisible object of our patriotism.

The Neocon Vendetta Against Neil Clark

The blood-sucking chickenhawk lobby has been posting anonymous comments here, attacking Neil Clark. I have deleted them in the past, but now I feel that it is time to answer them. As Neil himself writes:

"Regular readers will know all about the extremely vindictive campaign waged against me by the neo-conservative blogger Oliver Kamm, which started when my critical review of Kamm's book appeared in the Daily Telegraph in December 2005. Ever since then, Kamm and his mysterious pseudonymous associates have done all they could to smear me, with emails, repeating Kamm's libellous allegations, being sent to my commissioning editors. One, sent to my editor at The Australian, and cced to Kamm, is enclosed below.

From: George Courtenay [mailto:georgeco@gawab.com] Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 1:33 PM
Cc: Neil Clark; oliver.kamm@tiscali.co.uk

Subject: Neil Clark sources
I see you have published an opinion article by Neil Clark today. That's all good to print a range of views but you may be interested that Oliver Kamm of the London Times has been investigating Mr. Clark's use of sources.
http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2006/02/more_on_balkan_
.html
http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2006/02/balkan_claims_r
.html
Mr.Clark doesn't say the same thing in his new article but as he's lied to other editors I'm bringing it to your attention.
G. Courtenay

Who exactly was 'George Courtenay?'
Further investigation revealed that 'George Courtenay' has been involved in disputes involving Oliver Kamm at least twice before.
In fact, the only time Mr Courtenay seems willing to enter in to any debate in cyberspace, is when Oliver Kamm is involved: I could find no trace of him commenting on any other issue. I wrote to Mr Courtenay's email address to ask if he could provide a full postal address and proof of his identity, but several months on, I'm still waiting for a reply.

'George Courtenay's' intervention was not an isolated occurence. Each time, the pattern has been the same: Kamm makes untrue and libellous allegations, which are then promptly cced, and sent to an editor, under various aliases, or even anonymously. At the same time, my wikipedia entry has been repeatedly maliciously edited by a certain 'elena zamm', who has only edited (this time favourably) two other sites: Oliver Kamm's and Anthea Bell's. Who's Anthea Bell, I hear you ask? Why she's no other than Oliver Kamm's mother.

Back in December, I wrote:

The ball is firmly in Oliver Kamm's court. I very much hope that he decides to ends this dispute exactly 365 days after it started. But if, as I unfortunately suspect, he and and his supporters decide to carry on their vendetta in 2007, they should be aware that I will use any means, within the law, to defend myself and my reputation.

Unfortunately, my suspicions have proved correct. Instead of ending his vendetta, Kamm has carried on, on several occasions repeating defamatory allegations about me on his website. Today, 'staele 64', left the following comment after a piece of mine on the Guardian Comment is Free website:

"Ericfromm4ever was exposed as a sockpuppet of Neil Clark more than a year ago. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/neil_clark/2006/04/
democracy_timothy_gartonash_st.html#comment-8628
That's a serious abuse of CIF and I'll bring it to the attention of the editors, Neil. You must remember this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Siegel
Fans of Stephen Pollard's old blog will remember when Neil called himself Green Goddess to post comments to praise himself. Funny how you vanished as soon as Pollard exposed you, Neil."

Once again, the pattern is the same: false and libellous allegations are made, the pseudonymous commenter threatens to report me to those who employ me, and a link to a recent post by Oliver Kamm about me(in this case one written yesterday) is included.

Is Oliver Kamm the kind of man who, out of spite, would deliberately try to destroy someone's livelihood? The answer is most emphatically yes. His blogpost of 1st January 2006, with its aside about the editor of The Times and other editors who employ me was clearly designed to stop me writing again(and in the case of The Times, process provide more freelance opportunities for himself) And in this respect, it's not just me who has been the target of Kamm's malice. Here's another example of Kamm's modus operandi.

It's tempting to take the line that Kamm is a obsessive crank, "a very, very small man" (to use the words of Ernest Fuentes), who is best left ignored. But Kamm and his pseudonymous associates means real harm and this affair has already gone on for far too long.

Will I be resorting to High Court action against Kamm? Will I bring charges against him for criminal harassment? I keep both actions open. But in the meantime, the more people that know about this tawdry affair the better. And that includes Scotland Yard.
"

Of course, this is just what neocons do, because they believe that they have a positive duty to lie to the common herd.

I am in any case astonished that anyone still takes the word of one of the cheerleaders for the Iraq War, not just on this, but on anything at all. If you do, then you positively deserve his and his kind's lying Straussian disdain for you.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Bush Has Given Up On Iran

So, the United States is to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation? Well, I’m sure that that will cause untold inconvenience to those Iranian Revolutionary Guard who currently find it so easy to enter the United States, and who have been doing so with such frequency hitherto.

Bush is going, he is already a lame duck, and his party has decided to sit out the election of his successor, yet he still feels it necessary to Do Something about Iran. Well, since This Is Something, he has Done This. So that’s that taken care of. No air strikes. Certainly no invasion. Just a nominal banning from American soil of people who were never going to try and set foot on it in the first place.

The neocons can rattle their sabres all they like at Iran: just as it is now politically inconceivable that Britain might ever participate in such a war, so the same thing can probably be said about the United States.

Ann Widdecombe Versus Prostitution

Ann Widdecombe Versus Prostitution was marvellous, apart from her apparent support for the banning of cars driven by single men from so much as passing through a designated part of Southampton. What if that were the only convenient route, or even the only route at all, to somewhere else? I never thought of Widdy as having anything in common with that tendency where her sex, her class and her generation intersect, which used to campaign for things like curfews on men and the definition of all heterosexual sex as rape, and which has never recanted such views even upon being made, say, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. (Homosexual sex between men and boys, on the other hand... Again, such views have never been recanted.)

But that aside, she was spot on. People who take drugs choose to do so, and prostitutes choose to prostitute themselves, as a drug-taking prostitute confirmed to her on camera. The criminalisation of both parties above the age of consent (which should in any case be raised to 18), with exactly equal sentencing, is required unless we are to say that one sex is somehow morally or intellectually inferior to the other. In practice, that sex would be women. Do we want to say that? Well, there you are, then.

The Long Shadow of Entryism

In the 1970s and 1980s, one of Britain’s principal political parties was afflicted with a highly organised campaign of entryism by elements entirely alien it.

No, not the Militant Tendency. That was far smaller even than other Trotskyist organisations at the time, it barely existed outside the Liverpool area, it never stood the slightest realistic chance of actually taking over the Labour Party, and its members did at least go to the trouble of joining that party.

I’m talking about Ralph Harris, who sat as a Crossbencher even after Margaret Thatcher gave him a peerage. I’m talking about Arthur Seldon, a lifelong Liberal. I’m talking about Oliver Smedley, Vice-President of the Liberal Party and five times a Liberal parliamentary candidate in the 1950s and 1960s. And so forth.

Lurking behind all of this is the figure of Alderman Alfred Roberts, Thatcher’s father and the defining influence on her political thought. Amid the debris of the Liberal Party after the First World War, he sat for decades as an Independent, and never joined the Tories to his dying day. For the very good reason that he wasn’t a Tory. And nor was his daughter.

Of course, there really is a unifying tradition, which has come down from the ultraconservative Colbert through the Liberal Keynes via FDR, which has come down from the ultraconservative Bismarck through the Liberal Beveridge, which was epitomised by Lloyd George in his heyday, and which flowered must fully in government under Attlee.

But that tradition could not be further from the views, activities or legacy of Harris, Seldon, Smethwick, and their entryist Institute of Economic Affairs. Or of the Centre for Policy Studies, a sort of in house Tory equivalent of the Socialist League to the IEA’s Communist Party. Never mind of the Freedom Association, which was funded by the government of a Boer Republic set up as an explicit act of anti-British revenge in a former Dominion of the Crown by people who had been interred for pro-Nazi activities during the War, which Republic was at the same time propping up a regime treasonable against the Queen, a regime which in fact had purported to depose Her Majesty a mere five years into its life.

Yet such were the originators and guiding lights of Thatcherism, and thus also of New Labour.

Time Was When The Scots Were Outward-Looking...

On various blogs, I have been delighted to see how reasonable people can be when they are used to the monolithically Nationalist (even if not necessarily SNP) Scottish media, and to the astonishing way in which this cause of aristocratic and upper-middle-class cranks has somehow come to define the debate there, but suddenly find themselves confronted with a few political realities.

Such as:

1. There is simply no way that a secessionist entity could just walk away with most or all of the United Kingdom's oil revenue, and simply no comparison with anything still located in the United Kingdom, such as City revenues, or (SNP take note) gold reserves;

2. It is laughably naive to suggest that any British Government would sign any treaty which compromised its right to station any forces or weapons it liked anywhere in the UK as presently constituted, an insistence which would be backed up to the hilt by the Americans; and

3. The notion that a British Government or Parliament could expel a discernable part of Scotland (and I've listed three types before, to all of which this point applies) - or, indeed, a comparably discernable part of England, Wales or Northern Ireland - from the United Kingdom without the express consent of well over half of its electorate is positively obscene, and mercifully inconceivable politically, so think of it this way: no more Union equals no more Scotland.

To which one might add:

4. If any of the above caused talks to break down, then no country on earth would recognise Scottish UDI (even the African countries with close links to Scotland being heavily dependent on British aid, and one of them being about to get Jack McConnell has its British High Commissioner), whereas, thanks to 2 above, the US would, to say the least, back absolutely any British response to UDI, however "drastic"; and

5. No Spanish or Belgian Prime Minister would ever consider for one moment permitting the accession to the EU of a secession from an existing member-state.

Among many, many other things.

But it's all academic: the SNP has given up. It has been not just brought in, but bought in. And it seems to have recognised its cause as belonging to another age. Even Sinn Fein has realised that it has far more power (and is much better-paid) under the current arrangements than it could possibly dream of in a "United Ireland". The Irish Republic looks set to rejoin the Commonwealth. Australia has explicitly rejected becoming a republic. In Canada, New Zealand, three other Pacific countries and fully eight Caribbean ones, the issue is on the agenda hardly, if at all. None of the remaining British Overseas Territories shows the slightest desire for independence (quite the reverse, in fact). Even American popular, as distinct from traditionally Anglophile elite, opinion is now warming to Britain. And so forth.

Leaving the SNP looking like a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s. As, of course, it is. And as, of course, is Salmond. Though in an entirely different way: arise, Sir Alex!

Faith and Reason, Science and Art

Much email correspondence has arisen out of my post about Richard Dawkins. So here is a bit more to set people thinking and writing.

Science as that term is generally understood began at Paris in 1277, when Etienne Tempier, Bishop of Paris and Censor of the Sorbonne, responded to the growth of Aristotelianism by condemning from Scripture (i.e., explicitly from revelation as apprehended by the gift of faith) two hundred and nineteen propositions expressing the Aristotelian versions of several of humanity’s ordinary beliefs.

Those beliefs were, and are, eternalism (the belief that the universe has always existed), animism (that the universe is an animal, a living and organic being), pantheism (that the universe is in itself the ultimate reality, the first cause, God), astrology (that all earthly phenomena are caused, or at least influenced, by the pantheistic movements of the stars) and cyclicism (that every event repeats exactly after a sufficiently long time the precise length of which varies according to culture, and has already so repeated itself, ad infinitum).

In particular, Tempier strongly insisted on God’s creation of the world ex nihilo, a truth which has always been axiomatically acknowledged as able to be known only from revelation by the faith that is itself mediated by the Church’s ministry of God’s Word and Sacraments, with the liturgical context of that ministry passing on from age to age and from place to place the revelation as recorded in and as the Bible and the Apostolic Tradition.

This ruling of ecclesial authority as such made possible the discovery around 1330, by Jean Buridan (Rector of the Sorbonne), of what he himself called impetus, but which was in fact nothing other than the first principle of “Newtonian” Mechanics (and thus of “science”), Newton’s First Law, the law of inertia: that a body which has been struck will continue to move with constant velocity for so long as no force acts on it. This discovery was developed by Buridan’s pupil Nicole Oresme (afterwards Bishop of Lisieux), vigorously and in detail, around 1360.

The ideas of Buridan and Oresme spread throughout Europe’s universities for three centuries, and were especially associated with Spanish Salamanca, Portuguese Coimbra, and the Jesuits’ Collegio Romano (now the Gregorian University). They passed, through Leonardo da Vinci and others, to those who would formulate them in precise mathematical terms: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Huygens, and finally Sir Isaac Newton in the conventionally foundational text of modern science, his Principia Mathematica of 1687.

Without the Christian Revelation (apprehended by the faith mediated in, as and through the life of the Church), human beings are by inclination eternalistic, animistic, pantheistic, astrological and cyclicistic; and in that intellectual condition, the scientific project is impossible.

The reception of Newton’s Principia bespeaks a willingness (whether or not it can be identified in the work itself) to regard science as independent of the wider scientia crowned by regina scientiae, to have physics and the logical without metaphysics and the ontological, ratio unrelated to fides.

This is disastrous for science, which cannot demonstrate, but rather must presuppose, the falseness of eternalism, animism, pantheism, astrology and cyclicism. And it is also disastrous for art, because the world comes to be seen in terms of a logic newly detached from aesthetics, as from ethics. Thus, these become mere matters of taste or opinion, dislocated even from each other in defiance both of the whole Western philosophical tradition and of (to use in its ordinary manner a term deriving from this Early Modern age) common sense.

In such an environment, art attracts increasing distrust as the morally evil is held up as having aesthetic (and not least literary) merit. Meanwhile aesthetic experiences are so distinguished from everyday experiences that art is degraded to a frivolity and an indulgence. Thus, they are restricted to those who have the time and the money for it, indeed who actually have too much time on their hands and more money than they know what to do with.

At the same time, regard for the true and the good declines relentlessly in the supposedly superficial context of poor aesthetics, of literally false and bad art. Doctrinal orthodoxy and moral standards slip and slide where the liturgy and its accoutrements are less than adequately tasteful or edifying. Educational standards collapse and crime rockets in the midst of hideous architecture and décor. And so forth.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Arise, Sir Alex Salmond

And why not? Partly, this would be in the way notionally Nationalist politicians in various Dominions and Colonies used to be knighted while still ranting against Britain for domestic consumption. But mostly, it would be in the way that someone like Sir Robert Menzies of Australia was knighted, for the rather simpler reason of being almost embarrassingly pro-British. Of course, if Sir Alex examines his passport, then he will see that British is exactly what he is, simply as a matter of fact.

This afternoon's White Paper is laughable, and absolute proof that Salmond, with his three salaries and expenses packages from the British taxpayer (one for a job which he now refuses to do), has no intention whatever of bringing about independence. The votes of people with nowhere else to go were just his stepping stone to the high life, promotion coming so much more quickly in the SNP than in, say, the Labour Party.

The White Paper's proposed referendum question on independence is in fact merely a question on whether or not people want the the Scottish Executive to begin negotiations with the British Government towards independence. But they can already answer that simply by voting SNP, or not. And they have already given that answer.

Meanwhile, even if this proposed referendum delivered a Yes vote, then that would put the ball entirely in London's court. It could just say no outright, on the grounds that there was only a mandate for negotiations, not for any specific conclusion. Indeed, it could just say no outright because it felt like saying no outright.

Or it could (and certainly would) insist on the permanent retention of at least fifty per cent of oil revenue, if not on a permanent per capita split. Or it could (and certainly would) insist on the perpetual ongoing right to station in Scotland any forces or weaponry of its choosing. Or it could (and certainly would) insist on the continuation within the United Kingdom of any parliamentary constituency, or municipal area, or Lieutenancy Area, with a Yes vote below fifty per cent (at the very least) of the total registered electorate.

Unless all three of these conditions, no doubt among others, were met in full, then it would simply refuse to sign. If it didn't just refuse to sign anyway.

Meanwhile, there is no majority in either House for further devolution, a situation which would not change even if the SNP won every Scottish seat at Westminster. So Salmond is whistling in the wind there. But, of course, that is exactly what he wants. He can then sell himself as Scotland's Champion, keeping himself in British-funded clover for many years to come. And, to be fair, keeping him in a position to do various things domestically. It's an old, old game. And Salmond is very, very good at it.

In any case, devolved power is devolved power: the Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to legislate, overridingly, in any area it likes. So it wouldn't matter even if there were further devolution. Which there isn't going to be, to Salmond's great, and carefully calculated, relief.

It is interesting that Salmond's first call for further devolution has been in the area of broadcasting. This is a vitally important insight into the class base of Scottish Nationalism, i.e., among the upper-middle-class types who have long used their wildly disproportionate clout to ensure that popular television programmes are "except for viewers in Scotland" (I once even saw such a listing for Rab C Nesbitt!), who must instead switch over, or switch off, or watch either some piece of patronising tartan'n'shortbread nonsense, or else something "Scottish" which, however worthwhile, almost nobody really wants to watch, certainly not in preference to what is being shown in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Salmond wants a whole broadcasting network like that. And, in this digital age, why not, at least on a subscription basis? It's certainly not as if the target audience couldn't afford to subscribe. But that realisation says a very great deal about the Nationalists, with even more said by the realisation that, ideally and if the technology still allowed for it, they would want this new network to replace the BBC in Scotland.

Finally, I note the return of the "devolution is not an event, but a process" line to the debate, attributed to Donald Dewar in Scotland, and apparently attributed to Ron Davies in Wales. Dewar certainly never said, and I very much doubt that Davies did, either. It is a simple error of fact: devolution is not in fact a process, but an event. However, that event has yet to happen, since it includes the enactment (routinely, in fact) of overriding legislation by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, as presupposed by the Scotland and Wales Acts, Acts fully supported by the SNP and Plaid Cymru on the floor of the House of Commons.

Monday, 13 August 2007

An October Election?

Just how frequent are General Elections now going to be? Unless the Government loses a confidence motion, then four years minimum, I say. Or else why want to be in government at all? To do what?

The Deadwood Fails To Rise

I can't be bothered to link to his blog, which is in full cry today because anyone presumed to question The Great Man. A lot of people never really understood how or why John Major was Prime Minister, but Redwood's "It should have been me" act was in a class of its own, and still is. In my direct personal experience, if anyone disagrees with him to his face, then he announces that "I can see that this conversation is breaking up", and simply walks away.

What does John Redwood actually know about business, or about anything else for that matter? He was a public schoolboy who became an undergraduate, who became a Fellow of All Souls, who became the MP for a safe seat. That's it.

Deadwood All Round

David Cameron ignored the recommendations of Iain Duncan Smith, for which there existed and exists an enormous popular constituency. And he is most unlikely to adopt the recommendations of John Redwood, not because they are unpleasant or unpopular (although they are certainly both), nor even because they come out of a long tradition of people who accrue to the fringes of the Conservative Party while not actually Tories at all (Ralph Harris the Cross Bench peer, Arthur Seldon the lifelong Liberal, and so forth), but for the same reason as he failed to adopt IDS’s agenda: he cannot guarantee that Labour would do so at the same time.

Actually, Blair would have adopted Redwood’s proposals if Cameron had also done so (and possibly even if not), whereas Brown certainly won’t. But Brown would have adopted IDS’s proposals if Cameron had also done so (and might yet adopt some of them), whereas Blair certainly wouldn’t have done. Therein lies such difference as there is between Blair and Brown.

But therein also lies the most dangerous thing that they have in common, both with each other and with Cameron: a total commitment to acting in unison with the other party on everything that really matters, since any other approach would be to abandon “the centre ground”.

So That's That, Then

This is my eight hundredth post.

So that’s that, then.

Alex Salmond will this week publish a document pretty much saying that the SNP are going to ask people in pubs, at bus stops and what have you whether or not they support independence, those people are mostly going to say no, and the SNP is just going to live with that, thereby negating the whole purpose of its existence. Salmond’s own backbench fundamentalists will be incandescent, of course. But will they break away? They might, but I really do doubt it.

Salmond has tasted the British taxpayer-funded salary and expenses of First Minister, in addition to those of an MSP, and indeed in addition to those of a member of the House of Commons, which he now absolutely never attends. He has been not just brought in, but bought in, and he will not be selling up any time soon. Furthermore, he has been sworn of the Privy Council, and would at least arguably be in breach of that Oath if he proceeded towards independence. Any SNP First Minister will always be in both of those positions.

So that’s that, then.

A Real Tonic

The Government’s “G&T” (Gifted and Talented) programme is apparently supposed to include the most academic ten per cent of pupils. I am sure that they are delighted to be singled out from their peers like this, only to have to return to normal lessons, to the playground, to the canteen, to the bus home, and so forth. So how about this for wheeze: why not have schools specifically for that identified ten per cent, or, better still, for double or even triple that number, but no more? Whatever might such institutions be called?

Mallochs?

Lord Malloch-Brown is said to favour a single EU seat on the UN Security Council. Well, the French will never consider that for one moment, so he can forget it. But the Constitreaty will require any member-state with such a seat, permanent or otherwise, to use it as directed by the EU Foreign Minister. What are the odds that the man Lord Malloch-Brown, and indeed Gordon Brown, favour for that office is none other than Mark Malloch Brown? And would he still attend British Cabinet meeting if he got it?

Elizabeth RI?

An EU Head of State, eh? Empires are not appropriately capped by republican institutions, but by monarchies.

So, how about a monarch dynastically connected to almost every other Royal House still reigning in the EU (I can’t find a link to Luxembourg, but perhaps I just need to look harder), who has plenty of German blood, and whose Heir Apparent’s father has practically nothing else, although he is closely connected (as the monarch herself is also, if more distantly, connected) to the House that, until less than a century ago, reigned over Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and much of present-day Poland? And how about a monarchy effecting bonds of peace with 15 other sovereign states, plus their Associated States and their Dependencies, in the Americas and the Pacific, something that no other monarchy can offer?

In other words, might the last Emperor of India’s daughter be the first Empress of Europe?

Hooray! Hooray!

During the Ealing Southall by-election, Tory loudspeakers proclaimed in various Asian languages that the Tories would make Muslim, Hindu and Sikh festivals public holidays in the same way as Christmas Day. And the Tories still came third!

We have far fewer public holidays in Britain than in Europe generally because other countries’ are drawn either from the liturgical calendar or from the great events in their respective histories. Who in Britain would know what these things were? David Cameron? Tony Blair? Come on! (To be fair, Gordon Brown would.) Positively rejoicing in this baleful state of affairs is but one among the numerous demonstrations of just how utterly unconservative capitalism is.

This year, the holiday that everyone still calls Whit Monday happened to coincide with the real one. Well, let the real one be restored. While we’re at it, let Ascension Day be made a public holiday, as in Catholic and Protestant Europe alike. And most of all, let Saint George’s Day, Saint Andrew’s Day, Saint David’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day be made public holidays throughout the United Kingdom. To those who argue that this would create a glut in the Spring and early Summer, I ask when else they would want public holidays if at all possible? In October, so that we could all sit in the wind and the rain?

Furthermore, although public holidays might be a bit much simply because of the sheer number of days involved (though for no other reason), our public institutions, not least including schools and the BBC, should mark the National Day of each and every Realm or Territory with which we share a Head of State.

Richard Dawkins: Enemy of Reason

Apparently, Richard Dawkins has turned his attention to astrology. He is either unaware, or else pretends to be, that modern science was first able to arise precisely because of the Mediaeval Catholic Church condemnation from Scripture of the theories, as expressed by Aristotle but always held apart from the Biblical Revelation, of eternalism (that the universe has always existed and always will), animism (that the universe is a living thing, an animal), pantheism (that the universe is itself the supreme reality, is God), cyclicism (that everything which happens has already happened, in exactly the same form, an infinite number of times before, and will happen again, in exactly the same form, an infinite number of times), and astrology (that events on earth are controlled by the movements of the celestial bodies).

None of these propositions is self-evidently false, nor can that falsehood be proven scientifically. Rather, science must, and does, simply presuppose their falsehood. It was first able to do this, and thus to get going at all, because of the exercise of ecclesial authority by reference to Scriptural authority. “Post-Christian” culture is visibly regressing to all five of these errors. And if you believe in the first four (which I have sometimes heard it claimed might be compatible with science, although I cannot see how), then you must believe in the fifth one, namely astrology.

Perhaps Dawkins knows this and is declining to mention it to the common herd, contrary to his interdisciplinary responsibilities as a Professor, and specifically contrary to the whole purpose of the Chair that he occupies, which is “for the Public Understanding of Science”. In that case, he is morally unfit to occupy that Chair, or to comment on such matters generally. Or perhaps he does not know it. In that case, he is intellectually unfit to occupy that Chair, or to comment on such matters generally. Which is it?

What Did She Expect?

On Radio Four on Saturday morning, I finally heard someone admit that the war against fertility was in fact a war against the electoral base of the Left. It always has been: read my friend Ann Farmer’s superb Prophets and Priests: The Hidden Face of The Birth Control Movement (London: The Saint Austin Press, 2002, ISBN 1 901157 62 8).

However, the speaker seemed genuinely astonished that, in the example she cited, Republicans' having far more babies than Democrats was securing a permanent Republican majority in the United States. What did she expect?