Thursday, 31 January 2008

Afghanistan Again: Any Answers?

I have had really quite important people ask me if my persistent questions here and elsewhere about Afghanistan are intended to be rhetorical. They are not.

What are we doing in Afghanistan? What, exactly, would constitute victory or defeat there? And why, exactly? We merrily grow opium in our country "for medicinal purposes". We are allied to Islamist smack-smugglers in Kosovo.

And the reviled "Taliban" are exactly the same people as the revered "tribal elders", depending on what we happen to think of them at the time. On the same basis, the "Ba'athists" whom we are in the process of "rehabilitating" in Iraq are exactly the same people as the "Sunni insurgents" or the alleged Iraqi branch of that non-existent organisation, "al-Qaeda".

Answers, please.

"Against All Enemies, Foreign And Domestic"

If you are a morally or socially conservative American, or a conservative opponent of warmongering and the erosion of liberty, or both, then I put it to you that you simply cannot vote for Rudy Giuliani even if you do vote for John McCain. Of Giuliani and John Edwards, Edwards is vastly closer to your views. I think you know what you need to do.

And if the final result is either McCain-Edwards or Obama-Edwards but with the latter taking far more votes than the former, then views like yours really will set the agenda for at least a generation.

Voting for Ron Paul as an Independent, and therefore also for whoever might be his running mate, would be fun. But this would be serious. And these are serious times.

The Fightback Starts Here

The decision to return a kidnapped baby to his mother is the story of the day, maybe of the week, maybe of the month, and maybe of the year. I wish her every success in her civil action against those responsible. In April, the target for working-class children to be taken from their brood mares and farmed out to New Labour stalwarts will finally be abolished. But until today, I had assumed that things would nevertheless carry on as before. Now, though, I am not so sure.

It is of course far easier to place babies for adoption. But the powers that be, now effectively an occupying power in disenfranchised working-class communities (as throughout the countryside, for example), need to make up their minds. Do they want childless couples to able to adopt babies whose parents cannot (as there will always be some who cannot) take care of them? Or do they want most women of childbearing age to be poisoning themselves in order to be available for the constant sexual gratification of men, and one in three to undergo at least once a very highly invasive form of surgery which is nevertheless now literally more common than having a tooth pulled? They cannot have both.

More specifically, do they want ethnic minorities and the working class to be (as has always been both the intention and the effect) aborted, contracepted and sterilised out of existence, thereby killing off the electoral base of the Left? Or do they want those groups to provide a regular supply of infants for allocation to their voluntarily sterile betters?

Speaking For The People

The knives are out for Michael Martin because he used to be a sheet metal worker and because he is Glaswegian (he is not in fact from the Gorbals, but what if he were?). It is notable that no one with that sort of background could ever make it to Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly; indeed, it is difficult to imagine any such person being elected to either of those bodies in the first place.

The ridiculous Quentin Letts is leading the charge, but he is has backing on all sides of the House and the Lobby. Speaker Martin's working-class, heartland, economically left-wing but totally non-Marxist, morally and socially conservative Catholicism is absolutely everything that the people now running all three parties are against.

He is undoubtedly a convinced Unionist at least where Scotland is concerned (Northern Ireland might be a different matter, but it very well might not be), and he is probably something of a Eurosceptic. Views like that would endear him to Brown if it weren't for everything else; they make him utterly repellent to Cameron and Clegg.

Well, Cameron and Clegg are utterly repellent to me, and Brown is scarcely any better. How about you?

Save Our Speaker!

House and Home

Why are so preoccupied with house prices, anyway? The explosion in house prices meant that most younger middle or upper-working-class people stood no chance of living out the middle-aged peak of their powers in properties remotely resembling the ones in which they grew up. "Bricks and mortar" do not, at least ordinarily, constitute an "investment". They constitute a place to live. If we are now being forced back to acknowledging that truth, then about time, too.

Shelling Ourselves Short

Perhaps there should be a windfall tax on the oil companies, but we all need to face the fact that we have chosen to make ourselves dependent on them, and thus on the governments of oil-producing counties, by our failure to insist on nuclear power and on the trains that can be run on the electricity thus generated.

"A Progressive Century"?

According to Charles Clarke, Labour thinks too much about past achievements (well, it has been a long time since the Forties - that is what he means, isn't it?), and is therefore running the risk of losing the next Election, whereas winning it would usher in "a progressive century" as seen in Scandinavia.

Where does one even begin? Clarke belonged to the nominally Labour faction that functioned, at the height of the Cold War, for all practical purposes as if it were part of the Communist Party. So his is a classic New Labour background, and he duly supported every Blairite actual or attempted destruction of exactly the sorts of things that characterised any "progressive century" in Scandinavia. What he now has in mind is that that destruction should be taken even further.

As for Labour losing the next Election, the bookies are still only offering 9/4 against a Labour victory. But at that point the Tories really would collapse, and there would be no purpose to the Labour Party. Only the fear of the imaginary Tory bogeyman keeps it going, at least until its overwhelmingly elderly members die or are simply too frail to do what little campaigning work there still is. So there os no purpose to the Labour Party even now. At best, it is literally useless. If it adopted Clarke's agenda, then it would be a very great deal worse than that.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

A Heartbeat Away

Why would anybody want to be the new JFK? In the same length of time as that between his inauguration and his assassination, his successor got vastly more done.

Johnson is (deservedly) looked at askance because of Vietnam. But he was great bread-and-butter, Civil Rights President at home. Whereas Kennedy, who started the Vietnam War, played about with trying to put a man on the moon and such like. When Johnson inherited that project and it finally came to ought, the only discovery was what anyone could have guessed (or observed) anyway: there is nothing on the moon.

Which brings us to the sad withdrawal of John Edwards, mercilessly punished by the corporate media for beating Hillary Clinton in Iowa. The New Kennedy should offer the New (And Better) Johnson the Vice-Presidential nomination immediately.

And John McCain should offer it, not to Giuliani, but to electorally the much more successful Mike Huckabee. The Vice-Presidency is separately elected, and a McCain-Giuliani ticket might very well face an Evangelical Vice-Presidential alternative.

Still, that might have the advantage of putting Edwards a heartbeat away from the Oval Office certainly occupied for only one term, if he even lasts that long, by McCain. We live in hope.

Bobby and Dave?

Has David Cameron suddenly become tough on crime? Hardly! He's just spotted that the Blair Coalition is falling apart. Even he couldn't have failed to notice the Police marching last week (an old-fashioned trade union response to an old-fashioned public sector pay dispute). So he wants to bring them back to the Tories. But he wouldn't do a damn thing for them if he ever became Prime Minister.

Saint David Davis? Only If It's Blessed Derek Conway

If David Davis had become Tory Leader, then Derek Conway would have been Chief Whip. Yet Davis has been practically canonised on the Tory Right, largely regardless of his actual views and just because he is not the admittedly ghastly David Cameron.

Time was when you had to been forcibly removed from the Leadership by the Tories before they turned you overnight into an object of veneration and affection. But Davis seems to have been allowed to cut out the middle part of the process, of being a reviled Leader before you can be a beloved ex-Leader. Why?

Never Again

Today is the anniversary of the execution of Charles I. The Civil War was unusual in that both sides lost, and far from unusual in that both sides deserved to lose. What followed it was neither an absolute monarchy nor a parliamentary-republic-cum-military-dictatorship.

It was what had gone before, which then evolved successfully, if not without struggle, into a mass participatory democracy initially embracing all three Realms, and still including at least part of each of them.

Thus have we never had another Charles I. Nor ever another Cromwell.

Ponder these things. And act upon them.

The African Queen

Just as the Opposition in Zimbabwe should proclaim the Queen "Queen of Zimbabwe and of her other Realms and Territories" and appeal to the people of those Realms and Territories to come to their aid, so the tribal groups of Kenya should each at least proclaim her Paramount Chief in those same terms; ideally, the robbed Kenyan Opposition should do as in Zimbabwe.

The Crown would be the alternative to having to choose between those who stole an election and those who wish to commit genocide (against the Kikuyu). It would the means of saving one of the most stable and and prosperous countries in Africa, as well as of rescuing the basket case of that continent. And it would be a formal tie between Africa and her diaspora in the Caribbean.

Even Worse

The negligible pay that restricts lower-rung political positions to the privileged (and accordingly over-educated) "break dancing jesus" types of this world is bad enough.

But eleven grand a year to live in Central London is at least any pay at all. Undergraduates wanting the best jobs when they graduate are now expected to spend their summer holidays as interns, working for nothing. Yes, nothing. Not a penny. Those who simply cannot do this then face massively reduced employment opportunities.

Vote Labour. You know it makes sense.

Corrupt and Corrupting

Mick Hall writes:

Historically British Prime Ministers have not been know for being economically corrupt, indeed former Labour Prime Ministers Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan on leaving office lived comparatively modest life styles which would have been recognizable to most middle class English people of the day. If they had no private wealth of their own, Conservative PMs were usually looked after on leaving office by a number of rich businessmen donating a sum of money and setting up some sort of trust fund. Winston Churchill who enjoyed living high on the hog was the beneficiary of such charity on more than one occasion.

This all changed with Margaret Thatcher, who learnt early on in her Prime Ministership that it pays handsomely to become anointed the US President’s most favored foreigner. Once a British Prime Minister was comfortably perched in this position brown envelopes where for lesser mortals, for they could look forward to being looked after on leaving office by Corporate America, in much the same way as US Presidents have been since the beginning of the 20th Century if not before.

Thus on leaving office the retirement pension plan that has been available since the 1970s to all former British PMs was regarded by Thatcher and her successors in 10 Downing St as small change, and in return for acting whilst in office as the US Presidents gofer in Europe, on leaving office the British PM would be placed on to a US Conglomerates executive jet to tour the USA giving the CEO’s of multi national corporations the benefit of their wisdom. Although most CEOs of these multi national corporations have better things to do than spend their time listening to an ex-politico whose power is spent. So these speaking engagements are filled with junior executives sent along to pad the audience to help keep the speakers ego intact. However all concerned are only to well aware the real purpose of these ‘speaking engagements’ is to present the former servant of corporate America with a not inconsiderable supply of executive embossed envelopes stuffed to the gills with greenback bills.

Since he stepped down as Prime Minister and resigned from Parliament, Tony Blair like Margaret Thatcher and John Major before him, has spent his first year on leaving office touring the USA and other far flung countries turning the markers he accumulated whilst in office into hard currency.

Of course unlike a Mafia don Blair cannot simply send a couple of his henchmen down to Wall Street to collect a suitcase stuffed with dollar bills, there are niceties to be observed. First he signed a million dollar plus book contract with Random House, a subsidiary of the multi-national corporation Bertelsmann AG, the outcome of which will be a book that few people will actually read.

Next came an offer from a major US Corporation, best if it is a Bank as there is money to be laundered. In Blair’s case J.P. Morgan stepped into the breach and signed him up for a non existent job; It is entirely a coincidence that this bunch of financial sharks have recently signed a massive and very lucrative contract to run the Trade Bank of Iraq.

This ‘appointment’ was followed by what is called ‘the speaking tour’ which is a peach in itself. According to the Sunday Times Blair has just returned from a trip to North America from which he is likely to have made as much as £500,000 in the US and Canada for making three speeches in four days. One can get an idea of the standard of his scintillating oratory that we in the UK came to hate and despise from the following quote taken from a speech he made in Canada.

“Europe is not a question of Left or Right, but a question of the future or the past, of strength or weakness”

To conclude his first year in office Blair has signed yet another sweetheart contract with a multi national, having become an an expert on creating global warming when he polluted Iraq with weapons tipped uranium, the Zurich Insurance Companies have just made him their expert on Global warming. [I know you could not make this up]

Thus before his first year on leaving office is out, Blair will have received approximately £7 million pounds for doing nowt; and that is without the serialization rights to his memoirs, for it has become a post Thatcher tradition for the British newspaper industry to give former prime ministers a lucrative send off by publishing their appalling ghost written memoirs, despite there not being a single word in them that is not already in the public domain.

You Know Who You Are

I have allowed one comment from "break dancing jesus" today, bitter though it is and questionable though are his claims to be "working-class" and anything more than a nominal "Catholic" (although I'll grant him rural and Northern). Indeed, the prolier-than-thou bit is actually absurd.

But his other effort was unprintable and downright vicious. He knows that I know who he is; it could not be more obvious. I have very few enemies, but they are enemies indeed. Always unlikeable and unliked, several have pursued me obsessively for years on end, always convinced that I am doing the same thing (as if they were that important!) and that they are not really doing it at all. What can I say, I rub sociopaths up the wrong way.

Perhaps the most notable thing about them is they always occupy positions to which they know that they are not properly entitled. I am never the only other person who knows this. I rarely, if ever, remark on it. Yet they always seem to regard me as the threat that, more is the pity, seldom or never exists in actual fact.

So take note, bdj, I know your sort of old. (For that matter, I know you of old.) And if you are going to make remarks about people's families, then we might start with yours, such as your use of one of them as your violent enforcer, or your use of another's place on the payroll of a municipal body (soon to be abolished, so there) to have it wrong me publicly. Just for a start.

You might think that you are Tony Soprano. You might sometimes act as if you were. But you are very small fry indeed compared to what I have had to deal with in my time. And I have dealt with them. So back off.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Shock! Horror! Rich Old People In The South East Are Probably Tories

They call this news? If all the Tories needed were big leads in the South East, among ABs and among the over-65s, then they'd certainly be in office after last time, and they'd probably never have left it in the first place.

The Real Scandal

The real scandal exposed by the Derek Conway affair is that positions such as those nominally held by his sons are only open, even when they are being filled properly, to people who can afford to live in Central London on pay of only eleven thousand pounds per annum. In other words, to independently rich people. And even the Green Book restricts them to university graduates.

Instead, just as there should be a ban on any party funding except of an individual candidate by resolution of a membership organisation (whether the Midlands Industrial Council, the GMB, or whatever) the name of which would appear in brackets on the ballot paper, so there should also be at least a firm expectation that jobs such as this be filled from a pool maintained by that organisation, which would match the public salary of those thus appointed.

David Lindsay, Über-Über-Blogger?

Despite its containing a word that I would not normally permit, I merely pass on the following comment, which was posted anonymously this afternoon:

All hail the uber-uber-blogger David Lindsay. Late yesterday afternoon you posted this here, and then copied and pasted it onto a couple of Westminster blogs. No one else seems to have mentioned it. But by the evening news the BNP reference was gone.

Don't you ever dare criticise the "uber-bloggers" again. None of them has remotely that sort of clout. You are Sky News to their BBC - everyone reads them, but everyone who matters also reads you. And they seem to take you more seriously. Why might that be?

Lower middle class regional outsider my arse!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Devolution: Game Over?

Of course, the Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to enact any legislation it likes, automatically overriding that enacted by any devolved body. It should do so as a matter of course. Anyone who objects should have voted against devolution, the legislation for which specifically states that this is the case. I bet they didn't.

Meanwhile, practically all Labour MPs from Scotland are now anti-devolution really. Many from Wales always were, and they now have a seriously sceptical Secretary of State to back them up. And even Lib Dems from the Highlands, the Islands, the Borders and Mid-Wales are extremely unlikely to vote more powers or more money to Edinburgh or to Cardiff. They have no more time for the amateur politicians (regardless of party) there than have Labour MPs.

So there would be no Labour or Lib Dem votes against such legislation on principle regardless of its specific content, and no Labour or Lib Dem votes (at least, not from off the payroll and from Scotland or Wales) in favour of further devolution in the unlikely event that any such Bill were ever even introduced.

There is the faint smell of a Nineties leftover, slowly decaying away to nothing like so many other half-forgotten aspects of the Blair Era, including Blair himself. Twenty years from now, will anyone even remember that there ever was a Scottish Parliament or a Welsh Assembly? Will anyone remember the latter even ten years from now?


These poor loves will struggle to live on three times national median earnings for full-time work, plus lavish (largely tax-free) expenses. This isn't a party point: they all now recruit parliamentary candidates from this wildly unrepresentative little world. All except us, of course.

The Clintories

This is how dangerous she is. She must be stopped.


I don't care for the food in McDonald's, but the company is well-known as a good employer. I can't, though, see why these no diplomas need to be compared to A-levels. The comparison is meaningless. I want them to be good as what they are, and I am sure that they will be. We should take this opportunity to restore properly rigorous academic qualifications as well, and then move on towards a situation in which everyone is both cultured and skilled. If the Germans can manage this, then why can't we?

B This, B That

There are worse MPs than Derek Conway, but I suppose he's brought it on himself. However, note how the Cameron-supporting BBC has made a point of mentioning his - vindicated - accuser's BNP membership. I am proud to be an old enemy, and continuing local bogeyman, of the BNP. But why does this membership matter in this context? It doesn't. And would the Beeb have helped out a Labour MP like that these days? It wouldn't.

Country Matters

Village primary schools are under threat the length and breadth of England (in marked contrast to the record of the underrated Estelle Morris, driven out by the wholly self-styled "education expert" Adonis), and the BNP is on the rise in the countryside, even in areas with few or no either non-white or Eastern European inhabitants.

All because of the historically aberrant ceding of the countryside, especially in England, to a party which in any case long ago became ideologically opposed to its interests; in Scotland and Wales, country people to make do with the Lib Dems, who in their way are even worse.

Instead, we need a party committed to the defence of rural services, leading in particular to the systematic reversal of 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. To a national network of public transport free at the point of use.

Committed to 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’. To defence of the remaining field sports. To a free vote in government time on repeal of the ban on hunting with dogs.

Committed to a new and powerful second chamber elected on the basis of the English ceremonial counties, Scottish lieutenancy areas, Welsh preserved counties, and Northern Irish counties, with each of those 99 units having equal representation.

Committed to making the supermarkets invest 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.

And committed, in either case, to strict regulation to ensure that the costs of this are not passed on to suppliers, workers, consumers, communities or the environment.

Is there such a party? There is.

Suharto and The Silence of The Hawks

Not a peep out of the necons, devoted "liberators" of the world's oppressed peoples. Surely not because Paul Wolfowitz was (I refuse to write "served as") Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1982 to 1986, and then Ambassador to Indonesia during the Reagan Administration's final three years?

Left Manifesto for Nuclear Energy

There is another America:

Left Manifesto for Nuclear Energy

Left Atomics: A Call for a Re-discussion on Nuclear Energy

Anti-nuclear power sentiment among the socialist and progressive Left in the developed world has been ubiquitous. Calls for the shutting down of nuclear power plants has been part and parcel of every platform for most groups since the 3 Mile Island incident in the U.S. in 1979. After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, "most groups" and most of progressive thought have been firmly anti-nuclear energy.

In the 28 years since 3 Mile Island and the 21 years since the Chernobyl incident few groups have re-examined their views or considered the history and development of nuclear energy since. Some of us have reconsidered, and believe it is time to do that. We would like to report on the current state of affairs to the community at large.

The opening paragraph above needs some comment. It is mentioned that anti-nuclear sentiment dominates Left thought in the developed, industrialized "West". This, however, is not the case in developing countries. It is dominant only in those countries with strong economies, that is, in the imperialist countries. Our words, therefore, are aimed at them more than anyone else.IssuesAfter 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl occurred, it appeared to be the death knell for those state and private concerns supporting or developing nuclear power.

In reality, the research and development into nuclear fission as a source for energy accelerated. While some nuclear projects were canceled around the world because of Chernobyl, many others continued to completion, then they were fueled with uranium fuel, and went on line. It is important to note that the industry as a whole did not slink away after these incidents. Quite the contrary, they addressed the issues concerning how these incidents took place and there have been none of that sort since. Nuclear designers, engineers and workers learned and found solutions to what caused these problems so they would not happen again. Thereafter there has been a virtually unblemished record of power production done safely, cheaply and without threats to the public. The record for nuclear power, across the board, is generally better than any other form of electrical energy production in the world today.

Our starting point for this statement are the following 4 items:

• The worldwide, social need for nuclear power has changed dramatically since the 1980s.
• As socialists, we need to deal with technological reality as it has developed in the last 30 years.
• We need to reverse our opposition to nuclear power and instead support its development.
• We need to oppose its privatisation and support its nationalization where it is private as part of state-owned, transparently regulated, nationalized energy monopoly for the sake of economically building of power plants and for their safety.

As of 2007, there are 440 working commercial nuclear power plants in the world, 103 of them in the United States. The term "commercial" means the production of electrical energy as the primary purpose. There are at least 700 other reactors whose primary purpose is not electrical production but rather for the propulsion for military naval craft, nuclear weapons development, or scientific research and development. In the last 2 years the media has been running articles on the renaissance of nuclear power.

Many countries, including the United States, have seen applications for increasing the world-wide inventory of commercial reactors by almost 20%. In the U.S., there are now 31 proposals for "Construction and Operating Licenses" before the Department of Energy for new nuclear plants, all of them additional reactors to existing nuclear facilities. China and India have plans to quadruple the number of nuclear plants they presently have to meet their incredible projections for economic growth. Japan and China are currently building a half dozen plants between them. Socialists need to understand what nuclear power is, how to confront the issue, what it means and develop a response to this growth in nuclear power specifically and the needs for developing new sources of energy in general.
From Der Speigel:“At present, 29 nuclear power plants are under construction and there are concrete plans to build another 64. Another 158 are under consideration.”
The 3rd Generation of Reactors

All but a few of the working nuclear plants in the world today are called "Generation II" plants. These plants were designed in the 1960s and 1970s and came on line in the 1970s and 1980s with a few later in the 1990s. These plants were designed as commercial plants. The Generation I plants, the 1950s variety, were generally submarine reactors taken from these vessels and placed in confinement domes to be run commercially. These military derivative reactors were small, and mostly not suited for commercial base-load production.Because of 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl, the industry globally responded not by coming up with a hodgepodge of quick fixes to these incidents, but rather invented completely new designs. These third-generation reactors have:

• a standardized design for each type to expedite licensing, reduce capital cost and reduce construction time,
• a simpler and more rugged design, making them easier to operate and less vulnerable to operational upsets,
• higher availability and longer operating life, typically 60 years and running 90% of the time or better,
• reduced possibility of core melt accidents,
• minimal effect on the environment,
• higher burn-up to reduce fuel use and the amount of waste,
• burnable absorbers ("poisons") to extend fuel life and eliminate any possibility of military use.

The greatest departure from second-generation designs is that many incorporate passive or inherent safety features* which require no active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may rely on gravity, natural convection or resistance to high temperatures.
(*Traditional reactor systems employed the uranium nuclear chain reaction operating below the “critical” level. A control system was therefore essential to keep the reaction from running away toward a bomb-like condition. Some safety systems were “active” in the sense that they involved electrical or mechanical operation on command. Other systems operate passively, e.g., pressure relief valves. Both required parallel, redundant systems to reduce the chances of control failure. An inherent or fully passive safety system depends only on the laws of physical phenomena such as convection, gravity or resistance to high temperatures to prevent a run away condition.)
The industry has to be able to sell these new reactors to a sceptical public. Even with the very good record of the older generation II reactors that are online now, people understandably want even safer plants. The engineers, in our opinion, who have designed the new generation III plants have done just that.

Energy Demand

Energy demand is growing. [Not only is total energy use projected to grow dramatically, but electrical energy will be by far the largest proportion. …Etc., etc. You can mention that nearly 1/3rd of the world’s population have no electricity. Think about refrigeration and electric lights so that the kids can study at night. If you want to talk about energy demand, then do so, and talk about pollution elsewhere.]

Pollution and Global Warming

All countries, with the exception of France, rely on the burning of fossil fuel, mostly coal, followed by natural gas and oil for their electrical energy needs. Some countries rely on the extensive use of hydro-electrical power (Ecuador, Venezuela, Nepal), but these are exceptions. The infrastructure that delivers these fossil fuels is itself polluting (albeit much of this can be addressed by engineering) through processing, spills, leaks, dust, cave ins, etc. It is no longer a subject of debate that burning of fossil fuels itself is the major cause for climate change today through the discharge of CO2. We intend to emphasize the facts as they relate to nuclear power's virtually zero emissions all of any pollution: CO2, carbon-monoxide, carbon and fly ash particulates, mercury and uranium (a major by-product of burning coal), and the nagging questions surrounding waste disposal and the front-end pollution and human costs of mining fertile and fissile materials.

Nuclear Power as only non-polluting base-load power source

Our view on nuclear power is that it is the only base-load energy available that is non-polluting, can provide for global economic growth, and provide the power needed to fuel the abundance we will have under socialism. Base load is what constitutes the basic source of bulk energy for any nation's grid. There are only two choices now that can cheaply provide the hundreds of thousands of megawatts for current and future growth: coal or nuclear. Society must make the best choice. Wind, solar, both now and for the foreseeable future, are incapable of providing reliable and cheap power to the world. We are prepared to discuss these issues and more with you.

Left Atomics, March, 2007 updated, December, 2007

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Just Another Day In A Third World Banana Republic

The Tories have been patting themselves on the back all week about selecting a black woman, Helen Grant, to succeed Ann Widdecombe at Maidstone & The Weald. It transpires that Ms Grant tried only two years ago to have herself selected as a New Labour local council candidate, and was warmly commended but for the fact that she was trying to do so illegally by pretending to live at her business address in order to increase her chance of success at the polls.

None of this will come as the slightest surprise to regular readers of this blog. Is there any Cameroon protégé, at least outside the present House of Commons, who is not a New Labour member of impeccable Blairite connections? And is there any New Labour member of impeccable Blairite connections, at least outside the present House of Commons, who is not a Cameroon protégé being lined up for a safe “Tory” seat?

Symbolically Speaking

With the removal of Britannia from our fifty pence pieces, can anyone suggest a suitable symbol of today’s Britain to replace her?

What To Do With A Paddy Ashdown

Well, what? And why?

John Edwards Will Be Back

Congratulations to the corporate media. You completely ignored the second placed candidate in the Iowa Democratic Caucus, and now it is certain that he will not be the nominee.

But you think that the interests of your proprietors and their buddies have thus been secured. Think again.

He cannot possibly be refused the Vice-Presidential nomination, and he will still be young enough in eight years’ time, by which point he will have arrived at the fully formed position of your nightmares. Indeed, he will be there even four years hence, and thus in exactly the right place to take over from Hillary Clinton if she just cannot face trying to cling on until she is nearly 70.

All in all, you have not heard the last of John Edwards. And when he comes back, he will be coming for you.

Happy Holocaust Day

If you find the title of this post offensive, then so you should. But what else is one supposed to say? The whole thing is as ridiculous as it is revolting. For one thing, why is it on 27th January, the day Auschwitz exchanged mass-murdering Nazi tyranny for mass-murdering Soviet tyranny? Why not 15th April, the day Belsen really was liberated, and that by the British? In some years, that would even coincide usefully with Easter.

That we are prepared to have it today points to the extent to which the anti-British sectarian Left has taken over our public life, and the extent to which it has made peace with its old adversaries, also massively influential, on the anti-British sectarian Right (see the list in the first paragraph of today’s post on Suhato). And that we really insist on having it all points to the extent to which it is so much easier, and even more fun, to concentrate on the wrongdoing of others rather than on that of ourselves.

Old Times

Mikhail Kasyanov, the neocons’ “Independent” favoured candidate for President of Russia, is an electoral fraud and has been disqualified accordingly. So now they will just have to back the only realistic party alternative to President Putin, namely the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

This will pose some (though not many) problems for them as old Trots in the US and in certain British circles. But for Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, Straight Left (or Harry’s Place, as it now calls itself) and the rest, it will be just like old times.

Suharto: Stalin To Australia's Finland

Good riddance to Suharto, an “anti-Communist” Cold War cant in the same vein as Mobutu, Marcos, the Duvaliers, assorted Latin American despots, the successive leaders of apartheid South Africa, and that last’s protected Ian Smith. There were real heroes of that struggle. Suharto was not one of them.

And how poignant that he should die on or about Australia Day, since for so very long he fleeced the Australian people on the pretext that he was preventing the emergence of a Marxist enclave on Australia’s doorstep, even though there were in fact plenty of Marxist enclaves on Australia’s very soil at the time.

As the late New South Wales Senator John Wheeldon, a doughty fighter for East Timor, put it, Suharto Finlandised Australia, compelling her to grovel to him just as Finland was made to grovel to the Soviet Union. But at least Soviet military expansion and activity was not financially dependent on Finnish taxpayers.

Are Private Schools Any Good?

The debate is raging about whether fee-paying schools should be charities. But nobody ever asks whether such schools are really all that good. They are prominent among the critics of the gravely deficient and defective examination system. Yet their own appeal is based on being exceptionally good within that system.

If the exams are educationally questionable, then being good at putting people through them cannot be said to prove that a school is a centre of academic excellence. If anything, it would seem to suggest the opposite. And one does have to question whether the people making these sales pitches are really very intelligent at all.

Abolishing these schools’ charitable status might close a few of them. But many more would simply jack up their fees to astronomical levels, even when compared to what they already charge. They would also abolish such scholarships and bursaries as they still have (full fees bursaries are now practically unheard of). So nothing would really be achieved.

Yet those schools are desperate to retain that status, for reasons lost on me. So they are suggesting that they might sponsor City Academies. This would involve their teachers telling their state school counterparts how to do their jobs. Again, it is simply presupposed that the private school teachers are better teachers, that their schools are better schools.

When is anyone going to take this on? Where are the articles and documentaries about private schools and their bullying? Or the highly variable quality of their teaching? Or their Head Teachers who are in fact proprietors? Or their entrance exams for five-year-olds? Or their decidedly questionable employment practices? Or the cosy relationships of a few of them with Oxbridge admissions tutors? (Although who really cares about Oxbridge, anyway?) Or the fact that the rest are selling a pup?

No Welshing Here

There is an argument for Wales to have a full-time Secretary of State even if Scotland hasn’t, especially if that Secretary of State is Paul Murphy or someone very like him. To that office now belongs the right to determine which, if any, further powers are to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

You can forget that with Murphy. If he hadn’t been bound by collective responsibility, then he’d certainly have campaigned for a No vote in the referendum. Britishness Brown has made a very pointed appointment.

Towards Real Civil Rights Parties In Northern Ireland

Ructions in Northern Ireland, where the SDLP has decided to brand itself “the Civil Rights Party”. The SDLP has always been split on red/green lines. The reds are in the tradition of the Civil Rights Movement of the late Sixties. The greens are not.

For that Movement was a struggle for equal citizenship of the United Kingdom, rightly defined as including equal access to the comprehensive and coherent Welfare State (including social housing) and to the strong statutory and other (including trade union) protection of workers, consumers, communities and the environment, the former paid for by progressive taxation, the whole underwritten by full employment, and all these good things delivered by the partnership between a strong Parliament and strong local government, both elected by universal suffrage.

Not just the inherent incapability of Stormont to secure this for great swathes of the population of Northern Ireland (by no means only Catholics), but also the culpable failure of Westminster to do so, drove a section back to Irish Nationalism (insofar as it had ever held such views before), which had not even been on the agenda in 1968. As long ago as the Forties, Sinn Féin had warned that its support was being eroded by the Welfare State. Would that that erosion had ever really been enabled to happen.

One simple thing prevented it, giving rise to the grievances that necessitated the Civil Rights Movement, and keeping Sinn Féin and the IRA in existence. That thing was, and is, the failure of the British political parties to organise in Northern Ireland, a continuation of their failure to organise throughout Ireland and thus force themselves to be responsive to Irish needs.

Does anyone doubt that the people of West Belfast or of Derry City would have voted Labour in the Forties and in subsequent decades, had they been given the chance to do so? Sinn Féin certainly didn’t doubt it, and was extremely worried at the prospect.

It is worth bearing in mind that something like Bloody Sunday could not then have happened, any more than it could have happened in an English, Scottish or Welsh city, where anyone would agree that it would have been as inconceivable then as it would be now.

Today, there are four interrelated obstacles to a “United Ireland”. There is the near-total opposition of public opinion in the Republic (even the increased Sinn Féin vote in the poorest parts of Dublin has nothing to do with “The Cause”, and indeed could not have been attained if that were really still being fought for). There is the very heavy dependence of even Sinn Féin-voting communities on levels of welfare spending that are simply inconceivable outside the United Kingdom.

There is the ferociously anti-Catholic character of intellectual and political life in the Republic, where seriously Catholic Cabinet Ministers such as Paul Murphy, Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Andy Burnham are now unimaginable. And there is Sinn Féin itself, looking forward to Gerry Adams as President of the Republic at the same time as Martin Maguiness becomes First Minister of Northern Ireland, and in no mood to liquidate itself by actually bringing about a “United Ireland”.

Like its new best friends in the DUP, Sinn Féin has no remaining reason to exist. Nor has any other of the tired Northern Ireland parties. It is time to return to the Civil Rights agenda, and specifically to accord full political rights to the people of Northern Ireland. As the tired mainland parties simply die out, their grassroots-based replacements must grow up from such roots in every part of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.

The Myth of Galileo

William E Carroll writes:

Last week, the BBC reported on the letter signed by 67 professors at the Sapienza University of Rome, which urged the cancellation of a speech by Pope Benedict because of remarks he made about Galileo in 1990. The BBC noted that, whereas Pope John Paul II had formally admitted that the Earth moved and that the Church had erred in condemning Galileo, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had cited the comments of the philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend, that the Inquisition’s actions in the Galileo Affair were “reasonable and just”.

In fact, Ratzinger had not endorsed Feyerabend’s historical judgment so much as reflected on the fact that some scholars had come to see dangers in modern science and technology. As he has done since becoming Pope, he warned against identifying reason with only what science affirms.

The signatories said they were “humiliated and offended” by what the Pope had said more than 17 years ago. In the midst of the spiralling controversy, he cancelled his appearance, sending instead only the text of his remarks. And so a legend was perpetuated.

The humbled Galileo, kneeling before the cardinals of the Inquisition, being forced to admit that the Earth did not move – one could not ask for a clearer image of blind faith, biblical literalism and superstition. It occupies a prominent place in mythology of the history of religion and science. Indeed, the modern world is determined to resist any challenge to the view that Galileo was persecuted by the Church as part of an attempt to thwart the rise of science.

When John Paul II spoke before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1992, he noted that the Inquisition had failed to distinguish properly between particular interpretations of the Bible and questions which in fact pertained to scientific investigation. He also observed that an unfortunate consequence of the condemnation of Galileo was that it had reinforced the myth of an incompatibility between faith and science. That such a myth was alive and well was apparent in the headline on the front page of the New York Times: “After 350 Years, Vatican Says Galileo Was Right: It Moves.” John Paul’s remarks would rectify “the persecution of the Italian astronomer and physicist for proving the Earth moves about the Sun”. The BBC’s report last week was in this vein.

The story of Galileo is often used as evidence for the view that the Church has been hostile to science and that what it once taught it now denies. In debates about cloning or stem-cell research, proponents often compare opposition to such research to the Inquisition’s treatment of Galileo. But are these ideological uses of the legend justified by the historical record?

Galileo’s telescopic observations served him well in his defence of a moving Earth. But we must distinguish between arguments in favour of a position and arguments that prove a position to be true.

Galileo did not prove that the Earth moves about the sun. In fact, Galileo and the Inquisition accepted the prevailing ideal of scientific demonstration which required that science be sure and certain knowledge in terms of necessary causes, not the conclusions of hypothetical or probabilistic reasoning which today we accept as science. Galileo himself did not think that his observations provided evidence to prove that the Earth moves. He hoped eventually to argue conclusively from the fact of ocean tides to the double motion of the Earth as the only possible cause, but he did not succeed.

Cardinal Bellarmino, Jesuit theologian and member of the Inquisition, told Galileo in 1615 that if there were a true demonstration for the motion of the Earth then the Church would have to abandon its traditional reading of those passages in the Bible which appeared to be contrary. But, in the absence of such a demonstration, and in the midst of the controversies of the Protestant Reformation, the cardinal urged prudence: treat Copernican astronomy simply as a hypothetical model which accounts for the observed phenomena.

It was not Church doctrine that the Earth did not move. If the cardinal had thought that the immobility of the Earth were a matter of faith, he could not argue, as he did, that it might be possible to demonstrate that the Earth does move.

The theologians of the Inquisition and Galileo adhered to the principle that, since God is the author of all truth, the truths of science and the truths of revelation cannot contradict one another. In 1616, when the Inquisition ordered Galileo not to defend Copernican astronomy, there was no demonstration for the motion of the Earth. Galileo expected that there would be such a demonstration; the theologians did not. It seemed obvious to the theologians that the Earth did not move and, since the Bible does not contradict the truths of nature, the theologians concluded that the Bible also affirms that the Earth does not move.

The Inquisition did not think that it was requiring Galileo to choose between faith and science. Nor did he.

Remember that Galileo and the Inquisition thought that science was absolutely certain knowledge, guaranteed by rigorous demonstrations. Being convinced that the Earth moves is different from knowing that it moves.

What the Inquisition did – unwisely ­– was to subordinate the interpretation of certain passages of the Bible to a geocentric cosmology, a cosmology which would eventually be rejected. Such an action is really the opposite of the domination of science by religious faith.

In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, in which he supported the Copernican “world system”. As a result, he was charged with disobeying the 1616 injunction not to defend Copernican astronomy. In 1633, the Inquisition required that he publicly and formally affirm that the Earth does not move. Galileo reluctantly acquiesced.

From beginning to end, the actions of the Inquisition were disciplinary, not doctrinal, although they were based on the erroneous notion that it was heretical to claim that the Earth moves. Erroneous notions remain only notions; opinions of theologians are not the same as Christian doctrine.

The notion of the Galileo affair as a central chapter in a long war between science and religion was strengthened by the 19th-century disputes over Darwin. The supporters of evolution were seen as modern Galileos; opponents as modern inquisitors. Opponents of the declaration of papal infallibility (1870) also invoked Galileo to demonstrate what they regarded as its absurdity. Had not popes solemnly proclaimed that the Earth does not move? Likewise, proponents of Italian unification clothed themselves in the mantle of Galileo.

There is no evidence that when Galileo acceded to the demand that he renounce the view that the Earth moves that he muttered under his breath, eppur si muove, “but still it moves”. What continues to move, despite evidence to the contrary, is the legend that Galileo represents reason and science in conflict with faith and religion.

William E Carroll is Thomas Aquinas Fellow in Theology and Science, Blackfriars, Oxford


But unless you saw yesterday’s Guardian, you’d never know.

Funny, that.

How's About That, Then?

Those who might be considering inappropriate behaviour on the streets of Liverpool now face the prospect of being called into line by the voice of Sir Jimmy Saville, addressing them from a lamppost. Doubtless similar schemes will be pursued across the country. But we do not need celebrity voices from lampposts. We need people. Guards on the trains. Conductors on the buses. Park keepers in the parks. And Police on the streets.

What's In Their Bundle?

The über-bloggers have been distressed this week after Newsnight showed the Morning Star in its “Tomorrow’s Headlines” slot at the end, with some suggesting, apparently in complete seriousness, that their own blogs should expect similar treatment.

It transpires that all Ministers receive a bundle of 14 first editions each evening, including the Morning Star. Well, I can only think of 10 national daily newspapers. Plus the Morning Star and (presumably, though not for any good reason) the Evening Standard, and I am still two short. Can anyone tell me what they are, and why?

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Happy Australia Day

God Save The Queen.

The Johnson Junta

I was going to post something about who Boris Johnson could possibly appoint to the various positions in the gift of Mayor of London, currently held by people who are such dangerous Trots that they have worked happily with the City and the Met for the last eight years. After all, I thought, with two of the Bullingdon Club already busy (if that is the word) as Leader of the Opposition and as Shadow Chancellor, then whom does that leave? Darius Guppy?

But I have come to a horrible, obvious realisation. The reason that the Left's nasty neocon parasites (Nick Cohen, Martin Bright, Straight Left or whatever it now calls itself) are so keen on Boris is because he has already promised them specific, astronomically remunerated positions. The American Enterprise Institute and the Project for the New American Century would then be in day-to-day control of a state within the British State.

Don't let it happen. In spite of everything, Vote Ken.


The Clinton (previously known as the Democratic Party as an organisation) simply assumes the black vote, though for no apparent reason, since Clinton's own treatment of blacks called eerily to mind what a George Wallace Presidency would have been like if it had ever happened. The Clinton simply cannot believe that a person of dusky hue would be so uppity (undoubtedly the word used) as to wish to become President in his own right.

Likewise, the thrice-married, pro-abortion, culturally Episcopalian but philosophically agnostic supporters of same-sex "marriage" who run the Republican Party simply assume the rural and suburban white Evangelical vote, though for no apparent reason, since they have never done the slightest thing in any of the causes dear to such hearts (quite the reverse, in fact), and since their economic policies hit the rural and suburban white Evangelical constituency even as hard as they hit the urban white Catholics and the blacks. The Republican Party machine simply cannot believe that a rural white Evangelical would be so uppity (undoubtedly the word used) as to wish to become President in his own right.

Which of these two uppity candidates is better? Well, the person of dusky hue doesn't actually have any policies, so removing him would be a walkover for the Republicans in 2012. Whereas the rural white Evangelical wants to help the poor and keep out of wars, and could only be removed in 2012 by a proper Democrat who re-created the coalition of the working and middle classes, black and white, English-speaking and Christian, across America's cities, suburbs and countryside: economically populist, morally and socially conservative, and opposed equally to coercive utopianism and world government and to isolationism and laissez faire.

Thanks to the corporate media blackout, the hope of John Edwards in 2008 is fading fast. If you want John Edwards in 2012 (when, as much as anything else, his own trajectory towards that position will be complete), then vote for Mike Huckabee this year. Go on. Be uppity.

Tony Blair At Davos

Why is he there? You might well ask why anyone is there, bu7t specifically why is Blair? He seems to be Doing A Maggie, pretending to be an international figure even once he is out of office, until guards have to be placed at the windows to stop him from climbing in, just as they had to be for her. It's sad, really. But entirely to be expected, alas.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Strengthening Links

Many thanks to The Exile for linking here (I linked to him quite a while ago). From time to time, I discover sites linking here and add them to my blog roll. If you have such a link and are not on it, then do please let me know.

What A Carry On

Whenever I hear the name of the Afghan President, I always feel that he should be played by the turbaned figure of Kenneth Williams. But he is right: what are we doing in Afghanistan? What, exactly, would constitute victory or defeat there? And why, exactly? We merrily grow opium in our country "for medicinal purposes". We are allied to Islamist smack-smugglers in Kosovo.

And the reviled "Taliban" are exactly the same people as the revered "tribal elders", depending on what we happen to think of them at the time. On the same basis, the "Ba'athists" whom we are in the process of "rehabilitating" in Iraq are exactly the same people as the "Sunni insurgents" or the alleged Iraqi branch of that non-existent organisation, "al-Qaeda".

Today's Timorous Beastie

I refer to the latest report on electoral reform, which unsurprisingly claims that First Past The Post works well (as Political Class figures would say, wouldn't they?), and that in any case nothing can be done until House of Lords reform is complete. Well, get on with that, then. Better still, get on with this and this . Or have I missed something?

Laying Down The Laws

David Laws, a Catholic, was forthright in his defence of church schools on Question Time last night. Good for him. How many secular public schools are there?

And we all know that the real objection to "faith schools" is that Catholic ones have been so good at, according to the old Christian Brothers' maxim, "taking the sons of dockers and turning them into doctors".

The professions, and thus the places where professional people live, now contain any number of people originally from Scotland, the North, the Midlands and the less salubrious parts of the South, with working-class grandparents or even parents, and with Irish great-grandparents. Where will it all end, Your Pollyness The Toynbee?

So Laws's own Lib Dems have a party policy of abolishing "faith schools". Where does that leave him? And isn't it time that people knew this policy to be the case?

Great Loss

Mick Hall has this obituary for Jim Reddell, of whom I had never heard, but which I reprint here because he stands as an example of what we have lost the length and breadth of the land:

I have included an obituary of Jim Reddell for a number of reasons, he was a dying breed in the British Labour Party, working class, trade unionist, absolutely loyal to the Party and Country through thick and thin, conservative with a small c, yet well to the left of most of todays Labour MPs. The likes of Jim were to be found in almost every Constituency LP in the land, up until Tony Blair became leader that is. Hard working, first rate local councillors who new the people they represented like the back of their hand, in their time they sorted out more personal problems than the average CAB advisor of today. Yet Blair and his ilk had no use for them and moved them aside to make way for middle class New Labour wide-boys/girls who were passing through and had no interest in the people that Labour had been founded to represent. Indeed alongside the demise of the likes of Jim Reddell came the demise of the British Labour Party as a vehicle for progressive change

I will also admit to a personal connection with Jim in that he lived in a village not far from where I now live and he was a member of the AEU which was the for-runner of my own Trade Union. For many years he was the only LP member of Brentwood Council, which in those days was a bastion of bourgeois snobbishness, and when he was named a Freeman of Brentwood, the first since 1040, we can only imagine the delight this brought to Brother Reddell when he accepted this offer, as he was working class, a trade unionist and proud of it.

Jim Reddell
Gordon Reddell

Seaman, soldier, local councillor, trade unionist and community activist Jim Reddell, who has died aged 97, made a difference to many people's lives. Born north of Oxford Street, London, he was placed in a children's home when he was 10 because his mother could not afford to keep him. At 12, he was apprenticed at a car factory, leaving to go to sea and qualifying as a ship's cook. A brief period of civilian employment followed before he joined the Essex regiment in 1932, going with them to the Saar region on the borders of France and Germany to help police the 1935 plebiscite. The following year, he married Edith McMurchie, who supported him in all his activities.

Earning stripes through his ability - and regularly losing them through his rebellious streak - Jim remained in Britain until D-day, when he went ashore with his regiment. After demobilisation, he got a fitter's job with Howard Rotovators in West Horndon, and joined the AEU.

Then began his activism. He became involved in the British Legion campaign to persuade local councils to rehouse returning soldiers. His love of sport saw him play cricket and football for the works teams, and he became a local councillor in Brentwood, Essex, often its only Labour representative. He was also a governor at Hedley Walter school, all the time assisting people with their problems.

Brentwood made him an honorary freeman in 1999, an honour, he was delighted to tell everyone, that had not been awarded since 1040. He became a Chelsea pensioner, proudly wearing the scarlet, and a visit to Hedley Walter school was a pleasure when they named a new technology block after him. Seeing the old republican squirm with delight in his wheelchair, when meeting the Queen at a Remembrance Day event, was almost embarrassing.

Jim died quickly and quietly, alert to the last. Edith predeceased him, in 1998, as did their daughter Evelyn, in 1997. He is survived by me, his son, six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and countless friends.

There is now the possibility of a return to such politics: "conservative with a small c, yet [or, rather, "and therefore"] well to the left of most of today's Labour MPs."

The Empty Cabinet

Were it not for the strange fact that Wales now has a full-time Secretary of State like Northern Ireland but Scotland has only a part-timer, then the return of Paul Murphy to the Cabinet would be a cause of much joy. As things are, it is still by some distance the best news from this reshuffle. Murphy is the only politician promoted.

The present Cabinet is astonishing bare, weak, thin and empty. Brown has deliberately surrounded himself with nonentities. Is he really that insecure? And since he will have to go one day, where does he expect his successor to come from?

The Counting House

Had it not been for Peter Hain, then the big story would have been MPs' pay. And they deserve credit for the decision that they made. But their pay should be fixed by statute at the median wage in the public sector, which should in turn be fixed by statute at the median wage in the private sector.

And they should be made to earn it, both by requiring all EU legislation to pass through both Houses exactly as if it had originated in one or other of them, and by the United Kingdom Parliament's routine exercise of its right to enact legislation across all policy areas throughout the Kingdom, overriding that enacted by any devolved body. Parliament would therefore have to sit with decent frequency.

Furthermore, the additional pay to Ministers should come nowhere close to constituting second salaries over and above those that they are in any case receiving as MPs. At present, the difference in pay between a Cabinet Minister and the next rung down as a Minister of State is about forty thousand pounds. In other words, twice national median earnings for full-time work is what these people regard as a mere grading difference.

Deep Down

Geoffrey Robinson, whose Eurosceptic leanings have long been known (as have those of all Brownites, pretty much by definition), not only told the Question Time audience that he had been "no great advocate of adopting" the European Convention on Human Rights, but then went on to give the Lisbon Treaty an endorsement several degrees below lukewarm. The man with whom he has shared a relationship of mutual patronage for very many years did not, of course, attend the votes on that Treaty this week.

All in all, Robinson gave the latest in a long and expanding signs of deepening scepticism - or, rather, of the open expression of a deep scepticism which has always been there - on the Labour (and, to a lesser extent for now, Lib Dem) benches, including among those with the closest links to the very heart of government, and not just about the EU, but also about connected matters such the loosening of the United Kingdom. So don't expect anything radical on electoral reform or on replacing the House of Lords. And don't even think about trying for further devolution, never mind a referendum on Scottish independence.

Meanwhile, Oliver Letwin's failure to promise a future referendum on the Lisbon Treaty should the Tories ever return to office was not just utterly unsurprising, but also very telling. The Cameroons want this Treaty. They want anything that the European Commission wants, as expressed through its emissary, their Svengali, Michael Heseltine. But they can't say so, for fear of such activists and core voters as their party still has left. So they are relying on this Treaty's already being in force before the next Election, so that they can go into saying that there is nothing that they can do.

The Italian Job

The situation in Italy is a most interesting example of the power that can be wielded by an economically social-democratic, morally and socially conservative party.

Alex James On Question Time

Am I really that old?

Who next from the Britpop era, and why?

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Peter Hain Need Not Worry

We all know that he stands no chance of being prosecuted. But just to be certain, he should now call for the Police to be paid in full.

Do You Ken?

I am not the biggest fan of Ken Livingstone, but his removal as Mayor of London is obviously now the number one priority of the war machine's nominally British operation. So, if for that reason alone, vote Ken.

You do realise, don't you, that if a non-Labour candidate (which Livingstone has never been, not really) won, then Brown would just follow Thatcher's GLC precedent and abolish the position?


Both British and American.

The reckoning is coming.

Only Fools And Horses

David Cameron thinks that this is a description of his upbringing, and has never heard of the television programme.

Most Old Etonians would have watched it. But Cameron is not most Old Etonians. Of course a Bullingdon Boy knows nothing of such popular culture, although such Boys know nothing about high culture, either. I am truly surprised that even anyone in Cameron's office had ever heard of Del Boy, and not at all surprised that they knew nothing more than the character's name. Yet the Tories and their media cheerleaders, not least on the warmongering pseudo-Left, want Bullingdon Boys as Prime Minister, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as Mayor of London.

In fact, yesterday's PMQs was very weak from both "Opposition" Leaders. Northern Rock again, just for a change. But no mention whatever of the Police demonstration. Useless. Utterly, utterly, utterly useless.

Auntie's Old Habits Die Hard

The BBC might have gone over to Cameron as the candidate of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, but it is still ignoring Labour divisions as it has always done, primarily over the EU (it never mentioned the three times as many Labour MPs as Tories who voted against Maastricht, it never mentioned the forty-odd Labour MPs who defied the Whip to vote against the European Finance Bill when a tiny handful of Tories had the Whip withdrawn for abstaining, it did not interview a single Labour Eurosceptic during more than one thousand hours of coverage of the last European Elections, and so on), but also over other matters.

Yesterday's rally by the Police Federation did indeed give its Chairman, Jan Berry, a standing ovation, as reported by the BBC. It also gave one to Keith Vaz, but not to David Davis or Nick Clegg, well-received though both those speeches were. The Beeb played extracts from Davis's and Clegg's speeches. But it did not even mention that Vaz had been present. Nor, indeed, that Ken Livingstone had also attended.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Tartan Tories

Trouble from the Tories' London HQ over their Scottish section's support for further devolution, and general cosying up to the SNP. I can't see why anyone is remotely surprised. The SNP are Tories who happen to believe that the Tory subcultural interest would be better served by independence, and the Scottish Tories are Nationalists who happen to believe that the Nationalist interest is best served (for now) within the Union. The alliance is natural. The SNP is where the Tories went when they no longer wished to be seen as such, the way they become Lib Dems in England. But they are still the Tories. Who knew? Who didn't!

Lie Your Children Into Good Schools

So says David Cameron.

And please, none of the usual "church schools are the problem" rubbish. How many secular public schools are there?

Pret A Manger

They have to do it in green language, but that isn't really the point, which is that "Wherever possible, we buy British." The job you save might be your own.

The Blue Light Has Finally Gone Out

As the Police (now part of a new Triple Alliance with the fireman and the prison officers) march in protest through Westminster to a rally addressed by Keith Vaz, David Davis and Nick Clegg (and attended by Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick), this is the day when the Blair Coalition finally fell apart, and New Labour finally died.

Thank God for that.

ID Cards: Drop The Dead Donkey

They are not now going to happen, and Brown should just admit it.

Socialism For The Rich, Capitalism For The Poor

A dozen years ago, Jonathan Freedland was trying to call the British Left away from Socialism and back to Liberalism, with a view to turning Britain into a miniature version of his rather rosy, Clinton-era view of the United States. But look at him today:

Gordon Brown used to say it so often it became a pantomime refrain: "No return to boom and bust". Well, the boom ended a while ago; now we're looking at the bust. The Black Monday of 2008, which saw £77bn wiped off London share values, was matched at one point yesterday on Wall Street, where even a drastic emergency cut in interest rates could not prevent wild volatility. The sages say we're heading into a global bear market, in which share prices can decline by more than 20%. The only argument now is over how drastic the impact will be on the real world, away from the traders' screens. The Pollyannas say we're in for nothing more than a slowdown, even if it is a sharp one. The Cassandras predict a fullblown recession; one American investment strategist anticipates the worst downtown for his country since 1945. And few believe that if the US takes that kind of kicking, we won't get hurt.

For those whose focus is on politics more than economics, this prompts two questions. The first is narrow and immediate: how will this affect Brown and his government? The second is larger and more searching: where does this leave the ideology that has governed not only Britain but the industrialised world for the past 20 years?

For Brown, the prospects should be bleak. His entire pitch for leadership has been his past stewardship of the economy. A stock market crash and possible recession could shatter that record. Less personally, it is a truism that elections are won and lost - mainly lost - on this ground. When money gets tight, and jobs get scarce, incumbents can lose. Just ask George Bush's father.

That, at least, is the conventional wisdom. The contrary view holds that it's precisely when times are tough that voters turn for reassurance to those leaders they already know. Margaret Thatcher was re-elected despite the recession of 1981, and John Major won amid economic gloom in 1992. This holds especially true if the alternative is seen as a shaky pair of hands, as both Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock were. Brown has to hope, then, that Britons will react to the storm by sticking with the rain-soaked helmsman already on the bridge, rather than chancing it with the untested Conservatives. To this end, as I have argued before, Labour needs to get to work fast in casting David Cameron and George Osborne as not only inexperienced, but also as cut from the very same cloth as the City bonus boys who got us in this mess in the first place. It may be unfair, it may rely on cultural prejudice, but it would be effective.

There is a more profound response the government could make to the crisis, one that relates to that second question. For surely this is the moment when Labour and the centre-left can dare to question the neoliberal dogma that has prevailed since the days of Thatcher. That creed has never looked weaker.

Even before the latest stock market woes, there were voices from deep inside capitalism - not confined to George Soros and Ronald Cohen - fretting for the sustainability of a model that causes such gaping inequality, with a class of super-rich "racing away" from the rest of society, to quote last week's study of the mega-wealthy by the impeccably non-ideological Institute for Fiscal Studies. How long would people be prepared to stomach a system that, to cite just one example, allows the founding family of the American store chain Wal-Mart to gain an estimated $90bn in 2005 - as much as the bottom 40% of the entire US population, some 120 million people, did in the same year? Still, it seems that plenty of today's masters of the universe could live with the charge of mere unfairness. The current convulsions are far harder to shrug off.

For they suggest turbo-capitalism is not just unfair - it is dishonest and dangerous. If that sounds excessive, focus, if you will, on the banking sector at the heart of today's mess. It was the reckless gobbling up and selling on of shaky subprime loans - mortgages given to bad-risk customers - by American banks, and the threat that those debts would never be paid back, that triggered the entire loss of confidence that stopped banks lending to each other and caused the run on our own Northern Rock. Those sub-prime debts were dodgy, but they were wrapped up and sold on as if they were triple-A-rated, pukka debts, as solid as a government bond.

That was dishonest - and you need only look at the cost to the taxpayer of Northern Rock, £24bn in loans and another £30bn in guarantees, to see how dangerous it has been for our economy and, given the diversion of public money that could have gone elsewhere, for our entire society. No wonder Financial Times guru Martin Wolf felt moved to warn his readers last week: "I now fear that the combination of the fragility of the financial system with the huge rewards it generates for insiders will destroy something even more important - the political legitimacy of the market economy itself."

If the market economy is looking peaky, then its accompanying free market ideology should be on life support. Behold the hypocrisy. The free marketeers have spent the past two decades preaching against the evils of state intervention, the dead hand of government, the need to roll back the frontiers, and so on. Yet what happens when these buccaneers of unfettered capitalism run into trouble? They go running to the nanny state they so deplore, sob into her lap and beg for help. The results of their own greed - "exuberance", they call it - and incompetence have caused more than 100 substantial banking crises over the past 30 years, yet time and again it is the reviled state which answers the call for help. Four times in this period, the authorities have had to rescue crucial parts of the US financial setup. If the banks make money, they get to keep it. The moment they look like losing it, we have to cough up. In Wolf's brilliant summary: "No industry has a comparable talent for privatising gains and socialising losses."

The hypocrisy is on display again as "private" bidders for Northern Rock seek to have full control of the bank while the government keeps full responsibility for keeping it afloat. It's a great deal for them and a rotten one for us. The Rock is an extreme example, but the rest of the banks are not much better. Note the eagerness of Citigroup and Barclays to get their hands on the "sovereign wealth" of communist China: last time I checked, that was pretty state-controlled, but for some reason our freewheeling entrepreneurs don't seem to mind.

You could argue that capitalism is always like this, parasitical on the state. Whether it's the internet businesses that would be nowhere had it not been for the government research and development that created the web, or the vast agribusinesses and others dependent on the "corporate welfare" of state subsidy - an estimated $92bn a year in the US, according to the libertarian Cato Institute - it's time to admit there is no such thing as a free market.

Turbo-capitalism is happy to rely on us, the public, and our instrument, the state, when it gets in trouble. Now we should demand a say the rest of the time, too. Plenty of uber-capitalists are ready to concede that. The irony is, it's capitalism's more recent converts, including our own prime minister, who seem to find it so much harder.

The Failure of Neo-Liberalism

Philip Blond is always good:

More and more, it appears that in the 21st century we are returning to the economics of the 19th, where wealth was overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of a few owners and astute speculators.

Neither the Right nor the Left seem capable of creating a society in which all benefit from increased prosperity and economic security.

Right-wing claims that free markets will enrich all sections of society are palpably false, while the traditional European welfare state appears to penalize innovation and wealth-creation, thereby locking the poor and unskilled into institutionalized poverty and unemployment.

Thus in the new age of globalization, both ideologies create the same phenomenon: an underclass caught between welfare and low wages, a heavily indebted middle class increasingly subject to job and pension insecurity and a new class of the super rich who escape all rules of taxation and community.

It was in Britain that neo-liberalism first emerged in its decisive form. Confronted with union militancy and the apparent bankruptcy of the welfare state, the Conservative party under Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979. In America, Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, and the Anglo-Saxon countries have pursued and advocated free market liberalization ever since.

Today, its reach extends as far as communist China, which, while eschewing political freedom, fervently preaches economic liberalization. This year even the French acknowledged free market supremacy, electing a president who has persistently denounced the costs of Gallic welfarism and praised the economic advantages of the Anglo-Saxon model.

But the benefits of free market liberalization depend on who you are, where you are and how much money or assets you had to begin with.

In terms of economic development, free market fundamentalism has been a disaster. The free market solutions applied to Russia during the Yeltsin years succeeded only in mass impoverishment, the creation of a hugely wealthy oligarchical class and the rise of an authoritarian government.

Similarly, the growth rates of Latin America and Africa, which had been higher than other developing nations, dropped by over 60 percent after they embraced IMF-sponsored neo-liberalism in the 1980's, and have now ground to a halt.

On an individual level, a similar story pertains. Real wage increases in the top 13 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been below the rate of inflation since about 1970.

Thus wage earners - rather than asset owners - have faced a persistent 30-year downward pressure on their standard of living. It comes as no surprise to learn that the golden age for the wage worker, expressed as a percentage share of GDP, was between 1945 and 1973, and not under economic liberalization.

Nobody questions that trade increases prosperity, and that the liberalization of credit and financial services allow hitherto excluded groups to supplement their wages by buying shares or houses and thus participating in the asset economy.

But the real story of neo-liberal success is not the extension of assets to all, but the huge and disproportionate share of wealth attained by the very rich. In the United States, between 1979 and 2004 the wealthiest 1 percent saw an increase in their share of national income of 78 percent, whereas 80 percent of the population saw an overall decrease in their income share by 15 percent. That's a wealth transfer from the large majority to a tiny minority of some $664 billion.

The traditional Left panicked in the face of neo-liberal hegemony and spoke in the 1980's of redistribution, higher taxes and restrictions on capital transfers. But, outside of Scandinavia, they were whistling in the wind: Traditional state-regulated economies appeared locked into high unemployment and low growth.

A new path for the Left was offered by the country that first experienced the new Right: the UK. By the late 1990's, Britain was exhausted by Thatcherism; its public services were failing and the country was socially and economically fragmented. Thus in 1997 New Labor was elected.

Under the guidance of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the new progressives promised that the benefits of rising prosperity would be applied to the public sector and the poor. Social exclusion would be tackled by opening up education and extending opportunity to all. The rest of the world was once more transfixed by the social experiment taking place in Britain. Could this seemingly exclusive neo-liberal circle be squared for the benefit of all?

Sadly, after 10 years the conclusion has to be no.

Poverty in Britain doubled under Thatcher, and this figure has become permanent under New Labor. The share of the wealth, excluding housing, enjoyed by the bottom half of the population has fallen from 12 percent in 1976 to just 1 percent now. Thirteen million people now live in relative poverty. Social mobility has declined to pre-war levels.

The least able children from the richest 20 percent of the population now overtake the most able children from the bottom 20 percent by the age of seven. Nearly half of the richest group go on to get university degrees while only 10 percent of the poorest manage to graduate. Clearly, the New Left has entrenched class division even more firmly than the neo-liberal Right.

This in a nutshell is the problem: Both Left and Right seem incapable of challenging monopoly capitalism. Neither welfarism nor statism can transform the lives of the poor, and neither, it seems, can neo-liberalism. Only a shared economy can correct the natural tendency of the free market to favor monopolies.

But we can only share if all own. Thus there is a radical and as yet unexplored possibility - that of a general and widely distributed ownership and use of assets, credit and capital. This would dissolve the conflict between capital and labor since it would be a market without monopoly and a state where waged labor - since it was the owner of capital - did not need state welfare.

Get The Message


“In order to protect its own and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its allies, if the need arises, Russia will use its armed forces, along with the nuclear weapons,” said Chief of the General Staff or Russian Federation Armed Forces Yuri Baluyevsky on Saturday, according to RIA Novosti.

“We do not intend to attack anyone, but we consider it necessary for all our partners in the world community to clearly understand that to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia and its allies, military forces will be used, including preventively, including with the use of nuclear weapons,” Baluyevsky said at a military conference in a remark broadcast on state-run cable channel Vesti-24, according to the report also carried by the Associated Press.

When Talking Fails...

According to the agency RIA Novosti, General Baluyevsky who recently revealed that Russia will provide military assistance to Serbs if asked, said that military force can and should be used in order to demonstrate determination by the highest leadership of a state to defend its vital interests, as a final instance, when all the other means were proven inefficient.

Russia's military chief of staff assessed that, until recently, the humanity was hopeful for the future while awaiting the new millennium, but it quickly turned out that the expected “golden age” did not arrive, and numerous new threats came in its place.

Among them, General Baluyevsky included the inclination of certain states toward hegemony on both regional and global level, and the international terrorism.

“It turned out that countless problems and contradictions have been heaped up in the world, such as were either not existing before, or were hidden,” Baluyevsky said.

He said that Russia will form the armed forces that will be capable to respond to all the contemporary challenges and threats. He also called for further defining certain articles of the Concept of the National Security of Russia act from 1995, as well as for elaboration of the Strategy of Protecting the National Security that each of the state organs will be required to incorporate.

World War Three, here we come. And for what? For the despicable Kosovo "Liberation" Army? If we fight a war on their side, then we will be fighting it on the wrong side, morally and politically. Why do I even say "we"? It will be nothing to do with me.

Real Progress

Many thanks to Patrick for this:

They've just approved research in Bristol into using adult stem cells to treat heart attack patients (see today's Guardian)-amazing stuff really. No human embryos, or pig eggs with human nuclei involved. And this is happening now! How long before we can inject embryonic stem cells into people's hearts? Why would we want to?

If anyone can find the link, then I'd be enormously grateful.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Patrick again. Here is the link.

A Little Local Difficulty (Though Not For Me)

In reply to those who ask whether or not I have been suspended from Lanchester Parish Council, the answer is that apparently so, although it's coming to an end, I couldn't have gone to the meetings in question anyway, and I myself only became aware of the suspension when I read The Village Voice. To this day (and I repeat that the time is almost up), no one has ever notified me.

Everyone on the Parish Council to whom I have spoken (which is most of them) finds both this, and the ridiculous figure who went behind the Council's back to make it happen, hilarious and quite beneath contempt. Apart from him, I expect that they all do. I was drinking with several of them only last night, as I often do. He doesn't...

The whole thing has increased my stock no end. As for his...

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Locally Sourced

Local councils now make as much as, or more than, they raise in Council Tax from charging for parking, swimming pool use, school meals, and various other things that should be provided for free or there is simply no point in their being provided by a public body.

Councils need the power to raise their own business rates, perhaps a modest local property tax rather than the wickedly unfair Council Tax, and certainly a local tax on land value (and thus encouraging good use of the land itself) and a flat annual fee for registration as a local elector (which might therefore be made voluntary). That last would be dealt with through the benefits system on behalf of the very poor. And all these sources of revenue would be free of presumptive capping powers, which would be unconscionable in any other country, on the part of vastly more profligate and irresponsible central government.

Yet it seems that even the Lib Dems are giving up on local government, today proposing directly elected Health Boards of early or semi-retired middle-class busybodies. Or Lib Dems, as they are otherwise known. Like New Labour and the New Tories, the New Lib Dems seem utterly convinced that even the slightest spending anywhere between central government and the patient (or pupil, or whatever) is “waste”, and that we all want lots of “choice” in the NHS.

But I have a different idea about health policy: why not have a good general hospital within easy reach of everybody’s home, and administered within the local democratic process? It’s just a thought.


The BBC has missed a trick by not pointing out that Channel Four’s Dispatches last night was really just an hour-long reading out of material from the Newsnight-exposed forgers at Michael Gove’s Policy Exchange, as previously cut and pasted by Nick Cohen for publication in the Observer. That programme was presented by Martin Bright, Political Editor of the New Statesman, raising very serious questions indeed about what has become of that magazine. Who is going to ask those questions, and where?

Still, the programme had a point, albeit one at least as applicable to the Cohen-Policy Exchange Nexus/Axis, about the take-over of British political and wider public life by old Marxist baby boomers. Hardly anybody of that generation was ever actually involved in such politics, yet those who were now seem to be running pretty much everything. Even the judiciary. As Rod Liddle asked in the Spectator a couple of weeks ago, “How the hell did that happen?”

So much for Marx’s own dictum that the base dictates the superstructure. We might not have Marxist economics (although that is debatable, if you merely change the ending so that the bourgeoisie wins while leaving everything else intact). But we indisputably have Marxist everything, and everyone, else. So I, too, ask, how the hell did that happen? And what can we do about it? Well, this, for a start.

What's Cooking?

It comes as something of a surprise to me to learn that schoolchildren are not being taught to cook. Are you sure? Anyway, the usual response has come to any suggestion of this kind, namely that there is not the available curriculum time. In which case, what, exactly, is currently taking up that time? And why, exactly?

Monday, 21 January 2008

"Uneducated Unemployables"

A person who offensively posts here as "break dancing jesus", usually to claim that I write all my own comments (I do not), has this to say about the idea of increasing working-class representation in public life:

You can take the boy out of the Labour Party but you can't take the Labour Party out of the boy.

School/hospital/whatever governing bodies are "too middle-class" is the old old code for "I the upper-middle-class councillor (and if you're not then I don't know who the hell is) will make myself look like a man of the people by giving every position that any alternative might come from to uneducated unemployables who can't believe their luck and can't possibly threaten my position".

So there we have it - the authentic, and horribly unsurprising, New Labour view of the mere suggestion of including the working class.

Can you name "break dancing jesus"? Do you know a bdj of your own? Do tell.

The Bullingdon Broadcasting Corporation?

A comment on a previous post kindly informs me:

Observer readers outside London should know that the old gulag-denier Cohen, who used to call all critics of the USSR "Trotskyists", has already used his Evening Standard column to endorse his friend Bullingdon Boris the racist.

Might this evening's Dispatches, albeit on Channel Four (and for which I am going to have to catch the digital repeats of Corrie AND EastEnders - greater love hath no man), be discussed on this evening's Newsnight? I will be watching in order to find out, and specifically in order to see whether the Beeb is also aboard the Boris bandwagon.

Speaking of Newsnight, Nick Cohen's anti-Livingstone article was a copy and paste job from material put out by Policy Exchange, which was recently exposed on Newsnight as a forgers' den. Presumably, the Dispatches programme will be just the same. We shall see.

Good News From Serbia

Now we just need Russia to promise to back up any Serbian defence against Kosovar secessionism. Not even the EU and the Bush Administration would risk World War Three to defend a bunch of heroin-trafficking Wahhabi and black-shirted Holocaust-deniers. Would they?

God's Own Country?

Damian Thompson writes:

Which leading US presidential candidate believes that ancient Israelites migrated to America before Columbus, where they were – get this – visited by Jesus Christ?

Mitt Romney's belief in the Book of Mormon has raised eyebrows. This pseudo-historical fantasy is just about the battiest single idea I encountered when I was researching Counterknowledge [Thompson's forthcoming book]. Yet a man who believes it currently has more delegates to the Republican convention than any other candidate.

Yup, we’re talking about Mitt Romney, who belongs to the only world religion built on a foundation of pure counterknowledge: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To be sure, all religions make claims that the outside world believes to be false. But the Book of Mormon is unique.

Why? Because, unlike the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran, nothing in it actually happened. Nothing.

The “Jaredites” from the Middle East did not travel to America 2,000 years ago and found a civilisation that Mormon “historians” have the nerve to identify as the Olmecs. In fact, the Jaredites never existed.

Israelites did not arrive in the New World in 600 BC and split into Nephites and Lamanites; this is total fiction, devised by young Joseph Smith from New York in the 1820s. And – do I really need to point this out? – Jesus of Nazareth never set foot in America.

Mormonism is the only religion whose major claims (solemnly discussed in Mormon academic journals that have all the credibility of Star Trek fanzines) have been officially declared to be untrue by the Smithsonian Institution.

Every professional archaeologist in the world can produce evidence to show that the “alternative history” of the Book of Mormon is complete bunkum, up there with Erich von Däniken and Graham Hancock. So tell us, Mr Romney: why do you still believe it?

Like the popularity in Imperial Britain of the ancient "Jesus visited Glastonbury" story previously questioned in verse by Blake (although at least that could actually have happened - there really was trade between the Ancient Near East and the present West Country), and of British Israelism, the popularity of Mormonism in Imperial America doesn't really come as any surprise.

Furthermore, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists and other all officially teach that the Second Coming will occur in America, and is there any American churchgoer who doesn't believe that, deep down? Likewise, just as Mormons locate in Missouri both the Garden of Eden and the future site of Christ's Return and Reign, so the followers of Mother Shipton located (and, in tiny numbers, still do locate) them both in Bedford.

Christianity, and with it the popular reception and re-working of Christian texts and themes, is on the rise both in China and in India. Watch those spaces.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

What About The Workers?

Recent posts have caused me to be inundated with emails and unprintable comments about working-class representation. Or, rather, the lack of it.

Many of the stories about what are now little or nothing more than occupying powers (New Labour, in its narrower and broader senses) on council estates, in former pit villages, and so forth have been truly harrowing even to me, and I have heard very many such stories before. I have also just heard Polly Toynbee refer very dismissively to one of the most horrific categories while in conversation with Michael Gove and a BBC presenter, “as if that could happen to you or I!” No, Polly. It certainly couldn’t. So that’s all right, then. Isn’t it?

In addition to this, I am throwing open the debate on electing the judiciary for fixed terms (or at least, at the more senior levels, appointing judges for fixed terms and subject to parliamentary approval), about electing local prosecutors and police chiefs for fixed terms, and about guaranteeing equal numbers of AB, C1C2, and DE people on each jury and each bench of magistrates unless the defendant exercised a statutory right to insist on an all-AB, an all-C1C2, or an all-DE jury or bench.

This would involve abolishing stipendiary magistrates sitting alone, as should be done anyway. And it would be entirely compatible with restoring some sort of minimum qualification for jurors, since, contrary to what the upper middle classes tend to think, their incomes and lifestyle are not the norm, they are not the only people who pay tax, and they are not the only people who are householders.

The family courts must also be reformed most urgently, both because of what recent communications have convinced me is the endemic and organised kidnap of working-class children in order to hand them over to New Labour stalwarts whose glittering passages cannot be interrupted by pregnancy or childbirth, and because of their related use (in the absence of a legal presumption of equal parenting) to banish men of every class from the upbringing of children, reducing them to sperm banks and cash machines as personal vindictiveness is harnessed to everything that the salariat learned at Betty Friedan’s knee.

I have received many predictable, but no less pertinent, complaints about New Deal (how the poor are compelled to work for fifty pence per hour, and to give up vast amounts of time that could be spent looking for work) and about Sure Start (how rich women get their baby-sitters paid for by poor men, and thus by those men’s children and those children’s mothers).

Instead, the profits from the utilities and the banks should reimburse employers’ National Insurance contributions for employees aged 25 or under, aged 55 or over, or previously unemployed for 18 months or more (up to the length of that unemployment). And the mothers of small children should be paid a living wage (though not, of course, an extravagant salary) to look after them as the full-time job that that is.

I have long advocated the use of trade union money, not to fund New Labour, but instead, at least in part, to develop and deliver a recognised qualification for “non-graduates” with life and work experience who aspire to become MPs. If that could be done in partnership with local government, then so much the better. Certainly, central government’s withdrawal of funding from many institutions and courses provides a perfect opportunity for local government to step into the breach and reassert its historic role in tertiary education.

School governing bodies are what I know most about among bodies of that kind (hospital boards and so forth), and the absence of the working classes from them is actually frightening. In two stints on that of a primary school serving the very mixed country town where I live, and in two on that of a comprehensive school which happens to be here but which serves a much larger and overwhelmingly C2DE catchment area, I was privileged to serve with very many first-rate people.

But the fact remains that, apart from the County Councillor (at a push) and the odd parent governor, the composition was of the unassailable, mostly AB middle-classness that only the Labour Party and the churches (Anglican in the primary case, Catholic in the secondary case) can pull off with a straight face.

I should take a very great deal of persuading that things were any different in relation to the ostensibly public accountability of health, social services, housing, policing, or anything else. I have suggested how local government could better fulfil its responsibilities in this regard, at least once its proper powers were restored. Involved voluntary bodies (such as churches) should also consider this question most urgently.

The whole idea of the EU is founded on that of an elite culture excluding the heirs of the pitman poets and painters, the brass and silver bands, the Miners’ Lodge Libraries, the Workers’ Educational Association, and all the rest of that civilised and civilising world destroyed by the most philistine Prime Minister until Tony Blair. The EU’s institutions range from the sham-democratic to those overtly expressive of contempt for the popular will.

At the very least, we must restore the supremacy of British over EU law, require that the latter be passed by both Houses of Parliament exactly as if it had originated in one or the other, and mandate British Ministers to adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Anything tending to downplay Britishness in favour of any of its constituent parts always increases yet further the wealth and power of those best able to present themselves as embodying the soul of one part or another: the public schools, Oxbridge, the English Bar, and the upper echelons of the Church of England; the Scottish Bar and academocracy, which latter includes the upper echelons of the Church of Scotland; the Welsh-speaking elite; Ian Paisley or Martin Maguiness; and indeed the Irish-speaking elite within the professions in the Irish Republic. At the very least, the Parliament of the United Kingdom must routinely enact legislation across all policy areas applicable throughout the United Kingdom, as the devolution legislation presupposes.

(The class oppression inherent in the definition of the ecclesiastical, legal and educational systems as the untouchable essence of Scottishness, though with no corresponding suggestion about their English equivalents, is startling evident from the lack of any right to trial by jury in Scots Law, although that would be perfectly simple to remedy by statute. As would be any lack of a right of appeal to the Supreme Court, if there must be such a thing, once its justices were appointed for fixed terms and subject to parliamentary approval.)

And any erosion of the status of the monarchy would be, and is, greatly to the detriment of the working class. Whether on the Franco-American executive or the far more common ceremonial model, the office of an elected Head of State would invariably be occupied by a member of the metropolitan upper middle class, and the creation of that office would constitute that class’s supreme triumph over all others. In practice, those wishing to usurp either the residual powers or the ceremonial functions of the monarchy always come from that quarter.

Furthermore, working-class people are more likely to have family connections to those Commonwealth countries retaining the monarchy, especially to Australia and New Zealand, to Canada in (above all) the case of the Scots, and to those in the Caribbean. Whereas the partial or, potentially, total subversion of the Crown would and does express the Chiantishire and Cape Cod crowd’s closer affinity with (rich and ruling-class) Continental Europe and the (rich and ruling-class) United States.

Any thoughts?