Monday, 31 March 2008

Freedom For ALL Of China

Including Tibet. See Dispatches at 8pm on Channel Four tonight. Tibet is supposed to be exempt from the one child policy, but forced sterilisations are going on there. They shouldn't be, because they shouldn't be going on anywhere.

The Swiss Model

Neil Clark writes:

It's a country where both of its leading supermarkets are cooperatives inspired by leftwing philosophy. The state-owned postal service runs the buses, which connect even the most remote village- in this country public transport is still run as a public service. It hasn't been involved in a war for almost 200 years and is easily the most democratic country in Europe - with the regular use of referendums. It has taken a strong line on climate change: in the most recent general election the Greens polled almost 10%. And its unofficial national motto is "One for all, all for one". Yet, the country in question is one that progressives often sneer at- and label reactionary.

I'm talking of Switzerland, which, though it lies at the heart of Europe, is one of continent's countries about which there is most ignorance.

The first myth about Switzerland is that it operates an ultra-capitalist, dogmatically free-market economic system.

Although much of the economy is in private hands, if there is a conflict of interest in Switzerland between community and capital, community always comes first. Agriculture is highly protected - receiving twice the amount of subsidy than the EU average. Swiss Federal Railways in still in public ownership. Most shops close on Saturday afternoons and all day on Sunday. In Switzerland, unlike Britain, there are still areas where commerce is not allowed to go.

A second myth is that Switzerland is a boringly bourgeois and ultra-sanitised place where no self-respecting radical would feel at home. What surprises many who visit for the first time is the country's gritty and decidedly retro feel. Switzerland is dated - but in the best possible way. You can still smoke in wonderfully atmospheric railway station restaurant/cafes (I can heartily recommend the one at Thun) - and imagine it's still 1968. For someone coming from Britain, Swiss streets have a refreshingly un-globalised look. Away from the biggest cities, big international fast food and coffee shop chains, which have made British high streets such bland, uniform places, are conspicuous by their absence. Swiss cities still have a bohemian feel: there is a thriving cultural and artistic scene.

Another myth about Switzerland is that its people are narrow-minded xenophobes. The racist anti-immigration election poster of the Swiss People's party (SVP), which showed three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag, quite rightly led to condemnation from around the world. But less well publicised were the protests the poster sparked in Switzerland and the gains made in last year's election by the unequivocally anti-racist Green party.

Switzerland's model of direct democracy is one the left should study extremely closely. Swiss citizens may challenge a law that has been passed by parliament if they can gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days. In addition, citizens can put a constitutional amendment to a national vote, provided they get 100,000 voters to sign the proposed amendment within 18 months. Binding referendums also take place at cantonal and local level.

It's no coincidence that George Lansbury, the most socialist of all British Labour party leaders, spoke favourably of the Swiss model-and called for a similar system to be introduced in Britain.

Switzerland's commitment to democracy runs deep and explains the reluctance to hand over decision-making power to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. By maintaining its independence, Switzerland is able to follow its own path, and not be dictated to by those who act as if they rule the world. Despite warnings from the US embassy in Bern, Switzerland's energy trading company EGL earlier this month signed a 25-year-old natural gas contract with the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company. The Swiss president and foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, defended the deal, saying, "Switzerland is an independent country that has its own strategic interests to defend". If only other European nations could show such spirit when dealing with US bullying.

Forget the jibes about cuckoo clocks and the gnomes of Zurich: Switzerland has a lot more going for it from a progressive viewpoint than many on the left realise.

Like "boring" Switzerland, "boring" Belgium and "boring" Canada are also fascinating countries with a very great deal to teach us. Which is why all three are under threat from the closely connected forces of globalisation, American hegemony, and European federalism in the Belgian and Swiss cases.

Georgie Girl

If Harriet Harman is to answer PMQs this week, then the Tories should put up George Osborne. They look strikingly alike (and indeed might very well be related, since Harman is frightfully high-born): if Osborne dragged up, then he would look exactly like Harman; and if Harman dragged down, then she would look like an older version of Osborne.

Of course, their views are very different: Harman is a strong opponent of prostitution, and Peter Hitchens maintains that he and she were the only two people at York in his day who did not take drugs. But they are both in post for similar reasons. Harman is only there because she is a woman, and Osborne is only there because he is a member of the Bullingdon Club.


Of course central government hates allotments, just as it hates the local government that is trying to save them. Heaven forefend that each and every household might one day own a base of real property from which to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and their over-mighty client State. And heaven forefend that any decision might ever be taken over than by the former acting through the latter.

The Death of Liberty

Not content with trying to lock people up for six weeks without even so much as charging them with anything, the Government now wants to be able to appoint anyone it likes as the coroner in any case of its own choosing and then have the inquest (if it could be so described) held in complete secrecy without a jury.

School Exclusion

A Sinn Fein minister's exclusion of the Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist bodies in Northern Ireland from their historic, if slightly detached, role in schooling there is but a prelude to Sinn Fein's long-sought exclusion of the Catholic Church from Her historic, and anything but detached, role in schooling both in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic, egged on by the fanatically anti-Catholic political and intellectual classes in the Republic.

The Union has always been the last hope of Protestant Ireland. Now, even more than ever, the Union is also manifestly the last hope of Catholic Ireland.

John Hagee

And why you've never heard of him:

More than a week after John McCain’s endorsement by the anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic pastor John Hagee, the media continues to give the GOP nominee a free pass.
Consider the following pronouncements by Hagee, the man who McCain proudly introduced as an ally last week.

On Jews:

It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.


How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.

On gays:

All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are — were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment. And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.

Hagee, of course, is also a virulent anti-Catholic, who has suggested that the pope is the anti-Christ, and that Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitism was the result of being educated at a Catholic school.

One would think that when a leading presidential candidate proudly touts the support of such a figure, the issue would receive close scrutiny from the press. But last week, once McCain assured reporters that, just because Hagee was endorsing him, it didn’t mean he agreed with everything Hagee said, the mainstream media essentially let the matter drop. Chalk another up for the Straight-Talking candidate.

That’s all the more remarkable given the high-profile grilling Barack Obama has received on the subject of Louis Farrakhan. In a recent Democratic debate, Tim Russert asked Obama to reject Farrakhan’s support. And in January, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen drew attention to the fact that a magazine controlled by Obama’s pastor had given an award to the Nation of Islam founder.

But so far, neither Russert nor anyone else at NBC News has seen fit to press McCain on the subject, and Cohen hasn’t chosen to write about it. And remember, Obama did nothing to solicit Farrakhan’s support, while McCain actively sought Hagee’s and appeared on stage with him.

We’ve asked both NBC News and Cohen whether they plan to, given their concern about Obama’s Farrakhan “ties,” and will let you know what we hear.

Business Meetings In Lap-Dancing Clubs

Apparently, millions of pounds are at stake if you don't take clients to these establishments, which were unknown in this country a dozen years ago. In other words, money is available in return for the exploitation of women's bodies. There's a word for that.

You're Fayed

Why hasn't he been deported? After today, how much longer do we have to wait before we are rid of this ghastly man?

Happy Ninetieth Birthday To The RAF

Will there be a hundredth? Not if the neocons have anything to do with it. But they don't have to have.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Give Us Fathers, Not Big Brother

Peter Hitchens is on dazzling form with this:

This week we have a rare glimpse of the true agenda of our new, modernised rulers. They have disclosed their secret, virulent loathing of fatherhood.

They wish to abolish independent, free families headed by husbands, and have us all dependent on the nosy-parker state.

They pretend to be pro-family. But, very occasionally, they have to admit what they are really doing, so as to slip it through Parliament or the civil service. It's always in some tiny sub-clause.

For instance, a little-read November 2003 document led to a ban on the mention of marriage on government forms. Effectively this ended any official recognition of the status of 'husband' or 'wife', a change partly to blame for the tragic collapse in the number of marriages revealed this week.

Now we have the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, only seven years after the last one on this subject. Before that, in a 1990 Act, Parliament still dared to say that a child needed a father.

It declared: "A woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment (including the need of that child for a father)."

But now the words 'a father' will be replaced by 'supportive parenting'. Next, what the law said as recently as 1990 will be unsayable in a public place. Opponents of this change will, as usual, be falsely smeared as bigots.

In fact, the change - never openly argued for by its supporters - is a revolutionary blow at the foundations of British society. It is driven by the thinking of a few Marxist weirdos, including Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.

Their wild and twisted ideas were popular among students 40 years ago, when our present generation of MPs, broadcasters and civil servants were lazing on the lawns of their universities. Once before, these people let their cat out of the bag for a swift, frightening moment.

Still to be found in the archives of The Times for February 1980 is a letter from Helen Brook, who spent much of her life obsessively pressing contraceptives first on unmarried women, then on schoolchildren. The triumph of her creepy beliefs has brought about a pandemic of unwanted pregnancies and abortions,the very things she claimed to be preventing.

She let her real aim be known when she wagged her finger warningly at those who dared get in her way, hissing: 'From birth till death it is now the privilege of the parental State to take major decisions - objective, unemotional, the State weighs up what is best for the child.' She knew power was on her side.

When, back in 1967, she offered contraceptive 'help' to under-age girls - behind the backs of their parents and their GPs - most normal people viewed her actions as shocking. In 1995 (under a Tory government, of course) she got the CBE. Now her view is the law of the land.

And it is clearer every day that, as the family grows weaker, the parental State is coldly weighing up what is best for us all, with its armoury of identity cards, DNA databases, fingerprints, CCTV cameras and interfering social workers.

We have more or less banned smacking, so tender are we, but have created a feral society swirling with gun and knife crime (and, of course, boot crime, which is just as dangerous if you get your head kicked as if it were a football). And it can only be controlled by a authoritarian state.

We have got rid of fathers, and will soon make them illegal. And instead we shall have Big Brother.

As with this week’s Spectator editorial, the message is starting to get through. Abhorrent though human-animal hybridity is, it is scientifically quite complicated. But the abolition of fatherhood is not.

This evil Bill must be stopped. And it can be.

King of Kings

Do you have to be a failed politician to be allowed to make television documentaries?

After Michael Portillo, last night saw Oona King’s hour-long revelation of the startling fact that Martin Luther King was in fact a Baptist minister who appears to have believed in God and everything, and who went so far as to deploy in his speeches, not just Biblical references and images, but at times even direct quotations. Who’d have thought it? Well, not Oona, apparently. She was quite visibly astonished.

Once tipped as a future Leader of the Labour Party, she had never heard of anyone whose robustly orthodox and Biblical faith fed, and was fed by, a radical critique of poverty, injustice and war, so that that faith actually became deeper, and more robustly orthodox and Biblical, as poverty, injustice and war called ever more starkly for radical action, the resources for which neither secularism nor its theological imitations can provide.

No doubt, she just thought of Labour as what student Trots did once they grew older, grew richer, and fancied becoming MPs or lavishly remunerated hangers on. Which is exactly what New Labour is, of course. So, although she was never so much as a PPS between 1997 and 2005, she really could have been its Leader eventually, if she had kept her seat.

Thank God for George Galloway.

Putting The Public Into Public Service Broadcasting

Rumour has it that David Cameron, that endless recycler of Friday afternoon think-tank suggestions from Blairite days of yore, wants part of the BBC’s revenue to be diverted to “public service projects” on other networks, as identified by some or other quango set up for the purpose. I think we all know what would be this glorified Notting Hill dinner party’s concept of public service broadcasting.

And in any case, I don’t know why Cameron sees anything wrong with the BBC. It is now fanatically pro-Cameron. If this had been some lame old Nineties retro initiative about anything else, then the Beeb would have been shouting it from the rooftops.

As Peter Hitchens reveals today, its top brass paid court to Cameron on 28th February, but it took a Freedom of Information request for anybody to find out, and even now we don’t know what was discussed. Except, of course, that we can see perfectly well.

Instead of whatever Cameron has in mind and Brown’s successor might therefore actually do in 10 years’ time (there is no Tory threat, so there is no point to the Labour Party – deal with it), let the license fee be made voluntary, with those who choose to pay it enrolled as members of the BBC Trust.

The Trustees would be elected by and from among the members in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the nine English regions (with their boundaries adjusted to reflect those of the historic counties). Members would vote for one candidate by means of an X, and the top two would be declared elected at the end. A Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State with the approval of the relevant Select Committee.

All would hold office for a fixed term of four years, and would have to be sufficiently independent that they could, in principle, serve on local authority remuneration committees.

The Enclosure of Urban England

Essential reading.


“Look at the various parts of the national infrastructure that have been privatised, and practically all of them have gone downhill: buses, trains, water, power.”

So says Sir Terence Conran, and of course he is right. To his list we may and must now add Terminal Five at Heathrow.

Privatisation is also why the hospitals are now filthy. They will remain filthy until it is reversed. Simple as that.

Me Included

According to Greg Clark:

"As well as Shakespeare, British children might have to struggle through Chinese or Urdu classics. A lot of people might not like that. Me included."

And me. By all means let British children study “Chinese or Urdu classics” once they have mastered Shakespeare (whom they should increasingly be so lucky to get), among many others (whom they are even less likely to encounter).

Let then learn Mandarin or Hindi once they have mastered the ancient and modern languages of the West, the key to the Biblical-Classical synthesis that produced everything we value.

Or are caste, and polygamy, and all the rest equally worthy? And is it just a fluke that science never began anywhere except in Mediaeval Europe, and petered out in the Islamic world?

Of course, if we cannot even be bothered to protect our economy, then we cannot expect, hope, or presumably even want to protect the rest of our civilisation.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Catholic Conservative Constitutional Expert Endorses Obama

Right Democrat informs us:

In addition to picking up the powerful endorsement of Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania today, Barack Obama has received some unlikely support. Douglas Kmiec - a conservative law school professor with strong traditional Catholic credentials and also associated with the evangelical-related Pepperdine University - has announced his backing of Obama.

WBIR TV reports:

One of the nation's top conservative Republican Catholic legal scholars has endorsed Democratic Senator Barack Obama for president.

Constitutional law professor Douglas Kmiec , who served in the Reagan administration and in Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, says he believes Obama can unite the country and inspire Americans to overcome racial and religious divisions.

Kmiec supports the Catholic teaching that abortion is a grave moral evil, but also considers the war in Iraq to be a life issue. Kmiec says the church was troubled by arguments for a "pre-emptive war" that has proven costly in both lives and treasure. Kmiec, former dean of the Catholic University law school, now teaches at Pepperdine University.

Kmiec's statement from Catholic Online

“Today I endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be a person of integrity, intelligence and genuine good will. I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and to return United States to that company of nations committed to human rights.

I do not know if his earlier life experience is sufficient for the challenges of the presidency that lie ahead. I doubt we know this about any of the men or women we might select. It likely depends upon the serendipity of the events that cannot be foreseen. I do have confidence that the Senator will cast his net widely in search of men and women of diverse, open-minded views and of superior intellectual qualities to assist him in the wide range of responsibilities that he must superintend.

This endorsement may be of little note or consequence, except perhaps that it comes from an unlikely source: namely, a former constitutional legal counsel to two Republican presidents. The endorsement will likely supply no strategic advantage equivalent to that represented by the very helpful accolades the Senator has received from many of high stature and accomplishment, including most recently, from Governor Bill Richardson. Nevertheless, it is important to be said publicly in a public forum in order that it be understood. It is not arrived at without careful thought and some difficulty.

As a Republican, I strongly wish to preserve traditional marriage not as a suspicion or denigration of my homosexual friends, but as recognition of the significance of the procreative family as a building block of society.

As a Republican, and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement. As a Republican, I strongly believe that the Supreme Court of the United States must be fully dedicated to the rule of law, and to the employ of a consistent method of interpretation that keeps the Court within its limited judicial role.

As a Republican, I believe problems are best resolved closest to their source and that we should never arrogate to a higher level of government that which can be more effectively and efficiently resolved below.

As a Republican, and the constitutional lawyer, I believe religious freedom does not mean religious separation or mindless exclusion from the public square.

In various ways, Senator Barack Obama and I may disagree on aspects of these important fundamentals, but I am convinced based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them.

No doubt some of my friends will see this as a matter of party or intellectual treachery. I regret that and I respect their disagreement. But they will readily agree that as Republicans, we are first Americans. As Americans, we must voice our concerns for the well-being of our nation without partisanship when decisions that have been made endanger the body politic.

Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen.

In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment.

Today, I do no more than raise the defense of that important office anew, but as private citizen. 9/11 and the radical Islamic ideology that it represents is a continuing threat to our safety and the next president must have the honesty to recognize that it, as author Paul Berman has written, "draws on totalitarian inspirations from 20th-century Europe and with its double roots, religious and modern, perversely intertwined. . . .wields a lot more power, intellectually speaking, then naïve observers might suppose."

Senator Obama needs to address this extremist movement with the same clarity and honesty with which he has addressed the topic of race in America. Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a world-wide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby, stem radical Islam's threat to civil order.

I await Senator Obama's more extended thinking upon this vital subject, as he accepts the nomination of his party and engages Senator McCain in the general campaign."

Obama looks increasingly like the paleocons' first choice, followed by McCain, with no preference at all for Clinton. And Catholics and other pro-lifers show increasing signs of finally realising that the Republican Party keeps itself in existence by promising to end abortion but never actually doing so. Yes, Iraq is a life issue, too.

If Obama has the sense to select a running mate like Jim Webb or Ben Nelson, and to put up Bob Casey to give his nominating address, then he's in.

Friday, 28 March 2008


You can understand Guardian writers not knowing this, but what is Gordon Brown's excuse for not knowing that, while Lib Dems in the South are (probably Labour-hating) Trots, Lib Dems in Scotland, Wales and especially the North are (certainly Labour-hating) Tories?

Still, the Alternative Vote holds no terrors for some of us.

At Least The Zimbabwean Election Is Honest

The candidates and parties really are different, unlike here. And the rigging is of the perfectly transparent old school, unlike in pretend-pluralist Britain.

Iraq And The Abuse Of Human Rights

Everybody's. Those of the Iraqis, whose country has been invaded and is being occupied. Those of the British and American service personnel, who did not sign up to wage illegal wars against non-threats. Those of the British and American peoples generally, who are required to pay for this whole affair. Those of MPs, who were lied into voting for it (although ninety per cent of everybody else managed not to be taken in). Everybody's human rights have been, and continue to be, abused.


The nightclub in EastEnders now features a unisex lavatory. Now, for all I know, there might be unisex lavatories in the nightclubs of Consett and Durham. But somehow I doubt it. Are such facilities now routine in the metropolis?

Rare Good News, Up To A Point

This lady, Her Majesty's subject and a Briton's lawful wedded wife, has now been "permitted" to remain in the United Kingdom. "Permitted"? How dare she be accorded less right of entry to and abode in this country than a Luftwaffe pilot or someone who, as late as 1991, was a senior Latvian, Lithuanian or Estonian official of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union!

There Is Always Another Way

These are extracts from Neil Clark's splendid article in The American Conservative (only available online to subscribers):

‘THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY”. The favourite refrain of totalitarians throughout history is now uttered by the serial globalisers who insist that membership of sovereignty-sapping bodies such as the EU and NATO and are the only options for any self-respecting European country.

If you’ve not surrendered your national sovereignty, then you’re missing out. But is this really true?

Now, it might just be a freak coincidence, but the four countries in Europe who have best preserved their national sovereignty: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Belarus-none of whom are in the EU and only two of whom are in NATO, are all doing quite
well. Much better in fact than European countries who have surrendered law-making powers.

Consider Switzerland, a country which gets a bad press from Europhiles for not wanting to join the EU, and from the serial warmongers for resolutely staying out of military conflicts. The demise of Switzerland has long been predicted. We were told that once it was forced to reduce its banking secrecy, there would be a big flow of capital and the Swiss Franc would lose its position as the world’s most secure currency. Moreover Switzerland’s high-wage economy would not be able to compete in the cut and thrust of the globalised economy. Poppycock. Switzerland stands at number six in the List of the world’s richest countries, above US, Japan and Britain.

Uncompetitive? - The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's high-wage economy as the most competitive in the world. Growth is currently at around 3%, unemployment is only 3.3% (compared to the EU average of 7%). If Switzerland is suffering from staying out of the EU and the European Economic Area (EAA), then suffering has never been so comfortable......

Norway, like Switzerland, is thriving. In 2006, it officially became the richest country in the world, and it has reached its lofty position by doing exactly what the globalizers prescribe......

Switzerland, Belarus, Iceland and Norway all operate different economic systems. The Swiss operate a largely low tax, private enterprise economy. Iceland and Norway operate high tax, high spending welfare state models, while Belarus, in the words of its president, runs a 'socially orientated market economy'. But what all these models have in common is that they’re organic: they’ve developed in time, in accordance with national history, religion and traditions, and enjoy popular support.

By contrast, the EU is about imposing a one size- fits- all economic and social model, which takes little or no account of regional or national differences or the heritage of the countries it absorbs.

I suggested earlier that the success of the four countries might be a coincidence. Yet I don't think it is. This quartet of countries has been successful because they have managed to maintain crucial decision-making powers.

By keeping their independence, and continuing to thrive in spite of the globalizers' forecasts, they have demonstrated a truth that we should never forget.

There is ALWAYS another way.

There certainly is.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Prepare For 2010

Some of us already were doing, of course.

The Abolition of Fatherhood

This week's splendid leading article in The Spectator:

To date, the government’s hand-ling of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has resembled what might be called ‘Vicky Pollard politics’. Challenged to grant MPs a free vote on these far-reaching and ethically contentious proposals, the Prime Minister’s officials sent hugely confusing signals: ‘Yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah.’ Now the Prime Minister has finally conceded that Labour MPs will be able to vote with their consciences on three key issues: the striking of the phrase ‘need for a father’ from the rules governing IVF treatment; so-called ‘saviour siblings’; and the creation of hybrid human-animal embryos.

The condition is that they step into line and support the Bill as a whole on its third and final reading. So party discipline will still trump moral freedom. But this compromise — messy both in origin and character — seems to have headed off the threat of ministerial resignations, which was Mr Brown’s prime concern.

The fraught politics of this Bill should not obscure its content, much of which is deeply disturbing. The granting of (limited) free votes must be the start of the controversy, not its fudged conclusion. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a legislative package whose moral sweep and potential ethical consequences could be greater.

What matters is that the coming debate is framed correctly. While it is true that churchmen have — quite understandably — led the attack on the legislation, this is not intrinsically a doctrinal struggle. Predictably, the more vociferous champions of the Bill have tried to present the argument as one between ignorant superstition and enlightened progress. But this is wholly misleading.

First, one does not have to believe in a deity or subscribe to any religion to feel grave doubts about the procedures proposed in this Bill. Take the prospective licensing of research on ‘human admixed embryos’, composed of both human and animal material. Naturally, Catholics find this an appalling notion. But many atheists and agnostics are no less troubled by the notion of such biological hybrids.

Secondly, the sheer zeal of the scientific lobby has gravely undermined its claim to be representing pragmatic progress. On the question of hybrids, for instance, it is far from clear that this research — exciting, no doubt, to scientists — is as urgently needed as has been claimed. In his evidence to the parliamentary Joint Committee on the Bill, the government’s own Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said that ‘there was no clear scientific argument as to why you would want to do it, and, secondly, a feeling that this would be a step too far as far as the public are concerned... the scientific arguments for wanting to do it are not particularly strong or convincing, or even existent’.

The debate on the Bill in the House of Lords between November and February foreshadowed the vehemence with which such reservations will be dismissed by the legislation’s advocates when it reaches the Commons. Baroness Warnock championed ‘the positive moral imperative upon government to allow research to continue’, as if that imperative were self-evident, and the need for a ‘broad utilitarianism’. Yet Lord Brennan came closer to the truth when he said that ‘control may give people confidence, but an ethical framework will give them trust... Humility before hubris in science is a wise approach.’

This principle will serve MPs well as the legislation comes before them. They should pay particular attention to clause 14 (2) (b), which has not received as much attention as the science-fiction prospect of human-animal embryos, but is of no less social significance. The proposed amendment is a moral disgrace disguised as a modest anti-discriminatory measure. In IVF treatment, there will no longer be the recognition in law of the ‘need for a father’: only for ‘supportive parenting’.

Ministers argue that it is wrong to expect doctors making clinical decisions regarding single women and lesbian couples to ‘discriminate’ against them by taking into account the likely presence of a father or father-figure in a child’s life. The Archbishop of York described this aptly as ‘the removal, by design, of the father of the child’, or, as Baroness Deech put it, ‘a fresh statement to the effect that a child does not need a father. It sends a message to men, at a time when many of them feel undermined as providers and parents.’

Lord Patten framed the issue with admirable clarity: ‘If faced with a choice between the hope of adults to become parents or the welfare and best interests of a child, which all the research that I have seen indicates is helped by a father or a long-term male role model, I would pick the best interests of the child every time. That is why it is so very odd to provide that some children can be legally barred at conception from having one of these “fathers”. It seems as though the government now see fathers as rather curious creatures.’

It was perhaps a sign of what lies ahead in the Lower House that, on 10 December, Lord Winston, one of the strongest advocates of the Bill, invoked the image of ‘Nazi doctors’ in this context — those who ‘believed that what they were doing was in the interest of society’ but forgot ‘what was in the interest of their patient’. It is hard to imagine a more offensive comparison — as if there were even the most slender similarities between the doctors of the Third Reich and those clinicians who still believe that contact with a father figure is an integral part of a child’s upbringing.

It is astonishing that this should even be an issue. But it is — in the proposed removal of a few words from the law of the land. As Barack Obama has reminded us, words matter. If it truly believes in fatherhood, as its members so often assert, the House of Commons will at least have the courage to strike clause 14 (2) (b) from the Bill.

Talk To The Taliban

So says Adam Holloway.

We already do, Adam. We just call them "tribal elders" when we do it. But they are exactly the same people.

Why are we in Afghanistan, anyway? What, exactly, would constitute victory or defeat there? And why, exactly?

Then They Came For The Hui

But I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Hui.

Like the Han, the Hui have lived in Tibet for many centuries. Lies like this are too despicable for words.

Oh, well, Channel Four News is an old friend of the genocidal carve-up of multiethnic states. Although in those terms it used to be pro-Muslim rather than anti-Muslim. What happened?

Caps and Helmets

Central government capping of elected local authorities would be unconscionable in any advanced democracy. And so it was in the pre-Thatcher days when this country was in fact an advanced democracy. The right to cap an elected local authority is the right of its electors at the ballot box.

But Police Authorities are now a different matter. If they were properly part of local government, or even if we had elected sheriffs, then they might have cause for complaint. But they can't have at the moment.

NATO and the EU

But of course the neocons Sarkozy and Kouchner want a single EU defence "capability", and want France to be a fully integrated part of NATO.

Like all neocons, they want, as set out in (for example) the Statement of Principles of the Henry Jackson Society, what every American administration since the Forties has wanted: a single European defence "capability" under overall American command.

When will Tory Eurosceptics get over the United States, the driving force behind the federalist project since its inception, and the reason why we are in the EU at all?

The Leg & Reg Is Back

The Parliament (Abolition) Bill rides again.

All-Black Shortlists: Patronising and Counterproductive

Like all-women shortlists, in fact.

Anyway, Sunder Katwala writes:

"There are plenty of British Obamas out there, but you will find them in the pulpits and other places of worship, not in parliament." Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote is certain that an "Obama effect" is boosting his drive for positive discrimination to ensure more non-white MPs. Introducing a bill to amend our race equality laws to allow parties to discriminate in favour of minorities, the Leicester MP Keith Vaz hailed Barack Obama as the "poster boy" for integration. How strange it would be if Obama's momentum were to propel British parties into adopting all-minority shortlists for parliamentary seats.

Obama himself has insisted on a generational shift: breaking the "black politician" mould to become a viable presidential candidate, and not one defined by race. In contrast, all-minority shortlists risk ghettoising Britain's next generation of non-white politicians and derailing the new politics of equality that we need.

The real credit for catapulting British minority representation up the political agenda belongs closer to home. Harriet Harman pledged a campaign for "four times more" minority MPs when she was running for Labour deputy leader, and has now commissioned Operation Black Vote to report on how all-minority lists could work.

Harman's record on equality makes her a powerful champion. The politics of the issue have been transformed - but with little public scrutiny of the proposed means. The core argument does not amount to much beyond "something must be done", and that something was done for women. "This is not uncharted territory," says Woolley. All-women shortlists broke the glass ceiling. Extending the principle sounds logical.

But the analogy is weak. Women, 51 per cent of the population, can be found almost everywhere in roughly equal numbers to men. It is easy enough to work out who is a woman and who is not. Such factors do not apply to minority representation. The call for all-minority shortlists is rooted in 1970s thinking about "ethnic minorities". This is of ever-decreasing relevance to third- and fourth-generation multi-ethnic Britain (in which mixed-race people will outnumber those of any single minority group by 2015). All-minority shortlists might not be exactly unworkable, but they would take us backwards.

Where will all-minority lists be used? Advocates are clear that any "colour coding" of seats would be wrong. Woolley tells me that "in principle" any seat could have an all-minority shortlist, but that "in practice" the Outer Hebrides would not make sense. A list of the 100 seats with the largest ethnic-minority populations has been drawn up. Everybody anticipates that the top 20 or 30 seats with the most black and Asian voters will be used. That sounds like "colour coding" to me.

"Ethnic faces for ethnic voters" is a depressing step backwards (implying white MPs for the majority community, too). Yet Ashok Kumar has spent a decade as an archetypal hard-working, undemonstrative northern MP for his 98.6 per cent white Middlesbrough constituency. In 2001, Parmjit Dhanda was able to thank the voters of marginal Gloucester for disproving the local paper's prediction that they "lacked the advanced consciousness" to elect a "foreigner".

Now, future Dhandas and Kumars fear being packed off to Leicester or Ealing and told to wait for one of "their seats" to come up. Many believe that minority-only contests would focus more on ethnicity - and which community's "turn" it is to win a seat - than the candidate's qualities.

As Kashmiri Muslims form only the third-largest minority group in his Birmingham Perry Bar constituency, Khalid Mahmood believes that all-minority shortlists could have kept him out of parliament. But his objection is more fundamental: "This smacks of a colonial attitude that divides our population into different blocks and allocates representatives accordingly." The idea that Sikhs should represent Sikhs and Nigerians need Nigerian MPs amounts to "a form of political apartheid which will encourage division and segregation", he says.

In towns facing significant ethnic tensions, MPs - black, white or Asian - must win trust by speaking candidly to all sides. Shahid Malik's task in Dewsbury after the 7 July 2005 attacks would have been harder had he won a minority-only contest. Several non-white Labour MPs believe all-minority shortlists are necessary. Other MPs and candidates have doubts, but are wary of expressing them. Another minority MP who believes such lists would have prevented him getting to Westminster fears seeming to "pull up the ladder". This risks becoming a debate among minorities about minorities, because many white liberals are steering clear. Nobody wants to seem to oppose the goal of increased diversity.

The House of Commons is not a forum for community delegates. If only black and Asian MPs could pursue race equality, Britain would never have been a legislative pioneer. Representative democracy does not mean a shallow "counting heads" multiculturalism. The principle that matters is "Equal chances and no unfair barriers". Significant under-representation of women and minorities should raise the alarm. A more diverse parliament should not be an end in itself, however, but must form part of a broader argument for social justice.

Competitive grievances

All-minority lists will not only hamper British Obamas, they will make it harder to build coalitions for social justice. As equality has returned to the Labour lexicon, the greatest threat to it is a "politics of competitive grievance", setting one disadvantaged group against another.

Advocates of all-minority shortlists claim that more non-white MPs would dramatically increase minority participation and turnout. Professor Shamit Saggar, Britain's leading academic expert on race and electoral politics, says there is "simply no evidence base" for this. Health, education and crime are much greater priorities for non-white voters.

Saggar points out that, viewed from a perspective of the national interest, the priority for a more representative parliament would be for the opposition parties to do much more to challenge Labour's virtual monopoly. David Cameron's Conservatives are making good progress from a low base, but should remember the lesson of last year's Ealing Southall by-election fiasco where, as Sunny Hundal of the Pickled Politics blog notes: "The Tory modernisers got sucked into the worst of communal politics", securing the bloc defection of five Sikh Labour councillors but not the voters they claimed to speak for. Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats seem to be lurching from doing almost nothing to pledging all-minority shortlists. Labour could welcome more black Tory or Lib Dem MPs, not fear them as an electoral threat. Concrete commitments to end child poverty and narrow the gap in schools should be Labour's central pitch to black and Asian voters.

Black candidates are increasingly confident about competing on equal terms. Though Vaz complains that all-women shortlists have yet to select non-white candidates, Rushanara Ali and Yasmin Qureshi won open contests in Bethnal Green and Bolton and are likely to become Lab our's first female Asian MPs. Chuka Umunna, just selected in Streatham, believes that defeating strong opposition from the Lambeth Council leader Steve Reed in an open contest will give him "a credibility boost". Like the Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, Umunna thinks hybrid shortlists - combining women and ethnic-minority men - could avoid legitimate concerns about ghettoisation while tackling under-representation.

For all their shortcomings, all-minority shortlists could have helped the first pioneers break through the steeper barriers 20 years ago. But as they have become politically possible, they have also become unnecessary. They might mildly speed up change between 2010 and 2030. More likely, they will offer a leg-up (with strings attached) to black and Asian Oxbridge graduates and lawyers who don't need extra help to get in.

The real issue - the missing link - is class. A comprehensive audit of selection barriers and action to level the playing field would benefit those from poorer non-white communities most, but not exclusively. The parties should think harder about that, but reject all-minority shortlists. Let's keep that door to a British Obama open.

Sunder Katwala is general secretary of the Fabian Society

And Obama could just as easily have been white, anyway. Where would these arrangements leave people like him (really), me, and one fifth of British children under five?

Ron Paul for Secretary of State?

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes:

No presidential election for a long time has excited so much interest as this year's, outside and inside America. In personal terms, a black man, a woman and a septuagenarian war hero make most elections in most countries seem thin stuff. And yet the truth is that, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama slug it out in a popularity contest (or a competition in gaffes that may yet be disastrous for the Democrats), there's little to choose between them politically.

John McCain's startling success in routing his opponents means, however, that Republican debate has been ended, certainly on the great questions of war and peace. This includes the quixotic presidential bid of Dr Ron Paul, a Republican congressman from southern Texas and one of America's most fascinating political figures - who this month has again demonstrated his independence and courage in the House of Representatives, on a subject where all other Washington politicians speak with one voice.

Unlike some of our own "Dr" MPs, Paul is a real physician, serving as a US air force doctor before delivering more than 5,000 babies as an obstetrician. He is an intransigent libertarian, who believes that "rights belong to individuals, not groups; that property should be owned by people, not government; that government exists to protect liberty, not to redistribute wealth; and that the lives and actions of people are their own responsibility, not the government's".

All of that would make David Cameron shudder: Paul advocates low taxes, the gold standard, and "the return of government to its proper constitutional levels". Quite apart from his abhorrence of the welfare state, many of his views will seem eccentric here, not least his belief that Tony Blair is a rabid socialist. A loopy reactionary from the boondocks, then? Not for the first time the concept of "left and right" proves most unhelpful. Paul is called a conservative, but in British terms he is an extreme liberal-individualist in the tradition of FW Hirst and Sir Ernest Benn.

Anyone dismissing him as rightwing should look at his unflinching opposition to the Iraq war, and more generally to the foreign policy of George Bush and previous presidents. Ten years ago Paul called "the fateful" Iraq Liberation Act "a declaration of virtual war", as it proved. In 2002 he voted against the coming Iraq war, or more accurately the pre-emptive abdication by Congress of its constitutional right to declare war. He opposed the equally shameful Patriot Act and, to his credit (and my delight), the granting of a Congressional gold medal to Blair - on the thrifty ground that "forcing the American people to pay tens of thousands of dollars to give a gold medal to a foreign leader is immoral and unconstitutional", and because he thought Blair a mountebank.

If that weren't enough, when the House of Representatives was recently passing another denunciation of Palestinian violence, Paul refused to support it. He abhorred all attacks on civilians, he said - but on Palestinians by Israelis as much as on Israelis by Palestinians.

"It is our continued involvement and intervention - particularly when it appears to be one-sided - that reduces the incentive for opposing sides to reach a lasting peace agreement," he said. "We must cease making proclamations involving conflicts that have nothing to do with the United States. We incur the wrath of those who feel slighted while doing very little to slow or stop the violence." It says something about US politics today that words as sane and humane as those come from an "extremist".

No doubt this excellent man's bid for the Republican nomination was by way of being a romantic gesture. But what about Ron Paul for secretary of state?

Ensemble, Nous Pouvons Retrouver Quelque Chose

Daniel Hannan writes:

The true France, the France that Francophiles the world over admire, has little to do with the machinations of French politicians and civil servants. The best Gallic virtues inhabit la France profonde not la France officielle. And this true France has made abundantly clear what it thinks of the énarques and technocrats who run both Paris and Brussels.

During the referendum on the constitution — which, it seems periodically necessary to remind our leaders, was voted down by 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters — I found myself addressing a
“Non” rally in a rural part of the Camargue. I told my audience a story about one of the most Francophile of British politicians, Harold Nicolson. When France fell in 1940, he was inconsolable. European culture, he felt, human civilisation itself, could not be complete unless France were sovereign. He was, in truth, far more upset about the fall of France than about the coming fall of Britain that many then expected.

Immediately after the Liberation, Nicolson took the first ferry he could. Landing at Dieppe, he leaned down to touch the ground.
“Monsieur a laissé tomber quelque chose?” asked a porter. “Non,” replied Nicolson, “j’ai retrouvé quelque chose.”

“If you choose to be Frenchmen,” I told my audience, “If you vote to throw off this racket and be a free people, we shall all feel as Nicolson did”. It produced the warmest cheer I expect ever to receive as a politician. That is true friendship.

Please do not post comments in French, as I don't know how to do accents on Blogger - the ones above have been copied and pasted.

When France Becomes China

As Newsnight reported last night, there is now at least one major strike going on every day in the Pearl River area of China (where all strikes are illegal), and these are being brutally repressed. The story throughout the country is no doubt the same.

That is what unbridled capitalism, for such is now the system in China, looks like. In other words, that is what Britain is well on the way to becoming again, and what the infatuated Sarkozy wants France to become as well.

There have always been French Anglophiles, but they used to like to good things about this country rather than the bad ones.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Proud To Be Hated

I am, apparently, the grand old man of the paleo-Left.

So I am very proud to be hated by those who had thought that they owned the British blogosphere, presuming to impose three-line whips in favour of the closely connected forces of "free"-market economics, social libertinism, secular fundamentalism, globalisation, European federalism, American hegemony, and the neoconservative war agenda.

And I must confess to particularly enjoying getting up their noses by suggesting, not only that Oxbridge is not necessarily all that good (how good can the ninety-fifth best Etonian in his year possibly be?), but - and this is the one that they really, really, really can't stand - that to have attended the pseudo-comprehensives that they did amounts to having been privately educated, but scandalously at the expense of the middle and working classes who cannot afford the house prices anywhere near such schools, and who in any case would never have the social pull to get their children into them.

You know who you are. And so do I.

Polly Toynbee Matters

On today's World At One, Polly Toynbee criticised Nick Clegg for caring whether or not he could be heard on the floor of the House of Commons when he could, after all, by heard by "the people who matter" in the Press Gallery.

So much for parliamentary democracy. Polly is already fuming at the existence of any locus of moral authority other than herself. Clearly she would have no such locus of political authority, either.


Gerald Howarth, a Tory MP, today asked Gordon Brown to re-affirm the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States. The specific specialness about this relationship is that one side has any concept of its existence.

It is one thing to promote co-operation with the US on the basis of such common interests as might from time to time exist. But the "special relationship" lot should go and live in America, so that those of us who want to be British can get on with being British.

Then they would see just how special the Americans really think that we are. Or have ever even claimed to think that we are.

The Hillary Clinton Experience

Would you vote for someone who took their teenage child into a war zone to be shelled? Then it's just as well that Hillary Clinton never did any such thing. Nor did she bring peace to Northern Ireland. And nor did she get refugees let into Macedonia.

In those days, John McCain was a United States Senator. Barack Obama was an Illinois State Senator. And Hillary Clinton was a housewife who didn't even have to do her own housework.

Boys and Girls

After the Bevin Boys, how about the Land Army Girls? And why has it taken so long to right these wrongs?

Murphy's Law

Why the Brown climbdown (of a sort) over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill?

Well, he could have lost Ruth Kelly and hardly noticed. But Des Browne is both his link to the Forces and his man in Scotland, important to any Prime Minister, and especially to this one.

And Paul Murphy is being lined up to be the ultra-Unionist hardman Secretary of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Nobody else who could do this has Cabinet experience. So he is indispensable. As we have just seen.

Roll of Honour

These are the 12 Labour MPs who supported Conservative calls for a full-scale inquiry into the Iraq War:

Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead)

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)

Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent Central)

Paul Flynn (Newport West)

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)

Lynne Jones (Birmingham Selly Oak)

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway)

Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

Linda Riordan (Halifax)

Alan Simpson (Nottingham South)

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South)

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

We're Getting There

More free votes have been granted on the Bill From Hell. How did something that threatended to require 30 Ministers to resign ever become a Government Bill in the first place? Why not than to rub the noses of mostly non-metropolitan, mostly non-posh, mostly non-secular Britain in it.

Should The Armed Forces Visit Schools?

Of course they should. In order to show pupils, teachers, parents and everyone else that support for immoral and illegal wars such as that in Iraq, or simply and devastatingly pointless ones such as that in Afghanistan, is support for the brutal murder of people like, and well-known to, those standing in front of them.

Shetland Shenanigans

Stuart Hill's case that Shetland was never legally annexed by Scotland, so that Scots Law does not apply there, has been postponed. It will now be heard next month. By Lerwick Sheriff Court. Spot the deliberate mistake. But on whose part?

More Powers For Parliament

The restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and the requirement that the latter be passed by both Houses of Parliament exactly as if it had originated in one or other of them. No ruling either of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights to apply in the United Kingdom except by resolution of the House of Commons. No court in the United Kingdom to have any power to strike down any part of the Statute Law. A statutory ban on any British Minister’s attendance at the Council of Ministers until it meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. The Parliament of the United Kingdom routinely to exercise its right to enact legislation supreme over that enacted by any devolved body.

A new and powerful second chamber, the Senate, taking over the existing powers of the House of Lords, and also exercising the same revising powers in relation to devolved bodies. The Senate to have an absolute veto over any Bill passed by the House of Commons (or any devolved body) without a vote, including any EU legislation passed by negative resolution of the House of Commons. And the Senate to have the power to require a referendum on any Bill already designated as constitutional for the purposes of the procedures of the House of Commons.

Each of the ninety-nine areas having a Lord Lieutenant to elect six Senators (who would have to have been registered voters there throughout the previous five years), with each voter voting for one candidate by means of an X, and with the six highest-scoring candidates declared elected at the end. The whole country to elect a further six Crossbenchers by the same means. The Senate to have a fixed term of six years, and Senators to have the same remuneration and expenses as MPs.

The country to be divided into one hundred constituencies, with as near as possible to equally sized electorates, and with their boundaries straddling the United Kingdom’s internal borders wherever possible. Each constituency to elect six MPs, with each voter voting for one candidate by means of an X, and with the six highest-scoring candidates declared elected at the end. Replacement of the deposit with a requirement of nomination by five per cent of registered voters, also applicable to other elections. The House of Commons to have a fixed term of four years.

In the course of each Parliament, each party to submit a shortlist of the two candidates nominated by the most branches (including those of affiliated organisations where applicable) to a binding ballot of the whole electorate at constituency level for the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, at county level for the Senate Candidate, and at national level for the Leader. All the ballots for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate to be held on the same day, all the ballots for Senate Candidate to be held on the same day, and all the ballots for Leader to be held on the same day. Each of these ballots to be held at public expense at the request of five per cent or more of registered voters in the constituency, the county, or the country, as appropriate.

Each candidate in each of these ballots to have a tax-free campaigning allowance out of public funds, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation to appear on the ballot paper after that of the candidate. A ban on all other campaign funding, and on all campaign spending above twice that allowance.

In the course of each Parliament, each party to submit to a binding ballot of the whole electorate the ten policies proposed by the most branches (including those of affiliated organisations where applicable), with voters entitled to vote for up to two, and with the highest-scoring seven guaranteed inclusion in the next General Election Manifesto. All of these ballots to be held on the same day, and each of them to be held at public expense at the request of five per cent or more of registered voters in the country. The official campaign for each policy to have a tax-free campaign allowance, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation to appear on the ballot paper after that of the policy. A ban on all other campaign funding, and on all campaign spending above twice that allowance.

Each MP and each Senator to have an annual tax-free allowance transferable to the political party or other campaigning organisation of his or her choice, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation to appear on the ballot paper in brackets after the party or other designation. A ban on all other party funding, and on all party spending per year above 2400 times that allowance.

A system of party caucuses, and also of other caucuses, such as that of Independents, or that of more than one party banded together for the purpose. Caucuses to be made up of MPs and Senators. No MP or Senator to be a member of more than one caucus simultaneously. Each caucus including one sixth or more of the House of Commons to be entitled to a number of Ministers at each level proportionate to its numerical strength (among qualifying caucuses) in the House of Commons. The caucus to elect annually its nominees for office at each level, with each member entitled to vote for up to one third of the requisite number.

The Prime Minister (though still formally appointed by the monarch) to be elected by the caucus having the most members in the House of Commons, or, where two or more caucuses have equally the largest number of MPs, by the caucus whose members in the House of Commons received the highest number of votes at the preceding General Election. Portfolios to be allocated by the Prime Minister (always a member of the House of Commons, and limited to two terms as Prime Minister) to those thus elected. No caucus to have more than one Minister in any one Department. Any sufficiently large caucus which refuses to participate to be replaced with the next largest in terms of numerical strength in the House of Commons.

In each House separately, every caucus to elect a number of members to each Select Committee proportionate to its strength in that House. Select Committee Chairmen to be elected by secret ballot of the whole House. Select Committees to have power to propose amendments to legislation, and to introduce legislation of their own, within their respective policy areas. Restoration of the situation whereby any Bill is lost of it runs out of time in either House at the end of a parliamentary session.

Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the nine English regions (with their boundaries adjusted in line with the county boundaries used to elect the Senate) to elect six unpaid and politically independent Tribunes, for fixed terms of six years. In each area, two Tribunes to be elected by and from among voters in social groups A and B, two by and from among voters in social groups C1 and C2, and two by and from among voters in social groups D and E. Each voter to vote for one candidate by means of an X, with the two highest scorers declared elected at the end. The county areas used for electing Senators to be grouped into nine groups of eleven from the most urban to the most rural, with two further Tribunes to be elected as above by each of the three categories in each of the nine groups.

Each candidate for Tribune to have a tax-free campaigning allowance out of public funds, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation to appear on the ballot paper after that of the candidate. A ban on all other campaign funding, and on all campaign spending above twice that allowance.

Any forty-two Tribunes to have the power to require that, before being submitted for Royal Assent, the final text of any Bill be confirmed by a resolution of at least five hundred Senators (except for Money Bills) and at least five hundred MPs (for all Bills).

Each person first elected as an MP, a Senator or a Tribune to name as Guardians of the Realm (GRs) five constituents and five others (or ten constituents in the case of Senators elected by the whole country, who would be required to name one resident in each of the ten areas set out below for use in electing BBC Trustees and others). And Guardians of the Realm to be unpaid, to be politically independent, to hold office for life, and to protect moral and spiritual values, with any third of them having the same power as any forty-two Tribunes.

These reforms would restore the very purpose of Parliament, and require it to sit with decent frequency. They would challenge the authority of the House of Commons precisely by challenging it to exercise and to guard that authority. They would guarantee representation to the natural communities still given ceremonial, but often no other formal, expression.

They would ensure that there were never fewer than six parties in Parliament, that a dozen or more parties (none of them the present ones) could flourish in practice, that Independent voices were heard, that any party or other grouping having significant representation in the House of Commons was represented in government unless it chose otherwise, that that representation in turn reflected that party’s or grouping’s internal diversity, that any party or other grouping desiring such importance would require substantial support in every part of the country, and that no one could any longer make frivolous or malicious use of money in order to disrupt or demean the electoral process.

They would require candidates to have strong local bases and strong ties to wider civil society, the former in order to secure selection or re-selection, the latter in order to secure funding. They would compel parties both to choose Leaders and to formulate parties acceptable to mainstream public opinion. They would give real power to individual parliamentarians and to Select Committees. And they would necessitate that legislators take into account the potential impact of their proposals on all classes, and on all areas from the most urban to the most rural, informed by necessary attention to the wide variety of moral and spiritual values held in the population at large.

The United Kingdom is one of the world’s most pluralistic societies, and accordingly has one of the world’s most critical (including self-critical) cultures. It therefore needs and deserves a pluralistic and critical (including self-critical) Parliament and Government, and pluralistic and critical (including self-critical) institutions generally, among them pluralistic and critical (including self-critical) political parties.

That Iraq Inquiry In Full

A pack of lies leading to never-ending chaos.

There. That's it.

Those Who Kamm

Many thanks to those who have pointed out that Oliver Kamm is up to his old tricks. Previously notable for absolutely nothing except a campaign of criminal harassment against Neil Clark, he seems to have moved on to a campaign of criminal harassment against me.

This allegedly left-wing warmonger, genocidal racist (he wants to kill every Arab, Serb and heaven knows who else in the world) and union-buster (the Guardian and the BBC use him because his inherited wealth is such that he doesn't need to be paid) is closely associated with the warmongering, genocidally racist, and union-busting website for those of fabulous inherited wealth, Harry's Place, the latest manifestation of the ferociously pro-Soviet, gulag-denying Straight Left faction within the old Communist Party of Great Britain and among its nominally Labour fellow-travellers.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Vultures Are Circling

Is Iran backing people in Iraq who are not sure if Shi'ites are really Muslims at all, but know that they hate them all the same? Could anyone possibly have carried out the detective work to find out that she was? No, of course not. But then, the idea of magically invisible Iraqi WMD was also recognised as ridiculous by ninety per cent of Britons, and a fat lot of good that did. Get ready for war against Iran.

About Conditions In China

Kate Hoey is right (as she generally is) to call for protests when the Olympic Flame is in London, "about conditions in China". Have you got that? In China. Including Tibet, now as ever an integral part of China.

The Inflated Mr Cameron

I laughed at loud, as I trust that you did, when I heard Cameron trying to make out that he had the first idea about the price of bread, milk, butter and eggs. He should be presented with a loaf of bread, a pint of milk, a pound of butter and a dozen eggs, and asked to say which was which. I bet he couldn't.

I also confidently assert that he has never paid rent. And anyone may see that there is no mortgage on any of his three houses, two of which are of course exempt from Council Tax.

All in all, it is no wonder that he isn't proposing any actual changes.

Concerning Oxbridge, to which Eton sent 95 people last year, I recently asked someone how good the ninety-fifth best Etonian in his year could possibly be. Good enough to be Leader of the Conservative Party, clearly.

Christus Surrexit, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Surrexit in vere, alleluia, alleluia!

Oh, But They Are Rattled

Oh, but they are rattled.

The charities, heavily politicised as most charities now are, even to the arguably illegal point of writing to every MP to demand that a specific Bill be passed.

Robert Winston, although at least he is a parliamentarian.

Oh, but they are rattled.

As they would only be if they thought that they were on course to lose.

So lose they must.


Of course spoilt children are a problem, although there is nothing very new about the behaviour currently vexing teachers. But as Peter Hitchens puts it:

We shouldn't think the middle classes are blameless.

Look at the famous party in Bovey Tracey, Devon, which went wrong, ending with a virtual riot and the trashing and ransacking by ferals of the family's lovely house.

Sarah Ruscoe attends a girls-only grammar school in the supposedly staid South West and obviously has all the benefits of education and money.

Yet nobody seems to have thought it abnormal to hire bouncers for her 18th birthday celebration, or for her to dress as a kinky tart for the occasion.

Too rich to care, still infected by the drivel of Sixties ideas on sex, drugs and selfishness, the very people who ought to be setting standards are busily smashing them up. If you break the rules to suit yourself, you may get away with it because you are well-off.

But you will not like it when your attitudes are adopted by the poor inhabitants of housing estates, who reasonably decide that if it's all right for people who live in manor houses, it's all right for them, too.

Quite. And would the antics of pupils at a school in Kirby Lonsdale have been any sort of news if they had been the antics of pupils at a comprehensive school on a council estate or serving a cluster of former pit villages?

On the contrary, such events are ignored on more than a weekly basis, like those of the only slightly older members of a criminal conspiracy to become drunk and disorderly before committing criminal damage and assault.

If a group of boys the same age set up such an organisation on a council estate or in a former pit village, then they would rightly be imprisoned. Even many years later, they certainly would not be regarded as potential Prime Ministers, or potential Chancellors of the Exchequer, or potential Mayors of London.

Of Sacredness, Scholarship and Snobbery

I have yet to hear the result of the NUT Conference's vote on church schools. But how many secular public schools are there? 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.

Just How Secular Is Britain, Really?

So asks Dr John Sentamu, of whose remarkable article I have highlighted the most striking part:

Feelings were running high during the Stephen Lawrence inquiry some years ago, particularly when the five suspects were questioned.

There was a very angry crowd outside who were ready to give those arrogant and uncooperative young men a good hiding as they left the inquiry. A major incident was developing.

I was a member of that inquiry and, like a fool, I agreed to go and help calm things down.

Among the throng, I noticed four angry young men with iron bars concealed down their trousers, waiting their chance.

I said to them: "It's understandable that you are angry but violence isn't the answer."

Their reply remains with me to this day: "Bish," they said, "we don't believe in God."

I said: "It doesn't matter. God believes in you."

They laughed but eventually walked away. They didn't use their iron bars.

I admit I was scared. But God has no one except you and me.

As Martin Luther King Junior said: "To respond to violence with violence is to increase the darkness on a night already devoid of stars."

Those young men were in danger of making the mistake of treating belief in God as an optional extra. What matters in the end is that God believes in each one of us.

That is why he sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Jesus is not to be found among the dead, as part of an ancient dusty religion.

The message of Easter rings out across our land this morning - in the words of the old hymn, Jesus Christ is risen today.

Later today I will stand waist-high in an open-air pool in the middle of York city centre where I will baptise into the faith those people who will newly confess that Jesus is the Lord of their lives.

These will join the often silent and overlooked majority of people in this country for whom today is a day of celebration and joy.

According to a recent poll conducted by Theos, a public policy think-tank, 57 per cent of Britons believe Jesus was executed by crucifixion, buried and rose from the dead.

The fact that more than half of us hold that belief is particularly striking and demonstrates that our society is not as "secular" as we often imagine it to be, despite frequent chattering claims to the contrary.

The reality of the resurrection is not just a personal encounter - it's also collective. It changes societies, cultures and communities.

For the physicality of the resurrection of Jesus is a community-evoking, a community-forming, a community-authorising event.

Our belief shouldn't just be based on the miracle of the resurrection itself but upon the astonishing outcome of that miracle - the community it creates, and has already created, in this country.

Our identity as a nation owes more to our Christian heritage than many care to admit.

In the 8th Century, the Venerable Bede, "the father of English history", wrote not only of how the English were converted but how the Gospel played a major socialising and civilising role in this country by uniting the English from a group of warring tribes - and conferring nationhood upon them.

But God's Good News isn't just for the chosen few: it is for everyone, whether they hear it or whether they don't, and its impact upon our character as a nation is inescapable.

While it is, of course, true to say that such virtues of kindness to neighbour, fair play and common decency are not unique to the Christian faith, just as they are not unique to Britain, it is equally true to say that these virtues have become embedded into our social fabric and heritage as a result of the Christian faith and its influence on society.

The Christian faith has woven the very fabric of our society just as the oceans around this island have shaped the contours of our geographical identity.

It is time for us to acknowledge that. As we have seen in recent attempts to define Britishness, trying to unpick this seam can lead to an unravelling, leaving us in the unenviable situation of being unable to agree on who we are as a country and as a people.

Bereft of common values, and without a shared heritage, the danger of splintering our society into a million microcosms of individualised materialist desires and unconnected narratives is a destiny that we must resist, both for ourselves and for our country.

For me, the vital issue facing the nation is the loss of this country's long tradition of Christian wisdom which helped give birth to the English nation, and the loss of wonder and amazement that Jesus Christ has authority over every aspect of all our lives.

Nothing is needed more by humanity today than the recovery of a sense of "beyond-ness" in the whole of life to revive the spring of wonder and adoration.

This challenge is for each of us, not least for all those who bear the name of Christ and who are charged with spreading His message of an inclusive and generous friendship, where each person is affirmed as of infinite worth, dignity and influence.

Today's call is for Christians to live and be good news to everyone - to be an "Easter people" as Augustine said.

It would be fantastic if people not only said of Jesus: "What sort of man is this" but said of us, his followers: "What sort of people are they? Their gracious actions, and the language on their lips, is of God's goodness and love.

"Let us get to know them. There is something extraordinarily normal and wonderful about them."

Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus there came into the world a new power that transforms human character and human communities and liberates us from anxiety, fear, meaninglessness, transience, evil, ignorance, guilt and shame.

But just as we, as individuals, are in need of salvation, we must realise that the culture and institutions we create are also in need of redemption, not simply of modernising.

Jesus made it clear that he is the friend of the poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable.

I would remind people who are judgmental and moralising that only God is holy, perfect and just. I would urge them to go and find friends among them, among the young, among older people and those in society who are demonised and dehumanised, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

I would say to Christians: go and find friends who are Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics, atheists - not for the purpose of converting them to your own partisan, dulled reflection of God's glory but for friendship, understanding, listening and hearing.

I would say to Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics, atheists: go and find friends among Christians, not for the purpose of converting them but for the sake of friendship, understanding, listening, hearing.

God is at work in our nation today quite beyond the limits of our budgets, structures and expectation.

His Gospel has the power to transform our individual and collective lives, our families, our communities and our nation.

Joining in with God's work is a choice for each of us. If you want to join in that work come to York this afternoon and join me in the pool. It would be my delight to welcome you in.

Disaster Averted In Taiwan

It would be wrong to overstate this, but the Koumintang are to some extent the Chinese equivalent of High Tories, or American paleocons, or Gaullists and French monarchists. Their victory in Taiwan, the Chinese island to which they were driven by the Communists and where they have functioned as the State ever since without ever giving up on the precious cause of One China, is hugely to be welcomed.

Had the separatists won, then the neocons and “liberal interventionists” would have demanded Western recognition of this supposedly sovereign state of Manhattan, or Sorento, or Ibiza, or the Isle of Wight. World War Three would have been assured.

The End of Capitalism As We Know It?

Phillip Blond writes:

The Western world is in an economic crisis similar in scale to the oil shock of 1973. What we are seeing is nothing less than the unravelling of neo-liberalism – the dominant economic and ideological model of the last 30 years.

The disintegration of Anglo-Saxon-inspired markets has come about largely because of the confluence of two tendencies of the "free market": speculation and monopoly capitalism. Contrary to received opinion, free markets – unless subject to civil regulation, asset distribution and persistent intervention – always tend to monopoly.

Similarly, there is nothing inherently efficient about free markets – they do not of themselves promote sound investment or wise management. Rather, when markets are conceived wholly in terms of price and return, and when asset wealth and the leverage that this provides becomes as concentrated as it was in the 19th century (which is a scenario we are approaching), then markets encourage nothing other than gambling masking itself as sound investment.

For example, before 1973 the ratio of investment to speculative capital was 9:1; since 1973, these proportions have reversed. So huge have the numbers, leverage and derivative instruments become that their value now far exceeds the total economic value of the planet. For instance, in 2003 the value of all derivative trading was $85 trillion, while the size of the world economy was only $49 trillion.

These ratios have risen with the latest estimates that the value of all traded paper instruments exceeds the underlying value of the assets on which they are written by 3:1. The fact that these assets may themselves be devaluing by up to 50 per cent (US housing values have declined by 25 per cent in two years) means that the overall ratio of global paper value to its leveraged base may indeed double.

This average global figure itself masks even more extreme levels of leverage. The Carlyle Group de-faulted on $16.6bn (£8.4bn) of debt last week. The private equity firm had been speculating assiduously on its AAA-rated mortgage base – by some estimates, at the end of its life, Carlyle's loan-to-value ratio and hedge exposure was at 36:1. There are, of course, many other private equity firms in a similar position.

This incalculable level of speculation is abetted by the huge concentration of wealth that has occurred since 1973. Why? Because if markets tend to monopoly then smaller groups of people control larger amounts of assets. The latest figures demonstrate this admirably: the richest 10 per cent of the UK population increased their share of the nation's marketable wealth (excluding housing) from 57 per cent in 1976 to 71 per cent in 2003. Over the same period, the speculative capital that could be deployed or inves-ted by the bottom 50 per cent of the British population fell from 12 per cent to just 1 per cent. Indeed, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population, on current government figures, now control more than a third of all the marketable wealth – and this ignores the vast sums held in offshore tax havens.

The New Economics Foundation has shown that global growth has not aided the poor. In the 1980s, for every $100 of world growth, the poorest 20 per cent received $2.20; by 2001, they received only 60 cents. Clearly neo-liberal growth disproportionately benefits the rich and further impoverishes the poor.
Real wage increases in the top 13 countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been below the rate of inflation since about 1970 – a situation compounded in Britain as the measure of inflation massively underestimates the real cost of living.

Thus wage earners – rather than asset owners – have faced a 35-year downward pressure on their standard of living. Indeed, the golden age for the salaried worker, as a share of GDP, was between 1945 and 1973 – and not this vaunted age of liberalisation.

The trouble is that nobody in power recognises this crisis for what it is – an asset insolvency crisis brought about by massive debt leverage. Neo-liberals are still reacting as if the emergency was one of liquidity. They are wrong. Governments should bail out not banks and speculators but the customers who now have every reason to fear for the future.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Moral Leadership

Oh, how they are howling! “Park’n’Alz, Park’n’Alz”, they cry. As they always do, of course. Embryonic stem-cell research has been almost completely abandoned for failing to deliver those or any other goods, so don’t believe a word of it this time round. If it’s progress you want, then you need to look at the record of adult stem-cell research, which Catholic universities in Italy were derided to the skies for pioneering at the height of the embryonic stem-cell research craze.

When the Human-Animal Distinction (Abolition) and Fatherhood (Abolition) Bill comes before the House of Commons, not only my eyes, but I trust also those of her new best friends in the seriously rich Emmanuel Schools Foundation, will be on Hilary Armstrong.

North-West Durham is one of the most Catholic constituencies in England, yet has been “represented” for a generation (and that on a shamelessly nepotistic basis) by a supporter of abortion up to birth, destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings, human-animal hybrids, the legalised sodomy of 16-year-old schoolboys (and schoolgirls), the complete legal non-recognition of fathers except as sperm banks and cash machines, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the totally unrestricted “free” market generally, the deregulation of drinking and gambling, the de facto legalisation of drugs, and other evils almost too numerous to list.

The Pro-Life Alliance missed a real trick here in 1997. It had been on course to cut Hilary’s majority in half, which would have forced her ennoblement in order to avoid her outright deselection in favour of a pro-life Labour candidate. But now she is hand-in-glove with Sir Peter Vardy. Will that manifest itself in any change of voting pattern? We shall see.

On this Bill as on so much else, it is necessary to apply the John Smith Test: would John Smith have done this? No, of course not, any more than he would have allowed the betting shops to open on Good Friday.

Much is made of the “modernisation” first of Labour, then of the Tories, and now of the Lib Dems, as being concerned with cutting them off from everywhere except the South East, and from everyone except the upper and upper middle classes. This is all perfectly true.

But just as important is that “modernisation” is about cutting off all three parties from their roots in the Christianity still professed by seventy-two per cent of Britons. The Tories and the Lib Dems are only giving free votes because they embarked on this process that little bit later. They will never do so on anything comparable in the future. And we have far, far, far more of this sort of thing to look forward to.

As for the Polly Toynbees of the world, their real objection is to the existence of any locus of moral authority other than themselves. But even these days, rather more people go to Mass than read the Guardian (although there is far more crossover than is often supposed), voting with their feet.

In an election for National Moral Leader (not that I am advocating such an election, but if one were ever held), then who would take more votes? Cardinal O’Brien? Or Polly Toynbee? I think we all know the answer to that one.

The Wrong Way Down A One-Way Street

Alas, there is no juggernaut coming towards him.

Is there?

Different Classes

Jim Knight has been much vilified for suggesting classes of 70. Mostly, he has been vilified by the NUT. A teachers’ union has, of course, a perfectly legitimate vested interest in a system which requires the employment of as many teachers as possible.

But time was when such huge numbers were not only controlled, but also very successfully educated, by teachers who had never heard of “child-centred learning”. We need to return to learning-centred children. And if there happened to be 70 of them in a class, then so be it.

China Straight

As is increasingly the practice of Any Questions, one of this evening’s panellists, a Jesse Norman (yes, that was his name), was on for no reason except that he was a regular dining companion of the BBC’s beloved David Cameron. Does mere PPC status get Labour, Lib Dem or any other types that sort of coverage? This is one for the Representation of the People Act.

Anyway, Mr Norman was off about Tibet, a subject of which he clearly shares his patron’s absolute ignorance. (I apologise for suggesting previously that Tibet had no more right to independence that Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex or Kent. Those have in fact existed as independent states, however long ago. Tibet has never done so.) His wheeze was for the failed “one country, two systems” arrangement between the capitalist dictatorship in Hong Kong and the capitalist dictatorship in the rest of China to be extended to Tibet.

So, Mr Norman, how, exactly, do you (and therefore, no doubt, David Cameron) propose that the rest of China become a forcibly monoethnic feudal theocracy in order to mirror the one that you would erect in Tibet? And where, exactly, would that leave Hong Kong? I think we should be told.

And that’s before we even get in to the impending Isle of Wight independence referendum. Because that is what it might as well be.

Also Known As

Today’s “oh, go on, enjoy yourselves” post was going to be an invitation to name the form of discrimination that should be legalised in order to favour Harriet Harman. And feel free on that score. But suggestions are also invited as to the politician whose passport details you would most like to see, why, and what they might be.

The Ties That Bind

Diane Abbott, who is rapidly becoming a fixture (if not necessarily a fitting) of this blog, has complained on the floor of the House of Commons that a visa scheme for British-descended people from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa discriminates in favour of white people. So it does.

Instead, let all subjects of the Crown, including from Ms Abbott’s ancestral Jamaica and almost all of the rest of the English-speaking West Indies, have at least the same rights of entry to the United Kingdom as are enjoyed by EU citizens. If the South Africans want to enjoy this benefit, then they know what they have to do. Compared to their impending choice of President, they should jump at the chance.

Northern Ireland, Fundamentally Speaking

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw footage of the Maundy Money ceremony featuring the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh in stole, cope and mitre. But then I heard him speak and he turned out to be an Englishman (not an Anglo-Irishman – theirs is a very particular accent and he doesn’t have it). Then it made sense.

Yes, it was good to see him, his Cardinal counterpart, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the President of the Methodist Conference, all standing in a row and reading out their prayers. But don’t get used to such sights.

Across at least 12 denominations (Free Presbyterian, Evangelical Presbyterian, Elim Pentecostal, Plymouth Brethren, Exclusive Brethren, Church of the Nazarene, Church of God, Free Methodist, Baptist, Reformed Presbyterian, Independent Methodist, Congregational) and six other organisations (the Caleb Foundation, the Evangelical Protestant Society, the Independent Orange Order, the Faith Mission, the Christian Workers’ Union, and the Christian Institute), something very different is rapidly supplanting Northern Ireland’s mainstream Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist bodies, and is also well on the way to taking over the Orange Order, the Royal Black Institution, and the Apprentice Boys.

But no party really speaks for that constituency; Peter Robinson is not a Free Presbyterian, and they have removed Ian Paisley as their Moderator. Nature abhors a vacuum. How much longer will she tolerate either this state of affairs, or the absence of any voice for Catholics in favour of the Union, or the absence of any pro-Union voice of organised labour as such?

Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are by STV for multimember constituencies. The economic views of these three groups are all much the same. So are the social views of at least two of them, and probably of all three. If one of each put up in each constituency, then – with second and third preferences not only from each others’ supporters but in each case from all over the place – there is a very high possibility that all 54 of them would be elected. Certainly, a very considerable number of them would be.

They might disagree about many things, but none of those is of any pressing legislative importance. There is a long history of co-operation at Westminster between Unionists and especially Labour Catholics on economic populism, between Unionists and especially Tory Catholics on rural affairs, and between Unionists and Catholics generally on moral and social issues. And all three of these constituencies are agreed that the Unionist Establishment needs a shock. Let it be given one.

On The Town

Watching John McCain and his Vice-Presidential nominee, Joe Lieberman, on tour with some other Senator, I am reminded of On The Town, starring Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and The One Whose Name No One Can Ever Remember. Any Republican reading this, won’t you just love voting for the same Vice-Presidential nominee as Gore supporters did in 2000?

Friday, 21 March 2008


So far, I have only heard teenage characters refer to “the Feds” on EastEnders. But this evening, I heard it on Coronation Street. London media types have long been manifestly convinced that they are living in New York. Does this delusion now afflict Manchester media types, too? If so, then where next? Emmerdale? Ambridge? Suggested plots and dialogue welcome.