Sunday, 31 May 2009


No more power for unelected judges rather than elected parliamentarians. No constraint of a future Parliament. No restriction of economic and social rights by their definition at an arbitrary point in time.

So, no written Constitution. And no Bill of Rights.

As for Brown’s Presbyterian conscience, I have no doubt that he is sincere. What I cannot see is that any of this has come as any sort of surprise to him. He has been an MP for 26 years.


Alex Salmond’s letter in The Observer is the clearest indication yet that he misses his national profile, and that he pines for the age-old real capital of upper-middle-class Scotland.

He doubtless sees himself as the natural leader at Westminster of a Nationalist-cum-Green bloc such as exists at Strasbourg. And he might very well have a point: a voice from deep in small town Scotland would be a most welcome moderating influence on the Greens and on aspects of Plaid Cymru.

But he seems quite content with party lists. But then, which Party Leader would not be? And he either cannot see or (much more probably) cannot say that giving the Scottish and Welsh devolved bodies proportional representation was an expression of the Scottish and Welsh Labour Establishment’s disdain for them even before they existed, just as its introduction for Strasbourg was an expression of such disdain by the Labour Establishment as a whole. It would never have been countenanced for anything that they thought really mattered.

Salmond is also taken with fixed terms, in this country a mark of local government. The power to force a General Election by passing a motion of no confidence, or by defeating a government’s own confidence motion, is a defining characteristic of elected parliamentarians rather than elected councillors, and an integral part of their greater and higher authority.


If they can nationalise General Motors in America, and if a CDU-led government can take overall financial responsibility for Opel, then what on earth is this at least nominally Labour government waiting for with regard to Vauxhall?

At The Gates

A nuclear-armed North Korea is “not acceptable”, says Robert Gates.

Seems a bit late now.

You were too busy playing about in a country that didn’t have them.

Indeed, you still are.

Twenty Years On I

It is good to be reminded, both that perhaps the most successful movement against Communism was a trade union one, and that perhaps the most successful trade union movement was against Communism.

But Solidarity was and is linked to the Church, and thoroughly conservative socially? How can this be? The incredulity will be all over the place this week.

You see, those expressing it will be either old campus Hard Leftists or old campus Hard Rightists, both of whom assume the campus Hard Left to be normal within the Labour Movement, and indeed to be any true part of it at all.

So they have no idea that much of our own trade unionism had its roots in churches. Nor that as a whole it was always a force for social conservatism, particularly for the safeguarding of paternal authority in the form of that authority’s economic basis in skilled work. Nor that it routinely marched behind banners that depicted Biblical scenes or characters appropriate to the trades in question.

Twenty Years On II

I have asked before and I ask again, exactly who were those demonstrators in Tiananmen Square? I for one would love to know. After all, one certainly does not need to be an advocate of liberal democracy to be an opponent of the regime in China. And various other types of such opponent are decidedly more numerous and long-established in China even today, never mind in 1989.

There are the Koumintang, and those to the right even of that. There are the Xinjiang Islamists, the people who want to restore life expectancy in Tibet to half its current level by bringing back theocratic feudalism, and a number of equally unpleasant separatist tendencies elsewhere. There are the Trotskyists, and those Stalinists who are not Maoists. There are now, and up to a point there were even then, those who hold to the old, old Maoist faith against China’s transformation into the giant standing contradiction of the theory that capitalism and freedom go hand in hand. And many more besides.

People Power At The Polls

The use of STV in the Irish Republic means that most people who lose their seats lose them to members of the same party as themselves. This is not a quirk. It is because local parties put up people from each of their own internal factions, who are then really standing against each other.

How much simpler and more honest to have them in different, if any, parties, with each voter voting for one candidate in a multimember constituency, and with the requisite number elected at the end.

In any case, it must be said that the British electorate is at least as sophisticated in using even so blunt an instrument as First Past The Post. The general mood last time was for a Labour Government with a reduced majority. And that was what happened. There are not many countries in which the public could have pulled that one off.

Unite, Indeed

If one job is lost at Vauxhall, then Unite should disaffiliate from Labour, and instead start funding individual candidates, of any party or none, based on their views.

But then, like every union, Unite should do that anyway, and indeed should already have done it.

Alderdice Alert

John Smeaton writes:

An amendment that would have the effect of legalizing assisted suicide has been tabled to the British government's Coroners and Justice Bill in the House of Lords. Despite the Government saying that they did not want such an amendment attached to the Bill, it has been tabled by Lord Alderdice. Although the amendment has little chance of success, it is very important that it is strongly opposed at the committee stage debate, which is scheduled for 9th and 10th June. Please read and act on this SPUC alert. Thank you.

I've always thought that the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland would be particularly easy to subject to a properly organised takeover by pro-Union Catholics and left-leaning Unionists, largely overlapping categories anyway. Get to it.

Where Has Ganley Gone?

Whatever happened to Libertas? Not even Beyond Westminster bothered to interview anyone from it, still less did it get a Question Time seat. I won't be voting for it. I'm just wondering. After all, isn't money supposed to talk? In this case, does it just have nothing to say?

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Rising In The West

Just for once, Beyond Westminster did what it says on the tin. Elinor Goodman reported on the European Election in the West Country. A No2EU candidate was interviewed (I know, it's like the buses), and didn't mention refusing to take seats, only staying off the gravy train and concentrating on campaigning. Both better done by taking the seats. Though giving away much of the salary.

Which brings us to the Pensioners' Party candidate, who wanted MEPs to give much of their salaries to Help The Aged, Age Concern and the Alzheimer's Society. Right principle, at least.

The Fair Pay Fair Trade candidate wanted all imports to be thus certified, as much as anything else to reinvigorate domestic manufacturing. He also wanted free rail transport. Excellent. But his big mistake was to want these things at impossible EU level, rather than at perfectly possible national level.

The Cornish Nationalist wasn't really a Nationalist at all, just as Plaid Cymru, much of the SDLP, Alex Salmond, and I keep being told the rising generation of the SNP at large are not really Nationalists at all. Like them, he just wanted a better deal, as he saw it, for his patch. Certainly, Cornwall is at the very sharp end of the completely ignored problems of rural poverty and lack of amenities. And the fact that no major party candidate lives in Cornwall, while it is possible not be elected despite having picked up every vote there, certainly struck a chord with all of us who believe in the national and the local, but certainly not the "regional" if it can be at all avoided. People in places like County Durham, in fact.

And Katie Hopkins, an Independent, should thank her lucky stars that she got out of The Apprentice. Now she can campaign for the glorious causes of farmers, fishermen, small business, the Armed Forces and their families. Proper conservative causes. And thus as far as is imaginable from the agenda of global capital.

A bit of proper coverage and who knows what might have happened?

Still, the times are changing.

Transport & General Motors

Forget Canada. That would be fine. But we are really talking about a Russian company underwritten by the German Government. These are not our enemies. But they are not our people, whereas the Her Majesty's Canadian subjects are. And they plan to put our people out of work. Including in two marginal seats.

So there is no getting out of it now. The Godfather of New Labour, and former EU Trade Commissioner, is going to have to nationalise a motor manufacturer, because a trade union rightly requires that he do so.

Course The History

Right Democrat emails:

There's a real lack of a social traditionalist-economic progressive presence in the blogosphere, One blog cannot course the history. Maybe hundreds and more likely thousands of blogs might. If the cause rests solely on my shoulders, there isn't much hope. Some other folks will have to step forward and make their voices heard.

Over to you.

Ambassador Miguel H Díaz

Pro-life, pro-family (more or less), pro-worker, anti-war.

He'll do.

It could have been so much worse, by no means only under this President or this party.

A Liberation Theologian? I doubt it, really. He's only 45.

A Madman With A Nuke

No one else would want one.

Mentioning The War

Of course the Queen should be at the Normandy Landings commemoration.

But of course there is hardly any reference to Britain's or the wider Commonwealth's role in Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan. Why would there be? We and the Americans landed on different beaches. The average British, never mind American, soldier did not know Montgomery personally.

Neither the Americans nor the ex-Soviets have ever regarded us as particularly important in the War, nor have the Americans ever regarded this particular War as particularly important at all.

And note that there is no "special relationship" blather here. The French call D-Day "primarily a Franco-American affair" and the Americans do not disagree, even though it is factually incorrect. Returning the compliment of America's real, and entirely justifiable, attitude towards every foreign country without discrimination earns the French the respect that we insist on denying ourselves. As this whole affair more than amply demonstrates.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Coverage At Last

Geoff Martin of No2EU was briefly interviewed on The Ten O'Clock News!

And to think that I nearly watched the repeat of EastEnders instead, because I had been listening to Any Questions.

No2EU's claim that they won't take their seats was why I didn't apply to be on of their candidates. Well, that and being heavily anaesthetised before having much of my insides cut out last summer. I don't think that they can, should or will stick to it. Workers' MEPs On Workers' Wages would have been much better. Hell, even Barbara Castle took her seat.

The wider European Left could do with being shown close-up a movement which can include figures such as Peter Shore's old agent, leaders of the Visteon and the Lindsey oil refinery workers, and the immediate past Leader of the Liberal Party, and can pick up votes accordingly from people (like me) who would never simply vote for Communists or Trots, and certainly would not vote for them as individual candidates.

Still, they are the best of the bunch. Their abstentionism might even endear them to columnists such as Simon Heffer, Andrew Alexander and Peter Hitchens, since there is still time yet. And if elected, they really wouldn't be able to resist, nor should they, turning up eventually to make the case for very radical welfare provision, workers' rights, anti-war stances, and so on, but strictly at local or national, not EU, level. That case demands to be made.

Directed Number

John Denham claims that we, the voters, "can choose which direction we want the country to go in" because we have a "choice of a number of different parties".

I don't know which country he has in mind. But it certainly isn't this one. Not until we give ourselves the new MPs who will eventually give us new parties.

Baroness Rantzen?

Her record of work for consumers and children is real. She already has the CBE, and the DBE seems rather overdue. Based on tonight's Any Questions, she simply wants into the parliamentary process, and is unconcerned about how or from where, not in itself a dishonourable or ignoble position. She doesn't need the money, and she is already 68. So, why not a People's Peeress?

Recall Failure

The House of Commons can already expel a Member, and it is not the fault of the rest of us if it never does so in practice. We need to change the MPs to those who will if necessary. Who is to pay for these recall by-elections?

None Transferable

We urgently need electoral reform. But we must not adopt the Single Transferable Vote. It is very likely to eliminate in early rounds candidates with high numbers of lower preferences, whom many voters had in fact wanted to elect in a multimember context.

A Kick In The Ballots

We need a ballot line system, so that voters would be able to indicate that they were voting for a given candidate specifically as endorsed by a smaller party or other campaigning organisation.

Those organisations might be trade unions, co-operatives, peace and disarmament movements, civil liberties groups, or environmental campaigns.

Or they might be fighting for Crown and Commonwealth, for national sovereignty, for the countryside, for traditional family life, for the Armed Forces, or against expensive and socially disruptive wars with no British strategic interest at stake.

Among numerous other possibilities.

The number of votes by ballot line would be recorded and published separately. If a candidate owed either success or failure to a particular campaigning organisation, whether national or local, then he would know it.

And so would everyone else.

That's Life?

The last Any Questions before the European and many local elections. And who is the fourth panellist? Esther Rantzen. Fancy!

At least I'm a declared candidate, with known political opinions. Why not have me on it...?

Glass Houses

What were conditions like in boarding schools or children's homes over here in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies? At least the Irish have bothered to investigate.

Cause For Complaint

No2EU emails:

No2EU supporters may have noticed that there has been a virtual news blackout of No2EU: Yes to Democracy despite standing in every region and running a full slate of figures in the labour movement. No2EU candidates have received little or no mainstream media coverage while the BNP enjoy unparalleled daily media attention with very little news substance. Question Time last night cut out most of the discussion surrounding No2EU from the final edit. If you want to complain please go to the website below or use the phone number.

Phone: 03700 100 222

Meanwhile, this letter of mine may have appeared in The Independent or The Mirror, although I doubt it. But it has certainly not appeared in The Guardian:

Dear Sir,

I am writing in support of No2EU - Yes To Democracy, the scandalously neglected, union-based formation contesting every mainland British region in the European Elections. No2EU - Yes To Democracy supports jobs, workers' right, public services, and welfare provision. It opposes the Lisbon Treaty, the EU and Westminster gravy trains, the EU threats to our NHS and our Post Office, and the BNP.

Yes, there are some apparently extreme elements in it. But people like Bob Crow, Dave Nellist and Tommy Sheridan are not as extreme as people think they are, or indeed as they themselves sometimes seem to think they are. Very hardline Trotskyists and others are strongly opposed to No2EU - Yes To Democracy.

And No2EU - Yes To Democracy lists include Peter Shore’s old agent, leaders of the Visteon and the Lindsey oil refinery workers, and the immediate past Leader of the Liberal Party (not the Liberal Democrats, but the Liberal Party).

Yours faithfully,

David Lindsay

Climate Change

See here:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy appears ready to appoint renowned geophysicist and former socialist party leader Dr. Claude Allegre – France’s most outspoken global warming sceptic – to head the new super-ministry of industry and innovation.

Allegre, a former French Socialist Party leader and a member of both the French and U.S. Academies of Science, was one of the first scientists to sound global warming fears 20 years ago, but he now says the cause of climate change is ‘unknown.’ Allegre has authored more than 100 scientific articles, written 11 books, and received numerous scientific awards including the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society of the United States.

Allegre was one of 1500 scientists who signed a November 18, 1992, letter titled ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity’ in which the scientists warned that global warming’s ‘potential risks are very great.’ But Allegre now believes the global warming hysteria is motivated by money. ‘The ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people!’ he explained.

Allegre ridiculed what he termed the ‘prophets of doom of global warming’ in a September 2006 article.) Allegre has mocked ‘the greenhouse-gas fanatics whose proclamations consist in denouncing man’s role on the climate without doing anything about it except organizing conferences and preparing protocols that become dead letters.’

Well, of course he used to be Leader of the Socialist Party. Who better to reject hysteria over climate change, and to see that hysteria as really an excuse to destroy (or prevent the restoration of) high-wage, high-skilled and high-status jobs for the working class; an excuse to retard or reverse economic development in the poorer parts of the world; and an excuse to restrict travel to the rich?

Nationalise Vauxhall

Charlie Marks writes:

Car production in the UK is efficient, let no one fool you about this. Plants which produce cars are linked to plants which produce parts – there’s a supply chain to consider. Also, many work in other services which are dependent upon skilled workers spending their wages.

We need to have cars which are energy efficient – though effective demand has slumped globally, we all know this is due to our chaotic economic system, not to the car being made obsolete.

It’s not Rover!

Four years ago Rover went under – the government could have nationalised the company and set up a joint-venture with the Chinese, the company ended up in China selling to their domestic market.

Instead the government let Rover go, and now many of the skilled workers formerly employed by the company are in lower skilled and lower paid jobs.

The same mistake cannot be made again – the government has bailed out the banks which have failed to get lending again.

There’s no doubt that if Vauxhall is bailed out, we’ll see a return – with new energy efficient cars being made at UK plants for sale across the world as demand recovers.


Whilst other EU govts get their chequebooks out, the UK govt is nowhere to be seen. At the negotiations, there’s no one to represent car workers in Luton and Ellesmere Port – remember, UK workers are easiest for big businesses to sack in the EU.

It’s a sickening sight – “Lord” Peter Mandelson pretending he’s got a guarantee against mass lay-offs and blaming unions for scaring workers when he knows that’s what will happen.

At least he’s the sense to stop wittering on about protectionism – we all know that when the rich cry poverty the money flows from the government to protect their corrupt system.

But when thousands of skilled workers face uncertainty, New Labour are too spineless to step up to defend them, fearful of a backlash from the super-rich. Mandelson and co. are so eager to please them that they will allow no concessions to working people – look at his actions over Royal Mail where most people oppose privatisation, even within New Labour.

The threat of a good example!

Car workers at Luton and Ellesmere Port can follow the example of the Visteon workers who occupied their plants to demand justice.

There would be no shortage of support, no limit to the solidarity that others would demonstrate.

We own the banks now – we can get them to invest in the car industry.

Don’t despair – organise, occupy, nationalise!

Peter Mandelson has dropped more than enough hints that he has promised Unite that he will do this if the Germans cannot come up with anything better. Old Labour support for nationalisation has always been strictly pragmatic, whereas of course New Labour was totally opposed no matter what, a position far more extreme than that of, say, Margaret Thatcher. And an old CPGB hand Mandy may be. But he is still Herbert Morrison's grandson.

As for the Tories, they need to win back those two marginal seats in Luton. But Margaret Moran is standing down anyway. And Kelvin Hopkins has come out of the expenses scandal very well indeed.

The Times

Peter Hitchens writes:

The ancient, rust-streaked EU propaganda claim is that the EU has somehow prevented a European War since 1945. I've asked before, and I'll ask again, which potential armed conflict has been in any way prevented by the EU? The only European power-struggle during this era was that between the USSR and the Western European free countries. The EU played no part in preventing that developing into war. That task was achieved by NATO (in its first, genuine, incarnation).

There is a strong argument for suggesting that the EU (largely under German pressure) actively caused the various armed conflicts in former Yugoslavia by pushing forward with the recognition of Croatia as an independent state. It is widely believed, for instance, that Britain's opt-out from the Euro had to be 'paid for' by British recognition of Croatia. It is true that the Franco-German conflict has been institutionalised by the EU. But that was made possible by France's humiliating and permanent defeat at the hands of Germany in 1940. No new war was ever likely.

Vichy France (in which Francois Mitterrand was deeply involved) was in a way the prototype for the new Franco-German relationship. Germany had by then defeated France three times, (though initially it had not yet become a fully-fledged nation) playing a decisive part in the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig in 1813, and again in the Anglo-Prussian victory at Waterloo in 1815, the debacle of 1870 and the second debacle of 1940. The French elite realised in 1940 that they would never again be able to seek military supremacy over Germany, and thought deeply about what sort of new relationship they could have with their Eastern neighbour.

The original ECSC was based upon a French recognition that France could no longer contemplate war with Germany, and must come to a permanent accommodation (the Elysee Treaty of 1963, signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, is the real political basis of the modern EU, codifying a Franco-German axis under which Germany is the unacknowledged European superpower, while France maintains its international prestige, nuclear weapons etc, has its agriculture lavishly subsidised, and that the two countries consult before any EU summit to ensure that they present a united face).


One of the most destructive and cruel wars of modern history was fought in the United States from 1860 to 1865 because of Abraham Lincoln's belief that the ties which bound the original states were too loose.

Yes, yes, I know that the pretext for the war was slavery, and that the South fought to keep slavery, and shouldn't be allowed to claim it was just a matter of state's rights. Even so, the point that the underlying issue was the freedom of states to decide their own destiny is correct. Gore Vidal's superb historical novel Lincoln reminds us just how divided the North was on the abolition of slavery, and that Lincoln himself wanted Black Americans to leave the country, because he thought they could never be integrated.

It was the tightening of those ties that led to war. The moves towards ever-narrower union, which is stipulated as the EU's aim in the Treaty of Rome, might conceivably cause conflicts in Europe that could lead to war. They are at least as likely to do so as they are to prevent it. Those who seek to justify British membership of the EU will have to do better than this. In any case, secessionists like me do not want to break up the EU. We just want to leave it, and negotiate a civilised relationship with it as an independent nation. If other countries are happy with it, that's their affair. Most, I think are. The fundamental difficulty for Britain is twofold. One, its Common Law presumption of innocence tradition is incompatible with EU law and two, its outward-looking global trading engagement is unsuited to membership of a continental protectionist bloc. Adversarial government is also pretty much unknown in continental countries, and our strong, independent national press is pretty much unique as well.


No, it hasn't occurred to me that the closeness between David Cameron and the Guardian is symptomatic of his appealing to a wider audience. Nor is the Guardian's schmoozing of Mr Cameron (or the BBC's) 'occasional'. It is virtually constant. Mr Cameron already had a wide audience. What he wanted was a different audience, and a different kind of voter and supporter. He also wanted to seek the endorsement and permission to stand, which he believes he needs, from the BBC - which long ago adopted the Guardian as its house newspaper.

He chose, quite deliberately and consciously, to appeal to Liberal Democrat voters, if necessary at the cost of losing some conservative ones. This lay behind his adoption of 'Green' policies, his husky moment, his 'hug a hoodie' moment, his endorsement of homosexual civil partnerships, his denunciation of those who 'bang on' about Europe and his dismissal of UKIP supporters as 'fruitcakes', along with his endorsement of comprehensive schools, his sending of his own child to a state primary (though of course a wholly untypical one) when he could easily have afforded independent school fees, and his official abandonment of grammars. I think he probably assumed that he would not lose many votes by doing this. In this, I think he was mistaken.

Of course the Guardian and the other left-wing papers have plenty of writers who loathe the Tories because they are Tories, and are not interested in getting close to Mr Cameron. But the central policy-making core of the paper is increasingly convinced that Mr Cameron is their man, and that Blairism is safe in his hands. Just look at the way in which they presented his 'constitutional reform' plans on Tuesday. Even The Times was more critical.


It is perfectly reasonable to argue, as I do, for a hereditary chamber. A hereditary chamber is entirely independent of the executive, owes it no favours, and is not subject to its pressure or corruption. Likewise, it owes nothing to the party machines which dominate selection to the Commons. Its members, brought up from their earliest youth with the knowledge that they will inherit a great responsibility and a great tradition, seem to me to be at least as likely to be good legislators as babbling party hacks kicking their way up the greasy pole of professional politics. We should never have spat on our luck by abolishing it. It's not too late to bring it back, and a lot of people would be very glad to see it so.

But that isn't going to happen. The hereditaries did themselves no favours by taking party whips. The monarch, contrary to what is often assumed, is not required to be "neutral", and indeed the present Queen has not always been so. But the monarch is required to be above party. So should have been the hereditary peers. That way, they would probably still exist.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Alan Johnson for Prime Minister?

Alan Johnson is not an acceptable candidate for Prime Minister. Astonishingly in view of his background, he has done nothing to prevent the fire sale of the Post Office. With all its businesses in profit for the first time in 20 years, the Royal Mail does not need even partial privatisation.

The CWU that Johnson used to lead, and which continues to sponsor him, should instead consider funding candidates, of any party or none, who are committed to uniting those who believe in public services, in strong unions, and in rural communities with those, very largely the same people, who believe in national sovereignty (both as against the EU and as against the foreign acquisition of a key national asset), in the monarchy's direct link to every address in the country, and in rural communities.

Together, we can save our Post Office. No less than the social, cultural and political arguments, the economic arguments are on our side. Now we just need to get our people into Parliament. For that, we need money and organisation. Over to the CWU, I feel.

Alice Mahon Backs No2EU

Neil Williams writes:

Alice Mahon, the former Labour MP who resigned last month from the Labour Party after 50 years membership, will speak at her first public meeting since leaving the party in Birmingham on Tuesday, May 26th, in support of the No2EU campaign in the Euro elections.

Mrs Mahon, 71, was the Member of Parliament for Halifax from 1987 to 2005.

She joins a number of former Labour figures backing the anti-EU coalition - including the former leader of East Sussex Council Labour Group, Prof Dave Hill, former deputy Labour leader of Carlisle Council, John Metcalfe, and former election agent for Peter Shore MP, John Rowe, who are all candidates for No2EU on June 4th.

The former Labour MP for Coventry, Dave Nellist, is the lead candidate for the trade union backed campaign in the West Midlands.

Mrs Mahon in her resignation letter said she could no longer be a member of a party “that at leadership level has betrayed many of the principles that inspired me as a teenager to join”. Her letter, sent to former colleagues in her Halifax constituency, was sharply critical of Labour’s failure to deliver a promised referendum on the EU “Lisbon Treaty”.

“If that Treaty is ratified”, she wrote, “we can say goodbye to any publicly owned services…… we will be handing over to private corporations, social services, education, transport and postal services. Even the NHS will be up for grabs”.

Ms Mahon was joined at the election rally on Tuesday, May 26th, 7.30pm at the Carrs Lane Church Centre, Birmingham by Brian Denny, national officer of the RMT trade union, and West Midlands No2EU candidates Cllr Dave Nellist, and Joanne Stevenson.

I don't know if anyone from No2EU is on Question Time this evening, and I have a prior engagement anyway so I won't see it. But I would be extremely surprised, to say the very, very least. The total non-coverage of No2EU is perfectly scandalous. How many ex-MPs, or serving trade union general secretaries, are candidates for the BNP?

Of Primaries and Pluralism

An elected second chamber, which in principle I support, should not subvert the authority of the House of Commons.

Electoral reform, which again in principle I support, should not mean voting for parties rather than people, should not destroy direct local representation, should not give power to anti-constitutional and anti-democratic parties, and should not prevent necessary radical action on behalf of the poor or otherwise disadvantaged.

And there must be no constraint of any future government by any written Constitution, never mind one first written thirty or forty years ago on the back of a Rizla or in the margins of some Trotskyist rag.

But I repeat that I am in favour of electoral reform, and also of primaries. There is a very good chance the the former, at least, might be in place in time for a General Election in a year's time.

In the course of each Parliament, each party should submit its internally determined shortlist of two to a binding, independently administered ballot of the entire electorate in the constituency (for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) and the country (for Leader).

But this would not be an obstacle to pluralism, with only candidates of the Blairite-Cameroon "Centre" (which is not mushy as generally assumed, but rather very, very nasty indeed) getting through, provided that the elections themselves were for multimember constituencies, with each of us voting for one candidate and the requisite number declared elected at the end.

The Breaking Middle

As the FT puts it:

Britain’s middle earners have lost ground to the better-off and the rich, seen their relative status in society decline and been let down by politicians, the Trades Union Congress argues in a report on Thursday.

Thirty years after Margaret Thatcher first targeted voters in middle England, and 12 years since New Labour made its winning appeal to “middle Britain”, the TUC draws a sharp contrast between the fortunes of that group and those of people on comfortable professional incomes. However, this richer group has increasingly been seen, by commentators and politicians alike, as “middle Britain”.

The result is that successive governments have failed to deliver what true middle-earners want – a dissonance that helps to explain outrage about the MPs’ expenses scandal, says the TUC.

The findings may make alarming reading for Labour. The high command is aware it cannot win the next general election without the support of this group of voters – normally termed C1s and C2s by psephologists.

The TUC defines “middle income Britain” as the fifth of the population straddling median income, the level that divides the population in two. Median household income was £377 a week, just under £20,000 a year, in 2007.

Median earners have seen their income rise by less than the average, or mean, income over the past 30 years, the TUC says. The mean is calculated by dividing total incomes by the number of people in the UK.

Since 1979 the income of median earners has risen by 60 per cent, while much bigger increases for the better-off have pushed up mean earnings by 78 per cent, according to the report.

While median income fell behind more sharply under the Conservatives as society became more unequal, the TUC says the gap has grown under Labour. Mean net household income in 2007 stood at £463 a week, 23 per cent higher than the median.

“Middle income Britons” who have jobs are concentrated in white-collar and skilled manual roles, including dispatch clerks, retail managers, information technology workers and teaching assistants.

Their experience of life is likely to be marked by economic insecurity – rather like members of the struggling middle class in the US who have been dubbed “the anxious middle” by economists.

Compared with those just above them on the income scale, median earners are less likely to have had a university education, to enjoy a final salary pension scheme, to hold shares or to have significant savings. They are more likely to have experienced unemployment.

They are frustrated, says a YouGov survey for the report. While they have aspirations for more fulfilling work and better living standards, they feel keenly their inability to fulfil society’s rising expectations. Four in 10 people on median incomes believe their job has a lower status than their father’s.

Stewart Lansley, the report’s author, said one of the big failings of the past 30 years was that the middle income Britain of the 1970s and 1980s had not been transformed into the well-to-do middle Britain of politicians’ recent imagination.

“Maybe because of this, middle income Britain holds noticeably different values than those above them in the income hierarchy. They are more pro-state and strongly support government action to tackle inequality,” he said.

The report calls for targets to reduce income and wealth inequalities, a government “Inequality Commission” and an end to the “public school near-monopoly” on top jobs.

Sheila Lawlor, director of Politeia, the conservative think-tank, said she accepted some people were under pressure but the answer lay in a smaller role for the state [why is this totally discredited woman from a totally discredited body still being asked what she thinks at all?].

Julian Baggini, author of Welcome to Everytown: a Journey into the English Mind, said he was reluctant to blame politicians for median earners’ frustrations.

“I think the deeper failure is that everyone has got complicit in this illusion of rising, limitless aspiration and there are broader social changes as well,” he said.

Categorically Speaking

I think we all know what Peter Mandelson's "categorical assurance" about Vauxhall is. It is his own categorical assurance to Unite that he will nationalise it if necessary. After all these years of his trying to drive trade unions and trade unionists out of political life, you really do have to laugh.

Soldiering On

Military recruitment is at its highest for five years. The recession? No doubt a factor. But at least as important is the successful, if basically false, presentation of the end of British involvement in the Iraq War.

No Allowances

Much of The World At One was given over to what should have been a Woman's Hour piece, if anything, about how special consideration should be given to the fact that Julie Kirkbride is "a busy working mother". Is Martha Kearney on some mission to stop women with children from becoming or remaining MPs? She might as well be.

And what is wrong with having relatives live rent-free in one's "taxpayer-funded house"? Would it be better to charge them rent? If so, why? And does this also apply to council houses with subsidised rent? They, too, are taxpayer-funded.

Part Of The Problem

Esther Rantzen informs The World At One that, in deciding whether to stand anyway in Luton South, she will "consult the media first of all, and then seek out community leaders".

Conservative Russia, Revolutionary America

Mark Hackard writes:

How times have changed! When Russia today opposes Kosovo independence or articulates its regional role in terms of history, culture, and ethnic solidarity, it looks downright counterrevolutionary.

Russia’s secret services also provide an example of shifts in ideology. Soviet intelligence once composed the vanguard of atheistic socialism. The Cheka and its successors knew no equal in ruthlessness or professional skill. Through the recruitment of agents in the West and various means of subversion, Moscow’s spies were charged with ensuring the eventual triumph of World Revolution. By the reasoning of dialectical materialism, any method, fair or foul, could be justified to advance the Communist cause. The Bolshevik sack of Heaven would be preceded by secret police infiltration.

Today Russia’s counterintelligence service, the FSB, maintains an Orthodox Church on the grounds of its headquarters at Lubyanka Square. It is nonetheless remarkable to see one of the Soviet Union’s top cold warriors profess Orthodox Christianity and call for the rebirth of tradition in Russian society. Nikolai Leonov wasn’t just any KGB officer; he was Moscow’s original point man for contacts with Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Castro brothers before the Cuban Revolution. He would later run the KGB’s analysis directorate and become deputy chief of foreign intelligence. In possession of accurate information on the state of affairs in the USSR, Leonov knew in the 1970s that the outlook was grim. By the time of the Soviet collapse, Marxism-Leninism had been the organizing principle in Russia for three quarters of a century and the results were in.

The wreckage of Communism left Russians in an ideological void, and the chaotic 1990s gave them little hope in market democracy or the oligarchs who looted the country at will. Demographic freefall, crumbling infrastructure and other socio-economic ills have their roots in the Soviets’ murderous imposition of modern ideology. What Lenin and his successors wrought, however, was only aggravated by initiatives at westernization. Wars in Chechnya, NATO expansion, and U.S. lectures on human rights and “backsliding” on democracy played a large part in Russia’s disillusionment with the values espoused by the contemporary West.

Many Russians, including influential men such as Leonov, returned to their faith and the centuries of tradition reflective of the truth it reveals. They also rediscovered the Church as the principal source of order in society. As the old spy asserts,

Orthodoxy is Russia’s one common bond. The historic role of the Church in the fate of the country, its spiritual authority, moral legitimacy, and the deepest national roots make Orthodoxy a most important component in our ideology.

Per Russian tradition, Leonov and like-minded colleagues support a powerful state, but in light of the Soviet experience are conscious that unity cannot be imposed upon a people through administration or coercion. The harmony of a nation derives from shared culture, the source of which is the cult, man’s relation to the transcendent.

The revival of Orthodoxy and a Christian worldview in the land of the Tsars still faces formidable challenges. Corruption, hypocrisy and the abuse of authority are ever-present in Russian society, though such phenomena are hardly limited to Russia alone. Pernicious remnants of the Soviet legacy, such as abortion and the callous regard for human life it implies, create profound psychic and spiritual trauma, as well as a tortured national conscience. Modern Russians are also well acquainted with Western-style consumerism and hedonism. Yet in spite of these numerous dysfunctions, the hazy realization that men and nations form part of a divine order is becoming clearer.

As Russia returns to the status of a conservative power, the United States has enthusiastically taken up the revolutionary mantle.

In the U.S.-Soviet competition, the Bolshevik ideology was more radical than liberalism, but only in a relative sense. Both systems affirm only material realities and lead man to spiritual desolation. With the defeat of Communism, Washington could attend to the enforcement of its own transnational vision. U.S. foreign policy has functioned as an instrument of revolution, from the “humanitarian” bombing of Serbia to attempts to reform Muslim societies and Islam itself.

Living up to its revolutionary nature, liberal internationalism shares a series of practices with its vanquished Soviet rival. Most noteworthy is a heavy reliance on covert action. Institutes such as Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy act as vehicles for regime change, just as Western labor unions and political parties were once manipulated by the Comintern.

The 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, as well as other uprisings, were not as spontaneous as portrayed. Both ideologies also have a record of using armed intervention as a means of social engineering. The invasion of a foreign state such as Afghanistan or Iraq is widely hailed as liberation, while counterinsurgency is a sure way to bring the grateful natives into the fold of progressive humanity.

U.S. foreign policy is carried out under the banner of progress, not only for rhetorical purposes, but because American leadership in “expanding the frontiers of freedom” is taken as a matter of faith. A radiant future for humanity is the promise of all modern ideology, though it varies in its forms. What is constant is a materialist reductionism that divorces man from the realm of the spirit. In this way individuals and entire peoples are deprived of uniqueness, traditions, and their place in the Cosmos. Global democratic capitalism, administered by our enlightened elites, corrodes faith, family and culture just as surely as Soviet state socialism. Marx’s appeal to the proletariat has given way to the equally soulless and inane “Consumers of the world unite!”

A discussion of man’s place in the Universe might seem far afield from talk of a second Cold War, but it is intimately connected. Beneath the dynamics of US-Russian strategic rivalry is an underlying battle of ideas. However inadvertently, the conversions of former KGB men can remind us of our own religious tradition, obscured by modernity but not yet lost. The secular parody of universal brotherhood, dedicated to accumulation and enjoyment, only leaves us isolated from each other and the source of life itself. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asks a decadent West:

Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

We are haunted by the specter of another Cold War, but such a standoff is not inevitable. Russia is not a foreordained enemy, and it has no vital security interests that clash with those of the United States. In order to avoid the danger of renewed conflict, it’s time to reevaluate both the “lifestyle choices” and policies we have long celebrated. At the present moment, the revolutionary fantasies of unlimited consumption and world empire are leading America from one disaster to the next.

There Is No Alternative

There can be no such thing as “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine”. If it works, then it is just medicine. And it does work, doesn’t it? We are talking about public moeny here.

The current popularity of these things is, like so much else, the result of our culture’s having moved away from the uniquely Christian rejection of humanity’s otherwise universal concepts of eternalism (that the universe has always existed and always will), animism (that the universe is a living thing, an animal), pantheism (that the universe is itself the ultimate reality, God), cyclicism (that everything which happens has already happened in exactly the same form, and will happen again in exactly the same form, an infinite number of times) and astrology (that events on earth are controlled by the movements of celestial bodies).

Science cannot prove that these closely interrelated things are not the case; it simply has to presuppose their falseness, first established in thirteenth-century Paris when their Aristotelian expression was condemned at the Sorbonne specifically by ecclesial authority, and specifically by reference to the Biblical Revelation.

This is why science as we now understand the term never originated anywhere other than in Mediaeval Europe. And it is why science did not last, or flower as it might have done, in the Islamic world: whereas Christianity sees the rationally investigable order in the universe as reflecting and expressing the rationality of the Creator, the Qur’an repeatedly depicts the will of Allah as capricious.

By turning away from ecclesial authority’s articulation and protection of the Biblical Revelation, and by turning away from the Biblical Revelation itself, the civilisation that these things called into being has turned away from science and towards eternalism, animism, pantheism, cyclicism and astrology, to the extent that a few years ago a Doctorate of Science was awarded to François Mitterand’s astrologer by, of all institutions, the Sorbonne.

And eternalism, animism, pantheism, cyclicism and astrology, inseparable from each other, underlie, among so very much else, each and every form of “alternative medicine” or “complementary medicine”, contradictions in terms that these are.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Supreme Arrogance

"Vote for me because I'm me, not for what I stand for" is "the supreme arrogance of Independents", according to Roy Hattersley on Newsnight.

I am not necessarily saying that he has been or is wrong when I say that Hattersley has "stood for" things wildly at variance with the policy of his party for much of the last thirty years, including all of the last fifteen or so. In his 1983 Election Address, he effectively stood against that party. And what does he think that its latest batch of candidates "stands for", at least so as to distinguish it from either other party's, or really at all?

Dr Chai Patel also wondered about letting in people who had not "discussed policy", as if any such "discussion" still went on within the Labour Party, or ever did go on within the Tory Party. No one remotely interested in policy would now seek or retain membership of either.

Shut Up And Drive

"The Government even owned the car factories, ha ha ha!"

No, "blah blah blah".

Mandy's Newsnight interview was the clearest evidence yet that Vauxhall stands on the brink of nationalisation. Hasn't thirty years of Thatcherism worked out wonderfully?

And for all his faults, Mandelson also dealt with the BBC's flagrant campaigning for Esther Rantzen at Luton South.

No2EU Election Broadcast

On YouTube here.

Greed, Indeed

Neil Clark writes:

With the Conservative Party riding high in the opinion polls, the fanatically neoliberal "there is no such thing as society" brigade are becoming less reticent about voicing their obnoxious opinions in public.

Take Fraser Nelson, writing in the Spectator magazine.

Nelson argues that, while the 1980s mantra "greed is good" has become unfashionable, it is still true. We have, it seems, forgotten that wealth generates revenue, while high taxes - Nelson, like fellow neoliberals is incensed by the new 50 per cent top rate of tax for high earners - "crush prosperity and pauperise nations."

Instead of being regarded as a villain, Gordon Gekko, the ultra-selfish trader played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film Wall Street, should be regarded as a wealth-creating hero.

What utter claptrap.

Nothing has done more to destroy British society and its economy than the naked greed and cult of selfishness unleashed by the Thatcherites in the '80s. To argue that the solution to our current ills is even more greed is like a politician in the devastated and defeated Germany of 1945 calling for more nazism.

As for the claim that high taxes crush prosperity and pauperise nations, Nelson has clearly never visited Norway.

The northern European country did exactly the opposite to what Thatcherites like Nelson were advocating in the 1980s.

Instead of privatising its oil industry, it nationalised it and set up a State Petroleum Fund. And it used high taxes in order to redistribute wealth and extend a welfare state where all citizens are cared for from the cradle to the grave. The result of these socialist policies is that Norway is now the third richest country in the world.

Aren't we lucky in Britain that we were rescued from going down the same path by Margaret Thatcher.

The next Conservative government will, according to David Cameron, be a "government of thrift."

I've no doubt that spending on the NHS, state education and welfare provision will be slashed if the strong neoliberal faction within the party gets its way. But there's one cost-saving measure I'm fairly sure Dave and his chums won't introduce.

Renationalising British transport would save the country a fortune. Britain's railways companies receive over four times more in taxpayers subsidy than the much-maligned British Rail did in the last years of its existence. It's a similar story of government extravagance when it comes to subsiding private bus companies, which received £2.5bn from the public purse last year.

So, when a Tory or, indeed, a Labour or Lib Dem canvasser next comes to your door asking for your support, ask them why, if the public finances really are in such a bad shape, their parties refuse to advocate such a sensible, cost-saving measure.

The year 1969. A man landed on the moon, Swindon stunned Arsenal in the League Cup final and Charles de Gaulle stepped down as president of France. It was also the year that Harold Wilson's Labour government set up the National Bus Company.
Established by the Transport Act a year earlier, the National Bus Company brought together all the state's bus interests in one company.

The way the system worked was simple. Buses were run locally by subsidiaries such as Midland Red or Southern Vectis while intercity coaches operated under the National Express banner.

There was even a national holiday company offering cheap coach holidays to different parts of the country.

This co-ordinated and efficient system was destroyed when the National Bus Company was broken up and privatised by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. We were told that privatising and deregulating bus transport would lead to greater competition and lower prices.

Instead, we have a situation where cash-strapped local authorities are effectively blackmailed by private operators into handing over ever more money in order to maintain services.

The Morning Star has already reported on the obscene case of fat-cat Go Ahead group chief executive Keith Ludeman, whose salary last year topped £910,000 and whose company has received millions of pounds in public subsidies, expressing his displeasure that Britain's pensioners, after a lifetime of work, have the benefit of free travel on buses. "Pensioners cannot be given a blank cheque," Ludeman complained.

But if anyone has been given a blank cheque these past 20 years it has been the profiteering private bus operators, which have made a fortune from the British taxpayer since Thatcher's destruction of the National Bus Company.

Farewell, Fond Friend?

The invaluable Right Democrat and the accompanying Mainstream Populist Democrats both seem to have disappeared.

What gives?

No Lib Dem Gain In Royston Vasey

Paul Leake writes:


“Action for jobs and business”.

“Carol Woods and Fiona Hall MEP are working hard to help local people get through Labour’s recession. Labour have let Durham down”.

And which local printers have Durham Lib Dems commissioned for their European election addresses?

Er… Park printers of London E6.

It’s something all parties do when they the money runs tight during an election campaign (or the expenses limit seems dangerously near) but surely the actual leaflet demanding action for local business should set an example for local public and private sector bodies in supporting local business with more than just words…

Neighbourhood Watch

Text alerts on the progress of Bills? I ask you!

But more power for “neighbourhoods”, David Cameron? For “local communities” that are not the elected and therefore hated local government, with its high number of proper Tories? We all know what you mean, Dave. We all know only too well.

Your vehicles toured Ealing Southall blasting out in Asian languages that Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivals would be made public holidays under the Tories. Your “Quality of Life Commission” then proposed giving the power to decide these things to “local community leaders”.

What else, some of us wondered, would those figures be given the power to decide in return for filling in every postal voting form in their households in the Bullingdon Boys’ interest, and making sure that all their mates did likewise? What else indeed, Dave? What else, indeed?

To the statelets thus created – little Caliphates, little Hindutvas, little Khalistans, and so on – people minded to live in such places would flock from the ends of the earth, entrenching the situation for ever. Perhaps when the ultra-Orthodox have been denaturalised by Avigdor Lieberman and his loyalty oath, then Cameron can just give then Stamford Hill, or Salford (bye, bye, Blears), or Gateshead?

Oh, well, we may as well make the best of it. Let us identify the “local communities” to which, in the event of a Cameron victory, we will be evacuating the Christians of Orissa, Darfur, Iraq and Palestine. Just for a start.

Hanging In The Air

No, of course no one ever asks John Bercow about his Hang Mandela days.

Just as they never ask John Reid or Peter Mandelson about the Communist Party, in those days the paid agents of an enemy power. Just as they never ask Alistair Darling about the International Marxist Group. Just as they never ask Stephen Byers or Alan “Haze of Dope” Milburn about Trotskyism. Just as they never ask Charles Clarke about Labour’s Soviet fellow-travelling faction and its control of the NUS not only during his presidency, but also during (among other people’s) Jack Straw’s. Just as they never ask Harriet Harman about the Paedophile Information Exchange and Paedophile Action for Liberation.

And so on, and on, and on.

The “moderate”, “mainstream”, “Centre Left” New Labour was, and is, riddled with this sort of thing, entirely unrecanted, and with only the tactics (if anything) changed.

Likewise, the “moderate”, “mainstream”, “Centre Right” Cameroons are riddled with old cheerleaders for, and fund-takers from, the Boer Republic set up as an explicit act of anti-British revenge in a former Dominion of the Crown. Circles in which it was also de rigeur to demand the dismantlement of the public services, the forced abortion and sterilisation of ethnic minorities and the working class, the legalisation of all drugs, and the abolition of marriage, public holidays, any minimum age of consent, and much else besides.

(Quite what would have happened to them if they had ever moved to South Africa or, say, Chile with views like that? This rather amusing question can also be asked of the enemies of uniformed, row-seated, teacher-led, rigorously examined schooling: what would have happened to you if you had ever moved to the Soviet Union?)

Once again, entirely unrecanted.

And once again, with only the tactics (if anything) changed.

Defend Meg Munn

Her husband has a perfect right to make a living.

More to the point, she is a very good friend of Saint Helena and Ascension Island. Like the “racist” Ann Winterton, who recently marched through London in the Saint Helenian cause and was photographed alongside numerous brown people.

It is time to start judging MPs on their opinions and their political records.

And to ask why Permanent Government figures like Michael Gove and James Purnell are treated so completely differently from those more immediately locatable in one party rather than another, their careers old-fashionedly capable of being affected by the outcome of a General Election.

Stand On Ceremony

Ed Miliband wants to get rid of ceremonial dress. He is badly wrong. Such dress emphasises the office, not the holder. A lot more of that emphasis is exactly what we need. In the words of Peter Hitchens in The Broken Compass:

It is not a coincidence that the country with a Gold State Coach, Erskine May, a Lord Chancellor and a Black Rod is also a country without a secret police force or torture chambers, where the police cannot stop you and demand your papers. Or so it was.

So it was, when the Welfare State, workers’ rights, progressive taxation and full employment were delivered by a political movement replete with MBEs, OBEs, CBEs, mayoral chains, aldermen’s gowns, and civic services. That movement proudly provided a high proportion of peers, Knights of the Garter, members of the Order of Merit, and Companions of Honour. And those worthies had rejoiced in their middle periods to be Lords Privy Seal, or Comptrollers of the Queen’s Household, or so many other such things, in order to deliver those goods within the parliamentary process in all its ceremony.

So it was.

And so it can be again.

Gentlemen and Players

We all know which party likes gentlemen’s clubs, don’t we? Yes, we do. Or we did.

That party also liked workingmen’s clubs (which are being driven to the wall because they cannot even designate one room for smoking, and which Harriet Harman wants to make illegal anyway), and for the same reasons.

Current behaviour would no more be acceptable in either than in the other.

Roy Hattersley quite often appears on television wearing his Garrick tie. Quite right, too.

East Is East

The Security Council’s attitude to North Korea, and indeed the fact that the matter was even debated, more than suggests that the regime there is rather less dear to the heart of China than is the regime in, most obviously, Sri Lanka.

With little or no Chinese backing, and, for obvious reasons, with no Soviet backing, North Korea’s declaration that the Korean War is back on is ultimately meaningless.

And even if it were not, the fact that a North Korean nuclear bomb could reach Alaska or Hawaii does not mean that it would ever be fired at either. Why would it be?

California Dreaming

Traditional marriage is the law in California. Like Florida, California voted to reaffirm this happy fact on the same day as it voted (in Florida’s case, decisively) for President Obama. And the State Supreme Court has now said so definitively.

Just as Democratic America has the pro-life majority that Republican America never had, so the Democrats owe their pre-eminence to the supporters of traditional marriage in California and Florida. To the opponents of deregulated gambling in Missouri and Ohio. To the opponents of legal discrimination against working-class white men in Colorado. To those who keep the black and Catholic churches (especially) going from coast to coast. And to an increasingly large chunk of the white Evangelicals.

It is time to put away the childish things of campus pseudo-radicalism from the year before yesteryear, and instead to get on with the Pregnant Women Support Act. With the Employee Free Choice Act. And with all other aspects of the restoration of America as the land of big municipal government. As the land of strong unions whose every red cent in political donations buys something specific. As the land of very high levels of co-operative membership, not least including housing co-operatives for the upper middle classes. As the land of small farmers who own their own land. As the land that pioneered Keynesianism in practice. And as the land “not seeking for monsters to destroy”.

In The Sky With Diamonds

Everyone knows that human beings are not descended from Lucy, any more than from Ida. Why couldn’t David Attenborough, of whom I am a tremendous admirer, have said so? What stopped him? Why did he instead stop only just short of lying directly, thus allowing an entirely false impression to lodge in who knows how many minds?

Monday, 25 May 2009


Since current circumstances require a new adjective.

Aren't you glad that we invaded Iraq, thus putting a stop to nuclear proliferation?

Free Radovan Karadzic

Not because he is a nice man. He is no such thing. But because he has been criminally brought before a ridiculous kangaroo court.

Remedies, But Not To This

We need both primaries and Proportional Representation.

We needed them before recent events, and we still need them for reasons quite distinct from those events.

But neither is a remedy against corruption. There is corruption in America. There is corruption on the Continent. And there are both primaries and PR in Italy.

There Must Be An Alternative

Yes to electoral reform.

But no to party lists.

That No One Should Be Missed

Opening up the Tory candidates' list, eh...?

Not New Labour, New Parties

In his Observer column, Andrew Rawnsley sneered that Independent MPs would eventually just band together into parties anyway, in order to get anything done. Er, yes. That was how the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party and (albeit at an exaggerated pace) the SDP all started.

High Stakes?

In two Lib Dem marginals that the Tories have to win, I saw plenty of Lib Dem stakes. And precisely one Tory one. The same number as UKIP.

After The Wintertons

The Wintertons were probably going to retire anyway.

And all other considerations aside, there must be in the next Parliament some voice of the economically populist and pro-manufacturing, morally and socially conservative, staunchly Unionist and pro-military, strong church-based tradition that opposed first Thatcherism and then Maastricht.

That's not going to be anyone off some Cameron A-list.

A British Isle

The airport on Saint Helena ought not to be a matter for DfID. We are not talking about International Development, but about a community of British Citizens living on British Territory.

Ups and Downs

Perhaps with Newcastle United and Middlesbrough both relegated, the monopolisation of media coverage of the North East by football in general and Newcastle United in particular might finally come to an end, or at least enjoy a very welcome break.

Note how the BBC didn't bother to mention that Sunderland had stayed up. It was just that Newcastle, especially, had gone down. And when did the national media last report anything about the North East?

Not only is football a matter of supreme indifference to great swathes of both the male and the female population here, but we are actually better at cricket.

Let No Man Put Asunder

Surely everyone can agree that if you have been married and your spouse is still living, but you are now in a same-sex relationship, then you ought not to minister in church.

Land and Liberty

A very happy sixtieth birthday to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Each Land really is a state there; the word itself is the ordinary word for "country". The powers of a Land are in no sense devolved.

What would happen if the Parliament of each resolved that no EU regulation or directive would have effect in its country except by resolution of that Parliament?

What will happen when the Parliament of each resolves that no EU regulation or directive will have effect in its country except by resolution of that Parliament?

Obama and Cuba

What a thing it is to have a conservative in the White House for a change.

And as a conservative, he will have no truck with those who merely want to restore the Cuba that existed before 1959.

Biden Time In Lebanon

The Christian vote is decisive.

You certainly don't get that in an allegedly more "Western" country further south.

Friday, 22 May 2009


I will be at a family function until Tuesday evening at the earliest, so apologies for any delay in emails, comment moderation, and so on.

But no, this coming Monday is not Whit Monday. That is the Monday after. If it, and other days with real meanings, were our public holidays, then, as in other countries (where the public holidays always have real meanings), everyone would have the day off. Yes, even shop assistants. And no boss would dream of expecting people to turn in. As much as anything else, he would not dream of doing so himself.

I don’t just mean the Christian Democratic-Social Democratic Continent. Are the shops open in America on the Fourth of July? Is anyone other than, say, a hospital doctor or a fireman expected to come in, to meet orders or whatever? Of course not. But, of course, the Fourth of July has a real meaning. It is not just a pointless “celebration” of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday.

Starting To Crack Up

Aren’t we all, Nadine? Aren’t we all?

Everyone in the media always knew all of this. And everyone else had always worked out, if not the detail, then certainly the gist.

But anything, absolutely anything at all, to avoid talking about politics.

Once Upon A Time

The first MP ever elected having first joined the Labour Party under Tony Blair.

Ben Chapman.

Safety First?

Who is going to fill all those newly vacant, absurdly safe Tory seats? I’ll put it another way: which A-listers are going to fill all those newly vacant, absurdly safe Tory seats? Just how much co-ordination has there been between Cameron and the Torygraph on this? I think we should be told.

And note all those calls for “mandatory reselection”. You might have thought that Labour had introduced this, not without acrimony, nearly thirty years ago, while the Tories and at least the Liberal Party (I don’t know about the SDP, which was mostly set up by people whom it had caused to be deselected) always had it anyway. But apparently not.

In those days, and indicating very starkly that they had and have absolutely nothing in common with New Labour (who were doing the deselecting at the time), those with the gravest reservations about mandatory reselection feared that it would give too much power to vocal cliques within Constituency Labour Parties, and argued that a CLP should be at least one twelfth the size of the Labour vote at the preceding General Election.

The CLP in Erith & Thamesmead (Labour majority 11,500) has well under three hundred members. Not activists. Paid up members. If there were two dozen activists, then I for one would be flabbergasted. Take out councillors and their spouses, and there would be as good as none. And to what consequence? Georgia Gould.

Incidentally, a while ago when I wrote about The Honourable Miss Gould (when her mother is ennobled, will that make her The Honourable The Honourable Miss Gould?), someone wrote in comparing her to Tony Benn, also a peer’s progeny, and also selected for a safe seat in his twenties. Well, not quite so very early in his twenties. Only after War Service in the RAF.

And anyway, Tony Benn? The Tony Benn? He was the Tony Benn even then. He always has been. Some people are just like that. But extremely few. And the fact that the comparison, which would be offensive to the point of obscenity if it were not so funny, is even felt necessary proves that Georgia Gould is not one of them; that she is not, and never will be, the Georgia Gould.

Come on, people, we must be able to come up with a candidate for Erith & Thamesmead. This is an open goal.

Break The Cheney

The old monster seemed to be addressing the American Enterprise Institute, suggesting that that body still exists. One really does have to wonder why, and indeed how.

The one good thing that Bush ever did was withdraw American troops from their posting in Saudi Arabia. That is why there has since been no further attack on the soil of the United States.

For whom, and for that matter to whom, is Cheney speaking? Only to that mere fifth of the electorate which is still registered Republican. Whose fault does he imagine that sorry fact to be?

Holy Mother Church, Not Auntie

Congratulations to the Beeb on a hysterically dated report about how “liberals are challenging traditional doctrines” as if they were in their twenties, thirties or even forties, complete with an angry interview with the aged Michael Walsh. Beyond satire.

Blown Away

A farmer in Taiwan has seen half his goats die of exhaustion due to the noise from a nearby wind farm.

Wind farms are extremely unkind to our feathered friends. And now, it turns out, to our furry friends, too. Various not terribly effective attempts to harness the waves are equally unkind to our fishy friends.

Nuclear power and clean coal technology are the truly humane and responsible options. For that as for so many other reasons, we should take them.

Of Skies and Limits

Hasn’t privatisation worked out beautifully?

Question Time

No2EU emails:

On Thursday 28 May, BBC Question Time will broadcast a European election special from London. So far no-one from “No2EU: Yes to Democracy” is on the panel.

There are two things you could do to help the campaign get some publicity around this programme: push for a candidate to be on the panel and/or try to get on the programme as part of the audience.


Contact Question Time on-line, or ring them, asking for them to put a “No2EU: Yes to Democracy” candidate - such as Bob Crow - on the panel.

Reasons might include:

- “No2EU: Yes to Democracy” is standing a full slate of candidates in every [mainland] British region;

- there is greatly increased interest in smaller parties because of the expenses scandals involving major party MPs;

- the fact of a trade union sponsoring an anti-Labour election campaign is significant [and scandalously unreported];

- Bob Crow is a well known (and controversial) figure, especially in London, where the programme is being made [well, I'm sure they could find someone else if necessary, since he is indeed "controversial" in London...];


Get on the programme as part of the audience. You may be able to ask a supplementary question.

You can suggest panellists online via the Question Time website. Go to and do search on “Question Time”. On the site there is a “Suggest a panellist” link on the front page; or go to FAQs and scroll down to “Suggest a panellist”.

Similarly you can apply to join the audience via the website. There is a “Join the audience” link on the front page, or go via FAQs.

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Gurkha Justice Update

Joanna Lumley emails:

At midday today, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith made the announcement to the House of Commons that the Gurkha Justice Campaign have been fighting for for years. All ex-Gurkhas who have served more than 4 years in the British Army will have the right to settle in the UK if they wish.

After such a long fight, with huge ups and downs, this is a superb announcement.

We simply would not have won this fight without the massive, overwhelming support of all those who have supported our campaign. To the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed Gurkha Justice petitions, lobbied their MP, campaigned, attended rallies and marches - thank you so much to you all. This is your victory. It would not have happened without you.

The Government has now responded to that campaign after court cases, votes in Parliament, a huge media campaign and, most importantly, massive public support. I am delighted, and humbled, at what has been achieved by our remarkable team.

The whole campaign has been based on the belief that those who have fought and been prepared to die for our country should have the right to live in our country. We owe them a debt of honour - a debt that will now be paid.

Bring Back Our Holy Days

Sign here.

Protect The Working Poor Like The Rich

Right Democrat has this, by Froma Harrop, from the Houston Chronicle:

While the recession has rattled every rung of the economic ladder, it has ravaged the bottom bars. Unemployment stands at just over 4 percent for college graduates but at nearly 15 percent for those lacking high-school diplomas. In poor black neighborhoods, it’s around 30 percent and approaching Great Depression levels.

So let’s talk about illegal immigration in a serious way. Even in good times, the large presence of undocumented workers hurts our low-skilled natives and legal immigrants. Given today’s broken economy, it would seem unconscionable not to address the situation.

The Obama administration has launched some early immigration reforms, and they make sense. Notably, it has moved the brunt of enforcement away from the unauthorized workers and onto those who hire them.

Of all the players in this drama, the illegal immigrants are the least blameworthy. They are hard workers who took advantage of what any reasonable person would have seen as an open labor market.

That does not justify the continued hiring of them at the expense of our most vulnerable populations.

Rest assured that if college grads were to flood illegally into this country and depress the salaries of Americans who make and write about policy, the laws would have been enforced long ago.

President Obama’s new approach is more effective as well as more humane. It orders Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to impose fines and press criminal charges against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. They may arrest workers only when the local U.S. attorney agrees to prosecute the bosses.

For such a policy to work long-term, there must be an easy way for companies to check the legal status of a new hire. And there is a way. E-Verify lets employers confirm a worker’s information with the Social Security Administration database over the Internet.

Westat, an independent researcher, found that E-Verify cleared 96 percent of employees within 5 seconds. Less than one half of 1 percent was not verified because of errors in the Social Security database. (Employers can’t fire them while the mismatch is being contested.) The rest were illegal workers.

Advocates of open borders — both defenders of illegal immigration and cheap-labor businesses — have run a campaign to demonize E-Verify precisely because it does the job. It enables enforcement of the law without scenes of ICE agents hauling away poor foreigners in handcuffs.

We still await a comprehensive immigration plan, which would deal with the millions of illegals already established in this country. A “path to citizenship” for this group would be reasonable, but only if it’s the last amnesty. That is, the E-Verify system would have to be in place so employers can’t ignore the ban on hiring undocumented workers in the future.

The advocates hold that rather than stop the flow of undocumented workers, the United States should just keep legalizing everyone.

Their argument is as follows: Wages for low-skilled jobs are dismal because employers can exploit illegal workers. Make them legal, and companies would have to improve pay and working conditions for all.

There’s some truth in that, but you can’t get around basic labor economics. From heart surgeon to street sweeper, every worker is subject to the law of supply and demand. The more people there are after the same number of jobs, the less anyone has to pay them.

The United States accepts 2 million legal immigrants a year, more than the rest of the world combined. No American has to apologize for drawing the line at illegal immigration.

Our working poor deserve the same protections against unfair competition that our doctors get. And in this economy, their need has grown desperate.

Right Democrat adds:

Harrop is right. Illegal immigration lowers wages. That is why United Farm Workers founder Caesar Chavez was a strong advocate of immigration enforcement.

Progressive radio talk host Thom Hartmann notes:

The reason why thirty years ago United Farm Workers' Union (UFW) founder Caesar Chavez fought against illegal immigration, and the UFW turned in illegals during his tenure as president, was because Chavez, like progressives since the 1870s, understood the simple reality that labor rises and falls in price as a function of availability.

In 1969, Chavez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valley to the border of Mexico to protest growers' use of illegal aliens as temporary replacement workers during a strike. Joining him on the march were both the Reverend Ralph Abernathy and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale. Chavez and the UFW would often report suspected illegal aliens who served as temporary replacement workers as well as who refused to unionize to the INS.

Working Americans have always known this simple equation: More workers, lower wages. Fewer workers, higher wages.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

God Is Gone Up

Allelúja, allelúja.

Ascéndit Deus in jubilatióne, et Dóminus in voce tubæ.


Ad Multos Annos

In which, one trusts, the Ascension will always be celebrated on this, its proper day.

Frank Speaks

He's in.


I look forward to the advertisement for members of the new Parliamentary Standards Authority.

You will all be applying.

Won’t you?

Putting The C Into CBI

They don’t pay it, regardless of the rate. That is the big argument against the new rate. Although, of course, they cannot make that argument.

So they content themselves with arguing for that most conservative of things, the unrestricted global movement of goods, services, capital and labour. Yes, labour. Otherwise known as migrants.

Mind you, the CBI seems to be producing ones who got away, notably Digby Jones, last sighted marching against such things through the streets of Birmingham, and alongside the Visteon and the Lindsey oil refinery workers of No2EU.


Hillary Clinton opines that an Iranian nuclear bomb would “spark an arms race” in the Middle East.

Quite unlike a massively nuclear-armed Israel.

Or the presence as American Secretary of State of someone who, as a Presidential candidate, promised to nuke Iran if so instructed by her campaign’s financial backers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

A Better Shore

Although he is wrong about Clause Four (which did not mention public ownership, but was phrased in such a way as to please and appease those who already had it in mind), and although neither he nor I shares Shore's support for nuclear weapons, Neil Clark writes:

Today would have been the 85th birthday of one of my British political heroes: the late Labour MP Peter Shore.

I corresponded with Shore when I was working abroad, teaching Economics in the early-mid 1990s. He sent me copies of the debates on the Maastricht Treaty from Hansard and then, most kindly, a copy of his book Leading the Left. I was not a constituent of Shore's - yet still he replied to my requests - and could not have been more helpful.

I don’t agree with all the policy stances he took later on his life, but certainly agreed with his line on the EEC/EU and on economic policy- and in particular his views on the importance of public ownership. Shore always maintained that it was dishonest to talk about achieving greater equality without also extending public ownership. I used to be a member of the Labour Party, but left when Blair ditched Clause Four. For me, Clause Four is the very definition of socialism. Once Labour ditched it, it could no longer have any claims to be a socialist party.

Peter Shore could have become Labour leader had he not been such a man of principle. In 1980, he seemed a strong candidate to take over from Jim Callaghan, but his opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament meant that many on the left preferred to support Michael Foot in the contest with Denis Healey. Had Foot not been persuaded to stand, Shore would very likely have won, but it was not to be.

Shore was simply too left-wing for the right-wing of the party (on the economy, nationalisation and the EEC/EU) and too right-wing (on issues such as defence, Northern Ireland) for the left. It's a great pity that Shore never became Labour leader as I'm sure he would have proved a formidable adversary for Margaret Thatcher. He was a great public speaker and a man of great personal charm.

Perhaps if he had become leader we would never have had to endure New Labour.

Peter Shore: an Old Labour great. May he rest in peace.

Shore's old agent, John Rowe, is on the London list of No2EU, which is still being ignored even despite the brief re-emergence of the oil refiney protests, whereas attention is being lavished on the BNP, and increasingly also on the policy-free amateurs of Jury Time or whatever gameshow name it is called.

“Hope I Die Before I Get Old”

But you didn’t, did you, Roger?

On Radio Four today, they filled up almost half an hour with elderly persons repeating, perhaps because they are becoming forgetful, “I can’t believe it’s been forty years” since Tommy.

Well, I for one cannot believe that it has been so brief a period. Or that so many of the participants, in the nature of these things older than the fans, are not only still alive, but even capable of giving interviews, albeit interviews consisting of nothing more than the repetition of “I can’t believe it’s been forty years”.

Needless to say, no one bothered to point out that, while it has its moments, Tommy as a whole is pretentious, overblown, self-indulgent rubbish, and the film is even worse.

The one good thing in this programme was Adam Long of The Reduced Shakespeare Company, with lines such as “They beat him up and made him bleed/They killed his mother and Oliver Reed”. How did he get away with it? Did the makers really believe that he was paying a duly deferential tribute, since nothing else is possible? Yes, they did. They really did.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Would An Election Be Good For The Tories?

Not while the defining image is either Douglas Hogg’s moat or the duck island of Sir Peter Viggers, no.

Nor should it be in terms of policy. Or, rather, the lack of any such. But we are not allowed to talk about that.


This is a new noun, combining “advantage” and “outrageous”.

Dr Richard Taylor, admirable though he is, has never faced a Lib Dem opponent (oddly enough, his constituency is also a centre of the Liberal Party). But at least he is local, and policy-driven.

Whereas the election at Tatton in 1997 was basically rigged. Neither Labour nor the Lib Dems stood, and national media attention was lavished on Martin Bell.

And now it looks like Esther Rantzen, also a blow-in to the constituency in question, also decidedly light on policy, and also the darling of the media of which she is so very much a part.

In the unlikely event that Margaret Moran was still the Labour candidate, there would be no Lib Dem. But the Tories are another matter: the Tory candidate at Luton South doubtless expected to win this time round, and I confidently predict will not be for shifting.

Kukris At The Ready

The Gurkha issue will now no longer be the subject of an Opposition Day motion, but rather of a piece of Government legislation to relax, in a specific way, the law on immigration. So rather a lot of Tory MPs are going to agree with Dominic Lawson.

Guess Who’s Coming To Tea

It would be cheap to quip about Richard Barnbrook’s naming of Nick Griffin as his partner, which is why the title of this post makes no reference to gardens and fairies.

But not to pick up on Griffin’s remark that “avowed anti-monarchists” such as on the Labour Left attend Royal Garden Parties. Indeed they do. So, purely from that point of view, his and Barnbrook’s “avowedly ant-monarchist” party may as well go along, too.

They can explain to Her Majesty how she is ineligible for membership of that party, in view of her descent, both from the “negroid” Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and, via Elizabeth of York, from Muhammad.

Weasel Out?

Dare we hope that the knives are at last out for James Purnell, who persecutes the poor, sick and disabled while charging the taxpayer four hundred pounds per month for food, since apparently neither his ministerial nor his parliamentary salary is paid in order to feed him?

If so (or even if not), then the knives ought also to be out for David Cameron, whose public offer of his current job Purnell has publicly accepted. That is called governing from the centre, in case you had not heard.


The fraudulent activities of Ed Balls and that woman who is only in the Cabinet because she is married to him have long been in the public domain. Yet their Cabinet seats are still not under the slightest threat.

Instead, all the concentration is on a figure who, whatever she may or may not have done wrong, has no sectarian Left roots, came up through local community activism via local government, is a regular churchgoer, seems rather unlikely to be mistaken for a member of any Primrose Hill set, and recently made a very John Smith-like speech defending a nurse who had offered to pray for a patient while denouncing those councils which refused to fly the Union Flag.

Funny, that.

License This

David Cameron’s proposed freeze is all very well. But if the BBC really wants to save the license fee, then that fee should be made optional, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four.

The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the license-payers. Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities. Each license-payer would vote for one, with the top two elected.

The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years.

At the same time, we need to ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national daily newspaper. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national weekly newspaper. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one television station. To re-regionalise ITV under a combination of municipal and mutual ownership. And to apply that same model (but with central government replacing local government, subject to very strict parliamentary scrutiny) to Channel Four.

The Most Distressful Country

The fault of the avowedly secular Irish State, its first President a Protestant? No, of course not. The politicians and civil servants were just in charge, that’s all. They weren’t to blame. Perish the thought.

Yes, the State engaged the Church to run an awful lot of things in Ireland, although in fact the sheer scale of those undertakings provides the context for these particular cases. And yes, the priest was the natural leader of many a village.

But the State was controlled by the Church? Rubbish. Utter, utter, utter rubbish.

A Written Constitution?


No matter what it said, it would by definition cede yet further power from elected parliamentarians to unelected judges.

The Attlee Government would have been severely hampered, or even completely neutered, by any written Constitution.

Never mind one written on the back of a Rizla, or in the margins of some Trotskyist rag, thirty or forty years ago.

A Snap Election?


We need this year to organise proper candidates, and to expose the vacuity of David Cameron.

Nor do we need to move away from the concept of self-regulating Honourable Members. We just need Members who are Honourable. So I say again, we need this year to organise. Let’s get cracking.

Frank Speaking

His is the best name in the frame.

Although this is shaping up to be a very interesting contest.

British Jobs for British Workers

The No2EU press release reads:


No2EU-Yes to Democracy, the left coalition running candidates in the Euro elections on June 4th, today pledged full support for workers protesting across the country in the “race to the bottom” on wages and the exploitation of overseas workers as a tool to drive down pay and conditions.

No2EU has objected strongly to press reports that the protests, which have hit construction sites across the UK, are playing into the hands of the BNP.

Owen Morris, No2EU election candidate and a key figure in the rank and file construction workers movement, said:

“This is not a xenophobic issue. It is the employers who are at fault not the employees. This is all about the race to the bottom on wages. This is another form of social dumping on wages and the employers should be forced to be socially responsible to all employees.”

Bob Crow, No2EU Convenor and RMT general secretary, said:

“These workers have no option but to stand up to exploitation wherever it comes from. RMT and No2EU will always support workers who are prepared to fight for jobs, pay, working conditions and union rights.”

Leaders of the Lindsey oil refinery workers are the number one candidates on the No2EU lists both in the East Mindlands and in Yorkshire & The Humber.

It is notable that this latest round of protests began in Pembrokeshire before spreading to Lincolnshire as well as to the Vale of Glamorgan. British workers, indeed.

This on the same day that Charles Kennedy on The Daily Politics dampened the constitutional reforming zeal of Ben Bradshaw and Eric Pickles by becoming the latest Lib Dem MP from the North of Scotland to talk about “deep disillusionment” with devolution. Like Danny Alexander, and like others more privately (as yet), he is turning into a latter-day Brian Wilson.

At their best, the Lib Dems are local communitarian populists, and battlers for otherwise neglected causes. The party label is a sort of franchise, and of course source of funds, in order to get them elected, but not really anything more than that. The federalist and other theoretical side of Liberalism is of little or no interest to them. It is notable that this garners them so many votes in rural areas, where turnout is considerably higher than in urban areas. If each were offered his pet local project by either Labour or the Tories in a hung Parliament, then the Lib Dem MPs from the Highlands, Islands and Borders would come on board as surely as would those from anywhere else, including Mid-Wales.

And if the delivery of any such project required that Westminster enact legislation over a Scottish (or Welsh) domestic matter, overriding any enactment of a devolved body as the devolution legislation itself specifies would be the case, then that would be just fine and dandy from those MPs’ point of view, just so long as the thing itself got done. The SNP, Plaid Cymru or anyone else who didn’t like it would have to explain why they didn’t want it, since the devolved body would obviously be showing no inclination to make it happen.

Let no one forget that the No vote to devolution was high in the areas where the Lib Dems do well, at least relatively so in Scotland, and rather more so than that in Wales. Nor let anyone forget that the SDP (whence came Kennedy) carried over much of the Old Labour Right’s profound reservation about devolution, including the very person of George Cunningham, who is still alive.

Neither Kennedy, nor Andrew Neil, nor anyone else queried Nick Robinson’s suggestion that Michael Martin might sit as an Independent until the next General Election, the easier to hand over his seat to his son, who is the sitting MSP for the area. So, no doubt there which is the real Parliament and which isn’t. For that matter, how many SNP candidates next year will be sitting MSPs? Rather a lot, one suspects.

Ban The Blacklisting of Trade Unionists

Including in the selection of parliamentary candidates.

So that rules out New Labour, then.

A Point Well Made

Sir Nicholas Winterton may have had what now look like rather minor troubles over his allowances. His wife may have an unfortunate sense of humour. But his defence at PMQs of the importance of a strong manufacturing base, itself indispensable both to national self-government and to cultural integrity, was a sign of how important is still the voice that opposed first Thatcherism and then Maastricht on grounds of economically populist, morally and socially conservative, staunchly Unionist, strongly church-based Toryism.

The New World Order

The Tamil Tigers may be a nasty lot. And the tactics used by the other side against the civilian Tamil population may also be repellent.

But the real story from Sri Lanka is just how far you can go if you have, as the Sri Lankan government has, the political, economic, diplomatic and military support of the hyperpower.

That hyperpower is not America, which can no longer provide quite this sort of cover.

That hyperpower is China.

There Never Was A "Catholic Ireland"

Purely in the twentieth century, there used to be very high levels of weekly Mass attendance. But that was all. There has never been in Ireland the profoundly Catholic culture that one encounters on the Continent. Into the nineteenth century, the Irish were so pagan that they were widely polygamous, and practising Catholics did not predominate until at least the middle third, or even the third quarter, of that century.

Each of this United Kingdom’s parts contains a Catholic intelligentsia, whereas the Irish Republic’s is the most tribally anti-Catholic in the world. There are precious few Mass-going, and no ideologically Catholic, politicians, journalists, radio or television producers, or other public intellectuals. Rather, the memories of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce are venerated. Anyone who objects to even the most extreme decadence is accused of wishing to “return” to “the bad, old, repressive Ireland.” The Republic’s Catholic schools, among much else, are doomed.

As would be Northern Ireland’s, if Sinn Féin had its way. Under the pretext that they teach through the medium of Irish, wholly and militantly secular Sinn Féin schools are being set up at public expense, in direct opposition to the Catholic system, by the Sinn Féin Education Minister. Her exclusion of Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist clergy from their historic role in the government of schools is the dry run for her party’s openly desired exclusion of the Catholic Church from schools throughout Ireland.

So the Catholic case is for the Union. Look at the Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist votes in largely or entirely Catholic wards. Even Ian Paisley’s huge personal vote could not happen without Catholic support. With no corresponding Nationalist vote in Protestant wards, the Union, simply as such, is manifestly the majority will of both communities. As for Paisley’s theological opinions, the definitive Catholic answers to them have been available for centuries.