Monday, 31 May 2010

The Bigger Picture

Since this, good though it is, contains not a single specific policy, might Jon Cruddas be standing for Labour Leader after all?

Out Of Interest

If the Germans are not in Afghanistan in order to protect and promote their commercial interests, then why, exactly, are they there?

For that matter, why, exactly, are we there?

Our Front Line?

Whose front line, exactly? The front line of what?

The Latin Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Anglicans and Lutherans are the front line, in the Holy Land, of Western civilisation, which is nothing other than the recapitulation in Jesus Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism and the Roman Empire. None of those three, as such, now exists apart from that recapitulation.

Ask those front line communities about the IDF, and indeed about Zionism in general. Ask their brethren to the north, where the Presidency and half the parliamentary seats are reserved for Christians, where one of the official languages is a European tongue, and where bombardment by Israel is the constant reality. Ask their brethren to the north east, where there are Christian majorities in some provinces, and where Christian festivals are public holidays.

Ask their Assyrian brethren in Iraq how "liberated" they feel at Israel's (and the Gulf monarchies') command. Ask their Armenian brethren in Turkey how "free" they are in a member of NATO and putatively of the EU, and at least until today an ally of Israel's. Ask their Assyrian and Armenian brethren in Iran how "liberated" they would feel if a system which guarantees them parliamentary representation, as it also does for Jews, were overthrown and replaced with something acceptable to Israel (and to the Gulf monarchies).

Our civilisation certainly does have front lines in the Middle East. But the very last claim to be one, precisely equal to any such claim by the Gulf monarchies, is that of Israel.

The Best Radicals Are Reactionaries

Daniel McCarthy quotes Bill Kaufman:

I don’t really have to convince you that Easy Rider is a reactionary picture, do I? The only characters depicted as unqualifiably virtuous are the homesteading family, living on their own acreage, raising their own food, teaching their young. If they’re not Treichlers then Dennis Hopper is playing Ron Ziegler. The only American Dream worth the snores is based in liberty and a community- (or family-) oriented independence, which the filmmakers associated with the country’s founders. Dennis Hopper (an admittedly unorthodox Kansas Republican) and Peter Fonda (a gun-loving libertarian) did not make a movie glorifying tripping hippies and condemning the southern gun culture; rather, as exasperated Fonda explained, “My movie is about the lack of freedom. My heroes are not right, they’re wrong. … Liberty’s become a whore, and we’re all taking the easy ride.”

He goes on:

“The best radicals,” Bill argues, “are reactionaries at heart. They despise the official order, be it state capitalism, militarism, communism, or what have you, but wish not merely to remove the malignancy but to replace it with an organic system, rooted in human nature and human affection. However angry, theirs — ours — is a politics of love.”

One thinks here of Dickens as read by Chesterton, to whom it was the view of the world’s flawed goodness that made Dickens a social reformer, since he recognised people’s degraded dignity. One is made by Christianity “fond of this world, even in order to change it”, in contrast to simple (one might say, Whig or Marxist) optimism or simple pessimism (such as that of much of the political Right), each of which discourages reform. We have to “hate [the world] enough to want to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing”, for it is “at once an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.”

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

Chesterton extends this concept of limits as necessary to freedom, to the explicitly theological. Liberal Protestants are most illiberal, wishing to diminish rather than to increase the number of miracles, and to disbelieve in things rather than to believe in them, so as to curtail “the liberty of God.” Orthodoxy is here the limit necessary for liberty: Calvinism reserved it to God; and now scientific materialism, in succession, “binds the Creator Himself”. But Catholicism holds to the spiritual freedom both of God and of Man, whence we proceed onto the familiar ground of “the democracy of the dead” and all that.

Public Holidays

Have you been shopping today? Will you be going shopping today? No holiday, then, for the shop assistants or the delivery drivers.

In no other country does this happen. Anywhere else, a public holiday is a public holiday, because anywhere else, it commemorates something specific. Only here do we have public holidays for nothing. So only here do we have public holidays on which the public have to work.

A Test of Cameron's Class

What if Iran had done this?

But then, what if Iran had attacked an American naval intelligence ship, killed 34 crew members, wounded 171 others, and severely damaged the vessel? Next Tuesday, it will be 43 years since Israel did that. There has never been the slightest comeback. There has never even been a Congressional investigation. Anyone else who did that would not last 43 hours.

We know that George Osborne subscribes to the insatiably war-hungry "Israel First, America Second, Britain Third (If At All)" foreign policy that is the third point of the triangle of which the other two are the decadent social libertinism of the 1960s and the decadent economic libertinism of the 1980s. But David Cameron accordingly addresses Osborne as "Oik". Has Cameron, too, gone oik?

Like the closely connected, historically aberrant War Party in the United States, Israel was always going to be a key test for David Cameron: has he really dispensed with the sort of tasteless and trigger-happy new money that surrounded Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and instead restored a touch of class? We shall now see.

But why on earth should anyone take the IDF seriously again, after even its Special Forces have been disarmed by a band of student peaceniks and an elderly Holocaust survivor? That - yes, that - is the official line from the IDF.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Jack Straw Lied To Chilcot

As explained here.

But it is at most a secondary matter to have lied about Jacques Chirac, much reviled for doing exactly as he was paid to do and protecting French interests, and perhaps even more so for daring to strike a note of conservative scepticism against demented neoconservative schemes to make the world anew at the barrel of a gun, as well as to drag America and other sovereign states to war because one or more particular foreign powers commanded it.

No, the primary matter in Britain is that, while Americans were also fed equally false and absurd suggestions about Saddam Hussein's having been behind 9/11, we were given precisely one reason for this war, namely the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of deployment (no one bothered to ask why) within 45 minutes against the British sovereign bases on Cyprus. That claim was completely and utterly false, as those making it knew to be the case.

Tony Blair is now a fabulously rich man.

Remember The Warriors, Rethink The Wars

Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

Since America became a nation, four of her greatest generals have served two terms as president: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant and Dwight David Eisenhower. Not one of these generals led America into a new war. Washington was heroic in keeping the young republic out of the wars that erupted in Europe after the French Revolution, as were his successors John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Jackson, arguably America’s greatest soldier — who won the Battle of New Orleans, which preserved the Union, and virtually annexed Florida — resisted until his final days in office recognizing the Republic of Texas, liberated by his great friend and subaltern Sam Houston. Jackson wanted no war with Mexico. Eisenhower came to office determined to end the war in Korea. In six months, he succeeded — and kept America out of the raging war in Indochina.

Of the men who led us into our 19th century wars — the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War — only one, William McKinley, was a soldier who had seen combat. McKinley had enlisted at 17. In 1862, he was with the Union army at Antietam, the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. Though derided as having “the backbone of a chocolate eclair” by the bellicose Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley confided to a friend before going to war with Spain: “I have been through one war. … I have seen the bodies piled up. I do not want to see another.”

James Madison, who took us into the War of 1812, which came close to tearing apart the Union; James Polk, who took us to war with Mexico and gave us Texas to the Rio Grande, the Southwest and California; and Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation in its bloodiest war, were politicians. Lincoln had served three months in the Illinois Militia in the Black Hawk War, but he never saw action.

America was led into the world wars by Woodrow Wilson, a professor, and Franklin Roosevelt, a politician. Harry Truman, who took us into Korea, had captained an artillery battery in France in 1918. John F. Kennedy, who led us into Vietnam, had served on a PT boat in the Solomons. George H.W. Bush, who launched Desert Storm, was one of the youngest Navy pilots to fight in the Pacific war.

While Americans this Memorial Day put flags out for all of their war dead, the arguments do not cease over the wisdom of the wars in which they fought and died. In the grammar and high schools we attended in the 1940s and early 1950s, they were all good wars, all just wars, all necessary wars. Perhaps that is how it should be taught to America’s children. Yet, if the Revolution was a great and good cause, men fighting for freedom and nationhood, the War of 1812, where we were a de facto ally of Napoleon, seems a less noble endeavor. For among our motives was seizing Canada while the Mother Country was diverted.

Though deplored today, the Mexican War was not an unjust war. Far from stealing Mexican territory after our victory, we paid for it, and the Mexicans, five years later, agreed to the Gadsden Purchase and offered to sell us Baja California. The greed was in Mexico City.

As for America’s Civil War, this quarrel will never end. Did not the South have the same right to secede from the Union as the 13 colonies did to secede from England? Did Lincoln have the right to use blockade and invasion to drive Old Dixie down? His predecessor James Buchanan did not think so. Was the Civil War essential to ending slavery, when many states had already abolished it by legislation and every nation in the hemisphere ended it without a civil war, save for Haiti?

The Spanish-American War, begun over a falsehood — that Spain blew up the USS Maine in Havana harbor — ended with American soldiers and Marines fighting for years to deny Filipinos the freedom for which our fathers fought in the Revolution. Cuba was liberated, but the Philippines, 10,000 miles from Washington, was annexed. That was an imperial war.

In 1917, we declared war on Germany “to make the world safe for democracy.” And our major allies were four of the largest empires on earth: the British, French, Russian and Japanese. We deposed the Kaiser, and got Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and World War II. As a result of these world wars, all the Western empires fell, and Western Civilization began its inexorable advance to the grave. Impending bankruptcy aside, not one Western nation has a birth rate that will enable its native-born to survive many more generations. We did it to ourselves.

About Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — and the presidents who fought those wars, LBJ, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush — the divisions are still deep and emotions raw. Today is not the time to re-fight them, but to honor and pray for the patriots who, throughout our history, did their duty, fought and died in them. Requiescant in pace.

Laying Down The Laws

Whether or not David Laws leaves Parliament, has not a newspaper found an ideal solution to the present problem that, with no Fleet Street columnist who writes from within the life and subculture of the Lib Dems, that party of government is exempt from an important form of scrutiny? One of the more rightish papers, obviously. For example, The Daily Telegraph.

Neoconned No More

Even Denis MacShane - yes, Denis Macshane - now writes:

It is time to stop the blood sacrifice of our young soldiers in Afghanistan. In June 2003, Tony Blair initiated the grim ritual of reading out the names of the fallen at the start of each prime minister's questions. David Cameron's first words as PM at the Dispatch Box after the Queen's Speech were an incantation to the new victims of a war that is as unwinnable as it is unwanted by the people of both Britain and Afghanistan.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev described Afghanistan as a "bleeding wound". Last week, US general Stanley McChrystal called it a "bleeding ulcer". Britain has no general, no "master of strategy" as the inscription on Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke's statue outside the Ministry of Defence puts it, with the 21st-century vision to stop the blood-letting as officers and men are sent as IED fodder. War is too important to be left to generals. Unfortunately ministers past and present have flinched from thinking strategically. If the object is to stop Afghanistan from again becoming a base for al-Qaida to launch attacks, there are alternatives to sending out men on foot patrols to be blown up by hidden bombs or shot by snipers who fade back into the hills.

The new defence secretary is now known as "13th-Century Fox" after his colonial, quasi-racist rant about Afghanistan as a 13th-century nation. President Karzai is an obsessive reader of British and American papers. Liam Fox's patronising contempt has done serious damage to Britain's influence in Kabul. Instead of apologising gracefully, Fox blustered and tried to explain away his gaffe. But he did hint at a truth when he suggested that Britain should look to reducing its military profile in Afghanistan. Unfortunately this outbreak of wisdom was slapped down by the foreign secretary, William Hague.

In Canada, the Conservative government has confirmed its troops will leave next year. There is new thinking in the Netherlands, one of Britain's key Nato allies, where the government collapsed over Afghanistan. Nato has new duties to guard its Baltic flanks and ensure that the melting Arctic becomes a sea of trade and peace. It no longer needs to define its existence by occupying Afghanistan.

There is fresh thinking among Tory MPs. In the Commons last week, Patrick Mercer MP, a former commanding officer of an infantry regiment, made the point that Britain's terrorists were bred and trained in Yorkshire, not Afghanistan. Another Tory MP, the former shadow defence minister Julian Lewis, said Britain should create sovereign strategic bases in Afghanistan to support the government and ensure al-Qaida does not return, but stop the pointless patrols that are target practice for the Taliban.

Every six months, a new commander is sent from London to head the fighting soldiers in Afghanistan. These brigadiers rotate, so that, instead of fighting one six-year war, we have fought 12 six-month wars, so that future red tabs can punch their tickets. The can-do, will-do power-point style of the British army impresses politicians, and every visiting minister and journalist is in awe of these tough, sun-burnt, dedicated professionals. It is hard to say that they and their generals are wrong, but the time has come to put parliament and elected ministers in charge. The pro-war tabloids say they are backing our boys. They are not: they are backing the generals. Officers and men ready to criticise the campaign have no voice.

Diplomats and development aid should be redirected to Pakistan and India, as well as to China and Iran, to remove the widespread feeling among Muslim communities that this is Kipling's west again seeking to control the lives of people whose customs and needs they do not understand. The burning issue of Kashmir, where 70,000 Muslims have been killed since the Indian army took over full control of the disputed region 20 years ago, needs to be put on the international agenda. The White House is clearly looking for an exit strategy. Britain also needs to begin PMQs without a roll-call of the dead and maimed. We have done our duty. It is time to come home.

A Special Relationship With India

We should beware of the SR term, and we should be mindful that India is these days at least as close to the country with which we falsely flatter ourselves that we already have one. However, our historic, economic, cultural, diplomatic and family ties to India cannot be denied, and demand to be utilised. As, in fact, they quietly have been for ever.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist, a secession from the merely Stalinist Communist Party of India because of the older body's failure to support Chairman Mao, is on course for very heavy losses in its stronghold of West Bengal. Maoist activity of a less parliamentary variety is very much on the rise there, and it constitutes the greatest security threat in and to India as a whole, as well as having taken over Nepal. But lucky West Bengalis, that they can vote out at least some such people. Here, we have no way of voting out José Manuel Barroso.

Touches of Colour

"To use the old-fashioned classifications", intoned the Radio Four announcer after he had uttered the terms "Coloured" and "Indian". He was not my old university mate who works for the BBC full-time in South Africa and must therefore know better.

Coloured has a capital C, and there is nothing "so-called" or "painful" or what have you about it. Coloureds are the majority in the Western Cape, which has almost as many whites as blacks, which is the only province run by a party other than the ANC, and which looks out across the harbour at Cape Town to the world beyond, just as KwaZula Natal looks out across the harbour at Durban, a city full of Indians, as they very definitely call themselves.

In many ways, South Africa's great hope is that she contains those two. Jacob Zuma will never be The Big Man in either of those places, a Greater Mugabe or a Greater Amin. Not least, consider that there used to be Indians in all the former British possessions down the east of Africa. But the ones in and around Durban are still there, with ties to a rising superpower and to its vast global Diaspora.

And consider that the party running the Western Cape, the DA, is the heir to the non-violent and pro-Commonwealth tradition of non-racial and non-Marxist opposition that did in fact bring about the end of apartheid. Such is the entirely voluntary constitutional status of each of the places in question, that to be British is now to be not just any, but at some level all, of English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Manx, Channel Islander, Mediterranean, North American, Caribbean, South American, Southern African Creole, Indian Ocean Creole, and Polynesian. The Southern African Creoles in question have very close ties indeed to the ones who predominate in the Western Cape.

Dead Loss

Broadcasting House can be tiresome, but it was very refreshing to hear a veteran of the Highland Division that remained in France explain that "Churchill was a dead loss" and that "Churchill's name was mud", as well as to hear the presenter suggest more attention for Singapore and Crete, and Sir Max Hastings call for a greater awareness of the Italian Campaign in which my father served.

The cult of Churchill really only began with his death a generation after the War, though immediately after his constituency association had deselected him as its parliamentary candidate. The electorate had turfed him out as Prime Minister while the War against Japan had still been going on, Labour had won half of his newly divided seat, and an Independent had done strikingly well against him in the other half after Labour and the Liberals had disgracefully refused to contest it. What might have happened if either or both of those parties had done its democratic duty? We may guess the answer to that one from the fact that they declined to do so.

My father, as Tory as most Scots of his generation until he went to Saint Helena in 1968 and came back to Thatcher's Britain, could no more abide Churchill, whose newsreel image cinema audiences routinely booed and hissed until he was safely in the grave, than, having also served in Palestine, he could bear the sight of Yitzhak Shamir on the news. By contrast, he retained a very pronounced affection for the Italians.

Most politicians, including all Prime Ministers, seem to want to be Churchill. That is the trouble with them.

Collective Shame

The English Collective of Prostitutes has some sort of BBC franchise. "We do it by choice"? "We enjoy it"? Then you are filthy whores, as bad as your evil punters. Away with them. And away with you. Meanwhile, when will the English Collective of Smack Dealers be heard all over the BBC?

By all means let it be made a criminal offence for any person above the age of consent (which should be raised to 18) to buy, or attempt to buy, sex. And let it also be made be made a criminal offence, with an exactly equal sentence, for any person above that age to sell, or attempt to sell, sex. Since the former are usually men and the latter usually women, are women morally and intellectually equal to men, or not?

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Tonight, We're Going To Party Like It's 1994

Or thereabouts.

Welcome back to the Major Government. Right-wing MPs as a de facto separate party, by far the bitterest and most vociferous section of the Opposition. And now, newspapers dismissing Cabinet Ministers at will.

Dead To Be Wild

Dennis Hopper was 74. Have you got that? Seventy-four.

Get over the Sixties.

The Fuzzy, Cosy Myth

Peter Hitchens writes:

I think enough time has passed since Dunkirk for us to admit the truth about it. It was not a triumph, but a terrible national defeat – surpassed in the 20th Century only by the other Churchillian catastrophe of Singapore in 1942.

Having entered a war for which we were wholly unready, for a cause which was already lost, at a time we did not choose and with allies on whom we could not rely, we were flung off the continent of Europe in weeks. Only thanks to a double devil’s pact did we survive as a nation.

We sold our economy and our empire to Franklin Roosevelt’s USA, and we handed half of Europe to Joseph Stalin’s homicidal tyranny. They won the war in the end, though we had to contribute many lives to their victory. Then we looked on as they rearranged the world.

Sooner or later, the fuzzy, cosy myth of World War Two and our ‘Finest Hour’ will fade. We once needed to pretend Dunkirk was a triumph. If we are to carve our way in a hostile world, we now need to understand – as those who were actually on the beaches well knew – that it wasn’t any such thing.


In the course of the Competition's history, Belgium has given us more points than any other country, as befits historically our principal ally and trading partner on the Continent, an entity very like the United Kingdom, with a social democracy founded on Christian principles, even headed by a monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and for the sake of which we once fought a World War. Tonight, Belgium gave us nothing. Ponder these things.

The band singing for Cyprus was actually from Wales. But then, one in six Greek Cypriots in the world lives in the United Kingdom, and Cyprus is one of the three Commonwealth countries in the European Union. As with Belgium, how many people here really know anything about our genuine ties to the Continent, which long predated the EU and which, now that the monetary and thus political union that was always its fully declared end is falling apart, are perfectly capable of outliving it? If, that is, we can be bothered to ensure that they do.

Romania voted for Moldova, but Moldova, although she gave 12 points to Romania, gave 10 to Russia. The cut-and-shunt union of Moldavia and Transnistria is moving inexorably towards dissolution. Moldavia will be reincorporated into Romania, while Transnistria will become, even if not formally part of Russia, as good as that for most or all practical purposes. Who will mind when that happens? Who will even notice? And as in certain other places, why should Stalin, of all people, be given the last word?

One such other place in Nagorno-Karabakh. What is Azerbaijan doing in the Eurovision Song Contest? If Europe is a culture rather than a place, then that culture certainly does not include an existential threat to the first entire people ever to accept its very foundation, namely the recapitulation in Jesus Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism and the Roman Empire.

No wonder that there was so much evident good will between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Their similar flags are of course no coincidence, the Azeris being a Turkic people. They may be Shi'ite while most Turks are Sunni, but their attitude to Armenians, and to everything of which that people is the outpost and the living sign, is exactly that of our dear NATO, and putatively EU, brother, the Land of the Two Far Rights, in which the only viable political options are secular ultranationalism and militant Islam.

Speaking of the oppressors of indigenous Middle Eastern Christianity, note the hefty Israeli vote for Russia. Think of those Russians who refuse to eat kosher food, and who are imported as part of the attempt to maintain a non-Arab majority, an attempt so successful that Muhammad is now the single most common name for newborn boys within the pre-1967 borders. Consider that many of those Russians insist on taking their IDF oaths on the New Testament alone, a position having nothing to do with Russian Orthodoxy, which keeps Old Testament figures as saints and venerates icons of them, but can only be attributed to simple anti-Semitism. And ask yourself what they know of the Latin Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Anglicans and Lutherans in whose midst they live. Then, there are Israel's Russian Nazis. Rather unsurprisingly, all things considered.

A Good Start

I saw Pat Glass MP this morning, and I am delighted that she is to have an office in Consett as well as in Crook. May we hope for her to adopt other common sense policies? For example, nuclear power and clean coal technology. The restoration of British overall control of our defence capability. The docking of Ministers’ pay if either spending or outcomes are lower in the North East than in Scotland or the South East. Immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq. No war against Iran. Total opposition to lap-dancing clubs. And many, many more.

May we hope that Pat will adopt traditional conservative and patriotic policies? For example, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law. Returning to preventative policing based on foot patrols. Making each offence carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or 15 years for life, in the context of restoring and defending civil liberties, so that convictions are once again harder to obtain and therefore more reliable. Restoration of the grammar schools, restoration of O-levels, restoration of excellent Secondary Modern schools, defence and restoration of Special Needs Education, and defence of church schools both against New Labour and against the Liberal Democrats.

A legal presumption of equal parenting, restoration of the tax allowance for fathers, and allowing paternity leave to be taken at any time in the first 18 years of the child’s life. Helping farmers and small businesses through a windfall tax on the supermarkets. Defending village services, saving shooting and fishing, repealing the hunting ban, and making Gypsies and Travellers obey the same planning laws as the rest of us. Preserving the historic regimental system, rebuilding the Royal Navy, and saving the Royal Air Force. And many, many more.

May we hope that Pat will adopt traditional social democratic policies? For example, no one’s tax-free income to fall below half national median earnings. Abolition of prescription charges, and restoration of free eye and dental treatment. Making employment rights begin on day one of employment and apply regardless of the number of hours worked, as promised by John Smith. Saving council housing, and bringing all council services back in house. Renationalising the utilities and the railways, and building a national network of public transport free at the point of use. And many, many more.

May we hope that Pat will advocate the coming together of all three of common sense, traditional conservatism and patriotism, and traditional social democracy, in the removal of all nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons from British soil and waters?

May we hope that Pat will give a voice to the alliance of the traditional Right and the traditional Left against the neoconservative war agenda and its assaults on liberty at home, including against any new Cold War with either or both of Russia and China? To the socially and culturally conservative, strongly patriotic tendencies within the British Left’s traditional electoral base, not least in this constituency?

To those who recognise that we cannot deliver the welfare provisions and the other public services that our people have rightly come to expect unless we know how many people there are in this country, unless we control immigration properly, and unless we insist that everyone use spoken and written English to the necessary level? And to those who refuse to allow climate change to be used as an excuse to destroy or prevent secure employment, to drive down wages or working conditions, to arrest economic development around the world, to forbid the working classes and non-white people from having children, to inflate the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, or to restrict either travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich?

I very much hope so. I very much hope that Pat’s priorities include the Welfare State, workers’ rights, trade unionism, the co-operative movement, consumer protection, strong communities, conservation rather than environmentalism, fair taxation, full employment, public ownership, proper local government, a powerful Parliament, and a base of real property for every household to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State, while having a no less absolute commitment to any or all of the monarchy, the organic Constitution, national sovereignty, civil liberties, the Union, the Commonwealth, the countryside, grammar schools, traditional moral and social values, controlled importation and immigration, and a realistic foreign policy.

I very much hope that Pat is aware of, understand, value and draws on the Radical Liberal, Tory populist, trade union, co-operative, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist (Pat is a practising Catholic), and other roots of the Labour Movement, rejecting cultural Marxism no less comprehensively than economic Marxism, and vice versa. That Pat, like Herbert Morrison, has “never seen any conflict between Labour and what are known as the middle classes”, to whom she certainly belongs and who predominate, without wishing to overstate this, here in Lanchester. That Pat, with Aneurin Bevan, denounces class war, calling instead for “a platform broad enough for all to stand upon” and for the making of “war upon a system, not upon a class”.

And I very much hope that Pat will co-operate as closely as possible with the forces of provincial, rural, protectionist, church-based, conservative, mind-our-own-business Toryism, forces soon to be set free by electoral reform from tendencies variously metropolitan, urban, capitalist, secular, libertarian and make-the-world-anew. Several people in the former category were also there this morning. That simply is the Right in an area such as this, as in great swathes of the country.

But I am afraid that the signs are not good. Pat has nominated David Miliband. Perhaps she hopes that he would be good for the North East. Why? Tony Blair was not good for the North East. Very far from it. Very far from it, indeed. And why not? Because, unlike Pat, he was not remotely like any of the above. Nor is David Miliband. Nor is any of the candidates for Labour Leader, although David Miliband is the worst, and at least the presence of Frank Field and Kate Hoey among those nominating John McDonnell indicates that his desire to maintain and restore the broad-based party works in more than one direction. But McDonnell is most unlikely to be on the ballot paper. And no candidate in the above vein can even be found to try.

Roll on electoral reform.

Out Of The Shadows

Simon Hughes, looking like a dead cert to be Lib Dem Deputy Leader, wants presumably the backbench section of his party to appoint Shadows, as if in Opposition. At least that would be some use to which to put the Short Money. Could Tory backbenchers secure some if they decided to do the same, perhaps through the 1922 Committee?

Meanwhile, with Labour back as the Official Opposition, Shadow Cabinet elections will be held in the near future. Oh, what fun...

But can we please discard the ridiculous slur that Hughes ran a "homophobic" campaign against Peter Tatchell? The use of "straight" to mean "heterosexual" only passed into mainstream usage well within my recollection. Until long after Hughes thankfully kept that vile man out of Parliament, its only colloquial meaning, at least to anyone outside certain homosexual subcultures, was "honest".

The Rule of Laws

The revered City comes to the reviled Westminster.

Bringing its standards and expectations with it.

The SDP's Big Night Out

All four panellists on this week's Any Questions were former members of the SDP, one of the three toxic streams running into our present Political Class. While its poison is a great deal less virulent than that of the 1970s sectarian Left or the 1980s sectarian Right, it nevertheless includes the betrayal of Gaitskellism over Europe. The betrayal of both Gaitskellism and Christian Socialism over nuclear weapons. The decadent social libertinism of Roy Jenkins. The comprehensive schools mania of Shirley Williams. Her regret at not having resigned in protest against past Labour measures to restrict immigration. And, related to all of those but especially to the last, a fanatical hatred of trade unions.

Distinct Bedding Materials

Rod Liddle writes:

As you are no doubt aware, I am an intensely private person, and for this reason I hope that you can understand my decision not to have declared a very large amount of income tax to the Inland Revenue over the last seven years. This was money I earned writing for publications which I would rather people did not know I wrote for, such as the magazine “Bouncy Barnyard Fun” and the low circulation periodical “I Love My Goat”. I hope you will appreciate that my intention, in not declaring this source of income to the tax authorities, was solely to protect the privacy of both myself and that of my Valais Blackneck goat, Campbell-Bannerman, and not to maximize the amount of money I trousered as a consequence. The fact that I accrued some £40,000 in this manner was never the point - just an, um, unfortunate coincidence.

I ought to point out too that my relationship with Campbell-Bannerman ended three years ago and we have gone our separate ways (he is now living in a sanctuary for traumatized exotic livestock near Rochester, but that is none of your business). But equally, even at the time we were together we did not consider one another spouses, per se; we had separate bank accounts and used distinct bedding materials, as you might expect. And when friends came to visit, Campbell-Bannerman would vacate the living room and be tethered to a fence post at the bottom of the garden, where he would munch away at the surrounding foliage in an innocent goat-like manner.

I hope you will accept too that at all times I believed, in not disclosing this income, I was acting within the law and indeed within the spirit of the law. And it is a mark of my flagrant honesty that as soon as the Inland Revenue announced that they would bring criminal charges against me for failure to disclose this income, I immediately told them of my full intention to pay it all back. And I hope you will be kind enough to allow both myself and Campbell-Bannerman to put this matter behind the both of us and continue with our lives. This has been a stressful time, for me, the goat and my new partner, a dearly beloved Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig called Ming.


Marcy Winograd, who is challenging Jane Harman in Democratic primary in California’s 36th Congressional District on 8th June, is being castigated by the usual suspects for suggesting that:

Most of the [9/11] hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and were angry at the proliferation of U.S. bases and forces in Saudi Arabia, so I think there’s a great degree of pushback over the presence of U.S. troops all over the world.

And that:

Under the Soviet-influenced government in Afghanistan, women had far more freedom than they do today, after how many years of American occupation?

If you don’t believe her about 9/11, then believe George Bush, who withdrew the American troops in response to it. As a consequence, there has been no further attack on American soil. The only thing he got right.

Keeping going the “women-led NGOs” beloved of Winograd’s critics is not a good enough reason to have a war. And to whose shame is it that what she says is perfectly true about the status of Afghan women today now when contrasted with that under Soviet occupation?

If Not Catholicism, Then Witchcraft

Julianne Douglas writes:

I'm not one for witches; I usually shy away from books with a paranormal bent. So I have to admit I was a bit hesitant when Mary Sharratt asked if I'd be interested in reviewing her new novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2010). However, Mary's pitch sounded intriguing and I'd heard good things about her previous novels, so I swallowed my reservations and accepted her invitation.

I'm certainly glad I did. Witching Hill turned out to be one of the most mesmerizing books I've read all year.

Sharratt's novel dramatizes the story of the Pendle witches, a group of women and men tried and condemned for sorcery in 1612 in Lancashire, England. The trial is well documented in contemporary accounts strongly biased against the accused. Sharratt's achievement lay in bringing to life the maligned, dehumanized figures of the accused sorcerers without turning the novel into a glorification of witchcraft. She successfully recreates the early modern mindset that embraced the supernatural unquestioningly, yet portrays events and circumstances in such a way that the modern reader can easily discern the natural, probable causes that triggered them. Against a backdrop of poverty and intolerance, she sketches a touching portrait of three generations of women whose love opens them to a world of wonder and sustains them through the horrors of betrayal and unjust death.

Elizabeth Southerns, a poor beggar woman known by the nickname Demdike, narrates the first half of the book. Widowed, Demdike struggles to support her family on pittances paid for day labor. Her life changes the evening a beautiful youth, Tibb, enters it. With the angelic demon's help, Demdike becomes a "blesser" capable of curing sick livestock, healing ill children, and helping the barren conceive. Ever fearful of being named a witch, she never meddles with curses and only uses her powers for good -- except for the few times she allows her loyalty towards her childhood friend, Chattox, draw her into dangerous waters, with ultimately tragic results.

Demdike's daughter Eliza treads her mother's path for a time, but once her husband dies -- cursed by Chattox, Eliza believes -- she rejects the cunning craft and adopts the Protestant faith. Eliza's daughter Alizon, who narrates the second half of the novel, desires nothing more than to be a normal girl with a normal family. She resists her own nascent powers as long as she can, though she feels guilty spurning the aging Demdike, who wishes to train her as a healer. But when a peddler Alizon encounters suffers a stroke as she rebukes him for his rudeness, he accuses her of cursing him. This event snowballs into a veritable witch hunt that sweeps Alizon's family and friends into prison and through a sham trial whose outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Sharratt's characterizations are marvelously rich. Demdike, a joyful, generous soul who loves the simple pleasures of life and sorely misses the Catholic feasts and village festivals of her youth, completely belies the stereotype of the dour, evil sorceress. She fully believes in the presence and action of her familiar spirit, the handsome Tibb, although she tricks herself into believing that consorting with him is not as dangerous as it might seem. Alizon's desire for normalcy adds particular poignancy to her friendship with Nancy, a daughter of the lower gentry, and to the suffering she endures when subjected to the taunts and scorn of the village children. Alizon regards the cunning craft with equal parts fear and disdain; she witnesses its power at work in her family, yet senses that natural causes might contribute to its successes and failures. The novel brims with skillfully developed secondary characters, from the jealous and downtrodden Chattox to Alizon's wily half-wit brother Jamie to Alice Nutter, the Catholic noblewoman who shelters outlawed priests and continues to aid Demdike's family despite the danger the relationship poses to her own. Weaving intricate relationships between characters from all levels of local society, the novel explores the wearing effects envy, fear, and poverty have on the bonds of friendship and gratitude.

Most interesting to me is the link Sharratt posits between cunning craft and Catholicism. The novel takes place during the Elizabethan and Jamesian eras, when the old faith has been outlawed and Protestantism has stripped life of the comforts and consolations of Catholic feasts and practices. Many of Demdike's blessings derive from Latin prayers and both she and Alizon remain as true as they can to the old faith. Yet I never felt that Sharratt equated Catholicism with witchcraft; rather, she showed, in a very convincing fashion, how remnants of the old faith, forced underground and severed from the corrective counterbalances of clergy and doctrine, could be corrupted as they were passed down or misinterpreted by those who had no direct experience of them. The novel made very real the cultural and affective void that imposed Protestantism must have made in the lives of significant segments of society, a void that witchcraft was readily seen to fill.

It was a joy to read a novel that succeeded on so many levels, from the richness of the characterization to the beauty of the language to the authenticity of the era it evoked. I heartily recommend Daughters of the Witching Hill as a well-written and thought-provoking look at the effects of the Reformation on the lives of the lower classes and have added it without hesitation to my list of favorite historical novels.

There is also an excellent case that Freemasonry arose out of the same failure of Protestantism to meet, as Catholicism had done and continues to do, the need for the everyday things of ordinary life to be imbued with theological significance and spiritual power.

"Essentially A Social Democrat"

"If anything, to the left of his predecessor." So bewails the neoconservative Jody Bottum of the man who, as Joseph Ratzinger, wrote:

We must now consider the process by which this history of past centuries was transmitted to new worlds. The two halves of ancient pre-modern Europe had essentially known only one next-door neighbor, with whom it had to negotiate as a matter of life and death: namely, the Islamic world. It was only a question of time before Europe would expand toward America and in part toward Asia, continents that were lacking in great cultural protagonists. Still later, Europe would begin to make further incursions into these two continents, Africa and Asia, which it had previously dealt with only marginally, and which it would seek to transform into European franchises, into colonies.

If colonization could be considered a success, it is in the sense that contemporary Asia and Africa can also pursue the ideal of a world shaped by technology and prosperity. Yet there, too, the ancient religious traditions are undergoing a crisis, and secular thinking has made inroads and begun to dominate public life.

These processes have also produced the opposite effect: Islam has been reborn, in part because of the new material wealth acquired by the Islamic countries, but mainly because of people's conviction that Islam can provide a valid spiritual foundation to their lives. Such a foundation seems to have eluded old Europe, which, despite its enduring political and economic power, seems to be on the road to decline and fall.

By contrast to Europe's denial of its religious and moral foundations, Asia's great religious traditions — especially the mystical component expressed in Buddhism — have been elevated as spiritual powers. The optimism in European culture that Arnold Toynbee could still voice in the early fifties sounds strangely antiquated today: "We are faced by the fact that, of the twenty-one civilizations that have been born alive and have proceeded to grow, thirteen are dead and buried; that seven of the remaining eight are apparently in decline; and that the eighth, which is our own, may also have passed its zenith." Who would repeat these same words today? Above all, what is European culture, and what has remained of it? Is European culture perhaps nothing more than the technology and trade civilization that has marched triumphantly across the planet? Or is it instead a post-European culture born on the ruins of the ancient European cultures?

There is a paradoxical synchrony in these developments. The victory of the post-European technosecular world and the universalization of its lifestyle and thinking have spread the impression — especially in the non-European countries of Asia and Africa — that Europe's value system, culture, and faith — in other words, the very foundations of its identity — have reached the end of the road, and have indeed already departed from the scene. From this perspective, the time has apparently arrived to affirm the value systems of other worlds, such as pre-Colombian America, Islam, or Asian mysticism.

At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life, subjecting it to transplants that erase its identity. At the same time as its sustaining spiritual forces have collapsed, a growing decline in its ethnicity is also taking place.

Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future. Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present, as if they were taking something away from our lives. Children are seen as a liability rather than as a source of hope. There is a clear comparison between today's situation and the decline of the Roman Empire. In its final days, Rome still functioned as a great historical framework, but in practice it was already subsisting on models that were destined to fail. Its vital energy had been depleted.

Now let us turn to the problems of the present. There are two opposing diagnoses on the possible future of Europe. On the one hand, there is the thesis of Oswald Spengler, who believed that he had identified a natural law for the great moments in cultural history: first came the birth of a culture, then its gradual rise, flourishing, slow decline, aging, and death. Spengler argued his thesis with ample documentation, culled from the history of cultures that demonstrated the law of the natural life cycle. His thesis was that the West would come to an end, and that it was rushing heedlessly toward its demise, despite every effort to stop it. Europe could of course bequeath its gifts to a new emerging culture — following the example set by previous cultures during their decline — but as a historical subject its life cycle had effectively ended.

Spengler's "biologistic" thesis attracted fierce opponents during the period between the two wars, especially in Catholic circles. Arnold Toynbee reserved harsh words for it, in arguments too readily ignored today. Toynbee emphasized the difference between technological-material progress and true progress, which he defined as spiritualization. He recognized that the Western world was indeed undergoing a crisis, which he attributed to the abandonment of religion for the cult of technology, nationalism, and militarism. For him this crisis had a name: secularism.

If you know the cause of an illness, you can also find a cure: the religious heritage in all its forms had to be reintroduced, especially the "heritage of Western Christianity." Rather than a biologistic vision, he offers a voluntaristic one focused on the energy of creative minorities and exceptional individuals.

This leads us to the question of whether Toynbee's diagnosis is correct. If it is, then we must ask whether it is in our power to reintroduce the religious dimension through a synthesis of residual Christianity and the religious heritage of humankind. The Spengler-Toynbee debate remains open because we cannot see into the future. Nevertheless it is our duty to ask which factors will guarantee the future and which have allowed the inner identity of Europe to survive throughout its metamorphoses in history. To put it more simply, what can still promise, today and tomorrow, to offer human dignity to life?

To find an answer we must once again survey the present situation and its historical roots. We had gone as far as the French Revolution and the nineteenth century. Since that time, two new European models have developed. In the Latin nations the secular model has prevailed. A sharp distinction is made between the state and the religious bodies, deeming the latter to fall under the private sphere. The state denies that it has a religious foundation and affirms that it is based on reason and rational knowledge. Since reason is inherently fragile, however, these secular systems have proved to be weak, becoming easy targets for dictatorships. They survive only because elements of the old moral conscience have persevered, even without the earlier foundations, enabling the existence of a basic moral consensus.

In the Germanic world, the liberal Protestant model of church and state has prevailed. An enlightened and essentially moral Christian religion has some forms of worship that are supported by the state. This relationship guarantees a moral consensus and a broad religious foundation to which individual non-state religions must adapt. This model has long guaranteed state and social cohesion in Great Britain, the Scandinavian states, and once upon a time also in Prussian-dominated Germany. In Germany, however, the collapse of Prussian State Christianity left a vacuum that would later provide fertile soil for a dictatorship. Today state churches throughout the world are characterized by their fatigue. Moral force — the foundation on which to build — does not emanate from either the religious bodies subservient to the state nor from the state itself.

Situated between the two models is the one adopted by the United States of America. Built on the foundations created by the free churches, it adopts a rigid dogma of separation between church and state. Above and beyond the single denominations, it is characterized by a Protestant Christian consensus that is not defined in denominational terms, but rather in association with the country's sense of a special religious mission toward the rest of the world. The religious sphere thus acquires a significant weight in public affairs and emerges as a prepolitical and supra-political force with the potential to have a decisive impact on political life. Of course, one cannot hide the fact that in the United States, also, the Christian heritage is falling apart at an incessant pace, while at the same time the rapid increase in the Hispanic population and the presence of religious traditions from all over the world have altered the picture.

Perhaps here we should also observe that the United States is involved to a large extent in promoting Protestantism in Latin America — and hence in the breakup of the Catholic Church — through the work of free church formations. It does so out of the conviction that the Catholic Church is incapable of guaranteeing a stable political and economic system, since it is considered an unreliable educator of nations. The underlying expectation is that the free churches model, instead, will be able to create a moral consensus and to form a democratic public will that are similar to those of the United States.

To further complicate the picture, we have to acknowledge that the Catholic Church today represents the largest single religious community in the United States, while American Catholics have incorporated the traditions of the free church regarding the relationship between the Church and politics, believing that a Church that is separate from the state better guarantees the moral foundation of the country. Hence the promotion of the democratic ideal is seen as a moral duty that is in profound compliance with the faith. In this position we can rightly see a continuation, adapted to the times, of the model of Pope Gelasius described earlier.

Let us return to the situation in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the two models that I described above were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various religious denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.

The totalitarian model, by contrast, was associated with a rigidly materialistic, atheistic philosophy of history: it saw history deterministically, as a road of progress that passes first through a religious and then through a liberal phase to arrive at an absolute, ultimate society in which religion is surpassed as a relic of the past and collective happiness is guaranteed by the workings of material conditions.

This scientific façade hides a dogmatic intolerance that views the spirit as produced by matter, and morals as produced by circumstances. According to its dictates, morals should be defined and practiced on the basis of society's purposes, and everything is deemed moral that helps to usher in the final state of happiness. This dogmatism completely subverts the values that built Europe. It also breaks with the entire moral tradition of humankind by rejecting the existence of values independent of the goals of material progress. Depending on circumstance, anything can become legitimate and even necessary; anything can become moral in the new sense of the term. Even humankind itself can be treated as an instrument, since the individual does not matter, only the future, the cruel deity adjudicating over one and all.

The communist systems collapsed under the weight of their own fallacious economic dogmatism. Commentators have nevertheless ignored all too readily the role in this demise played by the communists' contempt for human rights and their subjugation of morals to the demands of the system and the promises of the future. The greatest catastrophe encountered by such systems was not economic. It was the starvation of souls and the destruction of the moral conscience.

The essential problem of our times, for Europe and for the world, is that although the fallacy of the communist economy has been recognized — so much so that former communists have unhesitatingly become economic liberals — the moral and religious question that it used to address has been almost totally repressed. The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on: the crumbling of man's original uncertainties about God, himself, and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience grounded in absolute values is still our problem today. Left untreated, it could lead to the self-destruction of the European conscience, which we must begin to consider as a real danger — above and beyond the decline predicted by Spengler.

In the words of Martin Meenagh, "It ought to warm the cockles of an Old Labour heart, and make people reflect on what was lost when Labour was sold to a bunch of vulgar middle-class philistines and neoliberals with second-rate educations pickled in social science fads and the ruins of humanism."

Friday, 28 May 2010

Out and Proud

Far from hiding the fact that I am an expellee from the organisation still purporting to be the Labour Party, that fact saves me the cost of many a pint. Not least, though by no means exclusively, from undergraduates, in whom that status inspires a sort of awe.

The rising generation loathes New Labour, correctly associating it with nothing except wars and tuition fees. I could not be happier to confirm and consolidate that sentiment. It is not because they are Trots, as the New Labour lot were at that age. So they are not going to turn New New Labour in twenty or thirty years' time. Especially not if they have been under my influence in late adolescence.

This little bit of good work is part of the reason why expulsion was the best thing that has ever happened to me: it has set me free to get on with politics.

North Riding Rising

Don't believe the hype about Thirsk & Malton. The UKIP vote went up by 3.5%. And the combined anti-coalition vote was higher than the Lib Dem vote.

The Red Benches

Congratulations to Hilary Armstrong on her peerage, especially as she now says that she was against the Iraq War all along. Dianne Hayter is also rewarded at last. Her Fightback! is as invaluable as Clare V.J. Griffiths's Labour and the Countryside, and Martin Pugh's Speak for Britain!

Don Touhig, the Opus Dei-connected hammer of Welsh separatism and of Welsh-language supremacism (a form of class oppression within South Wales, and nothing to do with Welsh-speaking areas), also remains inside the parliamentary process.

Those of us of a certain age can only be delighted that the Lib Dems have caused the ennoblement of Floella Benjamin. But the absence of the anti-war Douglas Hogg is nothing more than spite; not a penny was ever paid for his moat, and he certainly bears comparison with many of those raised to the ermine in the Blair years.

The omission of Sir Patrick Cormack and of Ann Widdecombe should serve as yet another signal to the Old Right to wipe the dust of the Conservative Party from their feet as they take up Proportional Representation and run with it.

As for the drivelling nonsense that John Prescott is some sort of hypocrite for taking his due like a good trade unionist, Labour's only commitment to abolish the House of Lords was in its first ever manifesto, several decades before even Prescott was born. The early Labour Party also peremptorily dismissed a proposal to make it anti-monarchist, something repeated at the founding conference of Respect.

And there has never, ever been a Labour Party policy to abolish private schools. Nor was sending one's children to them any bar to advancement before the rise of their product, the second Viscount Stansgate, and before the embourgoisement of the activist base, a process in which teachers were, and are, highly prominent.

High Time

Mephedrone would rightly have been made illegal anyway. It should have been so within a single class of illegal drug, accompanied by a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on. All within a context in which each offence, of whatever kind, carries a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years for life.

Hating The B In BP?

That would be to miss the point. The company still calling itself British Petroleum is in fact an only-too-classic case of privatisation and globalisation in action. Making BP hardly, if at all, B anymore. That is the problem. By all means, let Middle America give voice to its long-latent hatred of all that. It would cause all the right dominoes to start to fall. All over the West. And all over the world.

"Obama's Watergate"?

What if it is? In those days, people clearly felt the need to feign outrage at the news that one party was bugging the other. These days, everyone not only assumes something like that to be the case, but feels no obligation to pretend that they do not. Watergate would not be a story on any level today. What sort of progress that is, is not the point. It is just a fact.

For pity's sake, get a grip. Obama got Bill Clinton to suggest to Joe Sestak that he might consider something in the Executive branch, which would conveniently have prevented him from seeking a Senate nomination against Arlen Specter? There is a word for that sort of thing. It is called "politics". And, unlike bugging people, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. If you think that there is, then what is the problem? What, precisely?

Sestak is a Clinton diehard, and this whole business - by which I mean the making public of it, which really is the height of bad form - has that ghastly pair's paw prints all over it. Who cares whether or not Sestak beats Pat Toomey, a creature of this demented and inverted age in which American conservatism has been redefined as the "invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world" of the Club for Greed?

Is it too late to find a third candidate: pro-life (like Pennsylvania's other Senator, the Obama-supporting Bob Casey), pro-family, anti-war, an economic and cultural patriot, and a supporter of measures such as public healthcare and the Employee Free Choice Act? The candidate that the Democrats would have had to have found in order to win back the seat from Peg Luksik. How hard can it be to find that candidate in the Caseys' state?

Where Is The Scrutiny?

Susan Kramer was on Question Time, while Evan Harris had been on the radio earlier, as he often is. But as things stand, their party of government is exempt from an important form of scrutiny. Either of them should have a Fleet Street column. There is also room for Charles Kennedy, Simon Hughes, Sir Menzies Campbell, Olly Grender, Paddy Ashdown, Mark Oaten and others. Really, every national newspaper, except perhaps the Mirror Group ones, should have a resident Lib Dem. I repeat that this is because they need scrutiny.

Scrutiny of schemes to join the euro. Or to grant an amnesty to illegal immigrants. Or to abolish church schools. Or to raise the income tax threshold, but without the wholesale restructuring that would guarantee everyone a tax-free income of at least half national median earnings at the given time. Or to reverse the erosion of civil liberties, but without therefore restoring proper sentencing and proper prison regimes because we could once again have confidence in convictions. Or to give the vote to prisoners. Or to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to appear legally in porn films that would then haunt them on the Internet for the rest of their lives. Or to advocate in this country openness, decentralisation and the election of everything (and that by means of STV), while also subscribing to European federalism.

Those, remember, are only the things that have managed to become party policy. Lib Dem columnists would give an insight into the various milieux that produced such policies, into the ideas that circulate around them and provide their context, and thus into the minds and character of the people involved in that process. Where are they?

Still, a certain amount of such insight will be given by the election of a new Deputy Leader. Soon after Vince Cable won it, he had to deputise at PMQs. On the subject of the Lib Dem Deputy Leadership Election, John Prescott averred that "In the pubs and clubs of Hull, they talked of nothing else." In the pubs and clubs of the Westminster Village, while they may be talking of others things, nevertheless they are now talking of this, too. So, where is the scrutiny?

Labour Pains

Much horrified squealing that the Labour Party has expelled Suzanne Moore for nothing more than, oh, standing for Parliament against the Labour Party candidate, specifically against Diane Abbott. And do you know, she has been expelled by post! I mean, don't they know who she is? Shouldn't there have been, like, a tribunal or something? No, dears. That's not how it works. Even if it were, then what do you think that that tribunal would have said?

Lucky Suzanne Moore. I warmly welcome her to the club. Now she can get on with politics. To which the Labour Party, as for some reason it still calls itself, is some hideous cross between an irrelevance and a positive hindrance. Just ask David Lammy. He has little or no political ground in common with - it's her again - Diane Abbott. Yet he has nominated her for Leader. Indeed, he is the only MP to have done so. Apparently, there has to be a woman on the ballot. Any woman, regardless of her views.

You are better off out of it, Ms Moore. We all are.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Prescription charges are not to be cancelled after all for everyone with a long-term condition lasting at least six months. But why are they not simply abolished? Seriously, why not?

Take out everyone over 60, everyone under 18, everyone on sickness benefits, everyone just on JSA (rather a lot of people at the moment and for the foreseeable future), pregnant women, nursing mothers, cancer patients, everyone in Wales, everyone in Northern Ireland, and before long everyone in Scotland. Exactly how many prescriptions are issued to people who do not fall into any of those categories?

If I were a betting man, then I would give you good odds that the whole thing brought in less money than it cost to administer. Whether or not that is the case, away with it.

Roll on electoral reform.

Out Against

This noticeably Afghanistan-free offering is mostly drivel, together with some disingenuous claims about "comprehensive" schooling and about "human rights in the Middle East". Where, Iraq?

But it also contains one barefaced lie:

5. As Foreign Secretary David ... spoke out against the invasion of Lebanon by Israel

On that or on anything else, have fun.

Worthy Of His Hire

I often like Iain Duncan Smith, a good Social Catholic who is on record that he doesn't mind which party implements those agenda, so long as they are implemented. He now has the chance to do so himself. Will he recognise that the solution to the problem of benefits paying more than work is to make work pay more? Just look up any of the Popes, not only since Leo XIII, but pretty much for ever. Or read the Bible.

A Capital Idea

I have never understood Capital Gains Tax. If you make a capital gain, then how is that anything other than part of your income for that financial year, to be taxed accordingly like all your other income?

Notice, yet again, the use of the term "middle-class" to describe people who own more than one house. The middle of what, exactly? David Davis, who is often good, is even trying to drum up sympathy for those struggling folk of the middling sort who feel obliged to sell one of their two or more dwelling places in order to buy from private companies things that are provided free by the NHS.

Shut Away, Now Go Away

Who answered Alistair Darling's Urgent Question on spending cuts, since those had not been announced to the mere House of Commons, but only to the constitutionally superior press pack? George Osborne? No, David Laws. Osborne was not even there.

Is the mentally defective moral degenerate who disgraces the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer unfit to be seen in public? Of course. He always was. The less sight or sound of him, the better. Most obviously, by removing him from his position.

Osborne also provides some riposte, to say the least, to those who imagine his party to be pro-life and pro-family, things that it actually stopped being before Labour did. Osborne is an anti-fatherhood abortion enthusiast. You might think that being anti-fatherhood was ludicrous in the heir to a baronetcy. You would be right.

Welcome Their Hatred

Marina Lewycka writes:

These same rating agencies, who back in 2006 were happily awarding triple-A ratings to 105% mortgages for half-employed carpet-fitters and insolvent poets, are now telling us how to run the country, saying if we misbehave then Greece, Spain or even Britain will get downgraded. What I can't understand is: why do we take any notice of them at all?

Where's the politician today who'd say what President Franklin D Roosevelt said in 1936: "We know now that government by organised money is just as dangerous as government by organised mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."

Class Action

First Class tickets are being sold for trains without First Class carriages.

We need to renationalise the railways, uniquely without compensation in view of the manner of their privatisation, as the basis for a national network of public transport free at the point of use, including the reversal of bus route and, where possible, rail line closures going back to the 1950s.

Roll on electoral reform.

The Wife-Beating Cup

As the relevant agencies prepare for the increase in domestic violence that always accompanies the World Cup, can you think of anything else that caused wife-beating but would be allowed on television at all, never mind at saturation level for a month?

The Broken Lock

Lisbon is self-amending.

It was always both economically and politically impossible for Britain to join the euro, as it always will be.

And who needs either referendum or renegotiation? We need Ministers who will just say no, and MPs who will restore the supremacy of British over EU law.

So, entirely new Ministers, then. Entirely new MPs. Entirely new parties. Roll on electoral reform.

Local Circumstances

Norwich, Exeter and Suffolk are not now to have unitary local government. I could never see why the last lot wanted it in Suffolk, abolishing Ipswich Council and subsuming it into a permanent Tory fiefdom.

Here in County Durham, the introduction of unitary local government has been an act of naked gerrymandering, almost admirable for its sheer brass neck. Durham City went Lib Dem, Wear Valley threatened to do so again (as for a time, due to very particular local circumstances, in the Nineties), and Derwentside was certainly going to go to No Overall Control.

So a Prime Minister who was a County Durham MP took his only ever interest in us, directing that all municipal services above Parish or Town level were to be delivered by the first council that Labour ever won, which it has never lost in the intervening hundred years.

Still, in view of that last fact, never let anyone tell you that Labour was a peculiraly urban phenomenom. New Labour is. But Labour was not. Nor will its reconstitution be.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Broad Church

Frank Field and Kate Hoey have nominated John McDonnell.

Does John have The 2020 Vision after all?

America Speaking Out

"America deserves a Congress that respects the priorities of the people. Unfortunately, Washington hasn't been listening. Let's change that. America Speaking Out is your opportunity to change the way Congress works by proposing ideas for a new policy agenda. Republicans have offered solutions, and we have our principles, but this is a new venue for us to listen to you. So Speak Out."

They are doing so:

Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses. Are they still in operation? I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course. I'm very glad to hear it. ...Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. ...I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.

In order to solve the immigration problem, I think we should simply declare everyone in the world a citizen of the United States. This is a perfect solution to the problem,. Once everyone is a citizen there are no longer any illegal aliens. The amount of money this would bring in is staggering. First, we would no longer need the bureau of immigration and border patrols would be a thing of the past. We would also be able to tax everyone on the planet .. BUH-BYE deficit. And, get this – because there are so many people to tax, all our tax rates drop .. have I got your attention yet ? As an added bonus terrorism comes to an abrupt halt. After all -- who would want to terrorize their own country. This solution is so simple I can’t believe no one else has suggested it. I look forward to the republican party sponsoring this idea

We need a new constitutional amendment dictating that "if both individuals were drunk, then it is not considered gay."

There are too many states these days. Please eliminate three. I am NOT a crackpot.

Carrie shouldn't get pregnant in the sequel! She and Big/John are fine without a baby. We already went through this with Charlotte and Miranda.

Consensual love is just that; consensual. There is no reason to forbid two intelligent consenting entities from engaging in relations, logically, because legislating a victimless crime on the basis of morality is against the American way. Therefore, the government should stop misusing Animal Abuse laws to convict zoophiles and remove them from their animalistic loved ones. Consensual bestiality should not be illegal. No, I am not joking. Everything I've said is logically sound.

Open up the Indian Reservations to homesteading. Issue every homesteader a horse, cowboy hat, and Winchester. Would also be the best reality show ever!

Give a pair of truck nutz to all americans! Because there's nothing more manly and american than a pair of balls hanging from your pickup truck. Take THAT Al Qaeda!

In the interests of science, it is imperative to conduct research into the creation of human gestalts connected via their gastric systems. Please allocate funding for this vitally important project at the first available opportunity.

My neighbor listens to the Negro hippity-hop music. Please arrest him.

We need to train an army of Ninja Cats. Cats are natural born hunters and predators, and it is known that they indeed have 9 lives, many more than the typical human life (being one). They are also excellent at hiding themselves and would be ideal for sneaking into countries and assassinating communist leaders to lessen the ever growing threat of communism, finding key terrorist leaders and shattering the global terrorist network. In fact they could be potentially useful in the current Korean crisis. Loyal to their trainers, the cats could rain destruction and fear throughout the world, and if ever captured would never tell who they are serving. Finally, after they have solved the worlds problems, they could serve as border patrol and show unflinching resolve at keeping illegals where they belong, anywhere but here.

I think we should do in Afghanistan with the British did in the 19th Century. They bought up all of the opium and sold it to the Chinese. Set them back decades. A win-win for the good old USA

I think we need an army of genetically enhanced super soldiers to guard our borders. Clearly, regular humans just can't do the job. I think these genetically enhanced super soldiers should have claws and a mouth full of fangs, pointed ears, come in an variety of delightful colors, and speak in a charming Romanian-Prussian accent. It can't be any worse than what we're doing now.

We should reclassify Muslims as a different subspecies, like Homo sapiens islamenensis. If we dehumanize them it will make it easier for the public to get on board with their destruction.

We need to secure our borders... up North. You think Canadians are so nice because they like us? They want us to let our guard down... and it's working. We're wasting time worrying about the economy, relations with the Middle East, and the environment while the real enemy is planning our demise. There are rich deposits of Maple syrup are located in Vermont, Upstate New York and the rest of the North East. It is critical we protect our resources.

People are always worrying about deforesting trees and stuff. What they should do is attach an old coffee can full of seeds to the bottom of airplanes with some holes poked in the bottom. That way, when they fly across the country, they'll also be REFORESTING the nation for close to nothing.

Use british spellings. Honour, Colour, ect.

In my view these liberal's are crazy with they're idea's about grammer and punctuashun. No socialist, secular member of the lamestreem media is going to tell me how to teach my kid's how to write and tipe word's. Real Americans don't care what some Euro-loving liberal teacher has too say about the English language. My idea is for every classroom in America to have a parent of one of the students present at all times. But not any parent, just pick from the trustworthy, patriotic, conservative and Christian parent's in the communnity who can stop the teacher's union from indoctrinating our kid's with evil things like grammer, "climate change" and EVILution. That way our kid's will grow up strong and free and truly smart like us.

Repeal the 13th Amendment. A great, and overlooked money maker, that's clearly obvious, is slavery. We can raise people as livestock, and sell them as cheap labor to whoever's willing to pay. We can also cut down on our excess prison population, and deal with repeat border jumpers this way. As well as those who are chronically in debt. There's really no down side to this, at all.

And many, many, many more.

Bad Form

In the thrilling race to lead the only party that still defends the Iraq War, Ed Balls has nominated himself. But isn't he supposed to be public school, however minor? Perhaps I was spoiled by having mates at university who were Eton and Repton.

Right Out

Poor old John Redwood. Whenever his party is in Government, this is what happens. The tiny number of right-wing MPs, always less numerous than the present strength of the Lib Dems and now barely half that strength, functions as a separate, carping party of the angry and embittered. And that has been without a coalition with the Lib Dems.

Will High Tory paleocons, especially, now come round about electoral reform? That way, their party might sometimes be in Government, probably a lot of the time. Whereas as things stand, it is permanently in Opposition. Entirely regardless of what colour rosette the Prime Minister wore on the stump.

Education Authority

In all the tributes to Alan Watkins, there has been little or no mention of his Old Labour anger at the destruction of the grammar schools. Funny, that.

In true Thatcherite tradition, "free schools", in the fairly unlikely event that any are ever set up, will have to be "comprehensives". Considering that we are talking about the likes of Toby Young, that means Lenin High Schools such as the one in Havana. Without powerful Local Education Authorities, there can never again be a bipartite or tripartite secondary system. That is the real reason for wanting to abolish what remains of LEAs.

Academies, it tends not to be mentioned, are in fact private schools, but with their bills met by the taxpayer. The sponsor is in reality the owner, despite the mere two million pounds required to acquire that status. If he wants to award all contracts for construction, catering, cleaning and everything else to companies owned by himself, then he can do so, and you and I pick up the tab. Does he then make donations to the governing party, thereby securing for himself yet more such cash cows? What do you think?

On Commission?

Can we find someone to contest each of the new directly elected Police Commissioner positions? Surely we can. The media coverage can certainly be arranged. The email to me today suggesting that I write this post came from an old friend who is now at the heart of the London media.

Rupert The Barefaced

Sarah Ferguson may not be a person whom anyone who knows anything regards as terribly important, or even as remotely important. But not everyone does know anything. So continues Rupert Murdoch's long-running campaign against the Royal Family. And thus, by that same exploitation of ignorance, against the monarchy.

The importance of the monarchy lies not in the power that it exercises, but in the power that it prevents other people from exercising. People, for example, such as Rupert Murdoch. Whose place man, Andy Coulson, is now the power behind David Cameron as Alastair Campbell was behind Tony Blair. Andy Coulson, who recently presided over the illegal bugging of the Royal Family's telephones.

Meanwhile, you will soon have to pay to read Murdoch's Times online. A newspaper whose paper edition makes a loss will now be expecting people - for heaven's sake, who? - to pay for online content. How does this blog differ from The Times? This blog, though free to read, makes a profit. Not a very large profit. But a profit all the same. Do please keep it that way. See the PayPal button. After all, what else are you going to do with the money? Give it to Rupert Murdoch, so that you can pay to read online a newspaper which you do not want to buy at the paper shop?


It comes as no surprise whatever that huge numbers of people who are denied ESA in order to meet government targets are then granted it on appeal. Does it never occur to anyone that the problem is not "fraud" (you need to look elsewhere for that, which is why no one ever does), but the fact that so many people really are too ill to work? What has caused this baleful state of affairs? And what can be done to put it right?

Beyond The Fringe

Ah, the dear, dwindling remnant of the SNP. It is time to take seriously their ostensibly insane notion that opposition to their cause is somehow anti-Scottish. They have become like a Dutch pillar of old (far less so now, except perhaps for the conservative Protestant one), or like an Austrian Lager. Separatism is their entire society and culture. They genuinely do not know anyone outside it, and broadly assume that such people do not exist. To them, separatism is Scotland, without remainder.

So all else passes them by. Even including the fact that between them the Lib Dems and the Tories in Scotland have just taken more votes than the SNP managed at the last election to the Scottish devolved body. Or the fact that the SNP failed to win anything like the 20 seats that it noisily expected, indeed failed to pick up any extra seats whatever. Or the fact that David Cameron is only Prime Minister, not because of anything done or not done by the SNP, but simply because the SNP exists at all, unconscionable and untouchable to all other parties at Westminster except one that seems unlikely ever to repeat the error of association with it, just as it is unconscionable and untouchable to every other party at Holyrood.

However, they do imagine there to be any separatist tendency worth speaking of in Wales. There is not. If anyone does hold such views, then they do presumably vote for Plaid Cymru, but only in the absence of anything else. Unless, that is, they have followed Forward Wales into the Cameron camp. Why not? Cameron has expressed his complete indifference as to the constitutional status of Wales. But Plaid Cymru is a much more interesting phenomenon than that, both in the good way of its continuation of the tradition of rural Radicalism that was largely and disastrously allowed to die out as an electoral option in England after the First World War, and in the bad way of its definition of Welshness strictly in terms of fluency in the language of only one fifth of the population of Wales.

A view, it seems, fully signed up to by the ethnic minority, as closed as the Amish, that the SNP vote has become. But not one signed up to by most Welsh-speaking voters, several of whose centres of population voted No even to the present level of devolution, in marked contrast to several areas where Welsh is spoken hardly, if at all. There were also relatively high No votes in several Gaelic-speaking areas, and discontent with the conduct of devolution is strong in the North of Scotland; the new Secretary of State has dropped more than broad enough hints in his time.

The SNP tribe, however, certainly cannot be accused of sharing the Radicalism. But then, it has no working-class base, as Plaid Cymru has and as the Tories historically had, which latter has still never gone away, remaining probably the single most loyal class-based vote. At its own request, Holyrood is about to be given further fiscal powers at just the time when central government spending is going to be slashed to the bone. Is Alex Salmond going to tax more, or borrow more, or both? Or is he going to let jobs and services go, even though he now has it in his power to save at least some of them, possibly all? Which approach does he think is going to make him more popular? Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

Welsh flourishes like the bay tree in the United Kingdom, so it is no wonder that, while any Welsh separatists that there might be are presumably Welsh-speakers, they constitute a negligible proportion. Irish also increasingly does far better in the United Kingdom than outside. As with what may be called the more seriously Catholic Irish Catholics, do not be too surprised if those most zealous for Irish, or who happened to grow up speaking it and want to pass on its culture, quietly move to the Greener parts of Northern Ireland as the Republic becomes even less Catholic, in any serious sense, than is already the case, and as Irish becomes even more marginalised there. Westminster sees preserving the Catholic and Gaelic aspects of Irishness as part of the price for preserving the Union. Whereas Dublin sees them as "the bad, old Ireland". People who still want to live in the old Ireland won't make too much noise about doing what they therefore have to do. But they will do it. They may already have started doing it.

Development of What?

Of HIV and thence of AIDS, it seems.

Those of us with connections to Saint Helena (incidentally, and despite her very close ties to Cape Town, one of the extremely few jurisdictions on earth where no case of HIV infection has ever occurred) have more than enough reason to think little of the Department for International Development, which, before anyone starts, is run by the Tories, not by the Lib Dems.

And now, it is going to waste £2.95 million on sending 45 million condoms to be distributed free in Uganda, a land of 33.3 million people, and where a generation's worth of campaigning for abstinence outside marriage and fidelity within it has led to an HIV infection rate below seven per cent.

DFID itself claims to support ABC – abstinence, be faithful, use a condom. But, like everyone else who makes that claim, its projects seldom or never mention either A or B. It is assumed that the black, the poor, and above all the black poor are incapable of abstinence or fidelity, and that in any case there is some sort of human right to be sexually promiscuous. It is also widely held that promiscuity, especially among men, is integral to African culture, making it somehow racist to criticise it.

In reality, of course, it is precisely that position which is racist. As the Ugandan Government has actively and very successfully understood for 20 years. DFID is about to clod-hop in and ruin that superb work, with unspeakably calamitous consequences.

As with the advertisement of abortion on television, welcome back to Thatcher's Britain, the country that, among so much else, legalised abortion up to birth.

Science Is What Works

For example, this:

"Neostem Inc. and the Pontifical Council for Culture will combine the efforts of their respective foundations, the Stem for Life Foundation and STOQ (Science Theology and the Ontological Quest) Foundation, to advance research and explore the use of adult stem cells in regenerative medicine."

Adult and cord blood stem cells work. Embryonic stem cells simply do not. They deliver absolutely nothing. But they do offend Catholics. And that alone is the point of them. See the ingratitude of the professional ex-Catholic. See how he uses the education that the Church gave him.

Union-Busting Is A Mortal Sin

As explained here:

A group of Catholic scholars contends that management efforts to break labor unions are a grave breech of the church's social doctrine and tantamount to committing mortal sin. A statement from Weymouth, Mass.-based Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, released May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, offers a detailed argument that actions to thwart union organizing campaigns, stifle contract talks, unilaterally roll back wages and benefits, and break existing labor agreements are a "grave violation of Catholic social doctrine on labor unions.

This violation of Catholic doctrine constitutes material grounds for mortal sin because it stands in grave violation of both the letter and spirit of Catholic social doctrine," said the document, titled "Union Busting Is a Mortal Sin." In laying out their argument, the scholars said efforts to deny workers the right to organize violate the First, Fifth and Seventh commandments regarding idolatry, scandal and theft, respectively.

Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in New York City and chairman of the scholars group, told Catholic News Service May 14 that the statement analyzes the criteria for mortal sin much like a priest would during the sacrament of reconciliation. "We said, 'What commandments does (breaking a union) violate? What specific matters of Catholic teaching does it go against? Is it a grave matter? If it is, is there an objective case for mortal sin?" Fahey explained.

The full document (PDF) is here.

The Real IRA, Indeed

"By any yardstick, a serious matter."

If these really were "dissidents", then they would have been shot by now. But instead, "They haven't gone away, you know."

Overtly and covertly, why are we bankrolling Sinn Féin? I am not necessarily saying that we shouldn't. I am saying that, as with our creation of Fianna Fáil and de Valera's consequent mass hangings of IRA operatives, the deal has two sides. (For other reasons, we also created Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party, while the SDLP General-Secretaryship has been an MI5 sinecure ever since the TUC was asked to suggest the first post-holder.)

When will the other party to that deal start keeping its side? Why is it not already doing so? What are we paying Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and all the rest of them for?

Turn Again, Livingstone?

Thrice Mayor of London?

Despite her sycophancy, which normally stood people in good stead with Tony Blair, even he never managed to find a use for Oona King. But she is convinced that she has the mass appeal allegedly lacked by Ken Livingstone, even though he has already won the Mayorality (not much of a job, but that is not the point) on two occasions, the first without any party machine and against the full might of New Labour in its pomp.

In which case, she should call on the London Labour Party to submit its internally determined shortlist of two, presumably her and Livingstone, to a binding ballot of every registered voter in Greater London, which could be conducted perfectly easily, and quite cheaply, at venues either owned by Labour, the unions, the co-ops or what have you, or else hired for the day, and in either case using the copies of the Electoral Register that any political party already possesses.

What is she afraid of?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Party Crackers

Two candidates have now been nominated for Leader of the only party that is going to vote against restoring the link between pensions and earnings. By happy coincidence, they share a surname. However, unlike the Leader of the Opposition at today's Queen's Speech, neither of them is the Prime Minister's cousin.

Ed Miliband actually passed the magic 33 figure before his brother, and he alone did so on day one. He is still ahead. At least Yvette Cooper has now nominated her husband. She hadn't earlier today. Andy Burnham still has a mountain to climb, but his nomination by Joe Benton and Paul Goggins stands him in good stead with this blog. Or does it diminish Benton and Goggins? No one at all has nominated either of the Campaign Group candidates.

And not one candidate has mentioned a single policy. Well, of course not.

Cable Cars

First, Vince Cable is to privatise the Royal Mail. How very New Labour.

And now, Vince Cable is to privatise the motorways. How very New Labour.

Vote Liberal at Thirsk & Malton. That would be a start.

David Cameron's Stroke of Genius

Yes, you read aright. It may not be one for the purists. But it is a brilliant piece of tactical politics.

There are elsewhere areas at least as remote as anywhere in Scotland, and areas poorer than anywhere at all there. So there has never been any moral case for what, in that context, are the obscene levels of public spending in Scotland. Far from being integral to the Union, that arrangement was devised by a man who is still alive, and who is flabbergasted that it still exists after all these years, as was never remotely the intention.

Its continuation was fundamental to the success of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, which for some reason receives little or no credit for this, in convincing Margaret Thatcher that Scotland was so "special" and "different" that almost all of her agenda could never be given effect there. In reality, it was that near-total exemption from Thatcherism which made Scotland significantly different, as had not previously been the case unless one happened to have had much to do with the legal system, or with the more institutional aspects of the Established Church, or to an extent with the education system.

Yet that same continuation was also demanded successfully by the Scottish Labour Party as compensation for the Thatcherite onslaught to which Scotland had never been subjected. There was no compensation for those who really had had to endure it. Like Thatcher, and indeed even more so, Blair had enough Scottish connections to know that he was being spun a ridiculous yarn. Unlike her, he was a County Durham MP who knew exactly who had really suffered in the Eighties. But neither of those facts ever made any difference.

Well, it can't last in the present climate, obviously. So the Scottish devolved body is to be given greater tax-raising powers, along with borrowing powers. Then, when the cuts come, Alex Salmond can be told to replace them by means of taxes raised solely in Scotland, or borrowing to be paid off at a later date out of taxes raised solely in Scotland, or both. Which, in the circumstances giving rise to the cuts in the first place, is hardly likely to go down very well. Is it?

Sometimes, people should get what they wish for...