Wednesday, 30 June 2010

David Miliband On The Rack

An inquiry into British complicity in torture under the last lot, eh? Poor Michael Gove. Imagine what he must long to write about this in The Times. But even poorer David Miliband, Torturer-in-Chief, warmonger and war criminal. No wonder that numerous of his nominators have absolutely no intention of voting for him.

Sending Fewer People To Prison

Light sentences and lax prison discipline are both expressions of the perfectly well-founded view that large numbers of those convicted, vastly in excess of the numbers that have always existed at any given time, are in fact innocent. We need to return to a free country's minimum requirements for conviction, above all by reversing the erosion of the right to silence and of trial by jury, and by repealing the monstrous provisions for anonymous evidence and for conviction by majority verdict. And we need to return to proper policing. Then we could and should return to proper sentencing, and to proper regimes in prison. But only then.

Restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law. Requirement of a resolution of the House of Commons (itself elected so as better to represent the breadth and depth of public opinion, and accordingly from candidates selected by means better involving the general electorate) before any ruling of the European Court of Justice, or of the European Court of Human Rights, or of the "Supreme Court", or pursuant to the Human Rights Act, can have any effect in the United Kingdom. Restoration of British overall control of our defence capability. Removal of all foreign forces and weapons from British territory, territorial waters and airspace.

Abandonment of the existing erosion of trial by jury and of the right to silence, of the existing reversals of the burden of proof, of the provision for conviction by majority verdict (which, by definition, provide for conviction even where there is reasonable doubt), of the admission of anonymous evidence other than from undercover Police Officers, of the provision for conviction on anonymous evidence alone, of both pre-trial convictions and pre-trial acquittals by the Crown Prosecution Service, of the secrecy of the family courts (although that is improving), of the anonymity of adult accusers in rape cases, of any thought of identity cards, of control orders, of the provision for Police confiscation of assets without a conviction, of stipendiary magistrates, of Thatcher's Police and Criminal Evidence Act, of the Civil Contingencies Act, of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, and of the Official Secrets Acts.

Raising of the minimum age for jurors at least to 21. A return to preventative policing based on foot patrols, with budgetary sanctions against recalcitrant Chief Constables who failed to implement this. Police Forces at least no larger than at present, and subject to local democratic accountability, most obviously though Police Authorities, but if appropriate by means of elected sheriffs. Restoration of the pre-1968 committal powers of the magistracy, along with the pre-1985 prosecution powers of the Police. Each offence to carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years' imprisonment where that maximum sentence is life imprisonment. A single category of illegal drug, with 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. Return to the situation whereby a Bill which ran out of parliamentary time was lost at the end of that session.

That would be a start, anyway.

Not Deserting Our Post

So, David Cameron, do you believe in national sovereignty? In rural communities? In age-old features of our national life? In the monarchy’s direct link to every address in the Kingdom? Well, the essentially or entirely foreign forces of global capitalism and the EU are marching in with a view to destroying the Royal Mail. An EU directive requires full competition in postal services by 2012, so that the Royal Mail must deliver its competitors’ letters as if they were its own First Class ones, yet for less than the price of First Class post. This necessitates cuts, both in postmen’s pay and in Post Offices.

Meanwhile, the “free” marketeers seriously propose privatising something that has never been in the private sector, having been in what would now be called public ownership ever since it was created by Charles II in 1660, and representing the most significant direct link between the monarchy and every household, business, organisation and institution in the land. Nothing could better indicate how utterly unconservative the “free” market ideology really is. Neoliberal economics, a total disregard for our heritage and institutions, and European federalism: all of a piece, of course.

Yet even Margaret Thatcher, a fanatical if incoherent heritage-destroyer and European federalist in accordance with her barely understood economic ideology, specifically ruled out privatising the Royal Mail, “because it’s Royal”. Just for once, she was right. Not merely foreign companies, but companies actually owned by foreign states as such, are now circling our postal service.

If this is not a conservative and Tory cause, then what is? It echoes the cry of “King and People” against the Whig magnates. It even expresses loyalty to the legacy of the Royal House of Stuart. Those who believe in publicly owned public services, in strong unions, and in rural communities must unite with those, very largely the same people, who believe in national sovereignty (both as against the EU and as against the foreign acquisition of a key national asset), in the monarchy’s direct link to every address, and in rural communities. Public ownership and strong unions are in fact safeguards of national sovereignty and of the countryside, and thus of that other such safeguard, the Crown.

Together, we can save our Post Office.

Worcester Sauce

Paying tribute to Peter Walker in answer to a question from Robin Walker, David Cameron enthused about the sale of council housing.

That policy compelled the State to make gifts of significant capital assets to people who were thus enabled to enter the property market ahead of private tenants who had saved for their deposits. And, as part of Thatcher's invention of mass benefit dependency, it created the Housing Benefit racket, which is vastly more expensive than the maintenance of a stock of council housing.

No wonder that, far from being either "wet" or "independent-minded" as you please, Peter Walker was a Cabinet Minister continuously from 1979 to 1990. He ranks alongside Kenneth Clarke, who was repeatedly promoted by Thatcher, and Michael Heseltine, who privatised more of the British economy than any other Minister in history.

On The Backburner

Although, as ever, ignore any reference to "a Clause Four moment", Gerry Hassan writes:

Alex Salmond has dominated the last few years of Scottish politics, and become the leading figure of the first decade of devolution.

Labour figures have come and gone, but it is Salmond who has transformed the SNP into a disciplined force, made what was called the Scottish executive into the Scottish government, and the office of the first minister into the undisputed leader of the Scottish nation.

He has fundamentally altered the character and nature of Scottish politics, yet while he has achieved all this he is further away than he has ever been from securing the historic mission of his political career and that of his party: Scottish independence.

In the last few days, Salmond has explored setting out new ground on independence, acknowledging that post-bankers crash, the SNP case has weakened dramatically. Combining that with future spending cuts and public sector job losses isn't really the ideal environment for making the case for independence to voters.

This is the background to which Salmond commented in an interview last week: "The centre of gravity in Scottish politics currently is clearly not independence. You must campaign for what is good for Scotland as well as campaigning for independence." He then went on to say: "It is my job to come up with some answers, along with others. If you jump up and down nihilistically saying 'dreadful, dreadful, cuts, cuts, cuts' then I would be failing in my duty to the people."

These are fascinating comments, close to a clause four moment for the SNP, remaking the party's entire purpose, while having a tactical and strategic subtlety combining a sense of continuity with radical change. And then, after a matter of days, came Salmond's qualification and retreat. Writing to the Scotsman, he claimed that he had been a victim of press misrepresentation stating: "I did not say in an interview in another paper … that independence was 'no longer' the centre of gravity in Scottish politics."

Clearly, he had said exactly that; so what is going on?

This does say something about Salmond's style of politics and the case for independence. The Salmond way of doing politics has been here before. Two years ago, Salmond got himself into a rather similar mess when he made a statement in an interview about how the Scots viewed that controversial figure of recent times, Margaret Thatcher.

He commented that "Scots didn't mind the economic side" of Thatcherism and that "we didn't like the social side". This caused a furore and he immediately had to phone into a BBC Radio Scotland morning show to stress that "I'm well on the record as never having approved of either Margaret Thatcher's social or economic policies" and that this was "clear if you look at the interview" in question.

Salmond has got himself into such a state of confusion this time around, but partly because of the summer weather, the distractions of the World Cup, or that the Scottish media have grown lazy, less of a public controversy has grown. What is illuminating is that Salmond has shown recent form on moving and manoeuvring on the independence question which reflect attempts to reposition the SNP.

Weeks before his recent interview, a former Scottish banker, Ben Thomson, commented publicly on a private conversation he had with Salmond in which he claimed Salmond said he was prepared to put "independence on the backburner". When Thomson acted with the indiscretion he did, rather than find his remarks denied, the first minister's spokesperson stood by their substance. The context here is that Thomson is chair of the centre-right thinktank Reform Scotland, one of the leading figures of the Campaign for Fiscal Responsibility, and trying to position himself as one of the leading brokers in the Scottish political scene.

Despite all these Machiavellian manoeuvres something major is moving in Scotland and this is being aided by the immediate context of the budget, public spending cuts and the debate around fiscal autonomy. The SNP leadership is clearly testing the waters, trying to take the temperature both across the Scottish political spectrum and within the SNP, and looking at how it can reset the agenda and its strategy.

In his letter to the Scotsman, Salmond stated the "official story" that the SNP is trying to tell about Scotland's near-past, present and future. Scottish opinion on constitutional change has evolved, aided by the SNP: "A generation ago it was for an assembly, then for a parliament, then for Calman, now for fiscal responsibility, which is currently galvanising a range of opinion across Scottish society," writes Salmond.

The constitutional question of independence has posed difficulties to all of Scotland's political parties. Scottish Labour has had a total of six different policies on independence in this term of the Scottish parliament; that's a new political position on average every six months. The Lib Dems have in the past supported a multi-option referendum – which would include independence as an option – but have, up until now, been opposed to a vote on independence. The Tories in the Scottish parliament have had blanket opposition to any vote, which has prevented the unionist case for Britain from finding a distinct voice.

What Salmond's remarks and his attempted qualification show is that the political environment is beginning to shift dramatically. The SNP leadership has for years been in private dramatically relaxed and flexible about the idea and form of Scottish independence, and prepared to look at all sorts of new ideas, structures and types of co-operation across the UK, which could be seen as falling short of old-fashioned independence.

A post-nationalist SNP has always been implicit in senior Nationalist circles, and if it can be made explicit, articulated and developed then it has within it the prospect to remake the entire landscape of Scottish politics and carry its ripples to Westminster. This is the beginning of something historic; a major opening in the constitutional debate of Scotland. It remains to be seen if Salmond and the SNP have the courage of their convictions, but if they have, the consequences could be felt across the UK.

Use Your Intelligence

Lower IQ in Africa?

I have never taken an IQ test in my life, and I question whether anyone who sets any store by them is sufficiently intelligent to be allowed out alone, if at all. The whole thing depends on “mental age”, whatever that may be. The IQ of children in numerous countries has “improved” dramatically over the years when IQ tests have been set, and therefore taught to, in schools; indeed, this never fails to happen.

The publications of Mensa are a particularly rich seam of amusement. “More people than you might think are above average”? I’m guessing about half of them. “One person in twenty is in the top five per cent”? You don’t say! And so on.

But never try and tell the “I have a high IQ” lot any of this. They are even worse than the Oxbridgers. At least you have to do something first to get into Oxbridge and then to get a degree there, even if you do only have to do it at a very early age (there is no excuse for still dining out on it even a very few years, never mind decades, later), and even if it does only make you the equal of the ninety-fifth best Etonian in his year.

You wouldn’t have to, and indeed never could, do anything to get a high IQ, if such a thing really existed. Having it would be no cause for congratulation, never mind for self-congratulation or for the creation of an international society for mutual congratulation.

Good To Be Home

“As Queen of Canada for nearly six decades, my pride in this country remains undimmed. It’s very good to be home.”

Twistin' Our Melons

Looking at the wide-eyed, twitching figure of George Osborne at PMQs, I finally realised who it was of whom he reminded me. He is Bez. He makes exactly as much contribution. And he lives next door to the charitably minded David Cameron, as Bez lives next door to the charitably minded Shaun Ryder.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

On This Rock

Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam Meam.

Ah, Faith of Our Fathers. Father Faber was the son of the Rector of Stanhope, and, like a striking number of Tractarian or Tractarian-influenced converts, his ancestry was largely Huguenot (as is part of mine, although another side is Highland Catholic). So his "fathers chained in prisons dark" were not quite as his thoroughly rousing hymn would suggest.

Still A Threat To The West?

It depends what you mean by "the West".

To those whose only view of Germany is "one World Cup and two World Wars" (of which only the one World Cup matters to them), the French are "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", Russia is still the Soviet Union, and China is still being run by Chairman Mao. Well, you can't have a capitalist dictatorship. Can you?

In fact, Russia has reverted to her historic role as the leader among the Slavs' gate-keeping of our Biblical-Classical civilisation against Islam, against Far Eastern domination, and now also against the godless, rootless, meterosexual, hyper-capitalist, stupefied, promiscuous, usury-based, bloodthirsty pseudo-West of those who hold views such as are set out above.

They cheerfully ally with the Islamist terrorism against which Russia is holding out valiantly in Chechnya. Just as they cheerfully allied with the Islamist terrorism against which Russian-allied Yugoslavia valiantly held out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and against which Russian-allied Serbia is valiantly holding out in Kosovo, faithful to the historic mission of the Slavs, and thus faithful to the True West.

Robert Byrd's Finest Hour


He also believed in getting money spent on his development-needy, investment-hungry, infrastructure-thirsty constituents.

And he had the wit to oppose the 1965 Immigration Act.

Requiescat In Pace.

Progress With Unity

Although I am fairly sure that the correct form is not "Your Worshipful", Rupa Huq writes:

John Major has done it in Lambeth as has Malcolm Rifkind in Scotland, Charles Clarke in Hackney and James Purnell in Islington. None of the current holders of great offices of state have bothered with it, and of the five vying for Labour leadership, only Diane Abbott can lay claim (in Westminster in the 1980s). I'm talking about serving in local government, the selfless calling to represent your local community. The issue has become central to my own life: in recent weeks I have become deputy mayoress of the London borough of Ealing. The result has been an eye-opener as some of the vestiges of pomp, ceremony and patronage seem to be alive and well – despite our 13-year entanglement with the non-hierarchical, New Labour-induced New Britain.

While the circus that is the 24-hour news channels and the national press have been obsessed by the Con-Dem nation we now live in, the somewhat overlooked local election results of 6 May provided some cheer for the left, demonstrating that suburbs often written off by the urban intelligentsia as politically and culturally backward are in the progressive vanguard. As well as both Newham and Barking and Dagenham becoming all-Labour councils, with Respect and the BNP wiped out, Labour took Harrow, Hounslow and Ealing – my new status being a consequence of the latter.

I haven't been given a job description and my role is unremunerated, but there are a couple of perks. If the mayor and mayoress are not using it, the deputy mayor and I can command a Jag with the council crest on top complete with driver for official business. The mayor and his deputy even have old-school Speaker of the Commons-style robes. I get a sold silver version of the borough crest on a chain for wearing to functions. When I had it attached round my neck it for the first time by the mayor's secretary in the mayor's parlour (where else?) I was asked if I had a safe in my house. It all does seem slightly surreal. I actually cycled to my first full council meeting. In these cost-cutting times, the car can't be cheap to run.

It is often the suburbs that have felt the pinch most during the current economic downturn. Some austerity measures being introduced at our town hall would make George Osborne proud. In a mirror of central government action, Labour in Ealing will be both freezing the council tax for the next year and councillors' expenses for the next four. I predict not a single duck house will be claimed for, ditto moat clearance. Tapping into a populist vein of anti-banker sentiment, our borough manifesto promised to cut the bonuses of senior officers.

The continuing of the mayoral team, to whom the correct form of address is "your worshipful", and all their staff might seem somewhat anachronistic against this backdrop of "hard times", but there is an argument that its pomp and splendour might be a good thing for people to rally round. The mayor's alternative title is "first citizen of the borough", which on my calculations makes me fourth, but there are some important functions that come with the post, such as representing the borough outside its boundaries and charity fundraising. This year we have plumped for Age UK, fittingly given the UK's ageing population as a whole and the Con-Dems' plans to work everyone to the grave before they have a sniff of any superannuation.

The borough mayoral role as far as I understand is ceremonial. Contrary to the optimistic questions of my friends, I cannot get anyone off their parking fines or effect any other miracles. But there is a need for a non-political figurehead at the top of every local council without the partisan encumbrances of say Boris Johnson or his Bullingdon mate David Cameron. To date I have used the official vehicle just once but the head-turning that it caused among old and young alike has made me think again about its utility. Above all it's the borough motto I like best about it. "Progress with unity" – can't say fairer than that, can you?

From about the Seventies, and especially the Eighties, onwards, this sort of thing was unpopular in vocal parts of the London Labour Party, which the "national" media assumed to be typical. Such attitudes could not have been further removed from the history and culture of the Labour Movement in the days when it actually delivered social justice, and in any case never played at all almost anywhere outside middle-class London. It is good to see them dying out even there. Truly, New Labour is at an end, although, as it intended, it has taken the Labour Party down with it. The question now is what comes next.

But Don't Go In

Charles Glass writes:

Something happened to British architects after the Second World War. Rugged Howard Roarke-like geniuses and obscure mediocrities alike shared an aesthetic that, for some reason, no one outside the profession understood. Perhaps the architecture schools gave them sets of glasses that made them to see the world in a way the rest of us cannot. I have yet to meet a British architect who does not believe that the Trellick Tower, a 31-storey socialist-realist monstrosity that dominates the northern reaches of Notting Hill, is beautiful. I have never met anyone else who would not prefer to see it erased from the skyline that it disfigures. I curse the Irish Republican Army for accepting a ceasefire before it brought the damn thing down. Blowing up pubs in Birmingham and churches in the City of London (London’s centro storico, not to be confused with Greater London) rather than Trellick must have been Ireland’s punishment for seven centuries of British colonial rule. Ian Fleming hated the Trellick Tower so much when it was commissioned in 1966 that he named his most famous villain for its designer, Erno Goldfinger.

Goldfinger lived in an old brick mansion in leafy Hampstead, even as he confined the proles to concrete prisons that resembled nothing so much as multi-storey car parks. (Trellick became a magnet for criminals, who dealt drugs and raped women in its darkened stairways. It cost millions in “security improvements” to make it marginally safer for the residents who were forced out of their old neighborhoods and made to live there.) I don’t know a British architect who actually lives in a house built in his lifetime. Richard Rogers’s domicile is in a Georgian terrace in Chelsea, and my old friend Tchaik Chassay inhabits a large flat in a Victorian building in Notting Hill. Yet they are creating a world for the rest of us that ruptures our ties to the type of houses in which they choose to live. If I try to see the world as they do, and I have out of consideration for our friendship, I fail. It is hard to contemplate the sublime attributes of the tower blocks south of the River Thames, the indecipherable cement maze that is the Barbican Arts Center and commercial developments like Canary Wharf.

In this, I find myself in the company of the great mass of Britons, with whom I disagree at least 99.9 per cent of the time, and the Prince of Wales. I don’t really like siding with the majority, who are invariably wrong. Finding myself allied to a crown prince sits uneasily with my lifelong republican (not to be confused with Republican) sentiments. Yet I must thank Prince Charles for blocking a project to replace the old Chelsea Barracks along the River Thames with modern steel and glass apartments for billionaires that would have made the north side of the river as unappealing as the south. (The only good thing about living on the south side of the Thames is that your view is of the north’s Georgian and Victorian masterpieces. People who live in the Trellick Tower say its only compensation is that it is one of the few vantages in west London from which you cannot see the Trellick Tower.) The prince has saved a stretch of the Thames from the fate of much of the rest of this city, and nobody is thanking him.

For those of you who do not spend much time in England, a little background. A recent trial in the High Court involved Prince Charles, the architect Richard (now Lord) Rogers, property developers Christian and Nick Candy and the royal family of Qatar. The lawsuit was brought by the Candy brothers’ company, CPC, against a company called Qatari Diar. The Candy brothers, whose love of Britain obliges them to avoid paying tax in the country that provided their wealth by taking up residence in the Principality of Monaco, sued Qatari Diar. Qatari Diar is the investment company of the royal family of Qatar, said to hold the most valuable property portfolio in the world. Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, somehow finds time while governing his country to act as chairman of the family property empire. Qatari Diar, to the annoyance of its partners in CPC, withdrew its application for permission to build a complex of luxury apartments at the Chelsea Barracks site that it had purchased for £969 million. The whole project was said to be worth £3 billion. CPC filed a lawsuit that alleged the withdrawal had cost it £81 million. The architect was, as he had been on another Candy-Qatar project in Knightsbridge beside the Hyde Park Hotel, Lord Rogers. The plans were, in common with the rest of Rogers’s oeuvre, modern in the extreme. The buildings on the site would have resembled nothing in the neighborhood and would have contrasted sharply with one of the capital’s masterpieces, Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, nearby. Chelsea residents were opposed, but their views (based on past experience) did not count.

As the project was coming up for approval or rejection by the planning committee of Westminster council, Prince Charles wrote a letter to Sheikh Hamad. Dated 9 March 2010, the letter asked the sheikh “to reconsider the plans for the Chelsea site before it is too late.” The prince wrote, “I only mention this because, quite frankly, my heart sank when I saw the plans that had been proposed for the old Chelsea Barracks site, opposite the Royal Hospital, by Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment.” Nine weeks later, Sheikh Hamad found time between cabinet meetings to respond to Britain’s heir to the throne. His letter defended Rogers’s design and said the project would go ahead. Soon after, Prince Charles invited the Emir of Qatar (confusingly called Hamad as well), Sheikh Hamad’s cousin and sovereign, to tea at Clarence House. After that tête-à-tête, Qatari Diar withdrew the plans.

When it emerged at the trial that Prince Charles had intervened, the architectural establishment and the press put on their self-righteous hats and complained of interference in the democratic process. Ruth Reed of the Royal Institute of British Architects said, “No individual should use their [sic] influence in public life to influence a democratic process such as planning.” Anyone who has ever applied for planning permission to enlarge a bathroom in London knows the process is about as democratic as awarding oil contracts in Saudi Arabia. Architects, developers, estate agents and landlords all weigh in with whatever influence they can muster to make sure the bureaucrats come to the decision that will make them the most money. (You need only look at what the developers did to the sites graciously cleared for them by the Luftwaffe in 1940 to understand that democracy – which was manifested in most people’s desire to live in terrace houses with gardens among the neighbors they knew – has not played a major role where property and money are concerned.)

The Guardian’s Robert Booth intoned in terms shared by most of his colleagues, “The case has raised serious questions over whether the prince overstepped his constitutional role by becoming involved in a democratic planning process…” Yet Prince Charles did not overstep his constitutional role (whatever that may be, given that he is a crown prince and not a king) by attempting to influence politicians. He dealt with two businessmen, the Emir of Qatar and Sheikh Hamad, in their capacity as financial backers of scheme the prince believed would blight an area of London whose architectural majesty he did not want to see diminished. He did not lean on Westminster’s local council or its planners (although he appears to have considered doing so). There was nothing improper about a man who happens to be a prince lobbying businessmen to drop a project he did not like. The businessmen were free to deny his request, as Sheikh Hamad initially did. It would have been odd of the prince, if he felt so strongly about the Chelsea Barracks site, to have remained out of the fray.

The Prince of Wales spoke for everyone in London who has wearied of modernist architecture and its grip over local planning departments. No one likes to see architects, with their peculiar aesthetic, bulldozing whole neighborhoods to erect temples of vanity to themselves, their patrons and Mammon. One thing is certain. If Prince Charles had not spoken to the Emir, ground would be broken for a scheme that would have disgraced the Royal Hospital and its gardens. Take a look at One Hyde Park, the Candy brothers glass block that obstructs the view of Hyde Park from Knightsbridge and will soon be complete. When its predecessor building, Bowater House, came down, I silently rejoiced. It was a space age (remember the space age?) brute whose only redeeming features were a wonderful Jacob Epstein sculpture of Pan with the family of man and a passage that permitted a sight of the park from the south. Then I saw the drawings for its replacement. As the months went by, I watched it go up, pane by pane. This is where architecture differs from the other arts. If I don’t like a painting, I don’t buy it or hang it on my wall. If I dislike a composer, I don’t go to his concerts. But a building cannot be avoided. It is what you see every day. It fashions your environment. You have a right to be heard if you don’t want your world altered beyond recognition.

Rowan Moore wrote recently in the Observer about the Sussex farmhouse, Hancox, in which he grew up (and where I was a sometime guest): “A house shelters a family, but it also represents it… The rambling corridors and stairs were perfect for shoot-outs with visiting cousins.” The modernist block houses for the nouveau riche might be perfect for shoot-outs, but more likely between the private security firms who guard them and the mobs clamoring to tear them down.

When the monarchy is abolished, as I hope it will be, Westminster Council must offer Prince Charles a place on its planning committee. There, I am sure, he will do his best to spare us the excess of architectural fantasy. He could do more good there than sitting in Buckingham Palace, keeping his mouth shut and obeying politicians.

Something Better

Peter Hitchens writes:

Our behaviour in the present is (or ought to be) governed by what we believe to be our experience of the past. The recent war in Iraq is a stark illustration of the enduring power of the Munich/Finest Hour myth. What if that myth is seriously misleading? He who controls the past, controls the future. If we misunderstand the past, mightn't we mess up the future? This is the immense and lasting power of the Churchill cult, which has dominated political thinking in Britain and the USA for 70 years, and is now at last due for serious revision. It will die hard. But it will die, having been disastrously wounded in Baghdad and Basra six years ago. We had better be sure that it is replaced by something better.

I should add here that some contributors seem to have concluded that my view in some way sympathises with or removes the stain and guilt from Adolf Hitler and National Socialist Germany. This is simply false. I have no such opinion. Nothing that I say contains any such implication. It is however true that the British belief, that we fought Hitler because of the vileness of his regime and because of his Judophobic fury, is not justified by the facts. Hitler's extermination of the Jews began some time after we declared war. I will not here go into the suggestion that he might not have attempted it without the cover of the war, but there are those who believe this to be true. We had endured his persecution of the Jews of Germany and then of Austria for six years without major complaint until 1939, signed treaties with him, communed with him and his henchmen at the highest level and in convivial occasions, and we took part in his awful 1936 Olympic Games without protest, and did precious little to provide refuge for his victims.

Our war with Hitler never had anything to do with the internal character of his regime. This justification was invented afterwards. If we had chosen our allies on the basis of their goodness, and our enemies on the basis of their badness, then we could hardly have been allied with Stalin for four hard years. In which case, why exactly did we fight Hitler's Germany and about what? And more especially, why did we fight it when and where we did? If it was a simple balance of power question, why shouldn't we have sought to balance the USSR against Germany, rather than rush into war with one of them while he was allied to the other? Did we in fact help create the Stalin-Hitler pact, thus actually wrecking the balance of power, by our guarantee to Poland?

'Stan' [who posts comments on Peter Hitchens's blog] wrote: 'Why was our behaviour over the "Danzig" episode stupid? We had just been humiliated on the global stage by Hitler over the Munich agreement - what did you expect us to do? Roll over and play dead?' This is the language of the Sun editorial column, written as if war is, well, a football game. 'Humiliated on the global stage'. 'Roll over and play dead'. Diplomacy isn't (or shouldn't be) conducted on such foundations. The world is not, in fact, a stage, where the corpses get up after the play, and go for a drink and a laugh. It is a world of cruelty and blood, fire and war, hunger and slavery, loss and pain, where death is real, corpses rot in fly-infested heaps, the vaults of national banks are emptied of their gold by the enemy's army, wounds do not always heal and the dead stay forever dead, where great and famous cities and cultures centuries old can be dissolved and plundered to nothing in a week, where defeated millions can be marched off in chains to exhaustion and death, loving families torn apart forever in a minute of horror, happy homes reduced in seconds to blackened charnel houses full of screams, and civilised and gentle empires replaced in the twinkling of an eye by evil and rapacious successors or by chaos - a world in which the rulers of nations can by a single incautious false move, done often through bravado or wounded self-regard, lose forever the safety and peace of those whom they govern, and whose safety is their chief concern.

If mainland Britain did not share the miserable fate of France in 1940 (and never forget that the Channel Islands, in an incident we still prefer to keep rather quiet about, did share that fate, because the sea between them and the continent wasn't wide enough), it was no thanks to those who signed the guarantee to Poland. A bit of humiliation is a small price for holding on to the Empire that pays for your freedom and prosperity. Rolling over and playing dead is often not at all a bad thing to do, if you have been struck to the ground by a ruthless blow from a stronger enemy, and are hoping that enemy will turn his wrath against someone else while you recover your wits and your breath. People who write about war as an act of policy ought to see war, from time to time.

'Stan' has repeatedly failed to substantiate one claim in particular, a claim on which he heavily relies, that Hitler had always planned to invade France in 1939-40, whatever the outcome of events in Poland. He has produced precisely no proper evidence for this. The one piece of alleged evidence he has referred to is a supposed discovery by the fledgling Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park in autumn 1939 (Bletchley Park only began operation on 15th August that year, so this would have a been a major triumph worthy of record) of a German plan to invade France through the Low Countries at this date. There are two things wrong with this. One is that I cannot find any evidence that it exists, 'Stan' has ignored repeated requests from me for a substantiation, and nobody else has so far confirmed its existence. It may exist. But I have no means of knowing, and if 'Stan' does, he is not sharing his means with me, or with anyone else here. Perhaps you need an Enigma machine to find this stuff.

The other is that, even if it did exist, such plans post-date by many months the Anglo-French guarantee to Poland, and Poland's consequent refusal to negotiate on Danzig and the corridor, and therefore have no bearing at all on the case. It may well be that Hitler decided to invade France in September 1939 rather than October 1939 (as records show he did). But if so he did so after Poland (which he had hoped to enrol in the anti-Comintern Pact and regarded as a possible ally until early 1939) refused any further negotiations on Danzig and the Corridor. And Poland did so after Britain and France gave their guarantees.

'Stan' behaves like this because he simply does not understand the case he is rejecting. He is, in my view, made incapable of doing so by dogma. He has it in his head, so firmly that I cannot dislodge it however many times I try to do so, that I am saying that the Anglo-French guarantees to Poland directly influenced Hitler's actions. On the contrary, Hitler regarded Britain and France as 'small worms' (the phrase he used to his intimates when discussing Chamberlain at Munich). It was his confidence that this was the case that enabled him to get what he wanted at Munich.

He thought the guarantees worthless. Poland, on the other hand, took them seriously, people and government alike. There is a pathetic photograph in existence of the people of Warsaw gathered outside the British Embassy after our declaration of war in 1939, cheering and waving approving banners. It took a few weeks before it dawned on them that no help was coming, and that they hadn't just lost Danzig and the Corridor, but their homes, their country and their happy lives. I'd be interested in any information anyone has from documents of the time about what Poland's political leadership really thought. The British and French guarantees to Poland were among the gravest diplomatic mistakes (and among the most dishonourable false promises) ever made by either country. Not only did they give Poland a false assurance of help, and encourage its government and people in what turned out to be a blood-soaked national suicide.

They also gave the Polish government the absolute right to determine when Britain and France entered the war against Germany. Even if you believe, as 'Stan' apparently does, that an Anglo-German war in 1939-40 was predestined and unavoidable, you must surely concede that the country which can choose precisely when and under what circumstances it goes to war is in a better position than the country which has ceded that decision to a despotic, erratic state on the far side of Europe.

Napoleon III's idiotic tumble into the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, thanks to cunning German propaganda provocations, seems to me to be the only modern episode in the same class of vainglorious dimwittedness. I think Patrick Buchanan's 'Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War' (which I suspect 'Stan' has not read, and urge him to obtain) shows beyond doubt that the conventional narrative of World War Two is simply unsustainable in the light of modern knowledge. Its poor reception arose partly out of the fact that, like all courageous history, it upset so many academic and political vested interests. One of this book's most profound effects on me had nothing to do with the Polish guarantee. It was the realisation that my long-held view - that Britain and France should have acted against Hitler when he reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936 - was hopelessly unrealistic. I notice some other readers still cling to this idea. I warn them against this. Alas, it is a rotten branch, and will snap beneath their weight.

No significant political force at the time supported such action. Even Winston Churchill, who seems otherwise to have said and done nothing about the Rhineland, wrote in a newspaper column of 13th March 1936 that France had taken 'the proper and prescribed course of appealing to the League of Nations'. No fighting on the beaches there, eh? Another great anti-appeaser of a later period, Duff Cooper, told the German ambassador at the time that the British public 'did not care two hoots about the Germans reoccupying their own territory'. I don't doubt these were true reflections of British (and French) public opinion. Leaving aside growing dislike of Hitler's regime (which at that time was foul and cruel, lawless, tyrannous and murderous, but not systematically genocidal), Britain and its people had long thought that the Versailles Treaty had been unfair to Germany and were sympathetic to attempts to revise its harsher provisions.

Stanley Baldwin told the French that Britain was in no state to go to war, and told his own MPs he hoped to see Germany going to war with 'the Bolshies'. Lloyd-George, the great war leader of 1914-18, was against action and full of praise for Hitler.

Oh, and who said this?

'One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.'

Yes, it was 'the 'Last Lion', Winston Spencer Churchill, in 1937.

Thus the standard escape route, for those of us who wish it had happened otherwise, doesn't really work. You might as well wish that Britain (and Britain alone) had possessed the H-Bomb in 1914. Useful, but impossible. The collapse of the Stresa Front, thanks to the early exposure of the Hoare-Laval Pact in the French press, had ended all hopes of keeping Mussolini out of an alliance with Hitler. That led, ineluctably, to Hitler's takeover of Austria - Mussolini had been Austria's principal protector. Once he withdrew his protection, Anschluss was inevitable.

Next came the Czech issue. Whatever possessed Britain to think that she had any power or ability to intervene in this matter? It can certainly be argued that it was a better place to stand than over Poland in 1939. Czechoslovakia, for all its many faults, was a civilised law-governed democracy, which pre-war Poland wasn't. It had a large and reasonably well-trained army and modern border defences. It had inherited the great Skoda armaments works of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But the defences were in the wrong place, as any traveller in Europe who has travelled from Prague to Vienna can easily see to this day. With Austria now a province of the Reich, German land forces could simply bypass the mountain fortifications in the Erzgebirge, and planes based outside Vienna could be over Prague in an hour (and over Bratislava in minutes).

So if we had gone to war for Czechoslovakia, with our tiny broomstick army and our biplane air force in September 1938, we would probably have gone to the rescue of a defeated, occupied ruin. I have been visiting the Czech lands since 1978, I am moved by the Czech story and have much sympathy for that noble experiment, though I suspect all attempts to 'contain' Germany then or since were bound to fail, once Bismarck had achieved unification. But I still cannot for the life of me see what good it did the Czechs, or us, for us to take the Czech side in 1938. Still, at least we didn't 'save' them, the way we 'saved' Poland in 1939.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Flat Cap

On immigration, I have an idea: no union card, no job.

On Their Bikes

Your suggestions, please, for Conservative-voting constituencies and wards, and indeed Lib Dem ones, that might, er, "benefit" from an influx of unemployed council tenants seeking both employment and accommodation. Classic reality television just waiting to be made? I think so.

Cabinet of No Rivals

I would hardly be the first person to point out that David Cameron and George Osborne do not really like each other, and have very little in common politically. Osborne calls himself "an economic and social liberal", and he revels in the name of "neocon". Although Cameron has his moments, the first is not a description with which he would be entirely comfortable, and therefore neither is the second.

Indeed, Cameron seems less and less a neocon. He can have underlings um and ah all he likes, but he has announced a timetable, even if it is far too longterm a timetable, for withdrawal from Afghanistan. And just look at his treatment of Liam Fox, encircled in his own Department, set up against a Foreign Office in full High Tory cry, and being taken down both from there and from Number 10, as well as from within.

So, after Fox, Osborne? After all, he will very, very soon be by far the most unpopular man in Britain. And after Osborne, who? When the "free" schools gimmick crashes and burns, then Michael Gove can be moved to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or something for a year, and then that will be the end of him.

Any more?


Two hereditary peers retired from the House of Commons this year. Both were members of the Privy Council, and one was a former Cabinet Minister, while the other had been Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, albeit in Opposition. However, neither was given a life peerage, as one of their fathers, also a disclaimed hereditary and a former (as well as a future) Cabinet Minister, had been.

In Douglas Hogg's case, was it because of his moat? That might be the official excuse, but it is always worth repeating that, as with Sir Peter Viggers's duck house, not a penny was ever paid out for Douglas Hogg's moat. No, the real reason was Hogg's opposition to the Iraq War.

It is possible that Michael Ancram declined a peerage. But it is vastly more probable that he, too, was deliberately snubbed because, although he had briefly run with the wrong dogs in his time, he had come round to the expression of sensible, classically Tory views on Trident, Afghanistan and the Middle East. And we cannot have any of that. Can we?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Real Armed Forces Day

It is not today. It is on 11th November, and the whole point of it is that it is not a public holiday. Rather, at eleven o’clock in the morning, the ordinary routine of daily life is interrupted. Or, at least, it used to be. It should be again.

11th November should be the deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Not 11th November 2015. Not 11th November 2014. 11th November 2010. Now, that would be what I would call an Armed Forces Day. And a true cause to hang out the bunting.

Cameron Outfoxing

Liam Fox's appointment was only ever a temporary concession to social climbing Rightism. But most people really did expect him to last a bit longer than this. The knives are out, and we all know who has been sharpening them.

Oh, well, off he goes soon enough with his CIA SpAd and his much-trailed scheme to abolish all three Armed Forces in favour of something like the United States Marine Corps, as part of the single EU defence "capability" under overall America command but day-to-day German control, as advocated by the Henry Jackson Society back when there was such a thing. The dramatic, though always inevitable, reassertion of public opinion in Germany has in any case put paid to that one, as to so very many other things.

I hope that Fox enjoys explaining this scheme to the readers of the Sun column that will doubtless be his Blunkett-like platform in the near future. He might even mention, not only how silly it is to bang on that "the USMC is larger than all three British Armed Forces put together", but also that it is by no stretch of the imagination its country's only Armed Service. It would make an unsuitable repository for the boys who left school with absolutely nothing and who were to be turned into cannon fodder for one or both of two foreign powers.

An email asks why I think that saving the RAF, as such, is quite so important. Well, I think that saving each of the three, as such, is vitally important. But it should never be forgotten that an absolute ban on Germany's having an Air Force was written into the Treaty of Versailles. To be deprived of this right by one's vanquishers is one of the great historic indicators that defeat has tipped over into humiliation.

Arise, Sir Alex

You would now have to scale Murdoch's pay wall to read them, but these were Alex Salmond's words this week:

"The centre of gravity in Scottish politics currently is clearly not independence. You must campaign for what is good for Scotland as well as campaigning for independence."

The story, if there is one, is that this is not a story. The second sentence, when you read it over, is extraordinary and astonishing considering its source. Except, of course, that it isn't really at all. As the old saying goes, anything else is strictly for domestic consumption.

Consumption, that is, not within Scotland as a whole with her "centre of gravity", but within the closed subculture that Salmond's party has become, comprised exclusively of people with nowhere else to go. Not even when its Leader distinguishes sharply between "what is good for Scotland" and "independence".

A Coroner's Inquest


The Liberal Arts

Every lazy, cod-Marxist theory about class in British politics is hopelessly wrong, mainly because any attempt to fit the British class system into Marxism is hopelessly wrong.

The Tory forty-five per cent of the old industrial working class may have been (if it always was) simply mistaken about how best to further its own interests, but it was not guilty of class treachery or anything of that nature. There was never anything remotely incongruous about the presence of middle and upper-class people, often with Liberal or Tory backgrounds and in many ways views, at every level of the Labour Party from its inception until its New Labour destruction, when they were very tellingly banished along with the workers. And so on. And on. And on.

So one of the things most worth watching about the sudden return to prominence of the Liberal tradition, at least as primarily manifested in party form, will be the consequences of the fact it very largely survived the twentieth century in areas where, while class distinctions are very pronounced and indeed blindingly obvious, a Marxist analysis of the local society is absolutely impossible even to attempt, mostly the West Country, Mid Wales, and rural Scotland.

Even more than that of Labour, or indeed of the Tories, the history of Liberalism is a standing contradiction of the laughable theories that progress comes through class conflict, that industrialisation and urbanisation are necessarily prior to radicalisation and Radicalism, that religion in general and traditional Christianity in particular are the enemies of those ends, and that much else besides is the case. At least as often as not, these have been and are the opposite of reality. In the first and third cases, invariably so.

So the question arises, now more starkly than ever: how far, if at all, are the Lib Dems an adequate vehicle for this tradition of civil liberties, local communitarian populism, the indefatigable pursuit of single issues, the Nonconformist social conscience, the legacy of Keynes and Beveridge, traditional moral and social values, consumer protection, conservation rather than environmentalism, national sovereignty, a realistic foreign policy, the Commonwealth, the peace activism historically exemplified by Sir Herbert Samuel, redress of economic and political grievances in the countryside, and the needs and concerns of areas remote from the centres of power both in the United Kingdom and in each of its constituent parts?

The Benefits of Hindsight

So, any chance that the Coalition will denounce the Prime Minister who, as part of her invention of mass benefit dependency, created the Housing Benefit racket while also compelling the State to make gifts of significant capital assets to people who were thus enabled to enter the property market ahead of private tenants who had saved for their deposits? Any chance that the Coalition will revert to the vastly less expensive maintenance of a stock of council housing?

Thatcher also created Incapacity Benefit, which, like Disability Living Allowance, the preposterous Osborne creature seems to imagine is available on demand to anyone who might happen to feel like it. You already need professional medical approval, you ridiculous little man. Any chance that you, or preferably a competent person, might do something about the number of people who are manifestly, demonstrably unfit for work?

Last Pick

I was a very fit child and teenager who was no good at sport. Pencil thin, I even had a primary school teacher who would berate me in front of the class, by no means only in PE lessons, for being overweight. It was beyond me then, and it is beyond me now, why the obvious need for physical exercise had to be met in the form of competitive sport.

As for the lesson usually said to be learned from such activity, has it ever occurred to those who come out with that argument that academic work might have been a more appropriate way of teaching that lesson? After all, it is not at all as if they themselves were the types that they glorify. Politics and the media are not exactly replete with people who look as if they were always picked first for sports teams. Is that how you picture the adolescent Michael Gove?

Yet somehow, even when made a Secretary of State, they remain convinced that they have failed at life because they were not like that, and desperately pretend to cultivate the impression that they must have been, since no one else would possibly wish to inflict the whole process on anyone else. Would they?

Like the slavering public school commentariat's insistence that school uniforms, of which I am a staunch defender, were given up in state schools some time a generation or so ago (when the Tories were in government and exercising far tighter control over schools than hitherto, but never mind), the slavering public school commentariat's insistence that competitive sport was given up in state schools some time a generation or so ago (when the Tories were in government and exercising far tighter control over schools than hitherto, but never mind) is totally false in my experience and in that of everyone whom I have ever met.

What we do all remember, however, is the flogging off of school fields. When the Tories were in government and exercising far tighter control over schools than hitherto. The academies so beloved of Michael Gove, his "free" schools being a proposed form of them, are already being built with no outdoor space whatever, on the grounds that people are there, at those places of business, strictly in order to work. Remember, eventually, every school is supposed to become one...


The Germans are as oblivious to any "great footballing rivalry" with England as the Americans are to any "Special Relationship" with Britain. Playing England is to the Germans much as playing Scotland is to the English: a glorified, if glorified, friendly, and comparable to allowing a younger sibling to kick about with oneself and one's mates. Apart, that is, from the bit about letting him win.

This World Cup has not been as bad as the last one, during which a General Election would not have been reported and a war actually was not, the same war that we are still fighting. But I still cannot wait for it to be over from this country's point of view. A defeat in the final by either America or North Korea would have been ideal, but an earlier one by Germany would still be delicious. We really do need to learn that, if we must invent sports (and we are singularly ingenious at that one), then we should never, ever teach them to anyone else.

Football's working-class following, now a thing of the past since they could not possibly afford the tickets these days, was a product of the Church of England. It seems to have been quite by chance that public school curates, sent to rapidly expanding industrial areas in order to toughen them up, chose to teach the local youths soccer rather than rugger. But the rest is history.

However, it was the English seminaries in Spain and Portugal that introduced football to the Iberian world. So for Torres, for Ronaldo, and for Latin Americans too numerous to list, themselves now pivotal to the rise of the game in the United States, blame the Catholic Church. Or praise Her, as it suits you.

Harping On

Now that the very open secret is out about the Queen's impending State Visit to the Irish Republic (one of extremely few countries to which she has never been, and look at the other ones), see here:

Newtownshandrum Junior B Hurling Team 2010 With the Junior B trip to Las Vegas only 2 months away the local Fianna Fail Cumann have come on board with a novel fundraiser. If you buy a ticket for 10 Euro, you enter a draw to win the chance to meet Brian Cowen and the Queen when she visits Dublin next year. Fantastic prize so everyone buy your tickets and all proceeds go to the Junior B holiday fund.

Why not? Britain set up Fianna Fáil. No one else could have engineered that 1926 secession from Sinn Féin, which duly went on to hang the IRA. Sinn Féin has never tired of pointing out the uncontested fact of this matter.

Likewise, only Britain could have engineered the 1933 merger of the Blueshirts, Cumann na nGaedheal and the National Centre Party, complete with a commitment to Commonwealth membership (which in those days necessitated retention of the monarchy, and a very high degree of integration in foreign policy and defence), albeit for a United Ireland as the ultimate aim.

Fine Gael went on to be outmanouvered into declaring the 26-County Republic that neither it nor anyone else then wanted as such, but it got its own back when it came to the choice of the first President, himself an antidote to the strange, ahistorical virus that deludes people into associating the Irish language with Nationalism.

And the Irish Labour Party has always been funded very largely, and of course entirely openly, by trade unions which exist throughout these Islands and are headquartered in England, usually in London.

Ho, hum. Fianna Fáil raises funds, both for itself and for its local hurling team, by raffling tickets to meet the Queen. Well, of course it does.

Of Cosmos and Polis

On last night's Newsnight, someone from the architectural nomenklatura tried to claim that London had a "global responsibility" to build the Richard Rogers design scuppered by Prince Charles. She did not know it, but she expressed beautifully one of the strongest arguments for having a monarchy, and a meaningful, activist monarchy at that. Though also for having proper political parties again. Among very many other things.

She and hers had better get used to things are they now are: if Prince Charles does not want something built, then it simply will not be, and that is that. The person who occupies that position in the national life, impervious to the bribery and bullying that can see off anyone else who dares speak for the little people in these matters, need not necessarily hold any formal position, still less be the monarch or the Heir to the Throne. But it is more than appropriate that he should be.

The Not Now Show

How is it still on, so absurdly far past its peak? This week's was effort was dire. It was beyond dire. The News Quiz also needs a bit of work, but only maintenance. With that, is there no way that it could be on all year?

Into Exile

Although I have had to tone down The Exile's fruity turn of phrase, I offer this to gladden yet further the hearts of those still trying to post comments elsewhere on here in their hissy fit, now several days in but still going strong, at anyone's having dared to blaspheme their, now well and truly fallen, idol:

Gimlet Kamm has a valedictory post up, basically saying goodbye to most of his readers before the Times goes behind its new pay wall. Being the nicest of all bloggers, I left a comment saying that in the days when the Independent had its wall people would download the latest Robert Fisk piece and repost it around the web. I went on to posit that this was unlikely to happen with anything that Gimlet wrote so it was time to say goodbye. I did mention that I would miss him since whenever I got stuck for a story a trip over to his blog always gave me an easy posting and a cheap laugh. I knew that he wouldn't let the comment through, but I also knew that he would at least read it, and that was all that mattered.

Later on that evening, a ping told me that a mail had arrived at my computer. It was from Gimlet. This is what he wrote:

Thank you for posting your latest comment to my blog. I'm afraid that none is ever published as your racism and praise for the BNP violate this newspaper's guidelines. OK

What can I say? I have never praised the BNP, and I will drink beer with any man of whatever hue, dusky or otherwise. Even if that were not the case so long as I keep within the Times's guidelines for my postings they should be acceptable. Luckily I have kept all my comments to Gimlet's blog so I may take this up with the press complaints' council.

What do I reckon? I reckon that he got angry and he couldn't resist banging out a mail to me. Truly, I shall miss the little wazzock when he is not around. In the meantime it only remains for me to say:

Game! Set! Match!

Friday, 25 June 2010


Since they presumably believe the unborn child to be part of the woman's body, is it the whole of a woman's body that is insentient, or only the parts directly concerned with reproduction?


Last night, Andrew Neil suggested that the policies to which Diane Abbott subscribed had never won Labour a General Election. He did not specify whether he meant, for example, her sympathy for the 11-plus, for single-sex schools, for Oxbridge as academically elitist, for universities' flexible approach to entry grades if they see potential in the applicant, for the prevention of social rather than academic elitism by improving the schools attended by the poor, for raising poor pupils' aspirations so that they actually apply to the top universities, and for reinstating full grants so that they can afford to go.

Nor whether he had in mind her consistent opposition to European federalism, or her role as a voice of her ethnic community on immigration by people who cannot speak English or who come from countries with no historic ties to Britain, or her support for action against such things as not giving up seats to elderly people on public transport, or her opposition to the New Labour assault on civil liberties.

All in all, no wonder that she hated both Thatcherism and Blairism so much.

However, Neil did eventually mention "scrapping Trident" and "unilateral nuclear disarmament", which are not the same thing as each other. The first is now the position of, among other people, Michael Portillo, and has never been tested at the ballot box. Nor, for that matter, has the second. It did not become Labour Party policy until the year after the 1983 Election and, as much as anything else, two years after the secession of the SDP.

Rebels With Cause

And with causes.

Simon Hughes and David Davis are both said to be "fomenting rebellion", and the line seems to be that they are doing so "from opposite ends" of the Coalition's coalition. Really? They are on the same side on civil liberties. As they could be on other matters, although Hughes has the more consistent record on them.

For example, Hughes abstained rather than vote in favour of Maastricht. The Lib Dems set great store by election, by transparency, and by decision-making at the lowest practicable level. So Hughes should begin a campaign for the United Kingdom to adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy in the Council of Ministers until such time as it meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. He should put down legislative amendments that would require British Ministers to adopt that approach. Diane Abbott would vote for them. So would David Davis. Indeed, who would not, and why?

The Lib Dems are like Labour in that they, and their predecessor parties, voted against the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies year on year between 1979 and 1997. Those Policies are wildly at variance with any sort of historic Liberal principle, and the CFP hits Lib Dem-voting areas particularly hard. So Hughes should begin a campaign, at the very least to reinstate those mysteriously vanished annual votes, and then to use those votes to demand the abolition of those Policies. Diane Abbott would back it. So would David Davis. Indeed, who would not, and why?

And then there is Rupert Murdoch's attempt to obtain the other sixty-one per cent of BSkyB. That highlights the need to ban anyone from owning stakes both in newspapers and in broadcasting, or in more than one national daily newspaper, or in more than one national weekly newspaper, or in more than one television station, including more than one ITV regional franchise-holder. Here is a cause around which to rally an alliance of Lib Dem backbenchers, Labour's Guardian and Mirror Tendencies, and those in tune with the increasing reversion of the Telegraph and Mail titles to High Toryism, or at least to something in that vein. Something, in fact, very much like the position of David Davis.

Southern Comfort

I was going to ask whether there was any other country where a first-generation immigrant could rise to be Head of Government, as has just happened in Australia. But there is another, deeper question: could anyone become Prime Minister of Australia as a first-generation immigrant from, except perhaps New Zealand, any country other than this one? The EU and the always rather flaky Atlantic Alliance are falling apart. But some ties are for ever.

The People's Prince

Oh, what hilarity, to hear the likes of Richard Rogers and Ken Livingstone complain about "interference" on the part of Prince Charles. Each, though especially Lord Rogers, is far more powerful than The People's Prince, the undisputed voice of public opinion on this matter, will ever be. But just this once, they got beat. And they don't like it. They don't like it one little bit.

Sixty Years On

Justin Raimondo writes:

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the war that never ended – the Korean war, to be exact, the first real face-to-face armed conflict of the cold war era. Although a truce was declared, a peace treaty was never signed, and the threat that Harry Truman’s war will erupt once more hangs over our heads to this day. Yet the North Koreans are a threat mainly to themselves, as they rail and rant and launch provocations that are almost comical in their extravagance: Pyongyang, which routinely threatens to incinerate the South, has elevated bellicosity into an art form.

However, these odd relics of a half-forgotten past are not what haunts us today: after all, the Korean peninsula is on the outer fringes of the Empire, and what happens there is of little consequence to most Americans. What has the Korean war to do with us, in the here and now?

Well, now that you ask: plenty.

The war was a turning point in terms of the domestic political debate: when it broke out, the American political landscape was undergoing one of those seismic changes in which left becomes right, right becomes left, and the world is turned upside down.
On the right, the Republican party was recovering from its marginalization during the New Deal era, mobilizing its forces – and the nascent conservative movement – around the banner of militant anti-communism. Having been on the losing side of the foreign policy debate since Pearl Harbor, when the party’s “isolationist” wing was soundly defeated, the GOP wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to get their own back, and get it back they did. Except for an anti-interventionist old guard, led by the remnants of the Taft wing, the Republicans went on the warpath, literally, and launched a campaign designed to smear the Democrats as “soft on communism.” In very short order, the arguments they had made against the emergence of the US as a global power in the pre-war era were swept under the rug, to be replaced by a militant interventionism. McCarthyism – the movement personified by Senator Joseph “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy, the alcoholic loose cannon of the Republican right – was the bridge that allowed the GOP to cross that Rubicon, and there has been no going back ever since.

The identification of a supposedly all-pervasive domestic enemy – American Communists, who had, in fact, permeated the Roosevelt administration, especially in its lower echelons, during the old Popular Front days – energized their base and paved the way for the party to abandon its former “isolationism.” If it was okay to use the police powers of the emerging national security state to hunt down and identify Communists on the home front, then there was very little to stop us from carrying that crusade to the four corners of the earth – and we did just that.

In taking this path to power, the GOP went down the same road traveled by the Democrats only a few years before, when another form of socialism – National Socialism – was the enemy, and FDR used the threat posed by Hitler to brand his domestic opponents “copperheads” and worse. Roosevelt and his American Communist janissaries used every opportunity to drive home the point that the anti-war anti-New Deal Republicans and their conservative and libertarian allies were Hitlerites, active agents of the Third Reich intent not only on delivering the world to the Axis powers but also determined to undermine and reverse the glorious achievements of King Franklin. This smear campaign – the “Brown Scare” — was led by the extreme left wing of the wartime Popular Front, i.e. the Communist party, which was in the vanguard of the literary campaign to tar the Right with the Nazi brush. The fellow-traveling John Roy Carlson, aka Avedis Derounian, wrote a best-selling book that retailed this farrago of lies and established, to this day, the “official” history of that era which characterized the old America First antiwar movement as a “transmission belt” for Hitler’s propaganda, as one Commuinst-inspired tract put it.

It was only right, or so the conservatives thought, that the Brown Scare should be followed by a Red Scare, and so it was.

The Republicans went on the offensive, after the war, and, eager to recoup their losses – after having been almost completely marginalized during the war years – launched a campaign that accused the Democrats of “twenty years of treason.” As Russian armies moved into Eastern Europe and set up “people’s democracies,” and China fell into the Soviet orbit, this charge had a certain ring of truth to it. Indeed, the Roosevelt administration had collaborated with the American Communist party, especially in New York, where the Communist-dominated American Labor Party wielded a pivotal influence. The Communists had jumped on the New Deal bandwagon, and, in many instances, ridden it all the way to Washington, D.C., where their agents penetrated government agencies and set up an extensive espionage network, as documents culled from old Soviet archives have recently revealed. Alger Hiss was far from alone.

Such critics of Roosevelt’s road to war as Col. Robert Rutherford McCormick, publisher of the militantly “isolationist” (i.e. pro-peace) Chicago Tribune had presciently warned that Stalin would be the victor in a war to destroy National Socialism, and that we had better let the two dictators fight to the death like scorpions in a bottle. McCormick was vilified as a traitor for that, but history proved him right, and as Stalin’s armies were taking one Eastern Euopean capital after another, the tables were turned. This time, it was the left that was vilified as a “fifth column,” and the Republicans used the extreme right as a battering ram against the Democrats just as the New Dealers had used their Communist attack dogs in the war years.

Yet not everyone on the right was ready to throw their principles overboard, and a few voices of dissent were heard, albeit briefly and to no avail. When McCormick raised objections to NATO and the Marshall Plan, he was attacked by the leftist Nation magazine, as well as The New Republic, as taking the “Soviet line.” Senator Robert A. Taft, although he supported NATO, did so reluctantly, and his followers in the GOP congressional caucus, such as Rep. George H. Bender, had no compunctions about voting “nay.”

The siren song of “collective security,” and all the shibboleths of interventionism, had failed to work their charms on these stalwarts all though the war years, when the pressure to conform was really intense, and they weren’t about to abandon their hard-won principles now. The results of the war had validated them, and such writers as Garet Garrett, an editor of the Saturday Evening Post and a popular financial writer, warned us what was coming when he pointed to Truman’s “usurpation” of what had formerly been the sole prerogative of Congress: the power to declare war.

Roosevelt had carried out a complex campaign of deception, carrying on a secret war while publicly declaring his desire for peace: Truman, on the other hand, a pygmy in comparison, simply ignored Congress and went ahead and made war on the North Koreans. The Constitution, by this time, had become a mere parchment: this relegated it to the attic, finally, where it has lain ever since.

When Truman followed up his victory over the rule of law and the intent of the Founders with an order sending US troops to Europe, a few Republicans objected, and Truman commanded his lawyers and shills to come up with a rationalization for ditching the Constitution. They promptly complied with "Powers of the President to Send Troops Outside of the United States,” which was submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations committee. “This document,” averred Garrett,

In the year 2950, will be a precious find for any historian who may be trying to trace the departing footprints of the vanished American Republic. For the information of the United States Senate it said: ‘As this discussion of the respective powers of the President and Congress has made clear, constitutional doctrine has been largely molded by practical necessities. Use of the congressional power to declare war, for example, has fallen into abeyance because wars are no longer declared in advance.’

Caesar might have said it to the Roman Senate. If constitutional doctrine is molded by necessity, what’s a written Constitution for?

FDR had greatly expanded the power of the presidency, not only by the sheer force of his personality but by the rise of administrative law, i.e. law written and administered by the growing bureaucracy, which was and is answerable directly to the White House. This was the signal achievement, if it can be called that, of the New Deal: the Imperial Presidency was born in the war years, and Truman sought to continue the tradition. As US troops were mired in the Korean mud, in 1952, the President invoked the mantra of “national security” and his alleged wartime powers to nationalize the steel industry, and call in the troops to break a strike. Steel was essential to fighting the war, he reasoned, and therefore it was entirely within his power as commander-in-chief to seize the steel mills: once again, the Constitution would be molded by ever-present “necessity.”

The steel industry took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, and won a tentative victory. As this piece on the case recounts:

On June 2, 1952, the Supreme Court, by a 6–3 margin, ruled that President Truman’s seizure order was unconstitutional (Youngstown, Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579). Justice Hugo Black, writing the majority opinion, concluded: "The Founders of this Nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times." Justices Black and Douglas took the position that under no circumstances could a president alone constitutionally "make laws" as Truman had attempted to do with his executive order. The other four justices making up the majority did not go so far. Evidently, they believed that the national emergency in the spring of 1952 was not severe enough to justify the government takeover of privately owned steel companies. However, these justices implied that under more extreme circumstances, such an action by a president may be constitutional.

Which is why, today, the courts would have no problem upholding Joe Lieberman’s bill giving the President power to switch off the internet – or, for that matter, effectively seize any and all industry — according to the dictates of “necessity.” Don’t you know there’s a war on?

Every administration uses the “national security” bugaboo to increase its power, and Truman outdid even FDR in the boldness of his usurpations, sending the troops to occupy the mills to avert a strike led by FDR’s former allies, the Communists and their fellow travelers in the unions. The national strike called by the steel workers was the last gasp of the left as it fell victim to the growing witch-hunt. The cold war years saw the rise of the “anti-Communist left,” i.e. right-wing Social Democrats and the forerunners of today’s neoconservatives, a shift prefigured when the Democrats dumped FDR’s first Vice President, Henry Wallace, and replaced him with Truman. The Wallace-ites soon hived off to form their own short-lived Progressive Party, and the left was marginalized until the 1960s. The legacy of Trumanism, i.e. cold war liberalism, was Vietnam.

As we sink in the mud of yet another quagmire, this time in the wilds of Central Asia, let us remember how we got here, and who brought us to this moment. Let us remember, and curse their names.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Silent Majority

What can one add to this, from Harry's Place?:

Oliver Kamm has commented that his blog at The Times will also be behind the pay wall. ... His blog will also not be read by the majority of users of the Internet around the world.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Thank you for so many kind messages. Normal service should be resumed tomorrow or on Friday, once the steroids, antibiotics and painkillers have done their work.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Day of Prayer for Peace in Korea

Tomorrow, 20th June.

Total Recall

I am no fan of recall elections, but when will the provision come into force? One party has been licking its lips at the prospect of using this device as a public nuisance. Let's see if that is still its attitude after the recall election in, say, Sheffield Hallam. Or Redcar. Or Yeovil. Or Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey. Just for a start.

Upon Examination

How hard could it be to examine everyone both by coursework and by final examination, simply awarding the lower mark as the final grade?

However, there is no avoiding the fact that the "gender gap" began precisely with the introduction of Thatcher's wretched GCSEs. Girls do better than boys because the whole thing is designed to ensure that they do. Not the only problem with GCSE. But certainly one of them.

I Tiden

Today's Royal Wedding in Stockholm reminds us that most of the great social democracies are monarchies, in the Nordic Countries, in the Benelux countries, and in the United Kingdom and the Old Commonwealth in better days (although Canada and New Zealand still do quite well). Monarchy embodies the principle of sheer good fortune, of Divine Providence conferring responsibilities upon the more fortunate towards the less fortunate.

Allegiance to a monarchy is allegiance to an institution embodied by a person, rather than to an ethnicity or an ideology as the basis of the State. As Bernie Grant understood, and as Diane Abbott probably does, allegiance to the British monarchy, with its role in the Commonwealth, is a particular inoculation against racialism; the same can be said of all of them, since they are all endlessly descended from princes and princesses brought in from all over Europe and beyond.

No wonder that the National Party abolished the monarchy in South Africa. No wonder that the Rhodesian regime followed suit, and removed the Union Flag from that of Rhodesia, something that not even the Boers' revenge republic ever did. And no wonder that the BNP wants to abolish the monarchy here.

Germans Save British Armed Forces

Germany has been America's preferred European ally for a very long time. Even during the War, Washington could not wait to resume normal service, and duly did so as soon as possible. White Americans are more German than anything else, whereas there has been very little migration to America from this side both of the North Sea and of the Irish Sea since before Independence.

The House of Representatives once came within one vote of making German the only official language of the United States, and numerous expressions in American English are verbatim translations from German, while numerous features of American culture more broadly, such as the fixation with precise adherence to rules, are also of German origin. Until 1917, there were many German or Austrian place names in America; before then, anywhere now called Liberty was probably called Berlin, or Vienna, or something like that.

So it is no wonder that the Statement of Principles of the Henry Jackson Society calls explicitly for a single EU defence "capability" under overall American command but day-to-day German control, European federalism, centred on Germany, having been a key American aim since the Forties.

But the German electorate has never been all that happy with the whole thing, and is now very opposed indeed. Germany may well leave the euro soon, as was always going to happen eventually, and as was always going to be the end of economic and monetary union when it happened. There can be no political union without economic and monetary union, any more than vice versa.

And there can certainly be no more single EU defence "capability" under overall American command but day-to-day German control. Too bad for Colonel Tim Collins, with his campaign for that "capability" to include the abolition of the RAF. And too bad for Liam Fox and his "Special Adviser" (CIA handler) Luke Coffey, who are plotting for it to include the abolition of all three of the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, leaving only something along the lines of the Israeli Defence Force, or the United States Marine Corps but without the elite status or the other Armed Services.

Still, we do not need to worry all that much about the MoD. Apart from the Lib Dem Eurosceptic Nick Harvey, I do not know about Peter Luff, but Gerald Howarth is late of the European Arab Bank, Andrew Robathan has been on his travels courtesy of CMEC (Nicholas Soames, Hugo Swire, Crispin Blunt, Alan Duncan, Commons receptions to celebrate Norouz, you get the idea), and Lord Astor is actually CMEC's Vice-Chairman. No wonder that Fox feels the need for Coffey to keep him company. Cameron has effectively given him a team of warders.

Swire, Blunt and Duncan are also Ministers, and could perfectly easily be bumped up to join Ken Clarke and Andrew Lansley in the Cabinet, as could Howarth, or Robathan, or whoever. Liam Fox is far from irreplaceable, and appears to have been set up for a fall, taking the neocon entryist tendency down with him. We live in hope.

Beyond The Blue Glass

Splendid news that Geoffrey Hill has been elected to Keble's Chair. Fr Aidan Nichols OP has a characteristically excellent essay on Hill in Volume II of Beyond The Blue Glass, which of course takes its title from Hill, and Hill himself has lately expressed sympathy with "the radical Red Tories of the nineteenth century", castigating both the Thatcherite Tories and Blairite New Labour for their indistinguishable materialism.

However, in The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961, Fr Ian Ker takes issue with Hill's theory as to the monosyllabic rhythm of Gerard Manley Hopkins's verse. "The significance of Corpus Christi processions is not made clear" by Hill, and the revival of plainsong was yet to come. Any Jesuit church in a position to have Sung Mass and Sung Vespers on Sundays would have used little or no Gregorian music. And Hopkins's spirituality would have been fundamentally, if not exclusively, Ignatian, with no revival of contemplative prayer among Catholics until the twentieth century.

Instead, Fr Ker describes "the actual religious forms and language in which Hopkins was immersed as a convert and a Jesuit." That was the public but extraliturgical vernacular devotions that were the staple of corporate lay piety between the beginnings of the Catholic Revival and the Second Vatican Council. It was the public recitation of the Rosary, of various Litanies, of the Stations of the Cross, and so forth, that was the more 'typical' Catholic service from the ordinary lay Catholic's point of view, even though obligatory only in a social or cultural sense. But this socially and culturally definitive form of piety would have been new to Hopkins when he crossed the Tiber.

Furthermore, in the Society of Jesus that Hopkins entered, daily attendance at these Litanies was made compulsory in 1556, and constituted the only communal act of daily worship in a Jesuit community. This form of prayer was "simple, brief, strikingly monosyllabic", while ejaculatory prayer was "even terser", and would again have been "unfamiliar to a convert" while, like the Rosary and Litanies, constituting "the common possession of all Catholics."

Apart from that, though, a superb appointment.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Sheffield Hallam

Labour Gain.

One of many. 2010 was a very good Election to lose.

But will Labour deserve to win? That will depend on who its candidates are. Not that these candidates need necessarily be Labour at all.

Still, while the twentieth-century parties do limp on in anticipation of being put out of our misery by electoral reform, over to you, Ed Miliband and, especially, Diane Abbott.

Free Schools

Free of proles.

Free of darkies.

But free of fees.

Sofa Government

Oona King, an employee of a rival broadcaster, was in Diane Abbott's place on This Week last night.

Abbott cannot be on, being a candidate for Labour Leader; that has been the case, not merely since was duly nominated, but since she declared herself.

Auntie, your illegal campaign for Esther Rantzen resulted in a lost deposit. Learn the lesson well.

Iraqi "Asylum Seekers"

How can they be? Why are they not loved and revered as national heroes? Or have I missed something?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Monkeys Hang Themselves

I am positively proud that the North East is the only mainland region to have not a single MP as a Minister in this Government. And Teesside, at least, has today become an experiment in what next week's Budget will make the whole country.

Today, by cancelling the hospital at Hartlepool, the Tories kissed goodbye to Stockton South, while the Lib Dems kissed goodbye to Redcar. To how many seats will the Coalition kiss goodbye a few days from now? More than enough, that's how many.

Diane Abbott should get herself round to Number 10, to measure up for curtains.

"The Most Eurosceptical Prime Minister Since Thatcher"

So said Channel 4 News, which seems never to have heard of Gordon Brown. Or, in his way, even Tony Blair.

Thatcher's Euroscepticism is the opposite of the truth. She signed the Single European Act, campaigned in 1983 specifically against an Opposition with a manifesto commitment to withdraw, and took until a rally in the run-up to the 2001 Election, ten and a half years after the end of her ten and a half years as Prime Minister, to come out against a single currency. By then, it was far from obvious that she really knew what she was saying.

What is to be Channel 4 News's next gem? That Thatcher believed in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? That Thatcher upheld traditional family values, and traditional teaching methods in schools? That Thatcher was an unbending defender of British sovereignty in the Falkland Islands, and of the capacity of the Royal Navy?

The Classics

Sheila Lawlor is at it over on Comment Is Free, pulling the old trick of defining something (in this case, Michael Gove's curriculum changes) as "liberalisation" in order to cast as illiberal any opposition to it.

Dr Lawlor rightly bemoans the absence of the teaching of Latin, but she seems completely oblivious to the reason for it: the worship of big business that she and her think tank promote, which requires the organisation of education, or at least of publicly funded education, to that interest's largely philistine, wholly "utilitarian" specifications.

Conservative or capitalist, but you cannot be both.

German Jews On Next Flotilla

See here.

As Gary Leupp writes:

"Helen Thomas referred to countries with historically large Jewish populations. Lots of Israelis are in fact leaving Israel for those countries. About 14,000 Israeli Jews left annually between 1990 and 2005. According to a 2007 poll, half of Israeli youth between ages 14 and 18 express the desire to live outside of Israel, which they see as having a bleak future. A huge percentage of Israelis has or plans to inquire about obtaining foreign nationality; many Europeans offer this generously to descendents of citizens who can prove their ancestry. The Berlin synagogue has 12,000 members and is flourishing. There are now maybe 55,000 Jews in Poland, many emigrating from Israel following Poland’s admission to the EU."

Looks like Curzon was right about the Balfour Declaration: the "advanced and intellectual" European Jews would hate living in the Middle East. They cannot wait to go home. In a desperate attempt to shore up an non-Arab majority, although Muhammad is now the single most common name for newborn boys within Israel's pre-1967 territory, Israel is flying in Russians who insist on taking the IDF Oath on the New Testament alone, Russian Nazis, East Africans who have invented a religion based on the Old Testament brought by Christian missionaries, Peruvian Indians, anyone at all. No wonder that German Jews feel less and less affinity with the place.

Islam? Who mentioned Islam, as such? Ask the Holy Land's Latin Catholics, Melkite Catholics (one of whose Archbishops was aboard the flotilla), Maronite Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Anglicans and Lutherans what they think of the Zionist project. Ask them why they founded, and continue to give considerable support to, the PFLP and DFLP. And ask the Catholics and Orthodox of Lebanon why they offer prayers during the Mass and the Liturgy for the success of Hezbollah, which is allied to several of their own political parties.

In reality, the bulwark against Islamist expansionism was the old Levantine civilisation of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druze, with Arabic as its lingua franca and with its de facto capital at Damascus. But a dreadful wound was inflicted on it in 1948, from which it has still begun to recover hardly, if at all.

Remembering The Lancastria

Or ever having heard of it. Today's seventieth anniversary is going almost entirely unmarked. The cult of Churchill lives on, despite, as much as anything else, his loss of two of the three General Elections into which he led his party, his loss of the popular vote at the third one, his return to office only with the support of the National Liberals, and his removal in the course of that Parliament by his own party, which went on to win the subsequent Election comfortably. His Lancastria and numerous other disasters were manifestly not lost on the general public while he was alive.

We are mercifully living through the beginning of the end of the Soviet-style use of the cult of the War, based on totally false ideas about why we fought it, as the cover for all the things that in fact resulted from our involvement in it: loss of global role, economic and cultural dependence on the United States, collapse in moral standards, and so on. Invoking 1940 should never again be able to drag us into war against any and everyone. Thank God for that.

However, the rearguard action has begun. Who, exactly, is to be put in charge of Michael Gove's new History curriculum? One rather suspects that it will not be Mark Almond, John Laughland, Geoffrey Wheatcroft or other conservatives, but the likes of Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts. Ferguson does at least hold a doctorate and occupy a Chair. Roberts is merely too rich to need to work, but, being based in London, is also more likely to be involved in this project.

It is easy to mock Roberts because his books contain repeated misspellings of the same place names, they assume that historical figures with the same name were the same person, they repeatedly refer to the Red Army marching eastwards across Europe, they suggest that Amritsar is in the south of India, and they are much admired by that noted polymath, George W Bush.

But the buffoonery is only the half of it. Roberts denies any distinction between the British Empire and the United States, which would certainly come as news to Americans. He therefore sees global American hegemony as the British national interest, which should certainly come as news to Britons, but sadly would not to a very great many. He propagates the Churchillian myth of "the English-speaking peoples", devised to justify the loss of British prestige as part of the price of American entry into the War in Europe. He also puts about the fantasies of Margaret Thatcher's Euroscepticism, Unionism, moral and social conservatism, educational traditionalism, and concern both for British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and for the necessary capacity on the part of the Royal Navy.

And, somewhat incongruously, he campaigns, through the Springbok Club, for the restoration of apartheid South Africa, as well as, with Gove in the Henry Jackson Society, for a single EU defence "capability" under overall American command but day-to-day German control. Liam Fox and his "Special Adviser" (CIA handler) Luke Coffey are making it increasingly clear that this will involve the abolition of all three of the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, leaving only something along the lines of the Israeli Defence Force, or the United States Marine Corps without the elite status or the other Armed Services. After all, that is what America wants, and aren't we, as English-speaking people, Americans too, America being just the continuation of Imperial Britain in the world...?

We have been warned.

The Greatest Heroism, The Most Conspicuous Courage

Much hilarity in the usual places that Malta is convulsed over whether or not to introduce divorce, and that concerns are being expressed across the political spectrum about British-style social breakdown if such a change were to occur.

No one seems to have noticed that Britain is now onto her fourth successive Prime Minister who at least talks much the same talk, even if none of them has yet walked the walk, with the Major Government making it legally easier to be divorced than to be releases from a car hire contract. (Before that, of course, we had the Prime Minister who broke Britain more than any other single individual.)

The Maltese were once so loyal to Britain that their country, where the present Queen spent her honeymoon, was seriously considered for incorporation into the United Kingdom. The bonds of affection remain strong. By her witness on this issue, Malta now has the opportunity to earn her George Cross all over again.

It is high time to entitle each divorcing spouse to one per cent of the other's estate for each year of marriage, up to fifty per cent, and to disentitle the petitioning spouse unless fault be proved.

It is high time to entitle any marrying couple to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 as regards grounds and procedures for divorce, and to enable any religious organisation to specify that any marriage which it conducts shall be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

And it is high time to legislate that the Church of England be such a body unless the General Synod specifically resolve the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses, and to do something similar for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

That would be a start, anyway.