Monday, 31 October 2011

The Human Planet

Seven billion and counting.

Let joy be unconfined.

The People's Prince

How about requiring that all legislation be approved in advance by Prince Charles? It is time to get over the strange idea that he is unpopular.

He may not always be right. On Greenery, Tibet, and what seems to be a sort of syncretism, he is wrong. But what really annoys those who insist that he is disliked, that his expressions of opinion are somehow improper, or what have you, is that he is of the same, increasingly elderly, generation as themselves, yet he dares to hold and articulate views and values other than their own. Except, I suppose, on Greenery, Tibet, and what seems to be a sort of syncretism.

Most people younger than they, the mere existence of whom enrages them to distraction because they were supposed to remain the gilded youths forever, are either indifferent towards him or actually rather fond of him, and his long decades of solid charitable service, rather than his late ex-wife's glorified photo shoots, have given plenty of them cause to be grateful to him. Not a few of them share some or all of his views, putting him ahead of the field rather than behind the times.

So those who talk about abolishing the monarchy only "once the present Queen dies" are in fact saying "never", and probably know it, as much in Australia or Canada as here. Succession happens instantly. And by then, who would want abolition? Even fewer people than do so now.

Talk of personal fitness negates the whole concept of monarchy, and it is a complete fantasy that the monarchy is supposed to be neutral in all matters. What would be the point of that? If, for example, it could not intervene to prevent the despoilment of our built environment, then there really would be no purpose at all to it. But such is not the case.

Leaving aside the mistakes and misfortunes of his own life (which have absolutely nothing to do with the institution as such), Prince Charles is, I say again, either on the wrong track or just plain wrong when it comes to syncretism, and Greenery, and the Dalai Lama, all issues on which his fiercest critics actually agree with him. But he is right about an awful lot more.

And that makes him the voice of huge numbers of people who have none in the supposedly more legitimate parliamentary process, of which the monarch is properly, but not currently, an integral part, complete with a power of veto in the defence of certain interests now impossible to defend by means of voting because not exactly dear to the hearts of New Labour or the Coalition.

Give me Charles over them any day. And remember that the monarch would not be there to give parliamentary effect to public opinion in the nation at large at the given time, any more than MPs are there to hold a referendum on the EU merely because their constituents might happen to want one, or Lords Spiritual are there to vote through the assisted suicide apparently supported by the majority of Church of England churchgoers.

To suppose such a relationship between the monarch and the nation, or between an MP and his or her constituents, or between the Lords Spiritual and the Christian basis of this State, is spectacularly to miss the point. Prince Charles understands that. King Charles will understand that. But does anyone else?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Fake Left

Thus is Shelly Yachimovich sometimes described in her own country. This week, that low-watt light bulb of a Leader of the Israeli Labour Party had the pleasure of meeting David Miliband.

One trusts that she explained to him her concern solely for the Jewish poor and not for any other sort, and her genuine inability to see that her strong support for the lavishly preferential funding of West Bank settlements, seldom or never inhabited by Labour voters despite that party's having been more responsible than any other for their existence, contributed directly to the plight of poor Jews in Israel, on whom that money might otherwise have been spent.

Miliband would then have held up his hands in horror at the slightest concept of concern for any sort of poor person, although he would have been in a bit of a bind when it came to settlement funding. Ordinarily, he is fanatically hostile to the public provision of services and amenities, having used his position at the head of Tony Blair's Policy Unit to devise endless schemes to slash and burn such things. Many of those are now being implemented by the Coalition, since it is unrestrained by Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. But some of them are too vicious even for David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg.

However, we are talking here about the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, neoconservatism's ultimate special case. The same American politicians who fight like tigers against social healthcare at home fight even more ferociously than that to ensure its continuation in those settlements, at the American taxpayer's expense. David Miliband is exactly the same.

But on the general matter of seeking to alleviate poverty and of supporting the guaranteed public provision of the means to a civilised, humane society, we cannot doubt that Miliband referred her in no uncertain terms to the agenda of his party within the Labour Party, made up of his Movement for Change, of Progress, and of Labour First, the controlling influence within which is that of Luke Akehurst, a prominent Israel First activist with close links to the arms trade.

As with the Hard Left 30 years ago, where the future Blairites were in fact located at that time, taking over the process of parliamentary candidate selection is considered key. Labour First's Ellie Reeves spells this out openly: such selection is purely a matter for the National Executive Committee, with Constituency Labour Parties having no role whatever.

She and Akehurst are among the Labour First stalwarts on the NEC, of which what is supposedly the CLPs' section has become a carve-up between the organised slate of the David Miliband Party on the one hand and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the Hard Left pioneers of this strategy from way back, on the other. Purely an internal Marxist contest, between those who favour economic means, and those who favour cultural means, but with no difference as to their ends.

Anything recognisable as the Labour Party has been systematically excluded, and can reasonably be assumed to have no remaining existence. Has it any? If so, then where, exactly?

Dismal, Indeed

Such has been the reaction that many of the signatories to this week's Observer letter were "not proper economists". Nor was Keynes. Nor was Hayek. Friedman is at most a partial exception.

Hayek, in particular, is still looked at askance even by very right-wing "proper" economists, although they realise that they have to be careful to whom they say these things. It is very much like the attitude of even very conservative "proper" theologians when it comes to C S Lewis or G K Chesterton: they are perhaps vaguely glad that anyone has been pointed in the right direction by having been converted to the former's Mere Christianity or to the latter's Orthodoxy, and they might even have been such people when they were very young indeed, but that is strictly as far as it goes. I am not necessarily endorsing such a view, only pointing out that it is there. And that is also the attitude to Hayek even among those who might be regarded as on the same side as he was.

Hayek was a political philosopher. One of his doctorates was in political science. The other one was not in economics. Economists are not necessarily being complimentary when they call someone a political philosopher, any more than vice versa. And even as one of those, if Reagan and Thatcher really did believe themselves to have been influenced by Hayek, then, as Enoch Powell said of his own alleged influence over Thatcher, they cannot have understood any of it. Powell is another example of this post's main point, since his only academic background was in Classics generally and Ancient Greek specifically.

But he had overriding and undergirding social, cultural and political reasons why he wanted the economy to be organised in a certain way. He did not see economics as a positive science. That was why he was influential. And that was why he would never have passed muster as a "proper" economist. Nor would Keynes. Nor would Hayek. Nor, really, would Friedman. Nor, even, would Adam Smith. The only figure of any importance to have held that politics ought to be defined in terms of economics, rather than they other way round, was Marx, so that thus to define is precisely to be a Marxist. But Marx, a lover of philosophy and literature whose father had forced him to do law at university but who was never very good at it, had no academic background in economics, either.

The Pittsford Perennialist

The Western Confucian has come home.

Irish Times

Dear old Michael D. Higgins it is, then. A social liberal? So was Mary Robinson. But these things are not really up to the President.

The Irish Labour Party has always been funded by trade unions which exist throughout these Islands and are headquartered in Britain, and in Conor Cruise O’Brien it returned to the Dáil probably the only full-blown Unionist ever to sit in it. As a Minister, he would baffle hostile TDs my answering their questions with a mellifluous flow of Irish.

So much for all the fuss about Martin McGuinness, David Norris and Dana. Seán Gallagher’s 28.5% of the first preference vote was historically very bad for a Fianna Fáil candidate, which was what he was in all but name. But since everyone knew that, it actually amounted to a respectable showing this year, indicating that there is life in the old dog yet.

By contrast, Gay Mitchell’s 6.4% is an unmitigated disaster for Fine Gael. That, more than anything, is the big story of this election.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

There For Everyone To Read

I very rarely disagree with Stuart Reid. But when I do, it is usually over his adherence to Auberon Waugh's theory of the EU as, at least potentially, a reborn Christendom. A nice idea, perhaps. But undoubtedly nothing to do with reality. (In spite of which, I am likely to dedicate one of my eventual books to the memory of Paul Foot, Alan Watkins, Auberon Waugh and Michael Wharton.)

However, in this week's installment of his unmissable Charterhouse column on the back of the Catholic Herald, Stuart writes that, "The Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, was there for everyone to read, and it openly calls for "ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe". There was thus no excuse for "informed people" to be ill-informed. Enoch Powell and Tony Benn tried to warn us during the referendum of 1975, but happily we did not listen."

Stuart also has a go at "fundamentalist Protestant conspiracy theorists", and at "members of the British National Party and the Communist Party of Britain". Jolly good. But it is only in the EU's Council of Ministers and on the floor of the European Parliament that we are subject to the legislative will of Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women as candidates, and to that of assorted Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis.

How China Should Bail Out Europe

By sending over plenty of the right idea, that's how.

China still makes things, builds things and mines things, putting the jobs, heat and light of her people first. She is emerging from the gangster capitalism that always follows Communism by returning to her own culture, which is firmly centred on the family and the local community, reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, has barely started an external war in five thousand years, and is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity. And she takes Africa seriously, even going there to secure the food supply necessary for her to give up the extremely anti-Confucian one child policy.

The correct response to the rise of China is therefore a return to making things, building things and mining things. To prioritising jobs, heat and light. To the family and the local community. To tradition and ritual. To moral rather than physical force. To the Golden Rule. To Agrarianism and Distributism. To a pronounced aversion to war. To the classical Christianity that completes and transcends Confucianism, in no way destroying it. To a very Classical and Patristic openness to, and interest in, Africa. And to the glorious celebration of the fact that the very last thing wrong with the world is that it has people in it.

Friday, 28 October 2011

All In This Together

The system only works for those at the very top and those at the very bottom, non-taxpaying non-workers both. Richard Littlejohn used to say that in his Daily Mail column in the Major years. He was right in those days. And Ed Miliband, now saying the same thing, is right today.

We need to ensure a permanently higher rate of corporation tax on the banks and the utilities, with the money spent on reimbursing employers’ National Insurance contributions for workers aged 25 or under and 55 or over, and with strict regulation to ensure that no cost is passed on to workers, consumers, communities or the environment.

We need to mutualise the banks and to return the utilities to public ownership, while safeguarding the United Kingdom by opposing any relinquishment, either of central government’s preference share in any corporation that included the Bank of Scotland, or of central government’s controlling interest in the Royal Bank of Scotland.

We need to make the supermarkets fund investment in agriculture and small business, determined in close consultation with the National Farmers’ Union and the Federation of Small Businesses, by means of a windfall tax, to be followed if necessary by a permanently higher flat rate of corporation tax, and in either case accompanied by strict regulation to ensure that the costs were not passed on to suppliers, workers, consumers, communities or the environment.

We need to ban any company from paying any employee more than 10 times what it pays any other employee, with the whole public sector (including MPs and Ministers) functioning as one for this purpose, with its contracted out blue-collar work brought back in-house, with its median wage then pegged permanently and by statute at the median wage in the private sector, and with an absolute statutory ban, across the entire economy, on paying anyone more than the Prime Minister.

We need to require every public limited company to have one non-executive director appointed by the Secretary of State for a fixed term equivalent to that of other directors, and responsible for protecting the interests of workers, small shareholders, consumers, communities and the environment, with the voting rights of a shareholder made legally dependent on having held the shares in question for at least 12 months.

We need a unified system of personal tax allowances, benefits, pensions, student funding and minimum wage legislation, so that no one’s tax-free income falls below half national median earnings.

We need to give every household a base of real property from which to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State.

And we need to abolish non-domicile tax status.

That would be a start, anyway.

A Jolly Good Fellowes?

Much of what Lord Fellowes had to say on Question Time was very interesting.

But out of six people behind that desk, one was in receipt of the Conservative Whip in the House of Lords, another was a Conservative member of the Cabinet, and a third was David Dimbleby. Even a fourth was also a Minister.

In addition the host (Day, Sissons, Dimbleby), Question Time has always had a Two Tories Rule, one a politician and the other a journalist. But this really is getting out of hand now.

"A Free and Secular Middle East"?

You can't do both, sweeties. Certainly not if by "free", you actually mean "democratic", as you probably do.

And no one is taken in by that list of signatories with people giving "Middle Eastern country/Western country". Ignore anything before the stroke. Everyone living before the stroke certainly will, certainly does, and at least arguably should ignore this whole enterprise.

Saving Time

GMT is, for these Islands, proper time, with the sun at its height at noon. The amount of daylight has always varied from one end of the Kingdom to the other, but we have managed to get by. BST does no harm, I suppose. But any further deviation would be disastrous, as indeed it was when it was briefly tried. Nowhere should and must have Greenwich Mean Time more than Greenwich.

Our oldest ally, Portugal, uses the same time as us. For some reason, Gibraltar does not. But Saint Helena has GMT all year. There was once a very brief attempt at something called Saint Helena Island Time. It rapidly and rightly became known by its acronym, before it was rapidly and rightly abandoned.

Working people need daylight when they have to go to work in the morning, not in order to prolong their outdoor recreational activities in the late afternoon or the evening. But who asked them? America's so-called Daylight Saving Time has been extended so many times that "normal" time now operates for only four months of the year, and even that is under threat. Golf and garden parties must always take priority.


The floundering David Cameron has put the Act of Settlement and male primogeniture back on the agenda. Which Realm or Territory is considering leave the family defined by our shared monarch unless these changes were given effect, though not otherwise? Even if any were, then it would still be wrong.

There is a certain Spot The Deliberate Mistake quality to proposals to make the monarchy more egalitarian or, heaven help us all, “meritocratic”. The Act of Settlement reminds us that we are different, and it does us the courtesy of taking our beliefs seriously by identifying them as a real challenge. I question the viability of a Catholic community which devotes any great energy to the question of ascending the throne while the born sleep in cardboard boxes on the streets and the pre-born are ripped from their mothers' wombs to be discarded as surgical waste. The rubbish passed as RE in this country's Catholic schools would not be permitted, even now, in any other discipline. We need people in Parliament who will put down an amendment that all RE textbooks, resources and inspectors in State-funded Catholic schools must be approved directly by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Most people probably assume that this is already the case. Would that it were. These should be our priorities.

Far from being a term of abuse, the word “Papist” is in fact the name under which the English Martyrs gave their lives, and expresses the cause for which they did so, making it a badge of honour, to be worn with pride. The Protestant tradition is a fact of this country's history and culture. No good purpose would be served by denying it its constitutional recognition. We must never countenance alliance with those who wish to remove Christianity as the basis of our State. Parties, such as the Lib Dems or the SNP, that wish to abolish Catholic schools need not imagine that noisily seeking to repeal the Act of Settlement somehow makes their position any better. On matters such as this, we should listen to the voice of Recusancy, currently in the Commons the voice of the gloriously anti-war Edward Leigh more than anyone. He has no time for this proposal, and rightly sees the whole thing as an excuse to bring the question of the monarchy to the floor of other Parliaments, particularly in Australia.

Turning to male primogeniture, it sends an important signal: that the male line matters means that fathers matter, and that they have to face up to their responsibilities, with every assistance, including censure where necessary, from the wider society, including when it acts politically as the State. So, a legal presumption of equal parenting. Restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit is being paid to mothers. Restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father. Repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as a child’s parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed. Paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child was 18 or left school.

That last, in particular, would reassert paternal authority, and thus require paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence. That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. And that basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment. All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need. Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole.

But no more fathers' wars, not least since those sent to war tend to come from working-class backgrounds, where starting to have children often still happens earlier than has lately become the norm. Think of those very young men whom we see going off or coming home, hugging and kissing their tiny children. Paternal authority cannot be affirmed while fathers are torn away from their children and harvested in wars. You can believe in fatherhood, or you can support wars under certainly most and possibly all circumstances, the latter especially in practice today even if not necessarily in the past or in principle. You cannot do both.

Similarly, to argue for this by word and by sheer presence is a role for living icons of God the Father, addressed as “Fathers in God”, and not for persons who, being addressed as “Mothers in God”, would be the icons of some or other mother-goddess. No one who does not accept in full the claims of Rome can submit to Her; no one who does can fail to do so. In its own terms, if a new network of Conservative Evangelical congregations would better serve the proclamation of the Gospel, then it must be created anyway. In neither case does any other consideration arise. Certainly, the prospect of either need not concern Parliament as a body. Parliament must do its duty and reassert the importance of fatherhood by rejecting any proposal for women bishops. No matter what.

A positive decision to retain declared “Fathers in God” within our parliamentary system and wider national life would emphasise the importance of fatherhood. As would a positive Declaratory Act reaffirming male primogeniture in the terms set out above. Alongside both of which, nothing would better serve to keep Catholicism salty in Britain, and reverse the losses of her savour in recent decades, than a categorical decision that the Act of Settlement was going to be retained because we are different, and because our beliefs are a serious challenge, so that we ought to be teaching them properly in our schools.

Crying In The Wilderness

Yo Zushi writes:

Israel's discriminatory policies based on race and religious affiliation are well documented. In 2008, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, then president of the UN general assembly, said that the state's actions on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip resembled "the apartheid of an earlier era". Aware that he was risking censure, he added: "We must not be afraid to call something what it is." Others, from the South African international law scholar John Dugard to Desmond Tutu, have echoed his sentiment.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's unease at the prospect of "different elements . . . demand[ing] national rights" within the country was made explicit in a government meeting regarding amendments to citizenship laws on 25 July 2010. His solution seems to have been to attempt to ensure "a Jewish majority" in all regions possible -- forcefully, if need be, and regardless of the protections supposedly guaranteed by the state to its people.

Two days after the meeting, Israeli security forces stormed the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the southern desert of Negev, under cover of night, destroying all the houses and animal pens built there. The demolition of these homes displaced more than 300 people, half of whom were children under the age of 16. Since then, the villagers, who claim to possess deeds to the land proving ownership since 1906, have rebuilt their community at least 17 times; and the Israeli army, working in all but name for the controversial Jewish National Fund, has responded repeatedly with demolition. The plight of the families of al-Araqib is far from unique.

The Bedouin have lived in the Negev for thousands of years. They are its oldest inhabitants. Though some 90 per cent of Palestinians were deported from the region during the mass expulsions of 1948 -- Israel claimed falsely at the time that it was unoccupied -- approximately 200,000 Bedouin still live there today. Few of their villages are recognised by the state, which consistently ignores Arthur James Balfour's promise in 1917 to enshrine "the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" -- a promise that helped pave the way for the foundation of the Israeli state.

Citing the unofficial status of most Bedouin villages, the government refuses to connect them to basic infrastructure, such as water, electricity and sewage treatment. It is instructive to contrast this with Israel's willingness to supply such essentials to settlers' farms that lack proper planning permits. The High Steering Committee of the Arabs of the Negev views the state's current strategy of relocating 30,000 Bedouin against their will to approved townships as a form of ethnic cleansing; trees have been prioritised over the land's historical owners as its rightful occupants, as a part of some Israeli extremists' bid to rebrand themselves as "green Zionists".

The casually racist treatment of the Bedouin as a people undeserving of basic human rights should not be forgotten in the excitement surrounding Egypt's exchange of the alleged Israeli-US spy Ilan Grapel for 25 Bedouins imprisoned by Israel. These prisoners, of Egyptian origin, are believed to be smugglers, asylum-seekers and those who entered Israel looking for work. Three of them are children, who reportedly crossed the border merely to sell cigarettes. Little more is known about them and, as in the coverage of Gilad Shalit's release, the focus of the media seems squarely on the Israeli captive. Netanyahu's government denies the charges facing Grapel and has accused Egypt of "bizarre behaviour". Equally bizarre, if not more so, is Israel's own careless attitude to the Middle East's "different elements".

"The civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" were "not to be prejudiced", according to the Balfour Declaration. The treatment of these Israeli citizens certainly looks like that prejudicing to me. The Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and for that matter the East Bank, are all one or more other stories. But when it comes to Israel proper, why did we not do for those "existing non-Jewish communities" what we later did for the East African Asians? Is it still too late to do that, not with a view to flying them over here, but in order to create that possibility while making it clear that, while they remained where they were, then they enjoyed the full undertaking that we gave to them?

An undertaking given when they legally owned most of the land, rather than when their villages appeared on no official map, therefore enjoyed no amenities, and could look forward, either to being demolished by the State as such, or at the very least to having their places of worship and
de facto community centres (churches as well as mosques) burnt down by the strongest supporters of the Government, if not by actual agents of the parties of government. We promised them that nothing like that would happen. We owe them. We owe them a hell of a lot.

If the Arab labouring class ever were to be evacuated to Britain or anywhere else, then the Israeli economy would simply collapse, as the South African one did when the black working class just stopped working. Let that possibility exist on a permanent basis. And if we are finally to make good Balfour's promise to defend "the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", then are we also finally to make good his promise to defend "the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country", now and increasingly no less "prejudiced", and that for the same reason?

Meanwhile, very extensive devolution to the very local level, Jewish or Arab, religious or secular, Muslim or Christian,
et cetera. Three parliamentary chambers, each about one third the size of the present one, namely one for the Haredim, one for the Arabs, and one for everyone else. All legislation to require the approval of all three chambers. Each chamber to elect a Co-President, all three of whom would have to approve all legislation and senior appointments. Each chamber to be guaranteed a Minister in each department and at least a quarter of Cabinet posts. Yiddish to be recognised, as the quid pro quo for recognising all those villages in the Galilee and the Negev.

The alliance necessary to pull this off would take an awful lot of effort. But two peoples facing nothing less than denaturalisation could very well be prepared to make that amount of effort. The other lot should have had more children, or bothered to move there from places like London and New York. But they didn't.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

On The Buses

Or not, since there are none.

Pat Glass MP has summoned the managing director of Go North East, and the Director of Transport for the County Council, to newly bus-starved Lanchester.

Tomorrow, Friday 28th of this month. 6:30pm. Saint Bede's.

Be there.

A More Perfect Union

California Constantian writes:

With the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining momentum worldwide, one common (and valid) criticism is their lack of common goals, demands, or leadership. What is common (from what I see) is the occasional presence of Ron Paul supporters.

Apparently, this OWS demographic believes that Paul is the true answer to their problems and can give true power to the working class, all because of his absolute adherence to the Constitution. Of course, when asked about his thoughts about OWS, Paul does gives his support, but then begins to insist that the protestors direct their anger at the Federal Reserve.

Funny... whenever I hear Paul talk about the nation's problems he admits the wrongdoings of the private sector plutocrats and yet only proposes an aggressive stance on the Federal Reserve.

That's all that seems to be on his mind... the Fed.

Make no mistake, I'm not exactly a fan of the Fed. But doesn't it seem like he is downplaying the corruption of the plutocracy in the private sector, who are just as responsible if not more so for the financial crisis and the increasing class stratification?

Ron Paul may have popularity and is certainly vocal about government incompetence and corporate greed (rightfully so), but I just don't see how he can be a populist figure; his solution for everything is reducing the size of government and deregulating, the latter of which is a huge cause of increasing class stratification now.

In a nutshell, the Ron Paul logic can be summarized as "Corporations and banks are driving this country down into the ground and hurting the average American. So what will I do about it? Reduce the size of government, abolish the minimum wage, reduce regulations and give corporations and banks MORE freedom to do as they please!"

Of course, when talking to a typical Paul supporter you usually get:

"But he votes by the Constitution! And that's what will make him a good president! The Constitution must be restored and respected so that our problems will be fixed and we can truly be free!"

Yes, Paul is known for his stance against the Patriot Act for its unconstitutional violations. Paul also opposed Obamacare (which is hardly an acceptable standard of healthcare, but certainly better than the status quo) and justified that by citing that there is nothing about healthcare in the Constitution. Okay fine, but the original text said nothing about a lot of things: slavery abolishment, women's suffrage, organized labor, discrimination against minorities and disabled, the list goes on. So... which version do we need to abide by? If the Constitution has been changed so many times in so many ways in so many eras by so many people, how can it really be the "end all be all"? And if basic common sense things such as the abolishment of slavery had to be added after nearly a century of existence and a bloody Civil War, and if the modern political elite can use the document to justify the denial of human services to the lower classes... how is this paper our salvation?

Call me radical, reactionary, flat out unreasonable, or all of the above, but the US Constitution (and constitutions in general) is not a living, breathing document. It is not a great supreme being that is here to defend you when things go wrong and deliver you from hardships. It is a piece of paper written by wealthy white male slave owners who had their own interests at heart at the time of its drafting. This simple piece of paper is just that, a piece of paper, and it can be either adhered to, ignored, or altered by the political class whenever they deem it popular or convenient to do so. This simple piece of paper can be interpreted by the political class any way they wish, and what is constitutional or not is fully dependent on the interpreter's political favors, background, or idealism.

That said, it is a good thing to have a charter to list the basic rights of humans and who is entitled to what for a comfortable life. But relying solely on a piece of paper is counterproductive; what leads to the political elite having its way with the document is that the document itself has no soul. Again, it is a piece of PAPER. It does not have feelings, a sense of justice, or common sense other than what the political elite says. It is a tool, nothing more. The US Constitution in particular was hardly philanthropic; slavery was allowed, Native Americans were demonized, women and non-wealthy men were denied the vote. The intentions behind the text were nowhere near populist; the Founders wrote it to ensure that they could keep their property (and not have to share) and to give political power to those like them (who would thus have similar interests).

Do you want to have a standard to preserve your rights? Use a human being who is not part of the political class. (predictable tangent in 3...2...1...) One that wears a crown can be an excellent example; a monarch is not chosen by any party in the political elite to be an interpreter, nor is he/she bound to please constituents in the elite. What a monarch does have is human feelings. Only a human who is separate from the political class can know what is right and wrong. When the political class uses a piece of paper to justify oppression, you can have your crowned head administer economic and social justice that is truly philanthropic in a way that no document can.

Again, it is a good idea to have basic rights and the philosophy of justice in writing, just make sure that it is written with populist interests and not the political elite. But even so, left all alone the document becomes their tool. When this happens, the "living breathing document" that was supposed to protect you is now being used to exploit you.

Bottom line? Whatever it is you campaign for, drop the Constitution litmus test. Demand economic justice, demand government accountability and an end to corruption, but demanding a by-the-book use of the Constitution will accomplish absolutely nothing. The only sense of justice a document has is from whoever wrote it.

Is Ken Clarke A Liberal?

If so, then he will acknowledge that 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, with no suggestion that prisoners should have the vote. But only then.

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

We need to raise the minimum age for jurors at least to 21. We need to extend to the rest of the United Kingdom the successful Scottish extension of the right to serve on a jury without compromising its restriction to those with a tangible stake in society. We need to repeal the provision for “no win, no fee” litigation, while at the same time protecting, restoring and extending Legal Aid. We need the current judicially imposed arrangement on privacy to be enacted into the Statute Law, but with the burden of proof in libel actions placed on the plaintiff.

We need to return to preventative policing based on foot patrols, with budgetary sanctions against recalcitrant Chief Constables. We need police forces at least no larger than at present, and subject to local democratic accountability though police authorities composed predominantly of councillors, not by means of elected sheriffs, which, like directly elected mayors, have no place in a parliamentary rather than a presidential res publica, and are wholly incompatible with the defence, restoration and extension of the powers of jurors, magistrates and parliamentarians.

We need to restore the pre-1968 committal powers of the magistracy, restore the pre-1985 prosecution powers of the police, and restore the network of police stations and police houses placing the police at the very heart of their communities. We need each offence to carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years for life. And we need 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.

We must insist on a return to the situation whereby a Bill which ran out of parliamentary time was lost at the end of that session. On the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law. On the requirement that EU law apply in the United Kingdom only once it has passed through both Houses of Parliament exactly as if it had originated in one or other of them. On the requirement of a resolution of the House of Commons 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. On the restoration of British overall control of our defence capability. On the removal of all foreign forces and weapons from British territory, territorial waters and airspace. On the repeal of one-sided extradition arrangements. And, especially now that Norman Baker is a Minister, on the coroner’s inquest that has mysteriously never been held into the death of Dr David Kelly.

There must be an extension to Scotland of the historic liberties, largely as set out above, which have never applied in that far more oligarchic country, where middle-class institutions and upper-middle-class power have been defined as the esse of national identity, a situation which has been made even worse by devolution’s weakening of the Labour Movement. While this might have been a factor contributing to the retention of more rigorous minimum qualifications for jurors in Scotland, criteria which should be applied nationwide as surely as should be the Scots Law requirement of corroboration of evidence, nevertheless it means that, while there is an automatic right to trial by jury for serious offences in Scotland, the decision on which way to proceed in an ‘each-way’ case lies with the prosecution rather than with the defence. The police have no power to caution, and they proceed entirely under the direction of the locally unaccountable Procurator Fiscal, who does not prosecute unless it is in the public interest to do so, which it is for the prosecution alone to decide and for which it does not have to give any explanation. It is extremely difficult to bring a private prosecution, far in excess of the necessary restrictions on that practice which rightly exist elsewhere. These profoundly illiberal arrangements must change.

That would be a start, anyway.

Ken Clarke, over to you.

Foreign Preachers of Hate

I am very pleased that Raed Salah is not allowed in my country, although I had to laugh when a certain neoconservative website accused his British supporters of faux academia with dodgy sources of funding. And I wish that I could say the same about many, many others: that they, too, were not allowed in my country.

And what about the blood libel that all opposition to the Iraq War was anti-Semitic? That was said routinely at the time, and for a long time thereafter. They all did it. Every one of them. I suspect that certain British sites only stopped when, on this blog and elsewhere, I lately started making a fuss about it. It still crops up from time to time. The people presently loudest in berating Raed Salah put it into print or onto the airwaves every single day for months, and regularly for years. They have never expressed one word of remorse, either for that or for their catastrophic war itself. Only today, one of them sent me one of his occasional frothing-at-the-mouth emails about the fact that I dare to exist at all and to tell the truth about him.

In any case, what is Salah fighting for? Be born into certain ethnic minorities within Israel’s 1948 borders, and you are automatically subject to Sharia law. Far more people ought to know that than do. Waving his Menorah passport and with the name of that State in the name of his organisation, Salah obviously knows it very well indeed. Israel’s Sharia courts are those of the State of Israel. Their rulings in relation to those born under their jurisdiction are the law of the land, and their judges are appointed and paid by that State. By contrast, although Israel treats family law rulings by entirely private Christian religious courts as a fait accompli, that is as far as any relationship goes. No wonder that Salah is such a proud and happy Israeli.

He is not the only one. He was previously the Mayor of Umm al-Fahm, a 100 per cent Arab and 99.7 per cent Muslim city which has been run by his Islamic Movement for many years and where 83 per cent of the population recently voted against transfer to Palestinian jurisdiction. If you want to be the Islamic Movement’s fiefdom, then Israel will let you be it, and will even pay your bills. The Knesset includes Ibrahim Sarsur, who campaigns for Jerusalem to be made the capital of the Caliphate. His oath of office, an explicit pledge of allegiance to the State of Israel, clearly does not preclude the furtherance of that objective, which is inconceivable on the part of any member of a British, French, Dutch or other Parliament in Europe even now.

But then, look at the governing coalition in Israel. If any other country had a government in which the party of the Foreign Minister wished to denaturalise both the ancient indigenous Christians and the ultra-Orthodox Jews, while others around the Cabinet table held that every ethnic group apart from their own had been created as beasts of burden, then that country would rightly be treated as a pariah.

By all means exclude “foreign preachers of hate” from this country. Including Raed Saleh. Among other Islamists. Such as the black-shirted pimp and heroin-trafficker Hashim Thaçi, who is somehow also both a Wahhabi and a Maoist – he really is what the more hysterical Tea Party attendees imagine Obama to be. Such as the terrorist Akhmed Zakayev, whom this country currently harbours. Such as the recently apprehended terrorist Abdulmalik Rigi. And such as the even more recently arrested war criminal Ejup Ganic. It is quite a list: Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and now Libya (polygamy legalised as the first act of the unelected government) and Tunisia, with Syria to follow, with Iran next on the list after that, and with Chechnya and Xinjiang always bubbling away in the background. Doesn’t it make you proud?

However, also including those American and other ecclesiastics who have expressed racist views about Africans and others who do not share their liberal sexual morality. Also including Hans Küng, whose disparagement of Blessed John Paul the Great's Polishness made and make them the authentic voice of the age-old Teutonic racism against the Slavs; Küng only gets away with it because he is Swiss. Also including Avigdor Lieberman, the members of his party, and those who sit in coalition with them. Also including the EDL-supporting leaders of the Tea Party. Also including Geert Wilders, among a whole host of others whose presence most certainly would not be, and periodically is not, conducive to the public good. For example, the signatories to the Project for the New American Century, and the Patrons of the Henry Jackson Society. What was that about faux academia with dodgy sources of funding?

No less unconducive is our subjugation to the legislative will of the sorts of people that turn up in the coalitions represented in the European Parliament and in the EU Council of Ministers. Stalinists and Trotskyists. Neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis. Members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura. Neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany. Before long, the ruling Islamists of Turkey. And their opponents, variously extreme secular ultra-nationalists and Marxist Kurdish separatists.

When Jörg Haider’s party was in government in Austria, the totally unreconstructed Communist Party was in government in France. In the Council of Ministers, we were being legislated for by both of them. In the European Parliament, we still are, because we always are. People who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland may not take their seats at Westminster. But they do at Strasbourg. And so on, and on, and on. That is not conducive to the public good, either.

Nor is the (often desperately ignorant) African-American takeover of our black politics, which is of overwhelmingly Afro-Caribbean or African origin, and barely, if at all, related to African-American culture. If the things being colonised from Harlem and Chicago were being run from the Caribbean or from Africa, as they sometimes have been and are, then that would be bad enough. This, however, is not merely outrageous, although it is certainly that. It is downright bizarre. And it is not conducive to the public good.

Any more than is subjugation of our foreign and defence policy to the United States, or the supremacy of EU over British law, or the above-mentioned fact that we are all subject to the legislative will of the assorted headcases who turn up in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, or the separatist administration in Scotland, or the presence of a borderline separatist and undoubtedly language-fascist party in that of Wales, or the running of Northern Ireland by the alliance between a fringe fundamentalist sect and people who believe the Provisional Army Council to the sovereign body throughout Ireland. All of that is well-known, although none of it is anywhere near as profoundly appreciated as it ought to be.

No, as if all, or even any, of that were not bad enough, we now have all political parties in certain Midland, Yorkshire and North-Western towns and cities run as (by no means always predictable) proxies for rival factions in Pakistan, to the extent that the rally designed to name Asif Ali Zardari’s son as sole Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party was held in Birmingham, with a large rival demonstration outside; Glasgow is heading the same way, as both Labour’s selection of a candidate for its safe seat of Glasgow Central, and the scramble for the Conservatives’ list seat at Holyrood, made abundantly clear. We now have an entire London Borough in which political life is being directed from Bangladesh, even if one does have to laugh at the implicit suggestion that the East End was somehow a model of probity before the Bengalis shipped up. We now have thriving scenes loyal to each of Hindutva and Khalistan, both of which were significant at the Ealing Southall by-election. And so on, and on, and on.

What’s that you say? Immigration? Well, it is a contributing factor, of course, although few voters for the SNP, fewer for Plaid Cymru, and none for the DUP or Sinn Féin are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, or the grandchildren of immigrants, or the great-grandchildren of immigrants. But what of the burgeoning white nationalist movement, increasingly centred, not even on the collapsing BNP, but on the EDL, which has deep, deep roots in the “casual” football hooliganism of the 1980s and 1990s? It, too, is foreign-funded and foreign-controlled, by the Tea Party and by the secular Israeli Hard Right, which is currently in government, and whose American branch office was recently addressed by one Rupert Murdoch.

Ah, yes, Rupert Murdoch. He, too, is not conducive to the public good. He, too, having renounced his allegiance to the Queen, is not only a preacher of hate, but a foreign preacher of hate. I wish that I could say that he was not allowed in my country.

Farepak Five Years On

"The Farepak Victims Committee call on the Government to: 1. Bring those responsible to account; 2. Fully compensate Farepak Victims; 3. Put in place financial regulations that ensure that this never happens again."

Sign here.

Not So Secret Pakistan

So, are we going to invade Pakistan now? "We cannot have the Pakistani bomb fall into Islamist hands"? Really? In whose hands do you think that it has always been? Politicians are not even allowed the nuclear codes. The generals keep those to themselves. With the generals comes the ISI. And with the ISI comes a veritable cornucopia of Islamist factions. But none of them wants to bomb Britain. Unless we give them some cause. Let's not.

The "Taliban" have no existence apart from the Pashtun in general, who are old Indian allies. "Al-Qaeda" does not exist at all. But as for the ISI's backing of "Islamist militant groups" or what have you, sooner rather than later, and at least arguably already, what else will Pakistan have? What else will remain of her founding dream of a distinct Muslim nation on the Subcontinent, acting as such? Especially if she is to be sandwiched between India and the restored, Indian-backed "Taliban".

No wonder that the "Taliban" are open to this. The scholars at Deoband strongly rejected Jinnah's two nation theory. So did plenty of other people: just as there have always been more Irish Catholics in the remaining United Kingdom than the entire population of the 26 Irish counties that seceded, so there have always been more Muslims in India than the entire population of Pakistan. And they were right.

I am not happy with a nuclear-armed anywhere. Nuclear weapons are immoral in and of themselves. But despite both that and all of the above, I would or do find a nuclear-armed Pakistan, or a nuclear-armed China, or a nuclear-armed North Korea, or the nuclear-armed Iran that does not exist and which no one is trying to bring into existence, at most no more worrying than nuclear weapons in the hands of the BJP and of those who come with it. Or nuclear weapons in the hands of Likud and of its jaw-dropping coalition partners, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, the leader of which latter is the Foreign Minister. Or nuclear weapons in the hands of anyone who is or who venerates Tony Blair, George W Bush, either of the Clintons, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Their Own Zone

If the Eurozone countries want to set up new institutions in order to pursue the fiscal union necessary to monetary union, then why need that involve us in any way? They are not coming along to this week's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. So why are we in Brussels this week? They should be told that if they want this, then they can have it, so long as they pay for it. Why not?

Conservatism That Cares

Ed West writes:

Britain certainly needs more jobs, but are we happy to pay the social cost from having more temporary, unprotected, deskilled and de-unionised labour? We already have among the highest inequality levels in Europe, the biggest gap between management and workers, and in many areas a workforce that is short-term, demotivated and unproductive, and with wages sunk by cheap foreign imports.

I’m all in favour of the Tories thinking the unthinkable, but it doesn’t mean they have to do the undoable. And I would far prefer that they started to look at the sort of German mutual models advocated by Phillip Blond and Maurice Glasman. It’s taken the combined economic deadweight of southern Europe to drag Germany down to our level – shouldn’t we have a look at how they’ve done things for the past six decades?

Of course, there are areas where government could help business, such as reducing National Insurance, or perhaps tearing up the vast labyrinth of employment laws dealing with discrimination, diversity, equality and various other areas of social engineering. But this is not one of them.

What is it with the Conservatives? They seem to be Right-wing only where no one wants them to be Right-wing. Theirs is a conservatism that cares nothing about British sovereignty, marriage, natural justice, defending the borders, law and order or the armed forces, but that cares deeply about reducing the rights of British workers. Contrary to the idea banded about in the less thoughtful areas of political discourse, conservatism is not about protecting the rich: it is about creating an environment that is safe, sober, crime-free, respectful, educated, gentle and high in social capital and trust. In other words, about protecting the poor and weak. Until the Conservative Party realises this, they will continue to haemorrhage support.

It is astonishing, and yet somehow not, that in 13 years, New Labour never legislated for John Smith's signature policy, namely that employment rights should begin on Day One of employment and apply regardless of the number of hours worked.

Ed Miliband should signal once and for all that, unlike his brother, he intends to give us the government that we would have had in those 13 years if Smith had lived, by legislating to create that fitting monument to the Great Man.

Places like that consistently out-perform us. Have you ever been to Germany? We have had 30 years of the other way of doing things. Look where it has ended up.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Liberal Conservative

"I am a Liberal Conservative." So said David Cameron, not for the first time, during his warm-up act to yesterday's EU debate. And, of course, he is. For a very long time, the Conservative Party has been defining itself by hoovering up Liberals: Liberal Unionists, Liberal Imperialists, National Liberals, Alfred Roberts's daughter, those around the Institute of Economic Affairs (although its founders and its founding backer, like Roberts, never actually joined), and now the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservative Party is itself therefore two parties in one, which would be entirely separate in many other countries, competing hardly at all for the same votes and co-operating hardly at all on any issue of policy. The metropolitan, urban, capitalist, secular, libertarian, make-the-world-anew party has finally defeated and banished the provincial, rural, protectionist, church-based, conservative, mind-our-own-business party. The Whigs have finally defeated and banished the Tories, just as they have finally defeated and banished the Radicals. This side of electoral reform, anyway.

Cameron and his courtiers have now told the Tories frankly to clear off to UKIP and lose their seats, probably to the Lib Dems who would most obviously benefit from a split Conservative vote under First Past The Post. Then again, most and possibly all Lib Dem MPs seeking re-election in 2015 are expected to do so as "Conservative and Liberal Democrat" candidates with no Conservative opponent, recalling the "Conservative and National Liberal" candidates of old, and the "Conservative and Liberal Unionist" ones before that. The favour could cheerfully be returned.

And even after electoral reform, would there be anyone in a Tory party? The ideological takeover of the Tory machine by successive waves of Liberals has been so successful, in its own terms, that most of the dutiful, deferential, donkey-like voters whom that machine delivers honestly have no idea that it is a Liberal, rather than a Tory, idea to oppose the protection of British agriculture and industry from foreign competition, or to subscribe to the sorts of arguments advanced in support of changes such as the legalisation of drugs, or to value "personal liberty" over the definition of marriage as only ever the union of one man and one woman, or to scorn the Catholic and classically Protestant (frequently Tory) critiques of capitalism, or therefore to resist substantial State action against social evils, or to view with anything other than the most profound scepticism the founding mythoi and numerous of the subsequent policies of the United States, or to advocate the use of armed force in order to spread "freedom and democracy".

Are there really any Tories left for David Cameron to purge?

The Grand Plan

Tristan Garel-Jones has just told them to join "a little party somewhere that wants to leave the EU". That is the word from the grandees, including Cameron: they can all clear off to UKIP.

Then they can all lose their seats the way the SDP did; large numbers of Labour supporters wholly or broadly agreed with the SDP, just as large numbers of Conservative supporters wholly or broadly agree with UKIP, but voting in this country is tribal.

And the numbers will be made by the Lib Dems, organisationally absorbed into, but ideologically absorbing of, the Tory machine. Like the Liberal Unionists, the Liberal Imperialists and the National Liberals before them.

That is what Cameron actively wants to happen.

Holding The Centre

Those of us who remember 66 invisible Labour MPs who voted against Maastricht when only 22 Tories did, or 44 who voted against the European Finance Bill when the Whip was withdrawn from half a dozen Tories for doing nothing more than abstain, were entirely unsurprised that neither Newsnight, nor The Record, nor Today in Parliament, reported one word of the sterling speeches delivered by John Cryer, Roger Godsiff, Ian Davidson, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins and Frank Field.

Ed Miliband should promise legislation with five simple clauses and no need, either for never-ending "renegotiation" (by whom, exactly?), or for a costly and distracting referendum. He should spell out clearly that we are presently subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, members of Eastern Europe's kleptomaniac nomenklatura, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, and Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women as candidates.

No wonder that last night's Labour rebels included Ian Davidson, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff and Kate Hoey, the heirs of Douglas Jay and Peter Shore. No wonder that last night's Tory rebels included Robin Walker and Sir Peter Tapsell, one the literal heir of Peter Walker, the other the same old Peter Tapsell, as splendidly Keynesian, pro-Commonwealth and anti-neoconservative as ever. And no wonder that the Liberal Party and the SDP, both of which still exist, are now so very critical of the EU. We are the centre. The federalists are the extremists and the anti-democrats.

Greek Mythology

Marshall Auerback and Rob Parenteau write:

Historically, Greeks have been very good at constructing myths. The rest of the world? Not so great, if the current burst of commentary on the country is anything to go by. Reading the press, one gets the impression of a bunch of lazy Mediterranean scroungers, enjoying one of the highest standards of living in Europe while making the frugal Germans pick up the tab. This is a nonsensical propaganda. As if Greece is the only country ever to cook its books in the European Union! Rather, the heart of the problem is in the antiquated revenue system that supports that state, which results in a budget shortfall consistently about 10% of GDP. The top 20% of the income distribution in Greece pay virtually no taxes at all, the product of a corrupt bargain reached during the days of the junta between the military and Greece’s wealthiest plutocrats. No wonder there is a fiscal crisis!

So it’s not a problem of Greek profligates, or an overly generous welfare state, both of which suggest that the standard IMF style remedies being proposed here are bound to fail, as they are doing right now. In fact, given the non-stop austerity being imposed on Athens (which simply has the effect of deflating the economy further and thereby reducing the ability of the Greeks to hit the fiscal targets imposed on them), the Greeks really are getting close to the point where they may well default and shift the problem back to those imposing the austerity. This surely can’t be much worse than the slow execution they are facing today.

In reality, the Greeks have one of the lowest per capita incomes in Europe (€21,100), much lower than the Eurozone 12 (€27,600) or the German level (€29,400). Further, the Greek social safety nets might seem very generous by US standards but are truly modest compared to the rest of the Europe. On average, for 1998-2007 Greece spent only €3530.47 per capita on social protection benefits–slightly less than Spain’s spending and about €700 more than Portugal’s, which has one of the lowest levels in all of the Eurozone. By contrast, Germany and France spent more than double the Greek level, while the original Eurozone 12 level averaged €6251.78. Even Ireland, which has one of the most neoliberal economies in the euro area, spent more on social protection than the supposedly profligate Greeks.

One would think that if the Greek welfare system was as generous and inefficient as it is usually described, then administrative costs would be higher than that of more disciplined governments such as the German and French. But this is obviously not the case, as Professors Dimitri Papadimitriou, Randy Wray and Yeva Nersisyan illustrate. Even spending on pensions, which is the main target of the neoliberals, is lower than in other European countries.

Furthermore, if one looks at total social spending of select Eurozone countries as a per cent of GDP through 2005 (based on OECD statistics), Greece’s spending lagged behind that of all euro countries except for Ireland, and was below the OECD average. Note also that in spite of all the commentary on early retirement in Greece, its spending on old age programs was in line with the spending in Germany and France.

In fact, Greece has one of the most unequal distributions of income in Europe, and a very high level of poverty, as the following table [I can't seem to copy it in] shows (source: OECD and Papadimitriou, Wray and Nersisyan). The evidence is not consistent with the picture presented in the media of an overly generous welfare state—unless the comparison is made against the situation in the US, which is akin to comparing a French impressionist’s skills with that of a 5 year old finger-painter.

Of course, these facts don’t matter. The prevailing narrative is that Greece is, in the words of the FT’s John Authers, “a country that was truly profligate”, with little in the way of data to support that assertion. The country, however, is truly stuck: they can’t devalue, they can’t pay their own way because they do not have a sovereign currency, and nobody will voluntarily finance them. So they must exit and devalue or drop their domestic prices. The massive default, though inevitable, is just a step along the way.

To make the problem worse, export earnings also seem to face their own structural cap that is consistently exceeded by import spending, which means that the debt that finances the government shortfall is increasingly held abroad. The debt is issued under Greek law, but now it is payable in Euros which Greece, as a user of euros, can’t create, given the surrender of its currency and consequent fiscal sovereignty. In this sense, ironically, the fiscal crisis is a consequence of Greece’s success, after a long preparation, in joining the European Union, and hence giving up its own currency, as Professor Perry Mehrling has noted.

The point is that, if this analysis of the source of the problem is correct, then standard IMF austerity policy is unlikely to do much to help. And, as the increasingly intensifying riots on the streets are vividly demonstrating, the patient might not willingly accept the medicine. Despite attempts to turn the country into an economic colony of the EU, Greece is still, after all, a democracy and if one is to judge from the growing unrest in the country, it is far from clear whether Greece (or any other euro zone member for that matter) is really willing to cut spending and raise taxes rates to any degree which will satisfy the Fiscal Austerians dominating economic policy in the euro zone today without at the same time provoking an ungovernable failed state, right in the middle of the euro zone. As J.M. Keynes noted a lifetime ago in a still widely ignored footnote to Chapter 23 of his General Theory:

Experience since the age of Solon at least, and probably, if we had the statistics for many centuries before that, indicates what a knowledge of human nature would lead us to expect, namely, that there is a steady tendency for the wage unit to rise over long periods of time and it can be reduced only amidst the decay and dissolution of economic society.

Of course, Keynes was not a “Keynesian” and in any case, what did he know that the mathematically “elegant”, well-calibrated, dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models of contemporary Nobel Laureates of today cannot tell us?

Even the “Troika” – the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB) – conceded that there might be a slight problem with their Austerian approaches: In a leaked report, from the currently underway EU Summit, and this document will likely form a part of the deliberations in the Greek debt restructuring proposals to be hammered out by Oct. 26th.

On the first page of the document is not only a pretty open and blatant admission that expansionary fiscal consolidation (EFC) has proven to be a contradiction in terms, at least in Greece, but there is also a serious policy incompatibility problem, at least over the intermediate term horizon, with efforts at internal devaluation (ID) – that is, attempting nominal domestic private income deflation in order to improve trade prospects when one has a fixed exchange rate constraint.

While they stop short of recognizing that their demands and the actions they have imposed on Greek policymakers are setting off a Fisher debt deflation implosion of the Greek economy (never mind rupturing any semblance of a social contract, and ripping the social fabric to shreds as well – this is, after all, the jackboot version of neoliberal “reform” designed to stamp out any last vestige of social democracy and organized labor in the eurozone). This is a very large concession for the Troika to have made before the EU itself has taken a “final decision”.

Admitting that EFC is not working, and that pursuing ID will only aggravate matters further, including the ability of Greece to hit fiscal targets, is a fairly large step by the Troika in the recognition of the reality of the situation. This is not something the faith based neoliberal economists in the Troika organizations are often prone to do. It is not what their incentive structures, formal and informal, tend to encourage them to do.

So why pursue it? Well, let’s face it: this has far less at this stage to do with Greece (even as the prevailing mainstream narrative continues to perpetuate the picture of a lazy, unproductive country full of profligates and scroungers), than punishing other potential fiscal deviants and recalcitrants.

Angela Merkel clearly has Italy in her sights. She, and the Troika are scapegoating the Greeks – in order to make sure that should Greece take the rumored “hair cut” on its debt and restructure, the other peripheral countries – especially Italy – won’t get any ideas and be tempted down the same path of forced debt restructuring, but rather will redouble their efforts to achieve arbitrary fiscal targets on an equally arbitrary timeline (and how’s that worked out for Greece?), and learn to “live within their means”, as the Germans always piously lecture the world. This is the strategy to prevent what is euphemistically called the “contagion impact”. In reality, it is also called the principle of collective guilt – destroying the livelihoods of thirteen million people for political or ideological or faith based reasons, which is frankly disgusting and unacceptable. Given their own history, German policy makers should understand this phenomenon. Indeed in many respects, this all too eerily resembles the tangled, twisted mess left by the demands of WWI reparation on Germany – except this time around, Germany is one of the creditor nations imposing their will on the crushed debtors.

If the prevailing mix of fiscal austerity policies continues, there will be spill-over effects to nations that export to Greece. To be sure, Greece is a tiny market in Euroland, but its fiscal problems are by no means unique. As the bigger economies like Spain and Italy also adopt austerity measures, the entire continent can find government revenue collapsing – even Germany, where economic deceleration has become markedly more noticeable in the past few months. As an illustration, consider the ZEW survey results on six month forward expectations for the economy to get a glimpse of where German export momentum may be going. If the historical eight month lead times continue to hold up – and it is certainly tracking right on schedule to date – then the contagion effects on German exports will be utterly devastating by early 2012.

Finally, if austerity succeeds in lowering wages and prices in one nation it can lead to competitive deflation, only compounding the problem as each country tries to gain advantage in order to promote growth through exports. If private debt to GDP ratios did not well exceed public debt to GDP ratios in most eurozone nations, this might not be such a dangerous dynamic to set in motion.

And here we must ask the painfully obvious question: why, pray tell, do all the Fiscal Austerians make a point of ignoring the private debt overhang built up over years of serial asset bubbles in the eurozone? Could it be the faith-based economics that they practice, where fiscal balances express a sort of moral purity, and private decisions are always and everywhere deemed to be optimal and sustainable by definition, a la the magical passes of the Invisible Hand?

What is most remarkable to us is that the largest net exporter, Germany, does not appear to recognize that its insistence on fiscal austerity for all of its neighbors will cook its own golden egg-laying goose. If Germany wants to run a perpetual current account surplus in order to pursue their Asian-like mercantilist, export-led growth strategy, then some other nation, or group of nations must be prepared to run current account deficits ad infinitum. Which means issuing liabilities ad infinitum to the current account surplus nation in order for the current account deficit nations to spend more than they earn on tradeable goods and services. What this means is that default is inevitable unless there is a policy or price mechanism that encourages the current account surplus nation to reinvest the reserves they earn in foreign trade back into productive, income generating capital equipment in the trade deficit nations. This much is elementary international economics, but somehow it completely eludes Berlin.

The German Chancellor and her Finance Minister like to say that no real economic union is possible if one party to the union (Greece) works shorter hours and takes longer holidays than another (Germany). What she should say is that no real economic union is possible if the governing plutocrats of ALL nations (not just the billionaire Greek ship-owners who probably have already moved their money offshore, but also wealthy bankers who have suffered no consequences for their own fraudulent and willfully destructive lending practices) consistently evade their fair share of the cost of that party’s own state expenditure, expecting the union either to pay the bill itself, or to force the bottom 90% to pay it. And there is no real economic union (or any hope of a future political union) if current account surpluses are not properly and sustainably recycled into the trade deficit nations. It would be as absurd as Texas perpetually insisting on running trade surpluses with the other 49 American states.

Greece is not a special case, but rather a case in point of exactly what happens when you impose fiscal consolidation on countries with high private debt to GDP ratios, high desired private net saving rates, and large, stubborn current account deficits. What is needed is a way to redistribute demand toward the trade deficit nations—for example, by having the trade surplus nations spending euros on direct investment in the trade deficit nations. Germany did this with East Germany. Such a mechanism could be set up under the aegis of the European Investment Bank very quickly. Effective incentives to “recycle” current account surpluses in this manner via foreign direct investment, equity flows, foreign aid, or purchases of imports could be easily crafted. If it could be accomplished, it will be a way Greece and the others could become competitive enough to secure their future through higher exports.

Failure to embrace this kind of coordinated, mutually beneficial growth option will ultimately give the Greeks little alternative but to default, leaving the euro zone’s policy makers with an even bigger and costlier mess on their hands. Admittedly, this will not fully solve Greece’s problems as they would like have to leave the euro zone as well and reintroduce the drachma. They would need to reverse fiscal consolidation and place government bonds in their banks as part of their recapitalization efforts. An independent central bank would also have to become a buyer of government bond issuance as foreign demand would likely evaporate for some time. This would entail capital controls, which will cause people to head for the exits (this is, after all, a country with lots of boats) and will require an active mobilization of real resources into public/private initiatives and export enhancement (improved labor productivity, faster product innovation, more R&D, etc. It would not be pretty, it would undoubtedly be painful, but as Iceland is demonstrating today, it is possible to survive and grow and, in any case, is far better than the alternative of starving to death under the guide of the Troika for a decade or more.

In a more dire scenario, a Greek default, would be more akin to a “Sampson moment” for the entire euro zone. Like Sampson in his last days, blinded and beaten by the Philistines, Greece is weakened, blind and bound. Default would represent one last defiant burst of strength with which it “wrecks the temple” (in this case the euro zone) via default and in doing so, it may also take down everybody else.

Myth-making at the expense of the Greeks does not serve anybody’s interests, as there will be a cascade of defaults everywhere, and a Soviet style collapse in incomes, hardly an enticing prospect for the global economy. Not an attractive ending, but this is the kind of outcome which the troika’s self-serving, immoral and cruel policies could lead to before long. The Greeks, and the vast majority of Europe’s citizens, can surely do better than this. The existing policy path is literally bankrupt and bankrupting, and this game of chicken cannot go on for much longer.

The Silent Majority

Well, they hardly spoke during the debate.

Cameron now has 81 "impossible" MPs so far as Ministerial office is concerned. Two of them were PPSes 24 hours ago.

The rest of his MPs must be very, very, very pleased indeed.

Apart from the Whips, that is. What are they supposed to do with 81 people who have nothing to lose?


The wrong motion? Yes, but the motion that there was. These are the 19 Labour MPs who voted for it: Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Cruddas, John Cryer, Ian Davidson, Natascha Engel, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Steve McCabe, John McDonnell, Austin Mitchell, Dennis Skinner, Andrew Smith, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Mike Wood. They were joined by the Labour-aligned Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon and by the Lib Dem Adrian Sanders. I have yet to check abstentions. So, the 21-member core of the potential campaign for something better, namely legislation with five simple clauses.

First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the Supreme Court) unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons. And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.

Monday, 24 October 2011


By whom, exactly?

No, no, no. Primary legislation with no need either for that or for a referendum.


Real Republicans

Timothy Noah writes:

I'm liking rank-and-file Republicans better and better. Earlier this month we learned that they favor Obama's plan to tax the rich. Now we learn that a 55 percent majority of them think Wall Street bankers and brokers are "dishonest," 69 percent think they're "overpaid," and 72 percent think they're "greedy." Fewer than half (47 percent) have an unfavorable view of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Thirty-three percent either favor them or have no opinion, and 20 percent haven't heard of them. Also, a majority favor getting rid of the Electoral College and replacing it with a popular vote. After the 2000 election only 41 percent did. Now 53 percent do. How cool is that?

Every one of these positions puts the GOP rank-and-file at odds with their congressional leadership and field of presidential candidates.

We keep hearing that the Republican base is a bunch of animals who applaud executions and jeer at gay soldiers. But poll data tell me that isn't the base; it's the knuckle-dragging nut fringe. The Republican base looks increasingly like a bunch of reasonable conservatives whose political views now put them well to the left of the ideologues they're sending to Washington. Time for Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Rick Perry, and Roger Ailes to dissolve it and elect another.

Herewith, the wise words of President Theodore Roosevelt:

I hold that a corporation does ill if it seeks profit in restricting production and then by extorting high prices from the community by reason of the scarcity of the product; through adulterating, lyingly advertising, or over-driving the help; or replacing men workers with children; or by rebates; or in any illegal or improper manner driving competitors out of its way; or seeking to achieve monopoly by illegal or unethical treatment of its competitors, or in any shape or way offending against the moral law either in connection with the public or with its employees or with its rivals. Any corporation which seeks its profit in such fashion is acting badly. It is, in fact, a conspiracy against the public welfare which the Government should use all its powers to suppress.

If, on the other hand, a corporation seeks profit solely by increasing its products through eliminating waste, improving its processes, utilizing its by-products, installing better machines, raising wages in the effort to secure more efficient help, introducing the principle of cooperation and mutual benefit, dealing fairly with labor unions, setting its face against the underpayment of women and the employment of children; in a word, treating the public fairly and its rivals fairly: then such a corporation is behaving well. It is an instrumentality of civilization operating to promote abundance by cheapening the cost of living so as to improve conditions everywhere throughout the whole community.


Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally does some deed like founding a college or endowing a church, which makes those good people who are also foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country.


It may well be that the determination of the government (in which, gentlemen, it will not waver) to punish certain malefactors of great wealth, has been responsible for something of the trouble; at least to the extent of having caused these men to combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. . . . I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.


The absence of effective state, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise.

Together with the wise words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

And the wise words of President Ronald Reagan:

We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that’s crazy. [...] Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?

There is nothing moderate about support for abortion or for the overthrow of the traditional definition of marriage. But there is about recognising that unbridled capitalism in unconservative (and historically un-American and un-Republican), that social responsibility is integral to patriotism and to family values, that there can only be a large and thriving middle class if the several tiers of government are harnessed in order to deliver and protect it, and that the patriotic, morally and socially conservative attitude to wars is to avoid them wherever and whenever possible.

Apparently, the Tea Party is off on a RINO hunt against Scott Brown, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Would that be the same Tea Party that installed Scott Brown in the first place? It did not do very well last year, ending up claiming as its own several successful candidates whom it had previously disowned. Marco Rubio took fewer votes than his two opponents combined, and Bob Bennett would have been re-elected against the Tea Partier if he had run as an Independent. By contrast, the GOP’s old Moderate school staged a significant comeback, even returning Lincoln Chafee, who had openly endorsed Obama in 2008 and who was effectively endorsed by him in 2010, as Governor of Rhode Island as an Independent against the GOP’s official Tea Party nominee.

As the RNC is busy imposing open primaries in order to prevent any further Tea Party advances even on that pitiful showing, the Tea Party can look forward to campaigning next year for the Presidency to go to the man who gave Massachusetts socialised medicine and who ran for the Senate from the left of Ted Kennedy. But even he is not going to win. So, in 2016, the Tea Party will be out on the stump for a man who is currently a serving member of the Obama Administration.

Watergate would not be a story at all now, and I flatly refuse to believe that anyone was really shocked by it at the time, although one does have to mourn the passing of a culture in which they at least felt obliged to pretend that they were. So another complete non-story, which everyone has always known and which makes no difference to anything, recently had to be dredged up in order to discredit the Civil Rights sympathiser, in marked contrast to Kennedy, who suspended the draft, who pursued détente with China, and who ended the Vietnam War along with Ford, an old stalwart of the America First Committee (as, to be fair, was JFK).

No one must ever know that that was once the Republican Party. No one must ever know about the Republican calls for Europe to revert to pre-1914 borders and thus end the First World War. No one must ever know about those Republicans who resisted entry into the Second World War until America was actually attacked by either side. No one must ever know about Eisenhower’s ending of the Korean War, his even-handed approach to Israel and the Palestinians, his non-intervention in Indo-China, and his denunciation of the military-industrial complex.

No one must ever know about Reagan’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 1983, and his initiation of nuclear arms reduction in Europe; the people who lionise Reagan now compared him to Neville Chamberlain when he was in office. No one must ever know about James Baker’s call to “lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel” and to “foreswear annexation, stop settlement activity”. No one must ever know about Republican opposition to the global trigger-happiness of the Clinton Administration. No one must ever know about Bush the Younger’s removal of American troops from Saudi Arabia after 9/11, thus ensuring that there has been no further attack on American soil.

And no one must ever know that there was once a President, a Republican President, who believed in wage and price control as surely as in the Clean Air Act and in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as surely as in the War on Cancer and in the War on Drugs, as surely as in Title IX and in the desegregation of schools in the Deep South, and as surely that the United States should launch no war over the Soviet Union's treatment of its Zionist dissidents. Those last have turned out to have been just as unpleasant, in their own way, as were many other categories of those who happened to dissent from the Soviet regime. And they now constitute a significant obstacle to peace in the Middle East, where they are busily engaged in denaturalising both the indigenous Christians and the Haredi Jews.

A President forced out by the motley crew that had sought to replace Johnson with Bobby Kennedy as the Democratic nominee in 1968: the not always mutually exclusive categories of Friedmanites and Trotskyites, Israel Firsters and white supremacists; in the California primary, Kennedy had denounced Eugene McCarthy’s support for public housing as a “catastrophic” proposal to move black people into Orange County.

Succeeded by a President mocked to scorn before, during and after his time in office, yet in reality the man who initiated the Helsinki Process.

The Nixon and Ford Administrations’ stood in stark contrast to the pioneering monetarism and the Cold War sabre-rattling of the Carter Administration, which was particularly bad for abusing the noble cause of anti-Communism by emphasising Soviet human rights abuses while ignoring Chinese and Romanian ones. Carter, who was not above electorally opportunistic race-baiting, even happily allowed the Chinese-backed Pol Pot to retain control of the Cambodian seat at the UN after Phnom Penh had fallen to the rival forces backed by Vietnam and therefore by the Soviet Union. But Carter, for all his unsung prophetic calls against materialism in general and oil dependence in particular, had had the nerve to brand Ford as soft on Communism for his entirely factual statement that Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland were “not dominated” by the Soviet Union.

The Platform Ticket?

I am taking this opportunity to repeat here an offer which I have already made both under a blog post of Cristina Odone’s about Douglas Murray’s, and under a Coffee House post of Murray’s own.

By all accounts, Murray will never now receive a parliamentary nomination from the Conservative Party. Not that he ever stood much of a chance of such a nomination, not after he wrote in The Spectator that he had voted Labour in the Ealing Southall by-election after a row with Baroness Warsi on Question Time. Likewise, the decision of Oliver Kamm, now the Keeper of the Blairite Flame, to vote Conservative in 2005 and to write about it in The Times because his local Labour candidate was anti-war rules him out forever from being a Labour candidate.

When my next book, Confessions of an Old Labour High Tory, is published next year by a publisher to which even they could not object, then I shall be applying to become a People’s Peer in order to give a parliamentary voice to the position that it will articulate. On one condition, namely that Murray and Kamm both also do so, in order to give a parliamentary voice to the positions articulated by their own respective published works.

So, do they regard their respective, largely overlapping positions as deserving of the platform that is the parliamentary process? Do they regard themselves personally as capable of participation in that process? I think that we all know the answers to both of those questions. So, why do they not apply to become People’s Peers? Seriously, why not? Doubts about their views? Doubts about their own abilities and distinction? Or what?

Jointly and severally, over to them.

And Battles Long Ago

Since these rather silly matters seem to have been raised again in certain places, I most definitely did not pay anyone to publish my last book, and I myself have only ever possessed precisely one copy, which is emphatically not for sale. I can assure you that publishing it has cost me nothing, and makes me, if not a lot, then enough, all things considered.

The University’s online directory used to call me “Academic/management staff” until it (quite unilaterally) bumped me up to one of those few people who get a contact form rather than having their email addresses displayed to all and sundry. But if my pretendy-Durham critics say that I am not “Academic/management staff”, then what would a university that they have literally never seen know about it? All in all, it looks as if the Oliver Kamm Lie Machine is working about as well against me as it is against the ubiquitous, “blacklisted” Neil Clark.

And I was removed from Telegraph Blogs for Damian Thompson’s own publicly stated reason, namely that I had pointed out the treasonable existence of a large party within the Conservative Party at parliamentary level under the direction of the Israeli Hard Right. There has now been a Cabinet resignation to prove my point. Perhaps not the only resignation that is in order.

Good Godsiff

St Ermins Group veteran.

Balanced Migration stalwart.

And, as he has just made plain once again on the floor of the House, serious, articulate, uncompromising Eurosceptic.

Global Public Authority


Nothing New

It is being put about that whatever the EU comes up with this week in order to deal with the collapse of the eurozone could, should and possibly even would be put to a referendum in Britain.

But the Lisbon Treaty is self-amending. So there can never be a new treaty, the only matter on which David Cameron has ever promised a referendum. Although in that case, having signed it, he would have had to have campaigned for a Yes vote.

As it is, he will turn around and state, entirely accurately, that whatever these latest developments might have produced, it was not a new treaty, so it was not covered by any previous promise of a referendum.

Therefore, there would not be one. Just a three-line whip. Possibly upgraded to a confidence motion. But probably not, since there would be nowhere near enough potential rebels to cause Cameron to feel any need for such a tactic.

Believe It? Or Not?

So, Damian Thompson, do you believe in miraculous healing, or not? Do you believe in demonic possession, or not?

The whole Church was baptised with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and She manifests that baptism through a rich plurality of gifts, the charisms. The whole Church, and thus every member, is therefore both Pentecostal and Charismatic. Every gift is a charism, and each is always given for the good of the whole body, in response to Her evangelistic activity, in the context of Her sacramental life, and subject to Her gift of discernment. She exercises that gift within Her institutional life, because the institutional Church and the charismatic Church are inseparable; they are two aspects of a single reality. It is wholly unscriptural to impose any requirement that anyone exercise any particular charism in order to be considered a full, believing member of the Church.

There has never been the slightest doubt that the charisms include healing, exorcism, prophecy and words of knowledge, nor really even that they include speaking in tongues. Furthermore, healing is here understood as even those of us not raised in the Charismatic Movement understand it: it is the restoration of the human person to wholeness, which may or may not take the form of healing as understood by medical science, depending on what is known best to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Wisdom of God.

Similarly, the performance of exorcism is restricted to suitably qualified persons, and it is only ever used against the power of that objective evil which we can but thank God that we do not fully understand. Prophecy is recognised as the gift of being able to read the signs of the times and to communicate effectively what is thus read, so that it does always include the prediction of the future: foretelling is always integral to forth-telling. Words of knowledge are always relevant, always wise counsel and always independently verifiable. Speaking in tongues is never without the interpretation of tongues, and together they make it possible to understand where this would not otherwise be the case.

For example, as well as having been miraculously healed, the great Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer was also blessed with the gift of tongues. Other than Ecclesiastical Latin and despite his English father, he had no language but Limousin, which was what they spoke in his native Valencia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Yet he was a tireless itinerant missionary, preaching to tremendous effect in Aragon, Castile, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Whereas glossolalia is a twentieth-century running together of two Biblical Greek words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon which does not occur in the Bible. Is it Saint Paul's “tongues of angels”? There is nothing in Scripture to support that view. The true gift of tongues is as manifested by Saint Vincent Ferrer OP, Biblical scholar, philosopher, thus doubly informed and doubly informing theologian, and thanks to that ongoing formation a gloriously successful preacher of the Gospel, not least to the Jews, precisely as an ordained priest and a solemnly professed Religious in perfect unity with the See of Peter.

Healing, exorcism, prophecy, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, and the other charisms serve to re-root theology in experience and to call the whole Church to watch at all times for the Second Coming. They restore the integrity of the Liturgy by freeing it from over-formality and over-conventionality. And they release the ministries of women, young people, the poor, and others who experience marginalisation and oppression. Yet there is never any question of any one gift being used to decide whether or not someone has been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, because it is the whole Church that has been so baptised. Nor need there be any degeneration into banal and incoherent services. And nor is there any transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders, because there is no parachurch.

I suspect that you believe all of this, Damian. I certainly hope that you do. But you have not said it. Instead, you have indulged in clever-clever ridicule of people who, however imperfect their practice due to the distortion inherent in any schism from Petrine Unity, do in fact believe what the Catholic Church teaches, if not on the wretched “prosperity gospel”, then certainly on the reality of miraculous healing and of demonic activity. Or is this really because of their adherence to Biblical standards of sexual morality?

And who are those people? In relation to a series of recent judgements, culminating, at least so far, in this year’s jaw-dropping ruling that Christianity formed no part of the basis of the law. Much has been made by the militant secularist and homosexualist lobbies of the fact that the couple in that case was of West Indian origin, as those against whom there have been a number of such pronouncements from the Bench have been of either Afro-Caribbean or African background. Christianity in Britain is being defined as a black thing, and thus a product of post-War immigration, in the way that Islam in Britain is being defined (not entirely accurately) as a brown thing, and thus a product of post-War immigration.

This may be utterly absurd, although African and Afro-Caribbean observance is the reason why churchgoing is more prevalent in London than in the country at large. But it is also potentially useful. The ferocious anti-Christianity of the senior judiciary, of David Cameron’s attempt to redefine marriage as not necessarily the union of one man and one woman (as the Attlee Government’s landmark legislation regulating marriage simply presupposed because it was so obvious), of Jo Johnson’s campaign to end prayers in the chamber of the House of Commons, and so on, is an attack on Black British culture as the attackers themselves have defined it. It is, in a word, racist. Let’s see them get out of that one. Let’s see you get out of that one, Damian.