Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Real Armed Forces Day

It is not today.

It is on 11th November, and the whole point of it is that it is not a public holiday or anything like that.

Rather, at eleven o’clock in the morning, the ordinary routine of daily life is interrupted.

Or, at least, it used to be. It should be again.

World Heritage

The Palestinian Authority has managed to secure World Heritage Site status for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which the Israelis had wanted to demolish in favour of a Wal-Mart or something.

The Israelis are incandescent that the PA has secured World Heritage Site status for what, whether or not you believe (as I do, because I can see no reason not to) that it stands on the site of the Birth of Jesus, is undeniably the world’s oldest Christian church in continuous use.

How was it not already a World Heritage Site? Who has been stopping that designation? And why would they not want it to be so designated? What else do they want to do with the site? One really does shudder to think. But it is academic now, so they may as well tell us.

The howling over the impending prospect of a Palestinian State also includes, as if it were self-evidently a bad thing, the possibility of World Heritage Site status for the Tomb of Rachel and for the Tombs of the Patriarchs. But then, the present Israeli Government wants to denaturalise the ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as the ancient indigenous Christians.

The war that Israel ordered up in Iraq has already turned the Shrine of Ezra the Scribe, who invented both synagogues and the square Hebrew script, into a mosque. The Shrine of Ezekiel, featuring some of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions in the world, is next on the hit list.

Across the border in Iran, whatever regime the Crazies sought to install would be just as conservative of the Shrine of Habakkuk, of the Shrine of Daniel, and of the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai. It says in the Bible that those figures were Persian. Where did you think that they were buried? Or did you just not believe it...?

Friday, 29 June 2012

On This Rock

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

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

There's Always One

A Conservative Government always has one.

Last time, it was Teresa Gorman.

This time, it is Nadine Dorries.

On No Account

It is not even the 15-year terms, in or of themselves.

It is the fact that they are to be non-renewable.

Where could the accountability possibly be there?

Terms of Reference

A Healthy Option

Emigration to the United States.

Now that they are going to have an NHS, whereas we are dismantling ours.

Romney couldn't return to the status quo ante. No one wants that. Rather, he would be asked, "What would you have instead?"

Based on his record, and bearing in mind that he would already be in office by then, his answer really would be something like the NHS, probably on the Canadian model.

It would have to be. If you reject RomneyCare/ObamaCare, then what other possible answer is there left?

But then, this always used to be a bipartisan cause. Republican primary voters must still want it to be, or else they would never have nominated Romney.

Libel Law Reform

If the current judicially imposed arrangement on privacy were enacted into the statute law, but with the burden of proof in libel actions placed on the plaintiff, then who could object to that? And why?

Making the privacy law statutory as the price of reversing the burden of proof in libel actions. That would be the deal. The corporate media cannot expect their own way all the time. Least of all these days.

As for freedom of information, repeal the Official Secrets Acts. Just do it.


In and at the Labour National Executive Committee elections.

Specifically, the section for which only "ordinary members", not unions, vote.

Ken Livingstone topped the poll, with the extremely Hard Left Ann Black a close second.

Plus another from the Left slate, and an Independent whose website links to Tribune and to various public sector trade unions.

Two Blairites did get on. But the Leader of the Progress Party, Luke Akehurst, lost his seat. He will soon lose his card.

There Is An Alternative

Richard D. Wolff writes:

There is no alternative ("Tina") to capitalism?

Really? We are to believe, with Margaret Thatcher, that an economic system with endlessly repeated cycles, costly bailouts for financiers and now austerity for most people is the best human beings can do? Capitalism's recurring tendencies toward extreme and deepening inequalities of income, wealth, and political and cultural power require resignation and acceptance – because there is no alternative?

I understand why such a system's leaders would like us to believe in Tina. But why would others?

Of course, alternatives exist; they always do. Every society chooses – consciously or not, democratically or not – among alternative ways to organize the production and distribution of the goods and services that make individual and social life possible.

Modern societies have mostly chosen a capitalist organization of production. In capitalism, private owners establish enterprises and select their directors who decide what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues from selling the output. This small handful of people makes all those economic decisions for the majority of people – who do most of the actual productive work. The majority must accept and live with the results of all the directorial decisions made by the major shareholders and the boards of directors they select. This latter also select their own replacements.

Capitalism thus entails and reproduces a highly undemocratic organization of production inside enterprises. Tina believers insist that no alternatives to such capitalist organizations of production exist or could work nearly so well, in terms of outputs, efficiency, and labor processes. The falsity of that claim is easily shown. Indeed, I was shown it a few weeks ago and would like to sketch it for you here.

In May 2012, I had occasion to visit the city of Arrasate-Mondragon, in the Basque region of Spain. It is the headquarters of the Mondragon Corporation (MC), a stunningly successful alternative to the capitalist organization of production.

MC is composed of many co-operative enterprises grouped into four areas: industry, finance, retail and knowledge. In each enterprise, the co-op members (averaging 80-85% of all workers per enterprise) collectively own and direct the enterprise. Through an annual general assembly the workers choose and employ a managing director and retain the power to make all the basic decisions of the enterprise (what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits).

As each enterprise is a constituent of the MC as a whole, its members must confer and decide with all other enterprise members what general rules will govern MC and all its constituent enterprises. In short, MC worker-members collectively choose, hire and fire the directors, whereas in capitalist enterprises the reverse occurs. One of the co-operatively and democratically adopted rules governing the MC limits top-paid worker/members to earning 6.5 times the lowest-paid workers. Nothing more dramatically demonstrates the differences distinguishing this from the capitalist alternative organization of enterprises. (In US corporations, CEOs can expect to be paid 400 times an average worker's salary – a rate that has increased 20-fold since 1965.)

Given that MC has 85,000 members (from its 2010 annual report), its pay equity rules can and do contribute to a larger society with far greater income and wealth equality than is typical in societies that have chosen capitalist organizations of enterprises. Over 43% of MC members are women, whose equal powers with male members likewise influence gender relations in society different from capitalist enterprises.

MC displays a commitment to job security I have rarely encountered in capitalist enterprises: it operates across, as well as within, particular cooperative enterprises. MC members created a system to move workers from enterprises needing fewer to those needing more workers – in a remarkably open, transparent, rule-governed way and with associated travel and other subsidies to minimize hardship. This security-focused system has transformed the lives of workers, their families, and communities, also in unique ways.

The MC rule that all enterprises are to source their inputs from the best and least-costly producers – whether or not those are also MC enterprises – has kept MC at the cutting edge of new technologies. Likewise, the decision to use of a portion of each member enterprise's net revenue as a fund for research and development has funded impressive new product development. R&D within MC now employs 800 people with a budget over $75m. In 2010, 21.4% of sales of MC industries were new products and services that did not exist five years earlier. In addition, MC established and has expanded Mondragon University; it enrolled over 3,400 students in its 2009-2010 academic year, and its degree programs conform to the requirements of the European framework of higher education. Total student enrollment in all its educational centers in 2010 was 9,282.

The largest corporation in the Basque region, MC is also one of Spain's top ten biggest corporations (in terms of sales or employment). Far better than merely surviving since its founding in 1956, MC has grown dramatically. Along the way, it added a co-operative bank, Caja Laboral (holding almost $25bn in deposits in 2010). And MC has expanded internationally, now operating over 77 businesses outside Spain. MC has proven itself able to grow and prosper as an alternative to – and competitor of – capitalist organizations of enterprise.

During my visit, in random encounters with workers who answered my questions about their jobs, powers, and benefits as cooperative members, I found a familiarity with and sense of responsibility for the enterprise as a whole that I associate only with top managers and directors in capitalist enterprises. The easy conversation (including disagreement), for instance, between assembly-line workers and top managers inside the Fagor washing-machine factory we inspected was similarly remarkable.

Our MC host on the visit reminded us twice that theirs is a co-operative business with all sorts of problems:

"We are not some paradise, but rather a family of co-operative enterprises struggling to build a different kind of life around a different way of working."

Nonetheless, given the performance of Spanish capitalism these days – 25% unemployment, a broken banking system, and government-imposed austerity (as if there were no alternative to that either) – MC seems a welcome oasis in a capitalist desert.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Bring Back Blair?

When the banks stand exposed as having rigged everyone's interest rates for years and years. (Interestingly, even Sir George Mathewson told the Today programme this morning that retail banking and investment banking ought to be split entirely, something that certain over-eager, historically illiterate types have repeatedly tried to tell me on here would be impossible even though, as they have been quite incapable of understanding, building societies are organised like that by law. Look it up. While you are at it, look up Glass-Steagall. And have a word with Sir George Mathewson.)

When the pursuit of the economic policies that Tony Blair and David Miliband could never get past Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls has today resulted in a recession even deeper than expected, and in more NEETs than ever before.

When PFI has brought hospitals to the brink of bankruptcy.

When the currency that Blair tried, and mercifully failed, to bully Brown into accepting for the United Kingdom continues to collapse into economic chaos, leading to the ever-more-real overthrow of democracy.

When even the Daily Telegraph has to admit that people in Britain are more likely to be killed by the sting of a bee or a wasp than by a terrorist attack.

When News International has announced that it intends to split in exactly the way that gives the lie to all the claims that the schemes promoted here and elsewhere for breaking up media empires were as impractical as, well, those for breaking up retail banking and investment banking.

When Radovan Karadzic has already been acquitted of one charge of genocide, virtually an unheard of verdict on the part of bodies such as the one to which he is subject, opening up the space to reconsider the whole of the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s and the whole of the policy of liberal intervention.

When exactly the sort of Labour Party against which Blair defined his project is racing ahead in the polls while comfortably winning council seats in wards that he never even condescended to contest.

Bring back Blair? Oh, yes. And then have great fun working out what to do with him...

Czech List

The proto-Thatcherism of Ray Mawby tied in perfectly with the political position of, until today, the only British Minister ever known to have been an agent of the Soviet Bloc, and specifically, like Mawby, of Czechoslovakia.

He was John Stonehouse, the Labour MP most closely associated with the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs in the days when it was still trying to persuade both main parties, and later the only MP ever to have sat in the English separatist interest, before, having left Parliament, he joined the SDP. Sue Slipman, one of David Owen’s closest allies, had been a Communist Party member of sufficient prominence to be made President of the National Union of Students, a position by then openly in that party’s gift, only a very few years before joining the SDP that she told to “retain the classless opportunities provided by Thatcherism”, to “civilise the Thatcherite project”, and to “be a friendly critic of Thatcherism”.

Working and lower-middle-class Conservatives ought not to be the only, or even the principal, objects of investigation as this aspect of history is examined. Mawby was susceptible to specifically financial inducement, whereas many of his co-partisans would not have been. But the upper classes were the only section of society in which, right up to the fall of the Soviet Union and even beyond, it was perfectly respectable to profess oneself a Communist. It was just dismissed, in an attitude unknown to the rest of Britain at the time, as an amusing little eccentricity such as any proper toff is obliged to have. Not everyone might have known that the then Sir Anthony Blunt was a KGB agent, but everyone, including Her Majesty His Employer, knew that he was a Communist, and snobbish as only Marxists ever quite are.

Then as now, and really at every point in between, anyone who was sufficiently grand could secure advancement in the Conservative Party, and it was considered vulgar to enquire as to specific political opinions, then as now, and really at every point in between. Who would look for them in the Conservative Party? Yet the utterly posh world of MI6 and the upper echelons of MI5 was absolutely riddled with them right up until the bitter end, to the point that it had become a standing joke even among the general public. Everyone knew that the KGB’s main recruitment ground was not the patriotic, socially conservative trade union movement or anything like that, but Oxbridge in general and Cambridge in particular, and only the public school rather than the grammar school circles even there.

The perfectly preposterous idea that Harold Wilson, of all people, and for heaven’s sake even Ted Short and George Thomas in the more recent versions, were somehow Soviet sleeper agents continues to serve what has always been its purpose, that of pure distraction from what ought to be the blindingly obvious.


The same forces tried to have struck down all manner of New Deal programmes without which Middle America, rural America and so on could not possibly live now. This is just another one. When even Chief Justice John Roberts, Dubya's nominee, not only says that this is constitutional, but goes out of his way to organise a majority on the Bench to that effect; and when millions of GOP primary voters, of all people, nominate Mitt Romney, of all people, in the midst of this dispute; then it really is all over for the other side.

Why is anyone surprised at this ruling? Supreme Court Justices do sometimes have prior judicial experience, but they are party machine appointees who would never let ideological zeal overcome tactical sense. Strike down the other lot's flagship policy, and they will do the same to yours once the opportunity presents itself. Heaven and earth were always going to be moved in order to rule that, whatever else it might be, ObamaCare was not unconstitutional. So it has been.

Romney has no meaningful intention of repealing something that he himself pretty much invented, anyway. His nomination confirms that, for all the noise from Tea Parties and what have you, the thing that still purports to be conservatism in post-Dubya America is in reality a very small minority concern even among registered Republicans. The result of the primary process speaks for itself. The older school of Eisenhower Republicans will have two candidates out of two in November. Call it ObamaCare, call it RomneyCare, call it anything you like: it is a classic piece of Eisenhower-Nixon-Ford-Bush I Republicanism. America could do with a great deal more such pieces. And the world could do with such an America.

Give it five years - and regardless of the results in November, it will still be there in five years' time - and Americans will wonder how they ever got by without it, if they are still thinking about it at all. The only reform demanded by the public, or suggested by anyone beyond the outermost fringe, will be a move to the Canadian single-payer system (basically, the NHS) advocated by Donald Trump, because it would be so much less bureaucratic while retaining the principle of universal coverage paid for out of general taxation. Assent to that principle will be as universal as the coverage, within five years.

This is also a pro-life victory. A ban on abortion funding was already written into the original legislation, but if this is a tax rather than a commercial purchase then the provisions of the Hyde Amendment also apply, putting the belt and braces on it. Precisely because this is now recognised as taxation, the contraceptive mandate will also almost certainly either be struck down in the courts or legislated away in order to pre-empt any such action.

But we had the NHS a generation before either the Pill or abortion, and they have much tighter abortion laws on much of the Continent alongside, indeed built into, universal public healthcare. So all of that was and is peripheral, if anything, to the principle. And the principle has now been established.

The Bomber Command Memorial

Why not?

As much as anything else, it now requires those who were loudest in calling for it to reconsider their ordinarily uncritical adulation of Winston Churchill, who pointedly refused to acknowledge the RAF in his VE Day speech. And, like Prince William's service with RAF Search and Rescue, it should go some way to seeing off the neoconservative scheme to abolish the RAF within a single EU defence "capability" under overall American command and run by the Germans.

By no means all of the 55,000 war dead of Bomber Command were involved in the carpet bombing of the German urban working class, overwhelmingly Hitler's Social Democratic opponents, whom that carpet bombing reduced to unhinged mothers carrying the shrivelled corpses of their bomb-baked children around the country in suitcases, while immense clouds of bluebottles gathered on the rubble as the thousands of dead decomposed. A chapter of my next book will review, among other works on the two World Wars, Professor A C Grayling's masterful and unanswerable Among The Dead Cities.

None of this shortened the War by one second. Quite the reverse, in fact. At the Nuremburg Trials, the terms of reference had to specially written (as such things always are, of course) in order to preclude any German comeback over this. So even then, even we ourselves at least implicitly acknowledged the wrong that we had done. But I repeat that nowhere near 55,000 people - and that is only the number of the dead, not of all those who fought - were involved in this. The rest deserve a memorial. And now, they have one.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

What Does "PFI" Stand For?

And why?

We were right all along.


Don't Be Fueled

A new word, not a typo.

The real economic story today is that borrowing is up far beyond the projections of Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

The Transport Secretary did not know yesterday that a freeze in fuel duty was going to be announced today. Or any other day. Funny, that...

The Red Benches

It is perfectly sensible for the party that created the present House of Lords to oppose its abolition.

Especially if it splits the Coalition in the process. High principle and low politics are rarely, if ever, far apart.

If John Smith had led Labour in voting en bloc against Maastricht, rather than ordering an abstention while 66 nevertheless voted against it (and none in favour), then the Bill would have been defeated, the whole Treaty would have been lost, and Europe and the world would now be very different places indeed.

80 to 100 Conservative rebels? There were only 22 over Maastricht. This is massive. But unanimity in Cabinet. Leadership for the 80 to 100 is therefore going to have to come from Ed Miliband. Over to whom.

The Brady Bunch

Including the Queen.

Today, Her Majesty and His Eminence effectively endorsed each other. How could broadly the same constituency possibly get rid of either of them after this?

Not that almost anyone in it wants to have in theory the same finance ministry as Estonia or Cyprus, though in practice the finance ministry of Germany alone, anyway. Nor do they want to be charged every time that they visit the doctor or go into hospital. But the schools in the 26 Counties might very well turn out to be a different proposition, and by no means only for one side, once those in the Six Counties have been ruined by Sinn Féin.

Ah, yes, Sinn Féin. Rising radical party of the Left in the 26 Counties. Queen-greeting party of bourgeois cultural Nationalism in the Six Counties, where it is implementing exactly the policies against which it is campaigning on the rest of the island (much as the UUP implemented the policies of the Attlee Government at Stormont even while voting against them in accordance with the Conservative Whip at Westminster), keeping it in with the likes of Representative Peter King. What do they have in common? Once the practically knighted Adams and McGuinness generation is out of the way, then the organic split will be inevitable.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Cameron's Minority Strategy

If General Elections really were won and lost in the South East, then there would have been a Conservative Government with a large majority in 2005. In the days when that party used to win Elections outright rather than having to be propped up by someone else, then it did so by winning considerable numbers of seats in Scotland, Wales, the North and the Midlands.

The equally ignored battle between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the West Country and in Hampshire has also made the difference between a majority government and a hung Parliament at every General Election for many years. The consequences of that fact last time might even cause a bit of attention to be paid to the more westerly half of the South next time. But do not hold your breath.

Those are all much more conservative places than the South East. Hence their lack of support for the post-Thatcher Conservative Party.

By losing first many and then most of its Scottish, Welsh, Northern and Midland seats, and by failing to hold or regain ground in the West Country and in Hampshire, the Conservative Party first nearly and then actually lost power in 1992 and 1997 respectively. It seems that by 2015, they will have condemned the electorally key areas to darkness long into the morning for much of the year, by having imposed Central European Time with the connivance of a Coalition partner which has already collapsed north of the Wash and is ripe for collapse west of the Solent.

That, and even further economic collapse through the abolition of national pay agreements in the public sector. To be joined, in the extremely unlikely event of a Conservative victory, by lower levels of state benefits (what, all of them, even including the old age pension?) in the areas where the votes really count. No one in those areas must be in any position to purchase a private sector good or service. Must they?

In 1992, only the most obsessive political anorak had ever even heard of Tony Blair. And that was still the case on Golden Wednesday, when the Conservative defeat, and thus the Labour victory by default, became a done deal. Furthermore, the Conservatives’ failure to regain power first at all and then on its own has consisted precisely in its failure to regain those Scottish, Welsh, Northern and Midland seats.

By contrast, the Labour gains in the South East in 1997 were just a bonus, and the loss of most of them in 2005 made no real difference. Indeed, only in 2005 did Blair finally influence a General Election result at all. Specifically, he lost Labour 100 seats that any other Labour Leader would have saved. Thus he moved from being a mere irrelevance to being a positive liability.

However, the Conservatives, deprived of any significant parliamentary link with the areas that really matter electorally, entirely failed to register this. Instead, they installed as Leader a Blair clone, because he played well in the South East and in polls with the 34 to 38 per cent of determined non-voters dishonestly factored out. How did that turn out for them, then?

A Welcome In The Hillsides

Bethan Jenkins, a Plaid Cymru Member of the Welsh Assembly, has been required by her party to leave Twitter after she tweeted that Martin McGuinness was "naive" for having agreed to meet the Queen. I dare her to say that to his face. Anyway, she is only following the lead of her Leader, Leanne Wood, who refused to attend the Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving Service in Llandaff Cathedral, attended by Her Majesty.

Labour dominates South Wales. It already does reasonably well in North Wales, and with a bit of effort could do very well indeed there in 2015. The Independents who swept Montgomeryshire last month must surely have among their number someone for whom Labour could stand aside and arrange trade union funding in return for support upon election, including acting, with others, as a sort of One Nation conscience; there is no doubt someone similar in Brecon and Radnorshire, although that has been a Labour seat in its time.

And West Wales is, with Cornwall, one of the two poorest regions in the United Kingdom. The rural Radicalism and the peace tradition that have both remained vibrant in Welsh Wales, and the witness of which are of such vital importance to the United Kingdom at large, deserve so much better than Leanne Wood and Bethan Jenkins, who would seem to have only the shallowest, if any, roots in them. They seem to be pieces of the Marxoid flotsam and jetsam that accrue to the outer fringes of Labour and of academia alike. Clearly, that tendency is well on the way to taking over Plaid Cymru, if it has not already done so.

Perhaps it is still too early to expect tribally non-Labour voters in places like West Wales and much of North Wales to change. Especially since even 2015 will still quite be soon after the Blair years. So, again, cannot figures of rural Radicalism and the Welsh peace tradition be found to contest such seats with Labour's and the unions' support, on condition that they support the Labour Government once elected, including by keeping it faithful to rural Radicalism and to the Welsh peace tradition?

Better Together

Than with the euro, and still run by a politician in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch. Some independence that would be.

"Closer Ties With Iran"

What, reserved parliamentary representation for the ancient indigenous Christians of Egypt?

More women than men at university in Egypt?

Egypt to have the most acclaimed cinema in the world?

A complex, sophisticated relationship between Egypt's Islamic and the pre-Islamic heritages, both always strikingly present?

A constitutional ban on foreign military bases in Egypt?

Jolly good.

"Prisons, Privatization, Patronage"

Paul Krugman writes:

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates.

It’s a terrible story. But, as I said, you really need to see it in the broader context of a nationwide drive on the part of America’s right to privatize government functions, very much including the operation of prisons. What’s behind this drive?

You might be tempted to say that it reflects conservative belief in the magic of the marketplace, in the superiority of free-market competition over government planning. And that’s certainly the way right-wing politicians like to frame the issue.

But if you think about it even for a minute, you realize that the one thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn’t any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency.

And, sure enough, despite many promises that prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — “have simply not materialized.” To the extent that private prison operators do manage to save money, they do so through “reductions in staffing patterns, fringe benefits, and other labor-related costs.”

So let’s see: Privatized prisons save money by employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly. And then we get horror stories about how these prisons are run. What a surprise!

So what’s really behind the drive to privatize prisons, and just about everything else?

One answer is that privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing, in which governments avoid recording upfront expenses (or even raise money by selling existing facilities) while raising their long-run costs in ways taxpayers can’t see. We hear a lot about the hidden debts that states have incurred in the form of pension liabilities; we don’t hear much about the hidden debts now being accumulated in the form of long-term contracts with private companies hired to operate prisons, schools and more.

Another answer is that privatization is a way of getting rid of public employees, who do have a habit of unionizing and tend to lean Democratic in any case.

But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?

Now, someone will surely point out that nonprivatized government has its own problems of undue influence, that prison guards and teachers’ unions also have political clout, and this clout sometimes distorts public policy. Fair enough. But such influence tends to be relatively transparent. Everyone knows about those arguably excessive public pensions; it took an investigation by The Times over several months to bring the account of New Jersey’s halfway-house-hell to light.

The point, then, is that you shouldn’t imagine that what The Times discovered about prison privatization in New Jersey is an isolated instance of bad behavior. It is, instead, almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.

"He’ll Know My Message"

Peter Hitchens writes:

Some days ago I mentioned that Alastair Campbell’s diaries contained two really interesting pieces of information. I dealt with the first, which was the awkward fact (awkward, anyway, for tribal Tories whose own leaders can’t be trusted with national independence) that Gordon Brown  and Ed Balls  (against whom tribal Tories harbour a raging, irrational hatred that drives facts and logic from their minds, and is probably explained by a deep need to forget that they once voted New Labour, and an even deeper need to hide from themselves the horrible truth about Mr Slippery) saved Sterling from Anthony Blair (who, by the way,  is  now loose once again,  re-entering British politics and musing on the eventual abolition of the Pound as if the events of the last two years had never happened).

What was the second interesting thing? It was this, that on the eve of the Iraq adventure, George W. Bush got it into his head  (mistakenly, as it happened) that the Tory party might use the Commons vote on war to destroy Anthony Blair. And, having reached this wrong conclusion, he then made a Corleone-style threat which ought to make any free-born Briton’s blood either boil, or run cold – you choose which.

Here it is, extracted from a Mail on Sunday story, the only paper that made a substantial reference to it, I think:

George Bush threatened to topple former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith if he failed to back Tony Blair over the Iraq War, Alastair Campbell has claimed.

Mr Campbell, who was No  10’s director of communications at the time, said the US President made the extraordinary threat during frantic diplomatic exchanges in the final hours before war in March 2003….

…Mr Campbell’s account of the run-up to war, contained in the final volume of his Downing Street diaries, reveals the fears in Mr Blair’s own Cabinet that Britain was being ‘bumped’ into war by a US administration that was determined to bypass the United Nations.

He details an exchange on March 12 in which Mr Blair told Mr Bush that he was struggling to win political support for the war and ‘there was a danger the Tories would see this as their chance to get rid of him’.

Mr Campbell wrote: ‘Bush said they would make it clear to the Tories that if they moved to get rid of TB “we will get rid of them.” ’

Mr Campbell did not explain how an American President would contrive to remove a British Opposition leader.

He also claimed that Mr Bush misnamed Mr Duncan Smith, writing: ‘He said he wouldn’t speak to “Iain Duncan Baker” himself – TB didn’t correct him – “but he’ll know my message.” ’

‘He’ll know my message’, has the ring of ‘I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse’, to me. Of course the event has its deeply comic side.  Firstly, it would be rather hard for the President to get a message to someone whose name he couldn’t even get right. One shudders to think of some innocent businessman in Tooting called Duncan Baker waking with a shudder to find a horse’s head bleeding in his bed, with a baffling message saying  ‘You leave my friend Andrew Blair alone’ stapled to its ear.

It is hard to think of two more inept politicians than George W. Bush and The Quiet Man (who once noisily heckled me during BBC Question Time). Though IDS is actually quite likeable, and has some sterling qualities, he was the victim of circumstance,  who became leader of the Tory Party in a terrible year because everyone else was too cunning to take the impossible job. He was then more or less annihilated by a horrendous alliance of media bullies and Tory ‘modernisers’ in an episode that was painful to watch, which was one of the most significant moments in modern British politics and which is discussed in detail in my book The Cameron Delusion.

I have never met President Bush the Second. But I know people who have, and I struggle to believe the claims by his defenders that deep down he was brighter and more thoughtful than he appeared. He was as bad as he looked.

But isn’t the fact that he offered to destroy a party leader in a supposedly independent (and friendly) country, to protect his friend in Downing Street rather a big story? The MoS thought so, but it is widely unknown, like many other interesting events and facts. Once again, the strange nature of what is, and what is not, news is exposed. His really happened, which is more than can be said of all the current Tory policy initiatives from 'O' levels to Welfare Reform. They will never happen.

Personally, it fits very well with my own experience of the true nature of the Anglo-American Unspecial Relationship, which I have discussed here in the past, in the light of Bill Clinton’s decision to back the provisional IRA against the British government. Un unwise official from the West Wing told me, without meaning to, that the White House regarded Britain as fundamentally no different from Serbia.

This is why I shudder at US behaviour in Syria. It is, once you have stripped away the rhetoric,  interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. And if, one day, our sovereign nation, Britain,  asserted its independence, might we, too find ourselves under attack first from international interventionist TV stations telling lies about us,  then from a rabble of ‘activists’ who had mysteriously acquired arms and whose faults would be ignored or overlooked, then from ‘NATO’ airpower and special forces, intervening to ‘protect’ these ‘activists’ from the ‘repression’ of our government, which would be referred to by everyone as a ‘regime’? A ’No Fly Zone’ over East Anglia, to protect pro-EU ‘activists’, anyone?

In a way it has already happened in miniature in Northern Ireland. Most Americans (and many continental Europeans)  believed propaganda lies about what was happening there. The USA gave its backing to the ‘activists’ of the IRA. And we surrendered to pressure, stopped ‘killing our own people’ , as the British Army’s actions against the IRA would no doubt nowadays be described. Then we withdrew from the disputed territory (though most people haven’t yet realised that this is what has happened).  In a way we were lucky that 24-hour TV and liberal interventionism were in their infancy in the 1980s, or NATO might have bombed London in support of the IRA. We would also never have been able to retake the Falklands.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

No Cant From Cantuar

The last Budget attempted to bankrupt the Church of England.

The Coalition's two flagship legislative proposals are to force churches to perform same-sex "marriages" and to remove the Lords Spiritual from Parliament; such is the latter that no wonder the dear old C of E sees a better option in whatever will succeed the EU, already having very close relations with the historically state-sponsored Protestant churches in Northern Europe, and more than cordial ones with the Orthodox further east for whom it really did do a lot of work during the Cold War, as well as with the sort of people who become Catholic bishops on the Continent, exactly the sort of people who become Anglican bishops in England.

Imagining that it would support drafting in volunteers in place of paid workers with employment rights only serves to prove that David Cameron has never read a word of his church's extensive literature on these matters.

And then, there is the C of E's very heavy involvement in schools.

All in all, how nice was Rowan Williams expected to be about the Coalition? The wonder is that he has managed to be quite so restrained in his condemnation of it.

One And All

Cornwall and West Wales are Britain’s two poorest areas. The Lib Dems are now doomed in both of them.

Among the large numbers of local Independents, there must surely be someone in each constituency who is, as Peter Peacock in the Highlands turned out to be, easily social democratic enough for Labour to stand aside and organise funding wherever it is not currently in first or second place (and it is not in first or second place anywhere in Cornwall) while also useful in keeping the coming Labour Government attuned to the concerns of areas that have not hitherto voted Labour often or at all.

Concerns such as a universal postal service bound up with the monarchy, the Queen’s Highways rather than toll roads owned by faraway petrostates, Her Majesty’s Constabulary rather than the British KGB that is the impending “National Crime Agency”, the National Health Service rather than piecemeal privatised provision by the American healthcare companies that pay Andrew Lansley, keeping Sunday special, no Falkland Islands oil to Argentina, a free vote on the redefinition of marriage, a referendum on continued membership of the EU, the historic regimental system, aircraft carriers with aircraft on them, the State action necessary in order to maintain the work of charities and of churches, and the State action necessary in order to maintain a large and thriving middle class.

The very concerns of which Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is now the only national political vehicle. But if it still needs a little help from friends in certain areas, then so be it. That would be very much to good of all concerned.

A Happy Prospect

In the latest edition of Prospect, a book by the immensely distinguished sociobiologist Professor E. O. Wilson is very unfavourably reviewed by a man whose published scientific work stopped at a doctoral thesis no fewer than 46 years ago, and who has filled in the intervening decades by releasing, to enormous commercial gain, essentially the same illiterate work of philosophy over and over again. In so doing, he has become a source of tiresome little aphorisms for teenage boys, and the moral guide in the life of Jimmy Carr.

The top and bottom of the latest bother is that Wilson's scientific account is incompatible with the basis of his reviewer's atheism or, as it recently turned out to be after all, agnosticism. So, according to the reviewer, the science has to yield. Wilson is himself an atheist, but clearly of the wrong kind. Presumably a rather more secure kind, in that, like many people's very secure religious faith, it does not require that the findings of science be tailored to suit it.

The reaction has been, shall we say, refreshing. The reviewer has had it coming for many years. By the end of this one, it looks as if know-all adolescents are going to have to look elsewhere for their annoying one-liners, while the tax-dodging entertainers of such student Trots as the producers and the commissioning editors of comedy on Channel 4 and the BBC are going to have to look elsewhere for a "worldview" in which such behaviour makes any sense even to themselves. Good luck to both of them with that. Very, very, very good luck, indeed.

All In This Together

Whom has Coffee House found to pen a spirited defence of Michael Gove? None other than Andrew Adonis.

The hung Parliament compelled David Cameron to fill five Cabinet seats with Lib Dems, rather than, as originally intended and publicly announced, with Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn, Stephen Byers, James Purnell and Andrew Adonis, the middle three ennobled for the purpose, and all five in receipt of the Labour Whip even while serving under Cameron. David Miliband would also have attended Cabinet as Leader of the "Opposition", but that, too, failed to go according to plan.

The matter-of-fact statements made in and to various media could not have meant anything else, but were treated by those media as unremarkable. They wouldn't have brought the Labour Party with them, but neither they nor it would have cared. As much as anything else, they had all either left the Commons or never been in it. The deal with Adonis notably fell through because of his - not the Conservative Party's, but his - support for grammar schools.

In any case, the voters had other ideas, expressed first by the electorate, in general and then in the enormous trade union section of the Labour Electoral College, the only involvement in the election of any Party Leader of people other than paid politicians or political hobbyists.

In the absence of such colleagues, however, Cameron has pressed on regardless, with the policies that Lord Milburn would have pursued as Health Secretary, and with the policies that Lord Purnell would have pursued as restored Work and Pensions Secretary, having already begun to implement them when he had last held that office.

Gove's extravagant enthusiasm for all six of them, and for Tony Blair, has long been a matter of record, as has the reciprocation of that ardour. Yet there really are people thick enough to imagine that that Gove is their great hope of a "right-wing" Leader who would "restore" the Conservative Party that has only ever existed in their own fevered imaginations.

Grow up.

Cameron is the Heir to Blair, and Gove is the Heir to the Heir to Blair, fully supported by the likes of Adonis after their BBC and Murdoch allies failed to order the Labour Party to elect the man who devised the entire Coalition programme while he was running Blair's Policy Unit but who could not get it past Gordon Brown, and whose only objection to the cuts is that they do not go far enough or punish the poor hard enough.

David Cameron Is Shameless

What about the third house for which he is charging the rest of us under parliamentary expenses, even though he had no need of a mortgage and only took one out because he could send the bill to the taxpayer?

The explosion in house prices has meant that most younger middle or upper-working-class people stand no chance of living out the middle-aged peak of their powers in properties remotely resembling the ones in which they grew up. "Bricks and mortar" do not, at least ordinarily, constitute an "investment". They constitute a place to live. 

The sale of council housing, recently relaunched by David Cameron via a planted backbench question, compelled the State to make gifts of significant capital assets to people who were thus enabled to enter the property market ahead of private tenants who had saved for their deposits. And, as part of Thatcher’s invention of mass benefit dependency, it created the Housing Benefit racket, which is vastly more expensive than the maintenance of a stock of council housing.

I am a good Chestertonian in this as in most, though not quite all, matters. I would dearly love every household to have a base of real property from which to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State. But within the practicalities of these things, there is also a very strong case that each locality should have a base of real property from which to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty centre.

Already, under New Labour, the powers that be apparently could not distinguish between the respectable working class and the characters from Shameless. So council and housing association tenants, whose rents will go up in April in line with the September inflation figure even though pensions and benefits will not, were to lose security of tenure in order that Shameless characters could be moved in next door to them, or even in place of them.

But New Labour is no more, at least outside the Coalition. Those in that actual or potential position should contact Ed Miliband without delay.

Britain's Moment In Egypt

Is it really possible to become President of Egypt with only a little over 13 million votes? I mean, I know that Egypt is a young country. But only 26 or 27 million of around 80 million people are old enough to vote? Seriously?

Anyway, this result is probably for the best. A narrow victory the other way could have been blamed on the Copts. But this way, they have a President who is instead under considerable internal and very considerable external pressure to cut a deal with them.

One quarter of the Egyptian Parliament should be elected on a constituency basis, one quarter elected on a proportional basis, forty-five per cent (an equal number of men and women) nominated by the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, and five per cent (an equal number of men and women) nominated by the Coptic Patriarch.

No legislation could be introduced unless sponsored by at least one MP from each of those four categories, nor could it be enacted without the approval of all four of the General Guide, the Patriarch, and the first and second-placed candidates in a direct Presidential election, termed the President and the Vice-President but enjoying exactly equal powers. Why not?

On social justice issues, the Muslim Brotherhood is not what it was, having changed direction to recant the public ownership and the wealth redistribution for which it used to campaign, and to support Mubarak's land reform reversals. But it could easily be talked into changing back, especially since it is by no means clear how convinced the party at large has ever been about these revisions at the top. Remind you of anyone?

If Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, and the Lebanese coalition including Hezbollah are anything to go by, then the Copts are very well-placed to strike an excellent bargain, in stark contrast to our beloved Israel, Turkey and Mubarak. If the Copts are going to be annoyed over anything, then it is going to be over the retention of the peace treaty with Israel, which they have always strongly opposed.

And the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by British intelligence in order to agitate against independence, has always enjoyed excellent Foreign Office connections; its Anglophilia is exactly what it is so hated by its Israel First, American Second, Britain Nowhere detractors in the Murdoch papers, on Telegraph Blogs, and so on. Commonwealth membership beckons, especially for a country which even still has a currency called the pound.

This is Britain's moment. Otherwise, such are the historic ties and the widespread proficiency in English, that we should expect each of our cities to contain several, and each of our large towns to contain one, of those Coptic churches. One tenth of the Egyptian population would have decamped to the most obvious alternative country from their point of view.

As with the Arabs inside Israel's 1948 borders, why did we never do for them what we later did for the East African Asians, but a generation earlier, when we were still just about in a position to back it up?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Next Up, Then

Monsignor William Lynn has been convicted. Next up, then, Peter Tatchell, who would lower the age of consent to 14 and thus legalise almost every act of which any Catholic priest has ever been so much as accused, and who wrote in The Guardian (26th June 1997) that:

The positive nature of some child-adult relations is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of 9 to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy. While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.

The Guardian printed that. Next up, then, The Guardian. In 2010, David Cameron offered Tatchell a peerage. Next up, then, David Cameron.

Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt ran the National Council for Civil Liberties when it was passing resolutions in support of the Paedophile Information Exchange and Paedophile Action for Liberation, and when it was publishing calls to legalise and destigmatise sex between adults and children. Hewitt went on to have overall responsibility for every social worker in England, while Harman’s pro-pederast past was explored in detail by Martin Beckford in the 9th March 2009 edition of the Daily Telegraph, but that newspaper was too spineless or too compromised to put it on the front page where it belonged, so the story was allowed to die, at least for the time being. Next up, then, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt.

For many years, the recommended reading for postgraduate students of Criminology at the University of Cambridge included the 1980 book Paedophilia: The Radical Case, by Tom O’Carroll, chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange, whose 1981 conviction for conspiracy to corrupt public morals through the contacts section of that organisation’s magazine was attacked a year later in the journal of the National Council for Civil Liberties by O’Carroll’s barrister, Peter Thornton, who is now a Queen’s Counsel and a senior circuit judge. Next up, then, the University of Cambridge, and His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC.

Stephen Fry’s books, The Liar and The Hippopotamus, glorify sex between men and teenage boys, exactly the acts that have brought scandal on the Catholic Church. Next up, then, Stephen Fry. In its dramatic output, Channel 4 has been and remains a relentless, publicly owned campaigner in favour of such acts. Next up, then, successive Chairmen and Controllers of Channel 4.

Germaine Greer’s The Boy is a celebration of the sexual fetishisation of the adolescent male both by men and by women. Next up, then, Germaine Greer. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins describes having been sexually abused as a child as “an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience”. Next up, then, Richard Dawkins.

Philip Pullman’s famous trilogy concludes with sexual intercourse between two children aged about 12, and he has repeatedly denounced the absence of sexual content in the Narnia novels. Next up, then, Philip Pullman. Geoffrey Robertson QC made his name defending the Schoolkids’ Edition of Oz, while his wife, Katthy Lette, made hers writing explicit depictions of teenage sex. Next up, then, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Kathy Lette.

Plus all those who rushed to defend and to laud Roman Polanski. Plus all those in any way involved in Internet pornography, the principal, and highly commercial, sexual abuse of teenage boys in the world today. Plus all those who have taken us to, and who keep us at, war in Afghanistan, since that war is in defence of the endemic abuse of boys, an abuse to which, whatever else may be said of “the Taliban”, they were very actively opposed and not without success in seeking to eradicate, whereas the regime that we have installed in their place actively colludes in it as surely as in the heroin trade.

Plus numerous Social Services Departments, which ran homes where at the same time as the Church was hushing up sex between men and teenage boys on the part of a small number of priests – and thus, however imperfectly, indicating disapproval of it – such behaviour was absolutely endemic, with major figures in that world publishing academic studies, used for many years in the training of social workers, which presented it as positively beneficial to both parties and therefore actively to be encouraged.

Plus the police, who long ago stopped enforcing the age of consent from 13 upwards; as with their non-enforcement of the drugs laws, one really does have to ask for whose benefit that is.

Among many, many, many others.

What’s that you say? They do not purport to be moral authorities? Really?

Both Mysteries Endure

Frank Field writes:

When I joined the House in 1979, Enoch Powell was firmly established as one of the greatest political figures in the Commons. Whilst admired he was also feared and herein lay the strength of his parliamentary presence and its weakness.

As a schoolboy I was already aware of Enoch and there were three aspects of his political life that had already impressed themselves on my mind by the time I entered the House. There was first, his protest against the shenanigans that had led to Alec Douglas-Home being installed in No. 10 in place of R. A. Butler. Secondly, there was the undoubted quality of his intellect and his harnessing of this extraordinary set of abilities in the making of a most radical minister. Lastly, there was the issue which will forever be linked to Enoch, that ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. How did my impressions change once I had the opportunity to witness Enoch close up within a parliamentary system to which he devoted practically all of his working life?

First, then, his stand against the way the ‘magic circle’ (as Iain Macleod dubbed it) had moved to put Douglas-Home into No. 10 in preference to Butler. Why did this action so impress me? And why did my admiration for this action by Enoch so long ago grow once I became a Member of Parliament? Only after coming to the Commons did I become fully aware of Enoch’s courage in refusing to serve under Douglas-Home, an act whereby he effectively removed himself from office. True, the courage required to stand apart in this instance was less than it would have been had Enoch stood alone against Macmillan’s successful plot, but there was courage nevertheless in his willingness to confront the ruling political gang on his side of the House.

The outside world has some appreciation of what it means to resign in protest at the treatment of a friend or colleague. Voters can relate such an action to their own life. But a resignation in the Commons adds a further dimension to such a drama. The House has its very public side where our activities are presented for good or ill to the public. But what the public are less aware of is how the Commons has its own political culture where MPs are rated by their peers. Most Members share the honourable instinct of wishing to climb the greasy pole of political advancement. Not to make this ascent, either by not wishing to do so, or by failure before reaching senior office, separates out Members in what our House culture deems, at best, to be members of the second eleven. Enoch’s behaviour suggests that this conventional criterion for success meant little to him.

As I came to know him, I found his eccentric attitude on this score increasingly attractive. It was impossible not to conclude that, while Enoch fought his corner as ably as any, the struggle, for him, was about achieving long-term objectives, not simply a mastery of the flotsam and jetsam of current events. Enoch, at the beginning of the Falklands War, questioned the strength of Margaret Thatcher’s character. The Prime Minister derived obvious pleasure from being referred to as ‘the Iron Lady’. How well, Enoch asked, would the Iron Lady live up to the soubriquet she so obviously relished now that the battle was joined? This challenge, we are told, rattled Downing Street. And yet once the noise of battle had subsided, Enoch wittily complimented her on her conduct. Similarly, in setting the course for enacting fundamental change in British politics, Enoch’s own principles were, to paraphrase Thatcher, not for turning.

A second side of Enoch that impressed was his sheer intellectual ability and how this played into politics. Even in the sixth form I was aware of this extraordinary MP who had become a professor of Greek at the age of twenty-five. That his chair was in Sydney rather than Oxford or Cambridge somehow added for me a greater sense of achievement. (I still had much to learn about English snobbery.)

But the high intellect that was so obviously on display early in his life, and which served Enoch exceptionally well in the military intelligence post he occupied with such obvious distinction during the war, was a double-edged weapon in the Commons. By the time I reached the Commons, anyone who sought recognition in the chamber feared Enoch. It was not a fear based simply on how Enoch would marshal his argument. Nor did that fear stem only from his ability to make an opponent’s argument appear at best lacking in logic, and at worst just plain idiotic. That was of course part of the fear factor. But this fear operated in an even more fundamental way. Even those who sought to be his allies could not always be sure upon which side Enoch would dispose his affections. This fault was not wholly Enoch’s. Anyone who cared to look at his career would see the line of his thinking and how his disparate speeches and activities combined to explain the whole man. Even so, it must be conceded that Enoch was in part responsible. For here was the downside to his fierce intelligence.

When the good fairy stood at the foot of his cot in those far-off days in 1912, many gifts were bestowed on the young son of Albert and Ellen Powell. But that same good fairy was either struck by a spasm of absentmindedness, or had departed, before she could balance the baby’s extraordinary intellectual intelligence with the social skills and clubbiness that would have made his character overwhelmingly attractive for a party leadership role. His lack of emotional intelligence and, given his character, his inability to be other than his own man, ensured that the number of Indians wishing to follow their chief was limited, perhaps too limited, for someone who might otherwise expect to lead his party. Worse still, that intelligence often drove him into dangerous territories where the fatality rate among his friends was particularly high.

There was, however, another, much more positive side to Enoch’s intelligence, and it was how he utilised those gifts in government. My early impression, no doubt acquired from the near unanimity of political commentators, was the perceived inability of intellectuals to make much immediate impact on current policies. That conventional observation was utterly confounded by the impact of Enoch’s thinking on policies. Enoch was Minister of Health from 1960 until he resigned over what he regarded as Macmillan’s ‘sheer devilry’ in fixing the Tory leadership for Douglas-Home. Enoch’s time at Health paralleled my undergraduate years. Even then I was startled that it was he who began the first NHS building programme.

Here was the man, who happily presented himself as wrestling with angels, also having the ability to get stuck in and wrestle money from the Treasury, not just for the odd hospital rebuild, but also in getting the Treasury to sign up to a ten-year building programme. No dandified intellectual here: this was a shrewd and effective politician.

Equally important for me, as an MP, was the growing understanding of how a political intellectual could not only initiate a new debate, but also set the contours within which that debate would be conducted. Here Enoch used his position as minister to set in motion the debate on community care that has still to run its course. His starting point was the treatment of the ‘criminally ill’ as well as the much larger population housed in what are euphemistically called ‘long-stay hospitals’. Enoch was determined to seize, if not the advantage, at least the issue of how the community cared for its citizens with mental illness. He asserted that the criminally insane should never be released, but argued that there were new ways of caring for people with mental illness and that taxpayers had to face up to the fact that this more humane approach was one that would cost more, not less, money.

Yet Enoch’s stewardship of the Ministry of Health was not without its paradoxes, which continued to fascinate me, largely because so few politicians or commentators made much of it after the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. It was Enoch, after all, who, as Health Minister, had not only sanctioned, but actively supported the NHS strategy of recruiting large numbers of immigrant workers. This brings me, inevitably, to that speech, a speech that changed the trajectory of Enoch’s life just as much as it set a course by which so much of British politics would flow.

Enoch came to this issue with a track record of which any MP would be proud. The speech he gave on the Royal Titles Bill in 1953 drew heavily on the changes that the Attlee government made in its 1948 British Nationality Act. Enoch regarded this 1953 speech as the finest he ever gave. I happen to disagree. It was, for me, his contribution against the actions of the British government over the Kenyan Hola Camp scandal that stands out for me as the pinnacle of his oratory. In that latter speech, Enoch insisted that there could not be a standard of conduct that the English maintained as right in this country, while believing a lower one could be appropriate for our conduct elsewhere. This was particularly true, he believed, in Africa, where ‘our own high standards in the acceptance of responsibilities’ was paramount.

How then to explain that ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech? I must confess, I still cannot think through clearly what Enoch thought his goal was. I had been, at the age of sixteen, a Young Conservative.

During one of the campaigns against apartheid, I organised with a fellow sixth-former, a Young Socialist, our own campaign in Chiswick to boycott South African goods. The word ‘campaign’ is, I suppose, a grandiose term for what we actually did. We printed leaflets and handed them to shoppers at the local Co-op. For this crime, committed just before Macmillan’s great ‘Winds of Change’ speech in Africa, and with it the resulting realignment of views of many Tory activists to the evils of apartheid, I was shoehorned out of the local association. Nothing so crude, you understand, as an expulsion, but an exclusion just as effective. So I came to the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech from a hostile perspective. What was Enoch up to? By citing those Roman texts he knew so well, and in particular the reference to the river Tiber foaming with blood, he must have appreciated its likely impact. If the imagery was applied with the due care Enoch always prided himself on in his use of language, we can only conclude he was describing the fate which he believed awaited his country.

What results did Enoch want from this speech? If it was to awaken the country’s political elite to the dangers of sustained largescale immigration and to debate the consequences, then it must rank as Enoch’s greatest failure. At a stroke he made the subject of immigration a no-go area for elected politicians. I only felt safe in trespassing onto this territory once the mass of immigration from eastern European countries reached our shores, when the issue was no longer one of colour.

Why was it then that I never raised ‘Rivers of Blood’ with Enoch? The simple truth is that I dared not confront Enoch on this issue as I felt that it was not only his biggest, but almost the only major political error he committed. The outcome of that speech is the stuff of which great Greek tragedies are made. Enoch’s talents had destined him for a commanding position in British politics. The ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech gave him a commanding position among voters, as Enoch was expressing their fears. But his political gang, who were, under Heath, only too pleased to strip him of any leadership potential, closed ranks against him. If I am right, this great mistake over the speech must have caused Enoch huge and profound regret and I never wanted to stray uninvited into this national and personal tragedy.

It has been recalled elsewhere how important the House of Commons’ lavatories are in the pursuance of politics. It was one such chance encounter that offered Enoch the opportunity to tell Harold Wilson of his intended 1974 general election speech in which he would inform his audience of his intention to vote Labour. It was Wilson’s commitment to renegotiate the terms of our EEC membership that prompted Enoch to plan this extraordinary step. The press reported that 1,500 were in that Birmingham hall to hear Enoch make his announcement while a further 7,000 were turned away.

My encounter, and probably the basis of our friendship, took place, not in the ‘Aye’ Lobby gents’, as did his meeting with Wilson, but in another off the Library Corridor. Enoch had been giving a series of lectures at Zion College, then an outstanding library established for the use of London clergy. The lectures were being picketed by groups who billed themselves as radical Christians. I apologised to Enoch for missing the lectures, whereupon he enquired if I would be interested in reading them.

‘Of course I would,’ I replied.

‘They will be on the board within the hour,’ was his terse response.

The board in the MPs’ Lobby is a place where internal post is given. Well within the hour Enoch delivered on his word and the text of the lectures was accompanied by a beautifully handwritten note expressing interest in my response. I remember that night well. The Commons was involved in one of its intolerable all-night sittings. To me, as a new Member, the events gave me some idea, if not of hell, then of a form of purgatory not that far removed from the torment of the eternal fires. Enoch, of course, saw these parliamentary manoeuvres as a crucial part of the Commons’ attempts to control the executive. The long hours of the night and the early morning offered me the opportunity to read those lectures. They excited me, and I longed to discuss them with their author. But when I went to look for him, he was most unusually not occupying his traditional seat in the Library, nor did I catch him at any of the early morning votes, although the record showed that he’d voted. It was the following day, I believe, that our paths again crossed. He enquired of my reading. ‘You’re opening yourself up for a heresy trial,’ I replied, for this beautifully written text argued either that Jesus was stoned to death or that the key New Testament figure was John the Baptist. I cannot now remember which. Enoch laughed. ‘Could you arrange such a heresy trial, for that would ensure my safe return in South Down?’ I failed, I regret to say, to translate our laughter into action and there was no such favourable event.

One other reminiscence tells much about Enoch’s reserve and the strength of the common decencies that ran through his veins. My mother and I were walking into Westminster Abbey one Sunday morning. Coming towards the west door, but from a different angle, were Enoch and Pam, his wife. They were a little ahead and Enoch passed through into the abbey without any acknowledgement, let alone breaking those ever-so-stiff face muscles into just a hint of a smile.

I was more than a little miffed. As we were going out it proved more difficult for Enoch to avoid me. ‘Why are you ignoring us?’ I enquired. Enoch’s eyes fell on me. ‘I had no wish to embarrass you by presuming our acquaintance in front of a person to whom I had not been introduced.’

Laughter from my mother and myself greeted this extraordinary statement. ‘Enoch!’ exclaimed Pam. And with that we entered a taxi and sped towards their home in South Eaton Place. There was much merriment and some drink, with me becoming, as my mother commentated later, a little squiffy.

On our way home, in another taxi, my mother commented what a wonderful morning she had had. ‘Meeting Enoch and Pam?’ I asked. ‘No, you silly boy,’ she replied firmly. ‘It was going to the abbey for the Holy Mysteries, and then to encounter the mystery of Enoch and his so lovable Pam,’ she said in a stunning summary of our morning adventure. Both mysteries endure.


I am not entirely sure why the Church of England can be bothered to attack David Cameron's absurd non-veto, about which most people have rightly forgotten. But Cameron is preparing to banish the Lords Spiritual from Parliament as if neoliberal economic policy, liberal social policy and neoconservative foreign policy were still going strong on their shared basis of uncritical, self-negating secularism. In which case, those about to be reformed out of existence might usefully be looking for a platform elsewhere.

There should be a European Senate, with the power to propose amendments which the European Parliament would then be obliged to consider, and with the power, both to refer back the final text with the requirement of a two-thirds majority among MEPs, and before that text went on to the Council of Ministers to require that it be subject to unanimity there rather than to Qualified Majority Voting. The Senate would also have the power to initiate legislation which would then pass to the European Parliament and thence (including back to the Senate) as if it had been initiated there.

Each member-state would name two permanent offices the occupants of which would always be European Senators, one representing the country's secular and humanist sources of moral sense and cultural identity, and the other representing the country's religious and spiritual sources of moral sense and cultural identity, with neither office able to be changed except with the approval of all of the other Senators in the same category. All very Blessed John Paul the Great.

The former offices are far easier to identify, but they could both be done, especially in academia: the Professor of Moral Philosophy at the ancient seat of learning, that sort of thing. In either case, which office it was could not be changed without the consent of all of the office-holders in the same category. Half overall, or two thirds in either category, would have the power to require unanimity in the Council of Ministers.

At present, there would be 15 Catholic hierarchs (16 once Croatia joins), six Lutheran ones of considerable diversity, four Orthodox, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and someone Dutch Reformed, again most obviously drawn from the ranks of senior academia rather than from among those who changed every year. There would be those who would argue that the Catholic Church ought these days to have the British, Dutch or German place, but that would only antagonise those whose support we needed.

And each of the Europarties would nominate a further two Senators, at the same time as its other appointees on whom see below, one representing the secular and humanist basis of its philosophy, policies and support, and the other representing the religious and spiritual basis of its philosophy, policies and support. Quite an eye-opener, not least in view of quite how many of those figures might very well be British, and quite who those Britons would be.

Each of the Europarties, currently 11 in number, would also appoint one Senator from each member-state at the same time as the elections to the European Parliament; as much as anything else, that would be a powerful insight for British and other voters into who has always been legislating for us at EU level and always will be.

I would rather like the European Free Alliance to nominate a member of Mebyon Kernow, because I think that it might be fun, perhaps even illuminating. But just imagine if at least the more politically aware people in this country were confronted with the figure of David Irving, or of someone who held equally noxious views about the gulags, the Holodomor and the Cultural Revolution. Imagine those potted newspaper profiles of our 11 new European Senators.

Hell, why not make them all members of the House of Commons, and allow each of the Eurofoundations to nominate a Crossbench Peer? No, probably better not to, home though that would certainly bring the point. Their numbers might turn out to be just enough to stop anything from being done about it.

Speaking of national parliaments, each member-state needs a European Legislative Council elected by and from among those national parliamentarians who owed their positions to direct popular election. Each of the European Legislative Councils would have the power to propose amendments which the European Parliament would then be obliged to consider, and half or more of them would have the power, both to refer back the final text with the requirement of two-thirds majority among MEPs, and before that text went on to the Council of Ministers to require that it be subject to unanimity there rather than to Qualified Majority Voting.

Seat-taking MPs would organise themselves into caucuses. The largest caucus would elect five by voting for one candidate and with the top five getting in, the second-largest would thus elect four, the third-largest three, the fourth-largest two, and the fifth-largest one. All of the seat-taking MPs would then elect a further 10 by each voting for one candidate and with the top 10 elected at the end. Giving 25 members in all. Any tie would be settled by a run-off ballot.

And from 1st April, appropriately enough, we are now subject to the regime of European Citizens' Initiatives. Any committee of seven, each from a different member-state, can, as it were, initiate such an Initiative calling for legislation. On securing one million online signatures, it will be presented to the European Commission. Which will presumably place it in the round filing cabinet in the corner, insofar as even that is necessary in this digital age. But that is hardly the point.

Except from Malta or Luxembourg, can there be a Member of the European Parliament with fewer than one million constituents? So, why not permit any MEP to do this thing? Or any government of a member-state? Or a resolution of any national parliament? At least the second and third of those ought certainly to be the case.

All within a context of domestic primary legislation restoring the supremacy of British over EU law, using that restoration to repatriate agricultural policy and to reclaim the United Kingdom's historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to the median line), requiring British Ministers to 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, disapplying in the United Kingdom any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless and until confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, and disapplying in the United Kingdom anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as political acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.

A further clause might provide for a referendum on continued membership of the EU, but only if the preceding clauses would all come into effect regardless of the outcome of any such referendum, indeed would all come into effect at the same time as the provision for any such referendum to be held at all.

That would be a start, anyway.

Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas, over to you.