Sunday, 30 December 2012

One Nation

United against this horrendous neo-Blairite Government. North and South, country and town.

Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield were all run by the Conservatives during the post-War period, and by the Lib Dems into recent years. Labour did what was necessary there. Why not also in the 120 or more rural councils that are also up in arms today?

UKIP is the home from home of people who think that pure commissioners are exactly what councils ought to be, who do not believe in buses or in public libraries at all, and so on. Hope must come from elsewhere than that quarter.

Beyond His Ken

Ken Livingstone probably, and understandably, turned down the CBE because he had expected to be offered the ermine. "Lord Livingstone of London" would have been almost as beautifully alliterative as "Lord Lindsay of Lanchester".

But his career is a cautionary tale in steering clear of the Trots. Socialist Action did for him as surely as Militant did for the SSP, and as surely as the SWP did for Respect.

Meanwhile, Labour's much-needed friendly critic and critical friend, ever-ready to replace it if it ever again went whoring after any of the false gods of the last 35 years, remains as elusive as ever.

Until I am raised to the peerage, obviously.


Two MPs made Dames, indicating whom David Cameron and Ed Miliband have to keep sweet.

Dame Angela Watkinson MP, ardent Tory social conservative (and Eurosceptic), whose listing as a supporter of same-sex "marriage" must surely be the most abject of wishful thinking.

And Dame Margaret Beckett MP, ardent Labour Eurosceptic (and tellingly still undeclared on the marriage question), and therefore one of Labour MPs' three representatives on the National Executive Committee, an all-Eurosceptic contest, never mind result.

Add to them the newly appointed Sir Richard Shepherd MP.

2013 may not turn out to be so bad after all.

Pricking The South Sea Bubble

Told you.

Nothing special about Margaret Thatcher.

And nothing special about Britain's relationship with the United States.

Get over them both.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

0.1 Per Cent?

The chance of enactment is not even that.

Same-sex "marriage" is never going to happen. File under AV, Lords reform, Commons boundary reform, and repeal of the hunting ban.

This Government's ability to get nothing enacted is without historical or international parallel.

Dreaming of the Cold War

Rod Liddle writes:

I’m thoroughly enjoying the playground spat between the USA and Russia. The Americans have banned Russians with dodgy human rights records from visiting the country, but have no such objection to travellers from Iran, Pakistan or Somalia dropping by, no matter how psychopathic they might be. In retaliation, the Russkies have voted to halt their most valuable export to the USA – that of small Russian children, who are used by middle class Americans as mantelpiece ornaments and garden furniture. I assume that adopting a little black child from, say, Malawi, is now considered a little de trop.

Whatever, there seems to be a yearning, on both sides, for this row to be ratcheted up as far as it can possibly go, with tit for tat acts of spite flung hither and thither. I think they both miss the comforting certainties of the Cold War, an agreeably simpler time. It does seem to me that the Russians are more sinned against than sinning in this particular dispute. I fear they were also more right than wrong in their stance over Syria.

On The Feast Of Stephen

In this country, we have institutions called public schools, which the public may not attend.

And we have days called public holidays, on which the public have to work.

Ten years from now, expect the shops to be open on Christmas Day. Any poor shop assistant or delivery driver who complains will be out of a job.

The Huntsman Blows His Bugle Horn

And so another Boxing Day comes round.

The hunting ban has never commanded popular support. Most people could not care less. And among those who could (massively concentrated, on both sides, in rural communities), opinion is still overwhelmingly opposed to the ban, i.e., in favour of the safety of the sheep and poultry whom most anti-hunt types still want to eat, and in favour of killing far fewer foxes, by far more humane methods, than the ban compels. Doubtless, the anti-shooting people will yesterday have stuffed themselves with broiler turkey.

The hunting ban, and this can never be said too often, was the means by which Tony Blair and Hilary Armstrong (who went on to oppose it) cajoled disgraceful Labour MPs into voting in favour of the Iraq War. Many things need to be done in order to break definitively with that wicked period. One of those things is the repeal of what is in any case a ludicrous piece of unenforced, because unenforceable, legislation.

This Boxing Day as last, economic growth is a distant memory. Wealth inequality is greater than at any other time since records began. Social mobility had not only ceased, but remains dramatically in reverse, as it has been continuously since 1979. The war in Afghanistan drones on.

But never mind. At least the red-coated toffs have been knocked off their horses, so high a priority for Attlee, Bevin, Morrison, Bevan and Gaitskell. Except, of course, that it was not, and that they have not been, nor should they be.

Meanwhile, consider quite how right-wing anti-hunting Conservatives, who were enough to deliver a majority for a ban in the Major years until parliamentary procedures were used to stop them, have always tended to be on every other issue: Alan Clark, Ann Widdecombe, Sir Teddy Taylor, Sir Roger Gale, the late Sir Anthony Beaumont-Dark, and so on.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Number One, Indeed

There is a European Parliamentary seat in this for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Certainly if it allied itself with the Old Labour Old Catholic tendency in the North West.

And with similar tendencies in every region.

The reuniting Labour family, finally putting behind it 20 years of cuckooism in its nest, could do with such a friendly critic and critical friend.

Salvation Cometh Not

Just look up some of the parties in Egypt's ostensibly indefectible "National Salvation Front". We have been here before, at this very time of year and under exactly the same name. In Romania.

Romania was not part of the Soviet Bloc. She had a ghastly regime, not least from the point of view of the valiant Byzantine Rite Catholics. But not a Soviet satellite one. In fact, that regime had particularly close ties to Britain. To our shame, but there we are. English and French, rather than Russian, were taught in schools. No Romanian troops participated in putting down the Prague Spring. More than once, the Soviet Union came to the brink of invading Romania. There was absolutely no question of giving back what is now the Romanian-speaking western part of the cut-and-shunt state of Moldova.

Which bring us to the National Salvation Front, overthrowers of Ceausescu, and originators of the present political class in Romania. Their objection to Ceausescu was not that he was pro-Soviet. It was that he was anti-Soviet. They emerged out of the Moscow-backing, because Moscow-backed, faction within the Communist Party. In 1989, the Soviet Union still had two years left to go, and few were those who thought that it would collapse entirely.

When a kangaroo court convicted and executed the Ceausescus for the "genocide" of 34 people and for daring to throw parties at their house on major holidays, it was not just the beginning of dodgy "genocide" convictions: of García Meza Tejada for fully eight people, of Pinochet for under a hundred, of Mengistu in absentia, of his opponents even including aid workers, and of Kambanda without trial, with Milosovic never actually convicted at all. It was also, as it turned out, the last great triumph of the Soviet Union, taking out a man who was vicious and brutal in himself (like García Meza, or Pinochet, or Mengistu), but who was nevertheless a dedicated opponent of Soviet power. Those who took him out have run Romania ever since.

Egypt, you have been warned.

All The Trimmings

In 1981, my late father (born in 1922) spent his first Christmas in Britain since 1967. He was aghast that it had become "traditional" to eat turkey on Christmas Day, and maintained to his dying day, in 1991, that the practice had been unheard of in the country that he had left.

Everyone has always known that turkey came from the New World, yet for some reason we call it "turkey", the French call it "dinde" (i.e., d'Inde, from India), the words in other Romance languages are presumably similar, and I am told that the Turks themselves call it "hindi". I have just been told elsewhere that the Turks got their word from the French. Rather illustrating my point. Can anyone explain?

The Man Who Was Thursday On The Man Who Saved Christmas

In The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961, Fr Ian Ker of Oxford proposes "a new way of looking at Chesterton’s literary achievement which has gone by default." He sees the author of the Father Brown stories, and even of The Man Who Was Thursday, as "a fairly slight figure". But Chesterton the non-fiction writer is "a successor of the great Victorian "sages" or "prophets", who was indeed compared to Dr Johnson in his own lifetime, and who can be mentioned without exaggeration in the same breath as Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold and especially, of course, Newman."

Fr Ker identifies Charles Dickens (1906) both as Chesterton’s best work and as the key to understanding his Catholicism. "It is a typically Chestertonian paradox that while Dickens was nothing if not ignorant of and prejudiced against Catholicism as well as the Middle Ages, it is his unconsciously Catholic and Mediaeval ethos that is the heart of Chesterton’s critical study."

First, Chesterton’s Dickens celebrated the ordinary, and rejoiced in sheer living and even sheer being. He was originally a "higher optimist" whose "joy is in inverse proportion to the grounds for so rejoicing," because he simply "falls in love with" the universe, and "those love her with most intensity who love her with least cause." Hence the exaggeration of Dickens’s caricatures, expressing both the heights of the highs and the depths of the lows in the life of one who looks at the world in this way.

For, secondly, Dickens created "holy fools": Toots in Dombey and Son, Miss Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend, the Misses Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit, to name but a few. Dickens also "created a personal devil in every one of his books," figures with the "atrocious hilarity" of gargoyles. In either case, since the everyday world is so utterly extraordinary and extraordinary things so much a part of the everyday, so the absurd is utterly real and the real is utterly absurd. Postmodern, or what? Read Dickens, then read Chesterton on Dickens, and then re-read Dickens: who needs wilful French obscurantism in the name of ‘irony’?

And thirdly, then, Dickens was the true successor of Merry England, unlike his "pallid" contemporaries, the Pre-Raphaelites and "Gothicists", whose "subtlety and sadness" was in fact "the spirit of the present day" after all. It was Dickens who "had the things of Chaucer": "the love of large jokes and long stories and brown ale and all the white roads of England"; "story within story, every man telling a tale"; and "something openly comic in men’s motley trades".

Dickens’s defence of Christmas was therefore a fight "for the old European festival, Pagan and Christian", i.e., for "that trinity of eating, drinking and praying that to moderns appears irreverent", unused as the modern mind is to "the holy day which is really a holiday."

Dear reader, may you eat, drink and pray most merrily.

As, indeed, will I.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Beating The Bounds

Glyn Davies, the MP for Montgomeryshire, have never voted against the Conservative Party line. But the dreaded Parliamentary Boundaries Bill is about to be yanked out of its shallow grave.

It has always boggled the mind that ostensible heirs of Burke could have had any truck whatever with this proposal. A parliamentary constituency really ought to reflect some sort of community on the ground, wouldn't you have thought? And Montgomeryshire is a very ancient community on the ground. There are many, many others. Whatever happened to Toryism?

However, if 500 MPs were to be elected from constituencies each containing as near as possible to one fifth of one per cent of the electorate, then another 102 could be elected by each of the English ceremonial counties, the Scottish lieutenancy areas, the Welsh historic counties (one of which is Montgomeryshire) and the Northern Irish counties, with candidacy restricted to registered voters within the county, most preferably of some years' standing. That might even help the Conservatives. In any year other than 2015, anyway.

Each of the 12 areas already used for European Elections could then elect a further three, with each of us voting for one candidate and the top three being elected at the end. In 2015, that might be the last thing that could save the Conservative Party, guaranteeing it and its Ulster Unionist allies 12 seats out of 638. Even if between them they won not a single one more by either of the other means.

The Lib Dems would probably imagine that they, too, might benefit from such arrangements, or at any rate that such arrangements might spare them electoral oblivion. In reality, it would be well within the power of Labour and its allies to prove them wrong on that, if the necessary effort were to be made. In the meantime, though, let them be cajoled, along with scores or hundreds of shire Tories, into voting for this. The opportunity being presented by a Labour three-line whip in favour of this most Glasmanite and Cruddasite of schemes.

Ed Miliband, Jon Cruddas and, as it were, the increasingly sparkling Labour Whips Office, over to you.

Callous and Shameful

The Chagossians and their supporters throughout the world are saddened and shocked that a seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has after eight years, by a majority ruling, decided that it does not have jurisdiction to give judgment on the case of the Chagos Islanders and that the case is therefore inadmissible. The Court concluded that the Chagossians had no right of individual petition.

The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees that no one shall be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment. It is obvious to all right-thinking people that depriving the Chagossian people, for whom Britain was responsible, of their homes, livelihoods and homeland and deporting them 40 years ago, was a grievous violation of their fundamental human rights. This was compounded as late as 2004 by Privy Council Orders, a means by which Parliament was bypassed. The Orders overturned a November 2000 High Court judgment and the decision by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to restore the right to return to the Outer Chagos Islands. It is inconceivable that Parliament would have agreed to deprive the Chagossians of this fundamental birthright.

What happened has been described by English courts as shameful, an abuse of power, repugnant, deplorable and unlawful. Strasbourg also concluded that this was “the callous and shameful treatment which they… suffered from 1967 to 1973, when being expelled from, or barred from return to, their homes on the islands and the hardships which immediately flowed from that”. In 2008 two of the five Law Lords held that without the authority of parliament these Orders were unlawful, anachronistic and against the principles of democracy. Lord Bingham, presiding, said that there was “no (other) instance in which the royal prerogative had been exercised to exile an indigenous population from its homeland”.

Now that the European Court of Human Rights has decided that it does not have jurisdiction we appeal to the coalition government to stand by their pre-election promises to bring about a just and fair settlement to one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, perpetrated by the UK on the defenceless – the brutal removal of an entire people from their homeland and their way of life, into a life of exile, poverty and hardship. We expect our Government to reflect the British sense of fair play and to ensure that the same basic human rights apply to Chagossians, who are British, as apply to the people in the UK. As the Foreign Secretary himself has said, “The British public expects its Government to act with moral integrity.” 

Time for a Commons vote, Ed Miliband. And make Lord Healey repent publicly, or withdraw the Whip from him.

Home By Easter

With Frank Field on Any Questions offering the latest voice against the entire premise for the war in Afghanistan, we need a Commons vote on total, immediate and unconditional withdrawal.

Ed Miliband, over to you.

Kerry 2016

I am not saying whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing.

But I feel that we are watching the beginnings of the campaign.

Effectively endorsed by Obama in his very pointed appointment of Kerry to replace, of all people, Hillary Clinton.

However Much It Pains You

You are just going to have to admit it: even the psychoactive ingredient  in cannabis is not much, if any, use as a painkiller.

Never mind smoking a weed, as if one were to eat bark when aspirin was required.

Babble this week about one in 10 teenagers taking "legal highs". Meaning that nine out of 10 do not. And they are only legal until we ban them.

Followed by a proper crackdown on, after all, not very many people. But people who do an enormous amount of damage.

Our Own Correspondent, Indeed

My grandmother, May Young, quoted on Radio Four this morning, in a report from Saint Helena.

Quoted, please note, as just another octogenarian still running a little shop and preparing to sit down to Christmas Dinner with four generations of her family.

Rather than as a former Member of the Legislative Council, and before that a Chief Nursing Officer with one of the last British Empire Medals to prove it.

When she says that there will always be a need for the ship, she does not mention that her son, Captain Rodney Young MBE, my mother's brother, is the Captain of it.

The BBC has been royally, gloriously had by a little old lady (she is barely five foot, and about to turn 82) who is also a very great deal more than that. 

Serves them right. They should have asked.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Untapped Seams

Seeing the aged Arthur Scargill on television after he had lost his court case against the NUM, a most startling thing occurred to me.

Far from being a creature from beyond the grave, Scargill remains the Leader of a political party which, although in January Radio Four had to apologise on air for having declared it "defunct", last year out-polled the BNP at the elections to the Scottish and Welsh devolved bodies, beat that party in every local council ward that they both contested, and achieved the same against the English Democrats. Read that over again: in every ward where the SLP stood against the BNP, the SLP beat the BNP; and in every ward where the SLP stood against the English Democrats, the SLP beat the English Democrats.

Now, don't get me wrong. The SLP was never just the straight breakaway from Labour that it was often assumed to have been. At least half of its members belonged to the pro-Soviet faction rendered homeless by the winding up of the CPGB and the transition to the proto-Blairite Democratic Left, the revisionism of the CPB being altogether unacceptable to them. It says a lot about any party that it can suffer a significant secession calling itself the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), which can then spend its time denouncing the Morning Star for criticising North Korea.

But mention of Britain's original Eurosceptical newspaper, much loved by the 2010 intake of Labour MPs and subscription to which by Departments of State is vigorously promoted by a hugely ambitious Labour Whip even more lately returned to Parliament, places this situation within a broader context. The Morning Star's masthead appears on the montage illustrating the BBC's newspaper review (although Tribune does not even get that), but the paper itself is never featured, and some Departments of State take the comic cuts Daily Star, which is owned by a pornographer, but do not take either of the only voices, daily and weekly, of trade unionism, of the peace movement, and of the Left's unbroken opposition to Eurofederalism over more than 60 years and counting.

Likewise, a party in broadly similar vein, albeit with very serious failings both ideologically and organisationally, simply does not exist to the BBC and the wider media, not even when it out-polls the BNP and the English Democrats, of which former, in particular, media coverage can on occasion approach saturation level. That was never more evident than in the run-up to the last European Elections, when the media blackout of the SLP was joined by the media blackout of No2EU - Yes to Democracy, even to the point of heavily editing Question Time prior to transmission in order to excise an articulate expression of support for it from the audience.

Will that happen again next time, both against the SLP and against TUSC? Not that there ought to be any reason for TUSC, in particular, to contest those elections. If Labour has the wit to declare itself in favour of an In-Out referendum and the significant repatriation of powers by primary legislation regardless of the outcome of that referendum, as well as the wit to have purged the decrepit federalist nutcases of the EPLP as ruthlessly as Blair purged the Tankies and fellow-travellers who were once a sizeable presence within it, although at least that position involved opposition to the Monster Plot itself. By these means, UKIP might very well be kept off the top spot, with Labour taking it instead in all 11 mainland regions. Why not?

In the meantime, look at the people campaigning against the withdrawal of their bus services or the closure of their libraries. That is Middle Britain, the land of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, the country that opposed the Iraq War but which no one was able to lead well enough in order to stop that war, or at any rate to stop British participation in it. There is a very British lack of anything to anchor the Left while also co-ordinating broad-based, inclusive campaigns like those, and while acting as a friendly critic and a critical friend of, in British terms, the Labour Party. At best, and just imagine what the worst must be if you do not already know, we have to make do with the SWP, "Workers" who have never so much as ironed a shirt or changed a light bulb in their lives.

A venerable old national daily newspaper and a venerable old national weekly newspaper, both with Parliamentary Lobby access, are treated as if they did not exist. An electoral coalition extending even to the Liberal Party was blacked out by the entire media other than that national daily newspaper. As is a political party, however flawed, which beats the BNP and the English Democrats whenever it fights them at local level.

And both the cuts and the wars carry on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

Electrifying The Ringfence

Investment banking and retail banking should be split completely. All of the banks should be turned into mutual building societies, ironclad as such by statute.

Apart, that is, from the public stakes in HBOS and RBS. Those are permanent, non-negotiable safeguards of the Union, as public ownership always is.

Therefore, the profits from each of those stakes should be divided equally among all the households in the United Kingdom.

Adeste, Fideles

This Latin original of Oh Come, All Ye Faithful was written to celebrate the birth of the future Bonnie Prince Charlie, and contains many coded addresses to the Jacobite “faithful” in England (“Bethlehem”, with Pope Saint Gregory the Great’s Angles/Angels pun repeated and so forth), so that its singing neatly balances that at Easter of Thine Be The Glory, the tune to which is See The Conquering Hero Comes, from Judas Maccabaeus, Handel’s oratorio in celebration of the Hanoverian victory at Culloden.

Who are the fideles today?

They are all those who identify with the tradition of those Catholics, High Churchmen (subsequently including first Methodists and then also Anglo-Catholics), Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers and others who, never having been convinced of the full legitimacy of Hanoverian Britain, of her Empire, and that of Empire’s capitalist ideology, created the American Republic, fought against slavery both there and in the British Empire, transformed the United Kingdom into a parliamentary democracy, founded the Labour Movement, and opposed the Boer and First World Wars.

And they are those who identify with largely subterranean ties binding these Islands, and thus also the Commonwealth to which all of these Islands properly belong, through the vast Jacobite diaspora, to the all those touched by the financial centres of the Continent, by the trading ports circling Europe, by the Russian Navy, by the Swedish East India and Madagascar Companies, and by so many other things besides.

Adeste, indeed.

Born Of A Virgin

There is an old stand-by of middlebrow, pub bore professional atheism, that the Virginal Conception has numerous mythological parallels. Nothing could be further from the case. What occurs over and over again in mythology is the impregnation, by otherwise normal sexual means, of a woman by a god; a god, therefore, with a physical body. Exactly that does not happen in the Gospels.

However, it is held in Mormonism that this was how Jesus was conceived, one among many reasons why the enormous popularity of the Mormons within American religion - numerically third only to the Catholics and to the Southern Baptists, and the clear direct or indirect originators of numerous ideas such as "Manifest Destiny" - raises very serious questions about whether the American Republic, as such, is any sort of bulwark of Christianity. Not unanswerable questions. But very serious ones.

Both Jews and pagans made all sorts of contrary claims, but one was completely unknown to either, namely that Jesus had been the natural child of Mary and Joseph. No such suggestion was ever made by anyone in the first eighteen centuries of Christianity's existence. Even the Qur'an has the "Prophet Isa" born of the "Virgin Mariam". Apart from that partial retelling in the Qur'an, the Biblical account is unique, and could not be less like any of the parallels that are routinely alleged.

That Islam - a Semitic reaction against the recapitulation in Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism, and the Roman Empire - depicts Jesus as both virgin-born and the Messiah foretold by the Hebrew prophets is an important insight into the debate as to whether or not the circumstances of His conception described in the New Testament really are the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.

Of course, had there been no expectation that the Messiah would be virgin-born, then there would have been no reason for the Evangelists to invent it. And that would have been just as strong an argument in the doctrine's favour. But the Islamic view, staunchly Semitic and anti-Hellenistic as it is, adds considerable weight to the belief that the Virgin Birth is, as the New Testament writers maintain entirely matter-of-factly that it is, the fulfilment of the words of the Old Testament prophets.

It is often contended that it is not clear that the prophecy in Isaiah actually refers to a virgin. Well, it certainly does in the Septuagint, and, contrary to what used to be asserted, first century Palestine is now acknowledged to have been profoundly Hellenised. So either the Septuagint prophecy is indeed being fulfilled explicitly, or else there was no expectation that the Messiah would be virgin-born, and thus no reason to make up that Jesus had been. The doctrine works either way.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Supreme Principles

The rejection of Robert Bork but the acceptance of Anthony Kennedy indicated a rejection of moral and social conservatism but an acceptance of "free" market economics. Adherents of that allegedly conservative economic system need to think on that.

What A Card

With a majority of only 4,521, and that in a Northern seat, Alec Shelbrooke already stood no chance of being re-elected.

But both on his benefits card and on that website with "Imminent Disaster" written all over it, this is truly a Blairite Government, dreaming up exactly the nightmare Big IT projects that so often proved so farcical in those days, and motivated by the same hatred of the less fortunate. IDS used to be better than that.

But the less fortunate, and those in sympathy with them or even just out of sympathy with these daft gimmicks, were hardly going to vote Conservative against New Labour. Whereas it is obvious how they are going to vote against the Coalition.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

On Her Be Pleased To Pour

With only a few days of the Diamond Jubilee Year left to go, I seek your suggestions for places and things to be renamed after the Queen.

Don't Do It By Halves

If we can and should bring half of them home from Afghanistan, then we can and should bring all of them home from Afghanistan.


Ed Miliband, how about a parliamentary vote on a motion saying exactly that?

Now That The Ice Has Been Broken

I am delighted at the introduction of the Arctic Convoy Star.

Now, how about allowing those same British veterans to collect the Ushakov Medal, which already exists and which they have already been awarded?

Don't Be Foxed

Foxhunting was a disgraceful issue on which to allow themselves to be bought off over the invasion of Iraq, as scores of Labour MPs did.

And foxhunting is a disgraceful distraction from the real arguments against David Cameron in general and his Chipping Norton Set in particular.

The Great Irish Abortion Lie

In the case at the heart of all of this, an abortion would already have been legal in Ireland, under a law in accordance with Catholic Teaching.

This is really an institutional land grab by the State. Its true targets are the schools.

The only part of Ireland where both the Catholic schools, and the sanctity of life in the womb, are now safe, is the part within the United Kingdom.

The Wansbeck One To Watch

The MP with the constituent's suicide note. Dismissed as positively hilarious by the likes of Coffee House, of course. Dead plebs, ha, ha, ha.

That MP was Ian Lavery, whom there was a concerted right-wing press campaign to brand as unfit for office in the run-up to the last Election, on account of his disdain for the police (during the Miners' Strike). They have changed their minds now, haven't they?

Until his election last time, Lavery was President of the NUM, a position which he ought to have retained both as an MP and, in the fullness of time, as a Minister; the few members of the present Cabinet who have ever had any need to work spend most of their time as fabulously remunerated directors in the taxpayer-underwritten City. Until recent days, he was PPS to Harriet Harman. But after putting down the most mildly social democratic amendment imaginable, the Blairite remnant managed to force his removal. Yet they still stand absolutely no chance of office under Miliband. Whereas, first after that and now after today, he stands even chance more than ever.

And he has always, throughout its existence, been the Convenor of the Morning Star Parliamentary Readers' and Supporters' Group, both the emergence and the rapid growth of which in the present Parliament may be ranked alongside the election of three Eurosceptics out of three to represent Labour MPs on the National Executive Committee, including one who has voted against every Treaty since the first one.

Alongside the votes of one third of the Parliamentary Labour Party for it to be chaired by John Cryer, an outspoken and dynastic advocate of withdrawal from the EU. Alongside the presence of Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor, and of Jon Cruddas at the head of the Labour Party Policy Review. Alongside the votes of every Labour MP without exception for a real-terms reduction in the British contribution to the EU Budget, when the number of Tory rebels in the same cause was, pitifully, fewer than the number of Lib Dem MPs.

And alongside this summer's speech to a hundred thousand people by John Hendy QC, erstwhile No2EU candidate in London, from the same platform as that by Ed Miliband. A platform on which Tony Benn and Bob Crow were also seated, and which bore the legend, "Buy The Morning Star", the only part of the British press to have been consistently opposed to the Eurofederalist project from the very start, including in the days of Thatcher's Single European Act.

Something In The Air

But whose?

The impending return of Cardiff Airport to public ownership is obviously good news in itself. However, it cannot be called renationalisation.

That could only be said if, most preferably along with all the others, it were being taken back into the ownership of the whole people of the United Kingdom.

Still, it is a sign pointing in the right direction.

Ed Miliband, over to you.

Dickensian Britain, Dickensian Christmas

In The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961, Fr Ian Ker identifies Charles Dickens (1906) both as Chesterton’s best work and as the key to understanding his Catholicism. “It is a typically Chestertonian paradox that while Dickens was nothing if not ignorant of and prejudiced against Catholicism as well as the Middle Ages, it is his unconsciously Catholic and Mediaeval ethos that is the heart of Chesterton’s critical study.”

First, Chesterton’s Dickens celebrated the ordinary, and rejoiced in sheer living and even sheer being. He was originally a “higher optimist” whose “joy is in inverse proportion to the grounds for so rejoicing,” because he simply “falls in love with” the universe, and “those love her with most intensity who love her with least cause.” Hence the exaggeration of Dickens’s caricatures, expressing both the heights of the highs and the depths of the lows in the life of one who looks at the world in this way.

For, secondly, Dickens created “holy fools”: Toots in Dombey and Son, Miss Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend, the Misses Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit, to name but a few. Dickens also “created a personal devil in every one of his books,” figures with the “atrocious hilarity” of gargoyles. In either case, since the everyday world is so utterly extraordinary and extraordinary things so much a part of the everyday, so the absurd is utterly real and the real is utterly absurd. Postmodern, or what? Read Dickens, then read Chesterton on Dickens, and then re-read Dickens: who needs wilful French obscurantism in the name of ‘irony’?

And thirdly, then, Dickens was the true successor of Merry England, unlike his “pallid” contemporaries, the Pre-Raphaelites and “Gothicists”, whose “subtlety and sadness” was in fact “the spirit of the present day” after all. It was Dickens who “had the things of Chaucer”: “the love of large jokes and long stories and brown ale and all the white roads of England”; “story within story, every man telling a tale”; and "something openly comic in men’s motley trades”.

Dickens’s defence of Christmas was therefore a fight “for the old European festival, Pagan and Christian”, i.e., for “that trinity of eating, drinking and praying that to moderns appears irreverent”, unused as the modern mind is to “the holy day which is really a holiday.” Dickens’s defence of Christmas was therefore a fight “for the old European festival, Pagan and Christian”, i.e., for “that trinity of eating, drinking and praying that to moderns appears irreverent”, unused as the modern mind is to “the holy day which is really a holiday.”

Fr Ker traces these themes in Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. The former presents Catholicism, in profoundly Dickensian terms, as “that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly termed romance”, which meets the need “so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome.” Yet so to view the world is precisely to realise “that there is something the matter”, which is why pagans have always been “conscious of the Fall if they were conscious of nothing else”, since (and this is obviously much more controversial) Original Sin “in the only part of Christian theology which can be proved,” so that “the ordinary condition of man is not his sane or sensible condition”, but rather “the normal itself is an abnormality.” Once again, this is like Postmodernism, only older, wiser, better.

Better not least because, for Chesterton, it was this view of the world’s flawed goodness that made Dickens a social reformer, since he recognised people’s degraded dignity. One is made by Christianity “fond of this world, even in order to change it”, in contrast to simple (one might say, Whig or Marxist) optimism or simple pessimism (such as that of much of the political Right), each of which discourages reform. We have to “hate [the world] enough to want to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing”, for it is “at once an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.”

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

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Know Your Place

I do hope that the Queen was not too daunted by meeting even one person as posh as any member of the present Cabinet, never mind all of them at the same time.

The set of place mats depicts their houses. Each of them has far more houses than the Queen has, and any of their houses is far grander than any of hers.


That is what this Government now is, reviving Blairite rubbish like this.

"More competitive" than where, exactly? Germany?

Heirs To Thatcher

The Lib Dems, with their proposed withdrawal of pensioners' bus passes, Winter Fuel Allowances, and free television licenses.

The Institute of Economic Affairs was of course founded by Liberals, and it is now directed by the Lib Dems' former Head of Communications, who regularly turns up demanding the abolition of the minimum wage and what have you. Thatcherism has always been a Liberal project, strongly advocated by the Lib Dems' European partners.

The Polly Toynbee Fallacy, that the Lib Dems are any sort of left-wing party, "Labour for Southern posh people", must surely now be finished. Mustn't it? In point of fact, it has always been Labour that has been Labour for Southern posh people.

It is just that, until this year's local elections, most Southern posh people have not wanted to vote Labour. They have in many cases expressed exactly how right-wing they were economically by voting Lib Dem. As, even more forcefully, have the sort of people, posh and otherwise, who have voted Lib Dem in the North.

Yet the Lib Dems are not the only Heirs to Thatcher. It turns out today that so are the UKIP lot. She legalised abortion up to birth under three of the four circumstances when, with her support, it had been legalised at all. One of those grounds was, and is, disability. That's called capitalism. It cannot function without these things.

Apparently, this UKIP candidate who called for compulsory abortion of Down's Syndrome and spina bifida cases in order to help bring down the deficit, mainstream New Right opinion ever since the 1970s, has been removed from his candidacy and "was only expressing his personal opinions" on a party election leaflet.

But the fact that he ever got that far proves that UKIP is an amateurish operation; as Peter Hitchens calls it, "Dad's Army". Nor may a candidate just publish his own leaflets as he pleases. Not in a properly run party, anyway.

A Policeman's Lot Is Not A Happy One

The Coalition despised the police even before this plebs business, and it really, really, really hates them now. They, in their turn, still have old scores to settle from the Major years, not an insignificant factor in this case.

Meanwhile, although Labour is well on course to use the low turnout as the excuse to promise the abolition of Police and Crime Commissioners, that party is once again run all the way up to the very top by people who have not only heard of Hillsborough and Orgreave, as Tony Blair probably never had, but who never shared the view of his handlers that Scousers and miners richly deserved to be murdered whenever and wherever possible.

The fact that Norman Bettison retains his knighthood, his QPM and his pension does not help matters. He needs to be told, by whatever means necessary, to take one for the team. And that team had better have a very, very, very good response ready for when Orgreave becomes the big story, as it very soon will.

A British Bill of Rights

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, and with Legal Aid made available for defamation actions. We need to end and reverse the patenting of genes, algorithms or facts of nature, and to end and reverse any retrospective extension of intellectual property laws in the interests of corporate copyright holders. Instead, we need the open development of software and other creative works. We need absolute submission to the facts of the historical record, assisted by our own past or present support for none of Nazism or Fascism, Stalinism or Maoism, neoconservatism or Islamism, the terrorism of the Far Left or the terror inflicted by regimes of the Far Right. Yes, that submission is a civil liberties issue.

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.

The murderers of Stephen Lawrence were and are racists. But the Macpherson Report found no evidence of racism on the part of the police. Rather, it was a case of plain, old-fashioned bent coppers, in the pocket of a criminal family on whose behalf they have, among other things, pursued a very long campaign of harassment against the only witness. Those bent coppers should get their comeuppance. Certainly, two of those whom they acted to protect have done so. Including the one to try and to convict whom the double jeopardy law had to altered. But that alteration has now done its job. That ancient liberty should be restored. Henceforth, as historically, no acquitted person should ever have to stand trial again for the same offence.

Can anyone explain to me how the conviction rate for rape is demonstrably wrong? What, exactly, would be the correct rate? And why, exactly? That a woman has had a most unpleasant experience of this kind, the far greater likelihood of which is a direct consequence of the Sexual Revolution, does not necessarily mean that she has experienced the offence of rape as the law defines it. Either that, or the real scandal is that there are so few prosecutions for what is clearly very widespread perjury, attempting to pervert the course of justice, and making false statements to the police. Not that those two possibilities are mutually exclusive. We need to consider that the specific offence of rape might serve only to keep on the streets people who ought certainly to be taken out of circulation, and that instead we might need to replace the offences of rape, serious sexual assault and indecent assault with an aggravating circumstance to the ordinary categories of assault, enabling the maximum, and therefore also the minimum, sentences to be doubled. That way, those poor women with broken bones and worse, whose assailants were never convicted of anything, really would have received justice.

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 power of a simple majority of the House of Commons to require a General Election, whether by rejecting a motion of confidence or by approving a motion of no confidence. On the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to the median line) in accordance with international 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 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. 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 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.

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, together with the complete operational independence of our Armed Forces under the Crown in Parliament, subject to no foreign command whatever. On the repeal of one-sided extradition arrangements, entirely to refusing to implement them while they remain in place. 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.

Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas, over to you. As much as anything else, what would the Daily Mail, which to its great credit has done so much in support of Gary McKinnon, then say? If not “Vote Labour”, then why not? All that Blair managed was The Sun, always a floating voter. Bagging the Daily Mail would put Miliband in a different league altogether. Like winning 60 per cent of the vote in Southern villages that Labour had not contested since the 1970s or earlier, in fact. Or winning Chipping Norton. Both of which he has already pulled off.