Tuesday 30 January 2007

Not regeneration, but degeneration

Pray for the people of Manchester, about to see their city turned into the first of what are undoubtedly to be hundreds of miniature (and not so miniature) versions of Las Vegas on this tiny island. And pray for the repentance, even at the last, of Molly Jowell, British Cabinet point woman for both the Italian and the American branches of the Mafia, with her husband on trial in Milan, and having herself entertained in London at taxpayers' expense the cream of "Las Vegas casino operators". No one like this would any longer be suffered in government in Italy or the United States, certainly not anyone so utterly brazen. So why do we have to put with up her?

Getting Cosy with Sarkozy

Ah, the cosiness of the Comintern of the present age, the only real Global Terror Network, neoconservatism. Among the vanguard elites owing allegiance, like the Communist Parties of old, to the superstate in which the dictatorship of the victorious class is being established (and from which it is being exported, including by force of arms, throughout the world) are the New Labour Project (to be continued in full by Gordon Brown) and the court of Nicolas Sarkozy.

So it was only fitting, and indeed inevitable, that Blair should today have endorsed Sarkozy for President of the French Republic. In like manner did he endorse the old neocon Prime Ministers of Spain and Italy, in like manner did he secure the Presidency of the European Commission for the old neocon Prime Minister of Portugal, in like manner has he endorsed the neocon German Chancellor, and in like manner will he endorse the neocons' grande dame for President of the United States.

If the choice is between the draft-dodging Bomber of Belgrade's "Co-President" and a man who (like the wounded and decorated Jacques Chirac) has actually seen active service, then I hope that, in the absence of Jim Webb, war-weary Americans will vote for John McCain; again like Chirac these days, he might look dreadful on television, but he is extremely unlikely to go shooting up the world. And can the French have a proper Gaullist Presidential candidate, please?

So THAT'S why there are no prison places left!

The BBC reports that:

"Lord Levy has been re-arrested by police looking into cash-for-honours allegations.

He was held on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and was later bailed.

Lord Levy, a close ally of Tony Blair, was previously arrested in connection with claims honours had been sold in exchange for party donations.

A spokesman said that Lord Levy "completely denies any allegations of wrongdoing whatsoever".

The Metropolitan Police team investigating the allegations has so far spoken to about 90 people including Tony Blair and former Conservative leader Michael Howard.

All involved deny any wrongdoing.

Four people have been arrested - Lord Levy, Downing Street adviser Ruth Turner, Labour donor Sir Christopher Evans and head teacher Des Smith, who was involved in the government's City Academy programme. No one has been charged.

Lord Levy was first arrested last July, in connection with alleged offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
Nearly two weeks ago Downing Street political adviser Ruth Turner was also arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. She has denied any wrongdoing and has the backing of Mr Blair.

The inquiry began after it emerged that a number of large secret loans had been made to the Labour Party before the 2005 general election, and that some of those lenders had subsequently been nominated for peerages.

The investigation has since widened to cover the other main parties.

Last year, Scotland Yard said it was due to hand over a file on the case in January to the Crown Prosecution Service, which wouldl decide whether any charges should be brought."

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ... well, you get the gist.

And yes, the BBC has actually reported this!

You can't "conspire" with only one person can you, Tony? This carries a maximum life sentence, but Blair and Levy will probably not go to prison, because of who they are. Or, to put it another way, if they don't go to prison, then it will only be because of who they are. Unless, of course, the judge argues that there is simply no vacant cell to put them in. Suddenly, all sorts of things start to make sense...

"Once again a church of martyrs"

[A special shame on those Catholics around things like the Institute on Religion and Democracy in the US, and in such circles as that of The Daily Telegraph in Britain, who supported, and who sometimes even still support, this wicked, wicked, wicked war.]

Christians in the Crossfire

Pro-war evangelicals have made exiles—and martyrs—of Iraqi believers.

by Doug Bandow

The killing in Iraq continues, and support for the occupation is waning even among Christian conservatives. It would likely fall further if they were aware of what Fred Markert, director of Terra Nova missions, calls the “horrible, horrible climate for Christians in Iraq.”

Before the invasion, Christians argued over the criteria of a just war. But Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, asked another question: had war supporters “thought about their obligation to the Christian community in Iraq?”

Most leading evangelicals seemed to accept blithely the administration’s war rationale. For instance, Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson said President Bush’s arguments justified the invasion: “Of course, all of this presupposes solid intelligence.” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, pointed to Saddam’s development “at breakneck speed of weapons of mass destruction he plans to use against America and her allies” and the “direct line from those who attacked the U.S. [on 9/11] back to the nation of Iraq.” D. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, blustered, “Why any churchman would choose to support [Saddam Hussein] rather than to support our own president, I don’t know.” Pat Robertson proclaimed that “carping criticism” of President Bush “amounts to treason.” James Dobson of Focus on the Family opined, “Saddam Hussein must be stopped. Appeasement of tyrants is never successful.” Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, said, “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a hell hole of torture and mass murder” and “he allowed Iraq to become a safe haven for terrorists.” Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote an article entitled simply: “God is Pro-War.” In his view, “Christians must live as Galatians 6:2 instructs: ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens.’”

About the only Christian leader who considered the fate of her Iraqi coreligionists was Roberta Combs of the Christian Coalition, who declared in November 2003: “In the new country, under the new democracy, why should the official religion be Muslim? I think as Iraq becomes a democracy, there are going to be a lot of churches springing up.”

Alas, most of these arguments proved to be illusory. The result is a tragic irony for Christians: while the invasion opened Iraq to evangelism, it also unleashed a violent tsunami that is driving many believers abroad. As Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, observes, evangelicals strongly supported the war yet “their cobelievers are suffering as a result.”

Unsurprisingly, Saddam Hussein did not exactly provide a warm home for Christianity. Nevertheless, Samuel Rizk, a spokesman for the Beirut-based Middle East Council of Churches, noted in July 2003: “There’s not much you can say about the old regime. But one thing you could say is that Christians enjoyed freedom to worship.” Hussein used Christians to help provide political balance. Still, living under a brutal dictatorship and international sanctions is hard, and the number of Christians fell from 1.4 million to 1.2 million or even fewer during the 1990s.

Saddam’s ouster led to a dramatic increase in indigenous evangelism and an influx of foreign Christians, including American troops. “A lot of Iraqis were seeing Christianity for the first time,” observes Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Freedom International. The result was an “explosion of conversions” and “underground, nondenominational churches.” However, notes Mindy Belz, international editor of World, that growth “tapered off as things have gotten worse.”
In short, “there is a very important window of opportunity,” as Jacobson puts it, which “probably will close soon.”

Many Iraqi Christians fear that this window has already shut. Solaka Enweya, who fled to Syria with his three sons, told the New York Times: “When we heard that the Americans were going to liberate Iraq, we were so happy. Yet our suffering has only increased.”

So far the government does not itself oppress, but Christians live—and die—in fear. They are targeted for robbery, extortion, and kidnapping because of their perceived wealth and the belief that they likely have foreign relatives with money. Christians also suffer from insurgent and sectarian violence. Car bombs don’t discriminate; U.S. translators are killed irrespective of their religion. Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA says, “Christians find themselves literally caught in the crossfire.”

Iraq’s Christian leaders commonly argues that Christians are targeted no more than Muslims are. But even if that is true, Christians are uniquely vulnerable because their religious communities and geographical enclaves are much smaller. Nor do they possess an armed militia for defense. And most observers believe this claim to be a vain attempt to reduce Muslim attacks and Christian fears. After visiting Iraq, Lawrence F. Kaplan of The New Republic wrote: “however much the clergy may deny it, Iraqi Christians suffer for their faith.” Carl Moeller agrees: “Christians are targeted specifically for being Christians.” CFI warns of “a silent reign of terror” against Iraqi Christians.

Most Iraqi Christians feel like human targets. One problem is identification with America, even though Washington has been reluctant to offer any assistance. Notes business analyst Glen Chancy: “Evidencing too much concern for Iraqi Christians, it is feared, would reinforce the idea that the U.S. is fighting a ‘war on Islam.’” But the real issue is that they are not Muslims. Younadam Kanna, elected to the Iraqi parliament in 2005, told Kaplan: “The fanatics ... blame us for being Christian.” Earlier this year Chaldean Catholic Bishop Rabban Al Qas of Amadiyah and Erbil said church bombings were part of “the continuing attempt by Arab fanatics to push the Christians out of Iraq.”

Attacks on Christians started early and have steadily increased. In February 2004 Paul Marshall of Freedom House warned that one sign of increasing Islamic extremism was the targeting of religious minorities. The co-ordinated bombing of five churches in mid-2004 triggered the first mass exodus of Christians overseas, perhaps 30,000 to 40,000.

Car bombs were soon used around churches. By Christmas 2004, people feared attending religious services. Violence also escalated against shops that sold alcohol and music, most of which were owned by Christians. Their stores were bombed and robbed; owners were kidnapped and murdered. Christian women were harassed for not wearing hijab. Some had acid thrown on them or were killed.

George Mushe, a Chaldean Catholic who fled from Baghdad to Istanbul with his family of five, told freelance journalist Yigal Schleifer, “Before the war they looked at us as different, but we could go to church, to work.” Afterwards that became impossible, since if you leave your family “you don’t know if you will see them again.”

Iraqi Christians tell wrenching stories that are repetitive in their barbarity: fathers murdered, children killed and maimed, relatives kidnapped and tortured, families imprisoned at home, businesses destroyed, jobs lost, churches abandoned. The Christians of Iraq website includes an 18-page list compiled by historian Fred Aprim of violent acts beginning in April 2003 and running through July 2006.

Although violence is worst in Baghdad, it reaches even into Kurdistan, where the political authorities are hostile. Last year, reported Kaplan, the Kurdish religious affairs minister said, “those who turn to Christianity pose a threat to society.”

Although virtually all Iraqi Christians were pleased to be rid of Saddam, some now say the unthinkable: they were better off under him. Even Richard Land told me that it is “very sad and tragic” that “Christians have had their level of suffering increased by the overthrow of Saddam.” Shea and Rayis were more blunt: “The Chaldo-Assyrians have endured much throughout the last century in Iraq, including brutal Arabization and Islamization campaigns. But this current period may see their last stand as a cohesive community” before the Christian minority is “driven out of its ancestral homeland.”

Many Christians have fled, especially to Syria, despite its bad reputation in America. In contrast, the U.S. accepted barely 200 Iraqi Christians last year. The administration simply denies the existence of religious persecution since doing otherwise would suggest that its Iraq policy was failing, explained The New Republic’s Kaplan.

Estimates of the number of Iraqi Christian refugees vary widely. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees figured that roughly 36 percent of the 700,000 Iraqis who had fled to Syria as of March 2005 were Christians. Bishop Andreos Abouna recently estimated that about half of Iraq’s pre-war 1.2 million Christians had left the country. However, Mindy Belz says, “I tend to question those numbers, though I don’t have any way of refuting them.” For instance, these estimates might not reflect the growth of evangelical congregations. Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, believes that “some of the slack has been taken up by independent churches.” Still no one doubts a substantial Christian exodus that could eventually eliminate the historic Iraqi Christian church. Johnson told me that “emigration is really the biggest thing” in Iraq today. Standard statistical projections are of dubious value in a nation convulsed by conflict: “many have fled in the last three to four months,” he notes.

Will they return? Bishop Abouna retains some hope—“once stability returns.” But an authoritarian Shi’ite state would provide the wrong kind of stability.

The problem is not confined to Iraq. Carl Moeller says that the actions and words of the U.S. government “have caused great harm to Christians on the ground all over the Muslim world.” Similarly, Jim Jacobson observes that “everything we do has become much more difficult and dangerous because of Iraq.” Radical Islamists “can’t strike at us, so they strike at people they think of as surrogates for us,” he adds.

Afghanistan’s threat to execute Christian convert Abdul Rahman this spring was “a huge wake-up call for a lot of people in the evangelical Christian population,” notes Jacobson. It demonstrated that “democracy isn’t the only answer and it does not resolve problems of religious persecution and problems of the heart.”

Oddly, the American evangelical leadership that campaigned for war has paid little attention to the catastrophe enveloping Iraq’s Christians. Few notables acknowledge any need to rethink the war. Chuck Colson and Pat Robertson said they were too busy to comment. Roberta Combs and D. James Kennedy failed to respond to my calls. Schedulers for Rev. Falwell and Dr. Dobson at least made an effort to accommodate my request for comment.

Richard Land acknowledged the problem of increased violence, though he contended that Christians “are not being treated any differently than Muslims in Muslim on Muslim violence.” Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, made a similar argument: “the fact of the matter is that a lot of people are being shot and were being shot before” by Saddam. “In Iraq everyone is getting killed,” so he doesn’t consider Christian persecution to be a “tragic irony,” even though it “is a horrible situation.”

Land defends his support for the war, blaming current problems on the inadequate numbers of troops, “one area of Bush policy that I have disagreed with from the beginning.” But is there something more? Land acknowledges that building democracy in the Mideast “is going to be difficult.” But it “is difficult in large parts of the world,” like Yugoslavia. Despite all the problems, Iraq “is a battle that we cannot lose,” he believes.

Cromartie seems a bit more pessimistic. He says he is listening to the ongoing conservative debate over whether “there is a culture that can be democratized” in the Mideast. He acknowledges that “culture and tradition are very important and need to be weighed before trying to reshuffle the decks of a very nasty place.” Obviously, we can’t “believe that the opening of a society means it will stay open.”

Gary Bauer forthrightly acknowledges that “this has been one of the things that has really troubled me, and I’m a strong supporter of what the president is trying to do.” Although Bauer had thought building democracy in the Mideast “would be a positive development,” it is evident that we are not “dealing with a people who have a concept of Western values and the value of liberty.” In the Middle East, when people make democratic decisions they end up “persecuting those of different religious persuasions.” The experience in Iraq has “really pointed out the shortcomings” in the administration’s policy, despite “the noble goals.”

Several evangelical leaders with experience in the region point to the administration’s failure to recognize the power of culture and religion. The expectation of easily planting liberal democracy abroad was “naïve,” says Richard Cizik, ignoring “very deep suspicions of American power.” Carl Moeller notes that it “is a far more nuanced and complicated situation in the Mideast than many Christians and Americans understand.” Fred Markert is even more direct. “The idea of freedom is at the very core of the Gospel message. The opposite philosophy is at the core of the Koran.” He doesn’t believe that liberal democracy can take root until local people and institutions are transformed through Judeo-Christian ideas, a process that “there is no way to fast track.” Military intervention just “can’t solve problems of the human heart.”

Given this reality, Cizik told me that “evangelicals need to be really careful not to identify themselves with Caesar.” Today, alas, “evangelicals are perceived by Muslims in the Mideast as being in league with the Pentagon. The soldiers come first and then the missionaries,” he explains. In the case of Iraq, “Evangelicals trusted the president’s perception of the threat. I was wrong. Without casting blame, the threat was misunderstood, and some would say purposefully.”

U.S. policymakers may not give much consideration to the status of foreign Christian communities. But religious activists, especially evangelicals who talk about spreading the Gospel, should make fellow believers a high priority.

At the time of the Abdul Rahman controversy, Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, argued, “Religious freedom is not just ‘an important element’ of democracy; it is its cornerstone.” If Islamic states “don’t democratize in a way that protects religious freedom, it’s almost not worth doing.”

Sadly, that appears to be the case in Iraq. Writes Paul Marshall of Freedom House, the U.S. risks presiding “over the demise of one of Iraq’s, and the world’s, most ancient religions and peoples.” Evangelical leaders might still believe that the Iraq War was worth supporting. But they should reflect seriously on what has happened to their fellow believers. As Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk said earlier this year, Iraq’s Christian community is becoming “once again a church of martyrs.” ____________________________________________
Doug Bandow is vice president of policy for Citizen Outreach. A member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, he is writing a book on international religious persecution.
October 23, 2006 Issue, Copyright © 2006 The American Conservative (http://www.amconmag.com)

Webb for America, Webb for the World

With thanks to the online pages of The Wall Street Journal. My many transatlantic readers, you not only know who you are, but I think you know what you have to do, not only for your own sakes (although there is certainly that), but for Canada's sake, for Australia's sake, for New Zealand's sake, for every European country's sake, and for our whole war-ravaged world's sake:

Class Struggle

American workers have a chance to be heard.

BY JIM WEBB Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

Mr. Webb is the Democratic senator-elect from Virginia.


In the course of his eye-popping "interview" on The Politics Show (was he drunk or something?), Tony Blair claimed that it was not news that someone in the Labour Party (Peter Hain, to be precise) disagreed with the neocons. Oh, yes it is. In fact, it is news that there is still anyone in the Labour Party at all. And it is certianly remarkable that any such person disagrees with either the principles or the practice of the bourgeois-triumphalist variation on Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism and Stalinism, mixed in with the toxic brews of Leo Strauss and Ayn Rand, and served up as neoconservatism. If you are such a person, then why are you still in the Labour Party? Why?

Monday 29 January 2007

"An axe-blow to the trunk of Zionism"

Of course the appointment of a Muslim Arab to the Israeli Cabinet is "an axe-blow to the trunk of Zionism". Thank God for that! The notion that anyone living in Israel, the Occupied Territories, or even various other places (Lebanon south of the Litani River, possibly even the whole of Jordan) could in principle be cleared to who-knows-where at any time, just because Askenazim from all over Europe or the New World felt like moving there at that time, richly deserves as many axe-blows as possible to its trunk.

Israel seems to facing up to what she actually is, namely a country over half of whose Jewish majority is Arab, as is a further twenty per cent of the population. In other words, she is a classic Levantine Arab country of Jewish Arabs, Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, Druze Arabs, and various non-Arab minorities (including, in the Israeli case, Ashkenazi Jews). Her distinguishing feature is that the majority of her Arab population is Jewish, just as Lebanon's is that forty per cent of her Arab population is Christian. But no one suggests that Lebanon is not an Arab country, and nor should anyone suggest that Israel is not an Arab country. Indeed, that very suggestion is one of neoconservatism's many alliances with Wahhabism and with comparable strands within Shi'ism.

Contrary to all those tendencies, Israel is at last acting like the Levantine Arab country that she is, with non-Jewish Arabs in her government. I say again, thank God for that.

Sunday 28 January 2007

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

The BBC could not even bring itself to broadcast the actual vote live, but it looks as if Gerry Adams really is now a politician after all, describing as the latest stage in "the struggle", and such like, the decision of Sinn Féin to accept the constitutional arrangements in Ireland, just as the equally anti-partitionist Loyal Irish Union and Orange Order have done, and to become practically nothing more than a vehicle for an arguably ridiculous, but undoubtedly harmless, version of Gaelic-Irishness.

In the same way, the Loyal Irish Union is now practically nothing more than a vehicle for an arguably ridiculous, but undoubtedly harmless, version of Anglo-Irishness, while the Orange Order is rapidly becoming in Northern Ireland (as, of course, it has long been in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal) practically nothing more than a vehicle for an arguably ridiculous, but undoubtedly harmless, version of Scots-Irishness.

That is the category of organisation that Sinn Féin has now decided to join. Of course, certain rhetoric will still be expected on certain occasions. But, beyond the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe, no one at all sincerely believes that there is ever actually going to be a thirty-two county Republic, any more than anyone seriously believes that the twenty-six counties are ever going to be re-incorporated into the United Kingdom. For good or ill, neither of these things is ever going to happen, simply as a matter of fact.

All of which makes the integrationist case unanswerable. The Loyal Irish Union does not contest elections. The Orange Order, as such, does not do so, and is busily disentangling itself from the Ulster Unionist Party. And there is no longer any reason for Sinn Féin to do so, either. The British political parties must now organise in Northern Ireland, firmly committed to encouraging the celebration of all three of the Anglo-Irish, Scots-Irish and Gaelic-Irish cultures within the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland’s membership of which (together with the legitimacy of the Irish Republic as presently constituted) has now been accepted, in everything other than the most nominal sense, even by Sinn Féin.

Friday 26 January 2007

Deep Throat

The latest revelations in the cash for peerages scandal (a secret email system undisclosed to the Police, and such like) have brought home, not for the first time, that there has always been something Nixonian about the Blair Government. I used to think that it was just the extreme anti-intellectualism, exemplified by Hilary Armstrong's famous (and, mercifully, false) claim that everyone from the North was as thick as she, and by Blair's surrounding himself with such utterly undistinguished figures as Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, Carole Caplan, Michael Levy, and so forth.

But I now I realise that, true though this certainly is, there is also the fact that the whole operation is competely free of specific political principle, and is merely a little gang of crooks which has somehow managed to take over the country.

So, of the Blair Cabinet and its associates, which is which member or associate of the Nixon Administration, and why?

Thursday 25 January 2007

What it's really all about

Twenty-five per cent of adoptors in this country are Catholic, and that is the problem from the point of view of those behind the current furore over the future of the Catholic adoption agencies. It is not only perfectly reasonable to surmise, but in fact impossible for any reasonable person to fail to realise, that the destruction of those agencies is the whole point of this legislation.

This is not about homosexuality, but about marriage, and about the view that children are best brought up by a married couple, which, as much in point of legal fact as anything else, the parties to a civil partnership are not. (Yes, I was brought up from the age of 13 by a widowed mother. But that is wholly different from contriving such a situation, never mind a situation in which a paternal, or indeed a maternal, influence has been altogether excluded.) This view is no doubt held by a sizeable proportion of the population, and has long been one of the extensive list of popular views to hold which is to be disenfranchised.

Those behind this legislation hate the Catholic Church, with Her concentration in Scotland, the North, the Midlands, and the working-class parts of London; with her unyielding, wholly coherent view encompassing bioethics, sexual morality, social justice, environmental responsibility, and world peace; and with Her large following among middle-class people with working-class family backgrounds, a post-War phenomenon the very existence of which is in no small measure due to the Catholic school system, the only reason why those who hate "faith schools" do so.

Pity these poor provincials and arrivistes in the face of by far the richest and most powerful section of society. It knows so well that it does not really need to do anything in order to get its own way, that it will even put up so unserious a figure as Johann Hari as its spokesman on The Moral Maze. Hari has the look, voice, views and style (whether spoken or written) of a particularly tiresome type of over-excited undergraduate. And he did not disappoint, repeatedly comparing the Catholic Church to the Ku Klux Klan, and at one point even describing John Cornwell's perfectly ludicrous Hitler's Pope as "the historical record"! Hari needs to grow up, and the Independent needs to grow up by not employing him at least until he does so.

But then, everyone needs to grow up who seriously countenances the proposition that the mere inclination to engage in homosexual acts is somehow fundamental to any personal or collective identity, as if that inclination were comparable to sex, or ethnicity, or even class, or for that matter even religion or political persuasion. In point of fact, this preposterous proposition originated only in the late 1960s at the very earliest, on an underground nightclub scene around the sexual abuse of adolescent boys in coastal American cities, through and then from which it spread in the 1970s, not least into a Catholic Church which had lost Her nerve in many Western countries in the face of the insistence of certain pre-existing factions that the Second Vatican Council had endorsed their agenda when it had not done, and actually could not have done, any such thing. We all know what happened next.

By October? No, NOW!

"Withdrawal from Iraq by October" will not do, Sir Menzies. There is no identifiable "job" to "finish" either there or in Afghanistan. Our forces in those countries should either be withdrawn immediately and unconditionally, or else their Commanding Officers should simply order their withdrawal, and let Tony Blair, whose position would thus become untenable, find out from the television like everybody else.

Apparently, Blair is going to Washington in the autumn, once he has retired, to collect his Congression Medal. Well, that gives us ample time, in view of the changed composition of Congress since that Medal was awarded, to campaign for its rescindment.

How the State of the Union could be made a whole lot stronger

Jim Webb.

That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday 24 January 2007

John Reid's Prime Ministerial Hopes Are Now Missing

Probably by the time that you read this, a front page headline will read "John Reid's Brain Is Missing". On which front page? That of the Guardian? No, that of his previous Number One Cheerleader (pending the Daily Mail's entry into the Labour Leadership race), the Sun. It's all over. Never underestimate Gordon Brown...


Yet more bother over the rape laws, and specifically over the "low conviction rate", usually linked to a "low report rate", which might or might not be true, but which is impossible to know either way. Since the whole of this area of policy has been handed over thoughout the last 30 years, by Tory and Labour Governments alike, to people who regard all heterosexual activity as rape, then the wonder is that these figures are not very considerably higher than they are.

The specific offences of rape, serious sexual assulat and indecent assault should be abolished, since they serves only to keep on the streets people who ought to be behind bars. Instead, the sexual element should be made an aggravating factor in offences against the person generally, enabling the maximum sentence to be doubled.

That way, a few silly cases that currently come to court would not do so, while many serious cases that currently either never make it to court or end in an acquittal would at least end in a conviction for something. My jaw drops when I hear or read reports (no doubt truthful) of women with serious injuries whose assailants were never charged with anything because there was considered little or no chance of a conviction for rape. Why were they not charged with, say, grievous bodily harm? This way, they would be.

Furthermore, this would be achieved without compromising fundamental principles such as trial by jury and the burden of proof on the part of the prosecution, both of which have already been eroded far too much (i.e., particularly in the latter case, at all).

At the same time, why is no one asking why, if there are so few convictions for rape, almost nobody who makes a false allegation of rape is ever even charged with perjury (with which, given its prevalence, next to nobody is ever charged in general), or with perverting the course of justice, or with making false statements to the Police?

Shameless Rip-Off

Watching, on E4 last night, the episode of Shameless to be shown on Channel Four next Tuesday, I clocked "knowing", "ironic" and actually quite funny homages both to Pulp Fiction and to When Harry Met Sally. Look out for them. And can anyone spot any more?

Tuesday 23 January 2007

Cannabis Cameron

It comes as no surprise, of course. There cannot be a "free" market in goods generally but not in drugs, or alchohol, or pornography. Likewise, there cannot be a "free" market in services generally but not in gambling or prostitution. Molly Jowell, whose husband is on trial in Milan and who has herself acted as London hostess to the cream of "Las Vegas casino operators", is working on the gambling, just as she worked so successfully on the alchohol. The pornography is as good as done; and the prostitution will be waived through, making the British State the biggest pimp in Europe (if not the world), and requiring everyone who disapproves of being turned into a pimp to withdraw from the taxation system. (What are they going to do? Put us all in prison?) Likewise, soon after that, everyone who disapproves of being a drug-dealer. For, after Cannabis Cameron (cannabis being a hard drug by any reasonable standard), look out for Cocaine Cameron, for Heroin Cameron.

Whichever is in office of the three parties that remain in existence by pretending to have members and that the rest of us can do nothing to replace them, it will implement the same pro-drugs, pro-dunkenness, pro-casino, pro-prostitution, pro-pornography agenda in the interests of the organised crime to which the political class now pretends to be so opposed that it is trying to secure the power to place us under house arrrest and to confiscate our assets without having to prove the slightest thing against us. That class's economic views necessitate all of this. And, because that whole class will be in support of these measures, they will be described as "the centre ground", from which it is by definition madness to dissent. Isn't it?

Monday 22 January 2007

Belgrade, prepare to be bombed again

Congratulations to the people of Serbia on voting to stay out of NATO and the EU, even despite contrary letters to their Press from Tony Blair, whose business it was not. Javier Solana, the wholly unelected and unaccountable Foreign Minister of the EU, has sent a message of congratulation to the pro-Empire losers! But he, the US State Department and everyone else should keep in mind that even those losers do not recognise the fanciful concept that simply because most people in Kosovo do not appear to like the Serbian Government, then that somehow makes Kosovo a country, with the right to become "independent" by joining, Montenegro-like, NATO, the EU, the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank.

The Western-backed exercise of this right was both questionable and unfortunate on the part of Slovenia and Croatia (the latter under the Holocaust-denying Fascist, Franjo Tudjman). It was utterly baseless on the part of the never-independent "Bosnia-Herzegovina" (under the vile Wahhabi bigot and former SS recruitment sergeant, Alija Izetbegovic). It was at best regrettable on the part of Montenegro. And it would be laughable on the part of Kosovo, were that not a victory for the black-shirted, heroin-smuggling Wahhabis of the Kosovo "Liberation" Army, whom the UN has already allowed to turn Kosovo into a Mafia fiefdom. But Belgrade can now prepare to be bombed into precisely that victory.

Sunday 21 January 2007

The Triangulator: Part Two?

As if one President Clinton were not bad enough!

The ghastly Hillary Clinton is as much of a triangulator as was, and is, her ghastly husband, never mind his preposterous public school crush-boy. She might as well have the names of her corporate sponsors stamped on her forehead. As "Co-President", she was heavily implicated in the violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia by the neocons (who then transferred their allegiance because even Bill Clinton was not bomber enough for them, but several of whom have never ceased to be registered Democrats) in the interests of a Wahhabi old SS recruitment sergeant (Alija Izetbegovic), a Holocaust denier (Franjo Tudjman) who re-created in 1990s Europe the entire panoply of 1930s Fascism, and a Wahhabi militia (the Kosovo "Liberation" Army) who insisted on wearing black shirts in deference to their Waffen SS fathers and grandfathers, and who funded themselves by smuggling the Taliban's heroin into Europe though the Italy of the Mafia that now runs "liberated" Kosovo as a fiefdom. So, of course, she voted for the necons' pro-Wahhabi war in Iraq.

So what if she is a woman? For that matter, so what if the record-free, opinion-light Barack Obama is black? She, at least, would bring the neocons straight back to the top of the Democratic Party, establishing once and for all that they were a junta which mere elections could not remove. And heaven knows what he would do. Even he doesn't seem to know.

Instead, a socially conservative economic populist, doubly bound to be anti-war, of the kind who clinched the midterms for the Democrats by calling that party back to those, its roots, should not only put up for the Democratic nomination, but should undertake from the outset to contest the election with or without that nomination. Just ask the AFL-CIO for its to 10 (economic) Presidential priorities. Just ask the leaders (not least, the black, Hispanic and "mainline" leaders) who signed up to the Alliance for Marriage for their top 10 (social) Presidential priorities. Put the two lists together and find the anti-war member of either House of Congress whose record came closest to both, if at all possible including at least eight points from each. And then run that person for President, making it clear that this was the only way of voting for any of the 16 to 20 points in question, and the only of voting for a President opposed to the neocon-Islamist war machine. Why ever not?

Thus would be lit the touchpapers across Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, restoring America's leadership role in the world.

Hills of the North, rejoice?

David Cameron is trying to win over the North. No, please don't laugh. Oh, go on then. Apparently, his wife's family is from the North. Specifically, her father owns Yorkshire, although of course he lives in Knightsbridge or some such place.

Anyway, read over the post immediately below this one, entitled "And proud of it", and you might get some idea of what sort of political approach would in fact play well in Scotland, Wales, the North and the Midlands, which are where the Tories actually have to win seats (they already hold most of the seats in the South East, but what good has that done them?), and where Labour actually has to keep seats (for what good has sucking up to the South East actually done them, in terms of seats won and retained there?).

Promising to abolish the Barnet Formula would also pick up votes in the North and the Midlands, since that Formula constitutes an unconstitutional denial to the people of England of equal citizenship of the United Kingdom, contrary to the 1707 Treaty and Act of Union. But that would be lost on Bertie Cameron-Wooster, bless him.

Furthermore, no one in the London media ever mentions (because they have neither the faintest knowledge nor the smallest interest), either that the Tory-Lib Dem battle in the West Country makes the difference between a majority government and a hung Parliament at every Election, or that UKIP and the Greens are both on the march in East Anglia. The Lib Dems pick up support for what they are not rather than for what they are. UKIP is the nearest thing that Britain has to a paleocon party. The Greens largely appeal (albeit in a deceptive manner comparable to that of the Lib Dems) to what is, consciously or otherwise, Distributist sentiment. And I really do rather doubt that Blameronism plays overly well either in the West Country or in East Anglia; certainly, Lib Dem, UKIP and Green voting figures would seem to suggest not.

So, once again, see the post immediately below this one. And, indeed, the post immediately above this one.

Thursday 18 January 2007

And proud of it

On at least three blogs, the mighty http://iaindale.blogspot.com and two maintained by old friends of mine (http://innerwestcentral.blogspot.com and http://letsbesensible.blogspot.com), there appears the following anonymous comment:

"Why are you giving a platform to David Lindsay? He is the prophet, apostle and high priest of paleo-Labour, with its Old Labour means to High Tory ends. He is the statist, syndicalist, nationalist and theoconservative voice of the provinces. He is a reactionary Catholic and a Little Briton masquerading as a Socialist. He is a pan-Slavist, a pan-Arabist and a Bolivarian. He is the Peter Hitchens of the pseudo-Left. He is a ghastly throwback to the days when Constituency Labour Parties were run by union closed shops full of Catholic fundamentalists and working-class Tories. At least he isn't actually an MP or a newspaper columnist. Please, please, please stop helping him to become either or both."

Well, I am not "masquerading" as anything. Mine are "High Tory ends", "nationalist and theoconservative", if by that is meant opposition to the increasingly dictatorial central apparatus of both parties (which, at least since 7th July 2005, have largely functioned as a single organisation), taken over by what is in fact a Marxism which has merely changed its ending so that victory belongs to a bourgeoisie stripped of all its best characteristics (and thus to an America, that most bourgeois of countries, likewise so stripped). It retains intact its Marxist dialectical materialism, its Leninist vanguard élitism, its Trotskyist (specifically, Shachtmanite) entryism and belief in the permanent revolution, and yet also its Stalinist belief that the dictatorship of the victorious class should be built in a superstate and exported (including by force of arms) throughout the world while vanguard élites owe allegiance to that superstate rather than to their own countries.

In this neoconservatism, the Whig, Jacobin and Marxist fallacy of human perfectibility by its own efforts and in this life alone (explicitly denied by, in and as the foundation of the Conservative and Labour traditions) reaches the nightmare point at which people believe that that perfection has actually come to pass, with the bell-curve of American wealth distribution (and of wealth distribution in other countries in so far as it conforms to that in the US) corresponding exactly to intelligence, talent, "merit", human worth.

Thus, it is deemed to be no better than "ordinary" people deserve that, barely within one generation, we have gone from a situation in which a single manual wage could provide a high degree of comfort for the wage-earner, the homemaker and several children, to one in which anything like such a manner of life is beyond the reach even of a childless couple with two professional salaries. The incomes of the poorest fifth of the population have declined since 1997, but no one in the neoconservative political class cares in the slightest, since that class now takes it as axiomatic that the poor deserve their poverty.

By contrast, I believe in the conservation or restoration (as the overwhelming majority of Britons wishes) of such good things as national self-government (the only basis for international co-operation, and including the United Kingdom as greater than the sum of its parts), local variation, historical consciousness, family life, the Christianity (and thus the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West) professed by seventy-two per cent of Britons in the most recent census, agriculture, manufacturing, small business, close-knit communities, law and order, civil liberties, academic standards, all forms of art, mass political participation within a constitutional framework, and respect for the absolute sanctity of each individual human life from the point of fertilisation to the point of natural death.

"Free" market capitalism corrodes all of these to nought, both directly and by driving despairing millions into the arms of equally corrosive Jacobinism, Marxism, anarchism or Fascism. Just as one cannot logically oppose the decadent social libertinism deriving from the 1960s without also opposing the decadent economic libertinism deriving from the 1980s (or vice versa), and just as one cannot logically oppose the European Union's erosion of our self-government and culture without also opposing that by global capital and by American hegemony (or vice versa), so likewise one cannot logically oppose the unrestricted movement of people without also opposing that of goods, services and capital (or vice versa).

Liberty, equality and fraternity are inseparable from nationhood, family and property, since liberty (the freedom to be virtuous, and to do anything not specifically proscribed) is inseparable from equality (the means to liberty, and never to be confused with mechanical uniformity), thus from fraternity (the means to equality), thus from nationhood (a space in which to be unselfish), thus from family (the nation in miniature, where unselfishness is first learnt), and thus from property (each family's safeguard both against over-mighty commercial interests and against an over-mighty State, and therefore requiring to be as widely diffused as possible), which is the guarantor of liberty as here defined.

Marxists, including neoconservatives, are correct that the family, private property and the State have a common origin, with each absolutely necessary in order to maintain the other two; but Marxists, including neoconservatives, are wrong to see this as a bad thing, and therefore to desire the withering away of the State, which they know would be the withering away of the family and of private property, and which they want precisely for that wicked reason. The neoconservatives (including David Cameron and Tony Blair, the former's "liberal-conservatism" being a distinction without a difference) do in fact recognise all of this, but they follow Leo Strauss in hiding their true views from the electorate. We must be determined to expose them, and to defeat them. Does that make me a "High Tory", a "nationalist" and a "theoconservative"? If so, then that is what I am proud to be.

Furthermore, mine are "Old Labour means", "statist and syndicalist", if by that is meant the universal and comprehensive Welfare State, and in the strong statutory and other (including trade union) protection of workers, consumers, communities and the environment, the former delivered by the partnership between a strong Parliament and strong local government, the whole paid for by progressive taxation, and all these good things underwritten by full employment. These are the only means to the conservation or restoration (as, I repeat, the overwhelming majority of Britons wishes) of such good things as are listed above, and support for which is presumably what make me a "High Tory", a "nationalist" and a "theoconservative".

Does support for those means as ferociously as for those ends make me "Old Labour", a "statist" and a "syndicalist"? If so, then that is what I am proud to be, not least because, like so many people, my "Old Labour statism and syndicalism" in fact derives from, and in my case was instrumental in leading me to, my "reactionary" (orthodox) Catholicism, as well as always having been inseparable from my British and Commonwealth patriotism as a "Little Briton". The very last thing involved here is "masquerading".

Of course, coming from that tradition - even knowing people like that - probably does mark me down as provincial, and certainly marks me down as not metropolitan in that sense. Well, so I am. Those who think this somehow something of which to be ashamed should consider, as this "voice of the provinces" never ceases to point out, that General Elections are in fact won and lost in "statist, syndicalist, nationalist and theoconseravtive" Scotland, Wales, the North and the Midlands. If they were won and lost in London and its environs, then, as of the 2005 Election, there would now be a Tory Government with a large majority. But they are not, so there is not.

I am "a pan-Slavist" in that I am disgusted at the neoconseravtive dismemberment of Yugoslavia, and putatively of Russia, in the Wahhabi interest (and also at the hypocrisy of Clare Short, Private Eye and others, for turning against the neocon-Wahhabi alliance in Iraq without apologising for having cheered it on at the tops of their voices in Yugoslavia).

I am "a pan-Arabist" in that pan-Arabism, like pan-Slavism, is an originally Christian, largely Catholic bulwark both against Wahhabism and against its Shi'ite twin, the two (intended) beneficiaries of the neoconservative removal of a pan-Arab government in Iraq (Saddam was an old man anyway, and the Ba'ath Party could have led Iraq through a transition after his death which is completely impossible now), as they would be of the removal of just such a government (already in that transitional phase) in Syria. The Christians of Syria and Lebanon will then pay the highest price, as those of Iraq and Palestine are already doing. Speaking of Palestine, over half the Jews in Israel are now Arabs in the pan-Arab sense (their first language is Arabic), while an Arab even in the more usual sense now sits in the Cabinet, as another has done on the Supreme Court for quite a while. Those who are castigated for calling such appointments "betrayals of Zionism" are quite right, and thank God.

I am "a Bolivarian", about which I know far less but am busily finding out, in that I look most optimistically to the (devoutly Catholic) newly-inaugurated President Rafael Correa of Ecuador's "Revolución Ciudadana para volver a tener Patria", his "Citizens' Revolution to return to having a Fatherland"; what a thing it must be to have retained the very word "Patria" in one's language. Bolivarianism strikes me ever-more as one of the world's great hopes for the Socialist means to the conservative (i.e., anti-capitalist, anti-globalising, anti-neoconservative) ends.

I agree with Peter Hitchens a startling amount of the time, and so do many other "statist, syndicalist, nationalist and theoconservative" "Old Labour" people out here in "the provinces", who would be very put out indeed to be described as "the psuedo-Left". For, while there cannot actually be "Catholic fundamentalists", the real old Labour Party derided above had huge numbers of members, and it actually won contested elections on very high turnouts, rather than depending on mass abstention in order to "win" by default against no serious challenge, as has now happened three times in a row. I am very, very proud to stand in that tradition, with a view to the re-creation of such a mass-membership, electorally successful movement.

So there.

Abolish the Creepy Electoral Commission, among other things

Rather than bizarrely attempting to increase the powers of what it admits is the incompetent Creepy Electoral Commission, the Committee on Standards in Public Life should be campaigning, as should we all, for the abolition of this nasty little body, most notable for its persecution of Constituency Campaigning Services and of the Midlands Industrial Council (it's the being provincial that really annoys the Creepy Electoral Commission).

If this persecution succeeds, then the next target, which is in fact the real intended target, will be the political campaigning and research work of the trade unions, whose participation was depicted by Fraser Nelson is last week's Spectator as somehow morally objectionable when compared to that of people who can spend a thousand pounds on a dinner ticket, or even fifty times that much every year on the mere off-chance of meeting David Cameron. Nelson clearly regards these, and not trade union members such as teachers or plumbers, as the social and economic norm. Such is the world of Fraser Nelson. Such is the world of David Cameron. Such is the world of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. And such is the world of the Creepy Electoral Commission.

It is already illegal to put any designation other than "Independent" on a ballot paper unless it is the name of a party whose constitution (including, of course, it aims and objectives) and whose Leader have been approved by the Creepy Electoral Commission, which has the effrontery to charge £150 for this privilege, plus a further £25 every year. The ultimate intention is that no one should be allowed to contest any election except at taxpayers' expense and thus with the approval of some commission appointed around Oxbridge high tables or at dinner parties in the most chi-chi parts of London. You know the sort of people: they spend a thousand pounds on a dinner ticket, they stump up fifty grand every year merely for some posh pretend-politician's vanity dining club, and they think that their own incomes and lifestyle are normal.

Be in no doubt, the Creepy Electoral Commission is a vital part of ensuring that this country never again has what most people fondly imagine that she still has: mass-membership political parties financed out of subscriptions and local fundraising activities such as raffles. In fact, the parties now have next to no members, and are only kept going by huge, highly conditional subventions from the State and the super-rich (the same super-rich individuals in all three cases, which is why the parties won't reveal their identities).

One of the reasons why Labour is so desperate to avoid a Leadership Election is to spare themselves the embarrassment of just how few people would vote in it; the Tories got round that one by simply inventing huge numbers of members who cannot possibly have existed, secure in the knowledge that no one in the media would bat an eyelid if (as was in any case thus guaranteed to happen) the winner turned out to be a BBC-endorsed, economically and socially super-liberal, correspondingly hawkish Oxonian public schoolboy. The Lib Dem Leadership Election didn't quite go according to the same plan (the winner wasn't the Oxonian public schoolboy, and consequently wasn't the BBC's candidate), so the sniping against the winner has been, and remains, incessant.

These are not proper parties. They are among the Elite State's means of controlling the public, specifically by periodically holding sham Elections (if they are even going to bother doing that now that the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act has come into effect) between candidates hand-picked for safe seats by and from among a tiny number of party functionaries in central London (again, the same individuals in all three cases), and by staging mock debates in a Parliament which hardly sits, or on carefully controlled radio and television programmes. Get rid of the Creepy Electoral Commission. And get rid of them. What's stopping you?

New Version Blogger?

Should I? What have been other people's experiences?

Also, can anyone tell me why the About Me and Archive parts of this blog have moved to the bottom of the page, and how I can bring theem back up to the top? And how can I make it possible for people without Blogger accounts to post comments?

Very many thanks.


Presumably because ASBOs and control orders have been such a success (are you laughing? - neither am I), we are now to have super-ASBOs, which will be control orders not just for "terrorist suspects", but for ... well, pretty much anyone, really. All attempts to tackle criminality through the criminal law, with its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt and with its juries (not to mention its concept of specific criminal offences with which one must be charged), now really does appear to have ceased.

ASBOs (which are at least little more than useless in most cases), control orders, majority verdicts (which by definition allow for conviction where there is reasonable doubt), stipendiary magistrates (moreover, sitting alone), erosions of the right to trial by jury, abolition of the right to silence, reversals of the burden of proof, the Civil Contingencies Act, the terrifying Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (under which there need never now be another General Election, ever), abolition of the provision whereby a Bill which ran out of time was lost at the end of that parliamentary session (thus forcing governments to compromise with Parliament), and now this, with ID cards on the way. And that's not the half of it.

It is time to face the fact that Britain is approaching the final, fatal stage of a slow-motion coup. Act now, or lose the opportunity to do so. If the 2009 Election happens at all, then it really will be the last chance. Britain needs proper parliamentarians to restore her liberty, and no longer has proper parties capable of keeping them out if they have sufficent local support. Your country needs you!

"Psychological Flaws"

Apparently, Lance Price says that Tony Blair (who denies it) says that Gordon Brown has "psychological flaws". Well, everyone has psychological flaws. So what? The reasons not to want Brown as PM are the reasons where he agrees with Blair and Price: Iraq, ID cards, PFIs/PPPs, ninety-day detention, &c. Let's talk about them, shall we?

The Union

The SNP stands no chance of winning the Scottish Elections outright, nor is there any chance of a Yes vote in a referendum on independence held by an SNP-Liberal Democrat coalition. So Gordon Brown can sleep easy, not least because, in practical terms, devolution was always conditional on a Labour Government at Westminster and a Labour-led Executive at Holyrood.

There is no doubt whatever that an Act of the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom prevails over that of the devolved Scottish Parliament, which itself exists only pursuant to an Act of the former kind. That the sovereign Parliament currently chooses not to enact legislation applicable only in Scotland, or that Ministers drawn from and accountable to that Parliament currently choose not to exercise their statutory powers in Scotland, is neither here nor there. It may do so at any time, and they may do so at any time.

Under Brown, they and it would probably have done so anyway, as would also be the case if there were to be a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. If a Brown Premiership faced a non-Labour Scottish Executive, then this would become an absolute certainty.

If people voted SNP in ever-larger numbers in protest, then that would only harden Labour and Tory Unionism. Alternatively, ever-more Scots might find themselves wondering what their never-popular devolved Parliament was for (the devolution referendum was only about a proposal, whereas now there is an unloved fact of life), and so might begin to hasten its demise by the same authority that created it, namely that of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Lib Dems still don't get it

But then, how could they?

Specifically, they are still banging on about the BAE "scandal", one of the very few authentically Labour things that this Government has ever done. It reasserted the priority of high-wage, high-skill, high-status jobs, as well as of the national interest generally (regrettable though it is that this is defined as cuddling up to the Saudis), and of Parliament and the Government drawn from and accountable to Parliament, over the Liberal notion of an American-style "separation of powers" involving in practice (as in the US) the supremacy of an unelected judiciary, and that still drawn (unlike the Bar generally these days) from a very narrow social, socio-economic and educational base indeed.

How the Lib Dems get away with selling themselves as a party of the Left is, like how they get away with selling themselves as the Nice Party, one of the great mysteries of British politics.


The BBC license fee is to increase. Now there's a surprise! Apparently, it's less than Auntie wanted. So that's all right, then. How the armed forces, for example, must marvel at the BBC's hold over governments of both parties. The former are sent into Afghanistan and Iraq, and no doubt also into Syria and Iran soon enough, armed with little more than broom-handles, and conkers on strings. But every 10 years, the BBC's top brass simply writes out a list of demands and sends it to the relevant Secretary of State (of either party). And lo, it is done. Just like that.

And for what? The BBC did not bother to tell the license-payers that a man touring the country presenting himself as a potential Prime Minister was in fact a notorious alcoholic. Its over-hyping, and generally biased coverage, then came within inches of creating a situation in which not only did all three Party Leaders share its prejudices (the opposite of almost everything set out here), but all three went from major public schools to Oxford, two (Blair and Huhne) during exactly the same years, and two (Cameron and Huhne) to read for the same degree. Since Sir Menzies Campbell beat Chris Huhne for the Leadership of the Liberal Democrats, he has been subjected to endless BBC sniping. Meanwhile, the BBC simply ignores any younger politician who did not go to Oxford, as if even Cambridge did not exist.

The BBC Governors should be elected by and from among the license-payers of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the nine English regions (though respecting historic county boundaries). Each license-payer would vote for one candidate (of sufficient political independence to qualify, in principle, as a member of a local authority’s Remuneration Committee), with the top two per area declared elected at the end, giving twenty-four in all. A Chairman would be appointed by the Secretary of State, subject to the approval of the relevant Select Committee of the House of Commons. Like the other Governors, the Chairman would have a fixed four-year term of office. This would set the pattern for the reform of many other bodies, reforms rightly involving the whole electorate rather than just those who pay the television license fee.

Of Class and Culture

Yes, Channel Four and Endemol, a clash between someone who has class and culture, and some people who haven't. What, exactly, did you have to tell one of the biggest stars in the biggest cinema in the world to persuade her to appear on "Celebrity" Big Brother? Whom, exactly, did you lead her to expect? We are beginning to see just how classy and cultured you are. Or, rather, aren't.

Thursday 11 January 2007

Gordon, King of Scots; and Saviour of the Union?

The SNP stands no chance of winning the Scottish Elections outright, nor is there any chance of a Yes vote in a referendum on independence, so Gordon Brown can sleep easy. Furthermore, there is no doubt whatever that an Act of the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom prevails over that of the devolved Scottish Parliament, which itself exists only pursuant to an Act of the former kind.

That the sovereign Parliament currently chooses not to enact legislation applicable only in Scotland, or that Ministers drawn from and accountable to that Parliament currently choose not to exercise their statutory powers in Scotland, is neither here nor there. It may do so at any time, and they may do so at any time. Under Brown, they and it would probably have done so anyway, as would also be the case if there were to be a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. If a Brown Premiership faced a non-Labour Scottish Executive, then this becomes an absolute certainty.

If people voted SNP in ever-larger numbers in protest, then that would only harden Labour and Tory Unionism. Alternatively, ever-more Scots might find themselves wondering what their never-popular devolved Parliament was for, and begin to hasten its demise by the same authority that created it, namely that of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Yet more American troops to Iraq!

And I bet we'll follow suit. Military top brass, just order a withdrawal. You and your men would be cheered through the streets on your return. Bush and Blair could find out from the telly, like everyone else. After all, what would they do? With any luck, resign. And take Brown and Cheney with them. President Pelosi. Hurrah!

Speaking of whom, the Republicans seem to have lost the mid-terms on purpose because they now find the Bush Administration such an embarassment. The promise not to impeach Bush was made before this latest madness, and is therefore not binding. Republicans seeking re-election in 2008, think on. And Democrats, beware: the neocons initially attached themselves, in their Trotskyist way, to you. They switched parties because even Clinton was not bomber enough for them. But if you run Clinton II, then they'll be back. Don't do it.

Manchester and Liverpool accents

In what, if any, sense are Manchester and Liverpool accents interchangeable? They seem to be treated as such even on Coronation Street and Shameless. But surely that can't be right?

Wednesday 10 January 2007

Gordon The Godfather: John Reid sleeps with the fishes

First the escapees debacle, and now this carry on over British Citizens convicted abroad. John Reid goes and throws his hat into the ring, and look what happens to him. Say what you like about Gordon Brown, but there really is no one to touch him. Cameron, I'd give up now if I were you. Tory MPs, it's time to start looking for a pair of proper hardmen as Leader and Shadow Chancellor if you so much as want the next Election to look like any sort of contest. Did somebody mention cocaine?

Home Sweet Home

To stay in a B&B is to stay, albeit on a paying basis (like a lodger), in someone else's home. You wouldn't light up a cigarette if there were a No Smoking sign in the room. In the same way, the right to insist that, under one's roof, double beds will only be provided to married couples (which civil partners are not, legally or in any other sense) deserves to be protected. The issue here is not homosexuality, but marriage. Ruth Kelly, of all Ministers, can you afford to lose any more friends this week?

Monday 8 January 2007

If only...

As Energy Secretary, Tony Benn might have closed so many pits that there were not enough left at the end for his record ever to equalled (Margaret Thatcher, as Education Secretary, had done the same thing to the grammar schools), but he also wanted to ringfence the North Sea oil money for future economic regeneration, necessarily outside the then-EEC. This was successfully done in Norway, now the richest country in the world as a result. However, all hope of it ended here with the 1979 Election that brought Thatcher to power, soon after which her Energy Secretary, Nigel Lawson, boasted that Britain's energy policy was that of not having one (so why was he drawing a Cabinet Minister's salary?).

Today, Benn is the only hope of beating Thatcher to be crowned the nation's political hero: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/politics_show/6161847.stm. Voting closes on Thursday. You know what you have to do. This could have been the richest country in the world.

Thoughts on the Ruth Kelly story

I'd be fascinated to hear of any Labour undertaking, ever, to abolish private schools. The endless internal debates are about the structure of the state system, which educates 94% of children, giving the lie to the profoundly offensive, but routine, suggestion that the parents of that tiny number "pay all the bills in this country" (in fact, they include as good as all the tax-dodgers, the super-rich having been made practically tax-exempt by the allegedly left-wing Gordon Brown), and also to the ludicrous, but astonishingly common, definition of private school pupils and their parents as "middle-class". The "middle" of what, exactly?

That said, only last month he Labour MP and former Aviation Minister, Karen Buck, withdrew her 13-year-old son in disgust from one of the Government's "flagship" City Academies (one, moreover, of which her husband is a governor). Meanwhile, only the day before, the Government had announced that "Gifted and Talented" pupils would be able to buy "e-credits" for extra lessons in such things as Mandarin, and a programme run by NASA. Furthermore, since fully one third of schools have simply ignored the "Gifted and Talented" programme up to now, they are all now to be required to identify for this purpose the top ten per cent of their pupils in academic terms, a total of around 800,000 in the country as a whole.

So how about this for a wheeze? Each primary school's top ten (or, better, twenty or twenty-five) per cent of pupils, thus identified, might be admitted to a whole secondary school for children like them, where such lessons were an integral part of the curriculum, so that there was no need for "e-credits".

Heaven knows what we might call such an institution, but there are two reasons why none such will ever be set up. First, a national network of such schools would put most fee-paying schools out of business within ten years, and a lot of them well before that. And secondly, no such system could operate without powerful Local Education Authorities. Opponents of fee-paying schools, and supporters of LEAs, think on.

But also think on, those of you who insist on buying a pup by sending your children to schools which purport to offer exclusive access to the best universities. No university in this country admits even predominantly from the fee-paying sector. Not one. Is it time to call in the Serious Fraud Office?

Voluntary Aided Schools

No doubt because of the final line (rather close to home for the staff and for many readers, as reference to such institutions always is), the following letter was not published in The Observer, and so is posted here instead:

John Chubb falls into the old trap of assuming that there exists some sort of "neutral" or "objective" secular and/or atheistic position. In fact, there is nothing neutral or objective about rejecting religion, or God, or both. Just read anything published by, for example, the National Secular Society, or the British Humanist Association, or the Rationalist Press Association. It is very far indeed from neutrality, or from objectivity in this sense. Anyone who has ever heard the secular and atheistic educational establishment in full cry will know exactly what I mean.

In fact, there is a very strong case for making all schools voluntary aided, so as to require the forces of secularism and atheism to find the sorts of partners or sponsors for their position that the rest of us have to find, rather than relying wholly on the public purse, the purse of a public which is seventy-two per cent Christian according to the last census. This should not be a problem, since the National Secular Society's list of Honorary Associates shows that it is the best-connected voluntary organisation in the English-speaking world, and so presumably one of the richest in Britain. Philip Pullman, Richard Dawkins, David Starkey, et al cannot be short of a bob or two for schools.

But then, how many secular public schools are there? Case closed, I feel.

Sunday 7 January 2007

Don't Mess With Big Gordon

Blunkett, Milburn (not that that was ever really serious outside his own ego), Clarke, Johnson, and now Reid, the last found to have no idea how many prisoners had absconded, and to be running a department which does not regard escaped murders as a threat to the public. Funny how this has all came out just after Reid effectively announced his candidature for Labour Leader. It will be Gordon. Oh yes, it will. David Miliband, a Portillo-esque future in the media beckons if you know what's good for you. Get ringing round now, before you're too much like damaged goods.

The Free World's Leader Once More?

The socially conservative economic populists who clinched the American Congressional Elections for the Democrats should put up a candidate for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination, making it clear that (s)he will be run with or without the Party's approval. And, of course, they should follow through if necessary. Among much else, this would represent a return to real American leadership in the world, causing long-overdue political earthquakes across Europe, Canada and the Antipodes, and keeping the White House keys out of the hands of the massively corporate-sponsored longstanding captain of the cheer-leading squad for the Washington Warmongers.

I Got You, Babe

The BBC has started pronouncing "Sunni", "Sunny". Say it quickly: "Sunni and Shia". The point is made.

Friday 5 January 2007

Vote Benn

As you can see from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/politics_show/6161847.stm, only Tony Benn can stop Margaret Thatcher from winning this contest to be crowned the nation's political hero. So even those who would ordinarily be minded to vote for Neil Kinnock or Clare Short should vote for Wedgie, and encourage everyone else to do likewise. Polling closes on Thursday.

Surprise! Surprise!

Gavin Esler practically jumped out of his seat on last night's Newsnight when he reported that the very composition of the Iraqi Government was effectively being determined in Tehran, as any normal person could have, and had, worked out anyway. Iran is the only winner of the Iraq War. It was even to Ahmadinejad's henchmen, the same people shooting at British troops in Basra, that Saddam Hussein was handed over by the Americans in order to be lynched.

The neocons have a long-running love affair with radical Islam, notably in Afghanistan in the 1980s, in Bosnia (now a "weak point" in the "War Against Terrorism" - surely not!) and Kosovo in the 1990s, and in Chechnya to this very day. They have removed Iran's enemies to the west and to the east, the former a key bulwark against the Wahhabism that the neocons are still actively shoring up in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan; and under whom his country's people were significantly better off than they are today. In Syria, another bulwark, again against both Sunni and Shi'ite militancy, will be the next to go, followed by the fledgling Iranian democracy, in which case the neocons will, in different but related ways, have done both the Wahhabis' and the Shi'ite militants' jobs for them.

Meanwhile, the late George W Bush has, from beyond the grave, appointed an admiral rather than a general to run things in Iraq. It looks as if he's about to bring the troops home before his own top brass do it for him and tell him, effectively at gunpoint, where to stick any objections. They shouldn't give him the satisfaction: they, and their British opposite numbers, should order a full, immediate and unconditional withdrawal both from Afghanistan and from Iraq, and let Bush and Blair find out, once it had already happened, from the radio or the television like everybody else.

Thursday 4 January 2007

The Most Dangerous Man in Britain

The most dangerous man in Britain is the Home Secretary, and now as good as declared candidate for the Premiership, John Reid, previously noted for bragging about directing the Police to arrest people in the middle of the night. Reid was a Communist Party activist deep into his adult life, well before the fall of the Soviet Union, and he has never expressed the slightest remorse. At Stirling University, when the Communist Party ran the Students' Union (with its large cash turnover), Reid was its enforcer. As he later was for Neil Kinnock, and as he now is for Tony Blair, whom he clearly wishes to succeed as Prime Minister.

Furthermore, Reid claims that New Labour reflects what he sees as the "fact" that Britons are now (among other things) "better off", "better educated" and "less deferential" than in the past. What planet is he living on?

First, only a generation ago, a single manual wage provided the wage-earner, his wife and their several children with a quality of life unimaginable even on two professional salaries today. This impoverishment has been so rapid and so extreme that most people, including almost all politicians and commentators, simply refuse to acknowledge that it has happened. But it has indeed happened. And it is still going on.

Secondly, well, where to begin? Britons at large, including graduates and even PhDs (such as Reid), are simply not the best-educated that they have ever been, or even especially well-educated at all. All the paper qualifications in the world cannot disguise this fact, which is only too horribly obvious to anyone who so much as walks down a street in Britain today, never mind to anyone who goes in search of intelligent and informed conversation here.

And thirdly, the extraordinary deference shown to the opinions of ageing rock starts and such like indicates that the generation now running things is actually much more deferential than was or is that of its own parents or grandparents, and is quite possibly the most deferential ever, but merely chooses to defer to different (and, frankly, less deserving) people.

There are many reasons not to want Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. A Left candidate for Labour Leader would always have taken thirty per cent of the vote, and might well have taken forty under current circumstances. So Brown promised Michael Meacher restoration as Environment Secretary if he spoiled John McDonnell's chances of making it onto the ballot paper. This Meacher has duly done, and Brown thought that there would be no election.

But now this, a candidate who can expect hysterical cheer-leading from the Sun and the Times, probably from the Daily Mail, and possibly even (since he is Not Brown) from the Daily Telegraph.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Girls out-performing boys at school

Of course girls massively out-perform boys at GCSE! The GCSE was devised and implemented (implemented, lest we forget, by Margaret Thatcher) purely and precisely to ensure that this would always be the case, ostensibly as part of making schools "girl-friendly". But schools were never "girl-unfriendly": girls always slightly out-performed boys at examinations taken in the mid-teens, and they always will.

Meanwhile, A-levels have been made increasingly like GCSEs, to the same end and with the same result, while the curriculum further down the age range has of course been altered in order to prepare pupils for GCSE. But none of this proves anything except that a system contrived to favour very heavily one sex (the one that always did slightly better anyway) over the other is doing precisely that.

This is the key to understanding why thousands of boys did not used to leave primary school, nor did anything like the current number used to leave secondary school, unable to read. And it is also the key to the alleged superiority of single-sex girls' schools, most of which are in any case academically selective, socio-economically selective, or both.

Is it possible that the reason boys now do so much worse than girls at, for example, English Literature, even though most English Literature properly so called was writtten by men, is because the same people who created the above situation have also given effect in schools to their strange theory that works have been denied canonicity because they were written by women (Jane Austen? The Brontës?), rather than simply because they were not as good as those included in the canon. The latter are still taught to those people's own sons and daughters alike, at enormous cost in terms of school fees or wildly inflated house prices.

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

No Mercy for Ming

Iain Duncan Smith united the Tories on Europe, made them the largest party in local government, and took them to parity and beyond in the opinion polls without anything like the now-permanent 34% (pending new political formations) that has to be factored out of headline figures for expressing a fixed and firm intention not to vote. The 2005 Election looked like being a proper contest, between an economic neoliberal/foreign policy neocon, and a High Tory (with, accordingly, a refined aristocratic social conscience) who played well in the areas where Elections are actually won and lost.

So the High Tory was knifed, in order to ensure that neoliberal economic policies and a neocon foreign policy continued under a notionally Labour Prime Minister, at least until a notionally Tory MP in the same mould could be found and made Leader. That has now happened, with Cameron to face the economic super-Thatcherite, and foreign policy super-hawk, Gordon Brown.

Which brings us to Sir Menzies Campbell. Actually, in the tradition of Gladstone, Lloyd George and, er, Ashdown, he is a lot more hawkish than his predecessor. And as an old Liberal, rather than an old SDP hand, his economic views are also much closer to the current, thoroughly unpopular and thoroughly pernicious, "consensus".

But there is something else at work here: Ming is neither public school nor Oxford (not Oxbridge, Oxford). Unlike Blair. Unlike Cameron. And unlike Chris Huhne, who read for the same degree as Cameron in exactly the same years as Blair. So poor old Ming simply has to go.

Watch your back, Gordon...

Of Farmers and Markets

The present furore over the future of British agriculture, summed up by David Miliband's telling the farmers that they are pretty much not going to allowed to have one and by David Cameron's agreeing with him (of course), is simply the "free" market in action. In such a market, fully applied, there would long have been no agriculture in this country. Those who rightly joined in the Countryside March are in fact on the same side as those who defended coal, steel, ship-building, and so forth, on the entirely correct ground that economic activity must be morally subordinate to the service of social, cultural, political and environmental goods.

To believe in strong communities, in environmental responsibility, in animal welfare, and in healthy and nutritious food is not only to oppose the hunting ban (although it is certainly that), but also to support farm subsidies (though certainly not in the form of the Common Agricultral Policy), and to oppose the amoral, and thus immoral, "free" market. The sooner that we have at least one proper political formation saying all of these things and acting accordingly, the better.

Immigration: A Class Act

We are now undergoing the deliberate and sytematic importation, as a matter of Government policy obedient (as ever) to big business, of an entirely new working class, which understands no English except commands, which is therefore both unaware of its hard-won rights (minimum wage, health and safety, and so on) and unable to insist upon them, and which feels no emotional attachment to any particular part of this country, so that it can be moved around at will. Meanwhile, the existing working class can go hang. It is high time for the Left to wake up to these realities, and to organise and act accordingly.

Opus Dei and the Left

I am a convinced admirer of Opus Dei, both as a practising Catholic and as a man firmly of the Left.

Corporal mortification, to get that out of the way, is an integral part of Catholic spirituality. Catholics need to re-learn moderate self-denial on Fridays, on the Wednesdays in Lent, during Holy Week, on the eves of the Church’s greatest Solemnities, and before receiving Communion, as well as the considerable exigencies on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

These are of a piece with the cilice (a spiked chain worn around the upper thigh) and the discipline (a small whip used on the back). Convents manufacturing such items still do a roaring trade, and the rise of Opus Dei is itself a sign that the decadent period of disdain for asceticism even within the Catholic Church is an aberration now mercifully coming to an end.

In any case, people who suggest that Ruth Kelly wears the cilice to work merely demonstrate their own ignorance. Both the cilice and the discipline are used by numeraries, who are celibate, live in Opus Dei centres, and give most of their salaries directly to Opus Dei. Kelly is clearly a supernumerary, as are seventy per cent of Opus Dei members, and so presumably mortifies the flesh in ways more acceptable to clever-clever opinion, though none the worse for that.

Opus Dei believes in the sanctification of the world, thus first anticipating and then implementing the Second Vatican Council. By contrast, its opponents believe in the secularisation of the Church, falsely presenting that as "the Spirit of Vatican II". Therefore, they oppose corporal mortification as they oppose other Opus Dei practices: beginning the day by offering it to God, daily Communion, the Rosary, the Angelus, daily examination of conscience, invocation of the Angels and the Saints, ejaculatory prayer, use of holy water, and so forth.

This is because they disagree profoundly with Opus Dei about sanctification of and through ordinary work, not least because they so look down on the people who do a great deal of ordinary work.

They disagree with Opus Dei about living a contemplative life in the middle of the world, taking everything one does with liturgical seriousness, and recognising (as any orthodox Catholic must) that every experience of the true, the good and the beautiful is in fact a religious experience. Instead, they would rather that even the Liturgy were treated with no more (or even rather less) seriousness than most people attach to a pop concert or a football match, and that even the most obviously ecstatic mystical experiences were somehow explained away by pseudo-scientific, avowedly anti-Christian means.

They disagree with Opus Dei’s (i.e., with the Catholic Church’s) definition of Christian freedom in the Aristotelian (yet profoundly Biblical) terms given definitive Catholic and commonsensical articulation by Saint Thomas Aquinas, according to which the only true freedom is in accordance with the Will of God. Instead, they would define it in secular and Modern terms, as the freedom of the individual to do as he will (provided that he agrees with them), and that as the end in itself.

They disagree with Opus Dei’s (again, simply the Church’s) doctrine of divine filiation, of recognising oneself and every other human being as a Child of God. Adopted by God’s grace and thus in some sense ipse Christus, "Christ Himself", everything we do is therefore in some sense part of the world’s redemption: the mundane is transcendent. Instead, they would rather make the transcendent mundane.

They disagree with divine filiation’s very high understanding of the dignity of each and every human life, and with its strong imperative towards evangelisation. And they disagree with its inherent imperative, both to take up the Cross, and to experience a profound joy quite unlike any momentary chemical or sexual "high" of their own formative years. Instead, they would rather "modernise" on abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell "research". They would rather trim Christianity and Catholicism to suit every other system of belief, though even then not with a view to converting anyone. And they would rather have instant gratification, on the cheap in every sense.

Sanctification through work, the living of a contemplative life in the middle of the world, Christian freedom correctly defined, and the recognition of divine filiation: these are the principles calling all Catholics to rediscover and renew, ever-more-deeply, our beginning the day by offering it to God, our frequent Communion, our daily examination of conscience, our ejaculatory prayer, our use of holy water, and our devotion to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints. And, yes, our practice of corporal mortification.

All of this is whether or not we experience any vocation to join Opus Dei, undoubtedly God’s instrument in renewing the Church in this way, but even more clearly so if this renewal becomes the norm among Catholics generally, including our witness to ecumenical partners.

So much for admiring Opus Dei as a Catholic. But how can a man of the Left possibly do so? Well, Ruth Kelly is the most prominent Opus Dei politician in the world today. The President of the Socialist International, António Guterres, has a long history in Opus Dei. Its ranks also include Squire Lance, Antonio Fontán, Paola Binetti, Llúis Foix, Mario Maiolo and Xavi Casajuana (if we count Catalan nationalism as part of the Left; it is certainly a very long way from Franco), among others.

Most of the Chilean "Chicago Boys" were not members of Opus Dei. Pinochet himself never had any affiliation with it. Of six right-wing Opus Dei politicians listed on Wikipedia, four are dead (one since 1966), whereas the three broad left-wingers listed (including two women) are all still alive. So, insofar as it has a political orientation, Opus Dei’s would seem to be towards the Left, if anything.

Much like the Catholic Church Herself, in fact. Which is yet another reason to hope, work and pray for the Catholic Church at large to become much more like Opus Dei.

Wednesday 3 January 2007

Well, I wasn't going to mention this, but...

... I have just received an email from a very highly-placed person indeed, who is apparently an avid reader of this blog, pointing out that (as I wasn't going to mention, but since people are apparently saying it anyway) Alex Watson's richly deserved OBE represents the formal repudiation by the Powers That Be of the two archest of his arch-enemies, Hilary Armstrong MP and Kevan Jones MP, as well as, I might add, more minor, satellite figures such as David Hodgson and Neil Fleming.

(Not that those Powers really needed to repudiate Hodgson, given his record. And as for Fleming, does he still live in Lanchester? Except for Parish Council meetings, he is never, ever seen here anymore. But then, he never was very much.)

Anyway, since apparently everyone else is saying it out loud, I might as well, too: Happy Retirement, Hilary. And as for you, Jones, once talked of as Brown's Chief Whip, you'd better start applying for directorships of companies taking over local government services. Won't that go down well with the GMB?

Tuesday 2 January 2007

1987 And All That

Where were you when The Lady won her third General Election? Well, I for one was still in school. So I hope that I bring some historical objectivity to the hysteria that the year I turn 30 promises to bring, largely from people my own age or younger. Whatever your age, get over her!

After all, what, exactly, was “Thatcherism”? What did she ever actually do? Well, she gave Britain the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs, and the destruction of paternal authority within working-class families and communities through the destruction of that authority’s economic basis in the stockades of working-class male employment.

No Prime Minister, ever, has done more in any one, never mind all, of the causes of European federalism, Irish Republicanism, sheer economic incompetence, Police inefficiency and ineffectiveness, collapsing educational standards, and everything that underlies or follows from the destruction of paternal authority.

Meanwhile (indeed, thereby), the middle classes were transformed from people like her father into people like her son. She told us that “there is no such thing as society”, in which case there cannot be any such thing as the society that is the family, or the society that is the nation. Correspondingly, she misdefined liberty as the “freedom” to behave in absolutely any way that one saw fit. All in all, she turned Britain into the country that Marxists had always said it was, even though, before her, it never actually had been.

Specifically, she sold off national assets at obscenely undervalued prices, while subjecting the rest of the public sector (forty per cent of the economy) to an unprecedented level of central government dirigisme. She presided over the rise of Political Correctness, that most 1980s of phenomena, and so much of piece with that decade’s massively increased welfare dependency and its moral chaos, both fully sponsored by the government, and especially by the Prime Minister, of the day.

Hers was the war against the unions, which cannot have had anything to do with monetarism, since the unions have never controlled the money supply. For good or ill, but against all her stated principles, hers was the refusal (thank goodness, but then I am no “Thatcherite”) to privatise the Post Office, as her ostensible ideology would have required.

And hers were the continuing public subsidies to fee-paying schools, to agriculture, to nuclear power, and to mortgage-holders. Without those public subsidies, the fourth would hardly have existed, and the other three (then as now) would not have existed at all. So much for “You can’t buck the market”. You can now, as you could then, and as she did then. You know this from experience if that experience extends to any one or more of fee-paying schools, agriculture (or, at least, land ownership), nuclear power, and mortgage holding. The issue is not whether these are good or bad things in themselves. It is whether “Thatcherism”, as ordinarily and noisily proclaimed (or derided), was compatible with their continuation by means of “market-bucking” public subsidies. It simply was not, as it simply is not.

Hers was the ludicrous pretence to have brought down the Soviet Union merely because she happened to be in office when that Union happened to collapse, as it would have done anyway, in accordance with the predictions of (among other people) Enoch Powell. But she did make a difference internationally where it was possible to do so, precisely by providing aid and succour to Pinochet’s Chile and to apartheid South Africa. I condemn the former as I condemn Castro, and I condemn the latter as I condemn Mugabe (or Ian Smith, for that matter). No doubt you do, too. But she did not, as she still does not.

And hers was what amounted to the open invitation to Argentina to invade the Falkland Islands, followed by the (starved) Royal Navy’s having to behave as if the hopelessly out-of-her-depth Prime Minister did not exist, a sort of coup without which those Islands would be Argentine to this day.

There are many other aspects of any “Thatcherism” properly so called, and they all present her in about as positive a light. None of them, nor any of the above, was unwitting, forced on her by any sort of bullying, or whatever else her apologists might insist was the case. Rather, they were exactly what she intended.

Other than the subsidies to agriculture (then as now) and to nuclear power (now, if not necessarily then), I deplore and despise every aspect of her above record and legacy, for unashamedly Old Labour reasons. Indeed, the definition of New Labour is to support and to celebrate that record and legacy, because it did exactly as it was intended to do, entrenching, in and through the economic sphere, the social revolution of the 1960s. You should not so support or celebrate unless you wish to be considered New Labour.

But then again, who cares these days? Or, rather, who really ought to care? When the next General Election is upon us, people will have the vote who were not born when she was removed from office in order to restore the public order that had broken down because of what, in her allegedly paradigmatic United States, would have been her unconstitutional Poll Tax. At that Election, my own generation of post-Thatcher teenagers will first enter Parliament in some numbers, a few being already there. And by the time of the Election after that … well, you can finish that sentence for yourself.

Twenty Years On, as Alan Bennett might once have put it, we have an opportunity to consign her to the history books once and for all. That opportunity was denied in 1990, when her ejection by her own party turned her into a mythical figure. Such would not have been her lot if the Poll Tax had simply ensured her removal by the electorate, probably in 1991. But, better late than never, let us take our opportunity in 2007.