Friday 29 February 2008

Only Five Hours Left

I am open to offers today.

Hurry, this is your last chance for four years.

If Afghanistan Is Not Safe For Harry

Then it's not safe for Tom or Dick, either.

Honestly, where does one begin?

This is what he was trained for. If we'd wanted a princely toy soldier who put on a dress uniform for ceremonial occasions and that was it, then we wouldn't have spent the money on putting him through Sandhurst. Would we?

Since when were the deployments of individuals reported at all? If this was all some big cover-up, then how come nobody on the Boujis and Mahiki circuit seemed to notice that he was missing and alert the relevant websites? And the line of succession is perfectly secure, you know.

Most of all, is nobody shooting at the rest of our troops in Afghanistan? Will they now be perfectly safe?

Honestly, having begun, where does one end?

Trash TV, Indeed

Last night's Waterloo Road (as I've said before, I'm not without my trash TV side) was all about the heroic efforts to prevent the deportation of an illegal immigrant.

The Head Teacher of the eponymous school presented Iran, without contradiction, as offering few or no educational possibilities for a girl. Is that why there are more women than men at Iranian universities?

And the nearest thing to a dissenting voice came from two ageing teachers (one workshy and sexually promiscuous, the other workshy and a gambling addict, and both with drink problems) who suggested that Iran was being damaged by some sort of brain drain.

Auntie softening us up for war against Iran? Would that she were that clever!

You Might Recall

The following letter appears in today's Daily Telegraph:

Sir - At a time when trust in politicians continues to be diminished, there is an urgent need to look again at the sanctions available when an MP has been found to have behaved improperly.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee is able to suspend an MP, but many members of the public feel frustration that, save for very limited circumstances, an MP disciplined by the Commons authorities will not be answerable to his constituents until a general election is called and, therefore, can retain his position and salary for some years.

As Conservative MPs all elected for the first time in 2005, we recognise that we are accountable to our electorate and, consequently, we do not think that a parliamentary committee should have the discretion to expel an MP. However, we do think that consideration should be given to creating a recall mechanism, similar to that used in some US states, to enable constituents to vote on whether they remove their MP during the course of a Parliament.

For example, in California in 2003, a petition was organised calling for the recall of the governor, Gray Davis. Once it was established that a sufficient number of electors had signed the petition, a ballot was held on whether Davis should be recalled. That ballot succeeded, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him.

We would want safeguards to be put in place to ensure that this mechanism was not abused, such as requiring a high percentage of registered voters in a constituency to petition for a recall ballot, or only permitting a recall ballot when the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee has recommended it as a sanction.

None the less, a mechanism of this sort used in exceptional circumstances would increase MPs' accountability, address some of the frustration felt by a disenchanted public and help restore trust in our democratic institutions.

David Gauke MP, Ben Wallace MP, Greg Hands MP, Ed Vaizey MP, Brooks Newmark MP, Richard Benyon MP, Peter Bone MP, James Brokenshire MP, David Burrowes MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Greg Clark MP, Philip Dunne MP, Tobias Ellwood MP, Stephen Hammond MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Stuart Jackson MP, Mark Lancaster MP, Anne Main MP, Maria Miller MP, Anne Milton MP, Mike Penning MP, John Penrose MP, Lee Scott MP, Graham Stuart MP, Rob Wilson MP, Stephen Crabb MP, David Jones MP

All the signatories were first elected in 2005, and several of them indicate approval at the very highest level of the Conservative Party, whatever that, in turn, might say about the very highest level of the Conservative Party. So what to make of it?

Well, the House can already expel a Member, and it is not the fault of the rest of us if it never does so in practice. Who is to pay for these by-elections? And why should a House of Commons Committee have the power to impose one on a constituency? That last would not in fact be a recall at all.

Swedish Self-Assembly

Schools, apparently. To be copied by David Cameron if he made it to Number 10. Do you believe that? No, neither do I.

No one who doesn't read either the Spectator or a few tribally Tory blogs has ever heard of any of this. Or ever will hear of it. This is about getting out the core of the core Tory vote, a perceived need which in itself speaks volumes. When this and the Wisconsin-style welfare scheme are denounced in the Guardian and on the BBC, then I will believe that they really exist at all.

"A system where pupils choose schools, and not vice versa"? Like we've never heard that one before! And as for "a striking convergence of ideology around the case for school liberalisation", all that that means is that no other view ever enters the single shared brain cell of the Westminster Village think-tank set.

Who, of course, will dream up anything - anything - other than the return of the grammar schools, only in the absence of which were they themselves admitted to university.

Thursday 28 February 2008

Now, It's Personal

So, what is Prince Harry doing in Afghanistan? What, exactly, would constitute victory or defeat there? And why, exactly?

We merrily grow opium in our own country "for medicinal purposes". We are allied to Islamist smack-smugglers in Kosovo.

And the reviled "Taliban" are exactly the same people as the revered "tribal elders", depending on what we happen to think of them at the time.

On the same basis, the "Ba'athists" whom we are in the process of "rehabilitating" in Iraq are exactly the same people as the "Sunni insurgents" or the alleged Iraqi branch of that non-existent organisation, "al-Qaeda".

Answers, please.

Perhaps those of us demanding them should display pictures of Prince Harry to make the point?

Gosh, This Is Fun!

Gosh, this is fun!

Which RINO would the Obama-haters have instead, since McCain, Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani and Paul have all been very recently denounced as exactly that by at least one of the three legs of the stool, and all but Paul by at least two of them?

Why did Obama win the Jewish vote in Connecticut, Arizona, California and Massachusetts? What do you all know that they don't?

Anyway, Jews (or blacks, for that matter) hardly voted for Bush and he still won. What do you have to say to that?

And if Obama is such a dangerous Leftist, then how come he is supported by so many Independents and Republicans, and why is one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, Reagan's old Navy Secretary, not only backing him, but very likely to be his running-mate?

I could go on.

All in all, I am thoroughly enjoying the hysterical reaction to the long-overdue return of the prodigal Reagan Democrats to the house of their father, FDR. It must be tough being the elder brother. But it is clearly a whole lot tougher being the fatted calf.

Welsh Day In The Commons

Yes, it's that time again.

When the first one was held, no less than Aneurin Bevan rose to declare that the whole thing was pointless and a waste of parliamentary time, since "Welsh coal is the same as English coal, and Welsh sheep are the same as English sheep".


Fixation on things like this, instead of on the real business, is no small part of why the United Kingdom, with no shortage of either agricultural land or coal, now contains little farming and almost no mining, and instead imports enormous quantities both of food and of coal from bonded, child, and un-unionised sweatshop labour.

Who Benefits?

How delightful to see the media ignoring almost completely the ridiculous James Purnell's latest "reforms" of the benefit system. Apparently, JSA claimants will have to prove that they are actively seeking work, and Incapacity Benefit claimants will have to produce sick notes. Imagine!

Nor is the involvement of the private sector anything new. Great swathes of the vast unemployment industry (staffed overwhelmingly by former long-term claimants who just happened to be on site when the vacancies arose) are already farmed out in this way, to ostensibly private companies whose profitability is absolutely guaranteed at public expense, and which are therefore perfectly free to be as over-staffed and over-resourced as they like.

In my time, I have repeatedly been the only "client" (signed on for the stamp - long story) in a room where, for hours on end, a dozen staff were logged onto eBay or Friends Reunited (which dates it a bit, but even so), just because they had nothing else to do.

But more of this is to come, promises the "radical" Purnell. As, indeed, does the "radical" Cameron. Can you contain your joy? I can certainly contain mine.

We Now Have A Stalinist Government

Like neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, both Stalinist and Trotskyist parties sit routinely, not only in the European Parliament, but also in the governments represented in the EU Council of Ministers, which makes eighty per cent of all the laws that apply in this country, and which is one of only three legislatures in the world to meet entirely in secret and to publish no Official Report; the other two are in Cuba and in North Korea. But those parties have hitherto sat only as junior coalition partners.

However, the recent election result in Cyprus means that a Stalinist is now the Head of Government of an EU member-state. Therefore, as an EU member-state, the United Kingdom now has a Stalinist government.

Any Lower?

On last night's Moral Maze, one Niki Adams, from "the English Collective of Prostitutes" (can anyone think of a collective noun for prostitutes?), spewed forth her scorn for the shelf-stackers and call centre workers whom she regards as lower than herself and her - what is the word? - colleagues. The charming Ms Adams can be contacted at

Three Words

The Czech Prime Minister proclaims himself "three words" away from a deal with the dying Bush Administration, over locating in the Czech Republic the lunatic instruments of the New Cold War, re-launched by those to whom the world has not made sense since the end of the old one. Any suggestions as to what those three words might be, and why?

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Tebbit: Yes, But

The following letter will appear in tomorrow's Spectator:

Sir: Michael Gove gives a eulogy to Tony Blair, 'I admired Tony Blair. I knew Tony Blair'.

I had hoped that David Cameron's claim to be 'the heir to Blair' was just a silly mistake springing from inexperience. It is more worrying to find that Blair worship is now the doctrine of modern compassionate Conservatism. No wonder 40 per cent of electors are unwilling to vote; nor that, when asked which party could best meet any challenge facing Britain, those saying 'neither' regularly exceed those naming either party.

Blair's admirers in the shadow Cabinet might reflect on his record: the bungled war on Iraq, the dispatch of men and women to fight without the equipment they need, the sensational increases in tax without measurable improvement in services, the debauchment of the civil service, the identity card fiasco, the criminal justice fiasco, his surrender of British sovereignty to Brussels, his remorseless attacks on the conventional family, despoliation of education, use of the benefit system to deepen the poverty trap, lesser incentives to work or save, his fuelling of the culture of drugs, alcohol, yobbery and violent crime which has left the Home Secretary fearful of walking the streets of London at night.

It was Blair who introduced uncontrolled, unmeasured immigration of people determined not to integrate, but to establish, first ghettoes, and now demands for separate legal jurisdiction. In biblical terms, Blairism is the poisonous tree which can give forth only poisonous fruit and must be rooted out. In 2005 Blair had the votes of only 21.6 per cent of the electorate. With the poisonous tree of Blairism planted in the shadow Cabinet, where can the other 78.4 per cent turn?

Lord Tebbit

Yes, but "the dispatch of men and women to fight without the equipment they need, the sensational increases in tax without measurable improvement in services, the debauchment of the civil service, the criminal justice fiasco, the surrender of British sovereignty to Brussels, the remorseless attacks on the conventional family, the despoliation of education, use of the benefit system to deepen the poverty trap, lesser incentives to work or save, and the fuelling of the culture of drugs, alcohol, yobbery and violent crime" were all features of the Thatcher years, too. Indeed, they largely began during those years.

Not A Debating Chamber, Just An Echo Chamber

David Cameron has revived the call of every Opposition, always rejected by every Government, for a head-to-head televised debate between the party leaders in the run-up to the next General Election.

Of course, Cameron knows perfectly well that this is constitutionally illiterate. Has he also considered how tedious it would be, and that it would be watched by next to nobody?

After all, what have these persons to "debate"?

They agree with each other about absolutely everything that really matters, and even about most things that don't. What is more, they think that everyone else agrees with them, too.

Why Is Harriet Harman A Minister?

No, Brown can't sack this ridiculous Castrolater (and man-hating fanatic, erstwhile and unrepentant Hard Left stalwart, old legal stand-by for the Paedophile Information Exchange, &c, &c, &c) as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. But he is under no obligation to make the Deputy Leader a Minister. And as a Minister, Harman doesn't seem to do anything, anyway. So he should sack her. What is he waiting for?

Make The EU Temporary

Brown let a very important cat out of the bag at PMQs today: only the EU can ultimately redress the grievances giving rise to the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill. Well, not in Norway or Switzerland, it can't. But we don't want to end up in their economic condition. Do we?

Clegg: The Heir To Blair?

At PMQs, he was off about "clapped-out nineteenth-century procedures" like respecting the authority of the Chair. Gosh, how the years rolled back!

The Drugs Don't Work

There is one fact about the drugs debate which is never, ever mentioned. Nor will it be while public life is still dominated, inevitably but by definition temporarily, either by old pot-heads or by those who came after them, the Eighties types who believe that cocaine-snorting is an integral part of, as someone once put it, "a normal university experience".

That fact is that drug abuse is now abnormal and in decline among the young. It was a distinct minority pursuit even when I was an undergraduate. Now that I work with undergraduates, I have repeatedly heard them drop hints that, while they themselves don't "do" drugs, they feel that they are somehow missing out by not "doing" them because so to "do" is an integral part of, as someone once put it, "a normal university experience".

No, it is not. Not any more, anyway.

Our day will come. And not a moment too soon.

The Real Auschwitz Gimmick

Auschwitz merely exchanged mass-murdering Nazi tyranny for mass-murdering Soviet tyranny. Why not take them to Belsen, which really was liberated, and that by the British?

The RINO Revolution

RINO, Republican In Name Only, is a term applied variously by hardline social conservatives, hardline fiscal conservatives and hardline foreign policy hawks, to Republican politicians who do not share that view. Very recently indeed, it has been loudly applied to all of John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul by at least one of those sections of the Republican coalition, and to all but Paul by at least two of them. Even if McCain wins, the Republican Party will be extremely lucky to outlive him.

Primary Considerations

How about primaries in Britain, asks Jonathan Freedland? How about them, indeed.

In the course of each Parliament, each party should submit a shortlist of the two candidates nominated by the most branches (including those of affiliated organisations where applicable) to a binding ballot of the whole electorate at constituency level for the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, and at national level for the Leader.

All the ballots for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate should be held on the same day, and all the ballots for Leader should be held on the same day. Each of these ballots should be held at public expense at the request of five per cent or more of registered voters in the constituency or the country, as appropriate.

Each candidate in each of these ballots should have a tax-free campaigning allowance out of public funds, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation should appear on the ballot paper after that of the candidate. There should be a ban on all other campaign funding, and on all campaign spending above twice that allowance.

In the course of each Parliament, each party should submit to a binding ballot of the whole electorate the ten policies proposed by the most branches (including those of affiliated organisations where applicable), with voters entitled to vote for up to two, and with the highest-scoring seven guaranteed inclusion in the next General Election Manifesto.

All of these ballots should be held on the same day, and each of them should be held at public expense at the request of five per cent or more of registered voters in the country. The official campaign for each policy should have a tax-free campaign allowance, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation should appear on the ballot paper after that of the policy. And there should be ban on all other campaign funding, and on all campaign spending above twice that allowance.

States Of Which You Approve?

I don’t agree with Peter Hitchens about capital punishment. But I defy those who do to explain why they agree with a practice now, as Hitchens sets out, most prevalent in China, Vietnam and Cuba. Are those states of which you approve?

The Sharia State of Israel

An integral part of the West? The only Middle Eastern country in which any critical journalist or any trade unionist would wish to live? How about the only country ever described in such terms where some citizens' testimony is worth half than that of others on grounds of sex? If you don't believe me, then read the Jewish Chronicle:

Why Islamic law is official in Israel


By Anshel Pfeffer, Jerusalem

Not only is sharia law officially recognised by the justice system in Israel in everything regarding the personal status of Muslims, but the judges of the sharia courts are officially appointed by a joint ministerial-parliamentary committee and their salaries paid for by the state. Ironically, this arrangement originates from the days when Britain was the Mandate power in Palestine.

Most matters of personal status, especially marriage and divorce, are ruled in Israel by religious courts. For three religious groups, Jews, Muslims and Druze, there are official, state-appointed courts, who rule on these matters. For Christians, there are private ecclesiastical courts whose rulings are recognised de facto by the civil authorities.

The system began with an Act during the British Mandate, under which all recognised religious groups were allowed to deal with matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption in their own courts. After 1948, the system was continued but only in matters of personal status. By law, the sharia courts have exactly the same status as the rabbinical courts.

“It works quite well,” says Sheikh Badir Raed, who often appears before the sharia courts on behalf of Muslim clients in divorce hearings. “The Israeli authorities, the police and social services will almost always respect an order issued by the sharia court. I am currently writing a book on this system in Arabic, because I think that this is the best example of a Muslim minority getting its religious rights while respecting the law of the land. The only problems are when the civil law is different from sharia law as in the case of wills and for security reasons when we are dealing with a couple, one of whom lives in the Palestinian territories.”

But Dr Aviad Hacohen, a constitutional law expert from Hebrew University and the head of the Mosiaca centre on state and religion, believes Israel’s system “has two main shortcomings.

“The first is that it creates a twin-track system of religious and civil law that are not always compatible.” Over-ruling of the religious courts by the Supreme Court is not uncommon, and in 1992, in the landmark case Bavli v Bavli, the Supreme Court ruled that civil courts take precedence over religious courts.

“The second shortcoming is that the system isn’t good for everyone. It can’t deal with mixed marriages, or those who are not recognised as belonging to a religion.”

Such arrangements between religious courts and the civil authorities are impossible in countries like the US and France, where there is a strict division between state and religion, but they exist in Germany and Belgium where some religious groups are allowed to rule on such matters.

In the Canadian province of Ontario, Jewish community leaders were stunned when suggestions to introduce sharia courts resulted in a curtailing of the powers of the beth din.

Jewish courts had been conducting binding arbitrations in family law since 1991. In 2003, a Muslim lawyer from Toronto announced the establishment of a “sharia court”, and two years later, the Ontario Premier announced an abrupt end to religious arbitration of family law matters, saying: “There will be no sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians.”

The beth din can still rule on personal and business disputes and grant gets.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Cameron and Abortion

The American Republican Party has long kept itself in existence by pretending that one day it will restrict abortion.

It never does so, because those on whose votes it depends would then declare Mission Accomplished and go home to the Democratic Party, whence they came, where their economic interest lies, and which only in their absence is as right-wing as it is economically.

But those voters have started to wise up.

David Cameron, take note.

Obama, Bring Home The Reagan Democrats

An anonymous comment left on an earlier post:

I was sceptical about Obama at first. But I have seen Webb and other Reagan Democrats, Independents and Republicans line up behind him. And now I think that he offers real hope of restoring the Democratic Party that cared about God-fearing low-paid workers rather than pot-smoking heirs to millions.

Here's hoping.

So, who is to be the Vice-Presidential nominee? That is now the key question.

What If, After Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh?

What are the Armenians trying to escape in Nagorno-Karabakh? There are several thriving Armenian churches in Tehran. There is none in Ankara or Istanbul.

Azeris are Shi'ites. So they are unlikely satellites of the emerging Turkish Super-Caliphate, which presumes even to re-write the Hadith, a move which a comment on an earlier post informs me has been welcomed by the website that is now the principal continuation of the unyielding pro-Soviet Straight Left faction.

But if the agenda are Turkic rather than (or even just more than) Islamic, then Armenians have obvious cause for alarm, especially since Turkey still denies ever having committed genocide against them.

So, which is it?

Cheer Up

The best news in ages and ages. Prozac, Seroxet and the rest are, if anything, less effective than a nice cup of tea. Next on the hit list should be Ritalin. At least depression really exists. ADHD does not. It has been invented for commercial purposes, and its cult is based on the assumption that maleness is a medicable condition. The same has long been held to be the case about femaleness, where the "medication" in question in contraception, above all the Pill.

THAT Obama Picture

Prince Charles was once presented with a woolen coat worn by tribal elders in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. In the winter months, he sometimes wears it around the grounds of Highgrove. Is he a Muslim too, Hillary?

The Turks March On

It doesn't matter how the Turkish State revises the Hadith. What matters is that it presumes to do so at all.

Those who liken this to the Reformation (quite apart from the extreme misogyny, and hostility to art and science, of the Reformation when compared to the Middle Ages) need to explain which Reformation. The English Henrician-Edwardine one seems closest.

Now, Henry VIII and, even more so, Edward VI certainly bought into historically mistaken Continental Protestant ideas about the Canon. But even they never claimed the right to change the very text of the Bible.

Whereas that would have been the equivalent of what the Turkish State has now taken it upon itself to do. It sees itself as the Caliphate, and indeed as far more than the Caliphate.

Be afraid. Be very, very, very afraid.

But What If He Didn't?

Look at today's papers and ask yourself how, if Levi Bellfield is ever charged with the murder of Milly Dowler, he can ever receive a fair trial.

As We Mean To Go On

The evil plan for a "supercasino" in Manchester has been abandoned. Now we need to build up the pressure against the remaining plan for dozens of miniature versions, as well as for the reclassification of cannabis at least as Class B, for the end of 24-hour drinking, and for both the enactment and the enforcement of proper laws against all aspects of the sex industry.

The spirit of Fabianism and Christian Socialism may be a long way from where Brown has ended up. But at least, unlike his predecessor, he has ever heard of such things. And some things, you never lose. Try as you might.

Open Arms

If the “liberation” of Iraq is in fact any such thing, then why are these people in any danger at all? Why are they not being lauded as heroes by the Iraqi people?

A World City No More

Far from an extra terminal at Heathrow’s being good for London, who could possibly wish to live there, or even visit, once it were up and running?

Education, Education, Education

Yet more talk of "business" deciding the content of degrees. What's it to them? Education is education, and training is training. Both are vital. But "business" should not seek to palm off the cost of training onto education.

Monday 25 February 2008

Get Over Her!

This evening, BBC Four will broadcast yet another programme about Margaret Thatcher. 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.

Nor did she come from a humble background, unless you are comparing it with that of David Cameron or George Osborne. By that measure, even the Royal Family are just nouveaux riches immigrants. Thatcher’s father was a prominent local businessman and politician who ran most of the committees and charities for miles around. He sent her to a fee-paying school (it isn’t now, but it was then), and then put her through Oxford without scholarship. She was born into the upper middle class, married within it, and devoted her political life to its supremacy both over the lower orders and over toffs.

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, 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.

Get over her!

Who Needs The Tories?

All credit to John Bercow for voting in favour of the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill. But it really has come to something when the Labour Party is too right-wing for an old Federation of Conservative Students hand, an erstwhile Secretary of the Race and Repatriation Committee of the Monday Club. With a Labour Party like that, who needs the Tories?

Well, it needs the Tories. The Tory bogeyman does not in fact exist (only eleven of them, plus two tellers, turned up to vote against this Bill), but the fear of it is the only reason why anybody is still a Labour MP, a Labour activist, a Labour member, or a Labour voter.

Ralph, Don't Run

Well, not unless the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton after all.

Then people who could not bring themselves to vote for the actually preferable John McCain could vote for Nader and still keep out Bush's nearest thing to a continuity candidate, who threatens a full-blown return to the Administration that gave America and the world NAFTA, GATT, the bombing of Yugoslavia to smithereens, the adventures in Somalia and elsewhere, and the spectacular failure to deliver universal healthcare.

But Obama is still better than McCain. So if the Democrats nominate Obama, then, please, Ralph, don't run.


No clue about healthcare? The very idea! Where can Obama possibly have obtained such a notion?

School's Out For Cameron

Peter Hitchens writes:

The worst scandal in this country is the way politicians arrange specially good schooling for their own children and force bad education on everyone else.

However many times it is exposed, it goes on unaltered because the political class have neither the wit nor the courage to restore selective schooling.

I won't list here all the ways in which Labour politicians fiddle their young into the best State schools, or pay fees, or discover a deep religious faith, or hire private tutors.

There are so many.

But let's just recall the case of Anthony Blair, who, while trilling "what I want for my own children, I want for yours", wangled his brood into a unique selective school beyond the dreams of millions.

And he never even pretended to be ashamed.

Well, we are now on the brink of a similar scandal, only this time involving the Tory leader.

As part of his conversion of his party into a copy of New Labour, David Cameron has announced that he hopes his children will be educated in State schools.

What he means is that he hopes, Blair-like, to get them into exceptional State schools, far better than the rest, then bask in the socialist virtue of his action.
And just now he is waiting to discover if he has succeeded. I won't name the poor innocent child.

But Mr Cameron has publicly said that he wants her to go to St Mary Abbots, a first-rate Anglican primary in the heart of Kensington in London.

Applications have just closed. Last year, 95 children pursued the 30 available places at St Mary Abbots.

I expect it will be just as tough this year.

The admissions rules are very strict, with priority given to those with "special needs", then to brothers and sisters of existing pupils, and then to those who are committed churchgoers at various levels – rules which might just favour the increasingly devout Camerons.

I really hope the school has enough sense to tell Mr Cameron to stop being silly and go away.

He is asking for many kinds of trouble.

He can easily afford private schooling. Why then deprive a poor home of a place at a rare good school?

If his child wins a place, there will certainly be disappointed parents, not so wealthy as the Camerons, who will be convinced that the selection has been rigged in some way.

Picture the headlines.

Mr Cameron's propaganda team will then try to attack the media for invading Mr Cameron's privacy.

No, he has invaded his own, by putting propaganda first, his own child second and everyone else's children third.

He should follow the example of his colleague George Osborne and pay fees.

And if he truly wants to help the State school system, he should drop his selfish, dogmatic opposition to the creation of more grammar schools.

But see also here.

How To Avoid Subjugation To China

The EU is vexed that it imports so much from China, yet exports more to Switzerland (whose existence it barely acknowledges - look at the map on Euro notes) than to the People's Republic. Well, I have an idea. Why not import nothing from China, or anywhere else, that could not be made, not even in the EU, but in the specific country in question? Why not have laws to that effect, and enforce them vigorously? It's just a thought.

Cuba: The Caribbean China

Everyone seems to be very happy that Cuba is going to adopt the "free" market, and quite resigned to the fact that Cuba is not going to adopt liberty or democracy. That is exactly the wrong way round. One China in the world is enough.

Jam Tomorrow

The conclusion of The Jam Generation on Radio Four last night was hilarious to the point of hysteria, although I assume unintentionally so. On, and on, and on these alleged breaks with the Baby Boom whinged about Parliament's Gothic Revival architecture and stylised forms of debate. Well, why do they want to be in it, then? And I hesitate, but what would they have instead, and why? Of course, the Boomers grew out of this, so we can only hope that they will, too.

Anyone doubting that Thatcherism was the linear continuation of the Swinging Sixties, with Blairism as the linear continuation of that, needed do no more than tune in. Priceless.

Stormont: Like Westminster Used To Be

If Northern Ireland Assembly members are overpaid, then they are certainly not alone in that. But the voices to that effect are from those who would be the London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, or indeed Dublin-style Political Class in Belfast, if there were such a thing. Mercifully, there is not. Instead, the composition of those in and around the Northern Ireland Assembly is strikingly diverse, not just politically, but also socially, economically and generationally, like Parliament used to be. Long may it remain the case. These politicians are not "unqualified". They are your betters.

Liberal Democracy

The Lib Dems want the UKIP votes, concentrated in the South, at the next General Election, by which time UKIP will certainly have collapsed materially, and probably also formally. Hence their call for a referendum on EU membership, something that the fanatically Europhile Tory high command dare not support.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Mike Hancock, the Lib Dem MP who courageously told last night's Week In Westminster that the Lisbon Treaty was unacceptable because his constituents had the right to know that the laws to which they were subject were made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

But why, then, does he want a referendum. He should simply oppose the Treaty on the floor of the House of Commons, because it extends the legislative power of a body which meets in secret and publishes no Official Report (hardly liberal or democratic), and because it fails to abolish the Common Fisheries Policy (a very serious problem in the Lib Dem heartlands of the West Country and rural Scotland). There is no need for a referendum.

The Tories refuse to say which way they would campaign in the event of a referendum, or which way they would vote at Third Reading if the Bill contained a referendum clause by then. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems need a Big Issue comparable to Iraq. This could be it. And, as over Iraq, they would be right.

Vince Versus The Non-Doms

I can't find the link, but Vince Cable had a splendid article in yesterday's Mail on Sunday. At last, a major politician attacking the whole concept of non-domicile status, and saying that it has to go. The Lib Dems as a bunch are a combination of the ludicrous and the poisonous. But several individual Lib Dems are superb. And Cable is one of the very best.

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Sunday 24 February 2008

Obama-Webb: A Sign To The World

The people (not the Political Class) of every other country in the Western world is crying out for the emergence in the United States of a coalition committed to the advancement of the great American middle and working classes on the basis of their common interests, including the protection of workers and consumers, family values, fair trade and fair tax, carefully controlled and strictly legal immigration, universal healthcare, constitutional checks and balances, Social Security, national security, environmental responsibility, energy independence, Civil Rights without discrimination, Second Amendment rights and responsibilities, foreign policy realism, America as an English-speaking country, and co-operation between government and private charity.

We long for the determined building up of such a majority at local, state and federal level, to set the tone for the building up of very similar majorities in our own countries.

Obama-Webb is the ticket to begin that process. Jim Webb and others, not least Republicans and Independents, who have come out for Obama indicate that, while a victorious McCain Coalition might be the beginning of such a movement (and John McCain is extremely unlikely to go around starting wars - it is not war veterans, but draft dodgers, who do that), a victorious Obama Coalition is bound to be that beginning, simply because of the composition that had made it victorious.

Expect A Lot More Of This

The only surprise in any of this is that those in question would want to join the Tories, who are affiliated to the European People's Party, as is Turkey's ruling AKP, the leaders of which are in no sense "former Islamists" and would not have been elected if they were.

Apart from that, this sort of thing is entirely predictable, and set to become increasingly common. The Tories' vehicles toured Ealing Southall proclaiming in various South Asian languages that Muslim, Hindu and Sikh festivals were to be made public holidays by the Tories. Then that party's "Quality of Life Commission" (don't laugh, it's real) published a report advocating that "local communities" be given the power to designate three public holidays in their respective localities.

In other words, the Tories are going to go around Asian areas at the next Election making this same promise all over again, adjusted according to how Muslim, Hindu or Sikh the particular constituency, ward or addressee happens to be.

After this, what else are these unspecified "local communities" going to decide? Who are they, exactly? I think we all know that they are the great and the good of the local mosque, mandir or gurdwara. Getting to decide this, and then a whole lot more, is to be their price for getting out the vote, sometimes consisting of nothing more than reminding their mates to fill in postal ballot papers the right way on behalf of their entire households.

These situations will easily perpetuate themselves, since people will move - not just from around the country, but from around the world - to live in these little Caliphates, Hindutvas and Khalistans.

Portillo Again

He's becoming tiresome on The Moral Maze (which I'll hear live this week - the dear old Univerity of Durham seems to be having a week's break from SCR functions), this time telling a Jesuit priest and clinical psychologist from Oxford that "most of your audience don't believe in God". But did the majority in so much as one ward describe itself as atheist, agnostic, humanist or of no religion at the last census? I think not.

On Balance

It looks as if the new City Academy in Consett is not going to be sponsored by Sir Peter Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation, and I am in any case a supporter of the consortium including both the local authority and the University of Durham. But with the serious likelihood that the man who runs a lapdancing club there, among other venues less than befitting what was once a proud town, is to have the license of another of his establishments extended to four of five in the morning, the balancing influence of an Emmanuel Academy seems positively attractive.

Saturday 23 February 2008

There Is A Better Way

147 Labour MPs (including John Prescott and Peter Hain) turned up on Friday to vote in favour of a Private Member’s Bill to do no more than honour John Smith’s ancient promise to give agency workers equal rights.

Good for the 147, of course. But why was this a Private Member’s Bill? And where were the other 205 Labour MPs?

There is a better way.

Fair Trade Is Conservative

Tate & Lyle will now only be using Fairtrade sugar. Charity by another name? Better than slavery by another name.

And yes, fair trade does conserve working practices supporting and supported by traditional family and community structures. Good.

In Tate and Lyle’s Belize, that means traditional Christian family and community structures in one of the Queen’s Realms, whose people this arrangement will help to keep inclined towards continuing the connection that is the Crown.

Charity, Christianity, community, the Crown: fair trade is conservative.

It’s “free” trade that isn’t.

A Clear View

Wahhabism will be the functioning state in the centre of Iraq sooner rather than later. After all, if in Kosovo, then why not there, too? And its Shi’ite twin has already been given the South. But the predominantly Kurdish North has been a different story. Until now. The rapidly re-emerging Caliphate of Turkey has moved in, with a clear view to annexation.

That is also why Turkey is in NATO, why Turkey is looking to join the EU, and why Turkey is run by the AKP, sister-party of our own Tories in the European People’s Party. The Turkish Tories’ rapidly re-emerging Caliphate is moving in, with a clear view to annexation.

Choose Life

The Dixie and Wright cases have led to calls for the restoration of capital punishment. Those calls are profoundly mistaken. Far fewer countries have the death penalty than is generally supposed, and far more American States never use it, or do not even have it these days. It hardly happens in the US outside Texas.

But the real point is this: the State has no more right to take a morally innocent human life (i.e., that of a wrongly convicted person) on the basis of mere judicial guilt than on the basis of, say, disability, or old age, or terminal illness, or still being in the womb.

So, when can we expect liberal America (New Jersey recently abolished the death penalty, even if only symbolically), and the UN (which recently called for a moratorium on the death penalty by a margin far too large to be put down to mere Western cultural imperialism) to act against those evils, too?

Nor is it coherent for a country to have nuclear weapons but not capital punishment. The solution to that incoherence is not the restoration or retention of capital punishment.

Take Back The Airwaves

Knowing that I am not without my trash TV side, a friend advised me to watch this week’s Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach, promising that it would give me something to blog about. Well, it certainly did. It was an extended ridicule of those who have the temerity to speak up for the Christian seventy-two per cent of this country’s population.

Specifically, it depicted a meeting which could not possibly take place, between Christian leaders and the writing and production staff of a soap opera. The latter would not give the former the time of day even at the allegedly public BBC or Channel Four, never mind at (as we were expected to believe) a privately owned commercial network.

A Christian lady was depicted wearing a wig, raising the question of whether or not Jews would ever have been subjected to this. No, of course they would not have been. Never mind Muslims.

Needless to say, we were treated to the usual schoolboy howlers about this and this, though mercifully not also about this.

Oh well, it at least it was ITV, which we do not own and which makes no claim that we do (but whose advertisers we can boycott, using the Net to encourage others to do so), rather than the BBC. Anyone doubting the uselessness of the Bush Administration, and the contempt in which the Republican Party holds those of whose votes it depends, need look no further than the failure to declare persona non grata the staff of the Corporation that made Popetown and actually broadcast Jerry Springer: The Opera. The BBC has been banned from other countries for a lot less than that. Yet Bush himself even grants the Beeb interviews!

I have written here and elsewhere about having the BBC Trust elected by the license-payers. There is also a very strong case for making the license fee itself voluntary, with payment constituting enrolment in the Trust, and thus effecting the right to vote and stand in such elections. Neither the National Trust nor the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is visibly on the brink of collapse. Yet far more people would join the BBC Trust than have joined either of those.

So Radio Three, Radio Four, BBC News 24, BBC Parliament, whoever takes on the mantle of Sir David Attenborough, and many others besides, would be more than safe. Popetown and Jerry Springer: The Opera, among very much else, would not be.

Nor could they hope for much of a hearing at ITV if it were re-regionalised under a combination of municipal and mutual ownership. Central government (with very tight parliamentary scrutiny) should replace local government in the application of this model to Channel Four.

On To Something?

There are times when I object virulently to Islam. And then there are times when I start to think that the Muslims might be on to something. If the Saudi religious police want to arrest badly-dressed boys playing loud music and “dancing” in public places in order to attract girls, then I can name several locations where they would be welcomed with open arms this very night, and every night. Can anyone else?

Now Just Too Widespread To Correct?

The BBC increasing gives interviewees the wrong by-lines. Last night, it managed to inform us that Roger Wilkin, the former US Assistant Attorney General and an elderly black man, was in fact “Senator Hillary Clinton”. Why is this sort of carelessness spreading as it is? And why is there never any sort of correction? Is it now just too widespread to correct?

Friday 22 February 2008

The Biggest Tent

Rod Liddle writes:

This is shaping up to be the greatest expression of European unanimity and togetherness since Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. From Gdansk in the Baltic to the Straits of Cadiz, the citizens of this fractious and culturally disparate continent are at last united. It is a remarkable achievement, when you think about it. What other politician in living memory would be able to bring together, in fervent opposition, a German Green, a Flemish supporter of Vlaams Beland, an Italian Christian Democrat and a French Socialist?

Tony Blair has not yet so much as announced his candidacy for the post of President of Europe, but already the barricades have been manned, Poles linking hands with Spaniards, Sudeten Germans with the Alsace French. Nobody seems to want him and yet his victory is already being seen as inevitable, a given. He is, you see, a great communicator; he has stature. It is said that he straddles the divide of old and new Europe, or at least hops between these two camps like a flea on a hotplate, one week offering succour to the Poles, the next kicking them in the teeth. His presidency would either offer a challenge to the Franco-German dominance of the European Union or ensure its survival: take your pick. Both possibilities have been suggested and that, in a way, is Mr Blair’s triumph as a politician, to be all things to all people while actually being no thing at all.

On the streets of Europe, as I say, he is trusted no further than you or I could spit. Both Left and Right are agreed that they would prefer almost anyone else in the world for the job. He has the support, we are told, of the already hopelessly beleaguered Nicolas Sarkozy, and at home of that political titan, that colossus, Denis MacShane. And yet from this narrowish base it has been blithely assumed that he will get the post. By him, at least. His old ally Angela Merkel seems to be fervently opposed, though, according to the Guardian, she expresses ‘great personal sympathy for Tony’. A German government source has said: ‘There is unease... Merkel is against. He made a lot of fine speeches about Europe but essentially stood on the sidelines when it came to concrete steps forward.’ Ah, you noticed that, huh?

When Tony Blair at last left Downing Street in the summer of 2007 he was immediately appointed peace envoy to the Middle East. Most people in the world, and especially those in the Arab world, suspected some kind of satirical joke had been played; with the possible exceptions of Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, was there anyone in the world less likely to secure the trust of Arab people than Tony Blair? But in fact it was an appointment which had been made in all seriousness, and so our former Prime Minister set about being the first thing the Jews and Palestinians have been able to agree about in 3,000 years.

However, the post has turned out not to his liking. He seems a little bored by it, frankly. Certainly he considered it of insufficient importance to secure his undivided attention, which is presumably why he took up extremely lucrative consultancy posts with the bankers JP Morgan and Zurich Financial. And of course proceeded to rake in the dosh with his lecture tours. The plight of the Palestinians proved to be less than compelling for a statesman of Tony Blair’s magnitude, especially when it became apparent that his role was not quite as magisterial, as self-gratifying, as he had imagined when he took up the post. And so naturally, given his stature, he began scouting around for a post which would be commensurate with his talents.

Now, at the time it was announced that he would become a Middle East peace envoy, most of us laughed like drains and wondered if it was possible for Tony Blair to have been given a less suitable post. Could there be any job in the world for which, by his previous actions, he had shown himself to be less able, we chuckled. Oh yes, indeedy — there could. Because while waging an illegal war against uppity Arabs sets the bar pretty high, you have to say his performance on all matters European over the last decade has been a model of serial deviousness, disingenuity and political failure, and has shown an extraordinary contempt for the voters of Britain. Both those voters who wish for a federal European superstate with its own constitution and — even more so — those who were implacably opposed to such a notion. It is not just the Eurosceptics who oppose Blair’s candidacy for the job of President, but the Europhiles too, who feel badly let down. Which is why the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg described Blair’s possible candidacy as a ‘display of vanity’. Nobody wants him.

His political failure over Europe has been perhaps the most striking of any politician in recent years. He wished for Britain to be a part of a single European currency and for a succession of powers to be devolved to Brussels. He has been absolutely clear that the nation state would inevitably — and mercifully — dissolve, that its time had gone. He described those who committed themselves to the notion of a strong nation state with an integral identity as being ‘practically outdated.’ He despaired of Britain’s apparent Euroscepticism among the great unwashed, but assumed that this opposition to the EU — which he blamed upon rank xenophobia, a regrettable island mentality — would in time winnow away. Much as he assumed that the economic benefits of a single European currency would soon enough make it impossible for Britain to resist joining in with the rest.

These two assumptions were quite magnificently mistaken; instead, British disaffection with the autocratic and bureaucratic institutions of Brussels spread like a virus among other member states, first to Denmark and then pretty much everywhere else. By the time Blair had been elected for a second time in Britain, Euroscepticism had become the default position of the populace of pretty much every member state, with the possible exception of Italy. At the same time, the idea of Britain joining the euro zone slipped further and further down the agenda. You will remember Gordon Brown’s hilarious five ‘convergence criteria’, economic conditions which had to be met in order for Britain to sign up to the euro. Britons travelling to continental Europe are these days welcomed by the locals, because we have more money to spend, more bang for our buck.

Now, given this defeat of all the PM held dear, you might have expected — from a principled politician — one of two reactions. Either he admits he got it wrong, cedes to the will of the people and shelves all attempts to divest Britain of more sovereign powers, or he argues that the British people were wrong, insists that Britain should become part of a European super-state and takes the electoral consequences. Blair, of course, did neither; he instead continued to pursue his own agenda by means of subterfuge, obfuscation and downright lying. And never more so than in his attempts to ram a European constitution down the throats of the British people, against their clear wishes.

Take the following as an example. At the very time that the Blair government was attempting, through chicanery and doctored security service dossiers, to take Britain into an illegal war which it did not want, government ministers were talking precisely the same sort of disingenuous and dishonest claptrap about the proposed EU constitution. In the spring and early summer of 2003, as those tanks rolled into Baghdad, Peter Hain, then the Europe minister, made the following three statements about the ‘constitution’ to three different audiences. This is what he said:

‘This is not a major change. There is no need for a referendum.’ (To the BBC Radio 4 PM programme.)
‘I am not saying it [the constitution] has got no substantial constitutional significance, of course it will have....’ (To the House of Commons.)
‘Our task is nothing less than the creation of a new constitutional order for Europe.’ (To the Financial Times.)

The rest of the time, Pete and other government ministers reverted to the approved government phrase ‘tidying-up exercise’ when quizzed about the parameters of the constitution in public. But we are aware now, had we ever been in any doubt, that the Lisbon Treaty was precisely a constitution in everything except name; we know this not least because the House of Commons European scrutiny committee has described it precisely thus — as being ‘substantially equivalent’ to a constitution for Europe. Furthermore, it is unlikely that those opt-outs which Tony Blair fought for — undoubtedly against his better private judgment — on tax, benefits, fundamental rights and, crucially, foreign policy, will have little legal status. They will amount, in effect, to hot air. But then I don’t suppose that Mr Blair will worry too much about that — indeed, quite the reverse.

Because here’s the supreme irony of it. If the post of President of Europe (or whatever ‘substantially equivalent’ phrase eventually comes to be used) does not have serious diplomatic clout and thus real power, then Tony Blair would not want it. In other words, he would only want the job if it is everything that New Labour has been telling us it won’t be over the course of the last half-dozen or so years.

The principal reason that continental Europe does not want Blair is, of course, the invasion of Iraq. And they don’t know the half of it. They know that a sovereign country was invaded illegally, against the wishes of the United Nations, at the behest of the US and its little manqué superpower Great Britain. They have seen the devastation and civil war which resulted as a consequence, of course. But they are not, by and large, aware of the chicanery and manipulation which was involved over here in order to swing a reluctant public and House of Commons behind what was Britain’s most disastrous foreign adventure since Suez. Perhaps somebody ought to tell them.

Still, there is at least one bright spot resulting from Mr Blair’s candidacy. The modest and agreeable Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg will not be able to believe the groundswell of support he receives from all corners of the continent. M. Juncker — a name which has the right sort of ring about it for an EU presidency — is considered to be the front-runner among alternative candidates. The name of Bertie Ahern has also been mentioned. Frankly, Blair aside, I couldn’t care less, so long as the job has not the remotest vestige of power over my country.

Meanwhile, there’s already a website devoted to making sure Blair does not get the job. It’s called and I think it’s being run by a bunch of pro-federalist monkeys. Never mind that — we’re all together on this one, it’s a big tent.

Education, Education, Education

The Guardian could not contain its glee yesterday at the "news" that you can send a white, "middle-class" (rich) child to any school at all and he or she will still go to university at the end of it. Apparently, this makes everything all right. Doesn't it?

Record Prison Numbers

But crime is falling. Isn't it?

By refusing to police the streets properly, those who are paid to do so, and those to whom they are notionally answerable, have created an explosion in the sort of disorder that is "low-level" unless it happens to you (they have made sure that it can never happen to them), giving them the excuse to demand and enact ever-more-draconian curtailments on the liberties of Her Majesty's free subjects.

As for the suggestion that too many people are being sent to prison (mostly by those uncouth non-London, or at least non-Islington, types on Magistrates' Benches), Mark Dixie has been found guilty of the horrific murder of Sally-Anne Bowman even though he had no fewer than 16 previous convinctions for sexual offences. Yet he was at liberty. How did that happen?

It happened because They have made sure that these things can never happen to Them.

And to hell with the rest of us.

The British Lieberman

As Joe Liberman was kissed on the forehead by George Bush, so Michael Gove kisses the feet of Tony Blair, who should now nominate him for Vice-President of the EU.

This is the Tories' strategy: "Weren't things so much better under dear old Tony Blair?" If you don't think that things were very good at all under dear old Tony Blair, then you cannot possibly vote Tory.

Gove also refers to the man he allegedly shadows as "Ed", and expresses, not just the Political Class's pathological hatred of local government generally (full of ghastly provincial people with those vulgar things called jobs), but its specific hostility to municipal involvement in education, because without that involvement there can never again be a functioning bipartite or tripartite secondary school system.

So long as there are LEAs, there might once again be grammar schools instead of selection by parental income. And that would never do. Would it?

The Language of Priorities

I'm mostly linking to this so that we can all laugh at the lies, and even more at the people who think that anyone might fall for them.

But there is also a serious point here. Whatever you might think of foxhunting, is the ban on it really more significant than any of the further 15 things listed below it, assuming for the sake of argument that they had really happened at all? If so, why?

Dependent Territory

Now that some attention is being paid to Diego Garcia, just Google for "Ascension Island Councillor Lawson Henry". This disgraceful state of affairs is only made even worse by the lack of media attention.

Of course, it was The Finchley Boadicea, alleged Protectress of the British Overseas Territories, who took away Saint Helenians' British Citizenship (now restored) in the first place, making herself known to them as "Maggie Thatcher, The Passport Snatcher".

In this, she was as patriotic as she was over the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Falklands (at least until the Argentines took her at her word and actually moved in), Grenada, and so much else besides.

Academically Excellent News

The University of Durham is rightly to co-sponsor City Academies in County Durham, in partnership with the local authority. The people who know about education are educationalists, part of the broader principle that the people who know about public service are public servants, something which, it must be said, academics sometimes have difficulty remembering that they are, but which no one involved in the running of these schools could be expected to forget.

The Political Class's infatuation with handing over public services to the private sector is a result of having little or no experience of that sector, and thus little or no idea that, however good it might be at what it does and however important that might be in itself, that has nothing whatever to do with running schools, or hospitals, or any other public service. Any opportunity to to keep public services public must be grasped with both hands, whether keeping schools public or keeping universities conscious of their public responsibilities. Universities should sponsor Academies wherever possible, in partnership with the local authority.

Thursday 21 February 2008

The Kosovo Fallout

See here on the global protests against the UDI in Kosovo; the opposition of Serbia's Albanians, Muslims and Roma; the plan by the German Left to sue Merkel for her illegal recognition; the Slovakian description of Kosovo as a Mafia state; the precendent set, and the reaction to it from Transnistria and the Basques; and much else besides.

Where Are You Really From?

What should be a requirement of aspirant British subjects, defined by their liberties under the Crown, not by their obligations to the Government of the day? And why?

David Cameron To "Ban" Forced Marriages?

Forced marriages are already illegal, in that they are null and void. So what is Cameron on about?

Cuba Is A Disgrace To The Socialist Name

Neil Clark writes:

It’s a country where the vast majority live in poverty, while a tiny, corrupt elite live in luxury. It’s a place where, 14 years after South Africa abolished apartheid, a form of it still operates. And it’s a country where you can be threatened with prison not just for criticising the country’s leadership, but also for querying a medical bill.

Welcome to Cuba, the ‘socialist’ paradise built by that great egalitarian Fidel Castro, who after 49 years at the helm has finally decided to hand over power — in the manner of a true democrat — to his brother Raúl.

My wife and I, as unreconstructed paleo-lefties who support Clause Four, free school meals and NHS dental provision, had long wanted to visit Castro’s Cuba. All the people whose views we respect had said that the Caribbean island was a progressive model whose policies on education and healthcare ought to be copied throughout the world. We went there last April desperately wanting to like the place — after all, if George W. Bush and other right-wing nasties hated Cuba so much, then the country must be on the right tracks.

But we returned home terribly disillusioned.

Neither of us had been to a country which was so utterly decrepit.

Stay on the officially approved tourist trail round the newly renovated streets of ‘Old Havana’ and you’d get the impression that Cuba was a tropical version of Switzerland. There are smart restaurants, designer shops and modern hotels. Wander a few streets away, however, and you’ll witness scenes of incredible dereliction. Dilapidated buildings with wires hanging out, streets that haven’t been resurfaced for more than 50 years, balconies that look like they’re going to fall down at any minute. In my travels in the Middle East and Asia, I’ve certainly witnessed squalor, but nothing prepared me for the back streets of Havana.

The average wage in Cuba is a pitiful $17 a month. The monthly ration which includes 283g of fish, 226g of chicken, ten eggs and 1.8kg of potatoes is barely enough for a fortnight, meaning most Cubans need to work the black market to stay alive. Things that we in Britain take totally for granted — such as toilet paper, toothpaste and pens — are luxury goods in Cuba. I’ll never forget the look of joy from an old lady when I handed her a couple of old marker pens and a coloured pencil.

For Fidel’s chums, life is somewhat easier. Despite its calls for further belt-tightening, the Cuban government last year ordered Series 1, 3 and 5 BMWs for all its ambassadors and a Series 5 model for Raúl Castro, who had taken charge of the country after his brother’s hospitalisation.

The heartbreaking consequences of Cuba’s currency apartheid were bought home to my wife and I on a Saturday afternoon visit to Havana’s Coppelia ‘Ice Cream’ park. To the right of the park gates was a long queue of Cubans who had only Cuban pesos. They have to wait on average two hours every weekend to get their weekly scoop of ice cream. On the left, there was walk-in access to tourists and the lucky locals who had convertible pesos.

Fifty years on, the Cuban revolution has turned full circle in a truly Orwellian fashion. Once again the locals find themselves excluded from the best beaches in their country, as they were under Batista. And prostitution, so rife in pre-revolutionary days, is back — the jineteras being the only group of Cubans allowed to enter the new purpose-built resorts.

US sanctions are routinely blamed by Cuba’s defenders for the country’s plight. But while sanctions are harsh and morally indefensible, there’s little doubt that they have been used by the regime as a smokescreen to cover up inefficiencies and corruption. Four years ago the head of the country’s largest tourism company, Cubanacan, was fired after millions of dollars went missing — the loss only coming to light after all state enterprises were ordered to transfer their US dollars into convertible pesos.

The totalitarian nature of Castro’s Cuba is no right-wing myth, but a reality. And you don’t have to be a political agitator to fall foul of the authorities, as my wife and I discovered. We had been told by our holiday rep that the hotel’s resident nurse would administer free basic medical care, but if we required the call-out services of a local doctor, we’d have to pay. After a day’s snorkelling I had a touch of ear-ache, so I popped along to the nurse’s office to ask if she had any medication. The nurse was a man, who after the most cursory examination of my ear pronounced that I had an infection which required antibiotics. How much would the antibiotics cost, I asked. About £60, he replied. As we were returning home later that day, I told him that I’d leave it till I got back. ‘Yes, but you still have to pay me £30 for this consultation,’ he replied. ‘But the services of the nurse are free,’ I said. ‘I’m a doctor,’ he replied.

Furious at being taken for a ride, my wife and I refused to pay and headed back to our room. But on trying to check out of the hotel later that morning, we were astonished to be told by the receptionist that if we did not settle the medical bill, she would ‘call state security’ and we would be arrested. We would not be allowed out of the country — ‘state security’ would apprehend us at the airport. The ‘doctor’ then reappeared to say that the rate — which had been set in stone — was after all negotiable, and that he’d accept £25. Forced into the corner and threatened with a night (at least) in a Cuban jail, we reluctantly paid up. ‘It’s nothing more than theft,’ I said to the ‘doctor’ as I handed over the money. ‘It doesn’t go to me,’ was his response. ‘It goes to the state.’

If the money from such scams really did go to the state — and towards improving the lot of the Cuban people — I wouldn’t have been so upset. But I strongly suspect that a share of my £25 will go towards the next fleet of BMWs for Castro’s cronies.

After the stress of our final day in Cuba, my wife and I were hugely relieved to leave the country. And when we were safely airborne, we both reflected that if any country was in need of a revolution, it was Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

I Owe Iain Dale An Apology

I have not been linking to him when he has been linking to me. Anyone else in that position, do please let me know.

"Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran"?

John McCain may have had a crass outburst, but would he really bomb Iran? Hardened old veterans like the decorated Jacques Chirac know better than to go around shooting up the world. That's done by draft dodgers like Clinton and Bush. So all eyes are now on Barack Obama's choice of running mate.

Now Who Are The Victims In Kosovo?

Peter Hitchens writes:

The shining-eyed, historically ignorant, idealists who imagined that you could solve the problems of Kosovo by invading it now have a great big baby on their doorstep, a new country that a lot of people don't really want, including its wretched Serb inhabitants. If the Serbs of Kosovo are persecuted and driven from their homes by Albanian nationalists, will we send a task force to overthrow the government of Kosovo? Of course not. The issue was never as simple as it as said to be, as we are now going to spend plenty of time finding out. The other bad legacy of the Kosovo war is that Washington and London decided it was easy to invade countries for their own good. So they decided to do it again in Iraq.

The Worsening Lib Dem EU Split

They could get themselves out of their worsening split on a referendum by saying that they were against the Treaty simply because it extends the legislative power of a body which meets in secret and publishes no Official Report (hardly liberal or democratic), and because it fails to abolish the Common Fisheries Policy (a very serious problem in the Lib Dem heartlands of the West Country and rural Scotland). So they are just going to oppose it in itself, without any need for a referendum, as the Tories refuse to do.

This would be no more (or less) of a change for them than when they abandoned Paddy Ashdown's interventionist foreign policy. Doing that did them an enormous amount of electoral good. So could this. And, as over Iraq, they'd be right.

Meanwhile, did you know that the Tories in the European Parliament, as good members of the European People's Party, voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty? No, I bet you didn't. But they did.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Bringing Back Britain

Why stop at the return of public ownership? Let's also bring back trade union rights, free eye and dental care, real local government, full employment, fair taxation, council housing, public transport, grammar schools, free tuition at a sensible number of universities attended by a sensible number of students, training in the skill trades, Police foot patrols, proper sentencing, zero tolerance of drugs, carefully regulated drinking and gambling, ostracism of prostitution and pornography, controlled immigration, Britain at the heart of the Commonwealth, an independent and realistic British foreign policy, British independence across the board, and the United Kingdom properly so called. Just for a start.

Can we do this? Yes, we can.

Why The EU Backs Kosovo

They are both Postmodern constructs, states without nations. There is not, never has been, and never will (since never can) be a European nation. And there is not, never has been, and never will (since never can) be a Kosovar nation. Nor does anyone in Kosovo even want there to be. They want there to be either a Serbian nation with Kosovo in it, or an Albanian nation with Kosovo in it.

Putin: Beyond The Propaganda

Matthew Roberts writes:

Even the editors of Time magazine can occasionally display some wisdom, and to begin the new year, they got two things right: first, they canned Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer; second, they named President Vladimir Putin ”Person of the Year.” Putin may not be very well understood in the America, but he’s certainly deserving of the prize. The recent Russian parliamentary election delivered his United Russia Party 315 seats in a 450-seat parliament. And with Dmitry Medvedev anointed as Putin’s successor, it appears that Putin will continue to wield influence as Russia’s new prime minister. Although some analysts have cried foul play in these elections, tampering would seem superfluous: Putin is one of the most popular Russian leaders of the past 85 years. Given the chaos of the 1990s, Putin has restored a sense of order and pride to Russia, and the Russians have demonstrated their devotion in these recent elections.

This affection is not shared by the American media elite, especially those in the neoliberal and neoconservative crowds, who usually have had nothing but negative things to say about the Russian president. Vice President Dick Cheney has warned that “opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade”; Michael Ledeen hysterically predicted that Putin wants to “Finlandize Europe.”

Regarding Putin’s recent condemnation of Kosovo independence—as “illegal, ill-conceived and immoral"—critics again have gone on the offensive. Calling Kosovar independence “inevitable,” David Satter, author of the doomsday Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State, writes in a National Review Online symposium, “Russia under Putin seeks to assert itself and, for that, it needs manageable conflicts with the West”; Tom Nichols criticizes Putin’s concerns as “pointless but hypocritical in the extreme”; James S. Robbins adds that Kosovar independence is a “very sensible redrawing of lines”; Ariel Cohen chimes in that Putin is “anxious to find points of confrontation with Europe and the U.S.”

The real hypocrisy in all this is that in backing Kosovar independence, these devotees of the war on terror (and quixotic cold warriors) are supporting the creation of an Islamicist state within Europe. Putin, by opposing this Trojan horse, proves himself to be the true patriot of the West.

But the hypocrisy does not end with Kosovo. Neocons are often willing to shelve the war on terror to help the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC), whose membership includes Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz, Michael Ledeen, et al. As John Laughland writes in the Guardian:

“The ACPC heavily promotes the idea that the Chechen rebellion shows the undemocratic nature of Putin’s Russia, and cultivates the support for the Chechen cause by emphasizing the seriousness of human rights violations. ... It compares the Chechen crisis to those other fashionable ‘Muslim’ causes, Bosnia and Kosovo—implying that only international intervention in the Caucasas can stabilise the situation there.”

After the recent elections, this chorus of condemnation has intensified. Siding with potential Chechen terrorists against a man who has exposed numerous terrorist networks in Russia, critics have painted Putin as dangerous and autocratic. But the real question, which the media talking heads fail to ask, is: What crime has Putin committed? Do any of his practices even resemble the system of gulags, mass murder of millions, and nuclear bullying of the Stalinist era? Is he planning to occupy Western Europe or bomb the United States any time soon?

Of course not. Putin’s real crime is that he has refused to play by the rules of globalization. In fact, he has done something rather remarkable, indeed, unheard of these days in most Western countries—he has sought to pursue policies that truly are in Russia’s interest. Putin recently commented, “Russians will never allow for the development of the country along a destructive path, the way it happened in some countries in the post-Soviet space.” In other words, Putin is uninterested in Wilsonian crusades in the Middle East, undermining his own economy with suicidal free-trade pacts, driving down wages with Third World immigration, or turning over Russia’s beloved oil and gas assets to multinational corporations. Putin is doing what he was elected to do: protect Russia.

And in doing so, Putin has proven himself a true Russian patriot. Concerning immigration, Putin has instigated rules to make even Rep. Tom Tancredo appear coy. Recognizing that illegal immigrants are driving down wages in an already depressed economy as well as inciting anger among Russia’s native lower classes, Putin has steered towards a path of attrition. He has sought to reduce the presence of foreign workers at wholesale and retail markets, which had become magnets to illegal immigrants. He said that authorities should “protect the interests of Russian producers” and “the native population of Russia.” In other words, Russians first.

While American “conservatives” like John McCain warn of the “intolerance” of the religious Right, Putin has overseen a true revitalization of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. Having been closed for nearly 70 years, the Solovetsky Islands, one of the holiest sites in Russian Orthodox Christianity dating back to the 15th century, have been repopulated by monks. And most recently, Christian teaching has returned to Russian public schools. As Clifford J. Levy reports in the New York Times:

“Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union ... localities in Russia are increasingly decreeing that to receive a proper public school education, children should be steeped in the ways of the Russian Orthodox Church, including its traditions, liturgy and historic figures.”

While it is nearly criminal to mention “Christmas” in American public schools, Russian teachers are openly instructing their students in the basic tenants of Christian morality, and with Putin’s blessing, the Kremlin has hosted Russian Orthodox priests to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the restoration of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Putin has whole-heartedly pushed for the inclusion Christianity in public life. As David Nowak, of The has observed:

“Not since Tsar Nicholas II has Russia had a leader so keen to embrace religion. Putin has made regular public appearances with Church representatives and has said the Church “plays a paramount role in preserving the moral pillars” of society.”

To all this Putin’s neocon and neoliberal critics will respond, “that’s great, but he has failed to liberalize Russia’s markets.” But why should he? To let Russian oligarchs auction off Russia’s natural resources to multinational corporations? The liberal-economic paradigm is alien to Russia’s traditions, and it would be un-Burkean to impose such a foreign order upon her. Russia has her own homegrown traditions and will chart her own course in the 21st Century.

Putin is no angel, but he is hardly the devil incarnate that many in the media make him out to be. Though he has continued some Soviet practices, Putin has mitigated them with Russian traditions and religion. He as also been prudent in recognizing that a complete break with the immediate past would be a disaster. He has sought to steer a course he feels reflects the long-term interests of the Russian people. In fact, he is pursuing a my-own-country-first policy that many Americans wish our own leaders would follow.

But inside the Beltway, the neocons at ACPC want to revive the spirit the Committee on the Present Danger and view Russia through the ideological glasses of the days of yore. Chicken hawks want an international conflict that is not in our interest against a country that is not a threat and to demonize a man who is in fact sensible and patriotic. Instead, we should extend the olive branch to Russia and recognize her as a nation of the greater West — a cultural, transnational body of which we are a part (or should hope to be.)

Tuesday 19 February 2008

The Santiago Test

As I sometimes have cause to tell people, if I wanted a government which persecuted those who engage in homosexual acts, then I'd move to Cuba. The American blockade has won the Cuban regime the sympathy of huge numbers of people who should know better.

Since there is both a Santiago de Chile and a Santiago de Cuba, I propose the Santiago Test: however you reacted to the death of Pinochet, then that is how you should react to the clearly impending death of Castro. Watch out for the people who don't pass the Santiago Test.

No Interest

Yesterday saw the demand for a fire sale of one of this country's largest mortgage lenders from a man with no mortgage on any of his three houses, and from his sidekick who presumably divides his time among the several properties that he will inherit with a baronetcy.

Obama Bin Laden?

I can't imagine anyone less likely to favour anything like Sharia Law than a Muslim-born convert to Christianity.

But Why?

But why would Saddam Hussein have wanted to attack the British bases on Cyprus? What on earth for? In the run-up to the Iraq War, I was repeatedly unable to secure publication in any newspaper for a very short letter asking that question.

And now we must prepare to ask why Iran would want to attack us, either. Again, what on earth for?

Christendom has no dog in any fight between Iran and Israel, and if the former really did take out the latter then no "retaliation" from elsewhere could make the tiniest bit of difference. For good or ill, Israel would just be gone, and that would be that.

Not that it's going to happen, anyway.

Tony Blair: Conspirator To Commit Multiple Murder

So says Fayed. And he's right. Just not about Diana and Dodi. About Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Socialist EU?

On came Ken Clarke last night, crowing away that the EU state aid laws would do for the People's Bank. Where did the demented idea that the EU is a Socialist project ever come from?

From The Balkans To Berwick

Of course, the real answer to the immediate Berwick Question (which no one will be asking in a fortnight's time, anyway) is the restoration of equal subjecthood to those Britons living in England, by means of the extension of the social-democratic provisions enacted by the devolved body in Scotland without using its fiscal powers and by the devolved body in Wales without even having any.

But the underlying Berwick Question, of whether or not the place has the right to decide the matter, has been answered by the US, the EU and, not least, the British Government. Berwick is a great deal more distinct than Kosovo (or Taiwan - watch that space after Kosovo). Not that that's saying very much, if anything.

Indeed, I am now styling myself David Lindsay MLP, which stands for Member of the Lanchester Parliament. That body was formerly Lanchester Parish Council. But if Kosovo can declare its Parish Council to be a Parliament, then so can Lanchester. As, indeed, can absolutely anywhere else at all.

Third World Britain, Part 94

A Pakistani student interviewed on the news last night asked, in a manner obviously intended to be rhetorical, whether there was any other country on earth where the Police went around hanging up election posters.

Well, here in the land of the Mother of Parliaments, the Police cars accompanying Tony Blair on the campaign trail last time had the words "Vote Labour" emblazoned immediately above and below the word "Police".

Of course, that was before the pay dispute.

But even so.

Bread And Butter Politics

Neil Clark writes:

"It is difficult to be kind when the price of everything is so expensive," bemoaned the Good Woman of Szechuan. Whatever would Berthold Brecht's heroine have made of Britain in 2008?

Make no mistake, what is making most people's lives a misery in Britain today is not anxiety about the distant prospect of sharia law, the infinitesimal chance of being killed in a terrorist attack, or the equally remote prospect of being arrested on terrorist charges, but how bloody expensive everything is.

We're being assailed on all sides: from our rip-off privatised utility and train companies, from local councils desperate to make up in increased council tax charges and fines the shortfall in funds they haven't received from central government- and of course from central government itself in the form of higher taxes on petrol, tobacco and alcohol.

The facts speak for themselves. Families are having to pay an extra £1,300 a year in household bills as food and fuel prices rise at their fastest rate for 17 years.

According to the AA, the monthly cost of filling up a car now exceeds £100 for the first time - with an average car now costing £106, compared with £90 a year ago. Our rail fares, which were already the most expensive in Europe, rose by up to 14.5% in the New Year.

Energywatch, the independent watchdog, calculates that the average household has to spend £1,020 a year on gas and electricity - over £100 more than a year ago.

And on top of all this, supermarket prices of basic essentials, such as eggs, butter, milk and bread are rising rapidly too. A report in the December edition of the trade magazine The Grocer records how the price of a basket of staple items was 23% higher than it was in July. Dairy prices are up 15.4% since January 2007, meat prices are 7.8% higher than a year ago.

And what do our feather-bedded, upper-middle class politicos do inresponse? Absolutely nothing. I'd wager that at least 90% of our honourable members wouldn't even know how much a pint of milk or half a dozen eggs now costs.

The rapid rise in the prices of everyday essentials affects the poor much more than the rich. "The richer you are, the lower the personal inflation you've got; the poorer you are, the higher personal inflation you've got," says the money-saving expert, Martin Lewis in Wednesday's Guardian. Millionaire City traders won't be much fazed by the rise in the price of a dozen free-range eggs from Sainsbury's from £1.62 to £2.35, but a pensioner forced to survive on the measly state pension of £87.30 a week (at 17% of average earnings the lowest in the EU), will be.

It's time the government stopped trying to remodel the world to the liking of a few neocon and "liberal interventionist" thinktanks and focused instead on ways to make life more affordable for hard-pressed Brits back home. That means renationalising our rip-off utilities and profiteering railway companies, bringing indirect taxes down by spending less on things we don't need - like costly illegal wars and hosting the Olympic Games, and, last but not least, bringing back that unfairly maligned 1970s body- the Prices Commission.

Bread and butter issues might not be as sexy as talking of Britain's "moral impulse" to spread democracy, or whether terror suspects can be detained for 28 or 42 days, but for most ordinary people in the country, they matter a damn sight more.

Or, as Brecht himself would have put it: grub first, then ethics.

Kosovo: EU Province

John Laughland writes:

There seemed to be no immediate consequences when, in 1908, Austria annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina. Vienna was in clear violation of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, which it had signed and kept Bosnia in Turkey, yet the protests of Russia and Serbia were in vain. The following year, the fait accompli was written into an amended treaty. Six years later, however, a Russian-backed Serbian gunman exacted revenge by assassinating the heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajevo in June 1914. The rest is history.

Parallels between Kosovo in 2008 and Bosnia in 1908 are relevant, but not only because, whatever legal trickery the west uses to override UN security council resolution 1244 - which kept Kosovo in Serbia - the proclamation of the new state will have incalculable long-term consequences: on secessionist movements from Belgium to the Black Sea via Bosnia, on relations with China and Russia, and on the international system as a whole. They are also relevant because the last thing the new state proclaimed in Pristina on Sunday will be is independent. Instead, what has now emerged south of the Ibar river is a postmodern state, an entity that may be sovereign in name but is a US-EU protectorate in practice.

The European Union plans to send some 2,000 officials to Kosovo to take over from the United Nations, which has governed the province since 1999. It wants to appoint an International Civilian Representative who - according to the plan drawn up last year by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN envoy - will be the "final authority" in Kosovo with the power to "correct or annul decisions by the Kosovo public authorities". Kosovo would have had more real independence under the terms Belgrade offered it than it will now.

Those who support the sort of "polyvalent sovereignty" and "postnational statehood" that we already have in the EU welcome such arrangements as a respite from the harsh decisionism of post-Westphalian statehood. But such fictions are in fact always underpinned by the timeless realities of brute power. There are 16,000 Nato troops in Kosovo and they have no intention of coming home: indeed, they are even now being reinforced with 1,000 extra troops from Britain. They, not the Kosovo army, are responsible for the province's internal and external security.

Kosovo is also home to the vast US military base Camp Bondsteel, near Urosevac - a mini-Guantánamo that is only one in an archipelago of new US bases in eastern Europe, the Balkans and central Asia. This is why the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, speaking on Sunday, specifically attacked Washington for the Kosovo proclamation, saying that it showed that the US was "ready to unscrupulously and violently jeopardise international order for the sake of its own military interests".

In order to symbolise its status as the newest Euro-Atlantic colony, Kosovo has chosen a flag modelled on that of Bosnia-Herzegovina - the same EU gold, the same arrangement of stars on a blue background. For Bosnia, too, is governed by a foreign high representative, who has the power to sack elected politicians and annul laws, all in the name of preparing the country for EU integration.

As in Bosnia, billions have been poured into Kosovo to pay for the international administration but not to improve the lives of ordinary people. Kosovo is a sump of poverty and corruption, both of which have exploded since 1999, and its inhabitants have eked out their lives for nine years now in a mafia state where there are no jobs and not even a proper electricity supply: every few hours there are power cuts, and the streets of Kosovo's towns explode in a whirring din as every shop and home switches on its generator.

This tragic situation is made possible only because there is a fatal disconnect in all interventionism between power and responsibility. The international community has micro-managed every aspect of the break-up of Yugoslavia since the EU brokered the Brioni agreement within days of the war in Slovenia in July 1991. Yet it has always blamed the locals for the results. Today, the new official government of Kosovo will be controlled by its international patrons, but they will similarly never accept accountability for its failings. They prefer instead to govern behind the scenes, in the dangerous - and no doubt deliberate - gap between appearance and reality.

• John Laughland is the author of Travesty: the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice

Kosovo: The End Of The World

Ian Bancroft writes:

The unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo's Albanians on Sunday February 17 has sparked a somewhat belated discussion about its implications for the international order; implications that no amount of diplomatic gymnastics will curtail and that are not solely limited to the precedent established for other aspiring secessionist movements.

For recognition of Kosovo's independence will contribute to the further erosion of two of the fundamental pillars of the international system - sovereign equality and the principle of the inviolability of borders.

Proponents of independence have largely justified their stance by maintaining that Serbia has forfeited its sovereignty over Kosovo due to the human rights abuses committed against Kosovo Albanians and its subsequent loss of effective control over the province since 1999. Analysis of each, however, illustrates several key weaknesses that undermine the case supporting Kosovo's secession from Serbia.

As the Badinter commission, established by the European community in 1991 to oversee the dissolution of the Former Yugoslavia, stated with respect to Bosnia and Herzegovina, "the right to self-determination must not involve changes to existing frontiers at the time of independence except where the States concerned agree otherwise". On this basis, Kosovo's previous declaration of independence in the early 1990s was only recognised by Albania.

The current case for independence is instead based in part upon the human rights abuses committed by Serbia under Milosevic. In their 2006 London declaration, the six-nation contact group made it clear that, "ethnic cleansing and the events of 1999 ... must be fully taken into account in settling Kosovo's status". While not doubting the severity of these actions, there are two fundamental shortcomings to this argument as a basis for Kosovo's independence.

First, it clearly ignores the plethora of human rights violations against Serbs and non-Albanians that have taken place since 1999, notably the March 2004 outbreaks of violence and the subsequent ending of Unmik's "standards before status" policy. There has been a systematic failure to ensure even minimum standards of protection for minority rights in Kosovo. According to Human Rights Watch, Serbs and other non-Albanian minorities have been subjected to "persistent intimidation and harassment". Since the arrival of Unmik in 1999, over 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have left the province, with data from UNHCR showing that only 16,452 displaced persons have returned.

In this context, recognising independence for Kosovo on the basis of human rights violations against Kosovo Albanians would concurrently justify a similar claim by Kosovo's minority communities.

Second, there is little to suggest that the human rights violations used to justify Kosovo's independence would return if alternatives to independence, such as substantial autonomy, were proposed as solutions.

The entire western Balkans region has made enormous strides in terms of democracy and human rights since the complicated disintegration of the Former Yugoslavia and its over-arching framework of protection and equality for its constituent peoples.
Since the end of an armed uprising by ethnic Albanians in 2001, Serbia has established multi-ethnic local governments and joint Albanian-Serb police patrols in the Presevo Valley in the south of the country, described by the International Crisis Group as "one of the rare conflict resolution success stories in the former Yugoslavia"; whilst self-rule and minority rights are constitutionally guaranteed in Vojvodina, the country's second autonomous province. Serbia's transition to democracy since October 2000 provides further insurance against a return to the pre-1999 situation.

A second main argument employed in support of independence contends that Serbia's loss of effective control over Kosovo, which has been under international administration since 1999, equates to a loss of sovereignty over the province. This argument, however, also contains a number of inherent flaws.

First, UN security council resolution 1244 clearly states that the international administration must "promote the establishment, pending a final settlement, of substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo". Therefore, the very existence of an international administration cannot in itself be used to justify Kosovo's independence through Serbia's subsequent loss of effective control. Accepting this precedent would have damaging implications for similar peace-building efforts as countries become increasingly weary about authorising missions that would engender a loss of effective control over their own territory.

Furthermore, as Unmik's presence derives from an illegal use of force by Nato, any change of borders justified by a resulting loss of effective control would constitute a changing of borders by military means - an act explicitly outlawed by the UN charter and one which the international community has consistently refused to validate throughout the postwar period.

Setting aside the prime doctrines that have underpinned the international order since the second world war provides the most dangerous precedent of recognising Kosovo's independence. Undermining both sovereign equality and the principle of the inviolability of borders collapses the crucial distinction between international law and politics, with detrimental implications for global peace and security.

Independence on the basis of a narrow analysis of human rights violations and the loss of effective control would dilute another clear limitation on the emerging doctrine of non-UN security council mandated humanitarian intervention and undermine future peacebuilding missions, in which the EU will invariably have a crucial role to play.

When speaking about the UN and the need to avoid "power battles" within it, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European commissioner for external relations and European neighbourhood policy, asserted that the EU must remind Russia that "we are members of the same club and that this club has certain rules". Quite what these rules are, however, is no longer clear.