Wednesday 29 July 2009

House Prices Up

No joy here.

The explosion in house prices has meant that most younger middle or upper-working-class people stand no chance of living out the middle-aged peak of their powers in properties remotely resembling the ones in which they grew up.

"Bricks and mortar" do not, at least ordinarily, constitute an "investment". They constitute a place to live.

Devon Cream

There were two political stories on last night’s Newsnight. Whoever normally decides these things must be on holiday.

The goings on in Totnes are a most welcome sign. In the course of each Parliament, each party should submit to a binding ballot of the whole constituency electorate its shortlist of two for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, and should submit to a binding ballot of the whole national electorate its shortlist of two for Leader. They should also submit to such a national ballot the 10 policies proposed by the most of each party’s branches, with each voter entitled to vote for up to two, and with the top seven guaranteed inclusion in the subsequent General Election manifesto.

Furthermore, we need a ballot line system, such that voters would be able to indicate that they were voting for a given candidate specifically as endorsed by a smaller party or other campaigning organisation, with the number of votes by ballot line recorded and published separately.

And we need to require all political funding to be by resolution of membership organisations, as well as parliamentarians’ staff to be appointed from lists maintained by such organisations in return for payment of at least half of those staff’s salaries, thereby requiring politicians and parliamentarians to have links to wider civil society.

Norwich North

As a Tory parliamentary candidate put it to me, following the victory of someone whose name already escapes me, his party now consists of “the thick leading the dead”. Her speech would have been just about acceptable if she had been 10 years younger, but I am not even sure about that.

This was a Tory seat until 1997, and most of it is in Broadlands rather than in Norwich itself. Crowing about winning it back is like the crowing about winning back Guildford or Wimbledon in 2005. How were such seats ever lost in the first place? It is like “Labour Wins Back Bolsover”. Except that Labour has never lost Bolsover. Oh, and the Tories’ vote actually went down.

But even so, ha ha ha ha ha. Gordon Brown thought that he could use the expenses business to get rid of a proper parliamentarian and put in some mannequin instead. Well, a mannequin is now the MP for Norwich North, all right. But she is a Tory mannequin, for all the difference that that makes these days. David Cameron, employer of the same trick, take note.

Right To Remain?

No. It is not.

The next stop after Kuwait should be Britain, with the lesson well-learned: never, ever get mixed up in the Middle East again.


The more coverage of Diego Garcia, the better.

And So It Continues

Following his well-deserved kick in the Mallochs, David Miliband has announced what we all know anyway, that talks with “the Taliban” (religiously conservative Pashtun nationalists – is there another kind?) go on all the time, just as talks with the IRA went on all the time. But the only British citizens in Afghanistan are there because of the war, albeit not all fighting on the same side. We have no abiding interest in the place. Indeed, we have no interest in the place, full stop.

The Government’s spiteful action over compensation calls for no comment beyond the words “Kevan Jones”.

Mary Riddell continues to do sterling work in The Daily Telegraph, not least rightly invoking Harry Patch against this war. How much longer are the right-wing papers going to carry on trying to defend the massive public expenditure, and the massive moral and social disruption, of this or any other war, in no better cause than to remake the world according to some blueprint drawn up in some faculty lounge on the American East Coast?

Can we have Lord Malloch-Brown as Foreign Secretary? Or possibly Mary Riddell? Actually, I quite like the idea of Shaun Woodward, with Quentin Davis moved to what remains of the Northern Ireland job, just to rub Cameron’s nose in it. Very Gordon Brown…

Positively Public

A maximum rate of interest? Of course. America didn’t abolish the maximum rate of eight per cent (yes, eight per cent) until 1980.

Lower water rates? Of course. Back in public ownership.

And the rail franchises sorted out? Of course. By means of renationalisation, quite enough compensation having already been paid out in the form of guaranteed public subsidies.

There were no birth defects in Corby when the British Steel works was still there, but only after it had to be taken down. Margaret Thatcher strikes again.

No Merit

It is not exactly an aid to convalescence to be confronted by James Purnell or Alan Milburn all over the airwaves.

Purnell was very expensively schooled and only went to Oxford (or any university, probably) in the absence of the grammar schools; that absence raises the gravest questions about the calibre, and thus the prestige, of Oxford and Cambridge. He made his political name by kicking people out of their wheelchairs and stamping on their heads. The money for wars, and to keep the City paying bonuses as if nothing had happened, has to be found from somewhere, and Purnell hit upon taking it from the poor, the old, the sick, the halt and the lame. He also used to chair Labour Friends of Israel, the peerage-selling criminal heart of the entire New Labour project. Once you know that, then his otherwise completely inexplicable rise suddenly makes sense.

As for Milburn, because there used to be hardly any social mobility, and because there is now also hardly any, people allow themselves to assume that there has always been hardly any. But there used to be an astonishing amount, particularly in the decades just after the War. And there was a reason for that. It was called grammar schools. Alan Milburn went to one (he is too old to have gone to a comprehensive). Still, don’t let that put you off them.


Hillary Clinton, feminist and Zionist, has never recanted her campaign promise to nuke Iran if so instructed by her Saudi, Kuwaiti or Emirati paymasters, woman-lovers and Jew-lovers that they are. On the contrary, she has just reiterated it, which as much as anything else plants in people’s minds the notion that Iran might ever need to be so treated.

Now that she no longer needs to garner either votes or contributions in New York, even Clinton no longer bothers to mention Israel among those whom America would wish to defend in the Middle East. In point of fact, whereas America has fought a war to defend Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, she has never fought a war to defend Israel, which (unlike, say, America’s new favourite, Syria) has never sent a single troop to any of America’s five major wars since 1948.

Daily Life In Weimar Germany

A pound for a line of cocaine. And genital herpes continuing to rise inexorably among the 16-to-24-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the “revelation” that cannabis causes psychosis among previously normal young men (much like the “revelation” that sun beds are bad your skin). Don’t expect anything to come of it, though.

Penny For Your…?

Payment for sperm donations? Do you know how they are obtained? There is a word for this sort of transaction, you know.

The Fight Goes On

No2EU emails:

CSU threatens not to support German ratification law for Lisbon Treaty
Handelsblatt reports that the CSU threatened not to support the law, as it wants to secure more power for the German Parliament following the Constitutional Court decision criticising the Lisbon Treaty. CSU General Secretary Dobrindt said that Angela Merkel's timetable to have the law passed this summer is not binding for his party, adding that "content goes before the timetable".

Meanwhile a comment piece by FAZ notes that "in the past euro-scepticism effectively existed in Britain and Scandinavia. Today it includes considerable parts of the elites in Eastern Europe and wide sections in Austria, the Netherlands, France and also in Germany. The German Lisbon Judgement wasn't coming from a maverick Court, but was a legal extension from public debate in a big member state."

New EU law on seasonal workers drives down wages, unions warn
Six Swedish trade union presidents argue in an opinion piece in Svenska Dagbladet that a law drafted by the European Commission could lead to wage dumping. They note that the law, which concerns seasonal workers born outside of the EU, is unclear and should therefore be scrapped.

Currently citizens from outside the EU can work for up to three months without applying for a resident's permit, provided that they fulfil the visa requirements. If the new European law is implemented, citizens from outside the EU would be allowed to work for a period of nine months per calendar year for a maximum period of four to five years. The agricultural sector along with the tourism and construction sectors are likely to be the most affected, should the proposal become law.

Critics warn that Stockholm Programme will create a big brother state
A new battle of privacy is emerging as the Swedish Presidency seeks to present the Stockholm Programme, which will be a five year plan for judicial cooperation within the EU. The programme seeks to establish goals for increased cooperation and exchange of information on everything from the Internet to migration. According to Henrik Alexandersson, noted blogger and member of the new Pirate Party, the sharing of intelligence between countries is hugely problematic and will paved the way for the creation of a big brother state.

EDA creates basis for EU military operations
Frank Slijper, an associate of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, comments on EUobserver that the European Defence Agency which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year has "slowly created a basis for the development of common military projects". Slijper argues that "the fact that the EDA has remained largely invisible to most people is deeply problematic". The constitution reads that "Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities", which is "directly linked to the development of the EDA, Slijper says. He concludes that such development without wider public consent and debate "risks undermining trust in the wider European project".

Butter mountains to return to the EU
EU agriculture ministers have agreed to continue buying off excess butter and skimmed milk powder until March 2010, despite plans to end the measure, amounting to a subsidy worth €27 million, Die Presse reports.

European Voice notes that the measures are expected to be signed off in October, despite objections from the UK and Denmark, who oppose the plans on principle. It notes that the Commission has bought 81,000 tonnes of butter and 203,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder this year. The extension agreed means that an extra 31,000 tonnes of butter and 50,000 tonnes of skimmed-milk powder is likely to be bought between September 2009 and January 2010.

Disgraced Tory MEP awarded medal for "vital contributions"
The Telegraph reports that former Conservative MEP Den Dover has been awarded a medal for his "vital contribution" to the public, despite a European Parliament demand that he return £538,290 in "unduly paid" expenses. Mr Dover also picked up a framed certificate "playing tribute to the representatives of the Union's citizens".

Sunday 19 July 2009

Thirty Bob

Keep an eye on Peter Hitchens’s blog for the unfolding story of the 30-year-old (not callow) Bob Ainsworth and the International Marxist Group.


No surprise that Digby Jones think that rich businessmen could run the country better than politicians. Rich businessmen always do think that. But when they are brought in, they are seldom terribly good, and frequently a very great deal worse than that. They cannot cope with people whom they cannot sack. But you cannot really sack the Civil Service. And you certainly cannot sack the electorate.

Resignation Issues

The idea of being able to resign a life peerage is completely beyond absurd. All this, just so that Peter Mandelson might one day have a safe Commons seat arranged for him in order to waft him into Number 10.

As for the end of the hereditary principle, lest the legislative process be contaminated by an aristocratic social conscience informed by muscular Christianity or by Recusancy, what a pity it will be no longer to see in action the practice of never voting for oneself. And the war against hereditary barons is also the war against trade union barons.

But there is a nettle to be grasped here. If the 92 hereditaries are to go, then let them be replaced by one person who has spent at least 10 years as a registered voter in each of the 99 units that are the English ceremonial counties, Scottish lieutenancy areas, Welsh preserved counties, and Northern Irish counties.

By means of STV if there were more than two candidates, each of those units would elect one person independent of party, who would then be raised to the peerage, with the process repeated every 20 or 25 years.

Taliban Country?

Three helicopters over my street at some point last week.

Better Direction

We must require every public limited company to have one non-executive director appointed by the Secretary of State for a fixed term equivalent to that of other directors, and responsible for protecting the interests of workers, small shareholders, consumers, communities and the environment.

Is The Pope A Globalist?

In a word, no.

Everything in Caritas in Veritate – the pro-life stuff, the pro-family stuff, the pro-worker stuff, the anti-war stuff, the lot – is wholly inimical to that approach.

But Caritas in Veritate seems to have been intended for publication in 2007, on the fortieth anniversary of Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio, but to have been delayed by events. That earlier encyclical first floated the idea of a “UN with teeth”, mirroring in the civil sphere the universality of the Catholic Church.

In so doing, it drew, in a manner actually rather more Benedict XVI than Paul VI, on the theology of the office of the Christian Roman Emperor, the Byzantine Emperor, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Tsar. And in many ways a very good tradition that is, too. But in point of fact, no such figure ever enjoyed in practice such sway over the whole world, or all Christians, or all Catholics. Many such a figure – not only Byzantine or Russian – was in serious conflict with the Papacy.

However, if there is still a comparable mission and ministry accorded by Divine Providence, then it has not been accorded to the UN, a wholly secular and in many ways far worse body. Rather, it has been accorded to the British monarch within each and among all of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, within each and among all of the Commonwealth Realms, within each and among all of the Territories dependent on or in free association with any of those Realms, within each and among all of the Crown Dependencies, as Paramount Chief of the Great Council of Chiefs of Fiji, as Head of the Commonwealth, and elsewhere.

Sunday Service

Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to repeal a law dating from 1906 and protecting the special character of Sundays. The first decade of the twentieth century was certainly not a high-point in France’s history as “the Eldest Daughter of Holy Mother Church”. It was in 1905 that France enacted a law, still in force, secularising all aspects of public life in a way which strikes most Britons as thoroughly draconian. For the very good reason that it is thoroughly draconian. Yet the very next year, France legislated to protect Sundays.

After all, church attendance in Britain was hardly, if at all, higher twenty years ago than it is today. Yet Sundays were completely different. They were much more as they are in France. It is not as if you cannot buy anything in France on a Sunday. But it is frankly unlikely to occur to you to want to. The whole mood and pace are totally different, as they used to be here. Sunday afternoon, in particular, is sacrosanct, set aside for family and contemplation. Again, as used to be the case here.

Any conservative would want to keep this. But Sarkozy is not a conservative. He is an economic neoliberal and a geopolitical neoconservative. He is in no sense a Gaullist. He knows nothing of the General’s Eternal France, to be defended against all comers as the General rightly defended her against all four of German occupation, Soviet infiltration, American domination, and the unbalancing of the nascent EU against French interests by means of British accession. Such defence against global capital is of no interest to him.

Although huge numbers of people would want them, we no longer have conservative and patriotic politicians, indivisibly pro-family and pro-worker, in Britain. The last place to try and keep anything like that alive has now been beaten into submission by a company owned lock, stock and barrel by the State and administered by the devolved Scottish administration. But France used to be different. Whether that is still the case, we will soon be able to judge as we see whether or not Sarkozy succeeds in destroying the traditional French Sunday.

The End Of The Beginning?

In defence of censorship and against its permanently adolescent detractors, Stuart Reid says some excellent things arising out of the case of Antichrist, which certainly could not have been shown in this country, and probably could not have been made almost anywhere in the Western world, even only 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, cinemas remain licensed by local authorities, which retain the power to ban certain films. They should ban Antichrist. That would not be the end. It would not be the beginning of the end. But it might be the end of the beginning.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Afghanistan: The Tide Is Turning Everywhere

Not before time.

Right there in The Daily Telegraph, Mary Riddell sets it out.

Speed, Bonnie Boat?

The traditional enforcement of Sunday observance on the Western Isles may be a bit severe. How odd, all things considered, that they never get to read Peter Hitchens. But I give Lewis two years from this coming Sunday’s sailing before it is in, so to speak, the same boat as the rest of us, with shop workers and others obliged to take Sunday work in order to make ends meet.

Here in England, at least, there is not even any enforcement of the law against the large supermarkets opening on Easter Day, and the penalties available would be derisory if such an enforcement were ever to be attempted. Behold the future of the Western Isles now that the largest has fallen.

Such are the totally anti-conservative fruits of the “free” market. And such is the true legacy of John “old maids bicycling to Communion through the morning mist” Major.

In the one corner of this Kingdom where it still exists, that Kingdom is about to lose, once and for all, something very, very precious indeed.

Day One

My, what fun and games in my inbox today, not least from within the hallowed portals themselves. If any Tory other than Dan Hannan is still in this new Group in a year’s time, then I will be quite beyond astonishment. And I won’t be the only one.

In the meantime, are there not other Groups that could propose measures and motions for generous welfare provisions, for public services in the public sector, for universal healthcare provided by the State, for workers’ rights, and for the public ownership of important companies? Much of this new Group would vote for such measures and motions. But then there would be the Tories.

Are there not other groups that could propose measures or motions to safeguard or restore family life in general and paternal authority in particular by safeguarding or restoring high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment such as coal-mining? Much of this new Group would vote for such measures and motions. But then there would be the Tories.

Are there not other Groups that could propose measures and motions for the payment of mothers to stay at home with their children, for adoption and against abortion, for palliative care and against euthanasia, in favour of President Obama’s support for traditional marriage (or, at the very least, against compelling anyone to conduct deviations from it), against sex and violence in the media, against State toleration of drugs and prostitution, against unrestricted Sunday trading, and against supermarkets opening on what are supposed to be public holidays for everyone including shop workers? Much of this new Group would vote for such measures and motions. But then there would be the Tories.

And are there not other Groups that could propose motions, perhaps on appropriate anniversaries, condemning by name all those (including Margaret Thatcher) who signed the Single European Act, and condemning Winston Churchill for his carve-up of Eastern Europe with Stalin? Much of this new Group would vote for such motions. But then there would be the Tories.

And so on.

Lost In The Post

What is this strike really about?

An EU directive requires full competition in postal services by 2012, so that the Royal Mail must deliver its competitors' letters as if they were its own First Class ones, yet for less than the price of First Class post. This necessitates cuts, both in postmen's pay and in Post Offices. The pay cuts have already led to strikes, of which there will be more. So, is anyone out there still saying that the EU is Socialist?

Meanwhile, that the "free" marketeers seriously proposed privatising something nationalised (to use the word anachronistically, I admit) by Charles II in 1660, and representing the most significant direct link between the monarchy and every household, business, organisation and institution in the land, indicates just how utterly unconservative the "free" market ideology really is.

Neoliberal economics, a total disregard for our heritage and institutions, and European federalism: all of a piece, of course.

A Class Act

Keeping out the children of the poor is the whole point of private schools, so I cannot see how increases in fees pose any problems, least of all when they are brought on by a failure to provide scholarships or bursaries. Charitable status has always been a squalid little tax dodge. How can you be a charity when you charge for your services? Not just in the cause of fund-raising, but for the “charitable” thing itself?

But there is a better way of abolishing almost all private schools, a way which was on the brink of working spectacularly when it as discontinued. Grammar schools. You know, the ones that eventually filled seventy per cent of Oxbridge places from the State sector. The ones that many of today’s private schools actually were (they often retain the name), and would be again, at least if the alternative were to go bust.

For if we brought back grammar schools, then we could put most private schools out of business within the 10 years or so that it would take to win them up administratively. That had been on the verge of happening when the grammar schools were abolished. If the grammar schools were in place, then it really would be possible to ask, “Why pay for something that you can get for free?”

Long-Term Care

Any preferential spending in Scotland (such as free personal care for the elderly, and such as the abolition of student fees), must be extended to the whole United Kingdom, paid for by a reduction in the block grant to the Scottish devolved body, which has its own revenue-raising powers with which to make up the shortfall. Easy.


However ill his wife may have been, Sir Edward Downes was suffering from nothing more than the infirmities of old age, which will come to us all eventually. Yet he could still receive assisted suicide within Swiss law. The day is coming, and cannot much longer be delayed, when Switzerland is going to have to answer for her rogue statehood on this question.

One To Watch

Jack Straw has announced that rulings of the new Supreme Court are to be delivered before the television cameras. His own Ministry of Justice was cut out of the Home Office as part of the same attempt as this Court give yet further effect to the attempt to import into this country the dangerous, and wholly foreign, theory of “the separation of powers”.

What of the Law Lords, of whom, as set out below, there are still going to have to be some? What of the Home Secretary’s role in determining sentences? Or of the numerous quasi-judicial functions of Ministers? Or of the fact that all members of the Executive are required to be members of the Legislature? Or of the fact that the judges make the whole of the Common Law?

This “separation of powers” line was also put about when the position of Lord Chancellor was abolished overnight in favour of something apparently sketched on the back of a beer mat. But the House of Lords is still chaired by someone in much the same outfit, which was actually presented by Blair as a serious, and even conclusive, argument for abolition. It is just that Baroness Hayman is not the Lord Chancellor. But so what, from that point of view? Meanwhile, until Straw there was still no Cabinet Minister accountable to the House of Commons either for the major front-line public service that is the Court Service, or for the enormous Legal Aid budget of public money.

Like the other examples given above, the office of Lord Chancellor was often described as an “exception” to "the separation of powers". Quite apart from the fact that such a doctrine cannot, by definition, admit of exceptions, so that their very existence disproves the doctrine itself, there do seem to be an awful lot of these “exceptions”, and they do seem to matter rather a lot.

In reality, the “powers” have never been “separate”, nor can they ever be so. One of them has to win in the end. In Britain, we have decided that it is to be Parliament, and thus the elected House of Commons within Parliament. Would we rather that the Prime Minister always had the last word? Or that, as in the United States (among other places) an unelected judicial body of lifetime appointees could simply rule that any matter it liked was “constitutional”, and thus reserved entirely to itself?

This is why, as is their wont, judicial theorists and constitutional lawyers habitually engage in more than a spot of wishful thinking where “the separation of powers” is concerned. They wish to see an American-style krytocracy in this country, where the judiciary is still drawn (unlike the Bar generally these days) from a very narrow social, socio-economic and educational base indeed. Presumably, that is what makes it so attractive to them.

The wretched Human Rights Act has been a major step in that direction. But mercifully, we still have instead the supreme legislative, executive and judicial authority of the Crown (i.e., of the nation embodied, regardless of party or anything else), exercised either by Parliament itself or by Ministers drawn from and accountable to Parliament. Within Parliament, the House of Commons has come to be elected by universal adult suffrage and, since the Parliament Act of 1911, to be supreme.

The Crown is the ultimate contradiction of the Franco-American, and in no sense indigenously British, theory of the separation of powers. And it is thus the ultimate guarantee that the United Kingdom (and each of the 15 countries with which we share the Crown) will remain a democracy, unlike either absolutist and historically coup-plagued France, or krytocratic America, to name but two.

And what of the the crowing of Scottish Nationalists, within and beyond the SNP, about Scotland’s exemption from the jurisdiction of the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom? No reason for this has ever been presented. There has been nothing more than the usual squealing that “Scotland is different”, for which no evidence ever does have to be presented. No matter that, in its days, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was the final court of appeal for everything from the tribal tribunals of the South Seas to the Sharia Courts of parts of British India, always applying whatever legal system was at issue at the time. One might add that there will therefore still have to be Law Lords, since several Commonwealth countries retain the right of appeal to that Committee. It is just that they will have no jurisdiction in the country in which they meet.

As much as anything else, at least this Court will be made of proper judges, whereas most of those who sit on the bench of the European Court of Justice are career politicians, sometimes with law degrees, but very often without even that. Yet from that bench may be struck down any enactment or judicial ruling anywhere in the EU, including Scotland. To accept and even welcome this state of affairs while objecting to the Supreme Court on purely Nationalist grounds is an eye-watering example of swallowing the camel but straining at the gnat.

Send It Back

It is very simple: no extradition treaty should have effect unless ratified by the other party, and none should be ratified unless it accords equality to the parties. That precludes, among a whole host of other things, extradition to the United States on nothing more than probable cause when prima facie evidence is required for extradition to the United Kingdom.

The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here?

Ad hoc tribunals to try specific individuals are inherently illegal. Amnesty International rightly made that point, and did so very powerfully, in its 2003 report into the trial of the Grenada 17. Yet in 2007 that same organisation welcomed the trial of Charles Taylor before just such a tribunal, and called for its proceedings to be broadcast in Liberia for “educative” effect.

Be he innocent or be he guilty, Taylor is being tried, if it can be so described, by an unlawful body: a specially constituted branch of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, itself a creature, not of international treaty-making and ratification, but of executive fiat on the part of the United Nations.

Thought For The Day

All right, so objections to it from the likes of the National Secular Society are a bit like demands from the Football Association that the cricket season be cancelled.

But when I think about it, I can’t see why atheist, agnostic, humanist and similar voices should not be heard on it. Buddhists, after all, already are. And the present situation is based on the wholly fallacious supposition that secular humanism is a neutral background rather than a position in itself.

The more exposure of just what A C Grayling’s beloved Classical philosophy really reads like when still unrecapitulated in Christ and His Church, or of just what his beloved “Enlightenment” philosophy really reads like when not subjected to any Christian critique (not least with regard to its own roots), the better from Christianity’s point of view.

The real question about Thought for the Day is that of where its contributors to come from. They rarely hold all that senior a position, and they were very seldom well-known beforehand.

Not Angels, But Anglicans

As the Episcopal Church in the United States prepares to secede quite merrily from the Anglican Communion, the dear old C of E seems finally to be cottoning on that “unity with Canterbury” is not the crux of Anglican identity to almost anyone outside England.

It is a strange feature of the Church of England that neither of its Archbishops is currently an Englishman, nor even, I believe it is correct to say, a native speaker of English (although all Welsh-speakers in Wales rather than in Patagonia might as well be). Both Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu are really figures of the Anglican Communion rather than of the Church of England. And the Anglican Communion was overwhelmingly created by people who did not like the Church of England.

Most were either hardline Anglo-Catholics or hardline Evangelicals, and had deliberately gone to the ends of the earth (by no means only within the British Empire) in order to escape from the Church of England and start again from scratch, keeping in touch for purposes of spiritual and material support only with parishes whose clergy were, and are, seldom or never made bishops in England.

The Episcopal Church in the United States is a product of the American Revolution, deriving its name and orders from the Episcopal Church in Scotland, which then had a recent history of armed insurrection against the Hanoverian monarchy, and which remains heavily concentrated in the area where the SNP is also strongest. The Church of Ireland has provided two Presidents of the Irish Republic (including the first), both in the days when that Republic’s Constitution still laid claim to “the whole island of Ireland”.

And so on, and on, and on.

It is no wonder that there is such bafflement at the smug English oligarchic suggestion that Anglican identity consists in unity with whoever some Muslim or atheist Prime Minister of the United Kingdom chooses to give a seat in the British Parliament. It is not so much that most Anglicans have, say, moved away from that sort of thinking. It is that they had never, ever heard of it in the first place.

Monday 13 July 2009

A Scandalous Lack

Specifically, the scandalous lack of the political will to pull out of Afghanistan.

Eighteen? Good God, they were only just leaving primary school when this war started. They won’t even have remembered John Reid’s assurance that not a shot would be fired.

And speaking of primary schools, it is presumably those, along with clinics, that are being built by what I see that we are supposed to call this “mission”…

Better The Devil You Know

Those making trouble in Ardoyne really just looked like tanked-up teenagers on a summer’s evening. At most, the whole thing was a cry of impotent rage by those whose party has given up, and joined the Establishment with bells on.

But they might consider that the overall control of the British State is their safeguard against rule by people whose own history on the matter is thoroughly ambivalent, and who think that it is normal British behaviour to march through the streets behind a Union Flag while wearing a bowler hat. In the heads below those bowler hats still simmers the idea of an Orange Free State, of “a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People”, of Scots-Irish self-government approaching or even actually constituting Dominion status.

It was to protect the Catholics against something very much in that vein that the troops were first sent into Northern Ireland, where they were initially welcomed accordingly. More to keep the Americans sweet than anything else, any future exercise of overall British sovereignty would have to be made to look like a joint enterprise with Dublin. But no Dublin politician really cares tuppence about Northern Ireland, and they have not the resources to do anything even if they had the will.

It was always Stormont, and the accompanying failure of the mainland parties to organise (all of them, or there is no point in any of them), that was the aberration. Bloody Sunday, or any other grievance you care to mention on either side, could never have happened in any city where the inhabitants had a say in choosing or changing the Government.

As Sinn Féin struggles to survive as an all-Ireland party once the Adams-Maguiness generation steps aside (what do its contingents in the two states really have in common?), as the Republic secularises and casts off her Gaelic heritage even more starkly and rapidly than she has already done, and as the reality dawns that the Good Friday Agreement really means a permanent First Minister in the sash his father wore, Catholics might finally wake up to the fact that, at least if dressed up as a London-Dublin joint effort, a thoroughly activist role for the Government of the United Kingdom is exactly what they need, and is in fact their last hope.

Question Time

Tomorrow, the new European Parliament will convene, chaired by its oldest member, Jean-Marie Le Pen. This should bring home to people the nature of those to whose legislative will we are subject there, in the Commission, and in the Council of Ministers. It should also disabuse anyone of the notion that the BNP is anti-EU in principle.

Having MEPs was the reason given, quite explicitly, for putting UKIP and the Greens on Any Questions? and Question Time. So the Beeb’s great and good are beside themselves, since, if the BNP took them to court over not having them on, it would win hands down.

And why not?

If utterly unrepentant old hands of the Communist Party (at the time the paid agents of an alien power), of Trotskyism, of the International Marxist Group, of the nominally Labour faction of Soviet fellow-travellers, of IRA fund-raising, of the Paedophile Information Exchange and Paedophile Action for Liberation, of the “free”-marketeering agitation for everything from the legalisation of heroin and cocaine to the legalisation of sex with children, and of the hired help of apartheid South Africa and Pinochet’s Chile, are allowed on, then why not the utterly unrepentant old hands of the National Socialist Movement and of the National Front?

If supporters of the funny money PFIs, or of the wholesale privatisation of local government services, or of NHS charges (though only in England and only for those under 60), are allowed on, then why not those whose views on, say, race or the death penalty may be wrong, but are nowhere near as unpopular as any of those?

And if supporters of the Iraq War are allowed on, then why not those who probably do not hold a single opinion, however odious, anywhere near as unpopular as that?

Banking On It

UKFI has said it, pretty much in so many words: no one is ever going to want to buy the nationalised banks, so they are going to be in public ownership for ever.

So much for following academic Marxism’s change of tactics from the economic to the social, cultural and constitutional, abandoning along the way any pretence at concern for the interests of ordinary people.

So much, in other words, for New Labour.

Gordon’s Girls

Not “Gordon’s Women”, since their behaviour is thoroughly immature. Having exhausted all other excuses for its treachery, the embittered Blairite rump is now claiming that Gordon Brown is misogynistic. So, unalliterative though it is, “Tony’s Girls” might be more appropriate. Tony’s Girls of both sexes, just as Tony’s own was always rather difficult to ascertain.

First, They Came For Demjanjuk

All the way back in 1969, when (indeed, precisely because) many senior and numerous middle-ranking Nazis were still alive, the Germans granted themselves a general amnesty.

That is why they now feel the need to track down any poor Slavic squaddie in his extreme old age in order to “try” him, far beyond absurdity, as an accessory to twenty-eight thousand murders, none of them committed in Germany, a country of which he has never been either a citizen or a resident.

We should take note. To assuage much the same guilt, some poor British squaddie may very well be made to pay for the letting off the hook of every American who really mattered in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Saving Marriage

The obvious way to make divorce more difficult is to make marriage more difficult. At the very least, no one under 21 should be able to get married. Any further suggestions?

Mind The Grammar

Articles in the right-wing press calling for grammar schools are suddenly all the rage.

For donkey’s years, the party of the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty has been allowing people to assume that it was somehow less than rabidly Eurofederalist merely because of the articles that appeared in those papers.

And now, the party of Margaret Thatcher, which recently, and entirely true to form, voted for a Government Bill to ban the creation of any more grammar schools, seems to be trying to pull off much the same trick a second time.

Be not deceived.

Guess Who?

Lord Owen wants Gordon Brown to appoint a Richard Holbrooke-like figure, “not necessarily Labour”, to co-ordinate policy in relation to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whoever could he have in mind?

Almost Exactly Identical

Today, we learn that there are twenty-nine thousand publicly maintained politicians in this country. And thirty thousand people engaged in organised crime.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Murdoch: Who Cares?

Most Times and Sunday Times readers have no idea that they are buying Labour-supporting papers, and would switch to the Telegraph if they ever cottoned on. However good Sky News might be, hardly anybody watches it. Apologies to Fraser Nelson, but no one ever bought the News of the World for the politics.

And as for the Sun, half of its readers always did vote Labour, while most of the other half had already decided to do so a period of years before it followed suit (or, indeed, before anyone other than political anoraks had ever heard of Tony Blair) in order to preserve its privileged access to Ministers. If it is now pro-Cameron, then that is for the same reason.

The real story is that Andy Coulson sashayed effortlessly from editing at least notionally a Labour-supporting paper to being Cameron's Head of Communications. Such is the One-Party State of Britain, now so entrenched that no one even remarks on it any more.

Of Country Estates and Council Estates

That the Tories are coming round to the value of council housing is not only most welcome in itself (although it remains to be seen what will become of this in practice), but a reversion to their own tradition, which also includes the nationalisation of electricity between the Wars, the commitment to the NHS in all three manifestos in 1945, and the refusal of the Tories to abolish it, more or less bankrupt though it was, when they could perfectly easily have done so in 1951.

However, as with so many things (including opposition to the war in Afghanistan), people should vote for candidates who have been saying these things continuously, as no party has been doing. And they need to organise those candidates in order to be able to vote for them.

The Twelfth

The Pope first gave the Kings of England the Lordship of Ireland. A Papal Blessing was sent to William III when he set out for Ireland. The Lateran Palace was illuminated for a fortnight when news of the Battle of the Boyne reached Rome. The Bourbons were Gallicans, holding to the quasi-Anglican theory of an independent French Church under the control of the King. And the Stuarts were by then not only married into, but salaried employees of, the Bourbons.

During the 1798 Rebellion, the staff and students of Maynooth sent a Declaration of Loyalty to the King. The tiny number of priests who adhered to that Rebellion were excommunicated, the bishops calling them “the very faeces of the Church”. Into the nineteenth century, Catholic priests participated in the annual prayer service at the Walls of Derry, an ecumenical gesture with few or no parallels at the time. Jacobite and Hanoverian were always united in supporting the closest possible ties among the historic Kingdom of England (including the Principality of Wales), the historic Kingdom of Scotland and the historic Kingdom of Ireland.

Prominent Belfast Catholic laymen chaired rallies against Home Rule, with prominent Catholic priests on the platforms. There were numerous Catholic pulpit denunciations of Fenianism, which is unlike any of the three principal British political traditions in being a product of the French Revolution. Hence its tricolour flag. And hence its very strong anti-clerical streak, always identifying Catholicism as one of Ireland’s two biggest problems.

Jean Bodin’s theory of princely absolutism, held by the Stuarts and their anti-Papal Bourbon cousins, was incompatible with the building up of the Social Reign of Christ, subsequently the inspiration for all three great British political movements. Likewise, ethnically exclusive nation-states deriving uncritically from the Revolution do not provide adequate means to that end.

By contrast, the absence of any significant Marxist influence in this country has been due to the universal and comprehensive Welfare State, and the strong statutory protection of workers and consumers, the former paid for by progressive taxation, and all underwritten by full employment. These are very largely the fruits of Catholic Social Teaching.

Such fruits have been of disproportionate benefit to ethnically Gaelic-Irish Catholics throughout the United Kingdom. Even in the 1940s, Sinn Féin worried that they were eroding its support. She who led the assault on these things remains a Unionist hate figure, since the Anglo-Irish Agreement is an integral part of any Thatcherism honestly defined.

Only an industrial or post-industrial economy, not one built on the sands of EU farm subsidies and film-making, can make provision such as existed before Thatcher. A United Ireland would exclude therefrom people who would otherwise participate in it.

Northern Ireland has both a large bourgeoisie and a large proletariat, like the rest of the United Kingdom, but unlike the Irish Republic. Gaelic-Irish Catholics are to be found in large numbers in Northern Ireland’s middle and working classes alike. Many bourgeois and proletarians in Great Britain are ethnically Gaelic-Irish, devoutly Catholic, or both.

Middle-class expansion since the Second World War, like the civilised intellectual and cultural life of the pre-Thatcher working class, was in no small measure due to the Catholic schools. The only way to maintain the Catholic school system in Northern Ireland is to keep Northern Ireland within the Union.

For each of this Kingdom’s parts contains a Catholic intelligentsia, whereas the Irish Republic’s is the most tribally anti-Catholic in the world. There are precious few Mass-going, and no ideologically Catholic, politicians, journalists, radio or television producers, or other public intellectuals. Rather, the memories of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce are venerated. Anyone who objects to even the most extreme decadence is accused of wishing to “return” to “the bad, old, repressive Ireland.” The Republic’s Catholic schools, among much else, are doomed.

As would be Northern Ireland’s, if Sinn Féin had its way. Under the pretext that they teach through the medium of Irish, wholly and militantly secular Sinn Féin schools are being set up at public expense, in direct opposition to the Catholic system, by the Sinn Féin Education Minister. Her exclusion of Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist clergy from their historic role in the government of schools is the dry run for her party’s openly desired exclusion of the Catholic Church from schools throughout Ireland.

Furthermore, there is no desire in the Republic, either for the much higher taxes necessary to maintain British levels of public spending in “the Six Counties”, or for the incorporation of a large minority into a country which has developed on the presupposition of a near-monoculture.

The Civil Rights Movement was explicitly for equal British citizenship, not for a United Ireland. Even the old Nationalist Party, never mind Sinn Féin, was permitted no part in its early organisation. And it was classically British Labour in identifying education, health care, decent homes and proper wages as the rights of citizens, who are demeaned precisely as citizens when they are denied those rights. The fruits of Catholic Social Teaching, indeed.

Irish Catholics hate Great Britain so much that they live here in enormous numbers. Those from Northern Ireland very, very rarely move to the Republic, and characteristically say that, if they have ever been there at all, then they have never felt so foreign in all their lives. The English actually feel more at home in Dublin than they do.

This tradition is in stark contrast, it must be said, to the Scots-Irish ambivalence (no doubt underlying Ian Paisley’s cosying up to the SNP last year) that saw them with the English (and thus with the Anglo-Irish) during the Plantation, against them during the Civil War, with them during the Glorious Revolution (as I do not hesitate to call it, given the Papal Blessing set out above), against them during the American Revolution, and half in and half out of the 1798 Rebellion (the Jacobin, and thus anti-Catholic, foundation of Irish Republicanism). Many of them agitated for decades for Dominion status, or at least muttered about it, and the idea has never entirely gone away among them.

The Good Friday Agreement establishes that there are two peoples in Ireland in theory and in Northern Ireland in practice, each of which must approve any change to the constitutional settlement, and one of which is defined by saying No to any such change, which is thus rendered impossible for ever. But if such a proposal were ever put to the vote anyway, then it is by no means clear from which background would come those saying Yes, and from which would come those saying No and thus voting to keep things as they are. After all, probably the most likely such proposal, relatively speaking, would be for greater power for Stormont. Think on.

Dave's Mate Can Do No Wrong

Simon Heffer spells it out.

Separate, Indeed

The Ronnie Biggs case has brought out of the woodwork those who see it as some sort of affront that an elected parliamentarian accountable as such has any sort of say over these matters. They claim that this violates the peculiarly American theory of the separation of powers (what if it does?), and is contrary to the jurisprudence of a foreign court interpreting a foreign document.

On the first point, they are already going to get their way over Law Lords, and they presumably also wish to abolish all quasi-judicial functions of Ministers or of local council chairmen, as well as the role of the judges in making the whole of the Common Law, and much else besides. All because of something that they once heard on The Wire, or The Simpsons, or something.

And on the second point, both trial by jury and trial by magistrates are contrary to that document, as will eventually be found to be the case. Those who object to the quasi-judicial powers of Ministers accountable to Parliament also loathe both juries and magistrates, and for the same reason, namely hatred of the people at large.

If there is to be any change to the exercise of those Ministerial powers, then let it be to make that exercise dependent on a resolution of the House of Commons (itself elected more proportionally and from candidates selected by means of something like an open primary system), without which no ruling of the European Court of Justice, or of the European Court of Human Rights, or pursuant to the Human Rights Act, should have any effect in the United Kingdom, either. The High Court of Parliament is precisely that.

Trade Union Rights and Collective Bargaining in Europe

No2EU - Yes To Democracy emails:

TUC conference on recent ECJ judgments on Viking and Laval cases

Friday 17 July 2009, 9:30am-3:30pm, Congress House London

The past year has seen trade union rights being challenged by a series of judgments by the European Court of Justice. These cases are
likely to have a serious impact on collective bargaining and the right to strike and on the ability of governments to use national legislation and procurement arrangements to promote improved social policy and worker protection.

It is expected that the programme will include:

- Addresses by Brendan Barber (TUC) and John Monks (ETUC),

- a panel discussion on the ECJ cases with Professor Keith Ewing and Catelene Passchier (ETUC) amongst others,

- interventions by European trade unionists on the impact of the cases on their industrial relation systems

- a discussion on the protection of fundamental rights at European and international level

The event will also include workshops on the rights to strike; public procurement and social clauses; and the impact of the ECJ cases on collective bargaining.
A detailed programme will be circulated shortly, for further information please contact Julie Lawrence To register please fill in the form available from her and return as indicated on the form. Please indicate which workshop you would like to attend.

Please circulate details of this event to your colleagues, networks and newsletters and confirm your attendance.

A Kelly Inquest

A body of eminent specialist doctors is the latest voice to call for this. Why has it not already happened? I am told that Dr Kelly's family "accepted the finding of the Hutton inquiry" as to the cause of his death. Well, I suppose someone had to. But anyway, so what? Contrary to what is often assumed, a Coroner's Inquest is not for the benefit of the deceased's family. Technically, they (as such, rather than as the public) do not even have to be informed that it is being held. From time to time, they are not. Bad practice, perhaps. But perfectly within both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Friends In The North? Out Of The West?

Although the idea of Harriet Harman doing anything about it is rather laughable, it is certainly the case that more members of the quangos responsible for nearly a quarter of all public spending in England live in four London boroughs than the whole of the North. Those quangos are responsible for spending more than £123 billion a year. Over half of all members live in London and the South East.

The solution to this is certainly not Hatty's beloved quotas, which in any case would only reach upper-middle-class people in the North, the Midlands and the West Country, just as they only reach upper-middle-class women and upper-middle-class members of ethnic minorities.

Nor is it an English Parliament, which like the once-proposed regional assemblies, would be a body firmly in the Blairite tradition, and just look at the devolved bodies in Scotland, Wales and London (which last still contains ten times as many quango members as Borough Councillors Assembly Members and the Mayor put together) to see what that would mean.

No, we need the restoration of the proper powers both of Parliament and of local government, and the reconstitution of both as genuinely representative.

Who Runs May Read

Newman described “reading the Bible and having it read” as “the national religion of the English”. Yet Biblical knowledge has now gone the way of Classical knowledge, leaving the whole of Western art incomprehensible. As much as anything else, how is anyone supposed to understand a word of Chaucer, or Shakespeare, or Milton, to name but three?

The roots of Biblical ignorance are complicated, although the de-Christianisation of state education is undoubtedly an important factor, along with the drivelling character of the rubbish passed off as RE in Catholic schools.

Whereas the roots of Classical ignorance are perfectly simple: the abolition of the grammar schools (Latin was in fact the “grammar” in question) and the dropping of the Latin requirement for Oxbridge.

Purple Passage

The Church of England does appear to have rather a lot of bishops, never mind archdeacons and cathedral staff. One really does have to wonder what they all do. Of course, we are just as bad in parts of the Continent. Especially, just how many bishops and even archbishops are there in Italy?

Meanwhile, the old, old report that the bishops are to be removed from the House of Lords is doing the rounds again. They are said to be there because of Establishment, whereas in fact they have been there since several centuries before the Reformation, and indeed they once predominated in the House as a whole. And their removal is said to be an attack on Establishment, which it is not.

In place of 26 bishops, let there be 13 elected representatives (strictly non-party, of course) of moral and spiritual values, and the same of the United Kingdom’s Christian heritage, a more than fair arrangement when one considers that the United Kingdom is seventy-two per cent Christian. Each of us would vote for one candidate, the 13 highest scorers would be declared elected, the term of office might be five years, and casual vacancies would be filled by bringing in number 14.

How Now?

Does Sarah Brown consume any dairy product? No one who does can object to veal. Which is in any case delicious, and has the particular pleasure that it can only be appreciated by people with properly developed palettes.

Just Like That?

Yes, I know that these things are always complicated in practice. But even before today’s events, Hardeep Singh Kohli has repeatedly been shown on television drinking alcohol. And you really would expect the ones with the turbans and the beards to be the sticklers for the rules, at least when it comes to what they are prepared to be filmed doing. I know that this is an awful thing to say, but could it be that Kohli’s turban is just a prop by which we will all remember him? Like, for example, Tommy Cooper’s fez?

Friday 10 July 2009


It really has come to something when it falls to the Lib Dems to break the ludicrous, despicable cross-party consensus over the doomed, aimless, exceptionally costly war in Afghanistan.

Why was there ever such a consensus in the first place? I dimly recall that it was something to do with the totally unconnected Saudi attack on America in September 2001.

Oh, and there was some stuff about changing the dress code for women. To what? And since when was that a British strategic interest? In any case, it hasn’t worked. The burkha is still worn in full view of our troops. Well, of course it is.

There are no Taliban distinct from the Pashtun generally, and while they certainly want a very particular and unpleasant type of Islamic state, they only want in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or even only in the Pashtun parts of those countries. With a nuclear bomb in Pakistan, any fight to prevent a bomb in Islamist hands has already been lost, since those who run the madrassas are an integral part of the power structure there, although the ultimate authority is the Army. No mere politician is allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes.

And who would not object to the invasion and occupation of their country? Far from defending ourselves in Afghanistan, we are making enemies of people who would never otherwise have given us any thought. People with access, even if indirect, to the Pakistani nuclear bomb.

We should never have gone into Afghanistan.

And we should get out.

If the politicians will not bring our boys home, then they should do their sworn duty to defend this Realm and simply bring themselves home anyway.

Lord Yates of The Yard?

The question about this on Any Questions? from Consett was asked by Owen Temple, who did not declare that he was the Lib Dem PPC. Oh, well, like many a Lib Dem he is basically a good man in a bad party, a party which has rather hilariously taken to putting out material claiming credit for the achievements of Lanchester Parish Council, on which it has had no representation (nor has it sought any) since 2003. And I have heard sitting MPs, including former Cabinet Ministers, ask questions in the past as if they were just ordinary members of the public, so a County Councillor and PPC is tame by comparison.

Anyway, where is that knighthood for John Yates? What does the poor man have to do? First he lets off the entire Westminster Village over the flagrant sale of seats in our very legislature, having, among other features of his absurd “investigation”, declined to interview Tony Blair under caution in order to save the Dear Leader’s job. For how many other suspects would he have done that? For how many other suspects has he done that? But still no K.

And now he lets off the News of the World, and thus Andy Coulson of David Cameron’s court, without even so much as pretending to conduct an investigation of any kind whatever.

After the Election, Sir John. After the Election. Heaven knows that you have earned it. In fact, you have earned the ermine.

Woe Unto Them That Decree Unjust Decrees

The House of Lords has once again thrown out the attempt to criminalise expression of the belief that sexual relations are for marriage only, marriage being the union of one man and one woman. So back to the House of Commons it goes. The issue here is not homosexuality; it very rarely is. The issue here is marriage.

Away With It

As well as pointing out the links between George Osborne and Richard Caring, one of several politicised moneybags from the Blair years (not least including Michael Levy) to have gravitated effortlessly towards Cameron, Peter Oborne writes:

Meanwhile the political class reckons it’s got away with it. Each political leader has cunningly sacrificed a handful of backbenchers, such as the blameless and irreproachable Douglas Hogg. However, the real culprits survive and apparently prosper.

Consider this: neither Gordon Brown, David Cameron nor Nick Clegg has sacked one senior colleague as a result of this affair. Indeed Cameron has put one of his worst offenders, Alan Duncan, in charge of cleaning up the system. Parliament has signalled open defiance of ordinary decency by electing John Bercow, one of the more appalling expenses cheats, to the formerly magnificent post of Speaker.

Under Bercow’s squalid leadership, the House of Commons (with the secret support of government whips as well as the Tory opposition) has sabotaged the Parliamentary Standards Bill. Every single one of the key measures designed to impose honour, integrity and honesty on our scurrilous legislators was voted down last week in the Commons. Now this flawed but sadly necessary measure is coming under fresh assault in the Lords.

Our bent politicians are calculating that voters will have forgotten parliamentary corruption by the time of the election. I so hope they are wrong.

Gordon and Gaddafi

We needed Syria on side in the first Gulf War, so we blamed Libya instead for Lockerbie, a Syrian atrocity. Libya later needed us (or, at least, the Americans) on side, so Gaddafi played ball and handed over an innocent man, just as he later did and pretended to have dismantled a WMD programme which had never existed in the first place.

Alliance with Libya, run by the Gaddafis and where at least a third of the population subscribes to the Sanusi synthesis of Wahhabism and popular Sufism, is either irrelevant or positively pernicious, depending on how you look at it.

Whereas alliance with Syria – run by an erstwhile London doctor and with a huge, very well-integrated Christian population – is an urgent priority.

However, there can be no alliance with Syria while this great wrong remains unrighted.

Though not for that reason alone, that righting cannot possibly come too soon.

The Usual Suspects

Little support from anywhere for the coup in Honduras. But, according to a spokesman on From Our Own Correspondent, “Israel and Taiwan are being very helpful”. Say it ain’t so. I couldn’t have been more surprised if he had said Georgia.

Did those who staged this coup follow custom and practice by securing the prior approval of the American Administration? Or did they instead secure the approval of those who can ensure that “Israel and Taiwan are being very helpful”? The latter, it seems.

In which case, what have the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century, and so on, been able to offer by way of military and other backing, conducting their own foreign policy without reference to the elected President or Congress of the United States?

Wednesday 8 July 2009

The Great Whips’ Office In The Sky

In the best New Labour tradition of reannouncement, Hilary Armstrong has once again informed the world of her intention to retire. Actually, I have always liked Hilary personally. It was politically that I disagreed with her profoundly, more than anything (and a lot of people feel like this where she is concerned) because I knew perfectly well that she didn’t really believe a word of what she was saying.

To me, it is irrelevant precisely who the New Labour candidate is. But all those who said that I was too middle-class, or that I was not properly local because I wasn’t born here and didn’t have a mining background, are about to see exactly how working-class or local is any candidate produced by the New Labour machine. And Hilary’s own remarks make it clear what can be expected by those who said that I was too young (and have now been saying that for ten years…). A seat as safe as this can expect a North London princess straight out of Oxbridge.

Her Royal Highness will hold few political opinions. That will be the point of her. But she will certainly hold one. For there is one that must be held by anyone on an all-women shortlist, such as Hilary Armstrong’s seat is bound to be given. That one and only political opinion is support for abortion absolutely on demand, up to and including partial birth. So we know, even at this stage, that that will be the declared position of the New Labour candidate, no matter who she may be.

Of Genesis and Academies

Not in the ordinary sense, you will be pleased to learn, although that sense does raise the question of why Alan Johnson, in particular, saw creationist schools at public expense as acceptable, but Catholic schools at public expense as intolerable.

I have always supported the sponsorship of the new Academy in Consett by the dear old University of Durham. Universities strike me as exactly who should be sponsoring academies, if we are to have them at all.

But the obvious site for it is at Project Genesis, where the steelworks used to be. Why is not to be there?

Caritas in Veritate

Glorious stuff, although the inability is already predictably evident to see how the justice and peace aspects compel opposition to the breeding (or non-breeding) out of the Left’s electoral base. The early Labour Party had no such difficulty. It saw exactly what was going on, and it reacted accordingly. But in this as in so many other matters, the rich cranks from the sectarian Left or the collapsing Liberal Party have carried the day.

I am sometimes told that I am not a mainstream Catholic, but an over-zealous convert. Well, I’d frankly rather not be part of the mainstream that includes a ninety-seven per cent lapsation rate before or immediately after leaving Catholic school, four-fifths support for euthanasia even among the remaining three per cent, and never, ever having heard of Catholic Social Teaching.

Officially convert or not (and a very high percentage of us is, while the rest might as well be), we will be the mainstream soon enough, and well within my lifetime. Because we will be the only stream soon enough, and well within my lifetime.

I Wouldn’t Start From Here

Not one word of the Lisbon Treaty has changed. The Irish Government has secured nothing more than the messages in a few greetings cards. Every argument for the last No vote still stands, along with the sheer offensiveness of this second referendum, a reason in itself to vote No even if you voted Yes the first time. The EU has never lost a second referendum on the same treaty and in the same country. That is why it keeps holding them. But what would happen if it did lose one? Ireland, it’s over to you.

Those Tory Non-Apologies In Full

No one was ever prosecuted under Section 28, because as phrased it banned something that was in any case impossible. Bullying is bullying, and any teacher who cannot deal with it should not be in the job, simple as that. Any teacher who deliberately failed to address a particular type of bullying in order to make a political point is a revolting, hateful creature.

But David Cameron is very sorry for Section 28. Dead letter though it was, it annoyed Michael Cashman and Peter Tatchell, which latter was the only person who remembered that it still existed by the time that it was repealed. And that is all that matters. Media London is run by men who not only engage in homosexual acts, but see such engagement as definitive of economic, social, cultural and political identity both personally and collectively. So what they say, goes.

The Tories had a choice to make, and they have made it. They have chosen this, and so rejected the visible ethnic minorities. They have chosen this, and so rejected the white working class. They have chosen this, and so rejected the North. They have chosen this, and so rejected the huge numbers of votes, not least in the electorally vital Midlands and North West, that are now up for grabs after three terms of spitefully anti-Catholic government. They have chosen this, and so rejected the rural, Protestant Scotland that was theirs as a matter of course well within living memory. They have chosen this, and so rejected the Ulster Unionists. They have chosen this, and so rejected the Welsh chapels just as Wales becomes thoroughly disconnected from New Labour. And so on, and on, and on.

The SNP might get rural, Protestant Scotland. The DUP will get the UUP. But Plaid Cymru already largely has the Welsh-language chapels, and will never get the English-language ones. Enter the BNP, as surely as among the white working class, in the North, and among the disaffected (but often not very well-instructed) Catholics. Among the ethnic minorities, those who would construct little Caliphates, Hindutvas and Khalistans in “their” areas are very well-established (not least in league with the Tories), while the forces of Black Nationalism, in both its West Indian and its American forms, are increasingly on the rise. As much as anything else, which of these is good for the homosexually inclined? Thank you, David Cameron. Are you going to apologise for all of this, too?

No, of course not. Nor are you going to apologise for the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. Nor are you going to apologise for the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Nor are you going to apologise for the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Nor are you going to apologise for the destruction of the grammar schools, and the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs.

Nor are you going to apologise for the dismantlement of most of the rail network in the Fifties, and the disastrous privatisation of the rest of it in the Nineties. Nor are you going to apologise for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and for sentences that automatically mean literally half of what they say. Nor are you going to apologise for starving the Armed Forces, including in the run-up to inviting the Argentines into the Falkland Islands. Nor are you going to apologise for that invitation. Nor are you going to apologise for failing to recognise the Muzorewa Government in Zimbabwe. Nor are you going to apologise for backing Tony Blair’s totally and transparently false prospectus for the invasion of Iraq.

Nor are you going to apologise for destroying the economic basis of paternal authority in (initially working-class) families and communities. Nor are you going to apologise for abortion up to birth, divorce legally easier than release from a car hire contract, and effectively unrestricted trading on Sundays. Nor are you going to apologise for trying to end Christian collective worship in schools until forced to back down by the House of Lords.

Nor are you going to apologise for destroying rural bus services, for pricing local people out of rural communities, for driving independent shops out of business, for destroying village and town centres while despoiling the countryside, for taking agriculture to the brink of collapse, and for your mercifully unsuccessful attempts to privatise the Post Office and the Forestry Commission while abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board.

Nor are you going to apologise for the sacking, pointed out in Peter Hitchens’s column this week, of those miners who had worked through the strike.

And so on, and on, and on.

None of these things matters in the least to the only people who matter to the Tories.


There are many very admirable things about Switzerland. But both on drugs and on assisted suicide, Switzerland is now effectively a rogue state. Just as Britain is on late abortion, and will soon be on human-animal hybridity, on spare parts babies, and on the registration of children with two women as the listed parents.

Lord Falconer was disingenuous to the point of outright dishonesty. He was not proposing a “clarification”, but a change. Why not say so? The law is already perfectly clear. Nor does it introduce anyone into “a legal minefield”, any more than any other law does. As for the existence of a law which is never enforced, the solution to that problem is to enforce the law.

But we had better get used to this.

And be very well-prepared indeed for it in future.

Synthetic Sperm

No change there. A father without a patrimony is no father at all. He is merely a sperm bank and a cash machine. He might as well be a ninety-year-old woman who donated a stem cell to someone whom she has never met.

And he conveniently requires no State action in order to secure his position, since he has none. He needs no legal presumption of equal parenting. He needs no restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit is being paid to mothers. He needs no restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father, and the repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as the parents on a birth certificate. And he needs no paternity leave made available at any time until the child is 18 or leaves school.

That last, in particular, would reassert paternal authority (and thus require paternal responsibility) at key points in childhood and adolescence. That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. And that basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment. All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need.

Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole.

No wonder that the powers that be want to use the stem cells of elderly women, or whoever, instead.

The Longest Way Round

East Coast Rail renationalised. Presumably for ever, since who is going to buy it now? Well, then, let’s have all of our trains stopping at our Durham station.

The Lindsey oil refinery workers and their supporters triumphant both over Thatcher’s anti-union laws and over Thatcher’s European Single Market.

Post Office privatisation cancelled.

ID cards cancelled (there was always something about them that was just never going to happen, anyway).

And ever-clearer signs that Trident is going to be cancelled, although of course no more officially than Post Office privatisation or ID cards.

So, remind me again – why did there have to be something called New Labour?

The Incredible Mr Cameron

Waiting to be anaesthetised, I read through the Guardian and found a passing reference to something that I have been pointing out on here for years, namely that Harriet Harman and David Cameron are related. But that is trivial.

By contrast, sitting up after surgery, the next day’s Guardian informed me that Cameron wished to create in Downing Street his own West Wing. Or, rather, West Wing. Like the Blairites, the Cameroons treat The West Wing as real. Because, like the Blairites, they are not really politicians, they just pretend to be when they are on television.

Cameron is very fond of saying how “incredibly” this, that or the other things are. It is the perfect word for him. David Cameron is completely, utterly, wholly and totally incredible.

Shadow News

George Osborne, the man who would be Chancellor (don’t laugh, it’s real), is under investigation for fiddling his expenses, and this despite the fact that he is a man of enormous inherited wealth. Coverage? On PM, none whatever. And on The Six O’Clock News, not until half way in, after the vastly more important stories, both covered on PM, of Wimbledon and the deaths of two dogs. That’s right. Dogs.

Parliamentary Privilege

It is Parliament’s privilege to have David Davis, so that he can use parliamentary privilege to expose this country’s outsourcing of torture. Long may he remain. And may parliamentary privilege remain for ever.

Barely reported, of course – both Davis’s speech and Parliament’s successful defence of what is really a liberty of us all, exercised by and through our representatives. Like Davis’s views on grammar schools. Like regular backbench Labour moves in support of workers’ rights. Like so many things, in fact. Not “the centre ground”, you see.

Vote Craig Murray

In the Norwich North by-election.

Even Oil Would Be Better Than This

Why are we in Afghanistan? According to Harriet Harman at PMQs, it is so that the children there can go to school. What a vitally important strategic interest of the United Kingdom. So very well worth the mounting body count. And nothing if not extendible across the globe.

Herd Immunity?

Since when were our embassy’s staff from the local population under our protection as if they were our citizens? Since when did they enjoy the immunities of our diplomats? We wouldn’t accept that in the other direction. Nor should we.

National Sovereignty Day

When will it be ours, when we say goodbye to the huge foreign military presence, often hidden behind fake British names, that has silently dominated our political life for nearly seventy years and counting?

Elizabeth Cross

I bet she was.

129 MSPs, and 25 of them didn’t turn up.

Now that’s just rude.

NEETional Service

We need universal and compulsory – non-military, but uniformed, ranked and barracked – National Service between secondary education and tertiary education or training.

As much as anything else, this would send people to university that little bit worldly-wiser, which would not only be good for academic and behavioural standards, but would also drain such swamps as Marxism, anarcho-capitalism, and the marriage of the two in neoconservatism. No one who had been around a bit would ever fall for such things for one moment.

Of course, that is also a very good reason for broadening the social and socio-economic base from which students (and, indeed, academics) are drawn, instead of “widening participation” by abolishing everything in which one might wish to participate, and then only letting in the offspring of the upper middle classes anyway, on the smug assumption of having done one’s bit.

There was no threat to gowns, or Latin graces, or black and even white tie functions, or what have you, in the days when even Oxford and Cambridge were massively dominated by products of the state sector, and most private schools were barely academic at all.

On the contrary, these were exactly the reasons why people had gone there.

From the grammar schools.

For Richer, For Poorer

Pre-nuptial agreements are a grotesque invention. Who would want to marry anyone who insisted on such a thing, or who even so much as suggested it?

Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by statute at one per cent of the at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to fifty per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault be proved.

Recall Failure

In the words of a reporter on the Today programme, “David Miliband, you may recall”. Recall what? What is there about David Miliband that anyone may recall?

Cut It Out

So male genital mutilation reduces the risk of HIV infection, does it? Funnily enough, that the nooks and crannies collect dirt is exactly the argument advanced by proponents of female genital mutilation. Still, anything rather than admit that the means to such reduction are in fact sexual abstinence outside marriage, fidelity within marriage, and abstinence from intravenous drug use. For do we all not know that at least the first and second of these are impossible for those simple souls who are poor, or non-white, or both? Instead, we need to mutilate their genitalia. Don’t we?

Bonfire Of The Quangos

Blah, Blah, Blah.

Book Of The Week, Indeed

Radio Four listeners are being made aware of Max Shachtman, and the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky, and all that. Well, those people went on to bequeath quite a legacy. On both sides of the Atlantic…

China In Their Hands

Why are Han Chinese “Han Chinese”, but Uighur Chinese simply “Uighurs”? They have been Chinese for about as long as each other, i.e., more or less for ever. For that matter, they have lived in Xinjiang (even if not always at the current ratio) for about as long as each other, i.e., more or less for ever. But, of course, we all know why the Han are described as Chinese yet the Uighur are not. The Trots are in charge now. For that is what hatred of China in our media is: student Trotskyism from back in the day.

For all the same depiction of the perpetrators as the victims that we saw when Tibetans also turned on their age-old Han and Hui neighbours, the events in Xinjiang show up the vitally important point that just because the Chinese regime is nasty, that does not make its opponents nice. Those who want an ethnically pure Islamist state in Xinjiang are of a piece with those who want an ethnically pure feudal theocracy in Tibet, with those who feel that Maoism has been betrayed, with those who always saw Maoism as a betrayal of Stalinism, and with the Koumintang ludicrously agitating to have their accidental bolt-hole on Taiwan declared independent.

Is every one of China’s 56 ethnic groups to be given a state? The population clearances necessary to create such states in Tibet and Xinjiang alone would make the partition of India look like a parish council boundary dispute. Even leaving aside the horrifying visions of those who want control of those territories in order to give those visions life, the whole thing is completely unconscionable.

The Eagle and The Bear

For all Russia’s faults, President Obama’s wish list is already rather more fulfilled there than in, say, Georgia. Perhaps that was his real point? Those who surrounded Bush were old Trots whose life made no sense except in terms of the Cold War, just as those who surrounded Blair were either old Trots or old Communist Party hands who hated Russia for no longer being their beloved Soviet Union.

Nuclear disarmament was the one truly conservative thing that Reagan ever did. And there is now a conservative in the White House for a change. A conservative like those Republicans who called, as Pope Benedict XV did, for an end to the First World War by means of a reversion to pre-War borders, so that there would have been neither any Nazi Germany nor any Soviet Union.

A conservative like Eisenhower, with his ending of the Korean War, his denunciation of the military-industrial complex, and his even-handed approach to Israel and the Palestinians. A conservative like Nixon, who ended the Vietnam War. And a conservative like those Republicans who opposed Clinton’s global trigger-happiness. (If President Gore had proposed invading certainly Iraq, and probably even post-9/11 Afghanistan, then between eighty and one hundred per cent of Congressional Republicans would have voted against it. And they would have been right.)

Ah, yes. Clinton. The man who promised Gorbachev that support for German reunification would mean no eastward expansion of NATO.

Heart of Darkness

There were two genocides in Rwanda. But Jack Straw only wants one of them to be tried in this country, where, and by or against whose (then) citizens, neither of them occurred.

“Genocide” is a slipperier concept than you might think. In 1993, the former Bolivian President, García Meza Tejada, was convicted of “genocide” for the deaths of fully eight people. Those may or may not have been the only people whom he killed. But they were the only victims of his “genocide”.

And so to Rwanda.

Or, rather, to what is to be our model in these matters, a kangaroo court in Tanzania, set up by a UN Security Council resolution with no authority to do so, and specifically empowered (again, on no proper authority whatever) to try only members of the former (devoutly Catholic) regime, and not of that which overthrew it, namely a direct extension, by means of a Ugandan invasion of Rwanda in 1990, of the only-too-successful Maoist insurrection in Uganda. Thank God that no one is now to be sent from this country, historic refuge of the oppressed, to appear before that kangaroo court.

Théoneste Bagosora was finally convicted (well, of course he was – this sort of thing never, ever acquits anyone) eighteen months after the prosecution’s final submission, and fully twelve years after his arrest, even though his trial had started almost immediately. That was entirely typical, as is the use of European and American activists as “expert witnesses” even though they witnessed absolutely nothing and were in fact thousands of miles away at the time alleged. As is the heavy reliance on anonymous prosecution witnesses (even though it is in fact six defence witnesses before this “Tribunal” who have been murdered soon after giving evidence), universally known to be paid liars.

As is the routine holding of session in camera. As is the admission of hearsay evidence. As are the rulings that no corroboration is necessary to convict a man of rape even he has pleaded not guilty, and that it matters not one jot if a prosecution witness’s written statement differs markedly from his testimony in court. As is the astonishing principle that a prosecution witness’s inconstancies are proof of trauma, and therefore of the guilt of the accused. And as are the farcical translation problems.

The remit of this “Tribunal” is frankly racist, providing only for the trial of Hutus (the overwhelmingly predominant ethnic group) for crimes against Tutsis (the historically royal and aristocratic minority). Crimes by Hutus against Tutsis undoubtedly happened. But so did crimes by Tutsis against Hutus. Neither Maoist guerrillas nor embittered, dispossessed aristocrats are characteristically restrained in these matters.

No one knows how many people were killed, often with machetes. The usual figure cited is eight hundred thousand. Perhaps that is correct, perhaps it is not. But what is undoubtedly the case is that not all the perpetrators were Hutus (although many were), and that not all the victims were Tutsis (although many were). What is undoubtedly the case is that no Tutsi has ever been tried, because none can be: that whole people has been declared innocent in advance, and another whole people declared guilty in advance.

What is undoubtedly the case is that an invasion of a sovereign state by a larger neighbour at exactly the same time as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait has been backed up to the hilt by the West in general and the United States, so that the Americans are now where first the Germans and then the Belgians once were: running Rwanda through a tiny clique drawn exclusively from the Tutsi minority.

And what is undoubtedly the case is that that clique is Maoist, whereas the majority-derived government that it overthrew was headed by a daily communicant (Jean Kambanda) whom it subsequently tortured into confession while illegally detaining him, and whom it denied the lawyer of his choice.

The world is finally begininng to wake up to what really happened in Rwanda. Not a moment too soon. But when will Britain?

Libre, Soberana e Independiente

As Bolivarianism takes shape, it is shaping up to be decidedly diverse, embracing both the Castros and Manuel Zalaya, whose programme is to do little or nothing more than Tories were once at least resigned to not repealing, and Gaullists or Christian Democrats do proactively as a matter of course.

Gaullists, Christian Democrats, and Democrats. Cuba may have found a post-Soviet sponsor in Venezuela for the lack of any other option. But President Obama can either embrace Zalaya, his near ideological kinsman, or hand him over into the arms of Chávez, whom he would then come more and more to resemble. Which is it to be?

L'Étoile du Nord

The election of Al Franken is part of a much wider trend, the re-emergence at long, long last of the tragically lost American movement of the inter-War years that would have united Franken’s Farm-Labor Party in the West, the Catholic Enclycists in the North, and the Agrarian populists in the South.

White supremacists? Not all of them, and so were a lot of people in those days. Anti-Semites? Not all of them, and so were a lot of people in those days. Embarrassingly sympathetic towards Hitler and Mussolini? Not all of them, so were a lot of people in those days, and no one is ever castigated for having been more than sympathetic towards Stalin before the War. Desperately wishing to avert another war was in any case not the same thing as supporting Hitler, and the belief that the money would have been better spent on social welfare measures, particularly when we are talking about thousands of nautical miles from Germany, is really very difficult to fault.

Any programme hammered out among these three elements would have been hugely beneficial to blacks and Jews regardless of the intentions of any of those who had done the hammering out. And we now live in the world as it is, in which the white supremacism and the anti-Semitism of America, or Britain, or all manner of other places in the Thirties, are simply an irrelevance. Certainly not an irrelevance, however, are rural radicalism, Catholic Social Teaching, and the spectacularly explosive combination of the two.

Senator Franken of the Farm-Labor Party may only just have been declared elected, but those votes themselves were cast on the same day as practising Catholics predominantly, and Southern whites quite considerably, cast the votes that sent an economically populist foreign policy realist to the White House. The same day, in fact, as that candidate carried California and Florida while they reaffirmed traditional marriage, and carried Ohio and (probably) Missouri while they declined to liberalise gambling.

And the Farm-Labor Party itself is also a salutary reminder of the lost history of our own Left, a loss which has had, and continues to have, devastating consequences both for the Left and for the countryside. Conviction that every household should enjoy a base of real property from which to resist both overmighty commercial interests and an overmighty State (a key point, even the key point, of encounter with Catholic Social Teaching). Resistance to enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population.

Organisation of farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others in order to secure radical reforms. Identification of real agriculture as a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market. The fight for affordable housing in the countryside. And so much else besides.

Just as the rural and Western half of the Republican Party found itself compelled to support the New Deal, so the Tories found themselves compelled to accept so many achievements in these veins. But they could never have accepted everything that could and should have been done. Yet Labour, like the Democrats, never properly kept up the pressure. Had it done so, then not only would the Tories never have become instead the electoral vehicle of the boys from Planet Think Tank, but Labour itself would never have been replaced by another such vehicle, New Labour.

And who knows what the electoral map may have come to look like? After all, in the Twenties, when it first became possible to speak of safe Labour seats, most were county divisions, with the only exceptions in certain parts of Glasgow (which really belonged to the ILP, as subsequent events showed) and certain very particular parts of London (where the real force at work was the Communist Party).

Palin 2012?

Sarah Palin’s nomination for Vice-President was the Republican Party’s definitive insult to the white Evangelical constituency. Rather than Mike Huckabeee or any other perfectly capable white Evangelical, this absurd woman was put on the ticket for a laugh, in the expectation that the hicks would still turn out and vote for her, ha ha ha.

In fact, they did no such thing: President Obama bit deep into the white Evangelical vote, which proved far less inclined to vote for McCain (nominally an Episcopalian, but an attendee at his wife’s Baptist church) and Palin than they had been to vote for Bush and Cheney, both mainline Methodists of the same denomination as Hillary Clinton.

Palin was also an affirmative action candidate, distinguishable only by her sex just as Michael Steele or Bobby Jindal is distinguishable only by his colour. Her nomination had nothing whatever to do with policy.

If she really does show any sign of taking the Republican nomination in 2012, then that will be a very good reason for a strong primary challenge within the Democratic Party from someone who will remind President Obama that it was economically populist foreign policy realists who put him in while retaining their own moral and social conservatism, and who can just as easily put him back out.

That person must be capable of being Vice-President or, even better, of being Secretary of State in place of the present throwback to the very worst of the Democrats’ alienation of economic populists, moral and social conservatives, and foreign policy realists alike.

No one, not even President Obama, deserves a clear run against Sarah Palin.

Free Ronnie Biggs

The sentences handed down to the Great Train Robbers were harsh even for the time, and only so because the whole thing had made the Police look silly. If Biggs had been convicted of murder nine years, then he would have been out by now. That fact is perfectly scandalous, but it is also undeniable. Instead of keeping an extremely ill old robber locked up, how about properly preventing, properly pursuing and properly punishing real threats to the public?

A Happy, If Belated, Canada Day

God Save The Queen.

Forty Years On

Those who maintain that the moon landings never took place may like to consider that my great-great-grandmother Julia Stevens, universally known as Ma, took that view even at the time. Ma sternly admonished my mother and her seven siblings to attend to their schoolwork instead of filling their heads with such nonsense. She was by then blind and in her nineties, and she never left Saint Helena in her life.

Are We Being Served?

In this country, far more people watched Are You Being Served? than ever bought a Michael Jackson record.