Thursday 31 December 2009

The Right To Be Heard

Even the wholesale dependence of their economic system on unrestricted global migration does not bother certain people. Nor does that system’s recent collapse, which they seem not to have noticed. Must be nice.

Believe it or not, there are sites on which I am pejoratively described as “pro-Muslim” because I am opposed to a deranged war against Iran in order to replace one lot of Islamic fundamentalists with another lot of Islamic fundamentalists. (Well, who else are they, then?) Mind you, even that would make more sense than Iraq, where we have had a war to replace a secular bulwark against militant Islam with militant Islam itself. Never mind Afghanistan, where we are still having a war in order to replace one lot of them with the same lot of them. Being opposed to rule by the hired help of Saudi Arabia puts us on the right side and you, Bush-lovers (or Clinton-lovers), on the wrong side.

Both on economics and on geopolitics, and not least with a General Election coming up, a good New Year’s Resolution for the media might be to give some sort of coverage to those who were right rather than to those who were, and are, spectacularly and catastrophically wrong. But it won’t happen.

Iman, Ittehad, Tanzeem?

I don't know what the Guardian is coming to.

Since theirs is a non-nuclear state under the world's only existing threat of a nuclear strike by any country against any other, and since two of their neighbours are occupied by those who have inexplicably declared ourselves their enemies, these demonstrators in Iran undoubtedly want a nuclear bomb as much as any other Iranian would. But they don't have one.

And even if they did, then it would be less of a threat to us than is the existing Muslim bomb in Pakistan. "Al-Qaeda", an idea rather than an organisation, has no training camps in Iran, which is in fact under greater threat from "al-Qaeda" than we are. As was Saddam Hussein, whom our actions have replaced with "al-Qaeda" in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, previously no more a threat to us than Iran is, i.e., not at all.

Do you lie awake at night, worrying about the nuclear threat from Pakistan? You would have even less reason - indeed, you would have none whatever - to lie awake at night, worrying about the nuclear threat from Iran, even if there were such a thing, which there is not.

And I still don't know what the Guardian is coming to.

Mind How You Go

Yes, the Police have too much paperwork, mostly thanks to Margaret Thatcher. But they are also overmanned, and overly fond of the warm, whether the warm of such stations as there still are, or the warm of the car.

This Is What A Superpower Looks Like

A Chinese naval base at Aden. To deal with Somali piracy. Which is a real threat to Chinese interests.

The Indian naval base at Aden will be next. To deal with Somali piracy. Which is a real threat to Indian interests.

Good for the Chinese now. And good for the Indians soon enough.

Charles Clarke, Blah, Blah, Blah

Embittered old Communists, fellow-travellers (such as Clarke) and Trotskyists. Most of them aren't even standing again. Their front man is heading for a war crimes trial. And his Heir, who has promised them all jobs, is watching his poll lead disappear down the pan.

High-Speed Rail

It's a good start.

But it is no more than that.

One-Party Britain, Again

When Paddy Ashdown was UN High Representative for Bosnia, his political adviser was one Ed Llewellyn, now Chief of Staff to David Cameron. And now the talk is of the pro-war Ashdown as Minister under Cameron. Along with his party's Somerset MPs David Laws and Jeremy Browne, both Orange Book Boys, but Browne in fact responsible for the Lib Dem General Election campaign in the West Country. Not in the North, against Labour. In the West Country. Against the Tories. Meanwhile, Liz Truss led the 1990s drive among Lib Dem students to make that party anti-monarchist.

At least, the Tory MPs Greg Clark, Chris Grayling, the splendidly anti-war Andrew Lansley, David Mundell, Rob Wilson and Stephen O'Brien, as well as the influential columnist Daniel Finkelstein, are former members of the SDP. There may very well be more. There are certainly more old SDP hands in the Shadow Cabinet than on the Lib Dem front bench. Seriously. And what was wrong with the SDP? Four things: the betrayal of Gaitskellism over Europe; the betrayal of Christian Socialism, and, lest we forget, of Gaitskellism (as well as of a section of High Toryism), over nuclear weapons; the decadent social libertinism of Roy Jenkins; and the comprehensive schools mania of Shirley Williams. Cameron all over.

Andrew Adonis (also ex-SDP), James Purnell, Peter "Young Communist League" Mandelson, Matthew Taylor, Julian Le Grand, Ken Anderson, Geoff "Old Trot Director of a Communist Party Continuity Organisation" Mulgan, Bernard Gray, Martin Read, Sir Peter Gershon, and now this. Expect the unrepentant old Trotskyist likes of Stephen Byers and Alan "Haze of Dope" Milburn to be hanging around any Cameron Government. Don't even bet against Blair attending Cabinet, if he's not in prison by then.

But speaking of Adonis, rather than move him from Transport to Education, the two positions should be merged and given to Peter Hitchens, who could fill the country with railway stations and grammar schools. Now, that really would be a Government of All The Talents.

Forces of Conservatism

So Tony Blair called the trade unions. And he was right. Just as it is taking the GMB to save and restore traditional pubs, so it will take USDAW to prevent the "relaxation" of the remaining Sunday trading laws for Boxing Day 2010, after which those laws would rapidly be repealed altogether. Thatcher's only Commons defeat was over Sunday trading, thanks to USDAW and to what were then the strong Christian and socially conservative tendencies within what was then the Labour Party. Of any party or none, such candidates urgently need to be returned in the spring.

Return Innocent People's DNA

Damian Green's campaign is here.

A Terrible And Historic Year

Martin Meenagh writes:

There are times when things are set, and times when they can be changed. Tomorrow, a vast Asian free trade bloc will be consolidated by the entry into agreement of China and Asean. Last week, Russia announced the completion of pipelines and ports that massively enhance its bargaining power by giving it the capacity to feed energy west or east. Peak oil went mainstream just before the announcements.

Earlier this month, the United States admitted that it had no more money for any second stimulus, but moved towards a vast and complex healthcare bill that will cost over a trillion and which benefits the insurance lobby almost more than anyone else, for a marginal practical gain.

The British plunged into debt that will soon be worse than that of Italy, whilst the media encouraged people living on the edge of a credit abyss to spend, spend and spend again in sales. The War on Terror, that distinctive twenty-first century mania, escalated and began to assimilate yet another civil war. A fire whether deliberately set or not, after all, uses all available fuel and adds all others to its own. The gains to establishments everywhere intensified as full-body scanners and identification technology united with another argument for their ubiquity.

Despite the growing cold, and the collapse of global warming's intellectual case, governments plunged towards the creation of a carbon trading market that has already cost jobs and that fraudsters are already lining up to perpetrate. A second and serious credit crunch in the eurozone, complemented by vast north-south tensions, completed the feeling of a now ineluctable combination of forces that will make 2010 a terrible and historic year. Remember, the wall street crash was in 1929; the banks didn't fall until 1931; the worst years of the depression were long after it appeared.

In the face of it, a fellow could despair. But, we have reason and I have faith, so let's not. Dragons are there to punch on the nose, following all necessary precautions. And possibly to eat. The blogosphere is often accused, rightly, of being negative and disengaged, so all good bloggers should use this opportunity to say what they would actually do.

Of which there is never any shortage on here. Nor will there be.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Happy Old Year

The "New Year Messages" of people who seem to think that they should utter them are now issued so early that it cannot be long before they appear on the preceding 2nd January. Using the New Year to supplant Christmas? Surely not? After all, just look at the countries that have done that...

Next Stop: Yemen

Justin Raimondo writes:

The abortive efforts of the "panty-bomber" have inspired the War Party to focus on a new front in our ongoing and seemingly permanent "war on terrorism": Yemen, a godforsaken outpost of medievalism and sun-scorched desert on the northern shores of the Red Sea, is now taking center stage as al-Qaeda’s latest purported stronghold. Taking advantage of the outcry following the panty-bomber’s near-deadly escapade, the Yemeni government is calling on the US for yet more aid and assistance – in addition to the tens of millions already being pumped into that country – to fight "terrorism," and specifically al-Qaeda, which is said to have around 300 fighters hiding somewhere in Yemen’s isolated and virtually inaccessible outback.

Senator Joe Lieberman is calling for "preemptive" military action, averring:

"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, ‘Iraq was yesterday’s war, Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.’ That’s the danger we face."

Lieberman never met an Islamic nation that he didn’t want to invade and subjugate, but in the case of Yemen, the misdirection such "preemption" would represent for US policy in the region couldn’t be more deceptive. For the real source of irritation to the US, and its Saudi Arabian ally, isn’t al-Qaeda, but Iran.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since the mid-1990s, one that has little to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with the historical and religious currents that have swept over this poverty-stricken nation of some 20 million since the end of World War I. The Ottoman empire once claimed suzerainty over the region, but never succeeded in subduing the northern tribes who maintained their independence through all the days of British domination of the south, and then the imposition of Marxist one-party rule in the name of the southern-dominated "Democratic Republic of Yemen," which was a Soviet ally during the cold war era.

The ferociously independent northerners are religiously and ethnically distinct from their fellow countrymen, adhering to a version of Shi’ite Islam, unlike the Sunni majority in the more settled southern provinces. For years the northerners have waged a battle against the central government, under the general rubric of the "Houthi," named after their former leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, killed by the regime in 2004. For its part, the central government has been dominated by a central figure, Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled since 1978, when the President of the Yemeni Arab Republic (YAR) was assassinated (some say at the instigation of Saleh). Since that time, Saleh has systematically jailed, killed, or otherwise eliminated any who would oppose him.

The Yemeni central government has been none too subtle in its tactics, launching what they themselves called "Operation Scorched Earth" in an effort to defeat the northern rebels. This campaign provoked a refugee exodus from the battlefield in which tens of thousands of displaced persons fled to the south, where they were housed in sprawling camps. Meanwhile, the Saudis were drawn into the conflict, using their air force to bomb and strafe rebel villages, and sending their troops into direct skirmishes with the Houthi. Fearful that the spreading influence of the Houthi Shi’ites would infect their own minority Shi’ite population, particularly in al-Hasa and other oil-producing provinces of the Kingdom, the Saudis are determined to crush the Yemeni insurgency, and have doubtless encouraged their American patrons to get more directly involved.

The Saudis and the Yemeni central government have portrayed the Houthis as Iranian pawns, and the conflict has been defined as a proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh – yet the real roots of the civil war are buried in Yemen’s storied past, where the religious and political divisions that currently bedevil the regime in Sana’a, the capital city, have their origin.

In addition to the Houthi rebellion in the north, the central government faces a secessionist movement in the south, which has, up until now, largely confined its activities to peaceful protests and demonstrations. Yet the government has treated them in the same way it has confronted the Houthis: with violent repression. Recent demonstrations held by the separatists were met with brute force: eight newspapers were closed by the government for daring to report on the secessionists’ activities.

Naturally, the Yemeni government has every interest in portraying the southern secessionists as a conspiracy hatched by al-Qaeda, and the northern rebels as proxies for Iran – and the US is buying into it, big time, with $70 million in US military and "development" aid this year alone, and much more in the pipeline. Now that President Obama has pledged to "use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland," the road is opened to a deepening US presence in that war-torn country, up to and including the large-scale presence of American troops.

Change? Far from reversing the policies of the Bush era, President Obama – swept into office by war-weary voters who mistook his opposition to the Iraq war as a general tendency towards non-interventionism – is not only continuing but expanding the American offensive, which is now engulfing Pakistan and spilling over into the Arabian peninsula. As for "al-Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula," this fits right into their plans for a general conflagration in the region, which will set Sunni against Shia, Saudis against Yemenis, and everyone against the United States.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia – nothing is beyond the scope of American ambitions to dominate the region, and apparently nothing short of a voter rebellion at home will deter Obama from this suicidal course. The war begun by Bush, and continued by Obama, is widening. As the showdown over Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program proceeds – from draconian sanctions and American sponsorship of terrorist groups in Iranian Balochistan, to a proxy war in Yemen – the stage is being set for a new world war. Al Qaeda is the pretext – but Iran is the target.

Guide Our Endeavour: Do Different

John Gummer may be a Europhile and a Green, but he opposed the Iraq War, used his then column on the Catholic Herald to issue thunderous denunciations of Bush, and is as pro-life and pro-family as anyone can be who was a Minister continuously between 1979 and 1997, the only other such record being that of Ken Clarke. He is the third Suffolk MP to announce his retirement, with a fourth widely rumoured to be on the cusp of doing so before midnight tomorrow, thus guaranteeing local control of the selection process. Or what little remains of such control.

For the high number of Suffolk retirements, plus the goings on in South West Norfolk, provide an opportunity to test out across those two counties candidates, probably billed as Independents this time, who are serious about agriculture, manufacturing, and small business. About national sovereignty, the Union, economic patriotism, local variation, and historical consciousness. About traditional moral and social values, the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West, close-knit communities, law and order, and civil liberties. And about academic standards, all forms of art, mass political participation within a constitutional framework (“King and People” against the Whig magnates), and conservation rather than environmentalism.

Candidates who are serious about a realistic foreign policy, the Commonwealth, the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State or other such constitutional links, the status of the English language and the rights of its speakers both throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and the rights of British-descended communities throughout the world. And about the longstanding and significant British ties to the Arab world, support for the Slavs in general and for Russia in particular as the gatekeepers of the Biblical-Classical civilisation, and a natural affinity with Confucian culture.

And candidates who are serious about exactly as much central or local government action as is required by these priorities, with a profound suspicion of an American influence and action characteristically defined against them.

The candidates should not be hard to find. But what of that which may delicately be called the resources? Sir Jeremy Bagge, over to you?

The Libel Law

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

1979 And All That

Here we go again.

If the Seventies, and specifically the winter of 1978/9, had been so bad, then where was the Tory landslide in 1979? They barely scraped in, and if the swing had been even throughout the country then they would not have won at all.

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

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

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

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

Hers was the war against the unions, which cannot have had anything to do with monetarism, since the unions have never controlled the money supply. Hers was the refusal to privatise the Post Office, thank goodness, but against all her stated principles. Hers were the continuing public subsidies to fee-paying schools, to agriculture, to nuclear power, and to mortgage-holders. Without those public subsidies, the fourth would hardly have existed, and the other three (then as now) would not have existed at all.

So much for “You can’t buck the market”. You can now, as you could then, and as she did then. The issue is not whether fee-paying schools, agriculture, nuclear power or mortgage-holding is a good or a bad thing in itself. The issue is whether “Thatcherism” was compatible with their continuation by means of “market-bucking” public subsidies. It simply was not, as it simply is not.

Hers was the ludicrous pretence to have brought down the Soviet Union merely because she happened to be in office when that Union happened to collapse, as it would have done anyway, in accordance with the predictions of, among other people, Enoch Powell. But she did make a difference internationally where it was possible to do so, by providing aid and succour to Pinochet’s Chile and to apartheid South Africa.

I condemn Pinochet as I condemn Fidel Castro, and I condemn apartheid as I condemn Robert Mugabe (or Ian Smith, for that matter). No doubt you do, too. But she did not then, and she does not now. Speaking of Mugabe, it was she who refused to recognise the Muzorewa government, holding out for the Soviet-backed Nkomo as if he would have been any better than the Chinese-backed Mugabe.

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

There are many other aspects of any “Thatcherism” properly so called, and they all present her in about as positive a light. None of them, nor any of the above, was unwitting, or forced on her by any sort of bullying, or whatever else her apologists might insist was the case. They were exactly what she intended. Other than the subsidies to agriculture (then as now) and to nuclear power (now, if not necessarily then), I deplore and despise every aspect of her above record and legacy, for unashamedly Old Labour, and therefore ex-Labour, reasons.

The definition of New Labour is to support and to celebrate that record and that legacy, because it did exactly as it was intended to do. It entrenched, in and through the economic sphere, the social revolution of the 1960s, making the constitutional changes since 1997 logically inescapable. You should not so support or celebrate unless you wish to be considered New Labour.

Thatcher’s initial pit closure programme, in early 1981, was abandoned within two days of a walkout by the miners, and she had one of her closest allies, Nicholas Ridley, negotiate a transfer of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands to Argentina, to be followed by a lease-back arrangement, until the Islanders, the Labour Party and Tory backbenchers forced her to back down.

Was she “the Iron Lady” when, within a few months of election on clear commitments with regard to Rhodesia, she simply abandoned them at the Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka? Was she “the Iron Lady” when, having claimed that Britain would never give up Hong Kong, she took barely twenty-four hours to return to Planet Earth and effect a complete U-turn? Was she “the Iron Lady” when she took just as little time to move from public opposition to public support of Spanish accession to the Western European Union? Was she “the Iron Lady” when she gave up monetarism completely during her second term? And so on, and on, and on.

But then again, who cares these days? Who really ought to care? When the next General Election is upon us, people will have the vote who were not born when she was removed from office. At that Election, my own generation of post-Thatcher teenagers will first enter Parliament in some numbers, a few being already there. And by the time of the Election after that … well, you can finish that sentence for yourself.

Get over her.


"It is going be rare over the next few months to find anything on which the three main parties agree," announced The World At One.

In which World is that, then?

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Steamer Point

There was a reason why we were in Aden. It was the same reason why we first went into Gibraltar. Why we were in Suez and Singapore, among other places. Why our great rival wanted us out of Aden, Suez and Singapore, among other places. And why they are in Panama, if there is still a reason for that. It had nothing to do with "al-Qaeda" or anything in that vein, even though, to put it mildly, "radical Islam" is nothing new.

If we could be bothered to remember why we were in Aden, then we might be able to come up with a really good reason to go back there. How many acts of Somali piracy do we need? That is also the real reason why we may need to go into Somalia. Not "al-Qaeda". Not "radical Islam". But an actually existing threat, and more than threat. Such as we have never faced either from Afghanistan or from Iraq. Such as we do not face from Iran. But such as we certainly do face, not only on the seas to Yemen's south, but also from Yemen's very big, very bad neighbour to the north.

Radical Chic

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the same age as those on the streets of Tehran. He comes from a privileged, indeed spoilt, background, as do they. And he appears to have been "radicalised", just as they have been. Why is this "radicalised" rich boy so much less acceptable than the others? And has anyone bothered to check by whom - which is to say, to what end - the other rich boys and girls have been "radicalised"?

Rights and Wrongs

I am very glad that the Government now seems to regard freedom from capital punishment as a human right. So, how about freedom from torture, or freedom from very prolonged detention without charge? How about freedom from sexual violence within marriage in "liberated" Afghanistan? Or, indeed, freedom from capital punishment in "liberated" Iraq?

All Right, Jack?

Pottering around Durham, I meandered into what used to be Oxfam, but was originally Gray and Sons, Outfitters to the University. Gray's now has much smaller premises near the bus station. And the shop on Saddler Street is now a branch of Jack Wills, "University Outfitters".

I had been in the habit of calling it "Jack West". But having now been in it, I can assure you that tinned salmon is a stranger to the customer base. Ninety quid for a pair of jeans. No recession for some. Durham is so much Sloanier than it was 10 or 12 years ago. Friends returning to the place always remark on this, and they are right.

Jack Wills not only does not sell academic regalia, or indeed anything official such as college scarfs or college cufflinks. When it comes to scarfs, sports team attire such as rugby shirts, and perhaps even the more select little items as well, it peddles its own. All right, I doubt that that extends to blazer badges or boater ribbons. But you never know.

Yet who, being the type to wish to wear the attire available from a University Outfitter, would be seen dead in the pastiche peddled by, and advertising, a chain - a chain - of denim-mongers? Buying the real thing would save them a fortune. But then, they obviously have a fortune to waste.

Monday 28 December 2009


I very much hope that this execution does not go ahead in China, although I fully expect that it will. But those shouting loudest against the Yellow Peril have no compunction about the execution of the mentally ill, among others, in America, and would cheerfully reintroduce the loathsome practice of capital punishment here, including for those who merely happen to be their political opponents.

They certainly would not see whatever "bipolar disorder" is (there was no such thing less than a decade ago, and it is so limiting that Stephen Fry has it) as a mitigating circumstance here. Nor would it be so regarded in the country to which they feel their patriotic allegiance even though it is in no sense their own. Never mind in certain others places to which they are almost as loyal, such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

The Green Revolution, Indeed

Those cheering on the demonstrators in Iran, what would be and is your view of student demonstrations in your own country? What did you think of the teenagers on the Countryside March or who protested against the Iraq War? I happened to agree with them on both occasions, but I bet you didn't on the second point, and I bet a lot of you didn't on the first.

All sorts of ideas circulate in universities, so these people could be anything, not least since all manner of people could be, would be and are opposed to the current government of Iran. Being around traditional-age undergraduates is very energising, and I have no doubt that it has done me the world of good following my several major operations over the last year and a half. Their open-mindedness is quite splendid most of the time. But not all of the time. The flip side of youthful open-mindedness is callowness. Come on, we all know this. We were all that age once.

So, who, exactly, are these Iranian dissidents with their student followings? What, exactly, do they want? How can we know that that would pose what the current regime poses to us, namely absolutely no threat whatever, however little it may be to our taste? Or that it would continue to provide guaranteed parliamentary representation to our Assyrian and Armenian fellow-members of Christendom, as well as to Jews who could at least broadly be categorised as ultra-Orthodox, and who will therefore be denaturalised in Israel, as will the Arabs there, once Lieberman's loyalty oath comes into effect? Saying "better the devil you know" does not deny that the devil is the devil.

And anyway, is Iran the devil? The regime may be one of the world's nastier, but it is far from the worst, and it certainly bears comparison with our dear friends in the Gulf and in Central Asia. From one of the former came the 9/11 attacks. Not from Iraq, as Americans were told. Nor did Iraq have WMD, as ninety per cent of Britons cottoned on at the time. And nor did Iraq feed prisoners into paper shredders, as alleged by those now making outlandish claims about the treatment of prisoners in Iran. Be not deceived.

Panic In The Air

As well as laying into the substitution of "CE" for "AD", and the Soviet-style supplanting of Christmas by New Year (I very much doubt that making a fuss of New Year does go back to John Knox in Scotland - it will be Victorian if it isn't actually twentieth century, as it is amazing how many things are), Peter Hitchens writes:

Here we go again, another series of unreasonable panic responses to a terror incident in the air. As far as I am concerned, if Mr Abdulmutallab is convicted of the crime alleged against him he may go to jail forever. I hate such acts and believe in severe punishment for the people who plan or attempt them.

But is our reaction logical? First, from a reasonably careful reading of the reports of this event, I learn that the official global airline security system, and the parallel system of intrusive identity checks, to which all air travellers are subjected all the time, don't seem to have worked according to their own procedures. Is Lagos airport secure? If not, what exactly are the provisions, at Amsterdam or elsewhere, for dealing with passengers arriving from Lagos and intending to travel onward to other destinations? If there is any doubt about Lagos, anything short of a rigorous and unavoidable check on all such passengers would mean that the European and American airline security system was as strong as the security check at Lagos. Are we happy with that? Yet I haven't myself seen any clear answer to this question.

It appears to me that at some important point, Mr Abdulmutallab may well not have been properly searched. It also seems to me that this person, whose own father had astonishingly reported him to the US Embassy for suspicious and erratic behaviour, and was on an official watchlist, ought to have attracted special attention long before he boarded the Detroit flight. I mean, if someone's father (and in this case a powerful, wealthy and respected citizen) goes to these lengths, shouldn't every alarm bell shrill? What else are all these security systems for, if not to pass on such warnings to the people who can act on them?

Those responsible for these omissions should be located and disciplined, and the gaps plugged. But I fail to see why airline passengers should be punished, as planned, for the failings of the authorities. A ban on more than one piece of hand luggage seems to me to be wholly unrelated to this event, and mere opportunism. I am not quite sure why security is being stepped up at British airports, which were not even involved in this incident (unless it is security for passengers arriving from Lagos, in which case we need to ask why this needs to be stepped up). A ban on in-flight maps (and in some cases in-flight movies) seems to me to be verging on the insane. Are we also to be stripped of our watches, so we can't work out roughly where we are anyway? I take it that matey flight-deck announcements about speed and weather will also be banned, so as not to give terrorists help in working out the plane's position. Why not black the windows out, in case we recognise a lake, a river, a coastline or a mountain range?

And then there's the plan to strap bursting passengers, bloated with the water they've drunk to try to stop dehydration, and unsettled by pressurisation, into their seats for a whole hour before landing, with the lavatories locked. Pursue this unhinged logic a little further, and all passengers should be issued with giant nappies, blindfolded, shackled and tranquillised, Guantanamo-style - and not told where the plane is going, either. This is presumably the securocrats' dream, a wholly safe world where only officials can travel.

Airline security seems to me to have reached a point where it resembles collective punishment, and punishment of the wrong people. It wasn't the flying public that caused this mess. On the contrary, it was a passenger (as did those aboard United 93) who bravely tackled Mr Abdulmutallab. And I'm still anxious to know if this bomb was a real threat. The culprit, as I've said, presumably thought it was and so deserves everything he gets, if found guilty.

But are we making a huge bogeyman and a tight-knit organisation out of pathetic amateurs? Does anyone know, in a demonstrable and certain way a) if Richard Reid's shoe-bomb would actually have worked, in the unlikely event of him not being spotted setting fire to his footwear? b) if the liquid bomb could actually have been assembled in a useable form aboard a plane? We know a version of it would have gone off. We were shown that. We don't know, at least I don't in any reliable way, how hard it was to assemble, or whether that assembly was possible in flight.

I am not asking these questions rhetorically. I genuinely wish to know and would be grateful for any hard facts. It amazes me that these prosecutions take place and this vital detail seems to be skipped over, or assumed. I know it's irrelevant to the guilt or innocence of the perpetrators. But it's not irrelevant to us, or to the way we are governed. Let's hope it will be made clear in this case.

Stop Starmering

That Martha Kearney may not necessarily be the sharpest tool in the box has, on this occasion, proved to be her USP, as I believe that they young people say. Unaware of how it would reflect on her own bosses at the Beeb, she dared to mention that, while the present Director of Public Prosecutions may have been named after the first Leader of the Labour Party, he has a long history in the sort of politics that that party was set up in order to arrest and prevent. Just like those who have since taken it over and destroyed it. And just like those who are now running the BBC, among so very many other things.

That it is now under the control of a man who was on the wrong side in the Cold War, but who refuses to say sorry, is as good an excuse as any to question the very existence of the Crown Prosecution Service, with its secret trials whereby the charged are acquitted without any opportunity to confront their accusers in open court, while in any case that does make it that far the open trial is little more than a sentencing hearing, the fact of the prosecution's having proceeded being taken as the proof of guilt.

It is instead time to revert to prosecution by the Police, using local firms of solicitors who build prosecution work into their general workloads. As much as anything else, acquittal without trial is as repugnant as conviction without trial. And either on the say-so of an unrepentant sectarian Leftist (or Rightist) is as repugnant as anything could possible be.


The Tories know nothing about the state education system, and it shows. How much do they think that schools want habitual truants to turn up? What do they think would be the impact of those pupils on the educational experience of their peers? On any given day, there must be a thousand truants in County Durham. If there are a dozen people employed to deal with them, then I'd be extremely surprised. I could easily believe that there were half that many, or even fewer. And that in the course of the working day, most or all of them seldom or never leave County Hall.

Family Guy?

Is Parker Griffith in fact Peter Griffin? He really doesn't come across as terribly bright. His District voted for McCain, but it is a Democratic stronghold in state politics. The Democratic Party spent over a million dollars on securing his re-election last year, and several unions and others have already made large donations to the fund to re-elect him next year. Will that 2010 money be repaid?

Warmist attacks on blue-collar jobs are one thing, but healthcare? Why was he ever in the Democratic Party? At the very least, why didn't he leave it decades ago? What does he think should instead have been the priorities for a Democratic House, Senate and President?

But Republicans, beware. Griffith has also come over because of the Reaganesque cancellation of the missile "defence" programme in Poland and the Czech Republic. He is a military-industrial man. And thus in no sense a conservative. In which case, of course, he has found his natural home in what little now remains of the Republican Party.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Iran: "Where Is Obama?"

Obama is rightly staying out of it. Making him the true heir of Republican calls for Europe to revert to pre-1914 borders and thus end the First World War. Of refusal to enter the Second World War until actually attacked by either side. Of Eisenhower’s ending of the Korean War, his even-handed approach to Israel and the Palestinians, his non-intervention in Indo-China, and his denunciation of the military-industrial complex.

Of Nixon’s pursuit of détente with China. Of the ending of the Vietnam War by him and Ford, an old stalwart of the America First Committee. Of the only two conservative things that Reagan ever did, to withdraw from Lebanon in 1983 and to begin nuclear arms reduction in Europe. Of Republican opposition to Clinton’s global trigger-happiness. And of the only conservative thing that George W Bush ever did, to remove American troops from Saudi Arabia after 9/11, thus ensuring that there has been no further attack on American soil.

On and on and on they are still droning about vote-rigging in Iran, just because the North Tehran Trendies’ unpreferred candidate won, even though the BBC had specifically instructed the common people not to vote for him. I mean, how dare they! Who do they think they are? Well, tell me, where in Iran did any ballot box or polling station record a one hundred per cent vote for Ahmadinejad, as some did for Karzai? And how many British soldiers died “to bring democracy” (the latest excuse in Afghanistan – how many is it now?) to Iran?

I wish that Ahmadinejad had not won. But he did. Iran is a country in which it is still possible for the electorate to vote against the direction of the BBC, and the BBC cannot contain its rage at what is, in itself, that happy fact. Non-Beeb candidates are not only on the ballot paper, but even receive proper coverage. The nerve! The sheer nerve! And for someone like that to win!

The North Tehran Trendies, whose opinions were the only ones sought by bone idle Western reporters in the run-up to the election (or, indeed, since), did not vote for Ahmadinejad. The BBC set up an entire “service” to instruct people not to vote for him. So the election must have been rigged. Mustn’t it?

Are we going to improve Iran as we have improved Iraq and Afghanistan, convinced that if only we removed Saddam, or “the Taliban”, or Ahmadinejad, then there would arise a sort of California but without Proposition 8? With very rare exceptions (Peter Hitchens, Scott McConnell), old student Trots never do grow up.

Is it just that when neocons look at these spoilt, super-liberal little rich kids stamping their feet at not getting their own way, then they see themselves at that age? And if it hadn’t been Ahmadinejad, then who do they think that it would have been? Dick Cheney? Hillary Clinton? Tony Blair? Mercifully, it would not have been.

Never Mind The Bulwarks

Tellingly, via Agence France-Presse:

An Islamist militant group based in Russia's North Caucases has claimed the killing last month of an Orthodox priest who was an outspoken critic of Islam.

"One of our brothers who has never been to the Caucasus took up the oath of (former independent Chechen president Doku Umarov) and expressed his desire to execute the damned Sysoyev," said a statement on the website.

Daniil Sysoyev, 35, was killed on November 20 when masked gunman walked into Saint Thomas's church in southern Moscow and shot him four times.

Doku Umarov emerged as the leader of the remaining active rebel movements in the North Caucases in 2007 and is considered enemy number one in the region by Russian authorities.

The statement on the website, which is often used by militants, accused Sysoyev of writing several pamphlets insulting Islam.

It warned "those in the future who defame Islam and insult the religion of Allah will suffer the fate as Sysoyev."

Sysoyev, who was criticised by Muslim organisations for his statements on Islam, had reportedly contacted Russian security services several times over threats.

Used To Be

"Between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats there is a lot less disagreement than there used to be."

So says David Cameron in his hilariously pretentious New Year Message. But when were the people running his own party ever not Eurofanatical, anti-family, pro-crime and pro-drugs, just like the Lib Dems? And when were the Lib Dems ever not capitalist, libertarian, broadly or strongly secular, globalist, and committed to making the world anew even at the barrel of a gun, just like David Cameron and those around him?

For'ard, For'ard?

They can't wait until May to fill a seat, so will David Taylor's successor be a Co-operative, and committed Christian, countryside conservationist, Campaign Group member, and friend of Chen Guangcheng? Anti-war and anti-Trident, with doubts about ID cards, about other "anti-terrorism" measures, and about those hung on the peg of "climate change"?

Note that I do not ask whether the Labour candidate will be such a person. What matters is that the new MP is. On the Co-operative point, while you certainly may not stand for any party other than that "with which the Co-operative Party has an electoral arrangement", there is no mention of a ban on standing as an Independent, and certainly not of any ban on standing as an Independent against a candidate who is Labour but not Co-operative.

Truth and Integrity

Although one needs to be careful about defining Judaism prior to the emergence of Christianity, congratulations to Jonathan Hill, of London SE14, on his letter to The Observer:

The notion that the early Christians simply adapted earlier stories about pagan gods to create the stories about Jesus is popular today, but rests upon no good evidence and has been debunked by scholars. Your correspondent Barry Thorpe unaccountably mentions Mithras. We know virtually nothing about his cult. Most of the material in the Gospels is best understood against a background of Judaism.

Unfortunately for those who wish to paint the early Christians as plagiarists, it is hard to see any pagan mythology in there. I agree that it would be good if true religious history were taught in schools; it would protect children from being taken in not only by the myths of religions, but by the myths spread by those who seek to discredit religion even at the expense of truth and integrity.

A Radical Suggestion

So, if undergraduates are doing little or no academic work in the second year, then they must be being "radicalised"? My mind boggles...

And presumably, the initiation of the impressionable into the neoconservative cult of death in the pursuit of global domination is perfectly all right, is it?

Still Part Of The Family

On The World This Weekend, Michael Howard specifically distanced himself from Neil Kinnock's criticism of UKIP. Howard never agreed with UKIP about Europe, about Iraq, about flat taxes, about grammar schools, about anything. But every dog knows its own, and none better than an old dog.

Under its new Leader, UKIP now only has one policy: to secure from whoever happens to be the Leader of the Conservative Party, but from no one else, an In/Out referendum on the EU, but nothing else on any issue. As a party rather than as an internal Conservative Party pressure group, UKIP no longer exists.

No Hope

According to one Phil Hope, who is apparently the Prisons Minister, all prisoners are to be tested for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

ADHD does not exist.

Mostly for being born boys rather than the girls wanted and expected by their mothers (more and more of whom know little or nothing about men or boys anyway), half a million British children are now drugged up to their eyeballs with Ritalin and such like as "treatment" for this and various other non-existent conditions.

In fact, having long since decided that femaleness, simply in itself, was a medicable condition requiring the pumping of women's and girls' bodies full of highly poisonous substances in order to stop those bodies from doing what they do naturally, we now seem to have decided to treat maleness in the same way, and to get in even younger than we did with femaleness.

Meanwhile, criminal behaviour is to be defined as a manifestation of ADHD, or else why bother testing prisoners, in particular and as such, for it? So they will all be found to have it. But they don't have it. No one has it. It does not exist.

Six Into Twenty-Six Won't Go

Proving that no one is all bad, Nick Cohen has it right: no one in the Irish Republic has really wanted Northern Ireland for as long as almost anyone alive can now remember, and that state could not begin to assimilate a cultural minority one million strong. No wonder that the Republic's voters so massively renounced any claim to the Six Counties.

What Cohen doesn't add is that, if anything, the Republic would find it even harder to assimilate Northern Nationalists, who would be rather like hopelessly unrealistic third, fourth or fifth generation colonial returnees to Britain from Africa or India, only far more numerous, and far more concentrated geographically. Who on earth would want that? No one in the Irish Republic, that's for sure.

The Social Conservatism Scam

If anything going a bit soft on Joe Wilson, a supporter not only of John McCain but also of Lindsey Grahamnesty against Bob Conley, Jack Hunter writes:

Explaining the need for his “Stand Up for Christmas” resolution, Congressman Henry Brown of South Carolina released the following statement:

“I am troubled by the growing sentiment that the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ is not appropriate and I am worried that attempts to celebrate a ‘politically correct’ holiday season may cause the loss of some of the traditions sacred to this widely celebrated holiday.”

For this stance, FOX News pundit Bill O’Reilly declared Brown a “patriot.”

Many have debated whether there actually exists a “war on Christmas,” with many conservatives answering in the affirmative and many liberals insisting that the whole thing is a manufactured seasonal ruse, exploited by opportunistic Republicans like Brown. While there is no doubt an increasing reluctance to use the word “Christmas” in public, especially within government and corporate institutions, liberals are right that the “war on Christmas” is often nothing more than an excuse to engage in cheap political opportunism and Brown’s “Stand Up for Christmas” legislation is a perfect example.

Brown is an archetype of the conventional Republican–a big spending, big government politician who constantly appeals to his base with ineffectual, conservative sounding rhetoric about peripheral social issues. It’s not that issues like abortion, gay marriage, and the 2nd amendment aren’t important–it’s just that most Republican politicians’ stances on these issues rarely produce anything that actually advances any conservative agenda. There is never a grand strategy–but always plenty of grandstanding.

For example, when Brown’s fellow South Carolinian, Lindsey Graham was attacked by his constituents for his big government record during a town hall meeting in October, the senator immediately touted his pro-life, pro-gun record instead, as if his position on those issues should excuse his support for spending trillions of taxpayer dollars. Likewise, Republicans like Brown supported every bit of President Bush’s spending, including the monstrous TARP, but by God, such Republicans want you to know those baby-killin’, gay-lovin’, gun-hatin’ liberals are going to hear “Merry Christmas” whether they like it or not!

For decades, such posturing on social issues has kept the biggest, big government Republicans in office and similarly, Brown’s supposed concern for the “traditions,” “sacred” to Christmas come off as grandstanding precisely because he is. Even many of those who agree with his sentiments concerning the loss of Christmas and its traditions, including this writer, can still see right through the opportunistic Brown.

And yet who can blame Henry? Grandstanding is often all it takes. When Brown’s fellow South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson yelled “you lie!” at President Obama during his speech on healthcare in September, Wilson became an instant celebrity amongst conservatives, and Republicans across the country swelled his campaign coffers. Yet, few have stopped to recall that Wilson supported every bit of Bush’s spending, including TARP, making him little different from Brown and the rest of the usual suspects up on Capitol Hill. But still, say many conservatives, Joe Wilson sure told that Obama!

And now Brown wants to tell you “Merry Christmas.” Let’s face facts: social issues conservatism has been a tragedy since day one, never producing anything of value to social conservatives while at the same time giving cover to an entrenched Republican establishment hellbent on doing their fiscal worst. It’s hard to believe that most pro-life Republican politicians have ever had any real intention of overturning Roe v. Wade precisely because it is not in their interest to do so–simply opposing the law of the land on abortion has long served GOP politicians far better than if that particular Supreme Court decision had never been made.

If Congressman Brown or any of his Republican colleagues truly wanted to preserve “sacred traditions,” they could quit insulting their constituents’ intelligence with their feigned concern for life, marriage, guns and Christmas, and revisit the U.S. Constitution, something they took an oath to uphold upon entering office-and have taken a “happy holiday” from ever since.

Our own frauds are at it, too. They intend going into the General Election affecting to be pro-family, and David Willetts recently gave an interview to the Guardian in which he pretended to believe passionately in the institution of marriage.

Are these the same Tories who, among so many other things the last time that they were in, made divorce legally easier than release from a car hire contract? Pro-family? When? How? They were when Labour and the Liberals also were, an awfully long time ago now. Then they all stopped being, all at the same time and with a total disregard for public opinion. They still aren’t, and they never will be again. All alike, they simply have to go. The party of Willetts not least because it has been in government for most of the anti-family period, enacting most of the legislation in question.

It is high time to entitle each divorcing spouse to one per cent of the other’s estate for each year of marriage, up to fifty per cent, and to disentitle the petitioning spouse unless fault be proved.

It is high time to entitle any marrying couple (or couple married prior to this legislation’s coming into effect) to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 as regards grounds and procedures for divorce, and to enable any religious organisation to specify that any marriage which it conducts shall be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

And it is high time to legislate that the Church of England be such a body unless the General Synod specifically resolve the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses, and to do something similar for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

Do not vote for anyone who does not promise to propose this on the floor of the House at every opportunity until it is enacted, and to defend it utterly without compromise thereafter, or who, seeking re-election from the end of the next Parliament onwards, has failed to do so.

It looks as if rather a lot of candidate organisation is in order. Let’s get to it.

Saturday 26 December 2009

The First Priority

From the Holy Father's sermon at the much-reported Midnight Mass:

For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly. And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First, we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities, God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then it is God's work alone.

The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives.

The shepherds teach us this priority. From them, we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them, we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place, however important they may be, so as to make our way towards God.

On The Feast Of Stephen

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

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

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

The Huntsman Blows His Bugle Horn

And so another Boxing Day comes round.

The hunting ban has never commanded popular support. Most people couldn’t care less. And among those who could (massively concentrated, on both sides, in rural communities), opinion is still overwhelmingly opposed to the ban, i.e., in favour of the safety of the sheep and poultry whom must anti-hunt types still want to eat, and in favour of killing far fewer foxes, by far more humane methods, than the ban compels.

Wealth inequality in Britain is now greater than at any other time since records began. Social mobility has not only ceased, but gone dramatically into reverse. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drone on. And so on, and on, and on.

But never mind. At least the red-coated toffs have been knocked off their horses, so high a priority for Attlee, Bevin, Morrison, Bevan and Gaitskell.

Except, of course, that it wasn’t, that they haven’t been, and that nor should they be.

Filling The Void

That the Church in Ireland ever got Herself into this position is because She allowed Herself to be co-opted as, for ceremonial purposes, a substitute for the British monarchy, by which the Irish public remains fascinated to the point of obsession. (Northern Nationalists aren't, but they are no more typically Irish than it would be normal behaviour over here to march through the streets behind a Union Flag while wearing a bowler hat.)

Neither from the Queen nor from her father will you ever find the quotation "we are a moral example", or words to that effect, and before him not even his great-grandmother was regarded in quite those terms. It is simply not what they are for. They have never claimed that it was. Whereas it is what the Church is for, as She claims. In the absence of Royals doing what Royals do, someone else had to do it, and there was no one else to do it but the clergy. Thus the confusion began. We all know where it ended up.

But Say A Prayer, Pray For The Other Ones

Here, here and here. Some "liberation".

Too bad for them in NATO, and putatively EU, Turkey, as well.

But thank God for their remaining Arab protectors, who, though themselves Alawites, rule over a predominantly Sunni country which nevertheless has Christian majority provinces and Christian festivals as public holidays.

Thank God for the country in which, like the Armenians (there's that Turkey thing again) and indeed the Jews, they have reserved parliamentary representation.

And thank God for the Arab country in which fully half the parliamentary seats are reserved for Christians, as is the Presidency.

If people from certain ideological or ethnic backgrounds wish to regard the genocidally anti-Christian invasion and occupation of Iraq as some sort of "liberation" (of whom?), or wish to hold up genocidally anti-Christian Turkey and genocidally anti-Christian Israel as their "outposts" in the Middle East, then that is their lookout.

Those of us to whom our civilisation is the Biblical-Classical synthesis in Jesus Christ and His Church, we, too, have outposts in the Middle East, for which we, too, must be prepared to fight as hard as need be. Iraq may have fallen. But we still have Syria. Above all, we still have Lebanon.

And we still have Iran.

One Nation?

Particularly in high summer and in deep winter, the weather doesn't really vary all that much around this country. When it is hot, then it is hotter for longer in the South than in the North. But it is still hot in the North. When it snows, then it snows more in the North of Scotland than in the North of England, and more in the North of England than in the South. But it always does snow in the South, at the same time as everywhere else. Yet year on year, the whole thing is regarded as a freak occurrence, both reported by the media and treated by the authorities as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime national emergency. Of course, we just laugh up here. But should we?

The South, especially the South East, has a permanent belief that it is Britain's economic powerhouse, yet in fact almost nothing has been made there for decades. That those with complicated tax avoidance arrangements are able to go into London with ease in order to move money around while stealing great wads of it, is only because Dr Beeching's own caste was exempted from his vandalism and permitted to retain a lavish public transport network at enormous cost to the taxpaying rest of us.

And when their incompetence and criminality create a situation in which they might have to live on their gargantuan independent incomes alone (since these are not people who ever needed jobs, but people whose greed could not be sated by their eye-watering inheritances), or in which they might even become so poor that they may have to pay income tax, then what do they get? Everyone else gets Job Seeker's Allowance because of them. But there is none of that for the people to blame.

As when they want a war, the money that is not available for public services, or for the relief of poverty, or to rescue things of real economic and social value, is suddenly found from somewhere or other, indeed from anywhere at all. Does anyone go into the City on a daily basis these days, other than to the many lovely old churches or to the Smithfield meat market? If so, why? In order to maintain their lifestyle, they no longer have any need to pretend to work. So why bother?

The utter conviction that this is their absolute entitlement is essentially the same as the utter conviction that the South has a tropical climate, any departure from which almost never happens, is wholly unpredictable when it does, and is at least as bad as the Blitz or the Black Death ever was, if not worse. We laugh at them every year. But should we?

Much To Discuss

The Queen is absolutely right to call for young people from across the Commonwealth to come together and discuss matters of global significance. Beginning with the collapse of capitalism, the end of secularism even in those very few countries that ever had it, the simple fact that China rather than America is now the most powerful country in the world, the sheer continued existence of the Commonwealth and of the institution at its heart deep into Post-Postmodernity, and the prominence of Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia, India, South Africa) among those fighting against the arresting of economic development in the poor world and the re-restriction to the rich of secure jobs, decent wages, travel opportunities and a full diet.

Holy Father, Unholy Auntie

The assault on the Pope gave the BBC an excuse, not only for its habitual product placement on behalf of The Tablet, pathologically dissident other employer of several Beeboids, but also to let off its anti-Catholic Tourettes. Was this woman a random nutter, as has in fact turned out to have been the case? No, of course not. She was protesting against those aspects of the Holy Father's "agenda" which have the sheer presumption to differ from the agenda of the BBC. Well, she must have been. Mustn't she...?

Thursday 24 December 2009

A Very Merry Christmas

Famous last words, but blogging should be fairly light for the next week or so.

Worth Having?

Congratulations to the Republicans and to that appalling Lieberman person on securing a Senate Bill which the GOP, at least, voted against anyway, despite the fact that for their and his benefit it contained no public option, but instead made it compulsory to purchase private health insurance, even if you have to invoice the taxpayer to pay whatever premium the insurance company cares to demand.

Pro-life is paramount, and Obama has promised not to sign any Healthcare Bill without the principle that the House has enshrined in the Stupak Amendment. At the coming into effect of that Bill (i.e., of any Healthcare Bill worth sending to President's desk), abortion, though legal, will become practically unobtainable; factor in the Pregnant Women Support Act and it really would cease almost entirely in America. Although this could and would happen anyway, the final guarantee of it would be the public option. Like the Stupak Amendment, it must be there.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Two-Year "Degrees"

Where does one even begin?

There is not much to be said for European federalism or American hegemony. And if either of them allows this to happen here, when it is inconceivable either in the United States or on the Continent, then there will be nothing at all to be said for either.

There are too many universities in this country, with too many people at them. That is the problem. And it is certainly not confined to newer institutions.

Legal Highs No More

We need a single class of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on. Within a context in which each offence carries a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years for life.

The Changed Climate

Two Commonwealth countries among the four that scuppered the forced arrest of economic development at Copenhagen, to the fury of the US and the EU. Canada the world leader in defending jobs, wages, travel opportunities and a full diet. Splendid work being done in Australia. Are we getting the message?

Back Britain To Get Britain Back To Work

In The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

It's certainly not the sort of news that Gordon Brown wanted to hear just before Christmas. Official figures released yesterday show that despite the Brown government's efforts to boost the economy, Britain has remained in recession for a record-breaking sixth quarter.

As The First Post's business correspondent Edward Helmore reports today, the economy shrank by 0.2 per cent between July and September - meaning that Britain is now the only G20 nation still mired in recession.

Why have we got it so bad while our European neighbours are already enjoying a return to economic growth? The opposition have of course been quick to pin the blame on Gordon Brown and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. But the problem runs deeper than two individuals. The reason why Britain is still in recession, while France and Germany are not, is because of the type of economy we run.

Britain, since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, has been a country where manufacturing industry - and a diverse, mixed economy, has been sacrificed at the altar of free market dogma. We have allowed important industries to close, or be sold overseas - mistakenly pinning our hopes on a burgeoning financial services sector fuelling long-term economic growth.

Our continental rivals have pursued a more balanced, less-ideological approach. Unlike Britain, France, Germany and Italy have maintained a strong industrial base. Six of the top 14 automobile manufacturers in the world are from those three countries. Europe's largest engineering company - Siemens - is German; the largest energy company - EDF - is French and 85 per cent owned by the French government.

It's instructive to compare the economic policies of Nicolas Sarkozy, France's right-wing President, with those of his Conservative counterparts in Britain. Sarkozy has attacked the "speculative capitalism" of hedge funds and other financial predators and railed against market fundamentalism. He has called for greater state intervention in the economy and has done all he can to protect French manufacturing during the economic downturn.

In Britain meanwhile, the Conservative Party remains wedded to free-market, laissez-faire ideology, defending the role of hedge funds and private equity companies, opposing state intervention to help industry and remaining blase about famous British manufacturing companies, such as Cadbury, being taken over by foreign-owned rivals. When Lord Mandelson was involved in a public argument with Sarkozy over issues of free trade and protectionism last year, British conservative commentators revealingly sided with Labour's EU Commissioner and not with the French President.

The great tragedy for the British economy was that instead of breaking with free market dogmatism when they came to power in 1997, New Labour continued on the path laid down by Margaret Thatcher. In fact, under Labour, manufacturing declined at a faster rate than even under the Conservatives. Labour in government presided over a reckless credit boom and did nothing to stop the rise of the worst kind of financial spivvery in the City of London.

But despite the change in rhetoric since the slump kicked in, the government continues to champion the disgraced financial services sector. Shamefully Labour - together with London mayor Boris Johnson and the Conservative party - is fighting attempts to introduce tougher EU-wide regulation of hedge funds.

It doesn't have to be like this. In the 1960s the Labour government's pro-manufacturing policies, aided by the devaluation of 1967, led to a 20th century record balance of payments surplus of £550m in 1970, the year they left office.

An 'I'm Backing Britain' campaign, to encourage economic patriotism, was endorsed by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, while an innovative Selective Employment Tax was levied on service industries, the revenue going to subsidise export industries.

What is needed for Britain to achieve long-term sustainable growth is for the Labour Party to once again put industry first and end its disastrous 12-year love-in with the City. And for the Conservatives to jettison Thatcherism - a most unconservative ideology - and follow the more dirigiste Gaullist policies followed by Sarkozy in France. Or, failing that, a third party to come to power which will make a clean break with the deeply flawed economic policies of the past 30 years.

Britain was once known as 'The Workshop of the World'. If we are to return to prosperity, we urgently need to get the factory gates open again.

With Friends Like These

Two "friendly fire" incidents in well under a week. But they were "categorically unconnected". So that's all right, then. Isn't it?


To be a non-dom, you have to declare a foreign country to be your natural home. Why, then, would you want to be an MP here? And whom could you possibly expect to vote for you?

One Thousand Members In 2010


Free public transport is an idea whose time is about to come.

Steadfast In Service?

Those roads in Basingstoke, apparently impossible to pass, looked exactly as roads here always look at this time of year, and the buses run entirely on time. They are doing it now, this very day. I have been on them.

No shop staff in Newcastle or at the Metro Centre have been allowed to sleep on the beds used for show. Words really do fail me.

This weather happens every year, as does the hysterical reaction to it. Every single year. What is it with people in the South, that they insist they "never" get snow?

Tuesday 22 December 2009

A Debate About What?

I suppose that the whole thing might at least expose once and for all that they are all exactly the same. But you can't stretch that out for nine hours.

Of course, if we must have these things, then no party contesting fewer than fifty per cent plus one of the seats should be on them. What on earth for? But by all means let there be further ones in Scotland and Wales featuring the SNP and Plaid Cymru, though not with whoever purports to be the Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem Leader there, but with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. And let the whole country see, as no doubt we would on BBC Parliament if nowhere else, the look on the face of Alex Salmond in particular as Brown nonchalantly mentioned "At the G8", or "While I was chairing the UN Security Council", or whatever.

The problem with having the BNP on would be that no one would talk about anything except the BNP. As for UKIP, its response indicates once and for all that it is now just another Tory pressure group. If Cameron or his successor (but no one else) promised an In/Out referendum (but nothing more, or any issue), then UKIP would disband. UKIP is a non-domiciled party for people who may not be members of, or voters for, the Conservative Party, but for whom it will always be their natural home. And as of today, once and for all, it regards nothing but the EU as worth debating, not even in the run-up to a General Election.

The Rule of Law

Martin Kelly writes:

The cockamamie, Heath Robinson nature of the banking bailouts, which seemed to enable the bankers to remain as arrogant as they always were while swathed in the comfort blanket of taxpayer funds, makes one wonder why they weren't all just nationalised outright.

If governments were to be asked about this, they might state their fear of 'capital flight', the principal cause of the Asian banking crisis of 1997; if foreign investors see a country's banks being nationalised, the domino effect produced by the hitting of 'Send' keys in glass towers will collapse your economy in seconds - such are the vagaries of modern economic theory, it might even collapse before you've made the decision to nationalise. These economists are all really sharp cookies; an expression which, like so much in economics, should properly be considered a contradiction in terms.

Capital flight is one of the most interesting phenomena of modern times. It seems strange to believe that digital money can cross the globe unimpeded at lightspeed at the same point in history at which it costs £14.50 for a weekly bus pass to take you from one side of Glasgow to the other, and when the UK now has a particular train fare that costs a grand a pop for a ticket, but there you go. As far as the UK's concerned, of course, capital flight was never on the cards for a moment. While the banks might talk up Burundi's potential as a developing economy, and bellow like mountain gorillas about how they'll move your money away from you if you don't do what they want, London has a number of amenities - such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, The Royal Opera House, The British Museum, Latvian whores, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the number of a reliable coke dealer on your speed-dial - which Bujumbura might lack; and let's face it, nobody really wants to foul their own nest. Bankers might view postings to exotic locations as being good for their careers; but I'm also sure many hope that such postings will be for as brief a period as is humanly possible.

As an aside, if the UK were to suffer from capital flight, it would expose the extent to which government no longer controls the economy; and we can't be having that. One wonders how long it will be before the post of 'Chancellor of the Exchequer' is declared obsolete; if the banking crisis has shown nothing else, it's that the guys with the money are always in charge, and that the bankers always seem to have the money even when they're bust. There are those who believe this lack of control to be a good thing; given that all views on this matter are likely to be wrong, I am neutral one way or the other.

However, what those who tout deregulation, are for 'cutting red tape', and the unending procession of old, fat, hardfaced men who bray (and I mean really bray, like donkeys - somebody pin a tail on them, please) that what's 'good for business is good for Britain', aren't ever now challenged upon is why one section of national life should to all intents and purposes be exempt from the oversight of the law. At bottom, that's what deregulation means; the private human being is to be governed by law but the business sector isn't. They seem to believe that laws are good for you but not for them, so shut up and do as you're told. This legalophobia invests limited liability companies, entities which cannot be said to exist in the real world other than through the operation of legal fictions, with more rights than you and me; for legal vacuums do nothing but invest those who live in them with absolute rights.

The way in which the culture of deregulation expanded at the same time as the contraction of civil liberties makes one wonder whether liberal capitalism needs illiberal laws to operate most efficiently.

But that's all by the by. The flightless bird which is the capital produced by fractional reserve banking was never going to take off. The reason why we now own banks but don't seem to have any say in how they're run might be more mundane.

If the banks were nationalised, everything in them, from the dealing records of the young, lean, hardfaced men whose actions were always cheered on in the good times by the aforementioned old, fat, hardfaced men, to the negotiations which went into the accumulation of the old, fat, hardfaced men's' pension pots, could have been subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. You could have been able to see how Fred Goodwin came to be awarded a pension of £600,000 a year (if memory serves, also index-linked - none of that inflation rubbish for the bankers); and you could also have been able to see how the 'sanctity of contract' which meant he couldn't be stripped of the lot also meant that he was probably entitled to only about two-thirds of the original total. The negotiations regarding the reduction in Goodwin's pension would certainly have been interesting to read.

The banking bailouts were not really about saving the banking system in the end; they were about saving bankers. There was no reason why the banks couldn't have been nationalised. A good dose of humility is what these people needed; they would not learn it of their own accord, and it is a pity that the peoples' representatives did not see fit to impose it upon them. This was bad for bankers' mental health, as it gave them the impression that, no matter what they do, the taxpayer will always act as the lender of last resort, a state of affairs guaranteed not to produce the inhibition which the current fiasco has definitively proven to be necessary in bankers' characters.

But it was also bad for democracy; one set of individuals has been protected, while everyone else gets thrown to the wolves. All political parties are mere gangs; yet it does not matter a jot which gang had held office at the time the crisis broke, so to speak. Mainstream British politics is now so monoideological that they would all have adopted the same solution; and don't listen to any of their shills who say anything different. In 2008, it was not merely 'the banking system', that entity which it is often forgotten is nothing more or less than the bankers who work within it, that failed; government failed as well. By failing to be even-handed, it made us a two-tier nation; it is to be hoped that this point, the point at which the maintenance of some commercial activities became more important to the state than its discharge of its duties to the people, and commercial secrets assumed a higher importance than state secrets, is not an event which future historians might one day ponder as being one of the milestones we passed on the road we travelled towards the loss of our democracy.

Merry Christmas.

And to you, Martin. And to you.

Welcome To The Chinese Century

As Copenhagen illustrated, what China doesn't want doesn't happen, and to hell with the mere President of the United States. This is the Chinese Century. Will that be so bad? China still makes things, builds things, mines things. She still puts the jobs, heat and light of her people first.

She is emerging from the gangster capitalism that always follows Communism by returning to her own culture, which is firmly centred on the family and the local community, reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, has barely started an external war in five thousand years, and is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity.

And she takes Africa seriously, even going there to secure the food supply necessary for her to give up the extremely anti-Confucian one child policy.

So a very warm welcome indeed to the Chinese Century. We, too, need to get back to making things, building things and mining things. To prioritising jobs, heat and light. To the family and the local community. To tradition and ritual. To moral rather than physical force. To the Golden Rule. To Agrarianism and Distributism. To a pronounced aversion to war. To the classical Christianity that completes and transcends Confucianism, in no way destroying it. To a very Classical and Patristic openness to, and interest in, Africa. And to the glorious celebration of the fact that the very last thing wrong with the world is that it has people in it.

Half Time, Swap Ends

Over on Harry's Place, there is an article about the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, pointing out that, after all, he was a Grand Ayatollah. Well, that strikes me as rather preferable to being a neocon, if the choice has to be made; but of that another time.

No, the real point is that Iran is now blamed for the Iran-Iraq War. Well, of course she is. When it happened, it was Iran's fault - she was blamed for having been invaded by our dear friend, Saddam Hussein. When Iraq invaded our masters' deep-pocketed pal, Kuwait, then, after all, the earlier war turned out to have been the fault of the people who started it. That carried over to the second war against Saddam. But now that he is gone, Iran is the only target left. So guess what?

The EU: Serbia's Neoliberal Nightmare

David Cronin writes:

A blizzard of platitudes has been unleashed by Europe's leaders this week as Serbia formally applies for EU membership. No opportunity to declare the occasion "historic" or to assert that Serbia has a European "vocation" is being passed up.

Yet once these asinine buzzwords have been uttered, there will be no reason to rejoice. Belgrade's treatment by some EU governments has long been characterised by a brazen hypocrisy. Until the beginning of this month, the Netherlands was blocking Serbia's efforts to strengthen its relations with the union over suspicions it was not co-operating fully with the war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

The zeal of Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, in insisting on accountability for offences against humanity would be praiseworthy if it was consistent with his approach to other conflicts. How odd it is, then, that Verhagen has vigorously opposed efforts to probe (never mind prosecute) alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

With just two of the men on its wanted list – Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic – still at large, isn't it time that the Hague tribunal was given a fresh mandate, or even better that an entirely new investigative body is set up? This body should be tasked with finally unearthing the truth about why Nato bombed Serbia in 1999.

None of the alliance's personnel has yet been charged by an international tribunal with crimes relating to that war, even though it was conducted with the use of cluster bombs, weapons that literally slice the limbs of their victims. Nor should it be forgotten that the war lacked UN approval and helped usher in the dubious concept of "humanitarian intervention", under which military action can be taken on the flimsiest of pretexts.

I'm sure that I will soon hear or read some federalist (or should I say fantasist?) trying to wax lyrical about the significance of Serbia embracing countries that were attacking it little over a decade ago. What the fantasists won't acknowledge, though, is that Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's then president, didn't earn his status as a favourite bogeyman of the west purely because he did dreadful things to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, as the official narrative would have us believe.

The west could probably have tolerated his autocratic streak if he was more favourable to its pervading ideology. But Milosevic's refusal to accept the neoliberal precepts on which the global economy is being run seem to offer a more plausible explanation as to why Bill Clinton and his then cronies in Europe insisted he must go.

Such a conclusion seems to me inescapable when you examine the fine print of what the EU and America have been pressing Serbia to do over the past 10 years. Privatising state-owned industry is now a standard condition of EU accession, as many countries in central and eastern Europe have discovered, often at enormous social cost.

But what makes Serbia unique is that many of the facilities it has been required to sell off were first damaged by Nato bombs, with the result that western firms could snatch some of them up at bargain basement prices. More than 1,800 privatisations have occurred since Milosevic was ousted; much of the country's metal industry is now in the hands of US Steel, which has been busy shedding jobs, while the national car company Zastava has been bought by Fiat.

The European commission's latest "progress report" for Serbia states that finalising privatisation is a priority for the country's "partnership" with the EU. Moreover, it indicates that the welfare state that has provided a lifeline to the country's citizens must be radically altered. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that the austerity budget rubber-stamped in Belgrade, also this week, was to a large extent written in Brussels and Washington, home to the IMF, which has so generously come to Serbia's "rescue".

No doubt, the pensioners whose income has been reduced at the behest of foreign institutions aren't weighed down by the hand of history on their country's shoulder at the moment. Instead, they will face 2010 with the dreaded sensation of a hair shirt on their backs.

It is the age-old mission of the Slavs to defend the Biblical-Classical True West against threats both external, in practice above all from Islamic expansionism although certainly not confined to it, and internal, most of them classifiable under the heading of decadence. Those two threats have been as great in the past as they are today. But they have never been greater. In recent years, the Serbs have been valiant on the external front. Like the Russians, let them be no less valiant on the internal front. Or, as one may say, having distinguished themselves in the lesser jihad, let them now distinguish themselves in the greater jihad.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Although "Iran never enriched uranium at a level that could only represent an interest in nuclear weapons - but South Korea did", nevertheless not only has South Korea (under markedly less actual threat from North Korea than Iran is from Israel) been let off the hook, but she very largely remains The Hermit Kingdom.

Rather too much so, in fact.

Admirably still centred on their families and their close friends, South Koreans are insufficiently engaged to prevent the destruction of that world by those who would instead turn their country into, among other things, a nuclear power, with all that that entails.

Civis Europeanus Sum?

Is that even the correct form? Is there one?

Anyway, "Citizens of the European Union" proclaimed Huw Edwards before a report on the Romanian orphanages, as bad as twenty years ago and with many of the same individuals still stuck in them. Being a "Citizen of the European Union", rather than a human being simply as such, is now what matters.

So, a fat lot of good the last great Soviet-backed coup was.

And a fat lot of good the European Union is.

Paganes Ignorantes

I'm sorry, but the BBC's uncritical Solstice coverage of modern Paganism was appalling. The whole thing has no history prior to the late nineteenth century, and not even very much from as early as that. Folkloric practices traditionally branded as pagan in these islands are in fact Mediaeval, and Late Mediaeval at that; the allegation of paganism is the stuff of Protestant propaganda.

In any case, recent utterances make it clear that the Pagans are tapping into the popularity of Harry Potter and the BBC's very own Camelot 90210 or whatever it is called. All pretence at continuing or reviving the pre-Christian past has ceased, and the whole thing is now openly made up off blockbuster films and the telly.

Monday 21 December 2009

Nothing To Debate

There should not be televised debates between the Party Leaders in the run-up to the General Election. We shall be electing a Parliament, not a President. Sky News is trying to become Fox. It shouldn't. And the Prime Minister, or anyone who aspires to that office, should not be egging it on. Never mind the BBC or ITN.

Mayor Mandy?

Who cares? Like most people outside London, and no doubt quite a few in it, I cannot really see the point of the Mayor. What does he do? There are ten times as many quango members in London as Borough Councillors, Assembly Members and the Mayor put together. And neither the Mayor nor the Assembly has any fiscal power. None. Not even that of a Parish Council. Like so many things about London when viewed from anywhere else, it is quite impossible to see what all the fuss is about.

Something In The Air

I cannot do better than reprint these words of Neil Clark from some months ago:

Across the political spectrum there is widespread agreement that Britain's airports, with their long queues, lack of seats and tacky, shopping mall atmosphere, are a national disgrace. But the solution is not to break up BAA's monopoly and introduce 'more competition' as some have suggested. The answer is to simply take BAA back into public ownership.

Sir Terence Conran, who designed Terminal One at Heathrow and the North Terminal in the 1960s, has contrasted the brief he received from the owners of the airports back then - the British state - with the instructions Lord (Richard) Rogers, the architect of Terminal 5, got from BAA.

Conran was told to put in as many seats as possible, with the priority being to make passengers 'relax and feel at ease'. At Terminal One there were only three shops.

The privatised BAA told Rogers to put in as few seats as possible: there will be only 700 seats for a terminal handling an average of 80,000 passengers a day when it opens in March 2008. BAA wants people to pay to sit down at the terminal's expensive cafes and restaurants - not sit down for free, eating their own sandwiches.

The approach perfectly illustrates the difference in ethos between a publicly-owned company, for whom profit is not the be all and end all, and a privatised one.

We can't blame BAA for treating every square foot at Heathrow as a profit centre: it's a private company which wants to maximise returns for its shareholders. But we can blame the politicians foolish enough to sell off BAA in the first place.

Allowing other profit-hungry plcs to compete to run our airports would only mean more of the same.

If we really want Heathrow and our other airports to be comfortable and reasonably easy to negotiate, we need to change the whole philosophy under which they operate. And that means returning them to their most appropriate owners: the British public.

By far Britain's most satisfactory major airport is Manchester, the only one still in public ownership. Which is to say, British ownership. BAA is Spanish-owned, and will in due course be sold on to heaven only knows who. You can have globalisation and the "free" market, or you can have national sovereignty and national security. But you can't have both.

One Nation Politics

Call it a free trade agreement if it makes you feel better, but the reintegration of Taiwan with the rest of China continues apace. Demented schemes to declare that accidental bolthole an independent state, the pseudo-West's East Asian outpost, are mercifully as dead as the PNAC.

Good Riddance To Peter Tatchell

I am very sorry that he is so ill. But he wants to lower the age of consent to 14. And what was "homophobic" about the campaign against him by Simon Hughes? Except perhaps in homosexual subcultures, "straight" only meant "honest" in those days, and indeed for a long time thereafter.

Giving It To The Man

Now, listen carefully. There is no way that SyCo acts would be distributed by Sony unless a good chunk of Sony were owned by Simon Cowell. Buy either record, and make Cowell richer. But then, buy any record and probably make Cowell richer.

As a comment on an earlier post put it, this has been a classic case of astroturfing, the corporate faking of grassroots. And remember, Cowell is taking over politics next.

Sunday 20 December 2009

That No One Should Be Missed

North-West Durham Constituency Labour Party's all-women shortlist is complete. The candidates are:

Liz Twist, Unison's Political Officer for the North - guaranteed a seat somewhere, especially in the New Year once all new PPCs are imposed by the NEC;
Anna Turley, Deputy Director of the New Local Government Network, and a former Special Adviser to Hilary Armstrong and to David Blunkett - guaranteed a seat somewhere, especially in the New Year once all new PPCs are imposed by the NEC;
Ann Pettifor, an economics writer and commentator, and a co-founder of the Jubilee 2000 campaign - guaranteed a seat somewhere (if not a peerage), especially in the New Year once all new PPCs are imposed by the NEC;
Lisa Homan, a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham - if she's on the circuit, then probably guaranteed a seat somewhere (most obviously in London), especially in the New Year once all new PPCs are imposed by the NEC;
Lauren Todd, a 23-year-old politics student from Delves Lane - are you having a laugh?; and
Pat Glass, a government education adviser and my colleague on Lanchester Parish Council.

Only the top and bottom of that list would have made it onto any shortlist that then had to be submitted to a ballot of the whole constituency electorate, and Pat would have won. She is also a publicly declared opponent of all-women shortlists, who would have preferred to win a fair contest. I don't know about the others.

Anyway, ladies, in view of the very real Lib Dem threat to this seat this time, in view of the fact that an Independent who took more votes than the reduction in the Labour vote last time is expected to stand again, in view of the very low turnout universally anticipated, and indeed simply on principle:

Are you:

- pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker, and anti-war?
- an economically social democratic, morally and socially conservative British and Commonwealth patriot?
- committed to One Nation politics, with an equal emphasis on the One and on the Nation?
- a conservationist, not an environmentalist?
- far too left-wing to be liberal, far too conservative to be capitalist?

(As for being a practising Catholic, the root of all five of these commitments in my case and something that I happen to bring to the constituency that contains the old Irish Catholic stronghold of Consett, the remarkable Recusant village of Esh, and Ushaw College, of course it is not essential. But I do happen to know that Pat is a practising Catholic, from an Irish background but born up in that Recusant hill country.)

Do you support real social democratic policies, such as:

- restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law?
- no one's tax-free income to fall below half national median earnings?
- abolition of prescription charges, and restoration of free eye and dental treatment?
- making employment rights begin on day one of employment and apply regardless of the number of hours worked, as promised by John Smith?
- saving council housing, and bringing all council services back in house?
- renationalisation of the utilities and the railways?
- building a national network of public transport free at the point of use?
- removal of all nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons from British soil and waters?

Do you support real conservative and patriotic policies, such as:

- restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law?
- a return to preventative policing based on foot patrols?
- making each offence carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or 15 years for life?
- restoration of the grammar schools, restoration of O-levels, restoration of excellent Secondary Modern schools, and defence and restoration of Special Needs Education?
- a legal presumption of equal parenting, restoration of the tax allowance for fathers, and allowing paternity leave to be taken at any time in the first 18 years of the child's life?
- helping farmers and small businesses through a windfall tax on the supermarkets?
- defending village services, saving shooting and fishing, repealing the hunting ban, and making Gypsies and Travellers obey the same planning laws as the rest of us?
- preserving the historic regimental system, rebuilding the Royal Navy, and saving the Royal Air Force?
- removal of all nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons from British soil and waters?

And do you support real common sense policies, such as:

- restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law?
- nuclear power and clean coal technology?
- restoration of British overall control of our defence capability?
- docking Ministers' pay if either spending or outcomes are lower in the North East than in Scotland or the South East?
- immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq;
- total opposition to lap-dancing clubs?
- an MP's office in Consett as well as in Crook?
- removal of all nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons from British soil and waters?

A candidate who is and who does will be on the ballot paper, one way or another.