Wednesday 31 August 2011

Bank Balance

Investment banking and retail banking should be split completely. Furthermore, public ownership took RBS back to profitability, but the Coalition has taken it back into the red. All of the banks should be turned into mutual building societies, ironclad as such by statute. Northern Rock would be an ideal place to start.

Apart, that is, from the public stakes in HBOS and RBS. Those are permanent, non-negotiable safeguards of the Union, as public ownership always is. Therefore, the profits from each of those stakes should be divided equally among all the households in the United Kingdom.

For that, we need a Government which is not so incompetent that it can preside over their degeneration back into loss-making status. Indeed, if this provision had already been in place, then perhaps not even George Osborne would have dared to be quite so stupid and inept as that.

First At Antioch

A Greek Orthodox is the new Syrian Minister of Defence.

Of course.

On one side, Christian-majority provinces, Christian festivals as public holidays, and support for a Lebanese coalition which, though Sunni-headed (as the Prime Minister of Lebanon has to be Sunni), includes Armenians and Maronites (the President of Lebanon has to be Maronite).

On the other side, the Saudi-backed "demonstrators".

Of His Own Making

"It will be no use, for example, in David Cameron whining six months from now when women are forced by law to wear burqas in Tripoli and are not allowed out on their own... It will have become a disaster partly of his own making."

So writes Rod Liddle in this week's Spectator. But six months? Lindsey Hilsum's head was covered on Channel 4 News this very evening. Happy Eid...

Equal Under The Law

It is highly debateable whether or not this country's Gypsies and Travellers are ethnic groups comparable to the Roma and others elsewhere.

It is even more so whether or not many of those throwing up shanty towns in our countryside are Gypsies or Travellers at all.

But it is not debateable that, whoever and whatever they are, they must be subject to the same planning laws as the rest of us.

Why didn't the last lot do this? Whatever happened to equality, not least regardless of ethnicity or class background?

Ed Miliband, over to you.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Should Have The Land Of Britain As A Perquisite

I thought that ruinously expensive houses were supposed to be a Good Thing. But never mind. Apparently not.

There must be a tax on the productive value of land per acre, other than that occupied by the homes of the less well off.

Perhaps, that would make possible the abolition of stamp duty. In any event, it would establish and enforce the principle that no one should own land other than in order to make use of it.

This was proposed by the underrated Andy Burnham when he was a candidate for Leader of the Labour Party. Do not take your eye off that man.

We're Getting There

There is a perfectly simple way of ensuring that Crossrail, and every other rail service in the country, is British-run.


Big Love is one of my two Sky Atlantic Guilty Pleasures, the other being The Borgias.

But after an episode in which the central family sang Amazing Grace, we have just had one in which the imprisoned prophet sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and his followers celebrated his release with what I had always assumed was a quintessentially C of E hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.

Do Mormon polygamists, or any other Mormons, really do this? How can they possibly? "Holy, Holy, Holy, merciful and mighty, God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity."

I'll Drink To This

Real ales now outsell lagers.

So lots of lovely craft lagers are to be made available over here.

I think that's what they call a win-win.

Once Upon A Time In Westphalia

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes:

“For God’s sake do not drag me into another war,” said the Reverend Sydney Smith in 1823. “I am sorry for the Spaniards—I am sorry for the Greeks—I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most detestable tyranny; Bagdad is oppressed . . . Thibet is not comfortable. . . . The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. . . . Am I . . . to be eternally raising fleets and armies to make all men good and happy?”

That witty and humane clergyman had lived through a time of troubles: the American rebellion followed by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, strife over more than twenty years at terrible cost to the inhabitants of the countries where war was waged, from Spain to Russia. Although the price paid by England was slight by comparison, at least in human life if not in gold, those conflicts made the very question of war—whether and why it should be waged—as lively a topic in England as it is today in America, or should be.

This question is comparatively new. Once upon a time, the king declared war, his army fought it, the country paid for it, and that was that: no political problem arose. But the English civil war of the 1640s, the Glorious Revolution and the beginning of constitutional government meant that for the first time there could be open debate between a “Party of War” and a “Party of Peace.”

In the first years of the eighteenth century, the War of the Spanish Succession saw Jonathan Swift publish The Conduct of the Allies, denouncing the conflict, the way it was waged by the government in London, and in particular by the Duke of Marlborough, the general whose greatest victory gave its name to Blenheim Palace north of Oxford, where his descendant Winston Churchill would be born. Then, with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Englishmen for the first time could openly salute their country’s declared enemy. (Some might say that the English critic William Hazlitt’s adulation of Napoleon began another tradition: writers and savants fawning over distant tyrants.) And although in the aftermath of war there may have been an aversion to taking part in other people’s conflicts, a new and potentially dangerous doctrine could be seen in the making.

It was not until 1997 that Robin Cook, Tony Blair’s first foreign secretary, said that “our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension,” but he was only formulating a concept that found its origins in the early nineteenth century if not before. The English had persuaded themselves that their foreign policy was, and if necessary their wars were, justified by moral purposes, for the greater good of other countries where liberty and enlightenment should be spread.

One of Cook’s predecessors is George Canning, foreign secretary in the 1820s, who proclaimed himself “an enthusiast for national independence” and supported the new South American republics which had rebelled against Spain. As foreign secretary three times, Lord Palmerston called himself Canning’s heir, supported the forcible restoration of constitutional government in Portugal, acclaimed the new liberal tide throughout Europe, and blusteringly insisted that “a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong.” This coincided with the rise of a newspaper-reading middle class that could be swayed by moral or emotional arguments.

And it was this new zeal for what would later be called liberal interventionism that Smith had in mind with his sardonic words. For the best part of two hundred years since, his successors have tried to argue against the use of force to make all men good, sometimes with success but too often without.

Ever since, noninterventionists have been subject to misrepresentation and caricature, as heartless cynics who would stand idly by rather than fight for right against wrong. But they do not deny the existence of suffering and injustice, they only ask whether right should, or can, anywhere and everywhere be imposed by force of arms. Two Englishmen, Richard Cobden and John Bright, both men of high moral integrity, gave this policy its first true political form. Both ran textile businesses based in Lancashire; both were of modest origin with a great social gulf between them and the patrician elite who still ruled the country even after the Reform Act of 1832 began the gradual extension of the franchise that would make the country a full democracy within a hundred years. Indeed, both were antagonistic to that ruling landed class. Business took them abroad, as far as the United States in Cobden’s case, and this gave them a knowledge and perspective then quite unusual. But they were always known as Englishmen, and provincial Englishmen at that. Cobden published his first pamphlet as “A Manchester Manufacturer,” and the “Manchester School” became famous not only in England but—das Manchestertum—across Europe.

Its principles were simple: opposition to government interference in either domestic or foreign affairs. The first great campaign Cobden and Bright fought together was in the Anti-Corn Law League against the protectionist tariff that kept out cheap foreign wheat to the detriment of the masses but in the interest of the landowners who still dominated Parliament, Commons as well as Lords. And this made the struggle for free trade a kind of class war, between the commercial and industrial middle class and the landed aristocracy. That battle was won with the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, and Cobden and Bright returned to their other great cause of pacificism: a useful old word, as opposed to “pacifist,” meaning not one who has an absolute conscientious objection to bearing arms or shedding blood—even Bright, a Quaker, didn’t claim that—but one opposed to waging war except when strictly and plainly necessary for the defense of the country.

By the time of repeal, both Bright and Cobden had become members of Parliament, where they continued the argument they had already made outside. In his first polemical writings Cobden argued that a bellicose foreign policy was unjustified by any real threat from Russia, the enemy of choice for saber-rattling demagogues at that time (and later). Then he expanded the theme more broadly. As he said in 1847: “In all my travels . . . three reflections constantly occur to me: how much unnecessary solicitude and alarm England devotes to the affairs of foreign countries; with how little knowledge we enter upon the task of regulating the concerns of other people; and how much better we might employ our energies in improving matters at home.” Or simplest of all, Cobden’s favorite toast at political dinners: “No foreign politics.”

Within a matter of years, this had ceased to be an abstract question: the Crimean War against Russia, ostensibly fought out of disinterested loyalty to Turkey, was the test case for Manchester noninterventionism. Cobden so despaired of this foolish and needless conflict that he retreated into silence once the guns began to fire. Bright did not. In opposition to the war, he delivered what have been called the greatest speeches ever heard in a parliamentary assembly. They remain astonishingly vivid—and acutely relevant—to this day.

As the war began, Bright set out what was and remains the case against battles fought for supposedly altruistic or idealistic reasons. “I come now to another point,” he said to the House of Commons: “How are the interests of England involved in this question? This is, after all, the great matter which we, the representatives of the people of England, have to consider. It is not a question of sympathy with any other State. I have sympathy with Turkey; I have sympathy with the serfs of Russia; I have sympathy with the people of Hungary, whose envoy the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton [Lord Palmerston, recently Foreign Secretary and soon to be prime minister] refused to see . . . I have sympathy with the Italians, subjects of Austria, Naples, and the Pope; I have sympathy with the three millions of slaves in the United States; but it is not on a question of sympathy that I dare involve this country, or any country, in a war which must cost an incalculable amount of treasure and of blood. It is not my duty to make this country the knight-errant of the human race, and to take upon herself the protection of the thousand millions of human beings who have been permitted by the Creator of all things to people this planet.

Those superb words had no effect at all. The fighting continued. As the casualties list lengthened, Bright delivered another speech, with a passage that belongs to English literature: “Many homes in England in which there now exists a fond hope that the distant one may return—many such homes may be rendered desolate when the next mail shall arrive. The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings.” Once more his words could do nothing to turn the public against the war. Something else did. Over and again the same thing has happened: an honorable objection to war is ignored, and the pacificists then win the day, not through their own eloquence and logic but thanks to the way the war is conducted, or misconducted. That was true of the Crimean and Boer Wars, of Vietnam and of Iraq.

Having sunk to the depths of unpopularity, Cobden and Bright were rescued: by the charge of the Light Brigade; by William Howard Russell of the London Times with his reports of the sufferings of ordinary soldiers at Balaclava and in the disease-ridden hospital at Scutari; by Lords Cardigan, Raglan and Lucan, the aristocratic bunglers who commanded the British Army, just as Americans would one day be turned against the Vietnam War less by love and flowers and noninterventionist politicians such as Senator William Fulbright (or even Jane Fonda) than by the boastful incompetence of General Westmoreland. Indeed, such was the revulsion after the Crimea that England fought no other European war for nearly sixty years.

When Cobden and Bright first made their case in the 1840s and 1850s, it might have seemed remote to Americans, little knowing that their own country’s most destructive war was soon to begin, fought between Americans on American soil. But their two names were known on the other side of the Atlantic. Bright was an ardent opponent of slavery, and Cobden, on the strength of his travels, was one of the first to perceive that here was an enormously powerful economy in the making which might one day overshadow England and all of Europe. But America had no need at all to be taught the doctrine of noninterventionism by a Manchester businessman: it was the very heart and soul of the republic, its reason for being. Nowadays, American politicians, left and right, neocon and liberal, are incurably addicted to invoking the Founding Fathers; you might wonder whether they have ever read any of them. See two of the greatest utterances by presidents, and then see how long it has been since anyone in the White House has taken them to heart and acted upon them.

In 1796, George Washington bade farewell as first president, with an explicit affirmation that the newborn republic had no wish to take part in the quarrels of others: “Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations, cultivate peace and harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? . . . Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour or caprice?”

He also gave what sounds like a clear warning to his recent successors, when dealing with Southeast Asia or the Middle East: “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. . . . A passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.”

Rather more than four years later, Thomas Jefferson echoed Washington in his inaugural speech: “Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political: Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” For very many years, the United States did in fact follow those principles. Attempts have been made, perhaps more ingenious than convincing, to show that there was an aggressive and interventionist vein in American policy from the beginning—Robert Kagan has done his best to prove this in his book Dangerous Nation, without convincing some of us—but the fact remains that no American troops set foot on European soil for more than 140 years after the Declaration of Independence. The heirs of Washington and Jefferson really did follow their precepts. There were no passionate attachments, nor any permanent “inveterate antipathies against particular nations”—except maybe one. For all the quaint notion of an immemorial “special relationship,” the United States was not only detached from but also frequently hostile to England throughout the nineteenth century and into the next.

As to that rival, although Great Britain greedily and sometimes mercilessly expanded its empire during the same period, it was remarkably pacific in the sphere of European politics, in part because it was the only great power which could not in any conceivable circumstances make territorial gains on the Continent. When the twentieth century came and England did enter two great and historically decisive wars in 1914 and 1939, it was with the utmost reluctance. One London columnist, who was uneasy about the Iraq War and the way that Downing Street was taking Great Britain into it on flagrantly distorted claims, said that the government was obviously exaggerating the case for invasion, but that was what governments always did when these sorts of conflicts began. To the contrary, British governments and prime ministers have historically habitually exaggerated the case for peace—up to and notably including Neville Chamberlain. And that explains what happened to noninterventionism. It was seemingly tainted and discredited, in England as “appeasement” and in America as “isolationism.” Quite how these terms have been used and abused is another story for another day, but they doubtless conditioned policy after 1945—and after 1989, when NATO, instead of being shuttered once it fulfilled its purpose with the collapse of the Soviet empire, survived and was expanded and adapted to American interests, real or perceived.

Then came Tony Blair. He was a self-taught interventionist, having shown little interest in—or knowledge of—foreign affairs until he was converted, he tells us in his weird and rather horrific memoir, A Journey: My Political Life, by seeing Schindler’s List; if that dubious movie really was responsible for the Iraq War then Steven Spielberg has much to answer for. Blair long captivated many Americans as well as his compatriots, and in April 1999, he gave a celebrated speech in Chicago which supposedly outlined a new philosophy of liberal interventionism. It was hailed by people who may have known a little more history than Blair (which is not saying much) as the “end to Westphalia,” intending the Peace of Westphalia which itself had concluded the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War by establishing the principle of national sovereignty, as well as cuius regio, eius religio: the nation will follow the religion of its ruling prince (a principle silently adopted by both sides in Europe during the Cold War. Stalin and his successors were not going to attack Western Europe to impose Communism, and the West was not going to attack Russia and its dependencies to get rid of it).

In his grandiose, ill-informed and ultimately calamitous attempt to repudiate Westphalia, Blair outlined conditions to: “decide when and whether to intervene. . . . First, are we sure of our case? . . . Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? . . . Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? . . . And finally, do we have national interests involved?” This was delivered in the context of Kosovo, the Western-led intervention against Serbia. Cobden and Bright would have been appalled. Whatever was said at the time, we now know this to have been a classic case of the law of unintended consequences. A report at the end of last year from the Council of Europe, an entirely detached and austere body, described Kosovo today as a gangster state, a hub of the drugs trade and also of human trafficking and young women sold into prostitution, not to mention illicit trade in human organs, although nothing like the bloodbath of Iraq.

Not that Blair is in any way penitent. At the time he left Downing Street in the summer of 2007, Timothy Garton Ash described him: he “bounds into the garden of 10 Downing Street, looking as if he’s ready for another 10 years there.” Asked what his legacy was—“What is the essence of Blairism?”—he gave an answer that “could not be clearer: ‘It is liberal interventionism.’” And Blair has expanded on this in his book. Such interventionism “requires a whole new geopolitical framework. It requires nation-building. It requires a myriad of interventions deep into the affairs of other nations. It requires above all a willingness to see the battle as existential and to see it through, to take the time, to spend the treasure, to shed the blood,” and he cannot be faulted when it comes to spending the treasure and shedding the blood, albeit someone else’s treasure and the blood of others.

Many liberals and conservatives alike, haunted by the ghost of “Munich” and appeasement, and dismayed by the savagery of the violence which accompanied the disintegration of Yugoslavia, as well as by Saddam Hussein’s brutality, accepted this without much reflection. They assumed that Great Britain, or the United States, had a duty or right to interfere with other nations, based on an assumption of superior virtue, of the kind once made by Palmerston, and latterly voiced by Madeleine Albright as secretary of state: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future.”

But Cobden had answered that long ago. If it were really “the province of Great Britain to administer justice to all the people of the earth . . . then should we be called upon in this case to rescue the weak from the hands of their spoilers. But do we possess these favoured endowments? Are we armed with the powers of Omnipotence”? To intervene by force everywhere from Indochina to Latin America to Libya supposes even now that America is armed with powers of omnipotence, to a degree which not even many Englishmen thought true of their own country. Nor did Sydney Smith think we had these endowments, as he implied in those words which seem uncannily apt today. We may well be sorry for the Greeks or deplore the fact that Baghdad was oppressed and that Tibet is still not comfortable. Or as Bright might now say, we have sympathy for the people of Bosnia, of Afghanistan, of wherever may be next in the liberal-interventionist atlas. But do we have a duty to act as the knight-errant of the human race?

On occasion President Obama has been as hackneyed and predictable as Blair. In his Nobel Prize speech he spoke of “the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform [which] has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will,” words which remind David Bromwich in the New York Review of Books of William Gladstone: “The high office of bringing Europe into concert, and keeping Europe in concert, is an office specially pointed out for your country to perform. . . . That happy condition, so long as we are believed to be disinterested in Europe, secures for us the noblest part that any Power was ever called upon to play.” But at least Gladstone knew and admired Bright, and made him a cabinet minister, before Bright resigned in 1882 to protest the deplorable bombardment of Alexandria. In any case, Gladstone was a bundle of contradictions. He had earlier asked, “Are we, or are we not, to go abroad and make occasions for the propagation even of the political opinions which we consider to be sound? I say we are not.”

Likewise, Obama also contradicts himself. In wiser recent moments he has said rightly that America cannot solve every problem in the world, and that it might be time to start nation building at home. Or as he might have said, “how much unnecessary solicitude and alarm America devotes to the affairs of foreign countries; with how little knowledge we enter upon the task of regulating the concerns of other people; and how much better we might employ our energies in improving matters at home,” not to say that the United States would serve the world better through the maintenance of peace, the spread of commerce and the diffusion of education.

What the interventionists seem not to notice is that Cobden’s words do in fact explain how Soviet Russia imploded twenty years ago without a shot fired, and then this year how the Arab Spring has blossomed. This last will surely have more unforeseen consequences, but for ill or for good, the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia were spontaneous popular protests without any armed help from outside—whereas our latest spasm of liberal interventionism in Libya has not been a success. One day we might even hear a president, or prime minister, quoting Cobden’s prescription: “as little intercourse as possible betwixt the Governments, as much connection as possible between the nations of the world”—or even “No foreign politics”!

Monday 29 August 2011


Just discharged from hospital after another bout of excruciating pain, emergency surgery, and a week's recuperation with all manner of things stuck in me. My annual holiday. And in fact very restful, especially since this year I went without telephone, television or radio. I have had a lot of time to think. I have used it.

Anyway, the great list of "free" schools, the Conservative Party's only policy at last year's General Election, is now out. There are 24 of them. Twenty-four. Including a number of existing commercial schools looking for, and receiving, a bail-out.

Monday 22 August 2011

Dead Man Talking

Morally speaking.

How dare Tony Blair presume to pass comment on anything. What's that? He won three General Elections? Labour would have won the 1997 Election anyway, and by such a wide margin that it would also have been bound to win the 2001 Election. In 2005, Blair lost Labour a hundred seats that any other Leader would have kept, his first ever contribution to the outcome of a General Election. The Conservative Party was the only "Opposition" that Blair could still have beaten by 2005.

This Grim Manifesto of Interventionism

As the Islamists take over Africa's largest oil reserves, and establish a base facing Italy and France, Dennis Kucinich writes:

In March of this year, the US, France, Britain and their North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) allies launched military operations in Libya under the guise of a "humanitarian intervention". US diplomats and world leaders carelessly voiced unsubstantiated claims of an impending massacre in Benghazi. You hear no such appeals to humanity while Nato, in the name of the rebels (whoever they are), prepares to lay siege to Tripoli, a city of nearly 2 million people.

Libyan rebels are now advancing on the capital city of Tripoli with the aid of Nato strikes; this is sure to result in a real bloodbath, as opposed to the one that was conjured in Benghazi this past winter. Nato is assisting rebels who are blocking food, water and medical supplies from coming into the capital city, and is stopping those who need advanced medical care from travelling to Tunisia to access it. Nato is bombing power stations, creating blackouts, and using Apache helicopters to attack Libyan police checkpoints to clear roads for rebels to advance.

Regardless of whether Muammar Gaddafi is ousted in coming days, the war against Libya has seen countless violations of United Nations security council resolutions (UNSCRs) by Nato and UN member states. The funnelling of weapons (now being air-dropped) to Libyan rebels was, from the beginning of the conflict, in clear violation of UNSCR 1970. The use of military force on behalf of the rebels, in an attempt to impose regime change, has undermined international law and damaged the credibility of the United Nations. Countless innocent civilians have been killed, and Nato air strikes continue to place many at great risk.

So much for the humanitarian-inspired UNSCR 1973 as a means to protect civilians. The people of Libya cannot take another month of such humanitarian intervention. The leading donor nations of Nato – the US, France and Great Britain – have been free to prosecute war under the cloak of this faceless, bureaucratic, alphabet security agency, now multinational war machine, which can violate UN resolutions and kill innocent civilians with impunity. War crimes trials are only for losers. The prospective conquerors, the western powers and their rebel proxies, will then expect to be able to assert control over Libya's vast oil and natural gas reserves.

The US share of the war against Libya has probably exceeded the $1bn mark. This extraordinary amount of money for an intervention that Americans were told would last "days not weeks" could only be explained by looking at the war as an investment, and at control over Libya's wealth as an opportunity to make a return on that investment. Cynical? Then tell me why else we are at war in Libya.

Viable peace proposals, such as the one put forward by the African Union (AU), have been quickly and summarily rejected. If there is going to be a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the US must work with and empower the AU to ensure regional security. The AU has proposed a peace plan that would facilitate an immediate ceasefire, the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, a dialogue between the Transitional National Council and the Gaddafi government, and the suspension of Nato strikes.

The use of force and ultimatums has not worked. As the war enters its sixth month, it is time for the US president and secretary of state to clean up the mess they've created with this needless military intervention, and to work to seriously to bring about a negotiated end to this war. In June, I proposed a peace plan derived in part from the efforts of the AU. This plan calls for an immediate ceasefire and lays out the principles necessary to create a framework to achieve reconciliation and national unity in Libya by a meaningful process. In its June report on Libya, the International Crisis Group stated:

"A political breakthrough is by far the best way out of the costly situation created by the military impasse. This will require a ceasefire between the regime and the Transitional National Council, the deployment of a peacekeeping force to monitor and guarantee this under a UN mandate, and the immediate opening of serious negotiations between regime and opposition representatives to secure agreement on a peaceful transition to a new, more legitimate political order. Nato and those states supporting its military action should facilitate this development, not hinder it."

I have recently received several reports indicating that a settlement was close, only to be scuttled by state department officials. Given that the department of state seems to have taken a singular role in launching the US into this war, it is more than disconcerting to hear that the same agency has played a role in frustrating a resolution to this conflict. There are viable solutions to peacefully end the conflict, if there is a desire to do so.

Continued military action promotes a cycle of violence that will persist whether Colonel Gaddafi is ousted or not. On 19 March 2003, the United States pursued regime change in Iraq. Eight years later, we're still wondering why the people of Iraq are not sufficiently grateful for our intervention, which has resulted in the death of over 1 million of their fellow countrymen and women. How can we expect this grim manifesto of interventionism to ever result in anything but tragedy? It's time to end the war against Libya.

Our Country's Destiny

Mark Seddon writes:

Just as the country’s politicians were caught napping when the riots broke out, they were caught dozing when key decisions affecting the world economy were taken this week by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The leaders’ crucial mini-summit in Paris was designed to reassure panicking global financial markets the crisis in the Eurozone could be averted. As share prices across Europe suffered a second day of sharp falls yesterday (with London’s FTSE 100 down 1.01 per cent, Germany’s Dax tumbling 2.19 per cent and France’s Cac dropping by 1.92 per cent), they may have failed to steady the nerves but they managed to do something much more vital for the future of Europe.

As the single currency system implodes under the inherent folly of a ‘one size fits all’ financial system, Merkel and Sarkozy have finally realised that the only sane solution is to guide their creaking Eurozone countries into fiscal and political union. They have decided to create, in effect, a new ‘Eurozone Government’ and in doing so have dramatically dismissed worries about the threat to national sovereignty this entails. Admittedly, they were forced to act out of sheer desperation to prevent the spread of Greek-style crises to Italy and Spain. Indeed, Europe’s leaders are beginning to resemble the Chinese Politburo — albeit without the Communists’ ruthless efficiency.

However, the question in Britain remains: why haven’t we heard from Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband as these huge decisions are taken? Britain may not be part of the single currency system, but last year it was decided that (under Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty) we and other non-Eurozone countries in the EU must, if necessary, contribute billions to any bail-outs. So British taxpayers have already coughed up huge sums to rescue Ireland and Greece. What’s more, the Merkel/Sarkozy decision means British taxpayers risk having to pay even more money to bail out other bankrupt Eurozone countries.

This is an issue of incalculable importance. So why aren’t British politicians queuing up to defend us taxpayers from having our money spent to save other countries from the results of their own reckless economic policies? From their silence, do we assume they are happy that the unaccountable European Central Bank is now dictating economic policies across the Eurozone which also affect Britain? This is all part of a much bigger political debate and begs the question whether MPs have the courage to speak up for Britain and begin the vital process of repatriating aspects of our sovereignty ceded to Europe. Many of our politicians seem incapable of doing anything more than mouthing platitudes. They should be telling voters how they plan to kickstart the economy.

Those of us who opposed Britain joining the European single currency when it was first mooted have always believed that it would work only if there was a European Superstate with fiscal and political union. A decade on from the creation of the euro (something that not a single European country voted for explicitly in a referendum), it is obvious that attempts to yoke together hugely divergent economies (such as healthy Germany and basket-case Greece) have become an unmitigated disaster. It was inevitable, therefore, that without fiscal union there would have to be a ‘two-speed’ Europe, comprising the central Eurozone countries on the one hand, and the ‘rag, tag and bobtail’ rest — including Britain.

Consequently, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband look on like mesmerised rabbits in the glare of the Eurozone juggernaut. They may not like what is happening, but one thing is certain: none of our party leaders has made a single public utterance this week that suggests they know how to deal with Europe’s debt mountain and the unfolding political crisis. As for the British public, a majority of voters — of all parties — have remained lukewarm when confronted by the enthusiasm expressed towards the European superstate by so much of our ruling elite. Indeed, Labour chiefs were surprised when a recent internal party survey of voter attitudes showed that a majority of Labour supporters are deeply sceptical about the EU.

Such views are much stronger among grassroot Tories. So why does a Tory-led Coalition Government give more than £8.3 billion net every year to the EU, while this country has less than 10 per cent of the vote in EU institutions? It has been calculated that 80 per cent of laws in Germany now emanate from EU directives and regulations. The same must be true of Britain. This being the case, it is not surprising that our own Parliament begins to look like a county council — because real power now lies elsewhere.

When I was a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, I used to ask Tony Blair why his Government was preparing to privatise the Post Office. He blamed this on the fact that we had to conform to European Competition policy. This is the same reason why the British Government awarded a major contract to a German company rather than to the Derby-based train-maker Bombardier, with the resultant loss of 1,400 jobs. The decision to place the order abroad was blamed on the way our government had drawn up procurement contracts to comply with EU trade rules and which had put British interests at a disadvantage.

The last time British voters were given a say on Europe was in 1975, when asked in a referendum if they wished to remain members of what was then called the ‘European Economic Community’. Each major constitutional and economic decision since then involving Europe has been made without a proper democratic mandate. No wonder increasing numbers of Britons — of all political persuasions — are now demanding that powers should be returned from Brussels and are calling for the restoration of our democracy.

Now that Merkel and Sarkozy have arrogantly signalled that Britain’s position is in the ‘second tier’ of EU member states, behind a Franco-German core, will our pusillanimous politicians come to our rescue? Their action — or, more to the point, lack of it — is hardly auspicious. Principally, David Cameron must acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of Tories are anti-EU.

Equally, if Ed Miliband were smart, he would make common cause with those Tories who will launch a rebellion against Cameron if he allows Europe to have more powers through a beefed-up Lisbon Treaty. Given this week’s historic developments in Paris, Britain has a stark choice: we can either elect politicians who we can hold to account — or we can let faceless European bureaucrats and their unelected cronies dictate our country’s destiny.

Don't Let The Right Get It Right

Julian Corman writes:

In a year when the unexpected seems to have become commonplace, the decision of some of Britain's most eminent conservative commentators to wrap themselves in the red flag might not be the top headline. But recent interventions by Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, and Peter Oborne, a writer for the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, undoubtedly constitute two of the most interesting signs of turbulent times. In a recent article that immediately went viral – "I'm starting to think that the left might actually be right" – Moore suggested that the "free market" which has dominated the economy for the past three decades in fact accords freedom only to a super-rich mobile elite, able to shift its resources at will to maximise its interests. Meanwhile, the constraints and disciplines of the market condemn the rest of us to a hard slog in increasingly insecure circumstances.

As the financial indices in the City, Wall Street and beyond continue to lurch downwards, and the eurozone staggers into an uncertain future, Oborne continued the moral excoriation of contemporary capitalism with a post-riots attack on the "feral rich" in our society. His particular targets were the bankers bloated on bonuses, the lucrative offshore tax arrangements of businessmen such as Philip Green and the MPs who condemned rioters from the comfortable vantage point of their second homes, furnished at taxpayers' expense. Even Douglas Carswell, one of the more right-wing MPs among the new Conservative intake, has joined the fray, arguing that "the free market all too often turns out not to be a free market at all, but a corporatist racket for the few". That judgment was approvingly quoted by Dominic Sandbrook, the Daily Mail's favourite historian, who castigated the capitalist system's inability to deliver on its most fundamental promise: equality of opportunity.

To paraphrase Aretha Franklin, when it comes to the critique of capitalism, the Tories are doing it for themselves. Appalled by the greed of the financial markets that leveraged the world economy to the edge of catastrophe; astonished by the ease with which bankers milked western taxpayers before going back to their bad old ways; uneasy at flagrant displays of unmerited wealth, intellectuals of the right are delivering withering judgments that the Labour party has not dared make for a quarter of a century. As one influential figure on the left of the party told me ruefully: "Over the past two months of tumultuous events, when has anyone in the parliamentary Labour party or the shadow cabinet got close to making arguments as far-reaching and profound as Moore or Oborne? There's not even the expectation of it anymore."

European conservatives have caught the mood too. Last week, exasperated by the short-term speculators who have merrily made hay out of the woes of the eurozone, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, floated the idea of introducing a financial transactions tax. The "Tobin tax" – named after James Tobin, the late American economist who dreamt up the idea in 1972 – could raise hundreds of billions of pounds in revenue, a potential boon for the ailing economies of the eurozone. In America, the billionaire businessman, Warren Buffett, has demanded that he should be required to pay more taxes. "My friends and I have been mollycoddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress," Buffet wrote in the New York Times last week. "It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice." Increasingly, it would appear that some of the chief beneficiaries and supporters of free market capitalism now believe it needs saving from itself.

For a long period, the western European left did that job with remarkable success. From 1945 to 1973, social democratic parties, mostly in opposition but sometimes in government, kept capitalism honest. Welfare states were built, unions were listened to and full employment was maintained. Within countries such as Britain, the sense of social solidarity that came from the collective experience of the Second World War set the parameters of postwar politics. The authoritarian fate of the communist eastern bloc countries also served its purpose. Conservative and Labour governments alike, wary of offering succour to homegrown revolutionary movements, pursued consensus politics. This was the heyday of One Nation Toryism, which presided for most of those years in the UK over a country which had never been more productive or equal. The left's new vocation as capitalism's conscience came to an end in the mid-1970s. In the west, a sharp rise in oil prices hammered growth. The new freedom of finance capital to move where it chose hampered the ability of parliaments to call the economic shots. And between 1989 and 1991, the mighty communist empire collapsed, a victim of its own absurdities, inefficiencies and rank injustices. Twenty years ago this weekend, a failed coup against the Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev signalled the end of the communist experiment. One young US State Department Official, Francis Fukuyama, became famous for declaring an absolute, final victory for the free market: "The end of history."

Following the meltdown of the baroque system of corrupt financial products that bankrolled the long boom, communism is still dead, but the debate about the virtues and vices of capitalism is back on. So will the Labour party heed the calls from the right and rediscover its historic role as capitalism's conscience? In opposition, can it free itself from a visceral fear of the City's disapprobation and a long aversion to talk of taxation? The party is somewhat torn. Last week, the Confederation of British Industry, Eurosceptic MP John Redwood and assorted City types derided the Merkel/Sarkozy call for action on short-term speculation; the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, was silent. The shadow of the New Labour years still stalks Ed Miliband. Earlier this summer, Tony Blair warned Miliband that Labour could only win an election from the centre ground, which has come to stand for light-touch regulation of the City and a hands-off approach by government to the workings of the global market. "Education, education, education", Blair's famous early slogan, was a way of saying that Labour's role was to equip people to succeed in that market. Many of the PLP and shadow cabinet still agree with that approach, understandably given Blair's record of three straight election victories.

Informally, however, and beyond the confines of the House of Commons, something new may be emerging. Earlier this month, Miliband's chief of staff, Stewart Wood, received permission from his leader to sign a petition launched by the leftwing thinktank, Compass. Signed by Philip Pullman, Greg Dyke and others, it called for a public jury to hold to account a "feral elite" comprising bankers, the media and MPs: the same miscreants identified by Moore and Oborne. Powerbrokers of New Labour such as Peter Mandelson would not have countenanced the use of such confrontational language towards the powerful. Meanwhile, the Labour leader, having found his rhetorical range during the brave and successful onslaught against Rupert Murdoch's media empire, is developing a language of responsibility that, given its head, will take on the gross disparities in wealth and opportunity that have developed in Britain.

From 1989 to 2008, the handsomely remunerated representatives of financial capital ruled the world and dared politicians to challenge their power. No party did. Chastened by the debacle of communist rule, the democratic left lacked all conviction, while the bankers and speculators were full of passionate intensity. As the veteran leftwing historian, Eric Hobsbawm, wryly observed of John Paul II's regular fulminations against untamed global markets: "It is not encouraging when the only person of global importance to condemn capitalism is the Pope." On Thursday, during his visit to Spain, Pope Benedict was echoing the same theme, stating : "Man must be at the economy's centre, which is not profit, but solidarity."

Now that the Vatican has a British ally in Charles Moore, the biographer of Margaret Thatcher, the time is ripe for Labour to resume the corrective role that it performed with such distinction in the postwar period. Different solutions and approaches will be required for a different world, although some of the features of "the golden age" – capital controls and an enhanced role for reformed trade unions – may be worth revisiting. But the starting point is to recover some of the old moral dynamism that gave the party its reason for being in the first place. The summer of 2011 may well be remembered as the moment at which it became clear that global free markets are as incapable of perfect self-regulation as the News of the World. For Ed Miliband and for Labour's old crusade to make capitalism virtuous, it is a case of: "If not now, when?"

Friday 19 August 2011


We were right all along.


Who Are The Taliban?

There are no Taliban distinct from the Pashtun community as a whole. There are ultra-Islamist Pashtun nationalists, and we call them the Taliban. But that is all that they are. They want what they want in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or at any rate in the Pashtun parts of both. But that is all that they want. Objectionable they certainly are. A threat to us they certainly are not. Or, at least, they wouldn't be. If we left them alone. By getting and staying out of their country.

Thursday 18 August 2011

The Road To Damascus

So, these Saudi-backed Syrian "demonstrators", what think they of the Christian-majority provinces, the Christian festivals as public holidays, the extensive and expensive government programme restoring Jewish holy sites for the use of what must therefore be a thriving Jewish community, and the support for a Lebanese coalition headed by a Sunni but including Shi'ites, Maronites and Armenians? I only ask. Why does no one else, ever?

1911 And All That

On this hundredth anniversary of the Parliament Act, thank goodness that there is still some part of our parliamentary system from which it remains possible to speak from outside the nasty but inevitable union between, on the one hand, what has always been the anti-parliamentary New Left and, on the other hand, the sociologically indistinguishable New Right’s arrival at hatred of Parliament as the natural conclusion of its hatred of the State. From that union, together with the SDP’s misguided Alliance with the Liberals around their practically Bennite constitutional agenda, derives the Political Class’s desire to abolish the House of Lords.

For those who keep such scores, the House of Lords has a higher proportion of women, a higher proportion of people from ethnic minorities, a broader range of ethnic minorities, and far more people from working-class backgrounds generally and the trade union movement in particular, than can be found down the corridor. More significantly, and despite the very hard efforts of successive governments, it also retains a broader range of political opinion, more reflective of the country at large. But that is under grave threat, both from the party machines and from the way of all flesh.

The future composition of the House would be secured, at least in part, by providing for each current Life Peer, at least who attends very or fairly regularly, to name an heir, by no means necessarily or even ordinarily a relative, but rather a political and a wider intellectual soul mate. That heir would become a Peer upon his or her nominator’s death, and would thus acquire the same right of nomination.

A Surefire Vote-Winner

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

Here we go again. Britain's train users, who already have to pay by far and away the highest fares in Europe, are to be hit with even more above- inflation increases in the New Year. Whereas the previous government limited regulated fare increases to RPI plus one per cent, the coalition has changed the pricing formula to allow companies to raise prices by RPI plus three per cent, meaning that, with inflation standing at five per cent in July, average fares in England and Wales will rise by eight per cent in January, with some increasing by as much as 13 per cent. And all this at a time when most Britons can expect below average pay rises if they're lucky enough to get an increase at all.

Not surprisingly, Labour has lambasted the government, calling the price hikes "eye-watering" and claiming that they are "the direct consequence of the Tory-led government's decision to cut too far and too fast". But Ed Miliband could - and should - do an awful lot more. The basic problem with Britain's railways - and the reason why they are so expensive - is that they are privatised and fragmented. As Andrew Murray notes in his book Off the Rails, rail privatisation, a far-right scheme thought up by free market ideologues at the Adam Smith Institute and implemented by John Major's Tory government in 1996, wasn't even a good idea at the time.

If Labour really does want to end the misery of Britain's long-suffering commuters, the party needs to commit to bringing the railways back into full public ownership - as they mostly are in every other major western European country - and then pledge to reduce fares to the European average. It also needs to oppose the hare-brained proposal of the European Commission to reduce rail subsidies altogether - a plan rightly denounced as 'barmy' by shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle.

Far from costing the taxpayer more money than at present, re-nationalisation would enable the railways to be run much more cheaply. The recent McNulty report found that Britain's railways cost up to 40 per cent more to run than those of France, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. Back in the 1990s, supporters of privatisation claimed it would lead to a reduction in the amount of government subsidy to the railways - in fact it has led to the very opposite, with private companies sucking in around five times more in public funds than the state-owned British Rail did. Effectively, taxpayers' money is going to help to boost the privately-owned rail companies' profits - no wonder Richard Branson is regularly pictured with a huge grin on his face.

If Ed Miliband were to move decisively to end this 21st century legalised version of the Great Train Robbery, he would reap a sizeable electoral dividend. As I wrote for The First Post last year, the coalition's free market Maoism is alienating traditional small 'c' conservatives. Much loved public libraries are under threat of closure or privatisation from Tory councils. Post Offices are threatened by the planned sell-off of the Royal Mail. Andrew Lansley's Health Bill has united health professionals and NHS users in opposition.

And the government's laissez-faire approach to the railways is not going down too well in Middle England either. A 2009 poll showed that 70 per cent of voters wanted re-nationalisation of the railways - and only 23 per cent supported continued privatisation. By committing to re-nationalisation, Ed Miliband would not only get the support of disaffected old Labourites who ditched the party when it shifted to the right under Tony Blair, but Tory-leaning commuters on the 7.28 from Bourne End to Paddington. In terms of media support, he'd find that he'd not only have the Guardian and the Daily Mirror on side, but very probably the Daily Mail and Daily Express and their Sunday editions, too. He'd receive plaudits from the uber-conservative commentator Peter Hitchens, who writes an influential column in the Mail on Sunday and who has longed called for the return of British Rail, and the pro-nationalisation Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle as well.

Such a commitment from Labour would be a pivotal moment in early 21st century British politics - a sign that one of our two major parties had finally broken with neo-liberal dogma and gone back to sensible 'what works best' policies. In the run-up to the 2010 election, I and others urged Labour to support re-nationalisation. Yet the party chose to ignore a vote-winning issue which could have made the difference in a close-run election. Gordon Brown's successor would have absolutely nothing to lose by changing his party's policy, but potentially millions of votes to gain.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Buy My Book

With a preface by John Milbank, one of the world’s most distinguished theologians, this book addresses Radical Orthodoxy; the connections between the Hebraic and the Hellenic traditions; the fallacy of both liberal and reactionary assumptions concerning the Second Vatican Council; Catholicism as, and as more than, Evangelical, Charismatic and liberal; Catholic imaginative writing, and anti-Catholicism as an imaginative stimulus, in Tudor and Stuart England; Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene and Waugh; a Catholic defence of the Confessional State, including the Act of Settlement; the more recent works of Dr Edward Norman; the problems with, and the opportunities for, the Anglican Ordinariate, as well as the left-wing reasons why Parliament should in any case say no to women bishops in the Church of England; and the left-wing defence of Opus Dei.

David Lindsay is a Tutor of Collingwood College, Durham, where he is President of the Senior Common Room and a member of the Governing Body. He is in formation as a Lay Dominican. Born in 1977, since 1999 he has been an elected Parish Councillor in the unusually large Parish of Lanchester, where he served from 1999 to 2007 as a governor of a primary school, and from 2000 to 2008 as a governor of a comprehensive school.

He can be contacted on, he can be read at, he is @davidaslindsay on Twitter, and he is the author of the forthcoming Confessions of an Old Labour High Tory.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Paying The Price

Say what you like about monetarism, but at least it keeps down inflation, eh? And who needs a domestic food supply, or domestic sources of energy? After all, who or what is supposed to guarantee such things? The State?

Why, in that case, we might as well have the renationalisation of the railways, uniquely without compensation in view of the manner of their privatisation, as the basis for a national network of public transport free at the point of use, including the reversal of bus route and rail line closures going back to the 1950s. The very idea!

Only public ownership can deliver this. Public ownership is of course British ownership, and thus a safeguard of national sovereignty. It is also a safeguard of the Union in that it creates communities of interest across the several parts of the United Kingdom, the East Coast Main Line being a case in point. Publicly owned concerns often even had the word "British" in their names. They could have, and should have, again.

With all the stock built in Britain, of course.

Euro Extremism

Nick Cohen has used his Observer column to suggest that support for the euro, and for European federalism generally, was and is a sort of blip on the part of otherwise sensible, mainstream, moderate politicians, whereas opposition was and is the mark of extremists. In Britain, this trick goes back at least to the 1975 referendum, when the media concentrated very heavily on Tony Benn and Enoch Powell. To the exclusion of those Tories (still embodied by the present Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell) whose resistance was rooted in their Keynesianism, their strong support for the Commonwealth, and their Disraelian and Namierite foreign policy realism. And to the exclusion of Labour figures of very similar mind, such as Douglas Jay and Peter Shore.

Not only are we subject to a legislative body, the Council of Ministers, which meets in secret and publishes no Official Report. But we are also subject to the legislative will of the sorts of people that turn up in the coalitions represented in that Council. And, indeed, in the European Parliament. Stalinists and Trotskyists. Neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis. Members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura. Neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany. Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women candidates. Before long, the ruling Islamists of Turkey. And their opponents, variously extreme secular ultra-nationalists and Marxist Kurdish separatists.

When Jörg Haider’s party was in government in Austria, the totally unreconstructed Communist Party was in government in France. In the Council of Ministers, we were being legislated for by both of them. In the European Parliament, we still are, because we always are. People who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland may not take their seats at Westminster. But they do at Strasbourg. And so on, and on, and on.

What is sensible, mainstream or moderate about any of this? Or about anyone who advocates or defends it?

Mind How You Go

Would a Briton be considered for Chief of Police in Boston, New York or Los Angeles, even if he had been a highly successful Commissioner of the Met? Well, there you are, then.

David Cameron's merciful failure to hand over the policing of by far our largest city, together with nationwide responsibility for counter-terrorism and for the security of the Royal Family, to this "Supercop" should serve as a spur to us finally to get over imported cop shows.

Then we would no longer have the ridiculous spectacle of cars careering through our quiet countryside adorned with imitations of the giant badge of the NY or LAPD. Nor would we have to endure guff either about elected sheriffs or about "a British FBI".

Caribbean Caliban

Africans and West Indians are not like that at all in Africa or the West Indies. Older West Indians are not like that here. Africans are still not like that here or in America, although they need to take care.

So what is the problem? It is the cities that the white man built. There is something wrong with them. If exposed to them for too long, though not necessarily for very long, then black men, in particular, become the reflection to their Caliban.

If you don't believe me, then check out the hysterical rage of the white Caliban (who had numerous blood ties to Afro-Caribbeans and African-Americans even before half of all British children with an Afro-Caribbean parent came to have a White British parent) when this is pointed out. He knows full well that the real problem is himself.

Monday 15 August 2011

Assumpta Est Maria In Cælum!

Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas hæreses sola interemisti in universo mundo!

The Problem, Not The Solution

We do not need the man who in just over a year has turned a country with a large but manageable deficit, and mired in a pointless war, into a failed state mired in two pointless wars.

No, The Blacks Have Become White

They and their white mates may think that they are speaking Jamaican patois. But they are not. Ali G used to be good on that one, backed by a genuinely patois-speaking DJ out of whose mouth he could not understand a single word.

The West Point

If he is prepared to change his nationality (officially) to become Metropolitan Police Commissioner, then that says all that needs to be said about Bill Bratton.

Look, he might very well have a contribution to make. But come on.

Widening Participation

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

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

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

Shooting The Blue Foxes

Of course a body of “Blue Foxes” on the Conservative benches has put a stop to any attempt to repeal the hunting ban. When in office, even as only the larger partner in a Coalition, that party must be largely suburban and urban in order to have made it that far. Only the skillful use of parliamentary procedure prevented a hunting ban in the Major years, when there was a clear Commons majority in favour of one.

Insofar as people in the countryside really do “all vote Tory”, they do so only because they are only offered no alternative, a situation which is one of many consequences of the endemic assumption that British history has proceeded as if Marxism had gone according to plan. In fact, though, nothing could be further from the case.

One of the great myths of Labour is that it has always been an irredeemably urban party. It was a rural one when it started. Pit villages really were villages, and farm labourers had a long history as among the most militant in the country. The urban working class resisted the rise of Labour for a very long time, and largely did so for as long as either could properly be said to exist.

But where today are those who have resisted enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population down to the present day? Those who organised farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others in order to secure radical reforms? Those who obtained, and who continue to defend, rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on?

Whatever happened to the county divisions that predominated among safe Labour seats when such first became identifiable in the 1920s? To the working farmers who sat as Labour MPs between the Wars and subsequently? To the Attlee Government’s creation of the Green Belt and the National Parks? To those who opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks, and who continue to demand that those services be reinstated? To those who have seen, and who still see, real agriculture as the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food) as against “factory farming”, and as a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market?

Where are those who have fought, and who continue to fight, for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take proper account of rural needs? Those who object in principle to government without the clear electoral mandate of rural as well as of urban and suburban areas? Those who have been and who are concerned that any electoral reform be sensitive to the need for effective rural representation? Distributism and the related tendencies? Those who are conservationist rather than environmentalist?

That said, the Presidency of the Countryside Alliance is held by a Labour peer and its Chairmanship by a Labour MP, Kate Hoey. But even so.

Unfit To Practise

So, on top of everything else, the General Medical Council is investigating, and in a couple of cases has already disciplined, several of the doctors employed by Atos, the private company engaged to assess claims for sickness and disability benefits while paid by the number of claims that it rejects and by the number of existing claimants that it forces off the books. All things considered, it is no surprise that it rejects a large number of claims while forcing a large number of existing claimants off the books. As for people who withdraw their claims, they do so because has made them too ill to carry on.

It is hard to get Incapacity Benefit or whatever it is now called (it was, by the way, invented by Margaret Thatcher as part of her gigantic expansion of benefit dependency), and it is almost impossible to get something like Disability Living Allowance. The question is not why so many people are making "fraudulent" claims, but why so many people really are that ill. What has changed in Britain since the Seventies?

Solid Gold?

Today is the fortieth anniversary of the departure of the United States from the gold standard under that underrated President, Richard Nixon. Generally, I like the economy to be grounded in reality; in farms, factories, mines, shops, and so on, themselves intimately related to families and communities, including nations. The gold standard ought to appeal to me, as it does very strongly to my paleoconservative friends. But, as Lord Keynes, for so he rather splendidly calls himself, writes:

Some human beings are charismatic and spell-binding orators. William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925) was such a person. Bryan’s speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1896 was one remembered in history, for good reasons. Of course, human beings are human beings. I suspect that no human being can be right on every social, economic and cultural issue of his/her day. William Jennings Bryan was wrong on prohibition and in his opposition to Darwin’s theory of evolution, though not in his opposition to the vile Social Darwinism that was popular in his time.

He was also absolutely right in his denunciation of the gold standard. To this day, his speech opposing it remains one that will inspire all those fighting against wrong-headed, false, and pernicious economic doctrines. His metaphor of the “cross of gold” is a vivid one, which invokes images that will move anyone with a Christian cultural background. You do not need to believe in god (I personally don’t) to find the metaphor and speech poignant and powerful. The metaphor has also been used by Post Keynesians and progressive New Keynesians like Paul Krugman in denunciations of modern neoclassical economics. The crescendo of William Jennings Bryan’s speech can be heard in an audio recording he made later in 1921 that captures the mesmerising spirit of that speech [Lord Keynes has the YouTube link].

At the end of his address he proclaimed: “If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”


Glorious 39 indicated that the tide might at last be turning. Bill Nighy's character, an upper-class Tory MP (although his views were held across all classes and parties at the time), was not a Nazi sympathiser, as almost no one was, although that, too, was distributed across both the social scale and the political spectrum. Rather, he saw that Britain in 1939 was in no fit state to fight a war against Germany, he was determined not to subject another generation of young men to what he himself had endured, he understood that the dispute between Hitler and Stalin for control of Easter Europe was no concern of Britain's, and he recognised such a conflict as a threat to everything that he and his people - once again, regardless of class or of political allegiance - held dear.

And what was that? We ended up giving Poland to Stalin anyway. How was that any better than letting Hitler have Poland in the first place? We lost our global status, and were in debt to our great rival for it right up until 29th December 2006. Have you got that? 2006! Moral standards collapsed during the War, and everything to do with the Swinging Sixties really started then. We laugh now about the women from whose bedrooms the Normandy Landings were reputedly launched. But it was, and is, no laughing matter. There is always a baby boom after a war, so there was bound to be the Baby Boom after the War, imposing its views and tastes on both its elders and its juniors. Apparently for ever. There were warnings about this in the Thirties. But then, there were warnings about a lot of things in the Thirties.

Germany rules via the EU, and has better schools, policing, transport infrastructure, working conditions, and standards of behaviour than we have, as well as cleaner streets, a huge domestic manufacturing base, and ownership of her own industries. She has long been out of recession. Of course we had to defeat the country that was subjecting our towns and cities to nightly aerial bombardment. But how and why did we ever put ourselves in that position? What for?

Even the usually cited silver lining turns out to be illusory. There was no need to get the British used to large-scale State action by means of the War, thereby paving the way for the Welfare State and for public ownership. The Tory Britain of the Inter-War years was not only no stranger to nationalisation (of the BBC and of electricity, for example), but had the most advanced Welfare State in the world, with Britons taking for granted the things to which American New Deal Democrats, Swedish Social Democrats and the New Zealand Labour Party still only aspired. Taking them for granted under the Tories.

No wonder that all three parties offered Keynes and Beveridge Commons nominations in 1945 (but they both stuck with the Liberals, so they both had to be given peerages instead), and no wonder that the NHS was in all three manifestos. The Conservative Party did eventually vote against it on a couple of technicalities, but only in the secure knowledge that it was going to go through anyway. On returning to office in 1951, when the NHS was very new and practically bankrupt, they left it intact, as they continued to do until after last year's General Election, which Labour would have won outright if the Conservatives' real agenda for the NHS had previously been made public. Tellingly, those agenda have still yet to be given practical effect.

So, far from the War's hastening the emergence of what came to be seen as the post-War settlement, in reality it delayed that already well-advanced emergence by an unnecessary six years.

Now, when can we expect a television drama about how there was never a German scheme to invade Britain, and how Hitler's occasional imaginative forays into that area caused the professional top brass of his Navy to threaten open mutiny? Or about how the Soviet Union that had been broken by the War had neither the means nor the will to invade Western Europe, never mind to cross the Atlantic or the Pacific, and had no mind to repeat the creation of alternative Communist powers by turning any major Western European country into another Yugoslavia, never mind turning the United States into another China? Such a drama would be Glorious, indeed.

Sont Des Mots Qui Vont Très Bien Ensemble?

Much of this is awful, of course. But, with my emphasis added:

#1) Abortion - As a former foster-mother for 23 children, Michele Bachmann understands that each and every child is precious. During her brief tenure in the U.S. Congress, she has been one of the few members to actually try to honestly fight for the rights of the unborn. A lot of Republicans give lip service to the issue of abortion, but once they are in office they do absolutely nothing about it. The truth is that the United States of America is NOT going to survive if we keep killing approximately a million unborn children each year. Michele Bachmann would be the most pro-life president the U.S. has had ever since Roe v. Wade was decided.

#4) Auditing The Federal Reserve - Michele Bachmann has bravely joined Ron Paul's call to audit the Federal Reserve.

#5) Global Currency - Michele Bachmann is fundamentally against the move towards the creation of a global reserve currency. In fact, she has introduced legislation to protect the status of the U.S. dollar. The reality is that globalism has gotten totally out of control, but both Democrat and Republican leaders have been recklessly pushing increased globalism for decades. It is about time that we had a president that is willing to stand up against globalism and willing to stand up against a global currency.

#6) Wall Street Bailouts - Michele Bachmann was one of the most outspoken opponents of the Wall Street bailouts. Why should countless billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars go to Wall Street elitists who made some big mistakes? The Wall Street bankers certainly are not interested in bailing out those who are losing their homes or their jobs. In fact, the Wall Street bankers are hoarding the cash they received in the bailouts and have decreased lending instead of increasing it. The truth is that the bailouts that both John McCain and Barack Obama supported were absolute madness. Michele Bachmann has been fighting these bailouts, and that is one reason why the Tea Party crowd loves her so much.

#9) Gay Marriage - Michele Bachmann supports both a federal and a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and any legal equivalents. This is very refreshing at a time when even many Republican lawmakers are coming out in favor of gay marriage.

Conservatives are inspired by Michele Bachmann. They respond to her leadership. The truth is that the Republicans have not had a true inspirational conservative leader in the White House since Ronald Reagan. It is about time they had another.

So, abortion as the Number One priority, the GOP castigated for having paid nothing more than lip service to it, pride declared in having joined a campaign led by the favourably name-checked Ron Paul, Republicans no less than Democrats decried for their globalism, John McCain bracketed with Barack Obama in being denounced for having supported the bailouts, Republicans rounded on for departing from the traditional definition of marriage, and very short shrift indeed given to every Republican leader since January 1989.

Everyone except Romney is really only running to be Romney's running mate, and even he is really only running because someone has to while the Republican National Committee waits for 2016 and David Petraeus, a member of the Obama Administration. They all understand this. Well, all of them except Bachmann, anyway...

Back In The USSR

Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday hit the nail on the head: jobs go to the better-educated people from Eastern Europe, "where the Sixties never happened". And not only the Sixties, but also and inseparably the Eighties.

The decadent social libertinism of the 1960s did in fact set the scene for the extension of the same principles into the economic sphere, and thus their entrenchment by, in, through and as the decadent economic libertinism of the 1980s. Here in Britain, the same Oliver Smedley who bankrolled the union-busting, drugs-and-promiscuity-promoting criminality that was pirate radio, went on to bankroll the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs. You cannot believe in the "free" market unless you believe in unregulated drinking and gambling, and in legal access to drugs, prostitution and pornography. Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Foundation is a major financial backer of efforts to retain abortion on demand up to and including partial birth in the United States, and it funds "Catholics for a Free Choice", as that organisation’s own accounts make clear. More than shades of Alfred C Kinsey’s funding by organised vice.

Whereas Russia is now emerging from the gangster capitalism that has followed Communism. She once again recognises herself as pre-eminent among the Slavs in their mission as the age-old gatekeepers of our Biblical-Classical civilisation, whether against Islam, against Far Eastern domination, or now also against the godless, rootless, stupefied, promiscuous, usury-based, metrosexual, war-hungry pseudo-West that holds up Israel, Georgia and Taiwan as supposedly plucky and inspiring outposts.

Attempts to drag Russia into the pseudo-West were not only always doomed, although guaranteed to cause immense pain in being proved so, but they also failed to take account of the seeds of hope even within the Soviet system as such, notably the strong patriotism, and the very traditional system of education, in which teachers who were universally assumed to know more than their pupils stood in front of orderly rows of uniformed young charges and simply imparted their knowledge, with the result that, once the veneer of Marxist vocabulary was stripped away, that system’s products were often significantly better-educated than many of their Western contemporaries.

And just as pre-Communist Russia always remained the country’s true character, so very pre-Communist China remains the country’s true character. That character reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, and has barely started an external war since China became China five thousand years ago. It is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity. China has already moved from Maoism to the equal repressiveness of unbridled capitalism. The reassertion of her own culture is to be encouraged by every means of "soft" (in reality, truly hard) power, and the same is true of the wider Confucian world. But economic, or any other, dependence on a foreign power remains totally unacceptable.

The Friedman-courting, not to say race-baiting, Carter Administration, whence came Madeleine Albright and the late Richard Holbrooke, was particularly bad for abusing the noble cause of anti-Communism by emphasising Soviet human rights abuses while ignoring Chinese and Romanian ones. It even happily allowed the Chinese-backed Pol Pot to retain control of the Cambodian seat at the UN after Phnom Penh had fallen to the rival forces backed by Vietnam and therefore by the Soviet Union. Similar paw prints were also evident on Margaret Thatcher’s holding out for the Chinese-backed Robert Mugabe, for whom she arranged a knighthood, as if he would have been any better than the Soviet-backed Joshua Nkomo.

Margaret Thatcher, who as Education Secretary closed so many grammar schools that there were not enough left at the end for her record ever to be equalled, and who as Prime Minister replaced O-levels with GCSEs. There was certainly no fine art in her railway stations.

Nothing Special

My post on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has garnered a huge number of unprintable comments from not the better sort of Americans (although there is a better sort, and it is very good indeed) and from those particularly contemptible creatures, their nominally British wannabes. Herewith, then, a few facts, to which many more could be added.

America entered the First World War on, among other conditions, the partition of the United Kingdom by means of the creation at least of the Irish Free State. America foisted on us the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, under which we granted her the naval parity that we had just fought a World War more than anything in order to avoid granting to any other country. America thus destroyed our naval alliance with Japan, with all that followed from that destruction. Up to and including the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, anti-British no less than anti-Japanese acts, designed to prevent the War from instead being ended by the British re-conquest of the Empire in Asia and the Pacific, the end to which the British Pacific Fleet had been cheered into Sydney Harbour because it was not the American one that had been expected to turn up and require that Australia and New Zealand cut all trading and migration ties to Britain, abolish the monarchy, adopt American spelling, teach American rather than British history in schools, and so on. Those remain key American objectives.

America’s efforts to detach Commonwealth countries from the Sterling Area forced us back onto the Gold Standard in 1925, sending our manufacturing industries into depression and thus causing the 1926 General Strike. America subjected us to Lend-Lease, not paid off until 29th December 2006, though paid off on that date, so that no debt from the War can any longer be said to exist. America required us to decolonise far too quickly, with disastrous consequences for numerous of the countries that she had forced us to leave. America entered both World Wars for her own reasons, and on her own strictly businesslike terms with us. Nothing wrong with that. But it gives the lie to the popular fantasy of a “special relationship”, a term which no American has ever used.

America has subjected us to more than 60 years of the presence on our soil of foreign forces, politically as unmentionable as they are permanently unforgettable, without any parliamentary authorisation. America maintains bases here with fake British names, entirely unaccountable to us. America also maintains such bases on two other pieces of our territory, denying democratic representation to the British inhabitants of one of them, and forbidding the British people of the other to set foot there at all. America charges us for the privilege of hosting American nuclear weapons and pretending that they are our own, but we have so little self-respect that we pay up.

America forced us to join the European superstate. America, fundamentally defined against any British presence in the Western Hemisphere, did everything short of send forces to fight for Argentina in 1982. America spent decades arming and directing our terrorist enemies (who “haven’t gone away, you know”) in order to bring about a United Ireland within NATO and the EU, up to and including more than complicity in the murders of at least three British parliamentarians, one of them a member of the Royal Family; America was funding and arming the IRA at exactly the same time as Gaddafi’s Libya was doing so. America invaded a Commonwealth Realm in the Caribbean, and has long had legislation in place providing for the forcible incorporation of Canada. One fifth of British casualties in the first Gulf War were killed by American “friendly fire”, which managed to get in before the enemy did. America seeks to disperse the inmates of Guantánamo Bay by flattering politicians in British Overseas Territories as if theirs were the sovereign states that their electors have consistently voted not to become. Slavish devotion to America took us to war in Iraq, and keeps us as at war in Afghanistan.

Saturday 13 August 2011

No Longer Avoidable

Yet again, we were right all along. There are so many perfectly legal means of avoiding the 50p tax rate that it is raising little or no revenue, although it is worth reminding ourselves that the proposal of such rate, currently being implemented as the policy of David Cameron's and George Osborne's party, caused John McDonnell to be hounded from the Labour Leadership contest as "Loony Left".

Pensions, benefits, student funding and minimum wage legalisation (with corporation tax reorganised accordingly) should be combined to ensure that no one's income fell below half median earnings, and twice that guaranteed minimum income, called and delivering Social Security, should be made the personal tax allowance.

Above that, income should be taxed at a flat rate with no further allowances or exemptions other than the fiscal recognition of marriage abolished by the UnConservative Party and shamefully not restored by New Labour despite their having voted against its abolition, and the fiscal recognition of fatherhood abolished by New Labour and shamefully not restored by the UnConservative Party.

One Law For All

Consider what would happen if a group of boys on a council estate, the same age as Oxford undergraduates, formed themselves into an organisation - complete with a name, a uniform, officers and a membership list - specifically for the purpose of becoming drunk and disorderly before committing criminal damage and even assault. They would rightly be sent to prison. Whereas the Bullingdon Boys go on to become, simultaneously, an aspirant Prime Minister, an aspirant Chancellor of the Exchequer, and an actual Mayor of London.

Living in rural England, as I have done most of my life and which is a very different matter from merely owning great swathes of it while living in Knightsbridge or Notting Hill, I suspect that the publicans of Oxfordshire are not without connections in the local constabulary and magistracy. One of those publicans should simply tell the Bullingdon Club to stick the money that they offered him at the end of one of their "events", because he would be seeing them in court. How would it look for Cameron and Osborne if the Bully Boys were to be locked up for just long enough to have themselves sent down?

Oh, for the arrests to occur, be duly tipped off to the local media, and thence be duly tipped off to the national media, either tonight or tomorrow.

All In All

Fifty years since the construction of the Berlin Wall. (Which, by the way, was not the Iron Curtain, Churchill's borrowed phrase from Goebbels to mean exactly what Goebbels had meant by it.)

Construction by a state in which several parties that retained names and trappings from diverse pre-existing political traditions pretended to be different from, and in competition with, each other.

And construction by a state distinguished from its Western neighbour by its far lower level of church membership, by its banishment of the churches from the delivery of public services, by its abortion on demand up to birth, and by its farming out of tiny children to state-run baby farms so as to conscript their mothers into the workforce, rather than paying their fathers enough to support the entire family.


Perle of Wisdom?

So, when Question Time returns on 8th September, the panel will include Richard Perle? That is ample time to secure his exclusion from the United Kingdom.

However, Maurice Glasman is on next week's Any Questions. Should be good.

Thursday 11 August 2011

A Terrible Admission of Defeat

Peter Hitchens writes:

I know that many people will have visited this site in the past few days looking for my response to the so-called ‘riots’ which began in London on Saturday night. I am sorry to have disappointed them – though I hope that my thoughts on Hugh Walpole, written last Friday and Saturday, have given pleasure to some.

As it happens I’ve been busy (first on another project and on Wednesday in one of the courts, watching our ‘Criminal Justice’ system dealing with those arrested) and couldn’t have posted anything before now anyway.

But I also wish to concentrate my writing on this subject, as far as possible, on my Mail on Sunday column.

So rather than give a full response, I would make some very brief but fundamental points:

1. These were not ‘riots’. They had no political purpose and no origin in discontent or deprivation.

2.Those apprehended by the police appear to me for the most part to be stragglers and losers, the slow runners and dimwits who were still on the scene when the constabulary eventually arrived. They are not the main actors. I have no sympathy for them, but the idea that the law is about to take a severe revenge on the culprits is laughable. Most of the culprits got away with it.

3.This is an equal-opportunity crime wave. The lawbreakers are not from any distinct ethnic group, and attempts to explain this behaviour on these ground are baseless and poisonous.

4. Nothing of any substance has been or will be learned by our political class from these events. The ‘debate’ is already drivelling away into irrelevant discussions about police cuts or misleading confrontations between people who appear to be different but are in fact fundamentally the same. In these (for example) Michael Gove (whose government is in practice as feeble and politically correct as any in our history) is portrayed as a hero of debate because Harriet Harman is so immeasurably thick, and Michael Gove looks sensible by comparison.

5. My reluctant conclusion, that Britain is finished as a civil and civilised society, is unaltered. I suspect quite a few more people may now grasp this point, but the majority of our ‘intelligentsia’ will continue to regard me as a ‘fascist’ and my solutions to these problems as unthinkable. They will even accuse me - falsely - of believing that the 1950s were a ‘Golden Age’ but I can promise them that they will soon look upon this decade as a ‘Golden Age’ compared with what is coming.

Yet they cheer on the introduction of plastic bullets and water cannon to our streets, a terrible admission of defeat and a further step down the dark staircase to the strong state and the end of liberty.

Scarman's Children

Pub Philosopher writes:

London suffered its third night of rioting last night. The trouble even spread to my relatively quiet corner of London. It was the Indian boys in the gym this morning who were calling for the hardest responses from the police. Not really surprising, given that their friends and relatives own a lot of the businesses closest to Uxbridge Road - the ones most likely to be torched if things get worse.

Inevitably, those of us with long memories are drawing comparisons with the riots of the early 1980s. Mary Riddell said in today’s Telegraph that the type of rioting and the society that gave rise to it is very different from that of 30 years ago. She’s right, of course, but to understand what is going on now it helps to look back at what happened then.

The 1980s riots were like book-ends to the miners’ strike. The first wave occurred in the early 80s, starting with St.Pauls, then there was a second wave in the mid-1980s, which included the now infamous Broadwater Farm riot. In the middle was the longest running and most bitter industrial dispute the country had seen since the Second World War.

At the time, something baffled me. How was it that the same police force which swamped mining areas and beat the crap out of picketing miners seemed to have its hands tied when it came to dealing with inner city riots? Could the force that got a “bloody good hiding” in Tottenham really the one that, only a year earlier, had charged down thousands of pickets and placed their towns under something close to a military occupation?

It was only with hindsight that the reason became clear. The Thatcher government was hell-bent on breaking the unions. Anything else was a distraction. Riots which might divert police from protecting the mines, or Rupert Murdoch’s new printing plant, were to be avoided. If that meant going easy on the areas where black youths were rioting, so be it. If people in these areas objected to a lack of policing, who cared? They were never going to vote Tory anyway.

In any case, this fitted well with the British establishment’s approach to dealing with troublesome brown people. A tiny number of British soldiers and civil servants were only able to rule a fifth of the world by co-opting maharajahs and tribal leaders. The deal was that the local bigwigs would control their own people in return for a degree of autonomy, a few bribes and recognition in the form of titles and medals. The rule of law was for the wealthy and the white. For everyone else it was local or tribal rules.

So when the peoples of the Empire came to Britain, the most natural thing to do was to apply the same principles. Look for tribal chiefs and maharajahs, then big them up with OBEs and knighthoods. We began to use the term ‘community leader’ but it is essentially the same thing – an unelected local bigwig with whom a deal can be done to stop trouble getting out of hand. This meant abandoning these areas to local ‘activists’ who claimed to have community support and to local criminals who clearly didn’t. But what the hell? That’s how Britain had always dealt with fractious tribes and religious groups. If it worked in Bengal it could work in Brixton.

So we established a norm where these areas would be ‘sensitively’ policed and where ‘community leaders’ would be consulted before any major police operation, allowing the criminals to get well clear beforehand. Effective policing in many of these areas ceased. Into this power vacuum stepped the drug dealers and, behind them, the gun dealers. As Laban TAll succinctly put it, ‘black gun crime is the bastard child of the Scarman report. The response to the inner city riots of the 1980s created the environment in which today’s problems were incubated.

So what’s changed now? Not a lot, it would seem. The lacklustre response of the police, standing back and watching homes, cars and businesses get burned, is even worse than it was in the 1980s. I’m not blaming individual coppers for this, it’s just that the rules of engagement have changed. Many police officers probably feel like Dutch soldiers in Srebrenica; they’d love to have a go but the rules and their leaders stop them from doing so.

It’s not always like that though, is it? Remember when the property of City banks was threatened? The cops went in pretty hard then, clobbering demonstrators and the odd innocent bystander. The will and the political backing for a tough response is clearly there but perhaps it just depends whose interests are threatened by the violence. Those attacking global capitalism, like anti-bank protesters and striking miners, are more of a priority than those trashing their own neighbourhoods and burning other poor people out of their homes.

The aftermath of the 1980s riots set the tone for policing over the next three decades. In poor areas with lots of immigrants, softly-softly policing and lots of consultation were the rule. Nothing should be done which might inflame community relations or upset the ‘community leaders’ who must be kept onside. When it came to civil disorder, the full force of the law was only to be used where wealthy corporate interests were threatened.

As a result, a generation of children has grown up knowing that the police can’t do much to stop them. These youngsters are not daft. Often, they know their legal rights as well as the police do. They know that the police fear being disciplined or lampooned in the media and that this makes them wary of going in too hard.
In some parts of our cities, the local gangsters inspire more fear and respect than the police do. The youths know who runs the streets where they live – and it’s certainly not the police. The swagger that comes from that sense of immunity was on display last night.

Of course, DCI Gene Hunt forsaw all this. As he told ‘Lord Scarman’: "Well, you can take this home in your Harrods pipe and smoke it. In 20 years time, when the streets are awash with filth and you’re too frightened to leave your big, posh Belsize Park house after dark, don’t come running to me, mate."

OK, maybe he was ten years too early but then, he always was a bit of a pessimist.