Tuesday 31 July 2012

The Battle of Balaclava

"Pussy Riot" sounds like a Bond Girl. Or, at least, it did until the Queen became a Bond Girl. But in fact, it is the name of a "feminist punk rock collective" of apparently grown women who nevertheless call themselves a "feminist punk rock collective" by the name of "Pussy Riot".

Such are their look-at-me antics that they are in fact a criminal conspiracy, and at last someone has insisted that they be treated as such. Specifically, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has so insisted. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which they have defiled, was previously demolished on the orders of Stalin in order to make way for a swimming pool.

Its restoration embodies the restoration of Holy Russia, pre-eminent among the Slavs in their age-old mission of defending the true Western civilisation that is the recapitulation in Jesus Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism and the Roman Empire, at least as much against the godless, rootless, usury-based, stupefied, promiscuous pseudo-West as against anything else.

That pseudo-West would seem to be summed up perfectly by this "Pussy Riot". Or are they demonstrating against the reversal of Stalinism? If so, then they are in line with the only viable political alternative to Putin and Medvedev, the totally unreconstructed Communist Party of the Russian Federation, notable for its Soviet flags at demonstrations.

Banners on which British reporters cannot bring themselves to comment, any more than on the equally ubiquitous black, yellow and white of Russian ultranationalism in all its anti-modern, anti-urban, anti-scientific and anti-Semitic awfulness. Russian ultranationalism in opposition to the present Russian Government. Have you got that?

If it is not those, then it is the Caucasian Islamists. Or else the National Bolsheviks, whose flag is that of Nazi Germany, but with a black hammer and sickle in place of the swastika. The National Bolsheviks are much loved by the BBC, and especially by Belarus-hating, but Uzbekistan-loving, Newsnight. Well, of course they are.

Christian Syria Rises


As evidence mounts that foreign Islamists are fighting alongside Syria’s increasingly radicalized rebels, Christians in Aleppo and elsewhere are taking up arms, often supplied by the regime. “We saw what happened to the Christians in Iraq,” Abu George, a Christian resident of Aleppo’s Aziza district told GlobalPost. “What is going on in Aleppo is not a popular revolution for democracy and freedom. The fighters of the so-called Free Syrian Army are radical Sunnis who want to establish an Islamic state.”

While the 30-year-old shopkeeper said he had not received any direct threats from Syria’s Sunni Muslim rebels, he fears a repeat of Iraq’s sectarian bloodletting. Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the UN Human Rights Council estimates around half of Iraq’s 1.4 million Christians have fled the country, driven out by nearly a decade of church bombings, kidnappings and sectarian murder. The plight of Christians in Iraq has long worried Syria’s estimated two million Christians, around 10 percent of the population. The nightmare of similar persecution has led them to support the secular regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which presents itself as a defender of minorities.

With Syria now gripped by civil war and the Assad regime fighting for its survival, however, Christians like Abu George fear retribution, already occuring in some parts of the country, from the Sunni-led rebels they refused to back. In Qseir, a town of some 60,000 people southwest of Homs, which has been under siege by regime forces for at least seven months, mosques recently rang out with the call for all Christians, who numbered around 10,000, to leave.

The breakdown of inter-communal relations in Qseir stems from both rising fundamentalism among Sunni fighters and the widespread belief that Christians had been collaborating with the Assad regime. Just 10 miles from the border with Lebanon, Qseir Sunni fighters are increasingly radicalized. Some openly identify themselves as mujahadeen fighting for an Islamic Caliphate rather than simply the overthrow of the Assad dictatorship.

“We fight to raise the word of God,” said Abu Salem, a 29-year-old Syrian from Qseir, recuperating recently in the no-man’s-land border between Lebanon’s northern Bekaa Valley and Syria. As shells exploded less than a mile away, the former cement mixer showed photos on his mobile phone of Osama Bin Laden and the latest videos from Al Nusra Front, the little known jihadi group that has claimed responsibility for many of the biggest bombings to hit Damascus since January.

“After the regime is toppled this will be the first stone in building the Islamic Caliphate and Syria must adopt Islamic law,” he said. The skinny fighter said his group, the Mujahedeen Brigade, was led by a Syrian who fought against US troops in Iraq’s Fallujah. Abu Salem said he received money from Syrian expatriates in the Gulf and that it came with the greeting that is commonly used by ultra-conservative Salafists.

While Abu Salem’s claims were impossible to verify, there is little doubt that Qseir’s Sunni fighters have grown increasingly radicalized over the past six months. Abu Ali, a military intelligence officer who defected to the rebels and was first profiled by GlobalPost last November, and then again in a video published in March, now leads Qseir’s Wadi Brigade, one of the town’s largest and strongest rebel groups. Interviewed regularly over Skype over the last six months, Abu Ali has expressed increasingly fundamentalist and intolerant views. He once called for foreign military assistance. But now he says that if international forces join the fight against Assad, “they would be the ones we target, even before the regime.”

Injured by shrapnel at least twice since joining the fight in Qseir last December, Abu Ali has grown a thick beard. Increasingly conservative, he criticized a Muslim reporter for smoking during a Skype call, citing the current period as a time of “holy war.” Abu Ali said he supported the call for Christians to leave Qseir, accusing them of collaborating with the regime.

In interviews with more than a dozen Qseir residents, a Wall Street Journal reporter recently discovered a vicious cycle of murder and kidnap between Sunni and Christian families, triggered by claims that Christians were acting as regime spies. Almost all Qseir’s Christians have now fled, with many taking shelter in makeshift tents in the northern Bekaa valley.

“I used to work as a legal consultant, but now I live like a beggar here in Lebanon,” said a woman who gave her name as Marta and who said her husband had been kidnapped. She said her home in Qseir had been taken over by rebels and destroyed. Abu George, from Aleppo, said officials from the ruling Baath Party had offered prominent Christians in Aziza and other Christian-majority areas of Aleppo “AKs and pistols” late last year. The weapons, they were told, were to protect themselves against the “armed gangs” the regime claimed to be fighting.

For the first year of Syria’s uprising, Aleppo remained largely untouched by the mass protests seen in opposition strongholds like Homs and Hama. Today, however, Abu George sees the regime’s control over Aleppo as slipping, directly threatening his community. “The armed fighters took over the Midan police station, very close to the Christian quarters. There are no police there now, so how can we live? We see on TV armed young men with beards shouting, ‘God is great!’ and calling for jihad. We have the right to defend ourselves.”

The exact number of Christians in Aleppo, a city of three million people, is not known but estimates vary between 100,000 and 250,000. Like Abu George, Abu Omar al-Halaby was a shopkeeper who has taken up arms. But Abu Omar is a Sunni, a fighter with the Brigade of Unification, one of the largest rebel groups holed up in Aleppo’s Salah Adeen quarter. Speaking to GlobalPost, Abu Omar said his unit had deliberately not deployed in Christian areas in order not to inflame communal tensions.

“We are very concerned for civilians and have been working to get people out and to safety,” he said. Abu Omar said he wanted the right “to go to a mosque, have a long beard and practice my Islamic duties freely” and said much of his motivation to fight stemmed from the religious persecution he saw his father suffer under Hafez al-Assad, Syria’s former dictator.

“My father was arrested for 15 years just because someone who hated him wrote a report to the security services, accusing him of being a member of the (banned) Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “He was not, but he was a religious man who spent time at the mosque. A piece of paper took him away from us. Three months after he was released from prison, he died.”

As religious and sectarian hatred intensify, Syrian rebels are being joined by foreign jihadis, some of whom have reportedly fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Yemen. Last week, a Dutch and a British photographer in northern Syria were released from captivity at what they said was a training camp for between 30 and 100 foreign jihadis, who repeatedly threatened to kill them.

“They were only foreign jihadis; I don’t think there was one Syrian among them,” Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans told the New York Times. “All day we were spoken to about the Quran and how they would bring sharia law to Syria. I don’t think they were Al Qaeda, they seemed too amateurish for that. They said, ‘We’re not Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda is down the road.’”

Standing guard at the Salama border crossing near Turkey, a rebel known as Abu Sadiq told GlobalPost last week that since they had seized that and other crossings on Turkish and Iraqi borders, “more Arab fighters had entered the country to fight with us against the Assad regime.” Abu Sadiq said the foreign fighters included men from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria and Libya and that many he had met said they were inspired to come to Syria after seeing the news on the massacres in Houla and Homs.

“We try to keep the non-Syrian fighters out of sight as we don’t want them hurting us with their radical ideas. The Assad regime brings Shiites from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and Russian military experts so we have the right to ask for help from Sunni nations,” Abu Sadiq said. “The regime made this a sectarian war against the Sunnis. Syria is not Afghanistan, but right now we need help from anyone.” 

A GlobalPost reporter contributed from Aleppo, Syria, Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand contributed from Beirut, with additional reporting by Rami Aysha.

"The Master, The Great Man, Our Real Leader"

He is now @NeilClark66 on Twitter.

Don't Be A Dope

This Olympiad is the point at which the new century really begins, with China supplanting America whether America likes it or not.

Many Unhappy Returns

Milton Friedman would have been 100 today. He is at most a partial exception to the rule that the people who most influence economics are not themselves professional economists.

Hayek, in particular, is still looked at askance even by very right-wing "proper" economists, although they realise that they have to be careful to whom they say these things. It is very much like the attitude of even very conservative "proper" theologians when it comes to C S Lewis or G K Chesterton: they are perhaps vaguely glad that anyone has been pointed in the right direction by having been converted to the former's Mere Christianity or to the latter's Orthodoxy, and they might even have been such people when they were very young indeed, but that is strictly as far as it goes. I am not necessarily endorsing such a view, only pointing out that it is there. And that is also the attitude to Hayek even among those who might be regarded as on the same side as he was.

Hayek was a political philosopher. One of his doctorates was in political science. The other one was not in economics. Economists are not necessarily being complimentary when they call someone a political philosopher, any more than vice versa. And even as one of those, if Reagan and Thatcher really did believe themselves to have been influenced by Hayek, then, as Enoch Powell said of his own alleged influence over Thatcher, they cannot have understood any of it. Powell is another example of this post's main point, since his only academic background was in Classics generally and Ancient Greek specifically.

But he had overriding and undergirding social, cultural and political reasons why he wanted the economy to be organised in a certain way. He did not see economics as a positive science. That was why he was influential. And that was why he would never have passed muster as a "proper" economist. Nor would Keynes. Nor would Hayek. Nor, really, would Friedman. Nor, even, would Adam Smith. The only figure of any importance to have held that politics ought to be defined in terms of economics, rather than the other way round, was Marx, so that thus to define is precisely to be a Marxist. But Marx, a lover of philosophy and literature whose father had forced him to do law at university but who was never very good at it, had no academic background in economics, either.

There was no Keynesian closed shop among economists in the 1970s, but those who screamed themselves to prominence on the claim that there was have now created a neoliberal closed shop with the catastrophic consequences that we now experience, and which we shall continue to experience while almost the only economics taught to undergraduates or published in peer-reviewed journals seriously maintains that the way out of recession is the State's contrivance of even more unemployment and of even less spending power. As we nurse our wounds, we shall remember those who pulled the triggers.

But we must not forget those who loaded the guns, or those who manufactured the bullets. Nor will we. Like all of those listed above, they have begun with a vision of the society in which they wished to live, and they have constructed their economics in order to fit that vision. That is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. Indeed, it is the only thing to do, since no other way of constructing an economic system, whether in theory or in practice, exists in actual fact. It is the vision itself that has to be judged. To judge Friedman's vision is to find it very wanting indeed.

Even leaving aside recent events, his acolytes, inconceivably without his direction, brought down from within the Labour Government of the 1970s in favour of their own entryists whose Useful Idiot was the uncomprehending Margaret Thatcher. Before that, they had conspired with Trotskyists, white supremacists and Israel Firsters, first to replace LBJ with the trigger-happy race huckster Bobby Kennedy as the Democratic Presidential nominee, and then to bring down the President who had suspended of the draft, who had pursued détente with China and with the USSR, and who was edging towards ending the Vietnam War. Nixon had declared that "I am now a Keynesian in economics." As Friedman bitterly put it, "We are all Keynesians now." Not for much longer, they weren't.

Nixon's had been the age of wage and price control, of the Clean Air Act, of the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, of the War on Cancer and the War on Drugs, of Title IX that banned sex discrimination in federally funded education, of the desegregation of schools in the Deep South, and of the insistence that the United States should launch no war over the Soviet Union's treatment of its Zionist dissidents. Nixon was forced out over something that no one really found shocking then any more than we should find it shocking now, although I suppose that we ought to mourn the passing of a world in which they felt obliged to pretend that they were shocked by it.

The Nixon and Ford Administrations stood in stark contrast to the pioneering monetarism and the Cold War sabre-rattling of the Carter Administration, which was particularly bad for abusing the noble cause of anti-Communism by emphasising Soviet human rights abuses while ignoring Chinese and Romanian ones. Carter, who was not above electorally opportunistic race-baiting, 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. But Carter, for all his unsung prophetic calls against materialism in general and oil dependence in particular, had had the nerve to brand Ford as soft on Communism for his entirely factual statement that Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland were "not dominated" by the Soviet Union.

And Carter, when it came to deeds rather than words, began the giving of effect to the vision of Milton Friedman for an economy organised towards his prior social ends. The economy that has lately collapsed, but which no one produced by the Friedmanite academic-industrial complex can so much as begin to imagine trying to change.

But He's Our Son Of A Bitch

No, Newsnight cannot cover the whole of something that had been broadcast over half an hour on that day's Radio Four. But it still gave about half as long to John Sweeney's reprise of his Torture in the 21st Century. Yet it was all about Belarus, with nothing at all on the far worse torture that Sweeney's radio programme had detailed in Uzbekistan.

The cause of solidarity with Belarus remains of the utmost importance, as is appreciated by the Holy See, which was hardly noted for its friendly relations with the Soviet Union, and is therefore hardly likely to favour "the last outpost of the USSR" or whatever absurd thing we are expected to believe that Belarus now constitutes.

Lukashenko's Belarus is one of four countries ever to have effected total nuclear disarmament, giving the lie to the claim that it would be impossible. South Africa tellingly did it at the same time as she gave up apartheid, while Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine were negotiated to it by Jim Baker, as much the successor of Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and Reagan in his anti-nuclear activism as he was in his denunciation of the pursuit of Greater Israel. If a country which has disposed of an entire nuclear arsenal is, under the same President, unfooled by the ridiculous claims of an Iranian nuclear threat, then the rest of the world ought to listen most attentively.

But we are not doing any such thing. Well, of course we aren't. Belarus is so critical of her Soviet past that she has given up her nuclear weapons, while at the same time so critical of the decadence of the Postmodern West and its bloodthirsty globalisation that she is explicitly recognised as an ally by the Pope. The cake is iced by pointing out that an Iranian Bomb is as fanciful as an Iraqi Bomb was, and would in any case matter not one jot against hundreds of Israeli Bombs. The cherry on top was an off-colour remark in March which breached the ultimate taboo of the Postmodern West by questioning, however little, the absolute supremacy of the homosexual lobby. So economic sanctions are in order, with military sanctions not taken off the table.

There is none of this, though, for Uzbekistan. Nor for Kazhakstan, Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan. Still less for Olympically corrupt, shamelessly election-rigging Georgia. Unlike those really fighting against Islamist terrorist secession from Unfavoured Nations such as Russia and China, they are our allies in "The War On Terror". They are our invaluable assistants in Afghanistan, great success that that is. They are the paymasters of Tony Blair, Progress, and the public relations company for both, Bell Pottinger. So they can do no wrong. Can they?

Monday 30 July 2012

Skirting Broads

What a frightfully petit bourgeois place Oxford must be.

There are certain colleges of the University of Durham where no one would ever have batted an eyelid if gentlemen had worn skirts and blouses under their academic tat.

Indeed, everyone might even be more distressed, or at least surprised, if several of them did not.

Culture Clash

I do not think that Mitt Romney was making a point by saying that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. He just did not know any better, which says all that needs to be said about his fitness, or otherwise, for the most powerful office on earth. But what of the whole trip to Israel, and what of the "culture" remark there? There are vastly fewer Jews in America than is generally supposed even by Americans, they are by no means all pro-Israeli, and most American Jews would never vote Republican in a million years. Netanyahu does have form when it comes to interference in American elections, but his record of success at it is far from unqualified. No, Romney is trying to ingratiate himself elsewhere.

Mormons are quite fond of the Garden Tomb, the made-up alternative for Victorian Evangelicals who did not like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Then as now, their attitude to Levantine Christianity was much like their  attitude to the Sub-Apostolic Fathers: they either did not know, or did not want to know, about entirely matter-of-fact descriptions of all things "Romish" existing during the lifetimes of the Apostles and providing the context that the New Testament text presupposes. Nor did they wish to be confronted with the entirely matter-of-fact existence of communities of that kind which have been present continuously for two thousand years, right there in the Bible Lands.

Christian communities that go all the way back to the Day of Pentecost are problematic enough in themselves for them, without those communities' having become, at best, Anglican or Lutheran rather than, say, Baptist, and far more commonly Latin Catholic or Maronite Catholic, Melkite Catholic or Greek Orthodox, Syrian Catholic or Syrian Jacobite, Armenian Catholic or Armenian Apostolic, Chaldean Catholic or Assyrian. As part of Evangelicalism's general upward trend in educational terms, Evangelical theology is increasingly looking beyond the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to its earlier and more cerebral roots, and thus to a place within the older, broader and deeper Tradition. Approaches to the Middle East are starting to reflect this shift. But most churchgoers, and indeed most clergy, are not academic theologians.

Such continuous communities are even more problematical for Mormonism, which maintains, not that the Church was reformed in the sixteenth century, but that the Church began again from scratch in the nineteenth, having died out at some point in the first or second. Standing contradictions of that whole theory simply do not compute. But the white Evangelicals, vastly more Zionist-inclined than the black ones, are most disinclined to vote for a Mormon, although one does have to ask for whom else, exactly, they might otherwise consider casting their ballots this November. No one who subscribed to Christian Zionism has ever become President of the United States: George W Bush is a United Methodist, and he was in fact the first President ever to express himself in favour of a Palestinian State; the Southern Baptist Convention was a very different body in the 1970s, and Jimmy Carter himself is no longer a member of it because it has changed so much.

But Bush was an aberration, and Carter is a relic of a vanished world. "Mainline" Protestantism is simply no longer a force in the Republican Party, any more than Southern Evangelicalism is in the Democratic Party, indeed very considerably less so. Again, there is a racial divide, with a heavy black Evangelical influence within and over Democratic politics, such that black Evangelicalism itself remains close to the historically interracial Evangelical commitment to social justice and to peace, whereas most of white Evangelicalism (in America, far less so elsewhere) has gone whoring after the false gods of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

Burkeans and Kirkians, cultural Anglophiles who oppose any foreign state's (or ethnic lobby's) undue influence over American policy no matter how much affinity they might feel with that other country, figures who on those grounds are advocates and practitioners of extensive measures to ameliorate by government action the less humane effects of capitalism: the GOP is now no more characterised by these than by those who, not unrelatedly, are sufficiently in touch with the American missionary institutions that begat, bore and nurtured the (often Christian-led) Arab nationalism of the Near East; foundations of Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist churches that were then still sufficiently orthodox to bother to send missionaries at all, and which were then still sufficiently orthodox to be considered worthy of continuing contact by Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran and Methodist churches of missionary origin.

In this, Mitt Romney is right. Culture makes all the difference.

Bye, Bye, Boyle's Britain

Over in The First Post/The Week, Neil Clark writes:

On the strength of Friday night's Olympic opening ceremony, I think it's fair to describe Danny Boyle as a 'progressive patriot'. The working-class son of a school dinner lady and a self-educated farm labourer, his patriotism is about pride in Britain's industrial achievements, its welfare state and its tolerance towards minorities. But the sad truth is that the Britain Danny Boyle was celebrating in some of the most memorable scenes on Friday is either finished or very close to being finished. We've lost our industrial base, the NHS and welfare state are being dismantled before our very eyes and even multiculturalism is under threat.

Take de-industrialisation. In the country that was once 'The Workshop of the World', manufacturing accounts for only around 12 per cent of our national output. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, played in Friday's ceremony by Kenneth Branagh, would be turning in his grave to see how little British industry remains – and how much of that which does is now under foreign ownership.

Then there's the NHS. The impact of the government's Health and Social Care Act, which passed earlier this year, hasn't hit home yet because of the time delay for the changes to take effect. But the reforms, which effectively introduce a 'market' in health care and open the door for private companies to provide NHS services, means the end of the NHS in all but name. "Privatisation is an inevitable consequence of many of the policies contained in the Health and Social Care Bill," says Clive Peedell, co-chairman of the NHS Consultants' Association, writing in the British Medical Journal. "The coalition government's repeated denials of NHS privatisation do not stand up to scrutiny. The public is being misinformed about the consequences of the Health and Social Care Bill."

Multiculturalism - the belief that immigrants to Britain should be free to live their lives as they best see fit - is under attack too. In a speech in Germany last year, David Cameron declared: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we've encouraged different cultures to live separate lives apart from each other and apart from the mainstream." The Prime Minister singled out British Muslims in his speech, leading Inayat Bunglawala of Muslims4UK to accuse him of taking a "patronising attitude towards UK Muslims". It's hard to see why the Prime Minister is so concerned with Muslims: a 2012 study showed that UK Muslims feel that being British is more important to them than it is to whites. "Our research shows that people we might assume would feel very British, in fact do not - while others who we might assume would not associate themselves with feelings of Britishness, in fact do," Dr Alita Nandi, of the University of Essex, said.

Aidan Burley, the Conservative MP who in tweets on Friday night branded the ceremony "leftie, multicultural crap", needn't be so worried - Boyle's Britain is on the way out. In the place of a country which makes things, which provides a state-run health care system for all its citizens and which respects the rights of people to be different, we have the deadening, standardising force of neo-liberal globalisation – threatening to wipe out everything we recognise and like about our country.

If we had wanted the history of Britain to be brought up to date in Friday's ceremony, it should really have ended with a group of City bankers and traders coming on, waving wads of money and glaring arrogantly at the cameras. These are the people who call all the shots in the neo-liberal Britain of today: not engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, not dedicated NHS professionals, nor the heroic people in overalls who Boyle depicted in his staged scenes on Friday.

Our Boys


Radical Islamists with "British accents" are among the coalition forces looking to topple Bashar Assad, says Jeroen Oerlemans, a photographer who was held hostage in Syria for a week. The UK Foreign Office has launched an investigation. Oerlemans, a famous Dutch photo journalist, and John Cantlie, another photographer from the UK, were captured by a group of between 30 and 100 anti-Assad fighters when crossing the Syrian border from Turkey last week. They were then blindfolded.

"One of the black jihadists freaked out and shouted: 'These are journalists and now they will see we are preparing an international jihad in this place.'" Oerlemans told NRC Handelsblatt newspaper. He said that none of the fighters was Syrian. "They all claimed they came from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh and Chechnya and they said there was some vague 'emir' at the head of the group." About 40 per cent of the militants spoke English. In fact, several apparently talked with recognizable regional British accents, from Birmingham and London.

The two photographers suspected that a ransom would be demanded for their release and tried to escape. Oerlemans was shot twice in the leg during the failed attempt and Cantlie, who has so far not spoken to any media, was wounded in the arm. The pair’s ordeal ended when the Free Syrian Army, the main anti-Assad force, demanded that their nominal allies hand them over. "They took us with them like a bunch of gangsters," Oerlemans said, "Shooting in the air as we rode out of there."

The Free Syrian Army released the men and the two are now resting in Turkey. They expect to travel home in the coming days. If it is confirmed, Oerleman’s story will add to reports that Syria has become a magnet for radical Islamists, who are there either as mercenaries or because of ideology. "As soon as Assad has fallen, these fighters want to introduce Islamic law, Sharia, in Syria," said Oerlemans.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Torch Guard

Peter Hitchens writes:

Enthusiasm is compulsory only in totalitarian dictatorships. Anywhere else, we are free to be keen if we want to, and bored if we want to. So I wish people would stop telling me that I should enjoy the Olympics, or be proud of them, or think that they will in some way benefit this country. But they won’t stop telling me. Hardly a day goes by without another previously independent mind surrendering to this pseudo-religion of obligatory smiles. And that makes me suspicious. What is this strange cult? In the end, the Olympics is nothing more than a large athletics meeting.

Before Hitler and Dr Goebbels made it into a torch-lit and grandiose spectacle, you could be in the same city as the Games and barely notice. Are we really that interested? And if we are, are we interested for good reasons? Personally, I find it very odd that large crowds have turned out in the street to see a glorified pilot light carried about in a large cheese-grater. Even odder is the fact that there has been no fuss at all about the appalling treatment of a boy on a bicycle who had the temerity to ride alongside the procession in Haverhill, Essex, on Saturday, July 7.

It is hard to see from the film, but he looks about 12 to me. As he comes level with the portly torch-bearer, he is seized by a baseball-capped ‘Torch Guard’, spun round, clasped by the neck, thrown to the ground, almost in front of a moving car in the procession, which visibly brakes hard, pinned down on the road and finally hustled on to the pavement. You’d think he’d tried to assassinate the Monarch, not ridden his bike too close to the Goebbels flame. I can’t see much difference between the behaviour of the ‘Torch Guard’ and that of the menacing Chinese goons we all disliked so much four years ago when they escorted Dr Goebbels’s candle round the world. The event happens so quickly that most of the crowd barely notice. But I have now watched it several times, and it makes me angrier every time I do so.

This is supposed to be a light-hearted, generous-spirited event. But it isn’t really. It’s an overbearing, officious, self-important celebration of corporate greed, unpunished corruption, tolerated cheating and multiculturalism. As for it being a demonstration of the greatness of Britain, what can I say? If they gave out Olympic medals for fatherless families, deindustrialisation, graffiti, violent disorder, traffic congestion, illiteracy, swearing or really high train and bus fares, we’d be going for gold in a big way. I suspect these are features of our country we want to hide from potential investors – in which case, why is the stadium adorned by a structure that looks like an abandoned and vandalised blast-furnace?

And then there are the alleged economic benefits. Ho, ho, ho. No doubt these will be calculated according to the Martian mathematics under which something we were told would cost £2.3 billion actually cost £9.4 billion – and this was announced as an ‘underspend’. Will the world be impressed? Well, would you be impressed if a family in your street, who were jobless, undischarged bankrupts with delinquent children, whose roof leaked, whose wiring was dangerous, whose garden fence was rotten and whose unmown lawn was full of weeds, suddenly hired a marquee and a brigade of maids and waiters, and invited everyone to a noisy champagne party? Count me out of the compulsory joy. It reminds me all too much of May Day in Soviet Moscow. I once thought that was all over, but now I realise that it’s coming here. 

And Andrew Gilligan writes:

The London Olympics are the most Right-wing major event in Britain’s modern history. Billions of pounds are taken from poor and middle-income taxpayers and service users to build temples to a corporate and sporting elite. Democratic, grassroots sport is stripped of money to fund the most rarefied sport imaginable. The police and the state are turned into the enforcement arm of Coca-Cola. How did this event suddenly become the toast of the Left?

Corporations who make people fat and sick – or, in one case, actually maimed and killed them – are allowed to launder their images; the London Paralympics, in a detail you simply could not make up, are sponsored by Atos, the firm repeatedly accused of bullying disabled people off benefits. Meanwhile, the main sponsors – the people of Britain – are largely excluded from the event they paid for.

Not just the Games itself, but many other parts of their own city, are sealed off from them. Some of them are evicted and their houses destroyed; others find overnight and without warning that their homes are to be converted into military missile sites, so terrorist planes can be made to kill ordinary Londoners instead of Olympic luminaries. Protestors against any of this are arrested and detained on the flimsiest of pretexts. Almost every promise ever made by the organisers – from the budget to the ‘greenest games ever,’ from the number of jobs that will be created to the number of new houses that will be built – turns out to be false.

The Left should be up in arms about the Olympics, as should any democrat. But as it turns out, all it takes is a few nurses dancing round beds, some coloured lights spelling out the words NHS and we all go weak at the knees and collapse into the IOC’s embrace. Worse, actually: any criticism of the opening ceremony was described by one left-wing newspaper today as “extremist!

My favourite line was from the Guardian columnist Richard Williams who wrote: “Cameron and his gang will surely not dare to continue the dismemberment of the NHS after this.” Hmm. If dismemberment is indeed their intention, are they really going to be stopped by a sound and light show? This isn’t a new dawn for Britain. It’s a night’s entertainment.

I can’t quite decide whether this is a genuine Diana moment – when the public hysteria is real – or whether it is confined largely to the media. I’ve been there myself – I covered the Beijing Olympics and I know how contagious and seductive the cossetted, enclosed media atmosphere can be. That's how you get reality drifts like Williams'. I’ve been out and about today outside the Olympic bubble and most people I’ve been talking to seem to be taking it a lot more calmly than the papers.

I’ve also had disappointingly few hate emails and tweets after my mixed review yesterday of the great event. One person objected to my gentle mockery of Shami Chakrabarti’s participation. I like Shami a lot, but someone who campaigns for human rights should never have allowed herself to be used to polish the image of an event with such a long record of trampling on human rights. The abuses in London, of course, are comparatively small – but only four years ago in Beijing, thousands of people were made homeless and entire areas starved of water for the duration of the Games so that the Olympic areas could look fresh and green.

Whatever the truth about the mood is, it will pass. I attended the Beijing opening ceremony, as it happens. I wrote some of the same sort of faintly overawed copy that we're seeing in this weekend's newspapers. I can’t remember very much about that night now. 

This was what happened when Ken Livingstone, who had wanted to regenerate East London, was replaced with Boris Johnson who, er, did not. Will Gilligan now recant his support for Johnson? And will he now admit that this, but on a national scale, would be what a Johnson Premiership was like? If not, then he deserves no serious attention whatever.

Wedding Blues

Although, like most people (including Tony Blair), he is wrong about what Clause IV really said and really meant, Andrew Pierce writes:

When he became Tory leader seven years ago, the youthful and telegenic David Cameron pledged to transform the blue-rinse image of his party and boost its membership by attracting thousands of young, ethnic and gay members.  In doing so, he would destroy forever the Tories’ reputation as the ‘nasty party’ as these new ‘inclusive’ members joined the 300,000 activists whose average age was 64. ‘I was elected Leader of the Conservative Party on a mandate to change and modernise the party,’ he said. ‘I want to increase membership. I want to see a broader base. I want to see a significant increase in the number of members from all communities.’ He hugged hoodies, embraced huskies in the Arctic Circle and placed a daft wind turbine on the roof of his Notting Hill home in an attempt to woo new Tories.

But the bitter and ineluctable truth is that, far from increasing numbers, Mr Cameron has presided over the sharpest decline in membership in the Conservative party’s history.  Today, I can reveal that the number of Tory party members has fallen below 130,000, a drop of around 60 per cent since he took over in 2005. The party’s U-turns over a referendum on Europe, its failure to reform the loathed Human Rights Act and the Tories’ infuriating tendency to give ever more ground to the wretched Lib Dems have contributed to the decline. The revolt in the shires over the ‘reform’ of planning policy in the green belt also led to numerous members withholding their subscriptions in protest. But the issue that has been the single biggest factor in this membership crisis is Mr Cameron’s unwavering commitment to gay marriage — which he reiterated at the annual Downing Street reception for members of the gay community this week.

Last year in his conference speech, he astounded traditional party supporters when he declared: ‘I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.’ It was a slap in the face for the vast majority of Tory members who happily accepted the introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples, but baulked at the idea of a Conservative government redefining the ancient institution of marriage. The uncompromising language deployed by Mr Cameron who, in another sop to the Lib Dems, has cynically dumped his repeated promise to reward traditional marriage through the tax system, enraged Tory MPs and activists alike. Thousands ripped up their membership cards and refused to renew their subscriptions.

The alarm bells sounded in the Tory HQ, which in January launched a national appeal to try to persuade waverers to return to the fold. The appeal was a dismal failure. In a tense meeting in Downing Street last month between Mr Cameron and 20 of the party’s most senior members, he was given a stark warning that membership will plunge below the psychologically crucial 100,000 mark if there were no change of heart on same-sex marriage. One source revealed: ‘The Prime Minister was told bluntly that gay marriage was causing membership to haemorrhage. Cameron was unmoved and said the members were out of step with the country. He doesn’t seem to care that it’s the party members who canvass on doorsteps across the country in all weathers. They lick envelopes, hold fundraisers and at elections drive our older supporters to polling stations.  These people are our mainstay and they are abandoning us. Our party is dying on its feet.’

The crisis was discussed at last month’s meeting of the Tory Party Board, chaired by Lord Andrew Feldman, Mr Cameron’s closest friend from their time at Oxford. Feldman, the joint Tory chairman, is, of course, a supporter of gay marriage. Dubbed the ‘crony chairman’ as he got the job (and his peerage) only because he is Mr Cameron’s chum, Feldman presented a gloomy report from the membership sub-committee he chairs. Indeed, the situation is so desperate the board has authorised cut-price admission for the first time for the Tory party conference in Birmingham in October because the fear is there will be hundreds of empty seats for Mr Cameron’s keynote speech.

The damage done by the gay marriage proposals is not confined to within the party. Potential Tory voters don’t like them. A national poll by ComRes on the likely effects of allowing gay marriage — which, incidentally, was not in any of the parties’ manifestos — revealed the Conservatives could lose 1.1 million votes and 30 parliamentary seats in an election because so many supporters would stay at home or switch to UKIP. A ComRes poll also revealed that 56 per cent of Mr Cameron’s constituents who voted for him at the election oppose his plans to make redefining marriage a priority.

Andrew Hawkins, the chairman of ComRes, said: ‘It’s the way it has been handled that has done so much damage. The Government has a consultation, but says it is pressing ahead whether people like it or not. ‘One of the scariest things for the Tories is that three in four of those people who voted for Cameron in 2010, but say they won’t again, cite gay marriage as the reason. It’s all very well for the Tory leadership to dismiss their critics as the old guard. But older voters are the ones who used to be certain to vote most loyally for the Tories.’

Confidential figures compiled by Tory HQ reveal that mass desertions pose a serious threat to the party’s ability to fight elections in crucial marginals. Since Mr Cameron became leader, the number of full-time paid party agents who run Conservative associations in seats held by Tory MPs or in marginals they are fighting to win, has fallen from more than 150 to less than 50. In Harlow, which the Tories recaptured with a 5,000 majority last time, association membership has more than halved to 100. The figure is the same in Enfield Southgate, where Tory MP David Burrowes is leading his party’s opposition to gay marriage. There are only 100 activists in neighbouring Enfield North — another key marginal. It’s even more grim in the marginals of Crawley and Pendle in Lancashire, where combined membership is less than 100.  True blue Bournemouth’s two constituencies can muster only 300 members between them. Even Margaret Thatcher’s Finchley stronghold has only 300 members, down from more than 1,000 in her heyday.

One senior party official said: ‘Gay marriage is the final straw. In London, Bristol, Birmingham and other major cities, there are dozens of constituencies with no party organisation at all. ‘The voluntary party is virtually extinct in Scotland and in parts of Wales. We are relying on a dwindling band of volunteers, the majority of whom are in their 70s. It’s the most desperate situation the party has ever faced.’

Dissent is spreading in the parliamentary party, with opposition expected to be even higher than the 91 MPs who voted against House of Lords reform this month.  David Mowat, Tory MP for Warrington South, is a typical dissenter. ‘What matters is jobs, growth and the economy: everything has to be done to fix that.  I had a letter from a former chairman of Warrington South Conservatives saying he was leaving the party. We haven’t got so many members that we can lose them.’ Mr Mowat, while ‘moderately in favour’ of gay marriage, said: ‘It’s a pity we have chosen to potentially alienate our activists. I would be happy if the whole thing got dropped.’

On top of all this woe, the issue has also caused a revolt among donors who flocked to Cameron in 2005 when they thought he had the charisma and policies to win a General Election. Michael Farmer, an evangelical Christian who runs a metals-based hedge fund, gave £640,000 to the party the year after Mr Cameron took over. He gave £928,000 the year before the election and £750,000 the year Mr Cameron entered No 10. Last year he gave only £255,000. Donations have dried up from Michael Hintze, a devout Christian and billionaire property developer, whose charitable foundation has given more than £20 million to good causes. Since Mr Cameron became leader, Mr Hintze has consistently given more than £200,000 a year. Last year he gave only £34,000.

For their part, supporters of Mr Cameron believe his backing for gay marriage will be seen by ordinary voters as the defining issue of how he has modernised his party. They compare it to Tony Blair’s abolition of Clause IV in 1994, when he became Labour leader, which committed his party to the nationalisation of industry. But abolishing Clause IV was hugely popular. Afterwards, Labour membership rose by 100,000 to 320,000 — a figure Mr Cameron can only dream of.

The irony is that the man who pledged to modernise the Tory party could go down as the leader who destroyed it.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Safe In Our Hands

After its starring role in projecting Britain to the world, the National Health Service is probably now more or less safe from the Coalition's neo-Blairism, although only the first Labour Government since 1979 will secure it firmly.

In fact, from the celebration of agriculture and manufacturing, to that of the NHS, to Shami Chakrabati, to the Queen, the whole thing amounted to a splendid repudiation of Blairism, and thus of Blair himself.

Last night, his scheme for a return as Prime Minister at the head of New Labour-Cameroon-Orange Book technocracy was gloriously torn to shreds, and burned as if in the cauldron, before the eyes of the whole wide world.

Operor Non Exsisto Ignavus

The town's MP, take note. And his admirers, likewise.

A shortlist confined to people paid minimum wage might perfectly easily consist of interns or those paid only the statutory minimum in order to call them something else. Nowhere near enough on which to live at all in central London (if anywhere), still less to acquire the contacts necessary in order to have oneself thus shortlisted.

We do not need this. We need the final ballot for parliamentary candidate to be of the whole constituency electorate. That would favour the sort of people who in considerable numbers became Labour MPs for the first time in 2010, because the boys "on minimum wage" were too important ever to have to be in Opposition.

Ho, hum. With their elders and betters rightly in no mood to budge, they will never now make it into Parliament. But with MacShane still without the whip, an opening might exist for one of them at Rotherham if the eyes there were off the ball. Operor non exsisto ignavus.

The Big Meeting Is The Big Time

This was only Shami Chakrabati's second-biggest gig of the month.

A fortnight ago, she addressed the Durham Miners' Gala.

The Awesome Condescension of Posterity

Look it up.

As John McDonnell has just tweeted, the usual suspects are "railing against Danny Boyle's ceremony because it was our culture & recent history essentially from a working class perspective."

Quite so.

Of Black Berets, Black Shirts and the Black Eagle

Ah, the Spirit of 1968. The entire contingent of American Olympians came out wearing the uniform headgear of the Black Power movement.

They might as well all have given the black-gloved salute. From the podium, perhaps those who win medals will do just that. How the world turns.

Speaking of which, where once there was Yugoslavia, there is now, among other things, the ultra-corrupt cesspit of heroin trafficking and women trafficking that has been created by those in whom Nazism, Wahhabism and Hoxhism meet.

Thence comes a judoka by the name of Majlinda Kelmendi. She is at the Olympics. For Albania. Of course. No one, but no one, believes in a country called Kosovo.

Romney's Bonkers Foreign Policy

We old PostRight boys keep in touch with each other, so watch this space. In the meantime, and safely returned to the Motherland, our erstwhile Editor, Freddy Gray, writes:

What have we learnt about Willard Mitt Romney since he arrived in Britain? Not a lot. He’s a plonker, that’s for sure, but most of us knew that. The UK leg of his world tour will be remembered, if it is remembered at all, for the gaffes. And as Isabel suggested yesterday, Mitt’s diplomatic clumsiness is a real weak point in his candidacy. It’s not just silly slips, his foreign policy ideas seem positively bonkers. Last year, Romney and his neocon advisers published a white paper called An American Century. It talked of Turkey as if it were part of the axis of evil, rather than a member of Nato. It was eager to fear-monger about the rise of East, and proposed that America should arm Taiwan to combat China. At the same time, and even more bizarrely, Romney suggested that the US ought to ‘persuade China to commit to North Korea’s disarmament’.

In his campaign speeches, Romney talks as if war with Iran and China is inevitable. His worldview, or at least the one he promotes on his campaign, is that America rules, subtle diplomacy is for wusses, and any funny-sounding nation is probably an enemy of freedom. This is all posturing, of course. But that doesn’t stop it being dangerous as well as politically futile. In his Spectator cover essay last week, Jacob Heilbrunn suggested that Romney could win if he ran from the political centre and never stopped talking about the economy. On foreign affairs, he advised the Republican nominee to stay quiet. The killing of Osama Bin Laden and Obama’s fondness for drone strikes mean that the President cannot be cast as a wimp. And whatever one thinks of Obama, one can’t deny he has presence on the world stage. Romney, it is clear, does not. It might have been better for him to have stayed at home.

Friday 27 July 2012

Done The State Some Service, And They Know’t?

I am told that the Opening Ceremony will be "inspired by Shakespeare".

Does that mean that Seb Coe will die at the end?

Incorruptible and Unapologetic

James Bloodworth writes:

Dennis Skinner plans to retire at the next election to make way for a neighbouring Labour MP as the boundaries of his Derbyshire constituency are redrawn. The House of Commons will be a duller place without him. 

Dennis Skinner, the veteran 79-year-old backbench Labour MP, was in trademark form as he was overheard talking about plans to publish members' expenses online. "I'm not going to be putting my expenses on the internet," he complained emphatically to friends. "I wouldn't know how. I've never sent an email and don't intend to start now."

A member of parliament since 1970, the so-called "Beast of Bolsover" is one of a dying breed of working-class MPs. Born in 1932 to a Derbyshire mining family, Skinner was the third of nine children and an exceptionally bright youngster. Passing the 11-plus at nine-and-a-half, he went to grammar school aged 10 before turning down the chance of a university education to work down the pit - first at the Parkhouse colliery near Clay Cross then at Glapwell colliery near Chesterfield.

Dennis Skinner's upbringing is the stuff of a Ken Loach novel: a childhood spent playing on the coal heaps of Derbyshire while at home his trade-unionist father Edward versed him in the politics of the class struggle. Skinner senior, a miner, was sacked during the strike of 1926 before being re-employed in the late Thirties when war was in the offing. He was sacked again in the Fifties when, as the miners' delegate, he told the manager "a few things" the workers felt about his stewardship of the pit. He was issued an ultimatum to apologise or face the sack. "Apologise?" Edward Skinner replied, "It would be like putting me head in t'oven."

Not long afterwards Dennis was elected miners' delegate in place of his father. In 1964, aged 33, he became the youngest ever president of Derbyshire National Union of Miners. Had things turned out differently it could have been Skinner, rather than Author Scargill, who led the miners' strike against Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Instead, in 1969 the miners decided they wanted Skinner as Labour Party candidate for the rock solid seat of Bolsover. "I never put my name forward," Skinner says, making it clear it was them who made the decision and not him. On being elected to parliament in 1970, however, Skinner continued turning up every morning to work at the pit. "I didn't know when Parliament started to pay my wages," he was later reported as saying.

One of Dennis Skinner's defining characteristics is his abrasive manner with those on the opposite side of the House. Never one to pull punches, he has a reputation among some MPs as a showman or "a knockabout turn," as one Labour MP disparagingly put it. He has also been known to overstep the mark at times with his jibes - resulting in several expulsions from the House; in 2005 he was asked to leave the chamber after accusing George Osborne of doing cocaine.

Many MPs like to drink and socialise together in the House of Commons bar after debates. Skinner has little time for such niceties with the Tories and their "pathetic liberal" allies. He makes the irrefutable point that if a miner can't drink and work, nor should an MP. Skinner himself has an assiduous attendance record in the House of Commons. The only time he has failed to attend in all his years as an MP was when he was in hospital having triple heart bypass surgery in 2003.

Regularly referred to as "incorruptible", Skinner was accused by the Sunday Telegraph in 2009 of making false expenses claims. Recalling how he got a call from the Telegraph's office asking probing questions, he explained. "I told them I had the lowest expenses in the House and the best voting record, but they wanted to know about £3,500 for alterations to my bathroom and kitchen and £800 for a sofa bed." Dennis was cleared of any wrong doing after it emerged that alterations to his flat had been carried out on doctor's orders after his heart bypass. "I've bought my flat myself and never charged a penny of it to the taxpayers," he said. "I have worked out that I am living in London on £27 a day while David Cameron is claiming a damn sight more for his big house in Oxford."

Still a crowd puller, like Tony Benn before him Dennis Skinner is one of the few MPs people will still bother turning out to see. The problem is that like Benn he also risks becoming something of a national treasure - and being liked was never something his politics were about. Unapologetic about his treatment of Tories in the Commons, he once told a reporter to "forget it" when asked if he would ever change his abrasive ways. "There are only so many things you can do in life," he said. "And if you think I'm going to spend my waking hours thinking about some decency in some Tory or other, you can forget it."

Visiting a corner shop in a quiet suburb of Bolsover about six months ago, I asked some local workmen on their lunch break what they thought of the veteran MP. "I disagree with Skinner on virtually everything under the sun," said one of the men. "But politics is a better place with people like him involved". The shop's owner also piped in. "He's very popular in Bolsover. I've lived here for 20-odd years and he will only stop being MP for the area when he steps down or dies," he said. "There is absolutely no chance of him ever losing an election."

When he does eventually leave the House of Commons the entire chamber will be worse off without this worker's son made good - perched in his trademark tweed jacket on the front corner of the Labour benches, belligerently arguing a point when others have long given up the ghost. In an age when the integrity of MPs is repeatedly called into question, even those who loathe the politics of Dennis Skinner will admit, grudgingly of course, that he possesses the stuff in droves.

Why does he have to be the one to go because of boundary changes? He has just topped the poll for the MPs' representatives on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. And he has been right all along about the EU, in stark contrast to the persons and supporters of Margaret Thatcher and David Owen, both of whom have only got there, and then only up to a point, in much more recent years.

Of Anglo-Saxons and Anglophilia

Daniel Larison writes: 

I don’t attach much importance to this ginned-up controversy of the day, but there are a few things I would like to add to this “Anglo-Saxon heritage” debate. No one would seriously dispute that America has a British cultural and political inheritance. Russell Kirk wrote at length on the British culture that Americans inherited and reproduced in our literature, laws, and form of government. The American constitutional tradition draws heavily on the precedents established in Britain during the 17th century, and the origins of some our own political persuasions can be traced to political quarrels between the vying Country and Court factions of 18th century Britain. None of those inheritances and affinities required a close U.S.-U.K. relationship of the sort that has existed for the last seventy years.

The U.S.-U.K. relationship was remarkably poor and adversarial for at least the first sixty years following our independence in spite of the significant cultural ties that existed between our countries. Anglophobia remained strong for many more decades after that. Acknowledgment and respect for America’s British cultural inheritance in no way require anyone to indulge in the more recently-minted enthusiasm of Anglophilia in U.S. foreign policy. The silly controversy this week concerns whether one candidate should be viewed as more of an emotional Anglophile than another, since there are no meaningful or practical policy differences between the candidates that touch on the U.S.-U.K. relationship.

My response to the contest over who makes a better emotional Anglophile is: “who cares?” Why should it matter who has the stronger personal or emotional attachment to another country? That doesn’t mean that the person will be more capable of maintaining a better relationship with that country’s government. It’s possible that the emotional attachment will get in the way of relating to the other government and understanding the country as it exists in the present. Insofar as American Anglophilia depends on an understanding of Britain that is decades out of date, it will lead to more misunderstandings rather than fewer. At its worst, Anglophilia just becomes an excuse for imposing American priorities on Britain.

That is what occurred to me as I was reading Aaron David Miller’s article on Obama and Israel. Miller writes:
Unlike Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama isn’t in love with the idea of Israel. As a result, he has a harder time making allowances for Israeli behavior he doesn’t like. Obama relates to the Jewish state not on a values continuum but through a national security and interest filter [bold mine-DL].
If Miller’s interpretation is correct, I fail to see why this is a bad thing. The U.S.-British relationship would benefit from a similar approach. Indeed, during the last British general election and for several years before that the leaders of the coalition’s two parties had made a point of distancing themselves from an understanding of the “special relationship” in which Britain acted as the reliable deputy without ever receiving anything in return for its support. They were calling for a relationship that was still constructive and friendly, but not one-sided or blinded by sentiment. Similarly, Americans can cultivate good relations with Britain without feeling obliged to indulge in all of the rituals of Anglophilia.

Once, there was a Toryism, quite distinct from the Conservative Party as a vehicle, which was closely associated with Keynesianism and with support for the Commonwealth, and which was not without its Eurosceptical side. It was therefore extremely hostile to Thatcherism on at least three grounds. It is true, though, that occasional representatives of this school, such as Auberon Waugh, Stuart Reid and Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, have seen a certain form of European federalism as the last hope.

It had grave reservations about the American Republic, the embodiment of classical liberalism; those who would wish that Republic to be something else need to accept that that would entail a most radical critique of its fundamental documents and of their authors. It honoured the memory of the British fallen in Palestine, to whom there is scandalously still no memorial anywhere. And it often had a Recusant or a High Church affinity with the ancient indigenous communities of Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Christians in the Middle East, while the Assyrians, and those Arab Christians who have become Anglicans or Lutherans since the nineteenth century, have long been the objects of a certain tendresse on the part of the more staunchly Protestant traditionalists in the Church of England.

This type of Tory had close ties to those Americans who sought to locate the great American experiment within a deeper and broader British, especially Burkean, tradition which was not without influence on their use of the Republican Party as a vehicle for Keynesian economics and for progressive social measures. Those Americans resented the excessive influence of any ethnic lobby over American foreign policy, so that their Anglophilia and Burkeanism were by no means always the same thing as a pro-British approach to the international affairs of the day.

They fiercely resisted any such influence by any foreign state as such. They honoured the equally un-memorialised memory of the USS Liberty. And they were in every sense in touch with the thinking of those universities in the Middle East which had nurtured Arab nationalism as foundations of their own "mainline" American Protestant denominations, which were themselves still defined by such basic orthodoxy as kept them within global Anglicanism, "Calvinism", Methodism and Lutheranism.

Both the British (including the wider Commonwealth) and the American sides of the family had such connections to the region that they would have had no sympathy whatever with, for example, any Islamist insurrection that had already purged one Syrian city of its Christian population and which sought to do the same across the whole country.

But I do have to disagree with Larison's enthusiasm for the present Conservative Party, which has already seen its Defence Secretary forced to resign because he had been using his office as the base for a parallel foreign policy on behalf of the American neoconservatives and the secular Israeli Far Right. Its Education Secretary, who is if anything even more of that tendency, is tipped as its next Leader. It is up to its eyeballs in the excrement of that Education Secretary's patron, Rupert Murdoch.

It might change a bit if a President Romney really did turn out to be a culturally Anglophile and constitutionally Burkean practitioner of America First; after all, Brent Snowcroft is also a  Mormon. But Romney almost certainly is not going to do that. Neither, then, is the Conservative Party. Its flagship policies of abolishing the House of Lords and of extending legal marriage to same-sex couples hardly mark it out as an obvious vehicle for Burkeanism, anyway.

However, in the famous words of  Robert E. Dowse: "From the beginning the ILP attempted to influence the trade unions to back a working class political party: they sought, as Henry Pelling states: 'collaboration with trade unionists with the ultimate object of tapping trade union funds for the attainment of Parliamentary power.' The socialism of the ILP was ideal for achieving this end; lacking as it did any real theoretical basis it could accommodate practically anything a trade unionist was likely to demand. Fervent and emotional, the socialism of the ILP could accommodate, with only a little strain, temperance reform, Scottish nationalism, Methodism, Marxism, Fabian gradualism, and even a variety of Burkean conservatism. Although the mixture was a curious one, it did have the one overwhelming virtue of excluding nobody on dogmatic grounds, a circumstance, on the left and at the time, which cannot be lightly dismissed."

Substitute "English patriotism" for "Scottish nationalism". Substitute "Catholicism" and "Radical Orthodoxy" for "Methodism". Clarify that "Marxism" is of the kind that is not really at all, since it sees itself as going all the way back to John Ball and Wat Tyler, at least as much rural as urban, and committed to the parliamentary, the municipal, the industrial and the general communitarian processes rather than to revolution, with the proletariat at most leading the other classes, if not simply working side by side with them. Take out that "even". Take out the suggestion of "curiosity".

Do all that, and the Labour Party of Ed Miliband, Jon Cruddas and Maurice Glasman looks like the ILP for the present age. Complete with its parliamentary wrecking tactics towards the Lords Reform Bill, without which the Conservative "rebellion" would be procedurally impossible. Complete with what has always been its promise of a free vote on same-sex "marriage", which both Coalition parties may yet whip. Complete with what is now its very anti-Murdoch stance indeed.

Labour alone now represents the Union as a first principle, any concept of English identity, a universal postal service bound up with the monarchy, the Queen's Highways rather than toll roads owned by faraway and unstable petrostates, Her Majesty's Constabulary rather than the British KGB that is the impending "National Crime Agency", the National Health Service rather than piecemeal privatised provision by the American healthcare companies that pay Andrew Lansley, restoring both energy independence and the economic basis of paternal authority by reopening the mines, keeping Sunday special, the historic regimental system, aircraft carriers with aircraft on them, no Falkland Islands oil to Argentina, a referendum on continued membership of the EU, the State action necessary in order to maintain the work of charities and of churches, and the State action necessary in order to maintain a large and thriving middle class.

An ideal partner, properly so called, for any resurgence of that tradition which sought to locate the American Republic within a deeper and wider Burkean tradition, which sought on that basis to ameliorate the effects of capitalism, which resisted the excessive influence of any ethnic lobby or foreign state over American policy, which was therefore able to distinguish its own heritage from any such influence, which honoured the victims of foreign aggression even if it annoyed any such lobby or state by doing so, and which remained in close contact with the beneficiaries of the more beneficial forms of historical American involvement in the Middle East.