Tuesday 31 December 2013

Patria si Dreptul Meu

Which I could read without translation. As, no doubt, could many of you. But remember, they are culturally more alien than Arabs, Armenians or Assyrians. Nigel Farage says so. Therefore, it must be true.

The whole thing has the air of the Millennium Bug about it. But if the Romanians really are all going to be over here as of tomorrow, then their capital will be nice and quiet for a post-Christmas break. Bucharest. 

Does anyone know what Romanian and Bulgarian food are like? You can be as paleo-Labour as I am, and still not wish to see a return to British eating habits from before Europeanisation and immigration.

For God and the Empire

Warm congratulations to Dame Angela Lansbury, whose grandfather was Leader of the Labour Party.

For that then-rising organisation's trade union and municipal bases, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE, OBE, CBE, etc.) was very largely created. Tories and the even posher Liberals always used to think that it was a bit common.

In which vein comes the wonderful news that my old pro-life and then also Labour Party comrade, Clive Robson of Consett, has been awarded the British Empire Medal.

My grandmother has that. My uncle has the MBE. My mother's cousin also has the MBE, as has her father, and as did her maternal grandfather, my great-grandfather. And my godmother has the OBE.

Iraq's Persecuted Christians

Having opposed the Iraq War which caused all of this, Hussein al-Alak is entitled to comment:

The Christmas day attacks against Iraq’s Christian community has once again thrust this besieged and dwindling minority back into the media.

Iraqi Christians have been reduced from a sizeable minority of over 1.4 million people under Saddam, to less than 450.000, since the introduction of 'democracy', in 2003.

But the Christmas day bomb attacks, which killed over thirty people and injured countless others, is not unique to Christians in Iraq and since Al-Qaeda made their first appearance after the US/UK invasion, for over a decade, Christianity has carried a certain death sentence.

Examples of Crimes  

The Bishop of Mosul reported in 2006, that a fourteen year old boy had been found crucified in Al Basra. That same year, Paulos Iskandar, the Syriac-Orhtodox priest had his body dumped, having been beheaded by terrorists.

In March 2008, Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul's Chaldean community, was found dead after being abducted, while Youssef Adel, an Assyrian Orthodox priest, was fatally shot in a drive-by attack in Karrada, one of Baghdad's safest and most diverse neighbourhoods.

In October 2010, an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq left 58 people dead, after more than 100 people had been taken hostage during the evening Mass, at the Our Lady of Salvation Catholic cathedral in Baghdad.

Other incidents include the looting of churches and bomb attacks against congregations. Priests, deacons and nuns have also been victims of sectarian kidnappings and killings, with corpses and decapitated heads being left on the doorsteps of churches.

What Next?

Many hostage negotiators, who deal directly with cases relating to Iraqi Christians, have noted different dialects of Arabic spoken by kidnappers to that of Iraqi Arabic, with experts stating how ransom money is often used to fund further terrorist activities.

The increase in terrorist activities in Iraq , coincides with advances being made by Assad in neighbouring Syria , with groups like Al-Qaeda, taking advantage of the vast borders, to cross from Syria into Iraq .

The United States have called on regional leaders, to take measures to police the funding and recruitment for Jihadist groups, and to deter the flow of foreign fighters into Syria, which includes over 200 British citizens, who go on to conduct suicide bombings against innocent civilians in Iraq.

Prior to the occupation of Iraq, the country was described as a "mélange of beliefs, customs and traditions." Despite a pre-war population of 5%, Christians made up 40% of Iraq 's post-war refugees.

Back In Business

Chuka Umunna writes:

It is no secret that Labour went into the 2010 General Election without the business support we would have hoped for. However, that was then and this is now – people want to know what we have done since 2010 with the 2015 General Election in view.

We are clear: business is the solution, not the problem. Business working in partnership with Government is central to building an economy that works for working people, resolving the cost-of-living crisis, delivering jobs that pay a wage people can live off and that ensures we pay our way in the world.

A key component of Labour’s Policy Review, launched by Ed Miliband in 2010, has been work on building the right environment for businesses to start up and grow and to secure long term, sustainable growth which is better balanced across the sectors and regions of the country, and which boosts exports.

We haven’t just worked closely with business on this; we have put business people in charge of helping us do the heavy lifting.  So, in 2010 we set up Labour’s Small Business Taskforce, under the chairmanship of the late Nigel Doughty, composed of entrepreneurs and small business owners.

We have carried on in this vein. In 2011, City lawyer Nick Tott produced a report for us making the case for a British investment bank.

In 2012 we asked the former Director General of the Institute of Directors, Sir George Cox, to carry out an investigation into how we tackle short termism in British business – you can read his report here. In 2013 Mike Wright, Executive Director of Jaguar Land Rover, was asked to look into how we can develop UK manufacturing supply chains.

Alongside a strong policy review process, Ed appointed a Shadow Business, Innovation & Skills ministerial team in Parliament with direct experience of setting up, running or working for business.  Toby Perkins MP, our Shadow Small Business Minister, ran his own rugby clothing and equipment firm before entering parliament.

Similarly, Shadow Trade & Investment Minister, Ian Murray MP, set up and ran an events company, and Liam Byrne MP, our Shadow Minister for Universities, Science & Skills, ran a fast-growing tech outfit.  I spent eight years as a commercial lawyer acting for businesses large and small.

In the Lords, Parry Mitchell, Labour’s Business Ambassador founded, grew and subsequently sold three international companies in the IT services sector. This year, Ed appointed Lord Charles Allen to join Parry and others in the Lords – Charles is a former CEO of ITV and Chairman of Global Group, the UK’s largest commercial radio provider. 

He joins a stellar cast of leading Labour business peers including the industrialist Kumar Bhattacharyya, media veteran Clive Hollick, financier Paul Myners, and The Apprentice’s Lord Sugar, amongst many others.

Labour’s business team is hugely grateful for the engagement there has been at the many meetings and events we have attended and held, through our Entrepreneurs Network ‘NG: Next Generation’ and at our Annual Business Reception (attended by more than a thousand people in 2013).

We have not only been listening but acting on the advice we have received. So not only are we committed to setting up a British Investment Bank, as Nick Tott recommended, but we will also establish a network of regional banks, one of the principal recommendations in the report of our Small Business Taskforce.

Iain Wright MP, our Shadow Industry Minister, and I have also constantly repeated our commitment to implementing a comprehensive industrial strategy as Sir George Cox has called for, to form the cornerstone of how the UK is going to build competitive businesses in the long term. This has been welcomed by the CBI and others.

The consistent message we’ve received throughout the Policy Review process is that we cannot go back to business as usual following the global financial crash of 2008/09.  We have acknowledged we did not do enough to regulate the banking sector during our time in office and are determined to learn from those mistakes.

That is why, in the small minority of sectors where we see uncompetitive, anti-enterprise, practices – be it in banking or energy – myself, our Shadow Competition Minister Stella Creasy MP and our frontbench colleagues are clear: we will do what so many in business ask for and act.

So our commitment to freeze energy prices whilst we put in place a more competitive regulatory framework in the first 20 months of a Labour government, will help the 2.4 million businesses hit by energy price hikes, saving an average small business user over £5,000.

We are also clear that, if we win in 2015, we will be inheriting a very difficult financial landscape – with George Osborne forecast to borrow almost £200bn more than he planned over the course of this Parliament. Business organisations have said reducing the deficit and paying down this debt will involve tough decisions.

They are right. Ed Balls has already indicated that we cannot continue to pay the winter fuel allowance to the richest pensioners, we will have a cap on structural social security spending and over the long-term, as our population ages, there will need to be increases in the retirement age.

But business cannot expect to be immune from the tough decisions they call on us to make.  That is why, instead of giving just 88,000 businesses a further corporation tax cut from 21 to 20% in 2015, our judgement is that that money would be better spent cutting and then freezing business rates for 1.5 million business premises at a time when public resources are so tight.

John Allan, Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed Ed Miliband’s pledge to act on business rates at our 2013 conference, calling it “leadership.”

Finally, we finished 2013 as we intend to continue: championing our businesses which already do so much to deliver the jobs and growth we need, so that future generations can realise their aspirations and potential.

In January, I instigated the UK’s first ever Small Business Saturday – a cross-party campaign of organisations and businesses which went on to put on the UK’s biggest celebration of business we have seen in a generation on 7 December 2013.

Small Business Saturday helped push almost half a billion pounds worth of business to our local, small, independent firms. My friend and colleague Simon Danczuk MP put his money where his mouth is, launching his family’s deli business on the same day.

It all goes to show that, as we start 2014, Labour is  back in business.

Shadowy Nonentities

Although he is far too soft on the right-wing Press, and especially on The Times which is particularly egregious in this regard and which he does not like, Peter Oborne writes:

Here's how to get political publicity in three easy steps: 1. Set up a "Tory-supporting" think tank. 2. Attack the Tory party. 3. Get the story to The Guardian.

According to Nick Watt at The Guardian, Ryan Shorthouse of the Bright Blue Think Tank believes that David Cameron is "pandering to prejudice, uncertainty and anger" and sending out a "negative and uninspiring" message.

But who or what is Ryan Shorthouse? According to Nick Watt, he "used to work for the culture secretary Maria Miller" and is "close" to Andrew Cooper, who used to work in Downing Street. Clearly a weighty figure.

There is a picture of Shorthouse on the Bright Blue website and he looks about 16 years old, with a background as a "research fellow" at the Social Market Foundation. According to the website, "Ryan is a writer and expert on Conservative politics and philosophy."

So much for his credentials. What does Shorthouse represent? Bright Blue’s website contains a list of about 40 Tory MPs who – claims Bright Blue – are "parliamentary supporters". So I rang up two of them. Gavin Barwell, Tory MP for Croydon Central, told me that "on this occasion he’s not speaking for me." Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow and another "supporter" of Bright Blue, told me that "the article was wrong. The government have done huge amounts to help the working poor."

It looks to me as if Shorthouse speaks only for himself.

The same process also works on the Left. Over at the The Independent, Patrick Diamond, a "former policy adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown", says that Ed Miliband lacks credibility on the economy.

This boring and commonplace view was the excuse for a long story across pages eight and nine of The Independent.

One of the most damaging side effects of the rise of the political class has been the rise of backstairs apparatchiks like Shorthouse and Diamond. They may have their uses, but they are not important in and of themselves. It is time that political reporters stopped attributing significance to the opinions of these shadowy, unelected nonentities.

The most interesting remarks I saw over the Christmas period came from John Redwood, who called for a rise in interest rates, and launched a brutal attack on quantitative easing, in his indispensable daily blog.

But who cares what Redwood thinks? He’s only a former cabinet minister, one of the most senior and respected Conservative MPs, the former head of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, and former fellow of All Souls.

With credentials like that, his views are clearly of no importance whatever in comparison to political giants like Ryan Shorthouse and Patrick Diamond, whose views have been given such prominence in The Guardian and The Independent.

The Trouble With White Émigrés

Now, as I make the following commentary, please bear in mind, gentle readers, that I write as someone with a very profound respect for a number of white émigrés – in particular Nikolai Berdyaev and Fr Sergei Bulgakov, the two intellectual lights which most strongly directed me toward Orthodoxy.

And of course, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Fr Alexander Schmemann, Vladimir Lossky, S. Ioann the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco and numerous others are worthy of mention as decent, well-grounded Orthodox men and women who deserve our respect and admiration.

This commentary is not directed at them. This commentary is directed at a much wider, and dare I say much more troubling general phenomenon.

White émigrés – those who fled or who were forced into exile by the communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe, East Asia, Indochina and Latin America – are often hailed as heroes and stalwarts of anti-communism, and not just the Russian ones, for reasons which continue to puzzle me.

For one thing, strange and even contradictory though it may sound, not all white émigrés were anti-communist.

Those defenders of the Republic of China and the Guomindang, for example, who fled to Taiwan in 1949, included amongst their number the ‘true’ Chinese Marxists who saw Mao Zedong as a threat because he would not embrace the Marxist prejudice that only the urban industrial proletariat would have the class consciousness and the wherewithal to form and sustain a successful revolutionary state.

And, of course, the Dalai Lama still calls himself a Marxist, despite also being the head of a Buddhist sect and at least two virulently anti-leftist political movements.

But this merely showcases the fragmentation even within that failed philosophy. What I speak of is something much more subtle.

The white émigrés were generally people of privilege, and that privilege has followed them into the lands where they sought refuge. One may recall the passage of A Tale of Two Cities (aye, pre-Marxist and all of that, but even so quite prescient), wherein Dickens – no friend he of the French Revolution! – recounts:

Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenon of his not being appreciated: of his being so little wanted in France , as to incur considerable danger of receiving his dismissal from it, and this life together. Like the fabled rustic who raised the Devil with infinite pains, and was so terrified at the sight of him that he could ask the Enemy no question, but immediately fled; so, Monseigneur, after boldly reading the Lord's Prayer backwards for a great number of years, and performing many other potent spells for compelling the Evil One, no sooner beheld him in his terrors than he took to his noble heels.

We need not be communists to recognise that communism was in part a judgement upon the people who fled it; just as, indeed, Dickens being no revolutionary had very little sympathy for the old French élites, beyond the needed human sympathy he extends to all people in a hard way.

And indeed, though we must feel some compassion for the plight of the white émigrés at the hands of the communists, we must be vigilant and careful in not allowing that sympathy to cloud our political judgement. Heroes and stalwarts they are not, merely for happening to be in the right places at the right times – although the actions which led to their exiles may have been heroic or somewhat less so.

Sadly, both they and their admirers seem to be of that most curious of opinions: that they are more suited to lead and speak authoritatively about former communist societies precisely on account of their not having lived through them.

And, too often, the white émigrés form a political consciousness entirely in the negative, and this can have some very serious implications.

To give one example: the alliance between the Tibetan exiles in India and the far-right Hindu nationalist movement there is troubling indeed, given the political capital that the Tibetan independence cause has can sway amongst India’s allies on the world stage, and the barbaric violence the followers of Hindutva inflict, not so much upon India’s Maoists, but upon her Christians and Muslims!

For another: the continuing detrimental influence Florida’s Cuban exiles continue to have on that state’s – and our nation’s – domestic politics.

For yet another: the embrace of neoconservative ideology by the Ignatieff clan in Canada, stemming from his alliance with Pearson so steadfastly opposed by that greatest and most truly conservative of the Ignatieff in-laws, George Parkin Grant.

For still another: the execrable anti-Christian fanfiction and serial-killer worship of one Miss Alisa Rosenbaum, which still for reasons unfathomable continues to exert an undue influence on our nation’s political discourse.

Liberalism – identity politics, libertarianism and neoconservatism all very much included – widely being considered the Manichaean counter-pole to communism and the ‘strongest’ in geopolitical terms (being backed by the full power of the American nuclear and conventional arsenals), it is little wonder so many white émigrés have embraced it without much question.

This is why it is so important to treat white émigré polities and positions with discernment and caution, preferably at arm’s length, and not just blind sentimentalism and sympathy.

Too many of them are now opposed to the reassertion of geopolitical strength by an increasingly-Orthodox Russia, based entirely upon their experiences with a virulently anti-Orthodox regime.

Too many of them are unwilling to even deal with China’s leadership, preferring instead to throw monkey-wrenches into her international engagements whilst doing massive collateral damage within their host nations.

Too many of them have no problem with Christians being slaughtered in the Middle East and elsewhere as long as it saves face for liberal-democratic governments in the global north.

Too many of them are willing to trample children, the elderly, the poor and the economically-distressed underfoot, wherever they are, as their ideological commitments demand.

Too many of them are still boldly reading the Lord’s Prayer backwards and performing spells to compel the Evil One.

And if we are honest in our conservatism, we will not help them in doing so.

What About The Workers?

Although he over-emphasises the "urban" and "Northern" things (the working class is not confined to either), the splendid Kevin Meagher writes:

The Labour party has always been a strange brew. Intellectual leftists have rubbed up alongside middle-class progressives and gesture politics poseurs. But the party’s strength remains the support it draws from the industrial, urban working-class of the north and midlands.

Yet while the former groups remain heavily in evidence in today’s party, there are now a decreasing number of people on the Labour benches in parliament that look and sound like the majority of working class people who actually vote Labour.

It’s part of a wider problem. A recent report by the Policy Exchange think tank looking into the public appointments system found that “socio-economic background…is neglected by most governmental bodies responsible for public appointments and for equality policies” and recommends addressing the “forgotten dimensions of diversity”.

The report cites the example of magistrates who, as volunteers, “do not need to achieve legal qualifications or a particular career level” before being appointed and yet are still overwhelmingly drawn from a narrow middle-class professional elite. In Manchester and Salford, nearly nine out of ten lay magistrates are from higher managerial and professional backgrounds. Justice, like politics, fails to look like the people it serves. 

Plus ça change. The party of working-class heroes Ernest Bevin and Nye Bevan was still led by public schoolboys like Clement Attlee (Haileybury) and Stafford Cripps (Winchester College), Hugh Gaitskell (ditto) and Hugh Dalton (Eton).

At this point it’s important to caveat the whole line of argument about Labour and its diminishing working class-ness (as Eric Joyce recently pointed out). Rather than a single group, ‘working class’ vis-à-vis Labour politics, now has two meanings.

The first definition covers the sons and daughters of manual workers who have gone on to university and if not a career in our most august professions, (which remain defiantly nepotistic) at least had office jobs (often, courtesy of politics) before becoming MPs.

Although highly socially mobile, many remain utterly rooted in the everyday reality of working class people and, for want of a better phrase, “get it”. This group, along with the inter-generationally middle class, make up most of Labour’s parliamentary party. [I hope that Kevin will not mind my pointing out that he himself is such a person.]

Then there are those who actually worked in manual jobs for most of their working lives and didn’t assume they would automatically go to university at 18 – never mind end up in Parliament. These are the real deal, but they have all but disappeared from Labour politics.

Just four per cent of MPs – across the parliamentary aisles – are said to be from this background (down from 30 per cent in the mid 1960s). Their traditional route into parliament via the Labour party has all but been sealed off by a system which is now utterly skewed against them.

Skewed because the kind of seats in the north and midlands that at one time returned people with genuine working class and grassroots credentials are now routinely used as soft landings for middle-class London-based political apparatchiks, shoe-horned in at the leadership’s whim and usually, ironically, with trade union connivance. Half the shadow cabinet got into parliament this way.

And the undoubted growth in women and (to a lesser degree) ethnic minority MPs has, as the Policy Exchange report argues, taken the focus off the need for socio-economic advancement. The problem is that one measure of equality and progress has trumped another.

The use of all-women shortlists has been the main focus of the drive to “make politics look like the people”. Subsequently, the number of women MPs has risen from three per cent in 1979 to 23 per cent today, (with the figure at 33 per cent of Labour MPs).

This has proven to be a boon to London-based women political insiders who would not necessarily fare well in ‘open’ selections (where local men can stand). Not because the Labour party is institutionally sexist – it isn’t – but because people gravitate towards candidates who sound like them and have the same basic assumptions that they do. Political representation is institutionally local.

For most people, it still matters that MPs come from the same streets, drink in the same pubs, or send their kids to the same schools as the people they purport to represent. While working-class men face severe restrictions in even being able to stand for a local seat, the biggest losers in the current system are working-class women representing the places they live.

Often without the polish or connections of London-based female politicos, they are largely absent from the Labour benches in Parliament. The moral indignation of Labour MPs over the bedroom tax or welfare changes is seldom articulated by anyone who has actually lived that life. As the Policy Exchange report argues:

‘Such was the last Labour government’s disregard for its traditional political base that it failed to include the socio-economically deprived in the nine ‘protected characteristics’ in the Equality Act of 2010.’

While the strive for greater equality now takes in age, sex, race, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation, marriage and religion, those with a poorer socio-economic background, or what is commonly understood as coming up the hard way, (usually via the university of hard knocks), are not deemed worthy of special promotion.

But if Labour really wants to make politics look like the people (and address its massive shortfall of working class women) it could encourage a move to see more candidates representing their home seats, perhaps by a simple rule change that means potential candidates for a parliamentary seat must have a clear – and current – connection to it.

Indeed, there is a mechanism to ensure this happens as the review of the trade union link under Ray Collins is also looking for suggestions about how to improve ‘fairness and transparency in Labour selections’. This single move would help to level-off the advantages for middle class women and leadership acolytes, for whom the current system of parliamentary selection works rather too well.

There is no shortage of voices in the party urging a concentration on the needs of southern middle-class voters, so Labour can make room to hear a few more that understand northern working-class ones. And the best placed people to do that are those who actually live there.

Monday 30 December 2013

Class Acts

Only in suburbia and in its slightly more rural or urban hinterlands does the rule of law still obtain.

The total non-enforcement of the drug laws over the last 40 years means that those who hold sway in inner city communities have long decided for themselves which laws shall or shall not apply in or to those areas.

The hunting ban, which the Police have said from the outset could not possibly be enforced even if they had nothing better to do, has now had the same effect on the deep countryside.

The lords of the manor and the lords of the streets might not resemble one another at first sight. But the squires' ancestors were essentially gangsters.

And the pharmaceutical habits of the squirearchy's scions, at least when in Town or at School, mean that points of contact between the two already exist.

Watch that space. Perhaps for generations, even for centuries. But keep a very close eye on it.

A Massive International Response


Attacks in Russia must be considered as serious as those in London and New York, and they require an international response since many countries in the world could be threatened, Neil Clark, journalist and broadcaster, told RT. 

RT: We've heard a lot of reaction from the international community. Will there be any action in your opinion? 

Neil Clark: It’s nice that the NATO Chief condemned this terrible attack and yesterday’s attack as well. But what we are going to do in concrete terms? Because the Western approach to terrorism is very inconsistent. We are told, on the one hand, that the West totally opposes terrorism and radicalism.

On the other hand we have the West lining up with radical Islamic terrorists in Syria, backing Al-Qaeda which is trying to topple a secular government now. The Syrian authorities actually repelled an Al-Qaeda attempt to bomb the US embassy in Damascus in 2006. And what the US is doing in response? They are trying to topple the Syrian government.

So there is an inconsistency here and I think that unless the West actually stops this inconsistent approach and actually does fight terrorism across the world and work with Russia closely, these problems will only continue to present a danger. But when terrorism occurs in Russia, it’s a kind of dismissed or disregarded that it is not really the same thing.

There have been some shocking articles in the Western media when similar terrorist attacks have occurred in Russia; they were blaming the Russian authorities for this.

For example, when there was a Moscow bombing in 2011, an article was saying that the Russians actually brought it on themselves by their policy towards Chechnya. And you wouldn’t write articles like that on the bombings in London, in New York. So I think there are double standards here.

We need to take these terrible attacks in Russia very seriously, as seriously as we take these attacks in New York or in London. Until this happens, until the West does take serious action… But I’m afraid we are not going to take action needed to stop these attacks taking place in the future. 

RT: What kind of international action you are talking about? 

NC: The West needs to change its policy towards Russia because there is a war being carried against Russia. That’s a kind of soft war, a propaganda war which has been orchestrated by the Western neo-conservatives and what I call the “fake left” in Western countries, which is actually trying to demonize Russia for any reason, whether it’s Pussy Riot… whether it’s the gay rights law…

In terms of terror threats, I think, the West should change its [alliance] with Saudi Arabia which is a major sponsor of radical Islamic groups throughout the world. The trouble is, if you look at Syria for example, the West is actually on the same side as the terrorists because of its relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel, who both want the regime in Syria to be removed.

So I think we need a shift in the Western capitals. I think we need to work closer with Russia. We saw close cooperation at the Boston bombings, when we had the Russian warnings about the Tsarnaev brothers, but they were ignored by the Americans because again it’s Russian warnings.

The West [must] cooperate more seriously with Russia, as equal partners, in this battle against the radical terror groups; that’s a major shift that’s got to happen. On the one hand, they say they are going to work with Russia; on the other hand, there is this kind of Cold War propaganda against Russia. 

RT: Back to Volgograd - Two attacks in less than 24 hours, both are now thought to have been carried out by male suicide bombers. What kind of message do you think the attackers are trying to send in that city now? 

NC: They are clearly trying to intimidate, to scare people. It’s their daily business, you know. Bombing crowded buses on Monday morning, bombing railway stations…It’s about terrorism. And of course this is linked again to the Olympics coming up; it’s an attempt to scare people from going to the Olympics.

On the one hand, we have those in the West telling people: “Don’t go to the Olympics because Russia has oppressive laws on this or that… ”, on the other hand, we got terrorists. This is psychological warfare going here and it’s about saying to Russian people, in particular Southern Russians: “Look, we can get you wherever you go, whether it’s a bus or a train station,” and trying to intimidate people.

The only response to this is of course international action. Who knows who funds these people, who carried out those attacks; it could be international, we don’t know. It requires an international response because many countries in the world are threatened by this.

And what can you do? You can’t put metal detectors on buses, it’s absolutely impractical. So I think it needs a massive international response.

Even More Devastating Consequences

The Russian city of Volgograd (formerly known as Stalingrad) has been the site of carnage twice in 24 hours, as suicide bombers – believed to be separatists from the North Caucasus – attacked a train station and then a bus. Volgograd has already been a target once before this year, when a female suicide bomber blew up a bus in October.

With the Sochi Games just weeks away, the security threat is a concern – to put it mildly. Given the relative proximity of Volgograd to Sochi, the attacks would appear to support the theory that security at the Winter Olympic host city remains tight. Sochi is too hard a target for the terrorists right now.

It is still hard to take in the scale of the devastation over the last two days. My first impulse is simply to grieve.

Nonetheless, I am braced for the question that is put to me every single time a terror attack occurs in Russia. In the aftermath, at least one person will ask me the inevitable: "Why doesn't Russia just let the North Caucasus go?"

It's a question I'm used to hearing, but it gets no less irritating.

To say that the separatist movements in the region are led by people who subscribe to an extremist ideology is to say nothing at all. Letting them run things will bring more death and chaos – and this death and chaos will not remain self-contained.

As a Dagestani acquaintance of mine put it recently: "Most people abroad don't even realise just how much worse things can get over there – and how quickly too."

Chechen autonomy has hardly proved a great success. It is no use pinning the blame solely on the Russian government for instability in the republic during those years of de facto independence.

Likewise, neither is the North Caucasus some sort of happy monolith where residents are going to come together should the federal authorities leave them to it. Dagestan in particular is dealing with a great deal of ethnic and sectarian tension.

Russia is a huge country and many of its problems are a result of its size. Acts of terrorism like this are prime examples of how difficult it is to keep secure such a vast territory – with its incredible ethnic diversity, lack of cohesive society, and major problems with infrastructure.

Still, whenever I ask people if they have a coherent alternative to the current setup, their eyes tend to glaze over. At best, they will manage something along the lines of, "Well, it's all the Kremlin's fault anyway". That's a popular enough sentiment, but repeating it over and over again won't change anything.

I find it oddly comforting as we begin to grieve again to remember that terror is a global phenomenon, with no clear frontlines, and that we are all at risk. It's a risk I often contemplate on the crowded Moscow metro, as I catch myself scanning the faces of my fellow passengers, wondering if any of them are potentially threatening (the last suicide attacks on the Moscow metro were in 2010 – not that long ago).

It is something I do pretty much unconsciously these days, alongside listening to angry hip-hop on my iPod and checking to make sure no one's trying to nick my wallet. At the very least, it keeps me occupied.

Back when Volgograd was still known as Stalingrad, the Nazi enemy wore a distinct uniform and most of the time it was pretty clear who one needed to be shooting at. Yet it was an infinitely more horrifying time nonetheless.

At this point in history, a great many nations, not only Russia, seem stuck with a wearying status quo, this ebbing and flowing battle with low-grade terror.

But we are also coming to recognise that concessions to separatism, whether in the North Caucasus or elsewhere, could only have even more devastating consequences.

"Social Apostolate"?

No substantial body of people is going to move from countries that are not in receipt of Red Cross food parcels to a country which is.

But Labour ought to have demanded that the arrangements which it successfully negotiated in relation to Romanian and Bulgarian immigration be made permanent, and ought to have forced that to a division of the House of Commons.

However, UKIP has today proposed that Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Catholics, as such, be given certain rights of entry to, and abode in, the United Kingdom.

Moreover, the ones to whom it wishes to see those rights extended are culturally far less like the British than are the ones in Romania and Bulgaria.

Romanian is even a Romance language, written using Latin script. English was the principal second language taught in schools there while the old regime was differentiating itself from the Soviet Union. It remains widely spoken.

Whereas in Syria, formerly a French Mandated Territory, although fluency in English is now more common than it used to be, the principal second language is still very definitely French.

Across the board, the churches are in the vanguard of the resistance to the Islamist insurrection in, and invasion of, Syria with the active support of Israel and with at least the moral approval of America, Britain and France.

The Byzantine Rite Catholics in Romania were also strong opponents of the British and French-backed Ceauşescu regime, a stand for which they paid a terrible price while Ceauşescu was being created a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

But from 1962 onwards, although there were individual heroes and martyrs, the Romanian Orthodox Church, as a body, was certainly not of that mind, instead devising an entire ecclesiology of "Social Apostolate" in support of Ceauşescu's admittedly anti-Soviet foreign policy and in order to refrain from criticising his domestic policies even while numerous churches were being demolished. Two Metropolitans (Archbishops) were members of the Great National Assembly, Ceauşescu's puppet legislative body.

In Bulgaria, meanwhile, the Orthodox Church and the Communist Party were practically symbiotic, with the regime even using the Church's historic jurisdiction over Macedonia, which was then in anti-Soviet Yugoslavia, over Western Thrace, which is in modern Greece, and over Eastern Thrace, which is the European part of modern Turkey, in order to press its own claims to those territories.

People are often vaguely aware of the Russian Orthodox Church's complicity in the crimes of the Soviet regime, although it is amazing how frequently one encounters perfect ignorance of that fact.

But the collusion and worse of churches throughout the old Eastern Bloc cries out for a television documentary, perhaps even a series, with attendant newspaper articles and so on.

The Polish priests and the East German pastors are still fairly well-remembered, although they could do with being revisited, not least because they must and do often wonder why they bothered. But the whole story needs to be told.

The same is true of the striking similarity to the Romanian "Social Apostolate" in the formal and informal theology of the English-speaking and sometimes even the African-initiated churches in apartheid South Africa.

People know about the theological justification provided by the Afrikaans churches. People know about the valiant stand made officially by most of the rest.

A few people, although nowhere near enough, know about the immense self-sacrifice of those who opposed apartheid within Afrikanerdom, including within its churches until they were very often driven out of them.

But taboo continues to surround the role of the English-speaking whites. And of those blacks who were persuaded that the ANC was purely, since no one doubts that it was in no small part, a viper's nest of Stalinism.

As well as those whose tribal backgrounds, often at once defining and defined by ecclesiastical affiliation, placed them in opposition to the ANC.

And as well as those who were simply bought off, sometimes with the best of intentions such as the desire to save a desperately needed pastoral ministry, but even so.

The churches are not the only way into examining all of that. But they are the most obvious one. From Bucharest to Bloemfontein, and on into the present day from Nolbert Kunonga to the Chinese Patriotic Association, it is time.

Virtually No Chance

George Eaton writes:

According to today's Sunday Times, senior Tories are increasingly fearful that Scotland will vote for independence next year. Lynton Crosby is said to believe that "Salmond will pull it off", while former Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth declares:

"It’s time England woke up and that we, as partners in the United Kingdom, work out how we’re going to move forward and ensure that a reckless decision to break up the United Kingdom is not made in September."

Their views reflect those of many commentators, who are now describing the result as "too close to call". But while a tight race would undoubtedly be more exciting (the primary concern of most newspapermen), the suggestion that the Union is in peril is unsupported by the best guide we have to how people will vote (which is not Lynton Crosby's hunches): the polls.

Before the publication of the White Paper on independence, I heard plenty of nationalists suggest that the event would be a "gamechanger" for the Yes campaign. But every poll published since has shown the No side ahead by between 14 and 29 points, with no significant increase in support for separation.

The Union side, as it has done the last two years, retains a healthy double-digit lead. While some of the pollsters might be wrong some of the time, all of the pollsters can't be wrong all of the time. So why the anxiety?

Those who believe that the Scots are likely to vote for independence typically point to the large number of undecided voters, with around a quarter yet to say how they will vote. But if the Yes side is to take the lead, they'll need to win over almost all of this group.

Indeed, according to the most recent YouGov poll, which put the No side ahead by 52-33, even winning over 100 per cent would still leave the nationalists four points behind. Why assume that the Yes campaign will prove so successful at converting them?

Others, pointing to the SNP's remarkable victory in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election, remind us that Salmond is a "great finisher" who specialises in defying the odds.

The man himself told NS editor Jason Cowley back in June, "This is the phoney war. This is not the campaign. I went into an election [for the Scottish Parliament] in 2011 20 points behind in the polls and ended up 15 in front. The real game hasn’t even started. We are just clearing the ground."

But in the form of the SNP's 2007 victory, there was at least something close to a precedent for this. By contrast, there has never been a consistent majority for independence and the uncertainty created by the financial crisis and its aftermath has made voters even more reluctant to take a leap into the dark.

There have been polls showing that Scots would vote for independence if they believed it would make them better off, but the problem for Salmond is that they don't.

Asked earlier this month by YouGov, "Do you think Scotland would be economically better or worse off if it became an independent country, or would it make no difference?" (the defining issue of the campaign), just 26 per cent said "better off" and 48 per cent said "worse off".

If Salmond couldn't persuade voters that Scotland would be better off alone when the UK was in an austerity-induced double-dip recession, he's not going to be able to persuade them now.

The sceptics on the Union side finally point out that referendums are uncertain beasts. But while true, this ignores the tendency for support for the status quo to increase as voting day approaches (recall the 1975 EU referendum and that on the Alternative Vote in 2011, as well as the Quebec plebiscite).

Faced with the real possibility of secession, I expect a significant minority of Yes supporters to pull back from the brink.

When I put all of these points to nationalists, I'm told that studying the polls is no substitute for gauging "feeling on the ground". But this is merely the age-old cry of the losing side; Romney supporters said much the same in 2012.

When Nate Silver, who has rightly argued that the Yes campaign has "virtually no chance" of victory, pointed out that almost all of the polls suggested a comfortable win for Obama, he was dismissed by conservative pundits who insisted (typically on the basis of little more than their personal hunches) that the race was "too close to call".

They were left looking rather foolish after 6 November 2012, and so will those now suggesting that Scotland is about to go it alone.

At His Best When At His Boldest

For Ed Miliband 2013 has been a year of two halves.

The first half was marked by a few big but cautiously defensive announcements. They were the type of proposals that in the past would have conferred on a Labour leader the aura of prime ministerial respectability.

The second half was dominated by acts of daring radicalism that would, again in the recent past, have doomed a Labour leader to a nightmare of turmoil and fatal unpopularity.

Yet at the end of Miliband's first half he faced a mini leadership crisis. By the end of the second he was a more authoritative figure. Miliband, his party and those of us in the media who tend to view politics weighed down by old assumptions, can learn many lessons for 2014 from what happened in 2013.

Let us reflect briefly on the first half of Miliband's year. His two most important proposals related to economic policy and internal party reform.

First, Miliband and Ed Balls announced that they would stick to George Osborne's current spending plans in the aftermath of the election in 2015. Next, Miliband proposed an overhaul of his party's relations with the trade unions.

Both moves had precise echoes with New Labour in the build up to the 1997 election when Blair-Brown announced constraints on public spending and focused on modernising their party.

But while each defensive act from Blair-Brown propelled Labour further ahead in the polls, similar announcements from Miliband had no such galvanising effect.

Instead of praising Miliband for meeting their demands for "responsibility", the chorus of commentators demanded more from him. Osborne also popped up to declare triumphantly that he had won the economic argument and moved his future spending plans further to the right in an attempt to set a new trap.

By the summer holidays Miliband was in trouble, a minor leadership crisis partly hyped up by those internal and external critics he had sought so assiduously to please.

In the second half of the year almost the exact opposite happened. No leader of the opposition in recent decades, including Margaret Thatcher in the late 1970s, has had such an impact in determining government policy. Miliband took risks and broke with convention: acts regarded widely as suicidal for a Labour leader in opposition.

The most dramatic of these was Miliband's decision to vote against military action in Syria. Some in the shadow cabinet claim it all happened by accident and that Miliband was agonised and indecisive in the build-up to the vote.

Maybe that was the case, maybe not. What happened is what matters. One Thursday evening in late August it was Miliband who determined the future of foreign policy and not the prime minister, who was stopped from going to war.

This broke so many orthodoxies: a Labour leader must be seen to be war-like in order to be credible, must not defy the US and must support the hawkish instincts of an incumbent Tory PM. Yet Miliband's defiance has been wholly vindicated by subsequent events in the Middle East, as Barack Obama and David Cameron probably realise.

His conference speech the following month smashed more conventions. Once again he dared to tilt leftwards with a populist price freeze, and developed further his dissection of failing markets. Instead of the speech being a disaster for him he threw his opponents into ideological and strategic disarray.

He went on to make similarly unexpected waves when he challenged the Daily Mail's attack on his father. Recent Labour leaders would probably have invited Paul Dacre in for a cup of coffee as part of a fearful response. Miliband expressed anger and, again wholly against expectation, a mighty editor was fleetingly on the defensive.

The rights and wrongs of his various standout acts of 2013 are the source of much debate, but the dynamics are beyond contention.

When Miliband pulled the old levers, hoping to delight internal and external critics, he became vulnerable and the critics became more contemptuous.

When he challenged orthodoxy, he became such a powerful leader he was determining foreign policy and the coalition's approach to failing markets. Osborne's recent defence of his intervention in the payday loans market made the chancellor sound like a social democrat.

There is an overlooked reason for the dynamics of the second half of Miliband's year beyond his underestimated sense of conviction and selective political courage. The context of Labour's defeat in 2010 is unrecognisably different from when it was previously removed from power in 1979.

After 1979 Labour leapt chaotically leftwards and proceeded to be slaughtered in four elections. The great, much repeated but accurate joke was that parts of the Labour party seemed to think that they had lost in 1979 because they were not leftwing enough. The background against which Miliband leads is almost the opposite.

Blair and Brown did not lose support for being too leftwing. As part of an epic, Shakespearean tragedy Blair has become almost an exile from his country because of his resolute determination to show that a Labour prime minister could work closely with a Republican president in the US.

Brown is in a similar position because of his close relationship with senior bankers, an alliance he sought in order to provide a respectable protective shield for more social democratic policies implemented stealthily.

They stumbled because they tried so hard, in very different ways, to move with what they took to be the unyielding tides of the 1980s.

Miliband is often criticised as being naive for sensing that politics changed after the financial crash in 2008, and following the war in Iraq, but his experience as a leader over the last 12 months suggests he is right.

He would be foolish to assume that defensive caution should play no part in 2014 or that the media can be ignored. In my view the media is as powerful as ever.

Even so, his oscillating fortunes this year suggest he has rare space to continue challenging what is regarded as orthodoxy.

In 2013 when he echoed the policies of the coalition, a government that itself pays too much outdated homage to the 1980s, he became fragile rather than strong.

When he chose to be distinctive he almost ruled the country. The next election will be close but Miliband has cause to note the early signs of an ideological sea change: he is at his strongest when he rides the new waves.

The Dangers of Demonising Russia

The horrific bombings in Volgograd in southern Russia have got people wondering if the anti-Russian Islamists of the Caucasus region are planning to ‘ramp up violence in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi’.

The Sochi Games start in just six weeks’ time. And some think the Volgograd bombings – one of a train station, one of a bus, leaving at least 30 civilians dead and many more injured – confirm that Islamists are plotting a spate of ‘Olympics terrorism’ in order to cause maximum political embarrassment and harm to President Vladimir Putin in the coming months.

If that is their plan, is it surprising? The Sochi Games have, after all, been relentlessly transformed by influential Western NGOs, campaigners and officials into a platform for criticising and ridiculing Putin’s Russia.

The Games have been thoroughly politicised, by everyone from human-rights groups to gay activists, turned into what one observer calls an ‘unlikely platform [for] world condemnation’ of Russia, a condemnation which in recent months has reached ‘fever pitch’.

If Islamists think Sochi represents a good opportunity for attacking Russia, maybe they’ve been influenced by powerful Western elements who for the past year have been using Sochi to precisely those ends.

The most striking thing about the Western response to the savage attacks on civilians in Volgograd is how little sympathy there has been. There’s even a powerful hint of ‘You had it coming’ in the editorialising on the bombings.

The Times’ leader on the attacks, headlined ‘Tsar Vladimir’, focuses its ire entirely on Putin, who is ‘vain, reactionary and not a little paranoid’ and has ‘accumulated unrivalled authority’, we are told. So it’s not surprising, the paper nudges, that his nation faces suicide bombings.

The Guardian casually asserts that the Volgograd attacks are the ‘high price’ Russians must pay for Putin’s ‘mistakes in the [Caucasus]’. The Independent likewise says Russia is paying the ‘delayed price’ for its bad behaviour in the ‘small, mainly Muslim, autonomous republics in the Caucasus’. Shorter version: you deserve it, Russia.

These respectable observers, including Britain’s newspaper of record, are effectively saying about Volgograd what eccentric leftists say about Islamist attacks here in Britain: that ‘they had it coming’.

The self-loathing sentiment expressed by some British leftists after attacks like the 7/7 bombings or the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich – that is, that Britain brought these assaults upon itself by behaving so wickedly in Muslim lands – is usually and often adroitly rubbished by right-leaning and some centre-left observers. [But British intervention did cause Islamist attacks in the United Kingdom. Whereas Russia’s actions are responses, not causes.]

Yet now, those same observers are saying that the murder of civilians in Volgograd is the logical consequence, the ‘price’, of Russia’s military behaviour in Caucasus regions such as Dagestan and Chechnya.

They’re effectively providing a justification for Islamist terrorism in Russia, which does nothing to discourage such violent assaults, and might unwittingly inflame them in the long run through conferring on them the status of being an ‘understandable’ response to the tsar-like behaviour of an apparently merciless Putin. This is a very foolish thing to do at a time when the West itself faces episodic acts of Islamist terrorism.

This extraordinary double standard – where the Islamist terrorism we face is seen as being the sole responsibility of the perpetrators themselves, while the Islamist terrorism Russia faces is seen as being fundamentally down to Putin and his past militarism – is mirrored in the cavalier, even quite callous response to the bloodshed in Volgograd.

Try to imagine how we would respond if, just a few days after Christmas, a St Pancras station packed with commuters was targeted by a suicide bomber and a London bus was blown to smithereens.

We’d be shocked, distressed, keen to discover who the culprits were and possibly to clamp down on their suspected associates or sponsors. Yet Russia’s similar feelings of loss and anger are subtly ridiculed by Western observers.

Putin will probably ‘respond ruthlessly to yesterday’s suicide bombing’, scoffs one newspaper in a piece on the corruption and authoritarianism of modern Russia. There’s nothing Putin can do anyway, says another paper; ‘the violence looks set to continue’ in divided, militarised Russia.

These double standards, the hinting that we don’t deserve to be assaulted by Islamists but Russia does, the palpable lack of horror in Western circles over what was done to civilians in Volgograd by backward Islamists from cowboy republics in the Caucasus, shows the extent to which many in the West have been blinded by Russophobia.

Anti-Russian sentiment, feverish Putin-bashing, has in recent years become a glue binding together numerous political constituencies in the West.

From the old right [actually, the New Right; the Old Right , from Pat Buchanan to Peter Hitchens to John Laughland to Mark Almond to Theodore Dalrymple, is pro-Russian, or in Hitchens’s case at least anti-anti-Russian], who miss the certainties of the West-v-East Cold War period, to new leftish outfits and human-rights groups, who cannot abide Putin’s severe lack of PC on matters such as gay rights and the environment, Putin’s Russia has become a kind of whipping boy for the expression of an often shallow moral fury.

So in recent months, Greenpeace activists from the West have attacked Russian oil rigs on the basis that they are ‘destroying the Arctic’; Amnesty International has elevated the cause of Pussy Riot, Russia’s then imprisoned female punk band, above every other human-rights cause on Earth, generating a massive, celebrity-endorsed moral assault on Putin’s authoritarianism; numerous NGOs, some of them funded by American government agencies, have set up shop in Russia with the aim of exposing its democratic failings; right-leaning commentators have slammed Putin for using ‘bullying and cajolery’ to try to make modern Russia as globally powerful as the Soviet Union once was. Westerners who don’t agree on very much have become unified around the cause of Anti-Putinism.

This has reached a crescendo – or ‘fever pitch’, as one account puts it – around the Sochi Games. For the past year there have been calls from Westerners to boycott or disrupt the upcoming Winter Olympics in protest at Putin’s anti-gay policies, harming of the environment, imprisonment of dissidents, and so on.

Some observers, including in that key outlet of respectable Western opinion, the New York Times, have said that attending the Sochi Olympics would be as immoral as going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin overseen by Hitler.

Such hyperbole reveals little about modern Russia – which for all its vast faults is not a reincarnation of Nazi Germany – but it does tell us something about what is driving Russophobia in Western campaigning and commentating circles: an existential need for an external bogeyman, a new Hitler, against whom we might define ourselves and advertise our comparative decency.

The Times says Putin desires to ‘fill the geopolitical vacuum left by the Soviet Union’, but that criticism would be more accurately made of Putin’s Western critics: missing the clean moral divide that was provided by the West’s posturing against the ‘Evil Empire’ during the Cold War years, they are promoting Putin to the level of one-man empire against whom all Good People must take a stand.

The danger is that this casual moralisation of the Sochi Games, springing from the broader Western project of demonising Putin’s Russia, could have destabilising consequences in Russia itself.

When you make it open season on ‘Evil Russia’, you potentially make it open season for everyone, including those who prefer to detonate literal bombs rather than metaphorical ones against Putin’s regime.

Yes, modern Russia has been subject to sporadic attacks by Islamist elements for many years now, but the international politicisation of Sochi as an opportunity for ‘world condemnation’ of Russia could unwittingly incite more such attacks.

Indeed, where Western campaigners describe the Sochi Games as Hitlerian, an Islamist leader in the Caucasus has described them as ‘Satanic’. Both sides spy an opportunity to attack what they consider to be an evil entity.

Putin’s Russia has numerous profound problems, including authoritarianism and censorship. But such problems are not helped by the self-serving Nazification of modern Russia by elements in the West who want a person or thing that they can ostentatiously rail against.

In fact, such problems could be made worse by this process – backed into a corner by an opportunistic ‘international community’ and by violent Islamists closer to home, Putin’s Russia could become more rather than less likely to lash out and clamp down.

Syrian Refugees

Ed Miliband and the Labour Party deserve immense credit for having prevented a British military intervention in support of the Israeli-backed Islamist insurrection in, and invasion of, Syria.

He and it ought therefore to call for the United Kingdom to become a refuge, even if only a temporary one, for all those who are the victims of that insurrection and invasion: Alawites, Shi'ites, Druze, and many types of Christian.

Each of those communities is a distinct ethnic group, so that its members are instantly identifiable by anyone from the region or who has specialist knowledge of it. Was it wrong to give refuge to Jews, as such, in the 1930s?

It is quite amusing that many of those cheering on Nigel Farage probably assume that the Christians in Syria are white, while most of them probably assume that those Christians are the products of recent missionary activity from Europe or the United States.

But in fact they are the ancient indigenous people of the territory that is now divided among the many states in the Levant and Mesopotamia, and they converted to Christianity when, or well before, that became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, it had had an entirely Christian population for several centuries. Those inhabitants' pre-Christian ancestors had been conquered by the Israelites in that city which they themselves had founded. But as a people, they were still there. And they are still there now.

They invented Arab nationalism as Catholics, Orthodox, Oriental Christians, or occasionally Protestants (but of Orthodox ancestry), studying at American Protestant missionary universities that were free of association with British or French imperialism.

That included the invention of the modern concept of Filastin. It, and Arab nationalism generally, are expressions both of indigeneity and of Christianity.

The party and Leader who valiantly prevented British intervention to collaborate in the genocide of those whose identity that is ought now to call on Britain to do her continuing duty to them, not least in view of Britain's and Labour's guilt in bringing about their continuing genocide in Iraq.

That party and that Leader ought also to stand squarely with those people's principal protector, Russia, which is the ongoing victim of Islamist terrorism backed by exactly the same powers that are also supporting it in Syria.

Sunday 29 December 2013


"Anyone had their benefits sanctioned happy to speak to me in confidence? owenjonesbook@gmail.com."

State Aid To The "Free" Market

Prostitute jobs advertised on direct.gov.

How long before benefit claimants are sanctioned for refusing to take them?

That might very well already be happening.

Not Universally Welcomed

Only On RT, Folks

Islamofascism, Indeed

What Hitler could not do to Stalingrad, the Saudi-backed Chechens, "our side" against Assad and Putin, have done to the same city.


Beating children is already illegal.

The NSPCC is becoming as tiresome as the RSPCA.

Both are about extending the power of upper-middle-class Lib Dem types.

WASPs: An Endangered Species

Although he is far too soft on John Foster Dulles (see Andrew Alexander's America and the Imperialism of Ignorance), Rupert Cornwell writes:

If ever you reflect on the eclipse of Wasp (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) America, consider Dulles International Airport outside Washington. Why "Dulles", you may wonder: does that refer to a nearby village or river in this particular neck of Northern Virginia, or some evicted Indian tribe, or local landed family?

In fact, our mighty regional transport hub was named after John Foster Dulles, former Secretary of State, who died in 1959, mourned at the time by his country as one of its most brilliant lost statesmen. And there were, in truth, not one but two Dulleses, the other being John Foster's younger brother Allen, who ran the CIA for President Eisenhower while his sibling ran State.

In retrospect, the Dulles duumvirate may have been the high-water mark of the Wasps, the caste, mostly from old families from the north-east, wealthy, Ivy League-educated, and often inter-connected, that once ran America – people like the Dulleses, Averell Harriman, Paul Nitze, and George Kennan, who glided between government, high finance, and top law firms, certain that all would be well in a world run by people like themselves.

This year, my favourite Christmas present has been Stephen Kinzer's fascinating and rather appalling book The Brothers that shows how ruthlessly and singlemindedly the Dulleses wielded American power. The 1953 CIA-led coup that underlies Iran's continuing resentment of the US; malign meddling in Central America; the Vietnam War; the sterile stand-off with Cuba; all these were the handiwork of the brothers and all have consequences that reverberate even today.

These days, however, the pair are virtually forgotten, consigned to the Cold War's cobwebbed attics. And as they have faded from the scene, so has the caste to which they belonged. In its purest form, the Wasp breed can be traced back to the Pilgrim Fathers, but its heyday was in the middle of the 20th century. Once it was an omnipresent Establishment, as potent (if not more so) as that of the Britain many of its prime specimens affected to imitate.

The US mocks Britain for its obsession with class. In reality, it is riddled with such distinctions of its own, as any examination of Wasp-ness quickly reveals.

Take Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Indisputably, both are white, Protestant and of Anglo-Saxon origin. Clinton moreover had those Waspish perquisites of Rhodes scholarship and Yale Law School, while a Carter ancestor arrived in the New World in 1635. But neither could be counted Wasps. They were southern. They were of modest origins. In short, they could not be seen as "one of us".

In fact, the last certifiable Wasp president, by manners as well as CV, was George H W Bush – though he spent much of his political career trying to escape the Yankee gentleman persona, pretending to be a Texan. His son had a perfect CV too, but was a real Texan.

Of recent presidents, the most overtly Wasp-like was Kennedy. But all the charm, glamour and family money couldn't conceal the fact that he was of parvenu Irish Catholic stock, whose ancestors had absolutely nothing to do with the Mayflower. You must go back to Franklin Roosevelt for the last president who was a true Wasp and revelled in it.

No longer do Wasps occupy the commanding heights of Wall Street and the old "white-shoe" law firms that serviced Wall Street. In government it's the same. Heads of the CIA come and go at bewildering speed, but few of them lately have been Wasps. Or take John Foster Dulles's old fiefdom of State. Of the last four Secretaries, two have been women and two black.

The current one, John Kerry, may look the real Wasp deal. But while he's Boston Brahmin on his mother's side, his father was of Czech-Jewish ancestry, and Kerry himself is a Catholic. As for the Supreme Court, once another citadel of the caste, not a single current Justice is a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, for the first time in its history.

And the same goes for the Presidency. In 2012, again for the first time, neither party ticket featured a Wasp, even of the looser Clinton/Carter variety. A black, two Catholics and a Mormon, yes, but not a white Protestant in sight. And a good thing too, most people would probably say; a sign that Wasp-ocracy, snobbish and prejudiced, has been finally replaced by meritocracy, where everyone has a shot.

But some still miss the old days. In The Wall Street Journal, the writer Joseph Epstein recently lamented a decline in standards, how "the Wasp elite had dignity and an impressive sense of social responsibility" – a code of noblesse oblige now sadly lacking.

And, Epstein goes on, "under Wasp hegemony corruption, scandal and incompetence in high places weren't, as now, regular features of public life". Rather, the Wasps brought "stability, solidity, gravity, and … an aura of seriousness".

Well, up to a point Lord Copper. Leave aside a happily vanished public deference to power, and our modern habit of assuming that the past was better than our messy present. Happily too, our more questioning society no longer turns a blind eye to corruption, scandal, and incompetence. But, most important, was the Wasp record really so great?

Arguably, the caste's finest hour came immediately after the Second World War, with the containment of the Soviet Union, the Berlin airlift, and that supreme example of enlightened self-interest, the Marshall Plan. But under the Dulles brothers, American power was used less nobly, more nakedly.

Nor did things greatly change during the John Kennedy "Camelot". Were not the "best and the brightest", who took the US into Vietnam, overwhelmingly Wasp? And was it Wasps who led the great battles of the 1950s and 1960s against racial segregation, discrimination and poverty?

So, Dulles Airport may have it right. Once, Kinzer tells us, a larger than life statue of John Foster greeted those arriving at the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal. Then the bust disappeared, but no one seemed to notice. Only after much trouble did the author track it down, in an obscure conference room alongside baggage carousel No3. 

As Larkspur replies to one of the less becoming comments:

This is mere "golden age" sentimentality, based on the WASPs' own self propagandising. They were as aggressively ruthless and greedy as any of the current generation of self made billionaires. What - the USA wasn't bellicose before 1945? The conquest of the continent didn't happen? The war on Spain? The carefully plotted replacement of the global British Empire with an American one as entry into WW1 and WW2 were negotiated with treaties expressly targeted at Britain? Is this what WASP schools teach?

Yes, and not only in America.