Wednesday 30 April 2014

Kipper Smoked Out

So there we have it.
Nigel Farage's concession that UKIP will never win a seat in the House of Commons, and that he himself thinks little or nothing of that House, since he would not wish his standing for it to "distract" him from his standing for the European Parliament.
Of course UKIP's support would always have been back down to 15 per cent next year. When it comes to General Elections, people do not vote for pub bore anti-politicians, not even for pub bore anti-politicians who have been salaried politicians for donkey's years and who have already sought election to the Commons no fewer than six times.
Perhaps UKIP was worried that, if it ever did win a seat, then it would receive only the attention paid to the Green Party? Or that if Farage himself ever got in, then he would be treated in only the same way as almost all of his 649 new colleagues?
That threat to UKIP or to Farage has never existed, but the problem is real.
What is not real, however, is the transfer to UKIP of "core Labour voters". So UKIP came second at Rotherham or at South Shields? Someone always did, and someone always will. We all know who, in fact. It is from there that any increase in the UKIP vote in the North will come next month.
In two of the three Northern regions, the Conservatives topped the poll last time, as they also did in Wales, although Labour did so in all of those places the time before that.
When, a mere three weeks from now, Labour tops the poll in Wales and in all three Northern regions, then will that be because its base of support had collapsed? If it had even come second (its position in three of those four regions last time) behind UKIP, with the Conservatives in third place, then would that have been the explanation?
The Conservatives' current Leader in the European Parliament sits for the one Northern region where Labour remained on top in 2009. Yes, you read aright: the Leader of the Conservative MEPs sits for the North East. He used to be on Gateshead Council. Gateshead, where Farage recently told his audience that he was a Thatcherite.
Anyone who reported the politics of India with the illiteracy that is routine to the point of universality in relation to the politics of the North of England would be sacked on the spot, or never employed in the first place.

Blue Labour Midlands Seminar, 5th July 2014


The strength of association: In the family, community and workplace

In association with the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham

5 July 2014, 10am to 17.00pm The Hemsley, University of Nottingham

The ‘Blue Labour Midlands Seminar’ will gather Blue Labour thinkers, supporters and activists to explore and discuss substantive and emerging Blue Labour themes. Ruth Davis (Political Director, Greenpeace UK), will give the opening address and an open panel discussion involving Professor John Milbank, Lord Glasman and Philip Blond (Respublica) will close the conference.

Our panel discussions will cover a broad and critical range of concerns such as gender, challenging left orthodoxy, trade unions and community, education and culture. Speakers include David Goodhart (Demos), Caroline Julian (Respublica), Helen Dennis (Christians on the Left), John Clarke (Islington Fabians), Dr David Landrum (Evangelical Alliance), Francis Davis (Cathedral Innovation Centre) and Adrian Pabst (University of Kent).

The cost for the day is £15 for those on a full-time wage and £5 for those who are unemployed or in full-time education.We would be delighted to know if you are interested in attending.

For more information contact Ian Geary by email on:

We look forward to hearing from you.

Professor John Milbank

Professor Adrian Pabst

Richard Robinson

Ian Geary

Tuesday 29 April 2014


We are about to find out whether or not "Farage" is an anagram of "Newark".

Of course, UKIP still wouldn't, you know, win.

 If Farage doubts that, then he know what he has to do.

Fantastic, Colourful

An MP is urging people to support the Durham Miners’ Gala.

The future of the annual Big Meeting could be in doubt, say its organisers, the Durham Miners’ Association.

The DMA says it has a £2m legal bill for a failed bid to win compensation for former miners with osteoarthritis of the knee and may not be able to afford to stage future events.

North West Durham Labour MP Pat Glass said: “The Durham Miners’ Gala is the biggest event in the socialist calendar in the UK.

“It is a fantastic, colourful, annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from Durham County and across the United Kingdom to remember the hard work, sacrifice and struggle of the miners and mining communities across County Durham.

“To learn that it may be under financial threat is a blow and I hope people join me in coming together to support the Durham Miners’ Association.

“By ensuring the continuation of the Durham Miners’ Gala we help ensure that this hugely important part of our heritage continues for generations to come.”

The DMA wants people to join its fund-raising group, The Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, which was founded in 2012.

Visit or write to: Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, PO Box 6, The Miners’ Hall, Durham, DH1 4BB.

Lanchester's restored banner will be dedicated and marched this year. See you there on 12th July.

Family Division, Indeed

Sir James Munby has opened the debate on the rights of cohabitees, and on the procedures for divorce. Let that debate be joined in earnest.

Never having needed to be consummated, civil partnerships ought not to be confined to unrelated same-sex couples, or even to unrelated couples generally.

Furthermore, any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 with regard to grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation should be enabled to specify that any marriage which it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

Statute should specify that the Church of England and the Church in Wales each be such a body unless, respectively, the General Synod and the Governing Body specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.

There should be similar provision relating to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by Statute at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault be proved.

That would be a start, anyway.

Economical With The Truth

Barely three weeks to go until the voters deliver their verdict on the "recovery".
We are back in last days of John Major, when economic news from the Government was universally assumed to be out-and-out lies.

Labour Teachers, Indeed

There are lots of teaching unions.
Why don't Blairites leaving the NUT (which they can only have joined for entryist reasons, given the many alternatives) attach themselves to one of those?
Well, because none of the teaching unions is affiliated to the Labour Party.
But 50 per cent of Labour Party members are teachers.
Who knows how many of them would join an affiliated union if there were one available, but then never turn up to union meetings, because teachers, who could not possibly work with children and not be in a union, overwhelmingly never do turn up to the meetings?
This one wants watching.

Monday 28 April 2014

The Lanchester Review

Published and edited by your humble servant.

Already also featuring Bryan Gould, Kevin Meagher, Ian Oakley, Richard Cotton, Luke Blaxill, Teddy Corbett and Taym Saleh.

That’s a pretty good start.

My founding editorial – Setting A Tone, Not A Line – is here.

Santo Subito

Pius XII.

If that means Paul VI on the same day, then Paul VI on the same day.

Look at yesterday's four Popes, and at each of those two, and tell me a specific doctrinal difference between any two of those six.

Go on.

Tell me.

Demented Tony Blair Recites The Saudis' Creed

Patrick Cockburn writes:

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the core group of al-Qa'ida, may well chortle in disbelief if he reads a translation of Tony Blair's latest speech on the Middle East delivered last week.

If Blair's thoughts are used as a guide to action, then the main beneficiaries will be al-Qa'ida-type jihadist movements.

Overall, his speech is so bizarre in its assertions that it should forever rule him out as a serious commentator on the Middle East.

Reading it, I was reminded of a diplomat in Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent called Mr Vladimir who fancies himself an expert on revolutionaries:

"He confounded causes with effects; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organisation where in the nature of things it could not exist."

The speech, entitled "Why the Middle East matters", is about the threat from radical Islam, what it consists of and how it should be countered.

Mr Blair says that "there is a titanic struggle going on within the region between those who want the region to embrace the modern world and those who, instead, want to create a politics of religious difference and exclusivity."

On one side stand those who want "pluralistic societies and open economies", on the other those who want to impose an exclusive Islamic ideology.

Here the reader might suppose that Blair is building up towards some sharp criticism of Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi creed.

What could be more opposed to pluralism in politics and religion than a theocratic absolute monarchy such as Saudi Arabia which is so notoriously intolerant of other versions of Islam, such as Shi'ism, as well as Christianity and Judaism, and is, moreover, the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive?

Here is the home country of 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers and of the then leader of al-Qa'ida, Osama bin Laden, whose religious views are rooted in mainstream Wahhabism.

Blair denounces those who espouse an Islamist ideology in which the ultimate goal "is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election".

Surely he should be thinking here about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, his namesake in Jordan and the Gulf royals who inherited their thrones.

But Blair goes on to make the astonishing claim that the guilty party in fostering extreme jihadist Islam is none other than the Muslim Brotherhood which stood for and won an election in Egypt before it was overthrown by the military.

It is worth quoting Blair again to get the flavour of his thoughts about what happened in Egypt last year.

"The Muslim Brotherhood was not simply a bad government," he says.

"It was systematically taking over the traditions and institutions of the country. The revolt of 30 June was not an ordinary protest. It was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation."

This is demented stuff.

If the Muslim Brotherhood had indeed been taking over Egyptian institutions such as the army, police and judiciary, they would not have been so easily overthrown by the army on 3 July.

And what great Egyptian traditions were being eliminated by the Brotherhood other than that of rule by unelected military governments?

Blair mentions the number of soldiers and police who died but not the 1,400 protesters killed between July last year and January, according to a report by Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch says that the Egyptian authorities now show "zero tolerance for any form of dissent, arresting and prosecuting journalists, demonstrators and academics, for peacefully expressing their views".

In reality, events in Egypt can only encourage recruitment by jihadi al-Qa'ida-type movements which will argue that the fate of the Brotherhood, which tried to take power democratically, shows that elections are a charade and the only way forward is through violence.

On Syria, Blair is a little more ambivalent about the future though he has no doubts what we should have done.

He says that "in Syria, we call for the regime to change, we encourage the opposition to rise up, but when Iran activates Hezbollah on the side of Assad, we refrain even from air intervention to give the opposition a chance."

Presumably, by "air intervention" he means a Libya-style change of regime to put the opposition in power.

But in Syria the armed opposition is dominated by the very jihadists – Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qa'ida affiliate and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly al-Qa'ida in Iraq – against whom Blair is warning the world.

They now control an area the size of Britain in north and east Syria and north and west Iraq and can operate anywhere between Basra and the Mediterranean coast of Syria.

Blair has noticed that there is a difficulty here because of "so many fissures and problems around elements within the opposition" and that it might be better if Assad stays on for now.

But if agreement cannot be reached we should impose a no-fly zone to help the opposition, while extremist groups – dominant within the rebel military forces – should "receive no support from any of the surrounding nations".

Overall, Blair has swallowed whole and is now regurgitating the official line of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, though he never mentions any of the Gulf monarchies by name.

Contrary to all the evidence, the Brotherhood is portrayed as a terrorist organisation. Shia movements such as Hezbollah are supposedly the obedient creatures of Iran. Blair appears to agree with the Sunni conspiracy theory whereby Shia movements in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen are delegitimised by referring to them as "safavids" who act as pawns of Iran and have no communal interests of their own to defend.

As I read Blair's speech I could not quite believe he was going to conclude by proposing the absolute monarchies of the Gulf, some of the most authoritarian and corrupt countries on earth, as suitable models for the rest of the Islamic world.

But that is exactly what he does do, advising the West to stick by our allies "whether in Jordan or the Gulf where they're promoting the values of religious tolerance and open, rule-based economies, or taking on the forces of reaction in the shape of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, we should be assisting them".

It is a curious fate for the man who claims to have tried as prime minister to modernise Britain and the Labour Party that he should end up lauding these ultra-reactionary states.

In the past few months Saudi Arabia has criminalised almost all forms of dissent, the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain is crushing democratic protests by the Shia majority and Qatar last year sentenced a man to 15 years in jail for writing a poem critical of the emir.

As for combating jihadi Islam: nothing is more likely to encourage its spread than the policy supported by Blair of persecuting moderate Islamists, who did stand for election, while giving full backing to autocratic kings and generals.

Delay Confirms Public Distrust

Mark Almond writes:

The anniversary of the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003 came and went last month.

Thank God British soldiers are no longer at risk, but everyday life there is still marred by car bombs and assassinations.

Understanding how mayhem rather than democracy was let loose in Iraq ought to be a priority for our political leaders.

But lessons vital for our country’s future security are still not being learned in Whitehall.

There, Tony Blair is still a colossus. No longer in Parliament, he still casts a shadow over Westminster that is in sharp contrast to the public cynicism about his decision to go to war.

It is this clash between the insiders’ view and the national consensus that is creating such an unhealthy political atmosphere.

Governments need to be trusted on matters of war and peace above all else, but as the public hostility to intervention in Syria showed last August, the legacy of Iraq is scepticism when Whitehall calls for action.

In office, Tony Blair argued in favour of pre-emptive military action against threats to the West. Last week he launched a pre-emptive strike on the Chilcot Report into his war in Iraq.

Didn’t we realise, he told a City audience, that it was a war against the Islamic fundamentalism now wreaking havoc worldwide?

Secular Saddam Hussein and his missiles launchable at 45 minutes’ warning were forgotten. Today’s war, even tomorrow’s, are what Tony Blair wants us to believe he was trying to pre-empt eleven years ago.

Although he was happy to let Lord Hutton inquire into BBC coverage of the death of Dr David Kelly, Blair fought tooth and nail against a public inquiry into how he led Britain to war on false information.

Although Gordon Brown in 2009 conceded an inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot, the political class in Westminster has fought almost five years of trench warfare against admitting mistakes, let alone placing the blame for them.

Every opportunity to throw sand in our eyes has been taken.

Even the ghost of inveterate fraudster Robert Maxwell has been summoned to lend a hand in spinning out the process.

Because Chilcot’s report cannot be anything other than damning, Blair and his key Ministers and advisers are allowed to ‘Maxwellise’ it before it is published.

Maxwellisation is named for the MP and publisher’s use of every legal hook and crook to fight against the Department for Trade and Industry’s 1969 ruling that he was ‘unfit to hold the stewardship of a public company’.

Maxwell got a judge to rule that anyone criticised in a public inquiry had the right to see the report before publication and propose corrections.

An ordinary person might have a right to see damaging material before publication, but should public figures rely on these methods in the hope of spinning things out till people lose interest and things move on?

A full and frank inquiry into the Iraq War could be a healthy thing for our democracy.

Going to war on the basis of dodgy dossiers and non-existent WMDs started the unravelling of respect for politicians which has culminated in the ongoing seediness of the expenses scandals.

Speedy publication of Chilcot’s report should have helped restore  public confidence in our rulers.

‘Time to move on’ has always been Tony Blair’s favourite reaction to awkward questions about how he came to send hundreds of men to their deaths in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

The delay in publishing Chilcot’s findings means no one can move on. Whitehall is trapped in the decision-making that led to Iraq.

A century after the outbreak of the First World War, no one should need reminding that stumbling into conflict without adequate assessment of the risks and likely costs can be far more disastrous even than Iraq turned out to be.

Leaving aside the likely shredding of the reputations of Tony Blair and the close cronies who sat on sofas in Downing Street playing at God and reordering the Middle East, some critics of the Chilcot Inquiry worry that it will give away vital secrets.

Avoiding embarrassing our American allies has been proposed as another ground for delaying and censoring the report.

But Whitehall has a long history of keeping ‘secret’ from the British public matters already in the public domain on the other side of the Atlantic.

For instance, anyone writing a history of the British secret service could find copies of documents in the US archives which have been carefully weeded out of our own.

Sparing the blushes of our American cousins seems a shallow excuse for trying to keep egg off faces closer to home.

Whitehall's trench warfare on behalf of the Blairite Great and Good may be rewarded with gongs in the honours’ list, but it is hardly in the national interest.

Instead of fending off embarrassment to retired grandees of the Iraq War, the questions of what went wrong and why need to be addressed – to save lives and protect the national interest in future.

If anything, the world has got more dangerous since 2003, so the deep public cynicism about foreign policy is very dangerous, not least because – after Iraq – it is so understandable.

And unless the British people can learn to trust their Government again, foreigners, friend or foe, will not respect us either.

Corroding the trust that our Government will act honestly, even if not always wisely, is Tony Blair’s sinister legacy.

That could still be countered if the public felt Chilcot’s inquiry had delivered a comprehensive account of what went wrong.

Delay confirms public distrust.

Nowhere more than in deciding matters of war and peace does our Government need implicit trust from the people.

They don’t expect to get the whole truth when national security is at risk, but they cannot abide being deceived either.

David Cameron once called himself the ‘heir to Blair’. By not hurrying the funereal progress of Chilcot, the Prime Minister risks seeming to whitewash his predecessor.

The reputation of both could be irreparably blackened if the public decides that cronyism  in the PMs’ club trumps the national interest in knowing what went wrong and why.

Prompt publication won’t kill off cynicism but it will be a start to restoring public trust.

In a dangerous and unpredictable world, that trust is far more  valuable than the reputations of retired Prime Ministers.

Tony Blair will have every opportunity to defend himself after the Chilcot Report comes out. It is the defence of the realm – not of politicians – that should be on Whitehall’s agenda.

Complacent protection of the egos of the country’s leaders by the top bureaucrats is undermining our country by fuelling popular cynicism from below.

Turn the page for Peter Hitchens:

It is amazing that the Blair Creature does  not grasp how much he is despised, especially by those who once admired him.

He has taken to making speeches about doing good in the Middle East, where his Iraq policy helped to ruin the lives of millions for decades to come.

It also cost this country billions we could not afford, not to mention 179 British lives.

I still think the only way for him to regain our respect would be to take a vow of lifelong silence in a very austere monastery, where he could perhaps clean the lavatories.

But he still thinks he was right, and many of his accomplices also still walk around as if they had done nothing wrong.

It is a gigantic scandal that Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the Iraq War, which ceased taking evidence three years ago, has yet to be published.

Who is holding it up and why? Is it frontbench collusion between the parties?

If Parliament is any use at all, it will force publication this year.

Sunday 27 April 2014

The Infallibility of Canonisation

Fr Tim Finigan writes: 

It is the defined doctrine of the Church that when the Pope makes a solemn definition concerning faith or morals, ex cathedra, that is, as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, he enjoys that infallibility which Christ gave to the Church.

Matters of faith and morals as revealed by Christ to the Church are thus the primary object of papal infallibility.

Theologians have traditionally regarded a solemn decree of canonisation as one of the secondary or indirect objects of infallibility because all the actions of the Church are ordered to the sanctification of the faithful, and a decree of canonisation does not merely tolerate or permit veneration of a particular saint, but solemnly prescribes such a cultus for all the people of God, for all time.

Were such veneration to be prescribed for someone who is not in heaven, the Church would fail in her divine mission to lead all the faithful in the path of salvation.

Hence, for example, in 1933 Pope Pius XI explicitly referred to a decree of canonisation as infallible.

We do not have to agree with all the details of the process of canonisation: the formal process of canonisation was introduced gradually in the Church and has often changed over time.

We are only committed to believe that a canonised saint is in heaven, should be venerated as a saint, is worthy of our imitation, and prays for us.

We do not have to agree with everything a saint said or did.

The canonisations of St Bernadette, St Maria Goretti, and St Gemma Galgani were opposed strongly by some, but once their decrees were pronounced, Catholics united in venerating them.

The forthcoming canonisations can spur us to look anew at the encyclicals of Blessed John Paul, and Blessed John XXIII’s Journal of the Soul to learn from them, honour them, and seek their intercession for ourselves, for the Pope, and for the whole Church today.

Today is the day on which the Lefebvrist movement finally becomes sedevacantist, as has always been the logic of its position. The Catholic media ought therefore to stop reporting anything about it.

On This Rock

Today, let us commit to the powerful intercession of Pope Saint John XXIII and of Pope Saint John Paul II the cause of orthodox Catholic witness in the United Kingdom.

Instead of a cartel of theologically illiterate, economically neoliberal, internationally neoconservative, personally debauched fops who think that their political opinions are the Faith and that its practice is an enormous camp joke, including an opportunity to pick up men.

A cartel headed and controlled by a man who has dedicated his life to damaging the Church by means of malicious gossip, and who has had only too much success hitherto, yet who has managed to arrogate to himself the position in our public discourse where an orthodox Catholic ought to be.

Orate pro nobis.

Saturday 26 April 2014

The New Establishment, Indeed

There is a lazy assumption that other religious bodies, especially the Catholic Church and these days also the institutional expressions of Islam, are at least broadly in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England, and see some potential advantage for themselves in such a prospect.

The tiniest modicum of research would put paid to any such delusion.

But then, who knows about the history of the Catholic Church and Irish Republicanism? Or about the history of the Church of Ireland and Irish Republicanism? Or about the history of the Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Republicanism? A lot of people think that they do.

Or about the very strong and ongoing opposition of the Darul Uloom Deoband to the theory of  a separate Indo-Islamic nation? Or about the no less pronounced objections to the secession of Kosovo by the leaders of Serbia's Catholics, Jews, Roma, Muslims (yes, Muslims) and Albanians (yes, Albanians)?

Or about the very close ties between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Soviet regime, ties that were not without a refined metaphysical basis? Or about the practically symbiotic relationship between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Communist regime in Bulgaria?

Further examples good, bad and indifferent could be added at great length in order to confuse the permanently adolescent.

Among whom are are those who depict the kind of secularism recently and pointedly expressed in the Daily Telegraph as somehow part of "the Left", to which only a handful of this week's signatories had any known connection.

At least in Britain, it is the Right, at least as organised in partisan and connected terms, that has long had every reason to wish to see Christianity, as such, banished from public discourse, something for which it must be said that this week's signatories did not call.

Anyone worried that a future Labour Government might seek to extend the Conservatives' same-sex marriage legislation to the Church of England or to the Church in Wales has missed the point of quite what important Labour allies those now are. They are not going to be upset.

Labour anti-trade union legislation may be wildly improbable, but the unions would never go anywhere else even if they could. So even Labour action against them would still be more likely than this.

The Catholic Church, the old Free Churches and the black-majority churches, together accounting for around two thirds of English churchgoers and the same in Wales, are of course reliable members of the Labour family in any case.

But of course they could never quite say so. Just as the Anglicans, as such, could never quite say either that, or that they were "the Tory Party at prayer". 

In this age of Royal Mail privatisation, of the impending abolition of what little remains of Sunday trading restrictions, of the prospect of toll roads, and of so much else, Labour needs to look elsewhere, although not very far away, for Toryland's Pearl Harbor.

On the night of the vote on Syria, Ed Miliband ought to have published the list of Conservative, and possibly also of Liberal Democrat, MPs who had not supported the Government, welcoming each of them, and one other nominee of each of them, to his new Foreign Policy Advisory Board.

It would have been entirely up to them whether or not they had turned up, or brought with them Peter Oborne, or Geoffrey Wheatcroft, or Peter McKay, or Andrew Alexander, or Stephen Glover, or Peter Hitchens, or John Laughland, or Mark Almond, or Matthew Parris, or whoever. But non-participation would have provided a most unflattering backlight to any subsequent complaint.

Today, Ed Miliband ought to announce that, while each of them would of course retain its independence, from the following Monday he would be accompanied at almost all times by someone from each of the National Farmers Union, the Federation of Small Businesses, Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, Lions Clubs International in Great Britain and Ireland, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the Townswomen's Guilds, the Royal British Legion, the Police Federation, the Scout Association, and Girlguiding UK.

Nor would these companions be expected to keep silent. After all, having been brought by the Leader, who would ask them to do so, never mind to leave the room?

They would of course be made aware of what could be reported and what could not. They might very well be so aware already.

But within those parameters, such reporting, through their respective organisations and those organisations' wider networks, would be routine, and would reach deep into Tory Britain.

Not least among those wider networks are the grassroots of the Church of England and the Church in Wales.

Among other things.

Missing Members

Consider the following:

those Labour and those Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who voted against either or both of the welfare cap and the retroactive legalisation of workfare;

those Labour, those Liberal Democrat and those seat-taking Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who voted against Second or Third Reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, or who did not vote in either of those divisions;

those Labour and those Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who voted against the House of Lords Reform Bill;

those Labour, those Liberal Democrat and those Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who voted in favour of the European Union (Referendum) Bill;

those Labour and those Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who voted against military intervention in Libya; and

those Conservative, those Liberal Democrat and those seat-taking Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who did not vote in favour of military intervention in Syria.

Even taking into account the several crossovers, and the fact that there have been a couple of deaths, we are talking about around 100 MPs. One sixth of the House, or thereabouts.

Leave aside the specific issues and ponder that these are undeniably MPs with minds of their own and with things to say.

Now, look up the Division Lists, which are readily available. Read over the above, and ask yourself of how many of them even quite a well-informed member of the public might be expected to have heard.

When was almost any of them last on the radio, or on television, or published on the opinion pages of a national newspaper, or the author of a post on one of the agenda-setting websites?

When have most of them ever been on the radio, or on television, or published on the opinion pages of a national newspaper, or the author of a post on one of the agenda-setting websites?

Comedians, reality television stars and the relatives of celebrities are all citizens, of course. But come on.

Imagine a comment website that gave posting rights to as many of the above as chose to take them up, together with two others chosen by each of them, of whom at least one would have to be a constituent. 

That would still not be the airwaves, especially the BBC. Nor would it be that ultimate mark of membership of the recognised commentariat, a place in what used to be Fleet Street. But it would at least be something.

So what, you may say? No one would pay any attention to such a site.

The only solution that I can envisage there would be if a really big media name were its editor, and possibly even had his or her name in the title, recalling the days of things like G.K.'s Weekly.

But who?

Another Explanation

A UKIP candidate wants Lenny Henry to emigrate to "a black country". Lenny Henry was born and raised in Dudley. Dudley is in the Black Country.

Meanwhile, David Edgar has somehow managed to persuade a national newspaper to publish this piece of common sense:

On the occasions when Ukip's vote increases dramatically (such as in European elections) their new or temporary voters are more likely to be middle-class, financially secure and from Conservative backgrounds.

And, while Ukip did indeed attract more former Labour voters during the later New Labour years, they have won a substantially higher proportion of Tory voters since the coalition came to power.

So there might be another explanation for the high Ukip vote in Labour areas.

As the BBC's political research editor, David Cowling, points out, in Labour's safest seat in the country at the 2010 election, 28% of voters still supported other parties.

This is not because Liverpool Walton is peppered with enclaves of bankers and stockbrokers; it's because a substantial section of the working class has always voted for parties other than Labour and now that vote is going to Ukip.

Ford and Goodwin argue that Ukip's success has reduced the swing to Labour among old, poor and male voters.

But that's different from saying that Ukip is eating into the existing Labour vote, as it clearly is into the Conservatives'.


The sheer objectionable nature of a church whose doctrine was whatever the Crown, and so eventually the Crown in Parliament, said that it was at the given time, has been an enormous force for the creation in this country of a pluralistic society, and thus by necessity of a representative democratic political system.

Without it, there would have been neither the Nonconformist Conscience, because there would have been no Nonconformists, nor Catholic Emancipation, because Rome really was a long way away in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so that some accommodation really would have been reached by those who still felt themselves Catholics, as if feelings mattered here, and who would consequently have had no need of Emancipation in 1829.

Those agitating for disestablishment wish the State to repudiate its basis in Christianity, the basis of the most articulate and coherent objections to this Government's callous austerity programme. That agitation must be resisted without any compromise whatever.

Friday 25 April 2014

2015: Year Zero

Zero hours contracts must be outlawed, as promised, but never delivered, by Tony Blair. (He did the same thing over renationalising the railways.)

And employment rights must be legislated to begin with employment, and to apply regardless of the number of hours worked, as promised by John Smith.

Ed Miliband, over to you.

Local Seats For Local People

Defined as having been born in the constituency or within 20 kilometres (12 and half miles) of it, or as having gone to primary or secondary school within those parameters, or as having lived within them for at least five years prior to seeking election, 63 per cent of MPs are local, including 82 per cent of Lib Dems, 73 per cent of Labourites, and 51 per cent of Conservatives.
That gives Labour, as an absolute figure, the most local MPs in Parliament. But all three proportions are rising with each successive General Election.
Moreover, 67 per cent of Labour MPs selected from all-women shortlists are local. That system has given this seat an MP who was born in Esh Winning, who presumably went to school nearby, and who has lived in Lanchester for 20 if not 30 years, or possibly even longer.
Much to my amusement, it has also given the Armstrongs' old seat a Left MP, one of several Left gains in the North East in 2010, with at least one more on course to be made in 2015. Left of me, perhaps. But a long way from what went before, certainly here.
Of course, locality can still be the wrong question. But if it is the question, then here is the answer.

RT Endorsement

If you want to know about bad things in Russia, then watch the BBC.

But if you want to know about bad things in Britain, then watch Russia Today.

It regularly covers the anti-austerity movement. It reported the huge demonstration against NHS privatisation that Chris Patten's plaything blacked out entirely.

No wonder, then, that there are those who want Ofcom to revoke its license. A charge of anti-Semitism? From supporters of Svoboda and of Pravy Sektor, and from uncritical reporters of anti-Putin demonstrations characterised by the flags of the National Bolsheviks and of the ultranationalists, against whom Putin, for all his faults, is a bulwark?

Ofcom did in fact revoke the license of Press TV for having dared to cover a gigantic student demonstration in London when the BBC and Sky stuck to the script and refused to mention it. Some other rubbish is cited as the official reason, but forget that.

But Ofcom would not even consider my complaint that Fox News, shown on Sky, was promoting the EDL, which it was.

Soon, it may very well be a lot more difficult that it is now to find out about the bad things in Britain. Or even about the interesting things in Britain.

De-Knight The Nonce

It is not in dispute that, back when it was still just about legal, Chris Woodhead had an affair with a Sixth Former.

And now, this.

Unlike those other Thatcher favourites, Sir Jimmy Savile, Sir Cyril Smith, Sir Laurens van der Post, and the man on whom she was politically most reliant, Sir Peter Morrison, Sir Chris Woodhead is still alive.

Forfeiture would of course be automatic upon incarceration for having run an international free brothel for the predators of young boys.

But why wait?

The former Dame Jean Else lost her handle for less than has already been established in this case. Nor has she ever defended teacher-pupil sex, as Woodhead has in his time.

Savile also wangled himself a Papal Knighthood. Damian Thompson is said to be angling for one of those. He will of course call, perhaps on his Telegraph Blog, for Woodhead to lose his K forthwith.

After all, if not, then what are they to make of that in the Nunciature and in the Vatican? Or, indeed, anywhere else? What is any of us to make of it?

Thursday 24 April 2014

A Very Free School Indeed

With Sir Chris Woodhead's school now under international investigation for having harboured a prolific pederast, isn't the lack of Local Authority "interference" looking splendid?

Councils have not in fact run schools since 1988, an entire 26 years ago.

When Michael Gove suggests that they still do, then he is lying.

When the likes of Toby Young suggest it, then they simply do not know what they are talking about.

Being media apparatchiki, Gove and Young are both permitted and enabled to get away with it. Heaven forfend that they might be held accountable.

But, of course, the Local Authority has never had the slightest involvement in the Southbank International School.

And that has worked out well.

Hasn't it?

Veiled Threat

I wish every success to any Muslim women who seek to restrain their male relatives from becoming jihadi in Syria.

But remember, by so becoming, those Muslim menfolk would have been going to fight for the side in support of which the Government had wanted to deploy their mostly non-Muslim, and their otherwise "moderate Muslim", classmates, workmates, team-mates, and so on.

Until that Government was itself restrained by the somewhat unfashionable, but rather successful, figures of Vladimir Putin and Ed Miliband.

Also, notice the motivation cited by the boys moved to head for Syria: the scenes shown on the television news in Britain. Exactly the same as David Cameron's at least ostensible motivation was, and exactly the one that he cited in Parliament and to the public.

Fading Yellow

Poor Danny Alexander, who is well on course to lose his own seat, seems to imagine that anyone would want to deal with the Lib Dems in the next Parliament. Or even have any need to do so.

The Lib Dems are claiming to have exercised a restraining influence, thereby keeping the Coalition "on the centre ground".

So remember, this Government is what the Lib Dems' restraining influence looks like, and it stands on the Lib Dems' definition of the centre ground.

Remember, and vote accordingly.

The Blond Bombsite

By the time of the next General Election, Boris Johnson will have been out of Parliament for as long as he was ever in.

After that Election, more or less any seat still held by the Conservative Party will by definition be a safe seat, often occupied by an MP of very long standing.

Will MPs who had toiled for decades, in good times and in bad, be supposed to waft into the Leadership a man who had only just re-entered Parliament, and that on the specific understanding in his own mind that he would instantly be made Leader?

Johnson, like Michael Gove, is given no scrutiny whatever, in both cases because they are the media's own. But Gove is a spectacularly unsuccessful politician, while Johnson is not really a politician at all.

In 2010, Labour decided that it, and not the media, was going to chose its Leader. That party has been ahead in the polls for almost the entire period since, and it remains so.

2015 might very well be the year when the Conservatives come to the same decision.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Happy Saint George's Day

God Save The Queen.

Although (and it is not very often that I say this) I take Dan Hodges's point, even if he does fail to see the connection between later activities and what he bizarrely claims to have been the spontaneity of Euro 96, nevertheless today ought to be a public holiday throughout the United Kingdom.

As should Saint Andrew's Day, Saint David's Day and Saint Patrick's Day. Away with pointless celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday.

It is because, uniquely in the world, most of our public holidays are not for or about anything that, uniquely in the world, they do not in practice apply below a certain socio-economic level.

It is amazing how many people assume that because there is a legend about Saint George, he himself must be a purely legendary figure. He is not.

The Tomb of Saint George at his birthplace, which is now known as Lod and which is the location of Israel's principal airport, has become a shadow of its former self.

It was once a major focus of unity between Christians and Muslims in devotion to the Patron Saint of Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt before, and as much as, the Patron Saint of England.

Three quarters of those who practised that devotion were violently expelled in 1948.

On what remains, see here.

But as for Egypt, the Holy Father has today appointed a priest of the small Coptic Catholic Church as his Personal Secretary. Hope springs eternal.

Distorts and Warps

Of course Russia and China are as opposed as anyone to the rise of Islamism, and indeed more actively opposed than most, being very much on the front line against it.
That was precisely why they opposed Tony Blair's wars in Kosovo and Iraq, and why they opposed the Heir to Blair over Libya and Syria.
They have been proved right on every count.

Kipper Ties

UKIP will be humiliated when it comes second to Labour at the European Elections. But it ought to be pleased.
There was never any requirement to change the electoral system for those elections. Tony Blair did it purely in order to purge his many critics among Labour MEPs.
In the wildly improbable event that UKIP ever had topped the poll, then the whole thing would have been put back to First Past The Post, leaving UKIP with no seats in 2019, just as it will have no seats in 2015.
Yes, that would have added up. And Nigel Farage knows that it would have added up.
UKIP is in any case highly unlikely to exist by 2019. But even that existence is more likely than there ever, ever being any change to the electoral system for the House of Commons.
Not that it would matter if there were. One or other of Labour and the Conservatives would still always provide the Prime Minister, Labour would still do so with an overall majority three quarters of the time, and each of those parties would still never drop below 200 seats.
A party with 200 MPs is a major political force even if it has no other members in the entire country. A party with no MPs is simply not a major political force, and that is that.
People who say that Labour, the Conservatives or both would dissolve into "constituent parts" under a different electoral system know absolutely nothing, not the first thing, about Britain. They "learned" it all out of books, and those books were about other countries.
Ask any member of either of those parties to which "constituent part" he or she belonged. Anyone who has ever been in or around either of them will have read that last sentence and laughed out loud.
UKIP, on the other hand, is very split indeed. Over half of its voters support same-sex marriage. It has a very heavily neoconservative activist and voter base in foreign policy terms. And so on.

It is beyond improbable that the ardently Thatcherite UKIP lot will have been at all impressed by Cameron's "Christian country" spiel even while he was calling the Police on the Bishop of Oxford for having dared to deliver a petition on food poverty to his constituency office.

(Incidentally, how stony a heart it would have taken not to have laughed very loud indeed as the Mail on Sunday's fraudulent "story" on food banks collapsed before the very eyes of the Internet, and as the charity in question experienced a huge surge in donations as a result.)

Rather, the Kippers come out of the school of Enoch Powell, who insisted that Christianity had no political implications whatever, and of the likes of the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, fiercely of the view that churches ought to behave as if that were the case.

You never, ever hear that from even the most militantly atheistic sections of the British Left, with which extremely few of those letter-writers to the Daily Telegraph were identifiable, and who in any case pointedly did not say that. You never have done. Well, of course not.

I expect, however, that you would hear what amounted to precisely that over the gins in the golf club bars of UKIP country: "Christmas Carol Services for the kiddies, and giving a nignog a good kicking so that he knew his place, which was in Nignogland. That was what it was all about, before the C of E succumbed to Political Correctness gone MAAADDD!!!"

In all fairness to the dear old Church of England, no, it most certainly was not.

A Meretricious Figure

Daniel Larison writes:

Freddy Gray tries to make sense of David Cameron’s political career. Here he comments on Cameron’s recent eagerness for military intervention:

One day, we may look back on Cameron as a heroic figure who only went to war reluctantly for the noblest causes, while at the same time pulling off massive political, economic and cultural reforms at home.

But Cameron’s obvious impulsivity in foreign affairs suggests a far different verdict—a meretricious figure who would rush to war for the sake of his own conscience, or just some good headlines.

Cameron had the good fortune to become the leader of the opposition when Blair was still in power, since this made it very easy to position himself as the voice on reason on foreign policy by comparison without having to commit to much.

Even though he was a supporter of the Iraq war all along, he benefited from the fact that Blair and Brown were far more deeply implicated in the debacle.

In that respect, the long years in the political wilderness were a blessing for the Tories, since it prevented them from being as closely identified with the extremely unpopular war as Labour was.

Nonetheless, the foolish impulsiveness that Gray identifies was always there, as we saw when Cameron out-McCained McCain in his enthusiasm for the cause of Georgia during the August 2008 war.

Alex Massie recalled that incident in the weeks before the Libyan war this way:

His Dash to Tbilisi was straight from the pages of the John McCain Foreign Policy Manual, substituting feel-good sloganising and photo ops for measured calculations of both the national interest and anything Britain could practically or usefully do.

Since taking office, Cameron has proven that his foreign policy judgment is almost always just as bad as McCain’s.

As if the Libyan intervention had not been bad enough, he was quite ready to fall in line behind the U.S. to bomb Syria last year out of a misguided desire to show “solidarity” with the U.S. in waging another unnecessary war.

The only good thing that can be said about his foreign policy record is that he at least had the sense to abandon the attack on Syria when Parliament and the public had rejected the idea.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Biden Time?

He clearly wants it.
Hillary Clinton should take nothing for granted.
But she will.
As the Bourbon that she is, she has learned nothing, as surely as she has forgotten nothing.
Joe Biden would be an awful President of the United States.

But at least he is not one of the Clintons.

The Return of The SDLP

From abortion, to austerity (on both sides of the Border), to toasting the Queen and staying in her house, Northern Ireland's green vote is being given plenty of cause to see red again.
Watch out for that third European seat. If the SDLP takes it, then it is well and truly on the way back.

United, Indeed

I make no pretence to following football for its own sake. But I do believe in local patriotism.

The grounds of football and other major sports clubs should be as they are in Italy, owned and run by their respective local councils.

Both parties ought to be in no doubt as to who was in charge, as Newcastle City Council has singularly failed to be in recent years where the very name of St James' Park has been concerned.

While the clubs themselves should be as they are in Spain, proper clubs with the fans as their members who elect the board, and who can decline to re-elect it.

A Hugely Interesting Fact

Peter Hitchens writes:

What would you think if Russia’s spy chief had been discovered last week, roaming round Ukraine?

The British media would have been raging and howling about sinister Kremlin meddling.

Well, as far as I know, no such visit took place.

But something just as astonishing did happen.

John Brennan, Director of the CIA, was, in fact, in Kiev last week, and I do not think he was there for the nightlife. 

It is, by any measure, a hugely interesting fact that such a person, who seldom ventures out at all, was in Ukraine at a moment of great tension.

Yet the information was buried by British news media.

Last week, I asked several colleagues whom I know to be assiduous newspaper readers, interested in the world, savvy and alert, if they knew Mr Brennan had been in Kiev.

Not one of them did.

Well, what else don’t we know?

Here’s a hint. About three quarters of what Russia is now doing in Ukraine is a bitter joke at the expense of the ‘West’.

What we attack them for doing is what we have also done, in Yugoslavia and Ukraine.

We snatched Kosovo from Serbia. They have snatched Crimea from Ukraine.

We like referendums which confirm what we wanted to do all along. So do they.

So far, even they haven’t had the nerve to copy the EU habit of rerunning any votes that give the wrong result.
We unleashed armed mobs in Kiev, to overthrow the lawful authority. They have done the same in Donetsk.

Just as I have no doubt that Russian secret services and front organisations have helped, encouraged and equipped the crowds in Donetsk, I have no doubt that the ‘Maidan’ protests in Kiev had what I shall politely call help from outside.

I write as a former Marxist revolutionary who has organized demonstrations and knows how hard it is to mobilise and sustain them.

I think both sides have also shut down broadcasts they do not like.

The simple conclusion we might draw from this, this Eastertide, is that it would be wise to stop being so lofty about what the Russians are doing, and pretending that our side are the nice, law-abiding freedom-lovers.

We should ask instead what this conflict is really about.

I will tell you. It is an old-style territorial clash over a very valuable piece of territory, in which the EU, as Germany used to do, seeks to expand its power and influence into areas long dominated by Moscow.

This can only be resolved through compromise.

Yet, on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War that almost ended civilisation, I am amazed by the partisan enthusiasm for conflict and confrontation that has infected so many politicians and journalists.

Why wait for future historians to tell you that you were rushed into a stupid, ruinous war by crude, one-sided propaganda?

Tell these people now that you want no such thing.

Emotion and Motivation

Eileen Shim writes:

The news: Every day, the push toward national legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable.

As more and more politicians and noted individuals come out in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing different amounts of pot, the mainstream acceptance of the recreational use of the drug seems like a bygone conclusion.

But before we can talk about legalization, have we fully understood the health effects of marijuana?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot recreationally and half of whom didn't.

What they found was rather shocking: Even those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation.

"There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana recreationally is not a problem — that it is a safe drug," said Anne Blood, a co-author of the study. "We are seeing that this is not the case."

The science: Similar studies have found a correlation between heavy pot use and brain abnormalities, but this is the first study that has found the same link with recreational users.

The 20 people in the "marijuana group" of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week.

Those in the control group did not smoke at all.

"We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues," said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study.

Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants.

These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions.

"This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch," said Breiter.

"I don't want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things."

Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape.

Those who smoked more had more significant variations.

What will happen next? The study's co-authors admit that their sample size was small. Their plan now is to conduct a bigger study that not only looks at the brain abnormalities, but also relates them to functional outcomes.

That would be a major and important step in this science because, as of now, the research indicates that marijuana use may cause alterations to the brain, but it's unclear what that might actually mean for users and their brains.

But for now, they are standing behind their findings.

"People think a little marijuana shouldn't cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school," said Breiter.

"Our data directly says this is not so."

Our Morality

Tom Morton writes:

"Their morality," thundersqueaked Nicola Sturgeon at the recent SNP conference in Perth, "is not our morality."
She was talking about the Tories, but as in the much flaunted myth of "civic nationalism", there was an ethnic tinge lurking beneath the rhetoric.
Just as it's open season on "Old Etonian toffs" on the grouse moors of Govan, while the former pupils of Loretto, Glenalmond, Fettes, George Watson's and Merchiston stalk the deer forests of Holyrood in lordly fashion. They're not like "us", "down there".

"Civic nationalism" is the buzzphrase used by the separatist camp to deflect any hint of comparison with the kind of nationalism that led to bloody mayhem in the Balkans.
Or, even more inflammatory, any reminder of the SNP's flirtations with fascism in the 1930s, courtesy of such figures as barrister Andrew Dewar Gibb and the poets Douglas Young and Hugh MacDiarmid.
Civic nationalism defines a community not by its borders or ethnicity, but by a shared set of political values, and the shared democratic visions of its people.
Sort of like, well, Britain.

But for Sturgeon, the sharing of those values stops 10 miles north of Carlisle.
Carlisle, with its English Street, its Botchergate, its quaint 440-year-old law that demands the whipping of any Scotsman "found wandering".
Carlisle, "down there".

I write from Shetland, where "down there" can mean John O'Groats.
Where "us" does not reach further than Sumburgh Head.
Where one local crofter, asked about Scottish independence, allegedly replied: "Well, in London they don't care about us. But in Edinburgh, they hate us."

I am not a Shetlander, having spent most of my life in west central Scotland, and I have an affection for Disneyburgh that extends beyond its nae-knickers poshness and self-satisfied capital cool.
But I can't see why folk from Auld Reekie, Glasgow, that Dear Green Place or any other part of Scotland should be perceived as being somehow morally better, more enlightened, even more leftwing than those across that invisible border.

Much is made, in separatist circles, of the fact that Scotland labours under the yoke of a government it did not vote for.
Scotland, they say, has but a single Conservative MP and is a repository of equality, loving kindness and a fervour for linked-arm semi-socialism.
Those bastards in Carlisle, Durham, Newcastle and suchlike Tory hotbeds: they did this to us.
May they rot in hell with that Maria Swiller and her horrid ilk.

A wee look at history reveals a rather different story.
A fascinating analysis by Graham Cowie, a public law postgraduate at Glasgow University (and avowed Liberal Democrat), of the Westminster vote in Britain since the second world war reveals the following: Scotland has voted for a Labour government at Westminster in every election since 1945, except for 1951 and 1955.
Which means that between 1997 and 2010, the government was one a majority of Scots voted for.
But in 1951 the vote was tied at 37 seats to Labour and 37 to the Conservative and Unionist party, with one Liberal. A tie.
And in 1955 Scotland voted for a Tory government. The year I was born.

Since the war, Scotland's voters have failed to get their government of choice for a total of 34 years and 10 months.
But for the Welsh it's 39 years and three months. Northern Ireland? Fifty-two years and four months.

And as for the English?
Well, there's a lot of "them" "down there".
For 10 years and seven months since the war, including the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the UK government has not been the one that England voted for.

So it's complicated. It's statistics. ut that's first-past-the-post democracy.
As for Scotland, when we look at votes, how representative is the SNP administration at Holyrood?
There's an overall majority, but they achieved 45% of the constituency vote and 44% on the regional lists.
On a 50% turnout.
Less than half of half the electorate.
That's not "most Scots".
It's not "us".
It's not me.

Here's a thing: I'm from Carlisle.
On 31 December 1955, Hogmanay, my Scots-born parents were in the city. Living there, indeed, not on some desperate antepartum race for the border.
They were back in Glasgow within months, but my birth certificate is English, red-on-cream, and one flourish of it should prevent any horsewhipping incidents. I keep it handy just in case.

Maybe that's why I hate borders.
Why I believe in solidarity with those strange folk who dwell "down there", who wish to work together for a fairer, more equal society.
And why I despise the way issues of health, childcare, justice, fairness, poverty and unemployment have been reduced to nothing more than a line in the land.