Sunday 30 November 2014

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

This Realm, This England

Even the England of Shakespeare, never mind the England of John of Gaunt, was a land of powerful counties and cities.

Such was the case until the 1980s. That is England's historical norm. That was what made England.

The counties and cities need power. They also need money. Including, but not restricted to, the power to raise their own money.

There is no desire for, nor would there even be any toleration of, a body through which the likes of John Redwood and Christopher Chope could impose their cranky economic ideology on the full cross-section of England that is made up of Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Brent, Camden, Cannock Chase, Chesterfield, Chorley, Corby, Crawley, Croydon, Cumbria, Darlington, Derbyshire, Dudley, Durham, East Staffordshire, Enfield, Gedling, Gravesham, Hackney, Halton, Haringey, Hastings, Hyndburn, Islington, Kirklees, Knowsley, Lambeth, Lancashire, Leeds, Lewisham, Luton, Manchester, Merton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newham, North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Norwich, Nottinghamshire, Oldham, Plymouth, Preston, Redbridge, Rossendale, Sandwell, Sefton, Southwark, St Helens, Stevenage, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Stroud, Sunderland, Wakefield, Waltham Forest, Warrington, Wolverhampton and York.

Yes, all of those places now have Labour, or at least Labour-led, local authorities. All of them. One Nation, indeed.

But nor is there any desire for, nor would there even be any toleration of, such a body in the remaining ghettoes that are Rushcliffe, West Somerset, Swindon, Christchurch, Gloucester, Warwickshire, Poole, Canterbury, Portsmouth, Rutland, Test Valley, Worcestershire, West Devon, Essex, South Staffordshire District Council, Dales District Council, Calderdale, Wokingham (yes, Wokingham), Breckland, North Somerset, Mid Suffolk, Daventry, South Holland, Central Bedfordshire, Surrey, Boston, Oxfordshire, Arun, St Edmundsbury, West Lancashire, East Herts, Fareham, Harborough, Uttlesford, Bournemouth, North Norfolk, Swale, East Devon, Wychavon and Buckinghamshire.

Or, indeed, in Watford, North Devon, Eastleigh, Stockport, Hinckley and Bosworth, Sutton, Colchester, South Somerset, Cheltenham, Three Rivers, St Albans and Torridge.

North and South, East and West, town and country; Labour, Conservative, Lid Dem and Independent; united against the cuts, and therefore united against an English Parliament. Just look at the people who want one.

With municipalism, the national and parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom is the greatest force for social democracy that the world has ever seen.

The nationwide, all-party pressure for the return of muncipalism is now unstoppable, at least in England; it will be everywhere else that will look highly centralised when that has been achieved.

Let the nationwide, all-party pressure for the return of national and parliamentary sovereignty become equally unstoppable.

Followed by the nationwide, all-party pressure, which is clearly already beginning, for the return of everything that has historically been achieved by our parliamentary and municipal democracy, which is the democracy in social democracy.

Pudding and Pie

Georgie Porgie must think that we are all in the nursery, if he expects us to believe that he has magicked up two billion pounds out of thin air.

At least one third of this "new" spending on the NHS has already been allocated.

Moreover, this Government, and thus both parties in and to it, has signed away any political power to "direct money to the frontline".

For that, we await the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act under Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham.

Mind Your Grammar

We have the most diverse state education system on earth. It is as far as might be conceivable from "one size fits all".

Within that system, grammar schools still exist.

Both at Oxford and at Cambridge, state school entrants comfortably predominate overall.

To use the favoured measure, do the grammar schools supply the majority, or even a particularly high proportion, of state school entrants to Oxbridge?

Or pick another measure, if you prefer.

Athens 1944: Britain’s Dirty Secret

Hugely important.

Read it.

Through and Through

In an otherwise timely and important article (and I have never exactly been his biggest fan), George Carey writes that:

"Of course, it is only in recent years that we’ve even heard of Black Friday, and that is because it is an American phenomenon through and through.

"It has its roots in Thanksgiving, which itself is based on Christian celebrations for the harvest, and is associated closely with the Pilgrim Fathers."

But, as Dr Carey must surely know, the Puritans despised harvest festivals, and ruthlessly suppressed them.

The association of Thanksgiving with the Pilgrim Fathers is also a fiction. A pious fiction, but a fiction all the same.

Unlike the holding up of the Puritans as apostles and prophets of religious liberty. That is an outright lie, and downright pernicious.

Every year, I give thanks that they left England. If we must have Black Friday, then we ought to precede it with that Thanksgiving.

As it is, our cultural relationship with the United States is perfectly encapsulated by the fact that we have managed to adopt Black Friday but not any form of Thanksgiving.

We only ever take the bad from America, never the good.

Three Cheers For The Police Federation

I do not always agree with John McTernan, but he is right about this:

When the Sun splashed on Plebgate there was a strange moment of unity on left and right – both agreed that the filth were fitting Andrew Mitchell up.

The former because it confirmed all their anti-police prejudice, the latter because they would always believe one of their peers over the account of – well – a pleb.

I never bought Mitchell’s story. Not just because it has been said of him that he would not easily be mistaken for a nice man.

But also because the staff on the gates of No 10 were former colleagues. I could not understand the circumstances under which a cabinet minister would bully and swear at staff.

And the strangest thing about Mitchell’s whole story was that he accepted he had sworn at the cops. To him that was perfectly okay, to me that was the clincher – it was a straightforward sacking offence.

But Mitchell successfully – well for a while at least – made it about whether or not he said ‘pleb’. Well, as we say in Scotland, he kens noo – and so do we.

At a cost of some £3m he has had what went on at the Downing Street gates made absolutely clear. It turns out Mitchell was at the time – and since – an utter cad.

And let us give three cheers for the Police Federation. Like all good unions they backed the weak against the strong and helped PC 88 literally to speak truth to power.

This is the reason why millions of ordinary British workers join a union – to even up the odds.

It is a victory for all of us to see a bullying, arrogant Tory brought low. But it is one the labour movement should particularly savour.

There is power in a union.

The Stories We Tell

“How,” said my son when the tweet story broke, “did an Instagram of a white van get to be a bigger embarrassment for Labour than the fact that they have completely embraced a Tory cuts agenda? How is that a bigger betrayal?”

Perhaps Dan Ware is not a Labour voter. In previous times it would have been perfectly all right to have a go at him.

But nowadays the working class is not seen as a section of society with a complex mix of aspirations and interests, but as something more like an ethnic grouping.

In the tweet scandal, Ware’s flags are not a political statement but a cultural practice, and laughing at them is like laughing at the Sami for sticking to their nomadic lifestyle.

We are the stories we tell.

When you ask someone my age what class they are, they tell you a story. They don’t describe their economic realities or cultural expectations. They tell you what their parents did. Or their grandparents. How they got here.

For my – incredibly lucky – generation that story has usually been one of social mobility. You could choose how you told that story. You could change your accent, talk about your struggle, make jokes about your frightful parents.

Or you could choose to stay close to your roots and thank the Lord you were born at a time of massive economic expansion.

I’m not making a judgment here. Some people’s parents probably were frightful. They might have had good reasons for moving far away.

Emily Thornberry had a story like this – an admirable one. She’s from a council estate. Did well. Chose a life of public service

You chose your story. But that’s no longer the case. Social mobility has all but ground to a halt.

First generation middle-class people are seeing their children not rising up the ladder, as they did, but sliding down it.

To work close to power now – in the media or in politics – you mostly need to have the sort of parents who can bankroll you through years of internship.

The result is that people from working-class backgrounds don’t get to tell their own stories – in parliament, the press or on TV – the way they used to.

There’s a banner you see a lot on the Kop at the moment. “Scouse,” it says, “not English.” At first sight it’s the polar opposite of Ware’s “English, not European” flags.

But it expresses the same mix of emotion – an intense sense of belonging to something that is not represented at Westminster. It’s the emotion that powered the Scottish referendum 

Because if the working class is now viewed as a kind of quaint ethnicity, then so are politicians.

In a kind of hideous mirror image of the benefit-scrounger libel which they have used to power through their cuts, Westminster politicians have come to be seen as a class apart.

They have their own peculiar way of talking, and their own strange cultural practices – flipping, for instance, and expenses fraud.

This is terrifying because “they’re all the same” is the age-old rallying cry of the fascist.

It’s not Britain that’s broken, it’s Westminster, seen as serving no interest but its own. We need to formulate a new covenant between parliament and the people.

We need a debate about what the state should be doing. Why is it, for instance, that it can finance banks and wars and HS2, but not housing?

Thatcher’s selling of council houses is the origin myth of both boom Britain and bust Britain. A consumer frenzy based on property prices locked a generation out of the housing market.

It would be good if that photograph of Ware’s house sparked a debate about what Westminster is actually for.

Friday 28 November 2014

"Black Friday"

I wish that the American bishops would declare a day of fasting, abstinence and penance on this "Black Friday" (which has arrived in Britain out of nowhere this year), in the hope that that, too, would be slavishly imitated over here.

The Nativity Fast starts today, making it a day of strict fasting for the Russian Orthodox. Good for them.

The supermarket chains claim that one in six people in Britain now keeps Thanksgiving. Utter bilge, of course.

It is kept only by expatriate Americans and by the members of their households, a tiny proportion of the population.

The major Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Sikh festivals are all bigger, and they are all small minority interests.

But our commercial overlords obviously see both Thanksgiving and Black Friday as enormous opportunities, to be made part of the cultural mainstream by the old trick of pretending that they already are, so as to make everyone else feel abnormal and as if we were missing out.

I honestly do not think that half of these corporations even know that Thanksgiving and Black Friday do not, or at least did not, exist outside the United States.

They keep them without even thinking about it, and such is their power that, as a result, those days do now exist in more and more of the world.

Within 10 years, and possibly five, the media will refer to them as "traditional", and the run-up to Thanksgiving will see it taught as such in primary schools.

But the world turns. Which Chinese festivals will we all be keeping another 10 years again after that?

Right now, I would make all four of St George's Day, St Andrew's Day, St David's Day and St Patrick's Day public holidays throughout the United Kingdom, rather than pointless celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday.

Three of those are in these Islands' incomparable spring and early summer, while the fourth, being 30th November, would mark the last day on which nothing, absolutely nothing, Christmas-related would be allowed.

Doncaster Delusions

"If there were no Conservative Party, then [wait for it] YOOO-KIP would beat Ed Miliband!"

Even if it were possible, and it is not, to know that that were true, then so what? You are talking about people who will only ever vote for the Conservative Party candidate, in many cases for anything, and in all cases for the House of Commons.

It is a matter of supreme indifference to them that that might hand victory to Labour. Any non-Conservative candidate is as unacceptable to them as any other non-Conservative candidate. They are used to Labour's winning. They may not like it. But they expect it, so they accept it. It is nothing to them.

The Conservatives may have dropped from first to third place at the European Elections both in the North West and in Yorkshire and the Humber, as also in the West Midlands and in Wales. But they still managed to return MEPs from all four.

They still took 17.7 per cent of the vote, cast by more than one hundred thousand people, in the North East. They easily out-polled UKIP in Scotland. They out-polled Labour in the East Midlands; only just, but they did. Their Ulster Unionist allies retained a European seat in Northern Ireland.

Anyone who grew up in any of those places, or who has spent any length of time in any of them, will know exactly who these people are. The True Blueness can sometimes dim a little towards considering UKIP for European Elections, or Independents for the council. But not always.

And the bedrock of those who would never consider voting any way but Tory for the House of Commons is really quite large. The bedrock of those who would never consider voting any way but Tory for anything is far from negligible.

In any case, the idea of Labour's losing Doncaster North is so preposterous as to be unworthy of serious discussion. The same is true of all the Labour seats coloured in various shades of purple on those maps which are doing the rounds.

The latest one features not only Bishop Auckland, which is always there and always ludicrous, but North-West Durham as well. Enough said. "Naive" does not begin to describe that.

The K in UKIP stands for Kent. But that party will be lucky to win four seats even there. Farage himself is on course for defeat at Thanet South, where he is five points behind the Conservative candidate.

By 2020, UKIP will no longer exist. But there will still be at least 200 Conservative and at least 200 Labour MPs, with the Leader of one or the other as Prime Minister.

And Labour will absolutely, certainly still hold Doncaster North. I mean, don't be silly.

Thursday 27 November 2014

"Best You Learn Your Place"

I remember Andrew Mitchell as a good friend of St Helena when he was Secretary of State for International Development. He should have been left there instead of being made Chief Whip, which seems to bring out the worst in everyone.

Mitchell is abusive to bobbies and David Mellor is abusive to cabbies, but it is Labour that is allegedly the enemy of what those making the charge are still quaint enough to call "the lower middle classes".

For what Mitchell has always admitted, anyone else would rightly have been given a night in the cells. That probably happens thousands of times per week, and certainly hundreds. Frontline public service workers deserve respect, even if only one category of them can arrest you.

The judge said that the policeman "had not the wit" to have made it up, so found in his favour. "There really are no winners here..."

Mitchell is obviously a close friend, and is said to be a close ally, of David Davis. If he is indeed the latter, though, then how come he has never, so far as I can tell, joined in any of Davis's rebellions, such as over Syria, or over Data Retention and Investigatory Powers?

If UKIP does not win Sutton Coldfield, then it will stand exposed as purely a vehicle for re-electing Conservative incumbents whose careers had been going nowhere.

But this is Labour's chance to offer Birmingham another MP who is as sound on the EU as Gisela Stuart is, who is at least as sound on marriage as Khalid Mahmood is, and who is as sound on everything as Roger Godsiff is.

Virgin Violation and Stagecoach Robbery

At least the French State is not an enemy of this one. It is not a British Citizen who avoids the fiscal responsibilities of that citizenship while parading on the world stage as a Knight of this Realm. Nor does it spend money on campaigning to dismantle the United Kingdom.

The success of the East Coast Main Line has so embarrassed this Government, that that Line has been passed over to Branson and Souter, one of whom already maladministers the West Coast Main Line. Yet these are the vital arteries of our economy, society, culture and polity.

Every traditional Tory jibe against proposed nationalisations of clearly or allegedly inappropriate things, about fixing what was not broken and about doctrinaire ideology gone mad, applies precisely in this case. This has a reasonable claim to be the most perfect example of such a policy since 1945.

All of the proposed new services and other improvements could and should have been done by the State. That they have not been done has been a conscious political choice by both Coalition parties.

Oh, well, given the history of this Line, we shall see how long this latest attempt to privatise it lasts. But here on the East Coast Main Line, we shall suffer in the meantime.

"No Change = No Chance"

John Redwood's contributions on foreign policy are increasingly worthy of attention.

But he is a creature hopelessly out of time on the Union. His "England" is the Home Counties, and the 1980s Home Counties at that.

All three parties are instead now more-or-less officially committed to a huge devolution of powers to city and county level within England, which did in fact used to have hugely powerful cities and counties until the 1980s.

It will then be Scotland that will look very centralised indeed.

"English Votes for English Laws" would be a judgement call by the Speaker on each occasion. It would never happen in practice. Not once.

England is so dominant within the Union that anything applicable here, except perhaps some purely ecclesiastical legislation, could always be argued to have some kind of effect on one or more of the other parts.

The devolution of benefits would be the denial of equal citizenship within the United Kingdom, and that it had already happened in Northern Ireland would not make that any better or any less true.

However, if income tax is going to be devolved, then there is no remaining case, such as there ever was, for the Barnett Formula. Simply none.

The powers are coming back to the English cities and counties, and must come back to them all equally. As, strictly on the basis of need, must the money.

Let's Not Be Wrong Now

Some of us who are of the same generation as Mehdi Hasan, and whose roots are also mainstream Labour rather than any kind of Marxist, were thoroughly critical of the EU even when we were teenagers.
Which privatisation did the EU prevent? Which dock, factory, shipyard, steelworks or mine did it save? If we needed the EU for the employment law that, since we do not have it, the EU is obviously powerless to deliver, then there would be no point or purpose to the British Labour Movement.
Beyond fighting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership every step of the way, Labour needs to commit itself, first, to the restoration of the supremacy of United Kingdom over EU law, and to its use to give effect, both to explicit Labour policy by repatriating industrial and regional policy (whereas the Conservatives are not committed to any specific repatriation), and to what is at least implicit Labour policy by repatriating agricultural policy and by reclaiming our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law: 200 miles, or to the median line.
Secondly, to the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them.

Thirdly, to the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Fourthly, to the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament.
Fifthly, to the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs who had been certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.
And sixthly, to the giving of effect to the express will of the House of Commons, for which every Labour MP voted, that the British contribution to the EU Budget be reduced in real terms.

Missing The French Connection

And so the East Coast Main Line prepares to pass from British public ownership into French public ownership.

Cheap fares in France, which I do not begrudge.

But paid for by extortionate fares in Britain.

UKIP, if you can, then make yourselves useful.

Meanwhile, there is talk of devolving to Scotland the power to renationalise the railways. But that is impossible, since the East Coast Main Line, among others, is a single company. A single company that is about to become owned by a foreign state.

If the railways had never been privatised, or if they had been renationalised in accordance with Labour's 1997 manifesto and several high-profile speeches by Tony Blair, then the devolution of transport at all could never have happened, and Scottish independence would be an obvious nonsense to even more people than it already is.

It is not too late.

Service Obligation

We all knew that this would happen when Vince Cable implemented the Lib Dem manifesto and privatised the Royal Mail.

With enough of an effort, and with the right local candidates (whether or not they had been party members beforehand), Labour could pick up 100 rural seats on this issue.

Seats that were mostly unimaginable in the past, and which, unless the breakthrough were made next year, would mostly be unimaginable in the future.

As for the blatantly crooked manner in which that privatisation was gone about, it has always cried out for a criminal investigation.

As our very own Pat Glass said at the time. Did anything ever come of that?

Of course, anyone may report a crime. But who would notice if I reported this one, or probably if you did? 

This is a job for a Member of Parliament.

Profit Without Honour In His Own Country

They were baffled by the widespread hatred exhibited at the time of the death of Margaret Thatcher.

They would not begin to understand the continuing abomination of the name of Winston Churchill (a "hidden immigrant", according to UKIP and the Daily Express) in the old mining areas.

And likewise, Americans just do not get the revulsion in Britain at the mere thought of Tony "Save The Children" Blair.

The only international parallel of which I can think is the deep and wide loathing of Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia.

But can anyone think of any others? An American one, perhaps?

Osborne Out Of It

George Osborne was clearly stoned at Prime Minister's Questions.

There has been an aversion of well-bred eyes from the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a cocaine addict with, moreover, a history of frequenting sadomasochistic prostitutes.

This has already gone on for far too long.

It needs to end immediately.

The Ivan Test

Tony Blair used to apply something called "the Euan Test" to ... oh, who the hell cares?

David Cameron has "the Ivan Test", enabling him to shoehorn in a reference to his late son in order to place himself beyond criticism.

I have been as critical as anyone of the cult of Jack Monroe, but Cameron ought to have been called out on this long ago.

His family history serves only to make his persecution of the sick and disabled even more reprehensible.

That needs to be said.

Over, and over, and over again.


As it enters its sixth day, it is trending at Number One in this country, and it is trending worldwide even though it exists only in this country.

With an eight-point Labour lead in the key marginals, not only must Cameron go, but he certainly will go.

It is all over bar the voting.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Hidden Migrants

How right the Daily Express is about those born in Britain to one or more foreign parents.

All four of the so-called Duke of Edinburgh's children must be deported at once to Schleswig-Holstein, Sonderburg or Glücksburg, where they belong.

A Glorious Tradition

Tuesday 25 November 2014

This Opening To The Transcendent

I have the fondest memories of Strasbourg, but they are from before I became a Catholic...

How Much Must Women Change Themselves?

"The hormonal impacts of taking contraceptive medication for years on end are neither properly understood nor reported," says Holly Grigg-Spall.

We have long since decided that femaleness, simply in itself, was a medicable condition requiring the pumping of women's and girls' bodies full of highly poisonous substances in order to stop those bodies from doing what they do naturally.

That is the very opposite of medicine.

And it is being done in order to make women and girls permanently available for the sexual gratification of men and boys.

But we now seem to have decided to treat maleness in the same way, and to get in even younger than we did with femaleness.

The prescription of drugs to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder increased by more than 50 per cent in the six years to August 2013.

Mostly for having been born boys, half a million or more British children are now drugged up to their eyeballs with Ritalin and such like as "treatment" for ADHD and various other nonexistent conditions.

Soft Southerners

David Mellor would have been kicked out of any taxi and told to walk if he had done that up here.

Private View

Over to David Cameron to call for private schools to be taken out of politics altogether by losing their charitable status and simply being taxed as the businesses that they are.

Even he does not send his children to them. They are now institutions of the global megarich, physically located in Britain by chance and by historical accident.

It is not as if the people who still use them can vote here. Or would notice if the fees went up.

Meanwhile, another "frontier of the State" could be said to have been "rolled back", and another "Labour tax hike" could be said to have been "blocked".

Fit To Print

If The National, "the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland", succeeds, then it will show that there is still a market for sufficiently distinctive political voices in the print media.

Lay Not This Sin To Their Charge?

As the remains of St Stephen turn up in Ramallah, Israel votes to do everything short of denaturalise both St Stephen's devotees and the close relatives of Ramallah's inhabitants.

Her Christian cheerleaders abroad are as Saul of Tarsus.

At The Extremities

How does one apply to be on Theresa May's "civil liberties and privacy board"?

I shall of course consider it a personal affront if I am not classified as an extremist under her barking mad new laws.

Watch out for the MPs who will vote against them, indicating the categories against whom all of this is really aimed.

"The greatest threat to our security in all of our history"? What, greater than the Blitz? It is as if Tony Blair never went away.

School's Not Out

The increasing censorship and so on at universities is the result of the introduction of undergraduate tuition fees.

Most people go to school for free. Yet those who go on to university, and there is no university that admits predominantly from the fee-paying sector, have done so on that basis: neither they nor, distinct from general taxation, their parents have contributed one penny to the efforts made by the school to get them there, but those efforts have demonstrably been made.

For nine thousand pounds per annum, in most cases to be paid off by being in debt for decades, they expect a deluxe version of that which they received at school. If that gives a university the culture of a school, then so be it.

Already, they talk about "going to", rather than "being at", a university and its constituent parts. They talk about "doing", rather than "studying" or "reading", a particular subject. They talk about "Year One", "Year Two" and "Year Three", rather than "the first year", "the second year" and "the third year".

They are still at school. Only more so, because they are paying to be there.

No News Is Good News

Ed Miliband and his bacon sandwich were the main "news" for days, as was that business with some faded pop star last week. Nigel Farage's going to the pub is the main news whenever it happens.

Part of the most recent Newsnight was about Scrabble, with much of the rest given over to an "interview" with a non-English-speaking French nobody who had a book to plug.

#CameronMustGo is nothing like so trivial.

Meanwhile, three polls show a Labour lead of four or five points, including a six-point Labour lead in England. Labour could in principle win an overall majority with English seats alone.

I just thought that you might like to know.

Why Jim Webb Matters

The Goalposts Have Never Moved

The ridiculous Owen Paterson is apparently unaware that there never was "a free trade area" called "the Common Market".

He never listened to Peter Shore, Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Douglas Jay, Barbara Castle and all the rest. Or, for that matter, to Enoch Powell. Anyone who didn't, cannot complain now.

As thick as mince, and unknown for anything apart from an Alan Partridge remark about badgers, who would be in his Cabinet? That brother-in-law in the Lords and on The Times who chaired Northern Rock when it went bust?

Monday 24 November 2014

Many Mansions

I do not like the mansion tax. But it is a very popular policy.

Following his remarks over some tweet or something, a variation on it is going to have to be proposed by the politician most vulnerable to the charge of representing the mansioned and no one else.

David Cameron.

He'll call it something else, of course. But he'll have to do it.

From Pariah To Policeman

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf, explains Robert Fisk.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Oddly Shaped Balls

I have no idea whether or not Professor Allyson Pollock is right about rugby. But I know why her critics treat her as, in her words, "a traitor to some cause."

Rugby defines many subcultures, and even entire peoples, as different.

As neither British (or, these days, American) nor Australian. As neither North Welsh nor English; as Welsh while, often militantly, unable to speak Welsh.

As a Scottish Borderer, and thus still liable to encounter, even if less baldly, the attitude to the young David Steel when he visited Glasgow. The son of a Past Moderator of the General Assembly, he was asked if he was "enjoying [his] visit to Scotland."

As an Afrikaner, defined precisely by not being at least half a dozen other things, past and present.

As an ancestral Basque or Catalan from the South West of France, where next to no one still speaks either Basque or Catalan, thereby necessitating other signs of distinctiveness. 

Ireland is, as ever, more complicated. But playing rugby marks out particular social groups in different parts of Ireland. As, with a strong political element, does very insistently not playing rugby.

In England, by far the strongest following, including the schools where the game is compulsory, is very easy to identify.

That section of society is as distinct as any of the above in their respective countries or, in New Zealand's case, neighbourhoods, and it is considerably more so than several of them.

Yet until the advent of the present Government, those people were just about able to pretend that they were this country's historical norm, and at least still a part of its mainstream.

But the reaction of the real norm and of the real mainstream to a regime that had come to power in a sort of coup in spite of the mere result of a General Election has opened even their eyes to reality.

Having given themselves a five-year term, they have lasted long enough to watch the depiction of them change from anger to remorseless ridicule and utter contempt.

Therefore, they cleave even more closely and fiercely to their defining cultural peculiarities.

Afrikaners, and ancestral Basques and Catalans from the South West of France, are central to their national lives by comparison.

But Expecting A Different Result

The Imitation Game Today

Peter Hitchens writes:

Crowds are flocking to see the laughable new film about the computer genius Alan Turing The Imitation Game.

I think they are  mainly women besotted with Benedict Cumberbatch, though some men may enjoy the sight of Keira Knightley got up as a 1940s intellectual sexpot.

It’s the usual hopeless attempt to recreate the past by dressing the cast in acres of tweed, making them all smoke and renting some ancient cars.

But the ending is genuinely horrible. The homosexual Turing is shown robbed of his mental powers by hormone drugs supposedly intended to make him ‘normal’.   

We can all shudder at this stupid and wrong treatment.  But it is easy to condemn the follies of the past.

At the time, fashionable opinion believed Turing’s ‘chemical castration’ was a humane alternative to prison.

What similarly stupid things do we believe today? How about this?

Despite growing medical doubts (a report this week said it had more to do with drug marketing than medicine), we dope huge numbers of children with pills very similar to illegal amphetamines.

This mass-doping is justified by the suspect ‘diagnosis’ of an alleged complaint called ‘ADHD’.

If Alan Turing were a child now, I think it pretty likely that his ‘odd’ behaviour would lead him to be drugged in this way, killing his special talents.

It seems to me very probable that, as you read this, some potential genius is having his life blighted, forced by smiling adults to swallow pills to make him ‘normal.

We can see this was wrong in 1953. Why can’t we see it is wrong now?

He goes on:

How can it possibly be balanced for the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme to run an uncritical, near-reverent commercial for cannabis, as it did on Wednesday?

This is not a joke. People who take this drug can end up in locked wards for the rest of their lives.

Who was responsible?

The Last Days of Christian Iraq?

"The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country. After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything," explains Patrick Cockburn.

The Choice Is Clear

An horrifically bad candidate, from the stable that by 2016 will not have won a national election in 20 years.

Rather a good candidate, whom one would have to register as a Democrat in order to vote to nominate.

As one would have to do merely in order to vote to stop the bad candidate. That can only be done by supporting someone else in particular.

If nominated, then she would certainly become the President of the United States.

Get Her Out Of Here

Why does anyone allow Edwina Currie into their country?

Saturday 22 November 2014

Rochester Round-Up

A sitting MP has been re-elected with far fewer votes than he managed last time.

He will certainly lose his seat to his own old party in May, and he is already engaged in a public feud with his new Leader, who makes up policy on the hoof.

The sight of Carswell and Reckless voting for Clive Efford's Bill to save the NHS, with Reckless even speaking in support of it, was too hilarious for words. NHS privatisation was, with Farage's amateur and dictatorial style, the reason for Mike Nattrass's secession from UKIP.

They were rightly torn to shreds by Dennis Skinner, who voted against the Treaty of Rome, against Thatcher's Single European Act and against the Maastricht Treaty, as well as having campaigned for a No vote in 1975 and for a Labour vote in 1983.

But UKIP has accepted what now seems to be the defining principle of British politics, that the heart and soul of England is the people who always voted Labour up to and including the 1992 Election. Those people have always voted Labour ever since, too. They always will. Thus speaks the heart and soul of England.

Still, UKIP may as well make itself useful, by campaigning for the abolition of prescription charges, of eye and dental charges, and of hospital car parking charges. Along with the renationalisation of the railways, of the utilities and of the Royal Mail, as supported by the majority of their (and of the Conservatives') supporters.

That white van man was a Conservative supporter in 2010 and will have voted either for that party or for UKIP in Thursday's by-election. He openly admits to having hung out his flags purely in order to annoy ethnic minorities. They will not have been offended by those flags. But he hoped and expected that they would be.

Emily Thornberry should have stood her ground. She grew up on a council estate, where the houses will not have had porticoes. In her childhood, or even in mine, next to no one would have known what that flag was.

Flag-waving in general is not very English. But until 20 years ago, if you had asked the English what their flag was, then they would have told you something quite other than that. Nothing invented by, of all things, the advertising industry can be said to be part of working-class culture.

Least of all something that was invented as an integral part of pricing the working classes out of attendance at live football matches by rebranding them as a posh boys' interest, in order to make possible a drastic increase in the price of the beer thus associated with them.

Thursday 20 November 2014

A Big Day Tomorrow

Clive Efford's Bill to save the NHS.
Ian Mearns's Bill to end the abuses of zero hours contracts.
Ignore the mere re-election of an incumbent for a party that had never previously opposed him. That will not be news.

Still In A Computer Wasteland

But while I am here, Seumas Milne on how austerity has obviously failed and ought therefore to be abandoned.
Mehdi Hasan on the austerity-promoting and anti-democratic EU, even if he does need to speak for himself, since some of us of the same generation, and likewise of the historical Labour mainstream rather than any kind of Marxist, certainly did recognise all of this even when we were teenagers.
And Peter Oborne on UKIP, Daniel Hannan, and the fact that Michael Gove is the worst Chief Whip in a generation.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Reckless, Indeed

He is mostly Irish.
And not "came over  in the nineteenth century" Irish, either. His grandfather was Henry McDevitt, the considerably less Irish Éamon de Valera's man in East Donegal.
Repatriation, indeed.

Upon The Holy Hills

Brendan O'Neill and Tim Stanley should come to Durham.
Up here, we read in disbelief of these bans and things elsewhere.
We'll debate absolutely anything with absolutely anyone.

Village Voices

Yesterday's defeat of the Government over pubs echoed the defeat of the Thatcher Government over Sunday trading. As in that case, Tory traditionalists lined up with Labour against their own party's market fundamentalists. (Traditionalism and fundamentalism are always very different things, whatever alliances they may form from time to time.)

A key figure in that case was Sir Roger Gale, as he has since become. He was on Newsnight last night to mark the tenth anniversary of the hunting ban. He was debating against Labour's Baroness Mallalieu, of the Countryside Alliance. Sir Roger is a stalwart of the League Against Cruel Sports.

It is a feature of anti-hunting Conservatives (of whom there used to be far more; only procedural devices prevented a ban in the Major years, when it had majority Commons support) that they are otherwise very right-wing indeed, whether Old Right, New Right, or a combination of aspects of each.

Think of Sir Roger. Think of Sir Teddy Taylor. Think of Ann Widdecombe. Think of the late Alan Clark and the late Sir Anthony Beaumont-Dark.

It is also noticeable that many staunch hunting areas elect very few Conservative MPs, and that some elected barely any for a good many years until 2010.

Think of Yorkshire, the Midlands, Devon, Cornwall and Wales.

The unenforceable hunting ban is bringing the law into disrepute in certain areas and among certain people as surely as the non-enforcement of the drug laws does in and among certain others.

Indeed, there are points of contact. From where do you think that, directly or indirectly, squires' children obtain their drugs? Especially among men, there has never been much of a line between the very top and the very bottom of British society.

Universal Disservice

The case for a Police investigation into the privatisation of the Royal Mail, Lib Dem policy in 2010 and carried out by Vince Cable, has always been unanswerable. Where is that investigation?
And now, exactly as predicted, the universal service obligation is going down the pan, too.
Only Clive Efford's Bill on Friday can prevent the same thing from happening to the NHS.
Yes, David Cameron, of course it is backed by the unions. Your party and circle are funded up to their eyeballs by the American healthcare companies, unscrutinised by a BBC that was until recently chaired by Chris Patten.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Special Measures

Raise a glass to celebrate this afternoon's quite heavy Commons defeat (or, for the good side, victory) over pubs.

Whatever Michael Gove used to do to a school with an incompetent Head Teacher, that now needs to be done to the Government Whips' Office.

Grown-Ups Are Talking I

Robert Skidelsky on David Cameron and the economy.

Grown-Ups Are Talking II

Peter Oborne on UKIP.

All In This Together

Using some new app or what have you, The Daily Politics found that its viewers were disproportionately over 60, tended to feel that UKIP said what a lot of people really thought, and had only £125 of spending money after the bills had been paid.
It also found that Owen Jones's readers were disproportionately under 25, were well to the left, and had only £125 of spending money after the bills had been paid.
I think that we can all see the real story here.

That'll Do Nicely?

I know that that is American Express rather than Visa, but it still works, because the United States is one of the 56 - fifty-six - countries and territories whose passport-holders may enter the United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies without a visa and stay for six months.

This is not about the EU. Their nationals and some others can come here without visas and stay forever. The reasons are complicated, but that is not what this post is about.
No, this one is easy. Make it reciprocal. Your people can do that here, if our people can do it in your respective countries. No problem.
With effect from 1st January of this year, Omanis, Emiratis and Qataris, whose government in the last case funds IS, may obtain online an electronic free pass into this country.

That is open and public corruption by a party which knows and cares more about the global superclass than it does about our own national security.
It must be repealed.
I have my doubts about Yvette Cooper, who has some of the posturing authoritarianism of the New Labour years in the Home Affairs brief.

But this is her double chance: promise to make visa exemptions conditional upon reciprocity, and promise to abolish the very special treatment for those sponsored by three of the most repressive, and in at least one case terrorism-sponsoring, regimes on the face of the earth.
Bring these matters to a division of the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity.

Very preferably, bring them to a division on a proposed amendment with legislative effect.

Headless From The Start

The predominant opponents, such as there still are, of the ordination of women in the Church of England are not the lace queens beloved of Fleet Street, but the Conservative Evangelicals.
They are committed to, in the words of the Reform Covenant, "The unique value of women's ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests-in-charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate." Like the Scarlet Woman of Rome, in fact.
But from its very foundation, in the establishment of the Royal Supremacy, the Church of England has been in formal breach of the New Testament doctrine of male headship in the Church.
It has been in material breach throughout the reigns of Elizabeth I, Queen Anne, Queen Victoria and the present Queen, all of whom are everything short of worshipped by the constituency that is now represented by Reform and the Church Society.
Many in that constituency also will not hear a word against Margaret Thatcher, whose ecclesiastical role during her Premiership added Scriptural disobedience to Scriptural disobedience.
A text from one of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion declaring black to be white does not make black white. Black is not white.
If a woman, as such, can be the de jure or de facto Supreme Governor of the Church of England, then a woman, as such, can be a priest-in-charge, or an incumbent, or a dignitary (an archdeacon, a dean, that kind of thing), or a bishop.
But if a woman, as such, cannot be a priest-in-charge, or an incumbent, or a dignitary, or a bishop, then a woman, as such, cannot be the de jure or de facto Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
It simply will not do to fall back on some languid, gentlemen's club way on the giggling insistence that it is un-English to take theology seriously. Catholics from the very start, and Puritans and their successors for almost as long, have made this point and more. They, we, are at least as much features of the English religious landscape.

I am a firm antidisestablishmentarian.

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.

The establishment of the Royal Supremacy set the pattern for many a subsequent nationalisation, merely taking over what was already there and leaving almost everything, including most of the management, in place.

To the consternation of radicals. But to the reassurance, not to say the gainful employment, of all but the most advanced conservatives.

In this case, the thing nationalised was the previous role of the Papacy. If it is the New Testament doctrine of male headship in the Church that you need, then there is one place where you will always, always, always be able to find it.

Monday 17 November 2014

Crash, Bang, Wallop

If there is a second global crash, then will that, too, be blamed in Britain on the then British Government and on its millions of employees?
If not, why not?
Until the one in 2008, the British economy was so successful, and the public sector was so essential to that success, that the Conservatives were committed to matching Labour's departmental spending plans pound for pound.

Meaning that David Cameron and George Osborne were committed to matching Gordon Brown's and Alistair Darling's departmental spending plans pound for pound.

Even on the day of the last General Election, still under Brown and Darling, with Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in close attendance on them, there was no recession in the United Kingdom, and this country enjoyed a Triple A credit rating.

Who would believe that that was a mere four and a half years ago?

I almost hope that there is another crash between today and next year's General Election.

After all, an incoming Government with its members' previous record would quickly sort out the consequences here.

Heading Out

The Lords Spiritual were never Lords for any spiritual reason. They were there because of the vast landholdings of the Medieval English Church, and then of the Church of England, which still holds them. But seats in the House of Lords on that basis are no longer occupied by anyone else.
From the first appointment of a woman as a bishop in the Church of England, that office will no longer even purport to express in any way the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God, issuing in Church Fathers who, in an Established Church, function as Fathers of the Nation. Why, then, will Church of England bishops, as such, still have seats in the House of Lords?
If the point is to embody sexual equality in employment opportunities, then those seats ought to go to the trade unions, at least these days. If the point is to embody responsibility for and to every inch of the Realm, then those seats ought to go to local government, which, moreover, exists across every inch of the United Kingdom, unlike the Church of England.
Even if the point is to embody a specifically English Christianity, then the Church of England has never accounted for more than half of churchgoers in England since anyone first checked in the middle of the nineteenth century, and has not even been the single largest in a generation now.
The arguments advanced for its parliamentary privilege, and which make sense in the Home Counties, would be greeted with blank incredulity in the Nonconformist heartlands of the North and the West Country; in the Catholic heartlands of the North, the Midlands and many parts of London (although not the parts that write as the sole recognised voice of English Catholicism in the pages of the Daily Telegraph); and in the great swathes of London and of certain other centres where the black-majority churches are now so predominant that even Songs of Praise has had to be altered in order to reflect that fact.
The Church of England not merely supported, but wrote, the 1967 Abortion Act and the 1969 Divorce Reform Act, in reports dating back to the 1950s, long before such measures enjoyed anything like public support. The humane and necessary decriminalisation of male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private actually went nowhere near as far as the Church of England had recommended in the Fisher years.
Half-baked in ideology and half-hearted in expression were the attacks on the Thatcherism for which most of the Church of England's observant laity and at least a large minority of its clergy voted, in stark contrast to the heavily Labour-voting Methodists and Catholics, then as now, possessed as those were and are of the theological resources necessary in order to formulate such a critique.
The Church of England's reserved parliamentarians were thus unable to prevent the implementation of Tony Blair's wicked schemes to impose on the world by force of arms the logically inescapable combination of the 1960s and the 1980s.
They have thus been unable to affect in any way the previously unimaginable acceleration of all three of Jenkinsism, Thatcherism and Blairism by the present bestial Coalition, within and around which the Church of England's regular attendees are more prominent than within or around any Government in many decades, reflecting the voting habits of the huge majority of those regular attendees.
And as of today, there is no particular reason for those reserved parliamentarians to exist at all.

Saturday 15 November 2014

A Rocket Up The Whole Thing

Well, that's that, then.
Following Nigel Farage's New Statesman piece, Nicola Sturgeon's explicit guarantee that the SNP would not support a Conservative Government but would, on certain conditions, support a Labour Government, means that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are now the only Party Leaders who do not openly and publicly want the supposedly useless Ed Miliband to become Prime Minister.
So much for David Cameron's (in itself, utterly unremarkable) request that Labour, Lib Dem and Green supporters vote Conservative at Rochester and Strood. I mean, they might, although I doubt it very much.
But the next General Election, far from being the most complicated since the War or what have you, has become a straight fight between ConDem Cameron and a pro-Miliband alliance of everyone else.
Vote ConDem to keep Cameron as Prime Minister. Vote any other way, since Natalie Bennett is also on record as being open to Labour conditionally but absolutely closed to the Conservatives, and the end result would be Miliband in Number 10, not by accident, but by design.
The only person other than Cameron who wants to keep him is Clegg. Do you agree with Nick?
Sturgeon promised to make the payment of the Living Wage a condition of public sector contracts in Scotland, while including the dig that Holyrood could not make it a requirement by legislation. Labour therefore, and in any case, needs to promise to legislate to that effect throughout the United Kingdom.
But her main condition was the absence of nuclear weapons from Scotland. Again, Labour needs not only to match that, but to exceed it, by making it Union-wide.
No, Russia is not a bastion of liberal democracy, nor is she our ally, which would be an entirely different matter. But she has neither the will nor the means to attack us; nor had the Soviet Union, which could not transport bread from one town to the next.
Russia's internal and external enemies are also, at best, no friends of ours. They, too, are no paragons of whatever our values might be.
Unless, in the internal case, those values are unreconstructed Stalinism, or Islamism, or "National Bolshevism" with the hammer and sickle in place of the swastika on the Nazi flag, or an anti-industrial, anti-urban and anti-scientific anti-Semitism.
If Sir Edward Leigh or Dennis Skinner, the broadly Old Right Fleet Street brigade or the Morning Star, were in truth as their respective detractors allege, then that would issue in the strongest possible hostility to Russia, rather than in the opposite approach that they do in fact adopt.
Tomorrow, veterans of the Waffen SS Galicia, many of whom settled in Britain after the War, will march to the Cenotaph in London, accompanied by their supporters. There is to be a silent protest against  them, in memory of the victims of Ukrainian Nazism, past and very much present.

Friday 14 November 2014

Nothing Reckless

No, of course Ed Miliband is not going to participate in some "debate" with Nigel Farage for the bobby prize of coming, well, where, exactly?
There are going to be far more SNP MPs than UKIP ones. There are going to be more DUP MPs than UKIP ones. There may well be more Sinn Féin MPs than UKIP ones.

There is a good chance, due to their more concentrated support, of there being more Green MPs than UKIP ones; undoubtedly, the number will be comparable.

There might be more Plaid Cymru MPs than UKIP ones; again, there will be much the same number of each.

Even next year, there are bound to be more Lib Dem MPs than UKIP ones.

UKIP is about to pull off for the second time the decidedly unimpressive trick of re-electing an incumbent against whom it did not field a candidate last time and whose views bare precious little resemblance to this week's on-the-hoof UKIP policy about anything.

Farage is in this week's New Statesman, offering to support a Labour Government. What, exactly, would he and Miliband have to debate, at least this week?

In any case, there is going to be a Labour overall majority.

As for David Cameron's appeal to Labour, Lib Dem and Green supporters to vote Conservative at Rochester and Strood, that's called ... oh, what is the word? Politics. That's it. That's called politics.

It is surprising, if to anyone, then only to people with absolutely no knowledge of, or interest in, political activity. If you find it remotely worthy of comment, then that is what you are: a person with absolutely no knowledge of, or interest in, political activity.

As for Mark Reckless himself, at least he does seem to have grown up in Britain, rather than returning to Kenya or Peru during the holidays from his eccentric educational institution.

He has not acquired his view of Britain entirely from the odd, not to say the very odd, book, to which he then demands that the place be conformed, screaming with rage because his vision is unrecognisable to the rest of us.

It is one thing to come here, including via the public schools, from elsewhere, to decide to stay, and to accept that that gives you a lot to learn.

But it is quite another to insist that you already know all about Britain, whereas the people who have lived most or all of their lives here have little or no understanding of this country's "real" or "true" character.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Falling Down

Consternation that Ken Livingstone, who once again topped the poll for the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, last might addressed a rally in support of Lutfur Rahman.
Well, Rahman is not at this moment an anti-Labour candidate for anything. His dispute is with Eric Pickles.
Whereas prominent journalists who are Labour Party members endorsed Boris Johnson against Livingstone.
One of those has since left that party voluntarily over something else. But the rest remain members of it in good standing.
The London Labour Party is complete and utter shambles.

Sackless Gove

Having already been sacked as Education Secretary, when is the worst Chief Whip in living memory (and remember on whose CLP I struggled along for years) going to be sacked from that, too?

Own Goal

It turns out that the Russians and the Qataris, the respective backers of the two sides in the Syrian Civil War, are nowhere near as bent as our own dear Football Association.
It would take a heart of stone, and all that.

Is Our Friend

Len McCluskey was on Question Time on the day that the impending release of Harry Roberts was announced. He called for a change in the law so that convicted murders of Police Officers would never be released from prison. Now that Roberts is out, expect that to be announced as Labour Party policy.
The Police are a key part of the public sector trade union family; they have the most old school trade union of the lot, due to the fact that officially it is not one. Four and a half years of Theresa May mean that there is probably not a Conservative voter left among them in the entire country. In any case, they need to be given something in return for the Orgreave Inquiry that has already been promised.
Come to the Durham Miners' Gala, and you will see that relations between the old mining communities and the Police are now back to where they were before the Strike, when young bobbies were recruited from miners' families that were proud to provide them. They routinely married miners' daughters, and so on. That was what She destroyed. But She is dead.
Why, this seat of North West Durham even has an MP whose husband was a member of Durham Constabulary during the Miners' Strike, and who is himself now a Durham County Councillor for an old mining ward.
Pat herself, though admittedly never active in Branch, Constituency or District Labour Party affairs that anyone can recall, tweeted her grief while attending this year's funeral of Stan Pearce, the Militant Tendency's main man inside the Durham Miners' Association during the Strike.
Yet this was once the Armstrongs' seat, which Hilary's protégé publicly announced would be his. One day before an all-women shortlist was imposed. Later, but no longer, the Director of Labour North, he also used to tell me off for attending the Big Meeting.
How the world turns.
And how quickly.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Tap, Tap, Tap

First, it was tapping lawyers and their clients.
Now, it is tapping MPs and their constituents.
What do you have to do to be found in contempt of Parliament and banged up?

Reporting Restrictions

How ridiculous, you may think, that the handpicked journalists who are permitted to attend the rapidly collapsing trial of Erol Incedal are not permitted to report what they hear.
No more ridiculous than the Parliamentary Lobby system. Or, to put it another way, that system is no more ridiculous than this.
In this age of live-streaming and all the rest of it, where is the remaining need of the Parliamentary Press Gallery? It now fills up its time inventing non-existent plots against Ed Miliband.

The Parliamentary Labour Party met last night. There were 23 speeches, and they were all pro-Ed. The media are making this up.

The polling in the key marginals has been consistent forever, and there is no sign that these "20 Shadow Ministers" really exist.

In any case, as none of the media seems to be able to bother to check, a Labour Leadership challenge is procedurally impossible this side of next year's Party Conference.

No one in the media knows anything about any party other than the Conservatives. Never have, never will.

That includes the Lobby. Indeed, that is the worst of the lot.

Away with it.

Monday 10 November 2014


It looks as if there might be no Commons vote, at least today (and therefore this week), on the European Arrest Warrant.
That rather suggests that Labour has come up with an excuse to vote against it, or at least for the front bench to abstain and leave backbenchers to do as they would, most likely go home.
But with everything gearing up towards an Opposition Day motion on the surcharge fiasco before very long at all, we shall be here again, more or less, and the Government will have no way of preventing a Division of the House.
Daniel Hannan has been prominent, which is not something that can often be said of an MEP. The BBC has taken to pronouncing his name HannAn, presumably in order to make it sound less HiberniAn.
Patrick O'Flynn once castigated my "ignorance" on Twitter for suggesting that the Kipper vote would never come out for a candidate called Patrick O'Flynn. I admit that I was having fun on that occasion.
But Hannan is a much bigger deal. The Radical Right is convinced that he is famous, and in fact he is more famous than Douglas Carswell or Mark Reckless.
It is very telling that, although for all practical purposes Hannan has now left the Conservative Party, he has not joined UKIP. He would immediately expect to be made Leader of it, but that would be highly unlikely to happen.
Out of interest, does UKIP plan on fielding any Kipper candidates next year, or are they all going to be recent refugees from the Conservative Party?
Well, I say the Conservative Party. But the network of Hard Right think tanks, publications, and so on, is not in fact the Conservative Party. Hence the "Lord Who?" remarks about Lord Hill.
"A Peer of the Realm and a Cabinet Minister for whom the European Commission has invented a high-powered position, that's who. But you won't have heard of him, because he came up through the Tory Party. The real one. That you are not in."
Like the SDP, the electoral performance of which they are on course to emulate after comparable levels of media hype, the neo-Kippers are "leaving" a party of which they were barely members to start with. Not only, or even primarily, in ideological term, but in any terms.
And their own essential foreignness is becoming increasingly apparent. As it was put to me only today, in response to Saturday's post about how little time the present crop of right-wingers had spent in Britain in their lives, "Hannan is like Paddington, he comes from Darkest Peru and he has the accent to prove it."
Not just the accent.
That lot believe in their own idea of Britain, not in the reality. They hate the reality. The reality of Britain has no reason to love them. An SDP-like showing in May would be far better than their views deserved. If the media did their jobs properly, then it would be far better than those views would secure at the ballot box.

Until The Sunnis Feel Safe

The great Patrick Cockburn writes:
Islamic State (Isis) has a grisly ritual whereby its victims are compelled to chant "the Islamic State remains" in the moments before they are executed.

Unfortunately, the slogan remains all too true: five months after Isis defeated the Iraqi army and captured much of northern and western Iraq, it is still tightening its grip on its territory in Iraq and Syria and nobody has devised a feasible policy to defeat it.

The US announced on Friday that it is to send another 1,500 soldiers to Iraq to advise and train its army, doubling the number it already has in the country.

A new development is that the extra troops will be sent to serve in Iraqi army and Kurdish units and no longer be confined to Baghdad and the Kurdish capital, Erbil.

The supposed reason for sending them, according to the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, is because "the Iraqis have demonstrated the willingness and the will to go after Isil [Isis]".

A more likely motive for sending US reinforcements at this time is that, over the past six weeks, the military situation in Iraq has either not changed or, in parts of the country, has deteriorated significantly.

On 2 October, Isis launched an offensive in Anbar, a vast province west of Baghdad that makes up a quarter of Iraq.

It captured most of the towns, villages and bases it did not already hold, winning a victory in the battle for Anbar that has been going on since the start of the year and opening the way for an attack on Baghdad.

Contrary to what the Pentagon is saying, the Iraqi army showed that it remains unable to stop Isis and launch an effective counteroffensive.

The most important feature of the Iraqi and American plan to weaken and ultimately to defeat Isis is to turn the Sunni tribes against the movement, as happened in 2006-07.

Then, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the predecessor of Isis, faced a revolt by the so-called Awakening Movement, provoked by its brutal rule and encouraged by US money and protection.

But this time round, it is not happening like that: Isis is determined to prove that it will slaughter any Sunni tribe, party or individual opposing it.

The tragic fate of the Albu Nimr tribe over the past few weeks is a demonstration of why it will be so difficult to engineer a Sunni tribal revolt against Isis.

The Albu Nimr claim half a million members concentrated in central Anbar but also present in Mosul, Salahuddin and Baghdad.

They played an important role in combating AQI from 2006 on and, from the start of this year, were one of the main forces fighting Isis.

But, in early October, they lost two important strongholds at Hit and Zauiyat, and, ever since, Isis has mercilessly hunted down their tribesmen.

So far, the Albu Nimr say that 497 of their members have been killed in a series of massacres, including 20 women and 16 children.

On 29 October, 55 tribesmen were executed who had been members of the Awakening Movement and police at Zauiyat before it was overrun. Others were rounded up and killed in the following days.

Isis had sleeper cells in Zauiyat who identified tribesmen to be arrested and later killed. Often their homes were taken over by Isis fighters and black flags raised above them.

Much of the rest of the tribe is now in flight.

When the Albu Nimr's stronghold at Zauiyat was under siege by Isis, the tribal elders appealed to Baghdad for help in the shape of weapons and air strikes, but they received neither.

It is an important failure because other Sunni tribes, angered at Isis's seizure of power in their territories, will think twice about staging a revolt when the penalty of failure is mass murder and the eviction of survivors from their homes.

In its determination to eliminate all who threaten Isis from within, the organisation does not rely solely on collective punishment of known opponents.

Unlike AQI, it has its own security and intelligence service, similar to the Mukhabarat of Saddam Hussein and the present Iraqi government.

It strikes pre-emptively, seeking out tribal sheikhs, former members of the Awakening Movement and retired army and police officers critical of the new jihadi regime.

It sees enemies everywhere, responding with a fresh wave of killings to calls for an anti-Isis uprising by Sunni leaders in Baghdad and Erbil.

Much of this may be paranoia, since it is the weakness of the Sunni political leaders and their lack of a mass following that has opened the door to extreme Sunni jihadis in both Iraq and Syria.

There have been some small successes by the anti-Isis forces on the periphery of the caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on 29 June.

These could be viewed as an optimistic sign that Isis can be beaten in the field, but these victories are not quite what they seem and are certainly not all good news from the point of view of Washington.

One success was the recapture of the Sunni town of Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad, an important development since it lies across the capital's communications with the Shia heartlands to the south.

But the defeat of Isis here was by Shia militiamen, reportedly under the overall direction of Iranian officers; it was only after the town had fallen that it was handed over to the Iraqi army.

Its 80,000 Sunni population fled and there is little likelihood they will return because they are too frightened to do so, and the location of their town is too great a threat for the Baghdad government to allow them to come back.

Similarly, when Kurdish Peshmerga recaptured the Arab-Kurdish town of Rabia on the Syrian border, they found that just one Sunni Arab had stayed behind – and he was regarded with suspicion.

What happened in these two widely separated places highlights the dilemma facing millions of Sunni in Isis-held areas in Iraq and Syria: they may detest and fear Isis, but they hate and are even more terrified by the Iraqi and Syrian governments.

In these circumstances, no wonder the US is doubling its forces on the ground to try to stiffen Iraqi government resistance.

Sent to bases in the field, the soldiers would presumably be able to call in close-support US air strikes.

Hitherto, only about 10 per cent of 6,600 air missions flown in Iraq and Syria have led to air strikes because Isis has evacuated bases and buildings it used to occupy and hidden its vehicles and heavy weapons.

Only at the siege of Kobani have its fighters been concentrated and vulnerable to air attacks using precise intelligence from the Syrian Kurds on the ground.

President Obama was criticised during the run-up to the congressional elections for his limp response to the escalating wars in Iraq and Syria.

But the Republicans were sensibly wary of suggesting an alternative strategy: the US problem is that it has never had a credible partner on the ground in Syria in three years of war, and none in Iraq since the fall of Mosul on 10 June.

Until it has, Isis will remain.