Tuesday 31 October 2017


15 years ago, an extremely young Jared O'Mara was doing what he was doing, whatever it was.  Can anyone still remember? Does anyone still care? Meanwhile, Michael Fallon, a middle-aged Member of Parliament, was doing what he was doing.

Fallon lied through his teeth to Parliament when a Trident hit Florida. He has presided over the reduction of the Royal Navy to a few dozen cocaine-fuelled orgiasts, and the reduction of the British Army to a few dozen neo-Nazi terrorists. He has berated MPs for caring more about the lives of Yemeni children than about arms sales to Saudi Arabia, sales that, as much as anything else, amount to the direct arming of the so-called Islamic State.

And now, this. The Sun would never have run it unless there were more to reveal. Fallon heads the pack of those whose unlamented loss to Parliament will be this Government's unlamented loss of any pretence to a majority in the House of Commons.

Fabian Executive Election Result

I didn't get on, of course. As many people told me, "All the people who would have voted for you left over the coup." Still, the lowest elected candidate managed only 380 votes, and even the highest took a mere 589. 700 people could simply take over the Fabian Society.

Meanwhile, it remains the case Jeremy Corbyn is the most culturally significant British politician in living memory (he is everywhere, even on Gogglebox this week, and the little song about him is if anything even more ubiquitous in popular culture), the most agenda-setting Leader of the Opposition ever, and the global leader of the opposition to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy.

If the Fabians are not to co-ordinate that critique at home and abroad, then who is? In preparation for the Corbyn Government that will lead Britain and the world out of politically chosen austerity, and away from wars of political choice.

Monday 30 October 2017

Grow Up And Get Over It

I have not had time to check whether this has appeared in any of the several newspapers to which it was sent, but the Chair of the Labour Party should note that it would have had between 50 and 100 signatories if it had not been for the campaign against me by the nominally Labour Leadership of Durham County Council:

Dear Sir,

We fully support Ian Lavery MP against the smear campaign to which he is being subjected. Even the regulator imposed by the Thatcher anti-union legislation found that he had done nothing wrong, and even the BBC, of Orgreave infamy, broadcast its latest attack on him in the graveyard shift that is Newsnight on a Thursday when Question Time is on. Those who resent a national politician with Mr Lavery’s accent, or lack of a university degree, or whatever the supposed problem may be, are just going to have to grow up and get over it.

Yours faithfully,

David Lindsay, journalist and activist, Lanchester, County Durham 
Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union
Dave Smith, Blacklist Support Group

Investigate This

If 36 Labour MPs were under investigation for sexual harassment, then Laura Kuenssberg would be picketing Jeremy Corbyn's home, and there would be no other news. The Lobby and Guido Fawkes would have named all 36 of them.

What An Indictment

"Russia" compelled anyone to vote in a particular way how, exactly? "Conspiracy against the United States" just means "conspiracy against the Clintons", who, like the similarly minded Bushes, have been hanging around the House of Saud too long.

1517 And All That

One of the less well-known facts about Martin Luther is that, by then a generation into his revolt, he supported Catherine of Aragon against Henry VIII. As did William Tyndale, who effectively went to the stake at Vilvoorde rather than return to an England that he did not regard as having really become Protestant at all. Like Luther, Tyndale held that some king who wanted to get divorced because he had got his bit on the side pregnant was not quite what the movement was about. People who took Protestantism seriously, including as an international movement, ended up losing a Civil War in England, although they have accounted for at least half of England’s non-Catholic churchgoers ever since.

Nor did the Tudors become tyrants and torturers when they became, after their own fashion, Protestants. They had always been like that, especially after the death of Elizabeth of York, when numerous of her relatives remained alive, all with far better claims to the Throne than her widower had ever possessed. Still, they were tyrants and torturers, every one of them. It is quite hilarious that there are people who think that the issuing of Regnans in Excelsis was one of the most important things that Pope Saint Pius V ever did, or even in his Top 20 Greatest Hits. They are like the people who think that Apostolicae Curae ranks anywhere close to the writings of Pope Leo XIII on supernatural evil, on Catholic Social Teaching, and on Thomism.

By the way, the present title of Fidei Defensor derives, not from its conferral on Henry VIII by the Pope, but from its conferral by Parliament on Henry’s son, Edward VI. It tellingly remained part of the Royal Title of the Irish Free State throughout that State’s existence. Not that it has ever been peculiarly British or English; various monarchs have used it in various times and places, and Popes have conferred it on a number of people, so that, for example, Catherine of Aragon was a Defender of the Faith in her own right.

Now, to more serious concerns.

In Catholicism, the classical Evangelical finds a Church that in fact has always held Scripture to be normative among the loci of authority within Her life, and has never formally excluded the possibility that, should such a circumstance arise, Scripture’s teaching might suffice for salvation. But She believes in the Bible as it actually exists objectively, thereby compelling Her to explore joyfully the full richness both of the Biblical literature itself and of its context in the whole Church’s communal experience and proclamation of Christ.

Furthermore, Catholic theology as such, as opposed to a Late Medieval Western popular piety very much akin to contemporary popular faux Evangelicalism, has never been under the slightest misapprehension about where the initiative lies regarding salvation: God freely saves us by His grace, undeserving sinners though we are, and He does so only because of the saving acts of Jesus Christ, and above all because of Christ’s at once substitutionary, exemplary and victorious Atonement. However, God does not merely declare the sinner righteous forensically, as if as a sort of legal fiction, but actually initiates and effects a process whereby righteousness is genuinely brought about through willing co-operation with His grace.

For some people, this involves conversion and assurance as classically understood by Evangelical Protestants; for others, the experience of conversion and assurance is different. Both happen, so Rome has never rejected either, but has anathematised merely the narrow insistence on the former. There is certainly no doubt at all that God, being God, foreknows and in some sense predestines who is to be saved, but the workings of the mystery of election are not given to us to understand, and it is not our place to speculate upon them.

Evangelistic zeal was for centuries a Catholic rather than a Protestant phenomenon, with John Calvin simply ruling out the re-establishment of the office of evangelist on the grounds that, like, as he held, the office of apostle, its function belonged to days long past, when, in his view, churches were being founded. By contrast, such Catholics as Saint Francis Xavier were hugely effective in this field, and movements in the same direction among Protestants were overwhelmingly either themselves High Church, such as the SPCK or the SPG and later USPG in the Church of England, or else, like early Methodism, deeply rooted in High Churchmanship.

Of course, Catholic evangelisation is as concerned as that of any later Evangelical to foster a personal relationship between the individual and Jesus Christ. But it strongly emphasises that there is no Christ without His Body, and thus no true relationship with Him except in the context of Her communal participation in the life of the Triune God.

Catholic history abounds with movements for the reform, revival and renewal of the Church at times of crisis or corruption, through the Holy Spirit’s raising up and subsequent use of minorities at the cutting edge. The Franciscans and the Dominicans are the most obvious examples, and very important God has proved them, too. But there are also many, many more. Being ecclesia semper reformanda has always been an integral part of being ecclesia semper eadem. Central to many such reforming, reviving and renewing movements has been and is the truth that every Christian has a vocation, to be lived out in whatever course of life he or she pursues.

Bizarrely, this thoroughly Biblical, Patristic (up to and including High Medieval) and Tridentine idea is frequently alleged to have begun with the Reformers. One is at a loss as to how or why such a misconception arose, especially when so much of the Reformation, not least in England, involved replacing a lay-led and highly participatory church with a sort of clerical caste, as well as largely abandoning any claim by the Church to exercise Her Prophetic Office in the economic and political spheres.

Once laypeople started going to church only to hear sermons, and not also to meditate before the Blessed Sacrament or to pray in union with a Saint who was depicted there, then they ceased to have any cause to enter a church unless they knew for certain that a clergyman would be present. The abomination that is locked churches duly followed, long before even Catholics became forced to adopt that practice by the fear of crime.

Where many Catholics really do need to return to Scripture and to the Fathers in a way that the best Protestants have never departed from them is in recognising the equality and complementarity of the respective ministries of men and women, of clergy and laypeople, of priests and deacons, of seculars and professed Religious, of those called to marriage and those called to celibacy, and so on. But such recognition, pace much of contemporary Evangelical and Liberal Protestantism, depends precisely on a profoundly grateful appreciation of the distinctiveness of each of these ministries, and it is therefore inimical to any attempt to homogenise them.

Pace, in particular, the wishful wittering of Anglican liberals who never read anyone’s work but each other’s, the Catholic argument against the ordination of women by reference to iconic representation is not only compatible with, but inseparable from, the Evangelical, and in fact utterly Catholic, argument in terms of the Biblical pattern of male headship in the Church. Such headship is obviously iconic, both of the Fatherhood of God, and of Jesus Christ as the New Adam.

On both grounds, that iconic headship obviously enjoys a unique appropriateness to the role of visible Eucharistic celebrant, as was immediately understood and vigorously contended by the formative authors both of Anglican and other Calvinist Protestantism, and of Lutheran Protestantism, just as none of them had any truck with the “open table” policy, any more than did the pioneers of the Methodist and Baptist movements. There is no Scriptural case whatever for the view that ordained ministry is representative of the Church rather than of Her Lord; if Scripture taught that, then it would require that all ordained ministers be female.

Within what is now called “every-member ministry”, which Catholics invented and Protestants tried to dismantle, the Catholic Church certainly maintains the threefold pattern of Holy Orders – Bishop, Priest and Deacon – in the tangible Apostolic Succession through the imposition of hands with prayer. That succession by that profoundly Biblical means is a matter of historical fact, which no one thought to dispute until it suited certain people’s purposes to do so after sixteen centuries.

However, it must be distinguished from the seriously deficient Anglo-Catholic and other theories of Apostolic Succession purely in terms of hands on heads; the hands of a community are laid on the heads of a community, and episcopi vagantes do not get a look in. Valid (i.e., absolutely certain) orders are a matter, not of historical descent alone, but of present belonging to a body, including to its – to Her – history. The marks of that Body, the Church, include sanctity and apostolicity, which themselves include moral and doctrinal orthodoxy, so that the tangible Apostolic Succession always associated with Catholicism is inseparable from the Evangelical Succession of the best Protestants.

Furthermore, those most faithful to the heritage of the Magisterial Reformation have always maintained the episcopal, presbyteral and diaconal functions, even if they have often abandoned the corresponding forms. This strange abandonment is made even stranger by their very frequent insistence that those to be admitted to such functions must receive the imposition of hands with prayer from those who are already so commissioned.

Also within the collaborative and participatory ministry of the Catholic Church as a whole, one encounters the myriad of what are regarded in Protestant circles as parachurch bodies. These organisations and institutions are seen by Evangelical Protestants as comprising members of the Church who come together to do such things as the Church is called to do, such as providing educational resources, but not those things which only the Church can ever do, preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments. No split between these bodies and the One Body afflicts the Catholic Church, and Catholic voluntary agencies, apostolic Religious Orders and Secular Institutes are fully integrated into the Church’s overseeing (that is, episcopal) structures.

The Preaching of the Word has always been held by Rome, at least in principle, to be the priest’s primary duty. If this calls for a renewal in the art of Sacred Oratory, not least in the seminaries, then such a renewal can only be effected from the inside. Without in any way wishing to endorse the (especially Anglican) academic and class snobbery in Anglophone countries about the highly questionable alleged superiority of Protestant preaching, it has to be said that improvement can only ever be both necessary and desirable, not always so much in terms of style as in terms of the degree of importance attached, in practice, to this chief among apostolic ministries.

In order to be more fully Herself, the Catholic Church needs to encourage large numbers of Her members to learn the culture of the Word from that Evangelical tradition which is historically, if even in its own terms no longer necessarily, separated from Her full communion. Such a culture is one in which the defining narratives are those of the Old and New Testaments, and examples of it range from Handel to Holman Hunt.

All cultures define and perpetuate themselves by telling stories, and the Bible culture initially arose in order to fill the gaps left after the Reformation where the Lives of the Saints had previously been. Catholicity, however, requires both, not least in order to express the indivisible continuity between the Bible and the Church. Catholics are not being asked to take on anything remotely Protestant as such here: look at the Liturgy, look at the Fathers (up to and including the Medieval Doctors), look at the Medieval and post-Medieval mystics, and look at the iconography and other spirituality of the Christian East, whether Catholic or separated.

Taking on is a defining mark of Catholicism, which radically and fundamentally distinguishes the Catholic Church from the giving up that characterises Protestantism. The Bible culture needs to be like every other aspect of the living out of the Catholic Faith in being transmitted from generation to generation through the united efforts of the Catholic parish, the Catholic school and the Catholic home, “the Church in miniature”.

Catholics are the most fervent Evangelicals in our belief in the family, founded on the God-given, and not man-made, institution of Holy Matrimony. At the same time, Catholics attach no less importance to the complementary bonds of friendship in building up a society of mutual obligation and enjoyment, reflecting both the Trinitarian God and the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

To the Catholic, the whole Church was baptised with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and She manifests that baptism through a rich plurality of gifts, the charisms. The whole Church, and thus every member, is therefore both Pentecostal and Charismatic.

Every gift is a charism, and each is always given for the good of the whole body, in response to Her evangelistic activity, in the context of Her sacramental life, and subject to Her gift of discernment. She exercises that gift within Her institutional life, because the institutional Church and the charismatic Church are inseparable; they are two aspects of a single reality.

It is wholly unscriptural to impose any requirement that anyone exercise any particular charism in order to be considered a full, believing member of the Church. There has never been the slightest doubt that the charisms include healing, exorcism, prophecy and words of knowledge, nor really even that they include speaking in tongues.

Furthermore, healing is here understood as even those of us not raised in the Charismatic Movement understand it: it is the restoration of the human person to wholeness, which may or may not take the form of healing as understood by medical science, depending on what is known best to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Wisdom of God. Similarly, the performance of exorcism is restricted to suitably qualified persons, and it is only ever used against the power of that objective evil which we can but thank God that we do not fully understand.

Prophecy is recognised as the gift of being able to read the signs of the times and to communicate effectively what is thus read, so that it does always include the prediction of the future: foretelling is always integral to forth-telling. Words of knowledge are always relevant, always wise counsel, and always independently verifiable. Speaking in tongues is never without the interpretation of tongues, and together they make it possible to understand where this would not otherwise be the case.

For example, as well as having been miraculously healed, the great Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer was also blessed with the gift of tongues. Other than Ecclesiastical Latin and despite his English father, he had no language but Limousin, which was what they spoke in his native Valencia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Yet he was a tireless itinerant missionary, preaching to tremendous effect in Aragon, Castile, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Whereas glossolalia is a twentieth-century running together of two Biblical Greek words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon which does not occur in the Bible. Is it Saint Paul’s “tongues of angels”? There is nothing in Scripture to support that view. The true gift of tongues is as manifested by Saint Vincent Ferrer OP, Biblical scholar, philosopher, thus doubly informed and doubly informing theologian, and thanks to that ongoing formation a gloriously successful preacher of the Gospel, not least to the Jews, precisely as an ordained priest and a solemnly professed Religious in perfect unity with the See of Peter.

Healing, exorcism, prophecy, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, and the other charisms serve to re-root theology in experience and to call the whole Church to watch at all times for the Second Coming. They restore the integrity of the Liturgy by freeing it from over-formality and over-conventionality. And they release the ministries of women, young people, the poor, and others who experience marginalisation and oppression.

Yet there is never any question of any one gift’s being used to decide whether or not someone had been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, because it is the whole Church that has been so baptised. Nor need there be any degeneration into banal and incoherent services. And nor is there any transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders, because there is no parachurch.

The classical liberal is, of course, entirely correct to assert that belief in the objective existence of God is fully compatible with philosophical and scientific analysis, and that God operates in and through any scientifically investigable process. But such belief can never be restricted to such analysis, nor can that operation be limited to any one or more such processes. Scientific facts cannot be the objects of faith; one is simply obliged to accept them.

Likewise, it is thoroughly orthodox to assert that some sort of experience of God underlies each of the great, or indeed small, theistic religious traditions in so far as any such tradition approximates to Christianity, as well as to recognise that His Natural Law is the root cause of similarities to Christian morality in other ethical systems.

It is also the case that the full humanity of Jesus Christ must be emphasised most strongly while at the same time asserting that He was the man fully conscious of God in the way that we are all partially capable of being. However, the humanity of Christ must never be allowed to detract from His divinity, any more than vice versa, and a mere ‘degree Christology’ fails to satisfy humanity’s need for a Saviour who is at once God and Man.

As with science, so with historicity, and especially with the Historical Jesus. While the heart of the Catholic Faith is indeed God’s incarnational redemption of human life and history from within, the various Quests for the Historical Jesus have floundered due to the lack of agreement as to the objective criteria for determining which parts of the Gospels are, and which are not, historical in the post-Enlightenment sense.

It is absurd to assume, apparently a priori, that Saint John’s Gospel, the Infancy Narratives and anything involving miracles are by definition unhistorical. An absolute insistence that miracles do not ever happen is not even compatible with agnosticism, much less with Christianity.

On the matter of John, it is very much worthy of note that even Professor Dennis Nineham, in his epilogue to The Myth of God Incarnate, cites B H Streeter’s calculation that, except for the 40 days and nights in the wilderness, everything attributed to Jesus in all four Gospels could have happened in a mere three weeks. (This argument is also very useful against those who would deny the authority of the Apostolic Traditions.)

In any case, historical criticism cannot be treated as if it existed apart from the several other means of engagement with the Biblical text; they need all to be applied within the context of each other, even if sometimes to demonstrate why some of them are potentially useless, and even dangerous. And after all, both the Historical Jesus and the Historic Christ are here and now in the form of the Church, which is the Body of Christ and “Christ in action”.

The liberal conceives of life after death in terms of the immortality of the soul, and draws an absolute distinction between the risen “bodies” that will be the vehicles for our personalities in the hereafter and the mortal bodies that fulfil such a function for the time being. If it is consistent, which it usually is, then liberalism thinks of Our Lord’s Resurrection in the same way.

But it is very wrong indeed to suggest that He rose with a merely spiritual “body”. No reading of the Biblical text allows either for such a belief or for its co-requisite: that the progression of the disembodied soul in Christ is the final human state in Him, rather than an intermediate state while we await the General Resurrection at the point when the existing physical world will be recreated, and restored to perfection, but certainly not destroyed.

Conservative Protestant (and some Catholic) responses to Liberalism have centred on Karl Barth’s insistence that there can be no human knowledge of God except in so far as He reveal Himself in Jesus Christ. This meeting between divine revelation and human response is regarded as dialectical: it is an encounter of opposites. In that dialectical encounter, Christ becomes the key to the believer’s otherwise impossible understanding of the Bible, which is seen very strongly as a unitary and coherent whole. All of this is utterly Catholic.

Where Catholics differ from Protestants in the interrelated neo-orthodox, dialectical theology and Biblical Theology movements is in objecting to the typically Protestant truncatedness with which each of those movements expresses itself in relation to its subject. Reason, religious experience, and sensory or emotional perceptions are self-evidently means whereby God can be known by men and women.

This does not in any way detract from the revelation of God in Christ, in that the illuminating grace which makes possible such knowledge is always and everywhere operative only because of the historically and geographically located saving acts of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the supposed duality between “Reason” and “Revelation” is contrary to Catholicism’s inherent and constant realisation that all human knowledge is the finite apprehension of the Infinite, Who is known personally by faith as God.

On that realisation is built what Protestants are wont to call “the pre-Reformation synthesis” (just as they also talk, with equal arrogance and inaccuracy, about “the Counter-Reformation”), but which is in fact the continuous and continuing Catholic synthesis of all human knowledge in terms of theology.

In the dialectical encounter between God and humanity, the former calls the latter to active co-operation with Him; that is why He causes the meeting to take place at all. Such an encounter with Jesus Christ can only happen specifically and consciously within the context of the mission and ministry of His Body, the Church. That Body is thus the living and ongoing dimension of that revelation in history to which Scripture as a whole bears witness. It is not the Bible, but Christ (and thus, inseparably, the Church), Who is that revelation.

Being Protestant, the Biblical Theology movement has suffered from its reception of only the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament and from the tendency to create a “Canon within the Canon”. Against the consequences of these deficiencies, its needs to be affirmed that the Biblical literature is indeed a product of its culture, that it resembles contemporaneous works very strongly at many points, and that it sets the tone for the later Church in its successful synthesis of Hebrew and Hellenistic thought.

And the works of Barth and his school must be referred, including for correction, to the ressourcement theologians and to Hans Urs von Balthasar, themselves always read under Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition in obedience to the Magisterium.

The Meaning and Creation of Money

Zoe Williams writes:

Shock data shows that most MPs do not know how money is created. Responding to a survey commissioned by Positive Money just before the June election, 85% were unaware that new money was created every time a commercial bank extended a loan, while 70% thought that only the government had the power to create new money.

The results are only a shock if you didn’t see the last poll of MPs on exactly this topic, in 2014, revealing broadly the same level of ignorance. Indeed, the real shock is that MPs still, without embarrassment, answer surveys. Yet almost all our hot-button political issues, from social security to housing, relate back to the meaning and creation of money; so if the people making those choices don’t have a clue, that isn’t without consequence. 

How is money created? 

Some is created by the state, but usually in a financial emergency. For instance, the crash gave rise to quantitative easing – money pumped directly into the economy by the government. The vast majority of money (97%) comes into being when a commercial bank extends a loan. Meanwhile, 27% of bank lending goes to other financial corporations; 50% to mortgages (mainly on existing residential property); 8% to high-cost credit (including overdrafts and credit cards); and just 15% to non-financial corporates, that is, the productive economy. 

What’s wrong with that? 

On the corporate financial side, bank-lending inflates asset prices, which concentrates wealth in the hands of the wealthy. On the mortgage side, house prices rise to meet the amount the lender is prepared to lend, rather than being moored to wages. The lender benefits enormously from larger mortgages and longer periods of indebtedness; the homeowner benefits slightly from a bigger asset, but obviously spends longer in debt servitude; the renter loses out completely.

Is there a magic money tree?

All money comes from a magic tree, in the sense that money is spirited from thin air. There is no gold standard. Banks do not work to a money-multiplier model, where they extend loans as a multiple of the deposits they already hold. Money is created on faith alone, whether that is faith in ever-increasing housing prices or any other given investment. This does not mean that creation is risk-free: any government could create too much and spawn hyper-inflation. Any commercial bank could create too much and generate over-indebtedness in the private economy, which is what has happened. But it does mean that money has no innate value, it is simply a marker of trust between a lender and a borrower. So it is the ultimate democratic resource. The argument marshalled against social investment such as education, welfare and public services, that it is unaffordable because there is no magic money tree, is nonsensical. It all comes from the tree; the real question is, who is in charge of the tree?

What could we do instead?

We could do QE for the people, overt monetary financing in which a government creates money for social benefit, such as green infrastructure or education. Or helicopter money, a central bank distributing it to everyone, either in a one-off citizen’s dividend or a regular citizen’s basic income. The nature of centrally created money should itself be opened up for debate, whose starting point is: if we agree that commercially created money is skewing the economy, can we then agree that it should be created by a public authority, even if we don’t yet know what that authority would look like.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Way Beyond Groping

15 years ago, or thereabouts, what did Jared O'Mara do? Did he invade Afghanistan? Did he invade Iraq? Did he use his Times column to lead the cheering for those invasions, and to spew abuse at those who were right about them?

In the party of Theresa "Frida Kahlo" May and of Boris "The Road to Mandalay" Johnson, Michael Gove is what passes for an intellectual. But that is setting the bar extremely low. Still, May cannot afford to lose him. Just look at the rest of her Cabinet. She is not exactly spoiled for choice. So he is still there, making a nonsense of everything that she is letting it be known are her views.

No one, however, has ever accused Neil Kinnock of being an intellectual. This is the opportunity to avenge the miners by demanding the Labour Whip in the House of Lords be withdrawn from him.

Saturday 28 October 2017


"Turnips!" to the whole thing, say I. Pumpkins? Pumpkins? We'll be keeping Thanksgiving next. As well we should, to give thanks for the fact that the Puritans left England. Have the kiddies carve little Puritans' heads and make little hats for them. But do not carve those heads out of pumpkins. Carve them out of turnips.

Put Not Your Trust In Princes

What is to become of the world's last Prince Bishop, the Bishop of Urgell? With the President of France, he is a Co-Prince of Andorra. But that shared sovereignty arrangement is between France and Spain. And Urgell is in Catalonia.

RT Does Not Equal Endorsement

With the attacks on RT and Sputnik, over to Russia to ban American and British broadcasters from covering next year's World Cup. This is a multipolar world.

Family Reunion

Under Jeremy Corbyn, relations between the grassroots Catholic Church and the Labour Party in their shared heartlands (they have almost exactly the same ones, and that is not a coincidence) have moved on from "You have to put up with your family, because they're your family", and back to the real warmth of old. The cooling had been well and truly because of the Iraq War, having been coming for years over New Labour's attitude to poverty and to disability. And we all know what Corbyn thought of all of that.

But even through it all, it was quite normal for Catholic church halls to be used for Labour Party meetings, on occasion without even the charging of a fee. Now, try and imagine the use of Catholic church halls for Conservative Party meetings. Or the meeting of the local Labour Party in the hall of the Church of England. Indeed, try and imagine anywhere where the Catholic church hall was the sought after venue, or even where there was one, and which had any Conservative Party that wanted to meet at all. You can't. You simply can't.

So forget, just forget, about Jacob Rees-Mogg as Prime Minister. It is never going to happen. Corbyn, on the other hand, is going to be the Prime Minister. With an even higher vote in the Catholic heartlands than he achieved this year, and that will be quite a feat.

Dignity Intact?

I assume that the 50-year-old Michael Gove has resigned from the Cabinet, then?

Friday 27 October 2017

Due Process?

Last night on Question Time, Jacob Rees-Mogg took exactly the view of the extrajudicial killing of British citizens that Jeremy Corbyn had always taken. But note the difference in reaction.

Animus in Consulendo Liber

Anger that at a recent Young Labour policy conference, delegates voted to accept a motion that called for withdrawal from NATO. Would that be this NATO? The one that is also this NATO?

Just as economic equality benefits everyone, but the fight to secure and defend it is properly led by those who suffer most as a result of its absence, namely the working class, so international peace benefits everyone, but the fight to secure and defend it is properly led by those who suffer most as a result of its absence, namely the working class and the youth.

The youth were right about the First World War. They were right about the Vietnam War. They were right about the Iraq War. And they will be right many more times yet. They are certainly right to oppose continued membership of an Alliance that actively sanitises Nazi collaborators in the past while, in the present, committing us to the defence of the Islamist regime in Turkey.

50 Years On

Some fuss about a tweet from Jeremy Corbyn on this fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act. Well, that has been his personal view forever. Not that the issue has come up in the Division Lobbies in a very long time, although he has been there for an even longer time. It was of course Margaret Thatcher who legalised abortion up to birth, and it is Theresa May who has undertaken to pay out of the public purse for the abortions of women from Northern Ireland.

That Corbyn is enthusiastically supported by Ronnie Campbell in Parliament and by George Galloway without, and that he was closely allied to figures such as Mike Wood, Bob Wareing and Bob Parry while they were MPs, should allay any fears that he might be intolerant of other views on the subject. He cares that you are sound on economic and foreign policy. For the first time in a generation, those are now the issues that matter, because for the first time in a generation, there is now any debate about them. There is only any such debate because Corbyn won and retained the Labour Leadership.

Bringing us to abortion in Northern Ireland, since it was Owen Smith who recently told the Question Time audience that of course Labour accepted that the matter was devolved, meaning, although he could not quite say it, that change was, as it were, inconceivable. I happen to know why the manifesto ever even mentioned it, the kind of information that will never be available to the Brideshead Boys at the Catholic Herald or the Daily Telegraph.

They are so cut off from the mainstream Catholic Church in this country that they will never understand why American-style culture wars, which have in any case been an abject failure in the United States, will never attract any following at all over here. Or why Catholics, like everyone else, will always vote for Jeremy Corbyn rather than for Jacob Rees-Mogg, who to most Catholics is simply of the wrong class and the wrong party, as he always will be.

Peace Pledge

Some of the people whom I most respect politically, and sometimes in other spheres as well, wear the white poppy. But I must admit that I am not convinced. The red poppy was initially, and it is still properly, anything but a glorification of war.

The white poppy message to "remember all victims of war" is already included, and the red poppy no longer features the name of Haig. White poppy money goes to the Peace Pledge Union, a campaigning organisation for absolute pacifism (a cause to which I do not subscribe), rather than to a welfare charity of any kind.

Wear your red poppy with pride, because of what it really means. Or lose it, because in very recent years it has come to mean the exact opposite of its original and intended meaning. It, and the events associated with it, at least at national level, have become expressions of political support for recent and ongoing military interventions, and of others that might be proposed by the people who brought us those.

I am giving the whole thing until next year, the centenary of the Armistice. But if things have not reverted to their original intention by then, then I really could give it all up. I suggest that you adopt the same approach. Do not wear the White Poppy, either. By all means still give to the Royal British Legion, although it does have some housekeeping to do. But do not proclaim publicly your support for every past, present and putative war of choice.

After all, militaria long ago ceased to be part of mainstream culture. Former members of the Armed Forces comprise a large part of the Conservative Party's active membership, but they comprise a tiny part of the population at large. National Service ended 57 years ago, so hardly anyone under the age of about 75 has ever been in the Armed Forces.

All in all, this is one among the many reasons why a party led by Jeremy Corbyn not only won 40 per cent of the vote, and came well within a million votes of winning outright, but did so not only to the horror, but to the genuine bemusement, of the Conservative Party and its subculture. Don't let them hijack the poppy, though. Or, if they do, then just stop wearing it.

Caste of Mind

I am very proud to be hated by the likes of Tapan Ghosh. As for Bob Blackman, he held marginal Harrow East in 2015 by correctly promising that the Conservatives would repeal the ban on caste discrimination, and he held it very narrowly indeed this year because that despicable thing had happened.

Blackman remains wholly unapologetic that he blocked the necessary two-thirds majority to confer the Freedom of the London Borough of Brent on Nelson Mandela during his landmark visit to Wembley Stadium in 1990 for a concert broadcast in 60 countries to celebrate his release from prison.

Although Mandela did eventually become a Freeman of Brent by a unanimous resolution, Blackman even obtained an injunction from the High Court to prevent any recognition of the simple majority that such a conferral had initially received.

This person did not enter Parliament until 2010 (did someone mention vetting?), and he remains in receipt of the Conservative Whip. In between outspoken expressions of support for Benjamin Netanyahu, he hosts Tapan Ghosh at the Palace of Westminster.

Homage To Catalonia?

I cannot see anything to call between the Spanish Government's reaction and the Catalan separatists' motivation.

A party with Fascist roots going back to them, against rich people who do not like having to support poorer people. The separatists in parts of Northern Italy are much the same. Or in Scotland, come to that.

This whole business has shown up NATO and the EU again, though. To that limited extent, jolly good.

How The Wheel Does Turn

The tentacles of austerity have been felt by people all over the country and every public-sector organisation has been affected, which is why a new approach is long overdue. Opposing the need for Labour’s economic policy today has become akin to denying man-made climate change; most experts agree it exists, while only a few fringe voices raise any semblance of doubt. In the last month alone, a chorus of Establishment voices green-lighted Corbynomics.

Beginning on October 10, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) significantly lowered its estimates for the UK’s productivity, highlighting the extent to which Britain has become the sick man of Europe. As every business and investor knows, the impact of low productivity is low growth, as well as an increased trade deficit that eliminate the savings used to justify austerity, and a major cause of low productivity is chronically low business investment. 

Consequently, the OBR’s findings serve as explicit support for Labour’s proposed national investment bank, which would offer long-term patient capital investment to entrepreneurs. In the week following the OBR announcement, we saw the International Monetary Fund (IMF) call for liberalised countries to raise the highest rates of tax. Let’s remember, this is the same IMF whose loan to a Labour government in 1976 set the scene for the Thatcher era. How the wheel does turn.

The IMF report stated that raising the higher rates of tax would help combat inequality — a good in itself, but also a barrier to effective demand — without undermining economic growth. Yet more support for Corbynomics. But it doesn’t stop there.

As if the business establishment had co-ordinated its announcements, the next week saw the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) call on the Chancellor to “grow out of austerity.” The CBI said that increased productivity holds the answer to the crisis in public services and called on the state to play a role in the economy, specifically mentioning investment in research and infrastructure. And, you guessed it, that’s a Labour policy too.

In a final touch to this set piece consensus, the views of the CBI and the findings of the OBR were amplified by the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Jose Angel Gurria. In a speech earlier this month, he called for more radical action to tackle structural issues in Britain’s economy. I can only think that he must have Labour’s manifesto in mind. 

It’s certainly fair to say, as Jeremy Corbyn did in his speech to the Labour Party Conference, the centre ground has shifted. But most importantly the momentum is clearly with Labour. Regrettably, the government appears incapable of acting on any of this advice. Indeed, the Chancellor has said that Labour poses an “existential challenge to our economic model.” 

My response to him is you’re damned right we do, because your economic model is utterly discredited and broken. Seven years of austerity, declining real pay, the public-sector pay cap, haemorrhaging productivity and mounting personal debt shows one thing: the Tories are bereft of a plan. Having nailed their colours to the mast of neoliberalism, their ship is beached on the shores of nowhere, leaving decadent MPs to cannibalise themselves over Brexit. 

The centre has certainly shifted and the tide of history is moving in Labour’s favour. I have always said that Corbynomics is plain common sense, but it now seems to be permeating the thinking of the rarefied world of influential national and international business and fiscal institutions who are adopting it as the new economic orthodoxy.

I will be touching on these issues when I speak at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity this Saturday. I will also outline how local authorities can use powers to raise the finance needed to start reversing the impact of Tory cuts even before the country gets a chance to elect a Labour government.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Eve of Poll Card

The election for the Fabian Executive Committee is now in progress, and it will conclude at 5pm tomorrow. My 70-word statement reads: 

Jeremy Corbyn is the most culturally significant British politician in living memory, the most agenda-setting Leader of the Opposition ever, and the global leader of the opposition to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy. Fabians must co-ordinate that critique at home and abroad, in preparation for the Corbyn Government that will lead Britain and the world out of politically chosen austerity, and away from wars of political choice. 

On the ballot paper are 27 candidates for various positions, plus one elected unopposed as Treasurer. All 28 of us have put in statements of up to 70 words. Mine, and mine alone, mentions Jeremy Corbyn at all. Voting is here. I ask for your support. Even in the time remaining, do please spread the word.

This Is A Coup

A Government that does not have an overall majority now routinely whips its party's MPs to abstain on Opposition Day motions, has stopped sending Ministers to reply to those debates, and announces today that any response will now take three months. Three months! Parliamentary scrutiny is effectively at an end. Did you vote for this? Were you ever even asked about it?

The Liberal-Left Divide Reshaping American Politics

"Trump’s opponents are bitterly split. You can’t understand US politics today unless you understand the rift between liberals and leftwingers," writes Pete Davis.

A Healthy View

Of course gender dysphoria is an illness. To have a mental illness ought to carry no more stigma than to have a physical illness, but that is what it is. If your mental health depends on drastic surgery and hormone treatments, then you are ill. And that is what the doctors prescribe, as surely as they prescribed my surgery, and as surely as they still prescribe my drugs, which are mostly painkillers. Otherwise, why should the NHS pay for it? But that treatment does not make you a person of the opposite sex. Of course it doesn't.

Take It Or Leave It?

With the Sheffield Hallam constituency in the news, consider that there are many very wealthy parts of the North of England, that there are numerous thoroughly middle-class people here (who have regional accents, which are far less class-indicative in the North than they are in the South), and that there are even quite a few private schools.

If Oxford and Cambridge are biased in favour of the South when it comes to undergraduate admissions, then that is not a class thing. It is across all classes in the South, and across all political persuasions there, that people are bombastically proud of never having been to the North, of being unable to understand what Northerners are saying, and so forth. A huge annual event here, famous throughout the world except in its own country, attracted two hundred thousand people to hear Jeremy Corbyn this July. It was barely reported.

Very similarly, the second and lower rungs of New Labour came from the post-War New Class, so that by the 1990s they were often second generation university graduates with second generation professional jobs. But they came from places where politics simply meant the local squirarchy and its more or less deluded hangers on. "The Tory candidate for anything always wins here, and always comes from the members or the entourage of one of the right families," they were told. "Take it or leave it." They couldn't take it, so they left it.

At least since the War, they are the only category of people, rather than purely individual cases, to have moved from the South to the North in order to have a career. But they do not like the North, which they had been brought up to regard as a joke and where, if they had grown up here, then it highly unlikely that they would ever have joined the Labour Party. In fact, if they had grown up here and if they had wanted to go into politics, then they would have gone South for the purpose.

It is, however, a different question how far they would ever have got. The evisceration of the trade unions and of local government meant that it was easy for such candidates to be imposed on Labour areas. In Conservative areas, however, "The Tory candidate for anything always wins here, and always comes from the members or the entourage of one of the right families. Take it or leave it."

Dirty Rotten Troubadours

I doubt that Jared O'Mara and I would have much to talk about. But since when did Guido Fawkes and the BBC get to determine who could or could not receive the Labour Whip in the House of Commons? Since when did Guido Fawkes set the news agenda for the BBC? What has O'Mara said or done that was any less acceptable than any of numerous sayings or doings of Boris Johnson?

The agenda here are perfectly apparent. The only people who are to be allowed to stand for Parliament are those who have been primed for it from birth, such as the New Labour grandes dames who have been as forthright against O'Mara as they were against Clive Lewis, one of the Owen Jones set of which, again, many of us are decidedly wary. "Embarrassment to the Labour Party" seems not to include Harriet Harman's links to the Paedophile Information Exchange, or Jess Phillips's abuse of Diane Abbott, unseating of Dawn Butler, and allegation that British Pakistanis imported wives for their disabled sons. Primed from birth, indeed.

Moreover, it is now compulsory, not merely to hold today's consensus views on homosexuality and the law, but to have held those same views 15 years ago, when hardly anybody did so. In those days, the members of a Labour Government stood at the Despatch Boxes of both Houses of Parliament and not only asserted, but explained, why that Government would never introduce same-sex marriage, as indeed it never did. That is before we even start about attitudes to the transgender question, which have been changing rapidly and drastically over a far shorter period than that. The Morning Star regularly carries articles that would now preclude their authors from being Labour parliamentary candidates. No doubt, that is the point.

The Conservatives are still very sore indeed at having lost their overall majority. If the hype had been correct, then they would have taken back Sheffield Hallam, which it beggars belief that they ever lost, and it would have been they who had unseated Nick Clegg. But instead, they were leapfrogged into third place. Third place in a constituency as wealthy as that. Third place in a constituency that they had held from its creation in 1885 until a by-election in 1916, and then again from 1918 until 1997. Third place in a constituency that had never previously returned a Labour MP, and which the Labour Party, as such, had barely fought even this year.

Oh, well, let them have their spiteful little kill. But the Left needs to press its advantage on the National Executive Committee and elsewhere. It needs to insist that precisely the punishment meted out to Jared O'Mara will also be meted out to Jess Phillips.


Last month, British car production for the home market fell by a staggering 14.2 per cent. On Durham County Council, the ruling Labour Group, or so it styles itself, must be delighted. In its persecution of me, it has done more than anyone else to sabotage the development of the British motor industry, as part of its 32 years and counting of merely managing other people’s poverty.

For some months, despite the best efforts of the supposedly Labour County Council in trying to send me to prison instead, I have been working with everyone worth approaching on a proposal that, following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, or in anticipation of that withdrawal, the Volkswagen Group move to this historically industrial County of Durham all of its production for the British market that was not already located here in the United Kingdom, as I appreciate that a very small amount is.

The suggestion is for a company wholly owned by Volkswagen. One Director would be nominated by each of the Groups on Durham County Council other than the Labour Group, which is clearly unsympathetic to this project, and one Director would be nominated by those Councillors who had no formal political affiliation. A number of Directors equal to the number of non-Labour Groups would be nominated by Unite the Union, including one by Durham Unite Community. One Director would be nominated by the Durham Miners’ Association. A Chairman appointed by Volkswagen would exercise the parent company’s veto over all decisions.

This new company would undertake to match (by such means as to avoid any conflict of interest) the Members’ Initiative Fund of £2000 per annum at the disposal of each of the Councillors who were represented on its Board of Directors. It would underwrite the cost of the activities of Durham Unite Community. It would underwrite the Durham Miners’ Gala. And it would underwrite the cost of maintaining the Durham Miners’ Hall.

Were it not for Simon Henig and his ghastly little mob, then this would now be very well-advanced indeed. But they are determined to stop many thousands of well-paid, highly skilled jobs from coming to County Durham. They are determined to deny any kind of voice, both to all political positions other than their own, and to the trade union movement. They are determined to punish financially wards that have had the temerity to vote for anyone else. And they are determined to prevent a secure financial future for Durham Unite Community, for the Durham Miners’ Gala, or for the Durham Miners’ Hall.

So determined are they, in fact, that they are engaged in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and in malfeasance in public office, in an attempt to kill this scheme, among others, by sending me to prison. If I am wrong, then let Simon Henig sue me.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Unhelpful, Indeed

If the Secretary of State for Defence can stand up in the House of Commons and berate its criticism of Saudi Arabia as "unhelpful" to arms sales, then is that now the remit of the Ministry of Defence? Arms sales to foreign powers in general, and to the global centre of Islamist terrorism in particular? Is that now the role of the entire Government? And does the Government now see that as the role of Parliament, too? It would appear so.

The Whip Hand

It is not strictly my business, but I am glad that the Labour Party has suspended the Whip from Jared O'Mara. Now, it needs to do the same in respect of Jess Phillips. And it needs to explain why it goes so far as to employ Neil Fleming, who came on here regularly for years and called me a "mulatto". On at least one occasion, he even called me "the Mulatto Hitler to Robert Mugabe's Black Hitler". He was a Labour Party member at the time, he still is, and he is now the Regional Director of Labour London.

With Chinese Characteristics

There is a strong sense of ageing student Trotskyism about hostility to China. For all China's faults, what about Saudi Arabia? Even George Osborne was right occasionally, and he was right when he took the United Kingdom into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. We also need to be built into the Belt and Road Initiative, the New Silk Road. Be on the train, or be under it.

China still makes things, builds things and mines things, putting the jobs, heat and light of its people first. It is emerging from the gangster capitalism that always follows Communism by returning to its own culture, which is firmly centred on the family and the local community, reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, has barely started an external war in five thousand years, and is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity. China takes Africa seriously, even going there to secure the food supply necessary for it to give up the extremely anti-Confucian one child policy.

The correct response to the rise of China is therefore a return to making things, building things and mining things. To prioritising jobs, heat and light. To the family and the local community. To tradition and ritual. To moral rather than physical force. To the Golden Rule. To Agrarianism and Distributism. To a pronounced aversion to war. To the classical Christianity that completes and transcends Confucianism, in no way destroying it. To a very Classical and Patristic openness to, and interest in, Africa. And to the glorious celebration of the fact that the very last thing wrong with the world is that it has people in it.

Xi Jinping is correct to recognise the key roles, both of the State, and of the principal party of the Left, in delivering and protecting these things. Without the overarching and undergirding of Christianity, he is wrong in many of his ways of going about the exercise of those roles, and no doubt he will remain so. But he is right to recognise them.

Loss of Credit

Does Laura Pidcock have a Tory pair? Perhaps he or she could have gone to Venice with Daniel Kebede instead? Now, that would have been a television programme worth watching.

I'm sorry, Laura, but you have blotted your copybook with this one. Yes, it was booked before you became an MP. But now, you are one. And this was the debate on Universal Credit, an issue on which your work had hitherto been exemplary.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Or Is He Yellow?

Will Nick Clegg use any Sheffield Hallam by-election to try and come back? If not, then why should anyone pay him any further attention?

On The Road To Somewhere

Members of the Fabian Society, do please make sure to vote for me for the Executive Committee by the end of this week. A couple of weeks ago, as the Malbec flowed in the bar of Durham's Royal County Hotel, dear David Goodhart assured me that he had cast in my favour perhaps his only ever vote in a Fabian Executive election.

David had earlier, in Newcastle, made the fascinating point that most jobs now either required a university degree, or could be learned from scratch in a couple of shifts. The trades in the middle had largely gone, and they were still disappearing. He had also accepted my point that the Anywheres were becoming Somewheres, since they were now well into their second generation, and since they had a very strong attachment to certain areas and institutions.

Would You Credit It?

The Government cannot even be bothered to reply to the Emergency Debate on Universal Credit. David Gauke ought to be sanctioned. I am serious. Answering to Parliament is his job. His pay ought to be docked.

In spite of myself, I am more and more convinced of the need simply to pay everyone, say, one thousand pounds per month, with all income above that level taxable. At a flat rate, with no other exemptions or allowances? I didn't used to think so, and I still don't quite. But then, I didn't used to believe the Universal Basic Income, either.

Chief Instigator

On The Daily Politics, Melanie Phillips claimed that all sides in Syria were a threat to Britain. Jo Coburn did not pick her up on it. Phillips then had the gall to mention the situation in Iraq, and she did so while calling Iran "the chief instigator and backer of terrorism throughout the world". No, that is Saudi Arabia. As, again, Coburn did not point out.

Where's The Equality?

Note that, having lost Jared O'Mara, the Select Committee on Women and Equalities (which is not a word) continues to include Jess Phillips, whose only parliamentary action known to most people has been to tell Diane Abbott to "fuck off", but who also removed Dawn Butler from the Chair of the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party, and who claimed that British Pakistanis were importing wives for their disabled sons. Can you see the pattern here? Phillips, however, is a protected person, like Harriet Harman of the Paedophile Information Exchange, and like Hillary Clinton of Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein infamy.

British Pakistani marital practices, by the way, are another weak spot for the more dedicated devotees, if such they truly be, of the British monarchy. It is very difficult to square that devotion with opposition to imported cousin marriage per se, to such marriage in order to rescue the imported cousin from poverty, or to the conscious and even intentional importation of foreign political difficulties along with the cousins to be married.

In Athens in 1941, so his diary records, Chips Channon met the future Duke of Edinburgh, great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. In their reduced circumstances, the young Prince of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg's sisters had made some very interesting marriages indeed. But, records Channon quite matter-of-factly, "He is to be our Prince Consort, and that is why he is serving in our navy." At that time, the then Princess Elizabeth was 15 years old.

Monday 23 October 2017

Crossed Wires

An old friend who runs a small business is having terrible trouble as a result of the plethora of privatised electricity companies supplying the same building.

The same product, via the same wires or pipes: how can it possibly cost different amounts from different companies? It can't. Of course it can't. Never mind from the same company. The same company! What do you get if you are on the higher tariff? Seriously, what?

If people realised all of this, though, then they might ask why the utilities were delivered by cartels of pretend-competitors, instead of being where they belonged, in public ownership. And that would never do. Oh, no. That would never do at all.

Married To The Widow Next Door?

On The Westminster Hour last night, even Jacob Rees-Mogg professed himself opposed to the Henry VIII powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Get out of that one, the people who were screaming blue murder when Labour voted against it. In better days, David Davis would also have voted against this dreadful power grab by the Executive.

Pale By Comparison

A very elderly person would seem quite ideal to promote understanding of noncommunicable diseases. But as a comment on an earlier post put it, "They are very lucky to have Mugabe as the other side, otherwise nobody would feel any sympathy for them apart from the Thomas Mairs of the world." That comment was not quite about noncommunicable diseases in the ordinary sense of the term. Yet the point almost works either way.

Robert Mugabe, who is there at all because Margaret Thatcher absolutely insisted on him, can make almost anyone else look good by comparison. Or, at any rate, that is the view of him from the old colonial powers of Europe, and from the United States. Clearly, he does not necessarily have that effect on Africans. To many of them, even his faults pale, so to speak, next to those of his enemies.

The ongoing sympathy for the Rhodesian cause in certain circles needs to be set in the context of the fact that Ian Smith and his supporters not only committed treason against the Queen, but then purported to depose her, going so far as to remove the Union Flag from their own, something that even the Boers' revenge republic to the south never did.

I have wondered for some time why the monarchy kept sweet the people who needed to be kept sweet, since it had at least signed off on every aspect of the Welfare State, on every nationalisation, on every retreat from Empire, on every social liberalisation, on every EU Treaty, and on every one of Tony Blair's constitutional and ceremonial changes.

But perhaps those people do not really care for the monarchy at all, or even for the Queen herself? They certainly cared rather more, in practical terms, for its visceral enemies and hers in South Africa and Rhodesia. That was not in the distant past. In the South African case, where we are talking about people who annually laid wreaths in memory of the other side in a twentieth century war against Britain, it was all the way up to 1991. (I do not blame the Afrikaners on that point, by the way. I have stood in the Boer cemetery in St Helena and read the headstones of those boys of 14 and 15, carved in the language of their captors. Of course their nephews hated Britain.)

Ultraconservative opinion might do better if, alongside the continuation of an essentially decorative monarchy, the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, or at least of the parts of it that made any political difference and thus including Royal Assent, were to be made subject to the approval of seven out of nine Co-Presidents, elected every eight years and required to name seconds in case they died or resigned.

Each of us would vote for one candidate, and the top nine would be elected. These would be non-party figures, although of course the German and Irish experiences indicate that winning an election entails having an electoral machine such as ordinarily only a political party possesses, and the party card can just be dropped as part of that process. But even so.

People who think that the monarchy acts as some kind of bulwark against whatever it is that they might happen to dislike are akin to people who think that the EU was some kind of bulwark against Thatcherism, or that it is some kind of force for peace. Which privatisation did the EU prevent? Which dock, factory, steelworks, shipyard or mine did the EU save? How did workers' rights in the Britain of 1972 compare to those in the Britain of 2017? Did the EU prevent the war in Northern Ireland? Or in Yugoslavia? Or in Ukraine?

Likewise, which aspect of the Welfare State did the monarchy moderate, as those people would see it, in any way whatever? Which nationalisation? Which retreat from Empire? Which social liberalisation? Which EU Treaty? Which of Tony Blair's constitutional and ceremonial changes? Still, it keeps them sweet. And they need to be kept sweet. But for how much longer will it do so?

Generosity and Convenience

“One of the consequences of the universality of the British Health Service is the free treatment of foreign visitors. This has given rise to a great deal of criticism, most of it ill-informed and some of it deliberately mischievous. Why should people come to Britain and enjoy the benefits of the free Health Service when they do not subscribe to the national revenues? So the argument goes.

No doubt a little of this objection is still based on the confusion about contributions to which I have referred. The fact is, of course, that visitors to Britain subscribe to the national revenues as soon as they start consuming certain commodities, drink and tobacco for example, and entertainment. They make no direct contribution to the cost of the Health Service any more than does a British citizen.
“However, there are a number of more potent reasons why it would be unwise as well as mean to withhold the free service from the visitor to Britain. How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else? Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody.

Happily, this is one of those occasions when generosity and convenience march together. The cost of looking after the visitor who falls ill cannot amount to more than a negligible fraction of £399,000,000, the total cost of the Health Service. It is not difficult to arrive at an approximate estimate.

“All we have to do is look up the number of visitors to Great Britain during one year and assume they would make the same use of the Health Service as a similar number of Britishers. Divide the total cost of the Service by the population and you get the answer. I had the estimate taken out and it amounted to about £200,000 a year. Obviously this is an overestimate because people who go for holidays are not likely to need a doctor’s attention as much as others. However, there it is, for what it is worth, and you will see it does not justify the fuss that has been made about it.

“The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine.

“Naturally when Britons go abroad they are incensed because they are not similarly treated if they need the attention of a doctor. But that also I am convinced will come when other nations follow our example and have health services of their own. When that happens we shall be able to work out schemes of reciprocity, and yet one more amenity will have been added to social intercourse. In the meantime let us keep in mind that, here, example is better than precept.”

With my emphasis added, Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear: A Free Health Service, 1952.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Fool Me Twice?

The attempted rehabilitation of George W. Bush is now well under way. Don't let it happen.

A Matter of Trust

I never cared for the hunting ban. Not that I ever like foxhunting, but the ban was introduced by Tony Blair and by his then Chief Whip, my then MP, Hilary Armstrong, in order to buy off parliamentary opposition to the Iraq War. Shame on those who were so bought. Neither Blair nor Armstrong went on to vote for the ban, and Blair bet Prince Charles a tenner that hunting would be continuing unimpeded 10 years after it had formally come into force. He won his bet.

But the hunting ban has now been the law of the land for well over a decade. Its non-enforcement, and the practice of the Police in certain areas of acting as escorts to the hunts, arresting only anyone who might object, raises serious questions about certain other legislation, such as the most recent attack on trade unions. Why is that to be enforced, when this is not, and indeed was never intended to be?

Still, how many people know that the National Trust was founded out of the Fabian Society? (The Ramblers' Association, by the way, was founded out of the Communist Party.) Someone needs to look into how it became a pillar of Toryland. The National Trust, that is. Not the Fabian Society.

Salisbury Convention?

One of Margaret Thatcher's most abiding legacies is Robert Mugabe. And what, exactly, does a "Goodwill Ambassador" do, anyway? Still, he cannot possibly be a less appropriate, or a less effective, choice for that office than Tony Blair was a "Middle East Peace Envoy".

Friday 20 October 2017

A Bourgeois, Almost A Kulak

Some middle-aged men have ex-wives. I have the Labour Party.

As a young activist told me only today, "You seem to have a love-hate relationship with Laura Pidcock." But in fact, I neither love her (beyond the Saviour's universal injunctions on the matter), nor do I hate her.

I wish her well. I will vote for her next time if she is the Labour candidate, a question on which I am the least of her worries. But I am nobody's cheerleader. And I am sick to the back teeth of the way in which she is held up as working-class by people who assume that that is what everyone with a Northern accent must be.

She is at least a second generation university graduate, she was at least the second generation of her family to manage to make a living as a charity worker, and she was at least a second generation member of Northumberland County Council.

20 years ago, I arrived at university assuming that I was a bourgeois, almost a kulak. But that one lasted about an hour, and certainly not until the morning after my first night there, although it remained, and remains, how I was automatically treated at home. I refuse to let anyone trade on the same thing in the opposite direction.

Offensive and Unacceptable, Indeed

Clive Lewis ought not to have used such language. But Jess Phillips has no place on any high horse. She made her name by telling Diane Abbott, who is old enough to be her mother, to "fuck off". Indeed, she appears never to have done anything else as an MP.

As for Harriet Harman, I am still banned from certain very high profile political blogs for having been going on throughout the present century about her links to the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Lewis will be due the slightest censure when Anne Marie Morris has been expelled from the House of Commons for using the n-word while addressing a public meeting earlier this year. No United States Senator or Representative could survive that, and nor should she.

I fail to see the anti-racist credentials of any MP who explicitly presents herself in those terms yet who fails to move that expulsion.

Gongs, Be Gone

Several friends of mine have the CBE. It appals me that that puts them in the company of Harvey Weinstein and Simon Henig.

When Henig has lost his for his campaign against me, then it ought of course to go instead to one or more of the Teaching Assistants. Yes, I know that that is not how this works. But, in this instance, it should.

To whom should Weinstein's go, and why? His is Honorary, since he is an American. I propose the man whom his money helped to prevent from keeping Donald Trump out of the White House, Bernie Sanders.

A Tale of Four Power Grabs

Theresa May's power-grabbing tendencies are showing again. Despite the fact that her party did at that time have an overall majority and therefore still won all the divisions, she called a General Election because MPs from other parties were daring to vote against her even in the full knowledge that they were not going to defeat her. Had she gained the three-figure majority that she had anticipated, then would she have expected them to stop? Apparently so.

And now, not only the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that Tony Benn would have opposed, and not only the jaw-dropping attempt by a party without an overall majority in the House of Commons to claim a majority on the committees of the House, but also that party's three-line whip to abstain on Opposition Day motions, and its proposal to reduce the number of MPs but not the number of Ministers.

Still, the tide may be turning. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is lost in the undergrowth, and Conservative MPs are starting to express doubts about the reduction of the House to mere debating chamber. Although even in those, both sides vote.

A Very Poor Seam

The BBC put the Ian Lavery farrago in Newsnight's graveyard slot, on a Thursday against Question Time. It was hilarious watching toffs talk about trade unions. They had no idea how such organisations worked. No past or present member of Lavery's union has complained, and past members of it run into many thousands, by no means all of whom, let me assure you, are any friends of his. Dear old Auntie is simply out of her depth here.
The Beeb is aghast that this person can be a national politician, with his accent, his no degree, his Irish surname, his record in the Miners' Strike, and so on. Well, tough. Someone has already looked into this. The regulator created by the Thatcher anti-union laws found nothing amiss, and even the BBC, the NUM's very worst enemy since the Dawn of Time, has decided to get this "report" out of the way by broadcasting it on the night that no one watches Newsnight. Anyone who thinks that this is a story knows nothing about trade unions except that they hate the uppity little oiks.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Balance The Overwhelming Power

The rights of EU nationals in the United Kingdom after Brexit. Votes at 16. It is certainly all going on at the moment. 

Instead of arbitrarily allowing Irish and Commonwealth citizens to vote, let there be no nationality requirement for voting, but a requirement that any parliamentary candidate be a British Citizen in Great Britain, or a British or Irish citizen in Northern Ireland. 

And while I am never going to be fully convinced about votes at 16 (with the increases both in the school leaving age and in the personal tax allowance, Saturday jobs would now have to pay £250 per shift for 16-year-olds to be paying income tax), I do see the need to balance the overwhelming power of the enormous post-War cohort of births.

Therefore, make politicians tour the Sixth Forms as dedicatedly as they toured the old people’s homes. But require that parliamentary candidates, other than those who were already submitting to the accountability of seeking re-election, be at least 25, or possibly 30.

Polecats Poll Badly

I have been told time and again that he was kind and charming in private, and I believe that, because people with public reputations for niceness are often complete nightmares behind the scenes. But most people never see either him or them in private. So if your main spokesman is Norman Tebbit, then, quite apart from how many or how few people can now remember who he ever was, you are not going to win. After the rights of EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, onwards to Orgreave.

Lest We Forget

The poppies are starting to sprout again. My father fought in the Second World War, and his father in the First, so I want to carry on wearing the poppy. But in very recent years it has come to mean the exact opposite of its original and intended meaning.

It, and the events associated with it, at least at national level, have become expressions of political support for recent and ongoing military interventions, and of others that might be proposed by the people who brought us those.

I had better give the whole thing until next year, the centenary of the Armistice. But if things have not reverted to their original intention by then, then I really could give it all up. I suggest that you adopt the same approach.

Hard To Beat?

Smacking children does in any case seem to be far less common than it used to be. But I have never quite understood the argument of those who wanted to ban it. Beating children is already illegal.

Over The Hill?

Can there be a more tragic sight than an icon of feminism who has ended up as a mad old woman in the attic? Yet such is now Hillary Clinton, banging on about how Vladimir Putin did this, that and the other. Yes, dear. Of course he did. You, on the other hand, really did kill huge numbers of women, and set back their sisters' rights several centuries. And you are up to your neck in the whole Harvey Weinstein business.

Raise a glass instead to Linda Bellos, whom it is inconceivable that Jeremy Corbyn has not known personally for many decades, who supported him for Leader of the Labour Party, and whose position on the issue that has most recently returned her to controversy is regularly aired by others in the pages of the Morning Star. Mercifully, that newspaper does not, however, publish the position of Hillary Clinton.

Underground No More

Tiny political parties, small-circulation publications, obscure think tanks, and so on: they often have links to certain sections of major parties, or to significant media outlets, meaning that a quarrel or a feud within one of them, or between two of them, or among several of them, can quite easily spill over into big league politics and commentary.

So it is with the vicious civil war within and around UKIP, which lies at the root of the present furore over RT. Nigel Farage and his supporters have close ties to RT, which makes it a target for his enemies, such as Douglas Carswell. Carswell has friends in, if only arguably of, the Conservative Party. And they, in turn, have friends around Boris Johnson. So here we are.

By the way, I have appeared on RT twice, and no payment was ever suggested on either occasion. I suppose that that means that I am proper politician after all.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Pause and Fix, Indeed

Universal Credit is so important, say the Government and its supporters, that they are not even going to bother to vote on it.

Just A Second

Rumour has it that new peerages are to be limited to 15 years, which is an absurd proposition. A time-limited peerage? Merely saying that makes the point.

I am increasingly of the view that citizens need access both to their own parliamentary representatives with the ear of the Government, and to those engaged in robust Opposition. With a six-year term (making it possible to bring that of the Commons down to four years), with the powers of the present House of Lords, and with remuneration fixed at that of the Commons, a new second chamber might guarantee that representation to everyone.

Each of the 99 lieutenancy areas would elect six Senators, with each of us voting for one candidate, and with the top six elected at the end. Casual vacancies would be filled by the party for which the previous Senator had been elected. Where the previous Senator was a Crossbencher, for by all means let that term be retained, then there would be a by-election using First Past the Post.

In each area, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats would be required, and other parties would be permitted, to submit their shortlists of two to a binding, publicly funded ballot of the whole electorate two weeks before the Senate Election itself.

594 Senators does sound a lot. But the 100-member Senate of the United States certainly costs more in absolute terms than this would, and probably costs more per capita. The same is no doubt true when that chamber is compared to the House of Lords. But citizens need access both to their own parliamentary representatives with the ear of the Government, and to those engaged in robust Opposition. This is how to do it.

Plus, although I am less sure about this one, something else. If the old hereditary peers were so independent, then why did they accrue so heavily to one political party, in the observance of the discipline of which they adhered rigidly to a public school honour code of never questioning "The Top People"? But there may yet be a role for intellectual and ideological, rather than for biological, heredity.

At the first ever Senate Elections, but never thereafter, let each of us, with the whole country as the electoral area, vote for one candidate, and let the 100 highest scorers be elected, complete with the right to name an heir, who would in turn be required to name a spare. That heir would not necessarily or even ordinarily be a blood relative, but rather, on political grounds, a dauphin or delfino such as Gore Vidal named Christopher Hitchens, and such as I have named James Draper.

How might we go about this? Perhaps, recalling how elected hereditary peers had been chosen, each of us might vote for someone who was at that moment a member of the Conservative Party, a member of the Labour Party, a member of the Liberal Democrats, a member of another party, and a member of no party, with the top 20 of each elected? Or perhaps a simple Hundredth Past the Post election might suffice?

Wage Rage

Prices are up while wages are stagnant. Anyone would think that wages did not cause inflation.

I remember something like this just over 20 years ago, when we were told that a minimum wage would cause unemployment. Here in County Durham, we already had both the lowest wages and the highest unemployment in the country.

A World of Their Own

Calls to the Universal Credit helpline probably always were free from the Job Centre. But Job Centres are closing all over the place, and in any case it is not as if there was ever one in every village or neighbourhood.

Six weeks before you are paid? For what "world of work", exactly, is that preparing anyone? How is anyone supposed to find work without a permanent address having lost their home, and without even the money for the travel fare to a job interview or the Job Centre? Could you have found work without those things? Could Theresa May or David Gauke have done so?

Universal Credit is entirely counterproductive. Much of me does not want to come round to the Universal Basic Income. But all of me is increasingly doing so.

"Government Has No Money of Its Own"

Factually incorrect to the point of illiteracy, Theresa May (PDF). But then, with Philip Hammond at your side, you also screeched on about "racking up debts". You and he would certainly know about that. You'll get away with it, though. You will even get away with "Labour's Great Recession".

There have been seven recessions in the United Kingdom since the Second World War. Five of them have been under Conservative Governments. That party has also presided over all four separate periods of Quarter on Quarter fall in growth during the 2010s. By contrast, there was no recession on the day of the 2010 General Election.

And now, the Conservatives have more than doubled the National Debt. The Major Government also doubled the National Debt. Yet the Conservatives' undeserved reputation for economic competence endures. They are subjected to absolutely no scrutiny by the fake news detractors of their opponents, even when those opponents are endorsed by Nobel Laureates in Economics and by the IMF.