THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
March 2007
Next month:
May 2007

April 2007

Heroes vs Victims

Link: / World - Iran debacle shows failure to understand the British services.

The linked article is behind a subscription, but even if you can't read the whole thing the following quote makes my point;

Mr Browne and the MoD have fallen into the trap – too commonplace today – of confusing victims with heroes. This strikes at the heart of the culture and morale of the armed forces.

"Confusing victims with heroes" is not only destructive in the military. It destroys human dignity everywhere. It is no "trap." It is New Labour's modus operandi. The Party has journeyed steadily from compassion for the unfortunate, via the schadenfreude of the Leftist middle classes to the pedestalisation of losers. Its oft-repeated mantra - "the most vulnerable members of society" - is spoken with awe. Labour now feeds on vulnerability. It needs dependent people to achieve its only political goal; keeping its parasitic aparatchiks in their places.

Defining poverty in percentage terms guarantees - as Christ said - that "the poor are always with us." But  that  is not enough. Opinion polls show that fewer and fewer people define themselves as working class. As reported here;

While Europe’s social-democratic parties have always been social coalitions, their core, physically and ideologically, has been the industrial working class – in Britain for most of the last 150 years a majority of the working population. The industrial working class was not only the base of the Labour Party but the motor of the interventionist state itself. That class is today very much a minority: by all conventional criteria Britain is now inescapably a middle-class country.

Labour therefore needs a new set of victims to be "the motor of the interventionist state." Preferably lots of them. How else to keep itself at the troughs of public office? By rewarding victims, it seeks to enlist them. Nothing can be more pitiful than to watch my countrymen squabbling over who is the greater victim and more deserving of Government support.

ImagesLabour is now the Losers' Party,  but it was not always so. The early days of the Labour movement (in which I include trade unions, the Co-operative movement and such smaller phenomena as Miners' Institutes and workingmen's clubs) were about sturdy self-reliance. They were about working people helping each other to rise from poverty - whether financial, educational or spiritual. They were about "community" but not in the modern sense of people classified into hierarchies of victimhood.

The unstated objective of the elderly Labourites among whom I grew up was to avoid the waste of human potential. Nothing could be more laudable. In the 1920's and 1930's, when their views were formed, I would certainly have been a member, if only because theirs was a Party determined to broaden educational opportunity

Such were, once, the values and aspirations of the English working classes and of the Labour Party. I cannot think of anything more insulting than the condescension implied in Labour's current cult of victimhood. I could not despise anyone more than I despise its high priests; except perhaps the degraded specimens their cult  has produced of the class in which I grew up.

Show of Hands at the Royal Albert Hall

Link: Royal Albert Hall | Royal Albert Hall.

SteveandphilWhat a room! It was my first time there and I have to say that the Albert Hall is worth a visit in its own right.  Show of Hands put on a good evening's entertainment too, together with an assortment of guests (including Tom Robinson of TRB fame - an unexpected reminder of student days).

I went to see the concert entirely on the strength of Show of Hands' YouTube hit, "Roots" and their latest album, "Witness," but I enjoyed most of their other stuff too. Phil Beer is a great musician and Steve Knightley is a gently charismatic performer. The unofficial third member of the group, Miranda Sykes, is hugely talented. Her solo rendition of "Perfect" was an unexpected highlight. However, the evening left me with mixed feelings.

I have a weakness for folk music but am often repelled by the English variety. At its worst it tends to nostalgia, whingeing and naive soft-Leftishness. I love "Roots"  in part because it is an assertive, if not actually an aggressive, song, It's not the usual maudlin lament for poorer, nobler times.

Reading through the posts on various folk websites, I can see the song provokes strong feelings. Many folk fundamentalists cannot mention it without dark and unjustified references to the BNP. These are people who can only love an England that was never there. The unhealthy confusion of patriotism with xenophobia is one of the main things wrong with modern England. She can never prosper until her people can love her again, without shame.

I had briefly hoped "Roots" was a sign that might be about to happen. Certainly, when Steve Knightley sings

I've lost St George in the Union Jack; it's my flag too and I want it back

there is a real frisson. The song almost has the potential to be a revolutionary anthem against the Scottish Raj. One could imagine Gordon Brown being lynched from a Westminster lampost while an English crowd sang

Haul away boys, let them go
Out in the wind and the rain and snow
We've lost more than we'll ever know
Round the rocky shores of England

Any revolutionary fantasies were soon quelled, however, by the sight of the crowd. The SOH fan-base is made up of all the Guardian-reading aunts you have ever known. It's a family entirely composed of be-fleeced or be-cardiganned mumsy teachers. And that's just the men. Our relief when the house lights went down turned to amusement as acres of steel-grey hair shimmered gently in the footlights. And then, dear God, they started to move to the music. The song that brought us there poses a question;

The Indians, Asians, Afro-Celts
It's in their blood, below their belt
They're playing and dancing all night long
So what have they got right that we've got wrong?

The answer seems to be that they have rhythm, while we twitch in an embarrassing manner.

Mrs P and I felt like intruders. We had sat down, uninvited, in an enormous staff room during an NUT strike meeting. We had a childish urge to shout obscenities, not least because these kindly, boring people  were lamenting the loss of the country they had themselves destroyed. Is that harsh? Perhaps. But I would bet good money that a majority of those swaying spastically in the Albert Hall last night vote Labour. They were not girding their loins to retake England for free-minded yeomen, alas. I suspect their nostalgia is more for 1946, when the dreams of Labourism had yet to be shattered.

As we set off into the night to find a taxi, they boarded their buses back to the provinces, or picked up their Audis from the car parks. They were not comfortable in London. We know how that feels. We remember being just such awkward provincials once.We are glad we aren't any more.

They couldn't wait to get back to their England. The quest for ours continues.

Family Party

Dsc_1987As I am in England for Easter, we were able - belatedly - to celebrate my 50th birthday together as a family. The picture is of my sister-in-law's brilliant idea for a birthday cake. It tasted good too and seemed actually to be bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside.

Today, the celebrations continue as my wife and travel to London to see Show of Hands in concert at the Albert Hall. On Tuesday, it's back to Moscow and work.

For all that I bitch and moan about the state of the nation, I have to admit that - personally - I am a very lucky man.

Thanks, Uncle Sam

Link: Charles Krauthammer on Iran on National Review Online.

Btxt3I am sick of the cheap anti-Americanism of the British media. The Guardian, in particular, would back Satan himself in any conflict with the United States. The supposedly conservative rags are little better. Even the otherwise sound Jeremy Clarkson is unhinged on this subject.

OK, so our own superpower days are ancient history. Perhaps we can be excused for having forgotten that envy and resentment goes with the territory. But do we really have to join the envious and resentful ourselves?

It seems from the linked article that America quietly traded some Iranian "assets" in Iraq (spies and trainers of terrorists) for our sailors and marines. This, after the first Foreign Secretary from the Caravan Club was beaten to the diplomatic punch by Channel 4; after the EU refused even to threaten trade sanctions against Iran and after the UN Security Council all but spat in our eye. As Mark Steyn puts it

The British ambassador to the U.N. had wanted the Security Council to pass a resolution ''deploring'' Iran's conduct. But the Russians objected to all this hotheaded inflammatory lingo about ''deploring,'' and so the Security Council instead expressed its ''grave concern'' about the situation. That and $4.95 will get you a decaf latte. Ask the folks in Darfur what they've got to show for years of the U.N.'s "grave concerns" -- heavy on the graves, less so on the concern.

Understandably, Americans are irritated by European midge-bites:

The capture and release of the 15 British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the “international community” and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the EU and get stiffed. Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to “deplore” this act of piracy. (You settle for a humiliating expression of “grave concern”). Then turn to the despised Americans. They’ll deal some cards and bail you out.

Uncle Sam may not be the perfect ally. But he's the best one we've got. The occasional "thank you" might not go amiss.

Educational Conscription

Link: Educational Conscription: Pity the poor teachers.

Gse_multipart19669 If like me, you feel that someone old enough to marry, have a family or serve his country in the armed forces is old enough to make his own choices about education or training, please sign this petition. Anticipating the usual cynical comments, please understand that I know it's probably a waste of time. I agree that it will probably make no difference to a government so undemocratic that its "online consultation" on the subject offers no negative options to most of the questions!

But if I didn't believe it was better to light a candle than curse the darkness, why would I write this blog? And if you didn't believe it, why would you be reading it?

Singapore, India and the good life

I have learned a lot in the last couple of days. For instance, that India is short of about 20 million homes at present. Her cities are growing at the rate of 5% per annum (on average). The investment required to build the homes and supporting infrastructure the country needs in the next ten years is enormous. One speaker at the conference I have been attending in Singapore estimated that the country will need 23 million homes for "LIG" (Low Income Group) families. With a startling lack of political correctness, he helpfully clarified that this meant "the homeless and the slum dwellers." He thought another 56 million homes will be needed for HIG families. He estimated the costs (including infrastructure) at $22.5 trillion US.

There is precious little chance of that kind of investment (particularly, to be fair, for so long as the Indian people continue to see foreign investment as a threat to be controlled). The Indian government seems to understand the need, but peasant farmers' protests at their land being compulsorily purchased for "Special Economic Zones" have caused that programme to be put on hold, for example. If Karl Marx were to come back to life, even he would have to admit, after the global experiment of the last century, that his ideas were barking mad. Yet major Indian states are still ruled by Communist Parties - albeit their members seem to be otherwise more sensible chaps than our own New Labour.

Frankly, India is such an attractive proposition at present that I am not sure any special Foreign Direct Investment programmes are needed. All the Indian Government would have to do is remove the legal barriers so that investors can come and go without restraint. That seems, alas, to be politically impossible.

Marx has a lot to answer for.

The Indians at the conference were all, by the way, utterly charming. I have not heard such polite English spoken for a long time. They would apologise in advance for making a "strong statement" in their speeches, before going on to say something utterly innocous.

After the conference ended, I went last night for drinks and dinner at Raffles Hotel. That may seem crass, I know, but I can assure you that no Indians were harmed in the exercise. Here are some pictures.