THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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October 2007


The Last Ditch is an ever so humble commentary blog. It is rare that I have the chance to break an original story. However, over dinner last week, I heard an account of a Labour Party luminary being humiliated and having his corrupt gains trashed by members of his own trade union when caught on the take. I cannot claim this as "news" as it happened many years ago, but extensive googling on my part has not come up with any published account.

In the interests of being prepared for any libel action, I await further and better particulars from my source (a proud participant). In the meantime, I am chortling constantly at the thought of blogging this and decided to share my glee. Watch this space...

Hospital deaths scandal

Link: BBC NEWS | Health | Hospital bug deaths 'scandalous'.

I am glad I didn't blog immediately about this. The reactions are more interesting than the story itself. That NHS hospitals are filthy is no surprise to any Briton. The NHS is one of the three largest employers on Earth (with the Peoples' Liberation Army and Indian Railways). If we don't work there ourselves, we all know someone who does. If we have not been treated there ourselves, we have visited a friend or relative in hospital.

Reactions to the story are ridiculous, whether from "left" or  "right." Those for whom the NHS is the Holy Grail of the True Faith spin this as a failure of local management, and demand firm reprisals and a purge. The errant comrades must be firmly punished for their betrayal of the Service's Socialist values. They react , in short, exactly as the Chinese Communist Party does to the occasional token corruption case; (a) make an example of a "class traitor" to confirm the purity of the system; and (b) continue to lead the same life as the disgraced former comrade.

As Guthrum laments, there is no real understanding of liberty in modern Britain. The so-called "right" are merely another pack of Statists on a slightly different "make," aching to pull the levers of the same huge, inefficient machine. Therefore they too demand that heads should roll. As they are out of office, they are prepared to call for them to roll in the responsible Ministry as well as in the local organisation.

In calling for punishment of errant bureaucrats, both "left" and "right" are telling a more profound truth than they know. Any centrally-planned mechanism for the delivery of anything, whether it be missiles to our enemies or socialised health-care to our masses, must depend on command, control and discipline. The 20th Century taught us that this is the only alternative to markets. There is a reason why "command economies" earned that name.

Where patients choose their doctors and (on professional advice) their hospitals, health-care facilities depend on satisfied patients to provide livelihoods to those who work in them. The "cruel, harsh market" will effortlessly ensure that each hospital is clean, because otherwise no patient will choose it. Nor will any family doctor risk a negligence claim for referring a patient to it. Adam Smith's invisible hand will take lazy cleaners by the ear and guide their labours. Managers will be steered by the same invisible hand because they will be directly accountable to shareholders who will suffer personal losses if the hospital is sued (as opposed to Ministers who can pay the damages from taxpayers' money). There is no need for extreme punishment to achieve simple outcomes. The market will apply millions of invisible sticks and carrots, second by relentless second.

Clearly, if even Dr De'Ath over at  the usually libertarian Devil's Kitchen blog (sigh) believes that "privatisation" is part of the problem, many of us doubt this. From the comments at the BBC website, one would believe that if the cleaners were State employees (as opposed to merely being under contract to the same) all would be well. What tosh.

The token gesture of "outsourcing" cleaning services has done nothing more than take thousands of State employees "off balance sheet". It is the employment equivalent of the Private Finance Initiative. The terms of the contracts are set and enforced by State apparatchiks. Managers who accept poor service from contractors would have accepted the same from employees. The nurses who told patients to soil their beds because they were "too busy" to bring bedpans were direct employees, were they not? Q.E.D.

The reactions to the story show that nothing has been learned. If you believe in the NHS and you are on the "left", you will think that higher taxes and more aggressive "command and control" are required. If you believe in the NHS and you are on the "right," you will think the latter will suffice. If you don't believe in the NHS in the face of all the evidence against it,  you are probably neither British nor Michael Moore and must by now be completely mystified.

'Legalise drugs' urges top officer

Link: '\'Legalise drugs\'urges top officer'.

I cordially detest Richard Brunstrom. He has done more to destroy the quality of life in North Wales than anyone outside the Labour Party. However, he is right about this.

The substances that a person chooses to ingest should be entirely a matter for him. In practice, it already is. Almost every British banknote bears traces of cocaine and millions use Ecstasy every weekend. I don't do drugs myself and have never done so, but I appear to be almost alone in never even having tried them. Most of my user or former user friends and colleagues function perfectly well.

To the extent they have been harmed by drug use, that is entirely a matter for them Many of them ski too, and almost every skier I know has suffered physical injury as a result. I don't see the need to make skiing illegal and force skiers into lives of crime to fund their suddenly-much-more-expensive addiction. I am content simply to choose not to ski.

Most social harms attributed to drug use are more properly ascribed to drugs being illegal. If your heroin were supplied by Boots the Chemist, the company would be concerned (to avoid litigation and/or damage to its good name) to ensure that you did not suffer injury because of defects in the product. The friendly local criminal from whom you currently buy your drugs, has no product liability concerns. Many lives (and a faltering old English company) would be saved by Boots entering the market.

Drugs would be cheap if they were legal. The crimes committed to support drug use would be completely unnecessary. All of the police time wasted on pursuing druggies could be devoted to more serious issues, like playfriends calling each other "gay," or even detecting murders, rapes, robberies, batteries and burglaries.

We would no longer have to pay Afghan farmers not to grow poppy. They could deal freely in a legal trade which no amount of military force seems able to suppress. They would be take out of poverty, because they would no longer need rapacious criminals to handle their distribution.

There is no reason to suppose that there would be a substantial increase in drug use as a result of legalisation.  Pretty much everyone in Britain who wants drugs, already gets them. Even in prison, they circulate freely. I suspect drug deaths would be reduced because they would be less impure and the necessary apparatus could be supplied by companies with product liability concerns and stored hygienically between uses, rather than hidden. I could not even begin to estimate the benefits to non-users of no longer having to fortify their homes against criminals funding an expensive habit.

The State should get out of this issue and take the criminal gangs (and the police) with it.

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't

Link: Sir John Bourn, guardian of the public purse. In three years he's run up bills of £365k on travel and £27k on meals. Then there's opera, grand prix, polo ... | Whitehall | Guardian Unlimited Politics.

I confidently expect this to be one of my more unpopular posts.

As Comptroller of the National Audit Office, Sir John Bourn has responsibility for overseeing the expenditure of almost half the money earned in Britain every year. His is a vital job. Parliament has been castrated by the Executive. HM Opposition is too concerned not to be seen as the "Nasty Party" to focus on cost controls. Therefore, his office is our only line of defence against the reckless squandering by Ministers (often for political rather than national ends) of many billions of hard-earned, viciously-taxed pounds.

His is a responsible job and should be done by a high quality individual. He should be as well paid as anyone and able to deal on equal terms with the most powerful in the land. Indeed he should be feared by all, especially Ministers.  If a company which has dealings with the government invites him to lunch at the Ritz to discuss government tenders, is he to decline the invitation? Of course not. If he accepts it, should he reciprocate the hospitality later? If he didn't, journalists would make dark hints about his being bought off. Is he then to reciprocate by taking the directors concerned to his staff canteen?

I wonder if taking his wife on government trips was really wise. I travel a lot in my work and sometimes take my wife, but always pay for her flights personally. However, I cannot see that the criticism of Sir John's class of travel or level of entertainment expenditure is sensible. When Ministers travel first class, the beleaguered taxpayers can consider it an economy measure, given the taste some of them have for treating the RAF as a minicab service. Ministers, other than in the great offices of State, should show respect for their "shareholders" by travelling business class at competitive rates, but the Comptroller General should be the peoples' most valued servant. He should enjoy all the pay and every perk necessary to attract and retain a candidate of the highest calibre.

If Sir John does his job properly, his expenses are the merest trifle. The more interesting question is whether he does. Wat Tyler would be better able to comment on that. I merely observe that when someone in an oversight role comes under attack, intelligent observers should be suspicious as to why. Perhaps he is an extravagant fool with no sense of irony. Perhaps, however, someone, somewhere is briefing against him because he is doing his job properly? Certainly, no Minister will ever attack him for doing it badly.

Gordon Brown's psychological flaws will come back to haunt him - Telegraph

Link: Gordon Brown's psychological flaws will come back to haunt him - Telegraph.

Heffer's article is potboiler stuff, but am I alone in being delighted by this comment from a Telegraph reader?

Brown has not changed one iota from the devious, untrustworthy teenager who arrived with me at Edinburgh University. His father really was a decent man and to hear this charlatan claim that his life and actions are a mirror image is outrageous. Pass me the sick bag, Darling.

Posted by Rev Dr John Cameron on October 10, 2007 9:37 AM

Who, pray, is this reverend doctor? Let us hear more from him.

Family defend Sir Kingsley Amis from slurs

Link: Family defend Sir Kingsley Amis from slurs - Telegraph.

Sir Kingsley's family should relax. Slinging abuse, particularly accusations of "discrimination", is what passes for debate on the Left. This, from people whose entire world view is based on the discriminatory notion of advancing one social class to the detriment of all others.

Their arguments were disproved in the 20th Century at the cost of the lives of millions and the livelihoods of millions more. Their ideology is bankrupt. All they have left is their petulance. Kingsley Amis would have laughed at this idiot professor. So should we.

'Plans to outlaw inciting gay hate'

Link: 'Plans to outlaw inciting gay hate'.

GaggedThis Government's affection for the crime of incitement is one of the best indicators of its contempt for the individual. If I "incite" you to hate Joe, Jack or Jane, do you have no choice in the matter? I may tell you why I hate them, but surely it's up to you - as a free man or woman - to decide for yourself?

Except, to this government, you are no free agent. You are a pawn to be moved by it, or by its enemies. While most of us would rather be verbally abused than robbed or assaulted, to a Government intent on manipulating society, speech is more important than property or safety. Diverting police resources to the control of speech is therefore perfectly logical.

Shown "Britain's largest collection of feminist art," I smiled and asked "how does feminist art differ from art?" Perhaps it is time people asked how "social justice" differs from "justice," because it clearly does.

My favourite line here is the observation of Ben Summerskill's of Stonewall that;

"These protections aren't about preventing people expressing their religious views in a temperate way."

All religious views are essentially "intemperate," Ben. That's one reason why I don't hold any. If there is a God shaping and directing the Universe and if disobeying Him leads to eternal damnation, there is little scope for wishy-washiness. You had better jump to it and obey Him. Since homosexuality is a sin for all the major monotheistic religions, a religious leader who condemns the conduct of homosexuals has no real scope to be "temperate." As he sees it, he needs to alert them to their danger of damnation and to save others from that horror. Neither you nor I would need to worry about that, Ben, if we simply respected his freedom of speech and laughed at his ideas.

I am a libertarian. I really don't care who inserts what into whom or when - as long as it's not into me or mine without our consent. Equally, I don't give a damn if someone wants to stand up at Speakers' Corner and demand that Hitler's or Stalin's work be resumed. But then I believe an individual's chances of happiness are proportionate to his freedoms. This Government believes quite the opposite.

Children "need emotional support" shock

Link: Britain's children 'need emotional support' says NCH - Telegraph.

Since man first evolved, have any decent parents doubted that their offspring needed "emotional support?" Isn't that, inter alia, what parents are for?

If Britain really has the unhappiest children in the developed world, perhaps it has something to do with the need, in many cases, for both parents to have at least one job? How else, these days, are ordinary mortals to service a typical mortgage and pay the taxes which have doubled under Labour? Perhaps it has something to do with the incessant messages of doom (war on terror, climate change, paedophile scares, identity theft) used by this Government to make the governed docile? It might even have something to do with most of our children attending indoctrination centres schools where the teachers struggle to maintain the merest pretence of order. In short, it might have much to do with the failings of the British State. So who does NCH think should provide "emotional support?" Go on, guess.

It's not news that children (or indeed any humans) need emotional support. That's why we have families and friends. It IS news that there is still someone dumb enough to suggest the State Apparatus might provide it.

I googled "NCH governance" to find who runs this charity. To my initial surprise the "chair" is not one of the great and the good of the NuLab Scottish Raj. She is (if I have the right Pam Chesters) an Englishwoman on the Conservative candidates list. She was formerly a CEO of a BP subsidiary; is on the board of the Royal Free Hampstead Hospital Trust; chairs the English Churches Housing Group,  a social (as opposed, presumably, to an antisocial) landlord and is on the board of the Riverside Housing Group.

Why does such a woman lend her name to such piffle?

ApparatchikaNCH had a proud history, but is now an independent charity in name only. It gets more than 70% of its income from the State. While Chesters is the figurehead, it is actually run by a model of Statist "virtue", Clare Tickell, who consistently backs the Government line. And why not? It pays her wages.

Comrade Tickell has

...held many non-executive and advisory positions in the voluntary and housing sectors, as well as in the Social Exclusion Unit, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Department of Health and the Audit Commission...

Just how big is the British State? Its paid agents are everywhere. The official statistics as to state employees merely scratch the surface, even before you consider how many people in "private" employment serve the government, rather than their employers (collecting VAT, serving as "compliance officers" etc.). When next you read an article in the Guardian about an "independent" figure from a charity headed by a Tory mug promoting the role of the Socialist State, please consider whether she is, in practice, an apparatchik on the State payroll.

Not flash, just gutless

Link: BBC NEWS | Politics | Reaction: Election announcement.

GutlessfuckAs ever, Alex Salmond expresses himself most pithily. What a shame his undoubted political talents are wasted on petty provincialism.

Gordon Brown ...ran away at the first whiff of grapeshot.

Those whom the gods seeks to destroy they first render ridiculous, and this shambles leaves Gordon Brown looking totally ridiculous.

PCSOs who 'stood by' as boy drowned named

Link: PCSOs who 'stood by' as boy drowned named - Telegraph.

Let these names forever be associated with the word "cowardice." They "were only following orders." Let's hope they are never given worse.

Witness statements submitted to the inquest into the death of the schoolboy Jordon Lyon describe how Andrew Furnival, 24, and Helene Weatherburn, 20, "just stood there" after an angler pointed to the spot where Jordon had gone under the surface.