THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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March 2008

Twin Cities and Boondoggles

I am indebted to Tom Paine for suggesting that I contribute to The Last Ditch. Being new to the business of blogging, perhaps my initial offerings will be on the tepid side of hot stuff, but nonetheless here goes.

Tom and I have recently gone our separate ways after a few days of hard work, punctuated by a most agreeable dinner, in the south of France. At the dinner table were bright people who worked in Moscow, Kiev, London, and in my case Edinburgh/London.When I meet new people from Kiev it reminds me that Kiev is twinned with Edinburgh - a fact very few Ukrainians or Scots know. I suspect that, apart from me and a few others who have travelled fairly frequently between these cities, the only ones who know are the civic leaders(?) who decided to do the twinning in the first place.

Imagine the scene. The City Chambers in Edinburgh, some time around 30 years ago. "Who are we going to twin with, Hector? Birmingham has got Frankfurt, Glasgow has Nuremberg, and Manchester has had to settle for Chemnitz." (Where's Chemnitz I hear you say. A good question. Chemnitz United is not the world's best known football team. It is somewhere in the former DDR).   

MapofukraineTo Hector's credit he put his "O" Level geography to good use, and picked up the Atlas. "Fraser" he said, "we shall have to go further East". And so it was that his finger lit on Kiev, then little known to those outside culinary circles, and of course a large number of unfortunate chicken.

It was an inspired choice. When the high hedjuns (top people) from Edinburgh City  Council went to Kiev they would have been greeted by Party Officials in ill fitting suits, but doubtless also surprised by the beauty of the Ukrainian ladies. Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, eat your hearts out - Edinburgh had come out on top  (possibly in both senses of the word).

The beauty of the ladies of Kiev is well documented. In the late 1990's the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now there is a name from the past to be conjured with) held its Annual Conference in Kiev, and there was considerable disquiet ahead of the event because of the shortage of hotel accommodation of even a modest standard. The then President of Ukraine was quoted in British papers as saying words to the effect of " once the delegates get here and see the beauty of our Ukrainian women they will stop worrying about their hotel" - a thought which went down like a lead balloon with delegates wives.

Well, fortunately for Mrs Paine and Mrs Primrose the ladies in Cannes were not nearly so alluring, and Mr Paine and I contented ourselves with an excellent dinner, with convivial company which tried, and inevitably failed, to convince us that the world in general, and Britain in particular was in fine fettle. It would be a much better place if the best people felt able to stand for office without the certain knowledge that they would get either hacked to pieces by the gutter press, or wind up as a "celebrity" on TV. Sadly we live in a time when the pinnacle of most young men's aspirations is to be either a professional footballer, or to run a hedge fund. Politics nowadays is for the foolhardy, or so it seems. Who are the conviction politicians now?   Robin Cook is dead. Desert Island Discs today had Tariq Ali as the guest, and much as I dislike his views, I respect the strength and sincerity which he has to maintain an ultra left stance well past its sell by date.

Tomorrow I tackle a 500 mile drive to Cornwall, and a few traffic jams en route could put me in real Victor Meldrew mode, but in spite of dire warnings about Easter motoring there is hope.  Tonight on the News a reporter on a motorway bridge in Bristol was saying there was little traffic and no hold ups in sight, so there is hope for a clear run. That said, mother nature may have last laugh, as howling winds from the north are forecast to bring snow, which in infinitesimal quantities can bring Britain to a grinding halt. I shall take flasks of coffee, chocolate, and a little emergency ration of whisky, and will report on the odyssey in due course.


New Author

PrimrosAfter three years of heavy lifting, with only an occasional guest post here at the Last Ditch, an old friend of mine has expressed an interest in becoming a contributor. He's a newcomer to blogging, but he is a witty and convivial chap and I think it will suit him. I am looking forward to his posts and I am sure you will enjoy them.

He is a Scot, travelling for business, but based in Edinburgh. Only time will tell if  his contributions will jeopardise my membership of the Witanagemot Club.

In any event, I am sure he will help counteract the damage done to Caledonia's reputation by her most infamous blogger.


Australia returns a favour

Link: Paedophile who lived in Australia for 56 years sent to UK | UK news | The Guardian.

Blanket_coverageAlthough this man lived his entire adult life abroad, and committed all his crimes in Australia, this story is a nice illustration of the state of contemporary Britain. Admittedly, in Moscow the only television news I see is the relentlessly trivial Sky News. I suppose I can hope that it was covered better by other broadcasters. Judging by the online media, I suspect not.

This man has served a long prison sentence for his terrible crimes. Given their nature, I am sure that he did not have an easy time of it. Nor should he have. But now his punishment is over and he is a free man. I know that to be true, because the retired Scotland Yard specialist in paedophiles wheeled out by Sky News said that was the problem. "He has the same rights now as you and me," he exclaimed, in the incredulous tone a medieval peasant (sorry Deogolwulf) might have used at the prospect of suffering a witch to live.

The tabloids are having a field day with this "fiend" and "monster," inviting their readers (when their lips have stopped moving) to call the newsdesk if they see him or know where he is living - so that their journalists can doorstep him again. Comically, they are also condemning Australia for doing with their foreign prisoners what tabloid journalists usually demand we should do with ours. Hypocrisy, pace the folk wisdom of the French, has always been the true "English vice."

Citizens of a decent, caring nation, such as Britain endlessly declares itself to be, would help this ex-offender build a new life. I am not naive. Those with small children will of course take care to warn them against him. Prudent parents will of course look askance if they see him nearby. He is scarcely in a position to complain if they do. However, his best chance to avoid recidivism would to make a new life. He needs work, companions and everyday occupations to distract him from his sick sexual urges.

What chance of that now? He has been demonised on national TV, reviled in the press and "outed" with pictures and other details in the blogosphere. I have no personal sympathy, but it makes no practical sense to condemn him to a solitary, miserable life. Anyone who reaches out to him now will be suspected of the same witchcraft. I must expect a hostile response myself, merely for pointing out the modern witchfinders in full cry.

When I was briefly a defence lawyer in my youth, I had a rather simple criminal client (a redundant description since only the stupid ones are usually caught). This lamentable specimen had served a sentence for a crime he did not commit. Before being falsely accused he had been respectable enough, though he was never going to get an OBE. His response to injustice was to commit the crime for which he had been punished - over and over again. I hope this paedophile does not apply a similar warped logic. He could scarcely be in more trouble now whatever he does. In fact, he might be better off in the controlled circumstances of a prison than under the restrictions Britain now applies (while all the time "campaigners" bay for more blood).

This is not a question of being "soft." This is an entirely practical matter. Our emotional desire to be seen to be "caring" is probably putting children at more risk. Whatever happened to calm, common sense?

Truly caring people - rather than hypocrites and frauds - would conditionally wish this "monster" well. As long as he did not return to his old ways, they would at least tolerate him. Yet somehow in "inclusive", "diverse" and "sensitive" Britain, I don't see that happening. Our vile ersatz "kindness by force" through taxes, laws and social workers is far removed from the real thing. Indeed it seems to have crushed the real thing, or displaced it.

As my readers know, I am not a religious man. At a time like this, I could wish that more of us were. The only people likely to help in this situation are those guided by a "higher power." And I don't mean Gordon Brown.


Englishmen abroad

Link: 'Over-55s \'causing holiday havoc\''.

Mcgill8_galHow wonderful that the world is now such a safe place that the Foreign Office has the time and resources to give holiday advice. Has Tony Blair already fixed the Middle East then? Has the Taliban finally surrendered? Is Al-Qaida smashed? Was President Bush's celebration of victory in Iraq to be taken seriously?

It would not occur to our Roundhead masters that middle-aged holiday makers might get over-exuberant on holiday as a reaction to the grey, oppressive atmosphere of health-and-safety obsessed Britain. Even so, what do they think they are doing opining on such matters? Do they accept no boundaries to their imagined remit to run our lives? Do they have no fear that involving themselves in such things may cause taxpayers to twig that they don't have a real job?

Surely you don't have to be a libertarian to think that the costs of employing officials with nothing better to do than this could be usefully saved?


Start the Week with an insult

Link: BBC - Radio 4 - Start the Week.

Waiting for my transfer to the airport yesterday morning, I listened to Radio 4. What a smug noise that station makes. Archsycophant to the PM, Andrew Marr, was hosting a discussion with Susan Pinker, Simon Russell Beale, Marina Warner and Clay Shirky, which touched briefly on blogging. In the course of five minutes (tops) the political blogosphere in Britain was dismissed as comprising mainly young, “libertarian” (spoken through a curled lip detectable even by radio), single men with too much time on their hands.

I plead guilty to being a man and a libertarian. I was also once young, but alas no more. Do I have time on my hands? Well, I run a business I built from a standing start in the last five years, which turns over several million pounds, employs 25 people and is still growing fast. I am responsible for overseeing and developing a network of other such businesses, which involves constant travelling. I think it's fair to say I am a busy man, but I  manage my time and resources. I blog in airports, in the back of taxis or from my iPhone on the way to and from work. I blog as I read my morning “newspaper” (a collection of feeds from the Guardian, Times, Telegraph and my favoured blogs).

Nor am I the only non-spotty blogger. Guido is a mature man who made his pile and now pursues other interests. Ellee Seymour and Ian Dale would not like their ages mentioned but the first flush of youth is undeniably fading. Bel is coy about her age but remembers Margaret Thatcher directly, rather than through the Gothic glass held up by a generation of leftist teachers. Wat Tyler is of a slightly riper vintage than myself. Nor are all the above male, by any means (or libertarian).

What is with the age sneer, anyway? Did none of these pompous panellists express political opinions when young? I rather suspect they did. So what, precisely, was their point?

This was not intelligent commentary. It was a put-down, based either on wilful ignorance or dishonesty. Amusingly, not 10 minutes before, Shirky was praising Facebook for allowing “ordinary people” to campaign against big corporations.

So the internet is fine when used to campaign against big corporations, but not against big government? What else can one expect from our dear old leftist Aunty?


Put young children on DNA list, urge police

Link: Put young children on DNA list, urge police | Society | The Observer.

I am not even going to comment on the suggestion in this article. If it is not patently absurd, then Britain is finished. I link to it only to pose a question. Should the police - tasked with enforcing the laws - express public opinions on what those laws should be? Given that any debate which ensues will - by nature - be political, does it not damage the perceived impartiality essential to good policing?

I would be fascinated to hear what my favourite police blogger and his forthright band of commenters have to say on this subject.


Labour's greatest achievement?

Link: Sinn Fein leaders invited to wedding of top Blair aide: ThePost.ie.

Friendoftraitors Apparently, having snubbed him daily for 10 years, Gordon Brown congratulated Jonathan Powell, as he left Downing Street at the end of the Blair era, on his achievements in Northern Ireland. Powell was Blair's runner to the IRA/Sinn Fein terrorists throughout the peace process.

I will not join those in the media condemning him for suggesting the West should enter into negotiations with Al Qaida, as Blair did with IRA/Sinn Fein. Of course we must do so at some point and, as he told Andrew Marr, merely to talk is not to surrender. However, I was sickened to watch him tell New Labour's arch-sycophant that he had become friends with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. His job may have required him to deal with them, but how could any decent human befriend them?

Perhaps the best published comment about him (in an otherwise unctuous Guardian profile) refers snidely to his ancestor; one of the four knights who killed Saint Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

Educated at King's School, Canterbury, within a stone's throw of the cathedral where his ancestor Hugh de Moreville gave an early taste of the family's devotion to contentious public service, Powell has none of the stuffiness of traditional Oxbridge diplomats.

On friendly terms with traitors and murderers? Yes, but not at all stuffy. Well, that's OK then.


Support for Labour hits 25-year low

Link: Support for Labour hits 25-year low - Times Online.

Given the devastation wrought to civil liberties, it is amazing to me that anyone still intends to vote Labour. Still, it is encouraging that people are beginning to notice that our rulers may not be entirely on our side.

Apple_lisaTo put this in context, the last time Labour was so unpopular, this is what the latest computer looked like.

McDonald's had only just introduced these.
Mcnuggets

And this was Labour's idea of wind-power.Windbag