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

How lame is this?

Lipdub Europe United par les Jeunes Européens - France
Uploaded by JeunesEuropeensFrance

If this is the sales pitch for a federal EU, what on earth would the reality be like? The video is every bit as lame as their case. It is so cringe worthy that it takes a strong will to see it through to the end. Something tells me these are future leaders of Europe though; it's the fact that - according to the credits - it took eight of them to have the "original idea" for the video. But let's be fair here. Can any reader point us to an equally dire anti-federalist film?

(A tip of the titfer to A Very British Dude.)


Link: Labour cash crisis could bankrupt party leaders | Politics | The Guardian.

Exactly how did Labour voters expect such a bunch of spendthrift incompetents to behave in charge of the nation's finances? With so many lawyers amongst the Labour luvvies, it's really rather surprising that the party is organised "like the local cricket club", with National Executive Committee (NEC) members personally liable for its debts. Not that limited liability would necessarily have saved them, as they now fondly seem to believe. The directors of a company which continues to trade while insolvent can become personally liable anyway. I suspect the Labour Party has been insolvent for most of its life.

Presumably, when incurring the Levy debts, Tony Blair imagined that the trade unions would have no choice but to bail out the party that has been their creature for most of its existence. Are the unions really prepared though to raid the funds of their working class members to save Blair from personal bankruptcy? He organised the borrowing, after all, with little or no regard for how the party might repay it. His chum Lord Levy set up the loans and negotiated their terms, while Tony (and the rest of the NEC) signed them off. Unless NEC members were stupid enough (and we shouldn't underestimate their stupidity on this showing) to indemnify outgoing members, Blair is probably still (jointly and severally with other members past and present) liable for the debts incurred on his watch.

Even if they did indemnify him, most current NEC members are probably not worth suing for such sums. Mr Blair, on the other hand,  now seems to be worth a few bob. If I were one of the Labour Party's creditors, I think my most economical litigation strategy would be to sue only him. Past and present NEC members are jointly and severally liable, so I could choose to sue all, some,  or any one of them. Blair could then choose either to join in as many of his chums as he liked as co-defendants, or to sue them in his turn for their share. Leaving him with the costs of that further litigation would seem the best approach. Stupidly, the GMB union has also made itself a good target for this tactic, by agreeing to indemnify NEC members Debbie Coulter (the union's deputy general secretary) and Mary Turner (its current president). I think I would still prefer to sue Tony Blair though, as the embarrassment the global publicity would cause to the Labour Party would drive its backers to a quicker settlement.

Enough of these delightful fantasies though. I am sure the unions will bail them all out (at the price of recapturing the party and driving it even further to the Left). I sadly predict that the Blairs will enjoy the gains and the glory which seem to have motivated them all along, while leaving the party they never really liked in the lurch. I am sure their assets are all in Cherie's name anyway, as she's the only half-talented lawyer in the bunch. If Tony Blair ever faces justice, it is more likely to be in the divorce court than any other. Especially as not only would cupiditous Cherie walk away with all the possessions in her name, but such a story would give her the material for another lucratively salacious book.

One final thought. Why did the NEC employ the services of one of Britain's most expensive law firms to give it advice? Slaughter & May is a fine firm and I would not hesitate to recommend it for complex work, but the legal issues here are pitifully simple. Any high street firm could have advised for a lot less. It seems that Labour's NEC is congenitally profligate. Anyone can make a mistake, but not learning from them is the hallmark of real idiocy.

Britain’s rubbish rules

Link: How should we overhaul Britain’s rubbish rules? - Telegraph.

DustmenPlanet Earth calling the British middle classes! Please read all the idiotic comments against the linked piece in the Telegraph and then note this fact - reported by a family member in the Labour North who has no reason to lie (being a lifelong supporter of the Party, who regularly squirms at my criticisms of it). A young dustman there of her acquaintance (not one of the gentlemen in the picture) claims to be collecting £800+ per week in "tips" for accepting rubbish from customers against the current rules. Now, ladies and gentlemen, what do you think will be the practical effect of imposing more such rules? Are you now prepared to consider that changing the rules of the Welfare State to get the bulk of the 5.5 million currently on benefits back to work (rather than continuing dangerously to infantilise them) might yield (among many other improvements) enough new members of the workforce to do nightly rubbish collections (as in Russia, where my trash is collected at about 2am every day) and then sort the rubbish so collected? Or would you prefer to obsess about sorting through filth in your highly-expensive homes; thus effectively providing waste processing plants rent-free to your local council?

Fantasy politics?

Link: The answer's obvious: cut taxes and spending - Telegraph.

This is the first conservative article I have seen in the Daily Telegraph for some time. It's written by a Labour MP from the North of England's socialist heartlands. I am stunned, frankly. Were we libertarians to write of

"...the insatiable greed of the state in all its manifestations to take the people's money for its own, often incompetent and counter-productive ends..."

and propose drastic spending cuts to allow taxes to be reduced so that ordinary people can fulfil

"their cherished plans to spend their own money as they see fit "

the mumsy wing of the Conservative Party would accuse us of "fantasy politics". McShane's article contains the following amazing passage, which expresses sentiments many of us feel, but had lost hope of hearing expressed by our politicians;

Denismacshane"I do not know of a single minister who privately does not despair at the waste of money on pointless projects, publications, or legions of press officers that add no value. The taxpayer has given more than £1 billion of aid to India, even though that great country has more billionaires and millionaires than Britain and runs its own well-financed development aid programme. I was baffled as Europe minister to be told I had to waste 90 minutes being quizzed by a consultant when the kindly but shrewd tea ladies in King Charles Street knew what needed to be done. How much was paid to the consultant? What happened to his report? No one in Whitehall knows or cares. When I suggested using easyJet to cut flying costs in Europe, fellow ministers and senior officials looked at me as if I had left a nasty mess on their doorstep.

Can I be the only MP outraged that town clerks - even dressed up with fancy titles such as chief executive - can now get paid £200,000 plus for running rubbish collection services in small towns? Labour prides itself on filling Tony Blair's promise to bring NHS spending up to European levels. But as Hugh Bayley, MP for York and a former minister, says: "If you increase health expenditure without increasing the supply of health services you simply fuel NHS inflation." Bayley had the fatal flaw of being a leading health economist before he became an MP and so did not last long as a minister. His kind of can-do delivery style never fitted in with the Paul Smith suits that pullulated in New Labour's higher reaches."

Crewe & Nantwich was clearly a bigger turning point in British politics than we thought. Labour is in such a panic, that some of its MPs are resorting to common sense in a desperate attempt to hold onto their seats. I am sure Mr McShane and I agree on little else, but I thank him. He may have begun to move our political discourse out of the parallel universe in which it has been conducted for the past decade. Now, if only the Conservative Party will rejoin the real world...

Spinning a yarn?

Link: Illegal immigration 'fleet' has only one van - Telegraph.

We will not restore faith in British politics until the press stops allowing politicians, like Humpty-Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, to have words mean whatever they want them to mean. "Spin" is legitimate political art. It involves presenting facts in a good light for the politician in question. As such it is a form of advocacy and is  not the same as lying. To say you are deploying "a fleet of vans" when you have only one is not spin. It is a lie. The Minister who told it should now resign in disgrace.

Only when journalists hold politicians to rudimentary ethical standards, can we hope to restore public trust. I am almost as angry with the Daily Telegraph's sub-editors for allowing "spin" to be used as a synonym for "lies" as I am with Liam Byrne for lying.

"best-performing" towns

Link: 'Cornwall best-performing seaside town for house price rise' - Telegraph.

ShackleBritain has many problems, but the least explicable for me is the national obsession with house prices. The linked article is, when you think about it, really rather disgusting. Shelter is a basic human need, yet according to the Daily Telegraph the "best performing towns" are those in which shelter is being priced beyond peoples' reach at the rate of 24% and 22% a year.

When I asked my bank manager for a mortgage to buy my present humble base in Britain, he laughed at me. "We would lend you 8 times that" he told me. I remarked that, if he did, I would have no life. He said that, if that were so, most Britons with mortgages have no life. With that, I have to agree.

I simply don't understand why our quality of life is better if the price of apples or petrol falls, but worse if the same happens to houses. If my house (now paid for) were to fall in price, it would do me no harm. Similar houses would be available for what it would fetch. In fact my family would be better off. My children would have a better chance of a decent home without being driven by the need to service massive debts. They would have more cash available from their earnings for real investment. If they wanted to take the risks involved in starting their own businesses they could do it without being burdened by housing debt.

I am waiting for the penny to drop. Now that the value of ordinary houses puts people above the inheritance tax threshhold, surely they will realise that borrowing huge amounts of money to buy such houses (and paying back many times more than that, when interest is counted) is simply another way of giving money to the Government? My modest modern mid-terrace is perfectly comfortable and full of art, beautiful furniture and gadgets. There is a beautiful car in the tiny single garage (which I have to fold back the mirrors to slot in with millimetres to spare). My family have enjoyed holidays in fascinating places and we drink fine wine and eat superb food. My wife and I are making sensible provision for our old age. All of these things give more pleasure and more security (for all that - apart from the art and the pension fund- they are consumables) than sweating and straining to fill government coffers with 45% of the value of something that merely keeps the rain off our heads.

Grow up Britain! That house that is your pride and joy is the merely the shackle on the end of a chain that leads to the Treasury. Divide it into modest flats and sell the spare one(s) off. Buy art, fine wines or a Ferrari. Get yourselves a Patek Philippe or a Breguet. Travel the world or give it all to charity if you like. Whatever you do, for goodness sake, live a little before it's too late.

Chelsea sack Avram Grant as manager

Link: Chelsea sack Avram Grant as manager - Football News - Telegraph.


General_secretaryGordon_brownAvram_grantPoliticians think theirs is a tough game, but is it really? I wonder what goes through the mind of our football following Prime Minister when he reads of Chelsea's ruthless sacking of Avram Grant?  Grant led his side to the Champions League final, the Carling Cup final and to second place in the Premier League. Brown seems unable to get his team onto the pitch.

Because of its feeble finances, the Labour Party can't find someone to take on the job of General Secretary. Perhaps they should offer Roman Abramovich the job?

When positive thinking goes wrong

Link: US elections: Hillary Clinton apologises for assassination gaffe - Telegraph.

HillariousI dislike Hillary Clinton, both as a politician and as a human being, but I feel sorry for her this morning. I understand why she made this terrible error.

Self-belief is a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition of success. Not everyone who has it wins, but everyone who wins has it  reinforced, which increases their chances of winning again. Great sportsmen like Tiger Woods have uncanny control over their own thoughts, which allows them to ignore bad shots and concentrate totally on making the next shot great. I read recently that, when he is behind in a game, he imagines unlikely scenarios in which he could win. That allows him to play as if he might and keeps open the possibility of victory. Such mental self-discipline is hard for we lesser mortals to imagine (although many can find it in a real crisis, doing things to save their child in danger, for example, the memory of which leaves them in a cold sweat). Usually, however, those with weaker wills are distracted from opportunities to win by the memory of their failures. 

Those irritating people who tell life's losers that they would all be winners if they only believed are almost right. It is true if you replace "would" with "could." For people whose luck has long held, however, it can come to seem that their powerful self-belief is actually shaping events. The longer such people keep winning, the greater the risk that this becomes a dangerous delusion. People need to lose a little (or to be lucky enough to have friends and family to keep reminding them of how lucky they have been) to remain fully human.

Hillary Clinton has been a winner all her life. She has been visualising, with total clarity, the unlikely scenario of being the first woman President of the United States since she was a school-girl. Of course that makes her weird, but that is the kind of "weirdness" necessary to achieve such greatness. "The rich are different" and so are great politicians, sportsmen and business leaders. I don't deny Hillary Clinton's potential for greatness, much as I may hope to see it unfulfilled. Even her worst enemy, however, would surely not have wished to see it denied in this awful way.

In this interview she allowed the mental mechanics of greatness to be seen. She was running through scenarios (however unlikely) in which she could come from behind to win. That kind of thinking is essential for her to keep going at this stage. If she had kept going - and pulled off a victory - without this slip, then it would have become the subject of books and articles in which she was lauded by admiring losers as a gutsy winner who would never quit. To let it be seen, however, was a huge error for a democratic politician. Where the majority who are losers pick the winners, it's essential to resemble them at least in some respects. That is why Socialism has been such a political success, despite being economically devastating. It allows winners to present themselves as the champions of the losers; as well as promising to share with them the proceeds of the theft of other winners' wealth.

The Englishman today implies that Gordon Brown is showing signs of being delusional. In a sense that is right. When belief in your own ability to win has brought you as far in your ambitions as it has Brown, it does not simply die when your luck runs out. Right now, Brown is running endless unlikely scenarios in his mind which could lead to him winning the next election. When he is denied the chance to do so, it will be by friends protecting him from his "delusions". Do not be surprised if, in his memoirs, he claims he could have won were it not for their treachery. Poor Hillary however, today has only herself to blame.

Tories take Crewe & Nantwich

Link: BBC NEWS | Politics | Tories snatch Crewe from Labour.

This is a fairly amazing result. I could hardly have been more wrong. I shall not even try to think about what it would mean if translated into General Election terms; it's just too ridiculous.

I can't help feeling that David Cameron may have over triangulated. The Conservatives cannot have won such a majority in such a seat without lifelong Labour people voting for them. We are talking about voters not even worth winning over because they could only be kept on board by betraying every important Conservative value.

Given that Gordon Brown was supposed to be more in touch with "Old Labour" voters than Blair, one can only explain this in Guido Fawkes' terms; i.e. that Brown is a jonah. If he survives the week, then Labour has no political gumption left at all. One can only hope and dream they are really so ineffectual. Surely not?

Chelsea fans battle police after defeat (but not in Moscow)

Link: Champions League final: Chelsea fans battle police after defeat to Manchester United - Telegraph.

RiotThe biggest change in Britain in my lifetime has been the development of a culture which excuses all kinds of misconduct by reference to "social factors", "alcohol", "drugs" or whatever. I have never bought it. People of all cultures and classes, though they they may occasionally do stupid things, are largely "rational actors".

This story rather proves it. Riot in London and you will probaby not be arrested. If you are arrested, you will be treated gently. You will probably not do any jail time. Do any jail time and you will probably be released early. And in any event, the chattering classes (including any social workers or probation officers) will not hold you personally accountable, but will blame it on external factors. Being, in truth, a rational actor you will learn to deploy all their arguments in your favour as this excellent little book explains.

Do the same in Moscow, however, and the police will deal with you rather differently. With the full support of  government and society, they will deploy all such force as is necessary (and a little more for good measure) to minimise the danger to themselves and others. They will throw you in an uncomfortable cell  from which you will shortly depart to an uncomfortable prison via a court which is ruthlessly unsympathetic to your social excuses. So unsympathetic in fact, that it is quite likely to increase your sentence for having dared to blame your own bad behaviour on others.

I am not saying the Russian justice system is perfect or even good. As you know, I don't comment on Russian affairs. I am a guest in this country and that would be rude. I am merely saying that the changes introduced in the systems of law enforcement in Britain during my lifetime are stupid. The English football fans in Moscow yesterday were aware of Russia's reputation and behaved accordingly. How else can you account for the fact that there was no violence? A few rowdy drunks were rounded up before they could "kick off" and denied access to the match, but otherwise all was serene. Football fans are near enough for all practical purposes (just like everyone else) to being rational actors. All efforts to factor in external forces as defences to any misbehaviour (or as mitigation to any punishment) are therefore rather worse than a total waste of time.