THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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November 2008
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January 2009

December 2008

The Quick and the dead (career)

Comment Central - Times Online - WBLG: What Bob Quick tells us about Damian Green.

If the comments on Daniel Finkelstein's piece are anything to go by, the public has lost all confidence in the senior leadership of our police forces (and particularly the Met). With the exception of one pro-Labour comment from someone who rashly repeats the allegation that Quick has (presumably after consulting his solicitors as he threatened) withdrawn, they make very sobering reading. What exactly has Labour not wrecked in the last 11 years?

Britain's generous welfare system triggered baby boom

Britain's generous welfare system triggered baby boom - Telegraph.

So a piece of academic research seems to confirm what the nasty right-wingers have been saying. Given the red/pink (shall we call it burgundy?) bias in Britain's academia, that's a rare occurrence.

On our way to hospital this morning for the first of Mrs P's treatments, our London cabbie took our minds off our troubles with a truly magnificent anti-government tirade. He had been sitting on the rank outside our hotel for 3 hours with four other taxis and no sign of a fare. Yesterday, he took £15 from 12 hours work and he was not happy about it. He told us he had never seen London so quiet in 36 years at his job and was scornful of what he called the "worst government ever's" claims to be solving a problem for which he held them entirely to blame.

His rant was not as grammatical as one of DK's, but was every bit as colourful. He called into question both the ethics and parentage of Her Majesty's principal ministers. He was particularly scathing about Alan Johnson, who used to lead his son's union "... and was always useless..." He strongly defended HM Opposition when I suggested they were at least partly to blame for doing their job so badly. However (while he didn't think Cameron was too bad and "didn't care what a man's background was as long as he did an honest job") he would have preferred David Davis to be in charge. His main anger was reserved though, for those who are taking the benefits system for a ride. He said most of his neighbours are living on benefits and felt they were laughing at him for working. His leisure consists of a weekend flutter and he finds it infuriating that everyone else in his local betting shop is also gambling with money he worked for. They are not alone. So, at the moment, is HMG.

Political policing

 BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Cameron demands police retraction.


Pace many decent policemen trying to do their jobs in difficult circumstances, it is now apparent that - for their politicised leadership (and particularly that of the Met) - the police service is now the paramilitary wing of the Labour Party.

The BBC and other left-wing media are gleefully reporting Quick's disgraceful remarks about Conservative "corruption", while mentioning far more quietly that he has since withdrawn them. The mere fact that he thinks Britain's left-wing media are Conservative confirms the political bias that was already screamingly apparent from his handling of Greengate.

His career as a policeman should now be over. If he has any honour, it will end by his own resignation.

UPDATE: He has now apologised unreservedly. Good for him. That already puts him on a higher plane of existence than his political masters. Of course, I have sympathy with his anger at journalists jeopardising his family's safety and - as a hothead myself - can quite understand how his intemperate outburst happened. The fact remains that, in leaping to such conclusions on no evidence, he let his political bias show and unwittingly explained why his boys (as the Met's own internal enquiry found) went over the top in their dealings with Damian Green and his family. Has he also inadvertently revealed how rapidly and on how little evidence the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist officers form suspicions? I hope not.

Compare and contrast

This, with this.

The worst part of the first story is that someone can get a job writing for a national newspaper who doesn't understand the meaning of a simple word like "voluntary"

Compulsory volunteering is win-win and a recession is a perfect time for it. Lots of new jobs administering it; much-needed cohesion for society; and the chance - the first for many - to experience the heady glow of a reward that is not money.

I am sure that just such a "heady glow" was experienced by the subjects of the ancien regime in France as they did their corvée.  The real give-away here is "...Lots of new jobs administering it..." - i.e. the opportunity to dish out work to favoured lackeys who become dependent on (and therefore loyal to) a state that everyone in his right mind detests like a plague rat. Isn't it amazing just how uncreative these totalitarians are? Absolute French monarchs or modern British leftists; they all want the same things.

The worst part of the second story is not the police showing up to interview the kindly young gentleman. They saw what appeared to be a crime on their CCTV and were right to investigate. The worst part is the official response when questioned by journalists about their actions. The young man had persuaded his mates to do some valuable voluntary work to help his neighbours. He had committed no crime. Either it was the local authority's grit and was taken with permission, or it belonged to Railtrack and was taken by mistake. But the British Transport Police still issued the following slur.

British Transport Police said: "We have investigated this but it appears the 17-year-old and his friends who took the grit did not realise they were committing an offence. We will not be taking this any further."

What can one say about such rascals; no doubt carefully calculating the likelihood of a 17 year old mechanic having the resources to sue them before issuing a libellous statement to the national media?

Update: My much-esteemed colleagues Messrs Higham and Haddock have also opined.

Patriotism vs Nationalism - Part 2: Virtue or vice?


Patriotism was one of the virtues that made Rome great. Unless many Roman citizens had believed in Horace's classic expression of patriotism;

the glory of Rome could never have been. The sacrifices of an ordinary legionnaire were probably not as great as they seem to modern eyes. Life in the ancient world was short and cheap. For most soldiers, their alternative life was almost as squalid and uncertain and far less glorious.

It is easy to understand the patriotism of a Roman at the height of the Empire. The whole world admired its superior technology, discipline and order. Yet the patriotism that preceded the glory was what really changed the world. Just as it was the patriotism of soldiers and sailors from a small island state - a much-despised renegade in Europe - that built the greatest empire the world has seen.

Patriotism is most noticeable when a nation is great. Today the word reminds us of Americans, hand on heart, singing sentimentally before "Old Glory". But that is not when it is most important. At its best, it is the glue that holds a nation together. Nor is it a primitive question of blood and soil. Polish patriotism held the nation together even when the country itself ceased - for a while - to exist.

A true football supporter trudges loyally to the match even when his team is on a decades-long losing streak. The belief that Liverpool fans have sustained for so long, for example, made this season possible. It is the patriot’s belief in his country's potential that keeps alive the possibility of its success. This may (like the faith of the football fan) be founded on past glories, but must not entirely depend on them. There would have been no past glories without preceding belief.

Nor is it a question of hatred of others. A German patriot and an English patriot can be friends, if each acknowledges the rationality of the other's belief in his country. You do not need to despise Goethe to love Shakespeare. You do not need to deny another's right to be proud of his country in order to be proud of your own. Patriotism is the national equivalent of self-esteem, and is just as much a prerequisite to (and no more a guarantee of) success.

Trust, even though often misplaced or betrayed, is the key to success in any collective endeavour. Only if you can find people you can trust (and who can trust you) do you have a chance of achieving such goals. Patriotism is simply a kind of extended trust that allows you selflessly to strive for the greater good of people you don't know. Of course, as with the common or garden variety of trust, you will often be wrong. But you will achieve nothing without it.

Nothing in this life is purely good, however. Patriotism is a kind of love, and is as liable to be perverted as all other kinds. It is also as likely to be exploited. Most threats in history were exaggerated - or even fabricated - by politicians to cement their own power. They do these wicked things because they work. If he can persuade the people to focus on a national threat, real or imagined, a politician can exploit honest patriotism. Someone who feels profoundly that he should, if necessary, die for his country is unlikely to baulk at lesser inconveniences.

Therein lies the danger. Like all powerful forces, patriotism can be turned to good or evil. All who acknowledge it in themselves must be aware of that. That electricity can kill you is no reason to forswear the use of it. It is a very good reason, however, to be aware when enjoying its benefits of its dangers.

To be continued.

Patriotism vs Nationalism - Part 1: A complicated subject

DartsFollowing a recent downbeat presentation by an economist from IMEMO, I told my Russian colleagues I thought their “Slavic soul” (a romantic euphemism for pessimism/excuse for boozy inaction, in my experience) was blinding them to reality. No Russians had ever enjoyed such possibilities as they. I added, scathingly, that I feared I might be the greatest patriot in the room. In this I went too far. To challenge Russians to a patriotism competition is foolish.

I had similar conversations when I lived in Poland - a country for which I also have a powerful affection. For all the tragi-comedy of that country's history (which makes Polish patriotism a delicate endeavour) there is much about the Polish soul that is admirable. I have never been happier than I once was there, setting the world to rights over beer and vodka. I collect Polish art and used to love to sing their crazily provocative patriotic songs; bellowing defiance at deadly adversaries on every border.

I am also an admirer of the USA. “America the Beautiful” brings tears to my eyes. Part of me feels it was a terrible error that I was not born there. I dared to choose Tom Paine as my nom de blog, because (as well as being, in a sense, the first political blogger) he was both a great Englishman and a great American. Our traditions of liberty under the rule of law and a limited, constitutional government live on in the US rather better than in modern Britain.

Hardest of all for many Brits to understand, I love France as much as any loyal Frenchman. I delight in being there; I love the language and have had some of my best moments in the company of French friends. My taste for political discourse over fine food and drink is far easier to indulge there than at home (where - dangerously - it's thought rather vulgar). Tom Paine’s role in establishing the French Republic is yet another reason for hubristically adopting his name.

Yet for all this - and despite the fact that I am sadly resigned to never living there again - I am still a patriotic Englishman. To complicate matters further (as I shall explain in a later post - I was also once a patriotic Welshman).

Patriotism is an important and potentially dangerous subject. It is certainly far more complicated than most patriots assume. Living abroad (an expatriate, but never - as it is often wrongly written - an expatriot), I have experienced the patriotism of other nations. I have also experienced nationalism, which is something quite different and - to me - far less attractive. In examining my own response to that - and particularly those parts of it I found irrational - I have come to think hard about the subject. In an series of posts to follow, I shall try to explain my conclusions.

To be continued.