THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
January 2010
Next month:
March 2010

February 2010

What's wrong with state education

'The school's chances were snatched away' - Telegraph.

A member of the Labour Party explains... The linked article is well worth a read. I am still pondering why, having resigned as a school governor, Joanna Leapman does not also resign from the party that bears most of the blame for the situation she bemoans. Compare and contrast the head teacher she admired (now out of work);

He just did things. When he needed a classroom, he found a disused area and created one. Storage areas and medical rooms were not being used, so he brought in a builder during the holidays to knock them through. He even sold an unused kiln on eBay for school funds.

...with the candidate favoured over him by her fellow-governors. many others – [s/he] went along with the institutionalised box-ticking and consultation exercises that are squeezing the creativity and excellence out of our public services. Several highly disruptive and violent children were still in the school in the name of 'inclusion’ and had contributed to the resignation of a couple of excellent teachers.

Perhaps most telling is her observation on the recruitment process for teachers;

Candidates would only score if they said the right phrase – usually the latest educational buzz word – we had written down on our sheets.

No-one involved with British education in the past 20 years could be surprised by that.

The thick and thin red lines

When the next bomb goes off in London, blame the judges – Telegraph Blogs.

Con Coughlin should be ashamed of himself. The linked article would be unworthy of the Daily Mail, let alone the Daily Telegraph. However much Binyam Mohammed's claim to have been an innocent back-packer in Afghanistan may stink, the fact remains: decent people from decent countries don't torture. Just as it's easy to uphold the free speech of those who agree with you, so it's easy not to torture your friends. Self-restraint is only needed when it comes to those you consider (rightly or wrongly) your enemies. That restraint is a litmus test for civilisation. It seems on this occasion that Britain's security services have failed it, shaming us all.

But this commentary on Coughlin's sick article is disgusting too. Not the part about Britain as " of the world's most influential powers...", which is just ridiculous (and a let-out for future torture by the less "influential" powers Britain's leftists support). No, the part that's offensive is this;

If you think that the rule of law should be ditched when the government decides it’s terror-time just come out and say it, Con. And if you think that being “unsympathetic” is enough to merit “at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” have the guts to spell it out. Come on! Your pals in the services would be dead impressed [my emphasis]

For readers of Liberal Conspiracy, our soldiers, sailors and airmen are thugs who would be "impressed" by support for torture. Nothing I know justifies such an assumption and, while there are always sad exceptions, I doubt most of them - well-disciplined though they are - would accept even a direct order to do it. Modern British leftists, however, are not cut from the same cloth as Labour man George Orwell. He wrote that;

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

His political descendants (and goodness, how far they have descended) have no such respect for our warriors. Warriors who risk themselves regardless of the follies of the politicians who lead them. The daily idiocies at Liberal Conspiracy are such a reliable antidote to low blood pressure that they should be available on prescription. This kind of cant however is just too darkly revealing.

Why Britain should declare war on Jersey | Mark Thomas | Comment is free | The Guardian

Why Britain should declare war on Jersey | Mark Thomas | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Mark Thomas is joking of course, but the joke makes no sense unless you believe that companies relocating to Jersey would be forced to stay in Britain if the option were removed. Other choices such as Switzerland, Asia or the Americas (or just going out of business) do not occur to him. He has been touring Britain asking audiences for suggestions for government action with disturbing results;

One of my favourite ideas was the simple proposal that "Britain should invade Jersey". Now that TV's Bergerac is just a distant memory this policy has become truly popular, not least because Jersey is one of the tax havens that have become the legal pirate coves of the 21st century. The Tax Justice Network (not to be confused with the rightwing Tax Payers' Alliance) estimates the UK loses about £18bn a year in tax revenue due to "corporate tax efficiency" ie companies moving offshore. The Iraq war cost at least £8bn. So war with Jersey would not only be morally right but self-financing too. In fact we could probably do a bond issue for the invasion to pay for everything up front with the promise of a steady yearly return for investors.

Unless people are enslaved, they can always relocate themselves and their businesses. Rolex was a British company until the words "Made in Switzerland" on a timepiece acquired such cachet that they couldn't compete. Mark Thomas presumably thinks it would have been better for the company to die, wrapped in the Union Flag. When did Colonel Blimp get his commission from the KGB?

Note how, in accordance with the Guardian style book, the Tax Payers' Alliance cannot be mentioned without the damning words "right wing." Note also how easily the contradictory words "legal" and "pirate" sit together in a Guardian sentence, as long as the "pirates" make wealth, rather than take it by force in the traditional manner, as governments do. Note also that all wealth not collected in tax is deemed "lost" to the nation, as opposed to merely being spent or invested by those nasty grasping types who made it.

I strongly suspect that Jersey would be even sleepier, and there would be many more, and more prosperous, businesses in mainland Britain, if our taxes were reduced to levels that would shock Mark Thomas and his audiences. God knows how much wealth is truly "lost" to Britain because never generated in the first place due to the disincentive of excessive taxation. We shall probably never know as long as Mark Thomas and his audiences are such fools.

If guns are unnecessary, how come our rulers are surrounded by armed police?

He stepped out of the dark with a gun… | Victoria Coren | Comment is free | The Observer.

Jacquiarmed officerVictoria Coren is upset that there are too many guns on our streets. Surprisingly, for someone writing in the Observer, the guns she is concerned about are those in the hands of the state.

They say a liberal (American sense) is a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet. Coren had a machine gun waved at her in the dark by a man who jumped out of an unmarked car. She had the courage, wit and reflexes to take evasive action before realising he was a police officer.

Her reflexes might have got her shot and she's upset. She has a point, but as so often happens when someone writing for Guardian Newspapers gets something right, her thinking is still at fault. She blames Tony Blair. He made the world more dangerous, apparently, by invading Iraq. It seems the odious Blair is becoming, as he hoped, the "heir to Thatcher", but only - amusingly- by inheriting her status as a national hate figure, blamed for all ills.

Coren understood why the bossy cop waved his automatic weapon at her once she realised he was a protection officer guarding the most vulnerable embassy in London. Given how many British crazies hate Israel, it could no more have an embassy there without armed protection, than Tony Blair could have a villa in Kabul. She also understands (though nostalgically regrets) the armed guards around the homes of her near-neighbour, David Milliband and other senior British politicians. She's just annoyed that the police have been armed without a national debate.

I was properly frightened when that man waved a gun at me in the dark, and angry when I noticed quite how many other "discreet" men were holding guns in other streets, and maybe – maybe – they are protecting the Israeli ambassador and the American ambassador and the foreign secretary, but they're not protecting me, and this is my home and nobody asked me if it was OK. And it bloody isn't.

Our teenage Foreign Secretary and his colleagues are targets and are certainly entitled to protect themselves. But unlike the Israeli Ambassador, they are also native politicians who deny us the right to self-defence. We may not own guns or employ armed guards, despite an estimated four million firearms in our country available for use by criminals. They do not so much maintain a regime of gun control as offer a state guarantee to criminals that their victims will not shoot back.

Yesterday I posted about Labour foot soldier Jim Devine, claiming with blithe stupidity that he was not a criminal because he didn't understand either (a) the criminal law, or (b) that ignorance of it is no excuse. He is a legislator who holds the electorate to higher standards than he expects for himself. So too is Mr Milliband and every other politician who accepts armed protection while denying it to others.

If I could write a constitution for Britain, one key provision would read something like this.
It is beyond the power of the members of the Legislature and the Executive to create laws, impose policies or issue instructions to state agencies that give them any greater power, privilege, immunity from prosecution or other protection than any other citizen.

After all, they are great believers in "equality" are they not? This provision would entrench the only equality that really matters; equality before the law. If politicians had to live to the standards they impose on us, laws would either be so crafted that even simpletons like Devine could understand them, or there would be many more legal defences for those with no criminal intent.  David Milliband would either sleep soundly with an unarmed bobby outside his door (believing himself as safe as he tells us all we are), or he would vote to give us back our right to self-defence.

The greatest inequality in modern Britain is that between the rulers and the ruled. Perhaps "Minister for Equality" Harriet Harman might like to turn her attention to that?

"I had no in-service training"

A man surely does not need "in-service" training to know right from wrong. Or does he? This film is a metaphorical bathyscape from which to peer out in wonderment at the depths of human stupidity. Hard though it will be for anyone capable of reading this post to imagine, such people really do exist. And they are sometimes elected to Parliament. It seems that Councillor Terry Kelly is not the most stupid member of the Scottish Labour Party after all. We owe Fidel's biggest fan an apology. Sorry, sir.

Sadly for Jim Devine, M.P., ignorance of the law (and of all morality) is no excuse; perhaps least of all for a legislator! Hilariously, his lawyers had issued a statement in his name (and that of their other MP clients) saying they would not be giving an interview. Watching this video, I can quite understand their reasoning. I watched it picturing their faces as they viewed it and laughed even harder.

This interview is highly incriminating, not only of Devine but also of the fools who voted for him. I tip my hat to "Dundee wifey" Subrosa. She quotes the old saw that Labour voters would elect a monkey wearing a red rosette. Frankly, in this case, that might well have been a more intelligent choice.

So much for free movement of goods and labour / Europe - Poles returning home face car trouble.

As a lover of Poland who lived there for 11 years, I know something about this story. I used to have a right-hand drive car in Warsaw. I drove it from England in 1992 and used it for 8 of the 11 years I lived there. I drove my family all over the country safely and pleasurably. The car was foreign-registered and insured throughout. She left the country frequently enough for that not to be an issue, but I always thought it ridiculous that it was not possible to register her locally.

2420647-A_sea_of_light-PolandPoland has an appalling record on road safety. The fatality rate is four times that of Britain and double that of Germany. The worst death toll is on the weekend of the All Saints holiday, when Poles visit the graves of their dead to keep a candle-light vigil. This is a social, as well as a religious, event that involves much sitting on gravestones drinking vodka. If a given family has dead relatives in more than one city, it also involves a motorised dash from one graveyard to the other in the depths of the Polish Winter. All too frequently, that ends in tears.

Poor roads, poorly-maintained cars, lots of winter snow and ice and an aggressive driving culture account for the rest of the accidents. I have often remarked to Polish friends that they must be very good Catholics indeed as they drive as if in a hurry to the afterlife. Right-hand drive cars are certainly not a factor in many accidents. Poland's auto-routes and urban free-ways (sensibly, in my view) permit overtaking on both sides. So I was safer than the other drivers for more than half the time as (guess what) I usually chose the side to overtake on which I had better visibility. When not on such a road, my driving position was only a problem to me, as I had fewer opportunities to overtake. Perhaps the Polish judges can't imagine not overtaking, regardless of safety? Probably so, as in my experience the standard of driving among Polish lawyers was no higher.

Britain, of course, has no problem with thousands of migrant-labourer Poles driving their left-hand drive cars around our islands. So much for fairness. As between nations, reciprocity is surely the least one can hope for. Though I am not holding my breath for Muslim countries to take as liberal an approach to the building of Christian churches as, say, Switzerland to the building of mosques.

Like most legal restrictions, this is small-minded busy-bodying dressed up as concern for public safety. Having watched Poland enact hundreds of legal reforms to prepare for EU accession (the only time in my life I saw the EU do any good), I am sad to note that it has already (as I predicted to my Polish friends a decade ago) begun to approach EU law as the French do; cynically and selectively.
Photo credit:

An airship captain writes...

Lost generation | Andrew Hankinson | Money | The Observer.

Andrew Hankinson's article blends common sense, fantasy and bitterness. His central point is one I have often made myself; that the two post-war generations in Britain have been guilty - via an underfunded "national insurance" system - of time travel theft.

Baby boomers had free education, affordable houses, fat pensions, early retirement and second homes (150,000 at the last census), but when we got to the buffet table – oh look, a couple of manhandled sandwiches. We've been left with education on the never-never and a property ladder with rotten rungs. Our work ethic is slurred (sic) and our salaries are stagnant. Any hope of promotion is paralysed by the comatose grey ceiling clogging every hierarchy. Overtime is unpaid and pensions are miserly. And the financial system which made our parents rich has left us choosing between crap job or no job. It's like we've been handed the keys to the family castle only to discover the family sold it to Starbucks. And we're going to have to work there.

He has a point, but his feudal analogy is telling. He's been cheated of his inheritance and he's too gutted (or too proud) to build another. He certainly has no plan to prove to his own heirs that he's a better man. In his mind, his predecessors owed him a living; not just - as I would argue - a duty of care to restrict their public spending to what they raised in taxes. He bemoans what they did, not because it was morally wrong, but because - by being too greedy - they have denied him the chance to do likewise.

Britain's Welfare State has been a Ponzi Scheme since the start. For all the prudent language of "national insurance" and "stamps", it was always to be paid for by succeeding generations. There is a famous picture of the first beneficiary waving his pension book. He had paid just one weekly national insurance "stamp", and got the greatest deal in pensions history, but there were tens of millions like him, if not on quite that scale.

When the 1946 Labour Government came to power on promises of "cradle to grave" welfare, it found the Treasury bare. Britain had just fought a global war against fascism. There were factories to rebuild, industries to reconstruct. So did they delay the scheme? No. They sent (tellingly) that charlatan Maynard Keynes as their emissary to the despised capitalists of the United States. He negotiated huge loans to fund it all. So the man waving that first pension book would live not on Socialist prudence, but Yankee dollars. His grandchildren would service that debt for him, all unknowing. Everyone who proudly said "I paid my stamp" when drawing their benefits was both deceiving and deceived.

This being the Guardian however, while Hankinson makes the same lament, he puts a rather different spin on it;

A university-­educated man shouldn't experience this.

Quite so, old fruit. But then you are not exactly a rarity now are you? The "universities" of modern Britain churn out so many graduates that they command no premium. Dashed irritating, what?

I chased that job I wanted: working on Arena magazine (now defunct) in the dazzling capital.

Right. Not just "a magazine", but a specific and rather glamorous one. You spent your academic life dreaming of one job out of how many? What was Arena's total full-time staff? Its peak circulation was only 30,000. I am guessing maybe 20 writers, if that. While its founders were slowly going broke learning that it was doomed in the digital age, you never modified your plans? Why not go the whole hog and sign on as an unemployed airship captain?

Faced with the prospect of delivering pizzas, his snobbery resurfaces. You would think he was the son of a Duke;

I would have to work nights. My boss would be… not a graduate. I'd have to chat with other deliverers – is that the job title? – who stack deodorants and empty beer cans on their bookshelves rather than books. Who probably don't even have bookshelves. Who probably think a digestif is a biscuit. And then there's (sic) my friends: they'd show interest initially, but after four weeks, three months… What if they ordered pizza? And what if I were unable to claw my way back out of the social quicksand?

I feel so sorry for his dad, pictured alongside him on the Guardian website. His life seems also to have been no picnic, but as his son acknowledges incredulously, his instinct was always to work his way out of trouble;

I remember when his building business folded in the 1990s. He didn't sign on. He knew he was going to end up in a flat above a shop, but he stacked Thomson directories in the front garden and asked for help delivering them. I said no, because friends might see us schlepping up those long driveways.

There are many in "the lost generation" to pity, but this snobbish little toad is not amongst them. His dad may forgive him that long-ago hubris, but the fates never will. Of course, he came to the right newspaper to sing his plaintive hymn to entitlements lost, but surely any potential employers reading this junk have mentally blacklisted him?

Still, his education need not be wasted. Neither the honest work available nor an idle life on benefits will much occupy his university-educated brain. Perhaps he can try thinking about, not only what got him into this mess, but how to dig the next generation out of it. It fell to the 1946 voters to risk their lives and lose their loved ones fighting one form of statism. That wasn't fair either, but they found an admittedly defective way forward. Maybe he can do better?