THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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April 2010

The Dog That Didn't Bark

The Magistrate's Blog: The Dog That Didn't Bark In The Night.

I rarely agree with Bystander at The Magistrate's Blog. He has those moral calluses that policemen, magistrates and judges acquire from long labour at the coal face of justice. He tends to see everyone as a potential offender and is particularly unfond of motorists. Yesterday, however, he made a good point; one also made by Henry Porter in his foxhole behind enemy lines at The Guardian;

What is worrying is the chill that has descended on civil liberties, as though freedom was some minority issue for eccentrics, rather than the oxygen of democracy. The failure of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to raise the attack on liberties by the Labour party and so signal its vital importance to the electorate is one of the more depressing aspects of the last few weeks.

Poor dear Henry underestimates the issue. Freedom is not subordinate to democracy. Democracy is of no value unless it serves to protect freedom. It can sometimes be better to be a subject of a tyrannical but limited monarchy than a citizen of a big State kleptocratic democracy.

Labour's worst crime has been its onslaught on Liberty. Five long years and thousands of words ago, that onslaught inspired me to start this blog. This election is a disappointment to me in so many ways, but the key one is this. For all that Labour has done, Liberty is not an election issue.

Our infantilised electorate has been under the clumsy care of Mother State for so long that the bars of its play pen have become its horizon. As Bystander says, echoing Porter;

As the General Election campaign enters its last week there has been little or no mention of one of the most significant legacies of the New Labour years; the erosion of liberty and the increasingly authoritarian way in which we are governed.

He goes on to make the interesting point, of which I was only vaguely aware, that thousands of new crimes are largely enforced not by the courts but by legions of public servants;

Only about half of the so-called 'Offences Brought to Justice' ever get to court, as a succession of hardline Home Secretaries have preferred to allow the police the CPS and other bodies to impose sanctions out of the public gaze, behind closed doors. Now, incredibly, even night club doormen are being allowed to hand out fixed penalties. Civil Enforcement of parking regulations means that your only appeal against a decision is to an adjudicator, and if he is not on your side, that's it - no further avenues are open. Proportionality has gone out of the window. Jumping a red traffic light, an offence that can in some circumstances kill people, carries a fixed penalty of £60. Overfilling your dustbin will attract a fine of £100 or more from some councils; where's the logic in that?

The logic is simple, Bystander. It's not about the command given, but the response. These offences are not about restraining wrongs at all. They are about training citizens to instant obedience, and state servants to command. The more illogical, for that purpose, the better. When you call your dog to heel, do you want him to consider why? Labour only knows that the state, when guided by it, knows best. In its view, that's all we need to know. To question is to be insubordinate.

I began to blog as a disillusioned Conservative. I could not understand why my then party was no longer making the case for freedom. Blogging introduced me to a band of others who believe the state should be subordinate to the citizen, but we are few, far apart and often more inclined to bicker than to unite against tyranny. I fear we may have achieved nothing but to give some future Stasi a convenient list of doors upon which to knock in the night.

Consider the language of election coverage. According to our press (and Bystander) we are choosing who will "govern" or even "rule" us. Consider the key issues; they are all to do with the performance of the State, not its size or scope. The children want a newer, stronger playpen and more and brighter toys. They don't care how mummy affords them and they certainly have no desire or inclination to grow up and buy their own. I may yet have the satisfaction of outliving the Labour Party, but I despair of outliving its evils.

The blame shifters

Gordon Brown 'penitent' after bigot gaffe torpedoes election campaign | Politics | The Guardian.

Gordon Brown is the right man to lead the Labour Party. He personifies its spirit of malicious irresponsibility. A true Labour person is someone for whom every problem is another's fault. Labour's scapegoats march in massed ranks and the party's creativity mainly expresses itself in devising new terms of political abuse.

Mrs Duffy, as some relieved Brown aides noted to the press, got off quite lightly. The remarks were not so much about her as about ascribing blame for exposing Brown to an awkward situation. He didn't say (and would never say, unless forced to apologise for political gain) that he messed up. Rather, he blamed the people who worked for him. Though leader of the supposed workers' party, he is in truth the worst kind of boss. According to the Guardian;

Morale in the Labour campaign slumped as even some of Brown's closest aides vented their fury at him, with one describing him as "a pathetic blame shifter"

Confronted about it on air, head self-pityingly in hands, his unguarded first response was to say he would never have allowed himself to be put in a situation where he would say something like that about someone. What does that even mean? Only that, in true Labour fashion, it was someone else's fault; the fault of some loyal employee whose reward was to be blamed.

A "bigot", to Brown, is anyone who does not mindlessly agree with the Labour Party. If Mrs Duffy was to be subject to public denunciation or private smear, she would be far more carefully categorised. Even now, as his campaign team search for dirt about this bemused old lady, they are aching to call her a racist; to negate her whole life with a single word. And why not? the technique has worked so well for so long that even Labour opponents like Iain Dale have adopted it. Why reason with someone you can cast into the political darkness with a word?

The pathetic shifting of blame is what the Labour Party is for. After a lifetime of malicious smears of anyone who blocked his path, Gordon Brown no longer knows right from wrong. If, indeed, he ever did. In that too, he personifies his party. Built on envy, fuelled by malice and endlessly contemptuous of its own supporters it has now reached its nadir. Deliciously, it got here by choosing a leader with more of its ideological DNA than any before him. Surely its time is now over?

Iain Dale is not a Conservative

Iain Dale's Diary: Good Riddance to Mr Lardner.

There is no reason why a Conservative should not be homosexual or vice versa. A person's sexuality is politically irrelevant. So, per se, is a person's opinion about sexuality. So why are Iain Dale and Tory Rascal in such a tizz about the very conservative (but probably soon-to-be-ex-Conservative) Philip Lardner?

If he had suggested any legal consequences of his view that homosexuality is "not normal", that would be worthy of discussion. It would be outrageous for a parliamentary candidate to suggest, for example, that homosexuals should enjoy fewer civil rights or be subject once more to criminal penalties. Those days are gone and rightly so. That Lardner simply thinks homosexuality is "not normal" (whether you agree with him or not) is however irrelevant. He has observed, oddly, that;

Toleration and understanding is one thing, but state-promotion of homosexuality is quite another...

What's odd about it is the notion that homosexuality can ever be successfully "promoted." If you are not that way inclined, frankly I think it's pretty unlikely you are going to be talked into it. it's as unappealing a notion to those of another persuasion as that of heterosexual fun and games presumably is to gays. For that matter, sexual orientation is not binary. It's a long and at times strange continuum. Whether it's determined by nature or nurture is, pace Iain (for whom that science was settled by Freud) a matter of opinion, but where one falls upon it has little to do with choice. Others have no legitimate interest in your place on the continuum for so long as you only ever act upon it with a consenting adult partner.

That homosexuality exists in nature, is a matter to be taught in Biology. That it was once illegal is a matter to be taught in History. That homosexuals now enjoy equal rights is a matter to be taught in Civics. None of that amounts to "promotion," which is why Philp Lardner's observation is odd. As is his nostalgia for Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which referred scathingly to the notion of homosexuality as "a pretended family relationship."

I don't know Mr Lardner and I suspect I wouldn't like him much if I did. He has expressed some other old-fashioned views unlikely to commend him to the modern voter and I can't help but feel his local party was ill-advised to select him. But his opinions on this matter don't deserve the attention they are getting, not least from David Cameron. Indeed on one point, many of us would have been reassured if his leader had backed him. Freedom of speech is a conservative (and was once a Conservative) value, for which Iain is a strong and admirable advocate, except when homosexuality is the topic. Therefore I could wish that David Cameron, Iain and Tory Rascal would find it in them to agree with Lardner's statement that;

Christians (and most of the population) believe homosexuality to be somewhere between 'unfortunate' and simply 'wrong' and they should not be penalised for politely saying so

Normality and abnormality are themselves politically irrelevant. The desire to join a political party, let alone to run for office, is statistically far more "abnormal" than homosexuality. I hesitate to offer this as a reductio ad absurdam for fear it will be embraced by the Labour Party as policy, but stupidity is very normal, whereas high intelligence is not. Yet, who (apart from a desperate Gordon Brown) would take seriously a proposal to exclude atypically intelligent people from voting?

I forget which actor responded to congratulations on being the first black man to win some award by saying that race would cease to be a problem when it was "like different flavours of pizza; not even worth mentioning." I think Iain and Tory Rascal might usefully meditate on that wisdom. I have never troubled my readers with details of my sexuality and I don't propose (you will be relieved to know) to begin now. Not least because I don't seek your approval. On the contrary, if I may express myself in abnormally High Tory terms, it's none of your damned business so be off with you before I fetch my horsewhip.

The "gay rights" movement has triumphed and I, for one, am pleased. That it has yet to fade away is, I suspect, merely nostalgia. The erstwhile activists are simply not ready to leave the field of victory. Their lounging around on their laurels, however, is in danger of becoming counter-productive. The once-persecuted may even be at risk of becoming persecutors. Most of us in Britain take Mrs Patrick Campbell's classically liberal view that:

My dear, I don't care what they do, so long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

The religious Right in Britain has never enjoyed the influence it has in America. Nor have social conservatives generally (as witness Mrs Campbell's wisdom). There is a danger that Christians told they may not teach their children "the Word of God" may join forces with immigrants belonging to even more sexually conservative religions. If Iain and others insist on demanding active approval for their sexuality, they will awaken forces we can all - straight and gay - well do without.

Earth to UK. Earth to UK. Come in UK, are you receiving us?

General Election 2010: Nick Clegg's demand for NHS to be broken up | Mail Online.

Has everyone in Britain been taken over by politically naieve aliens? Here we have an article in a "right wing" newspaper "smearing" a "centre left" politician for (unlike the leader of the allegedly "right wing" "Conservatives) making a sensible suggestion (five years ago) about breaking up the Soviet-style NHS. He suggested replacing it with an insurance-based system (horrors!) just like in Social Democrat Germany, France or Sweden (or pretty much anywhere civilised you would like to name, including some countries still nominally "Communist"). Cuba is one of few places these days to have anything resembling the system that Britain likes to delude itself is "the envy of the world." Such is the scale of that delusion, that the BBC has been known to glorify Cuban healthcare, which isn't even the envy of Cuba.

I don't get it. Nick Clegg has made perhaps the first sensible observation by a Liberal since Gladstone died and he's being attacked from the right? He's still a blithering whatsit and a vote for the LibDems still a bad idea, but credit where it's due. He was right on this one. 100% right.

Context is everything

Visualizing Obama's budget cuts. [VIDEO].


That's just a screen shot and there's no way to embed the movie here, so please follow the link. The production values are not great, the presentation is amateurish and the one joke is lame, but it's a short movie you will be glad you watched. I have suggested before that politicians should be required to cost their projects, not in hundreds of millions of pounds, but in taxpayer working lives or TWLs. It might help people apply some sort of gut-feel cost/benefit analysis to the ideas politicians come up with to waste our working lives. I also think it would be only polite for the Directorate of Slavery (aka Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs) to send "thank you" letters confirming how many days we were forced to work for the government each year.

One way or another, if we don't find a way to grasp the huge numbers squandered by our drones we are doomed. 

A deferential h/t to the The Blogfather.

The Same Difference?

BBC News - Election 2010: Gloves off in second leaders' debate.

It's odd to watch an election from this distance. It seems a little like a magic trick. The performers are focussing our attention on one thing, while the real action goes unnoticed. As voters peer and struggle to discern the differences between the parties now in contention, the truth is that - in key respects - they are the same. They are all Party X.

Vote for Party X and this will happen:
  1. You will work (if you work) for half the year for the government
  2. The government will take the fruits of your labour and give them to the least deserving people of the world, whether they be African dictators (to buy weapons to use against their people), domestic criminals (to buy weapons to use against you when they burgle your house) or busybodies (to equip them to interfere in your life).
  3. The government will believe that it knows what is best for you, despite being staffed by people every bit as prone to error as you are yourself.
  4. The government will continue to make you hated or ridiculed in the rest of the world (and expose your warriors to danger) by conducting itself as if a small island nation of no particular current consequence was morally superior to all others.
  5. Political games will be played at Westminster, while the laws are made by unelected men and women in Brussels.
  6. Most of our children will be tragically denied a decent education while one side of the House of Commons rails but does nothing and the other side stokes envy of the few who do what all decent parents would if they could only afford it
  7. Serious criminals will be glamourised, coddled and protected, while decent people will be criminalised to make them docile (and give the police some cheap wins).
  8. The government will get larger.
  9. The economy will rise and fall periodically, while the underlying trend in terms of the lifestyle an ordinary person's wage can buy continues downwards.
  10. Our leaders will try to bask in the reflected glory of our daughter civilisation in America, while the worst (and I fear the most) of us continue secretly to envy it and wish it ill. 
I started this list imagining I could find 3 or 4 key things that were the same. The truth is the list could probably continue at 10 items a day for the rest of my life. There is simply no vote you can cast (unless lucky enough to have a Libertarian candidate) that will reduce the power of the British state.

There is no vote that will allow you to keep more of your earnings to spend on your family. No vote that will allow you to greet your local policeman cheerily, rather than (unless you are someone who should fear him) averting your eyes in fear. No vote will decriminalise you. No vote will make you freer. No vote will stop your sweat being converted into guns for African dictators or samurai swords for your local thugs.

I believe in democracy, but as a means to elect not bosses, but trustees. Men and woman to hold our tax money in trust on our behalf. Men and women to protect our ancient liberties (and restore them when they have been lost). Men and women who understand that, while there is such a thing as society, the state should play only a small part in it. Men and women who understand that the larger the state becomes, the sicker our society will be, until it most closely resembles North Korea.

I wish I could care about the outcome. I worry so much about my children's future and even (when I have a spare moment) about your children's future. Yes, I want change. Yes, I want the election to make a difference. But voting for Tweedledum, Tweedledee or Tweedled'oh is simply not going to do that. The question now is, what will?