THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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November 2013

Does Lord Lucan know where freedom of expression went?

BBC News - ITV's Lord Lucan drama criticised by victim's son.

I returned to live in Britain in April 2011. It was a while before I began to notice some of the changes since I left in 1992. Heraclitus said
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man
Healthy societies change all the time. It would have been surprising if I had found the place just as I had left it.
I had stayed in touch with the changes at some levels. At first I had read flown-in British newspapers at great expense. Then as online news sources developed I had become more involved, starting this blog in March 2005. Still, I had not noticed many changes in attitude and the linked article provides a good example. Here is a man who thinks it wrong to present a TV play based on real events because
The programme is not entertainment. They are profiting from my mum's death
Ignore for the moment the schtick about profit being intrinsically bad. Let's assume that he earns no money himself. Perhaps, for all we know, he lives on unicorn farts harvested voluntarily by fair trade fairies of working age. Perhaps he works for the super-ethical Co-operative Bank.
Please also ignore the weirdness of a middle-aged adult, adopted in infancy, speaking schmaltzily of a 'mum' of whom he knew nothing until he was 40. Indeed of whom he still knows nothing except for what he can learn from the writings of policemen, lawyers, journalists, authors and now playwrights all 'profiting' in his terms from her death.
Does he really believe that his private emotional response to a play he refuses to see is of any importance to the world? Does he really think free expression should be curtailed because of his feelings? Mary Whitehouse was laughed out of this life by people understandably amused that she felt her feelings gave her a right to prevent others seeing shows she didn't want to watch. How is his attitude any different? 
Yet he's part of a disturbing pattern. He belongs with the woman who asserted with menaces a right to prevent her car being filmed obstructing traffic. He belongs with the head teachers who prevent parents filming their children at school sports days for fear some pervert may get off on the images. He is at one with any group with a 'respect' agenda that seeks to curtail criticism of its beliefs or lifestyles. He is at one with the celebrities who want the law changed so tabloids can't service the public's salacious interest in their coke-fuelled encounters with whores. He belongs with the police officers who presume photographers are up to no good. Perhaps he even belongs with the men who murdered a disabled man because he took photographs of youngsters he suspected of vandalising his hanging baskets. 
This has been going on for some time. Margaret Thatcher sagely observed that
One of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.
I fear that those in power are merely responding however to the mindless sentimentalism of the masses. When I flew into London shortly after the death of Princess Diana I was sickened by the ludicrous emotionalism. How could ordinary people be so inarticulately distraught over the accidental death of an aristocrat? I remember gagging as I watched a woman vox popped on TV during the funeral coverage saying (I kid you not)
No-one can explain the deepness we feel
I was angered by Tony Blair shedding crocodile tears for "the people's princess". Yet his personal stock rose with the public, while that of the Queen fell because of her measured, more English, more rational response.
Modern Brits over-rate the importance of their personal feelings. They tend to sickly sentimentality unmoderated by reason, religion, taste or manners. They also dangerously fail to distinguish between the private and public domains. They demand new laws in response to any private misfortune - even if compliance with existing laws, prudence or plain commonsense would already have avoided it. Some of the most dangerous words in the British media come from angry parents demanding a change in the law so that their child "did not die in vain". That hard cases make bad law is a wisdom lost forever. That some misfortunes are mere accidents and do not justify violent restrictions on the lives of others (which is what all laws are) is never considered amid all the tearful emoting.
Where does this sense of entitlement to control others on emotional grounds come from? More importantly, as politicians increasingly strive like fakely-tearful Blair to capture the cry-baby zeitgeist, where will it lead?

Thought-Crime or mere Expatitis?

I often wonder how different my view of today's Britain would be if I had not lived abroad for 20 years. Expats often find it hard to resettle in their home country. Sometimes they are not "comparing apples with apples" when reviewing their life in a low-wage country against that in the capital-intensive UK. I went to a retirement party this week at a law firm where I was a partner until 1997. I had not seen some of the people there since before I left the UK in 1992, and almost none of them since I changed firms while abroad. So they were an interesting 'control group' for this question.

Most were initially surprised by my comments about changes in the UK during my absence. The changes had crept up on them over time and had not struck them so forcefully. When they thought about them however, they agreed they didn't like them much. They did not like 'political correctness' and felt particularly uncomfortable with its translation into law.

Someone recalled that twenty or so years ago, the firm's first-ever Muslim partner had asked an Orthodox Jewish job applicant how he would handle closing an urgent deal on a Friday with sunset approaching. The applicant did not get the job and complained - ludicrously - that this then predominantly Jewish firm was anti-semitic. The management had responded by issuing a grovelling apology and taking the Muslim partner off the recruitment panel.

No law was broken at the time. Indeed many of the Jewish partners asked similar questions when recruiting and were both surprised and disappointed by the firm's response. Today HR would have a fit if a partner asked such a question, just as they would if one asked a female applicant of child-bearing age how she intended to fit her career around any plans for a family. There would almost certainly be a claim under equality legislation.

The high proportion of Jewish and female partners in those long-ago days rather suggested there were acceptable answers to be given to these now-taboo questions. An Orthodox Jew might propose to involve a Gentile or less Orthodox colleague in his deal in order to cover for holy days. A female lawyer might say she had a house-husband or other family support, planned to hire a nanny or intended to give priority to child-rearing over competing for partnership. Or she might say she wasn't interested in having children so the issue didn't arise.

Now that the question cannot be asked, the temptation (though no-one would ever admit it) is to assume the worst-possible reply. This cannot be to the candidate's advantage. No-one believes a Jewish, Muslim or female lawyer is intrinsically inferior, so the only question is how to respect their different needs without compromising client service. That requires an honest and open discussion on both sides; now no longer permitted. It's a similar unintended outcome to that created by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. As offenders are legally-entitled to lie about their convictions (and employers are not allowed to check) HR departments everywhere bin any CV that has gaps that might represent time spent in prison.

Honesty really is the best policy. The best way to deal with concerns about race or sex prejudice is to give its 'victims' every chance to show - as I am absolutely certain is true - that it is not a useful guide to performance. I worked in jurisdictions with no such legal restrictions and honestly never asked myself any question about a candidate that did not go directly to the issue of better service to clients. Because that's what I cared about - and what was in the best interests of my business.

There was one person present at the party who strongly disagreed with my views. He denied there had been any chilling of free speech. He was entirely happy with the Equalities Act and with all changes in employment law. Nor had he any problem with the discriminatory concept of 'hate crime.' He felt just as free as ever he had and said I was making 'a ridiculous fuss'. It was a happy occasion so (I am gradually learning to fit in) I passed it off lightly.

When he had moved on, someone commented wryly that this scion of an illustrious legal dynasty (a leading City firm bears his family name) must mainly read his Guardian on the deck of his yacht. Apparently he now spends much of his time cruising the Aegean. It's odd that the Toynbee-ite rich have the most left-wing views, isn't it? But then in this paradoxical country of ours, nothing is as one would expect. The main health problem of our poor is obesity and the main problem of our rich is befuddled Marxism.

Engels and Marx - longtime expatriates in England - never predicted that.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Labour

The Paul Flowers affair confirms it: 2015 will be a dirty election | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Here's a simple thought experiment for all leftists feeling aggrieved at the 'smear' that crystal meth user Paul Flowers, late of the Co-op Bank (lender to the Labour Party and donor to Ed Balls) is one of their own. What if he had been a lifelong Tory? What if his bank funded the Conservative Party and made donations to George Osborne? What if he had been doing lines of coke at Barclays, rather than meth at the Co-op? What would you be saying now?

All arms of the Labour 'movement' (including the Co-op, which co-founded the Labour Party) have been smearing and denigrating political opponents since the party's creation. Consider Nye Bevan's characterisation of Conservatives as "lower than vermin." Consider the vicious, misogynistic way in which they spoke of Margaret Thatcher. Consider the constant references to the behaviour of current Cabinet members as young men in the entirely frivolous Bullingdon Club, while laughing off the involvement in their youth of prominent Labour men with the British Communist Party; an organisation actively engaged in treason.

The Labour Party is an organisation founded on hatred and dedicated to expropriation by force (under the euphemism of 'redistribution'). It has no right to complain at full use being made of the exposure of one of its own for what many of them are; hypocrites on the make.

Power crazed head teacher threatens to label 8-year olds racists if their parents fail to follow her orders

School children as young as 8 told they would be labelled 'racist' for missing school trip - Telegraph.

Click to enlarge and marvel at the arrogance of the state's servants

When I tell my friends abroad about life in modern Britain, they think I exaggerate. This story illustrates just how far our country has strayed from the path of freedom. How could any service provider think she had the right to use such words to her customers? How can such threats be consistent with a 'free' society?

This woman Small appears to be a zealot with no sense of proportion. Or perhaps we should imagine her under such severe private pressures from her superiors that she genuinely felt compelled to issue such threats?
She has been now been told to withdraw the 'racial discrimination note' warning because the parents have stood up to her. Yet how can she be trusted, when the press furore dies down, not to make good on her threats? How for that matter can we continue to trust the zealots of the education Industry with our childrens' tender minds?
Education is a service provided to parents. Their views on matters of faith and conscience should be respected. It should, above all, be about opening young minds, not closing them.

These laughable, cryable NHS reforms

Following the government's response to the Francis Report on Comrade Sir David Nicholson's performance in mid-Staffs is discouraging. Listening to a newsreader brightly announce that patients will in future be told the name of the consultant and nurse responsible for their care or that medics with a history of catastrophic failure will be blacklisted so they can't simply move to another hospital, I watched her eyes. She seemed to think it was a jolly good idea. So did I. Unlike her I was horrified it had ever been otherwise.

As a lawyer, I was never able to consign clients to the care of anonymous assistants. And I took up references on new hires to ensure I did not get my competitor's defective cast-offs. If my team failed them, the buck obviously stopped with me as the responsible partner. Who would expect otherwise?

Everyone is talking as if "our NHS" went wrong. It didn't. It came wrong. It is in the nature of Socialist enterprise to break the customer/provider nexus and elevate the workers to primacy. It's not a bug, it's a feature. Even the bugs first grown in NHS hospitals - MRSA and C. Diff - are features. Did any other health care provider in history send patients out with new diseases of its own creation?

More than any other political slogan I hate "people before profit". It's not merely a false dichotomy it is to truth as anti-matter is to matter. Market mechanisms are not perfect in operation because they act upon the inputs of an imperfect species. But they connect humans to their duty to their fellow men more effectively than the most extreme violence. This, the vile history of the Soviet Union should prove to even the thickest clod in our national meadow. Markets are moral, at least by comparison to Socialist command and control.

It may be your NHS, but it's damned well not mine.

Of Englishness and hijab

I spent the weekend pleasantly at the southern stronghold of Clan Paine; a fifteenth-century coaching inn in Berkshire owned by my cousin. It is built partly of oak reclaimed from Royal Navy warships of the Age of Sail. No more English place could be imagined. It has been in her branch of our family all my life and it was there her father - then the owner - made the teenaged me a tifoso and today's me a Ferrarista.

My Sunday walk in the Berkshire woods

Elders visiting from the North told of a rare visit to London. Two ladies dressed in what they called a burka (but more likely an abaya or chador combined with a headscarf) got into a lift with them. They admitted to feelings of fear and were concerned this reaction might be 'racist'.

I feel sorry for older Britons. Most have strived their whole lives to be decent, kind and polite but now live in danger of being told they are wicked because they have not grasped the latest sociological nuance.

In our culture, I told them, fear is a normal psychological response to masks. Long ago, rehearsing a youth theatre production, my drama coach warned me that I must be careful where I fixed my masked gaze. People, she said, find it 'disturbing'. Another masked actor and I (there being nothing crueller than male teenagers) would stand in the wings during each performance selecting the prettiest girl in the audience. During a scene in which we stood for twenty minutes, masked and immobile, we would fix our gazes on her. She always cried. She always left. None lasted more than five minutes.

In other cultures things are different. I assured them that the ladies in their lift had not meant to scare them. I said their reaction was not 'racist', but a cultural response that the routine presence of ladies in hijab would eventually change. They were reassured. They had not thought they were 'racist' and had not wanted to be misperceived.

Someone else suggested Britain should follow the lead of France and ban the hijab. I jokingly replied that if they chose to dress in public as Superman or Wonder Woman they could expect strangers to laugh, neighbours to think them barmy and their friends to tell them so. But, very properly in a free and tolerant society, they would not expect the police to intervene. A lady dressed in hijab was entitled to expect the same reactions from her non-cosplay neighbours; no more and no less.

On my daily constitutional today I wondered how a hijab-wearing Muslim would view my advice to these elderly relatives so keen to respect her culture. Does she know that in our culture her mask inspires fear? Does she care? If she is not prepared to respect the cultural sensitivities of her neighbours, is it fair to expect them to work so hard and so fearfully to respect hers?

Beyond Satire

Why Britain could never make Borgen - Telegraph

I am disappointed in Michael Deacon of the Telegraph. He is that once-Conservative paper's Parliamentary sketch-writer, a profession unique to these islands. Satire exists elsewhere, of course. It was invented in Ancient Rome, so that Italian politicians have been exposed to it for millennia. This explains why modern Italian politics has evolved to be so entirely indistinguishable from it.  
Johnny Foreigner however is starved of our particular form of the art. Deacon tells us that; 
An official from the German embassy in London once told me that the very idea was unthinkable in his country. The satirical parliamentary sketch is an exclusively British curiosity upon which outsiders look with polite bafflement, as if we were proudly showing them our antique collection of Beatrix Potter-themed thimbles.
 So much the worse for Germany. It should never be unthinkable to prick the pomposity of politicians. Had some witty German devised a joke name for Adolf Hitler as good as Bernard Levin's 'Sir Reginald Bullying-Manner' (for Attorney-General Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller) we could all now think of that cultured country without the image of that tedious little Austrian popping up in our heads.
My disappointment is that Deacon shows signs of weakness. He is a fan of Miss Paine the Younger's second-favourite TV show, Borgen and is sad that no equivalent could be successfully presented in Britain. He shamefully seems to sympathise with former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith when she bleats that
Borgen is wonderful because it “portrays a leader struggling with the choices required of a position of political power, experiencing the impact of that on family and other relationships, sometimes falling short, but essentially showing politics to be the honourable profession that I believe it to be”
Yes and LA Law was an accurate presentation of life in a legal practice. 
Typical lawyers
Mr Paine and a colleague in his days as a lawyer
A profession is a self-governing body of trained specialists subject to a set of ethical rules limiting the ways in which its members can profit from their skills. Which part of that does Smith think describes her shabby, corrupt and predatory occupation? As for the word 'honourable', she displays the characteristic chutzpah of the politician in even uttering it. She should shun it as I should 'slim', 'svelte' and 'buffed'; words that if uttered by me of myself would reduce all around to helpless laughter.
To be serious for a paragraph, the job of a politician in a modern social-democratic state is essentially to seize by force more than half our earnings, blend them with obscene amounts of debt and use them to bribe us into voting for more of the same. There is no 'honour' in a task so sordid. Any decent human would feel soiled by it and thus the only such who become politicians are those once-in-a-generation-if-we-are-lucky sorts who want to get the state off our backs. These rarities are loathed and routinely defamed by the rest of the political class precisely because they threaten the fat and toothsome body politic those parasites infest.
So man up, Deacon. You perform an honourable function in ridiculing, undermining and slowing the advance of these predators. If you are really so bothered by watching Borgen with subtitles, perhaps you just need some varifocals?

Comrade Doctor

Guardian profile: David Tennant, our favourite Doctor … his time has come | Culture | The Guardian.

I try to avoid conspiracy theories. The **** up theory is usually just as explicative - and given the ineptitude of the average human usually far more plausible. It's getting hard however to believe that the BBC's evident bias is just an accidental by-product of being staffed by the metropolitan liberal intelligentsia.
Consider this profile of David Tennant in todays Guardian for example. Neither Britain's Pravda nor the BBC writer being interviewed see any need to put in context or explain the following statements (my emphasis).
With David it's his intelligence that makes him sexy. Obviously he's a good looking boy and in good shape, but fundamentally it's his intelligence, he is curious and full of ideas. He is also rock solid Labour, which is always a plus.
How could that conceivably be a "plus" in relation to his acting or general suitability to portray a Time Lord from Gallifrey? I am a huge fan of Dr Who. I consider the Tardis to be the cleverest construct in the whole of science fiction and love the humour of the show compared to the po-faced, up-themselves worthiness of other great sci-fi franchises. But it's hard not to notice than any business-person who makes an appearance is seeking to profit from the sufferings of others or to destroy a planet in order to revenge himself on the board that fired him. 
The Doctor is contemptuous of material things and has no visible means of financial support. Nothing so vulgar as a job or inherited wealth. He routinely steals what he needs and uses his sonic screwdriver to take money from the local equivalent of an ATM (owned no doubt by vicious capitalist bankers). He hands out the stolen 'credits' to his companions without any regard for the loss to the bank's depositors or investors.
Not one left-wing writer for the show has ever come up with the obvious plan to go back in time a few centuries with an item of modest value and invest the proceeds of its sale. That would allow the operation of compound interest to make the Doctor indpendently wealthy. It's the first thing I would do with a Tardis, but then I am capitalist filth. 
Any noble supporting character in the show is usually (UNIT, Torchwood) a public employee wielding state force with gleeful abandon and no visible resource constraint. Thus the corporation's left-wing bias is utterly clear in its most popular fictional offering. Indeed the only BBC show that does not toe the leftist line without reserve is its most popular non-fiction offering; Top Gear - a show which the BBC hierarchy is known to loathe. They only keep broadcasting it because it makes more money for them than anything else. How terribly vulgar. If only they had a sonic screwdriver, eh?
Finally consider this story from yesterday's Telegraph. Maybe the left-wing bias arose by metropolitan accident, but it seems to me no accident that it continues. We now have a self-perpetuating Marxist elite on our hands, hostile to all our efforts at betterment and contemptuous of all our claims to ownership of our labour and investment.
Tell me again why a free country even has a state broadcaster in the first place?

Why I fear Scottish independence

Union ‘has cost Scotland £64bn over 30 years’ | The Sunday Times.

Let me be clear. Since I overheard a ned pour vile anti-English hatred into the ear of his toddler son at the Wallace Memorial some years ago, I have been in favour of Scottish Independence. I realised that poor, innocent little boy was going to grow up hating me and my own innocent children no matter what we do. I love Scotland and my Scottish friends but for so long as the Scottish masses can ignorantly blame England for everything, it is a country that will never grow up. The Scottish Nation needs to stand alone and realise that life is difficult, requires unsavoury amounts of work and that nothing comes for free in the end.

I fear independence only because of the incompetence of the people who will negotiate it from the English side. The linked article in the Sunday Times for example almost blew my stack before I even got out of bed this morning. It suggests that an independent Scotland would be better off because it would walk away from the UK's national debt, dumping it on the taxpayers of England and Wales. This is outrageous, immoral and thus in every way typical of Scotland's rapacious attitude to the English. 

Scotland applied on its knees to join the United Kingdom. It was bankrupt following the failure of the Darien Venture (itself a folly driven by envy of England). England did not conquer Scotland. We bailed it out. We paid off its own national debt at the time and never a word of thanks have we had for it.

At the time of the Acts of Union, we English had no national debt to speak of. The current debt is that of the United Kingdom. If Scotland chooses independence it must be divided between the two new nations on some fair and equitable basis. As we have been funding public expenditure largely (and madly) from debt since the creation of the Welfare State and since a disproportionate part of that expenditure is in Soviet Scotland, I suggest the Barnett Formula should play some part in that calculation. As Wikipedia explains it;
"...if a UK-wide per capita average were a notional 100%, identifiable per capita expenditure on services in England would be 97% and the Scottish amount 117%..."
That's how the debt was run up. That is how it should be allocated. As the new Scotland would have nothing like the credit rating of the current United Kingdom, it would cost rather more per capita to service its smaller share too. Properly negotiated, independence will welcome Scottish taxpayers back from economic la-la land. Not before time.