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

Reflections on the passing of another year

FireworksI used to like New Year's Eve. I remember a party in the Welsh wilds many moons ago. I thought it had gone well, but the late Mrs P. disagreed. Apparently alcohol had somehow flushed my schoolboy Welsh from my memory's trash can and I spent much of the evening chatting in that ancient tongue to an attractive young lady. This had somehow displeased my better half.

Recalling little of this, I took a while to get over the very notion of an attractive Welsh girl. My family had lived in the Principality for many centuries with only English women in our family tree. Without border raids, we would have died out long since. Nor had anything in my youthful experience in Wales suggested my male ancestors had erred in their judgement. You can navigate around Swansea by signage on places graced by Catherine Zeta-Jones, so extraordinary is the notion of Welsh beauty.

I tried to explain that, though I recalled little of the conversation, my Welsh vocabulary could not possibly have led in the directions she imagined. Much of it would have been derived from the national anthem and the hymn 'Calon Lan'. Once I had complimented the cleanliness of her young heart and stated my undying respect for her old tongue, I would have been at something of a loss; however well-lubricated my larynx.

Apparently, however, the young lady had found me suspiciously amusing. Mrs P. could never imagine a woman laughing at my witticisms without ulterior motive. [Yet I distinctly remember her finding me funny in our younger days. I can only now conclude her own motives were then as questionable as those she later imputed to others.] I explained, convincingly I thought, that the young woman's laughter was more likely to have been brought on by my linguistic errors than any desire to charm me.

So dark was her view of woman-kind she remained unconvinced. So much then for female solidarity. I have long since sadly concluded that many of the nastier aspects of feminist theory arise from women falsely imputing their own dark view of each other to men. We like them far better than they do themselves, if only they knew. Not that it's too hard to compete with what they think we think. 

It has all been downhill from there. During my ambitious middle years, unreasonable expectations of career progress let to a New Year's Eve score card as depressing as that of a current Fulham fan. As my career crested, it became a time to notice the fading of even those glories. Mrs P's insistent desire to celebrate in high style merely led to evenings of expensive misery and well-dressed matrimonial rows.

I have come at last to see Hogmanay as something, like all primitive excess, best left to the Scots. Christmas, I love, but New Year is not for me. Tomorrow will make today its yesterday as usual, regardless of Pope Gregory's bull of 1582. Frankly, it's all bull to me.

A new beginning is available to any of us on any day, without the need for an auspicious date or a preparatory hangover. We can make a change, or be forced by circumstance to make one, on any date - odd or even. Numbers simply don't come into it. Enjoy your parties though, gentle readers. I know I am as contrarian in this as in so much else and no more likely than usual to be right.

A very happy new year to you all. May 2014 bring to you the realisation of every hope that does not infringe on the freedom of your fellow man.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a liberty-laden New Year

BBC News - Tweets to feminist campaigner Criado-Perez: Two charged.

The Misses Paine and I are off to cruise the Norwegian fjords from tomorrow. Our access to the internet will be patchy. So let me take this - perhaps final - opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, free New Year.
If I am quiet for the rest of 2013 it's not because I am reconciled to authoritarian Britain. I remain bemused that I live in a country where the Crown Prosecution Service deliberates solemnly on whether some words are bad enough to merit prosecution. I am baffled by a prosecutor speaking of a
"high threshold for prosecution"
in the context of opinions expressed or even threats issued on Twitter; a medium with powerful tools to block unwanted messages.
Not everyone in North Korea was killed last week for disagreeing with Kim Jong-un. Many failed to pass his threshold of murderous fury. I am happy for them, but still feel it is wrong for anyone to have been killed; even a major league scumbag like the Supreme Leader's uncle.
Similarly it already seems like a low "threshold" to me that anyone can be prosecuted for expressing a view, however hateful. Even uttering threats should not be a crime. At worst, if threats are reasonably considered to be both serious and plausible (having regard to the fact than someone intending to rape or kill would be pretty damned stupid to announce it) the police should act to deter their authors from carrying them out.
No society in which using words is only lawful if they are approved by authority - even authority derived from a majority view - will long remain free.
Have a great time over the holidays. See you in 2014.

Who serves whom?

We don't call them police forces any more. That's too explicit an acknowledgement of their role as the enforcers of our all-powerful state. Policing, God help us, is now a 'service'.

The question is; whom do our policemen serve? Is it us, the public, or the political class that guarantees their unfunded pensions from the incomes of taxpayers yet unborn? If, as they claim, it's the public, why does it sometimes feel they are serving us in the agricultural sense; as a bull serves a heifer?

Ordinary people don't believe the official crime figures because they don't accord with our experience. For years the Establishment line has been that the figures are accurate but that our fear of crime is the problem. We are neurotic and should be more trusting of our benevolent masters. Yeah right.

PC James Patrick, an analyst with the Metropolitan Police 'service' recently gave evidence to a House of Commons committee that the figures are improperly manipulated by senior officers to make police performance look better. He said

Things were clearly being reported as burglaries and then you would rerun the same report after there had been a human intervention, a management intervention, and these burglaries effectively disappeared in a puff of smoke.

How embarrassing for the political class that has used the rigged numbers to assure us it's doing its job of public protection! It seems our 'neurotic' belief that they were feathering their own nests while not giving a flying expletive about us except as sources of feathers was well-founded.

I have been waiting with interest for the state's response to this revelation. And, the Alistair Campbell approved interval for the story to die down having elapsed, here it comes. The Times reports this morning that PC Patrick has been placed on 'restricted duties' and forbidden to speak to public or media. The whistleblower has received his usual reward.

So that's clear then. Lying to make the state look good is fine. The public has no right to know the truth about the performance of the police service it is forced to fund. The career of any public-spirited person with a sense of duty and honour is unlikely to advance in the Met. In marked contrast to that of an officer who heads a botched operation that blows the head off an innocent man, for example.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along now please or you might just find yourself being served.

Allies for a day

Mandela has been sanitised by hypocrites and apologists | Seumas Milne | Comment is free | The Guardian.

I have been saddened by the hypocrisy of the British Establishment's celebrations of the life of the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. I was horrified when, apparently on instructions from the Football Association (that well known arbiter of political truth), I was subjected to a pre-match 'minute of applause' last week in his honour.
Apparently, I am not alone in my exasperation.
Airbrushed out of the Mandela media story has been the man who launched a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been closed; who declared in his 1964 speech from the dock that the only social system he was tied to was socialism; who was reported by the ANC-allied South African Communist party this week to have been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest; and whose main international supporters for 30 years were the Soviet Union and Cuba.
It has barely been mentioned in the past few days, but Mandela supported the ANC's armed campaign of sabotage, bombings and attacks on police and military targets throughout his time in prison. Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC's armed wing, emphasise that the military campaign was always subordinate to the political struggle and that civilians were never targeted (though there were civilian casualties).
But as Ronnie Kasrils, MK's former intelligence chief, told me on Wednesday, Mandela continued to back it after his release in 1990 when Kasrils was running arms into South Africa to defend ANC supporters against violent attacks. And there's no doubt that under today's US and British law, he and other ANC leaders would have been jailed as terrorists for supporting such a campaign.
Thank you Seumas Milne, 'associate editor' of The Guardian for stating the truth. Thank you for doing it in the journal of record of the Leftist British Establishment. Thank you, even though you mysteriously regard it as even greater praise than the dishonest, sickening mush in which we have all been forced to wallow.
Thank you also to even-less-read Leftist journal the New Statesman, where in the same spirit Martin Plaut also bruited Mandela's oft-denied membership of the Communist Party.
As we mourn Mandela's death we should not forget and acknowledge the role that communists played in befriending and influencing this great man.
Quite. We should also not forget the many times Britain's leftists scoffed at those who told the truth about Mandela's communist connection. Especially when they deny other such connections in future. 

Left, Right, Wrong

The traditional political division into 'left' and 'right' must be used with caution. For much of Europe 'right-wing' refers to nationalist authoritarians seeking to impose traditional values on society at large. I would be uncomfortable in such company. No right-winger on the Continent and few in America would share my stance on what they would call 'social issues' and I would call 'none of your damned business.'

The 'good guys' of Continental Europe are usually called Liberals. The bad guys of American politics have made that glorious name unusable in English. In their constant gee whizz quest for euphemism, our American cousins have made a cuss-word out of a formerly-useful term. They do that a lot. How little of a life would you have to have to keep up with American fashion on what to call a black man or a red indian, for example? 

These labels matter more than they should. Serious political debate is of interest only to a minority. Most voting decisions are made on impressions rapidly formed by the free use of labels as either praise or abuse. How many voters analysed what Tony Blair meant by 'New Labour' for example? They simply thought of themselves as left, hated the mess Old Labour had made and welcomed a new brand they weren't embarrassed to be associated with.

For my part, I hate the Labour Party as I hate the very devil. Indeed I suspect Old Nick would make better company than any socialist and might actually have better intentions. Yet I hate the fact that saying so makes most Brits label me as what I am emphatically not; a Tory. I am, in truth, a Liberal. I happen to know from personal experience that there are gallant members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Britain still clinging to the true meaning of the L word, but they are out-numbered by leftists too snobbish (and who can blame them) to be in the same party as John Prescott. So the label I use in my head is no use in the wider world.

The conversations in my primary school playground were conducted in a higher register and exchanged far more complex information than most political 'debates' that make a difference to voting intentions. In the Labour heartlands where I grew up, calling someone a "Tory [Anglo-Saxon expletive of choice]" was all it needed to win an argument. I have never lived in a Conservative constituency until recently, and judging by the copies of the Guardian in evidence around here, I doubt it will remain one long. Perhaps there are Tory Shires where one could similarly raise the tribal flag to end all discussion? I don't know.

It's pointless to be a purist about this and dismiss the use of 'left' and 'right' altogether. They carry an emotional weight that cannot be denied. Just as every Brit knows which side he would have been on in the Civil War, he knows if he is left or right, often with an unjustified prefix of 'Centre-" to make himself feel moderate. It would be great to have more accurate labels, but we don't.

The easy route to explain my position to my fellow citizens is to say that I am socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative, but that doesn't tell the truth either. 'Social liberals' in Britain are highly illiberal. They are more like authoritarian Continental Christian Democrats in seeking to impose moral orthodoxy. Why, for example, was I expected to pay tribute to a dead foreign Communist before Fulham FC's game against Aston Villa yesterday? No similar tribute was offered when Margaret Thatcher died and rightly so. But a darling of the 'social-liberals' must apparently be lauded, however disgusting his political views.

For another current example, it's not enough that you don't give a damn who shags Tom Daley. They expect you to 'be supportive;' to 'ooh' and 'aah' sympathetically and tell him how 'brave' he is. If someone in my immediate circle is gay and wants to introduce me to his or her partner, I will buy them both a drink. If I liked him or her before the news, I will after (and will try to like the partner too). It's my business because I am a relative or friend and I need to know their situation so as to welcome their new partner into our family or group of friends. The sexual preferences of people outside my circle, however, are properly a matter of indifference.

Genuine liberals don't give a public damn what you consider to be right or wrong as long as you don't impose it on others. We only want laws to limit physical or economic aggression. As to the rest, go to it with a will and take all the consequences yourself. We afford you the tolerance we expect of you, but we don't demand or offer approval of private choices. The clue is in the adjective, 'private.' So don't be so needy. Shut up and get on with it. We will think what we please, to the extent that we become aware, and will factor it in in deciding whom to drink with or give the time of day to. Feel free to do likewise.

The right-wing and left-wing in Britain share a disgusting desire to shape thoughts and private preferences by law. They seek to pull in different directions. It's the pull I mostly resent. If they are of the Right seeking to reinforce traditional Christian views of marriage, they insult their God by thinking He needs the feeble help of Earthly powers to enforce His Divine will. If they are of the Left seeking to suppress the expression of 'inappropriate' opinion on Twitter, then they should have more trust in the ability of 'the people' to deal with such matters informally. Both expose the feebleness of their views by doubting their eventual triumph without misuse of law. Law is a blunt, violent instrument. It is not a teaching aid.

If you have a need for approval from strangers, I suggest you get professional help. You may think that's harsh but on the other hand, if you leave me to make my own life choices, I will happily take no interest in yours. Furthermore, I am remarkably unlikely to preach to you. Most likely, I will offer you no opinions on any subject not affecting my family's interests unless you are my friend and you ask me.

Does that make me right-wing or left-wing? You choose.

Voltaire's wisdom forgotten

BBC News - 'Troll' Gordon Mullen sentenced over April Jones web abuse.

It's hard to like Gordon Mullen. He posted nasty remarks on Facebook about a little girl who was missing. She was later, sadly, found to have been murdered. Not by him, I hasten to add.
I like one of Mullen's Facebook 'friends' even less.  

At Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, Mhari Mair, prosecuting, said one of Mullen's own Facebook friends alerted police to the comments he had made about the murdered schoolgirl.

Why did he need to 'alert' them? Because the remarks were made in a private text chat conversation. That's right. He did not publish them to the internet at large. He did not even post them to his 'friends' feed. 
The judge said that if the dead girl's family had read the comments
they would have been absolutely devastated.
I am sure they would, but the only reason they now know something nasty was said about their poor child is because of this stupid case. Law enforcement in this country now has the time and resources to monitor what stupid people say to each other and make an expensive fuss about it. Yet, to listen to our public servants, there isn't a single cut to be safely made in public expenditure. Hmm.
The family only know of Mullen's existence because of a disgusting law, a vile snitch and a body of policemen who have nothing useful to be getting on with. Scotland being such an idyllic place, populated with happy, caring hobbits and entirely free of crime of course.
The pair had been in a three-way Facebook conversation, with each "trying to be more shocking than the other", the court had heard.
In other words, they - and their snitch 'friend' - had been channeling Frankie Boyle in a competitive fashion. I think we can safely say the snitch lost that game.
The most shocking thing to me about this case is that not one word has been uttered in the coverage about freedom of speech. That's a forgotten concept in modern Britain. No-one in the media is remotely inclined to quote Voltaire's famous remark
I disagree wtih what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it
Even his defence counsel, a man entirely unworthy of his fee on this evidence, 
agreed with Sheriff McDonald's remark that Mullen's behaviour was "absolutely appalling"
Yes, perhaps, if you really have nothing better to do than go out of your way to be appalled.

What you are, not what you want

I learned during my long-ago university days of the key historical change from 'status' to 'contract'. In a sense, modern civilisation began when, not only were rulers subject to the law, but your legal obligations depended not on who you were but what you had agreed.

No more jus primae noctis or knight service. Your obligations depended upon the contracts you entered into. Moderns might think themselves 'wage slaves' because of a real or perceived lack of job opportunities, but their employer had no claims over them qua employer, only by reference to their contract of employment. Their serfdom was therefore metaphorical at most.

As recently as the 1970s then, this was seen as progress in itself and as a key enabler of progress. It was a thoroughly civilised way of organising human relations. Modern society was not possible without it. Indeed my legal history lecturer (leftist though he was) presented it as a key enabling factor of the industrial revolution and therefore of all modern prosperity.

Yet the drift back to status was already well underway. English law, for example, limited an employer's response to the breach of contract involved in refusing to work if it was in the context of a protected strike lawfully organised by a trade union. The status of being under the protection of a trade union (a modern descendant of a medieval guild) alters your employer's legal rights and - in a certain sense - justifies your breach of contract.

For a long time the police operated with the same power of arrest as any other citizen. If someone commited a felony (now an 'arrestable offence') you or I could arrest them and so could a copper. The only difference was that he was paid, trained and expected to do it. I always thought that was a wonderful check and balance on police power. It's a dangerous thing to have a professional police force because, among the honest decent people attracted to such work, there is bound to be a higher-than-average proportion of thugs and bullies. Bossing people around attracts bossy people.

Now the status of being a police officer or enjoying one of a large number of other state-granted statuses, confers special powers of arrest, search, seizure and forced entry. Even, as we have seen in recent days, forced entry to a mother's womb.

CoyoteLandlord and tenant law tends to assume (ridiculously in the modern era when he might be Google or Microsoft and his landlord might be your mother's pension fund) that a tenant is a weaker party entitled to special protection by virtue of his status.

Similarly consumer legislation operates on the basis of a cartoon caricature of a buyer like Wile E Coyote; endlessly supplied with disappointingly non-lethal-to-road-runners goods by ACME.

The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 specifically prevents people from entering into, or at least from being bound by, contractual obligations, based on their status as 'a person dealing as a consumer.'

The notion of 'positive discrimination' confers for the first time in law an actual right to be racist (if you ignore, as I do with utter contempt, the socialist claptrap about racism being by definition a problem exclusive to white people).

The concept of 'hate crime' makes it more serious to insult, hurt or kill people enjoying a specially protected status. Current law thinks some deaths diminish me more than others. I disrespectfully disagree.

Your status as a citizen imposes all kinds of obligations on you. For example you must surrender a percentage of your earnings to the state, pay your local council for the privilege of living in your own home and hand over 45% of your parents' wealth above a certain value on inheritance. 

It would be amusing if it were not so sad that modern 'progressives' have for decades been busily restoring a key concept of feudalism and systematically undermining a key legal foundation of post-feudal prosperity. Their labels may not openly be 'lord' and 'vassal' but their world view is founded just as much on different rights and duties for different classes of human.

Getting into the Christmas spirit


I am finding it hard this year. Cards are unwritten, presents unbought or at best not wrapped. But this video helped, as well as bringing back happy memories of driving the Fiorano circuit on my training course last year.

Whatever you do, don't try this at home girls and boys. Remember that only Ferrari team members and Santa look good in red trousers.

Fashion police take urgent action

How far are we from the bottom of this slippery slope?

Child taken from womb by social services - Telegraph.

A pregnant Italian has a panic attack while on a training course in Britain organised by her employers. Her unborn daughter is ripped untimely from her womb by Essex Social Services. She is first put into care and then given up for adoption in Britain. All this is sanctioned by the Court of Protection despite the mother's court appearance in a stabilised condition at which she "impressed" the judge. Maybe it's because I am an ex-lawyer but the most sinister words to me are
she was deemed to have had no "capacity" to instruct lawyers
I have never heard of a fellow human more in need of a specialist lawyer than her. Anna Raccoon, a great campaigning blogger now lost to us often told horrifying tales of the secretive Court of Protection. Having spent my career as a business lawyer, I found them hard to believe. My own experience of our courts was of the bumbling, pompous, self-regarding inefficiency one must expect of any state monopoly, but never of malice or cruelty.
Is our law so dumb it can't infer a woman about to be assaulted in this manner might want a lawyer? Could one not have been appointed on that assumption? When back on her meds and able to appear sensibly in court, did our laws really give the state the power to take her child away permanently on the basis she 'might' have a relapse? After all, every mother 'might' develop a mental illness. Even an adoptive one hand-picked for compliance with state norms. 
Can anyone really disagree with her lawyers' mild assertion that 
...even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
For that matter, her family might have been better-placed to look after the child. Nowadays that doesn't even seem to occur to our servants turned masters. Our social services didn't even contact them. If there is a family member willing to accept responsibility, the involvement of social services should end. They need (if they are needed at all) to be reduced to the status of an emergency service, not regarded - as they now seem to be in Soviet Britain - as the default guardians of every child.
What kind of employer does this poor woman have that management even allowed social services to get near her? Why didn't they get her back to her family and the doctor treating her condition in Italy? If that was impracticable, did they feel no moral obligation to get her a British doctor who could sort out her meds? If that was impracticable, why did they not get her a lawyer? I think they should be named because I want to boycott them.
The victim of this miscarriage of British justice is bi-polar, but living normally with the aid of her meds. It could happen to any of us. Mental illness doesn't mean you cease to exist as a person. It doesn't mean you cease to have rights. It doesn't mean you cease to love your children. It doesn't mean you won't have a long life of grief if your baby is taken from you against your will and put forever beyond your reach. It does means you need protection, which is why the "Court of Protection" has that name. Sadly it seems to be a Newspeak name, if ever there was one.
A friend having shared some of his divorce paperwork with me recently I begin to fear that our Family Courts are worse than merely incompetent. Another friend, a judge specialising in immigration matters, told me her court was packed with leftists under the last government and that she was subjected to compulsory indoctrination. Still, I am reluctant to accept that any part of our judicial system is this heartlessly, brutally statist. I need to believe in the independence and neutrality of judges for without the Rule of Law we are lost. I could not expend so much effort on blogging if I had no hope.
One final, relatively minor, thought. Our society pretends to go to enormous lengths to respect and protect different cultures. How come this child can be denied her Italian heritage?