THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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November 2019

A Socialist Britain: what are we in for?

I spent today at this seminar co-hosted by the Ayn Rand Institute and the Ayn Rand Centre UK. I am not myself an objectivist but the speakers and the subjects were appealing. It was an interesting afternoon beginning with Yaron Brook’s presentation on the long-standing historic links between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism, going all the way back to Marx himself

There followed a panel session on The Nanny State: Could Labour Outdo the Tories? featuring Douglas Carswell, Chris Snowdon, Lucy Harris and the indefatigable Dr Brook (who contributed at length to every session except the last).

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Chris Snowden said he wished, as someone who opposed both Socialism and the Nanny State, that he could simply link the two. He then presented a sadly convincing case that, whatever other damage a Labour government might do, it was unlikely to be worse than the “Conservatives” in terms of interfering in our personal lifestyle and health choices. There is even a chance that it may be genuinely more liberal on the issue of soft drugs.

Lucy Harris, MEP for The Brexit Party and founder of Leavers of Britain said that to call the phenomenon "Nanny" statism is too kind. It’s not a nanny it’s a boss. Dr Brook said that the world needed bosses and that such people are actually tyrants. Lucy thought that the real problem in both the EU and the UK in this respect is Quangoism. I think she's right. Far too many nanny staters are not driven by genuine concern for our welfare. They are rent-seekers making a good living from creating jobs for themselves telling us all how to live. Lucy said she regularly re-reads Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier, which perfectly sums up the attitude – veering between "sniggering superiority" and contempt – of middle class socialists for the working people they profess to serve. I confess I haven't read that since my schooldays. I must do so again!

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Douglas Carswell was the most optimistic member of the panel. He believes that Brexit has been a game changer in that voters will never take our incompetent rulers seriously again. He thinks social media has also made it permanently impossible for them to set the national agenda and steer debate as they always have. I think he underestimates the kind of sociopath attracted to the political life, but I hope I am wrong. 

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The next panel was called Can We Disagree? Cultural and Legal attacks on Diversity of Speech and the speakers were Toby Young, Yaron Brook, young Twitter sensation,  Soutiam Goodarzi — @Soutiam21 — and Dr Brook again. 

Toby Young spoke of a friend's experience in appearing on the BBC's "Question Time" show in Birmingham at the time Muslim parents were protesting outside a school about the "sex education" programme which contradicted their conservative beliefs. An audience member had asked the panelists simply to state whether they sided with the parents or the school authorities. All but his friend said emphatically they sided with the school. At dinner afterwards, all admitted to his friend that they did sympathise with the parents but had been afraid to say so for fear of being "monstered" by the "woke" lobby. He also spoke about the dishonest way in which the "no platform" types allege the risk of physical harm (e.g. "hate crimes") and psychological harm from mere speech. He pointed out that the much-bruited claims of a rise in hate crimes after the Brexit Referendum didn't show up in the statistics and that there was simply no evidence of psychological harm from speech.

He is planning to launch a Free Speech Union to support students, academics and others facing sanctions for speech and invited anyone interested in helping out in its formation to email him at jsmillsociety@gmail.com. 

Dr Brook said that successive governments have failed in their key duty to protect free speech against violence. The problem began with Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses. Governments did nothing to defend him. Then no newspaper in the US was prepared to publish the Mohammed cartoons from a Danish newspaper that triggered Islamist violence. He didn't blame the press because it was very clear the US Government wouldn’t defend them against the violent reactions they very reasonably feared. The current US Government, for all its bluster, won’t defend people against antifa violence either. He described the "woke" extremists against free speech as having a "Pre-enlightenment attitude". In those days the medieval church defined the range of acceptable truths that could be discussed. Now it is leftist academics who define it, but the outcome is the same. 

All panelists agreed that it was necessary to fight back if freedom of speech is not to be lost. Soutiam’s youthful confidence was remarkable. She says the behaviour of Britain's university authorities in relation to suppression of free speech is more dangerous that that of government but she’s prepared to take them on. I am not sure if she's fearless or naive and I hope her prospects are not damaged by her courage. I weighed in during Q&A with a couple of examples from my own experience of just how lost Britain's universities are to liberty.

The final session was on People and Profits: Who Would Benefit From the End of the City? The speakers were George Grigoropoulos and Andrew Boff. George pointed out that Conservatives have, since Thatcher (whose tenure he described as “a blip in the history of regulation”) been responsible for a massive increase in financial sector regulation. Labour is not blameless but has not been historically any worse.

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He said the only real difference has been in “the intensity of application of the same principles and assumptions” —namely,  that risk can be regulated away (it can’t) and that regulators are inherently wise (they're not). He pointed out that it takes 200 full time employees per bank to comply just with the Basel III regime. For the whole EU that’s over 75,000 expensive staff taken out of production to collect and submit data to regulators he doubts are even capable of analysing it. He highlighted the moral jeopardy inherent in such detailed risk management regimes. Instead of actually assessing risk, banks are “ticking regulatory boxes”. When (inevitably) some unforeseen risk causes a crisis, they will line up to be bailed out, saying “we did what you said this isn’t our fault”.

Andrew’s presentation was more party political. He accepted that his party’s Theresa May had been the worst PM in living memory but said Corbyn and McDonnell were “lost to reason” and would make her seem good by comparison.

It’s always good to be reminded that the routine idiocies of our political class are neither unnoticed nor unopposed. The rest of the audience members were mostly very young reminding me that, despite what one hears, not all our young people are submissive to the busybody state.


Is Boris playing 4D chess?

LEAVE WINS: Boris Has Played 4D Chess And You Haven’t Realised It | Kipper Central.

I was directed to the article linked above by Tcheuchter, a welcome regular visitor here at The Last Ditch, in a comment on my previous post. It's an interesting read from a source I don't follow. It certainly made me think but – as it requires me to trust the Conservative Party (or at least its current leader) – I am not really sure it helps me decide how (or indeed if) to vote on December 12th.
 
I reminded myself, in my excitement at reading it, of a young Paul Simon's wise words in the lyrics to The Boxer – "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." I have often remembered them ruefully after haring foolishly down a path based on what I wanted to believe.
 
I would love to believe that Boris Johnson is cunning enough to plot the course outlined by the article's author. I actually DO believe that Dominic Cummings is. What I don't believe is that any such plan could be kept quiet in Westminster. Someone would have revealed what they are up to because everyone around them is of the narcissistic variety of human attracted to politics. One, more or all of them, in hot pursuit of the fame their imagined "specialness" deserves would have been on the phone to their favoured MSM'ers to crow about it, claim credit for it or denounce it.
 
The cleverest thing the Remain Ultra anti-democrats have done is convince a decisive minority of the electorate that a "No Deal Brexit" would inevitably be "disorderly", a "crash out" – a Thelma & Louise suicidal drive off the edge. The people advancing this view did so dishonestly. Their intent was clearly to sabotage negotiations so as to create confusion and delay in the hope that public opinion would change and the UK remain a member of the EU.
 
How can I be sure that they lied? No-one, and certainly not the likes of Hammond, May or even Soubry, is stupid enough to believe you can productively go into a negotiation of any kind having announced "No Deal" is off the table. You would be asking to be screwed.
 
The pessimists who have been fooled by these cynical, manipulative liars into believing that the impact of a "disorderly Brexit" would be catastrophic are looking at economic life from the wrong end of the telescope. Their mental image of the market is a parade ground of people, goods and services marching back and forth to orders barked by politicians.
 
In truth, there would not be "no deal" but "many deals" because everyone engaged in the markets (i.e. everyone, whether they know or like it or not) would make millions of adjustments in instant (and often imperfect, but then they'd learn from that and adjust further) reactions to the issues thrown up. Most of the businesses involved have already plotted those reactions on a "what if" basis. Only people in government, whom no-one in the real world would miss if they didn't show up at work for a month, can possibly not think about the future. People with businesses to run think about it constantly or die.
 
For example, I have a friend in France who makes his living supplied processed potato snacks to corner shops in England. If you've bought a no brand/obscure brand bag of crisps from a Pakistani shopowner in Bradford, you've probably eaten his stuff. His most interesting business stories used to be about such problems as illegal immigrants invading the trucks carrying his goods from Calais to Dover but of late they have been about Brexit.

Before you ask, I don't actually know his view about the politics of Brexit because we are practical men of the world, not politicians. We have spent our time discussing his preparations for the various possible outcomes.

Is he planning to shut up shop? No. He's had discussions with his haulage contractors who have sought (of course) to use Brexit to justify an increase in their rates. He's negotiating with them, while calculating if his business will still work, given his profit margins. Is he considering other markets? Yes, but mainly to assist him in negotiating with his trucking companies. They are exaggerating the possible impact in order to justify the highest rates. He's pointing out that if they over-charge, it's their business they'll harm not his. Whatever happens, and whenever it happens, they now both already know what the rates will be. My friend's customers in England also know what effect the various outcomes might have on the prices they will pay. Of course they've also evaluated alternative suppliers and pushed back against him. It's all precisely priced and everyone is going to carry on doing business under every possible scenario.

That's just a story from one little business, but such interactions are happening by the million every day while politicians make their endless, pointless noise. Goods and services find their way to market through the actions and choices of millions of strangers guided only by the magic of the price mechanism and driven only by their own need to live or make a living. They are not directed by those fools who go into politics because they have nothing valuable to offer the market.

So I hope the author of the post Tcheuchter has drawn our attention to is right. I suspect he isn't. Brexit, as a political matter, will drag on for a depressingly long time because it's existentially important to all the parasites living on the EU institutions or in receipt of its CAP largesse. My best hope is that, once we are perceived to have left, the healthy functioning of markets will reassure voters that there is nothing to fear from pressing on from Boris's BRINO to actual independence. 


An awkward silence

So much is going on in our land and yet I have little to say. I used to be known in my circles for having an opinion on everything. I rather despised the kind of indecisive person I now find myself to be. So this post is unique among all the hundreds I have written here. I am not telling you what I think. I am asking you what I should do. I am lost. Please guide me.

I have never before been in the position of not knowing how to vote in a General Election. It has been a long time since I was young and daft enough to identify with the programme of any prospective government, but I have always been pragmatic enough to know which would do the least damage. This time I just wish all the rascals could lose. The conduct of our politicians, civil servants and the rest of the Establishment has destroyed my last vestiges of faith in our democracy. I feel that voting at all will only give credence to a monstrous lie.

I have donated to, and am a registered supporter of, the Brexit Party. It has done a remarkable job of holding the government's feet to the fire over Brexit but the public now seems (perhaps from sheer exhaustion) to want to believe the Prime Minister's propaganda. Running a full campaign won't "split the Brexit vote" because the Conservatives are proposing Brexit in name only. It won't "cost us Brexit" because the Conservatives have already done that. It just risks validating the Goebbels-grade lies of the Remain ultras by making it seem that the vote to Leave was an aberration.

If the Conservatives accepted Nigel Farage's offer of a "Leave Alliance", voters in the naturally Labour seats in the North that are BXP's best hope would just view their candidates as Tories in sheep's clothing and vote accordingly.

If Labour win, it will be bad for our economy. We will also lose our place in the councils of the West. It will not be possible, for example, safely to share intelligence with a country led by someone sympathetic to our enemies. Other Western intelligence services will use us only as a channel for what the Russians call мистификация (mistifikatsiya – i.e disinformation). Anything they are prepared to tell us will be, by definition, untrue because they will expect it to be promptly passed to Corbyn's "friends".

The only reasons (for me) to vote Labour would be (a) to punish the Conservative Party for the appalling mess it has made of the last few years and (b) to give a younger generation stupidly scornful of the lessons of history modern proof of the economic and moral dangers of socialism. That the single most stupid idea in the history of political and economic thought is popular among the young is so horrifying that enduring a few years of it in practice might be worth it to try to save them.

There is no reason to vote Liberal Democrat. None. My only purpose in mentioning that abomination of a Party is to experience, briefly and nostalgically, the sense of political certainty I used to enjoy.

In my London constituency, with a high percentage of Remainers (and a minority of voters actually born on these windswept islands) a vote for the Brexit Party would be a protest. Most of my fellow-voters here have neither an understanding of, nor an affection for, the traditions, ideas and legal principles upon which our country was built. The contest will therefore be between the third-rate Leftist sociology lecturer (apologies for the multiple tautologies) who is the current Labour MP and whatever candidate the Liberal Democrats put up. It was a Conservative seat when I moved here eight years ago, but the Tories have no chance in this Brexit election.

Brexit apart, there is simply no point in a Conservative Party that has abandoned all the distinguishing features of conservative thought. I hate it more than the others because it's the party that ought to reflect my economic views most closely, but now doesn't. I expect to be despised, betrayed and robbed by the others. It hurts more from them.

It has abandoned its principles in the fruitless pursuit of votes from Guardianisti. As any fool might have predicted, however, they simply continue to characterise as "cuts" and "austerity" increases in government spending less than they claim would have been made by their tribe. The Conservative Party has increased public spending, increased public debt, sucked up to the merchants of division purveying identity politics and – in relation to Brexit – has betrayed democracy. It's not even a patriotic party any more. What the hell is it for?

Even if I overcome my hatred and revulsion, a vote for the Conservative Party will be wasted – and not just in my constituency. If the Party wins a majority the Brexit mess will continue for years. The Withdrawal Agreement is not merely unsatisfactory, but only (and few voters seem to grasp this) the first stage in a process of negotiating unequal treaties with the EU that will continue for years. Brussels has no incentive to move quickly as it earns massively from our continued membership without (once the WA has been signed) having to take any political account of our views. I simply don't trust the Conservative Party to conduct those continuing negotiations in our best interests. There is certainly nothing in its behaviour for the past four years that suggests it knows, or cares, what those interests are. The most perfect personification of a modern British Conservative is John Bercow. Need I say more?

The only reason to vote Conservative is to wipe the smug smiles off the sneering, contemptuous faces of the anti-democrats who have sabotaged the biggest, clearest political decision of my lifetime. However that pleasure would only last for the few weeks before it becomes apparent that we are not breaking free from the EU and that we will be held in the closest possible regulatory alignment with it so as to ease re-entry to full membership in future – without any of the opt-outs we currently enjoy.

Once more, in this election, whomever I vote for "Party X" will win. The only thing I can be sure of is that no candidate with any chance of winning will have the slightest respect for justice, fairness and morality – as I understand them. So what, gentle readers, should I do?