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

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Of Left and Right, Reason and Faith

 

Left and Right are not useful labels any more, if they ever were. They don't even mean the same things everywhere. I am “right wing” (I would just say right) when it comes to economics but a liberal in social respects. For example I literally do not care who does what to whom sexually as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and I am left out of it unless I choose otherwise.

 

I would have tried to dissuade a partner from aborting our child had the case arisen. If she’d insisted I doubt I would have ever been able to get over it — or stay with her. Yet to avoid criminalising women and / or driving them into the hands of backstreet charlatans, I would not legislate on the subject. I would leave it to their consciences. In my heart I am pro life. In my head I accept a woman's right to choose. Am I left or right? No answer to that question will inform our discussion so why ask it? 

 

On Continental Europe and in America there is a "religious right". I have no truck with that. Many Continental friends quite wrongly think themselves leftists because neither do they. Their calling themselves leftists tells us nothing useful about them. 

 

I am a reluctant atheist who would love there to be a just God. If there is I am damn sure He has all necessary tools at His disposal to smite or forgive sinners as He sees fit. It's a blasphemous insult to offer Him the puny help of Parliament, Congress, National Assembly, Duma, Sejm or Bundestag. He would find it hilarious I suspect. But then if He’s not laughing at His various churches generally, He’s not the superior Being of my imaginings. 

 

A legal system to my taste would therefore have literally nothing to say about marriage, abortion or sexuality in general. If it's a sin, brother and sister, the Lord will deal with it. All we can do is try to follow His will and hope He understands our choices. Dear fellow atheists, you should have enough principle in you to allow believers to follow their Lord as best they can without interference from a state many of you are currently urging on like a bully's lickspittles.  

 

For religious and non religious alike marriage is principally an agreement between adults as to how to live together and raise children. Nothing could be more private and so it should be left to them. If they're religious then their God will be the third party to their agreement. He needs neither legislator to set the terms nor lawyer to litigate them. The law need only specify the minimum responsibility of parents to the children born into the contract without their consent. Everyone but the child is — after all — a volunteer. 

 

In truth I think very few things are the legitimate business of the state. That's lucky because the state is a flawed human institution almost inevitably staffed by the least appropriate people — the ones attracted to lording it over their fellow humans while living at their expense. A drooling idiot is likely more often to do the right thing than a government agent. 

 

I express it colourfully but in essence that used also to be the stance of the Conservative Party in Britain. Back in my student politician canvassing days I remember a Tory MP, when asked whose permission a constituent should ask to fell a tree in his garden, replying "It's your bloody land you fool. Do as you damn well please". The question itself was in his view the pathetic weakness of a submissive serf. 

 

By those robust yeoman standards the party led by Mrs May is not worthy of its name. Few Conservative Parties in the West now are. If you think tax avoidance “costs” Society, then you believe all wealth belongs in truth to the State and the individual is just its creature. If you think it’s a good idea to take money by force from those (based on past performance) most likely to generate more wealth and give it to those (ditto) least likely then you are a Socialist — an adherent of the most comprehensively tested and unquestionably failed idea in human history — wherever you place your X on Election Day. That goes for you, Prime Minister. 


Hope for the future

I take no satisfaction in having been right about the unnecessary election of June 2017. The voters punished Mrs May for putting party before country. In their ire they came close to inflicting upon us all a government Communist in all but name. We had a narrow escape. I was in New York and watched the result through the eyes of a baffled America that wants to like us but just can't help seeing us as has beens with baffling delusions of grandeur.

About the only lesson that everyone (but Mrs May) can agree upon is that she is an idiot. She's a dead woman walking and it's only gracious to avert our pitying gaze. So what now?

The contempt of our EU colleagues (for now) could scarcely be intensified but, having worked closely with Continentals for decades, trust me; they never wished us well. That's not to say that they can't be friends at an individual level. They can and are. But they are absolutely united in their humiliating folk memory of Britain astride the planet when (in their view) so clearly a barbarian, uncultured race far far below the salt of the cultural and legal descendants of Ancient Rome. We have put our Empire behind us and moved on but I doubt the erstwhile rulers of Europe's failed and far more vile empires ever will. 

Here is my positive take. The next phase of our history is like an FA Cup match in which all believe us to be lower league minnows with little hope of success. Good. Expectations are low and those who wish us ill are over-confident that we can be lightly regarded and swiftly despatched. We have been here before. We shall be here again. So let's play the game as best we can and take what we can from the occasion.

The Brexit negotiation has its own internal logic. There is no reasonable compromise on offer because (to frighten others who might think of leaving) the EU can give us nothing. I am more afraid of betrayal from within. Since they can give us nothing, anything we pay them beyond their strict treaty entitlement will be a waste of resources we need to husband against an uncertain future. 

I believe in Britain's prospects. I really do. But our future is ours to take — or throw away. Given the alarming proportion of young people who, on the evidence of last week, are economic illiterates, ethical degenerates and brainwashed identity warriors, there's no guarantee of success. 

At least, after Brexit, we are under our own management. Win or lose the outcome will be ours to live with. 


Political geometry

I know from the blogs I have been following during my purdah that the liberty-minded continue to despair and with good cause. Our government still knows no boundaries to its power and has no hesitation about interfering in the minutiae of our private lives. But there are some good omens, in my view.

Bill Clinton, or rather his spin doctor in the 1990s, pioneered the concept of "triangulation"; taking "your own" voters for granted and talking mainly to those on the other side. It worked well for him and has succeeded elsewhere. Tony Blair acted Labour but talked Tory. So much so that many on the Left hate him more than they hate some Conservatives. David Cameron's every public utterance seems directed, flirtatiously, to Polly Toynbee.

I always felt triangulation was morally wrong but could not work out how it might be opposed. Normal, decent humans glance at political headlines and half listen to sound bites. Who can blame them? Life is both short and full of distractions. Joe and Jane Public buy triangulation even though (or perhaps because) it is so far from the principled approach of "conviction politicians" aka scary bores. In a well-functioning democracy, where the role of government is limited, their trust should not get them into trouble. There is no shortage of geeks and bores who want to take care of the tedious stuff.

For so long as Parliament or Congress consists mainly of wily, unprincipled sneaks seeking to show a half-listening public they "care", however, we are easy prey for rent-seekers, lobbyists and narcissistic celebrity chefs. The politicians and those lobbying them have a freer hand the more triangulation hollows out our political parties. There are decent-sized fishing clubs with a greater membership than the once glorious Conservative Party. When I was born they had three million members but they stopped publishing their numbers in 2014 when they were down to 150,000. The Labour Party became so small that "entryism" returned. The hard Left now have their feet firmly under the party's table.

I think triangulation is beginning to fail precisely because of this "hollowing out." I have two arguments for this. Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump.

The faithful of the Republican Party have been complaining for some time about "Republicans in Name Only" (RINOs) and launching groups like the Tea Party to change its direction. The RINOs blundered on disdainfully, still confident no Tea Party member would ever vote Democrat. Now American conservatives have - as American conservatives will - reached for their gun. And the name on their piece is not Glock, but Trump. The GOP's bemusement as he rolls on regardless of his gaffes shows how they miss the point. Their voters are saying "Talk to us. Listen to us. Stop ignoring us. Or else..." His bizarre rants and the way he attacks people almost randomly; certainly without regard for political correctness or opinion polls shock the RINOs. They are meant to. Their rabbit-in-the-headlights horror is precisely their electorate's goal. If Trump makes it into the Oval Office every conservative leader is going to have to focus on making the GOP turn to face its traditional voters. And if he doesn't, the same. What he means for the rest of us remains to be seen, but he's a win win for Conservative America.

Mandelson_3262707b

The same logic applies to Corbyn. My Labour voting relatives up North see Blair as a traitor and class enemy. He's no posher than Corbyn of course - and he's a hell of a lot cleverer. He's no less inclined than Corbyn to favour the fleas over the dog - as witness the growth of the public sector payroll and the way its average income passed that of the private sector on his watch. Not to mention all the stealth taxes that raised as much as the whole of income tax on the day New Labour was elected. But they are only reading headlines and hearing soundbites, remember? Blair rubbed them up the wrong way. On purpose. And they don't like it. He paraded John Prescott on a leash as his pet member of the Northern working class - the very people who founded the Labour Party and still believe they own it. But they were not fooled. They believe that Peter "ooh Guacamole!" Mandelson is his true friend. Are they wrong?

Blairites whingeing about Corbyn making the party unelectable miss the point. They don't want an unelectable idiot like Corbyn, but - more than they want an immediate Labour government, they want a leader who doesn't condescend to them. Corbyn is the brand name on the baseball bat they are waving at the LINOs heads. Judging by the snootiness of Pat Glass, Shadow Europe Minister, yesterday they are not taking it seriously yet. Those in the Westminster bubble don't yet realise that calling names doesn't work any more. Like advertising, it is so pervasive that it has faded into the background and can easily be ignored. 

The good people of Sawley are more likely to remember Glass couldn't be bothered to check where she was before swearing never to return there than that yet another bubble-dweller called them bigots.

My first reaction to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was to rejoice that they are now unelectable. My second reaction was to realise it takes the pressure off the Conservative Party to stop talking pointlessly to Polly and recover its connection with its voters. My third reaction is to welcome the imminent return of adversarial politics from distinctly different political perspectives. I want to see politicians as opposing barristers pleading their cases to the jury that is us. The British people successfully steered their government for years as if it were a tank. They alternately accelerated or decelerated the left and right tracks. As they were only allowed steering inputs every five years or so, it was clumsy but over time it worked.

To try yet a third metaphor it is time for the boxers in red and blue trunks to return to their corners and pay attention to their coaches. I think it will happen and that's my ground for optimism. Dear readers I have missed your inputs so please let me know where I have erred.


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.


Our Rubicon

Cameron warned against crossing the Rubicon of state control of the press. His Government is now preparing to cross it. | Conservative Home.
We are approaching a decisive moment. David Cameron nervously described Leveson's proposals to 'regulate' the British press as 'crossing the Rubicon' but as Paul Goodman says in the linked article his government is about to do it anyway. If people accept that government has a role in controlling commercial media (and 'regulate' is merely a statist euphemism for 'control'), then we are a blink away from wider controls. Already the daily fake 'scandals' about 'Twittter trolls' and 'Facebook bullies' are setting the scene.

Alea iacta est for freedom of thought in Britain. It seems the police are already more interested in what we say than what we do. Barely a day goes by without some schmuck on Twitter being interrogated by the police and it's already a worse crime to beat up or kill someone if thinking certain thoughts at the time.

The Left have been making 'social' excuses for non thought-crime for generations. Our judges, educated in our solidly left-wing universities, now routinely spout sociological clap-trap while handing out derisory sentences. The notion of personal responsibility is dead. In a telling moment for me an academic at a conference last year (he claimed not to be a Marxist, but admitted most of his colleagues were) told me that my personal achievements were 'pure luck' and that I was not morally entitled to the proceeds.

It's the flip side of the same coin. The evil that criminals do is 'society's fault' and the state must address not their conduct, but the 'social problems' that 'cause' it. The success of honest citizens however is to the state's credit and it is entitled to the proceeds. Socialism, despite the abject failure of the greatest political experiment in history, with more than half of humanity ruled by Socialists in the last century, is back. Watch out, because this time the Leftists have learned guile.

The leader of HM Opposition feels it aids his electoral cause to use 'the S word' openly and to dog-whistle even worse by defending the reputation of his proudly-Marxist father. Ironically, given the Left's fixation on 'hate speech' and 'hate crime' Socialism is a doctrine based on hatred; class-hatred and envy-driven hatred of success. It should provoke exactly the same revulsion as its cousin; race-hate-based National Socialism. That it doesn't is because the Left has infiltrated our education system and our state broadcaster (tell me again why a free society needs one of those) so successfully. Now it's coming for the rest of us.

The consequence will be just as it was in the Soviet Union. The more talented or industrious will either contribute less for lack of incentive, or will become the criminals these idiots already think they are. This phenomenon was illustrated by two Communist-era proverbs I learned in my years in Poland;
"Standing up or lying down, it's a zloty an hour" and "You are stealing from your family if you're not stealing from the State." 
Though I am sure the Labour Party will get most of the extra votes when we finally obey the ECHR order to restore the ballot to prisoners, that's not what the Left is up to. Nor are they claiming the credit for business-peoples' work just to damage our self-esteem. They are establishing as a 'given' in all political thought and policy-making the Marxist notion that individuals are mere flotsam on the tides of historical inevitability. They can only treat us as eggs to be callously cracked in their great steaming omelette of statism if they can convince themselves that we are trivial; that what we think, say and do and the choices we make don't matter. In short, that we are nothing in their great scheme of things.

To achieve the kind of sociopathic vileness that led their hero Hobsbawm (close family friend of the Millibands) to believe that twenty million deaths under Soviet rule would have been justified had the proposed communist utopia been created, or that it was sensible to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel (there's no anti-semite to rival a Marxist Jew) you need to reduce humans to ciphers. And to convince men and women that this is acceptable; that they really are mere pawns in a game that matters far more than the sacrifices made of them, you need to control their thoughts. It is no coincidence that the Left cannot abide the expression of non-Left views. It is not for nothing that they actively seek to make people fearful of non-Left thoughts. It is a Marxist necessity.

If our free will is irrelevant, our achievements mere luck and our wickedness attributable to our circumstances, then they are fully justified in using the immense power of the state to shape 'social forces', regardless of the human cost.

It is a short step from 'hate speech' to 'thought crime' and it's about to be taken. 'Regulation' of the press is just another brick in the wall.

The Prime Minister should now resign

BBC News - David Cameron loses Commons vote on Syria action.

Not because he is wrong (though he is) but because he is incompetent. He has embarrassed the nation by stupidly offering military support to our best ally that he should have known he could not deliver.

He should have sought Labour's support before ever recalling Parliament. When refused that support, he already had his answer (as his Whips could have told him) without this debacle. He could have politely and discreetly informed President Obama.

He has lost the trust of many of his own MPs, who are briefing the press that they are "unwilling to take him at his word". Since his word is given and retracted regularly in the face of mere opinion polls, let alone parliamentary defeats, who can blame them?

The man is a lightweight unworthy of his office - or any position of responsibilty. There should be no portrait on the Downing Street stairs, no pension and no peerage. He should just go quietly and let us begin to forget him.

Reader poll

I am toying with the idea of re-joining the Conservative Party; an organisation for which I have very little current sympathy. It is a violent, statist party; interested far more in power than justice, honour or integrity. I have no doubt that I would feel rather soiled to be in its ranks.

David Cameron has systematically repudiated everything that ever passed for a principle among British Conservatives without winning a single vote from the Guardianisti and Mirroristi he was trying to triangulate. In consequence, his party's membership is now dangerously low. It could perhaps be taken over by people who are genuine believers in free markets and individual liberty; the very things Conservative politicians like to bandy about dishonestly in sound bites!

It is currently engaged in concealing its own membership numbers, which are widely believed to have fallen below 100,000. This is a number so low as possibly to comprise only those old biddies too confused to cancel their standing order! For a party that was once a mighty multi-million election-winning machine this is a humiliating fall from grace. Is it too fanciful to hope that from the ashes of British Conservatism the phoenix of British Liberty could rise? Perhaps so, but is it more fanciful than any other scenario you can plausibly devise?

To the extent they are aware of us at all most British electors see Libertarians as (in the American idiom) "Republicans on dope". Maybe it's time to get our hands dirty in an organisation they may not love but have at least actually heard of?

Thoughts for and against please?


There is nothing Conservative about this Government

Anthony Peto QC: A very un-British Bill – my response to Robert Buckland MP.

Conservatives are supposed to defend ancient rights. In their hands the great principles of English Law such as "innocent until proven guilty" and the rules of Natural Justice should be much safer than with progressives who openly seek to sweep away ancient rights to build a new order.

Yet it was John Major who began the present un-conservative trend when he abolished the right to silence - a key element of the presumption of innocence. If a man is accused, it is for the prosecutors to make the case against him. Nothing should properly be inferred from his refusal to co-operate. So it used to be, but no more.

And now it's Ken Clarke who is sweeping into the trash can of history the principle of open justice. He is seeking to introduce secret courts in circumstances where "national security" is at stake. What does "national security" mean in such a context? Anthony Petro QC tells us in the linked article that evidence about a confession having been extracted by torture
...was successfully suppressed by the government on the grounds that it would damage national security...
Not exactly the most encouraging example.

Clarke tells us that we need secret courts to protect our intelligence sharing relationships with other countries. David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of Terrorist Legislation, has branded that a "scare tactic".

Former DPP Lord Maconald has said that 
Mr Clarke’s comments look like a smokescreen for plans which are aimed not at keeping the British people safe, but at sparing the embarrassment of the security services when they get mixed up in wrongdoing. Instead of promoting this thoroughly un-British legislation, which is designed to make our courts secret as though we were living in Europe in the 1930s, Mr Clarke and his colleagues in government should concentrate on holding the security agencies to account when they break the law.
Lest you think that these are just the voices of lily-livered sympathisers with our enemies, consider the words of the former top legal advisor to the British Army in Iraq, Colonel Nicholas Mercer
The justice and security bill has one principal aim and that is to cover up UK complicity in rendition and torture. The bill is an affront to the open justice on which this country rightly prides itself and, above all, it is an affront to human dignity.
 
The fact that some of those individuals who are complicit in rendition and torture can not only assist in the drafting of the bill but also vote to cover their tracks is a constitutional scandal.
The bill attacks the sacred principle of the Rule of Law that "be you never so high, the law is above you." It removes a citizen's right to bring a civil action against high officials for violations of their personal rights. As Anthony Peto QC says, 
These rights are so fundamental that for centuries they have been called the rules of “natural justice”.  This brand of justice has “Made in England” stamped all over it. It is our proudest and most enduring national product. This Bill would tarnish the brand for ever.
Could there conceivably be anything less "Conservative"?

Why can't our security services, like those in other countries, give evidence in court? If that threatens the secrecy of their activities, they can give evidence from behind a screen and via a voice changer, provided the judge is duly satisfied of their status. Then their evidence could be tested, they could be cross examined and justice could be done. Yet the British State prefers to screen them from scrutiny. It prefers to suppress evidence of their wrong-doing. It is entirely out of its box; a self-regarding beast operating in its own, not the national, interest. 

I have never been more sure that the greatest enemy of my liberty is the British State. Nor more sadly aware that this does not vary according to the politicians in charge. There could be no better evidence than this odious bill in which the state seeks to protects its own at the expense of those who are supposed to own it. It rather suggests it thinks it owns us.

Dog bites man

Dave Denies Debt Truth - Guy Fawkes' blog.
Old fashioned conservatives continue to be disappointed with Dodgy Dave Cameron; the ethics-free Etonian. Guido has said what needs to be said in the linked post but every blog in Britain should re-post the graph he sourced from the Office of National Statistics.

Psnd2
There is no question, ladies and gentlemen. Our Prime Minister is a liar. Does Eton have a mechanism to disown its alumni?

Is this government stimulating the economy?

'Online snooping' scheme expected to cost at least £1.8bn | Technology | guardian.co.uk.

The national debt continues to rise, yet the Tories have £2 billion to spare to snoop on our online activities. It will cost much more in the end no doubt, as government IT estimates usually bear very little relation to reality.

The government is very welcome to inspect my private communications if it has sufficient prima facie evidence of criminal activity to persuade a judge that it should be able to do so. That's how the law stands. For all the moral panic that the Home Secretary and senior policemen are trying to create and for all their bullshit about "total war on crime" no change to that position is necessary, desirable or affordable.

Theresa May can call us conspiracy theorists to her heart's content, as long as we retain the freedom to call her an authoritarian disgrace to a party that claims to believe in liberty. OK, Theresa? Of course, it might be better if we could converse about it intelligently. Some hope.

Incidentally, our leftist chums over at the Guardian's site are remarkably sound in their criticisms of the plan now that it's coming from the vicious, right-wing Tories. Check out the comments and you may find yourself amazedly applauding. I don't remember them being quite as vocal when this authoritarian twaddle was coming from the Labour Party.