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

Posts categorized "Crime & Punishment" Feed

The origins and consequences of “hate crime”

In the wonderful 2006 TV series Life on Mars, Sam — a modern detective inspector — is mysteriously transported back to the 1970s. He finds himself working for tough-guy Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt. Writers intended Hunt as a bad guy example of the horrors of the un-woke past, but his character became very popular. At one point DI Sam uses the phrase “hate crime” and Hunt sneers in response,

“as opposed to what, an I really really love you crime?”

The introduction of hate crimes was a mistake. It requires analysis of a criminal’s intent in order to assess if some opinion behind his actions somehow made them worse. Which in turn requires analysis of which opinions are hateful. Once the principle was established the whole racket becomes a game for politicians to signal their love of community X vs community Y. 

To the victims of a crime, it provides no benefit. If I’m cut and bleeding on the floor after a beating, why would I care what was going through the criminal’s mind? I’m no more or less hurt by his being convicted of assault and battery with hateful intent, than without. I’m with DCI Hunt on that point.

To society in general, the disbenefit is division. If a gay friend and I are assaulted on our way home from the pub, our suffering — and the moral impropriety of our attacker’s actions — is the same. If the attacker is punished more for hurting my gay friend than me, society is saying — in effect — that he matters more. 

The only equality that matters is equality before the law. The concept of hate crime undermines that — and was intended to. It is not a bug but an evil feature. All kinds of scam artists and scoundrels are making good livings by playing on inter-community fears and prejudices. They pretend they're against such things, but in fact they live on them and therefore promote them.

Identity politics is not about righting wrongs — not even in the crude way of collective punishment euphemised as “social justice”. It’s about sowing division and reaping political power.


How can we conquer cancel culture: afternoon sessions

IMG_5447Mark Littlewood opened the afternoon session. He spoke against the idea of untrammelled free speech. In private places, it’s more a question of property rights than morals. In the public square, much changed by social media, he doesn’t think it’s a legal issue either. It’s a cultural one and there’s a long, messy job ahead to change our culture.

Baroness Claire Fox and Mark Francois MP came to the point of the day under the heading “what can parliamentarians do?” Francois however didn’t address it. He just spoke about his Brexit book being turned down by all British publishers and advocated self-publishing on Amazon. Yay for his personal de-cancellation but he’d nothing to say about conquering it in general.

Fox was depressed in the wake of the recent pogrom in Israel by calls from all sides for more hate speech laws. The police have all the power they need. They just don’t enforce it — and certainly not consistently. As I have so often said here, she said we need fewer, better laws — properly enforced.

Still neither speaker really addressed the issue until a questioner asked about loss of democratic control of the civil service. In response to this Fox said it was more insidious than public servants simply refusing to enforce laws they didn’t like. They draft all the laws and have been warping them to be woke-compliant. The politicians were “too busy” to read them in detail she said, to a sharp intake of breath from the audience!

Rafe Heydel-Mankoo of the New Culture Forum said that cancel culture is the most powerful and effective weapon of the radical left. There is no path to victory unless young minds are won over. Our young are more left-wing than ever, and they’re not changing their minds as they used to. The battle has been lost in the primary and secondary schools even before they come to university. These are fragile, risk-averse children unaccustomed to living unsupervised. This makes them vulnerable to the woke mind-virus. Much in the same way that they suffer more physical allergies because they’ve been screened from infection in sterile environments.

The “woke madrassas” in his view are the teacher training colleges. They were fine when small and independent but have now been taken over by universities.  These should be closed and training should be done on the job in schools. All good ideas but hardly like to feature in the Labour manifesto on which the next government’s first King’s Speech will be based!

IMG_5461Nigel Farage was keynote speaker and on fine form  

Thirteen years into what’s laughably called a Conservative government the state has grown beyond our imagination. Drive your own taxed car down the Embankment at 23mph at 2am and you’ll get a fine. If you stole it however, nothing will happen. We’re punishing the good people not the bad.

He advised the TFA to resist digital currency. Control of your money is the ultimate control and it’s coming. We can blame the Marxists all we like, he said, but in his view;

Conservative cowardice is the biggest cause of cancel culture in our country today. 

He spoke of his most recent experience with Coutts and more than ten other banks when he tried to move his accounts. More than a million people have been debanked, which is the ultimate form of cancel culture.

Farage predicted the Tories will be crushed  at the next election. They deserve to be crushed and they need to be crushed so the pendulum can swing. A choice between “two cross-dressing parties” is no use and he predicts that after the Tories are smashed there’ll be a much needed rethink of what politics is about. It is a long game though and  you first have to win the battle of ideas.

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Farage was followed by Nick Buckley, founder of Mancunian Way who was accompanied by Ben Jones a lawyer from the Free Speech Union (of which, like the TFA, I am a member).

The charity Nick founded fired him because he wrote a blog post criticising Black Lives Matter. He took on the charity with the help of the FSU and won. His rather optimistic view is that cancel culture is all just a fad and not to be taken seriously. From his own experience, the woke are bullies and fade away if resisted. His slogan is:

Be a ninja not a whinger.

by which he means don’t lose your job by full on confrontation with he woke in your HR but resist in small and subtle ways.

FSU’s lawyer reported they have dealt with 3,250 cases of people losing their jobs. The bad news is that it’s a bigger problem even than we fear, but the good news is that they have won 73% of those cases. 

IMG_5472Dr David Starkey said we are suffering from the casting down of heroic masculine courage in favour of the more feminine virtue of the Magnificat

The proud will be brought low, and the humble will be lifted up; the hungry will be fed, and the rich will go without (Luke 1:51–53)

We used to glorify heroism and need to do so again because freedom is not a birthright. It’s an achievement. It has to be won. 

We are ruled by bureaucrats and experts and forget history  China fossilised once the mandarinate — a bureaucracy — was established. Rome fell when the pay of its army was doubled. As for experts, an ancient philosopher told us

The judge of the meal is not the chef [the expert] but the eater.   

He said memorably that

Woke grows like fungus in the dark turpitude of bureaucracy.

We have put quangos and bureaucrats in charge of all the key decisions; ranging from the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England to Natural England on town and county planning.

He’s not as optimistic as Nigel that this can be turned around, but reminded us we are the only nation in the world ever to have reversed a revolution without outside intervention. Our present problems stem from changes made by New Labour. He asked why the conservatives have  not reversed all the terrible damage they did  

He stressed the difference between healthy capitalism and our present corporatism is a proper understanding of property rights, which we seem to have lost. He urged us to return to England’s key characteristics:

Freedom individuality and eccentricity!

I left with spirits lifted, but as I said to my near neighbour during a break, I had heard a great deal of analysis and some optimism but no actual plan. At best, I am persuaded that this horror can be undone, but I doubt I shall live to see it.


Of a particular Crown Court jury

I was picked for a jury in the end. Our verdict was delivered last Thursday. I can now discuss the case and the proceedings in court but it remains illegal to discuss our deliberations. I will say nothing here about what went on in the jury room. All opinions are my own. I do not speak for other jurors.

I won't identify the case though you may guess from the details here. I am sure the defendant will be pleased if you do. He's a full-time political campaigner and told the court repeatedly that he wanted to be arrested and charged so he could have his "day in court" to speak out about "the real criminals" in HM Government. He claims to have played the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service for fools in order to achieve that goal.

I suspect he will have been disappointed. The trial attracted little press interest. All accounts I have seen since it ended (I didn't look while it was in progress, as directed by the judge) are identically worded so probably came from a single agency. The defendant will have hoped for more journalists to show up. 

The defendant estimates his impact on the world very highly. On the day he was arrested, he was protesting a suggestion that HMG might send teams armed with COVID-19 jabs into the homes of the unvaccinated. He believes that plan – which he described as terrorism – was never implemented because of his actions that day.

I doubt the idea would ever have been acted upon. Even taking needles to the doorsteps of the potentially unwilling would not have gone down well, let alone the forced vaccinations he seemed to think were intended. The vaccination teams would have needed police protection and the "optics" in a world where people film such things on their mobile phones would have been awful. 

The defendant's motivations were only relevant to understanding why he was there that day. They were not relevant to his guilt or innocence. He wasn't prosecuted for his opinions. In fact, his own video showed the police officer waiting patiently while he expressed his opinions on a FaceBook live stream.

He was arrested outside the home of a prominent politician. His arrest was for criminal damage due to a miscommunication between police officers. Accepting he had not committed that crime, the CPS authorised an intent charge instead. He was indicted for taking objects (posters and glue) to the scene with intent to cause criminal damage. 

He had been arrested fourteen times before but never brought to trial. It would have been easier to get his day in court if he had been more robust in his actions. He was keen to point out that he abhorred violence and differentiated himself from the "Stop Oil" protestors prepared to commit crimes to make their point. He seems to have been carefully calibrating his actions so as to get arrested without offering any violence. I think he might well have been released without charge for a fifteenth time if it were not for the police miscommunication.

He claimed in court he brought the posters and glue to give the impression that he was going to put them up. He did so to get arrested and charged. The Crown's evidence was his video saying he would put up the posters and redacted extracts from a police interview in which he said several times that he would have done so. He had lied to the police so that he would be arrested and charged. He never intended to cause criminal damage. He just wanted his "day in court". 

It seems to me he was guilty of wasting police time by telling those lies. The Criminal Law Act 1967 says;

Where a person causes any wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making to any person a false report tending to show that an offence has been committed, or to give rise to apprehension for the safety of any persons or property, or tending to show that he has information material to any police inquiry, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for not more than six months or to a fine of not more than two hundred pounds or to both.

So his defence to Crime A was that he had committed Crime B.

The defendant was the only defence witness. I found it hard not to smile when his counsel earnestly pointed out her client didn't have to give evidence. It was obvious that time on the stand was his goal. Prosecution counsel tried to keep him to the point in cross-examination but his own counsel (probably on instructions) let him ramble. The judge was polite to the point of indulgence in this respect, but did cut him off a couple of times when he strayed too far from the subject at hand.

His opinions were irrelevant to his guilt or innocence. It didn't matter what was on his posters or why. All the jury had to decide was whether we were sure he intended to glue them to the politician's home. The judge's summing up and directions were clear and painstakingly impartial. He said the defendant claimed to have been "bluffing" to the police about his intentions, rather than "lying", for example. There were three components to the alleged crime; having the materials, intending to use them and lacking a lawful excuse. There was no dispute about his having the materials and no suggestion of a lawful excuse. 

We returned a verdict of not guilty and I am comfortable with our decision. I am also comfortable with our jury system. After this experience, I am happy and relieved still to retain my confidence in this ancient institution. We took our responsibilities very seriously. We discussed all relevant issues at length and came to a mature conclusion on the evidence. I was actually rather impressed.

From time to time, especially when juries don't deliver the results our establishment would like, there is pressure to "reform" the jury system. Such suggestions should be resisted. In general, though as Kant said "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made",  juries do justice rather well. If I were charged with a crime of which I was not guilty, I would want a jury to decide my fate.

There's much scope for reform of criminal justice in our country. The courts could certainly be far better run. The time wasted is horrifying. That horror is amplified by the calm acceptance of it by officials to whom it is obviously normal. To be fair perhaps that's because my life was spent in the private sector where time is money and money is survival? Maybe fellow jurors from public sector backgrounds were not nearly as shocked by all the faffing about?

I don't think so though because this was not my first experience of it. I began my legal career in the 1980s doing criminal defence work. The partner who offered me that job was a renowned specialist. The law had recently been changed to allow specially-qualified solicitors to appear in higher courts. He found out I had done well in the first advocacy training course for solicitors to lead to that qualification.

I enjoyed advocacy and was probably suited to the work. I had wanted in my youth to be an actor and, to be honest, I liked the performative aspects. I gave it up after a year to do commercial work partly because I hated the amount of time wasted on waiting around. The courts were as organised as any monopoly needs to be – i.e. not at all. I couldn't imagine a life driven by that. This week reassured me I chose correctly all those years ago.

Screenshot 2022-11-05 at 06.06.45As someone with a real estate background I was also shocked by the poor design and layout of the modern buildings housing the court.

In the private sector HM Government is known as "the simple shopper." All its spending is in Milton Friedman's fourth category of "someone else's money spent on someone else." It's famously useless at purchasing; typically securing neither quality nor value.

I can only assume, from the sublimely inefficient layout, that the architects who designed our court building saw "the simple shopper" coming a mile off.

The biggest difference from my long-ago experience of the courts was all the technology. Not only are there laptops and tablets everywhere, it has affected evidence-gathering too. Back in the day, the jury would have heard about the events in this case from policemen reading (with permission) from their (paper) notebooks. We got to see the events over and over again on video from FaceBook.

As in so many aspects of modern life, we have more data to process. The question is whether it leads to better decisions or just wastes more of our time. On that, gentle reader, the jury is still out. 


Of juries #2

If, gentle reader, you had hopes of more posts this week I must disappoint you. With great haste, to spare the taxpayer the cost of today’s lunch and half the minimal loss of earnings allowance for today, the clerks just discharged everyone not currently serving on a jury. Those of us in our second week were discharged without thanks. Those, like me, in our first week are required back at court next Monday to have our lives devalued further at the hands of our surly masters. 

So, maybe next week …


Of juries and justice

This week and next I am on jury service.

The jury is the last of Britain’s institutions in which I have any faith. I learned about “criminal equity” (known in the US as "jury nullification") during the legal history part of my long-ago law degree. For example, the hated “game laws” providing for capital punishment of poachers were reformed against the wishes of the landowning gentry in Parliament because juries refused to send men to their deaths for those crimes. They acquitted the guilty to subvert the system. In the end, to secure convictions, Parliament had to scale down the punishments.

As a libertarian I believe that most of our current laws should not exist. Perhaps there will be some scope for criminal equity if I am asked to convict someone under one of those superfluous laws? I should be so lucky.

So far, as I was not selected for any of the trials, I have had a day of my life wasted in a scruffy, noisy and uncomfortable "Jury Assembly Room." Looking around me, it's clear I am – as is of course to be expected – going to meet people outside my usual circle. I look forward to that with interest. As names were called out for each jury, there were precious few Smiths and Joneses. I'd estimate about one traditional British name per jury. Interestingly, there were almost as many names from Eastern Europe as from the Sub-Continent. I may get the chance to practise my Polish.

The officials marshalling us citizens like cattle seemed efficient enough though their training did not involve public speaking. They had difficulty projecting their voices (if indeed they were trying) and they were not supported by any sound system. Given the noise from the in-room cafe (selling meals at precisely £5.71 – the maximum allowed expense), the general hubbub of a crowded room and the fact that the court is under the Heathrow flight path, that made it difficult to hear them at times.

They had the usual condescending tone of people whose wages are funded by state force. I enjoyed it when the lady welcoming us had a script to read thanking us for our contribution. She just couldn't sound convincingly grateful. Let's just say I fancy my chances if I ever get to play her at poker.

I also noticed the usual over-familiar use of first names. The private sector is just as guilty of that these days, but it's particularly annoying from state functionaries from whom I cannot walk away. In fairness, I despise the British state so much that its employees would need to be epically polite to please me, even if they wanted to. In truth, if they knew how much they get on my nerves, I suspect it would make their day. So I must just grin and bear it.

My only direct interaction was to enquire politely about reimbursement of taxi costs. The lady said "no" before I finished my sentence and without enquiry about my reasons for asking. I am not short of money for the fares and will put my own comfort and convenience first regardless. I just wish now I'd never asked. It wasn't worth the irritation for the sake of a few quid. I guess the optimist in me still hopes for one pleasant interaction before I die with the state funded by most of my life's work.

It's a criminal offence to write about details of the trial or jury deliberations. I wouldn't do it anyway as that's a good law. We could not reasonably ask jurors to participate in criminal trials if they were at risk of their identities or opinions being exposed to people they might convict. However, I will let you know my general impressions of the process.

Let's hope I retain my faith when my service ends.


The uses of Law

In an interesting article in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Dan Hannan (arguably the British politician I least despise) makes some sensible points, which you can read yourself here

In the course of that he says indignation about #PartyGate is misplaced because, amongst other reasons, no-one strictly complied with last years COVID rules. Of the critics condemning the alleged “gathering” he says;

My point is not that they are hypocrites; it is that the rules are wrong. Laws that no one follows are, by definition, asinine laws. By all means blame politicians. But blame them for imposing these absurd prohibitions in the first place rather than for behaving like everyone else.

Hannan has a decent mind and sound instincts, but here he strikes me as naive. We tend to think of laws as rules proscribing bad behaviour or (less often) mandating good behaviour. Practising law for a few decades as I did will make a cynic of the best of us but even a politician should know there’s another use of law — to absolve a rule-maker of responsibility.

In the private sphere, if more of us read the “standard terms and conditions” we sign up to blind (often these days on a “click through” basis) when contracting for goods and services, we’d find rules the suppliers never plan to enforce. Their lawyers put them there to ensure that in myriad circumstances — foreseen and otherwise — where a problem might occur, their clients won’t be legally at fault.

If your child finds a website that encourages her to commit suicide for example, the company hosting it will point to a rule forbidding such use of its services. It didn’t make the rule so that it could enforce it. It has no employees combing its servers for breaches. It made the rule so it could point to it when your child dies. That’s a dramatic example, but there are millions of others to which you would probably say “fair enough.” Businesses couldn’t sell many goods and services economically if they were expected to take the blame for any wicked use of them.

The fact is that in the public sphere government uses law in similar ways to address what spin doctors call “the optics” of a situation. It feels that “something must be done” about a perceived harm and will often promote new legislation without even considering whether existing law covers the matter. How many of the thousands of new crimes created during and since the Blair years can you name? If it’s any consolation, I bet your MP can’t name any more than you.

The government didn’t make it illegal to visit your gran, hug your mum at your dad’s funeral or have sex with your new girlfriend with any expectation that you’d be so servile as to comply. It did it so that, if any of those ladies contracted COVID, it would be your fault. That’s why Number 10 staff partied, Cummings conducted motorised eye tests and Hancock and Ferguson shagged.

The intent of the law was neither proscriptive nor prescriptive but exculpatory. It was one rule for everyone, but no one was seriously (in those circles in the know) expected actually to comply. This is a subtler complaint than the angry “one rule for us and another for them” beloved of bar room ranters, but in its way it’s actually worse.

I have used this quote from Montesquieu so often that regular readers will be able to sing along in the original French;

If it is not necessary to make a law, it is necessary not to make a law.

He also said — and how this still resonates today;

There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice

You’d expect a libertarian to be cynical about laws, but anyone should be able to see the damage that such “click through” criminalisation does to respect for Law itself. I suspect the British government was as surprised by the servility of its citizens as I was disgusted. I tremble to think of our future now that it realises how weak we mostly are.

That said, I hope the mishandling of the pandemic by democratic governments almost everywhere will lead even the most servile to an understanding that Law is a dangerous tool that is lethal when misused. Make too much of it too lightly and you make criminals of us all — with criminal attitudes to compliance rather like Captain Sparrow’s approach to the Pirate Code — or Dan Hannan’s approach to the Highway Code!


Some consequences of Margaret Thatcher's mistakes

I joined the Conservative Party as a young man (having recently recanted my teenaged Maoism) because of Margaret Thatcher. She was not headed to the same destination as me, ideologically, but she was at least pointing in the right direction to be my fellow-traveller. She was socially-conservative in a way that I was not (I led my University Conservative Association on a gay rights march, for example and supported the Federation of Conservative Students' policy on legalising drugs that led her to shut us down) but she was clear-sighted, principled and above all moral.

Her morals were not entirely mine, but I would rather be led by someone with morals than without and she was the only moral Prime Minister of my lifetime so far. Most, like the current incumbent, were amoral going on sociopathic (fairly usual for high-achievers in most fields, to be fair) and some, like Gordon Brown or John Major, were actively immoral. Once she was hounded out, I left the Party. I was, for some years, a Thatcherite but I was never a Tory.

So I am not blind to the lady's faults. Leaving aside her inclination to use the state as an instrument of her personal morality, she also made some policy misjudgements and we still live with their consequences. 

She misidentified the key threats to liberty in Britain. Hindsight is cheap, I know, but the trade unions in mining and other productive industries were already on the way out. The real threat to our future was in our schools and colleges, where children were already being consistently taught a warped view of history and a contempt for economics in general and the market system in particular. In my education during the 1960s and 1970s I may perhaps have had a Conservative teacher. It's possible, but even then their discretion was by far the greater part of their valour. I can only surmise because no possibly Conservative school teacher dared say so. My Socialist teachers, of course, never shut up about it and when I studied Law at university, there was not even one discreetly-silent lecturer I could optimistically imagine to be non-Left.

Margaret, as Education Minister, should arguably have grasped that generation after generation of our youth could not be processed through such a thoroughly infiltrated, ideologically-monochrome system without lasting damage. Such was her own strength of character that I suspect she simply didn't understand the problem. She was not weak and pliable. No leftist teacher impeded her ideological journey. Why should others not see through them too? She was also focussed on achieving one of the great offices of State, and probably regarded the Ministry of Education as a "woman's job" with which she had been fobbed off. She may even have had a point. For myself, I regard education as supremely important – all the more so for having had to get so much of mine from independent reading, in spite of (and it really was quite often for the perverse pleasure of spiting) my would-be indoctrinators.

I recently finished reading the excellent book "Factfulness" mentioned in my last post. The research that was the life's work of its author Hans Rosling demonstrates that leaders in both public and private sectors waste much effort addressing problems that no longer exist. Like many people achieving power or influence in late middle age, Margaret was often focussed – at best – on the problems of her own youth, and – at worst – on those of her teachers' youth.

Arguably, a consequence of another of her errors is in the news this morning. Focussed as she was on reducing the state's area of operations, Margaret was resisted at every turn by the Deep State. As a leader who wanted a smaller state apparatus her main advisers throughout her premiership were the leading members of that apparatus, whose success in life was not gauged by their productive contribution to society but by the size of the department under their control.

So when the trendy idea of "care in the community" came forward it must have been a relief to have some advice that was consistent with her small state ideology – or at least that could be made to seem so. There was an undoubted need for reform of mental healthcare. There are well-documented cases of people who were unable to escape from what used to be called "lunatic asylums", despite having fully-recovered from the problems that led to their admission. In some cases, people were trapped in them for decades on the basis of a misdiagnosis. So the radical idea of closing them down and entrusting the care of the mentally ill to their families, local social services and other community institutions must have seemed attractive – especially as the real estate boom of the time (in which my career as a property lawyer was incubating) offered good returns from the large buildings in larger grounds that would be "liberated."

In fairness to the Deep State Leftists behind the idea, her government seized mainly on the "close and sell off the mental hospitals" idea and less on the "build community resources" part. If she had implemented the policy as they had wished (and I don't know why I bother to say so as it's true of everything they ever propose) it would probably have cost much more than the old system and would certainly have added to the Deep State voter-farm of public sector workers who can be relied upon to vote Labour in order to secure an ever-growing state for them to feed on.

According to Jonty Bravery's prosecutor

“He said he had to prove a point to ‘every idiot’ who had ever said he did not have a mental health problem; that he should not be in the community.”

I do not blame my local council's social workers for this psychopath's misdiagnosis, even though evidence was given during his trial that he told them he intended to kill to make his point. People say crazy things and, sadly, it's best that they are not taken too seriously unless and until they act on them. With hindsight we can all wish the poor Ealing employee (who must feel terrible right now) that Bravery told his plan had acted differently. So differently that his poor child victim and his family had been spared their insufferable horrors. In truth if they had made a fuss they would more likely have been criticised for it. I doubt it would have affected the outcome. I am not known for my empathy with state employees, but social workers do a job that, mostly, can't be done. They're often on a hiding to nothing whatever choice they make.

Yes, it's now clear that Jonty Bravery is a psychopath. He's crazy but he's not stupid. Yes, he was prepared to kill if it served his purpose. That's what differentiates psychopaths from the often high-functioning sociopaths I worked alongside in my profession and the various businesses we served. His essential point seems to have been (and in this respect he was right) that given his condition he could not be expected to live "in the community". He was one of those monsters Nature occasionally sends among us and well beyond being socialised. He needed to be in permanent, secure, residential care away from the community and under the supervision of trained carers.

Now he is.

From his tragically-warped perspective, everything is working out precisely as planned. It's horrific and scarring for his victim's family, but it's no surprise that he has smiled his way through his trial. His sentence is no punishment. He now has what he wants for the rest of his life. My point is that – without the Thatcher government's mistake in seizing upon a crazily misguided Deep State policy proposal, he could have had it without killing anyone. Maybe she should have stuck to her principles even more strictly than she usually did?


The truth about the Shrewsbury 24

Private Eye reports that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will send the case of the 1970s “flying pickets” back to the Court of Appeal. Six of these violent thugs, including the actor (and former member of the neo-Nazi National Front) Ricky Tomlinson, who intimidated construction workers into voting for a strike they had previously rejected were convicted in the nearest Crown Court to where I grew up and rightfully imprisoned. There were many more than six and the only injustice in the case is that they were not all imprisoned — and for longer. 

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It is one of many lies accepted as fact in Britain’s leftist academia that the Shrewsbury pickets are innocent victims of Tory injustice. They are not. They were found guilty after due process of law by a jury of their peers. They had legal representation and every opportunity to defend themselves. Politics didn’t come into it but for the record this happened under a Labour government.

Justice was done. How can I be so sure? I was there. I blogged about it further here.

This strike, the most violent in British history before the miners’ strike led by Tomlinson’s friend Arthur Scargill, changed my life. I was a teenage Maoist — an advocate of violent revolution to establish a totalitarian Stalinist state. Like many young intellectuals (and a disturbing number of older ones) I craved the certainty of H.L. Mencken’s sarcastic observation that;

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

After my encounter with Tomlinson’s thugs, I told my Maoist mentor and school friend (still a friend and still a Maoist) about it. I expressed my disgust at the violent intimidation of my friends on the building site but he told me I was wrong.

Your friends are from the lumpen proletariat. The pickets were of the proletariat — the organised working class. What you saw was the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was Marxist, it was right and you should have been proud to be there.

It’s to my shame that I was ever mug enough to fall for communist ideas. I take comfort that, confronted with the violence I was stupidly advocating, there was something in me that was repelled. I asked the local librarian who had been dishing out Marxist books to me for something from the other point of view. My journey to becoming firstly chairman of my university’s Conservative Association and later a classical liberal/libertarian and a follower of the Austrian School of Economics began. 

Private Eye is supposed to be a satirical publication but its naive acceptance of the Left’s agitprop speaks volumes as to how far it has fallen. The campaigners probably know the pickets were guilty as charged, but don’t care. Their violence was class violence, it was good violence, it was “struggle” against the bosses’ class. Violence is only wrong to them when it’s directed against them.

They are well-organised and relentless in their lies. Tomlinson is rich from his later show business career. The working men they intimidated won’t want to waste their retirement or jeopardise their financial security by opposing them. I fear we shall live to see Tomlinson and his cohorts rewarded for their violence with hard-earned taxpayers’ money.


Book Review: “How to survive the most critical five seconds of your life”, by Tim Larkin and Chris Ranck-Buhr

The late Mrs P was a rational pessimist. She used to say;

”Pessimists like me live a life full of pleasant surprises. Optimists like you live a life of unpleasant ones”

As I blundered around places in Eastern Europe whose dangers I didn’t even trouble to evaluate, she used to tell me off about it. I’m a big guy - 2 metres tall and 140kg - and though I’m gentle by nature and have no fighting experience it was always a fair bet potential predators would choose softer targets. So I never had a problem and used to pour scorn on her loving concerns. She used to say that such thoughtlessness would get me in trouble one day when the predators began to evaluate me as “big, yes, but old and slow.”

I remembered those warnings as I read interviews with dangerous criminals in the last book I reviewed. They took place in places I pass frequently as I wander around London taking photographs and otherwise enjoying my leisurely life — places I never considered dangerous. I also now subscribe to various local news services and to the Metropolitan Police’s OWL messaging service These also tend to give a darker picture than is apparent to my still-optimistic eyes.

In consequence, as I advance into my sixties, I have started to look around me nervously as I make my way home at night. I bought this book in response to that unaccustomed feeling and frankly it’s made things worse.

It encourages the reader to forget all morals, to dispense with any lingering sense of John Wayne-style fair play, and to be prepared to respond ferociously to threats. It encourages the law-abiding to assume that any attacker will be a ruthless sociopath and to act (if there’s no option to escape) with unhesitating and relentless violence. All this, in order to mitigate the criminals’ advantages of surprise, youth, strength and endurance. 

By way of encouragement, the authors assure us that, if we cast off our fears, we all have it in us to act thus. They scorn the study of martial arts and methods of self-defence that are inherently rules-based because the criminals know no rules. They use violence thoughtlessly, naturally and in keeping with humanity’s essential nature. The authors insist we can (if we shed our scruples) do the same. A key advantage of that is the more respectable we are, the less our attackers will expect it.

Consider these words of “encouragement” for example;

“You are a predator born, with stereovision for hunting prey and teeth for ripping and tearing flesh. You are a member of the only species that makes an art of war. The average human body is an awesome engine of destruction, driven by the most dangerous thing in the known universe: a human brain. You are a survival engine, the descendant of winners; your ancestors didn’t get you here by laying down and giving up. They made the losers do that. Violence is your birthright.“

Call me a sissy, but I’d rather believe my “birthright” is (a) the Rule of Law and (b) the protection of the police force here where policing was invented. The authors’ scorn for that rather echoes the long-ago warnings of the late Mrs P.; far gentler soul than them though she was. 

I hate this book or rather in my naivety or high ideals (you decide) I hate that it needed to be written. It forces me to look at a world I don’t want to be real.

In many other countries I could carry a concealed weapon to give me a chance if attacked. In Britain (though the criminals have all the guns they need and more — a young man was shot outside an East London hospital only yesterday) that would make me the criminal.

As for the police, I am more likely to hear from the world’s first police force for having written this incendiary review, than at any time I actually need them. I don’t want to accept the authors’ advice as to how to act in the face of danger but I can’t argue with their assessment that the cops likely won’t be there until it’s far too late. I’ve never seen one in the nine years I’ve lived in London. Apart from at football matches, demonstrations I’ve attended or happened upon, I’ve never seen a Met Officer at all other than in a car passing by.

I accept the bona fides of the average London constable without hesitation but I know in my bones that the Met’s leaders don’t give a damn about the likes of me. Their most likely involvement in my life story would be in offering hypocritical “thoughts and prayers” over my corpse, while telling the press that the incident in which I died was a “one off” and “untypical”. 

I don’t want to think of the pampered body that carries my brain (and camera) about as “a survival engine.” I don’t want to evaluate every passerby as a threat and assess how I would gouge out his eyes with my thumbs if he attacked me. I really don’t. But as I age and London remains more dangerous than New York, the late Mrs P.’s warnings are in my mind’s ear.

Are they true? Are they wise? The optimist in me resists the authors’ answers. Gentle readers, what do you think?


Law vs ethics — again.

It used to be obvious in England that a good person was a law-abiding one. I was brought up to see the police as my friends and my protectors. I hate that I don’t feel that way now.

There was no road to Damascus moment. I had no personal bad experience with a police officer. I don’t think the police (apart from some senior officers far closer to being politicians than coppers) are to blame.  Rather there has been a decades long Chinese water torture of political “reforms”. Some were driven by the cynical “identity politics” of the Western Left; designed to set brother against brother and sister against all brothers so as to create conflicts only greater state power can resolve. Others, like this one, were political stunts to play on our instincts to win votes.  

We all agree that every human life is of equal value before the law. Right? Yet, shamefully, that’s no longer the view of the English Law in practice. To kill or injure a straight white male carries a lower sentence than to kill or injure someone whose protected status makes hurting them a “hate crime” for example. The law in effect now values members of certain ethnic groups, women, the members of one religion and non-heterosexuals more highly. Those who preach loudest for “equality” have long sought — cynically or stupidly — to undermine the only equality that matters; equality before the law. 

Boris’s latest trick along these lines — “life means life” when sentencing those who kill infants — is cynical not stupid. We are programmed by nature to love and protect not only our own young but those of all humans. For many of us that spills over into an urge to protect any childlike creature; whether a vulnerable adult human or a non-vulnerable adult panda whose markings make its eyes look big (a psychological trigger because babies are born with adult size eyes). “Think of the children” is such a common political ploy precisely because one of our strongest instincts is to do so.

A Government source told The Sunday Telegraph:

“Most people think all parties and the courts have lost the plot on sentencing. We agree with the public.”

So do I. But I also believe every human life is of equal value. Sentences should (all other things being equal) be equally severe no matter who the victim is. The government’s other recent stunt — more severe punishments for those who attack police — is from the same immoral playbook. They pick a group we favour; brave coppers, cute little children, and then signal their virtue by passing laws to “protect” them. Oppose such reforms, as I am doing here, and you bar yourself from public office. Congratulations. You’re too ethical to be a politician. 

Don't oppose such reforms however and the criminal law gradually becomes a source of societal resentments and injustices. Since its purpose is assuage resentment and crush injustice, that’s a problem, no?