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

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Life in the time of Corona

My conventional-thinking, main-stream media reliant friends sneer at the blogosphere; dismissing it all as "fake news". Yet at present they are furiously emailing, Facebooking, Whatsapping and Tweeting coronavirus disinformation by the shedload. Clicking on and deleting all this "fake news" from them affords me some amusement in a dark time. I do worry about the effect on the nation's morale however.

Humans didn't survive to become this planet's dominant species for lack of risk-aversion. We take in our stride the risks we are used to (e.g. driving) without worrying about the death rate but our instinctive response to novel risks is to over-react. Ex abundenti cautela, as lawyers like to say when lawyering an issue to death at great expense. 

What scientific knowledge I have is – at best – that of a dilettante. It was gleaned from the basics I learned at school before dropping every science I could at the first opportunity. That has been supplemented by casual reading of science articles in generalist newspapers and magazines. Quite a lot of it came from my boyhood reading of super hero and sci-fi comics, so I can tell you more about the properties of Kryptonite than of any virus. So, unlike my friends on social media, I shall not be commenting on the medical risk. I have nothing to add and anything I do say will change nothing, so mum's the word.  Actually, those theorising without data or expertise would do better (if they're lucky enough still to have her) to use that time to call their mum.

The only observations I have in the context of the present pandemic are to do with economics and political history.

Most economics errors (like the "broken window fallacy" first explained by Frederic Bastiat) stem from prioritising a seen effect over the unseen ones. In an emergency like the present one, governments – eager to be seen to "do something" – are likely to act forcefully on the seen economic effects of the crisis, while ignoring the unseen. Keeping their heads while all around are losing theirs and blaming it on them is hard for politicians at the best of times. Tending to narcissism or sociopathy anyway, they have less difficulty than the rest of us in seeing themselves as saviours. 

There is danger here. This article by Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute explains the danger well and I commend it to you.

Classical Liberals and the dryer kinds of Conservative feel threatened in such crises because we seem to lack the bold answers offered by authoritarian statists. Even Britain's classically-liberal Prime Minister, who is otherwise acquitting himself quite well in the circumstances, has promised state intervention on a scale and at a cost that might give Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders pause for thought. I predict that ten years from now it will be clear in retrospect that government actions to "save" the economy did more harm than good – even without taking into account the way such measures are bound to be gamed. Were I still practising law, I would be strategically positioning my clients under every tap of government aid that is about to be turned on. The lawyers, accountants and lobbyists of the big corporations will be doing just that.

As to political history, it teaches us that authoritarians love the opportunities presented by a crisis. I scoff at the conspiracy theories poisoning minds on the internet. No government (not even the monstrous Chinese regime) would cause such a pandemic on purpose, but all of them will seize the opportunity it presents to expand their power. Income Tax in Britain was introduced as an emergency measure to fund the Napoleonic War. Napoleon is no longer a threat, but still the tax bills keep on coming.

Any emergency measure should expire. If it doesn't, it's a fraud. Emergency laws (actually, I would argue all statute laws) should have "sunset clauses" so they expire unless specifically renewed. Parliamentary scrutiny is essential and any reader who has the ear of his or her MP should press these points home. As for the rest of us, let's just listen to the credible advice on offer, take what precautions we can and be kind to each other – especially the elderly and other vulnerable people who are most at risk. I hope all my gentle readers will come out of this pandemic unscathed. Here's wishing us all luck.


Brexit Day is here

As we approach midnight CET tonight (11pm in London) this is the song I would be playing in Parliament Square if it were up to me. I shall be there, with an old friend – a former business partner of mine at an international law firm –  drinking in an historical moment.

We Leavers have suffered over three years of abuse. We've been called racists, xenophobes, Little Englanders, uneducated idiots, Northerners (I never minded that one) etc. We've been called everything but a Christian. At times our own tempers have frayed but I think on the whole most of us have conducted ourselves well. As I marched with the Leavers through London last March, we confined ourselves to making "Loser" signs on our forehead at the braying hostiles jeering our progress. At the time I wasn't sure they really were losers. I still feared they might succeed in their frantic, unprincipled attempts to thwart us. Thank God they didn't, as that would have finally shattered our fragile faith in our institutions.

Tonight's celebration is more about still having a functioning democracy, than about Brexit itself.

I have been "unfriended", "blocked" and "unfollowed" by angry Remoaners but have never taken the same approach. I have many friends who voted Remain and respect their opinion. However, for anyone who is (like Adam Boulton on Sky News this morning) still trying to mock and smear us, their hour has come. It's over. They lost. They can own it or fade into irrelevance. From tomorrow I shall unfriend, block and unfollow any who persist in slagging us off. Not because they have a different point of view, but because by persisting now they prove that they are enemies of democracy itself.

My principled Remainer friends would be welcome to stand with me tonight on Parliament Square. I would buy them a drink, console them in their disappointments and reassure them it's all going to be fine. Our differences are many but, in the end, we Brits are one people under the Rule of Law; the people of Coke, Austen and Shakespeare. 

If you're planning to be there, I would love to meet you this evening. I shall be in The Lord Moon of the Mall pub on Whitehall from about 1830 onwards, from where I will adjourn to Parliament Square at 2100. 


Inflammatory speech? You ain’t seen nothing yet, mofos!

To call the Benn Act the “Surrender Act” is to incite violence against those who enacted it, according to Labour. The Act was designed (as its sponsors would tell you) to ensure the UK does not leave the EU without some variant of the “withdrawal agreement” previously “negotiated” by Mrs May and thrice rejected by this Zombie Parliament. That agreement was famously described by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis as;

”...a deal that a nation signs only after having been defeated at war”

So, if accurately describing an Act of Parliament is all it takes to provoke anger against you, perhaps that anger is righteous? If you are prepared to enact all sorts of radical policies on the basis of mere pluralities, but thwart the decision of an actual majority of the British People, then perhaps you have invited their wrath?

Neither the Conservative Party nor Labour has, since the War, ever secured a majority of the national vote. The Conservatives secured 55% in 1931.

Labour’s highest percentage post-war was 48% in 1951. The Conservatives’ highest share of the vote was 49.7% in 1955. Neither has achieved 52% post-war and no likely victory in the imminent General Election will give a popular mandate approaching that.

If the Liberal “Democrats” win a majority in Parliament and revoke the Article 50 notice, 40-something percent of the electorate will have thwarted 50-something percent. The anger then would be hard to contain and would be stoked to dangerous levels by the smug triumphalism of the Remain Ultras and the EU imperialists. You saw their sneering grins outside the Supreme Court this week. You saw Verhofstadt’s tweets. Imagine them if they win.

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The Referendum was necessary precisely because the constitutional issue of EU membership cut across party lines. A big majority was secured for Remain in 1975 (including my very first vote) because the “Common Market” was seen as a benign liberalisation of international trade. Discontent was seething at the steady mutation of that Common Market into a proto-state. No government had ever asked the British People to approve that change. Most indications were that they wouldn’t have approved.  

Leavers ranged from libertarians like me, through patriotic statists of right, left and centre to the hard left of the Labour Party and indeed the Communist Party. Reasons for leaving ranged from principled objections to an over mighty state to a desire to escape EU restrictions on “state aid” that prevented an even mightier state. That’s why, when Remainers ask “...but what do Brexiteers want?” we can’t answer with a political programme. Our only honest answer is “...whatever the future political direction of the UK might be — it should be decided by people we can sack if they annoy us.”

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Boy oh boy, are the people in charge in both Westminster and Brussels annoying us now! We want an election to sack as many of them as we can. For so long as they deny us that, they are relying on our decency and good manners to sleep easily in the beds we have feathered so lavishly for them. They’d better hope we are more decent than them and have far better manners than they have exhibited in their sneering, supercilious and dismissive campaigns against us. And far better manners than Labour’s Shadow Chancellor.

7A26A39F-3140-4ED0-846D-F57D378F9C62The violence of his discourse makes “humbug” seem rather gentle, no? But then it is always “one rule for us...” with them. 


A fantastic day for democracy?

So says Anna Soubry, an MP for a party with literally zero support. Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader with the lowest approval rating since records began, agrees. On the back of the Supreme Court’s apolitical decision, would-be plutocrat Gina Miller smugly continues her well-funded political assault on the biggest democratic vote in the history of our nation. She does so flanked by the leaders of minority parties too “frit” to face an election. This is democracy Jim, but not as we know it.

The law is now clear. The PM erred. I am sure he will respect the decision. That legal judgement is one thing but the jubilant fake-democrats’ equally clear determination to use it to thwart our decision to leave the EU is another. Please don’t quote me that “no mandate for no deal” nonsense, by the way. No deal acceptable to Parliament is on offer and they are doing all they can — in active concert with the other side’s negotiators — to prevent the government achieving a better one.

They will accept nothing short of stopping Brexit. All else is lies, mystification and agitprop.

Several of them referred reverentially to the Supreme Court as the “highest court in the land” but that is a blatant lie. They are straining their every sinew to ensure that our highest court continues to be the European Court of Justice, that our highest political authority remains the EU Council of Ministers and that our government is the EU Commission. These self-proclaimed “democrats” are today celebrating the chance this decision gives them to fight for our judiciary, legislature and executive to remain on foreign soil unaccountable to the British people.

That’s not a fantastic day for democracy but it is a great day for fantasy democracy, fake democracy — for Britain remaining a colony of a foreign power. Because if your Supreme Court is in another country, that’s what you are — a colony. As Tony Benn warned decades ago and as Guy Verhofstadt recently confirmed to rather surprising wild applause at the LibDem Conference, the EU sees itself as an empire. The days of European imperialism are not over, it seems, until the failed imperial powers of the past have another go. 

Unlike the Remain ultras, I can accept a decision I don’t like. The court’s ruling surprises me in light of the Bill of Rights but I am no constitutional law expert and I now accept our constitution is as they say. I have nothing to say against the judges concerned. I won’t reargue a case determined by the court I (unlike Anna Soubry et al.) believe should be the highest in the land.

It changes nothing as to the political and moral rights and wrongs of Brexit however. 

Those calling for the PM’s resignation are hypocrites. He has offered to resign by calling an election. Knowing they would lose, these triumphant “democrats” refuse to let him do that. They don’t want to back him, but they refuse to sack him. Knowing a new Parliament would (if the Conservatives see sense and act in concert with the Brexit Party) be solidly for an immediate Brexit, they prefer to hold him in place and try to use him as their puppet.

The court’s decision is disappointing but the Millerite thugs’ hypocrisy, elitist disdain for the British people and cynical hostility to true democracy is drearily predictable and utterly infuriating to decent patriotic Brits. They are playing with fire and I hope only they get (metaphorically) burned. 


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?

 


Killing two bolshie birds with one stone

Pete North asks if the Union can survive Brexit and “do we really care?” Personally I think this damp archipelago, including Ireland, belongs together. We Scots, Welsh, English and Irish are interbred beyond all separation. I never encountered an unmixed family. More importantly we are unarguably one people culturally. We teach our children the same nursery rhymes, laugh at the same jokes and share the same magnificent literature, art and music.

Most of us can’t tell without asking which of the nations our fellows “belong” to. I stopped calling myself Welsh after a vile nationalist was rude to my English mum and no-one but her noticed. It seems, if not crazy, then at least very petty-minded to separate politically — even leaving aside the economics of it.

What’s driving the Irish government nuts about Brexit is how obvious it will make it that the Republic is economically not independent at all. No more would Scotland be. As Pete unkindly says, it would be “Zimbabwe with fried Mars Bars.” That’s perhaps a little harsh and unhelpful in such delicate discussions as we may be about to have, but not entirely unfair  

It is odd that people who think multiculturalism will unite peoples with the most profound ethical and ideological differences can also believe trivial differences between the Home Nations necessitate actual apartheid. Holding contradictory ideas in the same brain is a key postmodernist skill, I guess. Yet the Union is voluntary or it’s nothing. If the Scots want out, as the Irish did in their day, then that’s up to them and off they must trot. Sad though that will be for me and my Scottish pals (all of whom are economically-active Unionists). 

I don’t see why only the Scots (and others who happen to live there) should be asked to decide though. The United Kingdom, not its component parts, is the member state of the EU. However Brexit goes, if Scotland leaves the UK it will then have to apply to join (not rejoin) the EU. Previous applicants had to demonstrate economic stability before admission. That would prove difficult for a Scotland deprived of English gold. Spain, afraid of its Catalans (and far less relaxed about separatism than England) would veto their application. Their path would be rocky and that would never do because we love them and wish them well. So wouldn't it be better instead to ask the other Home Nations if they want to leave the Union?

England would certainly do so. It contains 85% of the UK population but 95% of the economy. Even if it took a Barnett formula adjusted share of the national debt with it, it would be a far richer country and the threat of Celtic-fringe imposed Socialism would be removed forever. Goodbye Mr Corbyn.

I’d be relaxed either way but I imagine Wales would vote to leave the UK too. We Welsh like to rattle our sabres in imitation of the Scots in pursuit of subsidies etc., but we know which side our bara brith is buttered. If Northern Ireland voted to remain in the rump UK, then the reduced member state could withdraw its Article 50 notice and the Brexit divide would be neatly resolved. Leave-voting England (& Wales) would be free from whatever EU or post-Brexit treaty entanglements remained at a single bound. The Irish could stop bleating about backstops and deal instead with the other side of the sectarian terrorist violence they encouraged (and clandestinely supported) for so long.

It’s an actual opportunity for karma, no less!

My contempt for the farce that is the UN is so profound that the idea of Scotland on its security council actually quite appeals. If Saudi Arabia can be a member of the UN “human rights” council, why the hell should a nuclear-free Scotland not sit at the top table with Russia, China and the US? Particularly as the US has always meddled in the UK’s internal affairs on the side even of violent nationalists. It would be hilarious to see the US government’s reaction to the Scottish Peoples Republic wielding its veto. Yet more karma in fact! In an ideal world our old comrade Councillor Terry Kelly would be Scotland’s U.N. ambassador!

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I offer this solution, as you will have discerned by now, mostly in jest. It’s far too sensible for the buffoons in power to accept it and of course far too much of a threat to their globalist agenda. But what actual objections — gentles all — do you see to it? 


A chap is entitled to his style

I try not to be provoked by ill-judged political outbursts by my friends on social media. Life’s too short to fix everything someone gets wrong on the internet. Or so my wife tells me. Today, for example, I almost wasted an hour of my life responding to attacks on Jacob Rees-Mogg on my personal Facebook page. This was from friends (one of whom is an English journalist in Russia) commenting on this article in The Independent about the style guide JRM issued to his parliamentary staff, which was leaked to ITN.

My journalist friend said it reminded him of the forlorn attempts of the Académie Française to hold back changes in the French language. One of his friends essayed a witticism by posting this image A3A6CB66-C1AB-49B6-A646-639DA66F351D

Fair enough, that’s a mildly amusing comic exaggeration but JRM, while not a libertarian, is very much a small state man. Unlike his authoritarian opponents in both his party and others, he wants fewer rules and less state interference with personal choices. It’s ridiculous to compare an office memo to the control-freakery of the Académie Française. He’s not laying down the law, just giving stylistic guidance to his employees. Write to him in your preferred style and they’ll now politely respond to you in his. Where’s the story here?

Yet class-obsessed (though disproportionately posh) journalists have apparently spent hours counting how many times Hansard features JRM using expressions he’s asked his staff to avoid. I understand they’re bored of Brexit. Aren’t we all? But if a free press has value (and I think it does) this strikes me as a poor example of it.

JRM is eccentric. He’s different. He adds to the rich and varied warp and weave of our wonderful society. He very much enhances its cultural diversity, in fact. But as his politics don’t suit the media hive mind, look how intolerant of “difference” journalists truly are. One extra space behind a full stop and he’s a dangerous reactionary!

Let me try to match my friend in Moscow in the field of OTT analogies. It reminds me of how the gentlemen of the press piled in behind Carl Beech when he falsely accused many Tories (and one — Jewish — Labourite) of sexual abuse and even murder. Never mind the facts, never mind the effects on the people concerned and their families. There’s the hated “other” in our sights. Attack!

So much for the kinder, gentler politics the Magic Grandpa promised  

These of course are the very same journalists who first systematically ignored and then, when the story broke, downplayed statutory rapes by the thousand so as not to criticise cultural difference in England’s poorer towns. These are the same journalists so carefully weighing the pros and cons of the Jessica Yaniv story in Canada (or in the case of Canadian media so carefully ignoring it). Such courage! Such independence of thought! What was that old rhyme again?

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.

But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.

There. I haven’t wasted that hour. I’ve made a blog post from it. Now shall I send my friend in Moscow a link to it on Facebook ....?


Living peacefully under a hostile regime

Back in the ‘90s, when I lived with my family in Warsaw, we had a lovely young babysitter who took care of the then very young Misses Paine. We got to know her well as she also came on family holidays with us. One evening when she came over she had clearly been crying and we asked what was the matter. Her history teacher had that day been reviewing recent history under the new curriculum mandated by the country’s first democratic government since the fall of the Communist Party. When she got home from school she had asked her father, a lecturer at Warsaw University, if he had been a member of the Party and had rebuked him when he admitted he had. 

Her tears were not of disappointment but of remorse. Her dad had patiently explained to her the realities of life under a regime he had never dared to hope would change as it did. As far as he could tell, Poland would be Communist forever. He had to take care of his family as best he could in the actual circumstances in which they lived and advancement in his career required he be a party member. To refuse the invitation to join might have worse consequences than not being promoted. He had wept at the earnest teenage contempt of someone he had been trying to protect and — to her eternal credit — she had been distressed at having hurt him  

Were it not for the happy coincidence of Reagan and Thatcher’s terms in office overlapping as they did, he would have been right in his assessment of democracy’s chances in the East. For all its pomposity about its values, the West had mostly appeased the Soviets. Its academics were traitors almost to a man and its leftist politicians yearned for their comrades to get it right and prove socialism actually worked. I am told by one who researched there for a Masters thesis on Politics that the joint archives of the British Communist and Labour Parties in Manchester document the role of “Moscow Gold” in our politics. 

The nearer the Western democracy to the Iron Curtain, the more inclined it had been to kiss the Kremlin’s nether regions – as witness the shameful Östpolitik of West Germany, initiated by Socialists quietly sympathetic to the USSR. There were probably more true believers in Socialism in the West than the East. Years later my Russian teacher in Moscow would laugh at my stupidity when she learned I had been one of them.  “Didn’t you know what was happening here?” she asked. Told that I’d dismissed all reports as capitalist lies, she said scornfully “I can’t believe you actually fell for their bullshit. No one here did.”  

I am beginning to understand what it must have been like for my babysitter’s dad. Don’t get me wrong. I know full well that I am lucky to be a free born citizen of an ancient democracy. I’m also financially independent in retirement and don’t need to worry what HR or Marketing make of my utterances any more. Even when I did worry, I never checked my tongue before holding forth. I just sheltered behind my easily penetrated nom de blog when putting my views in writing. I don’t even need to do that anymore and links in the sidebar will take you to pages with my real name but there are more of you now who know me as Tom.

So I must not overstate my case. While I was horrified to find on returning to England after 20 years in the post-communist world that our police now patrolled the internet for “wrongthink” and that perfectly respectable concerns about, say, immigration and its perceived threats to local culture were often characterised as “hate speech”, the consequences of wrong speak are still (mostly) more social than criminal. I need not yet fear the deadly knock on my door in the night.

Our equivalents of the Saudi Arabian Mutaween are not the Metropolitan Police in London, but self-appointed brown shirts of the Guardian, Left-Establishment point of view; posh leftist ladies and their cuck husbands telling hostesses that they must never invite that dreadful “Nazi” again if they expect to move in polite society. Or, damn their traitorous eyes, marketing sorts at Gillette or Facebook peddling Marxian lies to set class against class, race against race, sex against sex, young against old and Muslims (God help them) against everyone  

Yet I am beginning to check my tongue — and to despise myself for it. I am ashamed of never defending that misguided but essentially decent and well meaning young chap Tommy Robinson, for example — even when he is occasionally as clearly in the right as on it. My views are more sophisticated than his and far far more liberal in the true meaning of that abused word. He has associated with bad people (though no worse than the violent totalitarian leftists of my youth) and has made (and still makes) political, legal and moral errors. But when he is wronged I should have the balls to speak up for him. And I don’t. Yes, he’s closer to being a “fascist” than I am, but not nearly as close as those leftists screeching for his blood.

He’s a wrongheaded but good natured working class bloke of the type I grew up with. He holds opinions shared by most of the men who fought real Fascism and he is trying in his often clumsy way to preserve what they fought for. He sometimes deserves help that it seems I am too afraid of the West London Mutaween to give. Goodness knows how many of my less independent fellow Brits are biting their tongues and toeing the Party line just as my babysitter’s dad once did  

I have a beautiful life and I am grateful for it. I say and do pretty much as I please and I know I am lucky. Britain is still a long way from the horrors of the USSR and Warsaw Pact days and I don’t want to be a libertarian analogue of those Corbynites screeching “Nazi” by screeching “Communist” at them. Name calling entrenches differences. It never changes minds. The sensible, decent, intelligent people from both sides of our various divides are at some point going to have to talk. While at my age I can’t expect to be at that table I would like at least not to be one of the fanatics raging outside their windows and distracting them from their dirty, but necessary, work.


Truth, morals and democracy

Democracy does not determine right and wrong. Democratic outcomes are not necessarily correct. If you live in an unfettered democracy like that of the United Kingdom, you will often find yourself on the wrong side of majority decisions that are misguided at best and quite often wicked. Classical liberals must be careful of crowing about "the will of the People" when they find themselves on the right side of a vote, because we are far more often on the wrong side. 

Opinion polls suggest that relatively few Britons support free-market economics, freedom of expression or even (apart from their own) private property. A majority of "Conservative" voters, for example, seem to support Labour's new policy of issuing unpaid-for shares to employees and appointing trade-union directors to company boards. Those shares will not be "free." Their issue will dilute the value of existing shares. The value they represent will have been taken by force from the company's owners. Also, when investors find companies with employee shareholders less attractive, the value of the company will be further reduced. Appointing employees whose interests conflict with theirs will have negative consequences to the shareholders who own those companies. If they wanted such directors, they could have appointed them at any time. It is said that Labour intends to have employee directors trained by the Leftists of the Trade Union movement, so they will (like the party under its current leadership) be hostile to the very concept of capitalism.

No amount of democratic perfume can make such theft and economic vandalism fragrant. It's immoral. It's wrong. And yet the national debate is not about ethics but practicalities. If a mugger steals your watch at gunpoint, you don't reserve judgement on the morality of his actions until you know what motivated his crime or what it will do to the reputation of the neighbourhood. Yet, when the BBC news reported on Labour's new policy, its "expert" merely commented that Britain's status as one of the world's top destinations for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) may be adversely affected. The rights of pensioners, life assurance policy-holders or people like me living in retirement on my investments count for nothing – unless we are foreigners with other choices who might take our money elsewhere.

A democratic vote is not a sacrament. It is just an alternative to violence as a way of settling societal differences. When we are on its losing side, we had best remind ourselves of that. To oppose a democratic outcome is to encourage a return to violence. That is what the Remainers in Parliament are risking. I was for Leave but if the vote had gone the other way I would have respected it. Our unity as a nation is more important to me than having my own way – even on a subject as to which I have been passionate, angry and frustrated for decades. It seems I was naive. Neither the unity of our nation nor favouring non-violent ways to resolve disagreements means anything to some prominent Remainers.

My grandfather returned from his military service in World War II as a cripple. His country's reward was to "nationalise" (i.e. confiscate) the trucking business he and his brothers had built pre-war with their own sweat and their savings from working as boys, teenagers and young men down a coal mine. Elected on a manifesto that promised the "nationalisation," the Labour government had appointed the only local valuer they could find who was a party member to fix compensation as low as possible. Successive governments then took decades to pay it, in ever more debased coin as inflation eroded the already-rigged value. I asked him years later how that had felt. He told me this.

My friends and some of my family voted for it. Labour people sincerely believed the government could run my business better than I could. I knew they were wrong and time proved me right but at the time what was I to do? I could have been angry with my neighbours and miserable for the rest of my life. Or I could accept the democratic vote, get on with my life and do the best I could.

I loved, admired and (for all his faults) respected my grandfather. Never more so than at that moment. 

This week I visited the "I Object" exhibition at the British Museum co-curated by Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. His co-curator Tom Huckenhall talked me and other members through the displays at a private viewing. One of the subversive pieces is an image of Egypt's last Pharaoh, Queen Cleopatra, copulating with a crocodile. Tom commented that "sexual slander" has always been used as a political weapon. Interestingly he also said that this was one of several pieces in the exhibition that had not been created by or for dissidents but had instead been commissioned by a political opponent. It was part of a slanderous campaign by Octavian (later Caesar Augustus) to strengthen his claim to be Emperor over that of Cleopatra's lover, Antony.

I cannot have been the only person present who thought of the US Democratic Party's campaign to discredit Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. Sexual slander is indeed a potent political weapon, now as in 30BC. Its being perpetrated by democratically-elected politicians does not make it any less vile and rotten than when committed by a would-be tyrant of the ancient world. As I watch my beloved America torn apart by a politically-motivated sham as far from the truths so self-evident to the Founding Fathers as could be conceived, I remind myself again that democracy is not an ethic. It's just a very human, practical but flawed device to avoid violence.

It is not, has never been and never will be a means to divine truth, justice or morality.


Flying the Khan Balloon in Parliament Square

Stop the Khanage by Tom Paine.

The link above will take you to more pictures from this morning's protest in Parliament Square. I had chipped in £50 towards the cost of the Sadiq Khan balloon caricature and went along to see it launched. The organisers were "Make London Safe Again" and their slogan (in reference to the rising tide of violent crime under Mayor Khan) is "Stop the Khanage." To my disappointment (I have yet to see "Antifa" in action and was looking forward to it from an anthropological point of view) no opposition turned up. I guess that 0930 was too early in the morning for them.
 
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Make London Safe Again's agenda for the protest was to "mark the fight back for free speech in our country." Having permitted the "Trump Baby" balloon on the occasion of President Trump's state visit to London (and talked in the media about how it was consistent with free speech and part of our satirical tradition in Britain) the Mayor could hardly object to a similar protest about him. He seems to have permitted it with a good enough grace but the media are busy portraying it as a fascist horror show or a flop or a waste of money. Take this article, for example, which described it as a "party for bigots".  According to its author, it has attracted support from some unsavoury folk. He probably regards everyone to the right of him as unsavoury. The Left always loves to demonstrate its belief in the equal value of every human by sneering from a position of imagined superiority at everyone who disagrees with them. As someone who persuaded for a living it's always struck me as an odd approach. Hilary Clinton seemed to imagine though that she would win voters away from Mr Trump by calling them "deplorable".  It's just their little way.
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They went more than usually nuts about President Trump's visit. Mayor Khan went so far as to say that he was "not welcome" in London, to my irritation. London is my home too and the Mayor has no right to speak for Londoners on the subject of who is "welcome" or not. He rather reminded me of a daft pet dog yapping rudely at an invited guest.
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OK, so Mr Trump is not the President they would have chosen, but the choice was not theirs. He's not the President I would have chosen (at least if given a better option than him or Clinton). However, when POTUS travels as Head of State, he represents the entire American people in the same way that HM the Queen represents us. I am fond of America and Americans and inclined to be polite and respectful to anyone representing them, even if I don't personally like him. I would have been polite to President Obama, for example, though I consider him a dangerous and wicked man of doubtful ethics.
 
Similarly, though I am not personally in favour of the British monarchy I would take it personally if the Queen were to be insulted or mocked when she represented our nation abroad. Not for her sake (though she seems a nice enough woman trying very hard to do the job well) but for that of our nation. So while I respected the legal right of hysterical leftists to speak out (and fly their balloon) I jumped at the chance to hold Mayor Khan to his hypocritical words about free speech and satire. I can't speak for others, but that's why I donated towards today's balloon– to apologise to the American people for the boorish conduct of my fellow-citizens towards their President and to remind Mayor Khan that free speech is not just for his nasty chums.
 
Make London Safe Again has a wider point to make about violent crime in London. Personally, I am more minded to blame Cressida Dick, the ideologically over-promoted Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but it has happened on his watch. When running for Mayor he was ready enough to pin the blame for all London's ills on his predecessor so he can hardly complain about that either. I listened to a journalist filming one of the organisers while interviewing her about the event. He tried to get her to make some statement he could use to pin a metaphorical swastika on her, but all he got was;
I'm not political at all. I am a mother of four children and I don't think they're safe in London. Mr Khan is not doing a very good job as Mayor
I enjoyed his disappointment more than anything else at the event. I was witness to an abortive attempt to create fake news. Sadly, I am sure he found another way. If he couldn't get her to say what he wanted, he probably just made someone up.
 
I chatted briefly to a couple there and asked why they had come. The lady said she thought Khan was doing a terrible job and that she wanted to be there for the protest against him. This seemed a legitimate reason to me and not one that made her a "bigot" or indeed any of the other nasty names leftists love to call people when trying to win then over as friends and influence their votes.
 
The only political leaflet I was handed at the event came from a young man representing the "For Britain" movement, an anti-islamic splinter group from UKIP formed by Anne Marie Waters after she lost that party's leadership election. It enjoys the support of Morrisey, apparently. It's not likely to command mine however and for the same reason that UKIP isn't. Both parties are right wing only in the "social" senses that I am not. I don't think law or government should have anything to say about social issues or indeed anything other than outlawing the initiation of force or fraud, operating an independent judiciary and an effective police force, and the defence of the realm. Neither UKIP nor For Britain is economically right-wing at all. Both are protectionist and fulminate unintelligently (rather like President Trump) about "globalism" – what you and I, gentle reader, would call both "free trade" and a jolly good thing".
 
At the sight of that leaflet, the author of the "party of bigots" article would probably have exclaimed "gotcha". I don't think that would be reasonable. For Britain is not proposing my ideas, though I have no objection to "Leave the EU NOW, no ifs, no buts" or "End politically correct policing - one law for all" or "Speak truthfully about Islam & its impact in Britain" (points 1, 3 and 7 of its 10 point programme). I am less enamoured of some of the other 7 points, but a lot of people share the party's concerns. It's a legal party proposing democratic change. It – if it ever won power - would peacefully hand it over if it lost the next election. I don't support it but wouldn't spurn a friend or family member who joined it. Rather as I haven't spurned friends who support the Labour Party, which under its present leadership presents a far greater threat to freedom and democracy – and contains people far more obnoxious than Morrissey.
 
I enjoyed my morning out. I am not sure what good we did, but we certainly did no harm. At the least it's always pleasant to be reminded that not all Londoners wear the Left's blinkers.