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

Posts categorized "Justice" Feed

The morality of public “service”

I was brought up to respect policemen. I still do. Even a libertarian state would ask good people to put themselves in harm’s way to enforce its few laws. The harm they do is rarely the fault of the (mostly) good policemen enforcing our current monstrous state’s thousands of bad laws. 

The same can be said for judges. They have an honest, important and necessary job to do that is foundational for civilisation but also apply and interpret thousands of laws that should simply not be. Their hands are dirty but it’s not their fault. Our soldiers too and perhaps (though here it gets murkier) even some of our civil servants.  

Though my conscience might still (just) handle being a judge (and relish the chance to lean hard toward Liberty in interpreting our laws) I couldn’t be a civil servant, soldier or policeman in modern Britain any more than I could be a politician for a mainstream statist party. I could not serve a gangster state that interfered with the citizenry’s freedom while violently extorting from it the money to pay me and hope to sleep at nights. 

Which raises the awkward question, who can? Being a judge, a soldier or a policeman is noble enough (and a civil servant harmless enough) in principle but to choose such a career serving the states we have now is morally questionable at least. Watch the French police currently beating up the gilets jaunes, for example. You’ll need to scour YouTube as the MSM is oddly reticent on the subject. These thugs are not conscripts. Each studied, applied, trained and freely signed a contract. Why would a decent human choose to do that job?

We have been watching Kiefer Sutherland’s Netflix show “Designated Survivor” and enjoying it well enough. I view it as the entertaining  tosh it is intended to be but wince at its po-faced portrayal of its heroes. They are cynical foes of Liberty and (literally) murderous enemies of the Rule of Law but we are expected to see them as paragons of selfless virtue. Given the boundless power of modern Western states, and the extent of their control over our personal lives, just who else would we expect to work for them but narcissists and sociopaths?

A children’s home (or church trusted by parents with their children) needs to be particularly alert to the possibility of child abusers wanting to work there. A powerful state should be similarly so about sociopaths. Neither our children’s homes, churches nor governments seem to have shown any such concern. I fear the abusers are now in charge of recruitment. 

This at least partly accounts for the relentless “mission creep” of the modern state. It certainly accounts for “Conservative” ministers, surfing smug tides of Liberty-minded rhetoric, interfering in the minutiae of our lives indistinguishably from openly authoritarian Labourites. There was a time when a moral man like this would become a civil servant but the people who staff our state now lack — almost by definition — any moral scruples about its rôle.

Please tell me I am wrong in this pessimistic analysis. If not, how can we hope peacefully and democratically to roll back the power of the state? If we can’t, then how does the story of our civilisation end?


In which I urge you to overcome your sense of futility and vote this Thursday

I thought taking part in the Leave march to Parliament Square might have been my last political act. As I wrote afterwards, it actually gave me hope again. 

The old political tribes in Britain are in trouble and deserve to be. They have long taken their members, supporters and voters for granted; becoming steadily more divorced from the everyday lives of most Brits. They were smugly secure that most of us would keep voting for one or the other of their parties regardless. So they could safely ignore us while they grew their power and enriched themselves by steadily growing the public payroll and the National Debt. They turned their backs on us and forgot we were here. 

I never deluded myself about the nature of democracy. Grandiosity about “government of the people, by the people and for the people” made me smile. I take Tony Benn’s more practical view as stated in the last of his famous "five questions"

“The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person--Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler--one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.”

Simply, if (and to the precise extent) that a majority of us can succeed in getting rid of any given set of people in power, we have a democracy. The political obsessives and/or moral degenerates who are attracted to the idea of running for office are very unlike the rest of us so the practical point of any democratic system is to keep them honest-ish by forcing them at intervals to appeal to us normals, on pain of peremptory dismissal.

Brexit has broken this model because it transcends the old left/right divide. It’s an issue that speaks to us normals at a very deep level. It goes to our sense of who we are as a set of British nations. These are near-mystical matters that the grasping, narcissistic rogues in office can’t grok. 

If they loved the peoples of Britain, they wouldn’t be feeding on us like so many plump fleas. If they gave the merest damn about our nations or their history or if they had the slightest respect for who we are, they wouldn't ever have wanted to lord it over us. Just as the feudal lords of medieval Europe dealt more comfortably with their counterparts across the Channel than with the serfs they saw as little more than cattle, so our political masters feel more at home with their parasitical brethren in the EU apparatus than with us. That hugger-muggery has not gone unremarked and has intensified our sense of being ignored at best (and despised at worst) by those elected to serve us. 

In the end, Brexit’s historical importance will have nothing to do with our membership of the EU. That dubious institution will pass in time, with or without us. We would find our way forward in or out of it. The true value of the attempt to leave has been the way it has exposed the terrible weakness of our native institutions. Whether they atrophied because of our EU membership or have just withered from long neglect scarcely matters now. They are rotten, need to be fixed and the people tasked with their maintenance and repair have been shown to be utterly useless.

It's a challenge, but our economy is stronger and our demographics are better than any European rival. Despite Brexit, our legal system and the strength of our financial institutions continues to attract foreign direct investment on a scale our neighbours can only dream of. Once this farce moves on to its next act, the peoples of Britain — armed with their new-found understanding of what fools our masters are — now expect our institutions to undergo as thoroughgoing a refurbishment as the one planned for the physical fabric of the Palace of Westminster.

There is much to be done and new people must be inspired to do it. And new political parties will be needed as all faith in the Conservatives has been destroyed and Labour is a disunited rabble of cowards or fanatics.

Our first chance to put the fear of the fierce God Demos back into the black hearts of our politicians is on Thursday. For us Brits at least, the usually entirely pointless elections to the EU’s ludicrous fig leaf of a pretendy Parliament have an important use this time. This, even though our MEPs are not expected to serve a full term and will certainly be ignored even more than usual until we finally leave the EU. Since the elections are literally about nothing else, we can use them to signal to our wretched government and opposition that our democracy is not to be swatted aside when they don't like what we say.

I have joined and donated to the Brexit Party and will attend its London rally at Olympia tonight. Whether you voted Leave or Remain (and there were respectable arguments each way that no longer need rehearsing) I would urge you to vote for us this week. If you think the vote to Leave was a mistake and you don't give a damn about democracy, then your choice is easy. You must vote LibDem. Otherwise, please vote for The Brexit Party. Not for Brexit but for British democracy itself. Let’s not give the dastard Tories or the fence-sitting Corbynites any room for manoeuvre when they interpret the outcome in planning their General Election campaigns. On Thursday please add your voice to a full-throated roar of righteous popular rage that will make the villains tremble. 


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.


Identity Politics is toxic

My new friend within the London Labour Party wrote to me recently saying, among other things, that

The left, once famously critical of religion, will say nothing against Muslims!

He has a point. The Roman Catholic Church is deservedly weathering a massive media storm over priestly abuse of children – or more accurately over some of its leaders' disgraceful endeavours to conceal that abuse. Go to any leftist forum online and you will see the traditional anti-clericalism of the left, for which my friend hankers, in full spate. You will also however see similar vitriol being directed at Boris Johnson. This, for an article in which he defended the right of Muslim ladies to dress in the ways they sometimes choose (and sometimes have chosen for them). Why? Because he also mocked them a little by saying, thus attired, they looked a bit like letterboxes.

It wasn't a very good joke. It wasn't a new joke. It was not as critical of the ladies in question as things previously said by some calling for Boris's head. It was hardly on a level with the sexual abuse of innocents. But it was criticism of Muslims and that, even when mild or (God forbid) justified, is now beyond the leftist Pale.

The left has also been tying itself in unseamanlike knots over the definition of antisemitism. Our government and other nations around the world have adopted the IHRA definition but Labour has devised its own variant. Why? Because of the parts of the IHRA definition that say questioning Israel's right to exist is anti-semitic. This is a problem to Labour because so many of its Muslim voters (and their Far-Left supporters in the Party) actually DO call into question Israel's right to exist. Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn's "friends" in Hamas are remarkably clear on the subject, for example in the preamble to its current charter, dating only from last year;

Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west and from Ras al-Naqurah in the north to Umm al-Rashrash in the south, is an integral territorial unit. It is the land and the home of the Palestinian people. The expulsion and banishment of the Palestinian people from their land and the establishment of the Zionist entity therein do not annul the right of the Palestinian people to their entire land and do not entrench any rights therein for the usurping Zionist entity.

My favourite rabbi, Rabbi Sacks, posted a video some time ago which I featured in this post. As I quoted there, he made this point about the difference between criticising Israel and being anti-semitic

I was recently talking to some schoolchildren and they asked me: is criticizing Israel antisemitism? I said No and I explained the difference. I asked them: Do you believe you have a right to criticize the British government? They all put up their hands. Then I asked, Which of you believes that Britain has no right to exist? No one put up their hands. Now you know the difference, I said, and they all did.

Denying Israel's right to exist is the new anti-semitism, as Rabbi Sacks' video (and the IHRA definition) make clear. But the left can't accept that because it is electorally dependant on Muslim votes. While denouncing ordinary Brits (to our puzzlement) for our alleged racism, sexism and homophobia it kowtows to the genocidal views of  lethally racist, sexist, and homophobic voters in our midst for fear of being branded islamophobic and losing their votes.

This graph (source) makes the point well

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 19.22.00We who agree with Dr Martin Luther King that every human should be judged on "the content of his character" must resist the temptation to laugh at them, hoist so hilariously by their own identarian petards. Instead we must politely point out their amoral inconsistency to everyone who will listen. Identity politics is toxic for all of us.


What is it about the Jews?

I never encountered anti-semitism until I went to work in Poland in 1992. I was a partner in a Jewish law firm, by which I mean it had been founded by Jewish lawyers and most of the partners were Jewish. I don't remember considering the matter when deciding to apply for a job and it didn't occur to me that it might feature in their decision to hire me. Clearly, it didn't as they didn't even ask.  My new boss sent his secretary to my office on my first day at work to ask if I would be free for a meeting on a certain date. I remember thinking that it was a dumb question as I had just arrived and my diary was empty. I went through the motions of checking and had my pen poised to write something in when she said, "No, that's fine. He'll get back to you." He didn't. When I mentioned to a Jewish colleague that I thought it was a puzzling episode he laughed and said "That's a holy day. He was checking." Even then it didn't occur to me that my faith, or lack of it, might affect my future career. It didn't. Within two years they offered me a partnership.

So I was surprised when a colleague in Warsaw told me that the general counsel of a Polish client kept asking him whether I was Jewish or not. "Why does he ask?" I said and my colleague told me that the guy was something of a Catholic Nationalist anti-semite and was probably unhappy that his company had hired us. "What shall I tell him?" he asked me and I said he should say he didn't know. "Let him wonder", I said. "Let any assholes to whom it matters wonder and if it matters enough for them not to hire us then screw them!"

Years later, I was invited, by a Jewish friend who had project managed the restoration, to the re-opening of a synagogue in Oświęcim (better known to the world by the name, Auschwitz, that it bore during its darkest days under German occupation). For the first time in my life I was wearing a yarmulke, handed to me by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, whose daughter was in the same class at school as Miss P the Elder. The event attracted international coverage and I apparently appeared on the television news as, at two metres / 6' 7" tall, I towered above the crowd. When I got to the office in Warsaw the next day, the colleague who had asked what to say to our anti-semitic client during my first month in Poland laughed. He said this had finally answered the question and that the office was buzzing. I was the office managing partner by this time and was rather shocked by the idea that there might be anti-semites in our own ranks. So I made a point of leaving my yarmulke on my desk as a kind of talisman to scare them away.

It was about this point that I came up with one of my jokes to use at Warsaw parties. "How does a Jew become Polish?" it went. "He wins the Nobel Prize." That's unfair to most modern, reasonable Poles, you understand, but satirises a tendency even for them to distinguish "Jews" from "Poles" when they mean to distinguish Jewish from Catholic Poles. If you ever want to wind up a less reasonable Pole, you might try mentioning the arguably Jewish heritage of their "Shakespeare", Adam Mickiewicz. How hard they defend him from such a "slur" is a jolly good litmus test of their anti-semitism.

I don't really get racism. I never did. It's fairly obvious that we are all Homo sapiens and that evolution has simply varied our skin tones to adapt to the intensity of the sunlight where our ancestors lived and ensure us paler people get our Vitamin D. Who could possibly care about that? Racism based on skin colour, however, at least addresses visible difference. It doesn't make sense but it's a stupidity the origins of which can at least be understood. Jews on the other hand are indistinguishable unless (as in the case of some Orthodox) they make a point of standing out. The one moment when I understood how anti-semitism might arise, occurred when I was celebrating a deal-closing in NYC at the offices of a famous Jewish real estate guy. We were drinking champagne out of paper cups and when I asked why they were cheaping-out on glassware I was told that the boss couldn't drink from a vessel that might previously have been used by a goy. That didn't make me anti-semitic you understand, but it did make me think "... these guys could use some PR".


Polish friends patiently explained to me, during various conversations over my decade+ living in their country, that Christianity, and specifically Catholicism, had created anti-semitism in Europe. I remember a colleague who had grown up in a backwards rural area of the country telling me that his own Catholic priest had ranted from the pulpit about "the killers of Christ". "But the Holocaust happened here!" I exclaimed, shocked, "... how could a post-war priest still be an anti-semite when the Church has denounced the idea?" He couldn't explain it and I still don't get it. Ideas persist despite evidence and experience to a very shocking extent. As witness the young Poles who are Social Justice Warriors today when their parents were inoculated against leftism by growing up amid its terrible consequences and their grandparents are mostly still there to tell them precisely what socialism was like. "Clogs to clogs in three generations" as Sir Keith Joseph told a young me when I said I was bothered by the idea of inherited wealth. "The hog cycle" as economists call it, when people fail to remember history.

So if a warped interpretation of Christianity is what gave us anti-semitism in Europe and if an accurate interpretation of the teachings of Mohammed is what brought it back by way of Muslim immigration, how come such a mind-bogglingly stupid idea is now most evident on the Left of British politics rather than on the Right? Marxists oblivious to the ethnicity of Marx and Trotsky? Atheists informed by religious medievalism, for goodness sake?

"But it's not about Judaism", they say, "it's about the State of Israel". The wrongs of the Holocaust, say those Momentum-ites who don't deny it, don't justify the misconduct of modern Jews in the Middle East. Fair enough. I am a supporter of Israel, for the good reason that it's the only democracy in the region and that its Arab citizens have the vote and equal civil rights. It's a tolerant place where dissent is permitted, gays are not thrown off roofs and apostasy (from any religion) is not a criminal offence. That kind of liberalism is rather unusual in the Middle East, to put it mildly. I also support Israel because of the thought experiment posed by one of my Israeli friends, an eminent lawyer who is also, as it happens, on the Left. "Disarm Israel's enemies" he said, "and you will have peace. Disarm Israel and you will have genocide." A cursory read of the Hamas Charter or a few minutes spent watching videos published by MEMRI suggests he is right. Nonetheless I would not suggest that Israel never does wrong. Nor, obviously, would I seek to prevent it from being criticised. 

How then to distinguish between being anti-Israel and anti-semitic? They clearly have the potential to be two different things, even if they do often seem to coincide in the same people. One of the wisest chaps I know (sadly not personally) Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explained it like this. 

Not liking Jews is not antisemitism. We all have people we don’t like. That’s OK; that’s human; it isn’t dangerous. Second, criticizing Israel is not antisemitism. I was recently talking to some schoolchildren and they asked me: is criticizing Israel antisemitism? I said No and I explained the difference. I asked them: Do you believe you have a right to criticize the British government? They all put up their hands. Then I asked, Which of you believes that Britain has no right to exist? No one put up their hands. Now you know the difference, I said, and they all did.

The speech to the European Parliament in which he told that story can be viewed in full here.

Pace the good rabbi, if anti-semitism was "only about Jews" it would still matter.  Jews matter not because they are Jews, but because they are human. No different qualification is required. That anyone thinks a better qualification than being a human is required to enjoy particular human rights is precisely what is wrong with our society today. Every time someone speaks of "Gay Rights" or "Women's Rights" or "Black Rights" or "Muslim Rights" or uses the phrase "hate crimes" I am immediately on my guard. Such people are more than likely to be a threat to human rights in general.

Damn it, how often does this need to be said before tribalists stop blathering? The whole point of the post-Enlightenment West is that every individual matters, regardless of who they are. Not just anti-semitism but tribalism in general is the virus that, as Rabbi Sacks says, keeps mutating. The only valid reason to regard an individual as better or worse is, as Dr King famously said (but as the Left seems to have forgotten) "the content of his character." The only valid reason to treat an individual differently before the law is his or her conduct. Amen to that. 


The poison in our civilisation's veins

Sympathy for the underdog is one of the most agreeable Anglosphere traits. I am prone to it myself; instinctively cheering on West Bromwich Albion or Stoke City against the likes of Manchester United. Fans of the Red Devils will bitterly tell you of the phenomenon known as "ABU" - Anyone But United, which is the same trait viewed from their perspective. It's logical then that we Brits should empathise with the downtrodden and – depending on our analysis of how they came to be underfoot – seek to right their perceived wrongs. 

Humans have always been too quick to analyse their problems in terms of perceived malice from "the other". For example, I grew up in t'North in a heady atmosphere of victimhood. There were plenty of logical reasons for the relative poverty of our post-industrial towns and cities. Many of them would simply never be built in modern circumstances. They are there for long-gone reasons but their communities, bound together by tribal loyalties, cling to them with ferocious sentimentality. It would amuse their ancestors who left rural poverty all over our islands during the Industrial Revolution to flock to opportunities in dark, Satanic mills. To seek betterment elsewhere, as their ancestors did and as I could not wait to do, is perceived as defecting to the enemy. Better to live on, more or less supported (as their plucky ancestors never were) by a Welfare State that subsidises such wilful victimhood.

Even after I had left, it took me years to shake off those ideas. At University my law tutors urged me to apply to the major London firms but I declined, having grown up with the ridiculous but unchallenged view that our capital city was a nest of predators living idly on the sweat of honest working folk. The flip-side ABU-equivalent is the way that London football fans sneer-chant at provincial supporters "We pay your benefits". Now that I live in "that London" I have also heard Londoners claim victim-status themselves, bemoaning the high cost of living (particularly housing) and claiming that the capital is the only city on these islands to make a positive net contribution to HM Treasury. 

Humans are tribal. If a language is really old, like Chinese or the tongues of the Native American tribes, the word for ones own people is "human" and the words for other peoples are derogatory – "foreign devil" or the like. The names we use for the Plains Indian tribes are given by their enemies because their own names would all translate to the same word. More recently, even "Wales" and "Welsh", the English names for the place I was born and the people among whom I was raised, are from the Anglo-Saxon for "foreigner". I would argue that where things have begun to go wrong in the West is that tribalism and victimhood have converged and an identity arms race encouraged by the anti-discrimination lobby has set all the "tribes" against  each other.

This, I would suggest, is what the present furore about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, the scandal about statutory rapes in Telford, the murder of an elderly Jewish lady in Paris, the emergence of the Alt-Right, Black Lives Matter and AntiFa have in common. In their game of "victimhood trumps" various would-be underdogs have both strengthened their own tribal bonds and awoken the tribalism of others.

It's dangerous to enjoy the sight of the Labour Party – home of cynical grievance-mongers for decades – hoist by its own petard over anti-Semitism. It's perilous to succumb to anger over the way that Leftist political correctness has thrown thousands of white girls in Telford or Rotherham to the wolves for fear of the juju word "Racist".  Lives are being lost (and many more lives degraded) in the United States as the uncontroversial assertions that "Black Lives Matter" and "All lives matter" are used as tribal battle cries. The Alt-Right's so-called "fascism" would evoke snorts of derision from history's real Fascists, as it amounts to White people lamely joining the destructive game of identity politics.

When growing up in Wales I once told a fanatical Welsh Nationalist that if he really had nothing better to be proud of than his ethnic roots, he should  take up macramé so as to have an actual skill to take pride in. I felt free to mock his parochial obsessions because I could never imagine him presenting a threat but that kind of thing is more dangerous now. At one of my first partners meetings at a law firm in London where most of my partners were Jewish, I was surprised when one said we had no chance of winning a bid for some work because of anti-semitism. I told him, truthfully, that I had never heard an anti-semitic remark in my life and doubted the thought would even cross the potential client's mind.

That anti-semitism is back in Britain, as it clearly now is, is due to the Labour Party's attempts to use identity politics to build its own base. Rejecting (or rather rejected by) its traditional base, Labour has sought to put together a coalition of victims, including – though socially and economically there is no more "conservative" group around – British Muslims. To do so it has become uniformly pro-"Palestinian" and anti-Israel and thus attracted into its midst many members reared with a hatred of Jews as unchallenged as my early hatred of "the South".

I reject the Alt-Right because fighting fire with fire just doesn't work. The answer to the poisonous ideas of identity politics is not to join in. It's to reject them for what they are– inimical to the best values of Western Civilisation. Our highest value is the Rule of Law – a much misunderstood phrase, particularly on the Continent where it's often used to mean "shut up and do as you are told or we'll set the police on you". The best way to explain it is in the resonant phrase – "Be you never so high, the Law is above you".  Your social status, your ethnicity, your family background, your education, your political power and your wealth are all irrelevant to the Law, in the august presence of which we are all (as we are not in any other context) equal. When you say your favourite class of "victim" deserves special protection from the Law, you are shattering the only important equality – the one on which our civilisation is built. We in the West have done that repeatedly and with the terrible consequences that are now emerging as we have sought to signal our virtue by "protecting" various underdogs. 

The Labour Party will not extricate itself from its present mess by re-ordering the hierarchy of victim-groups. I hope and believe that was not what the British Jews protesting yesterday were asking for. Nor by classifying her murder as an anti-Semitic hate crime will we bring back to life the murdered Parisienne or protect future such victims. We can all only emerge from this destructive and hateful shambles by restoring equality before the law and abandoning the damaging notions of identity politics in general and "hate crime" in particular.

Human progress is driven by free competition of ideas. It is hindered by the sort of tribalism that means you must know someones race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender before you can evaluate the credibility of their ideas, their rights to express them or the correct punishment for someone who hurts them.


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. 


The Moggster reminds us what Brexit is about

As resolve seems to be weakening, here is the Moggster explaining to the Oxford Union just why we are leaving the economically-destructive, anti-democratic, extremism-inducing shambles that is the European Union. Note there is no mention of immigration nor any hostility to our European neighbours. Actually, he expresses affectionate concern for them. His speech is about the things that motivated me to vote "Leave", namely concern for justice, democracy and fairness and fear that damned institution's manifold idiocies will cause more economic catastrophes like that in Greece, and bring back the political extremism to which the Continent, with its top-down Roman Law approach, is so prone.

 


Another boat burned

 Today, I let another part of my old life go. In a pleasant conversation with a lady from the International Bar Association, I explained that I did not plan to renew my subscription  of more than 20 years. I had only been maintaining it out of nostalgia for the days when I used to attend its conferences in locations chosen to give its mainly American membership tax deductible vacations for themselves and their families. HMRC was never so flexible or gullible as the IRS but for me it meant networking with colleagues in agreeable cities with great shopping for cash rich / time poor professionals bribing their spouses to accept neglect. And of course intelligent discussion on subjects relevant to my international practice of law. 

Reading my last copy of the IBA's journal I realised another reason why I was content to let go. The tone of the articles has changed.  Lawyers are always in danger of going to the dark side because, good or bad, new laws tend to make them richer. Arguably the worse the laws the more work they generate. Only noble traditions passed on at an individual's age of peak naivety in Law School helped most of us understand that law is at its very best only a (sometimes) necessary evil and that every problem solved even by the best law introduces several new ones. 

The capture of academia by Cultural Marxists / post modernism has killed that protection. Every article introducing a new law now seems to bemoan that it did not go further. For example a new law in France requires companies to monitor their suppliers for human rights and environmental concerns. French companies are required to increase their costs, making their goods and services more expensive to consumers, to "police" suppliers beyond the reach of rich world legislative activists. It repeats an unjust pattern of punishing the decent and near at hand for the crimes of out of reach bad people. It makes life more expensive. It may make companies avoid dealing with countries that fall short of Western ideals, perpetuating poverty there and increasing dependency on aid. The commentator makes no such "law of unintended consequences" points. Rather she bemoans the exemption for small companies!

The same journal contains a piece discussing President Trump's nominee to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court bench.  It expresses surprise that the nominee is a critic of the "Chevron doctrine" under which the Presidency has taken powers from Congress. 

 Michael Dorf of Cornell Law School puts the problem succinctly: "it's weird that a Republican Congress would be trying to get rid of deference to the executive branch while there is a Republican president"

If it's "weird" that a politician should ever act on principle against party interest then we are not in a post-truth but a post-ethics world. Sure, I cynically assume most will often do the wrong thing if torn between the right thing and self-serving but surely it's going too far to assume the right thing is beyond reach all the time for everyone!

The correct, ethical role for lawyers is surely to support only good and necessary new laws, to critique proposed new laws to that end and then to ensure that their clients suffer from them only to the minimum extent necessary to do justice. It's neither to assume that the more laws the better nor to challenge the sanity of legislators who seek to roll back executive power. 

The only  sensible article in my last copy of the journal is on the subject of "fake news".  As the authoritarian Valkyries in Britain and Germany gear up to  introduce censorship, the article discussed in a mostly balanced way the risks to free speech of giving government power to "regulate" so called "fake news". It's a good piece on the side of the angels but stands out from the others in a telling way.

I couldn't practise law in Britain now because I couldn't morally comply with laws requiring me to shop my clients to the authorities. I was relieved to retire without ever having encountered that dilemma and horrified to discover, when serving on my firm's management committee in the last years of my career just how often my colleagues were dropping a dime on the people they exist to serve. But I'm not sure I'd want anyway to be the kind of modern lawyer who relishes regulations and argues for ever more. I still stand with Montesquieu who said "If it is not necessary to make a law it is necessary NOT to make a law".

Thank goodness I have the financial freedom to avoid the pressures on my successors in the profession. I hope they escape their careers with their souls intact. 


How to deal with atrocities?

How to deal with atrocities? « Samizdata.

Perry de Havilland at Samizdata sets out what won't defeat Islamic terrror. 

one approach I am quite certain does not work is candlelight vigils, weepy hashtags and a refusal to face up to who the enemy is and why they are doing what they are doing.

He makes a good point but what will?

 

To begin with we should do nothing to validate the belief of these losers™ that they are special. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 – a piece of knee-jerk legislation that led me to begin this blog long years ago – was (and this is the least of my criticisms) a mistake in psychological terms. It dealt differently with those who murder for political reasons thus confirming their view that they were more than "common criminals". This was a very different approach to that of Margaret Thatcher. She always insisted that Jeremy Corbyn's chums in the Provisional IRA were not "soldiers" or "political activists" but criminals like any other; that their motives made no more difference to the legal analysis of their actions than they did to the reality of the outcome for the victims and their families. One is no less dead for being murdered in a cause and one's killer is no more for it.

 

Such criminals should be detected, arrested and tried. If convicted they should go to the same prisons as other murderers and be treated exactly the same. Murder carries the maximum penalty presently permitted under English Law because it is the worst crime. Any special treatment of terrorist murderers and their accomplices is legally a distinction without a difference and – worse – will be in their eyes a badge of honour.  

 

If, statistically, Muslims are currently producing more terrorists, I see nothing illiberal about controlling future immigration from their countries until the terrorism has been defeated. Let's acknowledge we have a problem among the Muslims we already have. Let's own it, address it and while we are doing so prevent it from becoming worse. Some people will call that "racist" but they should not confuse us with people who give a damn about their playground name-calling. Repeal whatever legislation prevents such a policy and put it in force — just as President Trump has been wading through the Deep State swamp to attempt in the USA. Opinion polls suggest there is massive democratic support for such a policy across the whole of Europe.

 

That leaves the question of the already resident Muslim population most of whom, thank goodness, pose no threat. We can maximise that proportion by some common sense measures:

  1. Change our relationship with Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islamic darkness. It does not permit Christian evangelism on its territory. In contrast, as a civilised country, we permit all religions to be practised, but that does not mean we have to allow the Saudis to fund theirs. Currently there are more Wahhabi Korans in the UK than any other versions because Saudi Arabia provides them free of charge. Wahhabism is a particularly dangerous sect and motivates a disproportionate number of terrorists. 
  2. If this is thought likely to affect arms sales to that Kingdom, then perhaps we should form an Organisation of Weapons Exporting Countries to fulfil a similar function to that of OPEC in relation to oil.
  3. It may be necessary, after appropriate research, to prevent other countries from funding mosques and madrassas in Britain. I see no problem with that either. I am sure local Muslim philanthropists will step into the breach.
  4. We should ditch the doctrine of multiculturalism and make it a matter of immigration policy that new arrivals are welcome only on the basis that they agree to integrate into our society and live according to our values. There is no ethical problem, in my opinion, in stating definitively that Shariah Law is incompatible with those values. New immigrants should swear an affidavit on entry to confirm that they understand and accept this.
  5. We should break the news to our Muslim communities that they and their families have come to live in a Christian culture. Most Brits may not be religious now but still our country is one formed by Christian values. Constitutionally, it is actually a kind of mild Christian theocracy as we have no separation of Church and State. The Church of England is Established and twenty-six of its bishops – the Lords Spiritual – are ex officio members of Parliament. In this quirky theocracy, the Theos is Jehovah, not Allah. Daft, in my personal opinion, as I very much believe in the separation of Church and State on the American or French model, but no less true for that.
  6. We should deliver public services only in the official languages of the United Kingdom. When I lived in Poland, Russia and China I could not expect to deal with the authorities in English. They took the perfectly reasonable view that my weakness in their languages was my problem. To the extent I could not cope I found friends, colleagues or paid translators to help me. By dealing with immigrants in their own languages, we have encouraged them NOT to assimilate and have made it unnecessary for them to learn English. It is our fault, not theirs, that so many Muslim mothers live and raise their children dangerously outside our society's mainstream. I am sure most were initially astonished to find that our public sector is prepared to deal with them in their own languages at taxpayers' expense.
  7. We should cut all other services (e.g. translators to sit with children in classes, chaperones to accompany ladies to medical appointments) that discourage integration. Of course we should be tolerant of the needs of learners to bring English speakers along to help them out until they are fluent. I am sure there would also be some doctors prepared to allow male members of Muslim ladies' families to accompany them to consultations. I would not make any doctor do so, however. The ladies in question chose to come to a country where such an approach is alien (and rather insulting to our doctors). No-one forced them to come. They could have stayed in their countries of origin and these issues would never have arisen.
  8. We should provide English classes for refugees. They didn't choose to come and it's only decent to help them out. Economic migrants, like me in Poland, Russia and China, should pay for their own damned language lessons.
  9. Finally we must recruit thousands of members of the police, the Special Branch and MI5 from among our Muslim citizens. We are so often assured that most of them are peace-loving and loyal that I cannot imagine this will be difficult. As a young lawyer in Nottingham I personally administered the Oath of Allegiance to many new Muslim citizens and kept a Koran at hand for the purpose. I am sure many of their families have suitably qualified members now. 

I don't put forward any of these suggestions to punish British Muslims or even to deter future immigration once the problem has been solved. But if we are to reduce terrorism here, rather than just accept it as "part and parcel of life in a big city", I think measures like these are necessary. Do you agree? If so what other measures would you suggest? If not, then how do YOU think we should defeat Islamic terror?