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

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Political geometry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Harriet Harman is being treated unfairly

Cranmer on Labour's paedophile problem

I agree with Harriet Harman that she is being smeared, but I struggle to feel as sorry for her as I should. She who lives by the sword shall, with a bit of luck approximating to karmic justice, perish by it. It is simply delicious that a women who has worked so tirelessly to undermine liberty and the rule of law is now in need of both. She doesn't seem as keen on 'the court of public opinion' now that she faces 'trial' herself.

Harman was one of the puritanical Left's Witchfinders in the scandal surrounding the allegations of under-age sex (but not paedophilia in his case) involving Jimmy Savile and other 1970s celebrities. Yet as in-house lawyer at that time to the National Council of Civil Liberties (now Liberty) she saw no need to advise her client that it was a problem to have the Paedophile Information Exchange as an affiliate. Indeed she seems to have worked on some of the outrageous papers supporting some of PIE's positions that NCCL published at the time. One might wonder how a newly-qualified solicitor found herself in such a role, but that's another issue. NCCL was pretty much a captive of the Labour Party and young Harman was already firmly on the left, where ideology always takes priority over talent or expertise.

Mysteriously she won't accept that her failure to give such advice was a mistake. I didn't qualify until 1982, so she is senior to me in our profession but I would certainly have acted differently in her place. Nor do I know any colleagues of that vintage who would not. I don't think the sexual mores of Britain changed very much between the mid 1970s and the early 1980s, but that's irrelevant according to Ms Harman. She has loudly insisted - when it suited her political position - that they haven't changed in forty years. 

That's hypocritical nonsense of course. We are talking of the era of The Little Red Schoolbook; an era of profound sexual upheaval. I still have my copy somewhere; a relic of my time as a teenage leftist in Harman's era at NCCL.

Not even the Daily Mail mentions now that PIE originated as a special interest group of Outright Scotland or that it merged with Paedophile Action for Liberation (itself an NCCL affiliate before the merger) - an offshoot of the South London branch of the Gay Liberation Front. It's not too surprising (if you are not an hypocrite who refuses to acknowledge that times change) that paedophiles, gay and straight, should have latched onto the gay movement's campaign to normalise what were then 'alternative' sexualities. Nor should a non-hypocrite seek to smear the gay movement for its failure - in those heady, underfunded, radical days, to differentiate as precisely between 'correct' and 'incorrect' attitudes as it now expects of others. It had not yet won the victory that now allows it to demonise those who fail to keep up with its ever-changing thought-crimes.

It really was a different world, in short, and the currently rather prudish Left have been foolish to intensify their attacks on the Catholic Church and Savile's showbiz circles by saying that it wasn't. As His Grace points out in the linked post;

The thing is, Pope Benedict XVI spent much of his pontificate issuing profuse expressions of remorse and repentance on behalf of his church for the heinous acts of paedophile priests and the post-conciliar hierarchical conspiracy of cover-up. And the BBC is still apologising over its 1970s "groupie" culture of misogynistic permissiveness and predatory paedophilia. Both institutions are horrified and appalled - 40 years on - that they did nothing to protect so many vulnerable victims over such a long period. But at least the perpetrators are now being held to account - one of them even post mortem.

These institutional apologies have not protected either, of course, from the relentless smears of the Left. Yet, for all their failings, neither the Catholic Church nor the BBC ever sought to justify the misconduct or, still less as the NCCL did, to argue that it should be normalised. 

Conservative commentators are reacting to this story in a generally gentle and seemly way. Iain Dale is taking the Milliband line. The Spectator is magnanimously pointing out that 

There is no continuity of between the positions Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt adopted in the 1980s and their thought today. In office, Harman led a group of Labour women politicians who worked to make the law friendlier towards rape victims. Hewitt, Harman and Harman’s husband Jack Dromey (who was at the NCCL at the time) have not campaigned to reduce the age of consent to 14 or 12, or to abolish it.

I am glad that the non-Left is being reasonable and refusing to make the kind of vicious demands for intemperate action that characterise 'righteous' leftists when they taste the blood of political opponents. It does them great credit and I hope voters notice. That said, the Daily Mail has really done no more than pick up Harman's and Dromey's own discarded grenades of hypocrisy and political dishonesty and lob them back into their trench.


Hope's funeral

Margaret-Thatcher-and-the-order-of-service-for-her-funeralI promised myself long ago that, just as my grandfather stood in the rainy streets of London to honour Sir Winston Churchill as his funeral procession passed, so I would for Margaret's. He loved Churchill for much the same reason that I loved her. Hope. In dark days, when our country seemed likely to fail, they both persuaded us to buckle down, do our best and look to the future. They promised us that Britain could be great again.

Both promises failed. The Second World War delivered the Poles for whom we declared it to one of only two regimes on Earth worse than Hitler's. It left the Soviet Union stronger. It saved few Jews. It crippled Britain's economy and left us in massive debt to the Americans. Those Americans gave post-war aid to the Germans on such a scale that they rapidly overtook our war-damaged industries. A German who married one of my wife's relatives visited my home town in the 1950's, while rationing and post-war austerity was still in force. "Did you people really win?" she asked. "It doesn't look like it". The war left the US dollar as the world's reserve currency and it left us in, at best, the second division of nations. And in 1946, having delivered ourselves, as we thought, of Germany's National Socialists, we elected British Socialists to run the "commanding heights" of the economy for the nation.

When the post-war consensus between the barons of the landed aristocracy and the labour aristocracy brought us to our economic knees; when the bailiffs' men of the IMF came in to dictate terms; when rubbish swamped the streets and the dead went unburied; when my wife's family burned shoes to keep warm during power cuts and when families everywhere tightened their belts because their supporting wage-earners' working days were cut to three, we lacked hope again. Managed decline seemed our destiny. We told ourselves that our past successes were only to do with the wickedness of Empire and that a slide into poverty was now inevitable - and even deserved. It was a dark hour to be alive even if, like me, you were a young, optimistic graduate setting out promisingly on his life's work.

Thatcher brought hope and promised us a new Britain of opportunity. She promised to liberate the lives and resources tied up in non-jobs and fake industries. She promised us that Britain could be something again; not the old something but a new, vibrant place. And those of us who were not on the take from a corrupt Socialist state or living as parasites on the workers as trade union officials welcomed it. We set about working hard; doing well by doing good.

And for a while it seemed real. If when Neil Kinnock dies, he goes to Hell, the demons need not raise a sweat tormenting him. All they need do is play, on an infinite loop, the moment this week when a TV interviewer asked him if Britain was better or worse after 11 years of Thatcher. His tormented face told the truth even as his twisted lips mouthed the necessary lie. Necessary because without it he would have had to confess that his whole life has been a self-serving fraud. Without that lie, his career can only be explained as duping the working class to raise his talent-free family to undeserved wealth.

Yet Thatcher's promise too was like VE day. It was briefly, gloriously real, but then a sadder reality kicked in. The post-war consensus resumed. The British State moved steadily back to its pre-1979 position as the most important force in the country and the British people resumed their willing dependence. For all practical purposes, democracy is suspended because three out of four families in this still-rich nation are in receipt of money taken by force by that state from their fellow-citizens. David Cameron is far more like Macmillan or Hume than he is like Heath, let alone Thatcher. Ed Milliband, for all the contentious talk, is essentially as in favour of a "mixed economy" (and buttering up corrupt and destructive union leaders) as any post-war leader of his party.

So Margaret's career, in the end, was a waste of her talents and our time. Were it not for her, we might have hit bottom by now and be rebuilding a civilisation on the ruins of our decadence.

Yet I respect her because like Winston, she was sincere. She believed, probably to her death, that she had led us towards a better future. She certainly tried. No Prime Minister ever worked so hard or took so much flak in the process. That she failed is not her fault. It is ours. And that is why I will stand, head bowed, as her gun carriage rolls by tomorrow. She was the best of us and, all-too-briefly, gave us hope. I am grateful for the memory of that.


A message from the 1970s

A message from the 1970s on state spending - Telegraph.

The 1970s were when my political views were formed. In that decade, I was suspended from my bog-standard comprehensive for my revolutionary activities. I was a member of a Maoist school students union, which organised the only pupils strike in the history of British education. I sold "Quotations from Chairman Mao" and "The Little Red Schoolbook" to my fellow pupils. I refused to be a prefect or to apply to Oxbridge (alas) because I was anti-elitist.

I had a Damascene political conversion as a result of seeing men on a building site where I worked in my school holidays subjected to violent intimidation by the Shrewsbury Pickets. I had already read my Marx but that led me to my Hayek and Popper. I went on to lead my university's Conservatives to take control of its Student Union from the Left for the first time and was one of the first people to call myself a "Thatcherite". I met and discussed politics with Sir Keith Joseph and discovered I was a good judge of character when I also met the pompous, wet and unreliable Sir Geoffrey Howe. I didn't like him the instant I set eyes on him and was not surprised when he later played Brutus to Margaret's Caesar.

But the truly formative event was the national humiliation wrought on Britain by Labour bankrupting the British state and calling in the IMF. I don't think anyone who was there and understood what what happening could ever forget it. It has informed my every political and economic thought since. It's why I am so scared by the nonsense flickering across the synapses of commenter and erstwhile guest blogger Mark (and virtually everyone else in Britain, alas).

Every new Labour leader should stand before his first party conference and recite Jim Callaghan's words, because they nail the greatest lie in modern politics and economics; that the state can drive growth. It cannot. At the most it can facilitate it, by providing the rule of law and consistent, predictable regulation that businesses can plan for, but otherwise getting the hell out of our way. This is what he said.

We used to think you could spend your way out of recession and increase employment by boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists. And in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion ... by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step.

I agree with , author of the linked article in The Telegraph, that these are among the most important (and I would add almost certainly the most honest) words uttered by any British Prime Minister. That they have been forgotten so quickly horrifies me. If all my efforts in writing this blog achieve nothing else, I hope I can bring people to Mr Callaghan's honest, if no doubt disappointing for a lifelong Socialist, realisation.


The Devine Comedy

Except it isn't really funny, is it? This trade unionist and stalwart of the workers' party chose (partly) to defend himself by blaming an innocent employee. He may claim he did not understand he was doing wrong in filing forged expense claims, but what kind of a man cannot see the wrong in false witness?

This is the hypocrite who claimed he could not name another employee because she was working while on benefits. He told the police "My dad was a miner. We don't grass." The jury seems to have concluded that the woman he so nobly "protected" was as fictional as the one he freely, falsely "grassed" was real.

Even forgetting about his paltry fraud for the moment, this is the kind of bullying, selfish behaviour one might expect from a "filthy capitalist" (if indoctrinated by the British education system, balanced coverage from the BBC and liberal insight from Guardian). Never underestimate a socialist in these fields of endeavour though.

From the moment he was interviewed on Channel 4 news, it was clear that Devine's only defence was that which is famously unavailable to us all; ignorance of the law. That's no defence (often sadly) even if it is ignorance of complex and technical issues. It's still less so if it is ignorance of the basic concepts of law. It is the very opposite of a defence when it is ignorance of the morality on which good law is founded.

Jim Devine is a petty thief, but that's the very least of it. He abused the trust of his electors, and of all taxpayers. He tried to blame innocents for his own crimes. Confronted with his crimes, he lied, lied and lied again. Sentencing guidelines recommend a premium on criminals who abuse positions of trust (e.g. accountants stealing from their employers). Devine certainly merits such a premium. He has also earned an extra dose of jail time for his failure to plead guilty (as I am confident his lawyers must have advised him to do, given the evidence). I hope his wronged ex-secretary can raise the funds (there's no legal aid for defamation cases) to bankrupt the wretch for his slander.

But then, to men like him, property is theft and people are mere ingredients for Socialism's great omelette. Perhaps, as he heads to gaol, this degenerate will tell himself that, in one way at least, he lived up to his principles.

Labour has renounced him of course. Councillor Terry Kelly once more proudly bears the heavily-contested dunce's cap of the Scottish Party. Fair play to him though. Crackpot he may be, but he is a better man than Jim Devine.


Mrs P and Social Justice

We took a walk in Manchester city centre yesterday and found it amusing to see the party of the people surrounded by scruffy barricades and police protection. One plum-voiced young Jonty hanging around the perimeter of the Labour shanty-town was ill-advised enough to offer Mrs P. "a leaflet about social justice". "Social justice?" she remarked incredulously. "Piss off!"

Sometimes I think I am not the radical of the family after all.


Mr Eugenides on form

Mr Eugenides: The geek inherits the scorched earth.

I enjoyed the title, but my favourite part has to be;

Say what you like about David Cameron, but at least he's the most talented politician in his family.

Do read the whole thing and enjoy. I do begin to wonder though if the members of the anti-left commentariat are in danger of teaching Odd Ed's spin-doctors their job. Every word he and his supporters utter saps Labour's waning strength. Every word of criticism we offer, shows them the way out of the mire.

OK, we are happy that the enemy forces are badly led. We have said so, in chorus. But now is no time to gloat or sneer. It's rather a time to attack their wicked, debilitating, opportunity-destroying, ugly ideas. To attack them pitilessly until (as they already are in post-communist countries) they are the laughing stock of history.

Result!!

 Ed Miliband - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

MilliblandFrom the point of view of anti-socialist, freedom-loving voters, this is the third best possible outcome to the Labour leadership contest. It is the best one we could reasonably have hoped for.

The unions' choice has prevailed and Labour is now led by a dour, snooty, charmless man. Television viewers were immediately presented with gleeful (and off-putting) trade union leaders welcoming their man with hyperbole about opposing the "assassination" of public services.

Labour is moving leftwards under the control of its paymasters. Odd Ed will play badly with the Labour heartlands. He will play even worse in Middle England. The bookmakers immediately lengthened the odds on Labour to win the next election.

This is the best news in British politics for a long while. Like Mr Milliband himself, I would like to thank the members of the Labour Party for electing him.