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

On the road again — on honeymoon

After only four months, Mrs Paine II (an Indian citizen) has finally obtained her Schengen visa and this morning we set out in Speranza on our European road trip honeymoon. We crossed the Channel on the Eurotunnel train this morning and were in Bruges in time to take a boat tour of its canals before lunch. 

Mrs PII has never been to Continental Europe before and, with her detached perspective, offered an observation that — for all its evident truth — had never occurred to me before. “If it weren’t for the road signs and driving on the other side of the road” she said “I wouldn’t know we weren’t in England.”  We near-neighbours focus on our differences to such an extent that we fail to notice that in most everyday respects we’re just the same!

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After lunch we explored this beautiful little town in the pleasant sunshine before retiring to our hotel and resting before dinner. We found a delightful little restaurant on a side street near our hotel and passed our first evening on the road chatting happily with each other and our Belgian neighbours at the next table. 

Tomorrow we’re heading to Luxembourg where an old friend will show us around before he and his lady join us at our hotel across the border in Germany for dinner. Speranza and I are  hoping for some unrestricted autobahn en route

As usual, I’m using the excellent Track My Tour app to create an online map of the tour using geodata from uploaded progress photos. If you’re interested, you can follow along here


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. 


It's no longer about Brexit

I joined the final leg of the March to Leave from Fulham to Parliament Square today. I did so with a heavy heart. Parliament is unable to agree terms to leave the EU, but unwilling to leave without an agreement. That is currently the only way available to it to implement the people's decision. While it's not ideal, I don't fear it. We could save ourselves the severance payment agreed (for no good legal reason) by our Prime Minister. Every business I have inside information about is prepared for it and I have very little sympathy with any businesses so imprudent as not to be.

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If we leave with no deal on April 12, negotiations on future relationships can begin in earnest with our trading partners, including the EU. They can be conducted – as they should be –  by an independent British Government. Given the drafting of Article 50, which is designed to disadvantage a country giving notice to Leave, this was always likely to be the best interim outcome. I would have gone straight for it had I been in Mrs May's kitten heels, using the notice period entirely to prepare for a no deal exit and declining seriously to discuss the future relationship until those preparations were satisfactorily in place. Like those prudent business people in relation to their own affairs, my first concern would have been to prepare for the worst before aiming for the best. 

I made my living negotiating agreements. I have many friends who did the same. We are all of the opinion that, had the UK taken this approach, we would have been spared the humiliation of watching our PM shuttle back and forth to the EU as a supplicant. Instead an orderly queue of the EU's five presidents (none elected) would have formed up outside Number 10.

I am now more concerned with the threats to our nation's democracy that Brexit has revealed than about Brexit itself. This morning I was so concerned that I told Mrs P the Second this march would probably be my last political act. I was despondent for the 17.4 million voters urinated on from a great height by our political class. I was angry at our far-worse-than-useless mainstream media which has vilified, smeared and defamed them for the last three years. I was fearful for all of us – Leave and Remain – whose future mode of government is at stake. 

I am less concerned, upset and angry this evening. Why? I met my people. Not the savages the BBC and Guardian say they are but sensible British folk. I saw no extremists. I met no racists (in fact the marchers were diverse). We talked to each other as we marched; far more in sorrow and sincere concern than in anger. We even discussed our worries for our European neighbours in the chaos the mishandling of Brexit has caused. When provoked by Remain counter-protesters I feared that less temperate elements among us might give the media what they were loitering in the hope of  filming. Instead we just made an "L" sign on our foreheads and chanted "Losers" at them. Even they (mostly) smiled.

I always knew in my heart that the Establishment media portrayal of Leave voters was just a succession of vile smears, but when you swim in a sea of lies it's hard not to get wet. Today did me a lot of good – and not just because of healthy exercise in beautiful sunshine. 

As Nigel Farage said in Parliament Square, this is not about Brexit now, it's about "who we are". Yes, we have been sorely disappointed by our political class. They have sold us out and betrayed us but they have also taken the scales from our eyes. Those of us who have long said that, under an over-mighty state, unsavoury types are bound to be drawn to lording it over their fellow men while living on them as parasites were considered cynical at best and extreme at worst. Now all living generations have learned that we were, if anything, too kind in our assessment. Brexit has been an education and three charming Yorkshire ladies in the pub at lunchtime readily agreed with my prediction that the British people will not allow our discredited political class to talk down to us again.

They have been exposed as charlatans at best and idiots at worst.

It’s about democracy now. Political sophists have quibbled about what democracy really means in this context and I confess they had befuddled my thinking. I learned from the  people I marched with today that— whatever it means — it’s not this. "They've cheated us", one lady told me and I think she spoke for many – including many decent Remainers prepared to abide by the majority decision. It’s not cricket to ignore the most significant popular vote in British history. It just isn't.  Whether Britain will do better or worse economically outside the EU was not even discussed today. Instead we worried about saving our country whose legislators have shamefully turned their backs on us. 

During his short speech in Parliament Square (not on the same stage, though the Guardian would like to deceive you, as Tommy Robinson and UKIP) Mr. Farage quoted (without attribution) the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis who said recently on Question Time that this is a treaty that:

"would only be signed by a nation defeated at war"

The marchers had already cheered the news that May's treaty had been rejected for a third (and surely a final) time. Farage promised that, if we didn't leave on the new date of April 12 (and he admitted he feared we would be betrayed yet again) that he would return to politics to fight the European Parliament elections. We are not going to give up, he told us and in the end, we are going to win. I hope he's right but my confidence is shaken. After all, I had never imagined Parliament's Remain majority would dare to defy the people as they have. 

The options now are:

  1. We leave with no (finalised) deal on April 12, or
  2. The EU allows an extension on terms that will include our staging elections to their fig leaf of a pretend parliament and (probably) another referendum.

I believe Farage's new Brexit Party would win the ensuing European Parliament elections dramatically. So does he and he hopes the EU Council will fear that outcome sufficiently to refuse the extension. As for a second referendum he believes that Remainers disgusted by the Establishment assault on democracy would boost the Leave vote so that we would win with an increased majority. 

After the march and before the speeches I adjourned to the pub with an agreeable  chap I had walked the final miles with. We were joined by another chap up from Dorset. Both were business people. Both, like me, had (unlike most of our political class) actually engaged in international business. None of us were unduly concerned about leaving with no deal. Business, we agreed, is done in spite of government not because of it. It’s the politicians who are (a) in a mess and (b) – as always – vastly over-estimating their own economic importance. 

One of my companions wryly observed that it might even be better for the country's economy if the Brexit saga dragged on for longer as it was preventing the idiot politicians from screwing other things up at their usual rate. In such company my faith returned. We Brits are ill-served by our politicians (who isn't?) but there's damn-all wrong with us as a nation – however bad we may look in the world's eyes right now.

Gentle readers, do you agree?


Blog meet oop North

For the first time in years I met James Higham of the Nourishing Obscurity and Orphans of Liberty blogs for lunch and drinks (Virgin Marys for me on my health regime) this weekend. I am visiting family in my home town in North Wales. Wanting to catch up with James and — given some alarming posts he has made about his health of late — check up on his well-being, I took the opportunity to meet in the nearest English city, just across the border.

James blogs so eclectically that the inside of his mind is well known to his readers. Some of them may even feel they know too much! This is something of a paradox as he’s such a private person when it comes to the external details of his life. It’s one of the interesting aspects of our online community that someone who knew almost all of his innermost thoughts and beliefs (and not a few of mine) could walk by our table in the charming pub where we spent our happy hours together without knowing who either of us was. 

He was in good form and full of adventurous plans for the future. We had a convivial meal and gossiped a little about people we know. Mostly they are bloggers from the brief golden age of the ‘sphere before Twitter coarsened the online world, removed much of its good humour and brought it under the dangerous, authoritarian gaze of the establishment.

We also reminisced about our very different experiences in Russia. Our times there overlapped and, at this remove of time and space, we were able to get a more rounded picture of what was going on at that interesting stage in Russian history than was apparent to either of us while we were there  

We have in common a classically liberal approach when it comes to making laws (as few as possible but rigorously enforced because so few would be the truly important ones). We are both also quite socially conservative when it comes to matters of personal ethics, family, duty and personal life. James is a Christian who trusts God to deal with others moral failings, so doesn’t need secular leaders to address them clumsily. I lost my faith years ago and though I look for it occasionally have never found it again, but my morals are essentially those of the church in which I was raised. In practice that means I feel guilty about any of my actions that the church considers would disappoint God.

I lack - and sadly miss - James’ hope for justice in the afterlife and am as painfully aware as anyone with actual experience of Man’s attempts at justice of their inadequacy. Yet like him I feel immorality (to the precise extent it doesn’t genuinely injure or defraud others) is a matter for individuals, their consciences and (if they have one) their God.

James is an eccentric perhaps to modern eyes and his tastes in music are not always mine but agree with his posts or not (and often I don’t) I have always enjoyed and often learned from his writing. He’s no angel (yet) but he’s a smart cookie (former professor) and a good egg. It was a pleasure to see him being his unique self and relishing his complicated life. 

UPDATE: James blogged about our meeting here


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.


Postmodernist truth

To oversimplify post-modernist moral philosophy (or more accurately, amoral philosophy) there is no objective truth. One's stance in relation to the world is determined by one's class, sexual, gender, ethnic and other "identities" and – in the most up-to-date version – by the intersections between them. I may deceive myself that my view of the world has been developed by the application of my education and my reason to my experience, but in the "there is no truth" truth of the "woke", I think what I think because I am what I am.

This idea is a smidgen of truth taken to an absurd extreme. Of course one's life is shaped by one's experiences. Any political canvasser will tell you that he can have a good guess at the likely response of potential voters by where they live, the car they drive and how they present on the door step. Had I been born into another family in a different set of circumstances, then yes –  I would have trodden a different intellectual and moral path. Those of us who cling to the ideas of my namesake's era – the Age of Reason – do understand that our background, educational opportunities and experiences have a role. We simply consider there is a moral duty to strive – by reading, study, travel, discourse and whatever other opportunities present themselves, to transcend our experiences and strive for objective truth. We are not saying it's easy to find, but we believe that it's "out there".

It's a more optimistic philosophy, I submit. Whatever your origins, privileges or dis-privileges, you can strive for truth in our world-view. Unless you are of the elect however, post-modernism leads only to despair. You are as lost to hope and opportunity as the merest medieval serf. Your opinion counts for as much as that of a slave in the ante-bellum American South.

Born into the intersecting "privileges" of being white, male and – while not rich – not poor, what I think therefore counts for less than naught. There is no way for me to live blamelessly, let alone virtuously. The closest I can come is to "be an ally",  "stay in my lane", "shut the **** up" and listen humbly to my superiors. The post-modern West is in this respect at least headed for a new Dark Age.

Let me be clear that I do not seek to cast myself in the role of a victim here. I am lucky enough to be able to laugh at this analysis. I am financially independent and fear neither employers' nor customers' opinions. I thoroughly enjoy the discomfiture of the "woke" in my circle when I opine freely. I have fun asking them to justify their preposterous faith (it's not really a philosophy, as not only has it no rational basis, but it denies the possibility of such a thing).

One of the ways in which I keep my mind alive in retirement is by studying things for fun. A local novelist has been conducting writing classes for beginners and (though I have no intent of going into print) I have been attending for the stimulation of it. This morning a fellow-student was telling us about her novel. She has written a thriller informed by post-modern "wokeness". Her main protagonist is a privileged white male who thinks he is "woke" but isn't and the story is about his dangerous journey to true understanding.

She described him as "working in the public sector" (which she clearly thought made him a moral superior of those who pay to fund it) and "aware of social justice issues." However he has no genuine understanding of how privileged he is and how his life-choices impact others who are less so. As an example, he casually looks down upon young black men in his city caught up in drug-dealing criminality but has no idea that his cocaine habit is a cause thereof.

Before you pile in, gentle readers, with critiques of this unpublished work, let me explain why it has (despite its right on-ness) yet to find a publisher. Everyone to whom she has sent the manuscript has responded in similar ways. They like the story, but they don't know why she – as a young black woman – has written it. "You don't have to write like this any more", one publisher said. "We want novels from the point of view of people just like you" said another. I smilingly observed that they had told her to "stay in her lane", but sadly she didn't get the joke. I didn't add that they wanted her to stay on the metaphorical plantation and think as her skin colour predicts. I think that jibe would have ended our budding friendship.

She is right on. She is woke. Her stance towards society is politically correct but – as a creative – she has made the fatal error of attempting empathy. It is almost as shocking for her to animate a literary puppet of a white man as it would be for me to animate one like her. Which in the anti-wonderland of wokenes is not crude, pathetic racism but in the real world is.

Isn't empathy the whole point of creative writing? How limited we would all be if we couldn't inhabit the minds of others through their stories, poems and plays. How limiting it would be to see the world only through our own eyes and interpret it with only our own judgement. But the highest literature involves a truly creative mind attempting to inhabit the personalities of a variety of other humans. Every character in Austen, Dickens or Tolstoy is informed by the author's experiences and often based on the people she or he has met, but they are not all Jane, Charles or Leo in disguise. How wooden would they all be? Actually you can answer that question (painfully) by reading the "novels" of Ayn Rand. Her characters are a series of stick figures declaiming her ideas from a pulpit. Her books work well enough as the political tracts she should have written but fail epically as literature because she had no empathy.

I liked my new author acquaintance. Her different viewpoint won't disqualify her, if she's interested, from becoming my friend. I have offered to shoot the author picture for the dust-jacket of her novel when she gets it published. I hope she will because I would like to read it. It's my duty (and often pleasure) as a rational man to refine my own understanding by learning how others see the world. It's a good job I am not going to write my novel though, because by her rules it would certainly disqualify me from friendship!


Beyond fake news

Catching up with The Q yesterday I mentioned a good friend I had hoped he would meet at my wedding was not coming because, as a devout Catholic, he disapproves of our match. Given the age difference he believes I am sinfully selfish in denying the future Mrs P2 both the chance of children and of lifelong companionship. He feels she is making a choice she will profoundly regret and says I have a duty to spare her.

To him, a true marriage is between a man, a woman and God so our civil ceremony will be a parody. He can’t celebrate it or let his children do so. Even if they skipped the pantomime with the bureaucrat, the wedding breakfast would still celebrate a sin. 

Asked how I felt about it, I told the Q I was disappointed. I liked my friend and was very fond of his children. I would miss them on the day. However I understand his thinking and wouldn’t want anyone there who couldn’t sincerely celebrate. 

The Q asked why I still called this man my friend. I was surprised by the question. My own opinions are so far from the modern mainstream that almost all my friendships depend on tolerance. To my friends, I am a loony tune extremist opposed to institutions they regard as essentially benevolent, though flawed. To me, they are sadly mistaken to think their precious state knows better how to spend our money and live our lives than we do. We exchange opinions frankly but then care for each other as friends should. 

That’s how post-Enlightenment civilisation is supposed to work, isn’t it? Any other approach leads to a fractured society at best. At worst it leads to the Gulag, the Stalag or the Spanish Inquisition. 

The Q said I was indeed cracked politically but that my tolerance at least did me credit. My whole life is shaped — indeed made possible — by it. That’s flattering but I deserve no praise. It’s a key value of our civilisation. “Live and let live” and “mind your own business” were not taught to me as a small boy but demonstrated in my parents’ every action. I often heard them critique or mock friends’ erroneous opinions or comical errors but never once did they consider that most medieval and stupid of tactics — a shunning 

Outside the circles of friendship and family it is just as important. I hold firmly to my economic, political and ethical principles but I’m not so naive as to be unaware that they are unpopular and unfashionable. To live a meaningful life in freedom, I need others to tolerate them. My tolerating their opinions while we peacefully reach democratic agreement on how to proceed in the political domain is a price I cheerfully pay. Not just to avoid the gulags etc., but to ensure our society continues to advance. Many modern truths were once heresies or jokes. I have acquired new opinions in my own life that I would never have found had they been suppressed. 

We are never all going to agree but often we can move in loose coalition in one or other direction. For example, many LibDems, about half the Tories and a handful of Labour people can agree — not on my ultimate objective of a tiny state — but at least to make the current monster smaller. We can be fellow travelers for a while until their more modest objectives are met. Such practical compromise just requires us not to fall out over our ultimate goals; goals that none of us is likely to live to see achieved. How hard can that be?

I think most instinctively grasp this and always will. I don’t think current threats to free thought and free speech arise from a wider loss of belief in the principle of tolerance or the wisdom of compromise. There have always been sociopaths who want to suppress dissent. Whatever their ideological pretexts or justifications they are of one tribe and an ever present threat. But they can only do harm when allowed to do so. 

The current problem is that the tolerant majority think their views are not respected. They’re not wrong, sadly. Whomever they vote for, they get the same result. So narrow is the political bandwidth in the West that voting in elections makes little difference. It changes the riders on our backs, but the new ones use the same chafing saddles, wear the same spurs and wield the same whips. 

Those currently suffering from Trump and Brexit derangement syndromes are therefore just learning what it has felt like for generations to those of us outside the political swamp. That was largely the point. Trump was a weapon with which to beat the political class in America, whether identarian, victim-farming Democrats or Republicans in name only. Those of us who voted for Brexit have widely different aspirations for our nation’s future. We are only united in our anger at a ruling class that has feathered its nest amid additional layers of government and bureaucracy beyond any practicable accountability. Brexit was also a weapon with which to beat the alligators in our swamp.

If party A and Party B offer such narrow choices that they blend in our minds into a Party X that always wins, citizens become disenchanted and cease to vote. That creates more scope for cynical parasites to infiltrate the state for gain. Such people are always going to form a large part of government and its bureaucracy but without an engaged and diligent electorate to restrain them they can drive out all honest politicians and civil servants. That’s exactly what has been happening  in Britain and America in the last 25 years or so. If you’re not a busybody or on the make why would you want to govern now? If you are, then what other career will do? 

Citizens who lose faith in the democratic system become vulnerable to demagoguery. If you feel your interests are unserved, your views despised and your earnings predated by the “Party X” alligators, then any chance to drain their swamp — or at least to hurt them — will seem like a godsend.

Party X is still not listening though as the derangement syndromes prove. Alligators angrily  gnashing their teeth are no more attractive than when they were quietly and contentedly preying on us. The very real risk is that in trying to introduce new political beasts that can hurt them, voters may populate the swamp with worse. That’s why, when striving for real change we should remember to check our allies’ credentials on the key issue of tolerance.


Happy New Year, gentles all!

It has been an interesting year, politically and personally. The nation is divided. It seems many of the things we thought we had in common are no longer there.  The verbal ferocity against the majority of us who voted for Brexit has confirmed that our decision was correct. It has even changed the minds of some who voted “Remain”, but has made us fear for our future in new ways. I have seen real hatred in the eyes of posh, mild-mannered West Londoners when I’ve told them I voted “Leave.” People who have neither been involved in international trade nor co-owned a pan-European business with people from most EU member states. People who don't how the EU works. People who still deny its ultimate goal - the creation of a federal state with a single tax base, economic policy, criminal code, foreign policy and army. 

In all the years we have been in the EU, I never heard anyone from Britain praise it. It was “flawed” or “misguided”  but, of course, always “misrepresented” as a political project, when it was the merest of economic pacts. Its keenest advocates said that, for all they shared my concerns, “on balance”, we should stick with it. There was never any passion at all. Certainly none from which I could ever have predicted the passionate hatred its bloodless “supporters” revealed for us when we voted “the wrong way”. 

In truth their passion is still not for the EU. It is against the ordinary people of Britain with our irritating patriotism, our belief in self-reliance and our annoying desire for our distinctive voices to be heard. The EU never needed to be worthy of their support on its merits. They would have supported ANY project, foreign or domestic, that would allow them to ignore us and routinely override our wishes.

That’s why they so often blamed “Brussels” unfairly for laws they actually welcomed. It allowed them to mask their hostility to us while hypocritically blaming “Johnny Foreigner.” In their contemptuous and inaccurate view of our patriotism they thought that would play well. It should have come as no surprise that their agent Theresa May thought she could give away every other advantage of leaving the EU – including the right to govern ourselves as an independent nation – if she only gave us immigration control her successors could quietly waive. After all we’re just racists, right?

It has come as an enraging shock to them to find it’s not enough for "the people" to be brandished as a talisman by members of the establishment while they pursue their own interests. Their mask has slipped. Their hatred of us has been exposed. All hope that, even after a flawed debate in which the entire apparatus of the state was improperly deployed for “Remain” and the full weight of the establishment and its lickspittle media brought to bear to persuade us, we might now unite as a nation around a democratic decision seems lost. 

Chesterton's Secret People have spoken, but we have still not been heard. 

They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.

I still hope that we will exit on time with a true Brexit; not “Brexit in name only.” That hope is founded not on their principles, their patriotism or their respect for their fellow citizens but their incompetence. They overplayed their hand in calling the referendum. They overplayed Project Fear — achieving reductio ad absurdam without any help from their opponents. They continue to underestimate us by conspiring clumsily with the other side of the withdrawal agreement negotiations. 

All we have learned since the referendum is that our ruling class despises us, our democracy comes second to their wishes and that voting may be as pointless as it has always felt. There is no leader in sight to unite the nation. The Conservative Party seems likely to disappear into history, leaving free marketeers without even that despicably unreliable voice. 

Things look bleak politically and yet I am optimistic. Unlike my would-be masters in the establishment I lived a life in business. I am confident that in boardrooms and partners meetings all over the country, calculations have been made as to how to profit from the change to come.  Business and trade is done despite politicians not because of them. I know that every major British financial institution (and many a minor one) is already inside the “passporting” regime and ready to drive its business forward by selling services that were never bought from love. If it depended on the competence of the kind of parasites attracted to government service, the British economy would have died long since. It doesn’t, it hasn't and it won’t. 

What does concern investors is the prospect of a Corbyn government. While Remainers say Brexit is driving house prices down, at the top end of the London market those who know say it’s him. Our capital is the bolt hole of choice for those from lesser lands without the (rule of) law. It’s not our cuisine, climate or low cost of living that has them owning homes here but the independence of our judiciary, which will not deport them and/or seize their assets when their tyrant rulers demand it (and our craven elite would cheerfully comply in return for corrupt favours). Since Magna Carta “be you never so high, the law is above you”. That’s our unique selling point as a place to invest, as a conduit for international investment, as a place to adjudicate disputes fairly, as a safe refuge for wealth and - in a pinch - the wealthy in distress. However the mobile wealthy are not dumb (or if they are can afford smart counsel). They won’t park assets here to be nibbled away by wealth taxes or managed by advisers coerced into being secret policeman for a hostile regime. Especially one driven by an ideology that in many cases impoverished their home countries and whose consequences they understand all too well. 

Theresa May’s is a double betrayal. First, she would deny us the Brexit we voted for. Secondly she is destroying the only political force that has any parliamentarians who respect property rights and the rule of law. Her second betrayal worries me more because I don’t give the EU long, Brexit or no. Handing the UK legislature over to economic vultures for the foreseeable future is far more dangerous than delaying our escape from its rickety structure. Yet even that, though it will be costly and impoverishing, will not be fatal. Not because Corbyn will see the light, but because his ideas don’t work. 

When I began my career as a business lawyer, it was at the tail end of the last Old Labour economic shambles. Our work then was largely driven by tax structuring. It was not possible for our clients to do projects in the hostile economic environment created by Wilson and Callaghan’s regimes and our job was to find ways through the fiscal mine fields. The best legal, accountancy and tax brains in the country were ranged along a cold war front between HM Treasury and wealth creators. To trade goods and services with each other is as natural to humans as to have sex. Labour could not hold back the tide of the market where robust Canutes like Stalin had failed.

Tyranny is economically just another cost to be priced. Markets — white, grey or black — will always wash over it one way or another. My landlord in Poland had been one of the greatest manufacturers of cosmetics during the Soviet times, meeting illegally the needs of women ignored by the Communist central planners. I lived there for several years next to what had become a legal contractor to EMI for the manufacture of CDs but under communism had for years been the largest bootleg record manufacturer behind the Iron Curtain. It had supplied “decadent” Western pop to the masses though the Party sought to deny them.  In both examples the price reflected the risk of doing illegal business. As a more current example, is a single drug user going without his fix in modern Britain, for all its illegality? No. He’s just paying more for it. 

All will be well given time because the facts of economic life are Austrian. Government is not natural to mankind, it has to be imposed by force. Markets are as natural as breathing. Which is why, though I will probably live less comfortably than I had hoped for the rest of my life, I have no plans to run away. I’m a pessimist for me but an optimist for my children’s generation. 

My own personal life has been interesting, complicated and ultimately fulfilling this year. I’m getting married again on the 26th of next month and I look forward to continuing to enjoy everyday life with my friends, my family and my new wife. Politics intrudes, often unpleasantly, but the world moves on. We must live, love and strive for truth and happiness as if the vicious parasites attracted to ruling us did not exist. For most practical purposes, they still don’t. Even in a state as damnably intrusive as ours is, the extent to which they can hurt us is limited by the  attention we are prepared to give them. 

I urge you also to live your personal lives to the full, gentle readers. I wish you all the very best for 2019. May your lives be as free of political interference as possible. When you encounter it, don’t forget to mock it furiously and subvert it as wittily and as effectively as you can!


On becoming less of a man

I am just 100g away from losing 50kg this year. I am off to the pool to swim some more to see if I can make this happen by my “official” weekly weigh-in on Wednesday. 

 

My ultimate goal, by June 30, 2019, is to lose 68 kg. Even then, by government guidelines, I will still be 12kg “overweight”. 

 

Me, the Welsh rugby team and many other males of athletic build so to hell with government and its guidelines. Not just in this respect neither!

 

Politics is show business for ugly people and government is violent extortion for those too cowardly to use their own fists. 

 

Damn them all! I am looking forward to fitting comfortably into my gilet jaune in readiness for when that time comes. 


A diagonal division

When introduced at West London parties as "to the right of Genghis Khan", I smilingly reply that he was well to the left of me on economics but far to the right of me on social issues. At the same parties, I have become accustomed to being called a "Nazi" or a "fascist" by people whose ambitions for the power of the state and its influence on our lives place them far closer to the true definition of those terms.

When the present hoo-ha about Brexit has passed into history, I am beginning to hope that it will have taught us, finally, that "Left" and "Right" are meaningless labels that inhibit intelligent debate. 

It is currently the most prominent issue that divides us – not vertically between Left and Right – but diagonally. Some Brexiteers want out of the EU so that they can avoid the restrictions on "state aid" that prevent the nationalisation of key businesses. Some Brexiteers want out of the EU to strip away an unnecessary layer of government and hope that, once free of its Napoleonic influence, they can strip away several more. All that unites them (and this is why sneers about the lack of a Brexit plan ring true) is that they want out of the EU. Their only "plan" is that the future direction of Britain's laws should be set in Britain. They have hopes but no certainties as to what that direction should be.

As our current political parties are ranged along a Left/Right axis they are therefore useless as a means of resolving this great national argument. Like Fulham FC's current porous defence, they contain a selection of talented individuals – some of them very highly-paid and/or well-regarded – but deployed in entirely the wrong shape (and some might play far better for another team). The current gilets jaunes protestors in France are also arranged along a diagonal divide. Their political demands are many, varied and mutually inconsistent – if measured by traditional Left/Right means. They seem united only in despising the hauteur of the current European Narcissism Champion, Emmanuel Macron (and what sane person could disagree with them on that?)

Throughout the West, we need new parties arranged along a different axis; one that more accurately reflects the genuine differences of opinion in our society. As a classical liberal, I would love that axis to run between a laissez-faire Liberal Party and an Interventionist Party. Almost every political argument I ever encounter could be summarised as "more state / less state"– whether it's about "public health", Brexit or the most serious real problem in Britain today – the affordability of  housing. Others might draw the dividing line somewhere else. 

Given the tribalism of British politics, it's hard to imagine how new parties might arise but things certainly can't continue the way they are right now. Tell me, gentles all, how do you think our politics will develop?