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

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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.


Compare and contrast

Sir David Nicholson admits failings over Mid Staffs but refuses to resign - Telegraph.
Sir David Nicholson, were our society organised as the defunct British Communist Party to which he once belonged might desire, would now be put up against a wall and shot. In our wet British version of Soviet Healthcare, however, he avoids all responsibility for the NHS's lethal failures. After all, there are plenty more patients where those came from.

Compare and contrast with one Andrew Mason, who wrote to his staff before leaving;
After four-and-a-half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding, I was fired today ... As CEO I'm accountable.
I rather suspect that Mason has put more efficient and vigorous effort into the success of Groupon than Nicholson has to that of the NHS. Yet he was held accountable by his board on behalf of his shareholders and accepted it with grace. Good for him. He failed this time, but with an attitude like that, I am sure he will yet do great things. I would hire him, if I owned a suitable company. I wouldn't employ Nicholson to clean my boots.

So is the success or failure of a company that organises online discounts more important than that of a whole nation's healthcare system? Should the bosses of an internet start-up be stricter with their CEO than Parliament is with the head of the NHS? What other conclusion, exactly, could a man from Mars infer from these two items of news?

Incidentally, Nicholson claimed expenses of over £50,000 a year on top of a basic salary of £200,000 and benefits in kind of £37,600 at a time when he was in charge of health service "cuts". His current wife, twenty years his junior and a former graduate intern in his office, is the £155,000 a year chief executive of Birmingham Children's Hospital. He wrote references for her during her meteoric rise through the NHS management ranks. Ain't life grand in the public service?

The NHS may not have adopted the iron discipline of the Soviet system, but it seems to have all the other elements. Generally, I prefer gentler market systems of accountability, but for aparatchiks like Nicholson, I could make an exception.

The people who should be our puppets use their puppets to make puppets of us

Euro Puppets: The European Commission’s remaking of civil society | Institute of Economic Affairs.

Tell a statist that the government spends too much of GDP; that the state should be scaled down and taxes reduced and the response is highly predictable. He will start talking about doctors and nurses, teachers and policemen. Within minutes, unless we are battle-hardened by many years of political debate, he will have established an apparent moral ascendency. Onlookers will wonder how we could be so cruel.

But that's not just, or even mainly, how tax money gets spent. For example, I was horrified to learn from Chris Snowden's linked report for the Institute of Economic Affairs that an estimated €1 billion of the EU's budget is handed over to "sock puppet" charities, NGOs and other fake "civil society" actors in order to promote the political objectives of the EU Commission.

Most of these "civil society" organisations would not exist at all if it were not for EU funding. So far from being genuine expressions of voluntary, non-governmental and non-corporate opinion, they are mere political creatures. It is astro-turfing on a massive scale. The table below (from Chris's report) takes the list of the EU Civil Society Contact Group's members from its own site and shows both the income each receives from the European taxpayer and the percentage of its funding that represents. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 08.50.43
Nota bene that much of the remaining funding for supposedly independent "civil society" groups is received from taxpayers at the national level! For example
Women in Europe for a Common Future received an EC grant of €1,219,213 in 2011, with a further €135,247 coming from national governments. This statutory funding made up 93 per cent of its total income while private donations contributed €2,441 (0.2 per cent) and member contributions just €825 (0.06 per cent). 
In what universe can even the most dewy-eyed believer in the essential goodness of the state justify such a monstrous lie? If an organisation raises just 0.06% of its funding from its membership dues, it is not independent. If it gets 93% of its money from the state, it is the state's creature. This is taking money by force from the masses to tell them what to think - most notably about money being taken from them by force!

This is not about being pro- or anti-EU. It is not even on this occasion about being pro- or anti-state. Democracy is supposed to be about the people agreeing what they want done by state bodies and appointing public servants to get on with it. The servants are not supposed to steal their masters' money in order to promote their own objectives. That they do so is corruption, pure and simple.

Come on, statist readers. Justify this gangsterism if you can. And spare us the "doctors and nurses" bullshit for once.

The BBC is a worker's co-operative

A-JIMMY-SAVILE-640x468I applaud the BBC's decision to allow Panorama to investigate what it knew about Jimmy Savile's misconduct and why the Newsnight story about his alleged paedophilia was pulled. The video is available for a while to UK residents on the BBC iPlayer here:

Any organisation that is not dependent upon its customers, whether a state or private monopoly, will eventually become self-serving. During my career I was party to many conversations about how to maximise profit for the owners of our businesses and provide attractive employment terms for our staff, but they all turned in the end to what our customers would want, or at least accept. We spent much more time worrying how to please customers than please ourselves. Satisfied customers who choose to come back are the only guarantee for owners, managers and workers in the private sector that they can achieve their personal goals.

As will all state enterprises funded by taxation, the BBC has become, in effect, a worker's co-operative. The "customers" have to pay regardless, so they become irrelevant and the focus turns to the interests of its own people. No private business would survive the shit storm that is heading the BBC's way. The share price would now be collapsing as investors tried to get out before the lawsuits begin. I confidently and sadly predict however that the BBC will survive. It has the coercive power of the state behind it and will simply take your money to settle the cases. It is the left establishment's propaganda arm and they will rally to restore its reputation.

We are about to have an instructive, but depressing, demonstration of the realities of modern Britain. We will be able to compare and contrast the BBC news and current affairs teams' handling of this story with their campaign against News International. Just imagine if the phone-hackers had worked for Newsnight and Savile had worked for Sky News!

Predictable though it all was, it was still disturbing to follow Panorama's account of the decision-making process within the Corporation. There was lots of high-falutin' stuff about editorial independence and a clear concern for the BBC's reputation. There was also some po-faced nonsense about depending on the trust of a public that, trusting or not, it will continue to plunder by use of state force. Not one person (apart from those making official statements once the story was out and the lady reporter from Newsnight who will no doubt pay for it when the storm has passed) expressed any convincing concern for their customers-by-force. Some of whom have, it seems, been abused by members of the collective and friends under their protection.

I watched the faces of the people making the allegations and it brought back another memory from the days of watching Jim'll Fix It. I found a girl from my school in a drunken heap at the side of the road on my way home from a date with my girlfriend one night. I tried to help her to go home. It turned out she was in social services care and lived in a nearby childrens' home. When I offered to take her there she begged me not to. She offered sex if I would take her somewhere, anywhere, else. Indeed, "offered" is something of a euphemism. If I had a victim mentality, I would say she attempted rape. I was able to restrain her and decline her offer.

I asked if she had relatives and she told me about an uncle who lived in the area. In retrospect, I worry that she made him up or that her relationship with him was rather different, but I was a naive teenager. I took her to a nearby pub and gave her the money to call him. I left her in the care of the publican, once assured her uncle was on his way.

I later found out that she lived in one of the homes at the centre of a notorious scandal. It rather explained both her reluctance to go there and her use of sex as a currency. I now dread to think what she was going through while I was enjoying a safe and happy childhood. I am ashamed to have ever thought myself hard done to by my strict parents, when I consider what that girl had been put through by the "caring" state professionals paid to look after her.

Here is the fatal flaw in all collectivist thinking; the reason why public service organisations are all more or less corrupt and can never fully be trusted. Here is the reason why Britain's public intellectuals are not merely gullible, idealistic, fools but a serious threat to our welfare.

All organisations funded by force are essentially immoral.

In their detachment from the relentless reality of having to satisfy customers and in their assurance that livelihoods do not depend upon that satisfaction, selfish, abusive behaviours will grow among their staff. Whether in care homes for the elderly, childrens homes, the Parliamentary expenses office, army barracks or police stations bad things will happen not by accident but flawed design. To be clear, I am not saying that public sector workers are all, or even mostly, evil or ill-intentioned. I am just saying that a disproportionate number of the lazy, greedy and wicked in any society will be attracted, as Savile was, to positions they are able to abuse. Nor am I saying there should be no public sector. I am not an anarchist. I accept the need for a state. But here is a strong argument for it to be kept to an absolute minimum.

There is a reason socialist states have always had to resort to prison camps and shootings to maintain discipline and reduce corruption in the ranks. At least, that is, within limits that don't threaten the corrupt gains of their ruling elites. In the absence of Stalinist discipline, what happened at the BBC - the way the collective closed ranks to protect an insider - is not a sad exception to the rule. It is the rule.


Hysteria. His or ours?

How do we escape the hysteria that threatens to erode public debate? | Peter Beaumont | Comment is free | The Observer.

The linked article by Peter Beaumont cheered me up immensely. If the control-freaks of the left-wing press, so intent on setting every possible parameter of public debate, fear that;

The blogosphere, increasingly fuelled by toxic language, is hindering honest engagement rather than encouraging it

then we political bloggers are doing well. To quote (as I have not done in such style since my misguided Communist youth) from Chairman Mao:

It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear dividing line between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear dividing line between the enemy and ourselves but have achieved spectacular successes in our work.

The truth is that the elite Beaumont calls "opinion formers" feel threatened by electronic democracy. They had long ago managed to infiltrate and subvert the old media to present a consistent statist view that has been acquiesced to, but never truly accepted, by what Mao would have called "the masses" and I just think of as "us." We express this division of reality by the term "politically correct". If it wasn't different from that which is merely "correct", there would be no need for the qualifying adjective.

Beaumont considers any view that is not politically-correct as "hysterical", but I think the only hysteria here is his. True democrats seek to serve the people, not mould them. They certainly don't despise them, fear them and regard their use of language as "toxic". I only wish I could be as optimistic as he is pessimistic that his game is up.

"Opinion formers" everywhere are seeking to manage the internet. Communist China employs legions of trolls to contradict every anti-government view expressed online in an advanced form of electronic agitprop. The corrupt elites of the world will fight to keep their thieving hands on the levers of power. They will seek every possible way to hinder the resistance of those they regard as their lawful prey.


Midday train to Georgia

I am on The Freedom Association's Facebook list and the invitation to today's Freedom in the City meeting caught my eye. It was addressed by the Georgian Ambassador to London, Mr Giorgi Badridze. His Excellency has been rather forthright in the past about his country's relations with Russia. I knew the other side of that story and wanted to hear his.

I was living in Moscow in 2006 when Russia embargoed Georgian goods. The police came to Moscow schools looking for children with Georgian names, so that the whole family could be deported. Georgian wine (80% of which had previously been bought by Russians) suddenly disappeared from supermarket shelves and the Georgian-themed hotel in the same street as my office was speedily renamed.

I was also there for the 2008 war during which Russia siezed some Georgian territory. It is still occupied by Russian troops, both FSB and regular army. Understandably therefore, and with diplomatic relations broken, the ambassador pulled few punches. Georgia, he said, had shown that a country with a history of totalitarianism and corruption could move forward to a better life. He hoped Russia would soon also "join the civilised world".

I wince slightly to think of the reaction of my charming Russian friends to his words. I suggested to him that the real problem is Russia's continued (and unecessarily) negative view of "The West" (whatever that may be). Even the educated, intelligent Russian people I worked with could not understand why Georgia should want to join the West in general and NATO in particular. The Chekists in the Russian elite are using Georgia as a proxy to sustain a unifying, but rather nasty, anti-Western nationalism among the wider population. I suggested Georgia might have a role to play (given that - unlike us - the Georgian people enjoy Russian affection) in solving that greater problem.

He feared that the old goodwill had been killed by propaganda. He pointed to the fact that anyone with "southern" looks is now likely to be beaten on the streets of Moscow by nationalist thugs. Sadly he's right about that. An Anglo-Indian former colleague was taken for a Georgian or Chechen and thoroughly beaten while in Moscow to visit our office. As further evidence of the nastiness being dangerously fostered in Russia, he cited the hero's funeral (with senior politicians in attendance) given to disgraced Colonel Yuri Budanov. Strong stuff.

I read with interest the recent comments by Robert Gates, about to retire as the United States' Secretary of Defense. Personally, I would be delighted to see NATO disbanded, as I think it should have been immediately when the Soviet Union fell. It was formed as an alliance against the USSR and, while it genuinely sought (as any redundant bureaucracy will) to re-task itself, its continued existence sent all the wrong signals. I have no doubt that Poland, for example, joined NATO as a deliberate and typically exuberant provocation to its former comrades masters. Not that I justify Russia's behaviour, but it should have been no surprise to the West's governments that Russia reacted badly to Georgia's membership application.

What has all this fascinating stuff to do with the mission of The Freedom Association (or this blog)? Most of the ambassador's presentation was not about Russia, but about the reforms in post-Soviet Georgia. The government there dismissed the entire corrupt police force and recruited anew; beginning with the traffic police. Interestingly, road accidents declined during the handover month when there were no traffic cops! Public confidence in the police (polling at 3% before the reforms) has risen steadily since and corruption has, he claims, been eliminated.

Under the Shevardnadze regime, taxes were both heavy and numerous. It was impossible to do legal business profitably, as the whole system was designed to drive businessmen into the arms of corrupt officials. There are only six taxes in Georgia today (Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Value Added Tax, Customs, Excise and a local tax to fund local authorities). Income tax is flat and the results would, His Excellency claimed, "...put a smile on the face of Mr Laffer of the famous curve." GDP increased 12% in the year after the tax reforms and even now, post-crisis, was running at an annualised 8.5% in the first quarter. One of the questioners from the floor asked, "Could your government send ours a manual?" Quite.

I am not a member of The Freedom Association. After my flirtation with the Libertarian Party (of which I am no longer a member) I am in no mood to join any non-mainstream group at present (though I may venture a bit of Libertarian entryism shortly). Perhaps I should be braver, but I simply don't want to hang out with any weirdoes who might, by association, undermine the credibility of the common-sense political ideas I wish to advance. I was therefore curious to see what manner of folk might be found in TFA's ranks. There were a couple of eccentrics among the 20-30 attendees, including a splendid character in hiking-boots, bush hat and Union Flag tie, but most of the mixed crowd of all ages seemed well within normal operational parameters for the human race.

TFA does good work and - whether or not you decide to join - I commend its events to you. Now I am a Londoner again, I shall probably go to more of them myself.


"I had no in-service training"

A man surely does not need "in-service" training to know right from wrong. Or does he? This film is a metaphorical bathyscape from which to peer out in wonderment at the depths of human stupidity. Hard though it will be for anyone capable of reading this post to imagine, such people really do exist. And they are sometimes elected to Parliament. It seems that Councillor Terry Kelly is not the most stupid member of the Scottish Labour Party after all. We owe Fidel's biggest fan an apology. Sorry, sir.

Sadly for Jim Devine, M.P., ignorance of the law (and of all morality) is no excuse; perhaps least of all for a legislator! Hilariously, his lawyers had issued a statement in his name (and that of their other MP clients) saying they would not be giving an interview. Watching this video, I can quite understand their reasoning. I watched it picturing their faces as they viewed it and laughed even harder.

This interview is highly incriminating, not only of Devine but also of the fools who voted for him. I tip my hat to "Dundee wifey" Subrosa. She quotes the old saw that Labour voters would elect a monkey wearing a red rosette. Frankly, in this case, that might well have been a more intelligent choice.