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

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On the road, at last

IMG_1233Speranza cleared customs today, as planned. Here she is just before being unloaded from the container in which she crossed the Atlantic.

I am sleeping tonight at my designated start point in New Jersey and will begin the great American road trip after breakfast tomorrow. I must first take Speranza in for a New York State-mandated inspection. That can be done at the local car wash (!), will take 15 minutes, cost precisely nothing and will bring my US motor insurance fully into force.

I have also acquired and successfully activated a US smartphone. You can now call or text me (for the duration of the tour only) on +1 (862) 485 7250 as well as tweeting me @tompaine or emailing me via the link in the side-bar.

I look forward to many interesting encounters along the way.

Liberty League Freedom Forum 2013

Liberty League.

I am looking forward to spending time in the company of liberty-minded students this weekend. With a bit of luck it will give me hope for our country's future, while no doubt also making me feel very old. If you are going too, I look forward to seeing you during the Liberty League Freedom Forum at the UCL School of Pharmacy tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.

En route

Blogging will be light to non-existent as I am off to France for a week. I drive from London to Dijon today and then on to the Cote d'Azur tomorrow. I am attending the MIPIM property event in Cannes (as I have every year since 1991). It will not all be business though. I am looking forward to catching up with lots of friends - many of whom are former clients and colleagues. 

Of course there is also the pleasure of about twenty-four hours in the company of Speranza to look forward to on the autoroutes there and back. I do love to be on the road!

Doctors out of their boxes

Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: The dictatorship of public health.

I am not quite sure how I missed the linked article back in September but I am glad I found it via Chris Snowdon's review of the year at his excellent blog, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. The authoritarians of the medical establishment are in many ways our best hope for liberty. This may seem paradoxical, but bear with me.

The greater the State becomes, the more authoritarians it attracts. Wormtongue types are drawn, as so many of them already have been, by the chance to subvert legitimate authority to their own ends while living on the state's plunder. The more they succeed, the more arrogant they become. They see no legitimate boundaries to their control of their fellow men. Our corrupt political class will offer no defence against these parasites unless and until popular resistance threatens their own power. We cannot count on their principles, if indeed they have any. We can rely entirely, however, on their self-interest.

 Where, however, is this resistance to come from? State education, state broadcasting and the generally emasculating effect of the Welfare State have much weakened the yeoman spirit that made England, for most of its history, delightfully ungovernable. The unthinking majority of voters will never rebel - until it's far too late - against threats to freedom of thought. Attacks on their lifestyle however are another matter. Cromwell fell not because the Monarchy won a rematch of its debate with republicanism, but because, having weakened his appeal by forbidding dancing, aleing and Christmas, his hypocrisy in having his son succeed him (just like a King) tipped the scales of popular feeling.

The state can beat up as many anti-statist intellectuals as it likes and no-one will protest. Let it beat up the smokers, drinkers and pie-fans however and popular resistance can be expected - even from those usually too idle to move further than to the nearest Greggs. Doctors with God complexes may therefore be our best hope. Perhaps as we enter the final phase of end-of-year excess, we should be campaigning for votes to be proportionate to BMI, units of alcohol per week or fags per day?

A belated thank you note, one year on.

The Last Ditch: 'Mrs Paine' - 1956-2011.

It is the first anniversary of Mrs Paine's death and I won't be blogging today except to say this. Among the unhappy memories of that time is also the recollection of the kindness shown to me and my family by the readers of this blog. Your comments on the linked post touched me. I read and re-read them in the days that followed and marveled at the kindness of (mostly) strangers.

I am not sure I thanked you properly at the time. Everybody says there's nothing they can say to help in the context of such loss, but it's not true. What you said (or more precisely the fact that you wanted to say something) helped.

Thank you.

Off for a chat at Tom Paine's old "local"

The White Hart Hotel.

Though many leftists who focus selectively on his ideas on social security and land tax object to my using his name to blog, I am a genuine admirer of the original, best and only important Tom Paine. He was a man who - by use only of his untutored writing skills - earned a reputation as "...the most dangerous man alive..." and was instrumental in creating two of my favourite republics. His thinking still energises a wide spectrum of opinions today.

I also love that, like my other heroes; Shakespeare, John Harrison and Margaret Thatcher, he was from an ordinary background and attracted hostilty almost as much for his impertinence in having talent as for the nature of his activity. Snobs can't bear it when the peoples' voice is heard - and there are no greater snobs than those who believe patronisingly in their right to tell the people how to live, whatever class background or other "qualification" they base that "right" upon.

Above all, Tom appealed to reason and I love him for that. He didn't claim the right of one group to rule another, whether based on class, race or creed. He fearlessly advocated his views, though they cost him all the honour he earned in his life and meant that he died neglected and unloved. The greater of the two republics he founded has only rediscovered him in relatively recent times, though I seriously don't believe a better man ever lived. I use his name not from hubris but out of respect and I don't claim to be worth of cleaning his pens for him.

So I am genuinely excited to be meeting a good friend for lunch next Tuesday at the White Hart in Lewes where Old Tom sharpened his wits in political debate before setting out to change the world with his pen. I am looking forward to it and just hoping the weather permits of as charming a drive as the inadequate roads in Britain's economic heartlands (their wealth diverted from infrastructure to corrupt redistribution) permit.

My friend is an opinionated and intelligent Australian lady with a ready wit, sharp tongue and wide vocabulary so we will do our best to uphold the debating traditions of the venue. If any readers happen to be near at hand, please look for Speranza in the car park and come in to say hello.

Blogging will be light, emotion will be high

Blogging will be even lighter than is usual here at The Last Ditch for a while. I am going on a driving course at the Ferrari test track in Italy, where I shall learn to be worthier of Speranza. I had planned to make an expedition of it, driving solo to and from Maranello. Sadly that has had to be shelved, following an accident. Speranza is being ministered to tenderly by Mr Macari's body shop and will not be back on the road until 18th May.

Given that it was a low-speed shunt, the damage is surprisingly bad. My offside front wheel was somehow wrenched off in the collision, breaking the suspension and shattering the carbon ceramic brake disc. Still, bent metal can always be mended. Flesh is less forgiving, so I am content that only my pride (and my no claims bonus) is hurt.

I hope to get back to more regular blogging when I return.

OTT or what?

The Last Ditch is not going to become a food blog. You should still look to Sicily Scene and others for your culinary fix. However, I thought this photo of a few spoonfuls of granita served in a tower of ice might amuse you. Bruno Oger's presentation of food is certainly imaginative. The tower is hollow, about the size of a piece of drainpipe and is illuminated by an LED standing on the plate beneath it. It looked impressive when eight of them were carried in procession to our table last night. If you get the chance to sample M. Oger's food, I recommend you seize it.