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

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Why I don't take advertising

I Hate Ryanair.

Actually, I have turned down the very occasional offers of advertising here because I can't be bothered to complicate my tax return for the trivial sums involved. However, I also felt that to make money from my blog might somehow compromise the opinions expressed.

The decision of Nominet's domain name tribunal to transfer the rights in ihateryanair.com to the airline itself turned upon the fact that the previous owner had made a few hundred pounds from advertising. Ryanair argued that he had used their brand to promote his "business" and the tribunal found against him. Had he taken no advertising, he would have been spared the trouble of moving his site to its new location (link above).

Contrary to the ignorant and intemperate opinions expressed by Andrew Marr recently, bloggers are mostly doing our (more or less) valuable bit to contribute to public debate and civil society in general. Of course, I don't blame anyone for making a few bob from blogging. You will never read here that business is a bad thing. It is the life blood of our society and ultimately funds every "superior" activity of which socialists and other sneering snobs approve. This case suggests, however, that bloggers need to take care when mixing their opinions with commerce. How fortunate for the Rupert Murdochs of this world that the same doesn't apply to old media!


Thoughts about silence

After more than five years of regular, wordy posting, this blog has been on a hiatus for a few weeks. It began because of a personal problem (now happily resolved, I hope), but perhaps it continued for other reasons.

To be honest, my feelings were mixed. I missed the social element; the feedback from those kind enough to take the trouble to comment here. (I hope you have all been well and had a great Summer, by the way). On the other hand, it was a relief to lose one stress in a busy life; that of finding something interesting to write about each day.

I also felt concern it might mean I was losing hope. Hope is the nearest thing we have to an elixir of youth and its loss is a terrible thing. For all our moaning, the political blogosphere is an expression of hope. If what some of us wrote during the Labour years had been completely true, we should not have written it at all. We should rather have trembled silently in fear of a knock on the door in the dead of night. By writing on these subjects we proclaim our faith in a free society and our belief that politics can lead to better things.

Yet the new government (for all the abuse hurled at it by partisans) can scarcely be differentiated from the old. ID cards have been shelved but even the most fanatical Labourites would have found it hard to pay for that project in current conditions. On the other hand the LibCons have used Labour’s odious control orders and have yet - for all their bluster - to repeal one serious restriction on personal liberty. Nor have they abated the government's hectoring about personal life-choices. That they even think they have the right to wag their fingers at their masters marks them as suspect.

Of the parties with a current chance of power, only the Conservatives (when led from the dry wing) can be hoped to give state power back to the people it was stolen from. For all his Big Society (as opposed to Big State) bluster, it is clear the boy David is a wet. He has made no real cuts yet, but even his slowing of the increase in indebtedness is not ideological, but of necessity. If Labour had not already beggared us, who but Toynbee doubts he would now be finishing the job? He may love it more than Gordon Brown (no big claim), but he seems little more attached to free enterprise than - say - Tony Blair (a bigger businessman these days than he is ever likely to be).

After years of hoping for an end to Labour's onslaught on freedom, when faced with such disappointment, there is a temptation to let go. Life is good. My work is as challenging as I could reasonably wish (and perhaps a little more). In leisure hours, family and friends beckon (albeit from afar). When the chance presents, the open road leads to beautiful places. The world awaits, so why crouch over a keyboard? Besides, berating the Labour Party - the greatest enemy the British people have ever known - was one thing. Berating parties who should (in principle) be friends is harder. Many anti-socialist bloggers seem to have weakened their resolve for perhaps no better reason than that. I hoped not to be one of them, but - if I am honest - maybe there was some of that behind my temporary retirement?

At times, as I listen for distant echoes of freedom in the LibCons use of the crippled vocabulary of the Left, I despair. If this blog falls completely silent while I live, it will be because that despair has prevailed. For now, I prefer hope.


Andrew Neil slays the Devil

The Devil's Knife: The Devil is dead....

The Devil's Kitchen blog became part of my life in recent years. DK's elegant, foul-mouthed rants were often hilarious . He said things I would never say and conjured images I found quite disturbing at times but always with wit and a sense of underlying humanity. It's hard to explain why such foul-mouthed writing was entertaining, when most sweary sorts are obnoxious. I guess he's just really good at it. What a shame he feels he has to stop.

On the other hand, my only reservation about him as leader of the Libertarian Party was that, whenever we had any media coverage, journalists were bound to focus more on the torments he had vividly imagined for the (richly deserving) Polly Toynbee, than the party's policies. I am not sure this will help. The internet is not as ephemeral as it seems, but it's worth a try. What a shame it will go down as a "scalp" for the already full-of-himself Andrew Neil.

DK writes well, thinks clearly and will be worth a read anyway. The only question now is will he still be funny?

A pleasant afternoon

Bar It was great to meet James Higham today, whose blog I have read for so long. His writing style is so intensely personal that I had the strange feeling of renewing auld acquaintance. James is in life as he seems from his blog; affable, erudite and articulate. It was good to exchange recollections of our very different lives in Russia, hear his theories as to what is going on in British politics and exchange opinions on the current output of our fellow-bloggers.

It was also a delight to  renew the acquaintance of Bag, my old mucker from Second Life and proprietor of the sadly-strewn-with-tumbleweed Bag's Rants blog.

We motored out into the Cheshire countryside, to the intense Italian music of Vittoria's V8, and spent pleasant hours together at the Cock o' Barton gastro pub. Thank you gentlemen, for the pleasure of your company.


Tory Zac Goldsmith admits he is a non-dom

Tory Zac Goldsmith admits he is a non-dom - Times Online.

Another headline lusciously loaded with malevolent meaning. An "admission" carries the unspoken connotation of guilt, as in this headline we shall sadly never see;

"Labour Gordon Brown admits whole life warped by envy" 

Labour has not learned from Crewe & Nantwich. How could it? It is a party founded on an ideology of class hatred. "New" Labour's only real political innovation has been to create new classes of people to hate. They have added spice and variety to the embittered vocabulary of Leftist hate speech, but they still relish attacking their traditional foes; the successful, the prudent and their heirs. Unless of course, like Tony Benn in his day and the Milliband brothers in ours, they are Labour too. Their family trusts and tax structuring (not to mention their dynastic tendencies) are perfectly fine, of course.

The quality of political debate in Britain drives me to despair. The blogosphere has not really helped in that respect. Given the regularity with which classical liberals are venomously smeared and ridiculed in the mainstream media, it's perhaps not surprising that, given an outlet by blogging, some sought to give as good as they get. Not surprising, but disappointing. It has escalated the war of insults, which increasingly alienates reasonable people from political life, leaving the field to bruisers and back-stabbers.

Much as I enjoy his blogging and recognise the wit behind his delicate use of foul language, I worry about the election of Chris Mounsey of Devil's Kitchen fame as the new leader of the Libertarian Party. I know, like and respect Chris, but I feel he has queered his political pitch with his blogging. Not only will we, his readers, now lose the original (and best) swearblog, but his past writings (of which he has every reason to be proud) will give his opponents every excuse selectively to lower the tone of debate even further.

A recent casualty of the declining standard of public discourse is Anna Raccoon, who has thrown in the towel at her popular blog. I enjoyed her writing very much, but I also enjoy the writing of the gentlemen who stand accused (not by her, but by some or her readers) of "bullying" her into silence. I always enjoyed (though I often disagreed with) both blogs; while always knowing I would prefer to have lunch with Anna.

In her parting post, she wrote;

It seems to me that the world of blogging is fuelled by petty jealousies, vitriol, feuds, unsubstantiated allegations, apostrophe police, and a whole host of people who in another age would have been happy twitching their curtains and writing letters in green ink. I have watched in horror as several new forums have descended into a cesspool of hatred and nastiness, and you know what? I got up this morning and decided that I just didn’t have the energy any more, or the thick skin, to do it any longer.

Save as to the thinness of her skin, as to which she is best able to judge, she is quite wrong. There are many corners of the political blogosphere where civilised debate is attempted. Her bitter words will help mainstream politicians and journalists build their dismissive stereotype of bloggers. As if the professions that spawned Lord Mandelson and Alistair Campbell had any moral standing to criticise.

A sad week then. One more reasonable voice falls silent, enemies of libertarians are licensed by the party to call us all c***s, and the political charlatans mob the toff de jour as if it were still the 1950s. I have been both poor and prosperous in my life and I can't correlate the contents of my bank account to my wisdom or morality at the time. The only remarkable part of Zac Goldsmith's story is, though even better placed than Anna to kick back and enjoy life, he is prepared to give up his non-dom status to become an MP.

Even those who envy his wealth certainly can't fault the man's enthusiasm.


Why Normblog isn't

normblog: Bow - wow - ow!.

I read every post published on "Normblog" with interest. Generally, it is intelligent, well written and wrong. Occasionally it's intelligent, well-written and right. Sometimes it's about cricket and I can't judge. But it's never a blog. I am not being a purist. Nor am I deriding Norm's considerable efforts or writing talents. It's just that a blog provides the opportunity for readers to comment. And today (for the first time) I really wanted to. And I couldn't.

Norm defends Obama for bowing to foreign potentates and says it doesn't matter. Yes it bloody well does. America is a beacon to the world, not just for (relatively) unrestrained capitalism, freedom of speech and rock n roll. It is a republic founded on the views of Tom Paine and others who believed that (until he proves otherwise) one man is of as much value as as another. It was founded on a word I hardly dare utter because - like "liberal" - it has been hijacked, deformed and repackaged into meaninglessness. That word is "equality."

Equality before the law. Equality in the face of state power. Equality in everyday dealings between people. Not the fake equality of the Socialist, but striving for equality of opportunities. America has strived and has succeeded, not completely, but enough for a boy from an Arkansas trailer park to become President. The whole point of America, in short, is the much-derided (by "liberals" and believers in "equality") "American Dream."

As an Englishman, my first political thought was the realisation that I could not aspire to be head of state because my father was not the "right" guy. That's the opposite of the American Dream. It is disempowering. It undermines ambition. It inclines the nation's heads to the ground, not the horizon. Though Queen Elizabeth II is a good woman who does her best, the institution of monarchy is damaging to the national psyche. Of course an Englishman can do well and an American can do badly. But the American Dream makes the reverse more likely.

The Original and Best Tom Paine believed America should leave the bowing and scraping of monarchies and aristocracies behind. He wanted to build something better in fellowship and freedom. He was right to set such goals. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the rest understood as well as old Tom why an American should bow to no man. Still less should their President, who symbolically stands (unbowed) for them all. Every president since has understood it. Oddly and shamefully (for a man who professes to worship equality) Obama does not.

If Bill Clinton had so much as inclined his head, his own followers would have muttered. There is something sinister about the inability of Obama's supporters to recognise a mistake on his part. Norman is wrong. More wrong than usual. He is even more wrong because, while calling his web page a "blog" (twice in the heading alone) he does not allow his readers the facility to say so.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers

Carter-Ruck in new move to stop debate in parliament | UK news | The Guardian.

I understand all the concern about injunctions preventing the reporting of Parliament, but why are the lawyers at Carter-Ruck the villains (and partner Adam Tudor in particular?) There have been flash mobs outside their offices and they have been vilified across the British blogosphere.

Why is the headline to the linked article not "Trafigura in new move to stop debate in Parliament?" Lawyers do nothing without instructions. Those instructions come from their clients and whatever actions they take are on their clients' behalf and in their name. If Mr Tudor has been asked to block publication, then that is what he must try to do - whether he personally approves or not. You may say he is liable to criticism for failing to advise his clients that their actions would be counter-productive (as they certainly have been - who had heard of Trafigura before?). However, you don't even know whether the actions were on his advice or against it. He can't tell you without his client's permission, which is hardly likely to be forthcoming.

Perhaps Adam Tudor is the ass or the villain you think he is. A first class degree from Oxford doesn't speak to his morality or his common-sense. You should at least accept that he is the agent of his clients in these matters. If you want to be angry, be angry with them. Except maybe you shouldn't. At least not just yet.

If there is anything to make Adam Tudor smile in the media today, perhaps it's this quote from Prodicus, in the course of roundly criticising him and his partners and calling them asses;

These are the world's smartest legal brains with vast collective experience.

If the partners of Carter-Ruck have a collective sense of humour, they will use that quote on their website, to the irritation of the world's smartest legal brains. After all, they didn't go into defamation work to be loved. As I am sure they are reminding themselves today.

An independent legal profession, free to serve the interests of (popular or unpopular) clients, is a pre-requisite of a free society. You may not like how much some lawyers earn for doing this important work, but if you want the big bucks what's stopping you? There's almost always a shortage of legal talent. Get the qualification, put in 20 years of hard work, and maybe you can nose through the flash mobs in your Porsche too.

Because that's really why the lawyers are the villains here, isn't it? The English Vice: Envy. I can understand "rich bastard" rhetoric from the envious left, but the rest of the blogosphere should really know better.

[I am a partner in a City law firm. I am not, and have never been, a partner or employee of Carter-Ruck]