I have lived under
a Latin American military dictatorship where daily life was freer than
in Britain today. Of course, you couldn’t go out into the street and shout
"Down with Señor Presidente", at least not without dire consequences;
on the other hand, you were considerably less surveyed, supervised and
harried as you went about your business than you are in contemporary Britain.
The average Briton, we are told, is filmed 300 times a day once he steps
out of his door. His home is hardly his castle, either. If he doesn’t have
a television he receives repeated menaces from the licensing authority,
which may send an officer to inspect his house. If the citizen should drive,
he soon discovers that his vehicle confers anxiety rather than freedom.
Slight infringements of the driving rules are photographed and he is fined.
When he parks he soon discovers that wheel-clamping is the one public service
that works with clockwork efficiency. Squeezing money from him is likewise
the one task that the State takes seriously, for he cannot rely on the
police to protect him, or the schools to educate his children, or the hospitals
to succour him when he is ill, or public transport to take him anywhere
We also live in a propaganda state. No one believes what a government official says any longer because he is assumed to be a liar, ex officio as it were, even when he is telling the truth. We assume that all official information is self-exculpating, self-congratulating or self-glorifying in intent, that all official speech is therefore spin or political advertising. Those of us who work in the NHS — not a small number — receive expensively produced glossy publications from our employers, full of photographs of happy, smiling workers meeting happy, smiling customers, at the very same time as drastic cuts must be implemented to meet burgeoning debts and there are patients in casualty who have been waiting for hours for admission. Let them eat lies!
- Theodore Dalrymple, "The Times" (Feb'06)
We live in a democracy,
yet more and more people feel that they are not represented, their wishes
are ignored and they can do absolutely nothing about it. Following the
news reduces people to a state of helpless anger. A soldier is killed because
the Ministry of Defence did not provide him with body armour. Illegal and
criminal immigrants stay here with impunity yet at the same time ordinary
people’s civil liberties are being eroded. Stealth taxes have gone up without
the promised reforms. The auditing of schools is shown to be pretty much
useless, maniacally exhaustive though it is, and our children are being
betrayed. National Health Service hospitals are diseased and debt ridden.
Nobody can think what to do about the ASBO set. Labour’s youth employment
schemes, hugely expensive, have been a total failure. Pensioners are driven
to despair by tax and neglect. The police stay in their cosy stations under
blankets of paperwork; and so on. What’s worst of all is that nobody has
any sense that anything can be done, not least because the political culture
in every way undermines our sense of autonomy. Meanwhile the intrusive
government washes its hands of responsibility or buries bad news.
- Minette Marrin, on the Britain of 2006, "The Times"
In the EU as a whole
there are projected to be only two people of working age (15-64) for every
person over the age of 65. Given most of Europe's appalling record of ensuring
that those of working age do actually work, this is a matter of serious
concern... There is a danger that over the coming generation, older voters,
most of whom receive the majority of their income from the state, will
plunder the smaller number of younger voters who pay taxes. In any event,
Western economies will suffer tax increases to pay for the increased costs
of pensions, health and long-term care. But this will be reinforced by
the stranglehold older people will have on the electoral process. Pension
and welfare reform will become impossible and, indeed, policies will be
adopted that lead to far more government resources being allocated towards
In many countries there has been a move from pensions paid out of the social insurance taxes of the working generation to pensions pre-funded by saving. When the system has been reformed, the young have simultaneously had to save for their own pensions in the reformed system, while still paying the taxes to fund the pensions of older people in the old system. Young voters are often so pleased to get rid of the old-style social insurance systems that they will willingly make this sacrifice. However, it is notable that in the case of nearly all pension reforms, older voters have been completely exempted from the costs of reform.
- Philip Booth, "Grey Power Time Bomb", "Standpoint" (Oct'08)
The secret to everlasting
left-wing government was discovered in Sweden decades ago. First raise
tax and employ as much of the electorate as possible. Next, offer generous
welfare and bribe the middle classes with childcare. Soon, a critical mass
of voters becomes part of the government project, and votes for its expansion.
Higher private sector earners may squeal at the tax rates, but are easily
outnumbered. Eventually the right-wing opposition grows tired of losing
elections, and starts pledging to outspend the government, if elected.
Then victory is complete.
After years of expanding welfare and the public sector workforce, Tony Blair has achieved this goal. His army of state beneficiaries now has four divisions: state employees (15 per cent of the electorate), the out-of-work and on welfare (11 per cent), benefit-dependent pensioners (18 per cent) and pensioners with independent means (8 per cent). Add these all together, and it turns out that more than half of the electorate are today, in one way or another, in the pay of the government. And this is before counting untraceable tax credits or subsidy-dependent farmers.
- Fraser Nelson, "The Spectator"
What really upsets
voters is the grinding, daily disjuncture between the country described
by their leaders and the one they in fact inhabit. Every year they read
of record GCSE results, but their children do not appear to be getting
any brighter. They hear of record investment in the NHS, but their local
hospital seems as grimy as ever. They keep being told that interest rates
are at a record low, but their mortgage payments are inexplicably going
up... As people are forever telling me on the doorstep, ‘It doesn’t matter
how you vote: nothing ever changes.’ And they have a point. For, with the
best will in the world, there is less and less that politicians can change.
Elected representatives at all levels have lost ground to unelected officials.
Parliaments everywhere have handed their powers to judges, quangos and
Eurocrats. As powers haemorrhage from national parliaments, people find
that they are unable to effect meaningful change through the ballot box.
All that is left to them is regularly to throw the rascals out. This they
do with a will, not so much in the hope of reform as from sheer frustration.
- Daniel Hannon, "The Spectator"
There was a time when
Kenneth Clarke’s admission that “the euro has been a failure” might have
dominated the headlines for weeks. It might even have changed the course
of Britain’s history. Had Mr Clarke been prescient enough 15 years ago
to recognise the fatal flaws in the single currency project, the Tories
might have been spared the humiliation of Black Wednesday and the suicidal
infighting over the Maastricht treaty; they might still be governing the
country. If the ex-Chancellor had humbly admitted five years ago that he
had been wrong about the euro, he would surely now be the Leader of the
Opposition and the Conservatives might be vying for power with Labour in
a hung parliament. By this week, however, Mr Clarke’s public confession
about the failure of the euro was as irrelevant to the future as Macbeth’s
final soliloquy comparing himself to “a walking shadow, a poor player who
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more”.
A break-up of the euro seems highly improbable in the next year or two. But anybody who still believes that such a break-up is impossible should bear in mind the lessons from the break-up of the ERM, the sterling, franc and lira devaluations of the 1960s, the collapse of the dollar-based Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s and the prewar abandonment of the gold standard. In confrontations between politics and financial markets, events can move straight from “impossible” to “inevitable” without ever passing through improbable.
- Anatole Kaletsky, "The Times"
At the beginning of
the 1970s, astonishingly, the state owned the travel agent Thomas Cook,
and all the pubs of Carlisle. The infrastructure broke down to such an
extent that Blue Peter started advising its young viewers on how to help
the elderly in the event of a power cut. ‘Lay out sheets of newspaper,’
said Peter Purves. ‘Place them fairly thickly between the blankets … and
if you do that, the old folks will stay as warm as toast.’ The power cuts
in the early part of the decade are as vivid a memory to me (born in 1965)
as the genuinely terrifying industrial action of 1978-9, and did not take
long to be glossed in the mind as clear demonstrations of political failure.
The difference in everyday culture between then and now is perhaps most
clearly shown in a 1972 survey for the Daily Mirror about what a future
Britain might be like: "Would you like to see these ‘Common Market’ customs:
regular wine with meals, more pavement cafés, more shops open on
Sunday, coffee and a roll for breakfast, not bacon and eggs, pubs open
all day?" What we now take for granted seemed, in the early 1970s, in the
realms of fantasy.
- Philip Hensher, reviewing "When The Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies", "Spectator"
POLITICS: THE BROWN ERA
Of party leaders since
the war chosen while in government only Harold Macmillan could be accounted
any sort of success. The others were Anthony Eden, Alec Douglas-Home, Jim
Callaghan and John Major. The ones who kept winning elections — Wilson,
Thatcher and Blair — were all chosen in opposition. It is Eden that Gordon
Brown most resembles, in that he has been the impatient yet almost unchallenged
heir for years and years.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
Not flash, just Gordon.
- Labour slogan promoting Gordon Brown
"I tell you what, get
some courage, find some bottle, get into your car, go down to Buckingham
Palace and call that election... How long are we going to have to wait
until the past makes way for the future?"
- David Cameron, to Gordon Brown after Brown abandons plans for an Autumn'07 election
Gordon Brown got away
for years as Chancellor with being profligate because he looked like a
miserly old sober-sides.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
Was this the week that
the wheels finally came off what was once considered a Rolls-Royce among
institutions, the British Civil Service? Once capable of running half the
world with a tenth of its current manpower, it is now depicted as a rusting
wreck, propped up on bricks, awaiting the scrapyard... civil servants are
expected to do far more than they ever used to. Who could imagine an earlier
Civil Service being required to devise and implement a policy on fat people?
The Environment Department has even been given a mission 'to improve the
current and future quality of life within the Earth's natural capacity'.
If they mess that up, we really are in trouble.
- Philip Johnston, after the lost Customs data scandal, "The Telegraph"
What has been conspicuously
lacking at every stage of this terrible story has been a sense of urgency.
This is not to be confused with panic. Where the welfare of children is
concerned, society and the state have duties of care which far exceed the
routine implementation of bureaucratic and legal procedure. The workaday
language and methods of officialdom are not equal to the task. This week
a dossier shown to the jury during the Old Bailey trial of Baby P’s mother
was made public, cataloguing 78 separate occasions on which the child was
seen by health visitors, doctors and social workers in Haringey, north
London (a total of 28 experts). It is particularly extraordinary that a
paediatrician (allegedly) could have failed to notice that this wretched
infant had eight broken ribs and a broken spine only days before his death.
Moral outrage at this saga is not only legitimate but the only appropriate
response. Those who insist that this is a moment for cool heads and something
called ‘perspective’ miss the point spectacularly. The whole problem in
this case was the disinclination of the professionals involved to do anything
which smacked of ‘over-reaction’. On 30 July 2007, four days before the
999 call that led to Baby P being pronounced dead, the social worker Maria
Ward was still taking the mother’s side, recording that ‘she is feeling
stressed by accusations of harming the baby’. In that short sentence one
sees one of the most deplorable pathologies of modern life: namely, that
the avoidance of ‘stress’ to an adult takes primacy over all else, including,
as it turned out, the survival of a child...
At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Gordon Brown accused David Cameron of ‘making a party political issue of this matter’. In fact, the Conservative leader, visibly shaken and outraged by the case, was merely speaking for the country and performing his constitutional duty to hold the government to account. Mr Balls has sent a ‘hit squad’ into Haringey to take over its social services; reviews of varying scope are being carried out by Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Lord Laming. When they report, we will doubtless be told: ‘Never again.’ The same was said after the death of Victoria Climbié eight years ago. New procedures, however rigorous, will not be enough. What matters much more than the rules themselves is that they be underpinned by a sense of social responsibility, collective shame and untrammelled urgency. Will they?
- Spectator Editorial on the 'Baby P' case (Nov'08)
The Baby P case is
still howling around us all, another gale of reproof hammering at the shutters
of our liberal indulgence and at our fathomless respect for experts and
institutions. We might all have harboured the suspicion that social workers
were, in the main, absolutely useless, driven by an outdated and discredited
discipline and ideology (that’s sociology and multiculturalism), and not
especially bright. But it took Sharon Shoesmith, who was the boss of Haringey
Social Services when Baby P was murdered, to drive home the point. Her
absolute lack of contrition and blank-faced refusal to take responsibility
for either the failed policies or serial incompetence of her staff showed
you most of what you need to know about how our social services are run...
The two most pressing problems with our social services right now are a) that they do not successfully identify young children who are in extreme danger of being maimed by their parents and b) remove too many children who are in no danger at all from their parents and shove them in care homes where their lives will be, more often than not, ruined. A simplistic explanation might be that trenchant criticism of social services regarding point a) leads to the overzealousness of point b). But that is too pat and convenient an excuse; in both cases our social workers would rather cleave to an ideology than use common sense and intelligence. In the second point, they are aided and abetted by the NSPCC, which seems to wish every child in the country to be taken into care because none of us comes up to the social and political standards which it has decided must be the norm. In both cases the social services are encouraged by successive government policies which have offered clear financial benefits to single mothers and thus to the predatory ‘stepfathers’ who live in their nice flats for a while before scooting off somewhere else.
An awful lot of work carried out by social workers at the state’s expense was once voluntarily undertaken by the extended family at no cost to the taxpayer whatsoever. But the traditional family unit has been viewed with grave suspicion by both government and social services departments for 30 years or more now. There isn’t room here to list the enormous financial incentives given to those young women who wish to bring up children ‘on their own’ (i.e., supported by the rest of us) as opposed to those who wish for a stable marriage and family — Patricia Morgan’s excellent book The War Between The State and the Family will do all of that for you. Add to those extremely lucrative financial incentives the removal of societal stigma for being a one-parent family and you have a pretty persuasive argument for not getting married, for not subscribing to what was once the norm.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
The only form of equality
which is essential for nursing is surely the belief that all patients are
equally deserving of care. But it is this type of equality which is now
most neglected in the NHS. Children, rightly, are still quite well looked
after. Old people are frequently left almost literally to rot. Some nurses
in the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust hospitals in which C difficile
ran rife told them to ‘go in their own beds’. If you Google the Maidstone
Trust, you will see that it has a Race Equality Scheme, a Disability Equality
Scheme and a Gender Equality Scheme, all required under the Equality Act
of 2006. At the time these policies were being formulated, at least 90
of the Trust’s patients died of C difficile.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
Boris Johnson’s scorn
has also been directed at gay marriage, which became legal in Britain in
2005. In his book “Friends, Voters, Countrymen,” he said that if homosexuals
could marry, then why not “three men, as well as two men; or indeed three
men and a dog.”
- Mark Steyn, after Johnson is elected London Mayor (May'08)
"I certainly think
you need to restore confidence, you need to get credit flowing, but you
won't do that by endlessly talking down the prospects of the economy and
you know getting into a self-reinforcing cycle of gloom and negativity.
You know, I'm not saying that I can see the green shoots of recovery or
whatever, but you know there is a risk of us all starting to sound like
a millennialist suicide cult."
- Boris Johnson, after a Labour minister is lashed for seeing "green shoots" during the recession
"The DUP are the undertakers
of every government. They show up just as a government is about to die."
- Lib Dem Shirley Williams, as the DUP bail Brown out on 42-day detentions
"My colleagues worry
about going down like the Tories did in 1997. They should think more about
the Liberal party [before the first world war]. There is nothing saying
Labour will ever win power again. We have no base in local authorities
any more. We cannot rely on the Celtic fringe. We have no money, other
than what the unions choose to give us."
- A former Labour minister interviewed in The Spectator (Jul'08)
In his book The Black
Swan, the financial analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb provides a useful analogy.
In the months before Thanksgiving, turkeys begin to build up a theory about
mankind. Man is benevolent. Every day he appears with more food, and the
turkey is allowed to get fatter and fatter. And then, about a week before
Thanksgiving, the turkey will, as Taleb puts it, “incur a reversion of
belief”. Our view of the Gordon Brown decade of 1997-2007 is like
the turkey's view of mankind, utterly destroyed by what has now happened.
The stability was a trick of the light, the lengthy period of growth was
fuelled by house prices and debt, the low interest rates (of which Brown
is still, amazingly, boasting) were an error. The length of the good years
is being paid for by the severity of the crisis we now face.
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"
If there’s one thing
that can be said in defense of Tony Blair and his successor (and former
finance minister), Gordon Brown, it’s that they took longer to squander
Margaret Thatcher’s economic legacy than some first expected. But squander
it they did, and credit’s Armageddon has at last exposed the full extent
of the damage. As Warren Buffett once observed, "You only find out who
is swimming naked when the tide goes out."
- Andrew Stuttaford, "National Review"
Labour will today unveil
a detailed plan to alienate its last remaining pockets of support. The
central plank of the party's strategy involves identifying the 10 most
popular family cars in Britain and then making them a nightmare to own.
A Labour spokesman said: "We're going for the double whammy of making them
too expensive to drive, but also impossible to sell. "And if that doesn't
work we'll just spray paint a big swastika onto the bonnet."
- Seen on The Daily Mash
At Lindsey, Total —
a French firm — has taken on 100 (soon to be joined by a further 300) Italian
and Portuguese contractors who are housed on a barge floating on the water
at Grimsby. The contract is worth an estimated £200 million. Lord
Mandelson warned the strikers against ‘xenophobia’ and insisted that the
British workers had not been discriminated against. It usually takes ages
to discover that what Peter Mandelson tells you is false in some way, and
usually it requires government inquiries and even police involvement and
maybe a resignation or two. But on this occasion he was proved to be demonstrably
wrong within the hour, which saved us all a lot of time. A spokesman for
Total said that the work being carried out was specialised and needed a
close-knit workforce which could converse in a common language, i.e. Italian.
Now, that strikes me as being almost the definition of discrimination.
Can you imagine a British firm barring, say, Asian workers from its shop
floor because it wished to have a close-knit workforce which conversed
in a common language? Can you imagine the furore?
Nobody has really picked up this point, the double standards involved. And yet it strikes me that it is at the heart of the matter, unvoiced or otherwise. No group in society has been more egregiously discriminated against, these last 20 years or so, than the white working class; in housing, education, employment. And whenever they dare to voice a complaint the response is always the same: that’s disgusting, typical xenophobia or racism. So not only are they done down, they are also deprived of the opportunity to protest about it... There will be a cost to the taxpayer of those Italian and Portuguese workers now beavering away on Humberside; unemployment benefit to be paid out somewhere to a British worker, taxes lost, less of a trickle-down to the local economy as the Italians hunker down in their hulk at Grimsby. I suspect we are the only major EU nation who would let it happen — can you imagine the French government countenancing such a thing?
The government is waving the BNP in the face of those who would dare to repeat the refrain ‘British jobs for British workers’, despite the fact that it was the Prime Minister himself who first uttered the statement. With one or two honourable exceptions, the Labour party has pitted itself against the very people it was set up to protect. It seems to sense not the remotest smidgeon of irony in this.
But then, as I say, it’s par for the course. Indeed, has there ever been a government which has shown such contempt for the British working class? Good God, even Thatcher allowed them their traditional pastimes of smoking and drinking — and she sent them off to rather fewer futile and illegal wars, too. If you were from the English white working class, would you ever even consider voting Labour again?
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator" (Feb'09)
Britain is every bit
as violent and terrifying as you thought it was, the government confirmed
last night. Home secretary Jacqui Smith said the police must take full
responsibility for misinterpreting government guidelines in exactly the
way she told them to. Home Office officials admitted that since 1997 gun
crime had been defined as 'offences involving Howitzers and other heavy
artillery', while the majority of knife incidents had been dismissed as
'pirate fun'. But Smith insisted it was very easy to interpret a 22% rise
in violent crime as a 15% fall, especially if you were willing to lie about
it. Members of the public welcomed the revised figures saying it helped
to explain why they kept coming home from work covered in blood... Meanwhile
local authorities have reported an increase in the use of noise abatement
orders to deal with complaints about chainsaws and desperate, horrifying
- The Daily Mash
The respectable classes,
brought up to believe that the police were broadly on their side, have
felt increasingly alienated. Every time they read of a blackguard going
unmolested while a law-abiding citizen is arrested for being in possession
of a penknife, or of street crime spiralling while money is channelled
into hiring more diversity advisers, they feel less inclined reflexively
to support the rozzers. This is not the fault of police officers themselves
who, for the most part, do their jobs bravely and professionally. The trouble
is that certain of their chiefs judged, correctly, that they would be promoted
if they appeared to be more interested in condemning racism than in biffing
malefactors. Sir Ian Blair, in particular, drained the reservoir of public
goodwill towards the boys in blue. It became obvious some time ago that
the Met Commissioner had lost the support of Londoners. Yet it became equally
obvious that he didn’t mind in the slightest, provided he retained the
support of the government. When the London Assembly passed a motion of
no confidence in him in July, he taunted members with their weakness: ‘I
have stated my position. If you have the power to remove me, go on.’ A
classical artist, wishing to symbolise the way in which power in modern
Britain had shifted from elected representatives to the permanent apparat,
could have done no better than to depict that tableau.
- Daniel Hannan, "We Need Elected Police Chiefs", "The Spectator"
You can’t run a country
on the basis of predicting the worst imaginable outcome and then doing
everything to prevent it: if you did, you’d never allow any elections.
Another objection is the most common: that the experts know best, that
they will serve the public more disinterestedly than vote-grabbing politicians.
This sounds plausible, but it rarely turns out to be true. We all like
the idea of the expert: the professional who can rise above the partisan
scrum. The trouble is that no such person exists. We all have our prejudices
and assumptions, the expert more than most if by ‘expert’ we mean someone
who has spent his entire career in one field. The essence of representative
government is that we elect people to ensure that state employees work
for the rest of us, not for themselves.
The chief cause of misgovernment in contemporary Britain is precisely the absence of government control. Ministers, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, have created a system that they no longer control. Quangos beget other quangos, agencies commission new advisory panels, just as Asimov’s robots had learned to programme one another without human intervention.
The Baby P case was a horrible example of what happens when ‘let the experts get on’ is taken to its logical conclusion. A series of official blunders leads to the worst imaginable consequence, and when the leader of the opposition gently wondered why none of the functionaries involved was being held responsible, he was howled down for making the issue ‘party political’. When exactly did ‘party political’ become a term of abuse? Didn’t our fathers fight a series of wars to secure the principle that state officials should answer to Parliament?
Here we reach the true tragedy of the Damian Green business. While the violation of Parliament’s prerogatives was scandalous, Parliament itself has connived at the surrender of those prerogatives, handing its powers to human rights judges, Eurocrats, quangoes and agencies. We are British enough to resent the incursion. We huff and puff and remind each other about Speaker Lenthall and the Five Members. But we know in our bones that we are merely defending the outward form of parliamentary sovereignty. The substance was abandoned long ago.
- Daniel Hannan, "We Need Elected Police Chiefs", "The Spectator"
This week, the nation
beholds Parliament with a collective contempt unrivalled in living memory.
We need a modern-day Trollope to do justice to this wave of revulsion,
triggered by the remarkable revelations in the Telegraph. Gilbert Burnet,
the great ecclesiastical and political historian of his time, wrote of
the corrupt MPs elected in 1710 that ‘this is the worst Parliament I ever
saw’. And so it seems in 2009: the Palace of Westminster is home not to
an ancient institution but to a disgraced rabble of second-rate spivs who
have dishonoured the public trust as flagrantly as they have raided the
public purse. It is hard to know whether to be more outraged by the smaller,
casual claims for everyday items such as biscuits and women’s toiletries
or the ludicrous extravagances presented as legitimate expenses: a chandelier,
for example, or the maintenance of Tory swimming pools. Labour probably
comes out of the whole wretched business worse, if only because it took
Gordon Brown longer than David Cameron to grasp that un-equivocal apologies
were necessary. The Conservative leader’s statement on Tuesday was assured
and impressive... More immediately, there is a deeply alarming mismatch
between the formidable tasks facing this Parliament and its moral authority
is presently nil). In practice, our political system has become quasi-
presidential; but in law sovereignty still resides in the ‘Queen-in-Parliament’...
A reckoning is required, a calling to account that will dramatise the need
to refresh and to renew an institution in peril. Only a rapid general election
can begin to answer the public’s grievances and symbolise that renewal.
The voters are owed an opportunity to reassert their ownership of our democracy
and to remind our wretched political class who is boss. The system has
crashed; it is time to reboot.
- The Spectator (May'09)
One assumption behind
the idea of ‘proper’ pay is that if MPs got quite a lot of money, better
people would be attracted to the life. Is there any evidence for this at
all? Certainly the history of this country shows no improvement in the
quality of MPs as their salaries have risen. Indeed, the relation, if there
is one, has been inverse. If you say this, people object: ‘You can’t go
back to having only rich people or lunatics.’ I’m not sure that is right.
There are now — even after the credit crunch — far more rich people around
than ever before, and a great many of them depend, not on inherited wealth,
but on a pile they have made, or on a good pension... What really does
shock me is how much some MPs work. I heard Sir Patrick Cormack, for instance,
saying that he gets into the office at seven in the morning, and is often
there until ten at night. Why? What an unbelievable waste of time! One
can have no sympathy at all with backbenchers who do so much. If it is
mostly constituency business, it only shows how inefficient they are being
and how poorly they are delegating to elected councillors. It is very unlikely
nowadays that the work is on the proper scrutiny of legislation. That really
does take long hours, but these have now been forbidden by the executive-controlled
rules. So all those hours are just symptoms of self-importance.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
British MPs have been
routinely engaged in what is called "flipping" (that the practice even
has a word shows how common it is). MPs can own two properties -- one their
constituency home, the other their London base. They can nominate either
as their main political base, and then claim grants for its renovation
and refurnishing, plus payment of mortgage interest. They can then nominate
the other premises as their new political base, and enjoy the same financial
benefits for that property. Then they can nominate either property as their
domestic home and sell it, at huge profit, of course, because of the renovations,
and keep that profit, because, as a home, it is immune to capital-gains
tax. They can do this repeatedly, and at the taxpayers' expense. One MP,
Greg Barker, made £320,000 tax-free profit on a constantly redesignated
flat within two years. The Labour MP Hazel Blears flipped three different
properties in a year. Included in her state-aided purchases for her properties
that same year were two televisions, £200 on towels, and £439
on crockery and kitchen implements. The Labour MP Geoff Hoon has built
up a property portfolio worth £1.7m with such assistance from the
It's not just the big things. MPs have claimed for everything. A Labour MP claimed 5p for a carrier bag, another claimed £1.60 for Jaffa cakes, another charged £2.20 for a Kit Kat, another charged 45p for a packet of Maltesers, another claimed £6 for a tin opener. That they live in a different world from their constituents, not to speak of the thousands of underpaid soldiers they have sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and die by the hundred, is exemplified by this quote from a Labour MP, justifying hitting the British taxpayer for a £3,100 television-set: "From a natural justice perspective, I feel a justifiable exception would be the fairest manner to deal with the current situation." Ah yes, natural justice: boys dead in Afghanistan for lack of body-armour costing the same as that TV.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent" (May'09)
No one walking through
Mr Martin's constituency of Glasgow North East yesterday could have failed
to note the stark contrast between the deprivation on the streets, and
the stories of refurnished second homes and thousand-pound food bills that
have been front-page fare for the past two weeks. The gap between the haves
and the have-nots has always been incendiary in politics. It is what brought
Labour to power in the first place. Now, as the voters look around, they
see that, for all the promises, the reality of their own lives bears no
comparison with the luxuries to which their MPs have grown accustomed.
That is why the anger is so palpable, the desire for electoral revenge
almost tangible. One woman, approached by a Times reporter yesterday, summed
up the mood of disillusion in this way: “After I have paid my bills I have
nothing. I can't afford to buy my TV licence. The people at the social
tell us that teabags are luxuries and then you hear what the MPs spend
their money on, and Michael Martin has been protecting them. I would never
vote for Labour again.” This is the voice that Labour should have been
listening to, but it is a voice that it has ceased to hear.
- Marcus Linklater, "The Times"
If we are not simply
to lump the blame on the system and thus defenestrate that mumbling Glaswegian
behemoth Michael Martin as a sort of ritual, all-cleansing sacrifice, then
we need to identify what it is about the state of mind of so many of our
politicians that led them to believe it was morally OK to fleece us for
every penny they possibly could.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
There have been so
many scandals, disgraces and resignations over the course of this Government
— and, indeed, of the one that preceded it — that you would have thought
every dodgy minister would by now know the form. When something awful happens,
they protest their lack of culpability or, if forced to be culpable, the
triviality of the offence. They are then hounded until they have to resign.
They are damaged far more by the end of this ungainly process than they
would have been had they walked the plank at the start of it.
- Simon Heffer, "The Telegraph" (May'06)
Almost every minister
was moved for one reason (disloyalty) or another (incompetence.) Disloyal
and incompetent Prescott lost almost all of his many responsibilities but
kept his title of Deputy Prime Minister, his two official homes, and his
chauffeured car. Hmmn . . . he is likely to be a grateful and impotent
supporter of Blair hereafter. Incompetent Blair loyalist Clarke was fired—to
be replaced by tough successful Blair loyalist John Reid. Moderately competent
but dubiously loyal Jack Straw was demoted from the Foreign Ministery and
replaced by loyal Margaret Beckett (Motto: Forgotten But Not Gone.) And
rising Blair loyalist, Alan Johnson, whom well-informed people have recently
begun discussing as a possible successor to Blair if a bus runs over Gordon
Brown, was promoted to the key post of education. Loyalist Hewitt survived—just.
- John O'Sullivan, on the May 2006 Reshuffle, "National Review"
For 12 years Mr Blair
has acted as a human shield between his party and the electorate. Even
as Labour has bemoaned our increasingly presidential system, it has benefited
hugely from it. The voters’ attention has been focused upon the party leader
— the candidate — rather than the party itself. And this, to put it mildly,
has been to Labour’s benefit.
- Editorial from "The Spectator"
"The British are special.
The world knows it; in our innermost thoughts, we know it. This is the
greatest nation on earth."
- Tony Blair, from his 'farewell' speech
Under John Major, the
previous Prime Minister, the government simply fell apart. It has done
so again under Blair. Culture, education, health, transport, are at abysmal
levels. Crime is such that there is no more room in prisons for the convicted.
Through legal and illegal immigration the country has lost control of its
borders... He tinkered disastrously with the constitution, abolishing the
House of Lords, devolving power to Brussels, to Scotland and to Wales.
In Northern Ireland, at the expense of the moderates he has installed in
power the rival Catholic and Protestant men of violence, which is disgusting
in itself but also an invitation to Islamist terrorists... Yet he got one
thing right. He supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and committed
British troops to that end. He understood that the United States is the
ultimate protector of Europe. It is a horrid irony that his best decision
is the cause of his unpopularity and downfall. Of course this is the issue
that has forced him out of power because experience in so many other fields
has taught the public to disbelieve and mistrust whatever he says, especially
when he turns weepy about his hand being on his heart. That is his legacy.
- David Pryce Jones, "National Review Online" (May'07)
Tony Blair found the
Muslim threat far easier to tackle abroad than at home, perhaps because
it required less courage. Intentionally or not, he pandered to domestic
Muslim sentiment. During the general election, in which the leader and
deputy leader of the opposition were Jewish, he allowed Labour to portray
them as pigs on election campaign posters. The Jewish vote in Britain is
small, and scattered throughout the country; the Muslim vote is large,
and concentrated in constituencies upon which the whole election might
turn. It is not that Blair is anti-Semitic: no one would accuse him of
that. It is simply that, if mildly anti-Semitic connotations served his
purposes, he would use them, doubtless persuaded that it was for the higher
good of mankind. Blair also presided over the extension of mail voting
in Muslim areas, despite having been warned about the likely consequence:
that frequently, the male heads of households would vote for all registered
voters under their roofs.
- Theodore Dalrymple, on another side of Blair's legacy, "City Journal"
"The sin of pride or
real conviction, Tony Blair does not regret anything."
- Le Figaro, as Blair steps down
As the first people
in living memory to whom, collectively, nothing very bad had ever happened,
we felt little need to know about the past. Mr Blair captured that cheerful
emptiness brilliantly. His New Labour rhetoric was as clear and bright
and summery as the shallow end of a swimming pool. An open, optimistic,
social democratic vision of the world is a lot better than most of the
competition. But what it wholly, almost proudly lacks, is any sense of
history, and therefore of tragedy... This is not the place to rehearse
the arguments about the War against Terror all over again. It is obvious
that Mr Blair has made grave mistakes in it. But he has also, in Churchill's
phrase, not fallen below the level of events. He has learnt fast what my
generation forgot - that history has no inevitable progress and that everything
we value in our way of life has bitter enemies who must be defeated. It
is tragic that it is for this, and not for his superficialities, that he
is now being persecuted. If he would only disappear and come back in about
10 years' time, he might make a prime minister of whom his generation should
really be proud.
- Charles Moore, assessing Tony Blair, "The Spectator"
State funding for parties
will guarantee sleaze: look at Europe. The countries that are keenest on
state funding - which tend to be in Europe rather than the Anglosphere
- are generally the ones with the dirtiest political systems. And the rankest
scandals in these nations usually involve party funding. Think of France,
also awash with state funding, where some 700 politicians have been charged
with corruption in the past decade, almost all in relation to party financing
scams. A fair number of them have naturally been pardoned by Jacques Chirac,
but I am not allowed to tell you who they are, because it is illegal even
to mention the fact of their convictions. When the state pays for political
parties, it assumes that it can tell them what to believe. In Belgium,
separatism is a no-no. In the Netherlands, a court recently ruled that
a Calvinist party should have its grants removed because it did not champion
sex equality. In the European Parliament, parties must accept "the values
of the European Union".
- Daniel Hannan, "The Daily Telegraph"
For decades the one
distinctive Liberal policy has been not to replace one of the two big parties
but to win electoral reform and thus a centrist “blocking third” in the
House of Commons. It has been to exchange too little power for too much.
It has sought perpetual minority government, to remove democracy from the
polls to the bartering rooms of parliament. This mercifully it has failed
to achieve. I have always thought the party should be honest, disband and
divide itself between Labour and Conservative.
- Simon Jenkins, "The Times"
It was surely Mr Oaten's
great misfortune to have picked the only rent boy in Britain who was familiar
with the Liberal Democrat front bench.
- Matthew d'Ancona, on the scandal surrounding Mark Oaten, "The Times"
Professor James Stimson,
a US political theorist, argues that the electorate is willing to support
a limited range of possible policies and solutions to problems, and he
describes those as lying inside what he calls the zone of acquiescence.
Politicians who select from solutions lying outside this zone do so at
their peril. One can expand this idea — political parties also have their
zones of acquiescence, policies that their activists are prepared to accept.
It is hard for any leader to go outside this zone, too, even though it
may be very different from that of the public. This is where Tony Blair’s
brilliance as a politician comes into it. He has shown a superb ability
to identify and then promote those few policies that lie in the area where
the public’s zone of acquiescence and that of his party intersect. Such
positions are very difficult for any opponent to defeat, which is why in
the early days of new Labour it carried all before it. Yet there is a small
but important flaw in its political strategy. Just because a policy may
lie in both the public’s zone of acquiescence and that of the Labour Party,
doesn’t mean that it will work.
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"
John Reid is taking
his speech notes on immigration from old 2005 Tory election posters...
perhaps the Conservative Party should quit the unequal struggle to win
power in its own name and relaunch itself as a top flight research organisation
for New Labour.
- Matthew Parris, "The Times"
New Labour’s narrow
focus of middle-class voters in swing constituencies is driving the white
Dagenham working and lower-middle classes straight into the arms of the
BNP. In Barking and Dagenham the BNP can only be fought by abandoning New
Labour and almost everything it stands for.
- Peter Oborne, "The Spectator"
The originality of
New Labour lies in the method by which policy is not deductively produced
from a series of core economic or philosophical assumptions or even a body
of ideas, but rather is scientifically constructed out of the preferences
and prejudices of the swing voter in the swing seat. It is a brilliant
political movement whose primary objective is to reproduce itself — to
achieve this it must dominate the politics of middle England. The government
is not a coalition of traditions and interests who initiate policy and
debate; rather it is a power elite whose modus operandi is the retention
of power. In short, the political priorities and concerns of a specific
minority of swing voters in a highly select part of the country will become
ever more dominant.
- Jon Cruddas, Labour MP
The Labour government
has sought to make the middle classes in particular feel so guilty about
what good fortune they have — good fortune that is the result of dedication,
risk and hard work — that they feel high taxes and bad government are some
divine equalisation of the balance. We are supposed to feel guilty about
living in houses in nice areas, where we have nice neighbours and nice
views and nice amenities, and should jolly well expect to have a bail hostel,
or social housing, or a relief road positioned adjacent to us to even things
up a little. We are supposed to feel guilty about owning too much, creating
the ultimate social injustice that people will feel driven to steal from
us. We are supposed, above all, to feel guilty about success, for this
is felt to have robbed of money or of opportunity that definite but indistinct
person "less fortunate than ourselves"... The middle classes — the most
vulnerable targets of class hatred — are the backbone of this nation. Without
them, for all their supposed wickedness and selfishness, it would buckle
and collapse. And anyone tempted to think otherwise should, quite frankly,
run along and grow up.
- Simon Heffer, "The Spectator"
Utter the word “middle
class” in Whitehall and watch their greedy little pimps’ eyes light up
with pound signs. Behold the British middle-classes – a docile, law-abiding
army of tax slaves. Hurrah, let’s blow it all on some more social workers
in Newcastle. Here they come, edict after edict, each one (surprise, surprise),
requiring a considerable financial outlay. Car seats for 11-year-olds?
That’ll be £50, please; ID cards? Better start saving up now. Home
information packs? Goodness only knows, but you can be sure that someone
will be made to pay, and it will almost certainly be the middle-class taxpayer,
since the law now applies only to dwellings with four bedrooms or more.
- Sarah Vine, "The Times"
How could a cohesive
country be built in which new citizens could be integrated if the state
seemed to despise its own history and people? How bewildering for immigrants
who admired this country and wanted to share its values. The benefits of
immigration to the economy are always clearer to affluent people in need
of nannies and cleaners than to those at the bottom of the heap... The
welfare state has been corrupted. It began on the contributory principle.
You paid something in, therefore you were entitled to take something out.
Today it has been changed into a series of entitlements. Government needs
to sort out the mess. Fairness really is a virtue.
- Times editorial commenting on rise in support for BNP
The inflow of migrants
to the UK in 2004, before you subtract the outflow, was 582,000 (and, of
course, these figures cannot measure the probably large-scale illegal immigration
which also takes place). So at least one per cent of our previous existing
population - the equivalent of seven parliamentary constituencies - arrived
here in one year. Leave aside for a moment how such a change affects people's
attitude to their country, to their neighbours and to their children's
future. Just think of it in terms of what it means to a government whose
job it is to run things. It affects far more than just the immigration
service. It puts into schools, usually in poor areas, thousands of new
children who cannot speak English. It means that local authorities have
to provide housing to many of the new arrivals. Because such assistance
is calculated on the basis of "need" rather than on a conventional waiting
list, it often means that the newcomers jump the queue. It automatically
confers rights to all sorts of benefits and social services on the immigrants.
Take the NHS. It must treat, as of right and free, all the new arrivals,
some of them carrying diseases recently little known here (TB, for example,
has revived). And in practice, it can hardly manage to distinguish between
those who are legal and illegal. Labour has hugely changed the facts on
the ground, but scarcely altered the systems available to deal with them.
Like someone who tries to pour tea-leaves down a narrow plughole, it experiences
blockage. "Managed migration" has scarcely been managed at all... there
is a general rule of life in society that the very fast increase of anything
tends to be a bad idea. This is true even of benign phenomena such as economic
growth where, say, three per cent per annum is good and six per cent per
annum spells trouble. It is true of inflation, population, school places,
swings at elections, anything. It is doubly true of immigration, for the
problems mount so fast for both parties — the arrivals and the indigenous.
So what the Government has done is appalling, even if you are no Powellite
- Charles Moore, "Too Many Too Quickly", "The Spectator"
When Britain opened
its borders to the 10 “accession” countries that joined the European Union
two years ago, the ever-reliable Home Office predicted that between 5,000
and 13,000 would come to Britain from the new member states. In fact, as
we report today, rather more than that have come in each month from just
one of our new EU partners, Poland. An estimated 350,000 Poles have settled
here, making it the biggest foreign influx since the Huguenots fled French
persecution in the 17th century.
- The Times
A MORI poll published
in the Sun newspaper suggested that 68 per cent of British people felt
there were too many immigrants in the country. What’s more, some 52 per
cent of people polled thought that immigration was having a ‘bad influence’
on the direction of the country and 82 per cent thought that our education
and healthcare infrastructure would be unable to cope with many more immigrants...
Everybody, except the public, is agreed that we’ve all been a lot better
off as a result of mass immigration.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator" (Nov'07)
No one who knows Britain
could doubt that it has very serious problems — economic, social, and cultural.
Its public services — which already consume a vast proportion of the national
wealth — are not only inefficient but completely beyond amelioration by
the expenditure of yet more money.
- Theodore Dalrymple, "City Journal"
The Treaty of Windsor,
signed with Portugal in 1386, may well be the longest lasting alliance
in English military history, but it will be superseded by the less formal,
90-minute Treaty of Gelsenkirchen between Scotland and Portugal. If the
Portuguese win their World Cup football game against England, there will
be immense jubilation north of the border. If England win, however, the
infuriated Scotch will most likely go on the rampage, attacking any convenient
English target. A visceral hatred of England is now almost compulsory if
you are a member of the Scotch race. This loathing is not returned. The
Scotch football team labours towards humiliation against the likes of the
Faroe Islands or Rockall (I forget which) and scarcely a hair is turned
south of Jedburgh. I suppose utter indifference is, in its way, more slighting
than outright hatred — but it is not an indifference occasioned by good
old-fashioned racism. Simply, nobody down here really cares. Why then,
in 2006, should the Scotch people care so much? Instead of oppressing them,
these days we reach into our wallets and subsidise them. Instead of ruling
over them, we let them run most of their own affairs, without complaining
at their manifest incompetence, and even allow one of their number to control
our national finances.
- Rod Liddle, "What really insults the Scots", "The Spectator"
If the sulking, self-pitying
Scots want their freedom let 'em have it — undiluted. But that independence
should be on these conditions: that emigration to England is stopped; careers
in London are forfeit; opportunities in the BBC (or rather, the EBC) are
denied; Westminster is closed to ambitious young Scots, and English banks
and the now Anglo-Welsh army close their ranks to Caledonians. However,
most Scots don't want full independence. They want some mongrel form of
posturing, carping semi-deendency, in which the career of the bright and
ambitious are still directed at London, while the general territory of
Scotland is defended by the Royal Navy and the RAF.
What happened to Scotland? Under the union, Scots philosophers revolutionized mankind's perception of itself, and Adam Smith remains the greatest economic thinker in history. In recent times, however, the Scots have made self-pity into a branch of scholarship, turning themselves into perpetual victims of English perfidy... They are like adolescents sulking in their bedroom, threatening to leave any moment while waiting for their mother to serve up the evening meal. The English... have indulged the spoilt brat north of the border, with £20bn a year in subsidies, even as they allow Scottish MPs to vote on English matters, while English MPs are denied reciprocal influence in Scottish affairs. The Scots now think it entirely proper for them to take money from the English taxpayer, even as they decide how that taxpayer should live. If the island of Ireland should not be divided, why should the island of Britain? And why partition an entity for which Scotland provided 7 prime ministers in the 20th century, and without which, in 1940, all of Europe would have become a Nazi fiefdom?
- Kevin Myers, "Let 'em have it — in full", "The Irish Independent" (Jan'07)
There was another broadside
across the bows of the SNP in the Daily Telegraph this week. Andrew O’Hagan,
a Scot, wrote a wonderful piece in which he damned the ‘mad anachronism’
of Scottish Nationalism. ‘Scotland has never been a colony, an occupied
territory, a township, or a captive slave: it has instead been a partner
with England in some of history's greatest triumphs of empire and at the
cutting edge of the world's economy. But this experience does not suit
the nationalists, so they rub it out. They never speak of what Scotland
and England did together, only about what England did "to" Scotland, and
what England did to the world. The movement pretends not to resent England,
though voters know that has always been part of its appeal. It pretends
not to have been in league with England as Britannia ruled the waves, though
people in Canada, Australia and India have not forgotten it... [they] press
their bad faith into service every time: as if we didn’t fight two world
wars side by side with England; as if our Scottish Enlightenment didn’t
happen after we formed the United Kingdom. The facts speak against the
nationalists, but they don’t deal in facts because the facts have a tendency
to bankrupt Scottish nationalism’s case before it gets going... Scotland
is a beautiful country with a terrifically rich culture: it has been punching
above its weight for three centuries, and its impact on everything from
medicine and philosophy to banking and the novel has been miraculous. But
these miracles, as with all its greatest strengths, have emerged from a
partnership with the rest of these islands. That is who we are today and
that is what the fantasy won't respect’ And he describes how, as a Scot,
he has lived his whole life ‘surrounded by the petulant noise of Scottish
nationalism. It was a ludicrous sound in my childhood, a bit like the bagpipes,
produced by wind and sentiment ...’ Superb stuff. It is indeed a ludicrous
and petulant sound, but — like the bagpipes — it is still unaccountably
compelling and probably rooted deep inside all of us since we developed
self-consciousness: a mistrust of people who are not quite like ourselves
and the easy recourse to blame them for our misfortunes.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
If Scotland were now
to go its own way, politicians such as Gordon Brown would be left to run
a country the size of Slovakia, with a sway in world affairs to match.
In England Labour could achieve a majority only in exceptional years. Brown's
point about Margaret Thatcher is shrewd. She supported the Union on principle.
Although the Tories had less than a quarter of the vote in Scotland even
before she became leader, and notwithstanding that the Scots resisted Thatch-erism
as though fighting an army of occupation, she never dreamt of pulling the
plug on the Union. Yet had she done so, she really might have gone “on
and on”... In office the Tories poured subsidies into the Scottish economy
and diverted industrial orders to sustain it... The Tories can never do
enough for Scotland because the country’s political philosophy is socialist
and Tory socialism is never convincing... A Scotland at last set free from
the drip feed of English subsidy might finally liberate itself from socialism
- Michael Portillo, "The Times"
Paradoxically, as Labour
and Tories converge on the middle ground of politics, the struggle between
them becomes more deadly. The cosy old norms that prevented either party
from threatening the other’s survival are being discarded. If Brown
becomes convinced that Cameron might grant Scotland independence, it would
make sense for him preemptively to use proportional representation to destroy
- Michael Portillo, "The Times"
Trying to limit global
warming should be one part of the strategy, but greater thought also needs
to be put into coping with the effects which we are too late to prevent.
For Britain the main hazard lies not in excessive temperatures but in rising
sea levels, which the International Panel on Climate Change has estimated
will have risen by half a metre by 2100. This would increase the risk of
flooding and speed coastal erosion, but not catastrophically so provided
that we had a coherent policy of coastal and flood defence; parts of the
Netherlands, after all, function normally in spite of lying 15 feet below
sea level. Yet at a time when global warming is accelerating, our commitment
to coastal defence has been weakened. Homeowners in Happisburgh, Norfolk,
for example, have seen their homes abandoned to cliff erosion because the
cost of a sea wall would fall foul of an arcane formula relating to property
values. Moreover, planning policy continues to allow new homes to be developed
in areas of high flood risk such as the shores of the Thames Estuary, and
on the floodplains of inland rivers. Why? It was the Blair administration
which coined the term ‘joined-up government’. With the Climate Change
Bill it has a chance, in the Prime Minister’s final hour, to put that slogan
- Leader from "The Spectator" (Mar'07)
The government has
been warning for years of flood and tempest from man-made climate change,
as a pretext for increasing our taxes. So why did it cut the Environment
Agency’s flood defence budget by £14 million last year, and why is
the housing minister, Yvette Cooper, still insisting that it is perfectly
all right to build new homes on flood plains?
- Spectator Editorial (Jul'07)
A friend of mine who
lives in a north London street where there have recently been several burglaries
was alarmed by a noise outside his house at two in the morning. Looking
out, he saw men in black woolly hats creeping round near his dustbins,
shining torches. He was about to ring the police when one of the men turned
round, and revealed a sign on his back announcing that he was from the
council’s refuse collection department. The men were checking for infractions
of the new rules about sorting your rubbish into different, environmentally
friendly bins. Truly, the price of greenery is eternal vigilance.
- Charles Moore, from his "Spectator" diary
One reader's letter
observes that ‘wasting police time’, which was traditionally a criminal
offence, now seems to be the chief occupation of the police themselves.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
MEDIA & THE BBC
Look at the BBC history
website's entry on the Provisional IRA. It fails to mention the fact that
they killed actual people, whereas that on the loyalist UVF (rightly) gives
the number of victims and uses words like "vicious". The BBC never surprises.
As someone who is rather more pro-American than pro-EU, pro-Israel than
pro-Palestinian, pro-tax cuts than pro-higher public spending, and a lot
more pro-Britain than pro-its enemies, I don't like underwriting a religion
I don't believe in. It's like being frogmarched into the pew, preached
at against your will and then having your wallet emptied. If you had to
depend on the BBC alone, what would you understand of the changes in our
times? Would you have a grasp of why Britain has become so much richer
in the past 25 years, or the nature of the war within Islam, or what China
is doing in the world, or why our hospitals and schools work so badly,
or how the internet undermines state power, or what Christians believe?
It is time for a big political party to argue for the abolition of the
licence fee. None will, of course, because all are frightened of the power
of the BBC to do them in. That, too, shows how, by its very existence,
the BBC acts against the public interest. Time for a revolt.
- Charles Moore, as the BBC seeks a licence increase, "The Spectator" (Jan'07)
In 1938, an American
academic observed that although the BBC was supposedly impartial, it "cannot
escape a degree of bias", as it exhibited a collective belief in the monarchy,
the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity. Its collective belief
is now rather different. According to a BBC employee interviewed in Robin
Aitken's timely polemic, it favours women's and gay rights, high taxation,
ethnic minorities, multiculturalism, the UN, the EU and foreign governments
(especially Left-wing ones), and is against racism, big business, private
education and health care, the monarchy and America... News is a
construct, a narrative, and, as George Orwell taught us, it always has
an agenda. The best hope, as the Wilson Report of 2005 proposes, is that
the BBC "should be 'the voices' not 'the voice' of Britain".
- Lewis Jones, reviewing "Can We Trust The BBC?", "The Telegraph"
"BBC journalism is
reflected through a left wing prism that affects everything - the choice
of stories, the way they are angled, the choice of the interviews, the
interviewees and, most pertinently, the way those interviewees are treated."
- Paul Dacre, Editor of the Daily Mail
The BBC, so down on
a politician who makes an off-colour remark about immigration, so passionately
concerned to forbid anything on air which might give any offence to Muslims,
lets its stars make obscene and threatening telephone calls to a Jewish
grandfather in order to get millions to laugh at his humiliation.
- Charles Moore, about the Brand\Ross affair, "The Spectator"
When told that stars
such as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand should not ring up private citizens
to boast, on air, that they have slept with their grand-daughters, some
BBC ‘entertainers’ and their supporters protest at what they call ‘censorship’.
But censorship, surely, is an external force. The decision not to broadcast
or publish something is rightly made by the organisation which does the
broadcasting/publishing. It is called ‘editing’. One thing that emerges
from the Ross affair, on which the BBC Trust reports this week, is that
the editorial function was sacrificed in favour of ‘compliance’. A compliance
officer, whose job it was to check that various bureaucratic rules were
being followed, ran round picking up all mentions of the f-word to make
sure that they ticked the boxes of when its use is permitted. He did not
link the f-word with the word ‘grand-daughter’, because the latter does
not appear in the rules. The Ross/Brand tape was then handed over to the
editor who, knowing that compliance had been accomplished, did not bother
to listen to it. It is a perfect BBC story: even when they think they are
'pushing the boundaries', they are actually tripped up by red tape.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
The TV Licensing information
I have accumulated strongly suggests that the BBC breaks the law systematically
in the methods of collection it uses. For example, it libels people by
suggesting dishonesty with no evidence. It also harasses people, which
is a crime. And, according to another correspondent in the Telegraph, it
breaks section 40 of the 1970 Administration of Justice Act which makes
it a criminal offence to pursue people for debts for which they are not
liable. TV Licensing probably also infringes the right to privacy enshrined
in the Human Rights Act. I wonder if there is a clever lawyer who would
be willing to take up some of these cases on a pro bono basis.
- Charles Moore, continuing his one-man fight against the BBC, "The Spectator"
There are certain sorts
of people whom the BBC thinks it’s all well and good to be fairly nasty
to, and Scientologists are among them. Indeed, there are certain groups
of people whom the BBC feels that its personnel must roundly abuse or even
phy-sically chastise if it is going to give them airtime, such as, for
example, the British National Party, or members of Islamic groups that
are not on the ever-shifting list of politically OK Islamic groups. These
people all come under category one in the BBC producer guidelines. In each
case, the presenter is required to shout at these people because they are
plainly, obviously, horrible — you will remember the Newsnight interview,
for example, in which BNP leader, Nick Griffin, was denied the chance to
answer a single question. And any BBC interview with a Muslim mullah who
has hooks instead of hands. The Scientologists do not quite fall into this
special category; under those aforementioned guidelines, they come in category
two — people towards whom the presenter should display contempt, quiet
hostility and open dislike, but should not actually punch or scream at.
Members of the Conservative party and Ukip, all Israelis other than those
who are activists within ‘peace’ groups, evangelistic Christians, supporters
of the Countryside Alliance, Roman Catholics, paedophiles and chairmen
of multinational corporations are similarly covered by the category two
requirements. Category three, meanwhile, demands that the presenter affect
an attitude of studied indifference and mild disdain and applies to interviews
with most members of the present government, unless they were against the
war in Iraq, in which case they get the category four treatment, which
is also handed out to pop stars who wish for the African debt burden to
be written off, all disabled people, ‘ordinary’ members of ethnic minorities
and especially ‘moderate’ Muslims, all charity spokeswomen and bearded
scientists in spectacles who insist that the earth is going to turn into
a cinder by the year 2012. Category four requires the presenter to fawn
in a sickening manner.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
I have found the coverage
of the Madeline McCann story prurient and tedious beyond belief. That the
BBC should regard it as more important than Brown's ascension to national
leadership crumbles my faith in that great organisation. Tabloid values
have come to British public service broadcasting with a vengeance and without
even the commercial pressure of the private sector. It is like the daily
attention given to the kidnapping of the BBC's brave Gaza correspondent,
Alan Johnston, when dozens of other kidnappings, including of journalists,
go unreported. In this spirit I must constantly remind myself that the
British media does not do responsibility. It does stories. And stories
tell better when they are about individuals, not collectives... Sometimes
there is no better way to alert the nation to street violence, racism or
even the dangers faced by families abroad than through the tragedy visited
on an individual victim. The British press plays hard cop to the soft cop
of the British constitution. It goes where politics dares not tread.
- Simon Jenkins, "The Guardian"
ELECTION & POLITICS 2005
The New Labour spin
doctor’s handbook has clear guidelines on how to deal with a crisis. First,
deny it exists. If that doesn’t work, attack anybody who dares draw attention
to the problem, usually subjecting them to a vicious smear campaign. And,
if all else fails, blame it on Europe. So it has been with this winter’s
great gas crisis.
Wholesale gas prices have quintupled in a month, factories are shutting down, bosses are threatening to shift production abroad, and terrified pensioners are wondering whether they can afford to keep their houses warm this winter. The government’s response? That it is all the fault of those dastardly Europeans, who selfishly hoarded gas for their own use this winter and are now refusing to sell their stockpiles when our own system collapsed at the first cold snap of the season.
- Simon Nixon, "The Spectator"
Likewise, those public
sector union workers determined to keep their right to retire at 60. I've
had many conversations with New Labour types in which my belief in low
- if not undetectable - levels of taxation has been cited as evidence of
my selfishness. But what's more selfish than spending the last 20 years
of your life on holiday and insisting that the fellows who can't afford
to retire at 60 should pay for it?
- Mark Steyn, "The Telegraph"
The pensions problem
is actually very simple, and it is this: there are going to be too many
old people in 20 years’ time, and not enough young ones to support them.
In 1950 there were more than five people of working age for every pensioner.
For the past 20 years, because the baby boomer bulge offset the effects
of increased longevity, there have been four. But towards the end of this
decade, the ratio will start to fall and by 2050 there will be just two
people of working age for every pensioner. Who will pay for all the pensioners?
Should today’s 25-year-old be prepared to fund the retirement of today’s
50-year-old? In a brilliant speech on Monday, David Willetts, the Shadow
Trade and Industry spokesman, set out why today’s 25-year-old will be significantly
worse off in 25 years’ time than a 50-year-old is now. The decline in final
salary pension schemes, the increasing difficulty of getting a toehold
in a housing market that is still paying huge dividends to their parents,
and the ending of free university education puts today’s 25-year-old at
a number of disadvantages. They are far less likely to be home owners than
they were 20 years ago. Because they cannot afford to buy a home, they
will delay having families so will have children later and therefore have
fewer of them, and so the cycle continues. In terms of opportunity and
wealth, the postwar baby boomer generation has had and continues to have
Baby boomers, concluded Mr Willetts, “have shaped an economic and social environment that works for them very well. A young person could be forgiven for believing that the way in which economic and social policy is now conducted is little less than a conspiracy by the middle-aged against the young.”
This is the sort of problem that arises when governments feel they must pander to a section of the electorate which, because of its growing numbers, decides who wins and loses general elections. Now imagine that situation getting worse as more and more older people with more and more electoral clout are given more and more sweeties by governments facing re-election. Impose too many costs on this generation — which will not expect to see any state-funded pension provision for itself — and it will want to stop paying altogether. The whole of the welfare contract could break down if we get this one wrong.
- Alice Miles, "The Times"
When the rich start
to complain, one may be sure that the poor are already suffering. The rich,
particularly in London, are starting to complain about their children.
It is not that they are growing up to be feckless layabouts who will not
settle down to a real job of work. It is rather that they are serious young
people, who have been to university, and are looking for a job that will
have some social utility and provide them with a comfortable salary on
which to bring up their own children. They want what their parents achieved
in their generation. And they are finding it tough. Life for the young
graduate in his or her mid-twenties is much harder for the present generation
than it was for the generations of the 1980s, or the 1960s. It is a mistake
to be young in new Labour Britain; it has become much more difficult to
get started in life, to find the first professional job or the first house.
As a result there is a new fashion in which the middle-class young leave home to go to university at about 19 and then return home at the age of 24, because they cannot afford to live anywhere else. During their absence at university they will have accumulated a considerable debt... Starter jobs are hard enough to find even for those who are well qualified — the search can be a nightmare for those with low qualifications and no network of friends who have already found a niche.
- William Rees Mogg, "The Times" (Apr'07)
nowadays make pledges across the entire range of public service that would
be inconceivable in national elections abroad — and duly invite the electorate
to hold them responsible... by centralising control over them, successive
governments have also centralised blame. I have lost count of how many
candidates have told me: “It’s hopeless where I am: all people want to
talk about are local issues.” All government is local. The public demands
accountability for hip replacements, refused places in schools, wind turbines,
speed cameras and the availability of ambulances. Denied responsibility
for these services locally, they must take whatever chance they have of
seeking redress nationally. They hijack a general election. The centre
may overwhelm locality most of the time, but now locality strikes back.
Apart from Iraq, 2005 has been a great big glorified local election.
- Simon Jenkins, "The Times"
We can understand why
so many people are confused and say politicians are all the same (apart
from the Lib Dems, that is, who are dangerously different). There’s precious
little to choose between Labour and Tory on the economy, tax and public
spending... Vote for whoever you believe will do the best for you and for
the country (that rules out the Lib Dems straight away).
- Editorial, "The Sun Says" on day of 2005 Election
The point of Tony Blair
— almost the only point of Tony Blair, I would have argued — has been to
keep the Tories out by holding the Left down. He managed it once more on
Thursday, but he will never do so again.
- Charles Moore, "The Telegraph", after Blair wins his third election
The Conservative and
Labour parties are to all intents and purposes between leaders. Leadership
candidates stalk the shadows. Stalking horses stalk the airwaves. Labour
and the Tories want a new leader. Mr Blair needs a new party. The best
solution is obvious: Mr Blair should lead the Conservative Party. That
would give the country the choice it really wants, and allow Mr Brown and
Mr Blair to tear each other’s hearts out one last time. I wonder who would
- Alice Miles, "The Times"
The Conservative Party
has staked its future on the most inexperienced party leader since Pitt
- The Times, with a sense of history after David Cameron is elected Tory Leader
"I want my Party to
be one that says, loudly and proudly, that there is such a thing as society
— it's just not the same thing as the state."
- David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader (2005)
People tell opinion
polls both that they think Mr Blair is a liar and that he would make the
best Prime Minister. It is not as illogical as it sounds: if you believe
that all politicians are liars, you might as well vote for the one who
lies the best.
- Charles Moore, in "The Telegraph" before Election 2005
"Trying to extract
the truth from this prime minister is like trying to nail jelly to a wall."
- George Osborne, Conservative MP
There is a hole where
any “left” alternative industrial and economic policy would sit. The poor
would have to be protected, damsels rescued, folks given rights, spending
increased and so on. But then what? How would wealth be created, jobs created,
international competitiveness maintained? I am not joking when I say that,
in years of reading left publications and attending left-of-centre meetings
I have not once heard these questions tackled directly — other than by
a minister. The Editor of "The New Statesman" may not deal with them because,
being an intelligent rather than a brave man, he knows his readers wouldn’t
like the answers.
- David Aaronovitch, at the 2005 Labour Conference, "The Times"
The real scandal of
the Walter Wolfgang affair was not that he was frog-marched from the conference
floor, but that when he tried to get back in, he was detained briefly by
the police under anti-terrorism legislation. Surely there could be no more
vivid illustration of how Labour has wrecked the historic balance between
freedom and security than in an 82-year-old Jewish refugee from Germany
being detained under terrorism legislation for no graver offence than having
noisily accused a politician of lying.
- Telegraph editorial, after 'heckling' incident at 2005 Labour Conference
To those who proclaim
that there is nothing interesting about a centralised poltiics, in which
two centralised parties are divided only by their proposed methods of achieving
the same ends, there is a sharp answer: Those are the only politics worthy
of the name, and we are very lucky to live in an epoch where they prevail.
- Clive James, on the 2005 election
BRITAIN AND THE WORLD
Aren't we exhausted,
materially and spiritually, by all that liberal interventionism? Mr Blair
wanted to intervene in everything. He wanted to be allied with America,
he wanted to be at the heart of Europe, he sought a massive programme in
Africa... It's understandable, this desire to draw back. Our efforts abroad
are attended by such disappointment and difficulties. In Afghanistan the
fight looks to be almost eternal. Even in Kosovo there is talk once more
of conflict. Meanwhile a large swath of opinion here seems to consider
any vigorous attempt to forestall an Iranian nuclear weapon as being counterproductive.
But I wonder whether the problem was not our interventionism, but our unwillingness
to pay the full price for it. Suppose General Petraeus had been there in
Baghdad in surge numbers in 2003. Or suppose that, from the start, all
our Nato partners had provided the promised support — without conditions
— in Afghanistan. Suppose, too, that we had spent the years since 1989
building up our military and civil interventionist capacities rather than
running them down.
- David Aaronovitch, on David Cameron's "conservative interventionism", "The Times"
Every Briton pays £54
a year to the EU, £10 to Nato, £2 to the UN and 20p to the
Commonwealth... Yet Commonwealth Africa is in pretty good shape, compared
with the rest of the continent. Envoys working behind the scenes have done
a lot for Cameroons, Togo and Guyana. The Commonwealth is fighting for
fairer trade for the Caribbean, for civilian rule in Fiji and is one of
the few bodies still pressing General Musharraf on democracy. And Pakistan,
like India, now takes the Commonwealth very seriously. Isn’t it time Britain
did as well?
- Michael Binyon, "The Times"
I start to wonder whether
it might not be time for us to get as nasty with other countries as they
do with us. As we wait anxiously to see what will happen to our 15 hostages
- for that is what they are - in Teheran, we should feel undiluted rage
at the behaviour of other countries and institutions towards us. Mind you,
when those third parties witness the drivelling weakness of the Foreign
Office over the last week, and in particular the pathetic show put up by
our Foreign Secretary - who must surely be just about the worst in our
history - who can blame them? There is no doubt the 15 were in international
waters when captured, or that they were undertaking a United Nations mission
in pursuit of upholding UN resolutions. Yet the best the UN itself can
do is pass a weak-kneed resolution describing its “grave concern”, rather
than a tougher one calling upon all nations to “deplore” Iran’s behaviour.
- Simon Heffer, "The Telegraph"
In the Telegraph, Simon
Heffer suggests that the British ministry of defense should provide members
of the armed forces with DVDs of old movies like The Colditz Story, The
Cruel Sea, One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, or Carve Her Name with Pride
before sending them into action. It’s a reminder that the culture once
paid more attention to heroes and acts of heroism than to either suffering
victims or psychotic killers.
- seen on "National Review"
Name, rank and bank
- Headline after 15 Royal Navy personnel held by Iran sell their stories
Europeans and more
and more Americans believe they can live in a world with all the benefits
of global prosperity and none of the messy obligations necessary to maintain
it. And so they cruise around war zones like floating NGOs. Iran called
their bluff, and televised it to the world.
- Mark Steyn, after the capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel, "Chicago Sun Times"
was quite right all along (though he didn’t quite put it this way): if
you’re going to go all soppy and weak at the knees over the fate of a young
mother, and demand special consideration for her, you shouldn’t send her
to a war zone. It is well-known that war zones are bad for young mothers...
The desire to be both policeman and lady almoner, General Patton and Gandhi,
Rambo and Elizabeth Fry, was not conducive to clear thinking or clear policy.
- Theodore Dalrymple, on the capture of Faye Turney, "The Spectator"
CRIME & TERRORISM
The violence that frightens
most of us is not a bomb from al-Qaeda; it's the thugs in the local neighbourhood
who rob people, the bullies who intimidate children, and the burglars who
break into houses and then threaten to kill the owners unless they tell
them where their money and jewels are kept. I have been a front-line police
officer for 26 years, and I have never been as alarmed by the amount of
violence in Britain I see on the streets as I am today... The Government
has more or less abandoned any attempt to deal effectively with that source
of terror - although it is a far more potent force in people's lives than
anything from al-Qaeda. Crime is the terror we must tackle. The Government
should concentrate on trying to do something to diminish the terror caused
by the horrifying increase in violent crime. But to do so, it would first
have to admit that so far, everything it has done to reduce violent crime
has been no more than window dressing. And which member of the Government
will ever admit that obvious truth?
- Norman Brennan, Director of the Victims of Crime Trust, writing in "The Telegraph"
One way to imprison
a suspected terrorist for 90 days or even longer, without any bother from
Parliament, would be to give him an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. The Asbo
could be drawn up to include a number of hard-to-follow rules such as never
to associate with more than one other person in public or use the internet.
Once a breach was proved in court, where it would be regarded as a serious
criminal offence, the offender could be given a jail sentence of up to
five years. Gotcha! Such is the concealed yet far-reaching power of the
Asbo that this is a not entirely frivolous hypothesis.
- Trevor Grove, "The Spectator"
In Britain, the total
cost of the prison system per year was found to be £1.9 billion,
while the financial cost alone of the crimes committed per year by criminals
was estimated at £60 billion. The big difference between the two
kinds of costs is not just in their amounts. The cost of locking up criminals
has to be paid out of government budgets that politicians would prefer
to spend on giveaway programs that are more likely to get them re-elected.
But the far higher costs of letting criminals loose is paid by the general
public in both money and in being subjected to violence. The net result
is that both politicians and ideologues of the left are forever pushing
"alternatives to incarceration." These include programs with lovely names
like "community supervision" and high-tech stuff like electronic devices
to keep track of released criminals' locations.
- Thomas Sowell
Last Friday Mr Blair
attacked “the political and legal establishment”. He said that it “didn’t
understand”, that it was “in denial”, that it was “out of touch”. And he
argued the Establishment was letting down everyone else, “ordinary, decent,
law-abiding folk”, and failing to get the balance right between victims
and offenders. It was a curious speech. But not because Mr Blair was wrong.
Many of the things he said were right and needed saying. No, it was curious
for entirely different reasons. First, consider the man making it. Mr Blair
is Prime Minister, a barrister, married to a human rights lawyer and best
friend of the Lord Chancellor. Who, then, is the “political and legal establishment”
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times" (Jun'06)
The pitch of Londonistan
may occasionally exceed that which is discernible to the human ear, but
her shrillness is the result of a wholly justifiable anger that few people
in power seem to be listening.
- Rod Liddle, reviewing "Londonistan" by Melanie Phillips, "The Spectator"
The fight against crime
today is characterised by two fortresses. One is the home, now triple-bolted,
alarmed and window-locked against intruders. The other is the police station,
whence officers make occasional sallies to round up drivers or follow up
a crime identified by the CCTV operators. Between the two are the streets,
where the criminals too often hold sway.
- Editorial in "The Telegraph"
"The problem is that
they're not scared of what might happen to them even in the unlikely event
that they are caught."
- Norman Tebbit, on the increasing fearlessness of criminals, "BBC Question Time"
England is rapidly
becoming a place where the good are afraid of the bad and the bad are not
afraid of anything.
- Peter Hitchens
The British public
is increasingly worried by judgments whose effect is to rank the "rights"
of criminals higher than those of law-abiding citizens. As a result, the
whole notion of human rights is becoming discredited. Rather than basic
protections against arbitrary power, "human rights" are now seen as legal
fictions that prevent the police, the intelligence services and other government
agencies from doing what they believe needs to be done in order to safeguard
- Editorial from "The Telegraph"
The police often seem
to think that pursuing drivers, or people who insult the Welsh, or who
take robust action against intruders into their homes, is more important
than aggressively tackling criminal gangs, burglars and violent thugs.
- Editorial from "The Telegraph"
The ordinary person
probably feels that abstract freedoms impact less on his life than the
mundane right to walk his own streets unmolested by criminals, or to protect
his tax-funded healthcare and benefit systems from fraud and exploitation.
He has enough confidence in his governing class and his police force to
trust their integrity. Who is to say that he is wrong?
- Janet Daly, "It's the un-policed state that scares us", on ID cards, "The Telegraph"
This proposed card
will be the 'One Card to Bind Them All', it is literally that evil, all
governments, when they touch this idea go insane for it just like the characters
in 'Lord of the Rings'. The unlimited power it gives over populations is
just too seductive to bear. This card must be thrown into the fire, where
it should finally burn, forever eliminated from evern threatening us again.
- Irdial Discs, blogging on proposed national ID card scheme
Proposals from Lord
Falconer's Department for Constitutional Affairs reveal the true intentions
of the Government on ID cards: local authorities will be empowered to fine
anyone - and as much as £2,500 - who fails to register with the ID
data base, or fails to keep their details up to date. The proposals would
effectively make the failure to obtain an identity card a crime, and make
it about as voluntary as paying tax. They would, indeed, create a new tax:
a tax simply on being alive.
- Editorial from the Sunday Telegraph
We should be able to
disapprove of something without wanting to criminalise it. That distinction
is critical to a free society. People can see the case against easing the
restrictions on casinos - notably that it might encourage addictive gambling
- and yet, by and large, they do not see this as a good enough reason for
maintaining a ban. All sorts of things are bad for us - drinking too much
Rioja, watching daytime television - but we do not outlaw them, because
there is a distinction between public and private spheres.
- Daily Telegraph Editorial, "Free To Gamble"
Those who think that
anti-social behaviour is the product of alcohol abuse confuse cause with
consequence. The boorish conduct visible in town centres at night has roots
much deeper than the structure of the licensing laws. What is needed is
not restricted access to alcohol but, as we have consistently argued, a
tougher approach to criminality. Adults should be free to behave as they
choose – and held to account for the consequences.
- Editorial in the "Sunday Telegraph"
Junior Home Officer
minister Meg Hillier has said that drunken pop stars and discounted booze
at supermarkets is to blame. Really? If my generation had emulated our
poster boys (like Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Sid Vicious and the like) instead
of just wearing their T-shirts we'd never have made our 30s. And are we
supposed to believe that previous generations of kids didn't binge drink?
And cheap supermarket cider? Supermarkets can't sell to the underage, so
if underage drinkers are getting their hands on the stuff, who is buying
it for them? ...Perhaps the kids are out of control because we refuse to
control them. Instead we seek to manipulate them through dubious means
like 'pop star role models' and price fixing of beer.
- Brett, on the "Harry's Place" blogspace
When confronted by
a problem that requires sensible enforcement of existing laws, the Government
reflexively devises a new strategy that often seems designed to do nothing
more than distract attention from its own failings. It is perfectly possible
to require the police to impose order in our town centres without raising
the cost of alcohol, or levying special taxes on bars to pay for law enforcement,
or inducing teenagers to go undercover into bars to see if they will be
- Daily Telegraph editorial as the British government considers new alcohol policies
If only these people
drank more during the week, perhaps they wouldn't behave like this at the
- Tom Utley, on weekend 'binge' drinkers, "The Telegraph"
The Liberal Democrats
behaved, as ever, illiberally and voted against (relaxed licensing laws).
These days, it seems, they are opposed to almost everything their name
stands for, or used to stand for.
- Rod Liddle, "The Times"
"Two beers; 14 vodkas
and mixers; 23 gin and tonics; 11 bottles of wine; seven litres of sparkling
water; three Irish coffees; five coffees; three whisky shots; three shots
of Cointreau; two Cosmopolitan cocktails; two Bloody Marys; three Mojito
cocktails and two BaseLine cocktails."
- Christmas lunch bill for 10 British civil servants in Dept of Trade and Industry, "Spectator"
Those who break the
law - as John Locke, one of the earliest proponents of natural rights,
pointed out - do not have the same rights as those who keep it. A burglar
who invades another's property, said the great 17th-century philosopher
of liberty, loses his automatic right to the same legal protection that
is due to the honest citizen: his decision to violate the rights of another
means that he has put himself outside the standards and norms that entitle
an individual to assume that any violence against him will be viewed by
the authorities as a criminal offence. British law needs to be changed
to recognise that obvious truth.
- Leader in Britain's "Sunday Telegraph"
We know that the Prime
Minister doesn’t like Victorian schools, Victorian attitudes towards women
and probably even turns his nose up at Victoria sponge. But one might have
expected him to possess an ounce more historical knowledge than to lay
into 19th-century law-enforcement in the way he did. Contrary to his assertion
that the courts of Dickensian England were too busy fussing over prisoners’
innocence to tackle crime effectively, the mid-19th century saw a steady
and prolonged reduction in crime. By 1900 the footpads who had plagued
the highways a hundred years earlier, the gangs of urchin pickpockets who
had operated throughout our cities in the 1820s, and the garrotters who
had terrorised the dimly lit streets of London in the 1860s had all but
gone. Violent crime was probably lower than it had ever been before or
has ever been since.
Mr Blair really wanted to take a lesson from 19th-century law and order, he might consider the re-introduction of something close to reformatory schools; instead young thugs are left on the loose, collecting Asbos as badges of honour.
But the Prime Minister’s assertion that antisocial behaviour, drug-dealing, binge-drinking and organised crime are 21st-century problems unknown to Victorian law-enforcement is absurd. What about the opium-dealers, the sozzled masses of Gin Lane, the fraudsters who inflated the South Sea Bubble?
- Ross Clark, "The Spectator"
In 1954 in London there
were just four crimes involving firearms during the whole year. Most inner
London boroughs would now see more than that total every weekend.
- Leo McKinstry
I feel, in an unwarranted
and perhaps unprecedented burst of compassion, that I must acquit our youth
of responsibility for their degeneracy... Why do youths feel it is acceptable
to beat up their teachers? Why do so many of them see no harm in carrying
a knife and, at the slightest provocation, using it? The answer is simple.
It is because we, their elders, have made them like this. Not all of them,
I grant you: many young people of all backgrounds are civil, industrious,
even brave. Many are not - but that has always been the case. The problem
is that the latter seem to be multiplying, and engaging in acts of delinquency
that would have been considered unthinkable by all but the most psychotic
a generation ago... The self-indulgence of their parents means many have
had unstable "family" lives, with an absence of good role models. The absence
of discipline at home is matched by its near-abolition at school.
- Simon Heffer, "Is it surprising that our youth are ghastly?", "Telegraph"
Since the 1980s there
has been a fivefold increase in complaints about noise from rowdy neighbours.
Campaigners say the problem is likely to worsen with summer looming because
many home owners have begun to treat their gardens as "outdoor rooms" and
have acquired the noisy outdoor habits more usually associated with Australians.
- Sarah Womack, "Why Britain is no longer at peace", "The Telegraph"
Since 1997 the Labour
government has created no fewer than 700 new criminal offences. This is
supposed to be an age of increasing peace and prosperity. Yet the Labour
party has been in such a continuous panic about the behaviour and potential
behaviour of the British people that it has found 700 new ways in which
to proscribe courses of conduct. In case you are wondering how that compares
with any previous administration, Labour is creating criminal offences
at a rate ten times greater than that of any other government. This might
not in itself be a bad thing, if society were plagued by a wholly new set
of evils. But far too many of these laws are either vexatious, or else
they are unnecessary since the problems they are intended to address are
already covered by existing statute... people are entitled to ask what
Labour understands by a law. Is it there to be enforced to the letter?
Or is it just a kind of cosmic yelp, a gush of parliamentary feeling, not
to be taken seriously by the criminal justice system?
- Leader from "The Spectator"
Not so long ago Sir
Iqbal Sacranie, boss of the Muslim Council of Britain, told Radio Four’s
PM programme that he thought homosexuality was not in the best interests
of society and, as a result, was treated to a visit from the Old Bill on
a possible charge of homophobia. Shortly before Sir Iqbal made his fatuous
but moderately expressed statement, the government enacted legislation
which made it illegal to deride Islam. And so we now have a case where
you can be charged, under the law, for expressing a central tenet of a
religion and also be banged up for challenging the validity of that religion.
This, I would suggest, is an absurdity.
You cannot pass laws to make everyone love and respect each other, just as you cannot insist that Islam is fine and dandy and then threaten to bang people up for stating one of its fundamental precepts. The number of people who find homosexuality objectionable dwindles by the year. Let it gradually deliquesce into nothingness then, rather than beat the homophobes around the head until they have just cause for resentment... Somewhere there is a line in the sand which should not be crossed, a point at which the government should cease attempting to counter a deep-seated antipathy within the general population through legislation.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
If you are a woman
who is as drunk as a skunk, flirting outrageously with a man while wearing
a boob tube and micro skirt, the likelihood of your being raped is going
to be greater than if you stayed at home with a cup of Bovril watching
Songs of Praise and dressed like Ann Widdecombe. This does not remotely
mitigate the guilt of the rapist, however — and that supposedly errant
one third of the British public didn’t seem to suggest that it should,
either. A comparable scenario might be this: if I go for a walk at midnight
in Harlesden wearing a flashy suit and holding aloft a BlackBerry, I would
be more likely to be mugged than if I skulked down the street in jeans
and trainers looking destitute. Or, indeed, better still, did not visit
the area at all after sundown. But my comparatively risky behaviour does
not lessen by one iota the guilt of my mugger, even though you might argue
that I am partially responsible for my own downfall. You might argue with
some force that the mere fact that I should be scared to visit Harlesden
after sundown while wearing a suit is a form of oppression in itself. And,
similarly, that it is every woman’s right to get well and truly plastered
and behave like a Dandie Dinmont on heat without worrying that she might
be attacked as a result — and that such a constraint on behaviour is, indeed,
oppressive and unjust. But it does not alter my contention that certain
forms of behaviour on the part of women will lead to an increased risk
of sexual assault from men, and that it is silly to pretend otherwise.
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
The Home Office also
plans to amend the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 so that a drunk girl can't
say yes. But the campaign for consent isn't simply a cruel swipe at men
- it's more mysterious than that, and shot through with misogyny too. Why
this peculiar disparity between how the genders are judged? If a woman,
when drunk, isn't responsible for her actions, then why should a man be?
If Stella Artois can force a girl to assent to sex against her will, then
why can't a man claim it was the Stella that removed his trousers too?
It's not that women aren't often genuine victims, but that the picture
of them here is absurd, almost Victorian, and there's something both suspicious
and patronising about directing the anti-rape campaign at men. It's as
if there's no point warning women to carry alarms or to book taxis home;
no reason to print posters encouraging teenage girls to think before they
drink, because the puddle-brained little loves won't understand.
- Mary Wakefield, "If She's Drunk He's A Rapist", "The Telegraph"
"We live in a society
that treats children as adults and adults as children."
- David Cameron, Conservative Leader
When it comes to sex,
Britain now seems to be gripped by a dangerous form of schizophrenia. On
the one hand, there is mounting panic over the issue of p*edophilia, where
a media-driven climate of hysteria means that even the mere allegation
of child abuse can be enough to destroy careers and wreck lives. Yet, on
the other hand, we have a youth culture that is obsessed with sex. In the
relentless promotion of adolescent sexual freedom, all moral boundaries
have disappeared, pornography has been brought into the mainstream and
the law on the age of consent is derided or ignored... the self-appointed
guardians of public morality should examine their own role in helping to
build a modern Britain where childhood innocence has vanished, youthful
promiscuity is rampant and young women are told that flesh-baring exhibitionism
and availability are ‘empowering’. The powerful sex education lobby, which
despises any kind of morality and follows the twisted Freudian view that
all children are sexualised from an early age, believes that teaching about
sex should start in primary school. But all this uninhibited sex education
is not working. Britain has by far the highest rates of teenage pregnancy
and sexually transmitted diseases in Europe.
- Leo McKinstry, "The Spectator"
According the Government,
the total number of potentially dangerous perverts and other “unsuitable
individuals” in need of vetting is up to 9.5 million people. And it has
the nerve to accuse the media of stoking up a panic about paedophile teachers.
The streamlined vetting and barring scheme for those working with children
or “vulnerable adults” is intended to cover up to eight million teachers,
school caretakers, dinner ladies, lollipop persons, nurses, doctors, nannies,
childminders, home tutors, social workers, sports instructors, priests,
policemen and care workers, along with another 1.5 million less obvious
jobs such as hospital cleaners and catering staff. If you deal with children
on the phone or the internet, volunteer to run a sports club, or supervise
after-school shelf-stackers in a supermarket, you will come under official
The documents spell out how the vetting system will be extended to cover not only those who work with children, but also anybody “whose work offers them the opportunity for regular contact or places them in a position of trust in relation to children”. But why stop there? Why not vet all the bus drivers, shopworkers and cinema ushers too? Given that this vetting frenzy began with the Soham murders, it is worth reminding the authorities that Ian Huntley, the school caretaker who killed two ten-year-old girls, made contact with his victims through his girlfriend’s job as their classroom assistant. So shouldn’t we vet the near and dear of those 9.5 million adults as well? And why exclude other children’s parents from the surveillance? After all, we often trust them to supervise our children alone. The new vetting system will also rely on “soft” intelligence. The Department for Education proposals talk about using police information on “convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings and allegations”, as if these were all the same thing. The distinction between a criminal conviction and an unsubstantiated allegation might once have been thought of as a foundation of justice. Now it is looked upon as a loophole, along with that other “licence for perverts ”, the presumption of innocence. If this continues who is going to become a teacher or work with children?
- Mick Hume, "The Times"
A man who has sex with
a 13-year-old girl has still committed an offence: unlawful sex with somebody
under the age of 16, the age of consent. He still faces a maximum penalty
of 14 years in prison. But is he a paedophile? Yes, perhaps, if he is a
50-year-old. But what about a 20-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old
who looks 18? Or what about a woman and a boy who is sexually mature beyond
his years? For centuries the age of consent in Britain was 12, being raised
to 13 in 1875 and to 16 ten years later, where it has remained. Since then,
however, patterns of sexual behaviour have changed — or people have just
become more honest about it. The age of consent, still as low as 13 in
Spain and 14 in several other European countries and in some American states,
remains a controversial topic. Few are suggesting raising or lowering the
age of consent in Britain, despite the fact that sexual mores have changed.
The is whether by labelling all adults who have sex with minors as paedophiles
we risk diluting our efforts to get to grips with those who pose the biggest
dangers to children, the hardcore minority.
- Editorial in Sunday Times
The Government is not
so much interested in being tough on crime, as in being seen to be tough.
It is not about the results; it is not about the exact legal effect of
the Bills they enact. It is about the mood music, the reassuring psychological
impact on the poor frightened voter of all this government legislation
being pushed through the Commons with symphonic vigour, even if it has
very little impact on criminals or terrorists. Labour continues to use
ever more new legislation as a kind of rhetorical tool, a parliamentary
squawk to indicate its attitudes, while totally neglecting to use and enforce
the existing law. It didn't care about the 1,023 foreign criminals who
were released back into the community, because they were covered by existing
legislation. These criminals couldn't form the basis for some new headline-grabbing
measure or eye-catching initiative. Their deportation was part of the grindingly
hard and tedious business of government, and yet the Home Secretary does
not even know where they are, or how he or his services can hope to find
them again. The Government insist on knowing the whereabouts of all our
children, up to the age of 18, while 1,000 criminals roam free. I don't
want them worrying about where to find my children; I want them to worry
about the whereabouts of these thugs and creeps, and on that matter they
showed a profound indifference.
- Boris Johnson, "The Telegraph", after Home Office failure to deport 1000 foreign criminals
Cop eras on the box
have always been bellwethers, if not for the state of society, then for
the way society views its state. Voltaire, or someone impersonating a French
philosopher, said that you judge a country not by its palaces, but by its
jails. And you can judge the collective concerns and fears of the sofa-bound
nation not by the quality of prizes and guests on game shows, but by the
crimes and punishment on its police shows. Now we’ve got Spooks, which
has just finished a successful run, and The Ghost Squad (Tuesday, C4),
which is just hitting its stride. Both series are about guardians of our
safety who aren’t there, who aren’t there for us, whom we can’t see, can’t
call, who won’t do anything to help, don’t walk the streets and don’t pick
up the phone. Television cop shows have stopped being about the public
at all. It’s a sign of how we see the police in real life, and if I were
home secretary and adept at reading the social semiotics, I’d be very,
very concerned. Then again, who am I kidding? The home secretary is Charles
Clarke, and he probably thinks a semiotic is a type of Czech sub-machinegun.
The assumption that we have the best police force in the world underwrote
all British police series. Well, it doesn’t any more, because I don’t get
the feeling any of us assume we do any more.
- AA Gill, from his TV review column in "The Times"
You may also have read
of the two special police constables in Manchester who watched a ten-year-old
child drown in a shallow pond because they had not been given the appropriate
training for drowning incidents. One stood on the bank and watched while
other cycled away to get help, presumably from someone who had received
the appropriate training. The child died. These officers were not remotely
reprimanded for their behaviour; indeed, they were praised by the boss
of Manchester Police for having abided by the correct procedures, which
involved watching a child drown. To most of the outside world, I suspect,
this will have appeared to be a lunacy — but within the institution it
will have made perfect sense. You can view the dreadful case of Jean Charles
de Menezes in a similar way. Mr de Menezes, you will recall, was shot dead
on a Tube train three years ago by armed policemen who — for no reason
one could easily discern — considered him to be a Maghrebian terrorist.
Colloquially, at least, you might argue that something went a bit awry
in the Metropolitan Police on that day, either with the officers on the
ground, or rather further up the chain of command. Common sense would seem
to suggest that someone made a very bad mistake which resulted in the brutal
and avoidable death of Mr de Menezes. But the police got themselves together
and decided that there had been ‘no systemic failure’ and that nobody was
to blame — it was just one of those unfortunate things. Instead, later,
the Metropolitan Police and Sir Ian Blair found themselves bang to rights
for having — and this takes us to a place way beyond satire, when you think
about it — breached health and safety guidelines by shooting the chap on
a crowded Tube train. A crude summary of this little thesis is that infractions
of health and safety regulations, or saying something which someone regards
as racist or offensive to their delicate sensibilities in some other manner,
will always get you sacked — whereas grotesque incompetence, negligence
and stupidity, a failure to do one’s job properly and so on, even if it
results in the death of a human being as a direct consequence, will not
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
The police have lost
their way because interaction with ordinary members of the public is usually
negative. I got pulled over in The Mall a few years back: two young officers,
random check, there was nothing wrong. We had the usual exchange, the sort
coppers must hear every day now. I asked if they wondered why every person
they met these days seemed angry.
- Martin Samuel, "The Times"
RACE & IDENTITY
Despite the common
criticism that TV perpetuates a stereotypical and negative view of black
people, I feel it bends over backwards to portray them in a positive light.
There are still too few of them, but whether on Hustle, Waking the Dead,
55 Degrees North or Doctors, black characters on TV are rarely negative
stereotypes. The danger is that when someone seeks to redress the balance,
and portray the hard reality of life for a majority of people in Britain's
black community, they are attacked. When a white person attempts it - such
as director Saul Dibb with his film Bullet Boy - he is condemned because
he is not from that community. A black person - such as Sharon Foster -
is condemned for betraying her own. The controversy around Foster's Shoot
the Messenger is just its latest incarnation: what is the artist's responsibility
towards their community? To protect and defend, or to reveal?
It is not black or Asian people who have the greatest cause to complain about TV representation - it is working-class whites. The only time real working-class whites are shown is as reality television fodder in documentaries where their role is to drink, swear and lift their skirts. See a white working-class person on TV and chances are they are a slapper, thicko, slob or racist. The most successful depictions of the white working class have come from working-class writers able to both champion and critique their community. Paul Abbott's Shameless and Jimmy McGovern's The Street offer a portrayal that is sophisticated, affectionate and brutal.
- Sarfraz Manzoor, "The Observer"
One unintended consequence
of 9/11 and the subsequent increased attention on British Muslims was a
shift of focus away from the black community. Asians had been seen as essentially
peaceful, hardworking and dull; in the last five years Asians, specifically
Muslims, have succeeded in replacing blacks as public enemy number one.
- Sarfraz Manzoor, "The Observer"
Racism is to contemporary
culture what charges of witchcraft were to the 16th century: even a whisper
that you might be a witch could get you ritually drowned: even an inkling
that you might be "racist", and the whole world will crash down on your
head. Leave aside the fact that most societies have traditionally been
racist, and among the most racist of all is India, where the elite Brahmin
caste is marked by its lighter skin, and the Untouchables - the harijan
- by their darker hue. However, deep in Middle England, it is not only
a question of the "racism" by Jade when she disparaged Shilpa Shetty. Their
conduct has revealed something similarly alarming: the appallingly uneducated
state of so many young women like Jade - who cannot say where Norfolk is,
and think that "East Angular" is a foreign country. There are hundreds
of thousands of young women like Jade Goody, but is it entirely their fault
they have never known standards in education, manners, decorum or speech?
Or is it the fault of a wider culture which regards any form of self-control
as "repression", which disparages respectability as "authoritarian", which
considers foul language casually acceptable and which praises uncouth candour
as "honesty"? Racism can also be just another expression of ill-educated
- Mary Kenny, "The Irish Independent"
"I am representing
my country. If those girls are representing theirs, then Britain is in
- Shilpa Shetty, on the Celebrity Big Brother row
"Am I right-wing? I’m
anti-capital punishment. I’m pro-abortion. I’m for overseas aid and civil
liberties and progressive taxation. But I’m 'right-wing' because I want
to govern myself, and I think there are a lot of bogus asylum-seekers,
and I don’t think we should have open borders."
- Robert Kilroy Silk, UK Independence Party MEP, interviewed in "The Spectator"
Sikhs and Hindus in
east London were upset when they received cards celebrating the Muslim
festival of Eid from the Labour MP Oona King. Her office said it had not
had time to check the religion of all voters with Muslim-sounding names.
- The Independent
It says a good deal
about the quality of churchmen and politicians in Britain that the most
prominent opponent of the Bill (against 'hatred' of religious groups) is
Mr Bean. The Archbishop of Canterbury is more or less invisible. The Government
is on the side of repression.
- Charles Moore, "Is it only Mr Bean who resists this new religious intolerance?", "The Telegraph"
All the main Islamic
schools of law state that apostasy — the abandonment of one's Muslim faith
— is punishable by death. That is the law in several Muslim states — Saudi
Arabia, Iran, Sudan — and it is imposed, informally, in many more. In Holland,
the politician accused of apostasy, Ayyan Hirsi Ali, has had to go into
hiding to avoid being murdered. You might think that such a penalty for
such a "crime" was a more dramatic example of religious hatred than anything
offered here in Britain by paltry yobs such as the British National Party,
yet this is the prevalent, mainstream teaching of the religion whose critics
the British Government now proposes to criminalise.
- Charles Moore, "The Telegraph"
The Racial and Religious
Hatred Bill may not produce many court cases. Even on the rare occasions
when the police and crown prosecution services decide to act, the Attorney
General may intervene to avoid a political controversy. But this doesn’t
mean that the legislation will have no impact on free speech. Of course
it will. It will have an impact every time the the local arts centre decides
that perhaps it had better not book a certain act, or a cinema chain decides
not to show a certain film, or a school decides not to hire out its hall
to certain speakers. It will have an impact every time the wording of a
council leaflet is changed or the local church changes its mind about the
topic of its study evening.
In myriad ways, little by little, our freedom will be eroded. And most of the time we won’t even notice.
- Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"
We do not hear very
much from the Church of England about the plight of Christians, and particularly
Anglicans, in hostile foreign environments. Under the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Rowan Williams, the church does not like to make too much of a fuss about
murdered priests in the Sudan, the constant fears of samizdat believers
in Riyadh, the continued state persecution in Turkey, the perpetual discrimination
in Indonesia and Malaysia and Bangladesh. Or about the Punjabi Christian
dragged before a court in Pakistan accused of having sent a blasphemous
message on his mobile phone, the Muslim hordes screaming for the death
sentence outside the court. The thousands of Christians in Bauchi, Nigeria,
watching their homes burned to the ground and their leaders attacked by,
again, Muslim mobs. The beatings and murders in liberated — yea, praise
the lord! — Afghanistan. We don’t hear much about that stuff from anyone,
be it the BBC, our politicians or most notably the Church of England. You
might expect the C of E to feel at least a little bit uncomfortable that
Anglicans were being strung up or burned alive in the middle east and elsewhere.
But it does not seem to be an enormous issue for the prelates. The problem
being that it would bring Rowan, and the church, into conflict with the
very Islamists with whom they are thoroughly enjoying their important ‘inter-faith
dialogues’, by which they seem to set so much store. These inter-faith
dialogues have never, ever, to my knowledge, touched upon Islamic persecution
of Christians: all the traffic is in the other direction, and the Church
of England thinks it is all going swimmingly. The C of E is very pleased
and proud of its inter-faith dialogues — largely, I suppose, because when
conducting them it always adopts a strategy of total capitulation, much
as it does before any and every assault upon its ideology, be it from Islam
or from the decadent depredations of modern Britain... It is a church which
has manipulated itself into a position whereby it can accommodate any adjustment
to its own faith and ideology in order to make sure that it is in step
with what it believes to be popular thinking.
- Rod Liddle, "Why Does the Church of England Exist?", "The Spectator" (Apr'09)
It is easy to mock
our past ideal of identity, overwhelmingly defined by military achievement.
Yet the replacement of the old national culture with one rooted only in
personal self-fulfilment, in which the highest loyalties are offered to
football teams, and new immigrants are permitted to live here as mere economic
campers, is plainly a failure. Peter Mandler’s book tells us less about
English character than about past self-definitions of identity. We badly
need a new one. Without identity, there cannot be loyalty. And without
some acknowledged common loyalty and identity, we have a society in which
people born and bred here can become suicide-bombers.
- Max Hastings, reviewing "The English National Character", "The Times"
The Queen’s Sister
managed the rare feat of being both a clichéd exercise in adolescent
Establishment-baiting and also plain ugly in its heedlessness of the offence
it would cause. I’m sure that Lord Linley doesn’t need me, or anyone else,
to defend him, but I was nevertheless saddened by the cheapness of the
assault on a woman who had, whatever her other frailties, sacrificed her
first love out of a sense of duty. As with the Little Britain sketch that
caricatures the WI, one had a sense of targets being chosen for satirical
attack who no longer represent any meaningful centre of power and whose
only sin is to have upheld the value system with which they grew up. The
flip side of the freedom to lambast these targets, so exuberantly indulged,
is the reluctance to defend artistic expression from other threats. When
a play can be pulled from a Birmingham theatre, as the drama Bezhti was,
because of street agitation, and when Marlowe’s words are excised, as they
have been in the latest production of Tamburlaine, because of fears that
references to the Koran will cause trouble, can we really say that we have
a freer theatre than in the age of the Lord Chamberlain? Censorship is
never the answer. But a culture that persists, as ours seems to, in focusing
its satirical energy on soft targets while avoiding hard questions is not
as robust as it seems. And celebrating victories won against repression
in the Sixties is no substitute for examining rigorously where liberalism
is being tested now.
- Michael Gove, reviewing "The Queen's Sister" in "The Times"
Another blow for freedom
of expression this week with the mutilation of Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine
the Great at the Barbican Theatre to avoid upsetting Muslims. David Farr,
who directed and adapted the classic play, excised a scene in which the
Koran is burned and deleted references to Mohammed burning in Hell. The
move has been condemned by luvvies everywhere and Marlowe's biographer,
Charles Nicholls, complains: "Marlowe stands for provocative questions.
This is an insult to both him and his fans." That may be true but when
was the last time a bunch of Marlowe fans issued a fatwah, eh?
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
Here is my suggestion
for Dan Brown's next best-selling project. How about a story based on the
"spectacularly sensational" fiction that the Prophet Mohammed was secretly
slain early in his career and his place taken by the evil pagan Abu Jahl,
known to Muslims as the "Father of Ignorance"? Tracing this theme through
"clues" hidden in the architecture of highly filmable top religious sites
such as Mecca, Jerusalem, Najaf, Qom etc, the novel would thus "prove"
that Islam was a fraud and that the Muslim world was controlled by a hidden
cult known as the Ignoramuses, who had made it their business to keep women
in subjection for the past 1,300 years while getting their hands on fabulous
oil wealth. Truly, the most explosive airport book ever. And would Sir
Ian McKellen happily shoulder the role of world-famous Islamic scholar,
Abu ben-Shifti, who turns out to be the top Ignoramus bent on global domination,
castigating all protesting Muslims as "pathetic" as he did so? I think
not, and I think we all know why.
- Charles Moore, on the controversry over "The Da Vinci Code", "The Telegraph"
A multicultural society
is at constant risk of misunderstanding, division and cultural civil war.
The incoherent liberal idea that if we could only celebrate diversity with
enough enthusiasm, then there wouldn’t really be any, or at least none
that matters, was irresponsibly sentimental. Diversity means difference,
differences matter to people and some differences are irreconcilable.
A passionate belief in the importance of free speech is irreconcilable with a passionate belief that certain things must not be said. An intense belief in freedom of artistic expression is incompatible with the belief that it is wrong to offend people or criticise their beliefs. Any new law that curtails the freedom to offend, in the name of multiculturalism or of religion, or a confusion of the two, will be bad law and cultural cowardice.
- Minette Marrin, "One Puff and our Temple of Free Speech Falls Down", "The Times"
There has been widespread
grumbling among Christians for some time that while Christianity can be
endlessly satirised and denigrated, a much more sensitive approach to Islam
is expected. Some Christians feel that the reason for this differentiation
in treatment is simply cowardice. There is a penalty to be paid if you
insult Islam; you may, like Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, end up with
your own mocking words pinned bloodily to your chest.
- Mark Kenny, "Sense not Censorship", "The Guardian"
Gypsies are yet another
issue in which the entire establishment — the law courts, the councils,
the government and our major political parties, a whole bunch of quangos
and pressure groups, the BBC, most broadsheet newspapers, international
law — is seemingly of one mind and the mass of the public quite clearly
of another. The same might be said of immigration and particularly bogus
asylum-seekers. It is precisely this dichotomy which makes the tabloid
newspapers salivate: here is an issue where debate is stifled or dismissed
but which thoroughly annoys Middle England. And so gleefully they go to
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
Mr Howard’s proposals
are intended to ensure that planning laws apply fairly to all. They are
colour-blind, background-neutral, non-discriminatory and driven by a belief
in the central principle of equality before the law. But because the Conservatives
are unveiling these plans after a series of open breaches of the law by
some travellers, Mr Howard has been accused of pandering to prejudice.
Those who stigmatise Middle Englanders can enjoy the feeling of moral superiority which comes from claiming to stand up for minorities while remaining comfortably distant from the problem. But there is nothing morally elevated about extending special treatment to one group at the expense of others, when one doesn’t have to pay the costs.
Once we start allowing individuals to jump queues, or claim special privileges, on the basis of their membership of specified groups then we strike at the roots of tolerance.
- Michael Gove, "The Times"
"We have moved from
being the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth."
- Michael Collins, "The British Working Class"
We live in an age of
lazy moral relativism combined with aggressive social insolence... The
less we engage with one another as a society, the more we are self-righteously
outraged on 'society's' behalf.
- Lynne Truss, "Talk to the Hand"
Rights, rights, rights:
rights before common sense, rights before practicality, rights before reason,
rights before consequence. "Rights" have become the mantra of our age,
as if they can be unfailingly delivered by the state to all and sundry
from a bottomless rights-well. But the state can no more deliver universal
rights than it can deliver universal seminal fluid. Sperm banks might not
have much in common with the law, but they share this characteristic: they
both need the hand of man to provide them.
- Kevin Myers, as Britain removes donors right to legal anonymity, "The Telegraph"
Is London completely
out of its mind? It is already probably the most unpleasant, badly-run
capital in Europe. The only things that appear to work there are its red
traffic lights and the sweat-glands in strangers’ armpits in the Underground.
- Kevin Myers, as London bids for the Olympics, "The Telegraph"
This was a "world square",
said Ken Livingstone, and from this day it would at last contain a great
sculpture celebrating the beauty of disabled people. The other statues
in the square, he said, commemorated the courage of men in battle. This
statue showed someone who had undergone much more than most of those men.
Then he handed over to the disabled woman, Alison Lapper, who, in her then
pregnant state, is the subject of the sculpture. She said that the statue
would make us all "confront our prejudices" about disability. Strange,
I thought, that we need a second statue of a disabled person in Trafalgar
Square. Far above us, the one-armed, one-eyed Nelson, looked the other
way, refusing, as at the battle of Copenhagen, to see the signal.
- Charles Moore, in Trafalgar Square, "The Telegraph"
We also develop a resentment
of those who draw these problems to our attention, whether nationally or
internationally. A useful index of this is what people say about Jews,
and about Israel. When I was a boy in the 1960s, Arabs were trying to destroy
Israel. The dominant Western reaction was that it should be defended in
the interests of freedom. Today, Arabs are still trying to destroy Israel
(and the Iranians have just reverted to making it a stated object of policy),
but now, in Western Europe, that seems to be Israel's fault. It has become
respectable once again to see Jews as the problem, the infuriating nuisance.
In the English bourgeois breast, there is always a battle between strenuous,
adventurous engagement with the world and its problems and quietist, pull-up-the-drawbridge
retreat from them. It was the fight between Churchill and Chamberlain,
and the English bourgeoisie have now conveniently forgotten that, until
it was almost too late, we backed Chamberlain.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
All journalists, by
our nature, tend to favour freedom of information; but it does not necessarily
follow that Freedom of Information is a good thing. If politicians and
bureaucrats know that whatever they put on paper will be open to scrutiny
and political manipulation while their careers are still in progress, they
will not write down anything worth saying. The consequence will therefore
be that FoI will prevent future generations discovering why governments
did what they did.
- Charles Moore, on the Freedom of Information Act, "The Spectator"
The Left believes in
succouring the voiceless and the helpless. What could be more so than a
foetus? Equally, the egalitarian Left believes it to be wrong that some
of us should enjoy rights denied to others. What right is more important
than the right to life? Those who deny that foetuses have such a right
ought to be grateful that someone else took a different view when they
were foetuses. ...Almost all those who have contributed towards the abortion
debate have done so in hypocritical terms. They appear to want to permit
abortion and to protect foetuses. None of them is prepared to avow the
one honest position which underlies the present arrangements: 'Abortion
is murder and I am in favour of it.'
- Bruce Anderson, article in "The Spectator"
Having banned smoking
in public places and hunting with dogs, the Labour Government continues
to support 24-week abortions. Foxes are protected but semi-developed foetuses
are not. This is extraordinary. Last year, more than 7,000 unborn babies
were legally "terminated" (an appalling euphemism) in the 18th week of
pregnancy or later. The state funded most of the operations. By contrast,
ministers want "traffic lights" stamped on chocolate wrappers to warn us
of the health dangers inside.
- Jeff Randall, in the "Daily Telegraph"
Why is everybody making
such a fuss about a couple of dozen parents who want to create new lives,
at the expense of a few full-stop-sized embryos, when hardly anybody seems
to notice the mass slaughter of highly developed foetuses that is going
on every day of the week?
- Tom Utley, on the 'designer babies' furore, "The Telegraph"
In Britain today, we
cannot run a decent A-level education system. Ill people go to hospital,
and come out with life-threatening infections. In many areas the police
have given up pursuing crimes against property. Wherever the public sector
is put under pressure, it crumbles into waste and inefficiency. There is
one spectacular exception: the army.
- Bruce Anderson, "No Way To Run An Army", "The Spectator"
Who would be a soldier
these days? You must die for countries that pose no threat to your home
and hearth. The people you protect are trying to kill you. You shoot the
wrong target and must face a public inquiry. You go to battle with a lawyer
on one shoulder and a journalist on the other. Meanwhile your ministry
leaves you underequipped because it is still buying ships to fight the
Germans and planes to fight the Russians. Having witnessed soldiers of
many countries in war and near war I have no doubt that British troops
are the most effective in the world.
- Simon Jenkins, "The Times"
I cannot see why bright
candidates should have to take on ever greater burdens "to distinguish
themselves" simply because the A grade has been systematically devalued.
A system where everyone passes even the most demanding school examination,
and a large proportion of candidates get the top mark does not celebrate
success. It masks it. I marvel at the ability of bright teenagers to tear
off that mask, to transcend the idiocy of the system, to take more subjects
at A-level if need be, to find new ways of shining and of marking themselves
out... this is what ministers do not grasp about this annual argument.
It isn't the pupils we're calling stupid.
- Matthew D'Ancona, on the flood of As in the A-levels, "The Telegraph"
Oxford is an elite
university, not an elitist one. Oxford is elite, as Manchester United or
Real Madrid are elite. It is inconceivable that it could maintain its standing
as one of the world's best centres of teaching, study and research if it
were not attracting the truly outstanding talent. That's why I'm amazed
to hear the idea still trotted out that there is some kind of Oxbridge
conspiracy to keep out sections of the population. If a university with
aspirations to global and national pre-eminence ever wanted to write a
suicide note that would be a sure way of doing it.
- John Hood, Oxford vice-chancellor
Why is it good to make
pupils stay on at school until they are 18? There are already huge problems
of truancy, and of disruption of classes by those who do not want to be
in them. This will get much worse if disaffected 16–18 year olds swell
their number. The reform typifies the dominant theme of current legislation
— the need to show good intentions, combined with an absolute lack of interest
in the actual result.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
When Anthony Crosland,
as Labour's education secretary 40 years ago, famously said that he wanted
to "destroy every f---ing grammar school in the country", he was expressing
the hatred of excellence that arises spontaneously in an egalitarian when
his plans are disturbed. Whereas it is genuinely hard - and therefore uncongenial
- for a politician to create a good school, to destroy a good school is
something that he can achieve triumphantly. So he does it. The genuine
fairness problem in schools is not produced by the existence of good schools;
it is exposed by them. The problem is that too many schools aren't as good
as they should be and that parents have little way of escaping them — a
fact that certainly does damage the poorer and less academic disproportionately.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
The main attraction
of grammars and other selective or specialist schools to aspirational parents
is not that they will introduce their children to chess grandmasters or
future Gielguds and Beckhams. It is that any selection process, no matter
how arbitrary, will help to keep their children away from the bullies,
shirkers and criminals who sabotage learning in many comprehensive schools.
- Anatole Kaletsky, "The Times"
Social mobility today
is decreasing. It is harder now for a child born on a council estate, into
a working class family, to escape modest or impoverished beginnings and
climb to the top of the employment tree than it has been for nearly two
generations. Far from drawing closer, the noble dream of every modern,
progressive and forward-looking thinker - a society in which every individual,
whatever his or her family background, has a fair chance of rising to the
top - is receding ever further into the distance. The barriers between
the classes are starting to solidify and harden once again. Being born
into a poor family of low educational attainment increasingly means you
are likely to stay that way. The culprit is the good intentions of several
generations of social reformers who have set about destroying quality state
secondary education in Britain. They repeat the mantra, in the teeth of
all the evidence (just look at selective Ulster, where working class kids
have a far better chance of getting to university) that "selection on academic
merit harms working class children"; in doing so, they condemn talented
children from poor backgrounds to lives of waste and frustration, where
opportunities are not so much missed as never offered.
- Andrew Neil, "I escaped a council estate: but today's children can't.", "The Times"
So far our response
to a growing underclass has been containment: it has been herded into reservations
we call sink estates, where the rest of us hope it will stay out of sight
and out of mind. Its members speak their own variants of English (now well
enough recognised for comedians to mock), wear their own style of clothes
(which middle-class kids sometimes copy) and have no respect for the police
or the laws that bind the rest of us. Nor do they have much regard for
the world of work or educational achievement: traditional values such as
thrift, endeavour and marriage are alien... With sad, depressing predictability,
the children of today’s underclass become tomorrow’s criminals and dropouts.
Many social trends, under governments of the Left and Right, have encouraged
the fracturing of families and the undermining of values which have created
the underclass. The Broken Society has many fathers. However the welfare
system, which Mr Blair promised to reform by ‘thinking the unthinkable’
but which remains largely untouched a decade later, has been its fertiliser.
It traps millions into welfare dependency and penalises anybody foolish
enough to try and get a legitimate job... The 21st-century challenge for
Britain’s politicians is to mend the Broken Society as the late 20th-century
ones finally managed to reverse our Broken Economy.
- Andrew Neill, on Britain's broken society, "The Spectator"
After the Labour party’s
defeat in the 1951 election, modernisers then argued that the 1944 Education
Act was unleashing a wave of social mobility from the working class, and
that Labour would lose key younger voters if it did not adapt. Labour’s
new vision, which set the mould for subsequent thinking about a classless
Britain, was for an alliance between the educated elite and the old working
class around a notion of social justice that combined belief in promoting
individual opportunities for high-flyers with collectivist protection for
losers. It was an optimistic and inclusive concept. Successful meritocrats
could avoid feeling guilty about leaving their families and communities
behind because the welfare state would look after the needy.
- Geoff Dench, "Rise and Fall of Meritocracy", "The Times"
"Modern teaching methods
overwhelmed the curriculum in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They
proved to be no more than an excuse for the lowering of standards of basic literacy and numeracy
under the guise of freedom of expression. From that time generations of children were no longer taught to write properly, to recognise the importance of spelling, to read with expression and understanding and to master numbers. In many cases the pupils of that era are now today’s teachers. They can hardly be expected to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills when they blithely went through childhood either unaware of, or indifferent to, rules of grammar and spelling... We have some fantastic young teachers now, but some of them will openly say that they need support from us for language skills because they came from the era when correct English was not a priority."
- Bryan Lewis, Edinburgh headmaster interviewed in "The Times" on progressive education
The draining away of
intrinsic value from culture and learning — the fundamental problem, on
which all his other problems depend — is itself the product of a peculiarly
virulent style of critical thinking developed by modern intellectuals.
It is a way of thinking which insists that all statements are relative
to the person who makes them, and expressive of hidden interests and power-relations...
So the answer to the question "What happened to the public intellectuals?"
is not that they were defeated by Blairite inclusivists, with or without
the help of Thatcherite marketeers. It is that they achieved a strange
and terrible victory. They manufactured their very own weapon of intellectual
mass destruction, and have disappeared in the resulting puff of smoke.
- Noel Malcolm, reviewing "Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?" in "The Telegraph"
Almost every single-issue
pressure group insists that its primary duty is to remove the stigma from
whatever afflicted tranche of the population it is serving: the mentally
ill, single parents, homosexuals, gypsies, asylum-seekers and so on. Those
mental-health pressure groups Mind and Sane go on about stigma for so long
and so often that frankly one worries for their sanity. And what they’re
trying to tell us — these people are just the same as you and me, they’re
not mad at all — is palpably untrue. For example, look again at that mission
statement from the NSCH: it is not remotely a misconception that some people
with psychiatric disorders threaten public safety — it is rather a wholly
accurate statement. The charities which look after the well-being
of asylum-seekers regularly complain that their charges are afflicted by
stigmatism. But what successive governments have done to asylum-seekers
— held them in camps, watched them closely, checked them out — is official
confirmation of the need for such stigmatising. We are right to be wary;
that’s all. Stigmatising does not necessarily confer blame upon the person
stigmatised — it just tells the rest of us to watch out.
- Rod Liddle, "The Joy of Stigma", in "The Spectator"
The way this society
treats our illegal immigrants is a disgrace. And it's not just on this
side of the water. As we all know, when you push people too far, no matter
what their circumstances are, they will eventually begin to push back.
And that has been the case at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre,
where dozens of failed asylum seekers awaiting deportation went on a rampage
and wrecked the place. Windows were smashed, fires were set, doors and
furniture were destroyed and hundreds of residents had to be evacuated
before the riot, which caused millions of pounds, was eventually quelled.
Were they upset at their imminent removal from Britain? Were they unhappy at, say, people of differing religious beliefs being forced to live together? Were they being maltreated in any way?
Actually, they were upset because they didn't have Sky television. According to prosecutor Gareth Patterson: "They complained about breaches of their human rights. "They complained about not having Sky TV. The mood quickly changed from disobedience to aggression."
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
It doesn’t matter how
often you tell these morons; they are still regrettably possessed by this
thing 'free will', which no government has ever attempted to market to
the electorate as a desirable commodity. Soon New Labour will have recourse
to compulsion instead of mere advice. It is already planning to do this
with smoking: cigarettes are to be banned from all places where food is
served, which means that you won’t be allowed to smoke in an estimated
90% of public houses, for example. And so we will all crowd into the remaining
10% and chain-smoke like laboratory beagles, until it’s banned in those
redoubts as well.
- Rod Liddle, "Bullying The Working Classes", "The Spectator"
Rightly or wrongly,
parents around the country are horrified at the sprouting of these gigantic
masts in or next to school playing fields. But it remained the responsibility
the Government, said one of the judges, to decide what measures were necessary
to protect public health — ie, if the Government wants to change the law,
it can do so. But it hasn’t. What it has done is produce a shiny magazine.
- Alice Miles, "The Notional Health Service", "The Times"
The reason you can’t
be allowed to eat an egg is that, because of the lack of real choice in
healthcare provision, you’re no longer responsible for the financial consequences
of your own actions. If you get heart disease from too much cholesterol,
the State, collectively known as the NHS, will have to treat you; and that
costs the State more and more money so the State will have to stop you
from doing it in the first place. This is the self-perpetuating logic behind
the unstoppable momentum of the expanding State. The bigger it grows, the
more it intrudes into our lives, and the more it intrudes into our lives,
the more dependent we become on it... Leviathan is now so large that, outside
London, half the population is dependent – either through public sector
jobs or benefits – on taxes. Its power is so large that it has bent us
all into submission. It has produced a culture in which no one needs to
take responsibility for anything because someone else is always there to
back us up.
- Gerard Baker, "the Times"
The League Against
Cruel Sports wants to ban grouse and pheasant shooting because pheasant
and grouse shoots are 'sports' and therefore crueller than rearing a blind
beakless alien chicken-like creature in a battery farm. Grouse may be stupid,
almost as stupid as pheasants, but they are afforded a good life until
they’re shot and eaten. Chickens are kept in abominable conditions and
then eaten anyway. What exactly is the philosophical point that means grouse
get the liberationist treatment and battery chickens are ignored? When
we frame legislation to outlaw the persecution of some animal, we should
be a little clearer about whether it is the welfare of the animal — or
our capricious and anthropomorphic whim — that matters.
- Rod Liddle, "Unnatural Selection", "The Times"
The National Consumer
Council is very angry that confectionery manufacturers are still selling
large chocolate bars to the public very cheaply. Its spokeswoman, Janice
Allen, says that she is “disappointed” with the attitude of Mars, Cadbury
and others. Now, read those two sentences again. The National Consumer
Council has decided, of its own volition, that British people are far too
fat and can’t be trusted to buy food for themselves. Isn’t this the most
perfect example of a campaigning organisation which, through an epic sense
of its own importance, ends up campaigning against the very thing it was
set up to fight for — ie, the best possible deal for the consumer?
- Rod Liddle, "The Times"
Some suggest, for example,
that we should lower the speed limit on motorways to 60 mph on the grounds
that it would save lives. One might dispute this, but surely it isn’t a
fallacy? Yes it is. It is a runaway train. We might indeed save lives by
lowering the limit to 60 mph, but if saving lives is our motive, we’d save
even more by lowering it to 50 mph, and more still at 40 mph. The train
doesn’t stop at 60 unless extra arguments are added, otherwise it goes
on until we save the maximum number of lives, with a speed limit of 0 mph.
A speed limit represents a compromise between the need to reach places
within acceptable times, and the risk of death or injury which high speeds
incur. Currently, it has settled on 70 mph. To argue successfully against
60 mph, you need only ask why that figure is better than other ones. Any
reduction might well save lives, but why that one?
- Madsen Pirie, "The Spectator"
William Hague has been
fighting a losing battle, not just against the Government but against his
own so-called colleagues. Ann Widdecombe may play well with Tory activists
but grown men hide behind sofas every time she comes on TV. A team photo
of the Tory front bench looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise,
led by Kenny from South Park. Things are so bad there are even those who
look back on the Johnny Major years with affection. It only goes to prove
that if you stick around long enough you become a much-loved statesman.
- Richard Littlejohn, on the 2001 UK Election
The Chancellor of the
Exchequer, Gordon Brown, is the lesser of my two electoral heroes. Because
of Mr Brown it is possible, for the first time in history, for voters to
re-elect a Labour Government without first having to seek inspiration in
the works of Baron von Masoch.
- Anatole Kaletsky, "The Times of London"
Maybe we will look
back at what is really the most chilling thing about the 2001 election:
for the first time in our electoral history those voting for the winning
party were outnumbered by those who didn't vote at all.
- Geoffrey Wheatcroft, following the second Blair landslide, "Irish Independent"
Yes, of course we British
pride ourselves on our belief in decency and fair play. But that does not
distinguish us from any other nation on earth. Ask an American, a Belgian,
an Indian, a German, an Australian or a Russian if he believes in decency
and fair play, and he is hardly likely to answer: "No, mate. Those are
British values, and I'm not British. I believe in indecency and unfair
What distinguishes us from other peoples is the peculiarly British institutions that have evolved through our island history to give form and expression to our national ideas of decency and fair play: the monarchy, Parliament, the common law, the Armed Forces, the pound sterling, the established Church, the BBC, the jury system, the Football Association, the class system, Fleet Street, the City guilds, the Civil Service, the Commonwealth, MCC, the social services. These, rather than any abstract notions of decency, are what make the British distinct from other peoples and make us behave in a distinctively British way towards one another.
- Tom Utley, "The Daily Telegraph", on defining 'Britishness'
Even Margaret Thatcher,
at her most innovative, did not propose innoculating babies against socialism
by injecting their bank accounts with cash.
- Nicholas Leonard, on New Labour's baby-bonds scheme
has much more to do with family than with school, and begins before the
children even reach school.
- Anthony Smith, President, Magdalen College Oxford, responding to government claims of elitism
Members of parliament
are, on the whole, quicker and more articulate than ordinary mortals.
- Archie Hamilton, Conservative MP
Call me a cringing
sycophant, but I very much like Iain Duncan Smith.
- Boris Johnson, Conservative MP, on his new party leader
When Iain Duncan Smith
visited a rundown estate and was challenged: ‘What are you doing here?
This is Labour territory,’ he replied: ‘Yes, and look around you.’
- Anthony Browne, "The Spectator"
So Jeffrey Archer gets
four years in jail for perjury, while Bill Clinton gets to pardon even
more crooks. At least one country is interested in defending its legal
- Andrew Sullivan
The past decade has
seen a massive redistribution of wealth from non-parents, no matter how
modest their means, to parents, no matter how affluent.
- Tessa Boase
wrote a rather good review of my book in The Spectator in London in which
he said about England today, quite correctly, that the right has won politically
and economically and the left has won culturally. And he said George Orwell
would rather it had been the other way around.
- Christoper Hitchens
The origins of our
current dumbed-down, chavvy situation are blamed on the economic victory
of the right and the cultural victory of the left, with the consequent
abandonment of higher cultural values and national institutions.
- Phil Baker reviewing Wheatcroft's "The Strange Death of Tory England" in "The Times"
He embodies the essence
of conservative values... Conservative values from about 1452, perhaps,
but conservative values nonetheless.
- The Spectator describes the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine
The Queen is a bargain
at £34 million a year.
- Alice Thomson, "The Weekly Telegraph"
"The present Labour
government projects an image of not being concerned with the past, except
insofar as it wants to get rid of it. Even if you want to get rid of the
past you probaby ought to know a little bit more about it."
- David Cannadine, historian
"The British police:
the paramilitary wing of the Guardian newspaper."
- David Farrer
Mr Duncan Smith is
no racist. But everybody who is a racist in the Conservative Party is going
to vote for him. Mr Duncan Smith is not a right-wing bigot. But everyone
who is a right-wing bigot in the Conservative Party is going to vote for
him. I don’t think Mr Duncan Smith is a mindless anti-European xenophobe.
But every mindlessly anti-European xenophobe in the Conservative Party
will vote for him. And, whether or not Mr Duncan Smith wants to pick a
fight and carry Britain into mortal combat with the European Union, everyone
in the Conservative Party who relishes that prospect is cheering for his
- Matthew Parris, "The Times"
Whatever the circumstances,
to drag your child's paternity through the courts is always a self-indulgent
act which is liable to damage everyone concerned and to leave scars that
may last a lifetime. To do so when you are not even married to the mother
and when you also happen to be Home Secretary is breathtakingly selfish.
- Ferdinand Mount, on the David Blunkett scandal, "The Times"
Our religion, such
as it is, has abandoned the only territory where it could not be challenged
— the saving of souls, and given up troubling our individual consciences.
Instead, it has joined in the nationalization of the human conscience,
so that a man's moral worth is now measured by the level of taxation he
is willing to support, rather than by his faith or even his good works.
Other tests — opposition to apartheid or General Pinochet — are valued
more highly than personal adherence to the Ten Commandments or the Sermon
on the Mount. An adulterer, with the correct view on Nelson Mandela, is
preferable to a Mother Teresa who fails to criticize the currently unfashionable
regimes of the world.
- Peter Hitchens, on the Church of England, "The Abolition of Britain"
There are two views
about the morality of political lying. The first is the classical British
view that politicians should always tell the truth, as people should in
private life. This view is usually qualified, as William Waldegrave qualified
it before the Treasury and Civil Services Committee of the House of Commons:
"In exceptional circumstances it is necessary to say something that is
untrue to the House of Commons. The House of Commons understands that and
accepts that." Such lies are only justified to protect a major public interest,
where a refusal to answer would be taken as a confirmation of the fact,
as in devaluation of the currency. The alternative view is that politics
is a business, like that of secret intelligence, which necessarily involves
continuous deception. People, and particularly democratic voters, do not
know what is good for them, and can only be persuaded by deceipt. To lead
a horse out of a burning stable, it is necessary to put a bag on its head.
Statecraft is the art of getting the public to do things they would not
willingly do by consistent and deliberate lying. In "The Rise of Political
Lying" Peter Oborne alleges that the central lie of the Blair administration
is that the new Labour government belongs to the first school, and is exceptionally
truthful, when in fact it belongs to the second and uses deception as a
standard method of state... Peter Oborne proves his case in considerable
detail; it is, surely, an important one, as Britain seems to be about to
re-elect the Prime Minister. Perhaps the British voter does not care?
- William Rees Mogg, reviewing "The Rise of Political Lying" for "The Spectator"
The experience of total
war, in which Ted Heath distinguished himself as a soldier, defined what
he thought. It inculcated in him and many others of his generation the
false belief that government, with national goodwill, can achieve almost
everything. This put socialism in the driving seat, whether or not the
Labour Party actually held office. Therefore the government of the country
got worse. The national goodwill faded, as it always does in peacetime,
but the government interference went on. Just as much as Attlee or Wilson,
he believed that if good political leaders pulled the levers right, all
would be well. He never understood why the levers came away in his hands...
"Europe", too, reflected his war-inspired vision and, though entirely honourable,
it was flawed for the same reason as his domestic agenda. It was too pessimistic
about our capacities as a nation, and too uncritical in its belief that
the solution to our ills was governmental. He pretended to himself and
to the rest of us that this was not a "Who governs Britain?" question.
With every day that passes, we see that it is.
- Charles Moore, from his obituary for Edward Heath, "The Telegraph"
It is a long, long,
time since the Conservative party had the support of a clever, truculent
lesbian. In fact, has it ever happened before? Clever, truculent lesbians
are usually very left-wing, in my experience. But now one of them has come
out, so to speak, for David Cameron — the extremely talented writer Jeanette
Winterson. He must be bowled over. I mean, inclusive or what? It’s a long
time since British writers were allowed to be Conservative, never mind
clever, truculent lesbian British writers. The question, I suppose, is
whether the truculent lesbian community has swung decisively to the Right
or the Conservative party has made itself more amenable to truculent lesbians.
The singer Iggy Pop once recorded a song entitled ‘I’m a Conservative’,
which consisted of him snarling ‘I’m a Conservative’ for six or seven minutes
over the top of some typically vigorous electric guitar. It was regarded
at the time as a quite hilarious piece of satire, a cogent and biting comment
on the vacuity of right-wing politics. Later, though, Mr Pop put the record
straight. ‘Actually, I am a Conservative. That’s what I meant when I sang
“I’m a Conservative”. I didn’t mean that I wasn’t.’
- Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"
We live in an age of
easy, gifted telegenic politicians who never put a foot wrong or slur their
words on Newsnight, and it is therefore magnificent that the Liberal Democrats
continue to have a leader with a Churchillian ability to slot it away.
But above all I am slapping a preservation order on Charlie Kennedy, and
listing him as a Grade One landmark of our culture, because he, and he
alone, represents a sizeable electoral minority. To understand the modern
Lib Dems, you have to understand a key feature of human psychology. The
world is full of people who have pretty strong views about politics, and
who are fairly sure where they stand on the spectrum. There are millions
of people out there who want freedom, lower taxes, less regulation, less
spin, the maintenance of Britain's democratic institutions, a culture of
enterprise that encourages people to get on as far as they can, with decent
public services and a net beneath which no one can fall. These tend to
Then there is another huge group of people who seem to believe in higher taxes, more public spending, regulation, bossiness, control, surrendering the rebate to Brussels without any reform of the CAP and horrible bendy buses that crush cyclists. These people, by and large, vote Labour.
But there is a third group, a minority, but a minority that possesses a characteristic human psychological deformity. They can't stand the pettiness of intellectual consistency. They want it all ways, and are capable of holding two mutually contradictory positions at once. Their policy on cake is pro-having it and pro-eating it, and they need a party that reflects them and their politically schizophrenic personalities. That is why it is so vital that we continue with Charlie Kennedy's Liberal Democrats and all their hilarious doublethink.
- Boris Johnson, "Save Charlie Kennedy this Christmas", "The Telegraph"
It would be an exaggeration
to say that civility had been altogether extinguished in Britain, but few
people would any longer deny that it has declined considerably. Worse still,
words and deeds of rank incivility are experienced by citizens every day,
and would probably be far worse if Britons were not surveyed 300 times
a day by CCTV cameras. Aggressive, crude vulgarity, a willingness to resort
to menace and a propensity to lose self-control are no longer the province
of the so-called underclass, but of all classes and conditions of British
men — and, of course, women... Any anecdoate of drunken exploits will immediately
bring forth what might be called the Gin Lane response: things have never
been any different. And indeed there is no individual piece of bad or yobbish
behaviour that is without precedent. But to say nothing has changed is
like saying the Nazi regime was no different from the Weimar Republic or
Wilhelmine Germany, because there had always been anti-Semitism in Germany.
Ours is an age not so much of individualism - if anything, true individuality
seems to me to have receded rather than advanced - as of egotism; but it
is egotism informed by a sense of entitlement. Everything is a matter of
consumer choice, even how we behave in public, and since the customer is
always right no one can be permitted, in the name of society, to place
any limitations, except in the case of murder perhaps, upon what we do.
Coarseness is king. The media celebrate it, the politicians practise it,
the advertisers display it. Rudeness has the cardinal merit of authenticity,
while self-control is artificial.
- Theodore Dalrymple, reviewing "Yob Nation" by Francis Gilbert in "The Telegraph"
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