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 without hitch.
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 older people...
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"


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 screams.
        - 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 (which 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 taxpayer.
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 on immigration.
        - 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 too.
        - 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 the Tories.
        - 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 into practice.
        - 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"


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"


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 it all.
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)

British politicians 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 win.
        - Alice Miles, "The Times"

The Conservative Party has staked its future on the most inexperienced party leader since Pitt the Younger.
        - 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


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 account number.
        - 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"

President Ahmadinejad 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"


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” exactly?
        - 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 the nation.
        - 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 served.
        - 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 weekend.
        - 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 suspicion.
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 the 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 do so.
       - 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"


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 bad manners.
        - Mary Kenny, "The Irish Independent"

"I am representing my country. If those girls are representing theirs, then Britain is in trouble."
        - 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 town.
        - 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 of 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 play."
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

Educational deficiency 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 system.
        - 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

Geoffrey Wheatcroft 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 victory.
        - 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 be Conservatives.
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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