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Saturday, 31 March 2007

State Funding and centralism - the greatest threats to democracy

Consider the fall in party memberships since 1979:






Well over a million members of the Conservative party have vanished since 1979, and they didn't all leave when Mrs Thatcher did. Conservatives were once the natural party of devolved government, active everywhere at the local level with vibrant, thriving associations. And not only Conservative members have deserted their party in droves; overall, membership of the three main parties has fallen from 2.16m in 1979 to just over half a million now.

That's just 1.4% of the entire UK electorate who are members of the main parties.

Just how fair do the main party leaders think the 98.6% of the electorate who aren't party members will view being relieved of their taxes to fund these private clubs?

There is a way to re-engage with voters, increase turn out, rediscover those days of crowded Conservative clubs alive with debate and confraternity and return Conservatives to their natural role of efficient and effective local governance. This way will also strengthen British democracy - something that the contents of Hayden Phillips' report will never, ever do, despite the bare-faced lie on the cover.

Do we have the courage?

British democracy sold for £40,100

I've posted before on the manifest inadequacies of the process of the Phillips enquiry into state funding of political parties, comparing the scale and extent of his consultation as being about equivalent to that for a council implementing a new parking zone. A tiny web site no one knew about. An open consultation that was advertised about as widely as a village boot-sale, and attracted only a handful of public responses. Weighted towards the party leaders, with private and unpublished discussions.

The Phillips' model of state funding will establish the existing parties, as they are currently structured, as the permanent and state-guaranteed 'official' political parties in the UK. Public support for and membership of the parties will continue to decline. The centralist relationship between Big State Whitehall and the Big State parties will grow. Polling turn outs will continue to slump. The hunger of the public for local control will go unfed. Families and communities will continue to decline; "the war between family and state is very old in human history, and that as a rule there is an inversely functional relation between the two institutions; when one is strong, the other is generally weak."

State funding on the Phillips' model is a bad, bad thing for all of us.

So for an issue as important as this, you'd expect a suitably resourced public enquiry process? Maybe a Royal Commission? A team of independent experts pre-eminent in their field? Extended public hearings? Pamphlets dropping through every letter box in the country? Of course not.

In answer to a Commons question from John Spellar - a Labour MP - Bridget Prentice tells us that Hayden Phillips was appointed by Blair in March 2006 and during the year before the publication of his report, was paid £40,100 at the rate of £700 per day.

That's, erm, 57 days work. Or 50 days work and some expenses.

Is that really all Blair thinks our democracy is worth?

Friday, 30 March 2007

It's not pretty and it's not small

This is the Hoegh Bangkok, launched last week, and with her sister the Hoegh Delhi the largest car transporter in the world. With space for over 7,000 cars on 13 decks (that's a line of cars over 18 miles long) she will plough the world's oceans at about 20 kts, powered by a 9 cylinder diesel. Of some 19,000 Hp.

Walking lessons to replace Maths, English and History?

They will do if Association of Teachers and Lecturers boss Martin Johnson has his way. The Mail reports him as saying
There's a lot to learn about how to walk. If you were going out for a Sunday afternoon stroll you might walk in one way. If you're trying to catch the train you might walk in another way and if you are doing a day's cliff walk you might walk in another way. If you are carrying a pack, there's a technique in that. We need a nation of people who understand their bodies and can use their bodies effectively.
Ah. I'll bet Mr Johnson is a bit of a walker himself.
First step by government to outlaw the BNP?

As a Conservative I'm prepared to fight the pernicious nastiness that lies beneath the BNP's ill-fitting Hugo Boss suits on the doorsteps. By and large, the British public, whatever their views on immigration, are also wary of association with the BNP; A YouGov poll last year revealed a gulf between public support for many measures depending on whether the BNP was mentioned in the question or not.

This government seems prepared to use new laws they have made to restrict the ability of the BNP to fight elections. An all-party Parliamentary enquiry into anti-semitism concluded
Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracy theories remain core elements of far right ideology. Any gains in popularity for the BNP are damaging to society as a whole.
To which the government's response yesterday included
The Government acknowledges the risk that the far right pose to community relations, and the damaging impact far right propaganda can have on efforts to build community cohesion.
In October of this year the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights comes into being, armed with tough new powers of investigation and enforcement, including the control of advertising. Now, I would hope that even Nu Labour realise the importance of not trying to gag anyone who's prepared to stand for election, however unattractive the platform on which they stand. That is a fundamental tenet of democracy. However, faced with a growing BNP challenge in many of their working class heartlands, how far will they be tempted to do so?

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Guido, politics and media channels

Michael White's irritation on his 'Newsnight' head to head with blogger-in-chief Guido was caused by exactly the same reasons as the irritation in Charles Clarke's speech to the Royal Television Society on the same night. The cosy relationship between the national media and the national parties that has formed the bedrock of public political engagement since the war is in meltdown - not due to any internal rupture in the relationship, but due to the abandonment by the public of national media and national politics alike.

It is no coincidence that the dramatic decline in newspaper readership, TV audiences, political party memberships and voting turnout have all happened together. In a 2002 article former Mirror editor Roy Greenslade observed
No-one can be absolutely certain why fewer people now buy or read papers than did some 40 years ago. There certainly isn’t a single reason, but it is my contention that a central factor – namely, the growing alienation of British people from the political process – has not been properly considered and may be more significant than has been realised.
He goes on to say
The reality is that many newly-affluent people are uninterested in news. They are totally indifferent to the news agenda itself because it largely revolves around the political process.
And while Charles Clarke remains stuck on the increasingly irrelevant issue of whether the mass media sets the agenda for politicians or vice versa, Greenslade realises
To many people, probably the vast majority, politics has become irrelevant. By extension therefore, so have newspapers. Knowing what Gordon Brown thinks of Tony Blair – a Westminster obsession and therefore a recurring newspaper preoccupation – is seen as utterly irrelevant. Arcane disputes between personalities within Westminster’s beltway are rightly viewed with disdain by the public.

The June 2001 general election turnout of 59 per cent was the worst since universal suffrage was introduced and, most notably, followed a campaign in which editors found it extremely difficult to sell their papers. The link is obvious: the rejection of politics goes hand in hand with the rejection of newspapers.
So one can understand Michael White's frustration with what he views as rugby-shirt-wearing irresponsibility; it is a rejection of all the values, all the certainties he has known. And as with any elderly person, change is the biggest threat.

Hat tip: Nick Robinson's Blog for publicising and hosting Charles Clarke's speech.
Government cracks down on Thai Brides

Well, actually only on those under 21. And those who can't speak English.

Announced in a new Borders and Visa strategy in a bit of the Home Office that's destined to become , er, something else. The change is to ensure that Thai Brides coming to the UK have the 'skills to participate both socially and economically'.

Ah, Ting Tong.
Jowell also on her way out

Or so predicts the Telegraph today. After two cock-ups - the Olympic budget and the Casino Order - perhaps disgraced husband David Mills can spend another night at her new flat to 'comfort' her? Oh no, it was a real separation, wasn't it? Not just to keep her in the cabinet at all. Sorry.
Damning indictment of Beckett, Bender and Lebrecht

Select committees are renowned for their circumspection in criticising ministers and officials. Not so the report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. In its Third Report it states bluntly:

Some of those in the Defra and RPA leaderships most closely involved, in particular the former Secretary of State Margaret Beckett, the former Permanent Secretary Sir Brian Bender, and the Director General for Sustainable Farming, Food and Fisheries, Andy Lebrecht, have moved on unscathed or stayed in post. A culture where ministers and senior officials can preside over failure of this magnitude and not be held personally accountable creates a serious risk of further failures in public service delivery. Accountability should mean that good results are rewarded, but a failure as serious as this of a Department to deliver one of its fundamental functions should result in the removal from post of those to whom the faulty policy design and implementation can be attributed.

Not much more one can add. But the report continues in similar vein HERE

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

MPs award themselves another £10k

Well, did you seriously imagine they wouldn't? I posted HERE on Sunday about this so I won't repeat myself. What I will do is write to my MP asking that I'm excluded from any puffed, vainglorious, narcissistic PR tripe about just how important she is - receiving it would be like having a turd pushed through my letter box.

This was passed for one reason only; MPs are scared. The time of reckoning is coming, they're facing challenges to their legitimacy and they're keen to load the balance in favour of sitting MPs as far as possible. Not only are their snouts deep in the trough, but their trotters are gripped fast to the Westminster door jambs and it will take some determined metaphorical kicking to loosen them.

Cruise Ship in heavy seas

Before you book a trip in one of the new top-heavy floating resort hotels, take a look at this

More nu Lab Sleaze

In response to news that Blunkett has taken up an adviser post with Texas-based ID card firm ENTRUST, a letter to The Register:
Now, now, now, we shouldn't jump to conclusions that Blunkett is just cashing in on his Big (Brother) idea. There are other explanations:

1: Entrust *MIGHT* have taken him on-board because of his unparalleled knowledge of computerised biometrics, massively-networked databases and computer security. Or...

2: Entrust *COULD* have be dazzled by David Blunkett's success at managing large organisations such as the Department of Education and the Home Office. They just looked at what he left behind and said; 'Wow! that David Blunkett! You certainly know when he's been around.' Alternatively...

3: Entrust *MIGHT* consider David Blunkett's emollient, easy-going, witty and charming attitude the best way of persuading naturally suspicious British citizens to embrace identity cards. Only a cynic would think that...

4: Entrust *KNOWS* Blunkett is familiar with Home Office procurement procedures and has plenty of powerful contacts who could be useful when the time comes for bidding for contracts.

Now, just take a few moments to rationally consider those possibilities and I think you'll agree... Sleazy up to the armpits isn't it?

Let's all hope that Gordon's right

From Matthew d'Ancona's column in the Speccie:
In private, the Chancellor often classifies Mr Cameron as a "libertarian", adding that the Tory leader's "compassionate conservatism" is mere window-dressing for a plot to dismantle the welfare state.
Please, please let Gordon be right on this.
As Blair ratchets up the State, parents buy body armour

As Blair yesterday added to his 'legacy' policy by defining the interference of the State in people's lives from the cradle to the grave, the Times reports that parents are choosing to invest instead in bullet and stab proof vests for their kids. Amongst Blair's new policy measures are universal checks on children; those with short attention spans or without iPods or other child essentials will be labelled potential criminals. Non-conforming children and families will be 'captured' by the State at an early stage and segregated from normal society, even if no offences have been committed. Does this sound dangerously familiar? It should.

Meanwhile, parents who allow their kids to travel on the bus or play outside are reported to be equipping them with body armour.

This isn't the nation I call my own. This is a nightmare.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Non native-British person disrupts Abbey service

After disrupting the event, a chap called Toyin Agbetu was ejected from the service at Westminster Abbey today to commemorate Britain's enlightened and merciful abolition of the Slave Trade 200 years ago. We are rightly proud at having led the world in abolishing slavery. Anyway, this fella is a member of an ethnic hate organisation called 'Ligali' that publishes on its website its hate list of certain people under the label 'Racially Insensitive Offenders List'. I just thought I'd share with you some highlights of 6 pages of their race hate:-
Adrian Gill: Boring puerile racist boor. The man has the academic ability of a block of wood. Burn him.

Andrew Roberts: Venal profligate reprobate. Roberts who was 'horrifically bullied' in his youth has defined himself as a boastful, middle class priapic hubristic little tosser with an inferiority complex in the presense of older people. We would add that he is prime example of a venal, profligate reprobate who gives credence to Einstein’s theorem that imagination is far more important than intelligence. Roberts may have won the Woolfson Prize for History and be a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature but he is, and will always be the classic definition of the failed alpha male. Thank god he is not an African. We suggest you pity him.

Ann Leslie: Xenophobic and Proud. Never open your bigoted mouth on African Affairs. Ever.

Derek Laud: Tory, Gay, Racist and Desperate. Laud who despises everything African has single-handedly managed to present a future glimpse of what the future looks like for ‘black’ Britons who reject their culture and heritage. Laud, Lewd and Pathetic he is the perfect leadership material for both the BNP and Tory party.

Jeremy Clarkson: Motor mouth. We suggest you stick to doing what you know best, lest someone using “the West Indian [sic] technique of balled fists and knuckles touching” decides to shut you up by connecting with your jaw.

Mark Steyn: Exponent of monoculturalism. A daily session of laxatives and colonic irrigation to excise the colonial enema desperate to explode.

Niall Ferguson: Cheap career in other peoples misery. It is now an undisputable fact that historically, Britain played a central and dominant role as a leading exponent of the savage and malevolent actions of the world's unscrupulous leaders.

Michael of Kent: Marie-Christine von Reibnitz - Princess Michael of Kent. Find a Tardis, locate a 'plantation' then live as an African for work experience.

Rod Liddle: Gothca…. the racist apologist. The BBC, the Guardian all have been tainted by his ‘truths’, its now time to move on and stop collaborating in the perpetuation of his moral wrongs.

Simon Heffer: An iniquitous, ignominious, impenitent supporter of the conservative racist Enoch Powell

Trevor Phillips: Chair of Commision for African inequality. There is no recommendation for a collaborating Judas other than an expedient political death once his tenure as chair has expired.
Geeeee. This guy really has got 'issues', hasn't he? And they let this bloke into the Abbey? Doesn't anyone do a simple security check on guests backgrounds any more? He's clearly madder than a bucket of eels.
Will Northern Ireland's 'cradle wars' start up again?

There can be no area of the UK in which the government statistician's population estimates are more keenly scanned than Northern Ireland. The inevitability of a power-sharing arrangement to be concluded now is apparent if one considers the latest population estimates of 56% protestants against 44% catholics are underlain by a current bare majority of young catholic girls in the province and an increasing fertility rate. It's long been accepted that it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' the catholic population achieves a population majority.

While England's birth rate remains static at about 1.80, well below the replacement rate, Scotland and Wales are even worse off, with 1.62 and 1.79 respectively. Intriguingly, not only lords and lunatics can vote in devolved assembly elections but citizens of other EU states, although only about 5,000 were registered in NI for this latest election.

David Cameron and Charter 88

Those of you with long memories may recall the campaign for a new Charter in 1988, an update to the Great Charter, formulated by a grouping of leftish intellectuals in reaction to Margaret Thatcher's 1987 election victory. I think it salient to look again at the Ten Points that made up Charter 88. I'll try to avoid prolixity.

1. Enshrine, by means of a Bill of Rights, such civil liberties as the right to peaceful assembly, to freedom of association, to freedom from discrimination, to freedom from detention without trial, to trial by jury, to privacy and to freedom of expression.

"We'll replace the European Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights" David Cameron reiterated in his speech yesterday. As for the detail, well, most of those quoted rights have been corrosively undermined by Blair's government; attempts to abolish jury trials, summary arrests of a woman for reading names at the Cenotaph and of Walter Wolfgang for daring to criticise the leadership, detention for 'protective custody' of those who may pose a risk to government, the most spied upon people in the Western world and a freedom of expression that is substantially less free than ever it was under Margaret Thatcher.

The only piece of nonsense that should be struck out is the 'freedom from discrimination' sub-clause. I occasionally take a class that I startle by declaring that 'discrimination is good'; by which I mean we discriminate in favour of the most able candidate when we interview for a job, we discriminate in favour of the most advantageous tender when letting contracts and we discriminate daily in a host of personal choices about which tie to wear or what sandwich to eat. The alternative to discrimination is random selection - and who, other than the lunatic fringe of the left, would advocate employing someone based on picking a name out of a hat?

2. Subject Executive powers and prerogatives, by whomsoever exercised, to the rule of law.

Yes, the judiciary have gone from being the demonised reactionaries of the 1970s to the saviours of democracy. This clause, at a time when the core of government is up to its neck in a corruption enquiry, also stands the test of time.

3. Establish freedom of information and open government.

Well, we DID make a great stride in the FOI direction since the Charter was drafted. Sadly, politicians of all sides and a cabal of nervous public officials are trying their best to backtrack on this. And as for open government, Blair has led the most exclusive, closed, and anti-democratic style of government that this nation has known; contemptuous of Parliament, contemptuous of Law and contemptuous of the will of the People.

4. Create a fair electoral system of proportional representation.

There are many flaws in our electoral system, but I don't think that PR is the universal panacea. The 'Power' enquiry examined this issue thoroughly and came down on First Past the Post, albeit with some very radical modifications, as being the best suited electoral system. So I think we can strike-out this clause in favour of something a bit more politically mature.

5. Reform the Upper House to establish a democratic, non-hereditary Second Chamber.

Again, we've made a vast stride forward since 1988 on Lords' reform, but has it been for the better? Many are now questioning whether the old hereditaries, with their cussed independence and deep knowledge of the most arcane of issues, weren't so bad after all.

6. Place the Executive under the power of a democratically renewed Parliament and all agencies of the state under the rule of law.

The first part needs attention more so than ever; Blair has always regarded Parliament as an inconvenience, if not an impediment. Parliamentary sovereignty must be re-won. As for the second, some progress has been made in putting the security services on a statutory footing, but so long as public interest immunity certificates and the like can be issued, and as long as Blair's cabal continues to attempt to usurp the role of the judiciary by executive authority, we've got a way to go yet.

7. Ensure the independence of a reformed judiciary.

The independence of the judiciary is as important as ever - and never has it been so threatened as under Blair's regime. This clause, too, stands the test of time.

8. Provide legal remedies for all abuses of power by the state and by officials of central and local government.

A strong judiciary jealous in defence of rights but pragmatic also in the expectation of responsibilities is the most effective shield; borrowing the concept of the law of equity, such legal remedies should be a shield and not a sword. The 'victim culture' and 'compensation culture' that so undermine our society are the result of a fundamental imbalance here.

9. Guarantee an equitable distribution of power between the nations of the United Kingdom and between local, regional and central government.

Yes, this is very much still on the agenda, but certainly not in the way in which the original signatories imagined. Then it was a campaign issue in favour of devolved Scots and Welsh assemblies, now in favour of an English Parliament, of a movement to shrink the central state in favour of the local, and very much to escape from the dead and undemocratic hand of Europe.

10. Draw up a written constitution anchored in the ideal of universal citizenship, that incorporates these reforms.

A Bill of Rights I can see, but a written constitution I'm nervous of.

So, overall, since 1988 and a Charter movement led by some of the new left, we have seen that same new left actually making the UK a much worse place in their Charter terms than ever it was under Thatcher's government. And a Conservative party under David Cameron committed to take forward many of the reforms defined in the Charter ...

Funny old world, isn't it?
The iniquity of selective anonymity in rape cases and other matters

Most of today's papers report the quashing on appeal of the conviction of a young man on a charge of rape. The man is named. The alleged victim enjoys anonymity. This cannot be right or just - either both should be anonymous or both should be named. The full appeal judgment is available HERE. Two paragraphs in the judgment are telling. The first (quite graphic, I'm afraid) is the complainant's evidence that perhaps suggests why the young man was convicted in the first instance:
M's next memory, as narrated to the jury, was that she was lying on her bed, but unable to recollect how she got there. She said that the appellant was on the bed with her, his upper body on her lower body, his face between her legs, with his mouth and tongue on and in her vagina. She did not consent. "I did nothing or said anything in response. I felt as if I wasn't in my body. I hadn't recovered significantly from how I felt in the bathroom, and I didn't know how long his mouth was in my vagina. I remember his fingers in my vagina. I could just feel this. I don't know where his head was. The next thing I recall is his coming close by my face and asking if I had a condom. I said no". She said that she did not want to have sex, but she did not say so to him. She felt "like it wasn't happening. I knew I didn't want this but I didn't know how to go about stopping it." She was not co-ordinated in her body. She remembered his penis in her vagina, when she was on her back. She recalled penetration, and pain, and she said "ow". At another point she made some kind of noise which led the appellant to say "shush". To try and avoid sexual intercourse she turned over. She was curled in a ball facing the wall. Although his penis was withdrawn for a while, he penetrated her again. She had no idea how long intercourse lasted. When it ended she was still facing the wall. She did not know whether the appellant had in fact used a condom or not, nor whether he ejaculated or not. Afterwards he asked if she wanted him to stay. She said "no". In her mind she thought "get out of my room", although she did not actually say it. She didn't know "what to say or think, whether he would turn and beat me. I remember him leaving, the door shutting." She got up and locked the door and then returned to lie on her bed curled up in a ball, but she could not remember for how long.
The second, from the appellant's evidence, was the clincher for me:
He then left the building for a cigarette. He returned about five minutes later. The time, confirmed by CCTV footage, was 3.20am. He went to the complainant's room to make sure she was alright and take her some water. When he came in she was awake, on her bed in her pyjamas. He put water and a bin near her bed. He sat on the edge of the bed, and started to stroke her. He insisted that M appeared to welcome his advances, which progressed from stroking of a comforting nature to sexual touching. She said and did nothing to stop him.
Now, would a respectable young man who properly obeyed an edict forbidding smoking inside the building then go on to have sex with the girl against what he was certain was her consent? I think the appeal court came to entirely the right decision.
St Edmund, St George and vexology

My well-respected fellow bloggers Guthram and Tom Paine have recently both posted powerful appeals directed at the re-discovery of our identity in the face of the remorseless depersonalising efforts of the runaway State. Whilst the flag of St George should rightly be the flag of our nation, England, and Show of Hands have got it exactly right in a lyric - 'it's my flag too and I want it back' - that recognises it should not be the property of the loathsome BNP, as an East Anglian there is another, regional flag that I would like to recognise.

Some years ago an English flag was proposed that imposed the crown and arrows of martyrdom of St Edmund on the cross of St George, thus including both of England's patron saints. St George gained popularity after the Norman occupation, eventually supplanting the older Saxon St Edmund, king of East Anglia. Whilst I'm quite happy with this, the original flag of St Edmund was a white cross on a green background. I've played with the image to show what it may look like. I quite like it.
Another Nu Labour betrayal

Following the shabby and despicable treatment of the Chagos Islanders by this corrupt and treacherous government, I thought they might have run out of British subjects to betray. Sadly not.

Ascension Island, vital to our defence of the Falklands today and pivotal in our re-taking the islands twenty-five years ago, is a dependency of St Helena, some 800 miles away. Around a thousand St Helenans live and work there, and have a democratically elected seven-member island council. Nu Lab deceiver and betrayer Lord Triesman has recently backtracked on promises made to these Ascension Islanders to allow them permanent rights; many have invested in property and small businesses there. It is supposed that the US, who we allow to use the island as a refuelling stop, objected.

There comes a time when we must accord to British subjects in our dependent territories the rights we demand for ourselves here in the mainland UK. No ifs, no buts, no deals.

More specious nonsense from the Fabian numpties

This time it's about low birth-weight babies. The number of low birth-weight babies has increased by around 14% since 1989. These babies are generally born to women who have children late in life, mums of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, and teens. The Fabian luvvies are recommending targeting financial support at these groups and the State providing personalised health services to them. Typical obtuseness.

1. Women who leave childbearing to the last possible biological moment as secondary to their career development in their 'healthy' sprogging years need to make a choice; career or healthy baby. They don't need State intervention, just to get their priorities right,

2. Asian women who fail to attend ante-natal appointments as many do, speak the language imperfectly and often live in a cultural ghetto isolated from our mainstream communities could have healthier babies if they integrated more effectively into British society and culture,

3. If teens knew that they wouldn't under any circumstances get a Council flat by becoming irresponsibly pregnant, most would take far greater care over birth control.

The real answer in all cases is to strengthen families and communities, not to expand the dead hand of the State ever further.
Royal Mail Ships - the end of an era

There was a time when these ships ran around the globe, carrying post and goods to the furthest outposts of empire. Today one of the last vessels to carry such a designation is the RMS St Helena. The ship runs regularly between Portland in Dorset, St Helena, Ascension Island and Cape Town in South Africa.

If you fancy a holiday cruise with a difference, away from the grotesque kitsch floating hotels and their orange-skinned human cargoes, a trip that recaptures the starched linen standards of a bygone Britishness complete with Beef Tea in the afternoon, you could do far worse than book a cabin on this ship while she still runs.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Toothless Hitchens gives Cameron a light gumming

The much signalled 'demolition job' on David Cameron by antediluvian commentator Peter Hitchens on Channel 4's Despatches programme turned out to be about as savage as a Saga coach trip. Hitchens took a great deal of time and many location shots to tell us that, er, Cameron was a politician and therefore not always forthright with the truth. No Shit, Sherlock.

The programme lacked a single new pertinent negative fact about Cameron, the analysis was superficial and lightweight, the presentation tedious and tired and Hitchens repetitive and about as sparkling as the dog-end sodden dregs in a can of lager the morning after the party.

What a waste of airtime.
Twitter; banal, pointless and incomprehensible. It'll be huge.

OK, a Raedwald prediction. Twitter, a new mobile-accessible service on which users can post 140 character messages answering one simple question, "What are you doing right now?", will be huge. It's a modern Tower of Babel for those with the attention span of a goldfish and a reading age of seven - about two-thirds of the world's teen population.
Equal Opportunities Commission - but only if you're a Middle-aged White Woman

Commons written questions on Friday:

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will break down by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) disability and (d) ethnic background the number of staff in the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Angela E. Smith: According to the Equal Opportunities Commission’s annual report 2005-06, the staff breakdown is as follows:


(a) Sex





(b) Age









(c) Disability


(d) Ethnic origin



Non-whites—Mixed, Asian, Black and Chinese


Has Mandy got Mr Barroso's permission?

Another Mandy story to start the week; following the dark one's simperingly snipey and waspish comments about Gordo on the BBC's Sunday AM programme, and his opinion that Gordo should face a contested election, I have to ask whether he's got his President's permission to participate?

The EU code of conduct for commissioners states: "Commissioners shall inform the President of their intention to participate in an election campaign and the role they expect to play in that campaign. The President, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case, shall decide on whether the envisaged participation in the election campaign is compatible with the performance of the Commissioner’s duties."

Good news for the nation's publishers, too. You won't be faced with having to tell Mr Mandelson that 'the market isn't quite right at the moment' or that 'advances in real life are much smaller than the newspapers report, ha ha', until at least 2009. The Code of Conduct also requires that:

"Commissioners shall notify the President if they are intending to publish a book during their term as Commissioner. Royalties from copyright in a work published in connection with their duties shall be paid over to a charity of their choice."

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The French loathe Mandelson as much as we do

It's nice to know that gallic good sense prevails and our cousins across the ditch loathe this oleaginous piece of ordure every bit as much as we do; a comprehensive post here on the dark one by Le Croche-Pied.
Since Simon Jenkins has effectively broken the embargo anyway

Simon Jenkins' column in the Sunday Times today is well worth reading. Of course, given that it agrees wholly with the viewpoint of this blog, I would say that, wouldn't I? The Civitas Press Release on Danny Kruger's new pamphlet 'On Fraternity' is officially embargoed until a minute past midnight tonight, but given that Mr Jenkins has given it prominence in his column I feel no great guilt at being a few hours premature on here:-

Embargoed to 00.01 0n 26th March 2007

The battle of ideas is not over but entering a new and more interesting phase, according to Danny Kruger, special adviser to Conservative Party leader David Cameron MP. In the late 20th century, politics was the clash between Liberty on one hand and Equality on the other – a battle over the respective roles of the individual and the state. This remains the basic axis of our politics. But rather than a straightforward clash between Liberty and Equality, politics today is a contest for possession of the principle beyond them both: Fraternity. In his booklet On Fraternity, published by the independent think-tank Civitas, Kruger sketches the philosophical framework of the new battle of ideas, drawing on the writings of Locke, Burke and Hegel. He argues that Liberty, not Equality, is the natural ally of Fraternity, and that individual freedom, not state coercion, best protects the institutions of belonging and promotes the habits of solidarity.

Social desertification

Kruger argues that Britain is suffering ‘social desertification’ – a process that began in the 1980s as hundreds of local institutions, non-commercial and quasi-commercial, were swept away in the flood of reform. Small high-street grocers and bakers disappeared. Family-run pubs were subsumed into giant chains. Whitehall desolated local government, and turned a blind eye to the steady erosion of the family and civil society by the cult of individual freedom. He argues that this trend has grown greatly since the Conservatives left office, and is apparent in the rates of family breakdown and the prevalence of drug addiction and violent, alcohol-fuelled crime; in the neglect of the old and the precocious sexuality of children; in the cult of vicarious narcissism which is ‘reality TV’; in the popular addiction to shopping as a means of self-definition, and in the astronomical scale of private debt which is necessary to maintain the shopping habit (pp.2-3).

Kruger identifies three trends which are contributing to social desertification. First, a widening gap between rich and poor; second, ‘a slow but profound collapse of the relationship between the generations’ as ‘the vast army of the retired and soon-to-retire are in conflict with our increasingly strident and alienated youth, not only for material resources and political power, but also – just as important – for cultural airtime and national respect.’; and third, ‘the presence of large communities with different national origins and, therefore, alternative cultural traditions’ (p.5).

Fraternity not equality

What should our response be to these three trends? The answer of the Left is ‘equality’, our common submission to the central state: in Kruger’s words, ‘a great steel citadel to house everyone together and equally’. But the effect is to break up the social contexts and relationships which give meaning to the individual’s life: family, neighbourhood and nation. Kruger argues instead for fraternity: ‘It is not our common submission to the central state that will help us live together, but our various and overlapping memberships of a far larger and more diverse range of associations… Fraternity is the sphere of belonging. It is the sphere of society itself – the space between the liberal individual and the egalitarian state. In an age of big government and unbridled consumerism, people are searching for the local and particular, for a politics beyond power and money.

This is the field of civil society. Here people congregate for all the business and pleasure of life, performing the transactions of love and profit which make the nation grow. These transactions are, or should be, private, mediated where mediation is necessary through independent institutions, constructed and maintained by free people’ (p.3).

Implications for Conservative policy

Kruger sketches the philosophical framework for Conservative policymaking. He argues for further reform of the public services, to ‘change state institutions into social ones by a sort of reverse alchemy – artificial into natural matter’ (p.8). This will mean a larger role for independent organisations, non-profit as well as commercial, in the delivery of public goods.

He writes:‘Rather than the large, uniform outposts of central government, imagine a community populated by small, variable, local institutions, responding not to central direction but to local demand. Imagine a neighbourhood in which the schools, medical centres and welfare agencies are governed by local people; imagine if each county’s police force were accountable not to the Home Office but to the people of the county itself. Imagine if social action were not the responsibility of what Alexis de Tocqueville, writing about the increasingly centralised European states of his day, called ‘a powerful stranger called the government’, but of individuals, families and communities themselves.’ (p.8)

Marriage should be supported and a European constitution resisted

He calls for a recognition of positive family formation in the tax and benefit system, to help people realise their aspirations for durable relationships through the active promotion of marriage, social (rather than statutory) support for singe parents, and stronger measures to compel paternal responsibility:‘The nuclear family… requires civil recognition and protection to keep it safe in wider society. And that is what marriage is for… statutory recognition of marriage … actually helps keep the state away from families… for not only do intact families tend to rely less on state support, but even those families that do need help suffer less intrusion if the parents are married… Marriage deserves approbation in the fiscal and legal codes, to change incentives, and make it in men’s interests to do the right thing. The opposite of marriage – abandoning mother and child – deserves harsh disapprobation’.(pp.77-79)

He also calls for a revival of the principle of national self-determination in the face of globalisation, arguing that the process of European political integration threatens the peaceful settlement between the nation and the government:‘The European Union … poses a serious threat to liberty. The attempt to impose on Britain, for the first time in our history, a written Constitution – written in Brussels, no less, under the supervision of a Frenchman – was not simply an exercise in duplicity by the elected government. It is an attempt to undo the Revolution Settlement of 1688-89… and revert to the totalitarian concept of statehood urged by Thomas Hobbes.’ (p.86)
'No one likes us and we don't care'

There will be much satisfied grunting and rootling in the straw at Westminster this week if MPs decide to vote themselves an additional £10,000 a year allowance for 'communications' that will 'keep them in touch with constituents'. Nothing could be more guaranteed to anger voters than some artfully contrived glossy brochure dropping through the letterbox extolling the greed, hubris and vanity virtues of our porky little friends.

In the name of God, do these people simply not understand that communication involves dialogue; involves listening as well as talking? If it's a one way communication, without each voter having equivalent financial resources to respond to their MP with a similarly slick glossy brochure, it's not communication, it's propaganda. I for one will be writing to my MP telling her firmly that my letterbox is not to be sullied by this narcissistic crap.
Boat washing to be illegal

Once a year Raedwald comes out of the water to get her bottom cleaned and antifouled. The only effective way to clear the weed, slime and barnacles from the hull is with a pressure washer. DEFRA is 'consulting' on widening the hospipe ban powers to make it illegal to do this.

With a car, so long as the windows are clean, it doesn't really matter that the body is dirty. And anyway, it's easy enough to use a bucket and sponge to wash it. With a boat, a dirty bottom means a significant increase in fuel consumption, and therefore a significant increase in CO2 emissions and all the rest. What a perverse logic. If the government really wants to cut carbon emissions, it needs to encourage the boating world to antifoul not once but twice a year ...

Here's Raedwald with a nice clean bottom going back in the water last year.

Newport, VA - $385,000 brand-new fire boat sinks at mooring.

Dontcha just hate it when that happens?

Let's keep them free from the slavery of gratitude

There is an overwhelming reason why we should not be celebrating the fact that Britain led the world in the abolition of slavery, far less that we should dedicate an annual day to remembering our nation's pre-eminent enlightenment. There is more than one kind of slavery; slavery of the body is in many ways less pernicious than slavery of the spirit. Montesquieu described the 'painful slavery of gratitude'; the corrosive resentment in the imperfect man that builds towards those who have aided and helped him.

By rubbing the noses of those of Afro-Caribbean ancestry in the fact that we freed them from slavery, we are doing no more than making them slaves again - slaves to the mercy and goodness of our actions. This is wholly wrong. Our attitude should be 'de rien' - it's nothing, think nothing of it, quite welcome.

Let's keep them free from the painful slavery of gratitude.