Saturday, 7 April 2007

Sir Patrick Cormack gets it right

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Patrick says

"I've had masses of letters from people who say they vote for me not because I'm Conservative but because they think I'm an independent-minded local parliamentarian. I've always taken the line it's country-constituency-party, in that order."

Amen to that, Sir Patrick.
Hayek and the Saxon Hundreds



Hayek of course saw the central role of the State as being no more than to maintain the rule of law, with every other function of governance devolved to its lowest practical level. So in terms of direct democracy, just how well is the UK doing? Not very well, it seems.


1. Local democracy in the UK

The first column is the number of elected administrative units at the lowest level (e.g. District Councils in the UK), the second column is the average number of electors;

France: 36,880 - 1,580
Germany: 16,514 - 4,925
Spain: 8,149 - 4,930
Italy: 8,215 - 7,130
USA: 35,958 - 7,000
United Kingdom: 472 - 118,400

Amongst the democratic world, the UK is by far the most deficient in democratic representation. This is linked to two other important indicators of democratic health; voter turn-out in local elections, and memberships of political parties. Our voter turn-outs are also the worst in Europe, with barely one elector in three bothering to vote. And as demonstrated in a previous post, barely 1.4% of the electorate are members of one of the three big parties. This is not apathy; people are passionately engaged in local issues. What it reflects is the failure of a State that has become increasingly centralised since 1979, under both Conservative and Labour governments, and centralised parties that have alienated and marginalised local political engagement.

2. Where have the Hundreds gone?

The trend however started long before 1979. In 1894 the first series of Acts was passed into law that would increasingly concentrate political and administrative power in the 20th century. Improved communications, the railways, high levels of literacy and enfranchisment were all factors that enabled fewer administrators and more administered, the more efficient collection of local taxes and provision of services. As time passed, the old administrative hierarchy of parish -> tithing -> hundred -> county all but disappeared.
And with the hundreds, especially so since 1979, went locally elected officials. As Simon Jenkins has pointed out
Meanwhile Britain’s local councillors are outnumbered three-to one by 60,000 unelected people serving on roughly 5,200 local quangos. To them are ascribed functions that may be local but are no longer under local democracy, such as the health service, housing, prisons, training and economic development. There are a further 35,000 unelected magistrates, 345,000 school governors and 30,500 members of centrally appointed quangos. Government patronage – exclusively from the centre – dwarfs the elected sector.
3. A return to the Hundreds?

Paradoxically, it it the media and communication technologies that have so easily enabled this corrosive centralism that may enable the freedom of localism. The Hundreds were sized as being of a scale in which citizens could communicate effectively amongst themselves. In an age of poor transport links, before printing and before mass literacy such divisions contained few people. As population has expanded exponentially, communication has become equally fluid. The constraints and economies of the 20th century need no longer limit our ability to engage at local level.

Take my own county of Suffolk. Today it has some seven district councils with an average of 77,460 electors for each. True, it is below the national average of 118,400 as in (1) above, but still higher by far than any democratic Western state.

Suffolk traditionally had - legally still has, for they have never been formally abolished - some 20 Hundreds. Each would currently have an average of 27,100 electors; better, but still not local enough.

Each Hundred would traditionally have consisted of about 10 tithings, each tithing being the basic unit of tax administration. At this level each would have some 2,710 electors - bang in the middle of the range between France and Germany / Spain.


And Bang is the operative word. Simon Jenkins has eloquently expounded the likely effect of what he terms 'Big Bang Localism' - the powerful dis-assembly of State centralism - as having the same massively beneficial effect as that of the Big Bang of deregulation in the City and financial markets.


It could be the saving of our national democracy.
No God, No Religion, No King, No Constitution


So reads the script on the banner in Cruikshank's cartoon.

Just the State.

The State that will care for the citizen's every need from the cradle to the grave. The State that will also determine what each citizen needs. The State that will eliminate inequality by imposing standards of homogenous mediocrity on all its citizens, that will eliminate enterprise, individualty, meritocracy and talent. The Socialist State.

A vast, soul less, bureaucratic Leviathan State that micro-manages and controls every aspect of every individual's life.

These terror-istes of the French revolution bear a frightening resemblance to Blair and Ruth Kelly.
Labour's War on the Family claims another child victim

Labour's slavish dedication to the centralism of Rousseau, a fanaticism that would remove every intermediate authority between the individual and the State including families and communities, must be held responsible for the murder of yet another young black child whose corpse lies today in a London mortuary.

Labour's decade of tax, benefit and legislative changes have been designed to destroy the family. Let's be clear about the effect on fatherless families of Labour's naive and perverse policy:

Children without biological fathers living with the family
  • Are more likely to live in poverty and deprivation
  • Have more trouble in school
  • Tend to have more trouble getting along with others
  • Are more likely to become teenage parents
  • Are more likely to offend
  • Are more likely to play truant from school
  • Are more likely to be excluded from school
  • Are more likely to leave school at 16
  • Are more likely to have adjustment problems
  • Are less likely to attain qualifications
  • Are more likely to experience unemployment
  • Are more likely to have low incomes
  • Are more likely be on income support
  • Are more likely to experience homelessness
  • Are more likely to be caught offending and go to jail
  • Are more likely to suffer from long term emotional and psychological problems
How many more young corpses need to pile up on their doorstep before these deeply deluded fools realise that State Socialism brings nothing but pain, grief, death and the destruction of our national social fabric?
ASA damns government over smoking ads

The Advertising Standards Authority will formally reprimand the Department of Health over ads that breached the strict code designed to protect children. The DoH clearly believe that any means are justified in its vilification of smokers; ads that de-humanise smokers such as the 'fish hook' ones that are the subject of the reprimand, will become the staple of these totalitarian fanatics.

A parallel poster campaign shows cigarettes - and by association smokers - being 'killed' using a variety of gangland hit methods.

When the first smoker dies after having been attacked in public by someone who believes the government has sanctioned violence against smokers, I will expect the insufferably smug and casually mendacious Patricia Hewitt to face a prison sentence.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Container Ship fails in Channel

The middle of the English Channel is not the place to have your engine pack up. The world's busiest shipping lane works on a strict traffic control principle, as the AIS snap below shows clearly.

So when the 43,000 tonne MSC Tampa failed in the Channel yesterday, and dragged the anchor she deployed to keep her in position, the Coastguard rapidly used the tug Anglian Monarch to tow her out of harm's way. She's now at anchor off Felixtowe waiting for the Maritime equivalent of the AA.

Maundy Thursday abolished by Parliament

Maundy Thursday - the last Thursday before Easter - was in days of greater Christian faith in the UK part of the Easter holy festival. In the days when the day ended at noon and not at midnight, Good Friday began at midday on Thursday. Confused already? Well, the monarch may have given up washing the feet of the poor on this day, but continues to hand out a purse of Maundy Money to compensate Britain's poor pensioners for her Chancellor's depridations.

Anyway, Maundy Thursday used to be one of the 'discounted days' for election notices and the like. Schedule 1 Part 4 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 has just abolished it.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

"It is irregular verb. I Detain, You Arrest, He Kidnaps.."

The warmth and wit of a number of Iranian bloggers has continued to shine through the recent crisis. Contrary to the depiction of the redtops, Iran is not a nation of bigoted holocaust-denying religionist mentalists. The country has a well educated and 'liberal' middle class, many of whom use the blog to present a view of their nation that I suspect would be surprising to many Western readers. One post from Inside Iran recently:
This is Iran. Are you going to attack it?
have a look at This nice collection of photos from. Then add some bombs to the photos using your imagination; Attack to Iran if the result looks attractive. We have problems here, we have human rights violations, we have obligatory was of coduncts, we have Ahmadinejad as our "selected" (not elected) president and we do not have to say we are against authorities. But BOMBs will not improve our situation.
I have refrained from blogging about the 15 RN servicepeople so far. Let's hope they will soon be enjoying a nice cup of tea and a smoke on their way home. And perhaps those who have infested the interweb calling for the nuclear destruction of Iran and the Iranians can have a look at the nice pictures (without having to move their lips or use their finger).
The world can't look to the US for any help in a ground war

The Romans … had acquired the virtues of war and government; by the vigorous exertion of those virtues … they had obtained, in the course of the three succeeding centuries, an absolute empire over many countries.… The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the Western Ocean to the Tigris … but the animating health and vigour were fled.… The barbarians … soon discovered the decline of the Roman empire. (Edward Gibbon)

Iain Dale has posted on Britain's declining influence around the world. The greatest concern is that this decline applies even more to the US.

The Iranians know they are quite safe in continuing to provoke the west, and in particular the US. In Pakistan the ISI, the real power in the country, can continue to play a complex game of twin-tracking; feeding the West intelligence snippets about Islamic terrorism when there is nothing to be gained by withholding information and quietly extending influence in Afghanistan through support for the Taliban and Al Queda. Only North Korea need be cautious about US potential for a ground war, for South Korea is the sole remaining repository of pre-positioned US Army armour, vehicles and equipment. With the Marine Corps stock on Guam , these are the only two ground-force resource pools that have not been exhausted to supply units in Iraq.

The US Air Force and Navy remain as potent forces, but neither can seize and hold ground. If a rogue nation can be resilient to bombs and missiles, and be ready to display its civilian casualties on prime-time global TV, aircraft and missiles alone will never be enough to effect either regime change or the sterilisation of hostile forces. Israel's disastrous foray into the Lebanon recently proved the truth of this.

It may seem incredible that the US, with 1.4 million under arms, can be terminally overstretched with a force of just 130,000 in the field. But this is the case. The US always used to keep one combat ready brigade in the US; fully manned and equipped, it could be sent anywhere in the world within 18 to 72 hours. Not any more. Brigades of both the 82nd and 101st that could play this role have been committed to Iraq. Of some 20 brigades left in the US, Europe and Asia not one has the equipment and manpower to be ready for combat. The exception is Korea. The US general staff has admitted that any brigade formed to tackle a problem elsewhere would have to be formed from units currently in Iraq.

The US used to have a vast pool of armour and equipment pre-positioned around the world. This has been stripped bare to supply Iraq and Afghanistan. The attrition of equipment in the field is massive; machine gun barrels need replacing every few live magazines, truck tyres every few hundred miles, tank engines every few hundred hours. The US army in the field is increasingly operating on a Just-In-Time basis; every new piece of equipment that comes out of the factories, from night vision goggles to radios to weapons to Humvees, is sent straight to forces in the field. The knock-on effect is most severe on the 28 reserve brigades of the National Guard that the US army is increasingly reliant on; they are also the last in the queue for equipment. Training has been compressed to the extent that simulators are being used to teach in weeks what live experience previously took months to do.

The US army is the best equipped and best fed army in the world. But no amount of hi-tech can replace the labour-intensive slog of foot soldiers. It has been estimated that to match Britain's success in the 1920s in containing a previous insurgency in Iraq, the US would need to deploy something like a million troops there. Because this is never going to happen, it is a question of when and not if US forces will be forced to withdraw.

And the lesson for the UK? We can't continue to underfund our own forces in the vague hope that the US will help us out in some future unavoidable ground war. They won't. They can't.
Only 128 MPs care about Post Office closures - Is yours one?

Unsurprisingly, this corrupt government has chosen to delay its announcement of post office closures until after the May local government elections in the shires. Who are they fooling? The signatories to Kate Hoey MP's Early Day motion on post office closures are perhaps a better indicator than the lies you'll get from Labour's political cockroaches out on the stump this month.

Check this list. If your MP isn't on it, tell them so.
MCGA preparing for deceit again?

One of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's most pernicious covert policy obsessions is the introduction of alcohol regulation for leisure boating. The Royal Yachting Association, clubs, organisations and leisure boaters have all condemned this effort to extend the icy grasp of the nanny state beyond the littoral. Last year the MCGA produced a set of spurious figures to back their campaign; they were comprehensively and effectively demolished by diligent scrutiny. The real figures for leisure boating fatalities caused by alcohol are insignificant - an average of 1.4 deaths a year. More people die from being 'struck by cheese or other dairy product'.

The MCGA's latest set of casualty figures include all deaths that can even remotely be linked to any body of water bigger than a puddle; scousers falling into canals, cockneys dropping off cliffs, yardies dumping 'hit' victims in the Thames, people falling out of helicopters. For 2006 the figures are:
105 were suicides/suspected suicides
68 were crime-suspected
33 were due to natural causes
124 resulted from maritime accidents
30 resulted from accidents on land or are aircraft-related.
11 occurred outside the UK Search and Rescue Region

Now. I'll bet it won't be long before the MCGA resumes its alcohol campaign on the basis of the 124 Maritime Accidents figure .... just let's not forget that 123 of those will have absolutely nothing to do with alcohol and leisure boating.
Sensitive Scots ban teacher rating site

News from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference (yes, the same organisation whose boss featured HERE on this blog advocating that walking lessons should replace useless stuff like English, Maths and History) that teachers are worried about being rated by their pupils on sites such as http://www.ratemyteachers.co.uk/

Scotland, with 8% of the UK's population, has proven most sensitive about being at the receiving end of the current obsession with targets, indicators and ratings. Scottish schools make up 31% of the total of English and Scots schools to have banned the site from campus computers.
Another floating Resort Hotel on order

The world's appetite for cruising is fuelling a boom in the construction of ever larger floating resort hotels cruise ships. Royal Caribbean Cruises has just ordered another 360m 'Genesis' vessel from Aker Yards in Finland. Accommodating 8,400 passengers and crew, it will no doubt be a monument to glitz, kitsch and the sort of schizophrenic decor that designers call 'international'

I still wouldn't fancy being at sea in one in anything over a Force 3. Or where there is any risk of icing.

Perhaps we treat house guests differently than the US

In my younger days, parental homes would frequently be filled with an extraordinary variety of guests, most unknown to the parents and in some cases unknown both to parents and offspring. Parents, being English, never questioned the identity of those they found seated around their breakfast tables. Some vague comment such as "That third wicket fell fairly quickly" might be gently cast over the shared marmalade.

There was an extraordinary young man called 'Spic' who seemed for many years to live permanently in other people's homes and was perhaps an obsessive-compulsive in the days before the term had been invented. He would with great care sort other people's record collections and cutlery draws, bookshelves and stillrooms, into precise taxonomies. You knew he's been living in someone's house when you found Aerosmith and Air Supply vinyls standing side-by-side.

US Homeland Security Chief Chertoff has defended the requirement for Britons to provide full sets of ten fingerprints as well as 34 different bits of pre-travel personal information before we can enter the US. He said "We have an absolute right to get this, in the same way that if someone wants to be a guest in my house I have a right to ask them who they are and get identification." Perhaps we have very different traditions in this respect.

Conservative plans for policing

The consultation document produced by the Conservative party on a reform of policing in the UK is welcome. Policing is in essence a neighbourhood service. As Simon Jenkins points out, it must be accountable at the point of delivery or it is not accountable at all. Sadly, for decades the Police has been the target of the centralising tendencies of both Labour and Conservative governments.

In 1968, Britain had 126 city and county police forces, accountable to local Watch Committees. It was the Conservatives that the reduced the number of forces to 43, and both Michael Howard and David Blunkett attempted to reduce this still further to 25.

A national Police Force under central government control is a common aspiration of politicians. It must be resisted with every sinew of strength we have.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Misconduct in a Public Office

We are told that this common law offence, for which a policeman was recently jailed for six months, has four elements:

1. A public officer acting as such
2. Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself

3. To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder

4. Without reasonable excuse or justification


Any lawyers out there who think there's a decent chance of a private prosecution against Gordon Brown on the Pensions swindle?
Unknown soldier named

Across Europe the bones of those who fell victim to the Second World war are still being unearthed from ditches and forests, such was the scale of death across the continent. The Times brings us a small story of one such corpse - that of a British officer - finally being given a name.

As the Germans retreated northwards in Italy during the Spring and early Summer of 1944, they emptied their prisons and torture cells and brought their prisoners with them. Amongst these were 14 prisoners crammed into a truck and driven out of Rome on the Via Cassia. A short distance outside the city, the Germans apparently became bored of this duty. They disembarked the men, walked them a short distance from the road, made them kneel and killed them all with a shot through the back of the head.

The Italians carefully buried these men, tended the grave and touchingly have remembered them with an annual service. For years the British officer was remembered only as 'L’Inglese Sconosciuto' - the unknown Englishman.

He has now been given a name. Captain John Armstrong, I promise you that we will never forget the brutal and casual taking of your life. I promise you that England will remain ever vigilant against the rise of evil and totalitarianism in Europe.
Merkel continues push for German Law in Britain

Every year the results of a survey appear in the British press. It shows how we are viewed by our cousins in Europe. Every year the Germans say the same thing - as a nation we're obsessed with the Second World War, and it's rather gauche of us to keep remembering that the Germans lost. Can't we get over it?

I blogged some weeks ago on efforts by Chancellor Merkel to introduce across the EU a new law making Holocaust Denial an offence punishable by up to three years in prison, and for making the Swastika an illegal symbol across Europe. In the Telegraph today is news of an agreement signed by the Home Office (without Parliamentary approval) allowing persons convicted of Holocaust Denial to be held in UK prisons.

Merkel's push for a Holocaust Denial Law in the UK exemplifies the curious schizophenia about WWII in Germany; the Nazis were a very bad thing, for sure, but they had nothing to do with Germany. How crass of us to keep linking the two!

Despite Germany's desire to be seen as the purity guardians of Europe in condemnation of Nazism, I know in my heart that it is really we here in the UK who will never forget the dangers of totalitarianism. Or that the German character still contains the potential for totalitarian control.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Boris Johnson legit plures alius lingua quoniam legit Latin.

I thought this was another April Fool; some idiot reported in the Telegraph this morning calling for a halt to the teaching of Latin and Greek in schools because they 'contribute nothing to intercultural understanding'. Boris was luckily on hand for a rebuttal quote.

What utter piffle. What brain-dead tedious contemptuous base-born dung-hill cock from which clotpoll cutpurse ex-provincial polytechnic came up with this one? My Latin is dreadful I know but learning it all those years ago opened doors to rooms full of wonderful things. And knowing too that Arabic gave us zero as well as admirals, arsenals and astronomy taught me that an understanding of the roots of language is key to understanding the rich cultural and intellectual heritage of my nation.