Thursday, 9 July 2009

Police top-brass troughers have learned nothing

Let's get rid of a myth. Policing is not a high-risk occupation. OK, it's more dangerous than working on a supermarket check-out, but nowhere near as dangerous as working in the construction industry. A construction worker dies nearly every day in the UK; the only policeman to have died on duty this year was allegedly murdered by a colleague. The police are citizens in uniform. They're not members of the fighting forces. Their lists of work-related 'injuries' are frequently trivial and would go unreported by any other occupational group; wasp stings, a bruised thumb, a banged knee when climbing out of car. With generous sick pay and an unacceptable level of 'medical' early retirement, they're cosseted prima donnas. We all know this, because we're paying for this largesse.

Senior police officers are not equivalent to the commanding officers of our fighting forces, despite aping their insignia. They're more like NHS managers. Indeed, given the number of 'sick' plods they're responsible for, they could almost be redesignated as health administrators.

Yet these troughers have decided they need a number of devious mechanisms to up their wedge. Not happy with a NHS Manager's pay, they think they deserve more. These troughers have only one aim - to max their final salary, and retire as early as they can on a taxpayer funded final-salary pension. So please don't bleat to me about 'committment to public service' or 'putting our lives on the line' or being 'the thin blue line that preserves the nation from anarchy'. They're troughers. No less venal and no less corrupt than the MPs who have done exactly the same.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Plus ca change ...

Richard North has a brilliantly indignant post HERE on the DFID's inanely expensive schemes for Afghan 'wimmin' whilst the basics go unaddressed.

I'm reminded of the anecdote about the USAID feminist who first followed the original occupation. She spent several months lecturing the women of a small village on their new found rights, imported American labour-saving kitchen utensils and pregnancy testing kits, and arranged for literacy tutors.

Returning to the same village four years on, she was appalled to see the women behaving as she had found them - burka-clad, and following twenty paces behind the men.

She harangued the women that she knew at American length, excoriating their subservience. "You're equal" she railed "Why the Hell are you still walking twenty paces behind your husbands?"

The answer came softly. "Mines."

The Quangos must die

Apart from electing 646 MPs - approximately one for every 70,000 voters - we elect some 23,000 local councillors. Unfortunately, they have about as much power as a dead Duracell on Christmas Day. Not only have councillors been neutered by the central State, but councils themselves are too big to be meaningful to many people. France has an elected local administration for every 1,500 electors - even the tiniest hamlet with three cottages and a dunghill has its Mayor - but 120,000 Britons are needed to get a government unit in its lowest form.

And those 23,000 elected councillors are dwarfed by 60,000 unelected people serving on 5,200 quangos. Yes, 60,000 people we've never had a choice in appointing, who serve on bodies exercising real power in the health service, policing, housing, prisons, training and economic development. Even your supposedly elected council must have its overall policy agreed by an unelected 'local strategic partnership' dictated by Whitehall.

In addition to those 60,000, there are a further 345,000 unelected school governors who have dismally failed to govern our state schools and 31,000 Whitehall appointees to central quangos.

What price democracy? Our elected representatives are powerless, whilst the central State's insidious agenda is advanced through thousands of unelected placemen. Make no mistake, this is the agenda of the metropolitan political class and a civil service out of control. The balance between central and local has been lost, and every one of us is poorer as a result.

Simon Jenkins points out that a third of the income of the 'big seven' comes from public sector work; in many ways they are the State's occupying troops. Where once the keep of the King's castle rose above Derby or Sheffield or Norwich as reminder of State power, now the steel and glass regional offices of PriceWaterhouseCooper perform the same function. And the most entrenched, the most negative, the most destructive, the most incompetent and the most antidemocratic of all the Whitehall departments is the Treasury, its malign effects magnified and multiplied by Brown's tenure.

Unless Cameron tackles the Treasury, he has no hope of making inroads into the quangos. He is concentrating on the 31,000 strong central quangos; maybe he will trim 3,000 unelected officials. In the meanwhile the Treasury will have created a further 2,500. The 60,000 local quangocrats will remain untouched.

School governors must govern schools, not Whitehall civil servants, and for this we must elect them. Local Watch Committees must manage local police forces, not the Home Secretary, and they must be voted into office. Who sits on the board of your primary health trust? Who governs your local hospital? You have no idea - but Whitehall does. Forget abolishing the Potato Marketing Board, David, and concentrate on how you can return power to the urban community, municipality and parish.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Can Libertarians be good Localists?

The answer of course is yes. I'm a Tory, not a Libertarian or a statist Conservative, but a Tory from an older, local tradition. Until the late 1970s, the Conservatives were the party of Localism, but an enthusiasm for European Federalism and central Statism saw a million members such as me walk away from the party. There are hopes that Cameron is turning the party back to its Localist, Tory roots, but we'll have to wait and see if the brave and stirring words become radical actions.

Libertarians and Tories share much ideological ground. Robert Nisbet usefully catalogued the similarities. Both loathe the Leviathan of the Central State, and its interference on our social, economic, intellectual and political lives. Both share a belief in the meaning of equality as meaning all persons being equal in access to the law, and equal before the law; in legal equality. Both condemn the socialist belief in equality of result - of forced equality in class, status or wealth. Both share a belief in freedom, and particularly economic freedom. There is a common dislike of what Nisbet terms a war-society, and of warfare. A war-society, organised on lines of central command and control, with conscription, rationing and other evils, is anathema to both Libertarians and Tories. And both share a dislike of what we can term political correctness, a perverse liberalism that robs individuals of dignity and humanity.

Where Libertarians and Tories differ is in the extent of the primacy of the individual, or the primacy of the structures that those individuals create for themselves, seding a degree of individualism. Tories follow Burke in his insistence on the rights of society and of its structures - family, locality, church, guilds and associations, local social structures, the "little platoons" - against the arbitrary power of the central State. Tories believe that individual liberty is only possible within 'the context of a plurality of social authorities, of moral codes, and of historical traditions, all of which, in organic articulation, serve at one and the same time as “the inns and resting places” of the human spirit and intermediary barriers to the power of the state over the individual.'

Libertarians can draw philosophically from Adam Smith, from Locke, and from Jefferson, but it's primarily John Stuart Mill who provides the mainstay of Libertarian ideology. In 'On Liberty' Mill wrote:
The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually and collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self protection.. . , His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.
He didn't of course include everybody in this paramount right; just people like himself. He excluded anyone below the age of 21, anyone in a state that required them to be 'taken care of by others', all people who are in 'backward states of society' and anyone who is a 'nuisance' to others. Oh, and he qualifies the entire thing by writing that liberty should apply to words but not necessarily to deeds - 'no one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions'.

And many modern Libertarians hold Mill's exclusion clauses fast still; that the right to Mill's absolute freedom from interference doesn't extend to one's own or other people's children, the underclass, the feral and ill-educated, the unsocialised, foreigners or anyone who is too rich, too Christian or who has a historic title. And it doesn't allow creating a disturbance on the streets. In such cases, Libertarianism, as it is distinguished from Toryism, seems largely to exist in defence of the right of the educated middle classes to consume pornography, use dirty words on the internet and be rude about Christians.

In practice, though, many Libertarians recognise the authority of the family, the authority of a caucus of moral opinion, the authority of intermediate institutions, the belonging to a place; they love their 'little platoons' as much as any good Tory. As such they are as good Localists as any Tory.

Must dash - I'll continue anon.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

No obligation to tell the truth to Kuffirs

It is not a religious offence for a good Muslim to lie to a Kuffir, or non-Muslim. There is no obligation in Islam to tell the truth to Kuffirs. The two Pakistanis who have just made a mockery of our legal system will therefore have done nothing wrong in the eyes of Islam. Rarely can either the Chancery Court or Appeal Court have seen such a debasement. The judgement in the case of Zahoor v. Masood states:
In this lamentable litigation Peter Smith J found that both sides attempted to deceive the court by forging documents. A list of over 50 challenged documents was produced. The trial judge had to hear the evidence of three experts on handwriting issues. He found it impossible to come to a clear conclusion in respect of each document and did not do so. He identified those key documents, agreements and share transfers which he held were not genuine.

The judge also found that both sides also lied in their evidence. In some areas of the case his task of evaluating the true facts about the dispute was difficult, if not impossible. Each of the individual parties, by using reprehensible means, set out to improve his own prospects of success, to damage those of the other side and to defeat the efforts of the court to do justice according to law. They abused, obstructed and attempted to undermine the justice system and the legal processes in which they were participating.

The perjury and forgery by both sides was so extensive that the judge said that he would not accept the evidence of either side, unless supported by independent documents whose authenticity was not challenged and the evidence of witnesses whose veracity was not challenged. He aimed at deciding the case on the basis of uncontaminated evidence.
The question is why both men are not now serving lengthy prison sentences for contempt of court.

The proper working of our legal system and of our courts is the most fundamental foundation of our society and nation. Those like Jonathan Aitken who imagine they can escape with lying to the court are quite rightly proven wrong with a lengthy jail sentence.

If Mohammed Zahoor and Sohail Masood hold our standards of truth and justice so lightly, let us also find a way to deprive them of it. If they want to be outlaws, so be it; let each be permanently and irrevocably barred from any civil law recourse or protection in the United Kingdom. The civil law and the civil courts should be closed to them for ever.

Fund the Monarch from the BBC budget

Cost to the taxpayer of the Monarch: £41m annually

Cost to the taxpayer of the BBC: £2,859m annually

The monarchy costs us a sum equivalent to just 1.4% of the BBC's cost.

I know which one I think provides the better value.

Perverse policy and the Camberwell blocks

Central government has been responsible for some inane public policy decisions. Not least of these was a Soviet-style State commitment to high rise public housing. From 1956 to the late 1960s, the government distorted local decision making by providing councils with a generous subsidy for each storey built in excess of six. Stories seven to fourteen of the Camberwell blocks are not there because they are the most economic building solution, but because of a misplaced ideological distortion by the State. The nonsense is that the spaces between the blocks - nowadays car parking, vandalised play spaces and dog-toilet grass, with a few sad looking Korean cherries stuck here and there - are by necessity large, and low-rise traditional terraces could have housed the same number of people on the same footprint.

When the private sector builds high-rise, as at Canary Wharf, in the absense of site constraints the buildings will be square, or even circular like the Gherkin, giving maximum floor space for minimum cost; the cost of constructing and maintaining the envelope of a building shaped like a matchstick, and the increased heat losses from the larger surface area, is hardly attractive to those who have to make commercial returns from such structures. Surface area and volume. It's why mice freeze to death in temperatures that leave bigger creatures unaffected.

If the cladding, the infill panels and the envelope of buildings such as the Camberwell block are found to be at fault in the fire, creating an inherent risk, it may be cheaper to flatten them than re-clad them.

The TV interviews I've seen with survivors and residents of neighbouring blocks suggests a resident population rich in Nigerians, Brazilians, Portuguese and Vietnamese, with a sprinkling of the English middle class living in rented RTBs. Comments have mentioned practices such as barbeques on the balconies. If there is truth in this, it adds another danger. High rise flats designed for a culture that has never been short of cooking fuel, and whose cuisine has therefore refined long roasting and slow simmering, relatively low fire-risk cooking methods, may not be as safe when used by cultures whose cuisine has developed rapid high temperature open frying or grilling, often in the open air, in response to traditional scarcity of cooking fuels. Probably not a major risk, but an additional one nonetheless.