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Saturday, 28 May 2011

A vulgar, hateful hellhole full of Labour councillors

A construction chum had to do a three-week stint in Dubai recently to cover for a colleague. In vain he pleaded every reason under the Sun to be excused, but had to do his chokey in the end. I've vowed that I will never, under any circumstances, set foot in the ghastly place. Every hotel is a luxury hotel, twinkling with light and glass and gold and reflections from polished stone, with subservient and deferential staff and every pampering luxury one can imagine. But not a second-hand bookshop to be found in the entire Kingdom. This is truly what Hell must be like - an eternity in Dubai. Not surprisingly, it is a favoured destination for Labour councillors and senior council officers; there's something about the gross vulgarity, the hatefulness, the massive gap between rich and poor that attracts them like magpies. They can draw their designer blinds against the sight of Indian contract workers plunging past their windows, one expects. Dubai is the bowge of the panderers and flatterers. 

Give me the salt tang of a muddy English creek at the waters retreat, the approach of an unconcerned Oystercatcher, and the company of Swans. Give me a cranky waterside pub where the carpet may be sticky but the ale is chilled and fresh, the laughter honest and the company equal, with staff who'll answer back. Give me the sound of church bells in the twilight air as the ringers practice, the sweet smoke of singeing meat and herbs and the dust of narrow rough-metalled tracks and byways. 

Wherever you are this weekend, except Dubai, have a good one.  

Friday, 27 May 2011

Time to up the ante

Richard North has issued an invitation which every one of us truly loyal to those ideas we espouse on this medium cannot ignore. With wisdom he doesn't offer a manifesto. He doesn't attempt to distil our variegated political standpoints into vague and embracing generalisms. He doesn't offer a New Jerusalem. He makes the point quite simply 
As we argued yesterday, developing the traditional political party is not the best way forward. A party, perforce, must expend the bulk of its energy organising to fight and win elections. Necessarily, it will devote the smaller part of its energy to the cause it was set up to promote. More usually, if we can take anything from history, it will eventually betray that cause.
Richard offers the suggestion that our uniting on a single point, on a change so simple that it requires no embracing ideology, which he terms Referism, will break apart the cankerous State. Quite simply, it offers control of the State's budget to us - all of us - on a annual basis.  It's the 'wisdom of crowds' on a national scale. You will all know the evidence in support - if 500 people are asked to guess the weight of a pig, the average of the 500 guesses will be closer to the actual weight than any individual guess. Poll a million voters on how much MPs should be paid and you will get exactly the right answer. 

We've been here before, of course; back then it was called Chartism. Chartism wasn't a party - it was a popular movement. And one so irresistible that its demands were largely met, with one exception. The Chartists called for annual Parliaments "since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now". There's no chance of revisiting this particular constitutional reform, but Richard's suggestion, of an annual budget 'vote' by the entire electorate via the internet, is actually rather easier and rather better. 

We're into scary and unknown territory here - the populace, us, actually having real power rather than just being allowed to run the village hall by Dave. It's the ultimate form of democracy. And the Swissies do it to a limited extent, so it's not impossible. And it frightens the Mandarinate and the political class rigid, so it must be good. 

Count me in. 

The young are right to be anti-Party

The young are right to be anti-party, when the parties in question are private political clubs, that is. In Europe the voices of the angered young are louder, as the Guardian comments today, but the antagonism of the young towards the political class is none the less in the UK. The gagging stench of cronyism and corruption, privilege and nepotism, avarice and self-seeking hangs heavy over our political parties. They have become remote metropolitan elites, bereft of local grass-roots membership and support and therefore utterly alien to a generation that has never known the old Conservative Associations of the '70s, the Liberal Clubs and Labour Federations. 

In place of members, the parties have become national brands, and rely increasingly on marketing and brand identity. Cameron's Coke against Miliband's Pepsi. But as brand marketers have long known, the rules are different for the young. Political attempts to 'get down wiv der yoof' are risibly transparent to young people, and make the party head office marketers into figures of derision. Particularly when viral youth wisdom holds the entire political class responsible for their debt and joblessness, and for all the broken promises. 

And so to Sir Christopher Kelly's Committee on Standards in Public Life. Last year they started an inquiry into party funding, with an intention to publish their report in 'early 2011'. Time passed. By the end of 2010 the Committee had concluded all its evidence-taking and public consultation. Then the publication date slipped to 'Spring 2011'. Then to 'Late Spring 2011'. Then came the May elections and the purdah period and now the Committee only says it will publish 'later this year'.  

What's going on? Well, the Committee is going through the unadvertised stage that follows the public enquiry and gathering of hundreds of thousands of words of evidence, the stage called 'behind closed doors political horse-trading' in which all the evidence is ignored whilst they hammer out a conclusion palatable to all three big parties. The Lib Dems, with far fewer than their (2009) 60,000 members nationally, are as bankrupt as Greece and are desperate for our tax money to fund them. They won't support a report that says 'No' to tax funding for the three big parties based on their last vote share. Labour are now wholly reliant on the Unions for funds, and won't sign up to a £50k cap on donations that includes the Unions. The views of the public, and of all those who took the trouble to contribute to the enquiry, count for nothing. This matter will be decided by the party HQs and the political class. To their own advantage. 

The wisdom of the young in their anti-party stance should touch us all.   

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Parachute allowances

With much sound and fury the Telegraph's 'defence correspondent' announces that 4,000 parachute trained soldiers are to lose their £180 a month para wings allowance, suggesting that this will hit the poorest paid private soldiers. The BBC led with the news on the 6am bulletin - it fits neatly with their anti-cuts agenda, after all. In fact you have to read deep in the Telegraph piece to discern that the allowance is just being restricted to those soldiers who may conceivably be asked to parachute. For years soldiers of all ranks have contrived to add this bit of bling to their service dress and earn an extra £2k a year; there's hardly a general in Whitehall who doesn't sport the little wings. But the chances that Gen. Barney White-Spunner (pictured) and his chums will ever be asked to step out of anything more elevated than an MOD staff car are remote, and in this instance the payment of the allowance is really undeserved and should be ended. And Thomas Harding and the muppets at the beeb should try to find the word 'gullible' in their dictionaries. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Two nations .....

Cameron approached the microphone and spoke. "This is probably the first time in history a British Prime Minister has given an American president a bit of a grilling" he said, and looked up, like a retriever that has just located a wounded duck, for encouragement and reward. But laughter and applause came there none

US State Department officials were whispering urgently. "What's a grilling, Jack? Is that like a Spit Roasting? Are these pervert Limeys after POTUS's ass?". The President turned his eyes sidewards to the Secretary of State for guidance, but Hillary had built mental walls against thoughts of spilt semen and her eyes were glazed and unresponsive. The Marine guard watched Cameron carefully, prepared to throw his own body between a sodomitical assault and the President's bottom. Obama placed his feet close together and clenched his buttocks. Michelle had read the White House intelligence reports and had memorised the footnotes about "Ryan Giggs" "Dogging" "Teabagging" "Spit Roasting" and the whole panoply of British perversion. She glared at Samantha. A few heavy seconds pregnant with threat and silence passed.

A villa in Greece?

The following in my email box indicates that all is not well with our bankrupt and soon-to-default little neighbour:
Villa Pauli - Situated just 200m from the spectacular Phoros beach with its picaresque community of itinerant Mahgrebi arabs living under plastic sheeting and just 5 minutes drive away from Nauossa with its historic ruins of closed tourist cafes and bars. Set within a former olive grove recently felled for firewood for the local cooking stoves, the villa is available with several starving Greeks and an emaciated donkey. Patio heating in the cooler evenings is provided by the burning cars on the adjacent boulevard, and traditional combat between the police and protesters offers nightly entertainment. Take dollars or Sterling with you - the local currency, the euro, is widely scorned and is not accepted any more by taxi drivers. The recent utilities collapse has seen a rise in Cholera, Dysentery and Typhoid, so remember to take plenty of bottled water. Roast donkey kebabs are always a safe bet, but avoid fruit and salads. A native guide can be hired in the usual way by throwing a handful of euro-cents on the street and will prove invaluable in avoiding the armed banditti who have recently killed several kidnapped tourists. The State asset sell-off has made this a mecca for bargain hunters; try the garage sale at the local museum for a 3,000 year old krater at a knock-down price ($ or £ only). A fortnight at Villa Pauli will be a fortnight that you and your family will remember forever! 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Victims of a century of Welfarism

Nicholas Wheller, Trevor Llambias, Nicholas Saunders, Mahry Rosser and Ryan Clark. You'll never have heard  their names before, and both you and I will forget them by lunchtime. As Mary Riddell comments in the Telegraph, they were just five teenagers who have died in youth custody in the last five weeks. Temidayo Fuwad Ogunneye, 15, was the latest of London's teenagers to be stabbed to death on the street last week and indicative of the increasing trend for African names on the morgue toe-tags. Despite what his mum says to the Standard, he was never going to be an architect, university was as remote a possibility for his future as winning the lottery and he lived and died his brief life a nobody, a failure, in a world of gangs and drugs and council estates. Whether white boys so traumatised by custody that they strangle themselves with their underwear or black boys gasping their last breaths on blood-puddled tarmac they have in common that they held their lives so cheaply that the petty rewards of crime outweighed all the risks and disadvantages of being a crim. 

The fiction that Britain was divided into upper, middle and working class peoples was out of date even in the 1970s when John Cleese filmed that famous sketch with the two Ronnies. Only the LibDems pretend that the entrenched privilege of the upper class is significant any more. Scaffolders and plumbers are as middle class these days as were once bank clerks; their kids will go to uni, their wives shop at Waitrose. The rewards of trade and profession, once so diverse, have become indistinguishably close in economic terms. And apart from all this is a pervasive, suppurating underclass who could almost be living in another country so alien are they to our everyday life experiences. There are men of 30 living in Peckham who have never boarded an aircraft, never seen a farm, never slept a single night away from their council estate (unless in a prison cell) and many of those will only have visited central London with its plethora of museums, galleries, monuments and spectacles a handful of times in their lives. They live and die in a tiny two-mile radius, living alongside but apart from the rest of us who know the airports of the world and the smell of a tropical rain shower. These are the victims of a century of Welfarism. 

Yes, the National Insurance Act 1911 is a century old. This was the point at which the political class lost faith in the ability of the working class to make rational economic choices and took the matter out of their hands. This was the dawn of Welfarism. Arthur Seldon, co-founder of the IEA, was born into poverty in the East End, the orphan of Russian immigrants. He wrote
I was appalled by the insensitivity of governments to the efforts of the working classes to help themselves - the belief that they could not do all the necessary things. They were most anxious to ensure that they used all the opportunities of insurance to safeguard their families in times of sickness and loss of work. I began to sense a sort of anti-working class sentiment in all political parties. They wanted the State to do these things. They didn't like people to do things for themselves. They thought that ordinary people weren't capable. They forgot all the history of the working classes.
The IEA's Ralph Harris himself wrote
Liberty carries with it individual responsibilities. Responsibility for yourself, and hopefully your family and as far as possible your neighbours. But it does throw responsibility onto our own shoulders. Well, that's what living means; it doesn't mean shrugging off responsibility and taking soft options.
In a superb post from November 2010 that I have kept bookmarked, Chris Mounsey writes here of the way in which the State destroyed working-class independence. Welfare destroys lives, makes slaves of the least capable, locks the slow and the talentless into a hopeless pit of despond and condemns lives as worthwhile as our own to a life of struggle without self-respect and to an early death. 

So today when I think about the body of some pale Welsh kid with ribs visible hanging by the neck from his cell bars from his torn pants with the agony suffused on his distorted face a better alternative than the life to which Welfarism had condemned him I shall think also about Polly Toynbee and Ed Milliband and all the other corrosive fools sipping chilled champagne in celebration at a century of cruelty and inhumanity and feed my righteous anger. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

Brown's pride skewered IMF bid

Gordon could have scrawled a note in his felt-tip pen. He could have placed a call to the Number 10 switchboard. He could have asked young Ed to have a private word with Dave. "Dear David; I would like to let you know that I am minded to declare my candidature for the Chairmanship of the IMF. Please let me know if your government is prepared to back me. Regards, Gordon." In the event, Brown's stiff-necked pride didn't allow him to do any of these things; perhaps the pain of a third snub, following the nation's rejection of him and  the Duke of Cambridge's blanking, was just too much for Gordon. 

This allowed William Hague on yesterday's politics show to say "he didn't ask" rather than admit that we wouldn't have supported Brown anyway. If we're ever going to get rid of the man to his Cape Cod cottage and away from these shores, he's going to have to be a bit less prideful about declaring what he wants.