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Saturday 9 November 2019

The pathetic vileness of the haters and baiters

There are dark forces in human hearts that we simply cannot allow to be released. Whether the objects of their hatred are defined by faith or racial or ethnographic identity, we have surely learned enough lessons by now of the dangers in pretending that their abhorrent views are in any wise acceptable. Corbyn has sheltered and succoured the most vile bigots and anti-semites, repugnant individuals who pollute his party. As a reminder of how unfit he is for public life - and all like him, the Muslim-baiters, the race haters, who either commit or allow those in their party to support these repulsive hatreds, I re-publish a post I made a year ago, on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht -

November 9th, 2018  
A pane of window glass is an odd thing. Just 4mm thick, and so fragile that a child's ball may shatter it, in our minds it is as much of a bulwark against the elements, against the chaos of the street, against the bad outside as nine inches of brick and mortar. Anyone who has had a broken front window pane will know the sudden vulnerability, the sense of unprotectedness, the anxiety and the naked exposure of that void. Until mended, we can't sleep. We imagine dark forms, of burglars, deviants and suchlike attracted like moths to the boarded gape - blind to the reason that the piece of plywood covering the hole is many times stronger than the thin, weak pane it replaces.

Eighty years ago today tens of thousands of our German cousins had their windows deliberately smashed, windows of not only their homes but their businesses. Synagogues were smashed and burned. Kristallnacht marked the change from social, economic and political discrimination to physical attack. Kristallnacht marked the start of the Holocaust.

The boundary, the constraint, the separation between discriminatory treatment, between scowls and insults flung in the street and on the trams to physical battery, to rape and murder, to violence and robbery and to organised genocide was just as thin and fragile as a sheet of glass. Eighty years ago it was smashed and the first thirty thousand of Germany's Jews were rounded up for the concentration camps, to be killed in an ad-hoc, haphazard fashion, from starvation, lack of care, overwork and shooting. It was to be another thirty-eight months before the Germans agreed the designer death factories at Wannsee - Vorsprung durch Technik - but already the fate of Europe's Jews was effectively decided.


I was in Villach yesterday, enjoying a beer on the broad, elongated space that stretches up the hill from the Drau to the church, paved in the same red catshead cobbles as a century ago, and called Adolf-Hitler-Platz until the British occupation force changed its name in 1946. The Christmas tree was already up, the size of the tree in Trafalgar Square, and carpenters were building the Christmas village, sturdy huts and braziers soon to be filled with the scent of burning pine, Glühwein and hot Leberkäse. As I write I can't actually remember what the space is called today - after having seen all the photos from March 1938, such as that below, it is forever Adolf-Hitler-Platz in my mind. Among this crowd, I wonder, were the Jews of Villach watching the procession? Still at that time with faith in the strength of their windows to protect them from rape, brutality and death?

Friday 8 November 2019

The death of Labour

I've known quite a few Labourites down the years. In South Yorkshire being Labour was as much a part of life as the Yorkshire main coal seam 1km under our feet. These were Ian Austins to a man, believers in hard work, social responsibility, a mixed economy, a strong defence and Trident. Amongst them were the last batch of national servicemen and those who wore the pair of the UN bronze and distinctive blue and yellow ribboned campaign medals of the Korean war. They tried hard, really hard, not to say 'love' 'dear' or 'pet' when asking young women for a cup of tea, knowing but not quite understanding that this now gave offence.

In London, I knew a far greater variety of Labourites. There were communities - Irish, Jewish - who traditionally looked to the party as a collective defence against the abuses and depredations of the tribal English. There were the Windrush generation of Commonwealth immigrants who joined them for much the same reasons. There were a great mass of Londoners, minor consumers of the Welfare State, who wanted decent homes at affordable rents in which to live on their wages as bus drivers or council clerks. For the most part they were Ian Austins, too. There were the actors, poets and artists from the French and the Colony Room. Soho's last lamplighter. Those employed in higher and further education, where labour allegiance was a sort of membership worn lightly in case they should want to 'go into politics' if they failed to get that departmental headship yet again.

Of course there were the nasty Labourites, too. The bullying and grasping TU officials (including one bane of my own managerial life; when he was exposed in the 'Sun' as a serial groper and sex abuser and sacked by his own union, which he took to a tribunal, my rejoicing was great). There were the nasty local councillors bent with greed or corrupt with petty power, drunks, bullies, haters and frauds. All those who used the party as a ladder to support their own foulness. But one meets such people everywhere.

All the above one could tag as 'mostly harmless'. Many will have voted 'Leave' in the referendum. Many will only now, in this election, come to realise that their party is dead, taken-over by a cynical and dangerous cabal of Marxist opportunists who care nothing for their wishes and beliefs, who will not reward their loyalty. Even the Noncefinder General, himself not an attractive human being, has jumped ship. The Jewish Chronicle screams warnings. John Woodcock, Tom Harris and Michael McCann, former Labour bigwigs, say don't vote for Corbyn.

Lay up those silk banners. The party is disbanded. Labour is dead.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

The only winners from TV debates are the broadcasters

I'm not a fan of TV debates in which the party leaders are encouraged to sneer and bark at each other like bare knuckle boxers. Inevitably these things are designed by broadcasters deeply biased towards the metropolitan political establishment, a social state in which the broadcasters have a privileged supremacy. The events are designed to show how powerful and important are the broadcasters, and how trivial our political leaders. Silly little bar stools, demeaning sets and intellectually inadequate presenters with little understanding of democracy and frequently an inability to chair either effectively or impartially the debate make the things a spectacle like those in which secret incestuous caravan-park relations are revealed before a studio audience. TV debates are all about the broadcasters.

'All politics is local' is not an aphorism understood by the BBC, ITV or Sky. As far as they're concerned, all politics is centred around SW1. For two years they've given us the bear pit of College Green, with its mentally-ill ranters and painted fools in the background, and a primitive forest of flags waving above the outdoor stages, a contrived palio of conflict designed to drive up the political temperature and crowd-out sense and reason from political debate. It's all about spectacle, about a gladiatorial knock-about. I'm sure that the parliamentary authority has offered a score of times to site temporary portacabins for the broadcasters on the river terrace and have been spurned - they want extremist behaviour, they want the threat of violence and they want noise, fear and the mob. It is the broadcasters more than anyone else who have whipped up the death threats, spittle and assaults on MPs and have deepened the division in the country. Do we really trust them to act any different in designing TV debates?

It is a truism that the best way to treat the broadcasters is to deprive them of the oxygen of publicity. To refuse to play their game. As Channel Four news has found to its cost. This is the most important election for almost a century - do we really want to contrive with the establishment TV barons in turning it into a game show?

And as any fair televised punch-up must include both the illiberal anti-democrats and BrexitCorp® I suggest that only making the nonsense both fair and equitable and agreeing a format that takes the heat, steam and hate out, in effect making the four-way debate a quiet, considered debate with no yowling studio audience and no black-tee shirted security guards to restrain the studio mob from attacking the guests is the only sensible way ahead.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Mad pitbulls and manipulative experts

Dr Keith Sutherland has a job at Exeter University. His piece in the Speccie detailing the shortcomings of citizens' juries and of deliberative democracy is therefore supremely professional and details the myriad technical faults of the process that makes it unsuitable for important democratic decisions.

In my time I've done plenty of design charettes with local communities affected by development. I recall one dreary November evening; it was cold, it was dark, and freezing rain made sodden and hopeless the scruffy hall at the edge of a council estate affected by our plans. Sheltering under a tree in a vandalised play area were a group of teens; even on such a night, being out and together was better than being at home. I was told of one 16-year old lad highly skilled on a BMX bike that his mother and stepfather had given him notice to leave the house; no job and no post-16 education meant he earned nothing for them, was just a mouth to feed, and so got pushed out of the nest. It was that brutal.

Inevitably those that came to the meeting were, as Dr Sutherland describes, overrepresented by partisans and activists. Boy, they hated young people. They wanted a public realm equipped with the design equivalent of barbed wire and searchlights, with the painful silent shriek of 'mosquito' transmitters on every street corner (these satanic devices emit a painful noise at a frequency that can only be heard by those under about 20 - advertised as 'teen deterrents'. I guess dogs would hear them as well - possibly accounting for so many mad pitbulls in these places) When I challenged the 'community' plod on his repeated description of the kids that hung around outside the shops as a 'teenage nuisance' and suggested that as they weren't breaking any law and were as much citizens as the rest of us, it would be more accurate to describe them as a 'teenage presence', I was practically lynched.  

Our architect, a gentle and artistic man, was so horrified he never attended further. He sent instead a duffer assistant, a talentless gofer who was useful in the office because he could work the CAD system.

Sutherland points out that 95% of those invited to citizens' juries never turn up; "Out of the 30,000 invitations sent out for Rachel Reeves’ climate assembly, only 110 will receive the golden ticket. Would you have any confidence in an opinion poll that relied on 110 volunteers?" he asks. A citizens' assembly that reproduced exactly the 52:48 Brexit result would need a minimum of 6,766 participants.

But Sutherland understates, professionally, the key reason that deliberative democracy is never suited as a replacement for democracy - that those using it are themselves biased towards a certain outcome and will seek to run the process to produce that outcome. The RSA, for example, a strong advocate of deliberative democracy, suggests that the cattle are well-briefed by 'experts' before they are allowed to raise their hands - on the basis that decisions such as Brexit should be made by 'informed' voters rather than we ignorant, stupid, uneducated and inexpert citizens.

Beware all those who seek to use any method other than universal suffrage and the secret ballot for our most important decisions. They don't have democracy in their hearts. 

Monday 4 November 2019

Speaker : let's hope it's third time lucky

Readers may recall a post I made in September under the title 'Good riddance to a meretricious arsewipe'. After recalling my first experience with George Thomas and his successor, I wrote
After Weatherill came Betty Boothroyd - ex Tiller Girl, and to date our only female Speaker. She brought a twinkle and a touch of humour to the chair in a way that in no wise diminished either her dignity, the authority of the Speaker or her command of the chamber. For the matters of her term, 1992 - 2000, she was perfect.

Then came Gorbals Mick, an inadequate and corrupt machine politician with little merit who sought to suppress, by power and bullying, the expenses scandal from reaching the press. And after Gorbals Mick the arsewipe, that sanctimonious dwarf Bercow. Two lousy Speakers, Bercow the very worst in my long memory and possibly in the life of our Parliament.
The Commons meets this afternoon to select a new Speaker. I shalln't compare the candidates - they will only be proven in the Chair. We have had two lousy Speakers in a row - let's hope that either by design or accident, the next one will be the Speaker that parliament needs (though hardly deserves).

Sunday 3 November 2019

Only Boris can deliver Brexit

Somewhat busy at the moment with the election, but be inspired by a tidy piece by Dan Hannan in the Telegraph this morning -
Ask yourself how Britain can reasonably hope to move on from the nastiness of the past three years. The Liberal Democrats propose to annul the referendum, a policy at which even many convinced Remainers baulk. Cancelling the result wouldn’t restore the status quo ante; rather, it would institutionalise the alienation and anger that envelop our politics.

Labour, meanwhile, wants to string the argument out through another referendum – and, in doing so, to string out the uncertainty for our exasperated businesses. Jeremy Corbyn proposes, with a straight face, to secure a better deal from Brussels and then campaign against his own deal.

And the Brexit Party? Sadly, it has been becoming clear for some time that the party is less interested in the first word in its title than the second. It was always going to oppose any Brexit deal, even if that meant staying in the EU (which would, of course, keep it in business).

In order to justify itself, it has to insist that leaving the EU is “not Brexit”, that taking back control of our money, laws and trade policy count for nothing and that Boris, who was the leader of the Leave campaign, is somehow not a Leaver. Unsurprisingly, two thirds of Leave voters back Boris’s deal, with only one in 10 opposed.
Yep. Only Boris can deliver Brexit.