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Saturday 18 January 2020

Revolutionary fervour and the Parish Council

Anyone who imagined that the resolution of Brexit would be an end to the polarisation of public opinion in Britain will have been disillusioned by the appearance of  Laurence Fox on QT. I have long said that Brexit was merely the proxy for an underlying revolt against the takeover of the establishment, of the institutions of the State, even of the police by a woke metropolitan elite, and that the fight now will move to rolling back their suffocating control and sclerotic grip on our nation. Betz and Smith outlined the takeover in a semantic piece for the Bruges Group almost exactly a year ago
It seems that for at least twenty years the new political classes in Britain have been placing a bet on the political future. They are betting on the quiescence of the public at large, who will either not notice or not care that elites are entrenching their own power and interests. They are gambling that the public, kept compliant by political spinning, a constant diet of soaps and reality television, debt, social media pap, welfare dependency and the like, will not work themselves up into any state of anger of the sort anticipated by Nigel Farage if their political preferences are dishonoured. Or at least not enough of them will to make a difference.

In other words, for many years now, governments, along with a significant fraction of the population, have calculated that the bulk of the people can either be kept in a state of apathy or bullied into submission. How, it might be asked, have they reached such conclusions?
Conservative governments before Boris have been as complicit in this takeover as have the Blairite excrescences of 1997 - 2010. Secrecy, obfuscation, distortion, NDPBs and unaccountable State agencies of the sort loved by Theresa May have flourished. Little people faced smoking bans and wardens issuing £80 fines for dropping litter or putting out the bin on the wrong day whilst council bosses, police, politicians and the apparatchiks of the new elite condemned thousands of innocents to neglect, abuse and loathsome criminality through malfeasance, misconduct in office and maladministration, all in the name of prosecuting their woke social oppression. Robert Nisbet wrote of this in The New Despotism -
What we have witnessed, however, in every Western country, and not least in the United States, is the almost incessant growth in power over the lives of human beings — power that is basically the result of the gradual disappearance of all the intermediate institutions which, coming from the predemocratic past, served for a long time to check the kind of authority that almost from the beginning sprang from the new legislative bodies and executives in the modern democracies.
What has in fact happened during the past half century is that the bulk of power in our society, as it affects our intellectual, economic, social, and cultural existences, has become largely invisible, a function of the vast infragovernment composed of bureaucracy's commissions, agencies, and departments in a myriad of areas. And the reason this power is so commonly invisible to the eye is that it lies concealed under the humane purposes that have brought it into existence.

The greatest single revolution of the last century in the political sphere has been the transfer of effective power over human lives from the constitutionally visible offices of government, the nominally sovereign offices, to the vast network that has been brought into being in the name of protection of the people from their exploiters.
This takeover of the State, this takeover of our democracy, was not a coup, a plot or a deliberate strategy. It was not a conspiracy. Nisbet quoted Justice Brandeis -
Experience should teach us to be most on guard to protect liberty when the governments' purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachments by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
Allister Heath in the Telegraph is conscious of the deleterious effect of the loss of what Nisbet terms our intermediate institutions
Instead, as Michael Lind, the US academic, argues in The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite, the real clash is between a highly credentialed, entitled, managerial and technocratic class that has seized control of the most powerful public and private institutions and is using them to serve its economic interests and impose its faddish worldview; and an alienated, ignored and denigrated “working class” that has lost control.

In the British context, for working class read not just blue-collar workers but also swathes of the middle classes and anybody else who hasn’t got with the Left, social-liberal programme, including many ethnic minorities.

This revolutionary alliance used to feel they had a voice; some were even part of the old establishment. Now they feel they have lost their local institutions, clubs and civil societies, believe the wrong priorities are being pursued by unaccountable elites and that their (relatively) conservative values, their love and loyalty to family and country, are being mocked.

Crucially, their views in 2020 are quite liberal in a classical sense: they are tolerant, anti-racist and want to protect the environment. But they are aghast at the excesses of the woke agenda, at its totalitarian overtones, its obscure obsessions, and want to leave the EU, pay less tax, have better public services, and enjoy a drink at the pub.
And that has been the takeover of our nation, our democracy, that we are now engaged in reversing. Peacefully. Through the ballot box, and by re-forming the Little Platoons, the militia of meaningful democracy.

Don't forget to order your fireworks online, or visit a specialist store - they won't be in the local shop!
And others (no connection)

Thursday 16 January 2020

The future of air travel

I can predict that 2020 will bring many news stories about air travel. This week we have the saga of Flybe, and the paradox that rail travel is tax subsidised by £29bn a year, road travel by £15bn a year but that passengers of airlines competing with these modes of travel within the UK must pay through the ticket price to build their own airports, buy and operate their own aircraft without subsidy and allow the operators to collect additional taxes from passengers to boot in the form of APD. Despite the predictable whines from the rest of the industry, the government has agreed to give Flybe a pause by postponing tax due.

Then there's saving the planet. St Greta avoided air travel by crossing the Atlantic in a large private yacht, but that's not an option available to many. The wealthy and virtuous have the option of booking passenger cabins on merchant vessels - these have been a little known secret for many years but are hardly a substitute for business travellers. I suppose we could tax air travel back to the ticket prices of the 1960s to discourage use, but this would need to be a global initiative.

Then there's airport expansion and nuisance. Heathrow rows haven't even seriously started yet, and not a single elderly home counties lady has yet chained herself to the bulldozers. And we've yet to see the egregious Meghan Markle flying back first class long haul to LHR and forcing her limos through hordes of climate change and anti-runway demonstrators to attend a conference on saving the planet.

That's the problem with air travel - we all use it, many of us even depend on it, but few of us like it in the way we like trains, for example. We hate the budget airlines and their cash scams, for which Flybe are one of the worst offenders, but continue to book their seats.

Just what is the future of air travel?

Update 08.43
Matt nails it -

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Manchester still has one newspaper worthy of the name

Manchester once had a brave and crusading newspaper edited by CP Scott. The Manchester Guardian was libertarian, reformist, anti-establishment in stance and valued journalistic integrity. If it were published today, it would probably be my go-to newspaper, but sadly it exists no longer. A shadow of its former self, it moved to London, became The Guardian, and disavowed its libertarian and reformist stance to become a platform for bigots and cranks and a tool of the new establishment takeover of the UK's state institutions.

During its incubation in Manchester, the Guardian has a sister publication, the Manchester Evening News, founded in 1868, and owned by Guardian Media Group until the sale of the title to Trinity Mirror, now Reach plc, in 2010. It is the MEN that has inherited the crusading honesty of its former press-partner, while the Guardian has become complicit in the lies, cover-ups, distortions, misrepresentation and obfuscation of one of the foulest scandals of this millennium.

The Manchester child sexual abuse scandal is the just the latest in a tsunami of child abuse scandals in the UK that became institutionally embedded as acceptable amongst police, social workers and local politicians. It is the most egregious tale of police and official malfeasance, maladministration and misconduct in public office, and heads must roll and persons must do jail time for the wrongs they did. The bromides of the guilty establishment - "we empathise with the pain you must feel" and "lessons have been learned" - don't work any more. We want prosecutions.

We owe a debt to the Manchester Evening News and the city's mayor Andy Burnham for this story being fully investigated. 

I was in two minds whether to write this piece, as I know the assortment of deeply bigoted comments it is likely to attract. So let me make things clear. This is primarily a story about public officials, the police, the media, local government and many senior figures in government wilfully covering up the most shocking and disgraceful abuse of the most vulnerable in our society. The crimes were carried out by paedophiles, nonces, who also belong in jail. Those officials were covering-up paedophilia.

And this piece is a piece in praise of the upright and the righteous who abandoned their establishment comfort-zone to expose the wrongs. It is not an opportunity to vent vile and disgusting discrimination against the adherents of the Muslim faith or the nationals of a single nation. Or a deluded opportunity to aver that the harassment and victimisation by a convicted street-thug of this minority under the pretence of exposing wrong has any equivalence to the actions of the MEN, Andy Burnham and Maggie Oliver. It does not. So although I'm not closing comments, please be very careful.

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Marking our exit from the EU

There will not I think be any evening of television hosted by Jools Holland, with streamers, fizz and jazz bands, on the 31st January to mark our departure from the EU. There will, though, I strongly suspect, be lots of firework displays, which will pose the police with an interesting problem.

The current firework laws allow fireworks only until 11pm other than on Guy Fawkes night, Diwali, Chinese New Year and Christian new year. One of the quirks of the WA is that it specifies midnight on the 31st CET as the exact moment of the UK's departure - 11pm UK time. Technically, fireworks ignited before the hour are quite legal, those exploded after could earn a visit from Plod.

I don't think this will be an issue anywhere outside the most remainery parts of London, in which the victims of Brexit Derangement Syndrome will deluge the Met with phone calls, tweets and emails  complaining about the fireworks. Brexiteers will take a delight I suspect in guerrilla celebrating - sneaking into closed parks and onto open spaces to set off half a dozen rockets after 11pm, then flee. One can understand and sympathise with such actions, and  we could see the skies of the whole of Britain (even Scotland had a substantial Leave minority) lit up in a coruscating display of sound and light.

What we will not hear, it appears, are the bongs of Big Ben. This, I think, is probably right. TPTB have invented a theoretical cost of half a million to ring the bells and that's enough to kill the idea. It is not a good look for any official bodies to appear triumphalist about leaving; our national and state institutions belong just as much to remainers as they do to leavers, and it really wouldn't be right to use them to crow. The fireworks and private celebrations will be quite enough.

Sunday 12 January 2020

Electoral housekeeping

There were many rumours last week of the government bringing forward in the very near future a Bill to tackle some much overdue electoral housekeeping. Two potential changes were outlined in the manifesto - the roll out of voter ID at polling stations, and the ending of the 15 year limit on the entitlement of overseas voters to participate. Two further changes were not mentioned but will be of much greater interest to many people.

The first is postal voting. Formerly restricted to expats and members of HM Forces overseas, and to the housebound sick and disabled, the numbers involved were negligible. Then came Blair's pollution of our democratic institutions. In December the volume reached 38% of all votes cast - of 31.8m votes cast, 12m were postal votes. Objections are twofold. Primarily is the extent to which postal votes can be abused by vote harvesting, personation, coercion or diversion. No reliable figures are available on the extent of this, but then, if abuses were successful, they would not easily be discovered. The introduction of photo ID at polling stations without having restricted postal votes will of course only vastly increase the numbers of postal votes, and we must ask ourselves whether we want an electoral process in which 75% of ballots are cast in a way that evades all the scrutiny, security and transparency of polling stations, votes and boxes. The second and more minor objection is that the act of physically voting - the polling station, poll card, interactions with polling officials and fellow electors, recognition that those voting with you may be voting for another candidate and so on - is in itself a powerful reinforcer of local democratic identity, one of the parade drills of the Little Platoons.

The second change is to initiate a fresh boundary review, but this time based on the existing 650 parliamentary seats rather than the somewhat aged review on Cameron's instructions that sought to reduce the number of seats to 600. The registers of electors on which the Cameron reviews were based are now even further distant, and were Cameron's review to be recast on the 2019 registers it may produce different boundaries. However, fundamentally I object deeply to Cameron's attempts to reduce the numbers of MPs by 50.

In 1922, the first election carried out within our current national borders, we had 615 seats for a population of around 44m. We now have a population of some 66m. In addition, the centralisation of the State since the Great War has meant that MPs now have very much more on which to legislate. Before that time, water, power, gas, health, hospitals, almshouses, welfare, roads, lighting, transport, planning, public health, licencing, education and policing were funded, designed, managed and delivered locally by democratically accountable members and bodies. Whilst I will campaign for parliament to divest itself of many of the powers accreted over a century, we still need 650 MPs - if only for the great reforms that the Prime Minister must introduce to get our nation and people back upon an even keel.