Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Injunctions And Civil Liberties

One wonders how long it will be before somebody blames the naming of Ryan Giggs as the holder of a super-injunction as the real reason Manchester United lost to Barcelona in the final of the Champions League.

Mr. Giggs's pursuit of Twitter users in the High Court would seem to indicate that his team's 'never say die' spirit does not translate well to other fora. It was also gratifying to see that the surreptitiously expressed, yet, somehow appropriately, overheard, desire of Sir Alex Ferguson, his team's manager, to 'get' a journalist who asked him a question about Mr. Giggs that he didn't like was thwarted. It is always a good and wholesome thing for the powerful to be challenged. It is even better for them sometimes to be thwarted. For all that he is a famous Glaswegian, in my opinion Sir Alex has often, indeed sometimes very often, seemed to exude an unattractively brutish air. Without question, he is very good at what he does; but what he does is manage a fitba' team.

And I do hope that the Greater Manchester Police Service is taking a keen interest in identifying the mob that slashed the tyres, and egged the cars, of journalists outside Mr. Giggs's home. This is by far the most sinister development in the whole sorry saga. It is to be hoped that their investigation into this matter is conducted without fear or favour, and that the law will take its course, to whatever doors it might lead.

It is distressing to see that one holder of a super-injunction seems to have tried to justify their actions on the basis that they may have been the subject of a blackmail plot. This point does not seem to have been picked up by any media that I have seen, but is of vital importance to the privacy debate. Blackmail is, of course, a crime. The anonymity of blackmail victims has always been preserved by law, but blackmailers are tried in public. If this person were the subject of a blackmail plot, they already had a remedy - to go to the police. Although their conduct might have been odious, perhaps irretrievably damaging to their other personal realtionships, they have not been engaged in any legally prohibited conduct. Civil laws criminalising homosexuality were regarded as blackmailers' charters, as the blackmail victim could not seek legal redress without exposing themself to prosecution. No holder of a super-injunction is under that pressure, and it is disrespectful to those many men who, before 1967, took their own lives rather than be 'exposed' as homosexual for them to pray in aid of their own schemes that they are the prey of others' schemes. If you're being blackmailed, you should be a man, phone the cops, tell the missus and take the hit. While it might cost you money, you aren't going to go to jail for frequenting hotel bedrooms with prostitutes young enough to be your daughter; and one hopes that the next celebrity to seek a super-injunction claiming that they are being blackmailed is sent away from the bar with a flea in their ear, and given the phone number of Victim Support.

For the scholar, a title to which I make no claim for myself, the whole question of whether a privacy law should be permitted to be developed judicially is yet another interesting example of watching an ideology, in this case liberalism, eating its own young. Liberalism says that privacy is a good thing. Liberalism also says that generous financial provision on divorce is a good thing. The genesis of the super-injunction has created a situation whereby the desire to protect your privacy might provide you with a vehicle for thwarting somebody else's right to generous financial provison on divorce, by preventing them from finding out that grounds for divorce might exist. This is the type of Gordian Knot that liberalism always ties up for its adherents to try to unravel, leaving the rest of us to marvel at the intellectual contortions demanded by their attempts. In the case of the new English laws on privacy, this has been no fault of the judges. By enacting the Human Rights Act, Parliament gave them the tools, and all they have done is show the will to finish the job.

However, this episode in our history is illustrative of how easily societies can slide into oligarchies, where only the rights and liberties of the oligarchs are deemed worthy of consideration. Those among us who are prepared to spend largely inconsequentially gotten gains on preventing the public knowing what they have done would have fitted right in to some of history's great oligarchies, like late Rome, or 17th Century Poland. Like all oligarchs, they want to have their cake and eat it, and preferably all the cake.

As I have said before, and until any other information becomes available it must remain the last word on that subject, it is my opinion that those who hold super-injunctions, or who have held now thwarted super-injunctions, do not possess a single shred of personal honour between them, for having allowed the good name of a virtuous wife like Mrs. Gabby Logan to become the subject of unwarranted gossip. All of them, every one of them, owe her an apology. If nothing more positive comes from this affaire than that, then all of the protest and outrage will have been worthwhile.

On the general subject of privacy laws, it was interesting to see Shami Chakrabarti quoted in today's 'Sunday Times' as saying that "(t)o suggest that when you are in public life you should have absolutely no privacy is as wrong as the argument that a woman wearing a miniskirt is asking to be assaulted". One beneficiary of an injunction who is very likely to have much worse done to them than be assaulted should its terms be breached is a gentleman named Jon Venables, in defence of whose rights as possibly the most vulnerable adult within the English criminal justice system Ms. Chakrabarti has been ubiquitously silent, a fact of which she, and everyone else, should be reminded as often as possible.

It has also been interesting to see The Tartanissimo railing against the Supreme Court's decision to quash Nat Fraser's murder conviction. At some points in his life, Mr. Fraser seems to have been a violent, thoroughly dislikable person, yet the tenor of last week's judgement is that he should not have been convicted of murder because evidence which might have been helpful to his defence had been suppressed. Witness The Tartanissimo's reaction - instead of saying that full investigations would be held into Northern Constabulary's and the Crown Office's conduct of this case, his spastic, Pavlovian approach is to say that the court which directed that the conviction be quashed should have no function in Scottish criminal process.

Now, the Scotch, that cartoon nation of dunderheaded authoritarian blusterers for whom The Tartanissimo, no apparent fan of the Scots' possession of civil liberties as far as I can see, is a poster boy, might applaud his desire to stick the boot into someone they don't like, a depressingly Scottish character trait. However, the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over Scottish criminal process is a consequence of the same roiling change in the British constitution which is the only real reason that he is now First Minister of Scotland. Both he and the Supreme Court are two sides of the same coins (as an aside, I am indebted to Robin Lane Fox for pointing out, in his 'Alexander the Great', that coins are the vehicles which oligarchies usually choose to decorate with their mythologies in order to justify their positions; the insight that one sees this practice alive and well today in the appearance of the initials 'F.D.' on all British coinage is my own).

Nobody in the public sphere in Scotland seems to have challenged The Tartanissimo on his support for the air attack on Libya. I might be wrong, but to my knowledge he has opposed every previous military intervention conducted by the United Kingdom since 1997, presumabley on the basis that these were Britain's wars, not Scotland's. My own belief is that his support for the Libyan intervention is founded upon the involvement of aircraft and crews from bases in the north of Scotland previously marked for closure which, in an apparently classic piece of doublethink, he had campaigned to keep open. However, with the Nat Fraser case, the mental gymnastics become very much more serious.

Does he really believe it to be better for a man whose defence was not provided with all relevant evidence to stay in jail than for his conviction to be quashed by a British court? I'm as much in favour of the independence of Scottish law as the next person, but wouldn't it be better for those who shouldn't be in jail have a chance of not being in jail, regardless of where they receive access of justice?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Right To Privacy

ECHR's rejection of Max Mosley's claim should be celebrated.

Those who seek to injunct the world from knowing their business all seem to be successes in the worlds of sports or entertainment. These industries, and all those who work in them, depend upon public goodwill for their entire income. No accurate financial value can ever be placed on goodwill until it has gone. The media images of sportsmen and entertainers are now carefully manufactured; if they were not, the public relations industry would not require to exist. We have laws to prevent the peddling of defectively manufactured washing machines and electric toothbrushes. We have laws which prohibit the making of spurious claims in advertising. It appears to me that in publishing stories about some celebrities' outre lives, our tabloids perform the same role of policing the peddling of defectively or dishonestly manufactured items, namely those celebrities' public images, as the local Trading Standards department does in respect of imitation Rolexes on a barrow at the local market.

In 'The Final Days', Woodward and Bernstein recorded that one of the arguments advanced against the release of Nixon's types was that to do so would constitute an invasion of the public's privacy, of its right not to know. When the public, the crowd, the audience, whatever you care to call them, are paying your bills from income which has already been taxed, it is hard to see how a similar case can be made for the private lives of celebrities. It might be more honest, and would certainly be much more legally intelligible, for those who pursue claims for breach of privacy to pursue the available remedies for trademark infringement instead. After all, in both instances what's at stake is the preservation of brand value, although for some reason that's described as a reputation when you're referring to the brand value of a human being.

To put it another way - when a married actor consorts with a prostitute very much younger than himself, he may believe she is gagging for it; but it is unreasonable of him to believe that she should be gagged for it.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Short Thoughts On Nothing Much In Particular

It has been the settled law of Scotland since 1987 that contra mundum injunctions issued in other jurisdictions are not recognised here. If you don't believe me, ask Mahzer Mahmood.

In his book 'My Trade', published in 2004, Andrew Marr heaps copious praise on Mahmood, a journalist, for his ability to get the story. In the same book, Mr. Marr also states that he once suppressed a story that would have affected a friend. Mr. Marr has recently said that he didn't go into journalism to censor journalists. One wonders how suppressing stories can be deemed to be any different from censoring journalists. Perhaps this is precisely what Chesterton was describing when he wrote that the United Kingdom not only had freedom from censorship of the press, but also freedom of censorship by the press.

The person in the public eye for whom I feel most sorry at the moment is Mrs. Gabby Logan. Untrue allegations circulated by certain irresponsible users of electronic social media, in the mistaken belief that she has either been granted a 'super-injunction' or has engaged in a relationship with another person who has obtained one to prevent details of a relationship becoming public, have required her to state publicly that she has never been unfaithful to her husband. This is an appalling position for a faithful and loving wife and mother to find herself in.

I have three views on this. The first is that if those who hold super-injunctions had the slightest shred of personal honour, they would all out themselves immediately, perhaps to the permanent harm of their own reputations, or brands, if you prefer, in order to help preserve the integrity of Mrs. Logan's. This only seems fair, as hers has been sullied on account of the existence of the course of action that they have all taken, when she has never done them any harm and has never had reason to use it.

The second is that those users of social media who have spread lies about her should out themselves and face the consequences, wherever they might lead. Users of social media have to appreciate that they must comply with the law of the land. That there is no particular anti-blogging law at the moment doesn't mean there won't be one in the future. What is more likely than anything else to bring one into being is precisely the sort of impossible situation which Mrs. Logan has found herself in, through no fault of her own. It will be irresponsibles such as those who have put her in that situation, and not any totalitarian from the fevered ravings of Friedrich von Hayek or Ayn Rand, who will be responsible for having our freedom to blog being taken away from us.

The third is that if Mrs. Logan elects to take action against those who have spread lies about her, she will find and cite every holder of a super-injunction as a witness to her virtue. While some of them might no doubt consider this to be an impossible intrusion upon their busy schedules, they owe it to Mrs. Logan to help her innocence be written into the law of the land. If they will not do so willingly, they should at least be capable of being compelled to attend court and give witness to that fact. Whether that would be possible under the current law would be a very interesting topic for Parliament to address.

A small person of my acquaintance is due to have their MMR jab very soon. The empirically fatuous link drawn by the now discredited Andrew Wakefield between the MMR jab and autism remains potent in the public mind. Wakefield should properly be considered a charlatan who helped put public confidence in vaccination back two centuries, someone who projected an image of benevolence to a trusting public which their actions did nothing to deserve. Before he was discredited, I remember watching a docudrama about MMR in which he was portrayed by Hugh Bonneville in an almost heroic light. Wakefield's subsequent fall from grace is just another example of how those who court fame and reputation can crash to Earth very quickly.

I have never had much time for Irish anti-clericalism, and as a result couldn't really get into 'Father Ted'. In particular, the character of Mrs. Doyle was an extremely annoying portrayal of what its Irish writers thought would be a caricature of a particular type of elderly Irish lady that an English audience would split their sides laughing at. It was like watching 'Old Mother Reilly' as imagined by Frankie Boyle. To my mind, Mrs. Doyle was a low point amongst a continuous series of low points.

We have a better class of charity shop where I live, with some classic books ripe for the picking. Although I really shouldn't have, I recently treated myself to 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. This once-Indexed classic of world literature seems to be a particularly difficult one to film. Having seen three versions, I retain a soft spot for the first one I saw, the 1977 one starring Richard Chamberlain as Dantes and Trevor Howard as the Abbe Feria. As difficult as it must be to film, it must be virtually impossible to stage. I recall reading of a version put on at the National Theatre, I think it was, many years ago now, which starred David Threlfall as Dantes, that furious and lifelong rager against the injustice done to him by a capricious legal system, and which, if memory serves, had a running time of 19 hours. Such a performance must require enormous degrees of stamina and athleticism, attributes which demand preservation with age.

Being unable to drive any more, I pay no heed to motoring journalists at any time. The little of their ramblings that I have sullied my eyes with have reeked of the saloon bar bore.

In his 'Daily Life in Ancient Rome', Jerome Carcopino records how one of the signs that second century Rome was on the slide was the rise of the celebrity chef. Carcopino's standout recipe was dormice rolled in honey and poppy seeds, to which one can only say Thank God for those food hygiene laws which prevent our own celebrity chefs from inflicting something similar upon an unsuspecting public. However, the commanding heights of Roman culinary nuttiness were held by Domitian, as recorded in Suetonius I think, who once held a banquet the theme of which was the colour black. The room was black, the guests were dressed and painted black, the table was black and the food was painted black.

My own approach to food has always been quite simple, and, after a bout of food poisoning, is now even simpler - as Our Lord says, it is not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him pure, but what comes out of it.

And thank goodness the end of the football season is almost upon us. We've seen enough own goals in the past few weeks to last us all a lifetime.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Few Things To Remember About The Recent Scottish Parliamentary Elections

The Scottish Government was not re-elected. No such entity as the 'Scottish Government' exists under the law of Scotland, only a Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Executive.

No matter what your nearest self-satisfied SNP activist might say to you, with Salmondonian smirk slashed across their jowls, the use of the term 'Scottish Government' in the context of contemporary Scottish politics is a gross abuse of both law and language. While Talleyrand's observation that treason is a matter of dates might be correct, according to the dates the current position in Scottish law is quite clear; and anyone, whether politician, teacher or journalist, who uses what is plainly an incorrect, and therefore illegal, form of words should be asked why they persist in so doing.

The Scottish National Party was not re-elected as the party of any soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government'. Although it now has enough seats to form a majority Scottish Executive, the SNP formed a minority Scottish Executive between 2007 to 2011. It did not win the elections of 2007, but formed an administration by default.

Alex Salmond was not re-elected First Minister, as Scotland does not have a presidential system.

The SNP did not win the 2011 election. As far as I could see, its campaign was muted to the point of silence. Labour lost this election through its own incompetence, having elected to re-run the 2010 UK General Election campaign. This was an incredibly stupid thing to do, as it seemed to ignore the SNP, the party that had been administering Scotland for the previous four years. Labour's performance was so bad by any standard that it can only be assumed that the SNP registered the Mither Of All Protest Votes.

If the SNP did not campaign on the issue of holding a referendum on independence, they should not be speaking of one now. But then again, the SNP's adoption of the term 'Scottish Government' in 2007 showed that it is an entity that is willing to abuse both law and language for its own purposes, and that it should never be trusted, so we should not be in the least surprised if it acts in an untrustworthy manner. Coming from these people, the phrase 'referendum on independence' deserves to be treated with all the gravity of a vocal tic, like 'Boo-Wah!', or 'Bums!' The thought of actually governing an independent Scotland probably makes them crap themselves three ways to Sunday. They should know as well as we do that the past four years have shown that the world can be a harsh, unforgiving place for small European nations, and that if you've half a brain in your head you'll know that you're better off as part of a larger one. To think otherwise is, in my view, frankly insane. As it is, The Tartanissimo has the best of all possible worlds. He gets to hold power and always gets be able to claim that if things go wrong it's always someone else's fault. His apparent wish to denude himself of this golden fallback casts grave doubt upon his judgment, and therefore upon his ability to govern, and therefore upon his suitability to govern.

The newly elected SNP majority Scottish Executive can be expected not only to continue its minority predecessor's assault on the civil liberties of Scots, but also to be more insolent and daring in so doing. Keep an eye out for attacks on bloggers' rights. These people can't handle anyone not getting with the program, and daring to say so. These are the type of people who'd try to have your kids taken away from you for disagreeing with them. In particular, I would imagine that an assisted suicide bill will form part of its legislative program for either its second or third years in office. The reason for this will be the desire of many SNP activists to avoid the possibility of seeing Jim Sillars, a former SNP MP, being indicted under current law should he ever help his wife Margo MacDonald end her own life. MacDonald was pretty much left to swing on her own on this one during the last parliament, but an SNP majority means that her pet issue, if not herself, can now be taken into the fold many of them always wanted it to be in.

Lastly, if a referendum on independence is to be held, the SNP will lose it hands down, and will go the way of the Lib Dems. It has no raison d' etre other than to tout independence. Ironically, some of the biggest votes against independence would come from those EU immigrant voters that the SNP has courted assiduously. When they realise that an independent Scotland would be aiming for a slice of the EU handouts their homelands receive, they'll vote 'No' without a second thought.

But at least we'll have another four years of being able to mock The Tartanissimo. That alone makes an SNP victory a good and worthwhile thing.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Unlawful Killing Of Ian Tomlinson

It will be interesting to see whether the Crown Prosecution Service elects to bring manslaughter charges against Simon Harwood, the obviously feral, obviously out of control police officer who beat Ian Tomlinson, who died shortly afterwards. Like Mark Andrews, the Scotch Klingon who didn't cause Pamela Somerville's injuries despite dragging her across a floor, Harwood would seem to be the sort of policeman you wouldn't want as a guest in your home, never mind protecting your property.

My guess is that they will not go down that route, but will instead opt for a Jean Charles with all the trimmings, yet another half-baked prosecution of the police service for breaching our laws on health and safety. Such a prosecution would be an exemplary exercise in ass-covering. As far as the police are concerned, the impact of a conviction upon to day to day operational matters would be nil to low. The CPS would be able to say that it had taken heed of the coroner's verdict. Honour would thus be satisfied, and it's off to the Wig and Pen for trebles all round.

There is, of course, a school of thought that says that unless Simon Harwood is prosecuted for aggravated GBH at the very least, then justice will not only not be done but will be seen not to be being done. In this instance, the law must take its course.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 05, 2011

As Scotland Elects A Parliament, Behold The Most Important Issue In All Elections

'Am I not a man and a brother'?

The truly terrible thing is that unlike, say, the death of Osama bin Laden, this is considered 'routine'.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Short Thought On The Death Of Osama Bin Laden

I might be in a minority of one with this post, but that's OK. As long as one person can stay a slight distance away from the prevailing view, at least we can say we're still free. It goes without saying that none of my family have been murdered by Al Qa'eda or their associates, and will be the first to admit that if any of them had been, God forbid, it's likely that my views would be radically different.

I find it discomfiting to see crowds in societies based on law and the rule of law cheering the death of a person who was not a head of state, and who had never, to my knowledge, been convicted of any crime.

I find it discomfiting that a person who is not a head of state, who has never been convicted of any crime, and who is a national of one country, can be living in another country and be killed by the security forces of a third country without anybody, anywhere batting an eyelid about what seems to be the mind-boggling precedent this sets concerning everyone's personal safety. Then again, perhaps if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear.

I find it discomfiting to see no apparent regret being expressed regarding the death of children, regardless of their age or degree of culpability. Bin Laden was 54 at the time of his death, meaning that he was 44 at the time of 9/11. I would consider it highly unlikely that any of his children would have been involved in either the planning or the execution of that act, and accordingly one is entitled to ask whether their deaths were 'necessary' in the context of the recent operation. Or does being a bad man's devoted son now automatically make you a target? If that is the case, then at least our security forces can never stand accused of failing to execute their responsibility to conduct counter-terrorism, with the emphasis on terrorism.

I find it discomfiting that the Pakistani state's collusion in his lengthy absence from public view should be so widely assumed, as if the English language has lost the verb 'to hide in plain sight', and nobody's noticed.

I find it discomfiting that a President of the United States, one who has had to release his own birth certificate into the public domain over two years after assuming his office because a significant and vocal minority of his own electorate don't believe he's eligible to hold it, should feel it necessary to be pictured, in casual clothing, sitting watching the action unfolding as if it were a late-night baseball game. To my mind, Barack Obama's behaviour in allowing himself to be pictured in this manner is a rank bastardisation of his office and its reponsibilities. He is the President of the United States, its forces' Commander-in-Chief. He has given the order for the deed to be done. Neither he nor anyone else without direct operational responsibility for its execution needs to see it being done. To my mind, it seemed to be an unwholesome gawping at the application of technology to modern warfare, resulting in that most soul-destroying legacy of modernism, the transformation of war into entertainment; like 'Patriot Games', but for real, with the fact that someone's children are being killed in front of him for no higher reason than that they are their father's children not really seeming to make any impact upon him.

I have to say, though, that the less charitable type of pundit might think that the timing of this attack on Bin Laden, coming as it does so soon after Obama has had to take drastic and extraordinary measures to prove his own fitness to lead, could be seen by some as being quite serendipitous for the president. Overnight, Obama has gone from being a divisive figure of suspicion to being The Man Who Shot Osama Bin Laden. The past week's events have shown that he might just be capable of printing both the truth and the legend. He might never have a better chance to make political capital throughout his soon-to-commence re-election campaign.

I have never been to Chicago, where he cut his political teeth, but I have heard that they play their politics rough there.

And in the context of wider foreign affairs, it might also be seen to be serendipitous when one considers that the Arab world is currently undergoing its greatest upheavals since the end of the imperial age. What better signal could there be to send out to the Islamists among the revolutionaries that there will be no Eighteenth Brumaire of Osama bin Laden to bring order out of chaos? This might be a signal to the Arabs that they can have their revolutions, but only on our terms. This may not be a bad thing, of course, but to my mind the possibility that that might be an aim of policy cannot go unremarked.

The author of a newspaper editorial I read earlier today wrote that Bin Laden was a coward because he didn't either go down fighting in Tora Bora, or blow himself up at a checkpoint. While I was reading it, it struck me that the author didn't really seem to have much grasp of the history of ideas.

We all seem to know such little history nowadays that our public intellectuals do not seem to know that the conditions which allow an Osama bin Laden to rise from obscurity recur again and again. Bin Laden was a bogeyman of the globalisation era, a Western educated and super-wealthy man who wanted to hide out in caves, a soi-disant sheikh whose followers would bring the skies down with box-cutters. Anyone who believes in this goal is deeply unpleasant, because box-cutters are deeply unpleasant weapons. If we are to take the words of those who knew him well, he had been sufficiently radicalised by the 1980's to go and fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. When that conflict was over, he and his men returned to Saudi Arabia, and found themselves excluded by an absolutist regime (the lady who described the Mujahideen as 'brave freedom fighters', is still going strong, and was invited to the Royal Wedding last week, unlike the nation's last two prime ministers). This, of course, only radicalised them against the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

There is a direct analogy between the Mujahideen who returned to Saudi Arabia from Afghanistan in the early 1990's and those members of the French aristocracy who returned home in the early 1780's after fighting in the American War of Independence. Both groups had, to some extent, been outsourced to their causes, their employment in these tasks seen as being a useful occupation to ensure they didn't make trouble at home. While it would have been more wholesome to our taste for the Bourbons to have adapted to the ways of Lafayette than for the Sauds to have adapted to Bin Laden's, the least one can say for the Sauds is that they have that horrible Bourbon tendency of forgetting nothing and learning nothing, and it's served them better than it did the Bourbons.

The chaos that ensued in France, of course, meant that within 20 years, another man who quite willingly let others do the dying for him had seized power; of that man, Dostoyevsky wrote,

"The real Master to whom all is permitted storms Toulon, makes a massacre in Paris, forgets an army in Egypt, wastes half a million men in the Moscow expedition and gets off with a jest at Vilna. And altars are set up to him after his death, and so all is permitted. No, such people it seems are not of flesh but of bronze!”

I'm not making that claim for Osama bin Laden, of course; but what made him so popular? To my mind, it was what made Napoleon so popular. He gave those who served in the Grande Armee an idea. It was an idea that millions of men were prepared to follow, and die for, and it took a long time to die after he was gone. In one sense, the advent of the European Union might be said to be the small man in the big hat's final, greatest triumph, a mere two centuries after his death. Napoleon didn't need to throw himself in front of guns at Austerlitz or Jena. Those who believed in his idea, or even just in the idea of him, were more than happy to do that on his behalf.

That any people, anywhere, should be receptive to the ideas of Osama bin Laden, or even just to the idea of Osama bin Laden, in the way that men were inspired by Napoleon is depressing to say the least. However, I am almost afraid to say that I think that idea won't die until we engage with those who find it attractive on their terms, not ours. In the age of the drone aircraft and the cluster bomb, when 90% of warfare is directed against civilians and we seem to think we can make people love us by killing their wives and children from 40,000 feet, that doesn't seem to be an option. The genie might not go back into the bottle as quickly as we might like.

Sometimes, it really does seem like 1811 all over again.


Monday, May 02, 2011


The incongruous sight of Nick Clegg, a publicly professed atheist, belting out hymns at the Royal Wedding made one wonder whether he is a hypocrite, or was suffering some kind of flashback to better days, or had momentarily forgotten his lack of belief, or was treating the day like a better class of sing-song. Hypocrisy would, at least in my opinion, seem to be condign with the natural state of being a Liberal Democrat, particularly under that individual's leadership, which is why his poxed campaign to alter this country's voting system must be smashed at the ballot box later this week.

Its aim is to ensure that power is distributed more 'fairly'; that is, with him, and his party, one which is more open to the allegation that it has no constituency other than its own membership than even the BNP, receiving far greater shares of it than could ever be justified by the number of votes cast in their favour under our current system. Not even David Cameron exudes such an air of unjustified entitlement to power and status as Nick Clegg. He seems to have done nothing to justify the position he holds in public life. He seems to have committed no original thought to the public domain. All he seems to have done is to be who he is, and as far as I can see he seems to think we should be grateful to him for it. I have never seen a British politician who gives off such an air of thinking that they're part of some kind of international elite as Clegg. This is not a fantasy which he should be permitted to indulge; just as those with Napoleonic delusions usually end up in asylums, so, too, those who aspire to systems which are incompatible with those under which they were elected should be quietly sidelined, as traffic commissioners for Little Piddlebury On The Slide. There they can enjoy having a little power, and give the little people a bit of trouble by being thoroughly fractious members of the parish council. That is Clegg's natural level, one to which his electorate should consign him very soon; in my view, the sooner, the better.

The past year has given a very welcome insight into his character. The ruthlessness with which he has agreed to every cut in services which kicks the poor, the sick and the weak when they're down indicates to me that this man should not have more power than he has already, but significantly less. He leads a zombie party, neither quite living nor quite dead, a Frankenstein amalgam of two philosophies both of which are further past their sell by date than yesterday's socks. What he needs is the civic equivalent of an encounter with Burberry baseball-capped Buckfast swillers, shouting 'Get it right up ye!" at him while making obscene gestures in his direction. He really does seem to think that he was born to govern us. While Blair had the same contempt, at least he had the common touch, sometimes, once in a while. While completely lacking the common touch, and gaffes about bigoted women notwithstanding, I don't think Gordon Brown held the same contempt for the ordinary as Clegg seems to do. While Clegg's posture apes amity for one's fellow, in reality it is nothing but that very old, bog-standard liberal contempt for old things and old values you don't share, don't understand and won't try to find out about. I would be very surprised if he was not on precisely the same mental wavelength as HRH The Prince of Wales.

Labels: ,

My Deepest Thoughts On The Scottish Elections

Tavish Scott looks like Steve Davis, while Nicol Stephen looks like Will Ferrell.
Is it over yet?