Saturday, September 28, 2002
Dem's are fighting words!
THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS rely on what publicity the media can give them to stay prominent. So perhaps it was a mistake for Iain Duncan Smith to ensure more media attention for them. But he certainly pulled no punches yesterday in response to the Liberals' claim that they would be in government by 2007.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:29 | Permanent Link |
Bin Laden's failure is the right's gain
RECENT ARTICLES AND blogs have all come together in my mind to suggest an important shift in the thinking of perhaps a large number who would normally consider themselves to be liberal or left-wing.
Christopher Hitchens' much publicized departure from the American left's flagship journal The Nation climaxed with a daring explanation of his actions in his final column:
When I began work for The Nation over two decades ago, Victor Navasky described the magazine as a debating ground between liberals and radicals, which was, I thought, well judged. In the past few weeks, though, I have come to realize that the magazine itself takes a side in this argument, and is becoming the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.
On Thursday, Andrew Sullivan published on his blog an email from another man who was, until recently, a fully paid-up leftist:
I am a gay man living in Manhattan, I am pro-choice, a registered Democrat and have been active in gay organizations from ACT UP to HRCF. However since 9/11 I find myself growing more and more estranged from the left. They just seem clueless and adrift, bitter and angry. The immediate reaction of some on the left to 9/11 was appalling. The creeping anti-Semitism of the left is especially shocking and hypocritical. This one question of the Middle East has led me to examine all my left leaning beliefs. And I am not alone particularly here in New York. People who would normally be described as left are taking tentative steps in the same direction - rightward.
Long standing Labour member Stephen Pollard has also described his own conversion with an unambiguous declaration that "this war has made me a conservative":
Last week I dined with a group of left wing friends, one a prominent Labour backbencher, another a senior minister. Out came the familiar stuff: killing 6000 people is terrible but if America hadn’t been such a malign presence in the world it would never have happened; bin Laden may be an evil criminal but he speaks for large numbers of the dispossessed. Blah blah blah. We’ve heard it all before, we’ve read it all before. But the unpleasant truth for someone like me, who has spent his entire adult life on the left, is that such reactions aren’t restricted to a few Guardian readers: they are shared by Labour MPs, ministers and almost everyone I know on the left. I feel like Norman Podhoretz' definition of a neo-conservative: a liberal mugged by reality. There is, it seems, a fundamental divide in this world between those with instincts on the side of freedom and decency - and prepared to defend it - and those who live in a different moral universe.
What all these left of centre reactions to the attacks of 11 September 2001 - each one surely representative of many more - have in common is the general recognition that much of the left is somehow soulless, without conscience. For plainly decent men like Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Pollard, it must have been so depressing and unwelcome suddenly to feel associated to people who, to be blunt, really don't believe in good and evil, in right and wrong. For most seasoned lefties, I believe it was precisely the moral and ideological side of anti-conservative politics that attracted them to their chosen movement. They may have gone along with much they opposed since those days, but all at once, September 11 revealed a left wing most of whose core principles had been eaten away by Clintonian or Blairite compromise, and above all, moral relativism. To discover that one is part of a movement that would apparently tolerate anything, justify anything, with no irreducible moral core that could say - whatever the politics - "this is an inexcusable evil", would certainly be nauseating to all those who joined the Left mainly because they wanted to work for what was right.
It is becoming cliched to say that September 11th reminded good people that there is evil in the world, banishing "if it feels good, do it" as the dominant slogan of the age. But on the left most of all, all the evidence is that this really is true. Bin Laden's intention was to frighten people into submission, to demoralise the West. Instead, his wicked handiwork may have had just the opposite result. For that, we can be thankful.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:55 | Permanent Link |
If Blair goes, what next?
TIM LUCKHURST ASKS what is at the back of many minds. Could the invincible Blair lose his premiership through going to war?
Before the Suez crisis of 1956 and the Gulf war of 1991, neither Anthony Eden nor Thatcher anticipated being removed from the world stage by the disloyalty of colleagues. Each was replaced by a man who had served them as chancellor of the exchequer.
With Labour rebels perhaps willing to replace him by anyone, it seems Brown could really be Prime Minister next. But it may be Cook - like Geoffrey Howe, a former Foreign Secretary demoted to Leader of the Commons - who could trigger a leadership contest.
Brown will not precipitate a leadership election; but that does not mean he would refuse to seize the moment if someone else did.
Until the depth of Labour opposition to war has been revealed properly, I would say all bets are off. But I do wonder what a Brown government could look like. With so many present cabinet colleagues either a rival or an enemy, who could fill the top jobs? For example, who would be Brown's Chancellor? He has fallen out with Milburn over the future of the NHS, Byers' career is over, Blunkett is a rival, Prescott is an idiot and Cook has been an enemy for a quarter of a century. Geoff Hoon is a rather unlikely option and Alastair Darling is a possibility, as I think they are still on good terms after his time as Brown's Treasury Chief Secretary. But with a Scottish Prime Minister replacing the former darling of Middle England, adding to that a Scottish Chancellor might not be the best way to reassure them.
Just as interesting would be his choice of Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw proving in the last year to have been in some ways actually worse than Cook. I know one man who would be great in this role: Peter Mandelson. No, don't laugh - just think of it a moment. They were best of friends for eleven years, Mandelson reportedly unable to go on holiday without calling Brown after more than a day. This friendship was destroyed by what Brown saw as Mandelson's 1994 betrayal of his truer friend in favour of Blair. But this did not prevent the two working together in opposition and in government, nor did it prove an insuperable barrier to a successful working relationship between Brown and Blair. Through Charlie Whelan, Brown certainly paid Mandelson back for what happened, each having played their part in harming the other. So they are even. What better way to reconciliation than for Brown to appoint Mandelson his campaign manager in exchange for the latter holding the position in government he has always desired? The left would be the momentum that brought Brown to power, but Mandelson would reassure the Blairite wing of the party, and could actually be a uniting figure. His efforts in campaigning, and subsequently as Foreign Secretary, would, I am sure, be put to good use. If I were Gordon Brown, I would honestly go for it.
Of course, as a Conservative, I very much hope that things don't turn out so well, but one can still hypothesize safely.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:56 | Permanent Link |
The SA80 Rifle - The GuardianPosted by Peter Cuthbertson | 00:18 | Permanent Link |
Friday, September 27, 2002
Roll on phase two
ALIVE THOMSON'S INTERVIEW in today's Telegraph with Iain Duncan Smith reveals a relaxed and decent man who knows how to deal with people. I think he is being very open now about his two-phase plan. Phase one is work to change the Tory image, which is now very much complete; phase two is about creating a new vision for a conservative society, with completely principles and policies that will win back support. More than most Tories, I am optimistic about the future.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:14 | Permanent Link |
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Conquering Eastern Europe and liberating Kuwait and Afghanistan - no important difference there
A SHORT LETTER to the Guardian today provides fascinating insight into the left-wing mindset:
How ironic it will be if the verdict of history is that the cold war kept in check not Russia - the Evil Empire - but the US.
How long, I wonder, before they extend the same argument to the Third Reich.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 20:24 | Permanent Link |
Why can't America walk and chew gum at the same time, Al?
ALTHOUGH I THINK Joseph Liebermann is ten times the man Gore is, I want Gore to get the 2004 Democrat nomination, as I think he is much more likely to lose to Bush. Fortunately, it seems Gore is determined to get that nomination, and he showed in his recent speech on Iraq that his gift for patronising nonsense hadn't faded. Thomas Sowell reports:
The former vice president was in top form, doing what he does best -- making an absurd argument sound plausible.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:32 | Permanent Link |
Should we be scared to admit that oil is a factor here?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, always a very thoughtful and observant leftie, has changed some of his views so much in the last year that he has had to leave America's leading liberal magazine, The Nation. Hitchens supported action against the Taliban, and now Saddam Hussein. The Daily Mirror carries a piece by him in favour of the latter today. Of particular interest is what he says about the pacifist attitude to oil, and wars for control of them.
Just on the material aspect - I love it when people darkly describe the coming intervention as "blood for oil", or equivalent gibberish.
One of the key reasons for fighting the First Gulf War was to prevent Saddam retaining control of 20% of all the world's oil - Kuwait and Iraq's combined. But the case was never made for fear that the "no blood for oil" protestors would use it to advance their cause. Yes, fighting naked and brutal aggression and imperialism is right, too, and we should never let up on that case. But perhaps, as Hitchens suggests, we should be less willing to concede certain points to the pacifist tendency. That oil is never worth fighting for may be one example of that.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:13 | Permanent Link |
When whites are the victims, racism doesn't count
DESPITE THEIR SOBRIETY and appropriate dress, City financial worker Tom McDardell and his three friends were banned from an Asian club in London for being white, the four claim. So will we see left-wing activists and Socialist Workers' Party thugs boycotting the club for weeks on end, as they surely would were the races in the story reversed? What do you think?Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:49 | Permanent Link |
Confused leftie still doesn't get it
DON'T KILL THE bad guys, says Martin Wollacott. He highlights the terrorist danger at the start of his column, in a curious attempt to suggest they are so dangerous fighting back is futile. But what is the alternative?
Al-Qaida's hatred will burn out - unless we stoke the fire
Sadly, like most of his intellectual soulmates, Wollacott seems unable to conceive of wicked people doing wicked things without a perfectly good reason, be it poverty or anger at US "imperialism". Al Qaeda hate is not going anywhere. It is not limited to Americans, but to all of the world that refuses to embrace their savage interpretation of Islam. They have made clear that no negotiation is possible: that the only peace they believe in is the peace that will come when all the world is Islamic. They don't have a good case to make, and leaving them alone will not improve things for anyone but them. The only remedy to such fanaticism and terror is to wage war on all those who attack democracy and civilisation.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:13 | Permanent Link |
Keeping busy, Mandy?
I WAS THINKING yesterday that but for the Hinduja brothers, it would be Peter Mandelson, not Jack Straw, who would now be Foreign Secretary. I still think this is probably true. Foreign Secretary was always the job Mandelson sought, and after the last election I think Blair could easily have rewarded him. The Guardian interviews him today, though in a very long piece, there is little interesting. It seems that Ian Katz is one of those journalists who believes a good interview consists of paragraphs of description punctuated by the occasional answer from the subject. Even so, the portrayal is of rather a pitiable but likeable figure, determined to return to frontline politics.
His fear of the Scargillite threat in Hartlepool last year was apparently very real, and his angry victory speech was clearly one of great relief:
"Up until [the last election] I was on probation. I was very unsure of myself. You know, there were people who were looking for a great story on election night - those who stayed up for Portillo in 97, I felt, were staying up for Mandelson in 2001. And they didn't get the result they wanted."
However, his social life has taken a knock:
But to the extent that he ever had an active social life, he certainly doesn't have one now, he says. Why, I wonder? "I don't feel social, I don't feel..." He stops and asks: "Do you want to know a secret?" Then, in a stage whisper he mouths: "Nobody invites me any more."
The interview finished with Mandelson being asked to assess his own weaknesses:
"I'm too categorical, too black and white, too tough with people in my personal dealings sometimes, when people leave me, they know where I stand but they're less sure I'm interested in what their views are. I'm too embattled - you give me an issue and I'll battle on it."Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:58 | Permanent Link |
The multilateralist case that makes no sense
MY FAVOURITE MOMENT from Tuesday's Iraq debate was when Labour MP Barry Gardiner rose and destroyed the multilateralist idea, simply by asking the Prime Minister:
Does he agree that those MPs who oppose independent action must explain why something that they believe to be right and justified when undertaken by many nations together becomes wrong and unjustified if we should act alone?
The House briefly erupted into a mixture of laughter and light gasps from both sides: those who agreed with him in amused pleasure at such a charmingly logical case; his opponents, I assume, at the 'extremity' of his ideas. Jonah Goldberg goes further still, arguing that the idea of multilateralism and a worldwide authority makes sense only in the context of individual nations being willing to act on its judgements. His argumentum ad Buffy Vampirus Necareus is typical in its populism and its force:
The premise of "Buffy" is that there is a single "slayer" born every generation who is endowed with special powers to kill demons and, obviously, vampires. There's also an ancient organization of ordinary humans called the Council of Watchers that claims responsibility for training and guiding the slayers. Buffy generally ignores the council.
That is really the choice facing the United Nations, today. It has no army and whatever moral authority it had is dying fast. If it cannot support the enforcement of its own resolutions, then Bush is right in saying that the UN will be irrelevant. For a rather cynical conservative like myself, I don't think I'll lose any sleep over whatever happens. But essentially it is win-win for the good guys: if the UN sides with us, we get whatever remaining moral authority it can bestow. If it does not, it pays a higher price than we do, and an increasingly dominant rival to democracy and Israel is vanquished.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:17 | Permanent Link |
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
David Vance runs an interesting British Conservative site over at Tangled Web. Check it out.
Mention hell in your web log to get more hits, says Andrew Ian Dodge. Worth a try. For the same reason, I use the name Britney Spears here now.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:01 | Permanent Link |
Locking diverse economies together won't work any better in three years time
THOSE TWELVE NATIONS who signed up to the single European currency were not making a mere economic decision: they also gave away - permanently - their own power to set certain economic policies in the way that the voters of those countries wanted. The eurozone's stability and growth pact ensured that economies would have to be locked into strict rules which Gordon Brown is already breaching now, and which the elected German government was forbidden from breaching, against its better judgement. But is this cutback in the democratic powers of Europeans economically beneficial? Brussels is beginning to accept that it isn't:
The European Commission has admitted for the first time that the financial rules governing the euro need to be made more flexible to take account of Europe's economic weakness.
As with the ERM, so with the stability pact. Rather than see the obvious: that radically different sorts of countries and economies cannot successfully meld, and certainly not without a central European government, euro-enthusiasts think that what is not viable or realistic in 2004 will suddenly become so in 2006, as though the laws of economics will magically be reversed in between. The ERM failed not because we entered at a too high rate, but because the right exchange rate for October 1990 is not going to be the same as the right exchange rate for September 1992. Locking in ones exchange rate and economy to other countries only stops the exchange rate and currency changing its value to deal with modern pressures. Instead of the exchange rate falling, the number of people in work does.
The same is the case with the Eurozone stability pact. Countries' economies and currencies' exchange rates rise and fall against each other not as a consequence of economic problems, but as an alternative to the worst of them. Locking economies all together in place puts all the pressures on inflation and jobs, whatever the year might be.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 22:23 | Permanent Link |
All hate is destructive, and not all hate is racial
IMAGINE IF AN opinion poll revealed that one in four Scots admit to prejudice against those not of their social class. More than half did not think terms like "toff" and "yuppy" were signs of class hatred and inverted snobbery. You can imagine a little interest in the poll, perhaps including a member of the landed gentry going up against a socialist class-war advocate on the Today programme. Most people would recognise that snobbery, inverted snobbery and class hatred all do harm, and are all bad things. But they would also accept, rightly, that class feelings, class differences and prejudice are essentially a matter for the private individual, not the government.
What you would not see would be £1,000,000 of taxpayer's money going into changing this perception. You would not see government campaigns spreading the message that class-based prejudice and class hate was wrong. No radio, TV and cinema advertising would be taken out to promote this message, especially if it included a slightly politicized edge, for example a little support for fox-hunting or lower taxes on business.
So why is that exactly what Scotland is now seeing, in response to such a survey that investigates racial prejudice and racial hatred? Why is the government interfering in the private thoughts of law-abiding citizens? What right has the state to set a horrendously dangerous precendent by taking money from taxpayers and spending it on ways to make them think differently? How politically neutral can the campaign be when its very title is "One Scotland, Many Cultures", which is a politicized snub to all those sensible non-racists who believe in a common culture to unite all people living in Scotland, whatever their skin colour? Why are statements like the following coming from members of leading quangos?
"The campaign poses a question about what it means to be a good citizen in Scotland. Its effect is to hold a mirror to everyday behaviour and underlines the responsibility every person has to strip racism from their behaviour."
The illiberal idea that the government can define your worth as a citizen in terms of your private views is weird enough in itself, but the claim that it is your 'responsibility' to strip certain views from your behaviour is positively Orwellian and McCarthyite. These same people who view any idea of parental responsibility - either from a woman who aborts an unwanted child, or a father who abandons his children after they are born - as government preaching and moralising unjustifiably, seem to have no problem with circumscribing viewpoints to others, and defining their worth and responsibilities in terms of how well they accept them.
Of course racism is wrong. Of course no one is inherently inferior to anyone else because of their skin colour or racial heritage. Of course racism is a problem. But so is every form of hatred, be it racial hatred, class hatred, religious hatred or the sort of hatred expressed towards supporters of rival football teams. If more on the left could understand the obvious - that it is just as wrong to hate someone for their social class as their race - they might see the problem with this sort of campaign. People are imperfect, and irrational, divisive prejudices and hatred will always exist in some. To single one out in particular for such a campaign only begs the question of why black and Asian Britons deserve such a campaign but upper class Britons, Jewish Britons and Millwall supporting Britons do not. What other hatred can the state eliminate from the country? Where else can hate strike?
Governments can have a limited positive effect on the actions and attitudes of people in terms of their real responsibilities - to their children, to their spouse, to the taxpayer who funds them when they do not work, to their neighbours desperate for peace and quiet. So objective and clear moral responsibilities can be encouraged by the state, and laws against discrimination on irrelevant grounds can be effective. But as US hate-crime legislation has shown, when the state gets involved in trying to prevent something as subjective and invisible as hatred, private thoughts and prejudice, it only means the sort of politicized dangers we see above, arms Neo-Nazis with more arguments for public fairness towards their view, and ultimately, through the obscurity of such an aim, fails expensively.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:15 | Permanent Link |
Misc Permanent Link |
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
The real America behind the scaremongering
JONAH GOLDBERG WRITES in the National Review on foreign perceptions and misconceptions about America in his typically simple, convincing way:
Saying we rule the world doesn't make it so. We don't rule the world. We lead the world - this is a huge distinction to people who live outside the intellectual menagerie of an Ivy League English department. If the coolest guy in school wears a leather jacket and all the other kids follow suit, that's hardly the same thing as the coolest guy forcing them at gunpoint to buy a leather jacket from him.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 20:52 | Permanent Link |
When they attempt to be taken seriously, the Liberals are most amusing
THOSE WITH BETTER things to do will not have spent four hours yesterday watching BBC coverage of the Liberal Democrat party conference, with Charles Kennedy, Malcolm Bruce and others making militant angry statements to a tiny, often half-empty, hall about the evils of that "imperialist medieval monarch" who threatens world peace. Not Saddam Hussein, but President Bush. It is seeing events like this that restore my confidence in the Liberals' uselessness, the party's present nadir resting entirely on Tory troubles. Simon Carr gives them the coverage they deserve in The Independent today:
Alan Beith kicked off yesterday's proceedings with a panegyric to their value. He lauded the "freedom to live our lives as we choose!" Unless we want to go fox hunting. Or smoke in restaurants. Or not wear seat belts. Lib Dems don't believe in freedom, they believe in passing laws to make people behave responsibly.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:50 | Permanent Link |
Labour lead drops from 9% to 5% - Sky News on the latest opinion poll showing Labour on 39% and the Conservatives on 34%Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:55 | Permanent Link |
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Get rid of this government, not the A level
THE MILITANT WING of the Labour Party has for many years longed for the replacement of the A level. This "elitist" golden standard of British education is a passport to good careers and professional jobs, which is why they hate it. Tony Blair recently praised redistribution of wealth, and now Estelle Morris is considering getting rid of the A level. Could it be that both ideas are a way of throwing a bone to the Labour Party while planning a war they can't abide? In any case, it is not the A level that is at fault but the idiots who rigged it. Let's get rid of those ministers instead.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:14 | Permanent Link |
Schoolboy attitudes to porn for kids
IN A WEIRD effort to get some publicity, Charles Kennedy has announced his party's support for hard-core pornography to be made available to 16 year olds. Given all the problems of crime and in our education system, why does he suggest this matter be the focus of our legislators?
"There is next to nobody in this country who would say that we should reverse legislation on homosexuality."
Well indeed, but even in 1967, there were clear reasons to end the criminalising of otherwise decent people, many of whom, pillars of the community, ended up disgraced in the courts or blackmailed for years. But imaginative as I am, I cannot for the life of me see any benefits to letting young schoolboys buy porn. Free speech is about expressing views, especially controversial views, so that debate and literature be filled with the most sophisticated and original thoughts possible. Pornography's raison d'etre is masturbation. It serves no higher purpose, and I believe it also does a lot of damage. Contrary to all claims that pornography is the rapist's safety valve, virtually every raid on the home of a child-molestor means the discovery of a shocking horde of pornography of escalating graphicness responding to degenerating tastes.
Introducing more young people at a younger and younger age (don't believe for a moment that this won't immediately allow 13 and 14 year olds to get hold of this stuff) doesn't help anyone. It only creates more feeble obsessives of the sort covered so well in Ali Davis's Journal.
Nor is pornography harmless to its users. As Roger Scruton notes:
Of course, if you think that nothing is at stake in our sexual relations besides pleasure, and that everything that happens between consenting adults is morally unimpeachable, then you will see nothing wrong with pornography.
Pornography gradually ensures that people cannot see sex as anything more than impersonal pleasures, related to the orgasm, not love for the other person. The moral cancer in British society that causes all the crime and fear that normal people must endure daily can be related in every case to the sort of lax attitudes encouraged by Kennedy and his liberal friends. He seems as unwilling to learn the lessons of the past in these matters as in military situations.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:49 | Permanent Link |
Laid back Lib Dems achieve what they can, which is very little - Andrew Rawnsley
"Will the wrong people be scapegoated?" asks an Observer headline, in response to the exams crisis. I don't think the writer thought this header through very well. The whole point about a scapegoat is that they are blamed for something for which they are not responsible. You can't scapegoat the right person, because if you hold the right person responsible, they aren't a scapegoat: they are just culpable. All scapegoating is blaming the wrong people for something. It is the definition of the word.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:37 | Permanent Link |
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