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"We admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war." - Saddam Hussein, February 2003

Saturday, November 16, 2002  

The real problems began after British control ended, Jack

WHEN THE THEN Home Secretary Jack Straw referred to Britain, absurdly, as a nation of immigrants, I thought he probably needed some history lessons. Now that he is Foreign Secretary and still making such ignorant pronouncements, I wonder whether we should all have a whip-round to pay his fees. This time, he has blamed a lot of the world's present problems on his own country's imperial legacy.

A positive aspect of this is the wave of criticism he has received from academics who know something of the Empire. It is so rare to hear anyone admit that British imperialism has done any good, let alone far more good than harm. In school, everyone I knew seemed to accept readily the Marxist textbook portrayal of the British Empire as a 19th Century Third Reich without the genocide. Now, some are bravely raising their heads above the parapets and correcting Mr. Straw. Oxford Professor Niall Ferguson was most persuasive:

"Nobody pretends that the history of the British Empire is unblemished but it is reckless for politicians to suggest that problems are the consequence of British colonialism."

It was too easy to forget the positive aspects of the Empire. "In the 19th and into the 20th century, it brought a quarter of the world's land surface free trade, the rule of law and non-corrupt administration and in many places the British were successful in sowing seeds of parliamentary government.

"The situation in sub-Saharan Africa "has got much worse since decolonisation", he added. "To say the British are to blame for problems in Zimbabwe is laughable.

"If we encourage people to blame problems on the British, it becomes a wonderful excuse for dreadful foreign governments to cover up their own faults."

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:27 | Permanent Link |

Countering the "Emerging Democratic Majority"

LIKE THOMAS SOWELL, John O'Sullivan is not complacent following this month's victories for the Republican Party. He recognises that the Democrats remain a great threat for the future, and his advice on how the Republicans can maintain their present lead and become the main party of government for this whole electoral cycle is sensible, well-judged and requires no sacrifice of principle. They would lead to a more popular Republican Party and a more united country.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:03 | Permanent Link |

Wrong views should be contested, not criminalised

AS MANY DOZENS of Londoners have their homes raided by hate/thought crime police, and a Scottish Engineer is jailed for distributing pro-BNP leaflets, we should not forget that the only accusation levelled at them is the expression of controversial views. The Telegraph today prints an inspiring letter from an American observer. Kevin Vaillancourt points out the silliness of this law, the ill effects it will have, and what it could lead to as time goes on.

Living in a free society is not easy. There will be times when distasteful people will speak, and times when we are either deeply hurt or deeply angered by the speech of others. However, the best defence against such speech is the clear light of day, engaged debate and the equal use of free speech by those who oppose such messages.

To level the full weight of the state at such speech can only have the doubly unfortunate effect of emboldening such speakers to believe themselves "dissidents" while chilling others who may wish to express deeply held, if unpopular, views. We have a right to be free men and women in our two countries; any attempt to impose a "right never, ever, to be offended" is incompatible with liberty.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that this man is being singled out by a political establishment that will pick and choose what constitutes "hate speech". I don't think it will cause too much controversy if I speculate that it is highly unlikely that the same state authorities will be rounding up any Muslim "death to the Jews" types in equal measure.

I recommend everyone reads his wise words in full, and reflects on the seriousness of the measures discussed, which seem to have had no parliamentary debate or democratic approval, but undermine some of the most basic civil liberties we all enjoy. If vocal and written support for the BNP is to be criminalised, why not for Enoch Powell? Or Margaret Thatcher? Or David Blunkett? Where can we sensibly draw the line except at freedom of speech and the free expression of all views, even if some are offensive to others?

Being as it is in the epicentre of power, Britain's liberal elite exercises a malign influence that Neo-Nazis cannot realistically hope for. Make no mistake - however much a threat the tiny BNP may seem, by far the greater danger to your freedom is from busy-body, do-gooders in our liberal establishment.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 13:55 | Permanent Link |

Socialised healthcare and how Republicans might defeat it

RIGHT AFTER A great column on the Tories for the Telegraph, David Frum writes dismissively and persuasively on the Canadian healthcare system, which Al Gore now believes suits America. Any resemblance to a certain British healthcare system, either living or dying, is entirely incidental to similarities in the way the system is run.

There are few forms to fill out, no waiting for checks in the mail. If you are sick, you go to the doctor or hospital, flash your card, and get your medicine.

Or rather - you wait for your medicine. And wait. And wait.

How long can you wait?

... Altogether, “the total number of procedures for which people [in Canada] are waiting was 1,094,420 in 2001-2002, an increase of 15% from the estimated 953,420 procedures in 2000-2001.” Assuming each person is waiting for only one procedure, that means that 3.52% of the entire population of Canada was waiting for care in 2001-2002.

Just as Britain, in some ways the pioneer of socialised healthcare, is beginning to throw off its shackles, some in the Democratic Party believe it a sensible idea to propose it for America. But rationing by queue is certainly no better than rationing by prices. That Al Gore proposes this for the current leader of the free world is probably good for Republican chances of re-election, and therefore good for America too.

But it is possible that this system could become popular in time, as Stuart of British Politics seems - in an uncharacteristically far-fetched column - to think may happen. In this case, I would suggest the Republicans give each American a fair amount of money in health vouchers. This could be done without rises in taxation so long as welfare was redirected in this popular way. Although this may not seem preferable to a tax cut, it would be fair, as no one would be penalised for a higher income, all receiving vouchers to the same value. This would suddenly make private healthcare more affordable to more people and would make Democrat efforts in this area extremely difficult.

"Will you Democrats cut the health vouchers that help provide quality healthcare to so many Americans?", Republicans could demand in election debates, ensuring the voucher was there to stay, and could not be replaced simply by direct state provision. It could be portrayed as Republican trust of individuals to see how well their own money works and spend it wisely versus Democrat trust of big government to know what is best for everyone. In the freedom-loving, government-distrusting American mindset, this would be an extremely difficult battle for the Democrats to win.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:27 | Permanent Link |

Friday, November 15, 2002  

Too much welfare and too few morals make Jack a fatherless boy

WE DON'T HAVE what Americans call trailer trash in this country, but we certainly have plenty of trash. Look at the damage benefit systems and lack of social stigma are doing to this country, with a 12-year old pregnant and looking forward to life on benefits, the father nowhere to be seen and the pregnant girl's mother endorsing his running away.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:17 | Permanent Link |

Hindley should have been hanged, like most killers

FEW REALISE THAT it was the experimental period of no death penalty from 1965 to 1970 under the Wilson government that prevented the execution of Myra Hindley. Her many gruesome murders of children certainly merited such a punishment, and the public support for hanging murderers has never much dipped below two-thirds to three-quarters in favour. By rights, she should have been executed when sentenced, in 1966, not died naturally in 2002.

The saddest part of this is not that one guilty woman's crimes went largely unpunished, but that many innocent people die every year because we do not have a death penalty. The five year experimental period I mentioned above was a disaster. Despite many medical advances bringing people back from the brink of death, the murder rate increased by 25%, so for every four people killed unjustly in 1965, there were five in 1970. In particular, the murder rate for premeditated crimes rocketed, proving murder was not simply a crime of passion. Many warned that without a death penalty, bank robbers would stop searching each other for guns before each robbery to ensure that no one died, meaning they were not hanged as an accomplice to murder. Sure enough, they were right, and the murder rate by firearms quadrupled over the next five years.

The decision to experimentally create a justice system that did not allow the punishment to fit the crime was a stupid one for Parliament to have taken in the first place. But when the results of the experiment came in, and it became clear it was a monumental failure, the decision to preserve the death penalty ban was one of the most snobbish, undemocratic, short-sighted and destructive measures the House of Commons has ever taken. One day, I believe we will have capital punishment again. But that will likely be at a time when the flaws of weak justice have been proven beyond doubt, and many essential liberties have already been sacrificed - the presumption of innocence, trial by jury and double jeopardy laws - in a misguided attempt to strengthen the justice system. We need a death penalty again in this country. It's a tragedy we ever lost it.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:36 | Permanent Link |

Tuition fees are fair and a necessity

ONCE A FERVENT Blairite who claimed (gasp) that creating wealth mattered more than redistributing it, Stephen Byers won some left-wing support for his theft from British Rail shareholders. Six months after resigning in disgrace, it is possible he sees joining the left as the way back to the top. In a Guardian column, he today calls for a return to student grants in place of loans to pay tuition fees. The idea that it's somehow unfair to charge people who will benefit from their degree, rather than sharing the burden among those who will not, is a curiosity that a socialist as much as anyone should see through. Education can never be "free", as long as teachers want wages and blackboard and paper manufacturers want payment for their goods. So the only question is who pays. It is ridiculous and immoral to say that those who are getting the degrees that will earn them many times the wages of the ordinary taxpayer should have that degree funded by the taxpayer.

Studies already show that even in employment terms too many people are going to university. A large proportion of people with degrees are in jobs that do not require them. Not only are there too many students for too few jobs requiring graduates, but there are too many people taking utterly worthless Mickey Mouse degrees of no benefit in the real world. Why should the taxpayer have to fund this waste, when tuition fees are not only fairer, but impose a necessary disincentive to people wasting years of their life in pointless studies? Tuition fees are doing their job fairly well, but with British universities in funding crises, it is clear they should be raised, not abolished. If Byers thinks divorcing himself from political and economic realities is the way to win the heart of his party, he is right. But it won't help win public support, or improve the country one bit.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:36 | Permanent Link |

Thursday, November 14, 2002  

Contact the Met to report new thought crimes

A FEW YEARS ago, a small gang of Texan racist thugs set on a black father. After beating him, they tied him to the back of their truck and dragged him along the road in the most brutal of murders. Texas famously refuses to treat its murderers with kid gloves, and their punishment met the crime. But this wasn't what "hate-crime" campaigners wanted. They wanted this murder, and others connected to racial, sexual or religious attacks to be treated as special cases. In late 2000, a Democratic Presidential campaign advertisement featured the son of the victim saying that Texas Governor Bush had made him feel his father had been murdered a second time merely by opposing hate crime legislation in his state. It got to the stage where Bush was forced to ask during the Presidential debates what possible use such laws would have been. The murderers had all been sentenced to death. What more could be done to them?

The answer is nothing at all. But punishing the perpetrator isn't really the main purpose of "hate crimes" legalislation. The aim is to enshrine in law the idea that certain beliefs and certain attitudes are criminal. Many dismiss the notion of hate-crimes being thought-crimes as just politicized exaggeration. They are wrong. If, tomorrow morning, a white American shot a black man in the hope of stealing his car, it would be classified as a murder. But if he shot him because he was black, it would also be classified as a hate-crime. So the thought in the mind of a person committing a crime is in itself to be criminalised - the very definition of a thought crime. Of course examining motives makes sense, and can in rare cases lead to a different sentence. But to classify certain motivations as especially criminal is positively Orwellian.

The much publicised posters offering details on "hate crimes" of various sorts in London, encouraging people to report them to the police, sets a very worrying precedent. It seems that the monstrous cases of the preacher arrested for speaking out against homosexuality, and the gentleman arrested for attacking Islam in response to his neighbour's celebration of Bin Laden's mass murders, were not isolated cases, but the thin end of the wedge. Even support for free speech is becoming so associated with racism as to border on criminal. When a pensioner graffitied on a wall "Free Speech for England", he was charged with racially aggrevated vandalism.

It isn't simply a matter of lost liberty, though that alone should frighten us all. It's the fact that whole perspectives on life and its purpose are slowly being criminalised. Their replacement is vacuous, intolerant and vicious. In his own wary response to these posters, Stephen Pollard mentions that he hates racists. I share his distaste for hatred on grounds of race, but I don't think it is a special case. Racial hatred is no better or worse than class hatred or much of the other destructive hatred that is common but respectable in today's society. I have known some mild racists, and their views were pitiable and meanspirited, but why is the banal wickedness of committed "anti-racist" Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who boasted that she drank champagne when Enoch Powell died, any better? What is the bigotry of the gay rights fanatics who wrote in the "Pink Paper" of their delight at the death of family values campaigner Baroness Young preferable to the bigotry that makes some celebrate homosexual deaths to AIDS? By any objective criteria, these are equally distasteful and wicked viewpoints to hold, but it is not the law's place to intrude on them.

Worse still, one wonders where criticism and difference of opinion start and "abuse" stops. We already know from the case of Harry Hammond, who was arrested not for voicing opposition to individual homosexuals, but for religiously based opposition to homosexual behaviour, that reason and common sense do not decide these matters. For example, if a homosexual engaged a conservative in debate on the merits of gay adoption, would it be abuse to suggest that the homosexual lifestyle was unstable, or that it is immoral? I do not think men who have sex changes are women, and oppose what they call "equal rights" - which actually means the freedom to forge their birth certificate. I am even wary of writing "I do not think ...", because it suggests that the scientific facts of XY chromosomes are as debateable as "I think Beethoven is better than Handel". Does arguing this case constitute abuse of transsexuals? Will it soon be a "hate crime" to argue that the father is not superfluous to the raising of children, and that the married couple offers a child more than a single mother?

The laws mentioned in these posters may prevent a few people being offended, but they do so at the cost of liberty of speech and of thought, and of the legitimate right of all to express their views. It seems that in modern Britain everyone and every advertiser has a license to be as offensive as they like. But slowly anyone who speaks up for the old Britain is being treated as a semi-criminal. Their own views are being banned and turned into thought crimes, all on the grounds of the offensiveness to select minorities. What a strange country it could soon be, where everyone has a limitless right to upset and appall the normal Englishman, but where ethnic, religious and sexual minorities are protected by law from all that might offend them, and ultimately any criticism at all.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:06 | Permanent Link |

Punishment, not appeasement, is the best way to fight crime

SOME OF THE measures announced in the Queen's Speech this week were sensible, among them the proposal to extend across the country fixed-penalty on the spot fines for such offences as "low-level aggression, vandalism, fights in town centres on Friday and Saturday nights, anti-social neighbours, fly-tipping, abandoned cars, graffiti, truancy". Substantial but proportionate punishments for such offences are a good way to crack down on the crime that leads to more serious behaviour later on. But Judith Williamson says otherwise.

The government's proposals on anti-social behaviour are naive - you can't recreate society by force.

Maybe not, but her proposals sound like an effort at precisely that. First, she says all parental discipline that involves spanking or smacking should be a crime. Hardly the way to encourage people to grow up thinking that bad behaviour can have serious consequences, I would have thought. And then she goes on to blame much crime on that tiresome canard of "a lack of things to do and places to go for young people without money in both urban and rural areas". Whenever youth crime is mentioned, politicians from left and right and social and council workers lay the blame for much behaviour that makes life hell at the door of government: they need to make more leisure centres and sport facilities. I have never heard anyone question the notion - creepy as it is when you think about it - that it is the role of the state to keep youngsters entertained, and so to spent taxpayers' money to that end.

The same phrases come out again and again of youngsters, hanging around on street corners with nothing to do, turning to crime. But I was for a long time one such youngster who would hang around in parks on an evening with friends. It wasn't that I had nothing to do - I could have watched TV or played computer games or read or anything. It was that talking to friends while doing little else can be fun. The idea that we required our time planned for us by Big Brother to keep us from crime is insulting and completely misguided.

I also knew plenty of others who would indulge in exactly the sort of anti-social behaviour mentioned: graffiti etc. They were not doing so out of boredom so much as that tendency many unprincipled adolescents have to flout authority and test the boundaries of the law. It is for this reason that serious efforts at cracking down on anti-social behaviour are required, and equally, a softer line on drugs is wrong. By weakening the role of authority in fighting drugs, many believe it allows the law to catch up to modern attitudes. In fact, it simply pushes further back the boundaries of the young who wish to bend the law a little, to even more dangerous and expensive drugs.

Ultimately, even if wrong behaviour could be linked so easily to lack of government action and spending, it would be wrong to subsidise and reward criminality anyway. A little respect for the law and for others is what will solve a huge amount of the problems on British streets at the moment, and that can indeed be encouraged by tough but fair penalties for those who flout the law. I only hope Labour will release enough policemen as are necessary from bureaucracy and get them back on the beat to put these ideas into practice.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:04 | Permanent Link |

What the UN thinks doesn't matter
"Can we please stop kidding ourselves that this is some sort of moral victory for the United States?"

Jonah Goldberg, rightly indifferent to the United Nations' view of war on Iraq, is no more impressed by the organisation now it has seen sense. In a wonderful column, he tears into the idea that UN endorsement matters more than the security of the American people or what is morally right.

Reading through the editorial pages over the last few days, you'd think U.N. credibility is more important than U.S. national security or Iraqi disarmament. Tom Friedman, for example, is almost giddy about the chances for a new "global norm" - and he's a realist, by the standards of the New York Times. This vote may be a moral victory for the U.N. - since it's normally a parliament of crapweasels - but it's at best a tactical or strategic victory for the United States, and it remains to be seen whether the strategy will work. I think it will, ultimately, but I'm at a complete and total loss to understand why, for example, Syria's approval of anything we're doing is something to be proud of. Sure, Colin Powell should be jazzed about his diplomatic accomplishment. But getting the support of Syria is the moral equivalent of winning the Klan's endorsement - it might be useful but it doesn't necessarily speak well of you. At best we should praise Colin Powell the same way we praise the cop who convinces a criminal to put down his gun on the grounds that "we're on the same side."

What's especially baffling is that the Left doesn't see any of this. Imagine if all the seats on the Security Council were filled by the Left's rogues' gallery of evil dictators: Pic Botha, Augusto Pinochet, Franco, Hitler, etc. Would the Left cheer if the United States won their unanimous support?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:32 | Permanent Link |

Pensioner dies in hour two of fireman's strike

A 76 YEAR old woman was belatedly rescued by soldiers in Wales this Wednesday evening. She died soon afterwards. To their credit, the real firemen on strike saw Green Goddesses passing by and decided to do their bit and temporarily break the strike. But they arrived too late to make any difference.

Who knows for sure whether the troops would have arrived in time to save her had they been allowed to cross the picket line and drive real fire engines? Or if fully trained firemen would have made the difference had they been at work? But this death is a gruesome and entirely preventable testament to the damage this strike is already doing. The greedy and irresponsible lefties and union militants who are willing to let people and property burn need to ask themselves if they will be able to look ordinary people in the eye by the end of this year, and whether this strike really has any chance of doing their cause good. Tragedies like these strengthen the case against the firemens' union and every death will lose them much public support.

Striking as a way to settle disputes has always been a shabby and low way to operate: blackmail of the worst sort, and blackmail employers are legally forbidden from reciprocating, should they desire to. When emergency services strike, it is ten times worse, with innocent lives sacrificed for the most base and selfish of causes. If this strike does not end soon, the culprits will not easily be forgotten.

Should any more deaths occur because the government will not allow the army to use modern fire engines, let us hope every drop of public anger at the FBU is matched by anger at Downing Street, whose Blairite compromises now - literally - mean compromising lives.

[EDIT: Two hours later and there has already been a second and a third fatality as a result of this murderous strike.]

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:17 | Permanent Link |

How to weaken resistance to terror

RIGHT WING NEWS has a great post on the left's opposition to the war on terror. A satirical guide for lefties who want to oppose Western self-defence, some of its arguments are priceless. As Homer Simpson might say, "It's funny because it's true".

How Can We Invade Saddam When He Used To Be Our Friend?: We must force these right-wing zealots to realize that relationships between nations are NEVER allowed to change. Since we were friends with Saddam in the eighties, it was hypocritical of us to kick him out of Kuwait and keep him from annexing Saudi Arabia. Even if he hates us now, is acquiring nukes, and has ties to terrorists we still can't attack him -- for some reason or another. I think there is a UN rule against attacking former friends for any reason or something.

We'll Destabilize the Middle-East: It's common knowledge that the 'Arab Street' will immediately overthrow their leaders if Muslims are harmed anywhere across the world, no matter what the reason may be. Of course, we've gotten off lucky so far since the 'Arab Street' didn't erupt when Israel bombed an Iraqi nuke site, when Israel invaded Lebanon, when Israel 'invaded' the "disputed territories" about 500 times, when Reagan bombed Libya, when the US invaded Iraq, when the Serbs were slaughtering Bosnian Muslims, when the US invaded Afghanistan, when the US bombed through Ramadan, etc, etc. But this time the 'Arab Street' is REALLY SERIOUS!!!

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:51 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, November 13, 2002  

How the right can win over ethnic minorities

SOME ON THE American right are thankfully already taking the predictions of "The Emerging Democratic Majority" seriously. After last week's elections, complacency among some is to be expected, but it would be misplaced. The dangers of playing to an ever-diminishing group of 'WASPs' is that it forfeits the elections of the future almost by default.

In his column for Townhall, Thomas Sowell suggests that the Republicans do not need to win a majority of blacks, only to end the Democrats' present 92%. Instead of the present strategy of trying to use Democratic tactics to win over African-Americans, and supporting limited forms of Affirmative Action, he suggests the Republican approach of loyalty to conservative values and judgement by merit and the content of a person's character.

One of the most important keys to the further advancement of blacks is their younger generation's getting a decent education, which many cannot get in today's public schools. Democrats are so dependent on teachers' unions that they cannot possibly offer vouchers, for example.

Republicans could say to black voters: "We don't think quotas to get into colleges is the answer. We are for providing a solid educational foundation, beginning years before college, so that you don't need quotas."

This sort of strategy works not only as an honest attempt to reach out to new supporters, but it occurs without any compromise of conservative values. In its own efforts to win over ethnic minorities, the Tory Party ought to consider what it is that is Conservative about Asian voters; for example, their valuation of education, hard work and the family. In cutting crime in black areas, where it is often worst, and reminding many black families of the reasons they came to Britain in the first place, and how Labour offers only further attacks on it, we could have equal good effect.

Conservatives need to reach out to a wider set of voters, but this does not require a compromise of Conservative principles.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:32 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, November 12, 2002  

The Tories knew what to do with Scargillites

THE EDGE OF England's Sword has a great post from Iain Murray on the firemens' strike, which begins tomorrow, last ditch talks to prevent it having failed. As Iain says, Blair rightly calls the strikes Scargillite, but the Conservatives did everything they could to fight Arthur Scargill. Labour in the meantime puts the sanctity of the picket line before public safety, refusing the army the right to use the latest fire engines, leaving them instead with archaic Green Goddesses. If lives are lost, it won't just be the FBU leaders - who yesterday rejected a real terms wage increase of 9% - who are to blame.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:50 | Permanent Link |

The effect third parties have

USUALLY, understanding a George Monbiot column means burrowing beneath all the crap to get to the real garbage. Occasionally, it means burrowing through a superlative amoung of crap to get to an interesting point. Today's column certainly features as an example of the latter, with more silliness and plain drug-induced pie-in-the-sky wackiness than you can shake a joint at covering up a few meaningful points about the parties everyone scorns as a waste of time. First the crap:

The tens of millions of US voters opposed to a war with Iraq were, until he died in a mysterious plane crash two weeks ago, represented by just one senator, Paul Wellstone.

Yes, you saw that "mysterious" too. Monbiot is suggesting that Wellstone's death is connected to his opposition to war with Iraq, and implanted in the brains of the gullible the idea that he was assassinated for his political views. I don't know what would be worse: Monbiot actually believing the US President murdered a Senator for opposing him, or knowing this for the gunk that it is but trying to spread this wicked lie anyway. The exaggerated role he gives Wellstone suggests the latter. Wellstone was the one senator speaking for the anti-war brigade? What about Tom Daschle or Jim McDermott, or even former Senator Gore?

Then comes the important bit. But first, more nonsense:

The Green party, led by Ralph Nader, is widely reviled by liberals in the US for "handing the presidency to Bush". The 2.7% it won in the presidential election is said to have deprived the Democrats of power. Nader, as a result, is now held responsible for everything from the bombing of Afghanistan to the logging of old-growth forest. But his critics are wrong, on two counts.

The first is that Bush did not win the presidential election. Al Gore did, though as we know he lost the subsequent power struggle.

So Bush winning 30 out of 50 states and an absolute majority of electoral college votes isn't a victory? It seems not. Of course, as Monbiot knows, it would only have taken a few thousand votes in Florida for Gore to have won. And these were votes Nader took from his supporters.

Monbiot attributing Gore's "victory" to Nader is eccentric to say the least, but on the Barnett formula, he is spot on.

Scotland and Wales are given far more public money than the poorest English regions. The people of the north-east, for example, are on average 13% poorer than the people of Scotland, but they each receive 20% less government spending. The reason is straightforward: in Scotland and Wales, Labour's vote is threatened by the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, while the voters of north-east England love their party not wisely but too well. Their failure to extend their own political options permits the government to walk all over them.

The usual criticism of those who vote for third parties is that they will never form a government. But as long as one does not expect that, voting for them can still be more than worthwhile in making one's own support worthwhile. If a party's core vote can be taken for granted, than it can reach out to other voters and compromise all its principles straight off. If the party has a prominent threat to its core vote, the situation is very different. Let's hope that the Left remember this, and that the coming war boosts the far-left parties, taking from Labour substantial numbers of its core vote just as Blair and Brown tax their new supporters back to the Tories.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:25 | Permanent Link |

Monday, November 11, 2002  

Can the UN only be right when it agrees with the Left?

SOMEONE CONTACT THE judges for the "Brass Neck of the Third Millennium Award" - we may have an early winner. After arguing absurdly along with the whole of the left-wing that somehow an unjust war becomes more just with UN approval, and that a just war becomes less just without UN approval, Gary Younge has now seen which way the UN wind is blowing, and decided a war on Iraq is wrong whatever it happens to think.

Having argued that bombing Iraq without UN authorisation would be illegal, we must now explain why bombing with UN blessing would still be immoral. For, while it was right to insist that the US act within the auspices of the UN, it was wrong to raise false hopes that the UN would be either capable or necessarily willing to prevent a military attack.

So if the UN votes his way, it should be an overarching world government that can authorise and veto every military decision. But if it votes against him, suddenly:

The UN is anything but perfect. Its structures are outmoded, its methods are undemocratic and its record of restoring, defending or establishing democracy around the globe is weak.

Wiser, principled heads said all along how flawed the UN was. We talked about its anti-Semitism, which climaxed in an attempt to classify support for a Jewish state as 'racism', and about its essential political edge. We said it was no moral arbiter for anyone, that by definition morality was something independent of popular approval. We said that it was utterly absurd to oppose a unilateral war against Iraq while supporting a multilateral war against Iraq. We said that even if a war were permitted by the UN, it would be through buying off France and China: granting the first special oil contracts in post-Saddam Iraq, and the latter support for persecuting their human rights campaigners by accepting their classification as terrorists.

But all we heard in response was support for the United Nations: "Our UN right or wrong", the left said. Well for once the UN saw sense and saw the political reality, and now the left is forced to defy it, and agree with all we said about its flaws. There have only ever been two respectable, logical positions on a war with Iraq: that whatever the UN may feel, Saddam is too dangerous to leave alone and that whatever the UN may feel, a war on Iraq is unjustified. By moving only to the latter position now, after hiding behind and deferring moral judgement to the United Nations, most of the anti-war Left has lost all credibility. They stupidly defended the UN's judgement as the only one that mattered, and now the UN has come down against them. Let this be a lesson to all those who would cynically play politics with national security and civilian lives. Now onward to Baghdad!

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 20:50 | Permanent Link |

European countries don't need a common culture or way of life to trade freely

PETER PRESTON'S GUARDIAN column today reflects on Turkey, asking why precisely, in the words of Giscard d'Estaing, it should "never" be permitted to join the Euro. Are his own reasons sufficient? Merely that Turkey has "a different culture, a different approach, a different way of life. It is a country close to Europe, an important country: but it is not a European country."?

Forgive me, but isn't that true of every nation already in the EU? Italy and the UK, France and Greece, all have their own cultures and ways of life, subtly - and often not so subtly - different. Why should this be an obstacle in Turkey's case? As Peter Preston notes, because the EU seems very little to do with a free trade area.

The thing that matters most of all, though, is to look into the dark heart of the Europe we're building. Is it fundamentally sort of white-ish and kind of Christian? Does Mr Giscard d'Estaing ring bells when he talks about the impossibility of absorbing "different ways of life"?

The United States had no trouble absorbing Mexico into NAFTA, because it meant nothing more than free trade with Mexico. Given the politicised projects of the EU, however, we must worry about all sorts of things before we are willing to accept anyone new. When you are simply trading partners, the minimum conditions for membership are not going to be difficult to meet. But if your ultimate aim is to create a single, united country, one must be very selective. Race, colour, culture and way of life should be no barrier to membership of a genuine free trade area. Because the EU is about a single government in a single superstate, these factors do turn out to matter. A growing European Union makes centralisation of power harder, and freer trade easier. This is why all those who believe in our country's independence, especially if they value free trade as well, should support great expansion of EU membership.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:22 | Permanent Link |

Sunday, November 10, 2002  

Mass murderer earns prisoners "right" to hard core porn under ECHR

DISGUSTING, and entirely typical of the European Convention on Human Rights. I'm not even surprised.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:14 | Permanent Link |

The truth about 'elitism'

CHARLES CLARKE JUST might be a rather good Education Secretary. I must say that in the short time he has been in the post, he has impressed me quite a bit. His comments the day he got the job about teachers' unions looking irresponsible and foolish with their heckling and barracking at their annual conferences were right on the mark. Now he has tackled a particular bogeyman of the left: the concept of 'elitism'.

'Elitism' is one of those ingenious left-wing terms that combines a mainstream common sense viewpoint with a view just about everyone is against, and tries to tarnish the common sense view by association with the other. 'Homophobia' (which actually means literally 'fear of like') is another example. The sort of elitism that none would seek to defend would be that of a closed elite, determined by birth or family ties, or some other factor that means one person can arbitrarily do better than another. But the sort of elitism that rewards most those who are most talented and hardest-working - the elite of a meritocracy - is an invaluable thing. In education, its importance cannot be stressed highly enough. A Conservative Education Secretary would probably not have the guts to take on the anti-elitists openly, so it is pleasing to see Charles Clarke speak out against them instead.

"I do think Cambridge is an elitist institution. And that's not a necessarily a dirty word - there is a place for elites. I think elites have an important role to play, particularly in research."

Is it elitist to give college places to candidates with the best grades? Is it elitist to pay most the man who makes the most for his company? If so, then thank God for elitism. It is something the country needs more of, not less. The idea that for the sake of the feelings of the less successful, we should define success out of existence and punish those who will, when adults, help their country most, is cruel and destructive. As was proved by the relentless abolition of some of the best schools in the world in favour of "bog standard comprehensives", the politics of envy can never do good. I do hope Charles Clarke will stand up to these politics in his new role.

His other comments I am not so enthusiatic about, though.

Clarke slammed universities talking of going private as 'foolish'. "If a major university like Cambridge went private it would be a seriously retrograde step."

If government control of industry and public services has taught us anything, it is that the dead hand of the state can only halt progress and reduce success. Why shouldn't universities be allowed to go private? They would have to give degrees on merit to retain their serious reputation, so their academic reputation would not suffer. Indeed, the pressure to keep standards high would be greater when the profit motive demanded they ensure it. Private universities would doubtless be more expensive to attend, which is why the likes of the Assisted Places Scheme could give university vouchers to the particularly talented among the poorer students. In conjunction with a loans system that would be paid back when the graduate entered (no doubt very-well paid) work, this could ensure no one would suffer on grounds on income.

Our best universities should certainly be elitist, but not necessarily public sector.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 07:20 | Permanent Link |
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