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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

Friday, December 06, 2002  

New tricks foil New Party

A FORTNIGHT AGO, I reported on the New Party for Britain, a group of disillusioned Tories so far only represented by a web site. As the Times has reported, it seems the real Tories have got their revenge. It may not be the wittiest satire I've ever seen, but this shows that there is still fire in Conservative bellies and originality in Conservative minds. Let's see a little more of this sort of thing in the future and a lot less of the pointless, unselfconscious infighting.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:51 | Permanent Link |

Toys aren't what they used to be

GET YOUR FRIENDS a Real American Action Hero for Christmas.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:36 | Permanent Link |

Maybe they should create a foxhunting religion

ROBIN PAGE WAS ARRESTED for making the sort of argument Boris Johnson makes so convincingly in the Telegraph, so he's treading on very thin ice. But there's no denying his logic. If cruelty is in any way the issue for those who seek to criminalise hunting, why is "cruelty" towards animals okay if done in the name of a fashionable religion, but not in the name of the basic traditions of this country that have existed for centuries?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:19 | Permanent Link |

Who does the cartoons for the New Statesman?

I DON'T IMAGINE too many visitors to this site buy The New Statesman, but I do, a three month subscription only costing me £5.16. Anyway, I must say I find absolutely bewildering how bad are the cartoons in each issue. I don't suppose being cartoonist for a middle-ranking soft-left politics magazine is exactly the highest status one can hold, so you'd expect that the better cartoonists would stick to the ordinary newspapers. But you'd still think the NS could do better than this:

As the extra £0.16 on each subscription probably keeps the cartoonist with a roof over his head, maybe I should withhold my 16p until the cartoons improve a bit.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 10:58 | Permanent Link |

Question Time versus the Daily Mail

NORMAN TEBBIT WAS FANTASTIC on Question Time last night, in what was, I believe, his first appearance on the programme for over three years. The wit and charm with which he won over the audience was such a decisive antidote to all the bile that the BBC likes to pour on him, never failing to portray the former Conservative Party Chairman as if he is some sort of right-wing version of Derek Hatton.

One thing did bother me, however. This is the umpteenth week in a row in which someone from the audience has torn into the Daily Mail for some viewpoint imagined or real. I find it extremely difficult to believe the BBC is planting them there, but it's bizarre how a Daily Mail-hater always happens to be called. Attacks on the Mail should be taken particularly seriously by Conservatives, as this newspaper best represents the part of Middle England that hasn't sold out its convictions, and doesn't wish to compromise with all the nonsense of Blairism. Although I myself prefer the Telegraph, the Mail is the paper that best represents the views of the majority of the British people of middle and working class backgrounds: conservative on the family, fearful of crime, tired of political correctness and sceptical of a state which they'd rather would just get off their backs. When people attack the Daily Mail in the absurd and silly terms which are so often employed, they are really attacking the decent instincts of the people of this country. It is certainly a good cover for anti-British feeling to direct one's fire at the paper most representative of the views of ordinary British people, but we on the right should see through this, and at the contempt for their fellow countrymen that motivates the snotty liberals who say such things.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:47 | Permanent Link |

Split down the middle and dumber

EDGE OF ENGLAND'S SWORD has a revealing piece on this week's social survey, which very suspiciously suggested that Britain was becoming more socially permissive as its people became better educated. Iain Murray gets to the bottom of it. As usual, the balanced truth is rather different from the impression given by the press. I would suggest everyone be sceptical of any survey based upon the laughable idea that we are more educated in this day and age than a generation ago.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:40 | Permanent Link |

Thursday, December 05, 2002  

Free trade with Europe but not run by Europe? Yes, please

EACH EU MEMBER state having some power to veto the decisions that affect it most damagingly and fundamentally is a power "formidable only to tyrannical governments", as Thomas Jefferson might put it. So obviously Brussels wants the national veto smashed at once. Those who'd rather keep some democratic, national control over their affairs should be expelled.

Romano Prodi has waded into the debate on Europe's future with a call to expel countries which fail to sign up to a new EU constitution.

In a contribution to the convention for the future of Europe, Prodi also urges the EU to scrap national vetoes.

However, expulsion doesn't mean what you might think.

"Each member state could choose between continued participation in the Union, now based on a constitution, and withdrawal from the union to take on the status of associated country," the commission paper states.

Such states would remain in the European single market but be left out of growing political integration.

Halleluyah! Isn't this just the sensible route for everyone? Ultimately, I think I will always believe that the nation state and democratic decisions made at that level suit a country best. It seems the British people are overwhelming in agreement about that, quietly and not so quietly opposing all powers transferred from the control of Britain's elected Parliament to the EU's unelected commission. But if other countries are determined to merge together their economies and nations, passing up the control over their own affairs that they have for so many centuries exercised, I think we should respect that, asking only their respect for the British determination to decide such matters for ourselves at the ballot box.

Let's be honest. Free trade is the only advantage we get out of EU membership. Vague, illusory notions of influence be damned, Europe is no closer to the British vision than it was thirty years ago. Indeed, while in most of that period Britain has cast off the regulatory burdens and worked to remain competitive economically, Europe has enthusiastically applied shackle after shackle to its economy, strangling businesses and job creation. While Britain has retained a strong defence, the rest of the EU save France has no more than a derisory military, relying on the United States for its defence, though still managing to blame Americans for most of the evil in the world.

We should not take lightly the advantages free trade with Europe brings to us, but now it looks as though we may finally be able to get them without losing democratic control over our country. The British people have no desire to control Germany or Denmark, and are equally opposed to Germany or Denmark controlling us. Let's go on trading with them, but admit decisively that trade is about all that we do want. This honest approach of admitting that we want different things from the EU than most members may be a snub, but it will only ensure more understanding, frank and better relations with them in the end.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:16 | Permanent Link |

An illiberal irrelevance

CHARLES KENNEDY SEEMS at least in theory to know on which side his bread is buttered: his only hope is to steal Tory seats, as the Labour seats just aren't there for the taking for his party. The campaign letter he launched yesterday is an example of sensible tactics from the Liberal leader.

If only he had the policies to match. If this letter actually reveals anything of the Liberals' real stance on the major issues of British politics, it will try to entice Tory voters by telling them New Labour is not left-wing enough. Of course, it won't tell the truth about what the Lib Dems stand for, and will reflect their long-held aim always to straddle the fence between the two parties, pleasing everyone with claims to agreement with them, while in policy terms they privately stick to their same reactionary tax, tax, tax and spend line on the economy, pacifist attitude to military threats and never saying no to Brussels. At least Conservatives can be consoled that the reason the media makes no effort to catch them out is that few would be interested enough to read it if they did. Their irrelevance is their one real political asset, and I sincerely hope that they don't lose it.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:15 | Permanent Link |

Israel assassinates mass murderer

SHE MAY MAKE some occasional tragic mistakes, but Israel does seem to pick her targets wisely.

Israeli helicopter gunships have fired missiles at a Palestinian Authority compound in Gaza City, killing a master bombmaker responsible for blowing up three Israeli tanks, witnesses and militants said.

The Israeli air strike targeted Mustafa Sabah, 35, a guard at the compound. Palestinian sources said he was also a senior "engineer" for a militant umbrella group behind a series of attacks on Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

If one good thing has resulted from the atrocities of 11 September 2001, it may be that the squeamishness about killing terrorists has disappeared from mainstream mindsets. This advantage to the governments of free societies may come in useful in Northern Ireland in the not too distant future.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 10:49 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, December 04, 2002  

Lies on Saturday should mean bombs on Sunday

IN TODAY'S WASHINGTON Times, Joel Mowbray backs up David Frum's diary. President Bush cannot realistically give Saddam any more chances. If he lies on Saturday, then "material breach" has certainly occurred. This is legitimate grounds for war according to the UN, and it should be the final reason to wage it.

Mr. Rumsfeld's statement, along with repeated similar declarations from U.S. and British government officials in recent months, leaves the United States with no reasonable response to Saddam's list other than calling a spade a spade. If the United States says Saddam has "one last chance," but then gives him yet another chance after lying about his WMD program, President Bush's credibility is shot.

Saddam cannot be trusted with the most deadly weapons known to man, and if he is building them, it is only erring on the side of caution to assume that he makes them for a nefarious purpose that threatens the security of us all. Again and again he has risked war to keep production going. If he didn't intend to use them to threaten our vital interests, he would have stopped production long ago for the sake of self-preservation. For our own self-preservation, it's time to stop him.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:57 | Permanent Link |

Free drugs would harm addicts, society and the taxpayer

POLLY TOYNBEE'S SOLUTION to drug addiction is typically left-wing. Don't punish the criminals - God, no! Don't even treat them, it seems. Instead, use taxpayers' money to give them what they want and keep them happy.

When asked, ministers are quick to say that only very few addicts will have heroin prescribed. But the Department of Health is now setting out to train large numbers of GPs in heroin prescribing so that addicts for whom all other treatments fail can be sustained safely and live orderly lives with their addiction. So far only 300 addicts can get heroin prescribed, but many more will now - and why not, if it reduces crime? Why not prescribe cocaine too, since crack addiction is exceptionally hard to cure?

No matter than heroin addiction makes an orderly life almost impossible, that the squalor and misery it induces wrecks any possibility of normality for the addict. People have been known to inject heroin into their eyes in the search for a full vein, desperately dependent on their next hit. No matter that cocaine-induced violence can be monstrous and merciless, the most vicious and cruel rapes often cocaine induced.

Equality is so important to Polly Toynbee, that she states openly that it should come before liberty. It seems she wouldn't dream of making a working class teenager on a housing estate experience the horror of seeing richer neighbours using education vouchers plus cash to buy better schooling than the state provides. It would be monstrous to subject him to that! But when it comes to abandoning such people to destructive, immoral, wasteful addictions, she wants state subsidies.

Is the government supposed to buy these drugs from the "dealers" everyone demonises these days, as if every junkie in the country didn't go to them voluntarily to fund their selfish addiction? Or will it begin to grow the drugs en masse for the benefit of those to whom they are supplied? The idea that government could crowd out the drug-dealers by taking drugs out of their hands is to be taken literally under Polly, it seems. Not only will drugs be legal, but they will be supplied by the government and bought by the taxpayer.

If Polly Toynbee understood markets, she would realise that if you make something cheaper (or free), then you only encourage its use. Free drugs are no solution. They will only ensure that many more people, whenever they feel depressed or bored, will see a glamorised new lifestyle provided entirely free for them. What is to stop enterprising fellows going to collect heroin for their "addiction", and then selling some or all of it off? This is exactly what happened in the 1960s, when heroin was last prescribed. It found its way onto the black market and the failed experiment was brought to an end. Not only would the Toynbeesque state make drug abuse free, but it would fund a black market all of its own.

The truly mature attitude to drugs is to treat junkies like the adults they could be if they had more sense. They should be punished properly if they break these laws, but helped to break free of their addiction. To abandon them to drugs neither punishes their immorality nor shows compassion for their situation. It won't solve anything - it will simply multiply the misery of drugs and force history's most absurd burden on the taxpayer.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:54 | Permanent Link |

Oh, what a tangled web Saddam will weave

READ DAVID FRUM'S National Review Diary, and you will always finish more informed and persuaded. This week, he predicts the UN Security Council's December 8 deadline for submission of its declaration of its weapons of mass destruction inventory, which Iraq this morning promised to meet a day early - Saturday - will be the catalyst for war:

The Resolution stated that any “false statements or omissions” in the declaration would be considered another material breach – and thus grounds for war.

Everyone expects that the Iraqi declaration will be riddled with lies – the only question is how many. Kofi Annan is positioning himself to say that however many lies Iraq tells, it’s not enough lies to justify action.

.... There will be very great pressure on President Bush to follow the soggy Annan line, both from outside and inside the US government. Should he do so, the United States will be launched upon a bootless rerun of the inspections game of the 1990s – and Republicans will lose their right to jeer at Clinton’s weakness on terror (see above). I can’t promise that it is impossible that Bush will give in. I just know that they’ll have to give him a personality transplant first. My own guess, for what it’s worth, is that Michael Gerson and Co. in the White House speechwriting department have been arriving at work at 4 in the morning all this week to write the speech Bush will give on Monday or Tuesday explaining that Iraq has exhausted its final chance – and that the Hans Blix farce is over.

I sure hope so. Let's get this over with.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:45 | Permanent Link |

A break is needed from Conservative Future's past

ELECTRIC REVIEW TODAY has an interesting piece on the difficulties experienced by Conservative Future. I think that broadly speaking the problems described affect far more than only the Conservative Party's youth wing, and extend to political parties who want members of all ages. People are general apathetic and disinterested, and where they do feel passionately on an issue, they find the mainstream parties do not, and dare not.

The final message that CF must actually be about promoting Conservative values is important. Looking at some so-called Conservative pages on the internet, I fear the party has been recruiting at universities some of the most obstinate social libertines, so many of them openly contemptuous of conservative attitudes on foreign policy, the family, the constitution and tradition in general. The Conservative Party needs to be a broad church, but this should not be to the point that there is no ideological baggage whatsoever connected to British Toryism. This is a recipe only for splits and constant infighting. Setting out the Conservative message clearly will discourage anti-Conservatives from joining, but this helps ensure unity and gives the members who remain a purpose and a vision worth fighting for.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:20 | Permanent Link |

Very, Very Boring Leftist with a very, very silly plan

HARRY'S IN A minority as a left-of-centre blogger, but he's certainly going at it fearlessly on his new site. Yesterday, he had a lot of fun fisking a plan for a perfect society written by some vile abortionist in the Socialist Worker. Being a member of the Conservative Party, I have rather less experience of the far left than Harry. But what I have seen of it certainly confirms his general impression, as well as that suggested by John O'Farrell and Mark Steel in their recent memoirs of their time as left-wing activists. At last year's Labour Party conference, I remember entering the meeting of the Labour Left Briefing, a very extreme group of people even Clare Short has dismissed as holding views alien to the Labour Party. I felt rather excited, an enemy in a Communist camp, expecting an education in those who detested the capitalist democracy in which they lived. It would be a bit like a conversation with Hitler or Stalin, I theorised: deeply fascinating.

Instead, I found - as O'Farrell put it - that they aren't so much the far-left or the hard left or the militant left as the Very, Very Boring Left, a rather comical collection of middle-class busybodies and the odd working class person, though of the sort that pesters you on the London Underground, assuring you of the virtues of the Rev. Moon. After nodding off once too many, I felt forced to rather rudely walk out in the middle of the meeting.

Anyway, check out Harry's post. It certainly puts the ridiculous plan in question into perspective. It's coming to something when even straight-forward utopians can't make their dream sound desirable.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:20 | Permanent Link |

Should I keep the new design?

I'M UNDECIDED MYSELF. I've heard some say that a pure white background can be hard on the eyes, so when I saw a nice deep shade of light blue on another page, I thought it an appropriate background for a centre-right Tory site. I've darkened the text to make it as legible as before and changed the side pictures so the background to each is blue, too. Please, leave your comments on the new design, even if they are restricted to "Looks fine" or "Change it back". At the moment I think I'll probably keep it this way, but I am open to persuasion.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:50 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, December 03, 2002  

Bigoted Brother and Lord of the Racists

IT'S GREAT TO see the Guardian finally digging deep into the concerns of ordinary people, instead of simply voicing the prejudices of an Islington tea party. First up, which is more racist? Lord of the Rings or Big Brother?

The first article is pretty blunt - the dark-skinned bad guys mean "The Lord of the Rings is racist". But with some stiff competition, the daftest sentence has to be:

This is no clash of noble adversaries like the Iliad

I am no classical scholar, but I am reliably informed that the Iliad is all about a battle between Achilles and Agamemnon. Their feud starts because Achilles captures a woman called Briseis, but has her stolen before he gets the chance to rape her. Agamemnon takes her from him, not in protection, but because he'd rather she be raped by him. I realise the Guardian is soft on crime and all, but even then I can't see how these two can be considered "noble adversaries".

The latter article concludes by noting that the "disproportionate" number of black expulsions from the Big Brother house is matched by the number of black pupils excluded from school. It wasn't made clear whether the author thinks teaching staff are somehow responsible for the decisions of black pupils to break school rules, or that she believes headmasters just happen to exclude children in a Big Brother-voting fashion, irrespective of who actually committed the offence.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:26 | Permanent Link |

Sunday, December 01, 2002  

Council keeps the "London" in Londonderry

THANK GOODNESS FOR a little common sense. We've already changed the name of Ulster's amazingly effective police force to appease the terrorist crooks who saw them as the enemy. We should certainly not follow this with changes to the names of our cities. Londonderry is as much a part of the United Kingdom as Liverpool or Cambridge. No amount of petty relabelling by Sinn Fein/IRA can change that.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:42 | Permanent Link |

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

THE REAL HUMAN rights campaigners have work to do, now that the US Republican Party controls both Houses of Congress. If they succeed, some of the only laws capable of making a society more decent and advanced will be passed. Whatever the chances of them failing to get their way, and the unlikelihood that Britain will follow suit if they do, I hope to God for both. If we are to have a truly civilised future, I think it can happen only if in a couple of centuries, people will look back on the abortionist the way modern eyes look at the concentration camp guard or the slave dealer.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:56 | Permanent Link |

Smith backed Blair, not Brown

ONE OF JOHN Smith's closest advisors has disclosed that the last Labour leader saw Tony Blair as his chosen successor. Contrary to all expectations that Smith would support a fellow Scot and more traditionally Labour figure, he apparently put electoral thinking first:

David Ward, who was Mr Smith's chief of staff, has revealed that he told Mr Blair of the late Labour leader's preference soon after his death on May 12 1994. Only days before, Mr Ward had been informed by Mr Smith - who had a history of heart problems - that in the event of his death, the leadership should pass to Mr Blair rather than Mr Brown.

... He said: "The following Monday I went to see Blair in his office in the Commons to tell him I was leaving politics. I recounted what John had said the previous week. He was very touched."

Mr Ward's intervention undermines one of the principal claims made repeatedly by aggrieved supporters of Mr Brown - that in standing for the leadership in 1994, Mr Blair not only broke an alleged pact with Mr Brown but showed a treacherous lack of respect for Mr Smith's wishes.

On senior Blairite said: "It shows that Tony knew at the time that this whole stuff about Gordon being Smith's 'favourite son' was rubbish. There was no betrayal".

Mr Ward, who is now director-general of the FIA Foundation, a road safety charity, said Mr Smith recognised that Mr Blair was more likely to attract key swing voters, especially in England. "It wasn't that he was being anti-Gordon, he just saw that Blair was in the better position," he said.

This seems particularly ironic, given reports that Blair was privately no Smith supporter. At the time of Kinnock's resignation, he was junior to Gordon Brown, whom he hoped would stand for the Labour leadership in 1992. Blair's comments when Brown decided not to, leaving the field clear for John Smith, were less than sympathetic: "Gordon's bottled out". As Shadow Home Secretary over the next couple of years, he was reported to have banged his own head on his desk in frustration at the slow pace of Smith's reforms to the party.

The strange thing about all this is that staunch Tory that I am, I can't help but feel pleased about this for Blair, whom it seems I favour in fights between Brown and him. Perhaps this breadth of Tony Blair's appeal is proof in itself that John Smith was right.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:45 | Permanent Link |

Mass immigration - a class issue?

ALISDAIR PALMER HAS a very interesting and persuasive column in today's Telegraph on the shreds of Britain's asylum policy. The particularly original part is his emphasis on the effects of mass immigration, and its disproportionate benefit to the rich and cost to the poor. Through constantly importing cheap labour from overseas, and accepting illegal immigrants (7/8 of bogus asylum seekers are never deported) we get many workers who will do the difficult and unpleasant jobs for the rest of us, but the price may be higher than we realise.

Even though illegal immigrants are not officially allowed to work, they do so. Contrary to myth, illegal immigrants are not welfare scroungers. The vast majority want to work - and they are willing to do dirty, badly paid jobs.

... That is all to the good if you are someone who needs, and can afford to pay for, services which run on unskilled labour, such as building, catering, cleaning, or minicabs. Illegal workers do not pay national insurance or indeed any taxes at all, and their employers do their best to ensure that they evade the regulations which would normally burden them on health and safety, holidays, and pay. It brings costs down enormously.

The benefits of unrestricted immigration are not quite so obvious if you are someone who is competing for the jobs that the immigrants are prepared to do for less money and under harsher conditions. The uneducated British working class is being driven out of low-status, low-pay jobs by immigrant labour. It is not surprising, therefore, that the greatest opposition to immigrants comes from voters at the low-income end of the social spectrum. It is not just their wages and employment prospects that are being squeezed by immigrant labour: immigrants also tend to be located in their communities. They see the additional pressure on local amenities at first hand - more children in the local school whose first language isn't English, longer queues at the local health centre to see the doctor, longer waits for council housing, and so on. It is a lot harder to convince yourself of the "paramount importance" of protecting asylum seekers' human rights if you think your prospects and services are threatened by them. The judges whose rulings have so enormously widened the grounds on which asylum can be legitimately claimed do not, of course, belong to this group.

... A Britain serviced by immigrants is likely to be similar to Saudi Arabia in one respect: there will be a very large number of angry, resentful people around. "Our asylum system is not a shortcut to work or settlement in the UK," insisted Beverley Hughes last week. Actually, that is precisely what it is. Despite all the alleged economic benefits, it does not bode well for our collective future.

This is a fascinating, and I believe accurate, perspective on attitudes to immigration. As someone who has seen video clips of the way crowds of young unemployed men react to Nick Griffin's description of positive discrimination as "sending whites to the back of the jobs queue", I think it also goes a long way to explaining support for the BNP... The danger is - and after the elections of this year, I think it is a very real danger - that further to this comes absorption of the whole of the BNP's hateful message, the bad along with the occasional bits of common sense.

I have never seen immigration and asylum as class issues before, but I think this perspective is a worrying yet valuable one. Perhaps some good could come out of the rising prominence of this issue if it will encourage our politicians to work on solving the problems of Britain's asylum system, or even reconsidering "positive discrimination", and returning to the classical liberal dream of evaluation on the basis of character and ability, not skin colour. In a horrible sort of way, the BNP's rise is a real testament that ordinary people of this country won't accept being pushed around by politicians who ignore their wishes. Just as Thatcher appealed to the working classes in a way that Bennite socialism never did, the BNP appeals to their disenchantment with both parties in a way that Old Labour and Marxist groupings cannot.

Of late, Labour has shown a creditable willingness to put real effort into stemming the growth of the BNP, running particularly vigorous campaigns where the Neo-Nazis stand a good chance. Equally, the Tories talk of sorting out problems on run down estates and helping the vulnerable. But many working class voters seem to be realising that the neither of the two main parties is particularly interested in them, focusing instead on a liberal middle class agenda determined by the BBC and Guardian. For all their differences in approach to these issues, it is hard to deny that both parties seem to be fighting for the same sorts of voters. For as long as working class voters feel they are getting a V-sign from the mainstream political establishment, it may be that they will return them that V-sign electorally, in the way that will trouble them most.

It was working class aspiration that kept Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street election after election. The abandonment of the old working class by Labour leaves the option open for the Tories more than ever to become their champions. Perhaps the party ought to examine some of their concerns and develop policies that will tackle them, vanquishing the jackbooted extremists of the BNP, and hopefully harming Labour greatly.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:21 | Permanent Link |
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