Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lennon beats Beatles in song poll

I was there when the Beatles were new. As a small boy, I nagged for Beatles wallpaper and had my own copy of "She Loves You." In the school playground, we divided over whether our favourite Beatle was Paul or John as easily as the boys divided into Liverpool and Everton fans. My favourite was, and is, John.

There is no doubt John Lennon was a great songwriter. In his way he changed the world. There is something rather sad, however, about his "Imagine" topping the poll as the "Nation's favourite song". Think about it. The lyrics are ridiculous. A multimillionaire urging us to "imagine no possessions" even as he acquired an entire apartment building in New York, piece by piece, to give him space and privacy. The same multimillionaire who had urged us to "give peace a chance" even as he funded the IRA's terrorist campaign.

John had talent, but he was not very bright. In the 1930's, perhaps idealistic socialism was justifiable. But by the time "Imagine" was written, more than half of mankind was living under socialist regimes of various kinds. It was the largest political experiment in history, and the empirical evidence was clear that socialism sucked. People were prepared to risk the Berlin Wall death run or to face Carribean sharks to escape it. If the Berlin Wall had fallen down, there was no doubt which way the human tide would flow. Lennon was either exploiting the naievity of his young audience (including me) or he was stupid. I would prefer to think he was stupid.

That we still fall for this nonsense, decades on, does not fill me with hope for our immediate political prospects. A nation of dreamers will lead us all into a nightmare.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Lennon beats Beatles in song poll

Friday, December 30, 2005

Restore trust in crime figures, urges watchdog

How many times can one Government be caught lying before paying the democratic price?

The Statistics Commission cagily observes that Home Office presentation of crime figures "...creates an environment in which the media and the public assume they are receiving a filtered, government-friendly version of the truth, even though the statistical message may not be either of these things.."

"Creates an environment?" Yeah, right.

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Restore trust in crime figures, urges watchdog

Damning documentary evidence unveiled. Dissident bloggers in coordinated exposé of UK government lie

Help us beat the British government's gagging order by mirroring this information on your own site or blog!

Constituent: "This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?"

"Jack Straw: "Not to the best of my knowledge... let me make this clear... the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use."

- Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, election hustings, Blackburn, April 2005

"I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture... On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood."

- Ambassador Craig Murray, memo to the Foreign Office, July 2004

With Tony Blair and Jack Straw cornered on extraordinary rendition, the UK government is particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence extracted by foreign torturers.

The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray's forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession.

Craig Murray is refusing to do this. Instead, the documents are today being published simultaneously on blogs all around the world.

The first document contains the text of several telegrams that Craig Murray sent back to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful".

The second document is the text of a legal opinion from the Foreign Office's Michael Wood, arguing that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture does not constitute a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Craig Murray says:

In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.

After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.

First document: Confidential letters from Uzbekistan

Letter #1
FM Tashkent
TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts

16 September 02

SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism

US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.


The Economist of 7 September states: "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism." The Economist also spoke of "the growing despotism of Mr Karimov" and judged that "the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record". I agree.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.

Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.

Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.
The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.

But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.

Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev's time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.

This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov's repression may keep the lid on for years – but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.

I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side.

If Karimov is on "our" side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary – the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World's old communist leaders.
We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the "too difficult" tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.

Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.


Letter #2
Fm Tashkent

18 March 2003


1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.


2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.

4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid – more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?

5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).

6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.

7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.

Letter #3


OF 220939 JULY 04




1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.


4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.

6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.

7. Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.

8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.

9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true – the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.

10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact

11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;
"The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.

15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

16. I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.

17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this.

18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.

19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.


Second Document - summary of legal opinion from Michael Wood arguing that it is legal to use information extracted under torture:

From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor

Date: 13 March 2003

CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield


1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.


M C Wood
Legal Adviser

Telegraph | Opinion | It's official: Britain is run by bureaucrats

The Telegraph dare not mention the other costs of bureaucrats. To my personal knowledge, some Health & Safety inspectors demand money not to close down construction sites. Fail to pay and some imagined infringement will be found. I know someone who is thinking of closing down his small business because he can't sustain those bribes.

Massive discretion in the use of enforcement powers is likely to lead to such abuse. For example, if the competition authorities launch a "dawn raid" on a business they will, among other things, seize the company's computers to search them for evidence. That is enough to put most companies out of business, guilty or not. In dealing with the bureaucrats who wield such power, companies are well advised to be craven and subservient.

Function creep is another cost. You now need planning permission to change your window frames in Britain. How can that conceivably be of interest to the State? It isn't, but it creates non-jobs. I wrote to my local council more than two months ago about installing Continental-style security shutters on my ground floor windows and doors (following an incident I blogged about, in which intruders frightened my wife). So far, I have received only an acknowledgement and a promise that "an officer will be in contact". The windows in question are not even overlooked. They are of no interest to my neighbours. I am reduced from being an Englishman in his castle, to a supplicant of the State.

Margaret Thatcher's programme of council house sales was largely driven by tenants' desires to have choices about their own homes. They were misled. Under Labour, we have about as much freedom in such matters as if we all lived in 1970's council houses. The only difference is that we have put up our own capital for the privilege.

Telegraph | Opinion | It's official: Britain is run by bureaucrats

Monday, December 26, 2005

Waiting for real aid

Mark Steyn says most things so well that I wonder why I bother to blog at all.

Waiting for real aid - Commentary- The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Met home page

Can I be the only person who has noticed that the Met website offers only two choices under "Report a Crime"? The first is "Hate crime" and the second is "Non-emergency"!

So is anything that is not a thought crime now not an emergency? Being murdered by someone who quite likes you, for example? Or by someone of the same race and/or sexual orientation? Is being hurt by someone who hates you for your race or sexual orientation really so much more painful than being hurt by someone who just doesn't like your face? Or is the Met simply signalling submissiveness to its political masters?

Only a few days to go before the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 gives the boys in blue discretion to arrest us for virtually anything. I have always believed most policemen were decent, well-meaning sorts. Now my freedom, at least when visiting my home country, depends on that being true.

Metropolitan Police Service - Homepage

Friday, December 23, 2005

Independent Online Edition > Transport

What Stalin would have given for such power, eh?

Independent Online Edition > Transport

A Blogger's Christmas

The season of goodwill is upon us. It is not an easy time for a political blogger. All year we make sour comments on the world’s evils. They are many, but they are not the whole story.

Perhaps the least appropriate question posed on TV this Christmas, is “The Tsunami – where was God?” One does not have to be a practising Christian to answer that He was to be found in the kind hearts moved to help the victims. Nor does one have to be religious to feel that the Devil was in the heart of local officials who levied “taxes” of various kinds on the West’s generosity.

Our television news programmes have been as trivial as ever, but at least this week there was good news. The story of 700 "gay weddings" is touching, not only for the spirit of tolerance so different from my not-so-distant youth, but also for the evident craving to establish and celebrate stable, loving relationships. God bless them, every one.

There are three more democracies than there were this time last year; all in poor, benighted Africa, the spiritual home of pessimism. This gleam of hope should not be overlooked. Old, jaded democracies have politicians self-serving in inverse proportion to voter turnout, but there are new democracies emerging. We should pause a second from our critique to wish them well.

It is also very easy to be cynical about Iraq. George W. Bush has made many mistakes, that’s true. His planning was poor and his political analysis naive. However, the idea that it’s “all about oil” is self-evidently ridiculous. If the Allies wanted oil, they could have simply ended sanctions. Saddam Hussein would have sold to them as willingly as to the French and Russian “businessmen” happily circumventing the UN regime their leaders so stoutly "defended".

If there is any justice in this sad world, we should hope the valour of our troops and the good intentions that sent them to Iraq meet with a reward their political leaders’ incompetence does not deserve.

And if nothing else, the turn-out at Iraq's election should make all us old cynics ashamed. Iraqis evidently have more self-belief than the Guardianistas who thought them unready for a democracy that was "contrary to their traditions".

Of course there are some grounds for pessimism about the year to come. The quality of our mass media continues to be dispiriting. Analysis is as thin as it is partisan. Every story is spun to suit the supposed prejudices of the target audience. But the people are not as stupid as journalists or politicians think.

This week Mrs Paine served on an English jury. It was an excellent, cynicism-busting, experience. Twelve ordinary people, variously endowed with intelligence and wisdom, came together to do justice. They took it seriously. They did their best and justice was done, just as it has been for centuries. Those twelve random citizens were neither baying for blood, as Blunkett or the editor of the Daily Mail might expect, nor as anxious about the "causes of crime", as Blair or the editor of the Guardian might think. They just did their honest best. In 2006, our politicians could do worse than to follow their example. In the blessed spirit of Christmas, let’s hope they can succeed.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

EU giveaway will cost taxpayer double

The great mystery of New Labour has been this; what would it take for a Minister to resign? Blair's administration has been characterised by a complete absence of shame, almost as much as by a complete absence of weapons of mass destruction.

The Prime Minister, it seems, either lied to us this week about the financial impact of his historic capitulation on the EU budget, or he misunderstood the scale of that capitulation by a factor of almost 100%. He is therefore a knave or a fool on an unparalleled scale. No Prime Minister cost his nation so much since Harold Wilson drunkenly conceded British North Sea oil fields to his Norwegian colleague at a meeting of European Socialists.

We only find this out because he committed lese majeste in failing to consult Gordon Brown before cutting the shameful deal. Now the Treasury is briefing against him. Their figures are no more to be trusted than his, to be fair, but this much is clear; he has dumped on Gordon Brown from an enormous height - leaving him to handle the consequences of the budget deal while, no doubt, Blair swans off to Brussels for his forty pieces of silver.

It is hard to feel sorry for our odious and miserable Chancellor, but today we must do the best we can. Blair's "legacy", as we might have expected, consists of spin and treachery, not reform.

Telegraph | News

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'Time is ripe' for reviving constitution, say Britain's EU partners

Was there ever a less democratic body politic than the EU? The voters of two nations rejected the pompous and wordy draft constitution this year, yet here is the new president proposing to revive it.

All you need to know about the EU Constitution is that, while the US Constitution famously begins, "We, the people..." the EU version begins "His Majesty the King of the Belgians..."

Estimates suggest that Britons will have to pay as much as two pennies in the pound extra income tax to finance Tony Blair's betrayal of the nation over the EU budget. Let him call the British referendum on the EU Constitution today, so that we, the people of this United Kingdom can say what we think about the corrupt, barbarous conspiracy against the nations of the Third World that is the European Union.

Telegraph | News | 'Time is ripe' for reviving constitution, say Britain's EU partners

Monday, December 19, 2005

New powers to tackle unruly pupils | the Daily Mail

The only power needed is for a head teacher to expel, at his or her discretion, any pupil. If a given child's parents are not able to control his behaviour, they should have no legal right to force the school to accept him day after day.

The alternative, as the last thirty years have shown, is for other children in the school to lose their "right" to education.

New powers to tackle unruly pupils | the Daily Mail

Blair's return of EU rebate will force spending cuts at home

On the face of it, this story makes no sense. There is nothing for Britain in the deal. The French are laughing at our further gift to their pampered farmers. We already, before reducing the rebate, contributed five times as much to the EU as France.

Why would a British Prime Minister do this? He had a veto right. He could have used it. Who in Britain would care that the EU was not able to agree a budget? He would have been very popular, in fact. His successor will now have to make cuts in British public spending (or raise taxes) to fund the additional payments to Brussels. Either could cost Labour the next election. Economically and politically, there was no reason to do this.

If a story makes no sense there is always an unknown factor. Perhaps it is this; Mr Blair is scheduled to retire before the end of this Parliament. He has already said he will not serve in the House of Lords. Who will take a £100 bet that Mr Blair is offered a prestigious role in Brussels?

Telegraph | News | Blair's return of EU rebate will force spending cuts at home

Friday, December 16, 2005

'High turnout' in Iraqi election

If one could type through clenched teeth, this is what it would look like. The high turnout - among both Shia and Sunni - in Iraq is a vindication of the Allies' efforts. The pro-insurgent BBC, which famously won't apply the word "terrorist" to Muslims, even those who bombed the London Underground, struggles here to acknowledge good news. There is none of the relish to its reporting that has accompanied every failure, setback and Allied casualty in Iraq.

There is no doubt we were misled into war by Bush and Blair. There is no doubt that they were monumentally incompetent in planning to win the peace. It is clear that the Rumsfeld approach of committing the minimum number of troops has cost lives. Perhaps it is also true that the war was unjustified. Saddam Hussein, barbarian scumbag though he is, posed no threat to anyone but his hapless people. But having made all those mistakes, the Allied forces have worked hard to achieve positive results. Thanks to their gallantry, Bush and Blair have done good by accident.

If the BBC's thesis that the Iraqis did not want democracy were true, this story would make no sense. Neither Britain nor America can hope for such high turnouts in elections. If they had such enthusiastic voters, one wonders how long Bush or Blair could survive.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'High turnout' in Iraqi election

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blair defiant on education plans

What kind of idiot thinks "a return to academic selection" is a bad idea? Would you ask every child to wear the same size clothes? Would you ask every child to read the same books, listen to the same music or play the same sports? Would you treat every sick child with the same medicine? Why would it be different with their studies?

To get the maximum benefit from schooling, children need to work at a pace and a level consistent with their abilities. How do you do that without evaluating those abilities? That is all the 11-plus exam (or its equivalent in every civilised country) was ever designed to do. Having lived in ex-Communist countries, I can assure you they were never so daft, however Marxist they were in theory, as to destroy the educational opportunities of their working classes. But then they were never as Socialist as Britain is today.

To give children the same education regardless of ability is a waste of their time. To ask bright children to wait while slower ones keep up is boring. To ask slower ones to sit around while bright kids race ahead is just as boring. The "least able" (stupidest) member of our French class used to climb out of the window during our lessons. Who could blame him? He couldn't cope. Better that he ran away than disrupt our work. Better still that he spent the time learning something consistent with his abilities.

To ask anyone who has actually attended such a school to believe that any teacher is superhuman enough to tailor all lessons on an individual basis is about as plausible as the Marxist theories behind comprehensive education. To ask such a person to believe that streaming within a massive school full of bored anti-intellectuals (and that's just the teachers in many cases) can work as well as separate schools for academically-able and less able children is equally bizarre. Only someone as genuinely stupid as John Prescott, or as cut off from reality as Tony Blair can actually believe that.

Labour has only just succeeded in abolishing selection in Northern Ireland. That Province has enjoyed higher educational attainment because it retained grammar schools. What is Labour trying to do? Destroy embarrassing evidence?

Bright kids in comprehensives are under constant peer pressure not to progress. I was stoned by the ignorant chavs at mine, God rot them. If, like me, our hypocritical s.o.b. of a Prime Minister had actually attended a "bog standard comprehensive" (instead of Fettes, the "Scottish Eton") he would not hesitate openly to demand selection.

Every day I compare the marvellous education my children are getting at their private school and I regret all the time I wasted as a guinea pig for Marxist theory. We all suspect Blair's instincts on this are right. If "education, education, education" was ever more than a meaningless mantra to him, he should have the courage to let the Tories support him in genuine reform.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair defiant on education plans

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mobs riot again as Sydney race tensions explode

Friendly, liberal Australia is now suffering violent clashes between different ethnic groups. The media and Australian politicians have no hesitation in condemning white participants in those clashes as "racists" and "thugs" without considering whether they have legitimate grievances. The same commentators leap to the defence of Muslim Australians without even considering whether some of them may be to blame for the problems they are now experiencing. Isn't that knee-jerk reaction racist?

The liberties exported from Europe and further developed in the United States and elsewhere are everywhere under threat because of the barbarous actions of extremist Muslims. We have now had suicide attacks in London, street riots in France, a train bombing in Madrid, and - of course - the horrors of 9/ll. My most abiding memory of that day is of my horror at the celebrations on "the Arab street". What a large minority the "extremists" seemed to be.

Our media and politicians are quick to excuse, if not actually to justify, such actions because of the supposed alienation of Muslim communities. Thought pieces in the press invariably focus on what the rest of us can do to overcome that alienation. It is taken as read that the alienation is justified. It is also taken as read that no amount of alienation would justify similar conduct by the white community. Aren't the Guardianistas being racist in expecting a higher ethical standard from whites?

No-one ever seems to consider that a majority population can become alienated too. Australia, to the surprise of its leaders, seems to be proving the point. Of course, nothing can justify assaulting innocent individuals because they belong to a particular ethnic or religious group. If we applied that standard consistently, not least to Muslims, we might have less difficulty in explaining it to aggrieved Australians.

Telegraph | News | Mobs riot again as Sydney race tensions explode

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mocking idiots is no job for a grown-up

This country increasingly resembles China during the Cultural Revolution. Why is the story recounted in this obscure Telegraph opinion piece not headline news? What was the point of the police calling someone to say that her views had been "noted", if not political intimidation? What else are we to understand from the conviction of a protester for quietly reading out the names of our war dead in Iraq at the Cenotaph, but that we are not permitted contrary views?

David Cameron is good news for the image of the Conservative Party, but the jury is out on whether he will stop the rot in terms of free speech. The token Conservative on Andrew Marr's Sunday am yesterday, Giles Brandreth, was incongruously (for him) not wearing a tie - under orders from his leader. If Cameron is down to that level of detail, can there be doubt that he has also given orders as to the range of opinions to be expressed by his troops?

Telegraph | Opinion | Mocking idiots is no job for a grown-up

Friday, December 09, 2005

Police 'may be charged over tube shooting'

How could the police officers who killed Jean Charles de Menezes NOT be charged? If the Crown Prosecution Service fails to do so, it will be clear that another "independent" arm of the British State has fallen under political control.

I feel sorry for the officers. They were given illegal orders and they probably acted on them in good faith. However, they have no available defence to a charge of murder. They were not provoked. They did not have reasonable cause to apprehend any danger to them or anyone around them, so there was no question of self defence. The innocent young man was carrying nothing that could have been a bomb and did nothing to make the police suspicious. It was a cock-up, apparently beginning with a surveillance officer taking a slash in the bushes when he should have been ID'ing the "suspect". He only saw de Menezes in his peripheral vision while otherwise engaged. His snap judgement at that moment, seems to have cost an innocent life.

The problem is that the killers are criminally responsible. Following orders was no excuse for them. They should have refused to fire. The real issue is the responsibility of those who gave them the orders. There is no legislative sanction for a shoot to kill policy. If we need one, Parliament must change the law. Therefore the orders given by the PM, the Home Secretary, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the superior officers of the shooters were ALL illegal. They are as guilty as the poor schmoes in uniform who will take the rap. Who will charge them?

Telegraph | News | Police 'may be charged over tube shooting'

George Orwell estate to sue Government over breach of copyright

I love this!! Do visit and read it. Hat tip to "Attempting Escape" at

NHS may not treat smokers, drinkers or obese

This is fine, I guess, if the Government ensures that all taxes paid by the individuals concerned and applied to the NHS are repaid. By taxing them in the first place, the Government denied them the chance to make their own health care provision. To deny them treatment now is outrageous, unless they are given their money back to buy private service.

Personally, I would be more than happy to take up smoking or whatever if I could get back my taxes and pay for proper, non-socialised, health care myself.

Telegraph News NHS may not treat smokers, drinkers or obese

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Extremists 'could take over our schools' | the Daily Mail

With great respect to the teachers' unions, extremists took over our schools over 30 years ago. Their communist doctrines of "one size fits all" education have blighted the lives of millions of people in Britain, causing a decline in literacy and numeracy which is - from the point of view of employers - quite startling.

As our schools have become unpleasant theatres of class war, the quality of those prepared to work in them has declined. At one point the head of modern languages at my old school was the class dunce at French in the year above me when I was there. The man could barely string a sentence together in his own language, and he was teaching French and supervising the work of other teachers.

We are losing our capacity to teach any subject which requires skills marketable elsewhere. Hence we are increasingly unable to provide science and language education at all. This is impairing the life chances of millions of students and destroying our economic competitiveness. Blair is right to try to take on the Leftist dinosaurs of education, and Cameron is right to back him.

In a well-run society, teachers are the most important and respected of all professionals, not whingeing unionised public-sector workers. The National Union of Teachers disgraces Britain's teachers by its very existence. let alone by its ludicrous and outdated pronouncements.

Extremists 'could take over our schools' | the Daily Mail

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Joy of Curmudgeonry: White with Loathing

Here is some advanced taurocoprology from my favourite blog. If I had not followed the links, I would have thought he was making it up.

The Joy of Curmudgeonry: White with Loathing

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The West Lothian Question

British politics is in a mess over devolution. 85% of the UK's population lives in England. The United Kingdom has one Parliament. Scotland has a second in Edinburgh, which has voted - for example - to provide better healthcare and free university education for Scots. Labour's Scottish MP's at Westminster, however, have voted with the government against such measures in England. Without those Scottish MP's, Labour could not push through its programme.

Meanwhile, England subsidises Scotland. Estimates vary, but ten billion pounds a year seems the most common round number. It's cheap by comparison with the EU, but it provides even fewer benefits to England. It has never won an ounce of goodwill from ordinary Scots, whose hatred of the "sassenachs" seems actually to have become worse with increasing economic dependence. Englishmen like me who love Scotland and like to visit learn to play up real or imagined Celtic antecedents so as to be treated with moderate courtesy while we are relieved of our money.

Soon it is likely that all three major national political parties will be led by Scots. Scots dominate the present cabinet and will probably dominate the next. 80% of the voters of Gordon Brown's Scottish constituency derive their income from the state, one way or another. This is fairly typical. Scotland is a Socialist "voter farm".

English anger at the "Scottish Raj" is rising to dangerous levels. Ordinary working-class English people are sick and tired of being blamed for everyone else's problems because of the alleged misconduct of their ancestors. St Georges' Day was a non-event when I was a boy with The Times snootily commenting on one occasion that "...nationalism varies inversely with the importance of the nation..." Now the flag of St George flies on that day and the long-slumbering beast of English nationalism is stirring. Debates on the England/Scotland question in the blogosphere are becoming quite disturbing in their intensity.

There is no ethnic difference between us. The DNA of the people on our islands (including the island of Ireland) is so mixed as to make the pretence of ethnicity ridiculous. We are one people, but sadly we don't feel it. Like Conan Doyle, I would like the entire Anglosphere to be politically united, but that's an idealistic dream. What Billy Connolly calls "...the wee pretendy Parliament..." will probably develop into a real one. The original West Lothian question will be supplemented with a new one; how can a United Kindgom government and parliament dominated by Scots negotiate Scottish independence with the Scottish Parliament without the English being stuffed for one last time?

We need an intermediate stage; ideally one which costs no more money and gives employment to no more wasters and scoundrels than the present set up. Here is my proposal

The present House of Commons should remain, but with fair representation for England, Scotland and Wales (i.e. fewer Scottish and Welsh MP's). The House of Lords should be abolished. An English Senate should be elected. The Welsh Assembly should become the Welsh Senate and the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Senate. The three "Petty Senates" should meet separately on issues solely relating to England, Scotland and Wales respectively as unicameral local parliaments with specific delegated powers (identical in each case, rather than the present mishmash).

The three Senates combined (the "Grand Senate") should fulfil the present functions of the House of Lords.

The appointment of judges should be delegated to the chairman of each of the Petty Senates, so that independent judiciaries can emerge over time. The Grand Senate should be charged with forming a new constitution for the United Kingdom. That constitution could include entrenched provisions (e.g. on civil liberties) which could only be amended with the consent of all three Petty Senates.

In the short term this would provide fairness and improve parliamentary democracy. In the long term it would create constitutional perforations which could later be torn to separate two or three of the nations if they so require.

I anticipate it would be England that first decides to go. At least its Petty Senate, rather than the Scots-infiltrated House of Commons, could then provide the negotiating team for the constitutional settlement that would follow.

Monday, November 28, 2005

DVLA sells your details to criminals | the Daily Mail

Do those who want to trust the government with personal data still feel the same after reading this article? If a criminal sets up a fake car parking company, the DVLA will sell him all the information he needs to spot your nice car in traffic and find out where to go to steal it or maybe kidnap your family. Nice.

DVLA sells your details to criminals | the Daily Mail

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hyperactive and also useless |

New Labour has now criminalised more than 700 activities, according to this item. This is a rate of "productivity" more than ten times greater than any previous government.

Hyperactive and also useless |

School lessons in emotions

How degrading - both for pupils and teachers - is this? Since starting this blog, almost everything I have written highlights New Labour's lack of understanding of the proper boundary between individual and State. This little piece in today's Telegraph really proves beyond doubt that in the Government's view there is no boundary.

Telegraph | News | School lessons in emotions

"Who do you think you are kidding Mr Prescott?"

This is well worth a read; not just for the incredibly provocative Labour Party letter that began it, but for the sad spectacle of modern Scots and English attacking each other with dimly-remembered history. It's funny in a sad, poignant way.

"Who do you think you are kidding Mr Prescott?"

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Departmental Legislation: 22 Nov 2005: Written answers (

Thanks to Simon Hughes MP for asking the question, so we can get the current "score" on New Labour's progress towards the criminalisation of everything. I suspect New Labour has created more new offences than this. These are only the ones created by laws steered through Parliament by the Home Secretary.

Departmental Legislation: 22 Nov 2005: Written answers (

No-jury trial plan 'presses on'

People trust juries more than they trust elected representatives. Juries may well be the most trusted element of our civil society. That's odd really, because they are chosen at random. They don't select themselves by applying for the job. Nor are they selected by politicians. They are also a very ancient institution. Most people in Britain have served on one, and they don't lose their faith in the course of the experience. This, despite the fact that they cost personal time and money. Voting, on the other hand, costs nothing. Yet almost no-one now believes in it or trusts its outcome.

Oddly, the House of Lords also performed better when selected by genetic lottery than when chosen on the crony principle by the Prime Minister. Even now, secure from the withdrawal of party support, the Lords consistently perform better than the democratically-elected House of Commons.

Far from undermining jury trial, perhaps we should be extending the principle behind it? Rather than voting, let's select 650 members of the House of Commons entirely at random. We would get a much better cross-section of the community; there would be the "right" numbers of women and ethnic minorities. There would be no such thing as a political career. We would not have nearly so many Scots in Parliament and the odds of getting any members of a political party would be derisory.

BBC NEWS | Politics | No-jury trial plan 'presses on'

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Blair and Hain face fierce backlash over amnesty for 150 IRA fugitives

Imagine the scene 20 years in the future. A red-faced Prime Minister stands at the despatch box, being shouted down by angry MP's. To bring "closure" to Al Qaida's bloody campaign of violence in Britain, he proposes an amnesty. Those who murdered in the name of Islam will - on acknowledging their actions, but without having to appear in court - remain at liberty.

Their punishment? The "shame" of a criminal record!

The punishment of the British public for having been the victims of such crimes? The loss of their civil liberties, their privacy and their traditional fearlessness in the face of state power. Also the loss of numerous innocent lives; hundreds at the hands of terrorists and hundreds more at the hands of the sadistic goons attracted to the police force of the mid-2020's by limitless powers to do summary "justice".

Nothing exposes the hypocrisy of this government more than its attitude to the IRA. Irish terrorists were supported by the United States. So the government cravenly surrendered to them. We would like to believe its opposition to Muslim terrorists is more principled. Sadly, it only began when the USA was attacked. Before then, "Londonistan" was the de facto world headquarters of Islamic terror.

Perhaps it would be better to become the 51st State? At least then we would get some say in these matters? At least then, the President would need to appeal for our support directly to us, rather than to the poodles who lead us now.

Telegraph | News | Blair and Hain face fierce backlash over amnesty for 150 IRA fugitives

The end of time

What a perfect little Telegraph opinion piece; torn, like the newspaper itself, between liberty and nostalgia. New Labour has been a great boon to the "Torygraph" by allowing it to multiply one theme by the other and indulge in nostalgia for liberty.

Telegraph | Opinion | The end of time

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hunt stepped up for Pc's killer

Of course, this is an appalling crime and I hope the killers are caught. However I wish the police responded with such enthusiasm and determination when we "civilians" are the victims.

I am waiting for the usual reassuring statement that "...statistically, these crimes are very rare and there is no reason for public concern..." How odd that we are not hearing that on this occasion.

BBC NEWS | England | Bradford | Hunt stepped up for Pc's killer

Friday, November 18, 2005

One in five men won't reach retirement if age rises to 67

Surely this is the point? The intention of the "reform" is to match pension payments to the State's ability to pay. We are such mugs for the notion that only the State can be trusted that no-one is reporting this story as they should. The press has fulminated over private sector pensions scandals. This one is seen as the fault of "society" - i.e. no-one's fault.

In fact, it is a classic case of mis-selling and fraud. Our grandparents were sold a state pensions scheme funded from compulsory contributions, with an element of socialist subsidy so that the rich would pay more but everyone would get the same. They voted repeatedly for governments which promoted this lie.

Our grandparents never discovered it was a lie. The pension funds were stolen and used for various mad schemes. Their pensions were paid from general taxation. They were the parents of the baby boomers and their fecundity provided for them, just as that of medieval peasants used to do.

Our parents realised something was up. The scheme was "reformed" by the abolition of earnings-related pensions which were unfunded by contributions and which their taxes could not sustain - except for civil servants and politicians. They never discerned the lie though. They kept trusting the State to provide.

Now we are supposed to be so stupid that we don't detect the lie either. The "pot" to pay our pensions is long since spent; given to African dictators and other more deserving sorts than us. We have been taxed to pay our grandparents' and parents' pensions, but our children are too few and too poor to pay ours. Therefore we must die in greater numbers before becoming entitled to pensions. We must be grateful that the government is raising the pension age to achieve this. They could have proposed euthanasia instead. Perhaps that will be the next stage of "reform?"

How does the conduct of successive governments differ from that of the Halifax bank manager recently jailed? He defrauded investors by paying their "profits" from other peoples' money. So did they. The only difference is in the consequences to the individuals concerned. He is now serving well-deserved jail time as a guest of Her Majesty. They are her Ministers and Privy Councillors.

Telegraph | News | One in five men won't reach retirement if age rises to 67

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ex-MI5 chief sparks ID card row

I am surprised at the fuss. No-one believed ID cards would help counter terrorism anyway. Even David Blunkett (what bliss to mention his wretched name now he's gone) admitted as much.

ID cards and the associated database are not about safety. This project is about control. It is hard to know whether to fear more its success or its failure. If it "succeeds", our lives will be tracked by the state on a scale undreamed of in the most totalitarian regimes. Ministers lie brazenly that it will be a "yes/no" identity verification system. That may be true, at least initially, for those other than the security services, the police and their political masters. That seems quite enough intrusion to be going on with - and it will get worse.

Remember how asset seizure was at first an exceptional power to be used only against terrorists? Then it was extended to drug dealers. Now the police can seize and crush your car if you forget to renew your insurance. Or HM Customs can seize it if they don't believe you are personally going to smoke the fags and drink the booze you are bringing back from France. How long did that "function creep" take? It seems to have been more a "function sprint"

I give it not more than 5 years for the tax man to have full access to the database, regardless of which Government is in power. Before long after that the local librarian will be able to track you down to collect the fine on that book you forgot to return. You will be asked to produce the card to cash a cheque, hire a car or check into an hotel. A policeman wiil certainly ask for it if you sleep in a ditch. They will hook it up to their other mad plan - the compulsory satellite car tracking system for "road pricing" and speed limit enforcement.

If you want to be a free man, you will have to travel in stolen cars, live by mugging and spend only your stolen cash. Otherwise, you may as well live in a glass house and walk the streets naked with your net worth tattooed on your buttocks.

As for failure, the insanely-centralised and comprehensive database will be a global top ten hacker target. Breaking into it would enable identity theft so perfect that a victim will need to adopt a new one. Nor need we fear only the technically-minded criminal. Cash to the right official will secure whatever is needed.

As PJ O 'Rourke said " money and power to politicians is like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys..." Even if (mysteriously) you love and trust the present bunch, how much imagination do you need to work out what future politicians will do with the control over your life that this database will give them?

BBC NEWS | Politics | Ex-MI5 chief sparks ID card row

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Europa - dein Name ist Feigheit

This is the first foreign language article I have blogged. It's worth stretching your GCSE German to read. For those without German, here is a link to a translation.

Europa - dein Name ist Feigheit

Taxman to snoop in your home

Tax is a libertarian issue. If the State taxes citizens according to the quality of their homes, then logically it must be able to enter those homes. If it taxes them on using a TV, then it must be able to check if they have a TV. If it taxes them on what they earn, it must be able to check if they are lying about their income.

The more taxes there are, the less liberty there is. Simple taxes are not just a good idea because they allow people to save time and money on interacting with the Government. They are not just a good idea because they allow creativity to be diverted from tax avoidance to production. They are not just a good idea because they reduce the number of Government employees and therefore reduce taxes overall. They are also a good idea because they reduce the need for the State to interfere in our lives.

If all taxes were assessed on spending, for example, they would be broadly progressive (the wealthier you are, the more you spend); they would encourage saving and investment; they would require very little enforcement (because retailers would collect them at point of sale) and they would require no intrusion into privacy. The Government would not need to know how (or even where) you live, or how much you earn.

Every day, laws are introduced on the assumption that the State is more trustworthy than its citizens. There is nothing in human history to support that idea. Why are we so naieve?

Telegraph | News | Taxman to snoop in your home

Monday, November 14, 2005

'Army wanted an officer on trial over Iraq. They picked my husband'

This government has no loyalty to the men and women of our armed services. They are ready enough to use them to make a political point, but they have no concern for their welfare. The failure of the Ministry of Defence to equip them properly for the Iraq war made that clear enough.

Labour's seedy political hacks would never put themselves in danger for a country whose historic values and institutions they despise. They don't much like the old-fashioned souls who will.

Labour's spin doctors want to reach out to Muslim voters, so they throw our soldiers to the wolves. Small wonder the Army is finding it harder to recruit.

Telegraph | News | 'Army wanted an officer on trial over Iraq. They picked my husband'

Sunday, November 13, 2005

One in four Labour MPs out to cripple Tony Blair

This is a bad moment for the Conservatives to be without a leader. The 25% of Labour MPs who will rebel on health and education matters are not Conservative allies on anything but civil liberty issues. However, on those issues, the odious Bliar is.

Britain's society is in crisis, with teenagers stabbing each other in school and thugs roaming the streets, precisely because of the education system that the Labour rebels defend. It is easier for a Labour government to reform education than the Conservatives, because the latter are vulnerable to accusations (particularly if led by Etonians) that they don't care about the State system. In the dying moments of the Blair administration, there is the chance for the man who has done so much harm to do some good. If he wants to reintroduce selection and head teacher discretion on disciplinary matters, the Conservatives should back him.

Similar arguments apply to health. The NHS is not the envy of the world. Young lawyers from Eastern Europe seconded by my firm to London have been disgusted by the NHS. It is our national shame. It is the second largest organisation on Earth after the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army, and is about as effective in delivering healthcare. It is Labour's sick baby and Labour can cure it. The Conservatives should help them.

Telegraph | News | One in four Labour MPs out to cripple Tony Blair

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A night in the cells gave me a different view of the cops

Thank goodness Boris Johnson had a night in the cells to learn that policemen are not saints. All MP's should have his experience. 291 of them deserve to spend much longer in custody for their betrayal of Britain.

As a young man, I spent almost a year as a criminal defence lawyer to learn that policemen are as flawed as other humans. It should not have come as a surprise, but I was brought up by Daily Mail readers who believed in our "boys in blue;" (they don't any more, by the way).

Policemen under pressure to perform take short cuts, just as the "cop shows" on TV portray. "Doing wrong to do right" makes good TV and bad real life.

If an Oxford Police Constable will try to stitch up a blond undergraduate with a criminal damage charge to improve his clear up rate, how much more will an anti-terrorist officer with the Home Secretary on his back and a terrified public clamouring for action in the wake of a terror attack be prepared to bend the rules to get "a result"? Consider the case of the Birmingham Six. I don't doubt the police in that case believed them guilty. They didn't knowingly stitch up innocent men. That was the effect of their behaviour, however.

The police are not to be trusted. Not because they are the police, but because they are people. None of us are to be trusted when push comes to shove, which is why society has frameworks of rules within which we can be protected from each other.

28 days detention without trial is less than half as wicked as 90 days. But it is still wicked. And the "glorification of terror" law is a farce. Unless the Home Secretary is prepared to order the arrest of the French ambassador next Bastille Day, that is.

Sun readers fondly imagine that the law will be used in racist ways to round up shifty-looking Muslims. That's why they favour stringent powers. Sun readers presumably imagine we have enough jails to round up millions of Allah-botherers and hold them until - what? Until the threat passes? It won't. Not by these means, at least.

All historical experience of terrorism (and we have more than most nations) shows such measures will make things worse. Every time they are used, our authorities will generate sectarian hatred. One innocent Muslim held without charge for 28 days will produce dozens of Muslims (him, his family and friends) with a genuine sense of injustice. One evangelical Christian punished for preaching a literal, but unflattering, interpretation of the Koran, will produce thousands of embittered non-Muslims.

Blair's macho stance on terrorism betrays the psyche of a deeply insecure man. The press today focusses on his political weakness. History will focus on the damage he has done to our society with his endless spin, posturing and political manoeuvering. He is the worst PM we have ever had. What a shame his annointed successor may be even worse.

Telegraph | Opinion | A night in the cells gave me a different view of the cops

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

High principles and low politics

It is surprising to read this in the Daily Mail, but encouraging. Tony Blair, a lawyer married to an eminent civil rights lawyer, is deliberately and cynically removing fundamental freedoms to win favour with tabloid editors and voters of authoritarian leanings. The Mail's editor is sending a hostile signal. His readers ARE those authoritarian British voters.

Our ancestors fought for these rights. If we lose them, we will not get them back without fighting again. Are we ready for that? Bearing in mind that the preceding sentences might be in breach of the proposed new laws, exactly how would we fight?

European neighbours from civilised countries; some with great traditions of democracy, lived under decades of totalitarian rule because it was impossible to organise effective resistance to police states with fewer resources, both technical and legal, than our government is now putting in place. They might not be free today if their rulers had not been impoverished by the implosion of their ludicrously-organised economies. If we allow detention without trial - on the say-so of a policeman or politician, we may have to wait for one of the world's top 5 economies to collapse. That could take a while.

In the meantime, we will lose the freedom from fear we have always enjoyed in dealing with authority. Annoy them and they will have the power to destroy our livelihood on a pretended suspicion. Initially (until the next Blair "reform") they will have to justify themselves to a judge. But they won't need evidence to suggest we are guilty; just enough to give grounds for "suspicion". The spin-masters behind the "dodgy dossier" won't find that hard.

I really hope this is a turning point for the better in British history. The opinion polls suggest otherwise, but if there are enough men and women of judgement and principle in the House of Commons tonight, there is still a faint hope.

High principles and low politics | the Daily Mail

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Universities warn over terror Bill | the Daily Mail

It may not be the worst thing about this Government, but its sloppy approach to legal drafting is a telling disgrace. I don't know how the Government Law Officers and the lawyers in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman can live with themselves. Again and again, they have permitted the sloppy language of the saloon bar and the political pamphlet to find its way into law.

To criminalise the ownership or production of "suspicious" materials begs the questions of "suspicious to whom?" or "giving rise to suspicions of what?"

I can almost hear Blair or Clarke saying - some months from now - that terrorists have applied for jobs in University libraries or chemistry labs to give themselves a respectable "cover" to store and disseminate suspicious literature or to produce suspicious chemicals.

Simply saying that fears of impinging on academic (or any other freedom) are not "justified" is not an answer. It doesn't matter what Parliament intended in drafting a law (unless the law is ambiguous). Generally it matters what the law actually says. The police and Crown Prosecution will use it as it is drafted and the courts must interpret it likewise. It will not be a defence to say "...but Parliament didn't intend this..."

If there is no evidence to charge a man, don't arrest him. He is innocent until proven guilty, right? So get the proof. Observe him, follow him, tap his phones (under judicial supervision) or whatever. Don't just arrest him because you don't like the look of him and then fish around for some justification for what you have done. Nor, in a free country, should you arrest him for thinking bad thoughts or even expressing them. He should only be arrested when he can be charged with actions or - at the very least - with criminal conspiracy to act.

We are drifting rapidly into a police state. The idiots who think that every danger requires a ritual sacrifice of liberty are ignoring the biggest danger of all. The last century was characterised, not by terrorist atrocities, but by the enslavement of individuals by over-mighty states. That is still by far a greater danger.

Universities warn over terror Bill | the Daily Mail

Monday, November 07, 2005

Voters back 90-day detention plan | the Daily Mail

Are they mad? Do they understand that "terrorism suspect" is not the same as "terrorist?" Can they not conceive that they, their spouses, their children or their friends could be among those suspects? How on earth can it be true that 72% of British voters are prepared to allow the liberties that have protected us for centuries to be thrown away one after another? Who are these people?

Voters back 90-day detention plan | the Daily Mail

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I hate England - Sunday Times - Times Online

It has long been the case that the only race which it is permissible to hate is the English. For proof, please read AA Gill's article in full. If you are English, be warned that you may find it offensive. It is clearly intended to be so. If the English are the lumpen, loutish, angry, bloodlusting would-be axe-wielders he portrays, we must at least be proud of our self-restraint. How else can we account for our murder rate being one third that of his beloved Scotland's? It is that same restraint that allows us to view with cool contempt the hatred of this affected twit.

When reading his words of wisdom, please apply my patent racism test. Substitute "Pakistani" or "Welsh" for every reference to the English. Then ask yourself if this clown deserves his sophisticated reputation.

I hate England - Sunday Times - Times Online

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Telegraph | Opinion | Simon Heffer on Saturday

Simon Heffer highlights the nauseating consequences of a government so addicted to "spin" (tr. lies) that it has ceased to exercise any moral judgement. Soldiers are prosecuted on evidence described by the judge as "...too inherently weak or vague for any sensible person to rely on..." Why? Because Muslim Labour voters must be shown that the Government is on their side. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner brings some of his own officers up on disciplinary charges over false allegations of racism. Why? To show that he is a "progressive" policeman worthy of being under the PM's security blunkett when he fouls up.

Stand morality on its head. Elevate hypocrisy to the level of art. Win three, and maybe yet four terms at the trough of corruption and privilege by lying at every turn. What do you get? Modern Britain.

Telegraph | Opinion | Simon Heffer on Saturday

Blair accused over sunset advice

I cannot commend you strongly enough to this brilliant spoof of the BBC's style and Tony Blair's approach to civil liberties.

BBC NEWS | UK | Politics | Blair accused over sunset advice

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The stamp of inequity

This Telegraph opinion piece makes a good point, but the most interesting observation is in the sub-text. Such injustice could never be visited on "...the Government's client groups..." says the anonymous commentator. It can be done however to those who are "...socially responsible, and with a stake in the country, and therefore unlikely to do anything except suffer in silence..."

So someone has finally, at least in code, spoken the truth. The Labour government is not interested in ordinary, decent people. Its "client groups", by implication, are those who are socially irresponsible, have no stake in Britain and have tendencies to violent antisocial behaviour.

This has long been implicit in Labour's every policy. I don't understand why even the Torygraph is too polite to say so openly. Perhaps it is afraid to put a spoke in the wheel of the Cameron "New New Labour" bandwagon?

Would it not be amusing, by the way, if a brave new free enterprise society were to arise from a revolt against stamp duty? It has happened before...

Telegraph | Opinion | The stamp of inequity

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blair's Britain, Part II

One evening this week, the motion detectors in the small yard at the rear of our town house in England set off warning bleeps inside. It had just gone dark. Mrs Paine looked through the blinds. Two shaven-headed young men, aged between 18 and 20, were leering at her, bathed in the bright light of our automatic security lamps. They gave her the finger, laughed and - thank goodness - vaulted the rear fence and ran away.

She called me in Russia. I suggested she called the police. She laughed. "They won't come for days. What's the point?" That was a sad thought, but I could only agree. In modern police thinking, the guys in our yard were "customers", not us. And calling them would have reduced the small chance of their doing anything useful by giving them more pointless form-filling.

What disturbed my wife most was that, in the seconds before our visitors noticed her, they seemed to be enjoying themselves; messing about and setting off the alarms (more audible, deliberately, outside than in) without any concern. Probably they were waiting to see if anyone reacted before forcing an entry. "They were laughing," she said, "I am frightened."

She has now rejoined me in Moscow. Our apartment here is guarded by private security men, paid for - and accountable to - the residents. Russia neither has Government for the underclass, nor a police sensitised to social issues.

Since, unlike fox-hunting or speeding, burglary is not considered a serious enough crime to be worth police time in Britain, it's as common an irritation to householders as a burst pipe or a lost roof tile. Every home we ever had in Britain, humble or more upmarket, has been burgled.

What makes the incident part of "Blair's Britain" is that these men didn't care about being seen. They thought it was funny. They were frightening because they were shameless. They know that Labour is the Government for the underclass; that the police don't even pretend to try to catch them. They feel utterly safe. We don't.

We don't need more laws. We don't need new initiatives. We don't need more statistics. We don't need more police powers. We need our police off their arses and out on the streets. We need police who understand who they REALLY work for. We need the laws we have always had rigorously enforced, and all "binge legislating" (as Andrew Marr tellingly described it) of recent years ignored until public order has been restored.

Public transport 'drink ban plan'

This story illustrates two points about Britain and British politics. What is it, to begin with, about the British and drink? Why should we be the only people in the world who can't be trusted to be sensible with the stuff? The answer is, of course, that we are no different than anyone else. It's not that we are less trustworthy, but that our Government is less trusting. Any parent of teenagers knows that there is no better way to stimulate bad behaviour than to expect it and clamp down on it before it begins.

The second point is about our approach to law enforcement. Some people frequently get drunk and behave badly. Most people don't. Bad people behave badly whether it's illegal or not. They will smuggle alcohol onto trains and planes and drink it, Michael Jackson-style, from Coke bottles. When they get nasty the bus drivers, trolley dollies and wagon dragons will pretend not to notice because, let's face it, they weren't hired to be police.

Good people, however, are easily controlled. So, says the Government, let's control them and be seen to be doing something. It may create thousands of unpleasant interactions between fundamentally nice travellers and fundamentally nice people serving them on buses, trains and planes, but no-one can say we didn't act.

Don't trust anyone to be personally responsible. Anticipate bad behaviour. When it happens, restrict the liberty of good people as well as bad, spreading resentment and rebellious attitudes. Avert your gaze from the really bad in case they get nasty. Repeat this pattern a thousand times and you have modern Britain, with its sociologist coppers and bullshitting politicians persecuting the respectable and chumming up with the underclass.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Public transport 'drink ban plan'

Friday, October 28, 2005

Putting it kindly, Blunkett is mad

Bloggers lack the benefit of the news media's specialised lawyers. Many seem to assume that it's safe to be outrageous, but some public figures are notably litigious. Defamation is an untrue statement about another which is likely to lower their reputation among "right thinking" members of the public. The best defence is "justification"; i.e. that the statement is true. Against politicians, the fallback defence is that, if untrue, the statement was "fair comment on a matter of public interest".

Even with constant legal advice on tap, the media lose a number of libel cases every year. They reserve funds for the purpose (in the case of Private Eye, that must be a major part of the budget), but bloggers could face losing their homes if they are sued successfully. They are publishing globally, so they may be liable under laws they don't know in countries they have never even visited. The pseudonyms under which many write would be no protection. ISPs or the companies providing their blog accounts could be ordered to disclose. Some are therefore notably brave, rather rash or - always the best defence in litigation - too poor to be worth suing.

David Blunkett is not a man averse to the courts. In clearing Tom Utley's opinion piece today the Telegraph's lawyers have shown courage and I respect them for it. I am not qualified to comment on David Blunkett's sanity, but feel free to state he is a man of little political judgement and less understanding. As Home Secretary, he was a threat to the nation's liberties, for which he appears to have little or no respect.

I liked Utley's word "mentionitis"; the need of a lover to mention his beloved. In my opinion, Blunkett's main beloved is Blunkett. Despite his protests against invasion of his privacy, the examples Tom Utley cites suggest to me that Blunkett's main psychological objective is to be noticed, rather than be ignored as his mediocrity so richly deserves.

Telegraph | Opinion | Putting it kindly, Blunkett is mad

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Home repossession orders soar by 66 per cent as debt mounts

It's horrible to think of people facing repossessions, but when we read that UK consumers owe "more than £1,000 billion, exceeding the debts of Africa and South America put together" what do we really expect? We knew we had 70% of Europe's consumer debt, but to learn we owe more than two continents combined really puts the problem in context.

House prices have been rising faster than earnings. Ultimately, that's not sustainable. The Economist estimated months ago that UK housing was 60% overvalued on average.

Labour's economic "success" is a mirage. The liberal reforms of the Thatcher years have been steadily eroded. We have not been getting richer as much as we have been spending borrowed money against overvalued assets. That gave us the appearance and perhaps even the feeling of success, but the reckoning was bound to come eventually. As belts tighten and retail-driven jobs are lost, the true costs of the burgeoning British state - 800,000 unproductive posts added since Gordon Brown took the financial reins - will become painfully apparent.

Telegraph | News | Home repossession orders soar by 66 per cent as debt mounts

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Labour has left a scar on the soul of Britain

Simon Heffer's article expresses exactly what I feel about Britain today. He may be slightly unfair in blaming Labour so directly. As he says, there are no grounds for optimism that a Conservative government would be any less invasive.

Generations of voters have lived with and now accept the dominant role of the state in everyday life. We have been "sovietised" to such an extent that only economic collapse will force us to the truth. That could take longer than I have left.

The current controversy over smoking bans is a case in point. Only the intensity of the repression is in dispute. Comments on the BBC website say facile things like "why shouldn't the majority view prevail?" Ordinary people are illiberal and intolerant, failing to understand that, in one way or another, we are all in minorities. If only those activities which are *always* conducted by a majority are free from State control, then we may as well appoint our commisars now.

As for the "secondary damage" argument - entirely unproved - so what if it's true? There is secondary damage from thousands of everyday activities. I hesitate to name them for fear of encouraging their suppression. Suffice to say that no man is an island. It is not possible to move through this life without impacting others. A little courtesy to those we inconvenience should be met with a little tolerance from them. We are all on one side or other of that equation in the course of every day. If we can't accommodate each other, we must let the State decide between us.

No-one forces non-smokers to go to smoking restaurants or pubs. If they *only* go to those with no-smoking policies, their majority status will soon ensure that most are non-smoking. Likewise, if staff choose not to work in smoky environments, most employers will have to accommodate them. We, as individuals, have been dealing with it for years. I have not been anywhere for some time without a smoke-free area. I have had to give up favourite restaurants because there is nowhere for a post-dinner cigar. I have not complained. I have accepted the proprietor's right to set the policy he thinks will appeal to his target customers and I have looked for other places. There is no need for the state to dictate terms.

I have come to the view that it isn't the government's fault that it interferes in every aspect of our life. We are a democracy and governments stay in power by - in general - giving people what they want. It is the fault of the uneducated, authoritarian majority which expects it of them. I am so far from being a "normal" Briton today, that I must retire to a different country, with a less-intrusive, or at least less well-organised, State.

Since any attempts by Blair to roll back even the most recent stupidities of Labour education policy are resisted fiercely by the Labour Left, there is no hope of better educated voters in my lifetime. Generations of comprehensive education have poisoned the wells to such an extent that we lack suitably-qualified people to teach maths, science and languages. Our schools, like our other public services, are Socialist "voter farms" where any teacher with a remotely liberal opinion would be afraid to express it.

I cannot see a way any way out but out. I have a few years yet to decide, as I work outside the UK. My only ground for optimism is that one candidate for Tory leader has a daughter named Liberty. Unless he's more radical than he seems, naming her Chastity may prove to have been no less nostalgic.

Telegraph | Opinion | Labour has left a scar on the soul of Britain

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fear and rumours grip Birmingham

Did the Asians of Birmingham arrive in England with more money than the immigrants from the West Indies? I don't think so. If they own the shops in the Lozells area, is it because they stole them? No, they have bought or rented them.

Do they get the chance to buy or rent because of "racism?" I don't think so. Do white racists discriminate between non-whites? I have never heard of such a thing.

As for Asians "working together" in the way complained of by black activists, the only evidence I have of that from my own experience, is the practice whereby an Asian seller of a business will lend his purchaser the money to buy. It is true that I have not seen that done across ethnic lines, but I think it could happen if the business terms were right. Even if it is only possible between Asians, because blacks don't trust each other enough, neither do whites. So that can hardly be the problem.

The obvious other type of "working together" (Asian family members sharing the risks and rewards of a business) is open to anyone. It is no-one else's fault if blacks (and whites) choose not to do it.

The attacks on Asian shopkeepers, if they were white on black, would be called "hate crimes". In this instance, the police are swift to deny that and to claim that they don't represent the true state of community relations in Lozells.

Racism or not, it seems to be a repetition of a pattern whereby disadvantaged communities in Britain perpetuate their own problems by externalising them; by blaming them on others. Why do blacks in Lozells not see the Asian shopkeepers as a positive example of what can be achieved by enterprise and effort? Why not try to emulate their success, rather than resent it? Sadly, one could ask many Scots, Welsh or English Northerners the same question. The "others" are a ready-made excuse, which obviates the need to try. One can luxuriate in the glorious status of oppressed minority, benefitting from every civilised person's respect and sympathy, without lifting a finger. You may be poor, but the Guardian loves you, and the National Theatre can be relied upon to glorify your noble poverty at regular intervals.

In a sense the white English are to blame for everyone else's problems. If they weren't there as an excuse (and if they had not legitimised that excuse by creating such institutions as the Commission for Racial Equality) these problems could not exist.

Until minorities understand that by using others as scapegoats they perpetuate their problems, nothing can change. Certainly, the scapegoats' bleating will not help. Perhaps a greater reluctance to be tethered and slashed might?

Already, one can detect a new aspiration in British society. To get the full benefits of membership, one must belong to an oppressed minority. Hence the increasing suggestion that to be assaulted, murdered or raped is worse if one belongs to a "minority" rather than being a horror which all humans can endure. Hence the growth in lobbying for this or that minority group. The truth is that we are all in a minority of one and our best chance of success is to work with people from other such minorities, in whatever way achieves the best results!

We have chosen to pretend that we live in the idealised multicultural harmony that we desire. The common areas in our ethnic Venn diagram comprise the most educated and civilised members of the different communities. They do the Guardian crossword together in the wine bar and reflect complacently on our society's achievements. Life in Lozells, and places like it, is not quite like that. But it could be, if people didn't destroy their potential by denying it exists; if they didn't excuse their failures by blaming them on others before even trying.

Facing facts, and speaking the truth to each other might be hard, but it could be our only way forward as a nation.

BBC NEWS | UK | Fear and rumours grip Birmingham

Monday, October 24, 2005

Blair faces new charge of cronyism over leaked plan to make Labour donors peers

Why does the Daily Telegraph use the gentle word "cronyism" rather than the more accurate word, corruption? Does anyone now remember how New Labour swept to power amid allegations of Tory "sleaze?"

Telegraph | News | Blair faces new charge of cronyism over leaked plan to make Labour donors peers

Sunday, October 23, 2005

To be English

How did our nationality become such a dilemma to us? We can understand and respect national pride in the French, the Scots or the Irish. We can even accept their taunts with good humour. So why can't we give what we get? Do we really think our Nation is worthy of less love or respect than others? I don't think so. In our hearts, though too "modern" to admit to it, I suspect most of us love our country as much as did our great hero whose death was commemorated this week.

The Act of Union was an expensive mistake. England has gained nothing from it but the brooding, resentful presence of Scots for whom their every misfortune is our fault. In a hopeless attempt to make the Union work, the English have suppressed their sense of national pride; have called themselves British (as few Scots ever did) and have tried vainly to win the love of their neighbours.

In an ideal world the people of our islands - including the island of Ireland - would be one nation. The differences between us are far, far slighter than the cultural forces which bind us. Peoples with the same language; people whose children learn the same nursery rhymes; people who laugh at the same jokes; people who can love the same poetry and art; people who have common approaches to liberty and rights, belong together. But if more than 200 years have not brought the Scots to that realisation, why waste money, energy and guilt on centuries more of unappreciated effort?

I have lived in two other countries. I came to love Poland. I want her to prosper and take pride in the sight of her goods on display in other nation's shop windows. My children grew up there. Most of my friends are Poles. If she is threatened, or criticised, I feel for her.

Now I live in Russia. Russia is harder to love (and less eager to be loved) but in two years I have come to respect and admire an enormously impressive culture. Russia has contributed nothing good to politics, economics or gastronomy, but she has made a peerless contribution to the arts.

Yet I have never felt more English than I do now. I have never cared more when England is threatened or criticised. I have never been more concerned about her future. I have never felt more resentful of the traitors who rule her, confound their knavish tricks.

I am concerned that some people who came to England full of claims have never learned to love her, or even respect her. Even some of their children and grandchildren feel, inexplicably, more loyalty to foreign ideologies, customs and traditions than to those of the great nation that has welcomed and nurtured them and twisted its own ideologies to accomodate them. No nation outside the Anglosphere has ever tried to modify its culture so as to absorb the influences of foreign immigrants. It was a brave experiment, and I am proud of the attempt, but it cannot yet be called a success.

If I can learn to love Poland in a decade, what is wrong with my country that some of these people can't learn to love it in three generations? What is wrong with my countrymen that when a few such maniacs commit suicidal and murderous attacks on our people, they look to blame each other?

England has rarely been ruled by her own. For centuries we laboured under rulers who despised us and delighted in tracing their ancestry to William the Conqueror. They owned the land and we worked it. At the time of the story portrayed in Braveheart, the kings of England and Scotland both saw themselves as Norman. The confrontation in Stirling Cathedral, so chauvinistically portrayed in the film, would have been a polite discussion in courtly French between two nobles who felt no more for the Scots or English than for their other cattle. They would have scorned to speak either Scots Gaelic or English. It's ludicrous that the heirs of those "cattle" should base animosity to each other on long-forgotten allegiances to such invaders.

Now the Scots ARE ruled by their own. They have their own parliament and they have ours too. They have all the top cabinet positions and they shape the United Kingdom's policies to Scotland's ends. They conspire, as they always did, with the French and their joint aim is as it ever was. England is once again ruled by foreigners while the practical English - as ever - focus on the arts, the sciences and the generation of wealth to be squandered by others.

When will England too be free? I am a cosmopolitan with friends from many nations. I do not need to despise them or their countries to feel in my bones that no nation has given the world more than mine. We deserve our place in the world, and to be proud of it.