Arthurian Legend

"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?' Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword." Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

O how fallen! how changed...

A nation that once had an empire over which the sun never set no longer has the power to change its light bulbs.

See here.

Michael Cockrell: thoughts on the second Blair documentary

This piece may be refined, amended or added to after posting...

I have admitted in a previous post that up to and during the Iraq invasion I had supported Blair's decision to send British troops to depose Saddam and to try to impose better governance of that country.

But Cockrell's film helped to crystalise a number of thoughts that had been gradually developing and taking shape over the past 12 months or so.

In brief, these are some of the conclusions that I have tentatively formed:

1. Britian's earlier operational successes in deposing in fairly short order the hostile military regimes in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan were successful precisely because British military might was so much greater in comparison to the opposition that it faced.

2. Blair's successes in these conflicts emboldened him in a way that weakened (I think perceptibly) his critical faculties, and made him less hard-headed in his calculations not only of Britain's best interests, but whether what was planned was likely to succeed in the time frame that was open to him as Prime Minister. He was almost like a gambler on a winning streak who thought the cards were always going to turn up for him.

3. I never believed before the invasion that British forces in Cyprus or elsewhere were at any significant risk from Saddam. If Saddam had pre-emptively sent rockets to attack Britain or British forces then he should and probably would have known that we had the capacity to bomb his country back to the twelfth century. And quite possibly would have.

4. Before the invasion I had believed, from reading Con Coughlin's biography of Saddam, that Iraq had WMD, before I had read the published document from the Government on the issue. But the presence or absence of WMD was not to my mind the crucial justification for armed intervention: the fact that Saddam himself was a one-man WMD was good enough, I thought.

5. Blair had at least implicity committed Britain to intervene in Iraq from as early as the "Colgate summit" in early 2002; I think that he had also made up his own mind then in a way that, given what I can deduce from his psyche, would have made it extraordinarily difficult for him to change.

6. If it had all worked out well, order had been imposed quickly, and democracy and a peaceful society had begun to flourish within a year of the invasion, then the "Not in My Name" crowd would have looked even more ridiculous than I thought they did at the time.

7. However, Iraq was crucially different not only from the countries to which Blair had previouly sent forces, but also from how it was in the 1920s when Britain was last there in force as a colonial power. Oil money, telecommunications and the instruments of war had distinctivly improved the trouble or resistance that people on home soil (including those from Iran and Syria) could deploy against British and Amercian troops.

8. The geographical size of Iraq, and the relatively small number of British forces available exposed again the fact that Britain is no longer an imperial power which impose itself almost at will on an Arab state - if it ever could.

9. Just because some particular outcome is desirable and even "right" (as Blair might put it) (for example, toppling a bloody and brutal dictator), this doesn't mean that the operation to do so is wise and therefore "right". There are some times when it is better to take a hard-nosed approach to British interests and err on the side of caution, rather than gambling massively that what you do will work out.

I think it is this point perhaps above all others that I refused to accept before and during the invasion. Or rather, that I thought that the risks were worth it. Perhaps I didn't think it was actually much of a risk at all - that success in toppling Saddam was certain. And on that I was right.

But I didn't fully consider all the ramifications of the action, and understand what else needed to be done after the invasion to maximise the chances of success. And that resulted, I think, simply from a lack of knowledge of military history, of the culture of the region, and of the practical logistics. Something that as Prime Minister you absolutely have to know before making any decisions.

10. The massive size of the task, and the vastly greater US contingent, meant that Britain would not be on equal terms this time around, or even realistically think that it could critically influence the way in which the US forces operatated and the decisions that were taken.

The supposed justification for British intervention that we would somehow improve matters to a sufficient extent if we didn't allow America to 'go it alone' seems quite thin, given the relative weight of the respective armed contributions.

11. The argument about failed states, rogue regimes, proliferation and an inter-dependent world requiring greater amounts of intervention is only neat if the intervention works. Somethimes, it may just be necessary to live with that threat where the resources and will to deal with it properly are not there.

12. By contrast, there is some evidence that Blair's determination to send ground troops into Kosovo swayed Clinton, and that as a result of the snowballing pressure started by Blair, France and Russia joined in and persuaded Milosovic to back down.

13. Aspects of the way that the US fight are deeply uncomfortable to British sensibilities. This meant that the Prime Minister and the British participation in the war in general was going to take a lot of flak. Without a VERY good justification for our presence there, it was going to be very significantly tougher to live with those negative aspects. These include:

a) the repeated complaint that not every US soldier or airman will double- and triple-check before firing on supposedly hostile forces (which turn out to be British)

b) the distasteful gung-ho rhetoric in at least some of the pre-action pep talks

c) the openly disrespectful attitude of some the immature US forces towards the Iraqis (I think of that scence where the soldiers in the US tank drove around Baghdad listed to loud music with lyrics that screamed "burn mutha f****r, burn"

14. On the subject of "international law": I don't have any significant problems in principle with Britain and the US and other democratic countries in the Anglosphere conducting military operations without explicit UN backing, particularly if it is the old suspects France, Russia and China that are holding things back purely for their own self-interest. But if you are going to do something without formal UN backing, for goodness' sake make sure that the 'intelligence' you are presenting is watertight, and that you make all the preparations and provide all the resouces necessary to execute the policy competently and successfully.

15. On the pre-war 'intelligence': "sporadic and patchy" was not "detailed, extensive and authoratative". Blair might have felt that telling the whole truth about the intelligence would have meant that a mission which was in his eyes right and justified would not get the necessary backing, and that therefore it was permisible to be less than candid about the full picture.

This was both a moral and a strategic mistake: the truth will find you out on an issue of such importance and on which there was such public scrutiny.

16. It may be that some people would not have supported Blair that otherwise did so on the basis of the evidence available. But others may have respected his honesty, and been more willing to trust his judgement if there was not the issue about his truthfulness.

17. But if Blair couldn't have got the support required by telling the whole truth then it would have been noble to resign: and history may well have judged him better than it is currently doing.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Islington: The Nice Bits

Out with Mrs. Legend on Sunday afternoon for lunch and a stroll round part of the borough.

There are some very attractive streets - constructed long before the socialist/Nazi/Lib Dumb menace blighted this part of London.

Then there are some lovely squares:

And some highly elegant houses

...and then we have THIS monstrosity:

Commissioned and designed by someone with an aesthetic lobotomy.

Anything, surely anything, could be better than this.

OK, if the Conservatives were ever to get in, perhaps it wouldn't be the FIRST priority to raze. But replacing this hideous eyesore with somthing other than what David Blunkett splashed down on paper after a tab of E could perhaps feature somewhere on the list..?

Monday, 26 February 2007

Anthony Crosland: 30 Years Ago

On the week of the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Anthony Crosland, Tom Watson wonders what he would have to say about the current state of British politics.

Mr Crosland's proud ambition? As his wife put it in her biography of her husband, "If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England"

In 1974, Hackney Downs Boys' (Grammar) School, with an excellent academic reputation, was made a Comprehensive.

20 years later it was described as the 'worst school in Britain'.

Even the local socialist MP, Diane Abbott, refused to send her son there.

So what would Crosland have to say about the current state of play in British politics?

Frankly, who cares...

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Tony Blair's "madness": a response to Rachel from North London

My view on Tony Blair's domestic record is, as those who know me will testify, that on the whole it has been a collosal missed opportunity, a massive waste of time, and in many ways deeply regressive. Simon Heffer's column the other day summed up many of my views (though for the record, I did not agree with absolutely everything he said, and he also missed out important failings of Blair's time in government, particularly regarding EU-related matters).

But my view on Blair's foreign policy record is more mixed. At least in the beginning I was a strong advocate of British intervention in Iraq to depose Saddam. I'm not so sure that I would support it again if we now found ourselves back in early 2003, but that's a discussion for another day.

However, I do take exception to Rachel's assesment of Blair's Today programme interview with Humphreys the other morning.

Here's what I posted on her blog in reply to her comments on Blair's "denial" of responsibility for what is currently happening in Iraq:

"So, if an Iraqi or Iranian terrorist plants a roadside bomb in Iraq that kills a passing family in a car, opens fire on people queuing up for a job interview, or commits some other random act of murder, they are NOT to blame? Is that what you are saying?

Human beings are not hornets; we are (or at least ought to be) aware of what is right and wrong, and we are aware that it is wrong to commit murder. If you make anyone other than the person who in cold blood deliberately explodes the bomb or pulls the trigger that is aimed directly at ordinary and innocent citizens with the express intention of killing them, then that is a despicable moral position for a "liberal" person to take.

And as for that imagined Home Office conference - yes - it IS the people who are shooting other people who are morally responsible. And if it wasn't for them doing the killing, there wouldn't be any need for that imagined conference.

Responsibility for doing something lies with the police and home office officials by virtue of their paid employment - but that is a very different kind of responsibility from that of those actually doing the killing.

I didn't understand Blair to be disclaiming responsibility in the sense of disclaiming responsibility for trying to do something to try to improve matters: clearly, instructing the British army to train up and support the Iraqi army is "taking responsibility" for trying to improve the situation. But you can't hold Blair sitting in a studio in London "responsible" for drive-by shootings in a Baghdad cafe as if it was his finger on the trigger. Even the person whose finger was on the trigger would not accept that...and would probably laugh at you for suggesting it…"

Saturday, 24 February 2007

How Much Did The Times Spend on That New Look?

Not enough, obviously.

Either that, or new Labour's influence has spread even to the type-setting department...

L'Italia Glorious

Italy is Arthurian Legend's favourite Continental European country.

By quite some margin.

Scotland: 17 Italy: 37

That margin just got a bit wider.

UPDATE 1: Ireland 43-13 England ...oh dear ...

UPDATE 2: Scotland 17-37 Italy ... not a good day for the home nations, was it...

Police Chase

Via PC Copperfield...

May take a little while to load...but it's worth it.

How many offences can you:

a) spot
b) not unreasonably deduct

from this little event...?

Have I Got (Old) News...

The Hoff
In what was by and large a very good column from the Heff on Wednesday entitled What have the past 10 years of Blair been for?, he used the word "spavined" to describe schools in Britain.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, this word means "lame; decripit or worn out".

The Heff
Without knowing the precise definition beforehand, my initial guess was that the word "spavined" was a contraction of two other words: spastic and bovine.

In its derogatory sense, spastic is defined as "A clumsy, incapable or incompetent person".

Bovine, when applied to people, means "dull; sluggish".

I think it a little unfair simply to state "our schools are spavined" as a general criticism, when this is clearly not true for all or even a majority. And the word denotes primarily the physical condition of the object to which it refers, which could lead you in to the Labour trap of concentrating more on the infrastructure than what goes on inside the school buildings. But as a one word summary of most of our governing Party's philosophy and policy actions, you can see how my interpretation is at least as good in capturing the essence of new Labour, body, mind and spirit...

(with apologies to all people with cerebral palsy, etc., who don't deserve to be compared to a new (or old) Labour minister or policy initiative)

(p.s. the citing of the picture of The Hoff in this article is in no way intended to impute on his good character any of the descriptions utilised in this article for people whose contribution to the common weal has been far less substantial)

Friday, 23 February 2007

Bleary-eyed, he stumbles for the keyboard...

...for last night Bacchus descended to the humble quarters of Islington Conservatives HQ.

Those who paid obeissance to the deity were graced with fine vintages of sparkling white wines from Spain and Champagne, and were led in revelries by the esteemed Jacob Gaffney of the Wine Spectator and author of the Interwined blog.

Fortune was also smiling on Arthurian Legend as he succeeded where so oft his hopes have been dashed against the cruel rocks in that ancient rite of the Conservative raffle...The Hand of Fate drew his number and a 2004 Kirchspiel Riesling that the night before had graced the German ambassador's table was in a flash transported to a new and better home.

And to crown the evening with the happiest of garlands, he received a call from his sister to inform him that last week in New York her boyfriend had asked for her hand in marriage and she had accepted..! Hurrah!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Steve Norris - Legend!

I've never really heard Steve Norris speak before, and my views on him had been coloured (regrettably) by reports of serial womanising and the supposed negative implications of his job with Jarvis that was spun like crazy by Red Ken's team (which, sadly, I accepted a little too uncritically). However, on his inaugural appearance on 18 Doughty Street last night I loved him from the off... He said, quite openly, that frankly a £100,000 salary was going to leave him quite a bit short if he stood again for Mayor. You really wouldn't get that frank honesty from many Labour politicos, would you?

And on substantive issues that I care about, Norris said:-

1) He'd try to get the Routemasters back, or design new ones. I love these buses: the iconic design, the hop-on, hop-off open platform, the natural air conditioning winter and summer, the fact that they had ticket inspectors to verify and collect fares, and provide information and assistance. Truly Ken was a complete **** when he got rid of them.

2) He'd scrap the bendy buses. Hurrah! They're worse than the conditions in which cattle are transported, and they make me sick when travelling facing backwards.

3) He'd be quite happy for Britain to have an amicable split with the EU and leave on good terms...(OK, so he's not the foreign secretary, but anyone who's open about that gets a cheer from this quarter).

What a legend.

Sorry Newmania: I'll leaflet for you for the council, but this guy seems seriously good news as a prospective London Mayor...

Fisking Wicks

The learned and worldy-wise readership of this blog (that’s both of you) will of course need no reminding of the old saw that some politicians make an awful lot of speeches, and others make a lot of awful speeches…

One such sorry specimen crossed my desk yesterday; not the worst offender, I’m sure (that competition is eagerly fought for amongst the caucus of Scottish cabinet ministers), but nevertheless one that concerns an area about which I have some vague knowledge and interest.

Without wishing to infringe too much the territory of the esteemed Croydonian, I do wish to pick over the some parts of the rotting carcass left by the Member for Croydon North, Malcolm Wicks.

From his website biography, he doesn’t appear such a bad fellow (and indeed a further bit of rooting around suggests that he's perhaps one of the more sensible ones), but the junior researcher (please don’t tell me it was a senior civil servant at the DTI) putting this effort together really does show signs of having worked for the party that little bit too long...

Malcolm Wicks Speech to the IP Crime Group 8 February 2007

“Good afternoon, it is a pleasure for me to be attending my first IP Crime Group meeting and speaking to you about how we can overcome intellectual property crime.”

“Overcome” intellectual property crime? Tackle it, perhaps; address the grossest abuses, I would hope, but "overcome"? How on earth does the man think that in this fallen world, the filthy lucre to be made from all manner of knock-off Hollywood DVDs, counterfeit Nikes and downloadable MP3s can ever be vanquished from the face of the Earth?

“If we are to get the full value of our ideas and creativity, the UK must have a robust and effective IP regime”

What you mean is, if Gordon Brown is going to get his hands on 40% of your personal income plus 30% corporation tax (main rate) plus 17.5% VAT then YOU need a “robust and effective IP regime”. We, on the other hand, need a robust and effective change of Government.

“I cannot emphasise strongly enough the need for intelligence to drive forward enforcement action.”

Hmmm, new Labour has a love-hate relationship with “intelligence”, doesn’t it: so seemingly devoid of it themselves so often, so eager to see it where it doesn’t exist elsewhere…

“It is vital that the regional and national structures that the Patent Office is putting in place can develop intelligence…”

Well, sounds like you’ll have ‘em licked in no time…

“Together the OFT, DTI and trading standards authorities have established 12 regional analysts, and this will create a clear structure for developing intelligence and a detailed and accurate assessment of the problems that we have with IP crime throughout the country.”

They’ll be quaking in Romford market, Minister, I can assure you.

The Patent Office have a strong role to play in continuing to facilitate this work, and they and I are committed to continuing to grow the resource at the Patent Office with the flow of intelligence.

Leaving aside the offending "grow the resource" phrase, in the early years of new Labour the good officers of the Patent Office were delighted to welcome onboard many new recruits from Labour’s much-vaunted “New Deal”. Now, whilst I can’t be absolutely certain, I think that you can be fairly sure that that move contributed significantly less to “the flow of intelligence”.

“IP Criminals should know that the UK is not a safe place”

You don’t have to be an IP Criminal to know that.

“The risk of up to 10 years imprisonment and unlimited fines is very real and from this date forward a markedly higher risk.”

Hmmm, remind me how many thousands of prison places are lying empty right at this moment ready and able to accommodate these villains, then…And it’s a good job you didn’t sell off that prison ship a while back, isn’t it..?

“The Gowers review also recommended that the penalties for online infringement should be increased in order to match those for physical piracy. As you will appreciate, this may require primary legislation but we are considering the options.”

Don’t worry, with more criminal justice bills since new Labour came to power than in the previous 50 years combined, I’m sure you’ll find room for a few more before they drag you off…

“Local authorities increasingly recognise that IP Crime damages communities.”

Aaaah!! New Labour’s “communities”. We’ve had it all, now, haven’t we? But no, there’s room for one last gem:

“The Patent Office…are also providing tools for enforcers such as training CDs and the investigators notebook, which has proved to be very popular.”

Brilliant! Sheer genius! With those “investigators notebooks”, they’ll all know the game is up…

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Last Chance Saloon

Bringing this to a smaller audience than the original...

Nadine Dorries wrote this on her blog the other day...

"If the Conservative Party is ever to be in power again, it absolutely has to win the next general election with a comfortable majority.

If we go to the country on 38% or 39% it will not be enough, and we will be forever in opposition, no matter what percentage of the vote we pull at any future election – we will never be in government again.

In the event of a hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party have one thing in common, a desire to keep the Conservatives out of power.

Remember, the majority of Liberal Democrats are left of New Labour; they would have a long political journey to even get close to the left of the Conservative Party.

This is very obvious during long debates in the chamber. If a Conservative MP makes a good point or speech, a Liberal Democrat will intervene with a line totally in sympathy with the government’s position.

Sometimes I find this breathtaking. When I recently attacked the government and the Public Health Minister over sexual health and the out of control rise in STIs amongst teenagers, Sandra Gidley, the Liberal Democrat, intervened and attacked me, with much encouragement from the government front bench!

If you sit in the chamber for hours and absorb the minutia of the debate you can see very clearly what is happening. The Liberal Democrats have no natural synergy with the Conservative Party. Too many of their seats have a Conservative as a close second. They like to bash the government, but they relish attacking the Conservatives.

Ming and Gordon are friends. If we have a hung Parliament there will be another Lib-Lab pact and the price will be PR, which is being used in the Scottish local elections this time round. PR is already knocking on the border.

Gordon will be pragmatic enough to realise the New Labour salad days are over.

A Lib-Lab pact will be the lesser of the evils. PR will be the price, but Gordon will have had his time as PM, and the upside of course is that never again would Labour be forced into opposition for eighteen cold years as it was last time.

PR won’t seem too big a price to pay to ensure that the Conservative party never takes power again."


Monday, 19 February 2007

The Dark Side of Thatcherism

Last night I watched an excellent discussion programme on libertarianism on 18 Doughty Street.

One highlight was seeing Newmania morph into a Swedish-style social democrat apparently arguing for state-provided piano lessons to expand our freedoms and play the piano! Well, Newmania, I've never learnt to ski, so perhaps if you could just spend the next week at work paying for my trip to Val D'Izere next year I'd be most grateful. And then another couple of day to pays for the apres-ski. After all, it would expand my freedoms and potential in this important area terribly...

One publication that Sean Gabb and Brian Micklethwait did mention was The Full Coercive Apparatus Of A Police State: Thoughts On The Dark Side Of The Thatcher Decade.

I quote some extracts below:

"Under section 27 of the Transport Act 1982 - given effect in the summer of 1986 - the Police are empowered to hand out fines to motorists whom they believe to have been speeding or committing some other traffic offence. The money involved is negligible - £24 at the most. The principle is a disgrace. Penalties are now imposed without the ghost of due process. I’m told that, in many European countries, the Police have still wider judicial powers: they even collect the fines. But there hasn’t been a properly limited government anywhere in Europe since the middle ages. Foreigners are so used to misgovernment, it’s no surprise if they stand by grinning while their wallets are gone through by men in uniform. What they’re willing to put up with is no precedent for us."

"Under the old common law, an accused had the right to challenge thirty-five Jurors without showing cause. Anyone who has looked into Howell’s State Trials will know how extensively this right was used in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was there to ensure a more subtle and reliable fairness in the composition of a Jury than could be achieved by the means of showing cause to the Judge. To be fair, the right had already been substantially taken away. The number of peremptory challenges was reduced to twelve in 1925, to seven in 1948, and to three in 1977. But it has fallen, as ever, to this Government to take the decisive step, and reduce the number to zero. The prosecution, of course, keeps its old right of unlimited peremptory challenge."

"Sections 37 and 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 have made theft of a motor car and common assault and battery offences triable by magistrates alone. The excuse given for this was that Crown Courts were too overloaded for there not to be a certain shedding from the list of indictable offences. Between 1979 and 1984, we were told, indictments rose by 48 per cent. But this wasn’t the only answer to the problem. There were at least two others. The first was to stop creating so many new offences. The second was to build and staff more courts. This would have been expensive. But what is expense to a Government that takes and spends upwards of £150 billion every year? If the Department of Trade and Industry was allowed to spend £13 million last year on what was essentially Conservative propaganda, what is the objection to giving a few dozen million extra to the Lord Chancellor’s Department? Which is a more basic function of the State - financing Lord Young’s vanity or providing justice?"

I can't say that I disagree with any of the pamphlet. So much of our political class have forgotten or have never even learnt about England's historic liberties. And so have many of the public. Thank God for the Libertarian Alliance.

And if the Thatcher decade was a decidely mixed bag on the issue of civil liberties, that's nothing to ZaNuLabour's last ten years.

One large problem is that reversing the decline in our liberties would involve repealing some (possibly) fairly populist legislation. Some of that legislation was brought in as a response to or in an attempt to deal with certain social problems. Now, it could well be that those social problems were exacerbated by state intervention in the first place and have not been materially assisted by the legislation to any great degree. But the connections between state intervention and undesirable social outcomes are often complex, and the time delay in cause and effect is often spread over years, if not generations.

Still, the show was an inspiration for Conservatives, UKIP and Orange Book liberal democrats (all five of them) to make the principled case for liberty and the practical case for rolling back the powers of the state.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Self-serving? Me? No..!

Loved this extract from an interview with Kim Hollis, the (black criminal defence lawyer) woman who was recently reported as having had an affair with the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith.

(Interview so far: fawning, self-righteous, poverty-blathering, Ghandi-name dropping stuff..)

[Black Lawyers Directory] If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?

KH: Shake up the criminal legal defence system by educating people about the worth of criminal defence lawyers in particular and the valuable work we perform on behalf of society in ensuring that all defendants are entitled to representation and a fair trial , whatever their crime. The value of work is routinely placed on a par with our clients who are charged with murder, rapes and other crimes. We are paid the lowest rates of all the specialist bar...

Where is the Auberon Waugh de nos jours who could crucify this type of stuff with a most acerbic and damning pen...?

hat tip: Iain Dale

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Where the Conservative Party went wrong (Pt 1)

Hindsight is a wonderful thing

1986-1987: At the zenith of Mrs Thatcher’s power and popularity, the failure to include any commitments in the 1987 General Election manifesto to liberalise the market for the supply of health and education services has meant 20 more years of dirigiste central planning, government targets, Whitehall second-guessing, political interference, inefficient monopoly provision, waste, duplication, lack of innovation and second- or third-class outcomes for many.

The continuing failures in health and education between 1987-1997 (largely due to state control and 100% state subsidisation of supply) gave the Labour party a valid stick with which the beat the Conservative government, and some rational justification for voting ‘new’ Labour in the hope that it would improve matters.

1987 onwards: Mrs Thatcher failed to purge the cabinet of most of the old wets and failed to promote the new blood and new thinking: the failure to have a staunchly supportive cabinet weakened her fatally during the crucial November 1990 leadership challenge.

Leaving Kenneth Baker in charge of the National Curriculum, and the feeding frenzy it provided for the Marxist-inspired teacher training establishments and left-leaning educational bureaucracy was to be one of the worst legacies of her final term in office.

1989: Lawson and Major bullied Mrs Thatcher into accepting British entry into the ERM. The lady was opposed, but Lawson and Major prevailed. That fatal policy was to undermine the reputation of the Conservative party for economic competence for a generation. Mrs Thatcher was proven right two years after leaving office, but by then it was all too late…

1989-1990: It could be argued that the Poll Tax was a noble attempt to prevent left wing councils from racking up spending and debts and saddling the richer taxpayers with the consequences of their excesses. So, good intentions, but we all know where they lead...

Possibly it would have been better to have continued to allow the left to expose its economic madness for all the world to see. It would have made the subsequent “new Labour” re-branding exercise much more difficult to pull off, and much less convincing.

The Direct Democracy campaign has some good ideas on reforming local financing.

More tomorrow…

Friday, 16 February 2007

Hold The Front Page!

Just below stories about kids "getting stuck into noodles" and a water leak:

More here and here.

One quibble with the story. I thought that the BNP should be classified as left-wing (in favour of nationalisation, economic protectionism, state interference in private relationships, etc...)? Surely we ought to be tarring the left with the BNP brush, not the "right"...

Rather a shame to shunt those lovely photos off the top spot, but hey ho...

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Tory MEPs should join Ind-Dem Group

Within a month of becoming Conservative party leader, David Cameron should have fulfilled his promise to remove Conservative MEPs from the integrationist European People's Party.

And the reasons for joining UKIP MEPs in the Independence and Democracy Grouping of the European Parliament just got a whole lot better...

IEA - Still the best

Arthurian Legend is deeply grateful to the IEA for its excellent series of monographs, Hobart Papers, etc. that stimulated his interest in the "soulful science" during his A-levels.

It may not be in the fashionable vanguard of conservative-minded think tanks; was it ever? But the quality and consistency of its publications and events is in the top rank.

Here are two up-coming events for your diary - Arthurian Legend hopes to get along to one or both.

Scrap the BBC! - 1st March 2007

More information here.

Has State Education Failed? - 7th March 2007

(Arthurian Legend went to one of Alistair Campbell's "bog standard comprehensives". Hence, Arthurian is now just a blog standard writer...)

More information here.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Seven Deadly Sins

Via Brian Micklethwait, I found this from Indexed.

There is one very annoying person in our block of flats who plays her music loudly at anti-social times of the day and night (i.e. when we're around). She is on DF.

Because I have an AG (!), I don't have to resort to AC (not that I would anyway...). Others, such as BG, are sometimes not so fortunate.

What's your story?

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Radical Proposal

In their book Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman put their finger on the following problem:

“As the scope and role of government expands – whether by covering a larger area and population or by performing a wider variety of functions – the connection between the people governed and the people governing becomes attenuated. It becomes impossible for any large fraction of the citizens to be reasonably well informed about all items on the vastly enlarged government agenda, and, beyond a point, even about all major items.”

“No federal legislator could conceivably even read, let alone analyse and study, all the laws on which he must vote. ..The unelected congressional bureaucracy almost surely has far more influence today in shaping the detailed laws that are passed than do our elected representatives.

Bureaucrats have not usurped power. They have not deliberately engaged in any kind of conspiracy to subvert the democratic process. Power has been thrust upon them. It is simply impossible to conduct complex government activities in any other way than by delegating responsibility.”

Arthurian Legend’s question

In light of this, should a new parliamentary procedure be established?

What about the following:-

No MP may vote upon a piece of legislation unless he/she has read it.

After each vote, 10% of voting MPs will be randomly picked and set a basic test by the Speaker concerning the legislation. If an MP cannot get 70% or more in two tests then he/she is automatically obliged to resign their parliamentary seat.

This would take us a lot further towards the position where MPs only voted on what they have read and understood; it could help to increase the amount of “free thinking” and reduce the power of the whips. It would make for fewer laws (which MP could read all that legislation?) and hopefully, with better understanding, it would make for better laws.

The only problem, as I pointed out yesterday, is this:

Monday, 12 February 2007

Power and decision making in the European Union

Or, the conspiracy against democracy

1. The governments of different nation states make treaties with each other. Most often, this occurs without an explicit and direct mandate from the people, and without a fully-informed and lengthy period of explanation of all the details and consequences.

2. National parliaments ratify those treaties (often without a prior referendum; where there is a referendum, the full implications of a ‘yes’ vote are never spelt out)

3. The treaties hand law-making powers to supra-national institutions

4. The European Commission (unelected) has the sole power to propose new legislation, supposedly within the areas conferred on it by the Treaties

5. Proposed legislation is discussed and amended by various committees of the European Parliament and by the Council of Ministers.

6. Virtually no-one knows their MEP; hardly anyone outside the parliament truly understands the decision-making process. Only one minister from each nation state sits in the various Ministerial Council meetings; the voices of hundreds of nationally-elected and accountable MPs have been silenced; that one minister wields all the power of his nation. And the power of each nation has been truncated.

7. Even the UK only has around 8% of the voting power in the Council. The power of veto scarcely exists…which means that often the UK can be forced to accept laws on all sorts of thinks which go partly or fully against its own national interest. And even if the laws were “perfect” for the UK, effective democracy would still have been destroyed.

8. Once the laws have been finalised, national parliaments are obliged to implement or enact them; failure to do so within the specified period can result in legal actions and fines.

9. Of course, after all this, not all countries implement them fully or enforce them...

I say: Better Off Out

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Who owns these lovely knashers?

A "new" Labour minister who grew up in the socialist heyday of the 1960s and 70s advertises the glories of a state run dental service "free at the point of use"...

As Timmy likes to put it, "The NHS - it's the envy of the world, don't you know..."

Saturday, 10 February 2007

"New" Labour's Nanny State

Observe, everyone, as Gordon Brown's client class sucks at the teet of the British taxpayer.

A turning point in Arthurian Legend's attitude to "new" Labour was reading Frank Field's devastating analysis of the insidious effects of this socialist Scot's welfare policies.

Truly, Field damns the Gorgon with faint praise...

I do hope that this isn't a socialist cousin of Mr Eugenides...


Friday, 9 February 2007

Life on Fraggle Rock (or, in the mind of a Lib Dem)

Simon Hughes
"The Labour
Party has betrayed, sadly, what I thought were its libertarian principles"
Simon Hughes, Question Time, BBC1, Thursday 8th February 2007

Seriously. What planet is this guy on?
The Labour Party? Libertarian principles? WTF?

Next he'll be muttering, "With the recent gassing of all those Jews, Adolph Hitler has regrettably undermined his previously good reputation for encouraging a tolerant and multi-ethnic society".

Thursday, 8 February 2007

New Labour do not do housing maintenance and repair...

Or perhaps they did, and this is what happened...

Either way, probably the most incompetent Government in history.

Arthurian Legend railed against more overbearing and incompetent Labour (mal-)administration of housing in the People's Republic of Islington on Sunday: read it here.

Inspired by these guys here.

(p.s. feel free to copy and circulate, with a tip o'the hat)

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

The Bard and Contemporary Political Figures (Act I, Scene I)

Shakespeare ’s capacity to depict and to lay bare the nature of mankind in his triumphs, weaknesses and failings is without peer in English dramatic poetry. He was a man for all men, and a man for all times.

On a number of occassions over recent months I have been struck by a number of lesser-known lines from a Shakespearean play or sonnet, and their potential to address figures or events on the political stage of my lifetime.
Many will remember the summer of 1995 when John Major challenged his enemies in the Conservative Parliamentary party to “back me or sack me”.

Shortly afterwards, Michael Portillo was discovered to be installing new telephone lines into the offices of his unofficial campaign HQ. Had he stood, Portillo may well have got the number of votes necessary to secure Major’s resignation, and the crown of the Conservative Party. In the eyes of many, it was there for the taking. But Portillo never went through with his challenge. He lost his nerve, the less popular Redwood stood and, although Redwood secured a creditable 89 votes, Major held on until the oblivion of 1st May 1997.

Some may know these lines of Menas, Pompey’s pirate comrade in Anthony and Cleopatra:

For this,
I'll never follow thy pall'd fortunes more.
Who seeks, and will not take when once 'tis offer'd,
Shall never find it more.

And indeed, although Portillo went for the leadership in 2001, the poisoned chalice was handed to Iain Duncan Smith, and Portillo announced his resignation from Parliament a couple of years later.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Is you bein' racialist?

Newmania has sparked off a heated discussion with the publication of his discovery of overtly racialist recruitment policies of Islington Local Education Authority.

The perceived problem is the lack of male role models for young black boys. Islington LEA's proposed solution is to create 40 places on a teaching assistant training course. For black men only. So, racist AND sexist. Way to go, Islington Council...

The subject puts me in mind of a book that I heard about a few years ago: Ten Things You Can't Say in America. Its author, Larry Elder, has confronted policies like this head-on. Needless to say, it has not made him terribly popular amongst some from his own 'community'.

The Cato Institute quotes Elder as saying, "“America’s number-one problem is children, who cannot feed, clothe, and educate a child, having children.”

Newmania offers his own answer to this type of problem in the UK: "The answer to fatherless homes is to stop paying people to have fatherless children, not offer them further inducements."

I wonder what would be on the list for a new edition of Larry's book, The Ten Things You Can't Say in Britain..?

Monday, 5 February 2007

The Fat Lady has now Sung...

If you're an 88 year-old former opera singer, you're not too nimble on your feet and you walk with a zimmer frame, DON'T dash out in front of a 15-tonne tipper tuck...

Suz has the gory details...

Islington School in Trouble

This week's Islington Tribune reports the sad story of a local primary school which appears to be floundering.

Apparently, 78% of the children at Clerkenwell Parochial are failing to meet the Government's 'maths targets'; 96% are failing to meet the 'writing targets'. 20 children have removed from the school by their parents in recent weeks(including one child of a parent govenor).

Who is to blame? The school? The parents? Islington LEA? The Government? All four? And what is the relative weight of blame to be attached to each? A tricky question, even for those with first-hand knowledge of the situation, which I certainly don't.

But what is clear is that after 10 years of Tony Blair, new Labour has failed to deliver what it promised...And this in the spiritual home of new Labour!

Fortunately, Think Tanks in the conservative constelletion have been giving serious and detailed thought to analysing the situation and what to do about it. The Policy Exchange publication More Good School Places shows in detail how, in so many cases, state education is still failing to deliver what was promised of it. But encouragingly, the document also charts a way forward.

Key to improving education in their view is the opening up the provision of education services to new providers. The power of Local Education Authorities to monopolise the supply of education services should be removed. Money should follow the pupil much more than it does at present. Bureaucracy and Government interference should be drastically reduced. Schools should be accountable primarily to parents, not council officials or the man (or woman) in Whitehall.

There is much more in there. It is a must read for those concerned to find a way to deliver genuine improvements in the standard of state education in this country.

One thing is for certain: Labour new and old have been tried and found wanting.

If the Conservative Party is to present a coherent and radical agenda for improving education, David Cameron should show that he is serious about the ideas argued for by think tanks such as Policy Exchange.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

A twentieth century cult

"The system is set up in such a way - with [the] IGC (Inter-Governmental Council) and unanimity - as to prevent reform. As does even one vote prevent the EU constitution being adopted, so would one vote (from, say, Luxembourg) prevent any dilution of the sacred religion of European Integration so espoused by that strange cult, the "Europeans" (may peace and harmonisation be with them). As I indicated in the latest post, the European Union is a belief system. You cannot reform a belief system - you can only destroy it or let it wither away through lack of use."

The inestimable Richard North, explaining why David Cameron's proposal to reform the EU won't work...

Read the main post here.

Euro Trash

Islington residents, we are told, are keen on recycling.

However, of the eight flats in our block, it seems that the inhabitants of only two are actually keen enough to practice it. We lead in this cause. The basement/ground floor residents run a close second.

However, to boost participation, indoctrination is well underway. They're getting to 'em young. Islington schools organise trips to the local recycling plant. Unfortunately, the kids only see the inside of a special 'education room'; no chance of actually getting to view the tin cans and plastic bottles being melted down and turned into something else. (What do they turn them into?)

So, a bit of a rubbish school trip, really.

What you can be sure of when you get there is that they won't be telling you about this.

"our Government is obliged to implement a waste policy imposed by the European Union, which dictates that by 2020 we must reduce the amount of waste we landfill to a third of its level in 1995. We are so far short of our EU targets that, as the National Audit Office reported last year, our local authorities will soon be incurring fines from Brussels of £200 million a year.

The idea is that we should increase our recycling of rubbish to 27 per cent (which in reality means shipping millions of tons of waste collected for "recycling" to other countries such as China). The only other way we can legally dispose of up to half our rubbish is by building these huge incinerators, which make very little economic or environmental sense, and which cause such distress to those living nearby

Read it in full. And weep.

Prescott Dumps on Islington

In 2001, Labour's John Prescott decided to fleece thousands of people in Islington, and hundreds of thousands more up and down the country. It was one of the most illiberal and anti-democratic acts of this most anti-democratic and illiberal government.

The context was the failure of over fourty years of socialist housing policies. The dead hand of the state weighed heavily in Islington. It had created a nightmare situation where state-built or state-owned properties had fallen into disrepair. The virtues of private ownership had been ignored - principally to the cost of the people living in these properties.

Decoration had all but ceased. Decent care and maintenance were patchy at best. Non-existent at worst. "Public ownership" meant being owned by no-one. They had been largely disowned.

So Prescott decreed that all these properties must be renovated. Under the direction of the state. By 2010.

But the residents got no say in it. No option to organise decoration themselves. No chance to spread it over over an affordable period of time.

The result: 56% 'management' fees for all. Bills for the lucky of £5,000. Bills for the unlucky of £40,000. Payable in two years. Even for pensioners. Even for those who did not directly benefit from Mrs. Thatcher's original "Right to Buy" discounts.

Another fine mess that 'new' Labour has got Islington and the rest of the country into.

Advancing Islington's Conservative Movement

Good men used to win in Islington. Or rather, Goodman did.

Albert Goodman was the most recent Conservative MP to have been elected by the voters of Islington North to the House of Commons. It happened in the 1931 General Election.

Labour was split. The Liberals were split. The Conservative Party won 470 of the 625 seats. O rosy dawn.

Stanley Baldwin
Tory PM 1931

There is a new Conservative movement in Islington. It's being added to one blog at a time. Newmania led the way. King Arthur's in support. Other good men and women are following fast. Surely the moment when the opposition splits, 1931-style, is only a short time away. Watch this space...