Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sharp edged musings...

I've already posted my concerns about the increasing thuggery in this country and the consequent moral quandary in which the majority of law-abiding citizens are placed: namely, should one intervene if one sees an unlawful act being perpetrated, particularly against another citizen, but in so doing, run the risk of being knifed?

We have in the papers today yet another story of yet another knifing resulting in yet another pointless death. One witness was reported in the Times as saying "A few people were thinking of running after the man who stabbed Barry but were stopped because we knew he had a knife". You know what I think about this, so I will not expand further. I will, however, ask this question: exactly where was that man going to buy a pint for 40p?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thuggery and fear

I was reflecting on the wise words of the TB when the studied calm of the Reptile House was shattered by what the bard refers to as 'noises off'. Looking out I noticed that it was caused by a group of young swine, aged about 9 or so, who were finding joy in the simple pastime of hurling pebbles up the street at houses, cars, pedestrians and so on.

Struck by the resonance between this scene and the dilemma described by the delectable Token, I regarded them with a baleful eye from my window. Evidently awed by the magisterial Reptilian presence, they scattered, pausing only to gesture expressively in my direction. But the problem is, if I had been forced to disperse them directly, not only might I have ended up with a blade between the ribs, but even if I hadn't, the shouts of child abuse and assault would have echoed after me.

So, not only do we face injury or death for doing the right thing, we also face prosecution by the Criminal Justice System. Fan-fucking-tastic.

New kids on the blog...

Word reaches me of a couple of additions to the blogosphere. First up is, obviously, the fragrant Token, who already adorns the Reptile House with her delicate presence whenever I can persuade her.

The second is the Cabbie, for whom it is still very early doors indeed. Promising beginnings, however, so go take a look...

Return of the Reptile

Sorry! I've been in Italy for a wedding although, unlike the problems encountered by dear old Token, all my suitings were my own. Any tastelessness therefore was entirely my own responsibility. I'm back now, and feeling in the mood for posting. Expect some words to follow on Cameronite Conservatism; on the dilemma facing Ming and the LibDems and a gleeful exposition on the rotting hulk of the Labour Party.

For the first time since I became politically alive, the news seems to be pretty hopeful. Let's face it, England have an Ashes winning cricket team for the first time since the mid 80s, and the Tories are in the ascendancy for the first time since, well, the late 80s. With a bit of luck things are starting to look up.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Whanging the nail on the crumpet

I reckon Guido has it nailed with this summary.

DC is doing a dam' good job, the Lib Dems are suffering the consequences of becoming more relevant as people start to look more closely at them, and Labour is suffering as earlier sins of ommission and commission start to return to haunt them.


Dam' right!

As the Reptile pointed out, Niall Ferguson spent a term trying to drum early 20th Century history into my head. He was a hugely stimulating tutor: intelligent, articulate, challenging and supportive and a first class man.

I never bothered the lecture halls much until Hilary of my last year when impending exams led to a drammatic lifestyle change. Niall did a series of lectures ostensibly for 1st years but really made them finals cramming sessions which were just superb. Interestingly the room was packed - partly with finalists but mostly with 1st and 2nd year females - it was rather like that scene in Indiana Jones!

Watching him on Question Time reinforced my view that the man is a absolute legend.

And that Clegg, despite being one of the best of a bad lot, is still an ass, a fool and a liar.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Whats the matter with George...

Some very encouraging news for the Tories from the Guardian in terms of public opinion moving towards them in some very key areas including public services and law and order.

The legacy of Black Wednesday does however linger to an extent - despite the appalling downward trends in productivity, record tax increases, huge extensions in the public sector etc etc, Labour retain a lead in terms of managing the economy. Diminished, sure, from 20-odd points to 7, but still there.

It is essential that the Tories take this ground - and I think it may therefore be essential to swap out George Osbourne for William Hague.

Osbourne is a clever, influential and free thinking guy who has done well and frankly not put a foot wrong. His tragedy is that he looks about 12, has a high voice and doesnt come across as a credible chancellor. Were he actually chancellor, this wouldn't matter - but as all you have in opposition is your gravitas, it is an issue.

Hague has 'bottom', is formidably bright, has fixed his earlier image issues and would bring gravitas to the role - and enable us to take over the commanding height in this area as well.

The challenge is how to do it without it seeming like a demotion / failure for DC's Chief of Staff? Options include sending O to foreign office or Defence (Fox to FO) or making him a new Chairman of the Party responsible for the Gorst-like resurgence we need.

But he has to go.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Brian Haw: Cut down to size?

It gave me a warm fuzzy glow to read how 20 brave officers of the Met (who clearly have nothing more pressing to do) dismantled most of Brian Haw's protest materials during the small hours of this morning, in order to enforce a notice they had issued to him under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 that he must limit the size of his placards to 10 feet in length.

There has been a lot of discussion today about this, ranging from the implications for free speech in the U.K., police priorities, the shift towards an ever increasing authoritarianism that this represents, the dangers of retrospective law-making, etc, etc. I do not wish to further rehearse these debates here. I merely wish to raise this question: given the intense attention which Parliament and the police have devoted to this protest, am I to assume that it is only a matter of time before he is shut down or locked up? Indeed, is the 10ft length limit merely to accustom Mr Haw to such a confined space for his persistent protesting?

Moss Bros Hire: The Horror

Being female, I had never had cause to navigate the sartorial minefield of male wedding attire, until today, when I was press-ganged into picking up some suits from Moss Bros Hire. I was most distressed to be confronted with so many choices, and so little taste, especially, with regards to neckwear to be worn with a morning suit... see for yourself (the waistcoats page is a must-see). Beckhams, eat your hearts out!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Brighter cricket with the Reptile #1: The Back Foot Defensive Shot

Although I have sometimes been accused of being overly defensive, at least this proves that I have always played it with a straight bat. Note the high left elbow and marvel at what it is that an expensive education can buy!

Right. That's it. Bugger off.

Everytime you think that this lot of charlatons, liars, thieves, perverts, spongers and sexpests have hit rock bottom they manage to exceed themselves.

As everyone is reporting, at a nu-labour fund raiser a copy of the Hutton Report (covering inter alia the suicide of Dr Kelly), signed by luninaries including Cherie Blair/Booth and Alastair Campbell, was auctioned off to raise money for the PLP.

There is just so much wrong with this that it beggars belief - that these supposedly mature, intelligent and 'humane' people (for Ms Booth oft'times lectures us on human rights et al) could act in such an awful way should stagger belief (personally I am unsurprised by Booth - I absolutely loathe the women and believe her to be capable of almost anything).

As GOM almost said- Cherie and Tony, Gordon and Sarah, new labour one and all, bag and baggage must clear out from the province they have desolated and profaned.

Cruel irony

Stephen Pollard, quite correctly, calls the Lib Dem Health spokesman Steve Webb on his ludicrous and illiberal early day motion that states that 'there is no need for a bigger big mac.' As Polard says, this is probably a decision that can safely be left to consumers, rather than be determined by Webb and his ghastly friends in Westminster. What the damn hell he thinks his job is supposed to be that enables him to lead calls for ordering the menus of independent food companies I don't know, but I suspect he needs to be reminded of the meaning of 'liberal.'

It is, however, the timing of Pollard's article, so soon after the death of Eric Forth that strikes me as cruel. I can hear Forth's stentorian tones, bellowing from beyond the grave:

"Declare your interest, fatty!"

When will the Public decide that enough is enough?

Libby Purves is on first class form in the Times today. She picks out what she calls the Government Disrespect agenda and she gives it a dam' good kicking:

The tone amounts to a national Disrespect Agenda: sanctimonious, scolding, applying standards only to little people. Tessa Jowell’s husband can be thick with Silvio Berlusconi and dodgy fake loans prop up politics, but down in the everyday world cumbersome new “money-laundering” regulations force pensioners to identify themselves three different ways to a bank manager they’ve known for years, and make it illegal for an estate agent to market your house without taking your national insurance number.

John Prescott can with impunity assault people and demand sex in his office, but a harassed teacher who lays a restraining hand on a child’s shoulder risks ruin. The Home Office can mismanage dangerous prisoners, yet roll its eyes up in pious self-justification as it libels the innocent. Health and police posters can berate us as malodorous wife beaters while actual police ignore burglaries and NHS Direct takes four hours to ring back.

This is spot on - but I am afraid that she misses the wider point. It is axiomatic that where politicians believe that Government is the answer, that they will believe that THEY are the answer - and that as the solver of our problems and agent of salvation they are above the laws and benisons that they allow us.

This belief is the keystone of all left wing government. It is the moral code of all Big Government "Liberals". It is the mantra of the social worker, the outreach officer and the student activist. It is the policy of fools and the comfort of the indolent. It is the modern Divine Right of Kings, and the nicene creed of the Guardianistas.

It is completely and utterly unacceptable.

Implied rebuke...

DK, in a well-merited post on the execrable Neil Harding, touches, as well on the inherent foolishness of one of Neil's posts, on a slightly different matter. This is to what extent a blog should act as a one-eyed sounding-board for its preferred (or least un-preferred) party. As the title of this blog suggests, I am a Tory voter, though not member, and I suspect that I am prone to bias on this point.

In my defence, I can only say that, had I been blogging on the Tory Party under the leadership of Duncan Smith, I would have been much less inclined to the moderately roseate view that this blog veers towards. Is it good enough though, to say that, because you wish one party actual harm, you should avoid criticising the other? DK is considerably better than this than I am, as are the folks at EU Referendum, but the implication is that neither of these are 'Tory' blogs in any sensible interpretation of the word.

Well, I will try to critique Tory policies (if and when we see any...) from my own standpoint. It's not going to be easy to offer reasoned praise for Labour policies, however, as there are so very few these days that induce anything other than frustration and anger.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fighting cancer: a good idea

The United Devices Cancer Research Project is a scheme run primarily by the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, United Devices, Inc, and various other organisations and individuals, which aims to use idle PCs around the world to assist in finding new cancer drugs, by modelling the interaction of potential anti-carcinogenic compounds with proteins. The idea is that you download a simple, non-intrusive screensaver programme, which uses your PC to process data, which is then returned to the server. There is a useful Oxford FAQ page with more information. are also running the Human Proteome Folding Project, which builds upon the work carried out by the Human Genome Project, and is aiming to discover the functions and structures of all of the proteins encoded in the Human Genome. The project works along the same lines as the Cancer Research Project by getting people to install a programme called Rosetta onto their PCs.

These are both fascinating projects, with millions of people having signed up to help.

Readers' Poll: Britain's B-Ark

Douglas Adams fans will recall that Arthur Dent's home planet, Earth, was actually a giant biological computer commissioned by researchers from a pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race (who appear on Earth in the form of mice) to find out the Question to the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything (which, as any fule kno is 42). At some time early in Earth's history, the B-Ark, a Golgafrinchan spaceship, crash landed on earth. The passengers on the B-Ark had been tricked by the rest of their planet onto a space ship which was programmed to crash land on a remote planet, in order to remove the useless third of the Golgafrinchan population.

The Golgafrinchans had decided that they should get rid of their hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, management consultants, and telephone sanitizers.

My question to the readers of this blog is, who deserves a place on Britain's B-Ark?

If I may start the ball rolling with a few suggestions:
Ken Livingstone
John Prescott
George Galloway
Bob Crowe
Jade Goody
Guardian columnists
Social workers

Who is John Gorst?

I refer below in a long post to a feller called Sir John Gorst, which has caused rather a lot of head scratching and cries to elucidate.

Wikipedia is a bit crap on this chap - but basically as well as a host of very Victorian doings amongst natives and whatnot he reorganised the Conservative Party at the local organisation level, which had got into a state sorting out finances, candidates and local selection in essence creating the first decent party structure.

We need something similar to happen now, to re-energise the local parties and in many cases resurrect them. But who is the man...

too clever by half

Everyone - well lots of people - is getting terribly excited by the prospect that the Gobblin' King will never be PM.

Balls, say I. Blair will resign after 10 years in the job (Prescott will resign after 10 years on the job) and Brown will ascend to power, supported by both left ("he's a real socialist") and right ("he is a reformer") of the labour party. He will disappoint both left and right, and fail to convince the English to vote for him. Labour will lose their majority, but alongside the Lib Dems, will seek to govern in essence from the celtic fringe. Which will drive everyone barmy.

He is simply awful, but don't let us kid ourselves - he is inevitable both as Labour Leader and as PM. For a little while...

Picture - thanks DK!!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

England's last great poet.

Britain was once rich in literature. Poets of the calibre of Tennyson, Keats and Shelley commanded something approaching a mass market. The publishing of Byron's new poems was a social and literary event on a scale unimaginable today. And what do we have today? A laureate who is addicted to Lemsip. At least Coleridge was on laudanum!

The reason that Britain's great literary age passed almost without comment was that its passing was graced by Britain's last, great poet. Rudyard Kipling was the last poet whose work enjoyed a wide audience. Perhaps because of his status as an outsider, Kipling was able to talk to every stratum of society, from Private McIlvaney to Mrs Hauksbee. Unusually, Kipling neglected the aristocracy in his work. When compared to Shelley or Wordsworth, whose work often revolved around the houses and pastimes of the great, let alone Byron who was himself of the upper orders, Kipling was preternaturally a poet of the bourgeoisie.

It is for this reason, in my opinion, that Kipling is the most representative poet of the declining years of Britain's greatness. Auden, for whom some have taken cudgels as a great poet, was most fully summed up by his flight to New York to avoid the war; Kipling spent his last years desperately trying to warn people that war was coming and must be faced.

I confess I am biased here - Kipling seems to be the last poet whose work sounds wonderful read aloud. Even with works like the Jungle Book, or the Just So Stories, not ostensibly poetry, the words flow beautifully off the page, musically and rythmically. If you haven't read much or any Kipling, try this site and marvel at the artistry and control of a poet who combined the demotic and the poetic, without losing sight of the natural beauty of languauge.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Young Tories: Party Poopers?

I was particularly taken by Floreat Aula's description of some of the more obnoxious Tory youths to be found haunting the dreaming spires and similar places. Having met several similar specimens as an undergraduate, by whom I was alternately patronised and pawed, there was nothing I would have been less likely to do than to join my university's Conservative Association. I cannot but feel that this is a shame, as I was probably not the only young female to be totally turned off by such idiots. Surely, if we are truly to engage more women in Tory politics, grass-roots conservatism must include all new shoots (and be less obsessed by roots)?

A long post!!

This is a very interesting time in politics, as the Reptile lays out below. I believe that the following themes are emerging:

- A new dissatisfaction with the underlyingt tenet of Nu-Labour, namely that personal tax must be higher to fund an active, intrusive state so that it can problem solve. This is as much Brown as Blair, probably more so, and it is losing credibility;

- The Lib Dem's internal divide, hidden for so long under affable leadership and the smoke screen of impotence, is yawning; and I can see no way in which the party can avoid splitting after the next election in the event of a hung parliament - with the Orange Bookers assuming Joe Chamberlain's mantle;

- A resurgent Conservative Party, focussed on the scale of the challenge and vitally (and for the first time in ages) working to change the language of politics, building up in incremental steps so that first, it throws off the legacy of instant-hate that has dogged it for years;

At the same time, we are watching the death throes of a great Prime Minister - that is in no way to say that I agree with him on everything, but just as Thatcher was a Great Prime Minister despite the carping of her critics as she fundamentally changed Britain - so too has Blair. This has to be ackowledged - regretted possibly, but ackowledged certainly.

For Labour, this is the time of maximum peril. The temptation is to retreat to their ideological fortress, blow the cobwebs off their ancient, twisted credo and re-emerge to fight again under their blood red banner. This is made all the more likely as the economic house of cards that Brown has stacked up starts to tumble. As taxes rise, the shouts of the Unions grow surely the siren call of pretending that it is all meat to be, as part of a classic leftist assault on 'privilege' will be too alluring. Brown will surrender to his inner-Socialist. Labour have forgotten that the Labour Party has NOT won 3 elections, but rather Blair has. This they will ignore - and once more fall.

For the Lib Dems, hobbling on under the remains of Ming Campbell, matters are coming to ahead. Ming is failing - and I don't think will lead the party into the next election. Simon Hughes is doing a great job of being everything Ming isn't: coherent, capable, and impressive (amazingly enough) and I reckon it is a matter of time before rumours lead to putsch and Simon Hughes becomes leader. What of Huhne and Laws and Clegg? I think that they will be swept along on the same coronation meme that held DD back in the Howard Coup of yesteryear - not least as the members will be up in arms after Ming seeks to reduce their powers, and will support Hughes. A Hughes leadership will drag the Lib Dems to the left, make a LibServative pact impossible - and drive out the Orange Bookers, the West Country party and the Thurso element. After many years the Lib / SDP alliance will split.

For the Tories, the threat is being forced to make pronouncements before people are ready to hear from us. This is why DC must not lay out our policies: first it allows Labour to attack on substance and perception, second, it allows a bankrupt Government to nick our good ideas and third it distracts from the rehabilitation of the party. DC must hold the line against the Right of the party who prefer ideological purity to power, and he must embrace the regionalist agenda of people like Gove - for this in part will rebuild the party in the North - and finally he must pump energy and effort into rebuilding the party machine at the local level. Oddly, what the Tories need most now is a John Gorst character - maybe it is Maude, if not he must be found soon.

Eeeeeeeenteresting times all round.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Gap in the Line

The great problem for the Conservative Party recently has been its lack of space. Blairite Labourism has, to a great extent, outflanked the Tories on rhetoric, which is after all what seems to resonate with the public. What is the point of the Tories when Tony Blair can declare without a blush, and seemingly without laughter, that the criminal justice system is in disarray and needs reorganisation?

Blair and his crowd have been churning out Criminal Justice Acts at a phenomenal rate, and yet can stil, seemingly, splurge the blame for any particular crisis off on 'the establishment'. If even the Prime Minister can blame the establishment for problems, what is an opposition to do?

So if the Government has the market cornered in anti-establishment rhetoric, where does the opposition go? Normally, the oppo picks up anti-Government votes from those sick of the manifold weaknesses that manifest themselves in any administration after a while. Yet for the Tories, these votes have been sewed up by the Lib Dems. Posing on the national scale as the 'nice party' while displaying considerable lack of scruple at the local level, the Lib Dems have effectively deprived the Tories of the classic protest vote.

But this looks like it might be about to change. Poor old Ming Campbell, for whom I have a lot of sympathy, has been a disaster as leader. He has, as has been noted, risen to the leadership without ever having been really tested. His reputation as a safe pair of hands has collapsed in a series of extremely nervous performances as Lib Dem leader at PMQs. Guido is convinced, not without evidence, that his medication isn't helping. Dr Crippen has stated that his statistical chances are not much better than 40% before the next election.

But this lacuna leaves a grat opportunity for the Tories. If they are going to win even the largest number of seat at the next election, they need not only to make inroads in the north, they need to demolish the Lib Dem strongholds in the south-west. Take a brief look at the electoral calculus if you doubt this. The weakness of Ming provides an unexpected opportunity for this to become possible.

The next point is that the north has largely been loyal to Labour in the hope that Gordon Brown will be a breath of fresh red air. Much of the remaining Labourites are only remaining loyal in the desperate hope that Brown will re-introduce unilateral disarmament and nationalisation. When they discover that Brown is far less old-fashioned than they hope, where will they go?

So, provided that the Tories don't lose their nierve, and persist in their current strategy, admirably outlined by FA below, I can see a good deal of cheer in the not too distant future...

Bird's Eye View - Australian angst

I have noted with interest the recent national display of shock and sadness following the publication of Nanette Rogers' dossier of domestic and sexual violence which is endemic in the remote Aboriginal camps of central Australia.

Australians have come a long way since the country was first declared "terra nulla" by its early settlers and over the past few decades, the national conscience has become increasingly exercised by the plight of Australia's indigenous people. There have been numerous initiatives which have been aimed at protecting and restoring Aboriginal communities, whilst at the same time seeking to preserve their culture. In 2000, the organisation Reconciliation Australia was founded to "promote and build reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians".

Sadly, one of the unintended consequences of Australia's policy of non-interference with Aboriginal culture has been to lock the remote Aboriginal communities deeper into desperate cycles of poverty, ignorance, poor health and substance abuse.

So what can be done to address these problems? In my view, it is wrong to allow a veneer of "culturalism" to cover systematic abuse within any community: an Australian is an Australian is an Australian, whether indigenous or not. Aboriginal women and children are therefore entitled to the same protections as any other citizen. Moreover, it is a fiction to pretend that these communities have not already been greatly influenced by non-indigenous culture (please don't tell me Aborigines have been addicted to petrol-sniffing for 40,000 years). To allow these communities to implode under the weight of their own depravity because it is not for the Australian government to interfere with their "culture" is both patronising and wrong. I sincerely hope that the mass outrage felt by most Australians translates into an effective campaign to address these abuses and help pull the Aboriginal communities away from their path of self-destruction.

A list musings

I am something of a Cameroonie - if that is the word - in that I rather agree with Dave that before we Tories can actually try and achieve anything we need to overcome the gag reflex that the General Public (curse 'em) still seem in part to have.

To this end I think that, whilst being a load of rot, it makes sense for Dave to bang on about the environment and what-not so that we manage to change the mood music for the party: more tree hugging and less baby eating being the order of the day. Good stuff say we all.

Also, along those lines, we do need to find a way to manage our MP selection to help this process of "demonstrable change" along and to this end an A list makes a great deal of sense. Again, well played, say I. So far so good.

However it strikes me that many of the people who often want to be MPs, especially at a young age, are pretty bloody ghastly. On the Tory side, many of them are the same people who upon arriving at Balliol or somewhere similar, rushed out and bought a brand new tweed coat and assumed an 'aughty h'accent what they never spoke like at 'ome; others are genuine patrician throw backs whose views on a range of subj. are unlikely to warm the cockles of the hearts of those born after, oh, 1866; others are nasty garagistes - and still more are lawyers. Does not an A list merely create a sort of horrible creme de la creme of awfulness, in a sort of Tory Boy meets Pop Idol?

I worry that in real life regionalism is more important than celebrity, credibility better than looks and hard work on the door step more critical than name recognition.

I hope that when these A listers become proper candidates, there is the equivalent of a S'arnt Major to say 'right, you 'orrible little A lister, you are mine now and you are going to work..."

Eric Forth RIP

Much attention has been drawn to the sad death of Eric Forth (for example here and here).

I never met the chap, not being political or anything of that sort, but at a time when Nu-Labour and the hordes of Ignorance sought to diminish the authority and integrity of the house, in the main through securing the election of the crapulent, ignorant, fraudulent and indolent, Mr Forth stood out as that rarest of birds, the Consumate Parliamentarian who understood the full power of the House to scrutinise, revise, frustrate and irritate.

He will be missed, and it is to be hoped that they dig deep into the 'A' list to find a worthy successor.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New Face

I am often asked; sometimes asked; somebody asked me once, why I don't post more often. My response is, obviously "Bugger off and write your own blog you impudent wastrel." But my reason is nine-tenths indolence and one-tenth lack of time. In order to combat this I have invited, for occasional commentary on matters spiritual, a new addition to the team.

In a last ditch attempt to gazump Iain and find a new home on the Tory benches, I have managed to procure for the august pages of the Reptile a representative of the opposite sex. Too often has the clarion call of forthright good sense gone forth from this site without the necessary leavening of taste and sensibility that my new colleague will provide. So, in the spirit of inclusivity and modernity, I give you Token Bird.

It's not my fault, she chose it.

Faith, hope and charity

There has been much debate recently over Ruth Kelly's recent appointment as Minister for Equality and the compatibility of such office with her widely publicised Catholicism. The question that has arisen is that, given that the Catholic Church is very clear in her condemnation of homosexuality, and given that Ruth Kelly is a devout Catholic and supernumerary of Opus Dei, how can she perform her governmental function as champion of gay rights and equality?

To those commentators who are calling for her to be disbarred from holding this office, I would say this: is this truly the path we wish to go down? Surely, the state is secular and must remain blind to an individual's personal beliefs and religion when selecting her representatives. For so long as a minister is competent to perform their role, it is not up to the government to consider how they might feel about doing so. To discriminate against public servants on the grounds of their privately held views sets a dangerous precedent, as demonstrated by the European Parliament's decision to oust Rocco Buttiglione for having the moral courage to publicly declare his disapproval of homosexuality based upon his faith. If we continued along this route, then surely no Catholic could work in any hospital in which abortions were carried out, no Muslim could work in the Treasury (which derives significant income from sources prohibited under Shari'ah law, such as the sale of alcohol), no animal rights sympathiser could work for the NHS (which routinely procures and prescribes drugs which have been tested on animals), and ... you get the point.

To Ruth Kelly, on the other hand, I would say that if you really believe in the truth and integrity of the Catholic faith and in its teachings, (including the doctrine that practising homosexuality is a sin), how can you, in all conscience, defy your God and your Church in order to further your political career?

Sadly, the conclusion I am forced to draw is that Ruth Kelly has at this crucial moral moment chosen to ignore her faith in the hope that her electorate and her God will have the charity to ignore such blatant hypocrisy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Semantics or significance?

Nick Cohen in the Observer makes the point that it is impossible to understand Islamic terrorism if one refuses to see it for what it is - rooted in a pursuit of Islamist ideals. There is an argument, which is better carried out by people more qualified, as to whether or not the Islam that these terrorists espouse is a legitimate expression of a violent faith, or a perverse and self-serving abuse of a peaceful one. What should not be in question, however, is that it is Islam that inspires the terrorism.

So it is infuriating to see the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, saying that

You cannot use the term "Islamic terrorism", people who commit suicide attacks or criminal activities on behalf of religion, Islamic religion or other religion, they abuse the name of this religion.

As Cohen says, it is at least reasonable to listen to the terrorists themselves as to whether they are inspired by Islam. In the comments to Cohen's piece a theme emerges: this is merely Islamic exceptionalism (the comments also include the description of Cohen as 'a one way zionist war mongering hate machine' which in my book is one of the most Spart-like insults I've heard). No-one talks of the IRA as 'Catholic terrorists' or of Timothy McVeigh as a 'Christian terrorist' after all do they?

Well no they don't. And there's a very good reason. The bastards of the IRA bombed and murdered and kneecapped teenagers for two generations not in the name of Catholicism, but in the name of a united Irish Republic. As such they were always referred to (as I recall) as 'Republican terrorists' except by Ken Livingstone obviously. As for McVeigh, as far as I know the bombings were carried out through the back-woods libertarianism that also inspired the Unabomber. Terrorists usually commit atrocities out of an ideological background. The reason that Islamist terrorists should, alone, be referred to by their religion is because it is their religion that is their ideology.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dog whistles

Dog whistles. There was a phrase that was famous for fifteen minutes. Lynton Crosby was supposed to have taught Howard the secret mehtod of making sure that the message you really wanted to get across to the voters was hidden to all those you didn't want to offend, hence all the 'its not racist to restrict immigration' posters in the last General Election.

I didn't really buy it then. The places I heard this strategy discussed were where the Labour Party were describing this process in order to say how racist etc it was. If Crosby was as good as he was supposed to be (and apparently he was) then the dog whistle would have been silent, instead of attracting vast amounts of attention.

There is, however, an expert exponent of the dog whistle in modern politics. Despite never openly espousing any particular cause that might differentiate him from Blair, Gordon Brown has subtly intimated all over the place. To business leaders and the City he tries to portray the 'New Labour' visage, all about economic stability and fiscal prudence. To the centre left of his party he gives off an odour of sanctity and progressiveness, while to the headbangers he just lets it half slip that he thinks that some of these reforms have gone a bit far really.

Without ever nailing himself down to any particular position, Brown has managed pretty well at making almost everybody think that his Prime Ministerhip will entail a move in their direction. As a politician that's smart - as a Prime Minister that's damn difficult to maintain.

Self indulgent twaddle

Niall Ferguson, who once spent the best years of his life attempting to inculcate academic rigour into my aging collaborator (just getting in my retaliation first for the best man's speech!), is extremely fond of counter-factual history. Many of these are the old-fashioned 'what if Napoleon had won at Waterloo' situations, which require only a little mental stretch, while others are the more abstract 'what if the Roman Empire never fell' ideas, which demand rather more brain bending to accept.

Re-reading Peter Hopkirk's superlative Storm from the East raised some intriguing possibilities. Hopkirk writes predominantly about the shadowy secret service world in Central Asia and India inthe late nineteenth century to the inter-war years. He writes so well that he inspired me to become an academic historian, an ambition that survived until the first round of job-hunting revealed the salaries on offer.

In Storm from the East, which is set in newly Bolshevik Central Asia, amid the fantastically romantic places like the Emirate of Bokhara and Khokand, Hopkirk refers to the widespread belief in Russia at the time that the British Indian army was poised to invade the region, and declare a sort of suzereignty over the whole of Russian Central Asia. Very few at the time doubted that, had the Persian force of General Malleson wanted to, it could have achieved this invasion. Look at what happened to the 200 or so men of 'Dunsterforce' in Baku, where they held off an army of some five thousand virtually on their own. But the British held off.

What does anyone think would have happened if they hadn't, and had instead pursued territorial ambitions in Central Asia? The collapse of the fragile Bolshevik regime? The establishment of a British 'dominion of Central Asia'? Humiliating military collapse that might have led to the end of the Indian Empire? Although I doubt the intellectual value of these games, there is no doubt that they're great fun.

Kelly, Buttiglione and so on

There has been something of a hooh-hah over the appointment of Ruth Kelly as minister in charge of social inclusion (or some such ludicrous post). The primary reason is that Kelly, as a member of Opus Dei, presumably supports orthodox catholic views on homosexuality, abortion and the family. Some of this is, no doubt, because Opus Dei are the pantomime villains de nos jours, who are defined in terms of Dan Brown's execrable book.

The focus of these complaints is that Kelly twice refused to answer questions put to her on the BBC, and then did it again on Sky, as to whether she considered homosexuality as a sin. She has never attended a Commons vote on the matter (whether on age of consent or gay adoption). All of this, obviously brings Rocco Buttiglione to mind. He was Berlusconi's attempted appointee to the European Commission who admitted that he followed Catholic doctrine and therefore considered homosexuality a sin, but not a crime. Buttiglione was swiftly removed from the reckoning by the Parliament.

My view of Kelly is that, had she followed the Buttiglione route, stated her views on the matter, justified them as a matter of private faith and stated that policy would be unaffected, she would have been in a better moral position. What Chris says, with which I generally agree, is that Kelly's personal beliefs, whether irrational or not, make absolutely no difference as to discrimination. This is what I would have said had Kelly openly stated and defended her beliefs.

But she didn't. And it is her evasion that I find rather distasteful. If she has confidence in her faith, which as Opus Dei member she must, she should have the courage to say so.

Summer begins

And it even looks like it in London today - sun shining and pollen shimmering. Over at the home of cricket England are limbering up for the First Test against Sri Lanka, starting in half an hour,
and as if Freddie, the new patron saint of English cricket, wasn't already one of the coolest people in the world today, word reaches me of a new dimension to him: political commentator.

Matthew Hoggard called the Prime Minister a knob when we were celebrating winning the Ashes at a Downing Street function, and you know what? That's the first thing Hoggy's got right in a while. Blair is a knob.

Sod Adam Rickett, Lousie Bagshawe and Zac Goldsmith, we clearly have a prime contender for the Tory A-list right here. Andrew Flintoff MP has a certain ring to it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Poor old Iain Dale has inexplicably failed to make it onto the coveted Tory 'A' list of candidates. It would seem that the standard must be set really rather high. Except for Adam Rickett and Zac Goldsmith of course.

Hopefully Iain's espousal of the Davis cause didn't count against him in the final reckoning, especially as the Tories need all the bright people it can find at the moment. Commiserations old chap and nil desperandum, if recent polls are even nearly accurate, I suspect that Westminster will echo to the Dale footsteps before too long.

Rebellious Scots to Crush

Not content with bowdlerising the national anthem, those pesky caledonians are now agitating against the BBC's choice of anthem for the World Cup. Whinging Scots are complaining that it's discriminatory and offensive, because it celebrates the Duke of Cumberland, whose military victory over the Catholic Jacobin rebels at Culloden marked the end of French-subsidised, Scottish attempts to install a Stuart on the throne of Britain.

Predictably the miserable buggers at the SNP are behind this. Rob Gibson described the piece (usually known as 'See the Conquering Hero Come') as a "symbol of oppression" and described the piece by the German-born composer as betraying an "anglocentric view of the world and of music."

Well, in my opinion, they can all go piss up a rope. Firstly, Scotland aren't in the World Cup (again) and thus an Anglocentric tune would have been fine. Secondly, music by Handel is hardly bloody Anglocentric. Thirdly, why the fuck can't they grow up and stop whining? Aren't they content that the Home Secretary, Chancellor and Transport Secretary are all bloody Scots? That the entire fucking country is effectively subsidised by Londoners? There is, of course only one song that should have been chosen:

The English, the English, the English are best:
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest!
The rottenest bits of these islands of ours,
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers,
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot,
you'll find he's a stinker as likely as not.

The Scotsman is mean, as we 're all well aware,
And bony and blotchy and covered with hair,
He eats salted porridge, he works all the day,
And he hasn't got bishops to show him the way.

The English; the English, the English are best:
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest!

UPDATE: Cheers to the P-G, that'll teach me to cut and paste...

Momentous days

Amid all the heat generated by events in Westminster, another event more significant, nay more important than they has occurred. My prestigious co-commentator on this site has entered his fourth decade. Although the body has started to degenerate, the mind has remained as sharp as ever.

Happy Birthday fella!

The harrying of the North

I refer of course to the acvtive decision to create Labour fiefdoms in the North and Wales to add to Scotland where the unhealthy measure of devolution and its inevitable, useless additional layers of government has created nation employed by the Government and led by fools pursuing a Socialist dream funded from England.

The same is happening in the North and Wales, in the latter around 50% of people are employed by the Government, aka the taxpayer, many of the rest are 'long term unemployed', or as they term it 'on the sick'.

The purpose: to create vassals of big Government who will support it, as their liege and funder, through thick and thin.

The beneficiary: Labour, especially the Gobblin' King, the instigator of the 'salaries for support' scandle and in whose image the public sector has been cast.

The payer: this is funded by the rest of England, who must generate the real productive wealth to fund the unproductive swathe of inspectors and outreach officials, managers and strategists, consultants and advisors who are attached like remorra fish to the public purse.

William 1, King of England and Duke of Normandy, harried the North to starve rebellion. Productive mills and farms were destroyed, people displaced and a once proud people stamped into serfdom by a destroyed economy that left them wholly dependent on the central power - rebellion was nolonger an option.

As it was, it is. Only this time the North have been eager and active participants in their own destruction.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Trans-Atlantic sense

This is a very sensible column from Jonah Goldberg over at National Review. It starts in fine form:

Politics has a math of its own. Whereas a scientifically minded person might see things this way: One person who says 2+2=5 is an idiot; two people who think 2+2=5 are two idiots; and a million people who think 2+2=5 are a whole lot of idiots—political math works differently.

Strikes me as pretty accurate.

It is of course the underlying calculation behind the timing of the Blair resignation: if he can hug as much opprobrium to his bosom as possible, the Gobblin' King (hat tip DK) can come in and "be the change electors need", and the idiot-electorate will back him up.

Blips and tipping-points

William Hague, in a long-forgotten speech to the Tory conference in 1999 presciently identified the three stages of the Labour Government.

When I spoke to you in this hall two years ago I said that New Labour would bring first fascination, then admiration, then disillusionment and finally contempt. At that stage the admiration was running high; now the disillusionment is beginning; and mark my words, they are not so far away from contempt. (hat tip to Mr Eugenides)

Well, the timing was perhaps a little optimistic, but there is no no doubt that contempt is the over-riding impression that this Government gives off. Both the Government's contempt for the people, and the peoples' contempt for the Government. How else to explain the appointment of Margeret Hodge as Children's Minister, or the retention of the biggest white elephant of the all, John Prescott, as a figure whose sole role is to prevent strife in the Labour Party, yet whose salary is paid by the taxpayer. How else to explain the five Scots in the cabinet, including the Home Secretary, who will have no authority on prisons in his own constituency, and the Transport Secretary, who will have no say on the roads in his.

It does finally begin to look as if the great wave of disgust that this Government has done so much to provoke has begun to register. Obviously one poll doesn't make a trend, but the suspicion grows that Labour has begun a slide that is irreversible. The death of the Tories in 1992 was disguised by the remaining five years the Government had to run. Yet the delay only made the final collapse worse. Brown is polling worse than Blair, and the well of talent, such as it ever was, on the Labour benches has now truly run dry. If the Conservatives fail to exploit this opportunity, they do not deserve the chance of power.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Getting a blood transfusion from a mummy

So Blair's reshuffled his cabinet (in the same sense that Prescott reshuffles his secretaries), but to what end and with what effect? There is no depth of talent in the Labour Party. Even the old cabinet was looking tired and scrag-endish. The new one looks like a combination between the scrapings of a barrel and the remedial class in a London comprehensive.

John 'Oh fuck not Health' Reid at the Home Office. Reid is like Blair's fireman, running around wherever someone has fucked up more than usually spectacularly. It is therefore a shame that he brings so little ability to complement his undoubted pugnacity. Classic Labour style mix of unpleasant bullying without the competence to justify it.

Prescott retains his DPM role, and his secretary gets fired for indiscretion. He remains an adulterous, boorish thug with the same relation to shit as Midas had to gold.

Brown squats immovable over the Treasury like an enormous toad. His attitude towards the public remains insufferably arrogant, and his tactics in interviews remains that of a six year old sticking her fingers in her ears and shouting 'la la la I can't hear you.' The prospect of this man in no 10 fills me with a dull sense of horror,

And, in the third great office of state, Margaret Beckett, described, ludicrously, by the Beeb as "the safest possible pair of hands" despite presiding over arguably the most shambolic Government department of all. She is truly ghastly. At least Caligula only made his horse a senator, Blair's gone and made his Foreign Secretary.


I have always thought that the job of Foreign Secretary is the best in Government - great office, interesting issues and plenty of travel.

So why have they split it in two - I guess for something to do? - and WHY have they appointed that horse faced witch to the coolest job in Government???

Only good news is that the farmers now might get paid the monies they are owed.

We're all working class now

On the Today programme as well this morning they had a debate on the news that some 40% of us now self-define as middle-class. In order to talk about whatever implications this might have (precious few as far as I can see) they roped in some Spart-a-like from Compass (the quasi-Marxist think tank quaintly described as 'of the left').

Among various tired academicesque cliches ('false consciousness', 'social construct' etc ad nauseam) this no-doubt bearded leftie made the astonishing definition of 'working class' as anyone who worked using their hands or their brains.

Apart from politics and some branches of academia, can anyone suggest a job that is not, by this definition, working class? As far as I can tell, Investment bankers, City lawyers, brick-layers carpenters and surgeons are now all of a class. Maybe it's time for a re-definition. How about working class and non-working class? For those of us who bother to go out to work and those of us who don't.

Turning of the tide?

Very good results for the Tories last night. A swathe of councils in London, the Midlands and the South have changed hands. Hammersmith, Crawley, Hillingdon and Harrow all went blue - some for the first time ever. Most importantly the Tory vote was about 40% - the crucial benchmark that the Tories have to reach at any General Election.

On the other hand, the Labour Party's pre-election spin was that they expected to lose 350 seats. By this measuer, admittedly an extraordinarily low one - they didn't suffer the meltdown some had predicted. Some of this is obviously management of expectations, but there is more to it than that. Since 1994 Blair has had one supreme asset: the transcendental uselessness of the Tory Party. That advantage does seem now to have gone. But another one may be along.

If the Labour Party received an expected and well-deserved battering last night, the Liberal Democrats had a night that was worse than anyone expected. On the Today programme this morning it was described as 'mixed', a phrase which, as Cameron said, would not have been applied to the Tories if their result had bee the net gain of one seat.

Ming Campbell has been awful as leader. Uninspired in Parliament and invisible outside. The Lib Dems have done a Duncan Smith and the only question is how long it takes them to realise it. This is, of course, good news for the Tories but last night the crucial thing was the advantage this handed the Labour Party. To win only one seat in a night disguised the slump in the Labour vote. The percentages (Tories 40%, Lib Dems 27%, Labour 26%) tell the story. This was a good night for Cameron, a bad night for Campbell, and a bloody awful one for Blair.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More bloody incompetence

Two points on the elephantine scamblings of the Home Secretary. The first is to re-iterate that it should not be the primary impulse of Government to introduce new legislation. The current problems over non-deported criminals are the result of a failure to implement existing legislation, not an indication of its inadequacy.

This is a systemic failing of the Blair Government. There are now some five or sx different Acts under which you could be prosecuted for carrying a knife. There is a new Criminal Justice Act every year. Unfortunately they think that it is more important to acquire a positive headline ("Government to act on...") than it is to enforce the existing law.

The second is to note, via Iain Dale and UKIP, that the proposal to make deportation automatic for foreign nationals is in flagrant contravention of an EU directive, as well as arguably in contravention of the Human Rights Act. I hold no brief for wither of these institutions, but you would think that a Government that has placed such store by them should continue to be so ignorant of what they contain.

It is further evidence of the sheer, exhausting and infuriating extent of this Government's managerial incompetence. In essence, "New Labour" promised that they had abandoned ideology and would instead focus on good governance, "what matters is what works" and all that jazz. Yet it would be hard to call to mind a Government that was less competent in its administration. Its few successes have been the result of its abandonment of a governing role (over interest rates for example), and everywhere it has sought to apply hands-on management, most notably the NHS, grass never grows again.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Non Angeli sed ghastly

So embarrassing when you end up at the same party and in the same outfit as someone else. Especially when you are supposed to be wearing something else.

Now I dont hold much of a brief for the Pope, but why can't Cherie Blair see a tradition or custom without spitting it its face? Even when they relate to something that must on the face of it be important to her - like her catholic faith?

Why, when the Sainted Dennis and colourless Norma offer such good examples of low profile spouses who accept that they weren't elected to anything therefore their views are utterly unimportant, won't she follow recent precedent and stay out of the way?

There is much to be worried about in the impending Brown administration - but one of the things for which to thank God will be that this Monstrous Regiment of a Woman, this rude, graceless, vulgar, grasping, selfish, greedy woman and all her works will be gone.

Ding Ding All Change..?

At the moment things are ticking along in a pleasing and amusing fashion.

Prescot's affairs seem to be legion, Charles Clarke's incompetence is manifest, Comical Hewitt's bon mots resonate nicely through the political discourse, the PLP are trying to manage expectations for the council elections so that anything less than the lynching of canvassers will be seen as something of a triumph...

Surely, we say rubbing gleeful hands together, the Gobblin' King (as DK dubs the Brownian Motion) must be tarred with the same brush. The electorate will see that most of the problems of this administration are domestic: the ever growing tax burden, repressive laws, failed health service, the growls of the trade unions, the collapse in productivity, the lost control of our borders, the miserable retreat of reform on education - as well as the sweaty Blair paw mark, all these bear the sign of the Beast.

And yet... Tony hangs on so that the scandles are forever associated with him - his real legacy being to take the fall for Gordon, to hang on and become so mired in the fall of an administration so that Gordon can step in, reshuffle his cabinet promoting leftists likeEd Balls, Ed Miliband, Vera Baird, John Denham, Angela Eagle, David Chaytor, and Tony Wright (whose praises are sung by the ghastly Toynbee and who must therefore be unspeakable).

Why do this? Because they believe that in this way the much sought after 'change' can be provided for from within the ranks of the left, much as they believe Johm Major provided sufficient change to hold off the Labour Party in 1992, and their calculation is that the British people are stupid enough to fall for it.

And you know what, I reckon they are right.

St Andrews wisnae bad

I hope all had a jolly weekend. I was up North at a wedding in St Andrews and it is a bonny place. I'm an Oxford man myself, but am willing to concede that being on the coast is very pleasant indeed.

Mind you, you can't get a drink after 1 o'clock and some of the foodstuffs available in the chipper would make your eyes water (and arteries clang shut).