Friday, 31 July 2015

Binge Drinking Britain

The subject of 'binge drinking' has been in the news quite a lot in recent years. One high profile method governments have employed to address the problem is to encourage the police to target under age drinkers. Unfortunately, behind all the rhetoric, the approach of the authorities to the problem of young people and alcohol is unrealistic and misconceived.

The first misconception is that targeting under age drinking is the same as addressing binge drinking. The two are quite separate, since the overwhelming majority of those indulging in anti-social behaviour as a result of excessive drinking are likely to be in the 18-30 age group, and quite a few will be still older. The term 'binge drinking' is also fairly unhelpful, since heavy drinking does not necessarily lead to anti-social behaviour. There have always been heavy drinkers, but the culture of group anti social rowdiness, fuelled by alcohol is a relatively recent trend.

The legal age for the sale of alcohol has been eighteen years for a considerable time. Until more recently it was enforced relatively lightly but, in an attempt to address anti social behaviour amongst some young people, enforcement is now taken much more seriously by government, and thus also by the police. It is not clear how this hard-line approach will be effective. Most youngsters in the 15-17 age group are provided with drinks either courtesy of their parents, or bought for them by older friends. Young people are not likely to take kindly to being stopped by police searching for unopened cans of lager.

Intervention of this kind may be necessary in crackdowns on weapons in areas of high knife crime, but police officers searching young people for alcohol are likely to create resentment, and not just for those under eighteen. Similarly, the police will be asking for trouble if they enter pubs to check the IDs of young drinkers. To conclude, intrusive measures to enforce the law on under age drinking are likely to be seen as heavy handed and will have no impact on under age drinking. Supermarkets requesting identification for those under 25 wishing to purchase alcoholic drinks are gratuitously treating their younger customers with contempt.

The problem of antisocial behaviour by young people is caused more by lack of discipline in either the home or in school, and by the huge increase in single parenting. The government shows no signs of taking effective action to address these underlying causes of youth misbehaviour.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Ian Smith, a retrospective appraisal

Ian Smith, the former prime minister of Rhodesia was a hate figure amongst British liberals in the sixties and seventies.. He lived long enough to witness the transformation of his country from the most prosperous, stable and law abiding country in Africa under his leadership, to the economically collapsed, corrupt, lawless, failed state of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Smith was demonised by the liberal establishment for his defiance of their subversive demands that he hand over power to a 'black majority' government controlled by hardline Marxists. British governments, both Labour and Tory collaborated in the destruction of Rhodesia. It should be remembered that it was the Thatcher government that handed Rhodesia to Mugabe, in the full knowledge that he had waged a terrorist guerrilla campaign against the country for nearly a decade, resulting in the destabilisation of the country.

It is a curious double standard amongst the left that black people who come to white countries bring 'enrichment' and 'diversity'. However, white people in black countries are branded as 'settlers', who oppress the natives with their cultural and economic imperialism. Nevertheless, it has to be recognised that white colonialism, as a concept, is one that now belongs to the past.

The benefits of white colonialism in Rhodesia were clearly visible. The huge increase in prosperity, agricultural efficiency, the provision of modern health and education systems and a developed transport system are all examples. However, the benefits were largely confined to the white community. The major downside of the colonial system was that black natives were treated as almost non-people in their own country, and the overwhelming majority were barred from applying for all but the most menial of jobs.

The whole ethos of colonialism was based on the once almost unquestioned assumption that whites comprised a civilised elite by virtue of their race, whilst the blacks were seen as near sub-human in comparison. The widely employed habit of calling all black men 'boy', regardless of age, was symptomatic of an unthinking contempt shown towards their fellow humans. For all his failings Mugabe did at least bring some self respect back to his people, albeit at a very high price economically.

Thinkers on the right believe that third world immigration is seriously destructive to the social cohesion and cultural identity of Britain. But to be consistent they cannot support white control of African counties since the effect there would be the destruction of their own indigenous culture and way of life. The intractable problem faced by black African countries is that they seem largely incapable of sustaining a modern developed economy, together with sound government free of corruption, under the rule of law, which European countries take for granted. So, unfortunately, we are likely to be on the receiving end of liberal hand wringing on the need to 'make poverty history' in Africa for the indefinite future.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Tony Blair - a retrospective appraisal

What has been the legacy of Tony Blair’s ten years in Downing Street? First, to get them out of the way, let’s acknowledge his successes. His government managed to keep the economy on an even keel, inflation remained low and there was no great hike in unemployment, as happened under the Tories. Underinvestment in public services was reversed (although the extra money was not always wisely targeted), disproving the notion that public spending crowds out private activity, which continued at a high level. Despite strong pressure, we also stayed out of the Euro, thus retaining control of our economy. Taken together these are considerable successes, more than the Thatcher, Major and previous Labour administrations achieved. Unfortunately the public are usually more inclined to condemn politicians for their failures, than to give them credit for their successes.

So what then are his failures? Regrettably, there are quite a few. To begin with the cultural Marxist permanent revolution that started in the 1960s became considerably more entrenched. The ability of the British people to govern themselves without outside interference was undermined still further, and normal family life continued to be subverted. Education stayed manifestly unreformed, the causes of chronic criminality remained unaddressed, the popular media continued its downward spiral of degradation, and control of our borders was lost completely. Let us examine the background to these failures in more detail.

Many people still seem unaware that they are guinea pigs in a massive Marxist social experiment. This has happened as a consequence of most levers of power coming under the control of a subversive elite who have succeeded in projecting themselves in a positive light by the skilful use of fine sounding buzz words, such as 'progressive', 'tolerant', 'modern', 'forward looking', 'inclusive' etc. This hijacking of the cultural agenda has allowed the subversives to define what is worthy and acceptable, leaving ordinary people confused and powerless to respond. Those who question the Marxist agenda are either ridiculed or denounced as 'reactionary', 'bigots' or are subjected to pejorative leftist newspeak terms such as 'racist' or 'homophobic'. This process has been gradual yet incremental.

It is worth examining how the Blair government has taken forward this Marxist social agenda, now widely known as political correctness. It should be remembered that the main objective is to gradually transfer to the state, rights that were historically exercised by ordinary people either as individuals, families or private businesses. In short, state control by trusted politically sound apparatchiks and their careerist hangers on, is the name of the game. This process has continued for over four decades now, including the supposedly 'right wing' administration of Margaret Thatcher.

The biggest casualty has been the further undermining of parliamentary democracy. This has been subverted on two fronts, by the expansion of the powers of the European Union, and interference by the European Court of Human Rights, as it misleadingly styles itself. Directives and judgements either by, or at the instigation, of these two supra national bodies now severely circumscribe what political parties can promise, let alone deliver, at general elections. The three historic major parties are all committed to maintaining the present system more or less, thus denying the British electorate from exercising true democracy, that is the ability to decide issues for ourselves as a nation.

The next target for subversion is to destroy the cohesion of society. Fifty years ago Britain was noted for its racial homogeneity, low crime, family stability, good manners and community spirit. Since then governments have encouraged huge levels of third world immigration, totally destroyed marriage, removed effective means of discipline from teachers, weakened the authority of parents, introduced creeping politicisation of the police and criminal justice system, and allowed a degraded and trivialised media to develop. None of the legislative, judicial or administrative measures that allowed this to happen were ever included in any election manifesto. As a consequence of these changes, in many parts of Britain, a feckless underclass has developed resulting in crime ridden, socially and culturally fragmented communities, with dysfunctional families, feral youths, drug gangs and fatherless children.

Specifically, under the Blair government well over a million third world migrants entered the country, resulting in the ethnic cleansing of neighbourhoods and the lowering of wages for the most financially vulnerable. Marriage was downgraded to the same status as single parenthood, or the nonsensical concept of same sex 'civil partnerships'. Teachers were left with no means of disciplining children other than by the drastic step of exclusion, and politically correct propaganda entered the curriculum at the expense of national traditions. Instead of acting as a deterrent on the beat, police officers spent most of their time completing paperwork, as did teachers in order to meet mostly unnecessary targets or bureaucratic directives. All of these were the direct consequence of the imposition of the 'progressive' agenda promoted by the cultural Marxists in the government, BBC, universities, schools, trade unions, local government, state funded 'charities', and schools.

Predictably, virtually none of this has been rolled back under the premiership of David Cameron.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bernard Manning – bigot or genuinely funny bloke

Political correctness has not only extended its reach into high culture but it has also taken upon itself to decide what kind of comedy material is now acceptable. The comedian Bernard Manning, who died a few years ago, is remembered for his robust refusal to surrender to the demands of the politically correct thought police. As a result of such defiance this good natured man was the victim of a poisonous vilification campaign organised by the self righteous organs of 'progressive' thinking. A particularly nasty example of this self proclaimed moral superiority appeared in the Guardian the day after his death. In the eyes of the cultural Marxists, Manning was a 100% gold plated 'bigot', a favourite word used by them to denounce and demonise anyone who refuses to sign up to the multicultural madness that has gripped our country.

Bernard Manning employed a very peculiar and unusual gimmick for a stand up comedian – he was actually very funny. Normally these embarrassing impostors can be divided into two categories, those who are not particularly funny, and those who are excruciatingly unfunny. The latter description covers pretty nearly all of the so called 'alternative' comedians, that is those who have been licensed to toe the party line on all matters PC. Manning adamantly refused to do this and as a result he was barred from our TV screens.

In a sense Bernard Manning was lucky to come to national prominence just before the PC media stranglehold became overwhelming. It is an odd thing that when huge numbers of people object to a TV programme approved of by the Left, such as Jerry Springer The Opera, the issue of censorship is always raised. But when popular programmes such as the Benny Hill Show are taken off, it is due to 'changing public taste'. No mention of censorship here of course.

There is no doubt that if Bernard Manning had been allowed to remain on TV he would have continued to attract top ratings. This was demonstrated by the fact that his shows at his Manchester night club were always completely sold out until he retired through ill health.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The politicisation of the arts

In recent years the arts and culture have become highly politicised in conformity with the approved politically correct establishment blueprint, and so it is worth examining how state involvement in cultural matters has developed. Its origins can be traced to the establishment in 1940 of the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA). The initial objective of the committee was to give financial assistance to cultural societies finding difficulty in maintaining their activities during the War. In 1945 CEMA continued as a permanent peacetime body under the name of the Arts Council of Great Britain. The main objective of the Council was to develop accessibility to, and greater knowledge, understanding and practice of the fine arts. It was supported by a small annual grant from the Treasury.

One of the founders of the Arts Council was Kenneth Clark who, when Director of the National Gallery during the war, established a series of acclaimed lunchtime concerts at the Gallery. After the war Clark, together with the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, helped to set up the Arts Council. Their outlook on the arts was unashamedly supportive of high culture and Clark was later to achieve international fame with his memorable television series Civilisation, first broadcast in 1969. His high minded cultural vision was reflected in the work of the early Arts Council. However, by the mid-1970s, this ethos began to come under criticism for being too 'elitist', paternalistic and old-fashioned, and it began to be supplanted by an approach to culture that placed much more emphasis on social and political issues, as dictated by the liberal establishment.

The fruits of this approach on matters cultural are evident in such glossy brochures as The Cultural Cornerstone produced by the South East England Cultural Consortium a few years ago. Why a region as amorphous as the South East needed such a body still remains unclear. However, The Cultural Cornerstone is a revealing document as it demonstrates the sheer philistinism which underpins current official thinking on culture. The Consortium considers its main task is to 'lead and assist with the relevant analysis and understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the region and the sector, and to articulate and advocate a vision for the future, some main lines of development, and targets for their achievement at the regional level. It is anxious to add value to the work of those already involved in the field, rather than to duplicate, deflect or distract attention away from their own aspirations and achievements'. This convoluted and muddled verbiage is representative of present day bureaucratic jargon, which is forever tying itself in knots to justify its own existence, courtesy of the taxpayer. ,p> Bureaucracy always runs the risk of continual expansion through its own momentum. Whilst this unnecessary public sector waste needs to be eliminated, what is more objectionable is the underlying motivation of the Consortium which is not to improve cultural attainment and appreciation, but instead to promote 'Cultural investment and innovation as potentially the main engine of regeneration of both urban and rural communities within the South East.' More explicitly it believes that 'The economic growth and competitiveness of the region will rely on the success of the creative industries in particular'. This at least is clear; it is that culture is seen as merely one means of attaining the Government’s broader objectives of regeneration and economic growth, and not as a desirable end in itself. It would be tedious to list all the defiantly non-cultural aims of the Consortium but the following extracts give a flavour:

• 'The need to integrate the cultural strategy, not only with local and agency strategies, but also with key regional plans'.

• 'The scope for joining up not only marketing and promotion but also training and professional development across the cultural sectors'.

• 'The difficulties of identifying and promoting a regional brand'.

• 'The challenge of working across boundaries'.

• 'The need for sensitivity to the variety of communities and their interests throughout the region'.

Nowhere in The Cultural Cornerstone is there evidence of any understanding of cultural improvement, artistic achievement or the means to create an environment in which both can be fostered and appreciated. Instead the early objectives of the Arts Council have been turned on their head to be replaced by a debased agenda of economic growth and 'social inclusion'.

The Consortium is directly funded by the Treasury, and as explained above its main purpose seems to have been to assist the Government’s regeneration and regional economic development agenda, rather than to promote cultural improvement. As far as its work does impinge on artistic and cultural matters it appears to duplicate the responsibilities of the Arts Council of England, which has a more 'arms length' relationship with the Government. All self respecting bodies these days have a 'corporate plan' and the Arts Council is no exception. The days when the Arts Council operated on a shoestring are now over since it enjoys funding of hundredss of million a year. Some of the objectives are commendable such as the requirement 'To promote the arts at the heart of our national life', the belief that 'The arts have the power to transform lives and communities' and the need 'To increase the number of people who engage with the arts'. Others, predictably, are more modish, such as the inevitable 'The celebration of cultural diversity is a central value in our work, running through all our programmes and relationships' or 'Social inclusion initiatives are a clear priority'.

At the top of the public sector arts pyramid is the Department for Culture Media and Sport. Once again it employs the same dispiriting language to express its objectives. For example its 'Arts & Social Policy' declares, 'The arts, in all their rich variety, belong to everyone, regardless of race, class, culture, age, sex, disability or sexuality. The arts can offer innovative solutions, build bridges and express differences positively, not just for the individual but for whole communities. They can break boundaries. The Government believes that the arts in social contexts can demonstrate excellence and that these two need not be mutually exclusive.' This mangled wish-list of sociological gibberish seems a long way removed from Lord Clark’s noble early post war vision for the encouragement of the arts.

So what should the role of the state be in relation to the arts? To oversee the government’s policy on the arts and culture it would be logical to retain the Arts Council, but streamlined to concentrate on recognised artistic excellence. This will return it to a remit similar to that which it had when first established. The Council’s responsibilities should be largely confined to promoting serious music, opera, ballet, fine art, established works of literature and drama, traditional indigenous folk music, dance, culture and crafts. Everything else will be for the market to provide without public funding of any kind. So there would be no more subsidies for conceptual art, ethnic culture or rap music to give but a few examples. Additionally, the Council should also rid itself of all the impenetrable politically correct language in which it cloaks its pronouncements and objectives and return to fostering artistic excellence.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Some recent artistic endeavours

It is worth taking a look at some recent examples of artistic endeavour that have gained recognition by our liberal elite. These are in no way exceptional cases and represent mainstream current thinking in the arts establishment. The first example to consider is painting and sculpture and where better to start than the infamous Turner Prize. A year has been chosen purely at random not knowing in advance about who made the short list or won the prize, but in the near certain knowledge that they would all be completely worthless. The year chosen is 2001, for no better reason than it was close to the start of the new century. The Turner Prize is awarded to 'A British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the (preceding) twelve months.'

The winner in 2001 was one Martin Creed, an artistic luminary of whom the drinkers in the saloon bar of the Dog & Duck were likely to have been previously unaware. In awarding Creed the prize the jury praised 'The deftness and breadth of his recent work, as seen in neon pieces such as Work # 203: Everything is going to be alright and Work # 232: The whole world + the work = the whole world.' They admired 'His audacity in presenting a single work in the exhibition, and noted its strength, rigour, wit and sensitivity to the site. Coming out of the tradition of minimal and conceptual art, his work is engaging, wide ranging and fresh'. Such is the prestige attached to this event that Creed was presented with his prize by no less a person than the international celebrity Madonna.

Creed’s citation for the prize brings to our attention that his 'Art is characterised by a gentle but subversive wit and by a minimalism rooted in an instinctive anti-materialism. His often extremely self-effacing works, all titled by number, such as Work No.79 1993, some Blu-Tack kneaded, rolled into a ball and depressed against a wall, or Work No. 88 a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball, have been characterised as attempts to short-circuit the visually overloaded, choice saturated culture in which we live. They also take their place in the tradition within the avant-garde of making work which appears to have no material value - which resists or defies commodification, even if in vain. Hence his conscious use of mundane and modest materials.'

It is disturbing that this ludicrous drivel has been endorsed by the Director of the Tate Gallery, who chaired the Turner Prize jury, and the TV company Channel 4, who provided the prize money. Let us take a look at the 'audacious' single work that won Creed the prize. Entitled The Lights Going On and Off, it is in fact an empty room in which the lights do just that. In the words of the art critic of the Guardian it is 'the most minimal work ever to win the £20,000 prize, so minimal in fact that many of those who have seen it were unaware it was anything more than dodgy wiring'. Any further comment on its putative artistic merits would be superfluous.

Moving on to poetry, one British poet who has created quite as stir is Benjamin Zephaniah who has been tipped as a future Poet Laureate. However, it is an open question whether such an honour would be acceptable to this literary giant since he very publicly rejected an OBE that was offered to him. Posts which he has accepted, however, are an honorary doctorate in Arts and Humanities from the University of North London and doctorates at the University of Central England and the University of Staffordshire. He has also been appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education to advise on the place of music and art in the National Curriculum. He was a candidate for the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, but inexplicably failed to be appointed.

Zephaniah is always willing to share his profound insights with us, as in an interview with The Bookseller where he opines 'reading is whatever you want it to be - if you read fun books, you'll get fun.' The poet captures the vibrancy of the capital city in his poem This London Breed commissioned by the Museum of London 'I love dis great pollusted place, were pop stars come to live their dreams, here ravers come for drum and bass, and politicians plan their schemes.' No danger of this poet for our times being confused with Wordsworth or Tennyson. What a pity that Zephaniah declined the request of the Metropolitan Police to allow his poem to be used on a poster to attract ethnic recruits.

Recent architecture brings its own depressing litany of eyesores and carbuncles. Examples that come to mind are the extravagantly praised Peckham Library and proposals for the 'Fourth Grace' in Liverpool, However, perhaps worse than either of these is the proposed extension to the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington, known as a 'The Spiral' and designed by Daniel Libeskind. The concept is typical of much modern thinking since it makes no attempt to accommodate itself visually to its setting. Indeed it does quite the reverse since the juxtaposition deliberately affronts the elegant beauty of the main museum building.

In defence of his design, Libeskind describes it as 'Unashamedly contemporary. I'm not trying to pretend it's another time, another era…the building is not a conventional spiral, it unfolds because of a geometry that is virtually endless. You could continue it on and on. Spiral is more an emblematic word.' He insists his building forges 'A connection between the dynamic and the meditative.' Needless to say Libeskind attracts his share of 'progressive' critical acclaim 'A creator of brilliant, radical designs….(he) leads the cutting edge in contemporary design. Abandoning long cherished ideals of symmetry and geometric regularity, his fractured designs are especially renowned for the way in which they occupy space.' It would be tiresome to recite any more. Both the 'Fourth Grace' and the 'V& A Spiral' encountered financial difficulties and were abandoned, the former being replaced by a characterless slab block. However, this destructive syndrome still continues to flourish as demonstrated by the grotesque extension proposed for Tate Modern.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

School discipline

Discipline is one area of the education system that requires a radical overhaul. Currently physical punishment is prohibited under human rights legislation, and this will remain the situation until we, as a nation, decide to reclaim the right to govern ourselves by leaving the European Union and ending interference from the so-called European Court of Human Rights. When this occurs the long overdue step of reintroducing selective physical punishment into schools can take place.

Those who object to such punishment claim that it is unacceptable in a modern civilised country. However, all the evidence is that our society has become far more uncivilised since physical punishment in schools was abolished than in the preceding decades when it was practiced, and this is particularly true of the behaviour of children and young people. Liberals seems to subscribe to a rose tinted view of children, that they are naturally pure and innocent and will do no wrong once the corrupting influence of a disciplinary regime, underpinned by 'violence', is removed. Alas the reality is quite different, as previous generations recognised. Children, particularly boys, unless properly disciplined, can practice the most hurtful and cruel behaviour, as William Golding perceptively observed in his novel Lord of the Flies. In many schools physical punishment has now passed from teachers to bullies. Until recent years children were wary of offending adults, but now it is adults (particularly men) who fear children, since their reputation and career can be ruined by false allegations, which is the outcome in the overwhelming number of accusations made against teaching staff.

Children need to be given a clear understanding where the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour lie. Too many appear not to be receiving this guidance, either in the home or in schools, a matter about which children themselves have expressed concern. Although it is necessary that the option of physical punishment should be available as a means of enforcing discipline, it does not follow that the free for all that once existed in some schools, which discredited the whole process, should be restored. There can be no place in the education system for sadistic or brutal teachers, so there will need to be a few safeguards.

Physical punishment should form part of a wider disciplinary strategy and be limited to clear cases of persistent misbehaviour or bullying, and should be carried out by either the head teacher or a nominated deputy. The punishment should be recorded, together with the reason for it, and the parents notified. The method of chastisement should be the strap, on the hand, as formerly practiced in Scotland. It will be for each school to decide whether it wishes to reintroduce physical punishment, but those that fail to do so and continue to have disciplinary problems will have some questions to answer to the inspecting authorities, and also, one would hope, parents.

As a sizeable minority object to physical punishment in principle, a system of greater parental choice will make it more likely that their requirements are met, without interfering with the wishes of the majority of parents. As a further safeguard the reintroduction should be limited to a period of five years, during which time the impact would be assessed. Evidence of benefits to discipline will need to have been demonstrated for physical punishment to continue after that time. As the television programme That’ll Teach ‘Em has shown, imaginative forms of discipline can be introduced, falling short of actual physical chastisement, provided there is a willingness to enforce them.

Allowing schools to use physical punishment will return to children the right to be effectively disciplined at an early age, thus preventing many from far worse punishment later in life when their anti-social or destructive behaviour could become fixed and uncontrollable. It should also appreciably reduce the number of exclusions, a punishment of last resort, which by interrupting the education of the children concerned, has a seriously detrimental impact on their future attainment. For the most serious cases of indiscipline and habitual criminality a return to the system of approved schools may well offer the best means of instilling correct behaviour.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

EU membership high moral tone

One of the more nauseating aspects of the euro-debate is the high moral tone adopted by euro-enthusiasts, which appears to be without any obvious justification. They seem to believe there is an inherent superiority in being governed by European institutions and that those who challenge this process must be 'reactionary' or 'nationalist', the latter considered a highly pejorative term. Those seeking to undermine the nation state have employed a number of methods of misinformation and thought control to achieve their misguided objectives. The word 'nationalism' has been twisted and perverted from its true meaning so as to be almost unrecognisable.

Favourite tactics are to brand those who wish to retain control of our country’s affairs as 'extreme' nationalists, motivated by xenophobia, a hatred of foreigners and their cultural traditions. They insinuate that nationalism is only a short step away from aggression against neighbouring or weaker countries. This malign nonsense is, of course, a travesty of the views of those who believe in national self-government and who, in reality, deplore aggression and respect the nationhood and heritage of other countries. This supposedly extremist association is repeated ad nauseum in an attempt to undermine the credibility of those heretical enough to question the European integrationist agenda. In fact it is those who want to destroy the nation state that can more properly be termed extremist. Euro-fanatics, with their limited vocabulary and outlook, inevitably resort to labelling their opponents with meaningless derogatory phrases such as 'Little Englander', in a pathetic attempt to disguise the bankruptcy of their dogma. Alternatively, if all else fails, the spectre is raised of Britain being 'isolated', a supposedly dire eventuality leading to our certain ruin.

In recent years the apologists for the European Union have complained that the debate on this subject has been 'hi-jacked' by the euro-sceptics and that the case for greater European integration is not being heard. This is far from the truth but nevertheless it is worth examining both the motivation and the arguments of those seeking, either deliberately or unwittingly, the destruction of the British nation. Strangely, there are those who regard the nation state as inherently wicked. Others, sadly, are motivated by an urge to disparage their country, believing that foreign institutions must self evidently be better than their own. Most unfortunately, Britain appears to lead the world in this national self-denigration. Although there may well be occasions when it makes sense to seek out new ideas and best practice from abroad, unwarranted criticism of our institutions and way of life can only lead to a crisis of confidence in ourselves.

Most advocates of change, however, are inspired by ideological reasons. In the case of the European Union, its supporters argue that it will provide a firmer basis for peace, more assured economic growth and a greater international role for Britain. There is no evidence that any of these assertions are true. Peace and stability in Western Europe since the war have been preserved because of the strong commitment by West European nations to NATO, a military alliance. As for the economic arguments, there is little hard evidence to back up the hyperbole of Euro-enthusiasts. For the past decade and longer many EU countries have suffered economic stagnation with consequent high levels of unemployment. The so called 'stability pact' requirement for Euro membership has prevented participating countries from taking necessary remedial action against economic stagnation.

The Common Agricultural Policy, in addition to being a bureaucratic nightmare, has been financially profligate and damaging for nature conservation. The Common Fisheries Policy has nearly destroyed our own fishing industry, yet appears to allow Spanish fishing vessels free access to our territorial waters. Substantial reductions in tariffs, as a result of agreements under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation, have weakened considerably the benefits of membership of large trading blocs. The EU reputation for probity has been discredited by several fraud scandals and the lack of proper auditing. However, the strongest argument against economic integration is the requirement that our national good must be subordinated to wider European concerns, however divergent the two might be. With the elimination of the British veto on many issues, we can be outvoted and forced to accept decisions that may be harmful to our national interests. This democratic deficit could have far reaching consequences for stability and good order.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The threat posed by the European Court Of Human Rights

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of cases that have come before the ECHR. Four decisions, to name but a few, which have caused controversy in Britain, relate to corporal punishment in schools, whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the armed forces, the rights of so-called 'trans-gendered' people, and the requirement to give votes to prisoners. There may well be arguments on both sides in each of these cases and it would be too simplistic to argue that the ECHR came to the wrong conclusions. It would be also beside the point since the main problem with the decisions of the ECHR is not that they may be wrong, but that once made they are almost impossible to reverse should it be considered necessary to do so in the light of experience.

So, for example, it will not be possible for a political party to stand for election on a platform which includes the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools, despite popular support for such a measure that might exist amongst the electorate. The ECHR is allowed to ride roughshod over national parliaments, courts, traditions and values. It undermines the traditional reciprocity and trust between citizens and government since it takes as its starting point the dogma that national institutions, such a democratically elected parliaments, have less legitimacy than vague trans-national human rights declarations.

Since the introduction of the Human Rights Act the 'rights' of criminals appears to rank higher than those of law abiding citizens. One such glaring example was the decision of the appeal court to allow the Afghans who hijacked an airliner to avoid deportation on human rights grounds. Even former prime minister Tony Blair was moved to comment on decisions that 'defy common sense'. Not to be outdone in the auction for 'human rights' the EU has proposed its own 'Charter of Fundamental Rights'. For the most part this is a wish list of abstract high-minded politically correct ideals, akin to the idealised rhetoric propagated by the Liberal Democrats and New Labour (and now embraced by the Conservatives under David Cameron). Such matters are more properly debated through the national democratic process, not imposed on us by a supra national body. In the longer term it is probable that this 'charter' could present a huge threat to political independence since it could be used to proscribe political parties dissenting from politically correct orthodoxies.

The understandable motivation for the introduction of generalised human rights declarations was the flagrant abuse of such rights by totalitarian one party states. In the judgement of many, the best safeguard against the introduction of human rights abuses is a democratically elected British parliament, independent political parties, jury trial for serious crimes and a genuine free press and media where a wide range of views can be expressed. Even under this system it will be almost inevitable that, despite these safeguards, unjust or impractical laws may be introduced. However, as a nation we will have the means to change these for ourselves once the flaws become apparent. Under the regime of externally determined human rights we may have to live with mistakes indefinitely. We must also rouse ourselves to the threat posed by the European Court of Human Rights. The human rights of individuals are certainly a matter which must be taken seriously. But people have responsibilities as well as civil rights and the latter are not absolute. The advancement of individual rights at the expense of the wider community rights and interests, or of good order in society, could be destructive. Getting the right balance on this will never be easy but the best forum for debating the issues is through a national parliament answerable to the people it serves. It is not achieved by permitting the legislative function of parliament to be handed over to the judiciary, still less to a foreign judiciary. At the moment we are in peril of losing our precious parliamentary heritage through the creeping totalitarianism of the European Union and the unaccountability of an external judiciary. Once lost, the capacity to govern ourselves could be impossible to regain.