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Allister Heath on the authortarian urges of the Labour Party

“…Journalism is a trade, not a profession; the idea that its practitioners should be licensed, that it should be a closed shop that only people who have passed a test can enter; and that a politically created quango can determine who is “right” and who is “wrong” and should therefore be banned is appalling and dangerous. It is a sure route to eliminating free speech and ensuring that only “approved” views can be aired. These days, there is a continuum between a lone tweeter or blogger with a dozen followers to a star broadcaster who speaks to 10m people every day. One cannot arbitrarily draw a line between journalism and non-journalism any more. All should be protected by free speech; all should be held responsible for what they write or say.”

Allister Heath, talking about the disgusting idea of a UK Labour Party shadow cabinet member to licence journalism. It is important to note – as Samizdata regular Guy Herbert has from a Facebook comment I saw, that the sins of someone like Johann Hari would not have been picked up had he ticked all the right boxes by attending a J-school.

As Brian Micklethwait notes below, it appears the Labour leadership has disowned the idea – so far. You know how it goes: an idea is floated, is immediately rejected by the senior folk, but gradually keeps getting more and more traction.

I cannot overstate my loathing for the political class in this country. Glenn Reynolds says of the US equivalent that it is the worst political class since before the US Civil War (not exactly an encouraging thought). God knows what sort of epoch we can compare this lot to in the UK.

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11 comments to Allister Heath on the authortarian urges of the Labour Party

  • anon

    The UK has its worst political class since before its own Civil War… I detect a theme.

  • Toolate

    It seems to me that the BBC has long since anticipated this situation and has established a tight professional closed shop for many years. No one with the wrong views can get air time on the BBC without a public savaging.

  • Kevin B

    The UK has its worst political class since before its own Civil War

    All we need now is a King called Charlie and we’re set.

  • Paul Marks

    Professions should not be licensed either – it does not “protect the consumer” it rips them off with higher prices (and gives customers a false sense of security).

    But certainly people who thinks reporters of events should be “trained” (with people without the correct bits of paper being forbidden to report) and “licensed” are totalitarian scum.

  • llamas

    Paul Marks wrote:

    ‘Professions should not be licensed either – it does not “protect the consumer” it rips them off with higher prices (and gives customers a false sense of security).”

    May I suggest that this statement might benefit from a little wordsmithing?

    I think what you are saying is that ‘professions’ should not be licensed by the state – that the freedom to practice any profession should not be dependent upon obtaining the state’s permission, whether or not based upon some requirement to be ‘licensed’.

    However, I don’t think that you meant to say that there should be no ‘licensing’ of professions, in the sense of setting up qualifications and letting people try to meet them, so long as they do not form the basis of state permission to or prohibition of practising the profession.

    So, for example, anyone should be able to offer their services as a doctor or a lawyer. I think there’s a place for reserved titles like ‘doctor’ or ‘attorney’, but that’s a side issue.

    That doesn’t mean that there can’t be an MD degree, or an LLD degree, or admission to the bar from this or that Inn or state bar association, and indeed, such qualifications can be valuable tools for the public to decide who to employ. It’s just that those qualifications should not be used by the state to decide who can and can’t practise a profession, on pain of criminal penalties. I think that’s what you mean?

    Not to be pedantic or anything, just trying to understand.



  • Laird

    llamas, I think that Paul said in one sentence what took you four paragraphs.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Your Nomenklatura wants to license the press to control elections. Ours is going a step farther. In the last two days, the Democrats have been floating the idea of canceling the elections scheduled in 2012. First is Governor Beverly Purdue [D-North Carolina], who now claims that it was a joke that no one else got. She called for canceling the elections so that the current Congress can do all the unpopular things that need to be done without fear of the public. Here is the video. Tell me if you think this is a joke:


    Simultaneously, Peter Orzag, until recently Obama’s Director of the White House Office of Management and the Budget, has an article in THE NEW REPUBLIC calling for less democracy in government in order to get things done without public interference.


    The title is “Too Much of a Good Thing. Why we need less democracy.” a quote:

    So what to do? To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.

    Perdue is a governor in a state that does not have the ability to recall officials, and Democrat control of the legislature to prevent impeachment. Orzag, while he still speaks for the administration at times, is still now technically an employee of Citigroup. Two data points from serious sources, with the statements confirmed by video and his own article in a magazine known for floating Democrat trial balloons. If there is a third data point, one can assume that we may be seeing an alternative plan for 2012.

    Anon above may have the truth of it; both about the quality of the political class, and the subsequent events, for both our countries.

    Elections in the United States are set by calendar intervals, not by governing majorities; because we are not a Parliamentary system. Since our independence, we have not canceled an election. Not during the War of 1812 when our country was invaded and capitol burned, not during our Civil War, not during the Great Depression, not during WW-II. Cancellation of the elections will breach the social and political contract, irreparably.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • David C

    It was listening to Kinnock on R4 saying we should legislate for a ‘balanced’ press, just like we have ‘balanced’ broadcasting regulation, that made me realise what a narrow escape we had when he didn’t win that election.
    I wish the urge to control the press was confined to the labour party – I’m sure the tories find it equally ‘inconvenient’, to quote Murdoch.

  • Paul Marks


    I fully accept that clubs and societies should be allowed in any line of work.

    And allowed to advertise saying “only go to our members [for this work] non members are dangerious untrained and/or are crooks”

    Just as long as these nonmembers are still allowed to offer their services to the public.

    It is like the old (rigged) historical question.

    Supposedly either one is in favour of enforcing guild rules (enforcing them by state action – i.e. force and fear) or one is in favour of abolishing guilds.

    Allowing guilds – but allowing people to choose whether or not to go to guild members for X good or service, seems to baffle school teachers and academics.

  • Laird

    I think there’s no question that the idea of “suspending” elections is a trial balloon being floated. Perdue was a brilliant choice to let slip the remark: she’s a known loose cannon, gaffe-prone (she’s Joe Biden writ even smaller), and so provides the necessary “plausible deniability” for the inevitable (if temporary) backtracking and distancing. And Orzag is a private citizen, not in the government, and can thus speak “his” mind without it being attributed to the White House or the DNC (notwithstanding that in reality he’s merely their puppet). If things continue to go badly for Obama and the Democrats we can expect to hear more of this (unofficially, of course) in the coming months.

    But Perdue and Orzag are both correct that political gridlock is stymieing what the chattering classes would consider “progress.” (Of course, to someone like me, whose mantra is “gridlock is good”, this is a feature, not a bug, but their viewpoint is different.) Here’s Gov. Perdue’s quote:

    “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that,” Perdue said. “You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

    I absolutely agree that elected officials shouldn’t have to “worry about the next election,” so they could do what is actually best for the country without fear of repurcussions. So here’s my modest proposal: all of them simply announce that they will not seek reelection. See? That removes all the pressure. Easy fix. And since they’d all have to (fairly soon) return to living in the country that they’re shaping, perhaps it would help to focus their minds a bit.

    You’re welcome, Governor. Call me if you need any more advice.

  • Paul Marks

    Governor Perdue may be a “denyable” “loose cannon” – but she is close to the regime.

    One reason why North Carolina has been chosen for Comrade Barack Obama’s Convention in election year.