We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

‘No offence’ – in Northern Ireland…

Thirteen members of a Loyalist marching band, the Young Conway Volunteers, have had their criminal convictions for ‘doing a provocative act likely to cause public disorder or a breach of the peacequashed after the Public Prosecutor agreed not to oppose their appeals.

The non-offence occurred after the marching band found themselves marching in a circle outside St Patrick’s Church (Catholic) in north Belfast, whilst playing (allegedly aggravated by hostility) a tune alleged to have been ‘the Famine Song’ with the presumably catchy refrain ‘The famine’s over, why don’t you go home?‘, but what they said was the Beach Boys ‘Sloop John B‘ (reportedly an easy mistake to make, the basic tune is widely used). How this was proved at the original trial when they presumably were playing a tune on instruments and not singing was not made clear.

Although now acquitted, the band members agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for 2 years (not a conviction but a promise of good behaviour, breach of which could lead to a 7 day jail term).

Whilst this acquittal in the face of ‘hate legislation’ is certainly a good thing for liberty, I note the apologetic tone of the response of the Orange Lodge, which presumably has some connection to the band:

In a statement, The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast welcomed the successful appeal.

“We are glad that justice has finally been achieved for these band members who had been wrongly vilified by the media and nationalism,” it said.
“There never was an intent to cause offence.”

One might ask what on Earth were they marching for if not to ‘cause offence‘ (in the subjective sense) on 12th July by their celebration of the lifting of the siege of Londonderry? To say that there was ‘no intent to cause offence‘ appears to concede that offence was caused, rather than taken or even perhaps rejoiced in as an opportunity to throw the legal machinery of the State at the band.

Why not say that this legislation is oppressive, tyrannical and makes the law itself a politicised weapon, a sword, not a shield?

To me as an Englishman, the whole shebang seems utterly alien, the intolerance and fanaticism on both poles of the Ulster divide mark them as having more in common with each other than with insipid, fundamentally apolitical England. Whether or not that is a good thing for Northern Ireland, or for England, may in the long run be another matter.

Snapshots of Labour collapse

If you are an anti-Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty grim just now:

By his disastrous widening of the franchise for electing the party leader, Ed Miliband has handed control of it to what a previous leader, Hugh Gaitskell, memorably denounced as “pacifists, unilateralists and fellow travellers” – people not only antipathetic to ordinary voters but anathema even to most ordinary Labour MPs. It will be hard, it may even be impossible, to get the institution back. …

Quite so, except that the people to whom the Labour Party has just been handed are not pacifists. They favour violence provided that it is inflicted upon Britain and upon civilisation by Britain’s and by civilisation’s enemies.

This is Robert Harris, in today’s Sunday Times, and dragged out from behind its paywall here.

Such chaos cannot go on much longer.. Those MPs who either defy a three-line whip to vote for military action against Isis, or who are permitted to follow their consciences in a free vote, may well prove to be the nucleus of a new party.

If that sounds apocalyptic then so is the mood of many Labour MPs: obliged to watch at close quarters day in, day out, the incompetent antics of a leadership that has no hope of ever winning a general election but which is nonetheless impossible to dislodge.

But if you are a Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty good:

Formed as a successor to the Corbyn campaign, Momentum is in the process of setting up governance arrangements to represent its supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up. As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.

That being from the Momentum website. However, I prefer this piece of Momentum propaganda, which I spotted recently in the tube:


Who knew that political feuding could be so glamorous?

Here is another Labour Party related picture which I took, when walking beside a disconnected and unnavigable canal (a certain creek springs to mind) in north London earlier this year. Did the person who threw this sign into the water know something that the rest of us did not, about the future of the Labour Party?


To be more serious, I am content to see the Labour Party reduced to a state of ruin.

→ Continue reading: Snapshots of Labour collapse

Samizdata quote of the day

Far leftists do not laugh to mock communism. They laugh to forget communism. They dismiss the mass murders, and the suppression of every right that makes life worth living with a giggle and a snort, and imply that you are a bit of a prude if you cannot do the same.

Then they throw a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book across the chamber of the House of Commons and look round with utter bemusement when no one gets the gag.

Nick Cohen

With thanks to Mick Hartley.

Samizdata quote of the day

When Corbyn is challenged on his beliefs and his record, he tends to respond by characterising a political challenge as a personal attack. He treats it as intrusive, rude and vulgar. In so doing, he accomplishes three things. He paints himself as the innocent victim of unjust aggression; he avoids responding to the detail of the challenge; and he bolsters the distinction between the good people inside his tent and the bad people outside of it. Howard Jacobson writes:

There was something ‘How very dare you’, about Jeremy Corbyn’s recent temper tantrum in rebuttal of the charge that the company he kept reflected badly on him. ‘The idea that I’m some kind of racist or anti-Semitic person is beyond appalling, disgusting and deeply offensive,’ he said (Jacobson 2015).

‘Alarm bells ring when a politician stands haughty upon his honour,’ observes Jacobson. When Jeremy says he doesn’t do personal what he means is that he will not deal with criticism in the normal way. He will not respond to it by means of reason or argument; he refuses to enter into serious engagement over worldviews, over ideas or over his record. He is less interested in trying to persuade than in making criticism appear as personal insult. ‘Jeremy doesn’t do personal’ does not mean that he refrains from insulting others; it means that he refrains from responding to that which he is able to construct as insulting.

David Hirsh

My thanks to the invaluable Mick Hartley for flagging up Hirsh’s paper, entitled “The Corbyn left: the politics of position and the politics of reason”.

Phone versus Zone (again)

Dan Hannan, in a piece about how Indians would like Britain out of the EU so that Indians can more easily do business with Britain, ruminates upon the irrelevance of mere geography in the modern world:

Two generations ago, when most business was localised and freight costs were high, regional customs unions had a certain appeal. But in the Internet age, geographical proximity has never mattered less. Culture and kinship trump distance.

Likewise, in many eyes, lack of cultural affinity and lack of kinship trump geographical proximity, or they should. The biggest reason why Brexit seems now to be winning in Britain is that we are now watching EUrope make a hopeless mess of mass immigration from its geographically near but culturally very distinct eastern neighbours.

Near the end of the same piece Hannan says:

Next year, Britain will have to decide whether we are defined chiefly by our geography. Must we merge with states which happen to be in the vicinity, or do we recognise that some values transcend continents, linking us to kindred peoples in more distant lands?

I was having similar thoughts here, a while back, when the internet was just getting into its stride as a mass experience.

I see that I also had some rather prophetic things to say in that piece (posted in 2002) about the recently concluded Rugby World Cup (2015). The point being that rugby is an activity that was then and still remains at the mercy of geographical proximity. Rugby tournaments that happen every year, all the time, need to be based in the same approximate locality. Northern Hemisphere rugby teams were in 2002, and remain in 2015, physically separated from their superior Southern Hemisphere rivals. England had a little moment of superiority in the noughts, just winning the 2003 World Cup and coming second in 2007. So when England recently got knocked out at the group stage of the latest Rugby World Cup in 2015, in England, it felt like a uniquely terrible failure. But come the semi-finals this time around, no Northern Hemisphere teams remained in the tournament, despite the event itself having been held in the Northern Hemisphere. In the quarter finals, New Zealand slaughtered France, and Argentina decisively defeated Ireland, France and Ireland having been regarded by many as the best Northern Hemisphere bets. Many had realised that Argentina, who now regularly play against the Southern Hemisphere big three (NZ, Australia, South Africa) have recently got a lot better, but many others, me included, were amazed, not just by the fact of Argentina’s victory over Ireland but by the manner of it. Wales and Scotland did better but still lost, to South Africa and Australia.

However, the fact that regular rugby tournaments are obliged to cluster geographically is no reason for political entities to attempt to do the same. Geographical proximity to weaker teams and separation from the strongest teams is seen by Northern Hemisphere rugby people as a problem, not as any sort of answer to their problems.

With Dan Hannan, I say: Brexit. And it has to be a good sign that this anti-Brexit guy, in an article with very high google visibility, is making excuses about why his team may be about to lose rather than even attempting to make persuasive arguments about why it should win.

Samizdata quote of the day

If the Conservative Party really still believed in national sovereignty, a strong defence, smaller government, less regulation and helping people to improve their own circumstances, they would look at the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the return of political ideology and see it as license to start espousing their own philosophy instead of continually apologising for their beliefs.

That so many conservatives are desperate to stick to the centre ground and view Jeremy Corbyn as a clear and present threat to Britain says a lot more about the soft Right than it does about the Labour leadership candidate.

Samuel Hooper

Samizdata quote of the day

Journos: UK officials don’t want to “ban encryption” — they want to ban encryption that *works*.

Edward Snowden

The totalitarians politicise everything – even a passport

It takes a particularly obsessive mindset to politicise everything in life, but the UK media seem happy to report without scorn or derision that latest wails from totalitarian obsessives about the UK’s new passport design, which features humans (the previous one features various feathered friends).

Let us see some of the complaints reported:

The redesign focuses on UK figures and landmarks from the past 500 years.
Architect Elisabeth Scott and mathematician Ada Lovelace are the only women to feature.
Government officials defended the design, but Labour’s shadow employment secretary Emily Thornberry said it was “exasperating”, adding: “We exist.” “This is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women as well.
“We have had this fight about bank notes and now it’s about passports.
“I just feel as though we are here all over again.”

MP Stella Creasy also criticised the redesign, while gender equality campaign group the Fawcett Society accused the government of “airbrushing” women out of history.

It was Stalin who was the past-master of airbrushing. Why? To influence what people think, and what they remember. And those who regard a passport design as an opportunity to make a political statement are a lot closer to Stalin than they would probably care to admit. This is a passport, and it is there to get you through passport control and that is that.

And it is not as if all the men chosen are particularly outstanding, Constable and Harrison I would put forward, but that is what you might expect in these days:

The seven men showcased in the new passport are playwright William Shakespeare, artists John Constable, Anish Kapoor and Sir Antony Gormley, architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, computer pioneer Charles Babbage and John Harrison, a clockmaker who invented the marine clock.

Is no one going to call out these objecting people as (i) boring (ii) obsessive (iii) totalitarian* in their quest to ensure that a political agenda is rammed into every aspect of life? If you seek to control what I see, you want to control what I, and others, think? By what right? Why on Earth should what I see be determined by someone else’s political obsessions? Will no one rid us of these turbulent beasts, by laughing them into the dustbin of history?

* In the full sense, regarding everything, like Mussolini dentro dello Stato, and a matter for politics.

How James Bond violated the rights of British citizens earlier this evening

For just over a year now, the younger of my two Goddaughters has been a student at the Royal College of Music, learning to be a mezzo-soprano. The two of us just shared supper in Chelsea, and while we consumed it she told me something very bizarre and rather sinister, about the chaos that was apparently inflicted, earlier this evening, upon her and her colleagues at the RCM by the latest James Bond film London premiere. This jamboree took place just across the road from the RCM, at the Royal Albert Hall, and it seems that the RCM was commanded to evacuate all its practice rooms that overlooked this premiere activity (quite a lot of which was outside the Royal Albert Hall on those big steps at the back), to stop anyone seeing it, and in particular, presumably, to stop them filming it or photographing it. These RCM practice rooms are in constant use, and alternatives are very hard to come by. Neither the students nor the teachers of the RCM were at all amused by this intrusion into their already stressful and hardworking lives.

How the hell can a mere bunch of movie people insist on barging into other people’s buildings and ordering them around like this? I thought James Bond was all about defending the liberties of British citizens, not violating them. According to GD2, the Royal College of Music did not agree to this arrangement. It was merely informed of it, by Westminster City Council. If the College did consent voluntarily to this arrangement, in exchange for a cash payment, for instance, rather than simply being forced to submit to it, they didn’t tell any of their inmates about that fact.

You can see what the people who inflicted all this upon the RCM were thinking. It was their event. They owned it. Nobody whom they did not invite or control should be allowed to film it. But, I say that if you want total control of the filming or photographing of an event, don’t hold your event in a public place, out in the open air, and then impose your control on places that merely overlook this public place. If you do bizarre things in public, you are fair photographic game, to anyone in the vicinity who chooses to snap you or video you.

GD2 is my only source for this story, and maybe she, or I in reporting what she said to me, have it wrong. I’d welcome comments about this or similar events, corrective if necessary. (I could find nothing about this event, other than about it simply happening, on the www.) But if what GD2 told me is right, and if my recollection of what she told me about it is also right, well, I am not impressed.

This circumstance reminded me of the crap inflicted on London when the Olympic Games came to town.

Samizdata quote of the day

Brussels is effectively offering landowners money to advertise the EU. Then again, that’s the reason that a lot of people in Britain agree to support the EU: NGOs, charities, big corporations and universities.

Daniel Hannan

21 October is an important date in the history of European political integration


TfL Consultation Fun

Uber might have won a court case, but Transport for London are still threatening to regulate all sorts of silly things. But you can have your say, by copying and pasting the link below and filling in the survey which is full of free-form text boxes. I am deliberately not linking directly to it as I do not want them to be tempted to analyse where their traffic is coming from.


Along the way you get to be entertained by the barmy, Soviet-style ideas they have for meddling in the intricacies of other people’s affairs, and the absurd justifications thereof. My answers made much of customer choice, the regulator’s inability to predict individuals’ needs and how some of the proposals would discriminate against minorities. I feel better now.