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.

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“…I find it rather regrettable that Lady Hale’s judgment makes so many references to defecation.”

said Lord Walker, a UK Supreme Court Justice in one, rather unfortunate case. However, we had better get used to Lady Hale’s judgments as she has now been nominated as the next President of the Supreme Court, a promotion from her position as Deputy President, and her influence on UK law will grow.

Why anyone should be concerned that a former academic lawyer with her track record should be in charge of a court that does not sit en banc is that she may well control the lists and influence which judges sit on particular cases, thereby having scope to shape the law.

She has long been a supporter of greater diversity in the judiciary.

“It may be a genuine occupational qualification to choose a black Othello or a female Desdemona, but could it be thought a genuine occupational qualification to bring a minority perspective to the business of judging in the higher courts?

“So do we need to revive the argument for some special provision, akin to that in Northern Ireland, to enable the appointing commissions to take racial or gender balance into account when making their appointments? Would that really be such a bad thing? I think not.”

But some might prefer to have judges who judge the case before them on the basis of applying the law, rather than their own perspective, if one hoped for the rule of law to be seen to be maintained.

Lady Hale has however, speaking privately, cast doubt on her own judgment in one case, a meagre consolation for the losing party.

The trouble with the UK’s Supreme Court is that it is really the result of a Lefty wet dream about judicial activism, finally in 2005 (wef 2009) destroying a long tradition (before then vandalised in the 1870s) of the UK’s final court* being a committee of the House of Lords. (* Not for Scots Criminal Law, which remains under the Scottish Court of Session).

The UK’s Supreme Court has been described by one of its justices as a political court, being politicised by its inevitable involvement in devolution issues and interpretation of Human Rights and EU law (as was, to be fair, the House of Lords before it).

I have a modest proposal, that the Supreme Court be abolished, saving taxpayers money and removing an avenue for more legal fees to be charged in pursuit of a result, thereby removing work and money from the legal profession and reducing litigation risk. There is a simple alternative, that should a party find that litigation results in an injustice, or a nonsense whereby different UK courts have different precedents to follow, that party could petition Parliament to change the law, even in respect of that particular case, as happened in the Burmah Oil case. This approach would have the advantage of getting our Parliamentarians to see the consequences of the laws that they pass (or do not pass) and also take up time that could be spent passing more unhelpful legislation.

To those who say that our politicians should not be our judges, I say ‘Better than our judges being our politicians.

Of more than local interest

I imagine that for many Samizdata readers, the daily diet of gossip and snark and tittle tattle that dominates the output of Guido Fawkes is not to their taste, even if they do entirely see the point of it, and are glad that it happens.

But every so often, Guido does a posting that is of much more than local appeal, which would connect to a far wider audience, provided only that they are alerted to its existence.

So, allow me to alert you to this posting, which features the maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden. Guido describes this maiden speech as his favourite of the 2017 intake by far.

I especially liked the Woody Allen reference. But basically, I liked it all. Her website is here.

If more British Conservative Party people were capable of talking or even thinking like this, I’d seriously consider joining them.

Class and all that

Obviously life is far harder than it used to be for young graduate professionals, and an increased reliance on the state (which the Labour vote represents) would be a completely natural, self-interested response. Today’s Labour middle classes, though, do often sound a little bit like they themselves don’t quite recognise that this is the dynamic here. ‘It is vital that we keep having free healthcare and education so that you do, too!’ they’ll say, effectively, to the far poorer. Or better still, ‘My mediocre philosophy degree contributes to the intellectual health of the nation at large!’ And at what point, I’m wondering, do the people who aren’t ever going to have a mediocre philosophy degree call bullshit on that? At what point do they look at the resources doled out to people far richer than them and ask bluntly whether this alliance is really working in their favour?

Hugo Rifkind, pondering on the love by some affluent people for Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of hard-Left politics

There are of course several factors in play: forgetfulness about how awful 1970s Britain was in an era of strikes, hyper-inflation, price controls, etc; a period of (relative) affluence that dulls the senses (at least for some of those, such as those without student debts); a Tory Party led by a “blue-rinse socialist” who seems almost as keen on regulation and state interference as some on the Labour side, thereby blunting the appeal of Tories to genuine limited-govt. conservatives; an education system that has turned out a group of “educated” people blind to the dangers of state power and reflexively hostile to the open market economy, and a legitimate sense of grievance over inflated house prices (planning laws, QE), heavy student debt/worthless degrees. As a set of background conditions, these are all ideal soil for a leftist politician, never mind a devious one as extreme as Corbyn, to grow in.

Rifkind is right to ask the question as to at what point does the middle-classness of Labour come into conflict with its purported “soak-the-rich” agenda particularly when said middle classes realise they are “rich” for the purposes of said agenda? For the time being, though, a large chunk of the “middle class” (well, the bit that works in the public sector and hence from the taxpayer) think the bearded one and his colleagues are just great.

All this stuff about class got me thinking. Recently, there was much muttering about how utterly middle class these days the Glastonbury music festival is, what with the fact also that the price of an admission is just shy of £250, which even today is a lot of money. Last weekend I went with friends to the utterly non-Corbyn spectacle, the Royal International Air Tattoo. It was noisy; the air was full of thunderous aircraft roaring about and doing their stuff. And as I looked about at the crowd, I saw lots of middle-aged blokes such as me in shorts and T-shirts with pictures of planes on them; wives and girlfriends who were just as keen; some ex-military types (you can tell by the haircuts and the physiques) and young kids all excited about these planes. There were a lot of people who, from what I can tell, were quite affluent but not showy apart from from camera lenses the length of RPGs; there were no loud Sloanes (maybe the aircraft noise drowned them out) or Islington scruffs. In some respects RIAT is an aviation version of Le Mans, the 24-hour motor racing odyssey I like to attend every year.

Frankly, the air show is a mental health break from the current news agenda.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Excuse me. Would you like to defend the NHS?”

“No. I’d like to abolish it.”

(Incomprehension)

And

People in this country have no conception of how good they have it. Except with respect to healthcare, when they have no conception as to how bad they have it.

(Both these quotations supplied by the same anonymous donor.)

Can happen to anyone? Yes. Equally likely? No.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt university has written a quietly important article for the London School of Economics (LSE) blog: “Can homelessness happen to anyone? Don’t believe the hype”.

She writes,

The idea, then, that ‘we are all only two pay cheques away from homelessness’ is a seriously misleading statement. But some may say that the truth (or falsity) of such a statement is beside the point – it helps to get the public on board and aids fundraising. Maybe that’s true (I haven’t seen any evidence either way). But myths like these become dangerous when they are repeated so often that those who ought to, and need to, know better start to believe them. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard senior figures from government and the homelessness sector rehearse the ‘it could happen to any of us’ line. This has to be called out for the nonsense it is, so that we can move on to design the sort of effective, long-term preventative interventions in homelessness that recognise its predictable yet far from inevitable nature.

This caught my attention. A couple of years ago I wrote:

Yet it is possible to acknowledge the right of those put up these spikes to do so, and also have sympathy with the homeless. Ms Borromeo’s statement that “anyone, for any reason, could end up on the streets with no home” is the usual hyperbole (she need not worry about the chances of it happening to her), but it is true that things can go wrong for a person with surprising speed. There is probably at least one of your classmates from primary school who has lost everything, usually via drugs or alcohol.

And way before that, so far back that my blog post about it is lost in the waste of words, I had noticed well-meaning posters on the London Underground that stated that “wife-beating”, as it was then called, can happen to women of any class and any level of education. What is wrong with that? It is true, isn’t it? Undeniably, but “can happen” is very different from “equally likely to happen”, and if efforts to stop violence against women from their partners are equally spread across all demographics then fewer women will be helped than if resources are targeted to those most at risk.

Suzanne Fitzpatrick’s piece also gives another reason why framing the appeal in terms of “it can happen to anyone” is not a good idea:

On a slightly different note, the repetition of this falsehood seems to me to signal a profoundly depressing state of affairs i.e. that that we feel the need to endorse the morally dubious stance that something ‘bad’ like homelessness only matters if it could happen to you. Are we really ready to concede that social justice, or even simple compassion, no longer has any purchase in the public conscience? Moreover, it strikes me as a very odd corner for those of a progressive bent to deny the existence of structural inequalities, which is exactly what the ‘two paycheques’ argument does.

I might disagree with what seem to be Professor Fitzpatrick’s views on social justice and structural inequalities, but she is right about the morally dubious nature of the stance that “something ‘bad’ like homelessness only matters if it could happen to you”.

On similar grounds, I think it is a fool’s errand to try and promote a non-racial patriotism by claims that “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” or by exaggerating the number of black people who lived here centuries ago. I am all for non-racial patriotism, but, sorry, no. The arrival of a few tens of thousands of Huguenots or Jews did not equate to the mass immigration of the last few decades. The migrations into Britain that were comparable in scale to that were invasions. And while there were certainly some “Aethiopians” and “blackamoores” living here in Tudor times, for instance, their numbers were so low that to most of the white inhabitants they were a wonder.

For those that know their history, to read the line “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” promotes scorn. When those who at first did not know the facts finally find them out, their reaction is cynicism. Worse yet, this slogan suggests that love of country for a black or ethnic minority Briton should depend on irrelevancies such as whether the borders were continually porous through many centuries, or on whether people ethnically similar them happen to have been here since time immemorial. (The latter idea is another “very odd corner” for progressives to have painted themselves into.) If either of these claims turns out to be false, what then?

Better to learn from the example of the Huguenots and Jews. Whether any “people like them” had come before might be an interesting question for historians (and a complex one in the case of the Jews), but whatever the answer, they became British anyway.

Samizdata quote of the day

If it’s “weird” that a politician should ever act on principle against party interest then we are not in a post-truth but a post-ethics world. Sure, I cynically assume most will often do the wrong thing if torn between the right thing and self-serving but surely it’s going too far to assume the right thing is beyond reach all the time for everyone!

– ‘Tom Paine

Jacob Rees-Mogg

I do not agree with everything Jacob Rees-Mogg says, but he is saying some things that I am very happy to hear being said by a prominent British politician. He is saying them on the BBC, no less, and sometimes to audiences who applaud him on BBC Question Time.

On the subject of trade after Brexit, emphasis mine: “Trade will continue because the British people want to carry on buying German cars, and the Germans want to carry on using UK financial services, and that’s done by individuals not by states.”

On the subject of foreign aid, on Question Time, to applause:

Sponsoring the Ethiopian Spice Girls and the various other things where money has gone are not money well spent. And I think that should be done by, ladies and gentlemen, your private charity. All of you, I expect, give to charity and you can choose. It’s not for politicians to take your money in general taxation and give it to charitable causes.

He then goes on to point out that the best way to help developing nations is to trade with them, and that the EU is an impediment to that.

I have also seen him on more than one occasion make the point that there is a limit to how much money can be raised by taxation and that we are near to it.

Here he is in parliament talking in terms of limits to the role of the state, which is not a discussion that happens very prominently in the UK: “I don’t think it’s the job of the government to tell me how much sugar to give to my children. […] The tax system is not there to tell us how to live our lives.”

I know he very much annoys people on the left, and it helps that he is an engaging and entertaining speaker who I think has an ability to talk to ordinary people without pretence or condescension, something the Guardianista class fails at.

Update: I wrote this before I knew #MoggMentum was a hashtag, I swear! Delingpole makes one of the points I was trying to make, perhaps with better words: “Judging by their applause and cheers they were elated that, perhaps for the first time in Question Time’s recent history, a politician on the panel was prepared to talk to them straight, credit them with a degree of intelligence, and forebear from the usual virtue-signalling platitudes.”

Thoughts on Mr Corbyn

In assessing Corbyn’s achievement one must remember what sort of man he is. Having done very poorly at school and failed to complete any higher education, he seems to have imbibed at an early age the full agenda of the Guardian-reading London lefty: sympathy for a wide gamut of Third World causes, instinctive solidarity with all the enemies of bourgeois Britain (the IRA, Hamas, radical Islamists, etc), and a passionate opposition to Toryism. He has spent his life banging on about such causes to small audiences as a Labour activist and perennial rebel. With his beard, his vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol, his failed marriages, his love of cycling and almost Dickensian passion for faraway causes of little relevance to the lives of those he represents, he is a type of idiosyncratic Englishman that Orwell liked to dwell upon, along with the figure of the middle-aged Catholic spinster cycling earnestly to church.

If one thinks about the sort of life that Corbyn lived for many years — ignored, even despised as a hopelessly eccentric and too-left backbencher, talking all the time of mass popular struggles elsewhere but doing so to tiny audiences in draughty halls, occasionally donning a scruffy duffle-coat to march with other CNDers on stirring but hopeless demonstrations — one realises that it has been a somewhat odd existence, led almost entirely among a small band of kindred spirits who keep up one another’s spirits by constant reaffirmations of how much they are against this, that or the other. For it is in the nature of such folk to be mainly against things and to be somewhat vague and wishful about what they are actually for.

R W Johnson.

Loathe Corbyn’s politics as I do, I am going to argue that his ability to stick to certain causes, however vile, over a long period of time has lessons for those who hold rather more reality-based opinions. Corbyn and his allies demonstrate that there is a lot to be said for an ability to keep going when everyone else panics or changes course very quickly. As a Marxist, he has absorbed the lessons of how intellectual and eventually political change/victory requires decades. Interestingly enough, I remembered reading much the same about the tactical purpose of the UK’s Libertarian Alliance, founded by Chris Tame. From my recollection – I cannot find the link, sorry – I remembered the point about how change takes time; it means those who argue for it need to be bold, even to shock, because that way one can shift the frame of what is considered respectable to discuss. Consider, it has been within living memory unthinkable to imagine that state-run sectors of the economy could be returned to private hands. When the likes of Arthur Seldon and Ralph Harris were promoting their classical liberal ideas as the Institute of Economic Affairs in the 1960s and 1970s, they were treated by the purveyors of conventional, usually wrong, opinion in much the same way as Corbyn might be, except that these gentlemen did not make a habit of knowingly sharing platforms with anti-semites and terrorists. (Libertarians, in my experience, are as capable of making the error of swimming alongside dubious characters as any others, mind.)

So yes, I think this RW Johnson article is a good one, and certainly worth study. It is also, however, worthwhile for those who ponder the political future of the UK to reflect on how someone such as Corbyn, a man who has never held a proper job and had to worry about creation of wealth and who has held the views he had, come within a whisker of occupying the same office as William Pitt, Robert Peel and Winston Churchill.

Samizdata quote of the day

Sharpen the pitchforks, fan the flames: a politician has misspoken.

Yes, another day, another Twitch-hunt. Another live-tweeted expulsion from polite society. Another roll-up-roll-up real-time destruction of a person’s reputation for the crime of having said something stupid.

The victim this time is Anne Marie Morris, the Tory MP for Newton Abbot. She was recorded dumbly using the outdated phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ at a gathering of Eurosceptic Tories at the East India Club in London. Ms Morris said ‘the real nigger in the woodpile’ in the Brexit issue is what happens if we get two years down the line and there’s still no deal between Britain and the EU. So she was clearly using the phrase in its classic sense to mean an issue of great importance that isn’t being openly or sufficiently discussed. She wasn’t being racist, just old-fashioned. Phew. We can call off the Twitterhounds, put back the tomatoes.

Don’t be daft. The small matter of intention, of what someone means, counts for literally nothing in the Kafkaesque world of 21st-century speech-policing.

Brendan O’Neill

Who got Hitler’s vote last month?

Vince Cable is the latest of many LibDem and Labour leaders and followers who are irrisistibly reminded of Hitler when they contemplate some Tory politician. Jeremy Corbyn is reminded of Hitler by Donald Trump, casting Theresa May in the lesser role of Neville Chamberlain at Munich. Even the odd Tory – the very odd Tory 🙂 – insists it’s the Tory leader, not the Labour leader, that reminds them of Hitler.

I think comparing our politicians to Hitler pretty meaningless when even the ones I dislike are obviously more like themselves than like him. Would it be less absurd to ask: who gets his vote? If Adolf had immigrated into Britain recently, or else was already living here, whom would he have voted for last month? Doubtless, like the rest of us, he’d have been less than delighted with either major party, but which one would he have reluctantly chosen? Let’s look at cases.

If Adolf were an immigrant: a year ago, the beeb and other media went wild over the arab girl who posted a peace-symbol selfie against the Geert Wilders rally. They quickly lost interest in the story when shown her earlier tweet – “Hitler didnt kill all the jews, he left some. So we know why he was killing them.” If she had moved to Britain last year, I think we know which party she would have voted for last month. Just as it was when the Mufti of Jerusalem praised Adolf Effendi, so it would have been last month: the common elements of disliking Jews and liking socialist methods would have made her choice easy.

If Adolf already lived here: twenty-five years ago, I encountered the only native Briton I’ve ever met who agreed with Hitler. In a street in Braintree, a group had gathered round a stall collecting signatures for the Maastricht Referendum Petition*. A man signed and commented that we fought Germany in WWII so why were we giving them a say in ruling us now. While others agreed, a batty old woman suddenly said, “We were on the wrong side.” The man both felt and acted utter astonishment: his step back, pointedly dropped jaw and angled-back head well-conveyed what we all felt. I expressed the “no point arguing with her” feeling I sensed in the rest of us by joking, “Clearly, opposition to the eurocrats covers a very wide range of opinion.” My ‘reward’ for saying that was to have her press a leaflet on me. It ‘explained’ that the Jews were behind everything and we needed politicians who would wield state power to stop them, not enable them (I was not persuaded 🙂 ). Twenty-five years ago, I would not have guessed Labour any more likely than Tories to be the recipient of her vote in that year’s election. Today, I’m quite sure Labour got her vote a month ago. Jeremy would deny her remark indignantly – but he and his friends have so much in common with her.

So that is my view of which party any latterday Hitler-lookalike would choose if their views echoed the ‘National’ side of Hitler’s National Socialist ideology. And the more they echoed the ‘Socialist’ side as well, the surer I am of my answer.

I’m still not sure it’s a useful question. I can doubt someone is much like Hitler in character and intent, yet think they are furthering his goals. What do commenters think?

—-

* The Maastricht Referendum Petition was organised by a group of Tory, Labour and LibDem rebels to ask parliament for a referendum on the UK joining the Maastricht treaty in the early ’90s. From memory, patrons were Margaret Thatcher for Tories, the Duke of Devonshire for LibDems and someone for Labour, and the organising MPs were Austin Mitchell for Labour, and a LibDem MP and a Tory MP whose names I have forgotten. When the petition was voted down, former Tory leader Lady Margaret Thatcher and future Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith both supported a referendum, while the Labour MPs who ‘agreed’ with them included none other than a certain Jeremy Corbyn, along with Diane Abbott, Ken Livingstone and George Galloway (but also former Labour leader Jim Callaghan). So it seems that opposition to the eurocrats did indeed then, as now, cover “a very wide range of opinion” – and I feel even more sure that Labour had the batty old woman’s vote last month (unless she’s dead; I call her a batty old woman for a reason).

FYI, some Labour backbenchers supported the referendum because they were furious that the Tory-negotiated deal included an opt-out from the EU’s ‘social clause’, i.e. some Labour MPs voted for a referendum so they could renegotiate to give yet more power to the EU (“wide range of opinion” indeed 🙂 ).

Memo to Tories: don’t tell Labour’s lies for them

“It may take a lot of defeats for conservatives to work out that providing a pale imitation of the other guy’s manifesto is not a route to electoral success.”

Fredrik Erixon, Swedish economist

There is a worse error still: pretending you did what you promised in your own manifesto when you didn’t. Gordon Brown’s Big Blowout was a fitting end to 13 years when Labour spent like there was no tomorrow. Today is the tomorrow Labour spent like there wasn’t. The coalition won 60% of Britain’s votes in 2010 by promising to remedy that – and the Tories still say they did, they are and they will. Can anyone count on their fingers how many pounds of debt have been paid off? (What do you mean, you don’t have a negative number of fingers !) They paid off nothing. They even increased the debt. The increase was nothing compared to Gordon Brown, of course – and nothing is something when compared to Gordon Brown, who in turn compares well to Jeremy Corbyn – but not one pound was paid off.

The UK is like a couch potato, so ashamed of a spectacular blow-out that he tweets all his friends he’s switching over to the DASH diet and gym workouts. He doesn’t actually do it – he keeps lazing on the couch, eating at the rate to which he has now become accustomed, and each month the old bill for that huge takeaway binge has only its interest paid on his credit card statement – but he’s been tweeting so much that his even fatter friends now reply, “Hey, you deserve a break after all this! Come and join us for another big blow-out.” Now he is trapped by his own lies.

For seven years, austerity has been talked about. It suited Labour, it suited the media – and it suited the Tories to pretend they were doing some. Now the Tory party is caught in its own lies.  Surely, after all this austerity, Britain could afford another night out with Labour.

Back in the ’80s, under the austere Margaret Thatcher, interns and electives loved working in A&E – and patients did not wait so long to be seen. The reasons they don’t love it today have nothing to do with austerity – quite the opposite – but how would you know if you listened to the public debate on it? Likewise, many a green is justly called a watermelon: green on the outside, red on the inside. Grenfell tower was made green on the outside and was red that night: red is the colour of fire and of blood. How many would be alive today if the £9 million it cost to clad it had been austerely withheld?

I very sincerely hope it will not take the next Tory leader an actual electoral defeat to work all this out.

Samizdata quote of the day

As I pointed out two decades ago, the Serious Fraud Office’s primary weapons, common law conspiracy to defraud, and the second limb of false accounting, if construed as the courts appear to understand them and universally applied would make all commerce impossible. It is an early example of the modern trend in antijurisprudence whereby everything is illegal just in case and ‘the proper authorities’ are trusted to pick on Bad People.

– Guy Herbert