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Ask to see my ID card and I’ll eat it

In his Telegraph column, Boris Johnson comes out strongly, and in his inimitable way, against ID cards in Britain. He goes for the proposal’s jugular, which has nothing to do with anti-terrorism and security and all to do with control and commmand.

I say all this in the knowledge that so many good, gentle, kindly readers will think I have taken leave of my senses, and to all of you I can only apologise and add, in the words of Barry Goldwater, that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, and that I really don’t know what I dislike most about these cards.

Worse than the cost and the bother, however, there is the sheer dishonesty of the arguments in favour. If I understood Her Majesty correctly, her Government conceives of these cards as essential weapons in the “war” on terror.

Perhaps it’s the latest ‘release’ from Tory constraints, so to speak, that allows Boris to heave a sigh:

All these points I have made these past few years, up and down the country, and the most frustrating thing is that these objections cut absolutely no ice (unlike, as I say, the cards themselves) with good, solid, kindly, gentle Conservative audiences.

My audience were all gluttons for freedom, if by that you meant the freedom to hunt, or the freedom to eat roast beef without the fat trimmed off. But they were perfectly happy to see their own liberties curtailed, if that gave the authorities a chance to crack down on scroungers and bogus asylum-seekers.

Indeed. If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear! Now, where have I heard this before…?

And the final exhortation:

And there, I fear, the debate has come to rest. To all those who yearn for ID cards, and who would extinguish the flame of liberty in the breath of public panic, I make this final appeal. Read this week’s Spectator, with its terrifying account by a man arrested and jailed for having a penknife and an anti-burglar baton locked in the boot of his car, and then imagine what use the cops could make of the further powers they are acquiring to inspect and control.

Yes, we have, Boris and ’tis a very scary read.

Crooked and killer French Socialists say “Non!”

TF1, a French TV station carries this [link disabled] video report of a debate within France’s Socialist Party, concerning the ratification of the EU Constitution. Two campaigning websites each for and against are listed.

The ‘No’ camp is split with supporters of Henri Emmanuelli on the one hand, a corrupt politician who’s main claim to fame was his position as Treasurer of the Socialist Party when many of its leading figures were being caught stealing public funds to finance the Party. On the other side are supporters of Laurent Fabius, part of what was once the reformist wing of the Socialist Party (in the mid 1980s). Fabius himself of course is one of the blood contamination killers, four Socialist politicians who allowed HIV infected blood to be used in blood transfusions, leading to the contamination of as many as 2,000 French haemophilliacs or half the total French haemophilliac population. I seem to recall that there was a screening method that was delayed, on the grounds of cost. Naturally, the politicians escaped punishment, other than a token criminal conviction for “involuntary homicide”.

Details of the campaigning sites can be found here.

Sadly, with champions like this, the credibility of a “Non!” campaign would be somewhat stretched. Even in France.

Samizdata slogan of the day

Do you really think that if this were a symbol for a man’s most sensitive organ, we would cut one end and set the other end on fire?
– Ray, a character from Blowing Smoke movie, talking about cigars…

Always ready to help

In case you get caught short Down Under, the Australian government has a website to help you.

Irons in his soul

Given the disproportionately high incidence of entertainers who march in lockstep with the fashionable leftoid tendency, I think it is forgiveable to regard to the word ‘actor’ as being synonymous with the word ‘moonbat’.

And mostly this is true. Mostly, but not entirely. Earlier in the week, I was watching a BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Oscar-winning British actor, Jeremy Irons, who served up a welcome surprise:

Irons also spoke passionately about his defence of hunting. Irons hunts in Ireland and said he believes that people should be allowed to do what they want as long as they don’t harm other people.

“I’m appalled that really for political reasons Tony Blair is allowing his back benchers, who are bored, who have no power and want to stir it up.

“They want to get back at the way the Tories dealt with the miners, so they think they’ll ban the nobs hunting.”

I doubt very much that Mr. Irons is shaping up to become the British Ronald Reagan but it is gratifying to know that he is out there anyway. Creative talent and the power of reason are not mutually exclusive characteristics.

Automatic Blunkett

This is fun, in a gruesome way. It is the David Blunkett policy maker, which comes up with things like this:

Detain yobs in the street indefinitely under the Terrorism Act, and then put them under a curfew order.

Or this:

Arrest refugees, and then issue them with compulsory ‘Entitlement Cards’. And charge them for it.

Or this:

Pre-emptively convict asylum seekers, and then try them in secret. And charge them for it.

Although, whenever the BBC is mentioned, I get the feeling that quite a few people around here might agree with Automatic Blunkett’s ideas. I got this, for example:

Deport the BBC to Guantanamo Bay, and then give them a ‘Citizenship Test’.

That is the problem with people like Blunkett. Almost everyone gets something that they want.

Qwghlm.co.uk, whoever he may be (this would be a good place to start finding out – his real name is, I think, Chris Applegate), adds his own cautionary note:

NOTE: The random generator can generate actual policies that Blunkett has launched. I take no responsibility for any distress caused by sudden realisation of the truth, nor any feelings of fear, doom etc. for one’s own civil liberties.

“I take no responsibility …” This man sounds like a lawyer. Maybe a lawyer and definitely a pessimist. Could he be a lefty version of this person.

See also gwghlm.co.uk’s latest blog posting about ID cards. Quote:

I’ve written before at much greater length on just why ID cards are such a bad idea (snappy three word version: costly, useless, invasive) and none of these questions has been satisfactorily answered in the meantime.


(It is off topic, but I could not for the life of me get copying and pasting from this guy’s blog to work. First I could not highlight just the bit I wanted. Then I could not copy even that huge gob that I almost completely did not want. (Although, I was able to copied the embedded short cut.) In the end, I copied that last quote by hand. What gives? Am I using the wrong Internet access whosadaisy programme? Is he one of these guys who made up his own blogging programme? Enlightenment please.)

Cover-up nanny knows best

Margaret Hodge makes speeches about the unsung virtues of the Nanny State.

She forgets to remind us of her record as leader of Islington council, when a shocking series of terrible abuses against children were covered up…. by the Nanny State.

Unfortunately for people like Hodge, some of us remember the reports of child brothels being run from local government premises, where children were hooked on drugs and rented out for sex by local government employees and bullying older children. I remember the exposures (after years of cover-ups), the harrassment of anyone daring to protest against the paedophile rings operating in Islington and Lambeth, to name only the worst cases in London.

Unfortunate too, the Guardian, not noted for its crusading against the welfare state, details the case neatly, including recent attmpts by Hodge to prevent the BBC from telling the story of one of the abused children who were unsung recipients of Islington’s special care. I was especially impressed with Hodge’s rubbishing of a victim of sexual abuse as “an extremely disturbed person”.

Never mind the unsung virtues of totalitarian welfare statism, how about the unsung victims? Margaret Hodge is a government minister with a nice salary, lifestyle to add to her already considerable wealth before becoming a national politician. Instead of devoting herself to helping the victims of her administration with her own time and money, Hodge wants to tax the rest of us to create more opportunities that would allow ‘public servants’ to destroy even more lives than at present.

What a fine signal she sends to the most vulnerable in our society. And what a fine signal from the present government. I feel sick.

Very interesting!

When was the last time you heard a Tory leader say something like this?

We believe in ‘bio-diversity’ in ideas and cultures. In common with ecologists, we recognise that long-term strength springs only from a multiplicity of divergent and often conflicting influences, not from standardisation. We believe that rivers should meander, not be straightened by statute. In that sense, we are truly conservative.

We believe in freedoms, not rights. ‘Rights’ are afforded by a ruling class which, by presuming to grant them, presumes also to withdraw them. We spurn them, and maintain that freedom to do what we will, provided that we do no harm to others, is ours by right of birth alone. In that sense, we are truly liberal.

It follows, then, that we have many policies which, whilst they motivate our desire for Independence, are not directly related to that struggle. It follows that, so soon as we are free to do so, we will rescind those bans imposed upon us from without in recent years, trusting instead to the courtesy and responsibility of the British people. It follows that we will deregulate business, cease to interfere in family life and restore to the people the freedom to divert themselves as they will, subject only to the provisions of Common Law.

– Roger Knapman, UKIP Leader

Very interesting indeed!

Just a little taster

Travelling to distant lands often has the effect of changing your perspectives about your own country to some degree or other. After returning to Britain from my trip to the USA earlier this week, I was struck by how leaden and grey London appears in November compared to the pastel, azure balminess of the California coast.

But, that said, I was born here in Blighty and I have had a lifetime of getting used to its forbidding and dismal winter skies. Besides, there are other and newer characteristics that make me wonder exactly what type of country I have returned to. They are altogether more pernicious and have nothing to do with the climate:

In the aftermath of my experience, I started some purely anecdotal research on the type of behaviour and attitude displayed by the police towards me. In speaking to friends, acquaintances, tradesmen, cab drivers and people in the pub I rapidly came to realise that a quite staggering number of ordinary, law-abiding people had endured similar experiences.

To discover precisely what ‘experiences’ the author was forced to endure, you will need to read the entire article. I recommend it in particular to our non-British readers so that they can get some idea of what is happening to this country.

The account of the ordeal left me with a ball of cold mercury in the pit of my stomach. For what happened to him could just as easily happen to me or any number of my friends, relations or colleagues.

And this is merely a taste of things to come. The hors d’oeuvres before the main course. We will not enjoy this meal.

A message to our American readers…

…Thanks smiley_grinning_green.gif

Nanny State is not in our name, say Brits

The vast majority of the British public opposes the government’s nannying campaign, according to a poll released today by the campaign group Reform. It shows that 71% of the public think that “Too many infringements on personal liberty are being proposed on matters that should be for individuals to decide for themselves”, while only 27 per cent believe that “The Government should legislate on such things even if they mean restrictions on personal liberty.”

New Labour ‘freedom’ versus libertarianism

Rather oddly for British politicians Mr Blair and his New Labour associates have heard of libertarianism. This is known because Mr Blair and co often sneer at and attack libertarianism. This is logical enough. After all the present government (like so many governments) has increased taxes and state spending, produced endless new regulations and shows contempt for the principles of law (or ‘civil liberties’ as the modern way of saying this goes).

However, Mr Blair and the rest of New Labour also talk about their support for ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’. This would seem to show a contradiction in that New Labour attacks freedom and shows contempt for libertarianism (i.e. the non aggression principle which seeks to limit the threat of violence to the defence of persons and their possessions) and yet claims to stand for freedom.

Normally at this point I might be expected to examine, in detail, the dispute in political philosophy between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ freedom. But I think only a brief examination is needed. ‘Negative’ freedom is basically ‘hands off’, and ‘positive’ freedom has mutated from an old belief (going back to Classical times) that true freedom was control of the passions by reason (i.e. freedom as moral self improvement), to a belief that “positive” freedom is material possessions – in short the more money someone has or the more services that are open to him the more free he is.

I would then carefully explain that it is a false choice, as the state can not develop the moral responsibility of individuals by imposing lots of regulations (indeed such a state undermines the moral development of people) and nor can statism (more regulations, higher taxes and so on) promote prosperity or reduce poverty (again statism undermines prosperity and, in the long run, increases poverty over the level it would have otherwise have been). In short the way to advance ‘positive’ freedom (however one defines it) is to advance ‘negative’ freedom.

However, as I said above, I do not believe that a detailed examination is needed here (although I admit that the ‘positive’ freedom people have much more to say, and ‘negative’ liberty, on its own, may not be enough to advance the control of reason over the passions).

The reason that I do not think a detailed examination is needed is that I do not believe that Mr Blair is thinking of “positive liberty” as an alternative when he is sneering at libertarianism. Shocking as it may sound I believe that Mr Blair, when he uses the word ‘freedom’, just means the freedom of the government to do as it likes. Certainly he means a democratically elected government (a nondemocratic government will not do).

But a democratic government should do what it likes as long as it does not undermine the democratic process itself – that is “politics is freedom” as the political philosopher Bernard Crick (much admired by Mr Blair) said in his In Defence of Politics (first published back in 1962, but many editions).

It is the political process that is freedom to Mr Blair, not the freedom (‘negative’ or ‘positive’) of individuals.