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

Hyperactive and also useless

The leader in this week’s Spectator kicks off with this zinger of a paragraph:

When history comes to make a final judgment on the Blair government — and we can be forgiven for hoping that moment is not too much longer delayed — there is one key statistic by which to assess the Prime Minister’s performance. Since 1997 the Labour government has created no fewer than 700 new criminal offences. This is supposed to be an age of increasing peace and prosperity. Yet the Labour party has been in such a continuous panic about the behaviour and potential behaviour of the British people that it has found 700 new ways in which to proscribe courses of conduct. In case you are wondering how that compares with any previous administration, Labour is creating criminal offences at a rate ten times greater than that of any other government.

No further comment required, surely.

31 comments to Hyperactive and also useless

  • Verity

    I wonder if Jonathan is the first blogger to write a post and then state that no further comment is required.

  • Chris Harper


    Yeah, it kinda undermines the whole point of Samizdata doesn’t it.

  • nick

    Brilliant. Make laws,and then prosecute them selectively. For example, exceeding the posted speed limit in a motor vehicle. Member of public – fine, court appearance if not willing to pay. 12 year old car thief – slap on wrist, unable to pay fine, excused from court system. Another example – usually ‘law abiding’ person slaps their own child gently on backside to set limits for behaviour in a public place – Social workers involved, possible assault charges mooted. Young Muslim men beat the tar out of a reporter in full view of the Victorian police and press, and are caught on television while doing so – no action as yet.

  • nick

    Sorry, Johnathan. 😎

  • Chris Harper


    The law has always been applied selectively, but it is just that nowadays it is the white middle class male who can expect to feel its full weight.

  • nick

    I’ll have to work on my tan and make the most of my dual citizenship then!

  • @Chris Harper, who wrote: “The law has always been applied selectively, but it is just that nowadays it is the white middle class male who can expect to feel its full weight.”

    A good point. However, I have 2 supplementaries:

    (i) Do you believe that, in the UK and elsewhere, there is a general trend for such “selectivity” to happen less and less?

    (ii) Do you think that such “selectivity” is right, acceptable, etc?

    Best regards

  • Chris Harper


    No, I don’t believe it is appropriate. The law should be applied without fear or favour, and simply changing its focus is not acceptable.

    And my gut feeling is that this selectivity is not happening less and less, although I am not doctrinaire on this and will be happy to be proven wrong.

  • Robert Alderson

    Selectivity is now endorsed at the highest levels of the British government. We get very broad catch all anti-terrorist laws and then get told not to worry because they will only be used in extreme circumstances. Of course, the police and prosecutors use these powers as widely as they can, e.g. arresting women who walk on cyclepaths or old men who heckle at party conferences.

  • Um I rather doubt it Verity. However if you post and don’t comment on things then your readers complain as well.

  • I would appreciate some further comment, specifically, how many of these 700 new offences are going to be repealed?

    Also, how do the 700 new offences relate to new punishments such as ASBOs, house arrest and the proposals for forced relocation and spot-fines?

    The new punishments could be thought of as softer options than straightforward imprisonment so does that justify the new range of offences? Or is it just a way of dressing the lengthening arm of the state in legitamate clothes?

  • Bell Curve

    Yeah, it kinda undermines the whole point of Samizdata doesn’t it.

    For me having stuff pointed put to me that I would not otherwise have read kinda is the point of Samizdata, for me at least.

  • Sorry, should have tested that link before posting. The destination is accurate but broken. Here’s an alternate:


  • Young Muslim men beat the tar out of a reporter in full view of the Victorian police and press, and are caught on television while doing so – no action as yet.

    You would like to hope charges are pending, wouldn’t you?

  • Julian Taylor

    Could an inept barrister be accused of creating so many new offences, while in the office of PM, in order that upon his return to obscurity he has a chance now of actually winning a case?

  • Verity

    Tragically, Julian Taylor, T Bliar will not be returning to the obscurity he so richly deserves.

    He’s used the premiership of Great Britain as a world stage – which is the point of all these meaningless trips overseas. He always wanted to be a star!

    (Unelected) first “President” of the Union of European of Socialist Republics is probably out now that the “constitution” didn’t pass, and he’s not popular with his fellow socialists on the Continong any more.

    Two things left:

    1. New secretary-general of the UN. After all these third worlders, it’s whitey’s turn after all, and Tone’s built up his cred and has shown he has the endurance for back-to-back long-haul flights and is not afraid to go out in public wearing a level of make-up than even Laurence Olivier may have shied away from on stage.

    He feels he could chair meetings with a relaxed, photogenic charm and could stride out to microphones with important announcements in a sufficiently commanding – yet disarming – manner.


    2. An advisor for the final three years of the Bush White House, on “the EU”. He may, in the White House, not be accorded his rolling couch, but he can snap to an actual table when someone wants to take a meeting to discuss EU policy or major players and offer hissy advice.

    During this tenure, he will, of course, shower the United States hinterlands with his charming, unassuming presence in the form of high-ticket dinner and business luncheon talks, as will Her Highly Cherieness.

    So two years to get his feet under the table in DC, and after Mr Bush leaves office, Tone ‘n’ Cher will open an exclusive EU consutancy. By this time he’ll either have been ennobled (please, god, no) or at least be a sir and thus elevated to the same dizzy heights as “Sir” Iqbal Sacranie.

    Just guessin’.

  • RAB

    700 eh!
    That few? It feels like more.
    The next proposal is to “interview” i.e. coach prosecution witnesses so the stats go up in race crimes and rape cases.
    I always thought that decrying the conviction figures in criminal cases belied a subconsious notion that ” people are getting away with it” when in fact it’s telling us that the Justice sytem is not only incompetent but biased too!

  • guy herbert

    Yet politicians of all parties are consistent in saying, “We need x thousand more police officers,” or “We could spend the money [otherwise to be spent on this or that project of which they disapprove] on more and better policing.”

    In fact, there are more police than ever before, and they are better paid and “better resourced” (i.e. have more equipment and supernumeraries) than ever before. There are actually quite enough of them already to do what most people think they are for, and it could probably be done much the same or much better with far fewer. That’s because they mostly aren’t keeping the Queen’s Peace but either acting as bureaucrats or enforcers for the bureaucracy. The senior ones have politicking to do, too, as political shills for the Home and Cabinet Offices (something I regret being unable to blog about when it came to my attention because the proper journalists had to have the opportunity to track down proof).

    The British public ought to know it is in trouble when the Mail on Sunday (for overseas readers: the most authoritarian, traditionally, of British newspapers) today carries on its editorial page a piece by a Conservative shadow home secretary who cultivates a tough-guy image, headed: “Blair’s Police State”.

    From the same organ, a comment by Peter Hitchens is yet more chilling:

    During the last Chinese presidential visit, police zealously persecuted protesters, almost certainly on the orders of our Government. This time, they didn’t do this. Oddly, Anthony Blair was able to predict on Monday that dissidents would be free to demonstrate. How did he know? Because the police, who used to serve the law, now serve the state[…]

  • Luniversal

    We used to think John Major was a waste of space, but the worst he did in seven years was get us kicked out of the ERM– a blessing in disguise.

    Bliar’s octennium has been breathtakingly devoid of achievement, considering he’s had a huge majority throughout. It’s been as sterile as Wilson’s tenure in 1966-70 except for superior economic stability, which was as much down to the Bank of England ‘wise men’ (OK, give NuLab credit for devolving interest rate decisions) and Alan Greenspan as to anything. But since c.2001 Gordon Brown has bared his socialist fangs and gnawed at our productivity and solvency with a host of stealth taxes and mantraps for business.

    Bliar himself has always been primarily a foreign affairs premier, dragging this country into little war after little war outwith the national interest, culminating in the utter shambles of the Iraq Attaq. His vaunted informal style has Oprah-ised politics; his attitude to graft and sleaze matches anything in the Major/Lamont years. The spin and bullyboy tactics of the Alistair Campbell school of propagandist have cheapened debate and driven half the electorate to a queasy apathy. Blair has so disgusted his own members that the Labour Party has lost half its subscribers, while at least one-quarter of its MPs are now eager to court electoral suicide to be rid of the grinning prig.

    Bliar is still wistfully casting around for a ‘project’ and a place in history within months, maybe, of leaving Number Ten. That says it all. He never attacked the Thing, as Cobbett would call it, when he was in full vigour. The NHS, the deadbeat educational establishment, bloated local government… all were allowed to go on growing like Triffids. In Scotland Bliar set up a divisive, tinpot, glorified county council which has become a gravy train-de-luxe for Nationwide Conference-level political hacks; its Tory opposition leader has just had to resign after claiming £11,000 in taxi fares last year.

    Despised around the globe as a lackey of Emperor George, exposed to terrorism at the heart of the capital in consequence, no longer the exemplar of economic and public sector reform it was in Mrs Thatcher’s day, Britain is being left in a sad old state by the head prefect. Who can think Brown will do any better? Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Brown, like Eden, has waited too long.

  • Verity

    L’universal – I believe the slimy Gordon Brown who gives me the absolute creeps, was forced to make interest rates the responsibility of the BoE by the EU. (I could be wrong, but that’s what I read somewhere.)

    I don’t think Brown will ever be prime minister. He is terribly unattractive. I can’t bear to watch that mouth wobbling around. The Labour electorate could probably have overcome their revulsion if he had delivered a sound, booming economy. But, as ever with Labour, he has wrecked what the Conservatives left with his rabid, mad dog communism and class hatred. (As he rides around in a chauffeur driven limousine. Has David Blunkett had to give his car and driver up yet, by the way, as he is just an ordinary MP?)

    Now that so many Labour voters are so disenchanted with T Bliar’s incompetence and corruption as to let their party membership lapse, the sense disenchantment is palpable. I can’t see anyone but a few old Scottish and London die-hards thinking Brown was going to improve the state into which the two of them have dropped Britain.

  • John Rippengal

    You all don’t seem to recognise that this flood of legislation is merely to divert attention to the true achievement of Tony Blair. That is to create so many jobs dependent on the state that it will never again be possible to elect any but a labour majority.

  • “his attitude to graft and sleaze matches anything in the Major/Lamont years.”

    Most of the sleaze from the Major years was sex scandals. But most of the New Labour sleaze has been abuses of power. Sex might sell better than boring old abuses of power, but it is also less of an issue really. Anyway, can you really blame the Major cabinet for getting there end away while they still had the aphrodisiac of power? I mean is there any other reason for getting into bed with someone that looks like David Mellor?

  • Verity

    John Rippengal – we have discussed this, in despair, many times on Samizdata. I always propose that people working in the public sector should have to sacrifice their franchise, as should people on welfare and other clients of the state, but I never get anywhere with this idea.

    chris – Yes, abuse of power is a far graver matter than having a fling. There is no comparison.

  • John Rippengal

    Yes Verity I have noticed your ideas about public servants and wlefare recipients. It’s a great idea but has little or no chance of being voted in just as labour has little or no chance of being voted out. Pity really.

  • Tim

    Luniversal –

    This is where I think Iraq fits in.

    After everything else he tried has secured nothing – literacy rates not improving, billions spent in the NHS yielding nothing, the left still not happy with him (almost impossible to ever please them) this was Tony Blair’s “grand projet”.

    I believe that Blair went into it with the belief that war was a no-lose situation, that would undoubtedly be popular with the people in the UK (wars had been since anyone could remember). And that once the happy people of Iraq had been liberated, and the domino effect of democracy had spread throughout the region, his place in history was secure.

    I think that following on from the 90 day farce, he’s broken. Backbenchers will feel emboldened to hit him again if he goes close to things like public sector privatisation.

    I wonder how history will judge him?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Verity, as far as I know, the move to put the BoE operationally in charge of setting interest rates was just a logical step from the approach adopted by Lamont in the early 90s: an inflation target, regular meeting between the Chancellor and the BoE governor (good old Eddie George), and published minutes of their meetings. It was a good thing to do, even if it may have been influenced by the single currency.

    In fact, the more successful Britain’s macro-economic policy becomes, the harder it is for Europhiles to claim that Britain is suffering by being outside the euro.

  • Verity

    Jonathan, you are in the financial world and know more about this, and have better references, than I do.

    And what you say is logical. Yet where I trip up is, Gordon Brown is a control freak, as all NuLab are, and I cannot see him relinquishing control over anything of his own free will. I have a deep suspicion that this was forced on him somehow.

  • John K

    I was watching “This is Spinal Tap” recently, and suddenly realised that lead singer David St Hubbins is what Tony Bliar should have been if only Ugly Rumours had made it back in the 70’s: the vapid, air headed lead singer of a glam rock band playing to empty stadiums in the mid west. Check out the photo(Link), Bliar really is St Hubbins. Spooky.

  • Luniversal

    Tim: “I believe that Blair went into it (the Iraq War) with the belief that war was a no-lose situation, that would undoubtedly be popular with the people in the UK (wars had been since anyone could remember). And that once the happy people of Iraq had been liberated, and the domino effect of democracy had spread throughout the region, his place in history was secure”

    Very likely. Bliar had already done several smaller neo-colonial expeditions, e.g. Sierra Leone. Part of his narcissism is to see himself as the Great White Liberator, bringing enlightenment to the backward races. He swallowed the Downing Street Dossier as well as feeding it to Bush, who is still using it as an excuse for his own blunders. Bliar must have dreamed of a ‘Tony Blair Square’ in Baghdad with his statue at its centre.

    Most PMs only turn to overseas missionary work and grandstanding after their domestic plans are stymied. The alarming thing about Bliar is that it appears to have been his chief delight from the outset. As the continual trashing of British traditions in the early Cool-Britannia years implies, he was never much concerned with the so-called narrow national interest of the people who’d elected him.

    Verity: The pledge to let the B of E decide interest rates was in the 1997 manifesto as an earnest of Brown’s apostolic line of succession from previous Labour chancellors. They have tended to be more prudent than Tory ones, if only to show that socialists can be trusted with the economy: Snowden, Cripps, Jenkins, Healey. It was not an EU diktat.

    But letting rate-fixing slip out of the Treasury’s hands gave Brown more times to dream up stealth taxes and ways of redefining the economic cycle to excuse the borrowing which has now landed him in the soup.

  • Veerity

    Thanks for the information about the Chancellor/Treasury, l’Universal. You are right about Tony Bliar. He was gagging for a war from the minute he took office. He wanted to be seen as “a war leader” to rival Maggie and Winston. And of course, that’s not possible unless British interests are threatened.

    He is such a drab little wannabee. And how much fun that the diplomat’s new biography tells us his trousers were so tight during his visit to the Bush ranch in Texas that he couldn’t walk without wincing. He wants to be a war leader, a Texan and a cowboy – not forgetting Lawrence of Arabia. So many roles, so little time.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    One point: the decision to make the BoE fully independent was not announced in the 1997 manifesto. It was a genuine surprise. There were hints that something might be on the cards but that was it. The government bond market rallied like a rocket once the announcement went out. I know this as I was at a press conference at the Treasury that day. It was a shock to the City, albeit a welcome shock.

    Brown may have thought he was paving the way for the euro, but he has paradoxically created a fine central bank and made it hard to claim that Britain is harmed by not joining the euro. Every month that goes by, it gets clearer that we were right to stay out.