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Samizdata quote of the day – Penny Mordaunt: the perfect head for the headless Tories

For beneath the jolly hockey-sticks veneer, Mordaunt is herself an empty cipher for a Blob the Tory membership despises, but that its leadership quietly knows it cannot do without. She would do nothing to curb the current withdrawal of real power into closed cabals and permanent bureaucratic revolution. And once herself inevitably decapitated, she would be as certain as Sunak is to merge seamlessly with that ecosystem once again. At least, in the the interval, we might perhaps take comfort from the fact she looked good with that sword.

Mary Harrington

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – Penny Mordaunt: the perfect head for the headless Tories

  • Roué le Jour

    She would do nothing to curb the current withdrawal of real power into closed cabals and permanent bureaucratic revolution.

    This is why I think Galloway’s party may be more successful than anticipated. Parliament is like a great county house fallen into disrepair and decay. It doesn’t need new tenants, it needs knocking down.

    For decades politicians have lied to voters about where power resides in government. The clearest example of this is the Home Office. Once one of the great offices of state, Home Secretary is now a job for the intern. Why? Because the Home Office is entirely autonomous, the the cabinet has no control over it, so no point in sending a heavyweight.

    It is long past time this charade was ended and Galloway’s pikey party may be just the chaps for the job.

  • Steven R

    It is in the king’s power to simply dissolve Parliament and rule by edict, correct?

  • Paul Marks

    Steven R – no. The enemies of Charles the First said he wanted to rule by edict, but he went to his death calmly denying that. His argument was that he governed by the traditional laws (NOT that he has a right to change them) and that by these laws “the lives and goods” of ordinary persons could be “most their own” that this (not governing) was what liberty meant. This Charles said, calmly said, before he was executed – and I suspect that this is what he believed. He had no desire to be a Roman Emperor or a Turkish Sultan – a despot. Modern historians, especially television ones, do not understand what Charles meant by the word “liberty” (which they, not he, define as democracy) – so they either assume he was lying, or that he was insane. How true Charles was to his principles can be debated (after all power corrupts) – but modern historians do not even understand what his principles were (because they have no understanding of natural law – and think of all law as edicts that most come from some person or group of persons).

    Sadly in the middle of the 18th century Sir William Blackstone declared that Parliament could rule by edict – that whatever it said was law, was law, with no limits at all on its power (the death penalty for the “crime” of having blue eyes – that would be “law” if Parliament said so, formally Sir Willian did not deny that natural law-justice existed, he “just” held that Parliament could override it whenever it felt like it). And those modern judges who do not accept this view (which is really the view of Thomas Hobbes – that the person or persons in power can declare any whim of theirs “law” which must be obeyed) do NOT understand traditional principles of law either – such judges just replace the whims of Parliament with their own whims.

    We are in a position where neither the High Court of the King in Parliament (remember Parliament is there to find the law – NOT to make it) nor the judges, understand the traditional principles of law – to both “law” is simply their whims that, if it needs philosophical justification at all, is justified by “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (to give an example from over the Atlantic) if it makes people happy to convict someone of murder and send them to prison to be tortured and abused, then that is what should be done – regardless of whether the man murdered the person he was accused of murdering, or even if the person was murdered at all. What matters is “the general happiness” – not natural justice (which modern legal thinkers do not believe in).

    To give a British example – if two men insult each other “racist” “pedophile” then one finds in favour of the man whose political and cultural opinions one (the judge) agrees with, the “reactionary” exists only to be punished. The fact that he was responded to an insult with an insult is ignored – as the progressive person is allowed to insult and the reactionary is not (remember, to moderns, there is no natural justice – so to say this is unjust means nothing to them).

    It is much the same in America (of which I have already given an example – a murder conviction where both the judge and the jury knew that no murder had taken place) in both the civil and criminal law.

    People can be sent to prison for joke memes (even memes actually invented by their political opponents – who will NOT be sent to prison), they can be fined half a BILLION Dollars for “fraud” where everyone knows that no fraud has taken place, they can be sent to prison (to be cut up) for “murder” when they did not kill anyone, they can be found liable for sexual assault when they were many miles away from the supposedly assaulted person (and both the “victim” and the jury will laugh). And-so-on.

    Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, and the American Pragmatists philosophers, now dominate. Natural justice, the traditional principles of law, is laughed at.

  • Paul Marks

    Rour le Jour – you could not be more wrong.

    Mr Galloway and his socialist associates are not the answer to the creeping tyranny we experience – they take it to its logical conclusion.

    There is indeed a logic to their position – “if the government is allowed to plunder and order people about” (which the moderns say it is – much like the Imperial Roman legal thinkers who accepted that slavery was against natural justice, but held that the state could overrule natural justice, Sir William Blackstone would have loved these vermin) “then EVERYTHING should be plundered and people should be ordered about in every aspect of their lives”.

    Not creeping tyranny – but full tyranny now. That is the “alternative” that we are being offered.

  • Roué le Jour

    Steven R,
    That’s a yes to the first question but, as Paul points out, a no to the second. HRH can dissolve parliament if it is clearly defying the will of the people, which it is, but that would only trigger an election in which the livestock would vote for more of the same. In any case HRH is completely happy with the performance of his government and would do no such thing.

  • Paul Marks

    As for Penny Mordaunt – the defence (yes the defence) is as follows….

    “Penny did not write the bad sections of the book – that was the other person”.

    “Penny inspires the young – the average age of party members in her Constituency is vastly younger than average”.

    “Penny is very patriotic – and is a long time Royal Navy reservist”.

    “Penny is very nice and kind”.


    “Penny is very good at ceremony”.

    I must stress that I am not laughing at the lady by writing this – this is the defence offered by the supporters of the lady.

    Not one word on policies or principles – but then most policy is not made by politicians (it is made by officials and “experts” – national and international), and principles of liberty are a problem for politicians – as one will be forced to vote against them (to rubber stamp policies made by the official and “experts” – and even to vote, in a planned act of ritual humiliation, for formal letters of thanks to officials who are driving their authority on to the rocks, by wild over spending), so politicians who do not have any principles of liberty (indeed have no idea what such things are) are likely to be happier people. Certainly less likely to kill themselves in despair.

  • Roué le Jour

    Did you ever read Reach for the Sky? There’s a scene which has stayed with me since boyhood. Bader is in hospital after losing his legs. He is suddenly woken by a crash out side his door and he hears a nurse say “sssh! There’s a young man dying in there.” Bader is shocked to realize they are talking about him and the rest is history.

    The current trajectory of the UK is down and out. The government is not the voters friend. People need to be woken up to this fact with some crashing and banging, and not listen to the euthanist’s smooth bedside manner.

  • Stuart Noyes

    I recently re read work by Alistair McConnachie. Ahead of his time I think. He’d said it was no point leaving the EU without fundamental constitutional reform. The point being that what they did in 1972 could be easily done again.

    The truth of the matter being our political system keeps any meaningful power out of the hands of the electorate. Its a form of people control.

    Parliament is a punch and Judy show to keep us entertained. As per my realisation in 2003, we need direct democracy and a codified constitution.

  • we need direct democracy and a codified constitution.

    The value (to who?) of a codified constitution depends on for whose benefits it is written. One written today will simply establish immutable positive rights & enshrine technocratic government to deliver them
    – A “right” to healthcare paid for by someone else.
    – A “right” to a state approved education.
    – A “right” to employment without the inconvenience of producing anything of value to the employer.

    It will be a long list.

    As for direct democracy, to quote Guy Herbert as I am wont to do: democracy is an excellent brake but a terrible steering wheel.

  • Martin

    Written constitutions tend to reflect the values, interests, religion (or lack of) culture, and ideology of those who write them. You may want a British constitution that looks like the American one written in 1789….in contemporary Britain with its ruling class you’re more likely to get one that is even worse than the South African one from 1996. It’ll just be a societal suicide note.

    Problem with direct democracy is you still need people to implement what the results of referendums or whatever ‘direct’ mechanisms you have. The public voted via referendum to leave the EU….even if you didn’t have parliament to implement it, you would still have the civil service, regulatory bodies, judiciary, diplomatic service etc left who could dilute, twist, and pervert it.

  • Stuart Noyes

    Perry – my idea of a constitution is a definition of how the institutions of government work and what they are. How often elections are conducted etc.

    A bill of rights are a set of political rights such as the right to free speech, trial by jury, habeas corpus etc. Rights that the state may not take away or abolish. Social rights such as health care, even education have no place in a bill of rights. I understand where you are coming from given the ignorance that even Oxford graduates appear to have.

    Further, the subject of elevating ourselves from the hell hole we’re in, I think is largely the consequence of the inattention of the electorate, which has made the political class become wolves, as warned by Jefferson. I’d hope if the people had more power, they might be more attentive?

  • Paul Marks

    Rour le Jour – yes now I see your point.

    Perry and Stuart Noyes.

    A Constitution written today would indeed be an abomination – full of “rights” as benefits from the state and demands for state action (against “Hate Speech” and “intolerance” and so on), and even if it were NOT – it would be “interpreted” by judges who are scumbags.

    For example, the American Constitution says that there should be no “excessive fines” – so how does that fit with hundreds-of-millions of Dollars (basically half a BILLION Dollars) for “fraud” – when there was no fraud, no one was defrauded.

    The American Constitution also says that no one will deprived of trial by jury – yet people are denied trial by jury, and when they are given a jury trial a jury of evil-scum (I am not exaggerating) is selected if the defendant is a “reactionary”.

    The United States Constitution also says (Article One, Section Ten) that no State may have anything other than gold and silver as legal tender, but that has also been “interpreted” away (“oh Paul it just means that State governments can not issue fiat money, the Feds can – even though Article One, Section Eight says they can COIN money, not print it as with the not-worth-a-Continental which the bleeping Constitutional Convention was called to prevent happening in future).

    Indeed as far back as 1935 the Supreme Court ruled that the Feds could rob people of their monetary gold and violate all contracts (public and private) even though the Constitution says that contracts must not be violated.

    As for “elections”.

    Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court said, in effect, that State election laws did not matter because of “Covid” (it could have been “climate” or “racism” – or anything).

    Vast numbers of fake mail-in-ballots – does not matter.

    “Malfunctioning” computerised election machines, as in Arizona in 2022, – also does not matter.

    For Constitutions and laws to matter one needs judges and juries who are not scumbags.

  • John

    Penny is an impressive performer when standing in at PM’s questions. Mind you so were Boris, Cameron and even Hague.

    It’s important though to consider the risible calibre of opposition leader or deputy they were all up against. I doubt if any of them would fare at all well against the vile but highly capable Blair – who admittedly would be starting from the strong position of having zero regard for the truth and zero belief in anything he is actually advocating.

    The tragedy is that the same could arguably be said to apply to present day conservatives.

  • Fraser Orr

    Parliament is a punch and Judy show to keep us entertained. As per my realisation in 2003, we need direct democracy and a codified constitution.

    Perry is exactly right. We need neither of those things. We instead need a people who believe in freedom, the rule of law and the right to do whatever you damn well please as long as you don’t hurt anyone. But instead we have a nation of busybodies, a nation of “gimmie, gimmie, gimme”, and a nation who desperately want to be offended or feel victimized.

    This is the problem: we think freedom is found in new government structures. It is not, it is found in a people who actually want it. Which we don’t have and are unlikely in my lifetime.

  • Roué le Jour

    Exactly why I am opposed to universal suffrage. If you want your democracy to produce liberty and prosperity then you need a demos that also wants that. People living out of the public purse should not have the vote.

  • Stuart Noyes

    I happen to agree with all that Fraser. If I had my way families would take responsibility where possible for their members. If a daughter got pregnant, the parents would pay for accommodation etc. There is in my opinion lots of largesse with people who need care. The emphasis always put on them and no concern what so ever that someone else’s graft is paying for it. The words “there is no such thing as government money” rings in my ears.

    Regarding freedom of speech, words do not physically hurt anyone. Even if I say Sunak needs a good slap or worse. I’m sure lots of us would like to take the odd person’s life in the belief the world would benefit without their presence.

  • Stuart Noyes

    Who would that apply too? People on benefits? Public servants? The armed forces?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Roué le Jour
    FWIW, I don’t agree. I think universal suffrage is a necessary thing. There is an argument that people who don’t pay taxes shouldn’t be able to vote in the House of Representatives election (since they are the source of financial bills), but there is more to government than taxes and money and people have a right to determine the government they have rule over them.

    But insofar as there is a solution, it is the one a bunch of slaveholders produced two hundred fifty years ago — federalism, and enumerated powers fracturing and limiting the scope of government, with super majorities needed to change the most foundational things. But freedom rusts, and needs to be maintained, which it hasn’t been, really, so we are where we are.

    But no matter what “structures” you put in place if the people don’t want it, they won’t keep it. The constitution is a pact not a charter from God. It only lasts as long as people want it to. And there are two ways to get rid of the constitution, overthrow it or reinterpret it. The second leads to a lot less bloodshed and so is the way that has been taken. It is why many on the left are baying for the blood of Supreme Court justices.

    (Though one has to wonder, with the recent comments from Justice Jackson essentially questioning why censorship is not necessary during a government emergency. Although I don’t agree with her politics, I did respect her — she defended terrorists an Guantanamo Bay, which says a great deal of good things about her. But it is hard to believe that someone so versed in the law would say something that so utterly missed the point of the first amendment.)

    But as I always like to say at the end of these things — despair is a cheap cop out. The world and the west is the way it is and you can’t change it anymore than Canute can command the tides. Rather accept it and make a plan B that provides for and protects you and your family. It is a lot easier to rant at the abominations in the news than it is to take steps to protect yourself.

  • Paul Marks

    Fraser Orr.

    The lady does not “miss the point” of the 1st Amendment – the lady is against the 1st Amendment.

    So were the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay (they wished to destroy America – all of the Bill of Rights and so on) – which is why the lady defended them (it was very fashionable on the left to defend such people – for obvious reasons). I rather doubt she would defend January 6th people – because they are on the other side.

    As for the Supreme Court, it has often failed – as I have already explained (at some length), but it is still, today, better than nothing.

    But as Senator Cruz pointed out in a recent book – a couple of appointments (a couple of Justices die or retire – and are replaced by leftists) and the Supreme Court would cease to be of any use at all in defending liberty, indeed it would become an active-force-for-evil.

    As I pointed out – both constitutions and laws depend judges and juries not being scumbags.

  • Paul Marks

    The central mistake that conservatives and libertarians make about leftists is to think that the leftists have noble motives – that they are benevolent.

    They are not benevolent, they do not have noble motives. This is not a “knowledge problem” – they know very well the horrors their principles lead to, which is precisely why they support these principles.

    The one good thing about the corrupt trials, civil and criminal, in the United States in recent years, is that they have woken up many people as to what leftists, including leftists on juries, are.

  • Roué le Jour

    Thank you for a considered response. My argument simplified is that you can have redistribution or universal suffrage but not both. The problem is that the rich are always a small minority, so elections can easily be won by simply promising “Vote for me and I will rob the rich and share the proceeds with you.” Further more, there are now so may people dependant on the government that it can, in effect, vote for itself without troubling taxpayers, who become a kind of helot.

    Redistribution, as opposed to a contributory welfare system, is wrong. Without it government would not be able to throw away taxpayers money on any foreign criminal who can make to Britain’s shores.

  • Fraser Orr

    Roué le Jour
    The problem is that the rich are always a small minority, so elections can easily be won by simply promising “Vote for me and I will rob the rich and share the proceeds with you.”

    FWIW, it is why I have often argued that corruption is necessary in a democracy. The rich have to be able to buy off the politicians to some degree to prevent the masses from sucking all the capital out of the system.

  • Quentin

    Since Mordant is expected to lose her seat at the next election, the whole conversation is moot.

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