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]

Samizdata quote of the day

“Socialism always begins with a universal vision for the brotherhood of man and ends with people having to eat their own pets.”

– Toby Young, found via Guido Fawkes, who has video.

I seek a software or sporting metaphor to explain why a second referendum would be wrong

When discussing Brexit I am often asked, not always disingenuously, “What is so wrong with having another referendum? Is not another vote more democratic by definition? Now that we know more, isn’t a good idea to check if people really do want to leave the European Union?”

I have been trying to think of a metaphor to explain what my objection to a second referendum is. The non-metaphorical explanation is that the government solemnly promised in the pamphlet sent to every household that whatever people voted for in the referendum of 23rd June 2016, “the government will implement what you decide”. A so-called democracy that will not allow certain results is a sham democracy.

(“Buuut,” comes the cry, “we aren’t disallowing any results. We’re just checking.”)

It was the European Union’s habit of ignoring or repeating referendums that gave the “wrong answer” which more than anything else turned me against it. I can truly say that even when it was in its infancy I foresaw that the trick of making a few cosmetic changes then running the referendum again would work devilishly well because it is difficult to describe in one sentence what is wrong with it. One can point out that it only ever seems to work one way: results of which the EU approves never seem to need to be confirmed. But to do that requires that you recite a whole chunk of history about Denmark and Ireland and the difference (clue: there wasn’t one) between the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. If your interlocutor is young, as a lot of Europhiles are, then this is a lot to take in and a lot to take on trust.

I wish there were a quick, engaging story I could tell to show what I mean. Two possible types of anecdote occur to me, one from the world of sport and one from the world of computers. Being ignorant of both fields, I would like to ask readers if they know of anecdotes or examples from sporting history or computery stuff which would fit the bill.

Computers first: it infuriates me when the efforts of Microsoft or Samsung to get me to adopt their proprietary software seem almost to amount to harassment. I have a Samsung phone. One day this crappy thing called “Samsung internet” appeared on the front screen or whatever it’s called. I don’t recall that I ever asked for it but I cannot make it go away. To be honest I probably did ask for it in the sense that I once, once, failed to reject it on some occasion when some damn prompt asking me to take it popped up and I had to get rid of the pop-up quickly in order to get on with whatever I wanted to do.

That anecdote is probably wrong in its terminology. I may have been overly harsh to Samsung or its internet. The point is that this type of situation, where the user has to keep rejecting something that the software company is pushing, and if they slip up just once they are deemed to have accepted it, is widely recognized to be a right pain. Can anyone give me the words to make this a metaphor for why “neverendums” are a bad thing?

Or what about an example from the history of sport? Little though I know about sports, even I can see that there can be few things more frustrating for an athlete than to run the race of your life – and then have it announced that, “Oh, sorry, old chap, that was a false start. We’ll have to run it again.” This would be even worse if it were suspected that the sporting authorities had applied the rules in a partial manner. For instance there may have been times when white athletics officials were more prone to declare that a re-run was necessary if a black athlete won than if a white athlete did.

I may have described a similar situation regarding football in an earlier post I cannot find now.

Has this scenario actually happened? Dates, names and places please!

And if you know as little as I do of those two fields, how do you make the argument against a second referendum?

Or, if you prefer, what stories, anecdotes or metaphors do you use to argue in favour of a second referendum?

John Lewis Gaddis on good versus evil in the Cold War

One of the particular pleasures of twenty-first century life is that it is now easy to purchase interesting books which have been around for quite a while, cheaply and easily rather than expensively and complicatedly. I recently bought, from Amazon, We Now Know, by John Lewis Gaddis, which is about the Cold War and was published in the 1990s. I’ve been meaning to acquaint myself with this book ever since I first heard about it, which must have been well over a decade ago.

I have so far only skimmed We Now Know, but I have already encountered a rather striking passage, towards the end. (Skimming usually involves looking at the end, doesn’t it?)

The Cold War, says Gaddis, was not decided in the Third World, but rather in such places as Europe and Japan. And why, asks Gaddis (pp.286-7 – his italics in bold), did “Washington’s empire in those pivotal regions”, generate so much less friction that Moscow’s:

One answer may be that many people then saw the Cold War as a contest of good versus evil, even if historians since have rarely done so.

Let me focus here on a single significant case: it has to do with what happened in Germany immediately after the war as its citizens confronted their respective occupiers. What Stalin sought there, it now seems clear, was a communist regime in the east that would attract Germans in the west without requiring the use of force, something the Russians could ill afford given their own exhaustion and the Americans’ monopoly over the atomic bomb.

Obviously, this is not what he got. Germans first voted with their feet – fleeing to the west in huge numbers to avoid the Red Army – and then at the ballot box in ways that frustrated all of Stalin’s hopes. But this outcome was not fore-ordained. There were large numbers of communist party members throughout Germany at the end of the war, and their prestige – because of their opposition to the Nazis – had never been higher. Why did the Germans so overwhelmingly welcome the Americans and their allies, and fear the Russians?

→ Continue reading: John Lewis Gaddis on good versus evil in the Cold War

This is not yesterday’s post about the NHS killing several hundred people

Today’s post about the NHS killing several hundred people is quite different from yesterday’s and should not be confused with it. They have nothing in common except both being about times when the NHS killed several hundred people.

The Guardian reports,

Fresh criminal inquiry launched over Gosport hospital deaths

Police have launched a fresh inquiry into how 450 patients died over 14 years after being given dangerously high doses of painkillers at an NHS hospital that showed “a disregard for human life”.

Relatives of the victims hope the investigation – the fourth into one of the biggest scandals in NHS history – will finally lead to criminal charges being brought against staff involved in administering the drugs unnecessarily.

An independent inquiry last year into events at Gosport War Memorial hospital in Hampshire found 456 patients had their lives shortened as a result of being given opioids without medical reason between 1987 and 2001. Their deaths are the focus of the new police investigation.

Another 200 people “probably” received excessive doses of painkillers at the hospital between 1989 and 2000, it added.

However the Guardian does not report a little detail that the Times does:

A hospital doctor faces a new police investigation into the deaths of 456 patients who were given “dangerous” levels of powerful painkillers.

Last year an official inquiry concluded that Jane Barton, who was known as Dr Opiate, headed an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing the drugs without medical justification at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

Patients considered a “nuisance” were allegedly given drugs on syringe drivers filled with opiates which killed them within days of their arrival at the hospital in Hampshire.

(An earlier post on Gosport can be found here: “If a nurse didn’t like you, you were a goner”.)

The cruelty of those who think themselves virtuous by definition

The error was bad enough…

Hospital infected teenager with HIV then kept diagnosis secret

An NHS hospital kept a teenager’s HIV diagnosis secret from him after accidentally infecting him with the virus and testing for it without his knowledge.

Martin Beard, now 50, wants answers from the Infected Blood Inquiry, which begins examining what has been called the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS” tomorrow. More than 2,400 NHS patients were killed and as many as 25,000 were infected by blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s.

Mr Beard was among thousands of haemophiliacs treated with Factor VIII, hailed as a “miracle drug” to aid clotting. It emerged years later that almost all those treated were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or both.

The drug was made by “pooling” plasma from thousands of blood donors, including prisoners and drug addicts in the US who were paid. If even one donor was infected, the whole batch was contaminated.

Mr Beard, from Burton-on-Trent, was treated from infancy at Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH), but transferred to North Staffordshire Hospital aged 17, where he first attended with his mother in September 1986. “We opened the doctor’s door,” Mr Beard said. “He didn’t even say ‘hello’ or ‘sit down’. His first words were, ‘I see you’re HIV positive.’ ”

…but in a way the attempt to conceal what they had done was more shocking.

The Times article by Kaya Burgess continues:

A year earlier Mr Beard had been treated at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The Times has seen a letter sent by a consultant in Leicester to a registrar at BCH [Birmingham Children’s Hospital]. Dated October 1985, 11 months before Mr Beard learnt of his illness, it states: “We note that he is HTLV 3 [HIV] antibody positive, but is not aware of this and that you do not wish this to be divulged to him. We shall make every effort to comply with your wishes.”

Medical errors will always happen. Some “cures” that seem wonderful at first will always turn out to have long term side effects, or, as in this case, to be worse than the disease. We can try to minimize such things but we can never eradicate them because they arise from the nature of discovery. If we knew in advance what worked and what did not we would not need research, we would just apply the wonder treatment the angels had told us about.

But for doctors to conceal from the victim of their own mistake the terrible harm they had done, and for no better reason other than to cover themselves… words fail me. Although Mr Beard was eventually made aware of his condition in the most brutal fashion, apparently more because someone did not get the memo to keep it secret rather than from any desire for honesty, other haemophiliacs who were not told of their diagnosis unknowingly infected their sexual partners who went on to die.

Consider those words in the consultant’s letter “We note that he is HTLV 3 [HIV] antibody positive, but is not aware of this and that you do not wish this to be divulged to him. We shall make every effort to comply with your wishes.” A senior doctor who had attained the exalted status of consultant could not possibly have been unaware of the potential dire consequences of hiding from this boy (as Mr Beard then was) the fact that he was HIV positive. Yet this consultant blithely promised to “make every effort” to comply with the wishes of his or her fellow doctors to perpetuate the conspiracy of silence, as if that were the honourable course of action.

Consider that the behaviour of that consultant was widely replicated throughout the NHS. It seemed normal. It was just what you did.

The fall of the Temple of Reason

Terrible news from Paris of the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral. As I write, I understand that not all is lost of this masterpiece. The collapsed spire was a 19th Century addition, but the damage must be immense.

When I was last in Paris, over a decade ago, I recall looking at Notre-Dame and shuddering as I thought of it as ‘destroyed’ (not that I believe that there are ‘holy’ places), as, during the French Revolution, it was closed as a cathedral and was declared a Temple of Reason. When egalitarians appeal to reason, you know heads will roll.

There followed years of neglect, before, AIUI, in 1905, the French State (which had assumed ownership), effectively provided the cathedral to the Catholic Church as a permanent ‘tenant’. The cause of the fire may well be nothing more sinister than incompetence, perhaps we will never know. I would like to think that commercial aviation levels of caution would go into fire precautions in such a building, (perhaps they did) which, whatever your view of the use or purpose of it, is surely one of the great buildings on Earth. However, the neglect under State ownership has continued, and yesterday’s cathedral was a revived corpse of the pre-Revolutionary building.

It is pretty shameful that neither Hitler nor the Kaiser managed to do as much damage to Notre Dame as the fire. It had survived them, and rioting Hugenots. In WW2, it was relatively unscathed. Some lost mediaeval glass was, I understand, replaced by abstract crap in the post-War period, so the scoundrels were already circling.

Perhaps the fire is a Randian moment, wasn’t there a train crash in a tunnel for which ‘no one is responsible’? Is the burning down of a ‘temple of reason’ an allegory for France after its great economists are all-but forgotten?

Does it matter if, in rebuilding Notre-Dame, stone that is geologically ancient is replaced by other just as ancient stone, carved a few mere centuries later? Should, as with the Campanile in Venice, the order be: ‘Com’era, Dov’era.‘. ‘How it was, where it was.‘?

Or will something more ‘inclusive’ replace it or be grated on to it?

The King of Spain is belatedly singeing many a landlord’s beard…

Mr Ed: This post is made on behalf of Paul Marks, the Sage of Kettering, as he appears to have some issues with posting. I have put my pennyworth in.

Centuries ago the Kings of Spain forbad landlords to remove tenants at the end of their tenancy contract (at least in Castile) – the Kings wanted to be seen as the “friends of the poor”. This was the true start of the decline of Castile and it spread to Latin America – where landlords just became interested in collecting-the-rent rather than improving their estates (as it was not lawful for them to remove tenants). Soon rents became “customary” – fixed under the “just price” doctrine, close kin of the “fair wage” doctrine.

Spain and Latin America lagged behind the Common Law world not because Spanish is somehow an inferior language to English – but because Spanish law became inferior to the Common Law which was based upon Freedom-of-Contract not “Social Justice” with its “just price”, “fair wage” and “security of tenure” (regardless of contract). The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May now seeks to copy the “Spanish Practices” of centuries ago – by making contracts meaningless. For example, if a tenant can not be removed after the term of their contract (their tenancy) is over then only a fool would let out a property in the first place. What is intended to “reduce homelessness” will end up increasing it.

Mr Ed: This piece on Conservativehome sets out the aptly-named Secretary of State’s view, Mr Brokenshire, he is indeed going to scour the Shires, and the towns and cities too. Someone said rent control was the second-surest way to destroy a city after carpet bombing.

James Brokenshire: Why we have decided to abolish no fault evictions

The legal position (England and, I think, Wales but it may be devolved) is not set out very well in the piece, so the explanation on the government’s website is here. Basically, the legal mechanism is a Section 21 notice, whereby a property owner can evict a tenant after a 6-month tenancy has ended, i.e. it has run its minimum term, or when it is of indefinite duration. This is to be abolished, leaving in place the much less effective Section 8 Notice, whereby tenants can play cat-and-mouse by not paying rent, then paying arrears and stopping an eviction, amongst other things.

Bastiat’s ‘What is seen and what is not seen’ might seem to be the issue here, but I fear that there are those who will not ‘see’ when it does not suit them, and unlike Nelson, it is from cowardice and calculation.

Of course, if the Sage is right, Mrs May is making England that little bit more like Venezuela, singeing Mr Corbyn’s beard and stealing his clothes.

Some examples of promises that Remainer MPs made to get elected and then broke

At the height of the Watergate scandal Nixon’s press secretary was a man called Ronald L Zielgler. He became famous for declaring with a straight face that only his latest statement was “operative” and that all previous statements contradicting it were thus “inoperative”.

The following statements by prominent Remain-supporting MPs are all inoperative:

Heidi Allen

This is what the Right Honourable Heidi Allen MP promised to the voters of South Cambridgeshire to get them to adopt her as a candidate at her hustings in 2017:

This is democracy. We might not all like the result. I was a remainer, but the minute we start ignoring the democratic will of the people in this country we are slipping very quickly towards the sort of banana republic I don’t want to live in.

*

The referendum was a different kind of vote. It was a national question, it wasn’t a local one, and I know that probably the majority of people in this room tonight will think “well, we don’t want it”, but we can’t forget that this was a national vote. And I think it’s wrong for us as democratic leaders to be picking and choosing the results that we don’t like.

*

So quite frankly if I am re-elected as your MP, I am not going to waste time, precious time, resisting Brexit from happening. I’m going to grasp that opportunity, leverage that opportunity we have with every fibre of my being and make the best of it.

*

I think those that voted to Leave would think we were treating them as fools and that they were stupid and that we didn’t respect their views. So I think that a second referendum is not what we should be aiming for.

Heidi Allen is now the interim leader of the Change UK party, formerly known as The Independent Group and informally known as the Tiggers or CUKs, whose only significant policy is to force a second referendum.

I saw that speech on the video “Heidi Allen Hustings 2017 Best Bits” posted to YouTube by Tom Harwood. The video of Sarah Wollaston’s hustings linked to below was also posted by Mr Harwood. I thought it was very useful that he added subtitles to the videos, as that makes it easier to find and cite the most strikingly dishonest passages in the MPs’ speeches. By writing out the speeches and the contents of the election flyers and leaflets here in this Samizdata post I hope to make it still easier to spread the word of how these Remainer Members of Parliament are not to be trusted.

Nick Boles

This is what the Right Honourable Nick Boles MP said to the voters of Grantham and Stamford in an election leaflet:

60 SECOND Q&A
NICK BOLES

Q: How do we know you won’t betray us, if we elect you?

A: I will publish all my expense claims online and I will never claim for food or furniture or household goods. I think that MPs elected for one party should have to stand down and call a by-election if they defect to another party.

On 1st April 2019 Nick Boles resigned from the Conservative Party following the announcement of the results of the second round of indicative votes on exiting the European Union. He now describes himself as an Independent Progressive Conservative. His previous belief that defecting MPs should have to stand down fell by the wayside when the time came to apply it to himself.

That leaflet can be seen at the URL https://staging.electionleaflets.org/leaflets/full/58310/ uploaded to the site electionleaflets.org. The fact that by the standards he himself had proclaimed Boles had betrayed his constituents was highlighted by Guido Fawkes in this post. The post reminded me that when Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell left the Conservatives for UKIP they both voluntarily resigned their seats and stood for election again under their new colours. Both were re-elected to their old seats.

Yvette Cooper

This is what the Right Honourable Yvette Cooper MP said on an election leaflet addressed to the voters of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford to solicit their support in 2017:

Yvette Cooper MP
– Securing the best Brexit deal for the Five Towns
– I voted to trigger Article 50 in Parliament
– I want to reform freedom of movement
– I will not vote to block Brexit
– I want to secure the best deal for the Five Towns not just the cities

I took the picture of the Yvette Cooper election leaflet from a tweet by Paul Embery of the Firefighters’ Union.

Sarah Wollaston

This is what the Right Honourable Sarah Wollaston MP promised to the voters of Totnes in order to solicit their support at her hustings in 2017:

It was extraordinarily divisive, the referendum, and we need to move on from that. But what we must do, in my view, is accept the result, but now make sure that just because we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe. Taking all of the people within this constituency into account, this constituency voted by 54% to Leave. I think this is one of the things that annoys people is telling them that they didn’t know what they were voting for. That was the purpose of the referendum; we accept the result; we move on and make it as constructive as possible. There are real problems with how the Common Agricultural Policy has worked, and we have an opportunity now to redesign something that does more to protect Devon’s farmers and to look at how we balance that with protecting our environment.

A second referendum to take us out of the European Union: it is a direct incentive for us to get the worst possible deal. We have to go into this absolutely understanding that the principle here is that we respect the outcome of the referendum and I think it would be a huge mistake to go into this promising that I’d be prepared to vote to actually overturn the deal and send us back into Europe. We shouldn’t be going back and saying that we don’t accept the result of the referendum, I’m afraid.

From the video “Sarah Wollaston’s 2017 Husting Highlights” posted to YouTube by Tom Harwood.

On 20 February Sarah Wollaston resigned from the Conservatives and joined The Independent Group / Change UK. Wollaston’s pledge to respect the referendum thus joined in the inoperative bin her belief that MPs who cross the floor ought to face a mandatory by-election. As the Wikipedia article on Sarah Wollaston says she actually supported a Private Members bill to make this the law:

Call for mandatory by-elections for MPs switching parties

In March 2019 it emerged that Wollaston had supported a 2011 bill which required MPs who switch parties to face an automatic by-election. Wollaston herself switched parties on 20 February 2019, yet refused to let voters have a say on her switch. Chair of the Labour Party in Totnes and South Devon, Lynn Alderson, said Ms Wollaston “made her views clear”. Wollaston acknowledged the likely calls for her to face a by-election but refused such a proposal, stating “neither this nor a general election would answer the fundamental question that is dividing us”.

Broken promise on respecting result of EU Referendum

During her election hustings when campaigning for re-election at the 2017 General Election, Wollaston promised her constituents she would “accept the result” of the EU Membership Referendum, noting that 54% of her constituents had voted Leave. She went on to state that “one of the things that annoys people is telling them that they didn’t know what they were voting for” and completely rejected the idea of holding a second referendum. Wollaston later switched to the Independent Group, all the member of which oppose to respecting the result of the EU Referendum and committed to holding a second Referendum, therefore meaning Wollaston had broken all her election promises on the issue.

April fool, suckers! It was me all along!

French literati embarrassed after Marxist hero admits to murders

An anguished debate has erupted among French intellectuals after an Italian Marxist whom they lionised as a victim of oppression and injustice confessed to being a murderer.

Cesare Battisti, 64, a former member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism…

Who could have guessed that a member of Armed Proletarians for Communism might have been violent?

…embarrassed the French literati who were his most ardent defenders when he admitted last week to a series of killings and knee-cappings in Italy in the late 1970s.

Battisti lived openly in France for 14 years from 1990 despite having been convicted in his absence in Italy of carrying out two murders and aiding and abetting two others. He earned a living as a crime writer, a television scriptwriter and an occasional contributor to Playboy.

When a French court upheld an Italian extradition request in 2004, authors, artists, philosophers and politicians sprang to his defence. They denounced Italian justice as biased, proclaimed his innocence — even though he refused to do so explicitly for many years — and said that he should be able to live freely in France.

Battisti fled to Brazil then Bolivia.

…but was arrested there in January and extradited to Italy. Under questioning he not only admitted to the crimes but said that he had “never been a victim of injustice”. He went on to say that his backers had been interested only in his ideology and not in his innocence or guilt.

Ho ho, what a joke. Except for the people he murdered and their families.

Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Rightly not trusting our leaders to deliver on their statements (there were, IFUC, no promises about leaving the EU from Mrs May), the Sage of Kettering and I have left the EU in that recently, we have visited our nearest escape hole, the Channel Islands. A fleeting visit, one day in each, but we have seen a future, and it works, more or less. For our more distant readers, Jersey and Guernsey are ‘Crown Dependencies’, historically part of the Duchy of Normandy, owing allegiance to the British Crown but not part of the UK. The UK government has arrogated to itself the overlordship of the islands, holding responsibility for foreign affairs and defence (well, sort of, as we shall see), but the two Bailiwicks are otherwise independent jurisdictions with autonomy in most areas, crucially taxation, and are outside of the European Union, albeit within EU Customs arrangements, allowing them to trade with the EU. Here, they say, the Queen is the Duke of Normandy, although monuments refer to ‘la Reine’. She is the only Duke I can think of married to a Duke. Whether or not they can simply declare independence is constitutionally unclear, but with Labour dangerously close to power, they might be advised to make some plans.

→ Continue reading: Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Samizdata quote of the day

What a wretched lot of weaklings we have in high places at the present time!

– Douglas Haig, diary entry 1 September 1918. This was written in response to the Cabinet’s refusal to take responsibility for any failure of Haig’s upcoming offensive. The Storming of the Hindenburg Line was, of course, a huge success. Any similarity between this and more recent events is entirely coincidental.

Lord Heseltine forgets to mention a detail

Lord Heseltine, writing in the Telegraph today, explains “Why I am joining the People’s Vote march on Saturday”.

Of course I argued from the beginning that we were better off in the EU than out of it. Better off resolving our differences from within the European family than as an isolated onlooker chipping in from the side-lines.

It is indeed the case that Mr Heseltine has used that line of argument before. Perhaps the passage of seventeen years has dimmed his memory of the exact context in which he did it. But the internet remembers:

Tony Blair came under growing pressure last night to declare that Britain is to join the European single currency as the clock ticked towards tonight’s historic launch of the new money.

The increasing impatience of pro-euro campaigners at No 10’s fence sitting exploded as Lord Heseltine, the former Tory deputy prime minister, joined Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and the head of Labour’s MEPs, Simon Murphy, to urge the prime minister to take a lead and call an early referendum.

Lord Heseltine effectively accused Mr Blair of a lack of nerve as he dismissed the government’s five economic tests as a “protective barrier” behind which it could “cower in order to have apparently intellectually defensible reasons for putting things off”.

the Guardian, 31 December 2001