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]

Pssst, wanna used car?

Some good stuff in the Telegraph today. “The electric car carnage has only just begun”, writes Matthew Lynn.

As with so much of the legislation passed during the last five years, setting a quota for the percentage of EVs companies had to sell probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Manufacturers now have to ensure that 22pc of the cars they shift off the forecourt are battery powered, rising steadily to 80pc by the end of this decade, and 100pc by 2035. If they don’t hit their quota, the senior executives will get ten years hard labour in Siberia (well, actually it is a fine of up to £15,000 per vehicle, but it nonetheless feels extremely draconian). Like Soviet planners in the 1950s, the architects of this legislation presumably assumed that all you had to do was set a target and everything would fall into place.

The trouble is, quotas don’t work any better in Britain than they did in communist Russia. EVs have some serious problems: the range is not good enough, we have not built enough charging points to power them, the repair bills are expensive, the insurance ruinous, and second hand prices are plummeting. Once all raw materials and transport costs are factored in, they may not be much better for the environment.

Yet the masterminds foisting this legislation on businesses don’t appear to have given much thought to what will happen if the quota isn’t met. Now Ford, one of the biggest auto giants in the world, and still a major manufacturer in Europe, has provided an answer. “We can’t push EVs into the market against demand,” said Martin Sander, the General Manager of Ford Model eEurope, at a conference this week. “We’re not going to pay penalties… The only alternative is to take our shipments of [engine] vehicles to the UK down and sell these vehicles somewhere else.”

In effect, Ford will limit its sales of cars in the UK. If you had your eye on a new model, forget it. You will have to put your name on a waiting list, just as East Germans had to wait years for a Trabant. Heck, we may even see a black market in off-the-books Transit vans. Ford is the first to spell it out in public, but we can be confident all the other manufacturers are thinking the same thing. They can’t absorb huge fines. The only alternative is to limit the sales of petrol cars.

Liz Truss – in office but not in power

This interview is fascinating and I think Truss come out rather well in that she identifies the problem UK faces with great precision. There are many things she clearly can’t say for obvious political reasons (but the hosts say for her anyway 😀 ) & the endless advert interruptions are annoying, but this is well worth watching.

Samizdata quote of the day – Eastern Europe is showing Britain up on Free Speech

Scruton gave a lecture on Wittgenstein to a private circle of intellectuals. He was quick to notice, however, that “they were far more interested in the fact that I was visiting at all”, rather than deliberations on the rather impenetrable Austrian thinker. The sense of togetherness was, according to the recollection of a Czech dissident, “the most important morale booster for us”.

It wasn’t just intellectuals who were in peril. The country, Scruton discovered, contained a sophisticated network of secret agents and snitches. Denunciation was prolific and social scrutiny omnipresent. No one, including the most inconsequential citizens, could feel safe from the Big Brother of the state and social pressure of their peers. The Czech author and playwright Václav Havel made this atmosphere famous when describing the deliberations of a greengrocer, who had to place a pro-regime slogan on display in his shop to avoid being denounced or judged unfavourably by his neighbours.

It is 2024, and in many ways the positions of Britain and Czechoslovakia (now Czechia) have reversed. It is now in Prague where freedom of speech and thought is tolerated, and it is in Britain where it is under assault – sometimes on the social level, but increasingly on the legal level as the recent legislation in Scotland shows. True, people seldom go to prison for expressing their opinions – like Havel did in Czechoslovakia – but lives have been destroyed nonetheless. Sackings, cancellations and character assassinations have proliferated in the country that was once hailed as the cradle of liberalism.

Štěpán Hobza

A bastion undermined

“Little by little, the Government is seizing control of our great universities”, writes James Tooley in the Telegraph.

Fifty years ago this week, Lord Hailsham laid the foundation stone for the University of Buckingham. Even back in the 1970s, eminent scholars feared the increasing encroachment of the state on higher education, with deleterious consequences for academic freedom if it was allowed to continue. If a university could be created that did not receive government funding, they argued, then it could escape the need for state regulations. Buckingham was born as a beacon for independence, a bastion of free speech and freedom of thought.

Fast forward 50 years. Our founders would be shocked to see the all-encompassing regulations emerging from the Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator in England which took over university regulation in 2018. There are 25 sets of regulations covering an enormous range of topics, including its current major foci, equality of opportunity and quality.

Thank goodness that the University of Buckingham is exempt from this interference! Wait a minute, it’s not:

A private university like Buckingham, which doesn’t receive any direct government funding, has to satisfy all but three of these 25 sets of regulations – known as “Conditions of Registration” – even though ostensibly the regulations are to ensure taxpayer value for money. If a university is found to be in breach of any of these conditions, then the OfS has a variety of sanctions at its disposal, including removal of a university’s title and status, even if these were awarded through a venerable Royal Charter.

Samizdata quote of the day – What is the ECHR really for?

Take a look around you (you don’t have to live in the UK to play this trick, of course): does it strike you that you live in a country in which ‘freedom of speech, assembly, religion, privacy and much more’ are guaranteed? And does it strike you that those freedoms – ‘and much more’ – have been given greater protection since 1998, or less? It strikes me rather that they are becoming ever more contingent, and ever more subject to suspicion. And this is absolutely no accident; it is in part because when the HRA came into effect in the UK, it ushered in the notion that most rights are ‘qualified’ rather than absolute, meaning that that they can be constrained where ‘proportionate’ to the achievement of some legitimate aim of government. The result of this is that rights such as those to freedom of speech or assembly, which were once more or less absolute in the UK except where subject to clear constraint in the form of statutory or common law rules, are now in large part dependent on the whims of judges’ determinations about whether or not interference with the right in question would be legitimate and proportionate. (This is often framed, with respect to freedom of speech, around the rubric of what would be ‘acceptable in a democratic society’ to say – in the eyes, of course, of the judge.)

In summary, then, the idea that human rights law is a body of rules which are necessary to constrain the State, and that the ECHR and its incorporation into UK law by the HRA represented a new era of increased ‘dignity and respect’, is simply not true. What is rather true is that law will tend to follow politics, and indeed will be bent to serve political interests – and human rights law is no different.

David McGrogan

Why has devolution not worked in a liberal direction?

Reading this Samizdata quote of the day got me thinking about why devolution in the UK has been a general disappointment and source of endless annoyance.

I remember when arguments were originally made for devolution, commentators would claim that devolution would work in the same way that the federal structure of the US works, or, for that matter, how the cantonal system works in Switzerland. By which they meant that if a state such as Zug in Switzerland or Wisconsin in the US tried a specific policy (encouraging cryptos, or enacting Workfare, to take two actual examples), that the perceived success or failure of these policies would be studied by other cantons and states. Hence the idea that devolution allows a sort of “laboratory experiment” of policy to take place. It creates a virtuous kind of competition. That’s the theory.

What seems to have happened is that since devolution in the UK, Scotland, Wales and to some extent, Northern Ireland, have competed with England in who can be the most statist, authoritarian and in general, be the biggest set of fools. Whether it is 20 mph speed limits spreading to many places and harsh lockdowns (Wales) or minimum pricing on booze and “snitching” on your own family for views about gender (Scotland), the Celtic fringe appears to be more interested in being more oppressive, rather than less. I cannot think of a single issue in which the devolved governments of the UK have been more liberal, and more respectful, of liberty under the rule of law. (Feel free to suggest where I am mistaken.)

One possible problem is that because the UK’s overall government holds considerable budgetary power, the devolved bits of the UK don’t face the consequences of feckless policy to the extent necessary to improve behaviour.

Even so, I don’t entirely know why the Scots and Welsh have taken this turn and I resist the temptation to engage in armchair culture guessing about why they tend to be more collectivist at present. It was not always thus. Wales has been a bastion of a kind of liberalism, fused to a certain degree with non-conformity in religion, and Scotland had both the non-conformist thing, and the whole “enlightment” (Smith, Hume, Ferguson, etc) element. At some point, however, that appears to have stopped. Wales became a hotbed of socialism in the 20th century, in part due to the rise of organised labour in heavy industry, and then the whole folklore – much of it sentimental bullshit – about the great achievements in healthcare of Nye Bevan. Scotland had its version of this, plus the resentments about Mrs Thatcher and the decline of Scotland as a manufacturing power.

I like visiting Wales – I went to Anglesey last weekend and loved it – and the same goes for Scotland. I can only go on personal observations in saying that I enjoy my trips there, and I have some family links to Scotland on my mother’s side. (My wife has some links to Wales.). But for whatever reason, the political culture of both places is, to varying degrees, absolutely horrible.

Maybe the “test lab” force of devolution will play a part in demonstrating that, as and when we get a Labour government for the whole of the UK, it will be a shitshow on a scale to put what has happened in the Celtic parts of the UK in the shade.

Samizdata quote of the day – Rishi Sunak’s Big Plan

That’s why I hate “devolution” and wish that a Conservative government had had the balls to roll it back. But I might as well want a pet unicorn as hope for any vision from a Conservative politician. All we get is a smoking ban and compulsory maths till 18. That’s Rishi Sunak’s Big Plan.


“At about midnight, I got a knock on the door”

This is not a quote about life under a Communist or Fascist regime. It is about life in Exeter University in 2018.

I heard about this story from an article by Sanchez Manning in the Mail on Sunday:

A philosophy student overheard through the wall of his room saying ‘veganism is wrong’ and ‘gender fluidity is stupid’ was threatened with expulsion by his university, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Robert Ivinson said he was disciplined after a student next door in halls of residence at Exeter University heard the comments then complained he had been offensive and ‘transphobic’.

Mr Ivinson, who expressed the views in a phone call to a friend, was hauled before university officials and put on a ‘behavioural contract’ for the rest of his studies.

This video made by the Committee for Academic Freedom shows Robert Ivinson giving his own account of what happened.

Mr Ivinson acknowledges that a legitimate part of the complaint against him was that he was speaking too loudly in the phone call in question so that noise was coming through the wall. However he says that the university hearing refused to separate the issues of him making too much noise and what he said in a private conversation being deemed offensive.

Though Mr Ivinson appears perfectly reasonable, indeed likeable, in his video, I would like to believe that there is something missing from his account – because I do not want to believe that a British university can have fallen so far from what a university is meant to be. The Mail on Sunday article says “Exeter University was approached for comment but did not respond.” I shall be most interested to see what the University’s response turns out to be.

It gets cold in rural Scotland and there are often power cuts. Tough.

Andy Wightman describes himself as a vegan who drives an electric car, does not fly, and lives much of the time off-grid using solar power and wood fuel. In this article in the Scottish current affairs magazine Holyrood, bearing the title “Why the ‘ban’ on wood-burning stoves ignores the needs of rural Scotland”, he writes,

Since 1 April, it is no longer permissible to install a direct-emission heating system (one which produces more than a negligible level of greenhouse-gas emissions) in a new-build house or conversion. This is a ban on oil, coal, gas and wood-based heating systems.

But in response to a fair degree of upset from across rural Scotland in recent weeks at this apparent ban – however partial – on wood-burning stoves, ministers were at pains to point out that this was not, in fact, a ban. Why?

Because, according to the Scottish Government, they can still be installed in new homes to provide emergency heating. The government claims that this concession “recognises the unique needs of Scotland’s rural communities”. The problem with this sophistry is that the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2023 define emergency heating as an installation to be used only in the event of the failure of the main heating system.

So people can install wood-burning stoves at a cost of anything between £5,000 and £10,000 to be used for a few days per year and, therefore, it’s not a ban.

He then discusses some of the reasons why even very environmentally conscious people who live in the remoter areas of Scotland might want to heat their houses using wood-burning stoves, and continues,

It is, in fact, how I want to heat a house I am in the process of building myself. After a lot of careful consideration, I decided to install a log-gasification boiler as the main heating system. Such boilers are more than 90 per cent efficient, they feed a very large accumulator tank of hot water, and only need to be fired up every two to four days.

The wood will come from thinning from a forest that I manage locally, cut with a solar-powered chainsaw. There is no market for this kind of low-quality timber from small woods. If I cannot use it for heat, it will lie and rot – and produce carbon emissions – on the forest floor. The fuel wood will emit two per cent of the carbon being absorbed annually by the forest from which it is sourced.

The house design is rated B for energy efficiency (falling short of A by only two points) and is rated A for carbon emissions. I have planning consent and I even have a grant and loan offer from the Scottish Government to install the boiler.

Due to technical issues, however, I have yet to submit the final application for a building warrant. This will now as a matter of law be refused and I will incur the expense of revising the planning permission, commissioning new engineering assessments, and preparing a revised building-warrant application. I will also need to reject the grant and loan offer.

If you live in Edinburgh or Glasgow, however, you can still install a wood-burning stove even where you don’t need one and even when it contributes to significant levels of particulate matter pollution. In rural Scotland, you can live in or near a forest, perhaps off grid, but you are not allowed to use what is still a renewable low-carbon fuel when appropriately sourced and combusted.

The Metropolitan Police would like to apologise for the wording of their previous apology for threatening to arrest a man for being “openly Jewish” near pro-Palestinian demonstrators

Courtesy of the Telegraph, here is the video of a policeman warning a man that being “openly Jewish” in the vicinity of pro-Palestinians was “antagonising”. The Daily Mail has a pretty good account of the affair here.

I can feel a smidgen of sympathy for the cop. It was, as the Metropolitan Police say in their apology for the wording of their previous apology, a “hugely regrettable” choice of words, and typical of the abandonment of policing without fear or favour when it comes to Muslims, whom they fear and favour, but people talking under stress often do use words they later regret.

I feel no such sympathy for Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, the person wrote the first apology. He was not on the street trying to think on his feet while being shouted at. He was sitting in an office with time to choose his words. The words he chose were these.

The video posted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism will further dent the confidence of many Jewish Londoners which is the opposite of what any of us want.

Bad Campaign Against Antisemitism for posting the video that dented the confidence of many Jewish Londoners by making them aware of something that actually happened!

Assistant Commissioner Twist continues,

The use of the term “openly Jewish” by one of our officers is hugely regrettable. It is absolutely not the basis on which we make decisions, it was a poor choice of words and while not intended, we know it will have caused offence to many. We apologise.

The issues at the heart of these protests are complex, contentious and polarising. When the challenges of public order policing are layered on top it becomes a very difficult environment for frontline officers to work in.

In recent weeks we’ve seen a new trend emerge, with those opposed to the main protests appearing along the route to express their views. The fact that those who do this often film themselves while doing so suggests they must know that their presence is provocative, that they’re inviting a response and that they’re increasing the likelihood of an altercation.

Consider those words “their presence is provocative, that they’re inviting a response”. What do they teach at Hendon Police College nowadays? Because three decades of universal condemnation of the phrase “she was asking for it” and the mindset behind it have clearly had no effect.

They are also making it much more likely officers will intervene. They don’t do so to stifle free speech or to limit the right to protest, but to keep opposing groups apart, to prevent disorder and keep the public – including all those taking part in or opposing the protest – safe. That is, after all, our primary role.

It is up to us to review these interventions and to determine whether we are getting the balance right, adapting our approach as we do so and making sure officers are supported to make the right decisions using all the powers available to the. We will continue to do so following this most recent protest and ahead of future events.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist.

Samizdata quote of the day – 1945 in reverse?

The result is that American public debate has shifted in a way that has taken America’s allies – and many Americans themselves – by surprise. The public takes peace for granted. “To some extent we are paying the price for our own success. In several generations now we have not had to deal with certain types of situations, or only very narrow slices of generations have had to deal with them since we’ve eliminated the draft. And so increasingly America is just in a very different place psychologically,” says Dr Haass.

In other words, Trumpism will not die with Trump, argues Mr Arnold, and betting British security on 300,000 swing voters every four years is not a viable long term policy.

“Trump is unpredictable. As military people say, hope cannot be part of the strategy. We have to understand there is a risk and we need to be ready for this risk,” says Mr Zagorodnyuk.

“And as such we need to understand what we are going to do to be self-sufficient. And it is actually possible. It is difficult but it is possible, especially with this massive technical transformation of the landscape of the world.”

Roland Oliphant

The placard was right

When I saw the headline of this article in the Independent, “Sending climate protesters to prison shows the law is an ass”, which you can also read on MSN here, I put the ignition key in the snark machine.

I read the strapline “A pensioner is facing two years in jail for holding a placard outside a court. It is a worrying case that casts a shadow over our jury system of justice”, said, “Yeah, right”, and turned the key.

I saw that it was by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian, and powered up the mighty engines.

I read the following, “Trudi Warner is, in many ways, an unlikely rebel. The 69-year-old former child mental health social worker is, in her retirement, a keen organic grower, and last year spent part of the year looking after sheep on the Isle of Eigg” and, toes twitching with anticipation, moved my foot over the go-pedal. Far from being an “unlikely rebel” Trudi Warner is as conventional a rebel as ever picked a caterpillar off an organic lettuce and took it out to start a new life in the garden. I was about to push the pedal to the metal when…

I realised that Alan Rushbridger was right.

I had been waiting for the half-line in the eleventh paragraph where this “lovable pensioner” was revealed to have harassed travellers or vandalised a work of art. It never came. Trudi Warner really is being prosecuted solely for standing outside a court and holding up a placard saying,



That’s it. That’s all she did; hold up that placard near a courtroom. And as Mr Rushbridger says, the statement on her placard correctly states a precedent that goes back to a famous case of 1670, in which a jury stubbornly refused to convict two Quaker preachers of preaching to an unlawful assembly despite being imprisoned for two days without food.

One may or may not agree with Trudi Warner’s opinions on the “climate crisis” (I do not), but it is bizarre that reminding jurors of what was once a revered legal principle should become a crime merely because the reminder took place near a courtroom, the very place where such a reminder is most necessary.

Since a reminder evidently is necessary to the legal authorities, here is a picture of the plaque in the Old Bailey commemorating that case:

Photo credit: Paul Clarke, Wikimedia Commons

The plaque says,

Near this Site WILLIAM PENN and WILLIAM MEAD were tried in 1670 for preaching to an unlawful assembly in Grace Church Street This tablet Commemorates The courage and endurance of the Jury Thos Vere, Edward Bushell and ten others who refused to give a verdict against them, although locked up without food for two nights, and were fined for their final verdict of Not Guilty The case of these Jurymen was reviewed on a writ of Habeas Corpus and Chief Justice Vaughan delivered the opinion of the Court which established The Right of Juries to give their Verdict according to their Convictions