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 – Tory doom spiral edition

The Autumn Statement was a tragic miscalculation, the final failure of a project to undo the gravest mistakes of the New Labour era and shift the UK in a more dynamic, more conservative direction. Lacking any meaningful plan for economic growth, and postponing many of the most difficult decisions on spending until after the next election, the Statement passed the costs of a ballooning state onto the productive parts of the economy when disposable incomes are collapsing. It was a victory for the Treasury technocrats who have resisted every attempt to move the UK away from Brownite orthodoxy.

Telegraph editorial

Samizdata quote of the day – coup d’état edition

The brutal demise of the Truss administration following the mini-budget has been widely attributed to the market’s reaction to the expectation of unfunded borrowing occasioned by tax cuts and the fuel price cap. To the contrary: the market’s behaviour was quite clearly a response to the actions — and inactions — of the Bank of England, before, during and after the mini-budget.

One part of, but not all of, the case against the Bank has been cogently made by Narayana Kocherlakota, a well-respected economist and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, in a Washington Post piece entitled “Markets didn’t oust Truss — the Bank of England did”. Kocherlakota’s view was that the Bank of England was responsible for the crisis, through “poor financial regulation and highly subjective crisis management”. Outside the UK chatterati, this view is widely supported.

Jon Moynihan

Samizdata quote of the day – heavier taxes edition

“Today’s Autumn Statement was the latest confirmation that at some point British politicians replaced the idea that ‘people should be able to live well’ with ‘pensioners should be able to live well, and damn the rest’. You are expected to scrimp, save, forgo the pleasures of youth, postpone having a family, and possibly never have one, in order that your money and earnings can be directed to the most noble cause there is: propping up the value of rental properties, and paying for the healthcare and pensions of Boomers.”

Sam Ashworth-Hayes.

As I noted earlier this week, there is a problem with a lot of people not bothering to get a job, and there are issues there. Some of you have argued that young people, weighed by debt and alarmed by where things are going, are giving up on work and ambition. I think this is a bit glib – gaining work skills and character is still important, for all economic and political weathers. There’s no doubt though that the sort of message coming out of today’s autumn statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, is that if you are ambitious and fortunate enough to be earning a lot of money, even more of that is going to the State, and in many cases, to support the older generation. We are seeing, I think, the politics of ageing right in front of our eyes.

Samizdata quote of the day – lazy lump edition

“Almost unbelievably, nearly a quarter of our working age population is reported to have some form of long-term illness or disability that in most cases prevents them from working. The numbers are more alarming still among younger cohorts, which theoretically should be the healthiest and most able to work. Among 16 to 24-year-olds, one in eight are being signed off with long term health conditions.”

Jeremy Warner, talking about the state of the UK economy. Let’s be blunt: a large chunk of the population in the UK are lazy, stupid and with all the ambition and zest for life of a lump of concrete. In the 21st Century, it seems frankly absurd that a quarter of the work-age population are ill or incapable of doing anything. It is a disgrace.

Watch thou for the TERF

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This photograph from today’s Times shows a sign put up at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in north London. The sign reads:

ZERO TOLERANCE
What is a TERF?
(Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist)
“Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist” ideology is a specific form of transphobia. The primary TERF assertion is that transwomen are not women, and accordingly have no place in women’s spaces.
This ideology also affects trans men, as TERF’s assert that people assigned female at birth, but indentify as male, shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces either.

Report + Support: icmp.ac.uk/report

An arrow points from the words “Report+Support” to a QR code where students can report instances of TERF ideology.

A fricking QR code. I wish this were satire.

“Music college accused of witch-hunt over QR-code transphobia alert”, reports Nicola Woodcock in the Times.

A college has apologised for displaying a sign asking students to report trans exclusionary radical feminist ideology, or Terf, using a QR code.

The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in north London was criticised for the sign telling staff and students that it had “zero tolerance” of Terf ideology, which it called a specific form of transphobia.

The term is used as an insult to people who have so-called gender-critical beliefs that biological gender cannot change.

The article went on to say,

Paul Kirkham, chief executive of the college, said: “Our intention, following discussions with our student community, had been to communicate the definition of Terf to help clarify what we considered to be growing misconceptions around what the term means. We got it wrong. The signage is clunky and we can see how it can be misinterpreted.” He added that the sign had been removed.

“Clunky” is not the term I would have chosen. While I do have criticisms of the wording of the sign, I must defend whoever wrote it against the charge that it was easy to misinterpret. Its meaning was entirely clear.

Whatever term you would have chosen, an interesting question is how well does the “Scan here to report heresy” strategy work as means to reduce prejudice against transgender people?

The British Social Attitudes Survey is the gold standard for long term monitoring of, well, British social attitudes, like it says on the tin. In 1983, when the BSA survey started, 17% of respondents agreed with the statement “Same-sex relationships are ‘not wrong at all'”. In 2018 it was 66%. The responses over the last four decades to most of the BSA’s questions on issues of sexuality show a similar pattern: there are small fluctuations year to year, but the trend of acceptance is basically an upward-sloping straight line.

But not for all questions. According to Table 5 on page 14 of the report of the 39th and most recent iteration of the BSA survey, in the surveys of 2016, 2019 and 2021 participants were asked their views about whether transgender people should be able to change the sex on their birth certificate. In 2016, 58% thought that they should be. In 2019 it was 53% – a little surprising to see a decrease, but as I said, the lines always fluctuate a bit. In 2021 the proportion agreeing that transgender people should be able to change the sex on their birth certificate was…

Go on, guess.

32%.

The slow-motion disintegration of the Tory Party

There is an unintentionally insightful article on Unherd by Will Lloyd called Meet Britain’s radical New Right, written from a predictably wet Tory perspective. We are told conservatives with what are fairly conventional conservative views are radical, and moreover new. And that tells us much about orthodox high status opinion in the UK.

I should have stopped reading at “Brexit has failed”.

For most voters, Brexit was about sovereignty according to Ashcroft exit poll, meaning Westminster has nowhere to hide. So, pace Will Lloyd & Nigel Farage alike, we at least got that, mission accomplished. Brexit wasn’t what you thought it was and it still isn’t. What comes next is not ‘Brexit’, it’s just politics; there is no undoing Brexit this side of perpetual civil war.

Much as the author sneers at the Right (whatever that means when not talking about France circa 1790), Jeremy Hunt’s “Conservative” Party is not small-c conservative in any shape, way, or form. The Tories have driven a stake through their own heart, ending any pretence of being a ‘broad church’, because if they were, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng would still be in Downing Street in spite of straying from the Blue Blairite orthodoxy. Hell, they were defenestrated in no small part for trying to put the top rate of tax back to where it was for 12 years under the last Labour government. That’s radical apparently.

If you want less tax; even slightly less state control of anything at all; no taking the knee; no eco-pandering to the Net Zero cult; an energy policy that allows fracking and expanding North Sea production rather than one that could have been written by Vladimir Putin; no talk of ‘reparations’ (climate or otherwise), why would anyone who wants those things vote Tory? No reason, and they won’t.

The party membership voted for Truss but they got Sunak anyway. Okay, message received, everyone now knows what the party nomenklatura & apparatchiks think of the rank-and-file party membership. The members might as well have voted for Larry the Cat as party leader for all the difference it made, at least he’s still in Downing Street.

Voting Tory in last general election was essential when the alternative was Corbyn, the most odious mainstream politician since Oswald Mosley (for some of the same reasons). But Keir Starmer is just another dreary Blairite, he’s Jeremy Hunt without the unfortunate China connections. Then the choice is vote for Blue Blairites who likes high taxes and ruinous green policies, or Red Blairites who likes high taxes, ruinous green policies, and don’t know what a woman is. On the plus side, Labour have Diane Abbott, who can take over Boris’ role providing comic relief.

So, I will be voting Reform UK, because at this point, I couldn’t care less which flavour of technocratic Blairite is in Downing Street. Jeremy Hunt and his ilk can get stuffed. Sure, Labour will get in and it won’t be pretty unless ginger growlers are your thing. But perhaps, just perhaps, utterly burning the Tories to the ground might let something better emerge from the ashes.

Will Lloyd no doubt thinks that’s crazy talk, given that without any detectable irony he wrote of this ‘radical new right’:

“Do not expect them to sculpt a future of fair dealing, pragmatism, patience, moderation or high intelligence”

Imagine thinking the soaking wet dunderheads running the Tory Party as of late 2022 represent even a single one of those presumed virtues. It’s not called the Stupid Party for nothing.

Let’s make Nicola Sturgeon the content moderator for the entire UK!

I received this email from the estimable Free Speech Union the other day. So far as I can tell, it is not available as an article on their website. It should be. (UPDATE: Fear not, the FSU are getting the word out. Go to “The Critic” for a very slightly different version. Hat tip to David Norman, who pointed out a shorter version at the “Daily Sceptic”.)

Yesterday brought news that the Government is due to remove the ‘legal but harmful’ clause from the Online Safety Bill, a major victory for all the free speech groups that have been campaigning for this, including the FSU (i, Sun, Guido Fawkes). As Fraser Nelson points out in the Spectator, Rishi Sunak and Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan deserve credit for having made good on their pledges to look at this clause again.

However, the battle is not over. As FSU General Secretary Toby Young makes clear in today’s Telegraph, there’s a little-known flaw in the Bill that risks making Nicola Sturgeon the content moderator for the whole of the UK.

The FSU highlighted this flaw in discussions with Chris Philp, then the Digital Minister, earlier this year. The definition of illegal content in clause 52 (12) of the bill states that the content social media platforms will have a legal duty to remove in every part of the UK will be content that’s illegal in any part of the UK (“offence means any offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom”). Failure to remove such content could result in those platforms being fined up to 10% of their annual global turnover.

The obvious difficulty with that is it means the big social media companies like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter would have to remove something it’s unlawful to say in Scotland in every part of the UK — hence the claim that the Bill will effectively appoint Nicola Sturgeon as content moderator for the entire population.

That’s particularly concerning given that last year Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent. Among other things, this “authoritarian mess” of an Act (as the FSU’s Scottish Advisory Council member Jamie Gillies describes it for Spiked) makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years in prison, for a person to behave in a threatening or abusive manner or to communicate material considered threatening or abusive to another person with the intention of “stirring up hatred” against people on the grounds of: age; disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or variations in sex characteristics (intersex).

In effect, if a feminist says in Scotland that she doesn’t think transwomen are women, she could be prosecuted for stirring up hatred. And because of the clause in the Online Safety Bill that states that “offence means any offence under the law or any part of the United Kingdom”, the big social media platforms would also then have to remove any such content across the whole of the UK.

The article went on to say that the Government had made at least some attempt to close this loophole by introducing an amendment. The text of the amendment left me baffled, but it seemed to be well-intentioned. But we are not out of the woods yet:

The amendment is still unsatisfactory, however, because it creates a loophole whereby a future minority Labour Government, knowing it wouldn’t get some draconian new anti-free speech law through the House of Commons, could simply approve that law after it’s been passed by Nicola Sturgeon’s devolved government in Holyrood.

Samizdata quote of the day – Albanian edition

Why leave Albania – parts of which are beautiful – for an unprepossessing bedsit in a dispiriting London borough? The experts I sounded out, friends and a friend of a friend, interestingly don’t focus primarily on the economy to explain the exodus – because it really is an exodus of the younger generation. Rather, it’s to do with Albania being a failed state: the absence of the rule of law, the sense that the place is being run by a corrupt coterie for its own benefit, the hopelessness about the prospects for change, the narco-economy. One recent paper put the number who’ve left the country since the advent of Edi Rama, the socialist prime minister, in 2013, at 700,000. If Rama wants to know what’s really behind the exodus of Albanians, he could do worse than look in the mirror.

Melanie McDonagh

Remember, remember

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Interesting how the significance of those words changed over the years to be less about the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, and more about attitudes towards contemporary politics.

More about notions like “V” than the actual historical Guy Fawkes.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Don’t talk to me about Partygate. Don’t talk to me about Suella Braverman’s emails. Talk to me about the fact that a 28-year-old man with devastating injuries was left in unimaginable pain and terror as fire engines drove in the other direction and ambulances stayed away. Talk to me about the fact that our emergency services step back from horrific incidents because of ‘safety fears’. Talk to me about this institutionalised cowardice, where the emergency services now make bureaucratic safety assessments rather than behaving with courage and bravery to assist people in dire need. Avoiding risk is a completely surreal principle for the emergency services to adopt. These people should take risks. They should be rushing into danger to help the men, women and children facing that danger.”

Brendan O’Neill, writing about the descriptions of shocking slowness by emergency services around the time of the Manchester terrorist attack of 2017. (Here is a link to the second report into the brutal attacks, and how services did, or did not, respond.)

Samizdata quote of the day

A hundred years since its founding, the Beeb is now a preachy HR department with some TV channels attached.

Gareth Roberts

The Gods of the Copybook Headings – a continuing series

As Madeleine Grant in the Daily Telegraph (£) notes today, it is a bit rich for people who dislike the fiscal austerity measures of the UK government to focus on the “mini-budget” tax cuts (now mostly reversed) of the recent Liz Truss administration, or Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine. To ignore the costs of lockdowns and mass furlough schemes seems particularly convenient for those, like the Labour opposition as well as many in government, that seemed to be positively enthusiastic not just about lockdowns, but about the idea of shuttering society. (And of course the current Net Zero insanity sort of plays to this authortarian mindset that seems to have arisen lately.)

Thus:

During lockdown, the electorate was led to believe that we could borrow endlessly without consequence; that money-printing was nothing to worry about and someone else would foot the bill if necessary. The whole period didn’t just cross a Rubicon in what the state believed it would get away with, it irrevocably transformed how people viewed the state. There remains an odd amnesia about the the whole period; a reluctance to deal with the lockdown hangover. It’s as if nobody wants to hear that their lengthy furlough now has to be paid for, or that you can’t repeatedly switch a sophisticated 21st-century society on and off like a computer without disastrous, unpredictable consequences.”

And…”I can’t help noticing that many of those now railing against spending cuts are precisely the same people who shouted down anyone who warned of the economic consequences of lockdowns or questioned the severity of the measures at the time. Similarly, many MPs and pundits, having vociferously opposed “irresponsible” un-costed tax cuts, now condemn planned
spending cuts with equal vigour.”

It is absolutely vital that this point is hammered home. Classical liberals simply cannot let the narrative of “Ukraine/Truss caused our pain” BS to flourish, in the same way that “capitalism caused the 2008 financial crash” nonsense. Narratives matter. They must be countered, vigorously, and mocked at every opportunity. And it is also important to remind people that we have had 20 years of central bank money printing (remember, this stuff was going on way before the 2008 crash) to have created part of the condition for our plight today.

Update: Here is a link to Rudyard Kipling’s work of the title used on this posting.