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]

The balance of forces

Guido presents evidence that we have God on our side, along with the Queen, 63% of voters, a large part of an infuriated Tory party, and the army (or at least, the parachute regiment – I’ve lived next door to a para, and suspect they would be enough). 🙂

By a possible majority of one vote (at this moment I write), parliament is not on our side but on the side of endless procrastination – nor it would seem is the PM on our side. (I’m not quite sure what happened to “I’ll stay for as long as you want me”, but I assume it’s the same thing as happened to all the other promises.)

Having God on your side is good, but if I understand the theology correctly, He protects free will by using His power to warn, not compel – and helps those who help themselves. A coincidentally-timed lightening strike is welcome – and hilarious – but while I invite all who so wish to pray hard, we should not expect lightning to strike May and Corbyn as they shake hands. 🙂

Having the Queen on your side is good (noting that all is report and she would act sooner than she would formally say in public). Normally, like the almighty, her majesty warns but does not compel. In my opinion, the more letters that arrive at Buck Palace (acknowledging her wise convention of staying out of it normally but expressing calm loyal support for her right to act when Parliament behaves irregularly), the better, and they can certainly do no harm (most of us will have already written to our MP, some with far less reason to think it could have any effect). IMHO, be brief, be polite, be properly-phrased and don’t lecture her on what action to take, just say how loyally you’d support her taking action.

Having the voters on your side is good (if it is so – opinion polls are unreliable, of course, and a bit all over the place, but less so in both respects than parliament at the moment). However the voters cannot easily compel before an election.

We also, I hope, have ourselves – the brexitters – on our side. Guido is one of those brexitters who wanted May’s deal accepted for fear of worse. I respect such people despite disagreeing with them. Now is time for both sides of that debate to leave recriminations since that ship would appear to be sailing, for better or worse. Let’s look at those options.

1) For worse: Ramsay MacDonald was the last PM to betray their party and form an alliance with the opposition and a few like-minded turncoats. Being the nominal head of an overwhelmingly other-party coalition made him largely powerless domestically, so he concentrated on foreign policy: Ramsay MacDonald was the pacifist PM of the UK during Hitler’s first three years in power. This was very useful to Hitler as he moved from its being a military parade to remove him in 1933 to having 36 infantry divisions and 6 armoured ones with which to object in 1936. That precedent is not encouraging.

2) For better: precisely because May is putting up such a sneaky fight, Brexit has proved a stronger lever than I ever hoped for exposing those who are Tory in name only, and enraging the party against them. I doubt anyone is joining the Tory party at this moment but urge all who are there to stay, pro tem. Tearing up your party card in public is a great way to warn, but remember you must not actually resign if you are to use your (imminent, I hope) chance to compel.

Remoaner MPs

They dislike the treaty but fear a clean Brexit,
They hope that – in more ways than one – they can fix it.
Too statist to say, even at their most livid,
“Take back control? Look at us, to whom you’ll give it!”,
Instead, as the fast-nearing date makes them manic,
Their failed Project Fear has become Project Panic.
Campaigning, they pledged they would honour the hour.
Elected, and climbing the greased pole of power,
They cling in death-grip to their fear-calming view,
We’re the wise – VoteLeave’s win showed the folly of you.”
In parliament’s past, you at many times find,
It avoids doing wrong by not being of one mind.
So if “House fulfils pledge” seems a doubtful prediction,
Let’s hope for “House deadlocked in fierce contradiction”.

“Have you considered masterly inactivity?”, replied Sir Humphrey Appleby when newly-appointed Prime Minister Jim Hacker asked what he should now do. Alas, so polarised is politics today that even – indeed, especially – Sir Humphrey would likely oppose inactivity in this case. We hope parliament will in fact do nothing supremely stupid during the next two months, but my most confident prediction is that whatever they do or don’t do will not appear masterly.

At least Americans choose top judges in public

One thought that I have about the whole furore about the Supreme Court and Kavanagh (no, I am not going over the whole bloody thing now) is that the US system is so much more public than in other countries that have something such as a Supreme Court, or bench of wise men/women who get to opine or even rule on constitutional matters. We have our Law Lords in the UK, and indeed the House of Lords (chosen by the government as there aren’t hereditary peers any more). As far as I know Law Lords are appointed from within the legal system and it is not entirely clear who specifically gets to pick them or approve the Law Lords. As for France, it has a Constitutional Council, members of whom are senior retired political folk and others who must be approved by the French parliament. What is interesting in the French case is that I don’t recall much media coverage of the hearings, even allowing for the often lousy state of British coverage of French public affairs (you would think a country a few miles across the English Channel and with whom we have traded, and occasionally defeated or liberated in wars might get a bit more attention). Germany has a federal constitutional court, and the gift of membership to this body is held in the hands of the Bundestag and by the Bundesrat (this body represents the state parliaments at the federal level).

All these systems have their merits, quite possibly, but what is certainly striking to my eyes is that it is only in the US that the decision as to who gets on the bench or not seems to be a matter of great media and public interest. In part, I suspect, this is because of how membership is in the gift, at least in the initial proposed stage, of the President. The US Supreme Court has issued major decisions down the decades, as momentous as Roe Vs Wade, Kelo (a big eminent domain case) and Dred Scott, to name just three. It seems also a more public system, whereas I get the impression that when a judge takes his or her seat in a European country, it registers as much public response as the daily announcement of the shipping forecast. And that, I think, speaks much to the more vigorous temper of American public life. It may not feel like this at the moment, but at least the raucous nature of American public life speaks to a certain health. In Europe, by contrast, so much of what happens resembles one of those dull zombie films of the 1970s or 80s.

Please dig up Oliver Cromwell – again

The late regicide and Lord Protector was dug up after the Restoration, along with some others, for a posthumous ‘execution’. Well perhaps it will be time again to dig him up and restore him as the Lord Protector, should Prince Charles succeed to the Throne.

The Heir to the Throne has weighed in on Syria, echoing Charlotte Church’s comments on Climate Change being a driver of the conflict.

“We’re seeing a classic case of not dealing with the problem because, it sounds awful to say, but some of us were saying 20 something years ago that if we didn’t tackle these issues you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought, and the accumulating effect of climate change, which means that people have to move.
We’re now facing a real possibility of nature’s bank going bust

“And there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough, was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land.”

Asked if there was a direct link between climate change, conflict and terrorism, he added: “It’s only in the last few years that the Pentagon have actually started to pay attention to this.

Quite, and who has been running the Pentagon in the last few years, and what was it that happened in Hama in 1982?

For me, it is not the stating of views but the sheer smug partisanship that makes it difficult to see the worth of a Monarch when accidents of history give us the prospect of this person as a King, even though he would almost certainly be a powerless cypher, like President Kallinin, who, weeping with grief and powerlessness, signed the papers to send his wife to the GULAG as Stalin looked on.

Perhaps the Queen’s sense of duty, and memories of the Abdication Crisis and her father’s unexpected and reportedly unwelcome advancement have given her a fear of openly meddling in politics that perhaps her son lacks. The pantomime horse of a Corbyn Prime Minister to a King Charles III (albeit I would hope that the PoW takes a more auspicious regal name, such as Cnut) might well lead to matters coming to a head.

Rule by decree

This bill must be scrutinised with particular care. Our report recognises that there is widespread support for removing redundant regulation and costly red tape. But the problem many people will have with part one of this bill, as drafted, is that it provides ministers with a wide and general power that could be used to repeal amend or replace almost any primary legislation.

– Andrew Miller MP (Lab, Ellesmere Port and Neston) of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill which gets its second reading of Thursday.

The Bill would permit ministers to change the law by order for the purpose of : “(a) reforming legislation; [and/or] (b) implementing recommendations of any one or more of the United Kingdom Law Commissions, with or without changes.” And they get to nominate the parliamentary procedure for the statutory instrument embodying the order, too.

There are safeguards. Criminal offences and powers of entry, search or seizure, may not be created, or penalties increased above a certain level, unless a Law Commission (an appointed body, remember) has recommended it or it is as a restatement of existing law. An order may not impose or increase taxation, except as a restatement of existing law. Which rather begs the question: how, exactly, can a change in the law be “mere restatement”?