Monthly Archives: October 2010

Reason is not the primary driver of Man

Man, at least in his modern secular First World form, has the illusion of free will. That is unsurprising because he is a highly intelligent and self-conscious entity with a discrete personality and an ego and it is natural for such a being to think that the choices they make are free choices insofar as they act without overt constraints from other people, their biology or brute circumstances. In fact, free will is an illusion not as a consequence of the constraints of human biology or the nature of the universe Man inhabits but as a consequence of the fact that the concept is a logical nonsense.

Imagine the most powerful entity which can exist: the omnipotent, omniscient god. Such a being can not have free will because it must have a discrete intelligence which is conscious of its existence, in short a conscious mind. Any such mind will require motivation otherwise it would never act, it must have desires, it must have what we would call a personality. Consequently, the omnipotent, omniscient god would be in the same general existential position as a man, that is, bound by its own mentality.

Of course Man is in vastly more constrained circumstances than the omnipotent, omniscient god. Human beings live within the general constraints that apply to every other organism. We copulate, eat, drink, and sleep, fight, respond to weariness perform our bodily functions in the same way that an animal does, without any great thought. We feel desire or necessity and act on impulse.

Within our bodies a great system of checks and balances – repair mechanisms and the automatic systems needed for an organism to function – continue without our conscious control or even our awareness of the functions being accomplished. Hormones and enzymes control not only essential functions but our emotions and desires. Physical illness or wellness determines how we behave.

What we experience in our minds is a very different thing from what actually comes through our senses. All we can perceive is what our biology and experiential “programming” allows us to perceive. We can only see or hear within certain wavelengths of light and sound. Our senses change in their efficacy throughout life. All external stimuli are filtered through our brains and are the brain’s best guess at what has been perceived, hence the ease with which we mistake things either through insufficient data (for example, something seen in shadow) or through the brain matching sense data with something we already know, for example, when we see a man’s face in a cloud.

Our mental world is subject to congenital differences which affect behaviour. These range from differences in mental capacity and special talents to brain defects and injuries. Someone born with Downs Syndrome, severe epilepsy or autism perceives the world very differently to someone born without such conditions. Their capacity for rational behaviour is much reduced because their level of understanding is reduced. The most severe example of innate disablement of the rational are those people born without the development of the frontal lobes, the acephaletic. These unfortunate individuals occasionally survive and behave in a manner which seems to be entirely without conscious reason.

We also know from much experience that injuries to the brain or the effects of disease or ageing can have the same effect as innate abnormalities. Those who suffer brain injuries sometimes develop behavioural traits which are completely different from what they had before. They may become more violent or more subdued, lose their initiative or develop new talents or inclinations such as artistic impulses. Frontal lobotomies subdue behaviour. Age leads to declines in rationality ranging from loss of short term memory to full blown senile dementia.

In our brains we store a myriad of memories which act as both primers for action and the means to take action. We see someone we do not like and respond with open hostility or caution. We meet a situation which appears to be dangerous because we have previously met it or a situation which resembles a danger we have imagined and feel fear and act accordingly. We see someone we love and act favourably towards them. Of course, our memories do much more than provide immediate or particular behavioural responses for they also shape our general character within the confines of the basic, genetically determined personality.

What constitutes a learned response? Not a simple thing to define. Keeping your hand away from fire after you have been burnt is obviously such. Going from A to B along a familiar route is another. Putting a cake in an oven at a particular heat for a particular time a third. But suppose I  master the philosophy of Kant. If I explain his philosophy without commentary to someone that might reasonably be described as a learned response in the sense that I am merely regurgitating what I have learnt. Yet it is also true that the act of comprehending Kant goes beyond mere memory and the effort of remembering what Kant’s philosophy is after it has first been learnt is a very different thing from recalling a piece of “inert data” such as the date of the Battle of Hastings.

Mental calculation is, of course, more than prolonged self-conscious intellectual consideration. It is what happens when someone calculates the distance to throw a ball or how to place pieces in a jigsaw or spontaneously comes up with a clever pun, as well as the sustained mental thought which led Newton and Einstein to develop their physics or Aristotle his logic.

Somewhere in between lies the great mass of considered utilitarian mental  calculation such as computer programming and applied mathematical  computation and the everyday  ability  to  see contradictions and connections  and to generally engage in  logical reasoning.

We function as organisms at various levels. We do some things without conscious thought: we breathe, produce hormones and enzymes, and circulate the blood, digest food and so on. Our biology produces basic states of mind such as hunger, fear and sexual desire over which we have little control although we are conscious of the states of mind. Then come conscious choices which are designed to give us pleasure or at least satisfaction; we decide on an activity which we know will produce pleasant sensations or avoid unpleasant ones. Finally, we have rational thought designed to solve particular problems.

Man, or at least Man in advanced modern societies, flatters himself that he is a rational being whose behaviour is the consequence of consideration. (Even without free will, a self-conscious being could still operate rationally within the confines of its existential circumstances). In fact, most human behaviour is not rational in the sense of being self-consciously decided after having weighed the pros and cons of what to do or of trusting what we perceive to be the rational decisions of others, whether by engaging in self-decided emulation or through the suggestion or order of another.

Most of what we do falls into three classes of behaviour: the repetition of rational behaviour which has previously proven successful, or at least not harmful, what our biology tells us to do, for example to drink, or as an unconsidered response which is a consequence of whatever constitutes an individual’s basic personality, for example, traits such as timidity, aggression, affection. Even when we self-consciously decide on future action, our decisions are mediated by our knowledge of what has happened before, our biology and our personality traits, both innate and developed.

Men are frequently faced with conscious decisions which they are unable to decide rationally because they lack the knowledge or intellect to do so. Sometimes they fail to make a decision because of fear. In all these circumstances the individual does one of three things: (1) he makes a decision simply to make a decision, (2) he follows the herd or (3) he allows himself to be manipulated by another individual.

Most of this (to various degrees) automated behaviour is at worst harmless and at best positively desirable – it would be an impossible world if we had to seriously consider every deliberate action before acting, not least because it would be utterly exhausting. But it can be damaging. Even when acting self consciously, humans are quite frequently in the grip of ideas which are in themselves objectively wrong or at least have no certain truth. Moreover, those afflicted with such ideas often know at some level their beliefs are suspect – the reason that believers in religions or secular ideologies are generally very keen on suppressing any questioning of their beliefs is because they know in their heart of hearts that they will not stand up to questioning. Yet men adhere to such ideas and act upon them  even though their reason tells them that they are questionable or even plain wrong because they are emotionally satisfying in themselves or they are group values from which the individual gets emotional satisfaction from sharing in the group experience.

Alternatively, group pressure may produce a state of mind whereby the individual does not actually believe something but is conditioned not to question it because at some level the mind has marked such questioning as dangerous or inappropriate. In our own time political correctness produces such feelings in many.

Where a set of ideas form an ideology the effect is particularly pernicious, both because of the multiplication of error and because the tendency to adopt a religious attitude towards the ideas is heightened, for to deny one part of the ideology is to question its general veracity. (By an ideology I mean a mental construct which consists of a menu of tenets which the adherent applies without regard to their utility or truth). The observance of the ideology becomes an end in itself. All ideologies are inadequate to a lesser or greater extent, because they are menus of ideas which are (1) incompatible and/or (2) based on premises which are objectively false or at least debatable.

An example of (1) is the attitude of libertarians to immigration. On the one hand they complain of the illiberal consequences of mass immigration – political correctness, laws which discriminate against the majority, restrictions on free speech and so on – on the other they advocate an  open border immigration policy. The two policies  are self-evidently incompatible.

An example of (2) is Marxism, whose claims of objective truth were routinely and consistently demolished by reality, the consequences of which were ever more fanciful revisions of Marxist theory to fit the evolving non-Marxist world.

 Sociological Constraints

Man is constrained by sociological laws of which he is only dimly aware. When a general election is held in Britain Members of Parliament are elected for one of 646 constituencies on the very simple basis of who gets the most votes in the constituency. There is no multiple preference voting, just a single vote for one candidate. As a platform for the study of human behaviour it is splendidly uncluttered.

Because people are voting for an individual it might be thought that the voting pattern throughout the country would vary tremendously because people would be voting on the record of the government and opposition in the previous four or five years, the parties’ stated policies if they form the next government, local interests, how the sitting MP has performed and the perceived quality of the other candidates in the constituency. In fact the voting pattern is always remarkably uniform throughout the country. If the swing from the Government is on average 5% throughout the country, there will be few if any constituencies which show a swing of less than 4% or more than 6%. This uniformity does not vary greatly with the size of turnout.

It is impossible to supply any plausible explanation for this behaviour based on the idea that Man is rational. One could see how a small population might be influenced by peer pressure and word of mouth but not a country of sixty million. Nor is it the consequence of modern mass media because the phenomenon predated television and the Internet. If I had to hazard an explanation it would be this: different personality types are distributed throughout populations in certain proportions as the consequence of natural selection working to ensure that human society functions. Each personality type will tend to behave in the same way. Hence, the aggregate societal effect in response to a particular stimulus will be relatively stable. When people vote in a General Election they produce similar voting effects because the personality types are distributed similarly throughout Britain and consequently people throughout the country respond to circumstances in a similar fashion. In other words, personality traits trump reason.

A less obvious example is the trade cycle. There is no certain explanation for why such a cycle should exist, but it is possible to provide plausible explanations for the ebb and flow of economic activity, for example, that there comes a point in the trade cycle whereby most individuals have purchased everything they want within the constraints of what they can afford and consumption lessens which in turn reduces economic activity which creates a further impetus to reduced consumption as people worry about the future. Equally, it is plausible that when the down side of the cycle has gone on for a while demand increases because goods need replacing and as consumption slowly grows confidence increases triggering further growth.

What is not so easy to provide is a plausible explanation of why the population acts uniformly enough to regularly create such a cycle. How could it be that the large majority of a population routinely respond in the same way? The answer again probably lies in a stable distribution of personality within a population.

What evidence is there for personality being so distributed throughout a population? Well, from our own everyday experience we all know that there is a range of personality types who are met in any reasonably large group, but quantifying such knowledge in an objective manner is to say the least problematical. Whether we have any “objective” statistical evidence at present largely depends how much credence is placed on psychometric tests which supposedly determine personality. Having seen them used to select people for employment I am sceptical of their predictive power, because all too often their assessment of personality fails to match the person‘s performance. More trustworthy although less focused is the information from psychological experiments. Many psychological experiments show personality differences obliquely, for example, the famous experiments of Abrahams in the 1950s on peer pressure and The Stamford prison experiment of the early 1970s. They showed recurrent patterns of obedience and disobedience and of a willingness to abuse and to accept or resist abuse.

Film reviews – Capitalism: a love story

You don’t go to see a Michael  Moore documentary for impartial reporting and “Capitalism:  A Love Story” is as ideologically one-eyed as his previous offerings, although he seems to have dropped for the moment at least  his habit  of outright lying.

 There is the usual parade of cartoon villains – in this case  bankers,  mortgage sellers and politicians  who allowed the sub-prime bubble to run uninterrupted -, a large serving of Moore’s  faux surprise and naivety  and the trademark laboured  stunts such as running a crime scene ribbon the length of Wall Street and arriving with a bank security van outside US taxpayer  bailed-out institutions  and demanding the taxpayers’ money back. Taken at that level the film is no more than a crude piece of propaganda .

And yet and yet…. as with  “Fahrenheit 911” and “Sicko“,  in amongst the self-satisfied posturing and intellectual dishonesty Moore has a tale to tell worth anyone’s time. That story is the facts themselves,  such things as the grotesque rewards gained both before and after the crash by those who controlled the banking and allied sectors,  the  gross inflation  over the past thirty years of the ratio between the pay of CEOs and rank-and-file workers, the depression of  the wages of the ordinary working man, the  poignant testimony of those who have lost out in this economic calamity, often through no fault of their own, and  the stark  scenes of wholesale desolate abandonment of property, not in hick towns but  major cities such as Boston and Detroit, scenes which I have never seen the like of in modern Britain.

 But Moore goes beyond showing the untrammelled greed and the dire consequences of the sub-prime madness. Simply by delineating the movement of financiers and senior figures from large corporations    to positions of power and influence within governments over decades – the number of Goldman Sachs employees who have achieved such positions is truly extraordinary – he raises the question of exactly who has been  controlling the US economy for the past thirty years  and in whose interest? 

The relaxation of legal restraints such as the Glass-Steagle Act – which divided retail banking from investment banking in the US – the ever more negligent enforcement of  regulatory controls over banks and their ilk since Reagan was elected in 1980 and the amazing willingness of America’s politicians to pump vast amounts of taxpayers’ money into the banks since Lehman Bros went down in 2008 strongly suggests that the interest being followed was not the national one.

Moore turned up  is one particularly chilling piece of newsreel of a Reagan speech when a banker-turned-Treasury-official  moves close to Reagan and says “speed it up!” in a peremptory manner to which Reagan responds “Oh!” and then proceeds to do precisely as he was told.   This was clearly a servant (Reagan) responding to his master.

The dishonesty which lies at the heart of the film is the failure to ask of those who have fallen by the economic wayside the obvious questions about personal  responsibility: “Why did you  borrow that which simple arithmetic told you was impossible to repay?”, “ Why did you lie about your financial circumstances to get a mortgage?”,  “Why did you pay no heed to the future?” 

This is a serious deficiency because a significant  proportion of those caught up in debt must have had the wit to know that they were taking a tremendous risk. Yet there are serious pleas of mitigation for those who came a cropper, even for those who knew they were taking a risk and willingly took it.  The first is the  simple human need to have a secure home,  because without that it is impossible to raise a family  and plan for the future .  The housing bubble inflated not only house prices but rents. For many the only realistic hope they had of obtaining a home they could raise a family in was by buying and hoping for the best. This very natural desire was incontinently fed by politicians and the mortgage providers whose message was not only “You can afford it” but “”You deserve it ”.

This behaviour raises the question of what is the responsibility of politicians. It may be a comfortable political message, especially in America, to pretend that everyone is a responsible individual capable of making rational decisions but a pretence it is. Take just one stark fact, around ten per cent of the population in the US and Britain have IQs  of 80 or less.  (That means there are around 30 million people in the US and 6 million in Britain with IQs  of 80 or less). An IQ of 80 is the point where most psychologists working in the field of psychometrics think an individual begins to struggle to live an independent life in an advanced industrial society.   These will be people who are ill-equipped to make such a major decision as buying a house . Add in the educational deficiencies of a large part of those with IQs of 80+  and the number who are  poorly equipped to make decisions about running into large scale debt  swells considerably. Politicians need to take the capacity of all sections of those they govern into account when they make policy decisions. Manifestly they calamitously failed to do this over the past thirty  years.

The consequences of  political failure have been dire for much of  the populations of the US and Britain. The big lie both sets of political elites have propounded is that laissez faire economics, both at home and abroad,  is the surest way to national wealth.  That is becoming an ever worse joke for large numbers in both the US and Britain, as unemployment rises, wages stagnate and housing is pulled ever further from   the reach of the ordinary man and woman.

The natural end of laissez faire economics  is a plutocracy which is a de facto authoritarian regime because as one of  my old history masters never tired of saying “money is power“.  The natural end of  laissez faire plus political connivance in illegitimately promoting the interests of business in particular and the advantage of those with wealth and power generally, is not only an authoritarian regime  but one in which those outside the elite have little chance in joining the elite. Over two centuries ago Tom Paine complained that the English elite had “made poverty hereditary” by an ever more selfish political elite. .That is what is happening now in both the US and Britain. . 

Despite its faults the film is is persuasive. It is a pity that Moore has yet to learn that  letting the facts tell the story is the most effective form of polemic and that his thrusting of himself into the action with lame stunts merely distracts from what he is trying to say. 

Recommended films

The last Station –  Depiction of  the last months of Tolstoy’s life. worth seeing only for Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Tolstoy’s wife.  Christopher Plummer is a decent Tolstoy but the tiresome old hypocrite, who claimed to despise property but somehow managed to remain in possession of his inherited property to his death  – had very little of interest to say at that point of his life  and was nothing more than a weary old man. 

Don’t bother

Nine – This was a film inspired by Fellini’s  8.5 and is centred around an Italian director making a film.  I went to see it simply because it has the man whom I believe is the most charismatic  film actor presently working, Daniel Day-Lewis.  It would have  been a decent film except for one thing, for some bizarre reason  they decided to turn it into a very odd musical with people who were not accomplished singers doing the singing. .

Let the right one in – hopelessly over-hyped. Not a bad film, but something much more ignominious, a mediocre one.

A Prophet  –  also hopelessly over-hyped.  The French frequently  don’t do gangsters well, all too often trying to mimic American gangster films and failing dismally by not understanding that violence has to be linked the plot not be an end in itself. The violence is also unrealistic more often than not because it has a stage-like over-emphatic quality of gesture about it.  In this film there is also the wearisome, for the non-French audience at least, of a running Corsican  Separatist theme (in the words of Captain Queeg, I kid you not).

Terrorists or traitors?

What should we call the liberal internationalists? Are they terrorists because of the damage they do?  That is a difficult label because the proponents of the ideology have not come power through force. Instead, they have got their hands on the levers of power though a long process of  infiltrating the elite until they became the elite and their ideology became the elite ideology.

Traitor is a much more promising term. An ideology which asks for  loyalty to something other than  the nation state, which has as one of its ends the  transfer of sovereign power from the nation state to foreign authority,  which  requires its adherents to removes democratic control from the population which they are meant to serves definition treasonous.  Liberal internationalism does all that and more, for it permits mass immigration,  which is a form of conquest, and pursues  economic policies which both disadvantage its own people and leaves the country dangerously exposed to changes in economic conditions and political circumstances. 

Why are the  liberal internationalists not called what they objectively are, traitors?  The answer lies in is Sir John Harrington’s seventeenth century words:

Treason doth never prosper; what’s the reason?

For if  it prosper, none dare call it treason.

The best way of judging the purpose of any political ideology is to ask cui bono? (who benefits?) The obvious answer in the case of  “free markets”  and “free trade”   are those who believe (with good reason) that they  nor  their dependants will never be amongst those who will suffer the  ill-effects of laissez faire.   These people are and will continue to be overwhelmingly drawn from the middle and upper classes for the same reasons that  such classes  have  always maintained their superiority,  namely  that  such people  will have inherited wealth,  social connections  and   superior opportunities for education which are denied to the majority.

Both the traditional Left and  Right have been duped by globalisation. The Left initially welcomed  globalisation as  a dissolver of  national sovereignty, but  they  are discovering by the day just how restrictive international treaties and membership of supra national groups can  be.

As things stand,  through our membership of the EU and the World  Trade Organisation  treaties,  no  British  government  could  introduce  new socialist  or nationalist measures because they cannot nationalise companies,  protect their  own commerce and industry or  even ensure that taxpayers’  money is spent in Britain with British firms.  A British government can  have any economic system they like provided it is largely  free trade,  free enterprise.

The Right are suffering the same sickness with different symptoms. They find  that  they are no longer masters in their own house  and   cannot meaningfully appeal to traditional national interests because  treaties make that impossible.

But  there is a significant difference between the position of the  two sides.   The traditional Right have simply been usurped by neo-Liberals in  blue  clothes:  the  traditional Left  have   been  betrayed  by  a confusion  in  their ideology which has allowed  their  main  political vehicles to be surreptitiously by the likes of Blair.

The  left have  historically objected to “free-trade”  on  the  grounds that it destroys jobs and reduces wages.  But what they (and especially the British Left) have rarely if ever  done is walk upon  the other two necessary  planks in the anti-“free trade”  platform:  the  maintenance of (1) national sovereignty and (2) a sense of national cohesion.   The consequence  is that the  Left has been and are still  struggling  with two  competing and mutually exclusive ends:  internationalism  and  the material improvement of the mass of the people.

The  new international elite  is neither left nor right.  Its  ideology is  simply   designed  to promote the interests of the  elite.  It  has aspects  of  right and left,  but  they are merely the  policies  which allow  the  elite to both disguise their true intention and to  give  a pseudo-moral   camouflage   to  their  ends.    They  speak   of    the internationalist   equivalent  of  “motherhood  and  apple  pie”   with exhortations  to  “end  world poverty”  and fund  a   “war  on  disease worldwide”.  If I had to find a term to describe  this elite I think  I would  settle for neo-Fascist because  so much of what is  proposed  is reminiscent of fascism.

Opposition to globalisation with its underpinning creed of laissez faire should not be a Left or Right issue.   The socialist and the Conservative should both resist it because it removes the  ability  of the electorate to control those with  power  and   the power of their  political movements to realise their ends.

The nation state

The nation state is the political organisation of ethnically similar peoples. Historically, the nation state arose from strong kingship over lands which contained peoples who were ethnically similar. How those lands came to be ethnically similar is another matter – it invariably required the destruction or forced submergence of other cultures by one means or another – but relatively homogeneous they became. But powerful kingdoms have rarely coincided with ethnically homogeneous populations, not least because monarchs have tended to view themselves as dynasts rather than nationalists. Thus the nation state is a rarity even today.  Most of the modern countries designated as nation states are multicultural empires. This distinction is important because a multicultural state may exist because the state is a political entity, but a multicultural nation is a contradiction in terms for nationhood requires a sense of belonging, of common feeling ithin the population.

A singular fact about the nation state is that it is a European phenomenon, for nowhere else in the world did Mankind move of their own volition beyond forms of tribal, dynastic or theocratic government. But even in Europe the nation state is a johnny-come-very-lately. Germany was politically united in 1870, Italy in 1869. Neither is a natural nation, both containing peoples such as the Prussians, Bavarians and Sicilians possessed of a strong historic identity. Even the two continental countries which loom largest and longest in history as political entities, Spain and France, have always lacked cohesion. Spain was not united, even in the limited sense of a unification of crowns until 1469 and is to this day a deeply provincial country tottering on the brink of dissolution with disaffection from the very idea of Spain spread far beyond Catalonia and the Basque country into the old divides between Castille and Aragon and the smaller mediaeval kingdoms such as Galicia. France remained a disparate state of many tongues and peoples (Breton, Basque, Provencal and such forth) in 1789 and like modern Spain retains numerous natural divides at least as  great as those between England and Scotland (Brittany, Gascony, Provence) and a few social fissures (Basques, Corsica) as insoluble as that between England and the Ulster Catholics.

England is the odd man out. As we have seen, the English thought of themselves as a distinct people very early, while the political state of England has lasted for more than a thousand years, longer than any Empire ever known. By the time of the Conquest, England occupied most of the territory she does today – that is unique amongst the major powers in Europe. She had a system of law which operated in theory at least throughout England. The use of writs issued by the king was well established. When William came he gained a kingdom ready made, not a series of dynastic fiefs held together by marriage and treaty.

At every point in the past seven centuries at least England has been ahead of the pack in developing the adjuncts of what we today consider a normal and civilised state, viz: the development of a national system of law; the absence of great princely territories (appanages). the early break with feudalism; the unique development of parliament, the diminution of princely power; the institution of a national system of welfare relief in 1601; the encouragement of private enterprise combined with successful mercantilism; the discontinuation of judicial torture; the introduction of habeas corpus; the rights of property given the firmest legal basis. By the end of the seventeenth century England was already hinting at the form of the modern world.

David Landes in the “Wealth and Poverty of Nations” has no doubt about England’s status as the most advanced nation state. When examining the reasons for the first Industrial revolution occurring in these islands, Mr Landes (he refers to Britain but it is clear from the context that he means England) lists among the prime causes precocious English nationhood viz: “To begin with, Britain had the early  advantage of being a nation. By that I mean not simply the realm of a ruler, not simply a state or political entity, but a self-conscious, self-aware unit characterised by common identity and loyalty and by equality of civil status…Britain, moreover, was not just any nation. This was a precociously modern, industrial nation.” 1

How did England grow to be such a different social plant from any other country? Perhaps she was never truly tribal in the narrow sense of small and exclusive groups. Of all the parts of the Roman Empire in the West, England was peculiar in the completeness of the destruction of Roman culture after the legions withdrew. Elsewhere in the Empire, Germanic peoples took power but retained much of Rome. In England this did not happen. England was formed from people who both had a good deal in common culturally and racially and who were by whatever means, amazingly successful in suppressing native British culture. Thus England began in a way given to few nations, as a clean cultural sheet.

England and Britain – what is it to be British?

What is it to be British? A very pertinent question in the aftermath of Devolution. Britain is a blend of legal entity, geographical proximity, historical interaction and a degree of fellow feeling deriving from (by now) shared values and experiences. But it is a second order focus of loyalty, more legal construct than emotional reality. In Britain, a man  normally thinks of himself as English, Scots, Irish or Welsh. The man who answers British when asked his nationality by a fellow Briton is almost certainly not someone who understands Britain unless, of course, an Ulster Protestant is speaking. 

Confusing as the British/English dichotomy can be, it is nonetheless fitting and noteworthy that foreigners still  commonly talk of England when they mean Britain, for what is British culture but English culture? If we look at the major cultural features which are frequently associated with Britishness – such matters as elected representative government, political stability, the absence of institutionalised bureaucratic corruption, the propensity for the nonviolent resolution of disputes, the primacy of the individual, the attachment to personal freedom, the ideal of equality before the law – we find no distinctive Celtic facets cut into the cultural stone. This is scarcely surprising for unEnglished Celtic society was based on more primitive social systems, essentially tribal, in which loyalty, justice and power sprang primarily from blood and marital relationships rather than universal abstractions such  as equity.

Nor was such a distinction between England and the other home countries buried decently in the dark ages. The Scotland of the Act of Union (1707) was not merely churchmouse poor, but cleaved between the much Englished lowlands and a barbaric upland life which was still clearly evident (although passing) some seventy years later when Johnson and Boswell journeyed in the Highlands and Isles. Moreover, even in the Englished lowlands, pre-union Scotland lacked the broad political development of England, which perhaps more than any other aspect of English society has shaped our culture. Looked at coldly, all the Celtic fringe represents today are mythologised ancestral resentments, more imagined than real, and a few pseudo-historical gewgaws such as Eisteddfods and tartans.

The different nature of the indigenous political culture of the Celtic lands can be neatly displayed by imagining some of the differences between a Britain dominated not by England, but by the Calvinist Scotch or the Catholic Irish. In either case, religious tolerance would have been uncertain at best and nonexistent at worst and the King’s power either utterly constrained by a narrow oligarchy (Calvinists) or exalted over that of parliament (Catholics). Either way,  parliament would have been a poor thing. The absence of religious tolerance and parliamentary development alone would have massively altered Britain. Moreover, it is probable that the English and British response to the continental ambitions of Louis X1V and Napoleon would have been quite different. Had either achieved their ends, England’s (and Britain’s) history would have been very different.

Let’s be honest ….everyone’s on welfare

In the hate campaign currently being conducted by the Coalition and the mainstream media  against  the welfare state and the poor, deserving or otherwise,  one very inconvenient fact  goes unmentioned: everyone is a recipient of welfare.  How is this? Because much of welfare is not identified as welfare.

People generally think of welfare as being merely benefits to paid the unemployed, sick and disabled, which include housing and council tax benefit as well as what would once have been known as the dole and incapacity benefit.  The reality is that you are also on welfare if  you receive any of the following:

1. Child benefit.

2. Tax credits , either while working or after retirement.

3. The state  retirement pension – this is far from being fully funded by contributions for the large majority of the population,  even if 30% of  the income tax and  tax and  national insurance contributions  paid  throughout their working lives was notionally deemed to be a pension pot.

4.  Private pensions and other forms of saving which benefit from tax relief.

5. A public sector pension, none of which are anything like fully funded.

6. NHS treatment for yourself or your children  – free dental treatment for children

7.  State schooling for yourself or your children.

8. Private education for yourself or your children  where the school is a charity.

9. University education for you or your children – this is still heavily subsidised despite tuition fees.

10. Carers receiving state benefits.

11. Those in homes for the elderly paid for by the taxpayer or who are  in receipt of taxpayer funded help in their own homes.

12. Those benefitting from taxpayer subsidised rail, underground, tram and bus  fares, especially those with free travel cards.   

13. Those in housing with rents held below the market rate such as council housing and Housing Association properties.  

14 . Those exercising their  Right to Buy a council or Housing Association property at a heavy discount.

15. Those taking advantage of free or subsidised entry to public establishments such as libraries  museums , art galleries, parks, sports fields, swimming pools,  sports centres and youth clubs.   

16. Those taking advantage as a spectator of any artistic or sporting activity subsidised by the taxpayer, for example, the Royal Opera House, National Theatre, the Olympics  and Wembley Stadium.

17. Those taking advantage of the multiplicity of taxpayer funded groups to promote specific activities and parts of the population, for example, women, gays and ethnic minorities.

18. Public service employees who are union representatives  allowed time off for union work.

19. Those who have benefitted from a charity, especially those  which receives taxpayers’ money.

20. Those who have benefitted from a not-for-profit body other than a charity which receives tax breaks and/or public money.

21. Those over 60 receiving the winter fuel payment  receiving.

22. Those over 75 receiving free TV licences.

There are also all the benefits which no longer exist,  but which benefitted millions of people alive today and indirectly millions of their  descendants who inherited their parents’ property and enjoyed a higher standard of living when children because of these massive subsidies of their parents.  

23. Mortgage Interest Relief at Source, or MIRAS

24. Free University education

25. University maintenance grants

Finally, there are the general economic circumstances which politicians promote that  benefit  parts of society disproportionately. They can also be considered welfare in the sense  that the advantage gained is due to government action.

Loose tax regimes  favour the better off, for example, those regimes with plenty of scope for avoidance, and the creation of circumstances which produce increases in the value of  assets favours only those who already possess the assets or can afford to purchase them when there is still steam in the inflationary potential of their value. That is what has happened  in spades with the British housing market over the past twenty five  years. This was brought about by successive governments allowing mortgages to be granted recklessly with little or no deposit and on insane multiples of earnings,  a virtual moratorium on council house building and massive levels of immigration.

A case could also be made for saying any taxpayer funded employment, whether funded through direct public provision or the  sub-contracting of work to private business, charities and other not-for-profit enterprises is a form of benefit because without the state funding the employment would not exist. Beyond that can be included the private business, charities and not-for-profit who profit from the expenditure of public employees.  The last two examples are probably pushing the definition of welfare too far, but they do illustrate how inter-dependent the state and private business is. This is unsurprising when over 40% of GDP is spent by public bodies, both national and local.

Let us have an end to this vicious hate campaign against the welfare state and recognise it for what it is: a fundamental part of our society in which everyone shares to a lesser or greater degree.

Laissez faire economics makes you richer – Oh yeah?

The proponents of laissez faire economics claim that it creates more wealth than any other economic system. There is precious little evidence for this. The one and only bootstrapped Industrial Revolution took place in a Britain which was highly protectionist in its international trade . It was also with a domestic economy which had considerable restraints on the unrestrained operation of  the market in the laws governing the employment of agricultural workers and apprentices, the  lack of easy communications, especially roads, throughout much of the country, the power of custom  drawn from a pre-industrial society and a very powerful social hierarchy.  Every state which has industrialised since Britain has also done so behind protectionist walls.

Laissez  faire did not become the dominant elite ideology until the Industrial Revolution had been running for more than a century. By 1850 Britain was comfortably the dominant industrial power in the world. Between 1860 and the outbreak of the Great War Britain followed a policy as near to true free trade as any country has ever done. The result was her  economic dominance was  broken, most notably by the USA and Germany, countries which were conscientiously protectionist throughout the period. 

From the end of the Great War until the 1930s Britain attempted unsuccessfully to resurrect  the pre-1914 economic conditions until  the economic catastrophe  which became the Great Depression – created under the rule of laissez faire –  finally forced the British elite to abandon the ideology, a change symbolised by Britain‘s departure from the Gold Standard in 1931.  This abandonment lasted until 1979 when Thatcher reintroduced the ideology in a new and arguably more virulent form. 

During the modern period of greater protection  and state involvement in the economy  which ran from the Depression until the 1980s,  Britain’s economy did not cease to grow.  Wages  steadily rose, GDP expanded. 1950s and 1960s Britain was a world in which unemployment reached just about as low as it can (around 300,000 was the fewest to which  it sank) and  living standards were rising rapidly,  Britain made most of the things it consumed,  it was at the forefront of high technology, the country was largely self-sufficient in food and manufactured goods and most of  its  energy was supplied by publicly owned utilities fuelled by a native coal industry.   All of this happened in a Britain where inequalities of wealth and income were steadily declining, a trend which the laissez faire school would have us believe diminishes incentive and hence economic growth.

Whether overall  Britons would have been more prosperous under continuous laissez faire  from 1860  to the present day is a question which is impossible by its nature to  categorically answer. However,  the creation of the first Industrial Revolution  and the strong growth experienced between 1931-1979 , both  in circumstances bereft of uninhibited laissez faire , suggests that at best  it would have made little difference and at worst would have resulted in further economic catastrophes, the cost of which would have comprehensively outweighed any higher profits gained during boom times.  When  the colossal sums being put at risk in the present recession  are considered and placed with the catastrophic losses of the Depression, those sums alone  (and that ignores the other less dramatic economic slumps of the past century and a  half) suggest that a century and half of  stable economic progress  would have left  Britain considerably better off today than it is.

What is highly probable, based on the experience of the period 1979 to  the present, is that unemployment would .have been much higher than it was from 1945-1979. Since 1979 the rate of dole claimants has  never dropped below 800,000 and the real rate of  unemployment is has been much higher than the claimant rates. How much higher is debatable, but  the measure favoured by the government based on a household survey of  those seeking work has remained well over a million and currently stands at  2.46 million. In addition, there are nearly 3 million  on long term sick benefit, many of whom could probably work (the figure of long-term has risen from around 600,000 in the early 1980s) and the very large numbers of people kept off the unemployment registers by being in higher education and very large numbers working part time who  want to work full time. The real unemployment total in 2009 is probably 5-6 million, but it could even be higher. The Daily Telegraph  recently estimated the figure for just those who  wanted to work but could not at 5.7 million (Telegraph 12.11.09 5.7m and climbing: the real unemployment toll  Edmund Conway)

The  prime thing to note about Britain’s periods of protectionism and  state involvement in the economy since the Industrial revolution began  is that, although there were periods of recession as the trade cycle ran its natural course, these economic periods  never produced catastrophic economic failures such as that experienced in the 1930s or that which we are now living through. Even the financial upheavals of the 1970s, which  were caused primarily  by the oil price hike in 1973  and over-powerful unions rather than the economic policies being followed, did not produce anything like as severe a financial crisis as that of the 1930s or the present. Moreover,  the Depression and the present turmoil are not the only severe crises which arose during the time of laissez faire, they are merely the most dramatic, most notably the banking crisis of  1907 when  reputedly bankers led by J P Morgan averted a crash of 1930s proportions.

A fair summation of the experience of the past three centuries is that there is no obvious correlation between rates of  GDP growth and personal enrichment and the balance between laissez faire and state intervention by means of protectionism and  economic control of the domestic market. What can be said is that state intervention  produces a much more stable economy than laissez faire policies. That in itself is valuable for it prevents great economic upheaval . Consequently, even  if it could be proved that laissez faire policies increase wealth in the short to medium term  more quickly than would happen in an economy such as Britain had for the first 30 years after 1945,  there would be a powerful argument that the long term benefit of greater stability of a state interventionist regime might well make that the preferred economic state because it would offer greater security and certainty.

If laissez faire is such a wealth maker  its supporters need to explain why it leaves so many poor in supposedly rich countries.   In Britain, most Britons could not live on their savings for more than a month, approximately 50% of Britons have no private pension provision and around a third of the population live in rented accommodation  despite the criminally lax  mortgage regime of the past twenty five years. If it were not for the safety net of the welfare state, a very large proportion of the British population would be as insecure now as they were 100 years ago.  Indeed, the absurd  cost of  both rented and purchased property  in present day Britain arguably makes it more difficult now for the ordinary  person to raise a family than it did even thirty years ago  because of the need for both people in a relationship to go out to work to pay the housing costs and the shortage of money left over after paying for housing. The vast swathes of poverty in the USA, much of which would not look  out of place in the Third World, tell an even starker story.  The laissez faire advocates also need to explain the success of much more statist economies such as Sweden, France and Germany, who are at least as economically successful as Britain and arguably more successful. 

The laissez faire practitioners have for forty years or more attempted to justify free market solutions on the grounds of “trickle down”, the idea that if  the economically successful are provided with the right laissez faire conditions they will make massive amounts of money which will enrich society in general including the poor  because the creation of wealth will filter down through society to the very bottom of the economic pyramid. It simply has not happened. American blue-collar wages today are much as they were in 1970 and if anything are declining. The picture in Britain is not dissimilar. 

But wealth is much  more than money or property. It is also about free time, a sense of long term security of employment, the ability to comfortably raise a family and a sense that their homeland was just that, a homeland. Fifty  years ago most people had a short trip to work. Their work was secure.  They could  raise a family on a single full time wage and obtain decent housing. The country had not as yet been seriously affected by mass immigration.

 Today anyone under the age of 30 in normal social circumstances will struggle to  provide the wherewithal to start a family and will probably have to live a long way from their work, that is, if they have a job. Their sense of a homeland in which they are privileged has gone. The fact that we have more technological toys does not make us richer. Indeed, for most people it merely adds unnecessary complication and frustration to their lives.

The part of society which has suffered most in Britain  is the white working class. Their natural employments, especially  in the heavy and extractive industries, have been wilfully destroyed.  New council estates destroyed long established working class communities with their informal social support systems,  while massive immigration provided ever more intense competition for jobs, especially unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, and social goods such as NHS services, council housing and schools. In addition, the ever more frenzied privatisation, whole or piecemeal, of the past 30 years reduced the quality and scope of public provision, most notably in council housing, the NHS, the vital utilities (energy and water) and public transport. This of course affects everyone to a degree, but it disproportionately disadvantages the less well off because they are the people most in need of public services.

 To illustrate how  perilous the position is of many Britons wanting work today I  will quote this paean of despair by a middle-aged working-class Briton which I took from the uk.politics.misc  newsgroup:

“Yesterday I saw my husband with tears in eyes again, because he cannot get full-time work to support us. When I met him ten years ago, he was working 12 hour shifts, and even now, he refuses to go on the dole. I don’t understand why you refuse to believe that he and others like him simply cannot find work any longer. He is 50, and the agency books are full of 20-something Poles – what do you think? And don’t say he’s aiming too high – he has always earned minimum wage and still does. He is already hanging his head in shame, and not because he is lying, but because there is simply no work for him, and when there is, he is ignored. He has worked all his life in menial jobs – he cannot deal with not working. What shall I tell him?

“Many of them [Jobs] are advertised in Poland and employees are recruited directly from Poland – see above. This happens because it seems that British employers do not want British workers. Perhaps you can explain to me why there is not one factory or warehouse job advertised here, when the place is full of factories and warehouses, and every person that you pass in the street along these roads where the factories and warehouses are located, are Eastern European, when 5 years ago they would have been British? There is less work now than then, so what is the reason?”

But even if  the “trickle down” had occurred and the poor had got richer in absolute terms compared with what they had in 1979,  that would not be the end of the story. Wealth is not merely about who has what but about the power relationship between the rich and the poor. Money is power and the larger  the disparity in wealth and incomes, the greater the power of those who have the most.

If I am rich I can afford to go to law to harass and intimidate someone who cannot afford such costs. I can protect myself with servants. I can buy influence in government. I can give a poor man employment or take it  away from him.  I can do any number of things  to exert my will directly and indirectly over anyone  who is not rich.

The objective facts say that it is wealth which  primarily determines life outcomes. It allows privileged access to all the goods of life and these then become threaded into the structures of individual lives. To be born to educated parents is a boon which stems in all probability from  those parents having been born to educated parents. To be free of the worries of having enough money for the necessities of life frees the person to do other things. To live in comfortable and uncrowded circumstances  creates a sense of calm and security. Does anyone believe in their heart of hearts that the behaviour of the poorest, least well-socialised  sections of society would not change radically for the better  if they were all suddenly given middle class incomes? Of course they would because suddenly they would be removed from the stresses they experience being at the bottom of the material heap.

As income and wealth inequality in Britain is substantially  wider now than it was in the 1970s, the poor in Britain today have less power in their relationships with those better off than they had thirty years ago. Add in the emasculation of unions, the destruction of the natural employments of  the working class such as heavy  and extractive industries, the use of mass immigration to lower wages and increase competition for jobs and the position of the poorer sections of society is dramatically weaker than it was when Thatcher came to office.

It is telling that Western businessmen  who ostensibly support the idea of the positive effects of competition arising from “free markets” and  “free trade”   never want it for themselves. Instead of rubbing their hands when  this supposedly wealth creating circumstance arises , they always  happily accept   a state subsidy or push for protectionist practices when it is to their advantage.  None of  the US airlines had any hesitation in grabbing billions of  dollars from  the  Federal  government after  911.  Large  companies  publicly complain of government regulation while  secretly welcoming  it because they   can  bear  the  cost  of  it  more  easily  than  their  smaller competitors.  Multinationals shamelessly  play one country off  against another in their search  for massive subsidies and other favours before they deign to operate  in a countr

It has been ever thus.  The two greatest names of the early  Industrial Revolution, Josiah Wedgewood and Matthew Boulton, were   happy to climb on  the Enlightenment bandwagon  with its beliefs in  the  Universality of  Mankind   and advocate lesser tariffs and freer trade –  until  the proposed  freeing threatened their own businesses. What goes for businessmen goes for the individual worker.  Who has ever met someone whose job was threatened by “free trade” speaking in favour of it?

Countries play the same game, cheating wherever they can.  And the more powerful the state the greater the cheating,  both in terms of  helping particular  industries with direct state aid and in the formulation  of the treaties governing world trade. Hence,  the USA  presents itself as the  ultimate  champion of free enterprise whilst being  both  now  and throughout its history one of the greatest of protectionists  and state subsidisers  of  its  industries  –  that it  is   seen  widely  as  an enterprise society is one of the great propaganda triumphs of  history.

Its behaviour after 911 is symptomatic of  the unequal nature of modern “free trade”. The US not only  handed, as mentioned above,  billions to its ailing private airlines,  but put up protective tariffs to  protect its steel producers.

 Abe  Lincoln’s   used  to put this  question to  pro-slavers  who  said slavery  was  a boon for the slave because they were provided  for  and were free of normal responsibilities:  “What is this good thing that no one  wants for himself?”   The question should be put to  the the laissez faire disciples. 

The truth about laissez faire economics is  brutally  simple:  “free markets” and “free trade”  are simply part of  an  elite  ideology and like all elite ideologies  they  serve  the purposes of the elite first,  second and last.  If it does not suit their purposes the elite will exempt themselves from the requirements of the ideology while insisting everyone else continues to honour the official ideological line.  Those not of the  elite who espouse it act merely as useful idiots to promote the interests  of  the elite.

Nailing the “We’re all in this together” lie

Amongst the many obnoxious lies put about by the coalition is the claim that “We’re all in this together”,  which is embellished by their other parrot cry  of “the rich are being hit harder than the poor”.  This is obvious nonsense because the poorer you are, the less discretionary spending you have.  

Let’s take an example. Compare the position of  a banker with an income of £2 million a year against a hospital porter earning £15,000.  Assume they are both single.  If the banker finds his tax bill rises from 40% to 50% tax , he will still take home around £1 million. It will make no meaningful difference to the way he lives.  If the porter finds his tax bill increased by 5% he will lose around £500 taking into account his personal tax allowance.  That would have a significant effect on his life.

The message is simple: the richer you are, the less you will be affected; the poorer you are, the more you will be affected.

The coalition’s behaviour is all the more obnoxious because of the background of its leaders.  These are men and women who are at best genuinely rich and at worst comfortably off. In the case of the three most dominant players – Cameron (NuTory Boy); Osborne (OldTory Boy) and Clegg  (leader of the Party for Adolescents) – all have backgrounds which have handed them the lives of rich men on a plate through the accident of birth.  They are also firmly in the mould of modern professional politicians, being able between the three of them to muster a meagre 10  years of employment outside of politics, and that is stretching it.

Cameron was born into a family which has extensive connections with the financial world, his father being a senior partner at the stockbrokers Panmure Gordon. His great-great grandfather Emile Levita, a German-Jewish financier who obtained British citizenship in 1871, was the director of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. Cameron’s great-great grandmother, was a descendant of the wealthy Danish Jewish Rée family.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, he  Joined the Conservative Research Department straight after Oxford.  In 1994 he left to become Director of  Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications, a media company which won the ITV franchise for weekday TV.  He left Carlton in 2001 and was elected an MP in that year.  The journalist Simon Heffer describes his seven years with Carlton as Cameron being employed as “a PR spiv”.   It does seem rather odd that a man without any background in the media should have been appointed to a senior media post at the age of 28. Perhaps this was a case of not what you know but who you know.

Osborne comes from the  an Anglo-Irish family which was  part of the old Ascendency in Ireland. He is heir to a baronetcy. His father co-founded the fabric and wallpaper firm   Osborne & Little He was educated at St Paul’s School and Oxford.   Coming down from Oxford in 1994 he joined Conservative Research Department and remained employed by the Tory Party until his election in 2001.

Clegg’s  father is   Nicholas Clegg,  chairman of United Trust Bank. He has various Ukrainian, Russian and German strains in his not too distant ancestry. His wife is Spanish.  Clegg  was educated at Westminster School, Cambridge,  the University of Minnesota and the College of Europe in Bruges.  Something of a professional student. He spent a gap year as a ski instructor, had a summer working as a junior in an Helsinki bank  and had some short lived work in the media both at home and abroad. In reality, his working career, if it can be called that, did not start until he was 27 when he obtained a post with the  European Commission. He became an MEP in 1999,  which lasted until 2004,  and an MP in 2005 between leaving the European Parliament and becoming an MP, he became a partner of a political lobbying firm, GPlus.

As can be seen, these are people who will never have known any anxiety about where the next pounds was coming from; never had to fret over putting a roof over their family’s heads; never known any insecurity about the future. Yet now they dare to inflict upon those who do know such fears a disproportionate burden of greater poverty, poverty resulting from the reckless incompetence of politicians in allowing bankers and their ilk to behave as the chose and the unrestrained selfishness of the bankers and their ilk who became caricatures of the rootless capitalist. It is also a savage irony that these creatures should bleat on about the wonders of private enterprise when they have so little experience of it.

The massive void between the likes of these people and the public can be seen in the decision to increase the foreign Aid budget by 40% at a time when so much has been cut which will affect the people they are supposed to represent, namely, the British. The Aid budget will soon exceed £9 billion a year.  That £9 billion alone would have funded the cuts in child benefit and provided the money to engage in what is sorely needed, a massive programme of council house building.

The overheated climate debate

NB I wrote this in 2006 but it still holds true, even more so perhaps because of the discrediting of the IPCC.  

 The hysteria

“Britain has 4 years to help cool the planet” shrieked a headline in the Metro (15 9 2006).   It was prompted by a report commissioned by  the Cooperative Bank and Friends of the Earth and produced by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research of the University of Manchester.

The story by Anne Campbell continued in the same purple prose vein: “Ministers have only four years to carry out a major new plan to cut carbon emissions if Britain is to help cool the planet. The claim was made as green campaigners spelt out a new roadmap to saving the world.”

Tabloid journalistic excess grossly distorting research? Perhaps, because scientific research papers are normally full of caveats even if their final message is clear. Putting forward a message at odds  with the sponsors of the report’s views? Sadly no, for commenting on the report, the Co-operative Bank’s director of corporate affairs, Simon Williams,  spoke in the same emotive,  cliched,  hectoring  and meaningless way: “This is more than the yet another wake-up call. Even if scientists take an increasingly gloomy view of the continually increasing  view of the continually increasing impact  on  our environment, this report shows that if we start acting now we can cut carbons. But we need decisive action by the Government.”

The story and its media presentation demonstrates all that is wrong with the debate on global warming: it is hysterical and absurdly alarmist in tone, the report is financed by those with a vested interest in one side of the debate,  debatable ideas are presented as incontrovertible fact and calls are made for governments to  pursue policies without any proper regard to the effects on their own people or the behaviour of other governments throughout the world.

Expert opinion

Notwithstanding the unsatisfactory way the global warming debate is conducted, the large majority of climate scientists agree that man-made global warming is occurring. Can the “experts” all be wrong?  Are we all going  to Hell in a man-made global warming handcart?  I put experts in inverted commas because “expert” advice so often proves to be nonsense and frequently dangerous nonsense to boot.

Here are a few stories drawn from the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs over one month which show “experts” either contradicting previous expert opinion or expert opinion being show to be inadequate. “Trauma patient care ‘may do more harm than good'” (Daily Telegraph 7 9 2006 – study shows brain damaged patients taking anti-inflammatory corticosteroids are 3.2 per cent more likely to die than those taking a placebo), “Counsellors raise victims’ stress” (Sunday Telegraph 20/8/2006 – University of Amsterdam study shows victims of traumatic events  who received counselling displayed poorer mental health – based on such symptoms as depression and anxiety -than those who had no counselling),

“Beta blockers blamed for ‘8,000 needless diabetes cases a year (Daily Telegraph 7 9 2006 – inadequate expert opinion),  DDT in Africa saves babies lives says WHO (Sunday Telegraph 17 9 2006 – this after decades of experts saying DDT is very dangerous), Woman in a persistent vegetative state uses thought to communicate (Daily Telegraph 8 9 2006 – brain scanning shows woman diagnosed as brain-dead is conscious and able to respond to words spoken to her, this after the medical experts have consistently sworn blind that such a diagnosis meant the person was effectively dead. The effect of such a diagnosis is that people have had life support systems turned off and been left to die of thirst and starvation).

Of course these are all newspaper stories not scientific reports, albeit from broadsheets rather than tabloids. The reports may be to a degree inaccurate or give an incomplete picture of the research. But however cautious one might be in taking the stories as gospel or complete, it is difficult to see how, for example, the WHO DDT story could be anything other than true in its basic message that DDT should be used. What the stories illustrate is the fact that “expert opinion” is far from being exact or permanent even when it is dealing with areas which might be broadly described as scientific.

Where “expert” opinion strays into fields which are not scientific, for example, economics, it  is even less credible as superior opinion because its predictive power is poor verging on non-existent. Sometimes the human experts’  bluff is called in the most embarrassing way. In “The unsaid truth: machines are better [company] stock pickers, a  Dresdner Kleinwort “behavioural specialist” James Montier  described  the results of an exercise in which he compared the results of mechanistic (computer) stock selection with human selection and found the mechanistic approach was significantly better (Daily Telegraph 15 8 2006).

When scientific “experts” are shown to have been wrong they will say they gave the best opinion possible on the known facts at the time; that science is a work in progress not a finished corpus of facts.  Emma Dickinson, a spokesman for the British Medical Journal, recently stated this  quasi-official scientific position nicely:  “Science moves from observation to observation and you get scientific progress. There is no end point…It is the nature of scientists to disagree with each other – that’s how science moves on.” (Sunday Telegraph 27 8 2006)

Whether scientists always behave like that and never go beyond the existing evidence or miss obvious flaws in their experiments’ designs, their data collection and their interpretation of data is to say the least very debatable – my mind turns to the recent British cot death cases involving Professor Roy Meadows, whose “expert” evidence wrongly sent a number of women to prison with life sentences for murdering their babies – most disturbingly, his “expert” evidence was wrong because he did not understand basic statistics.

Nor is it true that scientists always present their data in an unsensational and accurate way. Several years ago the Human Genome project was announced as “completed” by the scientists who won the race to publish. This gave a whole new meaning to the word “completed”,  because not only was the function of most genes and the relationship between genes not known,  after the announcement the geneticists involved in the project were still unable to give an accurate number for the genes which make up the human genome.

But even if scientists did by some miracle always behave in the most competent, intelligent and conscientious way, it would not solve the basic problem arising from their get-out clause of “no scientific certainty”. If science is as they say always “a work in progress” and any erroneous “expert opinion” can be explained away by the “best opinion on the available evidence at the time” ploy, they have no responsibility and, by extension, nor do the politicians who accept their advice with the rider “we must be guided by the experts.”

It is in the context of the general fallibility of expert opinion that  we need to judge the climate scientists who support global warming. We should also remember that they are the same class of people who were saying 30 years ago that there would be a new Ice Age (In another thirty years I suspect we shall be back to the Ice Age just around the corner “expert” advice.) Anything they claim now can reasonably be treated with suspicion.

If scientists were simply academics whose work had no  general significance the get-out clause would not matter. They could be right or wrong as often as they liked and their mistakes or ignorance  would have no more effect on society than do the mistakes and ignorance of classicists. But the reverse is true: scientific “knowledge” has a most powerful effect on society.   Politicians and interest groups grab hold of the research which suits their purposes and treat it as objective fact. Often they do not understand the science.   The  consequence is that much public policy is made on scientific claims which are at best the most educated of guesses and at worst no more than wild speculation.

Governments and elites everywhere have a natural tendency towards authoritarianism  and social control and consequently  need  no encouragement to use scare stories to increase their power. Scientific scare stories are the perfect type because the general public is even less equipped to judge the truth or otherwise of scientific research than politicians and is collectively a sucker for “scare stories” –  that is particularly true of  the-end-of-the-world-is-nigh-unless-we-do- this” stories.

But even if the public was not so easy to manipulate with scare stories there would be little they could do even in a supposed democracy such as Britain. In fact, what Britain (and all other reputed democracies) has is not democracy but what academics like to call elective oligarchy. This allows the electorate to do no more than  choose between competing parts of the elite every few years. If the competing parts of the elite have different policies there is some electoral choice and democratic control; where the elite agrees on a policy there is no choice for the electorate.

If an elite has bound a country by treaties into supranational bodies the electorate is even further removed from any chance of exercising their will if the decision is made outside the framework of national politics. That is precisely what has happened to Britain through her membership of the EU and treaties such as the UN Convention on Refugees. In the case of global warming, policy is made by the EU and consequently  while Britain remains within the EU  the  British electorate has no choice to make. Currently, the EU policy on man-made global warming is both to treat it as an established fact and to adopt, at least in theory, severe CO2 reduction measures. More on that later.

But it is not only CO2 which is a greenhouse gas, although it is reckoned to be the most important one. Methane is next on the list of villains. It is produced by for example animals, agriculture, coal mines and decomposing matter  in landfill waste disposal sites. Happily, governments have not as yet decided to place limits on the number of animals, including human beings in the world, but they have started to ban landfills. Again this is a policy forced on Britain by the EU.  

Bringing up the rear are nitrous oxide (5 percent of total emissions), which comes from burning fossil fuels and from some  fertilizers and industrial processes and human created gases (2 percent of total emissions) are by-products of industrial processes. These are also increasingly subject to government controls.

The joker in the greenhouse warming pack is water vapour which can vary from virtually zero to 4 per cent of the atmosphere. This cannot be directly controlled by Man.  

Political correctness

The global  debate is further skewed by the inclusion of  man-made global  warming  within the protective fortress of  political correctness.

Man-made global warming slipped neatly into political correctness because it fits naturally with the liberal internationalist creed which instinctively  seeks “world action” on anything and everything  and starts from the view that the West is only rich and successful (while the rest of the world wallows in various states of social and economic ineptitude) because the West has both historically and now, in some curious way, exploited and abusd the rest of the world.   Indeed, the wealth and success of the West is frequently described as “obscene”  by the man-made global warmers.   At the political level, both within mainstream parties and pressure groups, the belief in man-made global warming is a conduit for liberal angst.

Let me illustrate the mentality of the global warmers with  reference to a couple prominent figures: Frances Cairncross (the president of the British Association and chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council) and  the losing democratic candidate in the 2000 presidential election Al Gore, who has a documentary film in the cinemas at present (Sept 2006) entitled An inconvenient truth.

Cairncross believes that global warming can only be dealt with by “persuading  this generation to accept sacrifices on behalf  of posterity; and persuading countries that will gain from climate change,or lose little, to take action not on behalf of their own grandchildren but of the descendants of people in other nations”‘ ((Daily Telegraph 04/09/2006).

Gore’s film is two hours or so of unashamed man-made global warming polemic, which is delivered in the form of a lecture by Gore intercutwith film from outside the lecture theatre. He gives the ideological game away early in the piece with his statement “Global warming is not  really  a political issue; it is a moral issue”. The reason he considers it a moral issue is made clear in the rest of the film: most of the land which is thought to be most at risk from rising sea levels is in the Third World.

Nowhere in the film is anyone allowed to put the case that each nation should look to its own safety and convenience and not to some  international salvation. This is par for the course for public discussion of the subject in Britain and most of the First World – I have been unable to find any mainstream politician in the West who puts the nationalist case. The nearest one gets to it is the resistance, mainly in the USA and Australia, to the economic disruption which would result from taking the action the global warmers demand. But even here, the resistance is not on the grounds that warming will not affect their country much or at all, but rather it is based either on a denial that warming is occurring or that warming is simply a natural cyclical phenomenon which cannot be affected by any action Man takes.  

The essentially ideological nature of the man-made global warming side of the argument  can  also be seen from the reluctance of many campaigners to address the question of whether Man can adjust to the effects of global warming. Gore makes great play with the fate of New Orleans when it was hit by Hurricane Katrina as a global warming  disaster. In fact, Katrina did not demonstrate that Man is helpless in the face of such climatic events as a particularly violent hurricane. Instead it showed what happens when Man does not plan properly for natural disasters. Katrina was a fiasco because the flood defences of New Orleans (the levees) were inadequate. Had the money been spent strengthening the levees (and this was known before the hurricane hit) the city could have withstood the worst effects of the hurricane. The same applies to the aftermath of the hurricane. The failure at both state and federal level to adequately respond after the hurricane hit was also human failure not a failure to deal with an impossible situation.

What could have been done for New Orleans could be done in principle for much of the land which would be flooded if the global warmers’ most lurid predictions for a rise in global sea levels (20 feet or so) came true. The problem of course from the global warmers’ point of view is that most of the land which would be flooded without man-made defences is in the Third World which has neither the money nor the expertise to build the necessary sea defences or to deal with disasters once they have hit. This knowledge prevents most global warmers from pushing prevention and mitigation as a solution to the alleged threat rather than a reduction in CO2 emissions. Nor, of course, do the global warmers mention the fact that much of the Third World’s problems are caused by uncontrolled breeding and that most of the world’s population now and for the foreseeable future will live in the now developing countries. Responsibility for the global warmers in the first world is a one way street: the first world is responsible for what their peoples do; the peoples of the rest of the world are not. 

Finally take the global warmers’ response to the fact that  Britain’s share of CO2 emissions is tiny,  2pc of the world total. When the point is made that whatever Britain does it can have very little effect on global warming because we are responsible for so little of the CO2, the global warmers retreat to the adolescent moral exhortation of “Britain needing to set an example to the rest of the world”.

The consequences of a quasi-belief in man-made global warming becoming part of the elite ideology are considerable. It means that those who oppose either the idea of man-made global warming or  the favoured elite means of adjusting to it are denied regular opportunities to publicly put it.   Most dangerously it prompts politicians construct policies to deal with the alleged problem, most notably  the Kyoto Protocol (1997) designed to reduce CO2 emissions. Such measures  may be ineffective in achieving their aim but they do place burdens on the countries which  take them seriously and implement measures to meet their treaty obligation. Of course, most countries do not and never will meet such obligations.

The Third World and energy related greenhouse gases.

Apart from their current and ongoing industrialisation,  it  is surprising that no one ever queries the type of claims made about energy consumption in the underdeveloped world as it is now. The global warming campaigners are forever telling us that the Great Satan of Global Warming, the USA, has a per capita use of energy many times that of the toiling masses of the Third World. The rest of the developed world including Britain is less of a demon, but still a considerable global warming villain in the eyes of the likes of Friends of the Earth.

These claims have always struck me as somewhat odd. How is that the five billion or so people who live in undeveloped or developing economies and burn raw fossil fuels straight into the air manage to emit less global warming gases than the billion or so people living in the developed world whose energy waste outputs are generally filtered, whether that be in a power station or in a car?  I am not saying that the current quantificatins of energy use and greenhouse emissions are wrong, merely that it is odd that no one with a public voice ever questions whether they are.

Let’s assume that man-made global warming is happening

Some facts. At the most generous estimate, five sixths of the world’s population live in countries which are either still far from fully fledged industrialised societies (India, China), or are essentially non-industrialised (take your pick from any country in sub-Saharan Africa). The idea that  those countries will not continue with industrialisation is fanciful to the point of madness. If only half of the developing world achieves full industrialisation within the next quarter century their output of the gases supposedly responsible for global warming will utterly dwarf what we have now, especially if the projections of world population rising from 6.5 billion to nine billion over the century turn out to be correct. Most of that increase will come in the Third World.

Even within the developed world it is improbable in the extreme that most governments will  be prepared to take action that will severely affect the lives of their people. The USA and Australia for two are not committed to the Kyoto Protocol. Frances Cairncross,  the president of the British Association and chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council and a man-made global warming advocate, recently admitted this: ‘Miss Cairncross says the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions is having little impact. India and China, representing a third of humanity, have not signed up and the United States “does not take any notice”.   (Daily Telegraph 04/09/2006). Anyone who believes that most of the world will forgo industrialisation or that industrialised societies will de-industrialise is being naive to the point of idiocy.   If the world is going to Hell in global warming handcart nothing is going to stop it.

The worst policy for any developed state would be to take action to pile costs and restrictions on their own societies while most of the world goes its own sweet non-green way.   Yet the British political elite are doing just that. Not only have they signed up Britain to the Kyoto Protocol, Britain, through its membership of the EU, is committed to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which began operating in 2005. Under this scheme each EU member has to set a target for emissions. It then issues permits up to that target to private companies and public bodies within the member state. If the member state’s emissions exceed the permits it has issued, permits have to be purchased from elsewhere in Europe – the permits issued by a member state can also be traded within that country.

In practice this has the consequence of twice disadvantaging Britain. First, we have burdens on our industry and economy which most of the world does not have. Second, there is no equality within the EU because the various EU members set their own targets for CO2 reduction. In Britain’s case that is a more stringent target (12.5pc reduction on the 1990 UK emissions) than most EU members , including Germany. According to an OpenEurope pamphlet “The high price of hot air: the EU Emissions Scheme is an environmental and economic failure (July 2006), this meant in 2005 that the UK had to buy in œ500m worth of additional permits from foreign business rivals while German firms made a profit of £300m selling some of their permits to foreigners, something they could do because their emissions target reduction was significantly less than that of Britain.

There is an irony in the fact that the governments, political parties and many of the interest groups who promote the man-made global warming agenda  are supporters of globalism and consequently supporters of policies which are directly in conflict with any reduction in CO2. At one and the same time these people advocate a world in which goods and people can move freely across national borders and the under-developed world is encouraged to industrialise while insisting that CO2 emissions are reduced.  

 The academics

Any academic who wishes to challenge the man-made global warming orthodoxy faces two problems: he or she will find it very difficult to (1)  get grants to conduct research and (2) get their work published in leading academic journals.   These are great disincentives to go against the orthodoxy because in the modern academic world continued employment,  promotion and academic reputation rests heavily on published work. If those disincentives are not enough, any academic who goes against the orthodoxy is likely to be shunned by his fellow academics. He will not be invited to conferences.

Nonetheless, there are sceptics, for example the Australian based  Lavoisier Group argues that global warming is simply part of Nature.  One of their number is William Kininmonth, a former head of the Australian National Climate Centre. His book, Climate Change: A Natural Hazard, sums up their ethos. The Age 29 November 2004.  

A  different sort of sceptic is Bjorn Lomborg, author of  The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomburg does not deny that man-made global warming is occurring. Rather, he disagrees with the idea that reducing greenhouse  gases is the answer to the alleged problem.Lomburg’s argument is that even if really savage cuts in hothouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are made over the next century or so, the effect on global warming would be trivial, delaying warming to the levels projected by the global warming believers by a few years at most. 

Lomburg adds to this argument the immense cost of doing what the global warmers want. He argues that this money would be better used by  adapting to higher temperatures and/or diverted to other issues such as AIDS and providing clean water. Most of this money would be directed  at the Third World.   Lomburg is in fact  a  liberal internationalist who differs from the global warmers only in his preferred solution to the alleged problem.

It says much about the quasi-religious nature of the man-made global warmers that despite Lomburg’s liberal internationalist credentials and intentions he is a hate figure in global warming circle. For the true believers it is not enough to believe in man-made global warming you have to buy into the “right” solution. The fact that they are so violent in their response to anyone who dares to challenge them tells you  a great deal about their confidence in the strength of their arguments, namely, they have little actual confidence. Like religious believers they love their faith but know in their heart of hearts that it is not fact but belief and consequently open to challenge. This they cannot deal with emotionally.   

The extent to which the man-made global warming has become the international orthodoxy can be seen from the stance of  the  United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.   Its  chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri is a man without doubt,viz: “One can say scientifically it is human action that is driving the bulk of changes that are taking place today.”  The Age 29 November 2004

The sceptics’ main arguments

The claims of the man-made global warmers fall towards  the wild speculation side of the educated guess/wild speculation spectrum. Even the claims that the world is getting warmer are  far from being rock-solid.   Some global-warming sceptics point out that modern temperature data tends to come from people measuring the temperature near to or within towns and cities, whose temperature is higher than that of the natural (non-urban) temperature of the area.   The rise in temperature which has been measured may be wholly or  largely a consequence of the great increase in urbanisation since the Industrial Revolution.   This consideration would be particularly pertinent where historical records are compared with modern records because the older the record the less urbanisation and the greater the chance that the actual temperature has been recorded. In short, comparing temperatures now with temperatures in the past may be a case of comparing apples and oranges. It is also worth noting that the claims such as that Britain has reliable temperature records going back 350 years are grossly misleading. There are records made by individuals at different places and times which have been collated in an attempt to give a historical temperature chronology. There is no standardisation of measurement or continuity of measurement in any place over the centuries  and consequently even comparisons between recordings of temperature made by different people at different times in the same place are dubious.

Global warming sceptics also refer to the  discrepancy  between  temperature records taken at the earth’s surface and those recorded by  satellites and balloons in the low to mid-troposphere – the atmosphere which extends to about 6 miles above the earth. The  satellite and balloon studies show no warming in the low to mid-troposphere in the past twenty years or so.   This is very strange if warming is occurring at ground level for hot air rises and should heat the troposphere. It is worth noting that the troposphere is not intimately affected by Man’s energy emissions as is the case with measurements taken in or close to the urban heat islands.  The scientific sceptics also attack the global warming thesis on two other main grounds: the fallibility of computer models and the effect of the sun’s activity.

Global warming predictions are made using computer models so GIGO – garbage in, garbage out – applies. As the weather forecasters show, predicting the weather even in the immediate future is fraught with insuperable difficulties. If that is so difficult, why should we believe the climatic future can be meaningfully predicted fifty or one hundred years hence, particularly when  phenomena such as  cloud formation, oceanic heat transport and the mixing of the air are still poorly understood?

The Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind – mainly consisting  of  electrons and protons emitted by the Sun – shields our solar system by from cosmic rays (very energetic particles and radiation from outer space). The shield is not 100% effective and some cosmic rays reach the Earth. Moreover, the sun’s activity is not constant which means the shielding effect of the sun varies because the strength of the shield is dependent on the sun’s activity.

Cosmic rays influence cloud formation. Consequently,  the amount of cosmic rays reaching the Earth affects the planet’s overall cloudiness. Clouds affect the radiation from the Sun which reaches  the Earth’s surface and that affects global temperature. Interestingly, satellite data shows a strong correlation between the amount of low clouds over the Earth and the quantity of cosmic rays hitting the  Earth. The implication is that the Sun’s activity is the major or even sole culprit for global warming.  

Assuming the worst

Let us allow that the world is warming, whether due in whole or part to Man or through natural changes, what should we do? Build sea defences, ban building in threatened areas, abandon areas which are incapable of defence, build stronger buildings, develop new strains of crops to deal with changing environments.  Even the most apocalyptic  global warming scientists  do not project a rapid and catastrophic event such as that depicted in the film the Day after tomorrow. Even if the global warmers are correct, the future is controllable.

How do we decide?

Some history. 10,000 years ago the world was just emerging from the  Ice Age, the last of many ice ages. 4,000 years ago much of the Sahara desert was fertile land. 2,000 years ago and Britain was warm enough for the Romans to introduce wine growing on a significant scale. 1,000 years ago Europe, including Britain, entered a period of considerable warming, warming strong enough to allow Greenland to be colonised by Norsemen.   A few centuries later and the glaciers  re-advanced sufficiently  to  cause the Greenland settlements to fail.   All of these events took place before industrialisation. They represent  dramatic changes in climate and the general environment, yet humanity managed to survive without any difficulty.

Similarly, Man has greatly changed his environment throughout history. The most obvious change has been in the size of the human population. This was tiny 10,000 years ago, moderate 2,000 years ago, large 200 years ago and is now truly gigantic for an organism of Man’s size – we are in the top 5% of land animals by size.

The environmental consequences of Man’s increase has been immense. Large tracts of land have been converted from forest to open land, much of it cultivated. Nowhere is this seen more dramatically than in Europe. Yet despite this qualitative change Europe has not suffered any environmental disaster. On a more local scale England went from a medieval agricultural world which had a large component of open (communal) fields with few hedgerows to a world of smaller, privately owned fields following the various bouts of enclosure in the period 1450-1850. Again, no environmental disaster occurred, despite the fact that greens today are forever warning of a loss of diversity through a reduction in the variety of habitat because of the re-creation of larger fields in England.

Finally, consider this fact: no general ecological scare story has ever come to pass. It may be that the world does warm for a while, but it has done so before and the balance of probability is that the earth and Man will accommodate the current warming without causing any general environmental disaster just as they have accommodated previous climatic change.

When Tony and Cherie Blair tried to have me jailed

 On 10 November 1999 Sir Richard Body MP put down this Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons :

 CONDUCT OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR SEDGEFIELD 10:11:99

 Sir Richard Body

 That this House regrets that the Right honourable Member for Sedgefield [Tony Blair] attempted to persuade the Metropolitan Police to bring criminal charges against Robert Henderson, concerning the Right honourable Member’s complaints to the police of an offence against the person, malicious letters and racial insult arising from letters Robert Henderson had written to the Right honourable Member complaining about various instances of publicly-reported racism involving the Labour Party; and that, after the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the complaints of the Right honourable Member and the Right honourable Member failed to take any civil action against Robert Henderson, Special Branch were employed to spy upon Robert Henderson, notwithstanding that Robert Henderson had been officially cleared of any illegal action.

This motion is now part of the official House of Commons record.

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=16305&SESSION=702

The EDM gives the bare bones of  a truly bizarre story.  On 13 March 1997, during the six most important weeks of Blair’s life – the 1997 General Election campaign –  Tony and Cherie Blair tried to have me put in prison. Through Belgravia Police –  Parliament’s local nick – they attempted but comprehensively failed to have me prosecuted for three separate and utterly disparate criminal offences, namely common assault and breaches of the Malicious Communications and Race Relations Acts. The attempt was immediately and  unceremoniously rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who returned the papers within a few hours of them being submitted to them by the police.

After the Blairs’ humiliating failure to have me prosecuted, I was quite illegally placed under surveillance by the state – I used the Data Protection Act to prove that Special Branch and MI5 had opened files on me  and a Daily Mirror story of 25 3 1997 stated that Special Branch were involved  (“ Special Branch,  who organise protection for MPs, have been informed of the situation”). This surveillance was instigated despite the fact that the CPS had said no crime had been committed and I had never made anything which could have been construed as a threat against them.  Tellingly, despite having taking the time to make a complaint against me alleging criminal activity, they refused to take civil action against me despite the much lower evidential test for civil actions (the balance of probabilities test rather than the criminal case standard of beyond a reasonable doubt).

The background to the affair

I had written to Tony and Cherie Blair (as a last resort) seeking (1) help for my mistreatment by the media and (2) action against a number of members of the Labour Party including my own MP, Frank Dobson, Before approaching Tony Blair I had literally exhausted every other avenue open to me, including the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) and my MP.

My letters to the Blairs

As might be imagined from Richard Body’s willingness to put down the EDM, my letters to the Blairs contained no threat, gross abuse or obscenity. They were short in length and reasonable in number. (I sent Tony Blair 9 letters over ten months, his wife 4. The combined text of my letters to Tony Blair totalled 2675 words: to Cherie Blair 755 words.)

The only racial references the letters contained concerned instances of publicly reported racism within the Labour Party. Moreover, I only raised those matters after (1) my MP, Frank Dobson, gratuitously called me a racist and (2) the black Labour MP Diane Abbott had sent me an unsolicited and abusive letter. I sent 13 letters only because I persistently failed to obtain any meaningful reply to my complaints.

My letters to the Blairs have also been viewed by the Crown Prosecution Service, three editors of political magazines who have published articles in support of me and a charity, resswise, which supported me. Perhaps most tellingly, the police never approached me about the matter at any time

 My discovery of the use of the security services

 The  Data Protection Act produced the following printout from the Belgravia police database:

 MET DETS S/COMMON ASSAULT- HILLINGDON

 Following entered by: DC …. …. ….

This allegation relates to a series of letters received at the Palace of Westminster. On 13th

March a request was received from that police attend the Palace of Westminster to discuss letters received on that date.

DS [Connor] attended and met [Tony Blair] and [Cherie Blair] who handed over a quantity of letters received by the office, from the suspect, Mr Henderson. He is a part time journalist who regularly writes to left wing MP’s, and who holds extreme right wing views.

The letters were examined and taken to the Crown Prosecution Service, where a consultation took place with …. all lawyers from the Horseferry Road Magistrates Court Section.

It was decided that the letters fell short of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, or the Race Relations Act. At that stage the allegation was in fact ‘NO CRIME’.

Advice was given should the letters continue, that the sheer volume of them may constitute a nuisance.

[Tony Blair] did not wish, with an election campaign looming, to start collecting evidence from an irritant like Henderson was advised re civil remedies, especially an injunction, against Henderson.

In view of the personalities involved, DS …. attended Islington Police Station and spoke to DCI…. and DI …. Their details were passed to …. staff, who were advised to deal with them in the future, as …. home address was on their division, and it was that venue that they were most concerned about.

DCI….is believed to have appointed Inspector….to liaise with the…. re security.

In summary, the allegation of Malicious Communication is ‘NO CRIME’, however the security of the …. has been put in the hands of the right people. There is no further action to take at present by officers from Belgravia.

NB The missing names were omitted by the Metropolitan Police,because the Data Protection Act permits this. I have added them where I know the names. The CPS has confirmed in writing to me that the Blairs made the complaints.

 Why did the Blairs try to have me prosecuted?

 Tony Blair knew that I was circulating copies of my various correspondence with him, Frank Dobson and Diane Abbott to the British media. This correspondence showed Blair to be both arrogant and unwilling to discipline his own MPs, Dobson to be straightforwardly refusing to do his duty as my MP for party and ideological reasons and Abbott to be  abusive and a hypocrite, a very different picture to that of New Moral Labour Party which Blair had assiduously built. Most importantly, I had raised the subject which most surely terrifies the modern British politician, namely,  racism, and as a double blow,  racism within the Labour Party.

 The fact that Blair was willing to become involved in criminal prosecutions during a general election election campaign shows vividly how much he feared the consequences of the circulation of my letters.

The bogus nature of the attempted charges

 Bear in mind that that the Blairs are both experienced lawyers and that Cherie Blair has experience as a QC in the field of Malicious Communications.

 Both the Blairs must have realised that my letters constituted no offence. The failure of the police to interview me and the amazingly fast refusal of a prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service show this. Thus the Blairs’ can only have hoped that Blair’s political celebrity would override the lack of evidence. That constitutes the criminal offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

It is also highly significant that the Blairs  did not go to the police at the time I sent thenm the letters, but only after I had begun to send my copies of my letters to Blair to the media

How the story developed

After  the Blairs’ failure to have me prosecuted I was subjected to a campaign of harassment which continued for the better part of ten years.  My post was regularly delayed and opened, every now and then opened so ostentatiously that I can only conclude that it is being done deliberately in an attempt to intimidate me. I also suspect that my telephone and e-mail traffic was  routinely interrupted. Modern tapping methods do not give telltale clicks and whirrs, but I did get an extraordinary number of failures to disconnect lines at the ends of calls and phantom ring-backs which occur when the receiver is replaced at the end of a call, the phone rings and no one is there when the receiver is lifted.

The Internet attacks

In 2002 the story took a new turn. On 12 April a post was made to a number of the larger UK newsgroups which accused me falsely of being a paedophile. The post contained my full name and address and incited people to attack me. The poster had also set up a paedophile web site which he or she falsely claimed was mine. 1 had no idea who had made the post. On the 6 April 1 received an anonymous phone call from a man which I taped. The caller gave me the name of the password, Fyfield, for the account of the person who had done the posting about me to the newsgroups.

On 7 May 2002 I received the following unsolicited e-mail purporting to come from a Detective Constable in the Metropolitan Police named Liz Wright:

‘Mr Henderson, the Fyfield you are concerned with is Frances Fyfield, real name Frances Hegarty; check your TV listings for last night. She is a senior CPS prosecutor and works at the CPS HQ. She deals mostly with alleged police corruption. She did me a big favour a couple of years ago and if she finds out that I’ve been in touch with you that is the end of my career so please what ever you do destroy this E-mail after you’ve read it. I’ve made exhaustive enquiries and it is true that she was the main lawyer Cherie Blair consulted. She wanted to drag you into court. Hegarty lives not far from you in Petherton Road. You will have to deal with her personally, either by force or by the civil law but don’t mention me and try not to drag in the Blairs or you will get nowhere.’ Frances Fyfield, is a crime writer and Crown Prosecutor still working with the Crown Prosecution Service. According to the police, DC Liz Wright denies knowing anything of the e-mail. I have spoken with Hegarty/Fyfield and she has denied any knowledge of the newsgroup post, being a friend of the Blairs, or having been involved in the Blairs’ attempt to have me prosecuted in 1997.

On 31 December 2002 a further newsgroup post was made which again falsely represented me as a paedophile, gave my full address and incited people to attack me. On this occasion an e-mail was sent to me which threatened me if I did not take down the Blair Scandal web site.

On 20 March 2003 the third attack on me occurred. This time it took the form of a post to newsgroups falsely purporting to be from me. The post gave the name of Francis Fyfield and an address which purported to be hers. The post claimed she was responsible for the  prosecution of Muslims recently and incited violence against her.

 Coincidences?

The newsgroup post in April 2002 was made two days after l had submitted a complaint to the Chairman of the Inland Revenue.

 The 31 December 2002 post and e-mail were sent eight hours after I had spoken on the phone with the countryside campaigner Robin Page. Quite absurdly in my view, Mr Page was under investigation at the time for ‘inciting racial hatred’ at a countryside rally. During our telephone conversation I offered to appear as a witness for him to demonstrate that the application of the law on racial incitement was only applied when politically expedient, something I could prove conclusively. The charges against Mr Page were dropped shortly afterwards. No one but Mr Page and I knew the phone call had taken place at the time the newsgroup post and e-mail were sent. If our conversation and the newsgroup post and e-mail are linked the only rational explanation for that would be that my phone is being tapped.

 The 20 March 2003 attack occurred 4 days after 1 had made a complaint to the police about the bribing of police officers to give information by The Sun editor Rebekah Wade – who had admitted to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee that she had done this – and The Mirror editor, Piers Morgan – who had admitted receiving information from the police in a letter to the PCC in 1997. 

The police

I reported the first newsgroup post to the police shortly after I discovered it. I made the report to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, because my previous complaints had been either not investigated at all by my local police or investigated only in the sense of going through the motions. I contacted Sir John Stevens’ office after a week to find out what action had been taken.

 The answer was none. I then wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), David Calvert-Smith, asking him to intervene. Eventually, after the intervention of his office, an investigation was begun in mid-July 2002, three months after my original notification of the complaint. By that time the computer audit trail was cold and any possible evidence from the CCTV at the Internet Cafe from which the post was made had been lost.

 I have reported the two subsequent newsgroup posts attacks and the threatening e-mail to the police and investigations are supposedly underway. However, the police refused to interview the Blairs and failed to investigate properly the Frances Fyfield lead.

 Failing to get the authorities to act no matter the evidence is a theme which runs throughout. For example, I provided the Met  Police with a letter from the then Mirror editor Piers Morgan to the Press Complaints Commission dated 16 October 1997 which contained a clear admission of a criminal act, namely, receiving information (probably for money) from a serving police officer:

“The   police  source of our article (whose  identity  we have  a  moral obligation to protect) [thus the police informant behaved illegally  by supplying the information] gave  us  the  detail of the  letters  that  we  then published. “  

The police agreed there was a crime to investigate,  then failed to interview Morgan or the author of the Mirror article.

The Data Protection Act (DPA)

The original Mirror story mentioned that Special Branch had been asked to investigate me despite the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service had declared unequivocally that I had committed no crime. Using the Data Protection Act (DPA) I have confirmed that Special Branch did take an interest in me. It took three years before they would reveal it, but eventually the Metropolitan Police admitted that Special Branch had a file on me. Use of the DPA has also resulted (after years of trying) in confirmation from MI5 that they have had a file on me since 1997.

The Data Protection Tribunal (DPT)

I made a subject access request to MI5 under the 1998 DPA act when it became ‘live’ in 2000. I received a reply which took the regulation Security Service ‘We can neither confirm nor deny’ line. This appeared to be in direct contradiction of the 1998 DPA and the Human Rights Act (HRA). Accordingly I appealed to the DPT (now the Information Tribunal), challenging MI5’s right to neither confirm nor deny whether any data was held. (Under the DPA MI5 have the right to withhold data on security grounds but use of that power would confirmthat data was held.)

 My appeal was scheduled to be heard by a panel of three. One was a retired Appeal Court judge, Sir Anthony Evans. The other two members were Michael Beloff QC and James Goudie QC. Beloff and Goudie were not only closely connected with the Blairs but also the Labour Patty. These relationships were of prime importance because my appeal concerned data which, if it existed, could only have related to the Blairs’ attempt to have me prosecuted and the aftermath of that failed attempt.

Mr Beloff was joint head of Cherie Blair’s old chambers at 4/5 Gray’s Inn, Gray’s Inn Sq, where Mrs Blair was a member from 1991 until 2000 when she left to join a new chambers, Matrix. Mr .Beloff originally intended to join Matrix but withdrew at the last moment. He is also a personal friend of the Blairs and was the lawyer called in to sort out Geoffrey Robinson’s problems with his offshore trust. He is a former chairman of the Society of Labour Lawyers.

Goudie is also a personal friend of the Blairs and the Lord Chancellor, Lord lrvine; so is his wife, Lady Goudie, who was made a baroness by Mr Blair in 1998. Goudie is a former Labour leader of Brent Council and was once a prospective Labour parliamentary candidate. He has done legal work for the Labour party. Lady Goudie is a major fund raiser for the Labour Party and acted as chief fund raiser for Frank Dobson when he ran for the post of mayor of London. Lady Goudie is , friend of Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah Macaulay, and has done work for her PR agency Hobsbawn Macaulay. The Goudies attended the Macauley-Brown wedding.

That such a panel was allocated to my case is unsurprising because the Lord Chancellor appoints the members of DPT panels. The present Lord Chancellor, Derry Irving, is a very close friend of both the Blairs who were once pupils in his chambers. Tony Blair also practised in lrvine’s chambers until he entered Parliament. Cherie Blair’s move to Beloff’s Chambers was initiated by lrvine, lrvine is also a personal friend of Goudie and Beloff and has had a professional relationship with Mr Goudie dating back over a quarter of century. Goudie is currently joint-head of Lord lrvine’s old Chambers.

Despite the links between Blair, Goudie and Beloff, the President of the panel, Anthony Evans, refused to disbar them from sitting. Consequently, I made a complaint to the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens, accusing Evans and Irving of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the most blatant fashion by deliberately packing a judicial panel. Stevens refused to begin an investigation. I then submitted a complaint against Sir John Stevens to the Met. That complaint is still under investigation by the Met’s Department of Professional Standards.

 In the end my appeal never came before the DPT because the Lib-Dem MP, Norman Baker, had an appeal on the same issue of neither confirming or denying upheld by the DPT which meant that my appeal fell as the precedent was established. 1 then made a new appeal to MI5 and got an admission that they held data on me. However, the full data was not revealed

I suspect that the authorities ceased taking any interest in me once Blair announced he would be resigning as PM. Nonetheless I cannot be sure. 

 What the story does show is both Blair’s paranoia and the ability of a powerful politician to mobilise for his own use the resources of the state. I represented no threat to Blair other than a political one. Yet the police and the security services were only too willing both to do his bidding but to deliberately ignore well substantiated claims of crimes which I made.  They also mindlessly labeled me, as did the Mirror and the Blairs, as an extreme right-winger simply because I raised the question of race, even though the only racial incidents I referred to were those  which allegedly took place within the Labour Party.   

The police were undoubtedly very worried about my unwilling connection with Blair.  As a consequence of the various complaints I made against the Blairs, the Daily Mirror and the harassment I suffered, I was visited by a series of high ranking officers, including on one occasion the head of the Metropolitan Police’s internal investigation division after I made complaints about the failure to meaningfully  investigate cast iron cases such as that of the Mirror receiving information illegally. Normally, the type of crimes I was alleging would have been dealt with by a detective sergeant. I was being visited by Chief Superintendents, superintendents and chief inspectors.

The other sinister element was the blanket refusal of the British mainstream media to take up the story either during the 1997 election or subsequently. Fearless crusaders in the public interest? Excuse me while I recover from a particularly exhausting fit of laughter.

Those wanting a third party take on the affair can refer to:

 http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/polin/polin154.pdf

Robert Henderson vs Tony Blair

  http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/issue39.php/

Right meets Left: The Robert Henderson/Tony Blair story

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