Monthly Archives: April 2011

The utilitarian case for the monarchy

The utilitarian case for the monarchy is not about pageantry, deference  or the vulgar belief that it is worth keeping because it acts as a tourist magnet. It is not about the cost of the monarchy compared with a president. It is not about whether the individual members of the Royal family are worthy beings or if its very  existence is an insult to ideas of politically correct equality. The utilitarian case is purely political: our monarchy underpins Parliamentary government.

In resisting the abuse of the many by the few, Britain begins with the great advantages of a parliamentary system and an in practice non-executive head of state chosen by a means utterly outside political manipulation short of the outright  criminality of murder,  blackmail,  illicit threats and bribery, namely birth. These provide a massive barricade against a Prime Minister who would be a despot. He cannot act without the support of an elected parliamentary majority. His cabinet in practice must be overwhelmingly drawn from elected politicians. He may change his cabinet but he cannot do so without regard to a cabinet member’s status and popularity within the party on whose support he depends.

Most importantly, the prime minister (or any other politician) cannot become head of  state.  This is of central importance, because whether the powers of a president be executive or ceremonial, the mere   existence of the office of president provides an avenue for those who would subvert parliamentary control of the  executive. The example of De Gaulle in France
in the early years of the Fifth Republic demonstrates how easily a President’s powers may be extended by the overtly democratic means of a referendum against the wishes of a Parliament.  As things stand, a would be British dictator would have to do one of two things. The constitutionally legitimate path would  require him to first persuade Parliament to
adopt the idea  of an executive  presidential system and  then win the  backing of the electorate for a change to a presidential  system either through a referendum or an electoral mandate.  His illegitimate path would consist of either a referendum  put to the country against the wishes of Parliament or an outright coup backed by the military and police.

This is not to say that a prime minister equipped with a large majority cannot have a great deal of freedom  and personal power.  Both Thatcher and Blair achieved this. But however big their majority or great their personal authority they could not routinely make policy without some regard to the wishes of their ministers, backbenchers and the electorate. Whatever dark thoughts Thatcher may have had about  mass immigration or membership of the EU, she was in practice hamstrung in doing anything about it  by the opposition of powerful ministers  such as Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe.  Tony Blair’s desire to severely reduce the welfare state was thwarted over many years by his Chancellor Gordon Brown.   To those leashes on their dictatorial desires can be added the fact that both Thatcher and Blair left office before they wanted to as a result of dissent amongst their parliamentary parties.   Had either been an elected president  operating outside parliament,  neither would have been removed before the end of their term of office.

A parliamentary system such as that of Britain has other restraints on abuses of power. First-past-the-post elections based on constituencies means that  MPs are not solely beholden to their party elite s as is the case with a party list system, and general elections, at least  since 1945, have normally produced a single party with a majority in the House of Commons.
This latter fact  means that the vast majority of modern British government have not been able to fail to honour their manifestos on the grounds that they  were part of a coalition.

If a demand for a president arose in  Britain  there would be an opportunity for those pressing for such a change to seek an executive president  with the executive removed from Parliament on the grounds that it was “more democratic” and provided a check on the power of the executive. . Anyone who thinks this is a good idea should look at the American experience where the powers of the president are constrained by a division of powers outlined in a written constitution administered by a supreme court. The President appoints his cabinet subject only to the agreement of the Senate, the President’s nominees being normally accepted.  Supreme Court judges are also nominated by serving presidents and vetted by the Senate.  These nominations   meet more Senate opposition, but most of those nominated are passed and if one is rejected, the President still gets to nominate an alternative.  That means a president  will broadly speaking get a judge into the court who is sympathetic to the president’s political views. As Supreme Court judges are elected for life,  a president
who is able to get even two new judges onto the court may affect its political bias for decades.

Even if a supposedly non-executive president was adopted with the executive remaining in Parliament,   the relationship between the prime minster  and head of state would be different. If the president was elected, there would be a second font of democratic authority regardless of the president’s powers. This would mean that there would be a constant temptation for a powerful politician to get themselves or a stooge elected to the presidency and then use their control  of Parliament to increase the president’s powers. If the president was simply appointed by politicians  a prime minster with a large majority could either take the presidency themselves and use his parliamentary control to increase his powers or place a stooge in as president, use Parliament to increase the presidential powers then control the stooge.

None of this is to pretend that the British system of government is perfect for the executive  has  found many ways of thwarting proper parliamentary oversight and control . The way it does this is fivefold (1) the entanglement  of  Britain in treaties, most devastatingly those related to the EU,  which remove sovereign power from not only Parliament but Britain; (2)  the increasing grip of party elites on the selection of candidates for Westminster seats, something of particular importance with the rise of the career politician who has never done
a job outside of politics; (3) an ever swelling use of secondary legislation, particularly statutory instruments,  which provide  much less opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny than primary legislation; (4)  the increasing appointment  of peers as ministers and non-politicians as “Tsars” for particular policy areas and   (5) the use of the Royal Prerogative by prime ministers.

There are ready cures for these ills. Treaties could be repudiated to regain sovereignty; the power of selection of Parliamentary candidates invested  solely  in local constituency parties would greatly reduce the power of  party elites;  a requirement that a Parliamentary candidate should have ten years  work experience unconnected with politics before being able to stand for Parliament would end the career politician; withdrawal from the EU would greatly reduce the amount of secondary legislation and increased time to scrutinise what was left and the use of peers and non-politicians banned.

That leaves the Royal Prerogative which represents  a particularly danger to democratic control because the powers exercisable under it are large. This is because of the long, organic
development of the relationship between Parliament and the Crown, the powers and rights of the Crown are little circumscribed by law, although most, and all the important ones, are now invested in practice in the office of PM. The dissolution or proroguing of Parliament and the calling of elections are by the prerogative. The PM and his ministers are appointed by
the Crown.  In principle, the monarch could appoint a Government in which none of its members sat in Parliament. No Bill can become a law without the monarch’s signature. Treaties and the making of war and peace can and are made without the assent of Parliament. All foreign relations are in principle within the monarch’s remit.  Justice is the monarch’s. The Monarch can do no wrong. Many senior state appointments such as appointments to the higher judiciary and bishoprics are one by the prerogative.  The monarch is head of the armed forces. There is prerogative power which allows the Crown to expropriate or requisition private property (with proper compensation) in time of war or apprehension of war. The Crown has limited powers of legislation under the prerogative, principally as respects the civil service and UK dependent territories.  This legislation is made by  Orders in Council, ordinance, letters patent and royal warrant. A ragbag of other rights such as treasure trove  and bona vacantia (the reversion to the Crown of property where there is no inheritor) and arcane rights such as the monarch’s right to (most) swans also exists.

The simplest thing would be  to cancel all prerogative rights which have a serious political dimension. This would reduce greatly the power of the PM and consequently  pass power to Parliament.  Such powers as are left to the monarch  should be laid down clearly in law. That would do a great deal to increase the power of Parliament and the ordinary member.
However,  more could be done without producing a situation which would leave a Parliament with an executive unable to act.  I would ban the whipping of MPs,  restrict the size of government to reduce the government “payroll vote” ( modern governments draw in more than 100 MPs) and make  the justice system truly independent by removing the political officers – Lord Chancellor, Attorney-General and Solicitor-General  – from the process of justice.

The banning of whips would not mean a government with a working  majority was constantly defeated because most party members will vote for their party programme. Governments would have to get used to accepting the odd defeat on even important policies as a fact of life not a cause to call a motion of confidence.  The reduction of the “payroll vote” would lead
to more independent minded backbenchers who would see  being a backbencher as an honourable and worthwhile end it itself.  The removal of the politicians from the process of justice is necessary to observe natural justice.

Two other things would be s desirable as a check on the executive: a written constitution designed not to promote a political agenda but to protect democratic control and prevent governments from undertaking anti-democratic policies or reckless behaviour which self-evidently will be damaging to the country.  If there is a Supreme Court to administer it, judges should be selected for a fixed period of five years and chosen by a free vote of the Commons. Alternatively, the administration could be done by a reformed second chamber (see below).

The second thing is electoral reform.  To address the problem of parties with even  less than 40% of the popular vote ending up with large majorities,  for the Commons  I would suggest double member constituencies  with each elector having a single vote. The two candidates  receiving the most votes in each constituency  would be  elected. This would probably  both reduce the size of majorities whilst giving any elector a choice of two MPs to go to rather than one.

As for the Lords, if you want a house which will not engage in a democratic mandate war with the Commons or simply replicate the party dominance of the Commons, I suggest selecting a house by lot from all those who put themselves forward to serve a single term of ten years, sufficient time for them to become proficient as a revising chamber.

The ever increasing madness of political correctness

In the past two days there have been a series of stories which demonstrate both the grip on British society established by the  ideology which is political correctness and the  power of such totalitarian creeds  to drive its disciples to ever more absurd behaviour – totalitarian because the politically correct hold that theirs is the only permissible view to hold and because the creed intrudes into every aspect of life because of the central role played  in it by discrimination, there being nothing which cannot be potentially described in terms of unequal treatment .

The stories range from the sinister to the risible.  The most sinister was the case of a part-time musician Simon Ledger who was arrested by the police after he played   Carl Douglas’s 1974 number one hit Kung Fu Fighter as a Chinese man happened to walk by his performance on the seafront at Sandown in the Isle of White.  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8475965/Pub-singers-racism-arrest-over-Kung-Fu-Fighting-performance.html). The Chinese man made a complaint to the police of racial harassment  (the simple playing of the song was the basis  of the alleged racial harassment as it “stereotyped “ the Chinese man)  and they immediately treated this as a matter of great urgency. Ledger was arrested, had his photo, DNA and fingerprints taken  before being bailed.  The next day he was questioned by and  gave a statement to the police, a process   which took 90 minutes . The police decided no  offence had been committed,  but  Ledger had suffered the upset of being accused of a crime treated as the most  toxic by the British elite and his photo, DNA and fingerprints remain on the police national database in perpetuity.  The logic of the arrest on such absurd grounds is that no musician performing in public can be certain they will not be arrested through unwittingly playing a tune  or song which someone will consider racially demeaning.

The second story involved a black headmistress Shirley Patterson.  Patterson headed a school in Southwark, South London. Hers is a truly bizarre complaint.  A school-governor  David Moyle put a poster advertising a parent-teacher evening which used a photograph of plastic human figures  consisting of Charles Darwin in the centre surrounded other white figures waving objects such as staves and pitchforks at Darwin. Patterson “called the  police to allege harassment, saying she believed the figure was meant to depict her surrounded by a mob of white parents. Governor David Moyle said his poster advertising a parents’ meeting was a joke about pushy parents demanding higher standards – and police decided no crime had been committed.”   (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23944678-we-were-right-to-suspend-school-governor-in-race-row-over-poster.do ) . This was not the end of the matter because Southwark council set up their own investigation and suspended Moyle.

Down in Pitcombe in Somerset the police were on the trail of another dangerous criminal. His crime?  Someone had put up  picture which made Conservative councillor Mike Beech look like Hitler.  In pursuit of this dangerous felon the police conducted door-to-door searches on the twenty odd houses in the hamlet. ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8475561/Police-hunt-joker-who-drew-Hitler-moustache.html).

Down in the House of Commons alleged male chauvinism stirred. During Prime Minister’s Questions PM David Cameron advised  Angela Eagle, a shadow Treasury minister, to “Calm down dear”  as Ms Eagle, who is a feminist made in the Andrea Dworkin mould,  rowdily barracked Cameron from the opposition front bench.  Cue for the Labour Party to engage in an orgy of PC posturing and the media to make it the lead story in news bulletins for a day. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/8476624/Calm-down-dear-David-Camerons-sexist-taunt-to-Labour-MP.html ).

The final story carried absurdity the furthest.  The Journal of Animal Ethics railed against such enormities as the use of pet to describe , well, pets and wildlife to describe er wildlife.  The editor of  the journal Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, a theologian and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, wants everyone to refer to pets as companion animals,  owners as carers  and wildlife as ‘free-living’, ‘free-ranging’ or ‘free-roaming’. Not content with this, the Journal urges the ending of phrases such as  ‘“sly as a fox, “eat like a pig” or “drunk as a skunk”’ because they are ‘ all unfair to animals’. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8479391/Calling-animals-pets-is-insulting-academics-claim).

That is just a couple of days’ of this particular form of ideological madness.  A situation has been created in Britain today akin to that of Stalin’s Russia. It is no longer possible  to remain safe by subscribing to the tenets of the ruling ideology  because the ideology keeps changing its shape and increasing its range. Even the most dedicated and enthusiastic follower of political correctness can find themselves in the coils of heresy simply because they have either not known that a new ideological  rule has been introduced or because they have not anticipated a circumstance in which a hitherto unknown identified breach of the creed is unearthed.

The effect political correctness on individual lives can be profound.  Jobs can be lost on a whim and criminal investigations started at the drop of a hat,. The police have been turned into political commissars in the service of political correctness. The idea that a man can be arrested simply for performing a song  and  have his photo, fingerprints and DNA put permanently on a police database is positively sinister.

There is also another sinister aspect to this type of crime.  The police do not routinely investigate crimes – try getting them to investigate a burglary. In the case of incitement to racial hatred cases they operate a double standard: if the complainant is from an ethnic minority they investigate; if the complainant is white they refuse not only to investigate but to record the complaint.  I have direct experience of this involving the Metropolitan police. Let me illustrate their unwillingness to act with correspondence  between Sir John Stevens (then Metropolitan Police Commissioner), Gerald Howarth MP and myself after I made a complaint of racial incitement by the then BBC Director-General Greg Dyke after he referred to the BBC as “hideously white.”  It shows clearly how determined the police are not to investigate complaints of racial incitement when it involves someone considered to be part of the politically correct elite and the complaint is made by someone white concerning abuse of that racial group.  Here is the complete correspondence in date order:

                                                18 January 2001

Asst Dept. Comm. John Grieve

Racial and Violent Crimes Squad

 Metropolitan Police

 New Scotland Yard

 10 The Broadway

  London SWlH 6BG

                                            cc All national newspapers

                                               Gerald Howorth MP

 Dear Mr Grieve,

I  ask  you to take investigate  the statement  by  the   BBC   Director  General,  Greg Dyke,  that the  BBC  is  “hideously   white” for inciting racial hatred.

The  statement  is unambiguously racist because  Mr  Dyke  is  making  a statement about a  recognised racial group and   the    use  of  the word “hideously”  is highly  inflammatory.   The         extremely unpleasant nature of it can be seen by substituting    black  or  Asian  for white:  “hideously  black”,  “hideously    Asian”.  Its  effect  can only be  to  incite  racial  hatred   against whites.

 The  severity  of  the offence is greatly  magnified  by   Mr    Dyke’s position as the head of our  state funded broadcaster.   I enclose a cutting from the Sunday Telegraph dated 7/1/2001,  to formally substantiate the statement Mr Dyke made.

I  am  sure that the severity of the offence  and  Mr  Dyke’s  position will lead a fervent anti-racist such as yourself  to  take immediate and exemplary action.

Yours sincerely,

 Robert Henderson

——————————————————————

John G D Grieve CBE QPM BA (Hons) M.Phil

Deputy Assistant Commissioner

Director, Racial & Violent Crime Task Force

Room 936 New Scotland Yard

Broadway LONDON

 SWIH 0BG

          Telephone: 0171-230-4186

          Facsimile: 0171-230-2152

          E-Mail: athena.met police@gtnet.gov, uk

Date: 31 January 2001

 Dear Mr Henderson

 I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 18th January, 2001  concerning remarks made by Mr Greg Dyke, the Director General   of the  BBC.

 When the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force was  established   in 1998 it was given clear terms of reference, which included  that  it   would only be tasked at the direct request  of  an   Assistant   Commissioner   from  within  this   Service.   In   acknowledgement  of the concerns  expressed about race  crime   and to endorse divisions as the focal point of  police-public   interference we established Community Safety  Units in  every  London Borough.

I have not seen or heard the comments you refer to but if you  feel  that  they may constitute a criminal  offence  you  can  report  the   matter  to  your  local  police  for   possible   investigation.

Yours sincerely

Detective Inspector Howard Gosling

Staff   Officer   to  John  G  D  Grieve   Deputy   Assistant    Commissioner  

——————————————————————

                                                  12 February 2001

Mr John Stevens

Metropolitan Police Commissioner

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SWlH 6BG

                                            cc All national newspapers

                                               Gerald Howorth MP

 Dear Mr Stevens,

I  enclose a copy of a letter I sent to John Grieve making  a   formal complaint against the BBC Director-General, Greg Dyke,   for his remarks about the BBC being “hideously white”.  

A  DI Gosling has replied on behalf of Mr Grieve.  A copy  of   his letter is enclosed. It is the type of letter which brings   the  public service into contempt. 

 DI Gosling makes himself ridiculous when he says “I have  not   seen or heard the comments you refer to…” Not only would he  have  had to be living in a cave for the past few months  not   to have met them through the general media coverage,  I  sent    a newspaper cutting giving the story and offending words with   my original letter of complaint to John Grieve.

 DI Gosling is begging the question when he says that an  Asst   Commissioner must “task”  Grieve’s group before action can be   taken.  The proper procedure when a complaint is made to John   Grieve is for it to be submitted to an Asst Commissioner.  If   it was rejected as inappropriate for action by the RVCTF,  it   should  have been submitted to my nearest police  station  in  accordance with standard police practice.  However,  this  is  manifestly  a  complaint which is suitable for  John  Grieve,   because  it  involves a public figure  with  great  practical influence and the words used were highly inflammatory.

 I  ask you to take up the complaint and instruct John  Grieve    to investigate it forthwith. 

 Yours sincerely,

 Robert Henderson

——————————————————————

                                                   6 March 2001

Mr John Stevens

Metropolitan Police Commissioner

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SWlH 6BG

                                            cc All national newspapers

                                               Gerald Howorth MP

Dear Mr Stevens,

I  wrote to you on 12 February concerning an absurd  reply  I  had  received  from  the  Racial  and  Violent  Crimes  Squad    following  a  complaint  I  had made  about  Greg  Dyke,  the   Director  General of the BBC (copy enclosed).  I have had  no   answer from you.  My original letter was sent, as is this, by  recorded delivery,  so please do not waste your time and mine  claiming it was not received.  

 If you refuse to address this complaint honestly,  it will be   unambiguous   proof that your police force is not  interested  in   applying   the  law  equally.   Dyke’s   comments   were  unambiguously  racist and his position in charge of the  only state broadcaster amplified them greatly. 

I suggest you reply by return of post.

 Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

——————————————————————

                                                     10-March 2001

 Mr John Stevens

Metropolitan Police Commissioner

 New Scotland Yard

 10 The Broadway

  London SWlH 6BG

                                           cc All national newspapers

                                               Gerald Howorth MP

Dear Mr Stevens,

I have Mr Grieve’s letter of 2 March in response to my letter   to you of 12 February. A bald refusal to act will not do.    

Anne   Robinson,   a   presenter,    makes   some   obviously    tongue-in-cheek   remarks  about  the  Welsh  on   a   comedy    programme:  result – the matter is referred to the police who  take  it seriously and begin preparing a file for  the  Crown  Prosecution Service.

Greg  Dyke,  the Director-General of the  state  broadcasting   service,  the BBC,  states that his senior management team is   “hideously  white”.  Mr Dyke is (1) the most powerful man  in  British broadcasting  and (2) the  remark  is  unambiguously    racist  in the crudest fashion and feeds the  resentments  of    the minorities in Britain. Yet you  refuse to act. Why?

 I repeat what I said in my letter of 6 March,  every time  you    refuse  to apply the law even-handedly,  a nail is knocked  in  the coffin of your credibility and that of your force.

 Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

——————————————————————

GERALD HOWARTH MP

HOUSE OF COMMONS

LONDON SW1A 0AA Direct line: 020 7219 5650

                        Fax: 020 7219 1198

19th March 2001

Dear Mr Grieve,

Mr Robert Henderson of 156 Levita House,  Chalton Street,  London NWl 1HR,  wrote to the commissioner about Mr Greg Dyke’s remarks  about  theBBC  being  ‘hideously  white’.  I do think the police owe  us  all  an explanation as to why those remarks -quite clearly racial  – warrant no reaction  from yourselves whilst the remarks of Ann Robinson about  the Welsh do.

What is the difference?

Yours sincerely,

Gerald Howorth

John G. D. Grieve Esq CBE, QPM,

Deputy Asst Commissioner

Director, Racial and Violent Crime Task Force

Room 936, New Scotland Yard

Broadway, SWIH OBG

——————————————————————

                                                                  2 April  2001

Sir John Stevens

Metropolitan Police Commissioner

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SWlH 6BG

                                           cc All national newspapers

                                               Gerald Howorth MP

 Dear Sir John,

 My apologies for missing your ‘K’ in previous letters. I have   had  no reply to my letter (sent by recorded delivery) of  10   March.  A  copy is attached.  Are you refusing to  give  your   reasons  for  failing  to  act  against  Greg  Dyke  for  his   “hideously white” comment?

I would also like answers to these questions:

 -  How many of the 100 odd people arrested for “hate  crimes”    by  the Metropolitan Police on 20th  March were a) black  and   b) Asian?

-  How much of the Met’s total budget for the financial  year  ending 5/4/2001 (or any other accounting period you use)  has  been spent on “anti-racist” measures including training?

-  How much of the Met’s total budget for the financial  year  ending 5/4/2001 (or any other accounting period you use)  has  been spent investigating crimes formally classified as racist  by the Met?

 Yours sincerely,

 Robert Henderson

——————————————————————

GERALD HOWARTH MP

HOUSE OF COMMONS LONDON SW1A 0AA

Direct line: 020 7219 5650

        Fax:    020 7219 1198

8th May 2001

Dear Mr Grieve,

Thank  you  for your letter of 26th April about the case raised  by  Mr Robert Henderson of 156 Levita House, Chalton Street, London  NWl 1 HR, about the remarks attributed to the Director General of the BBC.

You  will not be surprised to know that I am well aware of the  demands on  police  time and resources and support the  priority  of   tackling serious  crime.  However,  I  simply put it to  you:  what  would  have happened  had I referred to the music profession as  being   “hideously black”.  Can you not imagine that you would have been faced with  calls for me to be prosecuted and Mr Hague called upon to  expel me from  the Conservative Party?

It is that inequality of treatment which I find so offensive.

Yours sincerely

Gerald Howorth MP

John G. D. Grieve Esq CBE, QPM,

Deputy Asst Commissioner

Director, Racial and Violent Crime Task Force

Room 936, New Scotland Yard

Broadway, SW1H OBG

The value of anecdotal evidence

Robert Henderson

There is a general sneering at statements based on anecdotal evidence. This is wrong because although there are not sociological laws in the sense of  those in physics or chemistry, there are indubitably sociological phenomena which show that the behaviour  of humans is governed by more than their individual biology and experience. Opinion polls work on this assumption. Where the question asked is unambiguous and at least reasonably  uncontentious, the poll  of a thousand or so people is, when placed in the context of the superficially  atomistic nature  of human behaviour,  remarkably close to what the nation thinks. Polls of voting intention in general elections are generally accurate in terms of  the overall percentage vote  for each party if not in the constituency results.

Perhaps the neatest example of such a law in action is the voting at general elections. The voting patterns in a general election are generally uniform. If the swing from one party to another is 5% in the vast majority of constituencies it will be  close to that. Exceptionally some constituencies will return a different figure but invariably this
can be traced to factors such as a good or bad constituency MP, whether the MP is a minister and so on.

Of course, polls and market research are based on supposedly scientifically selected samples which remove bias and produce an answer which either applies to the population in general or whatever group is being polled.

When we collect anecdotal evidence we  automatically select from those within our social group which generally means people like us in terms of class  and education with age and sex also strong influences . That is no different in principle to  the pollster or market researcher polling , say, the members of a political party or middleclass women on childcare.  All we need to know about any anecdotal evidence is the likely group it has been culled from and then put it into context.

Some evidence arguably  does not even have to be put into social context. That is evidence which  consists of factual reports of actual behaviour. Take the case of  a riot. Those who witness it will by and large tell the same general story regardless of social status.

In one respect anecdotal evidence may be much closer to the truth than that gleaned by pollster. The more contentious a subject the less likely a person is to tell the truth to pollsters. They are much more likely to tell it in private conversation with friends, although there is peer pressure to conform to a particular view mitigate this advantage.

As to the objection that  anecdotal evidence will be  biased, of course it will be. The real question is  why should we believe it is generally more biased than that collected by pollsters?  Pollsters manipulate results by their questions and contentious questions often render poll results highly dubious for the reason given above. Moreover, we know that although a sample of  1,000  is generally reckoned to be the  size of sample beyond which little greater accuracy will be achieved, it is also true that much smaller samples  provide answers which are still pretty accurate. The average person assessing his or her view of an important matter will probably have taken in several dozens of  individual views through face to face social contact, the internet and the media before arriving at a judgement.  It is also true that the individual will bring all the normal human abilities to assess the views of others before  judgement is made, something polling does not do. That may actually be a more accurate way of assessing the general sociological mood of a population than scientific polling.  Finally, the sociological phenomenon of general change in population such as voting
behaviour will of itself  ensure a high degree of truth in the reporting of opinions because opinions will widely change through whatever sociological law governs such things.

To those still prone to sneer let them reflect on this: human beings actually run  their day to day  lives simply by basing their behaviour on the empirical evidence of what  others do and say, that is, anecdotal evidence.

Can  anecdotal evidence be quantified or evaluated objectively? Problematic to say the least, but perhaps the Rev Thomas Bayes (1703-61) can come to our rescue. A dictionary of philosophy (Pan)  states that Bayes developed a theorem “giving an expression for the probability of an hypothesis, h, if some evidence, e, is added to antecedent knowledge, a. The theorem states that the probability of  h relative to e and a is equal to the probability of  h relative to a multiplied  by the probability of e relative to h and a, and divided by the probability of e relative to a. This means that evidence improbable antecedently, but likely to obtain if the hypothesis is true, raises the probability of a hypothesis most. ”  The problem of assigning probabilities to antecedent evidence  exists, but in principle the theorem appears to be able to
deal with the type of information described as anecdotal.  It is worth adding that Bayes theorem  is widely used in science, engineering, computer modelling and robotics, so it has undeniable practical value.

The immorality of Utilitarianism

“The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure”. J.S.Mill

Utilitarianism is a transparently bogus philosophical theory because it poses as a moral philosophy when it is disqualified from being so because it deals not with the individual but the group. This means any moral enormity, for example the murder of one person to save the life of two people,  can be sanctioned against individuals or minorities on the grounds that the overall effect of a policy will be beneficial to the group.  Nevertheless, it has greatly influenced British politics over the past two centuries is worthy of study, as is Marxism, for that reason alone.

How did Utilitarianism arise? It was a theory born of the self-conscious rationalism which gripped the world after the definitive  mental  shift caused by Newton, a change of intellectual outlook which drove some to mistakenly believe that the behaviour of men could be reduced to laws as certain as those of motion.

As an individual  doctrine it originated with  the eighteenth century philosopher,  Jeremy Bentham. He first outlined the basics of Utilitarianism in his Fragment of Government published in 1776.  This  was an attack on Blackstone’s Commentaries (on English law), which Bentham viewed essentially as an apologia for English law written as   ruling  class propaganda.  Bentham’s interest in  the reformation of the law remained one of the strongest themes of his life and it was the field in which he had most practical  effect.  Most of the British  judicial  and penitential reforms of the nineteenth century originate from his ideas.

Treated purely as a philosophical construct, Utilitarianism is a literal nonsense, because the premise on which it is predicated – the greatest sum of happiness as determined by the pain pleasure calculus – is in principle impossible of any practical application, for  manifestly no objective quantification of the determination of the qualities such as   happiness, pain and pleasure can be made. However, even if that were not so, there are other grave objections.

As described by Bentham, Utilitarianism was essentially nothing more than a matter of social function.  Indeed, because the theory is concerned with the sum total of happiness rather than the happiness of the individual,  its claim to be an ethical system is objectively invalid.  From this arises one of the main objections to  Benthamite Utilitarianism,  namely how may the tyranny of the majority be prevented? If the greatest happiness of the group is all that is required, any amount of individual unhappiness less than the sum of the group happiness could be inflicted in search of the greater happiness of the group.

The other primary objection  was  that motivation  became  irrelevant. Thus, under the Benthamite regime, if I kill you by accident in the course of attempting to do you a favour, that is irrelevant in assessing the amount of pain I have  inflicted on your relatives and friends. I might as well have  murdered you. The only criteria by which Bentham attempted to  calculate pleasure or pain were its four “dimensions”:   intensity,  duration, the certainty of an event  happening  as a consequence of a particular action and the length of  time before it occurred. These again are obviously not capable of quantification.

J.S Mill, the son of a prime disciple of Bentham’s, James Mill, recognised those weaknesses in Benthamite thought and attempted to  introduce a genuinely moral aspect  into Utilitarianism by making the effect of actions upon others a cornerstone of the theory. However, in doing this, he made a nonsense of the idea of a neutral and objective test of  actions which was at the heart of Bethamism. That test although impractical was in principle objective.  Having introduced the idea of consequences for others.  Mill  then compounded his destruction of Benthamism  by assigning  values (to be treated as benchmarks by Utilitarians)  to  actions and things. Whereas Bentham had famously said that   “pushpin is as good as poetry” (one rather feels he might have felt at home in New Labour),  Mill held that “it is better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

In the course of his philosophical contortions,  Mill developed the mentality which is essentially that of the modern liberal bigot. Mill produced a philosophy which purported to still provide an objective means of testing the moral content of an action, but which in reality was merely a disguised wish list of Mill’s own desired moral  outcomes.    That is the position liberal bigots adopt today: they attempt to enforce their own ideology on everyone,  while claiming that they are merely following universal objective moral principles which they call Human Rights.

After  Mill,  Utilitarianism was  further  significantly developed by Henry Sidgwick  who enlarged on Mill  by  asserting  that the obligation to follow the  Greatest Happiness Principle only made sense if it was regarded as a fundamental moral intuition and from that general  premise    specific moral rules could be justified.

These days Utilitarianism is divided by academic philosophers into Act and Rule Utilitarianism.  Act utilitarianism is concerned  with the outcome of individual  acts.  Rule utilitarianism does not evaluate individual acts, but rather attempts to produce rules which can be generally used to guide behaviour, for example “Everyone should pay their  debts” or “Everyone should refrain from initiating violent   assault on another”.

Human beings are often placed in situations where they do have to make utilitarian choices. A recent example was a mother who was driving her two young children when she crashed and ended up in deep water. She had to choose which child to attempt to rescue first, knowing that the unlucky child might well die. Sure enough, the choice meant that the first child was saved and the other drowned. Anyone would feel great sympathy for a mother placed in such a situation. Nonetheless, the choice she made was not essentially a moral one. She had to decide who decided saving first. That choice may well have been made on practical grounds such as who was closest to her in the car or who was youngest, but who would doubt the possibility that the favourite child was chosen?  If so, that would not be a moral choice but one of personal predilection.   Moreover, even if the choice was made on practical criteria, who is to say that a younger child is more deserving than one who is older. It could be argued that the moral choice in this instance would have been extricating one child from the car then remaining underwater while trying to help the other child as well. That might well have resulted in the death of all three,  but it would have been a moral decision pure and simple.

No Second Amendment = a disarmed people

   “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people  to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” (American Constitution Second Amendment)

American liberals have a problem. They wish to remove the constitutional right to bear arms from the American people.  Their problem is the Second Amendment. To honestly achieve   their aim they would have to amend the Constitution. But   such amendments are difficult going on impossible.

To initiate amendments, either two thirds of both houses of Congress must vote for them or two thirds of the State legislatures must call for a convention for  proposing amendments. That is just the proposal process. This is  followed by acceptance by the individual States. In the former case, three quarters of the States must ratify the amendment individually: in the latter three quarters of the convention must vote for the amendment.

Those are stringent terms to meet in any political system, but particularly so in a state as vast and diverse as the USA and with such a strong tradition of regional government. Add to those structural difficulties the existence of widespread gun ownership  and powerful lobbies such as the National Rifle Association and the mountain becomes  practically insurmountable by honest means. So what does the liberal do?   What he always does when he wants to ban something which  is   permitted  by the Constitution: he  pretends that  the Constitution does not mean what it manifestly says.

In the case of the Second Amendment the attack takes the form of pretending that the Amendment was merely meant to provide for a militia rather than affirming and protecting the right of people to arm themselves individually. Happily, there is plenty of ammunition with which to shoot down this claim: in the Constitution itself, in the historical circumstances in which the Constitution and Amendment were drafted, in the very  logic of a militia.

The claim that the amendment is simply to safeguard the right of America’s military forces to keep and bear arms is self-evidently absurd. If true all the amendment would mean is that the federal government could not disarm the militia soldiers who represented the majority of its armed forces. It would be practically a redundant clause.

The fact that the Amendment states that the right is not merely to bear but to keep arms might be thought by most honest folk to be a pretty clear indication that the private ownership of weapons was what the framers of the Amendment had in mind. Moreover, what would be the point of the Amendment if it was not to confer such a right to the  individual? Any other permission to keep and bear arms must  of necessity be dependent upon permission from those with political power and authority. It would thus again  be a futile and redundant clause.  It is noteworthy that nowhere in the Constitution, amended or otherwise, is any instruction on the exercise of such state power given or hinted at. 

When judging the intent of the framers of the  Constitution  and the Bill of Rights (which contains the Second Amendment) it is necessary to know the general social and intellectual backcloth against which they worked. They were heir to the English  tradition of liberty and government by consent rather than pure tyranny. The Americans who rose against the   England of King George 111 did so because they considered themselves part of the tradition of English liberty. In seeking  independence,  they were not repudiating  that tradition but in their own minds returning to what they imagined was the true path of English liberty which had become  corrupted in England.  It is against this ancient English tradition  that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be set.

What does the unamended Constitution of 1787 say about the  protection of the newly formed United States? Section 8 of  Article 1 grants to Congress the right:

To raise and support Armies, but no appropriation of Money for that Use shall be for a longer term than two years.

 “To provide and maintain a Navy.

 “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of  the land and naval Forces.

 “To provide for calling forth the Militia to  execute  the  laws  of  the  Union,  suppress  Insurrections and repel Invasions.

 “To provide for organising, arming and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such part of them as  may be employed in the Service of the United  States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

The first point to note is that the Army and the militias are   clearly distinguished as separate entities. The second is the  time limit on the power to raise money for armies. This is  highly significant. There was a very  long tradition in England of professional standing armies being  heartily  mistrusted as the tool of despots. It was the attempt to  institute a standing army of thirty thousand men which was   one of the main reasons why King James 11 was overthrown in 1688. Armies were raised for wars, but in peacetime militias were the order of the day. Indeed, until the first world war England never had a great standing army. (The English  tradition is also echoed in the absence of any  time   restriction placed on the funding of a navy by the Founding   Fathers.  The English never feared a strong navy as such  because it could not be used against them).

With this English mistrust of standing armies and reliance on militias went a tradition of not merely allowing weapons to be generally held, but of such a practice being positively encouraged to ensure the defence of the country. Feudal military  obligation was in fact built on the private   provision not merely of men but of arms and equipment. In late medieval times statutes were enacted to encourage long bow practice. The Spanish Armada which attempted to invade England in 1588 was repulsed by a mixed English fleet of  private and Royal ships.

Perhaps the strongest single circumstantial reason  for  dismissing  the liberal’s interpretation of the  Second Amendment are the well attested motives for those promoting  the Bill of Rights. Those who pushed for the first ten Amendments did so because they believed that the rights and liberties of the individual were not guarded explicitly enough by the original Constitution. Thus ,if we are to believe the liberal, we must accept the truly fantastic explanation  that in the case of the Second Amendment the protection of individual liberty was utterly cast aside   without  reason,  public  acknowledgement  or,  most compellingly, any contemporary comment, adverse or otherwise.

There is also a question of simple practicality. When the Amendment  was passed (December 1791), the infant federal government simply did not have the means to finance the arming of militias. Thus, they can only have envisaged private arms being put to the service of the state, a tradition which as previously mentioned had a long history in  both England and the Thirteen Colonies. Moreover, subsequent history bore this out, for the greater number of troops  employed by the American Union in its wars against Britain  and Mexico in the first half of the 19th century came from militias. In an age of minimal government, the Second Amendment underpinned the whole scheme of national defence.

Does  the  Second Amendment allow for  any  government abridgement of the right to keep and bear arms? It might just be possible to sustain an argument that a register of guns would not breach the Second Amendment provided there was no restriction on the right to own and bear weapons, that is no  person could be denied the right either to appear on the  register or bear arms. But even here it could be argued with some force that the registration of weapons – particularly if it required complicated bureaucratic procedures – was an interference with the general right to bear arms. Moreover, if a right is general and absolute, it is by no means clear how  any procedure initiated by and insisted upon by the state could be legitimate because by definition there can be no legitimate restriction of the right.

Americans produce a multitude of reasons for retaining their guns. They argue on the grounds of personal liberty. They argue on the grounds of deterring crime. They argue on the grounds of personal protection. They argue on a dozen and one grounds. This to my mind is a mistake. Good causes do not need to be bolstered by a battery of arguments. Good causes   need but one argument.  The only necessary  argument for  private gun ownership is in the Second Amendment:  “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” The key words here are “a free state”. That phrase  cannot mean solely to maintain the  state in its independence from other states, because that could as well apply to a dictatorship as well as a democracy. In the context of the reasons for the American War of Independence “a free state”  must also mean the maintenance of the freedom of the citizens from the oppressive power of the state. That after all was what the whole breach with England was about. Moreover, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are written in a manner which actively extols the individual over the state, viz: “We the people of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity,  provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of  Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish  this Constitution for the United States  of America.” (preamble to the Constitution).

The general motivation for demanding gun control is not the saving of lives. (Its only effect in England has been to leave guns predominately in the hands of criminals and the state).  Liberals wish to remove the general right of gun ownership in America for the same reason that they wish to interfere with the  lives of their people generally: they are natural authoritarians. They know that their philosophy (such as it is) conflicts utterly with human nature and are thus driven to  suppress  any resistance or  dissent  through  the intimidation of political correctness and the practical control of public life. The disarming of the American people is part of this oppressive strategy.

The desire to restrict the holding of arms has always come from those who wished to not only monopolise power but to do so on their own terms. When the crossbow was invented, the medieval nobility attempted to ban it because it reduced the effectiveness of the armoured and mounted knight. Failing in that, they attempted to restrict, with some success,  its   ownership to people they could control. The Samurai in Japan enforced ruthlessly their rule that only Samurai should carry swords. When the demobbed conscripts of British Army returned to Britain after the First World War, the British government passed the first serious laws regulating gun ownership not because they feared that the British would begin to murder one another in great numbers but because they feared Red   revolution.

If Americans wish to retain what is left of their freedom, they will do well to keep the Second Amendment intact. This means not merely retaining the status quo, but the mounting of legal challenges to every restriction on the holding and bearing of arms in the United States. The plain and hideously inescapable fact is that every attempt to restrict both gun ownership (or indeed any other weapon) and the bearing of arms made since the inauguration of the United States has been illegal. That applies whether or not the interference with the Constitutional right was undertaken at the  federal or the  state level. I suggest that legal action should consist not merely of Constitutional challenges, but civil   actions for damages against the federal and appropriate state governments by those actively and personally denied the right to bear arms.

Drug Control: Futile and Immoral

 Robert Henderson

During the nineteenth century, the period of Britain’s greatest power, comparative wealth and influence, drugs were freely available: at first hashish and opium in various forms, followed by cocaine, morphine and heroin in the latter part of the period.  Not only did the world not collapse and the country fall to ruin, Britain prospered greatly: GDP in 1900 was approximately ten times what it was in 1800, the population increased fourfold, social disorder decreased, the political franchise was considerably broadened, industrialisation proceeded apace and the Empire increased to become the only world empire ever worthy of the name.

Today we live in a country in which it is generally accepted that drug taking ranging from hashish to heroin is widespread despite drugs being illegal, expensive, difficult to obtain and of uncertain quality.  Yet even in these difficult financial times, Britain has the fifth or sixth  largest economy in the world, people are living ever longer and the general health and prosperity of the population is much improved and still improving and growing.  Drug taking now is self-evidently not going to bring society down or even seriously incommode it.

Let me add reminiscence.  I was an undergraduate at Keele University in the late sixties and early seventies.  At that time, the majority of Keele students took drugs: one was thought a little odd if one did not.  Yet the dropout rate was very low. Students took both drugs and their degrees with equal facility.

Once a product that is widely desired is made illegal a certain pattern of behaviour always results: a black market, gangsters, the  criminalisation of essentially law-abiding people and much social dislocation.  This applies whether or not the object of desire has long been part of the social fabric such as drink or a novelty such as crack cocaine.  Take the example of American Prohibition.  The consequence of that quite insane piece of social engineering was illegality on a Herculean scale.  Indeed, it was Prohibition that allowed the rise of the Mob and organised crime, with all the varied criminality and misery that brought not merely during Prohibition but ever since, a fact all too easily ignored by those who wish drugs to remain illegal.  Drug profits are and have been so large that they fund much of non-drug major crime.

The life of the addict

What is the life of the addict today?  Most will either not be able to get drugs supplied by the state or will reject those on offer such as the heroin substitute methadone because they are inadequate substitutes.  If the addict does not have money, he must regularly commit crime.  That may be anything from stealing from his family and friends to violent street robbery.  Living like that, he will probably alienate his family and friends and his only companions will be fellow addicts.  The addict may often become a dealer to fund his habit.  To obtain his drugs he is reliant on suppliers who have no scruples and who may not be readily available when the drug is needed.  The drugs he obtains may be adulterated or too pure and thus too powerful.  Either may kill the addict, although the number who die is actually small. If he is caught by the police the addict risks prison with all its brutalising effects.  In short, the average addict’s life is one of constant worry, frustration, social disruption and danger. It is that package of ills, not the effects of the drugs, that generally makes drug addicts go to rehab clinics.

That the average addict has to live in this way has severe consequences for society in general.  Even if someone is not the victim of a drug-related crime, everyone is affected by the cost of policing, trying and imprisoning addicts.  There are further costs, for example the state rehab centres that exist primarily because drugs are illegal and the provision of substitute drugs such as methadone.  It is also true that were drugs freely available, many poor addicts would be able to hold down a job because they would no longer have to spend their days desperately trying to get the means to purchase drugs.

The rich addict has a rather different life.  For him the main problems are the risk to health of adulterated goods or overdosing from an overly pure product and the danger of being arrested.  In practice, he normally manages to avoid both.  If he does fall ill or foul of the law, he can mitigate their effects by using his money.  Thus, the drug laws in practice discriminate between the rich and the poor.

Moral panic

Most people are aware at some level of the deleterious social effects of enforcing drug laws, yet overwhelmingly they support them.  The question is why?  The answer is that human beings are all too easily persuaded to join in a moral panic.

Moral panics are a consistent theme of society.  To take a few at random from English history.  On they economic front we have moral panics over tulip mania, the South Sea Bubble, canal mania and railway mania.  In every case the country, according to the Jeremiahs, stood on the brink of ruin.  On the moral front, we have had panics over the drink, unbelief,  ill-manners, unwed couples and illegitimacy.  On the political front we have had concerns that the lower orders would dispossess the well-to-do if they were given the vote and a positive bevy of despair over the country going to the dogs after some setback such as the loss of the America colonies.  All proved to be a passing fashion.  The world did not end, England still stood after they had passed and our society evolved safely.

In the case of drugs, those opposed to their legalisation are confused about both their effects and of what exactly they are afraid.  The truth is that very few people in Britain unambiguously die of drugs each year, the numbers being counted in dozens rather than hundreds.  By unambiguously I mean the death is attributable to the taking of a drug rather than merely being the death of an addict.  Moreover, many of those who do die from drugs, do so because of the problems associated with the lives they live as a direct consequence of drugs having been made illegal.

The problem is that every now and then a tragic death of a youngster hits the headlines and the media, politicians and the professional anti-drug propagandists go into action to paint a picture of a world run mad with drug deaths and drug induced disorder.  Parents are naturally appalled and worried when they see these rare consequences of drug use.  What they do not generally do is understand that these are wholly exceptional cases and that even if their children took drugs it is very unlikely that they will die or be seriously harmed.  That they do not understand this is not surprising because they are faced with more or less blanket anti-drug propaganda by politicians, police and the media.

For those who have family or friends who are addicts, reality impinges.  Their concerns and fears are frequently not primarily the largely illusory dangers of drug taking, but the antisocial behaviour to which the illegality of the drug drives the addict and the ever lurking dangers of imprisonment with which an addict must live.

The myth of a golden age

The moral panic about drugs is part of a larger moral panic that sees, quite against the evidence, that our present society is in some way lacking in the moral certainties and restraint of previous ages.  ‘Permissiveness’ and the welfare state are fingered as the culprits.  In fact, this is merely a re-run of previous moral panics that always harked back to a golden age.

A few facts from our social history.  The Welfare State did not suddenly materialise in 1945.  England has had a welfare state of sorts since the seventeenth century.  The Tudor concern for the growth of ‘sturdy beggars’ culminated in the Poor Laws of 1597 and 1601.  These created the first legally enforceable national provision for the poor in the world.  The Acts placed a legal obligation on parishes to provide for their poor by a general poor rate.  It was not generally enforced until after the Restoration, but from the latter part of that century it was in effect a welfare state and provided the means by which an able bodied man and his family might live even if they could not find paid work – although they would be expected to labour at work provided by the parish – and the infirm supported.

Between 1660 and 1830 the provision offered under Parish relief grew.  Outdoor relief, i.e. relief outside the workhouse reached its zenith with the supplementing of wages in what was known as the Speenhamland system.  (Sounds familiar?  Employers, generally farmers, did the obvious and reduced their wages to a level that permitted the recipient of such relief to live on the combined relief and the reduced wages).

By the 1830s, the Poor Law had become both an expensive, uneven and ill-administered system.  It was reformed by the Act of 1834 (the Poor Law Amendment Act), which standardised the provision of relief offered throughout the UK and retained the emphasis on helping the ‘deserving poor’, their deserving status being ensured by insistence on labour if the person was physically capable of it.  It was a harsh system – men and women were separated even if man and wife – and much hated, but again it did ensure a man and his family would not starve.

By the time that drugs were first criminalised in the 1920s,England had a very broad state provision for much of the population of what we would now call the welfare state: pensions, unemployment pay, sick pay, healthcare and education.

Alongside state provision was a vast array of private charity, providing everything from money, housing, education, training, employment and healthcare, such as it was before the latter half of the 19th century.

The truth is that people have always been able to escape the effects of their fecklessness.  Take unwanted children.  Until the end of the eighteenth century and quite probably later, infanticide was common in England.  Babies were also frequently left in public places in the hope that they would be ‘adopted’ by others.  Many were.  Later, formal adoption became common for the children of ‘fallen women’.

There were other ways of getting rid of children.  They could be left on the parish.  When older they could be sold (often by the parishes) as ‘apprentices’ to often-unscrupulous masters: chimney sweeps were frequently recruited in this manner.

The golden age of sexual propriety is just a small window in English history.  Illegitimacy was very high before the latter half of the 19th century.  Men frequently deserted women they had made pregnant: the ‘navigators’ who built the railways in the 19th century were probably the champions of this trick.

As for other fecklessness, until the formation of modern police forces your chances of being caught if you committed a crime were pretty small.  So, if you got into debt, a little light villainy could well get you out of it, at least in London, where ‘liberties’ – areas where the authorities would not go in normal times – protected criminals until the 1850s.  A golden age of moral restraint never existed.

How can the drug fearers be reassured?

How do we on the legalising side persuade the great mass of people that making drugs freely available is safe?  Well, let us start with the experience of the Victorians.  They were not in fact exercised massively by the social effects of drugs, although there was some concern about opium addiction.  Rather they were greatly concerned with the ‘demon drink’.  On a rational basis, they were correct to have that priority, because alcohol is by far the most socially disruptive drug.  Yet in practice, they lived quite comfortably with the ill effects of alcohol and developed a tremendously successful society.  We do the same today.  Most people take alcohol and behave reasonably.  There is a general lesson to be learnt from that, namely, when a drug is freely available a few will abuse it but most will not.

How can we be sure that what happens with alcohol will happen with drugs?  Simple, we point to the experience of drug use when the it was legal and debunk the myth of the past as a golden age of responsibility and restraint compared with our own.

What of the physical effects of drugs?  Few die of any illegal drug.  As for claims such as the supposed memory loss and loss of intellectual function in hashish users, I have known people who have taken marijuana or cannabis for more than thirty years.  I have noticed no intellectual diminution or memory loss in such people when compared with non-users I have known for an equivalent period.  Many people take hard drugs throughout their adult lives and live to a normal age.  Moreover, if drugs were legalised, the quality and strength of the drugs could be assured and what little risk there is of death and serious disablement would be further reduced.

How should legalisation be introduced?

The trick is to legalise all drugs.  If you merely legalise, say, cannabis, you have not cured the problem.  All you have done is deal with one of the symptoms.  People will still want other drugs.

In an ideal world, legalisation would take place globally. However, that is never going to happen, so if we wish to cut the Gordian knot we have no option but to go it alone.  Once one large First World country has had the courage to legalise all drugs, the odds are that the rest will not be far behind.

When I say legalise all drugs, I mean all drugs.  Prescription only drugs vary greatly from country to country and the Internet allows easy access to drugs unavailable in a particular country. Moreover, anyone with the money to go to a doctor privately has always been able to get most drugs on demand.  The objection that the effectiveness and useful life of drugs such as antibiotics will reduced really does not hold water when they are prescribed in such numbers and can be obtained without prescription in many countries.  Bacteria know no national boundaries.  It is also true that many substances that are non-prescription are as potentially dangerous as prescription drugs.

How should drugs be sold when legalised?  They should be treated as tobacco and alcohol are treated.  They should be taxed and be available as easily.  The tax would remove any reasonable gripe about health-related costs resulting from legalisation

There will be those who call for a lower age limit for the sale of drugs.  It may be necessary on political grounds to have such a limit, but let no one imagine that it will be any more effective than the age limits for drink and tobacco.  Such laws are in principle impossible to enforce because they will always be so widely broken that their policing is impossible.  They also have the ill effect of bringing the law into contempt because everyone knows that they are routinely broken.

What addicts want

I presently live in one of the drug hotspots of inner London. Addicts tell me the same story over and over again.  Their primary problems are the uncertainty of supply and the need to commit crimes to pay for their habit.  They also fret over going to prison.  What they are not concerned about is being addicts any more than a cigarette smoker is worried about being an addict.  Take away the criminality and the addicts’ problems, and the problems they cause the rest of us, will miraculously vanish.

People do not commonly go out mugging people to pay for cigarettes.  Legalise drugs and most users will not be out mugging people to pay for them, families will not be disrupted, users will not have their lives made a misery, the crimes of theft and street robbery will fall considerably, the police will be released for other duties, and the state will not have to pay for their imprisonment and ‘treatment’.

In short, let the sociology take the strain and society will not a have drug problem, it will merely have a hard core of abusers just as alcohol has a hard core of abusers.  The distribution of personality and personal circumstances within society and their interaction with the general culture ensures that will always be so.

For libertarians there are two strong reasons for supporting legalisation beyond the practical.  Firstly, the presumption for the libertarian must be that every individual has the right to make choices for himself or herself.  Secondly, the banning of anything gives the state great latitude to interfere in the lives of its people.

The hard truth of drug control is that it is not merely futile but immoral in its effects on individuals and society.

New Labour, new fascism? – Tony Blair and the Führer principle

 From the beginning of his leadership of the Labour Party Tony Blair’s rhetoric was heavily if unconsciously littered with fascist buzz words: NATION, NEW, RENEWAL and so on. But there is a greater similarity than single words:  Blair frequently expressed ideas which have a remarkable similarity to those of Oswald Mosley. To demonstrate this, I have compiled a series of quotes from Blair and Mosley. 

All the Mosley quotes come from speeches and writings made after the foundation of the British Union of Fascists. Therefore, the comparison is between Blair and Mosley as a committed Fascist, not between Blair and the moderate Mosley of the late twenties or, indeed, even the Mosley of the 1930 Manifesto or the New party. The majority of the Blair quotes date from after 1990; approximately half since he became Labour leader.

I have left each quote unidentified except by a number to allow the reader to speculate on who said or wrote what before checking who said what. (Readers seeking clues  should bear in mind that Mosley’s comments were made in the context of the Depression and the existence of continental Fascist powers).  The quotes  can  be  identified by using the notes supplied at the bottom of page.

The importance of Blair’s language is twofold: it gives an insight into his personality and explains in large part how he managed to take command of a party based on trade union power and funding and changed it into an organisation which at least at its leadership level embraced the Thatcherite undermining of the power of the working class and worshipped laissez faire economics. He did it by making the leader more important than the party, a classic fascist tactic.  Now for the quotes:

It combines the dynamic urge to change and progress, with the authority, the discipline and the order without which nothing great can be achieved.” (1)

It is largely from family discipline that  social discipline and a sense of responsibility is learnt. (2)

Our challenge to be a young country is not just economic, it is a social and moral challenge. (3)

I believe we have broken through the traditional barriers of right and left; that we are developing a new and radical economic approach for the left and centre. (4)

Above all it is a realistic creed. It has no use for immortal  principles in relation to the  facts  of bread-and-butter; and it despises the windy rhetoric which ascribes importance to mere formula. (5)

One Britain. That is the patriotism for the future. (6)

The steel creed of an iron age, it cuts through the verbiage of illusion to the achievement of a  new reality… (7)

It is no good waving the fabric of our flag when you have spent the last sixteen years tearing apart the fabric of our nation. (8)

A young country that wants to be a strong country cannot be morally neutral about the family. (9)

We have in unison in our cause the economic facts and the spiritual tendencies of our age… (10)

We need a new social morality. (11)

We seek to establish a new ideal of public service, and a new authority based on merit. (12)

It must be absolutely clear to the British people that we are a political arm of no one other than the British people themselves. (13)

The mild tinkering with the economy proposed by the Social Democrats nowhere near measures up to the problem.  A massive reconstruction of industry is needed…the resources required to reconstruct manufacturing industry call for enormous state guidance and intervention… (14)

We will protect British industry against unfair foreign competition. (15)

There is nothing odd about subsidizing an industry. (16)

It is true that within the old parties and even within the old parliament are many young men whose real place is  with us  and who sympathise with our ideas. The real political division of the past decade has not been a  division of parties, but a division of generations… (17)

The market collapsed: its guardians, the City whizz-kids with salaries fractionally less than their greed, now seem not just morally dubious, but incompetent. They failed miserably, proving themselves utterly unfit to have such power. (18)

Politically, the fall-out from the events of the past two weeks will be immense. There will be few politicians standing for election next time on a platform advocating ‘free markets’. (19)

The new establishment is not a meritocracy, but a power elite of money-shifters,  middle men and speculators…people whose self-interest will always come before the national or the public interest. (20)

The case advanced in these pages covers, not only a new political policy, but also a new conception of life. In our view, these purposes can only be achieved by the creation of a modern movement invading every sphere of  national life. (21)

We will speak up for a country that knows the good sense of a public industry in public hands. (22)

A nation at work, not on benefit. That is our pledge. (23)

Social aims without economic means are empty wishes. By uniting the two we can build a better future for all of our people. (24)

In our project of national renewal, education renewal must be at the forefront.  Our watchwords will be aspiration, opportunity and achievement. (25)

I want a negotiated settlement and I believe that given the starkness of the military options we need  to compromise on certain things. (26)

It is the primary responsibility of any government to defend the country. That much is obvious.  But my contention here is that a strong defence capability is an essential part of Britain’s foreign policy. (27)

To change our country, we must show that we have the courage to change ourselves. (28)

I think that you should always put the national interest before any section of interest in your own party. (29)

Our task now is nothing less than the rebirth of our nation. A new Britain. National renewal…The task of building new Britain now to come. (30)

We ask them [our supporters] to rewrite the greatest pages of British History by finding for the spirit of their age its highest mission in these islands. (31)

Without  an  active  interventionist industrial policy…Britain faces the future of having to compete on dangerously unequal terms. (32)

We aim to] “convert the existing chaotic survival of laissez-faire liberalism into a planned economy serving the needs of the State as a whole.” (33)

Blair’s quotes are all taken from Iain Dale’s ‘The Blair  Necessities’ (BN): those of Oswald Mosley from Eugene Weber’s   ‘Varieties of Fascism’ (VoF). Ergo, a quote number with BN against it is Blair’s: a quote number with VoF, Mosley’s.

  (1) VoF p170

  (2) BN p18 1993

  (3) BN p19 1995

  (4) BN p14 1996

  (5) VoF p170

  (6) BN p13 1996

  (7) VoF p171

  (8) BN p13 1996

  (9) BN p12 1995

  (10) VoF p172

  (11) BN p19 1996

  (12) VoF p111

  (13) BN p28 1996

  (14) BN p39 1982

  (15) BN p39 1983

  (16) BN 40  1983

  (17) VoF p172

  (18) BN p41 1987

  (19) BN p41 1987

  (20) BN p42 1994

  (21) VoF p171

  (22) BN p52 1988

  (23) BN p65 1995

  (24) BN p65 1995

  (25) BN p69 1994

  (26) BN p89 1982

  (27) BN p90 1997

  (28) BN p94 1993

  (29) BN p98 1996

  (30) BN p106 1995

  (31) VoF p175

  (32) BN p57 1988

  (33) VoFp116

The failure to charge Piers Morgan with illicitly receiving information from the police

The failure of the police to investigate the then editor of the News of the World Rebekah Wade in 2003 after she had admitted to a Commons select committee that the News of the World had paid policemen for information (see http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/the-refusal-of-the-police-to-investigate-rebekah-wade/) is not an isolated instance of the police refusing to investigate members of the mainstream media over allegations of corrupt behaviour involving payments to the police by the media. I have direct personal experience of this behaviour.  

During the 1997 election campaign Tony and Cherie Blair attempted to have me prosecuted for writing to them.(see http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/when-tony-and-cherie-blair-tried-to-have-me-jailed/). The Blairs did not go to the police when I sent them the letters, but later after I had circulated copies of my correspondence with them just before the election campaign started to every major media outlet. The fact that they did not go to the police when I sent the letters shows they clearly thought the letters were a threat to Blair’s election chances not that I represented any threat to the Blairs.   When their  attempt to have me jailed failed dismally they attempted to intimidate me into silence by arranging for the Daily Mirror – then the NuLabour house journal – and its sister paper the Scottish Daily Herald to run exceptionally libellous stories about me.

Daily Mirror 25 March 1997

‘PEST TARGETS BLAIRS’ 

                  Jeff Edwards Chief Crime Correspondent                                      

                 Police called in over string of hate letters

                 Police are probing a string of race hate  letters

               to Tony and Cherie Blair.

               The deluge of sinister messages sent to the  couple

               through the Labour Leader’s office at the House  of

               Commons began last year.

                 Insiders   described   them  as   “personal   and

               offensive”.

                 And  they  feared the letter  writer  could  even

               become a stalker.

                 The  man behind the hate mail has been  described

               as 51-year-old Robert Henderson.

                 He sparked a huge row two years ago when he wrote

               an article criticising black players in the England

               Cricket  Team  for  the  Magazine  Wisden’s   [sic]

               Cricket Monthly

                                    GRAPHIC

                 The  magazine was successfully sued for libel  by

               England fast bowler Devon Malcolm.

               At  first  staff at Labour’s HQ in  Walworth  Road,

               South East London,  ignored the letters sent to the

               Blairs.

                 But  they decided to call in the police when  the

               TYPED messages became a rant against the couple and

               started  arriving  at the rate of three or  four  a

               week.

                 Insiders  say  the  letters  -  with  Henderson’s

               signature  and north London address – are  full  of

               graphic racist filth implying Mr Blair would  relax

               immigration laws once he gets to No 10.

                 A  Labour  insider said last night:  “The  writer

               said  things  like  ‘why are you  married  to  that

               idiot?  If  he gets elected he’ll let  in  all  the

               blacks and Asians.’”

                 Detectives  visited the Blairs at Labour HQ  last

               week.

                 They  were  shown dozens of  letters  which  were

               taken away for forensic tests.

                 The letters – posted in London -  have also  been

               studied by the Crown Prosecution Service.

                 Police said sending such material could result in

               an assault charge.

                 The  insider added:  “MPs often  get  threatening

               mail which would go in the bin.

                 “But this is different. It has become a campaign,

               a  bombardment.   The  writer  displays  tendencies

               associated with stalkers.

                 “This writer is unusually persistent. The tone of

               the letters has become increasingly nasty.

                 “He uses sewer language. The letters are racially

               insulting.

                 When  the Mirror approached  ex-public  schoolboy

               Henderson yesterday at his council flat, he refused

               to discuss the letters.

                 Last  night  a  Labour  spokesman  said:  “Public

               figures getting offensive material in the post  are

               advised to refer them to police.

                 “We now consider this man is not worth giving any

               more publicity to.”

                  A Scotland Yard source said: “By sending letters

               in a very unpleasant tone the writer has  committed

               an assault.”

                 Special Branch,  who organise protection for MPs,

               have been informed of the situation.

The article was accompanied by a large photograph of  me, printed  after I had specifically withheld my permission  for its use,  and was flagged on the front page with the charming  headline “COPS PROBE BLAIR PEST – EXCLUSIVE:  Fears over race hate mail.”

The  Mirror story contained  these  objectively  provable libels:  (1)  the  false accusation of  sending  ‘Race  hate’ letters  to Tony and Cherie Blair,  (2) the false  accusation that I sent  dozens of letters to the Blairs,  (3) the  false  accusation of assault,  (4) The false accusation  of  sending letters  containing  ‘graphic racist filth’,  (5)  the  false accusation of sending letters containing ‘racial insult’, (6)          the  false  accusation of sending letters  containing  ‘sewer  language’,  (7) the false accusation that I have  ‘tendencies associated  with  stalkers’,  (8) the  completely  fabricated quote  ‘If  he [Blair] gets elected,  he’ll let  in  all  the blacks and Asians’ and (9) the false statement that I refused to comment on the letters when approached by the Mirror.

Here is the Daily  Herald’s offering  published on the  same day as  the   Mirror story:

                    CHERIE BLAIR RECEIVES HATE LETTERS

                  Sicko letters sent to Cherie

                 Tony Blair’s Wife Cherie has been bombarded  with

               hate mail.

                 Police were called in after Mrs Blair feared  the

               writer showed classic signs of being a stalker.

                 The  letters,  which are said to  contain  racist

               filth  and  are described  as  “deeply  offensive”,

               began last year.

                 They  are  said to have been  written  by  Robert

               Henderson,  who  two  years  ago  penned  a  racist

               article criticising the selection of black  players

               for the English cricket team.

                 Detectives were shown a bundle of 100 letters  at

               a two hour meeting with the Blairs.

                 The  letters,  all posted in  London,  have  been

               taken away for forensic examination.  But Mrs Blair

               is thought to have declined to turn the matter into

               a criminal case.

 This story contained these objective provable libels:  (1) that  I sent “hate letters”  to Cherie Blair,  (2)  that  the letters were “sick”,  (3) that I bombarded Cherie Blair  with letters, 4) that I sent letters to Cherie Blair in  1996, (5)  that the letters contained “racist filth”,     (6)  that the police were shown 100 letters,  (7) that the letters were          “deeply offensive” and (8) that Cherie Blair declined to have  me   prosecuted  (That  decision  was  made  by   the   Crown       Prosecution Service who declared that “NO CRIME” had been committed).

 I responded to the Mirror  by writing this article which the Mirror refused to publish (they also refused to make any retraction or publish even a short letter from me).

 Moral Simpletons Target Innocent Man

 Robert Henderson

 The Mirror story on 25 March ‘Pest targets Blairs’ contained one correct fact, I have been in correspondence with the Blairs.

 The article states that I have been incessantly bombarding the Blairs with letters. False. Beginning in March 1996, I have written Blair nine letters and his wife four. My last letter to his wife was dated 25th February: to Blair 27th January. This year I have written one letter to Blair.

I wrote to his wife as a last resort after Blair had persistently refused to deal with my serious complaints against two members of his party, my MP, Frank Dobson and Diane Abbott. The complaints concerned Dobson and Abbott’s behaviour towards me. I have only written as often as I have because of Blair’s persistent refusal to act honourably.

My letters to him all dealt with legitimate political subjects, namely the obligations of an MP to his constituents, Diane Abbott’s hypocrisy towards me (she got on her “antiracist” high horse after the publication of ‘Is it in the blood?’), the publicly demonstrated anti-white racist behaviour of some Labour MPs, the misbehaviour of the media towards me, my inability to gain redress from both the Press Complaints Commission and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and, lastly, the committal of perjury by a barrister and a well known firm of solicitors.

My letters to his wife were primarily a conduit to Blair – this I made clear in my first letter Mrs Blair. Nowhere in my letters have I made threats. Never have I attempted to force my physical presence on either of the Blairs. Let me put the fears of this extraordinarily nervous couple to rest. You are not nor ever have been in any physical danger from me. (Terrified of beggars, terrified of me. This is a man to be prime minister?)

The Mirror quotes the Walworth Road insider as saying that my letters are full of “graphic racist filth” and “sewer language”. This is utterly untrue. There is a simple way to resolve the matter. I challenge the Mirror to first publish the letters upon which the article was based and then my correspondence with the Blairs in its entirety. Let the public judge.

The Mirror’s misrepresentation extended to completely fabricated quotes such as “If he gets in elected he’ll let in all the blacks and Asians”. It will come as a surprise to your readers to learn that I did not address the subject of Labour immigration policy in any of my letters. Frankly, I do not believe that a Blair government will make any substantial difference because Britain has not operated a meaningful immigration policy since we joined the EU. However, it would be nice to know one Labour policy before the election. So what is Labour policy on immigration Mr Blair?

I have expressed my personal opinion of the Blairs in my letters, but that is legitimate because they are public figures. The referral of the correspondence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is shameful and sinister: the opening of a Special Branch file on me ludicrous.

My judgement of Blair is that he is not intellectually or temperamentally equipped to be prime minister because he possesses a subordinate personality – by which I mean he is not one of Nature’s number ones – and is at once extremely nervous and intellectually vacuous. Like all weak men in positions of authority, he acts in an authoritarian manner to hide his deficiencies. I am also not ready for the embarrassment of a prime minister with the voice and manner of an overly earnest fifth former. (“I vow, pipe, pipe…I vow, pipe, pipe…I vow, pipe,pipe, pipe”).

People may disagree with my interpretation of Blair’s character, but it cannot be legitimately argued in a democracy that public judgement of the personality of a potential prime minister is illegitimate. Blair’s referral of the letters to the CPS is reminiscent of his authoritarian treatment of dissident Labour MPs and party activists. The man is simply unable to handle contrary opinion or criticism. (Still dreaming of a 1000 year Blaireich young Tony?) In a stable political environment such as ours, only weak men need to suppress dissent.

As for his wife, all I have done in one of my letters is point to the distance between her lifestyle and traditional Labour values and express my disgust at the hypocrisy of the decision to send her son to a school outside the borough. (Why should your children not be educated in the type of school the murdered white schoolboy Richard Everitt had to endure, Mrs Blair?) His wife is a public figure both by her association with Blair and her active political past. Ergo, criticism of her is licit.

I would add that more vicious and vulgarly expressed criticism of the Blairs appears regularly in the National Press. For example, the Daily Telegraph printed a story recently under the heading “Blair like a scared child says US interviewer” (4/2/97) and a Barbara Amiel article ‘I prefer my Cherie sour’ (24/2/9) depicted his wife as a curious mixture of the churlish and the submissive. As for vulgarity, how about computer simulations of a bald Blair?

That an ill-written sensationalist comic as the Mirror is become – I remember when it was a bona fide newspaper – should accuse anyone of sewer language is a joke in extremely bad taste. As for “graphic racist filth”, what about the Mirror story on 26 March headed “She should be hanged” showing a photograph of the black murderess, Sharon Carr? That type of presentation is grossly inflammatory as any black will tell you.

By referring the matter to the CPS, Blair is saying in effect that there will be two standards, one for the media, one for private citizens. This is incompatible with both the principle of equality before the law and democracy.

The article mentions assault through correspondence. The Mirror article was infinitely more damaging than my correspondence with the Blairs. If anyone is to be charged with this novel idea of assault it is the editor of the Mirror. Speaking of which I come to a more conventional form of assault.

The Mirror photographer, who gave his name as Simpson, began firing off shots before either he or the accompanying reporter, Graham Brough, had introduced themselves. That broke the PCC code of Conduct. I then told him that I suffered from an illness which included exceptional sensitivity to light. He continued snapping. That is an assault.

I also told the reporter and photographer that I did not give my permission for the use of the photographs. The Mirror has used one. That breached the PCC code of conduct.

Perhaps the most contemptible part of the article was the claim that I had the mentality of a stalker. I suggest that the Mirror looks at the beam in its own journalistic eye. It is papers such as the Mirror which harass people for no better reason than to provide copy that possess the mentality of a stalker.

The decision to print this article is better described as deranged than reckless. The matter is made worse because the writer of the article, Jeff Edwards, claimed during a telephone conversation with me (which I have on tape) that he had seen my correspondence with the Blairs before writing the article. Moreover, I recently sent copies of my more recent correspondence with Blair to both the Mirror editor and political editor. The awful truth is that these grotesque libels were committed deliberately not through recklessness. I can only suppose that recent Mail accusations of murder in the Stephen Lawrence case have removed the last vestiges of restraint from Fleet Street.

Because of the deliberate fabrication and the seriousness of the libels, I have asked the DPP to instigate proceedings for criminal libel against the Mirror editor, Edwards and the anonymous Walworth Road informant if he or she can be identified. Readers should note that Walworth Road have refused to allow me to speak to anyone with real authority within the Labour party.

The Mirror’s behaviour since the article has been as cowardly as that of Labour. Neither the editor nor deputy editor has been willing to ,speak to me. Obviously the Mirror has no confidence in their story.

I have written to Blair asking him to(1) identify the Walworth Road informant before sacking them and expelling them from the Labour party and (2) issue a statement making clear that your article was a tissue of inexcusably vicious lies.

As for refusing to comment when the Mirror reporter called at my flat, this is untrue. I told him I was happy to comment in writing but was unwilling to give an interview. I refused the interview because my experience since the publication of ‘Is it in the blood?’ has left me in no doubt that no person working in the media can be trusted to behave honestly. It is not that mediafolk operate a different code of morals when dealing with the private citizen, they do not operate any code of morals at all.

I cannot but feel that my offences are ones unknown to English law, namely the heinous crimes of not taking Tiny Tone immensely seriously and failing to grant him fawning respect.

Let me summarise your article in words which your readers will be able to understand with the aid of a dictionary. It was a cargo of ancient male gonads.

(1) 4/2/97

(2) 24/2/97

Because the Mirror and the Herald refused me any redress, I took my case to the Press Complaints Commission. Although they in the end refused to make an adjudication (without giving any meaningful reason), I did obtain one useful piece of information from them, a letter sent to them by the then Mirror editor Piers Morgan. In the letter, amongst much bluster, Morgan admits to two amazing things: the Mirror has not seen my letters to the Blairs and the story was based on a police informant: “The  police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect) [RH: thus the police informant behaved illegally by supplying the information] gave us the detail of the letters that we then published.”  Here is Morgan’s full letter into which I have interpolated my comments in brackets marked RH.   

 FROM THE EDITOR

 By fax (0171-353 8355) & by post

 16 October 1997

 Your ref: 970738

 Christopher Hayes Esq

Press Complaints Commission

I Salisbury Square

London

EC4Y 8AE

Dear Mr Hayes

 Mr Robert Henderson

I refer to Mr Henderson’s complaint as outlined in his letter of 23 September.

As you are aware, we have been in contact with Mr Henderson for some time due to his propensity to bombard individuals and this office with correspondence. [RH: Translation: Mr Henderson sent more than one letter because the Mirror refused to reply].

 There are certain irrefutable facts that escape emphasis in Mr Henderson’s correspondence.

 Far from ignoring any of his correspondence we have written to him on the 20 May, 22 July and 6 August. [RH: The letter of 20 May merely said he was not going to enter into correspondence. The other two letters were from his legal department in response to Subject Access Requests I made under the data Protection Act. These were legally required]. We have consistently made it clear that we have no intention of entering into any further correspondence with him.

 Be that as it may I will address his concerns:-

 In essence, the basic “sting” of the article, of which he complains, was that he had been sending numerous insulting letters, some  with racist undertones, to Mr and Mrs Blair which had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration.

 Mr Henderson himself admits that he sent Mr and Mrs Blair at least thirteen letters. I have no way of directly knowing of the content of those letters because I have not had sight of them. However, clearly they sufficiently concerned Mr Blair’s office to be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service [RH: The CPS said as soon as they saw the letters that they were entirely legal] and I think the Commission  is perfectly entitled  to draw an adverse inference on the  contents  of those letters as a result of that referral.

 I cannot accept Mr Henderson’s explanation for writing {o Cherie Blair. To do so was clearly designed to intimidate.  In Mr Henderson’s draft article “Moral Simpletons Target Innocent Man” the bile that he shows on the second page of that article  clearly illustrates his capacity to insult in his letters to Mr and Mrs  Blair[RH: an absurd deduction. What I wrote to the Mirror says nothing about what I wrote to the Blairs] (to the extent that they be  referredto  the  Crown  Prosecution Service).  I would also  refer  the Commission to Mr Henderson’s gratuitous reference to a “Blaireich”.

He also admits to expressing his disgust (we can only guess in what terms) of the decision of Mr and Mrs Blair not to send their son to a school whereby a white schoolboy was, apparently, murdered by five other boys (and that that murder was racially motivated). [RH: This was the Richard Everitt murder]. 

The  police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect) [RH: thus the police informant behaved illegally by supplying the information] gave us the detail of the letters that we then published. Nothing that Mr Henderson writes has convinced me that the article was anything other than accurate.

Perhaps one can get a flavour of his correspondence with Mr and Mrs Blair by examining the final sentence of his draft article in which he states “It was a cargo of ancient male gonads”. 

The Commission may be aware (I am attempting to get hold of the article) that the article of Mr  Henderson’s  that  appeared in Wisden’s Cricket Monthly in 1995 gave rise to an extraordinary amount of controversy and  resulted in Wisden paying substantial libel damages to the Cricketer, Devon Malcolm,[RH: Malcolm refused to sue me after I made it clear I would take the case to the floor of a court]  whom the Commission will be aware is a coloured fast bowler for England. As I understand the matter,  and Mr Henderson will correct me if I am wrong, the article implied that coloured players will not try as hard when playing for England as white  players.  [RH: The article put it forward as a possibility, no more].

 I have discussed the legal position with the newspaper’s solicitor, Martin Cruddace [RH: Cruddace is a proven liar. He made a declaration to my Subject Access Request under the Data protection Action to the effect that the Mirror held no qualifying documents. Eventually after I had done some detective work, he had to admit that the Mirror had a small matter of 118 pages of documents relating to me],  and he has assured me that the law has  recently developed whereby words (be they written or  spoken) can constitute assault [RH: No person in the UK has been convicted of such a crime. The definition of GBH has been extended to non-physical abuse such as abusive phone calls but it requires a psychiatric illness to be proved to be caused by the alleged abusive behaviour. Mere emotions such as fear do not qualify. The failure of the police to consider such a course and the CPS’ immediate definition of the case as “NO CRIME” shows that my letters were entirely lawful] if the pattern of those words is such as to make the recipient of  them either anxious or ill.  It has developed as a reaction to the former impotence of the law on stalking.

The law has therefore developed since the publication of the dictionary reference on which Mr Henderson relies.

 I cannot accept that the taking of the photographs of Mr Henderson, given the clear public interest concerning the subject matter of The Mirror article, could possibly constitute harassment under the Code. [RH: It was a clear breach both because I had advised them of my eye trouble and because they took  photographs having come over my threshold.]

I am most concerned not to waste any further time in dealing with  Mr Henderson’s complaint but, naturally, if the Commission wishes me to address any further matters then I will endeavour to do so.

However, I hope that the above is sufficient to convince the Commission that the basic “sting” of the article is accurate and that  Mr Henderson’s complaint ought to be dismissed.

 Yours sincerely

 Piers Morgan

 Having got cast iron evidence that the Mirror had been involved in illicitly receiving information from the police, I made a complaint to the Metropolitan police, viz.

                                                  26-August 1998

Chief-Supt Eric Brown

Metropolitan Police

12A Holmes Road

London NW5 3AE

                                      cc Metropolitan Police Committee

 Dear Mr Brown,

 I  enclose  a letter from the Metropolitan  Police  Committee dated 25/2/98. Please note the third paragraph.

           The complaints I wish to register are:

           1.  A breach of the Official Secrets Act        

                       Culprits:   An  anonymous  police  officer  most  probably  stationed at Belgravia station. 

                          The Mirror reporter Jeff Edwards

                           The Mirror editor Piers Morgan

           The  most  likely police officer is DS  Connor  of  Belgravia   Police.  This officer handled the Blairs  complaints  against   me.

           2.  A  breach  of the Public Bodies Corruption  Act  1889  as   amended by the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916

           Culprits: The anonymous police officer mentioned in 1.

                              Any  Mirror  representative  responsible  for  the  offering or payment of a bribe.   

           3.  A  breach of the Prevention of Corruption Act as  amended by the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916

           Culprits: The anonymous police officer mentioned in 1.

                             Any  Mirror  representative  responsible  for  the  offering or payment of a bribe.   

  4. A breach of the Met’s Code of Practice

           Culprits: The anonymous police officer mentioned in 1.

           The basis of the complaints

           The offences arise from a Mirror story entitled “Pest Targets   Blairs” published on 25/3/98 (copy enclosed).

 The Mirror story quotes unnamed police officer(s) as follows:

               “Police  said  that  sending  such  material  could  result in an assault charge.”

                and

                A Scotland Yard source said “By sending letters  in    a very unpleasant tone the writer has committed  an  assault”

 The statement that I have “committed an assault” is a breach of  the  Met’s  Code  of  Practice.  The  police investigate complaints. They do not decide guilt or innocence.

 In a letter to the Press Complaints Commission dated 16/10/97(copy  enclosed) the Mirror editor Piers Morgan claimed  that the  primary  source for the Mirror article was  a  policeman viz

                The police source of our article (whose identity we    have  a  moral obligation to protect) gave  us  the    detail of the letters that we then published.”  

 The  giving of such information would of itself  be  illegal. The  Mirror  confirms that they knew it was  illegitimate  by their “whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect”. 

 All police officers sign the Official Secrets Act. The police officer  who  supplied  the  information  to  the  Mirror  is consequently  guilty of a breach the Official Secrets Act. He has also breached the Met’s internal code of conduct.

 The  Mirror by knowingly abetting the breach of the  official Secrets  Act  is guilty of a criminal offence  which  carries the  same  penalties as that to which the police  officer  is subject.

 If the policeman was paid,  both the Mirror and the officer are  guilty  of serious criminal offences  under  The  Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1989 (amended by the  Corruption Act 1916) and The Prevention of Corruption Act 1906  (amended by  the Corruption Act 1916).

 The reasonable presumption must be that the officer was paid. First, he  restricted  the  information  to  one  newspaper. Second, what other plausible motive could he have had? 

 As  the Mirror has admitted to receiving illicit  information from the police,  a failure to both record and investigate my  complaints  will be tantamount to an admission of  deliberate maladministration of justice by the Met. As I am sure you  do not need me to tell you, such deliberate maladministration by the   police   commits  one  of  the  criminal  offences   of perverting or attempting to pervert the  course of justice.

 Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

 The complaint was passed to Scotland Yard where Det Chief Superintendent Ian Curtis supposedly investigated. My compliant ended in a curious way with Curtis ringing me to tell me that no action would be taken. During our telephone conversation, he admitted that no one at the Mirror, including the Piers Morgan and the reporter who wrote the story Jeff Edwards had been interviewed. Ergo, no meaningful investigation was undertaken. If charges of receiving information illicitly from a police offer cannot be brought against an editor who has admitted in writing to a quasi-official body investigating a complaint that he has received illicit information no one could ever be charged with the crime.

The refusal of the police to investigate Rebekah Wade

On 11 March 2003,  the then editor of the Sun newspaper,  Rebekah Wade (now Rebekah Brookes), admitted before the Culture,  Media and Sport Commons Select Committee that while she has been an  editor with News International  she had paid police  officers for  information. I was there and heard the admission. As a consequence I made an official complaint to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir John Stevens. My two letters to him are below.  The police refused to investigate, despite the fact that Wade’s admission was unambiguous and  formed part of the public record of  Parliament.  

The ongoing saga of the News of the World’s phone hacking habits which are the subject of both a criminal investigation and civil legal action has brought the general  question of illegally gained information by the press  into play. That in turn has resulted in  Wade’s 2003  admission coming under further police scrutiny. Whether it will result in a prosecution remains to be seen, but the fact that they are taking any notice of the matter now shows clearly the laissez-faire attitude of the police when it comes to starting an investigation.  They refused to countenance my complaint which was made very soon after her admission, yet now eight years after the event, they are looking at the matter. The evidence is at best no stronger now than it was when I made my complaint and at worse far weaker because of the time which has passed which gives opportunities for people to die, records to be destroyed and memories to fail or be claimed to have failed.  There is no legitimate reason for the police having refused my 2003 complaint while accepting that there is a case to answer now.  The most plausible illegitimate reason is that they did not want to investigate a powerful media figure and are only doing so now because while they could ignore me because I had no access to the mainstream media they cannot ignore the matter at present because it is now in the public fold.

Why would the police not wish to investigate someone like Wade?  Could it be that many police sell information to the media?  Here is Matt Born writing an article just after the Wade admission: ‘The relationship between the media and the police has long been a close and mutually profitable one. Payments  by  journalists to police officers have a long  history.  One long-retired crime correspondent recalls having a list of  officers  to whom  he  would regularly send a £5 note “wrapped in a plain  WH  Smith envelope”.  I’d  never use office stationary and I’d use a  different  typewriter each week so it couldn’t be traced,” he said.’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1424573/Paying-the-police-newspapers-have-a-lot-of-form.html

Born goes on ‘In  1999,  an anti-corruption investigation by the Metropolitan  Police exposed  a private detective agency run by a former officer   that  was acting as an intermediary between the police and reporters. Jonathan  Rees,  the  owner of Southern  Investigations,  was  recorded claiming he was owed £12,000 by one tabloid. “Rees  and  (others) have for a number of years been  involved  in  the long-term   penetration   of   police   intelligence   sources,”    the investigation reported.  “They have ensured that they have live sources within  the  Metropolitan Police service and have  sought  to   recruit sources  within other forces.  This thirst for knowledge is  driven  by profit to be accrued from the  media.”‘

How are things now?  Born cites an unnamed source as saying “A  few years ago,  the papers would deal  directly with the cops,”  he said.  “But more and more now they use paid intermediaries  -   usually retired  or  ex-officers  who have plenty of  contacts  who  keep  them abreast of what’s going on.’

If this is true, then there is a deep and ongoing breaking of the law by large numbers of police through the provision of information to the media  and the media paying for it and the further possible criminal behaviour of  the police refusing to investigate honestly or at all members of the media because of their collusion in criminal practices involving the media.  That would constitute a perversion of the course of justice.

—————————————— 

My letters to Sir John Stevens

16-March 2003

To:

Sir John Stevens

Commissioner

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SW1

                                    cc  Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP

                                        Frank Doran MP

                                        John Thurso MP

                                        Rosemary McKenna MP

                                        Alan Keen MP

                                        Derek Wyatt MP

                                        Debra Shipley MP

                                        Chris Bryant MP

                                        Julie Kirkbride MP

                                        Michael Fabricant MP

                                        Adrian Flook MP

                                         Rebekah Wade

                                         Presswise

Dear Sir John,

 The payment of money to police for information

 I ask you to investigate a prima facie case of the corruption of police officers.  On 11 March 2003,  the editor of the Sun newspaper,  Rebekah Wade, admitted before the Culture,  Media and Sport Commons Select Committee that while she has been an  editor with News International  she had paid police  officers for  information.   The information was given in answer to  a direct question from the Labour MP, Chris Bryant.   I enclose a Daily Telegraph report dated 14  March 2003 which  contains details of Miss Wade’s admission.  I was also there in person when she made the admission. 

 By paying police officers  for information,  not only  does the  police  officer  commit a criminal   offence  under  the  Public  Bodies  Corruption  Act  1889  (as  amended   by  the  Prevention of Corruption Act of 1916) in receiving the  money or other material inducement,  so does the person paying  the bribe.   Any  one of normal intelligence  will  realise  that bribing police officers is illegal.

In  addition,  all police officers sign the Official  Secrets Act  (OSA).   They   commit  a  criminal  act   by  supplying information covered by the OSA.  Any information relating  to police work will be covered.  Similarly,  a person  receiving  information where they know the supplier is in breach of the OSA   by supplying it,   commits an offence by receiving  the information.    Both formal training courses for journalists and the various books designed to instruct journalists in the          relevant areas of the  law cover  the OSA’s implications for journalists.   Journalists will consequently know that police officers have signed the OSA and be aware of the implications for   themselves  of   receiving  information   from   police officers.  Even  if no money changes  hands,  the  journalist  still breaks the law if he knows he is receiving  information from someone who has signed the OSA. I  also enclose a letter from the Mirror editor Piers  Morgan to  the Press Complaints Commission  dated 16 Oct 1997.  This  contains  an  admission of the Mirror  receiving  information illegitimately  from the police.   I made a  complaint  about this some time ago and it was “investigated” by Det Supt Jeff  Curtis.  I put the investigated in quotes because  Mr  Curtis conducted his investigation without interviewing either Piers Morgan or the author of the story, Jeff Edwards. In fact,  he  did   not   go  near  the  Mirror. Doubtless   the   Met’s investigatory  methods have changed in recent years and  they now include questioning suspects. Consequently,  I ask  that you re-open the investigation of Mr Morgan and Mr Edwards and          actually interview them. 

In  view of  the Culture, Media and Sport Select  Committee’s interest,  I  am  sure that you will wish  to begin  a  most thorough  investigation immediately of these matters  and  to give them all priority.

Copies  of this letter have been sent to every member of  the select committee.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

——————————————   

                                                  14 April  2003

Sir John Stevens

Commissioner

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SW1

                                    cc  Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP

                                        Frank Doran MP

                                        John Thurso MP

                                        Rosemary McKenna MP

                                        Alan Keen MP

                                        Derek Wyatt MP

                                        Debra Shipley MP

                                        Chris Bryant MP

                                        Julie Kirkbride MP

                                        Michael Fabricant MP

                                        Adrian Flook MP

                                        Rebekah Wade

                                        Presswise

Dear Sir John,

 The payment of money to police for information

 It  is  now  4 weeks (16 March) since I  wrote  to  you  with complaints  against  the Sun editor,  Rebekah Wade,  and  the Mirror  editor,  Piers Morgan.  My letter was sent  by  first class recorded delivery, as this one has been.

 To date I have not had as much as an acknowledgement. I would remind you that you have a duty to investigate any  complaint of  criminal  behaviour  and that  failure to do  so   is  an unambiguous  perversion of the course of justice. In your own interests you should begin an investigation ASAP.

 This  is  not your  first failure to act on  a  complaint  of mine.  I would remind you that your staff officer, Supt Simon Foy,  is  currently the subject of an  investigation  by  the head  of  internal investigations in the Met’s Department  of Professional  Standards,   DCS Tony Dawson,  who will in  due course submit a report to the PCA.   That investigation arose simply because Mr Foy failed to act on a complaint concerning serious  threats  to  me and incitements to violence  against          me made in the largest British political newsgroups. Fail to  investigate  this complaint and I will put  in  a  formal complaint against you to the DPS.

You could not have an easier pair of investigations to begin. Rebekah Wade made her admission at a select committee  public hearing   and  the hearing is  consequently  recorded,  while Piers  Morgan has admitted the offence in his letter  to  the PCC, a copy of which you have.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

—————————————— 

                                                  13-March 2003

Chris Bryant MP

House of Commons

London SW1

Dear Mr Bryant,

You raised the question of paying the police  with  Rebekah Wade and Alan Rusbridger (11 March) and  in both cases  there was a great  deal of shuffling of mental and emotional feet.

There was a good reason for their concern.  By paying police officers  for information,  not only does the police  officer commit  an  offence under the  Public Bodies  Corruption  Act 1889  (as  amended  by the  Prevention of Corruption  Act  of 1916) in receiving the money or other material inducement, so does  the  person paying the bribe.   Moreover,   all  police officers sign the Official Secrets Act.  They breach  that by          supplying  confidential  information.  Similarly,   a  person receiving  information  where they know the  supplier  is  in breach  of  the Official Secrets Act commits  an  offence  by receiving it.   Both formal training courses for  journalists and the various books designed to instruct journalists in the relevant  areas of the  law,  cover  the Act’s   implications for  journalists.   Journalists will consequently  know  that police officers have signed the Act and the implications  for          themselves of  receiving information from them.

The  letter  from Piers Morgan to the PCC  which  I  enclose, contains  an  admission of the Mirror  receiving  information illegitimately  from  the police.  If you want  to  take  the matter  further you will not get a better chance than a  case built on an editor’s written  admission.

The  police  are notoriously  unwilling to  investigate  such cases.  There is no good legal  reason for this.  Wherever  a newspaper has information which is supposedly confidential to the  police,   the  police  have  reasonable   grounds    for believing  a  crime has been committed  and  can,  therefore, insist  on  interviewing the editor and those  of  his  staff involved in the story.

As to gathering the evidence,  even if the  mediafolk  refuse to  say  anything,  there is a very good  chance  of  finding records of the payments in the companies records.   (I  write  as  an  ex-Revenue investigator.   Petty cash and  cash  book records are favourite).

If you wish to take  the matter further,  arrange to meet me privately.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

———————————

                                                  27 August  2003

Chris Bryant MP

House of Commons

London SW1

Dear Mr Bryant,

I  am  writing  to you privately because  you  were  the  CMS member  who  raised  the question of  press  bribery  of  the police.

You  will  find enclosed copies of the  correspondence  which shows the police,  including John Stevens and his staff,  are  deliberately refusing to investigate Rebekah Wade’s admission for no legitimate reason.

Do you really want to see a situation where the police simply ignore cast iron complaints?

Bribing  the police is a particularly  serious crime  because any  copper  who  takes  the  money  becomes  vulnerable   to  blackmail.   The fact that officer has taken the  money  also  means  he  is of a corrupt turn of mind and might  well  take money for anything.

Bribing a copper is an arrestable offence. In other words the police  can  simply arrest a suspect and bring  them  in  for  questioning.    They   have   absolutely   no   obstacle   to investigating  Wade who has admitted her crime  on  videotape before a Commons Committee. Open and shut case.

 Take this up and you can make a name for yourself.

 Yours sincerely,

 Robert Henderson

Why public service broadcasting (PSB) matters

We all know what comes from rampant and unrestrained commercial activity: a worship of Mammon to the exclusion of everything except the feeding of company directors’ and financiers egos and greed. In broadcasting, unrestrained commerce equals a low grade, populist cultural diet heavily polluted with advertising. Many supporters of PSB think that is a case of ’nuff said’.  Were it only that easy.

The fact that commercial broadcasters left to their own devices do tend to go for the lowest common cultural denominator is not a knockdown justification for PSB but an expression of opinion, a projection of taste. That is so even in the areas where PSB would seem to be most obviously valuable such as the provision of news and current affairs programming. Sadly, there is no necessary reason why such programmes made by PSB providers should be more or less biased than those provided by commercial broadcasters. Indeed, it could be plausibly argued that PSB political coverage is more naturally susceptible to bias than that of commercial broadcasters because PSB is ultimately funded from a single source, government,  through direct funding (the World Service), hypothecated charges (the BBC) or the profits of quasi-commercial undertakings funded by  state granted revenues,  whereas private broadcasters at least have a diversity of vested interests to satisfy.

It might be thought a weakness to admit that support for PSB is a value judgement, but it is never a weakness to start from a point of intellectual honesty. Far worse to pretend that PSB is an objective good whose value  is beyond discussion or the need for justification, because then the argument switches to defending the ultimately indefensible rather than the real issue, namely, how does the person who supports PSB come to their value judgement?

If they wish to be taken seriously, the supporters of PSB must make the intellectually honest case for PSB. To do that they must answer two questions: (1) what is wrong with the public exercising its own choice by voting with its subscriptions to unregulated private broadcasters? And  (2) in what sense is the world better off  with PSB than without it? But before I turn to those questions some ground needs to be prepared.

What do we mean by PSB?

We all know what PSB is don’t we? Actually,  no.  It is one of those phrases that seems comfortingly solid but which often causes people to stumble embarrassingly when pressed for a description of what it means. A reasonable general definition would be any broadcasting that is in some way formally influenced by the state. That covers the obvious, publicly-funded broadcasters such as the BBC, to the less obvious, for example news and current affairs programmes bound by a legal obligation to provide “balance” and licence requirements which demand a certain volume of programming deemed to be in the general public interest, such as drama.

Free-to-air broadcasting funded in part or whole by private donations (such as exists in the USA in the form of the Pacifica Foundation) is often described as PSB. In as far as such broadcasting is directly influenced by the state in the manner described above it is PSB. But imagine a broadcaster entirely funded by donations and unregulated. Such a broadcaster might produce programming which is similar to that which a full-blown PSB state funded broadcaster such as the BBC produces, that is, programmes which no commercial broadcaster would produce either at all or in sufficient quantity. This might seem at first glance to be evidence of PSB. However, those who make donations are in reality paying subscriptions, for by making donations they are determining the type of programming the broadcaster will produce. In principle, that is no different from anyone who subscribes to any commercial channel. It is not PSB but merely a coincidence of programming.

What counts as PSB programming?

State regulation and funding equals PSB, right? Wrong. A state funded broadcaster could go for the lowest common denominator. But that would not be PSB. It would merely be the state providing the same as the market can provide.

There is nothing in principle to stop a fully state-funded broadcaster pumping out exactly the same sort of programming diet as the most grossly commercial station. Indeed, a cynical government might well see it as a modern version of ‘bread and circuses’ to keep the masses distracted from misgovernment or as a mass audience platform for government propaganda, with the propaganda slipped into the programming.

PSB has to be more than simply state provision and regulation. It must do something that neither unfettered commercial companies nor self-serving governments will do. The question is what? The general answer is to produce socially necessary and valuable programmes which will not otherwise be produced at all or in sufficient quantity. Like every other form of public provision, PSB exists and has existed to provide what the market will not provide.

What is “necessary and valuable”? The need for wide-ranging and honest news and current affairs can be taken as read in a democracy. Clearly no commercial broadcaster will provide unbiased news unless it is closely constrained by law to do so (think Fox TV in the USA) . At the very least the commercial broadcaster will find ways to avoid stories that damage its advertisers or shareholders. Consequently, there is an objective case to be made for PSB in the field of news and current affairs, provided safeguards are put in place to prevent either government interference or the capture of the broadcaster by those with a particular ideology. (Sadly, while the censorship of the state is constantly under scrutiny by the media, censorship by those who control the media is routinely ignored. The latter is perhaps even more insidious than state censorship, because it is not acknowledged, and responsibility for it is diffused.)

“Highbrow” programming such as serious drama, music, history and science has been (with news and current affairs) the staple legal requirements that governments have imposed upon commercial broadcasters. They have been taken as self-evident goods, but are they? Why should “highbrow” be given a privileged position? An analogy with formal education can be made. Why do we insist on education for all? The utilitarian answer is to equip everyone for employment in an advanced society. But that is not the full story. Few would argue that some education is necessary for all, but even the education we provide up to the age of 16 goes far beyond what is required for most jobs, for which a firm grasp of the three Rs will suffice. Why do we teach every child history, Eng Lit and world geography? What need do most have for a grasp of the natural sciences? We also fund non-academic activities such as sport, art and music. Beyond the age of sixteen we continue to educate to degree level very large numbers of people in subjects which they will never directly use in their working lives. (Whether the education has its desired effect in many cases is a separate issue. The intent is what matters here.)

Part of the reason we do this is to provide a range of abilities and experience to fill the multifarious occupations available in a modern industrial state. But we also provide the education we do because it is believed that it both civilises the individual and better equips the person to understand at least enough of matters in general to make basic participation in the democratic process meaningful. (These ends may not be realised or even be sincerely meant by those who expound them. That does not matter. They are what is claimed for education. Few would openly gainsay them.) By extension it can be claimed that PSB has an equivalent role to that of formal education.

Variety and quality is not enough

The problem with the argument deriving from the need for variety and quality is that a very rich diet of every kind of broadcast fare is now available from commercial or public access sources because satellite, cable and the Web offer material on virtually anything – and that which they do not provide can be found on discrete static media such as DVD. Does this expansion of broadcast opportunities and data access make PSB redundant or will it do so in the foreseeable future? The free marketeer would say yes, but there is more to PSB than simply the provision of a wide range of material. To begin with PSB can give a national focus. The need for a broadcaster such as the BBC to provide national programming is especially important at a time when commercial broadcasting is being split ever more and the constraints on what is shown are being loosened. The question of national focus is especially pressing in the field of news and current affairs.

We already have Sky effectively outside the control of the British people. With the recent relaxation of the ownership and monopoly rules for British terrestrial free-to-air broadcasters, it is quite conceivable that within a few years most, or even all, the major commercial broadcasters will be owned wholly or in large part by foreigners, especially Americans. Past experience both here and abroad suggests that with that will come a relaxation of the requirements for commercial broadcasters to provide either a certain percentage of PSB programming, or programming which is produced in Britain.

There is also the problem of information overload. A vast range of material may be available but its very size and variety is of itself a problem. Human beings generally say ‘yes’ when they are asked whether they want more choice, but this is a lie. What human beings are emotionally and intellectually equipped for is some choice but not too much. Give someone the choice of six books on a subject and they can probably handle it. Give them one hundred choices and not only will they not be able to make a meaningful choice, the sheer volume of choices may well cripple their ability to choose at all. I think most people will recognise this as a fact, for the simple reason they will feel that way themselves when confronted with many choices. For those who do not accept it, I suggest they reflect on the fact that the large majority of British people still choose most of their viewing from a small number of broadcasters, even when they have the opportunity to choose from a much wider catalogue of broadcast material.

In the case of the BBC it performs another useful role, namely, it is broadcasting without the profit motive constantly poking its greedy little nose into the public’s face through the pathological use of adverts. The BBC offers a haven of comparative calm, a reminder that there is more to life than economic relationships. An absence of adverts may have other benefits. Their constant intrusion makes the presentation of extended argument or evidence difficult, and in the case of drama disrupts the flow of the action: to a substantial degree adverts shape  programmes. There is also the question of production values. The BBC’s, especially in radio, are generally substantially higher than the commercial alternatives (think Talk Sport). This is primarily a consequence of not being driven by commercial pressures.

Finally, although there is great variety available nowadays elsewhere, it is dubious whether any commercial broadcaster, even one forced to produce some PSB programming by the state, would be required to (or even be able to) undertake some of the really big enterprises, especially drama and documentaries, which the BBC periodically tackles. It is also certain that no single commercial programmer would be able to even approach the sheer volume and range of programmes provided by the BBC.

Why should everyone pay?

For the same reason they all pay for state education, defence and the NHS. It is part of the normal social fabric of an efficient and advanced state. There are many instances of public provision where a majority pay but a minority of necessity benefit: social housing, high-cost medical treatment such as organ transplants and university education. (Even with the vastly expanded university population, now around 43 per cent of those under 28, a majority of the population will never attend.)

PSB is on firmer moral ground than any of the examples given above because everyone can freely access PSB if they so choose.

Is it reasonable for the state to interfere with the market?

The state interferes with the market all the time. It does so because all experience shows that private provision is never enough to meet a general need – whether PSB meets a general need is arguable, but if it is accepted that it does, then state action is necessary to provide it. In fact, the term “free market” is a complete misnomer. It is really a state-controlled market. The natural end of a truly free market is monopoly or at least greatly reduced competition resulting in oligopoly. All so-called free market societies recognise this by passing anti-monopoly laws. Hence, the “free market” is in fact a market controlled by the state in the most fundamental   way  to prevent its natural workings which is a movement to monopoly or at least greatly reduced competition.  It is one of the great propaganda triumphs of history that “free markets” have been successfully sold as being what happens naturally. Free marketeers invariably justify themselves by chanting “the market gives the people what they want”. The actuality is rather different because the viewer merely chooses between what is offered. That is a different matter from choosing what they would ideally want. As an instrument for providing what people want, let alone need, the market is wholly inadequate. A Tesco arrives in an area, kills off the opposition and everyone has to go to Tesco. That does not mean they prefer Tesco.

Can PSB survive in Britain?

At present the omens are not auspicious, with the relaxation of the commercial broadcasting ownership rules and the ever-expanding media choices open to the public. It may well be that within the foreseeable future the licence fee the BBC currently enjoys becomes practically impossible as the readily identifiable stand-alone TV ceases to be.

But there are also good reasons why it may survive. PSB is ultimately a political matter. It is very convenient for politicians to have a national broadcaster with a mass audience to carry their message. Such a broadcaster will become ever more useful as the commercial market continues to fragment and expand. Politicians may also see in PSB a means of cementing national unity in an increasingly uncertain and fluid world. But if it is to survive as PSB in the true sense it must not be dominated by a class or ideology. Rather, it must carry the population as a whole with it. Consequently, it should not be unremittingly highbrow, but all programmes should aim to be  of high quality. What should the supporters of PSB do? Present the honest subjective case for PSB and be prepared to argue it against all comers.

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