Category Archives: Politics

Politics has no place in a charity

Robert Henderson

There are many aspects of modern charities which run contrary what is still, despite all the bad publicity charities have had in recent years,  the general public’s  idea of what a  charity should be;  an organisation which is doing good works by raising money from individuals,  is the reverse of self-serving  and  a morally good thing.

There is much dislike about  modern charities. They   are frequently incompetently run, often too much of a charity’s income goes on administration, especially the pay of the senior staff, embezzlement by the staff of charities  is too frequent for comfort  and larger charities often take much of their funding from the state.  However, those weaknesses are not the subject of this piece.  What I am concerned with here is the political aspect of charities in Britain, an aspect which seems to loom ever larger.

Charities in Britain are very often overtly political, using much of their income to lobby politicians, pay for what are essentially political adverts  and research which is no better than  propaganda.  The Charity Commission’s rules forbid charities being set up for a political purpose ,  charities campaigning for a political party or charities campaigning for a political end which does not accord with the declared  purposes of the charity. Charities may lobby politicians and engage in campaigns which are inherently political to their heart’s content  provided they observe  these rules.  The full Charity Commission Guidance on political activity by  charities can be found here . In summary it is :

To be a charity an organisation must be established for charitable purposes only, which are for the public benefit. An organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political.

Campaigning and political activity can be legitimate and valuable activities for charities to undertake.

However, political campaigning, or political activity, as defined in this guidance, must be undertaken by a charity only in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes. Unlike other forms of campaigning, it must not be the continuing and sole activity of the charity. (Section D5 provides a fuller explanation.)

There may be situations where carrying out political activity is the best way for trustees to support the charity’s purposes. A charity may choose to focus most, or all, of its resources on political activity for a period. The key issue for charity trustees is the need to ensure that this activity is not, and does not become, the reason for the charity’s existence.

Charities can campaign for a change in the law, policy or decisions (as detailed in this guidance in section C4) where such change would support the charity’s purposes. Charities can also campaign to ensure that existing laws are observed.

 However, a charity cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad.

In the political arena, a charity must stress its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced. A charity must not give support or funding to a political party, nor to a candidate or politician.

A charity may give its support to specific policies advocated by political parties if it would help achieve its charitable purposes. However, trustees must not allow the charity to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the political views of any individual trustee or staff member (in this context we mean personal or party political views).

 As with any decision they make, when considering campaigning and political activity charity trustees must carefully weigh up the possible benefits against the costs and risks in deciding whether the campaign is likely to be an effective way of furthering or supporting the charity’s purposes.

 When campaigning, charity trustees must comply not only with charity law, but other civil and criminal laws that may apply. Where applicable they should also comply with the Code of the Advertising Standards Authority.

A charity can campaign using emotive or controversial material, where this is lawful and justifiable in the context of the campaign. Such material must be factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base.

The principles of charity campaigning and political activity are the same, whether the activity is carried out in the United Kingdom or overseas.

These rules allow charities to quite legally act as campaign groups and lobbyists and in practice charities often  get away with  throwing over even the mild restraints that the Charity Commission imposes.

Why should their politicisation be a concern? Because  such behaviour  undermines the very  idea of a charity, which generally is to pursue unambiguously beneficent ends.  Bring the pursuit of political  ends into the picture and  the moral purity of the charity is tarnished.  I would also doubt whether the general public would want the state the state to  provide privileges such as tax breaks for charities  while they  press their own political agendas.

Which charities now existing should have their status removed?

Where a charity receives a substantial part of its income from state bodies, as many of the larger ones now do, the use of the money to campaign for a political end is doubly unwarranted, for charities which receive money from public funds are not really charities at all but subcontracted arms of the state.   Receipt of state money should mean no charitable status. (The practice of politicking is strong amongst charities which receive substantial funds from the public purse).

The donation of money by non-state bodies such as limited companies or organisations which are not commercial enterprises , for example trade unions,  should  be banned where the donations are such as to promote the interests of the donor.

Individual  donations  should be left to the discretion of the donor, but the charity should be legally obliged to provide  the name of any donor providing more than 5% of a charity’s donations in any financial year, together with details of the person’s background including their political and commercial interest if they have them.

Some types of charity are  too  inescapably  political to be charities. These include those concerned with human rights,  immigration, race relations and   charities which promote the cause of particular groups (especially ethnic minorities).

Charities which support criminality either directly through or indirectly, for example, by supplying goods and services which release funds to be spent on criminal activities such as terrorism.   Good examples are Islamic charities which overtly or covertly support terrorism. There is also the problem  of ostensibly legitimate mainstream charities donating to other  charities which have links to terrorists.

Think Tanks which do nothing but produce reports and papers for discussion  should not be charities  because by definition they are not providing active relief  of suffering or directly promoting something which is socially valuable.

Charitable status should only be granted for charitable work undertaken in the UK. The British taxpayer  should not subsidise by the  granting  of tax relief work which does not benefit Britons.

Whether or not  a charity currently  pursuing political ends under the present rules receives money from the  state, they should no longer have charitable status if they insist on political campaigning.  They should sail under their true colours as political organisations  and be subject to the same rules as other non-charitable bodies.  Such organisations could be profit-making or non-profit-making and be treated as other political organisations which are not charities are treated.

None of the exclusions I have proposed mean that people will not be able to donate funds to whatever cause they wish to donate. All it means is that such donations will go to organisations which  no longer have the tax privileges or  the moral status of a charity.

What  work should charities do?

They should be reformed to be what the general public thinks a charity should be, a beneficent organisation giving active help to people  and other indisputable good causes which draws  its money  not from the state but from private donations drawn only from individuals.  To this end charities should exist simply to provide goods and services to ameliorate the deficiency that they ostensibly were founded to lessen, whether that be the alleviation of an obvious need such as poverty or sickness  or to provide something which is not an absolute need but which will be socially valuable such as specialist types of education such as music schools.

What would this mean in practice? Let me give a few examples.

1. Oxfam would cease to engage in political campaigning and concentrate solely on providing help to the poor.

2. Medical charities would cease to lobby for more government spending on medicine and concentrate solely on providing treatment and support to sufferers.

3. The RSPCA  and the RSPB would confine themselves to providing for the welfare of animals by funding care  for abandoned animals and  purchasing land to  provide habitat  for specific wild species .

The advantages of these  changes

The removal of politics from charities and of  the state subcontracting  to charities would change the relationship between  the public and charities for the better, because the reality of  charities would then be much closer to both their traditional role and the present day perception of what a charity should be  in the public mind. That would be likely to increase donations.

Charities would  be much  less susceptible to political or commercial influence if they do not take money from the state or private corporations.

The changes would  remove large swathes of charities which are manifestly not in the national interest . Any work overseas would not be classed as charitable and the army of human rights, immigration and ethnic minority charities would cease to be charities.

The type of person attracted to charity work would probably change significantly if the political aspect was removed.  The charities which were left would have to concentrate on providing practical  aid to the causes which they espouse.  People would join because they wanted to be ministering directly to ends of the charity.

The Commons Education Select Committee  and the libel of the white working-class

Robert Henderson

The Commons Select Committee (CSC) on Education has  produced a report on the underachievement of white British working-class children.  This  ostensibly  highlights the poor educational performance of white British children who are eligible for free meals (FSM)  compared to those in receipt of FSM from ethnic minority groups such as those of Indian and Chinese ancestry.  I say ostensibly because there are severe flaws in methodology.  These are:

  1. The definition of white British is far from simple. The report distinguishes between Irish,  traveller of Irish heritage,  Gypsy/Roma and Any other white background (see CSC table 2 page 13).  The Any other white background is the largest.  It is not clear from the report how the white British were defined, for example , a child of white immigrants might well consider his or herself white British.  Who would whether they were or were not British?
  2. The numbers of  some of the ethnic minority groups cited are small, for example, at the end of Key Stage 4 (the end of GCSE courses) in 2013 there were only  168 Chinese in the country who pupils who qualified for FSM. (see CSC table 2 page 13).

3. The use of FSM  as a proxy for working-class  means that  white British apples are being compared with variously coloured ethnic minority  oranges. Most importantly the use of FSM means that the British white working-class as a whole is not represented , but only the poorest  section of it. Hence, the general treatment in the media of the report, that it shows the white working-class to be falling behind ethnic minorities, is grossly misleading. The report recognises this:

…measuring working class performance in education through FSM data can be misleading. The Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) drew our attention to a mismatch between the proportion of children who were eligible for free school meals and the proportion of adults who would self-define as working class:17 in 2012/13, 15% of pupils at the end of key stage 4 were known to be eligible for free school meals,18 compared with 57% of British adults who defined themselves as ‘working class’ as part of a survey by the National Centre for Social Research.The CRRE warned that projecting the educational performance of a small group of economically deprived pupils onto what could otherwise be understood to be a much larger proportion of the population had “damaging consequences” on public understanding of the issue. The logical result of equating FSM with working class was that 85% of children were being characterised as middle class or above.

The  white British group  will be overwhelmingly drawn from the most deprived part of that  group’s population, while many of the ethnic minority groups  held up as superior to the white British children , will have a large  component of people who are not drawn from the lower social reaches of their society, but are poor simply because they are either  first generation immigrants or the children of first generation immigrants and  have not established themselves in well paid work – think of all the tales the mainstream media and politicians regale the British with about immigrant graduates doing menial jobs.  These  parents  will both have more aspiration for their children and a greater  ability to assist their children with their schoolwork.

The range  of  those qualifying for FSM is extensive and there is  considerable  complexity resulting from pupils  going in and out of the qualifying criteria, viz:

(Para 12 of the report) . Of the  Children are eligible for free school meals if their parents receive any of the following payments:

Income Support

• Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

• Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

• the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit

• Child Tax Credit (provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and

have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)

• Working Tax Credit run-on—paid for 4 weeks after they stop qualifying for

Working Tax Credit

• Universal Credit

13. A report for the Children’s Society noted that the criteria for FSM mean that parents working 16 or more hours per week (24 hours for couples from April 2012) lose their entitlement to FSM since they are eligible for working tax credit; as a result there are around 700,000 children living in poverty who are not entitled to receive free school meals. In addition, not all those who may be eligible for FSM register for it; a recent report for the Department for Education estimated under-registration to be 11% in 2013. This figure varies across the country: in the North East under-registration is estimated to  be 1%, compared to 18% in the East of England and 19% in the South East. 

4. Greater resources, both material  advantages and better quality staff,  are being put into schools which have a  very large ethnic  minority component  than schools which are predominantly filled with white British children.  This is occurring both as a matter of deliberate government policy and through not-for-profit corporations such as charities.

Government policies are things such as the  pupil premium . This is paid to schools for each pupil  who qualifies under these criteria:

In the 2014 to 2015 financial year, schools will receive the following funding for each child registered as eligible for free school meals at any point in the last 6 years:

£1,300 for primary-aged pupils

£935 for secondary-aged pupils

Schools will also receive £1,900 for each looked-after pupil who:

has been looked after for 1 day or more

was adopted from care on or after 30 December 2005, or left care under:

a special guardianship order

a residence order

The amounts involved for a school can  be considerable. Suppose that a secondary school with 1,000 children  has 40% of its pupils qualifying for  FSM. That would bring an additional  £374,000 to the school in this financial year.   At present £2.5 billion is being spent on the pupil premium.

According to a Dept of Education (DoE) investigation published in 2013, Evaluation of Pupil Premium Research Report ,  a  good deal of this money is being spent on ethnic minorities and those without English as a first language     (see tables 2.1 and 2.2, pages27 and 30) . The pupil premium can be used to provide extra staff, better staff, improved equipment after school activities and so on.

Schools can allocate the Pupil Premium money  at their discretion and often make the identification of where money has gone next to impossible because they do things such as merging the Pupil Premium money with money from other budgets and joining forces with other schools in the area to provide provision (see pages 14/15 in the DoE report).  It is probable that the Pupil Premium money brought into schools by white British working-class FSM children  is being used,  at least in part,  to benefit ethnic minorities. The converse is wildly improbable.

Ethnic minorities are concentrated in particular areas and particular schools. This makes it more  likely that ethnic children will go to schools with a higher  proportion of  free school meal pupils than schools dominated by  white pupils.  That will provide significantly greater funding for an ethnic  minority majority school than for one dominated by white Britons, most of whom will not qualify for the Pupil Premium. .

Because ethnic minority families, and especially those of first generation immigrants, are substantially larger on average than those of  white Britons, the likelihood of ethnic minority children qualifying for FSM will be greater than it is for white Britons because  the larger the family the more likely a child is to qualify for FSM.   This will boost the additional money from the pupils premium going to ethnic  minority dominated schools.

An example of not-for-profit intervention is  the charity Teach First.  The select committee report (para  116) describes their work:

 The Government’s response to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s first annual report noted that Teach First will be training 1,500 graduates in 2014 to 2015 and placing them in the most challenging schools, and that as of 2014/15 Teach First will be placing teachers in every region of England.

The Teach First  website states:  “Applicants to our Leadership Development Programme are taken through a rigorous assessment process. We select only those who demonstrate leadership potential, a passion to change children’s lives and the other skills and attributes needed to become an excellent teacher and leader. These participants teach and lead in our partner primary and secondary schools in low-income communities across England and Wales for a minimum of two years, ensuring every child has access to an excellent education.”

Apart from specific programmes such as the Pupil Premium and special training for teachers to prepare them what are euphemistically called “challenging schools” which end up disproportionately  favouring ethnic minority pupils,  there is also scope within  the normal funding of state schools to favour ethnic minorities because head teachers have a good deal of discretion in how funds are spent. That applies with knobs on to Academies and Free Schools.

There is also a considerable difference in funding between the funding of areas with large ethic minority populations, especially black and Asian groups,  and areas with largely white populations,  for example,   between East Anglia and London: “ The government has announced plans to raise per-pupil funding 3.7pc in Norfolk to £4,494, 7pc in Cambridgeshire to £4,225 and 2.5pc in Suffolk to £4,347 next year following a campaign by MPs.

“But councillors have called for a long term overhaul of the funding system, which will still see each student in the county receive around half of the allocation in the City of London, which will get £8,594.55 for each pupil.”

5. The effect of political correctness. With good reason any teacher,  and  especially white teachers,   will be fearful of not seeming to be devoutly political correct.  They know they are at the mercy of other teachers , parents and pupils and know that an accusation of racism from any  source could well end their teaching career at worst and at best seriously disrupt their lives while a complaint is being investigated. In addition, many  teachers will be emotionally attached to political correctness generally and to multiculturalism in particular.

In such circumstances it is reasonable to suspect that teachers in schools with a mix of ethnic minority and white British children  will devote more time and patience to ethnic minority pupils than   to white children.  They may do this without conscious intent, with either  fear or the ideological commitment making such a choice seem the natural one.

Such preferential treatment for ethnic minority children is facilitated by the large amount of continuous assessment  involved in GCSE.  (This is supposedly being reduced but the results of the change has not yet worked through to the end of a GCSE cycle.  Teachers routinely help children to re-write work which does not come up to par, in some cases re-doing the work themselves . Teachers have also been caught helping pupils  to cheat during exams . The opportunity and the temptation to help ethnic minority children is there and the pressure of political correctness may cause opportunity to become actuality.

6. The disruptive effect on schools of a large number of pupils from different backgrounds with English as a second language, the type of schools where the headmaster boasts “We have 100 languages spoken here”.   The most likely white British children to be in such schools are those from the poorest homes which means they qualify as FSM pupils.  They will be lost in these Towers of Babel not only because often they will be in the minority,  but also because, unlike children with English as a second language or  ethnic minority English speakers  who will have a good chance of enhanced tuition, the white British FSM pupils  will not enjoy  such a privilege and may be actually ignored to a large extent because of the desire of the staff to assist ethnic minority children.

7 . The downplaying of British culture. The school curriculum in Britain and  especially in England (where the vast majority of the British live)   is shaped to reflect the politically correct worldview.  This means that ethnic minority culture and history  are frequently  pushed ahead of British culture and history.   The larger the percentage of ethnic minorities in a school, the greater will be the tendency to marginalise the white British pupils, who will almost certainly be drawn largely from those qualifying for FSM. They will be deracinated and become culturally disorientated.

To this school propaganda is added the politically correct and anti-British, anti-white  propaganda which is pumped out  ceaselessly by mainstream politicians and the media. This  will reinforce the idea that being white and British is  somehow at best  inferior to that of ethnic minority cultures and at worst something to be ashamed of, something  to be despised, something which is a  danger  to its possessor.

Conclusion

As far as the general public is concerned, the Select Committee report is saying the white working-class children – all of them not just those receiving FSM  – are doing less well than ethnic minority children.   The reason for this is simple, the mainstream media have reported the story in a way which would promote such a belief, both in their  headlines and the stories themselves.

A comparison between  the  white British population as a whole and the ethnic minority populations as a whole would be nearer to reality, but it would still be comparing apples and oranges for the reasons given above. The ethnic minority children would still be likely to have on average parents who would not be representative of the ancestral populations they came from, political correctness would still drive teachers to favour ethnic minority pupils,  continuous assessment would still allow teachers to illegally aid ethnic minorities, heads could still decide to divert more funds towards ethnic minorities and the promotion of ethnic minority cultures and history would still exist.

What could be done to remedy matters? Continuous assessment should stop  and end of  course synoptic exams substituted . Ethnic minority children should not have more spent on them than white British children.  School funding in different areas should be broadly similar per capita.  British culture and history should be the dominant teaching driver.  Political correctness should be removed from the curriculum generally.

As for future studies, these should be controlled in a much more subtle manner than simply using FSM  as a criterion.  Any study of all or any part of group should control for parents’ education,  income, the amount of money spent on each pupil, the teacher pupil ratio,  the quality of the teachers and the general facilities of the school.

Those suggestions would not entirely cure the problem,  but it would be good start to both getting at the truth and ending the demonization of the white working-class  which has gathered pace ever since the Labour Party decided to drop the white working-class as their client base and substitute for them the politically correct groups of gays, feminists and most potently ethnic minorities.

See also

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-english-white-working-class-and-the-british-elite-from-the-salt-of-the-earth-to-the-scum-of-the-earth/

 

If there had been no post-1945 mass immigration into Britain …

Robert Henderson

Without mass immigration we would not have ….

1.. A rapidly rising population. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/06/uk-population-rise-ons

2. Ethnic minority ghettoes. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100047117/britains-ethnic-ghettos-mean-liberals-can-wave-goodbye-to-their-dream-of-scandinavian-social-democracy/

3. Race relations legislation, most notably the Race Relations Act of 1976. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1976/74

4. Gross interferences with free speech such as those in the 1976  Race Relations Act  and 1986 Public Order Act arising from the British elite’s determination and need (from their point of view) to suppress dissent about immigration and its consequences.

5. Native Britons being  charged with criminal offences and,  in increasing numbers of cases,  finding themselves in  prison  for expressing their opposition to mass immigration  or  for being non-PC about immigrants and British born ethnic and racial minorities.  http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-oppression-of-emma-west-the-politically-correct-end-game-plays-out/

6. Native Britons losing their jobs simply for beings non-pc  about  immigration and ethnic and racial minorities. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1239765/Park-ranger-sacked-racist-joke-wins-40k-compensation-tribunal-tells-council-skin-colour-fact-life.html

7. Such a virulent political correctness,  because the central plank of the creed  – race – would have been removed or at least made insignificant. Without large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities to either act as the clients of the politically correct or to offer a threat of serious civil unrest to provide the politically correct with a reason to enact authoritarian laws banning free discussion about the effects of immigration, “antiracism” would have little traction.   Moreover, without the massive political  leverage race has provided,  political correctness in its other  areas,  most notably homosexuality and feminism,   would have been much more difficult to inject   into British society.  But   even  if  political correctness  had been  robbed of its dominant racial aspect  whilst leaving  the rest of the ideology  as potent as  it is now,    it would be a trivial thing compared to the ideology with its dominant  racial aspect intact.   Changes to the status of homosexuals and women do not fundamentally alter the nature of a society by destroying  its natural  homogeneity. Moreover, customs and laws can always be altered peacefully. A  country with  large unassimilable minorities  cannot be altered peacefully.

8. State sponsored  multiculturalism, which is now institutionalised within  British public service and the state  educational system. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12371994

9. Islamic terrorism. https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/mi5-history/mi5-today/the-rise-of-the-islamist-terrorist-threat.html

10. The creeping introduction of Sharia Law through such things as the toleration of sharia courts to settle disputes between Muslims provided both parties agree. The idea that such agreement is voluntary is highly suspect because of the  pressure from within the Muslim population for Muslims to conform to Sharia law and to settle disputes within the Muslim population.  But even if it was always entirely voluntary, it would be wrong in principle to have an alien system of law accepted as a rival to the law of the land because inevitably it would undermine the idea of the rule of law and  further  isolate Muslims from the mainstream. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10778554/The-feisty-baroness-defending-voiceless-Muslim-women.html

11. Muslims Schools which fail to conform to the national curriculum at best and at worst are vehicles for the promotion of Islamic supremacist ideas. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10777054/Ofsted-chief-to-take-charge-of-probe-into-Islamic-school-plot.html

12.  A calamitous housing shortage. http://www.jrf.org.uk/media-centre/shortage-homes-over-next-20-years-threatens-deepening-housing-crisis

13. Housing Associations which cater solely for ethnic and racial minority  groups. http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/the-truth-about-social-housing-and-ethnic-minorities/

14. A serious and growing shortage of school places, especially primary school places . http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23931974

  1. Health tourism on a huge scale http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8880071/international-health-service/

16  Benefit tourism on a massive scale. http://www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk/pdfs/BP1_37.pdf

17 . Such crowded roads and public transport. http://www.london.gov.uk/media/assembly-press-releases/2013/10/fears-of-future-overcrowding-due-to-167-million-more-london-bus

18. Such a low wage economy.  http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/jan/17/eastern-european-immigration-hits-wages

19. Such high unemployment and underemployment. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/11/13/uk-employment-figures_n_4265134.html

20. Such a  need for the taxpayer to subsidise those in work because of the under cutting of wages  by immigrants.  http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/majority-of-new-housing-benefit-claimants-in-work/6521183.article

21. Areas of work effectively off limits to white Britons because either an area of work is controlled by foreigners or British born ethnic minorities, both of whom only employ those of their own nationality and/or ethnicity, or unscrupulous British employers who use foreigners and ethnic minorities because they are cheap and easier to control. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/800000-uk-jobs-advertised-across-europe–and-foreign-jobseekers-even-get-travelling-costs-8734731.html

22 As much crime (and particularly violent crime) because foreigners and British born blacks and Asians commit a disproportionately large proportion of UK crime, for example see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2522270/Foreign-prisoner-total-11-000.html

and

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/269399/Race-and-cjs-2012.pdf

and

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/the-black-instigated-and-dominated-2011-riots-and-the-great-elite-lie/

23.  Double standards in applying the law to the white native population and immigrants, with the white native population being  frequently treated more harshly  than blacks, Asians and white first generation immigrants. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/07/female-gang-who-attacked-woman-spared-jail_n_1133734.html

24. Female genital mutilation. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/15/fgm-first-suspects-charged-court

25. “Honour” killings. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/honourcrimes/crimesofhonour_1.shtml#h2

26. Forced marriages. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/honourcrimes/crimesofhonour_1.shtml#h2

27. Widespread electoral fraud. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10557364/Election-watchdog-demands-action-amid-fears-of-Asian-voter-fraud.html

 

We would have ……

1. A very homogenous country,  as it used to be.

2. No fear of speaking our minds about race and  immigration.

3. No fear of speaking our minds about foreigners.

4. No fear of being proud of our country and Western culture generally.

5. No people being sent to prison for simply saying what they thought about race and ethnicity.

6. Much less political correctness.

7. Equality before the law in as far as that is humanly possible.

8. A stable population.

9. Plentiful housing, both rented and for purchase, at a price the ordinary working man or woman can afford.

10. Abundant  school places.

11. An NHS with much shorter waiting lists  and staffed overwhelmingly with native Britons. Those who claim that the NHS would collapse with foreign staff should ask themselves one question: if that is  the case,  how do areas of the UK with few racial or ethnic minority people manage to recruit native born Britons  to do the work?

12. A higher wage economy .

13. Far more native Britons in employment.

14. No areas of work effectively off limits to white Britons because either an area of work is controlled by foreigners or British born ethnic minorities, both of whom only employ those of their own nationality and/or ethnicity, or unscrupulous British employers who use foreigners and ethnic minorities because they are cheap and easier to control.

15. A much lower benefit bill for those of working age.

16. Substantially less crime.

17. An honest electoral system.

Operation Eleveden and Piers Morgan’s criminality – the Home Secretary brought into play

To:  Rt Hon Theresa May MP

Home Secretary

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

CC Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP (Attorney-General)

Alison Saunders (DPP)

G McGill (CPS Head of Organised Crime Division)

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner)

Commander Neil Basu (Head of Operation Elveden)

Detective Inspector Daniel Smith (Operation Elveden)

John Whittingdale MP

George Eustice MP

Sir Gerald Howarth MP

Mark.lewis@thlaw.co.uk

9 March 2014

Dear Mrs May,

Operation Elveden are failing to  investigate serious crimes committed by Daily Mirror staff despite having  cast iron evidence. I provided the evidence.

The full story is in the correspondence I reproduce below -. However, I realise that you are an immensely busy woman,  so to take you to instantly to  the heart of the corrupt behaviour of Operation Elveden please read first the attached facsimile letter Piers Morgan  sent to the PCC whilst editor of the Daily Mirror. In this letter he admits receiving information from the Metropolitan Police in circumstances which can only be illegal, viz: “The police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect)…”.

The other document you need to  read is my initial email (dated  21 January 2013) to the then head of Operation Elveden  Deputy Assistant Commissioner  Steve Kavanagh – see first  document below this letter.   That will give you the background to and the range  of crimes Elveden are  failing to investigate.

I have provided Eleveden with a copy of Morgan’s  letter, together  with other evidence of criminal behaviour on the part of the Mirror’s erstwhile Chief Crime Reporter Jeff Edwards,  in receiving information illicitly from the police. I have also supplied Elveden with evidence that both Morgan and Edwards  perjured themselves before the Leveson Inquiry.  Finally, there is the misconduct of the police in not investigating these crimes for which they have cast-iron evidence.

Despite having the Piers Morgan letter (amongst other very strong evidence), DI Daniel  Smith (see letter dated 13 June 2013) informed me that no investigation would be undertaken without giving any meaningful explanation.

The Metropolitan Police’s ’ Directorate of Professional Standards is now supposedly investigating the failure of Operation  Elveden to investigate the crimes I have reported to them.  However, they have had  my complaint for more than seven months and have not come to a judgement.

As you will see from the correspondence, I have also tried without success to get the DPP to act on what is a clear failure on the part of the police to investigate serious crimes .. They have made the spurious excuse that they cannot direct the police to investigate a complaint.  The excuse is spurious because in a recent case of rape they had done just that. That  involved  Acting Detective Constable Hannah Notley  who wilfully mishandled the investigation. After a third party intervened with the CPS the matter was taken up by the police, viz: : “In April 2012, after an independent representative supporting the alleged victim contacted the CPS, Notley finally confessed, and last month admitted a single charge of misconduct in a public office.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10500744/Detective-jailed-after-failing-to-investigate-alleged-rape.html).

Since I made my complaint to Eleveden  I have not been interviewed by any person from Elveden, the DPS  or the CPS, this despite my frequent requests to be interviewed and to give a formal statement. This is a very strong indication that all of those  in the police and justice systems who have been involved  with the matter  know  very well that my complaints are exceptionally well founded.  They will not meet me because they do not know how to tell me to my face that black is white.

I ask you to take up this matter and to  use your influence to get my allegations of criminality investigated thoroughly. I would greatly welcome a meeting with you to discuss the matter.

If the police are not brought to book over this, it will mean they are a law unto themselves.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

———————————————————————

156 Levita House, Chalton Street, London NW1 1HR

Tel: 0207 387 5018   Email: anywhere156@yahoo.co.uk

To:  Rt Hon Theresa May MP

Home Secretary

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

CC

Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP (Attorney-General)

Alison Saunders (DPP)

G McGill (CPS Head of Organised Crime Division)

Det Chief Superintendent  Alaric Bonthron (Directorate. of Professional Standards)

Detective Chief Inspector I Tim Neligan (Directorate  of Professional Standards)

Chief Inspector Andy Dunn (Directorate of Professional Standards)

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner)

Commander Neil Basu (Head of Operation Elveden)

Detective Inspector Daniel Smith (Operation Elveden)

John Whittingdale MP

George Eustice MP

Sir Gerald Howarth MP

Mark.lewis@thlaw.co.uk

18 March 2014

Dear Mrs May ,

My email to you of 9 March concerning the criminality of Piers Morgan, Jeff Edwards and  D-Supt Jeff Curtis jolted the Department of Professional Standards (DPS) into a decision. After months of prevarication it provoked an immediate and definite response from the DPS in the form of Detective Chief Inspector Tim Neligan ‘s email  which you will find  below (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/piers-morgans-criminality-the-met-polices-directorate-of-professional-standards-prodded-into-action/).  I doubt whether any disinterested third party would think it anything other than a panicked  reaction to the stimulus of  superbly founded complaints of extremely serious  police misbehaviour being circulated to influential people.

DCI Neligan’s email to me  bears all the hallmarks of having been cobbled together in a tremendous rush,  resting as it does very heavily on cut and pasting from the previous correspondence arising from this  case and the reiteration of spurious reasons  why no investigation is to be made.  He rejects my complaints by   ignoring the conclusive  evidence of both the initial offences of which I complained and my further complaints about the behaviour of Operation Elveden officers who have failed to investigate the clearest of evidence of serious crimes.

On my complaints about Morgan and Edwards  receiving information illegally from the Met , DCI Nelligan  simply  ignores the damming evidence I have supplied,  most notably the letter from Morgan to the PCC in which he  admits to receiving to receiving information from a Met officer in circumstances which can only have been illegal.   With  my accusations of perjury by Morgan and Edwards,  he unquestioningly accepts Detective Inspector Daniel Smith’s  opinion that perjury had not been committed despite the fact that  DI Smith  provided no meaningful explanation of why he had come to that conclusion.  The transcript of the Leveson hearings which I gave to Elveden points very strongly to perjury.

As for D-Supt Jeff Curtis, the fact that he  did not interview Morgan, Edwards or anyone else at the Mirror  is  conclusive evidence of a wilful and criminal failure to investigate.   The failure of the then Police Complaints Authority to Act when I complained  of Curtis’ failure is clear evidence of a wilful and criminal failure to address my complaint honestly.  The  refusal of Operation Elveden to start an investigation of D-Supt Curtis  when faced with such strong evidence of criminality as the Morgan letter and a tape recording of Curtis promising me that he would interview Morgan  is clear evidence of a wilful and  criminal failure to  act on clear evidence of criminality on Curtis’ part. The failure of the DPP to act on the spurious ground that they cannot direct the police to investigate is clear evidence of a wilful and criminal desire  to stop this matter becoming public knowledge.

In short, all DCI Nelligan has done is accept unquestioningly what previous officers and authorities have claimed was the case. He has made no attempt to assess the evidence I have provided.

This scandal comes down in the end to the age old  question of who shall guard the guards? At every stage of the complaints I have submitted there has been a wilful determination by those within the police and justice system to ignore evidence which on its own is enough to bring charges.  Right from the time I made the initial complaint to the Metropolitan Police (which was  eventually dealt with by Jeff Edwards) there has been a failure to investigate not because of an absence of evidence but because of the strength of the  evidence and the people involved.

I could get nothing done while Labour was in power because the story behind Morgan’s letter and the Mirror article which led to Morgan writing the letter to the PCC leads ultimately to Tony and Cherie Blair.   The Blairs  attempted to have me prosecuted  on charges , which as lawyers they must have known were bogus, during the 1997 General Election. Having failed ignominiously (the CPS returned the papers marked “No Crime” within hours of receiving them) the Blairs set Special Branch and MI5 on to me (the Mirror article about me fingered Special Branch and using the Data Protection Act – DPA –  I subsequently proved that  both they and MI5 have files on me). I then suffered ten years of harassment  which ranged from death threats to a persistent ostentatious opening of  my post. The harassment ceased as soon as Blair left office.

Sounds fantastic? Well, this should dissolve your  scepticism. The Conservative MP Sir  Richard Body put down this Early Day Motion of my behalf:

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

 Sir Richard Body

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

This motion is now part of the official House of Commons record – see  http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=16305&SESSION=702

Any prosecution of Morgan and Edwards when I made the original complaint would have caused serious problems for the Blairs.  That explains why I could not get the police to act then.  The police will not act now,  doubtless partly still  because of the Blairs’ involvement and that of other powerful people who have come into the story over the course of the past 17 years , but also because of the failure of senior police officers  who have comprehensively failed to do their duty.

Please reflect upon this. If you do not act and I get story into the public fold you will have become part of the corrupt behaviour which has been the dominant and persistent  feature of this case. Ask yourself how you would stand before the media and explain with a straight face why no investigation was made when  the police have the Morgan letter to the PCC.

Is it likely I will get the story out? Well, Piers Morgan lost his CNN job four days after I circulated.  to the mainstream media in Britain and the USA his letter to the PCC in facsimile with a covering note – a copy of that email is below DCI Nelligan’s email. I do not like coincidences at the best of times and in particular I do not take to them when the coincidence involves, as this does, a complicated sequence of events to occur if it was just a coincidence.

I call upon you again to act directly as the police are unambiguously refusing to act not because they do not have evidence but because the evidence is hideously dangerous to them.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

———————————————————————-

For an introduction to the story go to

http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/piers-morgans-illegal-receipt-of-information-from-the-police-his-perjury-and-operation-elveden/

Click on Operation Elveden tag for all posts on this story.

The British Green Party expose their totalitarian mentality

Robert Henderson

The British Green Party has put its undemocratic cards blatantly on the table.  One of their most recent policy statements is a “ 10 point flood response plan” . Point number three is of especially interest:

“3. Get rid of any cabinet Ministers or senior governmental advisors who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change or who won’t take the risks to the UK seriously” (http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/02/14/green-party-launch-10-point-flood-response-plan/)

The leader of the British Green Party Natalie Bennett enlarged on this in an interview with the BBC conducted by Ross Hawkins  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26187711). These exchanges took place:

Hawkins: “ Every , as this [the 10 point plan] says, senior government advisor who refused to accept the scientific consensus on climate change as you describe it shouldn’t be in their post; every one of them?”

Bennett:  “Yes. We need the whole government behind this. This is an emergency situation we’re facing now. We need to take action. We need everyone signed up behind that.”

Hawkins: “ And,  I am not reducing this to the absurd;  that literally would include every senior government advisor , i.e., it could be the Chief Veterinary Officer ; it could be any  advisor whether or not they are directly connected with the issue of flooding? “

Bennett; “Yes.”

Hawkins: “And you would see them removed from their posts?”

Bennett: “We would ask the government to remove them”.

Bennett: “It’s an insult to flood victims that we have an Environment Secretary (Owen Paterson) who is a denier of the reality of climate change and we also can’t have anyone in the cabinet who is denying the realities that we’re facing with climate change.”

This is the voice of the true fanatic, so captured by an ideology that any dissent from the “true way”  becomes heresy which must be eradicated.  For Bennett it is not enough to have policies implemented , only those who unreservedly  support the policies can be tolerated in government even if they are not involved in implementing the policies themselves.

In short, Greens want the debate on man-made global warming to be officially over as far as the government is concerned.   They belong to the one class of person who should be denied a public voice, namely the class of those who would deny a public voice to others.

Bennett is a very odd sort of public campaigner.  I know her  personally  because we were both members of a group trying to stop a laboratory handling dangerous toxins  being built in the centre of London next to St Pancras station. (The site is approximately 100 feet from my front window).

Because all the major Westminster parties were wildly in favour of the project the only chance of stopping it was to show was to show that the bidding process was tainted. This I did comprehensively using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain documents which showed unambiguously that Gordon Brown had illegally interfered with the bidding process. Further details including the Brown documents  can be found at http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/the-new-leader-of-the-greens-knows-how-to-keep-mum/

Despite being a Guardian journalist with ready access to the media, Bennett refused to use the material and the campaign comprehensively failed because it was reduced to using bog-standard street politics: going on marches, making banners, sending deputations to the local council and so on.

Why wouldn’t Bennett use my FOIA material? I could never get a meaningful answer out of her. All she would say was that it wasn’t  of public interest, a self-evident absurdity as it not only struck directly at the sale of the land,   but was of general public interest because a Prime Minister had interfered in a bidding process for an enterprise he favoured.  On the face of it the story appeared to be right up the Guardian’s street.

Perhaps she refused to use the material  because she could not claim the information as her own.  Surprisingly for a journalist she made no attempt to use the FOIA herself to aid that campaign.

Cast iron proof of Piers Morgan’s criminality distributed widely to the mainstream media

Robert Henderson

Over the past two days I have sent the following to some 200 individual mediafolk and media outlets. The email addresses are at the bottom of the email – these are all emails which did not produce a bounce so you should be able to use them if you wish to.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

My name is Robert Henderson. Over a year ago I supplied the Metropolitan police with unequivocal evidence that  Piers Morgan when Daily Mirror editor received information from one or more of their officers in circumstances which can only have been illegal.  That evidence is in a letter from Morgan to the Press complaints Commission in which he writes”The police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect)”.   The letter is in text form below and in  facsimile form in the attached file Morganletterscan.docx . Please ask Hogan-Howe why this is not being investigated.

The accusations of criminal behaviour  made against me by Morgan in the letter are a tissue of lies. The reality of my dealings with the Blairs  is neatly précised in an  Early Day Motion put down by Sir Richard Body:

10 November 1999

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

 Sir Richard Body

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

This motion is now part of the official House of Commons record – see  http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=16305&SESSION=702

Robert Henderson

—————————————————————————

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. 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 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 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 to 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 (to the extent that they be referred to 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).

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. 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, 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.

I have discussed the legal position with the newspaper’s solicitor, Martin Cruddace , and he has assured me that the law has recently developed whereby words (be they written or spoken) can constitute assault 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.

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

 

 

==========================================

Sent successfully to these addresses

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What the British people want from their politicians… and what they get

Robert Henderson

What do our politicians think of the electorate: precious little. All the major mainstream parties either ignore or cynically  misrepresent  the issues  which are most important to the British – immigration, our relationship with the EU, the English democratic deficit,  foreign adventures , the suppression of free speech and the precarious state of the economy. . These issues are  not addressed honestly because they either clash with the prevailing internationalist agenda or because to address them honestly would mean admitting how much sovereignty had been given away to the EU and through other treaties.

This antidemocratic failure to engage in honest politics is an established trait. The wilful removal from mainstream politics of vitally important issues has been developing for more than half a century. The upshot is that the British want their politics to be about something which is not currently on offer from any party with a chance of forming a government. The British public broadly seek what these days counts as rightist action when it comes to matters such as preserving nationhood, immigration, race and political correctness, but traditional leftist policies on items such as social welfare, the NHS and the economy (has anyone ever met someone in favour of free markets and free trade who has actually lost his job because of them?).

The electorate’s difficulty is not simply their inability to find a single party to fulfil all or even most of their political desires. Even on a single issue basis, the electorate frequently cannot find a party offering what they want because all the mainstream parties now carol from the same internationalist, globalist, supranational, pro-EU, pc songsheet. The electorate finds they may have any economic programme provided it is laissez faire globalism, any relationship with the EU provided it is membership, any foreign policy provided it is internationalist and continuing public services only if they increasingly include private capital and provision. The only difference between the major parties is one of nuance.

Nowhere is this political uniformity seen more obviously than in the Labour and Tory approaches to immigration. Labour has adopted a literally mad policy of “no obvious limit to immigration”. The Tories claim to be “tough” on immigration, but then agree to accept as legal immigrants more than 100,000 incomers a year from outside the EU plus any number of migrants from within the EU (350 million have the right to settle here). There is a difference, but it is simply less or more of the same. Worse, in practice there would probably be no meaningful difference to the numbers coming whoever is in power. The truth is that while we remain part of the EU and tied by international treaties on asylum and human rights, nothing meaningful can be done for purely practical reasons. But even if something could be done, for which serious party could the person who wants no further mass immigration vote? None.

A manifesto to satisfy the public

All of this set me thinking: what manifesto would appeal to most electors? I suggest this political agenda for the What the People Want Party:

We promise:

1. To always put Britain’s interests first. This will entail the adoption of an unaggressive nationalist ethic in place of the currently dominant internationalist ideology.

2. The reinstatement of British sovereignty by withdrawal from the EU and the repudiation of all treaties which circumscribe the primacy of Parliament.

3. That future treaties will only come into force when voted for by a majority in both Houses of Parliament and   accepted in a referendum . Any  treaty should be subject to repudiation following  Parliament passing a motion that repudiation should take place and that motion being ratified by a referendum.  Treaties could also be repudiated by a citizen initiated referendum (see 29).

4. A reduction in the power of the government in general and the Prime Minister in particular and an increase in the power of Parliament. This will be achieved by abolishing the Royal Prerogative, outlawing the party whip and removing the vast powers of patronage available to a government.

5. That the country will only go to war on a vote in both Houses of Parliament.

6. An end to mass immigration by any means, including asylum, work permits and family reunion.

7. An end to all officially-sponsored political correctness.

8. The promotion of British history and culture in our schools and by all publicly-funded bodies.

9. The repeal of all laws which give by intent or practice a privileged position to any group which is less than the entire population of the country, for example the Race Relations Act..

10. The repeal of all laws which attempt to interfere with the personal life and responsibility of the individual. Citizens will not be instructed what to eat, how to exercise, not to smoke or drink or be banned from pursuits such as fox-hunting which harm no one else.

11. A formal recognition that a British citizen has rights and obligations not available to the foreigner, for example, the benefits of the welfare state will be made available only to born and bred Britons.

12. Policing which is directed towards three ends: maintaining order, catching criminals and providing support and aid to the public in moments of threat or distress. The police will leave their cars and helicopters and return to the beat and there will be an assumption that the interests and safety of the public come before the interests and safety of police officers.

13. A justice system which guards the interests of the accused by protecting essential rights of the defendant such as jury trial and the right to silence, whilst preventing cases collapsing through technical procedural errors.

14. Prison sentences that are served in full, that is,  the end of remission and other forms of early release. Misbehaviour in prison will be punished by extending the sentence.

15. An absolute right to self-defence when attacked. The public will be encouraged to defend themselves and their property.

16. A general economic policy which steers a middle way between protectionism and free trade, with protection given to vital and strategically important industries such as agriculture, energy, and steel and free trade only in those things which are not necessities.

17. A repudiation of further privatisation for its own sake and a commitment to the direct public provision of all essential services such as medical treatment. We recognise that the electorate overwhelmingly want the NHS, decent state pensions, good state funded education for their children and state intervention where necessary to ensure the necessities of life. This promise is made to both reassure the public of continued future provision and to ensure that the extent of any public spending is unambiguous, something which is not the case where indirect funding channels such as PFI are used.

18. The re-nationalisation of  the railways, the energy companies, the water companies and any  exercise  of the state’s authority such as privately run prisons which have been placed in  private hands.

19. An  education system which ensures that every child leaves school with at least a firm grasp of the three Rs and a school exam system which is based solely on a final exam. This will remove the opportunity to cheat by pupils and teachers. The standards of the exams will be based on those of the 1960s which is the last time British school exams were uncontaminated by continuous assessment, multiple choice questions and science exams included practicals as a matter of course. .

20. To restore credibility to our university system. The taxpayer will fund scholarships for 20 per cent of school-leavers. These will pay for all fees and provide a grant sufficient to live on during term time. Any one not in receipt of a scholarship will have to pay the full fees and support themselves or take a degree in their spare time. The scholarships will be concentrated on the best universities. The other universities will be closed. This will ensure that the cost is no more than the current funding and the remaining universities can be adequately funded.

21. A clear distinction in our policies between the functions of the state and the functions of private business, charities and other non-governmental bodies. The state will provide necessary public services, business will be allowed to concentrate on their trade and not be asked to be an arm of government and charities will be entirely independent bodies which will no longer receive public money.

22. A commitment to putting the family first. This will include policies which recognise that the best childcare is that given by the parents and that parents must be allowed to exercise discipline over their children. These will be given force by a law making clear that parents have an absolute right to the custody of and authority over their children, unless the parents can be shown to be engaging in serious criminal acts against their children.

23. Marriage to be encouraged by generous tax breaks and enhanced  child allowances for children born in wedlock.

24. Defence forces designed solely to defend Britain and not the New World Order.

25. A Parliament for England to square the Devolution circle. The English comprise around 80 per cent of the population of the UK, yet they alone of all the historic peoples are Britain are denied the right to govern themselves. This is both unreasonable and politically unsustainable in the long-run.

26. A reduction to the English level of Treasury funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will save approximately £17 billion pa because the Celts receive overall approximately £1,600 per head per annum more than the English.

27. An end to Foreign Aid. This will save approximately £11  billion.

28. A written constitution to ensure that future governments cannot abuse their power. This will be predicated on (1) the fact that we are a free people, (2) the belief that in a free and democratic society the individual can be trusted to take responsibility for his or her actions and to behave responsibly and (3) that politicians are the servants not the masters of those who elect them. It will guarantee those things necessary to a free society, including an absolute right to free expression, jury trial for any offence carrying a sentence of more than one year, place citizens in a privileged position over foreigners and set the interests and safety of the country and its citizens above the interests and safety of any other country or people.

29. Citizen initiated referenda shall be held when ten per cent of the population have signed a petition asking for a referendum.

Those are the things which I think most of the electorate could embrace, at least in large part. There are also other issues which the public might well be brought to  support if there was proper public debate and a serious political party supporting them such as the ownership and bearing of weapons and the legalisation of drugs.

The positive thing about such an agenda is that either Labour or the Tories could comfortably support it within the context of their history.

Until Blair perverted its purpose, the Labour Party had been in practice (and often in theory – think Ernie Bevin), staunchly nationalist, not least because the unions were staunchly protective of their members’ interests and resistant to both mass immigration (because it reduced wages) and free trade (because it exported jobs and reduced wages).

For the Tories, the Thatcherite philosophy is as much an aberration as the Blairite de-socialisation of Labour. The true Tory creed in a representative democracy is that of the one nation nationalist. It cannot be repeated too often that the free market internationalist creed is the antithesis of conservatism.

The manifesto described above would not appeal in every respect to ever member of the “disenfranchised majority”. But its general political slant would be palatable to that majority and there would be sufficient within the detail to allow any individual who is currently disenchanted with politics to feel that there were a decent number of important policies for which he or she could happily vote. That is the best any voter can expect in a representative democracy. People could again believe that voting might actually change things.

Politically incorrect film reviews – 12 Years a slave

Robert Henderson

Main Cast

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup

Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps

Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey

Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps

Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford

Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass

Paul Dano as John Tibeats

Adepero Oduye as Eliza

Paul Giamatti as Theophilus Freeman

Garret Dillahunt as Armsby

Scoot McNairy as Brown

Taran Killam as Hamilton

Chris Chalk as Clemens Ray

Director:  Steve McQueen

12 years a slave is dull, very very dull.   The plot trudges from one banally brutal or degrading episode to the next  as the kidnapped black freeman Solomon Northrup undergoes his dozen years of illegal enslavement in  the America of the 1840s. There is little sense of  the story moving forward. Rather like pornography it becomes boring because repeating the same general thing over and over is tedious no matter what the subject.  Indeed, the film could be regarded as pornography for white liberals.  The fact that we know the eventually outcome – Northrup’s  re-obtaining of freedom- before the film begins deepens the dramatic void. The weakness of plot is typified  by the scene in which  Northrup is finally freed. What should have been the prime moment of emotional engagement  in the film is shown in such a startlingly perfunctory fashion that  Northrup’s freeing is made to seem inconsequential.

The film would have been much more dynamic as a drama if there had been subplots to vary the plantation scenes.  This could have been readily done because  Northrup’s written story provided plenty of opportunity for diversification of the plot  -  the full text of 12 Years a Slave can be found at  https://archive.org/stream/twelveyearsasla00nortgoog#page/n8/mode/2up. (The page numbers in the review refer to this text). For example, when he is being shipped for sale after being kidnapped Northrup manages to send a letter to those he knows in New York (p 73),  but they cannot come after him  because there is no clear  indication of where he is or where he will be going. Northrup also mentions in his book that his son vowed to find his father and purchase his freedom. The sufferings of his  family  could have been used to provide a powerful backdrop to Northrup’s travails. Then there were the opportunities for diversifying the action offered by the efforts made to obtain his freedom after he eventually gets word of his predicament and where he is to those in New York who eventually procure his release. There is also an episode in the book (p136) where Northrup goes on the run  through a sub-tropical swampland. That  would have made a strong action sequence.

It is a little difficult to see why the director ignored such opportunities.  He is certainly a competent filmmaker  as his previous decidedly  interesting  film Shame showed. Being black himself,  perhaps McQueen was  simply too close to the subject  and became obsessed with the abuse storyline. Despite the dismal litany of abuse in Northrup’s book, he cannot resist using a screenplay by John Ridley  which over-eggs the mistreatment of slaves by going beyond what Northrup recounted.  For example, after Northrup has been abducted, he is taken with other slaves down-river on a paddle-steamer . During the voyage there is an attempt by a white man to rape one of the black female slaves. Another slave attempts to prevent this and is knifed to death by the world-be rapist.  This event is not in Northrup’s book, a fact which is unsurprising because slaves were valuable and the loss of one would not be welcome. Indeed, Northrup makes it clear that any injury reduced the value of the slave and that signs of punishment could be particularly damaging to value, viz: “Scars upon a slave’s back were considered evidence of a rebellious or unruly spirit and hurt his sale” (p80) . Another important fabrication is a scene where Northrup tells Ford he is a free man who has been kidnapped into slavery and Ford says he cannot listen. Northrup’s book  says he never raised the subject of his true identity with Ford (p 91)

There is also  subtle exaggeration of abuse. For example, in the scene where Northrup and some other slaves are being put up for sale, the film shows them partially or fully naked, to be viewed by any prospective buyer. What Northrup actually writes is that the slaves  were  clothed but “Sometimes a man or a woman was taken to the small house in the yard and inspected more minutely” (p80), a rather less public humiliation.

There is also a pc driven absurdity which occurs in the scenes in the film before Northrup’s  kidnapping and sale into slavery. He is shown not only as being decidedly prosperous (something not  borne out by his own account of his pre-slave days) but as being greeted by virtually every white person  he meets with that curious passive aggressive fawning behaviour which white liberals adopt when interacting with anyone who is black.  Even allowing for the fact that Northrup is a free man and the scenes are set in the non-slave states, it is somewhat difficult to imagine that he would have been such an object of unalloyed admiration in the 1840s.

To the one-dimensional plot can be added a general absence of character development. The problem starts with  the leading man Chiwetel Ejiofor in the role of  Northrup.  There is a curious passivity about this actor no matter what role he inhabits. Here he simply comes over as emotionally flat even when he is resisting abuse.  Nor does Ejiofor resemble Northrup in appearance. From the illustration of Northrup which accompanied his book he had a darkish skin but distinctly European features.  This is unsurprising because in the book he is described as a mulatto ( strictly of half white, half black ancestry but more loosely of mixed race). Chiwetel Ejiofor is the child of two Nigerian parents. He looks very different from Northrup. Was an actor who showed no signs of having a large admixture of white blood in him deliberately chosen because the film maker wanted to have no racial ambiguity in the film’s male  lead?

Then there is his physique. Northrup is depicted as a physically  powerful man in the film, yet according to his book he is only 5’ 7” tall (p311). That would have been rather  small even by the standards of the day.  Sadly for the film, physically larger does not equal greater screen presence.

Lupita Nyong’o  character of Patsey is very slight if viewed unsentimentally and exactly what she has done in the role to be nominated for best supporting actress at the Oscars and to win the same award at the Golden Globes is mystifying in terms of performance.  She does not spend that much time on screen or have a great deal to say. Her  most notable scene is of her being  savagely flogged.  Her beating has provoked much comment amongst the critics, but in truth the violence in film is not way beyond that seen in other slave-themed  films such as Mandingo and Drum in the 1970s and the recent Django Unchained.  Apart from the  brutal flogging  of Patsey,  the only other serious beating is that given to Northrup with a wooden paddle and whip soon after he has been kidnapped. The three  other films I mention all arguably  had more scenes of violence meted out to slaves. For example, Django Unchained has two slaves fighting to the death for amusement of their masters and another slave killed by setting dogs on him.

Michael Fassbender is always watchable but as the harsh slaveowner Edwin Epps he is little more  than a  cartoon villain whose acts of brutality lacks credible motivation. His obsession with Patsey lusting after her one minute, having her flogged the next,  is unconvincing, not least because she is no great beauty.  I suppose  it could be represented as sexual gratification through sadism, but that is not very plausible because much her beating is in response to the urging of his wife. Mary.  Sarah Paulson as Epps’ wife is good as far as her role goes, which not far because she is there to display jealousy of Patsey and urge Epps to beat the unfortunate slave at every opportunity and  do precious little else. Northrup’s estimation of her is surprisingly generous: “Mistress Epps was  not such an evil woman after all. She was possessed of the devil, jealousy. It is true, but aside from that there was much in her character to admire…. She had been well educated at some institution this side of the Mississippi ; was beautiful and accomplished and usually good humoured. She was kind to all of us  but Patsey… (p198). Thisis not reflected in the film.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the “liberal” slave owner Ford  is unconvincing on a level of basic acting because he struggles dreadfully with an American accent. But there is also a  more major problem, that of  Ford’s  representation in the film being less than faithful to Northrup’s remarkably glowing judgement of him, viz:  “.  “there never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford….He was a model master, walking upright according to the light of his understanding and fortunate was the slave who came into his possession. Were all men such as he, slavery would be deprived of more than half its bitterness.” (p90). In the film Ford appears as comparatively humane but weak and a hypocrite who uses the Bible to justify slavery.

Then there is Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass, the man who sends Northrup’s letter to those who know him in New York, a letter which brings about Northrup’s release from slavery. Bass in is an itinerant Canadian mechanic and general jack-of-all-artisan trades. Against stiff competition Bass is the most unconvincing character in the film because he seems painfully like a modern right-on Hollywood liberal.   He  is shown preaching  at length to the slave-owning class including Edwin Epps about the evils of slavery and being met with remarkably little critical response. This is how Northrup’s book portrays him,  but it does seem to be wildly improbable if one takes Northrup’s description of  Epps’ wildly  erratic and violent  behaviour seriously.

The general veracity of the film is dubious because it treats  Northrup’s account as the gospel truth. After I saw the film I read the whole of  12 Years a Slave. The impression I was left with was that it has strong elements of implausibility because some things did just not ring true when set in the context of Northrup’s time and place.  Nor does the literary style seem natural.

To begin with he routinely uses the Obama trick (found in great excess in Dreams from my father) of producing long passages of supposedly reported verbatim speech relating from the time just before he was kidnapped to the end of his enslavement. These cannot possibly be a factually true record because Northrup kept no journal during his captivity and wrote his book  years after most of the conversations  occurred.   The second general problem is that this is just Northrup’s account.  Apart from the fact that it is unverified, there is a great deal of Northrup constantly representing himself as being referred to by whites and blacks alike as being a very superior type of  black and boasting of his own abilities. This looks suspiciously  like egotism.

To this puffing of himself there is the strange way in which despite trying to run away and several times assaulting  a  white man in authority over him,   the carpenter cum overseer John Tibeats (played by Paul Dano), Northrup  remains alive.  Northrup’s account says that he not only fought with Tibeats twice (pps 109, 188)  – only one incident is covered in the film), but also had a struggle with Epps (p288).   His escape from death or even a savage beating is made all the more astonishing because  Tibeats owned Northrup at the time of their fights, Ford having  sold him  to Tibeats  (after owning him for little more than a year)  to settle a debt he owed Tibeats (p 106).  If one takes Northup’s general tale of abuse by slave owners at face value this is astonishing.

Some of the artificiality of the book may have arisen from the fact that it was not  Northup’s unassisted work . How literate Northrup was is debatable and he was  assisted in the writing of the book by two white men, the  writer and lawyer  David Wilson and Henry Northup, the head of the Northup family which had owned and freed Northup’s father (http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/12-years-a-slave.php). The involvement of Wilson and Henry Northrop may have coloured what  Solomon Northrup said of his time as a slave, perhaps exaggerating the good behaviour and righteousness of anti-slavers and demonising slave owners and the white men working for them. Based on the characters depicted amongst the slave owners and traders, there is even a good case for saying the book was moulded to present the anti-slavery case both in terms of its inhumanity but also to give some of the  slave owning class  at least a partial absolution from being part of the “peculiar institution” by providing examples of relatively humane treatment such as that of  Ford.

Finally, there is the problem of a complete absence of context, namely, a failure to place the behaviour of slave owners and traders in the broader setting of the customs of the  time generally  and in particular of the  way the free poor of the time  lived and, to modern eyes, the gross cruelties to which they were often subjected. ( A charge often levelled against William Wilberforce was that he cared a great deal about slaves but nothing for the poor  in England).

Take corporal punishments,  examples of which in the film have produced a great deal of anguish amongst reviewers. The flogging of slaves seems brutal to modern eyes but would have been much less likely to cause disgust amongst the general public in both the USA and Britain in the early Victorian period (the time of Northrup’s abduction). Heavy duty flogging was still commonplace in the British army and Royal Navy (and the press gang was lavishly used to man the Royal Navy until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815) and  was used widely as a judicial punishment. In addition,  beating was routinely used  in schools and in the home, both on children and wives.

There was a good deal more in the society contemporary with the time of Northrup’s enslavement which revolts modern sensibilities. Bear and bull baiting and dog fighting  were only outlawed in Britain in 1835 and  bare-knuckle boxing  was very popular not merely amongst the poor but also the gentry. Executions, which involved a good deal of cruelty  because simple hanging by suspension was used, were conducted in public (and attracted huge crowds). The number of crimes which attracted the death penalty in England until the late 1820s numbered over 200 and transportation to Australia  was still going strong in the 1840s. The threat of imprisonment for debt hovered over all but the seriously rich, for even the middle classes could be rendered penniless by misfortune or recklessness.

Then there was the general  condition of the poor. To be needy in early Victorian Britain was to live a very precarious life and those who were reduced to taking advantage of the 1835 Poor Law suffered such things as the separation of man and wife, child and parent. Trade Unions were illegal  and women who worked were frequently  forced into sexual acts by employers or others who had authority over them .

The poor had the advantage of being free, or at least of having made a choice to be less than free when they enlisted as a soldier or sailor or chose to enter the workhouse,  but often the choice was between starving or the result of signing up to something the person did not understand or done under the influence of drink

What is startling are the remarkably large number of individual abuses of the poor which match those found in the type of chattel slavery which existed in the USA.    That is not to say the free poor were as grievously handicapped as slave, for formal unfreedom is a heavy burden to bear, but merely to explain that the material distance between American slaves and the poor was not unimaginably great and in some cases, especially the  house slaves of the rich. The material circumstances of the slaves would have been better than many of the free poor.

We are now deep into the film awards season.  The response so far has been less than ecstatic for 12 Years a Slave.   For a film lauded to the skies by the critics both in America and Britain,  it has not swept all before it as might be expected: in the two sets of awards given out so far 12 Years a Slave  has received a underwhelming response. It won only a single Golden Globe for best picture (voted for by members of the world’s media who call themselves the Hollywood Foreign Press Association). The Screen Actors Guild awards (voted for by actors)  was even less overwhelmed and gave only the  best supporting actress award to Lupita Nyong’o for her depiction of Patsy. As for those awards still pending after nominations have been made, 12 Years a Slave was not the most nominated film for either the BAFTAs, (nine nominations against Gravity’s ten)  or  the  Oscars (nine nominations) coming behind American Hustle and Gravity with ten nominations apiece.

Nominations for film awards are one thing; voting for what you actually think is best quite another. Those who make nominations will be at least ostensibly politically correct and films such as  12 Years a Slave are  for that reason  more or less guaranteed to make a strong showing in the nominations.  But having done their pc duty by nominating many of those entitled to vote will vote for who they actually believe should win. This will often mean that, as  with the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild ,  the nominations bear little fruit when it comes to who wins.

Judged purely on the grounds of quality  the film deserves, little praise official or otherwise for it is a truly ordinary film judged as a drama and dishonest as an historical record.

Note added  4  March 2014

12 Years a Slave won only a single Golden Globe for best picture. The BAFTAs saw it collect the best film and best actor awards while the  Oscars gained it a three awards for best film, best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay.  This was a poor return for a film which was the subject of a huge unofficial PR campaign by critics. The sparseness of the awards suggests tokenism.

Democracy and Political Ignorance – Why smaller government is smarter

Ilya Somin

Stanford University Press

ISBN 978-0-8047-8661-4

Does the ignorance of voters matter in a system of representative democracy? Somin thinks it has very serious consequences because it leads voters to make “wrong” decisions and laments the low level of political knowledge in the USA.  (I put wrong  in inverted commas because unfortunately he has a political bias which often makes him equate wrong with “these are not my politics” which are broadly liberal left.  This seriously taints his work).  The book  is primarily concerned with the effects and implications of  voter ignorance on the American political system,  but has implications for any political system, democratic or otherwise,  for as anyone who follows politics closely will be only too well aware  political ignorance is not restricted to voters but afflicts politicians and their advisors.

Listen to a vox pop or phone-in on a political subject  and  the ignorance of the general public can be startling when it comes to the detail of  politics,  not least because  educated respondents are frequently as at sea with political subjects as the uneducated.  Somin cites a large number of prime examples of crass political ignorance amongst Americans. For example, two  2006  polls respectively found that only 42% of Americans could name the three branches of the federal government, the executive (President), legislature (Congress) and judiciary (Supreme Court)  and only 28% could name two or more of the five rights guaranteed by the first amendment (p19). As for specific policies,   a 2010 survey showed that 67% of the population did not know that the economy had grown the previous year, despite the economy being judged as one of the most important policy areas by Americans (p21).

This may be dismaying at first glance, but in practice  it is irrelevant how limited is the detailed political knowledge of an electorate. This  is because no individual,  however diligent, erudite, insightful and intelligent,   could be seriously  knowledgeable about all but a very small proportion of  the problems and policies  arising in a  minimalist state constructed on  the Hayek model, let alone the vast ocean of  policy areas which are  covered in the modern industrial state.   That would apply even if political power was devolved. Indeed, in a devolved situation (and Somin is strongly in favour of devolved power)  the position could be even worse because there could be more to know and understand with multiple jurisdictions to vote for on important issues.

Does this mean that representative democracy should be done away with? Not a bit of it. Even though he is worried about democratic outcomes based on ignorance and sceptical about the chances of improving political knowledge amongst  voters, Somin in the end comes down in favour of it: “Despite political ignorance, democracy retains many advantages over rival systems of government.” (P199).

Indeed it does. Whether electors can make considered decisions on all matters or even the vast majority of issues  is not really the point of representative democratic politics.  What matters is the fact that such a political system  can best restrain the naturally abusive tendencies of elites and provide by far the best  legal mechanisms for the formal and peaceful transition of power, something which  makes coups and civil war much less probable.

Voters  can meaningfully answer the big political questions. They can oppose mass immigration on the rational ground that this is an invasion of territory which utterly changes their country. They can say whether they  want their country to go to war. The can approve or disapprove of whether political correctness should or should not be part of their country’s legal system. They can say whether they feel more comfortable with a welfare state or no welfare state. They can make a meaningful choice on whether they wish their country to be part of a supranational bloc such as the EU. They can decide what punishment should be meted out to criminals. They can say yea or nay to whether  essential industries should be  in public hands. Electors can also make purely rational  decisions  (for example, those made simply on arithmetical grounds) on competition for resources, for example, it is perfectly rational to oppose immigration on the grounds that it increases competition for housing, education, jobs and welfare.

The fact that voters’  answers to such questions, if they were ever allowed to vote on them in referenda,  would  generally run contrary to the wishes of elites in  countries such as the USA  and Britain and are routinely  thwarted by those  elites,   tells us that the real reason  voters are denied the chance to directly make decisions about policy is not that they are incapable of doing so on  many major issues,  but rather that the opinions of voters are opposed to those with power, wealth and influence.

A major problem with the book is the fact Somin  wants politics to be a science, to have an objective reality like physics. In the long  distant past when I was a history and politics undergraduate I had  to take a compulsory  course  entitled Modern Political Analysis. This involved flow charts, graphs and formulae which  purported to elevate the  study of politics to the level of a science. Politics students were solemnly expected to take seriously, say, a flow chart which started with a box marked electorate, had boxes marked with words such as election and  government before ending  with a box marked democratic outcome (I kid you not).     Democracy and Political Ignorance is cut from the same misdirected intellectual cloth, nothing like  so crudely but still in a marvellously wrongheaded manner which assumes that the democratic process can be reduced to quantifiable  data. He even has a few formulae such as this  gruesome  example:

“Assume that UV equals utility of voting, CV equals the cost of voting and  D equals the expected difference in welfare per person if the voter’s preferred candidate defeats her opponent. Let us further assume that this is a presidential election in a nation with three hundred people,, that the voter’s ballot has only a one  in one hundred chance of being decisive , and the they voter values the welfare of his fellow citizens an average of a thousand time less than his own. .. thus we get the following equation D(300 million/1000)/ (100 million) – CV = Uv  (p67).

That is the general error of the book, to imagine that human behaviour can be reduced to a miscellany of objective fact which can be used to determine how people  should (or even would of necessity)  behave if only they were in full possession of these facts.  This matters greatly because the vast majority of   political decisions have no objective truth or falsity.

The particular mistakes Somin makes are  to imagine that there is such a thing as perfect information which leads to  objectively  right answers to political questions and  to approach the subject of political ignorance  from a politically correct starting point, something he banally and  tiresomely signals by  assiduously alternating  she and her with he and his as a generic term for humanity  throughout the book.

It is true that Somin attempts to give an appearance of even-handedness, splattering his analysis  with qualifications, but somehow he always comes down on the liberal left “right on” side. Take the question of judicial review to which he devotes an entire chapter.  He hums and haws over how undemocratic this is  because it overrides the majority will but in the end concludes “Once we  recognise that ignorance is a pervasive element of modern democracy, the counter-majoritarian difficulty turns into a much less than previously assumed.” This is because “Much of the legislation subject to judicial review is not actually the product of informed democratic consent.”  (p169).

His political correctness also drives him to the conclusion that some political knowledge can be damaging: “Why might political knowledge exacerbate the harm caused by an electorate with bad values? Consider an electoral majority that is highly racist and wants to inflict as much harm as possible on  a despised racial minority. If such racist voters become more knowledgeable about the effects of government policies, they might force elected officials to implement policies that increase the  minority group’s suffering.” (P54).

That might seem a reasonable position at first glance, but a few moments consideration will reveal the dangers involved in it. What would constitute racism? After all, governments of all colours routinely favour incidentally or deliberately one group over another,  whether the group be defined by race, ethnicity or class. At the present time governments in the Western world, and especially the USA, have favoured the have over the have-nots in their economic policies. This means the poor have been most disadvantaged by the policies. Ethnic and racial minorities tend to be poorer on average than the majority population,  Does that mean the policies are racist? Trying to objectively define what was racist behaviour by a government would in practice would be impossible because inevitable judgements would be highly subjective.  A real can of worms.

Somin gives a further hostage to fortune when it comes to subjectivity with ‘This book does not provide a defense of any particular vision of political morality. But unless we adopt the view that all values are equally good – including those of racists and Nazis [note that he does not include Marxists who have been responsible for far more deaths than the Nazis] -  we must admit that good political knowledge might sometimes be put in the service of “bad” values.’ (p55)

Political correctness also damagingly colours  Somin’s judgement of what is a fact.  Two examples. First, he claims  that the  mistreatment of blacks in post slavery  USA was in part built on the belief of  whites  that blacks were prone to excessive criminality and every black man was just waiting to rape white women; second,  that hostility towards homosexuals and lesbians is in part the result of  ignorance about the likelihood that sexual orientation is genetically determined (p10).

The danger with overt human reasons is that they are often a mask for the real covert ones. Hence, whether post-slavery white America did genuinely fear black criminality is not necessarily the real issue. Human beings will use justifications for likes and dislikes which are not the real reasons for their choices when they feel either that they simply do not like something without having any clear idea why (everyone has probably experienced an immediate dislike for someone as soon as they have been introduced) or are afraid for legal and social reasons that their motivation for holding a view  would be unacceptable or even dangerous for them if expressed. That is the position with anything which is deemed non-pc today . Whites  in the old slave owning states may  have used any number of rationalisations  for segregation post-slavery,  while their actual motivation was  that they did not see blacks as their equals or,   more fundamentally,  simply as different, as not part of the national American “tribe”. There is, incidentally,  nothing inherently irrational about that. Human beings have, as do  all social animals, an innate desire to  associate with  those whom they see as sharing the same characteristics as themselves. Ultimately, humans are driven by desires not reason because it is from emotions that motives arise.  If this were not so, humans would be automata.

Another serious problem with Somin’s examples of false information is that he routinely presents  baldly asserted or weakly supported opinions  as  either  hard fact or as having a high probability of being true.  His  position on homosexuality and lesbianism is a good example.  There is no conclusive evidence that homosexuality or lesbianism are genetically determined, but even if it was so proven it would not mean that it was irrational to dislike such behaviour  or feel uncomfortable with its existence. There could be sound evolutionary reasons why people are hostile to homosexuality and lesbianism, for example,  the rejection of the individual who does not breed and help the continuation of the “tribe”.  That does not mean there should be persecution of gays and lesbians. Rather, it is a plea to not to pretend that something is an objective fact when it is not.

There is also the fundamental difficulty of how any objectively true information could exist in some instances. Take Slomin’s post-slavery claim.   It is not  irrational to have a fear that an enslaved group once set free might wreck physical revenge on the group which had held them enslaved.  That being so, it is difficult to see how American whites who believed that could have their fears assuaged by more  knowledge. In the nature of things there could be no such knowledge available to decide  the question  of whether freed slaves and their descendants  would be violently criminal if left to live without any strict social control,  for  that knowledge could  only exist  by testing the matter with the removal of   the repressive conditions under which blacks lived.  If whites feared mayhem would result if such conditions were removed,  they could not make a rational decision to end those  conditions.  In this context it  is worth noting that there has been a considerable growth in the  number of violent crimes perpetrated by blacks on whites in the USA since the civil rights movement and the end of segregation in the 1960s and they are now pro rata hugely greater in number than  crimes of violence committed by whites on blacks (http://www.examiner.com/article/federal-statistics-of-black-on-white-violence-with-links-and-mathematical-extrapolation-formulas). There is also the experience of  post-Apartheid South Africa where black murders of whites, and particularly white farmers, has been considerable. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22554709).

None of this is to  argue for slavery or segregation.  I am simply examining the situation from the viewpoint of the  mental state of whites, especially those in the slave states, after the end of slavery. Whether or not their fears were justified is not the issue.  What matters is that it would be a rational fear and,  indeed,  it was precisely the fear expressed in all the cases of ending slavery or other forms of unfreedom, from the British ending of slavery to the freeing of the serfs in Russia.

Somin  also has a full blown faith in laissez faire economics. That might seem to sit oddly with his political correctness but, that ideology does not have  a fixed menu. Its core ancestral beliefs are the triad of race, gay rights and feminism, of which race is by far the most toxic and is the springboard which has allowed the other parts of political correctness to develop and grow.  However, other things have been added over the past forty years. One of those is a belief in laissez faire economics and free trade (the two are distinct for free trade merely means the exchange of goods and services produced between radically different economic systems).  That laissez faire  and free trade are an integral part of political correctness at present can be readily seen from the fact that support for globalism (which of course includes free movement of  peoples and the undermining the nation state) is now a core part of political correctness. That does not mean laissez faire and free trade  will remain a core part and, indeed,  I see the first signs of the pc wind changing on the matter of economics, but it is as yet a nascent development.

Somin’s  belief in it provides another example of  a highly contentious claim  which is effectively unsupported – he  merely says it is the opinion of most economists “…voters who support protectionist policies in the erroneous expectation that they will benefit the economy as a whole rather than weaken it will also end up undermining their own goals” (p6)

The reality is that  historically, protectionism has often been very successful, for example, the British industrial revolution occurred behind one of the most comprehensive and successful protectionist walls in the shape of the Navigation Acts and the Old Colonial System the world has ever seen.  All the countries which followed the British lead most successfully did so behind protectionist barriers.

Interestingly, Somin does not address the fact that it is not just a lack of interest or education which stops people becoming politically knowledgeable, but also lack of innate qualities such as intelligence, intellectual inclination and  extroversion. Perhaps that is because his politics debar him from believing that people will or will not do or be something because that is the way they are born. That would fit into his modern liberal mindset.  IQ is particularly important because the lower the IQ the less ability to handle abstractions or complex data. This is not a trivial matter because at least ten percent of the population of Western states have IQs of 80 or less . That is the level which most psychologists working in the field of IQ believe that a person begins to struggle to live an independent life in an advanced modern society.

Somin is much taken with the concepts of rational ignorance and rational irrationality.  Rational ignorance  is the idea that voters do not devote time to educating themselves about political issues because they make a rational decision that  their votes will count for next to nothing. I sincerely doubt whether anyone actually makes a decision to remain ignorant on that basis, although they may use it as an excuse for being politically ignorant.

But even if voters did make a considered decision to remain ignorant it would not self-evidently be a rational decision. To begin with there are  many electoral circumstances  where a vote is important. That is true where the electorate is small or a seat is marginal. Under the first past the post system used in Britain there are a considerable number of seats where the main party candidates are near enough in their support to make voting a far from redundant business. But even where there is no  main party candidate who appeals to an elector  or one of the main party candidates is odds on certain to win there is still a point in voting. To begin with if turnout is persistently low it could be used  by those with power to argue for a restricted franchise or even no franchise at all.  Then there is the overall vote a party gets. If, for example, a party or presidential candidate gets elected with less of the popular vote  than their main opponent their mandate is weakened.  If all else fails, a vote for a candidate of a minor party such as UKIP in Britain,  the  minor  presidential candidate in the USA  or a spoiled ballot sends a public message about the state of elector dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties. Somin is not entirely blind to such objections,  but mysteriously and annoyingly they appear to carry little weight with him.

Rational irrationality  is the brainchild of the  economist Bryan Caplan. The idea is  that voters not only have incentives to remain ignorant but also incentives to “engage in highly biased  evaluation of  the information they do have” (p13).  The tempting response to this is a sarcastic “Dearie me, who would have thought it?”

Pursuing the idea of rational irrationality,  Somin likens  the politically interested who are seriously committed to supporting political parties to  fans of sports teams who support their team blindly,  generally give weight to information which boosts  their team and disregard that which does not.  The rewards for doing so are emotional. This of course is not irrational behaviour  because it is natural for human beings to indulge their “tribal” instincts and defend their position and that of their group.

Where rational ignorance and rational irrationality come together, they are to Somin’s mind the most toxic political democractic cocktail, one which could only be overcome or at least ameliorated if those pesky voters would just become “correctly” informed.

What are Somin’s solutions to reduce what he sees as the harm of voter  ignorance?  It is to reduce the amount which government does (with much of the slack being taken up by private enterprise)  and bring as much as possible of politics to the local or regional level, viz: . “Despite political ignorance, democracy retains many advantage over rival systems of government. Nonetheless  , political ignorance will probably continue to be a serious weakness of democratic government. We are unlikely to eliminate that weakness completely. [another example of the blindingly obvious] . But we can reduce its dangers by limiting and decentralising the role of government in society”  p199

There are real  problems with both of these policies. In a large industrialised society government of necessity has to do a considerable amount, whether that is at the local or national level.  There have to be good communications for people, goods and information. A universal school system is unlikely to exist  if it is not in large part funded by the taxpayer. Defence and the maintenance of law and order cannot reasonably be left to private initiatives. Foreign policy, especially for a super-power such as the USA, has wide-reaching ramifications for domestic policy and is frequently very complex to master.

As already mentioned, it would not matter how rigorously the areas of action for government were curtailed, that pruning would not come close to making the voter’s task of informing themselves sufficiently to make considered decisions when voting light enough to be practical. If the present burden of legislation was halved in countries such as the USA and Britain it would not make a blind bit of difference to the problem of political interference because there would still be vastly more for the individual to master than any individual could manage. Even in the minimalist libertarian state there would still be a good deal of legislation and government administration, far too much for any one person to master in sufficient detail to make them informed on all or even most issues.  This limitation also applies to elected full time politicians.

It might be objected that the Internet has made the acquiring of information vastly simpler. That may be true, although it presupposes that people will know enough to look for what they need. But even if they find the information how is the ordinary person to know whether the information is correct or the whole truth? The answer is that they cannot possibly be expected to do so. However intelligent a person is, they are not going to be able to judge the veracity and completeness of claims from seemingly unimpeachable sources if they  do  not have access to the raw data  on which research conclusions are made. Such data is rarely available. There is also the problem of who controls public information.   If   government agencies and the large media corporations are the main sources of such information, the public will only get the received opinion of the elite most of the time there being a great deal of  shared ideology and collusion between the various parts of the elite:  politicians and the public bodies they control,  the mainstream media, big business and not-for-profit organisations such as the larger charities.

As for decentralisation of  politics,  the more local the decision making the smaller the pool of political talent available. This may well result in poorer decisions being made, especially where the policy is complex.  It is also true that if the number of political bodies which can raise and spend taxes  increases, the opportunities for corruption  increase and this generally means more corruption.

Then there is the question of exactly what should be devolved from the centre. There would never be anything approaching  general agreement on that.  Even within the individual there would be intellectual confusion and inconsistency. Take Somin as an example. He would have a conflict between the idea of decentralisation and his politically correct view of the world. One of the reasons Somin favours  the idea of decentralisation is because it offers the opportunity for foot voting, that is,  a person moving from one jurisdiction to another in search of policies more to their liking, literally voting with their feet.   But for  someone of his  political orientation, there is the  unfortunate fact that the more local politics becomes,  the greater the opportunity for racial and ethnic groups to exploit their dominance of an area to their advantage. It is difficult to imagine Somin thinking that federal action to enforce politically correct behaviour throughout America would be damaging or that he would  readily  tolerate  a local jurisdiction which, for example, refused to apply equal rights laws.

Overall all Somin is gloomy about the likelihood of political knowledge increasing.  He glumly points to the fact that despite rising IQ scores, educational standards and the great ease of access to information because of the Internet over recent decades,  there has been little increase in political knowledge during that time (p199) or of rationality (in his terms).

Perhaps most damaging  for Somin’s desire for greater political knowledge is research (which he cites)  that suggests that the more knowledgeable voters are  “more biased in their evaluation of  new evidence than those with less prior information”( P80).  If this is true – and it is very plausible because the more data someone has, the greater the material from which  to construct arguments – then the whole idea of a better educated electorate producing superior outcomes falls completely to pieces.

The primary problem with democracy at present is not voter ignorance – which in any case cannot be reasonably expected to improve – is the way in which elites have hijacked the process by adopting very similar policies on all the major issues – a commitment to ever more restrictive political correctness, the use of the law to effectively ban dissent from their views, their control of the mainstream media and perhaps most damaging for democratic control, the movement of national politics to the supranational level. The most complete example of the last is the EU which now controls a remarkably wide range of policy areas in whole or part, everything from immigration to labour laws.

The answer to this is to constrain representatives both in what they promise and what they deliver or fail to deliver. This can be done in various  ways, for example,  by tying the representative firmly to a constituency which they have lived in for a long time, by making any candidate standing for election put forward his policy position on all the major issues, by making it illegal for any elected representative to renege on his policy as stated in an election manifesto and outlawing any system of party coercion such as the British practice of whipping MPs (that is instructing those of a party to vote en bloc in support of the party’s policy) .

There is an important book to be written about voter ignorance  within a democracy.  Sadly this is not it. I don’t deny that he has written a densely argued book which systematically works out his ideas.  The problem is that he is completely wrong headed in his premises. Consequently, his arguments count for nothing. However, the book is  worth reading as a first rate example of the attempts of those working in what are mistakenly called the  “social sciences” to pretend that these subjects  are bona fide sciences just like physics and chemistry and a very revealing look into the modern liberal mind.

Parliamentary pay, expenses and conditions: a remedy for corruption

 

Robert Henderson

Parliamentary pay and expenses are never  far from the public eye these days. Neither the Commons voting on its own remuneration nor the setting up a supposedly independent pay review body has proven satisfactory from the point of view of the public. Nor did an earlier attempt at linking pay to that of a middle ranking civil servant avoid the difficulty of the initial setting of the peg by which MPs’ pay should be decided. .

As for expenses they have been a standing cause for Parliamentary shame ever since the Daily Telegraph exposed the gross abuses which were going on in 2009 when they purchased records of Parliamentary expenses which politicians  had done their very best to keep secret (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5297606/MPs-expenses-Full-list-of-MPs-investigated-by-the-Telegraph.html).

MPs Pay

MPs’ pay  should be comfortable but no more than that,  let us say  three times the average national wage. That  would take it up to around £80,000 at present. I think most people would accept  that as  reasonable if MPs were banned from taking other paid  work and expenses abuse, both legal and illegal, was tightly controlled. It would give the backbench MP a salary akin to that of a doctor or a solicitor.  In addition, they have a seriously generous pension by present day standards, subsidised food and drink within the Palace of  Westminster and a substantial payment to tide them over should they lose their seat.  There might be a case for removing or lessening such perks, but for the moment I would let them stay. The subsidised food is justified by the ending of any expense claims  allowed for meals in London and the transition payment is reasonable if  MPs are allowed no  outside of politics  employment whilst an MP. The pension is more vulnerable to attack because there is a case for saying MPs should not have a more generous pension regime than is the norm for British society.

We can be sure that there would be no shortage of takers at £80,000 pa even with the other conditions I have proposed.  Indeed  the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which has recently recommended an 11% rise,  admits that the current £66, 000 is quite sufficient to entice many to be parliamentary candidates (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/10516391/No-evidence-MPs-66000-salary-deters-people-from-standing-for-Parliament-pay-watchdog-admits.html).  The idea that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys should produce a hollow laugh from anyone who has paid attention to how MPs behave, whether  in terms of being dishonest or lazy or simply incompetent. Our present remuneration system produces all too often MPs who act as though they see being an MP as merely a ticket to ride the  gravy train and  an ego trip.  Few  show any real independence of thought or action for very rarely does an MP, even a backbencher, step radically out of line on a party policy, even where, so often these days, the policies are self-evidently not in the national interest, for example, the continuing mass immigration in the UK and the ever increasing suppression of dissent against the ever tighter grasp  of political correctness.  

Their pay should  be uprated up or down in  accordance with the rise or fall of the average wage.  That would provide both a simple and transparent system for the public to understand and give MPs a direct reminder once a year of how their stewardship of the country is going. It would also get rid of any squabbling over who makes the decision and remove, after the initial decision on the multiple of the average wage to be used, any further human decision making. Consequently, there would be an appearance of objectivity top any rise.

The job of an MP should be full time  for two reasons. The first is a matter of practicality:  the size of the average UK constituency is large (68, 000 – http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/constituencies/ ) and requires a good deal of time spent on it if people are to be represented properly . In addition,  much of the present business of Parliament goes through with precious little  scrutiny because MPs are so often absent – even the Commons committees routinely have MPs missing. 

The second reason is fundamental to the office of MP: if they have outside interests there is a strong likelihood they will be compromised, because their extra-Parliamentary work will very often impinge on Parliamentary business.  That is not just the obvious cases such as back benchers being sponsored by unions,  being in receipt of non-executive directorships or receiving   consultancy fees, but also that deriving from seemingly innocuous employment such as practising at the Bar or working as a doctor because these can readily give them vested interests.  For example, a barrister would have a vested interest in changes to legal Aid; a doctor in the alteration of the terms of general practice. MPs are supposed to declare any  interest but they can still vote.  In principle,  Ministers have to be not only honest in actuality, but show themselves to be like Caesar’s wife above suspicion. This they do  by divesting  themselves of  directorships and placing any shares they may have in blind trusts. If it is thought necessary for ministers to have such, it should be doubly  necessary for backbenchers because they would prima facie be much more in the way of  temptation when it comes to satisfying their own selfish interests rather than those of the country because they have far less pay than a Minister.   

The post-office legalised bribes that come in the form of sinecures on the boards of companies must also be stopped.  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10516295/Whitehalls-revolving-door-speeds-up-ex-ministers-and-civil-servants-seeking-jobs-in-private-sector-doubles.html ).

MPs Expenses

It might be thought that after the revelation  by the Daily Telegraph in 2009 of the  grotesquely inappropriate  things for which MPs were allowed to claim,  caution if not morality would have greatly curbed the abuses.  Sadly, it appears there is still some bizarre  poking of Hon Members’ noses into the expenses trough, for example, the brawling Scottish MP Eric Joyce, who sits as an independent since losing the Labour whip, stung the taxpayer for  £229 for a pair of designer glasses. (http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/disgraced-mp-eric-joyce-stung-2896178).

The only expenses MPs should be allowed are for accommodation when they are in London and have constituencies a fair distance from the capital and the cost of travel between their constituencies. It is reasonable to expect them to meet their food costs whilst away from home, not least because of the subsidised  meals they can get within the Place of Westminster.

Housing can be met one of two ways,   build a furnished hostel to house MPs or simply put out contracts to London hoteliers for a bulk rate. Fully furnished accommodation with no need for  MPs to buy any household goods.

As for travel, the government should negotiate a bulk contract for MPs and their families with the rail companies. The spouses and children could be restricted to a set number of trips a year.  I doubt whether any MPs live far from a  railway station.  I would restrict them to railway travel if the taxpayer is paying. Those who  live  a genuinely long distance away, for example, in the far north of Scotland or Northern Ireland,  could be covered  by a bulk buy contract with one or more airlines.

If this seems somewhat Spartan rations,  remember that MPs who have constituencies too far from Westminster to make a daily commute practical  probably only spend Monday-Thursday nights in London. In addition, the Commons only sits for about 6 months of the year. Consequently, the argument that MPs need a flat or house in London to maintain family life is clearly untrue.

If such a regimen was introduced expenses fraud would vanish because an MP would have little  opportunity for it. Their  accommodation in London would be paid for by the government directly, there would be no household purchases needed because the accommodation would be furnished and travel expenses would be paid for by the government directly. MPs would have to claim nothing.

The other great abuse is the employment by MPs’ of their relatives or friends as staff.   As this is public money being spent it is reasonable that these positions are put out to open competition. But even if that was done, the  MP would still be likely to choose the relative or friend.  That is a good reason to ban MPs from employing anyone close to them. A second reason to ban their employment  is that a close relative or friend would be more likely on average to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour by an MP and MPs would be aware of this and moderate their criminal tendencies. The third reason is that some MPs at least have employed relatives and friends who have done precious little work. Someone unknown to the MP before employment is much more likely to do the work for which they are paid.

To help ensure that MPs are not illicitly enriching themselves, a full statement of assets including those held by close family members should be included in the Members Register of Interests. These should be checked against the actual material circumstances of each MP  when they first become and MP, once a Parliament and when the MP leaves Parliament.

There is also a crying need for a proper investigation into the way Parliamentary  expense administrators and the special HMRC unit dealing with MPs pay have failed to apply the HMRC’s  “Wholly, necessarily and exclusively incurred in the performance of the job”  expenses test. It was clear from the Telegraph data published in 2009 that well over half of MPs had claims which comprehensively failed the test, yet very few were brought to book over it.  Consequently, the Parliamentary administrators and the HMRC unit should be investigated for systematically failing to apply the test. 

The House of Lords

The Lords is a mess. It is neither political fish nor fowl nor good red flesh. Trying to reform it is really a lost cause because most of the hereditary peers  are gone (which removes the idea of independent members  beholden to no one) and the vast majority of the regular attendees are placemen of the major political parties. It would be better if the House was abolished and replaced by an entirely new chamber with none of the placemen in it so there is a genuine change of political personnel. (Personally, I would favour a House of 1,000 members selected by lot from those who were willing to serve with a single term of eight years. They would act as a kind of jury to oversee the legislation of the Commons but would not initiate the legislation.  The primacy of the Commons would not be challenged and political parties would not be able to control the house). 

However, there is no prospect of any radical change in the foreseeable future so what should be done under present circumstances?

Peers do not get pay, but  an attendance allowance and expenses, including London accommodation if they live far enough away. . They cheat  by selling influence , claiming illegitimate expenses and by abusing the attendance allowance rules. The last they do by signing on for the day then leaving the Lords shortly afterwards having pocketed £300 from the taxpayer (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/video-tory-lord-hanningfield-exposed-2934895#ixzz2nj1KwOwp)  It is doubtful  whether this abuse of the attendance allowance is illegal because there are no clear duties for peers, but it is clearly an abuse and should be stopped. As for the selling of influence, that  should be made a criminal offence. Expenses should be  restricted to travel and overnight accommodation and could be included within whatever arrangements are made for MPs.  

How could things be improved on the attendance allowance front?  By paying a salary? That is not really a starter because most of the peers entitled to sit in the House – there are approaching  800 at present – do not wish to attend regularly. The so-called working peers – almost all placemen and women of the major parties – might be given a salary while the others continued with a more rigorously policed  attendance allowance scheme  but that would be a messy arrangement.   The best option would be payment based on objective criteria such as participation in debates and voting  rather than simply clocking in.  This could be linked to definite duties such as I discuss in the next section.  

Terms of service

Apart from abuses in drawing expenses,  some  MPs neglect their political duties, both  at Westminster or in their constituency.  For example, Gordon Brown is notorious for very rarely being in the Commons since his  resignation as Prime Minister – he has even started describing himself as an ex-politician  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/gordon-brown/10415046/Gordon-Brown-Im-an-ex-politician.html). In addition  there is no general public scrutiny of the performance of  a constituency MP, the only real test of the latter being the opinion of their constituency party because the vast majority of constituents will never have cause to go to their MP seeking personal help. 

MPs can get away with such neglect because there is no legal requirement for an MP to do anything either at Westminster or in his constituency. There is a Code of Conduct for MPs but observation of the Code  is not a legal requirement.  Complaints under the Code  can be referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Commissioner’s report on any investigation  he or she may undertake may  be considered by the Committee on Standards (until the beginning of 2012 the Committee on Standards and Privileges http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/standards-and-privileges-committee/). In principle, the House of Commons can also take action as a House if it so chooses. 

Apart from the lack of legal teeth, here are two problems with this system: first, the penalties which are imposed are normally  minor, for example, a reprimand and instruction to apologise to the House; second, even the relatively  minor sanctions that the Committee for Standards can mete out are all too often not imposed.

MPs can be excluded from the House, sometimes for years, but these are rare punishments, especially where powerful and influential members are involved. Think of Peter Mandelson under Blair who was forced to resign a  ministerial position not once but twice: the first time over his false declaration when applying for a mortgage  and his acceptance of a very large loan accepted from a political colleague, the second after the Indian Hinduja brothers received British passports in questionable circumstances after Mandelson had taken a hand in the matter  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/3130348/The-scandals-that-brought-Peter-Mandelson-down-twice-before.html). Nor would the police investigate Mandelson for his false declaration when applying for a mortgage, despite this being an established fact – I made a complaint to the Met asking them to do so but the police refused to even register the complaint (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/laws-are-for-little-people-the-mandelson-mortgage-fraud-cover-up/).

The Code of Conduct is a document which shares something with  the 1936 Soviet Constitution. The latter was a wondrously cornucopia of democratic goodies; the Code of Conduct is splendidly ethical statement of how an MP should behave. Neither the Soviet Constitution nor the Code of Conduct had or has any connection with reality.  Consider these extracts from the Code of Conduct:

“Selflessness

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.” (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmcode/1885/188502.htm#a1)

How far  this is from reality is epitomised by the IPSA chairman claiming that the 11% pay rise for MPs is necessary otherwise they would return to large-scale abuse of expenses. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/10512763/Increase-MPs-pay-or-risk-another-expenses-scandal-Ipsa-chairman-says.html).

The Code of Conduct needs to be enforced rigorously, but that would still leave MPs free to  devote too little time to their political duties. Consequently, there needs to be a legal enforceable job description which requires MPs to do things such  hold regular constituency surgeries, respond to constituents mail within a certain numbers of days  and attend Westminster whenever Parliament is sitting unless they have a reasonable excuse for being absent such as attending to ministerial duties or undertaking official Parliamentary business away from Westminster.

What improvements in politicians’ behaviour would result?

The changes I propose, or something like them, would remove from Parliament those who are there to enrich themselves. The remuneration (including perks) would be sufficient to enable an MP to live decently but not extravagantly.  Because MPs would have all the previously legal ways of enriching themselves through such things as  absurdly lax expenses rules, employing relatives  or spending large amounts of  time on non-political work, only surreptitiously selling influence would be available to them.  However, with proper oversight  such as checking the actual material circumstances of  an MP even that would become decidedly risky. Make selling influence a criminal offence with a hefty prison sentence and it would be most unattractive prospect.

If MPs come to the business knowing they cannot be a law unto themselves but will be subject to the type of constraints which the general population are held by in their work, that in itself will tend to produce politicians who are interested in formulating and implementing policy and serving their constituents rather than serving their own interests.   What I propose  would not be a panacea but a good beginning in the sorely needed attempt to change the ethical weather in Parliament.  There is nothing more corrupting than seeing those with power being corrupt for it  taints the whole of society by example.

 

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