Search by category
Browse by category
- Book Reviews (7)
- Conquest by other means (98)
- Economics (98)
- Elite Mischief (144)
- England (15)
- Europe (23)
- Evolution (15)
- Fifth Columns (17)
- Film reviews (22)
- Getting Wealthier? (24)
- Greenery (8)
- NuLabour news (11)
- Our Toytown Armed Forces (5)
- Philosophy (69)
- Politics (136)
- psychology (63)
- Social Policy (135)
- Technology out of control (13)
- The marching morons (10)
- The Scandalous Blairs (44)
- The willing censor (32)
- Uncategorized (10)
- Unreason (6)
Browse the archives
- August 2014 (2)
- July 2014 (4)
- June 2014 (5)
- May 2014 (3)
- April 2014 (4)
- March 2014 (5)
- February 2014 (6)
- January 2014 (4)
- December 2013 (4)
- November 2013 (5)
- October 2013 (4)
- September 2013 (6)
- August 2013 (5)
- July 2013 (6)
- June 2013 (4)
- May 2013 (3)
- April 2013 (5)
- March 2013 (4)
- February 2013 (5)
- January 2013 (3)
- December 2012 (3)
- November 2012 (6)
- October 2012 (6)
- September 2012 (5)
- August 2012 (5)
- July 2012 (3)
- June 2012 (4)
- May 2012 (6)
- April 2012 (5)
- March 2012 (6)
- February 2012 (13)
- January 2012 (7)
- December 2011 (6)
- November 2011 (7)
- October 2011 (6)
- September 2011 (5)
- August 2011 (9)
- July 2011 (9)
- June 2011 (8)
- May 2011 (10)
- April 2011 (15)
- March 2011 (18)
- February 2011 (20)
- January 2011 (15)
- December 2010 (27)
- November 2010 (33)
- October 2010 (31)
- September 2010 (13)
- August 2010 (1)
- 103,412 hits
Aid authoritarianism banks BBC career politicians censorship computers crime David Kelly defence democracy education employment ethnicity feminism fifth columns food security freedom free expression free markets free speech free trade genes global warming panic greed health healthcare housing ideology immigration intellect intelligent design internationalism IQ Islam justice laissez faire law Leveson Inquiry liberal bigotry libertarianism media morals multiculturalism nationhood NHS NWO Operation Elveden patriotism Plutocracy Poetry police political correctness poverty Press public order public ownership public service public services quislings race railways religion robots science security services sport surveillance tax technology Tony Blair trade treason wealth welfare
- Politically incorrect film reviews – Belle
- The BBC decide one call with a minute to go is enough for immigration on Any Answers
- Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and the worthlessness of public inquiries
- Piers Morgan’s illegal receipt of information from the Met Police referred to the IPCC
- Politics has no place in a charity
- Film review – Transcendence
- The Commons Education Select Committee and the libel of the white working-class
- The curse of the Blair Doctrine
- The reckless mass medication of Britain
- Wall Street, the Wolf of Wall Street and the decline of moral sense
- Civitas Meeting – The trouble with Europe 19 May 2014
- Surveillance and the insurance industry
- The Camp of the Saints tested against reality
- Operation Elveden and Piers Morgan – My attempt to enlist the help of Leo McKinstry
- If there had been no post-1945 mass immigration into Britain …
Tag Archives: free speech
Any Questions (BBC R4 1 August 2014 ) included a question on whether immigration had made Britain poorer. The question provoked an extended debate which would have been much longer if the chairman had not cut the discussion short.
Both the time devoted to the question in the show and the fact that every poll shows immigration to be at or near the top of the public’s current political concerns should have made it one of the primary subjects of the following Any Answers. The reverse happened.
First, the presenter Anita Anand put the question down the batting order as she introduced Any Answers by asking for questions on the subjects discussed – she placed it very near the end – then she took just one call with 29 minutes of the thirty minute programme, a call which lasted a few seconds.
There is no reasonable explanation for the failure to relegate the question to a point where it virtually vanished from Any Answers. The one caller who got on did complain about the late introduction of the question and was fobbed off with the usual BBC excuse of the weight of calls on other subjects driving it down the list. The excuse was particularly absurd in this case because the interest immigration provokes. It is reasonable to believe that the BBC deliberately kept callers about immigration off the air to further their own political agenda. The fact that Anand ancestry is subcontinental adds to the suspicion.
As the BBC is a closed shop when it comes to how prospective callers to are chosen, there is no way to get an independent check on what they are doing. It is also true that they operate of telephone system which blocks out callers deemed to be a nuisance – details below.
Please investigate how the BBC chooses who shall be put on air during phone-ins and how the extraordinary treatment of immigration on this Any Answers programme occurred. I would be delighted to come on to Feedback to question whoever the BBC puts up to justify their behaviour.
I have submitted a complaint to Roger Bolton at the BBC’s Feedback programme. The email for those wishing to complain is email@example.com.
For details of the censoring of phone-ins see http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/how-the-bbc-surreptitiously-censors-callers-to-phone-in/
The programme is fixed generally because all those invited will on subjects such as race, immigration, homosexuality and feminism toe the pc line to a large degree. (Ask yourself when was the last time you heard someone on Any Questions saying that mass immigration is an unalloyed ill). They will do this either from ideological conviction or the fear of the consequences if they become accused of a pc “crime”.
There is also a more particular built in bias which will generally result in preponderance politically correct and left leaning answer. To demonstrate this I have compiled the details of panel members for a couple of recent two month runs of Any Questions – June-July 2013 and January-February 2014 (17 programmes). These details are shown at the bottom of this blog post.
Then there are the biases produced by race, ethnicity and employment. Those who are there as right leaning representatives, but are immigrants or the children of immigrants, members of a racial or ethnic minority or compromised by receiving public money or favours such as those bestowed on the quangocracy will often be left leaning in certain areas such as the desirability of mass immigration or the worth of public service, regardless of their nominal political orientation.
In the four months covered by the two periods chosen, the leftist, politically correct bias is clear: on every panel at least two (half the panel) of the participants are formally left leaning and in a number of cases more than two. A good example is the 28 2 2014 programme where at least three members (Hughes, Eagle, Greer) are of the left and arguably all four because Chua being the child or immigrants and a member of an ethnic minority will in many areas automatically be pc (for example immigration) even if she has some non pc ideas as well.
There is no example of any programme with more than two right leaning members on it. Moreover, many of those classified as right-leaning will be right leaning only in the area of economics and even there someone who supports laissez faire economics is veering into the leftist world because the effects of globalism feed into the liberal left internationalist credo.
It is also noteworthy that although there are a few members of panels who may reasonably be categorised as of the hard left, for example, Diane Abbott and Laurie Penny, there is no one who represents the far right.
It is reasonable to suspect that the BBC packs all its audiences for political and current affairs programmes in a similar way.
28 2 2014
The Bath Literature Festival with Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Maria Eagle MP, Yale Law professor and author Amy Chua, and writer and broadcaster Germaine Greer.
Political count: two left-leaning MPs (Hughes and Eagle), an immigrant and radical feminist (Greer) and an ethnic minority representative and child of immigrants to the USA (Chua).
21 2 2014
Blundells School in Tiverton, Devon, with Secretary of State for Scotland and Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael, Conservative backbench MP Nadhim Zahawi MP, New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny and Labour backbench MP Frank Field.
Political count: two left leaning MPs (Field and Carmichael ), one ethnic minority immigrant and right leaning MP (Zahawi) and one member of the hard left (Penny).
14 2 2014
Central Hall Methodist Church in Walsall with Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz MP, Fisheries and Farming Minister George Eustice MP, Pauline Black from The Selecter and UKIP Party Director Lisa Duffy.
Political count: ne Left leaning MP, immigrant and ethnic minority representative (Vas), one right leaning MP (Eustice), one ethnic minority representative (Black) and one right leaning representative from a minor party (Duffy).
7 2 2014
Altrincham Grammar School for Girls with Defence Minister and Tory MP Anna Soubry, journalist and poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, the Liberal Democrat MP Jeremy Browne and the Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw MP.
Political count: one Tory MP but with a strong streak of political correctness (Soubry), two left leaning MPs (Browne and Straw) and one leftist journalist and campaigner (Monroe).
31 1 2014
Purfleet in Essex with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP, Labour backbencher Diane Abbott MP, author and columnist Simon Heffer and the new Green party peer Baroness Jenny Jones
Political count: one centrist Tory MP (Pickles), one hard left MP who is the daughter of immigrants and an ethnic minority representative (Abbott), one right leaning journalist (Heffer) and , one hard left peer, (Jones).
24 1 2014
Gwyn Hall in Neath, with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, Jill Evans Plaid Cymru MEP for Wales, Conservative Vice Chairman for Campaigning, Michael Fabricant MP, and the former leader of the Liberal Party Lord Steel.
Political count: two left leaning politicians (Jones and Evans) and one right leaning MP (Fabricant) and one left leaning peer (Steel).
17 1 2014
Greenbank High School in Southport with the former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham, Supermarket Ombudsman Christine Tacon and Liverpool based textiles businessman Tony Caldeira.
Political count: one right leaning MP (Mitchell), one left leaning MP (Burnham), one member of the Quangocracy (Tacon) and one businessman who is a Tory Party supporter (Caldeira).
10 1 2014
Heythrop College in London with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan MP, Patrick O’Flynn the new Communications Director for UKIP and former coalition minister the Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather.
Political count: two left leaning MPs (Khan and Teather), one right leaning Tory MP (Grayling) and one rightist representative for a minor party (O’Flynn).
27 7 2013
Endellion, Cornwall with Lord Hattersley, writer Jessica Mann, Times columnist Phil Collins and Jacob Rees Mogg MP.
Political count: one leftist peer (Hattersley), one rightist MP (Rees-Mogg), one immigrant who has been part of Quangocracy (Mann), one left leaning journalist (Collins) .
19 7 2013
Bridport in Dorset with Lord Ashdown, Kate Hoey MP, Baroness Julia Neuberger and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson.
Political count: two left leaning peers (Ashdown and Neuberger), one centrist Tory peer (Lawson) and one left leaning MP (Hoey). Neuberger is the daughter of an immigrant mother and a member of an ethnic minority.
12 7 2013
Bushey in Hertfordshire with Chuka Umunna Shadow Business Secretary, Vice Chairman of the Society of Business Economists Bronwyn Curtis, Grant Shapps Chairman of the Conservative Party and the Speaker’s Chaplain the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin.
Political count: one left-leaning immigrant and member of an ethnic minority MP (Umunna), One immigrant Australian economist (Curtis), one right leaning MP (Shapps) and one ethnic minority immigrant representative (Rose Hudson-Wilkin).
5 7 2013
from Keswick in the Lake District with Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron, Shadow Europe Minister Emma Reynolds MP, Deputy leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall and Leader of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady MP.
Political count: two left leaning MPs (Farron and Reynolds), one right leaning member of a minor party (Nuttall) and one right leaning MP (Brady).
28 6 2013
Titchfield in Hampshire with John Denham MP, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Bar Council Maura McGowan QC and Minister of State for Justice Lord McNally.
Political count: one left leaning MP (Denham), one right leaning MP (Jenkin), one criminal lawyer with no obvious political affiliation (McGowan) and , one left leaning peer (McNally).
21 6 2013
Purley in Croydon. The panel are Labour peer Baroness Oona King; editor of Prospect magazine Bronwen Maddox, Foreign and Commonwealth minister Alistair Burt and the novelist, journalist and human rights activist Joan Smith.
Political count: one left leaning ethnic representative peer (King), one right leaning journalist (Maddox), one right leaning MP (Burt) and one left leaning journalist (Smith).
14 6 2013
Great Yarmouth Racecourse in Norfolk with Daniel Hannan MEP, commentator Mehdi Hasan, Communities and Local Government Minister Don Foster MP and Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Mary Creagh MP.
Political count: one right leaning MEP (Hannan), one son of immigrants and left leaning ethnic minority representative journalist (Medhi Hassan) and two left leaning MPs (Foster and Creagh)
7 6 2013
The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales with Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson MP, Labour’s Peter Hain MP, Leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Woods, and commentator James Delingpole.
Political count: one right leaning MP (Paterson) one left leaning MP (Hain), one hard left representative (Woods) and one rightist journalist (Delingpole).
1 6 2013
Slough in Berkshire. The panel includes the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers MP, the director of the think-tank British Future Sunder Katwala, Business woman Julie White and Labour peer Lord Adonis.
Political count: one right leaning MP (Villiers), one left leaning ethnic minority representative who is the son of immigrants (Katwala), one business woman whose company D-Drill gets a good deal of its work from government (White) and one left leaning peer (Adonis).
Stanford University Press
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.
On 11th July 2013 I met the journalist Tom Harper who works for the Independent. I was introduced to him by the lawyer Mark Lewis who has represented many of the phone-hacking victims.
The meeting was to discuss Operation Elveden’s refusal to investigate my complaints about Piers Morgan and Jeff Edwards receiving information from the police in circumstances that can only be illegal, Morgan and Edwards’ perjury before the Leveson Inquiry and the failure of the police (led by then Det Supt Jeff Curtis) to investigate my original complaints against Morgan and Edwards; this despite my supplying them with a letter from Morgan to the PCC in which he admits the Mirror received the information from the police. The details of my dealings with Elveden are at (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/operation-elveden-piers-morgan-et-al-the-dpp-advised-of-elvedens-refusal-to-investigate/).
We spent more than an hour together. Our discussion expanded beyond Operation Eleveden to the refusal of the Leveson Inquiry to call me as a witness or use any of the information I supplied to the Inquiry (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-leveson-inquiry-the-blairs-the-mirror-the-police-and-me/). From there it went to the Blairs’ attempts to have me prosecuted and the use of Special Branch and MI5 to keep me under surveillance after failing to do persuade the CPS to sanction an investigation of me. (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/when-tony-and-cherie-blair-tried-to-have-me-jailed/) That in turn led to the story attached to the publication in Wisden Cricket Monthly of my article Is it in the blood? in 1995. (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/is-it-in-the-blood-cmj-and-the-hypocrisy-of-the-media/)
During our conversation I supplied Harper with a good deal of material and the next day I emailed him with the other information he requested such as the responses to my Data Protection Act requests to Special Branch and MI5. ( The major evidence is listed in my first email to Harper reproduced below.) Thus Harper had all the information he asked for by 12th July.
Throughout our meeting Harper was very enthusiastic about the material I gave him and the story I had to tell. At the end of the meeting he said he was definitely going to run the story and wanted to do so quickly.
I rang Harper on 12 July and asked what was happening. He was still adamant the story was going to be used soon. I asked whether it would come out that weekend . Interestingly, he responded in panicky fashion by asking me if I was going to offer the story to someone else. I assured him I had no plans to do that but did need some action soon. Harper promised to come back to me when publication was scheduled.
A week later I still had not heard from him. When I tried to ring him I always went to voicemail. I left messages but got no reply. Eventually on the 22nd July I emailed him and copied the letter to Mark Lewis. That shamed him into action and I received the email from him which I reproduce below.
Harper’s email is utterly at odds with both his behaviour at our meeting and the phone call of 12th July. My further email to him reproduced below deals with this transmutation of his attitude. Harper did not reply to this email.
The most plausible explanation for his change of heart is that he has been leant on by someone in a position of authority, most probably his editor. Whatever the reason, Harper can be added to the list of journalists and broadcasters who have censored the stories I have to tell, all of which are by any standard of prime public interest.
From: robert henderson [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 22 July 2013 16:00
To: Tom Harper
Subject: I need to know your intentions Tom
22 7 2013
I have given you gratis at least four major stories:
1. The Blairs misuse of the security services against me
2. Unshakeable evidence of Piers Morgan’s illegal receipt of information from the police.
3. The failure of the police to twice investigate the Mirror’s illegal receipt of information.
4. Leveson’s corrupt behaviour in failing to call me as a witness or using any of the evidence I supplied to him including the Piers Morgan letter – see below.
Most importantly, I have not simply asserted these things happened. Instead I have given you absolute proof that they happened by supplying you with, amongst other things:
a) Piers Morgan’s letter to the PCC admitting he received information from the police in circumstances which can only be illegal.
b) A tape recording of Det Supt Jeff Curtis of Scotland Yard promising to interview Morgan and Edwards, something he failed to do.
c). My correspondence with Operation Elveden showing their utter refusal to investigate my complaints against Morgan, Edwards and Jeff Curtis despite the fact that they had cast iron evidence of the alleged offences.
d) Correspondence with Special Branch and MI5 relating to my use of the DPA which demonstrated (1) they held data on me and (2) there was data that the y refused to release. This despite the fact that the CPS ruled the Blairs’ complaints against me as “NO CRIME” within hours of receiving the papers from Belgravia police.
e) A copy of the Belgravia Police report on the Blairs’ complaint which clearly showed the “No Crime” ruling.
f) Correspondence between the Met Police and me relating to the Belgravia Police report. This shows (1) that I managed to get the report significantly changed using the DPA and (2) that the Blairs had referred to me as “an irritant like Henderson”, a distinctly sinister phrase from a man who was on the brink of becoming PM.
When we met You assured me that you were going to use the information and that it would be used quickly. You have now had the information the better part of two weeks,. No story has appeared and my attempts to contact you by phone have proven fruitless. I need to know ASAP whether you intend to use the story and if not why you have changed your mind.
All political ills flow from censorship and most particularly censorship of the misbehaviour of the powerful. Milton put it beautifully: ‘And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose upon the earth, so truth be in the field [and] we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter…’ [Areogapitica].
Only those who are uncertain of their case ever wish to suppress information and argument.
From: Tom Harper <T.Harper@independent.co.uk>
To: robert henderson <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, 22 July 2013, 16:10
Subject: RE: I need to know your intentions Tom
Apologies for the delay in responding to you. I have been tied up with other stories that were on the go before I met you.
I have reviewed the information now. I am very grateful to you for taking the time to come and meet me and show me your dossier.
However, I do not think I can use it for a news story in The Independent.
I do not doubt that what happened back in 1997 was wrong, inhuman and had a deleterious effect on your health. I am truly sorry you had to go through those awful experiences.
But I do not think the information you have provided proves the stories that you say. Although it is mildly embarrassing that Morgan has admitted The Mirror got the info from a police source, there is no suggestion any money changed hands. That is the allegation that would create my “top line” – and it is flawed.
I know you will strongly disagree and I am sorry about that. But if you read some of my past work, you will see I am not afraid of having a pop at the police and/or the press and I am not being censored. I just do not think the evidence stacks up in quite the way you suggest.
However, I do think that some of it could be used as background material for a wider piece, but sense you want to try and get maximum impact so I would suggest approaching other journos.
Thanks very much for meeting up with me and good luck.
From: robert henderson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Tom Harper <T.Harper@independent.co.uk>
Cc: Mark <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, 22 July 2013, 16:53
Subject: Re: I need to know your intentions Tom
Your response literally makes no sense. You had the all information by the end of our meeting. Your attitude throughout our meeting was very enthusiastic. Not only that but you promised me you would be using the story. You said the same when I spoke with you a week ago. Now suddenly you pretend it is no story. Do you honestly imagine, Tom, that any disinterested third party would believe that you have rejected the story because it is not of great public interest? If you had run it not only would it have brought down Piers Morgan and several senior police officers, but it would have put the Blairs in a very awkward position.
I will address the particular point of Piers Morgan letter. I explained the relevant law to you during our meeting. Whether or not Morgan, Edwards or any other Mirror employee paid for the information is irrelevant to whether a criminal offence was committed. The offences of misconduct in a public office, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, breaches of the DPA and breaches of the Official Secrets Act (there is a reciprocal offence for those knowingly receiving material in circumstances covered by the Act regardless of whether they had signed the Act – the police do sign the Act) were committed. Conspiracies to commit the other offences could conceivably also be brought. You will recall that Damien Green was investigated for conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office in 2009 (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/leading-article-misconduct-in-public-office-1669922.html). Of course, the odds are that the Mirror did pay for the information and that needs to be investigated as well.
As for Jeff Curtis and Operation Elveden, a failure to investigate an alleged serious crime when there is clear evidence of it constitutes a perversion of the course of justice.
You have thrown away a most tremendous story. I will not speculate here as to why, but I think we both know why.
Operation Elveden refuses to investigate Piers Morgan despite the clearest evidence of his criminality
Metropolitan Police TOTAL POLICING
Specialist Crime and Operations
SCO12-AC Private Office and Business Support
Jubilee House Putney
230-232 Putney Bridge Road
London SW15 2PD
Our ref : Elveden
13 June 2013
Mr Robert Henderson
Dear Mr Henderson,
I write in relation to the allegations you made following your contact with DC Rooke in January of this year. I have reviewed the matters raised by you in this, and subsequent communications, with DC Rooke.
I understand that the matters raised by you relate to an article published in 1997 and that the matter was investigated by the Metropolitan Police Service (Complaints Investigation Bureau). The matter was referred to the Police Complaints Authority in 1999.
I understand that there is no new evidence or information available and as a result I have decided that no investigation will be conducted into the points raised by you.
In relation to the Perjury allegation, having read the transcripts provided, I do not believe there is evidence that shows an offence has been committed. As a consequence this allegation will not be investigated.
Detective Inspector Daniel Smith
Detective Inspector Daniel Smith
New Scotland Yard
8/10 The Broadway
London SW1H OBG
Commander Neil Basu
John Whittingdale MP
George Eustice MP
John Whittingdale MP
George Eustice MP
Gerald Howarth MP
Keir Starmer (DPP)
4 July 2013
Dear Mr Smith,
I have your letter dated 13th June which arrived on 21st June in an envelope post marked 17 June. I have mulled the matter over for a week or so before replying because your decision regarding my complaints is best described as inexplicable if taken at face value. Indeed, I think any disinterested third party would react with the same feeling when faced with the truly indestructible evidence I have supplied to Operation Elveden and your blanket refusal to investigate.
To briefly recap the evidence, I have provided Operation Elveden with a letter from Piers Morgan to the PCC when editor of the Daily Mirror. In it he admits to receiving information from a Metropolitan police officer in circumstances which can only have been illegal. You also have a tape recording of a senior police officer D-Supt Jeff Curtis of Scotland Yard promising to question Morgan and co and saying the evidence was straight forward plus transcripts of the evidence Morgan and Jeff Edwards gave under oath before Leveson in which they denied receiving information from the police illicitly. To that can be added the fact that, despite his promise to me, Curtis failed to interview Morgan, Edwards or any other Mirror employee or examine the records of the Mirror to look for evidence of payments to the police for information. Finally, there is the Daily Mirror story written as a result of the illicit information from the Met . That alone demonstrates that the police illicitly supplied information to the Mirror to their then chief crime reporter Jeff Edwards.
The fact that I was unable to get anyone in authority, not the police, nor the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to act at the time of the original complaints is not evidence that no crime had been committed. Rather, it is further evidence of corrupt behaviour within the police and the police complaints system. The criminal (take your choice between perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office) refusal to act in this matter was generated by the implication of Tony and Cherie Blair in the case. To give you a short guide to that involvement let me quote the Early Day Motion about the matter put down by Sir Richard Body MP on 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
The Blairs made a profound misjudgement when they tried to get me prosecuted. As lawyers they must have known that their complaints were bogus and were relying on their political celebrity to persuade the CPS to charge me regardless of the evidence. So feeble were their allegations that the CPS sent them back within hours of receiving them the papers submitted to them with an emphatic NO CRIME.
That immediately created a problem from the Blairs, but had they left it there that might have been the end of it, because at no time did the police contact me about the Blairs’ complaints and I might never have known of their attempt to have me prosecuted. But the Blairs could not leave well alone and made the further mistake of planting a false and toxically libellous story about me and their failed attempt in the Daily Mirror. This alerted me not only to their attempt, but the fact that Special Branch had been set to spy on me (Special Branch are mentioned in the Mirror story). I then spent the entire Blair premiership suffering harassment which I can only presume came from either Special Branch, MI5 (I used the Data Protection Act to prove they held a file on me) or some other agency employed by one or both of the Blairs. The harassment included such things as death threats, incitements to attack me on social media platforms and regular interference with my post.
In addition to my complaints to the police against the Mirror, I also made a series of allegations against the Blairs after I discovered they had been to the police. These were also not investigated in any meaningful way.
That was why everybody but everybody in the Met Police and the justice system refused to behave honestly when I first made the complaints about Morgan and Edwards. If action had been taken against them then the Blairs would have been brought into the story, something they obviously could not afford to have happen. The refusal of the police and the PCA to deal honestly with my complaints is simply explained, namely, the political implications overrode their honesty Until Operation Elveden began there was no opportunity for me to again bring any part of the scandal to the police. An amazing story but a true one.
The conduct of my complaints to Elveden has been distinctly odd. I have made repeated requests to give a formal statement and meet with a senior member of Operation Elveden. Despite those requests I have not been given the opportunity to make a formal statement, nor, despite my best efforts, met any member of Operation Elveden, junior or senior. That suggests a decision was made at an early stage to deliberately exclude me from any participation in Elveden’s consideration of my complaints. Writing a letter to me saying you will not investigate for spurious reasons is one thing: telling me to my face that the Morgan letter to the PCC is not grounds for investigation quite another matter.
The paucity of detail in your letter also suggests that no meaningful consideration has been given to the evidence I provided. Indeed, your beginning of two paragraphs with “I understand that” suggests that you have not looked at the evidence. The other telling thing is that you do not give me any detailed reason for refusing the complaints against Morgan, Edwards and Curtis. All you say is that you understand that the complaints were previously investigated. Have you examined my evidence in detail, including listening to the tape recording of Jeff Curtis and me?
Are you a gambling man, Mr Smith? Well, you are certainly taking a gamble here by refusing to investigate. Your gamble is this: you are betting that the fact that the Met are refusing to investigate the clearest evidence of serious crimes will remain outside the mainstream public domain. That is a very big wager indeed. All I need is for one politician or mainstream media outlet to take up the story…
I suggest you sit down and try to imagine how you would explain to the mainstream media or a mainstream politician Elveden’s failure to act when you have in your possession a letter from Piers Morgan when Mirror editor admitting he had received information illicitly from the Metropolitan Police. When you have done that, I hope you will reconsider your refusal to investigate and arrange to meet me to take a formal statement and tell me of the progress of the investigation you have started.
John Marsh, Arena Books, £12.99
“Is Western society based on a mistake?” asks John Marsh in his introduction. The possible mistake he considers is whether liberals have a disastrously wrong concept of what human beings are and what determines their behaviour which leads them to favour policies that are radically out of kilter with the way human beings are equipped by their biology to live.
It is not that liberals do not believe in human nature as is often claimed. It can seem that they do because they insist that nurture not nature is the entire font of human behaviour and consequently it is just a matter of creating the right social conditions to produce the type of people and society the liberal has as their ideal. But liberals balance this rationale on a belief that humans are naturally good, an idea which itself assumes innate qualities. Hence, they believe in an innate human nature but not one which bears any resemblance to reality.
The belief that disagreeable aspects of human nature do not exist and that all human beings are innately good is a product of the Enlightenment, where it took its most extreme and ridiculous form in the concept of the ‘noble savage’. Marsh will have none of it. He debunks the idea thoroughly. He sees human beings as not naturally wholly good or bad but the product of natural selection working on the basic behaviours of humans. In this opinion he leans heavily on the Canadian-born evolutionary biologist Steven Pinker who in his The Blank Slate dismisses the idea of the noble savage with a robust
A thoroughly noble anything is an unlikely product of natural selection, because noble guys tend to finish last. Nice guys get eaten
If there is no rational reason why anyone should think that human beings are innately good , why do so many, especially of amongst the elite, fall for the idea? Marsh attributes the phenomenon to the idea being emotionally attractive. There is plentiful evidence for this. One of the pleasures of the book is its first rate line in quotes, many of which are staggering in their naivety. He cites the grand panjandrum of atheism and a fervent believer in innate human goodness Richard Dawkins as writing in The God Delusion
I dearly want to believe we don’t need policing – whether by God or each other – in order to stop us behaving in a selfish or criminal manner
So much for Dawkins’ scientific rationality.
Or take the case of A. S. Neill, founder of the famous or infamous (depending on your politics) Summerhill School, which did not require anything in particular from its pupils:
I cannot believe that evil is inborn or that there is original sin…. We set out to make a school where children were free to be themselves. In order to do this we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all moral training, all religious instruction…We had a complete belief in the child as a good, not an evil being. For over forty years this belief in the goodness of the child has not wavered
That is a quasi-religious statement no different from a Catholic saying they believe in the Trinity.
In the first half of the book Marsh questions and finds wanting in varying degrees just about everything the modern liberal holds dear: that human nature is good and rational and formed by nurture alone, that freedom is the primary end sought by humans, that morality is a set of shackles rather than a safety catch on human behaviour, that science is an unalloyed good, that religion is no more than harmful fairy stories; that a county’s history and customs are at best unimportant and at worst a malevolent means of maintaining an undesirable status quo, that economics should be determined by the market, that universalism and multiculturalism are unquestionably desirable, equality is always beneficial, and the idea that the individual has primacy over the group.
Some of these liberal ‘goods’ are contradictory, for example, the clash between equality and the individual. To enforce equality inevitably means impinging on the wishes of individuals. Doubtless a liberal would argue that the individual should only have their wishes met insofar as they do not impinge upon the wishes of others. In practice that means a great deal of coercion to prevent individuals satisfying their own wishes, and often such coercion occurs where individuals have perfectly reasonable and moral wishes which cannot be satisfied at the same time. For example, two sets of parents may want to send their children to the same school where there is only room for one child.
There are also heavy question marks over whether modern liberals actually believe in individual freedom. The idea that human beings should and can be manipulated into behaving in a certain way by producing social circumstances which engender the desired behaviour is determinist. Where is the freedom if human beings are seen merely as automata responding to the stimuli of their circumstances? Nor is the ‘freedom’ liberals are supposed to espouse a general freedom. The individual in modern Britain may be free to drink what they can afford to buy, or be as sexually promiscuous as they choose, but they are not allowed any freedom of speech which attacks the core values of political correctness. Who would have thought even twenty years ago that English men and women would be appearing in the dock for saying things which went against the politically correct ethos, but that is precisely what is happening with increasing frequency.
It is also arguable that the modern liberal is interested not in individuals but groups. It is true that human ‘rights’ are exalted by liberals, but these are not really individual rights but communal ones. For example, a law which grants free expression or insists on due process is an individual right because it applies in principle to all. Conversely, if (for instance) ‘hate speech’ is made illegal, this is a de facto communal right given to particular groups, because in practice certain groups enjoy much greater protection than others, for the police and prosecuting authorities are not even-handed in their application of the law.
The second part of the book is devoted to the morally disreputable means by which liberals have propagated their beliefs. Marsh is unforgiving about this aspect of liberalism. It involves persistent dishonesty when dealing with evidence which contradicts their world view. The dishonesty consists of both calling black white and conscientiously ignoring and suppressing that which contradicts the liberal world view. In the case of Britain he singles out the BBC as being hopelessly biased towards the liberal left world view, with a particularly strong line in Anglophobia, something he illustrates by citing the BBC’s After Rome, a programme which painted Dark Ages Islam as a vibrant civilisation and Dark Ages England as primitive and barbaric (p152).
The author laments the fact that liberals have generally been silent on the abuses of Communist regimes whilst engaged in a never ending raking over of Nazi malevolence. He cites as a rare and most honourable leftist exception Malcolm Muggeridge, who exposed the Stalin-inspired Ukrainian famine and searingly described the all too many useful idiots of the British liberal left at the time:
Travelling with radiant optimism through a famished countryside, wandering in happy bands about squalid overcrowded towns, listening with unshaken faith to the fatuous patter of carefully indoctrinated guides, repeating the bogus statistics and mindless slogans – all chanting the praises of Stalin and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (p138)
There is a further problem which Marsh spends a good deal of time examining. It is not clear exactly what constitutes the modern liberal. Many of the most enthusiastic enforcers of what we now call political correctness do not call themselves liberals, but are members of the hard left or representatives of ethnic and racial minorities who see political correctness not as a moral corrective but as an instrument to promote their individual and ethnic group advantage, often with the greatest cruelty. Nor is this simply a modern phenomenon for it has been happening since the 18th century.
Marsh patiently records atrocities in gruesome detail generated by those following secular and rationalistic systems of thought deriving from the ideas of Enlightenment, from the grotesque slaughter of the French Revolution to the insanities of various communist and fascist regimes in the 20th century. This is a truly depressing catalogue not merely of murder on a colossal scale but murder committed with atrocious cruelty. His tale of atrocity begins with the suppression of the Vendée rebellion by Republicans during the French Revolution, where men were castrated before death and women killed by explosives detonated within their vaginas, to the madness of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” which rode on slogans such as “smash the old culture“ and the terrible promise of the Red Guards that “We will be brutal”.
Marsh’s judgement of liberalism both in its beliefs and the practical consequences of its implementation verges on the despairing:
To sum up: in the past there were positive aspects to liberalism, but at its core lies a deeply flawed attempt to impose a romantic, but unrealistic, view of human nature on society. Because it is fundamentally untrue, lies, bullying and coercion are needed to impose it, and opponents must be silenced. Because its view of mankind is idealistic, its devotees think it must be true, and are strongly committed to it. It is congenial to people who are well-meaning and who have a naïve rose-tinted view of the world, which avoids dwelling too much on the ugly side of life, like the single mum in a tower block in Tottenham, trying to keep her children safe and worrying about gangs and knife crime. It is in denial of the fact that many aspects of life are worse today than in the past. Liberals cling to their views, ignoring the evidence of science, psychology, anthropology, history and social workers. It is a blind faith in a Utopian project , which blithely dismisses reality and regards its opponents as prejudiced. There is nothing to discuss because we are right. Sadly, for its devotees, truth will out in the end. The experiment was foredoomed from the start (p171)
Damning as that judgement is, I think Marsh is being rather too generous to liberals (especially the modern ones) when he credits them with being generally well-meaning. They are ideologues. That makes them dangerous, because any ideology removes personal choice in moral decision making as the mind becomes concentrated on fitting the ideology to circumstance rather than addressing each circumstance pragmatically. As Marsh points out, it also gives the individuals captured by the ideology an excuse to behave immorally in the enforcement of the ideology on the principle that ends justify means. That is particularly so with ideologies which are what might be called millenarian in their psychology, with a promised land at the end of the ideological road. Political correctness is of this type.
Once someone has accepted the validity of ends justifying means and they know or even suspect that the means will cause harm, that removes any claim to being well intentioned because their final end good intentions are swallowed by the immoral means. Nor can any ideologue, liberals included, rationally have any confidence that a great upheaval of a society will result in their desired ideological ends. What history tells us is that tyranny or chaos are invariably the results of such attempts.
There is also a tremendous arrogance in assuming that it is possible to define what is desirable human behaviour and what is a good society. Liberals may imagine that what they purport to be the ultimate human goods – non-discrimination, equality and the primacy of any individual are objectively what they claim – but in reality they are both no more than value judgements and highly questionable in terms of their outcomes. Modern liberals, or at least the true believers, are really just another set of self-serving egotists who think they know how others should live.
There is a looming leviathan throughout the book that is largely ignored, namely mass immigration and its consequences. Marsh to his credit does mention immigration as a problem, both in terms of weakening British identity and causing resentment amongst the native white population, but it does not feature in more than a peripheral way. Marsh never really asks the question “how much of the change in general British behaviour and the nature of British society in the past fifty years is due to mass immigration?” The answer is arguably a great deal, because multiculturalism and ‘anti-racism’ have been used as levers to promote the ‘anti-discrimination’ and ‘equality’ agendas across the board.
In the end Marsh stumbles in his task of debunking modern liberalism, because he is reluctant to face the full implications of what he is saying. In his introduction he writes,
So is this book a straight-forward attack on liberalism? No. It is not as simple as that. There are some areas in which I believe liberals are right. I acknowledge that some liberalism is necessary and beneficial. Few would want to go back to the restrictions of the Victorian era or live under a despot. There was also a need to free us from a negative attitude towards sex. Liberals are right to be concerned about inequality and to fight for social justice. There still remain great inequalities and their campaign for greater fairness deserves support. I welcome the undermining of the class system, the greater opportunities open to women and the improved treatment of racial and sexual minorities – the decriminalisation of homosexuality
He cannot quite bring himself to go all the way and see modern liberalism for what it is, a pernicious system increasingly aimed at suppressing the resentment and anger of the native British population as the consequences of mass immigration become ever more obvious and pressing. Clearly he agrees with much of the central politically correct agenda, but it is precisely that agenda which has created the present situation and it is difficult to see how such an ideology could ever have resulted in any other outcome once it became the guiding ideology of the elite – because the ends of political correctness run directly against human nature and can only be enforced.
Marsh’s sympathy with political correctness leads him wittingly or unwittingly to risk having his argument distorted by concentrating not on the whole but a part of British society and treating that part as representative of Britain. Take the question of liberalism undermining the poor by making them dependent on the state and denying them moral guidance at home and in school. Marsh uses an interview with the youth worker Shaun Bailey (chapter 11) who works in a poor area of London. The problem is that Bailey is black and this colours his interpretation of what is happening. He looks at the experience of blacks and treats that experience as representative of the poor generally, which it is not. For example, poor white Britons may have a greater incidence of one-parent homes and fathers deserting mothers now than previously, but the incidence of these behaviours amongst poor whites is much lower than it is amongst poor blacks, whether British born or immigrants. Yet Bailey’s views are represented as being generally applicable to British society.
Despite these caveats, I strongly urge people to read the book. The Liberal Delusion is important because it succinctly performs the task of pointing out that the liberal emperor has no clothes or at least very tattered and insufficient ones. That is something which is sorely needed. The book’s value is enhanced by being written in a lively and easily accessible style. Just read it with an understanding of the limitations imposed by Marsh’s residual, almost subliminal, hankering after the core values of political correctness.
First published in The Quarterly Review
See also The Liberal Bigot
Margaret Thatcher was the subject of a cult of personality. This was not the result of calculated propaganda, but simply the creation of her extraordinary personality. Because the cult of personality developed not in a totalitarian state but a country where public opposition was possible, there were two cults of personality attached to her in a relationship which mimicked the matter/antimatter duality. These were the Thatcherite religious believers fulfilling the role of matter and the Thatcher-hating Left acting as the antimatter.
Both the matter and the antimatter Thatcher cults were potent. The religious believers bowed down before the great god MARKET (and Thatcher was his prophet) and, when things went wrong, did what all religious believers do until they lose their faith, denied reality by simply pretending something had not happened or by giving a calamity some absurd spin to ”prove” the god had not failed.
For the Thatcher-hating Left she was the personification of the Devil and consequently credited with all manner of evil, but, as is the way with personifications of the Devil, never portrayed as anything but powerful, a being possessed of a political juju (doubtless ensconced in her handbag) which could wreak any degree of havoc with all that the Left held dear is if she so chose. Like all those who believe in evil spirits the Thatcher-hating Left ascribed every act of ill fortune to her.
The attitude of both bands of cult followers was essentially superstitious, attributing powers to the woman which she did not, and often could not, have. The religious Thatcherites imagined she could speak the spells which would miraculously convert Britain from a country making silly old fashioned things such as steel, ships and cars and mining coal to a country stuffed to the gunnels with entrepreneurs creating new non-unionised service industries; the Left saw her as a witch practising black magic to contaminate and transmogrify the world they knew.
Because the Thatcherite religious believers and her leftist haters could not and still cannot see past the woman’s gigantic political personality, they made and continue to make the same mistake, namely, seeing the two cult figures as the reality while ignoring her actual policies and their outcomes.
The reality of Thatcher
The reality of Thatcher is that objectively she achieved little if any of her wishes. It is a bitter irony for the woman (and Thatcherites generally) that her policies were of a nature which undermined the ends she espoused. Perhaps the prime example is Thatcher’s avowed wish to see a strong and wealthy Britain whilst creating through her commitment to laissez faire economics the very circumstances that would weaken the country. Under her economic regimen and its lingering aftermath ever since Britain has become ever less self-sufficient in strategically important economic activity such as the production of food and energy and vast swathes of British business were either bought up by foreigners or ceased to operate from Britain because of offshoring and the absence of government action to protect our own economy. She simply did not understand that you could not have laissez faire in both the domestic and international economic sphere and have a strong nation state. Had Thatcher known any economic history she would have realised that, but even without such knowledge common prudence should have told her that a country which is dependent on others for necessary goods and services is a weak country. Moreover, one of her claimed tutelary heroes Adam Smith readily understood there are things which are either strategically important such as armaments or social goods which are never going to be supplied universally by private enterprise such as roads. Thatcher never gave any indication of realising that Smith was not the unrelenting free marketer of her imagination.
Thatcher’s failures in making policy to achieve her ends were legion. She destroyed much of British heavy industry in the belief that those made unemployed would rapidly be re-employed in private sector jobs. The new jobs did not materialise and she was reduced to presiding over massive and long lasting unemployment which she funded with North Sea oil and gas tax revenue and the receipts from privatisation, whilst fiddling the unemployment figures shamelessly. She sold off state owned services (which belonged to the community as a whole not to the government) in the belief that service would be improved . It was not. Instead vital services such as the railways and the provision of energy and water became ever more expensive whilst providing poorer service and less employment. She introduced so-called private business methods into the NHS and higher education in the belief that they would become more efficient. The result was massive increases in bureaucracy and an ever climbing cost of both the NHS and higher education and a substitution of the pursuit of money for the public service ethos because money was attached to individual patients and students. She introduced the Community Charge or “Poll Tax” in the belief that it would be fairer than the old domestic rates. The result was widespread unfairness because it took no account of an individual’s means and provoked the nearest thing to a national movement dedicated to the non-payment of taxes known in modern times. She raged against EU interference in British affairs but signed up Britain to the Single European Act (SEA) in the belief that it would create a genuine single market within the EEC. It did not create such a market and merely presented the EEC with an open goal for ever more audacious sovereignty grabs. A supposed opponent of further mass immigration, her signing of the SEA also opened the door to free movement within the EU, a situation worsened by her strategy of dramatically widening the EEC. She signed Britain up to the She embraced “Care in the Community” for the mentally ill or disabled on the grounds that it was more humane than keeping such people in long-stay institutions. The result was thousands of people left to largely fend for themselves in the outside world who were quite incapable of doing so. She sold off great swathes of social housing (which belonged to the community as a whole not to government) to tenants in the belief that this would result in a “property owning democracy” whilst more or less ending the building of new social housing. The eventual result was the growing housing emergency we have today. She instigated the disastrous “light touch” regulation of the financial services industry by abolishing credit controls and failing to meaningfully regulate the industry meaningfully after “Big Bang” in 1986 which effectively de-regulated the London Stock Exchange to bring in a brave new world of free trading (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8850654/Was-the-Big-Bang-good-for-the-City-of-London-and-Britain.html) with the dire results with which we are now living.
Even in the few areas where she was ultimately successful such as the Falkland’s War she was at best negligent in ignoring warnings from the Foreign Office of a growing threat to the Falklands in the months leading up to the invasion and even after the expeditionary force had been dispatched she agreed to a US organised plan which would have not offered the Islanders either self determination of or any meaningful security (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/10008116/Margaret-Thatcher-how-she-took-on-the-men-and-won.html).
There were also acts of omission and collusion with policies with which she supposedly fundamentally disagreed. Most importantly, Thatcher failed utterly to carry her strong views against further mass immigration into her period in office. Not only that but, as already mentioned, she made things much worse on that front by signing up to the Single European Act. She agreed to the institutionalisation of political correctness in public life, especially in the Civil Service, schools and universities. In addition, she allowed the “progressive” educational establishment to destroy a first rate school examination system by swopping the certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) and O(rdinary) Levels for the dangerous absurdity of the General Certificate of Education (GCSE), an exam supposedly for all 16 year olds but which was in reality two exams masquerading as one. Despite the fact that Tory support rested heavily on the countryside she allowed the de-regulation of rural bus services to occur which reduced them so severely that to live in countryside meant owning and driving a vehicle or at least having access to someone who did. To make matter worse, this was done in tandem with a wilful neglect of the then nationalised railways.
The protests after her death were unsurprising
Just based on her economic disasters the uproar surrounding her death is unsurprising. In the space of a few years she raised the unemployment pay claimant count from 1.4 million when she took office in 1979 to 3.2 million by 1986 (http://www.economicshelp.org/macroeconomics/unemployment/measuring_unemployment.html) That bald figure is startling enough but the reality is ten times worse. She must have known her policies would result in mass unemployment, at least in the short term, when she removed the financial support of taxpayers from nationalised industries or sold them off in the belief that private business would be able to do the job more efficiently with much smaller workforces. Further, as these industries were concentrated in areas where they were by far the dominant employer she should have realised that structural unemployment would be created in many parts of the country. To imagine, as she did, that new jobs would rapidly sprout in the areas showed a shocking lack of understanding of economic history which has no example of such a thing happening on the scale required in 1980s Britain.
What is certain is the fact that she had no doubt about the destructive possibilities of laissez faire economics, viz:
“Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ is not above sudden, disturbing, movements. Since its inception, capitalism has known slumps and recessions, bubble and froth; no one has yet dis-invented the business cycle, and probably no one will; and what Schumpeter famously called the ‘gales of creative destruction’ still roar mightily from time to time. To lament these things is ultimately to lament the bracing blast of freedom itself.” — Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft P. 462
A politician of conviction?
The idea that merely having convictions is praiseworthy is a rum one. Hitler, Stalin and Mao had convictions. But even if the quality of a person’s convictions is ignored, this is one of the most mystifying of myths attached to Thatcher. The reality was she frequently changed her position on the most important issues she faced or adopted methods which went against her avowed policies when she had created a mess, most notably with the massive rise in unemployment resulting from her slash and burn approach to the British economy which greatly increased the benefits bill for many years and left people unemployed for years, in many cases for decades.
The most significant publicly admitted changes of policy were on immigration, the Europe and global warming. Before the 1979 election she had spoken of the need to control immigration because the country was in danger of being “swamped”:
‘If we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.’
She went on to say, ‘The British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.’
‘If you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples’ fears on numbers. […] We do have to hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration…’ (http://www.runnymedetrust.org/histories/race-equality/59/margaret-thatcher-claims-britons-fear-being-swamped.html)
Once in office she did nothing despite still feeling strongly about the subject in private (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/6906503/Margaret-Thatcher-complained-about-Asian-immigration-to-Britain.html).
On Europe she went through the following metamorphosis:
- 1975 she campaigned and voted for Britain to remain within the European Economic Community (EEC – the EU was only formed by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993).
- By 1980 she was convinced that the EEC was not acting in Britain interests.
- By 1986 she had signed the Single European Act giving the EEC immense powers to interfere with Britain’s sovereignty.
- In the late 1980s she adopted the policy of enlarging the EEC which meant that a vast new swathe of workers from poor countries would be allowed free movement within the EEC. The effects of this also allowed the federalists to press for things such as Qualified Majority Voting on the grounds that the EEC/EU had become too unwieldy to operate under the original rules and to generally press forward with the creation of a United States of Europe.
- In 1990 she took the UK into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) despite being opposed to a single currency to which the ERM was a stepping stone with the pound effectively shadowing the Deutschmark.
The idea that Thatcher only realised what the EEC was after taking office in 1979 is simple nonsense. Thatcher’s speech to the Conservative Group for Europe at the start of the Wilson referendum on the EEC clearly shows her viewing the EEC as far more than a simple free trading area, viz:
That vision of Europe took a leap into reality on the 1st of January 1972 when, [ Edward Heath] Mr. Chairman, due to your endeavours, enthusiasm and dedication Britain joined the European Community.
* The Community gives us peace and security in a free society, a peace and security denied to the past two generations.
* The Community gives us access to secure sources of food supplies. This is vital to us, a country which has to import half of what we need.
* The Community does more trade and gives more aid than any group in the world.
* The Community gives us the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth in Europe. The Commonwealth want us to stay in and has said so. The Community wants us.
Conservatives must give a clear lead and play a vigorous part in the campaign to keep Britain in Europe to honour the treaties which you, sir, signed in Britain’s name.
We must do this, even though we dislike referenda. We must support the [ Harold Wilson] Prime Minister in this, even though we fight the Government on other issues.
We must play our full part in ensuring that Conservative supporters say “Yes to Europe”. (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/102675).
In any case, the Treaty of Rome left no room to believe it was merely a free trade organisation. No one could read that and be in any doubt that the intention was to create a United State of Europe. Thatcher, the supposed obsessive who was a stickler mastering a subject, should have read it before the referendum.
As for global warming, she started the ball rolling whilst in office and then reversed her position in her autobiography published in 2003. Here she is speaking to the UN general assembly, in November 1989:
“What we are now doing to the world … is new in the experience of the Earth. It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. Change to the sea around us, change to the atmosphere above, leading in turn to change in the world’s climate, which could alter the way we live in the most fundamental way of all.
“The environmental challenge that confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world. Every country will be affected and no one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-green-hero)
By the time she had published her political work Statecraft in 2003 she was thinking along these lines:
“The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else.
“Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.” (http://www.masterresource.org/2013/04/thatcher-alarmist-to-skeptic/).
There were other issues where her public position was at odds with her actions, for example, the troubles in Northern Ireland and the rule of law. Thatcher claimed that there would never be a surrender to IRA terrorism. Yet after she narrowly escaped death in the Brighton Grand Hotel bombing in 1984 (12 October) the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed little over a year later in November 1985 giving the Republic of Ireland government a say in what happened in Northern Ireland and committing the British Government to accepting the principle of a united Ireland if a majority were in favour. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/15/newsid_2539000/2539849.stm). There was no obvious reason for such a change of heart beyond the fear generated in Thatcher by the bombing of the Grand Hotel.
As for the rule of law, far from respecting it as she claimed, she laid the basis for the ever increasing authoritarianism of the British state by permitting the police to act unlawfully during the miners’ strike by stopping miners and their supporters from travelling across the country and turning a blind eye to any police excesses as they clashed with the miners and their supporters.
A politician of conviction? Only if you define someone as such who runs from one position to another while vigorously embracing each successive position regardless of its contradiction of a previous advocated policy or set of ideas.
Nor was she someone who would take responsibility for her actions. When she found her policies were a disaster she either claimed she had been badly advised or cheated (for example, the Single Market, global warming) or attempted to ignore the mess she had created (for example, enduring mass employment and ) by misrepresenting it, or in the case of unemployment, using North Sea oil tax revenues, the privatisation receipts and blatant manipulation of the unemployment statistics to paper over the unemployment cracks.
Why did Thatcher get things so horribly wrong?
Why did Thatcher get things so horribly wrong? Her behaviour strongly suggested that she was seriously lacking psychological and sociological insight. This meant she constantly made horrendous mistakes such as trusting the EU over the single market and imagining in truly infantile fashion that millions of jobs shed from heavy industry and coal mining would be rapidly replaced by “modern” jobs in the service and light industry sectors. Her record in choosing people to support or employ was also dismal.
Far from being a free thinker her cast of mind made her the ready captive of an ideology:
“…as Leader of the Opposition MT once cut short a presentation by a leftish member of the Conservative Research Department by fetching out a copy of The Constitution of Liberty from her bag and slamming it down on the table, declaring “this is what we believe”. (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/archive/Hayek.asp).
It is dangerous to trust anyone who is susceptible to ideological capture for the simple reason that all ideologies, whether sacred or profane, are inadequate descriptions of and guides to reality. This means that ideologues constantly have to try to fit reality within the ideology rather than having reality driving their choices. Those which include economics are particularly dangerous because their reach is so vast.
Ideologies are the prime example of Richard Dawkins’ memes, mental viruses which capture the individual and direct their thought and behaviour. Those who are captured by them by them give up their mental autonomy. That speaks either of a character trait such as that of requiring a source of authority for choices or a weakness of intellect which seeks ideological algorithms developed by others to answer political questions because the person’s capacity to answer the questions by rational pragmatic examination based on their own knowledge and intelligence is inadequate.
How good was Thatcher’s mind? She is frequently represented by her adherents as ferociously intelligent. This view will not stand up to examination. She read chemistry at Oxford but only achieved a second class honours degree (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/thatchermargaret/a/Margaret-Thatcher.htm). Oxford at the time did not divide the second class degree into upper and lower second classes and had a fourth class honours division instead. The old Oxford second is generally taken to be the rough equivalent of an upper second. That raises questions over her intellect. Chemistry at degree level in the 1940s had not become heavily mathematized as it now is. Diligence would get a student a long way. This quality Thatcher reputedly had in spades. If she did, the fact that she only took a second suggests that she was not very intellectually gifted. That is particularly the case when it is remembered that she went up to Oxford during wartime when competition for places was severely reduced because so many of the potential male students went into the forces rather than to university. A beta plus mind at best.
What people probably mistook for intelligence was her avid seeking and retention of data. But it is one thing to learn facts or arguments parrot fashion, quite another to mould them into a coherent intellectual whole. Based on her frequent renunciation of previous positions, it is reasonable to assume that she simply did not have the intellectual wherewithal to put the data she took on board to any useful purpose. She certainly never gave no indication that she ever saw the bigger picture.
There were also the question of her how fitted she was by experience to fill the role she played, that of the hard-core economic libertarian forever seeking ways of making people take responsibility for their lives both socially and in their work. When I look at the present Tory front bench I have a similar feeling to that which I experience when thinking of the Nazi leadership. The Nazis had a rather noticeable lack of Aryan types amongst them: the present Tory front bench is remarkably short on people who have been entrepreneurs or indeed of people who have any great experience of work outside the narrow confines of politics.
Margaret Thatcher was a forerunner in this respect. She graduated from Oxford in 1947. For the next four years she worked for various private companies as a research chemist. At the age of 26 she married a millionaire. He funded Thatcher’s career change from chemist to barrister. She took the bar exams in 1953 and practised (specialising in taxation) until 1961, the last two years of the period occurring after she was elected to the Commons in 1959. After that it was all politics.
Thatcher’s experience of the real world of work is at best four years as a research chemist and eight years as a barrister. However, being married to a millionaire at the age of 26 rather dulls the idea of her living a normal working life. The truth is she made her way not as a self-made woman but by the traditional route for female advancement of marrying a rich man.
There was no need for Thatcherism
The really angering thing about Thatcher’s time in No 10 is that she could have done what she was elected to do, tame the unions, without engaging in the deliberate wholesale destruction and alienation of much of Britain’s heavy and extractive industry and the placing in private hands of the public utilities, especially those of gas, electricity and water. This was because Thatcher had the great good fortune to arrive as Prime Minister just as North Sea oil and gas was coming on-stream in large quantities. Those revenues alone would have provided any government with a very large safety net to finance temporary difficulties caused by serious confrontations with the larger trade unions. She also enjoyed the very large receipts from the big privatisations such as gas, electricity and BT. No British government has ever had such a sustained revenue windfall as hers.
There was absolutely no economic need to destroy so much of British industry or place much of the state-owned organisations into private hands. Continental countries such as Germany and Italy retained their shipbuilding; France, Germany and Italy retained a native mass production car industry. Germany still has a substantial coal mining industry. Privatisation proceeded at very different speeds throughout Europe. That no other large industrialised country followed Thatcherite policies with anything like the speed or fervour of Britain yet survived and frequently out competed Britain economically demonstrates that Thatcher’s policies were not a necessity but simply an ideological choice.
Her government could have spent the 1980s taming the unions sufficiently to prevent the excesses of the 1970s. It is true that the very high level of unemployment of the 1980s was an aid to this, but it was probably not the main rod which largely broke the Trade Unions’ back. Home ownership had been rising steadily throughout the twentieth century and by the time Thatcher came to power in 1979 not far short of 60%. The highest it reached even after Right To Buy was only 69% – the idea that it was Thatcher who made it possible for the working man and woman to own their homes for the first time is another myth about her(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/houseprices/10005586/Home-ownership-falls-for-first-time-in-a-century.html). .
The fact that so many people were owner occupiers with mortgages meant that they were much less willing than they had been to strike at the drop of a hat because they feared losing their home. Even those who were not owner occupiers had much more to lose in terms of general comfort, security and prospects of greater opportunity for their children than had been the case before, say, 1939. To take just one example, children from poor families had a greater opportunity than ever to enter higher education. This growing reluctance to come out whenever the union called for strike was why the National Union of Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill was not willing to hold a ballot of all his members before calling a strike. He feared such a ballot would be lost.
The combination of this increasing reluctance to strike amongst union members together with the legal restrictions on unions such as no secondary picketing and severe penalties for strikes called with a formal ballot would have been enough to end the anarchy which prevailed in the 1970s.
Apart from the social and economic upheaval of the Thatcher years, she can also be blamed for a continuation of the damage she caused both in the long term structural unemployment but also in the fact that she subverted the Labour Party so that it adopted most of what was damaging from the Thatcher period, most particularly in the adoption of her devotion to laissez faire economics and in Labour’s all too ready acceptance of the EU elite’s desire for comprehensive political and economic union.
The 1980s could have been so very different. The revenue from North Sea Oil could have been put into a sovereign wealth fund which by now would be worth hundreds of billions. If the Single European Act had not been signed the movement towards a federal EU would have been halted in its tracks (national vetoes applied to this area of decision making at the time). If Thatcher had not argued for an ever wider EEC the poorer nations from the East would not have joined and the immigration threat they carry would not exist. Indeed, Britain could have left the EU entirely because the Tory Eurosceptics could have allied with Labour under Michael Foot or even Neal Kinnock. New social housing could have been built with the proceeds of Right to Buy thus obviating to a large degree the shortage of housing now. If the nationalised industries had been sustained there would have been no serious structural unemployment. Had proper attention been paid to the strategic importance of essential economic areas such a food and energy self-sufficiency we should not be so dangerously reliant on foreigners for such things today. Most importantly, if that had been the general thrust of politics in the 1980s it is doubtful in the extreme that Blair and NuLabour would ever have arisen.
The tragedy of Margaret Thatcher is that she had a sense of patriotism and probably genuinely thought she was doing the best for her country at the time she implemented or advocated policies (her honesty when policies went wrong was another matter). The problem was that her judgement and understanding was all too often hideously wrong or defective. She so often provided comforting rhetoric, especially on Europe and immigration, but she never delivered the goods. The fact that she was such an overpowering political figure made things worse because it meant she could steamroller her cabinet on most issues at most times. It is difficult to think of another politician in the past three centuries who wrought so much damage on Britain.
Piers Morgan’s illegal receipt of information from the police, his perjury and Operation Elveden part III
ELVEDENFriday, 22 March, 2013 10:51
From: “Paulette.Rooke@met.pnn.police.uk” <firstname.lastname@example.org>Add sender to ContactsTo: email@example.com
I have been asked by my Inspector to ascertain if you have any new evidence with regard to your allegations against those mentioned in your correspondence.
ADS PAULETTE ROOKE
JUBILEE HOUSE PUTNEY, 230-232 PUTNEY BRIDGE RD, London SW15 2PD
Internal 58526 External 020 8785 8526
DC Paulette Rooke
New Scotland Yard
8/10 The Broadway
London SW1H OBG
John Whittingdale MP
George Eustice MP
John Whittingdale MP
George Eustice MP
Gerald Howarth MP
Keir Starmer (DPP)
24 March 2013
Dear DC Rooke,
You ask in your email of 22 March whether I have any new information relating to the accusations I have made. The short answer is no. However, having listened again to the tape recording I made of my interview with Det Supt Jeff Curtis I shall be sending you a copy of that for the reasons given below in paragraph 4.
Happily you do not need any further information to begin investigations into Piers Morgan, Jeff Edwards and Det Supt Jeff Curtis. In fact, I think any disinterested third party would be rather surprised that the investigations have not already begun, bearing in mind that you have a letter sent to Morgan to the PCC in which he admitted that the Mirror had received information from a police officer in circumstances which can only have been illegal.
The reason the crimes (apart from the accusations of perjury before Leveson) were not meaningfully investigated when I made my original complaints is beautifully simple: corrupt practice by the police prompted either by the Blairs’ involvement in the story and/or a known or suspected corrupt relationship between Metropolitan Police officers and the Mirror (and other press and broadcasters).
The corrupt nature of the way my complaints were handled is exemplified by Jeff Curtis’ failure to interview anyone at the Mirror even though he had the letter from Piers Morgan to the PCC. Curtis told me this in a phone call and you can verify that this is the truth by looking at the original case notes. The tape recording of my meeting with Jeff Curtis is important because in it he says he will be going to the Mirror, says the case revolves around Morgan’s admission and says it is a straightforward case. The recording was made with Curtis’ knowledge and agreement. The fact that he knew he was being recorded is significant because it removed the possibility from his mind of saying something to me thinking he could deny it later. Clearly something irregular happened between him leaving me and starting the investigation. It is reasonable to suspect he was leant on by someone even more senior not to investigate the Mirror. That the police never interviewed anyone at the Mirror also means that the Mirror accounts and the journalistic records kept by Edwards and Morgan (and perhaps others) were never scrutinised for evidence of payments to the police. All in all, this is a very obvious perversion of the course of justice.
The events to which the these crimes relate are 15 years old, but that is irrelevant to whether they should be investigated now, both because of the serious nature of the crimes and the fact that those I allege against Morgan and Edwards were not investigated meaningfully when they were first reported. Nor is there any problem with a lack of compelling evidence because of the time which has elapsed. In the case of Morgan and Edwards you have Morgan’s letter to the PCC and the Mirror story, while Curtis’ perversion of the course of justice speaks for itself. Moreover, although it is 15 years since the events, the age of fully computerised accounts had arrived before 1997 and it is probable that a copy of the Mirror accounts for the period is still held in digital form. The same could apply to journalistic records held by Morgan and Edwards or other Mirror employees or freelances. I know from my use of the Data Protection Act soon after the Mirror published the story that the paper was holding information about me which they refused to release under the journalistic purposes provision of the DPA. They may well be still holding it.
As for the perjury accusations against Morgan and Edwards, these are very recent complaints about crimes recently committed which have never been previously investigated. You have the information you need to investigate the perjury because I have supplied you with the Morgan letter to the PCC, the Mirror story about me and the transcripts of the relevant passages in the evidence given by Morgan and Edwards before Leveson.
Apart from the killer fact of Curtis’ failure to interview anyone at the Mirror and a consequent failure to investigate the Mirror’s records, the circumstances of that failed investigation and of other complaints I made at the same time provide very strong circumstantial evidence that my original complaints against Morgan and Edwards were not treated normally. For example, why was a Det Supt from Scotland Yard investigating crimes which would normally be investigated by a Det Sergeant or just possibly a Det Inspector? To that you can add the array of senior police officers (the details of which I sent to you in my email of 29th January) who became involved in my various complaints at one time or another, despite the crimes being of a nature which would normally have been investigated by policemen of lesser rank. The only reasonable explanation for their involvement is the political circumstances surrounding my complaints.
There are two scenarios which fit the receipt of information by the Mirror from the police. The first is straightforward: a police officer, possibly of senior rank because of the Blairs’ involvement, has sold the information to the Mirror for mere personal gain.
The second scenario is more complex. It involves a senior police officer engaging in a conspiracy with Tony and Cherry Blair assisted by Alastair Campbell to feed misinformation to the Mirror. This is more than a little plausible because the Mirror story was a farrago of grotesque lies such as the claim that I had bombarded the Blairs with letters or that the letters were “full of graphic racist filth”. There was also a completely fabricated quote “if he gets elected he’ll let in all the blacks and Asians”. Ask yourself why the Mirror would have printed such things if they had read my letters after they were given them by a police officer simply out to make money with no political axe to grind. It would not make sense. If, on the other hand, this was all part of a conspiracy between the Blairs, a senior police officer and Alastair Campbell it would make perfect sense, because then it transmutes from a political story into an exercise in political propaganda to nullify me by smearing. The story would then be whatever they wanted it to be with the content of the letters an irrelevance.
It is noteworthy that Morgan in his letter to the PCC admits that the Mirror did not have copies of my letters and that he had not seen them. That could mean one of four things: the Mirror did not have copies, the Mirror had copies but did not wish to admit it because they knew the letters would not substantiate their printed story about me, Edwards had seen the letters but realised they were innocuous and not the basis for a smear story or no one at the Mirror had ever seen my letters but had written their story simply from false information given to them by the police informant. The last possibility fits in most neatly with the conspiracy theory.
Why would the Blairs wish to engage in such a conspiracy? The most plausible answer lies in the fact that they did not go to the police when I wrote to them, but only later after I had sent copies of my letters to the Blairs and the non-replies I was receiving from their offices to every mainstream media outlet at the beginning of the 1997 General Election campaign. That can only mean the Blairs wanted to silence me during the election campaign. Why? Only they can tell you that for sure. What is certain is that the Blairs must have been very seriously worried about the media taking up the story told in my letters and their non-replies to get involved with a criminal investigation during the most important weeks of Blair’s life, namely, the General Election campaign. Having miserably failed in the attempt to have me prosecuted it would have made perfect sense from their point of view to try to neutralise me by getting a friendly media outlet to print a false and hideously libellous story about me to dissuade anyone in the media from taking up the story told in my letters to the Blairs and their non-replies to me.
Here is something for you and your superiors to think upon. If the Met refuses to properly investigate my complaints (including questioning Morgan and Edwards) it will look like yet another cover-up to go along with the persistent failure by the Met to investigate phone-hacking until political pressure forced them to re-investigate cases which had previously been deemed to provide insufficient evidence for a prosecution or even a sustained investigation. The re-investigation of these supposedly hopeless cases has resulted in dozens of arrests and quite a few charges, a fact which tells its own tale.
I repeat my previous requests for an interview with you and a senior officer within Operation Elveden, preferably Steve Kavanagh . Apart from anything else you should be taking a formal statement from me based on the very strong evidence I have provided.
Tape recording of my interview with Jeff Curtis has been sent to you
Tuesday, 26 March, 2013 7:05
“robert henderson” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Paulette Rooke” <Paulette.Rooke@met.pnn.police.uk>
The proposed regulation
The considerable constitutional implications of the proposed regulation of the press by Royal Charter with statutory restraints preventing the Charter’s change and legislation creating different classes of plaintiff in civil cases seems to have passed our politicians by.
The proposal is for the normal ultimate control of a Royal Charter by politicians working through the Privy Council to be circumscribed by a clause in a statute. In addition, further legislation to allow exemplary damages and costs. will be needed. To demonstrate why this raises constitutional difficulties it is necessary to first understand what the proposed system will be and do. That requires a detailed examination of the draft Royal Charter.
The Royal Charter
There have been three draft Royal Charters: the original Tory Charter, the Labour/Libdem Charter and the third and latest which is the draft (published on 18th march) containing the agreed text by all three major party leaders. The 18th March Charter can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/142789/18_March_2013_Royal_Charter_on_self-regulation_of_the_press__for_publication_.pdf. A commentary on and full text of the previous draft Royal Charters produced by the Tories and the combined efforts of the Labour and the LibDems can be found at http://martinbelam.com/2013/royal-charter-diffs/.
The statutory underpinning
The statutory underpinning will be, according to the BBC, a general instruction for all new Royal Charters after a certain date in 2013, viz:
“Early on Monday a deal was struck, under which a clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill would be tabled in the Lords.
This would state that a royal charter cannot be changed unless it meets requirements stated within that charter for amendments.
It does not mention any specific charter, Leveson or the press – but the royal charter on press regulation would itself state that it cannot be amended without a two-thirds majority of Parliament. “(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21825823)
This statutory underpinning is intended to give absolute force to these provisions in the 18th March Royal Charter:
“9.2. Before any proposal (made by any person) to add to, supplement, vary or omit (in whole or in part) a provision of this Charter (“proposed change”) can take effect a draft of the proposed change must have been laid before Parliament, and approved by a resolution of each House. For this purpose “approved” means that at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion do so in support of it.
9.3. The Recognition Panel may only propose a change to the terms of this Charter if a resolution has been passed unanimously by all of the Members of the Board, who shall determine the matter at a meeting duly convened for that purpose.
10.1. This Charter, and the Recognition Panel created by it, shall not be dissolved unless information about the proposed dissolution has been presented to Parliament, and that proposal has been approved by a resolution of each House. For this purpose “approved” means that at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion do so in support of it.”
The power to take or refuse complaints
The 18th March draft Charter gives the proposed press regulator the power to take or refuse complaints as follows:
“11. The Board should have the power to hear and decide on complaints about breach of the standards code by those who subscribe. The Board will need to have the discretion not to look into complaints if they feel that the complaint is without justification, is an attempt to argue a point of opinion rather than a standards code breach, or is simply an attempt to lobby. The Board should have the power (but not necessarily the duty) to hear complaints:
a) from anyone personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the standards code, or
b) where there is an alleged breach of the code and there is public interest in the Board giving consideration to the complaint from a representative group affected by the alleged breach, or
c) from a third party seeking to ensure accuracy of published information.”
This gives both a very wide range of complainant and much subjective discretionary power to the Regulator.
The power to impose penalties
The penalties and procedures which the Regulator has to punish and enforce its judgements by the 18th March Charter are:
“15. In relation to complaints, where a negotiated outcome between a complainant and a subscriber (pursuant to criterion 10) has failed, the Board should have the power to direct appropriate remedial action for breach of standards and the publication of corrections and apologies. Although remedies are essentially about correcting the record for individuals, the power to direct a correction and an apology must apply equally in relation to:
a. individual standards breaches; and
b. groups of people as defined in criterion 11 where there is no single identifiable individual who has been affected; and
c. matters of fact where there is no single identifiable individual who has been affected.
16. In the event of no agreement between a complainant and a subscriber (pursuant to criterion 10), the power to direct the nature, extent and placement of corrections and apologies should lie with the Board.
17. The Board should not have the power to prevent publication of any material, by anyone, at any time although (in its discretion) it should be able to offer a service of advice to editors of subscribing publications relating to code compliance.
18. The Board, being an independent self-regulatory body, should have authority to examine issues on its own initiative and have sufficient powers to carry out investigations both into suspected serious or systemic breaches of the code and failures to comply with directions of the Board. The investigations process must be simple and credible and those who subscribe must be required to cooperate with any such investigation.
19. The Board should have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions (including but not limited to financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover attributable to the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000) on any subscriber found to be responsible for serious or systemic breaches of the standards code or governance requirements of the body. The Board should have sufficient powers to require appropriate information from subscribers in order to ascertain the turnover that is attributable to a publication irrespective of any particular accounting arrangements of the publication or subscriber. The sanctions that should be available should include power to require publication of corrections, if the breaches relate to accuracy, or apologies if the breaches relate to other provisions of the code.
19A.The Board should establish a ring-fenced enforcement fund, into which receipts from financial sanctions could be paid, for the purpose of funding investigations.”
These powers are considerable and the fines could cause genuine financial difficulty to lesser players in the press field because fines are on turnover not profit. The risk is severe because of the immensely broad definition of a publisher who is not a broadcaster:
Schedule 4 b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:
i. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or
ii. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);
The recklessly broad definition will almost certainly make the system next to unworkable if the Regulator is genuinely to take complaints from both third parties and complaints about everything from a blog run by a private individual to the largest circulation daily. The experience of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is instructive with the ICO regularly taking one to two years to complete investigations.
The penalties for not being registered with the Regulator
The proposal is that any publisher (as defined by the Royal Charter) who does not sign up with the new regulator will leave themselves open to exemplary damages plus costs if sued successfully in the courts and may be liable for costs even if they successfully defend a suit in certain circumstances.
These penalties are not part of the Royal Charter or the statutory underpinning already described. Consequently further legislation will be required. This will be direct statutory control of the press no matter how much politicians try to fudge the matter. How far such law would be subject to successful legal challenge is debatable because the Human Rights Act contains this:
“Article 10 Freedom of expression.
1Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42)
The constitutional issues
If the Charter cannot be amended or dissolved with less than a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament because a statute has been passed forbidding it, this is an attempt at a de facto superior law, a law moreover, which is binding on future governments. As the two thirds majority would be extremely difficult to achieve, it would in effect sabotage the constitutional principle that no Parliament can bind its successors by passing laws which cannot be repealed. This is even the case with treaties emanating from the EU. All the major British parties have at one time or another maintained that Parliament is sovereign and the treaties and legislation resulting from Britain’s membership of first the European Economic Community and its successor the European Union could be nullified by Parliament’s repeal of laws and repudiation of treaties.
Unless a formal framework for such a superior law is introduced into our Constitution, the present attempt would fail because the restrictions on change or repeal supposedly created by the statutory underpinning could be overcome simply by repealing the entire law in which the statutory restrictions are enshrined. That would apply even if a separate Act was passed dealing solely with restricting changes to the Charter or its abolition. This is so because there could be no such restriction under present circumstances on repealing an entire statute because all statutes are equal and subject to repeal by simple majorities in the two houses of Parliament. In passing it is worth noting that the legislation to make the early calling of general elections difficult suffers from the same insecurity of application because it requires more than a simple majority.
The next problem is the clash between the general rules governing amendments to Royal Charters and the proposed restrictions imposed by statute:
…once incorporated by Royal Charter a body surrenders significant aspects of the control of its internal affairs to the Privy Council. Amendments to Charters can be made only with the agreement of The Queen in Council, and amendments to the body’s by-laws require the approval of the Council (though not normally of Her Majesty). This effectively means a significant degree of Government regulation of the affairs of the body, and the Privy Council will therefore wish to be satisfied that such regulation accords with public policy. (http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/chartered-bodies/).
(d) incorporation by Charter is a form of Government regulation as future amendments to the Charter and by-laws of the body require Privy Council (ie Government) approval. There therefore needs to be a convincing case that it would be in the public interest to regulate the body in this way; (http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/applying-for-a-royal-charter/)
The Privy Council practices come into direct opposition with the draft Royal Charter where it touches on amendments to or dissolution of the Charter. It is important to understand that if granted the Royal Charter will not be an artefact of Parliament. Technically it will be a Royal artefact although in reality a government artefact. It might be thought that Parliament being sovereign could override the Privy Council procedures, but it is not as simple as that. The Privy Council procedures are separate from Parliament. If Parliament wants them to be subordinate to Parliament that would make Royal Charters in effect artefacts of Parliament in the same way that secondary legislation such as statutory instruments and orders in council are semi-detached artefacts of Parliament.
The third and last difficulty is the fact that the proposed Charter would create a quasi-judicial authority (I think that that would make it unique amongst Royal Charters). That quasi-judicial function would leave it open to legal challenge, both at the level of the Recognition Panel (RP) which appoints the regulator and the regulator itself . Because there is statutory underpinning of both the RP and the regulator and the RP is in receipt of public funds at least in the early years, it might well be that either body could be subject to judicial review because either could be deemed a public body and a regulatory body established by statute (http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/you-and-the-judiciary/judicial-review).
The other objection to the quasi-judicial status created by the proposed regulatory system is the fact that quasi-judicial powers (and very considerable ones) are being granted by a body other than Parliament .
The likely outcome
The proposals are a cynical ploy to prepare the ground for serious interference with the traditional press and the broader internet media because of the breadth of the definition of a publisher. These are proposals which are incompatible with any society that calls itself free or has pretensions to be a democracy because by definition anything may be debated in a democracy.
The intended consequences of the proposals are clearly to manipulate the press and internet media both in instances of actual publication and through the deterrent effect of the possible consequences which publication of a story will bring. Moreover, anyone who believes that this will be the end of political interference with the press and internet publishers is credulous to the point of imbecility. Once state regulation of any degree becomes the status quo it will provide the psychological launching pad for further control. This will be difficult to argue against because the pass on press freedom will already have been sold.
The fact of such an agreement amongst the leadership of all our major parties is profoundly depressing because it means not one of them collectively understands the value of free expression as a cleansing lotion for immoral behaviour, especially that by the powerful and influential. To that is added the contemptible portrayal of the proposed scheme by the major parties as anything but what it is, namely, grubby authoritarianism.
None of that is to say that those abused by the press do not require protection. A statutory right of reply (RoR) would do what was required without any chance of political interference. This is because it is a self-organising process which would involve only the newspaper and the complainant or, where an RoR was refused, the courts to enforce it. The involvement of the courts would not require the courts to make a judgement on what the publication had written or what the subject of their story wanted to say in reply. All the court would be doing is forcing the publication to provide the RoR. The detailed arguments for an RoR can be found at http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/curing-media-abuse-a-statutory-right-to-reply-is-needed/.
Is all lost? Happily there is some hope. That exists not because there is likely to be any turnabout out of principle by our politicians. Rather, it exists because they have, as so very often, not thought through the consequences of a policy. Apart from the constitutional difficulties, the practical difficulties are huge. The great breadth of the definition of what is a publisher will potentially make the work of the Regulator impossible simply because they will be overwhelmed with work.
In addition, there will be endless opportunity for the wealthier subscribers to the Regulator to pursue legal challenges to the rulings of the Regulator, not least because as I have described the legal position of the Regulator and the RP is a dog’s dinner.
Finally, there is the question of whether the big press publishers will all sign up, even though that will protect them from exemplary damages and costs even if they have won a case in the courts. There are signs that some at least might well refuse. If many refused that would kill the proposals stone dead. But even if they all signed up they could sabotage the intentions of the Royal Charter by engaging in a barrage of legal actions against the Regulator.
I hope you don’t mind me emailing you directly.
I am writing about phone hacking on behalf of the FT and investigating wider incidences of press abuse at other newspapers such as Trinity Mirror.
I would be keen to meet with you as I understand from one of my contacts that you may have evidence of wider press abuse.
Do let me know if you would be happy to meet. I am happy to discuss matters on background only.
– Rob Budden Chief Media Correspondent Financial Times +44 (0) 207 775 6839 +44 (0) 7785 952 688 www.ft.com
Follow me on Twitter: @RobertoBud
Chief Media Correspondent
1 Southwark Bridge,
London SE1 9HL
Tel: 0207 775 6839
9 March 2013
As promised at our meeting of 8th March, I send you additional information relating to Piers Morgan, the Blairs, the police, the Leveson Inquiry and myself. The details of the new material and the material I supplied to you when we met are listed below.
If you want to expose Trinity Mirror I have provided you with all the evidence you need to demonstrate their abuse of members of the public, the committing of criminal acts through the receipt of information from the police illegally by the Mirror, probable perjury before Leveson by Morgan and Jeff Edwards and the wilful suppression of evidence by the police of police supplying information illegally to the Mirror. In addition, you have the wider story of the Blairs attempting to prosecute me for crimes they must have known were bogus and their subsequently use of the security services and Special Branch to harass me.
Please keep these facts firmly in front of you:
1. There was so little substance to the Blairs’ complaints against me that the police never contacted me about them, while the CPS rejected the complaint within hours of receiving it with a firm “No Crime”.
2. The Blairs did not go to the police when I sent them the letters, but only after I had circulated copies of my letters to them and the replies I received at the beginning of the 1997 General Election Campaign.
3. The Blairs failed to take any civil law action against me even though that has only the balance of probability evidential test.
4. At no time did I threaten directly or by implication either of the Blairs, nor did I ever attempt to physically approach them.
5. Despite being deemed innocent of any crime and despite never having threatened either of the Blairs, Special Branch and MI5 were set upon me.
6. I made various complaints to the police relating to the Mirror and the Blairs. None were meaningfully investigated. The most blatant example was the failure of Det Supt Jeff Curtis of Scotland Yard to claim that he had investigated my complaint relating to the Piers Morgan admission of receiving information from the police without interviewing anyone at the Mirror or looking at their accounts for evidence of payments to the police.
7. The harassment I suffered after the Blairs failed to have me investigated in March 1997 lasted for the entire Blair premiership and ended once he was out of office.
If you want me to write an article for the FT on any aspect of the business I shall be happy to do so.
Schedule of documents supplied to Rob Budden
At our meeting on 8th March I supplied you with the following in paper form:
1. A copy of Is it in the blood? as it was printed.
2. Copies of the Mirror and Daily Herald stories relating to the Blairs and me dated 25 3 1997.
3. A copy of Piers Morgan’s letter to the PCC dated 16 October 1997 in which he admits to receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only have been illegal.
4. Copies of the correspondence between the PCC and Mike Jempson of Presswise on my behalf relating to my complaints against the Mirror and Daily Herald following the stories of 25 3 1997.
5. A copy of Sir Richard Body’s EDM of detailing the harassment I was subject to after the Blairs’ attempt to have me prosecuted during the 1997 General Election campaign failed.
Copies of documents supplied 9 3 2013 via email in digital form (Wordfile)
1. The version of the Wisden Cricket Monthly article Is it in the blood? as I sent it to David Frith with supporting documents – see wordfile IsitinthebloodFT.docx
2. My initial submission to the Leveson Inquiry including original attachments (sent by separate email).
3. Details of Piers Morgan’s perjury before Leveson – see wordfile piersmorganperjury.docx
4. Details of Jeff Edwards perjury before Leveson – see wordfile jeffedwardsperjury.docx
5. File relating to Robert Jay’s inept questioning – see wordfile LevesonRobertJay.docx
6. My complaints to Operation Elveden regarding Morgan and Edwards’ receipt of information about me illicitly supplied by the police to the Mirror and Morgan and Edwards – see wordfile OperationElvedensubmissionFT.docx