Tag Archives: political correctness

BBC 2 Farage versus Clegg debate  2 April 2014

Chairman  David Dimbleby

The full debate on IPlayer can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0401ht2/The_European_Union_In_or_Out/

It will only be up until 10th April so catch it while you can.  Here is what may be a permanent recording link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd9rsmD4HiM

The re-match between Farage and Clegg resulted in an even more humiliating hour for Clegg than the first debate. YouGov and ICM polls taken shortly after the debate had Clegg and Farage scoring as follows:

The YouGov poll gave Farage 68%, Clegg 27% Undecided 5%

As last week, this YouGov survey for The Sun questioned just over 1,000 people who viewed the debate. We weighted the data to ensure that it was representative of Great Britain as a whole by voting intention and attitudes to the European Union, but did not weight demographically; it therefore reflected the actual audience by age (older than average), gender (more male) and social class (more middle class). It was a fresh sample: we did NOT re-interview people we questioned after last week’s debate.  

It is clear that Farage gained ground most among the very people LEAST likely to support his party or his cause:

The proportion of Labour supporters saying Farage performed better rose from 42% after the first debate to 57% after the second

Among Liberal Democrats, Farage’s figures are: first debate 20%, second debate 33%

Among people who told us ahead of the debate that they supported British membership of the EU, his figures are: first debate 30%, second debate 45%  (http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/03/farage-wins-round-two/)

An ICM Poll had Farage at 69% and Clegg on 31%

These  polls compare with a 57% Farage, 36%  Clegg  7% undecided  YouGov poll result after the first debate.

This was a tremendous result under any circumstances, for, as  I wrote after the first debate, it is rare indeed for such a crushing advantage to exist in  a two-horse debating race.   In the context of Clegg’s many advantages over Farage  – the profile of being deputy PM, endless appearances   before the TV cameras, widespread  mainstream media contempt for Farage and UKIP , leading a party with sixty odd seats in the Commons and, compared to UKIP, considerable financial and organisational resources plus the experience of  a public leaders’ debate  behind him – the results of the two debates are nothing short of  astonishing.  It was nothing short of an humiliation.

Why did Clegg do even worse in this debate than the first one? Many of the media commentators are putting this down to a more aggressive attitude by him and certainly his adolescent  gibes at Farage will not have helped his cause. Here are few samples:

“He’s [Farage] one of those people who see conspiracy theories everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells us next that there wasn’t a Moon landing, Obama isn’t American, and Elvis isn’t dead!”

“If I’m the leader of ‘the party of in’, he’s  [Farage] the leader of the party of Putin!”

The general problem with Clegg’s aggression is that it looked, as with everything about his public persona, manufactured. The hand and arm gestures were wooden and studied to the point of being ridiculous, the voice insincere and tremulous by parts. He was a very bad advert for whoever provided his media training and an even worse one from those who advised him on how to approach this debate.

Worse of all  Clegg did what Europhiles have long done, simply chant pro-EU mantras without giving any thought to justifying them or of rebutting opposing arguments with anything more than  a bald assertion that they are wrong.  This was unsurprising because Europhiles are almost invariably intellectually lazy. Instead of doing the hard graft of mastering the facts they simply take on board   dubious assertions  such as “three million British jobs are dependent on the EU” and “the EU has prevented war in Europe” which they present not as the highly questionable opinion they are but as objective fact.

While the Europhile  ideology dominates and controls public life generally and  in particular  the mainstream media, they can get away with reciting slogans which are not only debatable but  often palpably untrue.  I dare say that Clegg has gone through his entire life until these debates without ever  having to defend  in public the subject of the EU in circumstances where he had to either produce arguments in favour of the EU  which stood up to real scrutiny or find replies to the ideas of an opponent who was radically opposed to the EU. There was nowhere for Clegg to escape to. Being unused to having to think on his feet or provide reasons other than the well-worn Europhile clichés,  Clegg simply fell back on those clichés with adolescent abuse mixed in. Often he simply repeated, almost  verbatim, what he had said in the first debate,  the most blatant and extended example occurring when the subject of  an In/Out referendum arose, viz: ‘I [Clegg] believe that when the rules change, when there’s a new treaty, when powers which rightfully belong to you are being given up to the EU, it shouldn’t be for the Government to decide – it should be for you to decide…

In contrast, Farage was vastly  more impressive in his energy, verbal delivery and body language. What nervousness there was in the first debate had vanished.  There was nothing coached about his manner.  He looked and sounded like someone voicing simple truths.

On both  immigration and an In/OUT referendum  Clegg  refused to meaningfully engage with the questions. Farage produced the LibDem poster from 2008 which Nick Ferrari had introduced into the first debate.  This had Clegg promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. During the first debate Clegg had claimed the poster promised  the same position he occupies now, namely, that the LibDems would support a referendum on any further Treaty which removed further substantial powers from Britain.  Farage pointed out that the poster had no such qualification of  its general promise of a referendum. Clegg waffled so blatantly at this point that Dimbleby asked him the important  unasked question  I highlighted in my account of the first debate, namely, why not have a  referendum on all that has already been passed without a referendum:, viz:  “ We last had a referendum 40 years ago. You have described everything that has happened since, the Lisbon Treaty  and all those things. Why can’t there be a referendum  on  all the things that have happened ? Why wait for even more change before you agree to a referendum, why not have one now? (Go into debate at 50 min 30 sec).  All this produced was  reiterated Clegg waffle  about waiting for a new treaty. On the face of it this is really very stupid of Clegg because he could quite easily commit the LibDems to an In/Out referendum knowing full well he would never be in a position to deliver it  because his party will never command a Commons majority. Clegg  does not do so because he is trapped by his Party’s mainlining addiction to the EU.

On immigration Farage  told the simple truth ….

‘We have no idea how many people are coming here from the European Union next year, the year after or the year after that, because unconditionally we have an open door to 485million people.

‘Immigration on this scale has changed fundamentally the communities, not just of London, but actually of every city and every market town in this country. But worst of all what it’s done socially, it has left a white working class effectively as an underclass. And that I think is a disaster for our society.

‘[Large scale immigration] is good for the rich because it is cheaper nannies and cheaper chauffeurs and cheaper gardeners.

But it is bad news for ordinary Britons. We need to have a control on immigration, on the numbers who come here and over the quality who come here.’

….while Clegg  lied and dissimulated:

 “He [Farage] claimed that 485million people were going to vacate the whole of the rest of the European continent and turn up in Britain.(This was a direct lie because Farage had already made his position quite clear in the first debate when he said correctly that 485 million had the right to come to the UK).

 “Let me just show you, this is a leaflet from UKIP. It’s a picture of a very unhappy-looking native American.

It says, “He used to ignore immigration, now he lives on a reservation.” We are not – by staying in the EU – going to be cooped up on a native American reservation. What are you going to say next? That you’re Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull?”   (Farage said that he had no knowledge of where the leaflet had come from and disowned the message).

Clegg’s dishonesty on immigration was shown vividly after Farage  quoted a Migration Watch report that immigration to the UK  over the next four to five years  would mean ,  even at its current rate, the building of a city the size of Manchester  which has a population of 500,000. Clegg said this was nonsense because the Greater Manchester area had 2.7 million. Clegg must have known that Greater Manchester is not Manchester and consequently  deliberately tried to mislead. Clegg also repeated the falsehood  from the first debate that  UKIP’s claim of  29 million Bulgars and Romanians  who could come to Britain was absurd because there are  not 29 million Bulgars and Romanians.  The 2012 census figures for both countries  show they have  is a combined population of more than 28 million. Why Farage did not thrust the census figures at Clegg is a mystery.

When Dimbleby pressed Clegg (Go into the recording at 22 min 46 sec) on the  effect of massive immigration on infrastructure such as schools and  hospitals Clegg responded hesitantly and  incoherently  with “There are always problems when you have people”.  Dimbleby was palpably  surprised and he asked Clegg what he meant.  Clegg waffled on about how there would be such problems whether or not Britain was in the EU.

Clegg was positively  shameless when Farage raised the matter of Clegg’s claim in the first debate that only 7% of  legislation going through Parliament was inspired by the EU. Farage produced a copy of the House of Commons Library note which Clegg had relied on and read out the passage which showed that that the HoC paper note was much more nuanced and undogmatic and gave estimates of its own of between 15% and 50% percent of UK law from all sources . (http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/RP10-62/how-much-legislation-comes-from-europe) .

Clegg tried to wriggle out of being caught  in what to any normal human being would count as a straight forward lie by referring to the 6.8% primary legislation figure quoted by the HoC note. However, as Clegg must have been well aware there is a great deal of  EU inspired law which consists of statutory instruments (the secondary legislation which provides the mechanics to implement primary legislation). Farage called a spade a spade, viz: “You are lying willingly to the British people about the extent we have given away democray”.

Inevitably Farage was taxed with his remarks about admiring Putin as an operator. However, this rather backfired because  both Dimbleby and  Clegg manifestly misrepresented Farage as being a general admirer of Putin  and Farage used the opportunity  to not only  expose that misrepresentation (which gained him the sympathy of the audience)  but to lambast Clegg as one of the cabal of career politicians who had kept Britain interminably at war:

Farage: “I don’t admire Putin, what I said was, he’d outwitted and outclassed you all over Syria. I also said I didn’t like him as a human being and I wouldn’t want to live  in Russia.’

 “You were absolutely hell bent on getting involved militarily in the war in Syria and I personally am delighted we didn’t go to war in Syria.

“This country has had enough of getting involved in endless foreign wars, there is no evidence that our intervention is making life better. I don’t want to be part of a European foreign policy.”

Farage’s strictures against the British political elite’s  warmongering got the loudest applause of the night. (Britain has de facto  been continuously at war for nearly a quarter of a century starting with the first  Gulf War).

Another strong Farage showing was on energy, viz: “The Chinese and Indians have gone for coal on a scale we can’t fathom, the US has gone for shale and we have gone for wind energy.” He  warned that the European Union’s “unilateral” approach to climate change was damaging businesses by pushing up energy bills and driving energy greedy industries such as metal smelting to the wall  and concluded that Britain should  “Scrap wind energy, scrap the subsidies, get shale”.

Farage also pointed out  that many leading politicians who were significant landowners had  benefited from the wind industry.

Clegg response was to call for more renewables to prevent e “over reliance on oil and gas from Nigel Farage’s friend Vladimir Putin”.

The final question from the audience was “What will the EU be like in ten years?”

Clegg said that he thought it would be much as it is now, which tells you how far his head is buried in the sand. In ten years three scenarios are more probable than the present status quo,  namely, a federal super state,    a free trade area or it will have simply disappeared..

Farage  foresaw a Britain outside of the EU after a referendum, hoped that other countries in the EU  would also leave  and warned against the dangers of  violence if change in the EU could not be achieved by democratic  means, pointing to support for nationalist parties such as Gold Dawn in Greece as evidence of the frustration which was building:

“We see in Madrid, we see in Athens, very large protests, tens of thousands of people, a lot of violence.

“You take away from people their ability through the ballot box to change their futures, then I am afraid they tend to resort to aggressive means.”

Clegg’s thoroughly shoddy performance did not help his case but the prime reason why  he was beaten so comprehensively was the simple  fact that he has a thoroughly bad case to argue.   It is impossible to make a sound case for being within the EU on any grounds which are acceptable to either  the British public now or which accord with what politicians from all the main Westminster Parties have claimed since Britain became part of what is now the EU.  For over forty years British mainstream politicians have repeated the sordid, treasonous lie that no real sovereignty  has been given away and that  Britain is still a fully functioning  Parliamentary democracy. The naked lie has been modified over the decades as the loss of sovereignty became ever more apparent  to the casuistry of saying Britain has not lost her sovereignty but merely pooled it with other countries. The more adventurous Europhile fantasists or liars (take your pick) say  that by joining with 27 other EU states British sovereignty has been amplified.

In addition,   the Labour, Tory and LibDem parties still  claim that Parliament is  sovereign because in principle Parliament can refuse any  legislation put before it or simply repeal any legislation relating to the EU up to and including the Act which gave  power to the Treaty of Rome, the European Communities Act of 1972. The reality is that even where the  national veto on EU law has applied it has very rarely been used – and is now very restricted because most EU decisions are made these days  by qualified majority voting – and there has been no instance in over 40 years of Parliament rejecting legislation introduced because of the EU. Practically, British sovereignty has been a dead letter since Britain joined the EEC.

The audience reaction throughout  was decidedly interesting, both because of its consistent support for Farage and for the fact that the BBC had not done their usual and packed the audience to reflect Europhile views. This could either be because a strategic decision has been made by the BBC that they will move with the political wind and allow Eurosceptic views on air  because to do anything else would be too blatantly biased as public interest in and anger about the EU grows or simply because they could not find enough unquestioning Europhiles applying to be audience members . I suspect it was the latter because not only is Europhilia growing more and more unpopular, even many of those who say they support the EU often have a considerable dislike of certain EU issues such as uncontrolled immigration and the imposition of regulations which interfere minutely both with business and the intimate details of their private lives.

The two debates told  us is this:

That the British are deeply dissatisfied with  their  political class.

That the British want an IN/OUT  referendum on the EU

That the British deeply dislike the EU as it is whether they are in favour of leaving or not

That for the British  immigration  is a prime political issue, probably  the prime political issue

That the British detest the perpetual  liberal internationalist warmongering

That Clegg is a very empty vessel indeed .

It remains to be seen whether the  British political class will respond to what the British people want . On the evidence of  the past 40 years don’t hold your breath.

LBC Nigel Farage versus Nick Clegg EU debate 26 3 2014

Chaired by Nick Ferrari

(The full debate can be viewed here http://www.lbc.co.uk/watch-lbc-leaders-debate-live—26th-march-87667)

Robert Henderson

Farage walked the debate with a YouGov poll of 1003 people giving this result:

57% Farage

36% Clegg

7% undecided

Even that figure probably understates the size of the victory because YouGov weighted the data to in practice favour Clegg by assuming UKIP supporters would be disproportionately likely to watch or listen to the debate:

1,003 completed this survey between 8.00 and 8.10. We weighted the raw data to (a) the voting intentions in our latest regular daily poll for the Sun (Lab 37%, Con 35%. UKIP 11%, Lib Dem 9%) and (b) to our most recent data on whether the UK should remain in the European Union.

An alternative approach would have been NOT to have corrected the political skew among our original 3,000 sample. The argument for doing this is that any assessment of audience reaction should take the audience as it is – in this case, accepting that UKIP supporters were much more likely to watch or listen to the debate than supporters of other parties. Had we done this, I estimate that the verdict of the audience would have been Farage 65%, Clegg 28%. Those who prefer to cite this figure, rather than to adjust for the UKIP-rich nature of the audience, are of course free to do so. ( http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/03/27/farage-wins-debate-clegg/)

It was also telling that many of those who were not UKIP supporters thought Farage had won, viz:

Not surprisingly, almost all UKIP supporters preferred Farage. But he was also considered the winner by: 

  • 69% of Conservative supporters
  • 42% of Labour supporters
  • 20% of Liberal Democrats
  • 30% of those who said before the debate they would vote to keep the UK in the EU  (Ibid)

 

It is rare in a two man debate on any subject for a win to be so crushing and that is doubly so when politicians with  such polarised views are put up for the judgement of the public.

Why was the result so emphatic? Well, negative messages are always a very  hard sell. Clegg’s   position was one of fear and mistrust of Britain and Farage’s one of confidence in his country.  Clegg was selling the message “Britain isn’t up to looking after itself”, Farage the message  “ Britain could and should be independent and sovereign”.    While Farage was saying things such as “Surely the benefit system is for the citizens of this country” , The Anglo-Saxon rule of law”  and “The best people to govern Britain are the British”, Clegg  was tedious ly  intoning  “We get more power rather than less by being part of an economic superpower “ and  talking about the ill effects of “pulling up the drawbridge “ to exclude immigrants. (Clegg spent a great deal of time worrying about  drawbridges being pulled up).

Farage also displayed much more energy in his delivery than Clegg,   who as ever sounded like a prefect ineptly playing the role of a weary adult before  a school debating society. He was  deeply irritating for that reason alone, but his whole persona seemed manufactured, from  the deeply wooden arm gestures he makes  to the studied use of questioners’ names.    Farage  was perhaps  too shouty at times and  weak in his responses to some important questions, such as failing to explain how UKIP’s claim that  75% of British laws are being made in Brussels was calculated. But he  had one massive advantage over Clegg: he was able to tell the truth all the time or at the least not tell deliberate lies.  Farage at least seemed like a real human being, with unmanufactured  body language,  and if he allowed his ill-temper to intrude, judged by  polls such as the YouGov one,  it must have seemed like justified irritation with the British political class as represented by Clegg  to the majority of those watching and listening.

Clegg’s wilful dishonesty is perhaps best exemplified when the subject of immigration from the EU came up. Clegg referred to a recent UKIP pamphlet which claimed that Farage had claimed that “29 million Romanians and Bulgarians” were coming to Britain. This was untrue said Clegg because “They’re aren’t even 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians in Romania and Bulgaria”.  Apart from  not being what UKIP had said  – the party had simply pointed out that 29 million would have the right to come to Britain -  as of 2012 Bulgaria had a population of 21.33 million and Bulgaria 7.305 million, 29 million bar a few hundred thousand.( https://www.google.co.uk/#q=population+of+roumania). Not that it would have mattered in they were a million or two short of 29 million. The point at issue was the existence of millions of people from countries with living standards a fraction of those in Britain who were now entitled to come here.

Unlike Clegg , even when he was making a bit of a mess of things Farage  attempted to answer questions directly even when they raised real difficulties for him.  For example,  a question from the audience raised the subject of  the trustworthiness of politicians and  cited the LibDems’  broken promise over tuition fees and Farage’s employment of his wife as a paid helper as examples of things which destroyed trust.  Clegg failed to explain why the Lib Dems had broken their promise and just waffled about the importance of  trust,  while Farage answered the question directly  by saying the responsibilities of leading the party meant that he  needed someone on tap at home to help him. He also denied that he had ever said publicly that he would not employ his wife.   On another occasion the subject of UKIP’s opposition to gay marriage came up and Farage again dealt with a  potentially very tricky question by simply saying that UKIP would review the situation if the threat of European judges imposing  gay marriage on religions was removed.

Farage was generally  very forthright  and nowhere was this shown to better effect than when he attacked the  EU’s interference in the Ukraine’s dispute with Russia.  This naturally caused  a tempest of  politically correct huffing and puffing after the debate and clearly appalled Clegg. Such forthrightness will  have appealed to most of the general public who are sick of politicians presenting weasel words to them.

Clegg  shamelessly trotted  out the tired old discredited Europhile mantras because any Europhile true believer really has nowhere else to go. These included

-          3 million  British jobs are at risk if Britain leaves the EU  (After Ferrari had intervened to say there are  questions marks over the research on which the claim was based,  Clegg tempered his bald statement by saying  it would not be three million but it might be  two million, one million, 500,000 and so on ).

-          Immigrants are a boon to Britain and pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits (Farage pointed out that Migration Watch recently demolished this argument http://www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk/press-release/380)

-          Britain needed to be in the EU to get the best trade deals (Farage pointed out the Iceland had recently negotiated a lucrative trade deal with China)

-          The European arrest warrant is allowing Britain to  extradite murderers, terrorists and paedophiles  (Farage pointed out that it was a grotesque breach in the protections for the individual provided by  British law )

-          One and a half million Britons live and work in other EU countries and if Britain does not have freedom of movement within the EU then those one and half million  Briton  will be put in jeopardy.  (Farage missed a trick here. Apart from the fact that forced expulsion of EU foreigners  from Britain or Britons from other EU countries is wildly improbable, he should have pointed out that the British  living in other EU countries are  likely to either be someone doing a skilled job or be retired with money, while the EU foreigner  in Britain is likely to be doing a low skilled or unskilled job. Hence, if it did come to a forced exchange of Britons abroad for EU foreigners in Britain,   Britain would be the material  gainers. )

The Lib Dem leader also had a new statistic to play with, namely, that only 7% of British laws come from Brussels (patently  absurd because the massive range of supranational competence the EU now has).  Clegg said the source was the Commons Library and did not qualify in any way his claim by, for example, by saying it was difficult to quantify and only a broad range could be offered.   The 7% turns out to be false.  This position is much more complicated. Here  is what the 2010 HoC research paper entitled How much legislation comes from  Europe says:

“EU regulations, unlike directives, are not usually transposed into legislation at national level, but rather into quasi-legislative measures, administrative rules, regulations or procedures etc which do not pass through a national parliamentary process. How, then, can one be worked out as a proportion of the other? The term ‘national obligation’ might be more appropriate, but is it possible to identify the sum of national obligations arising from EU laws? Increasing use of regulations, particularly Commission regulations, “decouples national transposition procedures” (Christensen), thereby increasing the unquantifiable element of EU activity. All measurements have their problems. To exclude EU regulations from the calculation is likely to be an under-estimation of the proportion of EU-based national laws, while to include all EU regulations in the calculation is probably an over-estimation. The answer in numerical terms lies somewhere in between the two approaches, and it is possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts. Other EU ‘soft law’ measures under the Open Method of Coordination are difficult to quantify as they often take the form of objectives and common targets. Analyses rarely look into EU soft law, the role of EU standard setting or self-regulatory measures.”

And

“In the UK data suggest that from 1997 to 2009 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and  14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU  obligations, although the degree of involvement varied from passing reference to explicit  implementation. Estimates of the proportion of national laws based on EU laws in other  EU Member States vary widely, ranging from around 6% to 84%. (file:///C:/Users/robnefrt/Downloads/RP10-62%20(2).pdf)

You can take your choice between Clegg shamelessly  lying or Clegg being stitched up by researchers who supplied him with false information.

In this context, it is very  important to understand what  Statutory  Instruments  (SIs) are. They provide the mechanism by which primary legislation is implemented. Frequently, SIs will expand the remit of primary legislation  beyond what is envisaged by those drafting the primary legislation and the politicians who vote for it. The “gold plating “ of EU directives is largely accomplished through SIs. Consequently, to concentrate on primary legislation stemming from Brussels is grossly misleading. The fact that SIs relating to EU derived primary legislation are not routinely   scrutinised by Parliament makes the opportunity for greatly expanding the powers of the primary legislation. It is worth describing  the Treaty obligations which place horrendous limitations on British sovereignty:

1 Types of EU legislative acts

There are three types of EU legislative acts. Under Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU):

A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form  and methods.

A decision shall be binding in its entirety. A decision which specifies those to whom it is addressed shall be binding only on them.

Opinions and Recommendations have no binding force.

EU Legislation  Standard  Note SN/IA/5419   http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05419.pdf

On the question of a referendum on the EU, Clegg squirmed as he tried to represent the LibDems as  having a consistent position from the time when he promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty  in 2008 until now.  There was an element of farce about the way the discussion began when Clegg answered  a question  (go into recording at 8 minutes 33 secs) from Ferrari about a Lib Dem poster  of 2008 which seemingly promised an unqualified  referendum by saying that people could not read the small print. Clegg actually meant that they literally could not read the small print of the poster Ferrari was holding up to the audience and cameras,  only the headline.  There was a ghastly serendipity about this,  because whatever Clegg meant  he then made very  clear there was indeed small print surrounding any LibDem promise of a referendum.  Clegg said  that in 2008 his position was exactly the same as it is now,  namely, a referendum should be held if there were substantial powers taken away by further treaties.

Farage picked Clegg up on this very strongly, pointing out that if only powers taken away by Treaty would trigger a referendum, this might well be a dead letter because  there was a strong possibility that new treaties would not be forthcoming  (this could well be the case because so much is decided by Qualified Majority Voting now) and that in any case there is a constant drip drip drip of new EU legislation which whittles away sovereignty, some of it substantial such the expansion of the EU’s foreign policy and the EU’s attempt to control the City of London. Clegg had no real answer to this.

Frarage should have asked Clegg to  explain why the British people could not be asked (in an IN/Out referendum) about all the powers which had been taken away without any referendum over the past forty years. Sadly the question went unasked.

It has to be admitted that Farage was weak in answering some  questions on statistical detail. The two worst instances were the proportion of British laws which originate from Brussels – when asked where the 75% UKIP figure came from Farage feebly said it was their own calculation with out explaining how they had reached it – and  on the cost of the EU to Britain and.  Ferrari asked Farage to justify the £55 million a day cost in a UKIP pamphlet.  Farage fumbled his reply by failing to make clear immediately that it was the gross amount  paid and taking too long to explain that even though it was the gross amount what money Britain received back had to be spent as the EU determined . However, I would doubt whether such statistical lacunae would register significantly with the general public, who will have largely switched of their minds when politicians start hurling stats at them.

After the debate the  politically correct media and politicians flapped around after the thumping poll win for  Farage claiming variously  the result was unimportant  (absurd), it was score draw, (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/03/the-room-spun/) or that in reality Clegg had won (utterly fantastic).   This might have been expected from the likes of the Guardian and Mirror, but the supposedly Eurosceptic   Daily Telegraph also had a full hand of regular commentators – Mary Riddell,  Dan Hodges, Tim Stanley,  Toby Young – who all , with varying degrees of enthusiasm, stated that Clegg had come out ahead  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10725571/Verdict-who-won-in-the-Clegg-v-Farage-debate.html). The widespread  dismissal of  the YouGov poll by the mainstream media and politicians encapsulated the inherently anti-democratic mentality of those with power and influence in Britain.

The debate  was not deeply penetrating nor did it address all the important EU  issues adequately, for example,  the loss of democracy resulting from the UK’s EU membership  was barely touched upon.  Nor was it clear why the subject of gay marriage was raised within a debate on the EU unless it was simply to try to embarrass Farage and UKIP.  No matter. The value of the debate lay in giving the British public an opportunity to express their feelings through polls such as the YouGov one cited above  and  its naked demonstration, in the form of  Clegg,  of the chasm between the l public and the British elite.  Most of the British public display the natural human instinct of wanting their own national interests to be protected by their own people; the British elite wish to either submerge Britain into a united states of Europe or labour under the pathetic  delusion that the imperial tendencies of the  EU can be restrained from within.  Faced with a choice between Farage and Clegg it was no contest; they plumped for someone who shared their natural instincts.

 

 

 

The Old Buffoonian treads on dangerous ground

Robert Henderson

Boris Johnson  has suggested that the radicalisation of Muslim children should be treated as child abuse and children subjected to such an environment should be taken into care:

“At present, there is a reluctance by the social services to intervene, even when they and the police have clear evidence of what is going on, because it is not clear that the “safeguarding law” would support such action. A child may be taken into care if he or she is being exposed to pornography, or is being abused – but not if the child is being habituated to this utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become murderers. I have been told of at least one case where the younger siblings of a convicted terrorist are well on the road to radicalisation – and it is simply not clear that the law would support intervention.

“This is absurd. The law should obviously treat radicalisation as a form of child abuse. It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public. “(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10671841/The-children-taught-at-home-about-murder-and-bombings.html).

Even for the Old Buffoonian this is extraordinary obtuseness. Johnson has failed to recognise three very obvious facts: (1) removing Muslim children from their parents will also certainly radicalise the children;  (2) it will provide potent ammunition for Islamic extremists and (3) you can bet your life that once the principle of “bad” ideas is established as a reason for the social workers to come in, it will be extended to many other “bad” ideas, for example, in these  pc times anything which is non-pc.  Let us have a look in detail at those disturbing implications of Johnson’s proposal.

To begin with at what age would children be removed from the family? If at birth or shortly afterwards,   the child and eventually the adult will feel that their lives have been ruthlessly changed by the state and may well turn to extremism to revenge themselves on the society which has treated them so. If  taken away at an older age the child, especially if they are old enough to have imbibed the radical message, is likely to be not merely confirmed in their radical ideas but  have them substantially amplified.

Of course  it is not only parents who could be a radical influence within the home. What about brothers, sisters, Aunts and Uncles and cousins who were Jihadists? Would they be grounds for removing children? Would they have to be banned from having any contact with the children?

There is also the ticklish question of what constitutes an idea radical enough to sanction removal of the child.  Would it have to be direct exhortations to kill non-Muslims? If less than that, where would the line be drawn? At Muslims telling children non-Muslims are damned to Hell?  At  Muslims simply telling their children that they should not associate with non-Muslims?   

Then there is the question of where the children would be placed after they were removed. Most would probably end up in care because if  the policy was enforced rigorously,  thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Muslim children would have to be removed. This might seem extreme but think of the hundreds of Muslims  who have already been convicted in Britain of terrorist related crimes (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24454596)  Think of the hundreds or even thousands  who are reported to be fighting abroad in places such as Syria and Afghanistan (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25893040). They will often have children or  be uncles,  cousins and aunts to Muslim children.    

Even with much smaller numbers the chances of a Muslim child being left in  care would be strong because Muslim adopters and foster parents are thin on the ground. If they are left in care that would be likely to provide an unhappy childhood which  would engender a strong sense of victimhood, fertile soil in which to plant Jihadist ideas. The child would also be brought up as a Muslim to ensure that he was not denied his “cultural heritage” and would consequently be exposed to other Muslims who might well be Islamic radicals.

Adoption and fostering might provide more palatable lives for the children than care,  but they would have difficulties of their own. The current politically correct adoption and fostering policies  very strongly favour placing a child in families which are racially and culturally akin to those of the child. That would mean most, possibly all, of such children ending up in a Muslim family. That family  might be moderates who treat their religion in the same way that the average C of E worshipper does, as a tepid private observance rather than a fervent matter of public policy. But even in such circumstances, the child would still be regularly be exposed to Muslims with more rigorous Islamic ideas and could easily become radicalised or have  radical ideas obtained before their removal from their birth parents enhanced.

Then there is school. Whether in care, foster homes or an adoptive home, the child is likely to be in a school with a significant number of  Muslims because of the emphasis on providing a racially and ethnically environment which matches the child’s original circumstances. To achieve that the child will almost certainly be  living in a town or city which has a substantial Muslim population. There will also be pressure on those responsible for the child to place them in a school with a healthy Muslim intake. The child might  even be placed in a Muslim  school if  he or she  is adopted and the adoptive parents favour such an education.

Aside from all this, there is the Internet. Any child forbidden to have contact with anything whether it be  radical Islam or pornography is likely to be drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

The propaganda value of Muslim children being forcibly removed would be immense. Muslim terrorists would use it to justify their violence and, because the issue is such an emotive one, they would gain sympathy  from Muslims generally in the way  IRA bombers enjoyed a sympathy amongst the wider republican movement along the lines of “I don’t agree with their methods but…”  the practice  would undoubtedly resonate throughout the Muslim world and have effects far beyond those willing to engage in violence. In particular, it could seriously affect trade with Britain.

Such a policy  would almost certainly have an antagonising effect on other minorities, both because they would fear that the same might happen to them and because of a sense of solidarity with Muslims, for  they are all  part of what one might call the victimocracy,  the army of  those who harbour a grievance,  justified or otherwise, simply because they are minorities or from some notion that white Western society owes them something.  The policy would also be a fundamental questioning of the policy of multiculturalism which has ruled the British elite roost for over thirty years.

There would also be the danger that in a bid to boost their pc credentials to offset the non-pc draconian removal of children. For example,  concessions could be made to Muslims generally by the British political elite, concessions such as the relaxation of immigration rules for Muslims and allowing sharia law to be expanded in Britain from the supposedly voluntary sharia courts which now exist to Sharia courts which were compulsory for Muslims.

 In short doing what Johnson proposes would make matters considerably worse for all concerned, for Muslims and the general population of the UK. What should be done? We need to start from the fact that there  is no realistic way that Muslim children can be shielded from radical Islam. Nor is there any hard proof that most radical Muslims in Britain were radicalised by their families or became radicalised when they were children. Radicalisation within mosques or through a radical   preacher operating outside the mosque at a fairly advanced stage of childhood or in early adulthood seems far more common. Moreover, Britain’s inability to control her borders whilst within the EU will always allow radical Muslims to come from abroad.   Short of expelling every Muslim in the country (several million)  and  allowing none to visit the country, the danger of Islamic terrorism, home grown or otherwise, will be a constant. Just as Irish republican terrorism had to be managed rather than exterminated, so Islamic terrorism will have to be managed.

All of that is depressing enough, but the really sinister aspect of what Johnson  proposes is the opportunity it would provide for the interference by the state in how parents generally bring up their children.  This could be in part a politically correct desire to create a spurious equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, but it could equally be an ideological  vehicle for the extension of political correctness.

As things stand,  the politically correct  legions in our midst  incessantly chomp at the bit as they try to ensure that  any opinion but their own is at best driven from public debate and at worst made  illegal in any circumstances. An excellent recent example of the  totalitarian mentality of such people is the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett’s call for cabinet ministers, senior public officials and political advisers to be sacked unless they unquestioningly backed the idea of man-made global warming (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/the-british-green-party-expose-their-totalitarian-mentality/).

If it was allowed that Muslim children could be removed from their homes because of the beliefs of their parents (or any other family member), why not permit the removal of children whose parents disapproved of mass immigration, were members of the BNP or the EDL, refused to accept the claims of the man-made global warming believers, thought gay marriage was a nonsense  or simply ridiculed the idea of human equality?

This might seem fanciful at first glance,  but think of the absurdities  the politically correct have forced upon us in the name of racial and sexual equality and multiculturalism  and the use of the law to intimidate and increasing charge with criminal offences those who speak out against the effects of political correctness, for example, http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/courage-is-the-best-defence-against-charges-of-racism

How the BBC fixes the political bias of Any Questions

Robert Henderson

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).

Why did Piers Morgan lose his CNN programme?

Robert Henderson 

Piers Morgan  has had his CNN  show cancelled  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10657333/CNN-announces-end-to-Piers-Morgans-talk-show.html)

It  is a rather large coincidence that this happened  four days after I circulated  widely to the media, both  here and in the USA,   a copy of Morgan’s letter in which he admits receiving information from the Met Police in circumstances which can only have been illegal  (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/cast-iron-proof-of-piers-morgans-criminality-distributed-widely-to-the-mainstream-media/)

If it is not simply a coincidence , it could be that CNN are simply putting Morgan out to grass for a spell to see if the police investigate him. If so, he should be given another CNN vehicle  within the next year if he does not face criminal charges..

The cancelling of his programme is more plausibly down to  my circulation of his PCC letter to the media   than his questioning about phone hacking by police in  December,  for which he was neither arrested nor charged. The time delay between December and now make  also it improbable that his show was cancelled because of his December questioning. It is just possible that Morgan is about to be charged in relation to phone-hacking and that has promoted the CNN action

The British Green Party expose their totalitarian mentality

Robert Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennett; “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t take the Swiss vote on immigration quotas as a done deal

Robert Henderson

The Swiss have  voted to end the free movement of labour between Switzerland and the EU  (http://tinyurl.com/SwissEUvote).. The result was very close:  50.3% Yes  49.7% No

This is potentially very significant because even though the Swiss are only European Economic Area (EEA) members, if they can get rid of the free movement of labour (one of the four so called EU freedoms – freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour) it provides a lever for the UK (and other EU states) to obtain  a similar arrangement and an example which countermands the EU propaganda that any breach of EU rules will be disastrous for any nation which tries to radically change matters. Once a breach in the EU dyke is made inundation could easily follow.

But before rejoicing amongst those who wish Britain to leave the EU becomes unconfined it must  be pointed out that it is far from clear what the restrictions on EU migrants will be (and Swiss politicians have three years before they need to bring forward any legislation)  and there is the possibility that the referendum result could be overturned by another referendum.

The Swiss political elite are, like our political elite, Quislings in  the service of internationalism. They will do everything possible to circumvent this result. There are two possible tactics they could pursue. The first is to put forward restriction which are no more than tokenistic. A more likely scenario is for another referendum to be held . This would not have to be citizen initiated referendum. It could be a compulsory one based on a claim that the change in the immigration law had constitutional implications (Article 140 of the Swiss Constitution).  But even if it was not a mandatory referendum, bearing in mind the closeness of the result just obtained,  it would probably be easy to get enough voters to petition for a citizen initiated referendum ( Article 139).  Article 141 also provides a basis for a referendum.  The relevant Swiss Constitution Articles run as follows:

Article 139  Formulated Popular Initiative for Partial Revision of the Constitution

(1) 100 000 citizens entitled to vote may within 18 months of the official publication of their formulated initiative demand a partial revision of the Constitution.

(2) A popular initiative for the partial revision of the Constitution may take the form of a general proposal or of a specific draft of the provisions proposed.

(3) If the initiative violates the principle of unity of form, the principle of unity of subject matter, or mandatory rules of international law, the Federal Parliament declares it invalid, in whole or in part.

(4) If the Federal Assembly is in agreement with an initiative in the form of a general proposal, it drafts the partial revision on the basis of the initiative and submits it to the vote of the People and the Cantons. If the Federal Assembly rejects the initiative, it submits it to a vote of the People; the People decide whether the initiative is adopted. If they vote in favour, the Federal Assembly drafts the corresponding bill.

(5) The initiative in the form of a specific draft is submitted to the vote of the people and the Cantons. The Federal Parliament recommends the initiative for adoption or rejection. It may contrast the initiative with a counterproposal.

Article 139b  Procedure for Initiative With Counterproposal

(1) The voters cast their ballot at the same time for initiative and counterproposal.

(2) They may vote in favor of both proposals. Regarding the priority question, they may select which proposal they prefer if both are accepted.

(3) If the priority question results in one proposal to receive more votes of the people and the other more votes of the Cantons, that proposal is set into force that has the highest sum of voter’s percentage points in popular vote plus cantonal vote.

Article 140  Mandatory Referendum

(1) The People and the Cantons are voting on the following:

a. the revisions of the Constitution;

b. the entry into organizations for collective security or into supranational communities;

c. the federal statutes declared urgent without constitutional basis and with validity exceeding one year; such federal statutes have to be submitted to the vote within one year after their adoption by the Federal Parliament.

(2) The People are voting on the following:

a. the popular initiatives for total revision of the Constitution;

b. the popular initiatives for partial revision of the Constitution in the form of a general suggestion which were rejected by the Federal Parliament;

c. the question if a total revision of the Constitution is to be carried out with disagreement of both chambers.

Article 141  Optional Referendum

(1) On the demand by 50’000 citizens entitled to vote or 8 Cantons, within 100 days of the official publication, the following instruments are submitted to the vote of the People:

a. Federal Statutes;

b. Federal Statutes declared urgent with a validity exceeding one year;

c. Federal decrees to the extent the Constitution or the law provides for it;

d. International treaties which:

1. are of unlimited duration and may not be terminated;

2. provide for the entry into an international organization;

3. include important legislative provisions or require the adoption of federal Statutes.

(2) { abolished }

http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/sz00000_.html

It is all too easy to imagine a Swiss electorate browbeaten with dire warnings of what will happen if the Swiss do not fall into line with EU policy voting to reverse the decision.

Politically incorrect film reviews – 12 Years a slave

Robert Henderson

Main Cast

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup

Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps

Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey

Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps

Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford

Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass

Paul Dano as John Tibeats

Adepero Oduye as Eliza

Paul Giamatti as Theophilus Freeman

Garret Dillahunt as Armsby

Scoot McNairy as Brown

Taran Killam as Hamilton

Chris Chalk as Clemens Ray

Director:  Steve McQueen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note added  4  March 2014

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

Politically incorrect film reviews – Mandela: the long walk to freedom

Robert Henderson

Main cast Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela

Naomie Harris as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Tony Kgoroge as Walter Sisulu

Riaad Moosa as Ahmed Kathrada

Zolani Mkiva as Raymond Mhlaba

Simo Mogwaza as Andrew Mlangeni

Fana Mokoena as Govan Mbeki

Thapelo Mokoena as Elias Motsoaledi

Jamie Bartlett as James Gregory

Deon Lotz as Kobie Coetzee

Terry Pheto as Evelyn Mase

Dir: Justin Chadwick;

Cert 12A, 146 min

There are two films currently on release with a very high pc approbation quotient: 12 Years a Slave and Mandela: a long walk to freedom.  The latter  is a better film simply as a film, both because it had a male lead who imposes himself on the film and because it possesses something resembling a plot rather than a repetitive  series of  scenes of brutality and contempt being inflicted by whites on blacks.  But  being superior to 12 Years a Slave does not make it a good film let alone a great one and this Mandela biopic has serious flaws.

There are two ways to swatch a biopic: simply as a drama without worrying about its verisimilitude or to judge it as one would a documentary. This film   fails on both counts. As a drama it is too fragmented and lacking in action  to maintain  tension.  It is also  handicapped because  it  is difficult to view it as simply a drama when the person and events for which they are noted are so recent. Inevitably, it will be seen as a de facto documentary, but it fails to deserve that name because it is profoundly dishonest in its reporting of the facts.  More on that later.

The film starts  with two  considerable  dramatic disadvantages: the very long  period which it covers – even Mandela’s adulthood in the period covered by the film stretches over  more than 50 years –   made the film inescapably but unduly episodic  and the  27 years he spent in prison was a setting where there is limited scope to show Mandela doing very much.  The large cast also works  against character development other than that of Mandela. Even the depiction of Winnie Mandela is distinctly one-dimensional. There is also the problem of representing her as an irresistible beauty. She was not that even when young and the use of the considerably better looking Naomi Harris to represent her is a form of dishonesty because a good looking actress exhorting violence   will have a much less toxic effect  than a rather plain woman doing so.

Idris Elba as Mandela gives a strong performance judged simply as a character, but because of the inevitable documentary element his appearance does  present problems.  Because everyone knows what Mandela looked like and sounded like, it is difficult to shed the image of the real Mandela in the mind’s eye while watching Elba who  has no real facial similarity to the young Mandela, a fact made ever more obvious as their looks diverged with Mandela’s ageing in the film. By the time the real Mandela emerged from prison and was before the world’s cameras, his face had developed a curious Chinese look  and been drained of its robustness. All that was done, and perhaps all that could  done to age Elba, was to give him greying hair.

Then there was a question of physique and vitality.  Elba is a powerfully built man and although Mandela was no 7-stone weakling as a young man,  he was still substantially shorter (6’0” against Elba’s 6’3”) and much less heavily muscled than Elba.  That did  not matter so much in the scenes of Mandela’s youth, but it became ever more problematical as Mandela aged. By the time the scenes of  Mandela’s release arrived  Elba was still a hulking figure whereas the real Mandela at that age had become a rather physically frail figure.

The final problem of impersonation was that Elba caught Mandela’s voice as we know it from his time after his release quite well, but that did mean he was using  the voice of  Mandela as an old man throughout the film. (I did try to find a recording of Mandela  pre-imprisonment but was unable to do so).

But the main black mark against the film is that it is wilfully and widely dishonest. This turns it into nothing more than a propaganda vehicle.  The serious dishonesty consists of acts of omission. These are:

1. Mandela’s Marxism and membership of the South African Communist Party (SACP) is  not mentioned, nor is  the heavy influence of Communists within the SACP.

2. The brutal behaviour of the ANC members to both those, both within and without the party,  who fell out of favour with the ANC leadership,  either as the result of personal quarrels or because they were judged to be disloyal. Even a pro-ANC account admits there were considerable abuses (http://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv02167/04lv02264/05lv02303/06lv02304/07lv02305/08lv02312.htm – see 6.3.3.2 onwards in particular).  This behaviour went unremarked.

3. Winnie Mandella’s glorying in the murder by torture that is “necklacing” is barely given a glance, with Mandela making a single reference to it in a scene with Winnie in which he simply says the necklacing must stop. There is precious little attention given to the practice in general. There  is one fleeting scene of someone being chased, caught, having  a tyre placed over his head, the tyre being soaked  with petrol and set alight.  The scene lasts a few seconds. There is no explanation of why the person is being murdered, who the person was and who was doing the killing. It was tokenism of the most extreme sort.

Winnie Mandela also had a nice line impersonal  intimidation and violence up to and including murder. She ran a bunch of thugs known as the Mandela Football team  and was convicted of  assault and kidnapping in 1991 after the death of ANC youth activist, Stompie Seipei Moeketsi.  The sentence was six years in prison initially but this was reduced to two years suspended on appeal.   There was no reference in the film  to either Stompie or her conviction. As for the Mandela Football Team, there was a  sentence or two in a scene when Mandela said the violence must stop – the same scene as the single reference to  necklacing by Mandela in  the film – but nothing else.  Mandela’s failure to condemn her behaviour for so long was represented as an understandable weakness of the heart rather than any indication of serious fault in Mandela.

4. The film runs to Mandela’s election to the Presidency in 1994. By that time he had shown a rather worrying fondness for unpleasant dictators such as Fidel Castro and Gaddafi. Such behaviour went unremarked.

5. Far too little  is made of Mandela’s womanising and the failure  of his first marriage to Evelyn Mase because of that and his placing of the ANC cause above his family.   There are a few rows, and one scene of what might be called domestic violence by Mandela, although that could be interpreted as self-defence, but the overall impression is that somehow the break-up was Mase’s fault, at least in part.  Nothing was said about the fact that Mandela left Mase to bring up three young children with precious little if any financial support from Mandela before he went into prison or the ANC after he was imprisoned.

Is this film  worth seeing? Certainly not on its own terms, for it is  not only dishonest but rather pedestrian.  Political animals may wish to see it to prime themselves on the extent that the politically correct myth  has overturned reality in the case of Mandela and how readily the mainstream film reviewers have bought into it.

 

NB Also published by the Quarterly Review in their new Perspectives film  section  - http://www.quarterly-review.org/?p=2356

 

 

Democracy and Political Ignorance – Why smaller government is smarter

Ilya Somin

Stanford University Press

ISBN 978-0-8047-8661-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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