Author Archives: Robert Henderson

The death of free expression in England

Robert Henderson

The convictions in 2018 of Jeremy “Jez” Bedford-Turner and Alison Chabloz  for simply saying things our politically correct elite do not want to hear set a new benchmark for the imposition on England of the totalitarian creed which is political correctness. It is a totalitarian creed because (1)  it touches on all aspects of life through the application of the non-discrimination or equality principle and (2) its followers  insist that there is only one permissible view, the politically correct one.

The convictions

Mr Bedford-Turner has been found guilty of inciting racial hatred in a speech he made  outside of  Downing Street and sentenced to  12 months imprisonment, of which half will be served on licence.  The main thrust of the  speech was his concern about  the close  relationship between the Metropolitan Police and a  charity Shomrim which acts as a private Jewish  security force.

Ms Chabloz, a singer and musician,  has been convicted of three offences relating to the use of a public electronic service. These arise  from three songs she had written which were placed on social media and  deemed to   be grossly insulting to Jews.

Ms Chabloz was  sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years, given 180 hours of community service plus a fine, victim’s surcharge and  costs. She is also banned from using social media for a year. Moreover, the conviction will  continue to hinder her both socially and professionally  after the  two years  are spent because it will make it difficult or  impossible for her to enter countries, especially places  such as the USA and Canada.

The Crown Prosecution Service  (CPS)

Both  trials eventually came about through the initiative  of a charity the Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA). The Bedford-Turner case was originally turned referred to the police and the CPS by a charity which promotes Jewish interests and offers physical security  services called The Community Security Trust (CST). It was turned down  for  prosecution  by the CPS for not meeting their evidential standard.  The CAA then sought and obtained a judicial review of the CPS decision at which point the CPS caved in before the judicial review was heard and reversed their decision not to prosecute.

The Chabloz case involved the CAA taking out a private prosecution against her after the CPS had initially refused to act. After their caving in over the Bedford-Turner complaint  the  CPS took over the private prosecution. It is a reasonable assumption that the CPS did this as a result of their failure to defend the judicial review of  the Bedford-Turner case.

The fact that the CPS were unwilling to  fight the threatened judicial  review is  disquieting because it  means that a prosecution can be potentially secured by an individual or group with the means to fund both the application of a judicial review and the judicial review itself. This disqualifies the vast majority of people in the UK from pursuing such a course because of the considerable legal costs involved. That in turn creates a de  facto  two tier criminal justice system divided between the haves and the have-nots.

It should be noted that the CPS has  not meaningfully explain publicly why they did not fight the judicial review or why they changed their minds over the  likelihood of securing a conviction  in  both Bedford-Taylor and Chabloz cases. (the CPS evidential test for prosecution requires  a better than 50% chance of securing a conviction)

The judges   

Jeremy Bedford-Turner

The behaviour of  the judge David Tomlinson  in the Bedford-Turner case gave serious cause for concern.

This trial was held before a  jury. Tomlinson began by refusing a  defence request to put two questions to jury members, namely,  are you a member of the CAA?  and  are you a member of the  Community Security Trust  CST?

Tomlinson’s reason for  the refusal was that he is a strong supporter of the principle of random selection for jurors. However, if it is  legitimate to refuse such obviously pertinent questions to check whether a prospective juror is compromised it is difficult to see what test of a juror’s impartiality could not be refused.  That is not to say the chances of a member of either the CAA or CST being put forward as a prospective juror was high, but it was a  risk which if it had transpired could have been enough to halt the trial.  In addition, if the questions had been asked it would have given both the defendant and the general public an assurance that the jury was not patently biased.

Once the trial was underway Tomlinson  repeatedly sighed and grimaced when politically incorrect points were made and capped his  performance by effectively taking over the prosecution’s cross-examination of Mr Bedford-Turner on several occasions to challenge  Mr Bedford-Turner’s evidence, that is, the judge  intervened not to elucidate a point for himself or the jury but to refute what Mr Bedford-Turner was saying.

During this passage of the hearing the judge said with noticeable  distaste that it was shocking that such an organisation as the CAA needed to exist but that was the way of the world.

The  other thing to note was the way both judge and prosecuting counsel treated  opinion as fact and were seemingly oblivious to what they were doing, namely,  enforcing the politically correct  view of the world.

Did Mr Bedford-Turner have a chance of acquittal?  He  had a jury trial so  that gave him some chance of a  not guilty result. Had it been a trial without a jury he would almost certainly have had  no chance of being found innocent   for  it is very difficult to imagine in  our present politically correct charged circumstances that a judge sitting on his or her own would have found Mr Bedford-Turner not guilty.

But even with a jury the odds were heavily against a not guilty verdict. In the minds of jurors must be the fear of being called a racist which has been so successfully inculcated in the general population of the UK  that it produces a reflex of panic and fear  when someone is faced with the possibility of the label of racist  being  stuck on them. Consequently,  any juror faced with a case such as this must have it in the back of their minds that to return a not guilty verdict would be to risk being called a racist.

There is also the sheer shock factor of hearing politically incorrect views being unashamedly spoken in a society which has been conditioned to associate such words with danger to those who might express sympathy with them or even be thought not to have condemned them enthusiastically enough.

In the event the jury was out for less than two hours and returned a unanimous verdict of  guilty. For the record,  on the jury there were two black women and one black man on the jury.  The rest were white.

Alison Chabloz

The original judge in the Chabloz case was the Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate), Emma Arbuthnot. Arbuthnot is married to Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom, PC,  who was a Tory MP  until 2015 and who now sits in the House of Lords.

Both Lady Arbuthnot and her husband are members of  the Conservative friends of Israel and have received hospitality in Israel.  Lady Arbuthnot  did not stand down on her own initiative,  but  did so when confronted with her  membership of the Conservative Friends of Israel.  Her replacement as judge was John Zani.

The Chabloz case then took an  extraordinary twist. A onetime schoolmate of Zani at Highgate School wrote to him, viz:

“Hi, John, I’m an OC [RH  Old Cholmeleian – an OB of Highgate School] you may remember me – maybe I am a bit older than you (64) – I was in the public gallery – I fight antisemitism, I have a blog on Jewish News.

“[redacted by the court]

[This is an] “Important case for us . . . . . and as you said, a path breaking one.  (I’m not a lawyer, I’m an economist).”

The writer was Jonathan Hoffman, a well known Zionist. Quite properly Zani called in Ms Chabloz’s  barrister Adrian Davies and  prosecution counsel Karen Robinson and revealed to them that he had received an  email which compromised him. (Zani was reportedly noticeably distressed during this meeting).

The only rational interpretation of the text of the email is that the sender was attempting to improperly influence the judge. The email  was consequently both a contempt of court and a clear attempt to pervert the course of justice.  It was a potentially extremely serious action because the case was being heard without a jury and the verdict was  Zani’s  alone to make.

Because of the letter Zani offered to stand down from the case, but this offer was refused by the defence.

Before her trial Ms Chabloz  wrote to the Attorney-General asking for  the criminal law to be  brought to bear on Hoffman.  A reply came from the office of the Solicitor-General refusing to act without giving any plausible explanation of why such a blatant attempt to influence a judge could not be prosecuted. I reproduce the letter in full:

Dear Mrs Chabloz,

I write in relation to your letter of 3rd July, addressed to the Attorney General in which you asked that consideration be given to bringing contempt proceedings against Jonathan Hoffman as the result of an email that he sent to District Judge Zani at Westminster magistrates’ court.

The Solicitor General has now considered the matters set out in your letter, as well as the documents you attached. In reaching his decision the Solicitor General has borne in mind that, for contempt proceedings to succeed, he would need to satisfy the High Court beyond a reasonable doubt (i.e. the criminal standard of proof) that the content of the email sent by Jonathan Hoffman created a real risk that the criminal proceedings brought against you would be prejudiced or impeded. He has concluded there is no realistic prospect of proving to the required standard that the email created such a risk and has therefore decided not to institute contempt proceedings.

For the sake of completeness, the Solicitor General also considered the content of the postings about your case, which you drew to his attention, that had appeared on Mr Hoffman’s Facebook account between December and February. In relation to those, the Solicitor General has also concluded that there is no realistic prospect of contempt proceedings succeedings.

Thank you nevertheless for bringing these matters to our attention.

James Jenkins

Head of Casework

Unadulterated waffle sums  up Jenkins’ reply. Indeed, it is  insulting in its  inadequacy – no attempt is made to present any argument  for the decision not to prosecute or even investigate. All that is offered is a bald lordly statement from the powers-that-be that they judge  that  Hoffman  cannot be successfully prosecuted.

Whether or not Hoffman’s intervention was likely to have any effect on Zani’s behaviour is irrelevant. The offence is the attempt to influence a judge, which is a very serious crime carrying a potential life sentence.

The impossibility of defining grossly offensive 

The question of what is grossly offensive has not been properly examined in either Mr Bedford-Turner or Ms Chabloz’s case.  It has two facets. The first is the inherent impossibility of defining  what is grossly  offensive in a way which makes the judgement other than  an expression of opinion.

The second  facet is the  obvious fact that what is grossly offensive to one person can and often is either only mildly offensive or not offensive at all. Indeed, the same person may find the same material offensive in one setting and inoffensive in another. For example, the telling of a risqué joke in mixed company may make  a man uncomfortable,  but hearing the joke in all male comp-any will probably make the man unselfconsciously laugh.  Another example would be telling sick jokes. These may be highly offensive when seen written down in a court of law but in normal life they often appear innocuous.   This is what should happen in a free society, social custom regulating behaviour without the intervention of the law.

There is also the awkward fact  that  truths are often “grossly insulting”. The implication of the prosecution’s case in both trials is that some  truths could be judged illegal because they are either grossly offensive, frightening or arouse feelings of racial hatred. That is a very dangerous road to go down for any statement about a matter of importance could be suppressed on such grounds.

Value judgements 

Both judges have relied on value judgements made  by others which they then obtusely or dishonestly (take your pick) treated as objective facts. For example, Zani in his   written judgement (para 112),  gives a test for what is grossly offensive which is  not only a value judgement but a straightforwardly ideological statement made in the politically correct interest, viz:  ” Put shortly, this court is satisfied that the material in each of the songs is grossly offensive as judged by an open and multiracial society -as opposed to, for example, merely offensive.“

Tomlinson used a very similar statement  during Mr Bedford-Turner’s trial to validate his prosecution.

The fact that Tomlinson and Zani have cited the definition of other  judges and authorities does not give those definitions any  objective validity. All they have done is shift the burden of defining what is grossly offensive onto other shoulders.

Free expression and democracy

But the real question is not whether words are grossly offensive or just offensive. The important thing  is  the fact that it is impossible to have a democracy if there are legal restrictions on what  can be said  because the essence of democracy is the ability to debate and change anything. Indeed, the idea that there can be limits to insult or offence  in a democracy is chilling. Moreover, there is a long tradition in England of the most devastating political insults most notably in the cartoons of the likes of Gillray and Rowlandson.

Take away the freedom to be as insulting as you like and British politics would become a constricted fearful business. Indeed, this is already happening for political correctness generally is being imposed through a mixture of the criminalising of opinions which oppose the dictates of political correctness and the non-legal penalties such as being driven out of a job.

Threats of violence and incitement

Ah, but what about threats of violence? I can hear readers saying.  The way to deal with these  or incitement to violence (or any other criminal act)  is not to ban the words per se,  but rather to examine the circumstances of the threat and decide whether there is a credible threat of the threatened violence – who has not said I’ll kill X or I’ll kill Y?  -or if there is  incitement to see the incitement  as being credible enough to form a conspiracy between the inciter and incited.

The CPS and Zani’s judgement

In Ms Chabloz’s case there is a curious mismatch between the CPS’ original decision that the case did not reach the CPS evidential standard  of a better than even chance of a conviction and Zani’s emphatic judgement that she was unreservedly and obviously guilty.

There was also a distinctly odd element in Zani’s  sentencing. When Zani gave his verdict on 25th May he emphasised  two things, remorse and the fact that he judged Ms Chabloz  had comfortably passed the standard of offensiveness required for a custodial sentence.

On remorse Zani said this in his written judgement (para 108) : “Far from there being any real remorse for or appreciation of the offence that this court finds will have undoubtedly  been caused  to others, Ms Chabloz remains defiant that her claim to free speech trumps all else and that any attempt to curtail  her right would be quite wrong…”

The impression left was clear: Ms Chabloz must express remorse if she wished to escape a custodial sentence. This she could have done when she attended a meeting with a probation officer who compiled a report before sentence was given. However, according to Zani   Ms Chabloz did not express remorse when she met with the probation officer.

Bearing in mind these remarks on remorse and sentencing it was somewhat of a surprise that Zani imposed a suspended sentence.

What was going on here?  To my mind the  most plausible explanation is  that Zani never had any intention of sending Ms Chabloz to prison and  his performance on the 25th May was simply  to intimidate her into collapsing in heap and saying she was sorry and that her  actions and words had been very wrong.

Why would Zani have been unwilling to give a custodial sentence?   For an explanation of that one must look at the reason for prosecutions such as this. Our politically correct elite (which includes the mainstream media  and academia)   want the convictions to frighten the general public  (and maintain politically correct discipline within the agencies of the state who enforce political correctness). But what  our politically correct elite do not want is widespread mainstream media coverage of trials which reveal what is going on, namely, the criminalising of  a very wide and ever expanding range of views.

As an aside on this point it is worth mentioning that a  striking thing about  both the trials  was the paucity of mainstream media comment. The  coverage was  either simple reporting of the proceedings or, where it entered into comment,  invariably unfavourable to the defendants.  It  might have been thought  that the mainstream media would have jumped all over such contentious trials but the only mainstream press regularly attending the trials  was the Press Association. Why was that? I suspect it was because the politically correct mainstream media did not want the politically incorrect nature of much of the evidence to come before the public’s eyes.

Politically correct doublethink

Our politically correct elite- or at least the true believers in political correctness –  have arrived at a state of  Orwell’s doublethink in which they  sincerely believe in two contradictory things, in this case they wish at one and the same time  to censor whilst maintaining a claim that they are in favour of free expression.

There was a marvellous moment in his sentencing  when Zani dilated on the necessity and value of free speech in a democracy before saying in the next sentence that  there are limits to free expression. Tellingly, he showed  absolutely no embarrassment when putting these contradictory statements together.

The reality of  free expression is that it is a beautifully simple  concept: you either have it or you have a range of permitted opinion which can be altered at any moment.

‘The standards of an open and multi-racial society’

The claim by the  judges and  prosecution in both the trials  of  Mr Bedford-Turner and Ms Chabloz that their words were to be judged ‘ by the standards of an open and multi-racial society’   is in itself an unequivocal statement of political correctness. It assumes that the standards of political correctness on the subject of race and ethnicity  are shared by the overwhelming majority of the UK population, for unless such values are shared by most they cannot be the standards by which UK society operates.

There is strong objective evidence that “the standards of an open and multi-racial society”  are not the standards which the large majority of the UK population shares. Polls on immigration consistently show a solid majority of those polled concerned about immigration and its effects. Indeed, this concern played a strong role in achieving the Brexit vote. Research by the think tank British Future published in 2014 as How to talk about immigration  found a strong majority for ending mass immigration and 25% of those questioned wanted the removal of all immigrants already in the UK (see p17 of the report).

Providing a legal defence in “race hate crime” cases

There is a general problem with  these  type of cases which means an orthodox defence is effectively worthless. It  is next to  inconceivable in the present politically correct public atmosphere  that a judge sitting without a jury will  find   a defendant not guilty  on all charges.

With a jury a defendant might have a very slim chance of being found not guilty, but the odds are, especially with  a jury chosen from the population of London, that a jury would be  very likely to convict on these type of charges for the reasons I have already given.

In the light of this general problem, which has been emphatically demonstrated in  both Jeremy Bedford-Turner and Ms Chabloz’s cases, unorthodox methods should  be used.  These methods are simple:  embarrass the complainants (such as the CAA), prosecuting authorities, the courts and politicians  in the hope of prosecutions either not being started or dropped if they have been started.

There is a fair chance that any judge will have publicly compromised their impartiality in dealing with these types of cases  through their judgements and membership of organisations by expressing politically correct views relating to race and ethnicity which are publicly accessible.

In cases where accusations of antisemiticism are  involved there is more than a fair  chance that a judge will have  some Jewish connections. That was the case in Ms Chabloz’s  prosecution. Getting Emma Arbuthnot to  recuse herself  because of her association with the Tory Friends of Israel was a good start. If  Zani’s offer to stand down because an old school friend  sent him an inappropriate email  had been  accepted there is an outside chance that  would have killed the prosecution stone dead. But even if it did not it would have offered the chance of finding some compromising Jewish connection on the third judge.  If that had  happened I think the prosecution would have collapsed.

If  a  trial goes ahead I suggest that the defence is built around the  principle of free expression being a sine qua non of a democracy and a necessity for the defence of personal freedom.

Witnesses for the prosecution should be subjected to questioning to get them to explain what they find grossly offensive or frightening  in whatever the offending words or images are the cause for the trial. They will almost certainly not be able to give a coherent account of what they feel.

The background of prosecution witnesses should  be vigorously examined especially with regard to their social media. If the witnesses have engaged in social media contributions which could conceivably come within the present definition of hate crimes make a complaint to the police.

Make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act  to any organisation which is involved in a prosecution of you. That will not only probably make things awkward  for the organisation and possibly get useful data, for example, indiscrete emails about you, but also show the people involved that you are not going to collapse in a  heap.

Something very sinister is happening

What has been made very clear in these two trials is that we have an elite  which is hell bent on squeezing the range of permitted opinion ever more tightly into a politically correct shape. A good example of how far we have gone down that path is the College of Policing’s operational  guide to  hate crimes  which is  frightening in its breadth. It defines these groups as being subject to hate crimes:

3.2.1 Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities

3.2.2 Asylum, refugee and migrant communities. 

3.2.3 Antisemitism.

3.2.4 Anti-Sikh hate crime

3.3 Religious hate crime

3.3.1 Anti-Muslim hate crime.

3.3.2 Other types of religious hate crime

3.3.3 Sectarian crime

3.4 Sexual orientation

3.5 Transgender hate crime.

I will cite the College of Policing’s examples of what constitute anti-semitism  to give a flavour of how broad and unexpected can be their guidance on “hate crimes” (see p37 of the College of Policing guidance for the full details) :

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in

the religious sphere could include, but are not limited to:

  • calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion
  • making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as individuals or the power of Jews as a collective, including especially, but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions
  • accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews
  • denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (eg, gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust)
  • accusing Jews as a race, or Israel as a State, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel could include:

  • denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour
  • applying double standards by requiring behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
    • using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (eg, claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis
    • drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
    • holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

    Hands up anyone who thinks they would be safe from prosecution with this  police guidance in play if they criticised Jews or Israel. Or ask yourself how the well known journalist Peter Oborne  would escape being caught in the police net for  his Dispatches programme Inside Britain’s Israeli Lobby?

    Of course it is very unlikely that a journalist such as Oborne would be prosecuted at present because the  laws relating to “hate crimes” are rarely if ever applied to  those with power and/or influence, something which is a serious  ill in itself because it undermines the idea of equality before the law. But  that could change in the future for when a system of ideological censorship is  in place no one is entirely safe  however slavishly the party line is followed. You can go to bed one day thinking you know the “party line” only to find it has changed by the following day without you knowing with the result that you unwittingly transgress.

    It is also  important to understand that the British elite’s desire to enforce political correctness is by no means exhausted. Penalties for politically incorrect transgressions could be about to become even more penal because the  Sentencing Council which advises government on sentencing has recommended that penalties for inciting racial hatred and suchlike should be raised to a maximum  of six years.

    Where does this leave us?

    The  short answer is in a very perilous place. Free expression is essential to democracy and political freedom. Take it away and oppression soon fills the void. Freedom of expression is also necessary for  personal liberty to exist because without it no element of personal freedom is safe from obliteration by censorship. Free expression also has a tremendous general cultural value in that it stimulates thought and debate.

    The  damage censorship does, not least in the paranoia it generates, is wonderfully portrayed in the recent film release The death of Stalin, a very funny but also extremely sinister film. See it if you can.

    Censorship always means the censor has no solid argument for their position. I will leave the last word to John Milton who more than three centuries ago understood the power and utility of free expression when he wrote:

    ‘And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose upon the earth, so truth be in the field [and] we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter…’ [Milton – Areopagitica].

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The trial of Alison Chabloz

Day 1 – 10 1 2018

Robert Henderson

Presiding: District Judge John Zani sitting without a jury

Karen Robinson – Prosecuting counsel

Adrian Davies – Defence counsel

Witnesses  for the Prosecution

Gideon Falter,   chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA)

Stephen Silverman Director of Investigations and Enforcement  CAA

The background to the prosecution 

Ms Chabloz denies three charges of sending obscene material by public communication networks and two alternative charges of causing obscene material to be sent. The case involves three songs which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) claim are anti-Semitic: Survivors,   Nemo’s Anti-Semitic Universe and I Like The Story As It Is.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute the case originally but after the CAA started a private prosecution and threatened a judicial review of the CPS’ refusal to prosecute, the CPS agreed to reverse their original decision and take over the private prosecution.

At the same time the CAA had sought and been given permission to take another case of alleged anti-Semitism   – that of Jeremy Bedford-Turner –  to judicial review  but before that happened the CPS agree to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.  It is reasonable to assume that the CPS’ change of mind on Ms Chabloz’s case was linked to the decision in the Turner-Bedford  case.

The events of the day

Alison Chabloz  arrived with a healthy band of supporters (around 2 dozen) who filled the public gallery. There was a significant media presence outside the court and a  sprinkling of  reporters in the courtroom .  Miss Chabloz’s song Survivors  was played early in the proceedings and drew a round of applause  which filled the courtroom. Judge Zani warned those in the public gallery that a repeat of such behaviour would result in those responsible being removed from the court.

Karen Robinson began the day by outlining the prosecution’s case. Importantly she made it clear  in her opening remarks that the case was not about whether the holocaust existed or how many Jews died.  Rather, it was  the level of insult generated by Miss Chabloz ‘s songs which was the issue.  Robinson allowed  that  material resulting in insult was within the law but gross insult was not.  She offered no explanation  of how an objective distinction between insult and gross  insult was to  be determined . Instead  she  merely baldly asserted that  ‘ by the standards of an open and multi-racial society, they are grossly offensive’.  This opened up a can of worms.

To begin with it is objectively  impossible  to distinguish between lesser and greater  degrees of insult. Then there is the function of criticism in a democracy.  The idea that there can be limits to insult in a democracy is chilling. Moreover, there is a long tradition in England of the most devastating political insults most notably in the cartoons   of the likes of  Gilray and Rowlandson. Take away the freedom to be as insulting as  you like and British politics would become a constricted fearful business. Indeed, this  is already happening for political correctness generally  is being imposed through a mixture of the criminalising of opinions which oppose the dictates of  political correctness and the non-legal penalties such as being driven out of a job.

It is also a fact that laws relating to “hate crimes” is rarely if ever applied to the politically correct. Indeed, the claim  by  the prosecution  that  ‘ by the standards of an open and multi-racial society, they [the songs]  are grossly offensive’”  is  an unequivocal  statement of  politically correctness .  It assumes that the  standards of political correctness  on the subject of race are  shared by the vast majority of the UK population for unless they are shared by the vast majority they cannot be the standards by which UK society operates.

There is strong objective evidence that  the standards of an open and multi-racial society  are not the standards which the large  majority of the UK population shares.   Polls on immigration consistently show a solid majority of  those polled concerned about immigration and its effects.  This concern played a strong role in achieving  the Brexit vote. Research by the think tank British Future published in 2014 found a strong majority for ending  mass immigration   and 25% of those questioned wanted the removal of all immigrants already  in the UK.

The question of veracity

Truths are often “grossly insulting”.  The implication of the Prosecution’s case  is that  truths could be illegal.

The accusations in  Miss Chabloz’s songs of falsehood and misrepresentation  by the likes of   Holocaust survivor Irene Zysblat, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, and the teenage diarist Anne have substance as  Adrian Davies showed  during  his  efficient  cross examination.

The prosecution witnesses

I found both the CAA’s witnesses unconvincing . Falter was simply feeble.  Not only was he unfamiliar with texts which one would have thought he would have known, he gave signs of  working from  a prepared script, always a fatal thing for someone under cross examination because all the cross examiner has got to do it keep pressing buttons until the inevitable happens and the prepared script fails to provide meaningful answers.

Silverman was more assured and collected but his performance when  being questioned by prosecuting counsel was giving evidence by numbers.  He gave explanations for various words and phrases but they were  for  the most part obvious to any non-Jew.  He didn’t add much to the evidence available simply by reading or listening to  the song lyrics. His explanation  of the word “goy” (plural goyim)was of interest because he  falsely  said it was a non-offensive word for non-Jews.

The difference between words in a song and words in a speech.

Miss Chabloz performances of her songs is  accomplished . These are not  easy songs to deliver   not least because of the complexity and sophistication of  her  lyrics. Her enunciation  is first class. That she executes  the songs  well and they are very  lively and engaging musically may help her  case. It is one thing to express sentiments in a speech,  quite another in a song.  When it is done in song and the song and performance are engaging,  the emotional response of the listener will be  first and foremost   a response to an artistic act not a political one.

The case will recommence on 7  March (This is not a misprint, the next hearing is in March).

———————————————————————————

Day 2 – 7   3  2018

Robert Henderson

Presiding: District Judge John Zani sitting without a jury

Karen Robinson – Prosecuting counsel

Adrian Davies – Defence counsel

Witnesses  for the defence

Alison Chabloz

 

The background to the prosecution 

Ms Chabloz denies three charges of sending obscene material by public communication networks and two alternative charges of causing obscene material to be sent. The case involves three songs which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) claim are anti-Semitic: Survivors,   Nemo’s Anti-Semitic Universe and I Like The Story As It Is.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute the case originally but after the CAA started a private prosecution and threatened a judicial review of the CPS’ refusal to prosecute, the CPS agreed to reverse their original decision and take over the private prosecution.

At the same time the CAA had sought and been given permission to take another case of alleged anti-Semitism   – that of Jeremy Bedford-Turner –  to judicial review  but before that happened the CPS agree to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.  It is reasonable to assume that the CPS’ change of mind on Ms Chabloz’s case was linked to the decision in the Turner-Bedford  case.

The events of the day

Despite having a whole day for the case  we are not yet not at the end of the defence case. Ms Chabloz gave evidence but the second witness for the defence Peter Rushton never entered the witness box.

Ms Chabloz did  well in the witness box.   Being under cross examination is very tiring because apart from the natural nervous tension – everyone is nervous when they first  experience  being in the   witness box – and  the need to concentrate intensely is draining. Moreover,   Ms Chabloz was  in the witness box for the better part of two hours. Not only did she not wilt, towards the end of  her  testimony she had prosecuting counsel a little rattled.  (Karen Robinson made the mistake of getting into a verbal  cul-d-sac when she kept repeating the same question over and over instead of  trying to get  at the answer she wanted by asking  the  question in different ways.)

Ms Robinson began her cross examination by concentrating on the songs which are the subject of the charges Ms Chabloz faces. Then she swerved into raising questions about a song which was not part of the charges and tried to make a case for Ms Chabloz being a racist generally.

Ms Chabloz picked up very quickly on the fact that Robinson had gone off piste and protested that the questioning was irrelevant,  but Robinson was allowed to proceed with the line of questioning. Eventually defence counsel Adrian Davies objected that the line of questioning was not relevant to the charges but Zani still allowed Robinson to pursue the line of questioning.

I suspect that  Adrian Davies allowed   Robinson to continue without objection by him  for as long as  she did  to provide the basis for Mr Rushton’s evidence to be accepted. However, it is  worth noting that Ms Robinson’s attempt to broaden the argument against Ms Chabloz to a general charge of racism is of a different nature to Mr Rushton’s research which is,  as far as it could be judged by what was said in court, simply concerned with validating Ms Chabloz’s claims.

At the end of Ms Chabloz’s cross-examination Adrian Davies’ second witness Peter Rushton was expected to testify.  Mr Rushton  has been down at the British Library ferreting out  evidence which objectively supported  the claims made in  Ms Chabloz’s  songs.   However, his evidence was deemed to be of a nature which did not require him to go into the witness box provided the prosecution accepted that  his  research could be entered as evidence. This  Ms Robinson agreed to  and obviated the need for Mr Rushton to go into the witness box.

The court then  turned to  the question of whether  written  not oral arguments speaking to  Mr Rushton’s research  should  be made  The prosecution wanted only written arguments . (I suspect that  the prosecution were nervous about having seriously non-pc  statements  read out in court in whole or part). Adrian  Davies  wanted  to make oral arguments.  judge  Zani  ruled that  oral arguments could be made  as well as the written ones and booked another hearing which he thought should last for around  an hour.

This is  unsatisfactory because it means that the prosecution’s attempt to present to present Ms Chabloz as a general racist was made in open court, while Mr Rushton’s evidence supporting  Ms Chabloz  will not, at least in its entirety,  be presented in open court.  (Some of Mr Rushton’s evidence  will presumably become clear during the oral submissions on his evidence).

As things stand

The upshot of all  this  activity  is:

  1. Written arguments on Mr Rushton’s evidence must be submitted  by   Friday 16th March
  2. Oral arguments will be made on Monday 14th May
  3. Judge Zani will reserve his judgement.
  4. A further hearing will be held on 25th May at which Zani will give his verdict and the reasons for it.

There were around 20 supporters of Ms Chabloz.  There were a number of interruptions from  the public gallery in support of Mis Chabloz . These annoyed  the judge  enough to make him  threaten to clear the public  gallery.

Compared with the first day’s hearing on 10 January  there was little media interest,  although Martin Bashir sat in the press section. During one of several adjournments he engaged in a n extended conversation with prosecuting counsel Karen Robinson.

Robert Henderson  11   March 2018

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Day  3 –   14 5   2018

Robert Henderson

Presiding: District Judge John Zani sitting without a jury

Karen Robinson – Prosecuting counsel

Adrian Davies – Defence counsel

The background to the prosecution

Ms Chabloz denies three charges of sending obscene material by public communication networks and two alternative charges of causing obscene material to be sent. The case involves three songs which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) claim are anti-Semitic: Survivors,   Nemo’s Anti-Semitic Universe and I Like The Story As It Is.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute the case originally but after the CAA started a private prosecution and threatened a judicial review of the CPS’ refusal to prosecute, the CPS agreed to reverse their original decision and take over the private prosecution.  At the same time the CAA had sought and been given permission to take another case of alleged anti-Semitism   – that of Jeremy Bedford-Turner –  to judicial review  but before that happened the CPS agree to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.  It is reasonable to assume that the CPS’ change of mind on Ms Chabloz’s case was linked to the decision in the Turner-Bedford  case.

The events of the day

The bulk of the day was taken up by  oral arguments amplifying   and rebutting the  written arguments  made by both defence and prosecution  since the previous hearing on 3rd March and final  speeches made by  prosecution and the defence.

Much time was devoted to the question  of what constitutes a public electronic communications  network  (PECN)  and who was responsible to the distribution of material once it was uploaded to the PECN.  Frankly, this had the feel of theologians arguing about how many angels could sit  on a pinhead.  Adrian Davies said it was actually YouTube which was responsible for “sending the message”, with Ms Chabloz unable to ascertain who the recipient would be.

He said: “If someone who’s drunk or unstable or eccentric decides to phone up the Speaking Clock and shout some obscenity, it is not conceivable that they are committing an offence – it’s absurd.

“Uploading a video to YouTube – the only ‘recipient’ is a lump of silicon in a concrete bunker in California.”

Most dramatically, Davies told   Zani that his judgement would l ‘set a  precedent’ for free speech in what would be a landmark case.

Davies said his client had not committed an offence because “It is hard to know what right has been infringed by Miss Chabloz’s singing  …“There has to be a convincing argument to interfere with Miss Chabloz’s right to freedom of speech.”

Prosecuting counsel Karen Robinson denied Chabloz’s songs were for comic affect,  and claimed they were “ not political songs… which were “ no more than a dressed-up attack on a group of people for no more than their adherence to a religion.”

There was a strong turnout of supporters of Ms Chabloz.

Day  4 –   25 May 2018

The background to the prosecution

Ms Chabloz  has denied   three charges of sending obscene material by public communication networks and two alternative charges of causing obscene material to be sent. The case involves three songs which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) claim are anti-Semitic: Survivors,   Nemo’s Anti-Semitic Universe and I Like The Story As It Is.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute the case originally but after the CAA started a private prosecution and threatened a judicial review of the CPS’ refusal to prosecute, the CPS agreed to reverse their original decision and take over the private prosecution.

At the same time the CAA had sought and been given permission to take another case of alleged anti-Semitism   – that of Jeremy Bedford-Turner –  to judicial review  but before that happened the CPS agree to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.  It is reasonable to assume that the CPS’ change of mind on Ms Chabloz’s case was linked to the decision in the Turner-Bedford  case.

The events of the day

The hearing  was  to render  a verdict.  Ms Chabloz was found guilty on  three charges , namely, two counts of sending an offensive, indecent or menacing message through a public communications network and a third charge relating to a song on YouTube.

Zani emphasised two things, remorse and the fact that he judged  Ms Chabloz  had comfortably passed the standard of offensiveness required for a custodial sentence.  Arrangements were made for Ms Chabloz  to attend an interview with a probation officer on 31 May who would prepare a report  for Zani to consider before he pronounced  sentence.

On remorse Zani  said this in his written judgement (para 108) : “Far from there being any real remorse for or appreciation of the offence that this court finds will have undoubtedly  been caused  to others, Ms Chabloz remains defiant that her claim to free speech trumps all else and that any attempt to curtail  her right would be quite wrong,”

The impression left was clear: Ms Chabloz must express remorse if she wished to escape a custodial sentence.

There was a strong turnout of Ms Chabloz’s supporters, some of whom were physically attacked  outside the court building by supporters of the prosecution of Ms Chabloz.

Day  5 –   14 6   2018

The background to the prosecution

Ms Chabloz has  been found guilty of three charges of sending obscene material by public communication networks and two alternative charges of causing obscene material to be sent. The case involves three songs which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) claim are anti-Semitic: Survivors,   Nemo’s Anti-Semitic Universe and I Like The Story As It Is.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute the case originally but after the CAA started a private prosecution and threatened a judicial review of the CPS’ refusal to prosecute, the CPS agreed to reverse their original decision and take over the private prosecution.  At the same time the CAA had sought and been given permission to take another case of alleged anti-Semitism   – that of Jeremy Bedford-Turner –  to judicial review  but before that happened the CPS agree to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.  It is reasonable to assume that the CPS’ change of mind on Ms Chabloz’s case was linked to the decision in the Turner-Bedford  case.

The events of the day

This  hearing  was for sentencing.

Prosecution counsel  and defence  counsel both made oral  representations before  the sentences were announced;  prosecuting counsel at some length; defence counsel  quite briefly   The idea that these could have had any meaningful effect on the judge ‘s sentence was absurd because Zani  announced the sentences immediately after the representations.

Ms Chablis was sentenced to   20 weeks of imprisonment suspended for two years, 180 hours of community service,  victim surcharge and costs.  She was also barred from using social media for a year.

There was a distinctly odd element in Zani’s  sentencing.  When he  gave his verdict on 25th May he emphasised  two things, remorse and the fact that he judged  Ms Chabloz  had comfortably passed the standard of offensiveness required for a custodial sentence.

On remorse Zani  said this in his judgement (para 108) : “Far from there being any real remorse for or appreciation of the offence that this court finds will have undoubtedly  been caused  to others, Ms Chabloz remains defiant that her claim to free speech trumps all else and that any attempt to curtail  her right would be quite wrong,”

The impression left was clear: Ms Chabloz  must express remorse if she wished to escape a custodial sentence.

Bearing in mind these remarks on remorse and sentencing it was somewhat of a surprise that Zani imposed suspended sentences because  he  stated during sentencing that Ms Chabloz  had shown no proper remorse  and repeated his previous statement about the case having passed the custodial sentence test.

What was going on here?  The  most plausible explanation would be that Zani never had any intention of sending Ms Chabloz to prison and his performance on the 25th May was simply  to intimidate her into collapsing in heap and saying she was sorry and how terrible had been her actions and words. When that ploy did not work Zani decided  that he would nevertheless  give a suspended sentence (plus costs plus community work, plus victim’s surcharge).

Why would Zani have been unwilling to give a custodial sentence?   For an explanation of that one must look at the reason for prosecutions such as this. Out politically correct elite (which includes the mainstream media)   want the convictions to frighten the general public  (and maintain politically correct discipline within the agencies of the state who enforce political correctness). But what  our politically correct elite do not want is widespread mainstream media coverage of such trials. In short they want the convictions but not the details, not least because they wish at one and the same time  to censor and maintain a claim that they are in favour of free expression. There was a marvellous moment  during  sentencing when Zani dilated on the necessity and value of free speech in a democracy before saying  in the next sentence, with no sense of irony  that  there are limits to free expression. This is very obvious nonsense. Free expression is a very simply concept you either have it or you have a range of permitted opinion which can be altered at any moment. Joseph Stalin would feel increasingly at home in present day England.

Yet again there was a very healthy turnout  of supporters of Ms Chabloz.  When Zani announced the suspended sentence several supporters of the prosecution yelled loudly and ran out of the public gallery.

Unlike the previous hearing there was no physical violence.

The ever narrowing range of permitted opinion in England

Robert Henderson

On 14 May 2018 Jeremy Bedford-Turner  known as Jez Turner was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in London of inciting racial hatred during a speech he gave in 2015 outside Downing Street. He was sentenced to 12 months, six of which will be served in prison and the rest on licence.

In his speech   Mr Bedford-Turner attacked Jewish influence, most particularly, the  Met Police’s support for and enablement of  a  Jewish organisation  known as the Shomrim run by a charity called the Community Security Trust (CST). This  organisation   has astonishing  support from the Met Police including the use of police cars and the wearing of uniforms which look very similar to those worn by police officers.

Did Mr Bedford-Turner have a chance of acquittal?  He  had a jury trial so  that gave him some chance of an acquittal. Had it been a trial without a jury he would almost certainly have had  none. After decades of ever more ruthlessly enforced political correctness  judges in England all  subscribe to  the wonders of diversity multiracial game without thinking  and, consequently, it  is very difficult to imagine a judge sitting on his own daring to find a defendant accused of racism  not guilty.

But even with a jury the odds were heavily against a not guilty verdict. In the minds of jurors must be the fear of being called a racist, a fear  which has been so successfully inculcated in the general population that  it produces an automated reflex of panic and terror when faced with the possibility of the label being  stuck on them. Any juror faced with a case such as this must have it in the back of their minds  that to return a not guilty verdict would be to risk being called a racist. There is also the sheer shock factor of hearing politically incorrect views being unashamedly spoken. As it was the jury was out for less than two hours and returned a unanimous verdict of  guilty. (For the record there were two black women and one black man on the jury plus one other man who may have been a Turk.  The rest were white).

The Crown Prosecution Service  (CPS) initially  refused to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner  because the case  did not meet their evidential standard for a prosecution.  The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism  (CAA)  then threatened the CPS with a judicial review of their decision not to prosecute. Faced with that the CPS caved in and prosecuted Mr Bedford-Turner. Running a judicial review is very expensive.  The fact that  the CAA managed to get the CPS  to prosecute  by starting the process to have a judicial review  effectively created two tiers of justice, one  for the rich and one  for the poor.

I  shall be writing a fuller account of the trial later but I can say unequivocally that the judge, David Tomlinson,  showed his bias against Mr Bedford-Turner  from the word go in both his actions and manner.

He began by refusing a request by Mr Bedford-Turner’s barrister to put  questions to prospective jurors to discover if any of them were members of the CAA or the  CST.  The judge’s explanation was that he valued the principle of  random selection. In a place such as London that is always likely to throw up a jury which through its diverse composition is likely to hinder any defendant charged with inciting racial hatred.

During this passage of the hearing the judge  also said with great distaste that it was shocking that such an organisation as the CAA needed to exist but that was the way of the world.

Tomlinson  also intervened on a number of occasions when Mr Bedford-Turner was being cross-examined. These  interventions were not to elucidate Mr Bedford-Turner’s  testimony for either the judge or the jury,   but were   attempts to contradict the defendant  using an aggressive tone and manner. This behaviour was highly questionable because in effect the judge  kept on  taking over the prosecution counsel’s cross-examination.  ( If I had been prosecution counsel I would have been more than a little put out  because Tomlinson’s interjections suggested that prosecution counsel was not making a good job of the cross-examination. )

The  other thing to note was the way both judge and prosecuting counsel accepted opinion as fact and were seemingly oblivious to what they were doing, namely,  enforcing the politically correct  view of the world. For example, prosecuting counsel thought nothing of citing a case DPP v Collins 2006 on the question of what is grossly offensive,  viz:

“It is for the trial court to determine as a question of fact whether a message is grossly offensive.  In making this determination the standards of an open and just multi-racial society are to be applied”

That may reasonably be translated as whatever political correctness  decrees.

The prosecution have to justify their position that the words are grossly offensive but they do not have to show anyone was grossly offended. This seems mad to the lay person,  but there are many crimes which rely on actions carried out before any harm is done, for example, preparations for committing terrorist acts and conspiracies. The real problem with this type of charge is that it allows a high degree of subjectivity in making the value judgement of what is grossly offensive.

Later in the proceedings the judge decided that although the educated classes would not be affected by  words written or spoken by Mr Beford-Turner and his ilk, the uneducated classes  might well be  prey to such blandishments . (I kid you not).

Little media coverage

The other striking thing about this trial is the paucity of media comment.  One might have thought the mainstream media would have jumped all over the matter  but the only mainstream press  with a representative attending the trial was the Press Association. Why? Well, I suspect it was because although the politically correct wanted the prosecution and a guilty verdict they did not want the politically incorrect nature of much of the evidence to come before the public’s eyes.

There was also a very curious incident on day one of the trial. The acoustics in the public gallery  were poor and I was unable to catch the name of the prosecuting counsel. After the hearing was adjourned for the day I asked the barrister in question what his name was explaining that I had not been able to catch it during the hearing. He refused to give me his name. This struck me as very odd indeed because the trial was not being held in camera so his name was public knowledge – it is Louis Malby QC. On the second day of the trial a Press Association journalist also refused to give me his name. Could it be that those involved with a trial which drove a coach and horses through the notion of free expression  are ashamed of being part of  it?

Where does all this leave us?

What has been made very clear in this trial (and that of the trial of Alison Chabloz) is that we have an elite  which is hell bent on squeezing the range of permitted opinion ever more tightly into a politically correct shape.

The reality is cases such as that of  Mr Bedford-Turner are show trials pure and simple. They are show trials because there is only one permissible  result, that is,  guilty.  The evidence is irrelevant.

The intention of the British  elite  – political, academic and the mainstream media – is to ruthlessly reduce what is permitted to be written or spoken until politically incorrect  ideas are, if not entirely eradicated , driven underground or held only by those without power. This was what Orwell envisaged with NewSpeak,  a  language so altered and stripped of important meaning that people could no longer rebel because they lacked the language with which to do it.

Free expression is essential to democracy and political freedom. Take it away and oppression soon fills the void. It also has a general cultural value

Britain and the West in general are rapidly losing that essential freedom. We desperately need to fight to save it.

Equal Pay  and political correctness

Robert Henderson

Calls for equal pay for women are often not calls for equal pay  for equal work.  Rather,  they are demands for  equal pay with men regardless of  whether the jobs women do are  the same,  the experience levels are the same, the natural ability is the same and the diligence and conscientiousness is the same.

The legal definition of equal work  under the Equality Act 2010  does not simply say there should be  equal pay if the woman is doing  a job identical with that of a man at the same employer. Instead it includes different types of work being judged as being   work of  equal value.  Here is the relevant section of the Act:

65Equal work

(1)For the purposes of this Chapter, A’s work is equal to that of B if it is—

(a)like B’s work,

(b)rated as equivalent to B’s work, or

(c)of equal value to B’s work.

(2)A’s work is like B’s work if—

(a)A’s work and B’s work are the same or broadly similar, and

(b)such differences as there are between their work are not of practical importance in relation to the terms of their work.

(3)So on a comparison of one person’s work with another’s for the purposes of subsection (2), it is necessary to have regard to—

(a)the frequency with which differences between their work occur in practice, and

(b)the nature and extent of the differences.

(4)A’s work is rated as equivalent to B’s work if a job evaluation study—

(a)gives an equal value to A’s job and B’s job in terms of the demands made on a worker, or

(b)would give an equal value to A’s job and B’s job in those terms were the evaluation not made on a sex-specific system.

Such evaluation introduces a considerable degree of subjectivity and can result in what most people would not think were  jobs of equal value  or difficulty being judged as of equal value or difficulty,  for example, a clerical assistant and a warehouse operative or   an occupational health nurse  and a production supervisor have been  judged to be equal  of equal status and value.  ( I remember some  years ago a senior person, a woman, within the Equalities body policing the system at the time giving an interview on the BBC in which she said that an example of jobs of equivalent value were a school carpenter and a school dinner lady, the  former  being a job requiring a long apprenticeship and the latter a few days experience at most. )

Is there really a pay gap between men and women?

The official UK figure for the average differential between full time male and female pay  is 9% according to the latest official figures. That is not surprising when the propensity for women to take time out from paid employment to have children, their greater role on average in caring for their children and their smaller representation in more senior jobs (a c consequence of less experience due to   child bearing and childcare) is taken into account.  To those factors can be added the dubious equivalence of work mentioned above. It is  conceivable that the pay differential is not a differential of remuneration for the same work but a differential based on ability and experience.

Types of working which make equal pay impossible

There are large sections of the working population in countries such as the UK  who are remunerated in ways which makes equal pay impossible. These are:

Self-employment,   which is a large and growing  part of the working age population in the UK.  The latest official figures are  4.8 million.

Piece work – A sizeable proportion of the population receive all or part of their income from piece work.

Commission –  A sizeable proportion of the population receive all or part of their income from commission.

Bonuses for meeting targets. These are found in both private enterprise employers and public service employers.

Loyalty and experience pay rises. Much of public sector employment includes  graduated increases based on the number of  years served. These serve as rewards for experience and loyalty. Some private businesses operate the same type of schemes.  Women on average will be less likely than men to get such increases  because  they will probably have some sort of break in their careers if they have children. But that does not mean women are being discriminated against. Rather, it is simply that they are not meeting the qualifying criteria.

These types of remuneration cover many  millions of people in the UK.  Is anyone seriously going to suggest making them illegal?

Differential Ability

But even where the  form of remuneration makes equal pay in principle possible,  there may be good reason not to give equal pay even to people employed to do the same job. These reasons are:

Not all workers are equally able .

Not all workers are  equally diligent.

Competence will grow with experience.

The value of a person may rest on their reputation. This is particularly true of people in show-business or modelling. It would plainly be absurd to, for example,  expect that actors and actresses  should  be paid the same   simply because   they are working on the same film.  A film is a commercial enterprise and the employment of a particular actor of  actresses can make a considerable difference to its commercial success. A similar argument applies to models.

The selection of someone to do a job

In the end the qualities  required do a job and their assessment of an applicant have to be  a matter of judgement by the employer who will be trying to satisfy themselves on these points:

Does the person have the any necessary  formal  qualifications for the job?

Is the person overqualified for the job?

Does the person have the right experience?

Does the person have good references from previous employers?

Does  the person seem to be someone who  gets along with people generally?

Does the employer feel they can get on with the person?

Does the  person seem to have initiative?

The consideration of these questions give rational grounds for differential pay before an applicant has even begun work.

Men and women are not interchangeable in the workplace

Clearly there are significant numbers of  jobs which women cannot do at all or as well as men on average  for reasons of bodily strength.  strength. It is true that the numbers of such jobs are considerably fewer  than they were 50 years ago, but there are still plenty of them, for example in construction, where the average woman would struggle to match the average man. To that type of job can be added work  such as police officers which require people  who can deal physically with violent offenders.

Then there are jobs which in principle  men or women could both do with equally facility  but which are favoured by one sex or another. Primary school teachers tend to  be  women; engineers tend to be men.

On the grounds of biology alone  the idea that men and women would naturally have  the same desire on average to gravitate in the same numbers  to the  sorts of jobs is  dubious. Most nurses are women and  for some years  most of those training to be doctors in the UK have been women.

To start from the most obvious difference, women have babies. Amongst mammals  it is overwhelmingly the female who  takes the main burden of rearing  the young.  It would be very odd indeed if homo sapiens was radically different in terms of a basic biological driver such as the maternal instinct.

Women  with children tend to work in jobs which fit around childcare. Many of those jobs are low skilled and even when skilled   are often  part-time. Either from choice or necessity women take these jobs  to attend to the care of their children.  As most women want children and have children this inevitably means that the average pay for women is going to be lower than that of  men.

Legislation banning discriminatory pay  in the UK has been around for since 1970 when the Equal Pay Act was passed.   Since that time there has been a huge amount of public urging  by politicians, the media and academia to get women to aspire to  traditionally male work. The idea of the working mother is no longer looked down upon,  at least in public discussion. More and more women have gone on to higher education until they now substantially outnumber men.  In addition the shape of the UK economy has changed considerably with manual jobs much reduced. All of these things would seem to bolster the idea of male and female pay equality.  Yet women still show a marked preference for traditional women’s jobs, part time working and taking career breaks to have children.

None of this means that no women will want to do jobs which are considered traditionally male jobs or that no men will want to do jobs considered traditionally female jobs. But it does mean that most women and most men will be drawn to jobs traditionally occupied by   women not because there are societal barriers against it but  as a result of biologically driven circumstances and motivations.   Once that is accepted the fact that on average  the pay of women is significantly less than that of men will  not mean that employers are often wilfully underpaying women but instead are simply reflecting  female choices.

The BBC and the Rivers of Blood speech at 50

Robert Henderson

The BBC recently broadcast Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech about immigration which is known popularly as the Rivers of Blood speech.  The speech is forthright in its treatment of mass non-white immigration and couched in terms which  prompted the onetime Labour minister  Lord Adonis  to attempt to have it banned by Ofcom  on the grounds that  “If a  contemporary politician made such a speech they would almost certainly be  arrested and charged with serious offences.” Ofcom refused to intervene but only because they did not act until material had been broadcast.

On the face of it this might seem a strange programme for the  assiduously politically correct  BBC to air because the . However, it served two purposes for them. First, the BBC likes to maintain the pretence that “all views are represented”. Programmes such  as this  allow them to say, see, we allow views across the political spectrum. Second, the shape of the programme allowed the BBC to have the last word on what Powell foretold.

The breaking up the speech into sections which were commented upon by commentators who were in the main unreserved critics of  Powell  – Simon Heffer, Powell’s biographer, was the token  Powell supporter and even  he attempted to put his support within a  politically correct envelope.

The interruptions to the speech  inevitably  diminished the force of the speech  but the great lack was a failure to  address much of Powell’s predictions. .For example, Powell’s forecasts for  the growth of black and Asian minorities in the UK were pretty accurate as the 2011 census shows, viz:

 “Amongst the 56 million residents in England and Wales, 86% were White, 8% were Asian/Asian British and  3% were Black/African/Caribbean/Black British.”

In his speech Powell made these predictions:

“In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.”

Powell was also correct in predicting a  lack of integration and  the creation of de facto ghettos by immigrants and their descendants.

In addition Powell foresaw the effects of state enforcement of  censorship on anyone who spoke out against immigration and its effects  is only too visible today when thousands of people every year  find  themselves in criminal courts because they have said or written something  deemed to be  racially or religiously “hate speech”.  ( It is worth adding in passing that the constraints on what may be said about  race  and immigration have acted as a springboard for political correctness in general to flourish.)

When Powell spoke of the black man having the whip hand over the white man he was thinking of  how the 1968 Race Relations Act  would affect the existing relationship between the population of the UK.  He saw that those who were from  racial and ethnic minorities would have a new  form of privilege deriving from the fact that such people would be able to insist that they be served or employed  in a way the native white population would not be able to insist. For example, a native white Briton would  not normally  be able to cry racism if he was denied a   job because the vast majority of employers were (and are)  white.  Anyone who was black or Asian would have huge opportunity to make a claim of racism because most employers were (and are) white.

Here is Powell on  the disadvantaging of the native British:

“But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. They now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by act of parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.”

In his speech Powell quoted the Labour minister John Stonehouse on the subject of communal privileges which minority groups were already demanding when Powell made the speech. Stonehouse had written this

“’The Sikh communities’ campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly in the public services, they should be prepared to accept the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism is a canker; whether practised by one colour or another it is to be strongly condemned.’”

None of these issues were addressed  meaningfully or at all in the discussion breaks which interrupted the reading of the speech.

On Powell’s prediction of violent racial clashes  with “the Tiber foaming with much blood”,   it is true that  has not yet occurred in the sense of large scale fighting between the native population and the minority immigrants. However, there has been a series of  serious riots by non-whites since he Powell gave the speech, the most recent in 2011.  Moreover,  it is worth pointing out Powell put no time limit as to when   such violence might occur. Common sense  suggests that the larger the racial and ethnic minorities become the greater will be the racial tension  because the minorities will demand more and more privilege for their own group. It  is also worth noting that  non-white immigrants have brought a disproportionate amount of crime to the streets of Britain, much of it violent. That propensity for violence  could easily be harnessed to fight racial/ethnic disputes.

As for the general effect of   non-white immigration, it has undeniably resulted in a fractured and vastly less cohesive society.

The “Windrush Generation” – There should be plenty of evidence to show residence in the UK

Robert Henderson

Much is being made of  the plight of  immigrants  resident in the UK before the 1971 Immigration Act (commonly referred to as  the Windrush generation) who are  being required to provide evidence of their long-term residence in Britain to avoid being treated as aliens.

How difficult can it be to collect  such evidence ? Consider the many possibilities for doing so:

Educational records from nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools,  universities and their ilk, evening classes and vocational training.

Medical records from GPs to hospitals.

Work records, especially those from public employments, substantial companies and  not-for-profit agencies such as charities.

Volunteer work.

Benefit records.

Tax records.

Vehicle records such those held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

Utility bills such  as those for energy, water and the telephone. 

Bank and building society accounts.

Mortgages.

Rent records

Loans. 

Hire purchase.

Credit card accounts.  

Police and CPS records ranging from reports of crimes in which the person is the victim, reports of crime which have led to the person being investigated as a suspect  but not convicted of a crime and criminal records acquired by the person. 

Reports in the media about the person.

Membership of clubs or other groups which have a formal membership requirement. 

If there is any difficulty in getting an organisation  the person thinks  is  holding the data they require,  there is a simple process which will force them supply it if it exists. This is known as a subject access request which is made under the Data Protection Act. A lawyer is not needed to do this so the cost is minimal, perhaps £10.

Anyone who has lived in the UK for most or all of the past 50 or 60 years really should not have that much difficulty providing multiple proofs of residence.

If these types of check are not made  and the word of the person involved is simply taken as all the  proof needed,  the regularisation of the status of genuine long-term residents without citizenship would be open to straightforward abuse. Anyone who was of the right age could simply claim that they had been in the UK over the relevant period and gain a permanent right to remain.

The Darkest Hour

Robert Henderson

Main Cast[

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill

Ben Mendelsohn as George VI

Lily James as Elizabeth Layton

Ronald Pickup as Neville Chamberlain

Stephen Dillane as Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax

Nicholas Jones as John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon

Samuel West as Anthony Eden

David Schofield as Clement Attlee

Director: Joe Wright.

This is a deeply  unsatisfactory film. It is very watchable but also infuriatingly blemished with ahistorical nonsenses .  In addition   although it gives a more positive picture overall  of Churchill’s personality  than does the other recent film portrayal of the man,  there is still much which does not fit readily  with what we know of Churchill  from contemporary newsreel, his writings and  the decisions he made. It also intrudes into the film a piece of political correctness so crude and clumsy that it takes one’s breath away.

The film covers the period  from  immediately before Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister in 1940   and  the  weeks immediately following   his promotion  to that office.   Hitler is sweeping through  Europe. Most of the British Army is trapped in Dunkirk and  in danger of capture.   Although better equipped  militarily than in 1938 Britain is still short of planes and warships.    For appeasing politicians  like Halifax and the most senior military officers faced with this dire situation there are plenty of all too persuasive reasons to seek  terms with Hitler, not least because it looks as though most of the British Army will  be lost at Dunkirk.   Churchill  believes that   a large scale  evacuation  of the army can be achieved and insists on  overriding the doubters by  mobilising not only the Royal Navy but any private ship including  (some very small craft) to assist in the evacuation. He also orders a small  British garrison  under  Brigadier  Claude Nicholson in Calais to engage in what is effectively a suicide mission aimed at distracting the Germans from the evacuation from Dunkirk.

Amongst those who have their hands on the levers of power Churchill is alone in unequivocally wanting to fight on and is the only one who is resolutely opposed to having any truck with Hitler.  It is true that the film depicts Churchill at one point  wavering over the idea of seeking terms with Hitler and Mussolini  (there is no solid historical evidence for this)i, but whether  this  wavering was genuine or not, in the film  Churchill, boosted by the success of the Dunkirk evacuation, soon changes his mind and returns to his belief that Britain must fight on because  Hitler cannot be trusted.

Whatever the  emotional drivers  were which led Churchill to be implacably opposed to making peace with Hitler,   on purely rational grounds there were cast-iron reasons for taking such a  stand. Hitler had already shown by 1940 that treaties and promises made in speeches meant nothing to him. He had begun by moving into the Rhineland in 1934 despite this being forbidden by the Treaty of Versailes in 1919.  The Anschluss  which joined  Germany and Austria  occurred in 1938 despite this being forbidden by   the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain;  the Munich Agreement of 1938  which restricted Germany to the Sudetenland  was a dead letter after Hitler took possession of  all of Czechoslovakia  in 1939 and also in in 1939 Germany  overturned the 10-year non-aggression pact  between Germany and Poland signed in 1934 by invading Poland, an act which sounded  the starting gun for WW2. All of that happened before Churchill became PM.  In addition 1941  saw Germany break  the Molotov-Ribbentrop  Pact  ( signed in 1939)   by invading Russia.  The revisionist case that  Britain should have stood aside and allowed Hitler free rein  to attack Russia and thus retained both the Empire and global significance goes against all we know of Hitler’s mentality and actual behaviour . The best the UK could have hoped for was to be a vassal state of Nazi Germany and the worst would have been to be militarily occupied as Hitler broke whatever  Vichy-style  agreement he had made with the UK.

The jaw-droppingly clumsy piece of political correctness is a piece of pure fiction. It  involves Churchill suddenly deciding to travel on the underground, something he had only done once before during the 1926 general strike.  He enters a crowded carriage  where he is recognised and he  begins  canvassing opinion  from his fellow passengers  who  are all  white workingclass  people  (many verge dangerously close to being stage cockneys)  bar one, the   sole exception being  a black West Indian. Everyone is  gung-ho for fighting on.

After Churchill has finished canvassing opinion  he  begins to quote   Macaulay’s poem Horatius  (“Alone stood bold Horatius/ But constant still in mind/ Thrice thirty thousand foes before”). The West Indian  takes up quoting  the poem. Which he does flawlessly  Not impossible  but  improbable that a black West Indian  would  have been on an underground train  in 1940 and  lottery win  improbable that one would have been  in a random carriage supposedly chosen by Churchill and straightforwardly absurd that he would have been e able to faultlessly quote  MaCaulay .

This example of the obsession with the falsification of reality that is political correctness  comes from the same stable  which routinely  has blacks routinely playing  authority figures such as police chiefs, generals and judges in  American . ( Ironically  this discriminates against other non-Caucasian groups who are rarely given the same privileged status).

Does it matter that an historical drama plays fast and loose with the facts? I think it does because  in any society  human beings need to have a narrative about the place they  live in, how it got to be what it is.. This is especially so in a country  such as the UK whose elite have adopted a creed (political correctness) which runs contrary to reality.  Cicero had it correctly when he wrote that to  be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child and the thing about children is that they are very easily manipulated.

Following the fictitious underground scene Churchill goes to the House of Commons and makes his “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech, a speech which is represented as growing from his  putative experiences in the Underground carriage.  It is all rather cartoonish.

On top of this nonsense there is the unsatisfactory portrayal of Churchill’s general personality and habits.  Oldman,  with the aid of  considerable  make up has  a half-way decent   physical resemblance to Churchill  and impersonates the voice  well enough. Yet something is missing.  Oldman’s Churchill is portrayed, as he is the film Churchill,  as someone who  is  perpetually at war with other senior politicians and military men who frequently treat him as a ridiculous and dangerous adventurer at best and as contemptible at worst.  Admittedly this is early in the war when Churchill  had still to grow the reputation he had by 1945 and it is also true that many in his own party (the Tories) did not trust him , but  it is difficult to believe that he would have been treated so cavalierly when he was not only PM but also leading the country at a most difficult time.

The other problem with this Churchill characterisation is that he is portrayed as being weak at various points and in various ways.  Apart from the  supposed wavering over seeking terms with Hitler and Mussolini, the film has him engaging in a transatlantic  phone call with Roosevelt and is almost in tears whilst  begging unsuccessfully  for help. His wife reprimands him like a naughty boy.  Yet if one looks at Churchill in newsreel and still photos of the period  he comes across as a much tougher personality than that which is portrayed  and certainly not one given to panic.  Moreover, his behaviour both as soldier and war correspondent show him to  have been physically brave and his opposition to appeasing Hitler from an early stage, which alienated many in his party, showed he had moral courage.

On a more trivial level of misrepresentation  the film also depicts Churchill  as more or less perpetually lubricating himself with alcohol and satisfying  a monstrous cigar habit . Churchill did undoubtedly drink and smoke a great deal but it should be remembered that he lived to be 90  and carried the most colossal  responsibility during five years as prime minister despite the fact that he was  65 when he was appointed Prime Minister May 1940  and 70 when the war ended in May 1945. Consequently it is more than a little difficult to imagine him being so dependent on alcohol if not tobacco.

Oldman’s s role is so dominant  that the rest of the cast  are somewhat cast adrift. Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill  has the most substantial role after Oldman and  being the fine actress she is makes the most of what little there  is.   Stephen Dillane  passes muster as Halifax, being waspishly aggressive, Ronald Pickup is a plausible Neville Chamberlain and  Samuel West as Anthony Eden  is through accident or design  appropriately s lightweight as a personality.   Lily James as Churchill’s personal  typist cum secretary  Elizabeth Layton has a fair amount of screen time  and was decorative but rather featureless. But in truth all these parts are too trivial to make much impression overall.

The surprise in terms of the substance of his role was   Ben Mendelsohn as George VI. He  has more screen time than one might imagine for a constitutional monarch, lending support and encouragement to Churchill .

Curiously,  Attlee is scarcely mentioned after the beginning of the film in which he makes a shrieking condemnation of  Chamberlain  utterly at odds  with  his known quiet ironical style .

There is one good thing to take from the film; the power of Churchill’s oratory came through.    Churchill had one of the most memorable  and distinctive of voices which was very compelling.  Add in his literary talent  and it still makes  for a heady brew.

I cannot in all conscience recommend the film but if you do go to see it bear in mind that it is predominantly  fiction not fact.

The threatening implications of cryptocurrencies

Robert Henderson

Cryptocurrencies  are  best thought of as fiat currencies without a country backing them.   A fiat  currency  is  one in which the money is not based on a valuable commodity like gold or silver but on something of little or no intrinsic  value such as paper money  or coins made with base metal.   It is  made legal tender by law.  Its market worth is based on confidence, both domestic and international.   That confidence is a reflection both of how the currency actually performs,  the regulatory regime which governs the currency  and the general standing of the issuing authority which is normally a nation state. Cryptocurrencies have no national  or supranational body  (such as the EU’s  ECB) which can be held to account if things go wrong  because they are created by private individuals or corporations  and are as yet largely unregulated by governments.  Consequently,    they lack the reassurance which a stable and well run advanced  country  can bring.

Crypto- currencies are created in various ways. The   most famous  Bitcoin is supposedly based on a limit of 21 million BitCoins which can either be “mined” using complicated software,  IT expertise and serious  energy usage or bought from exchanges with real-world currencies such as the Pound Sterling or the US Dollar. Other cryptocurrencies  currencies  such as   XRP, which is owned by Ripple , creates a set number of coins and then sells them.  Fractions of currency units such as Bicoin can be purchased.

But however a cryptocurrency is created it has the obvious disadvantage that  only those who initiated the currency truly know  how it is being run or will be run in the future . They may claim that only a certain number of currency units are being created or are available to be mined but no one knows if that is so now or will be  in the future.

Volatility

To these potential drawbacks can be added  huge volatility. From a  $20,000 high in December it  is now at less than $8,000.  It might be argued that for example  gold is also volatile but the difference is that gold  always has an intrinsic value . There is no chance that gold would ever become worthless or seriously cheap  and consequently even if it has its ups and downs holding it can never be an unequivocal disaster.   Cryptocurrencies could all too  easily   become worthless very quickly.

The volatility is primarily  driven by “bubble mania” whereby people pile in to a market caught up by the frenzy of the moment ,  but another component is  surely the  number of cryptocurrencies which are appearing. Investors climb into  the cryptocurrency which looks  the best prospect for growth at  any moment.

Cryptocurrencies are also vulnerable to fraud and theft  throughhacking.  The  most recent admitted example affected the  Japanese exchange CoinCheck.

More banal  disadvantages  are the high transaction fees, long wait times and lengthy identity checks. There have also be practices which have shut out would be buyers and sellers  especially  at times when  serious  volatility occurs.

No one to make restitution if things go wrong

Potentially the greatest problem with cryptocurrencies is there is no person or institution which can be held responsible if things go wrong . They have largely operated without state interference although that is beginning to change. The head of the Bank for International Settlements, Agustín Carstens  recently warned  “If authorities do not act pre-emptively, cryptocurrencies could become more interconnected with the main financial system and become a threat to financial stability…” He also described Bitcoin as “little more than a   ponzi scheme”,

This type of concern  has led governments to begin  taking the first faltering steps to regulate  crypto currencies and banks have begun to stop the purchase of cryptocurrencies using credit cards  to purchase them.

States are also moving to investigate the possibilities for running their own cryptocurrencies . These  apart from the possibility  of inadvertently undermining a country’s economy in the same way that non-state cryptocurrencies might undermine it, also raises the possibility of  governments indulging in widespread surveillance of any cryptocurrency transaction made.

Governments could also act to damage competitor countries .  For example China is reputedly ideally placed to undermine Bitcoin because much of the computing power required to sustain  BitCoin is within China.

More broadly there are some important questions which remain to be answered. These are :

  1. What will be the relationship between real life currencies and cryptocurrencies? The danger is that if cryptocurrencies become a competitor to real life currencies they could undermine them.
  2. How can cryptocurrencies be put under state control other than by banning them? The answer is surely that it cannot be done  for two reasons. First,  even if the size of the  issued  currency is restricted, for example, the maximum number of Bitcoins,   there could be no restriction   on what the value of  a Bitcoin could reach.  Second, cryptocurrencies  are  designed  to be  universal. Whatever a government might want to do a successful cryptocurrency will still be available  because the blocking of websites relating to them is never going to be perfect.  For this reason a cryptocurrency owned by a state would also be problematic.
  3. How would cryptocurrencies affect international finance or trade?  There is obviously potential  for huge amounts of  money to be redirected. For example,  If  the  Pound  is used to buy cryptocurrencies  where do the Pounds go? Potentially anywhere in the world.  Because  it will probably be hoarded  that will  decrease the velocity of circulation of the money. That would hinder economies.
  4. Could a country be left with a severe deficit in real life currencies  and a large hoard of cryptocurrencies and be unable  to settle public debts or pay for public services because they cannot pay for those things with  cryptocurrencies?  A large advanced economy would probably not be at risk of that but many small  first world economies and  developing economies, even  China and India, might well get into a real mess.
  5. How will cryptocurrencies fit in with fractional reserve banking? This is the normal practice of banks (at least in the West) reserves equal to only a fraction of its deposit liabilities. The idea is based on the assumption that the reserves will be sufficient to meet any likely demands from depositors wishing to withdraw money  because only a fraction of deposits will ever be requested  over a short period of time.  If the demand for cryptocurrencies continues in its seemingly insatiable way the reserves which are now deemed sufficient could easily prove to be grossly inadequate.
  6. Will cryptocurrencies become as simple to use as a swipe card, credit card or even cash? Well, Bitcoin has been going for ten years and is still complicated to use  and effectively impossible to “mine” for the vast majority of  people. Nor is it of much use when it comes to making everyday purchases.  The number of opportunities to purchase with cryptocurrencies will doubtless  increase but their use in unlikely to be as easy as using a card or cash for quite some time. Moreover, unless the volatility problem is overcome living using just cryptocurrencies would be akin to living in a country with a very heavy dose of inflation. A person paid in a volatile cryptocurrency  might receive the equivalent of £100 on a Friday and find it worth £60  by the following week.
  7. If states allow cryptocurrencies to trade in their territory, the question arises will governments eventually have to protect deposits of cryptocurrencies as they do deposits of real life currencies  like the  Pound?  If they  do  exactly what would they be insuring? After all a  private cryptocurrency might simply drop to zero value.  Of course real life currencies can suffer serious devaluations but at least in the case of countries  such as the UK and the USA governments and central banks have some control over the currency. With a private, that is, non-state cryptocurrency , governments and central banks would probably have no meaningful control. In such circumstances insuring bank deposits of cryptocurrencies might be impossible because of the  potential cost.

The head of the Bank for International Settlements, Agustín Carstens  was not far wrong when he likened Bitcoin to a Ponzi scheme. It is not  a Ponzi  scheme as such,  but the fact that Bitcoin is still largely unregulated and there is no nation state or supranational agency behind it means that it and the increasing number of cryptocurrency competitors means that it is essentially resting on the same utterly  insubstantial foundations that eventually always catch up with the Ponzi scheme, the need to keep generating confidence to lure in more and more suckers.

Just on the facts cryptocurrencies bear an uncanny  likeness to snake oil. Governments need to get a grip.

The Death of Stalin

Robert Henderson

Directed by Armando Iannucci

Based on the comic book  Death of Stalin by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Main Cast

Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov –Deputy General Secretary

Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev  – General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Olga Kurylenko as Maria Yudina – pianist whose family has fallen foul of  the Soviet regime

Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov – Foreign Minister

Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria  – NKVD head

Paddy Considine as Comrade Andreyev – the head of the radio station

Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalina  – Stalin’s daughter

Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin – Stalin’s son

Jason Isaacs as  Marshall  Georgy Zhukov  – the leader of the Red Army

Adrian Mcloughlin as Joseph Stalin

Paul Whitehouse as Anastas Mikoyan  – Vice-Premier of the Council of Ministers

Paul Chahidi as Nikolai Bulganin  – deputy premier and minister of defence

Dermot Crowley as Lazar Kaganovich   – Minister of Labour

Running time

107 minutes[1]

If an entire  society can become a lunatic asylum Stalin’s  Russia was  that society.  Imagine a world in which the present  is  at the forefront of your mind all the time.  No one is  safe. The most slavish devotion to  the party line and Comrade Stalin did not guarantee your  safety for the party line might change from day to day or an informer  tell a lie about  you  or simply recount an unguarded remark  you made.   If  a person said as little as possible that might be taken as a  sign that  they were secretly disloyal; if they made a great display of loyalty it could be interpreted as a subterfuge to disguise their revisionist or worse counterrevolutionary  true self. Being a senior  member of the Party  did not make someone  any safer  than a peasant and indeed  probably  made you more vulnerable to being executed, for few were the  senior Bolsheviks  from the  revolutionary days  who died of old age. It was a madhouse in which rationality  and consistency were dangerous  traits  because the norm was  a trembling neurosis  focused only on the immediate present and its precarious nature.   Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon captures the general atmosphere  of the  time and place well.

It is important to take this historical reality  on board before seeing the film because there is much in it which would otherwise  seem absurd. The reality of Russia under Stalin’s rule was every  bit as  chaotic as the film’s depiction of it. Pathological paranoia was the norm and never more fevered was it  than in the  last years of Stalin’s life.

The Death of Stalin   manages to be both funny and sinister. It is tragi-comedy with the emphasis heavily on the comedy.   Imagine The lives of others with jokes. The all pervasive  fear  is  brought home  as the film opens. It  begins with a  Mozart  recital  being broadcast by Radio Moscow.  The performance ends and the head of the radio station (Paddy Considine) has a call from  Comrade Stalin (Adrian Mcloughlin )who requests a  recording of the performance.   But the recital has not been recorded and panic breaks out as Considine frenziedly sets about arranging for the concert to be performed again despite the fact that many of the audience have left,  the pianist Maria Yudina (Olga Kurylenko  ), a  woman with a  grudge against Stalin because of what has happened to her family, is reluctant to perform a second time  and the  conductor faints and   injures himself so seriously he  cannot conduct the second recital and a new conductor has to be  hurriedly found from those who have just been sentenced to the Gulag or worse.  Superficially this is Keystone Cops but the palpable fear turns the scene serious.

Stalin receives the recording but  a note from Maria Yudina  has been slipped into the record sleeve. This  lambasts Stalin for what he has done to the country. Stalin laughs  but this brings on a  brain haemorrhage which renders him speechless and immobile.  Those close to Stalin call for the best doctors to  be   brought  to treat him from motives which include  fear that he may recover and they be found wanting in getting him medical help if they just leave him to die, fear of what will follow if he does die or in the case of his housekeeper  simply  genuine concern for him. But there is a problem:  because of the so-called doctors plot all  the best doctors have been executed, sent to the Gulag or exiled.   A few of the disgraced doctors are hurriedly brought back to Moscow  but Stalin dies. Then the fun starts as the Central Committee members begin to manoeuvre either for power themselves  or simply to keep themselves safe.

It is rare when a film with a decent sized cast has no duds.  This is one of the rarities. The film  has one of the great film monsters in the shape of the head of the  NKVD  Lavrentiy Beria (Philip Russell Beale ) and probably the most feared man in Russia  after Stalin.  Beale is a compelling  actor and here he has a coach and four  to drive as hard as he wants in the villain stakes.  Looking  like a  cross between Mr Toad and a  Humpty Dumpty  laced with venom,  he dominates the film. Throughout he is a buzzing manipulator moving from one senior member of the Central Committee to another, his mere presence being a threat.  His scheme is to use Malenkov as a shield behind which he can pitch for ultimate power himself. Eventually  Beria overreaches himself by becoming too directly threatening and suffers the same arbitrary  injustice  he has meted out to others, being shot immediately after a  “trial” and his body burnt where it lay.

The real Beria was  an  especially nasty  piece of work.  Sadists with real power   are bad news at any time and Beria was one of the worst.  Not only did he have people killed without conscience ,  he liked to torture them  mentally and physically.  Suppose that  a husband and wife were to be shot, Beria  would ensure that the wife was shot first in front of the husband. Beria also had a great appetite  for rape which he indulged by taking  wives and daughters of “factionalists”, “revisionists,  or “counterrevolutionaries ”, factionalists or any other woman who took his  fancy  and could be arrested as an enemy of the state or otherwise manipulated.

Steve Busceni as Krushchev  has  the meatiest part after that of  Beria and carries it well, as a man who if seriously tainted by the horrors of Stalin’s time    is  more realistic  about the realities of human nature than most of those  who served and survived Stalin.  He acts with the minter of labour   Lazar Kaganovich   (Dermot Crowley  )  to thwart Betria, most notably by countermanding Beria’s orders that trains shall not ruin to Moscow and that the Red Army be kept in barracks leaving the NKVD to control the streets.

Michael Palin is a marvellous Molotov, the great  Soviet   survivor who outlasted the purges of the 1930s and died at the fag end of Soviet Rule  aged  ninety-six,  a man who so completely bought into the need  to be subordinate that he pathetically applauds the imprisonment of his wife  as being the “right thing”. He is a man to whom things happen, a leaf blown in the wind. Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov  is a  nonentity  who nonetheless  gets some delusions of authority from the fact  he is the deputy first secretary  and thus legally, if one could use such a term about the Soviet Union,  Stalin’s successor.

Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalina  – Stalin’s daughter – manages to be both paranoid and strangely innocent;  Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin – Stalin’s son – is a boorish drunken   incompetent  lacking any  distinction other than being Stalin’s son.

Isaacs’  Marshall Zhukhov (the head of the Soviet army)  is a splendidly swaggering  absurdity with his torso covered more by medals than the cloth of his uniform  who announces his presence with “Right, what’s a war hero got to do to get some lubrication around here?” But the bombastic  Zhukhov is the key to preventing Beria from   gaining power because it is only when he agrees to back the overthrow of Beria (providing all the other members of the Central Committee agree)  that the act can take place.

The moment which got the biggest laugh from the  cinema audience I was part of  was  a wind up of  Krushchev   by   Marshall Zhukov.  They are having a private conversation and Krushchev  suggests   that Zhukov  should  join him and other Soviet leaders in a bid to seize  power  and do for Beria. .  Zhukov responds with  “ I’m going to have to report this conversation, threatening to do harm or obstruct any member of the Presidium in the process of…”  Krushchev looks terrified  until Zhukov bursts a out laughing and says  with delight  “ look at your fucking face!”  But there are plenty of other genuinely funny moments including the chaos of the organisation of Stalin’s funeral which Beria has manoeuvred Khrushchev into organising with the intention of neutralising him while Beria attempts to seize power.

This is indubitably the film I have most enjoyed in 2017.  Don’t rob yourself of a treat by missing it.

 

Film review of Churchill

Cast

Brian Cox as Winston Churchill

Miranda Richardson as Clementine Churchill

John Slattery as Dwight D. Eisenhower

James Purefoy as King George VI

Julian Wadham as General  Bernard Montgomery

Danny Webb as  Field Marshall   Alan Brooke

Jonathan Aris as Air Chief Marshall  Trafford Leigh-Mallory

George Anton  Admiral Sir  Bertram Ramsay

Steven Cree as Group Captain James Stagg , a Royal Air Force meteorologist

Angela Costello as Kay Summersby chauffeur and later as personal secretary to Dwight D. Eisenhower

Richard Durden as Jan Smuts   South African general  turned politician

Ella Purnell as Helen Garrett (Churchill’s secretary)

Director:  Jonathan Teplitzky

Script by Alex von Tunzelmann

This was a disappointing film in terms of its general theatrical quality which veers towards the melodramatic ,   but even more because it is a travesty of Churchill’s character. That fine actor Brian Cox might have been made for the role of Churchill and with a script which reflected Churchill’s  personality , opinions  and behaviour   accurately I have no doubt that he  would have produced a great depiction of  the man. But here he  is  bound by a script which  makes  Churchill seem like a tempestuous child, and child who more often than not could be  side-lined  and insulted to his face despite being Prime Minister  in the midst of a most terrible and threatening  war.  It is difficult to think of any scene involving  characters with power and influence  which shows him as s being the dominant character, for example, he does not chair the meetings with Eisenhower and the other military men. In real life he did.

The film is set in the four days before D-Day and the execution of t   Operation Overlord, the invasion of  Normandy.    Churchill  is portrayed as being pathologically anxious that the  invasion should not be another  bloodbath like Gallipoli in the Great War, a failure for which Churchill had been widely  held wholly or largely responsible. As a consequence the film  has him interminably prevaricating over the   D-Day landings  and after the decision is made to  invade Churchill is shown   praying  for unfavourable weather  to stop the operation: “Please, please, please let it pour tomorrow. Let the heavens open and a deluge burst forth such as has never been seen in the English Channel. Let the sea churn into peaks and troughs and tidal waves!”

That passage encapsulates the tone of the film.  Churchill is not seen as being either in command or as  a figure of authority but as a man frightened for his reputation and perhaps his soul.   So strong a part of the film was the  obsession with the failure at Gallipoli I could not help wondering if this was in some part   a consequence of having an Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky.  Australians are frequently more than a little angry about Gallipoli even  today and blame the British for the loss of Australian lives there. Film scripts are not sacrosanct and  It would be interesting to know if the subject of Gallipoli loomed  as large in the initial script as  it did in the film.

The historian Andrew Roberts has unreservedly  slated the film for its many inaccuracies relating to Churchill’s state of mind leading up to the Normandy landings, viz: “The only problem with the movie–written by the historian Alex von Tunzelmann–is that it gets absolutely everything wrong. Never in the course of movie-making have so many specious errors been made in so long a film by so few writers.” Roberts attacks the film on the grounds that it wrongly shows Churchill as dithering over D-Day, being seriously at odds with his wife, at war with the generals and being bullying to his staff.

To  the lack of historical accuracy  about events  and Churchill’s state of mind can  be added  the portrayal of  his physical state .  Churchill in real life was far from the physically lumbering man obese to the point  almost of physical handicap that was depicted in the film.  He played polo into his fifties and rode to hounds into his seventies  (in 1944 he was seventy) . This physical misrepresentation   fed into the  picture the film painted of Churchill being a man who by that stage of the war at least was a spent force at best and a positive hindrance to the successful prosecution of the war.

The depiction of Churchill’s relationship with the military is also improbable.   He is shown displaying a chronic fault of  Hitler, namely, playing at being a military mastermind  by suggesting  different strategies  such as decoy operations to mislead the Germans, tactics which fed into the film’s  Gallipoli complex.   There are also some startling and incongruous in the circumstances language involving the military with  Montgomery  calling Churchill a ‘bastard’ to his face and casting aspersions on his commitment  to the Normandy landings  by accusing Churchill of  ‘doubt, dithering and treachery’. The PM  later  describes  Montgomery (not in Montgomery’s presence)  as a ‘Puffed-up little s**t.’  It all seems very unlikely, not least because it implies that  the military not  the politicians were the real government of the UK at that time.

In fact the film plays to that idea for there is a  strange  absence of other British  politicians in the film and or   indeed of any  civilians in position of authority and influence.  For example,    Churchill’s leading scientific advisor Frederick Lindemann   had a very close relationship with him and  the two met often  during the war.. It is a little odd that he did not appear at all because apart from his value as a scientific advisor Llindemann  had a real friendship with Churchill and at a time of great stress for Churchill it is probable that he ill would have welcomed having  Lindemann around.

Then there is Churchill’s relationship with his wife Clemmie.  She is  shown as  being very ready to criticise Churchill either directly through confrontation as when she scolds  him for his drinking and indirectly by  her general  behaviour towards him which includes her apologising for Churchill’s behaviour towards his staff .  She is also shown slapping him at one point for which there is no evidence.   There is also rather too much angst from  Clemmie  about how Churchill had neglected her and a feeling that somehow her life has been unfulfilling.  Churchill is shown playing up to this, at one point  saying ‘I would understand if you left me. I’d leave me if I could.’  Real?

Even if there had been any substance to this behaviour would Churchill’s wife  have been  raising it just before D-Day?  However, again the evidence for such behaviour  is lacking.  This element of  the filmic Clemmie’s   behaviour smells  suspiciously like an inappropriate and anachronistic  feminist implant designed to show that men behaved “badly”, that is, displayed politically incorrect behaviour, in 1944 and women spiritedly rebelled against such  treatment.   The fact that the scriptwriter Alex von Tunzelmann is female may have something to do with this , a suspicion strengthened by  her  being a Guardian columnist. It would be very interesting to see Tunzelmann justifying her script in terms of historical accuracy.

Is the film worth seeing?  Probably not for  as a pure piece of drama it fails. The action flits from scene to scene  in rather stilted  fashion which robs the film of cohesion and leaves the impression  that each scene is being ticked off as having covered a particular issue as a stamp collector might  congratulate themselves on having acquired a particular stamp to add to a set.  Nor apart from Churchill and just about  his wife is there much character development for the film has a substantial number of historically  important  characters but little time is  allotted to each.  These  supporting characters are,   as one can more or less take for granted in a film manned by British actors,  adroitly executed  in as far as their very limited roles  allow. Within the  confines of this  hindrance  of Julian Wadham’s  Montgomery stood out.

That should be enough  to say don’t waste your money. However Dunkirk is one of those films which has an importance  beyond its qualities as a film. Its effect is to turn Churchill from a war hero into an irresolute,  fearful and   incompetent. In fact the misrepresentation of  Churchill  is  so complete that it qualifies as character assassination . The danger is that it will colour the public’s view of the man.   Consequently, see it  so that you can afterwards refute its view of Churchill.    In short, it should be seen  for its faults not its virtues .

 

 

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