Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mufasa the snake has been found

Mufasa, an 8-foot long Boa Constrictor which escaped from a home in Kells, Whitehaven while his tank was being cleaned, has been found alive and well this evening after ten days on the slither.

Compensating for History

There has been a recent fashion in some quarters to demand, and in others to give, apologies for historic crimes committed by the distant ancestors of those apologising against the distant ancestors of those apologised to.

Part of me has always found this faintly ridiculous, though the fact is that just about all countries have done terrible things in the past and I do agree that where this is true it should be acknowledged.

Where the argument becomes ludicrous, however, is when people start suggesting (as was apparently put forward during David Cameron's visit to Jamaica) that the descendants of people long dead have some kind of not just moral, but financial, debt to descendants of the victims of wicked things done centuries before anyone alive today was born.

This is usually raised in connection with the slave trade, a hideous practice which people of every race and almost every country were engaged for centuries until, in 1807, Britain voted to ban it, and our Royal Navy began a successful campaign to eradicate the forms of the slave trade which had existed up to that point. (Sadly the institution shows a lamentable ability to come back in new forms, but that is a story for another time.)

Yes, Britain played a terrible role in the vile slave trade before 1807 and, as a country, we should acknowledge that, though we also can take pride in the role we played in stopping it.

But if you take that argument further, as some politicians in Jamaica were doing today, and argue that we should pay compensation to the distant descendants of those who were shipped over the Atlantic (in addition to the substantial amount of foreign aid we are already paying to help countries like Jamaica with the problems of today and the future rather than the past), where do you stop?

For a start, it seems utterly bizarre to compensate the distant descendants of long-dead victims of historic crimes without first compensating the living victims of crimes committed in less than a human lifetime ago.

There are still Holocaust survivors alive in Israel, Britain and around the world: there are people alive today in Britain and many other countries who had their homes bombed, or who were orphaned, wounded, raped, abused as prisoners of war or otherwise badly treated by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Imperial Japan during World War II.

If we're going to start compensating people for historic crimes, surely victims who are still alive today should be first in the queue? Their claim is vastly stronger than those of the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren of the people British slavers carried over the Atlantic prior to 1807.

And then the vast majority of the people our ancestors shipped over the Atlantic as slaves were not enslaved by the British but by their fellow Africans, who then sold them to European slavers. So if Britain owes the Jamaicans a debt because of the part our ancestors played in shipping slaves over the Atlantic, so do many African countries, whose ancestors actually enslaved them.

Of course, Europeans were not the only people who took slaves, and Africans were not the only people who were enslaved. At about the same time as the Atlantic slave trade was going on, North African Barbary pirates were taking more than a million Europeans as slaves - and North African states were profiting from this evil trade. Granted not as many victims as the North Atlantic trade, but over a million men, women and children enslaved is still a huge and ghastly crime. So if Britain should pay compensation to Jamaica we are also entitled to claim it from Morocco, Algeria, and Libya.

Good luck with that!

But why stop there? What about all the people killed or enslaved by Viking raiders? On this basis most of the rest of the nations of Europe should be able to claim compensation from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden for the depredations of their Viking ancestors against ours.

And what about the Romans? They invaded our country and most of the rest of the then known-world without provocation and carried people from every country from North Africa to Britain and from France to Persia off as slaves. So on that basis Italy should compensate all the countries from which the Romans enslaved people two thousand years ago.

It just doesn't stop. And it does not make sense. People are responsible for their own actions, not those of their grandparents.

It is sensible for us to give foreign aid to nations like Jamaica to help with the problems of today. It is right that David Cameron did acknowledge that  "these wounds run very deep" and that slavery is and was "abhorrent in all its forms".

He added: "I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future."

Mr Cameron also announced £25m in British aid for a new Jamaican prison and a £300m development package for the Caribbean which will provide grants for infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges.

He said his visit - the first by a British prime minister in 14 years - was to "reinvigorate" ties between the countries, and that he wanted to concentrate on future relations rather than centuries-old issues.

Music to relax after campaigning (J.S.Bach)

As Copeland Conservatives are back in election mode -we have had several good campaigning sessions, this evening and earlier this week for the Howgate county council by election on behalf of Conservative candidate Andrew Wonnacott - I thought I would re-start on an occasional basis my "music to relax after campaigning" series of posts.

No sign yet of Labour or UKIP making any effort, by the way: many electors had noted that their polling cards had arrived and knew there was an election, but several have said to us "you're the only ones who've been round."

This is Bach's concerto in C minor for two harpsichords and strings (BVW1060)

And of course, we need consultant led maternity at WCH in Whitehaven and FGH in Barrow, so #SupportOption1

Syria - the enemy of our enemy is not always our friend

There are times when the old saying "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" can have an element of truth, but there are times when it is a fatal mistake, and never more so than when dealing with Syria.

There were good and bad arguments on both sides when parliament voted a few years ago on whether to authorise military intervention in Syria after the poison gas attack, but one of the invalid ones which has sometimes recently been offered is that attacking President Assad meant helping DA'ESH (which has since claimed to be an "Islamic State") who were much less powerful at that time.

There are more than two sides to the war in Syria. Here is a map published this month in the Economist showing which areas are believed by the Carter Foundation/Institute for the Study of War to be mainly controlled by various factions including the Assad regime (light blue), DA'ESH (red), other rebels or Kurds (yellow or green) or others, or in gray where no one faction has outright control.

Anyone planning military intervention - or making a sensible argument against it - needs to be aware of how complex and difficult the situation is.

Today for instance, Russia told the US that their aircraft in Syria were going to start "Anti-ISIS missions" against DA'ESH - but reports from the ground indicate they may actually have attacked not DA'ESH but other opponents of Russia's ally Assad.

The realities of politics may mean that a obtaining a peaceful settlement in Syria will force the West to deal with Assad, at least in the short term. But neither he not DA'ESH should be regarded as allies or friends by anyone who wants to build a peaceful and democratic Syria.

New One-Way system at WCH

There has been a new one-way system for vehicles at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven for a few days and I gather it is still confusing people.

At the moment you have to drive clockwise round the outside of the hospital site. I believe this will apply until the new Accident and Emergency facility opens next week.

Quote of the day 30th September 2015

‘We are not going to charge off to the Right because they charged off to the Left.”

(David Cameron)

He added:

“If we deliver the economic security that we have spoken about, solve the entrenched social problems in our country and don’t rush off to the Right, but govern for the whole of the country, then the strength of this party as the party of Government for 2020 and 2025 will be very strong. It is in our hands."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Labour conference

Jeremy Corbyn seems to have pleased his own supporters enough to head off any immediate attempt to overthrow him, but in general the Labour conference appears to have been pretty underwhelming to people other than hardcore Labour supporters - and not even all of them.

Iain Martin, editor of CapX, appears to be the marginally the least impressed in a field of very unimpressed people.

He argued in one piece that "Labour Conference looks utterly bonkers," and in another that Jeremy Corbyn's speech was "the worst leader's speech I have ever heard."

Guido has collected a set of quotes from left-wing media commentators who gave Jeremy Corbyn the kind of kicking you would expect him to get from right-wing commentators and them to have given Cameron, which you can read here.

Like Ed Miliband last year, Corbyn made no mention of the country's deficit.

Alex Massie, a Scottish journalist who describes himself as a Labour voter - yes, there are a few of the once overwhelming tribe of Scottish Labour voters left - was horrified at the wording of John McDonnell's appeal to Scots to "come home" to the Labour party.

As he pointed out, this made Labour sound like it thinks it owns the votes of Scots, in spite of the fact that a few months ago Scottish voters

"rammed home a message the Labour party in Scotland should have learnt years ago: you can no longer presume to speak for us or swank around the place as though you are the will of the people made flesh. We have the SNP to do that for us now.

"And now Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell instruct Scots to ‘come home’. My god, the effrontery of it. Come home to what? A party busy making itself unelectable?"

"Labour still doesn’t get it. The tribunes of the people’s party still seem to think they’re owed some kind of allegiance. Their arrogance, even after all that has happened, is undiminished. It would be shocking if it weren’t so laughable."

Lance Price, a former Labour spin doctor, said "I had low expectations and this fell well below them."

Atul Hatwal wrote on Labour Uncut that "Jeremy Corbyn's speech will have confirmed voters' worst fears about Labour."

He added that Corbyn is

"A decent man. A passionate man. A man who should be kept as far from any position of power as is humanly possible.

Jeremy Corbyn is an uber-Miliband."

It got to the stage where there were comparison with Miliband like "At least he never fell over."

Most of the quotes referenced in this blog post are not from Tories.

Although the speech was warmly received in the Labour conference hall, it went down like a lead balloon with people whose support a Labour party leader would normally be able to rely on.

With friends like these ...

Quote of the day 29th September 2015

"Having led his party to near extinction, Nick Clegg vows the Liberals will be the ‘comeback kids’ of politics. Its eight MPs are more like Milky Bar kids — male and white, they melt under pressure and are relics of a bygone era."

(Amanda Platell in the  Daily Mail)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Two kinds of "Out" and two kinds of "In"

The row tearing UKIP apart, as The Economist writes here, reflects a cultural divide between two kinds of "Out" people who will be supporting British exit from the EU.

One is positive, business-friendly, forward-looking, and pragmatic.

The other is, to take The Economist's words,  the "brassy populists" who are concerned about "immigration, political correctness and metropolitan elites. Europe, for them, is about identity." They are particularly passionate about national sovereignty and fear that Europe "is sapping the country's distinctiveness."

If the two work together they would have a very good chance of taking Britain out of the European Union. If the past week is anything to go by, there is more chance of a fatal schism.

The Economist could have said, but didn't, that remarkably similar fault-lines will exist on the pro-EU side.

Though they are much less numerous and confident than they were, there are still some people who are convinced that the EU is the future, who do not just distrust nationalism (a view I share) but also sneer at patriotism (a view I definitely do not share). They are the same people who were forecasting economic catastrophe fifteen years ago if Britain didn't join the Euro and, despite the fact that this catastrophe has manifestly failed to emerge, still think it is clever for the same people to make the same apocalyptic predictions about what will happen if we leave the EU.

But there are also pro-Europeans who can look at the EU with all it's faults and recognise them and want to reform them rather than smash the whole thing of leave.

There are genuine, pragmatic and positive arguments for both "stay" and "leave."

The side which best combines the two elements, which makes effective use of "Project Fear" negatives while presenting a positive image for Britain of the future, will almost certainly be the side that wins.

I certainly hope so, because whichever side best articulates a positive vision for a modern Britain, which builds mainly on hope and not fear, will deserve to win.

David Cameron's pitch for the centre ground

The Prime minister appears determined to take advantage of the disarray in other parties, not to go flying off on an ideological crusade, but by making a pitch for the centre ground of politics and trying to represent as many people as possible.

Speaking to a 200-strong audience at the Blenheim Literary Festival in his Oxfordshire constituency, David Cameron said:

“We have got to respond to what is happening by saying ‘we are not going to charge off to the Right because they charged off to the Left.”

He added:

“If we deliver the economic security that we have spoken about, solve the entrenched social problems in our country and don’t rush off to the Right, but govern for the whole of the country, then the strength of this party as the party of Government for 2020 and 2025 will be very strong. It is in our hands.

“The Conservative party won 37 per cent at the last election and I can’t see any reason why we can’t get up to 40 or 43 per cent like Mrs Thatcher at the next election, if we can demonstrate – particularly if Labour charges off to the Left – that we are there for everybody.”

Recalling the actuality - rather than the myth - of what Margaret Thatcher's government was like, he also said that people tended to “misremember what Margaret Thatcher was like”, insisting that she was more pragmatic and less right wing than people thought.

He said: “She obviously had deep principles, she was Prime Minister at the time when very difficult decisions had to be made, there were great ideological divides over nuclear disarmament, nationalisation and the rest of it, but she was also a pragmatist.”

Ici Londres: Dan Hannan on Office trunks

Dan Hannan on MEP on office trunks as a symbol of what is wrong with the administration of Brussels. I don't go all the way with Dan but he certainly makes a good point about the persistence of bureaucratic costs and outdated practices in Brussels.

He's framed it at an anti-EU point and it works as one, but ask yourself this. Does the British government have similar ongoing ridiculous costs? Even after five years of austerity, I bet it does.

Warwick Student Union reverses speaker ban and apologises

I am delighted to say that Warwick University Student Union has confirmed that Maryam  Namazie WILL now be allowed to visit as an external invited speaker. They will also be apologising for the initial communication indicating that she would not be allowed to accept the invitation from the University Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society to speak there.

The fact that I am pleased and indeed relieved by this decision is absolutely not because I agree with all her views - I am no atheist - but because it would be totally unacceptable that expression of those views should be banned.

The Warwick SU statement makes interesting reading:

Warwick SU to host Maryam Namazie as an External Speaker

"In the last few days we have all seen much debate, and considerable concern, expressed about an application to Warwick Students' Union made by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, that an SU society host the campaigner and blogger Maryam Namazie as an external speaker.

Warwick SU has a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed.

Speaker invitations that may involve such issues are routinely considered by the SU President, who will also take advice from senior SU staff. This did not happen on this occasion. Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been. This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse. 

There is a great deal that we now must put right, and these are the first steps that we are putting into place:

1) The proper process has now been followed, as it should have been in the first place. The application by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society for Warwick Students' Union to host Maryam Namazie as an external speaker has now been considered and approved.

2) The SU is now seeking to meet promptly with the leadership of the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to make the necessary arrangements for the event to take place in the format they have requested. 

3) Warwick SU will issue an unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie for this egregious and highly regrettable error.  

4) Our process as to how we assess requests to host external speakers is very clear. However, it is also equally clear that how this process is communicated and understood by everyone in the SU who needs to be aware of it has failed, and failed badly in this case. We need to act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right, and we will.

We want to assure everyone of Warwick Students' Union's continued commitment to free speech. We also want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who has expressed concern, or disappointment, or who has been hurt by this significant error and, as we said above, we will be issuing a full and unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie."

I would love to had "fly on the wall" hearing of the discussions which led to the issuing of that statement ...

Quote of the day 28th September 2015

"Both parties' activists" (Labour and Lib/Dems) woke on May 8 to a Britain much harsher than they'd thought. On that grey and rain-flecked morning the world had kicked them in the teeth."

"What do you do then when the bullies have humiliated you in the playground? You run back to the sandpit, back to what you know: you shrink your canvas so it fits you, rather than growing to fit this wider, crueller frame.

"In your shrunken world, your party meetings, your earnest debates, your card votes and shows of hands, reality still fits theory.

"You shut out the voices you don't want to hear, Your angry tweet skewering tory meanies gets thousands of re-tweets and favourites. Your Facebook post goes viral. Righteousness resurgent! Surely the Universe is with you now?

"Your new leader has just got 250,000 votes - winning on the first ballot: a gigantic mandate!

"The Conservative party got 11.3 million votes in May. It's not just a different league, it's a different game."

(Matthew Parris, writing in The Times on Saturday about the difficult relationship between party democracy and national democracy)

When this was tweeted over the weekend, some people responded, royally missing the point Matthew was making and assuming that he was scoring political points on behalf of the Conservatives rather than making the wider point that if parties are to be relevant in the wider world they have to look at the whole electorate and not just the true believers. They pointed out that the Conservatives won the election with the active support of only a quarter of the electorate.

Far from weakening the point he was making, that strengthens it. If you want to win a majority of the electorate you need, not 250,000 votes or 11.3 million, but twenty million. All our political parties, including the Conservatives, are miles away from that.

In every corner of the world and of history where we have enough information to be able to observe how politics works, people have coalesced into some form of political parties or factions. This phenomenon was already old when the faction fight between the Blues and Greens, who started out as supporters of chariot racing teams, nearly brought down the Byzantine Empire fifteen hundred years ago.

I don't see that changing even if we moved to a more direct system of democracy which gives people more power and parties less. But whatever system of democracy we use, it will work better if everyone is more receptive to the view that people who are not true believers on their own side may still have valuable things to say. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 violins (RV 580)

As the recordings to which this post originally linked have been removed from YouTube, here are two replacements which are working as of July 2017.

In 1711 Antonio Vivaldi published a concerto for four Violins and supporting instruments.

Here is a recent performance ...

Johann Sebastian Bach liked this piece so much that  he transcribed it for four harpsichords. Here is a modern performance of his version:

Which do you prefer?

Quote of the day 27th September 2015

"We've exchanged one loser for an even worse one."

(Peter Mandelson on Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn here.)

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Jeremy Paxman is usually known as the scourge of all politicians but in the Daily Telegraph this week he had a piece with the title and last line,

"What is wrong with cherishing the land in which you live?"

Through the medium of discussing Shakespeare's play "Henry V" he discusses what patriotism means in a modern context.

I have no time for those who think we should with to separate ourselves from, or think ourselves somehow innately superior to all other countries or their inhabitants, which is more like nationalism or xenophobia than patriotism. But surely you can love your country in a way which recognises and accepts that people of other lands love theirs.

And for all our faults, there are plenty of things about this country to love.

Howgate Cumbria County Council by-election

A really great morning's campaigning today in lovely weather in Moresby Parks, Gilgarran and Parton for by-election on 15th October for the Howgate division of Cumbria County Council.

We had a strong team from Copeland out with our candidate Andrew Wonnacott and were also joined by several of our friends from Allerdale.

Out again this afternoon in an other part of the division.

Friendly reception on the doorstep, with my favourite comment being "You're very welcome, we're not Corbynistas here!"

The election was caused by the resignation of the previous Labour county councillor who is now MP for Workington. Besides the Conservative candidate Andrew Wonnacott there are also Labour and UKIP candidates.

I think this by-election is starting to look interesting ...

This Siren tale shows that yesterday must have been a slow news day

They must have been really, really short of news yesterday if the BBC was reduced to reporting this report of a debate at a Swindon primary school about whether police sirens go "Nee-nah" or "Woo-woo" ...

Quote of the day 26th September 2015

“We shouldn’t turn a treaty change into something traumatic or taboo.”

“We mustn’t close the door to the British if what they are demanding from other member states is acceptable.”

(Emmanuel Macron, the French economy minister, speaking on a visit to London about the need for the EU to accommodate the concerns expressed Britain. He also said creative ways can be found to amend the EU treaties

Friday, September 25, 2015

No Platform Nonsense

The Platform of No Policy
Since before the days when I was a student myself there have been idiots, usually but not always well meaning ones, on British university campuses who try to suppress opinions they think are dangerous not by defeating them in argument but by banning them. They never seem to realise that this is contrary to what should be the entire ethos of an institution of learning. This week's outrageous decision by Warwick University Students Union to ban an invited guest speaker from an ex-Muslim organisation demonstrates that such authoritarian stupidity is alive, well, and as destructive as ever.
At best these bans are hysterically funny, at worst they are truly frightening.
Possibly the funniest single moment of my entire student career was at a hustings in the mid-eighties for the election of members of the National Union of Students executive, when an SDP candidate for the NUS exec, Mark Hatton, made an unfortunate slip of the tongue.

Those who were around at the time will remember that the SDP was often accused of having no policies.

It was Mark Hatton's turn to respond to a question about a problem which had arisen because NUS had a policy of "No Platform for racists and fascists" enabling various people to get themselves and NUS into trouble by banning other people who they accused, sometimes very wrongly, of being racists and fascists.
As everyone present instantly realised, what Mark Hatton meant to say began with the words

"The problem is the policy of no platform."

Unfortunately for the SDP what actually came out of his mouth was
"The problem is the platform of no policy ..."

and that was as far as he got because everyone in the room, including his fellow SDP members, spent the next two or three minutes rolling around helpless with laughter.
The slip of the tongue was very funny. But what had happened to give rise to the question was not.

The banning of Sunderland Jewish Society
A few months earlier one NUS member student union, - at Sunderland poly as it the institution concerned was then known - bought into the slogan that "Zionism = Racism" and took the offensive and ridiculous decision that that meant they could and should ban the college Jewish society in the name of anti-racism !!!
Needless to say this caused outrage, and NUS, getting the line right for once, suspended one of its' own member unions and even organised a demonstration against the banning of the Jewish society.

The Sylvester bill and the 1986 Education Act
The banning of Sunderland Poly's Jewish society was the worst, but by no means the only example of the gross abuse of free speech in the name of the "No Platform" policy, and at the time I campaigned with Chris Davies who was the Conservative member of the NUS executive to curb such abuses: one of the people we worked with was Fred Sylvester, a really good guy who was then the Conservative MP for Manchester Withington, and Fred highlighted the issue by tabling a bill in the House of Commons designed to guarantee free speech in Universities.
About a year later the government accepted the principle and included a similar clause in the 1986 Education Act.
Consequently, University or Student Unions who ban a student society from inviting a speaker the college or union authorities don't like are now acting unlawfully unless they can show that the speaker himself or herself is a threat to public order or likely to contravene legislation such as Blair's "Incitement to Religious Hatred" law.

Unfortunately, however, the mindset of those who want to suppress views they consider evil by banning them rather than defeating them in debate has not done away, and even modest and legitimate limits on free speech such as those imposed by current British law have to be watched lest they become more and more restrictive. As the famous quotation goes,

"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

The banning of Maryam Namazie
As far as I can discover, the shocking decision of Warwick University Student Union to refuse permission for the "Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society" to invite a guest speaker from the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain shows only to clearly how some students are willing to twist the facts to provide a flimsy legal justification for banning orders on speakers they disagree with or find inconvenient.
The invited speaker, Maryam Namazie quotes the reasons given by Warwick SU for the decision  on her page on the freethought blog as follows.

Warwick University Student Union apparently said that
"This is because after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised.

"We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus.

"There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy:

The President (or equivalent) of the group organising any event is responsible for the activities that take place within their events.  All speakers will be made aware of their responsibility to abide by the law, the University and the Union’s various policies, including that they:
  • must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law
  • are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts
  • must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony
  • must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge
  • are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any external organisation or cause without express permission of the trustees."
Of the five bullet points in the Warwick policy, numbers one to three basically require compliance with the law and number five is within the reasonable rights of an institution to lay down for events on their premises.

But there appears to be a problem with number four because if a ban on "insulting other faiths or groups" is interpreted overzealously it can be used to muzzle legitimate debate, and that is precisely what appears to be happening at Warwick.

"Feel Free To Insult Me" and the reform of Section 5

It is because a rule banning insults can be, and was, interpreted in ways which gravely threaten free speech that in 2013 the Coalition Government accepted the arguments of the "Feel free to insult me" campaign for reform of Section 5 of the public order act 1984, which contained such a ban.

That rule was abolished by Section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which came into force on 1st February 2014, and quite right too.

What does Warwick SU regard as "Highly Inflammatory?"

The Warwick student union decision as quoted accuses Maryam Namazie of being "highly inflammatory." Now if she went around burning the Qu'ran or advocating such an action, or accusing all Muslims of supporting Jihad and terrorism, they might have a point.

So I thought I would look up this lady and her "Council of Ex Muslims of Britain" to see what she and they actually advocate.

Well, she doesn't believe in God. Would Warwick University SU ban Richard Dawkins?

She doesn't approve of Islamic countries applying the death penalty for "apostates" who stop believing in Islam. If Warwick University SU thinks that is a controversial or inflammatory opinion then they really have problems.

She doesn't approve of DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic state") throwing gays off the roof of tall buildings or Iran hanging them.  I will bet you any money that Warwick University Student Union would also ban her if she expressed the opposite opinion.

She doesn't like "the increasing intervention of and devastation caused by religion and particularly Islam in contemporary society." Personally I would regard that as an oversimplistic piece of scapegoating, but millions of people who are neither terrorists or extremists would agree with her and they are entitled to their views.

The ten points which her organisation stands for are:
  1. Universal rights and equal citizenship for all. We are opposed to cultural relativism and the tolerance of inhuman beliefs, discrimination and abuse in the name of respecting religion or culture.
  2. Freedom to criticise religion. Prohibition of restrictions on unconditional freedom of criticism and expression using so-called religious ‘sanctities’.
  3. Freedom of religion and atheism.
  4. Separation of religion from the state and legal and educational system.
  5. Prohibition of religious customs, rules, ceremonies or activities that are incompatible with or infringe people’s rights and freedoms.
  6. Abolition of all restrictive and repressive cultural and religious customs which hinder and contradict woman’s independence, free will and equality. Prohibition of segregation of sexes.
  7. Prohibition of interference by any authority, family members or relatives, or official authorities in the private lives of women and men and their personal, emotional and sexual relationships and sexuality.
  8. Protection of children from manipulation and abuse by religion and religious institutions.
  9. Prohibition of any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state or state institutions to religion and religious activities and institutions.
  10. Prohibition of all forms of religious intimidation and threats.

In my humble opinion anyone who doesn't agree with the majority of those ten points is a far bigger threat to democracy and the law than those who do. Most of them are things which anyone with the least pretence to belief in democracy, a free society and the rule of law would support and although I  don't personally go all the way with a couple of them - I'm not in favour of disestablishing the Church of England or banning religious charities and institutions from receiving support for legitimate public service work for example - there is nothing in that list of ten points which is in any way shape or form a threat to the good order of society.

Let me be frank: there are opinions which Maryam Namazie has expressed and things she has done which I very strongly disagree with. Her opponents in the Islamic community did manage to make the charge stand up that she has done things likely to cause offence. What I could not find was any evidence that she has ever incited hatred against human beings for merely believing in a religious faith, even though she is very critical of all faiths, or that she has ever incited violence.

The response of any religious believer who is also a democrat to Ms Namazie's views should be, to paraphrase the words usually associated with Voltaire

"I disagree with what she says but will defend to the death her right to say it."

I cannot avoid the impression that the student union authorities at Warwick University either lack the intellectual capacity to appreciate the difference between criticising a religion and inciting hatred against the people who believe in it, or else that they are abject cowards who don't want to risk the flak they may get from certain quarters if they stand up for free speech.

Quote of the day 25th October 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Many a true word is spoken in jest ...

Three "Don't miss" articles

Iain Dale's blog features a "Daley Dozen" of the dozen best posts from around the blogosphere that he has read that day, and Paul Staines' "Guido Fawkes" blog has a "Seen Elsewhere" panel which lists a similar number of articles on blogs of MSM websites which he recommends as worth a read.

I'm not going to list that many "Don't miss" articles, but there were three things I've seen today which I thought were particularly worth a recommendation, two in Standpoint and one on the "Notes from North Britain" blog.

1) Let's start with the latter. Professor Adam Tomkins, who writes the "Notes from North Britain" blog has put up an absolutely superb post here on why he is seeking election as a Scottish Conservative to the Scottish parliament.

He has written a masterly demolition of the Scottish National Party's pathetic record of failure in government, and how they have fooled far too many people by distracting them from that record by wrapping themselves in the saltire. He exposes the quite frightening centralising and authoritarian nature of the SNP's policies, and makes the case for a liberal, modern, reformist Toryism to stand up to SNP centralising control-freakery and failure.

Professor Tomkins' article is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to understand the case against the SNP record in Scotland.

2) Maureen Lipman, famous for many acting roles and as "Beatty," the "You got an 'ology" granny in the BT advertisements, has an article in Standpoint on why she has voted Labour for the last time.

The article is called "Afraid of Corbyn? Afraid So." and begins by explaining of Jeremy Corbyn

"He is thought to be a breath of fresh air. A man of conscience. Refreshing. Yeah, like polenta is refreshing. For refreshing, read “I see Michael Foot has come around again,” like knitting and birdwatching and baking and ballroom dancing and talent shows and vinyl, and, it goes without saying (so I’ll say it), anti-Semitism."

That's a serious charge but she can and does point to evidence, that "If he is not anti-Semitic himself then he is more than happy to consort with those who are."

3) Most wide-ranging of the three is Nick Cohen's Standpoint article "The Age of Cult Politics."

Nick makes a powerful argument that true believers in more than one part of the spectrum of British politics are starting to think and act like less like participants in a healthy functioning democracy and more like members of a fanatical cult, taking their views and information increasingly from an echo chamber of the like-minded and seeking to de-legitimatise those who might present an alternative view or challenge what they want to believe.

This is not an argument with which readers of this blog are likely to be unfamiliar: I have read, and posted here about, a number of similar articles this year, particularly in respect of how easy it is to turn social media into an echo-chamber which feeds back to us what we want to hear and how the left's intolerance may have contributed to the environment in which expectations of the 2015 General Election proved so comprehensively wide of the mark.

Nick Cohen brings the argument up to date, and singles out three particular groups who he thinks are particularly prone to this: in his words

"three of the most potent and most cultish forces in British society:

* Scottish nationalism,
* Euroscepticism
* and the far-Left - or as we must now call it, Her Majesty’s Opposition.

The political faithful dream of a glorious future: a Scotland free of English tutelage, an England free of the domination of Brussels, a Britain free of greed and poverty.  Like the great religious dreams of the past, these causes take over lives. But all present formidable difficulties.

In political as in religious cults, believers must be insulated against doubts. The most effective method is to blacken the outside world, and make alternative sources of information appear like the Devil’s seductions that tempt the godly into darkness.

As Professors Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth put it in their study of political sectarianism:
“There is only one truth — that espoused by the cult. Competing explanations are not merely inaccurate but degenerate”.

The initiated can never see sceptics as just foolish or misguided, let alone as reasonable people asking legitimate questions. To maintain the unity of the faithful they must be damned as malicious. The outside world is no longer a place where sensible people test their theories. It is a contaminated space, a land full of traps, set by enemies, who mean you only harm. Paranoia and hypersensitivity follow."

I don't necessarily agree with every word of Nick Cohen's article, but I think he puts particularly well the serious concern that people involved in politics are in increasing danger of falling into a sectarian groupthink which insulates them from intellectual challenge. As he writes

"New media technologies allow people to live in enclosed intellectual spaces, where prejudices are not only reinforced but heightened. You only read online newspapers and blogs that tell you what you want to hear."

He continues

"Put people together who share a strong view, and the differences between them vanish. Peer pressure pushes people further to the right or left; it makes their nationalism stronger, their religion more fervent. The web allows not a few hundred, in a church or at a political rally, but hundreds of thousands to convince themselves that their cult is the one true path."

"The essential task for journalists and writers today is not to fight this or that ideology, but to resist the spirit of an age which proclaims that doubt is profane, and argument the ploy of a malicious conspiracy."

I have a horrible feeling that he has a point. And it is not just Cybernats, Corbyn supporters, or Eurosceptics who should be asking themselves if they are in danger of falling into this trap.

Nearly 200 people visit new West Cumberland Hospital facilities

I was one of 192 members of the public who attended the first of two open days held today and on Saturday to allow people to see inside the brand new £90 million West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven which will open its' doors to patients on Monday 5 October 2015.
The event was attended by extremely helpful members of staff who were on hand to answer questions about their new departments. I would like to thank all those who showed me and others around.

This will be the case again on Saturday when the hospital will be open to the public as follows:           
  • Saturday 26 September 2015 – 10.00am-1.00pm (last entry 12.30pm)
More details on my hospitals blog at

And don't forget to #SupportOption1

Eid al-Adha Message

A happy and peaceful EID to all Muslims in Britain and around the world.

Here is Prime Minister David Cameron's EID message.

Quote of the day 24th September 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hospital Open Days - and Demonstration !

Public open days will be held tomorrow and on Saturday to allow people a glimpse inside the brand new £90 million West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven in advance of opening its doors to patients on Monday 5 October 2015.
Both events will also be attended by members of staff who will be on hand to answer any queries about their new departments. The hospital will be open to the public as follows:
  • Thursday 24 September 2015 – 10.00am-1.00pm (last entry 12.30pm)
  • Saturday 26 September 2015 – 10.00am-1.00pm (last entry 12.30pm)
The open days will allow members of the public the chance to see what the new single en-suite patient rooms look like as well as some departments such as the new Accident and Emergency Department, Outpatients and Maternity.
There is no need to book a place and entry will be through the existing main hospital entrance on level 3 where the new hospital can be accessed next to Fairfield ward. Please note there will no alternative access points to the new hospital. Staff will be present to direct people and the Trust’s newly appointed meet and greet volunteers will also be on hand to greet visitors and help familiarise them with the site. Refreshments will be for sale during the open days in the new restaurant.

There will also be a demonstration outside the hospital to coincide with the open day, calling for  emergency surgery to be brought back to the Whitehaven hospital and for 24-hour consultant-led maternity services to remain.

Siobhan Gearing, campaign leader, says she is organising the demonstration outside the hospital tomorrow (24th September) starting at 10 am. Meet at the bus stop at 10 am if you want to take part.

Whether you can attend the demonstration, open day, or both, #SupportOption1 if you want to keep consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital and indeed also at FGH in Barrow.

Damian MacBride doth protest too much ...

Since he is a former spin doctor who was forced to resign after Guido Fawkes obtained emails showing he was plotting to plant disgusting sexual smears about senior figures in the Conservative party - and their spouses - Damian McBride may consider himself an expert on smears such as the one in a certain book from which the Daily Mail has been publishing extracts this week.

However, there are a couple of problems with his analysis in the Guardian today here.

First of all, the story which has been spread about David Cameron's student days, which I will not dignify by repeating, is extremely similar to the smear in a famous anecdote about former US President Lyndon Johnson - a similarity which has struck almost everyone who has written about it because the LBJ anecdote has been quoted in the vast majority of reports in the MSM or the blogosphere about the PM's time as a student over the past few days.

And the point about that anecdote is that when he was told that the story was untrue, LBJ replied that of course it was, but he wanted to force his opponent to deny it.

I strongly suspect that the Prime Minister, or his advisors, or both, are equally determined to deny the author of the present smear story that satisfaction.

The second problem with McBride's analysis is this - how can anyone in their right mind imagine that someone who was caught planning to plant similar disgusting smears against Conservative targets, with David Cameron being one of the people he was planning to smear, can possibly be impartial, objective, or trustworthy on the question of whether other smears against him are true or not?

Damian McBride is just about the last person on the planet I would trust to objectively and impartially evaluate whether or not a smear against any opponent of his former boss Gordon Brown, and particularly David Cameron, was true or not.

When I read McBride's assessment of Downing Street's response to this week's allegation, my reaction was, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies,

"Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"

Quote of the day 23rd September 2015

"Jamie Reed hasn't just burnt his bridges with the new leader of his party. The manner of his publishing a resignation letter highly critical of his party's leader on social media about a minute into Corbyn's acceptance speech was more like dynamiting the bridges and smashing up the pieces with a sledgehammer."

"If, God forbid, Corbyn or any of his allies were elected Prime Minister during the rest of Jamie's parliamentary career, his influence on behalf of his constituents will have been compromised."

(Chris Whiteside, in discussion with colleagues this week.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Howgate by-election - a great start to the campaign

We had a good team out in Moresby this afternoon with the Conservative candidate Andrew Wonnacott to kick off our campaign for the Howgate by-election on Cumbria Council Council.

The by-election will be on 15th October. There are three candidates, Andrew Wonnacott (Conservative) plus Labour and UKIP candidates.

The silliest silly season story of all time ...

I thought we were moving from the silly season back into the grown-up world, but apparently not.

After a difficult week for the new leader of the Labour party, in which he faced horrendous headlines which ranged from legitimate concerns about his policies and associates to salacious gossip about his past private life, the left have got their own back over the past 48 hours as half the country has been sniggering at ridiculous, salacious and unverified allegations about the Prime Minister's student days.

Ironically most of the worst stuff in the papers in both cases has come not from open enemies but supposed allies. It has been Labour supporters and ex-supporters who have been behind a great deal of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in the press up to now - through that will change now that he is Labour leader and as elections approach -  and similarly the worst attacks on David Cameron have always come from the right, not the left.

This week's entire ludicrous set of allegations are remarkably reminiscent of a story which is often told about the late US President Lyndon B Johnson, who supposedly told his aides to spread an extremely similar tale about one of his opponents.

When a horrified flunky replied that they couldn't do that as the allegation wasn't true, LBJ is said to have replied that of course it wasn't but he wanted to force his enemy to deny it.

One suspects that both sides in this week's controversy are well aware of that story.

A Downing Street spokesman has said that the PM does not wish to dignify the allegations in yesterday's Daily Mail (and the book that they refer to) with a response.

I am very interested to know what policies Jeremy Corbyn might follow if he were PM and it is relevant to this who he associates with now and what things he has said. I could not care less who he may or may not have slept with three decades ago or how he dresses.

Similarly I am interested in the present Prime Minister's policies for this country and his style of government, but could not care less what silly things he may or may not have got up to as a student three decades ago.

Those involved in publishing this may well have done more damage to their own reputations than to that of David Cameron - and probably distracted attention from one or two more serious allegations which might otherwise have been followed up following their book.

It says something pathetic about the priorities of the media and the political class in this country that a truly outrageous allegation in the Sunday Times two days ago - that a serving general had effectively threatened any putative Corbyn-led Labour government with mutiny - resulted in a much more muted response in yesterday's news round than a bit of unverified salacious student gossip from nearly thirty years ago in yesterday's Daily Mail has caused today.

Quotes of the day 22nd September 2015

"These revelations will do far less damage to Cameron's reputation than Ashcroft's pre-election polling did to his."

(David Herdson on Political Betting.)

"It is in the book because Lord Ashcroft has made the (probably correct) assumption that the Prime Minister has more on his plate than to sue him for libel over an unprovable allegation from 30 years ago. Without any corroboration, his story is little better than playground gossip - if a journalist had published, his or her own reputation would be on the line. What all this say about Lord Ashcroft’s own reputation I will leave for others to decide."

(Ian Kirby, former political editor of the News of the World and is now Head of Media at MHP Communications, writing in The Spectator here. He makes the valid point that the rumours MPs tell about each other are extremely unreliable.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

"A Very British Coup" - the response

I am pleased, and not at all surprised, that the MoD has moved quickly to slap down the unidentified "serving general" who was quoted in yesterday's Sunday Times appearing to threaten mutiny if any future Corbyn government attempted to implement measures which the security services thought would undermine national security.

An MoD source said

"These remarks are not helpful. No one thinks it is a good idea for a senior serving officer to undermine a potential future government."

Boa Constrictor still on the slither in Whitehaven

Warning to (insert name of person you consider a large rat here): stay away from the Kells area of Whitehaven.

As of 8am this morning Mufasa, an 8-foot Boa Constrictor, is apparently still on the loose in Whitehaven after slithering to freedom on Friday night from its' owners home in North Row, Kells.

"He usually eats one large rat a week," his owner told the News and Star.

So Jeremy Corbyn supporters can insert the name of a certain local MP in the space above, while to judge from my twitter feed at least some Tories, especially those who have seen today's Daily Mail, might have an alternative suggestion.

The snake is a family pet and escaped having been left for five minutes to soak in the bath while his tank was being cleaned. He appears to have escaped down the toilet, leading to this month's most cringe-worthy headline in a local paper, "Flush him out!"

Boa Constrictors are not poisonous, and are native to tropical Central and South America. They are excellent swimmers, but prefer dry land, living mostly in hollow logs and abandoned mammal burrows. So, joking aside, don't let unsupervised children go near rabbit holes or hollow logs anywhere near Kells until the snake is recovered.

A police spokesman said that

"The animal does not pose an immediate risk to the public. However if sighted, the advice is not to approach it it but to contact police immediately."

The number to call is 101.

Quote of the day 21st Sept 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday music spot: a Song for Corbyn ...

The "Matter Patter Song" from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "Ruddigore" (first line "My eyes are fully open to my awful situation") seems rather appropriate for the new leader of the Labour party after a rather difficult week (particularly as it also includes lines like "If I were not a little mad and generally silly.")

It has been stolen and adapted for various other purposes including other Gilbert and Sullivan Operas but here is the original:

This is how it appeared as "borrowed" for the Kevin Kline film version of "The Pirates of Penzance" (blink and you'll miss it but Angela Lansbury actually admits at one point that the song actually comes from Ruddigore)

And if "Spitting Image" were still in business I am sure they could update their eighties version featuring Neil Kinnock with lines like

"My economic policy's as mad as any hatter
But I'll never be elected so it really doesn't matter.2

Come on Newzoids, you can do a version of this for Jeremy Corbyn ...

A Very British Coup?

I fully understand why Britain's intelligence and security services are upset at the possibility of Prime Minister Corbyn.

There are and would be, of course, means to express that concern which are legitimate within the rules of our constitution, and means which are not.

If there were any doubt in my mind that the concerns expressed really are coming from the intelligence services and the army, and not from, say, the Conservative party, it is the fact that Cameron, Osborne, and the people working from them would never have been politically unsophisticated enough to plant the following in today's Sunday Times:

"A serving general warned that there would be a direct challenge from the army and mass resignations if Corbyn became prime minister ..."

There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny,” the general said. “Feelings are running very high within the armed forces. You would see a major break in convention with senior generals directly and publicly challenging Corbyn over vital important policy decisions such as Trident, pulling out of Nato and any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces. The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.

Straight out of "A very British coup" and entirely improper.

Resigning and then speaking out would, of course, be entirely within the rules, and I think it would happen. It is also entirely legitimate for retired senior officers to express their views and there would be a lot of that as well - the same article reported that Admiral Lord West, for example, who was a defence and security minister in the last Labour government, was expressing his concerns about what policies a Corbyn-led Labour party might follow.

But mutiny? Whatever means, possibly, fair or foul?

Whoever is behind this story needs to calm down. It's not as if there is a good chance of Corbyn winning the next election anyway - and there are far better ways to make his election less likely than for the armed forces to threaten mutiny. 

Escaped 8 foot boa constrictor still on the loose in Whitehaven

An 8-foot snake is apparently still on the loose in Whitehaven after slithering to freedom on Friday night from its' owners home in North Row, Kells.

The snake is a family pet and escaped having been left "momentarily unattended" while it was being cleaned.

Boa Constrictors are not poisonous, and are native to tropical Central and South America. They are excellent swimmers, but prefer dry land, living mostly in hollow logs and abandoned mammal burrows. So don't let unsupervised children go near rabbit holes or hollow logs anywhere near Kells until the snake is recovered.

A police spokesman said that

"The animal does not pose an immediate risk to the public. However if sighted, the advice is not to approach it it but to contact police immediately."

The number to call is 101.

Quote of the day 20th September 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Watch out for a Boa Constrictor on the loose in Whitehaven (No, this is not a joke!)

An eight-foot long Boa Constrictor has gone missing last night in Kells, Whitehaven.

The snake does not pose an immediate risk to the public, however if sighted advice is not to approach and it and contact police immediately.

Anyone who sees the snake is asked to contact Cumbria Constabulary on 101.

More details from Cumbria Crack at

Scotland a year on: "The Vow" has not been broken

A year ago today we woke with relief to the news that the United Kingdom would, at least for now, remain united.

We need to work to address the grievances of Scotland and build a new relationship between the four countries of the UK which gives all of them - Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and yes, England a fair deal.

The SNP has been doing some ambiguous wittering about the possibility of a new referendum, which is clearly mostly designed to keep the issue alive. If you look at the small print of what they have been saying they are nowhere near the level of support for Independence which would give a sane person confidence that they could win a second referendum in the near future - and given their clear statements last year that the first referendum was a "once in a generation" choice calling one might badly backfire on them, just as the "neverendum" did on Quebec nationalists.

So we have had a torrent of ridiculous nonsense from the SNP about "The Vow" made during the referendum by the three main UK party leaders supposedly having been broken.

Anyone who falls for this blatant grievance-mongering needs their head examined.

This is what "The Vow" said:

As Fraser Whyte points out in an excellent piece here, the vow was a fairly vague summary of the promises the "No, Thanks" campaign was already running, and they are being implemented:

"There are only two tangible promises in the Vow: that the process for delivering new powers will start on 19th September and that the “Barnett allocation of resources” will continue.

"The former, and each step of the timetable mentioned in the first paragraph, were met:
"And ironically, the only party who has been trying to prevent any implementation of “The Vow” is the SNP, introducing an amendment to the Scotland Bill for Full Fiscal Autonomy which would see the Barnett Formula scrapped.

"So no, “The Vow” hasn’t been broken and to claim otherwise is just desperate."

The Prime Minister challenged the SNP's Westminster leader at PMQs this week to point to a single specific line of "The Vow" which has been broken. He hasn't, can't and won't.

There are some Scots who would prefer Independence with poverty to wealth as part of the UK, but and they are entitled to their view, but we all know that they are nowhere remotely near a majority of the Scottish people.

And every Scot who is not a complete economic illiterate knows that Scotland dodged a bullet last year by voting "No" because, in the debate on what would happen to the oil price, the "Better Together/No Thanks" side was right and the "Yes" side has been proved absolutely wrong.

You could make a decent economic plan for an Independent Scotland but the rash and incredibly badly thought through economic plan on which the "No" campaign was fought wasn't it, and would have produced an economic catastrophe for Scotland.

The SNP were wrong then. They are wrong now.

Freedland of the Guardian on Corbyn's first week.

 This is what Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian had to say about Jeremy Corbyn's first week.

Some of the Corbynistas will dismiss Freedland as a "Tory" but he isn't anything of the kind, and more than most of the people at whom they have hurled that description are.

Indeed, writing as someone who really is a Tory, I am getting increasingly tempted to start a class action for defamation against the Corbynistas for being associated with some of the people they have called Tories - Tony Blair for a start.

A Labour leader who is getting this sort of comment from the Guardianistas would be wise to listen to them.

Quote of the day 19th September 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Howgate Division by-election

There will be a by-election for the Howgate division of Cumbria County Council on 15th October 2015.

The election was caused by the resignation of the previous Labour councillor for the area, which is just North of Whitehaven, following her election as MP for Workington.

There are three candidates:

Conservative: Andrew Wonnacott
Labour: Gillian Troughton
UKIP: Eric Atkinson

The Conservative campaign is getting under way and I greatly look forward to reminding voters of Distington, Moresby, Gilgarran and the other villages in the division that their Labour MP says that the new Labour leader's policies about the most important industry in our area are

"poorly informed and fundamentally wrong."

Needless to say local Conservatives agree that Jeremy Corbyn's policies are poorly informed and fundamentally wrong.

We will therefore be urging the voters of Howgate division, including any Labour voters who share their Labour MP's opinion about his new leader, to send that message to Jeremy Corbyn by lending Andrew Wonnacott their vote on October 15th.

400,000 not out

This morning this blog passed 400,000 page views since the traffic monitors went live a few years ago. Thanks to everyone who has visited the site in that time, and I hope you found it interesting.

There must be one law for all victims, regardless of race

Jamal Muhammed Raheem Ul Nasir was jailed for a total of seven years at Leeds crown court in December last year for his attacks on two children. He was convicted of two counts of sexual assault on a child under 13 and four counts of sexual activity with a child.

I am pleased that he was refused leave to appeal against the severity of this sentence. I suspect that if you asked the British public 90% of them would say it was far too lenient, and although it is a good thing that we have sentencing in this country by the courts and not the mob, many fathers in this country and of all races will be thinking "If my daughter had been one of his victims I would have regarded any sentence short of hanging as too lenient."

However, I am very concerned indeed about the wording of some of the comments made by the trial judge and the way the court of appeal decision is being reported.

The trial judge appears to have said that the fact the victims were Asian had been factored in as an “aggravating feature” when passing sentence, adding that the victims and their families had suffered particular shame in their communities because of what they had endured. There were also cultural concerns that the girls’ future prospects of being regarded as a good candidate for arranged marriages could be damaged.

The appeal court judge dismissed the suggestion that the defendant had been given a more severe sentence because of his own ethnic origin, but did not explicitly dismiss the suggestion that the community the victims belonged to could be a factor in the situation.

Mark Fenhalls QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said that the Sentencing Council’s guidelines require judges to consider, as a priority, the seriousness of the psychological and physical harm suffered by the victim.

He said: “The justice system does not look to favour one section of the community over another. The judgment reflects the duty of judges to take proper account of the extent of the harm suffered by individual complainants when deciding on the appropriate length of sentence in each case.”

Exactly, and therefore consideration of shame caused to a victim or their family should also have been taken into account for a victim of any other ethnicity, a point which should have been made.

Other things being equal, the sentence should not reflect the skin colour or race of the victims.

As an NSPCC spokesman said, any sentence should not depend on cultural background.

“British justice should operate on a level playing field and children need to be protected irrespective of cultural differences.”

“Regardless of race, religion, or gender, every child deserves the right to be safe and protected from sexual abuse, and the courts must reflect this. It is vital that those who commit these hideous crimes are punished to the full limit of the law.”

Do we really want to send paedophiles and rapists the signal that if they pick a victim of any one particular race, they will be treated more leniently?

Surely not, whether the race concerned is white, black, asian or anything else, but unfortunately, that is precisely the message which newspaper coverage of this case has sent.

If, as I hope is the case, the courts did not mean to send that message, then perhaps more needs to be done to get over to victims that, whatever the colour of their skin, they should come forward and to potential paedophiles that whoever they are, anyone who harms a child will be caught, brought before a court, and severely punished.

Second Quote of the day 18th September 2015

"My party chose to blow itself up"

(Alistair Darling on Radio 4 this morning.)

I understand the above comment was not a specific reference to the election of Jeremy Corbyn but the general conduct of Scottish Labour post-referendum.

However, what he did say about his new leader was:

"Jeremy Corbyn has won, he won overwhelmingly and he has a mandate. I know what he’s against but I’m not actually sure what he is for. And what I would say to him, if I had a conversation with him, is that he must know first impressions gained by the electorate, especially of a party leader, tend not to go away and less than week after he’s been elected, I think he needs to spell out where he stands on key issues – like the economy. Because if he doesn’t then frankly he’s never going to get off the ground."

and of Labour's position today

"I’m sure all clouds have a silver lining but I haven’t quite seen the silver lining here yet."

He also had an excellent response to the current Nationalist sabre rattling about a hypothetical second referendum and Alex Salmond's claims that the "omens" favour Scottish independence:

"He’s been saying that for the last 40 years. Look, we voted 12 months ago and the result was decisive. It was a 10 per cent majority. There is no appetite I think on the part of the Scottish public for another referendum anytime soon and indeed Nicola Sturgeon, now the First Minister, is in no hurry either because she will not call a referendum until she thinks she can win it. And she knows she can’t."

More information about Alistair Darling's Today programme interview including an option to listen to it available at the Spectator here.

A principled socialist gives up on the left

Nick Cohen is someone I always described as an intelligent and consistent left-winger.

Unlike too many people on all points of the political spectrum, and far too many socialists, Nick tries very hard to avoid hypocritical double standards. That has made him increasingly uncomfortable with those you would expect to share his worldview,

In this superb article in The Spectator, Nick explains why he has given up on the left.

A couple of extracts from his article:

"In the past, people would head to the exits saying, ‘Better the centre right than the far left.’ Now they can say ‘better the centre right than the far right’. The shift of left-wing thought towards movements it would once have denounced as racist, imperialist and fascistic has been building for years. I come from a left-wing family, marched against Margaret Thatcher and was one of the first journalists to denounce New Labour’s embrace of corporate capitalism — and I don’t regret any of it. But slowly, too slowly I am ashamed to say, I began to notice that left-wing politics had turned rancid."

"I never imagined that left-wing politics would get as bad as they have become. I assumed that when the criminally irresponsible Blair flew off in his Learjet, the better angels of the left’s nature would re-assert themselves.

What a fool I was."

"And yes, thank you, I know all about the feebleness of Corbyn’s opponents. But the fact remains that the Labour party has just endorsed an apologist for Putin’s imperial aggression; a man who did not just appear on the propaganda channel of Russia, which invades its neighbours and persecutes gays, but also of Iran, whose hangmen actually execute gays. Labour’s new leader sees a moral equivalence between 9/11 and the assassination of bin Laden, and associates with every variety of women-hating, queer-bashing, Jew-baiting jihadi, holocaust denier and 9/11 truther. His supporters know it, but they don’t care."

"By electing Corbyn, Labour has chosen a man who fits every cliché the right has used to mobilise working-class conservatism. In the 1790s, George Canning described the typical English supporter of the French Revolution ‘as a friend of every country but his own’. Today’s Tories can, with justice, say the same about Corbyn."

"I have argued that the likes of Corbyn do not represent the true left; that there are other worthier traditions opposed to oppression whether the oppressors are pro-western or anti-western. I can’t be bothered any more. Cries of ‘I’m the real left!’, ‘No I’m the real left!’ are always silly. And in any case, there is no doubt which ‘real left’ has won."

John McDonnell apologises for his 2003 IRA comments

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, apologised last night on Question Time for his 2003 comments suggesting that we should "honour" the IRA armed struggle.

He said last night

“I think my choice of words were wrong. I accept that. I should not have said the issue about the honouring, I actually said afterwards that there’s no cause that justifies the loss of life in this way… I accept it was a mistake to use those words, but actually if it contributed to saving one life or preventing someone else being maimed it was worth doing because we did hold onto the peace process… If I gave offense, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise.”

You can see the apology last night on Guido Fawkes' blog at


And also on the Spectator website, with an acerbic response from Douglas Murray to which I will be sending the link to anyone who complains to me in future about the criticisms which have been made of John McDonnell, at

Quote of the day 18th September 2015

"There are some nasty people in the world, you know. Some of them – get this! – are even nastier than Tony Blair. And even if you leave them all alone, they will not stop.

"Not for all the tea in Islington North.

"What's more, there are certain... issues with Corbyn and the company he keeps.

"He doesn't just have skeletons in his closet, he hangs up his shirts in an ossuary.

"This is not a trivial matter. Those who underestimate the problems this will cause are fooling themselves (and in some cases, losing sight of their own moral compass)."

(Taylor Parkes, from an article in The Quietus)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Backwards to the future

The policies of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are coming under scrutiny - particularly on economics.
"Let's do the Time Warp Again!"
(Picture of Jeremy Corbyn as an old Labour icon from the Economist)

Giving evidence at the House of Commons Treasury select committee, Bank of England governor Mark Carney was asked by Labour MP John Mann about a number of Corbyn policies, such as "people's QE" and did not pull his punches in his reply.

Mr Carney said: “The issue would be imperilling potentially the achievement of price stability. The consequence of that of course would be inflationary.

“The people who tend to get hurt the most by inflation are the poor, the elderly, those that can’t hedge themselves – that’s been the experience throughout history and I’m sure that will be the experience in the future if the Bank of England were not to conduct policy not consistent with achieving its mandate from parliament.”

Printing more money to expand the economy can sometimes help an economy emerge from the specific situation of a recession characterised by weak demand, if it is managed by careful people who are aware of the risks they are running and are careful not to overdo it.

Putting the printing presses into full speed is nearly always a recipe for disastrous inflation.

The Economist magazine described Mr Corbyn's election here as leading Britain's left into a political timewarp.

"Mr Corbyn’s election is bad for the Labour Party and bad for Britain, too," says the magazine.

"His “new politics” has nothing to offer but the exhausted, hollow formulas which his predecessors abandoned for the very good reason that they failed."

"Only in the timewarp of Mr Corbyn’s hard-left fraternity could a programme of renationalisation and enhanced trade-union activism be the solution to inequality." 

"If you could create macroeconomic stability by bringing the Bank of England back under the government’s thumb, then Britain would not have spent the post-war decades lurching from politically engineered booms to post-election busts."

"Time and again, Mr Corbyn spots a genuine problem only to respond with a flawed policy."
(For example ...)
"He is right that Britain sorely lacks housing. But rent controls would only exacerbate the shortage."

I don't think Mr Corbyn's opponents are going to have to look to issues like whether he sings the national anthem or what his shadow chancellor once said about the IRA to assemble a powerful critique of Labour's new leader.

Sir David Willcocks RIP

I have just learned that the great musician Sir David Willcocks, composer and conductor, has died.

He was a lovely person and will be missed both for himself and for his contribution to British music.

Rest in Peace

Quote of the day 17th September 2015

"The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

(Winston Churchill, tribute to the RAF pilots who were fighting what later became known as the Battle of Britain 75 years ago this summer. House of Commons, 20 August 1940.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Scottish Problem - and a solution

I referred last week to the issue of whether an "Out" vote in the EU referendum would be sufficient grounds for a fresh Scottish referendum on Independence from the UK

Some SNP figures have argued that a "Leave" vote in the EU referendum wold change the terms of membership of the UK and would therefore justify a fresh Scottish vote.

They have a case, but there would be a serious problem of perverse voting incentives were it conceded in advance of the EU poll that Brexit would automatically mean a second Scottish Indyref.

Conceding this could potentially prejudice the EU referendum by creating a moral hazard for Scots who support independence but oppose leaving the EU, which appears to be nearly half the Scottish electorate.

An interesting worldview to object to being governed from London but want to be governed from Brussels but I suppose that must be partly down to how unpopular Whitehall is in the Northern UK - and as a resident of Cumbria I can tell you that applies in Northern England too.

However, there clearly are a lot of Scots who feel that way, and if it were agreed that British exit from the EU means a second Scottish independence referendum, those electors would be put in a difficult position in that voting for something they don't want - leaving the EU - might get them something they do - an earlier vote on Scottish independence.

There may, however be a solution.

Suppose it were made clear in advance of the EU referendum, that there would be no requirement for a new Scottish independence vote following Brexit if a majority of Scots had also voted for exit from the EU.

This makes sense for two reasons: first of all, it would be particularly unreasonable for supporters of Scottish Independence to complain about a decision which Scots themselves had also voted for.

Secondly, it would reduce the perverse incentive referred to above. A Scot who supports both EU membership and Scottish Independence is less likely to cast a tactical vote for Brexit if that might get them the result they don't want on Europe without getting the one they want on Scottish Independence.