Nicola’s Muzzle – 2

Since I last wrote of Nicola Sturgeon’s Bill to ban speech, more immediate events have seized the attention, but on this bandwagon runs. In that time yet more voices have risen against it. Yet Nicola controls in a presidential manner all the levers of state, and weak MSPs ready to do her will. The threat is very real. I chose to leave writing this until I was out of Scotland and outside her reach.


The ‘Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill’ is kept relatively short. It has been promoted as a measure against ‘hate speech’, but goes far beyond even the measures Tony Blair left us with.

I previously wrote about the opening, which has been little commented upon, forcing sheriffs to act outside common sense and conscience. The meat of commentary is on Part 2: ‘Offences relating to stirring up hatred’. Now, for a such a Bill to be promoted by a political party built entirely on stirring hatred up against their fellow countrymen, this is chutzpah indeed. The provisions are beyond humour.

It will be a crime to behave in a threatening, abusive or even merely insulting manner, or to communicate insulting material to another, if with the intent to stir up hatred against a defined racial or national group or even if with no intent if it is likely that ‘hatred’ will be ‘stirred up’. It does not say that SNP branch meetings are exempt, but I would not want to be the constable to tries to arrest the unbridled tongues that do just this at every one.

The clause would ban the Daily Mail and half a dozen other papers from distribution in Scotland, as soon as someone alleges that one of their leading articles has stirred prejudice against foreigners. Stirring hatred against journalists or political opponents is not covered.

Secondly, it will be a crime to behave in a threatening or abusive manner, or to communicate abusive material to stir up hatred, or be likely to, against a number of listed identity groups. It does not here say ‘insult’ here, but that will be added later, the moment an advocacy group in receipt of taxpayers’ money claims it is a hole in the legislation. In any case, ‘abusive’ may mean exactly the same.

The groups covered include the usual suspects, including ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘transgender identity’.

It would be a defence (at least in the initial draft – this may come out) for a person charged to show that their behaviour was ‘in the particular circumstances, reasonable’: that is undefined and I pity the advocate who tries to argue it, in professional terms and also because of the hate mobs who would besiege his chambers afterwards. ‘Reasonable’ by whose standards, or to achieve what? This may be interpreted, in the spirit of the Act, that no behaviour may be adjudged a reasonable infringement of the presumptions the Act contains, leaving no defence.

The major trap hidden in the formulaic words is in the key line ‘as a result, it is likely that hatred will be stirred up against such a group’. Consider it for a moment: it does not say how much hatred is t be engendered by the actions in question: it might be one mad, tinfoil-hatted nut on Facebook who reads words and feels hatred growing in his heart, and that has stirred hatred. Had the words said ‘in a significant portion of the population’ it would be bad but not as bad as this: had it said promoting violence against members of a group that would even seem acceptable, but stirring any hatred at all, that is unavoidable in social commentary.

It is worse than the apparent aim of the wording: it can catch anyone with views someone else does not want to hear. Hatred has to be directed at a group – but the Bill does not say that the speaker had to have that group as a target: he might be a Christian preacher with nothing but love in his heart but by saying something that an angry Woke mob does not want to hear, he has stirred the hatred of the mob against him and against Christians, and so he is guilty, and looking at 12 months in Barlinnie.

So much more could be said, and will be.

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Last year was so last year, lads

Tension in the Commons, procedural skirmishes, the Lords ready to pounce, rebellion on the government side of the House, all over Brexit. Yet this is not 2019. That annus horribilis was meant to be over and done with when Boris rode back to Downing Street in triumph after the Winter election.

This time the voices are as shrill but it is a matter so petty that you wonder why they bother being so emotional. Last year Brexit itself was in the balance and for all the platitudes about procedure and just securing a deal (which they then voted against) it was about whether Britain would leave the European Union at all, and the entire country knew. Brexit itself was in the balance. Then the election happened, the Zombie Parliament was driven out and Britain sailed cleanly out of the European nightmare.

Compared with all that, this local difficulty is as nothing. It does not concern the grand picture but two lines or so in the Withdrawal Agreement, and with no intention to change them anyway.

The principle of keeping to treaty obligations is generally a good one, but this phase ‘international law’ is lie in a line, and always has been: there is no such thing as international law, or rather it is not actual law, just a way of getting along. The concept is there, but there is also the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and no one has been arrested for trying to break that. The word “law” is a red rag to a Twittermob and many a foolish remark has been heard on the subject. It turns the stomach to hear an adjustment to an administrative arrangement compared to murder or to the Uighur genocide.

This site has observed before the imbalance that the EU negotiators have at every step introduced into negotiations: in several places their proposed treaty provisions have provided for heavy punishment were Britain ever to depart from points in a trade agreement, but no sanction at all for their own breaches. A glance at the EU’s practice over many years shows it to be an unrepentant, serial rule-breaker, so no one should be outraged that our government should seek to prepare for when they do it to us.

Another cause of dissent, and one more comprehensible, is that the role of the House of Commons in supervising all this seems to have been minimised, and MPs want to do the job they were elected for. In fact, the Bill as presented strikes a practical balance. It is good for the government to hear strident voices from the backbenches, and even the weird voices projected from the other side of the House, but ultimately speedy action must come from the executive.

Al this said, the whole thing has been appallingly handled in public relations and diplomatic terms, unless; unless it was a smuggling exercise, but let us pass over that – BEIS knows what that is about and it has been successful if so.

The Bill last night passed in the Commons, unamended though with assurances about the use of the powers and promises of further consultation. The rebellion was small, and the DUP voted for the Bill, as well they might as the clauses fought over are for the protection of Ulster. In the Lords, we can but wait and see what more overblown rhetoric emerges. The margin in the Commons was massive: this is not 2019.

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Have we started to win?

The new, revamped Board of Trade has a star name – Tony Abbott no less, former Prime Minister of Australia. His appointment was widely welcomed and his technical nationality was never an issue: the Old Commonwealth is a block of peoples not only not foreign to each other but seeming somewhat bewildered to be considered separate nations, and it outlines that Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders as as home here as on the shores where they grew to manhood. Mr Abbott will do well in his new role.

His position was threatened by a blast from the left which in past years has proven deadly to any candidate for office. The left-wing attack-mob did not get their scalp this time.  Once they get their hooks into you, you’re a dead pigeon, so we have been led to believe, but not this time.  Boris has proven more robust in protecting his appointments from the mob. That is an encouraging development. Theresa May threw Toby Young and even Sir Roger Scruton to the dogs at the whiff of a Twitterstorm in displays of contemptible weakness: Boris Johnson (who has himself been the focus of many such attacks) has started to turn the tide.

Interestingly, the artificial fuss over Tony Abbott distracted attention from the other appointments of advisers to the Board of Trade, from an international field, and so protected those who are less inured to such attacks.

The New Zealand government has privately expressed frustration at the inexperience of the British negotiators trying to create a free trade agreement with New Zealand, and that is no surprise as before Brexit there was no need to develop the talent and experience. Now there is now a team lined up who have that experience and they are to be unleashed upon the world. Who’s on first I cannot say, but Abbot’s name is the most prominent and the best at opening doors.

It is an impressive line-up. The Remoaners would have had a fit at Daniel Hannan being there, had they not been involved in dirty tactics against Tony Abbot, but as Mr Hannan is the founding President of the  Initiative for Free Trade, he has the contacts to bring to bear on the enemy. In fact apart from the ex officio ministers, they are all heavyweights. It would not have happened if Boris Johnson had given way.

We may be winning then, or making the first steps.

The Culture War is not about culture at heart: it is about power. As Hobbes observed, in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power. The left-wingers, cultural Marxists, Wokeists, call them what you will, have hitherto enjoyed power. Elections and Parliament mean nothing if feigned outrage and feigned offence force the government to your will, and by the time Mrs May’s ministry had run its course, they were in undisputed control, removing public servants from office at a whim. Then there was the election in December 2019, and it might not have made any difference to the structure of power, and no election for an age has done. Something changed though. The was cultural divide in the nation was made, by Brexit into a yawning chasm, and the revenge of the spurned was seen in the fall of the Red Wall. This was a mandate for change. Boris returned to Number 10 with Dominic Cummings at his side, now with the mandate and majority and manpower to make changes.

The new extremism amongst Cultural Marxists is to be expected; they are outraged that their power has been challenged. The counter-revolution against them is underway.

There has been no change in the Twittermob. People are still persecuted and sacked for transgressing the rules set by extremists. The police still make political distinctions between different groups of rioters, shops still make customers feel unwelcome with lurid rainbow flag displays, and television reporters have still not realised that “far right” does not mean what they have been telling people it does. However that all now though seems to stop at the doors of Whitehall. There is pressure on the Civil Service to align with the programme, and there is even a Tory as Director General of the BBC. There is now open talk of a push back, of fighting the Culture War. How, has not been explained. On our side, the culturally conservative side, we play with a straight bat out of principle, and to avoid accusations of tyranny – the irony is not lost. There are lessons to learn from Hobbes about all this: mankind has not changed in four hundred years, nor indeed in forty thousand.

For now, there is robustness in Whitehall. This may spread. The momentum cannot stop though, because the other side will not stop. The success in giving Tony Abbott the position he has, not as a political gesture but because he is a bonzer pick to do the job, is a good sign for the future.

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As several doors open…

It has all kicked off again this week, as if it was not going to be busy enough.  The talks with the European Union are meant to be resuming but are fighting, as before, with press release. That is undignified. We do not see that misbehaviour from other countries in negotiation: the EU negotiation shows immaturity at least from the European side.

This site is updating at last the commentary on the EU proposals, incidentally.

A poorly managed leak today suggested that the British government is about to table legislation to repudiate the Withdrawal Agreement, which was never the case. This might have been an attempt to impress that idea on the public so that when the actual Bill comes before the House, to mend the gaps in implementation, Labour can portray it as ‘yet another U-turn’.  (The same tactic informs their sudden embrace of airport testing after months of opposing any liberalisation of lockdown: they know it is coming and want it seen as a climbdown to their position.)

There is a real danger of a no-deal outcome, which is completely unnecessary and in no one’s interests.  The PM sent an email out to all party members today talking it up, saying it would be “a good outcome for the UK” but he knows it would be a failure and a sub-optimal outcome. Maybe we can hope that German banks and manufacturers are hammering on the door of Ursula von der Leyen to beg her to sign something, but there is no sign.  The compromises, for both sides, are there for the taking, if they would just agree to belt up in public and talk up in private.

There was hope as the Political Declaration was signed.  It took hard work to get it revised and signed, and the EU should not be given the impression that it is not taken seriously.  The British proposal was based on that Political Declaration.  Sideline commentator will snipe that it is not binding, but politically it is, and so it should be – the Declaration is a good guide for the future relationship and both sides should simply sign off with an agreement that says no more than its terms. The problem has been that the European Union team has junked it and gone off on their own, in exactly the terms which were rejected when the Political Declaration was negotiated. That is dishonourable.

In the sensible world, beyond Europe, progress is being made on many fronts. That may not influence the European negotiators: they are notoriously inward-looking.  The Board of Trade has been revamped, after the customary outrage from a Woke mob. Let us go forth into the world.

The patient is dying. There is one cure

The economy has tanked, in a decline far worse than even the most lurid predictions the bank of England put out about Brexit, and which I for one dismissed as ludicrous. The decline is not from Brexit though: that was followed by growth and new investment – the collapse is from the lockdown. It will continue until the whole lockdown is lifted.

Never say the decline was caused by COVID-19: it was caused by the lockdown.

There has been time to reassess, and now we, the public, understand what the epidemic is and is not and how it works, we are in a position to make our own minds up as mature adults as to what are the risks and what level they are and how real, and how therefore to react and conduct ourselves. The rules of the lockdown have lost their immediate purpose and so should go, at once and without reservation.

The rules hold on only because, it seems, the government has started down that road and would look embarrassed if they find it is all for nothing after all this pain; but to continue is to continue and worsen the pain, and leave devastation where until March there was a thriving economy.

The hope that greeted Brexit has turned to a despair at that promise thrown away.

Everything is dying around us. The streets are no longer as deathly silent as in the spring, and shops do get customers, some at least, but the power houses of the economy have fallen into a coma. These are the offices, the mass gathering places, the venues, theatres and cinemas, and the bars which receive the theatre-goers in the evening.

Those businesses which are open are still hampered by regulations and the fear of being shut down or sued, which leads to new, self-imposed rules that in turn drive their customers away. The most visible is the mask, which is pointless on the face of a healthy man or woman, which is to say almost everyone, yet is strict law on everyone. Distancing is enforced as if the virus were magic, and even though the PM reduced the required distance to 3 feet, universally we are commended to keep 2 metres apart – which works in practice only by being ignored.

The statistics show there is no longer an epidemic, and the medical profession are now set up to deal with cases thy do receive, which they were not before. The statistics also seem to show that the epidemic was declining even before the lockdown measures were put in place – and so would have continued down whatever happened. We were told that the point of the lockdown was a temporary relief, to buy time so that the peak would hit in the summer, when hospitals would be ready and not filled with winter ‘flu cases – well the summer has come and gone and if there is really a risk of a new peak, it will be in the winter; just what we were told had to be avoided.

In the meantime life remains on hold, and businesses are holding their breath, or dying. We were told it would be a short pause to be ready, and on that basis the economy might have held out, ready for a swift bounce-back. After this time though we find several major businesses and employers have folded, and others are on the brink. There are no jobs to go back to from which the economy could be revived.

The only thing that could make it worse is an increase in taxes at the end of it. Recovery can only come from a cut in taxes.

Even away from the economic crisis, the social crisis deepens. Those who believe all the scares still are cowering and may never recover. The easily led are led into dependency, and the weak-minded, for whom we should all have a special care, are driven frantic. Mental health is fragile. Others have been using the situation for months to play at being the village bully, and don’t we all know who they are, and who their victims are.

There is only thing that could save the situation from becoming terminal: end the lockdown, all of the lockdown, immediately. If people want to take precautions, and keep avoiding the neighbours and keep working from home, let then do so: we are all adults here and can judge our own risks. The man in Whitehall knows nothing of me and my family. I do.

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Books