Good night, sweet prince

In many fields, the Duke of Edinburgh’s service to the Commonwealth and the world was immeasurable. His passing leaves a hole it would take legions to fill.

I met him but once, many years ago, while he was engaged in his keenest endeavour: encouraging the development of youth through his Award Scheme.

He alone could create such a scheme with credibility, as he represented its highest values. He served with distinction in war and peace; those humourless souls who in later years jibed at his great heart had never fought with a cool head in a ship under heavy enemy fire, deep in the heart of a war for civilisation itself and earning in his own right, high praise of his fellows; nor have they, as he did, created in peacetime so many schemes and charities whose good work we may take for granted.

His first duty, he often said, was to support Her Majesty, and that he did, over a reign of some seventy years by her side, troubled and bewildering times as they often were, ensuring that our Queen, whose own sense of duty is unwavering, could perform her role without being worn down by life which would flatten most of us in a moment, with a smile and an ever-kindled heart.

Many, like myself, may have had most influence from Prince Philip through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Unfashionably, but with immense success across the world, it reproduced something of those lessons drummed in at Gordonstoun, character-building, resilience-building, providing in each new generation those who can stand against the storm. Had it not been for the founder’s own character, wrought in peace and war, it could not have succeeded as it has.

he was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves:
He had no legs that practised not his gait;
And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,
Became the accents of the valiant;
For those that could speak low and tardily
Would turn their own perfection to abuse,
To seem like him: so that in speech, in gait,
In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion’d others.

This was just one aspect of the man. Many more have been touched by him whether they know it or not, whether from endeavours like the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildfowl Trust, the Work Foundation or many others: he might have said that “constitutionally I don’t exist”, but wherever he trod he made the world that bit better.

Our thought now are with Her Majesty in her grief. I will pray for her comfort, as will we all, for this is first and foremost a time of sadness for our Queen. I will also give thanks for a life of service beside her.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Whom are you serving?

You are being used, and they will spit you out when they are done. You may gather at a school to make your feelings felt, and you may end a good man’s career this time, and believe that this means you now have power to force society to bend more to your preferred norms, but you are being used. You have no more power than an atheist mob permits to you.

It was a different world in 1989, before the Wall fell.  As the year opened, protests burst out upon the streets of many countries against a Whitbread Prize-winning novel few then had heard of. In Bradford, Muslim elders hung from a stick a book they had never read and burned it in protest – they made at that time no threat against people or property, but all of respectable opinion in Britain was against them. When Persia’s spiritual chief issued an actual death sentence against the author, not just British opinion but that of the world was repelled. It was a turning point, but not in favour of the freedom proclaimed from all ends of social opinion; it was a turning point against free expression.

The shock at that fire in Bradford was not the act itself, burning a book – it is a very good book, but it is only paper. It was the sudden discovery of a new political identity within the population. Before Bradford there were Asians, undistinguished amongst their tribes and sects for most of us – now there were Muslims.

It was a rollercoaster year, 1989: the Satanic Verses, the invention of the World Wide Web, Tiananmen Square, and the collapse of European Communism, ushering in a new order to the world. The Wall fell, old, oppressed nations began to rediscover themselves and the thrive anew in freedom: except in the first to turn, Algeria, which fell to Islamicists. In the West, socialism was disgraced, but a backlash began in quiet corners, and the events of Bradford were too good an opportunity to miss.

There was no conspiracy – there did not have to be when men of ill-will were thinking the same thoughts and swapping fake outrage in the Grauniad. The Communist regimes in the East were no longer there, their failures and brutality exposed to the world, but those who had long hated their own society and culture, who had supported the Communists to destroy it, saw in the ash from those book pages a new way to attack the Judeo-Christian normality of society.

After Bradford it became a necessity not to offend Muslims, and that sounds benevolent enough – I really have no wish to annoy Muslims unnecessarily. The power game is not about benevolence though. There were some Muslims who saw an opportunity to push an agenda of their own – to persuade schools to treat Islam as unchallengeable, for example; there are always people like that in any group. That though is all far less important than the liberal offensive.

Driving Christian references from public life moved on apace after 1989. The tabloids’ favourite is ‘banning Christmas’, but it goes far beyond. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher ensured that school assemblies be ‘broadly Christian in character’, but thirty-three years later that seems inconceivable. State and society have been secularised from top to bottom, and discrimination laws so interpreted as to keep it that way.

So it was in 2005 or 2006 that I attended a talk on Islam in British life, and was shocked by something I heard, from the mouth of a learned judge. The subject of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons had come up and common commentary seemed to be that they were grossly offensive and should be shunned, even banned. An audience member then asked why he cartoons should be banned when we champion the right to free speech by Salman Rushdie. The judge, a liberal and certainly not a Muslim, said he thought we had got it the wrong way round, and the cartoons were unimportant but the Satanic Verses should have been banned. How the world had turned in that short time; as Eastern Europe cast off servitude and embraced freedom, Western Europe has cast away freedom.

The world of ‘acceptable opinion’ is different now. The result is not what Muslims would have wanted: would the average Muslim be happy with what was once a religious society becoming enforcedly atheist? Barely any Muslim is bothered by the public celebration of Christmas, but may be greatly offended by the suppression of religious expression.

Those at that school gate in Batley may think they are defending their religion, but it is a game played by the Guardianista liberal, which is the bitterest enemy of all religion.

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Propitiating the divine NHS

A long shop window in the high street of a prosperous town; more than just a hairdresser but a ‘salon’ with shelves shining with new unguents for the discerning lady; and all closed and dark. The window shows across its whole width a rainbow and a line of praise to the NHS as to a divinity.

The rent must still be paid, and the rates, but there is no income from which to pay them as the salon is closed in the name of health, which brooks no logic, no moderation, and demands that Hygieia receive unquestioning devotion. Though driven to possible bankruptcy by this cult, the desperate shop-owner expends lavishly on a huge plastic banner proclaiming her own devotion.

It is reminiscent of finding a ruined Roman house with a clay tablet cast in a final precatio, an address in devotional, loving terms to the gods the householder believed were destroying him.

Someone is making a fortune with these slick, professional banners. (Good luck to them – at least someone is still making money.)

Nigel Lawson wisely observed that the NHS is ‘the closest thing the English people have to a religion’, and the truth of that has been amply demonstrated over this long epidemic. In past years the NHS had been seen to replace the church (an unreformed church desperately needing a Cranmer). The messages of the rainbows suggests it has gone further, in an apotheosis by which the National Health Service has been deified, such that to it are addressed the praises and supplications of its supplicants.

The NHS are now praised even more for their miraculous achievement of the vaccines; but these were not developed by the NHS – the NHS would be incapable of doing such a thing, but will passively accrued the credit for this feat.

As the lockdown is lifted, some shops will stagger to their feet. Others will simply shut and walk away, leaving a hole in the high street and employees at the dole office (being paid from your pocket and mine). In the wreckage there may be some sensible shaking down of opinions, but that is unlikely. If the failures of this last year are examined by cool heads, any attempt at a Reformation will be met by the fury of the devotees of the deified NHS.

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Five Questions for the new ochlocracy

Tony Benn was wrong on most things, but he was a great Parliamentarian and he had five questions that may be asked of anyone with power:

  1. What Power Have You Got?
  2. Where Did You Get It From?
  3. In Whose Interests Do You Exercise It?
  4. To Whom Are You Accountable?
  5. How Can We Get Rid Of You?

To the Social Justice Warriors, the wokearchy, call them what you will, those questions are addressed. Their formal power is limited, but they infest the governments of Canada and the United States, and influence many others. Elections make little difference ,and that is the issue for Tony Benn’s five questions.

There is point denying that ‘social justice warriors’ have power.  It may not be formal, legal power, except when exercised by those who have inserted themselves into the structure of government, and there is no ‘deep state’, but it is real power with real-world consequences. Each time someone is sacked from a position of authority for denying a doctrine of the New Left; a Christian actress is denied work; a book is withdrawn from sale; a speaker turned away, or banned from a social media platforms for calling a man ‘he’; an academic is demoted; an honest man in public life reviled, mocked and forced to recant some commonplace observation, this is real power, hurting real people. When the police intimidate and record the names of those who transgress social-justice rules that are not laws, this is real power. The examples are well known and innumerable.

It is not just for the ‘new ochlocracy’ to answer these questions, because they will not address them with any honesty. These are matters which need to be considered by those who are meant to have constitutional power, and who are meant to use it to protect British subjects. If they are not doing that basic job, then the Five Questions are addressed to them.

1     What power have you got?

There is power to wreck careers and beggar ones victims, to wreck lives and families, without appeal or redress.

Power is not just exercised by the ochlocracy nor just by those who believe in the woke doctrine: those who sack and decommission may be those who are simply afraid of criticism or worried that they will be next, like those who turned their neighbours in to the KGB for a quiet life.

2    Where did you get it from?

There is formal power which in Britain is authorised by the Equality Act 2010, a lever piece of social justice warfare from the lamentable Harriet Harman. Its honeyed terms start with the principle that no state body nor employer should treat each person fairly without regard to characteristics irrelevant to their job, and that every member of the public should be able to have access to services sold to the public, but it has been a Trojan horse, as many have found to their cost in the Tribunals. The Act is an excuse used far beyond what it actually says.

In the last few years, formal power has been eclipsed by mob power; the ‘cancel culture’. This is power not granted but taken. It arises by neglect by everyone else; fear; activists pushing themselves forward where no one else can be bothered to make such an effort; blackmail; lying to cowards about the rules and about who is watching them; developing a cadre of useful idiots.

3    In whose interests do you exercise it?

The activists’ own interests and amusements; no more.

4    To whom are you accountable?

Accountability is to none. There is no appeal nor mitigation. There is no referral to any accepted law. Even a mugger in the street may listen to a plea or a bargain, but a woke mob will not.

5    How can we get rid of you?

To those with formal positions; your jobs can be terminated, just as you terminated others’ jobs. To those who attack your fellow workers; your Equality Act condemns bullying and intimidation, so watch your own backs. Employers may realise how many valuable staff they are losing and can adopt anti-bullying policies which catch you – and that is a forthcoming article.

For the mob – you have power because cowards permit it to you. That can be withdrawn at any moment. You have taught the rest of the world what are effective tactics for taking down those you do not like, and it may be that at any moment those weapons will be turned upon you.

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Books

Rishi Sunak’s budget speech

Speaking against the Chancellor’s budget this afternoon, we first have Mr Rishi Sunak, in 2015:

No more irresponsible borrowing. No more spiralling debt at the taxpayer’s expense. No more passing the debt to the next generation. I was delighted to hear the Chancellor’s plans for this nation finally to run a budget surplus.

I have spent my career in business. Every company I have been involved in sets a budget, as indeed does every household in this nation, and when they do they operate with these basic principles: first, “How much is coming in?” and only then, “How much can I spend?” For too long, Governments have got that back to front, spending first, ignoring how much is coming in, then letting borrowing endlessly make up the difference.

Coming from a financial background, I decided to spend some time analysing our nation’s fiscal history. I wanted to know, when it comes to our Government’s revenue, how much does in fact come in. I can tell the House that, since 1955, tax receipts, with limited variation and remarkable consistency, have averaged 36% to 38% of GDP. In spite of the vast differences between Labour and Conservative Members in our approach to setting tax rates, the average tax take has been remarkably similar under Governments of both parties. There appears to be a natural ceiling to what any Government can extract from the pockets of its hard-working taxpayers.

That to me suggests a simple conclusion: in normal times, public spending should not exceed 37% of GDP. That is the best estimate of our income as a Government and therefore the best guide to what we can afford to spend. So the Government’s plans to get public spending to that level are not, as some Opposition Members have suggested, an ideological crusade or clever politics; rather, tackling excessive public spending is simply the sensible, logical and responsible course of action. That action, taken to make sure that we live within our means, is the same course of action that any business or household would take when presented with the facts. We all know what happens when those facts are ignored: more borrowing, more debt.

[….]

All debts need to be repaid, with interest. For the next generation, that means higher taxes or less money to spend on public services. As the hon. Member for Streatham said, we already spend more money on debt interest than we do on the police, transport or housing. That simply cannot go on.

Whether one is a Thatcherite or a Trotskyite, the rules of budgeting are the same: one cannot sustainably spend more than one earns. I commend the Chancellor for acting on that principle and ensuring that Britain’s finances will once again be back in the black.

He then added, in 2017:

Fiscal responsibility is not just an ideological pursuit. Without a prudent approach to borrowing and debt, ordinary people pay the price. They pay it through slower growth, less fiscal resilience and interest rates that begin to climb. Let me start with growth.

As Government borrowing grows, it crowds out the lending available to British businesses to expand and invest. The results of these things around the world are clear. On average, economies with debt exceeding 90% of GDP grow 1 percentage point slower than those where it is between 30% and 90%, and 2 percentage points slower than those where it is below 30%. If it were not for the actions of this Government, our nation’s debt would already have spiralled well beyond 90%. Although a 1 percentage point hit to growth does not sound like a lot, it would be £100 billion in GDP, and £40 billion less to the Treasury’s coffers.

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