The silence; the shock

There are no adequate words for such a deed. A family weeps, a community weeps. That someone should strike in such a way against a husband and father, against the community and against democracy itself: it is not who we are.

Back in the different world that was 1983, Margaret Thatcher’s future was in the balance – the catastrophic economic conditions of her first years in office were not forgiven by many, but the J-curve had been passed, the economy was beginning to soar, and the euphoria of the Falklands victory was glowing in a newly confident nation, but still a nation with problems. The General Election held the future of the nation in balance, and no one knew what would happen.  Then as the first results came in, it was Basildon, working-class Basildon, and they elected a Conservative, which signalled the landslide that was coming. The harbinger of that landslide, Basildon’s fresh-faced young, smiling MP, was David Amess. He became a symbol of that night and of the new breed of Conservatives.

A face of the confident 1980s, David Amess served in Parliament long past that decade, never being appointed to ministerial office, being too much the backbencher, principled, keeping governments in line and speaking as a Member of Parliament should but as few do. He drew praise from all who knew him, frustration from his opponents, and worked hard, very hard, for all the causes, local and national, he turned his hand to.

That he should be struck down like this, in the course of his service, is too unspeakable. Ours is not  land where this can happen – but the wounds from the murder of Jo Cox six years ago are still raw, and Stephen Timms still bears the scars of an attempted murder that echoes yesterday’s. These murders and that attack were an attack upon democracy, utterly alien to all our nation has stood for. Since the creation of the United Kingdom, only nine MPs have been murdered in office: one yesterday, for motives we can guess, one five years ago by a nationalist, one two hundred years before by a mad bankrupt, and six by Irish nationalists. It is rare, very rare, and still too common.

Perhaps there is no way to predict when a solipsistic mania will seize a man and drive him to murder. One thing is certain – if it ever happens again, it must never cease to be less than utter outrage.

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Lashings of a wounded tiger

Hark, hark the dogs do bark; the beggars are coming to town –
Some on commissions and some with petitions,
And all with an earnest frown

Clearing out the Augean stables of Whitehall is no mean task, so embedded are those who foul them. Eleven years of Conservative government, and nothing visible has been done about it, until recently. There must be a change, because the beggars are fighting back.

Until Boris came along, it was understood that the head of Harriet Harman’s Equality and Human Rights Commission would be a self-selected social justice warrior with the unique take on equality and rights that the left have, but no – it now has a level-headed chairman who actual believes in the brief, about equal treatment, and respecting diversity, not suppressing it.

Other posts too have started to fill with either conservatives or politically neutral nominees with brains and determination to do their jobs for the benefit of all, not to push specious philosophies, and not with non-entities who will fold before threats from social justice warriors in their teams. No wonder the embedded lefties are furious. No wonder they are working hard to reshape the landscape while they can.

Yesterday, the Home Office cancelled a series of training seminars run by a notorious race-hustler who has personally insulted the Home Secretary and belittled her family’s race. Naturally, she had been hired to talk about racial equality in the workplace. It is a bit like hiring Al Capone as an expert in avoiding police corruption. This cancellation was only after the lecture series was exposed by the eminent blogger Guido Fawkes – otherwise we have every reason the think it would have gone ahead, along with many others from worse hustlers than this one. The cancellation is a start, but how many more such seminars are still on the calendar.

I have met enough civil servants to have some sympathy with their position. They know that they do not understand all the things that are put in their hands and they need external expertise. Sharks are circling as they reach out. If you advertise ‘We need to borrow some cash’, it is not Barclays who will knock first but Micky ‘The Razor’ Fraser.

Who then is hiring people like Afula Hirsch in spite of her appalling reputation? It might be a junior clerk with Google as his expert. It might be a determined, embedded wokeist seeing an opportunity. They might just submit the name with an innocent face, or threaten accusations in the familiar way. Threats of denunciation should be regarded as bullying; a sackable offence.

The tide of wokery is intensifying, not because it is on a roll but because its position is under threat. The Spanish Inquisition was started not when Rome had a secure monopoly on ideas, but when it was threatened.

We must expect therefore a greater push for Critical Race Theory and Gender Awareness propaganda for years, and if it is not met with a forceful pushback, it will seize the narrative, and the appointments process. Minsters are in charge of every aspect of their departments, and must make their authority felt.

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What do we make of Boris now?

A conference speech is just a PR exercise, a rally-rouser, but it signals something of an approach, perhaps, even if it just shows how the speaker perceived what the grass-roots members of the party want to hear as their priorities.

Boris is a stand-up comedian – the only one to reach such high office since Disraeli- and he can speak.  It was another virtuoso stream-of-consciousness performance with jokes, roasting of colleagues’ foibles, plenty of classical references and populist touches, woven seamlessly around disparate themes.  The paean to the NHS makes the teeth grind a bit, but it is the religion of the people so it has to be said, just as the candidates in the Roman Forum threw in praise for Jupiter and whoever was the favourite goddess of the day. This has been a very medical two years.

The theme of opportunity is a key Conservative theme, and sound money – though reconciling sound money and elimination of debt  with the big spending he also announced is a head-scratcher to be sure. he hinted that tax revenues are going to be bigger – but shall we see tax cuts, a month after a manifesto-breaking tax rise?  It sounds unlikely, yet, but that is what the grass roots and the Old Red Wall want to see.

Yes, the levelling up is good, and long overdue, but there has been a Conservative PM in office for eleven years and progress has been invisible. Admittedly Michael Gove was not put on the case before.  Yes, he railed with force against left-wing wokery, but that rubbish is being spewed out of Whitehall with ever greater intensity: even the Army this week were handed a leaflet telling soldiers about preferred pronouns and multitudinous genders – is the Government not in charge?

It was a good speech, full of triumph, patriotism and hope. It will sour though without action. Action is possible and imperative. Let us see what the months ahead bring.

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Berlin

Berlin is a beautiful city and much of it is very new, but it looks old:  it is long-established and aged but with the paint still wet.

The first time I visited was not long after the Wall fell, and where the Wall  and the Death Strip had, there been was a gash through the city, increasingly filled with bulldozers as a sign of the future, but the East was still a separate city.  I could hardly recognise the place less than thirty years afterwards, and it has changed even more since.  The old East Berlin was a wreck of poorly built and neglected buildings, and the place where the wall had been was a wasteland,  One of the old hubs of the Imperial city, Potsdamer Platz, was a desert.  Now, all trace has gone, or almost all; the city surges back and forth across the old divide that is not there.  Under den Linden is once again a Belle Epoch street  as it was in Imperial days, of commerce and diplomacy, and Potsdamer Platz is a new-old hub of the commercial, social city.  Some sections of the wall stand there as a monument, and the platform on which Kennedy and Reagan spoke, but they are out of place, leaving what went before unimaginable.

One part of the city is silent: the new ‘Bundesdorf’ around the Reichstag and the Kanzlerei. Tourists and activists bumble around and wave banners in the midst of the day – I saw Peruvian pan-pipes with an Inca nationalist flag, and some group promoting a mystic conspiracy theory and all sorts I could hardly describe, but all in a narrow space by the Brandenburg Gate, where the cameras are.   In the wide, modern park between the Reichstag all was quiet (apart from a small band of Alt-Jugend types once with a Prussian state flag: had they flown a Nazi flag they would have been arrested), in the beating heart of one of Europe’s biggest cities, between the main station and the axis thoroughfare. There was no traffic, but then it is tucked beside the river and there is only a pedestrian bridge. It is still eerie in the silence though. It would be unimaginable in a natural city.

The Reichstag is stately and magnificent, even with the Norman Foster additions (which were toned down at the insistence of the German government commission).  The Imperial building is no more than a shell and all inside and on top is Foster’s work: after the Reichstag Fire in 1933 little was left, and such as survived the fire was mauled by British bombs, and such as survived that was destroyed by the Soviets. The four towers at each corner stand for the four kingdoms within the German Empire: Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg, and carving run like tapestry down the surfaces in honour of the Princes of Germany now united.

From those towers fly huge flags – the German flag of black-red-gold, and the blue European flag.

That is the oddest thing to British eyes: at the very heart of the German state, the European Union flag being flown, and it is flow over the Kanzlerei, the Chancellor’s office / residence also.  Looking into the very chamber of the Bundestag, the European ring of stars is given equal status with the German national flag.  Even before Brexit that would have been unthinkable in London.

Politics in Germany is not normal, by Anglosphere standards, and that may be a good thing as we have seen what happens to German culture when left to its own devices. The pathology behind for the ways of Germany’s politicians may be another article. Now, they face each day afresh. As I write, political parties with little in common are trying to thrash out a coalition of impossible contradictions to form some sort of government and issue the commands that the Bundestag will rubber-stamp over the next few years, and they consider this normal. It is not Weimar though, thank goodness, and life will go on.

The Bundesdorf is a silent quarter still, beside a vibrant, noisy city. Berlin was created as a capital city, built in a swamp for a Mediaeval frontier Margrave; it grew great as a city for a King with a fresh crown, and grew as his Prussia grew. It exists for rulers and is shaped by them; it was shattered  into burnt ruins because of a twisted ruler and has been rebuilt from ruins  because it has to be a capital but its life is beyond that cloistered set.

The miraculous rebirth of the city is in part thanks to the politicians, but largely because their intervention was to lift restrictions and taxes. Unbound, developers could build, and they did, sweeping away the ruins of the past and creating a new-old city. Shining office buildings and apartment blocks have appeared as if overnight, because there is profit in providing the best.  I also spotted in corners though shipping-container homes stacked high, possibly temporary – I hope so. All the glass and still speaks of hope and enterprise, allowed to run free over a city.

At the same time, the past is being restored: the old Hotel Adlon inside the Brandenburg Gate was recreated from nothing, and the Stadtschloss, the Kings’ town palace, has been too, the latter with the generous if unwilling contributions from taxpayers all over Germany. (The Crown Prince is not to be allowed to live their though: it is a museum; he has to slum it in Potsdam.) It looks as if Berliners are puzzled about whether to look at the past or the future and are getting the best of both. The Stadtschloss is new-built as a centuries-old building.

Breathless change has its blow-backs.  The voters of the city have voted by over 50% to expropriate private corporate landlords and hand their property to a faceless bureaucracy. That is foolishness. They experiment with rent-controls too, which we all know are the best way to destroy a city short of bombing, but Berlin knows all about that.

This regeneration by free enterprise has made a broken city flourish It is a lesson to the world.

Other cities in Germany have grown big and prosperous, but they are not the same, having different roots. The federal system imposed on Germany after the War was meant to spread power all over the country and allow local towns to stand on their own, and they do well but Berlin is unique.

Memo from the Minister

“This instruction applies to all staff of the Department and of all agencies and boards under its purview, both to civil servants and contacted staff. Any breach will be a serious disciplinary matter.”

A culture war has begun, to dig in and assert established positions in each Ministry before the new minister has sat down.

A Minister is responsible for everything which happens in his or her department: he or she is not just a figurehead to give a general steer, but executive commander of all the Department’s actions, with a duty to direct the minutiae.

Therefore when staff in the department start urging their colleagues to embrace dangerous pseudoscientific ideas like Critical Race Theory, it is as if the Minister himself has commanded it. That, it is reported, happened in the Ministry of Justice this week, pre-empting the arrival of the new Minister. It is happening all over. Though the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ are embedded everywhere, they can be dislodged.  Each Secretary of State should issue a firm order to all staff, and I suggest:

This Department operates on the basis of equality in diversity. In public actions there must be no discrimination on the basis of irrelevant factors, not those in the Equality Act nor on the basis of political and social opinions, or personal priorities: we treat every British citizen as an individual, not as a passive representative of a nominal group.

Equal treatment also applies to internal staffing, with the proviso that an individual must be able properly to perform his or her tasks in accordance with instructions: their personal opinions must not interfere.

The Department rejects racial theories and also ‘critical race theory’, ‘intersectionality’, ‘social conflict theory’ and all other doctrines which posit a social conflict between nominal groups or a privilege attaching to any racial, cultural or social group. Staff may individually hold and express these opinions privately, but must not express them as if from the Department or government, nor promote such doctrines as if from the Department or government.

No person shall be disadvantaged in terms of promotion or placement by reason of their rejection of the doctrines the Department rejects, nor be disadvantaged for expressing matters in modes of speech their colleagues dislike.

An attempt to have a member of staff dismissed or disciplined for such petty reasons is itself a form of bullying and will be treated as such.

Because every email from a Departmental email address and every internal memorandum may be considered by the recipient as one from the Department corporately, care must be taken with every email. No member of staff may send any email or memorandum suggesting acceptance of a social conflict doctrine unless it is explicitly expressed as being the sender’s personal opinion.

Diversity of approach is important for the Department’s work and so, beyond what is set out above, so we should try to ensure the staffing of groups with ‘neurological diversity’, with diversity of opinion and of priorities amongst staff, and to counter the natural tendency to staff our teams with those who think like us.

All training courses and material based on a rejected doctrine shall be cancelled forthwith and no others held, and no one may circulate from a Departmental email address an invitation to such a course or to view such material.

We will not subscribe to nor fund any external scheme which implies that the Department subscribes to any  set of political, social or philosophical beliefs, whatever they are.

Any breach of these rules will be a serious disciplinary matter.

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