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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Books

Righting the rights

We have been promised a reform of the Human Rights Act for the last eleven years. It has been in Conservative Manifestos – now it is in a conference speech, will it actually be done?

Most interestingly is the timing:  the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is Dominic Raab, a lawyer who has written two books on the need for reform of the area. Now his text may start to find its way towards the statute book.

There are two particular problem with the Human Rights Act: one in the legal realm and one deeply political.  I will look at the legal one: the deep political danger is for another time.

Each of the rights set out in the Convention européenne des droits de l’homme is one which is respected by British common law, so one would think there should be no issue with any of it. The common question from supporters of the Act is a sensible one: ‘which of those rights would you forego’?

The answer?  Not one; but that is not the problem. The Convention rights are in briefest summary, the right to life; freedom from torture or servitude; liberty and security; fair trials; against retroactive laws; privacy; freedom of conscience and religion; free expression; free association; marriage between a man and a woman; the right to an effective remedy etc.

No Conservative would argue with these. One would argue though with the activist interpretation which has been put on some, going far beyond the words, and some interpretations which plainly disregard the words. A second element is the way that it disfigures the culture of law enforcement.

I will leave it to petty editorials in the Daily Mail to list examples of the Act going wrong. It is meant to defend the noble oppressed struggling for liberty; in a land which has freedom as the default setting, it is a remedy of last resort of the scoundrel. The events editorialised to draw the reader’s outrage may be nothing to do with the words of the convention nor the way it has been interpreted judicially, but the way the police or public servants defer to what it might be – an armed criminal with hostages demanding food as a human right and other such things, and the police complying in fear though there is no need.

However, there are genuinely outrageous judicial decisions, arising from the judges of the Convention’s own court, in Straßburg. Their fault is the decision, since 1978, that the Convention is a ‘living instrument’, not meaning what it actually said as intended in 1950, but meaning whatever the judges want it to mean according to the spirit of the times, or their idea of what the spirit of the times should be.

The Convention so read is a jelly. To call it any form of law is to insult the very concept of law. To set British judges to determine such an insubstantial mass  is an insult to their vocation: European judges may have different standards.

If the Convention is a ‘living instrument’ it is not law, and its administrators are no judges.

There is a long history of discontent with the European Court of Human Rights. In the 1970s and 1980s the Strasbourg court handed out a string of judgments against Britain that seemed political; mainly judgments condemning actions taken against IRA terrorists. (Such judgments could only be made in an ivory tower, not by those who had seen their towns shattered by a bombing campaign, not by who wake in sweat in the early hours waiting for a knock and a gunshot.) More recently the discontent is in more personal matters. Wild judgments are , such as the one of a few years ago demanding that prisoners have an equal vote with honest men, is nowhere in the relevant Protocol to the Convention, but is determined by judicial sleight of hand. Other judgments look to force liberal preconceptions by a ratchet effect.

As improper are the cases that clear permit states to trample on freedom by allowing the action under the heading that it may be “necessary in a democratic society”. That is a phrase that can drive  a coach and four through any right with that proviso. Enactments to silence dissent as ‘hate speech’ are becoming commonplace in Europe. In America such a law would be struck down at once by their Supreme Court, but in Straßburg it is more likely to be lauded as a necessity.

How long the European Court of Human Rights will continue as a liberal stronghold is hard to tell, as more conservative-minded judges are being appointed in Eastern Europe. The norms of Austria, Hungary and Poland are not those of Belgium or France.

If there is a pretence that the Court is a court and that the Convention is to be treated there as law, the political bent of the judges should be irrelevant. It is relevant though, for the Convention is like no law the British tradition could understand.

Reform then on these shores need not tackle the wording of the enumerated rights in the Convention itself as written in 1950, or its Protocols 9to the extent they are accepted. It would nail the jelly to the table, and read the rights as they are written.

In Dominic Raab’s book “The Assault on Liberty“, he makes the case for a ‘British Bill of Rights’ that actually resembles law. The timing of the book is important: it was written when he sat in Opposition, in the Blair period.  It was not a demand for Parliament and Whitehall to be loosened from constraint, but a plea to impose more, better restraint upon the overuse of power.  It was Mr Blair who pushed the Human Rights Act though Parliament and he declared himself thus a champion of liberty, but his ministry saw the greatest abridgment of personal freedom since, well, since the previous Labour government. Mr Raab’s called for liberty; and now he is in charge.

Reform is possible, but the Convention on its own may be impossible to save.  Read straight as it was written is a necessary start: even read straight though the Convention is wobbly: that phrase “necessary in a democratic society” is incapable of definition except politically.

Rights restraining subsidiary legislation can be written in. The tendency since Blair’s time is for freedom to be curtailed and government power ever increased under the fig-leaf of the Act (which is a separate article).  A restraint on delegated power is therefore needed. This may be Mr Raab’s ‘British Bill of Rights’, and it would be enforceable with judicial review.

The fuzzy political boundary is still there though and judges should not be pushed into those areas in which politicians must be made to accept responsibility.  There may be a case therefore to tear the judicial element out. We would not have a British version of the Strasbourg court, but perhaps a quasi-judicial figure as a “Superintendent of Conventional Rights”, able to opine, to report and to chide.

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Books

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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Books

Let them sing

The Police are on the hunt for a dangerous gang, whose crime is – singing a traditional song.

The press have been reticent about naming the song in question but fans were Rangers supporters and it was the ‘Go Home Song’ otherwise called ‘the Famine Song’; a ditty which has for some years had the police and courts all of a flutter. The tune alone when played has caused apoplexy although it is a very popular song in the Bahamas (‘the John B Sails’).

The Famine Song can be hard-hitting, so I am not going to quote it all here, but it is not half as bad as songs belted out in stadiums elsewhere in the land (if you are of a sensitive disposition, do not listen to what is sung at Norwich City supporters, or between East End teams). Rangers’ song is a deliberate wind-up song aimed at Celtic.  The High Court itself in an appeal from the sheriff ruled upon singers of the song, condemning them for a public order offence.

Perhaps they should have considered more deeply than the faux outrage of insulted Celtic fans. After all, a court of law must recognise that Athenry Mike was indeed a thief.  Whether Large John was in fact fully briefed is an ongoing controversy, but that is another story. While that wee traitor from Castlemilk did turn his back on his own, going to play for Ireland instead of Scotland, it is only ‘traitorous’ in football terms, not legally, but we’re singing about football. The killer, for the court was not the verses about Glasgow Celtic’s great scandal and the misdeeds of the Irish Free State; it is the chorus lines, ending “Why don’t you go home?” Apparently that is an existential threat to all persons of Irish ancestry in Scotland.

A bit of background may be needed.

The man who wrote the song is no hot sectarian- he is an Ulsterman, born in a robust city, Belfast, and who grew up with good pals in both communities. He saw the sectarian divide yawning and growing in Ulster: to see it replicated in Glasgow was distressing. In fact there has been a divide in Glasgow since the ships landed in a fiercely Protestant city and disgorged thousands of left-footed Irishmen, but as it should have calmed down in the later end of the twentieth century, it was growing worse, as an echo of Ulster’s troubles.  The song-writer has explained the circumstances leading to his writing it. It was a kick-back response to the sectarians on the other side.

Trying to be more Irish than the Irish is a fault of many living this side of the sea looking back at a mythical past. (I try not to, but the Irish name was lost a couple of generations back so it does not leap out of the page.) The songs sung by Glasgow Celtic supporters were not, are not, direct attack songs, but sentimental songs of Irish nationalism, like the Fields of Athenry alluded to in the Rangers song. Really, the song condemned by the High Court in Rangers supporters’ mouths is not “the famine sing” as if it were the only one – Irish voices and would-be-Irish voices have many songs romanticising the potato famine and blaming all things British for it – that sounds like an attack upon the good citizens of Glasgow to me.

The “go home song” then is a response to the actual famine songs: it says “How much more ungrateful could you be for what your city did for your ancestors?” It does not delight in the dark chapters of modern history, but raises them to burst the bubble of sickly romanticism.

Rage at perceived injustice takes on an irrationality beyond the facts raged against; something we see in many social conflicts of politics, culture, religion or whatever, and reason will not calm the waters but only raise the tumult. I can write my take on the thing, and others will disagree, virulently. They are entitled to, and I can debate or seek nuances and find the common ground or each person’s ideas and unique emphases, because that is how a free and respectful society must work – not with cancellations and bans. You are free to be outraged too, and free to be outrageous.

Therefore, in the name of freedom, let them sing what they like and to mean the words how they like.

As to the line which so shocked Lord Carloway and even UNICEF, I see that as a challenge to the ‘Plastic Paddies’, those who are Glaswegian through and through and still pretend, on the terraces, to be Irishmen: ‘Why don’t you go home?’ has an answer: ‘because you are not Irishmen – you are Glaswegian – and this is your home.’

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Resisting neo-feudalism

Convulsion in the normality of society is a continuous process and only future generations will know whether the changes of today will be revolutionary or are just another bump on the road.

I am not convinced that the West is being taken over irrevocably by a new techno-elite, although I would accept that it may look like it. The next decades may be characterised by this dominance of the unwanted elite. There is a fascinating book out by Joel Kotkin which suggests that the West is becoming a neo-feudal society controlled as in the Middle Ages by an elite which defends its exclusive hold on power.

It does look as if the convulsions of the power structures in Western society are moving in the way Kotkin describes as tending to a new, neo-feudal settlement. It has been observed by reviewers darkly that while the grand lords in the Middle Ages accepted that society required the acceptance of mutual obligations between themselves and the peasantry, the modern technocrats do not accept the burden of obligations: they have no need to, as long as power is secured.

All this is too dark a picture though, too close to conspiracy narratives, and while that is not what the author alleges nor intends, it should ring warning bells, as should the generalisation inherent in describing a  social trend in general terms.

Nevertheless, we are living through changes. Technology forces a social change, and those who know how to use the levers of power that appear will look to secure their own power. That is not modern; the seizing of personal power starts with Adam and Eve disobeying and opening their eyes, and runs in a consistent thread throughout humanity.

Some commentaries will look at formal systems of government, some at the power structures operating beneath and in spite of the formal ones, but most of everyday life operates outside government, at least in a free country.

A free country increasingly means ‘an English-speaking country’: that Anglosphere freedom has allowed enterprise to thrive and find new forms from which the whole world has benefited. At the same time, free enterprise without restraint from jealous government has allowed power to accumulate in those enterprises. The power of businesses which are not responsible to the electorate has been the subject of much anguish amongst commentators, but the darker warnings strike a false note.

If you want to see the new technology used for real political oppression, look at China. The government controls technology and enforces dependency upon it amongst the urban population (the only ones who matter), and if no one can receive or make a payment without going through a single, government-controlled payment system, then dissent means starvation. Combined with universal surveillance, it is a tyrant’s perfect system. This works not only within the Middle Kingdom but amongst students and workers abroad, dependent on the same payment and social media systems.

Compared with this, fears about the power of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are petty.

Even so, corporate monopoly power is important and is a threat in the West. Books are not banned, but with just a few providers they can be delisted, and they are, for openly political reasons. Speech online is censored at the instance of activists intimidating platform providers and infiltrating their staff: all this has been too often discussed to need repetition.

This would not be an issue without technology-dependence: twenty years ago, few would bat an eyelid at someone being banned from an on-line forum, because they were the preserve of a few geeks . Really they should be still – the online world is not the real world.  It only gets serious when the online world is needed to access the real world, and those access points are limited.

A neo-feudal society would require permanent, exclusive control of  power and information. Activists do seek that, in the social, commercial and political realms, but unless they can achieve a monopoly, such a system cannot endure. The Roman Church was brought low by the printing press.

Many foreign nations may be damned in this respect: they do not have the millennium-old innate understanding of individual freedom that the English-speaking peoples do and if their language is spoken only in one country then technology and publication in that language can be controlled by one government and social structure. The Chinese are compelled to follow resources in Chinese, which are controlled. The same could be done for small national languages. Technology is written in English and translated into foreign tongues, which produces a choke-point.

English though is spoken throughout the world, in cultures which take government to be an add-on necessity, not a centre for direction. If one government clamps down, the words can be spoke in another country, the book published and read abroad, the opinion expressed; the monopoly-breaking enterprise can be launched elsewhere. When American politics was censored by Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Dorsey, new channels appeared. There is a free-market. It is not even hard to break in: Mark Zuckerberg began his world-dominating resource in a college room. If the near-monopoly providers try to regulate how we behave or speak, and what books we buy, they will not remain near-monopolies: the force of the market must liberalise them in the end.

Therefore there is good reason to think that although the new feudalism is a real trend, pushed fervently by some, they cannot prevail for long.

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Books