THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

What have we learned from coronavirus?

I have not blogged about Coronavirus. Why? Because I have no relevant scientific knowledge or skill and this is a scientific problem, right? Everyone says so. Epidemiology is certainly not my subject and humility (not always my strong suit, to be honest) is definitely in order. So I have been all ears and no mouth. Thank goodness there are people who don't find epidemiology as boring as I do. I doubt I'd enjoy their company, to be honest, but right now I am ready and willing to love them. 

From the outset, I worried that the governments of the world were caught up in a kind of mass hysteria. Leaving aside the totalitarian states (including the one whose vicious incompetence has probably given the world this learning opportunity) the response of the world's democracies has been fascinating. Firstly, our leaders played it down. It was just another flu. Then they realised they faced something that might kill voters on a scale comparable to Spanish flu, leaving grieving relatives disinclined to vote for them again. They acted on scientific advice to implement some sensible control measures. So far, so reasonable.

Then the press asked (as is its job) if the measures were enough. Discussion about how far the measures should go became a pissing contest and hysteria mounted. Opposition parties everywhere suggested they would (of course) do more and better. Popular pressure built until the current draconian measures were implemented. Even libertarians like me can't just blame the vicious statists here – our fellow-citizens cried out to be roughly dominated like the submissives they apparently are.

Governments anxious to be seen to "do something" (the curse of democratic politicians everywhere) made grand dramatic gestures – building hospitals in days that would normally have taken years. To hell with whether they were needed or not (the much bruited London Nightingale reportedly has just 19 patients) Look! We are doing stuff. Stuff you could never do yourselves!! The State and its hordes are heroes.

Now we face the risk of the worst economic crisis in centuries. Even citizens of those countries whose leaders did not stampede with the global panicked herd of brute beasts (h/t Sweden, Iceland and Portugal) will be badly affected by what is happening now. Those of us retired and living on our investments face ruin. Those earning a living by selling their labour face it too.

I have read what I can on the subject, noted the conflicting opinions, been amused by the fact that they are coloured by personal animosities between the scientists, and tweeted links to those writings on the subject that made sense to me. So what have I learned? Not much science, to be honest. Just that the laws of economics – a science every bit as imperfect as epidemiology – don't go away and nor do political divisions.

Even that learning is doubtful, affected as it no doubt is by my confirmation bias. The internet is awash with people (at times including me) using the greatest information resource in human history to prospect for nuggets of information that "prove" their opinions to be true. I try to be alert to that bias, but I must acknowledge that it exists. It draws my eye to every example of entrepreneurs developing solutions to the threat of the virus and every state agent behaving like a thug. The confirmation biases of Leftists, on the other hand, draw their eyes to noble agents of the heroic state solving problems and grasping capitalists profiting from tragedy.

Human knowledge in science advances, it seems, along as crazy a zigzag path as in other fields. Every new fact is seized upon to confirm views that are hard to shift. Extremely powerful forces are required to change human minds. The mind of Professor Neil Ferguson, for example, does not appear to have been much changed by his own scientific failures. In 2005 The Guardian ran this story;

Last month Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, told Guardian Unlimited that up to 200 million people could be killed. "Around 40 million people died in 1918 Spanish flu outbreak," said Prof Ferguson. "There are six times more people on the planet now so you could scale it up to around 200 million people probably."

Actually fewer than 500 people worldwide died. Amazingly the experience of being so bone-crushingly wrong does not seem to have impacted Professor Ferguson's self-esteem at all. There is something admirable in that. Being wrong once, doesn't mean you always will be any more than winning one bet guarantees you'll win the next. That it hasn't disinclined HM Government to take his prophecies of doom with a pinch of salt however, is not admirable at all.

What have have learned is that, as Bastiat told us long ago, problems arise when people prioritise the seen over the unseen. Professor Ferguson and his clients in government are not setting out to hurt anyone. I accept their sincere attempt to try to save lives. Their extreme focus on one seen epidemiological issue however may well cost more lives than they save when all the unseen issues they are ignoring emerge. As a commenter on this article at the Ludwig von Mises Centre's site said;

“If we want to stop traffic fatalities, we could ban cars. That’s a solution that would ‘work’. But it only ‘works’ if our sole benchmark is the number of traffic fatalities. What about liberty, moral agency and economic rights?”

Exactly. Stay safe, gentle readers, as no doubt everyone is advising you, but also stay calm. This too will pass and when one day we are looking back at it, I predict only that it will prove to have been a very different story than it seems at present. In the meantime, I commend you to this blog for a different perspective.


The truth about the Shrewsbury 24

Private Eye reports that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will send the case of the 1970s “flying pickets” back to the Court of Appeal. Six of these violent thugs, including the actor (and former member of the neo-Nazi National Front) Ricky Tomlinson, who intimidated construction workers into voting for a strike they had previously rejected were convicted in the nearest Crown Court to where I grew up and rightfully imprisoned. There were many more than six and the only injustice in the case is that they were not all imprisoned — and for longer. 

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It is one of many lies accepted as fact in Britain’s leftist academia that the Shrewsbury pickets are innocent victims of Tory injustice. They are not. They were found guilty after due process of law by a jury of their peers. They had legal representation and every opportunity to defend themselves. Politics didn’t come into it but for the record this happened under a Labour government.

Justice was done. How can I be so sure? I was there. I blogged about it further here.

This strike, the most violent in British history before the miners’ strike led by Tomlinson’s friend Arthur Scargill, changed my life. I was a teenage Maoist — an advocate of violent revolution to establish a totalitarian Stalinist state. Like many young intellectuals (and a disturbing number of older ones) I craved the certainty of H.L. Mencken’s sarcastic observation that;

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

After my encounter with Tomlinson’s thugs, I told my Maoist mentor and school friend (still a friend and still a Maoist) about it. I expressed my disgust at the violent intimidation of my friends on the building site but he told me I was wrong.

Your friends are from the lumpen proletariat. The pickets were of the proletariat — the organised working class. What you saw was the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was Marxist, it was right and you should have been proud to be there.

It’s to my shame that I was ever mug enough to fall for communist ideas. I take comfort that, confronted with the violence I was stupidly advocating, there was something in me that was repelled. I asked the local librarian who had been dishing out Marxist books to me for something from the other point of view. My journey to becoming firstly chairman of my university’s Conservative Association and later a classical liberal/libertarian and a follower of the Austrian School of Economics began. 

Private Eye is supposed to be a satirical publication but its naive acceptance of the Left’s agitprop speaks volumes as to how far it has fallen. The campaigners probably know the pickets were guilty as charged, but don’t care. Their violence was class violence, it was good violence, it was “struggle” against the bosses’ class. Violence is only wrong to them when it’s directed against them.

They are well-organised and relentless in their lies. Tomlinson is rich from his later show business career. The working men they intimidated won’t want to waste their retirement or jeopardise their financial security by opposing them. I fear we shall live to see Tomlinson and his cohorts rewarded for their violence with hard-earned taxpayers’ money.


Life in the time of Corona

My conventional-thinking, main-stream media reliant friends sneer at the blogosphere; dismissing it all as "fake news". Yet at present they are furiously emailing, Facebooking, Whatsapping and Tweeting coronavirus disinformation by the shedload. Clicking on and deleting all this "fake news" from them affords me some amusement in a dark time. I do worry about the effect on the nation's morale however.

Humans didn't survive to become this planet's dominant species for lack of risk-aversion. We take in our stride the risks we are used to (e.g. driving) without worrying about the death rate but our instinctive response to novel risks is to over-react. Ex abundenti cautela, as lawyers like to say when lawyering an issue to death at great expense. 

What scientific knowledge I have is – at best – that of a dilettante. It was gleaned from the basics I learned at school before dropping every science I could at the first opportunity. That has been supplemented by casual reading of science articles in generalist newspapers and magazines. Quite a lot of it came from my boyhood reading of super hero and sci-fi comics, so I can tell you more about the properties of Kryptonite than of any virus. So, unlike my friends on social media, I shall not be commenting on the medical risk. I have nothing to add and anything I do say will change nothing, so mum's the word.  Actually, those theorising without data or expertise would do better (if they're lucky enough still to have her) to use that time to call their mum.

The only observations I have in the context of the present pandemic are to do with economics and political history.

Most economics errors (like the "broken window fallacy" first explained by Frederic Bastiat) stem from prioritising a seen effect over the unseen ones. In an emergency like the present one, governments – eager to be seen to "do something" – are likely to act forcefully on the seen economic effects of the crisis, while ignoring the unseen. Keeping their heads while all around are losing theirs and blaming it on them is hard for politicians at the best of times. Tending to narcissism or sociopathy anyway, they have less difficulty than the rest of us in seeing themselves as saviours. 

There is danger here. This article by Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute explains the danger well and I commend it to you.

Classical Liberals and the dryer kinds of Conservative feel threatened in such crises because we seem to lack the bold answers offered by authoritarian statists. Even Britain's classically-liberal Prime Minister, who is otherwise acquitting himself quite well in the circumstances, has promised state intervention on a scale and at a cost that might give Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders pause for thought. I predict that ten years from now it will be clear in retrospect that government actions to "save" the economy did more harm than good – even without taking into account the way such measures are bound to be gamed. Were I still practising law, I would be strategically positioning my clients under every tap of government aid that is about to be turned on. The lawyers, accountants and lobbyists of the big corporations will be doing just that.

As to political history, it teaches us that authoritarians love the opportunities presented by a crisis. I scoff at the conspiracy theories poisoning minds on the internet. No government (not even the monstrous Chinese regime) would cause such a pandemic on purpose, but all of them will seize the opportunity it presents to expand their power. Income Tax in Britain was introduced as an emergency measure to fund the Napoleonic War. Napoleon is no longer a threat, but still the tax bills keep on coming.

Any emergency measure should expire. If it doesn't, it's a fraud. Emergency laws (actually, I would argue all statute laws) should have "sunset clauses" so they expire unless specifically renewed. Parliamentary scrutiny is essential and any reader who has the ear of his or her MP should press these points home. As for the rest of us, let's just listen to the credible advice on offer, take what precautions we can and be kind to each other – especially the elderly and other vulnerable people who are most at risk. I hope all my gentle readers will come out of this pandemic unscathed. Here's wishing us all luck.


The Last Ditch Blogiversary

The Last Ditch (Archives): The opening shot.

Fifteen years ago today I uploaded the first post to this blog. The link above will take you to it. Almost no-one read it then and you may well think they were wise! I had fewer than 25 hits and remember being rather miffed. In truth, I completely missed the point of "social media"at that stage. Just as many MSM journalists still do, I made the mistake of thinking a blog was direct competition for them. Months later, a reader gently explained to me that it was far more like a conversation in the pub than a leader column in The Times. He advised me to engage humbly with other sites and to ask questions on my own blog – to join in the conversation rather than just "pontificate" like a golf club bore. 
 
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Fifteen years on, I have written the equivalent of a novel or two on these pages. I have found my modest place in the information eco-system. This is a backwater of the internet's great flow but my circle of online friends means a lot to me. The Last Ditch is all I could reasonably have hoped it to be fifteen years ago (had I understood what I was embarking upon). It is my internet home. 
 
Years ago, the British Library contacted me and asked for permission to archive my posts for the benefit of future historians who won't have letters or diaries to read. They'll have so much other data online, however, that they'll need a lot of AI to sift it! If the worst happens, at least future historians can say there were a few of us warning against the legal, economic and societal wrong steps that were leading our civilisation to potential disaster.
 
I began blogging because I was angry about the assault on liberty in Britain by a Labour government led by a third-rate lawyer who didn't understand the key principles of the Common Law. Specifically the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005 had upset me hugely. The MSM didn't seem to "get it" either and hundreds of editorials positing a false dichotomy between liberty and safety had exasperated me so much that I felt I had to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Over the years, I began to blog about a wider range of subjects, but Liberty is always the theme.
 
It proved great therapy, if nothing else. It made the late Mrs P. a little happier. "You've found someone to share your concerns with other than me and that's great" was her take on it. I have missed her as my proof-reader and editor since she passed on. She was good at deflating a tendency to pomposity that my readers are too gentle to take on.
 
It's odd that, with all the leisure retirement brought 9 years ago, I have posted so little. When I was a Stakhanovite labouring on the front lines of international capitalism, I found time to post every day. Now it's once or twice a month at best. "If you want something done, ask a busy man" they say, and perhaps they have a point.
 
It's not that I care less than I did. I still worry that the Rule of Law, habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence (the "Golden Thread that runs through English Law" as Rumpole said at every fictitious opportunity) are little understood by the narcissistic, rent-seeking wretches inevitably drawn to power. I simply know that, at 63 years old (as I shall be next week) the responsibility has passed to the next generation. At best I can offer the odd word of advice, but if they take our society to constitutional and economic Hell, it's now their shout.
 
I worry, but I certainly don't despair. The next generations are no more a single unit than mine was. For every mouthy "woke" person there are 99 or more hard-working youngsters taking care of business and looking after themselves, the people they love and their communities. One of my daughter's school-friends has dedicated her working life to free market think tanks, for example. She's young but she's already done more to educate people about free market principles that I – who have lived my entire life by them – have ever done. The Misses Paine themselves, educated to the gills at the greatest single expense of my life – are contributing to the economy. Their generation certainly has a lot of leftists and identarian idiots in it, but so did ours. The number of idiots amongst them will wane as their lives progress. I was a young Maoist before I became first Chairman of my University Conservatives and then a Classical Liberal. I was a Welsh Nationalist before I came to despise people who attack others because of their prehistoric ancestry. I have been all kinds of idiot in my youth and have no locus standi to judge youthful fools now. I believe in the human spirit and its essential aspiration to be free, even if it doesn't always immediately understand the best path to that freedom.
 
The more young people have to conserve (not just economically but in their key social relationships) the more conservative they tend to become. Even the Leftest of the Left (e.g. Diane Abbott) make conservative choices about their own children's' education. We can view that cynically, or (as I prefer to do) we can smile at how the market works – not by force but by the gentle persuasion of Smith's "invisible hand". In the end, wisdom is at least partly the ability to reconcile our past idiocies, errors and hypocrisies with the reality of our lives.
 
Thank you to all of you, my gentle readers, in the past decade and a half. You have educated, inspired and encouraged me far more than I have been able to do for you. I am fond of you all (even my pet hostile who seems to have deserted me lately). Today, I have repeated my original error by pontificating rather than conversing. Despite that, please feel free to share in the comments what blogging, tweeting etc. has meant to you. 

Book Review: “How to survive the most critical five seconds of your life”, by Tim Larkin and Chris Ranck-Buhr

The late Mrs P was a rational pessimist. She used to say;

”Pessimists like me live a life full of pleasant surprises. Optimists like you live a life of unpleasant ones”

As I blundered around places in Eastern Europe whose dangers I didn’t even trouble to evaluate, she used to tell me off about it. I’m a big guy - 2 metres tall and 140kg - and though I’m gentle by nature and have no fighting experience it was always a fair bet potential predators would choose softer targets. So I never had a problem and used to pour scorn on her loving concerns. She used to say that such thoughtlessness would get me in trouble one day when the predators began to evaluate me as “big, yes, but old and slow.”

I remembered those warnings as I read interviews with dangerous criminals in the last book I reviewed. They took place in places I pass frequently as I wander around London taking photographs and otherwise enjoying my leisurely life — places I never considered dangerous. I also now subscribe to various local news services and to the Metropolitan Police’s OWL messaging service These also tend to give a darker picture than is apparent to my still-optimistic eyes.

In consequence, as I advance into my sixties, I have started to look around me nervously as I make my way home at night. I bought this book in response to that unaccustomed feeling and frankly it’s made things worse.

It encourages the reader to forget all morals, to dispense with any lingering sense of John Wayne-style fair play, and to be prepared to respond ferociously to threats. It encourages the law-abiding to assume that any attacker will be a ruthless sociopath and to act (if there’s no option to escape) with unhesitating and relentless violence. All this, in order to mitigate the criminals’ advantages of surprise, youth, strength and endurance. 

By way of encouragement, the authors assure us that, if we cast off our fears, we all have it in us to act thus. They scorn the study of martial arts and methods of self-defence that are inherently rules-based because the criminals know no rules. They use violence thoughtlessly, naturally and in keeping with humanity’s essential nature. The authors insist we can (if we shed our scruples) do the same. A key advantage of that is the more respectable we are, the less our attackers will expect it.

Consider these words of “encouragement” for example;

“You are a predator born, with stereovision for hunting prey and teeth for ripping and tearing flesh. You are a member of the only species that makes an art of war. The average human body is an awesome engine of destruction, driven by the most dangerous thing in the known universe: a human brain. You are a survival engine, the descendant of winners; your ancestors didn’t get you here by laying down and giving up. They made the losers do that. Violence is your birthright.“

Call me a sissy, but I’d rather believe my “birthright” is (a) the Rule of Law and (b) the protection of the police force here where policing was invented. The authors’ scorn for that rather echoes the long-ago warnings of the late Mrs P.; far gentler soul than them though she was. 

I hate this book or rather in my naivety or high ideals (you decide) I hate that it needed to be written. It forces me to look at a world I don’t want to be real.

In many other countries I could carry a concealed weapon to give me a chance if attacked. In Britain (though the criminals have all the guns they need and more — a young man was shot outside an East London hospital only yesterday) that would make me the criminal.

As for the police, I am more likely to hear from the world’s first police force for having written this incendiary review, than at any time I actually need them. I don’t want to accept the authors’ advice as to how to act in the face of danger but I can’t argue with their assessment that the cops likely won’t be there until it’s far too late. I’ve never seen one in the nine years I’ve lived in London. Apart from at football matches, demonstrations I’ve attended or happened upon, I’ve never seen a Met Officer at all other than in a car passing by.

I accept the bona fides of the average London constable without hesitation but I know in my bones that the Met’s leaders don’t give a damn about the likes of me. Their most likely involvement in my life story would be in offering hypocritical “thoughts and prayers” over my corpse, while telling the press that the incident in which I died was a “one off” and “untypical”. 

I don’t want to think of the pampered body that carries my brain (and camera) about as “a survival engine.” I don’t want to evaluate every passerby as a threat and assess how I would gouge out his eyes with my thumbs if he attacked me. I really don’t. But as I age and London remains more dangerous than New York, the late Mrs P.’s warnings are in my mind’s ear.

Are they true? Are they wise? The optimist in me resists the authors’ answers. Gentle readers, what do you think?


Book review: This is London - life and death in the world city

I have been too delicate (or is it fearful?) to comment much on how different the London to which I returned to live in 2011 was from the one I worked in twenty years earlier. To friends I’ve remarked that the monastic silence I used to enjoy on public transport has been replaced by a bazaar-like Babel. I’ve mentioned that Londoners no longer make way politely for each other in the street or on the Tube. Most remarks I could have made however would have exposed me to allegations of “racism” and those are best avoided in casual conversation. If I’m going to say something dangerous, I prefer to do so in writing that I can take care about and revise!

A remark between friends in a bar that “it doesn’t feel like home anymore” or “it’s not at all like an English city” could get one into hot water — however harmless (and true) such observations might be. So, cyber-warrior for free speech that I would like to think I am, I keep (mostly) shtum. Who needs censorship when we are all self-censoring so assiduously?

This book, by Ben Judah, has no such concerns. It tears into those issues and does so without qualms. It does more than merely put statistics on such observations, though it certainly does that too.

“There is a whole illegal city in London. This is where 70 per cent of Britain’s illegal immigrants are hiding. This is a city of more than 600,000 people, making it larger than Glasgow or Edinburgh. There are more illegals in London than Indians. Almost 40 per cent of them arrived after 2001. Roughly a third are from Africa. This is the hidden city: hidden from the statistics, hidden from the poverty rates, hidden from the hunger rates. They all discount them: a minimum 5 per cent of the population.”

The author, a journalist, takes his readers into the parallel universes that make up modern London; universes that know little of each other and share one major truth — to them my London is a legend and Londoners like me (and the few of our descendants that still live here) are fabulous beasts. They are as likely to know a unicorn as us.

“Between 1971 and 2011 the white British share of London’s population slumped from 86 per cent to 45 per cent. This is the new London: where 17 per cent of the white British have left the city in the first decade of this century.”

He spends time with street people around Hyde Park. He hangs with a Nigerian policeman and a Nigerian teacher. He visits with the pampered wife of a Russian minigarch. He hangs with the drug dealers who serve my part of West London in a market I pass most days. He smarms and lies his way into the company of people who probably shouldn’t open up to him. At times I worried for the safety of his subjects such as the prostitutes talking about their murdered friend. Sure, he changes their names but the details are so specific that their identities are only protected by his assumption that no one connected to them will do something so “old London” as read his book. 

The pace of the change he documents statistically (he’s a recent arrival himself and has no emotional baseline against which to measure it) is phenomenal. The new arrivals have had little chance (even if old Londoners had reached out to help them — and we didn’t) to absorb the local culture or adapt to our customs. Not only do they keep themselves to themselves - they remain in the siloes of their specific identity group.

“There is a whole African city in London. With more than 550,000 people this would be a city the size of Sheffield. And it has grown almost 45 per cent since 2001.”

The cheery slogan of our age is “diversity”. It’s as real as slogans usually are. A black teacher in an East End school observes (having first asked to adjourn to an offsite location where she feels free to speak):

‘They say this is a multicultural school. But it’s not. The school is dominated by Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims, with some blacks, a few whites and EUs coming in. I went to a Muslim school in Nigeria, so I can recognize this.’

Asked if the children she teaches are becoming English, she answers

‘With black children they do. But with Asian children they try not to. The Muslims I don’t think they will ever be English. They don’t want to be at all.’

As the Guardian’s review of the book says (casually smearing Nigel Farage as a racist with its usual disregard for truth or justice)

It’s easy to imagine how Nigel Farage or the Daily Mail might exploit his material.

but someone should be exploiting this material, surely, in order to address the issues it raises? God knows the Guardian never will because these poor exploited people are cleaning its readers’ lavatories and keeping down the costs in their Mayfair restaurants. The native workers who might best be hoped to sympathise with their plight are too despised by Guardian readers these days to be listened to. 

The lost souls living in misery amidst London’s wealth have been drawn here by lies. Not ours but those of people traffickers who hold many of them in near slavery among us; making them pay off at 100% interest the debts incurred to get here while threatening to harm the families back home they came here to help. Or their lies and those of compatriots who came here before them who make up success stories to “protect” their families from the squalid truth.

They dared to come here illegally because of half-truths about our respect for legal rights — portrayed to them as weakness. Yet those rights — pace the Daily Mail — are not the problem. It’s the weakness of the enforcement of our laws that leaves them here in legal limbo.

The book is not well-crafted. A good editor could have made it more pleasurable to read but this is not literature but journalism. It’s the literary equivalent of a visit to Auschwitz — a moral duty from which enlightenment, not pleasure, should be expected. I commend it to you not for your enjoyment but for the benefit of your soul. 


A great weekend

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Brexit Day went off well. I arrived early at the pub on Whitehall to find it crammed. I bought a drink and made like a hawk. Eventually a seat became vacant and I swooped. I held that perch until my friend joined me and it was time for the official party. 

The mood was not triumphalist at all, though it was jolly. My table companions, Deirdre from Wales, Chef Matt from Bristol, the Rev Simon Sideways (resplendent in Union Jack suit, tie and tie pin) and others were more than anything else relieved that our democracy had shakily worked so that things had not turned nasty. Only one Remoaner made an appearance — a cyclist who went by as my friends were smoking outside. He jeered and a Leaver from the North said “come on mate, shake our hands”. He declined, sneering in a German accent, “no, you’re all racists”.  

Rev Simon and his friend had worked security during the European elections for Sargon of Akkad and he told me stories of militant leftists charging them in numbers but stopping, spittle-flecked but impotent, when the two of them (sturdy lads) faced them.

Where I grew up if you start a fight you finish it”, he told me, “but these guys had been lied to. When faced with someone who stood their ground, they had nothing.”  

Revolutionaries with no fight in them are the best kind. I remember foaming Trots at an NUS Conference when I was a student threatening to throw Sir Keith Joseph off a balcony. Sue Slipman, I and others linked arms to protect him but, though they had the numbers to throw us all off, they lacked the testicular fortitude. They were public school poseur revolutionaries to a man — for all their fake Estuary accents — and like Rev Simon’s modern Momentumites, they had nothing. Many modern problems flow from taking such lightweights far too seriously. They are few, loud and ultimately ineffectual. 

The celebrations in Parliament Square were charmingly amateurish. It was the biggest church fête ever. The sound system sucked. The stage was too low and the big screen mostly obscured by flags. We chatted to the people around us and they were lovely. We watched a slideshow about our EU history. We booed every Labour face but Barbara Castle and Tony Benn. We booed every Tory face but Margaret and Boris. We booed every LibDem face without exception. Most of all (and this was interesting) we booed our greatest enemy the BBC. More so even than Guy Verhofstadt (who would like to be our greatest enemy but is too paltry a human to qualify). The BBC has lost the public’s confidence. It’s time it was shut down. A free nation simply does not need a state broadcaster, funded by force. 

Please have look at more pictures of the event (if you are interested) here. My friend and I went back to mine after the magic moment and downed a celebratory bottle of 2007 Nuits-Saint-Georges. He, his good lady and I have spent the weekend at the Barbican’s “Beethoven Weekender” hearing all nine of his symphonies. Typical ignorant, uncultured “Little Englanders” eh? Mrs P the Second will join us for dinner this evening to round off the festivities. 

My personal heartfelt thanks to all who made this victory for democracy possible.  Now for the hard part of Brexit — unity, economic progress and of course eternal vigilance. Good luck to us all!


Brexit Day is here

As we approach midnight CET tonight (11pm in London) this is the song I would be playing in Parliament Square if it were up to me. I shall be there, with an old friend – a former business partner of mine at an international law firm –  drinking in an historical moment.

We Leavers have suffered over three years of abuse. We've been called racists, xenophobes, Little Englanders, uneducated idiots, Northerners (I never minded that one) etc. We've been called everything but a Christian. At times our own tempers have frayed but I think on the whole most of us have conducted ourselves well. As I marched with the Leavers through London last March, we confined ourselves to making "Loser" signs on our forehead at the braying hostiles jeering our progress. At the time I wasn't sure they really were losers. I still feared they might succeed in their frantic, unprincipled attempts to thwart us. Thank God they didn't, as that would have finally shattered our fragile faith in our institutions.

Tonight's celebration is more about still having a functioning democracy, than about Brexit itself.

I have been "unfriended", "blocked" and "unfollowed" by angry Remoaners but have never taken the same approach. I have many friends who voted Remain and respect their opinion. However, for anyone who is (like Adam Boulton on Sky News this morning) still trying to mock and smear us, their hour has come. It's over. They lost. They can own it or fade into irrelevance. From tomorrow I shall unfriend, block and unfollow any who persist in slagging us off. Not because they have a different point of view, but because by persisting now they prove that they are enemies of democracy itself.

My principled Remainer friends would be welcome to stand with me tonight on Parliament Square. I would buy them a drink, console them in their disappointments and reassure them it's all going to be fine. Our differences are many but, in the end, we Brits are one people under the Rule of Law; the people of Coke, Austen and Shakespeare. 

If you're planning to be there, I would love to meet you this evening. I shall be in The Lord Moon of the Mall pub on Whitehall from about 1830 onwards, from where I will adjourn to Parliament Square at 2100. 


Roger Scruton

I am not a Conservative by nature. My first political ideas and memberships were on the Left. I was luckily turned from that quite early by personal experience of leftist violence and intimidation. If you’re an essentially kind-hearted chap, it’s hard to align yourself with a “comrade” who is coming at you with a pick-axe handle to force you to overturn a vote.

My subsequent (and consequent) time in the Conservative Party coincided almost precisely (apart from a brief and depressing recent return over Brexit) with Margaret Thatcher’s leadership. Her assault on the “ratchet effect” in British politics, whereby every leftist innovation became settled policy protected by Conservative administrations, was radical. It stirred enjoyably ferocious opposition from the leftist establishment. It felt to a young, politically-minded chap like me, like a revolutionary cause. Because it was.

My ideological and (to be honest) intellectually-snobbish nature led me to seek academic grounding for my membership of a party supported by my loved, but not nearly trendy enough to be role models to a would-be hip young intellectual, elders. In the course of that earnest reading I found some writing that still informs my thinking (eg Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”, Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and its Enemies”) but also one book that didn’t resonate, at least consciously, Roger Scruton’s “How to be a Conservative”. 

Dan Hannan’s eulogy to his former tutor in today’s Sunday Telegraph reminds me exactly why Scruton didn’t capture my radical imagination like Thatcher, Hayek and later von Mises did. His answer to young Hannan’s question at their first meeting about the role of a conservative thinker in the modern world was

to reassure the people that their prejudices are true

That would have turned Young Tom off enough to leave the party immediately! I may have been contrarian enough — and have done enough independent reading — to join a party despised and derided by my every academic influence in the then One Party Labour North, but I had learned that in their vocabulary “prejudice” was a bad word. It would be decades before I came to understand that they were deliberately warping language in the way Orwell parodied as “Newspeak” to make it near-impossible to oppose them. What young person wants to be “anti-progressive” for example? How many pause to question whether the policies proposed by “progressives” actually represent progress? (Spoiler alert; they don’t).

So any influence Scruton’s other books had on me was, as Hannan puts it, as one of 

millions of people who haven’t read them and couldn’t name their author [but] will still be unwittingly quoting them at third or fourth hand.

I suspect from the obituaries I have read this week that it’s my loss. Perhaps I should read some more of them. I certainly buy his idea (quoted by Hannan) that;

Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means single-handedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull.”

I fear my psychological problem with Scruton still remains that he was a proponent of Conservatism as a good thing per se when, to me, it’s only as good as the institutions and policies it seeks to conserve. Every successful revolutionary (eg those in France, America and Russia) naturally becomes a conservative once he has the institutions he wants. It would take the revolutionary overthrow (or at least a major purge and serious reforms) of Britain’s ideologically warped institutions to make them things I would fight to conserve.

A society that thinks it’s feminist to rage about rich film stars or TV presenters earning less than male counterparts while deliberately concealing the sexual abuse of young working-class girls in Manchester because racism beats both sexism and class politics in a stupid intersectional game of victimhood Top Trumps is not one whose institutions I have any desire to conserve. The revolutionary overthrow and imprisonment of the leadership of Britain’s police forces and the purging of their indoctrinated officer class is not a conservative objective in Scruton’s terms. Nor is an administrative system where a lying leftist slur on an intellectual Titan like Scruton was enough to get him “cancelled” from a government appointment by an allegedly “Conservative” minister one worth conserving.

I hope Hannan is right that Scruton’s works will be read for centuries. I hope his generation, mine and my children’s will have been radical and revolutionary enough for there to be something in future Britain for his readers to apply his ideas to conserving