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

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The origins and consequences of “hate crime”

In the wonderful 2006 TV series Life on Mars, Sam — a modern detective inspector — is mysteriously transported back to the 1970s. He finds himself working for tough-guy Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt. Writers intended Hunt as a bad guy example of the horrors of the un-woke past, but his character became very popular. At one point DI Sam uses the phrase “hate crime” and Hunt sneers in response,

“as opposed to what, an I really really love you crime?”

The introduction of hate crimes was a mistake. It requires analysis of a criminal’s intent in order to assess if some opinion behind his actions somehow made them worse. Which in turn requires analysis of which opinions are hateful. Once the principle was established the whole racket becomes a game for politicians to signal their love of community X vs community Y. 

To the victims of a crime, it provides no benefit. If I’m cut and bleeding on the floor after a beating, why would I care what was going through the criminal’s mind? I’m no more or less hurt by his being convicted of assault and battery with hateful intent, than without. I’m with DCI Hunt on that point.

To society in general, the disbenefit is division. If a gay friend and I are assaulted on our way home from the pub, our suffering — and the moral impropriety of our attacker’s actions — is the same. If the attacker is punished more for hurting my gay friend than me, society is saying — in effect — that he matters more. 

The only equality that matters is equality before the law. The concept of hate crime undermines that — and was intended to. It is not a bug but an evil feature. All kinds of scam artists and scoundrels are making good livings by playing on inter-community fears and prejudices. They pretend they're against such things, but in fact they live on them and therefore promote them.

Identity politics is not about righting wrongs — not even in the crude way of collective punishment euphemised as “social justice”. It’s about sowing division and reaping political power.


How can we conquer cancel culture?

I am attending the Freedom Association's conference on this subject at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster today. I am here in the hope of recovering some optimism on this subject. As I wait for proceedings to begin I frankly despair.

It’s not a good sign that TFA had to conceal the location of the event until the last moment. Nor is the fact that, at 66 years old, I’m one of the younger people in the audience. It looks like a nostalgia-fest for what we’ve lost, rather than a rally to fight the good fight.

The usual suspects are here. David Campbell-Bannerman, TFA chair. Mark Littlewood, outgoing Director-General of the IEA. Baroness Fox of my home town in Wales, Director of the Academy of Ideas. Nigel Farage. Dr David Starkey. I’ve heard them all speak before. Their hearts are good, no doubt, but they (and I, in my tiny way) are the very people who — I fear — lost this battle before we even knew we were fighting it.

Hope springs eternal of course. I have never more desperately wanted to be wrong. Let’s hope I can report something to lift the spirits of the would-be free. Watch this cyberspace.


The Football Association and Israel

The Football Association was asked to light up the iconic arch at Wembley Stadium in the colours of the Israeli flag. They refused. This has been widely condemned. In my view sport should never "do" politics. When a friend asked me to write to the FA in support of the request to light up the arch, I politely refused on those grounds. So, in a sense, I think the FA is right. However, having virtue-signalled relentlessly on other non-sporting issues for years, there is something sinister about the fact that it won't in this case.

The FA had footballers kneel in solidarity with a single foreign criminal who was unlawfully killed, but won't express sympathy with more than a thousand murdered innocents. After the terrorist attack in Paris in 2015, the FA's officials lit up the arch in French colours. They were happy to express the support many of us felt for a nation that, if presented with a big red magic button that would erase England from history, would lose lives in the stampede to press it. Yet they choose to remain neutral between the vicious, anti-semitic, baby-butcherers of Hamas and their victims. 

Wembley-arch
It was undoubtedly a mistake ever to mix sport with politics. I should not be put into a position at Craven Cottage where the nice young asian guy who sits next to me has to wonder if I am a racist when I don't stand when our players "take the knee." My refusal to acquiesce in virtue-signalling at the behest of the Marxist monsters of BLM isn't racist at all but I am not at the Cottage for a political discussion. I'm there for the joy of sport and an escape from the tedium of my politically-polluted life. I deeply resent the Premier League, Football Association and indeed the club putting me in an awkward political position at a football match.

The truth is that the FA's inconsistency arises from cowardice. On the day of the Hamas invasion, its supporters were dancing for joy (as captured on video by Countdown's Rachel Riley and published on her Twitter feed) on a street 0.6 miles from where I live in West London. According to the 2021 census, our city's cultural diversity is enriched by the presence of 1.3 million adherents of "the religion of peace." Quite a few – it seems from such celebrations – take pleasure in Hamas barbarism. The FA is unsure of how many fall into that category and – given their history of violent response to perceived slights - is afraid to annoy them.

The FA might also be justified in worrying that The Metropolitan Police force service is so afraid of offending British Muslims that – if they did kick off at Wembley in the non-football sense – it wouldn't hold them to the same legal standards as other Londoners. I wouldn't personally be surprised to see the Met – firmly a part of Britain's Leftist Establishment – side with them.

I don't agree with those calling for the police to suppress pro-Hamas celebrations or demonstrations. Hamas is legally designated as a terrorist group in the UK and it is a crime to support them, but I think that's a legal mistake. They are no more revolutionary, violent or bloodthirsty than many social science lecturers in our universities and no-one is calling (nor should they) for their vile Marxist ideology to be suppressed. Besides, I welcome their free speech. As a practical matter, I need to know who are the murderous sorts among my neighbours. I need that knowledge to inform my decisions about my socialising, my shopping and indeed whether I choose to keep living where I do.

I have every confidence in the Israel Defence Force's ability to respond appropriately to Hamas. I am on Israel's side – as every civilised human should now be – and simply wish them (as they would wish themselves) a speedy victory with minimum bloodshed. I am more interested in what I have learned in the past week about the state of my own nation and its capital city. Evil is among us and our response to it is – as evidenced by the FA's pusillanimity – far too naive, timid and weak. I fear we are going to pay a price for that before too long.


Nurse Ratchet

Yes, I know the movie character was Ratched. Bear with me. According to Wikipedia, she is also;

a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of institutional power and authority in bureaucracies

She's a symbol of what I want to write about today and her name echoes the essential problem. 

Sir Keith Joseph was a key influence on what became known as Thatcherism. He coined the phrase ratchet effect to describe the way in which each new Socialist government moved policy leftwards, whereas a Conservative government never moved it back. If the UK State was a car, then the Labour Party was the accelerator (gas pedal), the Conservative Party was the brake and there was no steering wheel.

The direction of political travel was never in doubt and only the speed could be adjusted by the electorate. Sir Keith's point, well-taken by Margaret and constantly railed at by Tory wets was that the ratchet had to be broken if the Conservatives were actually to move towards their goals. For all that Leftists call themselves "progressives" (perverting the language as they love to do in order to thwart honest discussion) real human progress should be in quite another direction.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the end result of the ratchet effect must be that everything either belongs to the state or is under state control. Democratic Socialists and Communists have always had the same ultimate goal. The former are just more patient. They will cheerfully discuss each step of the journey with the electorate, as long as the planned route never changes. All it takes to see the destination is to zoom out a little and observe the completely consistent direction they and all their predecessors have taken. 

Margaret's achievement in breaking the ratchet was significant. For a while, though she had no such intention, the Left even feared that it had been reset so that the wheel would turn the other way. Tony Blair certainly felt the need to reassure voters that Thatcher's reforms would not be endangered by electing the Labour Party under his leadership. He even claimed to be her ideological heir; a bold lie even by political standards. 

It has been clear for some time however that Sir Keith's ratchet has been refurbished, well-oiled and set back as it was before Thatcher. This is why, as I made clear in my last post, I had no interest in the Conservative Party's choice of new leader. It turns out I was wrong that it didn't matter at all, however. The choice of the political naïf Truss has at least shone a searchlight on the situation. She tried to be a sort of Thatcher mini-me and failed dramatically. At the first hint of any movement rightwards, all hell broke loose. Even though another self-absorbed leadership contest will surely scupper the Tories for the foreseeable future, her position is already in doubt. 

I am not sure if it needs a conspiracy theory to explain why a nation that keeps voting Conservative keeps moving leftwards. I don't believe there are dark cabals planning it. I don't think they're even needed. Someone like me, who believes – along with my namesake – that 

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

is simply never going to apply for employment by a state as huge and pervasive as the UK's.

I have horrified state employees in conversation by saying, in perfect truth, that my conscience would not allow me to sleep at night if I had their job. Not because what they do each day is necessarily always bad, but because every penny they are paid to do it has been taken from others by force. My proudest boast is that every penny I ever earned came from contracts freely entered into by clients with choices. If I had ever worked for the state, that would not be true. 

So it's not surprising that, when the state apparatus has grown to be – as it is in the UK – a gorilla in a flea circus, that the people working for it are broadly in favour of a state on such a scale. No conservative or classical liberal could possibly wish for that, but it's the highest aspiration of a Leftist. So the Prime Minister may be "Conservative", her cabinet may have some "Conservatives", and the electorate may be mostly conservative by instinct, but the state apparatus rolls leftwards regardless. It's going to take leadership by someone with more of a personality than Truss to take on that mighty foe and win.


Why I have nothing to say about the new PM

If you're in a minority in cabinet (and, if you're thinking at all, you probably are quite often) you must let your colleagues know about your concerns. However you mustn't say anything to undermine the agreed policy in public. You stand behind the decision. This isn't dishonesty in a broad sense; it's basic teamwork. Most voters have been part of a team in their lives and understand this well. A minister who thinks a policy is very wrong has the option to resign. If it's morally wrong or likely to cause serious damage to voters, that's what the minister should do.

"Cabinet responsibility" is therefore not a problem to voters. We get it. We would probably take against a minister who was disloyal in this way. We might even sympathise (while of course – for we are only human – enjoying the PM's discomfiture) when a dissenting minister briefs the press anonymously.

This is one reason why the recent Conservative Party leadership election has been so problematic for the government. Like a primary in the US, it has provided endless ammunition to the opposing party as candidates tried to differentiate themselves. A bit of Blue on Blue was inevitable. It's an index of the poor quality of the Reds that no more serious damage was done. The fact that modern Leftists seem to look more for opportunities to insult their opponents than to engage them in reasoned argument is a gift that keeps on giving.

Some interesting data emerged – for example as to the COVID 19 lockdowns – but the fact that the people claiming they'd opposed them were in Cabinet at the time – and didn't resign – prevents them gaining the moral high ground. We're still left feeling betrayed that the "the science is clear", "there is no alternative," "Save the NHS"  propaganda was a lie, of course. It just doesn't make us love the people claiming they always knew. And of course it's embarrassing data HM Opposition can't exploit, because its stance on democidal lockdowns was consistently "sooner, harder and for longer". 

As a supporter of Austrian economics and a proponent of minimal Government/maximal Liberty, I couldn't take seriously the various candidates' sloganising about free markets and free societies. The Johnson regime was wrong on pretty much everything but Brexit in ways that suggest that – though the Left can't win an election in Britain because most Brits are conservative – they're winning all the arguments in the corridors of power. Until a "conservative" government actively purges the Deep State including the Civil Service, the police, the NHS and the education "blob", it will always now be conservative in name only. To these "Conservatives", "Liberty" is a nostalgic name to call your daughter, not a principle to die for. 

On such issues, for example, as Net Zero (the ultimate cause of the current cost of living crisis;  the proximate cause being the actions of a Russian leadership emboldened by our suicidal energy policies) this Conservative Government is to the left of reality itself. The Deep State in Britain (the permanent establishment that is merely fronted by elected politicians) is to the left of the Chinese Communist Party. It doesn't care who the Prime Minister is. It doesn't need to. 

So no, I can't get excited about a change of PM. It's as interesting and important as changing the figurehead on a tall ship. The UK Ship of (Deep) State will sail on serenely to the nation's doom. Liz Truss might be slightly more aerodynamic than Bunter Johnson, but not enough to make a difference to a ship so vast, clumsy and barnacled.

Nothing has changed and I see no reason to hope that anything will until it's too late.


New Year, Old Story

Firstly, some sad news. Some of you will  – like me – have once followed JMB's Blog Nobody Important. It's open only to invited readers now but back in the heyday of blogging (when we all thought citizen journalism was going to change the world) you will remember her often mentioning her husband, whom she dubbed "The Old Scientist". I am sorry to report that he has passed away at the age of 89. I had the pleasure to meet him just once, when I stayed at their home in Vancouver on my North American road trip in 2013. He was a decent man who lived his life well and I feel for my friend in her loss.

Secondly, as I seem to have exposed more of my personal life than usual of late, just a brief report that – though my situation is as sad as before – I am getting on with my life and feeling better. I had a good run in Speranza to visit my parents last weekend. There are not many Ferraris in the world with over 91,000 miles on the clock, but (touch wood) she's in fine fettle and running well. I don't know why I don't drive her more. Call me shallow and materialistic, but she lifts my spirits every time. It is hard to feel sorry for yourself on the open road at the wheel of a bella macchina. I can't wait for borders to be properly re-opened so I can visit my friends on the Continent. 

Thirdly, a brief "state of the nation" summary from my point of view. If you think I am wrong, please tell me. Trust me; I would love to be wrong. 

It is gradually dawning on the British public that they've been had over COVID. They still don't tell the pollsters so but it's becoming an object lesson in the difference between stated preferences (which often signal "virtue" or seek to give the questioner what s/he wants) and revealed preferences (shown by how we behave in practice). For example, when out and about in London it's clear that only state fanatics and submissives are still wearing masks. I dutifully obeyed when on public transport in London for most of the Scare, but now I just carry one to wear if challenged by an official. Most travellers are not wearing them and the submissives now dare to do no more than cast a stink-eye. I hope the divisive hatreds stirred up by Government propaganda will now die down but I fear that many friendships have been irremediably broken. 

Most of the West panicked in a very similar fashion, though Florida has thankfully provided a control group for an experiment that would otherwise have lacked one. As data reveals the ineffectiveness of non-medical interventions (the use of state force) we can therefore expect a united front from the global establishment and its lickspittles in the media. Data will be spun. Evidence will be bought, paid for and rigged. Every government will point at all the others and say "we followed global best practice based on the data we had at the time." That may have been true for a month or two at the beginning but it's clear now that the British Government, for example, knew damned well that its tyrannical measures were not necessary. The real scandal of "partygate" is not that Downing Street civil servants at the heart of the state apparatus ignored the law. It is that their conduct reveals they knew their propaganda was false and/or wildly exaggerated. 

If they believed what they told us, the law would have been irrelevant because they would have been too scared not to comply. 

The British Establishment is safe however. Not least because, as it metaphorically thrashed the British public, HM Opposition's only complaint was that the whip was not thick enough, was not applied soon enough and was wielded with insufficient vigour. The Labour Party is not going to hold HM Government's feet to the fire for forgetting our every liberal tradition because HMG's ripostes will all be examples of Labour's demands for more, more, more state violence. 

It's hard to say now (as I have believed my whole life) that Labour cares less about Liberty than the Conservatives. I am not sure the latter has left any space at the authoritarian end of the political spectrum for Labour to occupy. The "Conservative" knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat was to boss us all about in excruciating detail, while borrowing on a colossal scale to throw public money at the problem. If a Labour manifesto were ever to be written in plain English, that's pretty much what it would say. As "Conservative" support for government tyranny weakened, Boris Johnson, in effect, became the Leader of the Labour Party – herding its lobby-fodder to vote for his measures. Every time he wrote about Liberty (and he has done so many times in his career as a journalist) he lied. He may be the cleverest PM we've ever had, but he's also (and I recognise this is a huge claim) the least principled.

Intelligence without principles is more dangerous than the politicians' usual dozy uselessness. I see no better replacement from either side of the House, but he must go. 

I cannot imagine ever bringing myself to vote again. I have always voted (as I remember explaining to my Polish teacher as she prepared to vote for the first time in the immediate post-Communist era) in the cynical manner of an intelligent citizen of a long-standing democracy. I know them all for rogues. Their aspiring to have power over their fellows while living on them parasitically reveals them as such. So I have always voted for the robbers who would steal – and the thugs who would bully – less. I never saw my vote (except perhaps during the Thatcher years) as anything more than a damage-limitation excercise. When push came to shove, however, it seems – even in my world-weary cynicism – I was deluding myself.

Can we hope for any useful lessons to be learned from the pan-panic? When the butcher's bill is received for the non-COVID patients killed by state action, will it give politicians pause for the next emergency? We can hope so. I fear what they have mostly learned, however, is that if they deploy their psychological-warfare "nudge" units effectively enough, they can get us to put up with far more than they'd previously dreamed of. Buckle up, friends. I suspect you're going to see more of your governing classes than you previously feared.


Doctor Dalrymple's insights

The Pleasure of Apparatchiks > Theodore Dalrymple.

Theodore Dalrymple is the nom de plume of Anthony Daniels, formerly a physician/psychiatrist at Winson Green Prison but now better known for his writings. Wikipedia describes him as a cultural critic. He's certainly one of the best commentators on the culture of modern Britain. He's clear-sighted, thoughtful, tolerant and articulate. He's everything I would hope our society's leaders would be yet spends most of his life quietly documenting how little like him they sadly are. 
 
The linked article recounts his experiences pitching an idea for a television series; a series of interviews with deposed dictators. It would have been fascinating but the TV executives were not buying it in either sense of that expression.  
... the experience was valuable, in a way. It gave me an insight into the pleasure experienced by apparatchiks obstructing the creative and imaginative, such power to do so being a kind of consolation prize for being without original ideas of one’s own...
In my current circumstances – negotiating my father's future with apparatchiks – this rings very true. Their tone  signals the pleasure they take in their position. We're not allowed near him to assess his health or state of mind ourselves. One look in his eyes would tell us all we need to know, but that's forbidden. It seems to annoy them that we press for more details. We have been incredibly polite throughout (our loved one is at their mercy, why would we risk being rude?) but still their lips purse when we don't meekly walk away. 
 
We are concerned about reports of elderly patients languishing for weeks in wards unnecessarily – and at present denied all visitors. We were told there were 150 patients in that position at this particular hospital because of a waiting list for home support; known in the inelegant jargon as re-ablement.
 
Both parents were frail before this latest episode. My sisters and I decided they now need carers at home and found a company to do two visits a day. We have also discussed with them stepping up that care temporarily when Dad is discharged.
 
Yesterday I called the "Discharge Liaison Nurse." She said Dad was not on her professional horizon because he was "not medically fit". Nor was there any discussion of moving him to a rehabilitation ward. I pointed out his consultant had told me he was now "medically well" but in need of physio and that the staff nurse had told me last week they were looking at moving him to rehab. She was unimpressed until I also mentioned the magic words "private care". She said she would talk to the ward staff and have someone call me.
 
In the afternoon I went to pick up laundry etc. and asked to speak to a nurse. She said they'd heard we had private care so we could take him home on Friday. I pointed out the care didn't start until Monday (and we'd have to discuss whether the company could step it up to cope with Dad) so she said "fine, Monday then". I asked about evaluating his needs for care and she said "that's for when social services are going to provide it. If you're doing it yourselves that's up to you."
 
In a few short hours we'd gone from "not fit to be moved to a rehab ward" to "take him home now". 
 
The good news is Dad made it and his discharge is under discussion. The less good news is that the NHS and authorities charged with elder care really don't seem to play nicely together. I worry about the 150 patients on that local waiting list who must be atrophying literally and figuratively on hospital wards while the state apparatus "cares" for them and keeps them away from their loving families. I worry that people always insulated from market forces and – during COVID times – now also insulated from concerned families are quietly enjoying their irresponsible power.

Overheard at my health club

Two svelte American ladies of a certain age were having coffee today at my West London health club. They were in the next "pod" to me outdoors as I had a post-swim coffee before heading home. Perhaps it's those wide-open prairies but Americans, bless them, always speak a little more loudly than us so I didn't really have a choice but to listen to their conversation.

The topic was their mothers. Both moms back in the States are apparently unsure of the wisdom of being vaccinated. One cost of parenthood no-one tells you about beforehand is that one day you will be judged and found wanting by humans you could not love more; your children for whom you would cheerfully die. I confess their mothers immediately had my sympathy, regardless of the correctness of their views.

There was a good deal of sneering about conspiracy theories circulating on the internet. I found it surprising that both errant moms believed 5G was involved, but having listened quietly for another few minutes discovered that neither had ever said so. Their daughters were simply assuming that if they doubted government advice on vaccines, they believed all the other stuff too. One of the mothers is apparently a 9/11 "truther" and her daughter's observation that no government is capable of keeping such a dark secret struck me as fair. 

I have read all I can about the vaccines. As a lawyer I was uneasy that – whereas normally pharmaceutical companies complain of the time taken by regulators to license new medicines – in this case they were only prepared to release them so quickly if governments indemnified them against claims for adverse side effects. They were not prepared to stand behind their products and that concerned me. I was also concerned that, while I am sure regulatory regimes in America and the UK involve much pointless bureaucracy, delay and legal overkill, they were being swept aside so casually. I have no medical expertise, but my legal training made me uneasy.

Britain has been pretty quick in vaccinating its population, but (fortunately or otherwise – only time will tell) it was not the quickest. I read what I could about the effects of the vaccines in Israel and, based on that data, made a risk assessment in favour of being vaccinated. My concerns are still there, but I made a choice. I could easily have chosen the other way and I respect the opinions of those (like my fellow health club members' mothers) who did.

There are available facts and facts that will only become available in the future. People must make their choices based on their own risk assessment today. That useless truism is not the point of this post. The truly significant thing I overheard was this. Having sneered at her mother's belief that "we can't trust government", one of the ladies said;

I thought to myself – Mom, I don't want to believe what you believe because if it's true I can't have any of the things I believe in.

There, I thought, was a moment of insight; a moment (almost) of self-awareness. If government can't be trusted, then the societal change she wants isn't possible. Therefore, whatever the evidence, government must be trusted. That pretty much sums up the statist mindset. 

I don't know whether these mothers or daughters are right about this issue. I do know that one of the daughters (and her companion seemed to agree) is allowing her desires to displace her reason. In consequence, sadly, her mind will only ever be changed by a catastrophe I would never wish upon her.

I suspect many such earnest, well-meaning souls as Goneril and Regan (as I christened them) felt they needed to believe the state could be trusted at key points in the deadly history of the 20th Century. If the brave new world of Communism was to happen, for example, government had to be trusted with enormous power to make immense change.

Many Gonerils and Regans must have ruefully reflected on that in the Gulag.


Age and wisdom

Every stage of life has its joys, sorrows and consolations. Looking back, I smile at how stressful I found it to be young. I was so afraid of failure; so anxious to get things right. In middle age, with those anxieties largely allayed, I found myself burdened with responsibility for others; a responsibility I had campaigned earnestly to assume, by the way. As I approach old age, those responsibilities are gone too. No-one depends on me. My children are independent. I have no employees to worry about providing with work. I can even glory in the triumphs of the young people I mentored, who are now achieving their own successes. I could shuffle off this mortal coil today with no sense of a task left undone. 

Before COVID, I was enjoying that. I was as carefree as in my youth. In fact, more so as I was without the burden of parental, societal or –most onerous of all – personal hopes and expectations. I could reflect on my life and that of my nation or even species. I could read, think, visit museums and galleries, travel and engage in my photographic hobby. I could meet with my friends and smile during our conversations at the truth of the old joke that "the older we get, the better we were." Looking back on lives lived so anxiously at the time, our triumphs seem inevitable and perhaps even (after a few good drinks) deserved.

Post-COVID, things are different. I have not personally been directly affected by the disease itself. Only one friend contracted it and he, thank goodness, survived. Actually I should not thank goodness as he lives in a corrupt post-Soviet state and crimes had to be committed to save his life. He survived a seven hour wait for an ambulance by virtue dint of another friend paying a bribe for oxygen to be brought to his home. Best not to ask from where that was procured. Let's just hope it was not from the bedside of someone who still needed it. Then he avoided admission to a lethally-unhygienic state hospital that would have killed him by bribing the ambulance-driver to take him to a private facility. There even cash would not have secured treatment were it not for luck. He happened to have been the lawyer for the oligarch who owned that facility in connection with its financing and still had his phone number. Calling him and then handing the phone to the doctor denying admission finally saved the day – and his life. His story tells more about statism and the corruption it brings than it does about disease. 

At a micro level then, I continue to be blessed. I have a comfortable home in which to be confined. I have a loving wife with whom to be confined. I have every technical facility to stay in communication (I first wrote "touch" but that of course is forbidden) with friends and family. The only real cost to me has been the death of my last illusions. 

COVID has been a wet dream for every statist, apparatchik and thug. I have long said that an over-mighty state is a magnet for the worst in society. COVID has proved it. 

My nostalgic vision of the British Bobby protecting honest citizens from crime has long been out of date, I know. Yet it was hard to shake the feeling for the boys in blue my parents instilled in me. My mum would make a point of stopping and talking to the local policeman whenever we encountered him when I was a child. She would tell me this was the person I should go to if I were lost, in trouble or just needed to know the time. He was my protector and friend. Sorry Mum, but he isn't and never was. His true nature has been revealed as he has gleefully leapt on the chance presented by COVID to bully and swagger.

I was taught to revere teachers too. There is, I always used to say, no more valuable profession in any civilisation. A society could be judged by the value it placed on its teachers. COVID has exposed that as sentimental tosh too as the teaching unions have used the opportunity to dodge work and to hell with the education and welfare of the children in their members charge. All other public sector unions have done the same. Our public "servants" are our actual deep state masters and their contempt for us has been revealed beyond all reasonable doubt.

This is not COVID related, but has happened during the same period. The Court of Appeal destroyed my faith in the judiciary. I personally witnessed the Shrewsbury pickets in action. I know the truth, but to write it again would now be actionable – so I won't. All I can say here is that the law is an ass. 

Though I remember well how upset they were by the death of President Kennedy and how they grieved the death of Winston Churchill, my parents never taught me to love and trust politicians, thank God. So that disillusionment has not been so severe. In fact COVID has not made me think any worse of them. In fact, I have some sympathy with HM Government's plight as a panicked population has cried out for ever-more-tyrannical measures and HM Opposition has only ever opposed them for not acting harshly enough.

I have repeatedly said in the run up to elections that, this time, I will not vote. I have always gone on to do it. I was brought up to treasure democracy as something my ancestors fought for. I felt a duty to their memory to exercise my right. This time I didn't. Perhaps I would have done if I lived in Hartlepool; not from any affection for the party that won but to enjoy the discomfiture of the entitled villains who have so long believed they own the Northern working class among whom I grew up.

In London, there was no point. Khan was a nailed-on winner. There were no credible candidates running on a platform of more liberty and less state. It was – as all elections now seem to be – a menu of different poisons. None of the thugs, bandits and rent-seeking hoodlums in power can say this time that I supported them. Not that they care, but it gives me some small satisfaction.

The wisdom of age is the realisation of how little we can know and the humility that comes with that. It seems I am finally wise but I was happier being foolish.


Bread & Circuses

In their prime my paternal grandparents were each – in their different ways – formidable members of the "great generation". They didn't suffer fools gladly or (unless obliged by family ties and then with open scorn) at all. They thought psychology was fake. They thought depression was weakness glorified. My grandfather was a cripple and, as I learned the hard way, got angry if you used the euphemism "disabled".

Why are you playing with words? Calling me something else makes me no less crippled you bloody fool!

They thought hard work, prudence, patriotism and family loyalty were the keys to all progress. 

They may sound scary and  – to their first of many grandchildren – they often were, but they were impressive too. This, despite having suffered losses that would justify many moderns in claiming lifelong victimhood. They just accepted them as their fate, got on with life and became angry if you mentioned them.

My grandmother had received "the telegram" from the non-euphemised War Ministry during WWII after my grandfather broke his back in an accident on a troopship. His commanding officer had assumed he wouldn't make it and sent a premature report of his death. He survived, but was told he'd never walk. Grandmother's first inkling that the MoW had erred was his knock at the door, having walked several miles from the railway station. They expected no apology for the Army's incompetence and lack of concern for their welfare or (God forbid) feelings. They suffered no PTSD. They never thought to sue. There was a war on. Worse had happened to others. Worse still needed to be done to others, so the war could be won.

Grandfather was not confined to the long-promised wheelchair until his eighties, by dint of forcing himself to walk miles every day in agony. His country had rewarded him in 1946 by seizing the transport business that he and his brothers had founded with their savings from working down a coal mine as teenagers. He never complained about that, saying that the Labour Party was sincere, if misguided, in taking it and that his fellow citizens (including his sister) had voted for it genuinely believing the country would run it better. It hadn't (as he had predicted to them at the time) and he'd lived to see his business re-privatised. He had also lived to see the Soviet Union fall and died thinking such nonsenses were now ancient history. He never bemoaned his own fate in that experiment; saying when I pressed him on the subject near to his end, that to be angry at his Labour-voting family and friends would have achieved nothing but to make him miserable. Life wasn't ever fair. He didn't vote Labour precisely because he wasn't naive enough to think it could be. 

Why do I tell these stories now? Because I remember watching the personalities of these formidable folk crumble when old age and frailty confined them to their conservatory. Their view of the world became distorted as their direct experiences of it dwindled. Their news of events in their old orbit was limited to what visitors chose to share. These fiercely-independent people began to live inside their own heads and to get things wrong in ways their admiring, if fearful, grandson would never have expected.

As I have watched my country during the pandemic from my own equivalent of their conservatory; locked-down not by ill-health but state force, I have been alert to parallels between my experience and theirs. My information sources were limited as were the range of friends with whom I could discuss them. I feared to blog about the issues, not because I was afraid to be in a minority – I have been in that position for many decades now – but because I sincerely worried that I might be losing touch with reality. The situation was so artificial that I feared for my own judgement. I thought my mind might be failing me as theirs had in their isolation. As we begin to return to normality, I begin to realise I drew the wrong parallel.

I have been inclined to despise my fellow-Brits to be honest. Opinion polls suggested they were not the potential John Hampdens I had always imagined, but actually more like Pavliks. Even friends I had considered essentially "sound" were in fearful submission to, essentially, whatever the hell the establishment chose to tell them would save them from the plague. I kept quiet because I feared I might be wrong – and I was, but not in the way I thought.

We Britons have let ourselves down in this crisis. We have looked for answers elsewhere rather than seeking them out ourselves. We have listened too much to authority, while demanding it give us bread. In the last few days we've allowed ourselves to be distracted by authority posturing about the modern circus that is football. But in some ways we have been like my grandparents at their best, not their worst. Terrified by data deliberately warped to maximise our fears, we have tried our best to be good citizens in the face of danger. "There's a war pandemic on" we told ourselves, so normal rules don't apply and it would be disloyal to moan. Others have it worse (look at what a mess those idiots in Brussels, Paris and Berlin have made, for example) so we should just get on with it as best we can. 

Yes I was in my equivalent of my elderly grandparents' conservatory, but I was not alone. The whole frightened nation was in it too. The difference is that – unlike my grandparents – we're going to emerge. We have not yet failed the test of who we are as a nation. It is about to be set as we return to normality. I hope we pass it in a way that would make my grandparents in their prime proud.