Thursday, 10 June 2021

The imperial EU is blind to the folly of its unequal Northern Ireland Brexit treaty

Superb guff from Allister Heath, a man who seems determined to do for the Sunday Telegraph what he did for The Business.

"The [Northern Ireland] protocol isn't a just law. It was imposed on the UK by Brussels at the moment of our greatest weakness," Allister tells us, and likens it to treaties forced on the Qing dynasty. By, er, Britain, mainly.

Read on for the full text of Allister's magnificent nonsense.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Ask to see my ID card and I'll eat it: Boris Johnson 2004

There is more joy in Tory heaven over disenfranchising two million poor people than there is over prosecuting one vote fraudster.

And who wrote, in typically tired and emotional prose in 2004, that id cards were an abomination? Why, the MP for Henley, a certain Boris Johnson. Jolly amusing. Text below.

You know what you need on these dark winter mornings, when you get into your freezing car, and you sit there in a state of shivering depression, because the windscreen has been frosted to damnation, and the wipers are too puny to make any difference?

I'll tell you what you need, my friend. You need an ID card! Just take one of the new £85 biometric Blunko-cards, and scrape-scrape, hey presto! Frost's all gone.

Or suppose you are mandated to take the kiddies for a bracing walk on the heath, and you've had the forethought to bring some cake, but you've forgotten the knife. Well, never mind: say goodbye to no-knife misery with the allpurpose Blunko-slicer.

Yes, folks, I bet we can all think of 101 uses for the forthcoming ID cards, not forgetting breaking and entering, or perhaps even using it as a kind of strigil, as they did back in ancient Athens, to scrape off the mixture of sweat and olive oil when you have been for an exhausting run.

I am sure that we will all find it a handy, if expensive, addition to our wallets and handbags. But I tell you this. If I am ever asked, on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and when I am simply ambling along and breathing God's fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded that I produce it.

If I am incapable of consuming it whole, I will masticate the card to the point of illegibility. And if that fails, or if my teeth break with the effort, I will take out my penknife and cut it up in front of the officer concerned.

I say all this in the knowledge that so many good, gentle, kindly readers will think I have taken leave of my senses, and to all of you I can only apologise and add, in the words of Barry Goldwater, that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, and that I really don't know what I dislike most about these cards.

There is the cost: let us be in no doubt that, by 2012, when it is intended that the entire population should be compelled to carry one, the universal imposition of ID cards will amount to a kind of £85 Caesar Augustus-style tax.

There is the loss of liberty, and the creepy reality that the state will use these cards - doubtless with the best possible intentions - to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim, and so on.

Worse than the cost and the bother, however, there is the sheer dishonesty of the arguments in favour. If I understood Her Majesty correctly, her Government conceives of these cards as essential weapons in the "war" on terror.

But the maniacs who performed the 9/11 massacre would not have been prevented by ID cards: the problem was not their identities, but their intentions. And if a terrorist really needed a new ID card, it would probably not take long to procure a forgery, biometric or not.

All these points I have made these past few years, up and down the country, and the most frustrating thing is that these objections cut absolutely no ice (unlike, as I say, the cards themselves) with good, solid, kindly, gentle Conservative audiences.

It seems only the other day that I was in Wolverhampton, railing against the Labour Government for having produced the conditions that made ID cards necessary. "And I tell you this, ladies and gentlemen," I said, "if Labour had not made such a disastrous mess of our asylum policy, we would not now need these ID cards imposed on the entire population."

"So what!" the audience shouted back at me. "We want ID cards!" "Er, yes," I said, adding, "I tell you this, ladies and gentlemen, that if Labour had not so recklessly expanded means-tested benefits, so that more and more people have to undergo the humiliation of revealing every detail of their financial circumstances to the state, and so that we have more and more fraud, we would not need these ID cards!"

"So what!" yodelled my audience, "We want ID cards! We had them in the war! If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear!" And they started gurgling and drumming their feet like the impis of Chaka, and I hung my head and gave up.

There in a nutshell, I thought, you had the eternal tension at the heart of conservatism, between the desire for liberty and the desire for order, and, in the case of ID cards, the frail cockade of freedom has been emphatically crushed by the giant descending rump of matronly authority.

My audience were all gluttons for freedom, if by that you meant the freedom to hunt, or the freedom to eat roast beef without the fat trimmed off. But they were perfectly happy to see their own liberties curtailed, if that gave the authorities a chance to crack down on scroungers and bogus asylum-seekers.

And there, I fear, the debate has come to rest. To all those who yearn for ID cards, and who would extinguish the flame of liberty in the breath of public panic, I make this final appeal. Read this week's Spectator, with its terrifying account by a man arrested and jailed for having a penknife and an anti-burglar baton locked in the boot of his car, and then imagine what use the cops could make of the further powers they are acquiring to inspect and control.

We are told by Labour that we are at "war", and it always suits governments so to scarify the population. In reality, we have a terrorist threat not obviously more persistent than that posed by the IRA, and our liberties are being lost because of the intrusiveness and incompetence of the Government.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Mr Duncan Smith is incompetent and must go

In 2003, a thrusting young libertarian intellectual, or "incel prat" as we now know them, a certain Dominic Cummings, threw a cliché grenade or two into the jumble of what then passed for modern Conservatism.

Here he writes in the Telegraph, setting out his stall to lead to a land of libertarian milk and privatised honey. He got the power, for a while, and we got shafted.

The thoughts of Chairman Dom follow:

After the anti-euro campaign's advertisement, with Bob Geldof et al last year, the Tory high command gathered. "It's a piece of stupidity," said one current leadership candidate. Another said, "We need another 'Save the pound' day." I said that the prospect of another "Save the pound" day could only confirm that we were clueless about effective political action. Iain Duncan Smith said: "We all agree. It'll keep the members happy - but the media won't notice."

(I clutched my head, but reflected that it was not as bad as a recent meeting in which the same cast of characters had described the party's salvation as: "Labour's computer system in the 1997 election - we need one"; "a campaign to persuade people Railtrack is good"; and "we need a blizzard of attacks"; then - the inevitable - "We all agree.")

The proposer of the "Save the pound" day asked, "Is this PMQ territory, Leader?", which was the daily reminder that we would achieve nothing. Afterwards, Conservative Central Office's top officials clutched their heads and said, "They'll have forgotten about it by tomorrow and we'll do nothing anyway." Thus, another shocking day began in Tory-world.

Mr Duncan Smith is incompetent, would be a worse prime minister than Tony Blair, and must be replaced. He is, however, the symptom rather than cause of a party desperately short of the political essentials: understanding, talent, will and adaptation. Even the most acute observers ask, "Why did they do that?", searching for a rationale. But they ought instead to think about Soviet institutions: when one considers these, one emerges thinking not, "Why did they do that?", but, "Given the people and structures, how could they do anything other than fail?"

There are many talented people working for the party who have been failed dismally by the leadership. The party is a joke - around the country, people increasingly laugh at "the Conservative Party". Senior figures do not try, which makes it impossible to motivate a successful team. The management structure is institutionally incompetent. Their language defines them as a separatist caste rather than national representatives. They do not understand that Mr Blair's failure is a necessary but insufficient cause of people saying: "The Tories are preferable". They do not understand modern society, communications.

When I arrived, there was no forum whatsoever for discussing medium-term planning - they literally had no idea what they were doing, and it took me a month just to initiate a group to discuss the point of the party. They dismiss the concept of building intellectual and political coalitions behind policy - a long, hard slog involving huge effort. "Events, dear boy, events" has been elevated to a management principle.

The meltdown of the Tories has occurred in parallel with the historically necessary pre-condition for a generational shift in opinion - the practical experience of failure, of "tax and spend", centralised public services, the EU, welfare, and "modern" policing. In all of these areas, the Tories should be transforming conventional wisdom and building new coalitions. Instead, we have failed in every area.

Tebbitites and some Portillistas have stuck us with a series of false dichotomies: the answer is neither "gay candidates", "soft on drugs", "be nice", and "image" - nor "tax cuts", "be proper Tories", or just "whack Blair". Success requires a synthesis of structural, policy, and communications transformation, as with all successful machines. It requires modernising communications and candidate selection - and the point is that these political techniques allow one to be tough on tax, Europe, and asylum. Mr Blair did not stop talking about the NHS and President Bush had a tax cut, but both knew that this was not enough. There is no magic bullet that will blow Mr Blair away.

All parties are suffering a talent blight because the crucible of democratic society - local civil society - is being destroyed by centralisation in Westminster and the EU. In the short term, the Tories must promote young, talented MPs. In the medium term, only if local politics becomes as important as it is in America (and was here) will a democratic renaissance be catalysed and services improved, via tough local competition for money, people, and ideas.

The theme of "trust people", which I proposed to Mr Duncan Smith in January last year but which has barely been developed, cuts across Europe; the Union; why services are failing and how to improve them; party reform (primaries) and constitutional reform; how we can cut national taxes and devolve services (such that local mayors can kick police out of their cars).

We need a moral explanation of why things are failing and why locals and families need to be empowered more and taxed less ("If you're on below average income, I'll send you a cheque for X"). The Right has, as Hayek pointed out, consistently failed to appreciate the critical importance of politics' moral front. Education and corporate governance reform ought to be the centre of the new leader's message (also necessary, since we will depend in coming decades on the exploration of new science and the survival of liberal markets).

We need a shift from trivial attacks to a coherent alternative; from reactionary whining to Reaganite optimism; from self-justification to adult honesty; from members' priorities to national priorities. We need an injection of intellectual thought and marketing talent, fused into a transformation of the policies, and constitutional change so non-MPs can fulfil executive functions.

The Tory collapse is particularly damaging given the threat we face from the transfer of enormous powers to an EU institutional matrix doomed to demographic collapse, economic decline and political extremism. We ought to be able to connect the ever-greater threats (new science, new powers, new terror) and political opportunities.

It is time for an alliance of serious Tories, donors and members to reflect on the maelstrom sweeping the globe and the party's true situation, and dictate a series of reforms that gives a chance of revival. When somebody said that nobody was capable of coping with the chaos of 1917, Lenin replied, "There is such a party!", and how right he (unfortunately) was. Who now will say the same?

Dominic Cummings is a former director of strategy for the Conservative Party