Sunday, May 16, 2010
Like many Conservatives before him, the new British Prime Minister sees the need for reform -- but cautious reform
Consternation has ever been a reliable constituent of comedy. Take, for example, the detonations of disbelief across the left-wing commentariat as they saw Nick Clegg lead the Liberal Democrats into a coalition configured to offer David Cameron a five-year secure tenancy of No 10. It was better than slapstick. Nice Nick was supposed to do as he was told by his backers in the media and form a “progressive alliance” with defeated Labour to keep the wicked Tories out. And what happens? He gives Cameron the solid parliamentary majority the Conservatives could not achieve on their own.
At the start of the week, Polly Toynbee, in an article entitled “Lib-Lab — the only legitimate coalition”, declared: “This is the moment of truth when finally and irreversibly the Liberal Democrats have to define themselves, something they have for so long avoided. Whose side are they really on?” The answer, of course, was: their own. As a result of Nick Clegg’s deal (demonstrating the skills acquired while negotiating with China during his time as a Brussels Eurocrat) not far short of half his MPs get ministerial posts.
The other comical aspect of this denouement is the apparently genuine belief of the advocates of a Lib-Lab coalition that somehow Clegg and his colleagues were guilty of a great betrayal. Yet over the past few years not just Clegg, but also Chris Huhne, David Laws and even Vince Cable — all now in the cabinet — had repeatedly fulminated against new Labour’s quangocracy, its gross abuses of personal liberty, its bloated bureaucratisation and every other aspect of what David Marquand termed “the heavy-handed, statist, democratic collectivism that has been second nature to Labour governments since the 1920s”.
Marquand, one of the founding members of the SDP, who gave his support to new Labour and later bitterly regretted it, made that observation in an article for The Guardian two years ago which now appears visionary. In it, he warned the left that they “had rediscovered one of the oldest tropes in the rhetorical armoury of self-styled progressives” by asserting that David Cameron was a man who “may talk the talk of harmony and cohesion but won’t — can’t — walk the walk”. Marquand presciently identified Cameron as a politician in the “Whig-imperialist tradition [that] reigned for most of the 19th century and virtually the entire interwar period ... it shaped the three great reform acts that slowly widened the suffrage.”
Benjamin Disraeli had his own celebrated formulation of this political phenomenon: a sound Conservative government was “Tory men and Whig measures”.
The idea that it is possible both to be a Tory and a reformer has always been hard for the left to grasp. [It undercuts one of their chief defence-mechanisms] Thus Mark Steel in The Independent wrote of David Cameron’s attempt to portray the Conservatives as enlightened: “The Conservative party has had many images, but retains an unchanging purpose, which is to represent the minority of wealthy people who control society. That’s why they opposed the abolition of slavery [and] the Factory Acts.” The fact that William Wilberforce was a Tory, as was the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (the driving force behind the Factory Acts of the mid 18th century) seems not to have swayed the author from his Manichean outlook: only the left can be good, therefore all Tories are evil.
This is why Marquand’s phrase about “self-styled progressives” is so telling. It pinpoints the deep intellectual conceit of those on the left who imagine not just that they are the only people who can be described as “progressive”, but that anyone from a different political tradition has purely cynical motivations, even — or perhaps especially — as a reformer. In the context of the new government, they therefore find it impossible to take at face value Michael Gove’s claims to want to improve the education of the poorest, or Iain Duncan Smith’s desire to rescue an entire generation from the pit of welfare dependency.
It is, of course, the fact that both these Conservatives see private enterprise and the re-establishment of individual initiative and responsibility as the essential components in any solution of these most difficult of social problems which makes them so unacceptable to the self-styled progressives.
Perhaps it is that implacable sense that there is no political moral worth outside the left which led so many of its commentators seriously to suggest that even after Labour’s debacle in the general election, the “only legitimate coalition” was one led by them. To be fair to the Labour party itself, most of its MPs could see the implausibility of any such government, which could not even muster a parliamentary majority. They actually encountered the mood of the nation on the doorsteps, and in any case had the wary respect for public opinion which tends to distinguish the politicians from their speechwriters.
It was one of Tony Blair’s speechwriters, Peter Hyman, who demonstrated this attitude of mind most clearly last week. On the day that it seemed faintly possible that a deal could be done between the Lib Dems and the political husk that remains of new Labour, Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight invited Hyman to give the Liberal Democrats one reason why they should form an alliance with Labour. “To put the Tories out of power for a generation,” was the instant response of Blair’s ex-adviser.
There you have it. It was nothing to do with any policies; nothing to do with any principles: just a way to manipulate the political system to establish a permanent government of the centre-left — presumably (or so we were told) by passing a law to abolish first-past-the-post constituency elections without even consulting the public. Thank you and good night.
It could have been worse. At least the die-hard columnar supporters of new Labour did not echo the words of the secretary of the East German Writers Union, who, in the wake of the 1953 workers’ uprising against the Communist government, distributed leaflets stating that the people had “thrown away the confidence of the government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts” — prompting Bertolt Brecht to observe: “Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”
The supporters of the doomed Lib-Lab pact insist, by contrast, that there is a “natural” anti-Conservative majority in the country, and that therefore it is “democratic” to have only governments which permanently exclude the Tories (backed by a completely irrelevant 10,683,787 people) from power. On their analysis it would have been more “democratic” to have had a Lib-Lab coalition than the one now in office, even though it had garnered 2m fewer votes. This, apparently, would have been much more “progressive”.
Like all elements of political jargon, the word “progressive” has, in any case, been steadily stripped of meaning. Is it “progressive” to subsidise the biggest landowners in the country for providing a now compulsory form of energy — wind — whose intermittence and inefficiency will only increase fuel poverty among the multitudes? According to the current environmentalist fashion, embraced with a peculiar mixture of sanctimony and credulity by the leaders of the new governing coalition, yes, that is indeed highly progressive. Fortunately for them, whichever particular Milliband becomes leader of the Labour party, they can expect absolutely no criticism from Her Majesty’s Remaining Opposition on that account; and thus it is that the only voices in parliament willing to point out the inequity of such arrangements are to be found on the excluded Tory right.
So the inauguration of this novel political dispensation has not merely provided us with richly comic moments: there is paradox and irony in the mix, too. It will be fascinating to see how the new government copes with the consequences.
Frank Field defects to Conservative-led coalition to be Britain's 'Poverty Tsar'
Field has long been a friend and admirer of Lady Thatcher. He is undoubtedly an exceptionally sincere man
Former Labour Minister Frank Field is to ‘defect’ to David Cameron’s new coalition Government by taking on the role of Britain’s ‘Poverty Tsar’, it was revealed last night.
Social conservative Mr Field is to lead a major review into poverty as part of Mr Cameron’s promise to tackle what he calls ‘Broken Britain’ – social breakdown, rising crime and the benefits dependency culture.
The move is a major boost in Mr Cameron’s attempt to show that his new Liberal-Conservative coalition can command the support of elements of the Labour Party.
In another clear sign of the coalition’s political leanings, leading Left-wing political pundit Will Hutton is to be Mr Cameron’s ‘Fair Pay Tsar’, tasked with slashing the pay of public-sector fat cats.
His job will include advising on new rules to ban local authority and quango chiefs from being paid more than 20 times the salary of the lowest paid employee in their organisation. Mr Hutton writes for The Observer, traditionally a fierce critic of the Tories.
The recruitment of Mr Field and Mr Hutton is the latest stage of what some are calling Mr Cameron’s ‘Operation Hoover’ to entice prominent non-Conservatives to work for his Government.
Tory chiefs have been in secret talks with Mr Field for months to try to persuade him to work for Mr Cameron. He was made Welfare Minister by Tony Blair in 1997 with instructions to cut benefits but quit after a year following a series of bitter disputes with Gordon Brown, who claimed Mr Field’s proposals would punish the poor.
Birkenhead MP Mr Field, who is expected to remain in the Labour Party, will report to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has expressed admiration for Mr Field’s work.
Mr Field is expected to issue a report setting out how Labour’s welfare policies failed to help the poor and to produce guidelines to help the Conservatives to target help to the less well-off more effectively.
A key part of his work will be finding ways to break the ‘dependency culture’ whereby, say some experts, state benefits can undermine the incentive to work and add to social ills.
Mr Cameron wooed Mr Field in public in January when they attended a Tory election event together.
Mr Field ruled out defecting to the Conservatives but said Labour’s policies had failed to end poverty. Mr Cameron praised Mr Field for accepting that children need strong families to instil responsibility.
‘For a long time Frank has been willing to say the unsayable,’ said Mr Cameron. ‘He has argued that the welfare state should be more than a money-redistribution system but rather “openly reward good behaviour and ...be used to enhance those roles which the country values”.
‘He has drawn the link between family breakdown and more instability, more crime, greater pressure on housing and social benefits, arguing that a fundamental principle of the welfare state should be to support families and children. 'When he first started talking about these things, no one quite realised how important they are. Now we do.’
‘Fair Pay Tsar’ Mr Hutton is an ardent pro-European known for his social democrat views.
Mr Cameron’s pledge earlier this year that no public sector boss should earn more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker was coupled with a promise of a review ‘to investigate pay inequality in the public sector’.
It is estimated that up to 200 chief executives and quango bosses could see their pay cut as a result. Big losers will include Ed Richards, boss of communications watchdog Ofcom, whose £392,056 pay is 22 times the £18,000 salary of his lowest-paid staff. But Bank of England Governor Mervyn King will escape – just. At £296,818, his pay is 19 times higher than the lowest-paid employee at the bank’s headquarters in Threadneedle Street, in the City.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance has questioned whether the salary cap would work, saying only ‘a handful’ of public sector chiefs would be affected and accusing Mr Cameron of failing to provide ‘anything like an adequate response to excessive pay at the top of the public sector’.
However, shortly after Mr Cameron’s call, West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who earns £213,000 a year in pay and pension perks, admitted he was not worth it.
He said bumper pay awards were ‘untenable’ and added that many employed by the state were following a vocation and would happily do the job for less pay.
Charges dropped against British Christian who preached ‘homosexuality is a sin’
The street preacher charged with public-order offences for saying homosexuality is a sin has had his case dropped after his plight was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday.
Dale Mcalpine was arrested by police who claimed his comments to passers-by had caused offence. But the Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to pursue the charges as there is insufficient evidence.
Mr Macalpine, 42, said: ‘This is a victory for freedom of speech. I hope we are not going down the road towards a police state and the thought police. I can’t wait to get out on to the streets again and preach the word of God.”
He is now taking legal advice over suing the police for wrongful arrest.
Mr Mcalpine, who earns about £40,000 a year in the energy industry, had been handing out leaflets and talking to passers-by about his Christian beliefs in the centre of Workington, Cumbria, last month.
In conversation with one woman, he listed a number of sins from the Bible, including adultery, drunkenness and homosexuality.
He was then approached by Police Community Support Officer Sam Adams, who said he was gay and a liaison officer with the local homosexual community – and who warned him he could be arrested for making homophobic remarks.
Mr Mcalpine denied he was homophobic but said that as a Christian he did believe homosexuality was a sin. Three uniformed officers then arrested him.
After seven hours in a cell, which he spent reading the Bible and singing hymns, Mr Mcalpine was charged by a Senior Crown Prosecutor with offences under the Public Order Act 1986.
At a magistrates’ court late last month his trial date was set for September, but this newspaper’s coverage of his treatment provoked a public outcry.
Supporters of free speech, including gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, called on the new Home Secretary, Theresa May, to curb politically correct authorities. He said: ‘The Public Order Act is meant to protect people from harm. I urge the Home Secretary to issue new guidelines, making it clear the police should not arrest people for expressing bigoted views in a non-threatening and non-aggressive manner.’
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, which has been backing Mr Mcalpine, said: ‘Cumbria police can’t just walk away from this as if nothing happened. ‘There is clearly a problem in the system that needs putting right.’
Chief Supt Steve Johnson, Police Commander for West Cumbria, said: ‘We would like to reassure the public that we respect, and are committed to upholding, the fundamental right to freedom of expression.’ [How?]
The U.S. Supreme court is too often a far-Left and unaccountable legislature
By Ann Coulter
Americans can thank the Supreme Court for the attempted car bombing of Times Square, as well as any future terrorist attacks that might be less "amateurish" and which our commander in chief will be unable to thwart unless the bomb fizzles.
Over blistering dissents by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, five Supreme Court justices have repeatedly voted to treat jihadists like turnstile jumpers. (Thanks, Justice Kennedy!)
That's worked so well that Obama's own attorney general is now talking about making massive exceptions to the Miranda warnings -- exceptions that will apply to all criminal suspects, by the way -- in order to deal with terrorists having to be read their rights as a bomb is about to go off.
Let's be clear: When Eric Holder thinks we're being too easy on terrorists, we are being too easy on terrorists.
Either the five liberal justices demanding constitutional rights for terrorists are out of their minds, or the religious worship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt has got to stop. According to liberal logic in the war on terrorism, FDR was a bloodthirsty war criminal.
When six Germans and two Americans were suspected of plotting an attack on U.S. munitions plants during World War II, FDR immediately ordered them arrested and tried in a secret military tribunal held behind closed doors at the Department of Justice.
Within weeks, all were found guilty. Six of the eight, including one U.S. citizen, were given the electric chair. One German was sentenced to life in prison and the other American citizen -- who had turned himself in and revealed the plot to the FBI -- got 30 years.
The Supreme Court upheld the secret trial, but didn't get around to producing an opinion until after Old Sparky had rendered its own verdict.
Consider that the eight saboteurs never actually did anything other than enter the country illegally, which I gather is considered a constitutional right these days (except in my future home state of Arizona).
Still, FDR had them executed or imprisoned after trial in a secret military tribunal.
How many future car bombers would be discouraged if Faisal Shahzad were tried by military tribunal and executed by, say, the end of the month? What if Army doctor Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had already gotten the chair?
But we can't do that because, according to five Supreme Court justices who aren't "progressive" enough for American liberals, terrorists waging war on U.S. soil get full constitutional protections.
So, instead, we're left arguing about whether an exception should be made to Miranda rights in the case of a terrorist who plotted with foreign agents to plant a car bomb in Times Square. ("You have the right to remain violent ...")
We are at war. The Supreme Court has no right to stick its fat, unelected nose into the commander in chief's constitutional war powers, particularly in a war against savages whose only reason for not nuking us yet is that they don't have the technology. (The New York Times hasn't gotten around to printing it.)
The reason Democrats are obsessed with controlling the courts is that unelected judges issuing final edicts is the only way liberals can attain their insane policy agenda. No group of Americans outside of Nancy Pelosi's district would vote for politicians who enacted laws similar to the phony "constitutional rights" liberal justices proclaim from the Supreme Court.
President Obama would rather surrender his authority as commander in chief to the Supreme Court than get blamed for deciding to treat terrorists as if they're Paris Hilton facing a drunk driving charge. Let the court do it.
(Recall that Obama's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attack, in a civilian court in New York was even less popular with the American people than Jay Leno at 10 p.m.)
Meanwhile, elected Democrats in Congress are also happy to yield their law-making authority to the court, so they don't have to be the ones voting for laws mandating late-term abortions; hard-core pornography on the Internet; government-sanctioned race discrimination; forced cross-district busing; confiscatory property tax hikes to fund socially engineered school desegregation plans; bans on the public observation of religious traditions shared by most Americans; free education, health care and welfare benefits for illegal immigrants; and a redefinition of the 2,000-year-old institution of marriage against the express wishes of voters in every state to vote on it.
(Note: This is only a partial list.)
The Supreme Court has become a Blue Ribbon Commission for Lunatics, issuing binding edicts in 5-4 votes that Americans would never in a million years vote for. Distinguishing between Elena Kagan and any other Democratic nominee is like distinguishing between Hannibal Lecter and Vlad the Impaler.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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