Friday, May 23, 2008

Class and politics in Britain

Comment on the Crewe & Nantwich by-election:

Labour has sent up a couple of young men dressed as toffs to follow the Conservative candidate around. It has not boosted its opinion rating either. And now it seems as if one of these men went to an expensive public school himself (not the same posh school as Ed Balls, a different posh school). You have to hand it to Gordon Brown's crack team. I didn't think it was possible, but they've done it. To this the toffs stunt, personally approved by Gordon Brown, adds another dimension - it is an abandonment of one of the party's most attractive features.

I know where Labour got the idea that campaigning against David Cameron's class might work. It came from a group of pundits I call the ChipOx Club. These are journalists who went to Oxford from middle-class homes. On their way back from the library to their college rooms in Michaelmas term, carrying a cup of cocoa and determined to finish their essay on the Battle of Naseby, they had champagne spilt on them by the drunk younger son of an earl who was fleeing a shaving foam fight. They have hated toffs ever since. And they are convinced that everyone else shares their dislike.

As a Jewish suburbanite and the son of immigrants, I have always found such class prejudice baffling. But as a political analyst I have this further observation - if you are going to campaign in Crewe on class, the toffs are the wrong class to campaign against.

Since the days of the industrial revolution there has always been something of an alliance between the working class and the aristocracy, united against the common enemy - the mill owners. When the fighting broke out in the streets of Leeds over the amelioration of factory conditions, radicals and workers' leaders such as Richard Oastler saw themselves as allies of Tories such as the Earl of Shaftesbury.

To be portrayed as a top-hatted toff actually represents an improvement in the Tory image. Being seen as pinstripe-suited bosses, estate agents and spivs was far more devastating. Consider the brilliant salvo fired at the US presidential candidate and businessman Mitt Romney by his opponent Mike Huckabee: "People would rather elect a president who reminds them of the guy they work with, not that guy who laid them off." This is the sort of sentiment that has the ability to damage the Tories. Toffs are benign and reassuring by comparison.

If Labour is baffled by its failure to make class work against Mr Cameron, I think this is part of the reason. His class background is actually helping him to change the way people see his party in a positive way.

There is, however, another reason that it isn't working. Voters do not use Labour's campaign to help them to understand the Tory party. They understand that one party isn't likely to give them an honest picture of the other. They use Labour's campaign to help them to understand the Labour Party. And what the Crewe campaign is doing is signalling that Tony Blair's Labour Party is dead and another, much less attractive, organisation has replaced it.

In 1976 Labour ran a party political broadcast attacking the "honourable Algernon" who was born "with a silver spoon in his mouth". Even at the time, more than 30 years ago, this was regarded as disreputable. Jim Callaghan, then party leader, disowned it. But some in the party hierarchy regarded the broadcast as a masterstroke. Mr Blair built his career on an understanding that these people were wrong.

Class warfare, even if waged against someone else's class, is spectacularly unattractive. It makes Labour seem aggressive, prejudiced, an exclusive sect more interested in your background than your ideas. Mr Blair wanted his party to be a big tent, welcoming everyone. This idea, this powerful political idea, which brought the Tory party to the edge of extinction, which brought landslide Labour majorities, is now over. And with it Labour's political hegemony.

New Labour is dead. Gordon Brown has killed it. And at the funeral, the undertakers will be wearing the top hats from the Crewe & Nantwich by-election campaign.


Catholic Church offers therapy to 'cure' gays in Poland

The sixth-ever International Day Against Homophobia is held May 17, but many homosexuals in Poland will not celebrate it. The Catholic Church has created rehabilitation centers in Poland to rehabilitate gay people and "get them back on the right path." The Odwaga Center uses therapy, prayer and chastity to teach its patients to resist their homosexual impulses. Men at the center are taught to play football and women are taught to cook.

"When you want a candy for example, you can resist and have it later," said Lena Wojdan, a psychologist at the center. "And you can trade it for a piece of chocolate."

But gay associations said that such psychological treatment can be dangerous for the patients' mental health. The therapists tell them that it will pass and when it doesn't, they feel much more depressed, said Marta Abramowicz of Campaign Against Homophobia. "I know many cases when people after that committed suicide," she said.

Several public leaders in the European Union have recently been criticized for discriminating against gay people. A gay American man voiced outrage against Poland's President Lech Kaczynski for using a video of his marriage to another man to publicly denounce an EU proposal for gay rights. A survey published last year showed that more than half of all Poles view homosexuality as a sin.


Anatomy of a Leftist Smear Campaign


During the past two years, while my nomination to the Federal Election Commission was pending - and before I withdrew last week - friends would call whenever the latest newspaper story or blog post attacking me was planted by political operatives and left-wing advocacy organizations. They always asked the same question: Why was I putting up with the character assassination that has become the norm in Senate confirmation battles whenever a conservative is nominated for public office?

In 17 years of practicing law I'd never been accused of ethical or professional lapses. Since my arrival in Washington, however, I've been called corrupt and unethical, and labeled as everything from a Klansman to a Nazi (my last name seems to generate that latter pejorative) for my work at the Department of Justice.

All of these charges were levied because I dared to take a different view of the law than the political left in the area of civil rights, voting and election law. Those outside Washington cannot conceive how far advocacy organizations, party activists and congressional staffers are willing to go to personally destroy anyone who doesn't agree with their political agenda.

In 2001, I joined the Justice Department as a career lawyer in the civil rights division. True enough, I had been warned the division was a cauldron of left-wing political activism. In fact, in a 1990s redistricting case, a federal judge criticized the career lawyers of the division for behaving like the in-house counsel of the ACLU. He said that "the considerable influence of ACLU advocacy on the voting rights decisions of the United States Attorney General is an embarrassment."

The reputation of the division was well-deserved. From the very first day on the job it was clear that my new colleagues were offended by my presence. Indeed, I eventually learned from a few friendlier lawyers in the division that it was a miracle I had been hired: The career staff would discard qualified applicants if they saw anything that suggested conservative leanings.

A number of former career lawyers in the division very publicly criticized my nomination to the FEC in 2006. Their criticisms were trumpeted by the media. While the stories always portrayed these critics as "nonpartisan" professionals, nothing could be further from the truth.

The legal work I saw from these and other lawyers in the division was distorted by politics and partisan policy views. They often misrepresented the facts and applicable law in order to manipulate the division's political appointees. Take, for example, a Mississippi case in which the Justice Department ultimately won a judgment against local officials for blatant and intentional discrimination to deny voters their right to vote. The chief of the voting section, Joseph Rich, deleted the recommendation to file a lawsuit from the original memorandum prepared by the investigating attorney that summarized the case. Why? Because this case involved discrimination by black officials against white voters. According to lawyers involved in the case, Mr. Rich did not believe the Voting Rights Act should be used to protect white voters against racial discrimination.

In a 2003 Texas redistricting controversy, the recommendations of Mr. Rich and his lawyers to object to the Texas plan exactly paralleled the claims of the attorney representing the Democratic plaintiffs in a later lawsuit against the state. The attorney was formerly in the civil rights division of the Justice Department. I opposed their objections, because they were clearly wrong under the facts and the applicable law. A federal court had already determined that under the Voting Rights Act there were only eight protected majority-minority congressional districts in Texas. Mr. Rich and his colleagues tried to claim that there were 11. But the claims were specious, and were only put forth to help the Democratic Party.

I have been relentlessly attacked over the past two years for my stance in that Texas redistricting controversy, and for the Justice Department's preclearance, under the Voting Rights Act, of a voter ID law from Georgia. But the Supreme Court and other federal courts have made it quite clear that the Justice Department reached the correct legal conclusion in both cases. The opinions of the career lawyers in those cases were rejected for good reason; as I held all along, they were legally wrong.

I explained all of this in great detail in materials I provided to the Senate after my confirmation hearing in June 2007. No matter; the reasoned - and undisputed - legal explanation was ignored by the left, the media and the Democratic Senators trying to stop my confirmation. Yet I am still being called a racist and a "vote suppressor" because I agree with the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of voter ID laws.

The Bush administration filed more voting-rights lawsuits in its first five years than the Clinton administration filed in its last five years. And we did so without having over $4 million in attorneys' fees levied against us for filing frivolous discrimination claims, as occurred during that administration.

I do plead guilty to this: bringing to the attention of superiors at the Justice Department the legal manipulations of ideologues in the Civil Rights Division who passed themselves off as professional civil servants while carrying water for their friends and allies in left-wing organizations like the ACLU. Had I kept silent, I would likely be in a far different position than I am today. But I did not, and those I butted heads with have their revenge.

My own hard feelings will pass. But the political system has been damaged once more by the poisonous tactics of the left, and there is no reason to think that the whole sorry spectacle will not be repeated again and again and again. So long as such tactics are accepted and even encouraged by politicians and the media, it will become harder and harder to find ordinary citizens willing to submit to the character assassination that now passes for our confirmation process.


More socialist paternalism for Australian blacks

Blacks must NOT be treated as individuals, apparently. All "for their own good", of course

Fifteen years after the passage of the historic Mabo legislation, the Rudd Government has flagged sweeping changes to native title to ensure the benefits of the mining boom flow to Aboriginal communities and are not locked up in trusts or frittered away. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, delivering the third annual Eddie Mabo Lecture in Townsville, said yesterday that native title legislation was too complex and had failed to deliver money to remote Aboriginal communities, despite lucrative agreements with mining companies. She said changes to native title should be used "as part of our armoury to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians".

Under the changes flagged yesterday, Ms Macklin wants direct payments to individuals minimised in favour of payments that create benefits for the whole community. "It is not tenable for people to continue to live in overcrowded housing in dysfunctional, despairing communities while substantial funds, nominally allocated for their benefit, are either locked up in trusts or distributed as irregular windfalls to be frittered away with no long-term good," she said. "The policy challenge is to both respect the rights of native title holders and claimants to make such agreements in relation to their land, and to make sure that the funds which flow are used to make a difference to their lives and to the lives of their children and grandchildren."

In what could be interpreted as a criticism of the first Native Title Act passed by Labor in the early 1990s, Ms Macklin said there was a need to look hard at the "structures and institutions we have put in place", and to make sure they were working effectively. To that end, the Rudd Government would work up a reform package over the next six months in tandem with the development of its Indigenous Economic Development Strategy.

"We want to actively explore the scope to encourage the negotiation of comprehensive settlements as an alternative to the convoluted claims processes currently in place," Ms Macklin said. "We will need to look at encouraging stakeholders to change the ways payments are negotiated and structured to improve accountability and provide greater assurance to indigenous interests."

Ms Macklin said she and Attorney-General Robert McClelland would convene a small informal group of key players involved in native title to work through these issues, including leading indigenous academic Marcia Langton and Ian Williams, a member of the Argyle Native Title Trust. Ms Macklin said at least three areas needed fundamental change: improving the "overly complex and exceedingly slow" native title claims process; improving representation for the indigenous people making claims; and ensuring that the income streams raised as part of native title agreements were properly distributed.

In 1992, the High Court overturned the legal concept that Australia was unoccupied, or terra nullius, when Europeans arrived. The so-called Mabo decision was followed by the creation of the native title regime in 1994 that has to date resolved 1200 claims. But according to the National Native Title Tribunal, there are more than 550 live claims, including at least 120 that were lodged more than 10 years ago.....

The most controversial part of her Mabo speech was the suggestion of government interference or regulation in the distribution of funds raised through agreements between landholders and mining companies. But Ms Macklin was unapologetic about exploring the option. "There will be a need for hard-headed leadership from indigenous interests," she said. "We would all have cause for shame if the huge proceeds expected to flow to indigenous people from the mining boom are not harnessed to help close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians," she said....

Ms Macklin gave the speech shortly after renaming the James Cook University library after Mabo, who was a 34-year-old gardener at the campus when he discovered he did not own his traditional homeland of Mer Island [Interesting: "Mer" is the original native name. It is shown on maps as "Murray" Island. In 1933 Ion Idriess wrote a novel called "The drums of Mer", which I greatly enjoyed reading when I was a kid] in the Torres Strait.

More here


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.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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