I've been agonising about what it is that I loathe about New Labour. After all they haven't seriously challenged the Thatcherite legacy. They've just been incompetent.
With old labour it was simply being wrong on every issue, so its the ideology of socialism that I have the problem with. As individuals, socialists can be nice people. Often, a socialist enjoys a good debate with a Thatcherite storm-trooper like me. After an intellectual ding-dong we can chat about the rugby or cricket or other shared interests having enjoyed the mental work-out of defending your position against a coherent (but still wrong)opponent, with no hard feelings on either side.
With New-Labour there's a nastyness I can't fathom, and usually a personal edge to their argument.
Because New-Labour is a party for the post-idealogical age, they have no coherent philosophy. What they have taken from their socialist DNA is a belief that the state can and should provide solutions. Because they have no respect for tradition, this just becomes populism.
Without a coherent philiosphy, policy is made on the run. Banning things and meddling in areas in which government has no business is the hallmark of this government. They are arrogant, and assume that anyone who dosn't agree with them is motivated by self interest, whilst they are trying to "do something". Their constant calls on business to cough up (pensions, charity, Tax, NI, social responsibility) and the exhortations to do so willingly has cost business dear, and made us all poorer.
They are happy to send the troops into danger (and the British Army always delivers), but aren't prepared to spend the cash to equip the forces properly, whilst spending freely on petty bureaucrats in the department for work and pensions. The Navy desperately needs its carriers, the RAF desperately needs its tankers and heavy lift but the money's being used to pay 30,000 gender outreach co-ordinators. The army is now so small that it is more heavily deployed than it was in 1943. It needs more than the 300 or so tanks it has. It needs more not fewer Infantry batallions. It needs new radios (and has done since the 80's). The troops need time to train and rest beween trips to the Gulf. Women and homosexuals in the front line is not a solution for the manpower shortage.
New-Labour is losing its way (if it ever had one in the first place). In a shameless U-turn, Labour have announced a policy (Trust schools) that looks very like the Tory Education policy of the Major government. It is a return to grant-maintained schools, a policy the government scrapped 8 years ago as soon as they got into power. I agree with this trust schools policy, but there's no substance behind it. It will end up getting watered down to the point of uselessness, because the government doesn't understand why it works and will give up all its benefits in shabby compromises with the Teaching unions.
Without a coherent philosophy (and the "third-way" is not one), the principal aim of government is to STAY IN POWER. Is this why they are recruiting so many pointless civil servants? The public sector salariat, insulated from the rigours of life by the private sector tax-payer's ever increasing efforts, are largely Labour-voting. If they can get these creatures to make up over 50% of the population Labour can stay in power forever, after all turkeys would not vote for christmas.
Brownites and Blairites battle over trivial, pesonality driven politics, whilst occasionally cooking up an ill conceived plan full of unforseen consequences whilst blaming everything on the Tories' legacy. They are still doing it, which indicates an unwillingness to take their responsibilities seriously.
Without a philosophy, the New-Labourite resorts to personal attacks to defend an indefensible position. Tories are always "interested in the few, not the many" according to New Labour's demonology; in fact, the Tories have always had a deep and abiding concern for the working man. The tories however do not patronise him by offering government solutions to everything. Instead we believe that he's the best architect of his own sucess.
Without a philosophy, New Labour is simply petty managerialism, mixed with a lot of nany-state autoritarianism and sinister news management.
If you want this country properly run, go to the party which thinks within an intellectually coherent framework (certainly not the wooly inbetweens). Most of Labour's most popular ideas are originally Tory. Think about their education and Health policies... Haven't you seen them somewhere before? We would shrink the role of the state, give people back their liberty, give people a choice amongst a range of increasingly flexible, reformed public services. Taxes will come down, paid for by a shrinking of the civil service, and running the country more efficiently, growing spending slower than the growth in the economy. We'll prioritise the services that matter, and cut the fat (see the Guardian jobs page for examples). Because we understand why the best policies work, we'll do it better.
Monday, 31 October 2005
Friday, 28 October 2005
Law-enforcement and military personel are trained to aim at the centre of mass. If they are counter terrorist specialists, then the chest, chest, head triple tap is used. If there's a suspision of a suicide bomb or remotely detonated device, you keep shooting.
When asked "why did you shoot him 16 times?", the soldier who shot an IRA operative in Gibraltar in 1988 replied "because I ran out of bullets".
The Human Rights lobby talked then about a "shoot to kill" policy, just as they are now. If you discharge a firearm at someone, you are shooting to kill, there's no point denying the fact. There is no such thing as "shoot to incapacitate," Whatever Ian Blair says. You can't "shoot him in the legs": that's a Hollywood myth. The police shooting a suspected suicide bomber 8 times is not execution, nor is it over reaction. It is the right thing to do to stop the bomb going off.
It is regretable that the state sometimes needs to use lethal force. It is horrifying when an innocent man is the victim of a mistake, but Mr Menezes is a victim of terrorism and a mistaken identity, not of police brutality. His family are rightfully angry and I hope the mistakes made leading up to his shooting are rectified following an open inquiry so that other families do not have to go through the same ordeal. At the moment however, there's no non-lethal technology or technique which can deal with the current threat.
Only in a sick socialist society, like new-labour Britain would a "growth rule" that spending grow slower than the economy in order to generate tax-cuts be seen as a radical right wing policy. David Davis has proposed just such a rule. David Cameron said the Tories should "not resort to tax cuts"; instead he's proposing a "sharing" of the benefits of economic growth.
I will have to ask them when I see them on the election hustings, but if Cameron thinks that tax cuts are to be his clause 4, then I will be unable to support him. If he's just putting it nicely for the electorate, I can.
Clause 4 was the policy that defined Old Labour. It called for the Means of Production to be brought into state control. A wronger and more stupid policy cannot be envisoned.
Tax cuts should be part of every sensible parties' election manifesto, after all it is mathematically impossible for taxes to rise forever. It is a core traditional Tory policy, but because they are the right thing to do, not for emotional reasons.
Mr. Cameron can't win the next election by being out Blairing Blair. He must offer a different way that doesn't invole endlessly increasing the state's mien, that sets the people free from bureaucratic interference, that allows business to flourish. David Cameron has the media onside, and must use that to offer a vision of Britain that is more optimistic and less managerial than New Labour.
I still think David Cameron is the one who can lead the Tories to victory, but only if he's offering a Conservative message.
Wednesday, 26 October 2005
Most of the nonsense you have to go through to get on a plane is unnessesary.
How many times do you have to have your passport checked? 5 How many different places must you wait? 3. The chairs are uncomfortable for a reason. You are being herded into the shops. That is why you have to check in so early. It is not security, they are trying to sell you things.
Is there any sense in what you can and can't take on a plane. I've seen people have toenail clippers taken off them. I used to use a tiny penknife with a one and a half inch blade to peel oranges and sharpen pencils (a task it struggled with) until I forgot it was attached to my keyring and it was confiscated. A child once had a toy gun from his Action Man (GI Joe) confiscated.
There comes a point (when the "weapon" in question is less dangerous than fists will do) when common sence and perspective is required.
Incidentally my octegenarian grandfather once wandered onto a plane with a stanley knife in his pocket and at no point was challenged. The systems don't work anyway, yet still deprive me of my orange peeler. (it also had a really useful little LED light, ideal for finding keyholes in the dark)
Mobile phones are annoying, but they're not dangerous in planes (or petrol station forcourts, for that matter)
- If phones, computers and portable entertainment can interfere with avionics, we wouldn't be allowed to have them on planes and would have to have them in luggage
- The only reason they are not allowed is courtesy to other passengers, in which case, say so. Don't patronise us by hiding behind safety and security.
- Clearly most accidents happen on take-off and landing, so anything which would impede access to Emergency exits (laptops, bulky stuff) needs to be stowed. That does not include a walkman.
I get the impression that the terror threat has given the kind of people for whom a uniform (even that of an airline baggage-check-in clerk) is a heaven-sent opportunity to be petty and officious. God help the passenger who snaps under the endless barrage of inconvenience and says something pointed and undiplomatic to the wretch behind the desk. The full force of the state (including emergency anti-terror laws) will come down upon that individual.
On the basis that you can't win and everyones too lemming-like to fight the big brother experience that is modern air transport, here's some advice, therfore for the free thinking traveller.
- If you see any children in the check in queue, kidnap them, wrap them in sack-cloth and check them in with the baggage. Tell their parents its part of the airlines' "kids club lounge" they'll see their sqwaking brats at the destination.
- Never, ever, whatever the provocation, fly with Ryanair. If you weren't a terrorist before you fly, you will be afterwards, so lousy is their customer service.
- Always pack as many borderline objects (Deodorant, razors, matches, phosphate fertiliser, bleach, Al Quaeda recruitment literature) into your hand luggage as you can. It's fun seeing how many you can get onto the plane. Gives the queueing a delightful adrenaline piqancy.
- Wrap an alarm clock in plasticine and masking tape. Potruding wires and ostentatious ticking add to the effect.
- Never, ever lisen to the pre-flight safety briefing, unless the stewardess is really attractive. Incidentally, no life has ever been saved by life-jackets in planes. How about proper fire control systems instead?
- Singapore airlines has the best looking female cabin crew, and I've heard that some of the dodgier eastern block carriers' stewardesses say "yes" if you ask them out for a drink. (though I've yet to try this out)
- Go shooting before you fly, the residue sends the explosive sensors off. You're guaranteed to be groped by someone wearing rubber gloves, a service that normally costs £250 in London.
- Always get drunk, it acts as a soporific so it's you that's snoring and dribbling, not the person next to you. It is so much easier to handle. Eating pickled eggs washed down with 10 pints of Guiness the night before means your sleep is never troubled by anyone elses farts.
- When arguing with immigration or check in staff, never back down until you see the business end of a HK MP5. It makes one feel important to have the state take that much notice of one's consumer complaint.
- Swallow a condom full of antacid powder. It will confuse the lab and waste their time. With any luck you'll get compenstation for wrongful arrest that will more than pay for your holiday (flying home only, not worth the risk in Thailand).
Tuesday, 25 October 2005
Do we really have to suffer endless commentary when any bird dies of 'flu? It's potentially a problem in humans if it mutates to be able to pass from human to human if it becomes more infectious to humans and if it retains its virrulence. The fact that the guy who imported the dead parrot was a convicted criminal is of no consequence. In fact, by obeying Britain's strict quarantine laws, he's demonstrated he has, on this issue at least, gone straight.
In the meantime, there's a lot of preperation ongoing. Great. There's not a lot more that can be done until it kicks off. I don't need to know all the details.
I'm now really bored of the story that takes up half of every news broadcast. There must be more important things in the world going on. Iraq, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and the US. to name a few.
I doubt George Galloway actually wanted to personally profit from Iraqi corruption of the Oil for Food programme, but there may well be wrong doing there concerning charaties run by Galloway and his estranged wife. It wasn't personal gain that led him to praise Saddam Hussein:
"I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability,"
but a deep self loathing, masqueading as concern for the opressed. as far as Galloway is concerned his own society can do no right. The "opressed" Arab can be excused any outrage.
I really hope the mud sticks this time, but he's a slippery fish, and a brilliant orator. His appologists will raise him to martyr staus if any evidence is found leading to punishment. He will enjoy bragging rights if he gets off the hook. A no win situation for all except Mr. Galloway, the shameless demagogue.
Thursday, 20 October 2005
As ever, Mr. Boris Johnson MP gets it just right. Every time there's a tabliod Scare Story, everyone suffers. He doesn't mention the Paediatricians who were beaten up in the Paedophile witch-hunts following the Sun's campaign for a "Sarah's Law", or the dangerous dogs act, or the handgun ban in this excellent opinion piece, but he could have done. The MMR scandal is just the latest in a long line of irrresponsible journalism.
The handgun ban is a classic example of unnessesary legislation in responce to a Tabloid storm. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see that Thomas Hamilton should have had His firearms licence revoked if the rules had been properly applied. Instead, .22 target pistols were included in overly draconian legisation which meant that a sport in which Britain excelled was effectively banned. How many murders were committed with a .22 target pistol? None, ever. Why? They are barely lethal weapons, and a damn sight more expensive than the blowback 9mm you can get in some of London's seedier pubs for £150 (unregistered and illegal, of course). Of course since the ban, gun crime has soared by over 40%.
Yet Labour politicians sought to generate political capital out of the Dunblane Massacre, just as Tories sought to generate it from a seiries of Pit-Bull terrier maulings.
The sooner politicians learnt to resist the urge to legislate everytime the Mail or the Sun gets its knickers in a twist about something, the better. Even better if the public were as sceptical of Journalists' motives as they are of Politicians'.
"Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscripti catapultas habebunt."
Wednesday, 19 October 2005
As I have said before, the only people I have met who think the Tories should have elected Ken Clarke as Leader are Labourites who would force pins into thier eyes rather than vote for economic competence. Never mind, he's out of the running. I admire Ken Clarke, and hope there's a place for him on the front bench.
This news prompted a bet: A very good friend of mine offered £50 on the proposition That Labour under Gordon Brown would increase its majority. His argument was that Clarke is the only one who can increase the tories appeal and Cameron is too young and inexperienced.
I counter that The Beast of Number 11 is univerally loathed outside the Labour Party (because he's a dishonest, thieving, grasping, meddling, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, smug, malevolent toad) and the media seems to like David Cameron, and might actually give him a chance. Whisper it, but I hold out a faint hope of a Tory Victory next time round. After all, a week is a long time in politics.
I shall enjoy taking my friend's money!
I have some other bets... a Lay on Clarke, which has paid off... It looks like my £20 punt on David Cameron which I took out on the day of his campaign launch will pay off. I've just bet that David Davis will be knocked out of the leadership race on Thursday, leaving the young men, Cameron and Fox to face the party members (including yours truly!) Sucessful gambling is very satisfying....
Tuesday, 18 October 2005
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
John Stuart Mill
Monday, 17 October 2005
The one thing that would make the UK a perfect place for me to live would be radio 4 without The Archers. Every time I want to listen for example whilst I cook breakfast on a sunday, I get "Dah da da da da da da de dum di dum di dah dah"
Every time I hear "This sceptered Isle" or "In our time" with Melvynn Bragg being trailed I think "That's interesting. I wonder when that's on?", But the best spots are taken up with a piss-poor soap opera without even the fringe benefit of Hollyoaks' or Neighbours eye-candy.
A whole bastard hour on Sunday morning... at prime fry-up time. Twice a day, every other day of the week.
My view on The Archers is much Like my View on Church. I'm actually quite glad it's there (the multi-culti BBC throwing a bone to Aboriginal England), but it doesn't mean I want to take part. I resented chapel at school, but I'm quite glad I can belt out a hymn or psalm whilst approaching the correct tune. I can even sing a mass or two, but I'm an aethist, and I don't want it wasting an hour of my Sunday.
The BBC would get my support (huge licence fee hike not withstanding) if the archers were relegated to Longwave, or Longwave could be archers-free... just give me an opportunity to listen to something on a Sunday with my bacon and eggs that isn't Eddie Grundy's problem with his Tractor.
Ranted by Jackart at 10/17/2005 08:45:00 a.m.
Friday, 14 October 2005
The Daily Mail (and the sections of the Tory party who think its opinion is interesting) keeps banging on about whether David Cameron took drugs at university. Mr. Cameron says he "wasn't in public life at the time, it's none of your business, bugger off"*. And quite right too. If everyone was barred from anything worthwhile because they smoked pot or snorted some blow as a young man, the world would be very dull, and run by the kind of no-life careerist automata who chose what they wanted to do at 12 and let nothing as sordid as youthful fun get in the way.
Because sex is so accepted, and even troilistic "romps" are spoken of in congratulatory sniggers, Britain's famously ignorant, purient intrusive tabloids have to have something to work their petty bourgois (Daily Mail, Express) or lumpen proletarian (Sun, Mirror) readership into a fit of moral indignation.
The issue is Drugs.
"SECRET DRUGS SHAME OF (insert name of celebrity/politcian to be hounded)" scream the headlines. The model, Kate Moss was recently hounded out of several lucrative contracts because of her Cocaine use. Despite the fact that most of her peers (ab)use recreationally, the argument that somone in the public eye is a "role model" seems to make constant vitriolic harrasment acceptable.
The sooner people learn to have some perspective on drugs the better. Everyone likes to get squiffy from time to time. A tipple, be it sherry, or an occasional line of coke never did anyone much harm. Buckfast for breakfast and you've got a problem. When you're turning tricks to fund your smack habit, you've got a problem. All drugs represent temptation, and have the potential to destroy your life. Some are worse than others. But, with people who used to get drunk as a frat boy at university being described as an "alcoholic" in certain circles in the US, and the occasional line being shouted in banner headlines as an "addiction", you risk trivialising what can be a serious problem.
Because the rhetoric of fear doesn't match most peoples' experience of drugs, there is a risk that the very real danger is ignored.
*this isn't a direct quote, but it's the gist of what he's saying
"Morality is herd instinct in the individual" Nietzche
"Moral indignation is Jealousy with a halo" HG Wells
"There is nothing so unpleasant as the British public in one of it's periodic fits of moral indignation" if anyone could point me in the direction of this quote's source....Sounds like Churchill, but could be older.
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
I am going to make reference to a specific set of policies and then make a broader point.
There used to be a type of pension called a "defined benefit" scheme. These paid out according to how long you had worked, not how much you had saved.
The crypto-marxists in the Labour government decided that this was too important to be left to individual companies to organise. So they regulated....
- Any deficit in the fund must appear on the company's balance sheet.
- If there is a deficit in the fund, then dividend payments and aquisitions can only be made with the approval of the Pension fund trustees (sometimes Union trots rather than sensible Human Beings).
This is not just bad legislation, it typifies the law of unintended consequences. It represents all that is wrong with this government. Companies which try to do the right thing by their employees will be punished by a massively higher cost of capital, and a hugely constrained freedom of action. The result, according to one pension consultant is that "any company continuing to run a defined benefit scheme is risking Corporate Suicide". A couple of years ago, when pension funds were in their worst shape, I remember describing British Airways as "an insolvent Pension fund with a troubled subsidiary concerned with passenger air transport". This was a direct result of a piece of legislation designed to force companies to put more money into funds. It has backfired horribly (and predictably) on those who it was supposed to help.
So why does the Labour Party continue to regulate without thought to the consequences? They believe, as all socialist believe, that they are well motivated. They believe that they can do good. They believe they can make the world better. Worse, they believe they know how to do this.
The Conservative on the other hand knows that he doesn't have the answers (known unknowns?!). He knows that legislation should be a last resort. He understands the market represents the sum of all knowledge and therefore will be better informed than any controlling intelligence will ever be.
The Lefty world view represents a vast range of opinions from the Union Hack through the Islington polenta eater to the anarcho-syndicalist green-hair G8 rock chucker, has one central concept. That there is an ideal to be achieved. Be it European intergration, world peace, socialist utopia, anyone who does not share the vision needs to be "educated".
The Conservative, on the other hand sees the world in terms of "problems to be solved". He has no destination in mind (though I accept he often has a hankering for lost certainties). Because he has no ideal in mind, there is no suggestion in the conservative mind that the end ever justifies the means.
That is not to say the conservative is not capable of principle. He is, and it is usually the cause of freedom on which the conservative stands, somthing the left, in general, only supports when it suits them. Hitler was most resolutely opposed by an arch conservative and appeased (and at times supported) from the left. The Communist party of GB was chalking "End this imperialist war" on roads just days before Barbarossa, and "Second Front Now" just days after. Hardly a principled position.
So in the absence of these great issues today, what now for the conservative viewpoint?
We believe that economic freedom, the freedom for individuals and companies to invest and spend the fruits of their labours as they see fit with minimum interference from the state, is a cornerstone of liberty. We believe that Government intervention is counterproductive more often than not. We believe that the ancient liberties of the Englishman (and the freedoms of the Welsh and Scots which have different, but equally venerable roots) which have been a fundamental part of the constitution since the coronation oath of the kings of Wessex in the 7th century, should not be swept aside lightly.
We believe that Legislation like that governing Pensions discussed above, like that tying people to the munificence of the state via a byzantine benefits system, like the fox-hunting ban, like the Incitement to Religious hatred bill, like ID cards, like the Handgun ban, the Dangerous Dogs act (Tory I know!), like the Human Rights act and countless others, all actually serve to limit freedom and have no place on our statute books. None of them have sucessfully adressed the issue they were brought into deal with.
We need a government who respects the right of people and businesses to make decisions, even if they get it wrong. There is no freedom at all if there is no freedom to fail. We need a government who respects tradition as representing accumulated wisdom, not ancient flummery. We need a goverment with the courage to say "that is not government business" when confronted by calls to "do something".
In short, this country desperately needs a Tory* administration.
*In an update on my opinions on the Conservative leadership... I am swinging round to David Cameron. Though David Davis concurs with my views more accurately, DC will present the conservative viewpoint more palatably to an electorate who are not ready to be told the truth bluntly.
Monday, 10 October 2005
This Weekend, I realised however good getting a good hiding was for the soul, dishing it out is much better fun. Saturday saw a rampant Heathens side tear apart a St. Nicholas Old Boys side 76-0. It has to be said that in this confrontation, experience (of which they had plenty judging by the silvery hair) was no match for youthful vigour. The breakdown was vigorously contested and they never stopped competing, but their lines were easy to pick and they were easy to tackle. In defence they just couldn't catch our backs.
I promise this was not a tactic used to guarantee victory....
Ranted by Jackart at 10/10/2005 11:00:00 a.m.
Sunday, 9 October 2005
For anyone who's wondering why There haven't been any posts concerning the series beween an International Team and Australia, there are 2 reasons for my silence.
- Australia are winning easily, and I am a bad loser. I will be forced to congratulate Adam Gilchrist for a stunning innings, and the whole Australian Team for showing everyone why they are still #1.
- It is on at antisocial hours, and I can't watch it at work.
Ranted by Jackart at 10/09/2005 02:44:00 p.m.
Friday, 7 October 2005
All tax is in effect expropriation of cash with menaces using the ultimate coersive power of the state. That most people agree with the need for some state spending on common goods means they give up their money willingly.
As soon as tax-payers start to feel put upon, the "pips start squeaking" to use the labour party's unpleasant phrase, then a rethink is in order.
In the UK, councils are mainly funded by a central grant. What the Labour party did is recalculate the grants available to councils, whilst setting targets for councils for certain services. This recalculation had the (unintended, I'm sure) effect of decreasing the money available, on average to Tory councils and increasing the money available to Labour councils. This forced Tory councils to put up Council-Tax so the tax-rise was delivered by your nice local Tory, not the Beast of No.11 Downing Street.
The Support The Rev. Alfred Ridley and Sylvia Hardy recieved indicates that the public is consious of the manifest unfairness of a tax that massively punishes those aspirational and prudent enough to buy a large house over their working lives, and taxes according to its value, even when their income falls on retirement, especially if their investment increases in value.
The public really doesn't realise how deep the electoral corruption involved in this tax-hike is, but let's get rid of this ridiculous tax and fund Councils centrally by grant, without maintaning the fiction that money is raised locally.
Thursday, 6 October 2005
I'm a libertarian. That means I believe in freedom of choice is for the individual and not the state. With that principle underlying most of my political beliefs, I find a dilemma with drugs. Cannabis should be legalised from a personal freedom point of view, and there is no need to go through the arguments. It's "hard drugs" which pose the greatest problem for society and lawmakers.
Being addictive, especially the opiates and the highly refined chemical drugs, can freedom of choice really be said to be exercised by the individual? Does the state have a duty to protect the British subject from substances that remove freedom by encouraging addiction? That is the principal argument behind the "war on drugs".
The state, I believe does have a duty of care, and therefore should act to limit drug use, but the prohibition of sale and interdiction of supply are doomed to failure, especially in a free society. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BUSINESS AS PROFITABLE AS ILLEGAL DRUGS. This morning, the Government spokesman on the subject Paul Goggins boasted about an increase in seizures of drugs at ports. Well that's more likely to reflect greater flow than greater success in stopping the trade. Even if the supply were temporarily interrupted, the price in the market would rise, and so would the rewards to potential traffickers. In any case 60% interdiction is necessary to seriously disrupt the supply chain instead of the 20% stopped now.
The drug lords therefore operate in a Government guaranteed oligopoly, but do not have to provide any welfare for their staff or customers. Indeed the cutting of drugs with less than savoury mixers to increase profits leads to many of the health problems associated with drug use. Furthermore, there have been cases of a wave of overdoses if a batch unusually pure heroin for example hits the street. All these are symptoms of the drugs' illigality, not the drug itself.
The crime associated with drug use is also, in part, a symptom of government policy. The policy of interdiction keeps the price artificially high, and once hooked, an addict will find it harder to get help than he otherwise would were drugs legal. Because the price is high, theft is easier than work to fund a habit. The surest way to fund a drugs habit, though, is to become a dealer yourself, and this guarantees an efficient pyramid marketing scheme that creates more users. It also puts layers in the supply chain, each further insulating the organised criminals who run the business from the law. People who like, for example a bit of pot to pass round with their friends, or a tab of MDMA for a party get exposed to this criminal marketing scheme. This is dangerous.
Drugs are bad for you. Nothing will change that, but prohibition makes the situation worse. Instead the resources (huge resources) that are currently tackling the supply should instead be directed at limiting demand through education of the dangers and rehabilitation of addicts. At present, the government is treating heroin addicts with methadone, even more addictive, which is just crass. Instead a rehabilitation program using the real thing, as has been successfully used in Switzerland would be more successful.
By removing the extreme sanctions against drug use, users would be more inclined to seek help before they lose their jobs and lives. Habits would be easier to sustain from within normal society, so the effects of a habit would be mitigated.
A state sanctioned supply of all drugs would break the criminal hold on the industry. The highly efficient pyramid marketing scheme would collapse. The price would fall and habits would become cheaper to sustain. The drugs themselves would become purer and less harmful to health. Demand for some of the really harmful drugs would recede. Why take crack or crystal meth when cocaine or heroin is freely and cheaply available?
This issue is one where a 180 degree change in policy is needed, but one where the "daily mail"* viewpoint would mean that the best solution: total legalisation of everything combined with vigorous anti-drugs propaganda and massive increase in resources for rehabilitation, would be political suicide. The daily mail arguments against such a policy "Government says drugs OK", "Kids free to be hooked on drugs" can be safely ignored, but there are real risks to such a policy.
Arguments about the increased availability of drugs undser a legalised regime are reasonable. You are never more than a short bus ride away from your next hit, even in the leafy suburbs, but a legal supply is easier than an illegal one. It is likely however that, in the short term at least drug use will increse as people experiment. Just as with Tobacco, this will receed with time and education. Organised crime, denied its most lucrative business, will find something else to do, and that won't be pleasant. Someone is going to make a legitimate profit from the sale of drugs, and that is difficult to stomach. It will be hard to legalise something so clearly harmful, but I feel it is the least bad option.
Whatever the objections, it is clear the current policy is failing everyone except organised crime. It is time for a radical rethink. I would really like to hear anyone's opinion on this, so comment away!
*for American readers, the Daily Mail is a nastly little right-wing authoritarian rag with pretentions to seriousness, parodied in the BBC's Yes Minister as "the paper read by the wives of the people who run the country". If there is anything wrong with the Tory Party, it is the Daily Mail's opinion that is at fault. The only paper I hate more is The Guardian, a tedious left-wing rag for sanctimonious, pretentious sociology students and Islington polenta-eaters that represents everyhig about the smug left that I loathe.
Wednesday, 5 October 2005
Tuesday, 4 October 2005
As I write this I'm listening to the Interview with the reclusive playwrite, Alan Bennett on radio 4. For all the talk of "dumbing down" the BBC still gives air time to some really interesting, erudite people.
I studied Talking Heads at school. I remember a series of simple monologues about ordinary (very ordinary) peoples lives being so beautifully written and touchingly delivered in Mr. Bennett's instantly recognisable northern dialect. "A chip in the sugar" needed no editing, Just a simple, head and shoulders talking to the camera.
The Interview dealt with his politics (which never overtly impinged on his work) and his homosexuality to which he responded "It's like asking a man crawling across a desert whether he preferrs Evian or Volvic". Bennett, an intesely private man, had wise words for Britain's famously intrusive tabloid press. The talk moved onto his work.
He started in the theatre with "Beyond the Fringe" along with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and the late, Great, Peter Cook and this heritage showed through. Talking heads was so good, because of the twinkle in the eye, the spark of humour with which everything was embued with human warmth, despite the drearyness of the subject matter.
I was lucky enough to get to see "The History Boys", his last play, at the National Theatre. It elicited some belly laughs and not a small amount of debate in the press about the Homosexual teacher, Hector, played by Richard Griffiths and his (more or less) innocent relationships with the senior Boys. For me the real star of the show was Mrs Lyntott played by Frances De La Tour. She came on, paused, alone on stage, and said to the audience with perfect comic timing, "I have hitherto not been granted an internal monologe" and then brilliantly and subversively pricked every male ego in the room.
Bennett based "the History Boys" on his experinces at school, a good northern grammar of the sort that the Labour party wanted to and did "destroy". Mrs Lyntott represented the hard working, worldly-wise teacher who could drag the best out of some difficult kids, and gave the Young Bennett a grounding in the basics of Grammar and a love of the written word.
Hector represented the teacher Bennett wished he had been taught by. A charismatic, passionate advocate of learning for learning's sake and to hell with the exam board. Hector was an amalgam of the teachers he'd heard about from Public School* boys whom he met in his national service days, learning Russian with the Army. It was with the Army, in this company, that Bennett had his intellectual awakening.
The fact remains, characters like Alan Bennett are products of the finest system of education in the world. One that was totally egalitarian and gave opportunities to any working class children who could pass the exam. The end of selecton effectively meant the end of educational excellence in the state sector. Never the less, there are great teachers in the state sector still, but the Comprehensive environment is not one where bright children can be taught that learning is an a priori good. Teachers have too much to do to drag the troubled up to standard to stretch the potentially brilliant.
Now Oxford and Cambridge, Sandhurst, Westminster, the City, the Bar, Journalism and the Arts, in fact the whole of public life in the UK is more dominated by the Public Schools' alumni than at any time since the thirties. Labour's 40-year campaign of vandalism against the Grammar school has served to entrench priveledge. And they still hate excellence, despite what their policies have done to those they are trying to help.
*for my American readership, Public schools are the expensive private boarding schools. Grammar schools were selective state schools, now rare outside Northern Ireland. Comprehensives are schools where children of all abilities are taught together, the norm in the UK, which replaced the Grammar and the Secondary Modern.
Ranted by Jackart at 10/04/2005 08:29:00 p.m.
It is clear what the Presbyterian one has done: He has instructed civil servants to go out and come up with ways of raising lots of money without raising income tax or corporation tax.
This has had the effect of doubling the length of the tax code since 1997.
Of course if you can't touch income or corporate profits (which aren't growing as fast as the Prudent one would like because he has already raised tax and red tape to such an extent), then there's only one source of cash. The nation's savings. As this is private sector money, it has the double advantage that the (Labour voting) public sector salariat doesn't pay.
The latest wheze is to tax capital in Life funds, specifically surplus money in Non-Profit business, the cash that would eventually go to policy holders as some form of dividend or bonus, but also acts as security for the industry against increases in life expectancy or poor stockmarket returns.
Obviously he hasn't consulted the industry. He just takes at will to fund his profligacy.
Monday, 3 October 2005
If anyone thinks the Tories should elect Ken Clarke as their leader should have a look at the "have your say" from the BBC.
The Number of posts that say "I'm a labour supporter" and then go on to say "they should elect Ken Clarke"... Perhaps Ken can expand Tory appeal, but perhaps he's just the only one Lefties can stand (or have heard of).
The policy work that was started under IDS hasn't gone away and the pary is coalescing around a core of policies on which we will fight and demostrate to the electorate that the party is fit to govern again.
By appeasing our enemies on the left by electing Ken, we'll have done ourselves no favours. By being true to the message of lower, fairer taxes and individual responsibility over group rights, and electing someone the party actually supports, we'll bring the electorate back onto our centre ground (as we have done sucessfully on almost every issue since the corn-laws). We can't let Labour supporters, who would never vote for us anyway, persuade us to make another disatrous choice. Ken Clarke makes siren calls, suggesting only he can win. The electorate will see through such political expediency for what it is: a desperate sell-out for power, and they will not thank us.
David Davis or David Cameron remain my favoured choices, especially the latter following his charismatic leadership bid launch. The electorate will get to know them and their abilities, and will soon see through the miasma of name-calling. Calling someone "right-wing" is utterly meaningless and anyway, why does espousal of tax-cuts or education policies which involve some sort of voucher mark you out as a goose-stepper? This is exactly the kind of Yah-boo politics which is destroying our democracy. These are talented men, who when the party is united behind the victor, will destroy Brown and Co. at the dispatch box and on the hustings.
We got a bit of a spanking at the hands of a very strong Wasps ameteur team. 88-0. Worse, our scrum-half broke his collar-bone. Eveyone on their team as well as our guys were asking after him and we all wish him a speedy recovery from that most painful of injuries.
It was a very tough afternoon, but one I think which sums up why I love rugby. The courage and heart shown by our team, especially our full-back, who kept lining his men up and knocking them over all afternoon, was very impressive. Their scrum found it harder to push us off the ball as the day wore on and we never gave up, despite not having any posession to play with. Despite the 10-man brawl 5 minutes in, there were no hard feelings and we enjoyed a few beers with our tormentors after the game.
It takes guts to tackle a bigger, stronger, faster man and knock him over, when you have no hope of winning the game or even salvaging a consolation score, but you have to look inside and find the strength, if not for yourself but for the guys you are playing with. Rugby teaches elequently that we are stronger together. That the team is the most important thing. That you must do your bit to the best of your ability.
In the bar afterwards, singing a few mucky songs, I felt exquisitly happy. I always feel good when physical exhaustion is mixed with about 10 pints of Shepard Neame breweries' finest, but there's no doubt, taking a good kicking once in a while is good for the soul. We'll bounce back and next week we're at home to St Nicholas Old Boys. They will rue the day!
As Nietzche remarked, "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger."
Ranted by Jackart at 10/03/2005 10:56:00 a.m.