Saturday, 3 September 2011

Posh lefties are back from Tuscany - and talking bollocks!

You wait ages for an eminent member of the left-liberal chatterati to say something particularly stupid, then three of them turn up at once! I expect it’s because they’re all just back from Tuscany, where they’ve no doubt all been worrying themselves sick about all the decent, law-abiding Britons adversely affected by the stupid, feckless, criminal rioters who so recently decided to prove what most of us already knew – that liberal social and economic policies invariably lead to disaster.

Anyway, it’s great to have the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Polly Toynbee and Will Hutton back so I can vent some spleen against brainy privileged socialists who hate ordinary people.

First off, Ms Redgrave, who’s been keenly championing the cause of the Dale Farm Irish “travellers”. The lanky thespian’s comments offer rich pickings for those seeking examples of the Left’s willingness to misrepresent reality in pursuit of an unjust cause: "It's a day on which I have great hope that this strong, wise, warm and gentle community will have their rights protected and will not have their rights disintegrated."

I take it she’s referring to the following passage in Magna Carta: “Ye rights of ye fcurvy lawless anti-focial knaves hailing from foreign fhores to break ye law and make intolerable ye lyves of ye honest taxpaying fubjects of this countrye who voteth for ye Torye Baftards anyway and descend not from an famous acting dynafty and readeth not Ye Guardian fhall in no manner be difintegrated, no matter how much mifery they cause.”

I’ll admit that when, a few years back, the parents of some traveller children (whose UN charter rights Mss R is also keen to protect) took to beating up teachers at our local state primary school, the adjectives that sprang to mind did not include “gentle”, “warm” or “wise”.

Polly Toynbee next (inevitably). According to the Total Politics Blog, she told an audience at the Edinburgh Festival yesterday that “left-wing people are more intelligent, and just generally better people” than right-wingers. To be fair, the journalist reporting the event described her as saying this “with a slightly mischievous look on her face”. But our Pol doesn’t really do irony: I think she was simply giving voice to what most middle and (in her case) upper-middle class lefties actually believe - in order for those of us on the Right to hold the opinions we do, we must be either mad or stupid or both. 

On the question of intelligence – who knows? The majority of those involved in the  “book larnin’” professions - lecturers, teachers and the like – are undoubtedly left-wing. So are the majority of those involved in broadcasting, publishing and the press, and those “experts” in Quangoland who continue to bleed the public purse dry despite Dave Cameron promising he was going to set fire to them all. 

I suspect, the leftiness of intellectuals (I use the term very loosely) is partly due to frustration at the refusal of most ordinary people – who are overwhelmingly small “c” conservatives – to accept their pronouncements as Holy Writ. Intellectuals create endless victim-groups to champion so that someone will take them seriously and show some gratitude for a change. As in the case of Ms Redgrave’s travellers, brainy left-liberals prefer undeserving victim groups whom ordinary people despise: this is the academically-inclined lefty’s way of punishing the rest of us for not respecting them.

When you equate intelligence with competence or common-sense or the ability to make things work or to predict the future, the left doesn’t fare so well: there is no country so happy, nor an economy so successful that the left couldn’t destroy it within a couple of years. They don’t understand people (actually, they don’t really like people), so they don’t understand how markets work, so they can’t run economies. Because they have such regard for their own intelligence, they’re convinced that the best way of running anything is for highly educated “experts” to devise plans – which always fail, because the experts don’t understand people or markets. 

I’ll leave Ms Toynbee’s point about the moral superiority of the Left for another day and turn to her platform partner at Edinburgh, Will Hutton, who was banging on about fairness. Now, Hutton is a former BBC economics correspondent, so he is utterly ignorant about how successful economies work, but, like many lefties, is quite obsessed with money. His basic point appears to have been that we must all share in each other’s “brute good luck” and “brute bad luck”. One example he gives of this in practice is inheritance tax – we should all share in the “brute good luck” of someone born to wealthy parents.

My wife and I won’t have much to leave, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t be allowed to leave every single penny we possess to our son, and I don’t see why any of our rich friends should be expected to supplement his inheritance: we worked for that money and they worked for theirs. The thought that a single penny of it might end up in the hands of the offspring of, say, parasitic, tax-dodging travellers is disgusting. And if the left were to argue that not paying Danegeld to the children of law-breaking foreigners will result in perpetuating the cycle of anti-social criminality, I would argue that the cycle could more effectively be broken by locking them up when they commit crimes, or by forcefully inviting them to return to their country of origin. Besides, given that the little bastards have grown up in a “strong, wise, warm and gentle community” I reckon they’ve had all the brute good luck they need to see them on their way.

The desire to do the best we can for our children is the most natural and healthy of human urges, and the greatest motivating factor in the development of decent societies – just look at what happens whenever that desire is thwarted.

But, then, you’d have to be a brighter and better person than me not to be able to grasp that. 


  1. It's not just Redgrave, Toynbee and Hutton. Our cup runneth over. Freedland's back, too.

    Why wait for politicians to oust foreign tyrants?, he asks in the Guardian*, and points out that Every one of us can do our bit.

    Should bien-pensant liberal regimes bomb dictators out of power? Yes or no?

    That's a "crude binary choice", according to Freedland, and we don't do crude and we don't like making choices, do we, we look for a third way ...

    ... in the search for which, he quotes approvingly from a new book by Carne Ross, "a former high-flying British diplomat who resigned after serving as our lead man on Iraq at the UN security council".

    Mr Ross thinks that "we have, for too long, expected governments to take care of the world's problems ... they are no longer up to the job". What people need to do is "reclaim control over their own lives and futures". Why leave action to politicians? "... individuals can act, especially in concert with others. Such talk sounds fanciful until he [Carne Ross] recalls the example of the Spanish civil war, when 30,000 foreign volunteers went to fight for the republic".

    Blimey. Governments are no longer up to it? What an idea to suggest! Isn't that a hate crime?

    Take back control of our own lives? Isn't that some sort of selfish Thatcherite notion? The sort of social disease for which Tony Blair would have the state intervene in family life to nip in the bud?

    There's no point, Mr Freedland seems to be saying, going on an awayday demo to London, young ideologues with the courage of the Guardian's convictions should be in Libya, now, putting their lives where their mouths are.

    Lord and Lady Redgrave-Toynbee-Hutton must look on in consternation. Was Jonathan out in the sun too long? Was he perhaps mugged by reality while on holiday?

    No doubt after a convention of the nomenklatura's kangaroo court, an apology will be published. Or a clarification. Only the children of the rich will be forced to go and fight in Sirte.


    Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 08:50 PM

  2. There's a nice old ex-Communist called Zygmunt Bauman doing a piece to camera on the Guardian [1], in which he makes the point that political policy is one thing, the power to implement it is another. If the two things happen occasionally to be located in the same place, e.g. Parliament, that is an accident, and today in the UK, and elsewhere, they certainly aren't located in the same place. The coalition may or may not have policies, and they may or may not be, to put the best gloss on it possible, asinine, but the politicians certainly can't implement those policies. Power has been lost to the supra-national institutions like the EC and the IMF and to multi-national corporations, particularly the banks.

    At the same time, the nice old ex-Welshman Simon Jenkins has a new book out, a history of England [2]. That's England. Specifically England. Not Britain or GB or the UK or ... For some reason England, he says, got to liberal democracy 100 years ahead of anyone else and built the biggest empire the world has ever seen and dismantled with commendable and unprecedented grace. How? To understand the reason, you have to go back in history and trace the big themes forward, among others the desire of our political rulers to go into battle, the need for money to fund those battles, money which could only be raised in taxes on the people, and the need to establish some willing agreement between the two, rulers and the people. For hundreds of years, Jenkins says, the ring has been held by parliament, parliament have somehow kept themselves at the centre of events.

    Time for a debate between Bauman and Jenkins. Has the centre moved now, and left an irrelevant parliament behind?

    Parliament is meant to have the power to implement its policies. That's why we have Whitehall. But Whitehall, as we know, is useless. In an interview with [3], Lord Adonis, currently director of the Institute for Government, says “My criticisms are about the machine [i.e. Whitehall]”, and “My own view is that the civil service is full of brilliant people who are terribly managed” and “The machine really is very badly run”. What will Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary and head of the home civil service, brilliant person and terrible manager, say in reply?

    These comments of Adonis's have not yet been reported in the Guardian. A shame. But you can see why that might be, because all their hopes for a powerful centralised state to which we are all beholden for everything (all ... everything ... total ... itarian ...) vaporise without a powerful/effective civil service, their position is predicated on something that doesn't exist, a fantasy.

    It doesn't seem to matter where the argument starts, you always get back to the same place with the left in the end – fantasy.

    I just thought I'd mention it.



    2. and

    Friday, September 2, 2011 - 11:21 AM

  3. Who knows? It may be a temporary thing. But the Adonis interview has now, for the moment, disappeared from the website. 404: Page not found.

    There is still a Google cached version available at
    Saturday, September 3, 2011 - 11:07 AM

  4. Yes, the Left hates “crude binary choices” (for “crude”, substitute “clear”). Whenever a right-winger offers a clear choice between courses of action, your intellectual lefty always accuses them of not understanding the complexity of the situation. Complexity requires teams of experts gassing away for months and endless articles by left-wing commentators in left-wing journals, and conferences (preferably abroad) and round-table debates and appearances on the BBC.

    Carne Ross seems to forget one thing – the side those 30,000 volunteers went to fight for lost: and quite a few foreigners, including many Britons, fought for the winning side. They no doubt spent their youth with Che Guevara posters blu-tacked to their bedroom walls and it’s probably beginning to dawn on them that there’s a danger they’re never going to end up as the cool-looking freedom fighter with dreamy eyes, a beret on their bonce, a tasty senorita in one hand and a Kalashnikov in the other. Mind you, given that the whole socialist ethic rests on the belief that the state can achieve anything and that it’s the citizen’s duty to quash his individuality in favour of the mass, how the hell the likes of Freedland end up spouting this sort of “do your own thing, man” Fifth Form drivel is beyond me!

    I agree with Jenkins about liberal democracy leading to the Rise of the British Empire and over a century of extraordinary success – Hayek put the same argument forcefully in “The Road to Serfdom” over 65 years ago (and the Scots might feel understandably miffed at not being included, given the role of Scotsman Adam Smith in devising and spreading the philosophy of Free Trade on which all this success rested). But I think Bauman’s right that Parliament has become borderline irrelevant to our lives, and the existence of an unworkable coalition has simply highlighted the fact – it’ll be fascinating after five years of this ghastliness to compare what Cameron promised he’d do with what he’s actually achieved. Friends we have in common, who live it Italy, predicted all this at least ten years ago – they claimed that as British politics moved into line with the rest of Europe, and the policies of the various parties became indistinguishable because of the power of Brussels and the craven desire to get on with our allies, our political class would no longer feel the need to do anything the electorate asked of them. Spot on.

    As for the civil service, why wouldn’t they go along with whatever Brussels wants? I’m sure there are many (well, some) patriotic, highly intelligent and efficient civil servants – but I suspect the majority of them absolutely adore the idea of working hand-in-glove with an utterly unaccountable bureaucratic superstate: after all, they are bureaucrats – and what could be more irritating than having to do what some silly little “here today, gone tomorrow” politician asks you to do? I have no idea whether the Civil Service is well run or not – when I saw it in action up close a few years ago, I was appalled: the bit of it I was working with made the BBC look like a model of streamlined managerial competence. (Mind you, the fact that their minister was an incompetent fruit-loop – even by Labour standards - can’t have helped.)

    I have an idea the only politicians who could actually get sensible, popular policies through the current system would be lower-class non-Oxbridge types with a brutal streak and some actual political and moral beliefs (Eric Pickles?).

    Anyway, thanks very much for the comments – really meaty stuff!
    Sunday, September 4, 2011 - 07:11 PM

  5. Quiz
    Recently back from his holidays, who wrote:

    Finally, the West must rediscover the joys of multilateralism and shared sovereignty. That is tough when, in Europe, nobody wants to pay Greece’s bills. But multilateralism is a global insurance policy against abuse of power. The problem is not that the EU and other multilateral institutions are too strong; it is that they are too weak. Regional institutions in the Arab world, Africa, Latin America and East Asia are still in their infancy — and need to grow up fast.

    Answer –

    Supplementary questions:

    Why did he write it?
    Is there any conceptual connection between the five sentences?
    What does it all mean?
    Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 11:49 PM

  6. One presumes the writer means a global insurance policy against growth, prosperity, democracy and freedom. I assumed it would be some frightful Lib Dem numbskull, but a Google search revealed the author to be David Miliband. One presumes that he's preparing himself for a job on a widerl stage - perhaps the President for Life of a new supra-global organisation which can control evey aspect of every human life. That'd show Ed, wouldn't it!
    Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 09:51 AM

  7. DM (NOT DAVID MILIBAND12 October 2011 at 21:29

    Yes, I agree, it's a job application.

    Mr Miliband has actually published this article twice.

    Once in Prospect magazine. That version currently graces the Nonsense column of the gronblog.

    And once in the Times,

    Different audiences are told different things.

    Prospect-people are told:

    Finally, the west is going to have to rediscover the joys of multilateralism and shared sovereignty. That is tough when, in Europe, nobody wants to pay Greece’s bills. But multilateralism is a global insurance policy against the determination of any state to abuse its power. The problem is not that the EU and other multilateral institutions are too strong; it is that they are too weak. Regional institutions in the Arab world, Africa, Latin America, and East Asia are an obvious and necessary development.

    Whereas Times people are told:

    Finally, the West must rediscover the joys of multilateralism and shared sovereignty. That is tough when, in Europe, nobody wants to pay Greece’s bills. But multilateralism is a global insurance policy against abuse of power. The problem is not that the EU and other multilateral institutions are too strong; it is that they are too weak. Regional institutions in the Arab world, Africa, Latin America and East Asia are still in their infancy — and need to grow up fast.

    Those "regional institutions in the Arab world, Africa, Latin America, and East Asia [that are] are an obvious and necessary development" as far as Prospect is concerned, are "still in their infancy -- and need to grow up fast" in the Times.

    What can account for the difference?
    Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 02:29 PM

  8. DM
    William Hague made a speech today to the Foreign Office.

    The speech is available here [1], it was covered in a Benedict Brogan [2] article in the Telegraph and by Peter Oborne [3], who says:

    ... in a barbaric and near-criminal act, David Miliband ordered the closure of the Foreign Office library, containing the records of 500 years of Britain’s overseas entanglements, including the original copies of all our treaties. This institution was described by Gladstone’s foreign secretary, Lord Granville, as “the pivot on which the whole machinery of the Office turned”.

    New Labour relied on promulgating the belief that we live in a new world [4]. They, including David Miliband, certainly did their best to expunge the real world.





    Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 11:17 PM


    I emailed an antiquarian bookseller friend of mine about this business of the FCO selling its library. "Desecration", I said.

    He emailed back as follows:

    David – I think in this instance gov action might not have been as barbaric as it sounds – the historic Foreign Office Library was transferred en bloc to the care of KCL and is now housed in their rare books research library in the old PRO, Chancery Lane. It’s now therefore readily accessible to researchers who the FO in King Charles St could not really accommodate properly (and indeed as a working dept of state should not have been expected to). It wasn’t actually sold but for internal accounting purposes the FO needed a valuation ... which I did when at ...! There had been (semi-official) sales of some items some years earlier, but it was exactly to halt that kind of desecration (and bad publicity) that the FO decided to entrust the library to professionals.

    Will Messrs Hague, Oborne and Brogan publish a similar retraction?
    Friday, September 9, 2011 - 12:50 PM