Red Len and the Morning Mouthpiece

Posted on April 22, 2013

Guido reports that Len McCluskey, the newly re-elected general secretary of Unite, has issued an edict demanding that the union’s branches subsidise the struggling Morning Star. The Star has the dubious distinction of being the only paper I can think of to run a “Fighting Fund” just in order to stay afloat. It’s almost like extreme left ideas are unpopular, and those who propose them are incompetent, but I’m sure there’s another explanation for their permanent state of near bankruptcy.

So what did Red Len get in return for the bail-out? Well, let’s have a look at the Morning Star’s recent coverage during the Unite leadership election.

There are the fawning letters headlined: “Plenty of reasons to back McCluskey“, “McCluskey brings fight to Tories and employers“, and “McCluskey shows he can deal with our enemies’ hard talk“.

Plus the 1,300 word report of Len McCluskey explaining err why Len McCluskey is the right candidate. Then there’s the coverage of the branch element of the election process itself, most notably “Branches give massive support to McCluskey” – published before the ballot papers went out to individual members.

They may not believe in greed or the profit motive – but some would suggest principles are a commodity the hard left are still more than happy to sell.

Kids are getting more competitive at school sport? Good.

Posted on April 15, 2013

There has been a lot of hand-wringing today about new polling by the Chance to Shine cricket charity which found that children are increasingly competitive when it comes to sport.

The charity itself speaks critically of a “pressure cooker” environment in school sport and a negative-sounding “win at all costs” culture.

But why is anyone worried? The return in recent years to competitive sport in school – and the corresponding move away from “prizes for all” policies – is without doubt a good thing. Sport is meant to be competitive, and for children in particular it is a useful channel for other pressures. When schools shied away from exposing children to what the educational establishment considered to be the trauma of losing they were betraying their pupils instead of preparing them for life.

Learning to work together as a team in order to succeed, learning that hard work and commitment comes with rewards and learning  that sometimes in life you will face defeat and disappointment are essential processes to ready any child for the grown up world.

Consider the famous scenes played out on the X-Factor, Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and so on over the last decade. Someone auditions. They are awful – perhaps even troublingly awful. The judges predictably say: “You are awful at singing/dancing/training dogs”. The candidate bursts into tears, stamps their feet and – occasionally – attempts to assault the judges. How could this be? My family all told me I was great? I know I’m brilliant and you don’t have any right to tell me otherwise just because you are an expert blessed with ears that work.

It’s a pathetic sight, to see someone who can’t accept and learn from failure wailing like a toddler. Sadly I suspect that many of the people in question had never been told “that isn’t good enough” or “try harder” in their lives. Simon Cowell and “Nasty” Nigel before him did our country a service in smashing the illusions that prizes for all had built up, but it should never have been allowed to evolve in our schools in the first place.

It is interesting that when the charity’s pollster asked children what the source of the pressure was, the options were only “me”, “other children”, “teachers”, “parents” or “coaches”. There was no option to acknowledge that it is in the nature of competitive sports that there should be a desire to win – ie that it is a stupid question. When 46.9% of respondents say “other children including team mates” exert pressure to win and 21.9% say the pressure comes from themselves, they are in fact acknowledging that the whole point of competitive sport is your team working together to succeed.

The results do find that large numbers of children have experienced cheating, which is more troubling. But if kids were perfect when they emerge from the womb, we wouldn’t need school at all – it is the job of teachers, coaches and parents to teach them that cheating is wrong. Even with the doom-laden headlines, the polling shows that over 90% of children already  recognise that winning by cheating is unfair.

Again, the choice of possible answers to the questions on cheating is revealing. The pollster pre-supposes that cheating is due to pressure exerted on children by those around them and fails to even give them the option of identifying cheating by famous sports stars as a factor in how their peers choose to behave. How accurate are the results which supposedly prove the existence of a so-called “pressure cooker” in school sport if they don’t even acknowledge that kids watch Premiership Football?

Sadly it seems that someone designing this poll set out to tell a negative story about what is in truth a good thing. I for one am delighted that 9/10 children feel pressure to win at sport. That means 9/10 children are starting to learn how the world works in a safe environment, rather than being brought crashing down to earth as pampered, fantasist adults. They are being educated, rather than lied to – at last.

Moving to Conservative Home

Posted on April 15, 2013

I’m very excited to announce that I have accepted the role of Executive Editor of Conservative Home.

As Paul Goodman, the new Editor, writes today, I will be joining the site in a few weeks as part of the new team following Tim Montgomerie’s departure to The Times.

ConHome has always been a huge influence on my political campaigning and blogging, as I know it has for many others on the centre right around the country, so I’m very much looking forward to making my own contribution to its future at an important time in British politics. Over the last eight years, Tim has had a huge impact on many people, me included, and we have a big job on our hands to live up to his example.

All of you as readers of CrashBangWallace have made this possible through your support, your feedback and your (constructive) criticism, so I would like to thank you. When I started this blog I did so to communicate libertarian ideas and to have some fun – both of which I hope I’ve achieved.

I never anticipated the reach and readership this site would secure, and I certainly never imagined political blogging might one day become my job. Now that it is going to, I hope you will continue to read my writing over at ConHome whether you’re a capital-C Conservative, a small-c conservative, a libertarian or just interested in politics and ideas. I’ll still be writing on fundamental issues of freedom and the political topics of the day, as well as exploring new, wider topics.

I will maintain this site as an occasional outlet for non-ConHome political writing, a resource linking to my work elsewhere and an archive of CrashBangWallace blogposts. I will of course still be tweeting at @WallaceME, too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the last two and half years of blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them – and that you’ll continue to follow my work at its new home.

Thank you again – keep on fighting.

Heseltine gets handbagged – one last time

Posted on April 11, 2013

An email arrives. Even after her death, it seems the Iron Lady still has an acute political aim:

 

APPG MEETING 17 APRIL  CANCELLED

Rebalancing: A discussion with Michael Heseltine

THE DISCUSSION WITH MICHAEL HESELTINE ON WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL HAS UNFORTUNATELY BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO BARONESS THATCHER’S FUNERAL. PORTCULLIS HOUSE WILL BE DIFFICULT TO ACCESS ON THE DAY BECAUSE THE FUNERAL PROCESSION IS SET TO START FROM WESTMINSTER AND THERE WILL BE SUBSTANTIAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS. WE WILL ANNOUNCE THE RESCHEDULED DATE IN DUE COURSE.

 All Party Parliamentary Group on Rebalancing the British Economy

Thatcher the Revolutionary

Posted on April 09, 2013

Thatcher the RevolutionaryThere has, by now, been more written about Margaret Thatcher than anyone can possibly read. Some of it is fantastic. Some of it is wicked. Much of it is more about the myths, good and bad, than it is about the actual political leader.

I don’t intend to add at great length to the reams of discussion already produced, but it seems to me that perhaps her longest-lasting impact has been neglected. Indeed, it is so long-lasting that it is yet to fully play out, even now.

Margaret Thatcher changed the Right from a reactionary movement into a revolutionary one. She embraced the crucial realisation that institutions and traditions are not inherently right, and embedded elites are almost always inherently wrong.

She was not afraid to tear up conventions and topple mouldering monoliths to pass opportunities and rights to the masses.

The traditional and aristocratic elites in her party hated her for it. So did the bosses who had grown fat on inefficient state industries, where failure was something to be managed, not eradicated. The millions who had suffered the result of symbiotic, comfortable relationships between the trade unions and the conservatives who contented themselves with a top deck cabin on Britain’s sinking ship, cheered her on.

It is easy now to imagine she was one of the establishment, by simple virtue of having been in Government for 11 years. But she wasn’t – she entered Parliament against bigotry over her class and gender, and she faced exactly the same bigotry (from all sides) once she got there. Small wonder that she liked plain-speaking grammar school boys more than aristocrats with land and estates.

A marvellous note survives from ICI’s personnel department, on the rejection of her application to be a research chemist in 1948. It reads: “This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated.” In the view of ICI, she didn’t know her place, she dared to speak her mind and she was therefore a threat to their established order.

They were right – if wrong to reject rather than recruit her as a result. She came to bury the elite, not to praise or preserve it.

In her time, she had successes and failures, as all politicians do. It was certainly not the case that everything she did fitted the revolutionary ideal that I’ve just laid out – and nor did all of the revolutionary steps that she wished for come to pass.

But in having the realisation that conserving what came before is not enough, she changed the direction of centre right thinking. She was no libertarian, but she set the tone for the British Right to wake up to libertarianism.

The practical results of her time in power were positive overall. There were many ways they could have been improved, but it is undeniable that she revolutionised Britain. The way she changed the course of our thinking in the coming decades, though, will eventually come to outweigh even the way she changed our lives, our rights and our economy in the decade she made her own.

Philpott case: Don’t ignore the criminal justice system’s responsibility

Posted on April 03, 2013

The story of the Philpott children, killed by their parents in a deliberate house fire, is appalling. Kids who were born to a chaotic household, whose father and mother reportedly showed no remorse after burning them to death.

It’s right, therefore, that we should look for ways in which this might have been prevented. While the Mail’s assertion that Mick Philpott was made into the monster he is by the welfare state goes too far, Guido is right to point out the uncomfortable truth that the benefits system coddled him, funded his abusive lifestyle and ultimately played a motivating part in his sickening decision to start the fire.

But to focus on the distortions and failings of the welfare system is to miss other, crucial points. How does this case reflect on our social care and criminal justice systems?

By all accounts, Mick Philpott had a decades-long history of predating upon, taking advantage of and violently abusing vulnerable young women. It is hard to imagine his repeated abusive relationships with teenage girls over the course of the last 30 years had gone unnoticed – and impossible to believe the relevant authorities  still didn’t pick it up when he became a minor celebrity in the papers and on the Jeremy Kyle Show. With catastrophic results, they were aware and they decided it was not important enough to address.

Even worse, this case reveals an obvious and disastrous failure in our criminal justice system. In 1978, Philpott’s fiancée dumped him. In response, he broke into her house at night and stabbed her 27 times, slitting open her stomach and telling her: “If I can’t have you, no one will”. He then turned the knife on her mother and left the two of them for dead.

He was caught and convicted – and sentenced to seven years in jail. It is hard to think of a more comprehensive demonstration of wickedness and willingness to act upon it than what he did in 1978, and yet he was released a few years later, giving him decades to build up to the atrocity daubed over today’s newspapers.

This is a simple fact in a complex mess: if Mick Philpott had been sentenced to life (real life) in prison, he would not have committed his later crimes. Our criminal justice system could and should have stopped him – it did not.

Shami and Liberty’s Leveson silence

Posted on March 27, 2013

Shami Chakrabarti has never been loathe to appear in the media. At every conceivable opportunity, up she pops to the extent people joke about her omnipresence.

That’s fair enough – after all, it is her job. But such constant coverage on so many topics also makes it easier to spot issues on which she and Liberty have maintained a peculiar silence.

Last year, it was striking that despite the range of threats to freedom and civil liberties that arose in the hosting of the London Olympics, Liberty had almost nothing to say on the subject. At the same time, Big Brother Watch dealt with a large number of different freedom issues directly related to the Games . There was no shortage of things to be concerned about.

Then, during Danny Boyle’s brilliant Opening Ceremony, Shami appeared – not to protest against the DNA database or the proliferation of CCTV, but to carry the Olympic flag as a “champion” of the Olympic movement. Suddenly the uncharacteristic quiet of the previous months made sense.

Now it’s happening again.

With Leveson’s proposals being mashed into law in a late night stitch-up, 318 years of British press freedom is coming to an end. Exemplary damages are hanging over the heads of bloggers and journalists alike, as a punitive means of forcing people into a supposedly voluntary system. Pens are being blunted for fear of state-backed punishments. And where are Liberty?

Well, they were in the media back in November – welcoming the Leveson plan, including the oppressive exemplary damages and explicitly supporting the idea of regulating the blogosphere.

Then Shami released a statement in December clarifying that, despite speculation, she was still supporting Leveson’s proposal for state-backed regulation of the media. While she opposed compulsory membership of a regulator, she restated her enthusiastic backing for exemplary damages to ensure anyone who did not voluntarily join would be at risk of ruin.

Since then, nothing. Literal silence from the group whose website claims they believe that:

Human rights are indivisible. You cannot pick and choose which rights you want to honour. Many rights depend on each other to be meaningful – so, for example, the right to fair trial would be meaningless without the prohibition on discrimination, and the right to free speech must go hand in hand with the right to assemble peacefully.

They’ve talked about secret courts. They’ve tweeted to raise funds. But they don’t appear to have given a damn about the prospect of three centuries of a free press going down the drain.

Why could that be?

To find an answer, we need to look back to 20th July 2011, when Liberty reported that:

Today it was announced that the director of human rights group Liberty will be one of the panel members of the judicial inquiry into phone hacking.

Oh, right.

What happened to human rights being sacred and indivisible? What happened to Liberty’s self-declared status as a fearless group speaking out against any attack on freedom? For that matter, what happened to the meaning of the word Liberty?

It seems Liberty has become a brand, not a concept to fight for. The indivisible has become the malleable – and all those principles have been sold for a scrap of establishment prestige.

If you’re interested in real civil liberties and real freedom, I’d suggest you lend your support to Big Brother Watch and The Freedom Association (on whose Council I am proud to sit). They, at least, won’t sell their souls – or our freedoms – for a moment in the spotlight, or a seat on a prestigious panel.

Student riots are back – and they’re infecting the Left

Posted on March 25, 2013

The anti-everything student movement has plenty of practice at shooting itself in the foot. Attacking war memorials, smashing up taxpayers’ property, even burning down Christmas trees – you name it, they can turn it into an incident which discredits their already confused message.

It might have seemed reasonable to hope that after it turned out rioting wasn’t a good way to get Middle England on their side, they might have changed tactics.

Not a bit of it.

Occupy Sussex, the Sussex University branch of the Occupy Movement, are up in arms about plans to outsource 10% of the University’s admin. While their issue of choice isn’t exactly the moral equivalent of Tsarist serfdom in Russia, it doesn’t seem to have stopped the usual suspects rushing to rally against outsourcing and for “communism” instead. Eevidently the fresh air of Sussex is a febrile, revolutionary atmosphere.

For some reason, this has turned into a national student demonstration, held today. The ever-sharp Chris Snowdon raised the first concerns over the weekend that perhaps it wasn’t set to be the most productive event humanity has yet seen:

And, lo, it came to pass. What started with the usual pompous slogans…

…moved on to smashing up University buildings…

…burning files from Barclays…

  ….and, inevitably, trite comparisons between themselves and Martin Luther King…

All in all, an impressive way to discredit their own argument, waste taxpayers’ money and divert the police and fire brigade from what they are meant to be doing. This trend of legitimate (if wrong-headed) lefty protests turning violent is a serious problem for so-called “progressive” campaigners.

Owen Jones wrote this morning  that the Left needs a group as effective as the TaxPayers’ Alliance – which is why he is launching the People’s Assembly this week. Owen may be wrong about almost everything (apart from the TPA’s effectiveness), but he’s not stupid – he’s already declared his new movement will be mainstream, and reject the malign influence of the cult which is the Socialist Workers Party. He wants to build a hard-hitting but respectable movement.

His problem is that almost the whole of the Left has now been to some extent infected by the unattractive attitudes and behaviour on display at Sussex University today. For example, here is a paid campaigner from Unite – one of the main backers of Owen’s new gang – inviting the Occupy Sussex rioters to speak from the People’s Assembly platform:


This just isn’t going to go away. Unless he and other prominent left-wingers denounce the violence and the burning that a growing number of lefties seem to fetishise, I suspect Owen’s bid to make socialism mainstream and acceptable will never leave the runway.

PCS boasts reveal the true victims of their strike – the public

Posted on March 21, 2013

Yesterday, the civil service PCS union went on strike – in a predictable, if unsuccessful, attempt to hijack Budget day for their own publicity.

The slogans were hackneyed, the reasons were predictable. “Get the Tories out”, “General Strike Now” declared the placards while PCS leader Mark Serwotka proclaimed that they were starting a fightback to get more pay and preserve gold-plated pensions, regardless of the fiscal mess the country is in.

Strangely, Serwotka didn’t seem keen to discuss his own pay (£88,675) or pension (£26,159 in annual contributions, the same as the average British worker’s annual wage).

Hypocrisy at the top wasn’t the only travesty, though. Despite all the rhetoric about striking against Government policies, or to “get the Tories out”, the PCS’ own website revealed who the union was really hitting: the public.

Their live blog of the strike openly crows about their success in letting down the 99% whom they claim to have solidarity with. Here are just a few extracts:

09.13 Business in the [Welsh] National Assembly has been severely curtailed today because of the effects of the strike.

09.45…we’ve had some superb strike news from DWP Jobcentre members across the country.

  • 75% out at Horsham JCP
  • 85% out at Haywards Heath JCP
  • 90% members out at Watercourt site in Nottingham
  • 100 Members on strike at Airdrie JCP, Lanarkshire. Signs up to say the office is closed.
  • 97% members of Brighton out on strike. 20 on picket and more joining all the time. Supported by Caroline Lucas MP, various councillors, Socialist Party Brighton Benefits Campaign and unemployed centres.
  • 95% are on strike and ten pickets in place at Folkestone Jobcentre.

10:15 Some news from HMRC offices around the country:

  • 90% support for strike at Dorchester House, Belfast. Support from NIPSA staff and Socialist Party.
  • 85% out at Dorset Harbourside Branch
  • 80% on strike in Greater Manchester
  • 70% on strike at Ralli Quays
  • Over 80% out at Merry Hill contact centre

11.13 Strikers celebrating a very succesful morning at the National Gallery which has resulted in a number of galleries and rooms having to close.

Rep Candy Udwin said: “Large school parties have been turned away because they don’t have enough staff to keep them open.”

11.43 Three out of 14 court rooms open at Preston Crown Court.

12.30 The Tate in Livepool has been closed by the strike

12.48 HMRC – 92% out at Portmadog so the office is closed and there is no Welsh language service today.

15.13 ARMs member David W took part in a ‘Guinness Book of Records’ challenge to see how many HMRC Offices he could phone in two, one-hour sessions (AM and PM) following a suggestion made by one of the group members.

“I reckon it could be fun and of course when I am asked what my enquiry is I shall say something like: “Why are you working while your colleagues are out on strike fighting your battle for you?”

Given that only three days ago MPs criticised HMRC for letting down the public by failing to answer 80% of calls promptly, it’s surely wrong that the PCS – who claim to be on the side of ordinary people – are urging anti-cuts activists to clog the lines with prank calls attacking the workers who actually turned up to serve the public.

By my count, the above list shows the people actually affected by this strike were: unemployed jobseekers, victims of crime, schoolkids hoping to learn about art and taxpayers phoning HMRC to resolve their problems.

It might be great fun for Serwotka and his mates to have a day off and do some shouting, but I doubt the ordinary people let down by them agree the strike action is “superb”.

The Pope and the Tyrant

Posted on March 19, 2013

The new Pope’s PR people are doing a good job for him so far – his practice of going on unexpected walkabouts has been much acclaimed as showing a new, reformist papacy.

His message at today’s inaugural Mass was also one of moral zeal:

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

But ultimately successful PR has to be built on hard reality – there’s little point in making good noises if your behaviour fails to match them.

So Pope Francis’ pronouncements ring hollow when you consider that right there in his congregation as he spoke was Robert Mugabe. It’s hard to think of a tyrant who better fits the Pope’s description of a “Herod”, and he has plotted much death and wreaked much havoc in his murderous rule over unfortunate Zimbabwe.

Why did the Vatican invite a brutal dictator to their most prestigious event, giving him VIP treatment and a free pass through Italian territory in defiance of the EU travel ban? This is the Catholic Church, not known for its tolerance and famous for excommunicating monarchs who get divorced – and yet they seem comfortable to welcome Mugabe just because he calls himself a Christian. I hope they are able to get the bloodstains out of his chair.

For those who argue that they should bring sinners in, preach to them and hope for their repentance, the message should by now be clear. This is the second or possibly third Papal inauguration Mugabe has attended, and his boot has yet to lift off the face of his people by so much as an inch. Instead, he basks in what he considers to be the validation of his Church, and continues with his campaign of terror. Preaching isn’t working.

If Pope Francis wants to show a real change in the Vatican’s administration, he could do worse than excommunicate Robert Mugabe.