Sunday, September 30, 2007

Slaves of the working class

Remember the Battle of Lechfeld? In 955, on the plain of the river Lech, the German army defeated a Magyar horde and ended one of the three barbarian invasions of Western Europe.

At least, that was always the conventional, "official" history. As Carl von Rotteck put it in his General History of the World: From the Earliest Times Until the Year 1831(1842)

The Hungarians fell over Austria into Bavaria (955), greedy for plunder, inhuman as in earlier times, more formidable than ever in number and equipment. They conquered and ravaged the country as far as the Lech, crossed this river, and besieged Augsburg. Otho fought these barbarians in the great plain, which is extended from this city between the rivers Lech and Wertach. The most splendid, the most complete victory, crowned the well-commanded forces of Germany. From this battle-day in Lechfeld, Germany was forever delivered from the Hungarians.
This account is echoed in Wikipedia:
The Battle of Lechfeld (10 August 955), perhaps the defining event for holding off the incursions of the Magyars into Central Europe, was a decisive victory by Otto the Great, King of the Germans, over the Magyar leaders
And in Britannica, with a little bit more nuance:
their raiding forces suffered a number of severe reverses, culminating in a disastrous defeat at the hands of the German king Otto I in 955 at the Battle of Lechfeld, outside Augsburg (in present-day Germany). By that time the wild blood of the first invaders was thinning out, and new influences, in particular Christianity, had begun to circulate.
By the 1950s, a new wave of historians had started to question these "official" versions of history, and the great French scholar, Marc Bloch, in his 1964 work Feudal Society, brought his spotlight to bear on the battle of Lechfeld.

He wrote(.doc, 2MB, p.26):
Si brillant qu’il fût et malgré tout son retentissement moral, un fait d’armes isolé, comme la bataille du Lech, n’aurait évidemment pas suffi à arrêter net les razzias. Les Hongrois, dont le territoire propre n’avait pas été atteint, étaient loin d’avoir subi le même écrasement que jadis, sous Charlemagne, les Avars. La défaite d’une de leurs bandes, dont plusieurs avaient déjà été vaincues, eût été impuissante à changer leur mode de vie. La vérité est que, depuis 926 environ, leurs courses, aussi furieuses que jamais, n’en étaient pas moins allées s’espaçant. En Italie, sans bataille, elles prirent fin également après 954. Vers le sud-est, à partir de 960, les incursions en Thrace se réduisent à de médiocres petites entreprises de brigandage. Très certainement un faisceau de causes profondes avait fait lentement sentir son action.
One isolated feat of arms would not have stopped the Magyar invasions, especially one that didn't even reach the Magyar lands. Magyar raids had been dimishing since 926. In Italy, they had ended, without any battle, by 954. They had virtually ended in Thrace by 960.

Bloch pointed out that Hungarian society had been changing, no doubt in part because of the influence of captives, hostages and slaves, from a nomadic, raiding culture to a settled, agricultural one. It's reasonable to suggest the defeat at Lechfeld was important to the Magyars, but it wasn't the reason why their raids ended. They were ending anyway, through a process of gradual change.

The implication here is profound. Although the idea that this battle ended these invasions persists, it is wrong. It isn't, as you might think, and as it might be intended, a simplification. It's just plain wrong.

Though there have been great people and significant events, they tend to decorate, rather than dictate, the movement of history. But that's not how we like to see it. We like the simplicity of raids --> battle in which raiders are defeated --> raids stop.

These are also the terms in which social history has tended to be framed. But although there have undoubtedly been conflicts of interest (between workers and employers, for example), battles and victories, and great personalities and ideas, there has also been more continuity than has often been appreciated. Take, for example, the history of the English working class.

In his book The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson chose to start in 1790. This was much too late. Marx started with the emergence of the Capitalist mode of production in the sixteenth century, and suggested that:
The owners of capital are the dominant capitalist class (bourgeoisie). The working class (proletariat) who do not own capital must live by selling their labour power in exchange for a wage.
From this conflict arose. But he did not understand the continuity with the past, and so started much too late.

The starting point actually needs to be the status of slaves in the late Roman Empire. Slaves were valuable, and gravestones attest to the fact that sometimes they were valued. Slavery was not so bad that people would not sell their own children, or even themselves, into it to pay debts. What's more, slaves could obtain their freedom, sometimes by buying it. In other words, in an odd sort of way there was social mobility. The agriculture of the Roman Empire depended on slave labour and so, as the influence of Rome receeded in the third century AD, England was left with a Villa system of land settlement, in which large estates were cultivated by slaves who lived in more or less tolerable circumstances.

Scroll forwards a few hundred years, and you find a Manorial system of large estates cultivated by serfs who were not free, but who lived in more or less tolerable circumstances (there were also freemen and tenants). There's little documentary evidence for those centuries we scrolled rapidly through, but the possibility of continuity between the two systems seems obvious. It wasn't, though, to past historians. The continuity of Romano-British culture with that of the Romans was downplayed, the "invasion" aspect of the Anglo-Saxon settlements was emphasised, in England the ferocity of the Norman conquest was thought to have swept away much of the Anglo-Saxon settlement pattern. Battles caused changes. A narrative developed wherein feudalism developed as a response to the barbarian invasions, Magyar, Viking and Saracen, and was then modified as commerce developed until it became capitalist.

This narrative spoke of a system of military service being rendered in return for land holdings, and those holdings being cultivated by serfs who were tied into labour by armed lords. But service for tenure goes back to the Romans, and there is evidence even of the later aspects of feudalism like scutage (the remission of the duty of service in return for payment), something that was taken as a symptom of the expiry of feudalism, in the Dark Ages. Always there is continuity, when history is examined closely.

Let's take a look at the late Roman slaves. They had little freedom, though even this varied and some were almost day labourers who were free to do as they liked when not working. Some, indeed, were quite comfortably off. They did, though, have an extraordinary degree of security. They had jobs for life. They had places to live, provided by their owner. They had little responsibility. For the ambitious, there was the possibility of freedom; for the unsuccessful free there was the possibility of slavery.

The same things were true of the medieval serf and remained true of their agricultural labourer descendants, down to the tied cottages. The focus of their lives was the estate and its lord, their freedoms were limited but so were their responsibilities. For the ambitious, there were possibilities of military service, the monastery, even commerce. For the unsuccessful elsewhere, an opposite path was open. These structures have persisted into living memory, though mechanised farms generally rent out the old tied cottages in England today. The farm workers have gone, but this process began with the industrial revolution when they started moving into cities to work for the new types of employers.

But little else changed. Employers still built and provided housing, and jobs for life. Freedoms were limited but so was responsibility. Slavery was mutating, evolving, modernising even. But it was still slavery, and a second-century Roman would have recognised it as such.

What, in the past half century, has differentiated a lower middle class person from a working class person? Not necessarily income: skilled trades pay very well indeed. It's attitude. One, the working class person, will live in a council house or flat. This is the direct descendant of the corporation house, and the factory-built house, and the tied cottage, and the serf hut that were its ancestors. They can't repaint the outside or change the front door. They can't move where they like when they like. But they have subsidy, and a lack of responsibility. A middle class person on the same or even lower income will pay their own way and take the freedom that comes with that responsibility.

That both might have had the same grandparents shows that social mobility still exists, and that on this level at least it is a matter of volition.

But this also casts an odd light on the labour movement and on trades unions. Through their adherence to the ideas of jobs for life, and their demands that working class people be able to depend on benevolent and paternalistic forces, be they employers or the state, or both, and take the consequent lack of freedom that results from this they not only stand in direct line of descent from Roman slaves, but they also demand that they be able to remain as slaves. The dignity of labour is no more than the degrading comfort of the steel slave collar on the neck.

And for all their Pooterish, John Major, Little Chef aspects, the lower middle classes have this in their favour: they came from there. They would not accept the collar. They aspired to independence and freedom.

Until the psychology of the working class disappears, Britons will always include some slaves among their number. Perhaps the most disturbing consequence of the past couple of decades is that a resurgent left has spread the idea that dependency is respectable to the point where even the wealthy collect state benefits (especially child benefit); even those who could support themselves are taxed until they cannot, then turned into dependent slaves by benefits that give them back some of their own money; even those who will not work are allowed the benefits of slavery.

Another half century of this, and all Britons shall be slaves.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That big old list

just keeps a'growin:

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke, Skuds’ Sister’s Brother, Contrast News, Poliblog Perspective, Parish Pump, El Gales, Noodle, Curly’s Corner Shop, Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft, otromundoesposible, Richard Stacy, Looking For A Voice, News Dissector, Kateshomeblog, Writes Like She Talks, Extra! Extra!, Committee To Protect Bloggers, Liberty’s Requiem, American Samizdat, The Thunder Dragon, Cybersoc, Achievable Life, Paperholic, Creative-i, Raedwald, Nobody’s Friend, Lobster Blogster, Panchromatica (251).

What exactly is the aim of environmentalism?

Quoted by Reuters, Oxford University economics professor Dieter Helm said:

The price of carbon has had virtually no effect on the market so far and virtually no effect on climate change.

People like me who think the price of carbon is important don't think it is the only thing that matters. There must be more focus on energy efficiency, more research and development and more renewable energy.

The truth is that Europe has performed less well on carbon dioxide since the late 1990s than the United States -- and Europe is inside Kyoto and has an emissions trading scheme.
(emphasis added)

Meanwhile, at the UN, British Environment Minister Hilary Benn spoke out:
Britain pointedly called on the United States yesterday to join other rich nations making binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as dozens of world leaders held a summit on the danger of catastrophic climate change.

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, told the meeting at United Nations headquarters that "the greatest challenge we have ever faced as human beings" required action from every developed nation.

"That means all of us, including the largest economy in the world, the United States, taking on binding reduction targets," he said.
(emphasis added)

What matters is whether a country agrees to binding targets (even if, like our Kyoto targets, they are missed). Actual improvements are less important if they come about through the voluntary actions of free people..

Google bombed?

TFI points out something fascinating in the comments here. Yesterday, Matt Wardman googled the name "Schillings" - the solicitors acting for Alisher Usmanov, and responsible for the temporary closure of bloggerheads, Craig Murray and others. In the first five results, there were three critical of the firm. Today, in the first five results, there are no critical sites; they have been pushed down the rankings.

I'm surprised. The number of links to critical sites has mushroomed in the past few days, so the opposite might have been expected. Googlebombing?

CCTV procurement by committees

The Evening Standard's website, This Is London, reports that:

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.
It's all a bit meaningless, though. There's no consideration of the effects of installing (or removing) cameras; if a high crime area has a lot of cameras, this is taken as a sign of failure where it might just be a sign that cameras have been concentrated where the crime is worst.

I suspect what happens is an immediate improvement or displacement of crime, followed by a gradual return to the status quo ante as people get used to the cameras and develop counter measures (like hoodies).

I used to sell CCTV equipment, and one day in the late 1980s spent a morning with the security manager of King's College Hospital in London. There was a scramble to install CCTV after a baby had been abducted from another hospital a few months earlier, in a case that made headlines. As we walked around the site, the manager said he'd show me something, and led me to an old air raid shelter that had been converted into storage.

He unlocked the door, and showed me shelf after shelf of boxed colour CCTV cameras. I think he said they had cost £16,000 a couple of years earlier. Two different committees, in two different agencies, had shared budgetary responsibility for security. The one that could decided to buy the cameras. The other committee held the purse strings for installation, but because of rivalries they were piqued that the first committee had bought the cameras and refused to allocate any money for installation. The cameras had sat in storage ever since.

Now, because of the structure of the procurement process, it was easier to buy new cameras than to get the ones they already had installed. The security manager shrugged, locked the air raid shelter, and asked me to include cameras and installation in the new quote.

Censored blogger speaks

While his main bloggerheads site is being resuscitated, Tim Ireland has set up a Blogger site devoted specifically to the Alisher Usmanov Affair.

Old technology

Matt Wardman pointed out that the recent piece of blog censorship is backfiring badly for Schillings, the lawyers whose threatening letter caused several blogs to be taken offline. If you google their name, highly critical commentary comes up in the first few results.

Not if you search on Yahoo:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pub rock

Well, after that, let's have a bit of the Pirates:

Punk politics

Chris Dillow says that:

party politics is just like prog rock.
Both are pompous self-referential masturbatory activities undertaken by mostly middle-class white boys, which are meaningless and irrelevant to most people.
And concludes:
although prog rock was (partly) swept away by the DIY music of punk and post-punk, it's hard to see a similar process happening in politics. In music, barriers to entry were low. In politics they are not.
Barriers to entry to the music market didn't feel as low in 1976 as they do today. In the couple of years before punk exploded onto the front pages there had been pub rock revivals (The Pirates, Dr Feelgood), Chiswick artists including what would later become The Clash, a mod revival, a rockabilly revival... all fuelled by disatisfaction with prog rock, but none made the news, none were able to get proper distribution for their records. Punk was seriously outrageous, enough so to break onto the news agenda. That's why they succeeded. Today, of course, music can just be distributed on the internet.

So can political ideas, so the barriers have lowered. Chris seems to think insufficiently so for a difference to be made to the political landscape.

At Harry's Place a fringe speech by Alan Johnson at the Labour conference has been posted:
But do we really understand what a ‘hearts and minds’ struggle in the early 21st century involves? Do we understand we are involved in a ‘framing war’ against extremism? Do we understand that we need a social movement to win that framing war? Have we grasped that we have not got one yet and they – the Islamists - have?
Johnson might be too deeply embedded into the existing political structures to see this, but a social movement of the type he is describing would really be more like punk than the top-down conventional approach.

Because a social movement would have to encompass real change, and the development of a political, even constitutional, landscape that individual people felt a part of. That's why countries like America and France that had popular revolutions have much stronger senses of individual stakes in the social and constitutional frameworks.

If we're going to win Johnson's "framing war", and see the widespread apathy and disillusionment Dillow highlights swept away, we need political change that's driven from below.

The Labour movement has become corporatist and conservative, divorced from the concerns of ordinary people. Trades Unions are an anachronism. The only type of movement capable of succeeding is a republican, libertarian one - a movement that consists of ordinary people wresting back power over their own persons and their own lives from the elites that have usurped it.

For this to succeed, we'd need to see a recognition from right libertarians that ties to conservatism and monarchy are incompatible with libertarianism. We'd need to see a recognition from left libertarians that the old left has failed, and so have its ideological underpinnings like Marxism.

And we'd need a Libertarian Party with the energy and iconoclasm to become the punk rock of politics, and generate a swell that ordinary individuals feel part of, attached to, proud of, and willing to defend.

Service rendered

Writing at Pickled Politics about the fuss in India over proposals to build a bridge on a holy site, Rumbold writes:

In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, the hero Lord Ram sets out to destroy the terrible demon Ravana, who resides in what is now Sri Lanka. To cross from India to Sri Lanka, Ram constructs a bridge by quelling the sea, and uses monkeys to help him build it. I enjoyed reading the (shortened version of the) Ramayana greatly, but could not say whether this story was true or not.
Let me help: it isn't true. There are no gods and monkeys don't build bridges.

Religions do, however, make people stupid.

Irrational Maddy

Madeleine Bunting, who specialises in defending religions against secular, humanitarian and rational criticism, has a piece in The Guardian this morning, with the title: A curious irrationality grips the British when it comes to migrants.

Unusually, though, she means this as a criticism. But fear not, she hasn't abandoned irrationality entirely:

Last week, with the intervention of the chief constable of Cambridgeshire police, the focus was on the pressure migrants put on public services; our news story today highlights how some British low-skilled workers can lose out. What gets much less attention is the raft of reports - PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Bank of England, the TUC - acknowledging the beneficial effects of migrant workers overall: they have not led to increased unemployment and have been a major contributor to economic growth.
Presumably they have reached these conclusions through the use of prayer and fasting, because:
... everyone - the government, the Bank of England, local authorities - acknowledges they don't have much of an idea about the numbers. Who's come, who's gone home again? Who is working where or for what wages? How many kids are arriving in schools? How many need a GP?
(source BBC)

Madeleine is convinced that unemployment has not risen as a consequence of migration, but it has increased since 2004, when Poland and the other accession countries joined the EU. Is this a coincidence?

I'm not anti-immigration. I'd like to be able to move anywhere and settle and work anywhere in the world and I'd like everyone to have the same flexibility (I'd just prohibit the provision of welfare and state-financed translation services to migrants, and restore property rights to citizens first).

But for Maddy, this is an article of pure, irrational faith. There are no statistics to prove the beneficial effects of migration, but there are such effects. Regardless of her titles, there is no danger of her succumbing to the insidious snares of rational thought just yet.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Continuity and change

... it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Richard Dawkins coined the phrase "the discontinuous mind" in the context of evolution, but it applies more generally than that. Species aren't neat and defined stages between which evolution carries creatures. It's more that whenever we look at an animal, we see them in the lightning flash. All life is in a process of change; we see a snapshot of a process. This is clear when ring species are considered:
The best-known case is herring gull versus lesser black-backed gull. In Britain these are clearly distinct species, quite different in colour. Anybody can tell them apart. But if you follow the population of herring gulls westward round the North Pole to North America, then via Alaska across Siberia and back to Europe again, you will notice a curious fact. The 'herring gulls' gradually become less and less like herring gulls and more and more like lesser black-backed gulls until it turns out that our European lesser black-backed gulls actually are the other end of a ring that started out as herring gulls. At every stage around the ring, the birds are sufficiently similar to their neighbours to interbreed with them. Until, that is, the ends of the continuum are reached, in Europe. At this point the herring gull and the lesser black-backed gull never interbreed, although they are linked by a continuous series of interbreeding colleagues all the way round the world. The only thing that is special about ring species like these gulls is that the intermediates are still alive.
This is more than an insight into evolution. It's a deep insight into the nature of the universe. One of the biggest problems science has had is the shifting of perspective from that of a single human lifespan, when species, continents, solar systems and the stars that seem fixed need instead to be seen in a longer timescale as a glimpse, as in the flash of a camera, of a process of change and movement.

This is surely one of the problems that the debate about climate change faces, but in this context it is overlaid with irony. NASA Administrator James Giffin made this point recently:
To assume that [global warming] is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings.
James Hansen, also of NASA and perhaps the world's senior alarmist, tries to paint this differently:
“Civilization developed,” Hansen writes, “during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now lmost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end.”
In this argument, Hansen tries to suggest that although the climate is a changing process, it hasn't been changing significantly for some twelve millennia, but now it is. Is it?

This really isn't clear from the evidence. Modelling - some modelling - suggests it is the case, and this deserves attention. But in all this there must at least be the suspicion that Hansen, in his attempt to argue that we've seen a 12,000 year stabilisation of the climate, is suffering from a version of the discontinuous mind. He has been associated with alarmism for a long time - more than three decades, and the alarmism hasn't been consistent except in its basis in an idea that any sign of trend in either direction - colder or warmer - is a calamity.

And this is, ultimately, an anti-scientific idea. It's the scream of the hind brain: "I was born into a static universe and now it's changing!"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

PCSO frolics

There's a lot of comment this morning about the two Police Community Support Officers who stood and watched as a ten year old boy drowned because they hadn't been trained for rescuing drowning children.

I'm not surprised; the words "community" and "support" in the job title give the game away. It's like the word "democratic" in country names. The "democratic" bit of Germany before unification was the communist dictatorship, North Korea has the word Democratic in its full name, and so on. If a country name says it is democratic, it isn't. If a job title says the person will offer support, they won't. "Carers" let the nonagenarian mother of one of my friends sit in her own waste for hours at a time because they weren't trained to lift her tiny, bird-light body, and didn't want to risk hurting their backs.

The combination of unctuous job descriptions and titles, together with health and safety fascism, occupational health assessments, and excessive training for simple tasks is so poisonous that it will turn ordinary human beings into monsters who can stand and watch children drown without trying to help.

But we knew that already. This is just today's example. Let me tell you something you might not know.

CIB2 is one of the complaints investigation units of the Metropolitan Police. Their headquarters in Vauxhall, which I've had cause to visit a couple of times, at their invitation, are famous for having bugging devices in the lifts and corridors, so that when Mr Nice is being all sympathetic as he shows you out, after Mr Nasty has been horrible to you in the interview room, and you blurt out something you hadn't intended to say, it can be captured for posterity.

CIB2 deal with serious police corruption. Or at least, that's what they're supposed to do. But a source in the Met, who will remain unidentified, told me recently that investigations of Police Community Support Officers had so flooded this department that they can't take on any new investigations of corrupt coppers.

The problems with PCSOs, who have been recruited disproportionately from minority groups, boil down to two things: conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (on behalf of other members of their minority group) and active crime, mainly drug dealing and extortion.

And that's the second unsurprising thing you've read in this post.

Day three...

... of not smoking. I've tried to give up before, but always after cutting down first. This time, it's a dead stop from thirty a day. I cannot believe how hard day one was. It was so impressively difficult it almost became easy - like having something tangible to fight. Day two less difficult. Today, I woke up with the taste of smoke and ashtrays in my mouth, as though I'd had been puffing all evening. Odd.

Ruth asked whether I was feeling irritable. "Of course I'm not bloody irritable," I shouted, slamming the door.

I don't want to go through this again. Better stick to it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What's good for the goose

Free speech is a bit of an issue right now. I've been glad to support a left wing blogger and a conspiracy theorist whose blogs have been forced offline by an Uzbeck billionaire, although I disagree with a lot of the things they have written in the past. They have an absolute right to free speech. Agreement isn't the point.

Or is it? There's a campaign to stop David Irving speaking to the BNP in Coventry this evening. These people have as much right to free speech as Tim Ireland and Craig Murray.

Bloggers who have supported this attempt at offline censorship should be ashamed of themselves.

UPDATE: Banning speech (and burning books, for that matter) is generally the province of the unholy trinity of national socialism, international socialism and clerical fascism. It's strange to see it being advocated by the right. Here's what it normally looks like.

UPDATE: Dizzy is arguing that he supported the anti-BNP protest to register disapproval of the BNP without supporting the aims of its organisers, which were to prevent the BNP/Irving meeting. That seems a bit tortuous to me, but I'm pulling it onto the front page here so it is plain he disavows the banning of speech. Read the comments of this post and the one on his blog if you're interested in the occasionally profane detail.

More on blog censorship

When I typed this I omitted to say that the piece that sparked it all off can still be read here. I've read it, and am now aware of all sorts of allegations I wouldn't have know if a certain billionaire's lawyers hadn't come the raw prawn with a blogger.

This has been mentioned on the following sites:

Wonkos world, Chicken Yoghurt, Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric
(who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots, Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal

And that list comes from cynical chatter from the underworld.

Media landmarks

Two significant developments yesterday. A French court ordered France 2 to hand over unedited footage of the Mohamed Al Dura incident. Briefly, and follow that link for full information, the image of a Palestinian boy being killed by Israeli troops that flashed around the world in 2000 were, it has been alleged, faked and the TV station knew that full well as it circulated the images.

Libel action followed these allegations and it has been during the hearing of an appeal that the court made this order. France 2 has tried everything possible to keep this footage concealed. If the allegations are proved to be correct, the resulting scandal would eclipse all the fauxtography and rigged phone-in scandals so far.

The second significant development? That last link was to PajamasMedia, not one of the old school mainstream agencies or outlets. Pajamas, an organisation formed by bloggers and of bloggers, hence the ironic name, with some venture capital backing, has actually done the in-court reporting for this story.

How significant that will be remains to be seen, but I predict that when we look back ten years from now, this might be what looks like the moment the wind began to change.

Ordinary evil

I've become accustomed, somehow, to most photographs from concentration camps. Mainly taken of victims after liberation, they form part of our contemporary iconography of evil.

Images in the newly released album of pictures of Auschwitz guards at play, lounging in deck chairs, laughing as they eat blueberries on a day of mass slaughter, lighting candles on a Christmas tree, are more profoundly disturbing, I think. They leave nowhere to hide from the truth we have managed to conceal for half a century beneath the rhetoric of good and evil: these were not monsters, they were ordinary men and women.

Some cultures can make monsters out of ordinary people. A glance at contemporary Iranian or Saudi society shows we still have such cultures in the world. Men who would otherwise simply be fathers, husbands and sons join together to torture people to death in stonings.

We cannot let these cultures take root here, and we must work with reformers elsewhere to eradicate them from the globe.

The Auschwitz images can be viewed here.

Climate alarmism continues

For crying out loud, what is wrong with these people? Still the press releases come:

Scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center said today that the extent of Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its minimum for 2007 on Sept. 16, shattering all previous lows since satellite record-keeping began nearly 30 years ago.
Scientists blame the declining Arctic sea ice on rising concentrations of greenhouse gases that have elevated temperatures from 2 degrees F to 7 degrees F across the arctic and strong natural variability in Arctic sea ice, said the researchers.
Some facts:

1. These satellite records began during a temperature minimum and show the result of a warming that could be perfectly natural.

2. The present warming is, according to records that predate the 1970s, not unusual and not greater than that measured during the 1930s when no satellite images were being produced.

3. Sea ice in Antarctica is at a record maximum.

For references, see here and here.

Scientists at the University of Colorado can start wearing those half coconut headphones and shouting into their bamboo microphones. They have let themselves become cargo cult scientists. Shame on them.


Busy until later, so not much posting today. A couple of updates, though.

Bloggerheads et al will be reappearing soon, I'm glad to say. Very good summary of law and possible action at Ministry of Truth.

BLINK's editor Lester Holloway and I exchanged a few emails yesterday over this. I'm giving him until the end of today to respond to something, then will post about it.

Blog censorship

A group of blogs have been closed down by a service provider or hosting business (it's not yet clear which), after legal threats on behalf of Uzbekh billionaire Alisher Usmanov who, apparently, is trying to buy Arsenal soccer club. That's a game with a funny round ball, I'm told.

The websites include bloggerheads and Craig Murray's blog, as well as that of Boris Johnson. Tim Ireland's bloggerheads is a sometimes abrasive left wing blog, and Murray can be something of a conspiracy nut. Taking lefties and conspiracy theorists off the web is a sinister development. Who would we mock and quarrel with? How would our adrenal glands receive that stimulation so necessary to a healthy mind and body?

I operate a web hosting business and have offered to host these sites, and as I buy my bandwidth wholesale and my racks straight from the data centre, there's no upstream ISP to pull the plug. I've no idea whether they'll take me up on the offer, but a bit of solidarity is called for. We can't have people silenced by bullying billionaires, now can we?

More from Harry's Place, Iain Dale and Chicken Yoghurt.

This is, incidentally, a sign of the times and an indicator of the future. If any liability for hosted content can in law attach to upstream providers including hosting businesses, then on receipt of the first lawyer's letter they'll tend to pull the plug, rather than spend time and money examining the merits of the case. That seems to be what has happened in this case. It's like suing a bookshop, rather than writer or publisher, for libel. Very bad development.

UPDATE: The plug was pulled by FastHosts, apparently. Anyone hosting with them at the moment might like to reflect on this.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gmail probs

Hmmm... Lots of problems at Gmail today. Intermittent breaches of service. This won't help their promotion of web services, though these are still the future of computer software.

We're all going to die... I'm just not sure why yet

Some people seem to be prone to millennialism. They are sure we're all doomed, but the details of why need to be located in the most convenient available theory.

It seems that NASA's climate alarmist in chief, James Hansen, might be one such person. Strident in the field of Global Warming Alarmism, he was predicting 22 foot sea level rises just last week.

Washington resident John Lockwood was doing some research at the Library of Congress recently when he came across a 1971 piece in the Washington Post. The Washington Times explains further:

"U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming," blares the headline of the July 9, 1971, article, which cautions readers that the world "could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts."

The scientist was S.I. Rasool, a colleague of Mr. Hansen's at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The article goes on to say that Mr. Rasool came to his chilling conclusions by resorting in part to a new computer program developed by Mr. Hansen that studied clouds above Venus.

Iraqi Refugees

Human Rights First is campaigning on behalf of Iraqis who have helped the American forces. They tell me, by email:

In a recent memo, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said the United States must act more quickly to help desperate Iraqi refugees find safety – "Iraqis who have put themselves and their families at risk by working with us."

Fortunately, there is a bipartisan amendment in the Senate that will help bring some of these Iraqis—and other vulnerable Iraqi refugees—to safety in the United States.

A vote is imminent – and we expect it to be incredibly close. To ensure it passes, we need YOUR HELP today. Your emails will be counted.
We are not yet at the point of a Parliamentary vote in Britain - which is a disgrace. But there will be a meeting held in Parliament on October 9th. Dan Hardie has the details.

Please make sure your MP knows about this and press him to attend.

Open letter to the editor of BLINK

UPDATE: BLINK's editor Lester Holloway and I exchanged a few emails yesterday over this. I'm giving him until the end of today to respond to something, then will post about it.

I just sent this email to Lester Holloway, the editor of this racist internet magazine:

Dear Mr Holloway,

Last March you promised me a right of reply to a piece published on your website.

This promise was made after I telephoned your office, as described here.

I now claim that right of reply, in the light of one of your recent campaigns. I will keep it brief, and would be grateful if you publish it in full and with the same degree of prominence as the piece that covered your rally.

I am reproducing this mail in its entirety on my blog.

Copy is under this text.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Risdon.

On March 30th 2006, BLINK published a piece written by Shirin Aguiar-Holloway titled "A sea of white faces". Unable even to get the name of the event she was reporting correct, referring to it as the "Freedom March" instead of the "March for Free Expression", Ms Holloway wrote: "The 200-odd protesters who gathered in Trafalgar Square on Saturday were nearly all white.

Just about the only non-white face was an Iranian man who carried a placard with the Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban."

That this was untrue is beside the point. Judging the merits of an event or an argument on the grounds of race alone is as straightforward an example of racism as it is possible to find. Dr Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when people would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. BLINK does not seem to share that dream. It might indeed have been possible to criticise the characters of those involved in the Free Expression rally, but you made no attempt to do so. You did, however, give uncritical space to mention of a counter protest and quoted the spokesman of this event, Ismaeel-Haneef Hijazi, in uncritical terms.

Mr Hijazi has just refused to endorse this statement, during a discussion on my blog at the following address:

"any tradition that can today accept slavery under any circumstances, that accepts the rape of slave women, however that might be phrased, and advocates or accepts sex with under age girls - which is always rape - is abhorrent."

In other words, your devotion to anti-white racism has made you side with a man who will not condemn slavery, the rape of slave women and the rape of girls as young as nine years of age. Yet you were unable to endorse the following statement of principle that underlay the Free Expression rally:

"The strength and survival of free society and the advance of human knowledge depend on the free exchange of ideas. All ideas are capable of giving offence, and some of the most powerful ideas in human history, such as those of Galileo and Darwin, have given profound religious offence in their time. The free exchange of ideas depends on freedom of expression and this includes the right to criticise and mock. We assert and uphold the right of freedom of expression and call on our elected representatives to do the same. We abhor the fact that people throughout the world live under mortal threat simply for expressing ideas and we call on our elected representatives to protect them from attack and not to give comfort to the forces of intolerance that besiege them."

Your devotion to perpetuating racial division, and your commitment to anti-white bias regardless of any other circumstances, disqualify you utterly from making pronouncements on the alleged racism of any other person.

That includes Boris Johnson who, whatever he may or may not have said in the past, has never campaigned for racial division, nor displayed complete and unrelenting racism, in the way that your organisation does.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Burning salt water - expanded

When I posted here about the experiment in which a radio beam split salt water in into immediately combustible components, I did so without comment. Laban just suggested that this process would consume more energy than it produced, and of course he's right. That isn't the point, though.

Firstly, it's apparently a new process. Like electrolysis, it breaks down the bonds in water molecules but unlike electrolysis it requires neither anode nor cathode immersed in said water. So we've learned something, and that's always good. But new things can lead to interesting places, and this is the second and more important aspect of this.

Here's a thought experiment. Cars have been converted to run on hydrogen - existing engines can be converted but it's a bit of a faff. However, how about swapping corrodible pipes for synthetic ones and running salt water from a tank to the cylinder head, replacing the carburettor or injection system with a radio transmitter.

Yes, the ultimate power source would be the nuclear power station that generated the electricity that got stored in the batteries in the car and powered the radio transmitter. But that's cool - I'd be happy to own a nuclear powered car. And the fact that this technology might be capable of converting all existing vehicles to clean, green nuclear power is exciting, even for a climate sceptic/realist like myself.

Iraqi lifeline meeting - MP to attend

James Paice, MP, has expressed his intention, despite other commitments, to come to the meeting in Parliament on October 9th, when help for Iraqis who have been of service to our troops will be discussed.

What is your MP doing?

Mainstream Islam

In the comments to this post, below, Ismaeel from the Muslim Action Committee said the following:

The closing of the doors of ijtihad was a recognition of the ulema of the day that the process of developing METHODOLOGIES to discover ISLAMIC RULINGS on any given subject had been completed and all the four METHODOLOGIES would now be used to derive rulings from the texts on LEGAL issues.
So, Islamic Law was fixed in the twelfth century and has been perfect ever since. This is absolutely mainstream for unreformed Muslims, which is to say the overwhelming majority of Muslims, including those in Europe, Australasia and the Americas. Here's an example (from America) of the sort of revolting conclusion this can lead to:
Finally, in late Spring of 2005, the day came which turned out to be the last day I ever went to this fiqh class. I happened to meet one of the other students shortly before class, and I asked him how he thought we should respond to the need for revision, especially considering that our textbook was based on a work more than six hundred years old. The other student replied, there was not much need to revise the traditional thought, but maybe only add something in those places where the traditional scholars were silent. No need at all to change anything substantial. I asked him about slavery and sex with slaves, and he suggested I ask the shaikh. And so I did.

And so it came as it had to come. When the class reached the five minute break, I asked the Shaikh, whether it was permitted for a male master to sleep with slave women against their will. He immediately said yes, and he added this was agreed upon by all four Sunni schools - Shafi'i, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali. I asked to clarify, so if there was a slave market today, I could go and buy a fourteen year old girl just in order to sleep with her? He said yes, and he added, not only was it permitted, it was also common practice among early Muslims. Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the shaikh said, had children from his slaves. The class was shocked, especially the female students. One female student asked, what if the slave woman did not want to? The sheikh affirmed that this was not relevant. Another female student asked, whether this was still applicable today? The shaikh did not address this question - he did not seem to understand what the student meant by "applicable" - but he added that when agreements against slavery came up the Muslim countries "were the first ones to sign". The shaikh said sex slavery was perfectly according to the Qur'an. I later checked with a more reform-oriented scholar who assured me that the Qur'an does not permit this kind of abuse of human beings.

Now let me be absolutely clear that this was more than just the words of a crazy fiqh teacher. What our shaikh told us is perfectly in line with the consensus of more than thousand years of Islamic scholarship. Let me spell it out:

It is permitted (halal) according to all traditional schools (madhabs) to have sexual intercourse with slave girls of the age of nine years or above against their will and without marrying them. And when I say according to the traditional schools, I mean it was consensus among the scholars of all classic schools of Islamic law be it Sunni or Shia. It is all over the classic sources of Islamic law where this issue is elaborated to great detail.

Now what the past scholars said is one thing, how modern Muslim scholars deal with it is another. Unfortunately, the question is rarely asked, because most Muslims are unaware of the problems, but if it is asked, traditionally oriented scholars fail to condemn sex slavery. Even some of the most influential contemporary scholars are defending and justifying sex slavery
And just to show I'm not being unfair against Ismaeel by associating him with this sort of thing, here he is, on the old March for Free Expression website, in the comments:
In many cultures women are intellectually, emotionally and physically mature by this age [9] to be married and have sex. Please stop trying to impose your liberal values and laws on everyone.
If you go to some arab countries even now amongst the bedouin and also in sub-sahara africa, girls of nine are physically, mentally and emotionally ready for marriage.

The Prophet (PBUH) first got married to a woman who was twice divorced, Lady Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, he was 25 and she was 40, he didn't remarry again until after she had died some 25 years later. Lady Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her was the only virgin girl he married after that.
Aisha was seven years old when Mohammed married her, and nine when he "consumated" their marriage. It's perfectly true that sexual relations with children were not unusual in the distant past, but sex between a fifty year old man and a nine year old girl must be considered to be rape today, in any country under any circumstances.

For about a decade, from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, a campaigning group that eventually became known as the Paedophile Information Exchange tried to legitimise the idea of sexual relations between adults and children. It failed, unsurprisingly, and in large part as a result of a media led public outcry. Eventually, legal action in 1984 led to ther conviction of several members and the flight of the group's leader.

Any tradition that advocates slavery, the rape of slaves and the rape of under age girls in "marriage" is abhorrent, and the fact that it is a religious tradition is irrelevant. Why is there no outcry against these revolting teachings from Islamic law?

Buy Swedish

Via Tim Worstall, this is a very good suggestion:

About one hundred Swedish companies have been threatened on Islamist websites in the last few days. Jihadist websites call for Muslims to boycott companies like IKEA, H&M, Ericsson and Electrolux, and in several cases to attack them. This is evil times two. They attack people who have nothing to do with what they are fighting against, and they do it because they want to put pressure on the Swedish government to stop artists like Lars Vilks from mocking religion.
So buy Swedish. It worked when there was a Muslim boycott of Danish produce - the year of the boycott, Danish exports actually rose.

UPDATE: Furrowed Brow points out in the comments that Absolut vodka is Swedish. 8-)

Paying for online content

Via The Monkey Tennis Centre, I see that Times Select, the subscription based online service from the New York Times is no more. Dean Barnett commented:

If there was an online magazine or newspaper that had James Lileks, Mark Steyn, Bill Kristol, Andrew Ferguson, John Podhoretz, Bill Simmons, Terry Teachout and Michael Yon contributing daily, I’d pay for it. A lot of other people would, too. The Times’ big failure wasn’t in thinking they could sell on-line opinion. Their failure was in thinking they could sell crappy and unoriginal on-line opinion.
Meanwhile in the UK, Devil's Kitchen may have made his last appearance on 18 Doughty Street:
On related note, your humble Devil was on 18DS the other week, in yet another fucking tedious programme; believe me, it is as exactly boring to participate in as it is to watch.

I am sick to death of being on programmes where everyone is in agreement: it's about as stimulating as being in an A Level class taken by a state school teacher.
Now, at his best DK can have the same sort of stimulating effect as a defibrillator. When, from time to time, Doughty Street has condescended to make their programmes accessible to Linux*, I've watched bits of their programmes. Shock Jocks they ain't. Making DK get bored was a really silly use of a resource.

There's still room for good, paid-for online content. But it has to be good. So far, not much available is worth paying for. But that's the fault of the producers, and not the technology. Why is it so dull? Let's see now:
the spiked piece was rejected on the grounds that it was offensive and made me sound crazy. The first line was, "Here's a sentence rarely used to open newspaper columns: why don't the vast majority of people just blow their own heads off?" and it continued in a similar vein throughout. I thought it was life-affirming, in a nihilistic, cackling-into-the-abyss kind of way, but there you go. Perhaps I'm ill. Doubtless it would've provoked complaints.

So the piece about spiders was printed instead. It also appeared on the Guardian's Comment is free site, where readers can leave comments, for free, like it says on the tin. And the very first comment read: "Come on. A boring piece of fluff about spiders? Where's the passion and intensity? Sort it out." You can't win.

Ironically, I first came to the attention of the "mass media" because I wrote a website jam-packed with "passion and intensity" - alongside bad language, grotesque mental imagery, and extreme scatological humour. Today, as part of the "mass media", those final three are the three tools I'm not allowed to employ, because the "mass" sadly encompasses "the humourless". None the less, there isn't a week that goes by when I don't try to sneak all three elements in, because they make me giggle. These excesses get cut before making it to print. My words go through a filter that's out of my control. I don't even get to write my own headings, you know. Oh, the humanity. It's like Stalinist Russia round here. Boo hoo, woe is me, etc.

No paper wants to gratuitously offend the reader. Pity, because gratuitous offence, when performed with aplomb, is the funniest thing in the world. There's more unpretentious joie de vivre in a single issue of vintage-era Viz than most artists or singers manage in a lifetime. I'd like nothing better than to fill the rest of this page with an unnecessarily florid description of something utterly disgusting happening to a well-known public figure - an 850-word fantasy in which, say, David Miliband unexpectedly develops extreme and explosive diarrhoea while entertaining a group of foreign dignitaries in a pod on the London Eye on the hottest day of the year, to take just one example. But I can't, because a tiny handful of you would complain.

* Months ago, I had a brief email correspondence with a developer from the Doughty Street site. He said they weren't using Flash video, like Google and YouTube, because of the expense.

Earlier this year, I built a flash based "media player" for a racing driver's website, including a web based control panel for uploads and management. Project time: three working days. Project cost, including client software for (adequate) video editing and file meta markup and conversion, and training for the client: £2,500. It works with any computer, just like YouTube.


A new opinion poll shows that David Cameron is the least popular of the major party leaders:

Until now, Mr Cameron has been seen as an asset for the Tories, and is often rated as more popular than his party, particularly among the all-important swing voters in the political centre ground.

But the new survey found that just 37 per cent of all voters now say they are satisfied with the way he is doing his job, against 45 per cent who are dissatisfied - a net satisfaction rating of minus-eight.

Despite the questions which have been raised over his future as Lib Dem leader, Sir Menzies had a narrow advantage over Mr Cameron. He has a net rating of minus-five.
(emphasis added) I think the willingness of some Tories to enter Brown's "big tent", and of Margaret Thatcher to pose for photographs with him, is evidence of a plot by traditional Tories to undermine Cameron, preparatory to bringing him down. The inertia of a large party like the Conservatives is unlikely to allow this to come to fruition before another election defeat, though. This means there hasn't been a better time for a new, mainstream, small government, low tax, EU sceptic, free market party to emerge without the baggage that UKIP, unfortunately, carries.

If it were credible in terms of finance and leadership, it could hoover up a lot of defectors from UKIP and the Tories, and gain immediate Parliamentary representation. But I can't see it happening. The conservative nature of Conservatives makes any change on this scale difficult to imagine.

Their Unionist instincts have prevented them seeking the further devolution that would enable them to gain power in their stronghold of England, and allowed Labour to use selective devolution, immigration, selective development and uneven constituency sizes to consolidate an undemocratic grip on power. Similarly, their conservatism is preventing them from capitalising on this moment.

And so their own natures may, in the end, condemn them to extinction.