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Entries by Bishop Hill (6690)


Regaining control of the news agenda

Blair questioned again, Brown's pretendy charity under investigation, Lord Goldsmith in the doo-doo in the upper house. How's a spin doctor supposed to regain control of the news agenda?

How about a year old story about an assasination attempt on Jack Straw?

Yes that would probably do it


Nobody else seems to have picked up on this story. I can't find it on the Sky site either. Perhaps it's a mistake? 


The three kinds of liberal

The fundamental principle of liberalism is that decisions are better left to individuals. Chris Dillow quotes Mill's defining statement that

"over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign"

And I think it's true to say that any liberal would go along with that. The problem is that these same people are all too willing to forget this basic principle when there are controversial issues at stake. The circumstances in which they are ready to drop their principles are different from individual to individual, but it's possible to identify three distinct groups.

The first kind can be characterised as the "bad thing" liberals. They believe from the bottom of their hearts that the individual is really, genuinely sovereign over their own body and mind....except when we're talking about a "bad thing". This may well be something that affects only the individual, but because our bad thing liberal thinks it's, well, bad for them, he feels that the full force of the law should be used to stop them doing whatever they want to do. There was a good example today when LibDem DCMS spokesman Don Foster made what Stephen Tall correctly described as an eeyore-ish response to the government's announcement on casinos, demanding that there should be no further increase in their number.

The second type is the "good thing" liberals. As you might expect, "good thing" liberals believe that decisions should be left to individuals except where something is so good that they must be forced to have it. I was treated to a demonstration of this in a comments thread over at Inner West when the author, James, explained his support for the extension of the school leaving age as follows:

In very broad brush terms as a liberal I suppose I see education as a 'good thing' because it broadens an individual's life choices.

It's not liberalism at all, of course. It's thoroughly illiberal, but this kind of thinking is now very much the norm, and the Liberal Democrats (party of Mill) and the Conservatives (party of freedom) are no exceptions.

The last kind, is of course the "all things" liberal. The one who can make himself retain his principles even when they disapprove of the action that the individual is taking, or when they thoroughly approve of something. Devil's Kitchen is one:

[I] defend the Catholic church's right to make certain decisions, but I won't necessarily support the Church or those decisions per se.

Chris Dillow is another. His typically eloquent defence of the freedom principle which is linked to above is called Losing the Culture of Liberty. But if a large proportion of self-declared liberals are going to drop their liberalism if something is good, and many more if it's too bad, perhaps the culture might as well be gone already.


Product blogging

Jackie Danicki has just scored a notable victory over the Figleaves omisnline lingerie site, forcing them to remove restrictions on their UK customers buying from the US site. The power of the blogosphere is quite remarkable in cases like this. I remember Jeff Jarvis doing something similar with his laptop a year or so ago, also with good results (IIRC).

It all seems pretty easy for the big guys. I wonder though if an unterblogger such as myself can acheive the same effect. I'm minded to start a blog about my Mitsubishi Grandis, which has been, frankly, a dog. It's spent longer in the garage in the first six months of my owning it than all my previous cars put together. And it's still not right.

I'll give Mitsubishi a few more days, and if I get no joy, I might just have to try it out. 



UKIP has been in the news on several occasions recently, having picked up a number of notable defectors in the shape of Lords Pearson and Willoughby de Broke, followed over the weekend by the Earl of Dartmouth. Today, they gained another significant supporter in the shape of the blogosphere's very own Peter Briffa. The tipping point seems to have been David Cameron's idiotic support of the government's position on Catholic adoption agencies. As the Briff says, the sensible thing to do would have been to give everyone an exemption. And now he's riled:

Right. That'll do me. I am no longer just a sceptical supporter of the Conservatives, I am now postiively hostile. Not quite Peter Hitchens-like in my hostility, I don't mind them surviving as a party. Total destruction might not be necessary. But equally, it would be a major disaster if they were to win the next election. Cameron must be humiliated. Even a loss by say twenty seats won't be enough. He's got to suffer big time, so the whole Liberaloid/Big Government experiment collapses.

 Quite right too. What struck me though was the comments of the UKIP chairman (whose name I don't even know) which Briffa quotes:

This entire situation has come about because of State intrusion into matters that should be left to private conscience. “It is a consequence of contradictory legislation that tries to protect rights to religious beliefs at the same time as preventing actions that stem from those beliefs. “This Government is constructing a State morality backed by legislation. Not only is this wrong in principle – it is a practical impossibility as this situation demonstrates.”

It's strking because, as far as I know, UKIP is the only party to adopt a liberal position of the issue. Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats are all solidly behind the big state, coercive position of the Prime Minister. And let's face it, Tony Blair has only adopted this position because he fears the gay lobby more than he fears the Catholic one, a fact which is pointed out in this excellent leader by William Rees Mogg in the Times.

I am starting to wonder if the time is now approaching when I shift my allegiances on domestic issues to UKIP. (I had already pledged my support for European elections). The festering swamp of big government, in which the big three parties wallow, needs to be drained. Perhaps, now we seem to have a party that believes in it, a liberal society will have a chance, albeit a small one, of flourishing again.


Governing for the government

Governing is meant to be done on behalf of the people, isn't it? You know, for their benefit. There are some people who actually think this happens too. Socialists, mainly - the few who haven't been disabused by the record of the current incumbents. Many more probably think that it's just a matter of getting the right socialist government in place. "Perhaps if Gordon Brown ran the country, he'd do things for our benefit. Or what about that nice Hilary Benn, he'd look after us wouldn't he?"

Back in the real world, there was an interesting article in Scotland on Sunday over the weekend which briefly revealed something of the true nature of government. By politicians, for politicians.

SCOTLAND is on the brink of a power crisis after an accident at one of the country's biggest electricity plants massively reduced supplies to the national grid.

Emergency legislation will be rushed through the Scottish Parliament early this week to allow Longannet power station, Fife, to burn gas as well as coal in a bid to stave off potential blackouts.

At first glance it's an extraordinary state of affairs that parliamentary legislation is required to allow a power station to burn a different mix of fuels. Talk about micro-managing the economy. Why can't they just let the power company decide?

Well, it's not hard to guess is it? Unions are in favour of coal. Unions fund Labour. Labour legislates to stop power company using gas. Public choice theory in action. 



More on the BBC, LGF and Moslems

The BBC have closed down another thread that mentions LGF. This time it was a thread related to Bolton Council's decision to cancel its Holocaust Memorial Day.

This is a story which hasn't got any attention from the national press. The only report seems to be from Lancashire Today. Certainly the BBC don't seem to want anyone to find out about it.  Whether LGF's claim that the cancellation was at the instigation of the MCB is correct is not clear. The fact that the Council leader won't say who took the final decision suggests that a certain degree of suspicion is justified.


BBC bans LGF

Little Green Footballs, the robustly anti-Islamist website run by Charles Johnson, has found itself in the sadly predictable position of being banned by the BBC's news forums. True to form, no evidence seems to have been presented as to why they are considered to be beyond the pale. The thread has been closed and they've even removed the title.

But given that Johnson was recently voted one of the top web entrepreneurs in the world by Forbes Magazine the Beeb are risking making themselves look even more stupid than they do usually. How can you ban one of the top websites in the world, just because you think it's a bit too right wing?  Hell, the BBC thinks anything to the right of Kim Il Sung is a bit suspect.

It's like banning the Sex Pistols or Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It does no good at all, and just helps drum up interest. I'm sure this is just going to drive still more traffic to LGF.



Does Downing Street have two email systems?

Blairwatch is relaying rumours that Downing Street has a secret email system.

Sky News story here.
BBC coverage here (kept well off the front page. Surprise, surprise) 


Your taxes at work

Costs of borrowing a book in various London boroughs:

Camden £11.50
Greenwich £7.14
Hackney £10.07
Hammersmith £6.63
Islington £10.46
Kensington £8.54
Lambeth £10.29
Lewisham £5.77
Southwark £6.89
Tower Hamlets £9.90
Wandsworth £3.64
Westminster £5.91

The figures are from the Good Library Blog, and are calculated by dividing the library cost by the number of books loaned. It would be interesting to get the numbers of books loaned for each borough, which would let us derive an estimate of the total cash value of waste. It looks as though the figure for Camden could be over £7 per book loaned.  

Which suggests that taxpayers in Camden would be better off giving people book tokens and sending them off to Waterstones. 



Who does Ruth Turner work for?

Dominic Lawson has an article in the Indy today about Ruth Turner and the independence of the police. In it he say this:

The fact that Mr Blair is Prime Minister is, in an important sense, irrelevant to the case. This is all about the Labour Party. Ruth Turner is purely a Labour party appointee and is paid by the party; this whole matter relates to loans - or possibly that should read "loans" - given to the Labour Party.

This set me to thinking, because when the story broke last week the Times said this:

Turner, 36, is the first government official to be arrested in the inquiry. It also reveals a new line of investigation — looking at a potential cover-up rather than the crime.


So which is it? Does she work for the government or the Labour party? According to the Number 10 Website she's the Director of Government Relations, which sounds pretty much like a government job. But if that's the case, what is she doing getting involved in fundraising for the Labour party? 


Frank Field loses the plot. Or does he?

Extraordinary article by Frank Field over at Comment is Free. FF wants the Met to concentrate on preventing terrorist attacks rather than wasting their time on trivia like loans for peerages.

The commentariat are suitably gobsmacked - 130 comments so far, many questioning the man's sanity. FF has always come over to me as being one of the few people on the Labour benches who could reasonably be thought to be of compos mentis. This article just doesn't sound like him.

My theory? Blair has got something on him which Field can't ignore. 


More joined-up government

In yet another example of the breathtaking incompetence of the British State, the Metropolitan Police appear not to be registered under the Data Protection Act. The shambles keeps on growing.

Hat tip: Spy Blog 


State-funded intolerance

Unity at Ministry of Truth is upset about government funding of Catholic charities - charities which then discriminate against homosexuals when it comes to delivering their services. Not what I thought Chrisitianity was about, I must say, but I'm no expert.

Now I might take a slightly different approach to discrimination, seeing it as part of being free, but there's no question that the State shouldn't be funding organisations that do so. The Ggovernment is elected to look after everyone's interests, after all. If ever there was a quid pro quo for having to go along with the wishes of the majority, it is surely that the government doesn't actually encourage discrimination against you.

It's increasingly clear though that Labour is adopting a different approach. Evidence is growing quickly that they are governing for only for those who elected them, or those who can buy them off. So while Tony Blair is, at least publicly, not a Catholic, he clearly sees the Catholic Church as part of his constituency. So state-funded discrimination will become a feature of British life, in order to buy off a group of potential Labour voters. It's big state democracy in all its glory.

Now, as a small government kind of guy, I can sit back and say "I told you so". The problem for Unity and socialists in general is that they have no such get out. They believe that government can fund anything and anyone they like, provided the elections expressed the will of the people.

I say, if you give money to crooks, don't be surprised if they steal it.

(Updated to correct inadvertent capitalisation of Government. Lesson one of blogging - never write about grammar, spelling or editorial stylePsychotic.)



The government

Could I just point out to everyone that capitalising government as "Government" is both incorrect, and lends a degree of respect that successive administrations simply don't deserve.

The cleaners, the chimney-sweeps, the night soil collection boys, the government.

Simple really. 


More on BBC bias

Iain Dale is outraged over the BBC's attempt to bury news of Ruth Turner's arrest. I can't help but wonder how far down the news schedule they are going to put the forthcoming news of Tony Blair's arrest.