Diary: Adam Smith Institute Thatcher 25th Anniversary Event
I'd like to add my voice to those already expressing how great they felt was the event the Adam Smith Institute put on last night to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's rise to power. It was well planned, had a lovely venue, and the three speakers - Norman Tebbit, Charles Powell and Cecil Parkinson - were each powerful and concise in what they said.
Thanks to Alex Singleton for the above picture of both the blogosphere's Tory-supporting Peters. In the packed Oxford and Cambridge Club, I was obviously perspiring more than I realised. I was pleased to be able to take some photographs of my own of the star guests.
I first entered shortly after the event began at 6.30pm, and saw one man who looked vaguely familiar as we both hung up our coats. I later discovered that this was Patrick Jenkin, one of Thatcher's Social Security Secretaries, father to the present Shadow Defence Secretary, and by one account one of the first Tories to note publicly how much the lessons of sociobiology are conservative lessons.
The main speeches started between about 7.00pm and 7.30pm, each speaker limited to three minutes. Norman Tebbit - variously her Employment Secretary and later Party Chairman - was first, and focused on the economic and industrial policies Thatcher pushed through, and the enormous changes made. Charles Powell, then the Prime Minister's Foreign Affairs Adviser, spoke on foreign policy and the difference made by Thatcher in Europe, America and the wider world. He won particular cheers recalling her successful fight for Britain's rebate from Brussels, and for praising the Thatcher-Reagan Alliance and its effectiveness in winning the Cold War.
Cecil Parkinson - the Trade & Industry and Transport Secretary who resigned from the cabinet for personal reasons in 1983, preventing him becoming Foreign Secretary - focused on the battles Thatcher won against the civil service, as well as her own ministers. He began by describing a conversation he had had in opposition with Enoch Powell (the mention of whose name won hearty 'hear-hear's), and being warned of the inertia of office - of the immediate desire once a government is established to go with the tide and avoid any real reform. Parkinson noted that the usual practice was for Tory governments to be elected, and then within two years to perform a U-turn and reverse all that they had been intending to do. At this moment I scanned the room in the hope of seeing Ted Heath scowling, in the unlikely event that he had turned up to a pro-Thatcher event.
Parkinson went on: Thatcher, of course, was able to break this dreadful pattern and put in place the changes needed. When the crunch came two years into her premiership, with feinthearts around her refusing to support what she was doing, Thatcher changed not the policy but the cabinet! This juxtaposition won roars of approval. By fighting the inertia of government and putting into effect desperately necessary changes, Thatcher had made Britain a far better place.
Later, I managed to see and photograph the two cabinet speakers up close, taking what I thought was a particularly good picture of Norman Tebbit.
As I saw him engaged in conversation, he was being asked his view of European enlargement, and he was unambiguously in favour - apparently because it would ensure further immigration! He gave the statistics of the squadrons that fought on the right side in the Battle of Britain, and noted how numerous were the Poles in that conflict. Without them, we might not have won at all, he explained, and then said how well he thought Poles integrated into British society - adding that he had just hired one to look after his wife. His objection was to immigrants who didn't integrate.
Retirement has obviously not dimmed his energy, and for a very long time he spoke happily to everyone who approached him. At one point a young woman asked him somewhat immodestly if he would mind posing for a photograph with two lovely blondes - herself and a friend. Tebbit threw up his hands and looked up at the heavens in mock exasperation before agreeing.
Cecil Parkinson was also keen to converse with the guests, and when chatting to the Dissident Frogman expressed his hope that the French would find a Thatcher of their own. Chirac at one stage had looked promising, he noted, then left it at that, his expectations so obviously dashed that saying so would be superfluous. He then asked about Nicolas Sarkozy. There were ambiguous murmurs, and I pointed out: "Sarkozy believes in positive discrimination: not sound".
On Thatcher, Parkinson interestingly noted that she was a woman, but she got things done. He then mentioned that at no point during Tuesday evening's Conservative Way Forward celebration had a speaker described her as the first woman Prime Minister - so successful was she that it was one of the least important things about her reign. I asked if she had spoken, and Parkinson confirmed that she did, with all the authority and passion of old.
He elaborated further on the inertia of government that she had successfully fought. When they had come into office, he explained, they wanted to scrap the Prices and Incomes Board and the civil servants refused! Reduce its powers, leave it in place and ready, they had urged: 'You'll need it later'. Of course, this consensual nonsense was not accepted, and thank goodness for that. Some critics of Thatcher write as if all the leading achievements of her era were a sure thing whoever was in government. This is a Blairite fantasy sustainable only through an ignorance of just what happened in those years. We did not arrive at the present post-socialist era through the common sense of Britain's governing class. If we had relied on that we wouldn't have had a hope. We arrived where we are today because a few brave visionaries - Margaret Thatcher above all - were keen enough to get things done that they spent years crawling across broken glass in the form of fierce and variously violent or hysterical opposition from Labour, the unions, the liberal establishment and foreign foes fascist and communist. It was not Thatcherism that was almost inevitable, but Britain's decline. We must never forget the courage and achievement of those who were able to arrest this decline.
Twenty-five years later, the BBC's coverage of what could be described as the Second Glorious Revolution - the General Election of 3 May 1979 - is being replayed on BBC Parliament from 9am today London time. Happily, the broadcast can be watched online through Realplayer or similar software. Expect regular updates from me as the results come in.
UPDATE: The coverage just ended and immediately restarted as David Dimbleby asked the viewer to return following their programme poking fun at politicians. The programme was not shown this time, although it might have been interesting. One of the most striking details I have read of the pre-Thatcher period described how the Rory Bremners of the day would all get big laughs impersonating the trade union leaders. That such a thing would now be quite unthinkable is of course not entirely unrelated to the result of this election.
UPDATE II: Clips from the 1959 and 1964 Election coverage are being shown now, as then. In the first, Jeremy Thorpe said he was quite certain he would see a Liberal government in his lifetime, that his party was breathing down the necks of Labour and the Tories. The chasm between these claims and the political history of the last forty-five years may be worth bearing in mind when we hear identical statements from that same party's modern-day representatives.
Well, I took a long break from updates, but I'll continue now...
UPDATE III: When Bob McKenzie noted that Thatcher was the first woman leader of a great democracy, Dimbleby asked if he was leaving out Israel's Golda Meir. "A minor Middle Eastern democracy - a very fine one," McKenzie answered. Who can imagine the BBC saying that now?!
UPDATE IV: To add to the strangeness of the occasion, the weather forecast showed that it was actually snowing that night in Mrs Thatcher's native Lincolnshire ... in May.
UPDATE V: A long interview with the thoroughly nasty union barons who did so much to wreck Britain in the preceding year. Their arrogance and indifference to the expressed will of the voters seems almost forgivable when you realise that they utterly buy into the delusion that they are speaking for millions of people.
UPDATE VI (Wed, 5 May): Interesting to see Ivor Crewe appear on the coverage and explain what the Essex University election survey had suggested were the reasons for the result. It was also odd, given how much that coverage seemed part of another era, to see him again yesterday - albeit twenty-five years older - at a Politics Seminar at this university.
"I'm interested in the right of disadvantaged kids to learn and make something of their lives. If a potential teacher came in to me and the first thing they talked about was their own rights rather than the needs of the kids, I'd tell them they were in the wrong profession." - Kole Knueppel
Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | Permanent Link | Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds
Happy eighteenth birthday to Paul Harris, who has reached voting age and now can, in his words, "tell them where to stick the European Constitution".
Do also read his account of the controversy generated when a neighbouring village had a mobile telephone mast installed in the area. After reading, I can only say that the infamous events of 1690s Salem seem less peculiar. Thumbs up to Orange, and a big thumbs down to the MP who advised local residents to sleep with buckets over their heads to avoid the mast's noxious rays. I think Paul now has a duty to give us the man's name.
Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | Permanent Link | Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Free and open debate will do more for our environment in the long run
Unusually, George Monbiot had a column in today's Guardian that was both intentionally funny and somewhat convincing. The piece centred on the malign effect he believes environmental sceptics have on discussion of pollution and industrialisation. He particularly castigates the BBC for letting these scientists on its programmes alongside environmental campaigners when the issue is raised, and is no kinder to newspaper commentators. In his attack on journalists sceptical of the 'greenhouse effect', he advises:
If ever you meet one of these people, I suggest you ask them the following questions: 1. Does the atmosphere contain carbon dioxide? 2. Does atmospheric carbon dioxide influence global temperatures? 3. Will that influence be enhanced by the addition of more carbon dioxide? 4. Have human activities led to a net emission of carbon dioxide? It would be interesting to discover at which point they answer no - at which point, in other words, they choose to part company with basic physics.
This is a good way of beginning the discussion, but only to a point.
One could quite easily ask of George Monbiot: 1. With England more populated than ever, are more people visiting the beaches of the West coast? 2. Does more children visiting these beaches mean more urinating in the Atlantic? 3. Does adding water to more water cause those water levels to rise? Unless you want to part company with science and reality, the answers to these questions also will all be yes.
But the real question that follows from that is whether this human activity is having any significant effect - and whether that effect is negative. Is it a drop in the ocean, or is it something both historically unprecedented and potentially catastrophic? That's the issue sceptical environmentalists are discussing, and the question some of the best scientific minds are asking. The global climate has changed throughout history and prehistory, forces far beyond our control determining temperatures on this island and across the world. As Norman Tebbit noted recently, in Roman times Britons grew grapes right up to the Scottish border, and we were making so much of our own wine that the central Roman authorities complained that we should buy more from them instead. Is the effect of human activity on the climate really so great by comparison to these natural, cyclical forces? If we are heading for trouble, is it really BMWs we have to worry about? Much science suggests not: the effect of human activity has been to increase global temperatures by less in a century than the average variation from one year to the next.
More fundamentally, how do we know that the climate of a century from now will not be better? As Tebbit, again, put it, these reports showing x number of Namibians dying from slightly increased global temperatures never seem to take into account the number of pensioners who survive in Britain or Ireland because the winters are a little warmer. Who are these climate reactionaries like Monbiot to decide that suddenly here and now in April 2004 we must stand before these impersonal forces of history and prehistory and yell 'stop'?
The serious scientific debate on these issues is really only just beginning, and if we want it to continue, then George Monbiot's call for the voices of caution and scepticism to be silenced should not be heeded.
5. Do global temperatures influence atmospheric carbon dioxide?
You see the world is a funny, Gaia-like thing, with feedback going in all directions at once. The oceans hold a lot of carbon dioxide. Warm them up and you'll get more in the atmosphere. Which way does the link work? Are the temperature rise and the carbon dioxide rise due to our outputs, or is higher temperature causing more CO2 to be present?
"The constitution covers over 500 pages. At every turn where the constitution rules that power should be exercised at a different level, it is for that power to flow to Brussels.
Britain will lose, for example, its veto in more than 30 areas of policy. There is not a single proposed change in the constitution that returns one of the powers currently possessed by Brussels to member states." - Frank Field
"The draft EU constitution effectively gives power over every aspect of our lives to Brussels. From our criminal procedures to our prejudices and preferences, Brussels has laid down its marker. Where a particular power is now limited, there is a basket clause to amend or expand it in the future. Areas of influence have been mapped out as clearly as the patch of land around which any animal urinates to establish dominance.
Given that the EU's compliance and enforcement will be in the hands of an unaccountable civil service, this constitution is essentially a document in which bureaucrats constitutionally empower themselves to rule without limit. All we can hope is that they are nice bureaucrats. We can't exclude the statistical possibility that some of them will be decent intelligent people. If not, we're out of luck." - Barbara Amiel
It's exam time again (indeed, my tenth consecutive year of May/June exams), so I am afraid I won't until the end of May have the time I normally do for blogging. I'll try nonetheless to meet a quota of one post per weekday.
Today, I'll just link to a very enjoyable piece by Steve Sailer, a Darwinian analysis of the effects sex differences have on childrens' cartoons. It appears the theory of evolution may even provide answers to such questions as why you so often see "abrupt segues from alarmingly belligerent programs about colossal robots battling for galactic mastery to unspeakably adorable commercials for toys like Polly Pocket's Fairy Wishing World" and why female characters are so secondary in ordinary Disney cartoons but so central to Disney feature films.
I've known a lot of people so thoughtless and closed-minded in their political correctness that they believe it's enough to say that a claim is a stereotype or is sexist to disprove it, irrespective of the facts of the case. One of the many things that make Steve Sailer such a good writer is his choice not to pay even lip service to such dogma, and simply to spell out the truth as he sees it. You can hear the liberal squeals from miles away.
Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | Permanent Link | Thursday, April 22, 2004
[When the loony left liberals] start taking out an onion it usually implies that they've got something to hide. So it is in this case. We can smile at poor, dumb, Lara's statement, yet what is her statement but a logical conclusion drawn from L3-influenced health education efforts? To suggest to the L3 that STDs may make promiscuity a bad idea is to commit the worst form of heresy. However bad the AIDS epidemic gets, the L3 will continue to argue for any measure other than cutting down on shagging, justifying their position by talking up the effectiveness of alternative counter-measures far beyond any rational judgement of their worth - condoms, for example, dramatically cut down the risk, but they surely don't eliminate it. Against this background, can we really blame Lara for buying into the idea that, with a few, simple, measures, she could keep buying tickets without winning the lottery? And can we really not blame those supposed public-health experts who helped put that thought in her head, and thereby condemned her to death?
Well, exactly. The offence was not to laugh at her catching HIV - I clearly didn't. My crime was to suggest she is responsible for her own actions, and so for the predicament in which they have placed her. I have noted elsewhere that liberal outrage seems exactly proportionate to the demonstrable truth of the opposing case, but I certainly didn't learn that lesson. So help me, God: I said sexually-transmitted diseases are sexually-transmitted.
Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | Permanent Link | Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Quote of the Day
"The United States has had no better friend than Tony Blair over the last few years, which is actually different from saying we've had no better friend than Britain. Yes, the British -- as always -- have been our go-to guys, our wingmen, our hombres, but were it not for Blair it's not clear that the British would have gotten our backs on this one.
Nevertheless, Blair is staking his job on a new EU referendum. And, if the choice is between the abolition of Britain and the abolition of Blair's tenure then I think I'm going to have to hope for the latter." - Jonah Goldberg
Peter Briffa has a couple of great pieces on the Guardian this week. The ability of the paper's columnists' to advocate the unspeakable as if they were ordering coffee really is a sight, and the last couple of days have demonstrated this perfectly.
Yesterday, as the Prime Minister announced a referendum on the EU Constitution - a great victory for all eurosceptics and democrats, who must now turn all their fire towards showing just what a thoroughly bad document it is - the paper's leader column demanded that the eurosceptic press be gagged during the referendum campaign in the name of "fair press coverage"! Timothy Garden Ash explains:
22 million newspaper readers pick up a dose of Euroscepticism every day, compared with about 8 million readers of papers broadly favourable to the European project.
As Peter Briffa notes, it's apparently our fault we don't read the Guardian enough. It's not as if the europhile press does not exist. For every Telegraph there is a Guardian, for every Sun a Mirror, for every Mail an Independent. But inexplicably people seem keener to fork out their cash on a morning for the former newspapers! What more evidence of foul play could there be? Interestingly, I don't remember this complaint when the Conservatives fought the last election with the support of just one newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. And all of this conveniently ignores all the television and radio stations that the BBC - at least as europhile as the pro-EU press - has at its disposal.
Thomas Jefferson said that "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." Would that the Guardian had such wisdom.
When it comes to the Metropolitan Police's latest big idea, Briffa is still more scathing, and deservedly so. A huge proportion of all the crime in Britain occurs in London, yet the frighteningly PC Met has refused to investigate ordinary burglaries and has focused its resources on people who call transsexuals names. Now it is proposing affirmative racism to ensure that one in four of their recruits are from ethnic minorities, their actual ability to do the job very much a secondary concern compared to their skin colour. The defence proposed by Roy Hattersley amongst others is typically laughable. The idea that only a black man can treat black criminals and victims of crime fairly is absurd and offensive. The view that ethnic minorities will only have 'confidence' in the police if a lot of them are the same colour is a straightforward endorsement of racial intolerance, and logically inseparable from a view that white people cannot be expected to trust non-white policemen. By implicitly accepting ethnic racism, the Metropolitan Police tacitly legitimises white racism.
The surest way to restore confidence in the police and the criminal justice system is not to indulge the balkanising identity politics of political correctness, but to treat everyone fairly. That means taking violent and property crimes seriously, working hard to catch the people who commit them, and then ensuring they face a reasonably proportionate prison sentence when convicted. If all these things happened as a matter of course, few law abiding people would have grounds for distrust of the police. That the three almost never occur together is why people feel the law is not on their side, and that feeling will continue until it is put right, whatever the skin colour of Britain's policemen.
If some at times feel irritated by my combination of youth and political knowledge, I can sympathise, because not long ago I found someone worse - and he is now blogging, too. Dan Hamilton is a seventeen year-old sixth former but already he has - like so many of the biggest talents in CF - worked for Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, and he is now employed by a Tory MEP. Later this year he will be going over to the US to work on the Bush re-election campaign. His blog promises to bring political gossip as well as opinion, and I know he's very capable of delivering both. Certainly a site to keep your eye on.
Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | Permanent Link | Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Where the pro-war Left is just as bad
Over at Harry's comments, some rightly protest at the feebleness of those left-wing arguments against the Iraq War centred around the motivations of its supporters - that it's all about enriching Halliburton and satisfying the Project for a New American Century or whatever. But you only have to read the exchange below to see the equal feebleness of those left-wing arguments in favour of the war which are centred around the motivations of its opponents. This idea, promoted by the usually agreeable Oliver Kamm and Harry Hatchet, that opposition to a war to remove Saddam Hussein and support for his continued rule over Iraq are identical positions really should be beneath any supporter of the Iraq War to argue. But for whatever reason, for many it certainly doesn't go without saying that one can support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power without believing it to be the job of the British Army to do it, just as one can quite easily support the assassination of Abdel Aziz-Rantissi without believing his killing to be a responsibility for which British troops should risk their lives.
If you're not a leftie, you should automatically be able to distinguish between opposition to government action and opposition to the thing government does. Ann Coulter has described very well the ridiculousness of the situation Americans liberals have created by blurring this distinction:
If Republicans opposed the National Endowment for the Arts, they were said to hate art. If Republicans opposed the Department of Education, they were said to hate teachers. If Republicans opposed the Environmental Protection Agency, they were said to hate the environment. Opposition to the government spending money on anything was invariably attacked as hatred for the thing money was to be spent on.
And this is hardly a situation peculiar to America. Conservatives and libertarians all over the democratic world have scorned the idea that if one doesn't support the state doing X it must logically amount to opposition to X. Why Morgoth and other self-proclaimed conservatives cannot apply the same logic to state action against Iraq, I don't know. Opposition to the use of state power to remove a nasty dictator is no more support for that dictator's continuation in office than a preference for private charity over government welfare is a desire to starve the poor.
But further, this is not a distinction right-wingers alone should make. In practice, every sane person recognises it. No thinking person wants to go to war with every dictatorship in the world. Most of those who are pro-war with Iraq are anti-war when it comes to Syria or Libya. Do those people support the continuing rule of Bashar al Assad or Colonel Gaddafi? Logically they must, if those who opposed war with Iraq wanted Saddam to stay in power.
I am reminded of that old phrase in defence of religious disbelief - that everyone is athiestic about most of the gods that men have believed in, and the athiest just happens to believe in one God less than the Christian. Everyone is anti-most of the wars that could be fought against the world's brutal dictators: the anti-Iraq war crew just happened to be anti-one more war than that.
I supported the Second Gulf War, and on balance I still think it was the right choice. But those who took the position I did should argue their case honestly and fairly, not in terms of state-worshipping liberal platitudes that logically force one to choose between supporting war with every dictator and supporting those dictators. That is not the choice when it comes to Libya, China, North Korea or Syria, and it wasn't the choice when it came to Iraq.
Look, I don't wish AIDS on anybody and I wish the people who had it didn't. But the coverage of the "outbreak" of AIDS in the porn "community" makes me think the journalists are striving to keep a straight face. They make it sound like this is as "troubling" and "surprising" as an outbreak of TB at a daycare center. Yeah, yeah, I know the porn industry -- at the top end -- takes a lot of precautions. But the pearls of wisdom your grandmother gave you still hold true; If you shag dozens and dozens of dudes you don't know for money (or for shiny beads) you shouldn't be surprised if you catch something.