Saturday, 25 January 2020

The individual versus the diversity quota

One of the main reasons that I oppose left-wing thinking is that I want people to be treated as individuals rather than as members of a group. I have the same duty to treat everyone I come across morally no matter what they look like, where they are from or how they choose to live their lives. There isn’t a special quality that attaches to people who are white, born in Scotland or who want to sleep with one person of the opposite sex, but for the same reason there isn’t a special moral quality that attaches to anyone else. We are all just individuals, who most frequently form family groups with those  we love. Everyone wants both the best for themselves and their own family, but ought to treat other individuals and families in such a way that they too have a chance to attain their desires. I can do very little to influence even the behaviour of people in the town where I live, let alone the country, but I can make a difference to how I interact with people I meet at work or in the street. If I come across someone needing a bit of help, I should try to give it. It doesn’t matter at all what they look like, what they believe or how they speak. If we all individually were more honest, open and kind in our daily lives this would transform society far more than anything politicians do.

As my focus is on the individual, I am completely uninterested in social class. This is what Labour gets wrong. The terms used to describe class have anyway become meaningless. Lots of people who might describe themselves as working class are really small businessmen. Often when successful they earn more than those who might describe themselves as middle class. We are anyway not constrained in the way that we once were. Someone from any background can become a doctor, a lawyer or pretty much anything else. People have different abilities and some work harder than others. It is this that determines their success, not class.

So long as each individual has the chance to become what they want because of their ability and their hard work, we should be content. The problem is that the Left is not satisfied with this. It demands that there should be equality of outcome across each social group. It is this above all that is leading us into absurdity.

Because approximately half the population are men and half are women the Left complains when these proportions are not exactly matched in any particular situation. Most unfortunately some Conservatives have begun to think that this is a problem too. There would indeed be a problem if it could be shown that prejudice or a systematic lack of opportunity was the cause. But we have had laws about equality of opportunity for decades. The reality is that men and women individually make different choices and these choices in part reflect the fact that men and women are in fact different.

The whole trouble with demanding equality of outcome is that it both ignores individual difference and forbids us noticing group differences. Many women choose in their twenties to focus on having children and raising a family. It is this that best explains the difference in outcome between men and women. It’s not that women are less talented. It’s easy to find examples of women who have reached the top, but unfortunately it just isn’t possible to do two things at once. When men have children they don’t usually have to take much time off work and they don’t generally have to devote themselves one hundred percent to child rearing. It is simply unreasonable to expect the same outcome when women, in order to have two or three children, must devote years to actually having the children and then to looking after them. Women who don’t marry or who choose not to have children are just as likely to be successful as men, but if we all chose to go down that route, there wouldn’t be a next generation.

The Left’s continual demand for diversity is itself sexist and racist. If women or ethnic minorities do not exactly make up their percentage proportions in society in any given sphere of life, demands are made that something must be done. Quotas must be introduced. Women only short-lists must be used to help women become elected as MPs. If there are not enough students at university from a particular background it must be made easier for them to enter.  People must be picked for television programmes not because they are talented, but because they are Muslim, black, disabled or gay.

On popular television programmes it is easy to see the cogs turning in the BBC minds. “We need someone in a wheel chair.” “I know there weren’t many black people in eighteenth century Britain, but let’s have one anyway.” “This drama has far too many able bodied straight white men”, we’re not fulfilling our diversity quota.”

It is racist or sexist or some other “ist” when people are chosen not because they are talented, not because of the individuals that they are, but rather because of the group that they supposedly are a part of. Positive discrimination is just as racist as negative discrimination. All discrimination is a form of prejudice. An individual misses out on a university place or a role on television or a job because he is the wrong sex, the wrong race or he doesn’t tick this particular diversity box or that one. This individual is denied success not because of his lack of talent, but rather because of something he was born with. This is discrimination and it is quite wrong.

It is perfectly sensible that films and television programmes should reflect the societies they come from. A film set in contemporary London ought to have people from all sorts of backgrounds. But if we are to make a film about life in Britain in the eighteenth century then it ought to reflect how life was then. There should be no need for tokenism’s attempt to rectify the historical reality.  The BBC cogs should stop turning. Until very recently indeed Britain was not very diverse. The overwhelming majority of the population looked more or less the same. You either reflect that reality or you distort it.

People from all backgrounds in Britain today have been able to achieve success. The idea that they need quotas to become successful is to suppose that they are not actually talented enough to be successful on their own. But this is prejudice. So long as we focus on removing the artificial barriers that each individual might face in becoming successful, so long as we remove all prejudice and discrimination then talent will rise to the top of its own accord.

Each of us is a first and foremost an individual. The only groups that matter are the family and the sovereign nation state. It should not matter at all what class someone comes from, nor should we focus on sex or race. People are different. We each have different backgrounds, different hopes and desires. It doesn’t matter at all that there are few Asian footballers or that women don’t tend to want to work as computer programmers. So long as neither faces discrimination there is no need whatsoever to see this as a problem that needs solving. It is only the collectivist mentality that demands that each group must be equally represented in everything. This is the problem, because equality of outcome across social groups can only occur by force and by means of discrimination.

Better by far to recognise that we are all different and that each of is an individual whose individuality means that we have different talents and the freedom to make different choices. We should have the same chances as everyone else, but to demand equality of outcome because of sex, race or any other characteristic is to demand that we live in a sexist and racist society whose guiding principle is prejudice.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Failing to take No for an answer is an abuse of power

The Conservative manifesto promised that there would not be a second Scottish independence referendum. The Conservatives won a large majority. That should be the end of the matter. But this being Scotland it isn’t. Independence is the bone Nicola Sturgeon is the dog.  Scottish nationalists will teach their toddlers that “No means No” or else raise spoilt brats. Young independence supporting women will go on demonstrations asserting that “No means No” and people will sometime go to jail for failing to take no for an answer, but nationalism always has the threat of violence in it. If we don’t get our way, we will take matters into our own hands. It is for this reason that nationalism so frequently does give rise to violence.

There is in human nature clearly both the desire for unity and the desire separation. It is for this reason that nation states form from groups of similar people and also why these groups sometimes break apart. There are therefore numerous examples of secession nationalism (Croatia, Latvia) and unification nationalism (Germany, Italy). Wishing to maintain the territorial integrity of your nation state of course is not nationalism at all. To suggest it is merely shows a wilful misunderstanding of the word “nationalism”.

 In order to satisfy both the forces of unity and disunity many countries have developed forms of government that both unite the nation state and devolve power to its various parts. The United States does this very well with each state having a great deal of local power. But the Federal Government on certain issues has control. There is no nationalism in the United States. To say someone is an American nationalist is not to say that he wants the United States to be independent. It already is independent. Nor is it to say that he wants to maintain the territorial integrity of the United States. Every American wants this. To say someone is an American nationalist is to say that he is a fascist, a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan or something similar.

There are no nationalists in the secession sense, because secession is simply not an option. The last state capital that tried to secede was burned to the ground in 1865. Every American school child pledges allegiance to one nation indivisible. If any state had a state election asking for a referendum on independence, it would not be granted for the simple reason that such a referendum would be illegal, the issue would be outside the competence of that state’s legislature and if it chose to attempt to assert its independence anyway its state capital would be burned to the ground.

What is different about Scotland? The main reason that nationalism exists here is possibility. Twenty or thirty years ago Scottish independence was a non-issue. Only a few obsessives were interested. No one went on marches. Two things changed this. The Scottish Parliament and the independence referendum campaign. These both gave rise to the sense that Scottish independence was possible. It first requires the idea that something is possible before people even begin to think about whether it is desirable.

The Scottish Parliament ought to have acted as a way of giving people control over local matters. It need not have fuelled nationalism. After all devolution doesn’t fuel nationalism everywhere. There is next to no desire for independence either in parts of Germany or parts of the USA.

The reason the Scottish Parliament fuels nationalism is because Scottish independence is considered to be possible and the Scottish Parliament is deemed to have the right to decide on this issue. This is why so many Scots vote for the SNP both at General Elections and at elections for the Scottish Parliament. They think doing so makes Scottish independence more likely. But it ought not.

The Scottish Parliament only has the right to decide on devolved issues. It cannot declare war on Texas, for the same reason Texas cannot declare war on Scotland. Matters of defence are not devolved issues. But so too constitutional matters are explicitly outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament. But you cannot logically have a manifesto commitment to something that is outside your control, nor can you have a vote on it, nor can you pass laws or decide to do anything else.

It therefore doesn’t matter if the SNP put into their 2021 manifesto that they want permission for a second independence referendum. It doesn’t matter if they win all the votes and all the seats. It wouldn’t matter after all if they put into their manifesto that they wanted to annex the Isthmus of Panama, because it once belonged to Scotland and it ought to be independent again and belong to us. The SNP can logically only put into their manifesto at a General Election that they want permission to have an independence referendum, but they would then have to persuade an overall majority of MPs to agree with them.

The reason so many Scottish journalists are confused about this is either because they are Scottish nationalists or because they sympathise with Scottish nationalism or because they are scared to contradict their SNP masters. But nonetheless this is peculiar because these same journalists almost universally admire the EU.

How many EU member states would allow a legal referendum on independence for one of its parts? Many EU member states forbid referendums in general, others have made clear that they would never allow independence movements to succeed. No EU member state has split up into independent parts, though a number have done so before joining. The EU is opposed to member states splitting up in this way. It is for this reason that it sided with Spain and gave zero support to Catalan independence supporters.

The EU clearly involves a process of unification similar to that which Germany underwent in the nineteenth century. It is already practically impossible for Eurozone members to leave. The EU did its very best to prevent Britain from leaving. The end point of ever closer union will make it virtually impossible for EU member states to leave. At that point they will cease to be independent in any meaningful sense. The relationship of Germany to the EU will be as Saxony at present is to Germany. Each will be formerly independent states that now cannot leave.

Those Scottish journalists who support the EU while arguing that the Scottish Parliament has the right to decide if it wants independence understand neither devolution nor the EU.

There should never have been a first Scottish independence referendum. David Cameron should simply have pointed out that independence was outside the remit of the Scottish Parliament. It is an issue about which this parliament cannot even have an opinion. He should have then told the SNP that when they win a majority at Westminster, they can have their referendum. It is the possibility of independence alone that means the SNP are uninterested in devolved issues. The SNP will only take seriously what is within their competence (schools, hospitals etc), when it is carefully explained to them that Scottish independence is outwith your control.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Let us not notice

The history of Britain is that of a small island that began as a collection of territories ruled by chiefs and warlords and gradually evolved into a constitutional monarchy. Most of Europe evolved up until a certain point as we did, but then diverged. Collections of territories that tended to speak similar languages first united under an absolute monarch and then with various degrees of success moved away from absolutism. Britain was almost uniquely successful and fortunate. We began our journey to democracy earlier than anywhere else and transitioned from the divine right of kings to constitutional monarchy earlier and more peacefully than anyone else. We have been invaded once or perhaps twice in the past thousand years, our boundaries with one major exception have remained unchanged, when Europe has revolted, we have largely watched. All this we owe to royalty.

 Constitutional monarchy remains arbitrary. Our present Queen is as closely related to Alfred the Great or Kenneth MacAlpin as I am. This is partly a matter of simple arithmetic. There are thirty to forty generations between these kings and today. Two to the power of forty is a very large number indeed.  If you go back far enough, we are all related to everyone else.

In the history of succession there are also breaks. At times the relation of one king to his predecessor has been distant sometimes non-existent. There is not an unbroken chain going back. It is due to a series of accidents of history that we have the good fortune to have our present Queen ruling us. But this doesn’t matter.

We are what we are because of that history. The history of Britain is the history of our monarchy. Without it we would not know ourselves.

Our way of government is imperfect, but so is the way of everyone else. The task of transitioning from absolutism to democracy has been failed by most of the world. Russia has never made the transition, nor has China, nor has most of the rest of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Democracies are few and some of them have been in existence for less than a lifetime. We may admire American democracy or Swiss democracy. We may think that a president and a senate would be better than a Queen and a House of Lords, but really, we should simply be grateful that we live in one of the few properly democratic countries in the world. We should also recognise that changing your system of government more frequently leads to tyranny rather than greater democracy.

Britain could not move towards a “more” democratic presidential system without revolution and reversing the process that united us would be more likely to lead to chaos than harmony. There is no guarantee that what resulted would be more democratic, nor that it would be more free. Secession rarely solves existing problems, but frequently gives rise to new ones.

It is in this context that we must view the present difficulties that our Royal Family faces. Britain changes gradually, but when necessary we do change. It is this that has saved us from much of the horrors of European history.

Constitutional monarchy depends on consent. So long as the British people are content to be ruled by the House of Windsor we will be. But that consent requires something from the Royal Family too. Whereas in medieval times we might have had a succession of bad kings and nothing would be done, now something would be done, and it would be done quickly.

I am uninterested in Royal gossip. I do not follow their tours, nor am I interested in what they open, nor do I pay much attention to the charitable work they do. I am grateful to have a Queen, because a president with powers like Macron or Trump is too close to an absolute monarch for my taste. A president without powers like Germany or Ireland is most frequently a worthy non-entity. In that case I would rather have a Queen we care about. Let power rest with the Commons and with the Prime Minister, but better by far not to have a political head of state, because this is inherently divisive.

My support for the monarchy is therefore constitutional. I like that we go through the process of having the Queen sign bills. She may have almost no power, but she does have the power of the queen bee. She can sting once. She can if necessary, refuse, bring down her whole house, but perhaps thereby save her country from a tyrant. The monarch is our safety net. Our monarchy makes change gradual and makes us British.

But we can all tell when someone is trying to use the Royal Family to make themselves rich or to give themselves a platform to become greater than any Hollywood megastar. I prefer the manner of the Queen. There is no gossip about her. We don’t even know her opinions on most issues, because she is genuinely impartial. We have only ever had glimpses because someone so vulgar as Tony Blair or David Cameron leaked. The Queen’s wisdom is in not telling the rest of us what to believe.

The Royal family must be smaller and more private. They must cease to think of themselves as celebrities. Let the Royal family be the Queen, Charles, William and his family. Let everyone else be treated with respect, but not indulged and not allowed to trade on their relationship with the Queen to gain either fame, money or notoriety. Let them neither expect state weddings, nor state funerals.  Let them work, but not by selling their Royalty to the highest bidder. If necessary, let them live quietly on a country estate somewhere. Let us not read about them and let us not care what they do or don’t do. Let us not notice.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Let the blue wave sweep northwards.

There is something odd about the present Conservative Government. On the one hand there has just been a decisive purge of Tory Remainer Wets, on the other Boris Johnson’s Government at least initially is liable to be one of the most left-wing in Conservative Party history.  

Early signs are that Labour doesn’t get it. When a political party has been comprehensively defeated it needs to change. It needs to be honest with itself about what it did wrong and why it is unpopular with the electorate.

Looking on from the outside it is obvious what Labour must do. It must become a modern social democratic party that says it will use free market economics to create wealth, but then strive to distribute this wealth more evenly with the public. This has the chance to be genuinely popular. This sort of politics has worked to varying degrees in other Western countries. It could work here.

Socialism has worked nowhere. Labour’s task therefore is to purge itself of the far left. Get rid of Corbyn and all his friends. Go through the whole reform progress begun by Neil Kinnock and finished by Tony Blair. Find a leader who is pleasant and popular and is not a Remainer or a Rejoiner. We won’t be rejoining the EU. To campaign for that is to hope Britain fails. Pessimism is a vote loser.

Labour of course will do none of these things. It will either pick someone from the far left again, or else it will pick a Remainer tainted with having attempted to make an anti-Semitic Marxist Prime Minister twice running. I strongly suspect the next Labour Prime Minister, if there ever is one, will be someone none of us have ever heard of. The present generation are all guilty by association.

What this means is that the Conservatives will do everything they can to be popular with those ex-Labour voters in the north of England who lent us their votes. In the short term this means lots and lots of public spending and policies that on the surface look similar to the centre left. Boris will be Blair without the wars and all the other things that made Blair hated.

One of the key tasks in British politics is to stop voters voting tribally. For generations people in the north of England voted Labour automatically. The same was the case in Scotland. It didn’t matter how good or bad a Conservative Government was, these voters would vote Labour no matter what. But this has changed in the past five years.

Voters in Scotland have ceased to vote Labour, but they still vote tribally it’s just the tribe is now yellow rather than red. Labour used to be the party for those who hated Tories. But they are no longer that in most of England and Wales. People who used to hate Tories automatically now vote for them. The hatred is gone. In Scotland the main reason for SNP success is not so much desire for independence, but rather that the “I hate Tories” mob has transferred allegiance from Labour to the SNP. The driving factor for support for independence is tribal hatred of Tories.

But Scotland in fact is very similar to the north of England. The same sort of problems that affect post-industrial North-East England also affect the SNP heartlands in the post-industrial Central Belt.

While discontent in England and Wales was expressed by people voting for Brexit, in Scotland it is frequently expressed by people voting either for independence, Brexit or both.

The same demographic which in Middlesbrough now votes Conservative in Scotland votes SNP.

Something stopped ex-Labour voters in England hating Tories. As Tory Blue crept northwards the tribal voting patterns were overturned. There is no reason whatsoever that this pattern should not continue into Scotland.

There is a myth put about by independence supporters that Scotland in some way is radically different from England. This is because too many of them know almost nothing about England and loathe tribally what they have never met. Tory in Scotland is more or less a synonym for English.

But people from England and especially the north of England are in fact very similar to Scots. What just happened in the north of England could equally happen in Scotland. The impossible has become the new normal.

Scotland like England has just lost its tribal affinity for Labour. Scotland however has kept its tribal hatred of Tories. The task for Conservatives is to do what it just did in the north of England in Scotland too.

Conservatives need to reward their ex-Labour voters by demonstrably improving life in their towns and cities.

Brexit involves one of the greatest changes in the UK for decades. Well just as during wartime it is justified to borrow huge amounts in order to win, so too it is justified right now to borrow and spend to reorient our economy to its post-EU future. So long as interest rates remain low and the markets retain confidence in the UK Government, we can for a short time spend à outrance [to excess].

Now is the time to improve British infrastructure, housing, roads and railways. Give the NHS enough so that even the BBC ceases to complain. Demonstrate to voters in northern England that they were right to vote Conservative. Make Scots in the Central Belt envious and wonder if they voted Tory, they might get a bit of that success too.

The task of the Conservative Government is to park our tanks all over the Left’s lawn. Give left-wing voters what they want and take the sting out of Tory hatred. If we can do that we can win anywhere.

What about Thatcherites like me? We must be patient. Long term I would like much lower taxes. I would like to reform the NHS root and branch so that its foundation is the free market rather than socialism. I would like to turn the UK into a free trade, low regulation, low corporation tax business hub that undercuts the EU and makes us all much more wealthy than we are now. But let us be patient.

The task now is to completely destroy Labour. Let them elect another extremist or another Remainer. We are going to make Brexit work for the whole of the UK. We need to gradually ween the UK away from its love of the Left. We need to gradually teach the electorate that free markets work and that they make everyone better off.

Conservatives must win the north of England again. If Conservatives can do that, they can also win in Scotland.  There must be no more negativity about Brexit from Scottish Conservatives. No more appeasement of the SNP.  If Brexit makes the whole UK better off and in time it will, there will be no more danger from the SNP. If the northern English can cease hating Tories and vote for us instead, so can Scots. Let the blue wave sweep northwards.