I wouldn’t want this one to go wholly missing.

It emerged catty-cornering from a thread on Irish population in the Viking era. I’d become intrigued by the possibility of  Malthusian population controls through the nature and limits of Irish agriculture.

That lead me to the thought that the pre-modern Archipelago depended on draught animals (castrated bullocks as oxen, and horses). Grassland was as essential as arable. Cattle and sheep also provided meat, leather, wool, the tallow for candlelight, dung for the arable land. In the absence of paper, also parchment and vellum — so those early Irish manuscripts usually on calfskin, not parchment from sheepskin might tell us something.

From there to Giraldus Cambrensis ( Gerald de Barri, so of the same rootstock as Tom and Kevin) reckoning Ireland, at the end of the twelfth century, was ‘more grass than grain’ and ‘its pastures were more productive than its ploughed fields. No great change there, then.

In 1397 Raimon de Perelhos betook himself on pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory. Being a useful chap from the Pyrenees he was taken aback by what he saw: a warrior society, close to absolute impoverishment, co-habiting with their cattle and horses. The diet was beef, not bread. The drink was milk, beef tea, or water. Dress was no more than a knee-length smock, shoeless and unbreeched, so both sexes had it all hanging out, ‘all they had and with as little shame as showing their faces’.

Enter, stage right, another contributor, one Barroso:

IIRC, Ibn Batuta said much the same about the Tatars he met on his travels to all Muslim lands maybe half a century earlier. I have also read that in N. Mediterranean lands underwear was not worn – by women at least – in or around the same period; however, women’s dresses may have been longer there.

That was catnip to puss (as one might say).

By a commodious vicus of recirculation I was prompted that Suetonius had a problem (chapter 82) with the assassination of Julius Caesar. The dying dictator, Suetonius says, made the effort to wrap his toga around his legs that he might fall more decently with the lower part of his body covered.  In the circumstances, as one well might.

Elsewhere said C. Suetonius Tranquillus tells us about feminalia which he equates with the braccae of the Gauls — braccae are none too far distant from Old English bréc, the plural of bróc, which hints at the transition from a single breech-clout to a proper pair of knickers. If they were feminalia, that implies a gender dress distinction. Elsewhere femoralia would be the thigh-highs (cf: femur) and tibilalia the full-length jobs. Compare, too, Virgil in Aeneid XI:

Chloreus, once a priest of Cybele (say no more!) wore a robe o’erwrought with feathery scales of bronze and gold; […] his skirts and tunics gay were broidered, and the oriental garb swathed his whole leg.

Obviously punch-ups between Greeks and Trojans were even more exotic than credible.

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An aching void between the ears

Found myself comparing and contrasting two film reviews of The Great Hack:

This high-profile Netflix documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal is, much like the previous high-profile Netflix documentaries such as Fyre and Amanda Knox, frequently gripping, gorgeous to watch (the production values are top-tier), occasionally thought-provoking, always entertaining and yet, ultimately, a tiny bit vapid.

Bouncing between fly-on-the-wall coverage of the high-ranking Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser (first interviewed, James Bond style, in a sunkissed infinity pool “somewhere in Thailand”) and a wider analysis of “data-harvesting”, the film focuses on the Trump presidency and the Brexit Leave campaign as beneficiaries of targeted online propaganda. So-called persuadable voters are apparently pushed into dubious decisions at the ballot box by a tsunami of provocative fake news bulletins in their Facebook feeds.

Underhand and nasty? Yes. Morally reprehensible? Certainly. But once the film has made this point there is nothing left for it to do but restate it repeatedly, in different guises, while ducking more difficult discussions about the unpalatability of mainstream politicians, the impact of social inequality and the inadequacy of education systems that create swathes of gullible, persuadable dolts.

To be set alongside:

One is from The Guardian, the other from The Times. Somehow a casual reader would not struggle long to decide one from t’other. But, were it needed, muse on a Murdoch publication maundering over the inadequacy of education systems that create swathes of gullible, persuadable dolts.

1.3 million paying gullible, persuadable dolts will have had their daily brainwash, as with today’s front page of The (setting) Sun:


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What is the Johnson strategy?

I always assume a political mind can see more than one jump ahead. OK: that assumption doesn’t always work, but I have hopes.

So we have a new enstoolee on the Downing Street pot. This is his guiding vision:

Our mission is to deliver Brexit on 31 October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth. When I say “the greatest place on earth”, I am conscious that some may accuse me of hyperbole, but it is useful to imagine the trajectory on which we could now be embarked. By 2050, it is more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe, at the centre of a new network of trade deals, which we have pioneered. With the road and rail investments that we are making and propose to make now and the investment in broadband and 5G, our country will boast the most affordable transport and technological connectivity on the planet. By unleashing the productive power of the whole United Kingdom—not just of London and the south-east, but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—we will have closed forever the productivity gap and seen to it that no town is left behind ever again and no community ever forgotten.

Our children and grandchildren will be living longer, happier and healthier lives. Our kingdom in 2050—thanks, by the way, to the initiative of the previous Prime Minister—will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet, brought about by carbon emissions, because we will have led the world in delivering that net-zero target. We will be the home of electric vehicles—cars and even planes—powered by British-made battery technology, which is being developed right here, right now. We will have the free ports to revitalise our coastal communities, a bio-science sector liberated from anti-genetic modification rules, blight resistant crops that will feed the world, and satellite and earth observation systems that are the envy of the world. We will be the seedbed for the most exciting and dynamic business investments on the planet.

And so on. To infinity, and beyond.

All of which hinges on 31st October. By then the EU will have reneged on its so-far firm commitment to the ‘back-stop’. Or Johnson will have swallowed many words. Or the UK is whimpering outside the European Union.

I see many commentators assuming the ulterior motive is to blame EU obstinacy, and re-run the old “Who rules Britain?” Tory General Election strategy. Last time the firm answer (February 1974), was, “Well certainly not you, Mr Heath!”

However simple the formula, however much Cambridge Analytica testing, I do not see that standing for the month of a general election campaign. Anymore than I see a LibDem ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ slogan doing the same.

And yet …

The Tory Party (or its present ruling rump) has finagled itself into a total bind. We have to conclude the next campaign (electorally or whatever) is going to be a febrile affair.

Which is why the punchline of the latest Doonesbury strip (last weekend in the US, reprinted partly in today’s Guardian) is my awful warning:



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The end of Empire: Palestine 1948

I still miss my ‘end of Empire’ titfer. One of the proper Donegal tweedy numbers. So named because I bought it in Belleek. Anyone who knows where Belleek is, straddling the River Erne at the appendix of Fermanagh, would appreciate why it truly is the ‘end of Empire’.  The outfitter, running one of those all-purpose shops which are out-of-time (and certainly out-of the-21st-century) priced it in euros — but graciously accepted payment in sterling. The hat went missing, in just ten minutes, in Scarborough. I am forever bereft.

Still, to business …

Retirement, which is where I am, involves many regrets. Mainly for À la recherche du temps perdu (no: I’m not that Proustian desperate), but circumstances afford opportunity to make good.

My starter was inheriting quantities of stuff from a great-uncle, who distinguished himself in the Salonika Campaign. The candle-holders on my grandmother’s bedroom table suggested he may have been in Jerusalem sometime after Allenby. Allenby gets one of the Boy’s Own Paper patriotic whoops, but I remained ignorant of how the whole Ottoman empire collapsed.

Which explains why, bottom right corner of the bookshelves behind me, is a small selection:

and the like.

It was another source that provoked my current flutter: Calder Walton’s Empire of Secrets, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire. This had lurked, somewhat neglected in the ever-present, ever-threatening guilt-pile, until its impact:

its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born…

In particular it was chapter 3 that got me — ‘The Red Light is Definitely Showing’: MI5, the British Mandate of Palestine and Zionist Terrorism. Here, from pages 76-77, is the scenario:

If the British intelligence community faced an uneasy situation in the post-war period, with reduced funding, greater responsibilities, awkward relations with the Labour government and scanty intelligence on their new Soviet enemy, MI5 was confronted with an even more urgent threat. Recently declassified intelligence records reveal that at the end of the war the main priority for MI5 was the threat of terrorism emanating from the Middle East, specifically from the two main Jewish (or Zionist) terrorist groups operating in the Mandate of Palestine, which had been placed under British control in 1921. They were called the Irgun Zevai Leumi (‘National Military Organisation’, or the Irgun for short) and the Lehi (an acronym in Hebrew for ‘Freedom Fighters of Israel’), which the British also termed the ‘Stern Gang’, after its founding leader, Avraham Stern. The Irgun and the Stern Gang believed that British policies in Palestine in the post-war years, blocking the creation of an independent Jewish state, legitimised the use of violence against British targets. ​
As the Second World War came to a close, MI5 received a stream of intelligence reports warning that the Irgun and the Stern Gang were not just planning violence in the Mandate of Palestine, but were also plotting to launch attacks inside Britain. In April 1945 an urgent cable from S[ecurity] I[ntelligence] M[iddle] E[east] warned that Victory in Europe (VE-Day) would be a D-Day for Jewish terrorists in the Middle East. Then, in the spring and summer of 1946, coinciding with a sharp escalation of anti-British violence in Palestine, MI5 received apparently reliable reports from SIME that the Irgun and the Stern Gang were planning to send five terrorist ‘cells’ to London, ‘to work on IRA lines’. To use their own words, the terrorists intended to ‘beat the dog in his own kennel’. The SIME reports were derived from the interrogation of captured Irgun and Stern Gang fighters, from local police agents in Palestine, and from liaisons with official Zionist political groups like the Jewish Agency. They stated that among the targets for assassination were Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who was regarded as the main obstacle to the establishment of a Jewish state in the Middle East, and the Prime Minister himself. Before his retirement as MI5’s Director-General, Sir David Petrie warned that the spike of violence against the British in Palestine, and the planned extension of lrgun and Stern Gang operations to Britain, meant that the ‘red light is definitely showing’. MI5’s new Director-General, Sir Percy Sillitoe, was so alarmed that in August 1946 he personally briefed the Prime Minister on the situation, warning him that an assassination campaign in Britain had to be considered a real possibility, and that his own name was known to be on a Stern Gang hit-list.​
The Irgun and the Stern Gang’s wartime track record ensured that MI5 took these warnings seriously. In November 1944 the Stern Gang assassinated the British Minister for the Middle East, Lord Moyne, while he was returning to his rented villa after a luncheon engagement in Cairo. Moyne, an heir to the Guinness dynasty, was a wealthy and well-connected figure …​

There begins a sequence of one-on-ones and mayhem that transcend any extreme thriller. Lord Moyne, the first to sidle in to the plot, was Walter Guinness, who managed the feat — rare enough among the peripatetic Guinnesses — of being born in Dublin, third snd youngest son of Edward Guinness, Earl of Iveagh. Despite what it says above, I’ve reckoned it was two Lehi agents (Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim) who did for our Walter — and in Cairo, not Palestine. By all accounts our Walter was no great afficiando of things Jewish.

After that came Menachem Begin’s bombing of the King David Hotel (22 July 1946), killing 91 and causing 45 further casualties. Both MI5 and SIS had their stations in the hotel. Much of British counter-terrorist expertise was refined in Palestine. The parallels with the Northern Ireland campaign are obvious: the brutalities on both sides, the techniques of Major Roy Farran and his ‘Q-patrols’: Farran was instrumental in devising the use of paramilitary ‘snatch-squads’ — first employed in Palestine, then in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and nearer home. Roy Farran ‘confessed’ (or didn’t: the Court Martial never quite decided) to the murder (May 1947) of 16-year-old Alexander Rubowitz; and Lehi (the Stern Gang) sent a book-bomb that killed Farran’s brother, Rex. Farran emigrated to Canada to get out of the way, but Lehi sent him a Christmas card for the rest of his life.

Terrorism and counter-terrorism feed on each other: Irgun’s revenge for Rubowitz was the brutal killing of Sergeants Martin and Paige at Nathanya (July 1947), hanging their booby-trapped bodies from a tree (and causing serious injury to another serviceman). The British squaddies counter-attacked with a grenade in a Tel Aviv café, driving an armoured car through a Jewish funeral procession, and firing at a bus stop.​

And then there’s the shlock-horror stuff: Betty Knout begging entrance to the Colonial Office, in need of a loo, planting two dozen sticks of gelignite in the basement (wrapped appropriately in the Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph), making her thanks and leaving. The timer failed. The package was found by a cleaner. By that stage Betty was away in Belgium, still in the well-tailored suit, and carrying the same handbag. Arrested she got a year in unrepentant chokey, but the arrest revealed a continuing letter-bomb campaign.

More to come — possibly.


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Rees-Mogg behaves ‘vulgarly’

Small but telling moment as the new ‘Leader of the House of Commons’ announced forthcoming non-business. Here’s Hansard:

Mr Rees-Mogg:

I would point out that the House of Commons predates the House of Tudor: it started in 1265, and the House of Tudor obviously began with Henry VII—

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):

That’s wrong as well. It was 1341.

Mr Rees-Mogg:

No, no. The hon. Gentleman is a very good parliamentary historian, but 1265 is when the burgesses came from the towns, as he knows perfectly well.

Allow me to refer to J.R.Maddicott: The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327 (pages 234-235):

Simon de Montfort’s summoning of the knights to parliament June 1264 and of knights and burgesses in January 1265 is often thought o have marked the beginnings of local representation or even, and more vulgarly, of the foundation of parliament by Montfort himself: a popular myth which is astonishingly difficult to dispel. But were have already noted the presence in parliament before 1258 both of knights (though usually in the guise of lesser tenants-in-chief) and, more occasionally and less certainly, of burgesses; and important though Montfort’s parliaments were, they should not be allowed to eclipse those of the early and more productive time of reform in 1258-9.

Future interjections by Chris Bryant (something of a hero to me) against the not-quite-omniscient Rees-Mogg should be a hoot.

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The Wit and Wisdom of Malcolm Redfellow, MA (TCD) #92

I wouldn’t want this one to go missing.

I was accused by a poster on (roc_: patently no relation to the more famed Ross O’Carroll-Kelly) of misusing the word ‘an-historical’:

I’m assuming you mean ahistorical not an-historical which isn’t even a word.

So here’s the response:

Both variants are well-attested, by the Oxford English Dictionary, no less. Both are twentieth-century formulations. WH Auden (later in his career, Nones in 1952), has:

Their a-historic​
Antipathy forever gripes​
All ages and somatic types.​

As always, with Auden, I find myself muttering, “Yer wot, Gov?” Instructive — isn’t it? — that Auden felt it an awkward word which needed hyphenation.

So which of the two variants trips easier off the tongue? Auden’s hyphen is an awful warning. Which is more understandable, when there lurks the possible miscue of ‘a historical account’ and ‘ahistorical account’?

The version I prefer is that of The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian. Neither of which felt the need to hyphenate, I admit.

So approach it logically.

‘History’ is from Greek, ἱστορία, via Late Latin and French. There was a perfectly good Old English term, gerećednis, so blame the Romance word on those pesky ecclesiastics. But notice the aspirated initial ἱ (iota). So when we stick on the prefix ἀν- we have regard to that aspirated iota. As the OED also says:

Etymology: < ancient Greek ἀν- (privative) not, without, wanting (only occurring before a vowel, including aspirated vowels; before a consonant as ἀ- …).​

And the moral of this instructive tale is, if one seeks to teach this Grandad to suck eggs, be aware he has a classical TCD education, and he prefers his eggs, like his detective fiction, ‘hard-boiled’.

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Desperate measures for desperate times

I have at least one reader — terence patrick hewett  (see him commenting immediately above). He piqued me with this:

I am re-reading G M Frazer and his superb handing of the vernacular still makes me laugh out loud and his historical reseach is superb:

“lord knows I am not a tory and any contact with a whig wants to me to make me have a bath” – or words to that effect.

Hold on! I know that! Wait for it… yes! The opening of Flash for Freedom! Making sure the terminal exclamatory is present and correct.

Here is the original:

I believe it was that sight of that old fool Gladstone, standing in the pouring rain holding his special constable’s truncheon as though it were a bunch of lilies, and looking even more like an unemployed undertaker’s mute than usual, that made me think seriously about going into politics. God knows I’m no Tory, and I never set eyes on a Whig yet without feeling the need of a bath, but I remember thinking as I looked at Gladstone that day: “Well, if that’s one of the bright particular stars of English public life, Flashy my boy, you ought to be at Westminster yourself.”

You wouldn’t blame me; you must have thought the same, often. After all, they’re a contemptible lot, and you’ll agree that I had my full share of the qualities of character necessary in political life. I could lie and dissemble with the best, give short change with a hearty clap on the shoulder, slip out from under long before the blow fell, talk, toady, and turn tail as fast as a Yankee fakir selling patent pills. Mark you, I’ve never been given to interfering in other folks’ affairs if I could help it, so I suppose that would have disqualified me. But for a little while I did think hard about bribing my way to a seat—and the result of it was that I came within an ace of being publicly disgraced, shanghaied, sold as a slave, and God knows what besides. I’ve never seriously considered politics since.

By any comparison, one of the best listings of qualifications for a life in politics. The parallel with Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, just seven years of age when Frazer published that book, is just too exact.

The ground I stand on

Make the pronoun plural, and there’s the title of a very worthy book by John dos Passos.

I came to dos Passos, as many others, through USA. Above my head is the first UK edition of that, bought at excruciating expense from a West End specialist dealer, and — sad to say — somewhat mangled by years of reference. The Ground We Stand On is a trifle disorienting. Where USA is as coruscating a denunciation of American capitalism as the Depression produced, The Ground We Stand On is a stalwart defence of the Jeffersonian bases of American democracy.

Malcolm Cowley, in the NYT Book Review, 9 November 1975, came up with this summary (specifically of dos Passos’s later work):

… there were many things that Dos Passos couldn’t swallow. The first of them was Communism, which he detested with a hatred extending to anything that suggested a halting step in that direction. He detested liberalism, too, especially when it took the form of progressive education. He detested big government and big labor; in fact, he detested bigness in almost everything. Geography was an exception, especially if it was American geography. Despondent as he was about American culture, he was fascinated by the physical vastness and human diversity of the country, and he celebrated both of these, at times, in a fashion that suggests Walt Whitman.

Fair enough. But … as for me?

I’m not a ‘Big Country’ person. Norfolk, Dublin, West Cork, Norf bleedin’ Lunnun, and now ‘old’ York have been my lot.

I joined the Irish Labour Party in 1963, as an act of solidarity with Noël Browne and Jack McQuillan. When life and a student overdraft led me to teaching in England, I logically adhered to the British Labour Party (though I seem to have a party card with the National Association of Labour Student Organisations from 1964). And there, come hell or high-water, Wilson, Foot, Smith, Blair, Brown, Miliband and now Corbyn, I have stuck. At some personal Remainer-ist trauma, I even crossed the Labour box in the recent EU election.

I’ve tried to reconcile my personal ideology many times. All I can say is I belong somewhere between ideal socialism, and the pragmatism of Harold Wilson — perhaps that’s the sweet spot occupied by the likes of Gordon Brown. My agent in a parliamentary campaign (c.1974) was driving us to an engagement and commented:

I’ve been trying to work you out. I’d say you were an old-fashioned Tribune-ite.

Since Tribune did a part-column on that campaign, and termed me an unapologetic socialist, I’d happily agree.

In the same frame, my favourite prospective parliamentary candidate describes herself as:

A Clause 4 socialist by Clause 1 means.

Understandably, the Corbynites of her Executive Committee are sworn to take her down.

Per ardua ad aspera

Anyhoo, all that brought me to juxtaposing two very opposite sources.

The first, and most immediate, is Robert Saunders’ essay, The Closing of the conservative Mind, in the current New Statesman. Observe the small second  ‘c’. His starting point is:

A party that once set the agenda of British politics – birthing such big ideas as “Tory democracy”, “One Nation” and “the property-owning democracy” – seems worn out intellectually. A tradition that was once cautious of change – that distrusted what the conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott called “the jump-to-glory style of politics” – rushes eagerly towards the unknown; a party that once preached scepticism calls its disciples to “believe in Brexit”, and to the conduct of policy “by faith alone”.

British Conservatism has broken with three of its most important traditions. It has stopped thinking; it has stopped “conserving”; and it has lost its suspicion of ideology. Historically, the Conservative Party has been a party of ideas, but not of ideology. Today, that relationship has been reversed: a party in thrall to ideology is reduced to boardroom banalities and half-remembered hymns to a Thatcherite past. Like an ageing Eighties tribute band, the party flubs wearily through the same tired playlist, barely noticing that the stadiums are empty, the hairstyles ludicrous and the fans long departed. In this sense, its Brexit woes are only the manifestation of a deeper problem: the closing of the Conservative mind.

We now have a capital for ‘Conservative’.

I can relate to all of that. I grew up in (and against) the post-War Daily Express state-of-mind. Say what one will against the Express, it was once the drum-major of Toryism for the ‘lower orders’: Beaverbrook was unrepentant in telling the 1948 Royal Commission on the Press:

I ran the paper purely for propaganda, and with no other purpose….[Empire free trade] and an Empire Customs Union, Empire unity for the purpose of securing peace, and if necessary for making war. I look at it as a purely propagandist project.

Even then he distinguished news from opinion:

The policy is that there shall be no propaganda in the news. There is a strong, stern rule, and the most tremendous attempt . . . to carry the rule into effect.

Something there, the Daily Telegraph, which once aspired to be ‘a newspaper of record’, could well recall.

The second point I’d want to make was implied by a passing reference in Saunders’ piece:

If, as Hayek suggested, political debate is won by “second-hand dealers in ideas”, Conservatism is bringing perilously little to the market.

By coincidence I had just been reading Hayek’s Why I am Not a Conservative, pages 517–533 of The Constitution of Liberty, though that extract is widely quoted on its own. Make a Venn-diagram from the sources named above  — George MacDonald Frazer, dos Passos, Jefferson et al. — and they find their commonality in one paragraph of Hayek:

To confess one’s self an Old Whig does not mean, of course, that one wants to go back to where we were at the end of the seventeenth century. It has been one of the purposes of this book to show that the doctrines then first stated continued to grow and develop until about seventy or eighty years ago, even though they were no longer the chief aim of a distinct party. We have since learned much that should enable us to restate them in a more satisfactory and effective form. But, though they require restatement in the light of our present knowledge, the basic principles are still those of the Old Whigs. True, the later history of the party that bore that name has made some historians doubt where there was a distinct body of Whig principles; but I can but agree with Lord Acton that, though some of “the patriarchs of the doctrine were the most infamous of men, the notion of a higher law above municipal codes, with which Whiggism began, is the supreme achievement of Englishmen and their bequest to the nation”—and, we may add, to the world. It is the doctrine which is at the basis of the common tradition of the Anglo-Saxon countries. It is the doctrine from which Continental liberalism took what is valuable in it. It is the doctrine on which the American system of government is based. In its pure form it is represented in the United States, not by the radicalism of Jefferson, nor by the conservatism of Hamilton or even of John Adams, but by the ideas of James Madison, the “father of the Constitution.”

Madison and federalism

There are worse ideological places to land on, particularly at this moment, than Madison.

Above all, Madison was a federalist — believing the embryo ex-colonies needed a central government. here we refer to the Federalist Papers, especially #9 (which was Hamilton’s) and #10 (which was Madison’s follow-up).

Madison accepts ‘factions’ as inevitable in a free society. If there had to be one Madisonian prescription which addresses our present political mire, here it is:

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

What ‘remainer’ (like myself) could deny the efficacy of denying sinister views by regular vote?


Something went wrong in Toryism when it became the plaything of a Little Englander groupule. I am old enough to remember that the Tories had half Scotland’s MPs and 50+% of the popular vote in 1955, but none in 1997 — entirely connected to the Thatcher government using Scotland as the training ground for the Poll Tax.

The present Tory Party (perhaps all 130,000 of them, with popular support of — let’s be generous — 20% of the electorate) is enstooling a chosen satrap. Clearly the Telegraph, as the propaganda sheet for its ‘faction’, has already decreed who that should be. This ‘faction’  governs the UK by buying the adherence of the DUP (which itself  ‘represents’ a third of the Northern Irish electorate). It all seems horribly temporary.

So I’m with Madison. This ‘faction’ has sacrifice[d] to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.

When we arrive at such a political nadir, ‘opposition’ rather than any ideological ‘purity’ is required.

I continue to hope — but under its present ‘tankie’ leadership cannot be too assured — that the change could come from the Labour Party. ‘Pragmatism’, but of course.

Even so, as I watched the returns for the Borough elections in 2014, I found myself muttering to an equally-long-in-the-tooth member of the ‘sane’ tendency:

Y’know, if I were starting again in politics, I could easily be Green.


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