Category Archives: civil rights

A further truth to be told

David Conn’s extended piece for today’s Guardian, on the Hillsborough cover-up, is journalism at its best, and the exemplar why some of us will support, buy and read that great newspaper until the end. Even at £2 a throw.

The on-line presentation is less cogent than what is in the printed version. For example, in the paper we find this:

Later that day, the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her press secretary, Bernard Ingham, visited Hillsborough. [Chief Constable Peter] Wright briefed them. Ingham has always since said of Hillsborough that he “learned on the day” it was caused by a “tanked-up mob”. Ingham, later given a knighthood, has confirmed to there Guardian this was what police told Thatcher.

Good enough? That lets Thatcher off the hook?

Well, not for this blogger.

The culture of South Yorkshire police was “institutionally” corrupt. As Conn, also in the print edition, describes:

The evidence built into a startling indictment of the South Yorkshire police, their chain of command and conduct — a relentlessly detailed evisceration of a British police force. Responsible for an English county at the jeans-and-trainers end of the1980s, the police had brutally policed the miners’ strike, and was described by some of its own former officers as “regimented”. with morning parade and saluting of officers, ruled by an “iron fist” institutionally unable to admit mistakes. The dominance of Wright, a decorated police officer who died in 2011, loomed over the catastrophe. He was depicted as a frightening, authoritarian figure who treated the force “like his own personal territory” and whose orders nobody dared debate.

Those of us who had to drive down the A1 during the grim days of the miners’ dispute remember Check Point Charlie at the A1/A57/A614 roundabout, south of Ranby, where the A1 veers south-east. The lay-by (now by-passed by recent road-works) was where — day and night — a detachment of the Finest were posted, lest South Yorkshire miners escaped south to wreak havoc and mayhem.

CoulterJim Coulter, Susan Miller and Martin Walker produced a damning report (November 1984): A State of Siege, Politics and Policing of the Coalfields:  Miners Strike 1984. It was, but of course, just another loony lefty whinge — but it still stands up to scrutiny. The facts therein speak for themselves. The opinions have been proven by dint of experience;

It is important to understand the politics behind the policing because through the politics we can see what the Conservative government are pursuing is not the ‘rule of law’ but the ‘law of rule’; brute force and violence.

Rather than policing being an incidental spin off from the dispute it is at the very heart of it. [page 5]

Don’t believe me. Try ex-Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, John Stalker:

Britain has never been closer to becoming a police state than when Margaret Thatcher was in charge.

As Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester I saw at first hand how her authoritarian policies could have permanently shattered the bond of trust between the police and the people.

She turned the police into a paramilitary force and put us on to a war footing.

I met her several times during my time as a senior police officer.

She took an uncommon interest in law and order, and always acted as if she was the Home Secretary as well as the PM.

That was never more clear than during the miner’s strike in 1984 when I believe Margaret Thatcher took Britain to the brink of becoming a police state.

She decided that “her” police force was going to keep the miners and pickets under control. It was all about showing who was boss…

We got streams of instructions from the Home Office on how the strike should be handled, cleverly covered with legal fig leaves saying things such as, “of course the Chief Constable has complete control over operational matters, but this is our advice”.

miners-strike-orgreaveThe “morgue” (the libraries of newspaper clippings, from before the days of the internet and electronic documentation) of any proper media operation will thrown up evidence that it was Thatcher’s wish and intention to create an “officer corps” to run “her” police service.

The ethos of the Thatcher era was an unremitting war against the “enemy within“.

At Hillsborough the enemy were the “animals” (yes: you will find that term used, and quoted in the subsequent Commons debate) who had to be caged. Five years earlier it had been the miners and their families whose liberties were revoked, whose homes invaded, who were strip-searched and violated.

When Thatcher and Ingham dropped in on the South Yorkshire Chief Constable, after Hillsborough, it wasn’t just a convivial visit. Whatever impression Wright foisted on Thatcher, she was more than a willing dupe.

The guilt doesn’t stop, conveniently, with Wright and his subordinates.

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A stirr’d turd stinks (2)

Back to Twitter.

A certain  (who is a declared enthusiast for Donald Trump as leader of the free world!)  took offence at — of all liberal souls — The Guardian‘s Michael White. Mr Lawrie essential grief was:

slavery always illegal Scotland. Unlike England who enslaved & murdered millions.

This was repeated several times, never with any justification, and lead on to other excesses:

  • slaves in confederate states higher standard living than British working class.
  • Scotland has an elite; called the British establishment.
  • slavery illegal under scots law. Why no slaves landed in scots ports. Not so England.
  • not troll. Is fact. Scotland never had mass slave trade. Unlike England. Accept truth here.
  • not one African slave was landed in Scotland. Because it was illegal under scots law.
  • slavery was illegal in Scotland under scots law. Doesn’t contradict
  • scaremongering self loathing rubbish as though Indy scot would unleash 4th reich.
  • The SNP did not have Nazi sympathisers. You’re promoting an offensive lie.

Those may not be in the correct order

Not to forget — a gem among gems — that somehow the US Declaration of Independence sprang from the Declaration of Arbroath.

In all that there are three items worth considering:

  1. Scotland and slavery (which what I address in this post);
  2. the uncomfortable historic link between Fascism and Scottish Nationalism;
  3. that thing about the Declaration of Arbroath.

Scotland and slavery

The Battle of Dunbar (1650) lumbered Cromwell with 10,000 (his own count) Scottish Covenanters and Royalists as prisoners. He reported he had discharge half that number as “starved, sick or wounded”. The Royalist Sir Edward Walker reckoned on 6,000 prisoners, of whom 1,000 were dismissed.

Either way, that leaves 5,000 to be route-marched south. About 3,000 were alive to be incarcerated by Arthur Heslerig at Durham Cathedral. Further deaths (the bodies were found post-WW2 in a trench on the north side of the Cathedral) reduced that to just 1,4oo.  In 1651 these were despatched as indentured labour to the American colonies.

In 1666 the City worthies of Edinburgh took Cromwell’s example, and employed Captain James Gibson. With his ship, the Phoenix of Leith, Gibson contracted to take beggars, vagabonds and others not fitt to stay in the kingdome to Virginia.

Few of these transports would have survived the seven-year indenture in the plantations. The few who did became the overseers for the cheaper, more durable, black slaves. Here, then, is one reason for all those Scottish names among the descendants of the slaves.

The Royal African Company, founded in London in 1672, soon had this new trade in humans organised. The Scots merchants, like those of Bristol and Liverpool, found themselves outside the loop. In November 1692 the Leith magistrates consigned 50 lewd women, and a further 30 street-walkers by ship to (ahem!) Virginia. In 1706 Two Brothers of Leith reported a profit on a slaving voyage.

We don’t know how many slaving voyages originated from the Clyde: the Port Books before 1742 are lost, so Scots moralists can claim barely a dozen such voyages start from Scotland. What is unquestionable is that slave-produced raw cotton, sugar, and tobacco were being imported to Greenock. By no coincidence, Abram Lyle, as in Tate & Lyle, was a Greenock man. By the start of the 19th century, a third of the Jamaican sugar plantations were Scottish owned. By the 1730s Ricard Oswald, son of the Dunnet, Caithness, manse was the factor for his cousins’ trade in tobacco, sugar and wine, and traveling the American south and Caribbean. He became a government-contractor and war-profiteer (first a small killing in the War of the Austrian Succession, then £125,000 from the Seven Years’ War), and with this bought 1,566 acres of four Caribbean plantations, and 30,000 acres in East Florida.

Hard lives and (progressively) harder decisions

The comings-and-goings of Scottish traders meant some brought back their black servants: some seventy are recorded in Scotland during the 18th century. Therein Mr Lawrie’s defence of Scottish innocence totally collapses. Several cases came before Scottish courts where black servants had to plead for release from their servitude:

  • Robert Shedden brought “Shanker” to Scotland, to apprentice him to  joiner, and so improve his price back in Virginia. In April 1756, at Beith, “Shanker’ had himself baptised as James Montgomery. Shodden took the hump, and dragged him back to Port Glasgow to be sent back to Virginia. Montgomery escaped to Edinburgh, and sought his freedom. He was clapped in gaol while the magistrates had extended deliberations, and died before a decision.
  • Dr David Dalrymple brought “Black Tom”, a slave, born in West Africa,  from Grenada to Methyl in Fife. In September 1769 “Black Tom” was baptised as David Spens at Wemyss. Spend now told his former master “I am now by the Christian Religion liberate and set at freedom from my yoke, bondage, and slavery”. Dalrymple had him arrested, and local lawyers  — financed by collections from miners and salters (more of that in a while) — issued writs for wrongful arrest. Before the case could be decided, Dalrymple died.

Next: the Somerset Case. An English matter, but this is in all the schoolbooks as the definitive one: after this no slaves in England. Nope: another example of how textbooks systematically simplify to the point of lies.

  • Charles Stewart had brought the enslaved James Somerset from Boston. Somerset made a break for it, was recaptured, and consigned back to Jamaica. Three witnesses approached the Lord Chief Justice, who ordered Somerset be kept while the case was heard.  The LCJ’s judgement walked the narrowest of lines between common law and the interests of the traders. His ambiguous ruling was: no master was allowed to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he had deserted his service or for any other reason whatever. Read it carefully: it doesn’t make slavery illegal: it did, however, give runaways pretext to take charge of their own future.
  • Joseph Knight was an enslaved African, the possession of Sir John Wedderburn in Perthshire. Inspired by the Somerset decision, Knight demanded his service become paid. Wedderburn refused. Knight absconded, and was arrested. The abolitionists, including Dr Johnson and James Boswell, interceded. In 1778 the case came to court at Perth, and was appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh — in both the judgement was that the law of Scotland did not allow slavery.

Salters and miners

Both essential industries, and a law of 1606 put coalyers, coal-bearers and salters in a state of perpetual bondage to their employer. Breaking the bond put the said Coalyears, Coal-bearers and Salters to be esteemed, reput and halded as theives, and punished in their bodies. Moreover, all maisters and awners of Coal-heughs and pannes, were empowered to apprehend all vagabounds and sturdie beggers to be put to labour. So: serfdom and press-ganging.

This persisted until 1775 Act. Let there be no doubt, as the Act said:

many Colliers, Coal-bearers, and Salters are in a state of slavery or bondage, bound to the Collieries and Salt-works where they work for life, transferable with the Collieries and Salt-works, when their original masters have no further use for them.

Even then there were conditions attached. It took until 1799 before all salters and colliers were free from the bond (but, even then, only when an apprenticeship had been served, or ten years’ service registered.

 

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The Europa thing

My starter for ten:

In the 1975 European Referendum campaign I started out as a convinced anti. I had read the arguments by the Labour opponents and found them solid. I spoke from platforms on that basis. As the date of the poll, 5th June, came closer, so my convictions weakened to the point when — for the first and only time in my enfranchised adult life — I couldn’t bring myself even to visit the polling station. Since when I have accepted that — at least for those of us who live and work in the southern UK — the European link goes with the climate. London, after all, as close to Brussels as it is to this fine city of (old) York). And now less than a couple of hours journey from the Euston Road.

Yesterday, with morning coffee and sponge cake …

It was grey and wet, and I spent over an hour watching passing trade from the windows of Belfast’s Europa Hotel. In that time I dissected the Guardian, the Times and the Irish Times. Two opinion pieces stood out:

and

Both attempted to put their topic in an historical context — Ridley, who was essentially plucking books from his guilt-pile, opened with:

In almost every nation, if you go back far enough, government began as a group of thugs who, as Pope Gregory VII put it in 1081, “raised themselves up above their fellows by pride, plunder, treachery, murder — in short by every kind of crime”.

Was Canute, or William the Conqueror, or Oliver Cromwell really much different from the Islamic State? They got to the top by violence and then violently dealt with anybody who rebelled. The American writer Albert Jay Nock in 1939 observed: “The idea that the state originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation — that is to say, in crime . . . No state known to history originated in any other manner, or for any other purpose.”

Heinrich_4_gBy the way, that quotation (which may be via R.W.Dyson) from Pope Gregory comes from a letter to Bishop Hermann of Metz, in March 1081, at the time when the Papacy was “having issues” over lay investiture with Heinrich IV — which may amount to control of the “single market” of its day.

Government as “violent gangs”?

Ridley’s sub-heading is pertinent:

The threat of force is implicit in law and order but a modern state should recoil at the armour on show in Missouri.

Where that leads to is the edge of terror:

The Republican senator Rand Paul commented in Time magazine that the federal government had incentivised the militarisation of local police, funding municipal governments to “build what are essentially small armies”. Evan Bernick, of the Heritage Foundation, warned last year that “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armoured vehicles, guns, armour, aircraft”. The Pentagon actually donates military equipment to the police, including tanks.

We have not yet gone so far in this country. Ofsted and the Met Office — as far as I know — do not yet arm their inspectors and forecasters. But the days when the state’s monopoly on violence was merely hinted at by a policeman’s uniform are long gone. You see police with sub-machineguns everywhere, and the Met is about to purchase water cannon to keep us in order. I hope that in combating violent gangs, our governments do not themselves turn back into violent gangs.

“A swift and minor change”

Ah, yes! Boris Johnson’s illegal (because Theresa May — bless her cotton socks and leopard kitten-heels — has made clear their use is not “authorised”) water-cannon. Appropriate that Ridley drops that into a Monday when Boris Johnson was arguing for English law to adopt presumption of guilt:

At present the police are finding it very difficult to stop people from simply flying out via Germany, crossing the border, doing their ghastly jihadi tourism, and coming back. The police can and do interview the returnees, but it is hard to press charges without evidence. The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.

A different perspective

Yet it is Kennedy’s account of things European that grabbed me.

His thesis depends from the 1957 Treaty of Rome, in which the original six nations:

Determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe

He emphasises that was explicitly accepted by Britain:

not just since 1973, but effectively since Macmillan’s Conservative government first applied for membership in 1961.

Moreover:

Some argue the “ever closer union” was merely a vague aspiration, committing the member states to nothing more than increased co-operation. But there was little vague about the objectives set at the Paris summit of October 1972 by the six founding members and the three new members – the UK, Ireland and Denmark.

All nine endorsed a transition from a common market to full economic and monetary union by the end of 1980, including, possibly, a single currency. The heads of government also committed to transforming, before the end of 1980, “the whole complex of the relations of member states into a European Union”.

Even the Iron Lady, despite her later apostasy, accepted the notion:

Global economic crises and differences among the member states meant the 1980 deadline was missed, but it was replaced in the mid-1980s by the 1992 deadline for the completion of the single (or internal) market, based on a detailed schedule of European legislation to guarantee free movement of goods, services, capital and people within the EU – a project warmly endorsed by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. [My emphasis]

“It’s for real.”

Allow me to go beyond Kennedy’s account, to recall just how Thatcher — as late as 1988 — gushed with enthusiasm for the Single Market:

We must get this right. Too often in the past Britain has missed opportunities.

How we meet the challenge of the Single Market will be a major factor, possibly the major factor, in our competitive position in European and world markets into the twenty-first century. Getting it right needs a partnership between government and business.

The task of government is two-fold: — to negotiate in Brussels so as to get the possible results for Britain; —and then to make you, the business community, aware of the opportunities, so that you can make the most of them.

It’s your job, the job of business, to gear yourselves up to take the opportunities which a single market of nearly 320 million people will offer.

Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people.

Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it.

It’s not a dream. It’s not a vision. It’s not some bureaucrat’s plan. It’s for real. And it’s only five years away.

Quite what she meant by Action to get rid of the barriers if not a pragmatic ever closer union defeats me.

Yet this is what the contemporary, revanchist Tories want to reverse. And, now, Cameron — who has been playing footsie for so long — finally concedes to his frothing Eurosceptics:

I do not oppose further integration within the eurozone: I think it is inevitable. Eurozone members must make those decisions. But I know the British people want no part of it, want to avoid deeper integration, and want our country properly protected from the impacts on the single market of any further integration that the eurozone undertakes.

This is not the speech of a “thinker”: it is subjective (note the proliferation of first-person singulars here, as in all Cameron speeches) and visceral. But it is not visceral conviction: it is the gut-wrenching fear of being outflanked by the UKIPpers and eurosceptics of his own party. And, as Kennedy suggests, it is dangerous nonsense:

… is the UK debate … a domestic squabble fuelled by fear of Ukip and the reluctance of the major parties to challenge Euroscepticism? Is it a dangerous bluff to frighten EU partners into concessions? If so, it could be a serious miscalculation.

“Miscalculation”?

This could be Cameron’s political epitaph.

  • After five years of spatchcocked coalition,
  • with austerity,
  • over the Scottish referendum,
  • with growing social division exacerbated by gross mishandling of welfare,
  • over indecisive foreign policy,
  • with repressive tendencies and cleavages growing in his own party, and now
  • with Europe —

“The great miscalculator”.

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Filed under Britain, broken society, civil rights, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., crime, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Europe, Guardian, History, Ireland, Irish Times, Northern Ireland, politics, Theresa May, Times, Tories.

He’d burn them next

I gather our non-legal Justice Secretary is into banning books:

In one country prisoners can get four days off their sentence for every book they read, in another a ban on sending books to prisoners is being introduced.

The first country – not generally known for its enlightened prison system – is Brazil; the second country – to our shame – is the UK .

The book ban is one aspect of a raft of measures introduced by justice secretary Chris Grayling which would appear to have no purpose other than to make the life of inmates just that little bit more unendurable, while making Mr Grayling look more of a tough guy to the public.  

Anyone with any heart would deplore measures that include prisoners not being allowed to receive homemade birthday cards from their children, but as the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform Frances [Crook] rightly says, the book ban is not just nasty but bizarre.

On the basis of  one book/four days, I just hope Purgatory (if it exists) comes Brazilian.

But, seriously…

Grayling’s interference goes far further:

Although prisoners are allowed to receive a “one-off” parcel after they have been convicted, Christmas presents are not distinguished from parcels and are banned. Prisoners must use their own wages to buy supplies and luxuries.

The Prison Reform Trust said it had already been contacted by several women prisoners who are struggling to get hold of clean underwear and other basic items.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Children are no longer permitted to send home-made calendars or gifts to dad in prison this Christmas.”

This is all called “rehabilitation”.

Malcolmian aside:

In my teens, I spent a dismal, wet, Christmas vacation in West Cork, with a succession of Atlantic gales thundering up Roaring Water Bay.

After a day or so, dark grey skies, raging surf and flying spume, seen through a rattling sash-window, lost their charm.

It’s not quite incarceration, but it drove me to read the whole oeuvre of Charles Dickens, and start on Thirties trash novels.

The end of the H-Blocks

I cannot testify to this one, but it was generally believed the closure of  the Maze Prison enhanced Belfast’s Linen Hall Library.

From the Republican blocks came a remarkable collection of  liberational, Marxist and theoretical texts.

From the Loyalists — allegedly — the swag was largely pornography and body-building.

[Kirsty Scott did a report for the Guardian which was a trifle less biased than my subjective summary.]

 

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Pride of our alley?

Let Malcolm start with two confessions:

  1. staustellproperjobYesterday’s Sunday papers got short shrift, mainly because of that long liquid lunch at Ye Olde Cherry Tree, a decent meal well lubricated with St Austell’s Proper Job.
  2. He is distinctly ambivalent about the Bercows. Obviously, since John Bercow as Speaker gets up the noses of so many Tories, he cannot be entirely a bad thing. He seems to do the business; but doesn’t cut it along with the recent great Speakers of recent memory: say, Bernard Weatherill (recently the star of James Graham’s This House at the Cottesloe) and Betty Boothroyd (a great hoofer, never out-shone by anyone). As for wife Sally, well, she does seem a trifle OTT.

And it is of Sally Bercow of whom we now speak.

The story so far:

Back in the darkening days of last autumn a frisson ran through the British political establishment. Some well-rehearsed ‘revelations’ from decades gone by, about paedophile rings in high places, bubbled to the surface of the settlement pit. One particular name involved was McAlpine. Unfortunately two McAlpine cousins, “Jimmie” and Lord Alastair, were confused by the media, including the BBC (who later paid McAlpine £185,000 for the mistake).

In the course of which Sally Bercow tweeted:

Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*

The noble Lord McAlpine (believed to be down to his last ten million) then set about cleaning up. He issued writs for libel against all and sundry, collecting large sums of moolah in the process:  the Guardian columnist George Monbiot coughed; and comedian Alan Davies is supposed to be down for £200,000. McAlpine then generously desisted from cleaning out the bank-accounts of lesser beings, making a special, public and explicit exception of Sally Bercow’s seven words and ornamental punctuation.

Sally, blessed her little convoluted heart, stood up to the bullying. Yesterday’s Sunday Times reminded us how things went from there:

The libel case is centred on whether Bercow’s tweet was defamatory. A key issue will be the level of innuendo implied by the use of asterisks in her comment. Such punctuation represents the mimicking of a physical action by the user.

Hold on!  There is a precedent for this, which — at first, even second sight — seems to contradict the old maxim de minimis non curat lex. When English law wants to, it could — as with Roger Casement, hang a man on a comma.

Back to the Sunday Times:

At a High Court hearing on Tuesday, lawyers for McAlpine, 70, will ask for permission for the case to be split into two parts: one to determine the meaning of the tweet, and a second, if required, to award damages. The peer is seeking up to £50,000.

If the case goes against her, Bercow fears a two-part trial will drag proceedings on for months, with legal costs likely to overtake damages. This is why she is thought to want a full trial to be heard in one go.

Bercow has instructed solicitors at Carter-Ruck on a no-win, no-fee basis and is believed to have taken out insurance to cover costs of up to £100,000 should she lose.

She will be represented in court by William McCormick, QC, a defamation and privacy expert whose previous clients have included Sir Elton John.

McAlpine’s barrister is Sir Edward Garnier, a Tory MP and former solicitor-general.

Andrew Reid, of the RPMI firm of solicitors, who is also representing the peer, said, “It is very disappointing that Mrs Bercow still wants her day in court. But there is a huge public interest in this. The sooner the meaning of what she said is settled, the greater the benefit to the public at large.”

Focus, if you will, on that last quoted paragraph.

What does it mean?

  • One plain insinuation is that plutocrats, who can afford the bill for the thrill of the chase, might mulct lesser creatures through just a threat of action. But the lesser being is not supposed to use the proper legal remedy of “a day in court”. Of course, with verbose senior barristers involved, the chances of this being settled in a “day” are precisely zilch. Scattering writs like confetti was patented by such low-lifes as Robert Maxwell, to the great profit of his tame lawyers, who have refined the operation ever since.
  • Second, McAlpine’s lawyers would clearly prefer not to have all that embarrassing “huge public interest”. Not in front of the serviles …
  • Partisan politics, and a bully’s need to humiliate, seems a major contributory factor.
  • As for “benefit to the public at large”, any sensitive and sensible mind boggles. We have here another of the myriad attempts by those with power to throttle and constrain each and every twitch, tweet and twaddle of the social media. Underlings’ sympathy for La Bercow derives from the good British principle of nil carborundum.
  • The moral superiority of Lord McAlpine fades when we recall he was on the take, albeit on behalf of Thatcher’s Tory Party, from the likes of Asil Nadir. His love-of-country amounts to being a non-dom. His family firm, the construction giant McAlpine, made vast sums from Tory policies, and also operated the notorious black-list: since McAlpine started his career with the firm as a clock-watcher and pay-clerk on the South Bank site, his distance from victimizations cannot have been too great.

One last thought …

This Sunday Times piece was illustrated by yet another from a photo-shoot of Lord McAlpine cruising (make of that word what you will) around Venice.

images4088535_Lord_McAlpi_357609b

images-1

The chequered suit and a gaudy tie, guaranteed to bar any on-course bookie from frightening the horses, tells us all we need to know. This present image, arms propped on true-blue umbrella, Rialto Bridge and moon-faced cheesy half-grin to the fore, mushy-peas Grand Canal beyond, is the latest, and even least appealing of the sequence.  Even Sally Bercow, in her more flirtatious and ill-advised moments didn’t sink that low.

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Marry and burn

A heart of stone is needed, not to mock the continuing havoc an eight-letter word is causing the Tory Party.

At a quick count, at toast-and-marmalade-time today, seven of the top eight (that number again!) items on ConHome Newslinks were about “marriage” — single-sex, the financial arrangements thereof, and other hokey-cokeys. There’s even one of those annoying rolling ads for the Coalition for Marriage.

From Institute to Coalition (across the hall-way)

This Coalition for Marriage deserves a moment’s attention. Its address is 5 Park Road, Gosforth. This takes us to a soul-less warehousing development on the outskirts of Newcastle — within whiffing distance of the big Greggs pasty plant across the hedge. Presumably no coincidence, it is bang next door to The Christian Institute of  Wilberforce House, 4 Park Road, Gosforth. For all the “Christian” ethos here, the “Christian Institute” seems to have a particular track record:

  • it sought to retain Thatcher’s vindictive Clause 28, discriminating against the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality;
  • it argued for an older age-of-consent in homosexual relationships;
  • it opposed Civil Partnerships;
  • it opposed single-sex adoption rights;
  • it meddled in Northern Ireland’s attempts to draw up rules on gender equality;
  • it funded a case in Islington, where a Council employee refused to work on the documentation of civil partnerships (and lost);
  • it funded the boarding-house owner who discriminated against gays(and lost).

Not surprisingly, then, the Institute has repeatedly been warned off crossing the line between “charity” and political activism.

Oh, and the Institute are New Earthers, theocrats, and bigots:

The Bible is without error not only when it speaks of salvation, its own origins, values, and religious matters, but it is also without error when it speaks of history and the cosmos. Christians must, therefore, submit to its supreme authority, both individually and corporately, in every matter of belief and conduct.

Anyone for an auto-da-fé?

The Christian Institute is strong on discipline:

The Church’s calling is to worship and serve God in the world, to proclaim and defend his truth, to exhibit his character and to demonstrate the reality of his new order.

New order … where did we come on that before? Then, in the original, was it not more correctly Neuordnung?

And also hot on punishment:

Evildoers will suffer eternal punishment. God will fully establish his kingdom when he creates a new heaven and a new earth from which evil, suffering and death will be excluded, and in which he will be glorified for ever.

Ah, yes: bring back the old ways of glorifying for ever:

execution-04-1

A Malcolmian solution:

Ever one to be helpful, Malcolm reckons he has a way to satisfy all but the most extreme theocrat:

  • Allow whatever religious, denominational or whatever practices of human bonding to persist, but keep them at pitchfork’s length from the State;
  • Recognise only civil-marriage sand registrations of relationships to be recognised for official State needs.

In other words, do as they do in France — a civil and (should the couple wish) a religious ceremony. But only the one has the official imprimatur and it has to happen first. If the Château de Candé was good enough for an (ex-)King and Emperor, then the local Town Hall should suit anyone else.

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Filed under bigotry, Britain, broken society, civil rights, ConHome, Conservative family values, Religious division, Tories.

“Popular”? With whom?

buckeyefirearms_logoThe Buckeye Firearms Foundation (as in Ohio, “the Buckeye State”) followed up the Sandy Hook child massacre with:

a program to provide firearm training to teachers free of charge

“The long-term goal is to develop a standard Armed Teacher curriculum and make the training available to any teacher or school official,” said [Ken] Hanson [“BFA’s Legal Chair“]. “To begin, we will use funds from our educational foundation and solicit donations from corporations to pay for the program. Going forward, we will seek funding from a variety of sources to expand the training.”

 No comments, please, on the possibility of an “illegal chair”. Or that the acronym “BFA” is ripe for umpteen alternative expansions, many of which are coarse or scabrous. Or, that in July 2011, the BFA organised its (somewhat ambiguously-named) 1st Annual Buckeye Firearms Foundation Youth Shoot, “north of Zanesville”.

Educationalists and parents will be delighted by the success of the BFA’s initiative:

So far, the Armed Teacher Training Program has attracted more than 600 applicants from all parts of Ohio and several from other states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. More teachers inquire about the program every day.

“We knew this would be popular, but the response has exceeded our expectations,” said Jim Irvine, Chairman of the non-profit Buckeye Firearms Foundation.

That press release is a truly enlightening document. Malcolm savoured much thereof, and here adds some choice quotations:

    • While Ohio generally prohibits firearms at schools, the law includes a provision that allows teachers and staff to carry firearms if the school board approves it. The Armed Teacher Training Program seeks to help teachers get permission to carry concealed firearms on the job and provide advanced training that goes above and beyond the typical requirements of concealed carry.
    • Irvine says the program is entirely voluntary. “No one will be forced to be armed if they choose not to. The strategy is the same as ordinary concealed carry. No one will ever know who is or is not armed. Those who would seek to do harm in schools should be met with armed resistance even before law enforcement shows up. Over time, schools will no longer be considered easy, risk-free targets.”
    • Irvine says the idea isn’t new. “For 25 years, citizens in the U.S. have been legally carrying concealed firearms. A total of 49 states now allow concealed carry, some with no licensing or training of any kind. The concept has worked remarkably well. Most of those who were initially skeptical now admit that citizens can be trusted to act lawfully and responsibly. Millions of ordinary people carry firearms in malls, on buses and city streets, and in restaurants and office buildings. It works for average citizens even in highly populated locations, so why would anyone assume armed teachers in schools would be any different?”
    • A few people have questioned the idea of arming teachers who have no firearm experience or may be uncomfortable with guns. “That’s a misunderstanding of what we’re doing,” said Rieck. “Applicants for the program are not firearm novices. More than half already have a Concealed Handgun License. About 40 percent of our applicants say they have previous self-defense training. Over 60 percent say they have moderate to extensive firearm experience. And over 80 percent have experience with handguns.”

Cue Tom Paxton (or failing him, Pete Seeger):

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes,
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.

That’s what I learned in school today,
That’s what I learned in school.

Or, here’s the nearest thing Malcolm can find from Paxton himself:

Hat-tip to Mother Jones.

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Filed under broken society, civil rights, crime, culture, education, Mother Jones, schools, United States