Club Comment

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Club Comment - March 2018

The Dangers of Higher Education / Communism Kills

The Dangers of Higher Education by John Gray

If only large collective decisions were taken solely by graduates or, better yet, holders of PhDs. How much more reasonable and well governed the world would be.

Too much credence has been given to the views of ordinary people, we are being told. Commentators and politicians don’t say this in so many words, of course, but there can be little doubt that many people think that only those who are highly educated are qualified to decide issues – such as whether Britain should remain in, or leave, the European Union, for example.

Educated minds base their beliefs on reason and evidence while the masses are swayed by prejudice and demagoguery. Surely it would be better if everyone had the benefit of a higher education? I’m not so sure. Today, higher education comes with certain dangers.

In the course of my life I have been fortunate to know many very learned people. What I gained from them has been invaluable to me. They opened my mind to realms of thought I would have never discovered on my own.

But it is also true that some of the most incurably ignorant people I have encountered have been very highly educated. And learned ignorance can be a good deal more dangerous than the common or garden variety.

Over time, the errors of ordinary people can be corrected by their everyday experience. The ignorance of the learned, in contrast, tends to be invincible. They like to think that they have a clearer view of the world. In fact, they are often more easily taken in by mass delusions than the rest of humankind. As George Orwell wrote, “There are some ideas so absurd that only intellectuals could believe them.”

At present, this is the danger of a higher education in the humanities and, what are called, social sciences. Those who studied to degree level and beyond have often embraced ideas and projects that many less educated folk instinctively recognise as dangerously absurd.

Something like this happened in Britain in the 30s. At that time, Communism and Fascism seemed to be advancing across the world.

The Cambridge graduates who spied for the Soviet Union had no doubt that Britain was finished. It has been suggested that they threw in their lot with Stalin in order to oppose the Nazi threat. But Kim Philby (pictured right), and his fellow conspirators, continued to be active during the Nazi-Soviet pact when Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany were on the same side – against Britain. They went on working for the Soviets until they were unmasked in the mid-50s.

Right up until his death in 1988, Philby retained what he described in his autobiographical book, My Silent War, as persisting faith in Communism because he was possessed of an idea. He worked for the Soviet Union long after its true nature was unmistakably clear.

Philby, and others like him, were not unusual among educated people at the time. Much of the intelligentsia was ready to junk democracy in Britain for the sake of a new order they imagined was coming into being somewhere else in the world.

The Fabian socialists – Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells – praised the ‘new civilisation’ (as the Webbs called it) that was being built in Stalin’s Russia. Shaw and Wells even had kind words for Nazism, which they applauded for its modern way of doing things. On the right, well-known writers – like Wyndham Lewis, GK Chesterton and TS Eliot – expressed degrees of sympathy with Fascism. As late as spring 1940, the then celebrated conservative historian Sir Arthur Bryant published a book, entitled Unfinished Victory, in which he praised the revival of Germany under Hitler, and commented favourably upon the vigour of the Gestapo.

What is remarkable is how little these intellectual postures reflected public opinion. It’s true that Nazism and Fascism had high levels of popular support in inter-war continental Europe. But intellectuals led the way. The philosopher Martin Heidegger served Hitler as a university rector, while the Belgian literary critic Paul de Man, later a leading advocate of the post-modern philosophy of deconstructionism in the United States, was one of many in the European thinking classes who gave Fascism a veneer of intellectual legitimacy.

In Britain, totalitarian movements failed to attract any large scale popular following. Oswald Mosley was an opportunistic political thug whose Blackshirts wilfully threated civil peace in London as part of a campaign of sowing hatred and division. And he had some influential supporters among British appeasers.

Yet Mosley never posed a serious challenge to British democracy. When PG Wodehouse lampooned him in his fictional character Roderick Spode – who called his movement The Black Shorts because, after Mussolini’s Blackshirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts, there were no shirts left – the great comic writer expressed a derision that most British people shared.

Again, ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin was a widely admired figure in Britain when the Soviet Union joined the war against Nazism following the German invasion of Russia in June, 1941. But that sentiment cooled after the war ended and Stalin imposed dictatorship on half of Europe.

The influence of the Communist Party peaked in 1945 when two of its members won seats in Parliament. Leading intellectuals on the other hand did not alter their views. The historian, Eric Hobsbawm remained a party member throughout the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, the repression of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the Soviet collapse. He is said to have retained his party card even after the party was dissolved in Britain in 1991 and, according to some reports, carried it around with him until he died in 2012.

Why do highly educated people persist in their delusions long after they cease to be remotely credible? The answer, I believe, is the appeal of grand theories. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels declared that Communism was the “…riddle of history solved.” And while Marx himself was undogmatic and flexible in much of his thinking, many of his disciples have embraced his ideas as a system which uncovers a hidden logic in history.

Intellectual systems of this kind have a numbing effect on the mind, filtering out the complexity of actual human events. Though presented in abstruse terminology, such theories are fundamentally simple; far more so than the human world itself. That may be part of their appeal. Intellectuals who interpret these seemingly profound ideas can claim authority in society and a leading role in history.

If higher education has any overall purpose it is to inculcate intelligent scepticism regarding all grand theories of society and history. Many university teachers still do exactly that and present the human world in all its intricacy and variety. But much of what is taught in the humanities and social sciences is increasingly ideology disguised as critical thought. Deconstruction, a hotchpotch of ideas derived from Marxism, psychoanalysis and linguistics which claims to offer an insight into society by demolishing established structures of thought, now informs many academic disciplines.

But do students who have swallowed this mishmash have a better understanding of the world around them? Or have they, at considerable financial cost, learned a once fashionable academic jargon with very little practical or intellectual value? After all, none of the postmodern sages they are required to read – Foucault, Derrida and the like – envisioned the political upheavals that have transformed the world in recent years.

This brings us back to contemporary politics. Anyone who still thinks Brexit is a good idea is accused of resisting the onward march of history but who knows if the EU will exist in twenty years from now. I am old enough to remember a discipline called Sovietology; it probably never occurred to those who taught it that the object of their studies would suddenly vanish. When politicians and commentators tell you they discern a future order of things quite different from anything in the past, they are usually spouting theories they were taught a generation or so ago.

Majorities aren’t always right and democracies are certainly not a panacea for all political ills, but history offers no support for the belief that the world would be better ruled by graduates or PhDs.

This is a transcription of a broadcast first made on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Point of View’ on Sunday 25th February 2018.

Communism Kills by Dr Stuart Blackie

During the apparitions in the northern Portuguese town of Fatima on 13th July 1917, it was emphatically stated that, unless certain conditions were met, Russia would ferment wars and spread her errors across the world.

The conditions were not met and the Russian Revolution broke out on 24th-25th October 1917 (according to the Julian calendar) and probably only ended with the Red Army’s closure of its last active front in Turkestan in June 1926.

Between 1917 and 1921, 10.5 million people died and millions more were maimed, orphaned or widowed in Russia, and an additional 2 million former subjects of the Tsar were forced into exile. Upheaval wrought by war led to a further 5 million perishing in famines across the Volga, Urals, North Caucasus and Ukraine between 1921 and 1922.

The Berlin Wall was constructed in August 1961, complete with armed guards, whose sole purpose was to stop people fleeing from East Berlin to the democratic west. To the generation which has grown up since the fall of the Wall on 9th November 1989, Communism is considered to be the ultimate form of egalitarianism and a perfectly amiable ideology.

Not only do they not know of the extraordinary death toll inflicted by the Communist regimes in the 20th century in the Eastern Bloc, in Russia and the Far East, as well as in the proxy wars of the Cold War era in Central and South America and Africa but also it receives no publicity.

I understand that in Budapest there is a House of Terror (pictured below), a museum set up in the actual place where the Nazis – and later the Communists – inflicted imprisonment, terror and murder. Under the Communist regime, 600,000 Hungarians were taken to work camps in the Soviet Union and half did not return.

In March 2016, James Bartholomew wrote an article in The Spectator highlighting this problem. He quoted the historian Robert Conquest who estimated that the total number of lives lost during the terrors perpetrated in the USSR ‘could hardly be lower than some 13 to 15 million.’

In China, under Communism, deaths came in three phases: the suppression of counter-revolutionaries (at least 1 million); the ‘Great Leap Forward’ (at least 45 million); and the Cultural Revolution (750,000 – 1.5 million in rural China alone).

In Cambodia it is estimated that between 1.4 and 2.2 million from a population of 7 million were killed by the Khmer Rouge. I understand that the terror in North Korea continues to this day.

Add these deaths together and you get about 60 million – but I gather that some historians estimate as many as 100 million may have died.

Even these figures could have been eclipsed by the malfunction of a Soviet nuclear early warning system which came within minutes of accidentally triggering of a nuclear war on 26th September 1983. Fortunately, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (pictured below), an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces, correctly identified the warning as a false alarm.

This episode occurred in a time of heightened east-west tension after the Soviet Air Force had shot down an obviously unarmed South Korean passenger jet – Korean Air Lines flight 007 – that had blundered into Soviet airspace on 1st September 1983. All 269 people aboard the aircraft were killed.

Ignorance of all these facts is, in part, due to the march of left-wing sympathisers, apologists and ‘useful idiots’ throughout branches of the media, institutions and academia.

But a major part of the problem also lies in the magnitude of the numbers involved. If a family of four are killed in a road traffic accident, it is easy to relate to the tragedy.

However, when the numbers quoted are in the millions, or hundreds of millions, they are mentally unimaginable and are then reduced to mere statistics on a spread-sheet; a fact famously recognised and utilised by Stalin.

You may be interested to see a website that graphically illustrates large numbers: http://pagetutor.com/trillion/index.html

The future of any nation or civilisation is shaped by its understanding of the past. The 20th century is recognised as the most blood-stained century in history. In Britain, the far left is experiencing a surge in popularity as a result of disillusionment of the present lacklustre and apparently directionless drift of the current administration.

It is time to bring the detailed facts of these atrocities, committed in the name of this far-from-amiable ideology, to public awareness. Let us learn the lessons of the past before we sleepwalk into installing a similar ideological regime in this country in the 21st century.

 

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Club Comment - February 2018

Club welcomes Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP / Animals in Peril

On Monday 11th December 2017, the Conservative Monday Club held its Christmas Dinner in the Canadian Room of the East India Club, St James’s Square, London.

Members and their guests were welcomed by the Club Chairman, Andrew Grocock, and special greetings were offered to those members who had travelled across the sea from Northern Ireland to be at the dinner.

After a splendid meal, enjoyed by all, the Chairman welcomed the guest speaker, also from Northern Ireland; the Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Sir Jeffrey is the DUP Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley, Lisburn and, in the 2017 General Election, retained this seat with a majority of 19,229 (or 42.7% of the vote). He is the DUP spokesman on Defence and Energy policy and has a seat on the Defence Select Committee in the House of Commons. He is also the Party’s spokesman on victim’s issues and, since 2010, a member of the UK delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, where he sits on the Social Affairs and Political Affairs Committee.

The Chairman reminded Sir Jeffrey of the very strong relationship between the Conservative Monday Club and the DUP in Northern Ireland. He recalled the times when the Club had been privileged to be addressed by the late Revd Dr Ian Paisley and that this bond had continued with Ian Paisley Junior and through other members of the DUP.

He further added that it had been a great pleasure for him, and other members of the Club, to visit the DUP in Northern Ireland on numerous occasions and that they greatly appreciated the kindness and hospitality that had been afforded them.

Sir Jeffrey thanked the Chairman and also expressed his warm wishes to all members of the Conservative Monday Club.

During his address, Sir Jeffrey recalled his early days in politics; particularly when he had the privilege of working for the late Enoch Powell. This experience had taught him a great deal and he said that he was forever grateful for that opportunity.

He warned of the rise of nationalism which would be the first step towards the breakup of the United Kingdom. He stressed that a free, independent Great Britain and Northern Ireland would present a better future for the next generation rather than remaining in the European Union.

Sir Jeffrey believed that additional trade with countries outside the Eurozone was the way forward and he had already had meetings with overseas diplomats to this end. He believed that, eventually, smaller countries within the present EU would be put under pressure to become members of some Federal European Super-state.

He felt that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has Great Britain and Northern Ireland at heart but that she should not give in to unrealistic demands from the EU regarding this country’s exit from Europe. He believed that the UK should leave with no deal rather than made to accept the totally unsatisfactory terms as dictated by the EU.

He stated that the DUP was not just concerned with the future of Northern Ireland but with the whole of the United Kingdom. He considered it to be providential following the last General Election and following the pressures on the British Government from Europe, as was seen when the DUP had to object to certain proposals.

Finally, our guest speaker spoke with passion regarding the future of Northern Ireland and its relationship with the Irish Republic and said that he believed the future will see an even more harmonious relationship between the two countries.

The President of the Conservative Monday Club, the Viscount Massereene & Ferrard, thanked Sir Jeffrey and again commented on the close ties between the Club members and the DUP.

Sir Jeffrey was then thanked by Martin Pritchard who commented that the speaker had spoken with great passion for the unity of Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland and that he was a true patriot.

The Loyal Toast was given by Dr Stuart Blackie.

To those members of the Conservative Monday Club who were unable to attend the dinner but gave donations, the Club is sincerely grateful.

 


Animals in Peril

In September, I read an article in The New Statesman entitled: “A World Without Animals”!

A shocking title for an article maybe, but one that presents a truly horrific prospect for our world.

This powerful article, written by Simon Barnes, considered some of the most deeply concerning statistics, highlighting the plight of some of our planet’s gravely endangered species.

The article quotes the Living Planet Index, compiled by the Zoological Society of London and the Worldwide Fund for Nature, warning of a dramatic decline in wild animals by 2020, with 13,000 of the 65,000 species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being under threat, with 3,000 of these being critically endangered.

For example:

African Grey Parrots have declined in numbers by up to 79% in the past 47 years;

Lions by 43% in 21 years;

Giraffes by 40% in 30 years;

Possibly the worst of all is the decrease in the numbers of Black Rhinos… 95% in the past 50 years.

Primates are also drastically falling in numbers, as a study published in the journal, Science Advances, revealed that 60 % are threatened with extinction, including gorillas and chimpanzees.

And the British Isles are by no means immune from the decrease in native species, with the RSPB reporting the Hen Harrier being close to extinction in the UK; the Turtle Dove that has reportedly declined by 93% since the 70s; and the Skylark with a population of 10% of where it was 30 years ago.

The author of this article does not pull his punches, stating that our planet is going through a significant change and that we are witnessing “right now” the process of widespread extinction and that humans “seem to have accepted the idea that the loss of wild animals is the sad, but acceptable price of progress and that the loss of animal species is not seen as a serious matter”, asking “when did you last hear a politician talk about the extinction crisis”?

Well, Mr Speaker, tonight we are proving that assumption to be wrong, in this House of Commons and across the world, we must speak up about this crisis and do so with clarity, ever more loudly and with increasing frequency.

Keynote statistics about marine wildlife are also extremely alarming: the acidity and temperature of the seas are rising and, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report 2016, 90% of fish stocks across the world are fully exploited, over exploited or in crisis. With the global human population increasing and the demand for all natural resources sky rocketing, scientists are understandably pessimistic about the future.

I say to the Minister, we all need to study the work of the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE of Existence programme, which prioritises species that are both Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered according to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The EDGE programme uses a scientific approach to allocate limited funding most effectively to unique and special animals that could otherwise so easily be forgotten.

The time to act is not next year or after the next election or at some point in the future, the time to act, Mr Speaker, is now.

So in future, we must act faster when we can do so to protect and save our wildlife and work with international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, to do everything we possibly can to crush poachers, promote job creation in environmental conservation efforts across the world and, most importantly, strive to rebalance our relationship with nature.

Mr Speaker, I call upon Her Majesty’s Government to do the following:

The Minister’s department, DEFRA needs greater resources to place more people on the ground, across the world, working to protect animals in peril, and plants too. The Department for International Development should also re-evaluate how it allocates money and consider how it might provide more help for anti-poaching efforts and environmental conservation.

The Government should also allocate more time in both the House of Commons and the other place for debating environmental issues, and given the significance of some of the challenges we are discussing this evening, I think using more of our time in this manner would not only be appropriate, but would gain widespread approval from the public.

The Government also needs to make greater commitments to international conventions and agreements and push for further- reaching targets, especially as we leave the European Union.

The United Kingdom has led the world on these issues in the past and I have no doubt that the Minister will agree with me, when I say that Britain can and must do so again in the future.

Additionally, the Government needs to continue to commit to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. While these goals do not necessarily focus on the protection of wildlife, it is beyond question that in order to ensure wildlife is protected and sustainable, both in the UK and worldwide, we need to counter those other issues such as poverty, health, education and sustainable cities.

On the last of these, it is important that in the UK we ensure that our cities can be a home for wildlife. We can help people and nature by improving air quality, river water quality and expanding the size of, and improving the health of, green spaces in every urban area.

In short, we must make sure that our future legislation uses every opportunity to promote conservation.

We need to engage ourselves in an enormous effort to guarantee the future of the wild and the many animals and plants in peril, so that our successors can enjoy the knowledge of there being a wild beyond our shores, within these islands and on our very doorstep…. and not finding themselves in A World Without Animals.

In short, we as a civilisation have to face up to one of the biggest challenges we will ever encounter: rebalancing how we fit within the natural world.

As the great pioneer of conservation and founder of Jersey Zoo, Gerald Durrell stated a generation ago: “People think that I am just trying to look after nice, fluffy animals. What I am really trying to do is to stop the human race from committing suicide.”

This speech was originally given as the subject of an Adjournment Debate on Wednesday 18th October, 2017 and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

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Club Comment - September 2017

The meaning of Conservative

The British Conservative Party has recently been described as ‘the Nasty Party’ but this doesn’t alter the fact that this Party is, at the moment anyway, the leading force in our national politics and can make one mistake after another without losing a solid core of popular support. But what does the term Conservative actually mean? And what especially does it mean for us today?

A simple answer is that the word means what it says. Conservatism is about conserving things, not everything of course. But the good things that we admire and cherish which, if we don’t look after them, we might lose. These things are our most important collective assets. Peace, freedom, law, civility, the security of property and family life. In all of those assets we depend upon the co-operation of others, having no means single-handedly to obtain it.

The work of destroying our social assets is quick, easy and exhilarating. The work of creating them slow, laborious and dull. The is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one of the reasons that Conservatives suffer a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true, but boring. That of their opponents, exciting and false.

Still, a bit more needs to be said. The Party is muddling along without a philosophy, but it has received a wake-up call from opponents with far-reaching goals and a programme for achieving them. And even if those goals are largely negative, being a catalogue of things they wish to get rid of, capitalism included, it is sufficient to plant a big question in the mind of the electorate. “What does the Tory Party really stand for?” What vision of society underpins its policies? Or is everything merely management and spin, as it was for the Labour Party under Tony Blair?

Conservatism has had two historical rivals: Liberalism and Socialism. Liberalism is the product of the Enlightenment; it sees society as a contract and the State as a system for guaranteeing individual rights. Socialism is the product of the Industrial Revolution; it sees society as an economic system and the State as a means of distributing social wealth. Liberals have defended the right to property while Socialists have defended the State’s right to take it away and redistribute it in the name of social justice. Liberals, in the original meaning of the term, believe in free speech and free association. Socialists believe all freedoms are subservient to the common good. Liberals defend the individual from the State while Socialists defend the State against the self-interested individual.

Conservatives have leaned more towards Liberalism than to Socialism. However, they believe that freedom means responsibility. Which in turn depends on public spirit and civic virtue. We human beings are not isolated atoms governed by appetite and intent on our own gratification. Or, if we are becoming like that, in the materialist and consumerist culture of our time, then that is something to be deplored and resisted. The business of politics is to foster a flourishing civil society, composed of responsible people, tied to each other by lasting bonds of loyalty and affection, the State, to protect our liberties because only free- beings can truly be responsible for their lives. But a responsible society cannot be created by the State and is threatened when the State tries to control associations and to confiscate wealth.

Here is where the difficulties of a true Conservative begin. For a variety of good and bad reasons, Conservatism is now caricatured as the belief that all social problems should be left to the market. And the free market is further caricatured as the realm of selfishness and consumerism. Hence the idea of the Tories as ‘the Nasty Party’; concerned to dismantle all the checks and balances that stand in the way of individual greed. The Tories themselves are partly to blame for this unjust caricature. Having espoused a policy of silence and secretiveness in the face of every public attack, they have made it look as though they can do nothing in response to these criticisms save hide from them, which is another way of admitting them. And the effect is exacerbated by the habit of pretending that the only serious political questions are about economics. Culture, religion, identity, community and happiness, all the things that really matter, seem to be reduced to financial deals.

Above: Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was an Anglo-Irish statesman and political philosopher. He is often considered to have established the intellectual foundations of modern Conservativism.

It goes without saying that I reject this caricature of Conservative politics. I don’t think Conservatism reduces political order to market economics, nor do I think that markets themselves are expressions of selfishness and greed. Markets work only when cheats are punished and rules enforced and depend upon the legacy of responsibility, which is the most important item on the Conservative agenda. Markets depend upon the rule of law, which in turn uphold the virtues of law-abidingness and honesty. We all engage in market dealings, since we all wish to deploy our labour to the best advantage, which means exchanging our surplus for things that we need. Markets express our desire to settle our relations by agreement. The State which tries to replace the market economy therefore risks destroying social trust and, in the course of doing so, depriving the people of the means to satisfy even their most urgent needs; like the Venezuelan state today.

But no true Conservative believes that markets are everything or they do not stand to be guided or corrected. There are duties with property as well as rights. There is a duty to give to those in need. To avoid exploiting others’ vulnerabilities. To pay taxes in all those places where you do business. To reward loyalty, and to uphold friendship and trust.

If our Victorian ancestors had relied on market principles alone in building the industrial economy they bequeathed to us, they would not have limited the hours of work of children in the factories, nor would they have offered education and training to their workforce. A responsible employer, Disraeli argued, is guardian and trustee of those who work for him. And this is relevant to us today. An employer who decides that it is cheaper to discharge his workforce onto the streets and to import another, cheaper workforce from Eastern Europe is obeying market principles, but he is violating a duty of neighbourliness and exploiting the social and material capital of our country without regard for the true heirs of those who created it.

Conservatives believe in free association and private initiatives, but not because they think the individual is everything…they believe in those things because they believe that society itself depends on them…

The emphasis on responsibility is the real reason why Conservatives are suspicious of the modern State and wish to limit its powers. They accept the need for a socialised healthcare system and measures for the relief of poverty, but they also realise that benefits offered freely and without proof of need create a culture of irresponsible dependency. Moreover, ordinary voters, while entirely committed to the National Health Service, are increasingly suspicious of the regime of benefits which undermines the motives on which work, family and stewardship all ultimately depend. If the responsibility to help those less well off than ourselves falls on us as individuals, then it can only be diminished by the passing of that duty to the State.

Above: Crippling food shortages now plague large parts of oil -rich Venezuela, the direct result of years of Socialist mis-rule.

It is a fundamental item of Conservative belief, as I understand it, that civil society is distinct from the State and that a healthy civil society is one in which we freely associate for social purposes. The British people accept this way of seeing things, and have always given their time, money and energy to mutual aid, when need and emergencies require them to do so.

The tendency of Socialist governments has been to destroy private associations, so extinguishing those bonds of trust between strangers which dispose people to co-operate for the common good. Conservatives believe in free association and private initiatives, but not because they think the individual is everything and the State should leave us to grab what we can. They believe in those things because they believe that society itself depends on them. It is through free association, and what Edmund Burke called the ‘the little platoons,’ that the sense of responsibility arises. Margaret Thatcher was often ridiculed for saying there is no such thing as society, what she meant however was that society is not identical with the State.

Those who wish to transfer assets from free associations to State bureaucracies are the enemies of society, not its friends. And they jeopardise the thing on which the entire body politic depends, which is the knowledge in each of us that we are answerable to others for all that we are and we do. This habit of accounting to others is the root to civilisation and it is the thing that Conservatives most wish to conserve. It would be a fair summary of the ideological conflict of our time to say that Liberals seek freedom, Socialists equality and Conservatives responsibility. And, without responsibility, neither freedom nor equality have any lasting value.

(This article is a transcription of Sir Roger Scruton’s broadcast for BBC Radio 4’s Point of View programme originally aired on Sunday 27th August, 2017).

Sir Roger Scruton is a philosophy academic and writer who works primarily in the field of aesthetics, culture and conservative political thought.

The former editor of the Salisbury Review, he has written pieces for The Spectator, The New Statesmen and The Times, as well as a number of books on a variety of subjects including philosophy, music, art and religion.

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Club Comment - June 2017

Back to the 1970s “Dark Ages”

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be a pretty bleak place to live in when the weather is damp and cold in the months of November, December and January.

In November, 1973; when Edward Heath was Prime Minister, the miners and electrical workers began an overtime ban.

Their actions almost shut down the country, with power cuts three days a week; a speed limit of 50mph to save fuel; heating limited to 63F-17C and petrol rationing.

As members of the Conservative Monday Club may recall, Mr Jeremy Corbin’s career was highlighted in a previous newsletter, but it’s worth recalling that, after leaving North London Polytechnic, his first employment was as an official with the National Union of Public Employees, followed by a position with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union and then National Union of Tailors and Garment Makers. Prior to him becoming Labour MP for Islington North, he was employed by Haringey Council.

Mr Corbyn has stated that, should he become Prime Minister, he would take private rail and energy companies back into public ownership. He further added that he would give union militants the right to “determine the agenda” of companies that they work for, under Labour plans to rip up anti-strike laws and bring back flying pickets.

Tory minister, Priti Patel, said, “Jeremy Corbyn wants to let his union paymasters run riot, dragging Britain back into the 1970s.”

“Give the Prime Minister Theresa May a strong mandate in the Brexit talks ahead to build on everything her Party has achieved.”

All the efforts that have been made to bring prosperity to this country would be negated should Mr Corbyn’s Marxist ideas be put into practice – wiping out all the economic progress of decades at a stroke.

Should voters at the next General Election forget, this is the man who is still a member of CND, wants to scrap Trident, and invited Gerry Adams and other members of Sinn Fein to Parliament in 1984, only weeks after the IRA had killed 5 people in the Brighton Hotel bombing.

He believes that the United Kingdom should no longer be part of NATO and wants a United Ireland with the abolition of the border between the North and the South.

Mr Corbyn is a candidate who will wreck the country; and by that I mean:

Economically – with businesses and essential services crippled as a result of his union comrades striking and bringing the infrastructure to a standstill; as happened when another Labour member became Prime Minister – Harold Wilson.

No doubt Mr Corbyn will raise the top rate of income tax to some crippling percentage thereby resulting in a mass exodus of tax payers from this county as happened in the 1960.

Mr Corbyn has stated that he hates the rich (he once said this meant anyone earning over £100k pa). As a Marxist comrade, he would say that – he (and many of his fellow travellers) has no conception of how commerce or industry operates whether it be an independent shopkeeper or a corporate giant.

Many staunch socialist left-wing Labour voters believe all the money to pay for social services comes from the government. They have no idea that the government doesn’t manufacture money – they spend the money they receive from taxpayers, whether individuals or large corporations (whose contributions are significant to the running of the country).

A breakdown in law and order – particularly the country’s security services ability and resources to combat terrorism.

This is the individual who has openly supported terrorists from the IRA to Hamas and Hezbollah, and is blatantly dishonest to claim that his only motive has been to secure peace. He has befriended some of the world’s most evil terrorists who share one common factor: they hate Britain and our way of life.

Appearing on television, Mr Corbyn condemned the terrorist attack in Manchester which killed 22 people and seriously injured many others, yet in the same breath, blamed the Government’s overseas policy for the dreadful event.

Foreign Secretary, Mr Boris Johnson, condemned Mr Corbyn for using the murder of 22 people for political gain. “It is absolutely extraordinary and inexplicable in this week of all weeks that there should be any attempt to justify or to legitimise the actions of terrorists in this way.”

Mr Corbyn, as we know, befriends terrorists but he certainly doesn’t befriend what he calls “wealthier families”. He has not admitted that, if elected, he will scrap the Conservative plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million. Instead, he will reduce it from £850,000 to £650,000. The Conservatives claim that Labour has secret plans to reduce it even further to £45,000 – a claim that they deny.

As anyone who has resided in London knows, because of rising prices over the last thirty years, a house purchased for £250,000, or less, could easily be worth well over £1million in many suburbs of Greater London and the Home counties.

The purchasers of such properties may well intend to leave the home to their children which, under Mr Corbyn’s proposals to lower the inheritance tax, would give them a massive 40% tax bill, probably forcing them to sell the property to pay the tax.

Mr Corbyn denies that he is wealthy despite a total salary of £137,000pa and, because of his 33 years’ service as an MP, a gold-plated pension of £50,000pa. Average UK income is £26,000pa.

Finally, if, after reviewing Mr Corbyn’s Marxist proposals to finally demolish this country, anybody has any doubts as to the unsuitability of him becoming its leader, he has now confirmed that he is discussing plans to relax rules on asylum, make it easier for migrants’ families to settle in Britain and throw open our borders to low and unskilled workers, not just from the EU but from the rest of the world. Karl Marx would be proud of him.

For the sake of the majority of British people from all sectors of society, let us hope and pray that they see through the charade and lies perpetrated by this man and, on polling day, show their approval of and give the Prime Minister, Theresa May, a strong mandate in the Brexit talks ahead to build on everything her Party has achieved.

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Club Comment - April 2017

“National security is no game”

Firstly, on behalf of the President, Chairman and members of the Executive Council, I would like to express our sincere sympathy and condolences to all the victims and their families who have suffered as a result of the recent evil murderous attack on innocent police officers and civilians in London.

Particular recognition should be made of the selfless acts of assistance given to the injured on Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster, not only by the actions of the emergency services but the immediate first-aid afforded to the injured by fellow members of the public.

The Metropolitan Police have now stated that the killer of pedestrians on Tower Bridge, and later PC Palmer, Khalid Masood had no links to any known terrorist organisation and had not, as had been alleged in some newspapers, been radicalised while serving a prison sentence in 2003.

Khalid Masood was nothing more than a misfit, a criminal with a history of violence, and a drug taker.

The day before, a notorious terrorist died from an illness – Mr Martin McGuinness, a long-time mass murderer, senior member of the IRA and latterly a politician.

As we all know by now, the murdered police officer, Police Constable Keith Palmer, was unarmed when on duty at the Carriage Gates which afford vehicle and pedestrian access to New Palace Yard at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster Palace. It transpires that his killer ran straight past the open gates and, when confronted by PC Palmer, a scuffle ensued whereupon the police officer was repeatedly stabbed under the arm and in the neck. Apparently, a few seconds later, Masood was then confronted by two plainclothes police officers who had allegedly been assigned to protect Sir Michael Fallon MP, the Defence Secretary (he was in the Commons at the time). They fired three shots at Masood, whereupon he fell to the ground and was treated by paramedics for his wounds. He died later in hospital.

It is believed that the murderer was in possession of two long knives and that he had a history of violence and had been a bodybuilder – he would most certainly have presented a frightening and alarming presence, particularly in his agitated and frenzied state.

In the aftermath of this horrific incident and appalling loss of innocent lives, it is only right that questions have been raised as to how this murderous individual was permitted to gain access to the Mother of Democracies – Parliament – and why the police officers posted on the Carriage Gates were unarmed when this country’s security awareness level is still at ‘Severe’ (which indicates that a terrorist attack is highly likely).

What has become clear is that the reason the gates were left open was to placate some Members of Parliament, who did not wish there to be an armed police presence at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament. One wonders if this was a result of the ‘Plebgate Incident’ involving access to Downing Street – which, incidentally, does have armed guards with automatic weapons, the gates are closed and there is a steal ramp to prevent a terrorist or rogue vehicle being suddenly driven into that area.

I know from personal experience in both the public and private security arena, both domestically and internationally, that some individuals feel that they should not be inconvenienced at any cost and believe it is beneath their dignity to subject themselves to security measures. Some Members of Parliament would do well to remember that they are public servants and if those gates had been closed and if PC Palmer had been carrying an automatic weapon, he may still be alive today. The question also arises as to what further carnage would have been unleashed by Masood if the two protection officers had not been waiting nearby for Sir Michael Fallon MP. How much further would Masood have progressed before armed officers were on the scene? Apparently the perimeter of the Parliament buildings is patrolled randomly with no set pattern – so uniformed armed officers may have been some distance away.

Unless things have changed dramatically I have, in the past, been astonished at the calibre of uniformed police officers who are deployed within Parliament. On frequent visits to committee rooms, I have observed uniformed police officers who have appeared more like ushers or guides at some stately home than policemen. Most looked very near retirement age; overweight and unfit. They were what was once described within the police service as ‘uniform carriers.’ This does not of course apply to the heroic actions of PC Palmer.

As one Member of Parliament stated after observing the lack of security at the Carriage Gates, “One wonders what would have happened if three fit, young terrorists armed with AK47 automatic weapons had stormed through the gates?” Perhaps other MPs should ponder on that one for a while before they object to enhanced security at the Carriage Gates.

By the time you receive this Newsletter, double entry gates may have actually been installed at the entrance to New Palace Yard and armed officers may well be manning them.

It really is very simple: these types of security gates have been employed in prisons for years and many other high-risk areas. There is a no-man’s area between both sets of gates and only one set of gates is open at any one time. A vehicle enters through the first gate which closes behind – the vehicle and occupants are checked and then the second gates are opened to permit access to accredited persons. Needless to say, the gates would be manned by officers armed not only with handguns but automatic rifles.

The recently retired Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, had, prior to his departure, announced an increase of some 600 additional armed officers within the Metropolitan Police area. As members may recall, I wrote in a previous Club Comment that this desire to place more armed officers on the streets of London has met with a poor response; with few officers applying to be firearms specialists.

So much so that it is rumoured that discussions are taking place with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) as to how the current procedures for dealing with shootings by armed officers can be changed. Quite rightly, every shooting of an individual by a police officer should be investigated by an authorised independent body. That is currently the IPCC. They oversee and direct all enquiries but do not have the resources to conduct all the relevant enquiries; delegating that to an individual police force’s internal complaints division. In almost all cases, where a person’s have been shot by a police officer, the officer’s concerned are immediately suspended from duty and, in many cases, this suspension has lasted for over 10 months and in some cases, a great deal longer. During this period, the officer has no idea as to whether he may be charged with murder or manslaughter and later face a trial in court.

Needless to say, many police officers have taken the view that it is not worth being a firearms officer when being called upon one day to actually open fire, knowing that they will be automatically suspended for many months and a possible criminal charge hanging over their heads. Hence, the discussions taking place regarding future procedures regarding police officers who open fire when confronted by a ‘terrorist incident’ as opposed to a ‘non-terrorist incident.’ Apparently, the plain clothes protection officers who shot Masood are being investigated by the IPCC but the Commission has apparently stated that this is not because they believe there has been any malpractice by the officers concerned but as a “procedural formality.”

The Metropolitan Police have not stated whether either of the officers has been suspended. The semantics will be interesting as to whether the IPCC treat this as a ‘terrorist incident’ now that the Metropolitan Police have stated that Masood had no connection to any terrorist group.

There is no doubt, that this country will continue to face further similar attacks to that perpetrated by Masood and, heaven forbid, even worse atrocities.

As is the case where there has been a total abdication by the Ministry of Defence of support for our armed forces when they are engaged in combat and then subject to the likes of lawyers such as Mr Phil Shiner making false accusations, we owe it to police officers, who also place their lives on the line, to give them the necessary authority to shoot terrorists without being hounded through the courts. Failure to do so will undoubtedly see even less officers wishing to be armed and the British public’s safety jeopardised. When President George W Bush said it was “a war on terror”, it was. Not a game of cricket.

In Parliament, prior to the tragic events that took place on Westminster Bridge and outside Parliament, the Prime Minister spoke regarding one of the most infamous and evil terrorists in recent years – Mr Martin McGuinness, who died recently.

She told the House of Commons, “I would like to express my condolences to the family and colleagues of the former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness.”

Twenty four hours later, after the Masood killings, the Prime Minister was again in the Commons. She said, “We are not afraid, and our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism.”

Bill Clinton, who travelled to the terrorists’ funeral, kicked Britain in the stomach and welcomed Sinn Fein into the White House. And the British Government, seeing which way the wind was blowing, wavered in the face of terrorism. My how it wavered.

The actions and depravity of McGuinness and his cohorts knew no bounds. In 1974, IRA bomber James McDaid attempted to place a bomb outside a post office in Coventry. The bomb exploded killing McDaid. A funeral procession took place in Coventry on 21st November 1974. The coffin was later that day flown to Ireland. He was hailed a martyr by the IRA. Some hours later (it is believed in “retaliation” for his death), two bombs exploded in Birmingham.

Having been present, very soon after the Birmingham Pub bombings on 21st November 1974, when the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush public houses were destroyed by Provisional IRA bombs and 21 people died and 182 were seriously injured, my personal thoughts go out to all the relatives of the dead and injured who, I am sure, will not in any way be regretting the death of Mr McGuinness.

While both McGuinness and Masood were from totally different backgrounds, cultures and religions, they both sought to wreak terror against innocent civilians and members of the security forces. In McGuinness’s case, for over thirty years. What is alarming and makes it more difficult for the intelligence services, particularly in the case of a ‘lone wolf’ attack, is the method. Employed, as in the case of Masood, to inflict death and injuries.

What drove him to take the course of action he did? Perhaps we will never know. Nevertheless, it is paramount that the Government afford the police and intelligence agencies every means at their disposal to negate such possible attacks in the future and that security for Parliament is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police and not internal committees in Westminster.

Finally, the funding for the additional security both in physical defences and additional manpower, could come from ceasing to send millions of pounds of taxpayer funded foreign aid to countries ruled by despots who utilise such funds to enhance their own luxurious lifestyle.

Perhaps the Government should always remember that they are elected by the people to serve the people and have an absolute primary duty to protect their own population – that is the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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Club Comment - March 2016

“Free Admission – All are Welcome”

Apart from instructing Conservative Members of Parliament to ignore the views of Conservative Associations regarding the forthcoming referendum on Europe, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has other very important issues that he does not want you to know about. You will not hear him voluntarily speak about these matters as they are probably the factors which the majority of the nation feel would influence them when making a decision whether to stay in or to leave the European Union.

They are: –

Stop all uncontrolled immigration to this country. To achieve this, Britain must repeal the Human Rights Act, if we do not, ANY OTHER DISCUSSION on attempting to control or restrict immigration to these shores is irrelevant.

AS LONG AS IMMIGRANTS ARE ABLE TO STATE THAT THEY ARE CLAIMING ASYLUM, THE UK BORDER AGENCIES ARE POWERLESS TO PREVENT THEIR ENTRY.

Figures from Eurostat, the European Commission’ s statistics agency, show that the number of asylum-seekers coming to Britain increased by almost 20% in a year. This country received 38,370 people claiming asylum in the last 12 months. It should be remembered that this figure is only the tip of the ice-berg as it only covers official claims and does not take into account migrants who have not claimed asylum but are living unrecorded in the UK.

Let us not forget, the new influx of 38,370 people is in addition to the 500,000 failed asylum-seekers who are appealing against being removed from the UK. The average appeal time was 12 months in 2015. This staggering amount of people is of course in addition to illegal immigrants and EU citizens arriving in the UK to visit or to work. According to John Whittingdale MP, Secretary of State for Culture. Media and Sport, there is a massive discrepancy between the number of EU citizens registered for a National Insurance number and the figures given by the Office for National Statistics. Official figures suggest that 257,000 EU migrants came to the UK but, over the same period, 630,000 EU citizens registered for a National Insurance number.

Again, not wanting you to know the truth, the Prime Minister refused a request to release the figures, claiming that the difference is accounted for by short-term migrants.

It should be pointed out that all asylum-seekers are provided with free accommodation; whether in a house, apartment, guest house or hotel. They are not LEGALLY permitted to work. Instead they receive weekly vouchers (not cash) to enable them to purchase essential goods such as toiletries. In addition, if the applicant has children, they will be educated at a state school. The applicant and their family will receive free medical and dental care. There are additional benefits for dependent children. In its publications and advice as to how to seek asylum, the Government states that the application process normally takes six months. Should an application be rejected, there are, of course, grounds for appeal. Consideration will be given to whether the applicant would be persecuted or tortured should they be returned to their country of origin.

Government guidelines to those seeking asylum state that they must have proof of identification and proof of their country of origin. However, it appears, many asylum-seekers do not have any of these documents (some would have been deliberately destroyed) and do not speak English. They could, if they so wished, state that they came from a country where they would be persecuted if so returned. Should they do so this country would be unable to expel them.

During the entire period of the appeal process, the same benefits apply for the applicant and family ie free accommodation, healthcare etc. Again, these are figures that the Prime Minister does not want publicised and discussed by the country at large.

On Friday 4th March, 2016, Richard Harrington MP, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Home Office, admitted that thousands of illegal immigrants to this country could not be deported as “…they had no place to go.” By refusing to disclose their nationality, and often destroying passports and other identity papers, they exploit human rights laws that bar the expulsion of asylum-seekers of unknown origin. Mr Harrington stated, “Where would they be deported to, most of them?” He added, “This deportation sounds easy, it sounds a common- sense thing to do. But the truth is most of these illegal migrants have got no place to be deported to.”

If you think Mr Harrington’s statement beggar’s belief, this country’s border security system is also failing to check the passports of every person entering the UK against terrorist and criminal watch lists.

Each year approximately 118 million people travel to the UK. The Home Office’s border programme and its successor are supposed to check advanced passport data. However, IT failures have resulted in only 86% of the people entering being checked – leaving some 17 million unchecked. A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee also reveals that passport checks are not carried out on every one who arrives in the UK in private planes and boats landing at small airfields and small marinas. The new IT database system will not be in place until 2019 – eight years behind schedule, with another £275 million being spent on it, taking the total cost to £1.1 billion.

Again, most of the public will not be aware of this fiasco nor will they be aware, that since HM Revenue merged with Customs and Excise, now called HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the efficiency of both departments has declined rapidly. Many staff were made redundant. By 2008 there had been 12,500 job losses with 2,500 redeployed to ‘front-line duties.’ Between 2008 and 2011, 200 offices were closed and a further 12,500 jobs lost. In 2011, a survey of 11 government departments revealed that morale at HMRC was the lowest.

As highlighted above, ships entering ports and marinas in the UK are hardly ever subject to a full rummage search, which would previously have been conducted by the Customs Water Guard Division. Not only can shipping and smaller pleasure craft be utilised to smuggle people, it is most certainly the ideal avenue for the transport of illegal arms and ammunition.

I have personally had experience of being a crew member on a private large motor cruiser which made many trips to the coast of Northern France.

Ironically, on one occasion a French rummage crew conducted a search of the vessel in a French port . But on all of the occasions we returned to a marina on the south coast of the UK we were never checked. I am reliably informed that the Border Agency, as it is now called, simply do not have enough manpower to conduct such searches in ports.

Most pro-EU campaigners and left-wing MPs would have you believe that most of the immigrants entering this country are from war-torn states and are in legitimate need of sanctuary and accuse the Government of doing little to help. The Government has already pledged to take 20,000 Syrian Mr Richard Harrington MP refugees. Hugh numbers of so-called refugees are in fact economic migrants. A few examples are the claims by 65,935 Albanians and 66,885 Kosovars. Neither of these countries are at war, the applicants merely see a better economic situation in the UK than in their home countries.

Britain is a small island. We are already overcrowded. There are thousands of young British citizens unable to afford their first step on the housing ladder. Similarly there are those who have seen their savings eroded by low interest rates and higher energy costs. At the same time we must look on with disbelief at the true story of a Somali mother and her 5 children who are being housed in a property worth £1.3 million who has the audacity to complain that the kitchen needs refurbishing. Needless to say, she will be here forever as she only has to state that she would be persecuted if returned to Somalia. The Human Rights Act once again acting to prevent any expulsion.

Those who are campaigning for Britain to remain in the European Union – which includes the Prime Minister – warn of ‘biblical consequences’ and total economic collapse if the nation votes to leave the bloc.

Perhaps they ought to consider the socio-economic strain that mass immigration already places on our society. They should perhaps heed the words of David Davis MP, the former Shadow Home Secretary, who warned that there are millions of people, possibly up to 20 million, living on the African Continent who are also looking towards North Africa as a gateway to Europe. What would Europe do then?

As Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, stated recently, “Ask yourself this; with razor wire fences going up in mainland Europe due to the fears of unsustainable levels of migration, with the failing Euro creating economic misery for Europe’s poorest people, with high unemployment and economic stagnation, is this a set up you would wish to join?”

It has been alleged that Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, secretly presided over a conspiracy to change the face of this nation with a policy of mass immigration – some 2 million people in all. However, over the last 10 years more than 6 million people have entered the UK.

Will current policy-makers please explain to the British public how they are going to provide the extra hospital beds, school places etc. to deal with and cater for all the additional migrants who will enter this country should we remain in the EU?

Why should they who dutifully pay their taxes and National Insurance contributions have to endure long waiting times at hospitals, a shortage of affordable housing and overcrowded schools all so we can remain part of the EU?

Perhaps the IN side, commanding as they do the support of the Prime Minister and leading figures in big business, have become just a little bit too arrogant. It is thankful at least that some Cabinet ministers and other leading political figures have the courage to challenge this cosy complacency.

It is my sincere belief that the only solution to these problems are for the country to vote to LEAVE the EU and for it to repeal the Human Rights Act. No matter what concessions and/or reforms Brussels might offer, there is no other policy option available if this country really wants to properly control immigration.

 

The Conservative Monday Club, PO Box 7694, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, CM23 3XR