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There is a remarkable, nay a most singular fact about the Messages of the leaders of the two main parties issued in anticipation of 2008. How has each avoided mentioning the United Kingdom’s principal source of law and the Treaty which will complete the process of turning us into a mere Suzerainty of the EU?

We now receive 80% of our law from the hands of unelected and unaccountable officials in Brussels. This year Brown plans, without your say-so or mine, to hand over to those same unelected officials Britain’s power of veto in another huge tranche of nearly sixty areas of policy and law making. MPs and the public are becoming increasingly aware that when things go wrong, as for example with Brown’s aspirations to deport foreigners who have been convicted of crime, we are unable to remedy the problem ourselves because the law in question emanates from a Brussels’ Directive (does not that last word convey so much of the nature of the process?) which we are incapable of changing unilaterally.

Given those strictures, the remarkable fact is that neither Brown nor Cameron troubles themselves to mention the EU, Europe or the Treaty of Lisbon.

Cameron, at least, has made up for that somewhat, in that he has apparently spoken to The Telegraph on the thorny subject of the Treaty of Lisbon and his attitude to it should it come be ratified or come into force without the British people being allowed a chance to give or to withhold their whole-hearted consent to it:

David Cameron has given the strongest signal yet that the Conservatives would consider holding a post-ratification referendum on the controversial EU Reform Treaty.

The Conservative leader said that the treaty – which critics claim is a revamped version of the defunct EU Constitution – is “wrong” and that his party would “address the issue”.

Hmm. To describe the Treaty as ‘wrong’ and to say that the party would ‘address the issue’ rather belies the Telegraph headline:

David Cameron in strong signal on EU Treaty

Some might think that a genuinely ‘strong message’ would be along the lines of ‘this treaty is inimical to the interests of the UK and we will fight it either before or after ratification’.

Still, one is pleased to see that Cameron is being inched, snail-like, along the path to a position of consistency without which his policy can be neither honest nor coherent nor, most importantly, credible.

Cameron goes on:

“While this Treaty is still being debated and other countries are having referendums or whatever, it is still open for Britain to have a referendum.

“If we reach circumstances where the whole Treaty has been not only ratified but implemented, that is not a situation we would be content with. We wouldn’t let matters rest there.”

This seems to suggest that he thinks that a referendum is only possible pre-ratification. Nonetheless he seems to be promising that the Conservative Party will not simply roll over and die if they come to power faced with a Treaty that is in force. That is a very modest improvement but an improvement nonetheless. The problem is that he does not spell out precisely what his party’s attitude would be in such circumstances.

The position of the Treaty as it now stands seems to be that the Tories would offer us a referendum on it and campaign for a rejection of it.

If, however, he will not spell out what “that is not a situation we would be content with. We wouldn’t let matters rest there” actually means, it is impossible for us properly to evaluate what his policy is if he comes to power post-ratification.

On the face of it, once the Treaty is in force he has four options

  • To do nothing, which would be politically suicidal and is unthinkable;
  • To renegotiate the treaty;
  • To proclaim our derogation from some of its terms; or
  • To make a complete denunciation of the Treaty.

As to the last three, none, surely, would be possible to bring to fruition unless a referendum had been held on the result of negotiations with the EU.

Thus the only logical position is that, one way or another, a referendum must be promised as the result of his commitment that “We wouldn’t let matters rest there”. So why not spell it out? There would, at the very least be clarity and brownie points for a consistent and logical position being adopted early on and policy not therefore being seen to be the product of devious party political manoeuvring at the last minute.

Surely the issue is important enough to merit the former approach? This would also have the merit of placing the Tories on the high moral ground on the matter and helping to emphasise both the difficulties that Brown is creating for Britain by not having a referendum now and the latter’s clear abandonment of the high moral ground.

One grumble: why does the Telegraph see fit to spoil this piece with a regurgitation of the views of the maverick, has-been and isolated backbencher Kenneth Clarke whose opposition to the party’s policy on a referendum is well-known but surely insignificant? His is the view of a totally tiny minority in the party and hardly worth rehearsing, not least because it simply allows Labour and its propaganda arm, The BBC, to repeat it at every turn.

COMMENT THREAD

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It is now fashionable for the main party leaders to presage the New Year with an individual harbinger of their and the nation’s prospects for the coming twelve months, by way of a ‘New Year Message’. Quite why we need them is not clear: perusing the contents tells us little that we did not know.

Mr. Brown’s billet doux is nearly twice as long as that of Mr. Cameron and is surprisingly gloomy in tone. This may be because he is trying to be clever where the thing he fears most – the economy – is concerned. In sounding a warning note or two about the prospects for the world’s economy and the UK’s place in it, he is perhaps trying to have the best of both worlds.

If things go well for Britain, notwithstanding a global downturn, then he will, you may be sure, claim credit for it and that dead ringer for a badger caught in the headlights, public school-educated Alistair Darling, will be elbowed swiftly out of the limelight; if everything goes pear-shaped, said Badger will be marched smartly to the sound of the guns whilst Macavity opines that, of course, he warned us and Darling of the problems and it was up to the latter to sort it out. If anyone should so bold as to suggest that, given his ten years in the Treasury it is down to him, Macavity will mutter a quick ‘Not me, Guv!’ and with a swish of his tail will be gone.

The rest of the message is, well, turgid and about as exciting as a Soviet Trade Commissars disquisition on tractor production figures. The word global or globalisation appears seven times, the word ‘change’, fast becoming the Psittacine mantra of the Brown era, ten times. Worse, it reads like a speech and so has a rather odd oratorical air to it: worse still it sounds just like his 2007 conference speech which, most will recall, was something of a turkey.

As for Mr. Cameron, his is a much more slender thing, and rather better for that. More combative in tone, it is an indication that he has the stomach for a fight in 2008. Nor does it neglect to express, shortly, a reasonable distillation of Toryism:

My vision for Britain is clear: to give people more opportunity and power over their lives, to make families stronger and society more responsible, and to make Britain safer and greener.

And we will inaugurate a new era in government: government for the post-bureaucratic age, where we devolve power to people and communities because we understand that a government that tries to control everything ends up not being able to run anything.

Proof of the pudding will, as ever, be in the eating.

COMMENT THREAD

In principle I am wholly in favour of an Honours system. If properly used it provides an excellent way of marking out those who have performed above and beyond the call of duty at every level of our society. It is when it is used for purposes that are clearly at odds with the concept of meritocracy that I jib.

Take the Honours list just published. What, precisely, has Michael Parkinson done “above and beyond the call of duty”? What exactly is the nature of the ‘services to broadcasting’ he has performed? After all he is no Jeremy Isaacs or David Attenborough.From the sofa whereon I sit I confess to seeing no great merit in his being awarded a Knighthood. His principle claim to fame has been his long-running chat show which has subsisted for thirty-six years or so, but he was not the creator of the format which had long existed in the USA so he cannot be credited with any sort of innovation.

It is not as if he has been at the forefront of innovation, save for the ill-fated TV-am which turkeyed spectacularly. His show has for many years been a predictable procession of his drinking chums, especially when they had a book or a film to puff, or of ‘B’ and ‘C’ list celebrities (also with books or films to talk about). Most of his interviews lacked the sort of spontaneity he once had: he was forever looking down at his notes to see what the next question should be.

I watched a clip recently from the 1970s where he let the late Kenneth Williams loose with a couple of other guests and never said a word himself: now that was fascinating as Williams was allowed to reveal far more of himself than the more modern style of carefully staged interview would ever have done.

His other claim to fame was Desert Island Discs where he followed its creator, Roy Plomley. Again, he turkeyed and left after having turned an excellent format into the anodyne, with yet another heavy serving of his drinking chums.

Services to broadcasting? I think not.

Then there is someone like Tom Kelly, once Tony Blair’s spokesman and thus part of the culture which has done more to debauch trust in politics and politician than almost anything else in the last thirteen years. One notices that no basis is advanced for his elevation to be a Companion of the Bath: this is unsurprising. He, of course, was the individual who trashed the reputation of his namesake, the late Dr. David Kelly’s, the WMD expert who committed suicide, with the observation that he was a ‘Walter Mitty’ sort of character.

Or take Dr. Debbie Reynolds, lately Government Chief Vet: what has she done other than her job that has been a resounding success? The Jury is, surely, still out on her and DEFRA’s performance over the last six months, so how can this award be justified?

Anyone who uses the train system will look at the award of a Knighthood to Ian McAllister of Network Rail, for services to Transport with a jaundiced eye. Let us hope the train taking him to his investiture is delayed by the wront sort of leaves on the line.

There is still a feeling that gongs come up with the rations when it comes to the Civil Service and Diplomatic Service: William Jeffrey, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence is advanced from Commander to Knight Commander of the Bath at a time when the Ministry of Defence’s performance has been pretty woeful: our servicemen who lack proper accommodation for their families or who risk injury through the failure to provide adequate equipment in Afghanistan will look askance at such an award.

Much of this might not be a problem if there were a requirement to emulate awards for gallantry to the military which are always accompanied by a citation setting out the deed for which the medal is awarded or, in the case, for example, of the Distinguished Service Order, the nature of the services rendered that merit the award. Then we could all judge for ourselves whether there was a genuine basis for this or that award.

Meanwhile a small dreary coterie of women, led by someone called The Lord Speaker, has jumped on a little bandwagon to call for the abolition of the right of the wives of Peers and (presumably) Knights to adopt the style ‘Lady X’. This overthrowing of a tradition which goes back hundreds of years is predicated on the usual tedious arguments about equality:

Wives of life barons, who are known as peeresses, are automatically allowed to use the courtesy title of Lady before their surname under current rules. Husbands of baronesses have no courtesy title.

Husbands of dames also have no courtesy title, while the wife of a man appointed a knight may use “Lady” before her surname. There are no courtesy titles for the partner of a peer, knight or dame in a civil partnership.

It is those last two words which surely lie at the heart of this petty proposal to destroy something integral to our traditions. It would be difficult to think up a suitable moniker for the non-honoured partner in a homosexual civil partnership, so everyone else must therefore be deprived of the right as well. Only thus will the God of Complete Equality In Absolutely Everything be propitiated.

Someone of whom I have never heard, Baroness d’Souza, Convenor of the Crossbenches (Convenor? Who thought that title up, pray? The TUC?) said:

The titles mean nothing and cause a lot of resentment. Why not abandon them altogether?

I must confess to be wholly unaware of any ‘resentment’ which is caused by Lord X’s wife being allowed to call herself ‘Lady X’: who exactly is full of all this resentment? Perhaps someone might care to tell us.

At heart, of course, is yet another arrow to be delivered to the heart of the whole system of the Peerage which these wearisome people hate so. The aristocracy has an eccentric system of courtesy titles, not one of which does anyone any harm, yet these will be the next target of these modern Levellers. And then, of course, the Monarchy comes next.

No wonder this petty idea springs unwished for from the bowels of a newspaper owned by a foreigner who is known for his republican views, though as an American Citizen it is no business of his whether we are a monarchy or a republic.

Perhaps we should be looking afresh at the issue of owners of newspapers being allowed to own television channels at the same time and, indeed, whether it is or is not inimical to the British national interest for our newspapers and broadcasting outlets to be owned by Foreigners at all.

Oh, and Parkinson himself opined this morning:

I’m being given this award because I’m clearing off

It seems as if he is underwhelmed too by the award, in which case, why has he accepted?

COMMENT THREAD

Relatively speaking, the 2005 referenda ‘No’ votes of France and The Netherlands (founder members of Le Grand Projet, do not forget) on the EU Constitution have proved to be as mosquito bites to a dinosaur. As the Treaty of Lisbon, which legally replicates the Constitutional Treaty, is railroaded through, it is clear the insects have been swatted away.

Just as some of the Euro Nabobery is incautious when bruiting the greatness and cleverness of their achievement in reviving the corpse of the Constitution, so others amongst them from time to time reveal their utter terror of the people of Europe and the remote possibility that any one of the member nations of the EU might suddenly turn around and actually consult their voters about the Treaty.

Thus today, according to the Telegraph, Slovenia now takes up the direction of all Europe and, in the form of Janez Jansa, blurts out a set of truths which lay bare some of those terrors:

Mr Jansa said that after French and Dutch voters rejected the constitution in 2005, Europe’s elites were using the parliamentary route rather than risky popular votes to ratify the accord.

EU officials and national governments have drawn up documents “mapping” the political obstacles ahead, Mr Jansa revealed.

This confirms what many of us have suspected for so long. The process of bringing the EU Constitution, now in the form of the Treaty of Lisbon, into force, regardless of the wishes of the peoples of Europe, has been one which has entailed considerable but highly secret planning.

Mr. Jansa’s disclosure that EU Officials and National Governments have been plotting the way ahead will surprise nobody. It is a reasonable inference that the Europhiliac Foreign Office has lent its skills of deviousness and mendacity to this process and that our government has played a full part in the subversion of democracy that this process entails: an inference borne out indisputably by the lengths to which Gordon Brown has gone, even to the extent of damaging his own Government and the Labour Party, in order to play his part in getting the Constitution into force across the European Union.

That the process involves the FCO in dishonesty, deviousness and dishonour is emphatically encapsulated in the apparent scheme whereby Brussels will delay proposals to scrap Britain‘s annual £3 billion rebate.

This, it will be recalled, was the amount of money that Mr. Blair meekly yielded to the EU Bully Boys who demanded that changes be made to the sums which the UK recovers from its contributions, a rebate won against the fierce opposition of the EU in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher. When Barroso’s Boot Boys were let loose on Blair, he proved not even remotely the equal of Mrs. Thatcher but gave up our Taxpayer’s money without either a fight or receiving a brass farthing in return.

The plan, therefore, is to delay implementation of that craven surrender beyond the UK’s ratification process so that it can in no way be used to inflame opinion against the EU in general and the Treaty in particular. Thus the message is: Do not do it in the street lest you frighten the horses!

Mr. Jansa has his brief clearly marked:

We cannot exclude the possibility that something will go wrong.

Such as, for example, a democratic decision being taken which derails the whole process. Who can doubt but that any decision to vote against this Constitution will be met with the sternest resistance by the Euro Nabobery who, its is clear, have carefully planned the process so that the risk such a ‘possibility’ actually happening is minimised to almost nothing.

Does it not tell you all that you need to know about why we must throw off the shackles and thrall-rings of this monstrous Empire, that its political elite should actively and secretly conspire the one with another to prevent any of its citizens voicing an opinion contrary to its plans?

Apparently we are a ‘sensitive case’, unsurprising given the level of opposition to the conspiracy. As such, the conspiracy will have required the full participation of Brown, Milliband and the Quislings of the FCO to bring the British bacon home to Brussels where it will be deposited as Tribute to the new masters of our land.

That the Euro Nabobery is confident of the success of its plot is evidenced by the continuing implementation of a part of the Treaty for which there is, as yet, no lawful basis:

Slovenia is planning to create the basis for a diplomatic service to be run by the “foreign minister” as well as an office for the new President of Europe, raising fears that parts of the new treaty are already being implemented despite the fact it has not been ratified.

This, of course, is just one feature of the EU Constitution which many who oppose the EU and all its rotten works use as an example of how the EU will acquire all the characteristics of a Sovereign Independent State in its own right in 2009; this and the legal capacity of the EU Foreign Minister to sign Treaties on behalf of the EU as a legal entity.

No wonder, then, that there is sensitivity about plans which would seem to be a major case of putting the cart before the horse.

All will ask themselves: why and how do they feel such confidence? Might it be that the nature of their conspiracy against their own people, against democracy itself, is so well-planned and so deep-rooted in their hearts that they believe it to be all over bar the shouting?

Which, as always, brings us back to that old chestnut: why, if the European Union Constitution is such a bright shining thing, a construct which will bring palpable and obvious benefits to all its citizens, is the political elite so afraid of asking our opinion on the matter?

Or is it that they have excised utterly the words ‘NO’ and ‘democracy’ from the EU dictionary?

Finally, I leave you with these little gems from one of the earliest of the Euro Nabobery, Charles de Gaulle, who knew a thing or two about when and when not to ask the people for their views, though with his last referendum, a footling thing too, he came a cropper:

Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, it is Europe, the whole of Europe which will decide the fate of the world

23rd. November 1959 at Strasbourg

When I want to know what France thinks, I just ask myself.

That just about says it all, does it not?

COMMENT THREAD

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has been marked by the political blogosphere as the topic of choice for this morning, which reflects the obvious importance this event has for the world. Not wishing to add greatly to the amount of such comment, I confine myself to three thoughts on the matter, one topical and two more tangential.

Firstly I am reminded of an American commentator on BBC Radio sometime in the early autumn who caught my attention. Sadly I cannot recall his name but he was a senior ex-military or ex-intelligence type who spoke with authority and sound common sense and dealt in an exemplary fashion with the hostile BBC interviewer who was more bent on getting his own partial views of the US on the record than listening to the answers to his sallies.

The US commentator was, to the evident fury of the interviewer, being bullishly optimistic and sanguine as to the prospects in Iraq which elicited what he thought would be the killer question, to wit: “Well, is there anything in that part of the world which troubles you at all?’:

There is one thing which really frightens me and that is Pakistan. Thinking about it keeps me awake at night.

I made a mental note at the time of the tone of his reply which was both genuine and quietly alarming, for it was plain from his answer that the prospects for Pakistan were a matter for really serious and realistic fears on his part. His point was twofold: that The West had to play above its normal game in order to help bring about a situation with which we could live in Pakistan and that a failure to do so was potentially as bad a state of affairs as could be imagined. Events have proved him thus far absolutely right.

Secondly, one notes that Musharraf and the military insist that security arrangements for their nuclear weapons are considerable and effective. One hopes that that is so, but all will remember the break up of the Soviet Union and the grave risk to the integrity of its nuclear weapons security posed by its rapid demise. Given fears that Islamo-Fascist fundamentalists may at some stage have had sympathizers within the weapons programme and have considerable operational freedom within Pakistan, one hopes that the USA has a ‘worst case scenario’ plan designed to provide support to the Pakistan military in the event of a serious problem.

Finally an historically tangential thought: can we now say that Mountbatten’s yielding to the desire of Muslims in India to have a separate state was premature? Would it not have been better to take a more robust line with Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League in keeping India intact whilst allowing a high degree of autonomy to the areas of India which had significant Muslim majorities. Ghandi and Nehru led a largely secular India to independence and, though there have been blips along the way, India has a record of largely stable, secular democracy (with three short periods of coalition government in which the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP was dominant partner) which has in turn brought strong economic growth, turning India into a potential major power of the mid to late 21st. century.

Pakistan on the other hand has had a solid diet of wars with India, civil war, military rule and unstable democratic governments that have often foundered on the rocks of corruption and incompetence. Today it is at risk of serious civil and religious strife which may have profound implications for the whole world. This hardly betokens Pakistan as having been a success as an independent nation.

Against that India’s history may have been very different with a large Muslim majority in its midst, so its success may have eluded it in the face of other problems posed by that significant minority.

Sadly the ‘What if?’ school of history tends to fruitlessness for we know that events turned out otherwise and we can never know if our proposed alternative would have been better or worse and we are left with frustrating speculation. That is certainly so here.

COMMENT THREAD

Former Tory Chief Whip David Maclean, who earned the wrath of this blog earlier in the year by trying to conceal from the Taxpayer’s gaze details of MP’s expenses with his Orwellian Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2007, which did so much harm to him and to the reputation of MPs, now looks to redeem himself somewhat in Freedom’s cause.

According to the Telegraph he is co-ordinating efforts to get some 30,000 young activists into some 108 marginal seats where there is a Labour or Liberal member opposed to Hunting. These supporters of an organisation which rejoices (or perhaps not) in the name Vote-OK, a subset of the Countryside Alliance, are providing many hours of their time to knock on doors, deliver leaflets, and address envelopes.

This is direct democracy in action, the sort of thing which has made the Liberal ‘Democrats’ so leech-like in some places.

Briefly The Huntsman resided in a Leicestershire constituency in the run-up to the 2005 election. At least once a week, sometimes twice, the Lib ‘Dems’ would shove a leaflet through the door without fail. It was most noticeable that the sitting Tory MP’s majority in a seat which ought to be a place for weighing rather than counting the Conservative votes had been cut from over 13,000 in 1992, 6,524 in 1997,5252 in 2001 down to a worrying 3,892 over the Lib ‘Dems’ in 2005.

So this sort of activism can work wonders. It is nice now to see Lib ‘Dem’ tactics being used against them and Labour MPs in marginal seats. In 2005 the campaign claimed to have help remove the scalps of nearly thirty MPs. Twenty-one anti-hunting MPs are within range of a modest 3% swing next time around.

Vote OK’s campaign is said to be more sophisticated and better-organised this time and, with the chances of a much more significant swing to the Tories next time around, their contribution may well be invaluable in removing a similar number and more of the Tories’ opponents in 2009 or 2010.

Many of these activists are said to be in their twenties and it is to be hoped that many will now have had their enthusiasm for political activism fired and many may then find their way into the ranks of the Tory party which desperately need an injection of youth into the ranks of its activists. We must all extend our thanks to these young folk for helping to deliver a smart smack on the snout of Townie Tyranny.

Meanwhile hunting itself goes from strength to strength. No less than 314 hunts held meets on Boxing Day which must have spread the hunt saboteur jam rather thin, itself a demoralising thing. The League Against Cruel Sports(LACS) has its annual whine about getting people to drag hunt if they want to ‘enjoy themselves’ reminding all and sundry that it is really the enjoyment of hunting which so offends these humourless and killjoy Puritans and not the killing of foxes.



In a move which will give further support to the notion that the Police act on politically correct imperatives rather than go out and chase real criminals such as burglars, bag-snatchers, rapists and the like, David Collins, Assistant Chief Constable for North Yorkshire, rural affairs spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers is reviewing how the Hunting Act is working and its impact on police forces and is said to be ‘drafting instructions’ to officers on how best to enforce the legislation. The Huntsman thinks that such ‘instructions’ can be quite short: “Don’t waste your valuable time on this rubbish.”

The people of North Yorkshire may well be inclined to question why this Officer (whose academic predilections are ‘Organisational Management’, ‘Applied Criminology and Police Studies’ and ‘Coaching & Mentoring’: whatever happened to good old-fashioned ‘thief-taking’?) is spending his time in this exercise instead of attending to the real needs of the people whom he is supposed to serve. His Chief Constable should be brought to account for this and render an explanation of how much of his subordinate’s time is being wasted in this way when he could be helping to improve, for example, detection rates or eliminating unnecessary paperwork.

In the meantime the Self-Appointed Vigilantes of the LACS puff up their chests and threaten yet more prosecutions. In between sniggering and laughing derisively, most of us will find it hard to wait with bated breath for such an eventuality as we contemplate the massive number of Prosecutions so far under the Act (twenty-odd, which is great achievement in the face of the thousands of people hunting, is it not?), almost all of which have involved footling offences that might just as well have been prosecuted under anti-Poaching legislation which has been around for the best part of a hundred and eighty years, is tried, tested and certain.

Thus, in time, we may see a perfect demonstration of the law of unintended consequences. By prodding a sleeping dog into activity, some MPs may have provoked the angry bite of rural resistance that removes their chance to vote on this and any other legislation for ever and a day and creates a new and youthful cadre of Tory-inclined voters just at the moment when Labour and the Liberal ‘Democrats’ are in electoral decline.

David Maclean still has a long way to go to atone for his rotten little bill but his support for Vote OK is a step in the right direction towards a niche in The Huntsman’s Pantheon. Whilst that is awaited, enjoy the discomfiture of the LACS and its bigoted parliamentary class-warrior lickspittles who spent 700 hours of Parliamentary time getting this Act on the statute book and cannot get it to work.

Finally the Labour Party should take note of one thing: country folk have learnt how to resist the oppression of the elective dictatorship and are fast developing a taste for it. It is a taste that, once acquired, is unlikely to go away. Be warned.

The Countryside Alliance is here and Vote OK here.

COMMENT THREAD

One major difference between the Labour Party and the Tories is their respective attitudes to the family as a building block of a stable society. The former has done all it can to debauch it, whether deliberately or by negligence, whilst the latter firmly espouses it as something to be supported, directly and indirectly, by state policy.

With that in mind those of you out there who had just had a good lunch yesterday may not have appreciated what may just have been an unusual public criticism of her Prime Minister and his policies by Her Majesty The Queen in her Christmas Message:

In my experience, the positive value of a happy family is one of the factors of human existence that has not changed.

The immediate family of grandparents, parents and children, together with their extended family, is still the core of a thriving community.

When Prince Philip and I celebrated our diamond wedding last month, we were much aware of the affection and support of our own family as they gathered round us for the occasion.

Now Her Majesty went on to develop her argument to lead her to a paean of praise for those in our society who volunteer to help the disadvantaged and vulnerable but I was most struck by the short section I have quoted.

Her Majesty is, one may agree, someone with a careful nose for what the limits of her freedom of expression are and it may be dangerous to read too much into something which she says. But, given the considerable actual differences between the parties on the issue of the importance of the family, her assertions of its value and place in society may be seen as something of a subtle rebuke to Brown.

Labour would, of course, argue that it does indeed support the family and, indeed, its Ministers are always careful to pay lip service to it. Yet its actions and policies are all too frequently subversive of the family both in the general and in the particular. Thus the Queen’s description of the family which one might call an entirely traditional one as ‘the core of a thriving community’ strongly suggests that Her Majesty does not care much for Labour’s rather different approach to the family.

Whether the destruction of such a traditional family is a genie which successive governments have allowed to get out of the bottle and cannot now be put back in is something which can only be shown after a considerable effluxion of time. But that should not prevent us from trying if, as I believe, the traditional family and its restoration to a place of primacy in society is one of the fundamental keys to solving some of the problems that beset us.

One hopes Gordon Brown was not so hard at work at micro-managing every aspect of the nation over a couple of mince pies that he missed this nuanced dig.

COMMENT THREAD

Smuggo has landed, as he always does, a cushy billet in the Catholic Church. The crooked little shyster did not seem even to own, let alone look at, a moral compass of the sort to which Gordon Brown pretends (though the latter has lately broken his), yet he has been welcomed into the Catholic Church with open arms.

Therein lies one of the fundamental objections some have to the Catholic Church’s rather lax view of sin. For all his past egregious behaviour is simply wiped from the slate:

In Britain’s increasingly secular society, there is widespread misunderstanding about the doctrine of Christian reconciliation, or repentance, confession and forgiveness. “What Tony Blair did any time before he became a Catholic, is basically not relevant,” one insider said. “The whole point about the profession of faith is that he is professing to believe it from now.”

Ruth Gledhill, The Times, 24 December 20

No matter, then, what evil he has done, all he has to do is sign up along the dotted line and his support for abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, the assault on the family and marriage, the attack on the position of Church adoption agencies that did not wish to allow homosexual couples to adopt, all is forgotten in a trice.

How nice, how convenient for all the parties concerned! The Church gets a high profile convertee, indeed none higher than perhaps The Sovereign herself, and Smuggo emerges from his personal moral cess pit with a brand new Teflon Coating and a passport to paradise.

If only it were so easy for those grievously touched by his policies, the thousands of people killed in Iraq because he was so incompetent that he could not properly organize the peace there after his war, the people whose old age he and Gordon Brown have destroyed because of his dire pensions policies, to name but a few.

In its defence, one Canon Russ said:

Quite a lot of people will be quite anti-Tony Blair at first. They will be unhappy that he has become a Catholic so easily. But they have to realise that St Paul had been a frightful anti-Christian before he became a convert and did great things for the Church. I would advise people who are critical to wait and see what sort of man this will be, and how he might help our cause.

Well, we already know only too well what sort of man he is and if the Catholic Church really wants this man to help their cause, then does that not tell you much of the moral compass of that Church?

Or as the Bible would have it:

Beware of false prophets, which came to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.

Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits shall ye know them.

Matthew 7:15-20

The rest of us have to live with the fruits of his works and will be largely disinclined to be quite so accommodating and indulgent towards him as the Catholic Church apparently is in letting him off scot free.

COMMENT THREAD

Ninety-three years ago today the innate humanity of warriors engaged in the titanic struggles of the Great War for a while rose above the elemental and atavistic desire to kill their fellow men. For a brief moment those engaged in the business of war stopped what they were doing and remembered that before all things they were decent human beings.

The seeds for what has become known as the ‘Christmas Truce’ of 1914 were sown when a local truce was organized on the morning of 20th. December in the sector of the line held by the British Expeditionary Force’s 22nd. Brigade (2 Queen’s Regt. & 1/8 Royal Scots) between Neuve Chapelle and Armentières, just west of Lille (Rijsel). German troops took in British wounded from in front of their lines and some contacts took place between opposing units.

Three days later some German units began to decorate the trenches with small trees and another local truce took place in 23rd. Brigade’s sector (2 Devons & 2 Cameronians) also near Neuve Chapelle.

On the 24th. December there was a hard frost which made trench conditions more bearable. In the late afternoon and early evening, British troops were astonished by the appearance of Christmas trees with candles and paper lanterns, on enemy parapets. Much singing of carols, hymns and popular songs began which was followed by a gradual exchange of communication and even meetings in some sectors. Many of these meetings started with negotiations to permit collection of bodies. In other places, however, hostilities continued. At Battalion HQ level officers were uncertain how to react; in general they maintained precautions. The night brought a clear, still air with a sharp frost.

On Christmas Day units in reserve held church parades and set about the Christmas dinners they have arranged. In the front lines, fraternisation continued all day; though it is by no means universal as many units were unaware of what is going on. It is believed that the truce spread over at least half of the British front.

Such meetings encompassed exchanges of food, alcohol and tobacco, gifts of regimental insignia and the like as well as the less cheery business of recovering the dead for proper burial, some in joint burials. In some places impromptu entertainment included, it is said, at least one juggler as well as the more typical groups of singers. And the tale of a football match which the Germans won 3-2 always surfaces, though it seems always to have been played by the neighbouring unit to the raconteur’s


There were British casualties, even in areas where truces were organized.

In other areas, there was considerable activity: 2 Grenadier Guards suffered losses in a day of heavy fighting. As night fell, many areas again fell silent as men retired to their trenches to take whatever Christmas meal that had been provided for them.

By Boxing Day some news of these unprecedented events had seeped back to BEF HQ and orders were given to stop any fraternization and for disciplinary measures to be taken, though some more pragmatic commanders opted to do little about these events: after all they had given troops a chance to reorganize their trenches and spy out the land a little.

In the event, though a lull in fighting continued for a few days more in some places, hostilities soon returned to their normal intensity.

There is no doubt that the higher ups though of what had taken place as a dangerous thing to have happened and the following year and thereafter strenuous efforts were made to prevent it happening again. The real fear was that, as was to happen on the Russian Front in 1917, some unit or another, on one side or another, would refuse to resume the fight and this bacillus would spread like the plague. After all such fraternization might undermine the will to fight an enemy whom propaganda was trying to demonise in order to keep up the flow of recruits and to maintain support for the war. Such events might have led, they feared, to a collapse of order and discipline of which the enemy might then take advantage.

Perhaps they were right, perhaps not.

In the Second World War events of similar fraternization took place in North Africa between British and German units. That never prevented battle being resumed in earnest thereafter. The late Hans von Luck records in his memoirs ‘Panzer Commander’ several instances of contact of a friendly nature between British and Afrika Korps units: On one occasion von Luck, facing the 1st. The Royal Dragoons, received a radio transmission from the British asking about the well being of a British patrol that had gone missing. Von Luck confirmed that the men had been captured, and were in fine form. After this a regular 5 pm cease fire was established, and the two sides swapped information about men captured and their conditions. Yet the war was then resumed as before.

The British Soldier is notable for his humanity. One’s instinctive feeling is that allowing him for a moment to express that humanity in 1914 or on subsequent Christmases would not have led to a collapse in his will to fight but would rather have bolstered his morale: after all, to suppress such feelings would be to deny one of the qualities which makes him such a good all round soldier and a fine fighting representative of our nation. And to remove from him a moment of humanity would be to reduce him to a state of being a mere automaton primed to kill. Most of us would wish him to retain his humanity.

As the sons and daughters of our nation fight in Afghanistan and Iraq it is pertinent and timely to recall these events. From them we can remind ourselves of and take comfort in the fact that the British Soldier of 2007 is, for all the differences in equipment, uniform and training, still the same, decent down-to-earth soul that he (and now she) has always been and that we may, whatever differences we may have about the wars in which we are engaged, take immense pride in their professionalism, courage, bearing and fighting spirit as well as their humanity.

During this day of festivity in our warm and comfortable homes, let us spend a moment thinking of these young people, far from hearth and home and the bosom of their families who serve us as their forefathers did and send to them the message that we are proud of them and that they are in our hearts as they are in the hearts of their families and loved ones.

Some web sites where more information might be found are 
Operation Plum Puddings,
firstworldwar.com,
Hellfire Corner,
kinnethmont.co.uk,
The Christmas Truce by Henry Williamson ( a veteran),
Sgt Bernard Joseph Brookes (another veteran’s account),
greatwar.nl.
COMMENT THREAD
As some domestic duties such as stuffing the turkey beckon, today will be a lightish day for this blog. I do not suppose many will be passing by in any event, so I simply thank all who have taken the trouble to visit my blog since it started in May a very good Xmas. I shall have a topical post tomorrow morning.

I look forward greatly to your company once again later this week.

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