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Ever heard of JS Mill, Prime Minister? 29 January 2007

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory..., Quotes of the day/week/month.
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How English . . . and how un-Blairite:

If all mankind, minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

John Stuart Mill, ‘On Liberty


Some things never change…. 8 January 2007

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory..., Quotes of the day/week/month.

Aah… England.

And a double aah…Orwell.

So we get Orwell on England….

England Your England:

“When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin-tables in the Soho pubs, the old maids hiking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning – all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?”

The Road to Wigan Pier:

“There is no doubt about the Englishman’s inbred conviction that those who live to the south of him are his inferiors; even our foreign policy is governed by it to some extent. . . “

And for extra credit, here’s something about a place that really has not changed. London in the words of a newly arrived immigrant from Eastern Europe:

On binge-drinking:

“On Saturday nights, a half-million workers, male and female, together with their children, flood the city like a sea, flocking especially in certain sections and celebrate the Sabbath all night until five in the morning … They stuff themselves and drink like animals … They all race against time to drink themselves insensate. The wives do not lag behind their husbands but get drunk with them; the children run and crawl among them…”

On London’s cosmopolitan nature:

“You look at these hundreds of thousands, these millions of people humbly streaming here from all over the face of the earth…It is like a biblical picture, something out of Babylon, a prophecy from the Apocalypse coming to pass before your eyes.”

On religion and veiled women:

“One night, in the crowd of lost women and profligates, I was stopped by a woman making her way hurriedly through the crowd. She was dressed all in black, and her hat hid her face almost completely.”

The woman pressed a piece of paper into his hand which said, in French, “I am the resurrection and the life“.

“I learned later that it was Catholic propaganda, as usual poking its nose everywhere … There is an abundance of these propagandists, men and women. It is subtle, calculating propaganda.”

But no, the above was not written last week by a Polish plumber or a Bulgarian engineer or even a Latvian nurse. It was written by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky in 1862, almost 150 years ago.

Plus ça change

The goths are coming… time to hide! 12 June 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory....

I am flabbergasted after reading this in The Sunday Times (that's "The Times of London" for all you yankees):

ONE of Britain’s most senior military strategists has warned that western civilisation faces a threat on a par with the barbarian invasions that destroyed the Roman empire.


In an apocalyptic vision of security dangers, Rear Admiral Chris Parry said future migrations would be comparable to the Goths and Vandals while north African "barbary" pirates could be attacking yachts and beaches in the Mediterranean within 10 years.

Europe, including Britain, could be undermined by large immigrant groups with little allegiance to their host countries — a "reverse colonisation" as Parry described it. These groups would stay connected to their homelands by the internet and cheap flights. The idea of assimilation was becoming redundant, he said.

The warnings by Parry of what could threaten Britain over the next 30 years were delivered to senior officers and industry experts at a conference last week. Parry, head of the development, concepts and doctrine centre at the Ministry of Defence, is charged with identifying the greatest challenges that will frame national security policy in the future.

What do they smoke these days at the MoD? And whatever it is, it seems the PNAC-wallahs should order some. Yes, the Western "civilisation" (or whatever passes for civilisation up there) faces extinction, eventually (who/what doesn't?) but I wouldn't count our ebony-skinned barbarian chickens just as yet, for two good reasons; (a) they are not hatched yet, and (b) D'oh – bird flu, silly!

Anyway, its always nice to see some good old-fashioned alarmist nonsense from a Murdoch rag – kinda reassuring in a way, the third constant to add to death and taxes.

Some more Barking 4 June 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory....
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My prolonged exile from blogosphere during mid-May meant that I was not able to contribute to the comments left by Yusuf and Orchid on the BNP Election victory post – probably a bit late to develop meaningful discussion, but I will give it a try! Yusuf had said:

Last time I was in Barking there were (at least) two mosques very near Barking town centre, which points to a substantial Asian community, similar to that of nearby Ilford. Which suggests that the BNP vote may not have come from Barking at all – more likely anywhere the “white trash” you referred to live. Bear in mind also the hostility is less towards Asians (despite the gang’s use of anti-Muslim rhetoric up north) as to so-calledABCs (Albanians, Bosnians and Kosovans).

There is a substantial Asian community in Ilford, as you say, and at least one of the two Barking mosques caters mainly for that community. This is one of the larger mosques east of Whitechapel, if not the largest, and though it may be titled "Barking mosque", the congregation is predominantly from South Ilford; mainly Pakistani Muslims from the long streets leading off Ilford Lane. Also, most other Ilford mosques (and there are quite a few) are not Pakistani-led, and not Barelwi; this one is both, and thus a magnet for non-Gujrati and Barelwi-inclined Muslims in the whole area. Hence, I am not sure if the existence of these mosques implies that Barking has a large Muslim community; it is certainly verymulti-racial, but a lot of the ethnic minorities seem to be more recent arrivals and not the South Asian Muslims who make the bulk of Ilford's non-White community. It is these recent arrivals (Somalians, Kosovars, Albanians, et al ) who face the opprobrium of even other ethnic minorities, as you point out – surely the Pakistanis / Indians etc should know better!

I do agree though that the BNP vote in this Council came from the Dagenham areas in all probability; there are substantial parts of the Borough where hardly a single non-White face would be seen. Even in relatively up-market Upney etc, the population seems to be fairly homogeneous ethnically (based on my search for a house in these areas a few years ago – anecdotal evidence, and very unscientific, but does not seem too unreasonable).

Same old Tories? No, probably worse this time… 30 May 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory....

A couple of articles in recent British news publications point out something that should be obvious, yet is ignored by many Muslims (and non-Muslims) in their frenetic Labour-hating and Blair-bating: the Tories, especially the current lot (but equally those before) would be far worse, both in their anti-Muslim and anti-Islam rhetoric, and also in waging war on Muslims lands. And as the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems to their friends) have about as much chance of forming a government as the Monster Raving Loony Party, Labour remains the best hope for British Muslims; least worst of a bad lot.

A few days ago, Yusuf Smith wrote at length on the 'new Tories' and their pitiful efforts at wooing British Muslim voters; Yusuf referred to Boris Johnson, the staunchly anti-Islamic journalist, and I agree – Boris may look (and act) like a cuddly teddy bear who cannot string together a coherent thought, but he is easily one of the most astute politicians in Britain today; he will undoubtedly go far, and its a shame that he will carry his anti-Islamic baggage with him.

However, Boris Johnson is by no means the only anti-Islam member of flaky Dave Cameron's shadow cabinet; in fact, the crème de la crème of the British neo-cons (Hague, Fox, Osborne and Gove) are also the people running Cameron's Tory party. This was the point made, in some detail, by Matthew Parris in The Times for the past two Saturdays (here and here). He points out that many of the key Tories, including Cameron himself, are more 'gung-ho' and pro-war than even Tony Blair, and certainly more so than the previous Tory shadow cabinets.

Its not as if we have not been warned by Cameron of his thought-process; in what Parris calls a "hog-whimperingly neoconservative speech about jihadism", made at the Foreign Policy Centre in London nine months ago, Cameron compared Islam to the Nazi threat in the 1930s:  

“The parallels with the rise of Nazi-ism go further . . . If only, some argue, we withdrew from Iraq, or Israel made massive concessions, then we would assuage jihadist anger. That argument . . . is as limited as the belief in the Thirties that, by allowing Germany to remilitarise the Rhineland or take over the Sudetenland, we would satisfy Nazi ambitions.

 . . . We’re all in this together . . . standing with those brave democrats in Iraq who are trying to rebuild their nation . . . Should representative government . . . take root in Iraq, [jihadists] will not only have been defeated in one key battle, they will also find that an alternative path has been established in the Middle East which gives its people the hope, prosperity and freedom they deserve.”

And where Cameron has led, the others have followed, only some of the others are more avowedly Atlanticist than flaky Dave himself. Wee George Osborne, the baby-faced Shadow Chanceller and by many accounts the second most-influential person in the Conservative party, wrote in the Spectator during 2004, arguing that:

"England is going back to sleep. And little wonder when we’re told every day by sages in our national media that the War on Terror is misconceived, that the terrorist threat is exaggerated, that what we’ve done in the last three years has only made matters worse, and that the Iraq war was a ghastly mistake that is best forgotten . . . There are few voices to be heard putting the other view: that the terrorists pose a fundamental threat to our way of life, that fight them we must, that Iraq was part of that fight and that we are winning.”

In a profile of William Hague for The Spectator, Fraser Nelson makes the same point about the Shadow Foreign Secretary (the issue has been archived so is available to subscribers only; Google has an old cached copy here, at least for the time being):

Hague is a hawk. Unlike Michael Howard, he says that he would still have voted for the Iraq war, knowing what he knows now. ‘Can we say it was wrong to remove Saddam Hussein? No, I don’t think we can.’ And he has no emollient words for Iran. ‘I disagreed with Jack Straw saying that military action in Iran was “inconceivable”,’ he says. ‘I’m not advocating it, but he was going too far and unnecessarily weakening our position.’ 

All in all, a Tory revival doesn't bode too well – in the words of Parris:

. . . we could be just a few years from a Cabinet in which the Prime Minister [Cameron], the Foreign and Defence Secretaries [Hague and Fox] and the Chancellor of the Exchequer [Osborne], are to the right of Margaret Thatcher in their view of Britain’s place in the world.

Worse than Thatcher? She who ardently supported Apartheid South Africa and branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist (and still does, for all we know)? The Thatcher who supported and sympathised with the murderous Pinochet regime, and seemed to act as if 'vague ideals' such as justice, fairness and human rights were an irrelevance?

Surely British Muslims should be mobilising to ensure that Cameron's Tories do not win – at a local level, tactical voting should be encouraged, in which anti-war or pro-justice and pro-Palestine candidates are supported, but this support should only be when the candidate has a realistic chance of winning or defeating the pro-war or Zionist incumbent. Whether its Cheadle or Bethnal Green & Bow, a concerted and nationwide Muslim effort to defeat Labour or vote for Galloway/Lib Dems can have some entirely unintended consequences for the Muslims… not unlike CAIR or other US Muslim organisations who actively campaigned for Bush, believing Gore to be pro-Israel! A vote for Bush in 2000 put the neo-cons in power across the pond; a vote against Labour in 2009 would ensure that history repeats itself in the UK too.

Despite his messianic zeal when it comes to waging war, Blair still seems unsure of his true moorings; hence he has not even bothered to collect the Congressional gold medal, which may be seen as a snub by those on Capitol Hill who awarded it. Cameron, on the other hand, knows exactly what he believes as far as foreign policy is concerned and has no shame in nailing his neo-con colours to the mast. However, not many Muslims seem to realise this, except perhaps Osama Saeed who blogged about this in December 2005 (link). I do not think Muslims should return to being passive Labour supporters; the community has matured through that phase; however, we should be aware that in 2009, Labour will not be led by Blair, and it would not be helpful to our interests to replace Labour with a neo-con administration, just when such wackiness is going out of fashion in DC!

BNP gains in North-East London… or ‘Barking goes barking’ 5 May 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of Hope and Glory....

The UK had its local elections yesterday, and the early results that have come in so far indicate that Labour has taken a hammering in London and the South-East (I am often told there is a whole country to the north of this region, but somehow, I don't believe it – people living north of Watford? Surely you jest!). The BBC, the Torygraph and even the Guardian websites are leading with tales of huge Labour losses, and the 24 hour news channels have a similar take on this. However I don't see any of that as remarkable in the least – and as often, it takes Tim Hames of The Times to cut through the fog of obfuscation and offer some sensible analysis; he concludes thus:

…the trends that seemed to materialise in a complex series of ballots yesterday were not new nor do they herald a new political era.

Yes, Labour got thrashed in these elections, but that is primarily in London, where the last local (ie Borough) elections were in 2002 – that was when the Tories' fortunes had reached a nadir, and they had the brilliant generalship of IDS to contend with. In many other parts of the country, especially the Northern cities, Labour fared slightly worse today than it in 2004, and Cameron needs to do much better there if he wants to end up in #10 by 2009.

The main story for Muslims of course is the rise of the far-right; I wouldn't want to do a Margaret Hodge and give these attention-craving Neanderthals any more limelight (limelight? on my blog, with my 2.5 readers? I must be having a laugh!). The facts are these: the BNP are expected to have doubled their number of councillors once all the results are in. However, as they started off with around 20 councillors in the whole country (out of ..say..22,000!), this is not as strong a result as it may seem. More concerning is their remarkable showing in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham – an area of East and North-East London I am reasonably familiar with (in that I would drive very quickly through it on the A13 towards the City/Docklands – so quickly in fact, that I was once awarded three points on my driving licence for my troubles).

I don't profess any local insight – yes I did live for many years in the neighbouring Borough of Redbridge, but I always thought of Barking as a bit of a dump and Dagenham – well that's where the white trash lives darling – but these results do not surprise me. I am sure the real reasons for BNP's success are to do with various complex sociological and economic factors; yes, the number of non-White faces would have made a difference, but the bigger issue would be "poverty" (ie relative poverty*), as evidenced by the gradual scaling-down of operations and the closures at Ford's Dagenham operations.

So, Barking becomes the first council in the country where BNP is the second largest party – 13 seats, more than the Tories, the Lib Dems and other also-rans. Are there really that many fascists in Barking? I doubt it – though Dagenham is probably a different story altogether. In council estates across the country, there are countless 'white trash' neighbourhoods where a life on benefits and disability allowances represents the sum-total of anyone's ambition – its human nature to be lazy and blame one's own pathetic lives on others who are weaker and even lower down the food chain, ie the immigrants, the refugees, et al.

The bigger issue, which I will address another day, is the welfare culture of many modern-day Western societies – that culture of dependency and hopelessness is behind most of the problems around the inner cities of these countries; it is not poverty per se, or at least not poverty as we third-worlders define it; rather its a poverty of ambition, a poverty of imagination, which takes root when the All-Powerful and Paternalistic State performs every function for you, from cradle to grave.

So while the rest of the country has been indulging in a BNP-focused media frenzy these past few weeks, there have been a few of us who have refused to be drawn in – among them David Aaronovitch, whose comments in a column two weeks ago seem remarkably prescient for someone who can be somewhat obtuse at times:

I spent Sunday evening looking at the stats for Barking and Dagenham. It is less deprived than my own borough, Camden. It experiences less crime. Its housing stock is no worse. But its educational attainment is lower, its VAT registrations (a sign of small business activity) are much lower and its teen pregnancy rate is much, much higher.

If you had Barking on the couch, you’d make sure that you listened to it and took its complaints seriously; people go bonkers if they feel that no one cares. But you’d also tell it the truth, which is that there is no protection from change itself — no stopping the world, unless you are prepared to pay the heavy price of getting off.

Rachel Sylvester in the Torygraph made similar points, on the same day as Aaronovitch:

The truth is that support for the BNP is not really a protest vote against a racially mixed society: it is a cry of rage about the quality of life in some of the poorest areas in the country. There is not much cheerleading for the far Right in the streets of Chelsea. The BNP is exploiting a growing sense of frustration with genuine problems: the lack of affordable housing, the increase in low-level crime, the failure of inner-city schools, the loss of a sense of identity among white working-class men following the collapse of traditional industries. These failures are not really anything to do with race – although, of course, the more people come to live in an area, the more stretched local resources will be – but the BNP has diverted a general sense of grievance into a specific feeling of unfairness based on a perception that there is "us and them". It is true, for example, that asylum seekers in a way "jump the queue" for council houses because they are destitute when they arrive in an area, whereas those on a waiting list for a bigger home are not. The solution is not to try to recreate a homogeneous white population but to find more affordable housing, and speed up the way in which homes are allocated to local people. The Government, and the Opposition parties, should not try to ramp up the rhetoric on race, they need to deal with the often appalling way in which too many people have to live their lives.

So there we are – the abiding message of the day being something like "Don't panic"!

* relative poverty because there is very little 'absolute poverty' in the UK, despite what the likes of Polly Toynbee may say.