Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005

Thursday, November 24, 2005

While people lie in hospital, we pay lawyers for what?

A week since my last post for which I apologise but my father has been in hospital quite seriously ill since before then and that has taken up much of my time. My thoughts on our Dear Leader's PFI fetish and the statist focus of the NHS will follow soon, but in the meantime why on earth are we not allowed to hear about Bush's plan to bomb al-Jazeera? Surely it can't be to ensure ongoing operational integrity....!?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hacked off by the haka

I share the (British) blogosphere's irritation with the haka. Whilst I can see the amusing side of responding with the morris dance, I am ashamed to say I had to laugh at this.

Vote Blair

So the police isn't becoming more politicised according to the Labour Party, despite them being pestered to take on a public role in the argument over 90 day detention. The most worrying aspect of that entire debate for me was that the Government relied explicitly upon the argument that "we ought to listen to the police and give them the tools they need". The problem with this is that the moment the police become anything approaching lobbyists you have to take what they say with something of a pinch of salt. You have to question exactly why they're saying what they're saying, how they expect to influence you and public opinion by it and, inevitably, develop a sceptical approach to what they say. It's very difficult then to know where to draw the line. This is only exacerbated by the police's shift from impartial public body into the realm of public debate.

As such, this headline splash on BBC News is most concerning. Militant Moderate, quite rightly in my view, identifies it as scaremongering, but for me it is another worrying example of a political, lobbying police force. How much of what Sir Ian Blair says is exaggeration for political effect? How much of it is pitched too high because he knows "wishy-washy libertarians" will succeed in reducing the importance of what he's saying at least somewhat? How can we really trust him when we know he will do the political bidding of his masters in Whitehall?

Indeed, this series of statements could almost be the pitch of a press conference for a new political party. Imagine, say, David Cameron delivering these lines but replace references to the "police" with "compassionate Conservative solutions"....

"First, the agencies of community cohesion, the churches, the trade unions, the housing associations, the voluntary clubs have declined in influence.

"Secondly, the agents of social enforcement, such as park keepers, caretakers and bus conductors, have disappeared.

"The third was the laudable but under funded and imperfectly implemented decision to close so many long-stay psychiatric institutions.

"This has left many people looking - in the absence of anyone else - to the police service for answers to the degradation of communal life - for answers to the neighbours from hell, the smashed bus stop, the lift shaft littered with needles and condoms, the open drugs market, the angry, the aggressive and the obviously disturbed. "

Of course, the obvious corollary of this is clear. The police force is going to be political, so let's politicise it properly. Let's elect those in senior posts in the police and answer the Met Commissioner's "frustration" at the public "silence" on what it wanted the police to do. Let's make it truly accountable to the communities it serves. Then, Sir Ian might find to his shock, for all his pomp and arrogance about his position, the public just want it to catch criminals and stop crimes being committed. The press response to the killing of an innocent man and the subsequent lies which were, at the least, not discouraged by the police may be in Sir Ian's eyes "savage", but that might be nothing compared to the judgement of those he serves if he was really accountable.

UPDATE: It seems the Telegraph wouldn't go quite as far, but still come from the same place!

Sunday, November 13, 2005


"If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven."

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

UPDATE: Militant Moderate has a very perceptive and thoughtful piece which sums up exactly how I feel about Remembrance Sunday.


My seven day absence since my less-than-dramatic return to the blogging sphere hasn't been because I've been testing out the Government's powers of detention without charge but because I do find it tricky, once out of the blogging routine, to get back into it. Nonetheless, I hope this week to begin the long slog to get you all back to this blog.

The consequence of my hiatus, however, has been that I haven't covered as I should Blair's big defeat. Now, the rant that I was going to post about some of the disgraceful attacks on any and all opponents of the plan by the Government would seem very passe, particularly as much of the voting which took place seems to be on a pragmatic basis anyway. I was particularly piqued, however, by this article from Matthew D'Ancona last weekend. While the argument that the absence of sufficient powers of detention could lead to loss of life in terrorist attacks is undoubtedly accurate it is not a reason for 90 days at all. The only thing it does justify is indefinite internment. I was truly angered that somebody, for whom I had previously had great respect, could trot out an argument such as this, for if there is any limit at all it is always possible that somebody may slip through the loop, have to be released by reaching the limits of their detention, and go on to commit an atrocity.

This argument actually reveals so much about how people really value liberty. It is about balancing how much one values liberty against the costs that upholding it brings. What makes the question here so difficult is that it is lives at risk as a result of respect for liberty. Nonetheless, in so many areas of life we make trade-offs where we accept possible loss of life as a reasonable consequence of a good we value. We take our lives in our hands by driving cars, we risk being bitten by a snake when we have a picnic in the country and we drink despite the risks to our livers. It is up to us and our representatives to balance these goods against the risks and reach a conclusion. Different views will, of course, be possible. What is shocking is that Mr Blair values liberty so little, at all but nil, that he cannot countenance any respectable basis for reaching a conclusion different from his own.

"After July 7, it took a fortnight to gain full access to the sites of the explosions and a further six weeks to complete forensic examinations. What if those investigations had yielded intelligence indicating imminent attack by an associated cell? What if the police had detained suspected members of that cell, but been unable to thwart the plan within the present limit of 14 days? Encrypted codes, global conspiracy, fiendishly complex forensic tasks: these are the realities of 21st-century counter-terrorism."

Odd, then, that Mr Blair and his police are the only ones with the foresight to realise that we would be making ourselves guilty of assisting the next terrorist attack without 90 day detention. I am sure he will be very frank with Mr Bush about how he is betraying America's national security next time he meets him. After all, the Tories' 28 days makes them responsible for any terror attack and these are the stats:


UK, as a result of the "Treacherous Tories" ((TM) "R. Murdoch"): 28 DAYS




Even Israel is just 14 days. Never mind, I'm sure Sir Ian Blair will tell them how long it takes to decode hard drives soon....

Responsibility up in smoke

I've never tried to hide my instinctive distrust of banning smoking in pubs and restaurants. I've also decided to refrain from discussing a ban in "public spaces" since I resent the description of private pubs and clubs as public. Nevertheless, I'm not too proud to admit that I'd wobbled in recent weeks. I mused how pleasant it would be not to have to worry about holes being burned in my clothes while navigating packed bars to find the bathroom. I wandered along the Embankment and detested the pong my coat was emitting in the drizzle; Ken Owen's "pub-like smell". I sat in one pub and pondered how much my life was being shortened as I silently gazed at the white trails of my friend's smoke winding towards me.

Then I woke up this morning.

I'd had a very pleasant evening last night culminating in several hours drinking with friends until the small hours in a popular late night haunt off Holborn. Ironically, given the smoking ban in Ireland, it was an Irish-themed pub. During the course of the evening I ran the "fag-butt gauntlet" several times to the gents, thoroughly immersed my clothes, shoes and hair in other people's smoke and probably ended up smoking the equivalent of several cigarettes without touching one. Good night all round.

Then, as I say, I woke up. As I lay mentally preparing myself for Remembrance Sunday service and reliving a most pleasant evening with friends I shuddered at the foul smell of my hair on my pillow. It reeked. As I felt the pleasure of my night out seeping away, I thought about how my clothes would stink too. But then another thought hit me. This bar (which shall remain nameless for licencing reasons) has a fantastic atmosphere, one that is really quite unique. It dawned on me that it is that atmosphere, and the enjoyment I derive from it, that keep me going back even though I know I'm going to pong the next morning.

Because I so value the experience there, warts, smoke and all, I chose to put myself into that environment for fun; I evaluated the costs and benefits of it in my head and came to a perfectly reasonable conclusion. Any desire for the Government to make my night out that little bit better by cutting off the smokiness, even if it wouldn't have a negative effect on the nameless bar's atmosphere (in a purely social non-scientific sense!), just represents a failure of responsibility on my part. If I really value drinking and socialising in a non-smoky environment then I should choose somewhere else to go, where any smoke that exists isn't as concentrated and prevalent as the dive I was in last night and where smokers aren't right on top of you in the same way. If I were to complain that "something hadn't been done" to stop me making the decision I did it would just be abject weakness on my behalf. And, lying in a beam of sunlight this morning, it seemed pretty arrogant for me to expect smokers who value the opportunity to smoke (much more than I seem to value odour-free clothes it would seem) to be inconvenienced just because I am weak-willed enough on the matter to want or need the Government to keep me away from smoky environments.

Shouldn't I be taking responsibility myself if it's something I value, and if I don't value it enough to act why should I impinge so much on others' freedom? A responsibility this NUS blogger doesn't seem to recognise. Surely, I told myself, I should.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Indomitable lion

Nearly five months ago I wrote:

"My vote, if I have one, is up for grabs. The problem is neither Davis nor Cameron seems to enunciate that we don't have to choose between being proud of Tory values and communicating to the public that we're in touch with Britain. With the right leader we ought to be able to do both. Believing in a small state which trusts individuals and families to take responsibility for society is not and need not be incompatible with showing we're not crooked second-hand car dealers. My leadership dilemma is deciding which candidate is best-placed to do both. My big concern, from what I've seen so far, is that neither will come close."

Well, if a week's a long time in politics five months is an age. Since then we saw Ken Clarke toss his well-fingered hat into the ring, and we saw it get fairly promptly chucked back out at him. I seriously flirted with Mr Clarke as a Tory white knight, and was seduced by his barn-storming conference speech. Sadly, his personal flaws (though I should probably say characteristics!) which we all know far too well lead to an arrogant failure to court those he really needed to flatter for support undid him. Fox valiantly failed, so we're back to the same question we had then.

While I had great concerns with the media-weighted almost coronation of David Cameron during the Party conference I was impressed that his camp had managed to have it engineered. I was depressed with the way Davis had all but not appeared. Since Clarke's ejection I have been unable to see how we can hope that Davis will fulfill the second part of the requirement I wrote of in July "to communicate that we are in touch with modern Britain". Although I should, perhaps, instinctively fall in behind Mr Davis I have great concerns over the message his election would send to the country and the way he has fallen back on "core vote tactics" when the going got rough in this primary - for that's what it is. Cameron has realised this, and played a cannier, longer game rather than a shorter-term Deanesque pitch for grass root votes. Having used his higher profile, Mr Cameron has come closer to convincing me he can achieve what I wanted in my "golden paragraph" whilst Mr Davis has made his chances of satisfying it much slimmer. For all the wrong reasons - I detest a politics of spin, but cannot deny its existence, I prefer a politics of policies and substance, but don't want them stolen again by Labour, age is irrelevant to me, but sadly not to many voters - I find myself a Cameroon.


Dear readers, if indeed any remain,

I have returned to the world of the blogger after a lengthy hiatus! I had a very busy summer, in which I returned to the UK, worked as a menial receptionist in a motorway service area motel (and seriously considered live blogging my many amusing experiences) and finally settled in London, from where I now blog for the first time, having had two close friends both further compound my guilt yesterday.

You'll see I have rebranded (or more accurately I suppose "unbranded" from An Englishman in Philly) back to "Trust People" since I am no longer in Philadelphia. I also feel that the feelings which lay behind my original name for the blog have become even more relevant and what they can tell us about where the country is going even more salient during my time away from Britain and also the blogosphere. But more of that later...

For now I hope you will return, I hope you like the new layout, and I hope I can provide you with something interesting to read!