Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rejoicing in death. Why is the Left so full of hate for Lady Thatcher?

The Letters page of The Guardian, seldom the sanest of arenas, has this week descended to virulent venom. In place of the customary corduroyed bores calling for unilateral disarmament, rainbow-nation multiculturalism or celebrations of Castro's Cuba, there have appeared several letters which gloated at the prospect of Margaret Thatcher's death. Their vengeful tone, though hurtful about the still very much alive Lady Thatcher, has been instructive. It was a timely reminder that no one does viciousness quite like the Left. Far from the Conservatives being 'the Nasty Party', Labour's preachy brothers and sisters have long deserved that title.

The Guardian letters were sparked by reports that Lady Thatcher will be given the rare honour of a state funeral. Even to discuss such arrangements is, let us be honest, a difficult matter. The widowed, octogenarian Lady T is in fair health. Long may she remain so.

Some Guardian readers have taken a markedly less charitable line towards the former Prime Minister. Typical of the response was that of one Chris Gibson, who said that on seeing the headline about a state funeral for Lady Thatcher: 'I thought that the week had got off to the best possible start.' Charming. Another contributor, Chris Hardman, wrote: 'Just a couple of questions: 'Does that include the grave/dancefloor combo?' and 'When is it booked for?' Guardian reader Rob Watling suggested that the contract for any state funeral should be 'put out to compulsory competitive tender and awarded to the lowest bidder'.

On one level, these letters are merely the prattish words of small minds - people unable to accept that many of the battles of the Eighties were lost for good by Labour and that Lady T was a remarkable election winner whose titanic will reversed Britain's post-war decline and, incidentally, destroyed the class structure so loathed by the Left. But the fact such horrible letters were written, let alone published in a national newspaper, tells us something else. The vituperative tone was even less restrained on The Guardian's internet website, and those of other Left-wing publications such as The New Statesman.

It is all of a piece with other instances of shrill intolerance by the Left. Why is it that socialists, in contrast to their professed humanity and Methodist origins, are so remarkably malevolent? Why is the Left so mean?

Look at the way Labour hardliners reacted to the idea of Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London. A moderate Tory, socially liberal, urban, pro-gay, generally pro-minority, he has more in common with middle-class London Labour than he does with old-fashioned provincial Tories. Yet the last days of his campaign saw near apoplexy among Left-wingers - not least with some ludicrously skewed coverage in The Guardian. Genial Boris was depicted as little short of a rapist and Ku Klux Klansman.

Look at the way Labour portrayed Edward Timpson, Conservative candidate in the recent Crewe and Nantwich by-election. A barrister specialising in family disputes, an area of the law which exposes practitioners to terrible examples of social breakdown, Mr Timpson is no goose-stepper. He is a well-informed Centrist from a family which has done much charity work in Cheshire. So how was he depicted by the caring, sharing Left? As an early 20th century fop, a political opportunist, a figure to be hated. A hit squad of hecklers was hired to pursue him. Labour spent thousands of pounds on negative campaigning.

Left-wingers like to talk of ' progressive politics', by which they suppose they mean open-mindedness, but historically they are far more dogmatic than the Right.

Factionalism and drunken intrigue were rampant in the trades unions of old. On immigration, Left-wingers have been exceptionally illiberal. Commentators and politicians who questioned the pro-immigration consensus were shouted down as racists. The thoroughly decent former Tory leader Michael Howard was cast as something close to a Nazi for daring to suggest that immigration was becoming a problem. His assailants were not shamed by the fact that Mr Howard is of Jewish emigre stock. He'd had the temerity to oppose the Left. He had to be destroyed.

Tony Blair's regime was infamously unpleasant to people who tried to stand in its way. Government scientist David Kelly paid for his independence with his life - suicide, we were told, although he was pushed into any such suicide by Labour-ordered briefings. Other refuseniks, from Cabinet ministers who refused to do grubby deals or military commanders who questioned bad orders, had their reputations traduced. Civil servants who did not 'fit' were sacked by Blair's thugs. Some people tried to claim smiling Tony's nastiest piece of work, Alastair Campbell, was no worse than Sir Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher's press spokesman. But Ingham never wielded the power - or malevolence - of the spitting, table-thumping Campbell.

How depressing it is that even now Blair has gone, the Labour Government continues to show a vindictive streak. The treatment of General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of General Staff, is the latest example of a good public servant being shafted by rancorous Leftists, furious that an 'old school' figure should try to oppose their sway.

One of the Left's great propaganda achievements over the years has been the idea that it was somehow kinder to support Labour than to be Conservative. Think a little harder, though, and you may start to see that Left's attitude depends on the suppression of tolerance. It demands communal conformity rather than independent freedom. It seeks to dictate supply rather than allowing the market to find a level. It places the state above the citizen.

Here are the philosophical roots of the harshness of discipline which fuel the unpleasantness. Those Guardian letters spring directly from Left-wing orthodoxy. It is hard to imagine any Conservative worth that name rejoicing at the death of a Labour opponent. The Tory instinct does not work like that. When the then Tory party chairman, Theresa May, told her activists they were 'seen as the nasty party' she was probably right - even though it was unfair.

Labour's cleverness has been to hide its vindictive streak. If anything, the Tories have not been nasty enough. Let's hope it stays that way. I'd hate to think any of us would descend to the level reached by the Left - the REAL nasty party.


`The only certain thing is the science is uncertain'

Lord Lawson on the difficulty of publishing a contrarian book on global warming and why huge cuts in CO2 emissions would be `madness'

`This is my fourth book. I've never had any difficulty getting a publisher. In fact, I've got the contracts before the books were written. But this one - I couldn't get a publisher anywhere in this country. it shows the unhelpful and unhealthy climate, in a different sense, there is over this issue.'

Nigel Lawson, former UK chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary in the 1980s Conservative government, has become a high-profile critic of current orthodoxies on climate change. In a week when the legitimacy of criticising the mainstream view has been called into question following the UK television regulator's censuring of the Channel 4 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, a debate featuring Lawson looked likely to be lively. And so it proved.

Lawson was speaking on Tuesday evening at the latest Bookshop Barnie, a series of rowdy discussions organised by the Future Cities Project at the Waterstones store next to the London School of Economics (LSE). It's not exactly one of those Borders monsters, over four floors with a Starbucks in the middle. The LSE store is a much smaller affair, with the walls lined with serious tomes about economics and social science. But it does make an excellent and intimate venue if you want to have a well-informed row - which is what followed.

The subject of the discussion was Lawson's book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. In a cheeky introduction, the chairman of the discussion, Austin Williams, told the audience: `Nigel Lawson, Lord Lawson of Blaby, speaks from a position of eminent authority on the issue of carbon reduction. He was responsible for the biggest reduction in carbon emissions in this country when he presided over the slashing of the coal mining industry.' Apart from raising laughter, the introduction was a pointed nod to the fact that the old lines of left and right in society have disappeared today, replaced by new divisions over climate change and the environment more broadly.

As a former finance minister, Lawson does not pretend to be an expert on the details of atmospheric physics. But, as he pointed out, many scientists and noisy commentators on the subject have no special expertise in the particular disciplines required to understand climate, either. More importantly, the politicians charged with making the big policy decisions on the subject must do so on the basis of limited knowledge, too.

`The one thing that is absolutely clear about the science is that it isn't certain, far from it', began Lawson. That is not to say that there isn't plenty of common ground between sceptics and mainstream views of the science, as Lawson pointed out. `Most people would agree there have been huge increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere'; `there is no real argument that the major contributor to that has been man, through the burning of carbon'; and `there is no doubt there is such a thing as the greenhouse effect or that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas'.

For Lawson, the real uncertainty is around how big the effect of carbon dioxide will be on temperatures. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that most of the warming over the past 100 years has been due to human activity, Lawson argued that the consensus isn't as complete as is usually suggested. He pointed to a survey conducted by the German climate scientist, Hans von Storch - someone who has supported the mainstream view of the science while being critical of much of the presentation of it in the media. The survey asked 500 climate scientists, under strict promise of anonymity, for their view on the debate. Of those surveyed, 70 per cent supported the view that global warming was mostly caused by humans; 30 per cent did not. While science should never be `conducted by a head count', said Lawson, it is clear that the much-vaunted unanimity is absent.

But Lawson's real beef is with the other aspects of the IPCC's report. Moving on to the effects of climate change, Lawson noted that in many respects, the IPCC's forecasts are not that scary. `Even if you look at the IPCC's own estimates you find, both in the particular and the general, it really is much less alarming than the flesh-creeping things that are written in the Independent newspaper or by the people who run the IPCC, as opposed to the scientists and economists who produce the reports.'

Lawson pointed out that `there are many benefits as well as harms from global warming. So, what is the net effect?' On health, the only thing that the IPCC is `virtually certain' of, said Lawson, is that there will be fewer deaths from cold-related diseases if the planet gets warmer; a rise in temperatures of up to 2.8 degrees would, says the IPCC, be beneficial for food production. These net benefits are declared despite what Lawson called the IPCC's `very curious treatment of adaptation' - in other words, the assumption that people would behave pretty much as they do now as temperatures rise, rather than changing the way they live and the crops they grow to suit climatic conditions.

The bottom line for Lawson, drawing out the IPCC's own conclusions, is that even at the worst end of the projections the IPCC posits as reasonably likely, those who might suffer the most - people in the developing world - would be 8.5 times better off than they are now rather than 9.5 times better off if warming were more limited. There were, concluded Lawson with understatement, worse catastrophes imaginable. .....


Key-fob gunman jailed for 9 years in "gun free" Britain: "A man was jailed for nine years for shooting a fellow clubber with a key-fob gun. Police say that about 100 of the four-inch Bulgarian-made weapons are still believed to be in circulation. Marcus Henry, 27, of Clapham, South London, fired two shots, one of which hit Yaw Darko-Kwakye in the shoulder. It followed a row over the victim's girlfriend in the Departures nightclub in the City of London.

Incredible pettiness in bureaucratic Britain: "A shop manager has criticised a council after she was issued with a fine for using the wrong coloured bin bags. Haringey council in North London issued Dora Panagi with a $600 fine after she put rubbish in black bags. The council encourages shopkeepers to put rubbish in grey sacks. Mrs Panagi, 41, who manages a boutique in Muswell Hill, said that she used black sacks after the council failed to deliver the grey sacks. A spokesman for the council said that the fine would be cancelled."

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