Bashing the Bishop

Another year, another cumfest of bitterness as The Guardian panders to what the The Right Reverend Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley describes as the “middle-class Est­abl­­ishment bandwagon of outrage and horror” with another circle jerk biscuit of dreck about Brexit.

One of the central objections of the result of last year’s EU referendum is that Brexiteers were predominantly the elderly (and racists, workers, Northerners, plus anyone who hasn’t tongued Owen Jones’ ring-piece). Indeed, Dan Rebellato – who styles himself as “world-renowned playwright” and who was recently profiled in The Guardian (where else?) has recently produced on Twitter an “alt-right bingo card” of truly horrendous graphic design, which sought to generalise what he saw as typical pro-Brexiteer insults, including “libtard” and “snowflake” while using “truly horrendous graphic design”.

So here’s 78-year-old former BBC economics advisor, libtard and snowflake (HOUSE!) William Keegan, feeding his colostomy bag in The Guardian:

“This is the year when our politicians and the so-called ‘people’ – all 28% of the population who voted to leave the European Union – will reap what they have sown. Unfortunately, unless sense prevails, the rest of us will also suffer the product of their wild oats.”

Britain leaving the EU allows for the development of trade relations with all counties of the world, not just the elite couple of dozen members of the regulation and canapés EU. The Leave side (colloquially known as “Brexiteers”) won by over a million votes, with one Guardian reader crying:

“The tragedy is that the neolithic system of simple-majority-voting has given the generally less-well educated Brexiteers a colossal boost to their egos.”

Ha!!  The usual argument against the tried and tested voting system used for the referendum – by the losing side – was that Brexiteers didn’t win a clear majority, because babies, children and the mentally ill weren’t allowed to vote, which the Remain side thinks would’ve given them millions of extra votes, something which writes its own punchline. Keegan went on:

“It would be good if the majority of members of parliament could recall and act upon Edmund Burke’s 1774 address to the electors of Bristol: they should summon up the courage to act as representatives, not delegates of constituencies where they fear the threat from the xenophobic forces conjured up by the likes of Nigel Farage.”

“Lord King [former Governor of the Bank of England] has come out as a Brexiteer, which is not very helpful to his successor, who can sense a prospective train crash and was quite right to warn about the impact on the pound of a Leave vote – and who, with the help of his colleagues at the Bank, has been doing his best to keep the show on the road since.”

“He [King] was, of course, speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, which ever since the beginning of the referendum campaign seems to have gone out of its way to give prominence to Monsieur Farage and his ilk.”

“They were at it again last week, with the shameless Michael Gove heavily revising his castigation of ‘experts’, seemingly narrowing the field of the accused to the category of economic forecasters.”

“Anyway, while wishing readers as happy a new year as events allow, I should like to end with this wonderful quote from Jan Kamieniecki in a letter to the Financial Times: ‘I suspect that what Michael Gove meant to say was that the people in this country have had enough of exports.’”

Ho ho fucking ho.  In one article packed with bile, invective and a cream pie of generalisations, Keegan has not only accused the BBC of being a mouthpiece for those well-known neo-Nazis Michael Gove, Nigel Farage “and his ilk”, he’s simply highlighted the cancer that increasingly possesses the Left and mainstream media as a whole, particularly the Guardian and the BBC, whereby if you disagree with their point of view, you’re inevitably and invariably something-ist or whatever-ophobic. Taken to its extreme, one Guardianista, commenting on Keegan’s article, even went so far as to suggest Brexiteers were homophobic:

“Given their liking for framing the EU debate in macho terms, I’m sure there’s a fare [sic] few Brexiteers will be uncomfortable with the idea that the UK is ”Coming Out'”.

It is possible that Brexiteers are more aspirational than their Remain counterparts. Maybe they want to better themselves, try something other than a system that has served them badly, that has not allowed them to flourish. Maybe instead of sneering at those who want to achieve, want to get on, maybe instead of whinging and whining and crying into their own glasses of milk while wanking over Jeremy Kyle AND GET SOME FUCKING WORK DONE.

More tea, vicar?  The middle-class outrage has also infested the Church of England, Britain’s largest landowner and so middle class dominated it can barely see beyond its arguments over issues such as sexuality even to notice the concerns of the poor it should be serving, says Bishop Philip North, who claimed that the Church had largely been taken by surprise by the result of the Brexit referendum in June because it had become out of touch with life in deprived areas.

In the Church Times, Bishop North characterised clergy as increasingly embarrassed by ideas once promoted by the Church such as patriotism, family values and the virtues of hard work.

He said the referendum result was less of a backlash against immigration than a “patriotic vote from people who were fed up with having pride in their nation, its flag, and its armed forces misrepresented as intolerance or racism”.

He said that despite, uniquely for any organisation, having a presence in every community in England, the Church is no longer “adequately present” in areas of deprivation and “so discon­nected from many of these communities that it no longer hears what they are saying”.

He went on: “The Church’s agenda is being set not by the poor, but by academia, the moneyed elites, and certain sections of the secular media. It is their preoccupations that dictate the terms of the Church’s debate, and that pose the questions that it expends its energy on answering.

Indeed.  A twenty-something friend from a part of England known as “down South” set up a public transport business in his late teens.  He made mistakes, some more serious than others, some having a greater and wider impact than others, but he was learning.  And despite the doom-mongers and “enthusiasts” (self-proclaimed experts in the field of public transport who enthuse about nothing except late 1970s clothing and cheese sandwiches) who, as I wrote in a New Year message to him – “…whether it be TV, restaurants, books, food, wine, hotels, whatever – all industries where people make a living as critics without a) actually having produced ANYTHING in their chosen field and b) have no professional qualification or experience on which to base their judgements.  Basically they’re small, bitter and often jealous people who contribute nothing to society and think a visit to their local cottage is a posh first date” – he has flourished, exploring new markets and new opportunities proving, after a little guidance, the doubters wrong.

And that, folks, is Brexit. A bumpy ride but an fascinating and enjoyable journey.

Duff justice

Although The European Union’s meddling in sovereign affairs is often portrayed for comic effect – such as the Euro-sausage in Yes, Prime Minister – it is far more serious and wide ranging for citizens of the Member States.

For British citizens especially, living on an island as we do and attached to our pound, it might seem a little more of an ideological entity. What is now known as the European Union (EU) has enjoyed legal primacy over the parliaments of member states for over 50 years, something which the UK has subscribed to since then Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath took us into the European Community in 1973.

The UK has always been known for its “unwritten constitution” which consists of the two principles of parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law. The UK has long prided itself on the fact that its sovereign parliament is the supreme law-making body, with its legislation standing as the highest source of English law. The rule of law states that all laws apply equally to everybody, nobody stands above the law and no exception is made, even to those in power. However, these concepts are no longer strictly accurate, particularly since an Italian citizen refused to pay part of his electricity bill, valued at what would now be less than one Euro, back in 1962.

Flaminio Costa was an Italian citizen who owned some shares in the then privately owned electricity company. In 1962 Italy had nationalised the production and distribution of electricity and created the Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica (ENEL). Costa was opposed to the nationalisation and as the protest he symbolically refused to pay 1,925 Italian Lire (€0.99) of his electricity bill and ENEL duly sued Costa for non-payment. He prepared a written statement of case where he asked the Court for an interpretation of the EEC Treaty provisions, as he believed that nationalisation was contrary to (then EEC) law.

The Italian Government stated that the national law, under which they had nationalised ENEL, was enacted after the incorporation of the EEC Treaty, so that it is the Italian law that should have the priority over it.  According to the opinion given by the Italian Government, application for a preliminary ruling was “absolutely inadmissible” and there were no grounds for raising questions concerning the Treaty.

The European Court of Justice ruled that: “As a subsequent unilateral measure cannot take precedence over Community law, the questions put by the Giudice Conciliatore, Milan, are admissible in so far as they relate in this case to the interpretation of provisions of the EEC Treaty”.

The Court decided that it could not resolve the dispute between Costa and ENEL at the national level, but it could only deal with the questions concerning interpretation of the provisions stated in the EEC Treaty (the Treaty of Rome). It further ruled that the EEC Treaty is not a usual agreement between the Member States, and that the Community (the EU) has its own legal system that they have to follow, which is the consequence of the fact that they gave to it (the EU) part of their own sovereignty, and therefore the Community (EU) Law should also be exercised by the national courts of Member States. Provisions stated in the Treaty cannot be changed by any national law, because every State has to follow exactly the same provisions. If the Member States have the opportunity to change implemented law by releasing new and quite different legislative acts, the Community (EU) Law would be different in the various Member States. That could be contrary to some general principles of the Community (EU) Law.

It continued: “It follows from all these observations that the law stemming from the Treaty, an independent source of law, could not, because of its special and original nature, be overridden by domestic legal provisions, however framed, without being deprived of its character as Community Law and without the legal basis of the Community itself being called into question. The transfer by the States from their domestic legal system to the Community legal system of the rights and obligations arising under the Treaty carries with it a permanent limitation of their sovereign rights, against which a subsequent unilateral act incompatible with the concept of the Community cannot prevail”.

“Member states [of the EU] have limited their sovereign rights…and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves.”

That is why the Court ruled that the Treaty has the primacy over national laws which is also confirmed by the provision that it should be binding as a whole and be directly applied in all the Member States. The national law of the Member States, that came into force later, it stated, should not be contrary to the Community (EU) Law.

In summary, the implications of this case are that where possible, UK courts must give effect to existing legislation in a way that is compatible with convention rights. But if that proves impossible, the most that a higher court can do is to declare the two laws incompatible and let parliament sort it out.

But EU law is different. It has direct effect under the European Communities Act 1972. And that means the EU charter can be used to “disapply” – effectively, to overturn – an act of parliament.

A more recent case involved two Moroccan women who were sacked by diplomatic missions in London. Benkharbouche was a cook at the Sudanese embassy and Janah was on the domestic staff of the Libyan embassy.  They complained variously of unfair dismissal, unpaid wages and breaches of the working time regulations.  The Working Time Directive, from which the UK has a “legally binding” opt-out (the original version was introduced in 1993 under then Conservative Prime Minister John Major)  provides EU workers with the right to a minimum number of holidays each year and a certain amount of rest, means that employees are restricted to a 48 hour working week.

Both their claims were dismissed on the basis that foreign states have immunity from the jurisdiction of the UK courts. Although that immunity is not unlimited, section 4 of the State Immunity Act 1978 gives embassies immunity in respect of staff who are foreign nationals and who are not habitually resident in the UK. So the two women were deprived of the right to bring their claims.

The question for the President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal was whether there was any way round this statute.  Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention gives everyone bringing a civil claim in the UK the right to a fair hearing. But the judge said he could not use the Human Rights Act to change the meaning of the State Immunity Act.

So the barrister representing the two women, turned to EU law. Article 47 of the EU charter also guarantees a fair hearing and an effective remedy.  His clients’ claims for unfair dismissal were covered by the working time directive, which is part of EU law, although other parts of their claim were outside its scope.  Since the charter has direct effect in national law, the question for the appeal tribunal was whether it could disapply national laws that were contrary to the charter in litigation between private parties, as for these purposes they were.

He decided it could, despite what he described as “the uncomfortable recognition that the domestic legislature took care in the Human Rights Act not to allow the courts to disapply any domestic statute which was in conflict with the European convention on human rights”.  He allowed the women’s appeals to the extent that they were covered by the working time regulations, as well as claims by Janah for racial discrimination and harassment.

Recognising that he was opening up a rift between the application of EU law and the use of human rights law, the judge granted the embassies permission to appeal. An appeal would also allow the two women to seek a declaration of incompatibility in respect of their unfair dismissal and minimum wage claims – something his tribunal had no power to grant.

The ruling demonstrates once again that EU law trumps laws passed by parliament. Despite all the attention paid to human rights law, EU law is much more powerful.

And its a decision that may make life more difficult for ministers. The foreign office will have to tell embassies in London that they can’t sack their domestic staff without paying the compensation to which those staff are entitled under EU law.

So what of the agreement secured by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron (has anyone spotted a theme yet?) following his piffle-stop tour of Europe?  According to the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, the EU reforms are not legally binding and could be overturned by European judges, as these cases have proved.

Mr Gove said: “The facts are that the European Court of Justice is not bound by this agreement until treaties are changed and we don’t know when that will be”.

He said Mr Cameron was “absolutely right that this is a deal between 28 nations all of whom believe it. But the whole point about the European Court of Justice is that it stands above the nation states, and ultimately it will decide on the basis of the treaties and this deal is not yet in the treaties.”

So, even if David Cameron has secured legally binding reforms – and there are doubts that he has – to ensure the UK parliament retains supremacy over the European Court, as these two cases have proved it really doesn’t mean that much.

We thrive on segregation

Whenever television looks back at the 1970s it tends to do so with disdain: the usual ragbag of modern day worthies pontificate about the bad old days of protests and colour bars, strikes and segregation. But what of today – have things really moved on?

Johnny Speight’s If There Weren’t Any Blacks You’d Have To Invent Them, first shown in 1970 then remade in colour in 1974, dealt with how people thrive on segregation, treating others as belonging a group rather than as individuals. From Richard Beckinsale fantasising about being a woman raped by a man to the blind Leonard Rossiter who thought Beckinsale was black because of the tone of his voice, Speight himself had something of an obsession with segregation, especially that according to race, with much of his work after The Arthur Haynes Show dealing with this subject – though sometimes misunderstood – to great effect.

Students at Oriel College, part of Oxford University, are the latest to find such a cause to leech onto, namely the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. Although it’s origins lay in a post-Apartheid South Africa, the British black and white copy seeks to have removed from the College a statue of former student Cecil Rhodes, seen by opponents as something of an imperialist, a white supremacist, who made his fortune from mining diamonds in the former Cape Colony of South Africa where he later became Prime Minister in 1890.

Rhodes was a shrewd, perhaps ruthless businessman. The discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1867 transformed South Africa into an industrial economy which saw Rhodes amongst others led to the rapid colonisation of the country, so much so that by the end of the 19th Century all the indigenous peoples of South Africa had lost their political and economic independence. White-owned mining companies were able to control workers who often found themselves in dangerous conditions for low wages and Rhodes was able to amass an enormous personal fortune through the creation of the De Beers consolidated Mines Company in 1888.  Today we call that “getting on”.

Rhodes used his personal wealth and political skills to become the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. His treatment of indigenous Africans as a businessman and Premier varied: by today’s standards he is seen as something of an imperialist, but he took a genuine interest in their cultures and language, and had a respect and understanding for Africans that belies his legacy.

But Rhodes’ methods in business and politics were merely a development of over 200 years of British and Dutch colonisation, which were relentlessly intensified after his death in 1902 when the British Government implemented the Act of Union and brought together the previously separate colonies of the Orange Free State, Transvaal, Natal, and the Cape Colony to form the Union of what we now know as South Africa.  In comparison, today’s Britain is a small, insignificant bit-player in a group of nationals with vested interests seeking to unify different peoples under common, unelected law called the European Union, disgracefully championed by a toadying media including BBC Radio Four’s not very funny or clever The Now Show.

Back to The Cape.  For the following two decades successive governments introduced a raft of regulations and discriminatory laws that tightened state control over blacks. The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 which reserved around 90 percent of the land in South Africa for whites and prevented Africans from freely buying land; the remainder of the land became “reserves” and were a forerunner of the “homelands” where illness and malnutrition were rife. For many Africans, especially young men and women, migration to wage-earning jobs in cities and mines became one of the only ways to pay colonial taxes and survive. In turn during this period mass urbanisation saw the number of city-dwelling Africans more than triple, but they lived in terrible conditions, with poor housing, health and transport and no electricity for many decades, and along with poverty came crime and fear for personal safety. Sadly there are some indigenous to Britain for whom that is a fairly accurate picture of their country today.

Of course it is difficult to justify racial segregation in South Africa, just as it is difficult to justify segregation of any kind, anywhere. But Rhodes’ tenure as mining magnate and Prime Minister was merely a progression from what had proceeded him, and by the standards that followed it could be argued he was, comparatively speaking, a free-market Liberal. That is not to say that what he presided over was not cruel. To deny anyone the opportunity to live, learn and earn as they would wish purely on the basis of their being somehow different to what is perceived as a superior group of human beings is as distasteful as it is ultimately self-destructive. And it is this where, for me, the hypocrisy of the “Rhodes Must Go” campaigners at Oxford University becomes apparent.

What set Rhodes apart from the Premiers who succeeded him (apart from his statue) was that he left in his Will an endowment to Oriel College whereby eighty-three students each and every year, initially of Teutonic descent but latterly anyone – including some of the greatest campaigners against segregation and for civil liberties – would be awarded scholarships affording them the opportunity denied to others from a different academic and socioeconomic background. Indeed, there is much controversy about the alleged hypocrisy of a black Oriel College student, Ntokozo Qwabe, who although accepted a Rhodes scholarship, partook in the protests. In my view he was given his opportunity and should take it. However, it is a tad disingenuous for him to want to whitewash Rhodes out of history but happily take his cash.

But for these opportunities the students who benefit from them would not have their platform for debate. To be able to attend any university, let alone Oxford, is granted only to those with the very highest academic and economic means. The rest of us are kept in our respective places, working for a living and paying our taxes to, er, help fund “our” universities.

Yet for some even these opportunities are not enough. At the time of writing junior doctors, for example, who could go on to earn £120,000 as a consultant, are in the middle of a series of strikes because they believe that an eleven per cent pay rise is “derisory” and that working after seven o’clock in the evening is “antisocial”. The segregating of blacks in South Africa and forcing them into “homelands” was both derisory and antisocial; enjoying a double digit wage windfall while working when the sun is just about dipping over the horizon is something the majority of people would kill for. Yet for all the talk of Unions existing for the common good, and how important statues are as a symbol of what is right and wrong, what about the one outside the TUC which depicts a man helping another man off the ground? How are striking junior doctors helping others, except themselves?

On a 1980 edition of Parkinson, guests John Betjeman and Maggie Smith were talking about pay protests with the great Kenneth Williams who put it this way:

“Why can’t they march for somebody else instead of a few pounds for themselves? What about somebody who’s really hard up? When a union does something like jeopardising the work of their fellow men. For example if you stop trains, people can’t get to their work, can they? So in doing what you want for yourself you’re jeopardising your fellow men, aren’t you? Well why can’t you act in concert with your fellow men? Why do you have to do something that endangers… your fellow men when that statue represents exactly that, helping not hindering.”

Host Michael Parkinson countered: “Because it might be that one worker is a lot worse off than their fellow. If they were all equal there’d be no problem… it’s all very well if you’ve got a talent, a decent job, you can go on and earn a handsome living… because you work in an area where you can back your talent and because your talent pays off in the end then you had a horizon, you could see ahead.”

The points Johnny Speight, Kenneth Williams and Michael Parkinson were making, that all human beings should be treated equally and have the same opportunities in life regardless of anything, and that given an opportunity one should grasp it with both hands and have confidence in oneself rather than dragging others down with you, are absolutely spot on. Whether the points being made were intended to be interpreted in this way comes down to the simple passing of time: Speight saw the preoccupation with segregation as a regressive brake on society whereas today’s students see it has a bandwagon on which to hitch a ride and get noticed; Williams saw striking as an excuse not to better oneself whereas today’s strikers attach themselves to individual causes such as Ntokozo Qwabe or junior doctors’ pay – in so called “sympathy strikes” to seek attention rather than the greater good; Parkinson was attempting to argue that people who had what might be termed a menial job (the example he gave was people whose job it was to “stick on door knobs”) had more of a right to strike than those with better prospects – of course there are fewer jobs with better prospects than that of a junior doctor.

But while students mourn for their colonial brothers in spades perhaps they should reflect on the fact that in this country, not all indigenous whites have the same opportunity to attend university. The real problem is class not colour.

Segregation is commonplace, is part of our lives, and as such television portrays it in it’s many forms, from the class divide of Upstairs Downstairs and the exquisite Brass, to the more cut and dried Porridge, and not forgetting The Nineteenth Hole which also threw in sexism for good measure albeit satirised in a fashion typical of Johnny Speight. Between them Government and society have taken great strides along the path to equality of all forms, and this has perhaps been best documented by the venerable Coronation Street which, over it’s fifty-odd years, has gone from a stark northern working class kitchen sink drama to taking a more metropolitan, softer snapshot of everyday life with the introduction of characters who are black, gay and transgender. Sadly however the Street’s smokers – black, gay or otherwise – are segregated in the grubby yard at the back of the Rovers Return. That’s progress for you.

Seemingly only certain types of segregation attract publicity, mainly to do with race or sexual orientation, driven by a left wing media narrative whose greatest exponent is of course The Guardian, where Owen Jones, who probably believes every word he writes, hitches a lift on whichever particular segregation bandwagon will gain him a few hundred more Twitter followers that day. To be fair to Owen, he doesn’t bleat about “only” earning £30,000 a year for writing about those not afforded his opportunities. That said, he doesn’t mention the fact that the tax arrangements of the proprietors of The Guardian are very well segregated in The Caymans.  That, too, is called “getting on”.

So what do protestors want? Junior doctors would do well to take a leaf out of the Oriel College students’ book – and grab the money and the opportunity, no matter how distasteful they might find it. Maybe in an act of solidarity they should black-up, forming a picket line of Paki-Paddies between scholarship-funded lectures protesting about how downtrodden educational immigrants are. If they want to know real hardship they should do what Matthew Parris did for World In Action in 1984 and live on Jobseekers Allowance. In that year, months after my mother had died of a brain tumour (doctors, eh?) my father joined the ill-fated miners’ strike. Our meals came from food parcels which we’d collect from the stage at Arkwright Town Miners’ Welfare and had about as much nutrition as the crumpled brown paper sack they came in – plenty of Bulgarian jam but no shortnin’ bread – and our heat came from burning fence posts which I stole – aged ten – from hedgerows armed with a wheelbarrow and a set of wire cutters, posts I’d then saw into fire-sized pieces under the cover of darkness.

It is so easy to protest from a position of comfort, not really having experienced that about which they complain. Segregation is a fact of life. Our country thrives on segregation whether as a cause to get angry about or a structure to exploit. Whichever way you look at it segregation puts people in their place. And that’s how society works.