Saturday, December 11, 2004

In praise of anger

Health warning: this is not a concise piece

A couple of angry pieces we (all right, I) wrote recently evoked sharp rebukes from a few of our readers (and only a few), suggesting that: a) we were being unkind to the subjects of our wrath and; b) we were falling short of the standards we had set ourselves on this Blog, in terms of measured reporting of events.

This small chorus has now been joined by the squeaking of "Toby", over on the Europhile “Straight banana” Blog who is rapidly shifting his allegiances to North Sea Diaries, which he considers is a really rather good eurosceptic Blog (and indeed it is). He thinks it is rapidly supplanting "old favourites" like EU Referendum because it has the three cardinal virtues of logic, civility and conciseness.

However, while the Tobys of this world can sit in their ivory towers, and declare that it is legal to sell a pint of shandy in a pub (it isn’t – but Toby, typical of the Europhile breed, does not even know his EU law), we down here at the coal face have daily to deal the growing impact of the construct he so loves – and knows so little about.

And, believe me, the tax collectors and the bailiffs are not at all civil when they come with their hands out, demanding money to keep the likes of Toby in the comfort and style which they so clearly does not deserve, and neither are the court officials, the custody officers and the prison warders. But they, and the serried ranks of surly officials – with their final resort to state violence – underpin the system about which Mr Toby would like us to be so civil.

In fact, the only rational response - to the malign effect this dire, undemocratic, bureaucratic machine has on the lives of good people, to the increasing restrictions on our freedoms it imposes, and on the massive waste of money it encourages – is anger. Inevitably, some of that is, occasionally, going to spill over on to this Blog.

But, as some readers have noted, our ire is not confined only to our enemies in the EU – and make no mistake about it, they are our enemies – but also those who would seem to be our friends, not least the self-appointed “Vote No” campaign that has set itself up to fight the referendum.

Apart from anything else, we object to the "Yes-Noes" because their campaign, in its current guise, it is hoovering up donor money, to fritter away on worthless projects (the cinema ad cost £100,000) and poorly researched literature, while more worthy organisations like the CPS (under Ruth Lea) and the IEA - to say nothing of the Bruges Group - are struggling for funds.

The Bruges Group is a particular case in point, which is now unable even to afford producing any more of its pamphlets. All of these organisations lay the drying up of funds at the door of "Vote No", which is spending most of its resources on fund-raising, without any clear idea of what it wants to spend the money on.

Yet, other organisations are needed to take part in the "no" campaign and their activities will be essential to give as broad a base as possible to the argument. In that context, the "Vote No" campaign exerts a malign influence, by running a poor campaign in its own name (while purporting to represent us all) and robbing others - which could do better - of funds to do their job.

Weighing the "Vote No" campaign in the balance, therefore, I continue to believe that it is a net drain on the resources of the "no" campaigners, and we would be better off without it, as it is currently structured.

But another part of the reason why I am so quick to attack "Vote No" is because I hope to force it to change its ways. I tried the polite, diplomatic and reasoned way, and that was ignored, so it is now full-frontal. At this stage, I think moulding the campaign is more important than fighting it.

This could have been avoided if the personalities in the "Vote No" campaign had been more responsive, and had been prepared to consult more widely and listen to what many people have been saying. They clearly were not prepared to do this and the consequences were as inevitable as they were predictable.

Obviously, as the referendum moves further up the agenda, our emphasis will change - by which time I hope I will have achieved some of my objectives (i.e., a more effective campaign). Either way, I will have to bite my tongue, but not just yet.

As for the more recent pieces that excited our readers’ attention, on was the piece on Boris Johnson, about whom I was so rude.

What triggers pieces like this, though, is a sense of outrage. We get excited about Blunkett stealing £180 from the state to fund his mistress’s (first class) travel – and so we should. But what about our Boris – paid well over twice the national average from state funds, at about £57,000 a year, a handsome pension when he retires, and an average of £118,000 in annual expenses. This is for him to do a job, a job which he so lamentably fails to do. Which is worse: Blunkett stealing £180 or Boris wasting £175,000 a year?

Much the same goes for Daniel Hannan who, while pursuing a lucrative career as a journalist, also happens to be on the state payroll as an MEP, his net cost to us all being £1.2 million a year. A "nice lad" he might be, but what has he done to justify that sort of expenditure?

And let me remind you dear readers – we are not given the option of paying for these people. In the final analysis, if you do not cough up, you will have people at you door and, if you ignore them, you will have the police following them, using force if necessary, to take you to their kangaroo courts, from which you go to prison.

Yet Mr Toby wants civility? He should actually be thankful that all he is getting is anger. Many more sanguine voices than mine cautiously predict that, if this continued encroachment on our liberties continues, the result will be akin to, if not actually, civil war.

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