Newsnotes 2012 05

Notes On The News

by Gwydion M Williams

Double Dip and the Rich List [Dysfunctional Conservatism]

Murdoch and the Invisible Mouth

Breivik Of The Apes [Mass Murder in Norway]

Mugs Anonymous [Caught via the Internet]

Red Banner, Gold Pockets [Fall of Bo Xilai in China]

British Democracy in Two World Wars


Double Dip and the Rich List [Dysfunctional Conservatism]

Thatcherism persuaded traditional Tory voters to support policies that have undermined traditional Tory values, made the middle class weaker and boosted the incomes and power of the richest 1%. Thirty years on, they show no signs of learning anything. Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires still has a lot of support.

Of course most of them don’t have the correct mental framework to oppose Thatcherism. Toryism in the 19th century was sensibly suspicious of capitalism. It was Tories who limited working hours and imposed basic health regulations, in the face of a Liberal belief that the market would take care of it. But all that has perished. Almost all of them have swallowed the New Right viewpoint, seeing life as a burden on money.

While China’s Mixed Economy goes splendidly and while the USA and Germany have a weak but definite recovery, Britain is suffering stagnation and a double-dip recession. Obviously this is not right. Will Hutton explained what had happened:

“History will be unforgiving about George Osborne’s chancellorship. The British economy in May 2010, when he began his term, had just gone through a near-death experience. Its banking system had only 18 months earlier nearly collapsed. The stock of bank lending was, incredibly, worth five times more than Britain’s annual output. Moreover, enormous parts of the economy – from high street to property – had become dependent on a never-ending rise in consumption and property prices, which now had to come to an end. Any economists worth their salt knew that the aftermath of such a shock could lead to years of recession and stagnation if not handled carefully.

“Yet Osborne – the kamikaze chancellor – and his Lib Dem coalition partners decided that the prime aim of government policy had to be eliminating the structural public sector deficit in just one parliament. Caution was thrown to the wind. The assumption was that the economy would quickly get back to business as usual; after all, as long as markets were free and flexible, what could go wrong? Osborne, a laissez-faire economic dry, would repeat Sir Geoffrey Howe’s budget of 1981, opening the way for tax cuts in the run-up to the general election. He would keep the Murdoch press onside – and repeat the years of Margaret Thatcher’s hegemony.

“The result has been as inevitable as it is desperately sad. On Wednesday we learned that Britain has experienced a double-dip recession just two years after the biggest decline in output since the early 1930s. Worse, it will not be until 2014 that output will return to 2008 levels – a six-year recession not equalled since the 1870s. What is happening is a disgrace.”[1]

True, as far as it goes. But this is the same Will Hutton who let his ‘stakeholder’ ideas get marginalised rather than fighting for them. It wasn’t a hopeless cause: Tony Blair showed brief interest in ‘stakeholder’ notions before surrendering to Big Finance. And Osborne is being true to the general notion of ‘ life as a burden on money’. All Hutton can do is assert – correctly but without any clear logic – that this isn’t always the case:

“A collective madness seems to have descended on our policymakers. Too few understand that what besets capitalism is unknowable risk – the risk of transformative new technologies, the risk of making epic business mistakes, or the risk of there being no demand for the goods and services a business produces. The task of government is to mitigate those risks – funding new technologies and actively using the tools of financial, fiscal and monetary policy to ensure there are rewards from innovation and investing. The paradox of successful capitalism is that, one way or another, risk has to be socialised. The US uses its defence budget and an active fiscal and monetary policy to do the job; Germany its banking and welfare system.

“Britain in 2012 has to find ways of doing the same – but Osborne and the Treasury, supported by the governor of the Bank of England, remain implacably opposed. Vince Cable, the business secretary, has ideas about promoting lending on the infrastructure to innovative small business, or even curbing short-termism in the financial markets. David Willetts, the university minister, has given intriguing speeches about the need to promote a British innovation ecosystem. Inside government they have no listeners. A leaked letter from Cable to David Cameron pleaded for some sense of economic vision and direction over and above deficit reduction. There is none.” [2]

It’s not mad: the last 30 years have been a wonderful time for the richest 1%. They have seen growth in their wealth comparable to what Japan managed in its best period or to what China has now. And they’ve got control of politics and the media, so that people think of the Keynesian or Mixed-Economy period as somehow disastrous or doomed, even though it delivered about the same economic growth in Britain and the USA, rather better results in France, Italy, Japan and West Germany. It was also an era when anyone serious about job could get one, outside of a few bad patches. And more of the benefits went to the Working Mainstream than the richest 1%, which is why that rich elite were keen to attack it.

Osborne may have kept the UK as a whole in stagnation verging on recession, but he has looked after the richest 1%, his sort of people. A recent report on the ultra-rich confirmed how nicely they have been looked after by the people they helped put into power:

“The UK’s richest people have defied the double-dip recession to become even richer over the past year, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List.

“The newspaper’s research found the combined worth of the country’s 1,000 wealthiest people is £414bn, up 4.7%.

“It means their joint wealth has passed the level last seen in 2008, before the financial crash, to set a new record.” [3]

The BBC report also listed the Top Ten, most of whom don’t seem at all similar to the typical Tory voter. I checked, and it is indeed a collection of people in the UK but not really of the UK:

    Origins Source of wealth
Lakshmi Mittal and family £12.7bn. India Steel
Alisher Usmanov £12.3bn. Russia Post-Soviet privatisation
Roman Abramovich £9.5bn. Russia Post-Soviet privatisation
Sri and Gopi Hinduja £8.6bn. India Conglomerate founded in 1914
Leonard Blavatnik £7.58bn. Russia Post-Soviet privatisation
Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli £7.4bn. Italy Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and hedge funds
The Duke of Westminster £7.35bn. Britain Inherited a chunk of Central London
David and Simon Reuben £7.08bn. Britain Metals trading, property and post-Soviet privatisation
John Fredriksen and family £6.6bn. Norway Oil and shipping
Galen and George Weston and family £5.9bn. Canada Food processing

Three Russians, two Indians and three other foreigners, along with two Britons, one of them an aristocrat. That’s Opportunity Britain!

It’s doubtful if any of the ten have added anything real to the UK economy, or pay much tax in the UK. There is undoubtedly ‘trickle-down, but only within the Top 1%. Advantages passed from the super-rich to the moderately rich, including Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires.

The Russians are among the stratum that grew rich while Russia declined and its economy shrank below its late-Soviet stagnation. The sort of people who made it absolutely certain some sort of Russian-nationalist reaction would happen: we should be thankful it has been no worse than Putin. But all we hear from the British press is that Putin is not a liberal. Of course he’s not a liberal: Russian liberals had their chance in the 1990s and screwed up completely.

I also rate the 1% as short-termist fools. While they view life as a burden on money, they will constantly bungle their attempts to re-shape the rest of the world and will never understand why. The impending failure in Afghanistan and Iraq is noticed but not understood.


Murdoch and the Invisible Mouth

It was rather suitable that Murdoch’s apparent influence on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt should have resulted in the departure of an advisor called Adam Smith. Cameron does have a point when he says that weakening or removing media regulation is in line with Tory philosophy since Thatcher. New Right doctrine was to let the economy be regulated by the ‘Invisible Hand’ hypothesised by the original Adam Smith. Even if it turns out that Hunt broke the ministerial code in helping Murdoch evade some of those regulations, that is still in line with the overall philosophy.[4]

Nice philosophy, shame about the facts. Reduced regulation has meant an increase in degraded rubbish. The ‘tabloid’ formula is an old one, based on an oddity of British law that allowed scandals and court testimony to be used as soft-core pornography and malicious gossip when the same thing as fiction might have been prosecuted as obscenity. This meant intrusion and great harm to many people, some of them innocent victims. Who cared? Not enough people cared, it turns out. Tabloid journalism flourishes and is pushing out the more serious stuff.

The current main opposition to media corruption is anarchic, and therefore ineffective. We now know that the internet pirate culture was easily used by BSkyB to destroy Sky Digital, its main rival for British viewers. Pay TV depends on most people actually paying to decode encrypted signals, which seems to work for BSkyB. Sky Digital was ruined because their codes were made available on pirate networks. [5] It now turns out that this was organised by people connected with BSkyB, though proving guilt of anyone beyond a few small-fry is likely to prove difficult.

Murdoch is being hammered, but will he survive? I find it significant that he wilfully leaked the apparent bias of Jeremy Hunt. This hurt Cameron much more than it hurt Murdoch, and if there is much more to come, it may undermine any will among politicians to act.

Meantime harassment of an anarchic kind does have its place. I’d suggest that some street-vendors start selling a T-shirt logo saying Rupert Murdoch is Innocent OK, showing him with a halo in an office full of devils on computer terminals. And maybe also a Star Wars variant, The Murdoch Strikes Back, adapting the scene in Return of the Jedi where the Emperor shoots out Sith Lightning: Murdoch as Emperor zapping Jeremy Hunt and with Cameron hiding behind.


Breivik Of The Apes [Mass Murder in Norway]

“Nowhere is the uniquely human cocktail of cooperation, tolerance, mind-reading and empathy more on display than when we are shoehorned together into a crowded airplane. We smile politely at people who bump into us, offer sympathetic nods to mothers of wailing babies, and offer our untouched dessert to the stranger in the adjacent seat.

“After inviting us to reflect on this behaviour, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy [in a book called Mothers and Others] points out just how odd it is. If we were travelling with a planeload of chimps, she says, ‘any one of us would be lucky to disembark with all 10 fingers and toes still attached, with the baby still breathing and unmaimed’.

“In this compelling and wide-ranging book, Hrdy sets out to explain the mystery of how humans evolved into cooperative apes. The demands of raising our slow-growing and energetically expensive offspring led to cooperative child-rearing, she argues, which was key to our survival.” [6]

But we’re not as far removed from the ancestral ‘Middle Ape’ as we might wish. Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik is one example. His original plan was to detonate several bombs that would have randomly killed his fellow Norwegians, regardless of politics. Only when he found he could only make the one did he decide to follow on with a targeted killing of young left-wingers, which he says he found emotionally more difficult.

(It’s a curious fact that humans of any political disposition do find random attacks via an automatic mechanism much easier than shooting someone when you have to look them in the eye. We developed sympathy along with our reasoning power, but the two remain somewhat detached. Most of us would not contemplate killing for selfish reasons, but the minority who could contemplate it still find themselves inhibited from doing it when they can actually see the victim. Breivik was an extreme of an extreme.)

Breivik’s behaviour is different from regular racist violence, which generally targets what is seen as an enemy community. He targeted his own community, and one has to assume that Norwegian will now trust unfamiliar Norwegians much less than they used to. This is the very opposite of re-creating community identity, Breivik’s stated aim. He has more in common with the semi-random killing sprees that began in the USA and have now been globalised.

It’s fair enough to call Breivik and similar offenders subhuman. The term seems to be objectively accurate, an observation that a compete alien looking at humans and related species might well arrive at. But it’s also a failure of society.

Society exists and was originally invented to encourage us to be Higher Apes rather than Middle Apes. We praise sympathy and deplore greed and anger, though different societies do this to different degrees. This may also be the function of religion in its modern form. Superstition seems basic to human thinking, children evolve their own crazy notions and sometimes rituals to cope with their fears. But religions that suggest supernatural benefits for sympathy and kindness and avoiding anger begin in the 6th century before Christ, with Buddhism in India, Confucianism in China, maybe Zoroastrianism in Persia and a wave of virtue-preaching philosophies in the Greek world.

Religion can be a source of conflict. But you also get vicious wars between people of exactly the same religion. In the 1950s and 1960s, it seemed that religion had been tamed and would fade into bewildered good intentions of the Church of England sort. The return of really nasty forms of religion has been closely associated with the rise of the New Right. The US version of Jesus-Hates-Everyone-Except-US has provided the votes that get Republicans elected. The hard-line Islamists were armed and nurtured by the USA as a weapon against both Communism and left-wing secular nationalism. It then bit the hand that had fed it, the Islamists are much more serious about their creed than the USA’s Jesus-Hates-Everyone-Except-US Christians.

(If anyone says that a Jesus-Hates-Everyone-Except-US attitude isn’t proper Christianity, I say there is plenty of it in the New Testament. The US version have deviated from their tradition in becoming lackeys of rich sceptics: the hatred of anyone outside the creed has always been there. And hating outsiders has always been an effective way of getting ‘insiders’ to trust each other.)

Breivik mentioned the bombing of Serbia on behalf of the mostly-Muslim Albanians of Kosovo one of the things that enraged him. Mohammed Merah, a French citizen with parents of Algerian origin who shot several Jewish school-children, declared himself enraged by children suffering in Gaza. Even though the causes were directly opposite, they deserve to be bracketed together.

But don’t just look at small people. Every US President from Reagan to Obama has behaved like an angry Alpha-Ape in the face of small countries that obstinately chose to live their own lives in defiance of US wishes. It’s worse than the Soviet idea, which was for a harmonious World State centred on Moscow. The USA wants everyone fighting everyone else.

‘Globalisation’ has actually been Sub-Americanisation, them dominating us. Except it hasn’t worked. It doesn’t offer a satisfactory was of life, which even the late-Soviet pattern did for a lot of people.

Look at the values that the USA has been pushing onto us for the last century or more. People are unable to find meaning in their lives, despite vastly greater possibilities. Contrary to what pop-group ABBA once sang, rock and roll will not in fact fill a hole in your soul. It can entertain if you are already living well, but if you are not, it is no help.

In the New World Order created after the end of the Cold War, life only validated by unusual acquisition of money, fame or power. Looking at some of the clowns who get these things, this seems an absurd standard. It also means that it is not possible for most people to feel validated without a change of culture.

Breivik, Merah, kids who shoot other kids at US schools, it’s all part of the breakdown of a culture that pushes greed and lets the media be dominated by advertising that works on everyone’s weak points. That uses the methods once used to support a viable culture, and uses it to push goods that mostly won’t live up to their promise. And then they find it ‘irrational’ if a few inherently cold or nasty people start behaving like Middle-Apes.


Mugs Anonymous [Caught via the Internet]

In war, it’s often been noted that ‘God is on the side of the Big Battalions’. I was always certain that anarchist or libertarian notions of a triumphant Internet erasing the existing world was wrong. At one time I was almost alone in this: now it’s becoming mainstream wisdom:

“The principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the creation of the internet three decades ago are under greater threat than ever, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin…

“The 38-year-old billionaire, whose family fled antisemitism in the Soviet Union, was widely regarded as having been the driving force behind Google’s partial pullout from China in 2010 over concerns about censorship and cyber-attacks. He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long, but now says he has been proven wrong. ‘I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle,’ he said.” [7]

The web may appear anonymous, but is a dangerous place for anyone doing anything seriously illegal. Child-killer Mohamed Merah was caught that way:

“According to reports, the gunman was located with the IP address he used to message the first soldier he shot, expressing an interest in purchasing his motorcycle. Using his mother’s computer, the IP address came to the attention of the French authorities because of his alleged radical Islamist beliefs.”[8]

What about mass movements using the internet? The fight goes on, but now the US government is joining in, trying to make it easier for dissidents to cause trouble overseas:

“For more than a year, the intelligence services of various authoritarian regimes have shown an intense desire to know more about what goes on in an office building on L Street in Washington DC, six blocks away from the White House.

“The office is the HQ of a US government-funded technology project aimed at undermining internet censorship in countries such as Iran and Syria. And so every week – sometimes every day – email inquiries arrive there that purport to be from pro-democracy activists in those places, but which, the recipients are confident, actually come from spies…

“The fact that Meinrath and his fellow geeks are committed to radical transparency is not surprising: that has been the ethos of grassroots internet culture since the beginning. (Meinrath used to work for Indymedia, the citizen-publishing site that grew out of the Seattle World Trade Organisation protests of 1999.) But what certainly is a surprise is the fact that the US state department is providing such people with millions of dollars.” [9]

You’re surprised, I am not surprised. These are much the same people who armed and trained Bin Laden. Who spent years targeting Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s only functional Westerniser. Who encouraged the Egyptian opposition to criminalise Mubarak in Egypt, after supporting him for decades, and are now surprised Egypt is going Islamist. Who made exactly the same error in Libya and seem determined to make it yet again in Syria.

The US is spreading ‘Spiritual Cluster-Bombs. Disrupting functional states in places where there is no coherent Civil Society that could take over. And failing to notice that the Islamists are the closest thing to a coherent Civil Society in most Muslim countries. The pro-Western liberals in those countries are pig-ignorant about how a liberal society actually gets hammered into existence.

In the short term, the US authorities seem able to track down and punish those hackers they see as more trouble than worth. Thus

“He was the self-taught ‘elite hacker’ behind devastating attacks on the US Senate, the Zimbabwean government and a string of enemies in between.

“From the New York apartment block he shared with his two children, 28-year-old Hector Xavier Monsegur led an audacious double life as the internet activist ‘Sabu’ – something of a celebrity in the world of hackers.

“But Monsegur was finally unmasked on Tuesday after it emerged that he had pleaded guilty to computer hacking charges and had acted as an informant for the FBI since August 2011, just as the international crackdown on the notorious Anonymous hacker collective gathered pace.

“Monsegur was deeply involved in attacks on behalf of WikiLeaks in December 2010, according to court papers unsealed in New York on Tuesday.” [10]

They haven’t yet had to ‘waterboard’ any of the underground hackers, or not that I’ve heard. I’ve no doubt they’d find ways if it were needed. But it seems that the threat of a few years in the USA’s notorious prison system is quite enough.

Not that everything’s under control. I’d suppose that most hackers would uphold a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. But one associate of Anonymous thought differently:

“An anti-abortion computer hacker who stole the personal details of 10,000 women from Britain’s largest pregnancy advisory clinic has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.

“James Jeffery, 27, was a member of the hacking collective Anonymous and had intended to publish the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of thousands of women, which he had taken from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) website.

“Jeffery, who had previous convictions for theft, cannabis cultivation and assault, had pleaded guilty to two offences under the Computer Misuse Act at Westminster magistrates court.

“During sentencing at Southwark crown court on Friday, it was revealed that Jeffery was a member of Anonymous who had been in contact with their leader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, also known as Sabu, for more than a year. Last month Monsegur was revealed to be working for the FBI as an undercover informant. It is not known whether Monsegur knew of Jeffery’s plans in advance…

“After hacking into BPAS systems Jeffery also “defaced” its website’s homepage with the logo of the hacking group Anonymous and plastered it with an anti-abortion screed…

“He signed off the statement using the alias of the infamous Colombian drugs baron Pablo Escobar, the court was told.” [11]

According to New Scientist, Anonymous are re-organising as ‘MalSec’ and going after a number of targets, including the Chinese government.[12] Which I’d put on a level with Woody Allen starting a brawl with Mike Tyson. Hacker activists are not going to win against a power that had hydrogen bombs since 1967 and has been learning ever since.

“The US and China have been discreetly engaging in ‘war games’ amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-co-ordinated cyber attacks on western governments and big business, the Guardian has learned.

“State department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May…

“‘The two war games have been quite amazing,’ said Lewis. ‘The first one went well, the second one not so well.

“‘The Chinese are very astute. They send knowledgeable people. We want to find ways to change their behaviour … [but] they can justify what they are doing. Their attitude is, they have experienced imperialism and they had a century of humiliation.’

“Lewis said the Chinese have a ‘sense that they have been treated unfairly’.

“‘The Chinese have a deep distrust of the US. They are concerned about US military capabilities. They tend to think we have a grand strategy to preserve US hegemony and they see a direct challenge.[13]

And a few hobbyists think they can step in and form an unbreakable underground. It would be wholly comic, except that I suppose a few citizens of the People’s Republic will get drawn into it and have their lives ruined. Or maybe the Chinese state will set them working as a specialist unit serving their interests, just as the USA does.

The USA tells the world, ‘do as we say, not as we do’. The world no longer takes much notice.


Red Banner, Gold Pockets [Fall of Bo Xilai in China]

I’d seen Bo Xilai’s work in Chongqing as a positive development in China’s fast changing society. It seems that a lot of Chongqing residents feel the same and are sorry to see him gone. But I’d always felt that the most interesting thing was it was Maoist nostalgia rather than Western liberalism that was popular.

We first learned that something had gone wrong when Bo’s right-hand man Wang Lijun’s sought refuge in the US Consulate General in Chengdu. This made be instantly suspicious of the true beliefs of Bo’s people. After all, the USA fears China’s rise. This would apply regardless of how China adapted its politics, culture or economics. Any Chinese who understands this would know that they could not trust the USA at all, they are out to disrupt China. Dissidents mostly don’t seem to know it, but one would expect left-wingers to know that the US is especially hostile to China going the way they want. So what was Mr Wang thinking of?

It looks now as if Bo was an unworthy upholder of what remain popular values. His family gained huge wealth with no obvious legal source. Yet limited gestures towards the Maoist past seem to have won him popular support. Which could be the reason that there has been no further progress towards higher-level popular elections of the sort that were talked about several years back. Assuming that it was limited to members of the Communist Party, it might well strengthen the Left.

Let’s imagine that history had gone differently. Suppose there had no economic crisis in West in 2007-2008, and that they had come under pressure with threats of an Olympic boycott. And supposing that China’s leaders had (rather improbably) responded by agreeing to an open Presidential Election. Would the electorate perhaps have chosen the popular Mr Bo and his charming wife? It has been noted that he was the only senior Chinese leader who operated like a Western politician.

Western politicians go for whatever is popular, even if they don’t believe in it. The Mao Era remains popular. The recently-dead dissident Fang Lizhi made an interest comment on the Tiananmen protests of 1989. Most Westerners assume it was for Western values, which was actually the case with the Middle-European protests of the same year. But Fang knew better, as did at least a few of those who reported him for Western media:

Question: To observers like myself, the movement, especially towards the end, looked ideologically rather confused. On one side there were people who seemed to be influenced by a sort of Maoist nostalgia, on the other there were people who mistook Western affluence for Western democracy. Do you think that the movement had a clear idea of what it was and what it wanted?

Feng: No, I agree with your observation. The movement was made up of different people with very different backgrounds and with very different demands. Because of this it had no unified leadership and no clear objective. But it was still a very important movement.”[14]

I made exactly the same observation in 1989, shortly after the protests were crushed, picking up a stray British news story which also noticed the Maoist nostalgia. What it might have led to is anyone’s guess: perhaps total chaos, perhaps fragmentation, perhaps a sharp turn against Deng’s policies and back towards Mao. At the time I felt it would have been no loss: this was a drastic misjudgement.

Fang had a better idea than his Western admirers what the real balance of the society was. In this same book he expresses doubts about the idea of an immediate move to multi-party democracy: perhaps he suspected that if someone started a ‘Maoist Communist Party’ it would win by a landslide. He and the entire Chinese dissident movement was quite quickly dropped by the West: perhaps they didn’t find them docile enough or did not find them competent.

(Fang’s book contains some extraordinary rubbish, including a belief that it’s proper to refer to Christmas as ‘the birthday of Jesus’. Also, more seriously, a sneering at the achievements of Deng as well as Mao. I plan to do a review of it for a future issue.)


British Democracy in Two World Wars

We are coming up to the anniversary of the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. The official explanation at the time was that we had to come to the aid of brave little Serbia, at risk of unjust punishment over its claim to Bosnia. One can safely expect this to be downplayed, in favour of a claim that it was a war for democracy.

Germany in 1914 had parliaments elected by all adult males, and able to curb their government. Parliamentarians did not have the same privileges as those in Britain, but they still had the potential to stop the war if they had wanted to. Likewise multi-party elections were common in most of Europe and were eroding royal power everywhere, even in Russia, which was the least advanced.

Britain in 1914 was the core of the largest Empire the world had ever seen, including a fifth of humanity. Outside of the British Isles, only a few million white voters in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa had any say in their own participation. No woman had a vote, and only 60% of adult males met the property qualifications, which had last been changed in the 1880s. The war was begun in 1914 by the will of a parliament elected in the second of two elections in 1910, British Isles electorate of 7.71 million, of whom 6.01 million lived in contested seats. 4.88 million votes were cast and gave a narrow majority to an uneasy alliance of Liberals and Irish Nationalists. This parliament lasted till 1918 and controlled a British Empire of 400 million. That’s to say, 2% of the population controlled the destiny of the rest

The war of 1939-45 was controlled by a parliament elected in 1935. By then, all adults in the Imperial homeland had the vote. There was a British and Northern Irish electorate of 31.37 million, of whom 29.56 million lived in contested seats. 20.99 million votes were cast and 11.18 of these return a massive majority for the ‘National Government’. This was mostly the Conservative Party but with National Labour and National Liberal getting the odd million between them. With opposition votes split, they got 429 out of 615 seats. Old Labour as the main opposition got 7.98 million votes but only 154 seats.[15] That parliament lasted till 1945, controlling a British Empire of 450 millions from the votes of a potential electorate was just 7% of its population.

After 1945, Britain set India free. The Tories tried to hang on to the rest of the Empire, including a brutal war in Kenya, but in the end this failed. But it was a slow process, and I think that 1960 was the first British election in which the Westminster parliament had an electorate that was more than half of the potential electors ruled by that Westminster parliament. If Britain hadn’t lost the first round of its second war with Germany and needed to be saved by the USA and USSR (both anti-imperial powers), who knows when it would have changed?



[1] []

[2] Ibid.

[3] [[]

[4] At the time of writing (29th April), Hunt himself is still there and likely to survive unless something worse emerged

[5] [] and []

[6] [], a review of a book called Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

[7] []

[8] []

[9] []

[10] []

[11] []

[12] issue 2861 of New Scientist magazine, page 22

[13] []

[14] Fang Lizhi, Bringing Down the Great Wall, pages 278-9. W. W. Norton & Company 1990.

[15] []

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