Notes On The News
By Gwydion M Williams
The media in Britain was unanimous that the French Presidential Election would be a very dull affair. Polls showing Hard-Left and Hard-Right candidates quite close to the two main contenders seem not to have prompted any speculation about whether one of these outsider candidates could actually come second. It seemed to me quite possible, but I don’t really follow French politics and I assumed the experts knew best.
Then came the dramatic news that Le Pen had come second. The mild resistance that Jospin’s socialist government had offered to Anglo-Globalisation was undermined. And they are now under intense to ‘modernise’ along New-Labour lines. So isn’t it odd that the media ignored the possibility of a Le Pen victory ahead of the event? Especially since it’s often been observed that Hard-Right candidates get more votes than there re voters who will declare such an intention to the pollsters.
Had people realised what might happened ahead of time, enough of Jospin’s normal supporters would have rallied to him and he might well have won the presidency. Voting intentions for an assumed Jospin-Chirac second round were too close to call, and socialist control of both government and presidency might have happened under some more sensible voting system.
I don’t know what the French media were up to, but they evidently did not warn voters any more than the English-language media did—and one assumes insights leak pretty freely, nowadays. But of course, media people are among the beneficiaries of Anglo-Globalism, while the owners of media are among its keenest enthusiasts..
The Times in 19th century Britain got a reputation as an independent force, a ‘Thunderer’ that could demand reforms. Except that it was always basically a servant of commercial interests—newspapers depend on advertising revenue, and commercial television is dependant on it. So of course it reflects the business point of view—and even when it doesn’t, I’d say that ‘Campaigning Journalism’ is a rather futile business.
The ‘Thunderer’ gave its readers the wrong advice and boosted the 19th century British complacency that made its 20th century decline inevitable. Back in the 1960s, the ‘Thunderer’ itself was swallowed by a press lord with barely a whimper.
The cruder US pattern of muck-raking journalism is still going strong—but what does it do to public life? Much muck raked into the light of day does not improve public life, it might have been less harmful left where it was/
The biggest success of the pre-Thatcher era was the discrediting of Reginald Maudling, who was driven to resignation in 1972 over his connection with some fairly benign corruption that was exposed by Paul Foot and by Private Eye. Had this not happened, he’d have been a more plausible candidate in 1975 than either Thatcher or Willy Whitelaw. Maudling died in 1977, indeed, but I’ve a feeling he’d have lived a lot longer had he had the stimulus of power and success to live for. And there would then have been no Thatcherism.
I also think it remarkable how Christian Democracy was destroyed in Italy, greatly damaged in Germany, by an unexpected flood of scandals that occurred just after the ending of the Cold War and the birth of a New World Order in which the USA saw such people as obstructive rivals rather than vital allies. US signals intelligence is sophisticated, far more so than the often-clownish exploits of the CIA. And there’s nothing like a bit of inside information for guiding investigative journalists to a suitable target.
As for Le Pen, it is a set-back for the left rather than a positive advance by the Hard Right. Le Pen’s vote has gone from 15% to 18%, the rest is a fluke of the French electoral system. Had it been Single Transferable Vote, with the worst-polling candidate having their votes transferred to the voter’s next choice, Le Pen would probably not have got above 20% and Jospin might even have accumulated enough votes to win.
First reports exaggerated the margin, the final results showed a difference of less than one per cent between Jospin and Le Pen. He also got no more than a couple of hundred thousand votes more than in the election of 1995, it was just that mainstream voters were less inclined to bother in what had been billed as a trivial first round that was just for protest voters.
It’s also not Fascism. The Hard Right protest against Anglo-Globalisation is based on a simple protest at old values being destroyed by shallow greed. Despite which, Le Pen still counts for little. The big winner within France is Chirac, obviously voters must rally round and give him a decisive win in the second round. But globally, Anglo-Globalism has managed yet another sleek success.
In France, the Marxist Left has once again missed an open goal. Between them, candidates who were to the left of Jospin scored more than Le Pen. Had they been united behind a single popular leader, it would have been the Hard Left that scored the newsworthy triumph. Always assuming that the media hadn’t sounded the alarm over that particular possibility, which is moot.
As it was, the most popular of a trio Trotskyists scored less than 7% and came fifth. The once-powerful Communist Party scored even less, deservedly. But when there are three Trotskyists and a host of alternatives, how can they be taken seriously?
The rise of Trotskyism coincides very nicely with the decline of the left, so you’d need very good reasons NOT to see them as a major cause. The New Left of the 1950s had promise, but was hijacked in the 1960s by the detritus of the Old Left, the branch Leninism who had never achieved anything positive—and still have not.
The small matter of a mobile phone-call made from much too far away makes it very unlikely that the accused in the Damilola were actually guilty. But we now learn that the acquitted youths had previously got off on other matters, including a sexual assault where the case was rejected on a technicality.
The British legal system insists that mundane justice must be denied if the proceedings are not ‘ritualistically correct’. The phrase used is ‘fair trial’, but this is pure jargon and has no real connection with convicting the guilty or acquitting the innocent. Procedures are elaborated to an insane degree to give the proper degree of ritualistic correctness. One cannot call it anything else, since fairness in the normal sense of the word does not come into it.
Remember also that the vast majority of those acquitted are guilty as hell. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and juries are told to allow for ‘reasonable doubt’—acquit where guilt is probably, but not quite probably enough.
The old soft-liberal notion was that it was better to free ten guilty suspects than convict one innocent—which translates crudely into an acceptable probability of 91%, and obviously a lot of false-positives.
Of course smart lawyers have managed to convince juries that a million-to-one possibility of error for a damning piece of evidence is enough to get it thrown out. If this were applied consistently, not a single person could ever be convicted and lawyers would be out of a job, replaced by systems of blood-vengeance which were the original human condition.
It’s also notable that the whole structure of British law is mired in 18th century absurdity and inefficiency. And if you were wondering why it remains sacrosanct while all sorts of other traditions have been attacked, just look at how many ex-lawyers you find as MPs, ministers and even Prime Ministers.
Beginning with Reagan and Thatcher, the Anglo establishment rejected political liberalism but has a dogmatic devotion to the linked creed of economic liberalisation. Not a very sensible mix. And it has not delivered a better economic performance than the older liberalism of the Keynesian era. What it has done is deliver far more of the benefits to a small minority, and a minority which includes media barons and their best known and best paid staff.
I’d also say it’s an irreversible process. Traditional liberalism was the product of a self-confident and powerful ruling class. People who had a privileged position and saw that there were duties attached to it.
Liberal with a small ‘l’ also had the meaning of ‘magnanimous, generous, large-spirited’. Assuredly, our New Right are not liberal in that sense. Much more ‘mean with a small m’, petty and malicious in their thinking.
In accordance with the wishes of much of the population, the BBC was suitably Queen-mummified, with hours of shallow chat about a nice old lady who had died at a very advanced age and whose death changes very little.
Monarchy was taken seriously when Britain was still seen as a family. That ended with Thatcher, and it’s not coming back. Respect for the monarchy will last for as long as our present Queen is there as an embodiment of nostalgic values. But I couldn’t see Mr Charles Windsor ever winning the same sort of respect. He is all-too-obviously a muddled victim of a muddled age.
As for the next generation—I’ve not really followed it, but I’d predict that it’s only a matter of time before Prince William does something really stupid (not just mildly stupid as he’s managed to date).
[This was about the death at the age of 101 of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who is seldom remembered nowadays. It had been occasionally suggested before she died that when she died, the reigning Queen Elizabeth might abdicate to give Charles a chance and take over the role her mother had performed so well. I never thought it likely.]