Authoritarianism – Our Democracy is at risk – Speech is free but Complaining is futile

Ingrown Bolshiness and Bossiness are now endemic in the System and complaining gets nowhere slowly.

Have we forgotten why we fought World War II?

A cancer is metastasising in the West. Niall Ferguson in his latest book “THE SQUARE and the TOWER, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power” in Chapter 38 succinctly describes the danger: “The secret of totalitarian success was, in other words, to delegitimize, paralyse or kill outright nearly all social networks outside the hierarchical institutions of party and state, and especially networks that aspired to independent political action.”

Today’s hierarchy hijacks networks to cover up all their cock-ups. This is a slippery slope to an Authoritarian State – especially dangerous if it should ever get into the wrong hands, domestic or EU.

Why does no-one in Academia make a fuss? No-one in the media. No Human Rights lawyer.

That is precisely what my writing in Death of a Nightingale illuminates in two quite different case studies – the paralysing of independent political action where it matters. My latest writing challenging biased Ombudsmen describes a House of Cards on a Foundation of Sand defended by lawyers.

I repeat this:

I flag up a real threat to democracy.

See the danger when solidarity with your colleagues <networks> or just doing your job, maybe because you can’t afford to lose it, pre-empts personal integrity; obfuscation, prevarication and truth-avoidance follow.

The train driver transporting Jews and others to Auschwitz says that he is just a train driver; mind you, in his case if he refused to do his job he and his family would have ended up in Auschwitz. No such excuse for the apparatchiks in the offices of the Local Government and Legal Ombudsman – and in Public Post Mortems like Hillsborough – who sit at their computer terminals and do the job they are hired to do <by their hierarchy> right or very wrong.

One case study describes how a small group of ideologues high-jacked Parliament to impose a size 7 fits all policy on UK’s education with disastrous consequences for many children with special educational needs. In the name of Equality and Human Rights they also killed vocational training for the non-academic half of the school cohort to which equal opportunity to go to Uni did not apply. Others have trapped whole generations of students into a lifetime of crippling debt when scholarships and bursaries should also have been provided for the brightest. An incentive to ambition and, yes, a blind eye to inequality. Fair play and common sense instead.

The other describes how Sustrans, a cycling charity and a cycling lobby and a collection of auto-phobic, egocentrics thinking that everyone else should share their enthusiasm for cycling highjacked both Parliament and the Executive to give effect to it, regardless of expense and health & safety hazards.

Academia never notices the predisposition that some people have to project for others what they want for themselves and then try to impose it on them, democratically of course. Planners never take account of human fallibility. To make matters worse, human rights lawyers create human rights that they apply equally to everyone, even though sometimes they are different and conflict with one another.

My latest case study started with a little protest against the policy of the Newcastle City Council with State funding and backing to introduce cycle lanes for non-existent cyclists and red lines on a very narrow, already congested main arterial road as it passed through an extremely good convenience shopping centre, quite regardless of the cost and damage it would do. It has morphed into something more than that.

This is thoroughly bad news.

  • The Local Government Ombudsman whitewashed the Newcastle City Council.
  • Bindmans LLP, my bête noire, human rights lawyers of note – shame on them – stamped down on my attempt to take their decision to judicial review despite over 100 pages of evidence given to them. How much time will they use of the 4 months less a week they have till January to instruct their proxy solicitor, BLM, to respond to my pre-action protocol letter? How long to decide whether to play a game of poker with me, raising the stakes by requesting the transfer of my simple claim against them to the High Court?
  • The Legal Ombudsman let them get away with it.
  • The Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority closed their eyes to it.

There is one thing in common throughout. The people at the top didn’t want to know. Not any of them.

The Local Government Ombudsman didn’t want to own the responsibility for the five Assistant Ombudsmen speaking in her name. The other partners in Bindmans LLP didn’t want to know about the conduct of five of their number, totally ignoring the legal maxim:  Nemo judex in causa sua causa. The Chief Legal Ombudsman didn’t want to own the responsibility for the 17 Legal Ombudsmen using her name. And likewise, with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

I don’t want to rattle skeletons in the cupboard, but it was the same with the closing of over 100 special schools where, some years ago, I tried to flag up the gross maladministration of the Sunderland Local Authority as it implemented the policy of Inclusion. OFSTED didn’t want to know. A firm of solicitors walked away from it. Two QCs separately carefully distanced themselves away from it. The Local Government Ombudsman didn’t want to know because I was the governor of the school. And, the Audit Commission didn’t want to know.  At the end of many days the Audit Commissioners absented themselves from an Aural Hearing leaving it to others to do their dirty work while keeping their own hands clean and their pockets well lined.

Authoritarianism?  The “ends”  justify the “means”. More than that. It validates both of them.

This whole experience provoked me to write the play Death of a Nightingale and stage it in London. Consistently with the above the Stage Magazine commissioned Jonathan Lovett, a Trot working for the Public Service Union, to blackball it with his review. Miriam Margolyes’ review on the home page of my website helped to keep the show on the road.

The networks I have listed need no word or signal. It is not a conspiracy. It is the nature of metastasis with the cancer of authoritarianism.

And that is the truth of it.

In case you think I am just lambasting Labour with my criticism of two Labour Councils in Sunderland and Newcastle, let me make it clear that I am not. I am full of admiration for the Labour-controlled Council in Gateshead – their vision, the great use of taxpayers’ money not their gross waste of it. The Metro Centre, the Angel of the North, Sage Gateshead, the Baltic Art Gallery, Gateshead Millennium Bridge, and much more.

Until this is put right all three main parties are tainted by it by ignoring it. I have had recent experience of the cancer metastasising in the Tory Party.

For once there is a simple solution. The people at the top should be required to own the responsibility for those speaking in their name and be personally accountable for them, losing their jobs, their fat salaries, and their generous pensions if they mess things up and perpetuate their mistakes ad inf!

“Accountability. Accountability. Accountability.”

As I said last time, Brexit or no Brexit …  Even more so, if no Brexit.

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The Great Divide – and An Exposé of the British Disease – a Very Large Blind Eye

Diviseness starts here -Clever? Probably. Street-wise? Probably not

Brexit or no Brexit the UK needs to sort itself out.

For those new to my Death of a Nightingale Blog I explore the anatomy of the cockup. Understand one or two, understand all. Human fallibiliity – the Fly in the Ointment. If you don’t see it, you can’t swat it.

I keep returning to two of them: one the closure of over 100 special schools in the UK, some very good ones in pursuit of the disastrous policy of Inclusion, the other promoting dangerous and unhealthy cycle lanes on twisting, narrow urban streets even more questionable when few cycle on them

This has morphed into an exposé of the British Disease – a  very large blind eye.

  1. Ill-researched policies, sorry, nil-researched ones – cost and practicability
  2. Lobbies – egalitarian ideologues with short, medium, and long-term memory loss the one, and Sustrans, an auto-phobic, egocentric lobby, the other, both high-jacking Parliament;
  3. Downright lying in the name of the Local Government Ombudsman not accountable for it and its cover-up aided and abetted by Bindmans LLP
  4. The sclerotic condition of a self-congratulatory legal professionChantal-Aimée Doerries QC, the new chair of the Bar Council “The British justice system is the envy of the world.” One place where Equality should be – before the Law – absent.
  5. Legislators never factor in human fallibility.

Running through everything, morality pre-empted every time by raison d’etat and the media rarely objecting.

  • I flag up a real threat to democracy

See the danger when solidarity with your colleagues or just doing your job,maybe because you can’t afford to lose it, pre-empts personal integrity.

The train driver transporting Jews and others to Auschwitz says that he is just a train driver; mind you, in his case if he refused to do his job he and his family would have ended up in Auschwitz. No such excuse for the apparatchiks in the offices of the Local Government and Legal Ombudsman who sit at their computer terminals and do the job they are hired to do right or wrong.

That is where I now am. My broad conclusion: it is high time that the Left started to think outside the prison walls of its past and the Right outside its Goldfish bowl. The Privilege of the Right plus the Dogma of the Left explains all.

It is high time to bridge the Great Divide in British Society.

The Goldfish Bowl

Nine elite schools provide path to power…. Former pupils 94 times more likely to reach the top than anyone else. Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Merchant Taylors, St. Paul’s, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester.” < Times 31.10.2017 page 22 > Not even counting the lesser public schools!  Clever? Probably. Street-wise? Probably not.

The Prison Walls of the Past – with politics more of envy than progress

The Left is shackled with its egalitarian dogma.  “Equality of opportunity” to go to a University for half a year’s cohort of pupils and, for years, no thought to opportunity for the other half. No wonder we have had to import skills from around the world. They were aiming at the wrong target – Grammar Schools. It should have been bog standard Secondary Modern Schools. As a headline in the TES said recently Do car mechanics really need to study Bronte? Germany doesn’t do so badly without a National Curriculum.

They made selection a dirty word when you need to differentiate between academic and vocational skills and totally different needs; yes, and promote excellence and, with it, inequality.

To that end they closed Polytechnics, technical colleges, and technical schools because diplomas were not equal to degrees. Likewise, they closed special schools to give children a right to go to mainstream school, a right to be bullied, a right to be deprived of skilled teaching and caring. The academic excellence gap is supremely irrelevant. Everyone in their own terms can be excellent. I saw this for myself as chairman of Governors of Barbara Priestman School in Sunderland. As Fredwyn Haynes its headteacher used to say, all his pupils needed was time, not always provided in mainstream schools. Thank goodness the parents’ campaign to keep it open was successful.

Worse. They ended State Scholarships, yes initially substituted means tested grants, but then introduced student loans. This discouraged ambition from low earners avoiding the need to repay them and penalised ambition for high income earners saddled with debt up to £50k – I say enslaved by it* – and who cannot get a mortgage for a new home or put money into a pension. And this in the name of social mobility. Immobility.

To gain power, ostrich-like the Left now leads students to believe that the State can find the money to free them of debt and fund Universities along with all else they promise in their Socialist Utopia “the wouldn’t -it-be-nice-if scenario, where we all live happily ever after”. Maybe they imagine that Quantative Easing QE – printing money – in their Father Christmas State will foot the bill.  Jeremy Corbyn’s Paradise.

New thinking – Old thinking

OFSTED REPORT IN 2013 “Too many non-selective schools are failing to nurture scholastic excellence” You should read the report and remember that we live in a competitive world where our standard of living and payment for public services depend on what we earn as a country.

If everyone can’t have a Scholarship or a bursary or a grant is that really good reason gifted, talented and ambitious students shouldn’t get a helping hand to get into Oxbridge and access FE generally specially to obtain skills that the country badly needs – and into public schools too?

I and others went to Oxford with a State Scholarship from Bede Grammar School in Sunderland, in what was at the time a working-class town. Marcus Lipton CBE (1900 – 1978) was a Labour MP for Brixton. Born in Sunderland and educated at Hudson Road Council School, and Bede Grammar School. He too went with a Scholarship to Merton College Oxford. And my good friend Peter Batty, author and journalist, Bede Grammar School, and Queen’s College Oxford. His father worked in the shipyards. He cycled to Oxford for his interview.

The UK should play to its strengths. It shouldn’t always focus on the disadvantaged. It should be getting more talented people from the industrial heartlands of the UK as the decision makers of tomorrow, not just asset strippers, make-a-quick-buck-bankers and those who read Greats.

And, if the public schools have charitable status then at least a quarter of pupils should have social backgrounds compatible with it; it should not be just an aspiration and with an understandable bias to children of their own come on hard times. Multi-national companies should be encouraged to help fund bursaries and scholarships. In their interests to talent spot. And Eton kids should reserve their upper- class garb for Halloween. It is just a bit off-putting for those born on Coronation Street.

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*Previous posts in my blog

http://www.deathofanightingale.com/blog/2012/07/snippet-no-6-equality-breeds-mediocrity-fair-play-breeds-excellence-compete/

Snippet No. 21 Sin a little and Promote Inequality. Bring back State Scholarships and give Diversity a chance.

http://www.deathofanightingale.com/blog/2014/12/the-great-egalitarian-blunder-student-debt/

 

How to be Street-wise – Learning from life – I recommend it. A painful learning experience many years ago …

I will tell this story against myself, the plea in mitigation is at the outset. Cleverness is not enough!

My youthful ambition was to quit Sunderland and the North East and become a barrister in Manchester. To that end I went to Merton College, Oxford to study Jurisprudence.

I won’t say that I didn’t benefit and enjoy it, but with two Roman Law papers, International Law, focus on Judge-made English Common Law, European Code Napoléon a no-go area and a tutor keener on Wordsworth than the Law (he later became Oxford’s Professor of Poetry), this partly explains what follows. Ros, my wife, wouldn’t have made the same mistake. With her degrees at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, psychology in the first, and a much more practical law degree in the second, as a Tribunal worker in Sunderland CAB, they made her a much better lawyer than me.

Also at that time I had an infatuation with Jo Grimond’s Liberal Party until, much later, I saw the weakness of the Liberal, naivete. Also, without trying to plan it, a part of the picture as you will discover.

I join the Chambers of CN Glidewell at 25 Bow Lane in Manchester. I share one of the two attic rooms with two other barristers. One was Geoffrey Vaughan Davies, at that time Liberal PPC for Manchester Withington, and Eddie Perez, who brought his expertise in cotton from Columbia to Manchester, the wisest of the three of us. Our room had one leather topped table and a small oak bookcase and no carpet.

Meanwhile on the first floor, Albert Shuttleworth, our clerk. Well, I am in Lancashire. He told me I mustn’t have a calling card but even an archaic profession can change. Today Chambers have websites!  On this floor barristers with the luxury of a room to themselves. CN Glidewell gave the Chambers its reputation for planning law; in a fine tradition he is my “pupil master. I went with him to planning enquiries in his splendid Bristol car, his pride and joy. This was my first acquaintance with the planner and with powerful cross-examination. Invariably the planners were rutted before he started and gutted afterwards. (I was to deal with the same breed much later in my life employed in Sunderland LEA and in Newcastle Council’s Transport Major Projects trying to squeeze cycle lanes and red lines into Gosforth High Street.) CNG had been the Liberal PPC for Clitheroe in the ‘Thirties – anti-bolshiness being part of his DNA, as mine. Bindmans LLP beware!

Next door, Donald Summerfield, in summer invariably tanned from his holiday on Shell Island in North Wales. Secretary of the Manchester Liberal Federation. Later he became Manchester City Coroner. Then Iain Glidewell, also Liberal by instinct, later Sir Iain Glidewell, Lord Justice of Appeal. He was to tell me that when he received this appointment his father cautioned him against selling out to the establishment! And he didn’t.

They all set a bench mark for wisdom, integrity, and professional excellence that I never found matched in the UK. However, I did later find it in the USA when by chance a top trust-busting American attorney invited me to visit his sumptuous workplace in Manhattan, carpeted throughout – headed up by Judge Rosenman, speech writer to Roosevelt and Truman.  There I discovered that they didn’t need barristers and solicitors or wigs for that matter. Heresy to suggest that in Oxford!

I come now to my first job. My pupil master gave me a brief to work on. It was an accident in a factory. I rejoiced. I could wax eloquently on Donogue v Stevenson and the Law of Negligence. Alas, when I presented this to him, he said, “But what about the Factory Acts?”

You will not be surprised that after three years I left there to join Douglas Robinson, the newly appointed secretary of the Liberal Party at 58 Victoria Street, London, his remit to bring the Party into the 20th Century half way through it. I still remember walking into the yellow, nicotine stained walls and the cloud of dust that came up from the mat in the entrance hall as we removed it.

DOING THAT was another three-year learning experience and it is another story.

In the Prologue to Death of a Nightingale I now quote TS Eliot.

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Hence my last post. Oxford revisited.

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