One of the greatest advances for personal freedom in the last twenty years was the rise of the low cost airline. Suddenly, thanks to Ryanair, Easyjet and their many imitators, European travel was transformed from the rare luxury of the few into something almost everyone could enjoy, often two or three times a year. The range of destinations opened too, as smaller airports Bydgoszcz, Montpellier, Beziers, Wroclaw, Kaunas, Riga became part of regular flight schedules. This in turn enabled people to buy properties in parts of Europe which, hitherto, they had barely realised existed. And with flights so cheap they could visit their second homes regularly, enjoying with their family and friends the glorious escapism which comes of owning your own special realm in another country remote from the cares of quotidian existence.
Sure the cheap travel boom had its downsides, for no social and economic advance is without its side effects. Obviously Prague, Riga and Wroclaw could live without the drunken stag parties (though possibly not without the boost they have afforded the local economy); and no one is pretending that Ryanairs Michael OLeary is Mother Teresa, nor that a crowded EasyJet flight is the last word in sophistication. But you would need a really warped sense of priorities to argue that the disadvantages of cheap air travel outweighed the advantages, let alone that it is something which should be actively discouraged.
Yet bizarrely, disgracefully, this is exactly what one of David Camerons ministers is reported to have proposed. According to the excellent Iain Martin (formerly of this parish), the minister in question is Eton-educated former merchant banker Oliver Letwin. And his remarks have prompted a row with London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson has had a blazing row with a Tory Cabinet minister who privately told the London Mayor that the Government doesn’t want people flying abroad on holiday.
Johnson told a ‘People’s Question Time’ event: ‘I was absolutely scandalised the other day to hear a government minister tell me he did not want to see more families in Sheffield able to afford cheap holidays.
Absolutely disgraceful, a bourgeois repression of people’s ability to take a holiday. It is a matter of social justice.’
Who was the Tory minister concerned? Impeccable sources tell me it was Oliver Letwin, the Hampstead-born minister of state at the Cabinet Office, ‘leading Cameroon thinker’ and former investment banker.
Once again we see Boris positioning himself as the ideological conscience of the Conservative party. Im not suggesting he doesnt also believe this stuff: Im sure he does, with a passion. But politically it makes sense too for Boris understands clearly, as his party leadership apparently does not, the Conservative party in Britain is in dire, dire trouble. And the root of this malaise is precisely this mix of snooty remoteness, intellectual woolliness and odious wetness exhibited by senior party figures like Oliver Wetwin.
Wetwin, let it not be forgotten, is not some random pillock on the fringes of the Tory party. He is the Prime Ministers key policy adviser. If somebody that influential cannot understand why trying to clamp down on cheap holiday flights (as indeed the government is doing: through the swingeing eco-taxes imposed on air travel) is inimical to Conservatism, then truly the Tory party is doomed.
One of the reasons Margaret Thatcher was so successful was that she understood what it means to aspire to a better life. If youre Oliver Letwin (or indeed a baronets son like George Osborne, or indeed David Cameron) you dont need to worry about such things: youve had it all handed to you on a plate already. But to Thatcher, the kind of snobbery that suggests that only people with chalets in Gstaad (like Nick Clegg) or homes in Tuscany (eg Polly Toynbee) should be able to afford to fly abroad regularly would have been total anathema.
One of the key tenets of Conservatism is a desire to set people free: free of the shackles of the state, free to forge their own destiny, free to spend their money on as many exciting new opportunities as a burgeoning market is prepared to offer them. This is also how economies grow: by harnessing the mightily powerful urge most people have to improve their own lot and create an even better world for their children.
Oliver Letwin is not the only senior Tory who completely fails to understand the point of conservatism, but he is probably the most egregiously misguided.
The only consolation here is that David Cameron is unutterably ruthless. If he believed for one fraction of a second that his political survival lay in ditching the wets in his party and rediscovering his true inner Tory, he would do so in a trice.
As Martin argues earlier in his article, while Cameron is busy grandstanding over Libya, his domestic policies are falling to pieces. Not only is the Coalition under threat, but Camerons brand of managerial, Heathite faux-Conservatism too. I still fancy Camerons chances because, beneath that plausibly charming veneer, hes a principle-free thug. Thats why, I suspect, sooner or later hes going to be forced to do the right thing.
And one of those right things should definitely be this: sack Oliver Letwin.
- Cameron’s coalition of liars, trimmers and charlatans are destroying Britain’s landscape
- A refreshing weekend of real conservatism
- Cancun suffers its final indignity: a visit from ‘Two Jags’ Prescott
- ‘Compassionate’ Conservatism isn’t Conservatism
16 thoughts on “The ideological rot that is destroying English conservatism”
Comments are closed.
This is what i told your ‘small Govt’ mate Daniel Hannan would happen. If the Tories were piss poor in opposition they’d be even more shambolic in Govt faced with real (as apposed verbal) challenges.
But forget re-arranging the deckchairs, or in Oliver Letwins case he’s the trash in the bin, on the Titanic James.
The real iceberg is the economy. Everything else is bunting.
Housing, consumers and retail have all just started tanking again.
When the economy rollercoasters down into its 2nd Double-Dip the public, the real ones not the current bleating pigs of the public sector, will (finally) lose their rags and (finally) kick off into the streets (Circa. 2012-2014)
The current Lib-Con jokers will find a hell on earth and at last awake from their cushy elite educated socialist slumber ….welcome to reality retards
But, since you still have not invalidated his argument, I return to the central point made by Greg Craven, that we should stop arguing about the science and start debating about the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of whether or not we should take action to mitigate the potential consequences of AGW being/turning out to be true.
Feynman came up against this in the 1960s with radioactivity. He found the natural background radiation in Denver is double that at sea level altitude cities (on account of the extra cosmic radiation at altitude). Then he noticed people protesting about a 1% increase in radiation due to nuclear tests. Why, he asked, were the people not protesting against the much bigger radiation, the 100% increase in sea level radiation from living in Denver? Why not protest to have such cities closed, if you claim a hazard exists?
Feynman classic repudiation of 1960s radiation lies for political scaremongering:
What depressed me what the way this argument of Feynman’s was ignored by reviewers in science magazines when the essay above was republished as part of the Feynman book The Meaning of it All. I recall that one reviewer, probably in New Scientist wrote that Feynman’s views of radiation risks were outdated and shocking to readers: he made no mention of the point Feynman was getting at, which is the lying and deception. Yes, Kennedy signed the atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty on 5 August 1963, four months after Feynman’s lecture. But it had a terrible price in “justifying” pseudo-science.
Unfortunately, while denialists prevent more effective mitigating action being taken, the climate is changing (as Greg Craven would say, “the experiment is running and we are in the test-tube“); and the time lag between cause and effect means that by the time this mad “debate is finally over, the cost of preventing significant change will have escalated enormously because, as Nicholas Stern has pointed out:
“This is not an investment project like a new road or a bridge. The costs and benefits of such projects can reasonably be understood in terms of a marginal change, set in the context of a given growth path for the entire economy. What we are discussing with climate change are strategies concerning patterns of growth, or possible decline, for the world economy as a whole in the context of uncertain outcomes. The analytical tools and policy constructs must be capable of taking on these issues directly. All too many discussions – and it is astonishing that they have done so – see policy on climate change as a single-investment decision, analogous to a new bridge. Standard or marginal cost-benefit analysis is appropriate for the latter kind of decision. For climate change, however, the relevant economics are much more difficult and profound“.
Page 13 of “A Blueprint for a Safer Planet” (2009).
In other words, Stern was right the first time, the longer we delay taking action, the more expensive it will be to take action that achieves the same result. The fact that the libertarian ideologues at the Institute of Economic Affairs do not accept this just shows how blinded they are by their idolatry of the free market. Again, Stern was therefore also correct to conclude that AGW is the biggest market failure in human history.
Please describe the harm you say CO2 is causing. Remember, as you describe it, that CO2 is emitted by natural processes, such as by animals breathing, and that it is the single most important plant food, even for aquatic and oceanic plants.
I am interested to hear what harm this natural ‘pollutant’ causes to our environment.
Climate Conversation Group.
No amount of consensus based on ignoring the facts can ever be science, it must be called pseudoscience.
The page you link to, http://www.skepticalscience.com/Evaporating-the-water-vapor-argument.html states the old positive-feedback IPCC hypothesis (used in every IPCC model) that sunlight warmed water vapour doesn’t rise to form clouds in the low-pressure at thousands of feet above air pressure.
The positive feedback hypothesis is disproved by the data in my paper, and what we’re dealing with a socialist conspiracy called popular fashion, which is the most prevalent conspiracy you can find, even sucking in “conservative” nutters like David Cameron!
As I’ve written before, I was pushed into statistics before mechanical applications of mathematics. Suppose you toss an unbiased coin, observe how it landed, but don’t tell me. From my perspective, I still have to assume that there is 50% probability of heads or tails, even though the event is done and dusted, and you know the result with 100% accuracy. In this case, probability is just is a measurement about how ignorant you are of the facts. As soon as you have the facts, probability ceases to have values between 0% and 100%, or 0 and 1, yes and no. There is no fuzziness, no probability in the real world. Probability is just a subjective measure of ignorance, varying from person to person, depending on the knowledge available to that person. It’s subjective, not objective.
What you’re trying to do, Martin, is to ignore the fact the coin has landed tails up on the AGW controversy, by asserting that there is some probability that warm moist air doesn’t rise. This reminds me of the fallicious argument that there is some small probability that all the air molecules will cluster in one corner of your room, suffocating you (or causing you to explode in the vacuum thus formed around you).
It’s fallicious because although it looks like solid “probability theory”, it violates the conservation of energy, the third law of thermodynamics, etc., like the “probability” that a ball will roll uphill of its own accord. As soon as any slight pressure enhancement in one place arises, that air expands, physically re-establishing an uniformity of pressure. To get all the air molecules in one corner of your room would require a lot of work energy to be expended in greatly compressing (and thus heating up) the air into a corner, and that large amount of energy needed to reduce the entropy of the gas is simply not available. Even if you assume that quantum field vacuum energy is “borrowed” to power a temporary re-arrangement of air molecules in your room, you find that it is impossible to achieve because the amount of borrowed energy (Joules) = h-bar/time (seconds), so the time taken by 500 m/s air molecules to all reach one corner of your room prevents enough energy being borrowed to compress that that air.
So in the real world, things are impossible, contrary to the popular fashion that probability is a statement of reality. Furthermore, the “self-fulfilling prophecy” principle is alive and well in “science”, well explained by Shaw:
The tolerance of criticism and the need to debate openly is the definition of progressive libertarian freedom. The pretense in mainstream physics that science is a “consensus of experts” is useful in showing such mainstream physics to be politically defended. Democratic politics, where the “consensus” is supposedly established every four years by elections, shows some of the problems with such consensus.
First, a consensus means nothing where everyone has been misled by liars. Second, a consensus can form behind a liar who makes false promises that people want to hear (vote for Nige Cook, I promise everybody I’ll cut tax and provide millions of new public sector jobs, and better services for everyone). Third, nobody decent and moral and uncorrupted by the sewer smell of power wants to go into politics any more that they would want to board the Titanic while it was sinking, because they can see the country is bankrupt and there is nothing that can be done without money. So the consensus of liars ends up attracting more liars to it, just as overripe fruit attracts flies until they become very unattractive. At this stage, it’s too late for would be critics, because there’s a supercritical mass of bullshit exploding.
“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible“.
Nature 471, pp.265–266, 17 March 2011.Is this how you want your children to remember you?