Devolution and the House of Lords

Robert Henderson

There is one important aspect of the devolution mess created since 1997 which receives little or no attention in the mainstream media or from mainstream politicians, namely, the role of the House of Lords.  As things stand  all legislation which affects England goes through the Lords,  while ever increasing swathes of legislation affecting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland avoid such scrutiny  because the legislation is initiated, debated, amended and either passed or not at the will of the three devolved assemblies. Yet another instance of how England is grossly disadvantaged by the unbalanced devolution in Britain.

Many will shrug their shoulders and say what does it matter, isn’t the Lords just a talking shop with no power?  The answer is an emphatic no. Government ministers sit in the Lords, the House  can initiate their own Bills, amend   or strike down completely  Bills  sent to them by the House of Commons ,ask  questions orally and in writing, including questions of ministers,  sit on  their own select committees and on  joint committees of the Lords and Commons . Members also have the great privilege of a national political platform to get their views to the public.

The power of the Lords to delay

The sharpest power  the Lords has is to delay.  This can be achieved   by being tardy over  their examination of Bills sent to them by the Commons, by heavily amending Bills sent to them by the Commons (this means they have to go back to the Commons for re-consideration) and  by refusing outright to pass Bills. (There is one important exception to the power of the Lords to amend or refuse outright to pass  Bills from the Commons and that is what are called money Bills, legislation  which involves   the collection or spending of money by the government. Such Bills have to be signed off as Money Bills by the Speaker. )

If the Lords does refuse to pass a Bill from the Commons in its entirety or in part, the 1949 Parliament Act allows the Commons to force through a Bill regardless of the wishes of the Lords in the  session of  Parliament in which the Bill was originally introduced into the Common. This procedure    typically  results in  a delay of  around a year.  When the Bill is reintroduced it is passed without the Lords having any opportunity to delay it further. This is a very rare procedure with only seven Acts have been passed in this way either under the 1949 Parliament Act or its 1911 predecessor.

Being able to delay Bills sent from the Commons is a  powerful weapon  because  government legislation may be lost for want of Parliamentary time if an election is looming or a session of Parliament (which normally lasts a year)  is coming to an end and other government business takes priority in the new session.   Even if time is not absolutely pressing, governments are generally anxious to get their legislation through quickly and will often accept a Lords’ amendment to Bills sent from the Commons simply to get the legislation passed quickly.

The political composition of the House of Lords

“As at 16 December 2014, the total membership of the House of Lords was 847. However, excluding those currently ineligible to sit (such as members on leave of absence or those holding particular posts), the ‘actual’ membership was 791. The average attendance of the House of Lords in the 2013–14 session was 497.”

The  791 Members eligible to sit in the House of  consisted of 679 Life Peers, 86 ‘excepted hereditary’ Peers and 26 Bishops.  Their political allegiances, where declared, were:

Conservative  230

Labour  216

Liberal Democrat  105

Crossbench  180

Bishops  26

Even on the declared allegiances  the House is heavily tilted toward the liberal left who are instinctively anti-English.  Not only do Labour and the Libdems  have a majority together over the Conservatives, those  who take the Tory whip  will more often than not have much the same politics  as the Labour and LibDem peers .  As for the officially politically  non-aligned, it is reasonable to assume that  most  of  the Bishops will also be of liberal left  because  the upper reaches of the Anglican Church has long shown themselves to be consistently  left of centre with their unwavering support for political correctness .  The crossbenchers   will also have a healthy component from  the liberal left  simply because  they are selected by those who generally subscribe to political correctness  with  the consequence that they  will do the very human thing of selecting those who resemble themselves.

The geographical spread and size of the  of the Lords is very  important. Peers can come from any part of the United Kingdom and there is no limit to their number.   This means that the Lords could easily become imbalanced, if it  is not already so, by the creation of disproportionately large  numbers of peers who were not English. Moreover, because peers are not elected , in principle,  a government could create any number of new peers to push through  legislation which is damaging to English interests, for example, to Balkanise England with regional assemblies regardless of the wishes of the English.

Less dramatically, because of the power to delay and force compromise from a government, it is easy to see how a House of Lords which was  against England controlling its own affairs could cause considerable difficulties if  the Commons voted , for example, to  end the Barnett formula or to set up an English Parliament  simply by delaying matters, for example, if General Election was due in less than a year’s time and sufficient numbers in the Lords thought there was a fair bet that the election would result in a change of government.

If England had English votes for English Laws

Would English votes for English laws solve the constitutional imbalance?  The idea  raises many problems such as how to define what is English only legislation while the Barnett Formula is in place because the Formula  determines what Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gets from the UK Treasury  because it is linked to government  spending in England.  But the  Lords adds another complication because the proposal  as it has been suggested to date makes no mention of removing from the Lords’  the power of  scrutiny of any House of Commons Bills which are deemed English only Bills. If that were the case then there would still be the anomaly   that the Lords  could interfere with English only legislation while having no power to intervene over the equivalent legislation for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland .

The difficulty could be surmounted by giving English only laws the same status as money Bills but in reality, only an English Parliament and a truly federal constitution for each of the four home countries will permanently solve the problem of the imbalance of the present devolution settlement.

Posted in Anglophobia, Devolution, Nationhood | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Archers: an everyday story of simple ever more absurd storylines folk

Robert Henderson

What a remarkable place is  Ambridge. In an England experiencing  normal  rather dry winter weather Ambridge is in currently in  the grip of what one can only imagine is a  monsoon  that  has escaped from the tropics and miraculously  arrived in a very small part of the  English midlands to produce the Great Ambridge Flood  as the latest in the  radio soap’s  increasingly improbable storylines .

In its long history The Archers has provided ready satirical fare amongst which has been frequent imaginings of an end to the world’s longest running radio serial  through some catastrophe  such as the village being wiped out by bubonic plague or the entire cast of characters being abducted  by Aliens.  The Great Ambridge Flood has much the same improbable flavour as that generated by such scenarios, with  central characters are placed in danger with reckless abandon.  As I write a great swathe of characters are now homeless.

The Great Ambridge Flood comes on top of a growing mountain  of wildly unconvincing plots,   the biscuit being taken when the  stronghold of the Archer family Brookfield farm was to be sold for no convincing reason and David and Ruth Archer plus their  children moved 200 miles away to the North East of England.  This was supposedly because of the  road which was scheduled to divide the farm in two and because Ruth’s mother  was becoming unable to fend for herself in Geordieland.    This was a  risibly insufficient  reason   for such a fundamental move, not least because the road going through the farm is still subject to appeal.

The sudden volte face  by David Archer who decides to go back on the sale of the farm to the property developer Justin Elliott for £7 million  after  he has a Damascene moment when he imagines  the ghost of his dead father is  talking to him was even more  improbable.   Suddenly the fact that the farm might have a road running through it does not seem so bad and the chance of stopping the development changes from hopeless to possible.  Nor is the fact that in real life the cancellation of the sale would have resulted in horrendous financial penalties  seemingly of any great consequence.

A much more plausible and satisfying plot about Brookfield would have been David and Ruth fighting the proposed  road to the end with its building  being thwarted when Justin Elliot and his cronies are  exposed as having  bribed council officials and councillors to agree to the route for the road to further their development plans.

In amongst this dramatic carnage earlier  story lines than the abortive sale of Ambridge have continued to make of Ambridge an ever  swirling kaleidoscope of  broken relationships, personal disaster  and antisocial incidents. Shula Archer has perjured herself by lying to the police about an assault committed by the exceptionally controlling sociopath from central casting Rob Titchener, Helen Archer is pathetically interpreting Titchener’s comically controlling ways as  just concern for her and her son, the Elizabeth Pargetter – Roy Tucker – Hayley Tucker triangle has reached the point of Hayley asking for a divorce from Roy and the politically correct flag has been waved  vigorously with the introduction of a gay sex  triangle as Adam  Macey is working up to dump Ian for Charlie Thomas.   Strangely, for such a monument to political correctness, there is yet to be some girl-on-girl action. Could it be that…no surely not…

Topping all the improbable stories is that of Lillian Bellamy and Matt Crawford. Crawford, whose last major appearance in the serial involved him getting involved with the Russian mafia in Russia, has suddenly done a runner with as much of Lillian’s fortune as he has been able to lay his hands on. This has occurred without any hint of trouble between the couple  before Crawford fled and absolutely no explanation since.

What next for the Archers? How about a Midwitch Cuckoos visitation with all  the females of  breeding age giving birth to  alien children? Well, that would be no more improbable than the tosh which has been served up for the past few years.

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Devolving powers to Manchester is the thin end of the Balkanising of England wedge

Robert Henderson

The government have recently  announced the passing of responsibility for the £6 billion of NHS money spent   in the  Greater Manchester  area to a consortium of ten local councils.   This is in addition to the creation of a Mayor for Greater Manchester and  the devolved powers granted to Greater Manchester in November which are intended to place  around £1 billion in the same  local government hands  by  2019 to administer new powers over transport,   house building,  skills training and the police (the Mayor will replace the police commissioner). Contrary to some reports  The Mayor will not have formal responsibility for the NHS and Care budget spending, but will probably exert some unofficial influence in those areas.

Greater Manchester is to have an elected mayor  foisted upon it despite  voted against having one  in 2012 with the Tory minister responsible Grant Shapps  stating at the time  of the referendum that  “People should have the right to decide how they are governed in their local area. The whole point is to give people a say. No-one is forcing mayors on anyone.” That one is being imposed now tells you all you need to know about the real  attitude of the coalition government and their commitment to local democracy. It is a case of you can vote anyway you like provided we approve of your choice.  Shades of the EU’s way with referenda which do not go their way.

All of this has got nothing to do with improving local services and everything to do with fudging the issue of devolution in England. Our political elite are utterly  determined that England will not have a Parliament or government to represent her national interests. Labour and the LibDems are reliant on Welsh and Scots MPs for a significant number of their Commons seats and are concerned that an English Parliament and government could seriously upset the UK  political apple-cart by forcing the reduction of the per capita Treasury funding for Scotland, Wales and N Ireland, for example, by reducing it to the per capita funding for England (that would take around £16 billion a year away from the Celtic Fringe at present).

This shifting of powers to an English region is the beginning of a process  which all three major Westminster parties in one form or another all support.  The policy has two great advantages for the Tories, Labour and LibDems. It  allows  them to claim however absurdly that the imbalance in the UK devolution settlement has been addressed and creates  political institutions which once granted would be very difficult to abolish.

The mere  existence of  regional political institutions with differing  powers  would be a great barrier to an English Parliament and government. Such devolution  would create a patchwork of differing powers and provide a ready-made argument for why England should not have her own Parliament, namely,  that an English Parliament would not be able to legislate on a great swathe of  policies because so much had been devolved to the regions and so varied are the different devolved powers that no meaningful national legislation on those policies would be possible.

Apart from the Balkanising effect on England, there are the practical effects which would be obnoxious.  Because it would be impossible to have such devolution throughout the country so inevitably differences in service offered and the rules under which it is offered would arise. The  post-code lottery already afflicting much of public service, especially in NHS provision, would be greatly amplified. There would also be an ugly battle for resources by different regions.

There is a further good practical reason why such devolution is wrong-headed: the quality of both local politicians and their senior officers is generally poor. If anyone doubts this go and attend a few local council meetings and committees. They simply would not be up to the job of administering such responsibilities.  If local authorities whether singly or in concert as is proposed in Manchester are given extensive new borrowing powers there is every chance they will behave recklessly and run up debts which they could not service and  central government would have to bail them out. Spain is a gruesome example of  such misbehaviour by devolved governments.

The fact that it is Greater Manchester which is receiving the extra powers rather than individual councils or even just the councils for the city of  Manchester   suggests that what is being aimed at is a surreptitious resurrection of the goal of  Balkanising England  which was so roundly rejected in 2004 under Blair’s premiership.

Regional bodies such as those proposed for Greater Manchester will have some  ostensible democratic respectability because their members  will be  drawn from elected councils.  But  this democratic respectability will be specious  if there is a Mayor  of Greater Manchester  who is  not attached to any council heading the consortium. Individual councillors from each council will have little if any influence because you can bet the Mayor will form a council of the leaders of the component councils which will proceed to  stitch up deals  that are then  presented as a fait accompli to the individual councillors. Anyone who has had experience of a council which has adopted the “cabinet” system will be only too well aware of how councillors who are not part of the cabinet are left virtually powerless to affect any council policy or behaviour because they are effectively  excluded from decision making.

Scottish  Welsh  and Northern Irish  politicians will welcome such devolution within England because it lessens  the opportunity for England to exert  its natural power in the Union by making a national voice for England less likely. However,  they could find it a wrong-headed move if English regions start demanding some of the additional exchequer funding  over and above that provided to England that the Celts  currently receive.

These new powers for Manchester are not a done deal because the Tory Party may  well not be in power after the General Election in May.  Certainly in the case of the devolution of NHS power Labour have made it clear that they do not want  it to happen with the  Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham rejecting  the NHS Proposal viz:

“If I was health secretary I wouldn’t be offering this deal.”

“My worry is having a ‘swiss cheese’ effect in the NHS whereby cities are opting out.”

 “This deal is only being offered to certain parts of the country too and there’s a real concern that it could cause a two-tier service and challenge the notion of a National Health Service.”

What is proposed for Manchester is the thin end of the Balkanising of England wedge. It needs to be opposed on principle.

Posted in Devolution, Nationhood | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Why a Labour/SNP coalition could spell the end of Labour as a major party

Robert Henderson

There is a better than sporting chance that Labour and the SNP could form a coalition after the coming General Election.  Polls suggest that Labour will lose the vast majority of the 41 seats they currently hold in Scotland with the SNP having between 30-40+ seats.  In addition, despite Labour’s dire present leadership,  the national UK polls persistently show the Tories with at best  a lead of  only a few points and now and then  behind Labour by the same margin, this at a time when the Tories  need a substantial lead  to gain a bare majority in the Commons because of the wide differences in constituency sizes, differences which favour Labour, viz:

“ if you leave the Liberal Democrat share of the vote unchanged then the Conservatives need a lead of 11 percentage points over Labour to win an overall majority, while the Labour party can achieve an overall majority with a lead of about 3 percentage points. Equally illustrative are the last two general election results – in 2005 Labour had a lead of 3 points over the Conservatives, and got a majority of over 60 seats; in 2010 the Conservatives had a lead of 7 points over Labour, but did not have an overall majority at all.” UK Polling Report Anthony Wells of YouGov

To this disadvantage can be added  the evidence that ballot rigging on a large scale is taking place in constituencies with large populations of Asians whose ancestry lies in the Indian subscontinent.  As these  Asian voters  are  much more likely to vote  Labour than for the Tories, this also  buttresses  Labour’s likely  2015 electoral performance.

All of this points to a hung House of Commons after 2015. The chances of the Tory Party forming another  coalition even if they are the largest party is much less than it was after the 2010 election.  There are 650 seats in the Commons.   After the 2010  election the Tories had 306, Labour 258 and the LibDems 57 seats.  This provided a clear opportunity  for the Tories to take a coalition partner which would create a government with a  working majority. This situation is unlikely to be repeated. The LibDems, polling 6% in the latest IpsosMori  poll, will almost certainly be reduced to something approaching insignificance , perhaps 20 seats or less. Even if they were willing to form another coalition with the Tories,  on the present polling figures  they would be  unlikely to have sufficient seats to form another working  majority Tory/LibDem  coalition. Note I say working majority. A bare majority  for a Tory/LibDem coalition would not last long even assuming  both parties were willing to agree to it, something which is unlikely as the Tory Parliamentary Party, including backbenchers,  has been promised a say in whether another coalition is formed.  With the possible exception of the Northern Irish UDP, who will probably have less than ten seats after the 2015 election,   no other Party would either be likely to form a coalition with the Tories,  or if they were willing to do so, have sufficient seats to make much of an addition to whatever seats the Tories get.

That leaves either  a Labour/SNP coalition or a rainbow coalition of Labour with partners drawn from the SNP, LibDems,  the various Ulster parties, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and Respect.   (Ukip have ruled out a coalition with any of the major parties.)

The temptation for Miliband  to make a coalition with the SNP  is great, but it would almost certainly deal the Labour a mortal blow and finish it as a major party within two Parliaments .   That is because Miliband would not only  have to deny  England English votes for English laws, but would be forced as a condition for SNP support  to give more and more powers to  all the devolved assemblies because it would be politically impossible to deny the Welsh and Northern Irish  extra powers if Scotland gets more. Such a coalition might also end up  increasing the gap between   the  Treasury pro-rata funding of  people in  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  and  the much lower figure in England.

As a consequence Labour would  rapidly be seen by the English as an anti-English party,  while the Tories would be forced to make a choice between tolerating the  injustice of the situation on the spurious grounds that they did not  want to have second class MPs in the Commons  (English MPs already are second class MPs because of  the devolved assemblies)  and becoming the Party of and for England.  In view of the growing English anger and the seeming impossibility of ever regaining  sufficient   representation in Scotland and Wales to be again a serious force there, the likelihood is that the Tories would become the de facto Party for England, even if they probably would  not openly  embrace the title.

In such a situation the Labour would find their vote in England diminishing.  At the General Election after the 2015 they would probably suffer significant losses in England. At the same time they would not get any credit in Scotland and Wales for giving more devolved powers to those home countries. Rather, the message  to Scots and Welsh electors would be elect even more SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs and you will get further  favours from the Westminster Government because  there will be more nationalist MPs to influence  Westminster Governments either by selling their support for a coalition with Labour or to deny the Tories office.    SNP support will be made even firmer and  Labour support in Wales is likely to suffer the fate the same fate as it has in  Scotland  and move en masse to the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru.

This would leave Labour almost entirely dependent on England for its representation, an England which they would be incensing throughout their period of coalition government by refusing English vote for English laws and pandering to Scotland, Wales and Northern  Ireland. The probable  consequence of that would  be much diminished Labour support in England at the  General Election after  the one in 2015 (2020 unless the fixed term for parliaments is abolished) . That  is likely to  be the end of Labour as a major party because the total  Commons seats outside England  are only 117. Even if all were willing to support a coalition government to keep the Tories out of office (a wildly improbable proposition),  Labour would need around 233 English seats to give such a coalition a working majority  and 209 seats for a majority of one.  A Labour Party which had  greatly antagonised the English, as a coalition dependent on non-English seat MPs would inevitably do, is unlikely to be able to muster anywhere near 200 English seats let alone enough for a working majority (In the 2010 election Labour only managed 191 English seats).

What applies to a Labour/SNP coalition would also generally apply to a rainbow coalition.  The only significant differences would be  (1) a larger  number of parties in a  coalition  makes for a less durable and coherent  government  and (2) more parties which put up candidates in English seats would become toxic for much of the English electorate.

On balance the result of  anti-English coalitions – let  us call them what they would be – should improve the chances for the devolution settlement being adjusted to give England  a mainstream political voice, through English votes for English laws at first , then  moving to the creation of an English Parliament.   But there is a fly in the ointment. The danger for England is that if Labour did form a coalition with the SNP  or a rainbow coalition,   they would do what they could to reduce the power and scope of the Westminster Parliament  in the next Parliament.  Labour and the LibDems  have already signalled that their solution to the constitutional imbalance between England and the rest of the UK  caused by devolution  is some form of ill-defined Heath-Robinson devolution to cities and regions in England. All of the likely members of a rainbow coalition would be happy to go along with that general type of policy.

Such a policy would be simply a ploy to Balkanise England and emasculate her  politically.  For example, suppose a Labour/SNP coalition forced regional assemblies onto England. Although the English have shown themselves to be averse to such assemblies by roundly voting down the proposal for such an assembly in the North East of England in 2004 with  78%  against  the proposal,  it would be perfectly possible and legal  for  a Labour/SNP   government to create regional assemblies by a vote in the Commons and the Lords. Once established such assemblies would not be easy to get rid of because new political classes would be created which had the democratic credibility of being elected.  Moreover, if  there has been several years before the 2020 General Election of the new structures functioning with less and less being done at Westminster, the importance in the public eye of a General Election may be substantially reduced.

A strong government with a good majority could abolish such devolved structures , but the sad truth is that the political elite in England is, regardless of party,  are opposed to an English Parliament and would, even while burbling on about English votes for English laws, be more than happy to see the devolution for England issue fudged.  Because of this it is essential that politicians of  whatever party who wish to see England treated equitably, whether from principle or simply because they can see the dangers for their own party in ignoring English interests, speak out against anything which will leave England politically emasculated.

Posted in Anglophobia, Devolution, Politics | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Molesting justice

Robert Henderson

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders  is to issue new  guidance to  police forces and prosecutors on the treatment of allegations of rape, viz:

Mrs Saunders said: “For too long society has blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent – by drinking or dressing provocatively for example – but it is not they who are confused, it is society itself and we must challenge that.

“Consent to sexual activity is not a grey area – in law it is clearly defined and must be given fully and freely.

“It is not a crime to drink, but it is a crime for a rapist to target someone who is no longer capable of consenting to sex though drink.

“These tools take us well beyond the old saying ‘no means no’ – it is now well established that many rape victims freeze rather than fight as a protective and coping mechanism.

“We want police and prosecutors to make sure they ask in every case where consent is the issue – how did the suspect know the complainant was saying yes and doing so freely and knowingly?”

This puts  men in a tremendously vulnerable position,   because rape cases  commonly do not rest on whether intercourse has taken place or not  but whether it was consensual. Consequently,  prosecutions are inevitably tricky, frequently coming down to  one person’s word against another with little if any supporting evidence as to who is telling the truth. To muddy the evidential waters further  the vast majority of rape allegations are made against men who are known to the accuser with a significant  proportion involving someone with whom they have had a sexual relationship before the rape.

What does meaningful consent mean?  

The new guidance means that a man will take his life in his hands if he has intercourse with any woman who has taken because she had taken drink because how on Earth is he to prove the woman was compos mentis when they had sex? . To  legally  give  her consent would a woman have to be stone cold sober, with drink in her  but talking fluently, slurred in her speech but aware of where she was and what she was saying,  inebriated but able to walk unaided  or so drunk that she needed to be helped to walk?   Or would she have to be unconscious?  Then there is the question of change of mood.  A person who has drunk alcohol  may be perfectly coherent but much less inhibited and do things they would not do when sober.  Could anyone who has taken drink be considered fully competent to make the decision to have sex?

The same would apply to drugs. It would all very subjective. There would be no objective point short of someone being unconscious  where it would be possible to  categorically say consent was not meaningfully given. Consequently, any claim short on proven insensibility should not meet the criminal evidential standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Apart from the subjectivity attached to the  woman’s condition there is also the question of who would provide evidence that a woman was unable to give meaningful consent.   Often the only witnesses   likely to have seen the woman shortly before she left a bar or a pub with a man are people were less than sober themselves. Take a common example,  a group of men and women go on a pub crawl and  at closing time a couple pair off.  Next day the woman makes a claim of rape and cites the other people on the pub crawl as witness to her drunken state before leaving the pub. The other people may say they thought she was too drunk, pretty drunk or drunk but not staggering drunk. The problem is that those witnesses themselves were most probably drunk  and in no state to rationally  judge another person’s drunkenness or appear as credible witnesses. .

Particularly pernicious is the recent introduction into English courts  of the practice of allowing women alleging rape to simply say  they were too drunk to remember  what happened with this being  taken as evidence of an inability to give consent . It emasculates the defence of any defendant claiming that consent occurred because, intended or not, it is a  most efficient way of avoiding meaningful cross-examination by the defence. What could defence counsel  ask the alleged victim  if she says she has no recollection  of what happened  and sticks to the story?  If the alleged victim  has a past history of sleeping around  defence counsel  might make something of that (although judges have been primed to treat such questioning with hostility),  but they  would not be able to attack the question of whether she had given consent if consent is not dependent on what the alleged victim says but her  physical  state at the time of the alleged rape.

It is also very important to understand that having no recollection of what happened after drink has been taken does not mean that the woman was not capable of saying yes.   It is quite possible for a woman to have given consent  having taken a good deal of drink and yet be unable to remember what  happened  the next day either at all or with any accuracy.   This is common knowledge. Most British adults at some time will have gone out for a heavy drinking session  and woken up the next day unable to remember  what happened the night before. Nonetheless,  when meeting up with the people they were with during the drinking bout they  discover that they were fully  conscious and physically capable during the time spent drinking. They may also have been sober enough to do something complicated such as having  made a  journey home which required them  to catch the correct bus  or  train, get off at the right station and  find their way home , yet have no recollection of doing so.

What goes for alcohol applies to drugs, both in terms of the incapacitating effects and changes in psychological state. However, with drugs the varieties of mood and consciousness alteration is much more varied.

But the dangers for  men go way beyond drink  and drugs. The guidance will also cover  circumstances where “a suspect held a position of power over the potential victim – as a teacher, an employer, a doctor or a fellow gang member” , the woman had mental problems or learning difficulties or the rapist was a husband or partner on whom the woman was financially dependent.  In  all these situations the judgement would, like the question of whether someone is sufficiently incapacitated by drink or drugs , be very subjective.

Why is only the man to be held responsible?

The onus to be responsible  is all on the man.  What about the woman’s responsibility to  take account of the  man’s  intoxication?  If a woman can be deemed to be morally incapable  through drink or drugs of being responsible enough to give consent why should not a  man in the same situation be given the same licence? For example, suppose a woman goes back to a man’s home after an evening’s drinking, could it not reasonably be argued  that the woman was behaving irresponsibly because (1) she must have known that the mere fact that she has gone back to the man’s home signals to the man that sex is on the cards and (2) the woman is going to the man’s home knowing that the man is drunk enough  to have the normal moral brakes off?  Why should the woman effectively be  treated as having no moral dimension in such circumstances?

The coaching of witnesses

Not content with grossly changing the evidential burden for rape,  the DPP has also in practice  relaxed the rules on coaching prosecution witnesses , something which will have a particular value for the prosecution in rape cases because so much rests on the performance of accuser and accused when giving evidence.  The DPP announced the change in this fashion:

‘ Miss Saunders said: “This aims to give prosecutors the confidence to engage with victims and witnesses without fear of any allegations of ‘coaching’ or going too far.

“It’s about telling them what the defence case is likely to be in general terms. But it is not about telling them what their evidence should be.”

Miss Saunders said the guidance was likely to play an important role in rape and other sex cases but also in assault or harassment prosecutions.’

Even giving such general information would amount to the  coaching of witnesses  because they would not come fresh to the witness box, and  human nature being what it is the odds are that if you give people half an inch they will take a mile or at least substantially more than an inch.  Even as things were before this  change  you can bet illicit coaching goes on, especially on the part of defendants and defence witnesses..

Why does this matter?  The coaching of witnesses  in England is considered to be  forbidden, although the legal  position is not entirely clear.  Nonetheless, it is generally accepted that coaching should be avoided. There is an excellent reason for this: the evidence a witness gives is meant to be their honest recollection based on what they experienced.  That can be simply their unaided memory or what they have written down in for example a diary or statement.   If they are rehearsed, as they can be in other jurisdictions such as the USA,  the evidence they give will inevitably be different from what they would give if un-coached. For example, knowing that sexual history of an alleged victim will be  part of the defence will most probably set the  alleged victim thinking of how she can deal with questions about  any embarrassing or compromising behaviour  in her past in a way she  probably would not do if left unaware of what  the defence against her accusations was to be. Coaching  also robs counsel of the element of surprise when cross-examining, a major  weapon in their armoury.

The anonymity of alleged rape victims

All of this new distortion of the English judicial system comes  on top  of the  hobbling of it by granting  the alleged victims of sexual offences  anonymity for life whether or not a conviction is obtained.  This amounts to secret justice which is wrong in principle  because how can the public judged that justice is being done. In the case of rape allegations this secrecy could also severely disadvantage a defendant.

The argument is routinely made by the politically correct  that publicising the name of the accused names in rape cases   is useful  because it may persuade other women to come forward to say that an accused has also sexually molested them .  But the same argument applies to making the names of alleged victims of rape public,  because a woman may have a record of making such allegations and publicising her name and that fact she is making an allegation of rape could  persuade  people who  were the subject of false allegations of rape or who simply know someone who has made such claims before to come forward to cast doubt on the veracity of  an accuser.

Why is this happening?

It is because the rate of successful prosecutions is low compared with the number of claims of rape made to the police –  approximately 1,000 successful prosecutions  in the year to June 2014 . Almost inevitably in these politically correct times there is pressure from those with power wealth and influence to treat the low  rate of conviction not as a natural consequence of  the difficult nature of the evidence  –  the man’s word against the woman’s – in most cases,   but as a flaw in the way the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) handles rape allegations. The fact that we have a woman DPP probably acts as a catalyst for such changes.

Nor is this likely to be the end of alterations to rape allegations. Saunders appeared on the  BBC Radio 4 programme Unreliable Evidence on 27 January 2015. The programme was devoted to the changes to the way rape allegations are treated. The question of false rape allegations came up and there was  a serious discussion amongst the contributors to the programme about changing the charge for such crimes  from perverting the course of justice (a heavyweight law carrying a maximum of life imprisonment) to the much less serious charge of wasting police time. If such a change did take place it would be wholly wrong because a false accusation of rape can blight a man’s life. If anything the sentences such women get are far too lenient because they are so much less than the average rapist gets. There is a good case for saying women convicted for making false accusation should receive the same  sentence the person they have falsely accused would have got if they had been wrongly convicted of rape based on the false evidence.

Much was made of the suicide of Eleanor de Freitas, 23 who took her life after being charged with perverting the course of justice by making a false accusation. This was an exceptional case because this was originally a private prosecution  which was then taken over by the CPS, a very unusual occurrence.  This suggests the evidence of a false accusation must have been very strong . Saunders responded to the suicide with this:

 “I am very saddened by the tragic death of Eleanor de Freitas.

“I have asked the team which dealt with this case for a full explanation which addresses all of the de Freitas family’s concerns.

“I appreciate the family’s unease which is why I am looking at this personally in order to satisfy myself of the detail surrounding all the stages of the case.

The death of a young woman is a very sad  thing but a justice system cannot be run on the basis that people may or may not be suicide risks. Suicides to avoid going to court occur in many types of cases, for example, those involving accusations of  paedophiles.  Few if any people would suggest that prosecutions  of such people should not go ahead because they may kill themselves.  It is true that Eleanor had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder but if everyone diagnosed  with bi-polar or other mood altering mental condition was excused prosecution I suspect that huge numbers of  criminals would miraculously  suddenly develop the symptoms. In the end people have to take responsibility for what they do  unless they are so mentally incapacitated that they do not realise what they are doing. A prime example of this is  committing crimes whilst  under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  The drugs or alcohol are not considered an excuse for committing a crime.


Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Islam is simply incompatible with Western society

Robert Henderson

Seventeen people have  been murdered in the two terrorist attacks in Paris (between  7-9th January 2015). Ten were journalists, including some of France’s leading cartoonists,   working for the  French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. To them can be added two policemen, one policewomen and four  members of the general  public who happened to be unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The attacks were made on the Charlie Hebdo offices and  the  Jewish supermarket Hyper Cacher. The policewoman was shot in a separate incident.

The terrorist acts  were coordinated to produce maximum effect. That on  Charlie Hebdo was by the  brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi , who were of Algerian ancestry.  A third  brother Mourad Hamyd aged 18  was at school at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack and has spoken to but not been detained by the police. The attack on a Jewish supermarket  was undertaken by a Mailian  Amedy Coulibaly.  He also killed a policewoman before his attack on the Jewish supermarket.  Coulibaly’s wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, who is of Algerian ancestry,  is thought to be another Muslim fanatic with homicidal tendencies. She is believed to have fled to Syria after  the shooting of the policewoman.

Those who died  at the Charlie Hebdo office were slaughtered  by men  shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great), “We have avenged the prophet!”  [for cartoons of making fun of Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo) and just to make sure the message got across “Tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen” .   Cherif Koachi also said in a telephone  interview with a magazine  after the killings that the plot was financed by  al Q aeda The Jewish supermarket killer  introduced himself to frightened hostages  with the words ‘I am Amedy Coulibaly, Malian and Muslim. I belong to the Islamic State’.  All three killers  either expressed a wish for martyrdom or  behaved in a way in which was guaranteed to get  them killed.   All three were shot and killed by French security forces.

Unless  you are a particularly stupid and self-deluding  liberal  and have either persuaded yourself  that  this was a black op and the killers were agents of the wicked old West or have fallen back on that old liberal favourite  that the killers  are not true  Muslims  – congratulations to the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley for being so quick off the mark with that piece of shrieking inanity   –  you will think these are Muslim terrorists.  (The next time you encounter someone spinning the “not true Muslims” line ask them whether  the Crusaders of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were Christians).

Sadly there are many liberals who have not learnt the lesson dealt out by these atrocities. It is true that there has been almost complete condemnation of the killings by the liberal elites around the Western world, but one wonders how unqualified and sincere their regret and anger is.  Apart from the  liberal apologist  mantras  “not true Muslims”, “Just a tiny minority of Muslims” and “Islam is the religion of peace”   being  much in evidence, there has  been a disagreeable media eagerness to portray the killers as sophisticated military beasts. Here is a prime  example from the Telegraph:

“They wear army-style boots and have a military appearance and manner. One of the men wears a sand-coloured ammunition vest apparently stuffed with spare magazines. Some reports suggest that an attacker was also carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

“The men attacked the magazine’s headquarters with clinical precision, killing their victims and then shooting two police officers in the street outside.

“Amateur footage shows them using classic infantry tactics. They move along the street outside the office working as a pair: one advances while the other gives cover.

“Instead of spraying automatic gunfire, they fire two aimed shots at each target – a pattern known as “double-tap” firing – thereby conserving their ammunition.”

Shades of white liberals in the 1960s drooling over the Black Panthers in the USA  .

The truth is that the attackers did not behave like highly trained soldiers, and some of the reporting was simply wrong, for example, after the slaughter the killers,  as was widely reported , did not walk calmly back to the stolen  car  they were using but ran.  When they abandoned the car one of the killers left his identity card behind. After the murders at Charlie Hebdo the  two killers drove around  like headless chickens hijacking cars and holding up petrol stations to obtain food and water.  If they had really been cold, calculating beasts they would either have stayed where they were after the Charlie Hebdo killings and died in a firefight with the French police or arranged matters so that they had a hiding  place  to go to and  would  carried things like a little  food and water with them.  The widespread media  depiction of them as quasi-military figures glamourized and sanitised what they were.

The British political mainstream response

But it would be wrong to say nothing changed in Britain after the attacks. The Ukip leader Nigel Farage broke new ground for a mainstream British politician in modern Britain  by speaking of  a fifth column of people who hate us within Britain.

“There is a very strong argument that says that what happened in Paris is a result – and we’ve seen it in London too – is a result I’m afraid of now having a fifth column living within these countries.

“We’ve got people living in these countries, holding our passports, who hate us.

“Luckily their numbers are very, very small but it does make one question the whole really gross attempt at encouraged division within society that we have had in the past few decades in the name of multiculturalism.”

This was predictably  condemned by David Cameron, a  man who incredibly  still believes Turkey within the EU would be of great benefit to all concerned,  despite the anger and dismay in Britain about mass immigration generally making the prospect  of 70 million Turkish Muslims having a right to move freely within the EU certain to be  utterly dismaying to most native Britons. Interestingly, a would-be successor to Cameron as Tory leader, Liam Fox,  edged a long way towards reality in an article for the  Sunday Telegraph:

“All those who do not share their fundamentalist views are sworn enemies, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, Arab or non-Arab. It is the first lesson that we must understand – they hate us all because of who we are, our views, our values and our history. Western liberal apologists who tell us that the violence being directed at us is all of our own making not only fail to understand reality, but put us at increased risk.

“We must understand that there are fanatics who cannot be reconciled to our values and who will attempt to destroy us by any means possible. They are at war with us. They do not lack the intent to kill us, merely the means to do so, and our first response must be to deny them that capability. Sometimes that will require lethal force.”

The fact that Farage also condemned multiculturalism in no uncertain terms  provoked an automated politically correct response from the leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg:

“The Deputy Prime Minister hit out after Mr Farage suggested the attack on the offices of a satirical magazine should lead to questions about the UK’s “gross policy of multiculturalism”.

“I am dismayed that Nigel Farage immediately thinks, on the back of the bloody murders that we saw on the streets of Paris yesterday, his first reflex is to make political points,” Mr Clegg said during his weekly phone-in on LBC radio.

“If this does come down, as it appears to be the case, to two individuals who perverted the cause of Islam to their own bloody ends, let’s remember that the greatest antidote to the perversion of that great world religion are law-abiding British Muslims themselves.

“And to immediately … imply that many, many British Muslims who I know feel fervently British but also are very proud of their Muslim faith are somehow part of the problem rather than part of the solution is firmly grabbing the wrong end of the stick.”

Such  condemnations are of little account because Farage has spoken an obvious truth and the general public will understand that.  The promotion of multiculturalism has been generally pernicious because it wilfully creates serious divisions within a society,  but is unreservedly toxic in the case of Islam because Muslims,  violent and non-violent, believe in the supremacy of their religion.

The change of language by public figures particularly politicians is of the first importance because the general  public need a lead to be given where a matter is contentious. In these politically correct times it is particularly necessary  because the native population of Britain have been thoroughly intimidated by the totalitarian application of political correctness which has resulted in people saying non-pc things  losing their jobs, being arrested and,  in a growing number of cases , being brought before a criminal court to face charges.

Once things  forbidden by political correctness are  said by public figures change could be very fast. More and more people will embrace the forbidden words and ideas and, like a dam bursting, the  flood  of non-pc  voices will  overwhelm the politically correct restraints on speech and writing.

A tiny proportion of  Muslims

The  claim is routinely made by the  politically correct Western elites and “moderate” Muslims  that those committing terrorist atrocities are a tiny proportion of Muslims.  That is pedantically true but unimportant,  because it is to misunderstand the dynamic of terrorism which rests on a pyramid of commitment and support for the cause. At the top are  the leaders. Below them are those willing to carry out terrorist acts.  Supporting them will be those who make the bombs, acquire guns and so on. Below them will come those who are willing to raise funds through criminal behaviour such as extortion and drug dealing and administer  punishment – anything from death to beatings –  to those within the ambit of the group who are deemed to have failed to do what they were told or worse betrayed  the group.  Next will come those willing to provide safe houses for people and weaponry.  Then there are  those willing to provide information and come out on the streets to demonstrate at the drop of a hat.  At the bottom of conscious supporters will come the  “I disagree with  their methods but…”  people.   They say they support the ends of the terrorists but do not support terrorist  acts. This presses the terrorist demands forward because the public will remember their support for the ends and forget the means because it is the ends which engage the emotions . Those who are familiar with the Provisional IRA during the troubles in Northern Ireland will recognise this  character list  with ease. Moreover, even those from a community from which  terrorists  hail who refuse to offer conscious support  will   aid the terrorists’  cause by providing in Mao’s words “the ocean in which terrorists swim”.

There are differences in the detail of how terrorist organisations act, for example,  PIRA operated in a quasi-military structure  with a central command while Muslim terrorism is increasingly subcontracted  to individuals who act on their own. But however a terrorist movement is organised  the  general sociological structure of support described above is the same  whenever there is a terrorist group which is ostensibly promoting the interests of a sizeable minority and that minority has, justified or not, a sense of victimhood which can be nourished by the terrorists . Where the terrorists can offer a cause which promises not merely  the gaining of advantages by the group but of  the completion of some greater plan its potency is greatly enhanced.  Marxism had the communist Utopia and the sense of working towards final end of history; the great religions offer, through the attainment of some beatific afterlife, the favour of God’s will for their society and the completion of God’s plan.  Islam has those qualities in spades.

All this means that  though the active terrorists may be few , the effectiveness of the terrorist machine relies on large numbers who will offer some degree of support.   Consequently, the fact that the number of Muslims committing terrorist acts may be a tiny proportion of the total Muslim population is irrelevant. What matters is the pyramid of support which at its broadest will  include all Muslims because it is the total population which provides “the ocean in which the terrorist  may swim”.

There is also good evidence that large minority of Muslims in Britain support the methods of  Islamic terrorists, for example an NOP Poll in 2006 found that around a quarter of  British Muslims  said the  7/7 bombings in London in July 2005 were justified because of Britain’s involvement in the “War on Terror”.  There is also plenty of British Muslim support for the imposition of Sharia Law on Britain and some  Muslim children are confused as to whether it is Sharia Law or British Law  which is the law of the land. There are also growing numbers of Sharia Courts in Britain which allow disputes between Muslims to be decided outside of the British legal system.

Importantly,   it is not a case of just  the poor and the ignorant only holding  such views. Young educated Muslims are  if anything more enthusiastic than the average British Muslim to have Sharia Law with 40%  in favour and no less than 32% favouring killing  for Islam if the religion is deemed to have been slighted in some way. All of this points to a considerable reservoir of support for the ends of Muslim terrorists if not always the means.  Many Muslims in the West  would not be prepared to engage in violent acts themselves ,  but they would quite happily accept privileges for their religion and themselves won by the sword.

How should the West react to Muslim terrorism?

How should the West react?  In principle it should be simple. There is no need for gratuitous abuse, no need for laboured reasons why Islam is this or that. All that needs to be recognised  is that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy because in its moral choices it is a belief system  which runs directly counter to liberal democracy and has as  its end game the subjugation  of the entire world.

What effective  action can Western governments do to prevent the gradual  erosion of  the values upon which their societies are built? ? There are three general  possibilities. These are:

  1. Logically, the ideal for any Western government committed to their country’s national interest would  be to expel all Muslims from their territory as a matter of policy with no legal process allowed.   That is because  (1) there is no way of knowing who will become a terrorist;  (2) a large population of Muslims provides the “ocean in which the terrorist swims “ and (3)  any action disadvantaging Muslims short of expulsion will breed terrorists.
  2. A less comprehensive programme would be to block all further Muslim immigration, ban all Muslim religious schools,  cease funding any Muslim organisations, deport any Muslim without British citizenship, remove the British citizenship of any Muslim with dual nationality and deport them back to the country  for which they hold citizenship.  The question of legal aid would not arise because  their would be no appeal allowed as the policy deals in absolutes: you are a Muslim either without British citizenship or with dual nationality and you qualify for deportation . The difficulty with that set of policies is it would  allow a large population to remain within the West and would create resentment amongst that population which could lead to terrorism.
  3. The least dynamic government action would be to implement programme 2 but allow any Muslim with British citizenship or long term residency to appeal expulsion through the courts. That would have the disadvantages of programme 2 plus the added opportunity for endless delay as appeals are heard and re-heard. Such a system would also require legal aid to be given if the judicial process was to be sound.

Will anything like this happen? Most improbable at least in the short term.  The West is ruled by elites who worship at the altar of  political correctness.  Theirs in a fantasy world in which human beings are interchangeable and institutions such as the nation state  are seen as  outmoded relics as homo sapiens marches steadily towards the sunlit uplands of a world moulded and controlled  by  the rigid totalitarian dicta of  political correctness .

For such people the mindset of anyone willing to die for an idea is simply alien to them.  Even more remote to these elites  is the belief that there is an afterlife which is much to be preferred to life on Earth. Most damaging of all they cannot conceive of people who have no interest in compromise and consequently will be remorseless in their pursuit of their goal. The liberal  mistakenly believes that simply by contact with the West will  the values the liberal espouses be transferred to the rest of the world. This incredibly arrogant fantasy can be seen at its most potent in their attitude to  China, which is  quietly but efficiently creating a world empire by buying influence, and in the Middle East and North Africa where the attempt to transfer liberal  values by a mixture of force and material aid has been a shrieking failure which mocks the liberal every second of every day.

Because of such ideas Western elites are only too likely to keep fudging the issue and conceding, not necessarily right away, more and more privileges to Muslins within their societies. They will also probably greatly increase funding for “moderate” Muslims to enter Schools and Mosques to teach Western values. This will drive many young Muslims towards extremism not away from it because however the teaching of British or Western values is conducted it will inevitably be seen as a criticism of Islam.  Older Muslims will also be angered at such  teaching of their children.  Anything the liberal is likely  to do will simply be throwing  petrol on the fire.

What is required is the replacement of the present elites either by removing them from power or by them changing their tune utterly.  The first is improbable in Britain because of the structure of the voting system  which hugely protects the status quo and a complicit mainstream media which shares the devotion to political correctness and manipulates access to favour parties and politicians which play the politically correct game.

But the changing of political tune is a real possibility because liberals are starting to get truly frightened as they realise things could get seriously out of control if Muslim terrorism continues to occur. There is also the fact that white liberals  recognise in some part of their minds that what they ostensibly espouse – the joy of diversity – is bogus.  This can be seen by how they so often arrange  their own lives  to ensure that they live in very  white and in England very English circumstances. The  massive white flight away from places such as  inner London and Birmingham bears stark witness to this.  Being capable of the greatest self-delusion they explain their hypocrisy by telling themselves that this is only because the great project of producing a country, nay a world, fit for the politically correct to love in, has tragically not been fully realised yet because  the outmoded non-pc  ideas and emotions still exists  as people have not yet been educated to see the error of their primitive ways such as believing in the nation state and a homogenous society. But in their heart of hearts they know they would dread to live in the conditions to which they have sanguinely consigned the white working class.

Liberals  may also have the beginnings of a terror that their permitting of mass immigration, the promotion of multiculturalism and the suppression of dissent from their own native populations will soon come to be called by its true name, treason. All these fears will act as a motor to drive the liberal elites to become more and more realistic about what  needs to be done.

The question every non-Muslim  in the West needs to answer is this, do you really believe that if Muslims become the majority in a Western country they will not do what Islam has done everywhere else in the world where they are  in the majority and at best place Islam within a greatly privileged position within the state or at worst create a Muslim theocracy?  Even Turkey, the liberals’ favourite example of a Muslim majority secular democracy, is rapidly moving towards a position when it cannot meaningfully be called a democracy or secular as Islamic parties gain more and more leverage and the Prime Minister Erdogan becomes ever more autocratic.

If a person’s answer to the question I posed is no, then they need to answer another question, do I want to live in such a society? If  their answer is no then they must  be willing to fight for their way of life or the “religion of peace” will change their society beyond recognition.

When I hear someone describing Islam as the “religion of peace”  I am irresistibly reminded of the aliens in the film Independence Day emerging from their spaceship yelling “We come in peace” before blasting every human in sight.  The white liberals who peddle into the “religion of peace” propaganda should be constantly called upon to explain why it is that a “religion of peace” can be so unfailingly successful in attracting people who say they subscribe to it yet are unremittingly cruel and violent.

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Film review: ’71 – Life with the safety catch off

Main cast

Jack O’Connell as Gary Hook

Richard Dormer as Eamon

Charlie Murphy as Brigid

David Wilmot as Boyle

Sean Harris as Captain Sandy Browning

Killian Scott as James Quinn

Sam Reid as Lt. Armitage

Barry Keoghan as Sean

Paul Anderson as Sergeant Leslie Lewis

Martin McCann as Paul Haggerty

Corey McKinley as Loyalist child

Directed by the Frenchman Yann Demange

Running time : 100 minutes

The best film I have seen this year.  Throughout 2014 the cinema goer has been besieged with new releases which variously play fast and loose with history  for reasons of political correctness (for example, Belle),  are saturated with gratuitous sentimentality (Interstellar), purport to be serious films but have  insultingly preposterous plots (Fury) or are exercises in directorial indulgence  which result in overlong and flabby films (Mr Turner).   Consequently, 71 is a welcome respite from so much  flawed film-making,  including a fair amount of seriously  sub-standard work from directors who should know better.

The film is unremittingly good. It is set in the Belfast of 1971 where The Troubles have already taken firm hold with Catholic and Protestant  paramilitaries  well established and the British army caught in the middle as they try to maintain some semblance of public order.  Private Gary Hook  (Jack O’Connell) is a working-class  squaddie  from Derbyshire who is on his first posting after undergoing basic training.

Shortly after arriving in Ulster Hook’s  platoon is sent to support a police action  in a nationalist area.  They are confronted by a violent mob who isolate Hook and another soldier to whom they administer savage beatings.  Then the other soldier is shot in the  head from close range and killed.  At that point Hook’s inexperienced platoon commander Lt. Armitage ( Sam Reid) panics and withdraws his platoon  unforgivably leaving  Hook behind.

Although badly beaten Hook manages to escape in the general confusion after the shooting  and the rest of the film is devoted to his attempts to rejoin his platoon. This involves many subplots, including dirty business on the part of the British army in collusion with Loyalists , factional fighting within the Provos – Haggerty (Martin McCann) and Sean (Barry Keoghan) are plotting against their own chiefs – collusion between renegade Republican terrorists and the British, all of this set against the backdrop of the rock-solid division between Protestant  Loyalists and Catholic Republicans.

Hook’s journey to get back to his platoon sees him befriended by a Loyalist boy  whose father is high in the ranks of Loyalist paramilitaries. The boy (played by Corey McKinley) is only on screen for around 15 minutes but in that time this gives  a performance of astonishing self-assuredness and personality.  He takes Hook to a pub where the boy’s  father , in collusion with British intelligence operatives  led by  Captain Sandy Browning (Sean Harris), is  arranging to plant   a bomb in the Republican Divis Flats. Hook recognises the British intelligence men and sees the bomb  before he is hustled away  and told to wait in the bar for someone to collect him who will take him back to barracks.  But Hook wanders just  outside the pub and almost immediately  the bomb intended for the Divis Flats explodes accidentally in the bar  (incidentally killing the boy)  and creates chaos which persuades Hook to go on the run again.

Hook now has two enemies:  Republicans who want to kill him and the undercover British intelligence officers  who  want to do the same after he has seen them with the bomb and the would-be bombers.

Further injured by the bomb,  Hook is then  found by a couple of Catholics, a father and daughter (Richard Dormer as Eamon and Charlie Murphy as Brigid). The father has been an army medic and patches Hook up even though they know he is a British soldier.  But the Republicans  are still searching for him Hook and track him to the flat where he is lying up. Hook overhears one of the Republicans chasing him talking at the front door and slips out the back.  This leaves Eamon and Brigit in danger from the Provos as suspected collaborators.

From there Hook is on the run  until he is captured by the Republicans pursuing him.  He survives because a teenaged  would- be  Republican hard man is asked to shoot him in cold blood  but cannot do it. This  delays matters just long enough for  Browning and his irregulars   to arrive where they   engage in  a very convincing and  victorious gun fight with the Republicans. Browning and his men inadvertently  rescue Hook  whom they wish to kill to make sure he can say nothing about the criminal collusion he has witnessed between Loyalists and British intelligence, but  they have to drop the idea when an attempt to strangle  Hook  is stopped because too many eyes of those who are not  part of  Browning’s crew  are witnessing it.

Back in barracks Hook tries to tell his commanding officer about the bomb plot between Browning and Loyalists , but   his CO  refuses to listen and effectively orders him to remain  silent. The film ends with Hook a disenchanted man in a morally fragile world.

Because of the episodic  nature of the film only O’Connell  has any chance to give a dominant performance.  In fact this is not a role which allows such a performance  because Hook is someone to whom things happen.  But O’Connell does just what is required being neither in control nor a quivering nervous wreck .  He is simply an ordinary inexperienced workingclass  squaddie  doing his very best in difficult circumstances. Doggedness is the word for his character. The other actors are all convincing insofar as  the brevity of their  roles allowed,  with   Richard Dormer as Eamon the medic being particularly impressive with his mixture of toughness and compassion. The many and varied Northern Irish accents with their blunt and unapologetic masculinity  amplify the potent combination of fear,  threat, claustrophobic suspicion  and anarchy which envelops the film.

The look of the film is impressive. It was filmed in Blackburn not Belfast,   but the unpretentious  terraced street, as  stark as the action which takes place around and in them ,  are just right for the story. They are  littered variously with ruined vehicles,  damaged shops, smoke, mobs  and the flickering figures of people from all quarters either up to up good or simply being swept along by the drama of an extraordinary ordinary life.   The crowd scenes of Catholics  called out at the  drop of a hat by the Provos  are particularly impressive, while the setting of  much of the film in the night-time with fires burning and smoke swirling often gives it a demonic  air,

Every scene  has a  point and  the action moves at a cracking pace. This is helped by the fact that the  film  runs for  a spare 100 minutes,   so there is no temptation for the director to be self-indulgent and throw in everything including the kitchen sink simply because he has shot it.

This is a world in which no loyalties are certain and calamity waits to swallow anyone up. It is life with the safety catch off.

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