From Free Life No 15, November 1991

Editorial Jottings,
by Sean Gabb

One

Last July, I was sent a pamphlet called The Longest Hatred: An Examination of Anti-Gentilism. Its author shelters modestly behind the name Inter-City Researchers. There is, however, a Publisher's Foreword by Lady Jane Birdwood, the eminent national socialist.

I did consider reviewing the pamphlet, but had other things to do. I may return to it in 1992. For the moment, those of my readers who wish to know why the holocaust never - though perhaps should have - happened, and why Darwinism is the Devil's Revenge for Calvary, must find out for themselves. The publishers are: The Inter-City Research Centre, 31 Eastvale, Acton Vale, London W3 7RU; telephone: 081-749-0629.

What causes me to return now to Lady Birdwood is another of her mailshots, this one not confined to the editors of small magazines. Some time during 1990, she acquired several thousand leaflets laying bare, she believed, the iniquities of plutocratic Jud<145>o-Bolshevism. She sent these to Members of Parliament and to various Anglican clergymen picked at random from the pages of Crockford. They fell, not surprisingly, on stony ground; and her Ladyship, having printed her address on the leaflets for return correspondence, was visited by the Police.

She was charged under Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 with having published written material that was "threatening, abusive or insulting", with the intention thereby to stir up racial hatred. She was brought to trial last October, and was found guilty.

She may be, as I am told, a thoroughly nasty piece of work. She is more likely, I believe, a harmless old crank with more money than sense. But, whatever she is, on one point I am in complete agreement with her. I quote from her closing speech to the Jury:

The essence of this case is whether in a free country there can be free speech, even involving the most controversial subjects as in the present case.
(reported in The Daily Telegraph, 17th October 1991).

Exactly. Free speech, and free speech alone, was the essence of her case. She had not gone into the streets and incited the lower classes to riot. She had not stood outside Jewish gatherings and committed acts liable to lead to a breach of the peace. She had done nothing that could reasonably be construed as a direct attack on the Queen's peace. She had simply tried to bring the attention of Parliament and the Established Church to matters which she, rightly or wrongly, considered important. It was by a monstrous perversion of law that she was arrested and put on trial.

The fact is that what passes in this country for `liberal opinion' is not liberal at all. It is a set of prejudices held by people who have nice voices and live in nice houses but who are only slightly more tolerant than the average bus queue. They will make a show of accepting any opinion - no matter how offensive it may be to the population at large, or a large section of it - that does not offend them. But anything that does offend them, or seems likely to disturb the pleasant course of their lives, they will stamp on with all the ferocity of the book-burning Southern fundamentalists whom they have spent five generations affecting to despise.

Considerations of free speech aside, the decision to prosecute was also a practical mistake. What did the trial achieve? It got Lady Birdwood into the newspapers. Even sneeringly reported, her claims reached a far wider audience than they ever could have by her own efforts.

She has, moreover, suffered for her beliefs. And, as the Roman Government once discovered, persecution can do wonders for the most nauseous people, and the most absurd doctrines.

Two

I attended the last Conservative Party Conference in various capacities. Acting in one of these, I went along to the Tory Reform Group fringe meeting to hear William Waldegrave boast how much of the taxpayers' money he is wasting and planning to waste on the National Health Service. I sat myself at the front of the room, directly opposite him.

As soon as he strayed on to the subject of smoking, I began my heckling. <169>Monster<170> I cried. "Health Fascist! Go back to Nazi Germany." Mr Waldegrave gave his standard answer to all this - that he stood in a long tradition of public health reformers; and that 19th century liberals had raised exactly the same outcry against the first clean water and food purity legislation. "Aye, and they were right to cry out against it" I replied.

A look of horror flitted across his face, and there were little moans of disgust from the closet socialists sat around me. But I had made my point. I had asserted the immemorial right of Englishmen and women to light up in peace and freedom.

I had also exercised another immemorial right. I had got into the fringe meeting without being searched or even having to show proof of identity. I had sat no further from a Cabinet Minister than from a dining companion, and had abused him according to my conscience. His only protection was some boy of a Chairman and a few Policemen lounging outside the hotel. I might have been some maniac tired of waiting 20 years to have his varicose veins done. I might have lunged at him with a knife or iron bar - or even shot him with one of the millions of illegal firearms in circulation. No one could have stopped me.

This country is atrociously governed. But its governors have still not taken to hiding from us. They have not yet retreated behind a screen of armed bodyguards and bullet-proof glass. I had intended to come away from the fringe meeting with hands raised in pious despair at the thought of that £32 billion just wasted. Instead, I came away with more respect for our politicians than I have had since I was a child.

After John Major's speech, of course, it wore off.

Three I have before me a press release from Grey-Green Coaches of Stamford Hill, together with a 5,000 word supporting document. Now, bus companies are not in the habit of sending press releases to the Editor of Free Life, nor - as anyone will agree who has ever received a letter from one - of extended literary composition. But these, it seems, are unusual circumstances. The press must be told how "unworkable and against the public interest" the Government's plans are with regard to the regulation of the London Bus routes. Allow me to explain.

Under the Transport Act 1985, the old system of road service licensing, under which operators had needed a licence for each route, and other operators and local authorities could object to the granting of a licence, was abolished outside London. Henceforth, operators were required simply to register with their local Traffic Commissioner what services they intended to run; then after six weeks, they could run them.

I grant that having to register is still an onerous regulation. I regret also that quality of service and vehicle safety are regulated, and that local authorities are allowed to subsidise unprofitable routes. Even so, the Act has brought a vast improvement. Bus services are now better proportioned then before to what the market will bear. Passengers pay something like the full cost of their journeys, neither very much more nor very much less. Workers living in central Coventry, for example, no longer pay a surcharge to reduce the fares paid by their managers living in the outlying Warwickshire villages. Short of full deregulation, what could be more just?

The Department of Transport now proposes to extend this system to London.

I have no doubt that the owners of Grey-Green Coaches really do believe this proposal to be against the public interest - that their hearts bleed at the thought of all those cheap little mini-busses darting where once the double-decker loomed, and of how fare structures and time tables will be wrenched from their old certainty.

Their opposition surely has nothing to do with the fact that Grey-Green benefits from the current system. It is licensed by London Regional Transport to operate nine routes, with 113 vehicles, which travel around 3.5 million miles each year. This is its largest single business activity.

Perhaps despite its relationship with the State, the company is a lean, fit, "competitive tiger", well able to hold its own in even the most comprehensively deregulated market. Perhaps we should all write to our Members of Parliament, asking that this be put to the test.

Four

Another press release before me I reproduce in full. It is from the National Federation of Meat Traders:

LOCAL BUTCHER JOINS PRESTIGE SCHEME
Mr D Howard, of Sweetland and Howard, The Parade, Sandhurst Road, Catford, has become one of the first seven butchers, nationwide, to qualify for the Shop with Assurance Scheme organised by the National Federation of Meat Traders.
Before a shop is accepted into the scheme, it must pass a rigorous independent inspection to ensure that it meets the high standards of service and hygiene laid down in the scheme's code of practice. The inspection covers all aspects of hygiene, safety, quality assurance and service. It also includes the handling, storage and display of meat.
Mr Howard said: "Customers can shop with complete confidence at any shop belonging to the scheme. When a customer buys meat at a Shop with Assurance Butcher, it means that the wholesomeness of the product and the quality of service is guaranteed."

Bravo, Mr Howard! Bravo, National Federation of Meat Traders! No calls for State interference. Not a whisper for monopoly privilege. Bravo!