Banned Book Shows Afghan War in Harsh Relief


David Archer examines what the UK Government’s efforts to censor a book manuscript tells us about the conduct of the War on Terror

Last week the entire first edition print run of the book Dead Men Risen by Toby Harnden was pulped under the supervision of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Citing the Official Secrets Act the MoD paid Quercus books 151,450 pounds sterling (c273,000 AUD) to have the 24,000 books destroyed. The book which was due to be published on St David’s Day will now be released in an amended second edition on St Patrick’s Day.

Dead Men Risen tells the story of the Welsh Guards 2008 tour in Helmand, a tour infamous for the intensity of its fighting and the casualties which ensued. It was the first time in half a century that a British battalion had lost officers at three key tiers of leadership. Lieutenant Mark Evison, Major Sean Birchall and Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thornoloe were all killed in action. Almost no rank was spared as the soldiers fought their way up the Shamalan canal, yard by bloody yard, in Operation Panchai Palang.

Harnden is uniquely qualified to tell the story as compelling and comprehensive, unadulterated non-fiction. He was a military officer himself; he has a First in history from Oxford; he is an experienced journalist who is currently The Daily Telegraph’s US editor. A decade ago he wrote Bandit Country, the acclaimed story of the notorious South Armagh brigade of the IRA. That was another book which caused palpitations in UK Intelligence circles and led to him landing in hot water with the Bloody Sunday tribunal.

Having seen an early version of the manuscript I can only speculate what changes the MoD have demanded and finally used their legal clout to require. My instinct is that it may be embarrassment as much as concern for national security that has led civil servants to try to suppress the book.

Dead Men Risen gives a grand sweep of the historical context for the military tour, covering both the history of Helmand and the regimental history from the First World War trenches through to the bombing of the Sir Galahad off the Falklands. But it also gives detailed portraits of the servicemen from the low to high ranks, sharing their accounts and concerns about the conduct of the war.

Lieutenant Mark Evison who was shot and fatally wounded leading his men in a fire fight left a diary which raised a number of troubling questions about logistical shortcomings. Had a Medevac helicopter arrived within the ‘golden hour’ following his shooting he may well have survived.

The commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thornoloe, believed in the mission’s purpose but repeatedly expressed his concern about the lack of men and resources and the inadequacy of equipment available to him in a series of emails, memos and personal papers. He was dismayed by the lack of helicopters available to him for troop movements and also by the reliance on vehicles which lacked sufficient armour to be safe from the ubiquitous threat of Taliban IEDs. The tour coincided with the advent of ‘low metal content’ IEDs which traditional mine detectors were unable to discover. Thornoloe didn’t order those under his command to do what he would not. To the impressed dismay of his men he would help them with the terrifyingly painstaking job of IED detection on foot. He was blown up together with a junior soldier inside a vehicle leading an urgent resupply convoy along the Shamalan.

Like so many of the dead Thornoloe left behind a grieving family. Harnden does not shy away from this aspect, giving the reader an account of the regimental operation on the home front as bereaved spouses and parents are informed and funerals are organised. Likewise the human toll of the injured and battle shocked is recounted. It’s difficult but essential reading for anyone interested in the war.

Harnden is clear that the story remains intact in the second edition and that repeated pressure for further censorship from the MoD was resisted.

After what was thought to be the final draft was approved, the MoD came in late demanding that a further 50 words were cut. The decision to pay around 3000 pounds for each word destroyed is controversial. This is a time of austerity in which servicemen are being laid off, and when procurement contracts are being renegotiated at extortionate expense due to the last government’s legacy of fiscal incompetence and bungled major procurement programmes across aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and fighter jets.

The pulping of the book has been criticised on several fronts: for the cock up which led to a last minute print-run destruction being ordered after the manuscript had earlier been cleared; for the price paid, which many in publishing think was as much as twice what the pulping would typically cost; and, above all, for the efforts at censorship in an attempt to cover bureaucratic backsides. One thing this episode in Government incompetence has ensured is a great deal of extra publicity for the book.

Highlighted by all this is the essential tragedy of the public sector. It barely rewards or encourages heroic front line workers such as nurses, teachers and the military, while pampered back office bureaucrats are too often guilty of incompetence.

David Cameron as Opposition leader repeatedly excoriated Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions over the lack of helicopter support available to the troops in the front line. Harnden’s book will debunk any thoughts that this was a partisan political attack. As the story makes clear the lack of helicopters no doubt imperilled the men on the ground in the front line of the War on Terror. To many, Labour’s stretching of the military covenant to breaking point seems criminally negligent.

Yet sadly the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government seems a long way from rectifying matters. Recent political sabre rattling over intervention in Libya is utterly undermined by the economic reality and a Government which bizarrely is ring fencing the bloated National Health Service and International Aid budgets while cutting back on Defence while war is ongoing.

The Welsh Guards who fought in Afghanistan did so with heroism. The same cannot be said of the conduct of the MoD, nor of the political leadership behind their deployment.

A substantial proportion of the proceeds from sales of Dead Men Risen will be donated to the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal.

David Archer is a public affairs consultant, business risk analyst, freelance, and ghost writer


Observations on the UK

JS continues his streak of high quality articles this week, with this piece on his observations of the UK.

Australia is currently enjoying the first visit of a United Kingdom Foreign Secretary since 1993. 

Hague has pledged a 'new era' of relations with Australia:

This visit should be taken as a clear signal of the determination of our coalition government in Britain not just to reach out to new allies but to renew and deepen relations with closest friends.

Greg Sheridan writes in The Australian:

Britain retains a global perspective and, as Rudd has commented, both Australia and Britain are nations with global interests. Britain is the sixth largest economy in the world and the fourth largest defence spender. Modern Australia, having shed all elements of cultural cringe in any direction, is smart to capitalise on its deep connections to Britain to leverage our influence in many areas. That doesn't mean we'll agree on everything. But this relationship, almost obscured by its complex past, is intensely relevant today and full of promise for both countries.

Having lived and studied and worked in the United Kingdom on and off over the past four years, the genuine affection amongst the Brits for the Australian relationship is consistent.  This renewal of the relationship can only be welcomed.

My time in the United Kingdom has increased my appreciation for incalculable gift that Australia has from its British heritage – our democratic system, our language, capitalism, our cultural links to Europe and the other English speaking countries and the liberal tradition. 

While visiting Australia over Christmas, I prepared myself for my return to London and a barrage of jokes and chortling about Australia's abysmal Ashes performance.  Instead, much to my relief, my English friends have not mentioned our humiliation.  The only 'colonial convict' joke I have experienced came (unsurprisingly?) from a self-described 'renaissance-Marxist' professor at the London School of Economics who prides himself on being 'classless' and 'raceless' and 'non-gendered'. 

But during my time in the United Kingdom, I've never felt more powerless than when I've had to confront the angry hippopotamus which is the bloated British bureaucracy (whether it is the visa agency or the driving licence authority!). 

The economic strength of the British Isles in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries came from a dynamic private sector, which drove the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.  Under Blair/Brown, Labor entrenched an enormous public sector, which spread its tentacles into all aspects of British life (take a look at Government Equalities Office and the Taxpayers' Alliance's list of 'quangos' for closure or merger). 

David Cameron and George Osborne are beginning the process of slashing the public sector.  However, the government is merely returning it to 2007 levels and the government is hindered by their coalition with the Liberal Democrats. 

There is deep opposition to these plans.  Each week there are reports of a ridiculous benefits system which protects the work-shy, outrageous regional spending, strikes or student protests.

The trouble for the Cameron Government is that there are now so many people with a economic stake in maintaining the public sector that it is difficult to see how the Conservatives can cut the public sector beyond the levels which are proposed, even though the United Kingdom urgently needs to do so.  

Mutual Responsibility takes a step forward in the UK


Recent welfare reform in the UK will encourage more people in to work, writes Stephan Knoll.

In recent times, the coalition government in the UK has taken significant steps forward in reforming the nation’s welfare sector.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, an active and outspoken member of the new government has announced a ‘claimant contract’ for those receiving benefit payments. A sliding scale of penalties is to be implemented for those who refuse offers of employment, do not actively seek employment or who simply fail to turn up for mandatory work placements.

In doing so, Smith is attempting to address and rectify much of the moral hazard that has existed in the British welfare system for decades. The idea that someone can be financially or socially worse off for having gone to work as opposed to staying home is quite simply perverse and unjust.

In Australia by and large we have a welfare system that promotes preferred outcomes. Significant assistance is given to those seeking employment, ‘work for the dole’ and training programs are available for those in between work and penalties do apply for those unwilling to comply.

All care must be taken to ensure that we never create a situation where delinquency is incentivised. The outcomes of such a situation would be bad for both individual and society. In many cases, work can and does provide a sense of purpose and achievement, and in a first world country such as Australia, paid employment often surpasses its original purpose of simply providing the necessary finances with which to live, and rather provides the individual with the means to achieve personal self fulfilment – acting as a tool for profound personal growth.

Iain Duncan Smith, although a conservative, has provided a significant reformist and progressive influence on the UK’s new coalition government. Years in opposition have readied him for the challenges of governing, which he has managed to meet head on. His willingness to stand up for reform in the face of stiff opposition from varying sectors of the community is a credit and is in stark contrast to the political cowardice witnessed in Australia’s current government.

After the great reformist governments of the past two decades this government does not do justice to the hard work of its predecessors and further diminishes public respect for political office.  The sooner this is rectified by either a complete change in approach or at the ballot box, the better.

Stephan is General Manager of family meat and smallgoods business Barossa Fine Foods. He is also heavily involved in the Young Liberal movement in South Australia.

Tories might yet please conservatives

James-PatersonJames Paterson writes on why the Tories' new direction may bring the conservatives back into the party.

The news this week that Tory Party membership has declined by 30 per cent from over 250,000 to just 177,000 in the five years since Cameron was elected leader suggests many rank-and-file conservatives are not happy with the direction he has taken the party in.

David Cameron as UK opposition leader had no shortage of conservative critics. From his efforts to out-green the Labour Party, to his campaign to rebrand the Conservative Party which resulted in the torch of freedom logo being ditched in favour of a tree, Cameron was derided as left-wing.

Perceptions that he was attempting to distance himself from former prime minister Margaret Thatcher did not assist the cause, nor did an interview with Spectator magazine prior to the election, where he criticised Milton Friedman and pointedly nominated George Orwell’s 1984 over Friedrich Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty as his favourite political text. And when Cameron failed to win a parliamentary majority in his own right, many on the right feared he would be reform shy. Their concerns were hardly abated when he formed a coalition with the left of centre Liberal Democrats.

And yet, Cameron’s new coalition government is proceeding towards a series of major reforms that may redeem his leadership in the eyes of his conservative critics.

This week, Chancellor George Osborne and secretary for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, outlined a radical set of welfare reforms in a bid to save up to 1.25 billion pounds per year. They include a dramatic dismantling of middle-class welfare, with “child benefits” of more than 1,000 pounds per year to families earning over 44,000 pounds being abolished entirely. The reforms also ensure that no welfare recipient is able to access multiple payments, instead, the unemployed will be paid a single universal credit to simplify welfare delivery and encourage job-seeking. In an ironic twist of fate, the reforms have beenlabelled as a “move towards Milton Friedman’s guaranteed annual income proposal” by libertarian economist Tyler Cowen.

Continue reading the full article at The Drum.

Common Sense Suspended for ‘Equality’

Cory-BernardiPolitical correctness is continually getting in the way of common sense, writes Senator Cory Bernardi.

The problem with common sense is that it isn't common. 

The evidence that millions suspend critical thought in favour of 'going with the flow' is abundant. Unfortunately the 'flow' often becomes a torrent from which it is hard to escape.

Regrettably, on too many occasions political leaders also suspend common sense in the face of political correctness and find themselves carried far from reality. 

In case you need further evidence that common sense really has vacated the political arena in favour of the PC agenda, consider the new Equality Act 2010 just introduced in the United Kingdom.

Originally proposed by Labour, it became law on October 1 under a Conservative government. Such bi-partisan agreement suggests that neither Party have any sense whatsoever.

The Equality Act 2010 aims to end workplace discrimination but in doing so, takes the cult of victim-hood to new levels.

Consider for a moment the following.

Employers can now be sued if an employee takes offence to a joke or banter in the work environment, even if it's not directed at them. That means a shop assistant could sue their boss if a customer says something unpleasant in the store!

There is also a Discrimination by Association clause. This is where an employee can claim to be a victim of discrimination on the basis of the people they associate with.

Incredibly, when making a complaint under this section, the employee doesn't need to provide any evidence as the onus is on the employer to prove this was not the case!

In other words, the employer is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Employees also have the right to know what every other employee is earning. No doubt those earning less than their peers will claim discrimination without considering their own work performance or ability.

Under the Act, in an attempt to make everyone equal, all life choices are deemed to have the same protections as religious belief but, like something straight from Orwell's Animal Farm,  some people are more equal than others.

You can be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the disabled or infirm might be in this category but you would be wrong. Under the Act, Gypsies benefit from a form of ‘affirmative action’, to make up for the ‘many social-economic disadvantages they face’.

If the impact of this clause is anything like what has happened in other places around the world, the 'traveller' will be the fastest growing racial classification in the UK for decades to come!

Quite rightly, employer groups and anyone else prepared to exercise some common sense is incredulous that such legislation can be introduced in a country like England.

It is not hard to imagine the trumped up discrimination claims that will emerge from those playing the system in an attempt to line their own pockets. Perhaps the most spurious of these claims will fail but the cost of defending, even the most ridiculous, means that a quick payout will often be a cheaper option.

When first told of these changes, one could be excused for thinking that they were an inter-office joke doing the rounds. If only that were the case.

Unfortunately for the English, under the Equality Act 2010, the office joke has been banned. It would appear that common sense has been too.

Senator Cory Bernardi is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition and a Senator for South Australia. This article is courtesy of his personal blog which can be found at

Cash for Clunkers Lunacy: UK Edition

The UK example should be enough for the ALP to realise that its Cash for Clunkers policy is an expensive mistake, writes David Archer.

I was pleased to read Tim Andrew’s demolition of the arguments in favour of Cash for Clunkers just as I was dismayed to hear that the Australian government has made an election pledge to introduce a version of it.

The idea for a ‘Cash for Clunkers’ government programme originated in Germany, the land of famous automobile marques and industry giants such as Volkwagen, Bayerische Motoren Werke, Daimler AG et al. Such giants come with gigantic lobbying arms, and here perhaps the rational subtext to the programme’s conception and promotion can be deduced.

What is more interesting to ponder is how such dodgy government ‘stimulus’ ideas come to be spread around the globe. More than a dozen countries have launched their versions along the same general principles.  In between the US experience with Cash for Clunkers and the proposed Australian initiative came the UK’s experience with its ‘Scrappage Scheme.’

While the UK scheme was in full swing in the winter and spring before the May election, my friend Charlie informed me that he had used it to purchase a brand new car. In exchange for a very old, battered VW Passat that had been used as a farm vehicle, he received a wodge of taxpayer money (1000GBP/1700AUD) and a wodge of the same amount from the car industry. This was to subsidise his purchase of a gleaming new VW Golf. The stated intention of the government subsidy was to stimulate the domestic car industry (not one of Charlie’s new Golf’s parts was manufactured in the UK), and to promote greener engines to lower carbon emissions (lowering carbon emissions is rapidly becoming a justifying mantra for almost any kind of government intervention).

Of course, if you really wanted to reduce the burning of petrol, a simpler method would be to tax it more at the pump, although, in fairness, this is probably political suicide in the UK where drivers already pay roughly three times more than their US counterparts, and twice what Australians pay (2010 average prices). Naturally, ever since he got his shiny new motor to enjoy, Charlie has driven a lot more miles than he did previously.

No-one in the then UK government seems to have considered the unspoken environmental cost of an unnaturally large influx of cars to scrap yards. Under natural conditions, defunct motors are cannibalised for parts in highly efficient recycling, but under the scrappage scheme it’s likely that yards were swamped and vast numbers of useful parts were destroyed, although yard owners wouldn’t complain because of the boon to their income straight from the pockets of the already indebted tax payer. 

Suppose we calculate that if each of the 300,000 scrapped cars had a notional value of 2000GBP. Then the UK government spent 300 million taxpayer pounds destroying 600 million GBP of economic value: I.e. over a billion Australian dollars were wiped out of the economy at enormous further expense. An army of bureaucrats was employed to administer the scheme, which naturally happened inefficiently.  

Another consequence of this daft business is that the second hand car markets subsequently had a paucity of cheap vehicles for sale. Poor people, so often the victims of government’s good intentions, are now less likely to be able to find an affordable ride. Once again, Labour and the left are killing social mobility. 

David Archer is a business risk analyst and a public affairs consultant.

The UK Looks to Australia

David_archer With a referendum on the Alternative Vote System looming, British voters look down under to gauge its effects, writes David Archer.

As the Australians go to the polls on the 21st of August the eyes of the political classes in the UK will be focused more than usual on their southern cousins.

One of the peculiar compromises to emerge from the coalition government formed following the UK general election in May was the promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform. Specifically, the question to be put to the British people is whether or not to abandon the first-past-the-post constituency system that has been in place on and off since the 13th century and adopt instead the Alternative Vote system (AV) which is already long established in Australia and known as the Preferential Vote.

The reason for this situation is the Conservative leadership’s need to offer their Liberal Democrat coalition partners concessions to join the government. The Liberal Democrats, although charlatan chameleons of convenience on most issues, have consistently supported electoral reform. The measure they have traditionally supported, proportional representation, was unpalatable to the Tories, and thus the soggy compromise of a referendum on AV was adopted as official policy.

The ensuing debate on AV has created splits within parties rather along traditional party lines. Cameron has committed himself to campaign for it, but his backbenchers are under no such compulsion and many are mobilising against it.  The Labour party, proving itself more competent in opposition than they ever were in government, have recently declared their opposition on an apparently technical point. They are, they claim, opposed not to AV –indeed, they were the only party to publically support AV before the election- but are opposed to the reform that will be bundled into the Bill alongside AV:  the plan to equalise the size of mainland UK constituencies. With typically Machiavellian shamelessness they have announced that any plan to improve the in-built bias to Labour in the constituency boundary distribution constitutes the worst form of gerrymandering.

There are few unbiased parties in this debate, although activists outside the three main establishment parties have claimed disinterest. Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has said that his party would only be excited by AV+, i.e. AV that includes a proportional element with a percentage of MPs to be elected off party lists. It was AV+ that was recommended by the Jenkins Commission, the last serious investigation into voting reform in the UK, which reported back in 1998. The race-motivated socialists of the far-left British Nationalist Party would also stand to gain under that reform, currently off the table.

The Conservative punditocracy appears to be split, and as the planned referendum date of May 5, 2011 approaches we can only expect debate to intensify along with considerable political manoeuvring on all sides.

UK voters have good reason to be cynical about referenda. The last time a national referendum was offered was in 1975 on the question of whether the UK should remain in the European Common Market. Since a majority voted yes on that narrow question, constitution-bending European integration has accelerated through the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties with referenda always promised but never delivered by all the main parties. The presence of Euro-fetishist Liberal Democrats on the governing Tory benches has ensured that European integration is likely to remain the awkward but unmentionable elephant in the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats are already excitedly talking about AV as merely a stepping stone on their march to full Proportional Representation.

As I see it, arguments against AV are that eccentric and exciting candidates would be penalised (as they would pick up fewer second preference votes) and line-towing party hacks would be rewarded. The coalition we currently endure might become the status quo with the Liberal Democrats as permanent power brokers. The third largest party would unfairly hold the balance of power. The satisfying spectacle of the Prime Minister being chucked out of 10 Downing Street the morning after an election would be less likely as coalition-forming talks could drag on for weeks or months. Some see coalition politics as a civilised contrast to the rough and tumble of partisan debate; others see coalitions producing parliamentary milquetoasts and are concerned by the potential for the formation of a lazy unchallenged consensus.

On the positive side of the ledger, many apparently support AV as helping their own partisan advantage.  On all sides calculations are being made about which parties will do best under which system. Such considerations come with with considerable potential to backfire. They also set a very dangerous precedent for constitutional meddling. It is to be hoped that most peoples’ votes, if not most politicians’ recommendations, will be motivated by principle rather than by any perceived sense of self-interest.

Many people are unhappy with the current First-Past-the-Post voting system. Certainly it is imperfect. AV represents change. That may be enough to convince a majority of voters to go for it, but it is far from clear that it will be change for the better. The decision endorsed by the Electoral Commission, a very dodgy Quango, to hold the referendum on the same day as local elections are held in some but not all of the country, seems suspect and is already a focal point for Tory opposition. It’s ironic that a democratic reform is being proposed and campaigned for by a coalition leadership for whom nobody voted.

Currently Australia is one of very few countries to have an AV system, although it is complicated in the Australian case by the compulsory voting requirement: an odd situation which seems to turn a right to vote upside down into an apathy-breeding obligation.

One prominent Australian Liberal Party activist told me in London last week that he thinks that AV is unfair because some voters end up having effectively two votes. The thoughts of Australians will be welcome in this debate, and at least one psephological analysis has already been posted at ConservativeHome.

I suspect that when it comes down to it I will vote against AV, hoping that no “second preference votes” are added into the mix to confuse matters.

David Archer is a freelance writer, a business risk analyst and a public affairs consultant. He has worked in the FTSE 100, and as a manager and editor at two major Washington think tanks. He currently divides his working life between Washington and London, and ghost writes for an MEP.

Nick Clegg blows kisses to criminals

Ben-Peter-Terpstra Ben-Peter Terpstra isn't too impressed with the UK Liberal Democrats' policy on crime.

In case, you’ve been sleeping in of late, there are some very informative and very British debates going on right now. Yes, election season is here – and the Liberal Democrats are reminding voters that jails create crimes. Did I use the word informative? Sorry, I meant idiotic.

The good news:  Ed West who specialises in politics, religion and low culture is getting pissy with leader Nick Clegg’s soft-on-crime arguments. Writing for the UK’s Telegraph he points out:

Nick Clegg has launched the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, and although they have some good ideas (well, to be precise, one – the £10,000 threshold), Clegg has once again trotted out the old chestnut about Britain being some jail-mad prison state, calling Labour and Conservative policy on crime “stupid”.


The Liberal Democrats’ buzzword is “solidarity”, which seems to be what everyone is crying out for right now, but if there’s one thing that reduces social solidarity it’s crime (inequality is also a factor, but crime also causes more inequality).

So thanks for the income tax break, but there’s no point in giving low earners their money back if they’re just going to have to spend the extra money on home security and dog food for their pet Rottweilers.

I happen to agree with Ed. Indeed, Clegg’s philosophy is as lazy as “Ludlam’s dog, that leaned his head against a wall to bark,” to quote a very British proverb.  And as Ed correctly points out, Clegg is also using dodgy statistics to sell his case. Or to quote two more very British proverbs, “He that once deceives is ever suspected,” and “He that mischief hatcheth mischief catcheth.”

Now don’t get me wrong. The UK is a charming place. I quite fancy her devil dogs, her cockney accents, her fox hunters, her so-called soccer hooligans, her Tesco TV dinners, her suspiciously bloody sausages, her get-tough-on-crime-and-punishment castles, her controlled bar fights, and, even some of her listless vegetarians  (when they’re too tired to protest against fox hunters). But I have no time for her Victorian-period serial killers and pickpockets, and therefore no love for Clegg’s we-are-the-world-we-are-the-children theology.  

Like so many criminal-first libertarians, Clegg ignores the fact that families outside of universities without bodyguards, can’t afford to live like cottonwool professors, and I’m glad Ed is calling him out. After all, there are only so many devil dogs one can feed.

Ben-Peter Terpstra is an Australian satirist and cartoon lover. His works are posted on numerous sites from American Thinker (California) to Quadrant Online (Sydney, Australia). You can find him at his blogs Pizza Trays and Beer Bottles and Quote Digger.

The State

The Conservatives in the UK have given Australian centre-right politics an example to follow, writes Michael G.

I sit here at my desk grinning at the ideological brilliance of the Conservatives’ election campaign in the United Kingdom. It is something that is not often seen: a real battle between left and right, between different principles and different ideologies. It is near-unthinkable to see such a thing being played out.

The political debate is not being framed as some wish-washy “everything for everyone” nonsense as is the case here in Australia. No, here is a real difference. Since the right (finally!) are not copying the dogma of the left—supporting ever-greater levels of state interference in our lives—the left is being forced to defend policies thought previously to be consensual.

Gordon Brown and his Labour Party now have to come up with excuses for their own Leviathan—the gigantic and ever-engorging state sector—and to defend its abject retardation of prosperity, its restrictions on individuals’ freedom, and its repulsive collusion with the big banks and big corporations.

David Cameron’s Conservatives have opted not to defend the supreme authority of the state—what a change from here in Australia! The Howard government, despite its many achievements, often defended and extended the state’s centralised rule over people. But the Conservatives want state power reduced and devolved, and truly devolved at that: where the citizenry have real power to constrain and control the state themselves.

The contrast that can be made is stark: that the people can control the state as a society, just as they control the rest of their lives as individuals. The people can be in control, and not at the whim of an unelected bureaucrat, a careerist politician, or a corporation privy to state largesse. Now the public schools are their schools, the public libraries are their libraries, and the public hospitals are their hospitals.

How sad then, is the centre-left option? Where the individual is not in control and neither is society. Public institutions are not to be trusted in the hands of the public. The left have to, in truth, defend the notion that people are utter fools and not capable of taking back responsibility. The citizenry can not be trusted; only the party can be.

There is much to look forward to. Here comes together a conservative respect for traditional institutions of society with liberal notions of greater freedom for individuals. An intellectual debt is owed to Burke, to Hayek, and now to people such as Daniel Hannan.

As a libertarian—classical liberal—with a strong conservative bent, I welcome the possibility of a new era of rigorous centre-right thought, policy, and implementation. The Conservatives in the United Kingdom have given us a lead: may we follow and advance!

Michael G is completing degrees in finance and history at Flinders University, and works at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

The soft totalitarian state

Tim-Andrews The UK is looking more and more like a totalitarian state, writes Tim Andrews.

It is almost without doubt now that the UK has evolved into the world's first "soft totalitarian state". 

Free speech is outlawed, the Children's Secretary wants to implant monitors into peoples homes, and tens of thousands of CCTV's watch your every move.  

Brendan O'Neill, writing in Sp!ked, notes that "In recent years Britain has become the Willy Wonka of social control, churning out increasingly creepy, bizarre, and fantastic methods for policing the populace. But our weaponization of classical music—where Mozart, Beethoven, and other greats have been turned into tools of state repression—marks a new low." He informs us of police devises like the "mosquito", a gadget that emits a noise that sounds like a faint buzz to people over the age of 20 but which is so high-pitched, so piercing, and so unbearable to the delicate ear drums of anyone under 20 that they cannot remain in earshot, the use of super-bright halogen lights to temporarily blindmisbehaving youngsters, and how recently police in Liverpool boasted about making Britain’s first-ever arrest by unmanned flying drone.

Most disturbingly of all, he speaks to us of how classical music is now used by police to scare off young people, and says, "enough is enough": 

"The weaponization of classical music speaks volumes about the British elite’s authoritarianism and cultural backwardness. They’re so desperate to control youth—but from a distance, without actually having to engage with them—that they will film their every move, fire high-pitched noises in their ears, shine lights in their eyes, and bombard them with Mozart. And they have so little faith in young people’s intellectual abilities, in their capacity and their willingness to engage with humanity’s highest forms of art, that they imagine Beethoven and Mozart and others will be repugnant to young ears. Of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The dangerous message being sent to young people is clear: 1) you are scum; 2) classical music is not a wonder of the human world, it’s a repellent against mildly anti-social behavior."

My only question is – how long until we see a Labor state government starting to propose such things here?

Tim Andrews is an Editor of Menzies House.