Category Archives: Politics

Not That It Matters

For various reasons, we have created a division of Devonwriters (the name of the partnership within which I work) called Dartside Press. This is because the office is pretty close to the river Dart here in Devon and this division is going into publishing. We can afford to do this because of ebooks. To do so with printed books would be far too costly.

Even then there is a lot to learn and I decided that I wanted something simple on which to cut my teeth. The result is a compilation of some of the political stuff I wrote in 2011 and 2012 – suitable edited and embellished as required. It is called “Not That It Matters” for two reasons. The first is that it seems a pretty accurate title. The second is that it was the title of a delightful collection of essays written by A A Milne who, apart from his children’s books, was a brilliant writer in an era when writing styles were at their most elegant (a personal opinion, of course). Anyway, this was to doff my cap at him (and at his son near whom we once lived and who I knew slightly).

The book is priced at a very reasonable £1.83 but I am afraid is available from Amazon alone at the moment. I have another steep learning curve to climb before we publish in other formats but hope get there reasonably soon. Should you care to know more click here.

Are politics good for people?

It was almost exactly one hundred years ago when, one pleasantly warm and sunny day, a Government Inspector arrived in Dartmouth on the south coast of Devon. His mission was to find out how well the town was complying with the requirements of the Public Health Act of 1875. His findings, although couched in rather more words than this, could be summed up in just two: failing totally.

The story started long before then when a doctor discovered that the cause of cholera was a bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, carried in the water supply when sewage was allowed to contaminate it. It was only when Dr John Snow put the pump lifting water from one of the contaminated wells out of action (illegally) that the authorities began to listen to him. The result was an ineffectual act passed in 1848 which gave powers to local authorities to act in such matters but did not insist that they used the powers. Ten years later another act was passed which slightly improved matters but it was not until 1875 that an act was passed that made it mandatory for local authorities to do something about the problems caused by bad housing, poor sewage disposal, the lack of potable water and so on. This Act included the need for each local authority to appoint a Sanitary Inspector – a qualified Civil Engineer who had no link with any businesses in the authority’s district and who was not a councillor.

What Dr Mivart found when he arrived in 1914 was that the authority had, indeed, appointed a Sanitary Inspector – one Fred J Veasey, local businessman and councillor who had no qualifications and who was carrying out no action as laid down by the Act. So it was that nearly forty years after the act was passed, a report calling for immediate and drastic action was lodged. However, before anything could happen the First World War had broken out and nothing happened for a few more years.

However, in 1920 a fully qualified civil and municipal engineer who had been acting as an Assistant Engineer in a borough in Kent arrived to become Dartmouth’s first proper Borough Engineer and Sanitary Inspector. His name was Alfred James Willett and he was my grandfather. It is a matter of record that he and Fred Voysey became very good friends and, indeed, mt grandfather lodged with the Voysey’s until he found a house to buy and he moved his wife and five children down to join him.

He made a huge difference to the town (and, according to family traditions, often having to fight the politicians in the town who were far from happy with what he was doing). Essentially the three most important things were that he created an efficient sewage system (albeit one that discharged untreated sewage into the River Dart), built a water works in an adjoining valley from where the treated water was pumped to feed the towns new water mains and he built what was arguably the country’s first “new town” on the basis that it was easier to move people into new, modern houses with proper modern (for then) facilities than to try to do anything with the slums in the confined and hilly town.

This, of course, did little to please those who owned those slums and from which they had derived an income but that is another story.

The point I want to make is that my grandfather was no politician. Mt father, who followed in his footsteps to become a civil engineer at first serving in the Royal Engineers and then, after leaving the army, as an Urban District Surveyor. He, too, was not a politician. Indeed, at no time did I hear him express any opinion about any political party or about any decision taken by the councillors he served. Following the implementation of the Maude report in 1974, he took early retirement rather than accepting the offer of becoming the Chief Engineer of the new, and far larger, authority (and therefore a far better paid post). This was the only time I remember when he criticised politicians: he was convinced that the amalgamation of urban and rural authorities was a serious mistake. I think he was right (as those of you who have read my posts over the year will know).

No, grandfather was not a politician but he changed the face of Dartmouth.

Doctor Snow was not a politician but, by discovering the way cholera was transmitted, he changed the face of Britain.

Yes, politicians then had to pass acts that “enabled” society to use the discoveries made by these non-politicians but, when you think about it, politicians have always been followers and rarely (if ever) innovators.

Perhaps those of us who want to make a difference to society have been barking up the wrong tree by thinking that the right way is to do so within the political arena. Perhaps we should accept (as my wife tells me) that politics don’t work and if you want to change society there are better ways to do it. Perhaps we need to discover something (such as electricity) or invent something (such as the steam engine) or simply do something (such as arrange for a few unemployed people to help the elderly and infirm keep their gardens under control). Actually, come to think of it, that is almost exactly what is happening in some places where voluntary care groups are doing sterling work – generally unnoticed and certainly without much thanks apart from those for whom they care.

So, what of democracy? No doubt I shall come back to that soon (I especially want to explore the implications that arise from Ronald Langereis’s comment on my last blog although, come to think of it, the Holland in which he lives probably owes more to the engineers that created their land than to their politicians).

More on Fracking

If you have been following the blogs here on that subject you will know that I have been in communication on the subject with Kathleen Hassall who lives in the US. We share similar concerns and so I was delighted to receive a long email from her the other day which I would like to share with you. Here is what she said (and I will write a response some time next week)..

Reading Mr. Willett’s words here about his own thoughtful struggle to
see the best way forward with regard to fracking, I am most struck by
the degree to which we are all in this together, this effort to find
our way through unknown territory, sometimes dark. There is hope in
this I think – that everyone in favor of breathing air, drinking water
and turning on lights at night is ultimately on the same side. I am
happy to be on Mr. Willett’s side.

Mr. Willett is right to suggest there are pulling wires of interest
and influence in scholarly publications, as in all arenas where
careers are made, and there is no gospel to be found in journals. In
the particular case of the researchers whose work was disparaged by
the shale gas industry spokesman – the researchers who compiled reports
from six states of illness and death among farm animals and pets
following exposure to fracking chemicals – one, Dr. Michelle Bamberger,
is a practicing veterinarian, educated at Cornell (a prestigious
private research university in the US); the other, Dr. Robert E.
Oswald, is a professor of pharmacology in the Cornell University
College of Veterinary Medicine. A recipient of both Guggenheim and
Fulbright fellowships, with scores of published articles, he has far
outdistanced the testing stage at which he had to publish in order not
to perish; he long ago established himself as a credible voice.
Surely on the specialized topic of animal health, these two deserve a
sober hearing.

This is not of course to say – I think no one would suggest – that one
narrowly-focused article can be anything more than one small piece of
the complex puzzle over which we all now shake our heads. That an
industry lobbyist so quickly moved to brush this piece off the table,
I find troubling; here again Mr. Willett and I are in agreement.

It is at great cost to public understanding, and to authentic public
choice, that the dialogue on fracking, combative and polarized, is
also so distorted by fugitive information and unacknowledged interest
that every purported fact seems to require investigation. Meanwhile
wheels are in motion, driven forward by the very powerful engines of
anticipated wealth and national energy security, and it seems clear
the UK is destined for fracking. Even as I write this, Cuadrilla is
moving on Lancashire, waving hundreds of thousands of pounds.

What can we know as fracking approaches? The hydraulic fracturing
industry has adopted a rhetorical strategy famously employed by
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US President 1933-1945. Taking office in
the darkest days of the Great Depression, Roosevelt delivered a
stirring inaugural address in which he declared, “The only thing we
have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror
which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Neatly here the new President confined all sense and all honor in his
own corral. In one sentence he reduced all possible camps to two:
self-terrified ninnies, dead weight on the backs of the valiant – and
those with clear eyes and steady nerves, the ones who would roll up
their sleeves, pitch in for the New Deal, and build the bridge to a
better future.

Of course Mr. Roosevelt, giving that speech in 1933, was perfectly
well aware that there was plenty more than fear itself to fear – some
40% of US banks had failed; unemployment was pushing hard on 25%; US
mining, logging, industry, agriculture, all were foundering; tens of
millions in America had too little to eat; and unrest in many cities
was turning violent. It would have ill-served the president’s
purpose to acknowledge any of this. He was not trying, after all, to
inform. He was trying to motivate. He was trying to recruit. He was
trying to sell a particular horse.

The fracking industry at present, likewise. Perhaps the most
effective of the industry’s self-promotional tacks is the suggestion
that questioners are emotional rather than rational, fearful without
cause, weak-willed, silly. Thus it presents its own science as hard
minded and definitive; it dismisses dissenting voices variously as
ignorant, irrelevant, or hysterical. What else should it do? It is
bent on directing the discussion to one conclusion.

(As to whether the fracking industry knows there are reasons to fear,
I present one modest piece of evidence. Understandably, the
“landmen”, industry representatives seeking leases, are not prone to
offer landowners lists of things that might go wrong – but the US
federal Securities and Exchange Commission dictates that potential
investors in any enterprise must have access to just such a list. No
doubt the industry strives to keep the obligatory catalogue as brief
and bland as possible, so as not to scare off money. Still, in 2008,
potential investors in Cabot Oil & Gas were apprised of possible “well
site blowouts, cratering and explosions; equipment failures;
uncontrolled flows of natural gas, oil or well fluids; fires;
formations with abnormal pressures; pollution and other environmental
risks.”)

In truth I don’t see how we can reasonably expect the shale gas
industry to volunteer information contrary to its own interests. As
much as Roosevelt was, it is determined to make the sale.

So at present we have the horse-trader’s emphatic assurance that the
horse is sound. He declines to have the horse examined by anybody
else before we buy it, and insists in any case nobody but himself is
qualified to judge the horse – and then he suggests that if we do not
reach for the reins, we are sissies. On this basis, shall we buy?

I return to the question of what we can know before the frackers have
at England. Mr. Willett is entirely in the right to suggest we
cannot know without careful investigation which of the many unsettling
reports about fracking are entirely reliable, and which may be skewed
by error, ambition, or special interest. We can know, however, that
in the US the shale gas industry, with its inexhaustible war chest and
its private stables of eager scientists, PR strategists, professional
lobbyists and lawyers, has not been able to contain a still-rising
tide of dissent. We can confirm that complaints and questions are
multiplying in every US state where fracking is underway. We can know
that questioners and dissenters on record represent a remarkable range
of experience, interest and approach. Among them are environmental
scientists and citizens’ rights groups, specialists in food safety,
fishermen, human health researchers, farmers, water quality experts,
investigative journalists, law professionals, landscape
preservationists, landfill monitors, the US Occupational Safety and
Health Administration, leaders in the Audubon Society, landowners
whose property has been fracked, and householders now able with a
match to ignite the water that comes from their kitchen taps. We can
safely assume that some of the myriad alarms raised by all these
disparate voices are unintentionally or even intentionally false.
What of the rest?

I do not like to think so, I would be happy to be wrong in this, but I
believe, on the basis of what has happened in my own country, and what
is happening still, that England is now in jeopardy. Perhaps the
fracking of your country is inevitable. Even if this is so, you who
fought to keep your forests whole, you who mourned the loss of your
ancient oaks–you have time, still, a breathing moment in which to
prepare. You can take action now to protect your country and your
people as far as possible from damage.

With one important exception, I want to endorse Mr. Willett’s
thoughtful and prudent suggestions as to what you might do, add one or
two specifics, and have done.

Mr. Willett expresses concern that Britain’s political leaders, in
their eagerness to streamline progress, may to some degree exempt the
shale gas industry from regulation and oversight in the UK. Surely
not? If you doubt this would be a singularly boneheaded move, only
look west. Of all the reckless and costly decisions US policy makers
have ever embraced – admittedly a long and harrowing list – the
establishment of the so-called Halliburton loophole, exempting the
shale gas industry from federal environmental protection laws, is a
strong contender for the most benighted. This is an industry that
injects millions of gallons of water carrying hundreds of chemical
compounds forcibly into the earth. Did we not think this might have
some environmental effect that would bear looking into? The industry
produces millions and millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater
which cannot be made clean by traditional wastewater treatment plants.
Did we not think there were any unanswered questions here? Did we
not think?

There has been much talk in this fracking debate about risks – which
risks are illusory, which risks are tolerable, which risks are known.
There are risks entirely avoidable: simply do not lower the bar. I
hope Mr. Willett and others like him will succeed in persuading
Britain’s leaders to hold this new industry accountable to all the
laws already in place to protect your nation’s natural wealth. Why
else do you have those laws?

If the shale gas industry, as it insists, does not represent a threat
to the environment, it should not balk at careful monitoring or at
prohibitions of damage. Would not objective oversight and
information gathering serve to prove the justice of its claims?

Monitoring will also generate a growing body of information, so that
every decision to expand fracking will be better informed than the
last.

Information gathering at every stage is key to minimizing risk. As
Mr. Willett notes, we need detailed information about potential sites
before fracking as well as during and after. We also need to know
precisely what chemicals are being injected at any given site – and too
much is at stake to permit the industry to withhold this information
as a “trade secret.” Without such information we cannot separate
coincidence from cause; we cannot document change; we cannot learn the
truth about fracking.

Risk can be reduced also by following Mr. Willetts’ advice on
site-by-site drilling approval dependent on information about local
conditions. In the US, some regions characteristically drought
prone – places where water is slenderly supplied by nature and already
overtaxed by human us – were nevertheless opened to fracking.
England can show far better sense. You know where your wildlife is
most vulnerable, where your wetlands are most fragile, where you are
apt to run short of water and where you are prone to flood. You can
identify the safest placements for shale gas mining operations.

Three more suggestions (again, based on what is happening over here):

Limit proliferation, at least until you’ve had a chance to see how the
first of the mines suit you. “Fracking by the Numbers,” a report
published in 2013, counts 82 thousand shale gas wells now operational
in the US, with 33,753 in the state of Texas alone. Whatever
opportunities there are in fracking operations for things to go wrong,
we have multiplied by tens of thousands.

See to the leases: very much can be done here to protect the
landowners who lease to frackers and to insure that damages done to
the countryside will be repaired. Here is a link to a document
prepared by Harvard Law School to advise US landowners on specific
issues the best lease will address, and specific rights it can secure:
http://tinyurl.com/Harvardleasingguide . Here is a link to an
article that appeared in the New York Times, “Learning too Late of the
Perils in Gas Well Leases,” about landowners who were unaware of what
rights they had given up, and what obligations they had assumed, in
leases they only thought they understood:
http://tinyurl.com/perilsofleases .

Use the full power and resources of your national government to
negotiate with the shale gas industry. Do not send, to dicker with
this formidable and hungry power, your earnest and cash-poor local
councils. With all due respect to your councillors, this is gnats
against volcanoes.

I have said I disagree with Mr. Willett on one point. I would rather
not – and in a sense I do not. He says fracking sites in England
should be approved only where there is “a known safe place for the
disposal of contaminated water.” I wish I knew of the existence of
any such place. This is the ominous question to which I have been
able to find no reassuring answer. I read in “Fracking by the
Numbers” that in the year 2012, contaminated wastewater produced by US
fracking operations amounted to 280 billion gallons. It is a number
stunning to thought. Where is the safe place?
I want to close on a more optimistic note: I do not at all doubt
England can do a far better job than my own country has done in terms
of managing this challenge. I even believe that if you do rigorously
monitor and regulate the frackers, you will will motivate them to take
care. You will lead them to develop ever safer procedures. Perhaps
even, with you looking constantly over their shoulders, they (with all
their money/power/science) will actually solve the problem of waste.

Here again, you people of the little boats, England can show the world.
From the land of the fracked, I wish you godspeed.

(And in the interest of full disclosure, I report that I am on
nobody’s payroll–and except as a breather of air, a drinker of water,
and a reader by lamplight, I have no dog in this fight.)

The NHS in 2014 and beyond

New Year’s Resolution: share some thoughts with you on this blog rather than just comment on some of the newspapers on line. So . . .

Involved in a thread about the NHS and queried some figures that had been quoted. There was a reasonable reply – not as specific as I would have liked – so I said . . .

Thank you for that. It is difficult to know whether we are not paying enough or whether what we are paying is not being properly applied (in other words into a system which is inherently inefficient). My gut feeling is that the state is usually not very good at running big organisations (and few are as big as the NHS if you exclude huge multi-national companies) but what to put in its place?

I see two possibilities,

(1) All medical facilities are in private hands. You are charged for the costs incurred (which is not the same thing as actually paying for them) and you them apply to the state to meet that cost. First you would need to demonstrate that your treatment fell withing those approved by the state (something that has yet to be properly debated) then you would need to be means tested. Yes, horrid but essential. This could be automatic and based on the latest available tax returns. After all, why should the state pay for treatments given to the super wealthy?

(2) Again all medical facilities are in private hands. All people must have insurance and those who cannot afford to pay the premiums have them paid by the state – something that would be automatic if a person were to be on benefits but not so in other cases. People would be free to choose an insurance company but the basic policy conditions would have to be approved by government (but again might well not include everything presently available under the NHS.

Any thoughts on either of those two suggestions? Any thoughts on what should be covered by the state in terms of health requirements?

IN – OUT – SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT

THe last few days have seen a lot of comments on various on-line editions of newspapers regarding the small matter of immigration from other EU countries into the UK.

Much of this is ill informed. Most of the people we take in do not come from other EU countries.

All of it, however is highly understandable and, whilst I do not always agree with the logic, I am with most of them in spirit. So what is this spirit thing that seems to be upsetting so many people? Well, my guess (it can be no more) is that at last people are thinking about the sovereignty of the UK Parliament. In other words, it is not so much immigration per se that is making people angry (I typed “cross” and realised it had to be stronger than that) as the feeling that our government has no control over EU immigration or the way these people are treated once they arrive.

If they come from somewhere else, our government has the ability to say “no” and, sometimes, to say “sorry but you do not qualify for such-and-such a benefit”. We may not be happy at the decisions the government takes but at least we can vote them out if we get cross enough – which we can’t do with the EU monster. So why the “sometimes”? Well, these guys from any country can, and do, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn decisions made by our government and judiciary.

And that, of course,raises other questions about sovereignty because (and this is another area which is much misunderstood) the ECHR has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU and we could opt out of that tomorrow if we wanted to.

Where does this lead me? Well, to a referendum to ask the electorate of the UK two questions:

EU – in or out?

ECHR (in this case the European Convention on Human Rights) – in or out?

Meanwhile, from deepest Devon, it seems to me that all our rulers are doing is “shaking it all about”.

We are in a bit of a muddle again

Thanks to a number of other commitments plus (I may as well admit this) health issues which are not going to go away even if they are held at bay, I took the basic decision to stop blogging very often. I think this is probably a mistake as the advantage of the blog is that I can have a good rant and no one can stop me. Today I want to rant about tribal politics (again).

The coalition is falling apart. That is not to say that it will not continue to run the country until the next election but that the two parties have become so concerned about their “identity” that they are putting that ahead of everything else – and firmly ahead of the national interest.

Why does Nick Clegg need “yellow water” between him and David Cameron? Yes, they have their different opinions – I have different opinions from my wife but we have been working together as a team for over thirty years.

This determination on the part of the LibDems to rubbish policies enacted by the Coalition and WITH WHICH THEY AGREED PREVIOUSLY is, to say the least, distasteful.

Equally so is the right end rump of the old Tory Party which should come as no surprise to anyone. The big surprise in UK politicis is that there is still a Conservative Party. What happened to the Whigs? What happened to the old Liberals? What is happening today to the Labour Party (and could be happening to the Lib-Dems)? They all got stuck in a social and cultural moment in history while both society and culture have moved on. The Tories, however, have always moved with the times – well, nearly always. At the same time they have had to contend with “the old guard” every inch of the way. Usually, in the end, thy dealt with this in a pretty brutal fashion. Think Harold Macmillan and the night of the long knives:

Now that doesn’t work. Communications are to good and too fast. An idiot management committee in a constituency somewhere in the country can create havoc. This debacle about Crispin Blunt is a case in point. My guess is that it will do little harm to the Conservative election prospects in Reigate and Banstead but the message it has sent out (despite the management committee being rightly trounced by the other members) will do great damage in the marginal seats.

Elections are lost and won by the votes of extremely small numbers of people. Some of you may remember that I worked out that after the last election had less than 18,000 voters out of an electorate of 46,000,000 voted for a different candidate (and it did not matter which different candidate) we would not have had a coalition between the Tories and the LD’s. It really does seem that there are some Tories who will do whatever it takes to make the Conservatives unelectable. Hmmm.

Are the members of the Traditional Britain Group fascists?

Funny thing – life. I had no intention of writing a blog today but find my blood boiling. It seems that Jacob Rees-Mogg MP was unwise enough (some might be tempted to say “stupid enough”) to be the guest speaker at the annual dinner of a vile group that calls itself the Traditional Britain Group. Before I go any further, let me say that I do not believe for one half second that Mr Rees-Mogg holds any of the beliefs that this group holds nor that he fully understood what they were about when he accepted the invitation.

Anyway, it also just so happens that the book I am reading at the moment is called Winter of the World by Ken Follett. This deals with the period running up to the second world war including, of course, the destruction of the German Social Democratic Party by the Nazis in the 1930’s. Deals with it brilliantly, horribly, graphically and accurately. If you have time, do try to read it. It is part two of a trilogy. The first, Fall of Giants takes us through the Great War and should, I feel, be compulsory reading for every prospective parliamentary candidate – that way we might, just might, avoid some of the mistakes we made in the past.

Back to the Traditional Britain Group. Look at their “About Us” page on their website.  This is headed – innocently enough – Traditional Conservatives Radical Thinking. Hmmm.

Here are their aims (they call them “standpoints”). My thoughts in italics. You may care to add yours in the comment box below.

(1) We believe in Britain and the British people, their heritage and customs. Of course you do – these exist. By the same token I believe in buttercups amd butter. Neither assertion means a thing.

(2) We believe in a sovereign self-governing Britain and withdrawal from the EU. A viewpoint shared by many from all shades of the political spectrum. Full marks for this one.

(3) We reject all forms of foreign interference in our government. This is an irrational belief. We cannot avoid foreign interference if we accept foreign investment or deal (whether as buyers or sellers) in an international market. For this to mean anything they should carefully define “foreign interference”.

(4) We ask for an understanding and consciousness by all our people of their nation’s greatness, achievements, and glory. Good – but also their relative size in global terms (quite small), their failures and the fact that many shameful acts have been carried out in the name of Great Britain. That is not to be unpatriotic – it is true of every nation that has ever been and will remain true of every nation to come.

(5) We believe that the heterosexual family is the primary social unit. Subtext: we hate gays. Well, sorry, but I don’t. Some very good friends are gays and, while we on the subject, many societies have been very succesful with other types of primary social units.

(6) We believe in authority. See comment under (1) – but I have a nasty feeling that this means “our authority” rather than “your authority”..

(7) We believe in the spiritual values of life and of the respect that is owing to man. Not sure what they mean by “spiritual values” but if a someone wants to be respected he or, of course, she must earn it.

(8) We believe in the obligation of labour and the rolling back of the welfare state. If what they are saying is that all have an obligation to their fellow men and that welfare should be limited to those who really need it, I would agree. Karl Marx put it rather better. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.  Of course, it may mean something else entirely.

(9) We believe in virtue and the sacred nature of Christianity and our Established Church. Sorry, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Buddhists – and so on and so forth. You are not part of this group’s belief system. Return to your roots (unless, of course, they happen to be in the UK).

(10)We believe that our country is best served by our indigenous customs & traditions, its time-honoured hereditary principle and our monarchy. Yes, Morris dancing, bear-baiting, witch burning and rotten boroughs. Actually, I do think our constitutional monarchy is fine but when I read this sort of thing from this sort of group even I tend to start wanting to embrace a president.

(11) We are in favour of localism and local communities. So am I.

(12) We support the small businessman and entrepeneur. Good, so they should.

(13) We support British industry & manufacturing. Excellent – we can take it, therefore, that everything they buy, eat, wear and drive around in come from the UK.  Should someone tell them that we have to import nearly all our oil, gas and electricity?

(14) We are opposed to internationalism and globalisation. At the risk of repeating myself: Should someone tell them that we have to import nearly all our oil, gas and electricity?

(15) We are opposed to communism, to socialism, to liberalism and to anarchism. This is rather fun. Anarchists oppose socialism. Communists oppose liberalism. This group opposes them all (but see 17 below).

(16) We are opposed to mass immigration and multiculturalism. Why are these connected? It can only be because they oppose the immigration of people who look or think differently. This overlooks the fact that all, even those in this group and the followers of Ed Milliband, share something like 99.8% of our genes.

(17) We are opposed to the Class War. Unless, of course, you are a communist, a socialist, a liberal or an anarchist in which case you are a part of the opposition which, to my ears, sounds a bit like a war.

(18) We are opposed to Political Correctness and support the repeal of all cultural-Marxist legislation, including race relations legislation. I go with abolishing political correctness, have no idea which acts on the statute book could be described as “cultural-Marxist” and I am dead against any racism whatsoever.

(19) We are against the purely materialist conception of life. Really? But everything so far suggests that the reverse is the case.

(20) We support the Great British Countryside and its conservation for future generations. I have lived in the “great British countryside” most of my life. In my experience people on the ground generally want to make as much money as they can out of the bit they own – and God help anyone else who spoils the view.

(21) We are against all the great heresies of our age, because we have yet to be convinced that there is any part of the world where the liberty to propagate such heresies has been the cause of anything good. Again we need a definition. What do they mean by heresy? Until I know I really cannot comment.