14 January 2006

In defence of Neil Harding.

This is largely in response to this post but also to anyone else who thinks the same.

It's quite ironic really to be accused of being insulting, accused of misrepresenting people's views and accused of not listening to other's points of view.

While at the same time to be called a 'retard', 'stupid', 'incapable of thinking' etc and have my views completely mis-represented. It was also pointed out that I changed my mind over the practicalities of ID cards, which hardly fits the accusation of 'not listening'.

Martin Keegan accuses me of being a racist (something I take deep offence at), he justifies this by giving the impression I want to further restrict non-EU immigration.

At no point have I ever said that, and I don't believe that at all. Who is mis-representing who here?

I have repeatedly said that I think immigration laws should be RELAXED. Of course I don't believe that our borders can be totally pourous, until the world's inequality is drastically reduced, some immigration control is necessary for practical reasons. I did state six months ago that the current immigration laws were about right but I now realise they can be relaxed. Although I do worry about the impact of robbing the third world of skilled labour (this should be avoided if possible). The USA is the worst culprit for robbing other countries of their skilled labour. They are effectively free riding on the taxes of other countries which pay for the training of workers.

I argue vociferously with people like DEVIL'S KITCHEN who villifies muslims in his blog and slags immigrants off.

I point out the enormous benefits immigration has brought to this country. I am an internationalist. I actually don't believe in the nation state. Nationalism is as irrational to me as religion and ideology.

I apologised for being clumsy in my comments to Martin (over ID cards)something I admit I regularly do, because he mis-interpreted what I was saying. I said I would like (jokingly) for all bigots to leave the country (and in a fit of anger at his unjustified comments), included him as a bigot.

As for my comments on Tony's respect agenda. You lot are having a field day because I was honest enough to admit that innocent people would be affected.

This is true of any system, even due process is far from perfect, as I am sure you know. The more severe the penalty, the more accuracy is needed and the more the innocent need to be protected.

This is a concept you lot seem unable to grasp. You think the principle of due process should be upheld regardless of the practicalities and cost. But having the same level of legal procedure for low level crime is just not practical and inevitably just leads to the guilty going unpunished.

You may think this acceptable, but Tony is trying to find a practical solution to the problem, not uphold a high minded principle that is just not working at the lowest level.

Just like relativity breaks down at the quantum level, so does due process. Letting people get away with low level crime just means having to deal with them later on for something much more serious. This is harming us all. This is ALL I am arguing for. I was direct enough to admit in blunt terms the implications of this on the innocent, but I pointed out that for those innocent who were affected, it would benefit them and society much more by having the guilty punished at an earlier stage. Life is inevitably unfair, sometimes it is better for us all to take the rough with the smooth if it solves a serious problem.

I am being lazy in lumping everyone's views together but it is sometimes hard to find the time to respond to dozens of people's comments. I apologise to anyone who hasn't criticised me in this way.


  1. You are quite right; due process is not perfect. Far too many people have suffered from miscarriages of justice. That is all the more reason to ensure that it is improved, not made worse. That there are more safeguards for the ordinary citizen, not less.

    Just stop and think for a moment about the implications of criminalising innocent people. How do you think the citizenry will react if they are more likely to be fined or otherwise punished and have to go to court to prove their innocence? How will they react to the law? How will they react to the forces of law and order?

    If the state becomes lawless and corrupt - which is what the respect agenda amounts to; then people will treat it with contempt. You will have more lawlessness, not less.

    Frankly, despite people trying to get the message across, it is you who has missed the point. Innocent until proven guilty is there to protect us - you and I from the excesses of the state. It is not there to "protect criminals" nor is it being "soft on crime".

    I tried to explain it before, and I'll give it one last chance; if you convict the innocent, the guilty go free. Empowered, they will re offend. The police will not be looking for them because as far as they are concerned, they have caught the perpetrator and the case is closed. How, exactly this is good for law and order defies reason.

  2. Neil, I'm now utterly confused, having now re-read every comment Martin made, where did he call you a racist?

    I must have misread something. Well, one of us must.

  3. "You think the principle of due process should be upheld regardless of the practicalities and cost."

    Yes. Yes I do. Doubtless, if you're a true Labourite, you think the principle of an NHS free at the point of use should also be upheld regardless of the practicalities and cost.

    I do, however, entirely agree with you on the nation state thing. Although I can't see how it's possible to simultaneously reject the concept of the nation state and yet show such slavish devotion to a political party, even when that party rejects so many of its founding principles... Ho hum...

  4. You've expressed a particular set of opinions in public; as result you been mugged by a group of people, Martin among them, who find these opinions objectionable.

    Some of these people do have the sort of middle-class, public-school background that you are so keen to deprecate; a fair number of them don't. Some of them are unreconstructed tools of global capital; more are left-leaning liberals of the sort that we thought we were buying in 1997. Almost all that they have in common is a shared antipathy toward Blair's right-wing tendencies; your repeated attempt to characterise them as homogeneous block of Tory bigots isn't going to stick. Until you stop it, you're likely to keep picking up a fair amount of abuse.

  5. "Why does he always pick the same side as the totalitarians and the racists"

    This comment by Martin Keegan is hardly fair and a clear subtle intimation that I am a racist. Which I find ridiculous and so would anybody who knew me. He is clearly doing it deliberately to try and smear me.

    He also claims incorrectly that I want to rig the electoral system, just because I feel that Proportional Representation is much fairer then First Past the Post at representing the electorate and I feel that almost definitely means that we won't have to endure another Thatcherite government riding roughshod over the majority's wishes.

    To me, supporting FPTP as Martin does, is the best way to rig an election, proved by the fact we have a govt with just 21% support (even less if you take the patchy registration into account).

    All of Martin's accusations against me could easily apply to him. He has misrepresented my views, insulted me, and been guilty of blind allegiance to his set principles no matter what the evidence.

    Having honest strong opinions on almost anything is bound to offend someone, which is why politicians try to be so vague. The fact I have managed to offend almost everyone on something or other suggests that I am not some tribal party aparatchik. I try to pick difficult issues where I think the status quo opinion is wrong, so it is not surprising I get more criticism than praise.

    A lot of people throw this NuLabour lapdog thing at me. But it hardly fits someone who has argued passionately against the govt on a number of issues.

    Labour are wrong on not giving us a referendum on PR, they were wrong on not having a total ban on public smoking (although it looks like we are going to get a free vote), they are wrong on selection in schools (and most of the party would probably agree with me), faith schools are wrong(obviously), they were wrong on not going into the Euro, they are wrong on PFI, they are wrong in locking up the most people in Europe, they were wrong on detention without trial, they were wrong about Iraq, and god knows what they are playing at letting known sex offenders into schools.

    I have no problem criticising this govt on anything I think is wrong BUT equally I will defend them to the hilt when I think they are right (I also recognise that on some of these issues their hands are tied by the press, which is why I want the handful of media moguls who run Britain to live under the same restrictions as the broadcast media in terms of controlling bias).

    I think Labour is streets ahead of the Tories on most issues, and under this electoral system that is the only two governments we are ever likely to get, which is why I want PR and more choice.

    Longrider; due process is fine when appropriate but in low level cases it is too time consuming and expensive (and actually probably not that efficient at doing what it is supposed to in low level cases. I'm not sure summary justice is going to be all that worse in low level cases. There are always practical consideration in every system. For example we could reduce the number of deaths on the road by restricting speed limits even further or banning cars altogether. Surely there is no more higher principle than the sanctity of human life, but it is always a balance between the number of deaths and the practical implications. In effect we allow these deaths because it is just not practical to ban cars. Principles are always to be aimed for (but only as far as practically possible). It is clear to me that due process just isn't working as it should in dealing with low level crime.

  6. wrong in locking up the most people in Europe

    So, lowering the burden of proof will result in fewer people being locked up?

  7. I am in favour of rehabilitation rather than prison. Nobody will go to prison as a result of summary justice. Prison should only be for those who are a danger to the public. Nobody else.

  8. There should be a re-emphasis on restorative penalties not prison sentences. Prisons are universities of crime and do not reduce re-offending.

  9. An interested bystander15/1/06 1:47 am

    I don't think anyone would have disagreed if you'd just said that innocent people would be affected. But you went a bit further than that. You said:

    "It [sic.] terms of low level punishment for low level crimes, it is BETTER to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free".

    You also said, "You think the principle of due process should be upheld regardless of the practicalities and cost. But having the same level of legal procedure for low level crime is just not practical and inevitably just leads to the guilty going unpunished."

    I find it astonishing that someone who vilifies people who disagree with him as middle-class and therefore out of touch can, in virtually the same breath, dismiss the prospect of an innocent person being forced to pay £100 for a "crime" that s/he hasn't committed on grounds of practicality. I can only assume that you've never had to struggle for money yourself. To those who have, £100 is an awful lot of money.

  10. As I've said before, it's beneath my dignity to argue with Neil anymore, but to correct the record, I do not support First Past the Post, I have never called Neil a racist and I have never called him a liar.
    Neil has unsuccessfully charged me with these sorts of accusations before.

    Neil claims I misrepresent him. He's not doing anyone the courtesy of specifying where this might have happened so that I can defend myself.

    To the extent that anyone reading this cares (and I hope no-one is reading it, as it just brings more traffic to Neil's site), I'd just ask that they read both sides of the story and not form any opinion on the basis of Neil's stated positions alone. There is no point adding anything to what I have already written about Neil's argumentative tactics.

  11. innocent bystander: I understand what you are saying, I worded it badly. Looking at it again it sounds like I want the innocent to be punished and obviously I'm not that daft.

    What I was trying to say is that, 'some innocent people will inevitably get punished, but this is worth it if it means that the large number of perpetrators of low level crime are also punished'.

    Like I've already said, every system is flawed to some extent, I'm not sure summary justice will be that much worse than due process in punishing the innocent in low level cases.

    Martin: you may not have specifically called me a racist, but you sure as hell tried to imply it. I'm glad to hear in black and white you deny calling me such things but the evidence suggests otherwise.

    As I have already stated, you claimed I wanted to 'rig' the electoral system. You have also claimed that;

    "[neil] wants to exclude mainstream political parties from government"

    Where on earth have I ever said this? This is clearly ridiculous. It obviously is a misrepresentation of my support for PR and the belief that a right wing Tory govt, such as under Thatcher could never win 50% support in the country hence could never rule unhindered under PR. That is not the same thing at all, as you well know.

    You also try to smear me as a fascist and racist.

    "abolish freedom of the press and restrict immigration from non-EU countries. The last one of those is also the policy of the BNP."

    To take the laws that control bias in broadcasting and extend them to the press is not abolishing the freedom of the press. To reduce the overt bias of a handful of media moguls is about extending the freedom of the press not abolishing it.

    What you don't understand is that regulation is sometimes needed to ensure freedom. That is what the monopolies commission is for. You don't get a free market by leaving it alone and you don't get a free press by leaving it in the hands of a handful of owners who control what is printed.

    As for linking me with the BNP. It's easy to see from this statement why I accuse you of implying I am a racist, you are deliberately trying to smear me. Where in the BNP manifesto do they argue in favour of immigration like I do? As I have repeatedly stated. I actually want to relax immigration controls.

    In keeping with 99% of the population, I don't believe it is practical for the UK to unilaterally abandon all border controls immediately. It would need international agreement on the free movement of people and probably a lot less inequality in the world before they could be completely removed. To have no border controls would be ideal and would be my objective, but it is not presently possible. To paint this view of mine as compatible with the BNPs is an obvious attempt at a smear. It is disgraceful. Is it any wonder I am upset? What could be more misrepresentative of my views than this suggestion? I am absolutely on the libertarian side in terms of immigration. There is virtually no-one who is as liberal as me on the subject. Granted you and Chris Lightfoot don't believe in passports or border controls and would abolish them all tomorrow, unilaterally in the UK. I wouldn't go that far and neither would 99% of the population, but to paint everyone who doesn't as supporters of the BNP is absurd.

    You are obnoxious twit, Mr Keegan. You are guilty of everything you accuse me of.

  12. Martin: As for your claim not to support FPTP, what is this post on your blog all about then;

    "So, in order of preferability, the electoral systems rank as follows:

    First Past The Post, and Alternative Vote
    Single Transferable Vote in multimember constituencies
    Proper Proportional Representation systems with open lists
    Proper Proportional Representation systems with closed lists"

  13. A fair mistake, Neil, you just haven't read the whole article (I have never accused you of reading a whole article). I prefer AV to FPTP, but acknowledge that FPTP is superior to most systems. The article you're looking at is about single member constituencies, where the differences between AV and FPTP aren't so significant.

  14. Neil I am rich upper middle class, public school nutured, oxbridge educated chap, of the sort you clearly despise. I am certainly no leftie. I'm standing shoulder to shoulder with the next torygraph reading chap thinking that if only these malcontent yobs could be given a little discipline and taught some respect we might be able to turn this country around and once again be great. Yet I am awfully suprised to find the leader of the labour party, and you yourself, arguing that such an approach is clearly progressive and born of the left. Hopefully the police will shortly have all the burdensome paper work associated with brining all these people to trial removed from them, and our streets will be a safer place. It is completely unreasonable that there is required to be evidence and a trial over such obvious matters of guilt such as theft and graffiti. If we cannot trust the police to enforce the law in a pragmatic and common-sense way, then any attempt to prop up the rule of law with checks and balances by human rights lawyers and endless paper work cannot help, it just wastes valuable public time and money, in order to keep the granola muching guardian reading islington set happy.

    I may just vote for the man if he's brave enough to run again.

  15. The Remittance Man16/1/06 10:38 am


    Re the USA being the worst "skills poacher" can you provide some numbers to back this up?

    It's not that I think you are succumbing to knee-jerk yank bashing or anything. It's just that here in SA the adverts enticing nurses and teachers overseas all seem to be about jobs in the NHS.


  16. Martin: There is nothing in this article that states your preference for AV. You clearly order your preferences with FPTP at the top. I suggest you read your own articles properly before you criticise others for not reading them.

    p.s. It seems I put the wrong link in the comment, it is correct here.

  17. Yes, Neil, that's correct. The article doesn't conclusively tell you whether I prefer AV or FPTP, what it tells you is that I don't like multi-seat constituencies. It is possible to infer from the article a preference for AV, and that indeed is my view: I want AV, and oppose FPTP on those grounds.

    You were therefore wrong to use it in support of a claim that I support FPTP. Your style of discussion makes reaching resolutions like this much more expensive than it need be.

  18. Great to hear you prefer AV to FPTP, in that I support you.

    BUT the whole article defends FPTP and nowhere does it actually say you prefer AV. In fact you order it second to FPTP in your list of preferences.