The Licensing Act 1872 – among other things – stopped the practice of adding salt to drinks, which was originally put in beer to increase thirst and sales. This ‘improvement’ was made by the government to help us as consumers. I often think of how government intervention fails to improve things, as I pay for my own salted crisps to accompany a pint.
Words from my article for the Croydon Citizen from four years ago. The article was extensively about how Croydon Council had destroyed the bustling night time economy of the town centre of my youth, through a series of bright ideas to “improve the town”. These included a presumption to refuse new applications in the town centre for “premises used exclusively or primarily for the sale/supply of alcohol and/or loud amplified recorded music”. The council was thankfully finally reversing this initiative.
When they were running, I wrote in the Citizen about how plans to make Croydon a living wage borough, risks jobs at the proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, I note it has never been built. I also wrote about how the council spending £1.1 million on improving Surrey Street Market had led to over a 20% drop in traders.
At our last My Tuppenceworth, I spoke about how we needed a Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon, we now have one. I now want to speak about how I implore that he and his council, leave my town, our town, alone.
We hear Westfield are once again looking to develop in Croydon. This is great news, and something is much needed. Now clearly the council needs to be involved in granting planning permission, and no doubt will need to weigh in on changes to roads, parking, and public transport. They have a statutory duty to be involved in these areas, beyond that, I ask they stay well clear.
The old Allders department store building, which before the council’s intervention had reinvented itself as a successful Village Outlet store, now has plans to become an arts venue. The idea of a venue where you can, too quote “lose oneself in art, beyond digital culture, where we can connect in the real world, in deeper and more meaningful stories.”, frankly sounds potty to me. But so what, I’m not their target market. What business is it of mine if someone wants to build this? What business is it of Croydon Council’s politicians or officers if someone wants to spend their sweat and treasure on building this? Their initiative is to be welcomed, but please Croydon Council stay out of their way. Beyond that, stop with any bright ideas, grand plans, and great initiatives. I’m sure if you just get out of their way, you will find many willing to invest in our great town.
Solidarity, the Polish Trade Union, brought 10 million people together. It survived a period of martial law imposed to crush it and helped bring about the downfall of their Communist government. On November 9, 1989, it was announced that starting at midnight, citizens of East Germany were free to cross the country’s borders. East and West Berliners flocked to the wall. As the border guard in charge frantically called his superiors, they gave no orders. Overwhelmed he gave the command to “Open the barrier!”. Both of these serve as a reminder that by coming together people can achieve the seemingly impossible.
Mahatma Gandhi, said “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state, shares in its corruption and lawlessness.”
The Reverend Martin Luther King said, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Or as Aristotle put it “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
I’m not sure if we can stop a future lockdown. My suspicion is government will be reluctant to impose another full lockdown. They will instead salami slice our freedom away with the imposition of more and more restrictions that never fully disappear. These will be much harder to oppose as each one will be minor and have some alleged practical argument in favour of it. Whilst we may not be able to stop them, we can disobey them.
We need to build a polarity if not a majority. We need all of those who objected to any part of lockdown to come on board. We don’t need to insist on total agreement or compliance, after all we are not them. We are the free, we are the people who believe in live and let live.
That means we will often find ourselves arm in arm with those we disagree with, and with whom we share little common ground. But the common ground we have, the area we can agree on, and the way we build a group large enough to oppose lockdowns, is by banding with those who all agree we must once again, be not only free, but free from the fear of more government restrictions.
We should never try to impose this on others, we may need sometimes to follow the rules and pick our battles. We should also never mock those who follow the rules. Instead, we can simply go about our lives as a free people regardless of what government says or others do.
If the restrictions come again, we can meet in the park as many have, or better still pop round to each other’s homes. If you can go into work, go in. We can meet-up on public transport or at the supermarket. With the exception of medical environments, refuse to wear a mask. We can’t go to the pubs if they are closed but bring a bottle and you are all welcome around mine for drinks.
We need to build networks of the widest set of people. Not those who agree with us 100%, but who agree on this one issue. In May we organised a hustings of otherwise disparate political parties who were all pro freedom and anti-lockdown. Despite their differences, on this overwhelmingly important issue, they agreed and came together. We must all do that, find that common ground with as many as possible, and defy anyone that ever tries to lock us down again.
Our second My Tuppenceworth turned out to be another great free speech event. We had 8 speeches on the night from 5 speakers, each followed by a lively Q&A. Where people have shared their speeches, we have published and linked to them below.
The first half of the evening was on the topic of “How do we ensure there is never another lockdown?”. The following people spoke on the subject:
The first Pride rally in London took place on 1st July 1972. That means this year’s Pride events are not only the first big events since 2019 and the hiatus of lockdown they also commemorate 50 years since that first U.K. event.
Croydon has hosted its own Pride event since 2016 when the first march went to Surrey Street, and we enjoyed a Council (Taxpayer) funded (to the tune of £30,000) party. Since then ambitions have increased, and in 2018 Croydon Pride moved to Wandle Park, where it was hosted again in 2019 at a cost of £65,000 to local taxpayers.
You might wonder did we get value for money? Well Croydon’s politicians who got to speak to the assembled crowd certainly came across as if they thought so. As an attendee I was less convinced my taxes subsidising the over £5 a pint drinks in a cordoned off area for Pride was the best use of funds. Of course, a few months later Croydon issued its first of two Section 114 notices, declaring de facto bankruptcy. Money that could have been spent on social workers protecting the most vulnerable children in the borough was instead spent subsidising my weekends entertainment. I didn’t want you to subsidise my weekend, I would rather the council spend the money on at-risk kids.
We’ve had two years of cuts to services and council scrutiny of budgets from central government. Libraries have gone part time, Purley Leisure Centre is still closed, hundreds of jobs were lost, cuts were made to the anti-social behaviour team, yet still Croydon in 2022 appears to have found funds to sponsor Croydon Pride. Now you might expect at this point I would state how much taxpayer funding had gone to Croydon Pride. Ideally, I might even be able to point you to a press release stating Croydon’s sponsorship but alas no. Despite Croydon being listed as a sponsor no record as I write this can be found of what funds are being paid from Croydon taxpayers for the 2022 Croydon Pride. I again attended the 2022 Croydon Pride and was more than happy that private companies choose to advertise to offset the costs of the event. This is exactly how these events should be paid for, by the market. If people think this is worth sponsoring, if they want to be associated with the event, let them pay for it.
The average household income in Croydon is £37,000 p/a, which with an average property price to buy at £387,767 and a median rent of £1,450 pcm, it’s not clear why working class Croydonians should subsidise what is clearly a very middle class event. At a time when people are struggling to pay their energy bills, why should Croydon taxpayers on minimum wage be forced to subsidise anyone’s weekends entertainment? Especially when front line services are being shut down.
An afternoon spent in glorious sunshine listening to music, I very much enjoyed Croydon Pride 2022. I hope next year I can enjoy it more, knowing the event isn’t funded by forced subsidy from taxpayers and isn’t taking much needed funds from front line services.
Once I have been able to confirm the Croydon subsidy, I will of course let you know.
During the 2008 London Mayoral election campaign my local paper, The Croydon Advertiser, asked a series of questions of then-Mayor Ken Livingston and Conservative candidate Boris Johnson about issues in the borough. Ken’s answers were as I recall perfectly adequate, but Boris’ I remember thinking at the time were written as if he had been a lifelong resident and his heart would always be in the town. Eight years later reading Zac Goldsmith’s answers to a similar set of questions, I thought he came over as if he had never been to the borough, had no intention of ever visiting, and the best we could hope for was he might mention the place to his staff in passing. Why am I writing about this? Well, it was clear Boris knew how to get a crowd onboard. Also, with Croydon being one of those outer London boroughs, a Conservative Mayoral candidate needs to pile on the votes to have any hope of winning. In stark contrast to the next Tory candidate, he or his team knew this interview mattered.
By the time Boris left office as Mayor, he had returned to parliament and was the leading light of the Vote Leave campaign. At the time it was often remarked he was one of only two politicians in the country who could stop traffic and would have cheering crowds wherever he went – the other being Nigel Farage. He delivered, at least in part, Brexit. The man who broke the Red Wall to win a stonking majority in the end simply ran out of steam.
What will be Johnson’s legacy? My personal view is I believe him to be the worst Prime Minister in British history. Johnson was the man who placed in a form of house arrest sixty-seven million healthy people based on a computer model. The evidence from Sweden, and across the United States where similar states had radically different lockdown policies shows his withdrawal of our freedom didn’t save any lives. Indeed, the economic calamity, social impact and changes to our lifestyles may well be responsible for the ongoing increase in excess deaths. A policy started no doubt with the best intentions, stole our freedom, crushed our economy, set a precedent which future governments may reuse, was implemented by this megalomaniac who partied while the locked-down people suffered. However, I am aware, all too many were willing to accept lockdowns. So how do I believe he will be more generally viewed?
Boris campaigned in 2019 to “Get Brexit Done”. In that election he not only saw off the threat of Corbyn, but he also cemented a new Conservative coalition that broke the Red Wall and enabled us to retain our nations democratic traditions by delivering Brexit. It’s worth thinking through a counterfactual on delivering Brexit. Boris was handed Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. He had two choices, make the best of that, or scrap it and try to get a more complete Brexit deal through a Remain voting parliament. With new parties being formed to stop Brexit, the Supreme Court and the House of Commons Speaker doing all they could to block the will of the people, Boris had little choice but to plough on with the deal he had. Once he had won that eighty-seat majority on a manifesto that included that deal, he had little choice but to deliver it. The Remain crowd arguably lost because they would accept no compromise. Their attempts to stop any form of Brexit meant we had to, at least for Great Britain, fully leave. Boris making the best of the cards he had been dealt, with help from the Brexit Party standing down candidates, took the only practical steps available to get us out of the European Union.
In winning that majority, Boris oversaw the completion of a journey that had been taking place for some years. Working class voters, who had traditionally voted Labour, moved from voting on predominantly economic grounds to more cultural and specifically patriotic grounds. Many of these voters had moved to the Conservatives, via voting UKIP or Brexit Party. With the Brexit Party stood down and UKIP imploded, Boris’ Conservatives rather than Brexit-betraying Labour became their natural home. At the time of writing, voting for the next leader is about to get underway. Whoever wins needs to retain that coalition of suburban and country middle class, and patriotic working-class voters for the Conservatives to win the next election. The children of the middle classes are increasingly voting Labour following their university educations, the Tories need working class voters to stay focused on cultural rather than economic issues. To secure this the next Prime Minister should act on the following:
Immediately ease the cost-of-living crisis by suspending or better still removing Net Zero targets and reducing environmental obligations and VAT on energy bills.
Get the economy going, by cutting taxes, speeding up the opening of free ports and opening fracking sites.
Stop the cross-channel traffic of illegal immigration. No government can claim competence when it can’t even defend our sea border.
Take a stand for free speech. Most areas of the culture war are a minefield, the Conservatives don’t want to be seen as the nasty party, but they can take a stand for free speech. In doing this they can pitch themselves as standing up for the little guy against the social media giants of Silicon Valley, which will resonate with direct speaking working class voters and older voters who grew up proud we were part of the free world.
Failure to act to retain the new coalition will not only see the Conservatives leave office at the next election it will destroy what little is left of Johnson’s legacy.
Image U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia.
By: Mike Swadling
The Jubilee proved a great opportunity for local neighbourhoods to come together in street parties, for local communities to decorate town centres and hold festivals, and for the nation to celebrate as a whole. This was an almost unique opportunity for a nation like the United Kingdom, that doesn’t otherwise have a national day of celebration, and being formed by 4 component nations, doesn’t have many natural ways to bring our United Kingdom together except in honour of our Monarch.
The World Population Review list the Best Countries To Live in 2022 as Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Iceland, Hong Kong, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, and Denmark. 5 of them are like the United Kingdom, parliamentary constitutional monarchies. The 20 Happiest Countries In The World In 2022 according to Forbes includes 10 parliamentary constitutional monarchies. Looking at regions, Japan (monarchy) is arguably the best country to live in its region, Malaysia and Thailand (monarchies) are probably preferable to Myanmar, Vietnam, or Indonesia. The Bahamas (monarchy) is perhaps the best of the Caribbean islands states to live in, and Belize (monarchy) the best country on the mainland of Central America. Are you starting to see a pattern forming? There are 208 countries in the world, just 13% (27) are parliamentary constitutional monarchies, yet they are overrepresented on every list of countries where you would want to live.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No matter how illogical monarchies, are they clearly work. The parliamentary Brexit wars of 2016-2019, confirmed to me the hereditary House of Lords and Judicial functions of the House of Lords worked better than what we have today. For all its faults and failings the undemocratic house, full of hereditary peers, frankly worked quite well. Under it we extended the franchise for men and gave women the vote. Passed multiple Factory Acts improving working conditions, pursued laissez-faire economic policies whilst legalising trade unions, had agricultural and industrial revolutions, and built and started giving up, an empire. We won two world wars against Germany, and arguably two more against France. It wasn’t democratic but it was a system that, albeit sometimes rather slowly, worked.
The best argument for a monarchy is often said to be President Thatcher and President Blair, one or both of these options will appal most people. Despite both winning multiple elections, neither can be argued to be unifying figures. But more than a rebuff to an unpopular president, the monarchy provides several practical benefits.
They ensure even the most powerful politician has a boss. Yes, in a democracy we the people are the politicians’ real boss, but they only get feedback at election time. Needing to explain themselves to the Queen once a week is a good opportunity to experience some humility.
They are the embodiment of the nation as a person. The nation is a fairly amorphous concept, but one that can come together and be represented under one figure.
Being apolitical, and it is critical they remain apolitical, they become a blank canvas for us to all paint our own ideas and views on. We can all be satisfied we are fairly represented in our establishment by a royal family who’s views we can believe are as similar or not as we like to our own.
For a democracy to work we need opposing views, for a nation to work, we need some unity. Most of the content on Netflix and Disney wants to impose some political views on me, woke corporations abound, and sports are full of political gesturing. The more places in life we can find without a political slogan the better, royalty gives us that.
But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, countries that choose to belong to a body headed by the constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom. The soft power the monarchy provides is a huge boost to British interests, economic, cultural, and political. Is the system perfect? No. Is it democratic? No. Is it even logical? Not at all. Does it work? A resounding Yes!
Image Agitated workers face the factory owner in The Strike, painted by Robert Koehler in 1886. Source:Deutsches Historisches Museum: infopic
By Mike Swadling
Over the past few weeks, we have seen industrial action or strikes hit the news again for the first time in a few years. The RMT has been holding a series of strikes on the railways, Arriva and Stagecoach workers have strike action planned. Despite Mayor Khan’s pledge to end London Underground strikes they are going ahead, and now teaching unions are threatening to ballot.
Strikes are never popular, but it does seem these are even less popular than most. Perhaps this is hardly surprising as we look forward to our first free summer for a couple of years, and with people worried about rising costs, these strikes could hardly come at a worse time. The government has come out strongly against them, as have many commentators, and it’s fair to say the zeitgeist generally has been against the strikes.
However, after two years of having our freedoms suspended not least our right to assemble, and with further threats to our rights to free speech coming along, it’s more important than ever to support the rights of those striking, even if you don’t support the reasons for the strikes and find some of the union barons unpleasant.
The craftsmen of the ancient Greeks formed loose associations. In the Roman Empire Collegia Opificum (unions of workers) included guilds of weavers, doctors, teachers, and painters. Guilds survived in the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire and then flourished across Europe in the later Middle Ages. The history of guilds working in the interest of their members and to maintain standards for goods is a long one.
As a result of the industrial revolution growing numbers of workers joined unions, fears of the French Revolution spreading to these shores, led to Combination Acts in 1799 and 1800, which outlawed “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions. In 1824 these were repealed, and Trade Unions became legal, but a new Combinations Act severely restricted their activities in 1825.
A century and a half of Parliament overreach in restricting the rights of workers to act collectively saw the formation of the Labour Party, the General Strike, and on the other side, years of union overreach with restrictive practice, closed shops, wildcat and nakedly political strikes. The 1980s saw an end to mass private sector union membership, and whilst the public sector has maintained large unionisation, as the chart below shows industrial disputes are at their lowest numbers in decades.
As someone who campaigned for Brexit in part to allow us to reverse the 20 years of stagnant working-class wages, I don’t want to complain when workers collectively bargain to get a pay increase. We all know inflation is a massive issue right now, and public sector workers getting bumper pay increases will make that situation worse not better, however that doesn’t negate the right of unions to strike for better pay.
Mis and contradictory information abounds on the train strike, with train drivers paid an average of £59,000 but the strikers average being reportedly a more modest £33,000. The strike is also about redundancies. It seems to me reasonable that with passenger numbers not recovering from lockdown, staff numbers are reduced, but it’s also reasonable for unions to fight for their members.
Teachers and health care workers are now threatening strike ballots over pay. These strikes could possibly illicit even less public sympathy than those on the railway. As many who have tried to book appointments with their GP will know, we now have an NHS that seems reluctant to actually see patients. 2 years of intermittent lockdown and school closures, often egged on by teaching unions, may find the public unsympathetic to demands for pay rises many if not most in the private sector are not getting themselves. As is often the case, in the long term these strikes may hurt rather than help members.
Strikes provide one other important balance, with low unemployment and high worker mobility, strikes provide a release mechanism. They point to a failure in relations and allow people to act without leaving their role or industry.
Libertarianism.org describes libertarian views on Labor Unions (in the US context) as “The libertarian principle on which the legitimacy of labor unions depends is freedom of association”. It goes on to say due to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) “forbids workers individually to choose whether a union represents them in bargaining with employers about terms and conditions of employment. Instead, a union is granted monopoly bargaining privileges”, as such it considers much union activity in the US largely illegitimate.
Closed shops are illegal in the UK, although arguably de facto closed shops (97% of teachers, and 96% of train drivers are in a union) do exist. People do have a choice, it is much more common for people to change careers, and many sectors have large casual or agency working which often pays a premium in exchange for reduced benefits and security.
After a few years of repressed democracy and freedom, as someone who believes in an individual’s liberty, I can’t think of a more important time to stand up for the rights of people, who I disagree with, who’s politics I may dislike, to combine and peacefully associate, as they see fit.
In February, I attended The Freedom Association (TFA) Jillian Becker Lecture held in London. Nigel Farage gave this year’s lecture, with an introduction from TFA’s Chairman and former MEP David Campbell Bannerman and a great summary by Chief Executive Andrew Allison.
Farage, as you can expect, gave a great speech covering many topics not least of all the need to fight against Net Zero environmental policies. He stayed for a fantastic question-and-answer, and never looks better than thinking on his feet with a live audience. For me, possibly the best thing about the event was that it was great to meet up with people you know, people you’ve heard of, and new people involved in all sorts of searches for freedom, or as Nigel put it; ‘it felt like old times’.
The Freedom Association itself has a proud history of supporting freedom in our country. It’s ten principles of a free society cover individual freedom, responsibility, the rule of law, limited government, free markets, national parliamentary democracy, and – something in desperate need of bringing to the fore – freedom of speech, expression, and assembly.
It is a great organisation, and I would encourage anyone to join not least for events like this but also because it’s a great way to support the fight for freedom in Britain. The event was also a great opportunity to meet people from difference parties; the Conservatives, the Reform Party, UKIP, the Heritage Party, journalists from the left and right, people from academia, and a range of activists all believing that we have a right to be free.
Events like these are also a great opportunity to make new contacts. I was busy picking up business cards from people in a variety of thinktanks who I certainly hope to persuade to be on our podcast if not at a live event. One of the greatest feelings I got from the experience was the overwhelming sense of community and comfort in not being alone in one’s beliefs.
Social media is no substitute for real life meet-ups in the flesh, especially with a large crowd. I had a similar experience recently going to see ‘Kevin Bloody Wilson’, the Australian singing comic, at a local theatre. All the political correctness we see in life, all the push back against ‘insensitive’ jokes, suddenly disappears when you’re in a theatre full of people singing songs with names to rude for me to mention.
But things are improving on this front. We hold a regular Libertarian Drinks here in Croydon as part of Dick Dellingpole’s Third Wednesday group. They are gaining popularity across the country, and you can find your local meet-up on the website. One is due to be set up in Christopher Wilkinson’s home city of Lichfield sometime soon. What’s been excellent for us is seeing the group expand from what started as a pro-Brexit group to include some people too young to vote at the time of the referendum! As we hopefully put lockdown well and truly behind us, in real life is clearly the way forward. In the meantime, the whole Jillian Becker Lecture is now available to watch on YouTube.
Mike Swadling proposed the debate, and below is his speech delivered to the society. As always with this friendly group the debate was good natured, very well opposed and drew out some great views from the audience.
“It is time for the West to stand up to Putin and kick Russia out of Ukraine”
What does this mean?
Of course, in many ways this is already government policy. Standing up to Putin is exactly what we are doing by supporting front line states, supplying the Ukrainian government, and restricting the operation of Russia’s economy. So in many ways it means doing exactly what we are doing today.
What it doesn’t need to mean, nor should it, is a direct armed intervention in the Ukraine with NATO forces acting directly against Russia or Russian troops. It would be unwise in the extreme to directly attack another nuclear power, unless you had already set out clearly that their actions were a line that could not be crossed.
I am reminded of a line from a book I read many years ago during the Cold War, called “Nuclear War, What’s in it for you?” In a line about misjudging a military interaction with a nuclear Soviet Union as it was at the time, the good news was you only had 4 minutes to regret your mistake.
What we are talking about here is standing up to a bully, an oppressor, and a calculated man who is in his mind making a logical choice to invade the Ukraine, and will if not stopped, go further. Therefore, we need to stop him and push him back. It’s worth pondering for a while, where we are at, and how we got to this position?
I’m not entirely sure why the global community has decided national borders matter more than anything else. The fact is we do care about borders, but I’d like to consider for a moment if it is the right or moral choice?
Nations continue to trade with China as they intern millions of Uyghurs. Allegations of slave Labour and Genocide haven’t led to sanctions against leading members of the Chinese Communist Party, business leaders or the Chinese media.
Statista the market and consumer data company lists Egypt at the top of the list of worst countries for human rights and rule of law as of 2021, and Amnesty International says “Authorities targeted human rights defenders, opposition politicians and other activists through unlawful summons, coercive questioning, extrajudicial probation measures, criminal investigations, unfair prosecutions and inclusion on a “list of terrorists”, yet we have no sanctions against them.
Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Amnesty reported the following on Russia: “Torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention remained endemic and prosecutions of perpetrators rare. Enforced disappearances were reported in Chechnya. The authorities failed to address domestic violence. LGBTI people continued to face discrimination”, yet none of this led to sanctions.
The things we choose to care about, or more to the point the things we don’t choose to care about, often baffles me, but that doesn’t mean the national borders don’t matter, in fact from the reactions we see all around us we know they clearly do, and we should be profoundly concerned by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. What makes Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine so dangerous is the very calculated and to his mind logical nature of it. I want to dismiss any ideas that Putin’s invasion was the act of a mad man.
It may not have worked out well, but that is in part because of the decisive action we have taken to support the Ukrainians. It is worth remembering when the invasion started, no one expected the Ukrainians to last out long or avoid an inevitable defeat.
Why do I say the invasion was calculated and logical? Well if I may, can I ask you to cask your minds back to history lessons of Alfred the Great and his sons and grandsons who united the English people, pulling together the Angles and Saxon tribes who had by that time formed into a common people on this island. Imagine if say the Eastern Anglo tribe of East Anglia, had for some reason stayed separate.
They had through invasion and forced separation formed a slightly different grouping of English people, with a different but recognisable language. We had united for some hundreds of years but had just 30 years ago again separated. Might it be logical to some that we again unite as one people, one country.
Now I’m not suggesting for one moment this is right. All I am saying is might it seem to some uniting an English people who had been separated at a weak point in the tides of history is a reasonable thing to do. Well this is in imperfect analogy for the Ukraine and Russia. Their history does bear similarities.
The Kiev Rus, the first Russians, are a recognised group from the 800s AD. The Mongol Horde split the Kiev and Muscovite Russians. Ukrainians then variously formed parts of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Austrian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, before Catherine the Great united the Russian People, in the Russian Empire.
By then of course these Kiev Rus, or Ukrainians were a separate people, and Ukrainian nationalism flourished in the 19th Century. This nationalism led in part to Starlin’s murder of an estimated 4 million Ukrainians in the famines of the 1930s. The nations finally split again in 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Despite this, many in Russia and more than a few in the Ukraine see the ‘Rus’ both Kiev and Muscovite as one people.
Now all this talk of Mongol Hordes and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealths, may seem from a different era, but maybe if we again look closer to home, where we still have disputes between Protestant and Catholic football teams in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and to a lesser extent Liverpool. We still live with the threat that the situation in Northern Ireland may become bloody again, Scotland may well vote to leave the Union. Ireland did join and leave the union, but often people still talk of Cromwell. Scotland joined the union and people talk of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Wales, especially in Welsh speaking, Plaid Cymru voting, North Wales is separate from England because 1600 years ago our Anglo-Saxon ancestors moved to these islands.
My point is we have these divisions in a modern tolerant democracy like Britain. A nation with largely one language, that built an Empire and with it the modern world. Yet we still hark back into long history’s, Russia and the Ukraine have never really had any of our benefits, it’s no surprise history casts a long shadow there.
Russia already has Belarus as a de facto vassal state. With a 1,400 mile border, disputed territory, some of the best ports of the Black Sea, and the opportunity to ensure no foreign troops can be on the Great European Plain for a few hundred extra miles away from Moscow. It was not the act of a mad man for Putin to invade the Ukraine. It was from his position in Moscow quite logical. It’s this logic that means we have to stand up to Putin, and kick Russia out of Ukraine.
Over 20% of Kazakhstan’s population are native Russian speakers, NATO members Latvia and Estonia both have about 30% of their population as native Russian speakers. Of course these overall numbers hide regions that are majority Russian. We know Russia has played fast and loose with Georgian independence, and threats are currently being made to Finland and Sweden. Russia is a bully and history teaches us we must stand up to bullies.
If Mussolini had been stood up to before the invasion of Abyssinia, or Hitler in the Rhineland, Sudentonland, or Austria, the history of Europe could be very much less bloody. Many believe the withdrawal of the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance from the Falkland Islands convinced the Argentinians to go to war.
NATO has kept the peace in western Europe for 70 years, because bullies only understand one thing, strength, and only through strength can we ensure Putin goes no further. How do we show that strength, how do we stand up to Putin?
So far, what I am going to imperfectly call the ‘west’, has reacted with surprising unity. While we haven’t been able to fully wean ourselves off Russian gas, and no country was going to impoverish itself deliberately overnight, progress has none the less been made. We have imposed meaningful sanctions against Russia as a nation and punished the plutocrats that enable the Putin regime.
Britain as the leading military power in Europe has shown we can support the Ukraine, and the nation states on the frontline. Whilst I won’t pretend to be a military expert the ability for relatively small arms to disrupt a large invading force must be a concern to all military powers. Cheap domestic drones have become a feature in this war that will surely challenge future acts of aggression.
Indeed this alone is a reason for our involvement in standing up to Putin. A military only remains strong if it is engaged in or is close to the latest military actions. No one wants to send troops to war, but we do want a military we can trust the readiness off. British expertise is being used, and knowledge is being gained through our providing assistance. Weapons like the NLAW anti-tank missiles, we have been suppling will be better for being seen in battlefield conditions. No one wants a war, but if one is happening, your military intelligence should make use of it. Incidentally we can reflect after the Jubilee weekend, it’s been reported Ukrainian soldiers shout “God save the Queen!” when using the NLAW against the Russians.
Naval warfare has changed as ships have been seen to be more vulnerable to land-based missile attack, something that will affect activities in the Taiwan Strait for years to come.
The coming together of the Ukrainian people and their successful defence of their country sets them clearly apart as a nation from Russia. In the medium to long term a humiliated nuclear Russia would be a concern for all, and once confined to their borders, we should look to re-engage Russia in the international community, but for now our security needs are best met by ensuring the integrity of an independent Ukraine.
There are a few areas of concern from our reaction to the war. On the more absurd end we have seen sanctions against individual sports men and women, the refusal to play Tchaikovsky by the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, and the banning of Russian media.
Chemical Ali was a propaganda boon to the coalition during the Iraq war, Lord Haw-Haw if anything, stiffened resolve against Germany. We could now be watching Putin’s propagandists having to explain the failing of the paper bear Russian army, instead by banning them, we have protected them from their own shortcomings.
Perhaps my biggest concern from the invasion of Ukraine has been the willingness of India to work with Russia to secure energy supplies. With 1.36 billion people, India is by far the largest democracy in the world, and this should be celebrated. Both to handle Putin and with the looming global threat of the Chinese Communist Party, making sure India is on the side of the good guys, on the side of the liberal democracies, is good for one billion souls and good for the globe.
What are our next steps? Some actions we already appear to be taking, we need to align states with NATO and other tenants of the western military alliance as ultimately security only comes through strong defence. Winston Churchill once said “Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety, and variety alone”,we need to exploit domestic supplies of energy and encourage other countries to diversify their supplies of energy and other key commodities.
We should be forming an alliance of democracies with not just India but all countries who are set on a democratic path and open to the peaceful transition of government. The emerging global power of China and with it the Chinese Communist Party, and the regional threat of nations like Russian and Iran, is best stopped by democratic nations working together.And we need to continue to supply better and more sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainian regium. We need to ensure the Black Sea Fleet cannot operate with impunity in the Black Sea, that Russian tanks are proven ineffective, and that Russian soldiers no longer care for the fight.
Over 20% of Russians are from non-Russia ethnic groups, over half don’t call themselves Christian. We should be using our considerable media skills as a nation to agitate these populations against Putin, creating problems in his own backyard.
As we did in the Cold War, we need a range of actions, outspending, out propagandising, and out thinking our enemy. In the 1980s, the western alliance’s actions, led to Perestroika and Glasnost in the USSR, making sure the cost of pursuing this war is greater than any benefit they could gain from winning it, can led to a newfound peace with Russia.
In April the UK government announced a new package of £100 million of military aid, building on the £350 million of military aid and around £400m of economic and humanitarian support that the UK has already provided. This included additional Javelin anti-tank systems, Starstreak air defence systems, ballistic helmets, body armour and night vision goggles. We are already standing up to Putin, we are already working to kick Russia out of Ukraine.
In the episode called ‘Grand Design’ of the Yes Prime Minister TV Series, the government’s chief scientific adviser tells Prime Minister Jim Hacker:
“Why should the Russians annex the whole of Europe? They can’t even control Afghanistan.
No, if they try anything, it will be salami tactics.
– Salami tactics? – Slice by slice.
One small piece at a time.”
Destabilising Georgia in 2008, annexation of the Crimea in 2014, further destabilising the Ukraine, involvement in Syria supporting the chemical weapon using Bashar al-Assad, and now the invasion of the Ukraine in 2022.
Putin is using Salami tactics, we need to show him this time he has sliced off more than he can chew.
With the Jubilee weekend just gone it’s a good time to think about what we are, and how we celebrate as a nation. The Jubilee has proved a great opportunity for local neighbourhoods to come together in street parties, for local communities to decorate town centres and hold festivals, and for the nation to celebrate as a whole.
We all know July the 4th when the USA celebrates, most of us have heard of Bastille Day, France’s national day. Thailand, the Netherlands and Belgium all celebrate days associated with past kings as their national days. In the case of Belgium this is more confusing as Belgium is really a country of two nations who frankly don’t get on.
Like the US, Sri Lanka, Botswana, Nigeria, Malaysia and Burma, and many others all celebrate their national day, as the day they gained independence from Britain.
Brazil celebrates it’s independence from Portugal, most of the rest of South American national days celebrate independence from Spain. Australia celebrates the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, New Zealand celebrates the Treaty of Waitangi, and Canada the British North America Act of 1867. Whatever the countries reason only 2 nations in the world, the UK and Denmark don’t have national days of celebration.
As a nation, a community, we benefit from coming together and celebrating what unites us. As a fast-changing nation we need to find opportunities to come together as one and celebrate our commonality. What’s more with a nation with the history of the United Kingdom, a national day can be used to celebrate many of the values we as liberty lovers hold dear.
Now I should start by saying we will likely be asked to celebrate the NHS, this happens at every opportunity and to be fair it does unite many in the nation as a cause for celebration. But a national day would go further than that. I would propose a national day should as a starting point celebrate the ‘British Values’ as laid out in the National Curriculum. These being:
Rule of law
Tolerance of Those With Different Faiths And Beliefs
These already have political acceptance, are being taught in schools and are hard to disagree with, and are key British traits. I would hope all readers of this journal could get behind them. After a number of years of government and politicians trying to overturn a democratic vote, removing our liberty, and showing no respect for those with different beliefs on for instance medical treatments, it might be good to have these values brought to the forefront once a year.
All this leaves to decide is when do we have the day. We already have hardly celebrated Mayday and Spring Bank Holiday days, we could simply move one of these to early September or late June / early July to give us a reasonable chance of a warm day to celebrate our nation.
And if all else fails it’s just a better-timed excuse to have a day off, and maybe, like the Jubilee weekend raise a toast to the Queen.