Brexiteers Are Not Violent Savages. In Fact, More Brexiteers Than Remainers Strongly Oppose The Death Penalty

Darwin - Evolution of man - EU Referendum - Brexiteers

The BBC uncovers ‘devastating evidence’ linking support for Brexit with being a primitive Neanderthal

The latest act in the BBC’s ongoing effort to catastrophise Brexit and discredit Brexiteers is this delightful article from last week’s News Magazine, exploring the link between Brexit and the death penalty:

Immediately after the vote, commentators said it was about class – about professionals living and working in big cities, especially London (who voted Remain), versus working class people in smaller towns, especially in the north of England (who voted Leave).

So you would think that if you know that someone is working class and has a low income, you’d be able to confidently guess they voted Leave. But according to Stian Westlake, Head of Research at the think tank Nesta, this is not the case.

“If you look at someone’s class status and their income, and you try and use that to guess whether or not they voted Remain, it turns out it’s not that much better than guesswork. It gives you around 55% accuracy, and obviously a guess would give you 50% accuracy,” Westlake says.

His figures come from the British Election Study, in which around 24,000 people were asked about their voting intentions in the EU referendum.

Respondents to the survey were also questioned on their views on other things, such as the death penalty – and this provides a much better indicator of how people voted, Westlake argues.

“If you look at attitudes to questions such as, ‘Do you think criminals should be publicly whipped?’ or ‘Are you in favour of the death penalty?’ – those things are much better predictors, and you get over 70% accuracy,” he says.

“To give you an idea of how good a predictor that is, if you ask someone, ‘Do you think there is too much European integration?’ – which you’d think is a pretty good indicator – that only gets you to the high 70s. So if you can get to 71% or 72% prediction from these questions about traditional values, then it suggests it is that, rather than income or class, that is really driving the vote for Leave.”

So now Brexiteers are violent savages, dangerous authoritarian people who cannot keep their base desire for retribution and “an eye for an eye” under control. Brexit Britain will see a return of the stocks, the scold’s bridle and even the gallows in the town square if we get our way, the BBC is effectively telling its readers.

And of course this fits in with everything that Remainers like to think about themselves, and tell themselves about those who want Britain out of the European Union. To their minds, Remainers are compassionate, progressive, outward-looking, tolerant and fair, while Leavers are sneaky, conniving, closed-minded, inward-looking, highly intolerant and “post-factual”. Remainers want to hug a hoodie. We, apparently, want to bash their heads in with a brick and hang them from lamp posts as a warning to others.

Except that in their haste to demonise Brexiteers, the BBC neglected to mention the percentage of Remainers who also back the authoritarian policies cited in the survey. And there is a reason for this – to some extent, the data actually exonerates Brexiteers, while painting Remainers in an equally bad light, if not worse.

BES - Death penalty - Brexit

This chart plots satisfaction with EU democracy (a reasonable indicator of general euroscepticism given the fact that sovereignty and democracy were given as the primary motivation for voting to leave, according to post-referendum polling) against strength of agreement with the death penalty. The data is taken from the British Election Study, and and can be freely found and researched on their website.

And what we see here is that of those who strongly oppose the death penalty, over 62% are eurosceptic (that is, either very dissatisfied or a little dissatisfied with EU democracy). Of those who disagree with the death penalty a little less staunchly, over 65% are eurosceptic.

Admittedly, more staunch eurosceptics take up a much larger proportion of those who agree or strongly agree with the death penalty. But the europhiles (taken as those fairly satisfied or very satisfied with EU democracy) hardly cover themselves in glory as principled death penalty abolitionists. The proportion of europhiles either against or strongly against the death penalty struggles to break much above 20%.

This would seem to suggest that however much the BBC’s “traditionalist” narrative may play a part, there are also a significant number of very firm eurosceptic death penalty opponents who supported Brexit. That would make sense. This blog is one of them, as is nearly every other Brexiteer I happen to know. But why report on the principled band of anti death penalty Brexiteers when you can just play to the gallery and point at those eurosceptics who want to bring back hanging? It just fits so neatly into the tidy little narrative about primitive, left-behind idiots voting for Brexit against their own supposed interests.

But perhaps if the data tells us anything  at all, it is that people with strong opinions on either side of the death penalty issue (and perhaps other issues too) tended to favour leaving the European Union, while Britain’s army of vague, wishy-washy and noncommittal people wanted us to remain, guided as always by their dithering uncertainty and fear of change. After all, when it came to strongly disagreeing (or even strongly agreeing) with the death penalty, Britain’s EU cheerleaders are almost nowhere to be seen. That hardly fits with their sanctimonious claim to be more open and tolerant than the rest of us.

But that doesn’t quite fit the BBC’s preferred narrative. Far better to concentrate on the spike and declare all Brexiteers to be violent, vengeful authoritarians. That is the narrative the BBC loves to tell and Remainers love to hear, so that is the narrative which we will continue to get.

 

Abolish death penalty

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Bring The Police To Heel

Two stories in the media this afternoon, each quite different in nature but both pointing toward the same dark, disturbing and authoritarian shift that continues unabated in Britain today.

policedogs

The first is from The Telegraph, serving up video footage of a police sergeant in Gloucester threatening a photographer, admitting to swearing at him and threatening him with physical harm:

The officer is heard to say, “we’ll nick you now and I will make your day a living hell, ‘cos you’ll be in that cell all day. What I’ll probably do is I will ask for you to be remanded in custody and I will put you before the magistrate.”

He added: “You’re lucky that I didn’t knock you out. I swore at you, yeah. It got your attention, though, didn’t it?”

Because apparently taking pictures or video of the aftermath of a road accident is now illegal in our country, as is showing anything but the most fawning and servile deference and adulation to the most power-crazed and high-handed officers in the police force.

The second article is chilling on an altogether different level, and chronicles the process by which the UK’s anti-terrorist police decided that it would be in any way appropriate and proportional to haul a twelve year old boy out of his class at school to question him about an event that he had organised on Facebook to protest the planned closure of his local youth club:

Wishart said that after the school was contacted by anti-terrorist officers, he was taken out of his English class on Tuesday afternoon and interviewed by a Thames Valley officer at the school in the presence of his head of year. During the interview, Wishart says that the officer told him that if any public disorder took place at the event he would be held responsible and arrested.

Speaking to the Guardian, Nicky Wishart said: “In my lesson, [a school secretary] came and said my head of year wanted to talk to me. She was in her office with a police officer who wanted to talk to me about the protest. He said, ‘if a riot breaks out we will arrest people and if anything happens you will get arrested because you are the organiser’.

The event was organised in the Prime Minister’s home constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire, but in what possible dark, dystopian world is it okay for the police to make a mountain out of a truly tiny molehill and question the intentions of a young boy who was doing nothing but being an engaged and activist citizen? Our country would be vastly better off if there were more children like Nicky Wishart, who actually care about local issues enough to take a stand rather than festering away in front of the television for hours on end.

But it is the next quote attributed to the police that is truly terrifying:

“He said even if I didn’t turn up I would be arrested and he also said that if David Cameron was in, his armed officers will be there ‘so if anything out of line happens …’ and then he stopped.”

If anything out of line happens, the armed officers will do what, exactly? Shoot a twelve year old boy as some kind of sadistic punishment? What reason is there to mention the potential presence of armed officers, other than to imply that they might do the one thing that regular police officers do not?

The truly scary thing is that we don’t even have to worry about our politicians using their power and influence to get the security services to intimidate and threaten the population on their behalf – the security services seem perfectly willing to proactively do so of their own volition!

We must also ask why it was the anti-terrorist police (who apparently have no real serious threats to the nation on their agenda at the moment to be wasting time on routine public intimidation work, for which I suppose we can all breathe a sigh of relief), of all the many branches of our national law enforcement apparatus, who seemingly felt it necessary to bully a small child about his planned political protest. Has GCHQ intercepted terrorist chatter that Al Qaeda intends to infiltrate local community action groups in order to launch their next attack? Whatever next – fears of ricin or anthrax being baked into scones at a Women’s Institute cake sale, and elderly ladies being detained in their kitchens?

The police make the predictable but ludicrous claim that their intention was not to cause distress or to intimidate Wishart, but was simply part of their standard community outreach efforts:

“On Tuesday 7 December, our schools officer for west Oxfordshire attended the school in Eynsham and spoke to a 12-year-old boy in the company of the pupil’s head of year, about a planned protest. This was not with the intention of dissuading him from organising it, but to obtain information regarding the protest to ensure his and others’ safety. As with any demonstration, we always aim to facilitate a peaceful protest.”

Perhaps the police need to apply the “ordinary person” test and reconsider the likely effect of being yanked out of class and spoken to by police in the presence of a senior teacher with no parents or legal representatives present, on the psyche of a young boy. Is doing what they did more likely to “facilitate a peaceful protest” or to stamp out a potential protest before it ever sees the light of day?

David Cameron needs to send a very clear message to the nation in response to this outrage, as a matter of urgency. And through the locally elected police commissioners, he needs to publicly rebuke and call off the police attack dogs currently biting at the ankles of the British citizenry. Cameron and the commissioners must make clear that individual police officers will curry no favour with their superiors by overzealously applying extreme interpretations of public order laws, and that those higher in the law enforcement hierarchy will receive no special favour from their political masters by using their extensive powers to bully and silence any protest that could be politically embarrassing.

Semi-Partisan Sam is quite unequivocal on this matter. The apology from the police to the family concerned is all well and good, but it is quite insufficient. It is high time that the British police are brought to heel once and for all.

More Gun Violence In America

Well, it has happened again, as we all knew it would; another mass shooting in America, this time at a well-secured military facility in the nation’s capital. Twelve people killed this time, not including the gunman, at the Navy Yard in Washington DC. The New York Times reports:

At least 13 people, including one gunman, were killed, and the police were looking for other potential suspects, in a shooting Monday morning at a naval office building not far from Capitol Hill and the White House, police officials said.

One police officer was in surgery after being shot in an exchange of fire with a gunman, said Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department. The shootings took place at the Washington Navy Yard, in the southeast part of the city.

Senior law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Aaron Alexis, 34. He was identified through his fingerprints. As of Monday night, investigators were operating on the belief that Mr. Alexis acted alone, despite earlier statements from Washington law enforcement officials that there were two other gunmen.

Twitter has once again demonstrated that there is virtually nothing of any use to be said in the immediate aftermath of one of these attacks, at least not in 140 characters. The body count was still not yet confirmed before the first accusations and counter-accusations of blame and responsibility were being made. To this we can also add false flag theories and much more ungrounded speculation besides.

One of the few people to speak eloquently on the subject was the chief medical officer of the trauma centre responsible for treating several of the gunshot victims:

 

Something has to change. The tired old response of left-wingers demanding stricter gun control laws and being thwarted by the NRA, and right-wingers rallying behind the second amendment and bemoaning the society while doing nothing to improve it is no longer sufficient. There is a massive failure of imagination and political courage at all levels on the topic of gun violence in the United States.

Fourteen months since Aurora, Colorado. Nine months since Sandy Hook. And here we are again.

The Foolishness of Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

 

He’s done it again. The latest, desperate Sun-approval-seeking initiative from our restless Deputy Prime Minister and his fellow Liberal Democrats is this – let’s make “drunk louts” pay for their A&E and jail costs.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said he supported the idea of imposing levies on people who get “blind drunk” and end up in hospital or at a police station…

“I’ve actually got quite a lot of sympathy with the basic principle that says why should someone that goes out and gets completely blind drunk, behaves appallingly, gets themselves into trouble and a scrap – why should other people always have to pick up the tab to help them out?” Mr Clegg said.

He said it was unacceptable for the taxpayer to continue to pick up the bill for the National Health Service to treat patients whose injuries were caused as a result of excess alcohol.

Oh dear. If you are going to discuss the implementation of new policy, shouldn’t you at least make it sound as though the idea had not been concocted a mere 30 seconds before you gave it voice on national radio?

At least Nick Clegg still has that minimal level of self-awareness which allowed him to make the disclaimer (not a tremendously encouraging one for a deputy prime minister to make, though) that he hadn’t really thought the policy through very well, and that it might be quite hard to implement:

Speaking during his weekly Call Clegg programme on LBC Radio the Deputy Prime Minister admitted it would be “tricky” to implement the fines but that he has “quite a lot of sympathy with the basic principle”.

Shall we count the ways in which his latest policy idea is particularly stupid? Okay, let’s.

1. It’s quite clear – Clegg admits as much himself – that his policy is focused on what he calls “drunken louts”. But how to classify who and who is not a drunken lout without resorting to the type of class assumptions or profiling that a man of Clegg’s liberal credentials would surely abhor? I’m guessing that if I was a young man wearing a hoodie who tripped on the kerb after a few too many pints of beer of an evening, I might be a prime target for this fine. But what about a smartly dressed young barrister who tripped on her heels after a few too many glasses of port at a company dinner? Still a lout? What does one have to do, or be, to get whacked with the fine?

2. While consuming excessive levels of alcohol is clearly irresponsible, so are many other actions that humans take all the time. Extreme sports. Smoking. We all pay our taxes (well…) so who is to decide which activities will cause us to forfeit the right to the treatments and services that our taxes have paid for?

3. Some people have jobs or participate in activities that have mostly or only positive externalities. Fitness instructors, gardeners, marriage counsellors, drug caseworkers, physical therapy workers. By performing these activities they actually serve to lower the costs that the government would otherwise have to pay in a myriad of ways. Should these people get a small bonus cheque if they find themselves in the hospital? Or are we just going to punish the bad behaviour but not reward the good? Can taxes only ever go up, and not down?

4. If you engage in violent behaviour and end up in a jail cell, should it not be the case that the criminal justice system works effectively enough that if you are found guilty, you are liable for the legal and policing costs that your actions incurred? We all know that the criminal justice system  in our country is laughably broken, but is creating a separate mechanism outside of the criminal justice system to recoup costs from offenders really the way to go, Nick?

In other words, does our deputy prime minister really have nothing better to do, no more pressing matters to fill his day, than sitting in an LBC radio studio and making up demonstrably bad policy on the fly? He gets paid his ministerial salary to do this?

The next election is still two years away. I was hoping that we might be able to squeeze maybe one more year of at least aspirationally real, serious policymaking and governance into this parliament before we had to start listening to nonsense ideas like this one.

Aurora, Colorado, And The Right To Keep And Bear Arms

I have now had the time to read and digest a lot of the immediate responses to the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

Some people (President Obama, Mitt Romney) have sought to explain, unify or heal.

Some people (Louie Gohmert, Brian Ross) have sought to make political hay out of the events.

Yet others have urged everyone to reserve their words and judgments while so many details of this terrible story remain unknown, and while the wounds and bereavements are so raw.

But I have yet to hear anyone – supporters of gun rights, or the interpretation of the Second Amendment that permits them – utter a statement such as this:

“Guns are an integral part of American history and culture, and the right to bear arms freely is enshrined in our nation’s constitution. On occasions, people who legally and legitimately own weapons will tragically misuse them, either through mental illness or malicious thought, and turn those weapons on themselves or on others. The twelve people who died in Aurora, Colorado yesterday were irreplaceable and will be missed, but they also represent a part of the sad, heavy price that we pay to live in a free society that upholds the right of individuals to own and carry firearms.”

If you do support the right to bear arms, surely this is what you actually think? Massacres and individual shootings are awful, but taking away the right of 300 million Americans to defend themselves against aggressors or a potential future tyrannical government is more awful still? No?

If you support a policy that has potentially negative adverse effects (such as removing benefits or subsidies from certain groups – family farms, long-term unemployed, those on sick leave) you should have the courage to own the bad as well as the good and have the guts to explain why the human benefits outweigh the human costs. As a conservative-leaning voter living in the UK, I have to do this all the time at the moment in today’s supposed “age of austerity” and government spending cuts. Supporters of individual gun ownership should do the same. No more mealy-mouthed phrases about “guns not killing people, criminals killing people”. No. Own the consequences of your policy position. Wait until the dead from Aurora have been buried, and then prominently proclaim something to the effect of the paragraph that I wrote above.

Some people say that the aftermath of civilian massacres or other high-profile gun crimes is an inopportune time to discuss the laws controlling the ownership and use of firearms. I say that taking that view is the height of cowardly avoidance – when else to discuss gun laws, regardless of the position you hold, than when their consequences are being felt most deeply?

I’ll nail my colours to the mast right here and now: I believe that individuals should be allowed to own guns suitable for recreational hunting or self-defence. That means shotguns, handguns, pistols, revolvers, tasers and nothing much more. No grenades, no semi-automatic weapons, no armour-piercing bullets.

However, I also believe that the second amendment, properly interpreted, does not currently permit gun ownership at all – a “well regulated militia” no longer being “necessary to the security of a free state” in any sensible modern worldview. Therefore I believe that a constitutional amendment is both necessary and desirable in order to enshrine the right to own firearms for the strictly limited purposes that I have outlined above.

Yes, I recognise that this position probably puts me at odds with everyone – strict gun control advocates and gun rights supporters alike, for different reasons. But at least I have put on record what I think about gun ownership, and why (not just cheap soundbites about liberty, the constitution and so on).

Let’s see the NRA and other advocates for even looser restrictions on gun ownership do the same.