THE SUNDAY ESSAY: in search of independently-minded competence


DSCN0260 The widespread acceptance of sloppy administration, narrow education and superficial media propaganda are all symptoms of a Western culture that has lost the will to be civilised. Ineffective authority, narrow minds and intellectual bigotry are handing the future to despots. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the mid-Brexit United Kingdom, where consequences and contrarian views are being ignored. Liberal democracy is on the verge of being unworkable there…and France isn’t far behind.


For the past three days, I have been trying in vain to apply for a new passport online. Everything proceeds jolly well until you reach the point where AI takes over….the passport photograph.

Attempt 1:


Rejected because: the colour is not natural, we can’t see the hairline properly, it has a digital value less than 50kb.

The picture was taken with a Nikon Coolpix camera using natural light, and at a level miles above 50kb. Anyone or Thing unable to discern hair from face in this shot has a very serious visualisation probem.


Attempt 2:


Rejected because: it has a digital value less than 50kb, and your mouth is open…if you have a medical or religious reason for having your mouth open, please let us know.

My mouth is open? Does the machine have a mental reason for seeing this expression as involving an open mouth? (There is, btw, no way to let them know).


Attempt 3:


Rejected because: it has a digital value less than 50kb, and there are reflected shadows.

Please advise me if you can see shadows. Also, the picture was manipulated to overcome the “colour not natural” objection in Attempt 1….but the manipulation went unnoticed.

I would ask this question overall: does anyone think this picture could ever be anything or anyone else other than John Anthony Ward, aka The Slog?

(The reason I look so glum, by the way, is that smiling is not allowed.)


This morning, on the basis of the official French meteo forecast, I prepared a garden fire in order to dispose of unwanted wood waste. The meteo told me there would not be any rain at all before a week tomorrow.

At 10.25 am today, it began to rain. The rain continued intermittently until just after lunch.


Frustrated in that waste disposal endeavour, I decided to go into my nearest big town in search of a music shop in order to replace a guitar that had died some two months ago. I went onto the internet to check the shop’s location.

“Open now!” said Google maps. The shop had rave reviews. It was open all day until seven. When I got there, the shopfront was plastered with flyposts and the door barred. It had obviously gone out of business long ago.


Most people think I grumble and complain too much. I think if some of them did their fair share of grumbling, there’d be a lot less for me to grumble about. But then, that’s just me being “confrontational”, apparently. You know, “whingeing” and so forth.

But here’s the irony that wound me up to pen this piece: one of the reasons the Brexit Remainers have been so successful in persuading their followers that Leave voters in 2016 didn’t understand the issues or know what they were doing is because such a claim reflects our everyday lives only too well. 

The fact is that most people claim to provide something, but don’t appear to know what the blithering blazes they’re doing when it comes to delivering it.

Nobody fits that description better than politicians themselves of course. They started up a State pension scheme 72 years ago, but never created (or invested) a fund to pay for it. They allowed mass immigration for decades and ignored every research study pointing out the dangers. They took the best State education system in the world and trashed it on the basis on insane ideas about “fairness”. They pissed away the biggest undersea oil find in our history, ravaged our manufacturing and energy output model, turned their backs on fiscal egality, swapped one bunch of wreckers (the Unions) for another (the bankers), took us into the EEC far too late, went hell-for-leather into wind power that every study showed was both unreliable and hugely expensive to maintain, sold all our best companies and industries, let the British economy turn into the humpbacked provision of nonsense services that destroyed all technical value equations, followed a US neocon foreign policy that cost us a fortune, allowed passing pc mores to remove any and all creativity from the mass of our children, took the multinational media shilling, passed the Fixed Term Parliament Act for purely political advantage, ignored the People’s will in 2016, and then started demolishing the constitution brick by brick in an attempt to wriggle out of something they didn’t like.

But here’s the thing: they have had very little difficulty in persuading fully half the population that they’re only acting in our best interests. And that tells you rather more about the 48% than it does about the political class.

A substantial proportion of Brits today cannot think for themselves, and are anything from ineffective to incompetent in what they do.

Ever tried to make sense of the people who staff HMRC? Ever had any dealings with the DWP? Ever seen water gushing out of a leak, unattended? Ever known a futurology company to be right? Managed to get Skype to perform the same way twice? Seen a stock market bearing the slightest relation to the real economy? Met a truly wise GP? Been given helpful advice by a techie retailer? Met a pc repair man who didn’t speak gibberish? Known a marketing client who knew what a load of tosh “digital” advertising is? Seen someone under 20 not staring at a screen behind a blur of fingers? Met a transport planner who got the weight of traffic right? Watched a footballer on a million pounds a week, faced by an open goal, sky the ball into the stand? 

You and I both know that, putting our heads together, we could cover most sectors of business, administration, social policy decision-making, exports, education, DIY, construction, sport, medicine, transport, farming, climate change or tiddlywinks and find a huge proportion of those in it who do not know whatTF they are about. 

That is to say, based on my morning yesterday, they cannot look outside and discern a build-up of clouds, do not check on the viability of shops they rave about, and don’t know the first thing about photographs – but this doesn’t stop any of them from laying down the law about it. Such people settle too easily for sufficiency, and are either too narrow, lazy, overworked, thick or distracted to know anything worth knowing about anything, or indeed why they’re doing it.

But every last one of them has The Vote.

Many of these people have never formed an independent opinion in their lives, and will never get beyond “Wull, stands ter reason, dunnit?”, “It’s a well-known fact” and “Look, we can’t ‘ave people saying things that offend other people”. They are like characters from the pub invented by the incomparable Paul Whitehouse: stuff this week’s message up their backsides, and listen as it emerges from the mouth later.

They are clay in the hands of the 3%, and – once fired in the kiln of collective conformity – become hard, brittle objects that never change.

Winston Churchill famously said, “Democracy is a terrible system, but it is the least terrible one available”. In 1945, a wise, grounded and generally independent electorate decided that, although an inspiring war leader, Churchill was the wrong man to lead a country that had emerged bankrupt from the conflict. They turfed him out of Office, and chose democratic socialism instead.

Today, that wisdom simply isn’t there any more. Let’s be clear here: if Boris Johnson delivers anything even remotely close to real Brexit, he will be returned to power after doing so with a thumping majority. Is he the right man to be leading Britain? No, of course he isn’t: simply go to The Slog’s search engine, and type in ‘Boris Johnson’. There you will find dozens of posts about what a devious, corrupt, controlling, élitist, cover-up merchant BoJo is.

But talked up enough in front of A Brexit Deal, he will be the man leading Britain.

Lucky for him, he won’t have a bumptious pygmy in the Speaker’s Chair. John Bercow is a classic example of what I’m banging on about here: he has all the sounds, nuances, usages and authority of a man who knows his job. Trouble is, my main guitar-strumming fingernail knows more about the Bagehot Constitution and the precedence gobbits that make it up than John Bercow. He is a dangerous, blustering blather-merchant unworthy of his title.

But look at the leading candidate to replace him: Harriet Harman. A sexual lunatic and gender bigot whose social ideas are based on a behaviourist view of life that has been systematically and evidentially demolished over the last half century.

A 2011 Slogpost fingered Harman and Johnson as the two greatest threats to liberal democracy in the UK. After the next election, they may well be the Speaker and Prime Minister respectively.

I’ve been wondering why I drink too much these days….

Churchill was right up to a point, but 2,500 years earlier Plato made a more telling observation: ‘A democracy in which the electorate is ill-informed will quickly turn into dictatorial tyranny’. It is the simplest (and in my developing view, the best) explanation of what’s going wrong in contemporary Britain, France and the US.


This may all seem somewhat lacking in ‘something-you-don’t-already-know’, but these observations lead to very dark places. Here’s just one: if people are so lacking in discrimination, educated towards conformity and easily convinced by media whose agendas are money and power rather than empirical Truth, surely the entire rationale for universal suffrage evaporates. Doesn’t it?

I mean, what’s the point of “opinion” surveys if all you get back is a slightly garbled reflection of opinion columns in the Sun, the Guardian, the Times, CNN and BBC news bulletins? Politicians are not getting the votes of voters any more, they are getting the votes driven by infantile propaganda in the media. Such being the case, we do not have a democracy any more: we have a battle of the media titans and spin doctors. The electorate didn’t vote for Blair in 1997, they voted to believe in the mendacious soundbites of Alastair Campbell. For the Platonic model of democracy (to which I adhere) this is a disastrous situation.

Here’s another: if Western politicians so obviously work for banks, multinational business, trade unions, gobby minorities and crypto-fascist unelected corporacratic blocs, why do we need them? The Western democratic model is designed to work (allegedly) for the majority, but it obviously doesn’t: billionaires, Islamics, secret policemen, ideological bullies, bourses, currency dealers, bond traders, migrants, central banks and image management agencies come way ahead of young workers, old pensioners, the unskilled, entrepreneurs and the mass of squeezed-middle employees.

And a third thought encompassing those above: why not just cut out the middle men? That is to say, the voters, the politicians and the media. Let’s just have one newspaper, one TV Channel, and one Global Information Broadcasting Issuance instead of all those nasty online naysayers who direct hate-speech at lying ideologues. And of course, no more general elections, plebiscites or local action groups getting in the way. After all, they’re casually ignored by Those Who Know Better anyway….so do they have anything to contribute? Almost certainly not.


Enter the latest contribution from Tony Blair’s tame Think Tank. It is, you will be unsurprised to learn, as brainlessly unthinking as everything that ever emerged from the facial orifice of this truly appalling man.

But before we get into the gist of Blurrgh’s latest display of arrogant fascism, a little appetiser to establish his track record. Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party in 1994. His qualifications for the job were at best sketchy: he had been a Liberal while at University, a miserably under-achieving and frequently ill-briefed barrister, and a bloke building a well-deserved reputation for intellectual idleness. But Labour – at long last – had recognised its need for an electable vegetable; Tony was their man, and between them Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Philip Gould latched onto him, coddled him, shaped him and foisted his mediocrity upon the British People.

I knew Philip from advertising, and once had a lengthy session with him discussing the nature and purpose of Account Planning – our shared discipline in the profession. It was very obvious that Philip was a fine, courageous and altogether compassionate human being. Equally obvious, however, was his addiction to functional strategic process: when it came to creativity and cultural introspection, Philip Gould was a plank.

But Lord Gould became the most influential of Blair’s advisors on electoral strategy. (See many preceding paragraphs)

Another favourite consultant to Tony Blair the Prime Minister was that Destroyer of Media Worlds from the BBC, John Birt. Blair hired Birt to suggest ways in which the governmental process could be streamlined. Birt suggested that Parliamentary debates on “important” legislation should be sidelined in favour of the Whitehall view, with more use of what became known as ‘statutory legal instruments’….in other words, flushing mad legislation through the system, minus only the overseeing influence of MPs like Kate Hoey and John Redwood who just might have the cerebral capacity to ask, “Are you serious?”

This was an idea John Birt had learned from the Brussels Commission. New Labour passed in excess of 30,000 of these edicts between 1997 and 2010. Tony was enthusiastic about it….his Cabinet colleagues, less so.

In 2002, Blair’s Home Secretary Jack Straw became alarmed by the sudden acceleration in the rate of Commonwealth immigration into Britain in general, and Islamic immigration in particular. Straw’s own seat was a centre of enormous tension between the indigenous population and the insensitive demands of local Muslim leaders. Blair told Straw that immigration “is always a good thing” and to shut up about it.

In 2005, the Muslim Council of Great Britain lobbied Blair personally. They wanted a law passed to make criticism of Islam illegal even if it was based in fact. The London tube bombs were the only thing that stifled his enthusiasm for the “idea”.

Soon afterwards, the Met Police began a fraud investigation into blatant corruption of Saudi arms buyers by UK arms dealers, chiefly in the aerospace sector. Tony Blair personally and illegally intervened to stop the investigation. He judged that successfully selling killing machines to a Stone Age regal, misogynist autocracy was far more important than any ethical consideration.

Finally, Blair’s dissembling, unconstitutional support for GW Bush’s Iraq War needs no further discussion here. To my eternal shame, he took me in at the time. I genuinely could not believe that a Prime Minister would so brazenly lie through his teeth to the House of Commons.

But the World was younger then. Now it is older, and two decades on – with a new generation there to mould – Blair’s perniciously simplistic global view is still in play.


The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has released a report, Designating Hate: New Policy Responses to Stop Hate Crime.  It proposes radical initiatives to tackle “hate” groups, even if they have not committed any kind of violent activity. My thanks go to serial Slogger Clive for alerting me to an excellent article by Judith Bergman of the Gatestone Institute on the subject of Teflon Tony’s formula for the reinvention of totalitarian dictatorship. If ever there was a Mickey Mouse sorcerer’s apprentice, it’s Anthony St John Lynton Blair, previously of Bow Street magistrates court on suspicion of loitering.

The Blair Witch Project is really nothing more than the reintroduction of the May-Cameron plea for “non-violent extremism” to be criminalised. Only luck and circumstance saw that fantasy thrown into the long grass. Now Tony of Hampstead Heath has pulled it out again, so to speak.

Judith Bergman makes a number of highly salient points aimed at all those electors still around who understand things like thin wedges, feet in doorways and how the Nazis destroyed the Weimar Republic without breaking a single clause in its constitution. Here are some especially brilliant extracts [her italics]:

‘Disturbingly, the main concern of Blair’s think-tank appears to be the online verbal “hatred” displayed by citizens in response to terrorist attacks — not the actual physical expression of hatred shown in the mass murders of innocent people by terrorists. Terrorist attacks, it would appear, are now supposedly normal, unavoidable incidents that have become part and parcel of UK life….The proposed law would make the British government the arbiter of accepted speech, especially political speech. Such an extraordinary and radically authoritarian move would render freedom of speech an illusion in the UK…..’

All very true. But note how characters as “politically varied” as Diane Abbot, Amber Rudd, Caroline Lucas, Jo Swinson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, John Bercow, Ollie Robbins, Andrea Leadsom and Harriet Harman would all sign up enthusiastically for such a law.

In truth, there is no difference at all in the objective of these people – ie, to shut up any and all vociferous opposition. The only thing they differ on is the motive for wanting that….viz, the triumph of the United States of Europe, the Socialist Nirvana, the Neoliberal Monetary World [insert preferred form of fascism here].

Bergman again:

‘The [Blair] report defines a hate group as:

“Spreading intolerance and antipathy towards people of a different race, religion, gender or nationality, specifically because of these characteristics; Aligning with extremist ideologies… though not inciting violence; Committing hate crimes or inspiring others to do so via hate speech; Disproportionately blaming specific groups (based on religion, race, gender or nationality) for broader societal issues”.

It would be up to the government to define what is understood by “spreading intolerance”, or “blaming specific groups for broader societal issues”.

Being designated a “hate group”, it is underlined in the report, “would sit alongside proscription but not be linked to violence or terrorism, while related offences would be civil not criminal”.’

Take note, however: Momentum, Jihadist groups, Hamas and Antifa could use intimidation and ‘defensive violence’, and technically exist under this law, because the designation of “hate group” is based on thought-crime, not disturbing the peace. In the last eighteen months, Pakistani groups and Momentum have both attacked political meetings being held by “far right” candidates from Michelle Dewberry (?) to Tommy Robinson. The police didn’t just look away: in one instance, they were recorded on film herding Momentum towards a Robinson rally.

A lot of people in a lot of high places have completely lost the plot of what constitutes liberal democracy. And 48% of the serfs lower down are too deaf from yelling to notice the driverless truck careening towards them.


And so, 3,000 words in (sorry about that, but soundbite policy formulation is part of what got us to here) what is the bottom line?

I have three conclusions to offer:

The United Kingdom is heading for blanket élite intolerance exacerbated by ideologically driven social division.

The key enabling causes of this drift are that monied global influence has bought the political class, and monied global media have formed erroneous opinions among the electorate that support unthinking autocratic élite actions.

Associated (and important) factors include conformist, unquestioning educational values and distractive entertainment content aimed at the very lowest of low common denominators.

It would be pointless for me to waste any more of my or your time reiterating what needs to change if we are to stand a cat in Hell’s chance of reversing the drift. I’ve done that endlessly before, and at the head of the Home Page here are two subsets (‘Aims’ and ‘Philosophy’) which give the outline of what I see as the necessary actions – the latter, perhaps, more apposite to this issue than the former.

Four years ago, I opined that new political Parties are a waste of time until the structures we have are gone and forgotten. That feeling gets stronger every year. I remain, however, very interested in serious groups beyond Westminster looking for peaceful ways to cut off the blood supply to the Neanderthals currently in charge; but even that would only be a small first step.

What Britain really needs is a ground-upwards rebore of the culture.

Thanks for persevering with this post. Enjoy your Sunday lunch.