Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.

Politics

A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The Earl Attlee

At Chartwell one weekend in Churchill’s presence, Sir John Rodgers made the mistake of referring to Clement Attlee, wartime deputy prime minister and postwar prime minister, as “silly old Attlee”. Churchill was having none of it.

“Mr Attlee is a great patriot,” he said. “Don’t you dare call him ‘silly old Attlee’ at Chartwell or you won’t be invited again.”

The leader of the Conservative party and the leader of the Labour party were obvious political rivals but developed a great bond by their shared experience in the bipartisan War Cabinet.

En route to a dinner party the other night I happened to run into Attlee’s grandson (an old friend) on the upper deck of the 414 bus. It reminded me of this photo (above) printed in the Observer. When the great bulldog went on to his eternal reward in 1965, the incredibly frail Earl Attlee insisted on attending the state funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral. Though younger, he only managed to outlive him by two years.

Attlee had been raised to the House of Lords (where he spoke against Britain joining the EEC) in 1956 and, rather appropriately, he chose as the motto for his coat of arms Labor vincit omnia — Labour conquers all.

March 14, 2017 2:30 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Fillon: Which Right?

A Rémondian Analysis of the French Presidential Candidate

One of the most significant contributions of the historian and political scientist René Rémond was his theory regarding the tendencies of the French right wing. He contended that, broadly speaking, there are three right wings in France: legitimist, bonapartist, and orleanist. These terms are not bound by their historic use, but rather (Rémond argued) serve as useful guides to understanding French conservatism today.

Gaullism, for example, with both its populism and its reliance on the authority of a charismatic leader, is classified as bonapartist. Social conservatism, meanwhile, with its affinity for the Church and for tradition, comes in under legitimism. And economic liberalism — the bourgeois supremacy of the markets — is orleanist.

What to make of the current presidential candidate of the French right, M François Fillon? The Québécois website Dessinons les élections (“Let’s draw the elections”) sought to apply a Rémondian analysis of Monsieur Fillon in one of its weekly cartoons (by Frédéric Mérand & Anne-Laure Mahé).

Their conclusions are as follows:

Legitimism: 60%
– social conservatism
– Christian values
– order and tradition

Orleanism: 30%
– economic liberalism

Bonapartism: 20%
– a sense of the State
– idea of the providential man with reference to de Gaulle

Of course, many now think that, due to the usual scandals, Fillon is yesterday’s man and that Macron is the man of the hour. The two are chalk and cheese. Fillon is the family man from the country, loves hunting, and clings to the values of the Church. Macron is a socialist énarque and investment banker who married one of his school teachers (twenty-four years his senior).

The elephant in the room: Madame Le Pen. The leader of the Front national will, there is almost no doubt, top the first round of the election but then, in the second round, will have to face whichever other candidate gains the next highest number of votes. Whoever that candidate is will almost certainly gain all the anti-frontiste votes and be propelled to victory and the Elysée.

At the moment, it looks like the second candidate will only have to win around 22 per cent of the vote in order to effectively gain the presidency. Such a low level of actual support is one of the things the 1962 changes to the constitution sought to prevent, but when faced with an FN candidate as in 2002 or (presumably) this year the two-round system fails to prevent this.

As usual, the conservatives are calling for change and the progressives arguing for stasis, but it remains to be seen which option France will choose.

February 16, 2017 3:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Delarue Proposal for Parliament

Peers & MPs could still convene in the Palace during renovations

The Royal Gallery set up for temporary use as the House of Lords chamber
Credit: Anthony Delarue Associates

MPs are kicking up a fuss about the controversial proposals to shut down the entire Palace of Westminster for perhaps as long as eight or nine years. (Previously mentioned here.) The building is completely structurally sound, and on solid foundations, but the accumulation of mechanical, electrical, and technological systems over the course of the past 150 years has created a confused mess within the walls of the palace. Electrical lines compete with fibre-optic cables, telephone wires, not to mention various heating and cooling pipes, and even some lingering telegraph wires. No one’s quite sure what is what and all of it is getting older. Even just accessing it to figure out what to do requires taking the building apart — removing wood panelling, drilling through walls, etc.

Parliamentary authorities commissioned management consultants from Deloitte to come up with a number of options on how to tackle this problem, but in their Independent Options Appraisal they treated this merely as an ordinary engineering job, rather than recognising the Palace as one of the most important places in British history both medieval and modern and, importantly, one still in constant daily use.

The Joint Committee formed of members of both the Lords and Commons perhaps unsurprisingly endorsed the option Deloitte claimed was the quickest and cheapest: that the Lords, Commons, and everyone else be chucked out of the Palace entirely and that temporary accommodation be found nearby.

Further investigation by respected former minister Shailesh Vara MP suggested that Deloitte had failed to take into account that any VAT costs on this major project go back into the Treasury anyhow, and that there was a failure to account for the loss of revenue if the Lords are moved into the government-owned Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre nearby. The QE2 is a profit-making venue popular with private clients, after all, and deploying it towards full-time legislative use will mean another significant loss for the Treasury. Meanwhile, in the courtyard of Richmond House on Whitehall, £59 million would be spent on building a new chamber for the House of Commons. This would be a permanent ‘legacy’ structure even though once the renovations to the Palace are complete there would be no use for it whatsoever.

The architect Anthony Delarue, having been taken on a tour of the Palace’s working underbelly by the engineers from the Restoration and Renewal programme, came up with an alternative proposal. Looking at the structure of the House of Lords chamber and the adjacent Royal Gallery, he realised that these two rooms could be maintained and occupied, with temporary services (electricity, heating, etc.) run from external sources. This would allow the renovation team to shut down the Palace’s systems entirely and re-do them completely, while the spaces in mind would still be able to be put to use. The Commons could then meet in the Lords chamber (as the wartime precedent suggested) and the Lords could meet in the Royal Gallery. Or indeed vice versa depending on the wishes of both Houses.

The advantages of this are no need for taking up the QE2 conference centre (with consequent loss of revenue for the Treasury) and no need to waste tens of millions on a temporary-but-permanent Commons chamber in the courtyard of Richmond House. In addition, both houses would be allowed to maintain their presence in the Palace of Westminster, in accommodation suitable to the traditions of the “Mother of Parliaments”.

Of course, the Restoration and Renewal programme ran a “high level review” of Delarue’s proposals and pooh-poohed the whole idea, amazingly claiming that it would probably cost £900 million more than the Deloitte option the Joint Committee preferred. Anthony Delarue has now written some comments responding to this review, pointing out that it relies on outrageously pessimistic estimates of timing, assumptions that are beyond the worst-case scenarios of project management.

MPs were expected to debate the matter last month, but the campaign organised by Sir Edward Leigh MP and Shailesh Vara MP has found considerable support among other Members of Parliament and it is believed the powers that be are looking for a delay. The Government have promised a free vote on the issue when it comes up for debate, which may very well be before the end of February.


Credit: Anthony Delarue Associates

February 2, 2017 2:10 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Party in the Overberg

Alongside a bazaar, a braai, and dancing, a speech by Sir De Villiers Graaff is the selling point of this poster advertising a United Party (Verenigde Party) get-together in the beautiful Overberg region of the Cape.

“Sir Div” was the inheritor of one of only twelve South African baronetcies and led his party from 1956 until 1977 when it merged with the Democratic Party of verligte ex-Nationalists to form a new entity.

The broadly centrist party had lost power to the republican Nats (creators of apartheid) in 1948, and suffered splits that led to the creation of the Liberal Party and the United Federal Party in 1953, the National Conservative Party in 1954, and the Progressive Party in 1959.

The party’s emblem was a happy little citrus tree.

October 12, 2016 3:45 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Nick and Miriam

The Lib Dems are justifiably an unpopular lot, but their obvious defects aside one can find time to love a bare few of their number.

Sir Ming — sorry, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem now — will always be my favourite Liberal leader: captain of the Scotland team at the 1966 British Empire & Commonwealth Games, Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, as well as my MP when I lived in the Kingdom of Fife.

The prize for favourite unsuccessful Liberal candidate goes to my former tutor, the arch-monarchist Rt Rev Dr Ian C Bradley, who contested Sevenoaks for the Liberals at the February 1974 general elections. (Incidentally, the seat was later contested by Tim Stanley for the Labourites in 2005.)

But I also have to confess I’ve always rather liked Nick Clegg. While the overwhelming majority of politicians are mediocre, he enjoys the élan of a continental mediocrity rather than a more English strain. In fact, Nick Clegg’s incredibly boring and voter-friendly English name disguises a polychromatic background. On his father’s side he is descended from the Engelhardts (a Russian noble family of Baltic-German ancestry) and is indeed a distant cousin of Count Michael Ignatieff, leader 2009-2011 of Canada’s Liberal Party, while his mother is a Hollander of the Dutch East Indies. No surprise then that Clegg claims fluency in French, Dutch, German, and Spanish. What a waste he was as DPM: he would’ve made a decent Foreign Secretary.

I suppose as an inveterate cosmopolitan myself I must subconsciously find some strange affinity with this ex-leader of the Lib Dems. But chatting with my friend Roland the other day we decided that really the best thing about Clegg is not the man himself but his spectacular wife.

Being stylish, beautiful, Spanish, and Catholic, Miriam González Durántez manages to combine many wonderful and desirable qualities. She is also very obviously in charge. “Oh, Nicky darling, you are agnostic? How cute. The children are being raised Catholic.” And she looks great in Liberal yellow — not a colour every woman can pull off.

If the Lib Dems are looking to increase their vote-share and return to former prominence they could do worse than making Miriam leader. But then — with the exception of Leeds North West with its Chestertonian pro-life real-ale-and-trams-obsessed Lib Dem MP — this is a party unlikely to ever capture the Cusackian vote.

February 22, 2016 11:15 am | Link | 1 Comment »

The End of Liberalism

Viktor Orban on the end of the liberal age and the threat to Europe

In a speech to supporters at the Fidesz party’s fourteenth annual Kötcse picnic, the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has claimed that the refugee crisis is a portent of the end of “the era of liberal babble”. The current “identity crisis” of liberalism, Orbán argued, presented both “huge risk” and “a new opportunity” to return to Christian and communal identities.

Mr Orbán said that the dominant liberal ideology had weakened Europe while preserving its wealth. “The most dangerous combination known in history is to be both rich and weak,” he argued. “It is only a matter of time before someone comes along, notices your weakness, and takes what you have.”

“The liberal philosophy is a result of a Europe which is weak and which also wants to protect its wealth; but if Europe is weak, it cannot protect this wealth.”

Mr Orbán also attacked the liberal imperialism of military intervention, asserting it has been based on fundamental hypocrisy and simplistic Manichean thinking: (more…)

September 22, 2015 5:27 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

The Legacy of 1916

Sunday’s address by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the party’s annual Arbour Hill commemoration has sparked a certain amount of commentary in the press.

The commemoration of the 1916 rebellion takes place at Arbour Hill prison, where the earthly remains of the executed leaders of the Easter Rising were laid in a pit by the British military authorities. Some of the rebellion’s leaders who did not face the firing squad, most prominently Éamon de Valera and Countess Markievicz, founded Fianna Fáil ten years later in 1926.

Micheál Martin’s address is presented here without comment.

Every state should take time to commemorate and celebrate the people and events of their founding. This commemoration is organised by Fianna Fáil the Republican Party, but we come here as Irish men and women to fulfil our responsibilities to the great generation of 1916.

After 97 years their deeds resonate even more than ever. They saw an Ireland which should not accept limits on its future. They committed everything to the vision of a country with the right to shape its own destiny.

As we quickly approach the centenary of the Rising no one can doubt that the Irish people see the men and women of 1916 as noble and courageous. No one can question their central place in our history. (more…)

April 26, 2013 2:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

A Bill Committee in the Commons

A Bill Committee meeting in one of the richly decorated committee rooms of the Palace of Westminster. The Minister is standing, rattling on in an explanatory defence of his government’s bill. Ostensibly these committees exist so that MPs can examine legislation in line-by-line detail and raise questions about whatever points or aspects they believe might cause problems if enacted.

“The question is that Clause 15 stands as part of the Bill.”

The Chairman, an MP of considerable experience, presides, assisted by a retinue of civil servants. He chews a pen and stokes his brow, frustrated by the boredom of the subject at hand. He is perhaps thinking of the weekend and the extreme unlikeliness that he will get down to the coast, and his sailboat, given the inclement weather.

A Scottish Member rises on a Point and the Minister yields the floor. Concerns are expressed about the precise meaning of Subclause 36 Paragraph C and insinuations made about potential costs. The Minister rises and suggests the Member’s criticism is excessively harsh. He then concedes he may have been imprecise in his explanation of the process involved in Subclause 36 Paragraph C.

The Doorkeeper, absurdly and arcanely attired in white tie, tails, and with the royal arms hanging from a gold chain round his neck, wears thick-rimmed glasses and leans back on a desk in a carefree fashion, blissfully paying little attention to the point the Hon. Gentleman has made in response to the proposed amendment.

“Just for the sake of clarity, we are not now talking about Amendment 13?”
“I have no intention of moving Amendment 13.”
“On a Point of Order then, Mr Chair, is it proper that the Member discuss Amendments 21 and 26 when he is not moving Amendment 13, which is the first Amendment to be considered?”

The Chairman corrects that it is perfectly alright for the Member to discuss whichever amendment he would like.

There are at least eleven civil servants in the room. One on the side hands a paper to another. He reads it and nods approvingly before passing it on to the civil servant next to the Chair. Another Member rises to discuss Amendment 54 Clause C.

“There’s an important role for an independent body to exercise scrutiny over this area and it would be wise for it to have a statutory basis.”

The entire proceedings are overshadowed by the continual sound of shuffling papers. One Member doodles on the day’s order-paper. A journalist leaves. The Member stops doodling and consults his iPhone. Then the Minister is grateful for that point. He is surprised but aware, since he was given this junior ministerial role, by the frequency with which this matter has arisen and has spoken before the relevant Select Committee.

Another Member’s face is illuminated by the glow of the iPad he is leaning over.

“Now before I become too Churchillian,” the Minister continues, “I think we’d better turn to the matter of the Amendments. Now the Honourable Member has, perhaps understandably, raised the point…”

A female Member smiles and shares a jest with one of her party colleagues. The Doorkeeper’s shift ends and he is replaced by one of his bearded confrères. The civil servant beside the Chairman folds a paper and stares unthinkingly into the distance.

“In respect for the Hon. Gentleman’s desire for continuing debate and discussion with the relevant authorities…”
“He hasn’t addressed my point about Subsection 2!”

The portly Doorkeeper moves with surprising adroitness in delivering a note from a Member to a civil servant across the room. The Minister’s PPS hands him a relevant paper. The Chairman smiles in response to one of the Minister’s light-hearted remarks.

“I’m sure the Minister will agree that this is not the beginning of the end but merely the end of the beginning.”
“If only!” a Member interjects.

It is 3:32pm. The MPs will be here for hours yet.

February 4, 2013 10:00 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

France Marches for Marriage

Led by a provocative comedian, a gay atheist, and a socialist teacher, protest against same-sex marriage draws one million

As many as a million protesters descended upon Paris from every corner of France today to demonstrate their opposition to the Socialist government’s plans to introduce same-sex civil marriage. The Prefecture of Police estimates at least 380,000 participated in the three marches from different starting points that converged at the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. Organisers, however, set up counting stations and claim that, by 7:30pm tonight, over one million protestors had joined the march.

Volunteers charted more than eight hundred vehicles to bring protestors to Paris, while six TGV high-speed trains were reserved for demonstrators. “Had the conditions for chartering trains not been as stringent,” an organiser told Le Figaro “the number could easily have been double.”

“In the freezing cold,” Le Figaro reports, “young, old, and families with children were trying to keep warm waving thousands of pink flags to the jerky rhythm of techno music.”

The entire workforce of the Directorate of Public Order & Traffic was called out to handle the massive demonstration, which forced a Paris Saint-Germain football match to be brought forward. Police believed it would be impossible to secure the area around the Parc des Princes stadium when hundreds of thousands of protesters were expected in the centre of the French capital.

The protest today was organised by the eccentric comedian Frigide Barjot, founder of the Collectif pour l’humanité durable, joined by gay atheist Xavier Bongibault of the association Plus gay sans mariage (“More Gay Without Marriage”), and Laurence Tcheng of La gauche pour le mariage républicaine (“The Left for Republican Marriage”).

The unlike troika claim to have launched “a guerrilla war” against the current Socialist Party government’s proposed same-sex civil marriage legislation. Avoiding the mainstream media, ‘Team Barjot’ went direct to supporters through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and, countering the government’s branding of same-sex civil marriage as “Mariage pour tous”, named their protest “Le Manif Pour Tous” (‘The Protest for All’), asserting that all children have a right to a mother and father.

If opinion polls are to be believed, the campaign against the proposed law seems to be changing perceptions. From 2000 to 2011, polls showed a steady rise in support for same-sex marriage. In 2012, this percentage began to decline; support for allowing same-sex couples to adopt also fell. Meanwhile, polls claim that 69% prefer same-sex marriage be put to a referendum. (more…)

January 13, 2013 10:30 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Iconography of Party

Taking into account the important aesthetical nature of politics, it might be worthwhile taking a sweep round the political parties to see what their emblems, logos, and symbols look like. (more…)

April 30, 2012 9:20 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

In Defence of Orbánisation

The silent majority of Hungarians have at last found a voice in the Fidesz party – and the European Commission don’t like what they are hearing.

by ALEXANDER SHAW in Brussels

In under two years, Viktor Orbán’s regime has reduced the Hungarian budget deficit, reduced personal income taxes, returned the GDP to growth and proclaimed sovereign primacy over supranational diktats. Adopted at the beginning of this year, Fidesz’s new national constitution finally overthrows the Communist era law of 1949. Hungary is the last former East Bloc nation to have achieved this. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that 300,000 Hungarians marched to support their government when the reforms came under fire from the EU in January. It was the biggest demonstration in Hungary since the regime change. The message was clear: Fidesz’s democratic mandate is as mighty as ever and Hungarians want sovereignty. (more…)

April 10, 2012 2:07 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

The Hon. Lady Goulding

Grande dame of charity and sometime Fianna Fáil senator who provided a ‘harbour of hope’ for the disabled & represented Ireland in squash

IF, LIKE ME, YOUR Venn diagram shows a massive overlap for the circles representing politics, history, aesthetics, and design, then the Irish Election Literature website is a dangerous place where you can waste many minutes of your day. Not long ago, I stumbled across their collection of electoral bits related to Valerie, the Hon. Lady Goulding — at least I think that’s the proper style, these realms are arcane and murky. She was most often, but incorrectly referred to as Lady Valerie Goulding, the fate of many wives of baronets I’m afraid.

She was born Valerie Hamilton Monckton in 1918 at Ightham Mote (pronounced “item moat”, obv.), the house noted for its Grade I listed dog kennel. Her father, Sir Walter Monckton (later 1st Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) was a trusted friend of Edward VIII, and the teenage Valerie was employed as a messenger shuttling letters between the King’s refuge at Fort Belvedere and Stanley Baldwin in Downing Street. Visiting Fort Belvedere in 1993, Lady Goulding recalled the last lunch she had attended there in December 1936:

She [Mrs Simpson] was leaving that afternoon for Cannes, and everyone was talking about nothing so as to avoid what was on everyone’s mind. But one really nice thing happened: there were four bottles of beer next to my place. The King had remembered that when we were rounding up the ponies on Dartmoor the previous year I had a beer in the pub, and that he had remarked that I was very young to be drinking. It was very touching.

In 1939 she attended the Fairyhouse races and met Sir Basil Goulding at a dinner party. Goulding had significant business interests in Ireland and became known for once entering a bank board meeting on rollerskates. On her second visit to Ireland, they became engaged, and married quickly as the threat of war loomed on the horizon. Sir Basil served in the RAF, rising to the rank of Wing Commander, while Lady Goulding opted for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry before switching to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. After the war, the Gouldings moved to Dargle Cottage in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. (more…)

April 4, 2012 3:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

‘Called Before the Tribunal of Reason’

Some Essays of Pierre Manent in English

I’VE BEEN ON a Pierre Manent kick recently, whom a friend in Paris describes as “a giant, grossly under-rated in the Anglophone world and treated with considerable disdain even in France on account of not being a prisoner of ephemeral conventional wisdom. ”

Given the current penitential season, it might be worth reading Manent’s “Reason and Faith: A Lenten Reflection”. This paragraph was one among the many that struck me with its accuracy:

Christian faith, for its part, accepts being called to appear before the tribunal of reason. It is distinctive of the Christian God to leave man to his own counsel, and to put the fulfilment of the plan of salvation as it were at the mercy of human freedom. This is why Christianity is not a law, but a faith. This is why the Bible is not a teaching dictated by heaven like the Koran. It is a chronicle, full of detours, of an often-broken and ever-renewed covenant between divine goodness and human freedom.

Much of Manent’s pondering is on the realm of political philosophy. His 1999 essay “The Return of Political Philosophy” explores the death of political philosophy over the course of the twentieth century, while his lecture “Current Problems of European Democracy” examines the depoliticisation of European societies. “The Greatness and Misery of Liberalism” is also worth a read.

March 25, 2012 8:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Hungary Reasserts Sovereignty

Deputy PM Navracsics asserts to shocked Commissioner that Council of Europe “cannot impose anything which runs counter to our constitution”

From ALEXANDER SHAW in Brussels

Hungary yesterday declared its sovereign primacy over the EU. In a heated dialogue between Tibor Navracsics and Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the Hungarian deputy PM staidly remarked that his country would not impose legislation which was contrary to its new constitution. The packed committee room gasped in horrified awe. Kroes was visibly furious as she stormed out, expressing her usual ‘grave concerns’ about Hungary.

Kroes had obviously been banking on Navracsics’s compliance with the Council of Europe’s recommendations, EU member states being bound to comply with the Council of Europe’s Fundamental Charter of Human Rights under the Treaty of Lisbon. The Hungarian government is under scrutiny from the EU for the possible breach of various articles of the Charter. When asked directly where his priorities lay in implementing recommendations, however, the founding member of the ruling Fidesz party stated “I’m a Hungarian member of parliament and I have sworn allegiance to the constitution of Hungary.” (more…)

February 10, 2012 1:44 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Adding to Ulster’s Party Panoply

Tim Montgomerie’s ConservativeHome website reports that the Conservative & Unionist Party is setting up its own party in Northern Ireland, following the failure of its collaboration with the Ulster Unionist Party. At the last election, the Tories ran a joint ticket with the UUP under the name ‘Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force’ which fell rather flat.

In the years before the party system was as solidly formalised as it now is, Unionist MPs took the Conservative whip at Westminster but today the SDLP is the only Northern Irish party which takes the whip of a British party (in its case, Labour). Gradually official Unionists found themselves increasingly challenged by upstarts, which evolved into the formal division between the Ulster Unionist Party (moderate liberal-conservative unionists) and Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (hardcore conservative unionists).

The decision to start a separate Conservative & Unionist party for Ulster is a curious one, as it can only further split the Unionist vote, already divided between the dominant DUP and the fading UUP. This is at least simpler than in the 1990s and 2000s, when the vote split between these two and smaller Unionist groupings like the UK Unionists, the Progressive Unionist Party, the Ulster Democratic Party, and the Northern Ireland Unionist Party.

My favourite Unionist Party, however, was that which dominated the political scene in the Punjab from the First World War until Partition. It was primarily the instrument of the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh gentry of the province, and counted three holders of knighthoods — Sardar Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, Sir Fazli Husain, and Rao Bahadur Sir Chhotu Ram — among its founders. Alas, with the increasing enmity between the Hindu and Muslim populations of India, its existence became unsustainable, and even the Punjab Province itself was split between Pakistan and India at independence. Sic transit gloria mundi!

February 1, 2012 8:00 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Senator Eugene McCarthy: A Kirkian Anecdote

Russell Kirk, the great St Andrean and American man of letters, relates this anecdote in his article “Will American Caesars Arise?” (Modern Age, Summer 1989):

The most interestingly complex of all recent aspirants to the presidency, [Senator Eugene] McCarthy obdurately called himself a liberal during years when that appellation was sinking swiftly in popular favour – although he abjured all forms of liberalism earlier than Franklin Roosevelt’s. (During the past few years, as he now remarks, he has employed the word ‘‘liberal’’ as an adjective merely.) In his political theories, actually, McCarthy has been a conservative: He declared long ago that Edmund Burke was his political mentor, and no one has more warmly praised Tocqueville. He has read seriously and written intelligently. In the White House – per impossibile – he might have turned the most imaginatively conservative of Presidents.

Or perhaps not. Once upon a time I had an assistant who was a graphoanalyst, an expert on handwriting. Having examined a specimen of Senator McCarthy’s handwriting, my assistant pronounced him rebellious, a hard master, and desirous of power. A touch of Caesar even in Caesar’s adversary? However that may be, McCarthy’s only considerable assertion of power was his unseating of President Johnson by running a good second in the New Hampshire primary of 1968.

A congenital no-sayer, Eugene McCarthy never ran with the hounds. He was candid and witty always. He and I first met as debaters before a large audience, in Boston. After this exchange, sponsored by the Paulist Fathers, a reception was held for us. Up to Senator McCarthy came a zealous young Paulist, inquiring, “Senator McCarthy, don’t you think that Jack Kennedy is the finest president this nation ever has had?” (This occurred during the first year of the Kennedy administration.)

“No,” said McCarthy, unsmiling.

Although taken aback, the Paulist returned to the charge: “But surely you agree, Senator, that President Kennedy has given this nation a new hope, a new vigor, a sense of moving forward toward great things?”

“No,” said Eugene McCarthy.

The Paulist persisted: “But of course you’ll agree with me when I say, Senator, that the Kennedy family have brought to our life a culture, a refinement, a meaningfulness, that we have not known before.”

“No,” said Eugene McCarthy.

“But – but Senator McCarthy, surely Jack Kennedy is a very nice man personally?”

Eugene McCarthy turned his back upon the Paulist and slowly walked away. He knew how to say no, he was not ensnared by cliché and slogan, and he had a poet’s attachment to truth.

June 20, 2011 9:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Les fondements de notre civilisation occidentale

« Les fondements de notre civilisation occidentale sont chrétiens ; le respect du christianisme est une condition sine qua non d’une droite qui veut conserver non seulement la prospérité économique, mais ce qui est au fondement de toute prospérité durable : le souci du bien commun, le respect de la loi naturelle, le sens de la justice. »

The latest issue of Égards, the premier journal of traditional conservatism in Quebec, contains an interesting analysis of the current situation faced by the various streams of the centre-droit spectrum in the province. I am, however, very much against the perpetual organisation-founding that goes on in political circles. There seems to be a belief that, when in doubt, start a new organisation, but this is precisely what the author, M. Décarie, proposes.

June 12, 2011 2:46 pm | Link | No Comments »

A Pro-Life Politico in Argentina

In the Sunday after-church tea-drinking circles of Manhattan, much thought and disputation was provoked by Damian Thompson’s recent revelation that the senator-elect from Florida, Mr. Marco Rubio, is in fact an evangelical Protestant despite his office claiming he is a Catholic. Word comes from Argentina about a member of parliament named Cynthia Hotton, a brazen defender of the right to life and solidarity with the unborn. (more…)

November 14, 2010 10:43 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Dodgy ‘knighthood’ for a dodgy lady

An example of the ‘Lazarus bling’, more medals than you can shake a stick at.

From the blog of John Smeaton we read that the former Irish president (and genial enemy of all that is good and holy) Mary Robinson has received a ‘knighthood’. Last month she was invested as a Dame in the self-styled ‘Order of St. Lazarus’, a fake order of knighthood. The group claims links to the old Order of St. Lazarus of which the last remnants faded away in the 1780s.

The current ‘Order’ was founded as a fake order of knighthood in 1910 by the confidence trickster Jean-Joseph Moser, and has grown by perhaps surprising leaps and bounds in the past few decades, taking into account P. T. Barnum’s famous maxim about a sucker being born every minute. The group has split into various factions and it has become notorious for having members in its ranks who don more metal “bling” than rap stars or Soviet generals.

The so-called Order of St. Lazarus exists throughout Europe and the Spanish- and English-speaking countries abroad, including the United States. The French branch of St. Lazarus was forced by the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour to cease claiming to be an ‘order’, and members of the Order of Malta are forbidden from participating in St. Lazarus’s activities.

“The Order’s pretensions have been strongly condemned by the Holy See as aiming to replace ‘the legitimate forms of chivalric awards’,” according to Guy Stair Sainty, the acknowledged expert on these somewhat arcane affairs. Nonetheless, Guy points out that “supporters of Saint Lazarus include the heads of a handful of great noble families and, over the years, several leading Churchmen and Cardinals”.

“The Order of Saint Lazarus, although it is to be complimented for its considerable charitable efforts (notably in Germany), need not pretend to an historical continuity to which its claims, at the very least, are unsubstantiated,” Guy Stair Sainty concludes. “Were it to assume the character of a private association, founded in 1910, to emulate the traditions of the ancient crusader Order, it could deflect much of the hostility it has attracted… It would be much more successful and be more readily welcomed into the wider community of international humanitarian bodies, however, if it was to permit an honest appraisal of its origins.”

October 25, 2010 7:00 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Zuma in Orania

President is Welcomed at Afrikaners-Only Enclave in Northern Cape

President Zuma yesterday paid a ‘goodwill visit’ to the whites-only Afrikaner enclave of Orania in the Northern Cape. The trip was prompted when Pres. Zuma received word that the town’s founded Prof. Carel Boshoff IV, was in poor health. Orania was founded in 1990, some months after whites voted to dismantle apartheid, as a place where Afrikaner self-reliance could be practiced and cultural heritage preserved. The town has pioneered various agricultural and ecological projects, and in 2004 started its own local currency, the Ora, which is equal to ten rand. (more…)

September 15, 2010 11:45 am | Link | No Comments »
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