Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What would ID cards have done?

It was, as we all knew, merely a matter of time before politicians, anxious to find another reason for ID cards, would start assuring us that July in London would have been very different, indeed, if we all had little plastic cards as internal passports.

In the first burst of candour, back around July 7 or 8, Charles Clarke admitted that ID cards could not have stopped the bomb attacks. When you think about it, that is a very reasonable statement. After all, it is unlikely that we can possibly have gauleiters standing at every bus stop and at every door of every tube train, checking people’s papieren.

In any case the four suicide bombers who blew themselves and numerous other people up on July 7 would have had impeccable papieren, having been born and bred in this country.

Then, presumably, ministers remembered that they have to push their insane plan for those ID cards. First we had Geoff Hoon telling the world that if there had been ID cards, Hussain Osman would not have managed to escape to Rome, where he was successfully picked up by the Italian police after a bit of spectacular collaboration between the two forces and not a eurocop in sight.

Mr Hoon used an unfortunate turn or phrase, lauding the effectiveness of ID cards, telling us all that the government needs to know who is in the UK at any time. Well, errm, no, Mr Hoon, there seems no particular reason for the government to know any such thing. In a free country we must all be able to come and go as we please.

The answer is, obviously, to keep a closer look on those organizations and, even, individuals who might disturb the Queen’s peace and, indeed, blow up many of Her Majesty’s subjects. But that would get us into the difficult terrain of dealing with Islamic terrorism, a subject this government tries to avoid.

As for whether an ID card would have prevented Hussain Osman’s departure from these shores, that does not stand up to scrutiny. After all, he presumably showed his passport as he boarded the Eurostar train and what is a passport but an ID? If that was not checked, what guarantee is there that his plastic identification tag would have been.

It is hard to blame the officials at Waterloo if all they had was the CCTV picture for reference. I looked at all those four pictures at one of the tube stations and decided that they looked like hundreds of young men one might see in London at any time.

The police, one assumes, had other information and may well have circulated all border control officers with it. If so, clearly not much attention was paid to it. ID cards is hardly the answer in the circumstances.

Now we have Hazel Blears, who has been left in charge of the Home Office, in Charles Clarke’s unavoidable absence on an urgent matter of a family holiday and who refuses to accept that Muslim young men are more likely to be transport bombers than Home Counties ladies who are shopping at Peter Jones, telling us that ID cards would have prevented the bomb attacks.

Fortunately for her reputation as somebody who has a modicum of intelligence, she did not explain how that could have happened. We would all, however, like to know what Ms Blears thinks ID cards could have done to stop four young men from strapping backpacks full of explosives to themselves and then activating these at a certain moment.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Grumbling in the ranks

The European journalists are not happy. This has little to do with their colleagues being persecuted in various countries, though there is a little stirring about Romania going on.

The European Federation of Journalists is protesting at the closure of a couple of Portuguese newspapers owned by a Spanish syndicate, apparently for purely commercial reasons.

Aidan White, General Secretary of the EFJ opined that
“It is vitally important to convince the management that these journals have a future and that they should invest in them. What is at stake is not just a matter of profit and loss; there are questions of culture, democracy and pluralism that must also be addressed.”
Well, I don’t know. Profit and loss do come into the newspaper business somewhere and, short of government subsidies there seems no solution to that. Government subsidy, on the other hand, as even the European Federation of Journalists must know, involves government control. Do they really want that?

But they do have a gripe against the British presidency as well. Apparently, each presidency sets its own rules for accreditation to various events, even though, as Mr White points out:
“Journalists already have accreditation at national and European level and this should be respected throughout the European Union.”
The British rules seem particularly bizarre. In order to have accreditation to the meeting of foreign ministers in Newport in early September, journalists, who have and are covering other events, have to fill in a completely separate form, which asks, among other essential pieces of information, the names of their parents. Understandably, the journalists are balking at this.

Whether they will balk far enough not to go to Newport (after all, they are not likely, on past record to find out what is really agreed), remains to be seen. They should count themselves lucky they do not have to answer questions in English and in Welsh.

Aidan White also said:
“If the European Union wants to connect properly with citizens it must at the very least get its approach to working journalists right and not oblige them to follow rules that are bizarre and inexplicable.”
Well yes, one of the aims the Commission keeps setting in its never ending battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Europe is to work closely with journalists. On the other hand, finding out what it is like to have to follow rules that are bizarre and inexplicable is surely good for the hacks. This will give them a much better understanding of the European project.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Berlusconi hits out at "Prodi's euro"

Things are hotting up in the Italian electoral campaign. Nothing is sacred any more, not even the euro.

Prime Minister Berlusconi announced to all and sundry that the euro, in his opinion, “screwed everybody”. By everybody he meant Italy, as his main complaint is that his chief rival, Romano Prodi, leader of the soft-left coalition, had negotiated bad terms for the country.

“There are categories of Italians which face difficulties because of the incursion of Prodi's euro,” – Berlusconi explained helpfully.

This is not the first serious criticism of the euro and its effects on the Italian and European economy. Back in June the Northern League demanded that Italy start looking at ways of leaving the currency but Berlusconi responded by stating firmly that it was not in Italy’s interest to do so.

The Northern League wants a referendum on the subject conjointly with next year’s elections but it seems unlikely that the Prime Minister will agree to anything like that.

Berlusconi has, in the past, blamed the euro for Italy’s economic problems and this particular statement seems more of a blast at Prodi than at the single currency. Still, it is another straw in the wind.

The comment did drive the euro down a bit but the biggest effect at the moment is the relative strength of the dollar.

Asked about Berlusconi’s statement, Commission spokesman, Michael Mann said at the daily press conference.
“We think the euro has not caused those problems and is an extremely good thing for Europe.”
While we could not possibly agree with the last part of that statement, we have to reiterate our previous comments on the subject. The euro has not, in itself, caused the problems, which lie deep in the structure of most European economies. On the other hand, having interest rates set for all the eurozone members does not help matters.

The biggest issue is psychological. The euro was going to solve the problems not exacerbate them. Even if it simply left things as they are, it would be perceived as a very bad thing as it did not produce the effect it was supposed to.

Of course, given that it was always a political project, another step on the path to European integration, its economic benefits could not be but minimal at best (and the best has not happened).

The problem for the euro-elite that drives the project is the time gap. Having promised economic benefits they have to point to them and there are none to point to. But the political integration that would have made the destruction of the single currency an impossibility is not happening nearly fast enough. Somewhere in that gap, the project might disintegrate and the people escape.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Those British values in full - 2

Britain, and England in particular, have been in the fortunate position throughout large swathes of history of not having to define her identity. You simply knew what it was to be British (or English, often interchangeable to the great fury of the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish).

When there were definitions, they tended to be contradictory, as Orwell noted so perceptibly in The Lion and the Unicorn”. The British are peace loving and domesticated, yet adventurous, warlike and conquerors of the greatest empire in the world.

They are practical and indifferent to abstract ideas yet almost all modern political philosophy was produced in England and Scotland. (In fact, one could argue that the tragedy of the twentieth century was that German political ideas overtook British ones, but that is for another time.)

The British are tolerant of other people but have historically disdained all habits but their own and have cheerfully spread their own ideas to far corners of the world. (Now, of course, they complain that Americans do the same in a far less intrusive fashion.)

The English invented the idea of common law, the sense of property and a civilian police force, yet for centuries England was acknowledged to be effectively ungovernable outside certain areas.

The British are individualistic and eccentric yet love the idea of order and similarity.

One can go on for ever and, indeed, on could argue that most nations hold in themselves very similar contradictions.

The definition of Britishness or Englishness has always been difficult. Shakespeare did a good job at a time when the country was going through various severe crises. Kipling, especially in his Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies stories and poems, created a certain image of Englishness, one that he struggled to define in other works as well.

Kipling was, in many ways, an outsider in England and it is often outsiders who pay more attention to the definitions of the society that has adopted them. I recall having an extremely interesting conversation at the IEA with Lawrence Hayek and a Dutch gentleman. The three of us had been born in other countries and come to Britain at various times of our lives and various periods of its history.

The two things we agreed on were that England was the most wonderful country in the world and that the English did not appreciate it. Buchan, too, would have supported that conclusion.

Consider that most English of all English characters, Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel. He was created by a Hungarian writer, Emmuska Orczy. The film of the book was scripted Lajos Biró, a Hungarian, produced and directed by Alexander Korda (need I say what nationality he was) and acted by Leslie Howard, who had been born in England to Hungarian parents.

The film came out in 1934 and was seen as a jolly adventure story. During the war (when Howard worked hard for the British cause and was killed when a plane he was travelling in was shot down by the Luftwaffe) there was something of an attempt to define Englishness.

It was easy to say what Britain was fighting against but what was it fighting for? The two directors who worked hardest to answer that question were Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger, the latter being, yes, you’ve guessed it, a Hungarian who, according to one website

“In 1938, [he] joined the Hungarian coterie of Alexander Korda, and like his compatriots he had much to invest in the dream of England as an outpost against tyranny and beacon of decency in a Europe turning to fascism.”
What he invested was his imprint on films like The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (though, as a matter of fact, I understand why Churchill wanted to ban it), Canterbury Tale, I know where I’m going (this one about Scotland) and various others.

The attempt to define Britishness was not always successful but the films are consistently interesting.

It seems we have no useful Hungarians around at the moment. So, it is left to the Daily Telegraph to produce a list of ten (why not twelve?) elements of what the core British values are.

One cannot help admiring the attempt (even if The Scarlet Pimpernel is probably more fun) especially as it is wonderfully free of the sort of mawkishness that seemed to overwhelm the British media in the wake of the London bombs.
“Many countries try to codify their values in law. Some oblige their citizens to speak the national language; others make it a criminal offence to show disrespect to the flag. But statutory patriotism is an intrinsically un-British notion. We prefer simply to set out, in general terms, the non-negotiable components of our identity - the qualities of the citizenship that Muktar Said
Ibrahim [one of the bombers of July 21] applied for.”
The ten components are :

The Rule of Law
The Sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament
The pluralist state
Personal freedom
Private property
Institutions (non-statutory)
The family
The English-speaking world
The British character

Very nice, too, and about as hard to assess as they were in Orwell’s day. The British character is impossible to define as everyone will do so differently. I have been told by eurosceptics that unlike those nasty Europeans, all the British ever wanted to do was to be left alone.

No doubt, the greatest empire in history was created by people wanting to be left alone. And what of the fact, as the old song had it, “every war we fought we won”? None of those wars were on British soil.

Furthermore, time was the British character was defined as a “can-do” one. Would that sill be true now, I wonder.

The English-speaking world has, of course, grown out of England and her ideas. What people talk of as the Anglosphere is that: freedom, justice, rule of law and other issues: small government, enterprise, individualism. How much of that has survived successive twentieth century governments, not to mention the great European project?

As one gets to the more specific values, one sees a wish-list. I wish this were still true (if it ever was, of course).

No one is above the law? Well, I am not sure that is true about this government in itself and in the ideology of group politics. As I said in my previous posting, Cherie Blair QC would have been horrified if the sort of “rights” she thinks are essential to Muslim girls were applied to Anglican ones.

That applies to the third item as well.

But, of course, the one that is particularly ridiculous is item number 2. Really the leader writers of the Daily Telegraph should know better. “The Lords, the Commons and the monarch” have not constituted “the supreme authority in the land” for decades. There is the small matter of the European Communities Act 1972 and ECJ judgements.

Personal freedom? Private property? Tell that to the people who can no longer own or sell handguns or run well regulated clubs; or to the foxhunters; or to the businessmen whose scales were confiscated because they disobeyed the diktats of the metric regulators; or to the farmers whose animals were slaughtered even though there was no sigh of foot and mouth disease anywhere near them.

It is not that I object to any of those core values. Far from it, though I would like to see some of them a little better defined. And, naturally, I agree wholeheartedly with number 8, history. The teaching of history is absolutely essential. The advantage of British history is that through its imperial aspect (warts and all but good things and all, too) they can incorporate and provide a “story” for all those who come to live here.

It is just that until we deal with our problems they will remain a wish-list. England is, of course, in many ways an idea and it is the idea that those who come here often subscribe to. But the idea has been tarnished and there is no point in providing definitions until it is bright and shining again.

And, one has to sympathize with the leader writers of the Daily Telegraph. How many of them are Hungarians? In the circumstances their effort is very creditable.

Those British values in full - 1

It is always a joy to have Cherie Booth QC a.k.a. Mrs Blair, the Prime Minister’s wife, in the news. Normally, they keep her locked up to prevent her from spreading her own particular brand of foot and mouth disease. (Every time she opens her mouth she puts her foot in it.)

She has been holding forth about civil liberties and warning the government not to undermine our civil liberties in its pursuit of the terrorists. Let us get away from the inevitable MSM story – PM’s wife opposes government – and the immediate reaction to her statement – does she not want to fight terrorism, then – and look at why exactly the government has seen no choice but to pass endless legislation that constrains all our liberties.

One reason is that Mr Blair, Ms Booth’s husband, is something of a control freak and does not like the idea of liberties at all.

His party, in either its old or its new version has never been much of a friend to liberty, either. In its new version it has no knowledge of British history and, therefore, cannot understand how the concept of liberty, civil or otherwise, can be part of it.

But in practical terms, the most immediate reason is the fact that since the introduction of the Human Rights Act, a contentious piece of legislation and one that has given Ms Booth QC a good deal of highly paid work, it has been impossible to do what needs to be done: target, isolate and, if needs be imprison or deport specific individuals who are a danger to our country, our people and our society.

Furthermore, we cannot deport certain citizens of other countries who preach death and destruction here and who are badly wanted in their own homes. Well, we could, of course, but we have signed up to endless international humanitarian agreements that forbid us to do so, if those countries do not promise to treat people well. (Yes, I know, France has signed up to those agreements, too, but Nicolas Sarkozy sees that between international humanitarian agreement and the protection of one’s own country there can be no contest.)

As a consequence, the government needs to crack down on all of us, to make sure that there is no discrimination between the guilty and the innocent. That is, indeed, undermining our few remaining civil liberties.

The answer is clear. Repeal the Human Rights Act and pass a piece of legislation that allows a country defend itself against those who wish to destroy it, if needs be, despite certain previous agreements that were never meant to apply to people who preach mass murder, anyhow.

The virtue of the western legal system as it was developed in the twelfth century or thereabouts is that it is individuals who are accused, tried and punished, not whole communities. It is the likes of Cherie Booth QC who make it impossible to maintain the legal system, civil liberties and defend the country simultaneously.

But then, Ms Booth QC seems to have a short memory, in any case. Not so long ago, I seem to recall, she appeared on some platform or another rejoicing in the fact that the women of Afghanistan were no longer forced to wear a burqua in the post-Taliban era.
Indeed, she showed with her hands how small the gap was through a which a woman in a burqua could see and invited us to be horrified about it.

Let us move two years forward. Cherie Booth QC is now the lawyer who defends Shabina Begum’s “right”, strongly advocated by her brother and another bullying male member of her family, to wear a full jilbab at school, once again using the Human Rights Act as her base.

Not a burqua, perhaps, but hardly an outfit for a modern girl in a British school that had managed to work out a uniform that was sensible and did not offend anyone’s religions feelings.

It seems that when it comes to Britain and British Muslim women, then what their menfolk happen to say is the right thing for them to do, according to Ms Booth QC. She would be horrified if similar ideas were announced for English girls. But the notion that the law is the law and rules defined by certain institutions for themselves apply to all, regardless of creed do not seem to appeal to this particular “leading” barrister.

Incidentally, whatever happened to Shabina Begum? She was, as I recall, 16 and, therefore, this was her last compulsory year at school. Is she going to go back to do A levels or will she be forced into a marriage with someone chosen by her brother? What of her human rights then?

Which brings me to this morning’s Daily Telegraph and its entirely laudable attempt to define the core values of British identity, which I shall discuss in the next posting.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Mandy on the job

Peter Mandelson has delivered a stirring speech to the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (a.k.a. the academic propaganda machine) in Brussels, beginning with the following stirring statement:

“Leadership is what Europe urgently needs. The "carry on as before" reaction to the French and Dutch no votes among a minority was a bad sign. These politicians in Europe looked as though they wanted to cling on to the constitutional treaty because they had nothing else to cling to. It was as though, by means of an ever tighter personal embrace, they could defy the reality of what was happening around them.”
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Oh no, sorry, that’s something else.

Anyway, what is this leadership and vision thing going to consist of? Well, we shall still have the Franco-German core to the EU but Britain must work towards a Franco-German partnership with which it is “at ease and can work”.
“The problem with the Franco-German position in Europe has been their difficulty in coming to terms with the depth of the economic problems that "core" Europe faces. "Core Europe", particularly the larger countries, still has an emotional block about facing up to the depth of the hole that the eurozone is in - and it is getting deeper.”
The trouble is surely that the economic problems have been created by the mentality of the self-same core Europe and its addiction to centralized over-regulation and control of the economy. Of course, these people cannot face up to the problem. How would Mandy like to be told that everything he believes in and has worked for has been completely cock-eyed and has produced an economic disaster? Luckily, this is not likely to happen as nobody has yet discovered what he believes in.

Anyway, Trade Commissar Mandelson knows what is needed and what is the answer to Europe’s crisis of identity:
“This autumn, the European Commission has got to be bold. It has got to go out on the front foot, not simply with a vision but with a clear programme of action to make Europe relevant to the citizens. It has to step into the vacuum that the suspension of the constitutional treaty has created. My political judgement may be wrong. But I sense that the Commission today has a golden opportunity to assert this fresh political leadership.”
So far the Commission is pootling about setting up a Communication Action Plan. It has no time for any kind of a political action to “make Europe relevant to the citizens”, whatever that might mean.

Besides, has Trade Commissioner Mandelson not noticed that as soon as citizens realize just how relevant Europe is to them, they start voting against it?

Prodi's logic

It is never going to come into force and that is why it should be put into force. That is, more or less, what fomer Commission President Romano Prodi told journalists on Wednesday.
“It is difficult to think that it will be approved, but it is important to go ahead with the ratification process to show that the position expressed by the majority of the French and Dutch is not prevalent.”
Well, of course, the position expressed by the majority of the French and the Dutch is of little importance compared to the position voted through by various parliaments, but let us suppose the ratification process throws up a few more positions, say, in Denmark and the United Kingdom, that are quite similar? Then what? Presumably, push ahead with the ratification process, regardless.

And what, according to this attitude, is to be done about the French and the Dutch? Make them vote again? Ignore them? Pretend that they actually voted yes? Fraught with difficulties, whichever course you choose.

Signor Prodi, who now heads a centre-left coalition in Italy and is preparing for the next presidential elections, dismissed the somewhat eurosceptical views expressed by the government, particularly by members of the Northern League.
“The government and parts of the coalition are displaying a self-satisfied anti-Europeanism. Lacking any deep convictions, they are going along with whatever suits them at the time, most recently making a pathetic and sly move to the British position as if that would put a respectable face on their lack of ideas.”
Well, obviously, nobody could display a convinced and principled anti-Europeanism or believe that coming out of the euro might be good for the Italian economy. In fact, nobody principled could even contemplate that something is to be approved of because it is good for one’s country’s economy. Principled positions are reserved for the integrationists.

Still, at least Signor Prodi acknowledged that there is some amount of disenchantment. And he had the remedy:
“I remain convinced that the response to the disenchantment and to the challenges Europe faces in the globalised world is more Europe, not less Europe.”
Presumably, this is what his former colleague, the fragrant Margot calls investing in listening. Signor Prodi listens and decides that what he is told is completely wrong and should be disregarded for the people’s own good, naturally.

Finally, that old mantra:
“Integration remains the only strategy for growth in Europe. Europe can only participate effectively in the global system when it speaks with one voice -- in other words when there is a political Europe.”
How wonderful. And what is Europe going to say with that one voice? Could it be something along the lines that Signor Prodi and his various colleagues think? After all, the European peoples’ opinion, separately or together is of little consequence.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What does London need more?

Let me think, does it need Crossrail that would run from railway station to railway station, taking a good deal of the strain off the existing transport system or does it need the razzmatazz of Olympic Games, the debt and bad feeling, the two weeks’ of hamburger flipping jobs, the empty buildings afterwards, not to mention the extra strain on the city’s resources?

No, I think you will be wrong. Apparently, it is the Olympics, that will raise our taxes and bring in lots of sportsmen and their various entourages for a couple of weeks that the capital needs.

Crossrail has been discussed for decades and got nowhere. The necessary parliamentary bill is painfully making its way through Westminster and no significant funding has been mentioned.

And now, we are told that the funding that might conceivably have come its way will be given to another, more deserving or, at least, more favoured cause. (Favoured by Hizonner and the Prime Minister, that is.)

According to a short piece published in the Daily Telegraph on July 14:
“Crossrail could be delayed by the 2012 Olympics, according to the outgoing Chief Executive of Cross London Rail Links.

Norman Haste told New Civil Engineer magazine that the Games would be first in the queue for investment.”
Good to know that London’s needs are high on the list of priorities, as opposed to expensive grandiosity.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Can somebody explain this?

Hizonner, who has been loudly condemning the “pure criminals” who had bombed London transport on July 7, has been seen galloping off madly in all directions.

First of all, what is a pure criminal? Or, to put it another way, what is an impure criminal? Is there some sort of mongrel criminality around that is intrinsically different from the pure bred one?

What Hizonner is ever more desperately trying to avoid is stating the bleeding obvious, if our readers will forgive the language, that being the fact that the terrorists were inspired by a form of extremist Islamic teaching.

No, not all Islamic teaching is terrorist and very few Muslims are terrorists. In fact, when we add up the numbers of victims for the last fifteen years, we find that the number of Muslim victims of terrorism, state or non-governmental, if one may put it that way, has been far, far higher than the number of non-Muslim ones. And the number is many times higher than the that of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, but let that pass, as well.

However, as an ever-growing number of desperate Muslim commentators have observed, almost all terrorists at the moment, are Muslim and are using Islam as an excuse for their criminality. So, perhaps, Hizonner is simply wrong: these are not “pure” criminals, they are “hybrid” criminals, who believe in something apart from crime, however perverted.

Armed with his invincible assumption that he can never be wrong, Hizonner has affirmed that Sheik Yussuf Al-Qaradawi, the man who is described as the theologian of terror will be visiting London and, specifically, the Great Glass Egg, next month again.

Hizonner maintains that Al-Qaradawi is a moderate. No Arab commentator agrees with that, but anyone who doubts Hizonner’s word is probably an agent of an enemy power, as likely as not, the Labour Party.

Talking of suicide/homicide bombing, Al-Qaradawi said:
“I consider this type of martyrdom operation is evidence of God’s justice.”
Ah but that was about Israel. Those were clearly not pure criminals and did not need to be condemned. For, according to Hizonner, Al-Qaradawi has condemned the 7/7 bombings. It was done very quietly, mind you, but Hizonner heard it and he wants everyone to hear it. That is why the man is coming to London at the London taxpayers’ expense.

Last time he came there was a demonstration mounted by a coalition of Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and gay people. But what do they know?

Meanwhile, Hizonner has personally, though together with the British Red Cross, launched a London Bombings Relief Fund, into which money has been pouring in from corporate and personal donors.

The Government has given £1 million of the taxpayers’ money and the fund has topped £4.5 million. Well, how nice. But what is it for?

The people who have lost relatives and friends are hardly likely to find that a few thousand pounds will make up for that.

Those who have been wounded are being treated in hospitals and, one hopes, are provided with the best care available. Certainly, that is a reasonable way of spending tax money but it need not come from some charity fund.

Nobody has lost their livelihoods or their possessions. Nobody needs help in rebuilding houses or water pumps.

What is the money going on? Hizonner is statesmanlike but vague on his intentions. The money will be held in trust to give all the help to the victims of the outrage that they might need. Good-oh. Did Hizonner start a fund for the victims of the IRA bombs back when he was Leader of GLC? Errm, no, he was too busy welcoming the murderers into City Hall.

But suppose, the victims will not need any help, though if the money is available, I expect people will think of something they absolutely desperately need to survive the trauma.

Well, then the huge sums will go on projects that will … do what, precisely? Well, … umm … deal with the situation that has caused this “pure crime”.

Oh dear, I see more conferences, projects, huge posters and exhibitions, all explaining the necessity to extirpate war, racism and Islamophobia and all financed by money collected by Hizonner and that ever more ridiculous NGO, the British Red Cross.