25 July 2011

Something rotten in paradise.....

Coming back from another entanglement with US bureacracy, I turned on the news Friday only to see it dominated by a country which is very rarely in the news, and then normally only in the travel section, the Republic of Norway. According to the latest rolling news coverage, a gunman had opened fire on a camp being attended by members of the youth organisation of the ruling Labour Party. I must admit to almost thinking I had been watching an episode of Fringe and had missed out some of the details. This kind of thing simply does not happen over there. Indeed Norway is often used by a variety of Guardian and Independent journos as almost a counteraction to the contention that their policies will lead to the excesses of Zimbabwe, Cuba or North Korea. Usually in conjunction with it's fellow Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Finland, and to a lesser degree in recent years, Sweden, Norway is seen as proof that the Ed Miliband/Compass model of high taxes, ever higher public expenditure, and squeezing the private sector to pay for 'better public services' can work. As I often say to such people, this area seems to be almost the only part of the World where such a philosophy works. (very much including the UK!)You could include Canada and possibly New Zealand but I'd argue particularly in the latter, the relative liberalisation of agriculture in the 1980's presided over a much greater liberalisation subsequently in other sectors.

Nevertheless, a challenge even if made by people with records as chequered as many Compass supporters and Guardian writers remains a valid one. What is the secret of Norway's success? My first encounter with the country came in the realms of Sport. In 1982, then manager of the England football team, the late Ron Greenwood emerged from one of the most, if not the most bizarre qualifying group ever, to qualify for the World Cup finals of that summer in Spain. Comprising England, Hungary, Switzerland, Romania and Norway, the group featured most of the sides beating each other. England lost in Basel and Bucharest (Romania have not lost to England as of now for 41 years) but co-favourites Hungary were vanquished convincingly in Budapest. Perhaps the most notorious result was the defeat by the unheralded Norwegians in Oslo 2-1, a match immortalised by the commentary of the late Bjorge Lillelien , to then Prime Minister Thatcher that 'your boys took a hell of a beating' Subsequently, Graham Taylor's misfortune at the hands of the Norwegians some 12 years later, and that team's Manager, Egil Olsen's foray into Premiership management with Wimbledon further intrigued me. Norway was considered something of a backwater, albeit one with a very high quality of life. Visitors of my acquaintance had reported tales of beer being more than 7 pounds a pint (indeed a group of Norwegians with whom I worked insisted on a pub crawl in the less than salubrious environs of Basildon, Essex due to the beer being 'so cheap'!) and despite the economic illiteracy of every Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding smoking for the last 30 years, even our own legislators have not been as virulently anti-smoking as the Norwegians - tales of 8 pounds (now more than 11!!) for a pack of cigarettes again fairly legion.

So, what was the secret? Well, the discovery of North Sea Oil was a boon for the two countries under whose waters it was found, that being Norway and the UK. However, unlike the UK, Norway chose to reinvest its massive windfall into World Stock markets, establishing one of the first (indeed possibly the only) 'Sovereign Wealth fund' in Europe, currently the world's second largest. It is estimated that the country has sufficient founds already established to pay policing costs for the next five centuries, the army for the next 1000 years and other such statistics. It's Gini coefficient marking the disparity between the lowest paid and highest paid is also the lowest in the world. Foreign Policy magazine ranks Norway last of all on its 'Failed states' index, citing it as the most stable country in the World. Norway ranks high on every quality of life indicator one cares to mention. Indeed it was slightly jarring to find the Freedom House listing the country in its 'Human Rights' report at all, let alone making its listings incongruously alphabetic (think which country comes before it in the alphabet?) For those arguing that Norway acts as a model for the UK, however, bear in mind, it's significantly smaller population, much greater degree of racial hegemony and the fact it is not in the EU.( for me the crucial reason for its prosperity)

Hence it was strange to find tales of a gunman going crazy - immediately tabloid and press speculation abounded that the atrocity might have been the work of Al Qaeda, a supposition which turned out to be totally false, satirised quite aptly in yesterday's Guardian. It turns out, the killer, Anders Behring Breivik, was a far right extremist, whose 'manifesto' turns out to have been a bizarre collection of conspiracy theories, with much of its commentary plagiarised from a similarly slightly deranged figure from the Early 1990s in the States, the Unabomber . This has been seized on by supporters of multiculturalism and the end of the nation state as evidence that 'Nationalism' is arguably superior to Radical Islam as a clear and present danger to Western Society. It's worth looking at the tone of the Guardian article from Charlie Brooker. It almost relishes the fact that the wide supposition that the Norway tragedy was the work of Islamic extremists was off the mark. However, misguided the comments might have been, based on similar atrocities in Bali, Madrid and London, there was every reason to suppose it might well have been Islamic extremists who committed the crime. the fact they didn't is no reason to suppose the next time it might not be. As the admittedly controversial American writer Mark Steyn points out continually, according to any number of Jihadist websites, the West are 'all infidels'(and thus legitimate targets for Jihad) and whilst these extremists, I would agree constitute a minority of Muslims, they nevertheless pose a real threat to the West's stability.

The problem with this point is that it veers, at least for the Leftist dominated media, including the BBC (funded by a stipend from every household owning a TV in the land) and Guardian, dangerously close to racism. It is this failure to discuss the issue of whether unlimited immigration is desirable or even manageable which leads to the kind of unfocused rage which bred atrocities like Friday's. If a society such as Norway, on every measurable indicator wealthier, more stable and prosperous than the UK struggles to contain the pressures, what chance do we stand?

The picture has become murkier still, with a number of intrepid commentators pointing out that Breivik had links to arguably the sole remaining functional Far right organisation in Britain that comprises more than about 100 people, the English Defence League. This collection of beings, arguably appearing to comprise football hooligans with a vague political ideology is rightly opposed wherever it appears, invariably with the opposition coordinated through an organisation called 'Hope not Hate' which as the moniker says, is committed to 'celebrating Britain's diversity', and opposing extremists. All quite admirable, except that the organisation appears unwilling to countenance any extremism other than from the 'Political right' - look at its links to 'Hate groups' - only two: the EDL and the BNP. (nearly bankrupt and down to a rump of councillors)Any attempt to ask the organisation about its attitude to Muslim extremists merely produces the allegation that the person asking the question is a 'White extremist'. Sadly, until societies across Western Europe begin to examine whether it is desirable to have significant minorities who are wholly opposed to the concepts of Liberal democracies and indeed even a secular society, I fear that the Brevik tragedy will only be the first of many. To quote the late W.B Yeates:

' The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?'

Replace Bethlehem with Bradford, Burnley, Blackburn or Birmingham, and that's my fear for the UK. In the meantime, my sincerest condolences to the people of Norway, steadfast friends for many centuries to the UK. And Glenn Beck is a moron......

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