You recently raised questions for Janet Daley. ConservativeHome selected some of them and Janet answers them below.
Kathy: What is Ms Daley's opinion on Ann Coulter?
She is an interesting phenomenon from a British
point of view. Her confident defiance of what Americans call the
liberal (by which they mean left-wing) mindset, and her piss-taking
approach to its fatuities, would be very difficult to replicate here.
Almost everyone on the Right in Britain feels obliged to address the
Left in its own terms – which is to say, to take its assumptions
seriously. The more robust response of right wing commentators in the
US is a reflection of the relative strength of right-of-centre media.
There is an overweening consensus of pious left-liberal opinion in
Britain reflected particularly by the broadcasting media – and not just
the BBC – which turns rightwing opinion formers into defensive
Penultimate Guy: Or on Ms Coulter's British equivalent, Melanie Phillips?
I certainly do not see Melanie Phillips, who is a perfectly admirable,
and quite courageous, commentator as being anything remotely equivalent
to Ann Coulter.
Malcolm: What do you think President Bush should do about Guantanamo?
Because of the necessary secrecy of the operations, it is very difficult to assess the usefulness of the intelligence that US security forces are getting out of the inmates at Guantanamo, but there is good reason to believe (judging by the success with which they seem to have averted further major incidents) that it is of significant importance. The obvious question is, how can the value of this information be measured against the clear damage that is being done to America’s position in the world by the existence of this camp? The irony is that it is just because the US takes the constitutional guarantee of civil liberties so seriously, that it must hold these prisoners in an off shore no-man’s land. Once they set foot on American soil, they immediately come under the protection of the Bill of Rights, even as non-citizens. In Britain, the government can simply suspend traditional rights – such as habeas corpus – if it chooses. I do suspect that the pressure of international opinion is already causing the US to run the number of prisoners being held at Guantanamo down to an absolute minimum, and that some alternative solution will be found for the last remaining ones before long.
Matthew Oxley: Is there a danger that the problem of knife and gun culture could become as great here as it is in the US?
Probably not as great, but that is not grounds for complacency. Private
gun ownership has been an accepted tradition in American life since the
beginning of the Republic, and is, of course, protected by the
Constitution for historical reasons which go very deep in the national
psyche. Legislating against the purchase and possession of guns is
relatively easy here, but it is largely irrelevant in preventing the
criminal use of them. (There are people who claim that arming the
law-abiding citizenry actually helps to prevent crime.) The problem
with guns and knives in Britain is not constitutional but a matter –
like so much else – of ineffective policing. Knife-carrying by the
young in inner city neighbourhoods has become a symbol of lawlessness
but it is also a response to it: many young people now claim that they
must carry weapons to “protect themselves” in a juvenile street culture
that has become dangerously anarchic and violent. Only with a resurgent
visible police presence on the streets will there be any possibility of
breaking this cycle of threat and counter-threat. Gun crime requires
rather more specialised techniques: it is strongly associated with drug
dealing, and the turf wars of urban gangs. Combatting it takes
sophisticated intelligence work and long-term dedicated investigation
often involving international networks of informants. But in dealing
with both casual, amateur knife attacks, and professional, organised
gun use, it is essential that the police concentrate on prevention
rather than simply responding to incidents after they have occurred.
The police must see it as their duty to maintain order as well as to
solve crimes. There is a real risk that the British public will come to
see policing as so ineffectual that it will begin to demand the right
to arm itself.
David Banks: Is the law on sentencing an ass or is it politicians who are the real donkeys?
The rules of remission on sentencing are absurd: they make a nonsense of any common sense public understanding of how the criminal justice system operates and so help to undermine public confidence in our society’s ability to protect law-abiding people. There is at least one sense in which this Home Secretary, and his predecessors, have been wrong to criticise the judiciary for what seem to be anomalous sentencing decisions: it is the political class that have led the cultural move toward leniency in the prosecution of crime and the repudiation of imprisonment as a remedy for making the community safer. The systemic assumption that crime is inevitably “caused” by sociological factors now pervades the entire apparatus of prosecution and punishment. There will have to be a significant change in the moral and political climate, reflected in the education system, the intelligent media, and the attitudes of the judiciary, before any real progress can be made.
Michael Edioze-Ediae: Is there a link between the Left’s refusal to be tough on crime and its failure to enforce international rules (ie on Iran)?
Yes. See the answer above. A culture of collective guilt, whether it is on a national scale, or an international one, does not make it easy for a country to defend itself.
Alexander Drake: Why on earth are you a small-r republican???
Because I am a meritocrat.
Cranmer: Your erudition and intelligence are evident to any discerning person, as is your common-sense brand of Conservatism. Why do you think it is that the Conservative Party does not listen to you?
Actually, I think they do listen to me: they then just do the precise opposite of everything I say.
Aaron: Do we need to update our independent nuclear deterrent; how should we deal with nuclear challenge from Iran?
Failing to update our own nuclear capability would strengthen the hand of those who criticise British governments for being under the thumb of US foreign policy. The nuclear deterrent, under NATO auspices but with national governments in control of their own armaments, has kept the peace in Europe for two generations. To relinquish our own nuclear independence would tend to reinforce the fears (and the suspicions) of those who claim that there are dangers inherent in having only one global super-power, and who are inclined to talk of American hegemony.
On the second point, we must not vacillate in our resolve on the danger presented by a nuclear Iran. European countries have not distinguished themselves by appearing to put self-serving interests before a consistent stance on rogue states. The threat of serious sanctions, coupled with equally serious offers of help from the west for Iran, must be presented without equivocation or dissension. The lesson of Saddam – who was led to believe by his dealings with the French and the Russians that he was in no real danger of attack from the West – should be a cautionary tale. It is plausible to argue that his arrogant refusal to comply with UN resolutions (or to prove that he had complied with them) was partly a consequence of the disunity between America and Europe.