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Tuesday, August 10, 2004


A letter to Michael Howard

I have decided to post the letter I have just sent to Michael Howard on the blog. The letter relates to Howard's 'law and order' speech in Middlesborough. The link above refers you to the full text of the speech on the Conservative Party website. It will be interesting to see what sort of reply I get. What I do get will be posted here.

Andrew Bartlett
XX Xxxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxx

10th August 2004

Michael Howard MP
Folkestone and Hythe Conservative Association
4 Westcliff Gardens
CT20 1SP

Dear Mr Howard,

I read the full text of your speech on the topic of Law and Order, published on BBC News Online, as delivered in Middlesborough on August 10th 2004. I would like to point out a serious logical error in your argument.

You are reported as saying, ‘many people now believe that they are no longer wholly responsible for their actions. It's someone else's, or something else's fault - the environment, society, the Government.’ You describe sociology as ‘mumbo-jumbo’.

Yet, if people were wholly responsible for their actions, and no causative effect could be ascribed to ‘the environment, society, the Government’, how could any action taken by a future Conservative Government have any effect on the rate of crime?

Given that you are committed to cutting crime, and that you are able to draw distinctions between the results of Conservative policy and Labour policy, I must presume that you ascribe some causative weight to the role of Government in the rate of crime, and therefore the commission of acts of crime by individuals.

How are you to determine between the effects of different policies? Unless the Conservative Party has abandoned reason, it will do so by examining the evidence. By definition, this evidence will be gathered by students of society - sociologists, no less.

Given the inconsistencies in your argument I am forced to make one of two conclusions. The first is that the Conservative Party has abandoned logic and reason. The second is that the Conservative Party believes that by promoting illogical, inconsistent arguments it will convince voters that it holds the answers to make a better Britain. The first conclusion reflects badly on your intellect. The second conclusion reflects badly on your morals.

The promotion of illogical, inconsistent argument is profoundly anti-democratic. Democracy is government by debate, by argument, by parlayment. Poor reasoning should be swept aside by stronger, more consistent argument. But this is not always the case, as the platforms accorded to arguments are not always consistent with their merits. People can be convinced by unreason, when put persuasively and forcefully enough. Yet a collective decision arrived at through a process of unreason is democracy corrupted. Defenders of democracy should, above all else, use the platforms that they have been granted to argue with reason. You have failed to do this. As you are a Member of Parliament, an active and prominent participant in our democratic process, I would like you to explain why.

Yours Sincerely,

Andrew Bartlett

Be interesting to see what he had to say. I remember listening to this on 'Today in Parliament@ or something like it, as I was going to sleep the other evening. I must admit I thought I was listening to an old Spitting image routine.

I cannot imagine this is going to win the Conservative party any votes.
The crazy thing is this may well win the conservatives votes. The problem that anyone with a liberal/leftist agenda faces is that conservatism and rightwing policy always calls on a very commonly seductive view of human nature that prevails in our society. That being; selfishness, individualism, and all associated forms of conduct are ‘natural.’ Of course, I hardly need to point out the problems of calling on ‘nature’ or ‘naturalness’ when making this kind of argument, but the common understanding (for whatever reason) of people does seem to follow this line of thinking.

As for the letter, I think it’s excellent. Keep up the good work!
David M
Incidentally, I have not as yet, more than three months later, received a reply. I will consider sending the letter again, if only to be a nuisance.
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