Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Thursday, 19 July 2007

The Persecution of Lord Black

Since Friday the 13th, press coverage in Britain and Canada has been saturated with the shakespearean tragedy of Lord Black, who has fallen victim to the somewhat thuggish ways of the American prosecutorial state. Most of it has been shadenfreude nonsense of course, many of the reporters gleefully re-playing sensational talk of parties, trips and corporate perks, even when they knew after the jury's verdict that it was completely irrelevant to the case at hand. But few things are juicier to the "swarming, grunting masses of jackals", as Black famously called them, than engaging in class warfare, and revelling in the fall of a man who had the temerity to rise in life above their station.

Yes, even today with Black as a convicted felon on a minority of the counts (according to law, but not according to justice), I naturally support the Anglophilic and feudalist Lord, the world's last traditional press baron, who so ingloriously lost his newspaper empire by needlessly pissing off shareholders and inviting the vigilantes of American justice. A proprietor at heart, he should never have been involved in the running of a public company in the first place, far more did he care about print over profits, the debate and ideas of national politics, the splendid writing of biographical history, than any zest for the corporate boardroom or concern for shareholder wealth. Even though he made them billions (and they stupidly pissed it all away launching corporate-busting lawsuits), in terms of his business dealings he was far more suited as Lord of his own fiefdom, and not suited one bit to the corporate constraints as controlling minority owner of a public company.

What I find surprising is how so very few understand the man, or appreciate the things that motivate him. Although he is a strong proponent of the capitalist creed, he is not so particularly engrossed by it. He had no religion on making a buck like they do in corporate America; he was in it more for the international prestige. To understand Lord Black is to understand that he is an old fashioned elitist, enamoured not by power and wealth, but by greatness - great men, great battles and great nations. Corporate greed was the stuff of his self-serving and backstabbing partner, the skulking liar of a rat, David Radler, who would ration the pencils of his reporters to save himself money. Black with his intellectual pursuits and baroque vocabulary is not such a man. Not by a longshot.

The fact that Conrad Black was forced to give up his Canadian citizenship to become a British Lord reflects badly not on him but on us. Why do we single out and persecute the man in this way - why would we want to disown such an exceptional Canadian? Because he attacked our mediocrity, because he dared to criticize the Liberal and liberal media establishment? Because we were envious or ashamed of his success and worldly stature? Yes, there has been a great deal of fawning over Lord Black by the media, but that is because they find his pomposity and medievalism profoundly amusing and know it makes good press (see above Lord and Lady Black attending dinner party as Cardinal Richilieu and Marie Antoinette). But although they offer mitigated praise for the man's talents, they are mostly salacious in their condemnation of the man's faults. In their fixation they celebrate the titan's fall from grace. They would no doubt celebrate more if this tragedy ever produces its Lady MacBeth.

Elsewhere: David Warren shares my thoughts perfectly.


Aeneas the Younger said...

As much as I admire his intellectual gifts, the fact remains that Lord Black has long suffered from an excessive love of lucre. This goes back at least to the days when he was rusticated from UCC for selling exams.

A feudal lord of the first order does not advocate a Randian social order. A most honourable lord advocates for the Common Good. Black was really none of these things, nor did he really demonstrate such virtue.

In the end, it appears he was just another son of tired old money that was not enough to put him in the first rank of modern capitalists. So, he sought out his fortune.

To his shame however, he showed a galling lack of judgment whilst on this mission. From his days at Argus raiding the pension fund of Dominion employees to his last brush with malfeasance, he has consistently demonstrated an inability to see that great men only become great by doing great things - usually by giving more than they take.

I am all for the Aristocracy - but perhaps the difference between you and me - is that I believe they should feel a strong sense of noblesse oblige.

Lord Black, for all his obvious gifts, was hardly a noble lord. He was ultimately what he always was - "naked ambition" personified.

To my mind, he sealed his own fate the day he became betrothed to that shrew: Barbara Amiel.

She ceased to demonstrate any utility after 1983.

It is too bad you and I cannot agree on this, but I will say one final thing: the fact that Tony Blair propelled Black into the peerage is telling. Think about it.

I sincerely doubt that Conrad would have made the HoL under a Tory PM. I have just enough connections back in England to make this assertion with a high degree of certainty.

Kipling said...

I was once asked to sum up what made Churchill so unique a man, not simply his great personal characteristics but his views and attitudes. One word immediately came to mind: anachronism. Churchill was an Edwardian Liberal who found himself living in a re-primitivized era and held fast to the old truths - dare we say to the Gods of the Copybook Headings?

Black, on a far smaller scale, is also an anachronism, he is holding fast to the old truths. If he seems a bit uncouth to our British High Tory friends let us remember he is a Canadian. I believe it was Lord Dufferin, one of our early Governor-Generals, who hoped that Canadians would have the energy and common sense practicality of Americans with the grace, diginity and traditions of Britain. The best of the two polar opposites of the English speaking world.

To some of our British relatives this may seem a touch grasping, even vulgar. Take the Dominion Pensions issue from the 1980s, which the was eventually brought before the Supreme Court of Canada and decided against Black's position. The media portrayed Black as raiding workers pensions, not quite. I believe the pension was structure as a defined benefit plan i.e. the participants were guaranteed an approximate flow of income at retirement. Actuaries calculate whether such pensions are under or over funded to meet that projected obligation. If they're overfunded that means, typically, the employer has put in more money than needed, either because gross contributions or earnings have been higher than expected. For the noblesse oblige this seems like a moot point, the money should be given to the workers in any case. To the North American it's a business deal - the employer takes the risk that financial markets will underperform and the employer will have to cover the underfunding, if the market does better than expected then the employer has gambled well.

To the less paternalistic mind on this side of the water it just doesn't sound crass.

As for the peerage being given by Tone, let's recall that ownership of the Telegraph typically entails a baronage. I'm not surprised that a Tory PM in this day and age wouldn't want to give Black a title. The Conservative Party is in full flight from the legacy of Mrs T. Black, as is perhaps obvious from the picture above, is a friend of the former PM - though they have had their ups and downs over the years.


The Monarchist said...

Appreciate the comments. Although Tony Blair did raise him to the peerage, he was not nominated by a Labour MP. He was picked from the Tory list (in the UK the opposition is actually allotted so many positions) and recommended by William Haig, the Tory leader at the time. So he was indeed nominated by a Tory, picked as a Tory and sat as a Tory. He was not Tony Blair's choice.

As for Black's noblesse oblige, three months ago he donated $1 million to the new Opera House in Toronto. When freelance writers for his papers got sick and came down with cancer or whatnot, he was known to keep them on pay, when they were entitled to no benefits. I don't know the extent of his givings, but he has engaged himself with philanthropy in the past, so I am not so sure you are correct on that score.

I don't mean to overlook his ethical faults and his bending of the rules, they way he was able to take $8 million to gain control of $3 billion in Argus assets, but I don't for a minute believe him to be a crook. He got nailed for taking personal boxes from his office and for mailing cheques, not for racketeering, money laundering and other ridiculous pile-ons. I think the whole Ravelston controls Hollinger Inc controls Hollinger International pyramid scheme where a minority shareholder is able to gain a majority of voting shares is the farce and the fraud in this whole story. Perhaps the SEC should consider changing that to prevent resourceful people like Black from getting in there in the first place. Black played fast and loose, but this is a persecution.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Yes, to a great degree it is a persecution - borne of Lord Black's inability to manage optics effectively. But within all of this there is a tendency that arises again and again - a clumsiness when it comes to money. This clumsiness appears greedy. Whether it is or not, I cannot say, but it always appears that way. It is not class-envy to see this from the perspective of the last 40 years.

Black making the peerage via Hague's list through Blair list is a different thing than if Hague had been PM. I am not sure it would have happened so quickly in the reverse scenario. Black was considered rather gauche, and his wife to be unsufferable - and this has less to do with being Canadian. Contrast public images with the recently demised Ed Mirvish, MBE.

As well, that Lord Black was beneficial in some respects does not detract from the facts. He has a history.

Dear fellows, Lady Thatcher was the right PM for her times - but her times have past. Let's admire her virtues for what they were, but let us not assume that her liberalism is a playbook for all time - that is too abstract & ideological for real conservatives.

In the end, Lord Black shot himself in the foot and was brought to the Surgeon's office in Capone's town. His inability to manage Jean Chretien (who I despise ...) resulted in him having to unnecessarily renounce his citizenship - which has now stranded him between a Canada that cannot take him back and a Britain which will not take him back ...

For a such a smart man, he has made some dumb moves. You need to ask yourselves "why"? What causes this?

Defending the Peerage is a different thing than defending this particular Peer.

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