In Praise of Palmerston 99

It is impossible to read this without warming to Palmerston.

94 Picadilly
Oct 31, 1857

Rt Hon Sir B Hall
[Commissioner for Public Works, a cabinet post]

My Dear Hall,

I cannot agree with you as to the principle on which you think the grass in the park should be treated. You seem to think it is a thing to be looked at by people who are to be confined to the gravel walks. I regard it as a thing to be walked upon freely and without restraint by the people, old and young, for whose enjoyment the parks are maintained; and your iron hurdles would turn the parks into so many Smithfields, and entirely prevent that enjoyment. As to people making paths across the grass, what does that signify? If the parks were to be deemed hay-fields, it might be necessary to prevent people from stopping the growth of the hay by walking over the grass; but as the parks must be deemed places for public enjoyment, the purpose for which the parks are kept up is marred and defeated when the use of them is confined to a number of straight gravel walks.

When I see the grass worn by foot traffic, I look on it as a proof that the park has answered its purpose, and has done its duty by the health, amusement and enjoyment of the people.

In the college courts of Cambridge a man is fined half a crown who walks over the grass plots, but that is not a precedent to be followed

Yours sincerely


It is impossible to imagine a Prime Minister writing like that today, or any politician in power coming down on the non-authoritarian side of any argument.

Palmerston would have been absolutely furious at the government’s new secret courts, regarding them as fundamentally un-British. And he would have been quite right. I absolutely cannot believe the “Liberal Democrats” are doing this.

In judging the character of people, it is essential to take into account the environment in which they develop. There is no more convinced anti-monarchist than me, but I did not join in some unkind comments on this blog about the Queen’s recent illness, because I have spent some time with her and think she is a good woman. It is not her fault she was born as she was, and had I been I may well have behaved worse.

I appreciate Palmerston was not a socialist anti-colonialist. But it would have been very strange if he was.

99 thoughts on “In Praise of Palmerston

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  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Another long post from Saint Mary, but I didn’t spot an explanation of what she meant by her sentence “I hope she has not been consuming Brown Windsor Soup”. Her last post might indicate that the sentence was supposed to have been humourous. Shall we assume that it was latrine humour?

    By the way, who are the “we” you refer to? Have you the chutzpah to set yourself up as the tribune of the people? And why is my patriotism “contrived”? Is your pity for the suffering masses contrived?

    But to more serious matters.

    1/. Which parts of the Privy Councillor’s oath do you find particularly odious, Mary, and why exactly?

    2/. If the Monarch is the Head of State – which is the case – why do you begrudge a State Funeral? And the Monarch is also the Crown, so why is a coronation surprising?

    3/. I don’t think the money saved from not having a state funeral and a coronation would go very far to alleviating the misery of the masses. Your comments remind me a little of the moaning Minnies and killjoys who opposed the 1951 Festival of Britain by saying oh, we can’t possibly afford this in a time of post-war austerity, the money would be better spent on worthier causes. Luckily their views did not prevail and the Festival of Britain was recognised as being a great success (no, Dougie Scourge, I will supply neither sources nor explain what I mean by a success, so don’t bother to ask ;))

    For someone as old as you (as you told us) and with such a zeal for trawling through the media – and I’m sorry to have to say this – you really come across as a remarkably ignorant and blinkered person.


    La vita è bella, life is good!

  • craig Post author


    I understand what you mean, but it is her training I am referring to. We are all deeply influenced by our environment and experiences. You would not have the same opinions you have now if you had been born a member of the Royal family; our behaviour and beliefs are in part genetic but in part, normally the larger part environmental. The Queen is a remarkably pleasant person given how she grew up and – indeed – her training. Of course nobody should be brung up like that. But when you compare her personality and what we know of her actions to others from a comparable background – other members of the royal family, other monarchs, senior aristocracy, she is comparatively a good person (against the low standards of goodness of that class), and given a better chance in life to be so, could have been very nice.

  • Herbie

    Habbakuk refers us to:

    “the moaning Minnies and killjoys who opposed the 1951 Festival of Britain”

    The moaning minnies were primarily the Conservative party and other authoritarians. The festival was seen as a Labour party project, so much so indeed that the South Bank Exhibition was rapidly demolished by the incoming Conservative administration of Winston Churchill.

    So, thanks for exposing those reactionary moaning winnies, even whilst it’s obvious you yourself would have been at the forefront of that whining and moaning, where of course you remain today.

  • craig Post author


    You may not have seen a post a month or two ago where I ruefully complained that Nadira insisted on my dyeing my hair. I put my foor down and stopped, and the “Blonde” you describe (which is actually grey) is my natural colour.

  • Mary

    The Resident Interrogator said recently that I did not like the BBC. Quite so.

    Huw Edwards makes accurate reporting sound like some abstruse problem in quantum gravity, something ‘elusive’ that will perhaps forever be out of reach. But his fellow train passenger was surely right. There are ‘fundamental concerns about the BBC’s coverage of Afghanistan’ – and Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Iran, Syria, poverty, global capitalism, impending climate chaos, and on and on. But Edwards – someone entrusted with reading the News at Ten and commenting on royal pageants,no less – is part of the exclusive inner BBC News circle characterised by institutional groupthink that permits no fundamental concerns about the broadcaster’s role.

    Down The Barrel Of A Gun
    BBC Newsnight, Iraq And The Export Of Democracy
    05 March 2013
    By David Cromwell who is one of the co-editors of Medialens

    No more. I have already told the RI that I will not engage in his/her pointless exchanges. Four months’s worth of the jibes, insults and petty nonsense is enough. Whatever is the larger readership making of it? Just an embarrassment on this valuable blog.

  • Runner77

    Mary – – – I suspect that many readers have been adopting the same strategy as I have – not reading anything posted by the RI. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable and informative this blog is when one does that . . .

  • Jay

    To be fair Palmerston as with us is well aware that a well run park needs a good park keeper and staff.

    How they run the park is dependent on the people who use, as is clear authiritarian means may well be necessary:

    If some is letting their dog defacate regulary on the grass and refuses to stop and clear or clear it up, surely the situatiom would need to be addressed.
    Also volunteers should be forthcoming to work in the park,

    We all love nice parks.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Herbie (17h10)

    Yes, absolutely right, most of the moaning minnies were from the Conservatives, if for no other reason than the government of the time which proposed and then went ahead with the Festival was the second Atlee ministry. But my point was – as you well know – not a political one but to say that there will always be people to complain about any public event and say “this is a shameful waste of public money which could be better spent elsewhere”. Well, they have a right to their opinion, with which I happen to disagree. I also suspect that the majority of people would also disagree, but if you can point me in the direction of, say, public opinion polls or surveys on this kind of subject which say the opposite then I would be happy to stand
    Can’t say fairer than that!

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Mary (17h16)

    “What is the wider readership making of it?”

    Well, I wouldn’t object in the least – why should I – if lots of readers (as opposed to regular commenters) did post for once and tell us whether they objected or not.

    (Provided of course that all due precautions were taken to ensure that the Eminences didn’t all write in using 20 aliases each (that sounds a bit mean, but the level of intellectual dishonesty is such on this blog that I wouldn’t put this past them)

    For what it’s worth, I have long thought that there is no way that the 20 or so people who regularly comment here – and in particular that slightly smaller, self-referring mutual admiration and mutual support coterie I’ve been pleased to call the “Eminences” – could possibly be representative of the views of the much more numerous “passive” readership.

    BTW – I suppose that “Resident Interrogator” is your imitative riposte to my use of “Eminences” ? Fine by me, I think I rather like it!

  • johnf

    Domestic Extremist

    Apologies for that. (and to Ed Miliband)

    Like the Dimblebies, its often difficult to tell the difference.

  • CE

    If sharing your sense of humour in a public forum involves offensive and intolerant ‘jokes’, then you should expect to provoke comment from others. Habba is well within his rights to question hatred and intolerance, even if it is presented as a dubious form of humour.

    Mary has in fact admitted that part of the reasoning behind some of her more offensive ‘jokes’ is precisely to illicit such a response, leaving her open to the charge of one of her favourite labels.

  • Jives


    “Habba is well within his rights to question hatred and intolerance,”


    Anyone can see over months now who the intolerant bully-stalker is.

    Not to mention the deceitful use of fake names.

    Poor little Habba can’t even get his act together enough to cover his cheating multiple identity tracks.

    Multiple identities,cheating,bullying,and incompetent to boot.

    What a buffoon.


  • craig Post author

    The evidence seems to indicate that the vast majority of people don’t read the comments. Less than 0.3% of readers leave comments, and the amount of time spent reading each article seems to indicate most readers don’t read them either.

  • doug scorgie

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)
    5 Mar, 2013 – 10:27 am

    “There was also that stupid and offensive comment about diarhoeia and soiled laundry (that may have been Mary, but she can correct me if I’ve mis-attributed).”

    I agree with Clark: “Habbabkuk continues to harass Mary…”

    Habbabkuk you know it was I that commented about diarrhea but you chose to blame Mary, I wonder why.
    Also my comments were neither stupid nor offensive but dark (brown) humour. Perhaps you consider the Queen and the rest of royalty as being of a superior class of people who must be bowed down to and not criticized or made fun of.

    It sounds like you would support the following:

    BANGKOK — A labor activist and former magazine editor was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for insulting Thailand’s king, the latest in a string of convictions under the country’s strict lèse-majesté law.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Conflict

    Habbabkuk said, “I assume that even someone as irresponsible and paranoid as Mark Golding will take your word for it.”

    I note you draw your ‘strawman’ strength from negativity, preferring to strike when emboldened by variance, mid-course correction or mutation, ignoring the reality that free expression of an honest disagreement is a sign of mutual trust and respect. You were blind the inherent respect in my reply to Craig, in fact, completely missing the post sitting directly beneath Craig’s reply.

    Paranoid is somewhat closer to the truth, an emotional state yes, yet retaining the ability to rationally process and discuss the issue at hand. This despite witnessing the torture of Iraq parents unable to extricate their children suffering from treatable diseases, or comfort the minds of mutilated bodies, bodies full of life without limbs. I have seen and understood the anguish, listened to the aweful moans and smelt the pervasive smell of death.

    No amount of eye-rolling can countermand the present Iran memes that evoke eery parallels” to the AIPAC campaign for Iraq sanctions that paved the way for that stupid war. AIPAC is now using the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq.

    The pathetic platform Habbabkuk hangs his hat lacks accountability, thought and care.

    Life is beautiful when cherished but so easily abused.

  • doug scorgie

    5 Mar, 2013 – 1:26 pm

    “…I am also quite disturbed by the idea of CMP’s in the UK, but would you also agree the current system is not fit for purpose, when terror suspects can sue the intelligence and security agencies…”


    You disapprove of CMP’s then you go on to defend them.

    You say: “…terror suspects can sue the intelligence and security agencies…” Well of course they can and so they should if the intelligence and security agencies commit crimes against them.

    Do you believe that our intelligence and security agencies should be above the law and unaccountable?

    You go on:
    “…national security outweighs the public interest of having open justice.”

    So you support the likes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Guantanamo Bay then.

  • doug scorgie

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)
    5 Mar, 2013 – 2:31 pm

    “Well said,[Craig] and a comment I’d been meaning to make at the approproate juncture for some time now.”


    I see you have of late been trying to creep round Craig; not very becoming.

    You wrote:

    “BTW – can you imagine the buckets of urine that would have been poured on my head had I said what you did, Craig? I would have been called, variously, a Zionist hasbara agent, an authoritarian and, last but not least, a disrupter of this blog.”

    You missed out wanker.

  • Herbie

    Well, Habbakuk. This whole bread, circuses and public spectacle thing, is an interesting phenomenon in itself.

    The Romans moved to autocratic rule as “Bread and circuses” came to dominate.

    Can you assure us that the same thing isn’t happening in US/UK now too, or, is it different this time?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Herbie (20h18) :

    “Can you assure us that the same thing isn’t happening in the US/UK now too..”

    I can’t, of course, but I must be honest and say that I don’t think it’d matter very much, provided that the modern Augustus Imperator would not be George Galloway and that you and the other Eminences would be the first to be fed to the lions.

    But I digress it is difficult to take you very seriously. But I shall try, with this simple question : is there evidence of societies which are free of a certain amount of ritual, pomp and circumstance and reverence?

  • CE

    Doug Scourgie,

    Selective quoting, why am I not surprised? I also take it you are unaware that some individuals are capable of seeing both sides of an argument?

    At no point did I say that our security agencies should be above the law. I do however believe they should have the right defend themselves from charges without compromising agents or sources. I believe it is a complex issue that is not nearly as black and white as you propose.

    Again you cheaply selectively quote me, what I actually said was,

    “I think CMP’s should be available, but only if their use is decided by a Judge, and it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that their use is a last resort when national security outweighs the public interest of having open justice.”

    Only in your illogical reactionary world could that statement relating to the UK courts indicate my support for abhorrent repressive regimes abroad. Nothing like a good smear though, eh Douglas?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Dougie Scourge (19h25):

    “Also my comments were neither stupid nor offensive but dark (brown) humour”

    So I think we can agree that your comments were just…crap.


    La vita è bella, life is good! (Dougie has the toilet vote!)

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Craig Murray states (19h15) that

    “The evidence seems to indicate that the vast majority of people don’t read the comments”

    This is both shocking and reassuring. Why?

    It must be shocking for the Eminences that virtually nobody reads the vapourings over which they have taken so much trouble and into which they have poured so much careful thought, subtle analysis and dialectical skill. Shocking also for it to be revealed that they are, essentially, talking and preening to each other but to very few others. No wonder dissenting voices cause their systems such a shock. Shocking, furthermore, that the “shits” and “fucks” and, newly, “wankers” , far from raising cries of adulation from the to-be-convinced 99%, merely serve as meagre inspiration for fellow Eminences.

    On the other hand, it is reassuring that Craig Murray himself is unlikely to suffer reputational damage through association, in the public’s mind, with his crazier disciples. If the latter remain largely unread, there is little risk that someone will think “my God, if this is the sort of person he attracts, he must be as loony/stupid/uncivilised/illiterate as they are. Secondly, Craig’s information would seem to absolve me from the charge of bringing the blog into disrepute and I thus feel empowered to continue to expose the grosser absurdities of the Eminences secure in the knowledge that the only people reading my comments are those Eminences themselves and boy, they certainly do read them, LOL!)


    La vita è bella, life is good!

  • doug scorgie

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)
    5 Mar, 2013 – 9:01 pm

    @ Dougie Scourge (19h25):

    “Also my comments were neither stupid nor offensive but dark (brown) humour”

    “So I think we can agree that your comments were just…crap.”

    Ha! you have joined in the “toilet humour” you were ranting on about.

  • Mary

    I am so sad to hear just now that Hugo Chavez has died. May his good soul rest in peace.

  • craig Post author

    Personally I love the comments threads. I nominate the “not forgetting the al-hillis” thread as the greatest comment thread in the entire history of the blogosphere (for ehich I claim no personal credit, no comments by me there). And I am extremely attached to the community of regular commenters – equally to those who tend to agree and to those who tend to argue, without which it would all be very dull.

    Of course, my personal favourites are those who mostly agree with me but sometimes don’t. But pretty well everyone I value. I even miss Larry sometimes. And I really do miss Anticant, Postman Patel and others who have shuffled off this mortal coil since we started.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Crab; I fear there is much more room for hijinks…..

    “Opinion polls suggest Maduro, a former bus driver lacking the charisma of his old boss, will struggle against Capriles, a youthful challenger who casts himself as a centrist and has the support of traditional elites. Maduro, however, stands to benefit from an emotional funeral, a tight timetable and the “red machine”, a formidable electoral alliance of the ruling PSUV party, state institutions and oil revenues.”

    Correa is now the sole target for CANAL/CIA. How old is Mandela now? I also fear for SA.

  • Chris Jones

    Clark wrote:
    “Interestingly, it is also nearly impossible to imagine Habbabkuk “coming down on the non-authoritarian side of any argument”, whose comments always seem to favour the powerful and attempt to discredit those promoting progressive or minority opinion”

    A bit like you coming trying to put down anyone who doesn’t agree with the global authoritarian take on man made global warming and tarnish them as ‘deniers’ ey Clark?

  • crab

    The problem is not that you deny, it is what you deny. You take offense to being labelled “denier” a charge you would be comfortable with if you were not in denial :p

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