On Living in a Moral Sewer

On Living in a Moral Sewer
Sean Gabb
(9th January 2017)

Just over two months ago, I was interviewed by The Daily Mail. Let me give the facts of the story that I was told.

Kelly Jarvis was a police officer in the North of England. In 2013, she took a personal dislike to Fiona Miller, a member of the public. At first, she contented herself with sending poison pen messages by text and via social media. Then, using the access she had to the relevant databases, she fabricated a set of entries to make it appear that Mrs Miller was sleeping with an underage boy and abusing her own son. In 2015, the social workers came knocking. Early in 2016, the police turned up at Mrs Miller’s home so see whether her son was in immediate danger.

Fortunately, PC Jarvis had not covered her tracks, and Mrs Miller was able to complain. The Cleveland Police investigated. According to The Daily Mail:

It [the report] found she [PC Jarvis] had exploited her training and knowledge of working in a unit which deals with malicious communication offences to harass Fiona by creating three false Facebook profiles to send her abusive and upsetting messages.

In addition, the report upheld the allegations that she had accessed police systems inappropriately and made false referrals to the NSPCC.

The nasty falsehoods went on and on, painting a picture of a filthy house full of barking dogs and of Tommy being left for hours to cry himself to sleep while Fiona and Steven screamed and shouted at each other all night—all of which were recorded as ‘facts’ on Fiona’s police file.

In there, too, was the statement about Fiona having sex with a 14-year-old boy—a boy who is now a man. He is now in a relationship with one of her friends. When he heard of the lies being told in his name, he submitted a statement to police to deny that he and Fiona had ever had a sexual relationship.

Pulling no punches, the police report said: ‘As a police officer, PC Jarvis should have been honest and diligent in the exercise of her duties and responsibilities and provided the correct details on the referral forms… she has acted in a manner which discredits the police force.’

I am not sure why criminal charges were not laid against PC Jarvis. A disciplinary case was opened against her. However, she was allowed to resign before the hearing, thereby keeping her pension arrangements intact.

I gave a long interview on this case. Sadly, my comments were summarised, accurately but incompletely, as follows:

Civil liberties campaigner Dr Sean Gabb, of the Libertarian Alliance, described the case as ‘outrageous’, adding: ‘The issue is that a police officer thought there was nothing wrong whatsoever in using her position to mess up someone else’s life. It is blatant moral corruption and cannot be tolerated.’

I do not blame The Daily Mail for failing to quote me at length. Instead, here is what I said in full.

This is a shocking case. What concerns me most, however, that it is being turned into a discussion of whether new laws or codes of conduct are needed—whether, for example, a police officer should be allowed to resign before the outcome of a disciplinary hearing. Perhaps the law should be changed in this instance. But we have spent the past two generations heaping new laws on new laws. If these laws could have worked as we were promised, we might now be living in some paradise on earth. The truth is that institutions are only as honest as the individuals within them, and laws are only as good as those enforcing them. Rather than looking for yet another new law, and telling ourselves that this will the keystone in our arch of moral perfection, we should consider that we live in a country where moral corruption has become normal.

Wherever we look in the state services, there is corruption. There is nepotism. There is favouritism and bullying. There is fraud. There is negligent waste. There is bribe-seeking. There is an obsession with secrecy, to keep these facts from investigation and punishment. You see this in local government, and in the National Health Service. You see it in the Police. You see it in education. You see it in the administration of justice. I have my stories to tell. I am sure you have yours. Taken together, these show a spreading stain of moral corruption.

I do not wish to exaggerate. On this occasion, there was an investigation. Assuming the facts reported by The Daily Mail are even approximately true, I am surprised there were no criminal charges. But, if her pension was saved, PC Jarvis was ruined. There are countries, even in Europe, where an investigation would have been squashed, and where any reporter trying to find what happened would have faced harassment and perhaps threats of murder. England is still not that sort of country. But the facts as reported are no grounds for complacency.

I could take the mainstream libertarian line, and say that corruption and the State are inseparable, and we cannot expect the first to vanish until the second also has vanished. I agree that the British State tries to do too many things. Many of these should be done by others. Many should not be done at all. PC Jarvis would have had less opportunity for corruption, given a much smaller and weaker state machinery. If true, though, this line is unhelpful. The State is unlikely to vanish in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, there is corruption.

As an aside, I will add that the last time anyone who called himself a libertarian had political influence in this country, things were made worse than they were already. In 1989, I attended a private meeting in which Teresa Gorman explained the Thatcher Government’s plan for the contracting-out of local government services. With rising scorn, I dismissed the plan as a sure recipe for corruption—that councillors and local government officers would sell contracts to the highest bidder. That, or contracts would be given to people with funny handshakes. The organiser of the meeting took me aside afterwards, and warned me never again to embarrass him or his grand friends. To do her justice, Mrs Gorman was not offended. On and off for the next ten years, she employed me as a ghost writer. She even paid me with greater promptness than was her custom.

But I return to the main thread of my argument. I speak of a spreading stain of moral corruption. This is notoriously spreading from the top. Most people take their lead from those above them. When those in charge are honest and competent, those they direct will at least tend to honesty and competence. When people see that those who manage them are scoundrels, and that those who manage their managers are still greater scoundrels, they will themselves tend to dishonesty and incompetence.

Why should PC Jarvis not have abused her powers, when there is no one in England who believes that David Kelly committed suicide in 2003? Why should people not take bribes, when everyone knows that Members of Parliament are bribed and blackmailed by foreign intelligence agencies? Why should anyone behave justly in the state sector, when those set above him are generally incompetents with sticky hands? I could write at length about what I was told, and what I believe, about the agreement to that gave Hong Kong to Communist China. I could write from personal authority about the awarding of the contract to run the National Lottery. I could ask how so many living politicians have become so rich. I could write about the sexual predations of dead politicians like Cyril Smith and Greville Janner and Leon Brittan. But this would turn an essay into a dissertation. I will only say that it has become a rebuttable presumption that anyone in public life is only there for money or sex or both. When someone is shown to be straight, the general response is incredulity. This does not excuse what PC Jarvis did. But it does explain how people of limited intelligence and a weak moral sense will behave when faced with temptation.

Again, I do not wish to exaggerate. There never was a time in this country when public life was entirely clean. Lloyd George kept the Great War going two years longer than he needed, so he could grow rich out of the kick-backs from the contracts he was handing out to his friends in the armaments trade. I have suspicions about our entry into the Second World War. Compared with that, the modern corruptions I have mentioned are very little.

Even so, there is something dispiriting and sordid about modern England, and the case of Kelly Jarvis is a good epitome of all that is rotten. I say above that we have still not reached the degraded level of other countries. Other things being equal, we are headed in that direction.

I could ask why this has happened. Why is nearly everyone at the top bent or useless? This is another opportunity for writing at length, and I will not take it, except to suggest the Somme and Passchendaele as probable causes. Instead, I will try to end on a positive note. Our abilities to find out and make public what is happening have never been greater than they now are. So far, what has been uncovered has created a mood of pervasive cynicism. Sooner or later, though, there must be some kind of reckoning. When that happens, I hope the primary site of infection will not be overlooked.


  1. Well said Sir. Brilliant stuff. Pity the villain got away again!!.
    Perhaps the learned doctor would care to take a trip to the lowly British Constitution Group and learn how to take out a private prosecution so that you could advise the next victim how get redress and the next offending police officer would be in fact punished. Apparently one court solicitor was so impressed by one BCG activist that he admitted for the first time in 20 years he now understood what to do!! It is all there on Google Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war….?

  2. The system is rigged. Its based on corruption or incompetence at best. Now, how can it be possible to have corrupted criminals who are totally unfit to lead countries, with no concrete possibility for a change to be witnessed, ever?
    Let’s again remind of Cromwell’ speech (Apr,20 1653) and let’s see it in nowadays’ global perspective. Our ‘rulers’ are nothing but mere puppets of trans-national, restricted groups of powers. They have a discreet amount of freedom when it comes to pursue their own filthy interests. Yet their hidden burden is to comply to the agenda those groups impose. The state, in its ethic & national meaning, has been murdered since long.

  3. The only difference between the modern “moral sewer” and that of times past is that it’s been democratized. David “Panama Papers” Cameron, JP Morgan’s “London Whale,” binge-drinking Londoners — none of it can hold a candle to the Borgias (viz., page 34 of Manchester’s http://www.ahshistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/A-WORLD-LIT-ONLY-BY-FIRE.pdf).
    All in all, I’d take the spectacular anti-Christ to the seedy, smutty peccadilloes of our legion bureaucrats.
    (Just a hangnail, but isn’t that “quashed” instead of “squashed”?)

  4. This is an age-old theme, isn’t it. Everything is morally going to rot. Personally, I don’t share the author’s pessimism, but I have specific reasons for that. I am not an optimist. Rather, I see myself as a realist.

    I think, if anything, it’s harder to get away with corruption now. As an example, PC Jarvis didn’t get away with it, did she. It probably seems like there’s more of it for that reason – it’s easier to get caught, whereas in the past the relevant behaviour was concealed and there were no mechanism for disclosure. Now there are. I suspect that in most cases, what Dr. Gabb characterises as cover-ups are in fact a failure or refusal to disclose, which is not quite the same thing.

    But on the point in question, I prefer being governed by corrupt people. I think they’re less dangerous than morally upstanding people. Morally-sound people can do a lot of damage when given power. A morally-sound person might want to end poverty – and he’ll do it at my expense, stealing my money, except he’s a moral and upstanding fellow, you’ll understand, so it’s not stealing, it’s ‘tax’.

    At least with criminals, I know where I stand and they’re less likely to interfere in my daily life because they’re too busy stealing. Good luck to them, is my attitude. In fact, assuming we have to have a state, the way I would run things is that I would see my taxes as a ‘pay-off’, a bit like protection money that you pay to a mafia, in return for which the government leaves me alone as much as possible. If they want to steal and plunder, they’re welcome, as long as they keep out of my affairs. To me, that’s as near as possible to the ideal form of government in a political community.

    But this is where we come to a fundamental philosophical difference I may have with the author. I see morality as a rationalisation rather than a free-floating ‘good’. It’s largely just a pretence. It’s a value above Nature that has evolved because of the positive pay-offs it brings to individuals and groups. It’s a special thing, because it puts us above the rest of the animal kingdom, but it’s just trained and indoctrinated behaviour. There is nothing intrinsically meritorious in saying that you should not murder anybody. We have that rule to keep order and because none of us want to be murdered.

    Regarding the late Dr. Kelly-

    [quote]”Why should PC Jarvis not have abused her powers, when there is no one in England who believes that David Kelly committed suicide in 2003?”[unquote]

    The evidence supports suicide, when you look at it without blinkers on. I’ve read Norman Baker’s book, and I was entirely unimpressed. He wants there to be a conspiracy, and it’s not surprising that he finds evidence of one. That doesn’t mean there was.

    The poor chap lied to a parliamentary committee, and it was all too much for him, so he killed himself.

    Forgive me, I can’t quite remember now what Baker’s theory was – it’s a while since I’ve read the book, and I think he might have put forward two or three alternatives – but I think at one point he speculates about the possibility that it was a revenge attack by the Iraqi government (as it then was), or maybe Iraqi dissidents in the UK. I could be wrong in my recollection, but anyway, those are among the more plausible theories floating around. Even if something like that is true, what difference does that make? The poor man’s dead anyway.

    On the other hand, if you’re saying that there was UK government involvement, then Denning’s “appalling vista” spring to mind. It’s not strictly an argument, but if the UK government killed him, that would mean that not only do they kill masses of people under lawful pretext in their wars and sundry military aggressions abroad, but they are also cold-blooded murderers of harmless British citizens. The enormity of that is too much, even for me.

    Is it very plausible, do you think, that poor Dr. Kelly was murdered by his own government? Would Geoff Hoon go and see the widow and extend his condolences to her after the hit? A bit like Peter Sutcliffe popping round to the parents of one of his victims to pay his respects at the wake. I mean, really?

    And do we really think that Tony Blair or the UK government intelligence agencies are murderers or would in any way allow themselves to be complicit in the unlawful killing of a British civil servant in that context and under those circumstances (context being everything here)? Apart from anything else, why on earth would they take the attendant risks?

    I accept it’s possible, and I can imagine things like that might have happened during the Cold War, and of course there were extra-judicial killings by the British state during the Irish Troubles, and this sort of thing might still happen – but the context of those actions was different. Dr. Kelly was not a spy or a terrorist and he was not a mortal threat to anybody. The government had overwhelming public and media support for the war and had no compelling motive to kill him, and certainly no justification.

    I just find it a bit of a stretch.

    • I think the Americans arranged it. But it was summer, and everyone decent was on holiday, so they got some bodgers to do the dirty.

    • Regarding Kelly; I have no idea what the Truth is, but there are certainly a lot of un-answered questions. Some concern the evidence itself (allegations that the body had been moved; absence of blood at the scene; evidence from a number of doctors that it would be all but impossible to commit suicide in such a fashion; the fact that he had just bought a place ticket for a family event; a suspicious phone call being placed [can’t remember by whom to whom] ‘before’ the body had been discovered, etc etc). More troubling is the fact that Dr Kelly is the only person since the fourteenth century to have been denied an inquest. Hutton, in my view, was a stooge; Blair and co ‘had something on him’ and used that to lean on him to give the answer they wanted. The ‘evidence’ at the Hutton enquiry was not taken under oath, and many potential witnesses were not even interviewed. Then there is the fact that the papers have been locked away for about a million years. All of this strongly suggests there is something fishy going on. And then of course there is Blair’s alleged reaction when he was told the news (he is said to have ‘turned white’ I believe). It is possible that Dr Kelly committed suicide, but if I were a betting man I would bet he had been killed. The preponderance of the evidence suggests so, whereas there is next to no evidence of suicide.
      On the other side of the argument, of course, how would the government actually engineer such an act? I can’t see Blair as a crazed knife-man. Any government conspiracy must have involved several actors. Did Campbell hire a hit-man? If so, why has the story not leaked out by now?
      The only thing we can say with certainty is that government seems determined to prevent us finding out the truth. Why?

    • Tom, I must disagree.

      You say “I prefer being governed by corrupt people. I think they’re less dangerous than morally upstanding people.”

      Morally upstanding people wouldn’t take part in today’s politics at all. Except, possibly, in self defence. They certainly wouldn’t try to impose their prejudices on anyone else.

      You say of morality, “It’s a value above Nature that has evolved because of the positive pay-offs it brings to individuals and groups. It’s a special thing, because it puts us above the rest of the animal kingdom.”

      Don’t you see the contradiction between these two sentences?

      For me, the question is not whether the human species needs a moral code, but what it should be.

  5. Sean, you mentione The Sommed and Paschendaele. A few very quick observations as I have to dash out; 1) the pocket book issued to soldiers contained a sample will. It contained something like this; “I leave all my worldy goods to my mother”. These were just boys. 2) Film footage of dances immediately after the War often showed women dancing with women. So many men had been killed. 3) The Great War was a kind of inversion of the laws of nature; instead of the survival of the fittest, it was the slaughter of the fittest. 4) Isn’t it amaxing how nature has redressed the balance of the sexes?

    • Just over 10% of adult British and Irish males aged from 14-55-ish were killed, and about another 40% more or less seriously wounded or traumatised. For the Dominions, the mortality figure was up to twice that for each. Entire small towns, mostly in the North, lost their males of a whole generation in one hit. I’ve got villages round here with say 30-40 houses in them and little or no modern development therein; and a typical War Memorial on its Green, or often in the churchyard, will have about 30 names on it from WW1. Many of these will be the same as each other.

      On the large memorial in Southport town centre, there are 44 chaps called “Rimmer” on just one of the walls. I counted them. Tthere are about 20 Hallsalls mingled with them.

      These percentages are of course rather less than for Germany, Austria, France, Italy or Russia. Historical stats indicate that a whole nation’s morale will degrade critically when the battle-mortality percentage goes above 11% to 12% of males, so we got off slightly less badly.

      I think that the Anglosphere nations are the only ones where regular formal commemoration takes place. This in itself is a slight positive, to be less unglad about than one might be.

      There was a Sunday-DT article in early July 1981 dealing with the 75th anniversary of the Somme. I wish I’d kept it. It said inter-alia that “the effects of this loss continue to be felt today”.

      I am sorry but I have to take issue with Sean about the strategic rightness of ending WW1 in 1916. This is granted that Lenin might then have remained an unwanted scumbag in Switzerland. And possibly Lenin might have been done away with later.

      However, the Kaiser was an autistic psychopath bent on world domination, especially through “getting” Russia before Russia could “get” Germany (it’s what the War was all about) and had to be stopped. If he’d been allowed to “get” Russia, while “leaving France and Belgium” – and leaving us in possession of The High Seas….for now…and if Austria-Hungary had shambled on a little longer with its centre now (even temporarily) emboldened, things would all have had to be to do again, later. And worse, with by then, less money.

      And the High Seas Fleet would not finally have mutinied, on being ordered to go out on a suicide mission in November 1918. And then we’d be “stuck with it” , “in being”.

      Furthermore, in 1916 we were already totally in hock to America, and Wilson couldn’t be relied on, being a Dodgy Democrat. That doesn’t escuse Lloyd-George for also being a shifty thieving toad and a shallow demagogue. I think John Buchan takes the mild piss out of Ll-G obliquely, at one point in his novel “Mr Standfast”.

      I really have to say I don’t know what the right course of action would have been. But taking myself back to 1916, I can’t see what else we could have done, but keep buggering on.

      • “Historical stats indicate that a whole nation’s morale will degrade critically when the battle-mortality percentage goes above 11% to 12% of males, so we got off slightly less badly.” I would be interested to know where this figure comes from and how it was derived?
        When Abraham Lincoln invaded the Confederacy, he started a war that would wipe out almost ten per-cent of the ENTIRE population of the country. I can’t recall the percentage of young men that this equates to (and it is too early in the morning to work it out!), but it was very much higher than your 11-12%, and I believe we are still today feeling the effects of this attrition, along with the consequences of Lincoln’s re-ordering of the Union.

        • Apologies – my statistics were off. I was taking the population of the US as 9 million, whereas it was much higher. I said it was too early for this sort of stuff! I will get the correct figures later but have to dash now!

  6. ” The truth is that institutions are only as honest as the individuals within them, and laws are only as good as those enforcing them. Rather than looking for yet another new law, and telling ourselves that this will the keystone in our arch of moral perfection, we should consider that we live in a country where moral corruption has become normal.”
    A propos, “The Pink Swastika” provides some very interesting relevant history.

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