At Large

Pirates and the Politically Correct

The Royal Navy is nicer to pirates than the British Nanny State can allow itself to be.

By 12.2.08

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The Royal Navy may have been warned not to detain Somali pirates in case their human rights are violated, but Britain has cracked down firmly on pirates in other areas, such as children's parties.

If real pirates are to be unmolested at sea, and domestic violent crime has increased hugely in the last few years, still the Nanny State has never been Nannier. After all, two-thirds of the new jobs created in Britain since Labour came to power have been in the public sector, and they have to do something productive and useful for their salaries.

This is, after all, the society where an actor playing the brave Lord Nelson had to wear a life jacket over his glittering uniform when crossing the placid waters of the Thames near the Tower of London by boat.

When a crude replica of a pirate ship was erected in memory of the late Princess Diana at a children's playground in Kensington Gardens, commemorating Peter Pan's duels with the wicked Captain Hook, officialdom decreed that it should be purged of violent imagery such as cannon, walking the plank, and skull-and-crossbones flag.

Children's books featuring the exploits of the naughty 11-year-old schoolboy William Brown, who delighted in playing pirates, have been attacked as creating bad role models.

Recently the skull-and-crossbones flag has also been banned from being flown in the gardens of suburban houses hosting pirate parties on the grounds that it is unneighborly.

Local authority officials told the parents of 6-year-old Morgan Smith (not thought to be any relation to either the notorious Bloody Morgan, who sacked Porto Bello, or Aaron Smith, tried for piracy at the Old Bailey in 1823 but acquitted) that they must apply for planning permission to fly the flag, at a cost to them of about $150.

It was reported that an assessment of the 5'x4' flag's impact on the surrounding area would be undertaken before a decision was made as to whether the flag would be allowed for the party or not.

The young would-be picaroon's father was quoted as saying: "When the lady from the council came to see me she said the Jolly Roger was of concern. She took some pictures and said that we would have to take it down from now on. I've put in a planning application but I shouldn't have to go to all this trouble."

Similar trouble befell fireman and ex-soldier David Waterman (not known to be related to "Bully" Waterman, opium-runner and most dreaded of the Western Ocean Packet Skippers), of Ashstead, Surrey, when he flew a skull and cross-bones flag for his four-year-old daughter's pirate's party.

A neighbor complained and it was reported Waterman was facing court proceedings from the local council, whose spokesman said: "We are duty-bound to investigate complaints and enforce government regulations." Another neighbor then also hoisted a Jolly Roger as a gesture of solidarity with the Brethren of the Coast, but struck it after receiving a shot across the bows in the form of a warning letter from officialdom.

That old sea-dog Sir John Hawkins has also felt the wrath of the guardians of political correctness. One of the innumerable government-funded multiculturalism enforcers, the Plymouth Council for Racial Equality, attacked a proposal that a pub near Hawkins's birthplace in Plymouth be named after him, although in this case it was not because he cut out the occasional Spanish treasure ship but because he was a slave-trader.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Somalia the Royal Navy has reportedly received instructions from the Foreign Office not to detain pirates in case their human rights are breached. If sent back to Somalia they could, under Islamic law, face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft. (In Britain the death penalty for piracy on the high seas was only abolished in 1998.)

Captains of British warships patrolling off Somalia and other pirate-infested waters have also been warned that there is a risk captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain. Presumably they would be a charge on the State because they would not even be able to make new careers for themselves there at children's parties, or at least not without planning permission.

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About the Author
Hal G.P. Colebatch's "Immram," Counterstrike, is being published by Australian publisher Imaginites.