Wednesday, November 08, 2006

British town hall tyrants waging class war

"We are the masters now," Labour Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross sneered at the Tory opposition during a stormy Commons debate in 1946. It was a comment that reflected a mood of arrogant triumphalism within Labour following its general election landslide of a year earlier.

Today, a similar mood of political arrogance seems be growing within our town halls. No longer the servants of the British public, municipal bureaucrats now appear to believe they have the right to harass and punish local citizens who are deemed not to be behaving in the correct ideological manner. And, as with most forms of institutional bullying, the increasing authoritarianism of local government is perpetrated in the name of civic progress.

The decision by Richmond council in south-west London to hammer owners of large cars is a further example of this worrying trend. Self-righteously parading their supposed environmental credentials, the Liberal Democrat burghers have come up with a sliding scale of charges for residents' parking permits, under which those with Jaguars, Range Rovers or 4x4s will see a 200 per cent increase in their bills to some 300 pounds a year.

The justification for this municipal larceny is that the high emissions from such vehicles are creating long-term damage to the planet. So, in the twisted mindset of Richmond's rulers, a local resident wanting to park his own car outside his own house in his own street has been transformed into a nasty polluter who should be heavily penalised for his selfish irresponsibility. Though presented as an environmental measure, in truth this is little more than an act of class war against the affluent. It is a form of megalomania by the council to try to dictate patterns of car ownership within its boundaries.

But Richmond's decision is part of a wider pattern of ideological fervour that is sweeping across local authorities, trampling on personal rights and demanding complete obedience to a fashionable Left-dominated political agenda. We can see a similar approach in the official obsession with recycling, which has reached such a lunatic level that individuals are now being criminalised for allegedly failing to dispose of their waste correctly. In one bizarre case last week, Michael Reeves, a writer from Swansea, was fined 200 pounds for putting an item of junk mail in a recycling bag meant for glass. Mr Reeves denied the charge, and there was no evidence against him, either from witnesses or CCTV footage. But traditions of natural justice mean nothing to the green revolutionaries of the town hall, who refuse to tolerate any dissent.

Indeed, the recycling maniacs of the Devon local authority of Teinbridge are now acting just like apparatchiks from the old East Germany, urging the public to act as spies against those failing to comply with the new municipal creed. "People who can't or won't recycle," proclaims a leaflet from Teinbridge. It continues with the menacing words: "Do you know someone in your road who is not doing their bit," before giving out the number of a hotline that snitches can ring to get hold of the local Stasi, sorry, recycling "sheriff". In this fixation with recycling, more than a third of all town halls have now ended weekly refuse collections. As a result, both fly tipping and the rat population is on the increase as streets become dirtier.

But the town hall tyrants are not interested in debate, only in submission to their bureaucracy. We can see the same arrogance in their relentless increases in council tax bills, which have gone up by more than 90 per cent in the past decade, or in the way they use health and safety as an excuse to throw around their weight; Bristol council recently banned its tenants from having doormats outside their front entrances because they were deemed a "tripping hazard". Local authority schools now feel they have the right to rummage through pupils' lunchboxes to ensure full compliance with healthy eating policies.

The crackdown on smoking in public, which will come into force next year, will give further scope for municipal oppression. Sutton council, which, like Richmond, is run by the Lib Dems, is banning smoking anywhere near council buildings or parks. Even tenants in their own homes have been told that they cannot smoke in the presence of council employees.

Political hectoring can also be seen in the aggressive promotion of multi-culturalism, which schools and social services now regard as their primary civic duty, under which any firm doing business with a town hall has to follow lengthy contract compliance regulations to prove its commitment to diversity.

The causes of promoting anti-racism, protecting children's health and saving the planet have proved the ideal weapons with which town halls can beat the public and expand their bureaucratic empires. And their influence is about to become even stronger, as the Government pledges to give local government more powers in the name of devolution.

One particularly worrying development is the proposal that, in order to carry out a revaluation of properties for council tax, municipal officials be given the right to enter homes and take photographs of every room. Anyone who refuses to comply will be liable to a fine of up to 1,000 pounds. The detailed information gained from these intrusive surveys could see council tax bills rocket, as is already happening in Northern Ireland, where such a scheme is now being tried out; average bills are expected to go up by 50 per cent next year as a result.

This mounting abuse of power by town halls brings nothing but misery and expense to most of the public. A fortune is being squandered on endless tiers of management, on sprawling departments of pen-pushers, while key services such as education, refuse collection and social work are not delivering. As we saw in the old socialist tyrannies of eastern Europe, the more the politburos declared their determination to uphold the public good, the deeper became their contempt for the public. It is time some of our town hall officials recognised who is paying their bloated salaries.


Low IQ Correlates with Poor Health

But you are not supposed to say so:

"The London School of Economics is embroiled in a row over academic freedom after one of its lecturers published a paper alleging that African states were poor and suffered chronic ill-health because their populations were less intelligent than people in richer countries.


In his studies of high IQ Americans, initiated in the 1920s, Terman found that they had some physical as well as mental advantages, including better health. And a recent study by Friedman & Markey has now shown that the same group live a bit longer too.

So the finding causing the uproar should be no surprise to those who know the relevant research. The brain is just one organ of the body so we should not be surprised that there is some tendency for well-functioning brains to be found in bodies that are well-functioning generally.

Friedman, H. S. & Markey, C.N. (2003). Paths to longevity in the highly intelligent Terman cohort. In C.E. Finch, J-M. Robine & Y. Christen (eds.), Brain and Longevity (pp. 165-175). NY: Springer.

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