Monday, January 15, 2007


The EU has been accused of using underhand means in the classroom to try to 'brainwash' British children into becoming enthusiastic supporters of the European project. A new teaching pack on the EU has been introduced for use in Key Stage 3 and 4 'citizenship' classes that claims to offer a balanced view of the organisation and its role. The taxpayer-funded materials - available to schools in bulk and at no cost from the European Parliament's UK office - hail the effectiveness of EU legislation on everything from smoking and workers' rights to genetically modified organisms and food labelling.

But Eurosceptics were up in arms last night about elements of the lesson notes and pupil worksheets, which guide teachers and pupils in 'de-bunking' the views of a man who is critical of a lack of democracy in the EU. The UK Independence Party, which blew the whistle on the pack, also attacked the way the Eurosceptic character featured in the pupil worksheets - 'Portsmouth plumber Charlie Bolton' - is an ageing, white man who contrasts with other young, smiling, fresh-faced people. Below a chart showing how the various institutions of the EU, such as the European Parliament and European Commission, interact, Charlie Bolton says: 'Europe - it's just faceless bureaucrats - none of them elected. 'And they impose their laws on us from Brussels whenever they fancy. All that red tape to make our lives harder.'

It then guides pupils to reject the notion that the EU is anti-democratic by reminding them of the elected European Parliament. 'Do you agree with Charlie? What does the flow chart tell you about how laws are made?' it asks. The teacher is also instructed to show pupils how to counter his argument and to lead the pupils to conclude that he is wrong and that the EU is democratic. The lesson plan reads: 'Discuss Charlie Bolton's attitude to EU legislation. If Charlie knew that the Members of the European Parliament are elected and that the Council of Ministers represents our governments, do the students think that he would change his mind?'

Yorkshire's UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom hit out last night at the pack, branding it 'bias and propaganda, masquerading as neutral fact'. 'At a time when the Government has been downplaying Britain's history and political traditions in our schools, taxpayers are instead forced to pay for our children to learn EU systems,' he said. 'Given that up to 75 per cent of our laws are now made in Brussels, I suppose it does make some sense, but I am sure that most parents would want their children to learn our political systems and institutions rather those that are being imposed upon us. 'It is obvious that the EU has given up on persuading the grown ups, so now they have started on the children.'

Shipley's Tory MP Philip Davies, spokesman for the Better Off Out campaign, added: 'The EU gets more like the Soviet Union every day when it resorts to brainwashing children. 'All it does is confirm my worst fears. 'But it's not just Charlie Bolton who's sick of the EU - opinion polls show that more and more people are fed up with membership and now a majority of businesses are against it. 'It smacks of utter desperation on their part because they know they've been rumbled.'

The European Parliament insists that the pack is impartial and that it helps pupils make their own minds up about the EU. 'The resources have been designed to offer a balanced introduction to the European Union and the European Parliament, to encourage students to take part in discussion and to form their own view on the subjects covered in the resources,' say the officials responsible for the pack


British Labour party minister axed 2,700 special needs places

RUTH KELLY, who was heavily criticised last week for educating her dyslexic son privately, presided over the closure of more state special school places annually than any other Labour education secretary since 1997, new figures show. In 2005, the only full year Kelly ran the education department, school closures led to the loss of more than 2,600 places for children with special needs. The closures continued in 2006, when Kelly was in charge until May.

Her record has angered parents who cannot afford private education and rely on state schools where there is often inadequate expertise.

The figures add to the claims of hypocrisy faced by Kelly, now the communities secretary, when it emerged she was prepared to spend £15,000 a year on a place at a private school in Oxfordshire.

She defended the decision on the grounds that her local council, Tower Hamlets in east London, could not provide for her son’s “particular and substantial learning difficulties”. The nine-year-old is understood to have dyslexia and dyspraxia, which affects co-ordination.

David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, who asked the question that led to the figures emerging, said he backed a moratorium on closures. “Every week I get letters protesting at special schools being closed,” he said. “It is an incredibly sensitive subject.”

The figures obtained by Willetts show that 2,770 places in special schools were closed in 2005 and another 2,051 in 2006. Some of these have been replaced by small units attached to mainstream schools.

Local councils have been under pressure to close special schools in an inclusion drive by Labour to educate children in mainstream schools wherever possible.

However, in 2005, as the closure of special schools was gathering pace under Kelly, Baroness Warnock, whose 1978 report on special educational needs paved the way for the policy, admitted it was leaving “a disastrous legacy”.

Last year there was a slight policy shift when Lord Adonis, schools minister, said there would be a tightening of conditions that had to be met before special schools could be closed.

Jackie Gibbon from Hereford whose nine-year- old daughter is dyslexic and dyspraxic, said: “I’d love to be in Ruth Kelly’s position, but we can’t afford it.”


Future Prime Minister Gordon Brown can’t cure Britain's paralysed NHS, so he plans to privatise it

The former Granada boss Sir Gerry Robinson recently spent six months trying to reform Rotherham general hospital. The result was shown in three hours of fly-on-the-wall television on BBC2 last week. It was rightly put after the watershed: as politics it was certificate 18. At the end of each day Robinson could be seen slumped in the back of his car, his face buried in his hands. A tycoon sobbing in a limousine is the perfect icon of Labour’s health service.

So die all who try to reform the National Health Service. They have been doing so since a despairing Margaret Thatcher appointed Roy Griffiths, boss of Sainsbury’s, to the task in 1983. The NHS is the North-West Frontier of the public sector. If the health union Tajiks don’t get you, the Pashtun consultants will. You can throw as many men into the Khyber Pass as you like but they never return.

The one laugh in the programme was Robinson’s conclusion that the NHS was “unmanaged”. Yet each frame was crammed with managers falling over each other, with clipboards, pagers, consultancy reports and meeting agendas. There were nursing managers, surgical managers, recovery managers, manager managers, chief executive managers. The one thing they did not do was manage but that, of course, was not their fault.

Through this jungle wandered a charismatic megaspecies, the consultants, whom everyone agreed were “unmanageable”. They were like the weather, an immutable constant. It did not matter what the NHS or its patients wanted, the consultants ruled, which enabled everyone else to be equally obtuse. They seemed to regard their first duty as to the heraldic privileges of their specialist tribe, be it paediatrician, anaesthetist or ophthalmologist.

We watched the consultants, often in league with “health and safety”, blocking rationalisation of a system that had some of them doing three operations a morning and some seven. They demanded their own anaesthetists, who in turn demanded their own schedules. Surgeons wandered in and out of their private practices as waiting lists stretched over the horizon. NHS productivity would not improve because the fruit machine never yielded oranges in a row. There was always a lemon in the way — unless you were lucky enough to have Robinson and a television camera to move it.

The message of Robinson’s inquiry was devastating and explains the ostensibly terminal chaos enveloping the NHS under Patricia Hewitt. The central arm of government, the Treasury, has clearly given up on NHS reform. No government, Labour or Tory, has the guts to break the consultants’ restrictive practices, the GPs’ “lifestyle” demands or the healthcare unions. The Treasury itself capitulated to the unions by rubber-stamping the ridiculously expensive 2004 NHS pay deal, depriving Britons for the first time of proper out-of-hours GP cover.

After a quarter century of seeing money piling up in the upper echelons of the NHS, and being wasted on management consultants and useless computers, the paymasters have had enough. While Thatcher hoped for reform by shoving the private sector into the NHS, Gordon Brown is shoving the NHS into the private sector. If Rotherham hospital can do only half a dozen cataracts a session when it has capacity for 20 or 30, why not give the job to a bunch of South Africans in a caravan in the car park? Outsource routine operations. Switch a few regional general hospitals to accident and acute care and let the public drive to find them. Hence the decision to subcontract 40% of NHS operations to something called a “partners’ network” (Blairism for the private sector). We can hear a muffled cheer rising over the Thatcher home in Chester Square.

Treasury loss of faith in the corporate NHS has all but collapsed public investment in the hospital service, switching some £12 billion of it to private finance. This will be astronomically expensive, consuming reserves that would previously have gone on healthcare. The new Woolwich hospital must find £100m a year from its revenue budget and the Royal London and Barts £120m to service private loans forced on them by the Treasury in the fond belief that private money is more “efficient”.

More alarming is that internal pricing and payment-per-treatment will leave these mastodons financially exposed through loss of business to the private sector. In an attempt to favour this sector, the Treasury and Hewitt are refusing to allow NHS hospitals to cut tariffs to compete. Small wonder James Johnson, the British Medical Association chairman, parodied Blair’s 1997 battle cry, “24 hours to save the NHS” by saying there was now “one year to save the NHS”.

Many hospital trusts are building up large deficits that they cannot possibly cover; 29 are contemplating some 60 “reconfigurations”, code for closures, at a time when Hewitt is also talking of somehow building 50 cottage hospitals. She must also now contend with 11 of her ministerial colleagues declared to be in open opposition. Meanwhile manpower planning is in disarray, with hiring cuts or freezes almost everywhere and a reported surplus of 3,200 expensively trained NHS consultants by 2010.

How this has been achieved despite five years of 7% annual real rises in health spending is no mystery. A lethal coalition of medical staff and private financiers is walking away with the money. Few demoralised managers will bother to imitate Robinson’s efforts at Rotherham when the lead from Whitehall is to capitulate. Since many trusts are supposedly free-standing — which means bankruptable — it is possible that swathes of the NHS will end the decade in the notional ownership of City banks. Yet even this, for Brown, is preferable to the existing NHS.

The Robinson programme showed what amounted to the collapse of the “public service ethos” in Britain. The government would ideally like to privatise not just the bulk of the NHS but the Post Office, the probation service, the jobcentre network and, it was reported last week, most care of the elderly.

It has clearly lost confidence in the capacity of public officials to administer services (as opposed to regulate and form policy in Whitehall). That this should be the work of a Labour government is ironic since the purpose is to circumvent those classic legacies of socialism: trade unions and the risk aversion of large organisations.

Nothing better illustrates this than the shambles at the Home Office where privatisation is of limited application. Its capacity to administer a service, be it immigration, drug treatment or prisons, has all but failed. Its boss, John Reid, has rewritten the rulebook of corporate accountability. He will take no collective responsibility for the actions of his forebears as home secretary, though he sat in the same cabinet as them. Nor will he take blame for any decision if he can prove he was “not told about it”. Bang goes the theory of corporate negligence.

The catalogue of Whitehall organisations no longer fit for purpose is lengthening by the week. It embraces the farm payments agency, the child support agency, the immigration service and the criminal assets recovery agency.

In the old days such fiascos would have led to parliamentary uproar and heads rolling. Nowadays they are part of the tragic Whitehall soap opera, cause for rejoicing only among civil servants leaving to join management consultancies and parastatals such as Capita and Serco.

It is hard to imagine what morale must be like among officials in the Home Office or health department. Perhaps the public service ethos is out of date, irretrievably polluted by trade unionism and bureaucratic protectionism. Perhaps it is true that only the hope of personal gain will induce Britons to help their fellow men and women.



"Look how big-hearted I am" is the real message

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are to lead thousands of "pilgrims" carrying a giant cross through London to repent for the Church of England's complicity in the slave trade. Moments of quiet reflection will punctuate the procession as African drummers beat a sombre lament. The march will culminate in a symbolic "release from the past", possibly in the form of a replica slave auction notice being torn up or shackles being removed from the cross. The "walk of witness" on March 24 coincides with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. It is the latest stage in the church's repentance since February last year, when the General Synod voted to apologise for its involvement in slavery.

Displays of remorse have been spearheaded by politicians. Just two months ago Tony Blair expressed his "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the transatlantic slave trade, although he stopped short of a full apology. John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, is leading the national commemorations. Organisations including English Heritage and the National Trust have joined in, expressing regret that some of the properties they own were built with slave money.

According to draft plans, churches across Britain are being encouraged to bus up to 8,000 parishioners to London for the "act of public witness". Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who grew up in Uganda and has described how his forebears were among those enslaved, hope the event will signal the "beginning of a healing process".

This weekend one of the march's organisers denied the church was indulging in "hand-wringing" and compared the slave trade to the Holocaust. "We are still living with the legacy of slavery," said Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chairwoman of the church's Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns. "Black people are saying, `Hey, we had our own Holocaust, too. We had millions killed and we want this acknowledged'."

Critics, however, believe that laying all the blame for slavery on Europeans is misleading. Arabs traded slaves from a much earlier date, while African kings and merchants were responsible for capturing their kinsmen and selling them to traders in exchange for goods and firearms. ....

The climax of the service is likely to be the symbolic "release from the past", followed by a "song of freedom". Worshippers will be asked to sign a petition calling on the government to take action against modern-day slavery, such as sex trafficking from eastern Europe. Last year's synod was told how the church's missionary arm, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Foreign Parts, owned the Codrington plantation in Barbados where slaves had the word "society" branded on their chests.



British opposition leader David Cameron said on Wednesday he was trying to recapture the climate change issue from the "doom mongers" and said it was important to show people there were positive reasons for saving energy. Cameron has made the environment a priority since taking over the leadership of the Conservative Party in late 2005, helping the party build a lead over Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party in most opinion polls. Blair has said he will step down this year although the next general election is not due until 2009.

Cameron said he was not trying to scare people into voting by talking about the environmental challenges facing the world. "I've been trying to recapture the environment and climate change from the sort of doom mongers. I mean if this is all about doom and gloom and taxes, we're not going to persuade people to come with us," he said in an interview to be broadcast by Sky News on Wednesday. "If you switch to a hybrid car you can cut the cost of your transport. If you cycle to work every now and again you feel fit and healthy. There's a good positive reason for doing these things which is not just about money -- it's about your own well-being," he said. "If we can convince people of that, then I think we're half-way there," he added. The key was not to try to be a "hair shirt-wearing doomster", he said. "We've got to try and make the environment and climate change uplifting and fun and interesting ..."

On Tuesday, Blair drew fire from environmentalists for refusing to commit to giving up long-haul holiday flights in the interests of combating global warming. Blair, who has championed international action to counter climate change, said individuals could make a difference on global warming but what mattered was an international agreement. Blair's spokesman said later the prime minister asked earlier this week for all his personal travel to be "offset", which works by investing funds in energy efficiency or forestry projects to counter greenhouse gas emissions from travel.

As British political parties compete for environmental leadership, Cameron is having solar panels and a wind turbine installed at his London home. Some of his attempts to prove his environmental credentials have backfired, such as when it was revealed that his chauffeur drove behind with his briefcase and a change of clothes when he cycled to work. Cameron said "green" taxes should be mainly aimed at changing behaviour rather than at raising revenue. "I think the right thing to do is to see the share of taxes taken by green taxes go up and then at the same time, take taxes on other things down," he said.


British Leftist Councils Misuse Indian Name

A group of Left-leaning British local authorities are using the name "Navajo" to glorify homosexuality -- which has greatly upset the REAL Navajo Indians in the US, who don't like anyone using their name -- and particularly for something contrary to Navajo law!

And the British group don't seem too apologetic about it. Considering the fuss the PC brigade in the US make about how the positive use of Indian tribal names in college sports teams *might* offend American Indians, this is priceless. I wonder who will be attending the diversity training this time?

It does show rather clearly that it is not the protection of minority feelings that motivates the Left. It is condemning the majority that they aim at -- in order to puff themselves up as wiser and better. There is no mainstream use of Indian names to condemn in Britain, so all that wonderful Leftist "sensitivity" vanishes.

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