Saturday, January 27, 2007

Muslims defend Catholic stance in homosexal adoption row

THAT should trump everyone else

The Muslim Council of Britain has backed the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in the adoption row. The intervention adds to the pressure on the Government to create an exemption for religious adoption societies under the new Sexual Orientation Regulations. This week the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York entered the debate with a strong statement of support for the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who wrote to every member of the Cabinet warning that Catholic agencies could not accept a law that would force them to place children with gay couples.

Catholic leaders have given warning that the church’s seven adoption agencies, which placed 227 children last year, cannot breach Vatican guidelines against allowing gay couples to adopt, and would have no alternative but to close.

The Muslim Council said that it backed the churches’ “principled stand”. Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary-General, said: “The right to practise one’s faith or the freedom to have no belief is a cornerstone of our society, as is the right of all to live free from unfair discrimination and harassment.

“Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam. The Sexual Orientation Regulations as we understand them do not promote homosexuality but would provide protection against discrimination and harassment on account of sexual orientation. “As Muslims, we are obliged to uphold the moral standards and codes of conduct dictated by our faith.”

He said that the refusal to permit an exemption was inconsistent with previous antidiscrimination legislation. He added that the regulations should “take full account of our multifaith, multicultural, multiethnic society and make accommodation to accord with differing beliefs and values”.

  • Catholic leaders in Scotland have raised the stakes in the row by warning senior Cabinet ministers from Scotland that they will campaign against Labour candidates in the Scottish elections in May over the issue.

    Archbishop Mario Conti, the vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference in Glasgow, wrote to Gordon Brown, the Chan-cellor, John Reid, the Home Secretary, Alistair Darling, the Trade Secretary, Douglas Alexander, the Transport and Scottish Secretary, and Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, and repeated his warning to the Prime Minister that disallowing Catholic agencies to discriminate will be a “betrayal”.

  • Source

    The BBC's cultural Marxism will trigger an American-style backlash

    Intolerant and consumed by political correctness, the corporation is waging an Orwellian campaign against British values

    How often do you hear, on the Today programme or Newsnight, contemptuous references to the tabloid or popular press as if it was some disembodied monster rather than the very embodiment of the views of the great majority of the British people?

    Fair enough. The tabloid press - and it's getting confusing here, because the Times and the Independent are, of course, tabloids now, and the Mail has more quality readers than most of the so-called quality papers put together - is big enough to look after itself. Except I don't think it is fair, because this ignores the ever-burgeoning influence of the most powerful media organisation in the world: the hugely subsidised BBC. And it's my contention that the BBC monolith is distorting Britain's media market, crushing journalistic pluralism and imposing a monoculture that is inimical to healthy democratic debate.

    Now before the liberal commentators reach for their vitriol - and, my goodness, how they demonise anyone who disagrees with them - let me say that I would die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force. Indeed I for one would pay the licence fee just for Radio 4. But the corporation is simply too big. For instance, it employs more journalists and their support staff -3,500 - and spends more on them - œ500m - than do all the national daily newspapers put together.

    Where there was once just a handful of channels, the BBC now has an awesome stranglehold on the airwaves, reaching into every home every hour of the day - adding ever more channels and even considering launching over 60 local TV news stations across the UK. No wonder Britain's hard-pressed provincial press complains it can't compete, our ailing commercial radio sector is furious that the market is rigged against it, our nascent internet firms rage that they're not competing on a level playing field, and ITN, aided and abetted by some pretty incompetent management, is reeling on the ropes.

    But it's not the BBC's ubiquity, so much greater than Fleet Street's, that is worrying, but its power to impose - under the figleaf of impartiality - its own worldview. Forget the fact that the BBC has, until recently, been institutionally anti-Tory. The sorry fact is that there is not a single Labour scandal - Ecclestone, Mittal, Mandelson and the Hindujas, Cheriegate, Tessa Jowell, and Prescott and Anshutz - on which the BBC has shown the slightest journalistic alacrity.

    No, what really disturbs me is that the BBC is, in every corpuscle of its corporate body, against the values of conservatism, with a small "c", which, I would argue, just happens to be the values held by millions of Britons. Thus it exercises a kind of "cultural Marxism" in which it tries to undermine that conservative society by turning all its values on their heads.

    Of course, there is the odd dissenting voice, but by and large BBC journalism starts from the premise of leftwing ideology: it is hostile to conservatism and the traditional right, Britain's past and British values, America, Ulster unionism, Euroscepticism, capitalism and big business, the countryside, Christianity and family values. Conversely, it is sympathetic to Labour, European federalism, the state and state spending, mass immigration, minority rights, multiculturalism, alternative lifestyles, abortion, and progressiveness in the education and the justice systems.

    Now you may sympathise with all or some of these views. I may even sympathise with some of them. But what on earth gives the BBC the right to assume they are the only values of any merit?

    Over Europe, for instance, the BBC has always treated anyone who doesn't share its federalism - which just happens to be the great majority of the British population - as if they were demented xenophobes. In very telling words, the ex-cabinet secretary Lord Wilson blamed the BBC's "institutional mindset" over Europe on a "homogenous professional recruitment base" and "a dislike for conservative ideas".

    Again, until recently, anyone who questioned, however gently, multiculturalism or mass immigration was treated like a piece of dirt - effectively enabling the BBC to all but close down debate on the biggest demographic change to this island in its history.

    Above all, the BBC is statist. To its functionaries, insulated from the vulgar demands of the real world, there is no problem great or small - and this is one of the factors in Britain's soaring victim culture - that cannot be blamed on a lack of state spending, and any politician daring to argue that taxes should be cut is accused of "lurching to the right".

    Thus BBC journalism is presented through a leftwing prism that affects everything - the choice of stories, the way they are angled, the choice of interviewees and, most pertinently, the way those interviewees are treated. The BBC's journalists, protected from real competition, believe that only their worldview constitutes moderate, sensible and decent opinion. Any dissenting views - particularly those held by popular papers - are therefore considered, by definition, to be extreme and morally beyond the pale.

    But then, the BBC is consumed by the kind of political correctness that is actually patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people. Having started as an admirable philosophy of tolerance, that political correctness has become an intolerant creed, enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority. Anything popular is dismissed as being populist - which is sneering shorthand for being of the lowest possible taste.

    The right to disagree was axiomatic to classical liberalism, but the BBC's political correctness is, in fact, an ideology of rigid self-righteousness in which those who do not conform are ignored, silenced, or vilified as sexist, racist, fascist or judgmental. Thus, with this assault on reason, are whole areas of legitimate debate - in education, health, race relations and law and order - shut down, and the corporation, which glories in being open-minded, has become a closed-thought system operating a kind of Orwellian Newspeak.

    This is perverting political discourse and disenfranchising countless millions who don't subscribe to the BBC's worldview; one of the reasons, I would suggest, for the current apathy over politics.

    How instructive to compare all this with what is happening in America. There, the liberal smugness of a terminally worthy, monopolistic press has, together with deregulation, triggered both the explosive growth of rightwing radio broadcasting that now dominates the airwaves and the extraordinary rise of Murdoch's rightwing Fox TV News service. Democracy needs a healthy tension between left and right, and nature abhors a vacuum. If the BBC continues skewing the political debate, there will be a backlash and I predict that what has happened in America will eventually take place in Britain.

    Now, there's been much talk recently of the need for more civic journalism in Britain, the very thing the BBC prides itself on. But let's pose this question: what if a civic BBC finds itself dealing with an administration that does not behave in a civic way? An administration that manipulates news organisations and the news agenda, that packs ministry press offices with its supporters, that chooses good days to bury bad news, that favours news bodies that give it positive coverage and penalises those who don't, that fabricates health and education figures, and concocts dodgy dossiers - an administration that, in Campbell and Mandelson, thought nothing of engaging in systematic falsehood.

    Is the BBC's civic journalism - too often credulously trusting, lacking scepticism, rarely proactive in the sense of breaking stories itself - up to dealing with a political class that too often set out to dissemble and to deceive? The bitter irony, of course, is that when, for once, the BBC was proactive in its journalism and did stand up to the Labour party by breaking a genuine story, the corporation and its craven governors all but imploded under pressure from a rabid Campbell.

    And what is interesting is that this contrasted with the ruthless support for the Iraq war that Rupert Murdoch imposed on his papers and their equally ruthless suppression of any criticism of the invasion whether it involved the attorney general's malfeasance, virtually ignored in the Times, or Dr Kelly, all but hung drawn and quartered by the Sun.

    Indeed, I would suggest that the intimacy and power-brokering between these two papers and No 10, and the question of whether Mr Blair would have got away with his falsehoods and misjudgments over Iraq - indeed, whether Britain would have gone to war at all - without the support of the Murdoch empire, is a brilliant doctoral thesis for some future media studies student.

    Yes, the BBC is, in many ways, a wonderful organisation. But the fact remains that it depends for its licence fee on the British population as a whole, yet only reflects the views of a tiny metropolitan minority. If it continues with this abuse of trust, then the British people will withdraw their consent and the corporation will fall into discredit. And that would be a very great pity.


    Climate change and CO2

    Post lifted from John Redwood's diary

    For once when I asked the [British] government a written question I received an answer. I asked "How much carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere each day ,and what proportion is from human sources"

    The answer stated "The amount of carbon dioxide emitted from human sources is small in comparison to natural flows:at around 3% emitted from the land and oceans to the atmosphere". The Minister also told me "In 2004 the UK emitted approximately 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per day "(I think from human sources). This compares with the "25 billion tonnes emitted each year globally" from human sources and the total emissions of 800 billion tonnes from all sources.

    It is just useful to understand the scope of the problem and the UK human component. According to the government the UK human component represents 2% of the world total human emissions, or 0.06% of total emissions.

    So what should we conclude? Climate change theorists point out that the human element may be very small, but it is the one which is growing quickly, and at the margin will do the damage. People who follow the precautionary principle say this theory may well be right, so we had better act. Many other people say they believe the theory but do not act - like the Prime Minister who tells us this is a serious crisis, but he has no intention of cutting his air miles.

    Common sense suggests that because the UK represents such a small part of the problem, we are going to depend on decisions in India, China and the USA to make a bigger impact on human emissions. Of course our government should seek to influence them, and stress the value of greater fuel efficiency and stricter controls on emissions. We should also continue to cut our own fuel use at home, at work and on the move. Technology can be our ally in this. Prudence nonetheless dictates that we should take action now to proect ourselves against the possible bad consequences of global warming.

    There are two main bad consequences put forward for the UK. The first is a possible water shortage in the drier south and east of the country. The second is too much water in some rivers at flood time, and in the sea, leading to inundation.

    Government should take action now to build stronger sea defences, especially close to the London conurbation where most people are at risk. This could be paid for by creating new land in the shallows of the Thames estuary, and selling this for development to finance the higher tidal surge barriers we will need.

    The government and the water regulator should include a capacity target in the regulatory structure, to require the industry to put in more water capacity - whether by way of mending pipes more quickly or building extra reservoirs - to eliminate anyt possibility of water shortage. The Environment Agency should order works on our main rivers to guarantee better containment of flood water levels, or safe deposit of excess water on flood plain.

    NHS cash crisis could cost diabetic children limbs

    Thousands of diabetic children could risk losing limbs because the NHS cash crisis is hitting services, said a report out on Wednesday. Four out of five diabetic children have poor glucose control, putting them at risk of developing complications, it said. In the UK, there are 20,000 children under the age of 15 with type 1 diabetes, which means sufferers are dependant on insulin. Another 1,000 children have type 2, which is associated with obesity, but many more youngsters are undiagnosed.

    The report, from the charity Diabetes UK, said there were poor services despite Government targets to provide good paediatric care. Comparing NHS performance between 2005 and 2006, it said services for children with diabetes had got worse in 75% of the areas studied in England. The cash crisis means Paediatric Diabetes Specialist Nurses (PDSNs) are overstretched, it said. According to the Royal College of Nursing, there should be no more than 70 children to each nurse but some NHS trusts have caseloads of up to 300 children, meaning PDSNs take on more. Almost every region in England has seen an increase in the number of children each PDSN manages, the reports said. Over a third (40%) of trusts have no protocols for transferring children into adult diabetic care while nearly a third of youngsters who want psychological support do not receive it, it added.

    Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: 'No wonder 80% of children have poor blood glucose control. 'Most are struggling to even see a specialist nurse, so any additional support is out of the question. 'With the inevitable explosion of children with type 2 diabetes, with no additional resources, nurses will be faced with ever increasing caseloads. 'We can't afford to wait until our children start to lose their sight or need kidney dialysis before we make sure services improve. 'It is time resources are provided to supply the best possible specialised care and support for children with diabetes.'

    A 'Diabetes InfoBank' is also being launched today, which will show progress in meeting Government targets. People will be able to access information on diabetic care in their area by going to


    British pupils to learn the best of British

    The nation was plunged into an uncharacteristic celebration of Britishness yesterday as new lessons in British history and the national identity were introduced to schools and Labour politicians with an eye on promotion vied to demonstrate their patriotic credentials. It was all very un-British.

    Amid growing concerns that young people lack a sense of belonging and are in need of social and educational glue in today’s multicultural, multiracial society, Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, announced that compulsory lessons in British history would be added to the citizenship curriculum under the heading Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK. The new lessons for pupils aged 11 to 16 will cover ethnicity, religion and race, and will explore Britain’s national identity through a study of immigration, the Commonwealth, the Empire and devolution, along with the extending of the popular vote and women’s rights.

    Sir Keith Ajegbo, a Home Office adviser and author of the reforms, said that the new classes aimed to tackle feelings of marginalisation among young people from white and ethnic-minority backgrounds by encouraging them to discuss potentially sensitive issues in the “safe” environment of the classroom.

    “It is the duty of all schools to address issues of ‘how we live together’ and ‘dealing with difference’, however difficult and controversial they may seem,” said Sir Keith, former headmaster of Deptford Green School, South London.

    A “Who do we think we are?” week will encourage pupils to explore their differences and common values. Predominantly white schools will be encouraged to “twin” with schools that have a more diverse intake.

    Sir Keith’s review amounts to a damning criticism of the way that citizenship has been taught in schools since its introduction in 2002 in response to a perceived lack of political and engagement among young people. Too much provision was patchy and too few schools had separate citizenship lessons, preferring to lump the subject in with personal social and health education. This, he said, was unacceptable, adding that more teacher training and specialised teaching material was needed to put things right.

    Mr Johnson, a candidate for the Labour deputy leadership, agreed that pupils should be “taught explicitly about why British values of tolerance and respect prevail in society and how our national, regional, religious and ethnic identities have evolved over time”.His comments make him the latest in the line of Cabinet ministers to seize upon Gordon Brown’s theme of Britishness, after surveys suggesting that many people now struggle to identify typical British values. The idea is a key part of Mr Brown’s plan to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

    At a separate event at the University of Oxford, Jack Straw, who is still considering whether to stand for the deputy leadership, called for a stronger “British story” to reflect the heroic nature of the country’s history and foster a greater sense of citizenship. Britain, he said, had much to learn from the way countries such as the US, Canada and Australia told their national story.

    The British story would encapsulate the rights and responsibilities that went with the “non-negotiable bargain or contract” of being a British citizen. In a clear reference to religious fundamentalists, he said that it would challenge those with “a single, all-consuming identity” that was at odds with Britain’s democratic values.

    “We have to be clearer about what it means to be British, what it means to be part of this British nation of nations and, crucially, to be resolute in making the point that what comes with that is a set of values. Yes, there is room for multiple and different identities, but those have to be accepted alongside an agreement that none of these identities can take precedence over the core democratic values of freedom, fairness, tolerance and plurality that define what it means to be British.”

    The Conservatives welcomed the “grounding [of] citizenship on the teaching of British history”, but teaching unions gave warning that teachers could not be left to carry the burden of integration alone.


    "Obesity" confusion in Britain

    Plans to halt the rise in childhood obesity are confused, poorly co-ordinated and lack clarity and forcefulness, according to an influential Commons committee. In 2004 the Government set a target of 2010 to halt the year-on-year rise in obesity in children under 11, but there are still no ring-fenced funds nor any specific programme to bring this about, the Public Accounts Committee says in a scathing report.

    Particular anger is directed at the Department of Health's plans to weigh and measure children in all primary schools but not tell parents the results. This policy provoked one of the briskest exchanges in a public hearing in the Commons as the committee chairman, Edward Leigh, accused three Whitehall permanent secretaries of "talking drivel".

    Yesterday Mr Leigh said: "If a primary school finds that a child is overweight then the parents must be informed. To do otherwise would be to keep parents in the dark about health risks to their children. "A campaign aimed at parents, children and teachers is supposed to be launched this year, three years after the target was set. When it appears it must bring home all the risks of being obese and show that obese children can make small changes to their behaviour that help them lose weight."

    Responsibility for the childhood obesity strategy is divided between three departments - Health, Education and Skills, and Culture, Media and Sport - and 26 bodies or groups of bodies, the report says. This leads to confusion over roles and responsibilities. Mr Leigh said that it was "tricky territory". That made it all the more urgent that the departments involved should work together to set a clear direction. "It is lamentable that long after the target was set there is still so much dithering and still so little co-ordination," he said.

    Departments had been slow to react and efforts to work with the food industry to change the way that unhealthy products were marketed had failed, the committee said. It also called for the appointment of a high-profile figure to champion the battle against obesity. Parents were still not being engaged, and a public information campaign was finally being launched only this year. The report found that "the departments' strategy of working alongside the food industry to influence its approach to the marketing of foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar has not been successful in changing the way the majority of unhealthy foods are marketed".

    Meanwhile, the Department of Health has no idea if the strategy is working because there was a delay of two years in getting data on childhood obesity from the Health Survey for England. The attempt to measure obesity in primary school children ended in failure when fewer than half turned up, although the committee does not report this. The results of the exercise were meaningless because the parents of fatter children opted them out, as they were allowed to do.

    Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, claimed that a lot had been achieved since the evidence on which the report was based had been gathered. She said: "There are no easy answers or quick-fix solutions. Changing behaviour requires long-term action on a number of fronts and that is what we are putting in place. People's awareness of the importance of healthy eating and exercise had increased significantly, she said, and food labelling had become the norm. Ofcom had made recommendations about food advertising on television; there had been "a transformation in school food" and the target of 80 per cent of children doing at least two hours of school sport a week had been beaten, she said. But Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: "Conservatives share the committee's alarm at the dramatic increase in childhood obesity and the apparently uncoordinated way in which the Government is dealing with it."


    Reasonable decision ignites British hysteria: "A British judge freed a convicted "pedophile" today after citing a government warning about prison overcrowding, instantly igniting a law-and-order furore that could damage Prime Minister Tony Blair's government. Mr Blair's Home Secretary John Reid had already drawn fire from opposition Conservative critics and mass-circulation newspapers for writing to judges to warn of prison overcrowding and urge that prison places not be wasted on non-violent offenders. But a senior judge's decision to free a man who downloaded sexual images of children suddenly catapulted the story to the top of news reports, the latest in a series of scandals to hit the Home Office law-and-order ministry over the past year. The BBC reported from North Wales that Judge John Rogers cited Mr Reid's remarks while handing a suspended jail sentence to Derek Williams, 46, who downloaded child pornography... Britain is scrambling to find new places for prisoners after a sharp upsurge in the prison population, with the Government suggesting it could house offenders in disused military barracks, police jail cells and on ships.... On Tuesday, Mr Reid told a conference of regional newspaper journalists that courts should not be "squandering taxpayers' money to monitor non-dangerous and less serious offenders". "Prisons are an expensive resource that should be used to protect the public," he said, according to the BBC." [My paper on penological policy is here]

    British public fear of violent crime fed by rise in robberies with guns: "Robberies at gunpoint increased by 10 per cent last year in England and Wales, according to Home Office figures published yesterday. The figures include armed robberies in the street, which rose by 9 per cent, and armed robberies in homes, which almost doubled. The figures, have been falling for the past four years and the sudden reversal will alarm the Home Office. The total number of robberies at gunpoint rose to 1,439 and the number of gun robberies at residential properties jumped by 46 per cent to 645, an increase of 204 and more than five times the level recorded when Labour came to power. Although firearms robberies at Post Offices, banks and building societies have fallen because of branch closures and tougher security measures at those that remain, the latest figures indicate that armed robbers are going for soft targets. Overall, gun crime fell last year and the number of killings dropped by 15 per cent if the victims of the July 7 bombings are taken out of the 746 total. But killings by strangers have almost doubled to 302 since Labour came to power.

    No comments: