Wednesday, June 20, 2007


A succinct and dignified reproof in the best British tradition

As a non-scientist I cannot have read one-hundredth of the number of scientific articles read by Robert May, yet I am familiar with at least a score (each citing a score more) questioning key parts of the theory that there is a threat of catastrophic man-made global warming. So when Lord May claims (April 6) that "not one" respected scientist is unconvinced, far from persuading me he only makes me doubtful of his other claims.

Moreover, by applying the term "denial" (with all its loaded undertones) to sceptical scientists; by referring to them inaccurately as "well funded" by the oil industry; and by likening those who stress the uncertainties of climate science to unprincipled lobbyists for tobacco companies, Lord May enters on the field of personal vilification - not a suitable place for a distinguished former President of the Royal Society.

There is a great deal more money and acceptability available to consensus scientists than to dissenters. This suggests that the work of the doubters should be taken very seriously, since it brings with it problems both of funding and of exclusion from the friendly embrace of the Establishment. I admire such people, much as I have admired other dissidents like Solzhenitsyn, Pastor Bonhoeffer - oh, and Galileo and Darwin.

Matheson & Co, 3 Lombard Street, London EC3


The old "Blackface" Controvesy Surfaces in Northern England

From Barrow in Furness:

"A drama group's plan to have white actors "black up" for a performance of a famous stage musical has plunged it into a race row.

Anti-racism campaigners have condemned Grange Operatic Society's decision as "stupid" and "offensive".

Others called it "dehumanising" towards black people.

But Grange Town Council, which owns Victoria Hall where the show is due to be staged, approved the plans at its meeting on Monday. Rehearsals begin in September for the society's planned staging of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Show Boat.

Both the stage show and its film version have been heavily criticised in the past for stereotyping black people and for its use of language, including the word "n****r".

Grange Operatic Society says it will use the term "coloured folk".


It is dehumanizing to have black faces?? Both Marx & Engels and Hitler regarded blacks as not fully human but it is strange to hear that in Britain today.

British Immigration restrictions to fall on non-Europeans?

For years the baleful shade of Enoch Powell silenced debate about immigration numbers, however rational. Playing the numbers game, as it was called, was always associated with the even more shameful misdemeanour of playing the race card. As recently as November 2003, David Blunkett as home secretary blithely announced that he could not see the need for a limit on immigrants, nor did he think there was a maximum number of people that could be housed in this country. This astonishingly silly comment passed almost without protest; it was expressing the unthinking orthodoxy of the day. It was fortunate perhaps that Blunkett and the government believed that numbers didn't matter, since they hadn't the slightest idea what the numbers were.

The director of enforcement and removals at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate admitted last year that he had not "the faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants were living here. Not only has the government lost control of this country's boundaries; until recently it didn't think that mattered. How quickly things change in politics. Now even the most right-on Labour figures are playing the numbers game, with the race card up their sleeves. Last month Margaret "Enver" Hodge appeared to be doing just that with her announcement that indigenous people in her constituency of Barking felt justly aggrieved that they could not get council housing, while recent immigrants could. They had indeed "a legitimate sense of entitlement" that should not be overridden by new immigrants. The wind was clearly changing.

Sure enough, last week numbers became mentionable again, officially. Ruth Kelly, the minister for communities and local government, issued a startling report by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. Integration indeed. Until recently integration was a dirty word, almost as sinister as assimilation. This report announced findings that must be startling to anyone who has tried hard to toe the multi-culti line. It says that black and Asian Britons - nearly half of them - think we have let in too many immigrants. Almost 70% of everyone questioned by a Mori poll for the commission thought so, including 47% of Asian and 45% of black respondents. The poll also showed that 56% of respondents believed some groups - mainly immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees - received unfair priority in the allocation of housing, health services and education. Respondents were "very sensitive about freeloading by other groups". At the same time only 36% believe immigration is good for the economy.

It is hard to know what to make of the idiocy of this government, discovering so late in the day the consequences of its wilfully ignorant and undemocratic immigration policies. Nevertheless one should be thankful for small blessings. There are a few. For one thing, because it's now official that so many ethnic minority Britons are worried about immigration, the race card has in effect been torn up and thrown away. One can hardly accuse ethnic minorities of playing it.

Another blessing is that multiculturalism has suddenly and rather sneakily been dumped. Late in the day ministers are discovering what should have been blindingly obvious. The dogma of multiculturalism has made immigration and race relations much more painful and difficult than they need have been. The social policies based on it have kept people in ghettos and bred mistrust and suspicion. So it's as you were, then, with multiculturalism. Now at long last we have integration and cohesion. Let's hope it's not too late to undo some of the damage.

Kelly's report makes some sensible suggestions, none the worse for being ridiculous U-turns. The policy of providing masses of translators and translations for countless languages is to be dumped. It has meant that newcomers are not obliged to learn English, and frequently don't, which means they are unable to integrate even if they wanted to; they can live here deaf and dumb to the rest of us. Good riddance to it.

However, changes such as this, no matter how sensible, fail to address the central question of numbers. It ought always to have been self-evident that numbers matter; to think otherwise is to believe that a raft will never sink no matter how many people clamber onto it. Of course immigration is to be welcomed, or at least tolerated. Of course immigrants have done great things for this country. Of course there is a moral argument for rich people in favour of taking in poorer foreigners. And of course asylum seekers deserve asylum. All the same, this small and populous country cannot possibly accept the many millions who would like to come here.

This government, or its successor, ought to be bold enough to consider openly what might be the optimum number of people living here - or at least the number beyond which more would be intolerable. Some think we have already reached it, to judge from letters to this paper last week about housing. Most do not, but some day we certainly will, unless immigration is brought under civilised and thoughtful control.

No one would wish to turn away genuine asylum seekers. No one can turn away migrants from the European Union, whether we wish to or not. The result is that we already have far more prospective immigrants than we could hope to accommodate.

The number of genuine asylum seekers is limitless and the number of EU migrants, with incontestable rights to settle here, is as good as limitless. Surely it follows that the group that morally or legally has less right to come here is therefore the immigrants who are neither EU nationals nor spouses of Britons. So, no immigrants except asylum seekers and Europeans?

There is nothing racist about this suggestion; plenty of Europeans, and most asylum seekers, are of non-European ethnic antecedents. There are Moroccan Frenchwomen or Indonesian Dutchmen; Europe has become a melting pot. Certain exceptions could be made, as ever, for immigrants who would bring exceptional wealth or skills with them. It is, at the very least, time for the government to talk openly and fearlessly about numbers.


New contract leaves another 1.4m without an NHS dentist

The NHS asks us to believe that over a million fewer people had dental problems last year. What a triumph for preventive medicine! (If you believe it)

A controversial new cash deal for dentists has left 1.4million more people without NHS treatment - and a 120 million shortfall in income. The contract was introduced 11 months ago to stop dentists charging for each procedure and to promote a more preventive approach to patient care. It prompted an exodus of 2,000 dentists from the NHS and assurances from Ministers that every patient who lost an NHS dentist would be taken on by another.

Now figures collected under the Freedom of Information Act from 152 primary care trusts in England show a sharp reduction in the amount of NHS work being done. For the first nine months of the current financial year, 51.8 million Units of Dental Activity were delivered - a figure that falls short of what the Government said was needed to maintain levels of NHS dentistry.

In 2005-6 around 24.7 million people received NHS dental care, but - calculated from the latest treatment figures - this will have dropped to 23.3 million. As a result, the income received by PCTs from patients paying NHS charges has fallen. They were expecting 541 million but will only receive 417 million.

One reason could be that "an increasing number of patients are moving to private treatment", says the Department of Health's own primary care contracting group. There are also reports that up to a quarter of NHS practices are treating too many patients too quickly, and are now being told to delay treatments until Easter.

Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures, said they were the latest miscalculation on NHS staff contracts. Other contracts that went over budget was the GP pay and conditions deal which exceeded estimates by 407 million; the Agenda for Change contract for hundreds of thousands of workers 220 million) and the consultants' contract 90 million), he said.

Mr Lansley said: "Eight years ago, Tony Blair promised everyone would have access to an NHS dentist but in the last year, 1.4 million fewer people have access. "NHS dentistry has reached this crisis point because Labour wanted to milk dental patients through higher charges. We need a contract that will incentivise NHS dentists to see more people. One that supports a relationship between individuals and their dentist and promotes good oral health."

Susie Sanderson, Chairman of the British Dental Association's Executive Board, said: "The BDA is aware that dentists and patients across the county are experiencing significant problems with the Government's target-driven reforms to NHS dentistry. "From our own research, we know that three-quarters of dentists felt that the contracts they were allocated did not accurately reflect the amount of treatment they are able to provide. "Where patient charge revenue shortfalls are occurring, the BDA is concerned that they must not be allowed to impact on the provision of patient care."

The Department of Health said: "This survey paints a picture that we do not recognise. We do not accept that 1.4m fewer people have access to NHS dentistry. Widely available figures show that access has remained remarkably stable. "Equally it is nonsense to talk of a shortfall in investment. PCTs have put more money into dentistry than they needed to do and the access figures show this is translating into services for patients."

In March last year, Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the vast majority of dentists were signing up to the new contract. She said: "If dentists choose not to sign up, the local NHS will use that funding to buy services from other dentists."


British academic ban on Israel antisemitic: "The Anti-Defamation League, a movement which fights anti-Semitism, has placed some dramatic newspaper advertisements to underline its case that the singling out of Israel by British academia--at a time of terrible misdeeds in Darfur, Zimbabwe and Iran--can only reflect prejudice. Menachem Klein, a political scientist and veteran of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives, says academic boycotts are not always wrong--but Israel's misdeeds had not merited such a harsh response".

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