Friday, November 09, 2007

Justice for the English!

Get out from under those socialist Scots!

Somewhere among the stiff upper lips and a fondness for queuing, a sense of fair play is to be found in any shortlist of the traits readily associated with the English. No wonder, then, that they are animated by the "West Lothian question"-the constitutional anomaly that allows Scottish MPs to vote on laws affecting only England but, since devolution in 1999, denies English MPs a say on a wide array of matters that pertain only to Scotland.

One answer to this question-limiting the right to vote on English-only matters, including health and education, to MPs with English seats-was proposed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a Conservative MP, on October 28th. It is not yet party policy, but his plan for a "grand committee" of English MPs is being considered by the Tories.

The present arrangements are lop-sided but Sir Malcolm's proposals, experts say, could hasten the break-up of the United Kingdom. A government with a majority of British but not English seats might struggle to pass many of its manifesto pledges, and ministers from Scottish constituencies would be unable to vote on their own bills. This is not just a theoretical worry: the present cabinet is led by Scots, including the prime minister and his chancellor of the exchequer

Yet a glance at an electoral map explains why the Tories' views may be changing. Margaret Thatcher tried out her hated poll tax there and that, plus the impact of privatisation and union-bashing on Scotland's industrial economy, turned off voters north of the border. The Tories now have just one MP in Scotland.

More here

Anglospheric dominance

Ever since the Glorious Revolution in 1688, Britain and America have been on the winning side, from the war of the Spanish succession to the cold war. The anglosphere's long streak of luck has preoccupied the losers more than the winners. Winston Churchill excepted, most Britons don't like being tied to modern America; Americans can't see what ancient Britain has to do with them. Yet for outsiders the link between the English-speaking peoples was horribly clear from the start: only a few years after the American revolution the French were sending back horrified reports that New England really was new England in spirit.

Mr Mead's own explanation focuses on God and gold. Britain was lucky: economically, it came good at just the right time. It had a Goldilocks location (close enough to Europe to imbibe its heat, distant enough to avoid many of its wars) and a Goldilocks state (strong enough to work, weak enough to keep out of the way). But its tolerance and brashness were also part of its economic strength: Donald Trump would have fitted into London.

More controversially, Mr Mead also claims that God was part of the anglosphere's competitive advantage. Both Britain and America kept a balance between reason, faith and tradition that their rivals did not. Religion helped to keep the state in check and supplied some of the verve to keep on trying to change the world.

Mr Mead also pinpoints an irony of Anglo-Saxon success. After each victory, the Anglo-Saxons have a rotten record of predicting what will come next, nearly always declaring some version of a new world order, only for a new evil to emerge. Often they seem blissfully unaware of the ire their success has caused. That could be the case with Islam now.


Britain's multicultural agony continues

Sikh girl, 14, suspended for wearing religious bangle

A Sikh teenager has been suspended from school for refusing to remove a religious bangle. The parents of Sarika Singh, 14, are now considering a legal challenge against the school, a girls' comprehensive school in Aberdare, South Wales, that taught the girl "in isolation" for nine weeks before excluding her.

Jane Rosser, the headmistress of Aberdare Girls' School, said that the code of conduct permitted only two items of jewellery, a watch and a pair of plain metal stud earrings. The school bans all visible religious symbols, including Christian crosses and Muslim headscarves.

Miss Singh has won the backing of the Valleys Race Equality Council and her parents are now considering a challenge in the High Court. The metal bangle, called a kara, is one of five items all Sikhs are expected to wear. It is supposed to be a visual reminder to do only good work with the hands. Miss Singh, who has been suspended for five days, began wearing it two years ago after a family visit to India, but the school took action only in September. Her mother, Sanita Singh, said: "Sarika told us, `I don't go to school any more, I go to prison'."

Ian Blake, chairman of the school's governing body, said: "We made our decision only after prolonged research into the previous stated cases across the UK, interrogation of the law, including human rights and race relations legislation." The governors have rejected an appeal.



"Enoch was right," said Mr Nigel Hastilow, and within 24 hours of uttering those words the speaker found that he was no longer the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis. Mr Hastilow, you see, had reacted in a completely unacceptable fashion to the Office for National Statistics' report that the population of this country would, largely as a result of net immigration, rise to 71 million in 25 years' time.

Respectable opinion offers a different response to this alleged problem. Thus, on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Sir Crispin Tickell GCMG, KCVO said that we should be pursuing policies that would reduce our population to 20 million - a third of its current level. Meanwhile, a columnist on The Times, Melanie Reid, argued that we should look to the People's Republic of China for appropriate remedies. Referring to China's "one child" policy, Ms Reid wrote that: "I rather admire the Chinese. They recognised a huge problem and did something about it. It was dreadfully crude but it has prevented the births of 400 million people."

As that great student of Communist China, Jonathan Mirsky, retorted: "The male-female birth rate in China now is between 115 and 118 males to 100 women. The results? Rape, abduction (of females for brides) and female infanticide. Why would anyone admire this, crude or not?"

I'm not aware that anyone has rebutted Sir Crispin's suggestion that there are three times more British people than is desirable, so perhaps I should do so here. First of all, I don't accept the initial assumption that this country is unbearably overcrowded - or even would be so with a population of 71 million. No more than 8 per cent of the land mass of the United Kingdom consists of human dwellings or offices. Sheep, cows and assorted other creatures occupy much more space than we do.

The BBC's peerless economics correspondent, Evan Davis, points out that if the whole of the UK had the population density of Jersey then we would have a headcount of 180 million. Yet the people of Jersey are not engaging in bloody civil war or cannibalism - the sort of outcome that would be predicted by the population doomsters. As Davis observes, the key to managing population growth is to develop the appropriate infrastructure, which presumably Jersey has managed to do.

I was surprised to hear Sir Crispin Tickell citing 20 million as the appropriate number of residents for the UK; only four years ago, on BBC 2's Newsnight, he spoke in support of a figure of 30 million. Numbers, numbers. In his earlier broadcast, Sir Crispin remarked: "Someone has said that constantly increasing growth is the doctrine of the cancer cell. You just get out of control."

This metaphor, in effect describing the birth of children as like a metastasising tumour, is truly disgusting. Who, though, was that "someone" Sir Crispin airily quoted? His name is Paul Ehrlich and he is a patron, along with Tickell and Sir Jonathon Porritt, among others, of the Optimum Population Trust, an organisation that campaigns tirelessly for an organised reduction in human life.

Mr Ehrlich is the godfather of the environmentalist human reduction movement. Almost 40 years ago he wrote a book called The Population Bomb, which asserted that so many people would die as a direct result of starvation due to overpopulation that the world would, by 1985, be able to support only 1.5 billion humans. Mr Ehrlich also claimed that about 65 million of the victims would have died of hunger in his own country, the United States of America. As for Great Britain, Ehrlich declared that he would "take even money" that none of its inhabitants "would exist in the year 2000".

We now know that these predictions were of no more value than those given by the lunatic on a street corner declaring that the end of the word is nigh. Unlike those weirdos, however, Professor Ehrlich continues to pick up awards and is invited on to television programmes, like a sort of Cassandra in reverse (Cassandra, you will recall, got her prophecies right, but was ignored).

Even in what we used to call the Third World, life expectancy has grown by 40 per cent over the past half-century. Both the developed and the developing world have refuted the contemptible assertion - which defies both agricultural science and the human spirit - that the more we are, the worse it will be for all of us.

There have indeed been some horrendous famines - but fewer than ever before in human history and on a tiny scale compared to those foreseen by the guru of the Optimum Population Trust; these have been a result not of overpopulation but of governments taking control of land that used to be run by the farmers themselves - sometimes as part of a deliberate policy of starvation.

The population control freaks canvas a similarly insidious invasion into the intimate lives of hitherto free peoples. The Optimum Population Trust is scandalised by the fact that: "Couples making decisions about family size do so in the belief that it is a matter for them and their personal preferences alone." These professional misanthropes have now co-opted the fashionable hysteria about the consequences of climate change into their eternal quest for human self-culling.

Thus an Optimum Population Trust briefing paper rejoiced that: "A non-existent person has no environmental footprint; the emission saving is instant and total." As Frank Furedi, the author of Population and Development - A Critical Introduction, comments: "This preference for the non-existent over the existent speaks to a powerful anti-humanist sensibility."

As a matter of fact, we can expect this "problem", insofar as it can be so described, to solve itself: we now know that the process of economic development brings with it medical improvements that reduce infant mortality - and thus the compensating urge to produce very large families. That process is also accompanied by female education, which has a similar effect on what is sometimes called "fertility choice".

Note the word: choice. For the state to intervene in any way in the most personal and precious decision of our private lives would be a reduction of freedom dwarfing in significance all the minor infringements which have already occurred over such apparently unacceptable activities as the hunting of foxes while wearing red coats or smoking in private clubs.

So here is a message that we might send to the population control freaks, and I hope that it will not be found too crude. It is this: mind your own reproducing business.


British private schools may relinquish charity status to escape hostile Leftist bureaucrats

SOME independent schools may voluntarily give up charitable status to escape the threat of "hostile voices" and "sabre-rattling" by regulators at the Charity Commission. Schools exploring the move believe it would have only a limited impact on their finances and would free them from rules that could prove intrusive and bureaucratic. From next year the presumption that all education is charitable and so can enjoy tax breaks will end. Instead, schools will have to prove they provide a "public benefit", for example, access for poor families.

Many head teachers have complained at what they see as threats from some Charity Commission executives. "Someone, somewhere [in the Charity Commission] has got an antiindependent school agenda," said Bernard Trafford, chairman of the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference, which represents more than 250 independent schools. Trafford, headmaster of Wolverhampton grammar school, said that while abandoning charitable status would "go against our heart", the possibility was now being considered by his school and others. "A lot of us will explore this option now these kind of crazy, hostile voices are being floated again," he said.

Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission, has said it could freeze bank accounts and "go nuclear" against schools that fail to meet the public benefit test.

Steps being taken by schools to prove public benefit include increasing bursaries for pupils from poorer families and opening sports facilities. Moves such as sponsoring city academies are also being explored. Lord Adonis, the schools minister, will use a speech next week to the Girls' Schools Association of independent schools to promote academies.

Charitable status brings independent schools an estimated 100m pounds in tax breaks a year. But schools have been advised that if they turn themselves into companies, Vat could not under European law be imposed on school fees. They have estimated that the other tax benefits of charitable status could be replaced by a fee increase of 2.7%-5%.

Chris Woodhead, the Sunday Times columnist who chairs the education firm Cognita, said he was in discussions to acquire a number of schools worried about whether they could survive as independent charities under the law. He said: "If the public benefit test means, as it seems it will, that [charity] schools have to devote more and more time and resources to propping up state schools, what does that mean for the education of their own children and how will their parents react?"

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: "The public benefit requirement is not something any charity should fear. It is an opportunity for charities to articulate even more clearly the value they bring."


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