Tuesday, February 05, 2008

British army town welcomes back front-line troops

Good to see that many ordinary British people still respect their military

Hundreds of people have turned out to welcome back soldiers who recently returned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,500 lined the streets of the Oxfordshire market town of Bicester to cheer the men and women of 23 Pioneer Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps as they paraded through their home town.

The regiment returned late last year from service in Afghanistan's capital Kabul and the southern province of Helmand. Other members of the unit were on postings in Iraq. Major Mark Comer, 34, returned in November from a six-month tour of duty in Iraq. "I think it's fantastic," he said. "This is the first parade I have done like this. I was absolutely delighted to see such a great turnout. It was really heartwarming."

The event is the latest in a series of high profile occasions since [Leftist] local authorities were criticised for not doing enough to welcome back forces who have been on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The moral and intellectual decay of the British Left

By James MacMillan, a Composer/Conductor with the BBC Philharmonic. He has realized that destruction is all that the modern Left want

In my travels I see myself frequently described in foreign media as a `left-wing and Scottish nationalist' composer. The latter label is ludicrous, and I just put it down to a foreigner's ignorance and justifiable disinterest in the parish-pump tedium of devolved Scotland. It doesn't bother me too much. The first, however, disturbs me much more.

I used to be on the Left - I joined the Young Communist League in 1974, when I was just 14. Part of the motivation behind this was no doubt to annoy my devoutly Catholic relatives, who were all Labour supporters, but anxious, to the point of distraction, about insiduous Marxist manoeuvrings in the unions and in the workplace. My grandfather was part of a Catholic rearguard action in the NUM in the 1930s and 40s to safeguard the union from a far-left takeover. He, and most of the politically active working class in places like Ayrshire throughout the 20th century, were old-style socialists. They tended, also, to be moral and cultural conservatives. There was a tradition among Irish descendants, but also in other communities throughout the country, of Roman and high-Anglo-Catholic orthodoxy that was also politically radical, favouring social justice through economic distribution. The Labour movement was their vehicle to build the just society that was promised in the gospels; the welfare state and greater access to education were seen as fruits of moral Christian activism in society.

After battling against the acolytes of Joe Stalin in the mid-20th century, my grandfather and his friends witnessed a new usurpation of their beloved Labour movement coming from the convulsions of the 1960s. A new generation appeared, whose interest seemed less in economic inequality and more in confronting the traditional values of people like my grandfather, whose beliefs had underpinned the very idea of social order. Marx was giving way to Nietzsche and Freud; Bolshevism was moving over for nihilism. The Left, which had been shaped as much by the muscular Christianity of the 19th century as by anything else, was now being colonised by something very foreign indeed. The cherished values of generations, the foundation of correct, well-ordered structures and relationships were under attack from a formidable foe. The traditional family and education, sexual mores, artistic aspirations, religious belief - all were now seen as coercive strategies of the powerful, designed to enforce conformity and slavish obedience.

The `progressive' liberalism of the new Left, its destructive atheistic iconoclasm, was miles away from the vision of the early Scottish socialists such as John Wheatley, Manny Shinwell and James Maxton.

I muddled along with the Labour party for a few years even though, deep down, I knew instinctively that an essential breach had taken place. Even today, I manage to survive trendy dinner parties by keeping my mouth shut, nodding at the received wisdom of the bien-pensant, and avoiding nasty and surprising arguments. Anything for a quiet life. But the political education I received from old Catholics like my grandfather and even from old Marxists I met at Communist party meetings in the 1970s has made me contemptuous of the simplistic banalities of the modern progressive ,lites. They lack intellectual rigour and ethical integrity, their politics are bland and sentimental, their hatred of Christianity is fundamentalist.

My revulsion is particularly acute in the artistic circles I sometimes find myself in. I regret to say that the most eager acceptance of the new hectoring political puerilities are to be found in The Arts. This has its roots in Romanticism, of course, but a gradual systemisation of radical politics settled in the early 20th century. Think of how, from the 1920s, groups such as Imagists, Vorticists, Futurists, Surrealists, Expressionists habitually declare their commitment to Revolution. Yes, any old revolution would do, but as long as it overturned manners and lifestyles as well as aesthetics and politics.

This has nothing to do with a love of life, a love of the poor or the outsider, but all to do with a love of transgression. It becomes addictive and in the past has led artists as much to the extreme Right as to the far Left. Childish `anti-bourgeois' militancy has no political intelligence or moral fibre. Witness, for example, Harold Pinter's descent into infantilism every time he mentions the United States, or for that matter decides to write poetry. Rather than being ridiculed for the embarrassing doggerel-merchant he has become, he is lauded to the highest by his fellow-travellers, easily impressed by easy rhetoric and equally determined to maintain their favoured positions in the back-slapping arts establishment.

The legacy of this militancy can be seen nowadays in `arts criticism' and the rise of a secular priesthood whose dogmas we now endure day in, day out. The common purpose of this new cultural elite is to attack the institutions and principles of our shared common life. What passes in Britain for an intelligentsia has appropriated the Arts for their own designs - a recent debate at the South Bank proclaimed `All Modern Art Is Left Wing'. No dissent from the party line goes unpunished. What we are seeing here is a cultural regime which adjudicates artists and their work on the basis of how they contribute to the remodelling, indeed the overthrow of society's core institutions and ethics.

Before the performance of one of my orchestral works in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, I gave a short introductory talk and quoted the philosopher Roger Scruton. The Guardian review denounced this as `perilous'. What or who was perilous? Were Scruton's ideas perilous? Was my public association with him perilous? And, if so, for whom? For me? Was this a threat?

In the Daily Telegraph last year Dominic Cavendish asked, `Why do so few of today's plays challenge the left-liberal consensus? Is there a tacit complicity between many of today's writers and the liberal establishment? Is the "liberal consensus" and the fear of appearing right-wing hobbling the urge to conduct tough, awkward debates?' The response from Lisa Goldman, artistic director of the Soho theatre, was telling, and depressing in its simplistic caricature of what `right-wing' means. She asked, `What would a right-wing play have to offer? Anti-democracy, misogyny, bigotry, nostalgia of all kinds? Let's get back to a white Britain? That the slave trade had a civilising influence? That women should stay in the home?' For her, and many like her, anything that is not left-wing is intrinsically and irredeemably evil. There seems no room in her intellectual and aesthetic view to observe a huge and diverse world of moderate and civilised thinkers who have rejected the extreme narrowness of the modern Left.

There is a growing backlash against this bullying, hectoring and unthinking dogmatism. More and more artists describe themselves as lapsed lefties or recovering liberals. There is a growing resolve to confront a liberal establishment in the Arts, media and elsewhere, responsible for the systematic trashing of much that has been our common heritage, including authentic socialist values handed down from Keir Hardie and others. As an ex-socialist I have seen the aspirations that motivated past generations of good, ordinary people discarded with a contemptuous, superior sneer. As a Catholic artist I am sick of the smug ignorance, the gross oversimplification and caricature that serves as an understanding of religion, particularly Catholic Christianity, in so much that passes for criticism and analysis. The destruction visited on schools and universities, the degradation of the media, the vulgarisation of culture, the deliberate and planned dismantling of the family - all this is a result of liberalism, not socialism.

I hope to God that I don't see myself described as a liberal left-winger again when I go abroad.


Extraordinary NHS mismanagement of their funding

It's only the taxpayer's money so who cares?

NHS hospitals have paid more than 120 pounds ($240) an hour for agency workers to fill staffing gaps during the past year, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The payments included 96.75 an hour for a GP in Wolverhampton, 100 an hour for a human resources manager in Blackburn, and 121.59 an hour paid for a nurse in a Berkshire hospital.

The figures, which were obtained by the Conservative Party, form part of a bill for NHS agency staff that totalled 1.18 billion in 2005-06, the last year for which the Department of Health has released figures. The total amount was down from the 1.45 billion that was recorded in 2003-04, but more than double the 540 million spent in 1997. Average hourly pay rates for NHS employees are 15.66 for a nurse, 24.14 for a junior doctor and 60.31 for a consultant, based on the 37.5-hour standard working week, the Tories said.

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: "Labour's chaotic short-term planning has let down NHS staff. Some stability for them is the least we would have expected from the billions that the Government has poured into the NHS." He added that it was incredible that agencies could be paid such high hourly rates for staff at a time when jobs were being cut.

The Conservatives asked NHS trusts to reveal the top hourly rates that each had paid for agency staff during the previous 12 months. The highest figures also included 121.10 an hour for a nurse at Chesterfield and Royal Hospital NHS Trust and 111.96 for a nurse at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust. The highest hourly rate for a non-clinical worker was 119 for a turnaround director at Coventry Teaching Primary Care Trust, followed by 110 for financial staff at Heatherwood and Wrexham Park Hospitals NHS Trust and 106.66 for a director of healthcare and procurement at Havering PCT.

Some trusts appeared to have kept agency costs more strictly under control. Bath and North East Somerset PCT said that the most it paid was 31.15 per hour for a nurse, while the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust's most expensive agency worker was a temporary deputy finance director at 33.33 an hour.

Temporary staff are employed across the NHS to meet fluctuations in activity levels and to cover vacancies and short-term absences. Trusts obtain temporary workers from their own nursing bank, from private agencies or from the NHS-run temporary staffing service, NHS Professionals. A 2007 report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said: "Properly managed, temporary nurses play an important role in helping hospitals achieve flexibility. "Excessive use can be costly, particularly when trusts are heavily reliant on agency nurses. High use of temporary nurses can also have a negative impact on patient care and satisfaction."


Special favours for Muslim schools

Even I, who have written constantly about the British government's lethally flawed strategy of appeasing Islamism, am left breathless by today's story in the Telegraph:
Private Muslim schools have been given the power to police themselves, despite widespread fears over religious segregation, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. In a controversial move, they have won the right to appoint their own Ofsted-style inspectors. A new independent watchdog has been set up to be more `sensitive' toward Islamic education. The decision comes despite concerns some private Muslim schools are already failing to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the Commons schools select committee, told MPs last month local councils were finding it `difficult to know what is going on in some faith schools - particularly Muslim schools'. But religious leaders defended the move, saying the curriculum and religious traditions in faith schools demand specialist knowledge. Under present legislation, most state and private schools are inspected by Ofsted, the Government's standards watchdog. The Association of Muslim Schools and the Christian Schools' Trust applied to the Government to set up a separate inspectorate for a small number of private faith schools. The Daily Telegraph has learned the Department for Children, Schools and Families [DCSF] approved plans for the Bridge Schools' Inspectorate last week, giving it the power to inspect about 60 private Muslim schools and 50 Christian schools.

It really is hard to believe this. There is a crying need for much more rigorous state inspection of Muslim schools. Ofsted, which is supposedly going to police this new Muslim/Christian inspectorate, is hopeless; having progressively emasculated its inspection processes generally, it has already failed to identify Islamic extremism in the Muslim schools it inspects (see the evidence revealed in the recent Policy Exchange report of the bigoted teaching materials used at the King Fahad academy in west London, to which Ofsted gave a clean bill of health). The only way to address Islamic extremism is to take the toughest line possible against the dissemination of hatred and incitement. That means that the state must make it its business to find out where children are being thus indoctrinated and stop it. And that means the state must inspect all Muslim teaching institutions and take action against them where it finds that this is happening. To withdraw instead, as the government is now doing, and allow these schools to police themselves is to give a green light to the extremist production line.

Furthermore, it also bows to the Islamist insistence that British Muslims must develop parallel institutions to the British state, a fundamental element of their strategy to Islamise this country. For although this is presented as a Muslim/Christian initiative, no-one can be in any doubt that the main thrust comes from British Muslims. The website of the Christian body involved, the Christian Schools' Trust, is being rejigged so information on it is sparse; but it appears to be a marginal fundamentalist body. Certainly there is no indication that Christian schools in general, or Jewish schools for that matter, are pressing for their own inspectorate.

Many people still think that the idea that Britain could ever be `Islamised' is just too preposterous and silly to be taken seriously. It is not. It is well advanced. What it relies upon is three things: the refusal of the British public to take it seriously; the Islamists' ability to manipulate moral and intellectual liberal confusion and the resulting paralysis over `Islamophobia', `discrimination' and `minority rights'; and the craven desire by the British government to buy off the implicit and explicit threats of Muslim social unrest and yet more terrorist attacks by giving in to the Islamists' demands. Truly moderate British Muslims who want to live under the umbrella of British laws and institutions are thus grievously undermined, and the entire country is put at ever greater peril from the pincer movement of cultural and terrorist attack. Members of Parliament with an elementary sense of national self-preservation simply must not let this pass.


The Leftist influence on history has understandably caused it to be seen as just propaganda: "Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth. And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist."

Suicide bomb suspects held at British airport: "Scotland Yard is braced for a fresh wave of possible terrorist attacks against public transport after a group of suspected Islamist suicide bombers were arrested in a secret security operation at Gatwick airport. Six Pakistani men were held under anti-terrorism laws 10 days ago after they flew in from Barcelona. The arrests were prompted by a tip-off from the Spanish intelligence services after the discovery of a suspected Al-Qaeda terror cell in the city. The cell is alleged to have planned to detonate suicide bombs on the Barcelona Metro. The Spanish warned a similar attack was being planned here. The six Pakistanis were taken to Paddington Green police station in west London and were questioned by detectives from the Yard's counter-terrorism unit. After being held overnight they were driven under police escort back to the airport and escorted onto a flight back to Pakistan. Soon after the arrests MI5's Centre for the Protection of National Infra-structure warned of a possible terrorist attack on bridges, tunnels and the Channel tunnel."

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