Sunday, March 02, 2008

Britain shoots the messenger

You are not supposed to tell it like it is in Britain. But if you are a peer of the realm, you are in a better position than most to do so

A Conservative peer who branded nurses "grubby, drunken and promiscuous" during a debate in the House of Lords faced a rebuke from David Cameron and fury from nursing leaders and ministers yesterday....

The row developed after Lord Mancroft claimed it was "a miracle" that he was still alive after his experience of filthy wards and "slipshod and lazy" nurses when he was admitted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath. He alleged that nurses chatted to one another about their sex lives and alcohol intake in front of patients, some of whom they regarded simply as "a nuisance". "The nurses who looked after me were mostly grubby - we are talking about dirty fingernails and hair - and were slipshod and lazy. Worst of all, they were drunken and promiscuous," he said.

"How do I know that? Because if you're a patient and you're lying in a bed, and you're being nursed from either side, they talk across you as if you're not there. So I know exactly what they got up to the night before, and how much they drank, and I know exactly what they were planning to do the next night, and I can tell you, it's pretty horrifying." The nurses were "an accurate reflection of many young women in Britain today", the peer claimed.

But, as the furore over his remarks mounted, it emerged that it was not the first time Lord Mancroft had criticised the health service. The peer was treated successfully for heroin addiction in the United States. In a Lords debate in 1991 he accused the NHS of being the "biggest supplier of addictive drugs in the world".

Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Addiction Recovery Foundation, was reported in The Times at the time as saying that his life had been governed for years by an addiction to heroin, cocaine, alcohol and pills. His family had searched everywhere for the help he needed. Eventually he was treated successfuly in Minnesota. Later, he suggested that the Health Department send a team to America to study methods of treatment.

Lord Mancroft, who went to Eton and is a member of Pratt's Club in St James's, London, told peers on Thursday night that he owed his life to the fact that his wife had "kidnapped" him from the Royal United Hospital and took him to a hospital in London where standards were higher. The Tory peer did not name the hospital involved, but the RCN said it had identified it and was in contact with the NHS trust responsible to discuss his allegations.

Peter Carter, the RCN general secretary and chief executive, said: "These comments are extremely unhelpful and grossly unfair on nurses across the UK, who work extremely hard to provide patients with the highest standards of care. "Where poor nursing exists, it should always be challenged through the proper channels. [The British just LOVE "proper channels". That way everything can be hushed up]


British doctor shortage

In another triumph of socialist "planning", Britain has plenty of medical school graduates but no places in hospitals to allow them to complete their training!

Hospital trusts are looking abroad as they struggle to find locum doctors for emergency shifts. Leaked documents from the NHS and Department of Health reveal a national shortage, raising concerns over cancelled operations and poor patient care. Controversial changes in the training process for junior doctors have created a shortfall of qualified candidates for temporary vacancies.

Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Trust, Surrey, said that it was advertising in Polish medical journal for accident and emergency doctors, the Health Service Journal reports. The department said that "the problem has been circulating anecdotally for some time. We do take it seriously." It was talking to the NHS and others about potential solutions.

Under the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) reforms introduced last year, experienced doctors can leave posts at any time but trainees can replace them only every August.

A leaked e-mail to regional health authorities from Steve Buggle, the MMC project leader for recruitment, said that "some trusts may be experiencing problems in finding locums". Vicky Osgood, of Severn and Wessex deanery of the NHS, replied that the problem was extensive. "We are having increasing difficulty filling any and all vacancies and locum requests."



What is it about the Today programme (BBC Radio 4)? After all, it is supposed to be the thinking person's introduction to the news of the day. But, at 07.21 minutes into the programme this morning, their correspondent shadowing the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Miliband [amazingly given as `Milliband' at the Today web site], on his trip to China blithely blathered the phrase: "to stop climate change" [you can listen in here, at 07.20 minutes into the 06.00 - 06.30 slot - after today, select `Thursday'].

What a nonsense! Whether you believe in `global warming', or not, the one thing on which we can all agree is that humans can never stop climate change. We may be able to influence it, or to modify it, but we can never, never "stop" it. Indeed, because climate is the most complex, coupled, non-linear, semi-chaotic system known, we can't even manage it predictably. Still, I am sure we will all revel in the sight John Humphrys battling solar sun spots, Sarah Montague honing the geometry of the Earth, James Naughtie capping volcanoes, Carolyn Quinn creating fluffy clouds, and Ed Stourton deflecting the ocean currents.

It really is time that the producers of Today expunged from the programme such thinking and sloppy language about climate change, especially as Radio 4 regards itself as a cut above the other more `popular' BBC outlets. Yet, interestingly, a far more critical (and, I might add, fun) approach is often found on Radio 2, witness Jeremy Vine's lovely interview yesterday with the weatherman, John Ketley, who was hilarious about `global warming' and climate change being blamed for everything, even for football managers losing their jobs [you can listen in here, starting at 12.30 minutes into the recording*]. Mind you, I wouldn't put it beyond the Today lot to try (although poor old `sport' does tend to be a tad looked down on by its more lofty presenters).

Unfortunately, too much of Today simply repeats what The Times commentator, David Aaronovitch, has brilliantly termed the `Intelligentsia Default Position', or IDP. Sadly, of course, this does not mean that it is either intelligent or even meaningful.

More here

BBC's White Season will reopen immigration debate

Since Enoch Powell's day the great and good have kept quiet about race. The BBC's six-part season will change that

Time to update your calendars, everyone! It's the start of the White Season!! Or, to be wholly specific, it's the start of the BBC's "How the White Working Classes are Coping with Mass Immigration Season". As an almost entirely unprecedented tackling of the subject, it's already been heralded as the BBC "opening the floodgates" to racist polemic at the nation's pub tables and water-coolers. In terms of potential political fall-out, it makes a "Lesbian Season" on Channel 4 look like a "Kittens Wearing Mittens Season on Living".

Starting on Friday with Last Orders, White Season - comprising five documentaries and a drama, White Girl - sketches out its landscape quite quickly: Britain is a country entering the second stage of a gigantic social experiment - multiculturalism through mass immigration - for which, amazingly, no particular plans, projections or provisions were ever made. While immigration might be something the liberal left-wing are in favour of - and find very useful, vis-a-vis Ukrainian carpenters on œ2 an hour - it is, in the main, the working classes who are actually living this multicultural life, and sharing their shops, schools, hospitals, pubs and streets with dozens of different nationalities, cultures and beliefs.

A large part of the hitherto self-imposed broadcasting ban on discussing immigration can be laid at the doorstep, doubtless spotlessly white, of Enoch Powell and his "Rivers of Blood" speech. As the logical starting point for any debate, it's rather baffling that Rivers of Blood doesn't open the season. As the documentary makes clear, Powell's speech was such a Hiroshima of oratory - an outpouring of such extremity - that it deterred any Establishment discussion of immigration for 40 years.

Most of us will never have seen the whole speech - because the BBC cameraman filmed only parts of it. Watching what there is proves instructive: Powell, with his tiny pupils and raptor's head, looks like a peregrine falcon, and frames gut-fears in the language of a prophet-statesman. The seduction was so instant that had public polls decided such a thing, Powell would have become Prime Minister of Great Britain that week - and by a landslide. Rivers of Blood is a classic, authoritative BBC documentary on a difficult, fascinating subject, with loads of satisfying archive footage of people with 1960s hair coming out of factories, and sitting in pubs. It's 45 minutes of total Licence Fee Justification broadcasting.

Speaking of those pubs, Last Orders documents the dying days of Wibsey Working Men's Club. Where once the club was the heart of the white community, it's now a relic - anachronistic in the young, increasingly Muslim city of Bradford. Last Orders is, at 90 minutes, dreary, achingly over-long, and misguidedly sentimental. By the end, you are apt to feel that if these people can't even - pretty much literally - arrange a piss-up in a pub, it's no wonder that their city is being taken over by people with a bit more zazz.

And visually, the documentary concurs: along with Storyville, Last Orders - whether intentionally or not - shoots the old, white working classes as grotesques: crater-pored, cross-eyed, with tiny, pinprick eyes, mouths so wrinkled from smoking they look like combs, and noses crystalline with gout. They all look like Breughel peasants - unimaginably distant from the modern world of smoothies, iPhones and Lewis Hamilton. They look, unkindly framed, like they need to die out [What a disgraceful portrayal of working-class people!] -- although whether they should be replaced by, say, a tight-knit community of Muslims living under Sharia is another matter.

Storyville, as usual, winkles out a better plot with All White in Barking. Nosing around Barking, Essex, it finds a couple of stories that give a far more nuanced vision of a fast-changing, multicultural area - including the BNP campaigner who, in one scene, tries to hand a racist leaflet to his daughter's half-black boyfriend. Ironically, he actually seems to have the colour-blindness ("He's half African? Are you sure? I'll have to check that out") that the idealistic liberals who originally conceived multiculturalism dreamt of. It's just one facet of the current British working-class experience that makes this season such a great - and, rarely for TV, significant - intellectual chewing-point.

BBC Two's White Season begins with Last Orders on Fri, 9pm, and continues the following week with Rivers of Blood, All White in Barking and three other films: White Girl, The Poles Are Coming and The Primary


Naughty beer label passes close scrutiny

We read:

"Alcohol advertising watchdogs rejected a complaint against the Wye Valley Brewery in Herefordshire after investigating whether a character on one of its labels was wearing knickers.

Alcohol Concern contacted the Portman Group over a cartoon on Dorothy Goodbody stout, claiming that it "hinted at a lack of undergarments" and was sexually suggestive.

Investigators concluded, however, that the "complainant's imagination had got the better of them" and there was no reason to assume that "Dorothy" was not wearing underwear. The "slightly saucy" label was intended to capture the "spirit of fun and innocence of 1950s rural Herefordshire", they added.


More details here

British selective schools misrepresented by official propaganda

Grammar schools languish at the foot of new-style league tables published today, prompting accusations that ministers are creating "propaganda" against selective education. Four academically selective schools were ranked among the bottom 100 in England using a new system of measurement that takes account of pupils' social class, ethnicity and gender. Despite gaining near-perfect results, some schools have been penalised for being dominated by middle-class pupils who are predicted to get good grades

The National Grammar Schools Association (NGSA) accused the Government of using the figures to justify attacks on selective education. Grammar schools continue to dominate league tables based on raw results. But in the new "contextual value added" list (CVA), schools are ranked by the progress made between 11 and 14 and they are judged less harshly if they have many pupils who live in deprived areas. Other mitigating factors include the ethnicity of pupils and even the ratio of boys to girls.

Gravesend Grammar School, Slough Grammar School, Dartford Grammar School for Girls and Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone were among the bottom 100 in the rankings. A further five were among the worst 400.

A spokesman for the NGSA said the tables were "pure propaganda to undermine good performance". He said: "This is just part of a continued and concerted effort to undermine the good work that grammar schools actually do. To continue to try to find ways to denigrate the good work of 164 grammar schools, educating around 160,000 pupils, is a complete travesty."

This is the first year that the new ranking formula has been used. Last year a similar, value-added table, which judged the progress between 11 and 14 without taking account of poverty, put grammars among the top in the country.

Chris Walls, the head teacher of Mablethorpe Tennyson High, in Lincolnshire, the most improved school in the country, criticised the "wretched" grammar school system, saying it condemned the majority of pupils to an inferior education. His school has a higher than average number of children from poor backgrounds as well as those with special needs. Lincolnshire has 15 grammar schools educating roughly a third of the brightest schoolchildren.

In 2004, just over a third of the pupils at Mablethorpe Tennyson hit the national targets in English, maths and science at the age of 14. This year, almost two-thirds of pupils did so in literacy and science and three-quarters in maths. Mr Walls said: "Some schools like Tennyson haven't been doing well because of the continued existence of these wretched grammar schools. You are always going to have 10 or 15 schools in Lincolnshire which look like they are failing because they have a disproportionately high number of less bright pupils. To get rid of these failing schools you need to get rid of academic selection."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families pointed out that some grammars also appear among the top schools using the new measurement. A spokesman said: "Surely mainstream schools have more cause for complaint because they don't get to pick their pupils and therefore struggle to keep up with grammars in all other tables."


A Royal soldier: "Prince Harry's exploits against the Taleban produced a mass of favourable comments about the Royal Family. "Well done that fine young representative of the Royal Family," one said. "And people wonder why we respect our Royal Family more than the Government," another wrote."

Prince Harry not spared: "Prince Harry's commanding officer has paid tribute to his grit on the front line, where he served at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Delhi alongside the Gurkhas. The firebase near the town of Garmsir is the first stop for jihadis heading north into Helmand from the lawless Pakistani border region. It is one of the hottest FOBs. Lieutenant-Colonel Jonny Bourne, commanding officer of First Battalion, said: "FOB Delhi is probably the busiest place in Helmand, with attacks daily - rockets, mortars, small arms fire, that sort of thing."

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