Monday, April 07, 2008

BBC censors Harrabin

Roger Harrabin is one of the less ideological reporters for the BBC and he sometimes mentions things that call global warming into question. But that does not suit the British Bias Corporation of course. In this article, Harrabin mentioned recent global cooling. But when someone senior to him saw it, they were obviously not happy. The article was changed after it initially appeared.

I have a PDF of the article produced shortly after it was posted. I also have a PDF of what was up last time I checked. Let us compare the 3rd/4th sentences in each. In V1, they say:
'This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory. But experts say we are still clearly in a long-term warming trend - and they forecast a new record high temperature within five years.'

In V2 they say:
'But this year's temperature would still be way above the average - and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.'

How low the BBC has sunk from the grand old days of Lord Reith when it could be relied on as a source of objective and unbiased information! The Left corrupt anything they get their hands on. As Orwell pointed out, they think that truth is what they declare it to be.

Britain: Women in their reproductive years have a legal licence to exploit their employers and fellow workers

Brass neck is the phrase that comes to mind on contemplating the newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky. She is the woman who accepted 1m pounds a year for a new job as “the face of Five News” and who, only six weeks into her contract, announced that she was 12 weeks pregnant. If I were running Five I would be beside myself with rage. Undisclosed sources say her bosses are indeed dismayed that she will be out of action so soon after starting on this hugely paid and hugely publicised role. Apparently she is taking maternity leave in September, for “a few months”, although of course she will have the option of extending her leave and may never return.

Meanwhile, instead of the ferociously sexy on-the-ball babe that Five hired, Kaplinsky will be becoming larger and mumsier, she may have a nauseous or difficult pregnancy requiring lots of time off, and at some point her brain will be affected by the amnesia of pregnancy. This is a phenomenon that is now widely admitted, even by feminists (although it is equally often denied when inconvenient); there is even a nasty new fashionable word for a woman in this state - preghead. Luckily there is, of course, Autocue at Five News. And an expensive stand-in will have to be found.

The proper word for all this is exploitation. It is women such as Kaplinsky, appearing so flamboyantly unreliable and unapologetic, who make working life much harder for the rest of us - working mothers, childless women and, of course, all employers. To add insult to injury, employers are not even allowed to say so. On the contrary, a top man at Five has said that he is “genuinely delighted” and indeed he could have said nothing else. It would probably have been illegal - discrimination against women - even to hint at any other response.

I have not tried to count the weeks and figure out the moment of Kaplinsky’s conception; somehow it seems rather rude. It may be that when she signed her contract she wasn’t - quite - pregnant. However, she must have been when she started work and she may well have known it. In any case she must surely have been aware of her own hopes and intentions about having a baby, presumably sooner rather than later, unless this infant was a “mistake”. This strikes me as unfair to her employers, unless they knew and accepted this risk in advance.

When I was interviewed for a traineeship at the BBC, the panel asked what my plans for having children were and how I would combine children with work. It seemed to me then (and still does) a reasonable question. I was married and 27, which at that time was considered late to start having babies. However, the woman from personnel told me not to answer; she said the question was sexist and impermissible. It would now, like many such reasonable questions, be illegal although, oddly, it is legal (although entirely unreasonable) to ask people about their sexual orientation when they apply for Arts Council grants.

Sir Alan Sugar was right when he said recently that women should tell their employers about their reproductive plans. In doing so he made himself unpopular. However, it is surely unfair - and commercially disastrous - to expect an employer to take on, unknown, the risks to his business that new mothers are likely to impose on him. Perhaps Kaplinsky discussed this with Five; but the point is that women in their reproductive years have a legal licence to exploit their employers and fellow workers.

The fact that Kaplinsky will not be entitled to maternity pay from Five because she works as a freelance means only that her employers will not pay her a huge fee for work she does not do. They will have to find and negotiate with someone else, they will have to pay for massive publicity for someone else, having just met the bills for all the PR hoopla they bought to launch Kaplinsky. Then that other newsreader, having been starred up at their expense, will take the results to a competitor. They will have to endure the internal disruption that will follow the departure in only a few months of their star and with her the possible loss of her ratings.

It is depressing, from a woman’s point of view, that the pendulum has swung so quickly from one unfair extreme to another. In the 1960s women were harassed and underpaid and their problems with childcare were overlooked. While there are plenty of low-paid women for whom that is still true, these days the boot is usually on the woman’s foot and she puts it in when she can. Many women seem to expect extraordinary rights and allowances so that they can keep their jobs whatever the cost and inconvenience to their employer and to be equally paid when they are not always of equal value. Government and public opinion support them.

Yet I have several professional women friends, committed feminists, who dread hiring women for all the obvious reasons. The most pressing are their long periods of maternity leave and the extreme difficulty of replacing them temporarily in demanding service industries such as publishing and law with equally good people, who will then have to be dropped.

Last week there was an interesting controversy about women doctors in the pages of the British Medical Journal. A brave doctor claimed on the Radio 4 Today programme on Friday that three female doctors need to be trained to produce the same “work time output” as two male doctors (because of maternity leave, time off and early retirement). Furthermore, for the same reasons, women doctors cause disruption in the continuity of care and face problems in maintaining their practical skills, such as in surgery, with an interrupted career path.

All this is extremely difficult and I am very uncertain as to what, if anything, can reasonably be done. However, surely the most important first step in dealing with such intractable problems is to be free to admit what they are. When hiring women of childbearing age is more problematic than hiring men or other women, employers should be allowed to say so. They should not be forced to pretend that it isn’t so, while at the same time making special allowances for working mothers and offering equal pay for what may not be equal services.


At least Britain is honest about immigration now

Last week a Lords committee said immigration had brought little economic benefit to Britons. A black "Times" correspondent tours Britain and finds similar sentiment on the ground. And expression of that sentiment can no longer be suppressed

Enoch Powell's explosive "rivers of blood" speech in 1968 effectively closed down public debate about immigration for several decades. His inflammatory language made the topic radioactive, while at a stroke destroying his political career. Forty years on, immigration is being discussed up and down the country and occupies centre-stage in parliament. It's a topic that presses emotional buttons in everyone - white, black or Asian - as I found during a journey across Britain to discover whether Powell's apocalyptic visions have any basis in today's reality.

It has been a fascinating experience for me - a Briton born in Somalia barely a year before Powell's speech - to listen to these concerns. As an overseas reporter I have been more used to hearing villagers' grievances against another tribe of a different ethnicity. Yet in a sense these were familiar scenarios - whether I was talking to a white family who felt under siege in picture-postcard Lichfield or a second-generation black worker in Brixton who was complaining about Polish workers undercutting his business.

It was striking how ill-informed we are about immigration. There are so many half-truths bandied around that none of us feels we have been given the full picture. What became clear to me is that the issue is less about colour and cultural differences - in the way Powell portrayed - and more about the sense that people's jobs and livelihoods are being threatened.

My point of departure was the room in the Midland hotel in Birmingham where Powell made his fateful speech. First I talked to people who had been there at the time. A friend of Powell, a policeman from Wolverhampton, told me that he thought the speech was one of Powell's worst: the MP, he said, had looked self-conscious and worried as he delivered it. Even today it still has the power to shock with its bleak vision and Powell's warning - in messianic, racist tones - that Britain was about to change for ever. However, stripped of its poisonous rhetoric, it is impossible to deny that some of his predictions have been borne out by events. In effect, Powell was articulating a critique of multiculturalism - before multiculturalism became official policy. At the time he called it communalism, a "canker" that would isolate communities and which the majority, native British population would struggle to understand.

Most people now believe that multiculturalism - the celebration of ethnic diversity without the need to integrate - is imploding. Powell's spectre of "the River Tiber foaming with much blood" was in fact a reference to the racial ferment in America, which many people at the time - including Richard Nixon - thought might be on the verge of civil war. In Britain people pointed to the race riots of 1981 as a fulfilment of Powell's prophecy.

In some ways we are still stuck with the parameters of his speech, with its emphasis on people coming to live here permanently. By combining the issues of race and cultural identity, it continues to divide people and evoke anger. However, I think we have moved far beyond the kind of world that Powell predicted. To me the real revelation is the way in which second and third-generation immigrants feel embedded in Britain - and now talk about east Europeans with the same sense of fear, foreboding and anger that white people expressed about Asians 30 or 40 years ago. According to a YouGov survey commissioned by Channel 4, 58% of settled British migrants feel there is an immigration "crisis". Among the total population this view is echoed by 83% - with 84% in favour of halting immigration altogether. The poll also found that 66% feel that their jobs are being undercut by migrant workers and 69% believe the latter are given special treatment.

One of the most striking interviews I conducted was with Ricky Scott, a carpet cleaner from south London whose grandparents had emigrated to Britain from Jamaica in the 1950s. Concerned that east Europeans were undercutting his charges with rates of 30 pounds a day, he also complained about the number of newcomers on the streets who were speaking foreign languages. In an uncanny echo of Powell - who spoke of the majority British becoming "strangers in their own country" - the carpet cleaner said: "I can't be understood in my own country."

It is not just second and third-generation immigrants who are directing their ire at east Europeans. In Lichfield a white working-class family told me that it was only a matter of time before "rivers of blood" became a reality. Dave James, who had experienced difficulty in finding work, recalled going to a job-seeking agency and finding himself at the end of a queue of east Europeans who were receiving priority treatment. He walked out. "It makes me feel like a second-class citizen," he said. I met many others from the so-called white working class who feel they can no longer compete for the jobs that are now taken by Polish electricians and other skilled workers. They feel utterly marginalised and ignored by everybody - which makes their stories compelling and sad.

Because Poles are white and Christian, attracting little racist sentiment, they are to some extent seen as fair game. They represent the lightning rod of immigration: the focus for people's fears about their livelihoods being threatened by the sheer numbers arriving from abroad.

This is very like the scenario that Powell described - people unable to find jobs, changed neighbourhoods and different languages spoken at schools. But immigration these days is a matter of constant churning change. I interviewed many Polish people who said they would definitely be going back home. They do not see themselves as immigrants but as part of the global workforce. Our economy - Europe's most open, wealthy and diverse - beckons them to a place where they can use their skills and then move on.

This is perhaps the crucial distinction from Powell's frame of reference. The new transient immigration is all about the needs of our economy. Meanwhile, a huge number of indigenous British people have been failed by the education system and are not prepared for such a dynamic globalised workplace.

Last week a House of Lords committee declared that immigration had brought "little or no" economic benefit to the majority population. But after speaking to a range of employers - from City bankers to people who employ immigrants on building sites - I am convinced that they are wrong. Our economy has outshone that of every other European country: immigration certainly has not held it back. In rejecting the committee's conclusion, Gordon Brown ruled out an annual limit on immigration, favouring a new points-based system that will allow only highly skilled workers into the UK. Immigration, it seems, is now part of our economic policy and therefore extremely difficult to control.

This will be of no comfort to indigenous Britons such as Richard, a middle-class writer who told me that his area of Wibsey is the last bastion of British civilisation in Bradford. Feeling outnumbered by Pakistanis in areas of the town where he says "whitey is not welcome", he dreams of going down to Whitehall and seeing it "lined with politicians and civil servants hanging from the lampposts" - a fitting punishment, he feels, for having destabilised this country.

Pakistanis, of course, have worries of their own. Indeed, I spoke to many Asians in the Midlands who felt they were suffering from discrimination. One said: "I'm British and if I want to bring my wife and uncle from Pakistan, why do I have a harder time than a Polish guy who can just walk in?"

For me the most positive aspect of the immigration issue is that it is no longer a no-go area. Today it is being discussed openly by people of all colours, from many points of view. And it is surely better to debate the pros and cons of immigration than to close the argument down - as Enoch Powell did all those years ago.


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