Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another British absurdity: Illegal immigration 'fleet' has only one van

Government claims that illegal immigrants would be rounded up in a fleet of vans have been dismissed as "spin" after it emerged that just one "mobile detention unit" is currently in operation.

In January, Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, announced the radical measure to fight mass illegal immigration, claiming that a "fleet" of mobile detection vans would detain illegal immigrants on the spot when attempts to smuggle them into the country were foiled. The suspects would then be transported to detention centres.

However, six months on, Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, has learned that just one unit is currently in operation, in Poole in Dorset. Mr Green said: "Yet again, the Government is caught out talking tough but acting weak. Ministers wanted us to believe that a fleet of these vehicles would make a real difference to the fight against illegal immigration. "Now we know there is only one, based in an area which is not the busiest point of entry. "After 11 years of this Government, they have still failed to get to grips with border protection.''

Mobile detection units were promoted by ministers as a way to avoid a repeat of a number of embarrassing incidents in which illegal immigrants were apprehended but, instead of being detained, released to make their own way to detention centres - often failing to arrive.

Ministers suggested that after a trial at ports on the "south coast", units would be rolled out across the country, beginning with Northamptonshire. In March, Mr Byrne said that the enforcement budget for detaining bogus arrivals would be doubled, repeating the promise to send out a "fleet" of mobile detention vans.

But in response to a request last week as to how many units were now in operation, Mr Byrne replied in a written parliamentary answer: "UK Borders Agency recently piloted the use of a short-term holding facility at small south coast sea ports, primarily Poole. During this period, the merit of using this type of facility for both pre-planned operations and to apprehend illegal immigrants was considered. "A version of this vehicle, informed by the earlier pilot but with a different specification, is currently being developed to meet the needs of our enforcement teams." Mr Byrne added that the new vehicle would be in operation in Northamptonshire by this autumn.


NHS hospitals lose 32,000 beds in a decade

More than 30,000 hospital beds have been lost since Labour came to power, with record cuts in NHS wards last year

The cutbacks mean increasing numbers of hospitals are going on "black alert" - which involves closing their doors to new patients because they are full. Patients' groups described the loss of the beds, at a time when overcrowded wards have seen soaring rates of killer infections, as "a national scandal". The reduction contradicts a pledge from Tony Blair at the turn of the century that there would be 7,000 more NHS beds by 2010. New figures, seen by The Telegraph, show that the number of health service beds fell more than 8,000 last year, as the NHS began a reorganisation process which will mean the closure of dozens of hospitals.

More than 40 per cent of maternity units turned away women in labour last year because they had no room. Meanwhile, ambulances have been forced to queue outside overstretched hospitals, treating patients in car parks just yards from accident and emergency departments. The new statistics, revealed in response to a parliamentary question by Ed Vaizey, the Conservative MP, show that almost 32,000 NHS hospital beds went between 1997, when Labour took office, and 2007.

More than 8,400 beds were cut in the year ending March 2007, the largest fall in 14 years. One in six beds has been closed over the decade. There are now 167,019 beds in NHS wards, compared with 198,848 in 1997. The figures emerged as health authorities are drawing up plans which will see the likely closure of dozens of district general hospitals. The East of England health authority has admitted that two accident and emergency departments and a maternity unit could close.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said the Government's financial mismanagement had forced hospitals to make cuts which could risk lives. "These bed cuts were financially driven: the sharp rise in the numbers closed happened at a time when the health service was under desperate pressure to clear a massive deficit."

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients' Association, said: "This is a national scandal. More than 30,000 beds have been lost at a time when demand is increasing."

In the same decade that the beds were cut, death rates from the infections MRSA and Clostridium difficile rose five-fold. Investigations into the biggest C. diff outbreak in Britain, which killed 90 patients at hospitals run by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust in 2005 and 2006, found that overcrowding amid pressure to meet hospital waiting targets was a factor behind the infection's spread.

More than 2,000 maternity beds have been lost since 1997. Research by the Conservatives found that last year, 42 per cent of maternity units had refused to accept women in labour on at least one occasion. Sue MacDonald, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We feel the cuts have gone too far." Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, met officials recently after pressures on his local hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich, forced it to declare an emergency "black alert," closing to new admissions, with 10 ambulances "stacked" outside, treating patients.

The Department of Health said bed numbers had fallen because hospitals were more efficient, with patients staying for shorter periods, while services were treating more people with chronic conditions in their own homes.


Muslim leader accuses British police of being 'over cautious' in stopping Asian gangs pimping white girls

A Muslim leader has accused the police of failing to tackle Asian gangs suspected of prostituting young white girls. Officers are accused of being "over cautious" when investigating Muslim criminals because they fear being branded racist. Last night Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Ramadhan Foundation, said the police were differentiating between criminals on the basis of race. He claimed, driven by fear of race riots in places like Blackburn and Oldham, officers were "overtly sensitive" and not clamping down on the sordid practice.

His controversial comments in this week's Panorama reignite a massively controversial issue which exploded over a Channel 4 documentary in 2004. That programme which claimed Asian men in Bradford were grooming under age white girls for prostitution was pulled from C4's schedules. This was because police claimed at the time that it could provoke racial violence during the local election campaign. Now the BBC is to risk the wrath of police officials and campaigners by airing a programme which will look at the same issue.

Speaking as part of the Panorama investigation, which airs tomorrow (Thursday), Shafiq said: "I think the police are overcautious on dealing with this issue openly because they fear being branded racist and I think that is wrong." "These are criminals they should be treated as criminals. They are not Asian criminals, they are not Muslim criminals, they are not white criminals. They are criminals and they should be treated as criminals." He said that some of the criminals were Asian gangs looking to supplement their income, after the cost of drugs has fallen over the last few years.

Shafiq said "I am the only Muslim leader in the UK that speaks up against this sort of thing and I do it because these teenage girls are somebody's sisters and they are somebody's daughters. I have got two daughters and I wouldn't want that to happen to my daughters. "If there is a drug dealer grooming a white teenager into prostitution then I don't want the police service or local authority not to be open about it."

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, also raised concerns about the issue yesterday. He said: "Everybody is affected by political correctness. The reason why it is so important is because things like this. "Young girls are having their lives threatened and ruined because people pussyfoot around and they are too scared to do anything in case they make a mistake and are accused of racism. "That's why we have to tackle the culture of political correctness everybody is affected by and I think the police are probably more affected and hamstrung by it than most organisations."

His comments come as Professor David Barrett of University of Bedfordshire also raised deep concerns about the issue in the BBC1 programme. He claimed evidence suggested that those operating the practice were "absolutely" likely to get away with it.

The programme will controversially reveal the ethnic pattern of the crime which is largely Asian in northern England, Afro-Caribbean in the West Midlands and elsewhere white, Turkish and Kurdish.

The Government, reacting to concerns, has revealed it will introduce new crime-fighting targets aimed at specifically combating the little-publicised problem. But there are concerns that the practice, mostly operated by drug dealing gangs, has been of little priority to the various authorities. Figures suggest there are in the region of 5,000 British children being used as prostitutes.

On the programme Vernon Coaker under secretary of state with responsibility for policing reveals the new measures will be come into force next month. The government also plans to introduce a new warning video for use in schools over the issue. But despite funding a Home Office study almost ten years ago which revealed how the problem can be tackled, the police has a low prosecution rate. Coaker told Panorama that using powers under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 there have been just 44 convictions for grooming and pimping young children. Police attempts are said to be frustrated by a code of silence.



The centre-left's influence is falling as it abandons progressive optimism for environmental zealousness

A series of disastrous election defeats have plunged Britain's Labour government into disarray. As Prime Minister Gordon Brown fights for survival, a political drama with momentous consequences is unfolding before our eyes. One of the last centre-left governments in Europe looks set to fall.

Many analysts of Labour's disintegration attribute the collapse of support to the current economic downturn, a perfect storm of global credit crunch combined with falling house and rising oil prices. In reality, the defeats Labour has suffered in recent elections mirror the deepening crisis now affecting almost every social democratic party in Europe. New Labour's pledge to evade the burden of high taxation has been broken.

In recent years, almost all of Europe's social democratic parties have lost in national elections. The collapse of support for Gordon Brown and his policies reveals a general decline of Europe's social democracy as a whole.

There are many good reasons for the deterioration of the centre-left's political influence and power. But perhaps one of the most crucial is the abandonment of their traditional core value of progressive optimism. After all, the left used to derive large amounts of its popular appeal from a firm belief in social and technological advancement, a political philosophy of societal optimism and hope. During the last couple of decades, however, it has eagerly adopted a green ideology that has replaced its confidence in future progress with the ever more intimidating prediction of climate catastrophe and environmental disaster, culminating in calls for economic sacrifices and collective belt-tightening.

In short, Britain's Labour Party has discarded its "progressive" principles for environmental fear-mongering and salvationist rhetoric in the expectation that voters would accept that only government control, central planning and higher taxes could prevent global disaster.

At the core of Labour's environmental philosophy and polity-making stands the notion that people in Britain and other industrialized countries consume too much energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels. For many years, Labour has chanted the green mantra that in order to prevent disastrous climate change caused by excessive energy consumption, Britons must make personal sacrifices in their lifestyle and behaviour. No other government in the world has employed the spectre of climate catastrophe as forcefully as Britain; no other administration has saddled taxpayers with a heavier burden of green taxation.

Eighteen months ago, Labour's David Miliband proposed the introduction of carbon "credit cards" that would be issued as part of a nationwide carbon rationing scheme. He suggested the allocation of an annual allowance for basic needs such as travel, energy or food. Two days after Labour's disastrous defeat in the local elections, the whole scheme was hastily abandoned.

Motorists in the UK are paying the highest fuel taxes in Europe, an average of almost œ900 annually. In the name of climate change mitigation, the government has progressively increased fuel, road and car taxes. It has burdened companies with a so-called Climate Change Levy and introduced an emissions trading scheme - costly policies that have had damaging effects on British competitiveness, energy prices and living standards. As a direct result, a record number of people, particularly Britain's poorest, oldest and most vulnerable, are increasingly falling on hard times. As many as five million households, more than 20% of the UK's population, are today living in "fuel poverty."

It is estimated that the economic burden of green taxes in Britain accounts for more than œ20-billion annually. British companies have lost one million manufacturing jobs since the levy was introduced in 2001. And a recent government report has warned that any attempt to meet Britain's renewable energy targets would cost taxpayers some œ75-billion, a price tag that would mean extra costs of more than œ3,000 for every family in the UK.

Fundamental to the multi-billion government subsidies for solar and wind energy companies is a direct transfer of wealth and money from the poor to the well-off. By subsidizing green companies and their uncompetitive products, ordinary taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for green gadgets that have little if any effect on the climate but are making green businessmen richer at the expense of ordinary families.

Labour's foolhardy policies are shaped by the conviction that, in the words of Miliband, tackling climate change is "the mass mobilizing movement of our age." The principles of fairness and equality used to stand at the heart of centre-left governments. Protecting the interests of poor and disadvantaged members of society was essential to the popular appeal of left and labour parties. Those parties have substituted these ideals with an environmental program in which saving the planet for the generations of the future has taken priority over the principle of liberating the underprivileged and disadvantaged from poverty and restitution today.

In effect, the Labour Party is gradually pricing the working and lower-middle classes out of their comfort zone. With these core voters counting the rising cost of green taxes, tariffs and restrictions, the Labour Party's chances of re-election are dwindling.

Labour's fundamental miscalculation has been to bank on the strength of the environmental movement and climate change anxiety in an attempt to "modernize" its agenda. Labour's climate policy, however, is now backfiring, turning into one of its biggest political liabilities. A recent survey suggests that more than 70% of British voters are no longer willing to pay higher taxes to fund climate change initiatives. In fact, two-thirds of those surveyed believe that the green agenda has been exploited in order to increase taxes.

Britain's Labour government may believe that its climate policies are saving the planet. But in the process they are destroying the foundations of the party.



Comment from Mick Hume in Britain

Get out your gas masks and tin hats. We are under attack from a noxious army of doom-troopers demanding that we treat climate change as a rerun of the Second World War. In the latest move to militarise everyday life, the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs has seriously proposed energy rationing, aka "personal carbon credits".

What next? Little (green) Hitlers patrolling the streets yelling "Put that high-energy light out!"? Or a campaign to bring back rickets? Everybody from the Prince of Wales to liberal newspapers and former Labour ministers now compares climate change to the war. Baroness Young of Old Scone, head of the Environment Agency, says this is "World War Three". If it's not breaking the Official Secrets Act, could somebody explain what on earth they are on about? The notion of a "war on carbon" makes even less sense than the glorious "wars" on terror/drugs/crime/whatever.

No, these evocations of the past appear political rather than practical. The aim is to create an ersatz Blitz Spirit that could bring people together behind a phoney war on global warming. Governments desperate for a unifying cause are naturally sympathetic. But they are also aware that hard-up Brits who see few bombs falling are unlikely to be too keen on making wartime sacrifices. Thus new Labour, which previously admitted it might "need to go back to rationing", has retreated from the carbon credits proposal, fearful of further voter desertions.

What solution do the doom-troopers propose to the problem of public resistance? Let's suspend democracy, like we did in the good old days! While one leading liberal writer insists that all the main parties must include identical austerity measures in their manifestos (not much change there then), another feminist veteran, Rosie Boycott, demands that they dump party politics altogether and form a national coalition based on Churchill's wartime Government. Altogether now: "We will fight them in the recycling bins..."

The most depressing thing for me is that the Left is leading this retreat into wartime bunkers with relish, claiming that sharing out the misery is "progressive". Whatever happened to raising people's living standards and tackling serious social problems by moving forwards rather than back? That's why it was called "progress". And if you do want a lesson from history, note that the US economy met the challenge of the Second World War by doubling its output.

When the misery of rationing finally ended in 1954, people held ceremonies to celebrate and the power minister publicly burnt a big replica ration book. No doubt today he would be dragged over the coals for the war crime of carbon emission.


Feather-brained climate reporting in the Financial Times

An email below from Chris Horner [], who has just caught up with a choice piece of Greenie nonsense. I commented on the nonsense concerned myself on 16th.

Imagine my surprise to read Fiona Harvey's absurd -- even for this context -- reportage of a NASA study that she purports found an association between human activity and observed climate change (ok, "proved", for all intents and purposes). Fiona is a lovely lady and I am sorry to have to say this, but this is an utterly incredible example of how little beat-journalists care for and/or grap the relevant substance, or simply how deep in the tank they are for the agenda.

She writes, "Scientists have been able to say with virtual certainty for the first time that the climate change observed over the past four decades is man made and not the result of natural phenomena....[raising] the likelihood of 'unnatural' causes of global warming to near certainty.'" Oh, dear.

In truth the study "found" no such thing, but instead assumed that observed changes were largely man-made; it then identified changes which it found "consistent with warming" - which, again, they assumed for these purposes...and certainly didn't *find*...was man-made - and said they're quite confident then that man caused the climate change-induced changes. This was facially apparent: "Given the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely to be due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, and furthermore that it is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica, we conclude that anthropogenic climate change is having a significant impact on physical and biological systems globally and in some continents."

Further, in the words of a scientist-colleague, "It's a meta analysis and is purely associational. There is no data on causality of the temperature variation whatever. The bottom line is that causality of temperature increases is never put at issue. They assume all temperature variation is due exclusively to greenhouse gases. They don't factor in ENSO or PDO, much less variations in solar radiation."

A Confusion of Tongues

By Theodore Dalrymple

Acting recently as an expert witness in a murder trial, I became aware of a small legal problem caused by the increasingly multicultural nature of our society. According to English law, a man is guilty of murder if he kills someone with the intention either to kill or to injure seriously. But he is guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter if he has been sufficiently provoked or if his state of mind at the time was abnormal enough to reduce his responsibility. The legal test here is a comparison with the supposedly ordinary man--the man on the Clapham omnibus, as the legal cliche has it. Would that ordinary person feel provoked under similar circumstances? Was the accused's state of mind at the time of the killing very different from that of an average man?

But who is that ordinary man nowadays, now that he might come from any of a hundred countries? The accused in this instance was a foreign-born Sikh who had married, and killed, a native-born woman of the same minority. The defense argued--unsuccessfully--that an ordinary man of the defendant's traditional culture would have found the wife's repeated infidelity particularly wounding and would therefore have acted in the same way.

For now, the courts have rejected this line of argument: though, by coincidence, the case took place the same week that the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, suggested that adopting part of Islamic sharia as the law of the land "seemed unavoidable" and that people in a multicultural society like Britain should be able to choose the legal jurisdiction under which they lived. In contradistinction to such views, it was encouraging to see in the jury a man from a different minority group, one traditionally hostile to that of the accused. The right to challenge jurors without giving a reason, which in the past would have removed this man, has been curtailed in recent years because of a juror shortage. This is just as well, since the right undermines the jury system's whole justification: that ordinary men, of whatever background, can suspend their prejudices and judge their peers by the evidence alone.

Problems with interpreting the law are not the only, or even the most important, ones that arise in an ever more diverse society. A feeling of unease is widespread, even among the longer-resident immigrants themselves, that Britain has lost its distinctive character: or rather, that the loss of a distinctive character is now its most distinctive character. The country that those immigrants came to, or thought they were coming to, no longer exists. It has changed beyond all recognition--far beyond and more radically than the inevitable change that has accompanied human existence since the dawn of civilization. A sense of continuity has been lost, disconcerting in a country with an unwritten constitution founded upon continuity.

London is now the most ethnically diverse city in the world--more so, according to United Nations reports, even than New York. And this is not just a matter of a sprinkling of a few people of every race and nation, or of the fructifying cultural effect of foreigners (a culture closed to outsiders is dead, though perhaps that is not the only way for a culture to die). Walk down certain streets in London and one encounters a Babel of languages. If a blind person had only the speech of passersby to help him get his bearings, he would be lost; though perhaps the very lack of a predominant language might give him a clue. (This promiscuity is not to say that monocultural ghettos of foreigners do not also exist in today's Britain.)

A third of London's residents were born outside Britain, a higher percentage of newcomers than in any other city in the world except Miami, and the percentage continues to rise. Likewise, migration figures for the country as a whole--emigration and immigration--suggest that its population is undergoing swift replacement. Many of the newcomers are from Pakistan, India, and Africa; others are from Eastern Europe and China. If present trends continue, experts predict, in 20 years' time, between a quarter and a third of the British population will have been born outside it, and at least a fifth of the native population will have emigrated. Britain has always had immigrants--from the French Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes to Germans fleeing Prussian repression, from Jews escaping czarist oppression to Italian prisoners of war who stayed on after World War II--and absorbed them. But never so many, or so quickly.

To the anxiety about these unprecedented demographic changes--a substantial majority of the public, when asked, says that it wants a dramatic reduction in immigration--one can add a reticence in openly expressing it. Inducing this hesitancy are intellectuals of the self-hating variety, who welcome the destruction of the national identity and who argue--in part, correctly--that every person's identity is multiple; that identity can and ought to change over time; and that too strong an emphasis on national identity has in the past led to barbarism. By reiteration, they have insinuated a sense of guilt into everyone's mind, so that even to doubt the wisdom or viability of a society consisting of myriad ethnic and religious groups with no mutual sympathy (and often with mutual antagonisms) is to suspect oneself of sliding toward extreme nationalism or fascism; so that even to doubt the wisdom or viability of a society in which everyone feels himself part of an oppressed minority puts one in the same category as Jean-Marie Le Pen, or worse. This anxiety inhibits discussion of the cultural question. In view of Europe's twentieth century, the inhibition is understandable. One consequence, however, is that little attempt has been made to question what attachment Britain's immigrants have to the traditions and institutions of their new home.

Apart from any such reticence that intellectuals have managed to inculcate in me, I admit to an ambivalence about the unprecedented diversity of British society. True, one feels a certain exhilaration seeing people of so many different origins going about their business in apparent peace. You find Indian shops specializing in Polish provisions. Young women in Somali costume speak English with broad regional accents. Popular music of many regions of the world--all of it much less horrible than its British or American equivalent--emerges from shops selling exotic produce. The peaceful mixture is a reassurance that our society is indeed open, flexible, and tolerant. And whatever other effects that the influx of people from every corner of the world may have had, it has dramatically improved the quality of food available in Britain.

Further, much in my family history weighs against any too-sweeping denunciation of immigration. I am the child and grandchild of refugees who met with precisely the same kind of anti-immigration arguments current today, and it would be unseemly for me now to deny others the immense advantages that I have enjoyed. In any case, it is clearly possible and even common for immigrants and their descendants to become deeply attached to the culture and institutions of the country that has preserved them from a terrible fate.

When I survey my own social circle, moreover, I discover an astonishing variety of origins (though doubtless Americans would not find it surprising). Recently, my wife and I received an invitation to a lunch party. I have already mentioned my own provenance. My wife's paternal grandparents were Greeks from Smyrna, fortunate to have found refuge in France when the entire Greek population of the city was either killed or had to leave because of the war between Greece and Turkey in 1920. Our host was a Sikh doctor who had been on duty in a Delhi hospital when Indira Gandhi's body was brought in after her Sikh bodyguard assassinated her; the doctor had to flee for his life from a Sikh-killing mob. His wife was a Greek Cypriot who as a child had fled the Turkish invasion of the island, during which her parents lost everything before coming to England. Thus all of us, either directly or through close relatives, knew the horrors to which too exclusive a national or religious identity might lead. And none of us had any doubts about the evils of dehumanizing those who do not share one's national, cultural, or religious identity.

But we did not conclude that it was best, then, to have no national, religious, or cultural identity at all. The institutions that allow one to live in peace, freedom, and security require loyalty (not necessarily of a blind variety); and loyalty in turn requires a sense of identification. In a world in which sovereignty must exist, some kind of identification with that sovereignty is also necessary: too rigid a national identity has its dangers, but so does too loose a one. The first results in aggression toward and denigration of others; the second in society's disintegration from within, which can then provoke authoritarian attempts at repair.

Love of country has never implied for me an unawareness of its shortcomings or a hatred of other nations. I have lived happily abroad much of my life and have seen virtues in every country in which I have lived, some absent from my own. I feel vastly more at ease with cultivated foreigners than with many of the natives of the land of my birth. Those foreigners usually have a much better appreciation of all that is best in British culture than many natives now have. If you want to hear beautiful spoken English these days, seek out educated Indians or Africans.

But nor can one deny, if one is honest (and this is true of every Western European country), that many in the unprecedented influx of immigrants, often poorly educated, have little interest in, or appreciation of, the society to which they have come. Many are not learning to speak English, or speak it poorly, and forced marriages and other practices foreign to British law and custom remain common among them. A government report several years ago found that Britain's whites and ethnic minorities led radically separate lives, with no sense of shared nationality. And as is now well-known, a disturbing number of British Muslims have proved susceptible to the ideology of Islamism. A recent survey found that 40 percent of British Muslims under 24 wanted to live under sharia; 36 percent supported the death penalty for apostasy. Significantly, the figures for older Muslims were considerably lower. Another poll found that a fifth of all British Muslims had sympathy with the "feelings and motives" of the London suicide bombers. Only a third of British Muslims, a Guardian survey found, want more integration into British culture.

The doctrine of multiculturalism arose, at least in Holland, as a response to the immigration influx, believed initially to be temporary. The original purpose of multiculturalism was to preserve the culture of European "guest workers" so that when they returned home, having completed their labor contracts, they would not feel dislocated by their time away. The doctrine became a shibboleth of the Left, a useful tool of cultural dismantlement, only after family reunion in the name of humanitarianism became normal policy during the 1960s and the guest workers transformed into permanent residents.

Living in two countries, France and Britain, I have found it instructive to compare how each has gone about welcoming (if that is the word I seek) these immigrants. Each has gotten one thing right and one thing wrong: but the French situation, for all the urban violence that broke out in 2005 among the Muslim "youth," is easier, at least in theory, to put right.

France has the easier task, perhaps, because it is an ideological, or at least a philosophical, state, while Britain is an organic one. The French state, unlike the ancient country it rules, is a new, reborn state. It has a foundation myth, that of the French Revolution, which ushered in the age of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. It doesn't matter whether France has ever achieved any of those desiderata in practice (what political ideal ever has been achieved, at least unequivocally?), or that the storming of the Bastille was in reality more sordid than glorious. The terms "republican equality" and "republican elitism" (the second, the achievement of status by means of effort and talent, an outgrowth of the first) do in fact mean something, and they exert a magnetic pull on almost every mind with which they come into contact. And the exaltation of this myth, which supposed that Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity were every man's birthright andthat France was a beacon shining the light of reason to the whole world, has meant that (in theory) everyone who makes France his home becomes a Frenchman tout court--not an Armenian Frenchman or a Malian one, but just a Frenchman.

This myth has actually guided French cultural policy. That France, as a result of the Revolution, has for a long time been a secular state de jure, rather than merely de facto, as is Britain (where religious tolerance is an outgrowth of custom, not law), enabled it to abolish headscarves in the public schools without incurring the odium of anti-Muslim bigotry. The ban simply accorded with the state's secular founding philosophy. Multiculturalism, that is, is not compatible with the founding Enlightenment mythology of France; assimilation, not integration, is the goal. Everyone learns the same history in France; and nos ancetres les gaulois comes to express not a biological but a cultural truth--and an easy-to-understand one, at that.

Britain's situation is very different. It is not an ideological state; it has no foundation myths that are easy to identify with. The Battle of Hastings was too long ago and psychologically distant to have any resonance now; the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was too muted an affair, frankly not bloody or heroic enough. As for the English Civil War, its moral meaning is too equivocal: as W. C. Sellars and R. J. Yeatman put it in 1066 and All That, the Roundheads were Right but Repulsive, while the Cavaliers were Wrong but Wromantic.

The French state started with a philosophical big bang; the British state evolved. The French state prescribed; the British state did not forbid. The traditions of the British state, therefore, were much more favorable to multiculturalism, having always allowed people to form associations for their own freely chosen purposes. This lack of central direction served society well while differences among groups were relatively minor and while numbers of immigrants were small; but once there were so many different groups with nothing in common, each with numbers enough to form a ghetto--and worse still, some of them actively hostile to the overarching order of British society--then the laissez-faire approach was bound to run into difficulty. It is hard to oppose an ideology with a tradition.

Even absent multicultural doctrinalism, it would not have been easy to explain the advantages and philosophical underpinnings of the Burkean, nonideological state to peasants newly arrived from, say, the Pakistani Punjab and Bangladesh. The advantages and underpinnings are like the rules of cricket: one can with application and dedication learn them, but it is far easier to assume them as part of your mental and cultural heritage, to be born into them. What could you give the immigrants to read that would explain the British political tradition to them? Reflections on the Revolution in France, perhaps, or Michael Oakeshott's Rationalism in Politics? Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity is a slogan, and much easier to teach and to learn.

Making matters worse, in Britain, multiculturalism became a career opportunity and a source of political patronage. So-called experts on cultural sensitivity and equal opportunity--generally people whose ambitions far exceeded their talent, except for bureaucratic intrigue--built little empires, whose continued existence depended on the permanence of racial and other divisions in society. The hospital where I once worked recently sent a questionnaire to its staff, asking them to supply the personnel department with details of their race (17 categories), their sexual orientation (6 categories), their marital status (6 categories), and their religion (7 categories), so that discrimination against any of the 4,284 possible resultant categories might be eliminated. Clearly, there is no end to the work of the bureaucrats of equal opportunity.

It is perhaps not so surprising, then, that French Muslim immigrants are better integrated culturally than British ones. Pew Center research shows that six times as many Muslims in France as in Britain consider their national identity more important than their religious one: 42 percent versus 7 percent. (This difference may not result solely from cultural policy, since Muslims from North Africa, from which most French Muslim immigrants arrive, are much likelier in the first place to believe that Islam is compatible with Western citizenship.) Muslims in France also are much less distinguishable from the rest of the population by their mode of dress than is the case with their counterparts in Britain. In the Muslim areas in France, you may notice something different about the people, but you do not think, as increasingly you do in Britain, that the population of the North-West Frontier has moved en masse to the inner cities or suburbs. And this greater cultural assimilation is true notwithstanding the fact that Muslim areas in France, unlike those in Britain, are as physically separate from many of the towns and cities as the black townships were from the white cities of South Africa.

There is another major difference between the Muslim areas of France and Britain, however: this time, to Britain's advantage. The relative ease of starting a business in Britain by comparison with heavily regulated France means that small businesses dominate Britain's Muslim neighborhoods, whereas there are none in the banlieues of France--unless you count open drug dealing as a business. (This is one of the reasons why London is now the seventh-largest French-speaking city in the world: many ambitious young French people, Muslims included, move there to found businesses.) And since many of the businesses in the Muslim areas in Britain are restaurants favored by non-Muslim customers, the isolation of Muslims from the general population is not as great as in France.

However, increased contact between people does not necessarily result in increased sympathy among them. A large proportion of the indigenous Muslim terrorists caught in Britain are children of prosperous small businessmen, who have been to university and whose individual prospects for the future were good, if they had chosen to follow a normal career path. Cultural dislocation, the readiness to hand of an ideology of hatred that seems to answer their personal need for a fixed identity and an end to cultural confusion, and a disposable income--these, not poverty, account for their terrorism.

In France, the children of Muslim immigrants may not be as alienated from mainstream culture as are those in Britain; but the inflexibility of the French labor market results in a long-term unemployment that embitters them. In Britain, by contrast, relative economic success has not led to cultural integration: so you have riots in France and terrorism in Britain.

The solution (for which it may now be too late, despite post-London-bombing genuflections on the part of then-prime minister Tony Blair and then-chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown in the direction of the very national values they had done so much previously to undermine) would be a combination of French cultural robustness with British economic flexibility: something like the American ideal of the melting pot, in fact, which relied (and, to some degree, relies still) on a clear idea of what it means to be an American, combined with economic openness. The British notion that economic opportunity without a shared culture will result in a flourishing society is whistling in the wind; while the French idea that it is enough to teach Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity while obstructing the possibility of real economic advancement is asking for trouble.

Aware of the polls on immigration, Brown's Labour government has just taken some hesitant but sensible steps, putting aspiring British citizens on "probation" to show that they can speak English, pay taxes, and avoid jail before granting them citizenship. Britain and France, though, have never been very good at learning from each other: the Channel might as well be an ocean.


Hundreds of British prison inmates set for release

For once I agree with the British government. If you are going to have long sentences for violent offenders and sex offenders, you have to have reduced sentences for other offenders. Jails are not made of elastic

The Government has drawn up plans to release hundreds of criminals from jail early, it was revealed. About 550 non-violent and non-sexual offenders will be automatically freed halfway through their sentences, instead of having to wait until the two-thirds point. Jails in England and Wales have been instructed to let out eligible offenders from June 9, and warned by Prison Service HQ that failing to do so would amount to "unlawful detention". The releases will take place over the next 14 months.

Prisons Handbook editor Mark Leech said the move undermined judges who sentenced the offenders believing that automatic release would take place two-thirds of the way through a jail term.

The measures were first discussed in last year's report on the prison system by Government trouble-shooter Lord Carter of Coles, and contained in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, passed by Parliament earlier this month. But the full impact of the steps has only just come to light. Justice Secretary Jack Straw's plan is expected to free urgently-required space in overcrowded jails, as inmate numbers reach a record 83,000 in England and Wales.

The early release plan equalises the arrangements for offenders sentenced under the 1991 Criminal Justice Act with those punished under Labour's 2003 Criminal Justice Act, which came into force in April 2005. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "To allow the Parole Board to focus resources on violent and sexual offenders, we are implementing the Carter review recommendation on June 9 which will align the release arrangements for certain prisoners. "This provision, which passed into law through the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 without opposition, will mean this group of prisoners convicted under the 1991 Act serving a sentence of four years or more but less than life will be released at the halfway point of their sentence."


London schools must be Greener, says British regulator

Schools are failing to teach children to be green and are treating environmental awareness as a peripheral issue, Ofsted has found. Inspectors said that the majority of schools they visited did not pay enough attention to sustainable development. "Ethical purchasing was usually confined to buying Fairtrade products for the staff room," its report on schools and sustainability said. The report praised schools for their imaginative projects and excellent teaching on sustainability, but it said that work tended to be uncoordinated. Primary schools were better than secondary schools at putting children's passion for being environmentally friendly to good use.

Christine Blower, from the National Union of Teachers, said: "Far too few schools are teaching about the biggest issue facing the planet. Schools are over-burdened with a range of excessive and unreasonable external demands. This makes it harder to focus on teaching climate change and sustainability."

Ofsted recommended that the Government should give higher priority to sustainability in schools, support this through funding, and ensure that the curriculum reflected the importance of the subject. The Government wants all schools to become sustainable by 2020, as part of its ambitious 45billion pound Building Schools for the Future programme, which will rebuild or refurbish all schools in the country. Schools are responsible for 2 per cent of all carbon emissions in this country - and almost 15 per cent of those produced by thepublic sector in Britain.

The Government has admitted that it would be too expensive to make schools "zero carbon", in response to a committee of MPswhoasked for details about the environmental targets that BSF schools would reach.


Iranian mines used in attacks on Brits in Afghanistan: "The underside of armoured vehicles deployed in Helmand has proven to be highly susceptible to mines buried by the Taleban, and the Ministry of Defence is preparing to add extra armour to key vehicles. The relatively new Viking armoured troop-carrying vehicle - which was built for the Royal Marines for use in Norway but is now being used across desert routes in northern Helmand - has proven to be vulnerable to the mines, which are suspected of being supplied from Iran. Five Vikings have been destroyed by mines."

Greenie Britain runs out of power: "Hundreds of thousands of people were hit by electricity blackouts yesterday when seven power stations shut down. The unscheduled stoppages were regarded as an unprecedented sign of the fragility of Britain's power infrastructure. Operations were cancelled, people were stuck in lifts, traffic lights failed and fire engines were sent out on false alarms. Householders were unable to use any appliances or make phonecalls as the blackouts hit areas including Cleveland, Cheshire, Lincolnshire and London. It was unclear last night why the power stations had failed. As the cuts escalated, the National Grid was forced to issue the most serious possible warning - "demand control imminent" - and urged suppliers to provide lower-voltage electricity to meet demand. Energy suppliers affected by the shutdown, including British Energy and EON, said that they could not reveal the reasons for the cuts"

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