Sunday, November 30, 2008

St. Andrew's Day

As most Scots will be aware, today (30th) is St. Andrew's Day. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and St. Andrew's Day is Scotland's official national day, although Burns' Night is more widely and lavishly celebrated. It is a "bank holiday" in Scotland. So I have just hoisted the Saltire of St. Andrew on the flagpole at the front of my house. I encourage others with Scottish loyalties to do likewise. I am also hoping that I will be having something Scottish for dinner tonight. I seem to be out of haggis but I do have some Forfar Bridies in my freezer -- to be had with tatties, of course.

Below is one of the great Scottish patriotic songs. Play the music, read the words and sing along:


1). Hark when the night is falling,
Hear! hear the pipes are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling,
Down thro' the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping,
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old Highland men.

Chorus: Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland the brave.

2). High in the misty Highlands
Out by the purple islands,
Brave are the hearts that beat
Beneath Scottish skies.
Wild are the winds to meet you,
Staunch are the friends that greet you,
Kind as the love that shines from fair maidens' eyes.


3). Far off in sunlit places
Sad are the Scottish faces,
Yearning to feel the kiss
Of sweet Scottish rain.
Where the tropics are beaming
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for the hameland again.


4). Hot as a burning ember, (This verse is not always sung)
Flaming in bleak December
Burning within the hearts
Of clansmen afar!
Calling to home and fire,
Calling the sweet desire,
Shining a light that beckons from every star!


British Gestapo defeated: Freedom of the press upheld in court

Apparently, British newspapers can report "leaks" from officials as part of a right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
"The 1 million pound prosecution of a local newspaper journalist and the police source who "leaked" stories to her collapsed yesterday after evidence gathered against them in a police bugging operation was declared inadmissible.

The 18-month-long case and investigation - monitored at senior levels in Whitehall and described in court as "Orwellian" - was thrown out when a judge ruled that operations mounted to identify the reporter's sources were a violation of human rights....

Ms Murrer's defence team argued successfully that her right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

Gavin Millar, QC, told the court: "The measures used by Thames Valley Police against Sally Murrer are familiar in authoritarian states where the police are used to discourage the media from reporting on issues of public interest using confidential sources. Thankfully because of article 10 they are almost unheard of here. This case is, sadly, a rare exception."


What England Means to Me

By The Rt Hon Lord Tebbit, Conservative politician and former Member of Parliament for Chingford.

We are who we are by our parents' genes, by our inheritance of history and culture and our own experience of life. That inheritance of history may reach back to a time before one's family came to this island - in the case of my father's line, in the 16th century. So, to be English today is to be an inheritor of the most powerful language in the world - literature, art, science and technology, even sport, which have done so much to shape the world, and a philosophy or culture of government which has permeated not just the Anglosphere but great countries such as India.

We English are not an introspective people. We rarely think about England (except in the field of sport) unless something malfunctions. As for Britishness, that wider concept is a way of sharing with others living in this kingdom their history and culture and our own. It provides a banner around which we can all rally for mutual aid and strength.

Since the English have influenced and been influenced by almost every other nation we know that how others see us is as much about what they are as what we are. From time to time, if it seems to affect our interests we become anxious about that, especially if we are seen as weak, a soft touch or an unreliable friend, but being mostly content within our collective English skin we are neither extrovert nor introspective and leave others to make of us what they will.

Tolerant as we are, we do not require outsiders who come to live there to put on an English identity - but we do ask that they respect not just us but our English house - its fabric and its customs. Should they not like it we would not wish to detain them there - but if they and their children wish to join our tribe we see no reason to discriminate either against them or in their favour.

Quietly, as we look back at what the English family has done, what it has given to the wider world, we take pride - not arrogant nor puffed up pride, but honest pride in our history. That pride is patriotism and without it societies disintegrate into no more than crowds jostling for shoulders in one place.

For the English the modern cry for devolution sounds like a struggle to put back the clock and chop up the United Kingdom which has been of mutual benefit to all us British islanders. If that is what the others want so be it, but they should not think that they can have both their independence bun and their halfpenny too.

However, the concept of England is changing. The false doctrines of multiculturalism and the authoritarians preaching the doctrine of the big state ruling a citizenry denied the strengths of family and of religion and of history, has ruptured the English consensus. A growing underclass, the like of which England had not seen for centuries, rootless, feckless, ill educated and violent, has begun to infest England's great cities. The ballast of the respectable working and middle class families is shifting.

They may look for a while at outsiders from the Continent of Europe to resolve our difficulties - as the Romans and Normans did in their time - and the political classes of Brussels are eager to do today. Or they may look to an English hero - a twenty first century King Alfred - to define as he did what it meant to be English. His victory at Edington was the birth of England and the English which led through to the Magna Carta, the Tudors, the Empire, the Reform Acts and the 20th century wars to the flowering of an English culture whose power and reach has been rivaled only by that of China at its greatest. The English must soon choose. To succumb like Italy after Rome - or to rediscover what Alfred found in Wessex a thousand years ago.



Many elderly and poor people are struggling to afford heating, now that utilty bills are so high. And cold is deadly

Last winter 25,300 more people died in the winter months than in the summer, an increase of seven per cent on the previous year, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. Most of these are due to circulatory and respiratory diseases and the majority occur among the elderly in a situation which has been condemned by campaigners. There are fears the death toll will be higher this year as forecasters predict lower temperatures than last year, utility bills have risen and the credit crunch means many households are struggling to make ends meet.

The UK has traditionally had a worse record on so-called excess winter deaths even when compared with countries that have colder climates like Finland and Norway, according to the World Health Organisation, but the last comparison was carried out when there were unusually high deaths in the UK due to flu epidemics.

Help the Aged said the number of deaths were still at unacceptable levels. Mervyn Kohler, special adviser, said: "This year's winter deaths figures are a continuing disgrace to a Government who are there to protect the most vulnerable in our society. "Older people are struggling on a daily basis, with the rising cost of living leading to real hardship.

More here

British immigration boss rejects 'immorality' claim

Phil Woolas has rejected criticism from the Archbishop of York about his stance on immigration and asylum issues, saying "being tough is not immoral". Dr John Sentamu attacked "unmerciful" immigration policies in a speech on Thursday and comments by Mr Woolas about asylum lawyers. Although he took the criticism "very seriously" Mr Woolas said it was moral to have a "fair and efficient" system.

Mr Woolas has sparked much controversy since becoming immigration minister. Dr Sentamu condemned his "tough talking" rhetoric and said attitudes to Zimbabweans seeking asylum in the UK lacked mercy. And he singled out recent comments by Mr Woolas that many lawyers for asylum applicants undermined the system by dragging out appeals and did "more harm than good", saying they were simply wrong. Dr Sentumu also suggested the language used by Mr Woolas on sensitive issues since being appointed to the job in October had muddied the waters in the immigration debate.

Mr Woolas has said he was appointed to raise the profile of the government's immigration policy and get its message across to readers of tabloid newspapers. In a recent interview in the News of the World, he vowed the government would "kick out" more illegal immigrants next year. He has also said he wanted to reassure people that Britain's population will not reach 70 million as some experts, including the office for national statistics, have predicted although he has said he does not favour a "cap" on immigration.

"May I be forgiven for suggesting that the honourable member in question does not advance his stated desire to have 'a mature debate about immigration' by this carry on?" Dr Sentamu argued. Mr Woolas told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he did not believe his comments on immigration and asylum polices were either "unmerciful or authoritarian". "I don't accept the central charge that being tough is being immoral," he said. "I would argue the opposite." "I think the morally right thing to do is to have an efficient and fair immigration and asylum system."

Mr Woolas said he would not back down from his argument that some delays in the asylum process was caused by lawyers "frivolously" dragging out the appeals process. Dr Sentamu had said Mr Woolas' stance was "worrying" given the number of initial decisions refusing asylum subsequently overturned. But the minister said unnecessary delays in the process "perpetuated" the suffering of applicants and said he believed it was moral to ensure decisions were taken faster.

However, he pointed out that he was not accusing the majority of lawyers of such behaviour and accepted that some delays in the asylum process were the result of failings in the system itself. "You cannot manage a system unless it is efficient. That is fairer for the immigration and asylum seekers who are using the system."


Prime Minister's promise of 'British jobs for British workers' rings hollow, statistics show

Migrant workers have more than accounted for the increase in employment in the last two years while the number of Britons in work has plummeted. Jobs filled by foreigners has soared by almost half a million over the period while the number of UK-born employees has slumped by 149,000.

It shows the huge influence immigration is having on the workforce and critics said it makes a mockery of Gordon Brown's pledge of "British jobs for British workers". Young migrant workers and those over 50 also now earned more, on average, than their British counterparts.

Figures last week showed net immigration has hit its second highest level on record after increasing five-fold under Labour. And a report by one of Prince Charles' official charities warned rural communities are struggling to cope with the unprecedented number of overseas workers descending on their towns and villages.

The shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, said: "This makes a mockery of Gordon Brown's ill-advised comment that he would create British jobs for British workers. "As well as being a ridiculous thing to say it has shown he does not have any credible answers to the problems we face, which are being made worse by the recession."

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the overall level of employment increased by around 320,000 between September 2006 and September this year - up from 29.17 million to 29.49 million. However, during the two year period the number of UK workers in jobs fell by 149,000 while the number of migrant employees increased by 469,000. Similarly, in the years since Labour took power, non-UK born workers have made up around two thirds of the growth in employment. Total employment grew by 2.79 million between September 1997 and September 2008 but 62 per cent of that was made up by an increase of 1.7 million migrants in work.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: "The number of jobs in the economy is not fixed but it is striking that there have been a major increase in the employment of economic migrants of nearly half a million while the number of British people in employment has fallen by 149,000 in the same period. "It is hard to believe that these two developments are entirely unconnected."

Separate statistics from the ONS show UK workers earn more a week, on average, than their foreign counterparts (438 pounds a week), with only Americans (635), those from Australia and New Zealand (577) and western Europeans such as the French and Germans (510). However foreign workers in the 18 to 24 age bracket now earn more than their British counterparts (290 a week as opposed to 288), as do those aged over 50 (469 a week compared to 462 for Britons).

MPs warned last week that public services will be unable to cope after immigration rose to its second highest level on record. Despite the Government's pledge to cut numbers, net immigration has increased fivefold since 1997 to 237,000 last year and means immigration has added more than 1.85 million to the population in a decade.

A separate report for one of the Prince of Wales's official charities last week also warned a threefold increase in the flow of migrant workers into the countryside has had a "disproportionate impact'' on small rural towns and villages, which lack the necessary resources and infrastructure to adapt. Housing, health care, education and policing have come under increasing pressure, according to the study for the Business in the Community charity.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Government and independent research continues to find no significant evidence of negative employment effects from migration. "The tough new points system will ensure only those foreign workers we need - and no more - can come here to work. It is also flexible, allowing us to raise or lower the bar according to the needs of the labour market and the country as a whole."


Fears that more dentists will quit NHS as thousands billed over missed targets

Dentists will be required to refund 120 million pounds to the health service because they failed to treat enough NHS patients last year, The Times has learnt. About half of dental practices have fallen short of targets for NHS treatment agreed with local health authorities, meaning dentists will have to pay back tens of thousands of pounds each.

In the latest repercussion of the troubled dental contract, clawbacks are threatening to put some practices out of business and may persuade many more dentists to leave the NHS, the British Dental Association (BDA) says.

Thousands of patients across England are still said to be struggling to find NHS treatment, and yet about five million fewer treatments were carried out in 2007-08 than were budgeted for by the health service, figures show. This represents a 5 per cent rise in the amount that dentists will be expected to pay back, in the second year of a new pay contract that has been heavily criticised for creating a "drill and fill" culture and failing to improve access to NHS treatment.

In the past dentists were paid a fee for each treatment they provided but, under the dental contract introduced in 2006, they receive an annual income for carrying out an agreed amount of NHS work, measured in "units of dental activity" (UDAs).
Dentists, however, say that the only way to reach targets is to take on quick jobs, such as extracting a tooth rather than carrying out root canal surgery to save it, because both treatments have the same UDA value. [Amazingly idiotic!]

About 1,000 dentists opted out of providing NHS services when the new contract came into force, meaning that 900,000 fewer patients were seen in 2006-07 than under the old system, a report by MPs found this year. The Health Select Committee suggested that dentists were being set unrealistic targets for NHS work and that a failure to meet targets in the first year of the contract meant a loss of revenue for the second.

The latest figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by DPAS, a company that provides private dental plans, suggest that some regions have experienced particular problems. In Leicester, for example, more than 50 per cent of UDAs have not been delivered and 21 dental practices face repayments of 50,000 pounds or more. Across the country, 89 per cent of primary care trusts responded to a survey that found a total of 411 contracts where targets were missed by 50,000 or more.

Peter Ward, the chief executive of the BDA, said that dentists who failed to meet their targets in the first year were likely to have failed to do so again last year, creating a "roll-over effect". He said: "Once again this highlights problems with a target-driven contract that contains one crude measure of performance, which has long been criticised by the profession and patient representative groups."

Quentin Skinner, the chairman of DPAS, said: "For those dentists who fell rather short of the mark, the future for them in the NHS certainly looks bleak."

Barry Cockcroft, the Chief Dental Officer for England, said: "The Government is committed to growing NHS dental access year on year. This is why increasing the number of patients seen has been made a national priority for the NHS - and backed up by an uplift in funding of 11 per cent (209 million) this year." "The increased focus and funding is already starting to show results, with 655 more dentists working in the NHS in 2007-08 than the previous year and 36 million courses of treatment delivered compared with 35.1 million in 2006-07," he added.

Mike Penning, a Conservative health spokesman, said: "It is extraordinary that [these clawbacks are] happening at a time when over one million people have lost access to their NHS dentist in the last two years. These figures show, yet again, why we need to rip up Labour's botched contract and move towards a registration system based on clinical need, one that is targeted at preventing dental ill health rather than reacting to it."


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sometimes the real thoughts behind the correctness leak out

Contrast the impeccably correct first statement below with the one that follows it. The first statement is the first paragraph on the home page of Barnardo's -- a British children's charity
"Some might say that children who are troublesome or engage in anti-social behaviour can be difficult to believe in. Barnardo's argues that it is these children who need our support. Most children in trouble are trapped in a cycle of disadvantage. Children who start down a path of bad behaviour can be helped to change direction"

And the second paragraph below refers to the horribly tortured and killed British toddler known as "Baby P", pictured below before his maltreatment by his negligent mother's boyfriends:

"It saddens me that the probability is that, had Baby P survived, given his own deprivation, he might have been unruly by the time he had reached the age of 13 or 14. At which point he'd have become feral, a parasite, a yob, helping to infest our streets"

So who said that? The head of British Nazi Party? No. It was Martin Narey, the chief executive of Barnardo's

More British state teachers quitting jobs for better working life in independant schools

State school teachers are fleeing to the independent sector in record numbers to escape big classes and Government targets, it emerged yesterday. Staff who moved over from state primaries and secondaries now make up one in four teachers in private schools following a surge in recruitment over the past decade. Private schools employ more than 14 per cent of all teachers despite educating just eight per cent of pupils, according to research presented to an education conference yesterday. The National Union of Teachers accused the Government of driving teachers out of state schools by failing to clamp down on large classes and persisting with a testing and target-setting regime.

Academics who conducted the study said the 'poaching' of experienced teachers by independent schools had 'negative' effects on the state system. Figures from the universities of Kent and London School of Economics showed that the number of teachers transferring from state to fee-paying schools outstripped the numbers moving in the opposite direction by 1,500 last year. In 1994, the figure was just 400. In total, some 2,000 teachers transferred to independent schools last year - up from 600 in 1994. Out of 45,000 to 50,000 private school teachers, 12,000 - around a quarter - previously worked in the state sector.

The sharp upturn in little more than a decade is partly down to the expansion of the independent sector over the past 10 years due to rising pupil numbers. But they have also invested heavily in staffing, enabling them to reduce class sizes while raising recruitment of pupils.

Research co-authored by Francis Green, professor of economics at Kent University, found that independent schools tend to employ better-qualified teachers. They are also able to attract a significantly greater share of teachers in shortage subjects such as the sciences than the state system. 'There is no doubt that the rising resources flowing to independent schools have raised the quality of the education input in these schools,' the study concluded.

John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, criticised levels of 'poaching' by the independent sector. He said the Government must learn a 'massive lesson'. Mr Bangs said: 'Many teachers go into the independent sector because they feel the professional freedom and smaller class sizes are something they want, and they want to escape from the heavy duty accountability culture in the state sector. 'There's a massive lesson for the Government. 'The Government needs to ask itself what is driving some of our most talented teachers into independent schools.'

Presenting the figures at the Westminster Education Forum yesterday, Professor Green urged independent schools that 'attract an experienced teacher away from the maintained sector' to ensure that top staff are shared with local state schools.

However David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council said fee-paying schools were willing to forge links with state schools and share teaching expertise but warned that it 'takes two to tango', implying some comprehensive heads are reluctant to work with their fee-paying counterparts.

Mr Lyscom also sounded a warning that new laws requiring fee-paying schools to pass a public benefit test in order to retain their charitable status could lead to perverse consequences. It raised the prospect of a boys' school failing the test if charitable activities involved girls from neighbouring state schools. 'What I am worried about is a narrow legislative approach to decide what can count and can't count by looking at the articles of individual charities and trying to interpret what they do within the legal terms of their status. 'For example, I worry that if a boys' school does an activity with a girls' school, it won't be counted because it is not part of the purpose of their charity.'

Mr Lyscom said it will be unfortunate when 'hard-pressed heads have to look at what they are doing and if it's not regarded as being positive have to look for other opportunities'.


The rights of criminals still coming first in Britain

As thief gets away with caution, boss who marched him to police lands false imprisonment charge

A boss who marched a thieving worker to a police station with a placard round his neck has been charged with false imprisonment. Yet the criminal himself has escaped with just a slap on the wrist.

Simon Cremer took action against Mark Gilbert after learning he had cashed a forged company cheque. He hung a sign reading `Thief' on Gilbert and paraded him past shoppers on a busy high street before handing him to police. Now, however, officers have decided the thief should receive nothing more than a caution, while throwing the book at 44-year-old Mr Cremer, who thought he was making a citizen's arrest.

Mr Cremer and three workers from his carpet fitting firm who helped him overpower the sub-contractor have all been charged with false imprisonment - an offence that carries a maximum life term. Even Gilbert has expressed surprise that the men had been arrested, admitting: `I'm the criminal here.'

The charges came on the day Whitehall statistics showed tens of thousands of serious criminals are receiving only a caution - including rapists and paedophiles. But the number of criminals being sent to jail is at its lowest level for a decade.

Mr Cremer, a father of two, said yesterday: `I can't believe the police system. This is a guy who is a proven thief, he stole a cheque, forged a signature and took money by deception, surely there's enough to charge him. But no, he's been let off with a caution.' Mr Cremer, who has no criminal record, added: `I would do exactly the same thing again, especially now he has got off with a caution. I don't regret my action, the fact I tied his hands is the only bit I regret.'

His partner Karen Boardman, 44, who has just returned to work as a receptionist at a GP's surgery after treatment for breast cancer, attacked the `topsy-turvy justice' that could see Mr Cremer and his three employees spend time behind bars. She said: `I am disgusted. I have no faith left in the British justice system. "'The person that committed the crime has walked away, completely free. He will be sitting at home over Christmas, without a care, while Simon and the other three, who are all family men, have this hanging over them. `Their judgment was maybe clouded slightly because times are tough but I will not condemn what they've done. Even giving them a caution would be wrong.'

Mr Cremer, of Little Maplestead, Essex, was alerted to the theft in September when the Cash Converters company phoned him about a bounced cheque from his firm, In House Flooring. It emerged that Gilbert, from Colchester, who earned up to 1,000 pounds a week, had taken a cheque from an old book, written it out for 845 pounds, and cashed it for holiday spending money. He claims he was owed wages but his boss had been too busy to write out a cheque - a claim Mr Cremer vehemently denies.

When Gilbert next went in to work in Witham, Essex, he was wrestled to the floor, tied up and bundled into a van before being paraded 350 yards through the streets. In a scene reminiscent of the medieval approach to justice, when suspects were named and shamed by being sent to the village stocks, a cardboard sign was slung around his neck which read: `THIEF. I stole 845 pounds. Am on my way to police station.'

Gilbert claims he was punched, threatened with tools and feared for his life. But Mr Cremer insists no violence was used, although he `restrained' his employee for his own protection. Gilbert said of his former boss and colleagues: `I feel for them and I don't want anything bad to happen to them. But it wasn't really correct what they did to me.'


Obsessive immigration secrecy in Britain

What are they trying to hide? One guess: An out of control system

Police arrested the opposition Conservative Party's immigration spokesman on Thursday over alleged leaks of information which he made public, British media said. The reports said Damian Green, who is a member of parliament, was arrested by London police at his home in Kent, south east of the capital, and his offices were searched. The information leaked was said to have come from the Home Office (Interior Ministry).

The Conservatives were unavailable for comment on the allegations when contacted by Reuters, but the arrest was condemned by the party's shadow Chancellor George Osborne. "I think it is absolutely extraordinary that the police have taken that decision. It has long been the case in our democracy that members of parliament have received information from civil servants," he said on BBC television "I think to hide information from the public is wrong. It is very early days. It's an extraordinary case and I think there are going to be some very, very big questions asked of the police."

Police issued a statement which said that a 52-year-old man had been arrested in Kent and taken to a central London police station on Thursday afternoon. "The man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office," they said in a statement. They added that they had searched two residential addresses and business premises in Kent and central London.


Britain: Negligent Muslim doctor sanctioned

Paediatrician who failed to detect Baby P's broken bones is suspended. Thank goodness someone is sanctioned over the matter

The doctor who failed to detect Baby P's injuries and concluded that he was just "cranky" two days before he died has been suspended from practising medicine. Yesterday the General Medical Council said that Dr Sabah al-Zayyat, a locum paediatrician who examined Baby P at St Ann's Hospital in London, had been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into her conduct. Baby P died in Haringey, North London, after suffering months of appalling abuse in his family home.

The GMC had already placed temporary conditions on the registration of Dr al-Zayyat at a hearing in August 2008, which meant she could work only under supervision. But those conditions have now been upgraded to a full suspension. The GMC said it would hold a full public hearing if its investigation merited it. If it proceeds to that stage it can then either strike Dr al-Zayyat off the medical register, suspend her, put conditions on her registration or simply not impose any penalty.

Dr al-Zayyat, who qualified in Pakistan and worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Britain in 2004, saw bruises to Baby P's body but decided not to carry out a full systemic examination because the boy was "miserable and cranky". A post-mortem examination revealed a broken back and ribs, and a host of previous injuries. "Our priority is to protect the public interest, including patient safety," the GMC said in a statement. "When an interim order has been imposed, we keep the details under close review. The Interim Orders Panel decided on Friday, 21 November to suspend Dr al-Zayyat's registration. Our investigations are continuing and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Two social workers involved in the case are being investigated by the General Social Care Council. Maria Ward, Baby P's social worker, and Gillie Christou, her manager, face an investigation, which could result in both of them being struck off. The GSCC is "conducting preliminary inquiries into the actions of social workers in the case". Haringey Council is being investigated by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Ofsted and the Healthcare Commission, with their preliminary report due to be handed to ministers on Monday. Thousands of letters from the public calling for the resignation of the social workers involved in Baby P's case were taken to Downing Street yesterday, in advance of the report.

There was also anger among MPs and charities after Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo's, said that had he lived to become a teenager, Baby P might have turned into a "feral, parasitic yob". Mr Narey used the case to focus attention on the need to tackle causes of abuse. But charities and MPs said they were astounded by his "provocative" comments. Michele Elliott, chief executive of the children's charity Kidscape, told The Times: "Barnardo's seem to feel that by making these kind of comments that the public is going to support them. I find these comments extremely offensive in view of the fact that the child is dead."

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat children's spokesman, said the terms used by Mr Narey were unwise. "It would be better not to use such provocative language about this particular baby who has died," he said. "[He is trying to] throw some light on the circumstances in which thousands of young people in Britain grow up today, and the need to break these cycles of deprivation."

Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, a charity for young people in inner cities, said it was wrong to presume that all abused children went on to be abusive adults.


British bureaucrats trying to "get" NHS whistleblower

A nurse who exposed appalling neglect of the elderly at an NHS hospital began a fight to save her career today. Margaret Haywood, 58, faces a series of disciplinary charges over a secret film she made for a BBC Panorama programme. If a Nursing and Midwifery Council panel finds against her, she could be struck off the nursing register.

The veteran nurse was hired to help investigate concerns about the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. She and reporter Shabnam Grewal gathered evidence of failures to give even basic care to frightened and dying elderly patients. One was left to die alone while others spent hours in their own filth or with nothing to drink. Some were in agony from a lack of pain relief. After one shift Haywood said: 'I can honestly say it is the worst ward I have ever, ever worked on.'

The documentary ' Undercover Nurse', shown on BBC 1 in July 2005, sparked an investigation by Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which issued a public apology admitting 'serious lapses in the quality of care'.

The Central London hearing was told that Haywood admitted breaching confidentiality by passing contact details for patients and their families to programme makers. She told interviewers: 'That is a chance I am willing to take for things to improve. Hopefully I will not lose my registration. If I do, it is a small price to pay for things to get better.'

Haywood, from Liverpool, denies that her fitness to practice is impaired by reason of misconduct. She also denies an allegation that she raised concerns about patient care in the documentary instead of following 'whistleblowing' policy and reporting the issues to the Trust. Haywood further denies failing to assist colleagues when a patient was having a seizure.

Rachel Birks, for the NMC, said Haywood worked 28 shifts between November 2004 and April 2005 while secretly filming for Panorama. She said: 'She had not sought consent from the patients involved when she filmed them and the NMC's case is that from patient charts and records she would have been able to provide documentary makers with the contact details for patients and their families.'

The Royal Sussex County Hospital, which then had the lowest rating of zero stars and an œ8million deficit, had received a number of complaints before filming started. The panel heard a senior nurse deny that pensioners were victims of neglect. But Philip Kemp, a lead nurse in professional standards, admitted care was 'substandard' and that management knew patients were going without food or drink.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Lazy British child protection bureaucrats fail disastrously again

A major investigation has been launched into the failings of police and social services in two counties after a man was jailed for raping his two daughters and fathering nine of his own grandchildren. The 56-year-old businessman from Sheffield held his daughters virtual prisoners for 25 years, moving them around houses in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to avoid detection. The sexual abuse, which has chilling parallels to the case of the Austrian rapist Josef Fritzl, started when the girls were eight years old. Their father would rape them up to three times a week and punch, kick and hold them to the flames of a gas fire if they refused his demands.

The women were at Sheffield Crown Court to hear a judge give him 25 life sentences for rape, with a minimum term of 19r years. The man, who cannot be named to protect his victims' identities, refused to attend. The two women became pregnant 19 times in all. Two of their nine children died at birth.

Sentencing Mr X, Judge Alan Goldsack, QC, said: "In nearly 40 years of dealing with criminal cases and 14 as a family judge the combination of aggravating circumstances here is the worst I have come across."

Politicians and child protection experts asked how the abuse was not detected by the numerous social workers, doctors, teachers and police officers who came into contact with the ever-expanding family over 20 years. Sheffield City Council has launched an independent inquiry, and the role of South Yorkshire Police, Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Police will also be examined. Both councils said that the family was known to them. The court was told of several contacts with authorities that could have raised the alarm.

The details of the case have come to light a fortnight after news of the death of Baby P in Haringey, North London, sparked public outcry and fears that the entire child protection system is fundamentally flawed.

The daughters described their father's sentencing as a final escape from decades of mental and physical torture. "His detention in prison brings us only the knowledge that he cannot physically touch us again," they said in a statement. "The suffering he has caused will continue for many years and we must now concentrate our thoughts on finding the strength to rebuild our lives."

The inquiries are likely to focus on health professionals' failure to raise the alarm. James Baird, representing the defendant, said that it was inconceivable that the crimes could go un-noticed. "All the signs were indicative of an incestuous relationship," he said.

Social services in Lincolnshire had contact with the family when the daughters were young and suspicions were raised about the children's parentage. In 1997 the women's brother came forward with "hearsay evidence" of incest. Police investigated the claim, but no further action was taken. The family moved back to South Yorkshire in 2004 and social services again became involved, but the abuse went undetected.

Chief Superintendent Simon Torr, of South Yorkshire Police, defended the force from claims that it could have stopped the abuse earlier. "This has been a thorough, robust, timely and professional investigation from the moment that the victims first disclosed the abuse, and Sheffield City Council have fully supported the police in bringing about a successful prosecution," he said.


Negligence by NHS doctors perpetuated gross sexual abuse

Doctors treating two daughters who were made pregnant 19 times by their abusive father failed repeatedly to follow professional guidelines on alerting the authorities to suspected rape. Failings by the authorities in the case of a Sheffield father who forced his daughters to bear him nine children included breaches of medical codes and ignoring the recommendations of an inquiry into a recent incest case.

Gordon Brown spoke of the nation's outrage yesterday as he vowed that lessons would be learnt from the “unspeakable” abuse. The Prime Minister said that any necessary changes would be made to the system as a result of the case, in which the 56-year-old businessman — known in court as Mr X to protect his daughters' identities — received 25 life sentences for rape. His crimes against his daughters, committed over at least 25 years, have been compared with those of the Austrian rapist Josef Fritzl.

“The whole country will be outraged by those unspeakable events that have been reported as happening in Sheffield and in other parts of the country and will be utterly appalled by the news of the systemic abuse of two sisters by their father over such a long period,” Mr Brown told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions. “People will want to know how such abuse could go on for so long without the authorities and the wider public services discovering it and taking action.”

The Times has learnt that the repeated failure of health professionals, social workers and the police to intervene, breached a key recommendation of an official review four years ago into an case of rape and incest with disturbing similarities.

In 2003 a man from Swindon was jailed for 15 years after fathering six children by his eldest daughter during 30 years of abuse. The inquiry into the failure to halt the abuse found serious failings in the way the agencies worked together and shared information despite growing suspicion about the origin of the children. It recommended that in future cases of suspected rape within the family, agencies should prepare a family tree and a chronology of significant events.

Details of the case involving the sisters from Sheffield show that, after one of them had given birth, doctors began questioning whether the baby's father was also the father of the newborn's mother. They failed to follow procedures set out by the General Medical Council dictating that authorities should be alerted in such cases.

Doctors in hospitals in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who became aware of the family's history of recurrent genetic disorders also advised the sisters on separate occasions not to have more offspring with the man fathering the children. Two of the nine children died within hours of being born because of conditions caused by genetic defects. Nicholas Campbell, QC, for the prosecution, told Sheffield Crown Court this week: “Someone in the hospital asked whether the father of the child was her own father. The daughter was terrified and she denied it. “Her mother was present and she collapsed on the floor crying out, 'no, it can't be true', but at no time did she ask her daughter questions about the identity of her child's father.”

A Serious Case Review is being carried out into why social services in Sheffield and Lincolnshire, and the police in both counties, failed to protect the girls despite warnings. Lincolnshire Social Services admitted yesterday shortcomings in the work of their staff, which allowed the abuse to continue for 25 years. Peter Duxbury, director of children's services at Lincolnshire County Council, said that the way information was shared between the authorities had changed since the family lived there and that nowadays the case “would have been dealt with in a different way”.

The role of schools and teachers will also be examined as part of the case review. On one occasion in 1988, burn marks on the face of one of the girls were spotted at their school but were put down to bullying. The other daughter suffered a broken arm but stayed off lessons to conceal her injuries.


Woman netted $200,000 by making 22 claims under stupid British "ageism" laws

She was only stopped when she got too greedy

A woman has made up to 100,000 pounds by claiming 22 firms discriminated against her because of her age. Taking advantage of controversial new legislation, 50-year-old Margaret Keane made identical applications for jobs as a chartered accountant, responding only to advertisements seeking 'recently qualified' staff. She then made swift follow-up calls demanding to know why she had not been offered the posts, before immediately launching waves of age discrimination claims - even though her error-strewn CV had not included her date of birth.

Up to 12 firms, fearing huge legal costs, caved in and gave her out-of-court payouts understood to be between 4,000 and 10,000 pounds each, underlining fears raised by employers about European age discrimination laws introduced in 2006.

But Miss Keane's campaign has suffered a setback when five of her cases were rejected by an employment tribunal which accepted that she was a 'not a bona fide job applicant, but a serial litigator' purely seeking compensation. The five firms are each demanding she pays them more than 10,000 in costs.

Miss Keane, from Harrow, north London, qualified as a chartered accountant in 1991, and at one time had a 75,000 a year post with HSBC. She currently works part-time for a publisher.

On May 4 last year she applied by email for posts offering up to 60,000 a year advertised through ten accounting recruitment agencies. In her tribunal claim she said: 'All these agencies use words in their advertisements like "newly qualified", "entry level role" and "high calibre candidate", I believe to attract younger and exclude older candidates.'

Miss Keane waited two weeks before phoning the agencies and demanding to know why she had not got the job. She then began actions for damages through the Watford Employment Tribunal. Days after the first wave, she applied for jobs through another 11 employment agencies, again swiftly making follow up calls and launching more claims for age discrimination, this time through the London Central employment tribunal.

Some agents tried to explain that although she was unsuitable for the job she had applied for - often because she did not have a degree - they might be able to find her another. She showed no interest in other opportunities, however, and was described as 'rude' on the phone by one recruitment agent.

The first cases to be put to a tribunal were the 11 London Central ones, but six firms settled out of court - largely, it is believed, because of the regulations applied to discrimination cases. If a claimant can prove simply that they might have been discriminated against because of age, the employer must show its actions were not motivated by age.

The remaining five London cases were heard together in March. All were rejected. Miss Keane continued with the process of taking the first ten agencies to the Watford tribunal. After one agency told her the name of the employer for whom it was advertising the job, Sony BMG Music Entertainment UK Ltd, she added it to her list. Before the case began, six of the companies concerned, including Sony, settled out of court. The remaining five fought on, all represented by barrister Peter Linstead.

Mr Linstead told the tribunal: 'Miss Keane has suffered no detriment as these were not bona fide applications. 'The evidence suggests she made these applications with the sole intention of bringing a claim, not doing the job. 'She has not explained why suddenly she wanted to do a job apparently aimed at someone with little or no experience. 'She deliberately obstructed the process of finding herself a job, failing to tailor her applications for different roles, gave the wrong date for her qualifications and left four typing errors on her CV, and failed to apply for jobs commensurate with her 18 years of experience.'

Before the tribunal's decision, Miss Keane told the Daily Mail: 'Bringing these claims has not been easy - it's taken me full-time study almost every night to try to understand the law. If the judge decides my cases were an abuse of the system, I'm stuffed.'


Outrage over film's 'disabled theme' warning

Must pretend that disabled people are no different from anybody else:
"The British film classification board is in trouble after slapping a "disability theme" warning on a comedy starring disabled actors. When the British Board of Film Classification rated the low-budget film Special People, it tagged on a warning to viewers that the film contained disabled people, the Daily Mail reports.

The film's director, Justin Edgar, told the Mail the guidance that the film had a 'disability theme' unfairly singled out a section of society. "We have already had complaints from the actors and some disability groups in the audience who were angry about the advisory note warning people that disabled actors were used. "You don't get films with black people or women being categorised in this way, so why do it for films with disabled people in them?"

The 350,000 pound movie, part-funded by the UK Film Council, was shortlisted for the People's Choice award at the Edinburgh Film Festival and takes a wry look at life from the perspective of a group of disabled film students. The board has now withdrawn the disabled guidance but the filmmaker said it was too late to change publicity.


I imagine that the disability must have been pretty major to warrant a warning.


This too is consistent with a pattern of general biological fitness

Co-occurrence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease by social class: 1958 British birth cohort

By C Power et al.

Aim: To establish whether social differences in multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease are due to a greater strength of association (higher correlation) between risk factors in less advantaged groups.

Methods: Co-occurrence of five risk factors (smoking, hypertension, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, obesity, diabetes) in 3614 British 45-year-old men and 3560 women in the manual and non-manual social groups.

Results: 4.0% of women in manual groups had 3 or more risk factors compared with 1.7% in non-manual groups: 6.2% and 3.4% respectively for men. There was a higher than expected percentage of the population, overall, with 3 or more risk factors assuming independence between risk factors; correspondingly, there was a slightly lower than expected proportion with one factor. However, patterns of observed to expected ratios were consistent in manual and non-manual groups and did not differ by the number of risk factors.

Conclusions: Higher prevalence of multiple risk factors in manual groups was due to the higher prevalence of individual factors rather than a greater tendency of those with an individual risk factor to have additional risks. Strategies to reduce multiple risk factors in less advantaged groups would help to lessen their health burden.

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2008;62:1030-1035

Regular blackouts to hit Britain within three years because there is a shortage of new power stations

Families face regular blackouts within three years because Britain has not built enough new power stations, it has been claimed. Consumers will be hit by an 'energy gap' when a number of existing stations are shut down, a study suggests. Nine oil and coal-fired power plants are to close by 2015 because of an EU directive designed to limit pollution and associated acid rain. At the same time, four ageing nuclear power plants will be shut, further reducing the electricity available to homes and businesses.

Analysts Capgemini warn that we will not have new nuclear power plants until around 2018. And they are concerned that the rush to build wind farms will not deliver the power needed to ensure the lights stay on. Energy consultant for Capgemini UK, Alistair Green, said: 'An energy gap is looming, which could lead to black-outs or so-called brown-outs.' Brown-outs occur when the voltage in the system needs to be turned down because of a lack of electricity in the system, effectively dimming the lights.

Mr Green said: 'We are looking at the possibility of black-outs and brownouts within three to four years. 'We might get to a situation of rota disconnections, where all the domestic homes and businesses are cut off in an area of a town on a rota basis.' He added: 'Electricity is key to homeowners and businesses. This is a pretty frightening prospect.'

Mr Green said the problem had occurred because Britain's privatised power industry has not taken the decision to build more stations sooner, largely because they could not be sure of making a profit from them. The first application to build new plants will not be made until next year, which will trigger a public consultation that is expected to take more than a year. Even if permission is granted in 2010, it would take at least seven years to build stations and upgrade the National Grid wires network to cope.

Mr Green said the National Grid might have to commission its own new power stations if there are any further delays. Similar measures have been taken by the authorities in Ireland, Greece and South Africa to ensure the lights stay on.

Dr Jon Gibbins, of Imperial College, recently issued a similar warning of black-outs because of a failure to replace ageing power plants. 'You can't guarantee that the lights will stay on,' he said. 'You are just taking a tremendous risk. People die when you lose electricity supplies.' Dr Gibbins and many other industry experts are concerned the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on imported gas. This puts us at the mercy of gas-rich states in the Middle East and Russia, which is flexing its muscles as the world's first energy superpower. Dr Gibbins said it is vital that Britain takes its electricity from diverse sources.

Energy minister Michael O'Brien insisted that the UK is building enough power stations. He pointed to the fact that French company EDF is committed to spending 12.5billion pounds on new nuclear power stations. 'It is the case that National Grid has said total power station capacity is predicted to rise by 37 per cent by 2015. Not only will the lights not go out, but actually they will be brighter,' he said. 'In the long term, there will be new nuclear. In the shorter term there will be gas, renewables and the oil industry has the flexibility to deal with supply emergencies.' He said that new North Sea exploration licences are being granted to firms that aim to recover an additional 20billion barrels of oil.


Black Anglican archbishop attacks British immigration boss

The Archbishop of York is to launch a blistering attack on Britain's beleaguered immigration minister, accusing him of making dangerous and inaccurate claims. Dr John Sentamu will say Phil Woolas has made serious allegations about the conduct of lawyers which were not supported by the facts, and express concern over the minister's "unmerciful" attitude. He says the minister has been immature in his handling of immigration at a time when the Government should be setting an example to brutal regimes in countries such as Zimbabwe. Instead it has tried to make political capital out of the issue by "tough-talking" designed to win votes, says the archbishop.

In a wide-ranging critique of British society, Dr Sentamu argues that such cynical tactics have contributed to a breakdown in community and neighbourliness and are "a worrying development". Consumerism and materialism have become rampant under Labour and have led to the current economic crisis, he says.

In a speech at the Royal Society to be delivered on Thursday evening, Dr Sentamu will urge the Government to find a vision for the country rather than just concentrating on short-term solutions to the recession. He says that society deserves better than politicians such as Mr Woolas, who recently attacked lawyers representing asylum seekers for "playing the system". "Speaking as someone without a vested interest and is not a member of any industry to which the honourable member was referring, I would suggest that the allegation that lawyers are undermining the Law is very serious indeed." The archbishop suggests that Mr Woolas is suffering from "terminal inexactitude" and is ignoring the facts.

The attack from the archbishop follows a string of high-profile gaffes made by Mr Woolas since he took up the immigration brief in October. He appeared to call for a cap on migration to Britain in a strongly worded newspaper interview, saying he would not allow the population to reach 70 million, only to backtrack the next day. Mr Woolas then admitted Labour had made a series of mistakes in handling the number of people coming to the country, but was again forced to issue a "clarification" hours later. He was further humiliated when he was pulled from a scheduled appearance on the BBC's Question Time debate, and at a public appearance in Manchester he was hit in the face by a custard pie thrown by a pro-migration campaigner. Mr Woolas has also caused controversy during his brief time in the spotlight by predicting the disestablishment of the Church of England, going against stated Government policy.

Dr Sentamu will claim that the Labour Government has failed to provide a vision for Britain, and that despite growing prosperity society has been allowed to fall apart. "It seems to me that the poison fruit that has sprouted within our democratic system is that of apathy, disempowerment and a loss of memory of our history, culture and tradition," he will say. "It is a lack of interest, or boredom borne not only of material excess, where consciences have grown so fat on consumption that they ceased to function but also through a lack of shared big picture. The lack of a bigger vision to hold us all together. "Whilst we have all benefited from the economic progress of past decades the consequences of rampant consumerism and individualism - both economic and social - have been to eradicate the glue that coheres communities together."

Dr Sentamu will also argue that Government policy and the legal system in Britain takes no account of morality or of the Christian imperative to love one's neighbour. He is to cite the example of a seriously ill Ghanaian woman, Ama Sumani, who in 2006 was deported from the UK back to her home country because her visa had expired, and who later died because she could not afford treatment. "Sadly, the separation of religion, morality and law has gone too far, leading to such dire unintended consequences," the archbishop will say.


Don't outlaw boisterous banter in the playground

As Britain launches another Anti-Bullying Week, the author of Reclaiming Childhood says demonising teasing can do more harm than good

This year's anti-bullying week in the UK - with its theme of `Being different, belonging together' - kicks off today. And it provides a powerful reminder that official fretting over children's wellbeing, over the supposedly terrible dangers of bullying in the playground, can do more harm than good, stunting children's developmental growth and harming their social interaction with others.

The annual anti-bullying week is an initiative launched by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), founded in 2002 by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the National Children's Bureau. The ABA brings together 60 organisations `with the aim of reducing bullying and creating safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn'.

At the launch event for anti-bullying week, in the Globe Theatre in London, the secretary of state for children, families and schools, Ed Balls, said: `When I talk to mums and dads, when I talk to children in primary school and secondary school to ask what is really important about school, often they will say that the most important thing is to make sure there isn't bullying.' (1)

In last month's Ofsted survey of more than 150,000 10- to 15-year-olds in England, 39 per cent said they had been bullied at school and over a quarter said bullying was a `significant' concern (2).

In preparation for this year's anti-bullying week, ABA sent every school in England a resource pack to help prepare them for a stream of anti-bullying initiatives and activities. These include an `Ideas for pupils' section, with suggestions such as: `Get everyone in your school to wear blue for the day', and `Get all the people wearing blue into the playground to form different shapes or words - for example "Say No", "No", "Stop", "Stop Bullying", "Be Unique"' (3). The packs also include a `Briefing for school leaders' explaining that the theme `Being different, belonging together' will encourage schools to `open up the central issue of difference in their communities to further scrutiny, and to use Anti-Bullying Week as an opportunity to ask what it is that makes people unique and different, whilst retaining a key focus on what unites and unifies them' (4).

As an aside, surely this slogan sits rather uneasily with the government's anti-obesity drive, and its plan to weigh all children in Reception and Year 6, to see if they are an `acceptable' size? If anything will make children feel different from the `norm', and cut off from their classmates, it will be something like the government's top-down shaming of chubby children and its celebration of slim children. This government measure is likely to encourage overweight and obese children to obsess unnecessarily about their bodies, to feel like failures in comparison to other children and as a drain on the nation's resources. It is striking, and very worrying, that almost a third (32 per cent) of the children in the Ofsted survey said they were concerned `about their body' when asked what worried them most.

However, setting aside government hypocrisy over `differences' between kids, surely it is a laudable aim to try to reduce bullying and create a safer environment for children?

For a small minority of children, bullying is undoubtedly a profound problem. Every year we read tragic news stories about children taking their own lives after years of incessant bullying. In 2004, 13-year-old Laura Rhodes from Neath, South Wales, took a fatal overdose. Her parents said she had been terrified by the bullying and taunts she endured at school every day. That same year, 12-year-old Aaron Armstrong was found hanged in a hayshed at his family farm in County Antrim in Ireland after being bullied at school.

Such stories are heartbreaking - and they are precisely why we need to put the discussion about bullying in some proper perspective. Unlike these tragic cases, much that is defined as bullying today is not bullying at all. It is boisterous banter or everyday playground disputes that could - and should - be resolved without adult intervention. Treating all playground disputes as serious acts of abuse does not help victims of terrible bullying, like Laura or Aaron. Indeed, as I argue in my forthcoming book Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear, it discourages a proper sense of vigilance about real brutality perpetrated by a handful of children in favour of seeing all relationships between all children as somehow problematic.

Today's obsession with bullying is not good for children and it is not good for teachers, either. Teachers are increasingly lumbered with the task of looking after children's health and wellbeing, rather than being allowed to get on with the task of educating them. And children are encouraged to assume that their relationships with other children are damaging, and are tacitly encouraged to look upon their peers with trepidation and suspicion.

As more and more forms of behaviour are labelled as `bullying' - from arguments to group-creation, from name-calling to actual violence - so more and more children come to be labelled as `bullies' or `victims'. Professor Dennis Hayes, co-author of the 2008 book The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education, believes anti-bullying policies are making mattes worse. `The more you talk about bullying, the more it sensitises people to every social slight, and the more it becomes a problem', he argues.

In the ABA's school resource pack teachers are told that they need to `keep the signs of bullying in the forefront of their minds' (5). But if teachers become involved in every playground spat or squabble, they will both blow incidents out of proportion and, more worryingly still, undermine children's ability to manage uncomfortable situations.

Some childhood experiences are of course hurtful; and for children, a nasty taunt or a fallout with your best friend can genuinely feel like the end of the world. That does not mean, however, that these experiences actually are harmful. Being left out of a playground game may make a child cry for a week, but by the following week he or she is likely to be involved again and earlier antagonisms will have been forgotten. Children are not emotionally scarred by these experiences: they get over them and move on. Once the experience is labelled as `bullying', however, and a teacher becomes involved and makes it an Official Issue, then it becomes an issue of much greater significance, driving a more permanent wedge between the putative victim and that week's bullies, and making it far harder for the spontaneous dynamics of playground life to resolve themselves.

There is a real danger that by focusing on bullying we can end up denying children the experiences they need to develop. American sociologist William Corsaro shows that conflict, especially arguments and teasing, can `help bring children together and help organise activities': `Recent research on peer conflict among elementary school children shows how disputes are a basic means for construction of social order, cultivating, testing and maintaining friendships, and developing and displaying social identity. Disputes, teasing and conflict can add a creative tension that increases [play's] enjoyment.' (5)

If we treat children as if they cannot possibly cope with hurtful experiences, then we will likely undermine their confidence and make them less likely to cope with difficult events in the future. In effect, we will prevent them from growing up.

The UK government document Building Brighter Futures, which outlines a 10-year `Children's Plan', states: `Bullying can destroy lives and have an immeasurable impact on young people's confidence, self-esteem, mental health and social and emotional development.' This obsession with the long-term effects of bullying leads to a situation where children might become unwilling, and even incapable of, resolving their own problems with their peers - and that could damage children's development, and their relationships with each other, far more than the odd stone thrown or insult shouted.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

More on the emotional difference between Leftists and Rightists

What Thanksgiving has in common with Eton College!

A few days ago, I put up a post which characterized Leftism as the politics of rage. But all I said about conservatives was that they are cautious. But caution is not really an emotion. It is a disposition and some emotions have to go with that but I think I should say a little more about what those emotions are.

What I did mention is that conservatives are always shown in research as being happier than Leftists and that leads into what I think is important. Because conservatives are NOT full of rage, they feel free to enjoy whatever is around them. And one of the great satisfactions in human life is fellowship: Feeling part of a group of people whom you like or respect. So instead of screaming "racism" at every sign of group loyalty, conservatives can simply enjoy their group loyalties. They are untroubled patriots, for instance.

So American conservatives can feel warm inside to be Americans and they can greatly value the fellowship they find in their church. And where conservatives diverge most strongly from Leftists is that they can also feel a sense of fellowship and belonging with their ancestors and forebears. We often see this very strongly expressed among American conservatives when they talk about the "Founders" of the nation and the wisdom the founders bequeathed in the Constitution etc. And such thoughts are of course often to the fore on Thanksgiving day.

And another common expression of solidarity with the past is of course the great respect that conservatives pay to those who have died in war in the service of their nation. In my country, Australia, that day of remembrance (which we call Anzac day) is our only really solemn national occasion. Leftists have tried to laugh at it from time to time but it goes from strength to strength, with young people as well as old participating in the services of remembrance.

And there is no doubt that the army is always one of the most solidly conservative bodies of people that exists in any community. And the degree of fellowship in the army must be very close to maximal. If you pass a member of your old army unit in the street, you always stop to say a few words at least. There is a lasting bond between men who have fought together that outsiders can only dimly understand. My time in the Australian army was most undistinguished (though very fondly remembered) but I was an army psychologist so perhaps I have a little more awareness of what the army is about than most. I am certainly pleased to say that I have worn my country's uniform.

All these sorts of fellowship that conservatives feel are generally felt pretty strongly. There is often a swelling of pride and gratitude associated with such feelings. And the poor sad old Leftist is basically left out of all that. Their hate and rage bars them from feeling some of the most basic human emotions.

And I now want to give a vivid example of that: Something that Leftists will hate viscerally but which most conservatives should understand and enjoy. I reproduce below the Eton Boat Song. Eton is of course Britain's most elite school and British private schools are famous for fostering a sense of fellowship among their pupils. And you will see that vividly below. Listen to the music as you read the words and I will add a few comments afterwards. The song refers of course to competitive rowing regattas:

Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees;
Swing, swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.

Rugby may be more clever,
Harrow may make more row:
But we'll row forever,
Steady from stroke to bow,
And nothing in life shall sever
The chain that is round us now.

Others will fill our places,
Dressed in the old light blue;
We'll recollect our races,
We'll to the flag be true;
And youth will be still in our faces
When we cheer for an Eton crew.

Twenty years hence this weather
May tempt us from office stools:
We may be slow on the feather,
And seem to the boys old fools:
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools.

I went to a totally undistinguished school in a small Australian country town but that song does tend to bring a tear to my eyes. It is a powerful expression of being part of something bigger and better, and something that transcends time. I hope some of my readers get that powerful feeling too.

And note that is also a humble song. It talks of pride in a great identity but without any thought of dominating others -- which is the Leftist preoccupation. It talks of the singers as being "old fools" sitting on "office stools". There is no Fascist aggression there at all. In characteristically English style, it actually spends quite a lot of time talking about the weather! No egotistical "Tomorrow belongs to me", "We are the people we have been waiting for" or "Yes we can" there. fools" sitting on "office stools". There is no Fascist aggression there at all.

Yet it is a song that expressed a powerful feeling. British officers in World War I were known to go "over the top" in the dreadful charges of that war singing the Eton Boat song. That to me is a sort of nobility which I know that no Leftist egotist will ever understand.

Leftists do of course still have the normal human need for fellowship so when they do at last find an outlet for it that passes muster with them we get the completely over the top hysteria of Fascism, Nazism or Obama-worship. (Anybody who has been conned into believing that the National Socialist Hitler and the Marxist Mussolini were Rightists should read here and here)

Note: The above is a slightly expanded version of the original post

NHS lost patient details 135 times in two years

Losing government files on people is one way in which British bureaucrats are world leaders. It makes the news about once a month and all departments seem to be affected. The article below shows, however, that the news reports are just the tip of the iceberg

The NHS has lost the confidential medical records and personal details of thousands of patients in a "catalogue of errors" uncovered by an investigation into how the health service handles data. A "fundamental re-examination" of how the NHS deals with personal data was demanded last night after research showed that a series of losses and thefts had potentially exposed the private details of 10,000 patients around the country. A total of 135 cases were reported, including the loss or theft of diaries, briefcases, CDs, laptops, memory sticks and, in one case, a vehicle containing patient records.

A back-up tape of an entire system was stolen from a general practice in the East of England this year. In another case, a laptop containing the records of 5,123 patients was stolen from the outpatients' department of a hospital in the West Midlands.

The revelations will cast renewed doubt over the Government's ability to handle personal data after a series of high-profile losses by Revenue & Customs and the ministries of Justice and Defence in the past year, and will raise further questions about the scheme to create a computerised national patient database to allow easier communication between GPs and hospitals.

The Liberal Democrats, who carried out the series of Freedom of Information requests, called for the Government to scrap its plans for a national computerised database. Norman Lamb, the party's health spokesman, has also written to Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, with four other recommendations, including prohibiting the use of mobile devices to store patient records and publishing a set of minimum data protection standards.

Mr Lamb said: "These reports show utterly shocking lapses in security. Patients have a right to expect their personal information to be treated with the utmost care. "The degree of negligence in some cases is breathtaking, given the absolute sensitivity of patient data. There must be a fundamental re-examination of how the NHS deals with personal data. The NHS should regard lapses of standards of care as potential serious misconduct."

The details, obtained through requests made to strategic health authorities, revealed incidents of data loss dating back as far as 2006. In some cases, private patient notes were found in public places or deserted buildings, or had been dumped in bins and skips. One loss of records was so serious that police and an NHS manager became involved. The incident occurred in January, when a district nurse took home activity sheets with patients' names and addresses, which were stolen during a burglary.


Do British women fear fat more than drunkenness?

Could be these days

Bottles of wine and beer could soon carry labels warning of their calorie content. Experts believe binge drinkers, not deterred by information about how much alcohol a drink contains, might think again if they knew how fattening it was. The message would be most likely to hit home with image-conscious young drinkers and women.

One option would see the calorie content equated to a fattening food - such as comparing the calories in a pint of lager to a sausage roll. The proposals, from the Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, was last night condemned by the drinks industry. It claimed it could simply push drinkers into deciding they may have to 'skip a meal' in order to drink.

The advisory council, an influential body usually listened to by Ministers, said all alcohol bottles should carry labels warning of the 'harm caused', similar to those on cigarette packets. In a paper sent to Ministers, it added: 'Labelling could include calorie content and possibly specific warnings e.g increased risk of accidents.' One example given in the document is: 'A pint of lager = 2.3 units = 170 calories = a sausage roll'. It adds: 'Other types of comparison could be worth exploring.'

The council's views were sent to the Department for Health as part of the 'Safe Sensible Social' drinking laws review. The results of the review, including a crackdown on happy hours and other promotions, will be published once they have been approved by Gordon Brown.

Other advisory council suggestions include increasing taxes on strong drinks. The stronger a drink, the more it would cost. At present, some of the most potent brands of lager and cider are also the cheapest. The ACMD said: 'One major reason for the increase in binge intoxication in the UK is the gradual increase in the alcohol content of alcohol in wines, beers and especially lagers. 'Reducing alcohol content would be a simple approach to reducing intoxication. `Differential taxing - according to alcohol content per unit - could be one such method employed to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed.'

Other controversial proposals include so-called town centre 'wet' or 'damp houses' where drunks could go to sleep off a night's heavy drinking in safety. The ACMD launched a blistering attack on supermarkets, which often sell alcohol as a loss leader to entice more customers. It said: 'Such cheap availability encourages bulk purchase and consumption. Of specific concern is that the pricing puts alcohol more within the budgets of young people.'

A spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association warned against the calorie labelling plan. 'It's good in principle for consumers to have the information to make an informed choice but you wouldn't want people choosing alcohol by calories or thinking they could have a drink and skip a meal. 'Alcohol with food is better and adults should decide based on alcohol content, not calories.'

Drivers under the age of 21 should have a zero-alcohol limit, the advisory council said. Just one small glass of wine raises the odds of a young driver crashing six-fold, it warned. Drivers under 21 are already banned from drinking in Europe, as well as in parts of the U.S., Canada and Australia.


British pupils are 'too spoon-fed to cope with tough degrees'

Students are being sold short by a culture of 'spoon-feeding' at school which leaves them ill-equipped for traditional degrees, a report has warned. The UK produces a bigger percentage of graduates in 'soft' subjects than any other developed nation, according to a study by the Reform think-tank. It also generates the lowest percentage of graduates in engineering, manufacturing, construction, medicine and law - and the second lowest in science and maths. British students are losing out because these courses offer the best salary prospects and are highly valued by employers, Reform said.

The think-tank claims that a culture of 'teaching to the test' has left pupils incapable of thinking independently. 'One result is the growth of a spoon-fed generation that wants to receive education passively and without effort,' the report said. 'This generation prefers the X Factor to A grades.'

The report cited figures showing that only 6.2 per cent of UK graduates have studied engineering - against 15 per cent in continental Europe and 12.9 per cent in Eastern Europe. In contrast, 12.1 per cent of British students graduated in social and behavioural sciences, which include subjects such as media studies. In Asia and continental Europe, the figure is just 6.7 per cent.

The report concluded that UK students are 'poor at following high-value degree options' such as medicine, mathematics, computer sciences and engineering. The think-tank also said that further education colleges had 'lost their sense of purpose' and some had a drop-out rate of 71 per cent.

The report came on the day Ofsted warned that some business qualifications are treated as equivalent to A-levels despite being tested almost entirely through coursework. It said students needed only a 'weak grasp of key concepts' to pass the course.

Reform advocates giving each student an 'education account' worth 13,000 pounds to spend as they wish. It also believes that university tuition fees should not be limited. Elizabeth Truss, deputy director of Reform, said: 'We're already in recession. We urgently need to replace a bureaucratic skills maze with a system that puts individuals in charge of their own learning.'



The UK's Climate Change Bill, which commits future governments to cut CO2 emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, is about to receive Royal Assent but at what cost? Peter Lilley MP asks why ministers failed to mention that the legislation could cost each family in the UK up to 10,000 pounds

Can you spare 10,000 pounds for a good cause? The government thinks you can - despite the recession. Parliament passed the Climate Change Bill, which is set to receive Royal Assent in the coming days, which will force you to cough up.

This legislation binds future British governments to introduce unilaterally, even if other countries do not follow suit, massive spending programmes which could cost up to 200bn pounds; that's 10,000 from every family in the country.

I'm not talking about rescuing the banks. That involved loans which we should eventually get back. This is real money in taxes and lost incomes - money you will never see again.

Hold on! I hear you exclaim. No-one asked us if we could afford 10,000. We haven't heard anything about a 200 billion package. That's enormous. That's right; it is enormous and you didn't hear anything about it. That is the scandal. Neither Parliament nor most of the media bothered to discuss the cost of one of the most immense projects ever adopted in this country. Indeed, Parliament wafted it through without even discussing its cost and with only five votes against.

In my experience, our biggest mistakes are made when Parliament and the media are virtually unanimous and MPs switch off their critical faculties in a spasm of moral self-congratulation. That is what happened with this Bill.

We all want to save the planet from overheating, just as we all want to save the financial system from meltdown. We accept that both rescues may cost us a lot. But a healthy democracy should at least debate the cost, compare it with the likely benefits (or costs of doing nothing) and consider whether we can achieve the same ends at less cost.

Had MPs or commentators bothered to read the government's own estimates of the potential costs and benefits of the Climate Change Bill - the Impact Assessment - they would have found some extraordinary things. Admittedly, on this occasion government failed to publish copies of the assessment in the normal way so it took a little effort to obtain. Apparently, I was the only MP to obtain a copy.

The contents of the Impact Assessment are astounding. Whereas it puts the Bill's potential cost as up to 205bn, it says the maximum benefits of this massive expenditure is 110bn pounds.

I am all in favour of taking out an insurance policy, as the government describes it, against the threat of global warming. But would you insure your home with a company if they charged premiums which could be double the value of your house? There must be a better insurance policy than this.

Moreover, the government admits that their estimate of the "maximum" cost is far from being the real maximum since it omits three huge items. First, the Impact Assessment admits that it is "unable to capture transition costs which could be 1.3% to 2% of GDP in 2020". Second, they make the fantastically optimistic assumption that all businesses will know and instantly adopt the most cost efficient technologies to achieve carbon savings. Third, the assessment "cannot capture trade and competitiveness impacts"; in particular, the "relatively high risks of the transfer of productive capital to countries without carbon policies".

In other words, if we pursue the policies in the Climate Change Bill unilaterally, without others doing the same, we could end up driving UK business abroad without reducing carbon emissions because they will still be spewing forth carbon.

Yet this bill legally binds future British governments unilaterally to spend billions of pounds on trying to prevent climate change even if other countries do not follow our lead. There is a case for Britain taking the lead, but the bill should surely only become binding if a critical mass of other countries follow our lead; we cannot save the planet single-handed....

The oddest thing about the government's cost/benefit analysis is that it contradicts the Stern Review. Sir Nicholas Stern concluded that the cost of preventing climate change would be small relative to the benefits. Yet the Impact Assessment reveals that the costs could dwarf the potential benefits. The Stern Review was much criticised for resorting to unprecedented means to inflate the benefits artificially. In particular, he used an astonishingly low discount rate thereby giving a huge weight to benefits that will not accrue until centuries ahead. In fact, half the benefits he expects will not occur until after the year 2800!

Ministers have admitted to me that their Impact Assessment rejected Stern's dubious figures and used conventional discount rates. Yet they still quote Stern's conclusions to justify their Bill and never mention their own more recent calculations.

More here

The Times pleads with Australians to stay in the United Kingdom

A LEADING British newspaper has pleaded with Australians living in the UK not to head home amid concerns a looming recession and plummeting pound are fueling an exodus. The Times praised the cultural contribution of famous Australians who have made Britain home, including Barry Humphries, Clive James and Germaine Greer as well as the generations of Antipodeans who have flocked to the "old country''. But in its editorial yesterday, the Rupert Murdoch-owned daily voiced alarm at new figures showing record numbers of Antipodeans are leaving Britain and its economic gloom for better job opportunities back home.

"This is largely a vote of no confidence in the old country,'' The Times said. "As the recession bites, the lure of home, with unemployment at a 33-year low and the Australian dollar at an 11-year high against sterling, is very tempting.''

According to the paper, Australian Immigration Department figures show an average of 2700 Australians are leaving the UK each month, up from 1750 a month in 2005. In the 12 months to June, 13,062 Australians applied for working holiday visas compared with more than 27,000 two years ago. Online readers blamed more than the economy. "The weather, bad schools and healthcare and poor infrastructure will not keep highly educated and mobile workers. not to mention the rising tax on 'the rich' ," wrote j of London in the paper's online comments. "Ever get the feeling the whole place is going to pot?" asked Jez W, of Leeds.

But not everyone was sure about the weather in Australia. "The sun doesn't always shine. My colleague has just come back from Brisbane where there was TEN INCHES of rain overnight!", wrote Ben Foster of Wokingham.

A strong pound, the chance to travel widely and superior job opportunities - particularly in London's financial sector - had enticed thousands of professional Australians to the UK in recent years. But with mass redundancies, a falling currency and the poor economic outlook, there is an exodus from the City of London.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If politicians open their eyes, the BNP spectre will vanish

The purloined BNP membership lists are revealing, beyond the Anglo-Saxon or Viking nostalgia of their house names or email-addresses. Most of the male, middle-aged membership hale from areas of deprivation - like Blackburn and Stoke or the farther wastelands of east London. They are not all former soldiers or policemen who do a bit of Hitler in their spare time. As well as one witch and a vicar, they include a couple of academics from Cambridge and Leeds, doctors, teachers and social workers. Many are former Labour supporters. This partly explains why the Left is so keen to ramp up the distant thud of jackboots, for it has always needed "anti-Fascism" like a regular blood transfusion.

Beyond an implacable core, obsessed with Jews, Blacks and Asians, BNP supporters are driven by the creed of "England for the English", with diffuser resentments towards the EU and foreigners in general. Possibly their biggest handicap, apart from the fundamental decency and sanity of most British people, is that their local activism invariably translates into ineffective, useless representatives wherever BNP candidates have been elected.

Another handicap is the absence of a charismatic leader. Fascist parties need them to conceal policies that are like a leap of faith into a mythic past and future. Britain's last Fascist dynamo was Sir Oswald Mosley, a Labour MP who crossed to the dark side in the 1930s, although his cut-glass tones and manic Hitlerian gestures seem ridiculous. Mr Nick Griffin resembles one of those bulbous creatures that excite one's curiosity on the fish counter, but which would bring no joy to purchase. He is devoid of the steely style of the Italian far-Right politician Gianfranco Fini, a former professor of economics, or the gay ski-instructor charm of the late Joerg Haider. This is not to imply that the BNP is only one charismatic leader away from real power - as distinct from maybe getting a Euro MEP elected next time round. We can probably cope with that.

The last really grave Fascist challenge came in the wake of a lost war, Bolshevik revolution, hyper-inflation, and a Depression which saw nine million unemployed in Germany. Many Nazi Stormtroopers could not afford shoes, let alone boots, and were fed by party soup kitchens. The Nazis went from 2.8 per cent to 36 per cent of the vote in four years because of a leader who epitomised his "movement" and spoke to people in fear of an abyss. The democratic alternatives either imploded, or had no solutions to Germany's problems. Nor did Hitler, but that is another story.

Such conditions do not exist in contemporary Britain, though there is admittedly poverty of other kinds, such as drug misuse in substandard housing where the inhabitants have been weaned off responsibility by decades of welfare dependency. Iain Duncan Smith has spoken to and for such constituencies highly effectively. Others need to move up a notch to the BNP's likely constituency of C2s.

All parties need to listen to the concerns of their potential audience and find ways of addressing them. Rather than painting a Fascist spectre on the walls, politicians can start by acknowledging that it is not "racist" to be concerned about culture, identity, mass immigration and the cynical misuse of our asylum laws. If they fail to do this, they may find more people turning to politicians who are even less plausible than themselves.


What the destruction of traditional British values has done to Britain

Officially Bulgaria may be the EU's most corrupt country, says Kapka Kassabova of her former home, but Britain is scarier

Let's go sightseeing. I live in a central Edinburgh neighbourhood called Broughton. It's the kind of neighbourhood where the deli, health-food shop and independent wine merchant are housed in Georgian buildings and rub smug shoulders in the daytime. The night-time is another matter, especially come Friday, when the belligerent drunk hordes from downtown trickle down Broughton Street.

If you were unfamiliar with native ways, you'd think you were walking through the aftermath of a small but vicious war. Rivulets of urine crisscross the pavements as you slalom between puddles of fresh vomit, discarded takeaway cartons smeared with ketchup, and the occasional survivor swooning in an alcoholic daze in some corner, watering the nearest pot plant. In the morning, everything is swept again.

Well, not everything. On a Saturday morning, it's normal to walk past the Calabrian restaurant and find its spotless window smashed. And the boutique next door, and the cafe next door to that. On a Sunday morning, it's normal to find all the cars parked in my street with their side mirrors smashed. It's normal to find the glass entrance to my building smashed, to have it fixed, and then smashed again. And so it goes in our pleasant neighbourhood. And when, in the middle of the night, I hear the pimply youths smash the entrance door downstairs yet again, I'm too scared to go and remonstrate. When I see a lad pissing in the street, I'm too scared to say: "Oi, this is not a public toilet". In my first year in Britain, I was foolish enough to do this, and nearly got my nose bloodied a few times for my civic behaviour. I've learnt my lesson now. I just turn the other way, walk faster, pretend it's not happening. That's the British way, right?

Since I arrived in Britain four years ago, casual knife crime has multiplied. I have become frightened of random violence - and cowardly too. If I see yobs attacking someone because he looked at them "funny", would I interfere? You bet I wouldn't. And yes, I hate myself for it.

Now let's zoom across Europe and visit Broughton's counterpart in central Sofia. My family has a small apartment there. The area is called White Birches, and the balconied buildings are indeed white, though there are few birches. This is a pricey area, and last year our building enjoyed a shoot-out between two drug-smuggling rings. The brisk illegal activity explains the expensive cars that line the potholed streets, along with the beauty salons, gyms and designer-furniture shops. In the evening, women chat on broken benches. At night, homeless dogs rummage in the overflowing rubbish containers next to the parked BMWs.

Bulgaria is officially the most corrupt country in the EU. Civil society is in its infancy. The ruling classes and the law are infiltrated by organised crime. "Other countries have the mafia," said a former counterintelligence chief, "but in Bulgaria, the mafia has the country." Some guides to Sofia advise you not to go into nightclubs frequented by "businessmen" with more than three bodyguards. These men are collectively named mutri, or mugs, and they sport Gucci sunglasses and big necks.

They might have the country, but they don't have the streets. Homeless dogs, putrefying rubbish and potholes aside, I'm never afraid to walk home in the dark from the tram stop. I'm never scared of finding some drunk pissing in a doorway, or having someone stick a knife in me for looking at them funny. The glass doorway to our building has never been smashed. Angry teenagers don't carry knives. They grow up and become mutri and then they carry guns. Poor, corrupt, post-totalitarian Bulgaria is much safer for the ordinary person on the street than wealthy, civic, post-empire Britain.

So what is going on? Alcohol, I think. Alcohol, too much money, and poor food culture. The average disaffected British youth has enough money to regularly buy a drink, a knife, and the latest mobile. His Bulgarian cousin has a family to fall back on but no extra cash. He is busy looking for work or emigrating. Destroying public property is a waste of time to him. Besides, in Bulgaria practically everyone except the mutri is disaffected, but practically nobody vomits in the streets.

Not that every yob here is disaffected. Most of them are very affected indeed, with their tailored shirts or hen-party outfits, until they throw up over each other. Britain boasts a centuries-long binge-drinking tradition. You drink on an empty stomach. You drink not to enjoy, but to forget who you are. Drunk sociopathy is the norm. Why, it's almost charming. It absolves you of all crimes, because by the time you've sobered up, you've forgotten everything, which is the whole point of the exercise.

And although the Friday-night yobs that turn Edinburgh into a vomitorium don't have the country in that they don't own the police and the law, they own something as important: the streets. The streets is where we spend a lot of our time. And if on weekend nights the streets are a war zone, what sort of civil society do we have? A rubbishy one, with the dogs of self-hate rummaging in it.


British Tories keen on allowing the return of a clip round the ear

Long overdue

The police would be formally discouraged from taking action against adults who tackle misbehaving youngsters under a Conservative government, Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary, reveals today. Fear of legal action, not violence, holds most people back from confronting antisocial behaviour, Mr Grieve said in an interview with The Times. He said that the recent arrest of a father for smacking his seven-year-old son highlighted the need to reassert adults' rights to remonstrate with misbehaving children.

"The key issue is that if you turn up at an incident where children have been misbehaving and adults have intervened [and] the child says, `That man slapped me', and there is no visible mark on him, do you say, `This is a very serious matter and I'm taking you down to the police station', or do you say this is something that, historically, people have the discretion to do?

"If someone appears with a black eye or a bruise, or has been beaten with something, that's a completely different thing from someone making an assertion that that adult touched me in the course of telling me not to misbehave," he added. Mr Grieve also criticised ministers for failing to challenge Muslim groups when they gave platforms to extremists and holocaust deniers.


Barnardo's bunkum

Do British adults really look upon children as `vermin'. or did the charity find what it wanted to find in its latest public survey?

`It is appalling that words like "animal", "feral" and "vermin" are used daily in reference to children', said Martin Narey, the chief executive of the children's charity Barnardo's, as he unveiled a new survey this week which apparently shows that adults in Britain suffer from an `unjustified and disturbing intolerance of children' (1).

Yet who was it that introduced these foul words into the public debate about kids? Barnardo's itself! It was the pollsters employed by Barnardo's to survey 2,021 people who asked loaded questions about whether children can be viewed as `feral', even as `animals', who are `infesting' our streets.

What Narey, and the subsequent media coverage, implicitly presented as a groundswell of intolerant prejudice against animalistic children is nothing of the sort. Rather, Barnardo's has carried out a shameless piece of advocacy research, designed to discover the prejudices that it is convinced (by its own prejudicial outlook) are lurking within the adult population.

The media have had a field day with Barnardo's survey findings. `Britons fear and loathe "feral" children', says Reuters. Some media outlets have taken the research as evidence that adults have a warped view of kids (see the Guardian, for example), while others have welcomed it with open arms as confirmation that British yoof really are going to hell in a handcart. `Half of British adults are scared of children who "behave like feral animals"', screeched the Daily Mail (2).

The coverage all springs from Barnardo's press release, titled `The shame of Britain's intolerance of children'. It tells us that `more than a third (35%) of people agree that nowadays it feels like the streets are infested with children'. Something about that wording doesn't ring true. Have you ever heard anyone say the streets are `infested' with kids? I haven't, either. But then, no member of the public volunteered to Barnardo's the view that Britain's streets are `infested'. Rather, the image of `infestation' was introduced by the Barnardo's-employed pollsters.

They put the following statement to their 2,021 respondents, `Nowadays it feels like the streets are infested with children', and asked them to agree or disagree. How is one supposed to respond to such a bald, black-and-white statement, where there's no room for manoeuvre? What if you are, say, an elderly person who thinks there probably are too many kids hanging around on street corners, when they could be in youth centres or on football pitches instead, but you would not necessarily use the word `infested'? Do you say `agree' or `disagree' to the survey statement?

In the event, eight per cent `strongly agreed' and 27 per cent `agreed', adding up to Barnardo's total of `35 percent' who think the streets are infested with children. A large majority, 46 per cent, `disagreed'; and strikingly, 14 per cent `strongly disagreed', almost twice the number who `strongly agreed'. Maybe some of this 60 per cent who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the idea that Britain's streets are infested with children were thinking to themselves: `What a disgusting sentiment. Why am I being asked this question?

Even worse, having introduced the noxious notion that Britain's streets are `infested', and found that some people seemed to agree, the chief executive of Barnardo's then went on to say that `it is appalling. that words like "vermin" are used daily in reference to children' (3). Are they really? The survey doesn't mention `vermin' and so far as we know none of the respondents volunteered the belief that children are verminous. Rather, Barnardo's is extrapolating from its already loaded question about `infestation' the loaded idea that British adults have an `unjustified and disturbing' view of children as `vermin'. No we don't. You just think we do.

The question on whether children are `feral' was even more convoluted. `Most adults think children are feral', claimed the newspaper headlines, as if Barnardo's had uncovered a scientifically measurable prejudice against young people (4). In fact, Barnardo's put the following statement to its respondents: `People refer to children as feral but I don't think they behave this way. Do you agree or disagree?'

Eh? Come again? I write and edit words for a living, and even I was bamboozled by this statement. Does one say agree or disagree to the first part (`People refer to children as feral') or the second part (`But I don't think they behave this way')? It took me a couple of minutes to work out that I would say `agree'. Forty-two per cent of respondents agreed with Barnardo's statement (that is, they agree that people refer to children as feral but don't think that is a useful description), while 45 per cent disagreed with Barnardo's statement, which presumably means they think children are in some way feral (at least I think it does; I'm confused again). Not surprisingly, 13 per cent said `Don't know', which was by far the highest `Don't know' response for the whole survey. If there had been a choice that said `I have no idea what you are talking about', I imagine it would have been selected by, ooh, at least 20 per cent of the respondents.

Whatever this bizarre question on feral children tells us - about Barnardo's scribes; about the illiteracy of pollsters; about the duplicity of advocacy research - it does not scientifically prove that `most adults think children are feral'. Just as the responses to the loaded statement `British children are beginning to behave like animals' - with that horrid animal image being projected on to public debate by Barnardo's itself - does not tell us everything, or anything really, about how adults view, interact with and care for children.

The black-and-white nature of Barnardo's questioning must have also proved problematic in relation to the issue of `professional help'. The following statement was put to the respondents: `Children who get into trouble are often misunderstood and in need of professional help.' Forty-nine per cent of respondents disagreed, and this was held up in Barnardo's press release as evidence that adults are not sufficiently sympathetic to the plight of children. On the other hand, the response might signal a healthy suspicion towards `professional help'. Certainly the mums and dads among the 2,021 respondents might kick against the idea that troubled children need outside intervention rather than discipline or care within the family home.

Barnardo's has simply found what it wanted to find: that British adults don't understand children, and in fact even fear and loathe them, and thus we need expert charities to educate the British public about how wonderful children are and how we should look after them. Charities like, oh I don't know, Barnardo's maybe? It is telling - in the extreme - that these survey results were released just a few days before Barnardo's is set to launch its first-ever TV advertising campaign calling upon us all to `stop demonising children'. How convenient to discover that `most British adults' demonise children just before you launch a campaign against the demonisation of children. The gods have smiled on Barnardo's.

It is of course true that adult society has a somewhat fraught and even fearful relationship with young people today. As a consequence of a growing sense of insecurity, and a collapse of adult solidarity, young people are increasingly looked upon as either vulnerable victims or potentially violent tearaways. This view of youth is stoked by politicians, the media and even children's charities, all of whom feed us a constant diet of anti-social behaviour scares, stories about chavs, slags, gangs and knives, and concerns that childhood obesity and binge-drunkenness will turn our children into feckless adults. However, this does not mean that adults think children are vermin or animals that are infesting our streets. And by squeezing today's difficult relationship between adult society and young people into this moralistic straitjacket, in which everything is reposed as a war between dumb adults and victimised children, Barnardo's is only making matters worse.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by Barnardo's advocacy research. This is a charity (founded in 1867) that has long relied upon presenting children as victims and adults as buffoons. As one study of Barnardo's early years in Victorian times says, `Barnardo's philanthropic narratives' set out to `popularise the plight of poor children. while simultaneously casting the adult poor out of the English community and calling into question their basic rights to citizenship' (5). Today, too, Barnardo's is popularising the idea that children are victims while questioning adults' moral priorities. All the better to boost the fortunes of a charity that loves to play the role of in loco parentis.


Britain: A volunteer testing a new treatment died after doctors `missed' a side effect

No vigilance for known serious side-effects

A young widow has revealed that her husband died in a government-funded drug trial - the second victim to be identified. Gareth Kingdon, 39, who was father of a seven-month-old boy, was poisoned by one of the drugs being tested as a new treatment for testicular cancer. His widow Victoria, also 39, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said this weekend that he might still be alive if doctors had withdrawn the medication, bleomycin, when signs of side effects first emerged.

She argued that doctors at the Royal Marsden hospital, London, should have noticed signs of lung damage and stopped the drugs. He developed a persistent dry cough, a sign of damage caused by bleomycin, yet they continued to administer the drug for about another month. He was transferred to a critical care unit shortly after the last dose in November 2006.

Two months ago The Sunday Times reported that Gary Foster, 27, had died after he was given an overdose of bleomycin at University College London hospital (UCLH) in 2007. The publicly funded Medical Research Council, which is running the trial at several hospitals across Britain, has admitted that two other men were given overdoses. After Foster's death the trial was suspended at UCLH - where there had been a computer error in setting up the dosage control. The revelation that another patient had died a year earlier raises questions about whether it should be continued at other hospitals.

The deaths also raise broader safety concerns two years after the "elephant man" case, which was supposed to have led to tighter supervision. Six men nearly died when their bodies swelled horrifically after taking an experimental drug in trials conducted on the site of Northwick Park hospital, London, by Parexel, the testing company. All the men suffered multiple organ failure.

Kingdon, who was a senior tax executive at the Ford motor company, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the summer of 2006. His family were given documents that put the normal survival rate at 50%. They say doctors told them that his chance of beating the cancer if he took part in the trial of a new treatment was about 90%. The trial, TE23, is testing whether a combination of five existing chemotherapy drugs, including bleomycin, is better at treating testicular cancer than the standard treatment of three drugs.

Victoria Kingdon, a former marketing manager, said her husband joined the trial in August 2006 and developed a cough two months' later: "Gareth was showing signs of toxicity from the bleomycin. He had a dry persistent cough from early October. I even have the cough medicine he was prescribed. "The last cycle of chemotherapy was early to mid-November 2006. They should have stopped his entire last cycle. If they had done that, Gareth may very well have been with us today."

She added: "Gareth was so sick, I said to him, `How can they think you are well enough to have chemotherapy today?' but they went ahead with the last round," she said. "Gareth went into the critical care unit shortly after the last dose was administered."

The couple's son, Gus, was seven months old when Gareth Kingdon died. Victoria Kingdon was fighting breast cancer at the time, which, she said, had hindered her ability to seek justice for her husband. After having a mastectomy she is clear of the disease and is seeking legal advice.

Kingdon acknowledges that bleomycin is an effective drug if monitored closely. Between 1%-2% of patients taking bleomycin die of the damage it causes to their lungs.The Medical Research Council has declined to disclose how many of the 59 patients in the TE23 trial have died from toxicity caused by bleomycin.

Kingdon said: "We were, like the Foster family, delighted that Gareth got invited to participate in the trial. There is a contract of trust between patient and doctor, however, and where I think mistakes may have been made is in the vigilance to look for symptoms like the dry cough that both Gary Foster and Gareth suffered and to act on them quickly."

Mark Bowman, a solicitor with the law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, who had acted for Foster, said: "As soon as someone develops toxicity, doctors should stop giving bleomycin. That appears not to have happened, which is of concern."

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said: "We would like to again pass on our sincere apologies to Mr Kingdon's family for their sad loss." It declined to comment on the cause of his death. The Medical Research Council has reviewed its trial procedures and introduced additional checks since the deaths. It pointed out that deaths from cancer drug toxicity are an acknowledged hazard. It added that the trial had been monitored by an independent committee and that it would be stopped early if there were concerns about a higher number of deaths than had been expected.


More than a third of schools failing pupils, British regulator warns

More than a third of schools are not giving pupils a good education, inspectors warned today. One in ten 11-year-olds are still leaving primary school without reaching the level expected of their age group in English and maths, Ofsted's annual report found. And more than half of England's teenagers are still leaving school without five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

In her third annual report, Chief Inspector of Schools Christine Gilbert said England must do better if it is to compare favourably with the rest of the world. She said she was concerned that there was still too much variation in achievement between different areas of the country. Poor quality services existed across the education and care sectors, for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Poorer children, such as those who qualify for free schools meals, were still less likely to achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, than their peers. In 2007, only 21 per cent of children on free school meals achieved this benchmark, compared with 49 per cent of other pupils.

Ms Gilbert said there was a strong link across every sector between deprivation and poor quality services. She said: "This means that children and families already experiencing relative deprivation face further inequity in the quality of care and support for their welfare, learning and development. "In short, if you are poor you are more likely to receive poor services: disadvantage compounds disadvantage." But Ms Gilbert added it was possible to "buck this trend" and there were examples of places that were outstanding. She said: "Typically the provision that really makes a difference is ambitious. It does not believe that anyone's past or present circumstances should define their future."

Today's report covers the first full year of Ofsted's new wider remit - they now inspect and regulate social care, children's services, adult learning and skills, as well as schools and childcare. It found improvements in school standards, with 15 per cent of schools judged to be outstanding, up slightly from 14 per cent last year. In primaries that figure was 13 per cent while in secondaries it was 17 per cent. But more than a third of schools (37 per cent) were found to be not good enough - given a rating of "satisfactory" or "inadequate". More than four in ten (43 per cent) secondary schools were rated no better than satisfactory, although this was down from 49 per cent in 2006/07. In primaries this figure was 37 per cent. Nursery schools had some of the best ratings, with 39 per cent judged to be outstanding and 58 per cent rated good. Just 3 per cent were rated satisfactory and there were none that were inadequate.

A higher proportion of childcare and early education was good or outstanding this year. But the quality of provision varies, and it is not as good in areas with high deprivation. The report said that teaching literacy and numeracy skills must "remain a priority" and while there was evidence of improvements in these areas, in some progress was still too slow. And it warned that more needed to be done to raise standards at GCSE level. "A decade ago, two-thirds of secondary age pupils left compulsory education with five good GCSEs, including English and maths - it is still more than half."