Saturday, May 31, 2008

We must kick our methadone habit

Drug addicts often do not really need the heroin substitute that they are prescribed

By Theodore Dalrymple

It is unusual for politicians to face up to the obvious, but the Scottish Executive seems for once to have done so: it has recognised what has long stared it in the face, namely that dishing out methadone to drug addicts is not the answer to their problems or to the problems that they cause society. A different approach is needed.

Perhaps in 100 years historians will wonder why so many of the governing elite, from senior doctors to Cabinet ministers, persisted for so long in the belief that doling out methadone was the answer. The explanation, I think, will be that they wilfully misunderstood the nature of the problem.

Many years ago I used to dole out methadone like the best (or the worst) of them. This was before I thought at all deeply about the question of drug addiction and accepted uncritically all that I had been taught about it by doctors senior to me. I began to change my opinion when I worked in prison where it was the clinical policy to give addicts methadone. I noticed that, far from creating an atmosphere of contentment and satisfaction, it created one of perpetual tension and irritation. Shortly after having been prescribed a dose, the prisoner would return and say, in an intimidating fashion: "It's not holding me, doc, it's just not holding me," and sometimes announce that, unless he was prescribed more, he would end up attacking other prisoners, and then it would be the doctor's fault.

In Scotland the great majority of addicts prescribed methadone by their doctors never stop taking it, and most of them take other drugs as well. A particularly dangerous combination of drugs is methadone and benzodiazepines (drugs such as Valium), and yet drug clinics and other doctors persist in prescribing this often fatal combination - largely, I suspect, because they are too frightened of their patients to refuse them anything.

The number of people admitted to hospital having taken a dangerous overdose of methadone (556 in 2006-07) is greater, proportionately, than the number of people admitted to hospital having taken a dangerous overdose of heroin (1,530 cases). In Dublin recently, more people have died of methadone poisoning than of heroin overdose. The supposed cure causes as many problems as the supposed disease. If addicts prescribed methadone are given the opportunity to divert it on to the black market, they will: which suggests that they do not really need it in the first place.

In France, addicts are often prescribed a different drug, buprenorphine, which soon became the street drug of preference in Finland, to which it was illegally re-exported by the addicts. More recently, a huge epidemic of buprenorphine addiction has occurred in Georgia (the ex-Soviet republic), numbering scores of thousands of addicts, who take buprenorphine diverted from France. If the addicts really needed the drugs, they would take them rather than divert them on to a black market.

In the prison in which I used to work, a buprenorphine tablet that had been prescribed for an addict to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin on arrival in the prison, and which an addict had put in his mouth and spat out for sale to another prisoner, was known as a "furry" because of its rough surface. Again, this suggests that addicts did not really need what they were prescribed, and that the whole basis of prescription was flawed.

The fundamental error that the Scottish Executive has now admitted is in having regarded addiction to heroin as a technical medical problem, to be solved by technical medical means. But that old approach amounts to a surrender to blackmail: give me what I want or I will continue to behave badly and to hold you responsible for the ill-effects of my own behaviour.

Suppose we gave money to burglars to induce them to stop burgling. No doubt most of them would stop for a length of time depending upon how much we gave them. But this does not mean that money is the treatment of the dreadful disease of burglary, or because we prevented certain individuals from continuing to burgle it means that we had reduced the disease of burglary in society as a whole. Rather, we would have encouraged its spread.

This is precisely the logic that has been applied to drug addiction. Just how precisely is evident from the Government's recent declared policy that clinics should now give drug addicts money or other rewards for not taking drugs (as least as proved by drug-free urine samples, something experienced drug addicts have long learnt to provide). This is the first time in the history of medicine, so far as I know, that bribery has been considered a medical treatment.

Contrary to what everyone supposes, withdrawal from heroin is not a serious medical condition - unlike, say, withdrawal from alcohol when it results in delirium tremens (the DTs). The suffering is grossly exaggerated and, in so far as it is genuine, is largely produced by anticipatory anxiety that is itself the consequence of years of mythologising the fearsomeness of withdrawal.

Addiction to heroin is a medical problem only to a minor extent, which is why predominantly medical means will never solve the problem. Most of Britain's 300,000 addicts are drawn from broken families, have a poor education, are without much hope for (or for that matter fear of) the future and have no cultural life, intellectual interests or religious belief. Delusory euphoria - the paradise at three pence a bottle that De Quincey described in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater - is the best that they think that they can hope for in life. This is not a medical problem. Where addiction is concerned, it is time to throw physic to the dogs.


Boozy Britain

What we surely need to address is why vast swathes of young people - and their parents and grandparents, too, I expect - find being so intoxicated that you can't stand up the very acme of fun. We've all done it: I had my stomach pumped once when I was a student (I know - classy), but most of us aren't madly keen to keep on doing it.

I fully understand the joys of the three-hour lunch: I love sitting in the sunshine with a chilled bottle of white wine; I have no reformed drinker-style notions about the evils of booze. Drinking until you're giggly and feel like singing is very nice. Drinking until the room starts spinning and you want to throw up isn't. What I can't get my head around is why such vast numbers of people believe it is and that it is what you must do to have a laugh.

I was walking back from St Leonards in East Sussex to Hastings a few months ago, at about three in the morning, after a party. We detoured via a chip shop near the sea front because we were starving.

Here is what we saw at the chip shop: 1) a young man, who had been glassed in the face, trying to buy a kebab; 2) two extremely drunk young men standing outside (near some sick) trying to start a fight with, as far as I could tell, any random person; 3) two girls aged about 15, completely inappropriately dressed (because, sorry, and do exercise your female rights to cram your pallid flesh into whatever porno costume you like, but if you're going to stagger about pissed at three in the morning, take a coat and wear it) clutching each other and barely able to stand up; and 4) another young girl, outside the chip shop this time, being felt up by some bloke as she was vomiting.

The thing is, having been at a party until 3am, my companions and I were also drunk. But, Jesus, not that drunk. Why would you do that to yourself? In what way is it fun to be glassed, semi-raped or puke down your dress? Does anyone seriously wake up in the morning and think: "Top night"? Statistics tell us they must, in vast and increasing numbers.

I happened to be in Hastings, but I expect a version of the hideous scenario above plays itself out everywhere. I know young people in the countryside are so bored there's nothing for it but to drink, have sex (but apparently not understand how contraception works. Why not? - it's not exactly challenging) and take drugs, and I suspect that the more remote the community, the more intense the boredom and the more extreme the partaking: there is actually something intensely provincial about drinking to excess.

It has nevertheless become shorthand for being "one of us", recognisably a member of the great tribe of pissheads, up for a laugh. The liberal elite, in their usual moronic, tragically out of touch way, thought that endlessly printing photographs of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford in full Bullingdon rig and banging on about toffs would freak out voters and send them scurrying gratefully into the arms of the Socialist Workers party. As we know from the past few weeks - this one included - it didn't quite work that way. Well, d'oh. Okay, so they're wearing funny clothes - but they're also doing what the nation likes doing best: getting bladdered. The whole raison d'etre of clubs such as the Bullingdon is drinking to the point of oblivion. It is also the whole raison d'etre of vast swathes of the country.

It has become as outre in some circles to use the word "underclass" as it would be to call homosexuals "arse bandits" or black people "nig-nogs". We keep telling ourselves that the lovely, admirable, hard-working, morally upright (there was a time when it was the nation's conscience as well as its backbone) working class still exists and a few horrid bad apples are spoiling the barrel. This is simply not true. The old working class exists, but it is on its last legs, and the underclass that has replaced it is on the rise - angry, desperate, broke and broken, culturally and morally barren, passing on their poor, empty lives to their children and grandchildren. No wonder they drink to oblivion - wouldn't you?

The fact of the matter is that the binge-drinking problem is largely an underclass problem. Teen pregnancies are largely an underclass problem. Teenage crime is largely an underclass problem. Child neglect - we live in a country where a little girl allegedly starved to death in her own home last week - is largely an underclass problem. Our collective problems are largely underclass problems.

Could somebody not just come out and say it, before another generation floats away to its doom on a sea of alcopops? The underclass was made, not born. Nobody asks to live in poverty, with no hope, no ambitions, no possibility of betterment, and the belief that the most fun you can have is to drink yourself into early cirrhosis. I know they're hard to love, but really - do we owe these people no responsibility whatsoever? Don't cut the price of their dreadful gut-rot: help them.

More here

Friday, May 30, 2008

Environmentalism is a fading fashion in Britain

As long-predicted on GWP, the environment - more correctly, perhaps, environmentalism - is on the way out. The signs of organic decay are everywhere, even in bien pensant newspapers like The Observer. And the reaction to a decade of being lectured to about `global warming', `organic' food, set-aside, and pretty birdies can be surprisingly angry, as I recently witnessed at an agricultural conference where the speaker from the RSPB was attacked with quite extraordinary venom.

Today, the papers are full of it, from Guardianista, Catherine Bennett, twittering in The Observer [`Green politics, like all fashions, has proved sadly transient', The Observer, May 25] to libertarian, James Delingpole, blasting off in The Sunday Telegraph [`Credit crunch means organic food is toast', The Sunday Telegraph, May 25].

Ms Bennett is scathing about her liberal readers and their Anya Hindmarch `I'm Not a Plastic Bag' fashionet(h)ics: "The credit crunch is already known to have had an impact on bag fever. And one which is likely to be exaggerated when the bag in question is, like the INAPB, so plainly last year's model ... But Anya prices might also have suffered from widespread consumer disillusion. Some ethical shoppers are minded, apparently, to return bags which have conspicuously failed, even after a whole year of regular use, to save the world."

Mr. Delingpole is even more trenchant about "the organic craze": "In times of rising food prices (partly the result of eco-fanatics obsessing about organic and biofuels, and rejecting genuinely productive technologies like GM) and falling incomes, the last thing a hard-pressed family wants to spend money on is the warm glow of ecological righteousness. All it wants is a full stomach, and the more cheaply-filled that stomach the happier it will be. Organic will be off the menu for some time to come."

And then there is Senior Royal Disapproval (poor Old Charlie), "Sir!": "The first blow was struck this month by the Duke of Edinburgh who - with a fearless disregard for his elder son's Christmas card list - said in an interview: `It is not an absolute certainty that [organic farming] is as useful as it sounds.'"

Ms Bennett further reminds us that our politicians are likewise rowing back from the green algae: "So Brown won't make himself more unpopular by reducing airline emissions or introducing personal carbon allowances. Neither he nor Cameron nor Clegg will ... unite behind an effective carbon policy which, appearing identically in every manifesto like the nasty nougat in every box of chocolates, may put the interests of future generations before contemporary self-pity. And when Cameron, versatile friend of both glacier and motorist, finally prevails, his strategy for `green growth' has as much chance of holding back the rising seas as did the Anya Hindmarch bag."

Brava! "Versatile friend of both glacier and motorist" - wonderful stuff on `Our Dave', Catherine. Meanwhile, the reasons for this change in fashion are superbly encapsulated in another piece today by the ever-excellent Nick Cohen [`People loathe Labour's elitists, not toffs', The Observer, May 25]: "Labour would do better to realise that millions of working- and middle-class people who can't see the subtle social differences between Ed Balls's private school and George Osborne's are lying awake and wondering if the ground is shifting from under them. They are sweating about debt, unemployment, repossession, pensions and inflation. Old Etonians are the least of their problems."

As are `organic' elitism, `global warming' hot air, and the pretty birdies. They are all going to be set-aside, not just the bags


Mr Brown

In the latest policy screw-up, Labour back-benchers are screaming about a planned 200 pound ($396) tax increase on any high-carbon-emitting vehicle registered in the past seven years. Even green-minded politicians realize that punishing citizens for their past purchases won't shrink Britain's carbon footprint today.

Lawmakers are also panning a prospective 2-pence-per-liter hike in the fuel tax just weeks after the Brown government had to abandon separate plans to effectively raise the lowest income-tax rate to 20% from 10%. The latter move, which would have raised taxes on millions of workers at the bottom of the pay scale, figured heavily in Labour's disastrous results in the May 1 local elections and last Thursday's loss of an ultrasafe parliamentary seat in a by-election.

Mr. Brown doesn't only soak the poor. There's also been tremendous blowback from the œ30,000-a-year levy he and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling want to slap on wealthy foreigners who live and work in Britain but claim residency - and keep most of their taxable assets - elsewhere. The government finally agreed to modify this new tax on "nondomiciled" residents. But it remains to be seen whether the tax drives away some of the very workers who have helped London become a financial powerhouse.

Some of Mr. Brown's policy problems are older than his premiership. Take the collapse of mortgage lender Northern Rock last autumn, a situation that the government promptly and repeatedly botched. It quickly became apparent that part of the blame lay in Mr. Brown's decision years earlier, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to divide banking supervision among three different departments. This unwieldy "tripartite" arrangement made it more difficult for regulators to spot banks in danger before it was too late and to respond to a snowballing crisis.

Mr. Brown's once-solid reputation as an able steward of the economy is fading. As in the U.S., British homeowners worry that their country's housing bubble will burst; consumers are struggling with soaring grocery and gasoline bills. One wonders whether Britain was simply riding the wave of world-wide growth in the past decade of Labour rule - and if it might have done even better had the Chancellor not increased public spending from 37% of GDP in 1999-2000 to more than 41% in each of the last four budgets.

More here

BNP seeks to make a martyr of activist killed by rich Muslim

The British National Party sought yesterday to present the killing of one of its activists by a Muslim elder as an act of white martyrdom. On the steps of Stafford Crown Court, Michael Coleman, a BNP councillor and organiser of the party's Stoke-on-Trent branch, said: "We advise anybody who gets angry: get involved with the BNP." He was speaking at the end of the trial into the killing of Keith Brown, 52, a former boxer and friend of the BNP leader Nick Griffin, who collapsed and died after being knifed in the back by his next-door neighbour Habib Khan. Mr Griffin attended his funeral.

Khan, 50, was unanimously cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter after a jury heard that he had endured racism, threats and violence from Mr Brown and his son, Ashley Barker, also a BNP activist. Khan was also convicted of wounding Mr Barker, 20. His son, Azir Habib Saddique, 24, was cleared of the same charge. Khan's sentencing was adjourned.

Simon Darby, Stoke BNP's deputy leader, has been blogging daily from the courtroom. The funeral is posted on YouTube. A DVD will be distributed, playing on voters' worries about violent attacks blamed on Asian men. Other BNP units are being urged to adopt the strategy of highlighting local Muslim-on-white attacks.

The potency of the far Right claiming its first martyr dawned last year as six BNP councillors shouldered their fallen comrade's coffin. To some white supremacist websites, Mr Brown is being built up as the Horst Wessel of the Potteries, a British equivalent of the Nazi songwriter shot dead by a Berlin communist in 1930. An online book of Condolence hails Mr Brown as "the first nationalist victim of Islamic jihad against Great Britain".

Behind the rhetoric lies a tale of two middle-aged, Middle England fathers whose rivalry descended into loathing. Khan dreamt of knocking down two semis and creating a single grand villa next to a pair of ageing end-terrace houses where Mr Brown, his girlfriend and their seven children lived in the Normacot district.

Mr Brown tried everything to stop the building work but Khan erected a miniature palace with carved stone pillars and huge decorative amphorae in the garden. Like most neighbourhood feuds, it boiled down to a row over boundaries. Mr Brown accused Khan of putting a fence on his land and said that the conservatory blocked his light. Mr Brown was a dangerous man with convictions for what Judge Simon Tonking called "extreme violence" in his twenties. In 2000 he was convicted for punching a man in the face.

Mr Brown turned to the local authority for assistance and was introduced to Steve Batkin, then the sole BNP member of Stoke council. Mr Batkin lodged a complaint that the Khans were behaving aggressively. The councillor took the police a DVD showing an Asian man apparently kicking out at Mr Brown from the Khans' side of the boundary. The Staffordshire force allegedly declined to view the disc. The Independent Police Complaints Authority is investigating a BNP complaint that the police failed to protect Mr Brown, and a mirror-image complaint from the Khans.

The BNP recruited Mr Brown. "We started talking about politics," said Mr Coleman. "We found he agreed with what we were saying. We have many angry young men in our ranks. Our aim is: don't put it on the streets, put your anger into politics." Although Mr Brown declined to join, he helped with campaigns. "He was an excellent activist," Mr Coleman said.

Stoke-on-Trent BNP's first campaign about an alleged Asian-on-white attack came after the death of a barman who collapsed eight days after being allegedly beaten and hit on the head with a wheelbrace by a group of men in 1998. Last summer the BNP leafleted about another Asian attack that left a white victim hospitalised. "We went from abstract politics - the European Union, the threat of floods of immigrants coming - to a grass-roots campaign," Mr Coleman said.

At this month's Stoke elections, the BNP received nearly 8,000 votes, exceeded only by Labour with 11,000. The far-right party won an extra three seats to reach a total of nine. Normacot is torn by racial tensions. Khan was a stalwart of his local mosque where, after the 9/11 attacks, a pig's head was dumped as an insult to Muslims arriving for prayers. The mosque treasurer Mohammed Hanif smiled sadly when asked about race relations. Some of his worshippers, he said, endured living beside whites who "didn't like it at all that they had coloured Asian neighbours".


Fears of `the Islamic problem' brought success at polls

The British National Party, the far-right, white-only movement founded in 1982 from the ruins of the National Front, now claims about 100 councillors, mainly in communities with large Muslim populations. The principal strategy of Nick Griffin, its Cambridge-educated leader, has been to escape the jackbooted, knuckle-dragging image of street-fighting neo-Nazis and to become a popular anti-immigration party. The East End of London has become a stronghold, with the BNP installed as the official opposition on Barking & Dagenham council under the leadership of the artist Richard Barnbrook. Mr Barnbrook made a breakthrough by winning the BNP's first seat in the London Assembly.

The party's electoral success came after it began concentrating its attacks on Muslims. Since 9/11 and the Asian riots in the North of England in 2001 it has gained representation on local authorities from Burnley, Kirklees and Rotherham in the North to Stoke-on-Trent, Sandwell and Nuneaton in the Midlands and Epping in Essex. The first sign of the success of Mr Griffin's strategy came when he stood as a candidate at Oldham West in the 2001 general election and came a close third with 16 per cent of the vote. By the European elections of 2004, he was focusing on what he described as the problem of attacks by Muslims.

After a BBC documentary recorded him calling Islam a "wicked and vicious faith", he was charged with stirring up racial hated. At the end of two trials, he was cleared and depicted himself as a champion of free speech. He has a previous conviction from 1998 for incitement to racial hatred. Recent BNP literature has expressed some sympathies with blacks and Hindus, portraying them as fellow victims of Muslims.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NHS hospitals lose 32,000 beds in a decade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Comment from Mick Hume in Britain

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

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

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

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

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

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


Feather-brained climate reporting in the Financial Times

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

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

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

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

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

A Confusion of Tongues

By Theodore Dalrymple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hundreds of British prison inmates set for release

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

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

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

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

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


London schools must be Greener, says British regulator

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's only "racist" if whites attack blacks

The other way around and the media is as silent as the grave about the races involved. The killing of a white British actor by stabbing has got a lot of attention in the British media in the last few days. The description of the murderer by the BBC is typical: "Unemployed Karl Bishop is accused of killing the teenager and with wounding five other people. Mr Bishop, of Carlton Road, Sidcup, will appear in Bexleyheath Magistrates Court on Tuesday". Below is the ONE report (and I have looked at many) which mentioned the race of "Mr Bishop" from the beginning. It is from the "Sun", which never seems to care much about political correctness. A day later, however, The Times also mentioned the forbidden word, "black", possibly because the BNP has been publicizing it:

A teenage Harry Potter film actor was murdered over a dispute involving an alleged mobile phone theft, according to a friend of the victim. Rob Knox, 18, died in a street attack around 1am on Saturday outside the Metro Bar in Station Road, Sidcup, Kent. Four other men were also injured. One was stabbed in the head.

A youth, who asked not to be named, said: "I was in the pub with Rob so I know exactly what happened. I was a friend of Rob and his brother Jamie. I wasn't drinking with them but I see them and I chatted to them during the night before the stabbing. "One of Rob's mates had his mobile phone stolen last week and he accused a black bloke in the bar of taking it. "There was a bit of trouble at the time but nothing serious. Then last night, earlier in the evening, this black bloke was in the bar again and Rob's mate went up to him "The black bloke went off and said he would be back. We knew there was possibly going to be some aggro but we never expected anything like that.

"It was around midnight when this car pulled up outside and I saw two black blokes get out and come into the bar. One of them was shouting something at Jamie and then he threw a chair at him. "The next thing it all went mad and there were several blokes fighting. I stayed inside the bar so I didn't really see what happened outside but I heard that one of the black blokes had two knives on him and he was stabbing anyone who went near him. "It seems crazy that a young bloke has lost his life over a mobile phone. Rob was a decent lad. I'm absolutely gutted that he has died."

More here

The insane priorities of socialist Britain

The first anger is for Khyra Ishaq, a small child apparently starved to death in a land of plenty, under the supposed care of a mother and stepfather. How far the social services are at fault is under investigation; but save a burst of fury too for Khyra's father, Ishaq Abu Zaire (known as Delroy Frances before his conversion). While blithely admitting he hadn't seen his children for a year he now blusters: "The authorities never lifted a finger... there are going to be consequences and repercussions I can assure you."

Look, Mr Abu Zaire, what part of the word "father" do you, a "religious" man, not grasp? In begetting children, you accept responsibility. Even if the mother shuts you out and you move away, you have a duty to check on them more than once a year. If you can't be bothered, then don't procreate. Public services are a safety net, not a spare parent.

Turning to the social services, though, one chilling observation was made by Eileen Munro, a child protection expert from the LSE. She said that serious neglect is common, but that social workers operating in poor areas simply miss the signs. "They get used to seeing low-level parenting. That then starts to look average. They fail to appreciate how much harm it is doing."

That, rather than more florid accusations, offers the most damning line yet about the state of social work, its understaffed overstretch, its chronic miscommunication. The weary resignation she describes is aggravated further by politically correct worries that make field workers nervous of seeming "racist". Who can forget the evidence in the Victoria Climbi‚ inquiry that officials put the child's visible terror and quietness down to "a culture of strict discipline in African families"?

Of course families bear prime responsibility, of course social work can't prevent every tragedy - but there are issues to be faced. One would think that governments would focus on them with relentless energy, driven by shame that a rich society should have welfare workers so used to seeing suffering children that they stop noticing that the parents are addicts, fanatics, mentally impaired or simply incompetent. And yes, there is poverty in Britain, but don't insult the merely poor: they aren't all neglectful. Many do heroically well.

Government seems not to feel this anger. Where little children are concerned, ministers - and here comes the satirical backcloth - are far keener on micromanaging those who are already perfectly OK. They like to impose their will on soft, law-abiding families rather than intractable and uncivilised ones. Take the current furore over the Early Years Foundation Stage, or EYFS, a national curriculum of 500 developmental milestones to be met by children under 5: 69 skills must be ticked off, box by box, by their carers. EYFS will be compulsory from this autumn - even for private nurseries, even for childminders (who are quitting, in droves, for fear of it).

The independent sector has now kicked up a fuss, not before time. The detail of EYFS "aspirations" is unnerving: take its IT targets, recently underlined by the Open Eye campaign and condemned in an authoritative paper by the psychologist Aric Sigman. Before 36 months a child must "use control technology of toys" and "talk about ICT apparatus", and before hitting five years old must use a mouse and keyboard, click on icons, "complete a simple program on a computer" and use "programmable toys" to support learning.

Why? Dr Sigman cites compelling research from Harvard on the risks of early overexposure to screens: serious educational, neurological and social problems have been identified, including a lack of ability to connect with people, and problems with short attention span. "The Government appears," says the campaign, "to have leapt on to an increasingly discredited IT bandwagon that is not only embarrassingly out of date but could well be harming a generation. Schooling is not compulsory until over 5, yet the Government is forcing nurseries and care-givers to follow its line on learning and development." Open Eye simply asks ministers to make the "goals" optional, and leave parents and carers some freedom of judgment.

But the irony here - whoops, red mist of rage returns - is that while we are a society that still has pockets of appalling parenting and children who die by gradual visible neglect, the kindly and reasonable majority of families are subject to endless authoritarian fiddling. While one child lies in filth and fear, taken out of school for ten weeks without a single visit from state authority, that same state authority beavers away to force every childminder to have "a range of programmable toys" and write down whether or not a three-year-old can work a keyboard and mouse.

On past form, it will be easier to avoid inspection if you leave your child bruised and starving on a heap of rags and don't answer the door, than it will be to avoid Ofsted if you are a childminder failing to make notes on the 69 early learning goals. Possibly because you were all too busy having fun in the sandpit.


English Motorist told English flag was racist

We read:
"A teenage motorist was told to remove an England flag from his car by a police officer because it could be offensive to immigrants. Ben Smith, 18, was driving back home to Ingram Road in Melksham on Thursday evening after filling up with petrol, when the officer stopped him on a routine patrol.

He checked the tax disc and tyres on his Vauxhall Corsa but when he noticed the flag of St George on the parcel shelf he told Mr Smith to take it down. Mr Smith, who works for G Plan Upholsterers on Hampton Park West, said: "He saw the flag and said it was racist towards immigrants and if I refused to take it down I would get a œ30 fine. "I laughed because I thought he was joking, but then I realised he was serious so I had to take it down straight away. I thought it was silly - it's my country and I want to show my support for my country."

PC Dave Cooper, of Chippenham Road Policing Unit, said he had never come across an officer asking someone to remove an England flag from their car because it could be racist. He added: "It all depends on the context of a stop. If they are going past a lot of Polish people, for instance, and abusing them, then we possibly would ask them to take the flag down."


NHS ordered to end care bias against men

The equality watchdog has ordered the National Health Service (NHS) to take urgent action to end anti-male discrimination in healthcare. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), headed by Trevor Phillips, has written to strategic health authorities warning them to ensure that doctors and hospitals in their areas give equal priority to men and women. The commission has legal powers to issue compliance orders to NHS trusts that persistently fail to provide equal care for men.

While the commission does not cite specific examples of discrimination, it details evidence of poorer male health. Other groups have pointed to male-unfriendly surgery opening hours. Men are twice as likely as women to die from the 10 most common cancers that affect both sexes and, typically, develop heart disease 10 years earlier than women. Men under the age of 45 visit their GP only half as often as women and are less likely to have dental check-ups.

On average, men die five years younger than women and 16% of men die while still of working age compared with 6% of women. Men are also three times more likely to commit suicide than women.

A new law, the gender equality duty, which came into force in April 2007, obliges all public services to ensure they care for both sexes equally. In March, Phil McCarvill, head of public service duties at the EHRC, sent warning letters to strategic health authorities, the bodies which manage local NHS trusts. cCarvill said: "We are writing to you specifically regarding the gender equality duty in response to particular concerns raised with us by the Men's Health Forum and the action we want you to take in response to this. We will view the failure to take any action as a result of this letter as a breach of your legal responsibilities in this area."

Research carried out by the forum found that men were unhappy with the service provided by their local GP surgeries. The forum points out that since men are twice as likely as women to work full-time and three times as likely to work overtime, it is more difficult for them to see doctors during conventional opening hours.

Other experts have pointed to the fact that, while there is a national screening programme for breast cancer, there is no equivalent yet for men for prostate cancer, although it claims a similar number of lives. Women are also screened for cervical cancer.

Peter Baker, chief executive of the Men's Health Forum, said: "The GP model doesn't work particularly well for men, particularly young men aged between 16 and 45 who GPs tend not to see unless there is something very seriously wrong with them. There is discrimination because these services are being underused by the group with the greatest need." The forum also suggests trusts offer health checks in venues frequented by men, such as work-places or sports clubs.

The Commons health select committee inquiry into health inequality will next month hear evidence that men are being discriminated against in the NHS.


Crazy NHS financial management

They have denied services to so many people that they now have a huge surplus

Hospitals and NHS managers were pressured into spending hundreds of millions of pounds before the start of the financial year to "hide" a 1 billion pound surplus. Opposition parties have accused the Government of encouraging NHS financial mismanagement after it emerged that some trusts had been ordering millions of pounds of equipment "as long as they could be invoiced before the end of March" - the end of the financial year.

Primary care trusts also advanced up to 400 million for future services to foundation trusts, which, as free-standing businesses, can keep the money. Some local councils have also been paid in advance for services. The NHS had forecast a surplus of 1.8 billion in March, but managers now suggest that the true figure was closer to 3 billion, with up to 1 billion being "hidden" by preordering. Some chief executives have been told that their bonuses could be jeopardised if they exceeded their "control totals" target, so have been using various accounting methods to reduce it.

Two years ago the NHS returned a deficit of 547 million, which was turned into a 515 million surplus in 2006-07. The steps taken to turn the service round have proved to be so effective that the surplus has risen to unprecedented levels in 2007-08. However, such a large surplus presents its own problems as patient representatives have criticised NHS managers for underspending while patients were still being denied vital treatments. Unions have also used the surpluses to argue for better pay for NHS workers, claiming that they have been generated by greater efficiency from staff.

Doris-Ann Williams, director-general of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, whose members supply equipment to the NHS, told the Financial Times that members had received "a flurry of unexpected cash orders for capital equipment purchases as long as they could be invoiced before the end of March".

The Department of Health has said that all the surpluses would remain within the NHS. This has been possible since 1999, when Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, relaxed the rules on carrying forward surpluses from one year to the next. But last year the Treasury quietly clawed back unspent money from the Department of Health and there are fears that it may do so again if the surplus significantly exceeds its 1.8 billion target.

Stephen O'Brien, the Conservative Shadow Health Minister, said: "Labour's financial incompetence under Gordon Brown is making it boom or bust in the NHS - and this uncertainty does nothing to help patients and the hard working medical staff. If money allocated to the NHS is not going on patients then it should not be hoarded."

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "We do have a crazy situation of substantial surpluses in many acute trusts. "One of the casualties is mental health services, which benefit from neither targets nor the PreBudget Report and have to negotiate block contracts with primary care trusts. They have suffered as acute trusts cash in. This creates a distortion in priorities."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Thanks to the efforts of NHS staff over the past year and half we are now in a strong and sustainable financial position, but also - importantly - we remain on course to deliver against our key pledges. The NHS and its staff have managed to achieve all of this at the same time as cutting waiting lists to their lowest ever. "NHS organisations are bound by strict accounting practices and are subject to a full audit at the end of each financial year."


Amusing that the British government is being blamed for something it didn't do (increased fuel prices) rather than things it did do (increased electricity costs, for instance)

Anger over Gordon Brown's failure to deal with rising fuel prices will boil over tomorrow in the first major new protest against sky-high petrol and diesel costs. Hundreds of truckers will descend on the capital for a mass rally to draw attention to a crisis that is hurting millions of motorists. With fuel prices going up every day, protesters will demand the Prime Minister cuts duty after having raked in millions in additional tax.

In scenes reminiscent of the 2000 fuel protests, demonstrators will gather at Marble Arch before a delegation marches on Downing Street to demand talks with Mr Brown. They hope to exploit his vulnerability in the wake of Labour's meltdown in the local elections and last week's humiliating by-election defeat in Crewe.

Motorists are already facing record fuel prices after crude oil last week hit 135 US dollars a barrel - its highest ever level. The pressure on motorists is underlined by a study showing that the cost of fuel for a typical bank holiday weekend away has soared by up to 74 per cent in just five years.

More here

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

British schools in revolt over under-5s curriculum

A powerful coalition of England’s leading independent schools is demanding that the Government scale back its new national curriculum for the under-fives, claiming that it violates parents’ human rights by denying them the freedom to choose how they educate their children.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents 1,280 fee-paying schools educating more than 500,000 children, has written a blistering letter to Beverley Hughes, the Children’s Minister, complaining that the new curriculum will mean that the education of under-fives is subject to greater government interference than that of any other age group.

A leaked copy of the letter, seen by The Times, says that the curriculum, known as the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, will compromise its member schools’ independence. “This clumsy intrusion into the early years’ curriculum of independent schools is both unjustified and unnecessary. More importantly, this interference conflicts with the rights of parents to privacy in their home life, which includes the freedom to choose how they educate their children and to educate them free from the control of the state,” the letter states.

The letter, copied to the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, also complains that the framework is likely to hold back children’s progress and to lower standards. George Marsh, who is headmaster of Dulwich College Preparatory School in South London and chairman of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said he was concerned that the framework might eventually herald greater interference in the curriculum for older children.

The framework becomes law in the autumn and will affect all 25,000 nurseries and childcare settings in England, whether they are run by the state, charities or private companies. It sets out up to 500 developmental milestones between birth and primary school and requires under-fives to be assessed on 69 writing, problem solving and numeracy skills. The framework has come under heavy fire from a number of leading child development experts and academics, including members of the Government’s own early education advisory group.

Some argue that it relies too heavily on formal learning at the expense of free play, while others fear that its formal literacy targets will instill a sense of failure in teachers and children because they are beyond the reach of most under-fives. There are also fears that the legislation, which requires nursery staff to make constant written observations on children to note their progress, will interfere with teachers’ ability to interact with children.

Ms Hughes has so far resisted any attempts to water down the new curriculum, arguing that standards have to be set high to ensure that children from deprived backgrounds are given the same opportunities for learning in the crucial early years as middle-class children. She said that the 69 early learning goals were aspirations, and not targets.

The entrance of the ISC into the debate will raise the stakes considerably, not least because the independent schools have chosen parents’ human rights, not just child well-being, as their main point of attack. Unlike the national curriculum for schools, which does not apply to independent schools, the framework will apply to all pre-school settings.

The letter, signed by Chris Parry, the ISC’s chief executive, outlines a number of other objections to the framework, which will apply to 946 of its member schools, which cater for children up to five years old. It complains that an anomaly in the legislation will leave independent schools with stricter staffing controls than the state sector, requiring private schools to hire three or four adults for each reception class of 30, compared with one in the state sector. Mr Parry says: “It seems ridiculous that [the framework] should dictate rules relating to staffing in the independent sector and this prescription smacks of an ideological approach.”

The ISC also complains that the requirements for teachers to produce written observations on each child will result in teachers “acting as time and motion experts hovering around children with clipboards, Post-it notes and cameras to collect ‘evidence’ ”. This will not raise standards, but will “simply distract teachers from their teaching responsibilities”.

Mr Parry says that there was inadequate consultation with ISC members over the new law, adding that the regulatory impact assessment which followed the so-called consultation was “materially misleading”. ISC schools, the letter adds, have been given contradictory advice from local authorities as to how the framework should be implemented. Some have not been able to get any advice at all. It says that, given this lack of consultation, there should be a 12-month transition period for the implementation of the framework.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said that individual parents would have the option of applying for an exemption for their child for some or all of the learning and development requirements of the framework. He added that the framework was flexible enough to support a wide range of approaches to education.


Cancer victim told to pay for his own drugs by NHS

Government health insurance can be very hard to claim on

A cancer patient who was sent home to die by hospital doctors but then discovered a cocktail of drugs that stabilised his illness has now been told that the NHS will not pay for his medicine. Jack Hose, 71, a retired engineer, was receiving a chemotherapy drug called irinotecan on the NHS, but it was failing to halt his bowel cancer. NHS doctors told Hose, from Bournemouth, that they could do no more for him and that he should go home and make the most of the rest of his life while taking painkillers.

Hose was not prepared to die and sought a second opinion from a private doctor who recommended trying another drug, called cetuximab, in combination with irinotecan. The mix of drugs appears to have stabilised Hose’s cancer. However, cetuximab is not funded by the NHS.

The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is treating Hose, has told him that, if he takes the drug, he will need to pay for all his care, including the cost of the medicine he initially received on the NHS. Hose is the latest victim of the government’s policy of denying NHS treatment to patients who pay for an additional private drug. Alan Johnson, the health secretary, says such an arrangement, known as “co-payments”, would lead to a two-tiered NHS.

“It seems outrageous that, having paid National Insurance contributions for 50 years, they are now asking me to pay for my care,” said Hose.


A suggestion for fighting knife crime

Why doesn't Britain stop the kid-glove approach and start enforcing the existing laws?

The murder on Saturday of 18-year-old Robert Knox has prompted, as have the other 27 teenage murders so far this year, a flood of suggestions as to how we can deal with the epidemic of knife crime that seems to have infected our streets. From analysis of the role of parents to depictions of the gang culture and turf wars that blight so many areas, most have added something useful to our understanding.

So it might seem that another comment is hardly needed. Yet for all the analysis that has been offered and the policy ideas that have been suggested, one basic point seems to have been forgotten. We have yet to try properly using the laws already on the statute book, let alone start properly punishing those found in possession of knives.

Over the past decade, the number of convictions for carrying a knife has risen from 3,360 in 1997 to 6,314 in 2006. Of those convicted in 1997, 482 were teenagers, rising in 2006 to 1,256. That near trebling in the number of teenagers convicted is bad enough. Worse, however, are surveys showing that about one in five teenagers say that they carry a knife with them.

Given the rapid development of a teenage culture in which carrying a knife is seen as normal, not to say essential for self-defence, it is understandable that there have been calls to toughen the relevant laws. The current maximum sentence for knife carrying is two years, or four years if the knife is carried to school.

But since we do not enforce the existing laws properly, it is fatuous to suggest that tougher maximum penalties would serve any useful purpose. They would be ignored just like the existing maximum penalties.

In 2006, only nine of the 6,314 people convicted of carrying a knife were handed down a maximum sentence. Most were given a caution. And I would bet a small fortune on not one of those nine criminals - 0.14 per cent of those convicted - actually being made to serve the full sentence they were given.

Despite the penalties available, the authorities treat this potentially deadly crime as an infringement of the law akin to pilfering an apple from a grocer. This has to change. The courts must use the punishments available to them. Children need to understand that, if caught, their childhood will effectively be over and they will suffer severe punishment.

That also means that the police must be given full powers to stop and search children. But instead, not only do the courts and CPS treat children found with knives with kid gloves, dangerous idiots such as Sir Al Aynsley-Green, to whom we pay œ130,000 a year for his wisdom as the Children's Commissioner for England, warn that allowing police the power to search children might antagonise them. That just about sums up how the whole edifice works: God forbid that a potential murderer is upset by having his coat examined.