Monday, February 02, 2009

British workers protest over immigrant labour

Given the way workers in Scotland and the North of England destroyed their old jobs through constantly going on strike and other union bloodymindedness, I wouldn't hire the b*stards either. It's a common Australian view that "Poms" want everything handed to them on a plate and that they wouldn't know the meaning of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. Obviously, they are not all like that but get enough of them together and those who are like that will poison the whole workforce with their whining

WILDCAT strikes against foreign workers have spread through oil refineries and other energy facilities in Britain, fuelled by fears of rising job cuts due to the global slowdown.

The protest started at Britain's third-largest oil refinery, Lindsey in Lincolnshire, eastern England, where workers first walked out on Wednesday over the use of Italian and Portuguese contractors on a STG200-million ($440 million) building project. But it had spread by Friday to a handful of other refineries and plants across Britain, where unemployment is at its highest rate for 10 years as the credit crunch hits hard.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has in the past pledged "British jobs for British workers'', while recently warning against trade protectionism as a response to the worldwide downturn.

Local lawmaker Shona McIsaac, of Brown's ruling Labour Party, said the decision to hire foreign contractors was "like a red rag to a bull for people in our community who are out of work''.

Up to 1000 workers demonstrated peacefully for several hours at Lindsey, run by French oil company Total, holding up placards saying "Right To Work UK Workers'' amid a heavy presence of police with dogs and on horses. Bernard McAuley of the Unite trade union told protestors: "There is sufficient unemployed skilled labour wanting the right to work on that site and they are demanding the right to work on that site. We want fairness.'' That protest has ended but those involved vowed to be back on Monday.

The BBC reported that 1000 workers at the Milford Haven gas terminal in west Wales had gone on strike in sympathy on Friday. Hundreds also protested at six other sites, including Scotland's only oil refinery, at Grangemouth; a refinery in Wilton, northeast England; and Aberthaw power station in south Wales.

Contractors at the Sellafield nuclear plant in northwest England are also considering a walk-out, according to a spokesman for British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL).

The dispute stems from Total awarding the contract to build a new desulphurisation unit at the Lindsey site to Italian company IREM. Around 100 Italian and Portuguese workers, who live on barges in a nearby docks, work there currently and are set to be joined by 300 more next month.

Mr Brown's official spokesman said the contract at Lindsey had been agreed some time ago when there was a shortage of skilled construction labour in Britain.


Elderly people will have to care for disabled grown-up children as Labour ‘rushes’ to close NHS homes

Fancy words can't hide the fact that it's just cost-cutting and that disabled people are going to be left to fend for themselves regardless of whether they can or not

Thousands of elderly couples fear their final years could be spent caring for disabled grown-up children as a result of Government plans to close down NHS residential homes. Under proposals that echo ‘care in the community’, Labour wants to move around 10,000 adults with serious learning difficulties out of state-run institutions so they can live by themselves. Ministers have been pressing for the changes since 2001 in a series of White and Green Papers that aim to prevent the disabled from becoming ‘institutionalised’.

But while the idea has been welcomed by some, few believe that council-run social services departments will pay for the expensive additional support that the disabled adults would need, and many fear the true burden will be met by ageing parents, who may themselves be struggling with illness.

And even though the proposals have not been put into law by Parliament, health authorities across the country are preparing to have them in place by March 31 next year. David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at the disability charity Mencap, said: ‘There’s a danger in the rush to move people out of NHS provision that you simply make them go anywhere that suits your plan. ‘Seriously disabled adults need to have enough support where they’re living. You cannot do this on the cheap.’

The potentially devastating results were uncovered in an investigation to be screened at 8pm tomorrow on Channel 4’s More 4 News, which highlights the case of 44-year-old Tracy Butt from Norfolk. Tracy has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She cannot speak, has very limited understanding, is incontinent and wheelchair-bound. Yet, despite this, she faced being uprooted from her NHS residential home. Tracy’s parents, both in their 60s, cared for her at home until they both suffered serious ill health. Her mother Jean was diagnosed with cancer and her father Bill underwent a heart by-pass operation.

‘Our illnesses brought home our own mortality – we realised we had to make provision for the future, and the decision that Tracy should go into long-term care,’ said Bill. They managed to find Tracy a place in a set of NHS bungalows in King’s Lynn, with round-the-clock care and access to an on-site day centre. But, two years ago, the couple were told that the local NHS trust in Norfolk intended to close the bungalows and move the disabled residents into homes in the community – because it had been ‘decreed’ by the Government. Jean was distraught. ‘How dare they do this, when Tracy’s happy and has the warmth and care she needs?’ she said. Bill was worried about what help Tracy would get in the future. ‘One plan was that Tracy would become a tenant in her own house, with care provided through social services,’ he said. ‘Supported living is a very good thing for many people – we just didn’t think it was suitable for Tracy.’

Social workers assessed Tracy in preparation for the move. But Bill said the subsequent report underestimated the difficulties she would face. ‘The report said things like “preparing meals and cooking: I cannot do this yet,” ’ he added. The implication was that Tracy may be able to cook some time in the future. Bill said: ‘It was ridiculous. Tracy’s now 44, and she’ll never be able to make a cup of tea. They said, “using the telephone: I cannot do this yet.” She’ll never be able to use the telephone. She can’t speak.’

The couple put their concerns to Norfolk Primary Care Trust and, according to Bill, were simply told the plans were ‘in a Government White Paper’. ‘We just didn’t think this was right,’ he said. The Butts sought legal advice and, when London barrister John Friel looked at the case, he was in no doubt that the Norfolk Primary Care Trust was wrong. ‘A White Paper isn’t the law, so for the Trust to suggest it was, was legally without foundation,’ he said. ‘The Trust’s attitude was aggressive. Effectively their words were, “You will get out of your accommodation, there’s no choice, we’re going to move you whether you like it or not.” ‘This case wasn’t picked up by local politicians, or the legal departments of local authorities, who accepted what was said. So the implications for the whole system are very serious. If Norfolk could get away with it, others could.’

The barrister took the case to the High Court and, following a court order, this week, the chief executive of Norfolk Primary Care Trust will write an admission to the Butts that the proposal of moving disabled people into the community, as outlined in a Government White Paper, ‘did not create a mandatory duty’ to close Tracy’s home. Norfolk Primary Care Trust maintains it is committed to moving disabled adults into homes in the community and that the Butt family will be ‘actively involved’ in this process. A spokesman for Norfolk social services said: ‘Following resettlement, we believe that everyone will benefit from better levels of support, and will have more choice and control over their lives than NHS campuses could ever offer.’

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said the Government was funding a three-year programme costing 175million pounds. She added: ‘The Government is committed to increasing the housing options available to people with learning disabilities.


BBC abandons 'impartiality' on warming

Again and again the BBC has been eager to promote every new scare raised by the advocates of man-made global warming

Londoners might have been startled last Monday to see a giant mock-up of a polar bear on an iceberg, floating on the Thames outside the Palace of Westminster. They might not have been so surprised to learn, first, that this was a global warming propaganda stunt and, second, that the television company behind it is part-owned by the BBC.

It was ironic that, last week, while the BBC was refusing to show an appeal for aid to the victims of Israeli bombing in Gaza, on the grounds that this might breach its charter obligation to be impartial, a rather less publicised row was raging over Newsnight's doctoring of film of President Obama's inaugural speech, which was used to support yet another of its items promoting the warming scare. Clips from the speech were spliced together to convey a considerably stronger impression of what Obama had said on global warming than his very careful wording justified. While that may have been unprofessional enough, the rest of the item, by Newsnight's science editor, Susan Watts, was even more bizarre. It was no more than a paean of gratitude that we now at last have a president prepared to listen to the "science" on climate change, after the dark age of religious obscurantism personified by President Bush.

At last, after years when they could not speak openly on this subject, chirped Ms Watts, "scientists calculate that President Obama has just four years to save the world". She failed to explain (although she was later forced to clarify this on her blog) that the only scientist to say anything so silly was Dr James Hansen of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, whose utterances on climate change have lately become so wild and extreme that they have made him a laughing stock. (He was last week publicly disowned by his old boss Dr John Theon, who said that Hansen's unscientific claims had been an embarrassment to Nasa ever since he joined Al Gore in whipping up panic over global warming back in 1988.)

In all this, however, Newsnight only reflected the shameless way in which the BBC makes not the slightest attempt to provide impartial coverage of this issue. As its editorial guidelines make clear, "mainstream science" is now so overwhelmingly agreed on global warming that the BBC sees no reason to give balancing coverage to the views of a minority of "sceptics"; and examples are now legion of how it loses no opportunity to propagandise for the cause.

One of the madder instances was the 15 hours of airtime it gave in 2007 to the dreary Live Earth pop concert at Wembley, which was no more than a commercial for the views of Al Gore. Another was last year's lavish Climate Wars series, designed by the BBC's science team as an answer to Channel Four's The Great Global Warming Swindle. Nothing was more laughable than the sequence showing a huge poster of the infamous "hockey stick" temperature graph being driven round London on the back of a lorry, without any mention of the expert studies which have made the "hockey stick" one of the most comprehensively discredited artefacts in the history of science.

Again and again the BBC has been eager to promote every new scare raised by the advocates of man-made global warming. As late as August 28 this year it was still predicting that Arctic ice might soon disappear, just as this winter' s refreezing was about to take ice-cover back to a point it was at 30 years ago. Inevitably it fell for that "iconic" picture of two polar bears standing, seemingly forlorn, on a melting ice floe, despite the photographer's explanation that it had nothing to do with global warming and that she had only wanted to capture a dramatic snap of wind-sculpted ice.

The BBC couldn't wait to publicise the recent study claiming that Antarctica, far from getting colder over the past 50 years as all the evidence suggests, has in fact been warming. It didn't, of course, explain that the new study is based on a computer model run by the creator of the "hockey stick", which, in the absence of hard data, allows for inspired guesswork - what the study's authors call "sparse data infilling".

It was typical that, when that plastic polar bear was floated up the Thames last week, the BBC's favourite naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, should be wheeled on to claim that, although he once been a "sceptic" on global warming (a fact we had all somehow missed), he now found the "science" entirely convincing.

In terms of journalistic professionalism, the sad thing about all this is that the debate about global warming has now entered a fascinating new stage. Honest coverage of all the new information coming to light would be vastly more interesting to the BBC's audience than the vapid propaganda which is all they get.

But inevitably this also exposes the hollowness of all those claims that the BBC still has a duty to remain "impartial", which on this issue is belied by own guidelines. As a particularly glaring example of how the BBC has, on so many issues, abandoned any pretence of impartiality, this can only provide more ammunition to those who argue that it no longer deserves that compulsory licence fee.


"Boys" a bad word in Britain

We read:
"A sports club in Bristol has been forced to remove the word "boys" from its name after councillors ruled that it was sexist. Broad Plain Boys' Club, which has gone under the name since 1894, faced the loss of funding unless it could show it was inclusive, so submitted an alteration. The sports club, which does now have girl members, has changed the name to Broad Plain Working With Young People Group.

Club leader Dennis Stinchcombe MBE, 53, who ran the group for 33 years, said the rebranding was "a tragedy". He told the Western Daily Press: "There was a lot of history in that name and we are all very disappointed we've been forced to change it, especially the older lads. "We need the funding so we have to back down. We haven't even had any additional girls coming down - it seems another case of political correctness gone mad." The club says it has helped thousands of youngsters since it began and relies on its 11,600 pounds of authority funding. In 2004 Mr Stinchcombe was honoured for his efforts in helping the community.

The Labour-controlled council does fund single sex clubs including the Bristol and Avon Chinese Women's Group.


British religious studies course where the religion is political correctness

Pupils taking a new Religious Studies GCSE [High School course] will answer questions about homosexuality, conservation, binge drinking and drugs in sport. Instead of concentrating on the Bible and the holy books and tenets of other major religions, a significant part of the course is tied to citizenship and personal, social and health education. Academics claim, however, that the syllabus, to be taught from September, had turned a serious subject in to a "pat qualification for political correctness".

One of the topics covered is religion and relationships, which will teach pupils about homosexuality, religious attitudes to contraception and the concept and role of parenting. Another topic is "religion, sport and leisure". Pupils will study "religious attitudes towards the purpose use and importance of leisure; types and purposes of relaxation, e.g stress relief and the misuse of leisure time, e.g binge drinking."

In a sample exam paper pupils are asked, under the heading of religion and planet earth, "what is conservation?" and "is recycling good stewardship". Teenager must also give two reasons why many religious believers are against deforestation. A second paper asks candidates to name two illegal drugs, give three reasons why some people take illegal drugs and to explain the attitudes of religious believers to smoking tobacco.

The syllabus, one of a number offered by exam board the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), is expected to be popular with schools. But Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment training at Buckingham University, said it was a blatant example of the "politicisation of education". "This does not seems to be about religion and spirituality at all. There are just a lot of tenuous connections which teach the preferred attitudes and beliefs of the moment," he said. "I think it comes from the desire of politicians to stamp their influence on everything. It looks as if they are turning RE in to a pat qualification for political correctness. "How is it to benefit the students? It is not going to be a basis for the further study of RE or spirituality to a higher level. All it can do is clock up league table points for the school and keep young people occupied. One has to ask, where is the religion?"

Professor Smithers said the changes reflected those that have already been made in the core subject of science, where scientific knowledge has been replaced with the discussion of topical science-related questions. Students can choose four of six units to study for the qualification, which means they can avoid the more traditional material covered in the "worship and key beliefs" and "religious philosophy" modules.

AQA said only one of the units was designed to enable religious studies to link with citizenship and personal, social and health education. "It will contribute actively to pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and the Every Child Matters agenda," it said. Religious studies is a popular GCSE. Year on year increases have seen the number of entries rise to more than 171,000, up from 147,000 in 2006.


British nurse suspended for offering to pray for elderly patient's recovery

A nurse has been suspended from her job for offering to pray for an elderly patient's recovery from illness. Caroline Petrie, a committed Christian, has been accused by her employers of failing to demonstrate a "personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity". She faces disciplinary action and could lose her job over the incident.

Mrs Petrie, a married mother of two, says she has been left shocked and upset by the action taken against her. She insists she has never forced her own religious beliefs on anyone but politely inquired if the elderly patient wanted her to pray for her - either in the woman's presence or after the nurse had left the patient's home. "I simply couldn't believe that I have been suspended over this. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. All I am trying to do is help my patients, many of whom want me to pray for them," she said.

Mrs Petrie, 45, is a community nurse employed by North Somerset Primary Care Trust to carry out home visits to sick and elderly patients. The incident which led to her suspension took place at the home of a woman patient in Winscombe, North Somerset. "It was around lunchtime and I had spent about 20 to 25 minutes with her. I had applied dressings to her legs and shortly before I left I said to her: 'Would you like me to pray for you?'. "She said 'No, thank you.' And I said: 'OK.' I only offered to pray for her because I was concerned about her welfare and wanted her to get better."

However, after the incident on December 15, she was contacted by the trust and asked to explain her actions. The woman patient, who is believed to be in her late 70s, is understood to have complained to the trust. Mrs Petrie will not disclose the woman's name or reveal the precise nature of her ailment because it would breach patient confidentiality. Mrs Petrie, who lives in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, said she was initially confronted the next day by a nursing sister who said the patient had been taken aback by her question about prayer.

"I said: 'I am sorry. Did I offend or upset her?' The sister said: 'No, no. She was just a bit taken back. You must be aware of your professional code of conduct. I would be careful.' "But the next day my coordinator left a message on my home phone and I realised this had been taken further."

Mrs Petrie said that she often offers to pray for her patients and that many take her up on it. She either prays with them or after she has left their home. The nurse has been a committed Christian since she was ten - after her mother died of breast cancer. Initially, she was Church of England but she switched to the Baptist faith nine years ago. "My faith is very important to me," she said.

Mrs Petrie had previously been reprimanded for an incident in Clevedon last October when she offered to give a small, home-made prayer card to an elderly, male patient, who had happily accepted it. On this occasion, the patient's carer, who was with him, raised concerns over the incident. Alison Withers, Mrs Petrie's boss at the time, wrote to her at the end of November saying: "As a nurse you are required to uphold the reputation of your profession. "Your NMC [Nursing Midwifery Council] code states that 'you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity' and 'you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health'."

In the letter, Mrs Petrie, who qualified as a nurse in 1985, was asked to attend an equality and diversity course and warned: "If there is any further similar incident it may be treated as potential misconduct and the formal disciplinary procedure could be instigated."

Mrs Petrie said: "I stopped handing out prayer cards after that but I found it more and more difficult [not to offer them]. My concern is for the person as a whole, not just their health. "I was told not to force my faith on anyone but I could respond if patients themselves brought up the subject [of religion]."

It is the second incident - the offer to pray for a patient - that led to the disciplinary action. She was suspended from her part-time job, without pay, on December 17. She faced an internal disciplinary meeting last Wednesday and expects to learn the outcome this week. At last week's hour-long meeting, Mrs Petrie says she was told the patient had said she was not offended by the prayer offer but the woman argued that someone else might have been. The nurse had her representative from the Royal College of Nursing present.

Mrs Petrie's husband, Stewart, 48, works as a BT engineer and they have two sons, aged 14 and ten. The couple attend Milton Baptist Church every Sunday and Mrs Petrie said: "Stuart and I have decided to put God first in our lives." Mrs Petrie, who has worked for the trust since February last year, has already taken legal advice from the Christian Legal Centre, which seeks to promote religious freedom and, particularly, to protect Christians and Christianity. The centre, in turn, has instructed Paul Diamond, the leading religious rights barrister. Andrea Williams, the founder and director of the centre, said: "We are backing this case all the way."

A spokesman for North Somerset Primary Care Trust said: "Caroline Petrie has been suspended pending an investigation into the matter. "She is a bank nurse and she has been told we will not be using her in this capacity until the outcome of our investigation is known. "We always take any concerns raised by our patients most seriously and conscientiously investigate any matter of this nature brought to our attention. "We are always keen to be respectful of our patients' views and sensitivity as well as those of our staff."


Thank goodness! Tycoon backs grandparents fighting homosexual adoption bid

There is no end to the evils perpetuated by Britain's Left-indoctrinated social workers

A multi-millionaire is funding a legal challenge to halt the controversial adoption of two young children by a gay couple. In a move brokered by the Catholic Church in Scotland, the businessman has agreed to help meet the legal costs of a court bid to block plans to hand the brother and sister to two men. The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a top law firm has been instructed to help the grandparents of the children, whom social workers ruled were too old, at 46 and 59, to offer a loving home.

With the support of the benefactor and the Catholic Church, the family hope the move will quickly lead to a judicial review of Edinburgh City Council's decision to remove the four-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother from their family. The tycoon, who has requested anonymity, was among a group of businessmen considering offering the family financial support after the adoption plans were revealed last week. His offer has received the `moral backing' of the Catholic Church, which is fundamentally opposed to gay adoptions. Last night a spokesman for the Church said: `As well as the moral issue there is also a legal question, which needs to be explored. Lawyers will be taking this forward with the family. `Allowing two men to adopt children against the wishes of their grandparents who want to care for them is positively wicked.'

The development comes after the devastated grandparents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made an official complaint to council bosses. They have claimed they were warned they would never see the children again unless they dropped their opposition to the adoption, and again threatened with the same fate for speaking out publicly. The family claim they have been victims of `bullying' social workers and politically-correct manipulation.

The devoted couple had fought for two years for the right to care for their grandchildren, whose 26-year-old mother is a recovering heroin addict. They agreed to an adoption only after they faced being financially crippled by legal bills and were promised continued contact with the children. But they were devastated when they were told the children were going to be placed with a homosexual couple. There were several heterosexual couples on the council's books willing to offer a loving home - leading to suggestions that the council was operating a politically-correct quota system.

The move flew in the face of social-work reports that show the girl is `wary' of men. Last night the grandmother broke down in tears when told of the mystery benefactor's desire to help block the adoption. She said: `I can't believe anyone would do that for us. We are so grateful.' Her husband, a farm worker, added: `Because of the generosity of a stranger, we might have a chance to put things right, not only for our family but for others who are put in this position.'


BBC wasted legal fees to protect 'rape' personality

There once was such a thing as British justice. No more. All there is now is various classes of privilege

The BBC has spent licence-payers' money in a failed attempt to prevent The Mail on Sunday publishing a story about how one of the Corporation's personalities had falsely accused her former boyfriend of rape. Last Sunday we revealed the woman told police she had been assaulted 40 times during their relationship, before withdrawing the allegations. The officer investigating the case described her claims as `inconsistent' and `not credible'.

Yet, because of a legal loophole, the incident remains on the Police National Computer, ruining her former boyfriend's job prospects and his freedom to travel. Whereas his life has been wrecked, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 guarantees her anonymity and prevents him suing for damages.

Last Friday, without notifying The Mail on Sunday, which was therefore not represented at the hearing, BBC lawyers took out a court order to insist that their client was entitled to her anonymity - even though this is guaranteed by law and was at no point under threat. So secret was the court order, this newspaper was even banned from mentioning its existence. It was made by Mr Justice Eady, a controversial High Court judge often described as being at the forefront of moves to create a privacy law protecting public figures. He ruled that Formula 1 millionaire Max Mosley's right to privacy extended to his participation in a sado-masochistic orgy.

Now, after complaints from The Mail on Sunday, the order has been amended, allowing us to reveal the lengths to which the BBC will go to protect celebrities, however serious the allegations. Had the BBC's lawyers taken the trouble to contact The Mail on Sunday directly, we would have given guarantees of anonymity without any need to spend licence-payers' money. As a matter of good journalistic practice, this newspaper had already contacted the BBC personality to hear her side of the story and had informed her that her identity would not - and could not - be revealed.


British charter schools under attack

They are called "academies" in Britain to make them sound grander than they really are

ONE of the inventors of the government's city academies has warned their success is being jeopardised by the "creeping return" of council control. The academies were designed under Tony Blair to close failing inner-city schools and replace them with institutions that are independent of meddling local politicians and run instead by outside sponsors. However, Sir Cyril Taylor, former chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, warned that, since Gordon Brown came to power, councils have been allowed to reassert their influence over the staffing, admissions and finances of academies. The government aims to open 400. "The whole point is to give them independence," said Taylor in advance of his new book to be published by Routledge on February 10. "Now the programme risks drifting from the core mission with too much control being exercised by local authorities - no doubt in my mind about that."

Ed Balls, the schools secretary, restated his commitment to academies last week. This has failed to allay concerns. Taylor said the initiative should remain focused on failing schools - sponsors should not be given the easier option of taking over well-performing schools, and troubled private schools should not be allowed to become academies as an escape route from bankruptcy. This weekend the schools minister, Jim Knight, said the government would consider such approaches in areas where there was demand for more school places.

Taylor was ousted from chairmanship of the trust in a board-room coup in 2007 after angering colleagues with abrasive comments about incompetent teachers. He returns to the theme in his new book, A Good School for Every Child. Taylor writes that there are more than 13,000 incompetent teachers, adding: "Procedures to move on ineffective teachers or staff in English schools are absurdly complicated, time-consuming and frustrating."

Taylor is seen as the co-founder of academies along with Lord Adonis, the Blairite former schools minister moved to the transport department last year by Brown. Taylor, 73, last week described Adonis's departure as "an absolute tragedy". He added: "The turnover of staff since has been absolutely appalling. A lot of the officials they have now, you don't even know if they believe in the initiative." Taylor argues that academies have proved their worth by improving grades 50% faster than the national average. This, he says, has happened despite them having twice as many pupils on free school meals.

Academies have long been controversial. Labour back-benchers and unions oppose their control by sponsors who include companies, a duke, charities, church groups, private schools and universities. Last month, official data showed improvements made by some academies had slipped back. Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, has declared an academy in Carlisle as failing after an emergency inspection sparked by pupil violence, a teachers' revolt and parental protests.

Alasdair Smith, secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance, said: "If what Taylor is saying was true, I'd be delighted. My worry is it isn't true enough. In some cases, they are being left with no alternative but to turn to councils as the businesses they wanted are getting cold feet." Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, said: "Sir Cyril is absolutely right to point out how academy freedom has been eroded."

The schools department said: "We are not changing the academy model. The local authority role has not changed and will not change."


How British. Huge rewards for huge incompetence: "Dozens of staff at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have been offered early-release payoffs worth up to 240,000 pounds after a secret Whitehall report found its work was being undermined by alleged cronyism and incompetence. The SFO, which received 42m from the government last year to tackle Bernie Madoff-style fraud, has offered many of its lawyers and accountants gold-plated pensions and lump-sum payoffs, in some cases worth three times their salary. The move follows a confidential review of the agency by Jessica de Grazia, a former US prosecutor, who found a widespread perception of cronyism where staff believed the agency was "a bit of an old boy's club". The unpublished report, seen by The Sunday Times, said staff were promoted because they were "nice". Some employees felt this was because they were "friends of the [then] director". SFO officials said it was "like a rudderless ship [with] the blind leading the blind". John Lawson, head of Standard Life pensions, said the payoffs were "an offer to die for".

Britain's crooked Lords: "Peers who avoid tax or have criminal convictions - such as Lord Archer and Lord Black - are to be expelled from the House of Lords in the wake of the lords for hire scandal. The reforms are being drawn up by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, in an attempt to restore the Lords' battered reputation after last weekend's revelations in The Sunday Times. He plans to enact the legislation necessary to expel them before the general election, which has to be held by May next year. Peers who are "non-domiciled" or "non-resident" for tax purposes - there are thought to be at least seven - will lose their seats, as will those who have been convicted of a serious criminal offence. Our disclosures that Labour peers were prepared to amend laws in the Lords on behalf of businesses has lifted the lid on the frenetic business activity in the second chamber... Our inquiries have established that other peers are routinely attempting to change legislation that would favour companies and organisations which pay them. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Baroness Royall, Labour leader in the Lords, said the system was "bananas". [Most members are now political hacks appointed by the government so this was to be expected]

British police 'ran away' from jeering Muslim demonstrators: "Video footage posted on a website shows police officers running way from chanting demonstrators who took part in a violent protest in London against Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip. The ten-minute amateur film shows 30 officers being chased by a crowd of up to 3,000 people who broke away from an official protest march last month. The video, posted on YouTube, shows protesters chanting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greatest) and 'Fatwa', a death threat under Islamic law. As they walk past St James's Palace, demonstrators throw traffic cones and stones at the police, who are seen running away from the threat before turning to walk backwards. One demonstrator shouts: 'Run, run, you cowards. Run, you poof. Allahu Akbar.'"

More on the decay of British policing: "The anonymous blogging policeman records that officers are visiting areas with high vehicle crime and identifying vulnerable vehicles. They attach a sticker to the windscreen informing the owner that there is some kind of insecurity. They even tick a box telling the owner how the vehicle is insecure. This marks out the vulnerable cars for thieves and helpfully informs them how to proceed. As the blogger says: "This is quite the maddest scheme in British policing." I certainly hope so. I sadly suspect not."

The British car industry, the bailout and the taxpayer : "On Wednesday, UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson went some way in bailing out the carmakers by giving them credit, though you might think that it was too much credit that got us all into this mess in the first place, but put that aside for one moment. The real issue is where this cash is going to come from. Our leaders like to suggest that it's just some bookkeeping entry at the Bank, but every pound lent to a potential car customer has to come from somewhere. And indeed, it comes from taxpayers. Hairdressers in Harwich have to pay higher taxes so that Sloane Rangers can buy a new Jag or a new Lexus. Yes, that could save lots of jobs, possibly thousands, in carmaking. But only by putting jobs under threat everywhere else."

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