The English must not publicly celebrate their own national day
England's biggest St George's Day parade is facing the axe after councillors said many of those attending it were racist. For the last decade up to 15,000 have assembled in the town of West Bromwich under the slogan 'Forever England, For Everyone'. Children and parents from all over the country parade through the Black Country town waving St George flags and marching to rousing anthems such as Jerusalem. Organisers say one of the aims is to reclaim the Saint George Cross from Right-wingers and make it a source of pride for all.
But last night the local council, Labour-controlled Sandwell, voted to withdraw its support for the parade. Funds will go to support a Party in the Park instead. It leaves parade organisers with what they say is the impossible task of raising 10,000 pounds to cover their costs with only a few weeks to go.
In a letter to the organisers, one councillor, Yvonne Davies, said the parade created an 'unhealthy atmosphere' and inspired young boys to be racist. She wrote: 'It is not only the parade which is the problem, but the tribal excitement it creates.'
The West Bromwich St George's Day parade started in 1998 and began as a fairly modest affair with 5,000 turning up. Now three times that attend the two-mile parade in April. Fire Service and Scout Association bands have played, the British Legion lends its support and each year ex-servicemen attend. A volunteer dresses up as St George and rides with the marchers, children paint their faces with the St George Cross and there are activities such as medieval jousting. There have been some problems - last year organisers had to clamp down on drinking in the street and a band with hard-Right roots joined in without their permission.
Councillor Davies wrote in her letter: 'I am sure most are very respectful and law-abiding, however some are distasteful in the extreme and wish to divide and separate people from each other.' She said she had once been abused by youths who 'had been emboldened by the parade and thought racist chants were funny'. 'I have seen first hand how the parade (albeit unintentionally) creates an unhealthy atmosphere.'
At a meeting of Sandwell council cabinet last night, her colleagues sided with her and decided against backing the parade. Instead there will be the Party in the Park, a concert in the Town Hall and St George Flags will be flown on all of the council's buildings.
Trevor Collins of the Stone Cross Saint George Association, which organises the parade, said: 'To suggest the parade is racist is ridiculous and offensive. When you see the kids, the dogs, everyone out having fun, it's really a beautiful sight. It doesn't matter if you're black, white, green, brown or whatever, everyone's welcome. 'The council's decision means we have to foot the bills for insurance and security. We've got to come up with 10,000 pounds in two months which seems impossible.'
Another organiser Mark Cowles said the parades had raised 7,000 pounds for charity. He added that, as well as losing out on council support, they had probably missed the deadline for applying for road closures. 'All we wanted to do was organise a fun, family-friendly day for everyone that celebrates being English,' he said. 'We have been approached by extreme Right-wing groups and we have turned them away.'
More official hatred of Christians in Britain
A primary school receptionist, Jennie Cain, whose five-year-old daughter was told off for talking about Jesus in class is now facing the sack for seeking support from her church. Mrs Cain sent a private email to close friends to ask for prayers for her daughter after she was called into the school where she worked in Crediton, Devon, to be reprimanded. Her daughter Jasmine had been overheard by a teacher discussing heaven and God with a friend and had been pulled to one side and told off.
Mrs Cain contacted 10 close friends from her church by email but the message fell into the hands of Gary Read, the headmaster of Landscore Primary School where she works. The 38-year-old mother of two is now being investigated for professional misconduct for allegedly making claims against the school and its staff. Mrs Cain has been told she may be disciplined and was warned she could face dismissal.
Her case is being supported by the Christian Institute who said Mrs Cain was the latest example of a Christian being persecuted by society. Last week, nurse Caroline Petrie was told she could go back to work having been suspended for two months for offering to pray for a patient.
Yesterday, Mrs Cain said both her daughter and son were confused about what to say about their faith. She told The Daily Telegraph: "I think there is something about what I represent, about what the three of us represent. "This action that has been taken against me, how it has escalated, how trapped I feel - it is overwhelming. "The speed at which it has got to a place where I am being investigated for misconduct and could be dismissed, it is shocking."
Mrs Cain, who has worked part-time at the school for two and a half years, describes herself as a "quiet Christian" who would never force her beliefs on others. But she said she was angry about the way she had been treated: "I felt embarrassed that a private prayer email was read by the school - it felt like someone had gone through my personal prayer diary. "I feel my beliefs are so central to who I am, are such a part of my children's life. "I do feel our beliefs haven't been respected and I don't feel I have been treated fairly. I don't know what I am supposed to have done wrong."
On January 22, Mrs Cain went to pick up her children from the 275-strong primary school. "My daughter burst into tears, her face was all red and she was clearly upset. "She said 'my teacher told me I couldn't talk about Jesus' - I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "She said she was taken aside in the classroom and told she couldn't say that. I was so shocked, I didn't know what to do."
Mrs Cain said she decided to wait until she wasn't working to discuss the issue with the teacher Sharon Gottelier as a parent rather than an employee. But she was called into Mr Read's office the next day over another matter before he started discussing Jasmine. "He started talking about my daughter about how he wasn't happy about her making statements about her faith. "At that point I froze, I felt very small and I felt trapped as I was a junior member of staff."
That weekend, she emailed a prayer request from her personal computer at home to 10 trusted friends from her church. "I asked them to please pray for us, please pray for Jasmine, please pray for the school and pray for the church."
A few days later she was called back into Mr Read's office. "I didn't think at this point I could be more stunned. He had in his hand a copy of my private, personal email and it was highlighted all the way through. "He said that he was going to investigate me for professional misconduct because I had been making allegations about the school and staff to members of the public."
Mrs Cain, who was not suspended, said he refused to tell her where he had got the email but said two independent governors would be taking statements and calling witnesses. "He said the investigation could be followed by disciplinary action up to and including dismissal because of this private email." Mrs Cain said she still did not know how Mr Read came into possession of the email but she said the school was sending mixed messages by allowing carols at Christmas and celebrating the Hindu festival of divali. "If my children can go to school and sing a song which mentions Jesus, how are they meant to know that they are then not allowed to talk about God?"
Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said children should be allowed to discuss religion with each other without interference from teachers. "This is the latest in a series where Christians are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. "It is really getting to a point where it has to stop. I think the Government has got to start looking at its legislation. "Christians are in the firing line, not other minority groups."
Mr Read said: "An investigation by the governors of the school is being held into the conduct of a member of staff and at this stage I cannot comment any further."
As The Daily Telegraph disclosed on Monday, teachers now face being disciplined if they discuss their religious beliefs in school. The profession's regulator, the General Teaching Council, has drawn up a new code of practice that states classroom staff must "promote equality and value diversity". It was an alleged lack of commitment to this requirement that was used to suspend Mrs Petrie.
Drugs: Come down off your high horse
The government's drug tsar, Professor David Nutt, has caused a furore by commenting in a scientific journal that the club-drug Ecstasy is about as dangerous as riding a horse. He's probably right. I've seen the lives of young girls ruined through an addiction to ponies. Their minds seem to turn to equine mush. And of course falls from horses can and do kill or paralyze people - as in the case of Superman actor Christopher Reeve.
But I'm not proposing that horse riding should be made a Class A activity. (I'm sorry I mentioned that idea: it can't be long before the government starts banning dangerous sports and withdrawing NHS care from those who ride motorbikes or go mountaineering.)
Professor Nutt might have been unwise to mention the comparison, but some rationality in the debate on drugs is devoutly to be wished. When I thought that my teenage son might be taking drugs at school, I asked a neighbour, a clinical psychologist, for advice. His view was that schools were rife with drugs, but that most of them were far less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes. It put things into perspective.
It's only when we can actually discuss the real risks of drugs that we will be able to advise young people on how to handle them. But the government seems to be more concerned by the outrage of the Daily Mail than the facts. It spreads the misconception that all drugs are as bad as heroin or crack - driving the others underground and making them more difficult to control. As a policy, it's failed.
True, many modern drugs haven't been in common use very long, so it's difficult to know their full medical and psychological effects. Even with drugs that have been around for years, like cannabis, we are still learning the full physical, psychological and social consequences. So maybe we are right to be cautious about them. But let's be honest: because then, at least, we can steer people away from the most damaging drugs by giving them a genuine profile of the risks.
British single mothers have created a useless generation who are costing taxpayer a fortune, claims deputy head
A deputy head who sat on a Government taskforce aimed at improving behaviour in schools yesterday condemned a generation of modern parents as 'uber-chavs'. Ralph Surman said the parents of today's pupils were themselves the children of the 'first big generation of single mothers' from the 1980s. He claimed they - and in turn their children - have been left with no social skills or work ethic and may be impossible to educate.
Mr Surman spoke out in response to figures unearthed by the Conservative Party, which show that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training - known as NEETs - is rising across Britain. 'We must talk about a class of uber-chavs,' he said. 'They are not doing anything productive and are costing taxpayers a fortune. 'It is very difficult, almost impossible, to take these people now and provide basic social and work ethic skills.
'The offspring of the first big generation of single mothers were children in the 1980s. 'Now they are adults with their own children and the problems are leading to higher crime rates and low participation in the labour force.' Mr Surman, 43, a national executive member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, has taught at Cantrell Primary School in Bulwell, Nottingham, for 20 years. Bulwell has been identified as an area of socio- economic deprivation and the proportion of children entitled to free school meals is higher than average at the school, which is rated good by Ofsted.
Mr Surman was a member of the Practitioners' Group on School Behaviour and Discipline, a group of experienced heads and teachers set up four years ago, which helped enshrine in law a teacher's right to discipline a child. As a result of its conclusions, the Government introduced legal powers giving teachers the right to discipline children beyond the gates.
Mr Surman, a father of three, was unavailable yesterday to comment further on his claims, made in a local newspaper. It is not clear if he was referring to the parents of children at his school, in Nottingham as a whole or to modern parents generally. But his attack was criticised by David Mellen, portfolio holder for children's services on the Labour-run Nottingham City Council. He said the number of young NEETs in Nottingham had bucked the trend and fallen. The councillor, who is also a teacher, said: 'We are talking about young people here and (uber-chavs) is an irresponsible term to use. 'The comments are illinformed in light of the reduction in crime in the city and the reduction in young people who are NEET.'
But Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, said that, while many single mothers do an 'excellent job' raising their children, 'we cannot close our eyes to the evidence which shows that, on average, children fare better in terms of health, education and future career prospects when they are brought up by a mother and father who are committed to each other for life in marriage'.
Official figures obtained by the Tories last month showed that the number of people aged 16 to 24 not in employment, education or training had leapt by 94,000 to 850,000 between 2003 and 2007. 'Chav' was a new entrant in the Collins English Dictionary in 2005. A chav was defined as 'a young working class person who dresses in casual sports clothing'. Uber means greatest or most extreme.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said Mr Surman's comments did not reflect the view of the union.
Food Fascists target tots
And where are the controlled studies to support this superstitious nonsense?
Children from the age of 2 should switch from full-fat milk to help to prevent deaths from heart disease in adult life. The advice from Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, is part of a 3.5 million pound campaign to persuade people to cut their intake of saturated fat.
Families are eating too many biscuits, cakes, chocolate, crisps, red meat, cheese and cream, the FSA says. It aims to bring a change of behaviour in families. Most nurseries currently prefer to give children full-fat milk because parents believe it is the best option for the under-5s.
Ms Hignett, however, said that levels of calcium - which is important for growing children and helps to strengthen their bones - were the same in lower-fat as in whole-fat milk. The Schools Food Trust already recommends semi-skimmed for pupils in primary and secondary schools.
Men and women are also being urged by the agency to choose low-fat milk and eat less cheese to reduce the chances of a heart attack. But Gwyn Jones, the chairman of the National Farmers' Union dairy board, said: "What the FSA does not talk about is exercise and the need for people to lead more active lives rather than just cutting intakes."
BRITISH ENERGY POLICY IS A KILLER
In Australia, Greenie worship of vegetation has caused lots of ordinary people to burn to death. In Britain their opposition to all realistic forms of energy provision will cause lots of poor people to freeze to death
The number of people dying from effects of the cold in Wales could double this year, campaigners have warned. During an average winter, around 1,500 more people die than in other seasons. Age Concern Cymru is worried many vulnerable people are frightened to turn their heating to proper levels because of high energy bills.
Meanwhile, the environment minister has said the assembly government will struggle to meet its target to end fuel poverty among the vulnerable by 2010. "I think it's unlikely, with energy prices where they are, that we are going to meet those targets," Jane Davidson told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme.
Fuel poverty is defined as those who spend more than 10% of their income heating their homes. Campaigners told the programme many vulnerable people were frightened to turn their heating on because of high energy bills.
Authoritarian British medicine being evaded
Women should be allowed to have some say in their own risks but in Britain you are just expected to obey commands from on high. The vast majority of IVF births are fine with or without Britain's draconian restrictions
CHILDLESS British women who travel abroad to have up to four embryos implanted in their wombs have been given an official warning about the health risks. The "embryo tourists" are going overseas to circumvent rules on multiple IVF births. Some women return expecting triplets or quadruplets.
Professor Lisa Jardine, who chairs the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), says women are damaging their health and exposing their babies to harm. The authority says the women are also burdening the NHS by becoming pregnant with more than one baby. The watchdog is now investigating how to tackle the practice. Jardine said: "It is our job to make sure that this deeply felt need [for a child] does not result in people putting their health at risk. "People who seek treatment outside the UK often do so because they believe this will allow them to make choices about their treatment which are not available in the UK. These might include selecting the sex of their baby for nonmedical reasons, or having a higher number of embryos transferred, in spite of the widely recognised risks associated with multiple pregnancy. "My deep concern is that, in the belief that they are widening their choices, such people are also removing themselves from the help and protection that responsible regulation provides [That's a laugh1]. We are looking closely at whether there is more we could do to protect and inform those who choose to travel abroad for fertility treatment."
In the past few weeks, one woman has returned to Britain with quadruplets after fertility treatment in Israel, while last year a woman who returned to Leeds with triplets after fertility treatment in India lost all three babies.
Professor Alan Cameron, past president of the British Maternal Fetal Medicine Society and a consultant obstetrician at the Queen Mother's hospital in Glasgow, said: "I see the impact of this almost weekly. My colleagues in the neonatal units are going to hate me when I make that call to say we have triplets who look like they are going to appear early, and that has an impact on neonatal units and neonatal costs."
In Britain, a maximum of two embryos can be transferred to a woman below the age of 40. Women aged above 40 are allowed three embryos. The HFEA has, however, introduced quotas on the percentage of multiple births permitted at each clinic to make single embryo transfer the norm. From last month, only 24% of births at each clinic are permitted to be multiple births including twins, triplets and quadruplets. The percentage must drop to 10% in three years' time.
Adam Balen, professor of reproductive medicine and surgery at Leeds general infirmary, said: "[Multiple births] result in women coming into hospital, sometimes for many weeks on end because of threatened premature labour." Balen, who is also a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "The reality of a premature delivery is babies born who need neonatal intensive care and run the risk of either sadly dying or being left with a significant handicap such as cerebral palsy."
The Medical Board of California is investigating the fertility treatment given to Nadya Suleman who gave birth to octuplets last month. Suleman, 33, who has six other children through fertility treatment, had six embryos transferred at a clinic in California. Two of them split to create the octuplets. American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines say only one or two embryos should be implanted in a women of Suleman's age. The octuplets, although apparently healthy, were born nine weeks prematurely by caesarian section and are expected to remain in hospital for several more weeks.
Mandy Allwood, the British mother who became pregnant with octuplets in 1996 after taking fertility drugs without medical supervision, lost all eight babies. Allwood, who has since attempted to take her own life, has spoken of her mixed emotions at the safe birth of the American octuplets.