Wednesday, April 08, 2009


As if by magic, a trillion pounds has been shaved off the estimated cost of Global Warming regulation in the UK overnight. Parliament has yet to be informed of this numerical feat.

When MPs and Lords passed the Climate Change Act late last year - see Snow blankets London for Global Warming debate - they did so without so much as a back-of-an-envelope calculation from the departmental Sir Humphreys to go on. That didn't seem to bother them, however.

Politicians were so keen to appear virtuous, they queued up to show their support for raising the carbon reduction target from 60 per cent to 80 per cent. But how much would all this virtue cost?

It was only after the bill became law did some numbers trickle out. The government isn't really supposed to do this; BERR is obliged to provide "Impact assessments". So we learned that the potential costs of £205bn were twice the estimated maximum benefits, of £110bn. But overnight, the "benefits" have blossomed tenfold. While the cost estimate now ranges from £324bn to £404bn, the "benefits" are estimated to top £1tn.

"I congratulate on [sic] finding nearly £1 trillion of benefits which had previously escaped your notice," writes Peter Lilley in a letter to Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband. Lilley was just one of just five elected members out of 653 to oppose the Climate Change Act.

"As so often in the debate on Global Warming - when the facts don't fit the theory they change the facts," he adds. Lilley says he welcomes sensible CO2 reduction, but wants the costs - around £20,000 per household - discussed in Parliament.

In a footnote to the Miliband letter, Lilley notes that the cost excludes "transitional costs" of about one per cent of GDP per annum. This alone dwarves the top range estimate, since the UK's annual GDP is over £2tn. Also missing was the cost of UK businesses moving abroad to less virtuous countries - something even the Ministry admits is likely.

But we should salute this impressive feat of statistical inventiveness. Creativity with numbers seems to be a benefit when "fighting climate change", but creativity on this scale could make our economic problems vanish at the stroke of a pen-pusher's biro


See also Christopher Booker's story in the Sunday Telegraph: Yet more mind-boggling figures on global warming.

UK: 40% of teachers abused by parents, 25% attacked by students

The methodology of the survey behind this report was very slapdash so the figures below should not be taken as exact. That the picture is broadly accurate is however undoubted

Four in 10 teachers have faced verbal or physical aggression from a pupil's parent or guardian, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. And of the 1,000 teachers surveyed, a quarter said a pupil had attacked them. Over a third of teachers in primary schools said they had experienced physical aggression, compared with 20% in secondary schools.

The government says teachers have sufficient means at their disposal to punish disruptive pupils.

Almost 60% of those questioned for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' survey thought pupil behaviour had worsened during the past five years. The survey questioned over 1,000 teachers from primary and secondary schools. The responses appear to suggest that bad behaviour is not the preserve of secondary schools.

One teacher at a primary school in England said: "A six-year-old completely trashed the staff room, put a knife through a computer screen, attacked staff and we had to call the police. "Another six-year-old attacked staff and pupils with the teacher's scissors."

Another teacher said: "I and other members of staff were physically assaulted daily by a five-year-old (including head-butting, punching). "He was taken to the head to 'calm down' then brought back to apologise. "It became a vicious circle. I was off sick as a result. "People often underestimate that young children can be as violent and intimidating as the older ones."

Around one third of teachers surveyed said that they had lost confidence as a result of the behaviour they had faced. But most teachers (90%) reported that "disruptive behaviour" constituted talking in class.

"Persistent low-level rudeness and disruption seems to have become a fact of life in education today and no longer raises eyebrows or seems to merit special attention," said Dr Ian Lancaster, a secondary school teacher from Cheshire.

Teachers will discuss the problem at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference next week. Last year it emerged that more than 300 pupils a day were being temporarily, rather than permanently, excluded for violent conduct. A similar survey by ATL two years ago suggested half of teachers knew another who had been driven out of the profession by violent conduct.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said it was "shocking that over a third of teaching staff have experienced aggression from students' parents or guardians". "ATL firmly believes no member of staff should be subjected to violent behaviour by either students or parents. "Parents should be acting as good role models by supporting staff and helping them create a more positive learning environment for their children."

The government said it was right that head teachers were using short, sharp shocks as a punishment.


"Sisterhood" a myth

Catfights over handbags and tears in the toilets. When this producer launched a women-only TV company she thought she'd kissed goodbye to conflict...

Over in one corner sat Alice, a strong-minded 27-year-old who always said what she thought, regardless of how much it might hurt someone else. In the other corner was Sarah, a thirtysomething high-flier who would stand up for herself momentarily - then burst into tears and run for the ladies. Their simmering fight lasted hours, egged on by spectators taking sides and fuelling the anger. Sometimes other girls would join in, either heckling aggressively or huddling defensively in the toilets. It might sound like a scene from a tawdry reality show such as Big Brother, but the truth is a little more prosaic: it was just a normal morning in my office.

The venomous women were supposedly the talented employees I had headhunted to achieve my utopian dream - a female- only company with happy, harmonious workers benefiting from an absence of men. It was an idealistic vision swiftly shattered by the nightmare reality: constant bitchiness, surging hormones, unchecked emotion, attention-seeking and fashion rivalry so fierce it tore my staff apart.

When I read the other day that Sienna Miller had said there was no such thing as 'the Sisterhood', I knew what she meant. I can understand why people want to believe that women look out for each other - because with men in power at work and in politics, it makes sense for us to stick together. In fact, there was a time when I believed in the Sisterhood - but that was before women at war led to my emotional and financial ruin.

Five years ago, I was working as a TV executive producer making shows for top channels such as MTV, and based in Los Angeles. It sounds like a dream job and it could have been - if I'd been male. Working in TV is notoriously difficult for women. There is a powerful old boys' network, robust glass ceiling and the majority of bosses are misogynistic males.

Gradually, what had started out as a daydream - wouldn't it be great if there were no men where I worked? - turned into an exciting concept. I decided to create the first all-female production company where smart, intelligent, career-orientated women could work harmoniously, free from the bravado of the opposite sex.

In hindsight, I should have learned the lessons of my past - at my mixed secondary school I was bullied by a gang of nasty, name-calling girls, so I knew only too well how nasty groups of women could become. And working in TV, I'd met lots of super-competitive 'door-slammers' who'd do anything to get to the top. But I told myself that, with the right women, work could be wonderful.

So, in April 2005, I left my job, remortgaged my house - freeing up close to £100,000 - and began paying myself just £700 a month to set up this utopian business. Having worked extremely hard for 12 years, I had lots of experience and a good reputation. What could go wrong? I hired a team of seven staff and set up an office in Richmond upon Thames, Surrey. While the women I interviewed claimed to be enthused by the idea, they still insisted on high salaries. Fair enough, I thought at the time - they are professionals, and I knew most of them were talented and conscientious because I'd worked with them before.

But within a week, two cliques had developed: those who had worked together before and those who were producing 'new ideas'. Most days would bring a pointed moment when some people were invited out for lunch or a coffee break - and some weren't. Nothing explicit was ever said; the cutting rejection was obvious enough. Even when we all went to the pub after work, strict divisions remained, made clear according to who sat where around the table and who would be civil - or not - to whom.

Fashion was a great divider, though in this battlefield everyone was on their own. Hideously stereotypical and shallow as it sounds, clothes were a huge source of catty comments, from sly remarks about people looking over-dressed to the merits of their fake tan application. I always felt sorry for anyone who naively showed off a new purchase in the office, because everyone would coo appreciatively to their face - then harshly criticise them as soon as they were out of earshot. This happened without exception.

My deputy, Sarah, the general manager, first showed how much style mattered when she advertised for an office assistant and refused to hire the best-qualified girl because she could not distinguish Missoni from Marc Jacobs. This girl would have been making tea and running errands. But I didn't challenge the decision not to hire her because I had a policy of picking my battles carefully. The office was like a Milan catwalk, but with the competitiveness of a Miss World contest - and the low cunning of a mud-wrestling bout.

A fashion spat ended one friendship when Sarah and our young development researcher received the same surprise Christmas gift - a Chloe Paddington bag worth £900. When they clocked the matching bags in the office, it was like pistols at dawn. They forced a few compliments, but relations never recovered, to the expense of my company....

I was often out trying to win contracts, but back at the office, work was an afterthought. It came second to conversations about shopping, boyfriends and diets - oh, and spiteful comments from my two development researchers, who were sharpening their acrylic nails against another staff member, Natasha.

Six months after the company's inception, tensions spilled over when one of the researchers took Natasha's laptop and refused to return it. That day I was forced to cancel my meetings and return to the office to patch up relations.....

The worst type I encountered, however, was the 'passive aggressive-She doesn't seem mean, but is the worst of the pack, ruthlessly bringing you down in such a sweet and unassuming manner that you don't realise what she's done until long after the event. She conceals her bitchy words in flowery phrases - one of my staff told another sweetly: 'I don't mean to be a bitch, but I just can't bear to be in the same room and breathe the same air as you right now.'...

Another woman had a voracious sexual appetite and, in a female-only environment, saw nothing wrong with screeching across the open-plan room details of her marathon sex sessions. I received frequent complaints about her crude language. I can still remember the name of all of my staff's partners and their affairs because it interfered with our work so often....

The effect a lack of testosterone was having in our office was even more apparent when I temporarily hired two male directors to work on a series (camera operators are usually men because of the heavy equipment). The team suddenly became quieter, more hard-working and less bitchy - partly because they were too busy flirting. Two girls openly went after one director, even though he had a live-in girlfriend - his partner didn't stand a chance against their relentless flirting, and was dumped when one of them won his affections.

When we had meetings with men, staff turned ferocious, each out to prove that they were the sexiest in the room. With a male commissioner at Channel 4, one employee said 'Watch this!', then stuck her hand down her bra and tweaked her nipples. The man and I were speechless.

In this climate, I didn't dare employ any men because of the distraction and - even worse! - catfights they created. I hate how much that sounds like stereotyping, but I'm afraid it's what I found to be true. And while I stand by my initial reason for excluding male employees - because they have an easy ride in TV - if I were to do it again, I'd definitely employ men. In fact, I'd probably employ only men.....

Though I will not absolve myself of all guilt, I believe the business was ruined by the destructive jealousy and in-fighting of an allfemale staff. Their selfishness and insecurities led to my company's demise. When I needed the socalled 'Sisterhood', believe me, it just wasn't there.


Archbishop of York calls for St George's Day to be 'unifying' public holiday

The campaign to make St George's Day a national holiday gained further momentum yesterday. The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said that it was time to reclaim our patron saint as an 'all-embracing' symbol of British unity. Many in the Church of England have backed away from celebrating St George for fear of provoking a backlash from other religious and cultural groups in Britain.

But Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu, Britain's first black archbishop, has been happy to lend his outspoken support for the campaign. Both England's patron saint and the national flag of St George have been associated with racists and the Far Right in the past. But the Archbishop - who is second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England hierarchy - is perhaps uniquely placed to rebut critics who feel such a celebration would be seen as divisive by ethnic minorities and non-Christians.

He said that failure to support an English cultural identity could create a 'twisted vision' which could be exploited by firebrand politicians and Islamic extremists. The Archbishop's comments come as Boris Johnson has pushed for a greater celebration of England's patron saint on his feast day, April 23. The London Mayor said that St George has been neglected for 'far too long'.

The revival of interest in St George has been boosted in recent years by devolution in Scotland and Wales, and through widespread use of England's national flag, the Cross of St George, by fans of the national football team.

At a literary festival on Saturday, Dr Sentamu asked: 'Has the time come to make the feast of St George, the patron saint of England, a public holiday?' He added: 'Whether it be the terror of Salafi-jihadism (the radical Islamic doctrine behind Al Qaeda) or the insidious institutional racism of the British National Party, there are those who stand ready to fill the vacuum with a sanitised identity and twisted vision if the silent majority are reticent in holding back from forging a new identity.'

The Archbishop was at pains to stress that his speech was not a critique of multiculturalism, but rather a call for different communities and religious groups to embrace their shared values. He said: 'Englishness is not diminished by newcomers who each bring with them a new strand to England's fabric - rather Englishness is emboldened to grow anew. 'The truth is that an all-embracing England, confident and hopeful in its own identity, is something to celebrate. Let us acknowledge and enjoy what we are.'

Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury, also supported the calls for St George's Day to be celebrated. He said: 'It's high time that St George's Day be given the importance it warrants. 'It provides a unique opportunity to celebrate collective Englishness, to take pride in our heritage and to highlight the values which define modern England - values such as honesty, fairness, tolerance, enterprise and equality.'

He added: 'I want to fly the flag and take pride in being English, and I know for a fact that there are thousands of people in our area who feel the same way. 'St George's Day offers a unique opportunity for people from all backgrounds and beliefs to come together and celebrate the things that make England great.'

A review of citizenship in the UK commissioned by the Government from Lord Goldsmith recently recommended a national day 'focused on ideas about shared citizenship'. Although the Government has acknowledged that St George's Day is a popular suggestion, there is a competing alternative - a new 'British Day' after Remembrance Sunday to celebrate the contribution of our Armed Forces.


Growing up with hippie parents

Like the teenage daughter in Absolutely Fabulous, many born in the Seventies cringed through childhood as their free-spirited parents lived the hippy dream. Among them was Chloe Fox, who rebelled by becoming a model wife and mother. She talks to others who found absolute freedom less than fabulous and wonders whether a life of ‘mortgages and moderation’ is the inevitable outcome

By Chloe Fox

When I look back at my childhood, it is with the remembered imprint of banisters on each of my cheeks. Along with my brother, Sam (we were later joined by a sister, Louisa), I spent many a night watching a wonderful world whirl downstairs at our Georgian townhouse in Clapham, South London.

My mother, Celestia, a former fashion editor of Queen magazine turned casting director, met and fell in love with my father, Robert, five years her junior, when she was 26. He, after a disastrous stint following in the acting footsteps of his brothers Edward and James, was a fledgling theatre producer, working for impresario Michael White.

Theirs was a world of endless parties, and we took for granted the roll call of stars that flooded the house and came, champagne-breathed, to kiss us goodnight over the years: David Bowie, Al Pacino, Rupert Everett, Bob Geldof, Paula Yates, Nicky Haslam, Jerry Hall… It is the gut instinct of every child to consider their own childhood the norm, and apart from a vague inkling that not everyone’s father had long hair and did the school run with a Marlboro in one hand and Bruce Springsteen screaming on the stereo, that’s exactly what the three of us did.

As I grew older, however, the excesses of others started to make me feel awkward in my skin; old beyond my years. When my school friends bunked off to smoke, I went to the library and read a book. When they sneaked to the pub, I took to my bed. In my lessons, anything less than an “A” grade felt like a fail. I began to find my own parents slightly mortifying; one Sunday lunchtime a joint was passed around, and I left the table and locked myself, sobbing, in my bedroom.

Fashion petrified me. On the eve of my first dance, at the Hammersmith Palais, my mother tried to coax me into her skin-tight black Alaïa minidress. I decided that a shapeless purple silk shift from Jigsaw was a much better idea. At parties, I wanted the ground to swallow me. I only felt safe watching it all unfold. I didn’t kiss a boy until I was 16, and only then because he was too drunk to say no.

And so it has gone on. When I was 27, I married the boy next door, whom I had loved from afar for a long time. In the five years since, we have had two children: Jago, 3, and Christabel, 8 months. We have a mortgage, a mountain of laundry and only dance in the kitchen or at weddings. We have no famous friends, no cupboards full of sequins and I’m sure, although they are far too loving to say it, both my parents marvel that it’s enough.

But we are not alone. If it is the fate of every generation to rebel against the one that preceded it, then we, the children of the children of the Sixties, are an inevitably strait-laced bunch. One of the best-observed comedy characters of recent years is Saffy in the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. As her mother, Eddy, drunkenly falls down the stairs in heels too high and skirts too short, teenage Saffy rolls her eyes and goes back to her homework. But more than 16 years have passed since Absolutely Fabulous began. Just what would Saffy be like now? What sort of a mother did she become? How much is the parent you become affected by the parents you had?

Free and uneasy

“My childhood was very open and creative and free, but always a bit all over the place,” says Poppy de Villeneuve, the daughter of Sixties photographer Justin de Villeneuve, famously linked with Twiggy, and former model Jan de Villeneuve.

As a child growing up in East Sussex, Poppy, along with her older sister, the illustrator Daisy (who spent her first year of life living with her parents in a tent pitched inside a Camden Town warehouse), had a vague sense of her own otherness. “I knew the other kids at the comprehensive we went to didn’t have a mother who wore floaty Biba dresses and have people like Peter Blake and Kenny Everett coming to stay at the weekend, but at the same time it was all I knew.”

It wasn’t until her teens that Poppy, now a photographer, began to struggle with her own identity. “I’ve always been the straight one at a party,” she says. “While my contemporaries were all rebelling and taking drugs, I was on the sidelines – a slightly older version of the child I was – who slept on a pile of coats under the table in a restaurant.” To this day, she says she feels like the odd one out and is a self-confessed workaholic, with elements of the control freak about her. “When I have children, I’ll give them more structure. It’s crucial for little people, I think.”

At the age of 30, photographic and events producer Gawain Rainey, now 37, became the first person in his family to buy a house. Already well established in his career and with his girlfriend, model Jasmine Guinness, expecting their first child (the couple now have two sons, Elwood and Otis), he decided it was time to start “being a grown-up”. This was not something his own parents had really done. His mother, Jane, is the daughter of David Ormsby-Gore, the 5th Baron Harlech, who was British Ambassador in Washington from 1961 to 1965. His father, Michael Rainey, ran a hip Chelsea clothing boutique. Wealthy and staggeringly glamorous, they ensured that their four children – Saffron, Rose, Gawain and Ramona – had a childhood in the Welsh countryside characterised by its freedom.


Back again: Deported twice but Algerian bag thief saunters into Britain for the SECOND time in two years

A prolific bag snatcher twice deported from Britain has made a mockery of lax border controls for the second time in two years. Hakim Benmakhlouf, 27, who has a string of convictions for stealing from rich tourists at five-star hotels and airports, has returned to London only days after being kicked out.

He was first thrown out in July 2007 when, while serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for theft, he was given £3,000 by the Government to be released early and fly home to his native Algeria. But 24 hours later, he returned to London to continue his one-man crime wave.

He was re-arrested in April last year and jailed for three years the following month after admitting two thefts and asking for five similar offences to be taken into consideration. But, incredibly, he was released from prison last month after serving just a third of his sentence and deported to his homeland. Escorted by at least one immigration officer, he was flown back to Algeria at taxpayers' expense - only to return to London a few days later.

Police had no idea he had been freed until he was spotted in central London by two officers two weeks ago. Immigration officers were alerted that he had slipped into the country again and an inquiry has begun. Police warned that the father-of-two is almost certainly up to his old tricks again.

A furious Home Office source said: 'This is a major, major embarrassment. This man has made a mockery of our border controls and the criminal justice system.'

Efforts to trace Benmakhlouf were last night focusing on the St John's Wood area of North-West London, where the conman - who is rarely seen in anything but designer clothes - has previously rented luxury flats. It was there, while drinking coffee at a restaurant near his home, that he was arrested on April 9 last year.

Prosecutor Helen Thomas told Southwark Crown Court in London last May that Benmakhlouf was a 'prolific thief'. 'The defendant targets high class hotels or airports,' she added. 'He targets tourists who are likely to have large amounts of currency and other valuables.' The former rent boy, who uses 12 aliases, apparently began stealing from his clients to fuel a cocaine habit. In December 1998, he was sentenced to two months in a young offenders' institution.

He received 15 months in March 1999, a year's probation in December 2000, 21 months in February 2001, 30 months in June 2003, 12 months in August 2003, 18 months in October 2004 and 42 months in December 2005. Miss Thomas said it was during this sentence that he was handed £3,000 to accept voluntary deportation - only to return.

In October 2007, he was caught on CCTV stealing from guests at the Churchill Intercontinental Hotel in Portman Square, central London. Benmakhlouf's other audacious thefts included a bag snatch at Madame Tussauds wax museum, where he sprayed his victim with tomato sauce to cause confusion.

Detective Sergeant Andy Swindells, who dealt with Benmakhlouf's case last May, refused to comment on his return to Britain. The UK Border Agency said: 'As soon as we receive intelligence of a foreign lawbreaker in the UK from the police, we will investigate as a matter of urgency. 'We have teams of officers working with police forces up and down the country to track down those with no right to be in Britain.'


‘NHS culture and lack of cash delay stem-cell hopes’

The promise of stem-cell research to deliver new therapies for conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, heart disease and paralysis is being held back by funding problems and the NHS’s institutional culture, a report suggests. Although British academic stem-cell science is internationally competitive, a lack of commercial investment and NHS support is hindering its potential to help patients and create profits, scientists at the University of Nottingham have said.

Paul Martin, of its Institute of Science and Society, who led the research, said: “While the Government has identified regenerative medicine as a national priority and the US has lifted its ban on stem-cell therapy, urgent public policy action is needed if it is to become a reality.” His report, co-authored by Emma Rowley, is published as scientists gather in Oxford today for the UK Stem Cell Network’s annual conference, organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


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