Monday, July 27, 2009

Even Warmists don't believe their own guff -- deeds speak louder than words

The guy writing below is a Warmist true-believer so struggles to understand why his allegedly Warmist colleagues behave "hypocritically". He ends up attributing their inconsistent behavior to incompetent communication. Yet his interlocutors are very well informed, so what level of communication would be needed to change them? North-Korean-style brainwashing? That seems to be where his argument leads

At a recent dinner at the University of Oxford, a senior researcher in atmospheric physics was telling me about his coming holiday in Thailand. I asked him whether he was concerned that his trip would make a contribution to climate change - we had, after all, just sat through a two-hour presentation on the topic. "Of course," he said blithely. "And I'm sure the government will make long-haul flights illegal at some point."

I had deliberately steered our conversation this way as part of an informal research project that I am conducting - one you are welcome to join. My participants so far include a senior adviser to a leading UK climate policy expert who flies regularly to South Africa ("my offsets help set a price in the carbon market"), a member of the British Antarctic Survey who makes several long-haul skiing trips a year ("my job is stressful"), a national media environment correspondent who took his family to Sri Lanka ("I can't see much hope") and a Greenpeace climate campaigner just back from scuba diving in the Pacific ("it was a great trip!").

Intriguing as their dissonance may be, what is especially revealing is that each has a career predicated on the assumption that information is sufficient to generate change. It is an assumption that a moment's introspection would show them was deeply flawed.

It is now 44 years since US president Lyndon Johnson's scientific advisory council warned that our greenhouse gas emissions could generate "marked changes in climate". That's 44 years of research costing, by one estimate, $3 billion per year, symposia, conferences, documentaries, articles and now 80 million references on the internet. Despite all this information, opinion polls over the years have shown that 40 per cent of people in the UK and over 50 per cent in the US resolutely refuse to accept that our emissions are changing the climate. Scarcely 10 per cent of Britons regard climate change as a major problem.

I do not accept that this continuing rejection of the science is a reflection of media distortion or scientific illiteracy. Rather, I see it as proof of our society's failure to construct a shared belief in climate change.

I use the word "belief" in full knowledge that climate scientists dislike it. Vicky Pope, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change in Exeter, UK, wrote in The Guardian earlier this year: "We are increasingly asked whether we 'believe in climate change'. Quite simply it is not a matter of belief. Our concerns about climate change arise from the scientific evidence."

I could not disagree more. People's attitudes towards climate change, even Pope's, are belief systems constructed through social interactions within peer groups. People then select the storylines that accord best with their personal world view. In Pope's case and in my own this is a world view that respects scientists and empirical evidence.

But listen to what others say. Most regard climate change as an unsettled technical issue still hotly debated by eggheads. Many reject personal responsibility by shifting blame elsewhere - the rich, the poor, the Americans, the Chinese - or they suspect the issue is a Trojan horse built by hair-shirted environmentalists who want to spoil their fun.

The climate specialists in my informal experiment are no less immune to the power of their belief systems. They may be immersed in the scientific evidence, yet they have nonetheless developed ingenious storylines to justify their long-haul holidays.


The British class war never stops

The Leftist government constantly looks for any means it can find to tear down the middle classes

Shocking new details of a stealth tax of up to £600 for householders with views of any kind, patios, conservatories and even a nearby bus stop are revealed for the first time today. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show millions of homes have already been secretly assessed by Labour in preparation for council tax hikes expected to target the middle class after the Election. Homes have been given 'value significant codes' which will make virtually every desirable feature taxable.

Although not every home has been assessed, so far nearly 100,000 householders face being penalised simply for having a scenic view from their windows. Even those who have a mere glimpse of a river, hill or park - or any other pleasing outlook - stand to pay more under a special category for 'partial scenic views'. Worst hit among the 11 types of view are likely to be the 26,346 assessed so far as enjoying a full sea view and the 21,709 who overlook a golf course or farmland. People with garages, conservatories and patios - and even parking spaces - are also in the firing line.

While the list is by no means complete, the figures indicate the chilling detail with which the inspectors are examining Britain's homes. The documents also reveal the sheer pettiness of the new rules. Balconies are divided into those up to three square metres, three to five square metres and so on. The 'Conservatories' category even covers lean-tos and differentiates between single and double-glazed.

The Valuation Office Agency, which is compiling the massive database of every home in England, has divided the three-quarters of a million people with conservatories into four groups. The 115,610 with double-glazed conservatories will be hit harder than the 43,821 with single glazing.

People with patios could be in for a shock. A total of 4,932 homes have been registered as having 'value significant' patios - Whitehall jargon for big ones, perhaps with built-in barbecues. There are likely to be tens of thousands more.

Others who enjoy living in a peaceful area will soon have to pay for the privilege. A total of 38,081 homes have so far been given the coding of TQ, which tells council tax chiefs that they live in a quiet street or cul-de-sac.

The UP code for those with good access to public transport, such as those living near a bus stop, may find their council tax goes in the same direction - up.

Some of the details released by the VOA resemble a manual for taxing rich householders till the pips squeak. About 13,000 homes with pools are listed, with separate categories for indoor and outdoor; as are 1,731 equestrian paddocks; 4,933 stables; 2,863 tennis courts; and 2,268 penthouses.

The system gives all 23million homes in England one of about 100 'dwelling-house codes' for each type, from modest council flats up to mansions. It takes account of architectural styles: brick, thatch or stone fascias, sash windows, age periods and size. If and when the revaluation takes place, tax will be calculated through a vast and complex formula which uses these codings. Householders with one or a number of the features could see their council tax band move up by one or possibly two levels. Moving up from Band D to Band E could mean a rise of around £300. Moving up to Band F could result in a £600 increase.

Shadow Local Government Secretary Caroline Spelman said: 'Gordon Brown's council tax inspectors have been caught red-handed preparing the way for massive tax rises on middle England after the Election, to fill the black hole in Britain's ruined public finances. There is now cast-iron proof of a council tax revaluation by stealth. 'Only Labour would think of taxing people for looking out of their own windows. Conservatives will scrap these tax-raising plans and abolish tax inspectors' rights of entry into your home.'

The Government has spent a staggering £13million on the VOA's scheme to build the new database. Ministers have secretly renewed a multi-million-pound deal between the VOA and leading property website Rightmove to access sale prices and floorplans for tens of thousands of homes. The Treasury refused to say how much information the VOA received from Rightmove, whose website has a databank comprising 400million pages of information. In addition, the Government has spent £3.7million on a US computer system that can pinpoint households on a map and list information gleaned from house-to-house inspections....

In 2005, Ministers shelved plans to revalue property, originally set for 2007, over fears of a backlash from voters who could face massive council tax rises. However, they have not ruled out going ahead with the revaluation if Labour wins the Election.

Window taxes and similar attempts to make people pay for household features have long caused controversy. In 1696, a tax on windows was introduced to replace the Hearth Tax based on the number of fireplaces in a property, which was abolished because people resented inspectors snooping in their homes. The Window Tax was assessed from outside, making it cheaper to levy. But people avoided it by blocking up windows, and it was abolished in 1851.


How Britain's cultural elite rejects middle-class values and censors debate

Conservatism as heresy

The BBC maintains the absurd myth that it is always politically neutral, but occasionally one of its senior employees writes or says something that lets the cat out of the bag. In an article earlier this week in the BBC's in-house journal, otherwise known as The Guardian, the Corporation's controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, wrote: 'We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking.'

Left-of-centre thinking! Are you shocked? Even surprised? I confess I am not. Despite ritual denials, I had assumed that the minds behind the BBC's somewhat depleted drama output were sympathetic to Left-wing ideas rather than Right-wing ones. In a similar way, many of the people who run BBC news or current affairs programmes evidently have Left-wing leanings.

Imagine that you were a brilliant young playwright who had conceived a play about the destructive psychological effects which abortion can have on women. Mr Stephenson or his sidekicks would not clap you on the back. You would be shown the door, if you had ever been let through it. The Right-wing authors who have written for the BBC over the past 30 years can be numbered on the fingers of one hand. John Osborne, who began as an anti-Establishment firebrand with Look Back In Anger and ended his days as a grumpy Tory, was given some airtime in his dotage.

Then there was Ian Curteis. His play about the Falklands War, which was sympathetic to Margaret Thatcher, was binned by the BBC, and finally shown after 15 years as a kind of historical curiosity. The decks would have been immediately cleared had he portrayed Lady Thatcher as a bloodthirsty warmonger.

Most of the BBC's culture programmes have a left-of-centre perspective. For example, the contributors invited to appear on BBC2's Newsnight Review almost invariably belong to the soft Left. The occasional Right-winger is allowed on, though he or she may feel obliged to fall in with the prevailing Left-wing consensus.

It would be silly to single out the BBC for blame. The Corporation merely reflects a general takeover of our culture by the Left. It is difficult to think of any leading novelist, poet or playwright who could be even vaguely described as Right-wing. Tom Stoppard? Ronald Harwood? Only at a pinch.

Art is more difficult to define in political terms. All that can be said is that the BBC tends to celebrate fashionable post-modern artists, many of whom have little ability other than the power to shock, while ignoring immensely gifted artists whose work is more traditional.

Over the past 30 or 40 years, the Left has captured the citadels of our culture. I don't mean the old formidable communist Left, which is dead and buried, but a trendy soft Left whose world view is promulgated by The Guardian and the BBC. This is the club which aspiring members of the cultural elite are required to join.

What is fascinating is that during most of the 20th century the Left did not exert a stranglehold over our culture. Three of the four writers who are generally seen as the fathers of modernism could reasonably be described as Right-wing, sometimes dangerously so. T. S. Eliot became a devout Anglican and small 'c' conservative. The poet W. B. Yeats flirted with Mussolini, while the American writer Ezra Pound became, I regret to say, a paid-up fascist. Two of the greatest English poets of the last century, W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin, ended their days on the Right. Auden, like Eliot, rejected the atheism of his youth, and embraced religion. Some of Larkin's political views were extremely Right-wing, and would probably lead to his being banned by the BBC were he around today.

Both Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, two of our finest mid-20th-century novelists, were firmly of the Right, though neither of them had much time for the Tory Party. Waugh famously said that 'the trouble with the Conservative Party is that it has not turned the clock back one second'.

Of course, I am not pretending that all the great writers of the 20th century were Right-wing. Far from it. The Bloomsbury group, whose members included Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey, were the intellectuals forebears of the modern liberal-Left. Bernard Shaw was a socialist, as was H. G. Wells. Waugh's friend, the novelist Graham Greene, moved increasingly to the Left, and ended his days as a trenchant anti-American.

All I am saying is that throughout most of the 20th century there were Left-wing writers and Right-wing writers who argued and differed and were sometimes friends. There was a debate. There were choices. What we have now is a Left-wing literary monopoly, many of whose members apparently believe that it is impossible in the modern age to be a great writer and Right-wing.

You may say it is wrong to attach labels such as ' Right-wing' and 'Left-wing' to all authors. But every writer is in some sense political, even one as apparently removed from great events as Jane Austen. When Elizabeth Bennet lets fly at the odiously snobbish aristocrat Lady Catherine de Burgh in Pride And Prejudice, Austen is celebrating middle-class virtues of plain-speaking and honesty against ignorant aristocratic pretension. That is a political point.

To return to the BBC's Ben Stephenson, he doubtless sees himself as an iconoclast challenging the status quo. But in fact he is part of the status quo, conforming to the Leftist beliefs that predominate in the BBC. Courage lies in questioning the status quo. That is what artists are supposed to do. Members of our cultural consensus huddle within their ramparts, terrified of promoting ideas or thoughts they deem unacceptable.

Perennial themes in the Corporation's increasingly sparse drama are the evils of poverty, the excessive power of the State and the smugness of the bourgeoisie. I grant these can be rewarding, but there are many other important things going on in our society. Yet these would not be considered proper subjects for a BBC play.

The increasing power of the State could be examined not so much on account of its passion for surveillance as because of its apparent desire to end up by employing every worker in the country. The breakdown of the family, which partly explains the squalor, violence and human degradation visible in many of our towns, would be a fertile subject for drama. So might the social and cultural transformation brought about by uncontrolled immigration.

But the liberal-Left consensus, nourished by The Guardian and the BBC, believes in an ever-expanding public sector. It does not place much value on marriage. It is relaxed about mass immigration. So three subjects which concern many people are ruled out. They cannot even be addressed. It is equally hard to imagine a BBC play that grappled with the harmful effects of abortion, or showed religion in a sympathetic light.

We live in a cultural monopoly mediated by the BBC. Most writers believe more or less the same. Discordant voices are excluded, or at best muted. For much of the time a Leftist elite talks to itself in endless circles. All this helps to explain my feeling that we live in a narrow, boring, self-satisfied little country.


The British police have been trained to hate the middle class too

Company director arrested for attempted murder after rescuing son being beaten by yobs

A company director has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after confronting a gang of yobs who were attacking his stepson. Colin Philpott, 58, allegedly stabbed a 16-year-old in the chest during the incident in the front garden of his £500,000 Tudor-style house.

He had awoken late on Friday night to discover stepson Alex Lee being beaten by the group of teenagers. Mr Lee, 25, had gone outside to stop the gang from vandalising Mr Philpott’s Jaguar car. Mr Lee was said to have then been punched and kicked in the head, suffering a broken nose and concussion for which he needed hospital treatment.

Susanne Philpott, 51, says her husband – who owns an escalator cleaning company – rushed out to defend her son with a letter-opener he had grabbed from a shelf. It was then that the teenager was allegedly stabbed five times. He was taken to hospital and was last night said to be stable.

When police arrived at the five-bedroom house in Crowthorne, Berkshire, Mr Philpott was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Five youths, aged 16 and 17, were arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage.

Mrs Philpott said: ‘My son and I came out at about 11pm after hearing a bang and we saw two young guys outside our house. ‘They returned 15 minutes later – with three others – and all were visibly drunk. I took a digital camera and told them that if they vandalised anything else I’d take pictures as evidence. ‘One said that he would kill me and burn down my house. I was terrified and when Alex tried to calm him down, the other four got worked up and they all attacked him. Alex ended up on the ground with all five of them on him, kicking him in the head and stomach. I was so frightened for him that I screamed for Colin, who was in bed.

‘He came running out – still barefoot and half asleep – and saw the mess Alex was in so ran back into the house. He grabbed the first thing he saw, which was a letter-opener, and confronted the boys. ‘They attacked Colin and I saw one stumble into the road as Colin screamed for me to call the police. When the police arrived and then arrested Colin, I was gob-smacked. ‘It was heartbreaking to see him handcuffed and carted off like a common criminal. He is a hardworking, honest family man and was only trying to protect us.’

The mother of two, who works as a training consultant, said the quiet neighbourhood had been blighted by teenagers attacking cars and defacing gardens for several months. She claimed that just days earlier, Mr Philpott’s £30,000 S-Type Jaguar had been smothered with hair gel while it was parked on the driveway. ‘We have had lots of trouble with vandals and they have targeted us twice within a week. The worst thing is that I am now terrified in my own home. ‘The police have installed a panic button but I still don’t feel safe. My husband and I had a holiday planned but now I wouldn’t feel safe leaving my 22-year-old daughter on her own. ‘I just can’t get over how one minute you’re happy and everything is fine and the next your life has been turned upside down by some mindless yobs.’ ....

Other residents said gangs of youngsters had ripped up flower beds, thrown eggs at them and thrown objects through open windows. Neighbours have reported the anti-social behaviour to the local council and a councillor is said to have asked Thames Valley Police to take action.

Last night the force confirmed that Mr Philpott had been released on bail, pending possible charges.


It’s not pushy parents Britain needs, it’s pushy schools

Education in Britain is bedevilled by social class considerations and the British Left have never been able to decide whether middle-class families should be a model for the workers to aim at or an evil to be avoided. Generally, however, they do their best to destroy the middle class, but tend to destroy the working class even more in the process

With its usual self-serving incoherence, Gordon Brown’s government has come out, in the person of the Blairite MP Alan Milburn, in favour of “pushy parents”. Milburn’s report for Brown on social mobility found that “parental interest has four times more influence on attainment by the age of 16 than does socioeconomic background”. He said last week that he wanted “more pushy parents, not fewer”.

How odd it is to hear such talk from a man authorised by the prime minister to say things that sound just the opposite of what Brown and old Labour have always stood for. It seems only yesterday that Brown’s blue-eyed boy, Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and his people were being sniffy about pushy parents.

It reminds me of Peter Mandelson’s notorious remark that he was “intensely relaxed” about people being “filthy rich”.

Personally I am not only relaxed but rather in favour of pushy parents, up to a point, being one myself. But I think the government should be careful of what it allows itself to say it wishes for. Its members may not all realise what pushy parents are like.

Pushy parents are not just mothers and fathers who show “parental interest”, which is highly to be desired and all too rare. Pushy parents are red in tooth and aspirational in claw; they are social Darwinists to a man and a woman and while I think their struggles are natural and largely unstoppable - pushy parents, like the poor, are always with us – I do not think a socialist-lite government ought to be crying out for more of them.

In any case, it can’t; it won’t work. The soft left culture of the Labour party and of nearly all our national institutions, particularly of our state schools, is entirely at odds with the culture of pushy parents.

Being a pushy parent begins even before parenthood. Pushy parents-to-be, in their quest for the best possible of everything, put their babies down for favoured schools, or move to a good school catchment area, before they are even born. Pushy mothers-to-be eat carefully chosen super-foods to push the embryonic brain to the peak of its potential and listen to carefully chosen music to ensure high-level music appreciation later in life. I admit I myself thought like that.

But then I was the child of a pushy parent - a single mother whose determination ensured that I, like my brothers, did well enough to get scholarships to private schools and full grants to university - something denied to poor but aspiring teenagers today. She even tried to persuade me, years later, to teach my own infant children maths according to some American baby-genius method, when they were still almost too young to speak.

Unusual then, such extremes are now common among hyper-competitive pushy mummies. I am glad to say that I refused; nor did I make my children do Suzuki violin lessons at three or competitive tennis at six, as did so many other mothers of my acquaintance.

That’s because the cost, I know, of such expectations on children can be high; it means forcing them to confront the constant fear of failure, including failing to pass into a school at the age of four when your elder sister did before you - something our politicians seem unable to understand and many teachers seem quite unable to accept.

Is that what Milburn is recommending? In my case it meant going into several exams with a chamber pot, as extreme anxiety regularly made me throw up because I had been encouraged to be so desperate to win. Per ardua ad astra - which, as those who’ve been crammed into elitist schools by pushy parents will know, means the way to the stars, whatever they may be, is pretty damn hard – and, of course, a lot of people fall by the wayside.

Although pushy parents never stop pushing themselves, they also contract out whenever they can to professional pushers in the form of private schools, evening tutors and even live-in holiday tutors.

My day at a good private school in the West Country began about 6am when, under parental pressure, I got out of bed to catch up with homework. I had to be in school by 8.10am and couldn’t go home until 7pm – in that time I had nine 40-minute periods of lessons or study each day (and five on Saturday mornings), one period of compulsory games, one of music practice and some time for eating; at home later I had more homework and reading.

To my astonishment, my daughter’s day at a top London day school was (and is) just as long and much more competitive, as the girls were all much cleverer than those at my school. There are also casualties to match among children at such academic private schools – boys and girls who collapse under the strain, who drop out with addictions and eating disorders.

This is what it means to push a child, for better and for worse. It takes not only a lot of money and effort all round, but also a lot of time. It astonishes me how short the day is, by comparison, at state schools – how can clever state school children hope to accomplish anything like as much as their private school competitors, or foreign competitors from pushy cultures, if they have less than half the amount of teaching or carefully supervised study?

Equally, seeing children come out of state school in the early afternoon, I often wonder how many of their parents would really want to see them studying as hard as private school children - particularly if their children are not bright. Putting such intense demands on the brightest children, even agreeing to select precisely which are the brightest children, is outside the mindset of the state educational establishment. Private schools don’t question it; state schools cannot accept it. It is anathema to the all-shall-have-prizes, all-shall-have-A-levels culture. And while that culture may be beginning to change, even the notion that one child is much more intelligent than another is still widely unacceptable among educationists.

The government should be calling not for pushy parents, but for pushier state schools, and for a system that can find an acceptable way of selecting and teaching all children according to their real aptitudes; the failure of our education system cannot be either blamed on or solved by parents. It is the educational culture that is to blame. And what will save our schools is a recognition, which is indeed characteristic of pushy parents, that the world is a painfully competitive place.


Stupid British health bureaucracy overwhelms the ambulance service

Overstretched ambulance crews are needlessly attending emergency call-outs from people wrongly advised to dial 999 by the Government’s swine flu hotline

One paramedic said he had raced to four unnecessary calls in one 12-hour shift on Friday. None of those he attended needed emergency treatment but all had been told to dial 999 after ringing the flu hotline for an assessment. It is feared that a combination of unqualified staff and a series of vague questions at the start of the telephone assessment are to blame.

The situation was revealed after the paramedic, from East Midlands Ambulance Service, rang the flu line from the home of a 55-year-old woman in Nottingham whose daughter had been advised to ring the emergency services. By chance his call was answered by a Mail on Sunday reporter working at the Teleperformance call centre in Leicestershire. He told the reporter: ‘This lady doesn’t need an ambulance, she just needs the drugs.’ He added: ‘This is the fourth today. Four call-outs to people who think they have swine flu and have been told to ring an ambulance.’

The reporter explained what had happened to the team leader, Adam, who was clearly very busy. All the agents at the centre said they had referred callers to 999. There are fears seriously ill patients could be put at risk while ambulances are diverted needlessly. As our investigation found, one worker at the centre, Brian, admitted he had instructed all six of his callers to ring 999 ‘because that’s what the computer tells me to do’.

At the start of each call, the workers have to ask 11 vaguely worded questions to assess whether the suspected swine flu victim is in need of emergency treatment. An affirmative answer to any of these questions, which include ‘Are they breathing irregularly?’, immediately leads the staff to a screen that says: ‘Assessment Complete – Dial 999.’

An ambulance worker, who asked not to be identified, said: ‘If you ask someone if they have difficulty breathing, they might say yes, even if they just have a blocked-up nose. That makes it a high priority call. 'It would be better if they employed medically qualified people who were able to ask follow-up questions.’

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘Staff in the call centres have to ask certain questions to make sure anyone who needs emergency treatment gets it. We are keeping an eye on this and how often it’s happening and are talking to the ambulance trusts.’ [Talk is all they are capable of]


More British immigration stupidity

Britain has nearly half a million Muslims and blacks staying on in the country depite having had their "asylum" claims rejected as false yet the bureaucrats are harassing a perfectly decent couple who have done their best to comply with the rules but have been the victims of bureaucratic sloth and bungling. If she actually is deported it will be a total disgrace perpetrated by a government that claims to "care" but which really cares about nothing other than its own power

A rule meant to protect vulnerable young women from being forced into unwanted marriages is threatening to tear a 19-year-old Canadian away from the new husband she loves. Rochelle Roberts, originally from Revelstoke, B.C., has been told she is about to be deported from the United Kingdom and will not be allowed back in to live with her Welsh husband Adam Wallis, 28, until she is 21 years old.

The newlyweds have become collateral damage in the wake of changes to British immigration law intended to deter British nationals and their families from bringing young, unwilling brides from abroad and forcing them into often-abusive marriages. "It's not right," Roberts told the BBC. "There shouldn't be an age limit on when I should and should not be able to get married and be in love, because it just doesn't feel right."

The couple met in Canada two years ago and corresponded online until March last year, when Roberts travelled to visit Wallis at his home near Aberystwyth in Wales, the BBC reported yesterday. She entered the country on a six-month visa with plans to leave again a month later, but she fell in love and decided to get married and stay right where she was.

A month before her visitor visa was set to expire, Roberts and Wallis applied to the British Home Office for permission to marry, which – after delays caused when authorities lost their passport photos – came through about a week before her visa ran out. The couple did not actually get married until two weeks later, which meant Roberts had technically overstayed her official welcome.

A spokesperson from the British Home Office gave her illegal status at the time of their wedding as the official reason why Roberts is going to be deported: "(Her) age was not the reason her application was refused." But that is not the whole story.

Just four days after the pair married last November, the immigration rules changed and increased the required age for a spousal visa from 18 to 21. That means she could not have returned to Canada to apply for a spousal visa and move straight back to Wales. She would have to wait until 2011, which is how long she is now asked to wait before going back if she is deported.

An official at the UK Border Agency sent a letter to Wallis' MP, Mark Williams, whom the couple had turned to for help, describing the looming separation as an "inconvenience," the television report said. "It's more than just an inconvenience," Roberts told the BBC. "He's ripping my marriage apart. He is taking the only thing I have and throwing it away and there is nothing I can do about it."

The couple believe their case is made all the more bizarre by the fact that in any other country in the European Union they would be treated as a married couple and Roberts would be allowed to work. "It's insane," Adam Wallis told the BBC. "I could go to Ireland and she could work from the moment she arrived in Ireland ... anywhere in Europe."

The British government passed the Forced Marriages Act in 2007 as a human-rights measure to give family and civil courts some power to protect thousands of young women from mainly Asian backgrounds – the majority from Pakistan and Bangladesh – being forced to marry against their will. "It is a very real social problem here and is fully linked to perceptions within some communities of issues of shame and honour," lawyer and part-time judge Khatun Sapnara, who helped draft the legislation, said from London yesterday. "It is quite widespread. I mean there are cases related to families from Europe, Africa, the Middle East as well as Southeast Asia, although the majority of cases affect women from Pakistan and Bangladesh."

Changing the minimum age came later and Sapnara said she did not agree with it. "I always thought that it might actually prevent people who were legitimately married without any issue of force and that it would interfere with their right to marry someone of their choosing and to live a life together." She said the Home Office commissioned independent research that showed changing the age limit would do little to prevent forced marriages, but officials decided to ignore its findings. "Overall, we believe there are various benefits (that) outweigh the drawbacks," the Home Office spokesperson said.

Williams said he was horrified by their story. "(It is) government policy that starts out with good intentions but a blanket approach that nets in the most innocent of people," the MP told the BBC. Another British parliamentarian said the government might be willing to reconsider the law. "This is clearly a case which needs to be looked at by a minister," Keith Vaz, who chairs the Commons home affairs select committee, told the Guardian newspaper.

The Home Office would not reveal the timeline for deportation, but Roberts fears it could happen any time. "I'm living on edge because I don't know if they're going to turn up at six o'clock in the morning and grab me and chuck me out of the country," she told the BBC. "We don't know what our life holds, really, it's in flux almost," said Wallis, who recently started a new job as an electrical technician. "We can't make plans."


When "bad" is a bad word

In Britain, of course:
"A teacher faces the sack after complaining about the behaviour of her class on Facebook. Sonya McNally, 35, has been suspended on full pay since calling the 13-year-olds ‘bad’ in a private conversation on the social networking site. In a post on March 20, the supply teacher wrote: ‘By the way, (class) 8G1 are just as bad as 8G2.’

Another teacher involved in the discussion, Kirsten Allenby-Moore, took offence. She complained to the council’s human resources department, writing: ‘I found the comments personally insulting as the 2 classes mentioned where [sic] both mine.’ It is understood she teaches both classes information technology once a week.

Education officials at North East Lincolnshire Council suspended Mrs McNally from Humberston Comprehensive School in Grimsby in April and launched an investigation. In a report to the headteacher, Mrs McNally is accused of ‘bringing the school into disrepute’. The previous headteacher resigned in December after Ofsted inspectors rated the school ‘inadequate’ in 13 key areas. [So it really is bad]


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