Will someone please explain why some sections of the gipsy community are called 'travellers'? As far as I can see - and I live on a farm in the heart of the country - the last thing they seem to do is 'travel'. From my experience, they appear far more interested in 'settling' than 'travelling'. For make no mistake, the illegal traveller 'settlements', which can now be found across Britain, have become a national scandal.
Exploiting phoney human rights laws, lame legislation - and the Government's commitment to so-called diversity - a small minority are occupying land wherever they please. Instead of the Government tackling the problem, the ordinary, rural taxpayers, who are so often impacted by these settlements, are left to pick up the pieces.
Before going further, I had better explain that I can empathise with the gipsy way of life, and I have known and worked with real gipsies all my life. Yes, as a small child growing up in the countryside, I was told scary stories about gipsies stealing children - and the fact that their horse-drawn caravans, or vardos, always seemed to be filled with curly-haired toddlers seemed to lend those stories an element of truth. But on the whole, these were honest, hard-working people.
Every year, they would come to our village looking for seasonal work, and as a teenager I would work with them, picking fruit and hoeing sugar beet. They were fascinating folk with a distinctive accent, a sense of humour and great tales to tell. One family, the Loveridges, came to our village during the summer months to sell lace and clothes pegs, and the patriarch, Jim, would sharpen knives and garden tools on a grinder driven by the pedals of his bike. He was entertaining when he tried to ride his bike after a visit to the pub, and the local hare population certainly dwindled whenever he 'walked' his lurchers.
But Jim was a kind, likeable man with a strong - albeit malleable - moral code. On one occasion, for example, he persuaded my father to let him use a field to graze his horse. 'I'll give yer ten bob for a fortnight, boss,' he promised. In the end, the horse was there all summer - and mysteriously vanished on the same dark night Jim's caravans pulled out. My father never saw his ten bob, but no real harm was done.
And then there was the case of the missing spade. After one of Jim's visits, a keen gardener and neighbour of ours named Denis discovered that his favourite spade had vanished - only to have it sold back to him by Jim the following spring. 'Well, I don't know how that happened, boss,' said Jim.
But old Jim was a remarkable man and had an extraordinary knowledge of traditional skills - cures and remedies, a culture that can still be explored at the Gordon Boswell Romany Museum, near Spalding. He may have had wandering eyes and eccentric ethics - but he was liked.
It was also through Jim that I came to visit the Appleby Horse Fair, an extraordinary gipsy event, where horses were sold - and raced down the A66 - and fights were held with bare knuckles.
And so when I was a district councillor, and traffic volumes made life on the road hard and dangerous for horse-drawn caravans, I got Jim and his family a permanent campsite in a small Green Belt meadow, where his son still lives today. When he died, I even had the privilege of speaking at his funeral.
But times have changed - and we are all paying the price. Just this week, for example, it was revealed that evicting travellers from Europe's largest illegal camp, at Crays Hill in Essex, will cost £3.5million. Currently, 90 families occupy the former greenfield site.
It is clear that many of those who now call themselves 'travellers' are not real gipsies with a respect for age- old skills and traditions. They are just chancers and scroungers. And with them has come a rural crime wave. Indeed, theft has become so bad in my area that I can no longer keep diesel on my small farm. My storage tank was used like a self-service pump and then left to drain diesel all over the farmyard. One neighbouring farmer who had tired of diesel theft put water in his tank. And as a sign of appreciation a brick was thrown through his window as he was having supper with his family.
Too often the authorities do nothing. No wonder that when one traveller, who had wrongly parked in a disabled parking space, was challenged, he said: 'I'm a gipsy, I can do what I f****** well like.'
But now doctors are being told that travellers are not required to make appointments to see them, they can just jump the queue. And in Warwickshire, the police are taking political correctness to its ultimate extreme by having a party for 'travellers' to make them feel wanted.
But the biggest issue remains their illegal settlements. In many cases, travellers buy a field, and then, on a weekend or Bank Holiday, when the council offices are shut, they move in their diggers and set up a permanent site. They are often thrown up on the Green Belt land, and without planning permission. In Cambridgeshire, for example, a group of travellers sold their site, which had partial planning permission, to a group of newcomers from Ireland.
The original occupiers then moved off to start a series of new illegal sites, while the new owners illegally brought in several additional caravans, joining them to the sewer and overloading the system with engine oil, bricks and rubbish. Unbelievably, these travellers then expected - and obtained - council help to empty and repair the sewer, at a cost of £25,000.
So where are all of these new travellers coming from? Many are coming from Ireland - where, it should be noted, laws regarding the misuse of land are far more robust than in Britain. Recently, I spoke to a member of the Irish Garda (the Irish police) - and she was privately delighted that so many undesirables were crossing the Irish Sea. After all, in Ireland, illegal caravans and the misuse of land are covered by criminal law, which allows for immediate confiscation of vehicles and prosecution. In Britain, however, they are covered by civil law and prosecutions often involve slow, expensive legal action. On this basis, the solution should be simple - make illegal occupation of land a matter of criminal, rather than civil, law.
James Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, tried to introduce such a bill in 2004 - and the Government wasn't interested. But that may soon change, if the politically-correct Ed Miliband can stir himself to address the concerns of some of his constituents. Oxbridge-educated Miliband was born and brought up in London, but represents Doncaster North in Parliament. And now four illegal Irish traveller sites have appeared on Green Belt land behind 16 houses belonging to Mr Miliband's taxpaying constituents. These 16 houses adjoin a main road, but the residents believed that they had secure Green Belt land behind them. Until Good Friday, when the travellers' caravans and diggers illegally moved in.
One of the travellers then contacted Yorkshire Electricity claiming that they were contractors working for Network Rail and needed urgent connection. Incredibly, before any proper checks were undertaken, electricity was quickly installed.
Despite efforts by the Doncaster planning department and Stop Notices being issued, it is expected that the Planning Inspectorate will soon make the sites legal. Once again, it seems the authorities just don't have the stomach to protect the needs and wishes of ordinary people.
Incredibly, as the rest of us struggle to pay our bills and Treasury coffers empty, the Government is even setting aside £100m for new gipsy sites. Forget consultation. Forget democracy. Forget the wishes of the people. This is government by centralised decree. And it appears to favour travellers.
The Government may claim that it is protecting everyone's human rights. But what about the rights of ordinary, decent people who are just trying to get on with their lives and don't want caravan sites springing up on Britain's precious Green Belt land? The Reverend Andrew West, a Baptist Minister from near the Doncaster site, is quite clear about the situation. 'The travellers know what they are doing. They are not an oppressed minority. They have money and they are abusing the system at the expense of other people. 'It is not right, and proper action should be taken.'
Proper action? Perhaps the Reverend West should buy a caravan and set up camp in the grounds of Chequers. You can bet that a different set of rules would apply to him.
Ulster sends its Gypsies back home
Nobody wants such a parasitical group. They are loathed in their countries of origin (such as Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic) and even Canada is now growing wary of them. Gypsy immigrants have also produced great rage in Italy
At the end of a potholed road lies the village to which a hundred Romanians are returning after fleeing racist attacks in Belfast and where their fear will soon turn to despair. Twenty hours of journey time separate Belfast, via Dublin and Budapest, from Batar but, surveying the medieval conditions in which the Roma live here, one might do better to take as a measure of distance not years, nor even decades, but centuries.
On the farthermost margins of the European Union a man’s legs and arms were smeared with dirt as he toiled to make bricks from straw and mud to build another room on his home. It was, he said, to provide somewhere to sleep for the dozens of naked children — some of them malnourished, all of them filthy — who were running and swooping gleefully through the scattered rubbish.
Elderly couples sat on upturned buckets and tired old horses pulled carts while older children rode scrap-salvaged bicycles. No sanitation, a rudimentary electricity supply and the background hum of hunger and hopelessness completed the picture. Just how terrified must the Roma families in Belfast have been to choose this over their imperfect lives in Northern Ireland? It is a question that, all week, has been troubling the few who have already arrived home.
Florin Fekete returned on Monday with his wife and two sons. “There is no work here. Life in Belfast was good, we had really good times but I could not risk my family’s lives. I asked some of the ones who were attacking us, ‘What do you have against us?’. “The reply was, ‘We hate you because you are gypsies’. But even though I am afraid, I want to go back. Is it safe now, do you think?”
A 21-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy have been charged in relation to the attacks, which began more than two weeks ago and which prompted the Romanians to seek sanctuary inside a south Belfast church. It has since had its windows smashed.
In spite of a personal appeal not to leave by Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister, the Roma could not be persuaded by his argument that their tormentors were a “tiny unrepresentative group of racist criminals”. They moved on. Voices on local radio chat shows might, had they heard them, have convinced them they were right to do so: some callers said they should never have been in Belfast in the first place.
The cancer of sectarianism, which fuelled decades of violence, is now, as foreigners arrive in greater numbers, embracing racism. A report by the University of Ulster in 2007 made the astonishing claim that Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of bigoted people in the Western world.That was supported by an Equality Commission study this week that found that nearly a quarter of people in the province object to having a migrant or a gay person as a neighbour.
In Romania, the images of the Roma families under police protection have elicited little comment. One journalist said: “It’s not so important. People here don’t have a lot of sympathy for the Roma.” In Oradea, a border city near the villages where the Roma live, people refused to even describe them as Romanians. “They are not like us — just look at them,” said one smartly dressed woman.
Mr Fekete observed that his Government had done nothing to help them and that it was Northern Ireland’s politicians who gave them temporary secure housing and paid their fares home. “The Belfast people were great while our own Government did nothing. We only go there to work because we are poor and here there is nothing for us. But we were attacked so we had to leave,” he said.
What made Belfast such an attractive place? “Houses are cheap, we could rent them for £350 a month. Then we could earn £45 a day selling newspapers and working at a car wash. Our children could go to school and the churches were very good.” There has been traffic between Belfast and Batar for at least four years. A man called Virgil explained that the money the Romanian state pays for childcare — about £4 a month per child — would be saved up and used to pay for the journey. Once there, and with an established extended family network in place, they sent money home....
“In Hungary a new paramilitary group is vowing to clear out the Roma and in Italy there was much violence last year. It starts with neo-Nazis but it doesn’t take a lot to take it mainstream. Maybe Belfast is just the beginning.”
Lack of NHS cash puts British bottom of league for fertility treatment
Couples in the UK have less chance of IVF treatment than those in Montenegro
Poor NHS funding of IVF means that infertile British couples are among the least likely in Europe to receive the treatment they need to start a family, new official figures have shown. The latest European league table of access to fertility treatment has placed Britain 11th of 13 countries providing data for 2006, with only Germany and Montenegro providing fewer cycles of IVF in proportion to their population.
Infertile couples in Denmark and Belgium, which finish first and second in the table, are more than three times more likely to have IVF than those living in Britain, the new figures collected by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology show. While Denmark conducts 2,337 IVF cycles per million inhabitants and Belgium conducts 2,187, Britain conducts just 729.
The UK’s performance reflects a lack of funding for IVF on the NHS. While the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that primary care trusts should offer three free cycles of treatment to most infertile couples, only a quarter meet this standard. In 2006 only nine of the 161 trusts in England and Wales offered three free cycles. Many trusts also impose further restrictions, such as refusing to fund treatment when people have children from a previous relationship, and the NHS will only pay when women are under the age of 40. In Denmark and Belgium, up to six cycles of IVF are reimbursed by the state. Other leading performers in the league table, such as Iceland, Finland and Sweden, also offer more generous funding than the UK.
Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of the patient group Infertility Network UK, said: “We are angry that although the UK pioneered infertility treatment, we are still among the lowest providers in Europe, and these figures show that availability in the UK is less than one third of that in Denmark. “To be so far behind other countries in Europe in the provision of fertility treatment is totally intolerable. “Although there has been an improvement recently in the provision of treatment by some PCTs, there still remains considerable variation in the criteria used to determine whether or not couples can access treatment.”
Anders Nyboe Andersen, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, who led the research and presented it today at the ESHRE conference in Amsterdam, said that while funding was a major explanation for different countries’ performance, it was not the only one.
Scotland: Police warn Orange Marchers
The Orange marches are a traditional celebration of the triumph of Protestantism over Catholicism. Specifically, they commemorate the Battle Of The Boyne in Ireland in 1690, hence the famous Orange refrain: 'King Billy slew the Papish crew at the battle o'Boyne Water.' I wonder are they allowed to sing that these days? The marches are held in both Northern Ireland and in Scotland but rarely elsewhere
Strathclyde Police have warned that they will not tolerate "sectarian behaviour" at the annual Orange Order parade in Glasgow this weekend. About 8,000 marchers from 182 lodges across the city are expected to take part in Saturday's parade.
Police said their warning over possible sectarian behaviour had the backing of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland. Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson said: "Whilst the parade will have a major impact on traffic in the city centre, the main issue for the force and members of the public is the excessive drinking and public nuisance caused by those who follow the parade.
"We want to make sure people can come into the city centre without too much disruption or feeling intimidated by excessive drunkenness and sectarian or disorderly behaviour. "By all means follow the march, but note that drinking in public places is not allowed and officers will make full use of anti-social behaviour fixed penalty tickets to tackle the consumption of alcohol and urinating in public places."
Ian Wilson, Grand Master of the Orange Order, said he wanted spectators to "enjoy the music and the pageantry in a carnival atmosphere". "We do not wish anyone's enjoyment spoiled by the antics of boozed-up foul-mouthed followers," he said. "There is no place in our celebration for public drinking, abusive behaviour or offensive chants."
Finally: Lionheart’s Been Let Go
Lionheart sent an email the other day with a link to his post about being free, finally, from the threat of charges of “racism” and a possible jail term. Was it the police or the CPS who decided to stop harassing him? He didn’t say, but I’m glad it’s over.
Here’s a snip from his post:
I have been on police bail for 18 months on suspicion of ‘stirring up racial hatred’ through written material on this blog.
When my impending arrest first came about, I was in America and was advised by several American organisations and respected individuals that I should apply for political asylum there, but decided after speaking to my lawyer Mr SBLM…that the best plan of action was to return to Britain and go through the motions of arrest and interrogation.
I was arrested, interrogated, then released and have spent the last 18 months backwards and forwards on police bail, awaiting the CPS to decide whether or not they were going to charge me and put me on trial for my words.
My next bail date was Friday 3rd July, but I have just received news from my solicitor that all charges against me have been dropped, so there is no case to answer over my blog.
While he was in America, a Good Samaritan gave him a place to live. The Baron was working then, so we donated a small monthly stipend for a while until his situation was such that he was able to work…which depended on his being granted asylum.
That avenue was investigated but looked perilous. It might take years for them to process his case, during which time he would be in limbo.
If memory serves, it was March 2008 or thereabouts when he decided to return to the UK.
I was most upset. My main concern (my only concern, really) was the chance of his being jailed in a prison population full of those who would kill him without thinking about it. But Lionheart’s decision to go home was his to make, though I was sure he wouldn’t survive. He flew back to the UK, leaving a few heavy hearts behind.
I am glad that this trial by fear is over. What the police did to him during that year and a half of mental torture with the prospect of jail hanging over him was cruel and unnecessary. Lionheart had been chased out of his home neighborhood by Pakistani drug dealers because he dared to stand up to them, especially on the issue of enslaving young women.
On his blog, he described what they’d done to his neighborhood, his home, and his business. As a result of what he wrote, the Pakistani drug thugs filed a complaint against him for racism. It was this complaint for which he was to be “investigated” by the Hate Crimes Unit from Christmas 2007 until this week.
I learned a lot while Lionheart was here and after he went home. First and foremost and most unfortunate was my education about the UK police. I heard the tapes of them talking to Lionheart and it was eerie. They had no idea where he was, claiming they thought he was in Scotland. They didn’t seem to care one way or another about his possible fate if he came in to be interrogated. They just kept repeating, in a kind of bored tone, that he needed to present himself in order to be questioned. They refused to grant him safety of any kind. Their conversation with him was so cool, casual, unconcerned. The whole thing was straight out of Kafka.
I also learned that real Brits cared what happened to him even if the police and the judicial system didn’t give a fig. When he got home, he was given a place to stay. Legal counsel was obtained. People helped him.
Another lesson was a deep understanding of the tenacious bulldog character of the English. Lionheart could not be budged from a position once he’d decided on a course of action. Churchill had nothing on Lionheart when it came to digging in his heels and preparing to stand his ground! Here he is, eighteen months later, having survived his ordeal, still trying to make people pay attention to his original concern about his country:
Freedom of Speech has won, over the politically correct brigade who have tried silencing me, and members from their pet project British Islam who have wanted me prosecuted and silenced from speaking out against them and their religion. British Islam is a threat to every man, woman and child upon the British Isles, based upon 1400 years of experience and knowledge, and people like me, have a right and responsibility to talk about it openly, freely and honestly without fear of state persecution, prosecution or imprisonment.
May God bless each and every person who has supported me over the past 18 months, and beyond.
The battle for the heart and soul of Great Britain has begun!
Bloody but unbowed, that’s Lionheart. He gives me hope for England.
If the British Government won’t learn, nor will children
In the new schools White Paper the need to impart basic knowledge has been obfuscated by jargon and dangerous guff
It would be nice if education ministers had take the five-year MoT they propose for teachers — if any stayed long enough in the job. There’s definitely something wrong with the steering in the Education Department. This week’s Schools White Paper left me bewildered. I am a diligent student of bureaucratese, but I couldn’t decide if it was dangerous or anodyne, a U-turn or a bunny hop — until I realised that an important component seemed to have fallen off.
Education, it seems, is no longer primarily about the transfer of knowledge. According to the White Paper, education is about pupils developing a “sense of responsibility for themselves, their health, their environment and society”, a “respect and understanding for those of different backgrounds” and “skills for learning and life”.
There is nothing much wrong with any of these. But it is hard to see how they, or any of the new quangos that litter the document, will make up for our failure to impart basic knowledge to enough children. The guide for children and young people (ugh) with the White Paper opines that “your health and happiness matter as well as maths and English”. There is no suggestion that health and happiness might depend on acquiring basic competence in those subjects.
I dug out the 2005 Schools White Paper, written when Lord Adonis was still driving common sense and ambition into the department. The 2009 paper is called “A commitment from the Children’s Plan: your child, your schools, our future”, and says that it is about “pupil entitlement”. The 2005 model was called simply “Higher Standards: better choice for all”, and aimed “to ensure that every school delivers an excellent education”. It talked about giving schools freedom to innovate, letting parents and others set up new schools, and making local authorities commission, not provide, education. It was written with logic and clarity.
The change is profound. Today’s well-meaning guff is most dangerous to those children whom ministers most want to help: the ones whose families don’t own books and won’t be supplementing their happiness hour with a private tutor. The ones assumed to be capable of “engaging” only with SpiderMan, not Michelangelo. Who, if they have the misfortune to be curious about the world, to want to step beyond the confines of what they already know, may become convinced that school is pointless. And may be right.
Those who feel most strongly about this are those who teach the most deprived. At a conference staged by the Hackney Learning Trust this week, two researchers presented compelling evidence from the US that raising the expectations of poor children is the most important factor in turning low-performing schools into high-performing ones. Hackney, which escaped the dead hand of its local education authority seven years ago, has broken the link between deprivation and poor performance.
Greg Wallace, head of Woodberry Down Community Primary School in Hackney, says that lecturing on emotional development “can do more harm than good”. Most of his pupils are on free school meals and a quarter are refugees. The school overcame hostility to refugees, Mr Wallace says, by teaching inference, deduction, reading and setting texts that helped other pupils to empathise with their plight, not by making them “pass bags around a circle and talk about how they feel”.
In six years the school has gone from being rated very weak to outstanding. The critical factor has been raising expectations. It considers some government measures of achievement, such as Level 4 SATs, are too low. It ditched the national literary strategy for synthetic phonics in 2002, because it wanted all its children, not just 80 per cent, to be able to read.
If such a school can surpass all expectations, why are ministers so keen to entrench failure? In the past two years, most comprehensives have given up offering separate chemistry, physics and biology because the Government endorsed a combined science GCSE. While independent schools increasingly opt for rigorous international exams, state schools get dumbed-down exams and Ed Balls’s new “diploma”.
As new Labour trickles away, it leaves Britain with one in five 11-year olds below the required standard in literacy, more independent school pupils getting three As at A level than in the entire state sector and the country falling back shamefully in many international league tables. But in the new order of the Department for Children, Schools and Families, standards and international scores have apparently risen. And schools offer the hope of solving the myriad social problems that the department thinks as important as education. The department now believes that “no school can meet the needs of all its pupils alone”. To solve social problems they must work in partnership with other schools and agencies, including new children’s boards and multi-agency teams.
I strongly believe that the mania for multi-agency working was central to the death of Baby P and fails other children — the bureaucracy sucks good people into meetings and saps them of responsibility. So I read the new acronyms in this paper with mounting despair. Good teachers do not speak this language, which is essentially the language of failure.
Even the proposed five-year MoT for teachers is a limp measure. Mr Wallace says that good heads do not wait five years to spot a bad teacher — they do it in six weeks. Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said yesterday that 13 per cent of trainee primary teachers were being allowed to resit basic literacy and numeracy tests three or more times, an astonishing figure. The Tories will set a higher bar for teacher training — in other words, weed out bad trainees before they enter classrooms. But that kind of ambition and logic has departed this Government.
The new ministers seem to have learnt nothing from the successes of the most disadvantaged schools. The danger is that pupils will learn nothing either.
Church of England bishop Nazir-Ali tells homosexuals to 'change and repent'
He could be prosecuted for this under British law but that would make the law look the ass that it is so it won't happen.
"A Church of England Bishop has called for homosexuals to 'repent and be changed' at the annual Gay Pride London march yesterday. The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, made the controversial comments at the event, attended by Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife.
Dr Nazir-Ali told The Sunday Telegraph: 'We want to uphold the traditional teaching of the Bible. We believe that God has revealed his purpose about how we are made. 'People who depart from this don't share the same faith. They are acting in way that is not normative according to what God revealed in the Bible. 'The Bible's teaching shows that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the way to express our sexual nature.
'We welcome homosexuals, we don't want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed.'
Sad when it takes a bishop of Pakistani origin to preach the Gospel within the Church of England. The church as a whole just dithers on the issue and their American branch (Episcopalians) thinks the Bible is just a quaint old book.