Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarah Kennedy 'spoken to' by BBC for praising immigration critic during Radio 2 show

We read:
"Radio 2 presenter Sarah Kennedy has been chastised by the BBC for praising right-wing politician Enoch Powell during her show. During her early-morning show on Wednesday, Kennedy, 59, described Powell as 'the best prime minister this country never had'. Enoch Powell was famously sacked from the shadow cabinet by Ted Heath in 1968 after his 'Rivers of Blood' speech about the dangers of mass immigration.

A spokesman for the BBC said that the corporation had received 25 complaints by Friday and that the presenter had been 'spoken to' about the remark. She said: 'It was inappropriate for Sarah to offer an off-the-cuff political opinion and we have spoken to her and made that clear.'

In his infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech to Conservatives in Birmingham's Midland Hotel in 1968, Enoch Powell spoke out the threats caused by the mass immigration of people from Britain's former colonies.. He also heavily criticised the planned anti-discrimination laws which would make it illegal to refuse service on grounds of race.

It caused deep divisions in public opinion with Powell accused of inflaming racial hatred by many, but applauded by others for saying the unsayable. He was quickly sacked from Edward Heath's shadow cabinet but he also received 120,000 letters of support.


Given the troubles with Muslims and the high crime-rate among blacks, there are many Britons today who believe that Powell has been proved right in giving the warnings he did. "Enoch was right", they say 40 years later -- though only in private conversations.

Powell never in fact mentioned "rivers of blood". He was a distinguished classical scholar and alluded to something written by the Roman poet Virgil: "As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood”. He certainly foresaw deaths but not on quite the scale his critics have alleged.

The whole speech is here. It was a rather leisurely and academic speech, certainly not rabble rousing, but it referred to realities that were already widely recognized and reading it today does tend to show Powell as remarkably prescient. The article above describes Powell as "Right-wing" but he in fact got a lot of support from unionists, including strikes in support of him. That is why the political class to this day demonizes him only in a cautious way. The lady above was simply "spoken to", for instance. Having wharf labourers going on strike in support of one of the most distinguished Professors of Classical Greek must be one of the more amazing events in social history!

Powell was a brilliant scholar and a devout Christian and foresaw that his speech would be controversial but he felt that someone had to say in public what many were saying in private so he is an exemplar to those who believe in free speech.

NHS heart treatment ‘among worst in West

TREATMENT for heart disease in Britain is worse than almost anywhere else in the western world, despite pledges by Labour to improve services. A new study reveals that fewer NHS patients have access to defibrillators, pacemakers and heart surgery than in most neighbouring nations. In some parts of Britain, such as the northwest, up to a third of patients are failing to receive life-saving operations.

Doctors are demanding a public debate on how to tackle the growing pressure on heart services. One in three people in Britain are destined to suffer from heart disease.

The study, Access to Cardiac Care, has been commissioned by the British Heart Foundation, the British Cardiovascular Society and a coalition of 41 charities and voluntary groups. The report predicts that demand for heart treatment will double by 2020, yet there is no clear indication that funds will be available to pay for it.

The forecast is in stark contrast to the ambition shown 10 years ago by Alan Milburn, then the health secretary, when heart disease claimed 140,000 lives annually. In a newspaper article at the time, Milburn said: “Tackling heart disease is one of the keys not only to a healthier nation but to a fairer nation.” However, the number dying from heart disease has since increased to 198,000, with one in three victims under 75.

The study, carried out by Oxford Healthcare Associates, showed startling regional variations in cardiac services, with “overprovision” of treatment in affluent cities and the shires.

Roger Boyle, the heart czar, said heart operations had increased by 59% since 2000 and that deaths from cardiovascular disease had fallen by 44% in the past decade.


British Muslim imposes his religion on others

Muslim care home owner bans oldsters from eating bacon sandwiches. But publicity forces a backdown, as usual

A Muslim care home owner has been branded 'a disgrace' after banning his pensioner residents from eating bacon. The 40 pensioners - none of them Muslim - were shocked when all pork products were cut off the menu by owner Dr Zulfikar Ali Khan. He stopped deliveries from the butcher who supplied the home for years and instead ordered halal-meat only from another firm.

It meant that the elderly residents at the 40-bed Queen's Care Centre in the pit village of Maltby, near Rotherham, missed out on traditional favourites like bacon sandwiches, sausage and mash, ham sandwiches and sausage rolls.

But the move has brought a furious reaction from the 37-strong staff - and the families of residents. Said a relative of an elderly resident : 'This is a disgrace. The old people who are in the home and in their final years an deserve better. 'They are paying customers who are making profits for this man. The least he can do is give them their favourite food. 'Bacon butties and bangers and mash is traditional English food and that's what these people want, it's shocking that they should be deprived of the food they like on the whim of this man.'

Said one member of staff , who asked not to be named: 'Only halal meat was delivered to the home and all pork products such as bacon, ham sandwiches, pork pies, sausages and even lard were stopped. 'He did not consult the residents or seek their approval. Bacon sandwiches are a favourite here. 'It's also quite wrong that someone should impose their religious and cultural beliefs on others like this.

'For many years meat has been supplied by Crawshaws, a Rotherham family butcher but that contract ended two weeks ago and since then only halal meat has been delivered along with other products with brand names you would not recognise. 'We were told that if people wanted pork products we could go out and get them, but in reality this has not worked. 'We only have halal meat on the premises and so this is all we had to serve to residents because there is no other meat in the building.'

When asked about the decision, Dr Khan, who has owned the home since 1994, suggested that the halal meat had been brought in for Muslim staff - but he is believed to be the only one the only in the building. He said staff had misconceptions about the situation and added : 'As soon as we realised residents were not getting what they wanted it was resolved at a senior staff meeting a week ago. 'We will be ordering all types of meat . It is complete nonsense. The residents are free to have whatever they want.

'Regarding meat we are moving from Crawshaws to Browns Meat Supplies - a British company which supplies all kinds of meat. 'There has been one delivery of halal meat and people have misunderstood the concept. As soon as I realised this I held a senior staff meeting which was minuted and I made it abundantly clear that residents could have any meat product or food they wished. 'I agree it would be quite wrong for someone to impose their religious or cultural beliefs on others, but this is not the case.'

Said a former member of staff who still has connections with the home: 'I believe Dr Khan intended to serve only halal meat at the home but has had to think again because of the row. 'The staff have been very unhappy and the manager has just left, one of several to go in the last few years.'


Have British universities taught their students anything?

Higher education used to be exciting and guarantee a good job. Not any more

A broken promise? Or a noble aspiration that ended in disappointment? Of all the targets set by New Labour when it first came to power in 1997, the real headline-grabber – the one we all remember – was the aim of having 50 per cent of school leavers in higher education. That one felt good, emotionally, however half-baked the thinking behind it.

In this brave new 50/50 world, higher education would no longer be the preserve of a privileged minority, but a natural progression from a normal schooling. And the prospect of universities opening their doors to children whose parents and grandparents had missed out on the chance appealed to people across the political divide. It mirrored the kind of Britain we all wanted to live in.

Nobody focused too much on the small print. What would all these new university entrants be studying? How useful would their degrees be to them in later life? Who was going to pay for all this? It was the headline figure that caught the eye: 50 per cent. Half the population. A reasonable target for a modern democracy.

Twelve years on from the Labour landslide of 1997, the 50 per cent target is as remote as ever, like a mirage in a desert. In 2008-9, 39.8 per cent of people aged between 18 and 30 were in higher education, compared with 39.2 per cent 10 years earlier – absolutely minuscule progress, however you crunch the figures. The proportion did rise to 42 per cent in 2005 but that was a freak year, statistically – there was a surge of students wanting to enrol before the introduction of top-up tuition fees.

Hopes of widening access to higher education have also been cruelly disappointed. Research published earlier this year showed that children from the poorest 25 per cent of families make up just 6.5 per cent of the student population. From Wolverhampton to Newcastle, there is an educational underclass that refuses to go away. No target set in Whitehall can shift it one jot. In the very poorest areas, fewer than one in 20 school-leavers go on to university.

This coming autumn, thanks to the economic recession, is going to be a particularly depressing time for apostles of higher education. Millions of British children still aspire to go university. UCAS applications are up eight per cent on last year. But the requisite university places are not there for them. The Government has had to put a cap of 10,000, down from 15,000, on the number of new places which universities can offer.

The problem is not a lack of interest in learning among the young: it is the lack of a structure in which that appetite for learning can be satisfied. There are not enough good, useful, challenging degree courses to go around. And, with increasing numbers of pupils getting good grades at A level, it has become harder and harder for universities to sort the wheat from the chaff at the application stage.

In previous years, because of the clearing system, most school-leavers who were determined to go on to higher education managed to find a course somewhere, even if it was not their first choice. This year, the gap between supply and demand will ensure an awful lot of disappointed youngsters in August and September.

Well, perhaps they should just swallow their disappointment and get on with their lives. It should not take Sir Alan Sugar to remind us that success in life is not achieved by racking up letters after your name but by hard graft, enterprise and a teaspoonful of arrogance.

Yes, a degree can be a passport to a secure career and a comfortable income, but not even that can be taken for granted any more.

Interestingly, a recent survey indicated that only 49 per cent of employers planned to recruit graduates this year. Companies that would normally comb the universities for talent are tightening their belts like everyone else, which can only mean one thing – graduate unemployment on a significant scale.

Not so long ago, the idea that you could go to university, get a good degree, then have to join the dole queue like everyone else, was anathema. I remember, as a student in the late Seventies, staring horrified at a front-page news story about an Oxford graduate with a first-class degree who was still unemployed nine months after graduating. That story would not make the front pages today; in fact, it would hardly be worth reporting at all. The unemployed graduate, with a five-figure student loan to pay off, but not a sniff of a job, is part of the social furniture of our times.

My elder daughter, now 23, is a medical student in London. She should be able to find a job when she graduates: the country needs every doctor it can get. But for her contemporaries who have left good universities with degrees in arts subjects, the outlook is much bleaker. Some of them have found reasonably paid jobs. Others are still doing the sort of non-professional jobs they were doing before they went up to university. Not surprisingly, they are starting to ask themselves; was it worth it?

It is a question which more and more students are asking themselves while they are still at university. They enrol to read geography or film studies or political science, or whatever, go to the odd lecture, attend seminars, take notes, dash off essays at three in the morning. But, deep down, they get no real enjoyment from their studies, which seem too much like hard work. They have been told that higher education will be good for them: they have not been told that it will only be good for them if they want to do it.

A few years back, the daughter of some friends of mine set gaily off to read English at Durham, having got three As in her A-levels, then dropped out after six months. "She's throwing her whole life away," wailed her father, a teacher. Not a bit of it. She was just bored, burnt out academically, and in need of a fresh challenge. In the university of life – in her case, working on a sheep farm in New Zealand – she learnt far more than she would have ever have learnt studying Wordsworth and Conrad.

She is back in England now, working for an IT company. Perhaps, in a few years, she will have rediscovered her appetite for academic study and apply for university again, or get a professional qualification. Or perhaps she won't bother, because she is happy and doing well and forging ahead in the working world, unburdened by the debts of her contemporaries who took out student loans and thought university was the answer to all their prayers.

From a utopian viewpoint, whatever your politics, the fact that higher education remains theoretically open to all but, in practice, is only enjoyed by a minority, will remain a source of disappointment. But we shouldn't get too hung up on statistics, particularly ones like that arbitrary 50 per cent target. A university education can be a joy, a privilege, a stepping stone; but it is not a prerequisite for a happy and successful career.


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