Saturday, August 19, 2006

Take A Look At This Story

Trying Sharansky's town square test in Oxford.

(via Bishop Hill)

(right - that's it. I'm packing the car. Back Friday/Saturday.)

Jon Snow - Shooting History - A Review

"When it dawns on the reader how extremely anti-establishment Jon Snow's views are, one's repect for his impartiality as a broadcaster only grows" - Matthew Parris on the cover blurb.

I used to think Matthew Parris was quite an insightful chap, an opinion I had to revise after reading this book. For Jon Snow, born into a 1940s establishment of Church and Empire, is as typical a member of his generation's ruling establishment as ever his grandfather, a First World War Major-General, was of his. The ideas, the culture - all changed. The religion - vanished without trace. The power - and the effortless assumption of the right to exercise it - unchanged, although Jon Snow's power is wielded obliquely, in a Britain that counts for much less than it did in 1947 when he was born. Simply swap grouse moors in August for Cape Cod with Helena Kennedy and radical-chic lawyers the Boudins.

The book is part autobiography, part reportage, and part an attempt at historical analysis of the roots of the 'new world disorder'.

As autobiography it covers almost exactly the period of the British cultural collapse, illustrating how the establishment has changed since Roy Jenkins set out to create a civilised Britain. Growing up in an English upper-middle class world (the Queen once came to tea, then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan visited school and chatted to young Jon), a conventional public school education - then watching the news reports of the 1968 Paris riots ('a giant nose-thumbing at the older generation' as Peter Hitchens describes it), followed by university in the late sixties, the hippy bus to Afghanistan, the drugs, the girls - and a sideways slip into journalism. His early life is full of incidents when the old-boy network counts - from his choral scholarship to his first reporting job via cousin Peter Snow.

As Ulla points out on her blog, upper-class self-confidence 'that the working class can only dream of' is a great help to him. How many of us, kicked out of Uni at an elderly 22, would consider applying for the Director's job at a drug charity that he's heard about 'on the grapevine' ? "Your father taught me at Eton", says Lord Longford in the interview. He gets the New Horizons job.

He's remarkably uncurious about some things. The Bishop's son who had family prayers every morning, and knew the services well enough to conduct them as a VSO worker in Uganda, becomes an adult for whom Our Lord Jesus Christ, His sacrifice and His message are totally irrelevant, who cheerfully sires, loves and raises two illegitimate children, and whose only mention of Christianity after his young adulthood is of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, "strutting their eerie fundamentalist stuff" at a 1980s Republican convention. "Twenty years later, such influences were centre stage". I suppose that sounded better for his purposes than "Twenty years later, both were marginal figures", but that's by the by. Where did it all go ? Does a 'God-shaped hole' remain ?

Half the globe was still pink when he was conceived, Grandfather Thomas's (KCB, KCIE) portrait stared down at his childhood, but by 1974, reporting on the strike of the Ulster Workers Council, "those who wished to remain British had a sense of Queen and country that I couldn't even begin to identify with". Where did the Imperial self-confidence go ?

Isn't he the slightest bit interested in asking any of these questions ?

One has to presume not. In a postscript to the book he states that his political views haven't changed at all since he was a student. It seems likely that the truth on sex, God and politics was vouchsafed him then and remains, like the law of the Medes and Persians, unaltered and unalterable. From observation of my 1970s fellow-radical friends, this is quite difficult to achieve over thirty or more years, while simultaneously becoming very wealthy, unless you choose a career in law. Snow's partner and many of his friends are lawyers.

Similarly the enormous changes in Britain over the last thirty-five years seem to have passed him by. Grudging respect for Mrs Thatcher's economic reforms, yet little on the huge cultural changes, the rise of crime and the underclass, or mass immigration. In fairness, he's been out of the country for most of these years, and is probably insulated by wealth from their impact upon his life. If this self-described 'public-school pinko liberal' sent his daughters to a North London state school I'll eat my copy of the Aenid. But he must have known about crime, for example - he was chair of the pro-criminal Prison Abolition Trust from 1992-1997, something which he doesn't mention in the book.

As reportage, it's great stuff to read, and I won't spoil it by quotes. Snow is brave, decisive - terrific officer material in fact - a master of the scoop gained by the quick decision - to jump off that journalist's bus, to skip the official press conference, to get on foot and see for himself what's happening. He hunkers down under fire on the Eritrean frontier, hops across Latin American frontiers with guerillas, rescues stranded Brits in the Shatt-Al-Arab (in company with Robert Fisk) during the first Gulf War, walks carefully under the muzzles of Serb guns in Kosovo, wondering if and when they'll shoot.

He can be remarkably clear-eyed. On the Iranian hostage crisis, when the staff of the US Embassy were seized, he writes that 'we believed that the hostages could and should have been freed easily either by negotiation or by force within ten days of their capture'. Instead, as the Carter administration dithered, 'we watched their (the students - LT) mood change from innocent pranksterism to arrogance ... the episode informed Islamic fundamentalists of Western vulnerabilities on which they were to prey again and again'.

This ties in with the revelation in the memoirs of those who held the American Embassy that their original intention had been to hold the hostages for only a few days, but changed their minds when it became clear that there was no danger of serious action against them.

I'm not sure about 'innocent pranksterism', though. If American Christian students occupied the Iranian Embassy and kidnapped the diplomats I think they'd be described more judgementally. This inability to condemn those whose hearts are (for him) in the right place extends to describing an armed robbery in which three people died, carried out by a friend's daughter, as a 'crazy escapade'.

During the reportage we get the occasional pointer to his last chapter. The arming of anti-Soviet Islamists in Afghanistan, the US 'support' for Iraq during the first Gulf War, are, with 20/20 hindsight, factors in his 'new world disorder'. But he didn't point that out at the time, and admits himself to underestimating the significance of Bosnia in radicalising Muslims.

(Digression - I disagreed with both those policies. The mujahideen in Afghanistan, then as now, made a point of killing teachers and doctors. And Gulf War I my position was that Iraq was the agressor, so we should support Iran. But it was the Soviets and French who armed Saddam. Ours was a 'benevolent' neutrality - 'we' wanted Saddam to win but weren't piling the help in).

Surely God Almighty spoiled a great reporter to make a bad analyst when he shifted Snow into editorial mode to do his last chapter.

It's pretty vague stuff, long on a need to understand and short on specifics, as it has to be if you think about it. America and Britain have to reach out, get involved more with the world, particularly the UN and the EU. What ? That same UN - and EU - that saved Bosnia ? Bush is not a nuanced chap, our foreign policy causes 'division at home' - a small reference to a rather large elephant - stuff you can read in the Guardian any day of the week.

But they'll love it on the literary festival circuit. Snow is in danger of becoming, like Martin Bell, a national treasure - something which says an awful lot about our nation.

(His proof-reader should be shot, btw, for mispelling 'straitjacket' twice and mentioning that well-known neocon Richard Pearl.)

This will be the last post for a few days. Like Sarah at St Bloggie, I'm off to revisit childhood scenes in Swansea and Gower.

Peter Hitchens on Terror

... the real cause of terrorism against us is that it has worked in the past, and it is reasonable to suspect that it will work again. Since Ted Heath released the terrorist hijacker Leila Khaled back in 1970, and since Yasser Arafat was elevated from gangster to politician thanks to his terrorist actions, the Western powers have signalled to the Arab and Muslim worlds that terror works. In case they have been in any doubt, the British and American governments have also handsomely rewarded terror in Ireland. It doesn't, I'm afraid, take a sophisticated organisation with dirty bombs or nuclear weapons to grasp this or act upon it. Any freelance killer in a back street with access to some pretty easily available materials can keep up the pressure, in the name of 'Al Qaeda' or whoever he chooses as his franchise. I think this is what we saw on July 7th last year. It is hard to see how any sort of surveillance will be able to spot all such attempts.

What is not true is that we are under attack because Muslims 'hate our freedom' or 'hate our way of life', though some Muslims undoubtedly don't think much of our society and nor do I, or quite a lot of British Christians. The attacks are far more specific, and we need to decide if we want to give in to them or resist them. At the moment we pretend to resist them while actually giving in, this making sure we get more. The choice lies between resolve or surrender, and we should make up our minds which we actually prefer. Personally, I'm for resolve.

"It’s about us"

Mark Steyn in Australia.

But it comes down to this: we are the issue. It’s about us. We don’t understand that the world we’ve lived in since 1945 is very precious, very unusual, and very rare and is at odds with most of human history. And if we want our world to continue, if we want our children to grow up in the kind of society we’ve lived in this last half-century, then we have to understand the blessings we enjoy are not an accident. If we don’t value it, we won’t have it.

This hits the nail exactly in a British context. Lefties and Guardianistas seem to think the post-1945 settlement is the natural state of things.

Let's scan the last 2,000 years of British history in five paragraphs. Up until the late Victorian era, the default mode was uncertainty about this years crop and whether you would have enough to eat. For the first 1200 or so years (longer in Scotland and Ireland) there was also the risk of strangers descending to kill or enslave you. Or perhaps you were doing the killing, if you were Saxon, Scot, Dane, Norman, Viking. Life expectancy was short and medicine primitive. Your wife could die in childbirth, your children in infancy. Unsurprisingly, this was a religious era. Nothing concentrates the mind like personal acquaintance with death - not on a six-month tour of duty, but in your home and everyday life.

The basic instincts needed regulating too. Copulation meant children, and of the two available models (monogamy or winner-takes-all), Christian Britain went heavily for the first, with a leavening of the second for princes and mighty lords.

Over on the mainland, the risk of the descending stranger continued on a large scale up to 1945 - and to pretty much this day in Kosovo and Bosnia. But isolated by the sea, with her Navy key to keeping the descending stranger at bay, the nations of Britain developed a culture, Christian, scientific, patriotic, mercantile, which reached its full flowering in the Victorian era and was still very much alive in 1945. To be born British was to have won first prize in the lottery of life.

Some things changed in the hundred years before 1945. Technology had expanded life expectancy, infant mortality was slashed, there was enough to eat. We had again - twice - beaten off the descending stranger.

The generation growing to maturity after WW2 - the Sixties children - grew up in a world where the possibility of sudden death existed (nuclear attack) but somehow never seemed relevant to everyday life. What could one do about it ? Otherwise they were safe - safer than any generation in history had ever been. They felt able to forget the Christian culture that had brought them thus far - indeed to begin the forty-year task of dismantling it. The invention of reliable contraception, enabled a base instinct (I'm not knocking it, btw) to be satisfied without worrying about children being born. And if they were, another new invention, the Welfare State, would care for the child. Christianity began its long decline, hastened by a host of cultural revolutionaries who are now growing old. To a lesser extent this process happened in all of Europe.

Now it could be that what we have now - a state, secular in all but name, prosperous and secure (although not as secure as in, say, 1970) - is the future. From now on it'll always be like this.

I beg to differ. The people of 1945 - of the Labour landslide - knew who they were and how they got there.

One of the greatest problems of the Welfare State is that it was designed to serve the Britons of 1947, with all the cultural baggage that implies.

The Britons of 2006 are quite a different thing. I don't believe they do know who they are. Steyn again :

"Now I have a great sympathy for Muslims that face demands that they assimilate; it’s on the front pages of all the newspapers in London this weekend. Even if you wanted to, even if you wanted to, how would you assimilate with say, Canadian national identity ? You can’t assimilate with a nullity, which is what the modern multicultural state boils down to. It’s much easier to dismantle a society than put anything new and lasting in it place. And across much of the developed world, that’s what’s going on right now."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bits And Bobs

Remember how the loss of the old industry doesn't matter, as we move into high-value-added, hi-tech stuff ?

The LG Electronics plant in Newport, south Wales is to close at the end of the year with the loss of 315 jobs. LG Electronics Wales, which assembles computer monitors on the site, blamed falling prices and expressed regret.

It is the only surviving LG factory on the site following a landmark investment in 1996, promising 6,000 jobs. Most failed to materialise.

"When I first moved to the area in 1989, the park did not have anything like the variety of ethnicities and nationalities using it. What has happened in London since then is possibly the most remarkable peacetime change in the ethnic composition of a European city. Without warning and by increment, a vast influx of people from around the world has changed the city into something like the idealized, happily multiethnic, liberal New York of my childhood."

When it used to be something like London. And not quite 'without warning', either. I seem to remember one or two alarmists being told not to be ridiculous. Michael Goldfarb gets lyrical about Clissold Park, London. Or does he ?

"Still, as I watch my daughter and listen to the din of a dozen languages, I feel an end-of-summer sadness. Someday soon, someone with an inability to value what is precious about Clissold Park will commit the act that shatters this small world and drives all of us into our corners."

Mr Goldfarb offers no clue as to the possible identity of Mr Someone.

Michael Totten's reporting from Northern Israel is a terrible consumer of my time. I couldn't stop till I'd read August 9th to 18th.

Littlejohn is on the Web again.

And finally ... can you imagine an NHS employee feeling free to express his feelings like this ?

Panayotis Spatharakis, director of the Heraklion Hospital, told the Daily Mirror: "We asked him why he did it and he told us he was very drunk and could not exactly remember what happened.

"I feel that once he recovers and understands what he has done he should commit suicide."

You Couldn't Make It Up - Part 329

Reality trumps satire yet again.

"The Department of Work and Pensions said prisoners received £13 million in income support and Jobseeker's Allowance over the past three years.

Offenders are meant to have their benefits automatically stopped when they are sentenced.

The government said it would now tighten up its procedures for benefits.

The figures, released after Conservative Work and Pensions spokesman Philip Hammond tabled a Parliamentary question, show the total payout to prisoners in 2004-5 was £7 million - more than three times the amount paid out in 2002-3.

Prisoners are not entitled to claim Jobseeker's Allowance - worth up to £57.45 a week - because they are not available to work while locked up.

They are also ineligible for income support and pension credits, and generally cannot receive incapacity and disability benefits, the state pension, carer's allowance, industrial injuries benefit or maternity allowance.

Housing benefits are only given to those on remand awaiting trial.

Pensions minister James Plaskitt said in his written reply that the government did not know how much had been wrongly issued in incapacity benefit, council tax benefit or housing benefit.

He also said there were "no estimates available" for how many prisoners had received money. "

Homicidal Loony Alert

I was up in Stafford a couple of months back - drove past St George's hospital in fact. Think I'll skip the shops next time.

A psychiatric patient who slashed the throats of 15 women at a Birmingham department store has been released into the community to go shopping. David Morgan, 43, was given 10 life sentences after his rampage through the Rackhams store in 1994.

Morgan, who had a grudge against women, was told he might never be released. But he has recently been allowed into Stafford town centre for several hours unsupervised. His carers have said the trips are part of his rehabilitation.

It is understood that Morgan, originally from Aston, Birmingham, is being treated at a semi-secure unit at Stafford's St George's Hospital. South Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the unit, said its decision to release Morgan had been endorsed by the Home Office.

Not bad. 10 life sentences = 12 years.

The Soaraway Sun has more, including snaps of Morgan and a couple of his victims.

UPDATE - I wonder if Morgan's Rackham victims (including the girl on the Estee Lauder counter), the psychiatric nurse he slashed with a razor while awaiting sentence, and the women he attacked in 1992 and 1993 (a conditional discharge !) had anything in commmon ?

"In 1992 and 1993, Morgan was conditionally discharged after attacking women in the street, but the psychiatric services had no further contact with him until September 1994 when he visited his GP, complaining of difficulty obtaining benefits."

Half Time Oranges ...

The UN force bringing peace to South Lebanon seems to be rapidly unravelling. The French are cooling rapidly. And those countries which do want to send troops may not be totally neutral.

"Israel says it would be "difficult if not inconceivable" to accept nations which do not recognise its right to exist as part of a UN force in Lebanon.
Israeli UN envoy Dan Gillerman was speaking after Indonesia and Malaysia, which do not recognise Israel, pledged troops for the UN deployment.

Malaysia said Israel should have no say in the make-up of the force.

The UN has expressed cautious optimism that it can deploy an initial 3,500-strong force within two weeks. UN deputy chief Mark Malloch Brown warned earlier that delay could threaten the ceasefire.

But building the force has proved problematical.

France, which had agreed to lead the force, said it would send only 200 extra troops immediately, far fewer than expected.

The UN had hoped for a larger European contingent and was disappointed by France's offer. "

The Man In A Shed isn't optimistic.

"I don't think the war is over - this has only been an opening battle. The UN looks like being its ineffective best again. Hezbollah will keep it weapons and use them again. Israeli military planners will therefore already be planning the next battle to win the war.

The UN and Lebanese government just look like providing the half time oranges - not stopping the fight. Their talk of peace making is false - and they know it.

It's not a ceasefire - just a time out to rearm and rethink. Israel at least looks willing to learn lessons fast. They have suffered much more than they thought to guided missile technology used by Hezbollah and provided via Iran. Soon precision guided long range rockets will be in their arsenal with war heads provided by Iran.

How long does anyone think Israel will be able to sit by and watch this build up ? How long before Hezbollah or another group try to attack Israel again ?

The time table to the next war is now set up ... sorry to be so down - but that's how it looks to me this morning."

Looks that way to me too. I see Hezbollah were using Iranian-built Spandrels and Syrian-supplied Russian Kornets, advanced tandem-warhead missiles used to penetrate reactive armour.

This isn't peace. This is an armistice for a few months.

UPDATE - rarely I link to Robert Fisk, but a stopped clock ...

"Fouad Siniora repeated that there would be no more "states within a state" and that the Hizbollah would leave the area south of the Litani. This statement came under the category of "a likely story". Not only do most of the Hizbollah live in villages south of the Litani but several of their officers made it clear that they had told the Lebanese army not to search for weapons. So much for the disarmament of the Hizbollah south of the Litani river"

Inigo Wilson and Celsius 7/7

Just finished reading Michael Gove's Celsius 7/7. No stunning insights or shocking revelations, he's just catalogued the milestones to surrender very neatly. After reading it, I was more pessimistic about our future (was that possible ?)

The surrender to force which was the Danish cartoons affair, when no British newspaper would publish them, and then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw actually apologised for them, will be in the minds of the Orange board when considering the case of Inigo Wilson, the Orange employee suspended by his company after writing a Lefty Lexicon which defined an Islamophobe as someone who objected to being blown up on public transport.

I'm quite sure that this is a board-level issue for Orange. And I'll be amazed if the Muslim Public Affairs Committee don't win this one. If an entire democracy is attacked and deserted by allies like Britain, how will one multinational company perform ?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back To The Old School

Frank Chalk was looking at school mottoes, and I wondered about my old school, Bromsgrove County High School, whose motto was "Abeunt Studia In Mores". Despite the fact that Latin was compulsory for the first two years, everyone from the Head down seemed a bit vague about the exact meaning - "Study Forms Character" was the best guess. It makes Jack a dull boy, that's for sure.

When the old grammar went comprehensive it changed name to North Bromsgrove High School, went downhill faster than Franz Klammer and is now in special measures. The school profile makes for depressing reading.

So I wondered if it had a new motto and what it might be.

"In Pursuit Of Excellence (As It Disappears Round The Corner)"

"Maintaining Mediocrity"

"Exclusions R Us"

To my surprise, the motto is unchanged (it's the .gif at the top left). The school website can't spell 'absence' or 'activities', however. The site looks like it's come from one of those 'web-in-a-box' kits, as it contains lots of drop-down links to unpopulated template pages.

The school magazine seems to have dumbed down a fair bit from the old 'Boar', a few copies of which lurk obscurely in the corners of bookshelves. I'll try and dig them out, but I'm pretty sure Mr David or "Killer" Drury wouldn't have been too impressed with :

• Ant or Dec ?
• Pretty Women or Bridget Jones ?
• Pink or Blue ?
• Romance or Thriller ?
• George Clooney or Kevin Costner ?

The old house system has changed, too. Whatever happened to Appleby, Hibbins and Co ? No longer will the houses be named after Victorian heads with 36 years service. Instead we have Red, Green, Blue and Yellow, though the houses will get new names when the school is completely rebuilt under a PFI initiative. After all, the buildings are all of forty-five years old.

Current favourites for the new names ? Rooney House, Big Brother House, Hard House, In Da House ?

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The links with a school in Gambia are a great idea, and the insights of a Gambian pupil, Abdoulie Drammeh, are spot-on.

The other surprising thing is that the students in the UK have almost more rights than the teachers, which is also very different from my country. There are less sanctions here if a student does not pull his or her weight.There is less pressure for students to learn from their mistakes and correct them.

In my view, there needs to be some rules governing the attitudes of students towards their teachers. I’m not really saying that students’ rights should be abolished, but at least there is a need for some kind of encouragement to make students respect their teachers.

In The Gambia, students are very respectful to their teachers. They do their assignments and they pay attention in class when the teacher is talking.

I think this difference arises because the British are much more developed than The Gambia. This makes the English students feel that they don’t need to work extra hard because they can survive whatever they do. The Gambian students would want to work extra hard to be the best among all the other students to have a chance of getting employment.

You said it, Abdoulie.

The school hasn't run out of good material yet, either.

Harry Hutton reports that "Pippa von Humbolt-Parker (second from left; 19 'A's) plans to spend her gap year in the Congo, teaching Pygmies to bungee jump".

What did you do in your gap year, Head Boy 2004 Andrew Hazell ?

I spent eight months serving with the TA (Territorial Army) in Afghanistan. I am currently reading BA (Hons) War Studies at Wolverhampton University. Recently I have started an officer training course with the TA and am hoping to join the Regular Army as an officer after Uni.

Eight months soldiering in Afghanistan. That's a pretty impressive gap year CV.

Remember AL Kennedy ?

In the days before Comment Is Free, the author AL Kennedy provided entertainment to the masses with her Guardian columns, denunciations of the Bush/Blair axis of evil leavened with her particular fetishes - blood, Christians, reality TV, depleted uranium. Their fascination for evil right-wing bloggers was the sense that at any moment her head might go bang. Some of her columns seemed exceeding close to the edge.

But the pleasure was always a little tinged with guilt. As I wrote in 2004 :

Reading AL Kennedy's Guardian output is a little like watching the Stooges during Iggy's most wasted period, or more recently Shane MacGowan or Pete Doherty - the edge is the feeling that you're watching someone falling to bits right in front of you.

Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

She's doing stand-up comedy these days, as well as apparently writing a WWII novel which (yawn) is all about Iraq. As the Times put it, 'hearing AL Kennedy is doing stand-up at the Edinburgh festival is a little like hearing Morrissey has been cast in Singin’ in the Rain'. Getting mixed reviews ('Emo Philips's lost sister' said the Evening Standard, advising her to 'stick to the day job') - and the depleted uranium fetish is alive and well.

Where was I ? She was on Radio 4's ghastly liberal Front Row (RealAudio, till next Wed, last item) arts prog the other night - and the presenter 'licked ass' in traditional FR style - telling her how brave she was.

"That's not bravery", said our heroine, "the audience aren't allowed to kill me. Going to the shops in Beirut - that's bravery".

Grudging respect, sister !

(It's probably just as well she's not on CiF. I think she'd get ripped to shreds.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Wonderful Justice

Six years (out in three) for crashing a party and stabbing the host. His heart stopped three times but he survived.

Eight years (out in four) for shooting the lock off your neighbour's front door then blasting her from point blank range. She died.

If more judges were shot, would sentences increase ?

What's really impressive is the comparison with this story.

"A primary school head teacher has been jailed for four years for possessing an illegal arsenal of guns and ammunition.

Martin Wynn Davies, 58, from Wrexham, admitted illegally possessing 10 hand guns, two rifles and ammunition.

The head of Ysgol Deiniol, Wrexham, asked for nine other offences to be taken into account at Mold Crown Court.

Judge John Rogers QC said he had reduced Davies' jail term because of his "impeccable character".

The court was also told about Davies' good service to the community during his 22 years as a head teacher.

The usual jail term for such offences is five years. "

There was no suggestion in court that the guns would be used in criminal activity. The guy was a gun nut, an enthusiast. His sentence of four years matched exactly that given to Ian Richards, a smackhead with 50 previous convictions who broke into Hawkswood College and beat and stabbed lecturer Lawrence Hart to death.

Richards and fellow scumbag Darren Botchett (who'd been released two days before, after being given a community punishment for his latest offence) were told 'a substantial period in prison is inevitable'.

Four years. Out in two.

More Labour Vote-Rigging ?

In Peterborough.

"Today, a community leader said he was "saddened" to hear that ex-city councillor and former Mayor Mohammed Choudhary is one of three people who were arrested by officers as part of an operation that has been ongoing for two years.

Mr Choudhary (47) represented the Central ward for Labour until the 2004 elections when he lost his seat. He was Mayor of Peterborough from May 1996 to April 1997.

Also arrested was Tariq Mahmood (39), a Labour party official, and Maqbool Hussain (50), who unsuccessfully stood in the 2004 Peterborough City Council elections as a Labour candidate for the Central Ward.

Today, detectives were planning to meet Peterborough City Council officials to discuss the investigation into the 2004 local elections.

There were concerns about the way the election was conducted in the Central, Park and Ravensthorpe wards after allegations were made of voting cards being sent to the wrong addresses.

In one incident, election officers discovered 20 people had registered to vote from one household."

In the immortal words of Ayoub Khan, "this is the politics of Pakistan or Bangladesh and they've brought it here".

Pole To Pole II

"The fact that these new Brits are polite and hard-working, do not do crack or firearms, nor are they likely to blow up Tube trains, is a function of the culture they have arrived with. It tells us nothing about what their first and second generation descendents will be like after twenty years exposure to the cultural vacuum of the UK." - Pole To Pole I

Maybe I was too optimistic. At the Social Affairs Unit blog, Jane Kelly compares the Poles she used to teach in the early 80s with the young Poles she meets on the streets of London.

Last week the Polish newspaper Gazeta reported that many Polish children are being dumped by their parents who leave for a job in the UK. Last year 3,000 children under four were abandoned - something unheard of ten years ago for non-handicapped children. According to Gazeta the situation is becoming an "epidemic". Something very strange indeed is happening to the Poles.

I taught English at a Polish university in the early 1980s. My students were in the main amiable, respectful, rather quiet and hard working. A few expressed curiosity about the West, asking me odd things, for instance, if there were really hundreds of millionaires? And were public houses all brothels? But mainly they were so hard pressed by the privations of Communism that they didn't think much beyond helping their mothers by joining the next queue for bread or sausage.

The young Poles I now see in London are entirely different. Talking loudly into mobiles, on my daily bus, they shove to get on and push to get off. The words "excuse me" apparently no longer exists.

There is a popular myth that the new immigrants from the east don't have words for "please", "thank you" or "excuse me" in their own languages. But I know this is not true. When I lived in Poland I used to go round saying "excuse me" a lot as I loved the sound of it, all those gushing P's and rolling R's. And courtesy was a very important thing, they were extremely polite people.

Large Bare Patches On The Curate's Lawn

It's at times of disruption that you can note changes in the national character. I remember the tube and rail strikes of a few years back, when the British tradition of the orderly queue broke down and there were fights at bus-stops, presumably between the young and fit. The old or frail wouldn't really have been equipped for this system of seat allocation. Do people still queue in London ?

Now that you have to put your mobile, laptop and Ipod in your suitcase at an airport ?

"Looting and theft from luggage has increased at airports in the chaos after the terrorist alert."

I see the current system by which prisoners are released after half their sentence is too punitive for our tough Home Secretary.

"The Home Office is drawing up plans to release thousands of prisoners early, to free up cells in overcrowded jails.

Inmates in England and Wales could be released 10 days early under the plans.

The prison system is nearly full and has room for only another 700 inmates - hence plans to extend what is called the "transitional home leave" scheme."

There are parallels here with our energy policy. It was obvious in 1997 that, as the oil and gas ran down, we'd need alternative sources of energy, or else to cut consumption dramatically (don't get me started on Prescott's traffic pledge). But tomorrow was a long way off - why not pander to backbench/activist/Guardian prejudice and close all the nuclear plants ?

Something will turn up.

It didn't.

Silmilarly anyone in the Home Office looking at the stats in 1997 could see the need for a prison building programme. But that would upset the back benches/activists/Guardian. Anyway, crime's caused by a lack of social justice, isn't it ? We're pledged to fix that, so fingers crossed we won't need them.

Tomorrow's here and the prisons are full.

Meanwhile, the collection of sociology grads called the Association of Chief Police Officers are considering calling for the police to be able to hand out punishment without a court conviction. You know, the way they do for parking fines, not filling in a Statutory Off Road Notification, etc.

It's Pelagian government in action.

"Pelagian governments believe in Man’s perfectibility and innate goodness. As this fails to produce the perfect society, so do initially liberal Pelagians tend to turn towards coercion, more laws and greater police powers. Remind you of anything ?"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Children ! The Children !

The BBC are giving massive air to the 'story' that "'1m children' face home violence", according to a UNICEF report. It was all over the Today programme, second item on R4 news, and the Victoria Derbyshire phone-in on R5 is discussing it.

Two teensy pointettes.

The 1m headline figure turns out to be "between 240,000 and 963,000", 'violence' includes 'emotional violence', which, as we've seen before, includes 'not getting your fair share of the household money'.

And as a factor in poor outcomes for children, over two million live in one-parent families - not to mention the step-children. Many of these one-parent families are the outcome of cohabitation.

You're not likely to be told that by the BBC, though. And even less likely to be told that by Victoria Derbyshire.

"They should understand our problems, then we will understand their problems"

"they" being the British Government, who have a problem with people blowing up trains and aircraft.

"we" being the Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK and Ireland (UMO), who are asking for "Islamic laws to cover family affairs which would apply only to Muslims".

Ms Kelly had said she would "look sympathetically at all the suggestions" that had been made, Dr Syed Aziz Pasha, secretary general of the UMO said.

He added: "She agreed with my suggestion it should be a partnership approach."

Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "It was a very positive meeting."

The wedge is in, the first little taps have been given. We can expect plenty of bluster about democracy before the accommodations begin. After all, there is a precedent - Northern Ireland.

Mr Reid - interviewed yesterday on BBC News 24 - said it was "not the British way" to change policy under threat ...

"No government worth its salt would stay in power in my view and no government worth its salt would be supported by the British people if our foreign policy, or any other aspect of policy, was being dictated by terrorists.

"That's not the British way; it's antithetical to our very central values.

"We make decisions in this country by democracy not under the threat of terrorism."

Not the British way, eh, John ? Antithetical to our very central values, is it ? I thought our central values were tolerance and inclusion.

As Jennie Bristow says, "Britain's core national values consist of the unwillingness to promote core national values".

As an old Marxist, Dr Reid should - must - remember all that stuff about the cadre - the disproportionate impact of a small number of highly motivated and organised activists. They love death - we love life.

I see no reason why the slow surrender shouldn't go on indefinitely, accelerating as increasing numbers of natives decide that getting, f***ing and spending isn't all of life, and convert to an austere, demanding religious discipline - as organised Christianity once was. Nature abhors a spiritual vacuum.

Monday, August 14, 2006

See No Evil Part 719

Compare and contrast.

The BBC.

Three builders who conned pensioners out of their life savings are beginning jail sentences totalling 12 years.

Alexander Allan, William McPhee and Andrew Cummings took nearly £70,000 from seven victims by pretending they needed roofing work carried out.

They inflated the cost of jobs and claimed more work was needed. They were convicted after a three-week trial.

The victims were aged between 75 and 84 and targeted in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire in 2003 and 2004.

Jane McCreath, 76, from Ayr, South Ayrshire, was told that she would be made homeless if she failed to pay.

Margaret Tennant, 84, from Troon, South Ayrshire, handed over £14,350.

But the work carried out by McPhee, 40, from Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, and Cummings, 25, from Ayr, was worth £1,500.

Ruth Johnstone, 84, from Ayr, who is registered blind and deaf was conned into signing a cheque for £600.

The gang altered the amount to steal £6,000 from her account.

They also called at 77-year-old Catherine Cooper's house in Dunure, South Ayrshire, and said her roof was leaking before taking £3,200 from her for work worth only £300.

I see. Three builders - from Coatbridge, Motherwell and Ayr - in a joint operation. Strange, really. Those three locations aren't terribly close. And there is one group of people who have a bit of previous when it comes to ripping off pensioners for building work. Anything else we need to know ?

The Scotsman.

A fourth man, Alexander Townsley, 45, of South Bridgend, Crieff, Perthshire, gave evidence for the Crown against his former co-accused after having charges against him withdrawn during the trial.

He told of being duped into paying cheques into his bank account after being hired for two days' work by the gang, whom he described as travellers who could not read or write.

Townsley is now in hiding at an undisclosed location under the witness protection scheme.

The court was cleared of the public and press and extra police were drafted in after a security alert following the guilty verdicts, which took three days for the jury to return.

Thank you, Scotsman.

The BBC - all the news we think you need to know.

Antonia Bunce

via Labour Watch.

"Antonia Bance, the Labour councillor for Rose Hill & Iffley, was invited by the Department for Communities and Local Government on a three-day, all expenses-paid conference in Budapest on the finer points of blogging - the keeping of Internet diaries. She received a £500 bursary to go on the trip, which was attended by "several hundred" other bloggers and representatives from central and local government."

Why couldn't they have sent Bob Piper ? And held it in Ulan Bator ? Over an eighteen-year period ?

Only joking, Bob. There's still the odd bit of industry left to get rid of in the Black Country ...


Lord Stevens speaks. Tim Ireland disagrees ("shouty-crackers" - talk about pots and kettles). So does the Yogurty One ("crackerjack profiling plan"). Davide Simonetti talks from the Nether Regions ("unintelligent and racist").

Chick Yog turned his Bloggerheads comment into a post. Good idea. I posted on CY as follows :

“here’s where Steven’s crackerjack profiling plan falls on it’s abject arse. At least one of the men arrested last week was a white convert.”

So approximately 5% of those arrested last week were white. And 5% Afro-Caribbean. Both converts.

Are you lot really suggesting that security people should spend as much time checking the bags of an elderly English lady, or a Scots couple with three kids, as on the bearded Asian guy ? Given that security resources are not infinite, something that Andrew Bartlett (in the CY comments - LT) seems to take no account of ?

I believe during the ‘troubles’ that a lot more Irish than English people were checked at Stranraer. Doesn’t seem too bad an idea to me.

Wow. A white convert might get through. How true. But we’re talking averages and probabilities here. As your defeatist forebears (they were arguing against spending cash on air defences) said in the early 30s ‘The bomber will always get through’ - and it’s true. All we can do is try to minimise the numbers.

I would expect that white and black converts are probably being noted down somewhere anyway - I certainly hope so. You know what they say about the zeal of the convert - they’re certainly over-represented in the exploding ranks.

Now you COULD argue that profiling will maximise the numbers, on the ground that it will so alienate the sons of the prophet that we’ll end up with more bombers. I look forward to someone explicitly arguing this :

“these guys are no more likely to be terrorists than anyone else. And if you say they ARE more likely, a small minority of them, supported by a much larger minority, may decide to blow you up, so don’t say it”.

NOTE - on one of the threads, some idiot aired the original thought of genius, never heard before, "did we suspect all Catholics during the IRA terror years (1969-200?)". This post to him !

Another Triumph For The Probation 'Service'

He held teenagers captive and drugged them before forcing them to work in his brothel.

He was convicted on 15 charges including indecent assault, abduction, false imprisonment, supplying drugs and procuring.

15 years.

I appeal !

OK, 12 years. Released after eight.

He was released early from his 12-year sentence a month ago, but disappeared six days ago from the address where he was required to live.

South Wales Police say Musleh as "dangerous" and are warning the public he should not be approached.

Huzzah for British justice !

And huzzah for the BBCs reporting !

Farhan Musleh is described as of dark European origin, 5ft 9in (1.7m) tall, of medium build, with brown eyes and black receding hair. He has several gold crowns on his teeth.

Gold crowns ? Not stereotyping, are you ?

The sex offender is originally from the Gabalfa area of Cardiff.

Must be some new definition of the word 'original'.

Over at the weblog of the National Association of Probation Officers, they're concentrating on more important things, like the Middle East crisis.

I Was Going ...

To post about the latest outbreak of BBC stupidity, but Tim Worstall has done the biz.

Miss Fitzpatrick told The Observer that the BBC's team of foreign correspondents should come from the same ethnic background as the country they were reporting from.

This is entirely nonsensical. So we’re reporting from India: the reporter should be of which caste? (Yes, they are very different ethnic backgrounds). A Sikh? Moslem? Hindu? Reporting from Sri Lanka, Sinhalese or Tamil? Nigeria: Yoruba, Hausa or Ibo?

As the UK is majority a vague pinkish colour is she going to fire all reporters currently employed in the UK who are not vaguely pinkish ?

Presumably Ms Fitzpatrick also thinks that the London correspondents of foreign media organisations should be British.

I wonder if she realises that this would mean in practice the disappearance of the specialist foreign correspondent from the BBC. No more Misha Glennies in Eastern Europe, no Michael Buerk reports from Ethiopia, no Kate Adies everywhere. Instead we'd have all reports from foreign parts coming with a native's view, not an outsider's. A native view can be very valuable. But exclusively native views ?

Still, at least Frank "I'm A Muslim" Gardner would be in one piece.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pointless Gesture Politics

No 1 : the 100 Labour MPs (and a few idiot Tories) who have asked for Parliament to be recalled to discuss Lebanon.

Why ?

"Labour MP Paddy Tipping, Mr Straw's parliamentary private secretary, said there was a strong case for a recall so ministers could hear people's views."

What exactly is the point ? We have no power to avert the conflict or impose a solution. The map ain't pink no more. Our armed forces are just getting ancient kit upgraded - after all, we need the money for those vital outreach workers.

They just want to emote in public.

No 2: John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, is to sleep on the floor of his cathedral for a week, in what the BBC 'Sunday' programme described as a 'rough shelter', in solidarity with those in the Middle East who are "sleeping in churches, bunkers, underground car parks and shelters in an attempt to escape from the bombs and rockets that are falling on both sides of the border".

Explaining the nature of his action, the Archbishop said: "Many thousands of people have been denied access to food and water as a result of the fighting. Why not join me in a spirit of fasting during the week by being prepared to forego a meal and donate the money to charities, like Save the Children fund, who are working in the conflict zone. At a future date we must all give generously to the reconstruction of Northern Israel, Lebanon and Palestine."

The Save The Children Fund is an unfortunate choice. As Stephen Pollard has pointed out, as you can see from their press adverts and their 'donate' page, 'Save the Children is responding throughout the region to assess and protect the needs of children caught up in the recent escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon.'

You can read that two ways. Are SCF saying that there has been no escalation of violence in Israel ? Maybe those rockets don't exist. Or don't Jewish kids count ? Either way it stinks.