Monday, November 05, 2007

Crazy ethnic mixing plan in Britain

How would YOU like a crime-prone group to be moved in next door to you?

Ethnic minority families will be moved in large groups on to "unwelcoming" all-white council estates under controversial guidelines from a Government agency. The Housing Corporation claims that Asian or black tenants may be less likely to face racism if they are transferred in numbers. The recommendation is included in a book of guidelines for councils and housing associations on how to create racial harmony. [Talk about theory flying in the face of the facts! This is just hatred of the working class]

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned last week of a public perception that "white families are cheated out of their right to social housing by newly arrived migrants". He called for an independent inquiry to establish the truth.

The new plan was criticised by politicians on all sides who claimed that it could stir up racial tensions and be exploited by the far Right. Jon Cruddas, a Labour MP who has fought against the racist British National Party in his Dagenham constituency, said: "If there's a sense that housing allocations are being racialised, that might reinforce the message that the BNP are putting out, and lead to the perception of queue-jumping. "I'm not sure how effective this would be in terms of diluting tensions - it might serve to do precisely the opposite."

The Housing Corporation, which hands out 2 billion pounds a year of public money for the construction of new social housing, endorses the "group lettings" policy in a book of guidelines published this month, Community cohesion and housing - a good practice guide. The book, published with the Chartered Institute for Housing, says that such measures may be needed "when a 'white' estate is unwelcoming to newcomers but has larger properties that should be accessible to all those in need". The solution, it suggests, is to make an exception to the normal rules in order to ensure that "households from a particular minority move to the same area at about the same time".

The recommendation comes despite an admission by the book's authors, John Perry and Bob Blackaby, that white people already feel that housing allocation is biased against them. A Government survey in 2005 found that 21 per cent of white respondents believed they would be treated unfavourably because of their race, compared with only 13 per cent of ethnic minority respondents.

Group lettings were first proposed in the 1980s but have been tried in only a handful of areas. The backing of the Housing Corporation could make their use more widespread. Professor Ted Cantle recommended group lettings in his report on the Oldham riots in 2001, but the policy was never adopted in the town.

Rod Blyth, Liberal Democrat spokesman for community cohesion on Oldham council, said: "I think group lettings could provoke worse community relations. The far Right would certainly pick up on it and exploit it. I think people in Oldham realised after the riots that there's no quick fix."

Grant Shapps, the Conservative shadow housing minister, said: "I think we would all support the notion of mixed communities, but well-meaning attempts at social engineering often have unintended consequences and can backfire badly."

However, Prof Cantle insisted that group lettings could work so long as housing chiefs worked closely with white communities to prepare the ground. He said: "Most of the people in these communities are reasonable, but often there's a few thug-like families who are completely unreasonable and they have to be isolated. If you try to do it without the co-operation of the community, you will just get accusations of political correctness and social engineering."


Kids do need to toughen up

GIVEN children no longer play unsupervised any more, is it time we started to grow them in hothouses like plants? That way it will be easier to keep them fed and watered - all safely under the one roof and doting parents can watch them flourish via CCTV. Playing a game of street cricket or, god forbid, climbing a tree in a suburban park are childhood joys as extinct these days as the Tasmanian tiger.

To some, letting your kids play outside is considered a sign of neglect. While animal rights activists rant about the physical, cognitive and social problems other species suffer as a result of being bred in captivity, few seem fussed that's how we now raise our children.

So it was with great delight to read the latest book by one of the world's most respected writers and thinkers on childhood, whose work focuses on schoolyard behaviour and children's play. A former adviser to the British government, Tim Gill believes children have the potential to be more resilient, capable, creative and able to learn than we give them credit for. Yet their lives are becoming ever more scheduled, controlled and directed.

In his book No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society, Gill said children needed to be teased and called names so they can toughen up. I'm sure this will shock many parents. He also says the level of playground bullying is being exaggerated and teachers and parents are over-reacting to it and over-intervening.

In particular, he singles out Australian schools and safety programs, which have banned such games as "chasey" or "tag" in the playground because students could become "rough". "Banning these playground favourites undermines childhood itself," he said this week. "Activities and experiences that previous generations enjoyed without a second thought have been relabelled as troubling or dangerous, while adults who still permit them are branded as irresponsible."

Let's be clear. Gill is not talking about systemic bullying where pupils are physically assaulted and/or threatened with violence (either personally or via new technology) or even the emotional abuse as seen in the film Mean Girls. He is referring to spats, which are all part of growing up. "I have spoken to teachers and educational psychologists who say that parents and children are labelling as bullying over what are actually minor fallings-out," he says. "Children are not always nice to each other, but people are not always nice to each other. The world is not like that. (But) what we are left with is a generation of bubblewrap children who will be unable to cope with similar squabbles in adult life." How often do you see adults, particularly parents, step in when they see children falling out or arguing?

I agree with Gill. We have to let children figure some things out for themselves. How else will they cope when adults? I contacted a number of academics who are regularly quoted as experts on bullying, but none wanted to respond. Gill also related an incident in which his nine-year-old daughter complained she was being bullied after three boys teased her about a game she was playing in the park. "What struck me was the use of the word `bullying' to describe that," he said. "Bullying is where the victimisation is sustained and there is a power imbalance. I don't mean we should allow cruelty, just that one option is asking, `Can you sort it out yourself?' "

While much of Gill's research is based on UK statistics, given the cultural similarities it makes for interesting findings. He says, while there is a widely held view children are now left more to their own devices now than even the "latchkey child" of old, kids today actually spend about four times as much time being looked after by their parents as children did in 1975. And with "after-school care" children's lives are actually more controlled than ever.

This, of course, comes down to fear. Parents fear that their child will be abducted. So this excessive fear of strangers reinforces a norm of parenting that equates being a good parent with being a controlling parent. This is not to say children are never abducted by strangers, but when you look at statistics, the murder of a child by someone they don't know is among the rarest of crimes. Most crimes against children and committed by members of their family. Obviously, giving your children freedom and ensuring their safety is a hard juggling act - but we shouldn't have to give up the first in order to achieve the second.


Britain: Popularity of hunting with dogs defies ban

Two years after the hated ban, hunting is more popular - and more colourful - than ever. So, have hunts learned to live with the law, and exactly how long can they endure the status quo?

Luna, the European eagle owl, stares at me with luminous brown eyes, swivels her head, then nips Jordan Ross's finger. Ross is the "countryman" of the Avon Vale Hunt. (He might once have been known as a terrierman, but using terriers, still legal in some circumstances, is a b^te noire of the anti-hunt lobby.)

As well as preparing the land for hunting, he acts as hunt falconer. Luna and other birds of prey have become another colourful adjunct of foxhunting, alongside red coats, horns and foxy language. Luna has yet to catch a fox, but to Jonathon Seed, joint master of the Avon Vale, that is immaterial. "Legally, hounds can be used to flush any wild mammal towards hawks and owls. The Hunting Act doesn't say they have to be foxes."

Welcome to the mad world of foxhunting, on its first big weekend of 2007. Hunting has always been unintelligible to outsiders, involving almost as much risk to participants as to their quarry. Ian Farquhar, revered joint master of the Beaufort, says that he has broken every bone in his body, from ankle to neck, during 32 years in - or out of - the saddle. This summer, he broke six ribs. But the sport, arcane at the best of times, has become even more bonkers since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005.

Against expectations, hunting has been able to continue, legally for the most part, with little difference in style. As Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, puts it, "most people would find this season's sport quite difficult to differentiate from old-fashioned hunting". It is more popular than ever. "It's a bit like prohibition," declares Seed. "If you want to make something popular, ban it." No hunt has closed since 2005; two have been started. "A lot of people came out at a time of controversy and decided they liked it," says Farquhar.

The threat of extinction through lack of subscriptions forced hunts to become more welcoming, and websites have given them a new means to promote their sport. Contrary to what some of the MPs who spent 700 hours debating the Hunting Act may have intended, the ban has made hunting more fun.

Part of the charm of hunting a live fox was unpredictability: a day of furious activity might be followed by one of standing in the rain, waiting for hounds to find a scent. But hunts which set off in pursuit of a scent trail that they laid themselves can guarantee a gallop across good riding country.

What happens once hounds are away from roads and footpaths is a matter of speculation. It is only a crime to hunt foxes intentionally. But, as Farquhar notes inscrutably, "there have been accidents". Nobody would be rash enough to speak on record, but it might be supposed that in some hunts, away from the public eye, the "accidental" hunting of foxes takes place more often than might seem statistically probable. It would be difficult to prove.

There have been more than 30,000 days of hunting since 2005; the League Against Cruel Sports has secured 20 convictions under the Hunting Act, only three of them relating to the activities of established hunts. More people have been convicted for hunting rats than foxes.

Just as hunting looks strangely like its former self, so the League Against Cruel Sports' monitors - though their activities, too, are perfectly legal - can look like the old saboteurs. Curtis Thompson, the Avon Vale's kennel huntsman and whipper-in, is often pursued by a posse blowing horns and spraying citronella to put hounds off the scent. "They ought to keep to the footpaths but don't seem to know where they are. I saw one reading the map upside down the other day."

Police seem more concerned to prevent clashes between "monitors" and hunt staff than to follow hunts lest they breach the Act. Hunting offences do not count towards their targets. The frustration of the anti-hunt lobby is apparent in the proposal made by Ann Widdecombe on the Today programme last week, by which League Against Cruel Sports monitors would be contracted as evidence-gatherers for the police.

Before 2005, the hunting world feared that its infrastructure would be dismantled after the ban. "One of the things we do feel very strongly about," says Farquhar, "is keeping the continuity of the pack going and keeping the bloodlines." With records going back through 55 generations of hound until 1743, the Beaufort hounds must be "the most chronicled animals in the world". A mass of caramel and cream backs leap up at him as he enters the kennel. "They are the most charming animals," he declares. "Very brave, very kind, very loving - the most lovely dogs to work with: tough as old boots and straight as a die." Once dispersed - or shot - a pack of this kind could never be reconstituted. Before 2005, there were particular fears for smaller hunts. But subscribers have not fallen away. Money still comes in through the hunt balls, point to points, ferret races, skittles evenings and darts matches.

Everyone in hunting is buoyed up by David Cameron's commitment to repeal the Hunting Act if the Tories gain power. This gives hope that some limit will be set to the present period of adversity. It could not be endured indefinitely. "In the long term, the determination of the hunt community would begin to wane," admits Farquhar. Although the Avon Vale employs the 16-year-old Callum Walsh as a trainee whipper-in, there is concern in other quarters than too few young people are entering hunt service.

Hunts in the West Country have been more severely disrupted than others in England and Wales. While stag hunts have been able to keep going by using couples of hounds in relay, rather than a full pack, flushing deer towards guns, the law is framed more tightly against them. Last month, a judge upheld a conviction against Richard Down, huntsman, and Adrian Pillivant, whipper-in for the Quantock Staghounds, at Taunton Crown Court.

I catch Ann Mallalieu, QC, life peer and president of the Countryside Alliance, on her mobile just as she has mounted her horse for a day with the Devon and Somerset. "Prosecutions are not a victory for the League," she maintains, "because they only convince people down here of the absurdity of the law.

"There is no other casualty service for deer, other than the hunts. They have continued to provide one, and to manage the deer herd by reducing its numbers. But a lot more farmers have been shooting deer since the Act." Research by the Exmoor and District Deer Management Society Consensus has revealed a 20 per cent decrease in deer numbers in 2006 against a trend of steady rises over the previous decade.

This is the great irony of the Act: it has led to the shooting of more deer and foxes. Farmers and landowners no longer have a reason to tolerate animals that destroy crops, lambs or pheasant chicks. Stag hunting targets deer that are old, sick or weak, improving the quality of the herd. According to Farquhar, foxhunting before the Act would also "catch the sick, lame or lazy". Stag hunts are still called upon to kill wounded deer, on welfare grounds; but it is much more difficult to bring a wounded animal to bay using two hounds than a full pack.

In 1885, the Duke of Beaufort, introducing the hunting volume in the Badminton Sporting Library, feared that a sport "denounced with so much eloquence and energy" could not continue. Nearly a century and a quarter afterwards, this iconic British activity has simply become more eccentric. Tally-ho



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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