British council disregards objections to gypsy camp from 3,000 residents -- as 'they are racist'
When residents were asked to provide feedback on council plans to build traveller camps on their doorstep they dutifully responded. More than 3,000 homeowners filled in forms outlining their views, many raising concerns over a possible increase in noise, traffic, rubbish and a detrimental effect on property prices. However, such objections were not appreciated by Mid-Bedfordshire District Council, which partially or fully rejected nearly nine in ten of the replies for including comments 'of a racist nature'.
Weeks after asking for residents' views earlier this year, the council posted an article on its website entitled 'Racist Comments Not Welcome'. It claimed the council's 'duty of community leadership' meant it had to crack down on the use of racial stereotypes, and revealed that while 400 responses would be considered, 3,100 were in some way racist and would be rejected. The council even sent letters to objectors telling them their views had been deemed offensive and would not be taken account of.
Retired company secretary Lucy Clarke from Stotfold - one of the six small towns and villages mooted as sites for the 25 traveller families - was astounded to receive her letter. Mrs Clarke, a grandmother of three, said: 'As far as I am aware I objected to the camp for entirely reasonable grounds. And yet I then get this letter from the council. 'They even accused me of incitement to racial hatred. It's ridiculous - like putting me on a par with Abu Hamza.' She added: 'I am not racist, but I am concerned about what one of these camps could do to our town.'
Even the local town council could not avoid falling foul of the censors. Brian Collier, chairman of Stotfold council said: 'We wrote a detailed response in which we summarised locals' concerns. 'There is another gipsy site not far from here that has a well-known crime problem. 'As part of our response we echoed people's worries that the same may happen here. 'We were totally shocked when we then received a letter from the district council saying that was racist. There are lots of people here who have had the same treatment.'
The district council's attitude has been criticised by local campaigners, politicians and civil liberties groups. Tory communities spokesman Eric Pickles said yesterday: 'I hope that they write a letter of apology to everyone they have accused of being racist. Otherwise, people simply aren't going to feel able to object to these camps without the fear of being branded racist.'
When contacted by the Daily Mail, a spokesman for Mid-Bedfordshire council admitted that it had been 'somewhat overzealous'. He said: 'We were worried that many of the letters contained racist slurs and objectionable comments that we felt could not be published under current race relations legislation. 'We had no intention of offending those who took the time to respond to the consultation and certainly were not trying to label residents as racist. 'Only a small proportion (around 5 per cent) of the comments were actually discounted in their entirety. The remainder were taken into consideration, either in whole or in part.'
British children banned from carrying candles in church - it may be safer, but isn't life supposed to be fun?
You may be sick of health and safety stories, but I am going to tell you a new one anyway. And this one is particularly monstrous. There is a very pretty disused estate church in Northamptonshire where an annual carol service is held on Christmas Eve, attended by some 250 people. Everybody holds aloft a candle, which makes a lovely sight. This year, however, this little event was blighted by a decree from the church commissioners that no child under the age of 15 could be allowed to hold a lighted candle: the safety risk was deemed unacceptable. As if that wasn't enough, the service then started with the reading of formal instructions about exits in the event of fire, a completely potty notion in a tiny old church with only one door.
And here's another story just as farcical. A few months ago, an engineer called at our house to correct a telephone line fault. He eventually announced that he must go away and return another day because the job would require a long ladder. I told him he could use our ladder. Sorry, he said, he would need another man to hold it while he climbed. I volunteered. 'Sorry,' he said again. 'You're not trained.'
Trained? To hold a ladder? This is madness, but a madness which all of us experience almost every day. It is sometimes claimed, not least by that iniquitous Stalinist body the Health & Safety Executive, that stories such as these are invented or exaggerated. They are not. Such things are happening all around us. Visiting the Army in Afghanistan in October, I was dismayed to hear that even on the battlefield, the spectre of health and safety rears its head, adding severely to the burden of commanders trying to conduct an exceptionally rough campaign.
The Oxfordshire coroner who conducts most of the inquests into British soldiers killed in action, and often delivers fierce criticisms of the Ministry of Defence in his judgments, thinks that he speaks and acts in the interests of our soldiers and their families. In reality, however, he often makes pronouncements that reflect his own ignorance of the realities of war. And in so doing, he makes the task of fighting the Taliban that much harder.
Let me give you an example. Weighed down with body armour, helmet, pack and rifle, it is hard to run for any distance in the intense Afghan heat - especially when under fire. Earlier this year, commanding officers discussed whether, in special circumstances, men might be allowed to discard their body armour for short periods to enable them to move faster against a lightly-clad and nimble enemy. The final verdict was that this was unacceptable. They decided that if a soldier should be killed when not wearing full protective gear, the Oxfordshire coroner would have a field day. He would almost certainly denounce the irresponsibility of officers who had failed in their duty of care.
It is hard to fight battles under such constraints. Air Marshal Lord Tedder, Eisenhower's deputy in World War II, said wisely: 'War is organised confusion.' And he was right. British officers care passionately about the welfare and survival of their men. The pain of losing a comrade is very great. It is harsh to superimpose upon this the prospect of being denounced in a coroner's court by a civilian who has never heard a shot fired in anger. And it is absurd to apply to the circumstances of the battlefield the same sort of criteria that are applied to a factory accident.
But wars aside, we must keep exposing and denouncing such follies as a ban on children carrying candles at a carol service. If we allow them to pass unremarked, the excesses of health and safety will go on and on, each day squeezing some new little moment of pleasure out of our existences. What is at stake is common sense. We must be allowed to live our lives without constant interruptions from an officialdom obsessed with the belief that every detail of the domestic round needs regulation.
Much of the trouble lies with the courts. If, for example, my telephone engineer falls off his ladder, he will almost certainly sue his employer and anybody else in sight. If regulations are found to have been breached, if there is the smallest hint that anybody in a position of responsibility was negligent, massive compensation will be awarded. Judges often seem willing to strike bold attitudes, for instance in sticking up for the rights of Muslim extremists to preach jihad, who then escape deportation, and receive generous cheques from social services into the bargain. Yet those same judges, together with tribunals which adjudicate in many compensation cases, lack the courage to fight for common sense.
Many claims deserve to be kicked straight into the long grass. But the view prevails that cash paid out by public bodies or insurance companies is not real money. It can be distributed with reckless abandon to victims of misfortunes, often in amounts larger than they could have earned in a lifetime of labour. Thus fear of litigation causes public bodies and private companies alike to impose ever sillier and more draconian restrictions on people's daily behaviour. They are terrified of being held responsible if somebody trips over a paving stone on their patch.
We, the British, often claim to take pride in our warrior heritage. Yet we are making ourselves ever more timid and cowardly. Many of us in our teens did Outward Bound courses - I myself once ran one at school. They were tremendously popular with the young because they fed our enthusiasm for adventure. I tremble to imagine what today's Outward Bound courses are like.
After a fatal canoeing accident at a school in the John Major era, new legislation was introduced. And such activities are now hedged by thick entanglements of rules designed to strip out any of the risk which we so loved. One day when, as a newspaper editor, I met the Prime Minister, I suggested that the new law was too restrictive. He responded: 'Can you imagine what everybody would have said if there had been another Outward Bound accident and we had done nothing?'
For once, I sympathised with Major. The blame culture was not invented by governments, but they feel compelled to respond to its reality. I suppose it is a sign of retarded adolescence, that even at my advanced age I still love taking risks, a joy enhanced by the feeling that I am striking back at the Health & Safety Executive. I relish ladders and chainsaws, working on the roof, and bicycling without one of those hideous helmets.
When my children were younger, I hope that I was not an irresponsible parent. But I encouraged them to climb trees, bungee jump - and carry candles at carol services. Life is supposed to be fun. In any sensible society, learning to accept responsibility for our own actions, and sometimes for painful consequences, is an essential part of growing up. Unless we fight every new manifestation of the health and safety brigade's excesses, we may become a fractionally safer society - but we shall also evolve into an unbearably dull one.
The welfare system is a monster that is slowly destroying Britain...
The year that lies ahead threatens to be one of the most grim in all British history. Hundreds of thousands of us look certain to lose our jobs, most through absolutely no fault of our own. According to some estimates, that figure may even reach a million. For some of us, the prospect is grimmer still. We will not be able to keep up our mortgage payments, and so lose our homes, as well.
This series of disasters, however, is likely to befall only those who have made the mistake of working in the private sector. Those employed in Britain's bloated public sector are pretty well immune from the effects of the economic downturn. The same applies to that section of the population-an estimated 4.8 million people-who are already dependent on out-of-work benefits.
Some of these, of course, live in genuine poverty and deserve all the help they get. But others enjoy a surprising level of affluence. As the Daily Mail revealed yesterday, an amazing 140,000 households collect more from the benefit system than they would if they earned the national average wage. Each of these families receives state handouts worth 20,000 pounds a year, or even more. However, they are not taxed on this income, meaning that their real take-home pay is worth the equivalent of someone bringing home the national average salary of 25,100 before tax-and in some cases it is considerably higher even than that.
This is obscene. Nobody-apart from a handful of deranged free-marketeers who yearn for a return to the brutality of the Victorian era-is opposed to state benefits. Our modern welfare state, drawn up by William Beveridge during World War II, is the mark of a truly civilised society. Its purpose is to ensure that Britain should never return to the horrifying levels of poverty and suffering that were part of ordinary life during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Indeed, we have rarely needed Beveridge's system of social protection as much as we do today, facing as we do the greatest economic catastrophe for three- quarters of a century.
However, it has been clear for some time that something has gone desperately wrong with William Beveridge's system. During the years immediately following World War II it admirably performed the task it was supposed to do-and gave temporary protection to those workers who, through no fault of their own, were made unemployed. Instead of being forced into the workhouse, as might have happened in the 1930s, they were allowed to maintain their human dignity. But, slowly, the system was distorted.
Partly, this was the fault of politicians. National insurance payments, for example, were soon debased so that it ceased to be a pool of money set aside for a rainy day, and instead became just another form of income tax. And, inevitably, idle and feckless workers started to take full advantage of the benefits system. Rather than use it as a system of social insurance, they started to regard it as a well-paid alternative to going out to work.
A good example is the British system of disability benefit. This was set up from the most noble and splendid of motives-so that people who were unable to work for health reasons should not suffer financially because of their disability. Unfortunately, the work-shy soon spotted that disability benefit was also the perfect excuse for idleness, while being paid for staying at home-and often doing a little extra on the black market. Today, an astonishing 2.7 million men and women are claiming incapacity benefit-equivalent to one in 15 people of working age in Britain. Many of these disability claims are obviously fake.
Indeed, David Freud, the former banker who advises the Government on welfare issues, reckons that approximately two-thirds of those claiming incapacity benefit are capable of going out to work. Freud estimates that a staggering number-he reckons about 185,000-work illegally while on benefit. Tragically, no government has ever tried to make them go out to work legally. Some ministers have actually preferred to collude with a system which effectively defrauds the public. The reason is utterly shameful-people who are claiming incapacity benefit do not register as unemployed. They therefore keep the jobless figures down, enabling governments to boast about their economic success.
Another scam is housing benefit. Once again, no decent person would ever complain about the idea behind housing benefit-namely to keep people who cannot fend for themselves off the streets. Yet, once again, the system has been milked by the feckless and greedy, often with the collaboration of incompetent or corrupt local councils-consider the recent case in West London where an immigrant family lives in a large townhouse worth approximately 2,000 pounds in rent a week.
Last week a report by the Institute Of Fiscal Studies concluded (unsurprisingly) that the over-generous benefits system has created a baby boom. It estimated that an extra 45,000 children a year have been born to young mothers since the 'unprecedented rise' in child benefits, free housing and family tax credits made it 'economically attractive' to have more and more babies.
This complex situation of benefits has created a situation which was the exact opposite of what Beveridge intended. He aimed to create a system which would enable men and woman to get by while they looked for another job. But the modern British benefits system is now so complex, so incompetently administered, so corrupt and, in some cases, so generous that it is actually a disincentive to people going out to look for work. The rewards for staying idle are so great that, perversely, men and women on benefits can be better off staying at home.
A recent study showed that around 60,000 poorly paid workers offered the choice of working more hours would effectively be taxed by an extra 90 per cent on the extra income. In other words, the welfare system Britain has devised today rewards idleness and punishes hard work. The effects of this are already being felt. It is scarcely 60 years since the end of World War II, and yet there are already housing estates where practically no one goes to work. The only source of income is the State, and there are generations of families none of whom have ever had experience of the workplace.
This is not merely immensely damaging to the British economy. It is also desperately unfair. Those people who have always worked hard and paid their taxes find themselves being heavily penalised for their efforts-while those who cheat and skive get rewarded. In the long term, this is a very dangerous situation. It brings the British system of social insurance-one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century-into disrepute. Ordinary, decent, hardworking people will start to ask whether they can support a system which so blatantly rewards the workshy and the idle.
Eleven years ago, when Labour first came to power, Tony Blair claimed that only Labour could reform the welfare system-and he promised to do so. But he never had the guts. He and his Chancellor Gordon Brown preferred to keep the blatant sham of disability benefit because it so conveniently hid the true level of unemployment. It is a tragic wasted opportunity. It would have been fairly easy to prune the bloated welfare state when jobs were plentiful over the past decade-but next to impossible now that that the job losses mount.
Writing more than 2,000 years ago, a Roman politician made the following observation: 'The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.' These words were uttered by Cicero in 55BC. Today they are every bit as apposite.
Ahmadinejad Christmas message on Britain's Channel 4
The Left are always banging on about the importance of sensitivity and making people feel "comfortable" but display precious little of any of that themselves
Channel 4 has long revelled in its puerile desire to shock but now it has plumbed new depths of indecency, perpetrating an act of sickening and gratuitous -offen-siveness. On the most -significant day in the Christian calendar it broadcast a so-called "alternative Christmas message" by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an -Islamic fundamentalist whose regime is notorious for oppression, cruelty and anti-Semitism.
C4 has displayed utter contempt for the values of our Judaeo-Christian civilisation, treating a precious moment in our religious heritage as an opportunity for the usual anti-Western, Marxist point-scoring which passes for thinking in Left-wing circles. In the context of issuing a Christmas broadcast it is hard to imagine a less appropriate figure than President -Ahmadinejad, whose vicious theo-cracy has never shown the slightest inclination towards peace and goodwill.
To hear him last night preaching about justice and the need to fight tyranny was nauseating in the extreme. His government has promoted a brutal form of militant Islam, persecuted women, hounded Christians, and sponsored terrorism. - Despite presiding over mass poverty it has sought to build its own deadly nuclear arsenal, creating permanent tension in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad, himself drenched in the crudest form of anti-Semitism, has called for Israel to be "wiped off the face of the earth" and questioned whether the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews ever took place.
Others accused of Holocaust denial, such as historian David Irving, end up in prison. Ahmadinejad is given a prime-time Christmas Day slot on C4.
The station has an -unedifying track record of deliberately stirring up rows, particularly through the psychological freak show known as Big Brother. It has also frequently used Christmas Day as a chance to parade its disdain for the traditional -values of our culture. Two years ago the Christmas message came from a Muslim woman trumpeting her right to wear the full veil. But the -Ahmadinejad broadcast is a desperate new low. The -channel has moved from mere controversy into a sneering, treacherous rejection of all that decent Britons hold dear at this time of year.
Only in the warped mindset of an ultra-trendy, oh-so--progressive TV executive would it be deemed suitable to allow one of world's most dangerous and fanatical leaders to spout his deceitful nonsense about peace. What do C4 have lined up for next Christmas? Robert Mugabe on compassion? Kim Jong Il of North Korea on -freedom and democracy? One can imagine the excited conversations which must have taken place within C4's management before the decision was made to invite the Iranian President. "What can we do for a real outrage this year? -Ahmadinejad?
The Holocaust denier, talking on the day of -Jesus's birth? Brilliant. That'll really make a stir." The -station's executives are like a bunch of adolescent, Left-wing students, titillated by the justifiable -anger they provoke, revelling in their self-created image as -daring iconoclasts who -challenge the establishment. The absurdity of their stance is that they are an integral part of the establishment. After all, C4 is a public corporation, owned by the Government. But instead of receiving a genuine public service we have these continual displays of immature rebellion by over-paid attention seekers who think there is something original about their predictable anti-British dogma.
In 1940 George Orwell wrote of the classic Left-wing intellectuals who felt "that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution." He -described these anti-patriots as occupying "a sort of island of dissident thought". Tragically, they are no longer dissidents but are running C4.
What is equally repulsive is their epic hypocrisy. They delight in undermining Christianity and Judaism but then display a fawning reverence for Islam. They would not dream of -allowing a Muslim holy day to be hijacked by a message from a Christian fundamentalist. The same appalling double standards are just as clear in the utterings of Ahmadinejad. While lecturing us about spiritual faith, he would not tolerate for a moment an address from an Israeli rabbi about Iran's -duties to the world.
Moreover, he had the nerve to claim that if Jesus were alive today he would be campaigning against supposed Western imperialism. Yet no one in Britain can utter a squeak about Prophet -Mohammed without the threat of riots, mayhem and jihads.
It is grotesque to be hectored about peace by the world's most outspoken political advocate of a violent creed that has brought such terrible carnage over the past decade. "Love thy neighbour," the central message of the Christian gospel, is an idea -entirely alien to Islamic hardliners bent on the global -triumph of their dogma. There is an alarming parallel between the Nazis of the Thirties and today's Islamist zealots.
Morbidly anti-Semitic, stuck in a mentality of grievance, wallowing in manufactured victimhood, obsessed with submission to dictatorial authority, wailing about the iniquities of American-led capitalism, consumed by superstition and brutish -ritual, Nazism was as much a menace as Islamism is today. Like Ahmadinejad, Adolf Hitler ranted about his desire for peace but warned this could never be achieved until the "Jewish problem" was resolved.
For C4 to broadcast a message of "peace" from Ahmadinejad is the modern equivalent of the Thirties BBC giving a Christmas Day slot to Hitler. The morality of broadcasting in Britain has been sinking rapidly in recent years, as reflected in the scandal over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. But it has never before reached such levels of soullessness as C4 did last night.
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 readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.