Saturday, April 02, 2011

Left-wing, shallow and oh-so politically correct... my verdict on the BBC, by Michael Buerk

Michael Buerk has launched a withering assault on the BBC’s ‘creed of political correctness’. The veteran presenter accuses staff at the Corporation of an inbuilt ‘institutional bias’ and warns that they read the left-wing Guardian newspaper as if it is ‘their Bible’.

Reviewing a memoir by his former colleague Peter Sissons, Buerk endorses his view that the BBC is warped by the prejudices of its staff.

He says fellow reporters have ‘contempt’ for business and the countryside – and that a left-wing culture means the national broadcaster has been cast ‘adrift of the overriding national sentiment’ on issues such as climate change.

Criticism from such a well-known figure is likely to unsettle his bosses. Buerk, who presents Radio 4’s Moral Maze, is one of the most respected broadcasters of his generation. He made his name with a series of moving broadcasts on the Ethiopian famine in 1984, which prompted the Live Aid campaign, before becoming the main presenter of the BBC’s flagship evening news programme. His son Roland Buerk is the BBC’s Tokyo correspondent.

In Sissons’s memoir, which was serialised in the Daily Mail last month, the former Nine O’Clock News and Question Time presenter denounced the ‘zealotry’ of the BBC over the issue of climate change and ‘the culture of political correctness’.

Buerk, who has previously voiced criticisms of fellow newsreaders for being overpaid, autocue-reading ‘lame brains’, praises Sissons for attacking ‘Autocuties, “Elf ’n’ Safety” and ‘its culture of conformity’.

Buerk also accuses BBC reporters of an ‘uncritical love affair with environmentalism’. He condemns the ‘flatulent masses of its middle management’.

The BBC has no way of distinguishing between competent managers and the ‘totally transparent t***ers’ who populate the Corporation, writes the former news anchorman in Standpoint magazine. ‘What the BBC regards as normal and abnormal, what is moderate or extreme, where the centre of gravity of an issue lies, are conditioned by the common set of assumptions held by the people who work for it. ‘The Guardian is their bible and political correctness their creed.’

He also attacks BBC bosses for their ‘vulnerability to political pressure’ and condemns ‘the callow opinionising of some of its reporters’.

Buerk admits that some of his own bosses, including Director General Mark Thompson, were ‘extraordinarily bright, decent and effective’, but adds: ‘Of course, there were, and are, plenty of totally transparent t***ers.’ He adds: ‘The BBC’s difficulty is that it has never been able to tell the difference. In any case, it is the institution that increasingly seems to be the problem.’

And he warns: ‘It’s often notably adrift of the overriding national sentiment.’

BBC bosses are already on the back foot. They were humiliated after losing an age discrimination case to Miriam O’Reilly, the 53-year-old presenter of Countryfile. And they are also under pressure from the Government to disclose full details of how much big stars are paid.

The BBC said: ‘While Michael is entitled to his opinion, it has been some time since he has worked for BBC News so it’s interesting he feels in a position to comment. We certainly do not recognise the picture he has painted and nor would his colleagues. ‘Impartiality is critical to our success as a news broadcaster and is always at the centre of what we do.’


A nation divided: Britain is no longer split by class. Instead the social chasm is between taxpayers and the public sector

Last weekend’s march in London, protesting against The Cuts, highlighted the only social divide that matters in modern Britain. It is not between rich and poor, North and South or even Arsenal and Manchester United supporters. It is between those employed in the public and private sectors of the economy.

The march — a howl of anguish to which Ed Miliband lent his presence and absurdly extravagant rhetoric — was a partisan demo by Labour’s six-million-strong client vote, the employees of the state who have become Britain’s new privileged class.

Watching TV images of the marchers snake through the capital, I reflected that they should rightfully have been wearing wigs and powder, because they are the modern-day counterparts of pre-Revolution French aristocrats, enjoying advantages such as the rest of us can only dream of.

Once upon a time ‘civil servants’, as they were called before both words became satirical, enjoyed lifelong job security, to compensate for the fact that they received much more modest financial rewards than their private-sector counterparts.

The humble little bureaucrat taking the bus to the council office every morning from suburbia, wearing a Burton suit and Terylene tie, was the stuff of TV sitcoms. Not any more.

Margaret Thatcher galvanised British business, but conspicuously failed to reform the public sector. Subsequent Labour governments showered good things on state employees — ‘our people’.

Gordon Brown, doctrinally committed to a belief that the man in Whitehall knows best, boosted the state payroll by almost a million, so that today it constitutes one-fifth of Britain’s workforce.

Of course, teachers, nurses and other front-line workers in the public sector do hugely valuable jobs. But these people have become by far the most formidable, unionised and muscular interest group in the country. Labour voters almost to a man and woman, they enjoy job security, early retirement rights and better pay.

Yet they are statistically 2,000 per cent more prone to take industrial action than private sector workers — as the Prison Officers’ Association seems about to remind us with widespread walkouts by staff in protest against the use of private firms to run jails.

In 1997, median public sector salaries were already 2.5 per cent higher than those in business and industry. By 2009, thanks to Mr Brown’s largesse, that premium had increased to 12.5 per cent. Calculated on an hourly basis, the independent think-tank Policy Exchange reckons public sector workers get 29 per cent more than their private sector counterparts.

While there is a case for paying a few top officials big money to get quality, there is no rational argument at all for overpaying rank-and-file workers, save as a shameless political bribe for their votes.

And while the private sector has been closing final-salary pension schemes as unaffordable, public sector inflation-linked pensions remain guaranteed — and the rest of us pay for them. According to the National Audit Office, the state paid £14.9 billion towards the £19.3 billion cost of the UK’s four largest civil service schemes, while staff provided £4.4 billion.

Those figures are getting much worse. The cost of public sector pensions to taxpayers — not to the employees themselves — is expected to double over the next five years, as many people who joined the civil service on generous terms 30 to 40 years ago approach retirement.

The scandal is that in many cases these pensions are not drawn from money that is set aside — as in the private sector — but instead come from current taxation income. So when interest rates rise, as they obviously will, taxpayers’ contributions to state sector privileges will become even more painful.

Three thousand public sector workers have pension pots worth more than £1 million, which would take an average earner 600 years to fund.

For instance, the chief executive of the South West Regional Development Agency has a pot worth £1.3 million. Several senior executives of the BBC, which has come to resemble the banks in being run chiefly for the personal enrichment of its senior executives, have recently retired on pensions in excess of £200,000 a year.

Yet there is nothing the Government can do to claw back these privileges for existing employees because legal experts say employees’ contracts cannot be retrospectively rewritten.

Gordon Brown was widely criticised as Prime Minister for striking deals for the construction of two absurdly costly aircraft-carriers (which would guarantee jobs for Scottish Labour voters) on contractual terms that made cancellation almost impossible. In precisely the same fashion, Brown fixed unbreakable, gold-plated deals for state employees which taxpayers will be funding for decades.

The truth is that if current Coalition Government spending cuts damage schools or hospitals, it will be because the state’s budget has ballooned so much over recent years and is now being controlled by its employees.

This week, the Cameron Government has faced fierce criticism from the arts lobby for imposing a very modest reduction of the £2 billion subsidy arts organisations receive.

In truth the Arts Council, under the influence of its Labour commissars, has become a mechanism for distributing money for welfare projects, especially to ethnic minorities, through its ‘diversity and equal opportunities’ units.

If cash for the Arts Council’s social engineering operations was cut off — which is not being done — there would be no reason for Britain’s ‘real’ arts and theatres to suffer at all.

Meanwhile, local authorities are still squandering money on non-jobs and unnecessary functions. Why does Manchester Council need a graphic designer earning £120,000 a year, or a ‘climate change officer’ on £37,206? Why is Barnsley Council employing two ‘European officers’ and Hackney four ‘diversity officers’?

Also, many Labour councils are cutting services while hoarding large cash reserves.

Barnsley has recently stopped free swimming for local residents, blaming this on government cuts, while continuing to fund 38 full-time trades union posts at a cost of more than £1 million a year. It spends more than £2 million a year on ‘publicity’, and last year recruited for an ‘Athletics Network Development Officer’.

Haringey Council spends £386,665 on translating its mountainous output of paper into ethnic minority languages. It employs two political advisers, three climate change officers, and four-and-a-half diversity officers who cost £245,839 a year.

Last weekend’s London demo represented a protest by the most pampered sector of society — state employees — against this Government’s desperate efforts to curb their unaffordable numbers and rights.

The BBC reports government cuts as if these constitute a brutal assault on the British people. The real mugging, however, is that conducted by the taxman, who takes away the money of ‘hard-working families’ to fund the new state elite.

Last weekend’s events highlighted the chasm between today’s two Britains. One is populated by taxpayers who generate profits; the other by Labour’s vast client vote which spends it, as of right. Far from the Government’s spending cuts being cruel or unreasonable, if properly implemented they could be much tougher, because waste is so great.

Britain will never be a healthy society until cured of its addiction to the opiate of excessive state spending.


Home at last: The twins snatched by the British State after innocuous remark sparked social services witch hunt

Leaning over the hospital incubator, Tara Norman smiled proudly down at her tiny newborn twins and whispered: ‘You should see what you have done to your Mummy’s body.’ It was the kind of rueful joke that any exhausted new mother might make after a traumatic emergency Caesarean section. Implicit, of course, was the emphatic message that she would do it all again in a heartbeat, for the sake of knowing the joy of motherhood.

Throughout her pregnancy she had dreamed of the day she and husband Adrian would leave hospital as a family. She couldn’t wait to take their son and daughter, Ashley and Olivia home, and settle them into their nursery. But she had no idea that this passing remark about her figure — lovingly spoken, in a private moment — was being secretly documented by a nearby nurse or that it would set in motion a Kafkaesque nightmare which would tear her family apart.

Observing that Tara appeared ‘bitter’ towards her twins, the nurse updated the babies’ daily diary — a set of notes that are kept as standard practice on neonatal wards to help staff keep track of each premature baby’s progress.

The incident — if one can call it that — was never mentioned to Tara or Adrian. And if there were any other signs that something was amiss, the Normans, as new parents to two premature babies, were understandably too preoccupied to notice.

In fact, they knew nothing of the problem until days later, when a woman from Havering Social Services arrived at their home in Hornchurch, Essex, and announced: ‘I’m here because we want to take your children into care and we want you to agree to it.'

The Normans, whose twins were yet to leave hospital, were left bewildered and the woman made no mention of the comment Tara had made about her body.

Speaking exclusively to the Mail, Tara says: ‘We couldn’t believe what was happening. I made a silly joke and suddenly they were ripping our family apart. We told her we’d never agree to our children being taken away. So she said: “Then we will see you in court.”’

Any loving parent would have been panic-stricken by such a threat — but for the Normans it was even worse. This threatened their only chance of having a family. Owing to a rare hormone disorder, Tara is unable to conceive naturally. The couple had endured five gruelling rounds of IVF and suffered a miscarriage before she eventually fell pregnant with twins.

There could be no doubt of their desire to become parents or their commitment to care for their children, yet social workers claimed that Tara had made ‘emotionally abusive’ comments towards the twins. In their professional opinion, Tara and Adrian could not cope with the demands of first-time parenthood with two premature babies.

Havering Borough Council, acting on information supplied by Whipps Cross Hospital in East London,warned that Ashley and Olivia were at risk of ‘significant harm’ and launched court proceedings to take the six-week-old twins into care. According to the hospital, the Normans were struggling to care for the twins, born six weeks early and weighing only 3lb each.

As evidence of their ‘inadequate parenting skills’ and failure to bond with the twins, nurses cited Tara’s comments and occasions when the couple had not fed the children the recommended amount of milk or changed their nappies properly.

‘No one is born with parenting skills, but we were learning as we went along, just like anyone else,’ says Adrian, a 43-year-old former Post Office worker. ‘If we had been given some help we would have been fine. But they only seemed interested in taking the children away.’

Whatever the fears of the nursing staff, who no doubt felt they were acting in the best interests of the children, what happened next seems to be a gross overreaction. Within days a protection order was granted at a secret Family Court hearing and the six-week-old twins were discharged from hospital and placed in a series temporary foster homes.

The twins were placed in a foster home, but moved within 24 hours to a placement with a foster family near Southend, Essex, an hour’s drive from the Normans’ home in Hornchurch. Tara and Adrian were allowed just five hours’ supervised contact a week.

Adrian and Tara acknowledge their inexperience and insist they would have welcomed support from social workers. But instead, Havering began care proceedings.

They were told to get separate solicitors and warned that it was possible custody would be awarded to just one of them, meaning they would have to live apart after five years of marriage.

It was, without doubt, an extraordinarily cruel punishment for a non-existent crime. Without evidence that any violence or abuse had ever taken place, huge decisions were made in haste. As a result, the twins spent their first precious year in the arms of strangers.

And even when, in March 2009, the twins’ court-appointed guardian formally recommended they be returned to their parents as soon as a parenting assessment was completed, nothing could halt the wheels of officialdom. When Tara protested, social workers noted that she had ‘anger problems’. She admits she once threw her handbag at a wall in fury, and it hit a social worker on the arm — she accepted a police caution over the incident.

Two social workers also claim she threw her mobile phone at them. Her understandable frustration was regarded as proof of the risk she presented to her children. ‘They had taken my children away from me. How was I supposed to react?’ she says.

In January 2010, more than a year after their birth, the twins were allowed to go home with their parents under a court supervision order. Key to this was Adrian’s decision to take voluntary redundancy to help Tara to care for the twins.

Health visitors and social workers visited the family’s house at least once a fortnight and consistently reported that Ashley and Olivia were ‘happy and content children’.

Tara said: ‘I had imagined taking two tiny babies home from hospital, but by the time they were finally allowed to come home they were one-year-olds. ‘The first minutes on our own in the house were almost unbelievable — it had taken a year to get to a point where we were finally alone with our own children.’

Now toddlers, Ashley and Olivia cling to their parents and demand constant attention, but the Normans hope they will not remember their separation as they grow up. No further concerns were raised and the court supervision order expired in February this year.

The Normans, who are considering taking legal action against the council, have received no formal notification from the court or the council, although Family Court officials have confirmed to the Mail that the case has been closed.

But they cannot shake the fear that officials will find a pretext to take their children again.

A spokeswoman for Havering Borough Council said: ‘We have worked hard with the family and are pleased that after a year of supervision and Mr Norman’s decision to be at home during the day, we have closed our orders.’


How I lost faith in multiculturalism

Greg Sheridan, commenting from Australia

In his speech Bowen sets up a neat dichotomy between a good Australian multiculturalism and a bad European multiculturalism.

Bowen is right to point out that Australian official policy, whether at any given moment describing itself as multiculturalism or not, has always stressed English as the national language and the need for immigrants to commit to democracy and the rule of law. But at the declaratory level, European multiculturalism has also stressed the national language and a commitment to democracy.

There are two obvious, logical flaws in the way Bowen treats immigration into Europe.

The first is that he puts the entire burden for the success or failure of an immigrant community's experience down to the attitude of the host society and places absolutely no analytical weight at all on the performance and behaviour of the immigrants themselves.

Second, the problems that Bowen is talking about are problems with Muslim immigrants, not with immigrants generally. Chinese and non-Muslim Indian immigrants have been immensely successful in Britain. Indeed, being Indian in Britain is extremely chic.

These minorities for the most part have done OK in France, too. Certainly immigrants to Britain from the rest of Europe don't display anything like the alienation of a serious minority of Muslim immigrants.

So this must, logically, lead to one extremely inconvenient, politically incorrect and desperately fraught question. Could it be that the main difference between Europe, with its seething immigration problems, and the US, Canada and Australia, with their success, is not actually a difference based on some footling interpretation of multiculturalism?

There is one other variable that is consistent with the results. The US, Canada and Australia have far smaller Muslim migrant communities as a percentage of their total populations than do most of the troubled nations of Europe. Could this be the explanation?

Several trends in Australian society give pause to wonder whether we, all unintentionally and all fast asleep, may be heading away from the US-Canada-Australia success story and towards a European future. That would be a very bad outcome for Australia.

Discussing these issues is very difficult. It goes without saying that most Muslims in Australia are perfectly fine, law-abiding citizens. The difficulty with discussing Muslim immigration problems is that you don't want to make people feel uncomfortable because of their religion.

Muslims are not only individuals, wholly different from each other, but national Islamic cultures are very different from each other. The Saudi culture is different from the Turkish culture, which is different from the Afghan culture. So generalisations are dangerous.

Then there is the ever present risk of being labelled a racist. No matter how calmly the discussion is conducted, that is a big danger.

But the only people who don't think there is a problem with Islam are those who live on some other planet. The reputation of Islam in the West is not poor because of prejudiced Western Islamophobia, still less because Western governments conduct some kind of anti-Islamic propaganda. Instead, it is the behaviour of people claiming the justification of Islam for their actions that affects the reputation of Islam.

In January, the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, was murdered because he opposed the severity of the nation's blasphemy laws.

One of his last acts was to visit a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the prophet. The governor's murderer won wide public support.

ABC television recently showed a documentary on the killing of Ahmediya sect members in Indonesia, among the most liberal Muslim nations, because their Muslim murderers regarded them as a deviant sect. On YouTube you can watch scenes of a young Afghan woman being publicly flogged because she was seen in the company of a man who wasn't her husband or brother.

In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars. In Iran, government thugs beat protesters to death to safeguard the rule of the mullahs.

This list could go on and on. It may very well be that the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims reject such actions. But it is fatuous to try to find a similar pattern of Christian, Buddhist or Jewish behaviour. You can find extremists in every religion and from every background, but there is no equivalence in the size and strength of the extremist tendency in other religions. The Australian Muslim population is still relatively small, perhaps 400,000 or just under 2 per cent of the population.

Because of my passionate commitment to the refugee issue, it took me a long time to wake up to the routine scamming of refugee processes today.

The same is happening in northern Australia now, and as the Gillard government loses control of the situation, the number of illegal immigrants, almost all Muslim, will increase, exactly replicating the dynamics of Europe's disaster, though of course on a much smaller scale.

Lakemba and surrounding areas such as Punchbowl had a large Lebanese Muslim population, many of whom had come when Malcolm Fraser crazily instituted a come-one, come-all admissions policy for those claiming to be refugees from the Lebanon conflicts of the 80s.

Replicating the European experience that the second generation had more trouble than the first, it was the sons of some of these immigrants who figured heavily in anti-social activities.

I was shocked to discover the growth of jihadi culture in Lakemba. We used to go to its main street for shopping and for food.

One day, waiting for a pizza order, I wandered into the Muslim bookshop. I was astounded to see titles such as The International Jew or The Truth about the Pope, amid a welter of anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and pro-extremist literature.

The revenge attacks on white Australians after the Cronulla riots originated out of Punchbowl. A number of media crews were attacked when they went to local mosques. A large number of those charged with terrorism offences in Australia stayed in or had associations with the area.

Due to the brilliant and fearless reporting of this paper's Richard Kerbaj, who spoke perfect Arabic, we found that at a number of the mosques in the area outright hatred was being preached: anti-Semitic, misogynist, conspiratorial. Most of the time, these sermons didn't advocate violence. The speakers were what Britain's David Cameron has called "non-violent extremists".

The advent of satellite television made it easier for these folks to live a life apart. Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station was available on satellite packages. Most Arab homes you went into had Arabic TV playing in the background.

The anti-social behaviour became more acute. One son was playing cricket with friends when they were challenged by a group of teenagers, whom they presumed to be Lebanese but may have been of other Middle Eastern origin, who objected to white boys playing cricket. A full-scale, if brief, fist fight ensued.

One son was challenged by a boy with a gun. Lakemba police station was shot up. Crime increased on the railway line.

The worst thing I saw myself was two strong young men, of Middle Eastern appearance, waiting outside the train station.

A middle-aged white woman emerged from the station alone. She was rather oddly dressed, with a strange hair-do.

The two young men walked up beside her, began taunting her and then finished their effort by spitting in her face. They laughed riotously and walked away. She wiped the spittle off her face and hurried off home. It was all over in a few seconds.

These events in Lakemba and nearby are not unique. Lots of people from lots of different backgrounds commit violent crime in Australia. There is a good deal of unemployment, combined with a highly advanced informal culture of welfare exploitation, often freely discussed at the local schools, in the area. But Lakemba is different from most of Australia.

A senior policeman from nearby Bankstown once told me that policing in the Bankstown area was unlike working anywhere else in Australia, and he was amazed how much violent crime went unreported by the media.

Does Islam itself have a role in these problems? The answer is complex and nuanced but it must be a qualified, and deeply reluctant, yes.

This is the only explanation consistent with the fact other immigrant communities, which may have experienced difficult circumstances in the first generation, don't display the same characteristics in the second generation.

Australia has been a successful immigration country. But the truth is not all immigrants are the same. And it may be much easier than people think to turn success into failure.

Much more HERE


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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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