Sunday, February 10, 2013

It isn't those who oppose gay marriage who are the bigots - it is the liberals who demonise them

Most British people are in favour of gay marriage. Those who aren’t constitute a minority, mostly comprised of people who are elderly or dim, or both. In 50 years’ time, the thought that anyone could oppose gay marriage will seem as outrageous as the fact that  people were once in favour  of slavery.

This is what I have heard on the BBC in recent days. I have listened to the often admirable Peter Kellner of the pollster YouGov asserting that those who are against gay marriage are in a minority. A man from Ipsos Mori, whose name I can’t remember, said something similar.

The BBC, too, has quoted polls which supposedly prove that most people are pro gay marriage. In its customary spirit of even-handedness, the Corporation has constantly wheeled out the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, who had described those against gay marriage as a ‘nest of bigots’.

And my oh my, didn’t those Tory MPs opposed to gay marriage, who were cunningly unearthed by the BBC, sometimes look gruesome? If these not always very bright or alluring people were typical representatives of the antis, did one really want to be one of their number?

After a time, even I began almost to believe that the national mood had been transformed and that there must be a strong majority of people who passionately want gay marriage — with only a bigoted minority against. Roll with the times, said a voice in my head. It’s what David Cameron believes.

And maybe, I reasoned to myself, those in favour were right. Who are we Christians to lay down the law in a country that is no longer Christian? Isn’t love what matters? Why should gays be excluded?

Isn’t Mr Cameron correct to say that marriage is such a splendid institution that it should be enjoyed by homosexuals, too?

Then I heard a Tory MP whom I hadn’t heard of speak in the Commons debate on Tuesday. David Burrowes, a leading opponent of gay marriage, described how he had been called a Nazi and a bigot and subjected to death threats because of his views. His children had been told that  their father is a bigot and a homophobe.

I thought of Polly Toynbee, and her ‘nest of bigots’. What nasty, intolerant language to use. The language of a bigot, in fact. I asked myself whether anyone I knew, or had heard, spoke about the supporters of gay marriage in such terms. I couldn’t think  of any.

Then I took another look at the YouGov poll so freely cited by the BBC. It’s true that 56 per cent of respondents said that they were in favour of gay marriage, but there were 38 per cent against. That’s a substantial minority, and perhaps the figures would be different if the question were asked in a different way.

For example, a ComRes poll commissioned by a group called the Coalition for Marriage asked whether ‘marriage should continue to be defined as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman’. This poll found 53 per cent in favour of this proposition and 36 per cent opposed.

I wonder how often this poll was mentioned by the BBC. I’ve heard no reference to it. To a large extent, the question frames the answer. YouGov put it one way, ComRes another.

My guess — no, it is closer to a conviction —  is that only very few people are passionately in favour of gay marriage. Indeed, the YouGov survey found that only seven per cent of voters rate the issue as one of their most important concerns.

Moreover, the British are polite and tolerant people, unwilling to erect barriers against their fellow citizens. They are also terrified of being branded as ‘homophobic’, which has joined ‘racist’ and ‘Nazi’ in the lexicon of things that none of us wants to be.

I don’t think many people want gay marriage. I even doubt that the majority of gays do. Indeed, ComRes asked gays and lesbians whether they would consider entering into a gay marriage: only 31 per cent said they would. For all the noise created by campaigners, it’s not the burning issue David Cameron thinks it is.

But it does worry a significant number of people, many of them Christian, some of them Muslims, who have been demonised by secular liberals such as Polly Toynbee as bigots or loonies who won’t adapt to the times and, so it is claimed, are stuck in the past.

Is the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, an atavistic bigot? Are most Anglican and all Roman Catholic bishops? Are the nice people in my church congregation (few of them Tories, I suspect) also bigots?

And are the 136 Conservative MPs who voted against the Bill on Tuesday (despite some informal whipping in what was supposed to be a free vote) all bigots, along with the 22 Labour and four Lib Dem MPs? Just for believing what, until the day before yesterday, almost everyone believed, and many still do?

How brilliant the secular liberals are at stigmatising the mainstream beliefs of moderate people, and trying to frighten them into believing that they are extremists who must change their ways. But it is the liberals, in their intolerance and caricaturing of their opponents, who are the real extremists.

There’s nothing new about this. Over the past 50 years, similar tactics have been used to introduce one revolutionary social reform after another, often with undesirable consequences, though usually presented at the time in a spirit of measured reasonableness.

As a result, we’ve got abortion on demand, pornography accessible to every child with a computer, and contraceptives handed out to 14-year-old girls like lollipops, without their parents having the right to know.  What next? The legalisation of drugs, perhaps.

The social campaigners win one battle and go on to the next. The social conservatives put up a fight, and nearly always lose. So it goes on.

What was novel about this particular battle is that the Tory leadership is fighting on the side of — no, leading — the secular liberals. It marks a watershed in modern Britain when the leader of the party to which instinctively conservative people might be expected to look — that’s  still most of us — champions social revolution.

Mr Cameron has said he believes in gay marriage because he is a Conservative. The evidence of Tuesday is that many Conservative MPs have an entirely different concept of conservatism.

The Prime Minister (who couldn’t be bothered to listen to the debate in the Commons on Tuesday) may win the votes of a few ‘metrosexuals’, but he will probably lose the support of many more Tories.

More lethally, far from showing that his party is modern and ‘de-toxified’, he has succeeded in having it represented by its political enemies, and the BBC, as divided and still toxic.

And for what? David Cameron may have pleased a few fervent supporters of gay marriage, but he’s dismayed many people, not least in his own party, who see themselves as part of the mainstream.


The real problem destroying the NHS? Politicized bureaucrats

The remark was made only in passing, but it summed up the problem that has blighted our National Health Service for far too long.

I was standing next to a porter in an NHS hospital corridor. Ahead of us clustered a group of men and women in suits, sipping coffee. I had never seen them on the wards. Who were they? ‘Managers!’ the porter snorted. ‘The only time you see them is when they are hovering around the coffee shop. They never go on the wards. All they do is get in my way when I push a patient through.’

I thought of his words this week when Julie Bailey, co-founder of the lobby group Cure the NHS, described the horrors she had witnessed on the wards of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. ‘You only had to open a ward door at the hospital .... to know that care was appalling. But the people in charge chose not to do that.’

Nor was it just managers who failed to take that simple step of opening the ward doors. It goes all the way to the top.

Yesterday Robert Francis QC published his second report into the failures at Mid Staffordshire, laying bare how a wide range of commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies in the NHS — right up to the most senior figures at the Department of Health at Whitehall — also failed to see for themselves just how their policies were playing out on NHS wards.

Had they done so, they would have seen how the Trust’s desire to be granted ‘foundation status’ — and the financial freedoms that went with it —  was causing patients ‘horrific experiences that will haunt them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives’. Those were the words of Francis in his first report two years ago.

How could our NHS have sunk so low?

I spent 10 months investigating NHS management for a think-tank report, visiting hospitals and talking to staff and patients. The failings that turn hospitals into killing fields were there for anyone to see. I fear they still are.

Because despite its excellent analysis and 290 recommendations, the Francis report does not confront the central problem: the politicisation of the NHS.

Under Labour our health service,  with its top-down, target-driven culture, became a PR machine for the government at the expense of patients’ lives. It became a bureaucratic behemoth whose hospital managers worried far more about pleasing their Westminster masters than about the sick and vulnerable in their care.

Now it is going through yet another political upheaval under the Coalition, as control over budgets is handed directly to panels of GPs. But the central problem remains the same: the NHS is still a monolithic state industry, too often impervious to the public it is meant to serve.

During my investigation, NHS chief executives and middle managers regularly complained to me that the majority of their time was spent not on their hospital and patients but on NHS central bureaucracy and responding to its sometimes hourly demands. As one chief executive said sadly to me: ‘Above all, I realise what my job is really about is politics.’

New initiatives continually cascaded from Whitehall. At one meeting of senior managers ‘compliance issues’ took up all of the agenda. How could they afford to implement the latest government initiative and pay for a manager to check compliance? Which initiative had now moved out of fashion and could be quietly dropped?

The only time they discussed what was actually going on in their hospital was over the issue of staff parking.

On the wards it was a similar story. Junior doctors and nurses came up with new ideas to streamline the system, save money or help patients. They were ignored. No one of any seniority was interested: they were too busy looking upward, not downward.

Improving your patients’ lot does not win promotion. Compliance with the latest fad from the Department of Health, irrespective of its damage to the patient, does. Yet the Francis inquiry makes no mention of Whitehall’s culpability. While civil servants continue to micro-manage our hospitals, staff will continue to put them first and patients a poor second.

In response to the inquiry’s recommendations, David Cameron announced yesterday that he was setting up one regulatory inspector for the NHS. This is certainly a step in the right direction. But will it really make the radical difference our NHS so urgently needs? Forgive me for being sceptical.

Patients continued to die at Mid Staffordshire because the countless organisations that are meant to monitor and scrutinise noticed nothing.

They, like everyone else, failed to go on the wards and see what was going on. It meant, as Francis points out, that the Trust board could rely on ‘apparently favourable performance reports by outside bodies, such as the Healthcare Commission,’ rather than ‘effective internal assessment and feedback from staff and patients’.

Perish the thought of anyone actually approaching a patient to ask their opinion.

Even those who tried to raise the alarm were ignored. Amanda Pollard, an inspector at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), specialised in the control of infections such as the MRSA superbug. At the time, this was a major concern on every trust’s radar. Inspections were carried out at Mid Staffordshire over two days and resulted in a detailed, in-depth report highlighting critical failings.

But then new initiatives came down from the centre and the focus of the trust changed. The infection teams were disbanded. As Pollard says: ‘I could not believe something so effective could be thrown away.’

Unfortunately no one informed the superbugs that they were off the agenda. They continued to kill patients on Mid Staffordshire wards. Bravely, Pollard resigned from a job she loved and went public with her concerns. The Francis inquiry now calls for a similar duty of candour to be imposed on NHS staff. But how effective can this be if the culture itself is not confronted?

Plenty of staff raised concerns at Stafford Hospital. When Pradip Singh, consultant gastroenterologist, complained, he was temporarily suspended. After that, he felt he had to consider his family and mortgage.

The truth is, it is not up to staff to implement the wholesale change the NHS needs. It is the job of government and the Department of Health.

The report also fails to acknowledge how the problems at Mid Staffs first came to light. Patients, we should remember, could still be dying in pain and squalor were it not for the Dr Foster Unit, an independent health data organisation established in 2002 at Imperial College. In 2006, it was their research which showed that the Trust had an excess death rate of 27 per cent above the national average.

Crucially, the unit was not part of the top-down culture where it is in no one’s interests to ask awkward questions for fear that it might harm your career. Far from offering thanks, the hospital board attempted to rubbish Dr Foster’s figures while a further 231 people died.

The Francis inquiry has correctly identified the institutional culture that caused so much suffering and death. But it has sidestepped calling for an overhaul of the system.

It is an opportunity lost. It means that in hospitals around the country the unreality of government-speak will continue to come up against the reality of too few staff and too many patients, to the detriment of us all.

While the careers of politicians, civil servants and managers depend on camouflaging this uncomfortable fact, we will have a health service that, as Chris Turner, a junior doctor in Stafford Hospital’s A&E, so chillingly put it, is ‘immune to the sound of pain’.


A generation of 'little savages' raised in nurseries as daycare is linked to aggression in toddlers

A rapid increase in nursery places has led to a generation of violent ‘little savages’, psychologist Oliver James has warned.

Mr James, the best-selling author of books on child-rearing, said ministerial proposals to allow childcarers to look after more youngsters would fuel aggression in the under-threes which would have lasting effects.

Shoving youngsters in to nurseries was simply ‘warehousing’ them so that the government could push mothers back to work to reap income for the Exchequer, he argued.

Nursery places in Britain have expanded at the same time as a rise in violence in primary school classrooms.

The author of How Not to F*** Them Up said: ‘We start off as Barbarians and what makes us civilised is being loved and looked after.

‘If you are an 18 month-old in a nursery, it is impossible for you not to feel threatened.  You are surrounded by savages and you are a little savage too.’

Mr James criticised Education Minister Elizabeth Truss’s proposal to allow childminders and nursery staff to care for more children with fewer employees.

He told the Mail: ‘To try and look after three young toddlers is hard but to try and look after four is just mad. How on earth do you do that well and meet their needs?’

Mr James pointed to a study in America which tracked youngsters for 15 years. It showed a correlation between the hours placed with nursery to increased aggression and bad behaviour, reported by both parents and nursery workers.

‘Studies show there is a direct link between how many hours you spend in daycare up to the age of four and a half and how aggressive you are.’

The Mail has also highlighted how 40 primary school children in England are expelled every day for assaulting their teachers.  Violence levels have soared most in the South East – rising 41 per cent from 2006/7 to 2010/11.  Some 8,030 pupils aged five to 11 received were expelled in 2010/11 – a 15 per cent rise over four years.

‘The explosion of violence in the classroom is very plausibly linked to the rise of daycare under New Labour,’ Mr James said.

‘Since this generation of primary kids are the ones who are reaping the harvest of Harriet Harman and her colleagues’ plans of turning SureStart into a giant creche, it is not surprising that we are seeing more violence.

‘No one can deny that daycare increases aggressiveness of toddlers. A toddler raised at home with a single carer is six times less likely to be aggressive than one enduring more than 45 hours a week daycare  and the more daycare a child has, the greater the aggression. This aggression is sustained and predicts greater problems in primary schools.’

Mr James pointed out that politicians often did not use day care and themselves hired nannies to care for their children.
He said there was a need for British-based research to study the long-term effects on children who are ‘warehoused’ in nurseries.

Instead of expanding nursery places or encouraging childminders to take on more youngsters, the government should create a network of nannies.

Government proposals to demand higher qualifications from nursery staff would do little to raise the standards of care, Mr James added.  He said: ‘There are armies of East European women who do not have any training in childcare at all but many are far better than indigenous childcarers who scrape through school and are doing it for the money, often spending the day texting their boyfriends.’

Fulltime nursery places in England soared from 431,600 to 721,500 between 2003 and 2011, according to official figures provided by the Family and Parenting Institute and Daycare Trust

Jill Rutter, research manager for the Family and Parenting Institute and Daycare Trust said: ‘Oliver James uses evidence from the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development childcare study as evidence that nurseries fuel child aggression. Yes, he is right in one way: long hours of nursery care were associated with increased behavioral problems in children of four and five in this study. But the same study showed that this was a small effect compared with the quality of parenting. Moreover, children who attended high quality nurseries were much less likely to experience later behavioural problems.’

She added that nannies may be better for babies but few parents could afford the £25,000 to £30,000 cost. ‘Nurseries or registered childminders are the only affordable option for most parents. Given this reality and the findings of the US study about the effects of quality, we should be promoting quality nursery and childminder care, rather than criticising working parents.’

The charity has itself opposed any loosening of the ratios for children, warning that the quality of care would suffer.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘This research is about children spending time away from their parents; it is not about nursery staff: child ratios.

He added: ‘In fact, the best education systems consistently prioritise staff quality over the size of classes, as the OECD has said. Nursery staff qualifications are crucial when it comes to the quality of early education.’

Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education and special adviser on Education policy at the OECD, said: ‘High performing education systems consistently prioritise the quality of their staff over the size of classes. OECD’s work on early childhood education underlines the importance of having staff with proper educational qualifications and that staff qualifications are the best predictor of the quality of early childhood education and care.’


No free speech for Australian army personnel?

The sacred sodomites being worshipped again

The Queensland Senate hopeful kicked out of Bob Katter's party for anti-gay comments now faces punishment from the Defence Force.

Bernard Gaynor, the former national secretary of Katter's Australian Party and a member of the Army Reserve, was suspended from the party last month after he tweeted that he would not allow gay people to teach his children.

A "hot issue brief" shows the defence force is worried about his "inappropriate" comment because media reports on the controversy mentioned his army service.

"The member's chain of command is seeking legal advice in relation to administrative action," the document says. Adverse administrative actions are "designed to admonish and correct unsatisfactory or unacceptable performance". But Mr Gaynor said on Thursday he stood by his position "that a parent should be able to choose who teaches their children".

Mr Gaynor was one of two budding politicians who had to give up their hopes of running for Katter's Australian Party after making comments about gay rights last month.

The other, Tess Corbett, withdrew her nomination for the federal seat of Wannon in Victoria after sparking controversy by claiming paedophiles would "be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians and get rights".



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING 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.  Email me (John Ray) here


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