Sunday, April 07, 2013
Another Leftist hypocrite who despises those he claims to represent
In public he’s a hard-working man of the people, a rising star from South London tipped to become Labour leader one day.
In private, however, it seems Chuka Umunna – hailed by his admirers as Britain’s Barack Obama – is happy to be a man of the social elite, with a distinct taste for the high life.
The former DJ, now Labour’s shadow business secretary, belongs to an exclusive online club for so-called ‘jetrosexuals’, where he asked for tips on the best nightspots to avoid the ‘trash and C-list wannabes’ of London’s West End.
Fellow members of ASmallWorld, which has been described as MySpace for millionaires, reportedly include Tiger Woods and Naomi Campbell.
The invitation-only website, which was founded by Swedish investment banker Erik Wachtmeister, currently features an article about ‘mile-high hook-ups’ on private jets. It has also been described as a hunting ground for ‘sugar daddies’.
Mr Umunna, the 34-year-old centre-left MP for Streatham, South London, is registered on the social network with his middle name, Harrison.
In July 2006 Mr Umunna was still working as an employment lawyer, but was beginning to make a name for himself as a left-wing commentator.
On ASmallWorld, however, he was bemoaning the lack of ‘decent’ clubs in London’s West End, writing: ‘Is it just me or is there a serious lack of cool places to go in central London at the weekends.
‘Most of the West End haunts seem to be full of trash and C-list wannabes, while other places that should know better opt for the cheesy vibe.’
Praising a club he had recently visited in Kensington, he asked for suggestions for ‘a trash-free, decent night’.
Two years later, when he was hunting for a safe Labour seat, Mr Umunna turned to the website for more advice, this time for ‘what’s hot right now’ in Miami. He said he was spending ten days in the city, and listed a string of exclusive clubs he had visited during a previous trip.
These included Mynt Lounge, which boasts of having the ‘tightest door policy and the most fabulous crowd’. It is visited by ‘A-list celebrities’ including Ricky Martin, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Its owner Romain Zago says: ‘Mynt is for the famous and fabulous’.
Mr Umunna’s other favourite, Mokai, promotes ‘Sexy Bitch Wednesdays’ which are reputed to attract ‘A-list celebrities’.
It also runs Weekend Warrior Fridays, where ‘everyone is beautiful after 4am’. He also took time to visit Nikki Beach, an oceanfront ‘sexy South Beach nightclub’ and Forge, which holds champagne happy hours.
A PR for the elite Opium string of clubs contacted Mr Umunna through the social network and offered him VIP passes, but last night the MP said he had not accepted the freebies.
But he did accept an invitation to a private party for ASmallWorld members at the British Luxury Club in London, which features a bar made of Swarovski crystals.
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘In public [Mr Umunna] likes to portray himself as a man of the people. Yet we know in private he has a lack of respect for the public.
‘Chuka, or should I say Harrison, has been outed as the ultimate champagne socialist who revels in living the high life, brands the public C-list celebrities and trashes our capital city. You can’t get more out of touch than that.’
While he has not posted on the site since he became an MP, Mr Umunna last night confirmed that he is still a member of ASmallWorld.
When contacted by the Mail, he apologised for any offence caused by the comments.
A spokesman for Mr Umunna said: ‘Chuka used the ASmallWorld social network in the past, which is similar to Facebook.
‘Though his user account on the site still exists, he has not posted a thread on the site for many years, since long before he was elected as a Member of Parliament.’
The spokesman also said that Mr Umunna’s interest in ‘house music’ was well known, as he used to be a DJ.
He added: ‘In terms of the post from 2006, these were comments made on a private social network well over half a decade ago.
‘Though light-hearted in tone and context, and made long before he became an MP, Chuka accepts the choice of words used were not appropriate and apologises if any offence may have been caused.’
Another rich Leftist
All in it together? Clegg swaps austerity Britain for his family's £7million, 20-room Swiss ski chalet
Three days earlier, he sat stern-faced through the Coalition’s latest ‘we’re all in it together’ Budget.
But with a flatlining economy and the row raging over benefits cuts, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg knew exactly where he needed to be – at his family’s £7million, 20-room, Swiss ski chalet.
Leaving the stress of austerity Britain behind, he jetted out with his family for an Easter getaway at the luxury villa nestling between fashionable Klosters and the resort of Davos.
His family’s retreat – which comes complete with its own chef – has a large wooden balcony for sunbathing and magnificent views through the pine trees towards Lake Davos.
Mr Clegg, 46, is enjoying his second holiday there this year with his wife, commercial lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the daughter of a Spanish senator, and their three young sons.
They flew out last Saturday and were enjoying the millionaires’ playground – a favourite of the Royal Family – days before the benefits cuts, which are due to come into force on Monday.
The Deputy PM’s chalet – which would cost around £10,000 a week if it was available to rent – has been owned by his Dutch mother Hermance and her relatives for decades, and he has been skiing there since infancy.
It was built by his maternal grandfather, who loved the area so much he became a Swiss citizen.
This week, Mr Clegg was seen on the slopes in a Dainese designer helmet, Killy ski gloves and a trendy Patagonia jacket in ‘Lib Dem orange’. He was spotted gallantly carrying both his and his wife’s skis, balancing them on his shoulders like a pair of hunting rifles.
On Thursday, on the way back to his villa, he stopped his people carrier and wound down his window when he saw some photographers, and asked: ‘Are you looking for me?’ Then he drove off.
He had earlier driven to the Jakobshorn mountain, where the family took a cable car up to the 8,000ft peak.
They spent three-and-a-half hours enjoying the slopes, rubbing shoulders with the super-rich. The warm weather saw many of his fellow skiers abandon the snow to sunbathe at mountaintop restaurants, where lunchtime bottles of wine sell for £70.
One skier told Mr Clegg outside a restaurant that he was a fan of his and thought that he was doing a good job. Mr Clegg replied: ‘It’s very difficult at times.’
As well as the Swiss hideaway, Mr Clegg, who is estimated to be worth £1.9million, also uses his father’s chateau in Bordeaux.
And a poor Conservative
Memories of the days he spent pounding the streets of London looking for work have played heavily on Iain Duncan Smith this week.
When he casts his mind back to 1981 he sees himself as a very different man — an unemployed soldier returning home each day to his girlfriend’s tiny bedsit in a bleak Victorian house, trying not to lose hope at a time when unemployment levels were nudging to a post-war high of 3 million.
Then a 26-year-old former lieutenant in the Scots Guards, with active service in Rhodesia and Northern Ireland under his belt, Duncan Smith had completed an HGV drivers’ course in his final fortnight in the Army to help prepare him for ‘Civvy Street’.
The reality, he says, was tougher than he had ever imagined — but he survived it. ‘There is always the lofty assumption that Tories like me don’t know what it’s like to live in the real world,’ he says. It is an assumption that clearly riles him.
Indeed, this week, during a heated interview about his cuts to the welfare state on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news show Today, the Work and Pensions Secretary found himself challenged to live on £53 a week.
Ambushed live on air by 51-year-old market trader David Bennett, who was complaining about cuts to his housing benefit, Duncan Smith was asked if he could survive on such an amount — roughly equivalent to the lowest rate of jobseekers’ allowance.
When the question was put to him directly by the BBC’s John Humphrys, the 58-year-old former Tory leader refused to side-step the question and replied: ‘If I had to, I would.’
Critics of his bid to trim Britain’s monstrous welfare bill swiftly pounced on the idea: an online petition calling for him to forego his £134,565 salary and live on Mr Bennett’s income for a year attracted more than 25,000 signatures on its first day.
But the reality is that Duncan Smith, the son of a World War II RAF hero, doesn’t feel the need to cave in to such cheap publicity stunts.
He’s already been there and done that and learnt valuable lessons about Britain’s benefit system from his own experiences.
In the 20 years I have known Duncan Smith, I have never seen him so animated about any subject as he was this week when I interviewed him in his constituency.
Today, he may be comfortably off, but he told me that as an unemployed ex-serviceman caught up in Britain’s Eighties economic crisis he has already faced the worst of times and learnt how to tighten his belt accordingly.
During those days of hardship, he would leave the house each morning and go looking for work, only returning in the evening after his future wife, Betsy Fremantle, had arrived home from her secretarial job. He wasn’t even meant to be living there — because he couldn’t afford to pay any rent.
‘The honest truth is that I lived illegally with Betsy in the bedsit, trying to pretend I was not there. I didn’t have any money, which is why I tried to avoid the landlady,’ recalls Duncan Smith.
Inevitably, he was rumbled by the formidable Mrs Fair, who spotted him creeping into the house. He was allowed to stay after agreeing to do jobs, from wiring plugs to changing light bulbs, and general maintenance.
Duncan Smith and Betsy were living in one room with a one-ring gas oven. ‘We had to keep the meter fed otherwise the gas ran out halfway through cooking dinner,’ he says.
The furniture was tatty, the carpet threadbare, and there was no television but they did have a radio. They shared the bathroom with three other bedsits.
‘They say love makes everything work,’ recalls a rueful Duncan Smith, who has been married to Betsy for 30 years.
‘Back then, a lot of people didn’t approve of people living together before marriage but we loved each other, we wanted to be together, and we were saving up for a proper wedding.’
Each day he put on his only suit and went to the nearest job exchange and, after another fruitless search, he went to the library .
‘I had the Stock Market Year Book so I could bombard all manner of company directors with letters. I was looking for a job, not benefits, and I wasn’t complaining.’
His cold calling paid off when GEC Marconi offered him the post of junior marketing executive.
‘It was such a relief as I thought I would get a job more quickly,’ he recalls. ‘It took months. I never claimed benefits so the little bit of money I had when I left the Army was running out. We lived economically — there were no treats.’
Betsy bought clothes in second-hand shops, a practice that would stand her family in good stead when unemployment came calling again — more of which later.
It is his experience all that time ago of being unemployed, of scraping by on scarce funds, that today gives Iain Duncan Smith such a sense of empathy with those he is determined to help in his role as Work and Pensions Secretary.
The job is the most difficult in government — a poisoned chalice as he freely admits, not least because under the last government, Britain’s welfare bill soared to £180 billion a year.
It was inevitable that any bid to cut it would provoke an outcry from certain quarters, although perhaps even he did not anticipate the extent to which the Left would try to demonise him as the living embodiment of the so-called evil Conservative government.
This week’s life sentence for Mick Philpott for killing six of his children in a house fire has hardened Duncan Smith’s determination to go even further and limit child benefit to the first two children.
Philpott, who claimed £60,000 in benefits a year, had 17 children by five different women.
According to Duncan Smith: ‘It is my view — which has not changed, but we couldn’t get Coalition agreement — that we should limit it to two children.
'It’s not just child benefit but there are also the tax credits and huge and expensive properties the taxpayer has to maintain for these sorts of families.’
Not surprisingly, his hardline stance has focused attention back on his own life.
Fortunately for his enemies, he makes an easy target because he lives today in a £2 million 16th-century house in acres of farmland in Buckinghamshire.
He does not own the house, which belongs to his in-laws Lord and Lady Cottesloe, nor will he inherit it. He moved in a decade ago when Betsy’s parents, who are in their 80s and in frail health, couldn’t manage the property.
‘The personal vilification we have endured over where we live is outrageous,’ he says. ‘I am not involved in the property and Betsy does not have a financial interest. We don’t get a bean from the farm and have never drawn any income from her parents.’
Betsy’s older brother is the heir and he lives abroad doing charity work in India. The house, which is run-down and in need of modernisation, has been in Betsy’s family for centuries.
It was home to Sir Thomas Fremantle, an admiral who served with Lord Nelson in the Napoleonic wars, and whose son, also called Thomas, was a Conservative politician and the first Baron Cottesloe.
Betsy’s grandfather, the 4th Lord Cottesloe, was the unpaid chairman of the Arts Council and instrumental in the creation of the National Theatre. One of the National’s three theatres bears the Cottesloe name.
Duncan Smith says: ‘It is upsetting when they keep on about our privileged lifestyle. When times got tough we adjusted our spending accordingly.’
A case in point is when Duncan Smith left GEC to go to work for a property company called Bellwinch. It was 1988 and the height of the property boom. His timing could not have been worse.
The market crashed and Duncan Smith was unemployed again.
At the time they were living in a flat in Fulham, bought on a mortgage, long before the area became fashionable. Iain had gone to work and Betsy was at home looking after their son and two-month-old daughter.
‘Everything had been going so well. I remember looking out of the office window and seeing the director parking his car. 'He was not expected at the office. I was puzzled and began talking to him about some of the projects we had started. ‘He wasn’t interested. He said: “We are going to have to let you go.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.’
There was hardly any pay-off.
‘I couldn’t bring myself to telephone Betsy. I went back to Fulham, walked through the door and said: “I’ve lost my job.” To her credit she said: “We are going to have to work very hard to get you back into work.”
‘I was depressed and felt a failure, like it was all my fault. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone so went through the pretence that everything was OK. My pride had been knocked to hell. I thought: this isn’t supposed to happen to someone who is keen to get on.’
They invested their meagre savings in an Amstrad computer and started writing letters. Unemployment was rising again and as their savings dwindled, Duncan Smith contacted the building society to reschedule payments on his mortgage.
‘It was an incredibly difficult time. I was running up debts as we were trying to eke out the little bit we had left.’
A lifeline came in the form of a job as publishing director of Jane’s Information group, the defence specialists.
Fast forward two years and Duncan Smith — who had been the Tory candidate in Bradford West at the 1987 General Election — was selected for the plum Conservative constituency of Chingford, succeeding Norman Tebbit, who is one of his great admirers.
In 2001, he became Tory leader but was deposed after two unhappy years.
He might then have given up on politics — in the way that David Miliband who, just over two years after failing to secure the Labour leadership, quit Parliament, triggering an unnecessary and expensive by-election.
Miliband is taking up a post in New York paying a £300,000 salary, having already earned more than £1 million on the international speaking circuit.
After announcing his departure, he was lionised on BBC news programmes without so much as a suggestion that he might have let down his constituents in South Shields.
Duncan Smith, on the other hand, moved on from his disappointing tenure as Tory leader by choosing a very different path, setting up the Centre For Social Justice think tank to examine ways to alleviate poverty and homelessness.
It was while he was leader that his moment of epiphany came, when he visited Glasgow’s sprawling Easterhouse estate where he witnessed generations of families who were locked by welfare dependency into poverty, joblessness and drug addiction.
He was moved to tears by what he saw and embarked on a personal mission to find ways of reaching out to deprived communities.
‘Easterhouse was important,’ he explains. ‘but it was when I was Shadow Social Security Secretary under William Hague that I became wedded to the idea that we had to change the benefits system to reward people who want to work rather than those who want to stay on benefits.’
His determination to see this through was why, when the Coalition came to power, he took on the thankless task of welfare reform as Work and Pensions Secretary.
He clearly believes passionately in the work he is doing, although he despairs at how the Conservatives’ austerity programme is reported — above all, by the BBC. ‘The BBC is always negative, never explains, never talks about why we are reforming, or the fact that national debt is rising to terrifying levels,’ he complains.
‘All the BBC case studies are hard-luck stories like that of the £53-a-week market trader. They never focus on a family stuck on a housing waiting list or in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.’
He is clearly exasperated, too, at how removing the Spare Room Subsidy — which will see housing benefit-payment cuts to council house tenants with surplus spare rooms — has been labelled the ‘bedroom tax’ by Labour.
When the BBC employed the same phrase, Duncan Smith complained. ‘Now they call it the “so-called bedroom tax”. It’s a disgrace.’
He points out that there are 390,000 tenants with two or more extra bedrooms in their homes — bedrooms that could be used to help to alleviate pressure on the 250,000 tenants in overcrowded accommodation, and almost 1.8 million people on the housing waiting list.
Duncan Smith knows the personal abuse will continue and that the Left will continue to exaggerate his wealth. In fact, the only property he owns is a one-bedroom former council flat in London.
Phoenix recruits minorities who can't swim well as lifeguards, endangering lives
The City of Phoenix thinks that swimming ability isn't very important for a lifeguard, and that "diversity" matters more than the ability to save lives. When it comes to the minorities it's recruiting, it says it's "not looking for strong swimmers." As George Mason University law professor David Bernstein notes, discussing a recent NPR story about this:
You can’t make this stuff up. The city of Phoenix, concerned that “too many” of its lifeguards are white and that kids in non-white neighborhood pools can’t relate, is recruiting black and Hispanic kids who are not strong swimmers. A [recruited] student featured in the article tells the NPR reporter, “Honestly, I have a little bit a fear of the water,” . . . It would be one thing if the city was promising to get only hire kids who could be trained to be strong swimmers by the Summer. Instead, pool staff will work with underqualified kids on their swimming schools “all Summer.” And what if someone is drowning on Memorial Day? NPR seems to want to put a happy-face “City of Phoenix reaching out to minority kids for lifeguard jobs” spin on this story, but as a Facebook friend put it, “If I wrote a job ad, ‘Looking for weak swimmers to be life guards for minorities,’ you would think it was some sort of racist joke.”
Racial preferences are generally forbidden by the Constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but the Supreme Court has occasionally countenanced exceptions allowing the use of race, such as to promote "diversity" in college admissions (in its 2003 Grutter decision), or affirmative action by private employers to eliminate "manifest racial imbalances" (in its 1979 Weber decision).
But what Phoenix is doing is unconstitutional, and is motivated at least partly by a legally-forbidden customer-preference rationale (the idea that patrons of neighborhood pools want a lifeguard who looks like them and can't "relate" to lifeguards of a different race, like whites), rather than any legally legitimate remedial affirmative action rationale. That's putting aside the fact that it's just plain foolish and unsafe for patrons of city pools.
Currently, the Supreme Court is weighing the constitutionality of racial preferences in college admissions (in the Fisher v. Texas case) and a challenge to a Michigan state constitutional amendment banning racial preferences in college admissions, government contracts, and public employment (in the Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action case).
Discriminating against job applicants based on customers' supposed preference for members of one group (as Phoenix is doing) is generally forbidden even in the context of gender discrimination, which is less forbidden than racial discrimination, and which (unlike racial discrimination) is occasionally permissible as a bona fide occupational qualification. See Diaz v. Pan American World Airways, 442 F2d 385 (5th Cir 1971). This invalid rationale for minority preferences renders them unconstitutional even if the preferences could theoretically have been justified based on another rationale (which does not appear to be the case here, in any event). A City must show that a legitimate rationale for using race was its “actual purpose” for using race, and cannot rely on a purpose that “did not actually precipitate the use of race.” (See Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 908 n.4, 910 (1996)).
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 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. Email me (John Ray) here.