Friday, April 19, 2013

Mining Coal Is Good, But Burning Coal Is Bad? Struggling to Understand the Left


This isn't another blog about the Iron Lady. There have been quite enough of those already: we have, so to speak, reached Thatcheration point. Rather, it's an attempt to get to grips with why so many people react with venomous rage to her name. Some of the abuse, of course, is simply the idiotic teenage posturing that you get on Twitter (I have favorited some examples, to give you a sense of what I mean). But plenty comes from people who, in other contexts, are balanced and considerate.

I have spent three days trying to understand the intensity of their reaction. As far as I can make out, anti-Thatcherites have two main complaints. First, that the Tory leader heartlessly closed coal mines and other heavy industries. Second, that, in increasing the gap between rich and poor, she made Britain more materialistic and selfish.

Let us deal with them in turn. It's true that the UK, in common with every Western country, was going through a process of deindustrialization in the 1980s. That process had begun at least half a century earlier, and had accelerated through the Sixties and Seventies, when Harold Wilson closed nearly twice as many pits as Margaret Thatcher was to do. Of course, what we mean by 'closed' is that the Government discontinued the grants that had kept unprofitable mines in operation. Neither Wilson nor Thatcher prohibited the extraction of coal; they simply stopped obliging everyone else to subsidize it.

Why were the mines and other heavy industries unprofitable? Partly because of lower production costs in developing countries, and partly because of trade union militancy at home.

As in every age and nation, some sectors expanded while others contracted. Just as telephones put stenographers out of work, so there was a shift from heavy industry to services. Such shifts are never easy. Even the men who used their redundancy payments to build successful second careers look back painfully on the transition. I can quite understand why there were strong feelings at the time.

What I find bewildering is why the mine closures are cited now as evidence of Tory wickedness. No one, with the exceptions of the SWP and the BNP, wants to recreate a state-owned coal industry today. Indeed, the people who complain most bitterly about the pit closures are generally those who are most against burning coal.
Ah, you say, but you can't just have a service-sector economy.

Maybe. But why is building cars for a living more valuable than driving them? Why is making boilers more important than installing them? The expansion of the service sector has improved our lives immeasurably. It has given us better medical care, more convenient shopping hours, wider leisure activities.

Don't get me wrong, making things is wonderful. We are the eighth largest manufacturing economy on Earth, selling tea to China and vodka to Poland, and exporting more cars than we import for the first time since the early 1970s. And we're doing it all without subsidy. Despite - or, rather, because of - the removal of state aid, manufacturing output was 7.5 per cent higher when Margaret Thatcher left office than when she entered it. The nostalgia, in other words, is not for making things per se, but for particular industries: coal, shipbuilding, steel.

It is a nostalgia which, I confess, I simply can't grasp. My grandfather worked in the Clyde shipyards between the wars and, like many of his workmates, died in his sixties. He never wanted that life for his grandson.

What, then, of the second charge, that we became more heartless as our social cohesion loosened? It's certainly true that the gap between rich and poor widened, but this has been happening all over the industrialized world since the 1960s, for reasons which social scientists dispute. The two most popular explanations, as far as I can understand, are greater social mobility, which drains poor areas of their ablest inhabitants, and the tendency of wealthy people to marry each other - a tendency that followed the large-scale entry of women into the workforce.

I don't know what the explanation is. What I do know, though, is that the gap between rich and poor widened further under Labour. I know, too, that charitable giving doubled - over and above inflation - during the Thatcher years. By that most empirical of measures, we have become less selfish. Certainly less selfish than the Lady's trade union adversaries, who never lost their belief that the world owed them a living.

I've tried, I really have, to understand the anger, but it eludes me. I know that this blog is followed by many tolerant, reasonable, Labour-voting readers. Maybe one of you chaps could help.


EU uses public cash to back groups that want to stifle Press freedom

Brussels is pumping millions of pounds of public money into groups dedicated to stifling a free Press, it emerged yesterday.

The European Commission is helping to fund groups seeking state-backed regulation of newspapers, including key allies of Hugh Grant's Hacked Off campaign.

One - called Mediadem - has a mission statement to `reclaim a free and independent media' and is demanding tougher sanctions than `an apology or correction'.

The EU has spent œ2.3million on the previously unpublicised project.

The commission says it wants to be a `moral compass' against press misconduct and is seeking new national and Europe-wide regulatory powers against newspapers.

But critics say it is only taking such a stance because of the unfavourable coverage that European institutions get in the Press.

Philip Davies, a Tory member of the Culture Select Committee, said: `Given the scandals in the EU and revelations of its misappropriation of funding, it is no surprise that Europe wants to restrict the free press which can uncover its corruption.

`And it shows up exactly the sort of body that Hacked Off is if it wants to ally itself with these sorts of people.'

A policy brief for Mediadem, co-authored by its lead British researcher, Rachael Craufurd Smith, says it is `simplistic' to see state influence over the Press as `inherently stifling'.

Mediadem recently produced `recommendations for the UK' demanding the `imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction' on errant media outlets and the `co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level'.

Dr Craufurd Smith, from Edinburgh University, also called for further chilling action against the Press to ensure `that neither the media, nor those individuals who own or work for the media, enjoy an absolute right to freedom of expression'.

The recommendations demand the Press be controlled by the same body and on the same basis as broadcasters, who currently face stricter regulations including statutory `balance' obligations that do not apply to newspapers.

Dr Craufurd Smith told the Sunday Telegraph that the EU funding may have been prompted by Brussels' belief that the Press treats it unfairly.

As well as Mediadem, there are at least five other initiatives backed by Brussels to increase its powers over the media. One, MediaAcT, has channelled about œ100,000 of European cash directly to a key Hacked Off ally, the Mediawise campaign group.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said last night: `It is `strange if the EU is investing in ways to set up bureaucratic interference with the free Press'.


I left my son at four months old to go back to work. 37 years on, he's still paying the emotional price: One mother's startling and courageous confession

A couple of days after my first son was born, I remember watching him sleep. His parachute-silk eyelids dropped over his eyes. He was full from his last feed, his breathing scarcely more than a contented whisper. He looked so assuredly at peace with the world.

There was a lump in my throat from the overwhelming love I felt for this new person who I had nurtured and protected inside me for nine months, and was now out in the world.

As each week went by, I felt more and more attached to Zek as we formed an incredibly close bond.

But all that changed when the four-month-long paid maternity leave from my newspaper job came to an end. I loved my work, needed the money, and therefore didn't feel I had a choice over whether or not to go back.

So I did what every mother at this difficult moment does: I found a good childminder and convinced myself my son would be fine.
Zek. Over the years I have felt the need to prove to him that he is important to me and unconditionally loved.

Over the years Angela has felt the need to prove to Zek (r) that he is important to her and loved

And was he fine? Physically, yes. Emotionally, however, I'm not so sure. In fact, I am convinced that the abrupt break in the bonding process between us had a profound and enduring effect, and may still be having an effect - even though he's a now a 37-year-old father himself.

I am also convinced that because I never left my younger son, Cato, born four-and-a-half years later in 1980, and was a constant presence throughout his childhood, he is the secure, loving and easy-going man he is today.

I have found myself recalling those difficult, guilt-ridden days as a young working parent as debate rages about George Osborne's recent budget.

A host of tax allowances that favour working over 'stay-at-home' mothers has provoked fury, and I think rightly so.

Forcing mothers back to work when they do not feel their child is ready, is cruel and destructive for all concerned. What has become lost amid the political battle is what it means for a child to have their mother with them, rather than a stand-in who, however loving, can never understand and love them as much.

When my maternity leave was up and I returned to work in February 1976, Zek became clingy and fretful, crying anxiously if I so much as left the room. It didn't just happen when he was left with the childminder when I went to work; at weekends it was the same when I was only moving from room to room.

As he grew into a toddler, there were tantrums and fits of defiant anger that continued for years.

During his school days, he would stamp around declaring he was 'rubbish'. Other times he just seemed sad and withdrawn.

Leaving Zek was not, I now see, simply a matter of finding high-quality childcare. He was certainly well looked after - and is still in contact with his childminder.

It was, I realise, a double whammy. Not only did he lose me when I was at work, he also lost me, in a sense, when I was at home. You see, Zek did not have me, the person who had represented fundamental security since his birth, the person he relied on, to help him navigate this big, overwhelming and sometimes frightening new world.

Exhausted from my demanding newspaper job, I often arrived back home drained and frazzled and not up to empathetic parenting.

At this point, my husband Olly was also working long  and unpredictable hours in the film business.

At the time, I didn't know much about the meaning of attachment. But writing about children's psychological problems and researching for my book A Home For The Heart, I came to understand it is vital for children to feel bonded to the person ultimately responsible for caring for them.

If you don't, as my personal experience shows, children can suffer for the rest of their lives. I believe it is crucial for a mother or a father, who has been very involved from the beginning, to provide a loving, secure and constant presence while babies navigate that first year.

I started working from home as a freelance writer when Zek was two-and-a-half. I made the difficult decision to sacrifice my job to care for him, with help, at home because I had begun to fear that Zek's worrying behavioural traits were caused by my lack of time for him.

But even though we began to spend more time together, he remained guarded and, as he became articulate, fiercely critical of me. It was as though the abrupt severing of the bond we had developed so early on continued to be an unconscious force.

He, of course, is unaware of any damage done. But the point about damaged attachment is that it is unconscious

How different all this was with my second son. Cato, who was born four years after Zek, when I was already working from home.

He slotted into a life where I was  virtually a constant presence. Yes, we had au pairs or helpers who came in during the day, but I could be around if needed and I broke from work at tea time to be with the boys until they went to bed. If necessary, I worked into the night to meet deadlines.

I believe the attachment Cato had with me - without a sudden break - gave him an entirely different quality of security.

Etched on my memory is a lovely image of him as a baby in his bouncy chair in the garden with me working contentedly alongside him.

He was so at ease, and unlike Zek, not at all worried if I came or went. He was benignly accepting, secure and good natured. I can  never recall feeling seriously concerned about him in the way I had with Zek during his childhood. Zek was far more often a worry.

Cato's deep sense of security enabled him to become independent of me and Olly at his own pace, to develop sociability and the desire to be with other children, and be without me.

He has always been trusting and emotionally open, whereas his brother is far less so, even to this day. Zek has always been cautious and secretive with us. I knew nothing of the relationships he might have had as a young man, and it was only when things were serious between them that he introduced his future wife.

Cato on the other hand wrote 'I love Emily' behind the bath when, aged six, he was infatuated with a girl at school.

Since then he has poured out tales of passions, sobbed on my shoulder at big break-ups and is demonstrably loving with his fiancee in front of us.

Most importantly, Cato has always seemed to trust that his world was a happy place and I know deep down that is because I didn't abandon him to get back to work too early in that precious first year.

So I believe fervently that we must not penalise mothers who want to stay with their children until they judge they are ready to be left.

Thankfully, there is a happy ending to my story with Zek. Over the years I have felt the need to prove to him that he is important to me and unconditionally loved.

As he has grown to adulthood, I have discussed this with him - apologised in fact - for what I believe was a traumatic event for a four-month-old to endure.

He, of course, is unaware of any damage done. But the point about damaged attachment is that it is unconscious. Even now he can suddenly become emotionally unsettled for no apparent reason.

Our relationship has grown much stronger and warmer over recent years.

Then, a couple of years ago when his wife was pregnant he asked if they might rent the first floor of our home because they would like to be near family. We all live together to this day.

Their daughter, Isana, is almost two and I watch my son, so involved with her, so close and loving, and when he said to me the other day how happy he is that she has a warm and affectionate relationship with me, I felt that finally I could relax. Things have come right.

But it has been a long and painful journey, which is why I feel so strongly that the Government must learn to value mothers who stay at home with their children.

The job they do is invaluable. And lasts a lifetime.


Australia 'most comfortably racist' country, says ignorant British blow-in

If he had talked to police in Sydney's Middle East Crime squad he would have known why Australians are leery of Lebanese Muslims

A BRITISH comedian who will soon host hugely popular program The Daily Show has branded Australia the "most comfortably racist" place he had been.

English reporter John Oliver, who has worked as a correspondent for the influential Comedy Central show created by Jon Stewart, has spent the past few days filming in Australia.

Oliver, who will present the show later this year while regular host Jon Stewart directs a film, says in The Bugle podcast that the country is a "coastal paradise surrounding a rocky hell".

"Australia turns out to be a sensational place, albeit one of the most comfortably racist places I've ever been in. They've really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper," Oliver said.

"You can say what you like about Australian racism, it is undeniably specific. I had a couple of Australians - more than one - complain to me about all the Lebbos in the country, referring apparently to the Lebanese. Who the f-- is annoyed by Lebanese people?

"In a way you have to admire the attention to detail. Not just all those Arabs, but the Lebanese."

However Oliver also lavishes praise on Australia during the undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek podcast.

"Australia is a sensational place and it really begs the question: why the f-- did we make that our penal colony when its nicer than where we live? We should have said to criminals at the time 'you're all staying here, we're off to go live in paradise'."



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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