Friday, April 05, 2013
U.K. Independence Party finds its voice amid growing anti-immigrant wave
The American Left often see a wiser world on the other side of the pond. Will they adopt the trend below too?
For the United Kingdom Independence Party, defeat has never looked this much like victory.
After a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Commons was jailed on criminal charges, this struggling railroad town near the English Channel held a special election to pick his successor. The anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) took up the challenge, setting up offices next to a Turkish kebab shop and narrowly losing its bid to win its first elected seat in the British Parliament.
Its best-yet showing in a national race has, nevertheless, thrust into the national limelight a political movement that is part of a wave of anti-immigrant populism surging across Europe. The outcome of the Feb. 28 vote, coupled with national polls showing UKIP support at an all-time high, seemed to terrify Britain’s three traditional parties. In response, the Conservatives, the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats are suddenly tripping over each other in a race to see who can more closely echo the Independence Party’s hard-line pledge to get tougher on immigration.
UKIP’s ability to spark a policy stampede without even winning a seat in Parliament underscores the increasing capability of anti-immigrant forces to set the agenda amid Europe’s economic malaise. An issue at the core of the party’s platform is the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union to stem the tide of immigration — as an E.U. member, Britain is legally bound to allow the citizens of 24 other European countries to resettle here with few restrictions — which speaks to the concerns of a continent where a debt crisis and high employment are increasingly making foreigners the target of popular rage.
That fear is surging as countries including Britain, Germany and France prepare for new flows of migrants from two of Europe’s poorest countries — Bulgaria and Romania, whose citizens will win unlimited access to the E.U.’s labor market as of Jan. 1.
With concern growing that the Independence Party will poach more and more voters from the political right, Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, last week announced a plan to make it tougher for recently arrived immigrants to claim welfare benefits. The government additionally announced a dramatic makeover of the U.K. Border Agency to deal more expeditiously — and harshly — with illegal immigrants.
Not to be outdone, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister from Cameron’s junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, announced his own plan to control illegal immigration. In a speech less than three weeks after the vote in Eastleigh, Clegg vowed to force visitors from countries with high numbers of visa violators to post a $1,500 bond — with the cash returnable only upon their departure from Britain.
At the same time, Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labor Party, has offered a mea culpa for lax immigration policies during his party’s rule from 1997 to 2010, a period when net migration to Britain soared. In an apparent reference to then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s campaign gaffe in 2010 — when the Labor leader was caught off camera describing an elderly white woman as “bigoted” for complaining about immigration — Miliband said: “It’s not prejudiced when people worry about immigration. It’s understandable. And we were wrong in the past when we dismissed people’s concerns.”
Although not wholly new — Britain’s top parties have for years been leaning toward tougher immigration policies— observers say the steps taken since the Independence Party’s surge have amounted to some of the most aggressive yet.
“There is no doubting the influence of UKIP is now being felt in our immigration debate, partly because the main parties have refused to have a debate about this before,” said Keith Vaz, a Labor Party lawmaker. “We should stamp out illegal immigration, but we also need to avoid an arms race between the parties as they react to UKIP support.”
With a debt crisis and deep austerity entering their fourth year, Europe is facing a period of record unemployment that has allowed unpredictable political forces to take root. By comparison to some of these unconventional movements — such as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece — the U.K. Independence Party is relatively mild.
The party was founded in the 1990s by British politicians furious about London’s acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union. Today, the party is led by the spiffily dressed Nigel Farage — a savvy, speaks-in-sound-bites politician known for his dry sense of British humor. Although he is campaigning heavily for Britain to leave the E.U., his wife is a German national. Under his leadership, the party has largely avoided the racially and religiously tinged jabs against Muslim immigrants taken by, say, the Nationalists in France.
Rather, UKIP ascribes to a school of thought always just under the surface in Britain — that this is a nation that is culturally apart from Europe and has no business being part of that exotic world across the English Channel. Those sentiments have been exacerbated by an influx of hundreds of thousands of Europeans — mostly from the east — who over the past two decades have taken advantage of the E.U.’s open-borders policy to find jobs and resettle in Britain.
Tougher restrictions imposed by Cameron’s government have led to a decline in immigrant inflows — particularly of non-E.U. foreign students — since 2010. But Farage has tapped into a vein of thinking here that Britain’s answer needs to be more radical. Under pressure from his own party and an increasingly anti-E.U. public, Cameron has promised to hold a landmark referendum on Britain’s membership in the union by 2017 — a date that Farage says Britain must move up.
£14m bill for gagging axed public officials
Almost 5,000 council workers and civil servants have been gagged at taxpayers’ expense at a cost of up to £400,000 each.
Last month the Government banned gagging orders for NHS employees after it emerged that more than £18 million had been spent on silencing 600 staff.
However, the use of similar orders is widespread for departing employees across both local authorities and Whitehall [Whitehall is the London street in which most British government offices are situated], leading to accusations that ministers are being “hypocritical”.
In Whitehall, more than 200 civil servants and officials have signed compromise agreements in the past two years, at a total cost of £14 million. Officials said it was “standard practice” for them to include confidentiality clauses.
One of the biggest payoffs was made to Philippa Williamson, a former chief executive of the Serious Fraud Office, who left on voluntary redundancy.
She received £462,000 and is thought to have signed a confidentiality agreement.
Local authorities have signed 4,562 compromise agreements with former staff, according to figures released under freedom of information laws. Most of them contain confidentiality clauses.
Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, said: “For too long, local government has made departing staff sign gagging orders, often with big pay-offs attached, away from the eyes of those who get left with the bill: the taxpayer.
“When leaving a job, councils and their employees need to part ways fairly. Giving out thousands in under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff is not the way to achieve this.
“Councils have a responsibility to the public and transparency is at the heart of that.
“By shining a light on these activities and introducing new democratic checks and balances to stop gagging orders being abused we are helping councils improve accountability in local government.”
In Whitehall, hundreds of officials have been given “special severance payments” with Treasury approval. Officials say that most contain confidentiality clauses.
According to its most recent accounts, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has signed the agreements with 83 officials over the past two years, at a cost of £2.6 million.
The Treasury has signed agreements with 64 individuals at a cost of £2.5 million, although a source said only a “small number” involved confidentiality agreements.
The Department for Transport confirmed that it had signed 40 agreements in the past three years, all of which contain confidentiality clauses.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has signed 12 agreements containing confidentiality clauses at a total cost of £1.5 million.
The Ministry of Justice has signed 15 at a cost of £250,000, while the Foreign Office has spent £5.5 million on severance agreements in total.
Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP and member of the Commons public accounts committee, said: “These agreements are outrageous, they are using taxpayers’ money to shut people up. It reveals an approach and philosophy to the way the public service is run that is rotten to the core.”
The actual total for Whitehall is likely to be far higher. There are almost 400,000 civil servants, and many government departments do not publish figures on compromise agreements.
Jon Trickett, the shadow cabinet spokesman, said: “It is rank hypocrisy, ministers are telling others to stop doing something which is rife in Whitehall.”
Freedom of Information Act requests established that 256 councils in Britain signed compromise agreements with former staff between 2005 and 2010. Employment lawyers said the agreements almost always included confidentiality clauses. The number of confidentially agreements issued by councils rose sixfold from 179 in 2005 to 1,027 in 2010. Those subject to the orders range from social services whistleblowers to former executives who left with six-figure pay-offs. Brighton & Hove city council has signed the most, with 123 agreements. Bristol city council signed 121 compromise agreements, Coventry city council 114 and Bolton 107.
A total of 95 agreements were signed at Kent council, including one for Katherine Kerswell, the council’s former managing director, who was given a £420,000 payment after less than 20 months in the job. She is now the Cabinet Office’s director of Civil Service reform
In some cases, the agreements have been used to try to silence whistleblowers. Martin Morton, a social services manager at Wirral borough council, went to his superiors in August 2006 after receiving disturbing reports that some council care services were being run by criminals. Four men with baseball bats were reported to have demanded money from one care home manager. There were also allegations that vulnerable patients had been raped and people with learning disabilities were being routinely overcharged. He subsequently signed a £45,000 compromise agreement after being ignored, isolated and bullied.
Mr Morton, however, refused to keep his silence. After going public with his allegations, the council admitted that it had overcharged 16 adults with learning disabilities more than £500,000.
An official report commissioned by the council confirmed many of Mr Morton’s concerns. One of the carers had a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon, and the rape allegations were passed to police. Mr Morton said: “These gagging orders have a chilling effect. I was terrified about speaking out, I didn’t know what the consequences would be.”
A spokesman for the council said it had apologised to Mr Morton and admitted that it handled the claims “badly”.
The widespread use of gagging orders by local authorities was uncovered using freedom of information requests by Paul Cardin, who was silenced by a council. Mr Cardin, a former lighting engineer at Cheshire West and Chester council, was barred from even making freedom of information requests under the terms of his compromise agreement.
Britain's Justice Secretary asks: How have things gone so badly wrong?
By Chris Grayling
Britain has always been a good citizen in the world. We rightly provide a safe haven for people fleeing political persecution by brutal regimes. Our legal system is often seen as a beacon for the rest of the world, with people coming from all over to study it and embed its principles into their own systems.
So how have things gone so badly wrong with the human rights issue? When Britain cannot deport a man, Abu Qatada, who so obviously despises what we stand for? And who belongs to an ideology that would like nothing more than to do real harm to our society?
All too often politicians sign treaties in a hurry, without reading them properly, and without understanding where they will lead. The Human Rights Convention was written by Conservatives in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was designed to combat the risk of another Holocaust, and to try to stop people being sent to prison camps without trial.
In almost 50 years, the European Court of Human Rights considered only around 800 cases. It was a sensible, advisory body. Then in 1998 everything changed. Those who ran it wanted more power, and Tony Blair and other European politicians just gave it to them. And Blair wrote European human rights law into our own statute book as well.
Since then things seem to have gone mad. The court now has 133,000 outstanding cases and is hopelessly overwhelmed.
It is imposing new rules in areas that its founders would never have believed had anything to do with human rights, such as allowing prisoners to use artificial insemination.
Abu Qatada so obviously despises what we stand for and who belongs to an ideology that would like nothing more than to do real harm to our society
Why can we not deport Abu Qatada, who so obviously despises what we stand for and belongs to an ideology that would like nothing more than to do real harm to our society?
It is demanding that countries including Britain override the will of their Parliaments, and make changes like giving votes to prisoners.
Our own judges increasingly take the verdict of the human rights court as setting the rules that they have to follow. But it is much too easy to say it is their fault. Their job is to implement the law as they see it. If the law is wrong, it is for politicians to sort it out.
The problem is that those politicians, particularly Tony Blair in 1998 and Gordon Brown subsequently, casually surrendered our ability to do so by signing treaties that amounted almost to a blank cheque for others to make our laws.
All that has to change. I think we have given up far too much of our own sovereignty. We have given up too many of our own democratic rights. We need to reverse the changes.
That is what has happened in the EU too. Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon Treaty without even reading it properly. It gives those in Brussels enormous power to drive towards ever closer union, even though there is less and less of a mandate to do so.
That is the trouble with treaties that are not about a fixed concept, but give others power to make more and more rules without us being able simply to say no.
But there is a barrier to change. There are 303 Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and more than 340 Labour, Lib Dem and other MPs. And almost all of the other parties are opposed to change that Conservative ministers and MPs want to see.
I would bring forward reforms in this Parliament and not the next. But we don’t have the votes to bring that business to the House and then deliver it.
It’s maddening, but it’s democracy.
I don’t personally understand why the other parties are so opposed to change, to bringing back the democratic rights of Parliament. I would welcome an agreement from Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to support radical reform of our human rights laws. We would deliver those changes at the earliest possible opportunity.
Religious Freedom’s Drip-by-Drip Death
Churches will be pressured into blessing gay marriages
The end point of liberalism is a coercive secular state in which the religious have no meaningful rights. American church leaders are kidding themselves if they think the gay-marriage juggernaut is going to stop at civil marriage. It won’t. It will quickly travel past court houses to churches, demanding that all religions bless gay marriages.
Denmark casts a shadow of this future, where the gay-marriage juggernaut has smashed through church doors. Last year the country’s parliament passed a law requiring all Lutheran churches to conduct gay marriage ceremonies. “I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married,” said Manu Sareen, Denmark’s minister for gender equality. Reluctant bishops have to supply ministers to satisfy the right whether they like it or not.
Iceland and Sweden have similar arrangements. Since many of the bishops are in the tank for gay marriage anyways and since these churches are “state” churches, this pressure generates little news. But it is instructive nonetheless. Where gay marriage exists, religious freedom gradually disappears, to the point where ministers have to choose between serving as secularism’s stooges or facing societal oblivion.
In America, this pressure will take the form of “discriminatory” churches losing government grants, permits, and participation in programs. It will be the death of religious freedom by a thousand little cuts here and there: canceled speeches of religious figures at state universities, lost HHS grants, the refusal of city governments to recognize churches that don’t permit gay marriages, “hate crime” legislation that extends to opposition to gay marriage, and so on. All of this will have the effect of pressuring churches into blessing gay marriages. A law forcing priests and ministers to preside at gay marriages won’t need to be passed; the invisible law of indirect governmental pressure will do the trick.
During last year’s campaign, Obama said that religions will remain free to determine their own “sacraments.” Shouldn’t that go without saying? The very fact that Obama made such a declaration should scare people. Whenever a pol says “I won’t do [fill in the blank],” it usually means that very activity is on his mind. While he can’t determine the sacraments for religions, Obama will try and marginalize those religions that don’t determine the sacraments in a manner he considers “nondiscriminatory.”
Obama’s “respect” for these religions is on par with his respect for the policies of the Boy Scouts. “I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life,” said Obama when calling on the Boy Scouts to accept gay scoutmasters. Notice Obama’s phrase: every institution and walk of life. Surely in time that will include churches.
But for now, Obama thinks the religious should feel grateful to him that he is not busting down church doors and forcibly injecting them with contraceptives or requiring them to preside at gay weddings. That in his mind is the sum total of religious freedom. And yet even that little space can be crowded in on through laws that allow government to reward secularized religions and shun traditional ones.
The goal of the gay-marriage juggernaut is to make Christians pariahs, as irrelevant to public life as racists. It doesn’t have to pass a Denmark-style law to force churches to conduct gay marriages; it can achieve the same end through punitive political correctness.
On ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos thought it appropriate to ask Cardinal Timothy Dolan, albeit in a roundabout and implicit fashion, if Catholicism could accept gay marriage for people who feel “unwelcome” in the Church: “What do you say to a gay couple that loves God and the Church, but also love each other and want to raise a family in faith?” It would have been nice to see Dolan challenge the insidious premise of the question by saying something like: So, George, you are saying that unless the Church loves the sin it can’t love the sinner?
Instead, Dolan seemed to concede the media narrative about the Church as hateful — “We have to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. I admit, we haven’t been too good at that” — while gingerly trying to uphold the Church’s teaching on marriage. His attempt at appeasement didn’t work. Gay activists pounced on him anyways, generating headlines such as “Cardinal Dolan Demeans Gay Relationships As He Says Church Should Be More Welcoming to Gays.”
The gay-marriage juggernaut only speeds up at the sight of such gestures, seeing civil marriage as just one stop on a longer road to a secularist state in which religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular fall silent and compliant out of fear if not law.
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.