Tuesday, January 06, 2015
How Britain was wrecked in 1965
Fifty years ago the UK was socially, morally and culturally a very different country. In some ways we are a better people. In others, far worse
One moment that captures how much Britain has changed in the past 50 years was the death on Sunday, January 24, 1965, of perhaps the finest leader in our history.
‘Tonight, our nation mourns the loss of the greatest man any of us have ever known,’ the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, told the British people that evening.
He was referring, of course, to Sir Winston Churchill, the man who had led Britain through the darkest hour in our history and onwards to victory.
And in the days that followed, more than 300,000 people waited patiently in the cold to pay their respects to their fallen hero.
‘I have stood for half an hour,’ the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby told his audience, ‘watching this silent flow of people, imagining who they were and where they came from, and realising that this is simply the nation, with its bare heads, and its scarves, and its plastic hoods, and its shopping bags, and its puzzled little children.’
When, six days later, Churchill’s state funeral took place at St Paul’s Cathedral, it seemed like a farewell to an entire era.
As the Labour Cabinet minister Richard Crossman wrote in his diary: ‘It felt like the end of an epoch, possibly even the end of a nation.’ Only now, half a century later, is it obvious how right he was.
For when you look back at Britain in 1965, it seems in so many ways an utterly different country, not just in its skylines, fashions and faces, but in its moral and cultural attitudes.
It was a country in which older men still wore hats and carried umbrellas; in which millions of children sat the 11-plus exam to decide whether they went to grammar school or to a secondary modern; in which pornography was almost unknown, most people did not even have a telephone, and thousands of working-class families still had outside toilets.
At the end of 1964, Wilson’s Labour government had come to power, promising to build a new Britain in the ‘white heat of the scientific revolution’.
But the technological gadgets so familiar today would have struck the vast majority as the stuff of fantasy. Most had never even been on an aeroplane.
Indeed, if you want a symbol of how much Britain has changed in the past five decades, then just think about the difference between today’s Premier League football stars - often foreign-born, living in gated communities and earning as much as £300,000 a week - and by far the most feted player of the day, who hung up his boots on February 6, 1965.
Almost incredibly, Stanley Matthews was still turning out for Stoke City at the age of 50. He played not for money or attention, but for sheer love of the game.
As one friend put it, he remained ‘for all his fame, as down-to-earth as the folk who once adorned the terraces in the hope of seeing him sparkle gold dust onto their harsh working lives’.
To Matthews, who interrupted his career to serve in the RAF during World War II, the antics of today’s spoiled Premier League superstars would have seemed inconceivable.
But he belonged to a generation that has vanished completely: reticent, dutiful and quietly conservative.
Like the death of Churchill, the retirement of Matthews - who was knighted in January 1965 as a reward for his extraordinary career - seemed to represent a threshold between old and new. In sport, in culture, even in architecture, all the talk was of change.
Modernisation was all the rage, not least in the great cities of the North, where councils were competing to tear down the old Victorian streets and erect great high-rise monstrosities instead.
Partly this was driven by liberal hubris - the belief, long since exploded, that politicians needed merely to flash their chequebooks to banish the ills of the past and remake their world around them. But it was also driven by a profound sense of insecurity.
As everyone knew, Britain was no longer top dog - not militarily, not culturally and not even economically.
As one commentator wrote after Churchill’s funeral: ‘This was the last time that London would be the capital of the world. This was an act of mourning for the Imperial past. This marked the final act in Britain’s greatness.’
The Empire was no more, and the Colonial Office, which had opened in 1854, now had virtually nothing to do.
Already, the Ministry of Defence was drawing up plans to scrap Britain’s military presence in Asia and the Middle East, or ‘east of Suez’, as it was known.
The most galling reminder of Britain’s reduced status, though, came in one of the few possessions it still had left - the colony of Southern Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe.
Rhodesia was a country of almost seven million people, the vast majority of them black Africans.
But it was run by some 275,000 whites, who controlled every lever of political and economic power through a system that even visitors from South Africa (then under apartheid) thought excessively harsh.
Britain was determined not to grant the Rhodesians independence unless they embraced democracy, which would inevitably mean black Africans ruling themselves.
But the white Rhodesians refused to give ground. On November 11, their leader, Ian Smith, launched the constitutional equivalent of a coup d’état, issuing an illegal Unilateral Declaration of Independence and severing all links with Britain.
Once, Britain’s response would have been swift and decisive. The UN General Assembly even voted to approve British military action if necessary.
But nothing happened. As Harold Wilson knew, he no longer had the military resources to bring the Rhodesian rebels to heel. And so the rebellion festered on for another 15 years, a humiliating reminder of the collapse of British power.
Even if Wilson had had the soldiers, though, I suspect he would have hesitated to use them. A cautious man who hated confrontation, he was much more interested in transforming life at home - with, as it turned out, hugely controversial consequences.
At the top of his list was education. In 1965, many children still took the 11-plus, the crucial test that decided whether they went to a grammar school, which often meant university, a decent job and a leg up; or a secondary modern, which usually meant no university and a crushing sense of failure. Almost everyone agreed that the 11-plus, which hung over families’ heads like a sharpened sword, had to go.
But many local authorities were rightly proud of their grammar schools, among them Labour authorities who saw them as a crucial avenue of social mobility for bright, working-class children.
Until now, the politicians had allowed local areas to choose for themselves if they wanted to keep their grammar schools or adopt a comprehensive system.
But in January 1965, Wilson appointed a new Education Secretary, the dissolute, arrogant and immensely condescending Anthony Crosland - himself, of course, the product of a public school.
For Crosland, as for so many high-minded, self-righteous progressives through history, what ordinary people wanted was entirely irrelevant. He was determined to impose comprehensive schools on every corner of Britain, whether parents wanted them or not.
In July 1965, he issued his notorious Circular 10/65, using his department’s financial muscle to force local authorities to scrap their grammars and go comprehensive. ‘If it’s the last thing I do,’ he gleefully told his wife, ‘I’m going to destroy every f*****g grammar school in England.’
This was a shameful moment in our recent history. It is not just that Crosland wilfully destroyed many good schools which had worked wonders to improve the life chances of children from poor, working-class homes. It is that he saw his role as that of a petty dictator, using the power of Whitehall to trample on local objections.
And ever since, from schools and hospitals to housing developments, politicians have followed his example, giving us the most absurdly over-centralised government in the Western world.
At the time, alas, too many politicians believed that the future lay with gigantic Whitehall super-departments, which would drag Britain kicking and screaming into a brave new world of modernisation - whether people liked it or not.
For Crosland’s generation, their moment seemed at hand. It was in July 1965, for example, that one of his Oxford contemporaries, an earnest moderniser called Edward Heath, became leader of the Conservative Party.
As a grammar-school boy from a humble working-class background, Heath was himself the supreme symbol of social mobility.
Yet like Crosland, he had nothing but contempt for people who wanted to cling on to Britain’s quirky local traditions.
Indeed, the new Tory leader already had a grand plan for Britain, which can be summed up in one word: Europe.
Meanwhile, another old Oxford chum was poised to enter centre-stage. For it was in December 1965 that the sleek, self-satisfied figure of Roy Jenkins took over at the Home Office, promising to build what he called the ‘civilised society’, but everybody else called the ‘permissive society’.
For the time being, Jenkins’s grand plans - the abolition of hanging, the end of censorship, the reform of the divorce laws and the legalisation of homosexuality - lay in the future.
Indeed, the government had kept remarkably quiet about them during the 1964 election campaign, conscious that their working-class voters had conservative moral attitudes.
But change was coming, all the same. Indeed, on November 13, 1965, there was an omen of the looming moral transformation.
In a late-night debate on a BBC1 satirical show, the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan sparked outrage by using the word ‘f***’.
In fact, it had been used twice before on television, by an Irish playwright and an Ulster railings-painter, but nobody had noticed. This time, though, all hell broke loose.
No fewer than 133 Labour and Tory backbenchers signed a Commons motion condemning Tynan, while the moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse even wrote a letter of complaint to the Queen.
But nothing came of it. Indeed, Tynan’s career went from strength to strength, a sign that Britain’s increasingly liberal establishment were no longer shocked by the taboos of the past.
But if the Tynan furore suggested Britain was losing its innocence, it was as nothing compared with the terrible revelations in the North-West, where in October 1965 the police began to discover the bodies of children on the moors outside Manchester.
As the journalist Pamela Hansford Johnson put it: ‘A wound in the flesh of our society had cracked open, we looked into it, and we smelled its sepsis.’
For the Spectator magazine, the Moors Murders were a terrible warning. It was time, the magazine said, ‘to call a halt to the restless belief that change itself is the only ultimate good, and to seek instead a period of social and intellectual stability during which we can once again put down roots and gather strength’.
Those words look grimly ironic today. For in the half-century since 1965, change has been the only constant.
And though much of it has been for the good - the improvement of ordinary people’s living standards, the growth of tolerance, the decline of racism and the wealth of cultural opportunities through the development of technology - it has not all been beneficial.
We may live longer and richer lives than we did 50 years ago. But we are also more anxious, more insecure, more impatient and more unequal.
Old communities have been uprooted, old courtesies have been sacrificed and old traditions have been destroyed. When we tore them down, we lost something that can never be replaced.
The Britain that died with Churchill that cold day in 1965 was not all good. But it was not all bad either.
And when we look back, we should never be so blind, so arrogant or so self-righteous as to think that we have nothing to learn from the past.
From the chip shop customer banned from pouring his own vinegar to parents told not to sit babies on their laps at nativity play - Elf and Safety authorities claim it wasn't them
Heard the one about the golf course which banned golf buggies? Or the chip shop which stopped customers using salt and vinegar?
They might sound like bad jokes - but they are actually just some of the bizarre excuses which have been trotted out in the name of health and safety.
In the most recent example, a customer in Northumberland was told he could not put his own salt and vinegar on his take-away fish and chips.
It later emerged that the shop had stopped customers using the shakers because they were not sure where customers' hands had been.
The bizarre incident was referred to the Health and Safety Executive's 'myth busting' panel, which works to ensure rules are not used irrationally.
Since it was set up in April 2012, the panel has dealt with nearly 350 cases of gone-wrong health and safety rules, once described by David Cameron as the 'national neurosis'.
Another example from last month's panel included a primary school banning parents from bringing young babies to sit on their laps during the nativity play.
But the panel concluded that the school had probably just made the ruling to prevent the children disturbing the performance - and that it had nothing to do with health and safety.
This year, Brighton and Hove City Council also decided to close the beach on Christmas Day over 'safety fears' after a swimmer had to be rescued while taking part in the event three years ago.
The so-called 'myth busters' at the HSE are now calling on businesses to stop blaming health and safety for poor or over-the-top decisions.
It comes as researchers at the University of Exeter found that half of all cases came related to shops, cafes and leisure centres - which the HSE said is usually a cover-up for poor business practice.
Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE and the Myth Busters Challenge Panel, said: 'HSE wants to encourage everyone, especially those working in leisure and retail, to make a resolution to stop using the health and safety catch-all excuse.
'Give the real reason for the decision you take. We want people to be honest - giving health and safety the blame is lazy and unhelpful.
'Customers are at the heart any business. Getting rid of over-the-top decisions blamed on health and safety will improve the service customers receive and enable the business to prosper.'
In another bizarre incident this year, a DIY store refused to cut a door to size, claiming that cutting the wood would compromise the strength of the door, thereby contravening health and safety legislation.
A customer was also left baffled when a trolley assistant on his train journey insisted she had to put the coffee cup on the table rather than handing it to him, again for 'health and safety'.
Earlier this year, a local furniture store told a customer's wife that she could not collect her foot stool from the store due to health and safety - even though the item would have fitted perfectly in her car.
The business stated that the item had to be delivered, which cost around £30. The panel concluded this was a 'poor excuse'.
In another incident, a high street clothing store would not open their fitting rooms on the first day of a sale, apparently due to health and safety.
And a customer who bought some headphones from a high street store was told that if the packaging was opened the headphones could not be returned, even though they had not been used.
Researchers found that 60 per cent of cases were due to a generic 'better safe than sorry' risk averse mind-set, which was especially strong in instances of poor customer service.
In 32 per cent of cases, there was an assumption that there is a rule in place when there is not.
And the study also found that 20 per cent of the health and safety myths affect children, meaning they were 'frequently prevented from engaging in activities in educational and leisure settings on the grounds of health and safety that are found to be baseless'.
Dr Claire Dunlop said: 'Identifying these trends will enable the HSE to develop more focussed communications strategies that tailor advice and raise awareness in specific sectors and about particular populations.
'It will also enable them to support organisations to address the weaknesses in capacity that make health and safety myths more likely.'
In previous cases, a local council was refusing to allow hanging baskets for a Village in Bloom competition until engineers had assessed the lampposts to show they were capable of holding the bracket and basket.
The panel ruled this was a 'classic case' of rules being applied in an 'overly-cautious and inappropriate way'.
Earlier this year, a six-year-old from Hampshire was also told that she could not take a baby chick into school for a presentation amid fears that children could contract bird flu.
The little girl's father, Mike Montgomery, described the rule as 'ridiculous' and said he had even offered to bring in gel for the children to clean their hands with.
In another case, a local council in Scotland banned a dog training club over allergy fears.
The club, which had been running in a community hall for 60 years, was banned because the council claimed that those using the hall next door might be allergic to dogs or catch a disease from the pets.
The myth buster panel said: 'This is a clear example of health and safety being misused. Any concerns about allergies and cleanliness can be easily managed.'
In June last year, a mother in Gloucester was told by the headteacher that her seven-year-old daughter was no longer allowed to wear her homemade frilly socks because they could become a tripping hazard.
But the Health and Safety panel again dismissed the rule.
A spokesman said: 'There is nothing in health and safety law which stipulates how long or short frills on school girls' socks should be. 'These socks are unlikely to be a serious hazard unless they are torn and trailing on the floor. If you tried to ban everything children could trip over, they wouldn't be able to do anything.
'Schools are free to set their own uniform policies but these decisions shouldn't hide behind spurious references to health and safety law.'
In the golf example, buggies were prohibited because they were not 'health and safety authorised'.
Other examples include a council which stopped a nursery teacher taking children to an allotment, and a manager who banned a woman from wearing flip flops in the office because they did not have enclosed toes and a supported back.
Department for Work and Pensions Minister Mark Harper said: 'The Health and Safety Executive has done fantastic work over the past 40 years to keep working people safe.
'Elf n safety' myths get in the way of what the law is for – saving lives, not stopping people living them.
'No employer or worker should hide behind the health and safety excuses, if they act in a sensible way. If you hear of a bogus health and safety myth, report it to our panel.'
Set up in April 2012, the myth-busting panel invites those who believe they are victims of a ludicrous health and safety ruling to email in and get a professional view.
The panel may then contest decisions made by insurance companies, local authorities and employers. There have been nearly 350 cases.
Now Charles' schoolmate declares war on the RSPB claiming the charity has 'lost the plot and are out of control'
One of Scotland’s biggest landowners has joined Sir Ian Botham in attacking the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for wasting millions of pounds in donations and failing to protect wildlife.
John Mackenzie, who was at Gordonstoun school with Prince Charles, has erected signs across his 50,000-acre Gairloch and Conon estate reading: ‘RSPB not welcome here either.’
In November, The Mail on Sunday published an open letter from Sir Ian to the RSPB, in which the former England cricket captain accused the charity of wasting millions of pounds worth of donations, being misleading in its marketing and proving ineffective at helping birds.
Mr Mackenzie told this newspaper: ‘The RSPB has lost the plot and are out of control. They seem more intent on continuing to raise vast sums of money rather than performing their primary role of conservation and promoting the growth of protected species.
‘I admit it is years of frustration and anger boiling over. Landowners, farmers and gamekeepers have always been an easy target, blamed by the society for the poisoning and shooting of raptors. But the RSPB itself is doing damage.
‘They are so big and so powerful now, someone has to try to make them stop and think. If we can make them have a rethink, then at least we will have achieved something.’
Mr Mackenzie revealed that not everyone agrees with his protest; two of his signs have been torn down, while another has been damaged. Undeterred, the 70-year-old, who has been joined by Peter Hingston of the Fairburn Estate, says he has encouraged estates in Evanton, Ardgay, Marybank and the Borders to add their names to his campaign.
Mr Hingston, who has erected two of the signs on his 18,000-acre estate in Ross-shire, said: ‘The intention is to raise awareness of the fact there are some people who are unhappy about the way other people are being treated by the RSPB. I feel strongly about it.
‘They seem to be getting out of control and spending an extraordinary amount of money on publicity. They seem to be going the same way as the RSPCA: taking as much trouble to stop hunting and other sporting activities that irritate them.
‘We have red kites and I was unaware that the RSPB come and visit the sites. I’ve got no objection to them coming but find it irritating to discover they have been driving around looking at things themselves.’
He added: ‘As far as I can see they can do what they like. It rather suggests the RSPB don’t trust landowners to look after their land properly when we do so much for them.
‘I don’t like it when people seem determined to try to catch us out rather than discuss any problems they have with us.’
A spokesman for the RSPB said: ‘While we would prefer a constructive dialogue with anyone who disagrees with our charitable work, it is of course the right of any individual to erect a sign on their private land expressing their opinion.
Australia’s Islamic leadership: condemning alcohol and regretting the death of a murderer
by Bernard Gaynor
Australia’s Islamic leadership: condemning alcohol and regretting the death of a murderer
Sometimes I despair for the future. It is difficult not to. Especially when supposed news organisations publish articles about the Lindt Café Islamic State murderer with the following quote:
“why exactly he took 17 people hostage inside a busy Sydney cafe with a gun and a fake bomb strapped to his chest, we may never know.”
We all know why Man Haron Monis did these things. He was following the blueprint laid out by Mohammad.
What we cannot possibly answer is this: why is news.com.au allowed to pretend to be a ‘news’ organisation? The only way anyone would know that what it publishes is allegedly ‘news’ is because it has the word ‘news’ in its web address. Otherwise, sensible people would simply assume they had stumbled upon the deluded musings of a bunch of 15 year old school girls and their cool, gay BFF. And sensible people would then flee from the site and never return.
I hate to say this, but news.com.au very often makes the ABC look like a bunch of professionals. And that is scary.
At least the good news is that Tony Abbott has called for a complete, thorough and transparent investigation into Man Haron Monis and how and why he ended up here in Australia and was then able to walk into a café with a shotgun.
I support this inquiry. If it does what it should.
But I will also point out that it is likely to cost millions. And at the end of it we will probably be told that, unfortunately, there is nothing much we can do in a peaceful, democratic society to stop the Man Haron Monises of the world from doing what they do. And that would be a complete waste. So, free of charge, here is all the Prime Minister needs to know.
We need to stop the bleeding hearts from allowing people who believe that Mohammad was a good guy from coming into our country. And then these problems will disappear. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen and we’ll get a bunch of multicultural mumbo-jumbo.
And I will say bollocks to that right here and now. Peaceful and democratic does not mean unable to do anything to defend oneself. Mr Monis was only here because, under governments both Liberal and Labor, bleeding heart public servants decided that security was less important than stupidity.
I will say that again. Our nation has made a virtue of stupidity.
As a result, people who hold the same beliefs as the Taliban and Osama bin Laden have been allowed to settle in Australia, claim social security payments and then plot and plan the death and destruction of the rest of us. They have even been able to write foul and abusive letters to the families of slain Aussie Diggers. And get away with it.
Given that, it is no surprise that they have now started taking lethal pot shots at innocent civilians.
This is the entirely logical outcome of the public policy settings of the last decades based on the assumption that multiculturalism is infallible.
And like they say in the movies, assumptions are the brothers of words starting with f and ending in up.
That is exactly what we have seen over the past few days.
And with ‘news’ organisations like news.com.au running around and setting the public agenda, not much is likely to change in the future. Because, for the most part, the journalists are a bunch bleeding heart morons with a death wish for this nation.
They can’t even report the news. They make up fairy tales instead. Like the ‘fact’ that the leadership of the Islamic community has condemned the ‘Lone Wolf’ Monis.
It has done no such thing. Instead, it has tailored its message for the audience. The Islamic community has been exhorted to withstand the heat and informed that ANIC regrets the way the siege ended. It’s the rest of Australia that’s been told the siege was not Islam at work.
And Monis had more social media followers than Australia’s Grand Mufti. So I don’t really know who the Grand Mufti speaks for anyway.
We can see the media’s bulldust when we look at the webpage of the Australian National Imam’s Council (ANIC).
For your information, ANIC are the same bunch of imams that wrote to the Federal Senate in October to tell our nation’s parliament that laws prohibiting the advocacy of terror infringed their religious freedom.
Not that you would know that. That little admission was not deemed ‘newsworthy’.
Yet it is the smoking gun, fired by the nation’s most senior Islamic cleric, that proves Islam is a violent ideology. No other religious organisation felt compelled to tell our 76 Federal Senators not to vote for new anti-terror laws because it impacted on their religious freedoms. I’m guessing that’s because none of the other religious organisations follow a religion that advocates terror. But, you never know, maybe the Islamic leadership were simply trying to defend their peaceful beliefs from the nutters out there offering to ride with oppressed hijab wearing women on the local bus.
Anyway, ANIC’s press releases over the last 8 days are very revealing.
In short, one has condemned a fake imam. And the other has expressed regret at Man Haron Monis’ demise. One has condemned alcohol. And the other has told the Islamic community to remain strong after one of its members murdered two Australians at Christmas time.
As this link shows, ANIC had a go at a fake imam on 10 December. His name is Mostafa Rashed. And he preached that you can drink alcohol as long as you don’t get drunk.
It is a message so outrageous that Australia’s Islamic leadership were compelled to act. Rashed has been named, shamed and condemned. And, guess what? The Koran was even quoted.
But can you find any press releases on ANIC’s website naming, shaming and condemning Monis? Or even quoting from the Koran about why coffee shop slaughter is not halal?
No. No. No and No.
There’s not one having a go at him for sending abusive letters to the families of Australian Diggers.
Not one having a go at him for being a fake sheikh.
Not one having a go at him for setting his ex-wife on fire.
There is not even a press release having a go at Monis after he was charged with 40 criminal sexual offences. For your interest, there is a press release praising marriage laws in Lebanon. They allow old men to make brides of nine year old girls.
In fact, there is no press release having a go at Monis for killing two people in the Lindt Café either.
There is a press release, however, expressing regret at the way the siege ended. I suppose that makes sense. After all, every Muslim in the Lindt Café was slain. That’s Islamophobia for you and it would also explain why ANIC then told the Islamic community to call the Multicultural hotline if they feel the slightest bit threatened by all the racist Australians out there.
So there you have it. Australia’s Islamic leadership have shown the capability and intent to name, shame and condemn fake imams when they break Islamic law. On alcohol. But not when other fake sheikhs make national news headlines for murder. Or sexual offences. Or sending letters to the families of Australia’s war dead.
ANIC obviously thinks that prohibition of alcohol is more important than coffee shop killings. That’s moderate Islam for you.
Now there’s a real news story. And that’s why you will never see it on news.com.au.
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 and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.