Saturday, February 28, 2004

New Survey Washes Whiter

Some mistake surely. Yesterday's Guardian quotes a 'new survey' which shows that 'total migration into the existing EU member states will run at 220,000 a year'. Sadly reporters Ian Black and Claire Dwyer don't tell us who carried out the survey, or indeed anything else about it, save that it implies "that the government's original "open-door" estimate of 5,000 to 13,000 a year coming to the UK is realistic and does not require limits on benefits, quotas or other restrictive measures. " We probably don't need to know any more, do we ?

After all, when the government released the last such comforting survey, some nasty statisticians had the nerve to demolish it.

I'm not a statistician, but one point occurs to me. All the existing EU countries (save the UK and Ireland) would have imposed restrictions on people coming either to work or claim benefits when the survey was done. Blair's second thoughts only came a week or two back. Surely even were the overall figures correct (and the Guardian won't tell us who did the survey so it can't be checked) the likelihood is that Britain and Ireland would get the lion's share due to being the only countries without restrictions.

Perhaps we should reject the scare-mongering of the tabloids and Migrationwatch. As Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, says "We don't think anything like this will happen. Anyway, the Roma (Slovak and Czech gypsies) are a persecuted minority."

Blair and Blunkett have decided that immigrants from the enlarged EU will not be eligible for benefits. If the reaction of the Slovak Roma to a 50% benefit cut is any guide, Geoff Hoon must be hoping things stay calm in Basra, or he'll be running out of troops.

"Thousands of police backed by 2,000 soldiers in the ghetto towns of eastern Slovakia appeared to have temporarily ended attacks by mobs forcing their way into food shops."

Sounds more as if the shopkeepers are the persecuted minority. But don't worry. The BBC reports that "A Roma leader in eastern Slovakia, Frantisek Gulas from the Slovak Romany Council, told the AP news agency that his group was working with police to try to persuade Roma not to loot. "
Bloody, controversial - why don't they like it ?

The packed cinemas across the US for Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ" don't seem to be going down well in Guardianista country - 'two hours of almost uninterrupted gratuitous brutality' says one commentator.

I'm the kind of person who faints when surgery is shown on TV, so we won't be queuing for tickets. But surely the whole point of the violence is that it's an attempt to accurately depict what Jesus suffered for our sins (always excepting Patti Smith's). The whole point of Christianity is that 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. Hardly gratuitous then.

A low budget production, unknown actors, subtitles, dialogue in an obscure language (Aramaic is still spoken in some parts of Syria, Iraq and Iran) and buckets of blood - just the kind of thing a liberal luvvie should get off on.

But when it comes to bloody and controversial they appear to prefer stuff like this.

"Ian, a middle-aged journalist, takes twentysomething Cate, a family friend, to a Leeds hotel room and abuses her. Halfway through the 90-minute play, the Soldier arrives and subjects Ian to verbal threats and rape. Cate escapes. A mortar bomb crashes into room, the Soldier sucks out Ian's eyes and then commits suicide. Cate returns with a baby that's been given to her by a victim of the war raging outside. It dies, and Ian tries to eat it. Now blind and hungry, Ian finally dies. Rain pours in on his head ..."

Nothing gratuitous about that. As Jonathan Miller pointed out "You pays your money and they eats their eyes".

I'm surprised the Guardianistas haven't yet discovered the writings of the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, from whose visions of The Dolorous Passion Of Our Lord Jesus Christ Mel Gibson apparently drew his inspiration. A quick tour round the links on this site to subjects such as sexual immorality, a reference to George Bush's proposals to prevent homosexual marriage - I could write the article myself.

UPDATE - came across a review (well sort of) of the Passion at this rather touching blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Bush Bashing Corporation Part 724

Nearly forgot this one. On Monday the R4 Today programme interviewed John McCarthy, who around the same time as Terry Waite was kidnapped and held by Hezbollah (painful) in Beirut for several years.
Captured ? Locked up ? Blindfolds ? Chains ? The BBC couldn't resist it, could they ? They just had to draw a parallel with Guantanamo Bay (Real Audio).

Well I suppose if Waite and McCarthy had been captured in a gun battle, fighting for the Maronite Phalange militia, rather than being respectively a Church Of England worker and a journalist. Details, details.

But McCarthy played up to the BBC like a good 'un. Stockholm syndrome ?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

BNP Launch "Operation Alienate Voters"

The website is more popular than ever, Michael Howard is giving them free publicity, they've gained another councillor, immigration and asylum are still making headlines - for the BNP the prospect of electoral breakthrough in June, with its accompanying hefty Euro-MP salaries and liberal expenses, has never been closer. They can almost smell those freshly-printed Euros.

I have assumed for quite a while that the BNP will at any time contain at least a couple of Guardian or BBC researchers looking for the videotape or story which will horrify all right-thinking people, a permanent sleeper from Searchlight or a similar grouping, and at a more senior level an MI5 operative or two. If they are as bad as Michael Howard says, I would expect no less from our security services.

I have also assumed that as the election approached attempts would be made by one of these three forces to produce what in the popular press would be called a 'spoiler'. My money was on some spectacular a week or so before the election, linking the BNP and its leader to some abhorrent practice like paedophilia or heroin importation. The objective truth of such a claim would not necessarily be all-important - after all, that could be established after the election. The story would be the thing.

I may be underestimating the subtlety and elegance of our security forces. For the BNP appear from their website to be engaged in a campaign to alienate as many people as possible, particularly those from the Conservative, traditionalist Right. This strategy cuts across and is diametrically opposed to their stated aim to be seen as a party of respectable Middle England.

Consider the evidence. At the New Year religious leaders in Manchester, including representatives of the Church of England, Catholics, Methodists and other Christian denominations, issued an unexceptional anti-BNP statement to the media of the sort many Church leaders have issued before.

The BNPs response was a hysterical denunciation of all religions and their followers, one which would have gladdened the heart of Johann Hari or the National Secular Society.

"More people have been murdered by religious bigots than any other kind in history.The moral high ground that these Holy men pontificate from is built upon a graveyard hiding the historical crimes of their blood soaked religions. "

"In the name of the Bible, the Koran, the Ghita and the Torah untold millions of people have been slaughtered across the centuries. They have used their holy books to condone the slaughter of anyone that dared defy their edicts and to bless the swords, bullets and bombs of the killers."

"We are dedicated to the democratic political process and public accountability - whilst each of these religions are merely fascistic structures based on enslaving their adherents and ensuring their own increased power. They are nothing more than fascists in their religious robes and frocks!"

Now I find it unlikely that the BNPs theorists are unaware of the enormous gulf in ideology which separates the average Joe in the pew from the Bishops and other leaders who speak for them. Think of the gulf between John Public and our elected leaders - then remember that a Church is not a democracy. Church leaders in the UK are likely to be members of the liberal elite and to share the views of that elite. A dissenting cleric, like the late and great Cardinal Winning, is the exception. Churchgoers in the UK, if we leave aside the Pentecostal and Evangelical wings, are likely to be older, whiter, wealthier than the average. They are also less likely to have criminal records, more likely to have stable families and to be involved in their local communities. They are also disproportionately female and by definition are socially conservative.

Just the people, in fact, the BNP are looking for to give a respectable front to their party. Christians may be renowned for turning the other cheek but I'm not sure that calling them 'enslaved adherents' to a 'blood-soaked' religion, led by 'fascists in frocks' is a credible marketing tactic.

Then came Michael Howard's proposed Burnley visit, and a chance to diss the Thatcherite right. In another classic editorial which this time would warm the heart of Dennis Skinner or Arthur Scargill, the BNP implied that the Thatcher ministers responsible for privatisation would be put on trial under retrospective legislation. Just the kind of policy to attract dissident Tories, or indeed people like the 'businessman and Territorial officer' who represented the BNP in Suffolk recently.

Howard certainly seems to have written off the Tory vote in Burnley - but the references in the BNPs report to 'Hecht' will only resonate with a core racist vote, when their need is to appeal to what Trevor Phillips called 'genteel xenophobia'. The core racist vote, such as it is, is theirs already.

Whether this stuff is being written by MI5 moles or the wild men are truly at the helm, the effect is the same. From a vote-grabbing perspective, it's worse than a crime - it's a blunder. I look forward with interest to future headlines like 'All Sun Readers Are Morons", "England Supporters Are Scum", and "Only Child Molesters Read The Daily Mail". The BNP may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Respect Coalition Latest

The new Respect Coalition website is up to #2 in the Google rankings. Link to it now and propel it to its rightful place. It's been updated and has an entertaining application form.
Another Unworkable Initiative

Tony Blair's plans to give heads the power to carry out random drug tests on pupils surely has to be one of his most fatuous ideas. He literally wants teachers to take the p***. Given the UK teaching unions, the chances of this being implemented in more than a handful of schools looks near-zero.

This morning it was a hopeful soundbite on BBC news - and by the afternoon the teachers unions were already expressing doubts both in England and Scotland.

The last thing heads will fancy is administering these. Without going into the practicalities of obtaining urine samples too closely, the potential for claims of harassment and abuse looks pretty impressive. And I can just imagine the reaction of a head with for example large numbers of female Muslim pupils.

However there is a grain of sense in this initiative. Not the pupils but the teachers should be tested for dope. Admittedly this would lead to a mass exodus of English, Drama and Social Science teachers, but you can't have everything. The principle should then be applied to all State employees, including those working for the BBC. There must be some social workers and probation officers who don't take drugs - I've just never met them. I remember a probation officer friend complaining that he kept bumping into all his clients at parties, and I know from personal experience that many social workers are more adept at putting together a three-skinner than disentangling their clients troubled lives.

Such an initiative, enforced with draconian penalties such as loss of pension rights, would make Oliver Letwin's plans to reduce State employment seem petty in their scope. They would be tumbling out of the doors faster than you could print the P45s. Admittedly many of them are probably unemployable in the private sector, but they could over time retrain as plumbers, cockle-pickers or gardeners, all of which are in demand in twenty-first century Britain.

UPDATE - This isn't to say that I think all Blair's initiatives are wrong, even this one. It's just that the more likely ANY Blair or Blunkett initiative is to have an actual effect, the less likely it is to be implemented. This follows in that noble tradition. It's just another 'Blair gets tough' soundbite

Stephen Pollard supports the idea and has the traditional smack at the Lib Dems.