It’s Still the British Government

As the euphoria of Labour’s ejection from Government recedes and the novelty of the new coalition Government wears off, it’s time to realise that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Here’s what to expect:

There wasn’t much conservative left about the Conservative Party before the General Election. David Cameron was already on the left side of his party with the Thatcherites severely marginalised. Now that he in in coalition with the LibDems, he has sold off the rest of the family silver. That was the price of the deal.

There is no question about the UK becoming less socialist. In this country it is not a matter of whether socialism but whose socialism. The new Government promises to spend more on the NHS year-on-year, but it will be spending less than was being spent. All the other money went to the banks. There will still be rationing. After promising that everyone will have access to the health care they need, the new Health Secretary admitted that there will never be enough to meet the demand, but that by shuffling around the nurses into various roles everything will be gloriously better.

Having poured the public purse into the bankers’ bonuses, new money to run the Welfare State will have to come from somewhere. They aren’t talking about the tax increases. It’s all about the spending cuts. However the reality is that the Conservatives have dropped the marriage (and civil partnership) tax break they promised during the campaign. That’s £150 per year per couple. They have dropped plans to raise the inheritance tax limit. (Inheritance tax is the tax penalty for dying after saving any of the money that has already been taxed.) There will be a very significant rise in capital gains tax (this means that everyone will dump whatever shares they can before it comes into effect and will drive down the market). VAT (that’s sales tax) will rise to at least 20%, though it could very conceivably go higher. The Tory promise of not implementing the Labour Government’s rise in National Insurance tax is being kept in part. Employers will not have a rise in their NI contribution, but employees will pay more.

The new Conservatives are every bit as liberal on social issues as Labour. They partners the LibDems are even more so. The man who would have been expected to take over as Home Secretary has been left out of the Government because he unwisely sided with a family who would not let gay couples share a double bed in their Bed and Breakfast. Since David Cameron took over from Iain Duncan Smith (an actual conservative Conservative), the Tories have tried to be pinker and greener than any other party. Abortion is not even a political issue in this country, despite the 200,000 that are performed every year.

What remains to be seen is just how the new Government will deal with Labour’s surveillance society. Both the Tories and the LibDems have promised to get rid of ID cards. How far they will go in otherwise getting out of the lives of individuals and families has yet to be seen.

There will be no conserving of the British constitution. The House of Lords, already nearly bereft of the hereditary peers who populated it for 800 years, will be turned into an elected Senate, elected by the LibDem’s preferred method of proportional representation. Like the Lords it will be an upper chamber in name only, with the centre of power still firmly in the Commons, even if it will no longer have the claim to the greater legitimacy of being democratically elected.

As a trade off for the Conservatives taking on the LibDem tax increases, the LibDems only lose one significant one significant policy, which is the only one for which I had any sympathy. The Tories are opposed to amnesty for long-term illegal immigrants, so there will be no amnesty for at least the length of this fixed-term five-year Parliament.

I’m glad to see Labour gone. I’m hoping that the new Government will not be as arrogant as the last, though the British Government is typically quite arrogant, regardless of who is in power.

The Power of Unforgiveness

It is the story that just won’t go away. Jon Venables, one of the killers of Jamie Bulger, was returned to prison for violating the terms of his license. Venables was 10 years old 17 years ago when he committed this crime. He was allowed out of prison after eight years, after appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, which said you can’t lock up 10 year olds forever.

Other than the media, the person who comes out looking the the worst in all of this is Denise Fergus, the mother of Jamie Bulger. She is constantly demanding that she has a right to know the details of what Jon Venables has done to get his parole revoked. Now she has demanded that Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner for England be sacked. Fergus didn’t like the way Atkinson referred to Jamie’s murder, and worst of all Atkinson opined that the age of criminal responsibility be raised from 10 to at least 12 and that Jamie’s killers should not have been tried in adult court.

I don’t make it a habit of agreeing with the Government or their appointees. There are arguments to be made for and against Atkinson’s views. But who is Denise Fergus to demand that someone agree with her or be sacked? She honestly seems to believe that she should hold the fate of her sons killers in her own hands and that she should decide the fate of anyone who dares disagree with her.

She has demanded that the Justice Secretary reveal why Venables has been recalled to prison. Under unrelenting pressure from the media, Jack Straw agreed to meet with her, but wouldn’t tell her why Venables was back in prison. First of all, it is none of her business, and second, once he were to tell her, she would tell the world and jeopardise the course of justice.

Fergus will want to make a statement to the parole board when Venables is referred to them. What’s the point? Whatever Venables has done to have his parole revoked is entirely unrelated to the murder of Jamie Bulger 17 years ago. It is as if she believes she can reduce her pain by puting a little more of it onto Venables. Sadly for her, it just doesn’t work that way.

Denise Fergus is an example of the power of unforgiveness. She is the one who has been eaten alive by it all these years. Her knowledge of what Jon Venables may have done recently will not bring Jamie back. Her opinion regarding any new offence he may have committed will not bring Jamie back. Her participation in the process will not protect anyone in the future.

The same is true of the British media and the public. Just leave it all alone. It was sad. It was tragic. It was 17  years ago. Move along, people. There’s nothing to see here.

Christians Charged for Knowing Too Much Islamic History

Here we go again. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were sharing their faith with one of the guests in the hotel they run, the Bounty House Hotel in Liverpool. The guest was a Muslim woman. Seems they didn’t agree about Jesus or Muhammad. The guest was offended that they insisted Jesus is the Son of God and not a prophet of Islam.

In the course of the conversation, Ben Vogelenzang said that Muhammad was a warload. I teach about Islam for a living – been doing for six years – and I’d have to say that’s a reasonable observation based on the historical facts. It has nothing to do with whether or not he was a prophet. The story of Islam from the time of the Hijra until at least the conquest of Makkah (Mecca) by Muhammad’s army is one of battles fought and tribal groups subdued and the Arabian peninsula Islamified at the point of the sword. It is a legacy that Muhammad bequeathed to his successors as the spent the next 120 years doing the same thing through Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Clearly the Vogelenzangs’ guest was not well versed in Islamic history. Either that or the word “warlord” was not reverential enough for the false Prophet.

It didn’t help that Sharon Vogelenzang said that traditional Muslims dress for women is a form of bondage. This was just too much for their guest. Neither the guest nor the Merseyside Police think Sharon is entitled to express this opinion. It constitutes either harassment, alarm or distress in the wording of the statute. So does Ben’s enlightening the guest regarding her ignorance of history.

The Vogelenzangs were interrogated twice by police before being charged. They have appeared in court and are now awaiting trial.

Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

Our puppies are now six weeks old. They have been interesting to watch over the last few weeks, as they have found their feet and cut their teeth. Without any sort of instruction or training, they began to fight each other. They will spar until one yields, usually in some sort of pain. They other thing is that they like meat. Again, no one had to tell them to like dead flesh. They will eat other things, but they like meat.

Dogs are predators. They like to kill things. That’s the way they are made. I marvel at the so-called animal rights activists and supporters who do not support the right of dogs to kill. In this country they have ineffectually banned fox hunting and hare coursing. (The hunts continued despite protestors causing criminal damage and sending videos to the police. The police have openly stated they will not enforce the ban of foxhunting, though they still chase hare coursers occasionally.) In the case of fox hunting, fox can be killed after being chased by hounds, but they must be killed by humans. Likewise it is legal to shoot a hare; you just can’t send a dog after it.

This is because there are people who enjoy watching the dogs do what dogs do. It is not the prey that is banned – only the predator. We are supposed to feel that there is something wrong with watching the natural course of predator vs. prey – unless we are watching wild animals on a David Attenborough documentary, of course. So it’s okay to watch an alligator kill a kangaroo or an orca chomp down on a seal, but not a hound chase down a fox.

I also think it is hypocritical to spay or neuter a dog. So many of those who support animal rights also support human reproductive rights (both causes being favourites of the Left). It seems unnecessarily cruel to an animal to take away their reproductive organs merely as a human convenience. If you don’t want puppies, keep the bitch away from a dog.

We breed and sell sighthounds. Many people breed them as show dogs. They try to develop certain qualities in them that appeal to the poncy prima donnas at Crufts and other dog shows, with just the right colour, height, and grooming. We don’t breed show dogs. We breed dogs that can do what dogs do best. We only sell them to people who let them use their natural ability and instinct. They see (with a peripheral range of about 270°), they run really fast (up to about 45 mph), and they kill. And they love it. That’s the way God made them.

The Decline and Fall of the English Language

I was going to blog last month about how a BBC2 documentary found that 80% of Britons cannot recite a single verse of poetry. This is not helped by the fact 58% pupils never study poetry in school. Not a line. The ones who do read Carol Ann Duffy, the Scottish lesbian who was just named the new Poet Laureate. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Miss Duffy’s poetry, but reading a single living poet does not constitute a sufficient literary education.

Like I said, I was going to blog about it, but I’d just be whinging once again about the state of education in this country. Then yesterday I was having a conversation with a couple of 14-year-olds. It start with me telling off one of them for using a participle that is an inappropriate term derived from an innocuous noun. He had no idea what a participle is. Okay, that’s not a big surprise. I probably didn’t learn about participles until at least the 9th grade, maybe even the 10th.

The disturbing thing is that neither he nor his friend knew what a noun is. This is something I learned well before the 5th grade, because by then we were parsing sentences. Now with the average 14-year-old, I have trouble getting them to write in sentences. I had a 16-year-old who handed in an entire 1500-word coursework without using a single mark of punctuation. I’m not exaggerating. But back to the boys in Year 9. . .

They had heard the term “noun” before. They just couldn’t agree on what it was. One of them thought it was a “doing” word. The other thought it was a “describing” word. He contended it couldn’t be a “doing” word, because that was an adverb.  These were not pupils in the bottom English set. They were not pupils with special educational needs. Because I was teaching a mixed-ability group, there was a top-set girl who actually knew that a noun was a “naming” word.

No poetry, no grammar. Is it the end of the English language or the end of civilisation?

One thinks of Eliot. . .

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends

No, wait. That would be trite  to anyone who has seen this over-used reference to Eliot.  And on the other hand, clearly it would be lost upon anyone with a secondary education in Britain in the last decade. I believe the general response would be, “T. S. who?”

Buying Drugs

Paracetamol (as it is known in most of the world) or acetaminophen (as it is known in North America) is the most commonly overdosed drug. Nonetheless, in the US you can go to Wal-mart and get a tub of 225 of them, since they are perfectly safe when taken as directed. In the UK you can get 16. That’s right. The biggest pack of paracetamol is 16.

Legally you can buy six packs, but most stores, convinced by propaganda, will only sell you two. In fact, when the discount store Poundland started offering three packs for £1, there was quite a kerfuffle. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is ‘extremely concerned’.  The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency wants to change the law because they accuse Poundland of exploiting a loophole.

It’s not the price. You can get three 16s at Asda cheaper. Of course you would have to buy two packs,  take them out to your car, go back into the store and buy another pack, because this is apparently effective suicide prevention. The Goverment here thinks that you will buy the 32 (enough at once to damage or kill you anyway), and then think, “I’d like to do the job right, but since I’ll have to walk back into the store and pick another pack off the shelf, and go to the self-checkout, and fish out another 30p from my pocket, and take my receipt, and walk back out to my car… I’ll just go ahead and get on with my life.”

But the propaganda war as virtually been won. As reported in the Daily Mail,

Nurse Nichola Sheehan, who was stunned to spot the offer at her local branch in Chatham, Kent, said the offer could prove deadly and accused the chain of the ‘height of irresponsibility.’

Mother-of-two Mrs Sheehan, 47, who has worked for the NHS for more than 20 years, fears the offer could lead to tragedy as a dose of just eight paracetamol can prove fatal.

If eight is fatal, it’s seems like one pack of 16 would be more than enough. By Mrs Sheehan’s logic, they shouldn’t be selling it over the counter. In fact, they probably shouldn’t be selling it at all. It should only be available in a hospital administered by a doctor and locked in a cupboard.

Do we ever wonder why this country is going down the pan? The Government is busy micro-managing our lives, telling people how much paracetamol they can buy.

Almost Everybody Wants Justice for the Gurkhas

It was the first time a Government has lost an Opposition Day Debate since James Callaghan was Prime Minister in January 1978. It was the first time the Liberal Democrats had won one since their formation. The Opposition get twenty legislative days scattered though each parliamentary session (each year) during which they can discuss topics they choose. The topic today was the treatment of the Gurkhas.

Some non-British readers may be unfamiliar with the Gurkhas. They are Nepalese recruits to the British army, a tradition that goes back to the 19th century.  Until 1947, their officers were always subordinate to British officers. Until 1997, they received a smaller pension than other members of the British army. Actually, unless they joined up after July 1997, they still receive a smaller pension.

The worst bit is that even after fighting for the British, they have had no right to settle in the United Kingdom. This has caused great consternation not only for the Gurkhas, but also for fair-minded British people across the political spectrum. The Government decided that Gurkhas retiring after 1997 would have the right of residency, but it has been happy to deport those who fought in the Second World War or the Falklands War. The High Court ruled last September that Gurkhas that left the army before 1997 had a right to residency as well, but the Home Office did not feel particularly compelled to obey the court’s ruling and said it would review its policy.

A couple of days ago, the Home Secretary said that she would now allow a few more Gukhas to settle – those that had won one of the top four bravery medals or had health problems as a direct consequence of their service or had served at least 20 years. That meant less than 100 would be eligible, since Gurkhas are not allowed to serve more than 15 years unless they are officers. Everyone except the Government was outraged. After all, those in the armed forces from any other Commonwealth country are eligible to live in the UK after four years service.

That’s why the debate was about the Government’s treatment of the Gurkhas, and that’s why the Government lost. Of course the vote is not binding on the Government. That’s why it is commonly said that we have an elected dictatorship. But the Immigration Minister did read an emergency statement to the House of Commons tonight that this would be reviewed again before Parliament breaks up for the summer. It’s a step in the right direction.

If all the Gurkhas and their families that want to settle in the UK did so (estimates are about 6000) it could cost the Government as much as £230 million. That sounds like a lot of money the Home Office wants to save the taxpayer. It does until you put it into perspective. The Home Office spent £150 million last year just on outside consultants. Another £540 million was lost last year when it was wrongly paid to Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants. Then there are the billions and billions spent bailing out the banks and paying bankers’ bonuses.

So let’s see. Should we spend the money on consultants? Dole overpayments? Bankers? Or should we spend it on veterans of the British Army? It’s a no-brainer for most people. Except those in the Government of course.