The BBC’s humiliation of Robbie Fowler shows that football is fair game for censorship

On Saturday the BBC made its football commentator and former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler apologise on air for describing two footballers as „fighting like girls”. It made for uncomfortable viewing. It was obvious to any viewer with more than one brain cell that Fowler’s comment, made about a tussle between Fernando Torres and Jan Vertonghen during the Tottenham-Chelsea game, was entirely innocent, intended only to condemn Torres and Vertonghen’s childish antics and not to salnder the female sex. Yet minutes later, having clearly had a word in his ear from PC producers, a red-faced Robbie was making an embarrassing climbdown and telling the nation he was „deeply sorry” for apparently offending womankind. It was an ugly and humiliating spectacle.

There is something unedifying about forced public apologies, especially when the only „crime” the penitent has committed is to have spoken out of turn, to have said something controversial, rude or potentially offensive (potentially being the operative word in the case of Fowler’s unremarkable remark). That the BBC thought it appropriate to behave like a Stalinist official outraged by the temerity of a political upstart, and to strong-arm Fowler into apologising effectively for offending public decency, shows how crazily cautious it has become in recent times. Still smarting from the Savile scandal, and from various accusations of offensiveness made by the shrill offence-takers who plague modern Britain, the BBC is petrified of saying or showing anything saucy or untoward in its programmes – to the extent that it would rather publicly humiliate one of its commentators than run the risk of receiving a handful of complaints from easily offended feminists who police the use of the word “girls”.

The humiliation of Fowler confirms that footballers, and their fans, are fair game for censorship in contemporary Britain. They’re the most gagged, banned and shutdown section of society. If you think it’s bonkers that Fowler should have been humiliated for innocently using the word girls, then consider this: his old club, Liverpool FC, has a guidebook for its staff telling them which words are unacceptable in Anfield stadium. They range from genuinely offensive words – such as the n-word – to words only a nun could find offensive: poof, fairy, midget, spaz. Even phrases like “Man up” and “You play like a girl” are now frowned upon at Anfield – and, it seems, at the BBC, where Fowler has discovered that using the age-old phrase “behaving like girls” to describe immature behaviour in adults can now earn you a severe public shaming.

Beyond Liverpool, other footie fans are forbidden from singing certain songs or chanting certain phrases. In Scotland, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act makes it a crime for Celtic and Rangers fans to sing “sectarian” or even political songs. Last month it was announced that every single footballer in the Premier League will have to attend lessons about the use of homophobic and racist language, presumably to cleanse their dumb, working-class brains of their foul prejudices. The Football Association has declared war on the use of homophobic language at football grounds, which includes obliterating not only offensive words like “queer” but also, once again, jokey phrases about “girls” and “manning up”. The FA is also trying to stop Tottenham Hotspur fans from referring to themselves as Yids and the Yid Army, something they’ve done for years. The Crown Prosecution Service itself has warned football clubs not to allow their fans to “cross the line [into] inappropriate crowd behaviour and chanting”. But who decides what is appropriate and inappropriate chanting? Surely it should be fans themselves rather than the snobby, censorious suits and PC phrase-police who have become an ugly blot on the beautiful game in recent years?

If any other group of people were treated as censoriously as football fans are, there’d be outrage. If writers were forced to make public apologies for having said something offensive, Index on Censorship would go crazy. If political activists were forbidden from singing songs that politicians found offensive, Liberty would be weeping on the floor of the European Court of Human Rights. But football fans’ right to freedom of speech? Nah, we’re not interested in that. Gag their jokey phrases, squish their songs, police their minds – no one will kick up a fuss. But we should. Because freedom of speech doesn’t mean a thing unless it is enjoyed by everyone, however gruff you might find them, however offensive you think they are, however much you consider them to be “knuckle-dragging cretins” – the term used by a Guardian writer to describe offensive football fans. Robbie Fowler should have told the BBC to stick its apology, and fans across Britain should be telling the lawmakers and do-gooders who want to curb their chants and silence their un-PC chatter to get stuffed (or maybe something a bit stronger).

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The best thing for a company to do is honestly to maximise its profits

Suppose you owned a pharmaceutical company. Why would you want it to manufacture a dangerous drug? Set aside the moral considerations. Imagine you were one of those inhuman capitalists that fill the fevered imaginations of Occupy types. Wouldn’t you none the less see that bumping off your customers was bad for business?

I ask the question having just watched a thriller called The East. I don’t want to spoil the plot: it’s rather a good film. Let me just say it involves wicked corporations poisoning children, contaminating rivers and generally torturing Gaia. The producers evidently felt that such behaviour needed no explanation: film-goers would take it for granted that this is what businesses do.

I’m amazed by how many people think this way. Do you remember the main argument against rail privatisation? The rail companies, we were forever being told, would Put Profits Before Safety! No one bothered to explain how crashing trains would increase their profits. And, sure enough, accidents fell following privatisation – as did the public subsidy. Profits and safety turned out to be complementary.

What about a corporation that is harming, not its customers, but someone else? Economists call such harm “externalities” – costs that are borne by third parties. An example would be a mining company whose activities caused neighbouring land to be flooded.

The extraordinary thing is how adept our common law system is at dealing with such cases. The first time a coalmine flooded someone else’s land, more than two centuries ago, the judge, necessarily lacking precedent, ruled that compensation must be paid because of the long-standing principle in English law that someone “who has a dangerous thing in his possession” had a duty to keep it under control.

Companies are covered by the same general laws as the rest of us. If they lie about what they are selling, or breach their contracts, or adulterate their produce, they can be taken to court. Common law, growing like a coral, case by case, continuously adapting to new circumstances, is generally a better redress than a parliamentary statute, which will generally create unintended costs and injustices.

I can think of three important exceptions. One is where the externalities are diffused, making it hard to identify a specific victim: acid rain, say, or leaded petrol. A second is where the cost falls upon something other than a legal person – the suffering involved in battery farming, for example. A third is where ownership rights alone cannot prevent the depletion of a resource: quotas to keep fish stocks sustainable are the obvious instance. In these cases, even the most ideological libertarians generally allow that state regulation is beneficial. In general, though, businesses want good reputations, strong brands and loyal customers. They are as entitled to a presumption of innocence as anyone else.

“But companies are only interested in making money”, people complain. As opposed to what, precisely? Scottish country dancing? Blue period Picasso? Companies are supposed to be interested in making money. It’s when they lose money that problems arise. („The worst crime against working people”, the American trade union leader Samuel Gompers used to say, „is a company which fails to operate at a profit”.)

Alright, you say, but shouldn’t they also behave morally? Isn’t there an obligation on them to go beyond the letter of the law?  The answer depends on our understanding of what a company is. Corporations might have legal personality, but they are not, and cannot be, moral creatures. An individual might visit prisoners or work in a soup kitchen or give to the poor. He might, indeed, do these things while being a company director. But his firm is a different matter. The best way for it to contribute to the general good is not to seek to mimic the ethical choices of an individual, but to remunerate its staff, meet its customers’ demands and pay its taxes.

I’ll go further. The most ethical behaviour for a company director is honestly to maximise his profit and then, from his share of that profit, to give carefully and intelligently to charity. If he instead pursues various forms of “corporate social responsibility” which diminish his profit, then he is in effect shuffling his charitable donations onto someone else: his clients or suppliers or employees. His behaviour becomes that much less moral, that much more selfish.

People misunderstand the purpose of a business. It isn’t supposed to redistribute wealth, or promote education in Africa, or combat racial discrimination. Nor is it there to pay its employees an arbitrarily fixed sum, nor source its materials in the way that a pressure group demands: these things will be set by market conditions. It will pay its employees what it can afford (and, as capitalism spreads, and employers compete for staff, that sum will rise). Of course, the people who make such criticisms are often hostile in principle to free enterprise and private enterprise. Fine: whatever’s their bag. It’s just that, so far, no one has come up with a better model.

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For the mainstream media, the Boston bombing has been one of the messiest stories ever reported

A Facebook user, David Green, helped the investigation with a high-res photograph of the suspect

It started with the false claim that a Saudi man was a suspect (he was actually a victim), something the networks ran with (including the rumour that he had been thrown into a cage) and were then forced to retract. Then there was a second “attack” at the JFK library that turned out to be an unrelated fire. Pundits weighed in uselessly, calling for the deaths of all Muslims in the world on Twitter or else somehow laying responsibility at the feet of the otherwise peaceful and democratic Tea Party (was Sarah Palin anywhere near the scene – we have the right to know). In the words of Michael Moynihan, “Three days in, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of who has been wrong about what.” Indeed, it’s been a screw-up of epic proportions.

But where the mainstream media missed something, social media was there to plug the gaps – accurately or otherwise. It was a Facebook user, David Green, who first posted a helpful high-res photograph of the suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Pictures from the siege in Watertown were later captured by ordinary Joes and put up on Youtube, only for the networks to seize and distribute them. Amateur detectives abounded. Images of the suspects released by the FBI were posted on social networking sites, allowing people to post up their own pics of folks who looked a bit like them and so track their movements. Some evil and some good came of it. Poor 17-year-old Sala Barhoum – who was entirely innocent – was fingered by Reddit readers and ended up on the front page of the New York Post as a chief suspect. This morning (UK time) the talk of the offices was that the missing student Sunil Tripathi was one of the killers – and that turned out to be very wrong, too. On the other hand, Reddit proved fastest with coverage and there’s a good reason why so many networks and newspapers decided to report it as a source. Take a look at Reddit right now and you’ll note a mix of interesting journalism on what’s happening in Watertown, amateur detective work, screeds against amateur detective work and messages offering sympathy for the victims. The habit of mainstream media in presuming that social forums operate with one voice are misplaced.

So do not blame Twitter or the blogosphere for anything that the networks happen to get wrong. The bigger culprits are a) the tendency of rolling news to report everything and anything without waiting for all the facts to come in and b) the habit of pundits of feeling that they have to offer a guilty party and a political analysis before the dust has even cleared. Social networks are just doing their unpaid, organic thing of collating random thoughts. The mainstream media is supposed be a little more selective and sober.

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Gove condemned by teaching union for putting knowledge at the heart of the National Curriculum. They’d prefer children to be taught how to walk

Quelle surprise. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has passed a „vote of no confidence” in Michael Gove and the new head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw, accusing them of failing to improve education and not treating teachers and parents with respect.

Exhibit A in the case for the prosecution is the new National Curriculum, the subject of last week’s letter from 100 education „experts”. Far too much emphasis on knowledge, not enough on skills… yada, yada. So what „skills” would the ATL have children learn if it was in charge of the National Curriculum

The answer’s obvious, according to Martin Johnson, the union’s deputy general secretary. They should be taught how to walk. That’s right – how to walk. „There’s a lot to learn about how to walk,” he told the Guardian.

If you were going out for a Sunday afternoon stroll you might walk one way. If you’re trying to catch a train you might walk in another way and if you are doing a cliff walk you might walk in another way.

If you are carrying a pack, there’s a technique in that. We need a nation of people who understand their bodies and can use their bodies effectively.

Er, what about facts Times tables, the Periodic Table, the Kings and Queens of England, that sort of thing No. Absolutely not. Stipulating what facts children ought to learn is tantamount to fascism, according to the ATL. „For the state to suggest that some knowledge should be privileged over other knowledge is a bit totalitarian in a 21st century environment,” said Johnson.

So there you have it. In its topsy-turvy, Left-wing universe, the ATL thinks Michael Gove is being „disrespectful” to parents and teachers for having the temerity to suggest that all children should be introduced to the best that’s been thought and said, regardless of background or ability. Doesn’t he realise that nonsense is just for public school toffs No, ordinary children should be taught how to walk.

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Memo to all radical campaigners: please stop exploiting suicidal people for political ends

There’s a nauseating new trend in campaigning circles: the exploitation of suicides for political gain. All sorts of activists are indulging in this most ghoulish political behaviour. They’re claiming that the thing they hate and campaign against – whether it cuts to welfare benefits, student debt, or Daily Mail articles – is causing people to kill themselves and therefore it must be brought to an immediate end. They think their suicide exploitation adds weight to their arguments, but really it exposes their intellectual cowardice and their barrel-scraping morals.

There was an ugly spate of radical suicide exploitation over the weekend. First, transgender and gay rights activists turned the tragic suicide of Lucy Meadows, a schoolteacher who had undergone a sex change operation, into a battering ram against the Daily Mail, and in particular its columnist Richard Littlejohn. Last December, Littlejohn had written a critical article about Ms Meadows, or rather about the wisdom of a school allowing a male teacher to return as a female teacher; and almost as soon as it was announced that Ms Meadows had been found dead, commentators and campaigners were pointing the finger of blame for her death at him and his “evil, hate-filled” newspaper.

The speed with which the case of the tragic Ms Meadows was marshalled to the cause of attacking the Daily Mail was extraordinary. Even before it had been confirmed that she had committed suicide, far less why she might have done so, observers were drawing a direct causal link between Littlejohn’s words and Ms Meadows’s demise. They recognised that they were rushing to judgment, but didn’t care. As a writer for the New Statesman put it, “we have no idea why Ms Meadows is dead”, which might make it seem unfair to hold Littlejohn responsible for her death, but “screw unfairness” because the publication of Littlejohn’s article in December and the death of Ms Meadows this month is at least “one of the unhappiest coincidences of all time”. In short, facts don’t matter; the question of what might have caused Ms Meadows’ mental anguish, or how long she may have been suffering from it, is immaterial in the greater scheme of getting one over on journalists we don’t like.

The milkers of Ms Meadows’s death have now launched a petition to get Littlejohn sacked, and more broadly are campaigning to tame the allegedly feral tabloids. It all brings to mind the similarly opportunistic exploitation of the suicide of the nurse Jacintha Saldanha after she was duped by two Aussie DJs pretending to be Prince Charles. Then, too, liberal observers grotesquely use the late Ms Saldanha to mouth their concerns about low-rent media outlets. They went very quiet when it was later revealed that Ms Saldanha had suffered from deep, dark, suicidal depression for years, and had attempted suicide in the past. We may possibly discover that the same was true of Ms Meadows. We could at least have the decency to wait to find out what nurtured her suicidal behaviour rather than exploiting her death for fleeting moral gain. As the Samaritans pointed out after the death of Ms Saldanha, suicide is complex and is “never the result of a single factor”.

Also this weekend, The Guardian published a long feature about two students who committed suicide after getting into money troubles, and said the suicides may have been down to “rising [student] debt and fewer employment opportunities”. Cue a Twitterstorm about how student debt apparently causes student suicide. This echoes suicide-focused campaigning against David Cameron’s welfare cuts. Anti-cuts campaigners now go so far as to claim that Cameron is causing “appalling carnage” across the UK as they hold up pretty much every poor person who kills himself as a victim of the PM’s welfare-chopping policies. They talk about the “death toll” caused by the Tories, as if there is a direct, causal link between Cameron’s policymaking and the decisions made by clearly mentally imbalanced people who take their lives. Also, consider how internet activists have held up the suicide of hacker of Aaron Swartz as a cut-and-dried case of government “murder”: it was the authorities’ decision to threaten Swartz with a prison sentence that drove him to suicide, they say, and now there must be reform of how hackers are dealt with by the police and courts.

In each of these cases, the spectre of suicide takes the place of clear-headed or decent political arguments. Having failed to win the living over to their political causes, campaigners seek to stir up the dead instead. This isn’t politics: it’s emotional blackmail. Stop cutting welfare or people will die. Stop publishing Richard Littlejohn or vulnerable people will perish. Stop arresting hackers or genius webby people will kill themselves. The key problem with this most cynical way of seeking to win an argument is that it normalises suicide; it depicts suicide as a rational, predictable response to government policy or newspaper agitation. But suicide isn’t rational; it is irrational, extreme, thankfully rare, and deeply complex. The danger is that in promoting the idea that suicide is inevitably what happens when governments do things we don’t like or newspapers say things we don’t like, we make suicide into a political act, almost into a form of protest, potentially encouraging other depressed people to join the army of suicides cynically being marshalled by today’s radical campaigners.

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EU migration has to be managed better, but overall, it has benefited the UK and Europe

Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich put it well when he said of EU migration:

If people in Germany feel that their openness is being abused and our welfare system is looted then there will be legitimate anger.

In the UK, EU free movement is effectively one controversial issue, Europe, laid on top of an even more controversial issue, immigration. This is also why it’s simplistic to say that “Europe” ranks low down amongst a list of voters’ priorities and therefore isn’t electorally relevant.

So it wasn’t surprising that David Cameron today launched a „crackdown” on EU migrants’ access to benefits, which largely amounts to better enforcing the existing EU rules. Nor is it surprising that other party leaders have fallen over themselves to talk tough on immigration. But as James Kirkup argued earlier, a cool-headed, evidence-based discussion would benefit everyone. Now, I appreciate that it’s easy to opine about immigration when sitting with a caffe latte perspective in Westminster, but, warts and all, EU free movement has been beneficial for the UK and Europe.

There are usually two broad concerns people have about intra-EU migration: benefit abuse, and loss of job opportunities for domestic workers. Both are legitimate, but often misunderstood (not least due to patchy stats).

Access to benefits and public services need to be handled with extreme care. The sheer perceived unfairness of, say, an EU immigrant sending child benefits back to his or her home country, with UK taxpayers effectively “topping up” the maximum benefit amount allowance, is absolutely explosive – on this issue, Cameron pledged to negotiate a change to EU rules and is likely to get support of other northern member states, but it could yet be easier said than done. The European Commission is also scoring a spectacular own goal with its challenge to the UK’s “right to reside” test – the filter the UK applies to make sure that people come here to work, not to claim benefits. Also, no one can deny that the previous Labour government got its estimates completely wrong leading up to the last round of enlargement; local public services were unprepared for an influx of migrants in some areas.

But at the same time, it’s simply not right to talk about a “crisis” of welfare tourism, which Ian Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has. Yes, Romanians and Bulgarians will have freer access to the UK labour market from next year (when transitional controls end), but speculation about hundreds of thousands of Romanians/Bulgarians rocking up to claim benefits from day one is wide of the mark. First, it’s far from clear how many will actually come – in 2004 with the “Big Bang” enlargement, the UK was one of three countries to open up its labour market. This time around, some countries have already opened up their labour markets to Romania and Bulgaria, while all the rest will open up at the same time as the UK. We need to put EU migration into perspective. According to the ONS’s provisional figures for the year ending June 2012, non-British net migration to the UK was 242,000, of which 72,000 were EU nationals.

What’s more, the Government’s own figures show that only between £10 million and £20 million of the NHS’s total £100bn budget goes on treating EU migrants and only 13,000 of around 2 million migrants from Central and Eastern Europe claim unemployment benefit (though these figures could suffer from misreporting and should be be treated with care). Most studies show that EU migrants pay substantially more into the welfare system via tax and National Insurance then they claim back. But it is also true that the speed of change in specific areas and the lack of necessary infrastructure, such as school places, can be a problem, and better statistics would enable government to better support local authorities.

On the “British jobs for British workers” question, it’s true that EU migration can exert downward pressure on wages in some areas and/or sectors and that an influx can cause short-term shocks. Nonetheless, the number of jobs in an economy is not fixed, and evidence suggests that migrants often perform work that would otherwise go unfilled. Since 1998, at least three million new jobs were created in the UK but they have increasingly been filled by EU and non-EU workers. This points to domestic problems with skills and incentives.

Immigration is just as much about perception as reality. YouGov polling has found that there is a big gulf in how immigration is perceived as a national issue, with between 40pc and 50pc listing it as one of the most important issues facing the country, and how its direct impact is perceived by individuals, with only 12pc listing it as one of the top issues that matter most to “you and your family”.

But perceptions need to be addressed, and politicians in Westminster are right to talk about this issue. Simply ignoring it – or worse, dismissing public concerns as bigotry – is to invite even greater ammunition to anti-immigration forces.

At the same time, though, some politicians must dare to point out that, yes, it should be managed better, and yes, we hear your concerns, but overall, free movement of workers has been good for both the UK and Europe.

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Mass immigration and the housing market – two Ponzi schemes that benefit the wealthy

David Cameron has given a speech on welfare and immigration, and as always when a Tory talks tough on the subject, it has been panned by the commentariat of Left and Right.

That’s because this is a subject that cuts across the political divides. Various opinion polls attest that the real division over migration is between social classes, with the London media set the most in favour.

In David Goodhart’s new book The British Dream he argues that “Hampstead liberals” like himself got it wrong over immigration and chose universalism (looking after the whole world) over looking after their fellow citizens.

I’ve also got a book out (I might have mentioned it once or twice), and in it I argue that the Right is also responsible, too willing to see mass immigration as an economic benefit while ignoring the social costs.

The pro-globalisation Conservative view of immigration tends to be that:

a. If we have free markets we must have free movements of people.
b. Fears about jobs are based on the lump-of-labour fallacy.
c. If we’re short of houses, we should build more houses (besides which immigrants account for a small proportion of social housing).
d. In order to grow, the economy requires more immigrants.

Although many Liberal Democrats and a small number of Labour politicos hold this opinion, I would argue that it’s an economically liberal, Right-wing view.

Look at it this way: imagine that Britain had had mass immigration from the 1860s onwards. How do you think the rights of British workers would have panned out over the late 19th and early 20th century Would housing conditions have universally improved as far as they did Would inequality have declined Would a workers’ party have ultimately come to power Would trades unions have become so powerful and popular Would we have got a welfare state and NHS Extremely unlikely, any of these scenarios, because immigration and diversity weakens worker power, something acknowledged since ancient times, when slaves from the same tribe were kept apart on latifundia.

It’s been too easy for Conservatives to see immigrants simply as good workers at reasonable prices, without looking at the short-term economic or long-term social costs.

Regarding to wages, most of the commentariat are not threatened by immigration, because to become a columnist or radio presenter requires culturally specific skills that immigrants do not posses. But in many industries the availability of cheap immigrant labour has kept wages down.

Likewise, many Conservatives feel that if we have free trade we should have free movement of people. Why, exactly Japan’s foreign trade is worth $1,678 billion a year, and they manage to do without much immigration. Britain’s trade expanded exponentially in the 19th century without much internal movement. Out of principle The reason it’s okay to move around goods but not people is because once we’re finished with goods we can chuck them out; we can’t do the same with people, who marry and have children and have rights and agency and humanity.

One of the arguments I often hear is that, although immigration over the last 15 years has been wonderful and smashing and everything, what we didn’t do is prepare for the expansion by building the houses. And yet the people expressing this view tend to live in upmarket parts of London, exactly the areas that will not be troubled. Few people want more housing on their back door; almost no one wants social housing. You can’t just say, “hey presto, build!”

And immigration has played a part in the housing shortage. Currently one in ten new social housing lets nationwide are to foreign nationals, according to MigrationWatch, and the English Housing Survey estimates that around 20 per cent of all social housing stock in London is occupied by foreign nationals. MigratonWatch has tried to find out from London councils what proportion of their tenants are foreign-born, but most won’t reveal the statistics, although MW estimate it may be up to half in some boroughs. It doesn’t matter that most people come here to work hard – of course they do. But any welfare state must put the needs of nationals first.

These things may not matter for the commentariat, but if you can’t find a home in your hometown and you see properties going to people from other countries, you’d feel a bit angry about it, surely And it’s not just numbers; various studies have found that, the more ethnically fragmented a society becomes, the less willing people are to pay for social housing. So it’s not just a matter of building more units; if people don’t feel a sense of solidarity, those struggling will struggle more.

Finally, we have the argument that the economy will only continue to grow if we import more people. I can see one small problem with this idea. Like all Ponzi schemes, it has to end at some point. The closest parallel is that other Thatcherite yellow brick road, the housing market; last week Chancellor George Osborne signalled his cunning plan to revive our fortunes by re-inflating the housing bubble and so make housing ever more unaffordable for millions of people.

Many Conservatives have put their faith in a low-wage, high-churn economy based on the twin get-the-rich-richer-quick-schemes of mass immigration and property inflation. Both of these policies continue to lead to ever expanding inequality levels, static or even declining spending power towards the bottom of society, and shifting sands for those struggling in the middle. Personally, that’s not a society I feel very comfortable living in.

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Global warming: if only we’d listened to the experts, eh

Sir John Beddington, the government’s retiring Chief Scientist has been doing the media rounds today, telling anyone who’ll listen how „Climate Change” is still a serious problem about which we should all worry greatly.

Has he looked out of the window recently

Looking out of my window just now, I noticed that the Northamptonshire landscape was completely blanketed in Dr David Viner. Just like it was yesterday. And the day before that, when we rescued two orphaned lambs from the frozen fields. Which isn’t something you normally expect in March, is it

I’m sure I know what Beddington would say in reply to this. „Weather is not climate.” No, indeed. But it’s an argument which would surely carry a lot more weight if Beddington and his alarmist brethren hadn’t spent most of the Nineties and Noughties citing the hot summers and mild winters as evidence of man-made global warming. Later, as we know, they amended their scare-phrase to the more inclusive „climate change”. Then, growing more desperate as global mean temperatures stubbornly refused to rise with the alacrity their dodgy computer models predicted they would, they even had a stab at popularising „global climate disruption” and „global weirding”. Had these caught on (which they didn’t, really) it would have been a brilliant coup because what it would have meant is that whenever the weather did anything weird anywhere in the world (which weather does, by the way, all the time) the alarmist movement would have scored another propaganda victory.

Actually, though, if you’ll look at the facts – something that the Warmists appear increasingly loath to do – what you’ll realise is that our winters ARE getting colder. That there has been no statistically significant warming since January 1997. That the CAGW hypothesis is looking increasingly threadbare. And that, therefore, the billions if not trillions that Britain and the other Western industrialised economies have spent „combatting climate change” have very likely been utterly wasted.

This is what I find so puzzling about Beddington’s media circus antics today. If I were in his shoes, if I’d been involved in promulgating a disgraceful scam whereby the global depression was prolonged and deepened, where thousands of people died in artificially induced fuel poverty, where some of the world’s most beautiful scenery had been ravaged with wind turbines and solar panels and I had then been found out by events, the very last thing I’d be doing was traipsing round the BBC studios crowing about my achievements. What I’d actually be doing is retiring to my study with a bottle of whisky and my trusty service pistol, there to do the only proper and decent thing a chap should do when he has brought shame on himself and caused untold suffering to millions.

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The farce of UK immigration policy: letting in parasites, turning away entrepreneurs

So, another week, another bad week to be an immigrant in the UK.

On Friday, we had Nick Clegg calling for £1,000 „security bonds” for immigrants – a policy sure to put off poor legitimate migrants, like students or holidaymakers, but equally one that sounds great to the sort of people who want to disappear into the welfare state. Cleggbonds are cheaper than the average gangmaster, and the Lib Dems won’t peel your skin off with a rug-cutter if you don’t repay them. This was his attempt to „wrest the issue of immigration out of the hands of extremists and populists”, which, of course, you must be if you oppose unlimited migration.

Never to be outdone, Cameron has come back today boasting that net migration has fallen drastically under his premiership. Am I the only person in Britain that thinks if you make lots of British people leave the country, and lots of foreigners not want to come, you’ve clearly made the country manifestly worse and shouldn’t be boasting about it Of course, there’s also Labour’s lamentable record on immigration, talking tough while simultaneously opening the floodgates, allowing in two million extra people without any thought of the pressure this would put on services.

So, all the major parties have failed, and all of them have been dragged to the Right by Ukip. To be honest, I’m the sort of metropolitan liberal who doesn’t mind having my coffee served to me by someone called Slavoj as opposed to someone called Steve. I’ve got a lot more time for Slavoj, who was willing to move from Novgorod and work, as opposed to Steve, who isn’t willing to move from Newcastle and lives on benefits. Indeed, if Steve is a Geordie, I’m more likely to understand Slavoj in conversation as well. I’m quite happy with sensibly controlled immigration, especially if it’s implemented in a pro-business way, but it strikes me that a lot of the politicians who want supply-side reforms in other areas are mysteriously silent on the immigration issue.

If you ask businesses, especially tech businesses, the one supply side reform they would like, it’s not making it easier to sack people, or being able to pay less than the minimum wage: it’s a simplification of non-EU visa rules.

It’s all fine if you want to hire a developer who is from the EU, but as soon as you want to take on a Yank, or a Russian or an Indian, it all becomes incredibly complex, bureaucratic and expensive. While the concerns about immigration are all about a flood of cheap labour, and people vanishing into the welfare state, the people we’ve actually have clamped down are skilled, hard-working valuable migrants, like students who have studied here who want to stay on.

Things are even worse for foreign entrepreneurs. In the first year of the Coalition, the rules for visas were changed – essentially, if you had £50,000, and were coming to the UK to start a business, you got let in, no questions asked and all you had to do was prove you had the cash. There was a small amount of fraud, with fake businesses being created and so on, which the Government rightly realised was a problem. Unfortunately, the solution they have come up with is a total disaster.

Now, an entrepreneur who wants a UK visa has to attend an interview where he has to pitch his business plan to an immigration officer, in a sort of Dragon’s Den where Theo Paphitis is replaced by some hopeless bureaucrat. Inevitably, the fraudsters present a wonderful scheme and get waved through, whereas real entrepreneurs – especially ones with complex tech business – get pooh-pooed and turned away. I can’t help thinking: if people were good at picking and backing businesses to succeed, they wouldn’t be civil servants in the Home Office. And there’s no appeal. If Mark Zuckerberg sat down with a Home Office drone, could he sell him the concept of Facebook If he couldn’t, that’s it: no entry to Britain.

At the same time, the Government is bending over backwards to lend money to small firms. Tech City now has a colony of small quirky startups, many of which are legitimate, but many of which are chancers, leeching off the real tech businesses. You know, „social media consultancies” run by two guys who know each other from Eton called Jolyon and Percival. Ask any entrepreneur around the roundabout, and they’ll tell you they get four or five calls a day from these bottom-feeders, often recruitment consultants or web-based magazines, charging you £10,000 for a page of advertorial.

There are plenty of great foreign entrepreneurs in the UK – Taavet Hinrikus, the Estonian who was the first employee at Skype, who’s since set up his his own money transfer business, Transferwise, springs to mind. He’s Estonian, so it was fairly easy for him to live and work in the UK; but if he was from say, Finland or Iceland, he might not have come here, as our climate for foreign entrepreneurs is stupidly harsh.

In conclusion, we’re cracking down on the wrong kinds of migrants. Forcing wealthy Shanghai holidaymakers to pay an extra £1000 to come here isn’t going to stop gangmasters importing cockle pickers from Jungshau autonomous province. Reaching a target of net migration of 100,000 when more than 100,000 students come here a year is a Sisyphean task. And barring real entrepreneurs from coming while helping parasites is going to help no one. The trouble is, we have an unstoppable tide of cheap labour from the EU; and until politicians do something about that, they will be limited to cracking down on non-EU migration, which hurts all of us.

Vince Cable is often bashed for being anti-business, but ask any entrepreneur which politician’s immigration policy is the most business-friendly. It should worry us that one lone unpopular Lib Dem is making the supply-side reform argument that the City, the tech industry and business in general want to hear.

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Sorry global warming. We’re just not that into you.

Please excuse the radio silence: I’ve been at my old school Malvern College all week, poisoning the minds of the young with my dangerous views on sustainability, climate change, „biodiversity” and other sacred green cows. But a lot of the time, it has to be said, my work wasn’t necessary. In one geography class specifically dedicated to climate change, the first kid to stick up his hand said: „What’s wrong with the world getting warmer anyway? It will mean we get nicer summers!”

Which is what the kids would no doubt refer to as an epic fail for all the official propaganda we’ve been fed these last few decades. The boys and girls in that particular class would have been precisely the target audience at which the Labour government aimed its infamous Bedtime Stories advert, the £6 million effort in 2009 commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to scare impressionable kids witless with tales of a hideous carbon monster which was going to drown their puppies. If the enviro loons can’t even manage to brainwash the young with their lies, spin junk science, what chance do they have with grown ups?

If I hadn’t been so busy taking classes – never, EVER will I be rude again about the long holidays teachers get: God, they deserve them! – what I would have done much earlier is to draw your attention to this glorious story at the Register. What it shows is that not only do people not care all that much now about „climate change” – but that actually, they never really did. Not in a serious way.

As Lewis Page puts it:

Seventeen years of continuous surveys covering countries around the world show that people not only do not care about climate change today – understandably prioritising economic misery – they also did not care about climate change even back when times were good.

The new information comes in a study released by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago – a large, long-standing and respected non-profit. The results are based on surveys which began in 1993, back in the boom times, and “are the first and only surveys that put long-term attitudes toward environmental issues in general and global climate change in particular in an international perspective,” according to NORC’s Tom W Smith.

According to a NORC statement issued yesterday:

The economy ranked highest in concern in 15 countries, followed by health care in eight, education in six, poverty in two, and terrorism and crime in one country each. Immigration and the environment did not make the top of the list in any country over the 17-year period; in the United States, the economy ranked as the highest concern, while concern for the environment ranked sixth. In terms of national averages, the order of concern was the economy (25 percent); health care (22.2); education (15.6); poverty (11.6); crime (8.6); environment (4.7); immigration (4.1); and terrorism (2.6), the surveys showed.

Not, of course, that public opinion makes the blindest difference to whether something is true or not. It’s just that in this particular instance, of course, public opinion is dead right. Which does make you wonder, though, how it is that the greenies have been able to cause so much mayhem for so long. I hardly need to list for you here the many terrible things that have been done in the name of „saving the planet” and „combating climate change”. We’re talking everything from the trashing of our beautiful landscape with wind farms to the thousands of deaths caused by fuel poverty to the sabotage of the global economy. If – as seems to be the case – this all seems to have done on the say-so of a shrill minority with whom most people, it now turns out, disagreed, then I think we have a right to be even more angry than we were already. Angry, not least, with ourselves for letting mendacious scuzzballs get away with it.

Still, the tide does seem to be turning.

Today, you may have noticed, we had the most tremendous result: the High Court ruling overturning the Planning Inspectorate’s bizarre decision to allow the Duke of Gloucester to erect four 415 foot wind turbines just a mile from the glorious National Trust property of Lyveden New Bield. This was one of the reasons I stood – briefly – as the Anti Wind Farm Candidate in the Corby by-election. I’d just moved into the beautiful and underrated county of Northamptonshire and a local anti-wind farm group invited me over to Lyveden New Bield to inspect the property which was about to be ravaged as a result of yet another posho absentee landlord’s greed. The house itself is just a ruin – or rather, a shell: it was never actually completed. But the reason it’s well worth visiting is to see the remnants of one of the greatest gardens of the Elizabethan age.

There’s more to be said on this – especially concerning the disgraceful role of the Duke of Gloucester, but I shall save that for another occasion. I’m jolly exhausted after my (nearly) week’s tutoring the young in the ways of truth and righteousness. Off now to the gym for a sauna.

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