Rotherham – the question that dare not be asked

Prof Alexis Jay

Prof Alexis Jay

The news that at least 1,400 children were sexually abused over a sixteen-year period in Rotherham and that those who should have pursued and prevented the abusers instead turned a blind eye is as baffling as it is appalling.  Or is it?

In her report, Professor Alexis Jay makes I t clear that police and social care senior management turned a blind eye to regular complaints and pleas for help because of a fear that identifying the abusers as mainly Asian men and the victims as mainly white young women would have provoked accusations of racial prejudice.

The question that needs to be asked is “what would have happened in Rotherham if the abusers had been a gang of villainous white men and the victims had been young Asian girls?”  I think we all know the answer.  The police and social services would have descended on the abusers like a ton of bricks.  There would have been no place to hide and they would have been brought to justice in the twinkling of an eye and in a blaze of righteous publicity.

We have allowed political correctness to invade every strand of public service and it has been busy driving out common sense.  If you were a police inspector or a social worker, faced with a tearful, frightened and bruised young woman who spoke of brutal and inhuman treatment would not your first reaction be: this is terrible; this might have been my child or my sister?  It certainly should have been.  However, when the abused child describes her abuser as being “Asian”, it seems the authorities developed paroxysms of fear lest news should leak out and the Asian community should be offended. Thus, the result seems to have been to brush the whole thing under the carpet and to hope it would go away.  Rotherham is not unique and my own council saw a similar but, thankfully, smaller instance of abuse that was finally brought to criminal proceedings but only after an inordinately long time.

Political correctness, when embedded in a public body’s practices can be a pernicious evil because it brooks no opposition; it disallows the application of commons sense and reason.  Public servants are literally brain washed into the importance of equality, equal opportunities, gender neutrality and other, equally murky areas like climate change, sustainable energy and carbon reduction.  All are civilised and civilising tenets but not when applied blindly and so as to drive out common sense and common humanity.

The immediate issue of ignoring horrific abuse because of a fear of upsetting an ethnic community has to be embraced and dealt with.  For the longer term, the supremacy of politically correct doctrines over the application of good old fashioned common sense needs to be addressed.

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Miliband savaged by Oxford Labour Party

I repeat below an extract from the Huffington Post blog with some amusement.


Red Ed

Red Ed

Ed Miliband’s policy agenda has been branded “pathetic”, “catastrophic”, “mealy-mouthed” and “bland” by the Labour Party’s grassroots.  The criticism for much of Labour’s policy platform came in response to the party’s policy review on its Your Britain website, which Miliband said aimed to “give a voice to members” as the party shaped a manifesto to win the 2015 general election.

An analysis of the feedback by The Huffington Post UK found that several Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) are less than impressed with the party’s current offer to voters.

In a submission this May, the Labour Party in Oxford branded the party’s economic proposals “wishy-washy” and full of “anodyne general statements that mean little in practise”.

The Oxford party concluded after an all-member meeting that the leadership’s plan for economic growth was “bland”, adding that the party’s proposed industrial strategy also had “no evidence of what it would contain”.

Miliband’s proposals to reform the banking sector with a “tough ringfence” between the retail banking and investment banking arms were similarly derided. “Those are the sort of weasel words used by the coalition and we should avoid meaningless phrases,” the Oxford East and West constituency Labour party associations warned.

The Labour leader’s beloved “One Nation” mantra was dismissed as “overused”, with members saying that it was still reminiscent of the Tories and Victorian-era prime minister Benjamin Disraeli “to those of us [the majority] who have studied British political history”.

Andrew Smith MP

Andrew Smith MP

Lady Liz Brighouse Oxon CC Labour Leader

Lady Liz Brighouse
Oxon CC Labour Leader

My thanks to the Huffington Post for this insight into the local Labour Party’s thinking. I wonder whether Andrew Smith (MP for Oxford East) and Lady Liz Brighouse (County Council Labour Leader of the Opposition) were present at the all-member meeting?


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The price of democracy

Cllr Jas Athwal Leader Redbridge LBC

Cllr Jas Athwal
Leader Redbridge LBC

I see from the Guardian (the national leftie one and not the Banbury leftie one) that Cllr Jas Athwal (pictured left) and the Leader of the London Borough of Redbridge has proudly trumpeted his removal of much of the democratic element of planning in his borough.  He apparently claims “unlike councillors, planners have the skills and experience to make these decisions. It’s not undemocratic – it’s giving power to those most qualified“.

Well, pardon me, Cllr Athwal but this has already happened here in North Oxfordshire, thanks to a number of different policy changes and it is not good for local democracy or for the confidence of electors that they can have any control over their environment.

Planning impacts on communities in a number of ways, some positive, some negative.  If people cannot see the innate logic and fairness of decisions and if they are not made in a transparent manner, confidence will be lost and the whole country will be the worse as a result.

My first problem with Cllr Athwal’s view is that planning officers feel obliged to follow the latest fashion in planning practice, often heavily influenced by political correctness and largely devoid of common sense.  For example, here in Cherwell, they have absolutely no interest in the style of a housing estate being imposed on a local village and do not understand the fury of villagers when its architecture totally fails to reflect the organic development of the village since the Domesday Book.  The same planners blindly accept the nostrum that the car should be discouraged and that walking and cycling should be encouraged.  They therefore allow inadequate parking on new estates but require expensive cycle racks and paths and footpaths that a tiny minority will use, particularly given the need for modern families to combine the school run with shopping and getting to the station – only feasible in many areas by car.

My next problem with Cllr Athwal’s view is that so much of a local council’s planning power has been emasculated by national government with the new planning regime and the requirement for a five-year land supply.  Developers are laughing all the way to the bank here in Cherwell because they can currently get just about any planning application through on appeal because the local council is chasing an ever-growing housing supply need fuelled by the success of the south-east economy and our proximity to London, Birmingham and Milton Keynes.  Electors are getting more and more frustrated as they realise the scale of this emasculation.

My final concern is for all councillors who worked hard to get themselves elected and then have to explain to an already sceptical public why so may horrible, badly designed estates of ghastly little tick-tick boxes are being imposed on their villages.  They bring social problems bcause low-cost housing quotas that fail to reflect reality bring single mothers onto rural estates with little or no local employment and very poor transport links to the nearest town.  They also bring other forms of social problem with houses that are too small for decent family living; where there is no room to sit round a table for a meal; where there is inadequate storage in the house, forcing people to store their growing material possessions in the garage which was too small to house a four-by-four anyway and with deliberately inadequate parking for cars.

Cllr Athwal, our planning system is a shambles but, without the input of people who regularly meet and listen to local voters, planning officers will continue to live in their cocooned worlds based on the latest planning fads and political correctness and will continue to inflict on the rest of us the slums of tomorrow.

If I could introduce one reform into planning law, it would be to require planning officers to live in the houses they have caused to be approved because I think they would soon get a taste of reality.

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Rum do at The Black Boy

The Black Boy, Milton

The Black Boy, Milton

The Black Boy is a lovely old (late sixteenth century) pub in the North Oxfordshire hamlet of Milton.  I like a pint and a sandwich at lunchtime and our Jack Russell likes a place after his midday walk where he is welcomed.   The Black Boy is by far the nicest pub for miles and is well worth the seven minute car ride from Nell Bridge House to Milton.  That is, providing The Black Boy is open when we get there!

The poor old Black Boy has a bit of a chequered history and has enjoyed or, more accurately, endured a whole succession of owners all of whom have come and gone again.  When we moved to North Oxfordshire, it was known as “the sausage pub” and specialised in a large quantity of tasty sausages but there has been much water under the bridge and not a few sausages over the bar since then.

The pub’s constant undoing seems to have been debt as successive owners have borrowed to change but not always improve the building.

An early change was to build a large dining area over the rear courtyard where previous publicans had held extempore barbeques.  Interest rates rose and the debt repayments must have become impossibly high and the publican fled, leaving a set of kitchen knives on the bar for the bankers and not a lot else if the story is to be believed.

A later incumbent wanted to sell off the garden and car park for housing – something that did not endear him to the village and he was soon gone.

Marco Pierre-White

Marco Pierre-White

The current incumbent is Marco Pierre-White and he has changed the poor old Black Boy substantially and not entirely for the better.  He ripped out most of the bar to increase the dining area and he replaced the furniture in the remaining small bar area with utilitarian benches and tables which, I suspect, were intended to deter the likes of me from popping in for a pint and a sandwich!   He has certainly succeeded in deterring a large part of the 150 population of Milton from going there.  He has filled every available space with a collection of clutter that I think verges on the eccentric.  The one welcome change he has made is the availability of wi-fi.  As a bit of a workaholic and a nerd, I like to continue working with my pint and sandwich and you can always log on at The Black Boy.

In place of the old traditional village pub, he offers a good menu, not too expensive and a good selection of reasonably priced wines.  The recently appointed manager, Hannah and the chef, Danny are friendly, knowledgeable and clearly hard working.  Marco seems to be attracting the sort of people he wants – trendies who want to have eaten at a Wheelers gastro-pub – but I suspect there are not as many as he might have wished.  He has also succeeded in losing much of his local trade; he may see this as a success;  I think it is a short-sighted one and a long-term failure.

I got used to Marco’s strange sense of design and, while still lamenting the changes to this fine old pub, the welcome from the staff has always made up for these.  The next blow was to turn up on a Monday or Tuesday to find that The Black Boy  now only opens from Wednesday to Sunday.  When one is retired, one wants to go for a pint when it suits and when there is time in the day.  To have to remember “not on Monday or Tuesday” is a bit of a bore.  I have used the Red Lion in Adderbury which tries hard but it is a hotel and does not have that special pub atmosphere.  The Bell in Adderbury does not have wi-fi and has never been able to offer a lunchtime snack although the new owners may have changed that. A word of warning, though, the one menu I saw there was entirely vegetarian so certainly not for me or our Jack Russell!

closed signThe final blow was on Thursday last when I drove to Milton, walked the dog over farmer Adams’s fields and then expected a pint in the pub.  Surprise, surprise; a sign in the window announced its closure for urgent repairs.  I was flabbergasted and not a little peeved.  A villager tells me Marco “borrowed” the chef from The Black Boy to work in another one of his pubs and this meant “no food: no pub”. I am not sure of this is true but the rumour is going around.  I don’t know how often a business can close unexpectedly and expect its clients to accept it tamely and return when it decides to open again.  I am getting near the margin now.  I can always get myself a pint from the cellar bar in Nell Bridge House (which is as large as the bar area in The Black Boy) and I can make myself a sandwich at home as well.  So, why bother to keep using The Black Boy?   I am not sure I know the answer.  The building has character; the staff are good; the food and booze is fine and getting out of the house is always healthy but, Marco, there comes a point when unreliability leads one to give up.

I hope you might re-consider your business model, Marco.  If a Wednesday to Sunday gastro-pub is not earning enough to cover the debt costs, it may be that a more diverse business model that offers something of the old village pub style alongside your trendy gastro-pub might bring you more regular income and a wider client base?  To have a pub that does not open two days per week at all and one that closes arbitrarily when it chooses and, apparently, to meet the needs of another part of the chain is not good business.

All in all, it’s a rum do, Marco.

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Economic recovery – the third leg

Ian Duncan Smith

Ian Duncan Smith

Today’s Daily Telegraph is fulsome in its praise for Ian Duncan Smith, quite rightly pointing out that George Osborne has been given credit for his role in restoring confidence in the country’s finances but Ian Duncan Smith deserves recognition for his consistent message about reducing the dependency culture that Labour had so comprehensively promoted. This is absolutely right and well deserved because IDS has not just spoken consistently; he has put in place a series of reforms that place an emphasis on getting back into work and make clear that the benefit system must provide a hand up to those in need and not a handout for life. Britain’s resurgent economy owes much to IDS as well as to the Chancellor.

However, there is a third leg to the stool that provides a long-term step up for UK plc and, without its support, the best laid plans will just fall over. This third leg is fundamental reform of our education system.  Far too many children escape from thirteen or more years in school without competence in the three RS, without life and work skills and without knowledge of citizenship.

University attainment has been dumbed down with too many degrees in media studies and no wonder when universities have to spend the first year in remedial teaching to make up for the failure of many schools.  Also no wonder when universities are forced to skew their intake to meet PC admission quotas rather than basing it on ability. It is no use bewailing the fact that independent schools are better at preparing children for university than state ones; the only answer to this is to raise the standard of state education to that of the best public schools.

We have embraced a culture that insists a huge swathe of school leavers must go on to university and not doing so is now a sign of dismal failure. It should not be and we need to encourage alternatives that are vocational and attractive.

Too many children find secondary education increasingly irrelevant and switch off or drop out. We need to find ways to stimulate the natural instinct of every child to explore, experiment and learn. No, I am not advocating trendy leftie education theories that encourage children to learn at their own pace and by their own choice; just the opposite. I am advocating a system that offers diversity; that develops life and work skills at an early age; that encourages confidence and individualism but within a framework that demands enthusiasm and hard work.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

We won’t achieve this with our present state education.  Michael Gove understood this and set about reforming it despite the opposition of the teacher unions and much of the education establishment. I fear his demotion has kicked away the third leg of our potential for economic reform and our resurgence as a world class economy because, without a better skilled and motivated work force, we are doomed to becoming the poor man, not just of Europe but of the world. Employers will tell you of the dearth of basic skills and of poor attitudes among many unemployed and unemployable youngsters.

There are two huge drags on our state education system.

NUT strikers
NUT strikers


One is a whole generation of teachers who not only cannot spell, punctuate or write good grammar but who actually don’t think it matters and who have been imbued with trendy leftie teaching ideas based around a manic search for equality at the expense of excellence.  To understand the mentality of some of the people teaching the nation’s children, watch the pictures from the NUT conference and ask yourself if these are good role models for our children?

The other drag is from parents for whom education is just not important. Any school will struggle when a proportion of their children have parents who feel like this and the sad truth is that state schools inevitably attract a large proportion of such parents. This is a challenge as large as the dependency culture that IDS has sought to stem and it is probably even harder to eradicate, being based in a societal culture of long duration and with deep roots. It wll take a visionary like IDS to lead that cultural change and to take on the opponents of change. Michael Gove was such a visionary which is why it is such a tragedy that he has been side-lined to the role of Chief Whip.

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Brandon Lewis – Minister from Mars

Brandon Lewis Planning Minister

Brandon Lewis
Planning Minister

I am baffled to understand what planet Brandon Lewis is currently inhabiting.  Has he taken a Branson trip to Mars?  I am not sure they are on sale yet?  When he suggests UK residents are now whooping with joy at the prospect of new housing close to them, I think he is either being disingenuous or plain daft.  I would like to invite him to visit the villages I used to represent as a County Councillor – Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote.  They are all fine Cotswold villages; all have featured in the Domesday Book and all have had housing numbers and styles imposed on them in the last few years that are excessive, fail to recognise the organic growth that has characterised them and where the style is urban, with miserable little boxes crowded cheek-by-jowl on the fields around the edges of these villages.

Far from feeling welcoming of this housing and in control of its development, villagers in Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote feel utterly helpless in the face of a relentless attack by developers on every piece of green space around the edge of these villages and the complicity of the Planning Inspectorate in supporting these developers.

Bloxham has suffered the most with six ghastly estates, built or about to be built, entirely out of keeping with the village vernacular and bolted onto every green edge the village had enjoyed.  They are the sort of little boxes you would see in Banbury, Bicester, Bradford, Bolton or Brighton, tightly packed together with inadequate living space; insufficient storage space for the growing quantum of physical possessions the modern family craves and a garage that is either too small for anything bigger than a bicycle or a mini or is just filled up with the belongings that won’t fit in the tiny house.

I doubt you will accept my invitation to visit, Mr Lewis, because I suspect you are well aware of the heat of the reception you are likely to receive.  The people of Bloxham are pretty law abiding and certainly long suffering so I doubt they would want to string you up from one of their lamp posts but they might be tempted to see if you would learn anything after being locked up for a couple of hours in a garage on a new estate.  You would learn how small it is for any modern 4X4 vehicle and you would realise how inadequate is the storage in modern houses when you saw the freezer, wheelie bins, suit cases, rowing machine, family bicycles, tool boxes, ladders, garden tools, surplus large toys all stack up where you might expect to see a family car!

When the residents granted freedom from his garage lock-up to Mr Lewis, perhaps he would take a moment to reflect on the consequences of the politically correct brain washing of the planners that has added to the inadequacy of modern housing.  He would see large quotas of “affordable housing” occupied by single mothers with children, no job and an inadequate and occasional bus service to the town.  He would see money lavished on garish, plastic play areas that no-one uses and that add to the urbanising nature of these estates.  He would see money spent on footpaths to bus stops when 95% of the population need their car to get to work via the school run or whatever their routine might be.  He would see garages and parking spaces wholly inadequate for a modern lifestyle with estate roads designed to discourage parking when it is the only option for many.

If he spoke to some home owners he might hear of the shock and horror after investing half a million pounds in a new home only to find that the house next to it is owned by a housing association, built to a higher standard than his own and occupied by a tenant from hell.  Typically, she will be covered in tattoos, with ironmongery embedded in her face, with a noisy brood of children from an assortment of fathers who are rarely seen but a constant procession of men who might add  to that illustrious group.  A caricature, I am sure and unfair to those on benefit who want to escape the dependency culture but no consolation to the house owner who finds himself next to such a tenant from hell.

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Thank God for Gove and Clarke!

Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse

I fear few children other than those educated at Harrow or Eton will understand the legend of the Trojan Horse today so may be puzzled about the equine link with Islamic fundamentalists in Birmingham schools.

We should be very, very grateful to two people for exposing this Trojan Horse operation which shows the lengths to which Islamic fundamentalists will go to promote their dream of a world-wide caliphate.

First thanks are due to Michael Gove for having the courage to expose this conspiracy and to set up a formal inquiry into Islamic infiltration of Birmingham Schools.  What a shame to see this brave and forthright politician sidelined to the role of Chief Whip while the school unions that have comprehensively wrecked state education in this country are whooping with joy at Cameron’s demotion of Michael Gove, the best schools’ Secretary of State we have had for years.

Second  thanks are due to Peter Clarke (certainly not to Europhile Ken Clark!) for his forensic examination of and report on the Birmingham schools, that plotted to promote unacceptable Islamic fundamentalism.

What saddens me is the failure of Birmingham City Council to deal with this Islamic menace when they were first made aware of it.   I am very proud of my quarter century in local government with eleven years as council leader but it means I understand local government’s weaknesses.  If this had been C of E or Roman Catholic schools caught promoting unacceptable doctrines, I have no doubt the whole education establishment would have descended on them like a ton of bricks without hesitation.  Given this was Islamic fundamentalism and the ethnic make-up of the Birmingham population, I am afraid Birmingham Council seems to have behaved in a craven manner, driven by political correctness rather than political integrity.

Michael Gove and Peter Clarke have taught us a valuable lesson. Islamists, promoting their caliphate, will seek to subvert our democratic processes to achieve their undemocratic ends – an undemocratic caliphate that promotes a mediaeval concept of religion that this country rejected five centuries ago and that denigrates women in general and punishes young women in particular for demanding an education.

A number of councils have found themselves embroiled with Asian men who have ensnared young white women in abusive practices, drugs and prostitution.  Oxfordshire was one of them.  If this had been white men menacing Asian women, I have little doubt the issue would have surfaced sooner and been dealt with much more speedily.  I suspect the fear of being branded “racist” may have intimidated council, health and police managers to hold back until they were 250% sure of everything.  There is a lesson here.  We must not be intimidated by Islamist fundamentalists who will use the race card against our gentler and kinder natures to enable them to promote their out-of-date and unacceptable views about women and sexual mores.

There is an important role here for the vast majority of moderate Muslims in this country.  I have listened to their concern with what they see as western decadence and falling moral values and I think they are right.  When I plough through TV channels and see the top shelves of newsagents, not to mention the appalling language and violence that is endemic on radio and TV, I think they have some very valid points.  However, they need to be brave enough to distance themselves from many of their leaders and fundamentalists to speak out against unacceptable and mediaeval Islamist views.

I also remember attending an Asian event in East Oxford some years ago in a Moslem community centre when I was Leader of the Council.  We were all invited to stand for “the national anthem” which I willingly did but was surprised to find that those present were not singing “God Save our Gracious Queen” but something entirely foreign and in a foreign tongue.   Either this is their country and their Queen or they should be thinking of moving back to a country that better reflects their instincts and patriotism even if at the price of a lower standard of living.

When I walk to Banbury station and pass the taxi rank, I can’t help noticing that all of the drivers are Asian and, while this is not a problem in itself, I am puzzled that there are not other nationalities who would aspire to this form of self-employment and wonder what barriers prevent us from having a more racially mixed collection of taxi drivers?  More fundamental is the fact that they never appear to speak English except when driving a passenger.  Many of them must have been in this country for quite some time now; am I alone in feeling their use of a foreign language at least unfriendly and unhelpful and bordering on the offensive if they have made England their home?

If the aim of Islamic fundamentalists is to inculcate a hatred of western values in the minds of the young and if their parents would like to prevent this radicalisation, I believe the best approach they can take is to demonstrate a harmonisation with our English lifestyles to the point where English is the spoken language in the home.  At the same time, they could become much more vociferous in supporting a raising of moral standards and the eschewing of the worst aspects of our TV and other media.  We could all have something to gain from this.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

I conclude as I started. Thank God for Michael Gove’s integrity and Peter Clarke’s forensic analysis.  The sooner MG is back in a cabinet post that matches his skills and reminds us that he has the courage  of his convictions and the means to express them, the better for the country.  While some suspect his public arguments with Theresa May might have been his downfall, I have a suspicion that increasing numbers could see Michael Gove as just what this country needs – a politician who speaks the truth, takes on vested interests and would make a fine Prime Minister in the Thatcherite mould when the time comes for a change.  I suspect that may have been his downfall and I hope it is temporary.

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