When are we going to stop blaming private schools, universities and ‘elitism’ for the failures of state education? | James Delingpole

11th August 2009

“State school pupils put off applying for Oxford and Cambridge because their teachers are reluctant to promote elitism,” claims the latest report from the achingly worthy Sutton Trust.

Hmm, yes. I’m sure there’s the odd case where this is quite possibly true. And I expect if you went looking hard enough among Britain’s veritable cornucopia of sink comprehensives, you might also manage to trawl up all sorts of other similarly compelling excuses as to why so relatively-few State-educated kids are getting into the top flight universities.

For example: pathological fear of teddy bears (especially when clutched by fey blond, aristocrats in cricket sweaters); hatred of punts, Pimms, walled gardens or dining halls that look like they come out of a Harry Potter film; discomfort with writing more than two essays a term; fear of learning; and, of course, climate change (the better universities – sorry Edinburgh, York and Durham no offence intended – being generally in the South which, as we know, will be roughly the temperature of the Central Sahara by the time this year’s school leavers sit their finals).

That’s just a few suggestions to be going on with. I’m sure, with a bit of application, the “researchers” at the Sutton Trust will be able to come up with plenty more. After all, they do seem to have a rare skill for overlooking the stunningly obvious, viz, that there is one dominating, supreme and utterly overwhelming reason as to why our posh universities are stuffed to the gills with privately educated kids: because privately-educated kids (and those lucky enough to have got into a grammar that hasn’t yet been closed) are about the only ones left in the country with sufficient academic ability to cope with a university degree course.

Organisations like the Sutton Trust which pretend otherwise are doing no favours to the underprivileged kids whose cause they claim to be championing. They are merely furthering this government’s despicable class war agenda. As Fraser Nelson puts it on a characteristically insightful blog over at Spectator Coffee House:

“The Sutton Trust is absolutely correct to point to social segregation as being one of the biggest problems in Britain today – but the problem lies with the schools, not the universities. The suggestion that snobbish admissions tutors are somehow to blame does the working class no favours by deflecting attention from the real problem.”

Nelson includes a graph showing the extent to which the state education system has been run down and dumbed down during twelve years of New Labour maladminstration (”education education education”: remember that one? How we laughed. How we’re not laughing now). It shows the percentage of candidates achieving three or more A grades at A level in 2007/08. For Independent schools the figure is 30.9; for selective schools 25.8; for comprehensive schools 7.7. This is disgraceful – but not for the reasons wearisomely advanced by the liberal left.

As Nelson argues, the growing state/private divide has little to do with money:

“Pouring money into the state schools has not been the solution – and there are now academic studies showing a surprisingly weak link between cash and outcome. And those who say “it’s all about money” should ask why  grammars do almost as well as the independents. It is the style, culture and ethos of a school that makes the difference.”

Well indeed. Quite the most terrrifying part of Nelson’s article, though, is the commenter below who thinks the solution to the problem is to ban all private schools. That way, this Stalinist charmer argues, all the pushy middle-class parents so good at steering their darling ones’ posho independent schools in the right direction would suddenly be forced to do the same for their neighbourhood state schools.

Quoi? Has this creature ever found himself in the position of trying to influence a state school’s curriculum, behaviour code, academic standards or policy in any area whatsoever? I think not, for if he had he would realise that the state sector could barely give a monkey’s what parents think, however pushy or articulate they may be. State schools take their lead from the government, from the local authorities, from the educational training colleges which fill their teachers’ heads with leftist bilge, from the unions, from the teachers – from anyone indeed but the children and parents whose interests they are supposed to serve.

Our dismal education system needs root and branch reform. We all know that. We also know that it is THE reason for the decline in social mobility which has, inevitably, made Britain unhappier, more resentful, and more bitterly divided. But until we have the intellectual honesty to address how this came about, we are not going to be able to resolve the problem.

Whether it’s the loathsome Peter Mandelson playing his class war politics (skewered here by Melanie Phillips) or the nice but misguided Sutton Trust coming up with its distracting thesis about “anti-elitist” state school teachers, we must resist with all our might those voices on the liberal-left trying to tell us that the problem with education is mainly down to graspy middle class people grabbing more than their fair share.

This is eyewash. The reason our state schools are in a mess is because of the “progressive” policies imposed upon them by generations of liberal-leftist educational theorists and government apparatchiks. The way to extract them from this mess is to make them as free as possible from State meddling, and to give parents the opportunity to reject those schools which are failing their kids and to choose schools which serve their needs well.

Punishing private schools and universities for the ideological bankruptcy of the “progressive” values which permeate our failing state education is not just morally and intellectually wrong. It’s cultural suicide.

Related posts:

  1. Free Schools: the stake in the heart of the Progressive vampire
  2. What Labour has done to our education system is criminal – as this heart-rending story shows
  3. Clarkson, the Baronet’s granddaughter and a pile of poo
  4. Why would anyone want to vote Tory? (Pt 1)

 

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Get a Grip

Being a right-wing columnist under New Labour’s liberal fascist tyranny is a bit like being a South Wales Borderer at Rorke’s Drift: so many targets, so little time. And just when you think you’ve got ’em all covered — Harriet Harman, ‘Dame’ ‘Suzi’ ‘Leather’, windfarms, George Monbiot, dumbing down, Mary Seacole studies — another one pops up unbidden from the veldt to torment you with his bloody assegai.

Take this new Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) epidemic. Did you know there was an epidemic? I certainly didn’t till I watched Monday night’s admirable Panorama investigation The Trauma Industry (BBC1, Monday). Rather I thought, probably, as you did, that it was an affliction confined mainly to battle veterans.

PTSD — shell shock as it used to be known — is the terrible shaking men got after they’d been under heavy bombardment in the trenches; it’s the flashbacks Nam vets have about the Charlie ambush that wiped out all their buddies; it’s the fits of rage that Falklands veteran Robert Lawrence suffers as a result of being shot in the head by a sniper. Definitely not the sort of thing you’d ever get after a low-velocity shunt in the Tesco car park.

Apparently, we’re mistaken though. It seems that PTSD is so widespread a threat to the health of the nation that it has now spawned an industry worth £7 billion. Yes, not million. Billion. That is the annual turnover of the personal-accident-injury business in Britain and a massive chunk of it is taken up by PTSD claims. Twice as many more people are treated every year by the NHS for PTSD — 220,000 — than are in the entire British army.

The Panorama reporter getting very angry about all this was the veteran war correspondent Allan Little.

(to read more, click here)

Related posts:

  1. No surprise that the BBC has been caught out in a lie
  2. Why us?
  3. Broken Britain
  4. Reason no 12867 why not to vote Tory: the NHS

 

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Build Wind Farms in National Parks? Now We’ve REALLY Lost the Plot

Did you ever read a madder headline in your life?

Sure, Natural England isn’t nearly as nature-loving as it sounds. It’s just another of those pointless Quangos which David Cameron may yet attempt to justify his existence by banning. Even so,  building 300 foot high turbines in what’s left of Britain’s unspoilt landscape  does rather go against Natural England’s supposed mission objective, viz (or so it says on its website):

“Natural England is here to conserve and enhance the natural environment, for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people and the economic prosperity that it brings.”

So the best way of conserving natural England, a body calling itself Natural England has decided, is to destroy it. Can anyone come up with a more ludicrous example of the warped, supposedly “progressive” but in fact utterly poisonous, wrong and self-defeating thinking so prevalent in these dark times?

I can’t.

No hang on, wait, I can. Front page. Daily Telegraph.

“We will not rush to drop 50p tax rate, Tories tell the City.”

3 Responses to “Build Wind Farms in National Parks? Now we’ve REALLY lost the plot”

  1. Tim says:July 27, 2009 at 3:14 pmClarification here, posted a day before your article above: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/about_us/news/2009/240709.aspxNot as bad as you think.
  2. General Sherman says:August 2, 2009 at 8:30 pmHad the mispleasure to deal with Natural England over a plan by shitbox house builders Wimpey to build on a local site that was untouched since the middle ages – with the exception of grazing from a local farm. They are total toss pot paper tigers who just roll over for the developers/government.For the record, the local people won and Wimpey have to find another spot of this green and once pleasant land to concrete over for more ’social housing within the mix of private development blah blah. God help any fool that thinks ‘Natural’ England will help them when the developers alight on their town.
  3. Tom says:November 12, 2009 at 9:30 amI work for Natural England in the government team and I assess wind turbine applications and environmental impact assessments and I can assure you we have very heated conversations with developers every day who try and submit turbines in ecologically sensitive areas as well as AONBs, SPAs, SACs and Ramsars. We work directly with local authorities ensuring that landscape and biodiversity is considered in every decision. We are all ecologists and base our advice on evidence, peer reviewed papers and experience, not the whims of local or central politicians.We don’t, however, protect land where it has no landscape, access or ecological/geological merit. It is, for instance, up to local authority to protect green belt. The green belt is an administrative designation not an ecological or landscape one.

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Since When Was Racist Bullying the Only ‘Wrong’ Form of Bullying?

Since when was racist bullying the only ‘wrong’ form of bullying?

Which is worse: bullying a child because they’re a) black, b) pretty, c) clever or d) they have big blubbery lips?

Before you answer, have a look at Bullyonline – a web site devoted to the dozens of children who have died, or nearly died, as a result of bullying by their peers. Here is 13-year old Salvation Army girl Kelly Yeomans, who took a fatal overdose. There is Alistair Hunter, 12, who hanged himself after being spat on by bullies who used to urinate in his sports bag.

Perhaps some of the children on that heartbreaking list died as a result of racist abuse; or possibly, as a result of those nearly-but-not-quite-as-heinous modern crimes, “homophobia” or “disablism”. The majority, though, did not.

They were teased for the same reasons children have been teased since time immemorial: because they had a weakness which could be exploited.

In my case, my crime was to have big, blubbery lips. Never once did it occur to me that this might have been quite a sexy, Jaggeresque quality: all I could ever think of was how vile and ugly I looked and how dearly I wished that my lips were “normal.”

Why did I wish this? Because the bullies who repeatedly called me “Blubber Lips” spoke the phrase with such hatred, venom and disgust that I knew they must be right.

Did I suffer any more or less than a child bullied for the colour of their skin or for being a complete spaz at sports? I don’t know. And here’s the thing: nor do YOU know. Nor, in fact, does ANYONE know.

This is precisely what is wrong with treating “racist” bullying as more heinous than any other form of bullying. It is based on a completely unprovable assumption which you can only make with confidence if you’re either a self-hating (what other kind is there?) white liberal or a card-carrying member of the minority grievance industry.

Reading the case of the 15-year old boy taken to court for repeatedly calling a female classmate “wog”, “coon”, “gorilla” and “golliwog”, I don’t think any of us could be in any doubt that the bully was a thoroughly nasty piece of work. I’m glad the poor girl has finally been freed of her tormentor. But I still don’t understand what this case was doing in Lincoln magistrate’s court – rather than being dealt with, as all such cases should, within the school system.

Or rather I do, all too well. It has to do with the dreaded “r” word. If racism had not been involved, there is no way a 15-year old boy would have faced criminal prosecution. The disgusting and morally purblind double standards here are wholly characteristic of New Labour and its politically correct decision to “privilege” (as your typical Libtard would say) certain types of crime over others.

Kill someone because they’re black or gay and you face a stiffer sentence than you would if you killed them, say, because you didn’t like their poncy, upper-class accent.

New Labour would call this social justice.

Orwell called it Thought Crime.

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  4. Climategate 2.0: Lawson squishes Huhne

 

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Is George ‘Jello’ Monbiot Too Chicken to Debate ‘Global Warming’ with an Expert?

Is George ‘Jello’ Monbiot too chicken to debate ‘Global Warming’ with an expert?

A couple of weeks ago, you may have seen, I wrote a piece in the Spectator which drove the  global warming alarmists almost insane with frothing indignation. It was an interview with the Aussie geology professor Ian Plimer whose bestselling book – Heaven and Earth – is being hailed as the great turning point in the debate on anthropogenic global warming.

Methodically, rigorously and above all scientifically, it carefully demonstrates to the lay reader truths that to large swathes of the scientific community are  already quite obvious: viz that “climate change” has been happening for 4,567 million years, regardless of man’s presence on earth; and that “climate” will go on changing regardless of what idiotic, ineffectively and mind-boggling expensive ploys man adopts to try to stop what is in fact a perfectly natural process.

Enough detail: read the piece; then read the book; then make up your own mind.

The climate change alarmists, though, do not even want you to do that. What they’d much rather you did was go onto the internet, find a page of nit-picking quibbles put up by a parti-pris computer modeller from the “man is doomed,  it’s all our fault and we must spend gazillions on windmills now” brigade, write Professor Plimer off as a complete crank.

It’s what they do to Christopher Booker; its what they do to Professor Pat Michaels at the University of Virginia; its what they do to Marc Morano at the marvellous Climate Depot website; it’s what they do to Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick who exposed the “Hockey-Stick curve”; it’s what they to do anyone who produces inconvenient truths which undermine their cause and threaten their claim that there is any kind of scientific “consensus” on climate change.

It’s a classic ploy of eco-fascists and libtards alike: if the facts are against them – as they usually are – they’ll always try to shut down the debate by taking the argument ad hominem instead.

The response of the Guardian’s resident eco-moonbat George Monbiot was a case in point. He sputtered that I knew about as much about the environment as he knew about F1 racing; and wrote a huffy piece effectively saying that Plimer too far beyond the scientific pale to be taken seriously.

Plimer’s response? To offer to fly from his native Australia at his own expense and publicly debate with Monbiot at the time of his choosing. The event would be conducted under the auspices of the Spectator and would, I’m sure, be informative, exciting and sublimely entertaining.

I say “would” because I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. Here is George Monbiot’s response to the challenge:

“Sir, Ian Plimer challenges me to debate his claims about climate change. I accept.

In fact I accepted a fortnight ago, when I began this debate by taking him to task. Along with other critics, I have laid out a list of specific errors of fact and misrepresentations, which he uses to support his argument.

The ball is now in his court. To participate in this debate, he should answer the points I listed, as well as the other issues raised by Tim Lambert, Ian Enting and David Karoly. Then we can reply.

But Plimer, as far as I can discover, has yet to produce any specific response to the very serious allegations made by his critics, preferring to heap insults on them instead.

These are all scientific matters, some of which are complex. To engage in this debate, we need to establish the facts and provide references. This is why it is better to debate these issues in writing; ideally, as Plimer’s critics have done, in electronic format, so that people can follow the links. Attempting to resolve these issues in person is likely either to become extremely boring or to degenerate into a slanging match. The Guardian’s website is open to him, and we look forward to his responses. Is he up to this, or will he keep ducking our challenge?

The floor is his.

George Monbiot”

Now does that read to you like the letter of a man who is happy to venture his reputation in the cut and thrust of open debate?

Or does it read like the squirmy, weaselly get-out of a no-good, snivelling, yellow-bellied, milquetoast loser quite terrified of having the massive holes in his puny argument mercilessly exposed in public by a proper scientist who actually knows his subject inside out?

Plimer, meanwhile, has imposed no conditions on the debate. All he asks is that it be conducted in public and that Monbiot turns up.

The ball’s in your court Monbiot and let’s have no more of that legalistic wriggling. Are you up for this debate?

Or are you – as I strongly suspect – going to bottle it?

Related posts:

  1. On Plimer, climate change and the ineffable barkingness of George Moonbat
  2. George Monbiot: the new Christopher Hitchens?
  3. I have faith in George Monbiot’s sincerity, whoever’s paying him
  4. Climategate: George Monbiot, the Guardian and Big Oil

 

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Norwich North: If Only They Could ALL Lose

Quite the most depressing thing about tomorrow’s Norwich North by-election is that, whoever wins, it will be a ruddy disaster for all of us.

I suppose the very worst-case scenario would be a victory for the Green candidate Rupert Read. As Oliver Kamm has pointed out, behind Read’s personable manner and bunny-hugging vegan fluffiness, lurk some really quite terrifyingly hard core views.

After the Madrid train bombings, he crowed to the Independent:

“If you live by the sword, then your innocent citizens (though luckily not you) may well die by the sword. Aznar, Blair and Bush should choke on their words of condolence to the victims in Madrid. It is their atrocious criminal violence that has led to this counter-atrocity.”

Right, I see. So the 191 Spanish commuters torn to shreds by those bombs weren’t actually murdered by a nihilistic terrorist sect, inspired by the dream of restoring Spain to the Caliphate status it last saw in the Middle Ages and eventually bringing the whole world into the glorious realm of Dar Al Islam. No, it seems that the governments of Spain, Britain and US were the real culprits. Just, of course, as the US was to blame for 9/11; and Britain, I suppose, for the 7/7 tube bombings.

Kamm quotes a similarly, deliciously mad letter Read wrote in 1999, making the hitherto not obvious connection between government higher education spending and student suicides.

“British higher education is in a crisis that only increased funding can help resolve. Academics’ workloads have gone up while salaries have been cut. Class sizes have increased enormously. This “Labour” government continues to cut the budgets of universities each year.

“One consequence is that suicide rates among staff and students alike have roughly quadrupled, over the last 15 years. This is a horrifying fact – responsibility for which must be laid a the door of the departed Tory government, and of the current government.”

So there are two good reasons already why this nettle-tea-crazed justifier-of-terrorist atrocities should not be allowed within a billion miles of our law-making process or foreign policy. An even more compelling argument against, in my book, though, is the effect his victory would have on the Tories. Already, their “green” policy is quite hopelessly in thrall to Al Gore’s “we’re all going to burn: lay waste the landscape with wind mills” global warming meme. Imagine how much more dangerous they’d be if they got it into their woolly soft-left heads that the party hadn’t yet pushed its eco-message hard enough: within two years, they’d have restored the barter system, banned meat and forced us all to dwell in yurts, travel by coracle and live on mung beans.

So yes, a victory for Read would be the very worst of worst case scenarios. But I’m not sure that this is any reason to vote Conservative. A victory for the Conservatives would, of course, send out to Dave Cameron the very last message he needs to hear right now, viz: “Carry on as you are! You’re doing just brilliantly!”

In other words, if the Tories win this election it will mean: no change on their 51p upper tax rate; no change on their plans to squander more on the NHS; no change on their dissimulation on Europe; no change on their crazed, ultra-leftist green policies; still no honest discussion of immigration; still no sign that the Tories understand that what Britain needs most right now is less Government, less regulation, lower taxation and a restoration of the liberties which have been eroded by New Labour’s creeping, liberal-fascist nanny state.

It’s a damn shame really because I know – I met one or two of them at the Spectator party – that coming up through the Tory party are dozens and dozens of ideologically sound young Turks who understand exactly the medicine Britain needs if it’s not to fall off a cliff. My fear is that by the time they get to boot Dave’s useless progressives out, there will be nothing of the country left to save.

Related posts:

  1. Five reasons why the Conservatives deserve to lose the next election
  2. Evil, snarling, red-faced Tory toffs want to bring back fox-hunting!
  3. Why would anyone want to vote Tory? (pt II)
  4. Lib Dems: now even less popular than the BNP

 

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The Officers Who Played Fireball Hockey with Me Have Been Scandalously Betrayed

Have you ever played fireball hockey? God, what a fantastic game! You wrap a bog roll in chicken wire, douse it in paraffin, set fire to it and then play hockey with it — preferably while drunk and wearing black tie, as I was lucky enough to do myself three years ago in front of the officers’ mess at the Norfolk HQ of the Light Dragoons. I’d been invited by their then CO, Lt Col Robin Matthews, who’d liked my book How To Be Right and wanted me to give his officers a pep talk. He explained: ‘A lot of these chaps are painfully aware how much money all their non-army friends are making [Gosh! That dates this story, doesn’t it?] and knowing you’re such a fan of the military I thought you could help remind them why they’re there.’

So that’s what I did. I told them how utterly crap life was in the real world (‘look at me: I’m a super-successful journalist, I meet lots of famous people, get dozens of CDs sent to me for review every week, am sent on the most stupendous travel freebies — but still it all completely sucks’), how soldiering was the most exciting and honourable profession, and the ‘war on terror’ was a noble and just one. At the time I was much more of a committed neocon than I am now, and was secretly quite pissed off when an earnest subaltern — one of the few non-public-school ones — came up to me afterwards to quibble with the general verdict that I was a splendid fellow who was quite right. ‘I still don’t see what we’re doing there,’ he said, meaning Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘Who are we to impose our values on cultures that don’t want them?’

After dinner, during the game of fireball hockey, I tried to show as much ‘form’ as possible. That lethal flaming bog roll could easily set your hair alight or char criss-cross marks into your skin, but you don’t want to be seen to flinch by men who are about to command light tank reconnaissance squadrons in Afghanistan, at the HQ of a regiment so dashing and brave that a mere squadron of its Hussar antecedents once captured a whole regiment of Frenchmen in the fog.

(to read more, click here)

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  4. Obama: when all else fails, blame Dubya and the CIA

 

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Lying Is Not the Way to Defeat the BNP

Do you remember earlier this month when the Government “proved” that there is “no bias in the allocation of social housing to immigrants”? I do, because Radio 4 didn’t stop crowing about it all day.

“So this totally nails once and for all the evil and racist myth that white, indigenous populations are discriminated against by housing officers,” ran the general tenor of Radio 4’s – and for that matter, all the print media’s – reporting of the issue. “Which means that not only are white, working class people even thicker and more wrong than we thought. But also, very probably, that ethnic communities and immigrants are more delightful and vibrant and generally cherishable than we had hitherto imagined.”

One problem with this factoid (which was announced with great fanfare by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in a report on July 7) is that it has no scientific, statistical or evidential basis whatsoever.

We now know this because a leading statistical analyst, Professor Mervyn Stone of University College, London, has done the homework the news outlets which uncritically regurgitated the EHRC’s nonsense should have done at the time.

His conclusion? That “the figures that EHRC has disseminated as if they were evidence for the claim are of zero inferential value.”

They are meaningless because they break one of the cardinal statistical rules of failing to compare like with like:

“In support of its claim, EHRC misrepresents the meaning of two factual assertions:

“1. That in 2007 ‘less than two per cent’ (1.8%) of social housing was occupied by migrants who arrived after 2002.
2. That ‘nine out of ten’ (87.8%) such homes were occupied by people born in the UK.”

“To make any sense at all, a comparison has to be like-with-like, but this contrast is no such thing.”

“In 2007, the social housing stock was four million of which 72,000 (1.8%) were occupied by migrants and 3,500,000 (87.8%) by UK born. To estimate the chance of a new-migrant applicant getting a home, you would have to divide the 72,000 by the total number of migrant applicants entitled to housing. To estimate the comparable chance for the UK-born, you would first have to establish the number allocated between 2002 and 2007, before dividing it by the number of UK-born applicants for the same period.”

“No calculation of that sort was done for the EHRC study. In fact, the extra data that would be needed to do it are nowhere to be found in the EHRC report. If it were done, the correction would almost certainly reduce the gap between the 1.8% and the 87.8%. Could it even be reversed and accepted as evidence against the EHRC claim? That is a possibility because, as the EHRC report concedes, ‘most new migrants have no entitlement to housing’ and because most of the 3,500,000 homes occupied by the UK-born will have been allocated before 2002.”

The weasel phrase which should have alerted us to this skullduggery, says the Professor, is the EHRC’s claim that its researchers “found no evidence to support the perception that new migrants are getting priority over UK born residents”.

“We have found no evidence that….” Yes, now I think it about it, its a lawyerly formulation you hear being used an awful lot by government ministers, quangocrats and liberal-left fellow-travellers on programmes like Today and Any Questions whenever they’re trying to wriggle out of a well-justified criticism.

This puts their critics in an impossible position: how can they ask for evidence that there is no evidence?

Civitas, the think tank which commissioned Professor Stone’s report, has now made a formal complaint to the UK Statistics Authority asking it to appraise the reliability of the statistical methods used by the report and the statistical reasoning that underlies its claims.

As Civitas’s director David Green rightly says: “Government agencies have a duty to use public funds to commission objective research but the EHRC has failed the meet even the minimal standards of statistical rigour that the public is entitled to expect.”

Fat lot of good his complaint will do. A lie is half way round the world before the truth has got its boots on. The Labour regime knows this. God how its politically correct Quangos know this! And they will go on lying and lying with virtual impunity till the happy day they’re booted out office.

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The Return of the Vinyl? How Britain Got Its Groove Back

On top of a brown Formica cabinet in a Portakabin office in an anonymous warehouse on the outskirts of London sits the most privileged record player in pop-music history.

The Garrard direct-drive turntable was the first outside a recording studio ever to play the Beatles’ Revolver and Sgt Pepper; the first to experience Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon; it was the first to be challenged by the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen; it was there at the birth of dance music; and it’s still going strong in the age of Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective and Lily Allen.

Remember all that talk in the Eighties when shiny, allegedly indestructible CDs came out, about how the days of the LP were numbered? Well, just recently exactly the opposite has started to happen: it’s the CD, the experts are now saying, that will soon be obsolete. It’s vinyl that’s here to stay.

The Vinyl FactoryBack in business: The Vinyl factory company logo (left) logo and coloured petals of PVC

Back in business: The Vinyl factory company logo (left) logo and coloured petals of PVC

‘I’m surprised a vinyl industry still exists, but the fact that it does is tremendous,’ says Roy Matthews, 73, who has been working on and off at this vinyl factory since 1956 and is now its general manager. When he started it belonged to EMI.

Then in 2000 the EMI manufacturing complex was being sold and the plant was scheduled to close. It was bought by a pair of entrepreneurs, Mark Wadhwa and former Olympic sailor Tim Robinson, and now operates as The Vinyl Factory, manufacturing about 2.5 million records every year.

It’s the last of its kind, as the only major vinyl manufacturing plant left in the UK. The equipment and methods are unchanged, from the revered Garrard turntable on which the ‘positives’ (from which records are made) are checked for defects, to the sacks of black (or coloured) PVC pellets on the factory floor.

The pressing machine that today squashes out special collectors’ LP editions of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Monkey and the recent Pet Shop Boys album Yes is exactly the same one that pressed the original editions of Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells and Queen’s a Night at the Opera now gathering dust on your shelves.

For audiophiles and musicians this is a happy vindication of something they’ve been saying for years: the sound you get from vinyl recording is so much better than what you get from a CD.

(to read more, click here)

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The ineffable wrongness and stupidity of Harriet Harman

“Ageist” BBC must reinstate Arlene, says Harman.

Until I read that headline, I thought I knew exactly where I stood on l’affaire Strictly Come Dancing. I’m old enough to remember getting jolly excited watching lovely Arlene Phillips and Hot Gossip pouting and bottom-waggling their way through I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper, so I’m also old enough to be bothered by talented people losing their jobs as a result of “ageism”. (Though the BBC, of course, denies that this was the reason it decided to replace Phillips, 66, with sexy, pouty, hot, vixen-babe, pop-star, baby-doll, nymphette, chick Alesha Dixon, 30.)

Now that Harriet Harman has intervened, however, I have shifted my position completely. Everything this bossy, interfering, and – for a QC and an ex Paulina – quite astonishingly thick class traitor ever says in that dreary fake-pleb accent of hers is stupid and wrong, be it on the subject of  female equality or television game show casting. If she told me sharks were vicious, deadly maneaters I would confidently dive into a tank full of ravening great whites, secure in the knowledge that I would come to no harm.

It is for this reason, I can now declare with absolute certainty that Arlene Phillips is a lame old hag who totally had it coming to her, that there’s no one on earth who less deserves to be a Strictly Come Dancing judge and that anyone would have done the job than her better up to and including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il or the late Dame Thora Hird.

Sorry, Arlene.

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  4. 10 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Be In Libya

 

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