Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category
The annual Bilderberg conference took place this weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark. A full list of participants is below.
Among those in attendance was the head of MI6, the former director of the NSA, the boss of Google, as well as George Osborne, Ed Balls, Justine Greening and Peter Mandelson. Henry Kissinger was also there at the age of 91. I don’t think he’s missed a single Bilderberg meeting since it was founded.
The BBC and the rest of the mainstream media didn’t mention it at all. I don’t think all these big names gathered to discuss the weather or to look at one another’s holiday snaps.
Here’s the full list:
FRA Castries, Henri de Chairman and CEO, AXA Group
DEU Achleitner, Paul M. Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG
DEU Ackermann, Josef Former CEO, Deutsche Bank AG
GBR Agius, Marcus Non-Executive Chairman, PA Consulting Group
FIN Alahuhta, Matti Member of the Board, KONE; Chairman, Aalto University Foundation
GBR Alexander, Helen Chairman, UBM plc
USA Alexander, Keith B. Former Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Former Director, National Security Agency
USA Altman, Roger C. Executive Chairman, Evercore
FIN Apunen, Matti Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
DEU Asmussen, Jörg State Secretary of Labour and Social Affairs
HUN Bajnai, Gordon Former Prime Minister; Party Leader, Together 2014
GBR Balls, Edward M. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
PRT Balsemão, Francisco Pinto Chairman, Impresa SGPS
FRA Baroin, François Member of Parliament (UMP); Mayor of Troyes
FRA Baverez, Nicolas Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
USA Berggruen, Nicolas Chairman, Berggruen Institute on Governance
ITA Bernabè, Franco Chairman, FB Group SRL
DNK Besenbacher, Flemming Chairman, The Carlsberg Group
NLD Beurden, Ben van CEO, Royal Dutch Shell plc
SWE Bildt, Carl Minister for Foreign Affairs
NOR Brandtzæg, Svein Richard President and CEO, Norsk Hydro ASA
INT Breedlove, Philip M. Supreme Allied Commander Europe
AUT Bronner, Oscar Publisher, Der STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H.
SWE Buskhe, Håkan President and CEO, Saab AB
TUR Çandar, Cengiz Senior Columnist, Al Monitor and Radikal
ESP Cebrián, Juan Luis Executive Chairman, Grupo PRISA
FRA Chalendar, Pierre-André de Chairman and CEO, Saint-Gobain
CAN Clark, W. Edmund Group President and CEO, TD Bank Group
INT Coeuré, Benoît Member of the Executive Board, European Central Bank
IRL Coveney, Simon Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
GBR Cowper-Coles, Sherard Senior Adviser to the Group Chairman and Group CEO, HSBC Holdings plc
BEL Davignon, Etienne Minister of State
USA Donilon, Thomas E. Senior Partner, O’Melveny and Myers; Former U.S. National Security Advisor
DEU Döpfner, Mathias CEO, Axel Springer SE
GBR Dudley, Robert Group Chief Executive, BP plc
FIN Ehrnrooth, Henrik Chairman, Caverion Corporation, Otava and Pöyry PLC
ITA Elkann, John Chairman, Fiat S.p.A.
DEU Enders, Thomas CEO, Airbus Group
DNK Federspiel, Ulrik Executive Vice President, Haldor Topsøe A/S
USA Feldstein, Martin S. Professor of Economics, Harvard University; President Emeritus, NBER
CAN Ferguson, Brian President and CEO, Cenovus Energy Inc.
GBR Flint, Douglas J. Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings plc
ESP García-Margallo, José Manuel Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
USA Gfoeller, Michael Independent Consultant
TUR Göle, Nilüfer Professor of Sociology, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
USA Greenberg, Evan G. Chairman and CEO, ACE Group
GBR Greening, Justine Secretary of State for International Development
NLD Halberstadt, Victor Professor of Economics, Leiden University
USA Hockfield, Susan President Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NOR Høegh, Leif O. Chairman, Höegh Autoliners AS
NOR Høegh, Westye Senior Advisor, Höegh Autoliners AS
USA Hoffman, Reid Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
CHN Huang, Yiping Professor of Economics, National School of Development, Peking University
USA Jackson, Shirley Ann President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
USA Jacobs, Kenneth M. Chairman and CEO, Lazard
USA Johnson, James A. Chairman, Johnson Capital Partners
USA Karp, Alex CEO, Palantir Technologies
USA Katz, Bruce J. Vice President and Co-Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution
CAN Kenney, Jason T. Minister of Employment and Social Development
GBR Kerr, John Deputy Chairman, Scottish Power
USA Kissinger, Henry A. Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
USA Kleinfeld, Klaus Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
TUR Koç, Mustafa Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
DNK Kragh, Steffen President and CEO, Egmont
USA Kravis, Henry R. Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
USA Kravis, Marie-Josée Senior Fellow and Vice Chair, Hudson Institute
CHE Kudelski, André Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group
INT Lagarde, Christine Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
BEL Leysen, Thomas Chairman of the Board of Directors, KBC Group
USA Li, Cheng Director, John L.Thornton China Center,The Brookings Institution
SWE Lifvendahl, Tove Political Editor in Chief, Svenska Dagbladet
CHN Liu, He Minister, Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs
PRT Macedo, Paulo Minister of Health
FRA Macron, Emmanuel Deputy Secretary General of the Presidency
ITA Maggioni, Monica Editor-in-Chief, Rainews24, RAI TV
GBR Mandelson, Peter Chairman, Global Counsel LLP
USA McAfee, Andrew Principal Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PRT Medeiros, Inês de Member of Parliament, Socialist Party
GBR Micklethwait, John Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
GRC Mitsotaki, Alexandra Chair, ActionAid Hellas
ITA Monti, Mario Senator-for-life; President, Bocconi University
USA Mundie, Craig J. Senior Advisor to the CEO, Microsoft Corporation
CAN Munroe-Blum, Heather Professor of Medicine and Principal (President) Emerita, McGill University
USA Murray, Charles A. W.H. Brady Scholar, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
NLD Netherlands, H.R.H. Princess Beatrix of the
ESP Nin Génova, Juan María Deputy Chairman and CEO, CaixaBank
FRA Nougayrède, Natalie Director and Executive Editor, Le Monde
DNK Olesen, Søren-Peter Professor; Member of the Board of Directors, The Carlsberg Foundation
FIN Ollila, Jorma Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell, plc; Chairman, Outokumpu Plc
TUR Oran, Umut Deputy Chairman, Republican People’s Party (CHP)
GBR Osborne, George Chancellor of the Exchequer
FRA Pellerin, Fleur State Secretary for Foreign Trade
USA Perle, Richard N. Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
USA Petraeus, David H. Chairman, KKR Global Institute
CAN Poloz, Stephen S. Governor, Bank of Canada
INT Rasmussen, Anders Fogh Secretary General, NATO
DNK Rasmussen, Jørgen Huno Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Lundbeck Foundation
INT Reding, Viviane Vice President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission
USA Reed, Kasim Mayor of Atlanta
CAN Reisman, Heather M. Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc.
NOR Reiten, Eivind Chairman, Klaveness Marine Holding AS
DEU Röttgen, Norbert Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, German Bundestag
USA Rubin, Robert E. Co-Chair, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury
USA Rumer, Eugene Senior Associate and Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
NOR Rynning-Tønnesen, Christian President and CEO, Statkraft AS
NLD Samsom, Diederik M. Parliamentary Leader PvdA (Labour Party)
GBR Sawers, John Chief, Secret Intelligence Service
NLD Scheffer, Paul J. Author; Professor of European Studies, Tilburg University
NLD Schippers, Edith Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport
USA Schmidt, Eric E. Executive Chairman, Google Inc.
AUT Scholten, Rudolf CEO, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG
USA Shih, Clara CEO and Founder, Hearsay Social
FIN Siilasmaa, Risto K. Chairman of the Board of Directors and Interim CEO, Nokia Corporation
ESP Spain, H.M. the Queen of
USA Spence, A. Michael Professor of Economics, New York University
FIN Stadigh, Kari President and CEO, Sampo plc
USA Summers, Lawrence H. Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University
IRL Sutherland, Peter D. Chairman, Goldman Sachs International; UN Special Representative for Migration
SWE Svanberg, Carl-Henric Chairman, Volvo AB and BP plc
TUR Taftalı, A. Ümit Member of the Board, Suna and Inan Kiraç Foundation
USA Thiel, Peter A. President, Thiel Capital
DNK Topsøe, Henrik Chairman, Haldor Topsøe A/S
GRC Tsoukalis, Loukas President, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
NOR Ulltveit-Moe, Jens Founder and CEO, Umoe AS
INT Üzümcü, Ahmet Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
CHE Vasella, Daniel L. Honorary Chairman, Novartis International
FIN Wahlroos, Björn Chairman, Sampo plc
SWE Wallenberg, Jacob Chairman, Investor AB
SWE Wallenberg, Marcus Chairman of the Board of Directors, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB
USA Warsh, Kevin M. Distinguished Visiting Fellow and Lecturer, Stanford University
GBR Wolf, Martin H. Chief Economics Commentator, The Financial Times
USA Wolfensohn, James D. Chairman and CEO, Wolfensohn and Company
NLD Zalm, Gerrit Chairman of the Managing Board, ABN-AMRO Bank N.V.
GRC Zanias, George Chairman of the Board, National Bank of Greece
USA Zoellick, Robert B. Chairman, Board of International Advisors, The Goldman Sachs Group
And here’s the agenda of what they were apparently going to discuss:
- The key topics for discussion this year include:
- Is the economic recovery sustainable?
- Who will pay for the demographics?
- Does privacy exist?
- How special is the relationship in intelligence sharing?
- Big shifts in technology and jobs
- The future of democracy and the middle class trap
- China’s political and economic outlook
- The new architecture of the Middle East
- What next for Europe?
- Current events
Look, I’m not daft. I knew when I agreed to take part in this programme that it was a bit of a send-up and I’m fine with that, just as a long as some of the very real achievements that have come as a result of my complaining are in there.
I actually quite like the feature – the main picture is brilliant and the speech bubble made me laugh. Most of the write-up is a true account of what’s gone on.
Less understandable is why the reporter, Laura Armstrong, has chosen to lie about certain aspects of it.
The statement underneath the main headline reads: “Marcus moans to council every day for a year.” This lie is then repeated in the opening paragraph.
My telephone interview with Laura, conducted around the middle of last week, lasted about an hour. During that time, we covered a lot of ground: My complaints as a child about children’s TV programmes and the privatisation of children’s music services; My experiences of life as a student in Liverpool, especially the dreadful quality of street lighting in most residential areas; My work as co-ordinator of my local Neighbourhood Watch; The things I’ve done in my career as a journalist; My complaints to all layers of government, and so on.
As an aside, I discovered that Laura, an NCTJ-trained journalist, as am I. We were taught by the same legendary Public Affairs tutor, David Kett, though she obviously didn’t pay much attention in class, because I had to spend a fair amount of time explaining to her where power lies in post-devolution Wales.
Here’s where it gets extraordinary: Following our phone conversation, I had an exchange of emails with Laura where she asked me to clarify how many complaints I’d made to the council. You can read it for yourself by clicking on the three scans below:
There you have it! Lying Laura completely made up the ‘every day for a year stat’. It’s blatantly obvious it’s not true anyway. That screenshot of a map is taken from the FixMyStreet.com website, which is my main means of complaining to the council. That screenshot dates back to June 2009, FOUR MONTHS BEFORE I EVEN MOVED TO THE AREA.
As you’ll see from the email exchange, I counted 72 acknowledgement emails from FixMyStreet.com. If I’ve counted the dots on the map correctly (you have to zoom in to take a proper look), 42 are from the area in the newspaper’s screenshot. The others will mostly come from the area in and around where my elderly grandmother lives on the other side of Cardiff, while the remainder will come from other parts of Cardiff Bay. When asked how many emails I sent between myself and the council, I said more than 100 over a two year period, and that includes letters and phone calls. As you can see, this is well short of the claim that I ‘moaned to the council every day for a year’.
Other less serious untruths in there include:
- I have never reported a ‘stolen bollard’ in my life.
- I do not report something ‘almost every time I leave home’.
- The ‘dead fox’ refers to something that happened at least four years ago, when I lived at my old house. It wasn’t in a garden, it was next to a main road which hundreds of children going to the biggest secondary school in Wales walked past every day.
It’s a shame that Laura has chosen to ruin what should’ve been a fun and interesting feature with these lies.
The irony is that I’ve come full circle with my complaining. The article mentions one of my very first complaints about the privatisation of music lessons in Wales. One of my first letters was to David Hunt, the then-Welsh Secretary. He is now Lord Hunt, and is now chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. He’ll be hearing from me soon.
WE SEEM to have forgotten what the spirit of charitable giving is all about. When I was growing up, I was taught that charity should be a private matter and was to be done for the benefit of the cause, not to boost your own ego.
Several events in the last week have left me in no doubt that our society has lost all sense of charity’s purpose and the whole essence of giving.
The makeup-free ‘selfie’ seems to follow a specific format: The woman posts a picture of herself on Facebook, with an accompanying note nominating a few friends to do the same.
Within minutes of the ‘selfie’ being posted, they get lots of Facebook ‘likes’ and uninspiring comments from friends, along the lines of, “You look really pretty, hun” and, “Aww, you’re so cute without makeup.”
They seldom offer any explanation as to why they are doing it. Is it to raise ‘awareness’ of cancer? What exactly does that mean, anyway?
Surely we are all ‘aware’ that cancer exists. Which one of the (roughly) 200 cancers are they making us ‘aware’ of? Do they want us to donate to a cancer charity? If so, which one, and why that charity in particular? They hardly ever tell us.
They’re more interested in nominating their friends to follow in their footsteps and continue this self-gratifying, pointless exercise.
It seems that many take part just to follow a trend, and as is often the case, to satisfy themselves that they’re doing something useful. ‘All my friends are doing it, therefore it must be good’ appears to be the mantra behind it, unless I’m missing something, thereby excusing them of having to think seriously about how they can make a meaningful contribution to the fight against cancer.
This absurd ‘selfie’ trend is just the latest symptom of the wider problem of today’s vain, shallow, self-obsessed culture, full of instant gratification and quick-fixes.
The sad reality is that a significant number of young, British people (especially women) never really give a moment’s thought to anything much apart from their jobs, their immediate circle of friends, and celebrity culture.
Not all, I hasten to add, but quite a few, including some who have benefitted from a university education.
By taking a makeup-free ‘selfie’, they lap up the sickly-sweet comments from their ‘friends’ and trick themselves into believing they’ve done something even remotely useful to fight cancer.
Momentum built up all through last week, reaching a crescendo on Friday evening, by which time my Facebook wall contained little else.
I vowed to stay away from Facebook for the rest of Friday night, in the interests of keeping my blood pressure under control if nothing else.
I switched on BBC One, where Sport Relief was just starting. This was barely an improvement on the Facebook situation. Same concept, different style.
I’m not much of a fan of organised fun full stop, but I’ve always had an especially intense dislike for this fundraiser, and its elder brother, Comic Relief. I can’t stand the self-indulgence of it, the forced jollity, the unfunny sketches, the free publicity it gives to washed up has-been comedians and to the BBC itself.
In this case, instead of make-up free ‘selfies’, some very wealthy celebrities were taking part in mind-numbingly dull ‘activities’ to raise money for ‘good causes’.
They might not have got paid for taking part, but this struck me as something of a cynical public relations exercise in promoting their image as caring, compassionate, selfless ‘celebs’.
At least one ‘celeb’ who featured heavily is a former colleague of mine, and I know from bitter personal experience that he does absolutely nothing unless there’s something in it for him.
Surely Coronation St on ITV would be a ‘safe’ zone. I know it’s going through a bit of a weak patch at the moment, and the storylines aren’t up to much, but surely this would give me an escape from this back-slapping tripe?
Afraid not. Very early on, Julie, an absurd character at the best of times, was thinking up charity fundraising ideas, and tried in vain to persuade Roy to give the green light for her and her work colleagues to replicate ‘Calendar Girls’.
There really was no getting away from it, so I turned the TV off. My mind harked back to a recent conversation with a friend who works in a large office.
He had a good rant to me over a pint about the compulsory ‘office collections’ that take place. This involves a member of staff, always female, always excessively cheery, going around the office when she is supposed to be working, rattling a collection tin for the latest ‘good cause’.
This doesn’t just happen from time to time. It’s at the very least a weekly occurrence, usually more.
It happens every time a member of staff has a birthday, gets pregnant, gives birth, has a Christening, gets engaged, gets married, or is ‘fundraising’ for their latest ego trip.
My friend, who has enough financial concerns of his own at the moment, rightly pointed out that he goes to work to make money, not to give it away, but feels he can’t say anything in the workplace for fear of being branded a ‘Scrooge’ or accused of not being a ‘team player’.
Even self-employed types like me who work from home can’t get away from it. I can’t remember the last time a whole week went by when I didn’t receive an email or a Facebook message demanding that I donate to someone’s latest fundraising activity.
Nearly always, the person doing the fundraising is someone I haven’t seen for at least ten years, didn’t know all that well to begin with, and probably hasn’t given me a moment’s thought for most of that time.
This is never a heart-felt, personal invitation to donate to a good cause. I only received it in the first place because I was in their email address book or Facebook ‘friends’ list, and it’s been sent to everyone in it, regardless of how little involvement they’ve ever really had with me.
There is always a sob story attached, usually about a family bereavement, and at the very least about someone who has bravely battled some horrible illness.
Look, I’m very sorry to hear about your granny dying, but I never knew her, and, in all honesty, I don’t really know you. What right have you got to try and guilt-trip me into donating to your cause?
And what has coming to work dressed as Lady Gaga or doing a ‘fun run’ in a Scooby Doo costume got to do with your departed relative anyway?
Most also seem to want me to donate online via Justgiving, a profit-making company that deducts 5% of whatever you give, along with additional credit card fees in many cases.
If they bothered to do just a little bit of research, they’d discover they’d be better off using Virgin Money Giving, where charities register with them, and they in turn charge just 2% commission on donations to cover running costs.
Ironically, I’ve had requests to donate to participants in this year’s London Marathon using Justgiving, whereas its more philanthropic rival came into being after Virgin Money became the event’s sponsor and created an easy way for people to donate.
As a society, we even seem to have lost all sense of what charity actually is.
Christopher Snowdon’s recent report for the Institute of Economic Affairs explains the extent to which the lines between charity and political lobbying have been blurred since New Labour came to power in 1997.
We have now reached the stage where 27,000 charities are dependent on the government for more than 75% of their income and the ‘voluntary sector’ receives more money from the state than it does in voluntary donations.
This inevitably leads to charities being far more reluctant to criticise government policy. In a sense, it leads to the government lobbying itself.
They typically lobby for bigger government, higher taxes, greater regulation and the creation of new agencies to oversee and enforce new laws. Indeed, it’s hard to see how some of these organisations can be classed as ‘charities’ at all.
This newspaper, and indeed the BBC, has in recent years revealed that Comic Relief has invested money into such ‘good causes’ as alcohol, tobacco and the arms trade.
There at least 30 charity bosses earning an annual salary of more than £100,000. Harpal Kumar, the CEO of Cancer Research UK, which claims to have benefitted hugely from the ‘selfie’ trend, pockets £220,000 per year, £77,000 more than the Prime Minister receives. I wonder how many of the makeup-free posers bothered to investigate that?
I’m 30 years of age, and it was around the time that I was born that self-indulgent, celebrity-backed charity really began to take off, with Band Aid, followed a few years later by Comic Relief.
I had a Catholic education, and during my primary school years the old standards were adhered to. It was only when I went to secondary school that I was really exposed to high-visibility, noisy, public charity.
I recall a history lesson with an older, male teacher being rudely interrupted by two younger, female teachers who came barging in rattling tins to collect money for Children In Need. Our history teacher didn’t look impressed, but said nothing. It’s been downhill ever since.
To be clear, I’m certainly not anti-charity, but I’d welcome a return to the days when it was done privately, quietly, and without celebrity endorsements.
In my experience, the better-run charities are often smaller, low-key ones, free from political influence and lacking in celebrity backing.
I can think of several that are involved in worthy projects both in Britain and overseas where every effort is made to ensure that the vast majority of money raised reaches its intended cause, and one that guarantees that every penny goes straight to Africa, where it will be spent on a range of projects focusing on education, healthcare and self-help. Even the volunteers are expected to pay their own transport and living costs.
Now that’s what I call a good cause!
THOSE WHO support the proposals to legalise gay ‘marriage’ usually do so out of a desire to be kind to homosexuals, rather than because they have read the legislation and reached that conclusion.
Few have thought through the legal and social implications of redefining an institution that has existed in its current formfor between 5,000-10,000 years.
Like so much of the Coalition Government’s legislation, it’s extremely clumsy and badly worded. It was drawn up on a whim, and was not subject to detailed scrutiny within Cabinet or by cabinet committees. It doesn’t seem to know what exactly it is trying to do or why it is trying to do it. The legislation is so flawed that the former Labour Home Secretary, David Blunkett (hardly someone who could be called a ‘homophobe’ or a ‘bigot’), described it as a ‘ complete dog’s dinner’.
Careful scrutiny of all proposed legislation and its wording is essential, because without it, it can all too easily lead to unintended consequences.
Let me be clear: I am not anti-homosexual by any means. I have no interest in intervening in the private lives of consenting adults. I believe gay couples should have next-of-kin rights in hospitals, and I believe ALL inheritance tax is fundamentally immoral. On that basis, I believe that one gay person should be able to hand his or her inheritance on to their partner without taxation. I believe homosexuals should be treated fairly and without discrimination in the workplace. I believe that physical or verbal abuse of homosexuals should be vigorously punished by the courts.
Yet this legislation, however well-intentioned, could lead to a number of unintended consequences for society as a whole. It leaves some very serious questions which have not yet been answered:
1. How is adultery defined in same-sex marriage?
Adultery is one of the key grounds for divorce in heterosexual marriage. Government lawyers recently admitted they could not agree on what constitutes sexual intercourse in same-sex relationships. I don’t want to get too graphic on here, but it seems to me it’s especially hard to define between two women. It is also fairly easy to work out why many gay men may choose to abstain from anal intercourse on the grounds of safety, health and hygiene.
Therefore, in a gay ‘marriage’, a man can claim divorce on the grounds of adultery if he has sex with a woman, but not if he does so with another man. Similarly, a woman can claim adultery if her ‘wife’ has sex with a man, but not with another woman. This may well lead to adultery being removed as a ground for divorce altogether, which would cause a fundamental redefinition of marriage.
2. How will consummation be defined?
In a heterosexual marriage, failure to consummate is a ground for an annulment. Since a definition of what constitutes sexual intercourse in a homosexual relationship cannot be agreed upon, where does this leave the requirement to consummate?
3. Will the rights of religious groups REALLY be protected?
Mr Cameron assures us that no religious institution will be forced to marry homosexual couples if it has a moral objection to it, but is this really true?
Certain gay rights groups have made no secret of the fact they plan to test this under the Human Rights Act, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into our legal system. Let’s not forget that this is the same ‘Human Rights Act’ that presents our government from deporting Islamic terrorists, forces the State to pay benefits to convicted criminals, and has ruled that we must give prisoners the vote in Parliamentary elections (in the long run). It is quite possible religious and moral objections to ‘gay marriage’ will not be seen as acceptable grounds to deny ceremonies on religious premises under the Act.
Therefore, this will leave churches, mosques, synagogues and all other religious places of worship no choice but to stop offering wedding ceremonies altogether.
In a free society, it is quite right that the rules for voluntary religious groups, and groups of conscience are free from Parliamentary and judicial interference. Rules for the Roman Catholic Church are made by the Holy See, and the Anglican Church by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the General Synod.
4. Parliamentary legislation
How many pieces of Parliamentary legislation include the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’? These will now all have to be redefined. There are certainly many hundreds. Has anybody bothered counting?
5. Lack of mandate
Three days before the 2010 General Election, during an interview with Sky News’s Political Editor, Adam Boulton, Mr Cameron said that he had ‘no plans’ to introduce gay marriage. It was not in the Conservative or Lib Dem manifestos, nor was it in the Coalition agreement.
Outside the fashionable parts of London in which those close to government operate, there is a great deal of opposition to this.
Britain has a rapidly growing Muslim population. In 1991, there were 950,000 Muslims living in Britain. By 2010, this had risen to 2,869,000, more than trebling the Muslim population. It is very likely that Britain will be an Islamic society within 60 or 70 years, even if mass immigration ends. Muslims tend to be younger and have larger families than the non-Muslim population. All that is required is a basic understanding of mathematics to understand how this is going to happen.
A Gallup poll surveyed 1,001 British Muslims in 2009 and showed that NOT ONE of them thought that homosexual acts were morally acceptable. Other polls have shown that a significant number of young British Muslims believe that the death penalty should be enforced for homosexuals. Therefore, it’s safe to say that demand for ‘gay marriage’ among the Islamic community is very low indeed.
Furthermore, the majority of mainstream Christians are opposed to homosexual acts, especially in Northern Ireland and Presbyterian Scotland. Immigration from Eastern Europe during the last decade has seen a surge in the number of practising Roman Catholics in Britain, with many formerly struggling churches now having healthy numbers in attendance. The Roman Catholic Church has made it clear on numerous occasions that it firmly believes that a marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
Similar objections can be found among many in the Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu communities. The government has NO MANDATE for this legislation.
6. An unwise use of Parliamentary time
Let us be clear: ‘Civil Partnerships’ have been legal in Britain since December 2005 – more than seven years ago. There are just 100,000 people, in ‘civil partnerships’ today. That’s about 0.2% of the population. Most homosexuals have no intention of making a formal, legal, lifelong commitment to a single partner.
Therefore, would it not be wiser to use Parliamentary time on more pressing matters, such as Britian’s relationship with the European Union, the ongoing economic crisis, controlling immigrations, repealing the Human Rights Act, and dealing with our looming energy crisis?
However nice gay marriage may or may not sound in theory, these six key points give us all serious cause for concern with regards to the unintended consequences of the legislation. It may well be that some of these points are addressed when the Bill reaches the House of Lords, a mature, calm and thoughtful institution. It contrasts sharply with the Commons, which consists largely of career politicians who vote for whatever legislation will most likely enhance their own climb up the greasy poll to the Front Bench.
European policy, ensuring overseas aid is wisely spent, and military intervention in foreign conflicts are all areas where this Coalition Government has failed to develop, scrutinise and manage policy in a businesslike and professional way. We can now add ‘gay marriage’ to that list, and it will have unintended consequences for society as a whole.
When you’re in a hole, should you keep digging? When you’re having a bad night in the casino, should you keep doubling up on black until you’ve lost your jacket, your car, your house? Should you give an alcoholic more drink, just to give them a temporary reprieve from their misery?
Probably not, but that doesn’t seem to stop the powers that be in Europe from living in denial. Sooner or later, they are going to have to swallow that bitter pill they’ve been putting off taking for years, and accept that the euro was doomed from day one. Furthermore, they’ll have to accept that political union won’t work, because the people don’t want it. Free trade? Yes. Friendship? Yes. Co-operation where it makes sense? Yes. Political union? No.
Europe is a place of varying cultures, climates, languages, histories and attitudes. It makes sense for the peoples of each nation to be proud of, and wish to maintain them.
The BBC, too, is living in denial, and is, in many ways, an extension of the political establishment.
After many years of side-lining thoughtful people who predicted the collapse of the euro, by prefixing their comments with loaded words like ‘Europhobe’ (a phobia is an irrational fear, concerns about the EU are anything but), and giving them limited airtime in comparison to Europhiles, they are still denying the blindingly obvious.
On the morning of 24 May 2012, BBC Radio Five Live began the 9am news bulletin with the empty statement: “European Union leaders ended six hours of talks in Brussels in the early hours of this morning with a pledge to make economic growth a priority.”
Well, that’s a relief, isn’t it? What else could they possibly have said? ‘We have decided to put this on-going crisis on the back burner until further notice’? Hardly!
After the news, presenter Nicky Campbell introduced the phone-in by introducing an ‘expert’ on European financial affairs called Graham Bishop. It’s a relief to hear somebody knows what’s going on and where we’re heading. Based on the events of the last few months, the governments of the EU, the markets, and the financial sector certainly don’t seem to. At last, it seemed Campbell had cracked it by finding this man and bringing him on to the programme to put all our minds at rest.
Ah, but hang on. A quick bit of online research teaches us that Mr Bishop is a long-term advocate of much greater political, as well as financial union. He is entitled to his opinion, but he should have received a far more accurate introduction by Campbell.
Before the interview began, Campbell introduced veteran Conservative MP and Maastricht rebel, Bill Cash, as well as Sony Kapoor, chairman of the Eurozone think-tank ‘Redefine’. Looking at its website, the overall tone is one of belief in the EU and Eurozone project, but that it should be subject to radical reform.
So, before the questioning had even begun, Europhiles outnumbered Euro-sceptics two to one. Why was this? Kapoor was invited to speak first, and said that the euro could survive and flourish ‘with reform’. Bishop spoke next, and said it ‘remains a good idea’, and that things would be worse if each country had kept its own currency, a statement that went unchallenged by Campbell.
Nine minutes into the programme, Bishop and Kapoor had spoken several times (Kapoor spoke about ‘the march of history’), but before Cash was invited to speak, the first caller, ‘Kevin from Norfolk’ had his say. He said: “We should move faster towards a United States of Europe. We, the British people, need to join the euro as soon as we possibly can.”
Where on earth do they find these people? As far as I can tell, it’s only the long-time left-wing bore Will Hutton, a former Bilderberg attendee with his own agenda, and ‘Kevin from Norfolk’, who believe Britain would still be better off joining the euro. Even the likes of Michael Heseltine and mega-enthusiasts in the Liberal Democrats tend to keep their mouths shut these days.
It was a full 10 minutes into the programme before Cash was invited to speak. While others were given a soft opening by Campbell, he began his questioning of Cash by asking: “Bill Cash, are you spitting out your kedgeree yet?”
As the programme continued, listeners heard horror stories about what would happen if Britain left the EU, using feeble arguments about how the EU wouldn’t want to trade with us. Not once did they point out that the EU sells more to us than we sell to them, so therefore it would be in their interests to sign a free-trade agreement with us, just as more than 90 non-EU countries around the would have done.
Campbell himself has plenty of previous form when it comes to pushing the euro’s cause. Way back on Sunday, 18 February, 2001, a few months before the general election, Campbell fronted a programme called ‘Referendum Street’, which went out on prime-time BBC One.
In it, the residents of a North London street were intensely canvassed by a team of politicians, journalists and businesspeople, from both sides of the argument, with a referendum taking place at the end of the weekend.
The ‘Yes’ campaign included, surprise, surprise, Will Hutton and the late Labour MP, Tony Banks. The ‘No’ campaign included David Mellor, who had long before become a figure of ridicule, and Austin Mitchell MP.
When the result was announced, the residents had voted ‘Yes’ to joining the euro. However, all was not as it seemed. An investigation by Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens revealed that some residents in the street, who were firmly against joining the euro, hadn’t even been invited to participate in the programme.
As a former BBC freelancer myself, I have seen the institutional pro-EU bias in action. I am not alone in my thinking. To quote Andrew Marr: “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”
It’s far from certain whether most of those who live inside the BBC bubble even realise this bias exists. From their days in the Oxbridge dormitories, through to the day they die, they rarely meet people who disagree with their world view. Those who are occasionally invited on to TV and radio programmes to give a different perspective are dismissed behind the scenes, by polite people as ‘swivel-eyed Little Englanders’ and by the less polite as ‘fascists’ and ‘bigots’.
The now-retired newsreader, Peter Sissons, who spent a considerable chunk of his career elsewhere before joining the BBC, summed up, in more specific terms than Marr, how the BBC mindset works in his autobiography: “Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN. Soaking the rich is good, despite well-founded economic arguments that the more you tax, the less you get. And Government spending is a good thing, although most BBC people prefer to call it investment, in line with New Labour’s terminology.
“All green and environmental groups are very good things. Al Gore is a saint. George Bush was a bad thing, and thick into the bargain. Obama was not just the Democratic Party’s candidate for the White House, he was the BBC’s. Blair was good, Brown bad, but the BBC has now lost interest in both.
“Trade unions are mostly good things, especially when they are fighting BBC managers. Quangos are also mostly good, and the reports they produce are usually handled uncritically. The Royal Family is a bore. Islam must not be offended at any price, although Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.”
An example of Sissons’s claims in action came earlier the same week on the Victoria Derbyshire phone-in, which came from an abortion clinic. At the hand-over between Campbell and Derbyshire shortly before 10am, Campbell introduced it as ‘a very special programme’.
Critics of the idea point out that presenting the programme from an abortion clinic effectively turned it into an advert. Maybe, maybe not, but I’d believe the BBC’s coverage was balanced, if, on another morning, they presented it from a Roman Catholic-run centre that offers counselling to women who have suffered psychological problems following an abortion. We all know the BBC wouldn’t dream of doing that. Christian values? Nah, they’re a bit too stuffy and ‘old Britain’ for them.
The brilliant Yes, Minister co-writer, Sir Anthony Jay, adds another layer to the argument, and wrote in the Telegraph that the BBC has an anti-business bias. He said: “[The BBC has] a remarkable lack of interest in industry and a deep hostility to business and commerce……Very few of the BBC producers and executives have any real experience of the business world, and as so often happens, this ignorance, far from giving rise to doubt, increases their certainty.”
The BBC’s first business editor, Jeff Randall, was brought in by then-Director General Greg Dyke, who heard alarm bells ringing in his head when the BBC failed to cover the Vodafone bid for German company Mannesmann, which was, at the time, the world’s biggest takeover bid.
Dyke wisely understood the need for change, and told senior news executives that ‘we need to bring someone in who’s not like us’. Randall, with his vast experience with the Telegraph and elsewhere covering commerce and finance, was appointed to his role.
Randall was told by Dyke not to go native, but to be an agent of change. However, Randall openly admits he never really fitted in at the BBC. Speaking to the Observer, he said: “On the whole, they treated business as if it was a criminal activity. I was there to rattle cages and, if necessary, make myself unpopular to force business up the news agenda.
“They didn’t distinguish between me being passionate about business and me being an apologist for business.
“I never really felt like a BBC person. I was always an outsider looking in. I challenged a lot of values. There are certain issues the BBC regards as basic truths.”
Randall highlighted the NHS as one example where the BBC’s institutional bias shines through. He said: “Most people at the BBC would think it’s a good thing for the government to spend more money on the NHS and it goes unchallenged. There’s a section of opinion out there who think it’s throwing money down the drain.”
Asked by the interviewer whether BBC journalists ever give Labour ministers a hard time, he said: “They attack Labour ministers, but usually for not being sufficiently left-wing.”
One area where Randall really did feel he changed the tone of the debate was on immigration. On one occasion, he wore Union Jack cufflinks into work but was rebuked with ‘You can’t do that, that’s like the National Front!’. This horrid generalisation is not only a form of bigotry, but shows a lack of regard for the concept of Britain as a nation state.
Despite this absurd episode, Randall believes he made progress in this area. He said: “At the risk of sounding immodest, I think I changed the terms of the debate. Whenever we had an anti-immigration interviewee, it was a Nazi with a tattoo on his face who looked like he’d just bitten the head off a cat. I pointed out that it’s the white working class who have to make immigration work. Immigrants don’t move to Hampstead, mate.”
Are Marr, Sissons, Randall and, erm, Stead all wrong? Probably not. All four are examples of people who had experience of working in the commercial sector before entering the BBC. The institutional bias is very real indeed, and since Greg Dyke’s departure, steps to correct it seem to have been stopped. To an extent, at least, Dyke understood the problem, and acknowledged he was of that ilk, and his successor, Mark Thompson, has admitted the BBC had a problem with a ‘massive bias to the left’, but crucially added ‘in the past’. He seems to think things have improved in recent times, but declined to give practical examples as to how and what has taken place.
Following his recent electioral victory, London Mayor Boris Johnson put it both succinctly and bluntly when he said: “No wonder – and I speak as one who has just fought a campaign in which I sometimes felt that my chief opponent was the local BBC news – the prevailing view of Beeb newsrooms is, with honourable exceptions, statist, corporatist, defeatist, anti-business, Europhile and, above all, overwhelmingly biased to the left.” Johnson said the corporation treated Eurosceptic views as “if they were vaguely mad and unpleasant” and “completely ignored” the private sector.”
Johnson added that he believes that Thompson’s successor should be a Tory. This is not desirable, and is overly-confrontational. What is required is a Director General who has experience in both programme making and business – somebody who will massively slim down the layers of management and streamline the decision-making process, while having a sound understanding of public service broadcasting and where the corporation’s priorities should lie.
Importantly, he or she needs to get to grips with the issue of institutional bias. Journalists from non-establishment perspectives need to be appointed to key positions: euro-sceptics, traditional Christians, people who believe in the small-state, or the death penalty. Such people are a rare species in the BBC offices and corridors at present, but in the real world they exist in their millions.
Of course, they will be expected to behave neutrally when in work and present a balanced perspective on all stories, but the word ‘balance’ is the key, and this could be better achieved by bringing in people from very different backgrounds from the ‘establishment’ BBC line.
The issue of the upcoming collapse of the euro must be a very difficult pill to swallow for BBC types. When it happens (and we are now talking ‘when’, rather than ‘if’) they will be forced to accept that all the smug assumptions they have been making at Islington dinner parties for years have been proved utterly wrong. It was the euro-sceptics, from the traditional left, to the Daily Mail reading right, who can take all the credit for having seen it coming a mile off.
Until then, the BBC seems happy to continue its deluded fantasy of an EU wonderland.