|What We Think||July 2000: The Scottish Executive fails its test|
Spearhead does not share the politics of Stagecoach chief Brian Souter (he says he is a socialist and SNP supporter) but we must congratulate him on his initiative in organising the private referendum in Scotland on Clause 28 (the rule forbidding homosexual propaganda in schools which the Government so badly wants to repeal). Souter, despite his political affiliations, is strongly against repeal, and the referendum delivered a resounding victory for him in the way of an 86.8 per cent majority in his favour - in other words, for the retention of the Clause. This is almost certainly an indicator of opinion, not just in Scotland, but throughout the United Kingdom.
But Mr. Souter's referendum did Britain another favour - probably without any intention on his part. It exposed how hopelessly out of touch the majority in the new Scottish Executive and Assembly are with the feelings of the Scottish people. Assembly reaction to the referendum result was dismissive, when not positively hostile. One opponent called it "chequebook democracy" as if any kind of referendum these days is otherwise; in all such polls money plays an important part in influencing how people vote. Executive member Wendy Alexander, prime mover behind the campaign in Scotland to abolish the Clause, said that the result would make no difference to her and supporters' resolve to go ahead with getting it scrapped - although as a crumb thrown to the pro-Clause lobby it was conceded that an amendment to the abolition motion might be introduced stressing the importance of marriage.
Since "gay" marriages are now well on the way to being legalised (there are already services of "blessings" in churches for same-sex couples) such a rider would not be worth the paper it was written on. Schoolchildren would still be deluged with queer propaganda with or without it.
Undoubtedly, majorities on the Labour and SNP-dominated Scottish Executive and Assembly are still in favour of the abolition of Clause 28, and will still press ahead towards that objective. This just exposes the farcical nature of these two bodies, whose advocates campaigned for them on the grounds that they would be more responsive to the wishes of the Scottish people than a government and parliament in London. The reaction on those bodies to this massive endorsement of the Clause shows that they may as well be comprised of Martians and sitting in outer space.
Stop press: It was announced that the Scottish Assembly had voted in a majority of 99 to 17 for abolition of Clause 28. Further comment is superfluous.
Oxford and discrimination
The issue of the working class girl denied admission to Oxford demonstrates, as a number of media commentators have remarked, that behind the glitzy facade of "New Labour" much of the mentality of Old Labour prevails. Chancellor Gordon Brown's assertion that the University's Magdalen College discriminated against Laura Spence because of her family background is such downright rubbish that it is hard to believe that a reasonably intelligent man like Brown did not know it to be so. Much more likely is it that the Chancellor, as a calculated move in his campaign eventually to succeed Tony Blair as party leader, was quite cynically pitching his appeal at the "Arthur Grudge" tendency in the party from where he hopes to recruit most of his support once the Blair bubble is burst. So do colleges at Oxford discriminate when it comes to offering places? Very likely they do, but not on grounds of class as Mr. Brown has suggested. It is interesting to hear that of the five places granted by Magdalen three went to members of ethnic minorities - sixty per cent! Now that is a very high portion considering the actual ethnic minority numbers among the population. We know that there are some quite bright Asian students but it is difficult to imagine that this factor alone accounted for Magdalen's choice.
So in all probability Mr. Brown, when he made his outburst about discrimination, was shooting at the wrong target. Most likely, he knows this, but it would have been more than his career was worth to suggest that "race", rather than class, was the yardstick of selection.
For her own part, it is much to young Miss Spence's credit that she stated that she disliked being used as a pawn in the political game. Damned right too! For it was for this reason - and not for reasons of any concern for her - that this squalid little piece of class-war politics was played out in front of the country.
Britain's cultural enslavement
Ever since Hollywood, decades ago, depicted American GI's led by Errol Flynn chasing the Japs out of Burma, British cinema-goers and TV movie-watchers have had to put up with distortions of history - particularly war history - which have underplayed British achievement. The latest example of this is the film U-571, which credits American submariners with the feat of obtaining the German Enigma code - contrary to all historical fact, which is that this was a British effort.
Predictably, British film critics and many others have railed at this piece of "revisionism". But in fact we have very little sympathy with that kind of protest.
The people we should be getting at are not the Hollywood film producers who - commercial rather than nationalistic reasons - are always making it look as if America won the war on its own. The true culprits are those in Britain who have allowed our cinema and TV screens to be so totally dominated by American products. In the film and TV world, Britain has become an American cultural colony, and we are paying the price. Nowadays there are scarcely any real British movies; even those set in Britain and employing British casts are mainly financed by American money. Governments are to blame for this for continually adhering to the idea that film products should be subject to the conditions of the "free market". In fact, films, of whatever nationality, are a vital national cultural resource. They should be used primarily with that consideration in mind, rather than just a source of profit for their makers. Some nations understand this and protect their own markets for cinematic products. Britain fails consistently to understand it, and the result is that our enormous home-grown talent in the film business is almost never used to national advantage. It is a disgrace, but there seems little likelihood that in the foreseeable future things are going to change.
Hurrah for the anti-hero!
At the end of May the National Theatre staged Albert Speer, a production based on the life of Hitler's architect and munitions minister, taken from a biography by Gitta Sereny. Critics were most unhappy that the play, where the Fuhrer made an appearance in it, depicted him as "too human". Apparently, they would have been more satisfied had he been shown regularly biting carpets and foaming at the mouth.
The way the "liberal elite" has treated Speer has always been interesting. Among leading members of the wartime German Government he has always been depicted as the "good guy" - not exactly blameless but at least sufficiently endowed with a conscience to have recanted for his past activities, whereas his colleagues for the most part refused to do so and went to the gallows or life imprisonment completely unrepentant - like Rudolf Hess.
In fact Speer, though undeniably talented, was no more than an opportunist. When Hitler's bandwagon was rolling, that was the thing to get onto and Speer did so quite shamelessly. Once Hitler had been defeated, it became a different bandwagon; and Speer sang to a different songsheet. He went crawling to the Allied powers full of "mea culpas", while at the same time being ready to attack his former associates. For this he earned himself remission from his prison sentence and got released in 1966.
Thus did Speer become a person the "liberal elite" could understand and with whom they could feel a qualified empathy. He was smart. He gave top priority to looking after number one and saying and doing what was necessary to that end. In other words, he showed himself to be "one of them." This is the way rational and sensible people behave in the liberal scheme of values. It is the way they would have behaved had they been in Speer's place.
Thus do the likes of Speer obtain - narrowly - a ticket to the liberal Valhalla, whereas those with the manhood to stick by their faith and principles (even if they were the wrong ones) are consigned to the fires of hell.
Politicians frequently tell us that it is necessary for British armed forces to buy internationally-produced military hardware in order to cut down on costs. Now in a report published by the National Audit Office this theory has been demolished. According to the report, multi-national arms equipment programmes take almost 40 per cent longer to deliver and cost almost twice those that could be obtained from British sources.
The report says that, upon examination of Ministry of Defence documents, it was found that ministers had ignored the recommendations of arms experts on this matter because of "political factors." In several cases those ministers had decided to buy multi-national or pan-European weapons even though they were more expensive and less effective than the best on offer.
Of course, there should be no mystery about these "political factors." To recent British governnments, whether Tory or Labour, internationalism has always taken priority over the security of the realm. A defence policy involving the international pooling of weapons supplies must by definition be "good", while British self-sufficiency is "narrow", "jingoistic" and therefore "old hat."
Tony's business - apparently
According to the Jewish Chronicle of June 2nd, Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook "are to express official displeasure to Teheran over an article in an Iranian newspaper which called the Holocaust part of a "Zionist" propaganda ploy.
Now this really is interesting. It is not the place here to debate whether what was printed in said Iranian newspaper was correct or not; on such a matter there will, of course, be diverse opinions. What is much more pertinent is the question of what a British prime minister is doing complaining to the Iranian Government over what, to any sane and rational observer, just has to be an Iranian internal affair.
Does Tony, with all the mountainous problems he has to deal with at home, really have time for such nose-poking? Apparently he does. This little story - though not, so far as we know, published in the mainstream press - should give people some idea of the order of priorities that prevails at Downing Street.
Sighting as yet unconfirmed
Remember the landing at Stanstead of the airliner hi-jacked in Afghanistan and full of Afghan "refugees"? Well, we have received wind that another such plane has recently touched down in the UK - probably at the same airport, and that a fresh bunch of these "refugees" are being housed, at taxpayers' expense, of course - in the former officers' quarters of an abandoned MoD testing range at Shoeburyness, Essex. We have seen nothing of this in the papers but it came to us from a certain local source. It looks like the Government would rather have it hushed up. Not exactly a surprise!