Bill's Archived Comments

for the week beginning: Monday, 29th April 2002

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Contents of this page (scroll down the page to see the full text of the article which interests you)

- Ann Winterton and "10 a penny" Pakistanis (see Update too) (5 May 2002)

- Catholic church pulls out of agreement on compensation of paedophilia victims (4 May 2002)

- BNP win 3 seats in Burnley Local Council Elections (3 May 2002)

- Just how 'right wing' is Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader? (1 May 2002)

- Scottish Tories stick with their tried, tested and failed methods (30 April 2002)

- The Vatican Response to Priestly Paedophilia (29 April 2002)

Ann Winterton and "10 a penny" Pakistanis (see Update too, at end of article) (5 May 2002)

Ann Winterton, a senior Front-bench spokeswoman for the Conservative Party is reported to have alluded to "10 a penny" Pakistanis as the punchline to a joke she told in a speech at a rugby club dinner. Various people, including the usual bunch of Labour Party attention-seekers (Ann Cryer MP for one), have categorised her remarks as 'racist' and have called for her resignation; let's examine this shall we?

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has categorised Ms Winterton's remarks as "unfortunate", but has not called for her to resign; I think this is a balanced and accurate assessment. Her remarks were indeed unfortunate and it would have been far better if another subject could have been found for her joke, specially after local elections in which three BNP councillors were elected last Thursday and the second round of the French Presidential elections today, when the alternative to Presidential 'immune from prosecution' incumbent Jacques Chirac is the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen. However, Ms Cryer's Party 'band-standing' is way over the top and diminishes the good work she has done in the past in relation to gay rights; a sense of proportion please - if one were to say that in Britain whites are 100 or 1000 a penny, it might be considered slightly bizarre, perhaps unkind, but hardly racist and certainly not (so far as the numbers are concerned, if not the price attributed to them) inaccurate.

However, Ms Cryer does have a point, perhaps, when she asks: "What are they saying in private?" and it is in this context, and the context in which Ms Winterton made the remark, as part of a joke at the expense of Pakistanis, that justifies the classification of the remarks as 'unfortunate' by the CRE. It is easy to use 'minorities' or 'outsiders' as the butt of humour, and possibly Ms Winterton, thinking that she was speaking at a private function amongst members of a rugby club who might perhaps acquiesce, or share, her somewhat disparaging joke at the expense of a minority, allowed the normal rules of 'polite society' to be bent somewhat. She has since apologised profusely for the remarks, but one of course strongly suspects that this is solely because someone present took exception to the joke and chose to make it public.

At the very least Ms Winterton is guilty of a lack of political sensibility, or in colloquial parlance 'nous', but more seriously I think what it betrays is a mindset which thinks that it is acceptable to make minorities the object of humour in a negative way, to point them up as 'other' - it betrays, I strongly suspect, what she thinks [and what she assumed her audience would think] in her innermost self about some groups of people who are 'different' or distinct in one way or another.

I think such views are regrettably quite commonplace amongst many British people, and certainly amongst many members of the Conservative Party, but probably amongst many members of the Labour Party and other mainstream Parties, too, so no Party should attempt to make political 'capital' out of this - trying to pretend otherwise is shoddy. What it does point up is the need to examine one's views dispassionately - it's not freedom of speech which is the problem (I strongly support the right to hold unpleasant or unpopular views), but the fact that such views are rather more commonplace than many appear prepared to accept or deal with.

UPDATE - Ann Winterton and "10 a penny" Pakistanis

Just a few moments ago it was announced that Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative Party Leader, has summarily sacked Ann Winterton for what he describes as her 'offensive' and 'racist' comments - WELL DONE!

I don't think a lot of Iain Duncan Smith, but I acknowledge that on race issues he has in recent times been unambiguous. Now if only he would adopt a similar stance with regard to the homophobia in his Party.

Catholic church pulls out of agreement on compensation of paedophilia victims (4 May 2002)

The BBC (and other major news services) report that the finance council of the Catholic church in the archdiocese of Boston is pulling out of an agreement to compensate 86 alleged victims of paedophilia in the sex abuse scandal involving defrocked priest John Geoghan. The council cite the need to conserve funds to meet payments to other victims of paedophilia at the hands of Church personnel and which are likely to arise in future.

In this connection, Father Paul Shanley was arrested on Thursday in southern Califormia. He has waived his right to refuse extradition to Massachusetts.

What this will mean is that instead of the Church agreeing to out of court settlements, it may well be that major court cases against the Church and various former and current personnel will be undertaken.The Church is faced with a massive dilemna - continue to agree to out of court settlements which will quickly deplete the Church's resources, or wait for alleged victims to commence legal proceedings and risk massive punitive awards being granted against it. One of the most despicable aspects of this latest development is that alleged victims will now likely be forced to submit to cross-examination in court if they wish to proceed with claims - what the Church seems to be hoping, I suspect, is that many of the alleged victims will not wish to face the trauma of re-living the abuse they suffered as children in court and will not proceed - my already low opinion of the Catholic Church and its monstrous attempts to cover-up this scandal has just fallen a good deal further.

The 'head in the sand' press releases issued by the Vatican after the visit of all US Cardinals to The Holy See recently (see earlier article) may well be rebounding on the Church even more quickly than I could have imagined.

The Church richly deserves whatever sanctions will flow from its past and present criminal misconduct.

BNP win 3 seats in Burnley Local Council Elections (3 May 2002)

The British National Party, considered by most people to be a right-wing, racist and 'fascist' Party (and they are homophobic, too!), have won 3 of the 45 seats in the local elections held yesterday (2 May 2002) in Burnley, Lancashire in the north of England.

This is a pretty disgusting result, and one wonders what the good people of Burnley can have been thinking of. Apparently one of the Wards to which a BNP councillor has been elected is described as a middle-class and prosperous one. This should have come as no surprise, in my view - despicable views are not the province of any one socio-economic group and it is a delusion to have believed they were.

Whilst it is awful what has happened, it should not be overblown - I doubt if 3 out of 45 councillors will be able to do more than be a pin-prick in local decision-making. On the other hand, the BNP came 2nd in a number of other Wards where it had a candidate, so it would be wise not to be complacent.

Burnley, where the council is heavily dominated by Labour councillors, was the scene of clashes between white and Asian youths last summer.

Just how 'right wing' is Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader? (1 May 2002)

Well, of course this is to some extent a matter of opinion; I happen to think (as readers of some of my comment articles over the months will have surmised) that he is, for a mainstream politician, very right wing. He is undoubtedly a clever man, well educated and urbane - and all the more dangerous because of this.

Last Sunday there was an interesting article in 'The Observer' newspaper which discussed some aspects of his past; I do not think there is anything specially 'new' in what is written in the article, because I had heard or read about a number of the matters discussed a number of years ago when it was considered highly-unlikely by most people that he could ever become a serious contender for leadership of his Party. These and some other matters are the reasons for my vehement hostility to Mr Duncan Smith, and why I could not remain a member of a Party with him as its leader.

The article refers, for example, to meetings held in London between Mr Duncan Smith and several other Conservative MPs in October 1995 with senior members of the French 'Front National' political party; according to Bruno Gollnisch MEP, Deputy to FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, these meetings took place initially in the offices of some Conservative MPs and were followed by drinks in a bar "somewhere in the Parliament building". According to those at the meeting, it seems the meetings allowed those with similar hostile views on the European Union to find common ground. None of this, in itself, need be sinister - opposition to membership of the EU is not (to put it mildly) a view I share, but I nevertheless accept that it is in itself a 'respectable' point of view.

However, some aspects of the meetings do make me wonder. According to the article, the meeting was set up by "... the extreme right-wing Western Goals Institute, whose one-time president was Clive Derby-Lewis, deputy leader of South Africa's Conservative Party. Derby-Lewis is now in prison for involvement in the murder of black anti-apartheid activist Christopher Hani." It seems that the Conservative Party has confirmed that Mr Duncan Smith took part in the meetings, but "denies he knew Le Pen's representatives were in the room." Someone, it seems to me, is telling the most flagrant 'porkies'!

The revelation during last year's leadership election that Mr Edgar Griffin, the father of the leader of the BNP Mr Nick Griffin, was a vice-president of Mr Duncan Smith's campaign team in Wales, resulted in his immediate sacking. One must accept, one supposes, the denials from Mr Duncan Smith's acolytes at the time that he was aware of the connection, but as an interview with Mr Griffin Snr on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme at the time revealed, one had only to listen to him speak for a very few minutes to form the strong impression that he held racist and bigoted views and it is hard to believe that his views were completely unknown to the Party hierarchy in Wales. It is even more extraordinary because Mr Griffin Jnr, prior to moving (exiling himself?) to Wales, had previously stood as a parliamentary candidate for the BNP in the Westminster constituency in Essex which Mr Duncan Smith represents.

Of course, 'The Observer' is part of 'The Guardian' group of newspapers, which traditionally supports the Labour Party (and even more traditionally the old Liberal Party) and of course the timing of the article may have something to do with the fact that there are local elections tomorrow (2 May) across a large part of England and Wales. Be that as it may, much of what is written in the article is based on undisputed 'facts', even if the interpretation of some of these facts may perhaps be in dispute - read the full text of the article by clicking here.

Scottish Tories stick with their tried, tested and failed methods (30 April 2002)

Recent changes in the party's structure were designed, in theory, to change the balance of power away, somewhat, from the chairman and the 'voluntary' party in favour of the parliamentary leader, David McLetchie and the 'professionals'. However, the first time he has shown a desire to exercise his new powers (by changing the way prosepctive candidates for next year's elections for the Scottish Parliament are chosen and prioritised for the 'list' part of the elections), he has been over-ruled by the party chairman and the constituency chairmen.

These are the people widely credited with the, in many cases, poor choices of candidates at the last elections in 1999.

This time, however, instead of being chosen solely by the chairman, the executive and the constituency chairmen, prospective candidates will be chosen and ranked (for the 'list') at a series of 'hustings' where those few members who turn up (generally the 'activists' who may, or more probably may not be [in my view], representative of the party membership as a whole) will have a vote. Broadly the same losing formula has been chosen. The Scottish Tories, renowned in Scotland for their incessant infighting and back-biting, seemed determined to stick with methods that have failed them disastrously at elections over the last few decades.

Instead of choosing an admittedly slightly more expensive postal ballot of all members, the hustings method it is feared will lead to just another round of internal bickering. The 'cull' feared by many existing MSPs, at the hand of Party Chairman David Mitchell (see archives for 8 April 2002) is now a real risk - and I bet it won't mostly be those with views on social matters which are not totally ante-deluvian who will be ousted!

The Vatican Response to Priestly Paedophilia (29 April 2002)

Last week, the Holy Father met with the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church from the United States of America, to discuss with them the growing disquiet felt by many in the Church in the US and elsewhere concerning the revelations of child abuse by priests in the United States and in other countries and the cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy. This is a public relations disaster for the Church, and the efforts by the Vatican to bring some semblance of order to what has been going on must of course be seen as welcome, although some consider the Pope's actions to be both dilatory and inadequate. It is probably too soon to form a proper judgement about what the Church is doing to purge itself of the sickness at its heart, but the following Vatican press releases seem to give an indication of the way the Church's policies are veering:

(Press release VATICAN CITY, APR 23, 2002)

Pope John Paul II said, in part: "Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the Church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by Society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern. …. It is true that a generalised lack of knowledge of the nature of the problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led Bishops to make decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong."

The last sentence above seems, to me, to beg a great many questions and to seek to confuse the issue - namely, that senior personnel within the organisation of which the Holy Father is the effective 'CEO' covered up, over many years, flagrant criminal activity by members of staff.

The Holy Father also said: "The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst."

I beg your pardon, Your Holiness, but society understands very well what has been going on in your Church and the flagrant cover-ups which you[r personnel] have hitherto participated in.

The Pope continued: "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young." To read the full text of this press release, please click here.


(Press release VATICAN CITY, APR 25, 2002)

This followed on from the discussions held two days earlier and a lunch held on 24th April, and the statement said, in part: "1) The sexual abuse of minors is rightly considered a crime by society and is an appalling sin in the eyes of God, above all when it is perpetrated by priests and religious whose vocation is to help persons to lead holy lives before God and men. 2) There is a need to convey to the victims and their families a profound sense of solidarity and to provide appropriate assistance in recovering faith and receiving pastoral care. 3) Even if the cases of true paedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few, all the participants recognised the gravity of the problem. In the meeting, the quantitative terms of the problem were discussed, since the statistics are not very clear in this regard. Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true paedophilia."

Excuse me? What is this 'true paedophilia' nonsense all about? Crimes have been committed by priests, and such crimes have been covered-up by the Church. End of story. Paedophilia is paedophilia - let's not try and indulge in this attempt at minimising the gravity of what has happened, shall we?

The statement continues, in part: "We will propose that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend a special process for the dismissal from the clerical state of a priest who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors." To read the full text of this press release, please click here.

This seems to imply that a first offence is acceptable, and that it is only a repetition that will cause dismissal. What disgusting nonsense! There appears also to be an attempt, pretty explicit, to conflate paedophilia with homosexuality - I refute this utterly. Many commentators have reported that most cases of child abuse occur within the family and are perpetrated by married (and presumably in the main heterosexual) men. Paedophilia is the crime, not homosexuality.

I think the Church still has a long way to go before it 'owns' the crimes committed within its own organisation and is prepared to accept fully the implications of this for its own future - time will tell.

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Copyright © 2002 William Cameron