Children’s epilepsy doctor suspended
A children’s doctor specialising in epilepsy and other neurological problems has been suspended after questions were raised over his ability to diagnose and treat patients.
Parents of 569 children have received letters from the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford telling them there will be a review of the methods used by Dr Nicholas Driver, going back nine years.
The consultant paediatrician, who has worked at the hospital since 2001, has been suspended on full pay.
Dr Christopher Dibbs, medical director of the hospital, said no children had died as a result of Dr Driver’s care but some might have come to harm. However, he emphasised: “Dr Driver should not be judged as being guilty. “He is a diligent, dedicated and hard-working doctor and we are doing everything we can to support him through a very difficult time.”
He urged parents not to change their children’s medication without seeking expert advice.
Dr Driver was suspended from working with epileptic children in February after a paediatric neurologist colleague at St George’s Hospital in south London raised concerns. A fortnight later he was suspended from all hospital duties.
A spokesman for the Royal Surrey County Hospital said she could not go into details of the allegations, only saying they were “around diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy”.
An independent review of Dr Driver’s methods is being carried out, which could last several months.
Last year Dr Driver threatened to resign over cuts to psychological services for children at the hospital. One parent described him as, “one in a million”, while another as a principled man “who won’t back down to the management”.
Immigration restrictions are the one policy that can save the Labour Party – but they’re so mesmerised by diversity they cannot see it
Away from the main stage and today’s headline act, Maurice Glasman’s comments about immigration seemed to have done great damage to “Blue Labour”.
On Monday the Labour peer and academic told the Daily Telegraph that “Britain is not an outpost of the UN. We have to put the people in this country first”, and when asked by the Telegraph’s Mary Riddell whether he would support a temporary ban on immigration, replied: “Yes. I would add that we should be more generous and friendly in receiving those [few] who are needed. To be more generous, we have to draw the line.”
As far as any Labour people have commented on this, there has been universal condemnation. Anthony Painter called it “toxic”, writing in the Guardian:
In Blue Labour’s economic cosmology, immigration is the root of economic misery. Our economic advantage is not based on having world-class universities attractive to some of the best global minds. London and our other successful cities don’t need to attract the very best global talent. We don’t need to be in the EU to remain a location for global economic partnerships and inward investment. Our public services don’t need any highly qualified staff who aren’t British. And the economic drive of many migrants with an enormous range of skills can’t serve any purpose in an ageing society. There are a set number of jobs to go around, of course.
In the New Statesman Dan Hodges reports that:
Blue Labour, the informal Labour policy group established by Ed Miliband advisor Maurice Glasman, is to be effectively disbanded.
Labour MP Jon Cruddas and Middlesex University academic Jonathan Rutherford have both informed Lord Glasman they no longer wish to be associated with the project following an interview given by the controversial peer in which he expressed a belief that immigration to the UK should be completely halted.
A third influential supporter, Dr Marc Stears, is said by friends to be “deeply distressed” by Glasman’s comments, and is also considering his future engagement with Blue Labour.
Lord Glasman has since apologised for overstepping the mark in an email to Hodges, but it’s curious that, even if they were not prepared to go as far as him, not a single Labour figure as yet can be found to even criticise their party’s attachment to mass immigration. Yet, as I (and many others) have pointed out, mass immigration harms Labour’s traditional supporters the most.
Note that Glasman is not hostile to elite migration, an altogether different thing; when Painter talks about “world-class universities” and “highly-qualified staff”, does he not realise that Britain exports more graduates than it imports, with an overall loss of roughly 200,000 people? That over 50 per cent of migrants from some countries are economically inactive? Look around any London area outside that rich blue area left of the City and you can see quite clearly that most immigrants are not members of this imagined world brains trust. The economic arguments for mass immigration are very thin.
Neither, as Painter claims, are immigration restrictions toxic. In the US attitudes towards foreigners have improved and deteriorated with immigration levels, showing upwardly positive views throughout the long pause from 1924 and 1965. In the UK race relations improved throughout the 1980s and 1990s as immigration restrictions took effect; they worsened under New Labour. Of course positive internal measures also have an impact, especially a society-wide effort to make racism unacceptable, but numbers make a crucial difference. Those two efforts – restricting immigration and delegitimising racism – are not contradictory.
Yet at some point in the 1980s the Labour Party became convinced that any opposition to increased diversity was itself a racist idea. Diversity became its new Clause 4 – a social good in itself. Yet most, or at the very least a very large minority, of Labour voters are unconvinced, and have seen the downsides of mass immigration in their neighbourhoods – both economically and socially.
For those Labour supporters unfettered globalism, where people can be shipped around as easily as computer parts, seems more like a Marxist parody of capitalist cruelty than the ideology of “progressives”. But because their traditional champions have embraced wholly the millennial idea of universalism and unrestricted altruism, they find themselves like pond-dwelling fish drowning in a large and cruel sea.
Jon Cruddas once said he was a “true” conservative in that he wished to conserve communities thrown apart by housing costs and shrinking social housing sector. That is a reasonable and decent aspiration, of course, but it’s not compatible with the sort of diverse society we are becoming. Neither does that sort of society have much place for the sort of egalitarian, liberal policies which the Labour party believes in.
A glimpse of the future of British politics can be seen in a Guardian piece today, “Stop patronising poor Americans”, in which a US Democrat laments that poor people vote Republican against their economic interests. It’s an old refrain, heard often. Yet the article does not mention a crucial factor: poor whites vote Republican because in the most racially-mixed areas of the US people vote along fairly strongly-marked racial lines. In Mississippi, the most African-American state, over 80 per cent of whites vote Republican – and most aren’t rich by any means.
Labour people hate discussing this issue – it’s just so distasteful, and besides which it won’t happen here because England, is, you know, progressive and we have the BBC rather than Fox News. And yet this pattern has occured everywhere. How many working-class Ulster Protestants vote for the SDLP rather than for the less redistributionist Unionist parties? How many poor Lebanese Christians vote for Hezbollah? Who knows, maybe the grandchildren of Yorkshire miners will all vote Tory. Diverse societies are not fertile ground for progressive politics – so why is Labour horrified by the one policy, immigration restrictions, that gives the European Left any sort of a future?
The photography phobia again
‘Big Brother’ British police warn bird lover: You could be sued for filming parakeet cull (… and whatever you do, don’t give the photos to a newspaper)
A bird lover who is battling to save rare parrots says the police tried to ban photographs he took of Government officials destroying their nests. Simon Richardson, who is campaigning against a cull of monk parakeets, said he was shocked when police told him he could be sued for thousands of pounds for invading the officials’ privacy.
Mr Richardson stood in his street and took pictures of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs staff as they removed nests from a tree in his neighbour’s garden.
Several hours later, two uniformed police officers visited his home and allegedly told him he could face prosecution under privacy laws. Mr Richardson, who runs a business analyst company, also claims he was told that if he published the pictures in a newspaper, the police would take action.
He believes the policeman who admonished him was wrongly referring to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’.
His version of events has been backed by another campaigner who overheard his conversation with the officers. Kate Fowler, from the animal rights group Animal Aid, described the police as ‘heavy handed’ and ‘smacking of Big Brother’.
Earlier this year, Defra launched a £90,000 eradication programme targeting the South American birds that began breeding in the mid-Nineties after escaping from an aviary close to Mr Richardson’s home in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Though common internationally, the UK population of the bright green birds is thought to number only 100 to 150.
Defra says the birds, which are often kept as pets, pose a danger to crops and pylons because they build large communal nests, as well as to other species.
In response, Mr Richardson began a ‘Stop The Monk Parakeet Cull’ to save the population of 33 parakeets in Borehamwood and has
collected more than 2,300 signatures on a petition.
Defra arrived at his neighbour’s property on May 23 and spent five days removing the nests. Mr Richardson took the pictures on May 24. He said: ‘The birds were nesting in the tree at the end of my neighbour’s garden and from the road you could see a cherry-picker going up and down. My neighbour allows Defra on to his property.
‘I took pictures from the road, went and did some shopping, and when I came home there was a police car outside my house. About five minutes later there was a knock at the door and there were two police constables.
‘One said: “Regarding the filming you were doing, I should advise you that you are liable to be sued for thousands of pounds for invasion of privacy. Furthermore, were your pictures to appear in the local paper, we would become officially involved.” I was quite shocked about this and the way he said it, because it was like a threat.
‘I asked who had reported me and they said it was Defra. I got advice from a barrister and he said the police had no business saying I was liable to be sued because being sued is a civil matter. ‘The barrister said that what the policeman was probably referring to was Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is the right to a private family life and does not apply in this case.
‘If the Defra workers were concerned about being identified in a newspaper because they feared for their safety or for professional reasons, then the police should have explained that to me and I would have completely understood.’
When police knocked, Mr Richardson was on the phone to Ms Fowler, who said: ‘The words the policeman said were a little menacing. It smacks of Big Brother.’
A Hertfordshire police spokesman said: ‘The officers were called to prevent a breach of the peace and while they gave advice to the householder about taking photos, there was no threat to be sued by the Constabulary. We’re sorry for any confusion.’
A Defra spokesman said: ‘Staff contacted the police when they became aware of an individual trying to photograph them.’ He added that staff did not advise police about any potential prosecution under privacy laws.
Slump in growth brings long overdue blitz on red tape in Britain
Fairly minor but a move in the right direction
Ministers will this week launch a new drive against the red-tape strangling high-street shops – including the rules governing what can be sold to children – as figures show Britain’s economy is still in the doldrums.
Figures to be published by the Office of National Statistics are expected to show the economy shrinking in the second quarter of 2011 – a period which included bank holidays for Easter and the Royal wedding.
The first quarter of the year saw growth coming in at 0.5 per cent – with ministers braced for a fall to around 0.2 per cent for the second quarter, piling the pressure on the coalition as it seeks to deliver its programme of public spending cuts.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, uses an article in The Sunday Telegraph to vow the government will “stick to our plan” of deficit reduction and to “go for growth”. He says more must be done to stop businesses being “weighed down” in red tape. “When we’re faced with choices in government, we should always choose growth,” he argues.
Ministers will this week seek to ease pressure on the crucial retail sector by announcing a major simplification of the various laws governing the sale of “age-restricted” goods. They will outline plans to simplify the current regime which sees more than 20 separate pieces of legislation affecting what can and cannot be sold to different age groups. In total almost three-quarters of the current regulations are set to be done away with altogether while others will be combined.
For example, it is currently an offence to sell most fireworks to people under the age of 18, while “caps” for toy guns can be sold to 16 year-olds. Christmas crackers cannot be sold to those under 16, while it is also illegal to sell most knives – including kitchen knives – to anyone under 18.
Computer games have age restrictions of 12 and 15 while the those over 17 can buy cross bows and air rifles. Retailers are also banned from selling aerosol paints party poppers, liquor chocolates and petrol to minors.
Laws governing the sale of “poisons” are also likely to be changed or done away with because they currently apply to retailers who sell common household cleaning products.
A coalition source said: “There will not be a free for all in terms of selling dangerous goods to young people – far from it – but there is an urgent need for the current complexity of laws and regulations to be greatly simplified.”
The blitz will be trumpeted by ministers as the first concrete results from the coalition’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’, launched by David Cameron in April, which invited businesses to use a website to demand changes to burdensome regulations.
Ministers see the retail sector as crucial in helping the economy recover. Last month retail sales rose 0.7 per cent but this was on the back of heavy discounting by leading stores. The sector has also had to cope with the increase in VAT to 20 per cent which came in earlier this year.
Mr Osborne said: “In the end, if we don’t have a successful, growing and competitive economy we won’t be able to achieve anything else. So at a time like this, when we’re faced with choices in government, we should always choose growth. “That means doing without that new regulation, however worthy its purpose. It means changing our planning system, so the presumption is in favour of new economic development not against it. “It means reducing the costs of employing people, so more people get work. It means rewarding enterprise and supporting businesses in the tax system.
“You may be surprised, but none of these things are easy to do. For every piece of regulation, there’s a pressure group arguing for it.”
Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, wrote in an article for the PoliticsHome website: “Last year’s recovery has already been hugely undermined by George Osborne’s policies. “Our economy has seen no growth at all over the last six months, while other major countries have grown much faster.
“The reasons why our recovery has stalled since the autumn are clear. Consumers and businesses have reined in their spending and investment plans as they anticipate spending cuts and tax rises which go too far and too fast.
“The VAT rise in January has added to the squeeze on hard-pressed families and pensioners. And consumer confidence has taken a huge knock since last spring when the Tories invented the deceit that, like Greece, Britain was somehow ‘on the brink of bankruptcy’.”
Third of British adults have no qualifications in worst education blackspots
A study found that one in nine adults had no formal qualifications, and it reported wide differences in educational achievements throughout the country. In some areas, a third of 16 to 64 year-olds are without qualifications, while in others the proportion is as low as two per cent.
The University and College Union, which conducted the analysis, warned that Britain was divided into “the haves and the have-nots”.
The study is based on Office for National Statistics figures showing the proportions of adults of working age (16 to 64) with no qualifications in 2010. It was found that 11.3 per cent of adults did not have any qualifications. In England, this figure is 11.1 per cent, in Wales 13.3 per cent and in Scotland 12.3 per cent.
The union analysed the qualification rates for the 632 parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales. It found that in constituencies such as Glasgow North East and Birmingham Hodge Hill more than a third of adults of working age had no qualifications (35.3 per cent and 33.3 per cent respectively).
At the other end of the scale, just 1.9 per cent of adults in Brent North lacked any qualifications, while in Romsey and Southampton North the figure is 2.3 per cent.
The union said that further analysis of 21 cities and their surrounding areas highlighted examples of “haves and have-nots” living side by side. People living in the constituency of Newcastle upon Tyne Central are nearly twice as likely to have no qualifications (17 per cent) as those in nearby Newcastle upon Tyne North (9.7 per cent).
The union said that people in areas with the lowest levels of qualifications were likely to suffer most from government policies it claimed would restrict access to education. These include plans to raise university tuition fees and scrap the education maintenance allowance.
Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, said: “We have two Britains divided between the educational haves and have-nots. “Education is central to our country’s future, yet in some places thousands of people still have no qualifications. “There is a real danger that children growing up in certain areas will have their ambition blunted and never realise their full potential.”