NHS lost CD with data on 1.6 million patients
Thank goodness that their attempt to put up a nationwide database of info on all NHS patients was a big fiasco. Before long everyone and his dog would have been able to look up your medical history — such is the dismal record of official Britain at data security
An NHS trust has been forced to take action after accidentally sending a CD containing personal information on 1.6 million people to a landfill, Publicservice.co.uk has learned.
In one of the latest data law breaches for the NHS, Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust lost the CD during an office move, putting at risk personal information including addresses, dates of birth, NHS numbers and GP practice codes for millions of people.
An undertaking issued by the UK’s information watchdog revealed that trust officials failed to communicate the CD’s existence to the project manager co-ordinating the office move. This led to the CD being left in a filing cabinet which was then sent to landfill.
Investigations from the regulator revealed that staff failed to access guidance on how to dispose of the CD. And it has emerged that the team responsible were “not up to date” with information governance training.
Attempts were made to retrieve the filing cabinet once the mistake was realised by the trust, but by then it had already gone to landfill and could not be recovered.
Trust chief executive Ann Sutton has now committed to put in place clear policies and procedures to support staff during office moves. She also pledged to make sure necessary training was given to staff and that all employees would be told how to follow policies on the retention, storage and use of personal data.
Sutton, who described the breach as “unfortunate”, said the trust had taken significant measures to improve their data protection. “I would like to reassure patients that the data stored in the filing cabinet was not current – the most recent information was from 2002,” she said. “There was no clinical data involved and the data is beyond retrieval.
“It is important to stress that information systems now are far more secure than they were at the time these files were produced – we no longer store information on floppy disks or CDs and use sophisticated systems of encryption.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office noted that Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust had taken “substantial remedial measures” to prevent a repeat occurrence. But it said the case highlighted that need for clear policies and procedures to support staff.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has warned of a “systemic” problem over data protection in the NHS, a body regularly criticised for mishandling sensitive information.
In the same week as the Kent breach another NHS body, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, was found to have breached the Data Protection Act after losing personal information on 49 patients.
And earlier in September the London Ambulance Service was found to have broken data laws after a personal laptop containing information on thousands of patients was stolen from a contractor’s home.
Muslim immigrants to Britain have children for the welfare benefits, says Asian peer
The UK’s first female Asian peer has used a debate in the Lords to criticise Pakistani and Bangladeshi families for having too many children.
Baroness Flather suggested people in some minority communities had a large number of children in order to be able to claim more benefits. The peer, born in Lahore before the partition of India, said the issue did not apply to families of Indian origin.
The cross-bencher said benefit cuts could help to discourage extra births.
Baroness Flather, speaking during a debate on the government’s welfare changes, said: “The minority communities in this country, particularly the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis have a very large number of children and the attraction is the large number of benefits that follow the child.
“Nobody likes to accept that, nobody likes to talk about it because it is supposed to be very politically incorrect.”
The 67-year-old said that immigrant families must stop having lots of children “as a means of improving the amount of money they receive or getting a bigger house.”
The former Tory peer also claimed Indian families had a different mentality to Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in the UK.
“Indians have fallen into the pattern here,” she told peers. “They do not have large families because they are like the Jews of old. They want their children to be educated.
“This is the other problem – there is no emphasis on education in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi families.”
Baroness Flather called for a gradual reduction in benefits in order to discourage large families and suggested payments should be reduced after a couple’s first two children.
She said: “I really feel that for the first two children there should be a full raft of benefits, for the third child three-quarters and for the fourth child a half.”
Baroness Flather’s comments were not well-received by Labour work and pensions spokesman Lord McKenzie.
Concluding the argument for the opposition, he told the Lords: “I had not expected the treatise on the family sizes of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities and hope I don’t again.”
Welfare reform minister Lord Freud, replying to the debate, did not refer to Lady Flather’s comments.
The Welfare Reform Bill is the biggest shake-up of the benefits system for 60 years. A universal payment to replace income-related work-based benefits, such as child tax credit, is planned, as are stricter rules for people losing their benefits if they refuse a job.
Sex education will NOT be taught to children as young as five, after British Coalition ditches plans
Proposals for compulsory sex education for children as young as five have been ditched. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the Coalition would not implement the controversial plans put forward under Labour and had ‘no plans to change the law on sex education’. This means that teaching sex education will remain optional in primary schools.
Family campaigners feared that statutory sex and relationship education (SRE) could lead to teenage pregnancy being seen as acceptable by impressionable youngsters.
SRE is taught in Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education lessons, although elements such as the facts of reproduction are also contained in biology classes.
Under Labour, the then Schools Secretary Ed Balls planned to make PSHE classes a part of the compulsory national curriculum in primary and secondary schools from this month. This would have seen lessons in relationships and sex starting at five, with prescribed content for each age group.
The Coalition has now launched a review of PSHE but Mr Gibb said ‘the Government has already ruled out making PSHE education as a whole a statutory subject within the curriculum’.
In a letter to Graham Stuart, chair of the education select committee, he added: ‘The Government has no plans to change the law on sex education or parents’ right to withdraw their children from sex education.’
Over 2,000 people signed a letter last March calling on Parliament to ‘decisively’ oppose the plans contained in the Children, Schools and Families Bill.
Mr Balls was forced to drop the proposals – along with another ten flagship policies – a month later in a bid to push through the Bill in the final days of Parliament – a period known as the ‘wash up’.
At the time, the Tories said the party had agreed to compulsory sex education but wanted parents to be able to choose to ‘opt out’ if their children were below 16.
They claimed Mr Balls ‘preferred petulance’ by scrapping the plans entirely in the ‘wash out’, after disagreements between the two parties over the opt out age.
The Coalition has now launched a review of PSHE, proposing a strengthening in the priority given to teaching about relationships, the importance of positive parenting and teaching about sexual consent.
Primary heads and governors will continue to decide whether or not to provide sex education and what it should involve beyond the compulsory science requirements – such as the biological facts of reproduction – laid down by the national curriculum.
‘Shy’ children at risk of being diagnosed with mental disorder
Children who are merely shy or sad are at risk of being diagnosed with mental disorders and given powerful drugs. Psychologists say that new guidelines being developed in America will lead more young people seeing their common problems regarded as illnesses that must be treated, rather than just being given support.
They fear that pupils who are quiet at school could be diagnosed with “social anxiety disorder” while those who become withdrawn after suffering a bereavement are classified as having a “depressive disorder”.
Children who just talk back to adults or lose their temper regularly could be diagnosed with “oppositional defiant disorder”.
As a result, those found to have these increasingly broad mental disorders could be prescribed powerful medication such as Prozac or Ritalin to control or alter their behaviour.
Now the pressure is increasing for a national review of the use of such drugs on schoolchildren as well as more research into their long-term effects, following a vote at the TUC Congress on Wednesday.
Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, told delegates: “Behaviours develop over a long period of time, often with a range of complex causes; we can’t ‘cure’ the behaviours we don’t like with a quick fix of medicine. They usually require careful management by all the adults around the child.
“In 2013 we’re expecting new criteria for the definition of mental illness to be adopted here in the UK. These criteria will lead to many more children being diagnosed as mentally ill, based on reports of their behaviours.
“A shy child could be diagnosed with social anxiety; a sad or temporarily withdrawn child could be diagnosed with depression.
“These are conditions which are also likely to be treated with medication – and under these circumstances, Congress, we will be putting potent drugs into children with little or no understanding of what it will lead to.
“In a society that wants quick results using drugs to improve behaviour is very tempting. But there can be other ways of improving children’s behaviour which typically involve time and energy from people.”
Research has found that children under the age of six are being prescribed the drug Ritalin for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, prompting calls for the Department of Health to investigate the scale of the problem and the potential long-term damage it may be causing.
Recent figures show 650,000 children aged between eight and 13 are on the pscyhotropic drug, up from just 9,000 two decades ago, while others are taking Prozac for depression or anxiety.
Fears are growing that the number of children diagnosed with mental disorders and prescribed drugs will increase still further after 2013, when a new “bible” of the psychiatric profession is published.
Known as DSM-5, the book widens the diagnostic criteria for many supposed conditions including social anxiety disorder, better known as shyness, and will likely be adopted by the health authorities in Britain after appearing first in the US.
The proposed new definition for social anxiety disorder states that it is marked by “fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. Examples include social interactions (e.g., having a conversation), being observed (e.g., eating or drinking), or performing in front of others (e.g., giving a speech)”.
In children this fear could be expressed by “crying, tantrums, freezing, clinging, shrinking or refusal to speak in social situations”.
Young people will be deemed as having oppositional defiant disorder if they display symptoms including losing their temper, arguing with adults, deliberately annoying people or being “spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past six months” to people other than their brothers or sisters.
The British Psychological Society has also raised concerns about the proposed revisions to the DSM.
It does not dispute that some children have emotional and behavioural problems but says that patients and the public are “negatively affected” by the continued “medicalisation” of natural and normal responses to their experiences, and that classifying such problems as “illnesses” ignores their wider causes.
Prof Peter Kinderman, chairman of the society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, said: “We’re not certain that a diagnosis and a medical response is the best way to help these kids.
“Absolutely understand and help, not necessarily diagnose and treat.”
A 10p vitamin B pill a day from middle age may ward off Alzheimer’s
This looks very encouraging but the very high doses used raise serious concerns about damaging side-effects
Taking one vitamin B pill a day from middle age could protect your memory as you grow older – and even ward off Alzheimer’s, British researchers say. The supplement, which costs just 10p, is described as the ‘first glimmer of hope’ in the battle to find a drug that slows or stops the development of the disease.
Pensioners who took high doses of the vitamin once a day for two years did 70 per cent better on a simple memory test than those who did not. The Oxford University scientists say the pill prevents the memory lapses that can be a precursor to dementia. They also found it cut brain shrinkage linked to memory loss by up to 500 per cent.
They say people should consider taking high-dose vitamin B from middle age – but only after seeking their doctor’s advice.
Alzheimer’s and forms of dementia blight the lives of more than 800,000 Britons. That number is expected to double within a generation, as the population ages.
In landmark research published last year, Dr Celeste de Jager and her colleagues, who are also behind this study, showed that high doses of vitamin B cut brain shrinkage linked to memory loss. The latest results, presented at the British Science Festival in Bradford, show that it also helps stop memory from failing.
In the trial, 270 pensioners with mild cognitive impairment – the slight memory lapses that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s – were asked to take a vitamin B tablet once a day for a year, or given a dummy pill to take instead.
The tablets contained extremely high amounts of vitamins B6, 9 and 12. For instance, the dose of B12 was up to 300 times higher than could be obtained by eating foods rich in the vitamin, such as bananas, wholegrains and meat.
The pill reduced the shrinkage of the brain, which happens naturally with age, by 30 per cent on average – but it halved it in those with the highest levels of a chemical called homocysteine in their bloodstream. In one case, it was cut five-fold.
Homocysteine is a natural compound that builds up in the body as we age and, at high levels, is linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Vitamin B breaks it down. In the study, those with higher than average levels of homocysteine who took vitamin B performed almost 70 per cent better on a memory test than those who took the placebo pill.
It specifically bolsters episodic memory, the type needed to remember things such as shopping lists – and one of the first to deteriorate in Alzheimer’s.
In addition, those with the very highest levels of homocysteine who took vitamin B were less likely to have progressed towards Alzheimer’s, and in some cases, their memory lapses disappeared entirely after the two years.
Researcher Professor David Smith termed the effects ‘striking’. But while the team said those in middle age could benefit from the treatment, they stressed they must speak to their doctor.
High-dose vitamins may trigger cancer and are known to fuel existing cancers. They may also react with medicines including arthritis and psoriasis drugs.
Christians Face a ‘Freedom Gap’ in modern British and American Culture
It’s sad to say, but freedom has been relegated to “flavor of the month” status for years now. Not freedom as our Founding Fathers thought it, but freedom as same-sex couples, pro-abortion activists, and those disillusioned with Western Civilization mistakenly think of it.
In other words, it’s not an ordered freedom based on the sound footing of natural law, but an abstract freedom based on the whims and desires of fickle men and women who have concurred with the maxim that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Goodbye to universal ethics and enduring norms, hello to whatever makes us happy in this moment. This is freedom in the 21st century.
But changing something so near to the heart of our culture doesn’t come without a price. And one of the obvious prices is that this new brand of freedom is only extended to those who meet the criteria for it. That is, it only goes to those who share the opinions of same-sex couples, pro-abortion activists, and those disillusioned with Western Civilization. Others not need apply.
What this also means is that an olive branch is extended to certain faiths – those viewed as “tolerant” – and withheld from others. As a result, Christianity and Orthodox Judaism are not being handed any olive branches, and more times than not, they are actually being shown the door.
Therefore, throughout our Western Civilization, there is a freedom a gap. Both in Europe and here in the U.S., Christians and Orthodox Jews are denied the right to exercise their faith and traditions in ways that other faiths and traditions enjoy.
In Europe, for example, Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, claims Christians of “deep faith” face discrimination. (By “deep faith,” he is referencing those who make their faith evident, rather than keeping it a private matter.) He reached this conclusion from watching how people of faith in Europe are penalized “for activities such as wearing crosses and offering to pray for other people.”
And reports from Britain’s BBC validate Lord Carey’s evaluation of Europe’s attitudes toward Christians in the 21st century. The BBC does this by providing examples such as Gary McFarlane, a Christian marriage guidance counselor from Bristol, who “lost a court bid earlier this year to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals,” and Lydia Playfoot, a 19-year-old student who was “told by her school three years ago to remove her purity ring – symbolizing chastity – or face expulsion.”
Sadly, for Christians in America, these examples aren’t hard to believe because the incremental secularization of our culture has led to the same kinds of discrimination and beyond. From high school and collegiate textbooks that ridicule or try to expunge our historically Judeo-Christian roots, to shameless lawsuits against the public display of symbols identifiable with Christianity, to the hampering of the religious speech of public officials, and of course, the ongoing governmental limitations on the First Amendment protected rights of pastors in the pulpit, Christians (and Christianity) are forced to fight for the freedom so many others readily enjoy.
For years, this freedom gap has been witnessed in our government schools, where “Easter Eggs” are renamed “Spring Spheres” and even a student-led “Easter Can Drive” is renamed a “Spring Can Drive.” And while many have treated these efforts to rename holidays as innocuous, over time it’s becoming clear that there is in fact an undercurrent working against Christians in our culture.
Freedom is more than “just another word for nothing left to lose.” It is an ordered framework of liberty for which our Founders risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. As such, it should be extended to people of every race and tribe, and of every faith and tradition.
This applies to those who value the Judeo-Christian tradition as much as it applies to anyone else.
Judge takes pity on British community hero who fired shotgun to scare off thugs who plagued neighbourhood
A café owner who fired his shotgun into the air to scare off yobs vandalising a park escaped jail yesterday after a judge took pity on him.
Francis McDonald has been cleaning up after teenage vandals in the park where he runs his café for two years. But a court heard yesterday how he lost his cool when he saw youths damaging new plants and twice fired his shotgun into the air to frighten them off.
Judge Alan Goldsack told him he would normally be locked up for such an offence. But, after reading letters from residents expressing gratitude for McDonald’s good work in the park, the judge said he would be spared custody due to his good character and the circumstances of the offence.
McDonald, 42, who admitted possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, was given an eight-month prison term suspended for a year and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work.
Judge Goldsack, sitting at Sheffield Crown Court, told him: ‘It is clear from the letters I have received about you from many people in that area that you have transformed that place into somewhere where the public can enjoy going and they are very grateful to you for doing that.’
McDonald lives in a cottage next to the café he runs in Elsecar Park, near Barnsley. But in the wake of the case, he has lost the lease on the café and will have to move out.
Prosecutor Nicola Quinney told the court teenage yobs had been causing trouble in the park – with vandalism and verbal abuse – as a result of drinking. The problems escalated on the evening of May 13 this year when McDonald padlocked the gates and about 15 girls and boys began damaging plants by the park bandstand.
McDonald, a father of five, grabbed his legally owned shotgun and asked the teenagers to leave. When they refused, he fired two shots in the air from about 7ft away.
After his arrest, McDonald told police the teenagers had verbally abused and threatened him. ‘He wanted to scare them and frighten them off,’ said Miss Quinney. She added one of the girls was frightened that he might shoot her and had suffered a panic attack. Another youth suffered sleepless nights, but had now recovered.
McDonald, a gun club member who has never been in trouble with the police before, said after the trial: ‘I regret what I did, but those kids were never in any danger. ‘I wouldn’t hurt a fly. It was just a mad moment of frustration.
‘They were treading on plants which had just been planted that day at a cost of £1,000. I was ashamed of what I did, but since the incident I have not had any more trouble.
‘For the past two years, there has been a load of trouble in the evenings with drinking, drug-taking and even youngsters having sex in the park. It usually happens at weekends and then I have to go out in the morning and clean it all up. ‘I do it because the park is for the public to enjoy.
‘Locals who use the park complain all the time, but I have had no help from the council or the police. It is not fair.’
British T-Shirts said to incite domestic violence
It’s obviously an attempt at humour but some people have none
“A LAUNDRY list of excuses and none of them cut it. Top clothing line Topman has pulled two T-shirts from production after being accused of promoting domestic abuse and sexism.
One of the offending tees, pictured above, was ripped apart on social networks after people perceived it to be a list of excuses for hitting women.
“Promoting the excuses that men use to get away with abusing women is clearly wrong, whether it’s on a T-shirt or not,” said one Facebook user. “Many woman and children flee for their lives every year from domestic violence. It’s very poor taste to promote it,” another wrote.
The Guardian’s Bella Mackie sarcastically tweeted that another T-shirt – “Nice new girlfriend – what breed is she?” – was “classy” for comparing women to dogs.
Topman has heeded the complaints and pulled the offending garments from shelves. “We have received some negative feedback regarding two of our printed T-shirts,” a statement read. “… we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning.”
The stealthy transformation of England’s green and pleasant land
By PETER HITCHENS
You cannot get much deeper into England than you do under the huge skies of Lincolnshire, where land and sky and water meet and the impossibly beautiful tower of Boston’s ancient church reaches towards the clouds.
I came here first nearly 30 years ago and had a sense of penetrating a sleeping, utterly undisturbed part of the country. The Sixties had not really happened. There were no motorways. Life was slow, a little shabby, but untroubled by the fake urgency of more modern places. I half-expected to meet Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers’ aristocratic detective, on his way to solve the mystery of The Nine Tailors, set in this haunting countryside of fens, dykes, floods and bell towers.
Respectability was still strong, and so was the sense of belonging. Because I was from outside Lincolnshire, they rather charmingly called me a ‘foreigner’. How shocking it is, then, to return and find Boston so strangely and unexpectedly transformed. In the past few years this place has seen drunken street battles between locals and migrants, some nasty assaults and a continuing air of suspicion and dislike that it is hard to miss – yet which cannot be openly expressed.
At one major road junction, a huge poster demands a ban on the public drinking of alcohol. Knowing that rowdy street-drinking (and public urination) is one of the main local complaints against migrants, I cannot help wondering if this is not some sort of covert protest against their presence.
If you look carefully as the train from Grantham rolls into the station, you can see the blasted, scorched lock-up garage where, a few weeks ago, five men died in an explosion that could be heard five miles away across the great fields of leeks, sprouts and beetroot that surround the town. We may say with some certainty that they were trying to make illegal vodka, and that they came from Eastern Europe. Police investigations are still continuing into the background of this nasty business.
But another, slow-motion explosion has also hit Boston. Here, of all the unlikely places, a somnolent and kindly town has been upset, alarmed and riven by mass immigration in its hardest and most uncompromising form.
Note here that I use the word ‘immigration’, not ‘immigrants’. All the people who have been hurt, uprooted and upset by this rather cynical piece of social engineering are pretty much free of blame.
Who can honestly disapprove of the poor person from Lisbon, Riga or Bucharest, with a family to house and feed, tempted to uproot his or her life by the promise of wages unthinkable at home?
There is something brave and commendable about their willingness to live in crowded, shared lodgings, eating cheaply and saving hard; an experience we should all go through at some time or another.
Who can frown on the farmer who welcomes the fact that he suddenly has a reliable source of hard-working young men and women ready to lift his crops for long hours without complaint?
And who can blame the people of this ancient place, nervous, baffled and disquieted by the sudden arrival of hundreds of people who do not speak English, who are ignorant of our customs, who move among us like interplanetary visitors, so cut off that they could not even understand a shout of ‘Help!’, let alone laugh at our jokes?
If you seek a villain, you’ll need to look elsewhere, in warm and comfortable rooms occupied by complacent, powerful people whose only experience of immigration is cheap, exotic restaurants and cheap servants.
Here in the English fenland, everyone involved is a victim of enormous, irresistible powers. Those abstract ideas called ‘market forces’ and ‘free movement of peoples’, so beloved of academics, politicians and journalists far away in London, come to life and stalk the streets. Like most grandiose ideas, they are not as nice as they sound.
In Boston, what they mean is this. On a 20-minute walk from railway station to bed-and-breakfast, I meet and see almost nobody who speaks English. Most of the few I do see are the kind of people nobody wants to employ: the only players in this sad melodrama who might conceivably have chosen a different outcome.
In the shadow of the great church, big enough to be a cathedral and now absurdly large for the mainly Godless town at its feet, the home-grown English youths are there with their cans of lager and their hoodies, shouting and cackling. I have to mention this because there is also no shortage of young Eastern Europeans who end up in court here charged with urinating in public places, obviously drunk.
The difference is that the British louts are the end-product of decades of social tenderness, child-centred education and welfare. But the newcomers, emptying their bladders where they stand or driving drunk and uninsured after an evening of illegal hooch, are the end of 70 years of miserable communism, deliberate demoralisation and a culture of desperation and drunken oblivion. Both systems have more in common that you might suspect.
I came to Boston at the invitation of a man I shall call Ted. He wanted me to see at first hand a place that cannot really cope with what is happening to it. He tells a disturbing story about strange events soon before the migrants arrived, around the turn of the century.
A small advertisement in one of the local papers asked people who were worried about immigration to contact a phone number. Ted did. He describes what happened.
‘The advertisement read, roughly, “Are you concerned about large numbers of migrants arriving in Boston?” with a mobile phone number to contact. I felt very concerned with the number of immigrants being talked about at that time, 5,000 Portuguese! We little knew that was only the beginning of a much greater number from all over Eastern Europe, Iraq and Russia who would be arriving in their thousands.
‘I phoned the mobile and was only given a Christian name, “John”, I think. He was quite vague and would not give more information, only to say he was a concerned resident and was looking to meet anyone who felt the same. He said he was going to organise meetings etc and would be in touch and asked for my contact details, which I gave.
‘As I had not heard from him or seen anything in the paper, I rang the mobile again. He suggested we meet up in the Red Cow pub in the town at midday. He was about 5ft 10in to 6ft, short fair hair (not skinhead), looked fit, casually dressed but smart. He definitely did not have a Lincolnshire accent.
‘He bought half a pint of bitter and we sat in a quiet corner. He asked me what I did, and would I be prepared to go on a demonstration march through Boston; what were my thoughts on the proposed mass immigration into Boston and how far would people be prepared to go to register their disapproval.
‘I told him how I felt, that a small community like Boston should not be swamped with immigrants. It is not about race, it is about keeping things in proportion. Nothing materialised, no leaflets no demonstration, nothing. So I rang him again, and got a very short answer that “he would be in touch”. After that, the number was not in use.
‘I am fully convinced the guy I met worked for the Government and was sent to Boston to see what the public reaction would be. Not long afterwards, there was a public meeting on the subject. Among the listed speakers was a representative of the BNP.’ As Ted, a mainstream, conservative-minded businessman, says: ‘If you want to kill off any political opposition to any issue you invite the BNP.’
I include this story because I have long been haunted by the extraordinary and astonishing revelations of Andrew Neather, a former New Labour speech writer who worked for, among others, Jack Straw. He wrote in a London newspaper in 2009 that the huge immigration increases in the past ten years were at least partly caused by a desire in government to change the country and ‘rub the Right’s nose in diversity’.
He said Labour’s weaker border controls were a deliberate plan to ‘open up the UK to mass migration’ but that Ministers were nervous about discussing this openly, for fear of losing working-class votes. So instead, they just went on and on about the supposed economic benefits of welcoming more migrants. Boston, interestingly, is a mainly Tory area, where Labour did not need to worry about lost votes.
Well, as Boston shows, there definitely are benefits to immigration. Thousands of hard-working young men – no one seems to know how many thousands – are helping to harvest the dull but necessary vegetables that Lincolnshire grows. Local landlords have no trouble in renting property, and Boston is going through a small housing boom, with lots of new blocks of flats and housing estates, as well as some pretty dispiriting caravan encampments close to the farms. Officially, Boston’s population is 61,000, but the borough council believes the true figure is more like 70,000.
The immigrants are paying their council tax and their income tax, and spending a bit in some of the local shops – but I’ll come to that. Their children are now arriving in the schools. At one, Park Primary, just over half the pupils do not have English as a first language. We might expect this in London’s Tower Hamlets or parts of Manchester or Bradford. But in Boston?
I’ve spoken to teachers who are actually quite pleased by the new arrivals. Their presence has forced the local authority to pour money into schools that were previously at the back of every queue and at the bottom of every pile. In some classes there are now as many as four expensively hired adults trying to overcome the language barriers caused by the presence of children who speak Russian, Polish or a Baltic language at home.
Teachers insist that all is well. How would you prove it wasn’t? Parents may suspect otherwise but they will have learned, like everyone else in Britain, that it is all too easy to be dismissed as ‘racist’ if you make a public fuss about such things. And as usual, the parts of the town most affected are the poorest streets, where people are least equipped to protest.
Of course ‘race’ has nothing to do with it. Boston’s migrants are white-skinned Europeans. What separates them from us is culture: upbringing, manners, tastes in food, history and language.
A few dozen such people in any place would be easy, even beneficial. But thousands of them, all at once, in a small town, mean the creation of a great invisible barrier, snaking down every street and cutting through every district and many lives.
On West Street, known by locals as ‘East Street’ for obvious reasons, there are half a dozen independent shops selling Baltic, Polish and Russian food, an internet cafe used mainly by Eastern Europeans and a Polish restaurant. Nearby there’s a rather inviting Latvian pastry and cake shop.
Almost certainly, without the migrants, these places would be boarded up, or charity shops. But what consolation is that to born-and-bred Bostonians who see parts of their home town transformed into a foreign zone?
Enter these shops and you will find them selling vodka (one brand rather tactlessly named ‘Boom’), and the pickles, spicy salami and smoked meats that are the staples of the Baltic diet. The brands of cereal, biscuits, beer and sweets are all unfamiliar. They are a little piece of Eastern Europe. I suspect I am the only English-speaking customer most of them have seen.
In one shop I find a middle-aged Polish businessman who is happy to talk to me. I ask what brought him here. His answers may surprise you. ‘Britain is the best country in Europe to work in. You are more open-minded, more helpful, more friendly to newcomers than anyone else in Europe.
‘I like this country ….. I like to live and work here.’ He compares us most favourably to the unwelcoming, prejudiced Germans who are far closer to his home region in Western Poland.
But – and I have to press him to talk about this which he says is ‘a very delicate matter’ – he is baffled by the unwillingness of the British to take the jobs on offer. ‘Many of you just don’t want to work. You take incapacity benefit [he knew the exact English phrase]. You just assume you’ll get money from the Government.’
He finds this attitude unbelievable. It wouldn’t be possible in Poland. ‘It’s just not true that we take your jobs,’ he says emphatically, ‘I’ve been working here for a long time now, and I know this – that all businesses want reliable, friendly, helpful workers. That is all we do. You can do it too.’
Of course, there are British workers who complain with justification that they have been undercut by cheaper East European rivals – and are then asked to go round and fix the mess that they have made. But in the end such people face the horrible truth, well known to the British Government and the EU, that one of the purposes of mass immigration and open borders is to push down our wages.
Perhaps if TV presenters and MPs could be replaced by cheaper Polish immigrants, they would be more concerned about this. As it is, they just rejoice that nannies cost less than they used to, and restaurant meals are cheap.
But there is another reason the locals may be failing in this competition. It is summed up in a smart and obviously well-financed little establishment, paid for by taxes, itself not far from a flourishing business specialising in providing interpreters.
Slip inside this ‘Resource Centre’ and you find it full of advice on how to poison yourself with illegal drugs. There is information on nine different types of syringe, and warnings not to mix your drugs with lemon juice; to rotate your injection sites, and to angle the needle correctly. There are posters threatening unconvincingly that, if you sell the methadone provided to you by the taxpayer, you could face penalties ‘up to life in prison’.
The very existence of this establishment, with all that it implies, helps to explain why young men and women growing up around here have been so easily supplanted by strangers who do not even speak the language of our country.
No, it is not that they are all drug-takers. It is that our welfare state assumes that any weakness, any failing, any bad habit, requires help and public money rather than moral guidance and stern limits to behaviour. The same is true in the classrooms, and in thousands of homes.
The newcomers have been in a harder school. They have grown up in a cold grey world where if you don’t learn, you fail your exams, if you don’t work, you go hungry, and where if you don’t obey the law, it lashes out at you with a club.
Offer such people free entry to Britain, and they will think they have come to paradise, even if they have to sleep ten to a room and work until their backs break for the minimum wage. Sooner or later they, too, will be corrupted by it.
There is nothing here for our comfort. I came away from Boston wanting to tell the truth about it, without making it worse. It is easy to understand the frustrated resentment of decent people whose friendly, known world has been destroyed by distant politicians.
It is not hard to sympathise with a young man or woman with the guts and energy to come hundreds of miles to find work that locals do not much want to do.
But it is impossible not to be angry with the politicians who either couldn’t imagine what their policies would bring in practice, or did not care. The destruction of familiarity and security cannot be measured in money.
And I suspect they encouraged this vast migration because they lacked the courage or the will to confront the huge problems of broken families, feeble schools and welfare dependency: the real causes of the so-called labour shortage.
By doing so, they have done deep and lasting damage which has already led to bloodshed and hatred, and which could easily lead to more in the years to come. Yet nothing will bring them to admit it, or to change their minds. They never visit their own country and I do not think they give a damn about it.