North v South, East v West

Cast your eyes no further east than Berlin, Vienna or Rome and all looks pretty rosy in the EU’s garden. Apart from the shock of Brexit, most of the critical votes during the past year have gone the Establishment’s way. Even before our referendum, the Austrians set the scene by choosing a former Green party leader as President rather than Norbert Hofer of strongly eurosceptic FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria). Now this year, the Dutch and French elections have not seen any breakthrough for eurosceptic parties and looking to the future, Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is losing support, with Angela Merkel looking unassailable while Italy’s Five Star Movement does not now look likely to make any sort of breakthrough when the country goes to the polls. It too may have peaked.

Meanwhile, the economic news looks positive. The €urozone is enjoying a decent recovery with deflation beaten and business confidence returning. After almost a decade of one problem after another, the EU does appear on the surface to have turned a corner. Frexit, Iexit and other variations on the same theme don’t take up many column inches now.

In actual fact, one other country would vote to leave the EU if granted a referendum – the Czech Republic. At the beginning of July, the Spectator Magazine published an interesting report on the state EU in collaboration with Project 28, a polling organisation.  47% of Czechs would vote to leave as opposed to 43% who want to stay. The country  is very much an outlier, however, as the next most anti-EU country, Greece, would vote to stay in by 54% to 39%.

Scratch beneath the surface, however, and the picture isn’t so positive. Some 41% of Italians, 32% of French an 28% of Germans do not think that the EU in its present form will still exist in 10 years’ time. What is behind this sentiment? – or to put it another way, what are the most likely causes of conflict within the EU, causing it to splinter?

Firstly, the €urozone’s overall improved economic performance conceals real problems within individual countries. Youth unemployment is still over 40% in Spain and 45% in Greece. Italy recently bailed out two of its banks and, along with Spain, the overall indebtedness of its country’s banks increases while the net credit of German banks is also increasing. Such imbalances within the Single Currency area have the potential to cause problems if uncorrected. Furthermore, any push for closer political and economic integration within the €urozone would risk reopening old wounds when they have not had long to heal. Club Med is still resentful of Germany, whereas German taxpayers will not want to subsidise what they regard as the profligate and lazy southern countries.

More destabilising than the north-south divisions, however, are the east-west tensions. The Spectator claims that Hungarians have little appetite for “Hexit”, with only 15% of voters wanting to leave the EU. Viktor Orbán, the country’s leader, is a frequent critic of Brussels, however, He is no enthusiast of further integration and according to a piece in the Guardian, “he doesn’t want to leave the EU; he wants to subvert it, which is far more dangerous.”

The refugee crisis has inflamed East-West tensions. Hungary’s initial opposition to accepting large numbers of immigrants was worded roughly along the lines of “we’re not ready to accept immigrants; our country is still rebuilding itself after years of subjection to the Soviet Union. Come back in 20 years’ time and maybe we’ll be able to handle the sort of multicultural society you have in the West.” Now the rhetoric has hardened. Orbán doesn’t want multiculturalism now or ever and has announced that his country will offer a home  for “Germans, Dutch, French and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands.” In the same speech, he also attacked political correctness while elsewhere, he claimed that Europe’s Christian identity was under threat from Moslem migration.

It is quite clear that there is a vast difference between his vision of the EU’s future and that of Macron and Merkel. “In 1990,  Europe was our future, now we are Europe’s future,” he said on another occasion. Meanwhile, according to one blog, in the Czech Republic, the country’s parliament has voted to enshrine in its Constitution (subject to Senate approval) the right for its citizens to carry arms. The reason for this seemingly drastic measure seems to be a concern about the possible problems which migrants might cause. The blogger wasn’t able to provide too many sources of information and any extra detail about this surprising development would be welcomed.

Such attitudes are light years away from the pathetic defeatism of Sweden’s former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who said that his countrymen were “boring”, going on to rubbish his own country to an incredible degree, claiming that “only barbarism is genuinely Swedish.” Well, the Swedish Vikings were a pretty rough lot a thousand years ago, but since then, European civilisation, including Sweden , has much of which to be proud. Is he unaware of the heroic efforts of Sweden’s king Gustav II Adolf who played a huge part in saving Europe from barbarism in the Thirty Years’ War? Or the great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus whose categorisation of plants into different genres is still the basis of botany today?

It is quite unbelievable for any western leader to be so dismissive of  his country, but although perhaps the worst, he is far from unique. Douglas Murray’s book The Strange Death of Europe claims that the entire continent is “weighed down with a guilt for its past.”  While his arguments are persuasive, they hardly apply to the former Soviet bloc countries like Hungary and Poland who are proudly patriotic and defensive of their culture after years of subjection to the sterile ideology of Marxism-Leninism. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of guilt in the utterances of Mr Orbán nor indeed, in those of Poland’s most influential politician Jarosław Kaczyński.

Furthermore, we are not talking about a straight west-east split. I am sure that many people living in Western Europe probably sympathise far more with Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic than with their own guilt-ridden political leaders. It is these leaders, however, who will be trying to drive European integration forward and if it is on their multicultural, self-loathing politically-correct terms, then Hexit, Czexit, Polexit may be on our lips sooner than you can say Jack Robinson.

 

Brexit and the claimed increase in “hate crime”

I received an appeal from a charity I support which helps the victims of torture. It talked of an “unprecedented rise in hate crime….across the country” and claimed that “Each day the news brings stories of political upheaval and a rising wave of racist hate crime”, linked with the Brexit vote.  It goes on to appeal for extra funds because the charity fears losing its EU funding, which amounted to over £2.5 million in the last sixteen years.

Now, of course, I deplore bad behaviour by anybody. Aggressive and unpleasant behaviour must be particularly distressing to vulnerable people, recovering from the terrible experiences of torture.

But, rather like that petition to overturn the result of the referendum, there is something altogether too pat and too convenient about this story of a “wave of hatred”. An article on this subject by Brendan O’Neill appeared in the Spectator of 6 August  entitled “The Real Hate Crime Scandal” and I am indebted to him for the following information.

The police say that 3,192 reports of hate incidents were received in the last two weeks of June and 3,001 in the first fortnight of July, constituting a rise of 48 per cent and 20 per cent respectively . Many of these reports (the police cannot say how many) came from a website called True Vision which allows anyone anywhere to report anonymously something they say they experienced or witnessed. Every such report is instantly logged as a hate crime. No evidence required.

The police’s “Hate Crime Operational Guidance”  now stresses that the perception of the victim or any other person is the deciding factor in whether something is measured as a hate crime or hate incident. “Evidence of …hostility is not required…The perception of the victim  is the defining factor… the victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief… and police officers….should not directly  challenge the perception”.

“Hate Crime Procedure” by Surrey Police instructs that, even when nothing hateful was said to the victim….still the police must record  the incident as hate crime, if the victim perceives it to be so. Manchester Police’s guidance says that, if a victim of alleged hate crime feels that the police are indifferent, this is then victimising the victim a second time “whether or not it is reasonable for them to perceive it in that way”. Truth is “immaterial”.

I now revert to my own experience of two incidents which might have generated three reports of “hate crime” and could have caused endless trouble for those potentially  accused.

An outside Church group hired the Church hall of another denomination for their services. They started to violate the conditions of the let – by overstaying their hire period to the inconvenience of the caretaker and by leaving increasing amounts of equipment which they should have taken with them at the end of each service.

They were warned several times but persisted. They were pushing  to become keyholders. The situation became intolerable for the caretaker and he told them to leave, giving written notice of the reasons. The immediate response was “You’re doing this because we’re black”.  As the caretaker was sure of his ground, this did not shake him.

Nothing further was heard but the whole Church could have been tied up for days with police enquiries, if a complaint had been made. Facts do not matter – only the “perception” of the self-proclaimed victim.  Those are the orders which the police follow.

More recently, I was driving my car leaving a roundabout when a man stepped across the road in front of me without looking. I stood on my brakes and sounded my horn.

He made a very rude gesture. As he was black, he could easily have made a complaint that I had tried to run him down for motives of racial hatred. He could have noted my registration number.

It occurred to me that I could have put in a complaint for racial hatred because of his rude gesture but I doubt whether my perception would have counted for much. A social worker of my acquaintance told me many years ago that in RAT (Racial Awareness Training), the instructor told them as a fact which could not be questioned that  only white people – particularly the English – were uniquely racist.  That was the perception of the instructor which the trainees had to accept as fact.

As anyone can make a race hate report anonymously on the True Vision website and the police apparently cannot separate those reports from the others,  it would be easy to generate a completely fictitious “wave of hatred” – rather like the thousands of bogus signatories on that anti BREXIT petition. Such a ploy would serve the purposes of the enemies of independence very well to tarnish  the reputation of independence campaigners.

Photo by Neil T

The millions in EU funding the BBC tried to hide

Following on from our article about the “nobbling” of the BBC in he 1970s, our attention has been drawn to this article in the Spectator, which appeared last year. Although now firmly in the pro-EU camp, the BBC is not keen to let us know just how much money it receives from Brussels.

Miles Goslett writes:-

Over the last three years the BBC has secretly obtained millions of pounds in grants from the European Union. Licence fee payers might assume that the Corporation would have been compelled to disclose the source of this money in its annual reports, but they bear no trace of it specifically. In the latest set of accounts, for example, these funds are simply referred to as ‘other grant income’.

Instead of making an open declaration, the BBC’s successful lobbying for this money had to be prised out of it using a Freedom of Information (FoI) request lodged for The Spectator, proving that there was never any danger of the state broadcaster’s bosses volunteering it willingly.

The FoI response confirms that BBC staff applied for, and accepted, about £3 million of EU funds between April 2011 and November 2013, most of which has been spent on unspecified ‘research and development’ projects, with the remaining £1 million spent on programming.

Next to the £3.65 billion tax-free income that the BBC receives each year via the licence fee, £3 million is, admittedly, a mere speck of dust – just 0.8 per cent of its annual guaranteed revenue and, obviously, even less than that when spread over 36 months.

However, the size of these EU gifts is arguably irrelevant, even though they are indicative of the BBC’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for public money. What is undeniably true is that the BBC has acted with characteristic slyness by concealing that it ever requested, let alone received, this European cash, suggesting that it is uneasy about the public being aware of its financial arrangements.

With the European elections only three months away, {this article was written in February 2014} the timing of this disclosure is certainly unhelpful to the BBC, fuelling longstanding pro-EU bias concerns.

Rob Wilson MP, an aide to the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, says that he believes evidence of the BBC receiving any EU money leaves it open to attack because being on its payroll risks feeding the perception that is incapable of reporting objectively on European affairs. Mr Wilson also questions why the BBC needed to go ‘cap in hand’ to the EU for funds in the first place when its enviably secure financial position allows it to outgun commercial rivals in so many spheres.

He says: ‘The whole point of the licence fee is to protect the BBC’s political independence and impartiality by providing it with a source of funding that is outside the hands of governments and politicians. Thanks to this FoI response, we now learn that it has been going cap in hand to the EU for millions of pounds on the quiet over the last few years. Such outrageous flouting of the principles on which the BBC is based and funded will only promote cynicism about its political impartiality and lead to a loss of trust in the BBC’s independence.’

In the FoI response, the BBC refuses to name any of the ‘research and development’ projects or television programmes on which it spent the EU grant money.  This, apparently, is information that’s far too sensitive for mere licence payers to be told about.

All it says by way of explanation is that the funds come from two separate sources – the EU Framework Programme for Research and Development; and the European Regional Development Fund. It admits that during the financial year 2010/11 it accepted £956,000 from the first of these funds and that during the following financial year it was given a further £435,000 for the same purpose.

During the first half of the current financial year, between April and November 2013, it was awarded a third EU research and development grant worth £812,000.

More money – none of which is given without a formal application – is expected before April 2014 but the running total for these three tranches stands at £2.2 million.

A BBC spokesman says the money was used for ‘technology-based projects based on existing BBC R&D priorities and business needs’ but would elaborate no further.  The BBC’s response then reveals that it has also received EU grants for programme-making from the European Regional Development Fund.

Although it claims such funding is commonplace among Europe’s public service broadcasters, it has declined to provide a breakdown of the grants beyond insisting that none of the money was spent on news programmes. A helpful BBC insider has worked out that the total amount of EU money spent on programmes over the last three years is likely to have been £1 million.

However, with a straight face, the BBC does explain in its response that Channel 4 has in the past received funding from the same source, and that it used its EU prize money to make the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.

When the BBC is prepared to use an FoI response to state how a rival organisation spent its EU booty, but refuses to explain how it spent its own, its standards of transparency are surely broken.

Eurosceptic Labour MP Kate Hoey, now part of an unofficial coalition of politicians overseeing the privately-funded organisation Newswatch, which monitors the BBC for EU bias at a cost of £60,000 per year, says the FoI disclosure is ‘shocking’. She says:

‘I have grave concerns about the bias of the BBC when it comes to EU matters. I find the whole thing shocking. The lack of transparency is unjustified. Why does it seem so worried about people knowing where it gets its money? What has the BBC got to hide other than knowing that many of us don’t trust them on EU matters and the need for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership?’

Ms Hoey adds that she has concerns that the BBC ‘very rarely’ reports Labour MPs’ views on Europe. She says:

‘Even Today in Parliament [on Radio 4] always tries to convey Tory splits on Europe, and this doesn’t help the perception of an EU bias. There are Labour MPs with strong views on Europe as well. It doesn’t help that the BBC very rarely reports these views.’

The evidence contained in this FoI response is the latest in a series of examples shining some light on the BBC’s relationship with the EU.