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In this week's New Statesman | The New Exodus

Plus: Chris Patten downplays the BBC pay-off scandal and slams Grant Shapps for "exceptionally ill-judged" licence fee attack.

BBC TRUST CHAIRMAN CHRIS PATTEN DOWNPLAYS PAY-OFF SCANDAL

AND SLAMS GRANT SHAPPS FOR “EXCEPTIONALLY ILL-JUDGED ATTACK” ON LICENCE FEE

INTERVIEW WITH THE NS’s ED SMITH

On the pay-off scandal: “This is not the most outrageous example I can think of mortal sin.”

On BBC-bashing in the press: “In some newspapers the BBC gets bashed more than President Assad. It’s extraordinary.”

PAUL COLLIER ON IMMIGRATION: WHY THE NOBLE LIBERAL VISION OF MULTICULTURALISM JUST WON’T WORK

PLUS

ANDREW ADONIS ON FRANÇOIS MITTERRAND, THE GREAT DECEIVER

JOHN BEW’S LETTER FROM WASHINGTON: DUBBYA RETURNS TO THE FRAY

THE POLITICS COLUMN: JEREMY HUNT WANTS TO DO FOR THE NHS WHAT GOVE DID TO SCHOOLS – HOW SHOULD LABOUR RESPOND?

GEORGE EATON: “WE NEED HELP TO BUILD, NOT HELP TO BUY”

LAURIE PENNY MEETS NEIL GAIMAN

 

THE NS INTERVIEW: CHRIS PATTEN’S MISSION TO RESTORE THE BBC’S CONFIDENCE AND MORAL AUTHORITY

In a frank and robust interview in this week’s New Statesman, Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, tells Ed Smith he wants to see the BBC’s self-confidence and moral authority restored after a series of blows to the organisation including the Savile affair and the executive pay-off scandal:

 

“The BBC is the only institution that I’ve been associated with that gets a sense of Schadenfreude about its own problems or mistakes. It beats itself up more. I think we should start to be more positive about ourselves. People get a fantastic service for 40 pence a day. I think the important thing for the BBC is not to lose its nerve. My friends from around the world are amazed that BBC is in the headlines so much. They assume this must be an organisation that everybody is exceptionally proud of. Well, sensible people are.”

Patten contrasts the high regard in which the BBC is held around the world with the way it is pilloried by certain sections of the British press:

“I was thinking the other day that in some newspapers the BBC gets bashed more than President Assad. It’s extraordinary.”

Patten uses the interview to hit back at Grant Shapps, chairman of the Conservative Party, who last month launched a cynical attack on the BBC, questioning the future of the licence fee. Patten was appalled by what he calls the “mis-Shapp”:

“We were appearing in front of a select committee the other day, we’re always appearing in front of select committees, I think we’re now up to 17 in a year, on one issue or another. I said what had surprised me during my period as chairman of the Trust was on the whole the lack of political pressure from anybody. And then just to make it look as though I was a cloth head, the chairman of the Conservative Party launched himself into an exceptionally ill-judged attack on the BBC. . .The chairmen of the Conservative Party invariably have a bash at the BBC in the run-up to elections. I have to say to my eternal shame I did the same. But what was odd [about Shapps’s intervention] was publicly linking an attack on a journalist [the BBC home editor, Mark Easton] with the BBC as whole and the licence fee.”

Patten on the pay-off scandal:

“No-one – nobody sensible – would argue that the way that severance pay had been handled had been other than messy and shabby. It was wrong. The worst damage has been inside, because people have seen their budgets being squeezed and [also] these big pay settlements. Some of these severance payments raised . . . well, not just eyebrows . . .”

“If you then look at a period of seven years from 2006 to 2013, people who left and were paid more than they were contractually entitled, that totalled £6.8m. Which is about what you’d have to pay to televise a football match. This is not the most outrageous example I can think of mortal sin. . . But it was wrong. And it stopped. And it won’t happen again.”

On BBC bureaucracy and creativity:

“That’s exactly what Tony Hall is trying to do at the moment. Strip out some of those layers of bureaucracy that have, among other things, a deadening effect on creativity. . . We definitely have to be faster on our feet.”

“The best drama I’ve seen since I’ve been in this job is the Tom Stoppard Parade’s End, which I thought was magical. Downton Abbey is a huge success. But I’m glad that we made Parade’s End, not Downton. So there is a lot [of good programming] but there needs to be more.”

On his hopes for the BBC:

“Success would be that the BBC was on the way to renewing the charter, at a reasonable licence fee level, which would enable it to go on producing the kind of programming it does now. And for the levels of trust in the BBC to have consolidated and stabilised; I’d like them to be even higher. It’s a great national treasure and it’s important that it should act like a national treasure and be regarded as – not beyond criticism – but as something that we can be reasonably proud of.”

COVER STORY: THE NEW EXODUS

In a controversial essay for the NS, Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy at Oxford University and author of the new book Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century, argues “liberal intellectuals who dismiss concerns about future migration. . .are being cavalier at other people’s expense” and declares the “noble vision” of multiculturalism incompatible with an egalitarian society.

Collier argues it is time for a sensible conversation about immigration and wants to break the taboo surrounding its discussion:

“Ever since Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech in 1968, serious discussion of migration has been taboo in British social science. I lost count of the number of times I was cautioned while writing my book Exodus not to include anything that could be ammunition for Ukip. In other words, I was told to write yet more policy-based evidence. British migration policy is too important and in too much disarray for this to be defensible.”

He argues that the multiculturalism model is incompatible with a fair deal for the “indigenous population”:

“Liberal intellectuals want to combine rapid immigration, the multiculturalism that entitles migrants to remain within a distinct cultural community, and an egalitarian society. This is a noble vision but unfortunately the desirability of a policy combination does not ensure that it is technically possible.”

“The weight of evidence suggests overwhelmingly that if a society fragments between an indigenous population and a variety of diaspora communities, co-operation will weaken. More surprisingly, diversity even appears to weaken co-operation within the indigenous population: as indigenous networks are disrupted, people withdraw into more isolated lives.”

Refusing to accept this is, says Collier, an indulgence we cannot afford:

“Liberal intellectuals who dismiss concerns about future migration, as distinct from the complaints about its past effects, are being cavalier at other people’s expense. It is the indigenous poor, existing immigrants and people left behind in the countries of origin who are potentially at risk, not the middle classes.”

THE POLITICS COLUMN: RAFAEL BEHR

In this week’s column, Rafael Behr, NS politics editor, explains that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, hopes to deal with the winter NHS crisis by positioning himself “as the champion of patients against an unresponsive health bureaucracy”:

“Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary, has a third way. He aims to position himself as the champion of patients against an unresponsive health bureaucracy. He takes as his model the approach that Michael Gove has adopted for schools, casting himself as the scourge of complacency in a system that cherishes mediocrity and cares only about doing things the way they have always been done. ‘Jeremy is always going on about what Michael is doing at Education,’ says a senior Department of Health insider. That is the impulse behind calls for Ofsted-style regulation of hospitals and for GPs to offer more appointments outside working hours. Hunt treats problems in the NHS as evidence of the need for reform. Labour says he is dumping responsibility for the fiasco on doctors and nurses.”

PLUS

Eimear McBride wins the first Goldsmiths Prize – a new literary prize in association with the New Statesman

Vince Cable reflects on the past 100 years – and shares his fears and hopes for the future – in the NS Centenary Interview

Rachel Cooke watches the final Downton episodewill ITV realise how bad a writer Julian Fellowes is or keep flogging this dead horse?

Ryan Gilbey reviews Ridley Scott’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor

Michael Brooks calculates the risk of an asteroid hit in this week’s Science column

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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