Cou nter poi nts Not surprisingly, the Left, the traditional guardian of Germany’s taboos, hasn’t remained passive either: the Social Democrats are in the process of revoking Sarrazin’s party membership. The dishonesty and doublestandard of the political class was shockingly displayed when Merkel handed out a—well-deserved—award to KurtWestergaard, theDanishcaricaturist whocauseda scandal in 2005 with a cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. Freedom of opinion is “one of the characteristics of liberal democracy”, the Chancellor declared. “The secret of freedom is courage.” This is true—but not in Sarrazin’s case. Here, Germany’s authorities have lapsed into a form of not-so-indirect political censorship which Hendryk M. Broder, a wellknown Jewish intellectual, says is “in line with the tradition of the Reichsschriftumskammer” [the Nazi academy of literature which censored writers]. In this way, too, Germany is abolishing itself. ThiloSarrazinhasbeencourageous.Hehaslaunched a double debate which will benefit Western civilisation: one on the mishaps of integration, another on the road to serfdom down which our political class is leading us.
We should thank Sarrazin for the courage that has cost him his job and his membership of a conceited and complacent elite.
Sell off the BBC ByPatrickHeren
Admit it: even to think of privatising the BBC is the secular equivalent of the sin against the Holy Ghost. And yet there are compelling reasons why, as a society, we should rid ourselves, as efficiently as possible, of this over-mighty institution.
Economically, selling off all, or a large part, of the BBC would be extremely beneficial to Britain. It is a unique broadcasting organisation with a superb global brand, as well as completely dominating non-print mediawithintheUKitself.ThebenefittotheExchequer during its struggle to repay the national debt would be enormous.
Quite how enormous is impossible to judge precisely. But consider that Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the 65 per cent of BSkyB that he does not already own values the broadcaster at £12 billion. BSkyB is a minnow when set against the commercial potential of the BBC—£100 billion, even £200 billion, would be easily achievable in the colossally lucrative world populated by expanding media corporations such as Google and Facebook. As someone who a couple of years ago sold his own small but well-positioned media company for twice what my advisers had expected, I know that media buyers will pay well above traditional valuations for good businesses with attractive brands.
The economic consequences for Britain and its people would be positive, to put it mildly. Broadcasting, news gathering, web publication, drama and comedy would be liberated from a massive monopolist divorced from commercial reality. At present, it is almost impossible for a radio, TVorweb-contentproducer to compete with the BBC, as the weakness of independent television, radio and newspaper web publishing amply demonstrates. And don’t forget the licence fee, a hypothecated, regressive tax of £145.50 per household: that’s around one per cent of the pre-tax earnings of the lowest-paid tenth of the population.
But the wider consequences of selling off the BBC in its current bloated form would be even more beneficial than the obvious economic gains. The BBC has come to dominate political and social discourse to a degree that chokes off rational discussion. This is not just to do with its soft-liberal, politically-correct outlook and editorial line, though it is certainly that. The very existence of a dominant national broadcaster, whatever its outlook, stifles debate on anything contentious or unsettling to vested interests. The BBC is particularly unwilling to question the existence or direction of other bloated British institutions, such as the NHS or the education system, both enormously expensive and inefficient. It defaults to the idea that if there is a problem, then government should fix it. Morewidespread and open debate than we have had for decades would lead to a dynamic Britain, more of whose citizens would expect to work to cope with personal and national challenges.
Despite the best efforts of independent news stalwarts such as Adam Boulton or Jeff Randall, the relationship betweenpoliticians and themedia is controlled anddirectedbytheBBC’subiquitousnewsorganisation. Politicians, whether of Left or Right, largely talk to the public through the BBC, which in turn ensures that the issues remain anchored firmly to the liberal metropolitan consensus. It takes more courage than most politicians possess to question publicly the received wisdom on immigration, Europe, social security, education, taxation and public spending. In my own area, energy, the BBC’s reporting of the interface between energy and climate change is farcically one-sided, entirely failing to explain the real issues and consequences.
When faced with radical change of the sort not discussed in polite metropolitan company, the BBC unfailingly tells its viewers and listeners to “always keep a-hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse”. And the Corporation itself is a prime example of the British propensity to do just that. We seem to forgive it its suffocating blandness and bias because it has been there as long as the oldest of us can remember, and we haveneverdonebroadcastinganyotherway.It’stimewe grew up, and took the cash into the bargain.
Girl power ByNichiHodgson
The Fawcett Society has launched a judicial review against the government on the basis that 72 per cent of the proposed budget cuts will be met directlybywomen,thuscontraveningtheGenderEquality duty. The challenge is partly informed by a report by the UK Women’s Budget Group, which argues that the government’s plan to raise £8 billion from benefit cuts will discriminate against women. It cites Fawcett Society statistics that show how, on average, one fifth of women’s incomes are made up of tax credits and benefits, compared with one tenth of men’s. So far, so reasonable. But after citing evidence from the Journal of Human Resources that “mother’s income has been shown to be more likely to be spent on the children than father’s”, the report then asserts, with semantic absolutism, that plans to freeze child benefit for three years from April 2011 “will reduce the real income of all mothers”. By ignoring the impact on fathers (effectively rendering all of them absent), it merely reinforces the gender inequality the review claims to challenge.
Similarly, the report argues that cuts to the public sector will have a disproportionate impact on women, more of whom are employed in it, and depend on public services relating to maternity and care for the elderly, for example. But when 94 per cent of prisoners are male, cuts to legal aid, the Youth Justice board and the prison service are arguably gender-discriminatory, too. Other significant reductions in funds for regeneration and
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Seated Nude: Study for ‘Une Baignade’, by Georges Seurat (1883), recognisably the central figure from the following year’s Une baignade àAsnières. This Conté crayon drawing joins works by Boucher, Ingres and Pissarro in Poussin to Seurat: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Scotland, at theWallace Collection, LondonW1, until December 19