Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Forcing 600 inner-city schoolkids on a rural Conservative community is just plain mean

Last week, I paid my second visit to Drumlanrig Castle, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry. After ferrying us past paintings by Rembrandt and Frans Hals (the Leonardo is temporarily in the Scottish National Gallery after being stolen and recovered a few years back) our tour guide pointed out some damaged woodwork above a fireplace, caused by girls from a private boarding school playing netball while billeted there during the war.

The Duchess and her servants apparently kept the feral beasts out of the best rooms by making sinister noises to convince them that they were haunted (the ploy worked).

Of course, there was a good reason the destructive darlings were wreaking havoc in Dunlanrig in the first place - there was a war on, and when your country’s fighting for survival everyone’s expected to make sacrifices.

The only nation-threatening wars we’re facing at the moment are economic, cultural and political rather than military. And yet there’s a plan afoot to disrupt the lives of people who live in and around the lovely South Downs village of Stedham by creating a boarding school for six hundred teenagers from Stockwell in London. A 73-year old Tory councillor had to resign last week after objecting to the plan – he used the word “coloured”, which isn’t allowed these days, suggested the kids would all be at it like rabbits, and, for good measure, added that Pakistani children would “fail to rise to the top”, no matter what help they got.

Councillor John Cherry has - inevitably - been banished to the naughty step.

Simply put, locals don’t want their peaceful rural existence disrupted by a Monday-to-Friday influx of hundreds of inner city state school kids, and the National Trust has claimed that the plans will lead to “urbanisation” and “overdevelopment”.

The Great Liberal Establishment is, naturally, appalled that the locals aren’t relishing the prospect of being engulfed by hundreds of children who don’t look, act, speak or think like them. According to Education Secretary Michael Gove, the objectors are “trying to obstruct an inspirational project”. Well, it might be inspirational for the UK’s educational establishment, but I don’t see why the locals should be expected to derive inspiration from a scheme which won’t benefit them in any way, and which will undoubtedly make their lives less pleasant.

The Durand Academy, which is behind the scheme, claims that “when this councillor sees the hard work and commitment from ethnic minorities, I’m sure he will change his tune” – but why should a politician in a rural English community give a stuff about ethnic minorities? Why should he and the people who voted for him be asked to pitch in to solve the problems created by decades of uncontrolled immigration, inefficient policing, soft sentencing and daft left-wing education policies? If the people of Stedham wanted to grapple with these sorts of problems, surely they’d just move up to London?

The most fatuous establishment attack on people who just want to be left alone comes from Antony Seldon, the master of Wellington College (fees: £31,500 per annum). He assures us that “this school will add enormously to the community. It will bring employment and the young people will keep the local environment tidy and go out and visit the elderly”. Yeah, sure. Naturally, Seldon compares the scheme to the evacuation of schoolchildren from London during the war – but, as I’ve pointed out, we’re not actually facing an existential threat, and London isn’t being bombed by the Luftwaffe.

Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, talks sense, as usual. He praises Gove’s reforms, but adds: …I don’t think national initiatives should ride roughshod over local concerns. I’m a great supporter of nimbyism, because we should be pleased they are prepared to stand up and fight for something worth defending.”

I’m a nimby to the roots of my being. I choose to live where I do, I pay for the privilege, I don’t wish to be part of any exciting state initiative to help inner-city youngsters – and I don’t see why the people of Stedham should feel any differently. We all make sacrifices for those who are less fortunate than ourselves by paying a ludicrous amount of tax: that’s enough.

The state really isn't your friend.

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