Tuesday, May 28, 2013

British Leftists ban immigration critic

The Hay literary festival - once described by Bill Clinton as "the Woodstock of the mind" - has been disturbed by a row over a decision not to invite the author of a controversial book about immigration.

David Goodhart, the director of the Demos thinktank and founder and editor-at-large of Prospect magazine may not have been expecting to make a headline appearance, but he was quietly confident that his widely reviewed book would earn him a support slot at the event. However, Goodhart's volume - The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-war Immigration – which has polarised reviewers with its critical appraisal of postwar immigration – left Hay's organiser-in-chief unimpressed.

Peter Florence, co-founder and director of the Hay festival, decided against inviting Goodhart, criticising the book as "sensationalist" in an email to its author. Florence also singled out a 2004 Prospect article on the same subject in which Goodhart had written, "to put it bluntly, most of us prefer our own kind".

"Peter said, 'I stand for pluralism and multiculturalism', and he made it clear that his own personal views made him not want the book at the festival," Goodhart told the Guardian. "He said he had read my original Prospect essay back in 2004 which he didn't like at all - on the grounds, hilariously, that he is half-Italian."

Goodhart added that while he had no problem with Florence's "sort of ultra-liberal, slightly lefty multiculturalist" views, he had been shocked to learn that the book was to be ignored by the festival. "It's probably been more widely reviewed than any non-fiction book so far this year - both favourably and unfavourably," he said, "so when my publisher said there was no interest from Hay I was a bit surprised."

Goodhart questioned whether Florence could continue to exercise the same level of personal control at the growing event. Describing Hay as "still one man's personal fiefdom in some ways, which is a strength when you're creating something," he added: "But I think it's now too big almost for him to run it in that way".

Lord Adonis, the Labour peer and former transport secretary bemoaned the festival's "liberal intolerance" in tweets. "Peter Florence … rejected David Goodhart because he disagrees with him on immigration," he wrote. "How about some free speech at the Hay festival? Extraordinary that Goodhart [was] told his views on migration unacceptable for debate."

The Guardian's enquiries about Goodhart's absence from Hay met with the laconic, emailed reply from Florence: "He was never invited. The book isn't very good."

Florence and his late father, Norman, came up with the idea for the festival around their kitchen table in 1987, and the first Hay festival of literature and arts was held the next year. The annual event, which runs for 10 days from late May, attracts around 80,000 visitors to Hay-on-Wye in Powys, Wales, as well as scores of speakers from the worlds of the arts, science and politics.

Goodhart's book has split the critics. Writing in the Guardian, the playwright David Edgar felt that while many of the author's suggestions were excellent, "The British Dream raises the question as to whether someone who believes in quite so much exclusion and compulsion is any kind of liberal. Not so much 'post' you might say, as 'anti'."

But as far as the Daily Telegraph's Peter Oborne was concerned, the "well-written, thoughtful and exhaustively researched" book was destined to be recognised as "one of the most important contributions to political debate in the early 21st century".

Goodhart, who has attended Hay for the last 15 years, said he was disappointed by the decision as he felt the time had finally come for a calm and reasoned discussion about immigration. Florence's reaction to the book, he said, had been "a real outlier" as the howls of liberal anger that greeted the original article had long since died down. "What I've been saying to people is actually how much better in some ways the debate about all this sort of stuff has got since I wrote my original essay in 2004, which caused a furore," he said. "There was a great cry of pain and anger [from the left] at that time, but my book has been received in a very calm way."

He feels that Florence's reluctance to have him at the festival may reflect what he sees as its current, non-confrontational, attitude. "It's not always universally true, but I think Peter likes to showcase things and people and ideas and he doesn't really like having the clash there on stage, as it were," said Goodhart.

Among the hundreds of people to have appeared at the festival - which has been sponsored by the Sunday Times and the Guardian but is now sponsored by the Daily Telegraph - are Jimmy Carter, Germaine Greer, Desmond Tutu and Hilary Mantel. Although Goodhart will not join the luminaries at the festival proper this year, he has the consolation of appearing at Hay's smaller How the Light Gets In festival of philosophy and music. And, with a bit of luck, controversy might yet erupt in the book capital of the Brecon Beacons.

"I'm doing an event at the Globe, talking about identity politics with Peter Tatchell and George Galloway," he said, adding: "We're probably going to have a bit of a barney."


Australia:  Privacy laws stop cops tracking lawless "refugees"

PRIVACY restrictions are preventing police being told where asylum seekers are living in the community.

The Immigration Department has told a parliamentary committee that "due to privacy reasons", police were not told where boat arrivals on bridging visas are.

More than 10,000 asylum seekers who have been released have had initial security checks, but are yet to undergo screening by ASIO.

Four people in community detention have been charged with animal cruelty, theft and assault, while four on bridging visas have been charged with stalking, custody of a knife, and assaults.

Police have been called to asylum seeker housing five times over assaults from November 2011 to December last year. Four asylum seekers living in the community have since absconded and are yet to be found.

In detention centres across Australia, asylum seekers who have not had their refugee claims processed since the government began a "no advantage" policy in August have been involved in 56 critical incidents and 155 major incidents in two months to October.

Acting Opposition immigration spokesman Michael Keenan claimed police had asked for locations of asylum seekers.

"This is not only because of their responsibilities, but also because asylum seeker families particularly may require protection," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said character checks, consideration of behaviour and co-operation were taken into account before people were released and that they then had to report to the department regularly.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor's spokesman said: "This is lazy, fearmongering journalism, given that less than half of one per cent of people in community detention or on bridging visas have been criminally charged and that people are only released into the community after security checks are completed."

The revelations came as a boat carrying 82 asylum seekers arrived on the Cocos Islands, and another boat carrying 126 people was intercepted off Christmas Island, taking arrivals for May to 2963 and just over 35,000 since Julia Gillard became PM.

Since the start of the year, 10,137 people have arrived, compared with 3428 in the same period in 2012.

Immigration Department Secretary Martin Bowles yesterday told Estimates arrivals this financial year could end up reaching 25,000.

However, the Government has only budgeted for 13,200 people next financial year, in part because only 483 people arrived in the monsoonal month of January.


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