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Eye on the News

Peter Whittle
Muzzled Britain
Running afoul of political correctness in the U.K. is increasingly costly.
9 January 2013

A disturbing example of Orwellian thought-crime recently caused some consternation in Britain. A married couple in the northern English town of Rotherham, who had foster-parented three migrant children—one a baby—lost the kids to the local Labour authority because they were members of the small but growing U.K. Independence Party. The UKIP advocates for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and for a restrictive immigration policy.

There was no indication that the couple, who had a history of successful fostering, was doing anything other than providing a stable and happy home for these children. The Rotherham council based its decision solely on the foster parents’ UKIP membership and hence their perceived views. Joyce Thacker, the Rotherham Borough Council’s head of children’s services, unrepentantly defended the decision. “The children were from EU migrant backgrounds and UKIP has very clear statements on ending multiculturalism, which might be sensitive to these children,” she said. The strong implication was that the foster parents were racist and held views that the council considered “unacceptable.”

What began as a small local story soon attracted broader attention. Michael Gove, a conservative cabinet minister in the coalition government, called the council’s decision “indefensible,” and the leader of the parliamentary Labour opposition, Ed Miliband, quickly distanced himself from its actions. The council is currently holding an inquiry; the foster parents may sue over what they say are the council’s allegations that they leaked confidential information about the children. For the time being, the children have not been returned to their foster parents. Whatever the eventual outcome, the Rotherham Borough Council clearly felt justified in its action. Local politics in Britain remain mired in political correctness and a stubborn adherence to the multiculturalist creed.

Meanwhile, on the heels of the foster-parent controversy, the UKIP went on to finish second in two local by-elections, one in Rotherham itself. In securing its best-ever electoral results, the party has broken through to a wider public consciousness. The UKIP now regularly outpolls the ailing Liberal Democrats (the governing coalition’s junior partner) in national opinion surveys. The party’s main raison d’être might be British withdrawal from the E.U., but voters are drawn to it for other reasons, notably their alarm at current immigration policy—London has, for the first time in its long history, become minority-white—and dissatisfaction with an atmosphere in which free speech is becoming gradually constricted. The UKIP also appeals to Conservative Party supporters exasperated with the Tories’ performance to date and with their apparent devotion to such causes as gay marriage, which many see as a distraction from more pressing issues.

The British, it is fair to say, are increasingly at a loss as to what they can say, or indeed think, without risking some form of retribution, especially on the subject of immigration. A form of cultural pressure has proven remarkably successful here in quashing any debate that falls outside “acceptable” norms. The Rotherham foster-parent case is a particularly vivid example of the efforts of the politically motivated to render opposing viewpoints beyond the pale.

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