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Mike McNally

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November 28, 2012 - 12:00 am

The term “Orwellian” is overused, but it’s hard to think of a more apt adjective: officials at a left-wing British council have removed three children from their foster parents because of the parents’ political affiliation and unsubstantiated allegations of racism against them.

Social workers from Rotherham council in Yorkshire, which is controlled by the Labour party, removed the three Eastern European children from the foster parents — and from what was by all accounts a stable and loving home — after learning that the couple were members of the right-of-center UK Independence Party, or UKIP. Among other policies, UKIP wants to tighten Britain’s notoriously lax immigration laws.

Council officials said the party was “racist,” and Joyce Thacker, the council’s director of children and young people’s services, said she had to consider the “cultural and ethnic needs” of the children: a baby girl, and an older girl and boy. But the council’s argument is a series of evasions based on a blatant lie. This is a clear case of left-wing officials abusing their power to persecute individuals for holding politically incorrect beliefs.

Race does not play anything like the role in British politics as it does in the U.S., and for the most part the British left has refrained from stooping as low as their American counterparts. But just as Democrats spent the last few years playing the race card to silence critics of President Obama, when it comes to immigration and Britain’s relationship with Europe, British leftists have for years used accusations of racism to smear their opponents and to discredit their arguments.

UKIP is not racist. As a brief visit to its website will confirm, the party campaigns not for an end to immigration, but for an overhaul of the system to end the wave of largely uncontrolled mass immigration that’s transformed large areas of Britain in recent years. It would also like to see Britain leave the European Union, which in recent years has moved from a trading bloc to an increasingly centralized and unaccountable political entity.

Both positions are supported by majorities of the British people.

And both are fiercely opposed by the progressive, statist, bureaucratic liberal-left elite which controls swaths of British public life, and which invariably dominates the social services departments of councils such as Rotherham.

The couple appear to have unimpeachable credentials as foster parents. The husband works with disabled people and was a Royal Navy reservist for more than 30 years. His wife is a qualified nursery nurse. They’ve successfully fostered around a dozen children over a period of several years.

It’s been reported that the boy has been separated from his sisters and placed with a different family. The couple also claim that the children have been placed with white British families, further evidence that the council’s argument about their “cultural and ethnic needs” is a red herring.

Rotherham council has begun an inquiry into the case, and is under growing pressure to reverse the decision. Meanwhile, the row has handed UKIP a public relations coup, just days before a parliamentary by-election (special election in U.S. parlance) in Rotherham, which suggests UKIP may have had a hand in leaking the story.

Both Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour’s national leader Ed Miliband have criticized the decision and affirmed that UKIP is not a racist party. However, both leaders’ sudden sympathy for UKIP and their criticism of overbearing officialdom ring rather hollow. Despite their differences on many policies, both men embody a strain of condescending, progressive, and “modern” thinking that would suggest they have more sympathy with the position of Rotherham council than they’re letting on.

Miliband is the quintessential modern leftist, and came to prominence in the Labour government that under Tony Blair was largely responsible for inflicting mass immigration, multiculturalist dogma, and political correctness on Britain. But with Labour losing white working-class voters to UKIP — and in the north of England in particular — he’s been forced to adopt a very different and thoroughly unconvincing tune, suggesting that his party made mistakes on immigration in the past.

Cameron is in an even more awkward position. In 2006, shortly after becoming Conservative leader and keen to move his party to the center and to rid it of the “nasty” label it had been stuck with by its political opponents and sections of the media, he notoriously described UKIP members as “fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists.”

But the Conservatives too have lost supporters to the party, and UKIP’s share of the vote in the 2010 general election is thought to have cost the party as many as 21 seats and thus an overall majority in the House of Commons. With the Tories now trailing Labour in the polls, many Conservative MPs have been urging Cameron to move to the right on both immigration and Europe, and the idea of an electoral pact between the parties is being floated.

Amid the political fallout from the Rotherham case, it’s important not to lose sight of who the real victims are: three vulnerable children, desperately in need of love and stability, who have been wrenched from parents who were providing both.

While the council’s decision to remove the children is a chilling assault on freedom of thought and political belief, it’s also dreadful policy in practical terms. Britain is facing an adoption crisis. In 2010, just over 3,000 children were adopted, out of more than 65,000 in the care system, with the rest shunted between foster parents or languishing in children’s homes. The head of a leading children’s charity has warned that under the draconian rules imposed by social services departments, most parents wouldn’t be allowed to adopt their own children.

The government has proposed legislation that would prevent social workers from taking ethnic and cultural factors into account when placing children for fostering or adoption. But controversies such as the one unfolding in Rotherham can only discourage prospective parents from coming forward.

You get the distinct impression that fanatics like Joyce Thacker and her colleagues would rather half the children in Britain were raised by the benevolent and right-thinking state than by any parent — however responsible and loving — who dares to deviate from the party line. It’s difficult to imagine a more cruel and perverse manifestation of “progressive” left-wing thinking.

But by handing a moral victory and acres of publicity to the very party whose rise they most fear, and by acting in a manner so indefensible that even the leaders of their own party have abandoned them, they have hopefully inflicted lasting damage on their brand.

Mike McNally is a journalist based in Bath, England. He posts at PJ Tatler and at his own blog Monkey Tennis, and tweets at @notoserfdom. When he's not writing about politics he writes about Photoshop.
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