2 November 2008

Thugs are still out there

Amid the financial doom and gloom, and the ubiquitous focus on recession statistics, it's easy to forget there are dangers elsewhere. The government's higher education minister, David Lammy, warned last week that unless there's a sustained and organised fight against the British National Party, there's a real risk that, come the European elections next year, the BNP could win enough votes to become the British equivalent of Jean Marie Le Pen's Front National in France.

Lammy doesn't have a decent profile and it's no surprise, therefore, that his warning went largely unnoticed. Even claiming that Labour had to wise-up and copy the "grass-roots" strategy of Barack Obama's US presidential campaign, whilst emphasising that the would-be president and himself share Harvard credentials, Lammy's message was a tangential whisper in the party political clamour for economic credibility.

All of which must be delighting the manipulative thugs that continue to try to pass themselves off as a credible party. The BNP's latest bilge attempts to link the claimed reduction in high-level thinking among 14-year-olds to the rise in the ethnic make-up of British teenagers. There's no point in analysing the BNP's failure to understand simple mathematical correlations. Racist dunces often resort to statistics to "prove" their prejudices.

This time it's numbers from the Office of National Statistics on the Third World origins of immigrant children, linked by the BNP school-of-infant-adding-up to a study of teenage mental aptitude by Professor Michael Sayer of King's College London.

The BNP's conclusion? Because "white" pupils are now outnumbered (total junk maths) by Asian and black children, our precious imperial standards are falling.

Lammy saying Labour have "failed" to address white working-class concerns, I can understand. What I can't comprehend is why Professor Sayer isn't hugely outraged at the way the BNP have kidnapped his work, woven selective lifts from his study into its own numerical diarrhoea and, Goebbels-like, conjured up a racist myth.

So where is the measure of more short-attention television programming, computer games and the rest? Where is the multivariate analysis, the simulations and surrogate models that accommodate the dimensionality of what's being looked at? Hell, that sounds like a tough night in for the wooden tops at BNP headquarters.

So let's be careful out there. In between the FTSE and Dow Jones, there's the BNP. As Lammy says, pay attention.

Sunday Herald (Scotland)

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