Beetroot Rosti

Made this for posh guests recently. Its beautiful- a lovely, life affirming red (or a bit like a circle of baked blood said one diner, who had three helpings). Hand remain horribly pink for a few days and pee too. But it is v good especially when served with Greek yoghurt with mint, red onions and chopped green chillis mixed in

6 chubby, cooked beetroots ( not with vinegar)

6 equally chubby boiled potatoes ( boile them in their skins and peel)

1 tsp cumin powder

salt, pepper and chilly flakes

4 tbsp Chilli infused olive oil- Waitrose sells this

1 tbsp plain olive oil

2 eggs beaten

.

Grate the beetroots and potatoes

Mix in cumin, salt, pepper and chilli flakes, mix it in well but without completely mashing the veg

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Heat the oil in a large flat pan which can later go into the oven

Press in the mixture and faltten it with a wooden spoon. Try to get it to the edge of the pan

Cook over medium heat without touching it for 11 minutes

Brush olive oil on top and pour over the egg

Bake in the oven for a further 12 minutes or until the egg look cooked.

Serve as a starter or for lunch.

 

 

Muslim Killers in Woolwich

 

On Saturday the postman delivered readers’ letters many of them about the Pakistani groomers and the Muslim slaughterers of soldier Lee Rigby. Some had swastikas, others pictures of Enoch Powell to accompany  words of such odium that it felt as if acid was burning my hands and eyes. Yes, I was distressed, but more than that, filled with red hot fury.  I have written incessantly against the gangs and their sick values, clearly never enough. And how dare they link me to the Woolwich savagery? What’s it got to do with me or the millions of other blameless British Muslims? We hate Islamicist brutes more than any outsiders ever could. They ruin our futures and hopes. And at moments of high tension, the most liberal and democratic of us fantasize about transporting them all to a remote, cold island, their own dismal caliphate  where they could preach to each other and die.

Muslim ‘leaders’, Imams  and those in the public eye feel under pressure to line up and denounce such perpetrators. They do as expected partly to protect Muslims from unwarranted  suspicion and revenge attacks. The response, though understandable, is misguided. This time even Richard Littlejohn, the implacable foe of migrants and minorities, admires the ‘mainstream Muslims’ who have emphatically condemned the killers. If Littlejohn commends these pronouncements,  we must worry.  It is baleful and bigoted to assume that all of us are guilty of complicity unless we stand up and attack those who are ITALS PREVIOS WD guilty. I don’t recall the Irish in mainland Britain being forced into collective denuncations following IRA bomb attacks on civilians and soldiers. Muslims do not expect white Britons to appear on Newsnight and distance themselves from drone massacres of the innocent. So don’t ask of us what is not ever asked of others. And more importantly this confrontation is between us fellow citizens and them, all militants, ideologues, extremists, hardliners and believers who use faith as a weapon of war.

Furthermore, let’s stop going on about what our holy texts say or don’t.  We must focus not on what Islam says but on what too many Muslims do. Some facts are indisputable: around the world one finds disaffected Muslims who are consumed with bloodlust,  who have lost the capacity for dialogue and compromise, who seem to have given up on the best of human virtues- compassion, tolerance, freedom, diversity – and who are disconnected from the most enlightened, earlier Muslim civilizations.  Genuine grievances have mutated into generalised brutishness.

Countless European Muslims know and oppose destructive western policies. But we understand the political contract and work within democratic conventions. The awful truth is that I could never work or write the way I do here in any Muslim country, not even after the Arab Spring.  They would silence me in days, possibly forever.

Un-free and controlled for decades, these nations have yet to truly understand freedom and democratic thought processes. Maybe it takes a long time for this to happen. Resistance by those who do value these is quickly snuffed out. Power is tied to absolute domination and violence; obedience is the norm and a dependency on strong political and religious leadership is passed on from generation to generation. Even when dictatorships are overthrown or Muslims move to proper working democracies, this propensity to rely on strong men remains.

Devious manipulators such as Omar Bakri Mohammed founder of the al-Muhajiroun pack,  his successor Anjem Choudary  ( a smart, British educated lawyer) and Saudi backed mullahs know how easily they can ensnare  young Muslims and turn them. Even the highly educated blindly submit and join the extremist creeds. Read Radical by Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of Quilliam, the think tank which studies radicalisation. He was a crazed, violent Islamicist who, during Mubarak’s time, ended up in an Egyptian prison where inmates were routinely tortured. He was supported by Amnesty and met prisoners who were democrats and liberals. Those experiences enabled Nawaz to free himself from  the British jihadis who had got to him.

The political is also personal. The majority of fanatical followers are messed up in their heads and seem incapable of having fulfilling relationships with women, except that is, their mothers, who usually  spoil them. Their wives and sisters are bullied and ruthlessly dominated, while white females are considered sluts to be exploited. Sexually they take, never share. These dysfunctional males must upset those millions of Muslim men, men like Labour MP Sadiq Khan or James Caan, the Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, who are respectful of females, have open minds and a commitment to law and order.  I see a connection between the violators and possessors of females and religious militants hell-bent on wrecking our society. Their masculinity is noxious, confused, untamed, dangerously rough and dangerously suggestible.

When faced with terrorism, successive governments have focussed on Quran, mosques, sometimes universities and local community henchmen. Hazel Blears when at the Home Office introduced the disastrous Prevent agenda, in effect a policy coercing Muslims to spy on each other. Very Stalinist. Didn’t work. Now Cameron wants to control the availability of Islamicist material on the web. I agree with him but can’t see how that can be done. And the Tory push for more state intrusion into private life will be counterproductive and unacceptable in a free country.

Hitherto ignored is the psychological, interior world of convicted terrorists. Their states of mind should, surely be explored by dispassionate experts. I once proposed to Blears just such a pilot research project  and she was majestically dismissive. New Labour preferred  to send in approved imams to ‘cure’ the prisoners, which sometimes works, but is rudimentary and based on a limited idea of human behaviour.  We need to know about their upbringing in depth. Did they have autonomy or were decisions imposed on them? Were they happy when young? Their self esteem, experiences of racism,  modernity, attitudes to sexuality may provide some answers.  Unless we know them, we can’t change these men. If we don’t change them, no military, intelligence or police interventions will stop the bloody chaos they will continue to inflict. Send in the psychologists for all our sakes.

The Independent 27th May 2013

Ukip: A Malevolent Force

 

Cheeky charmer Jamie Oliver adds his bit to spice up the appeal of Ukip. It pleases him that the party is ‘stirring it up’ though admits he is clueless about its policies and anyway doesn’t really support them. We knew the chef was a keen and sometimes effective do-gooder, but not that he was a political ignoramus. How do you indirectly endorse a political movement without knowing what it stands for? Many voters and media cheerleaders are similarly tickled by Ukip’s idiosyncrasy and ‘pluck’ and believe its dubious claims of originality and antiestablishmentarianism.  A poll by YouGov found only 10% or less backed Ukip because they thought it would run the country well. More than 60% did so to send a message that they were unhappy with mainstream politicians.

Now that the party has done better than expected, all the other political parties are running scared towards it. David Cameron, Ken Clarke and a few others who did valiantly try to condemn or dismiss the crudely right-wing, anti-European maniacs have fallen silent or feel compelled to mouth placatory words which must bitter.

I was on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions this week, broadcast from Keele University in Staffordshire where Ukip got 24% of the vote. I was a little apprehensive of how the audience would react if I spoke up  honestly against this so called breakthrough. The question did come up and I queried some oft quoted statistics. Only 32% of those eligible to vote came out to cast their ballots. 25% of 32% is around 8 percent. So, 92% either didn’t bother at all or did not vote for Ukip. Yet this tiny number is spooking and bullying all the other parties which are allowing themselves to be spooked and bullied. To my astonishment, most of the audience applauded, did so again and again when I defended immigrants and the EU. One of the other panellists was Christine Hamilton. When we had dinner earlier, she was entertaining, warm and funny. Now a member of Ukip, she is an  example of how likeable some of them are. And that may be one of the secrets of their underserved, small surge.

Nigel Farage is public schoolboy, an erstwhile City trader, the sort of chap millions of Britons have come to despise after the financial crash. But with chutzpah, an excellent gentlemen’s outfitter, fair media winds and a disarming smile permanently fixed on his face, he is seen as exemplary, honest, plain speaking, a saviour even though his promises are worth less than the wrapping on his fancy cigars. Trust me, when you disagree with him and no one is watching, that smile turns into a canine snarl and bite. He went for me once on a programme on LBC, his mouth unleashing brutish insults and I threatened to leave the studio unless he apologised. He did apologise behaved tolerably well after that. If journalists probed and contradicted him more we would see the real Farage. But like Boris, he is a media darling, adored, fun and untouchable.

The ugly truth is that Farage and his gang are encouraging the hatred of the outsider,  blaming them for all ills, just as the BNP and NF did in their time. Poor Nick Griffin must be bursting with envy and wrath to see the upstarts winning hearts and minds which recoil from good, honest Fascism. Immigrants and the EU did not create the economic crash and crisis and did not impose painful cuts to benefits; migrants use our services and also work hard to provide those services in the public and private sectors; most pay taxes and are happy that some of the money goes to indigenous Britons who can’t or won’t work. It may be cunning and clever of Ukip to use these recessionary times to whip up animosity against ‘alien’ interlopers. But it is morally repugnant and makes us all unsafe.  Think of how people were incited to turn against those unlike themselves in Bosnia before the war or Germany in the thirties.  Think and be afraid, very afraid.

Let me say, loudly and clearly, that not all the men and women now attracted to Ukip are die hard racists or Fascists. But they must know or need to know that some of the values and people attached to this party are xenophobic, deeply reactionary and libertarian. Sorry, it’s not good enough to say, ‘I voted for them just to show the others’ or ‘I don’t agree with some of their policies but I want them to kick Westminster insiders. My vote is against politics’. These are real statements made to me after the council elections. The first person was a British Asian from Malawi, a businessman who failed to get selected for a seat by the LibDems. The second was a retired pilot, a lonely widower, who spends a lot of time writing furious letters to newspapers, local and national politicians, letters which are unanswered and unacknowledged which makes him more angry. Neither of these men expressed xenophobic views. But they had thrown their vote to a party where those views are held and unchallenged. Yes, I know, they have Jamaican immigrant Winston McKenzie, a former boxer, as a spokesman. He fancies blondes and hates the EU. A perfect mascot.

So let’s check out Ukip’s other, known, policies. Mckenzie thinks gay parenting is ‘unhealthy’ and ‘abuse’; the party wants the UK to be rid of minimum wages and worker protection and  elf&safety rubbish; it does not believe in climate change, want the lowest of taxes and a small state, which means cutting funds for health and education.

This time Ukip was aided and abetted by cowardice, complicity and inertia. Now politicians must find gumption and take on this malevolent force which is exploiting understandable public fears. Journalists too need to take Farage seriously and interrogate him as they do other politicians.  The ultra-regressive Tea Party in the US was seen off by incisive opponents. Ukip can be too and must.

The Independent 13th May 2013

 

 

 

Justice for the Victims of Stuart Hall

 

I have been waiting anxiously for this moment, the moment when Stuart Hall would either be found guilty or innocent of the sexual abuse of young girls. Last year I became personally involved in this saga and that involvement led to the investigation by Lancashire Police which ended with Hall’s confession yesterday. His victims must have feared that with his power and money he would fight their allegations and win. He did initially deny all charges and made statements about his ‘innocence’ and distress at being falsely accused of terrible crimes.  All that posturing is over. What a release that must be for the abused. I feel a sense of relief too.

It all started with an unsigned, anonymous letter sent to me via the Independent several months ago. We journalists and columnists often get missives from readers- not only about the views we express but about their sorrows and misfortunes. These days most such communication arrives via email. But this epistle came by post, in an envelope with a stamp. Perhaps that’s why it stood out.

The story she told cut away the undeclared certainties of life we all take for granted, rely on. She was a ‘shy, intelligent, studious, pretty girl’ young for her years, who was going to go to university one day. He was invited to the school to hand out annual prizes and she was one of the prize winners After the ceremony the head summoned her to say Hall was so impressed with her, he had asked her to visit the local BBC studios. He said she ‘could have a future in television journalism’.

Her parents had had an acrimonious divorce and she didn’t like the new man in her mum’s life so ‘ to have a man of my father’s age take a benevolent interest in me seemed wonderful to a girl of my history’. She went to the studios encouraged by her mum and Head.  And went back again, and once more. He seemed caring and helpful. Then, having groomed her. she alleges, he got her drunk and started the abuse. She kept going back. His mates, including an MP who is now a Peer, she claims, helped Hall with his filthy hobby. The sex acts hurt. Sometimes she bled. She hated it but ‘craved what he gave me in other ways. Attention and a sense of being wanted, something that was signally missing elsewhere in my life. And I felt them that he was affectionate with me. How it makes my skin crawl to write that. Sadly the world is too full of girls (and boys) who are looking for love and find too late they have found sex with a predator instead’.

The woman who wrote all this and more, will, I hope, now finally find some peace. She should be so very proud that decades after being entrapped and abused by a manipulative and famous man, she was able to express her anger, hurt, sense of guilt and betrayal so honestly to this columnist, a stranger. I was deeply touched by her openness and the courage it must have taken to put down on paper what had been done to her: ‘ Why am I writing about this now? Because I was enraged when I saw [Hall] had received his OBE this year. Because it seems that our culture is thinking differently about sexual predators…The furore over Jimmy Savile has spurred me on’ No one did anything back then to stop that celeb, serial abuser. She, I imagine, hoped that Hall would answer for his crimes before he escaped to the other side.

Her sense of urgency and injustice got to me and I knew I couldn’t just file the letter away and let it go. So, I went to my local police station in Ealing one afternoon, sat for almost two hours waiting to hand it in and feeling a bit foolish. The small reception area was crowded that day with victims of robberies and assaults, some addicts and a couple of drunk bores. I almost left a couple of times because it was taking so long and also because I wasn’t sure what they would do with an anonymous letter. Was I wasting police time? They had nothing to go on, just three typed, eloquent pages and a scribbled note at the bottom in black ink, offering to meet up as long as I could guarantee anonymity. But there was no indication of how I could contact her for such a meeting. When, finally, it was my turn, the officer recording the ‘incident’ looked uninterested and slightly peeved. Still, I had been a concerned citizen, done my citizen duty and that, I thought was that.

It wasn’t. A few weeks later I had a call from DC Phill Rukin of Lancashire Police. They wanted to come over to interview me. Hall had not been on their ‘radar’ but after the letter forwarded by Ealing Police, a line of inquiry had been opened up. So they came, two nice gents who asked many questions about the letter and I expect checked out whether I had anything against Hall or was a paranoid fantasist. Stupidly, I had thrown away the envelope which might have given a clue about where the woman lived. From then to now, the DC’s have regularly phoned and updated me on the lines of inquiry, unexpected but welcome courtesy and inclusion. They asked me to put up a call for the woman on my website, which I did. On Thursday Rukin confirmed to me that had they not been sent this letter, Hall would never have been investigated.

Lancashire Police have displayed exemplary professionalism and commitment. They followed a lead that was, at best, slight. More impressively still, the investigating team evidently ignored social status and fame. In times past and even today fame and money can influence law enforcers. Not this time. Police investigators and interviewers also got Hall to accept his crimes and take responsibility, so women abused by him will not have to relive their horrors in court or face hostile questioning. From what I know, I believe they have now found and interviewed the woman who wrote to me. I do hope she was one of the girls Hall now accepts he did abuse.

Finally, I know we journalists are thought wicked and heartless by millions of Britons, and even more so since the hacking and other scandals. But it is heartening that there are readers who trust us and seek our help. Most of us try hard not to break the faith they have in us.

The Independent 3rd May 2013

Stephen Lawrence: Racism Then and Now

Stephen Lawrence was murdered exactly twenty years ago, on the 22nd of April 1993. His parents Doreen and Neville, have since been fighting for justice which came only in 2012, when two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of the murder. Last month, Dobson dropped his appeal, But Norris, son of a known gangster, is still planning to appeal. I’ve known Doreen since 1995 and have seen her change from a bereft, tortured woman into an indomitable campaigner, turning a mother’s undying love into iron resilience. I must pay homage here to another such mother who died last week, Anne Williams, whose son, Kevin was killed in the Hillsborough disaster aged only fifteen. Liverpudlian Williams also fought for truth and justice and mercifully lived to see both. For Doreen there is no closure because others involved in snuffing out her boy’s life are still at large and also because her struggle was and is for racial equality. It was never only about Stephen. Likewise, the 1999 Macpherson inquiry panel which concluded that the killing and police failures were totemic, reflecting the state of race relations in Britain.

Today as they pray for Stephen in a service in St Martin-in-the Fields, we owe it to him to take stock of race in his country today. Are things better or worse than they were then? The question is not answered easily. The Olympics, Danny Boyle inviting Doreen Lawrence to carry the Olympic flag, the easy mingling of the races in our cities, the increase in the number of black and Asian parliamentarians representing Labour and the Conservatives, our multiracial popular culture, the excision of the worst racist terms from public discourse, some non-white individuals reaching the top and the irreversible hybridity of this nation show how far we have come. Britain is seen by most of the world as more open and enlightened than other European countries.  But the progress achieved by anti-racists and equality champions is provoking anger, resistance and new, particular, 21st century forms of nativist xenophobia.

Stephen, if alive today, would have lived in both a better and worse world. He might have become the architect he wanted to be, but on the streets the police would still have seen him as ‘trouble’. He might have faced other dangers, dangers he had never imagined back then.

Arguably the early nineties were more innocent times. There was no Islamicist terrorism, or conspicuously political Muslim revivalism; young black males were not killing each other in dystopian localities; there were no cases of Asian gangs raping young white girls- all of which validate and encourage racist views, perhaps understandably. Furthermore, unlike our hopelessly divided times, white, Asian and black Britons were able to unite against human rights violations; intellectuals like Professor Stuart Hall and activists like Darcus Howe challenged reactionary ideas and false histories, credible research was commissioned on unfair discrimination  and we were allowed to talk about racism.

These days, the last feels like a banned activity. Brainwashed by the politically correct right, white Britons now refuse to contemplate the way race is still a powerful, negative force on these isles. The web is alive with prejudices freely and proudly expressed. The Metropolitan Black Police Association have just declared institutional racism is alive and kicking in the forces. Gove is pushing through an imperialist curriculum, and all three parties are engaged in a dirty war against immigrants. Some public intellectuals impugn incomers for all the nation’s woes and romanticize the imagined, homogeneous past which never was. Prominent atheists proudly vent outrageous hatred of Islam and are extolled. Racism has acquired a patriotic sheen for some and for others is gone, even from memory. At a party to celebrate Any Questions at the BBC last year, I found myself chatting to some grand men, among them Chris Patten. Together they fondly remembered Enoch Powell, exchanged reminiscences. Did they expect me to smile and join in? The Thatcher fest too edited out black experiences. Poet  Linton Kwesi Johnson remembers her as a ‘xenophobe who fanned the flames of racial hatred’ . He wasn’t invited to the funeral, of course.

A new survey of social attitudes by the think tank British Futures apparently claims that there is a big reduction in the number of people who say they believe black and Asian people face discrimination. ITALS LAST 11 wds. What kind of question is that to ask? Especially when the country is impatient  with racial complaints? Vague opinions cannot be reliable indicators of rising or falling discrimination. Last year a OnePoll survey found one on three Britons admitted to being racist. The largest group were over 55 year olds but those in their twenties and thirties were not far behind. Another 2012 study confirmed 87,915 cases of racist incidents in schools. And a nationwide survey found increased racism in Cumbria, Hampshire and other largely white areas and racism declining in London.

Doreen Lawrence blames official anti-immigration rhetoric for growing racial and ethnic intolerance and opposes the current government’s assault on race equality policies.  No one else has her courage and tenacity on these matters. Today as she remembers her son, I hope she also remembers how precious she is to millions of us who will not give up fighting for equality because she doesn’t.

The Independent 22nd April 2013

The Politically Correct, Rabid Right

The Politically Correct Rabid Right

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

On the 30th of January 1978, the day my son was born, Margaret Thatcher charmingly told white TV viewers that their country was in danger of being ‘swamped’ by other cultures. Enoch Powell’s gory warnings about black and Asian immigration  were rebranded and detoxified by the wily, well groomed, Lady Toryand embedded in the nation’s psyche. Her words were calculated and won her populist support and admirers within her party. Sixteen months later she became PM.

In all the miles of newsprint and ceaseless cacophony following her death, no attention has been paid to her supremacist views of Empire ( Bruge Speech, 1992) or the race riots, or the many deaths in custody of black men, or government sanctioned unfair policing, or  her deep hostility to immigrants of colour or concomitant warmth towards white Zimbabweans and South Africans. As blogger Jacqueline Scott, writes: ‘Racism fattened under Margaret Thatcher’, but hush, don’t mention that.  Forgotten too is Thatcher’s vendetta against the GLC and ILEA, institutions which did not fall in line with her little Englandism. The politically correct, radical right has silenced all such talk and much more besides.

Make no mistake, the most intolerant, Stalinist and insistently PC forces today are on the right, not on the so called ‘loony left’. Last week this wing hysterically attacked the Diana Fund for supporting a campaigning pro-immigration organisation. Diana was a friend to the outsider and the despised and yet those she was close to are kicking up about this funding. The same reactionary battalions stopped the BBC from playing a song that legitimately got into the top of the charts, because it ‘insults’ the hallowed Tory matriarch. Most of our newspapers are on the right and they push, sometimes bully broadcasters into that same ideological space. Fearful of bad headlines, the BBC meekly accommodates their propaganda and so the right gets bolder and more demanding.

I was on Channel 5’s Wright Stuff as a panellist all week and expressed unfashionably critical assessments of the Thatcher era, well, because, I am told, we live in a free society. Some of the reactions I subsequently received made me wonder if I should better conceal or disguise my deeply held socialist, anti-racist  views. Walking through Whiteleys, where the programmes are recorded, a group crowded and abused me. Some of their comments were racist, others insulting or filthy. It was horrible. Back home, onto my screen came more from the rabid right PC brigade. They are offended by anything or anyone who disagrees with their views. Dissent, to them, is treason, and an embodiment of the enemy within (Thatcher’s term used for striking miners).

Every day we, the people, are instructed on what we should say, think and feel. To belong, we must not only praise Thatcher for her greatness and femaleness, but also be foolish, doting Royalists, hate the poor, approve of welfare cuts, hate the unions, reject the principle of equality and proclaim immigration as a deadly threat. Thatcher, the Boudicca of the fanatical right reclaimed the kingdom and they remain powerful, unbeatable and unbearable.

The Independent 15th April 2013