At Large

Another Blight on Old Blighty

In the land of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Nanny State.

By 11.19.07

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How melancholy to see the UK racing pell-mell down the various paths of political correctness, with bizarre hate crimes laws that are a frontal attack on free speech and freedom of religion, gun control laws that would make Fidel Castro proud and contribute to crime, a Home Office that requires police to play Mother May I with local imams before enforcing any law in Muslim areas, the leeching of all Englishness from school curricula in the name of multiculturalism, the attempt to banish all religion from the public square. Except Islam of course; they wouldn't dare.

Clearly it's time to change the words of the song. There won't always be an England. There's barely one now.

In addition to the abominations listed above, the Brits have fallen even further down the environmental rabbit hole than America has. The fads and fetishes of the First Church of The End of the World have taken greater hold in the land of the (formerly) stiff upper lip than it has in the land of the still-relatively-free and the home of the Atlanta Braves.

Reflecting Old Blighty's sensitivity to manufactured environmental alarums, New Labour PM Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron spend a good deal of their time trying to out-green each other. This seems to play pretty well with the candle-in-the-wind crowd.

One of the latest leftist social-engineering scams, designed to save the sceptered isle from a real scam, global warming, is a series of "eco-towns" Brown announced last summer. Town councils and developers are invited to submit proposals for five "environmentally-friendly" towns in the south-east of England containing 100,000 new homes to be completed by 2020.

The eco-towns are to be "carbon-neutral," meaning the document-stampers who approve buildings in the town will react to any use of fossil fuel the same way Count Dracula reacted to sunlight and the True Cross. They'll be powered, so the press releases say, by "renewable energy sources" such as solar and wind. Homes will be provided with biomass boilers that don't use fossil fuels.

These approaches are some of the favorite fantasies of enviros, and will doubtless excite their erogenous zones. The only problem is they almost certainly won't work (anyone with even minimal experience of English weather should have enough sense not to bank much on solar), and will leave a lot of disgruntled bird-watchers with only their granola to keep them warm in winter.

Developers have claimed the enviro-pure homes will cost about 40,000 pounds more than traditional homes. There's some resistance among conservative town councils. But in the finest tradition of leftists who know what's good for us, the government has threatened that it will intervene and impose settlements if town councils don't come up with their own proposals.

Another nanny twist on eco-towns is that they will contribute to physical fitness and health. Or at least according to the headline-hungry politicians who are whooping them up. These planned towns, nanny wet-dreams come true, are laid out with homes and shops and schools and parks and other necessities within walking distance of each other. This and biking lanes are to ensure that residents will have little need for the dreaded automobile. This not only saves pollution from autos, but all this walking, the story goes, will lead to a more physically fit citizenry.

Health secretary Alan Johnson rode this hobby horse late last month, plugging the towns as a weapon against obesity, which he says is at crisis levels in England and getting worse. In remarks with a slightly Orwellian odor to them, Johnson crooned that the brave new towns, with their bike paths (Howard Dean take notice) and fitness centers and large parks will "encourage" healthy life styles. Children will be badgered (my word, not his) to play more sports, eat less junk food, and even learn to cook.

Anytime socialists "encourage" certain lifestyles, it's only a matter of time before the laws and apparatchiks are in place to enforce them. The most chilling hint of this certainty came when Johnson said students in eco-towns will be "regularly weighed at school" to make sure they aren't porking up. We can already picture the sorry scene, Comrade Teacher humiliating pudgy little Nigel who is suspected of eating crisps and of not doing the government-approved number of jumping jacks.

These command and control towns give further evidence, as if more were needed, that George Orwell was right. He just got the year wrong. I suggest the first "eco-town" be named Winston Smith Village.

Perhaps another could be named Prince Charles Village. Many of the crack-pot concepts involved in the eco-villages mirror the ideas coming out of the Prince of Wales' think-tank. Hey, when your entire job description is to wear funny clothes and hang around, you have a lot of time on your hands. And on the evidence of his public remarks, Charles is only slightly brighter than his mother's corgis. So why should we be surprised that he comes up with a phantasm like eco-villages?

The land of Magna Carta, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, the Common Law, and some really good local ales deserves better than this. And Americans need to pay attention too. Although politically correct elites here would rather shove hot splinters under their fingernails than admit it, America has inherited most of its political institutions from England, the country that practically invented civil liberties. And we're the better for it. But we can surely add eco-towns to the growing list of English political abominations America is well advised not to import.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.