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'White flight' increasing


'White flight' increasing, race chief says
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 2:29am GMT 16/01/2008

The flight of the white middle classes from the inner cities is accelerating, the Government's race relations chief has said.

Trevor Phillips said so-called ''white flight" - an American phenomenon now increasingly seen here - was deepening racial segregation.

Mr Phillips has warned in the past of the growing polarisation of the country along ethnic lines.

But his use of the emotive term ''white flight" will fuel the controversy triggered by the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester.

He said last week some Muslim enclaves were "no-go areas" for Christians and there was a need for greater integration.

Mr Phillips, who chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the Bishop was right to raise the issue because white families were moving out of areas with high ethnic minority populations.

Interviewed on Radio Four's Today programme, he said: ''There are areas in which there is no contact or very little contact between different ethnic and cultural groups.

"Nobody is putting up walls and gates but we all know that in virtually every big city there are places where different kinds of people feel uncomfortable, whether that is Asians in so-called white areas or white people in so-called black areas."

He added: "We know that white flight is accelerating. That schools - we know this from studies done by Bristol University - are becoming more segregated than the areas they sit in. So there is a phenomenon we have to deal with and I think that the Bishop of Rochester was right to raise this."

The term "white flight" was coined in 1960s America to describe the emergence of inner city ghettos.

However, Government ministers have preferred to refer to it as ''churn" and to attribute the movement of people to house price fluctuations.

A survey conducted by the old Commission for Racial Equality in 2006 found that a quarter of Britons wanted to live in an all-white area.

The movement has been especially notable in London, which has always seen a big turnover of population, and is now witnessing unprecedented movement.

Last year, nearly 245,000 people left inner boroughs for the suburbs, rural areas, or new lives abroad.

The movement has a bigger impact in northern cities where communities already live "parallel lives".

As a consequence they become "shut off" and vulnerable to political and religious extremism.

Research by Migrationwatch suggests movement within Britain is mainly from areas of high ethnic minority population to those with predominantly white populations.

Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, praised Mr Phillips for confronting the evidence of "white flight".

"This is another courageous contribution from Trevor Phillips, who is clearly prepared to face the facts about the current strains in our society," he said.

"We would add - although he does not - that massive levels of immigration are a significant factor in this."

Is it any wonder people are fleeing London?


Is it any wonder people are fleeing London? By Jan Moir
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 16/01/2008

In a north London suburb last week, a schoolgirl was beaten, gang-raped and then had drain-cleaning fluid poured on her body apparently to destroy DNA evidence. In the eternal cesspit of senseless urban crime, I feel that a dreadful nadir of sorts has been reached, a benchmark of slaked lust and casual, sadistic cruelty.

Police sources say the 16-year-old will never fully recover from the injuries caused by the caustic soda and, at the time of writing, she remains under heavy sedation in a burns unit, fighting for her life.

One could weep an ocean for this young woman, her life ruined by these savages, who hunted in a pack like animals and dragged her to an empty house, caring nothing for her wellbeing or future.

Drain cleaner? The callous premeditation is shocking, and underlines the fact that some of the rootless delinquents who roam the London streets are now scraping the bottom of the barrel of humanity.

I'm almost embarrassed to say that the attackers have been described as "five black youths", in case you think I'm being racist in highlighting this crime.

Yes, these are the peculiar times we live in, particularly in a week when Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has pointed out that "white flight is accelerating" as Britain becomes increasingly polarised along ethnic lines.

Following the controversy started by the Bishop of Rochester, who said that some Muslim enclaves were "no-go areas" for Christians, it all seems to suggest a country that is becoming increasingly fragmented; a patchwork of rigidly delineated little pockets of race and religion, knots of unyielding humanity who just can't rub along with each other.

This is not a Britain many of us would care to recognise, or even want to live in, although it is true that certain sectors of the middle class are fleeing from inner London like pashmina-wrapped lemmings, desperate to escape the creeping spread of urban decay.

Last year, nearly a quarter of a million decent, law-abiding citizens packed their bags and left the capital for good, seeking what they hope will be a better life elsewhere. They moved to outer boroughs, other city suburbs, rural areas, abroad, the back end of beyond, anywhere but here.

While their fairytale, roses-around-the-door belief in the safety of the countryside and the romantic ideal of a thatched cottage for two is touching, it does point to an underlying urban unease.

I would rather take my chances in the city than the country, but one can hardly blame them for wanting to move.

Elsewhere in London this week, a medical student was stabbed to death in a row over an orange in a Brixton fruit shop. A pupil who was expelled for allegedly having a knife took his school to the High Court. And about the time most of us were sitting down to dinner, watching The Bill on television or putting the children to bed, a teenage girl underwent an unimaginable ordeal in an ordinary suburban street.

What is going to happen to those of us left to live here if youths across the city continue to feel quite comfortable and confident in running amok? That's before you even factor in the older, more professional criminal gangs from more than 25 countries, who operate prosperous drug trafficking, people smuggling, prostitution, money laundering and fraud rackets on the capital's streets.

London is a welcoming city, where home-grown and particularly international criminal networks are flourishing nicely. Somewhere in the city, a great termite nest of law-breaking and corruption grows by the day, nourished by immigrants, some of them illegal, from Algeria, Nigeria, Jamaica and Pakistan, among others.

Is it racist to point that out, too? I don't know any more. All I know is that London has room to absorb them all, particularly as so many of its citizens have recently left in a hurry. And while cosy family evenings by the fire remain one of the few benefits of a wet British winter, how alarming that fewer and fewer people feel safe doing this inside their own homes.

Victory in fight to keep imperial measurements


Victory in fight to keep imperial measurements
By Sophie Borland
Last Updated: 2:24am BST 12/09/2007

Britain can carry on using imperial measurements such as pints, pounds and miles, the EU Commission has ruled.

Europe's Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said it was time to end a "pointless battle" after decades of wrangling between London and Brussels over pressure to switch to the metric system.

Imperial weights and measures now face no further threat from Brussels: "It is entirely up to the British Government whether to keep pints and feet and inches, and the whole miles system, but as far as the Commission is concerned there is not now and never will be any requirement to drop imperial measurements," said the Commissioner.

The decision comes after years of disputes between the Government and officials in Brussels over plans to bring in metric units in-line with the rest of the Europe.

The country has long sought to keep its traditional units that had date back to the Middle Ages despite constant attempts by the European Union to change the law.

Since 1995 all packaging has had to display metric units but in order to appease the British public, imperial measurements were also allowed to be shown alongside.

Britain had been due to go completely metric in 2010 and as of January 1 of that year it would have become illegal for all shops to display the likes of pints, ounces and pounds.

A decree published today however will confirm that imperial measurements of distance and weight will be able to be continued to be used indefinitely.

It follows a consultation carried out by the European Commission that found that the imperial system would not cause any harm to the single market, the trading agreement that covers the 27 member states of the EU.

Gunther Verheugen, the Commissioner for the Single Market is expected to confirm the ruling later today.

Insisting that Britain’s traditional ways had never been targeted, he said: "Let’s get one thing straight from the off.

"Neither the European Commission nor any faceless "Eurocrat" has or will ever be responsible for banning the great British pint, the mile and weight measures in pounds and the ounces.

"These imperial measures form the part of the traditions that are the very essence of the Britishness that all Europeans know and love."

It is thought that one of the factors that helped sway the decision was that European industry needed to sell to American markets which would not be happy importing products only bearing metric weights and measures.

The move has been welcomed by the so-called Metric Martyrs, the campaigners who have long fought to keep the likes of pints, ounces and pounds.

The most famous of these was Steve Thoburn, a greengrocer who worked at a local market in Sunderland who gained a criminal conviction in 2001 by breaching the Weights and Measures act by selling bananas by the pound.

He became a national hero but died suddenly in 2004 following a heart attack.

Leigh Thoburn, his widow, has demanded that he be given a pardon.

Neil Herron, campaign director of the Metric Martyrs, welcomed the news today but said he would be continuing the fight to clear Mr Thoburn's name.

Mr Herron, from Sunderland, said: "At last someone has exercised an ounce of common sense but the disgrace is that it has had to come from Brussels and not Westminster.

"It has taken seven-and-a-half years to finally prove what everyone in this country - apart from the politicians - realised was nonsense."

Today's Commission announcement says both Britain and Ireland can continue using imperial measures.

However, unlike the British, the Irish have already fully embraced metrication, with no public pressure to preserve pints, ounces or miles. Ireland ditched miles and adopted kilometres in the mid-1990s, despite retaining right-hand drive cars and driving on the left.

The 10-week consultation with industry, traders and consumer groups which resulted in today's decision was carried out earlier this year.

'I thought my baby was a monster'


'I thought my baby was a monster'

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 03/12/2007

What happens when a mother feels nothing for her newborn? Glenda Cooper meets the women who had to be shown how to bond

It should have been one of the happiest days of Zoe Hicks's life. Her baby, Izzy, who had spent a month in special care after being born premature, was finally coming home. The whole family had gathered to celebrate; Zoe herself could not stop crying.

"Everyone assumed it was because I was so happy," recalls Zoe, 29, from Evesham in Worcestershire. "But I just wanted to run back inside the hospital and leave her there. I didn't want to take her home. I didn't think I could ever love my baby."

Zoe had had a trouble-free pregnancy and labour with her first daughter, Xara, born four years previously, but with Izzy it was a very different story.

In April 2006, when she was 34 weeks pregnant, Zoe had to have an emergency caesarean after scans showed Izzy was failing to grow in the womb.

She was born weighing just 3.5lb. "I didn't think she looked like a baby - I thought she looked like an alien," says Zoe of the first time she saw her daughter in an incubator. "I felt numb.

Everyone said she looked beautiful and I was looking at her thinking, 'No, she's horrible.' I just felt nothing towards her."

Because Izzy was so premature, Zoe and her partner Dave were only allowed limited time with her in intensive care, and Zoe had to express milk rather than breastfeed. "Everyone assumed I would be upset I couldn't hold her more, but I didn't want to."

When Izzy was allowed home, the situation was no better. "I was like a robot. If someone else was there, I would run and pick Izzy up if she was crying and try to look as if I loved her.

When I was on my own, though, I would leave her to cry. I thought she was a monster."

Zoe is not alone in failing to bond with her baby. But such is the taboo surrounding these problems, many women are reluctant to seek help, even though research suggests up to one in 10 suffer postnatal depression.

The majority of these, according to psychotherapist Dr Amanda Jones of London's Anna Freud Centre, which specialises in the well-being of children, will fail to form an attachment with their baby. While most will go on to do so within a couple of months a minority, says Jones, will never bond - unless they are given professional help.

Zoe is one such woman. She heard about Jones's programme when Izzy was five months old, at a time when she was taking anti-depressants. The scheme currently receives 100 referrals from GPs per year.

Women are usually recommended anti-depressants or cognitive behavioural therapy (commonly six sessions aimed at changing ways of thinking and behaving) by their GPs.

Jones believes that this is not enough; her therapeutic sessions try to examine causes of the emotional breakdown, and the number of sessions vary from family to family (Zoe had 40 sessions). "We believe we help the majority of mothers who see us," says Jones.

"It is always very difficult to talk about cost when it comes to preventative health care, but studies have shown that a child who is anti-social can cost social services £100,000 by his 18th birthday. This isn't a quick-fix solution but we believe it can make a real difference."

Jones prefers the term "emotional breakdown" to "postnatal depression", believing it more accurately describes the range of symptoms a mother showing no affection to her child can experience, resulting, at worst, in harming him or her.

Her concern is also for the babies themselves, which may become withdrawn and fretful and fail to thrive.

As a result, she practises psychodynamic parent-infant psychotherapy: mother and baby are treated together, says Jones, as it reveals more quickly if there is a problem with the mother-child bond.

The centre, along with a north London mental health trust, is one of only a handful to offer this therapy, and claims 85 per cent of mothers see an improvement in their relationship with their child as a result.

Elsewhere, less than half of mental health trusts have a perinatal unit, according to a 2006 report by the mental health charity Mind, and 75 per cent have no specialist mother and baby units or access to them.

Through the sessions, Zoe talked about her long-standing fears of having a clingy child - fears that had been exacerbated by seeing a premature Izzy weak and vulnerable in her incubator.

It became clear these fears related back to Zoe's own childhood - the so-called "ghost in the nursery" in which an unresolved relationship with a parent rears its head in later life.

Zoe had gone to live with her grandmother at the age of 12 because of her mother's drinking. "I'd never had a positive relationship with my own mother," says Zoe. "I'd had to look after myself.

I realised I was terrified of anyone being dependent on me as a result." The problem had been masked with her first daughter, who was born healthy and appeared self-sufficient.

"I often speak to the mothers through the baby," explains Jones. "For example, with Zoe I would say to Izzy, 'I think your mother feels very alone.' It helped Zoe to articulate what she needed to say - that she felt that Izzy was a monster.

And by talking to the baby, you are indicating to parents that they can be involved with the baby, too." Jones also films mothers and babies together and then plays back the video so the mothers can see how and when they are failing to respond to their babies.

"What I look for," explains Jones, "is whether a baby is avoiding looking at her mother's face and whether there is eye contact. That's the main clue.

Other symptoms can be lack of curiosity about the world, or having a food disorder - such as regurgitating their food or not eating well. Speech delays and separation anxiety are also common."

Given the propensity of mothers to deny problems, having the baby in the room can also reveal the mother's feelings towards her child. "With Zoe, I could see instantly that she didn't want to touch Izzy," says Jones.

Jones sees the mothers and children she treats once a week for an hour and a half therapy session. "Mothers must feel safe to express to me whatever they want," Jones says. "These are things that they have often kept down for a long time. There can be a lot of emotional anger."

There certainly was for 22-year-old Sophie from Hertfordshire, who had, through failed contraception, found herself pregnant with twins at 21. Like Zoe, she gave birth prematurely and her daughters Mia and Gracie were put in intensive care.

Sophie managed to hold Mia the first night; she was not allowed to hold Gracie until the next day. "Her heart rate became unsettled," says Sophie, "and I thought, 'She just doesn't like me.'

" She found it more difficult to care for her, often leaving her to scream, than she did the more placid Mia, and by the time Jones saw her it was clear there was a problem. "Sophie was scared of Gracie," says Jones. "We can see the power a tiny baby has to terrify her mother."

Over time, Sophie came to realise that she was confusing her feelings for her mother - who had physically assaulted her during her childhood - with her feelings for Gracie. By the end of her treatment, Sophie announced: "I can't imagine feeling anything but overwhelming love for [my daughters] now."

For Zoe, the first turning point was more dramatic. When Izzy was seven months old she had to go into hospital for a hernia operation. "It was a big test," says Zoe. "I held her as the anaesthetic was given and watched her fall asleep in my arms.

I cried and cried - it was like something was released. The fear I was feeling was what any mother would feel seeing their child go under anaesthetic.

Before, I was terrified I wouldn't feel that way. Now, if someone says 'Isn't Izzy beautiful?', finally I can agree."

Mummy wars


Mummy wars: maternal instinct versus doctors’ diktats
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 12/11/2007

Whether it’s knowing if you are doing the right thing during pregnancy or deciding how best to care for your new-born baby, there has never been a time of greater anxiety for mothers-to-be. Rachel Halliwell explores the taboos of breast-feeding, while expectant mum Rowan Pelling warns against paying too much attention to dietary advice

The other day, as I pushed my little girl Bridie around in a supermarket trolley, she began prodding at my chest and chanting, mantra-like, "milk" at the top of her voice.

"No way," I said. "You'll have to wait until we get home." Turning away in a huff, my daughter refused to look at me again until we reached the biscuit aisle, leaving me to ponder how I had come to be the very creature I used to ridicule - a long-term breast-feeder.

Bridie is 17 months old. A year ago I baulked at the idea of breastfeeding a child of this age. A woman who breastfed for more than 12 months, I maintained, was doing it for her own needs, and really needed to let go.

The benchmark for breastfeeding turning from natural to weird was, I felt, when a child - with teeth - started trying to help itself. So, as someone who negotiates feeds with my toddler in the middle of Sainsbury's, I have become, by my own definition, decidedly odd.

Meanwhile, my daughter shows no sign of wanting to come off my breast, and in a shameless volte face I'm not remotely inclined to make her. If anyone asks when I plan to stop, as if I'm hooked on fags or drink too much gin, I can't put a timescale on it.

When my older girls, Bronte, 12, and Merrily, nine, were this age they were happily taking their milk from a cup, having been weaned at six months.

It was what my friends did; it was, we thought, what we were supposed to do. When we asked our health visitors if it was OK to stop, they patted us on the back for having breast-fed for so long. We should be proud of the wonderful start we had given our babies, they said. There was no suggestion we ought to carry on.

Actually, anyone who did was whispered about, and considered a bit renegade. "Who were they trying to impress?" we muttered. Surely they were taking this earth mother thing a bit far?

Even when Bridie was born, I only planned to breastfeed her for six months, which is in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. But as the months flew by I started to feel genuine sadness at the prospect of not breastfeeding any more.

I'd already decided Bridie would be my last baby. Taking her off my breast seemed to mark the end of my childbearing days. So, when six months became seven, then eight, then nine, and she showed no sign of wanting to come off me, I did nothing to project her towards what I once viewed as a goal.

I'm lucky, in that my husband, Carl, is very pro-breastfeeding. He says that when Bridie stops we won't have a baby in the house anymore, which makes him sad.

But not everyone sees it that way. One of my friends, who happily sat with me when I nursed Bridie as a newborn, openly admits that she would cringe if I fed her in front of her now. Pushed for a reason, she says that she views breasts as fundamentally sexual objects. "Seeing a toddler feeding off them is just weird," she says.

It's that commonly found attitude that means I'd rather feed Bridie in a toilet cubicle, than at a restaurant table. This exasperates my husband, who regards breastfeeding as one the most natural and beautiful of acts between mother and child.

Admittedly, I sometimes yearn for a weekend away, alone with my husband. Breastfeeding gets in the way of that.

And Bridie goes through periods when she wakes in the night, and will only settle if I feed her.

Occasionally she really plays up, and starts shouting for milk, night after night, on the hour every hour. Moments like that make me start to feel like she's pushing her luck.

Then again, I find breast-feeding a wonderful source of comfort when she's tired or unwell. It has a hypnotic effect on us both, recharging our batteries so we can take on the rest of the day.

Detractors claim that extended breast-feeding makes a child clingy. Yet I think it helps my daughter feel secure. She's a supremely confident, and outgoing little girl.

The fact that new research shows that breastfeeding boosts a child's intelligence has convinced me to let Bridie self-wean from me, which generally happens at around the age of two-and-a-half.

Now, when people ask me whether I still breastfeed Bridie to satisfy my needs or hers, I am compelled to say both. And I add that no one can force a baby to breastfeed – they will do it only for as long as they want to or are allowed.

Babies are many years off developing the social graces that will make them accept something they don't really want, for fear of causing offence – however bright the breast-milk they take from their mothers might make them.

Japanese Empress who dreams of being invisible


Japanese Empress who dreams of being invisible

By William Langley
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 20/05/2007


Glimpsed through screens of knotted willows listing beside lily ponds filled with ornamental carp, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, (the 284-acre grounds of which were estimated, during the last Japanese property boom, to be worth more than all the real estate in London) offers a reassuringly expensive image of the world's oldest monarchy.

Inside, the mood is less promising. The talk in the palace is of crisis, and a whiff of despair hangs in the air. This is the home of ageing Emperor Akihito and his wife, Michiko, the beautiful, accomplished commoner whose arrival in the imperial family more than 40 years ago was supposed to herald a new age of modernity. Instead, as Michiko ruefully reflected last week, on the eve of her first official visit to Britain, those dreams have been crushed by the forces of tradition and secrecy.

The 72-year-old Empress is a broken butterfly. "It has been," she said during a rare, and carefully controlled, news conference, "a great challenge to get through each and every day with my sorrow and anxiety."

The grim picture of Michiko's life inside the palace has taken years to leak out. Even to travel into Tokyo she must seek permission 14 days in advance. In deference to protocol she must change her kimono three times a day, keep her eyes lowered, and walk three steps behind her husband. She has no money of her own, or even a telephone on which she can make private calls. It was only five years ago that she was first allowed to travel abroad without the Emperor.

Not that Akihito is a monster. Far from it. A shy, bookish, amateur biologist, author of a noted work on goby fish, the Emperor has, himself, been royally squashed by the real power at the court, the Imperial Household Agency, a 1,200-strong, inscrutable secretariat ferociously wedded to its ancient ways. "They are a set of bureaucrats," says Professor Jeffrey Kingston, a history lecturer at Tokyo's Temple University, "whose job is to keep the family on a tight reign, and ensure that all the members live according to the agency's dictates."

The IHA, its outlook and allegiances little changed from the Shogun era, remains firmly of the view that royal women belong in the background; their purpose to raise heirs and offer occasional, decorative reminders of their existence on ceremonial occasions. So little information is released about them that when Empress Nagako, widow of the late Hirohito, died aged 97 in 2000, millions of Japanese were unaware that she was still alive.

Although Japan has had several ruling empresses in the past, all were, essentially, regents. "They were either widowed or unwed," says Hidehiko Kasahara, professor of Constitutional Law at Keio University, "and the throne did not pass to their children, but reverted, as soon as possible, to the male line. The rule of male supremacy has been absolutely fundamental."

It was into this world that Michiko Shoda, eldest daughter of a wealthy flour miller, arrived in 1959. She was the first commoner ever to marry into the imperial family, and, for all the attractiveness and good intentions she brought to the court, has never been allowed to forget it. Akihito met her at a tennis match and fought for years to persuade his parents to accept her. Even when the marriage was agreed, Nagako appears to have given her daughter-in-law hell, and the stiffer element within the IHA never sought to disguise its contempt for her.

She was well-educated, with a degree in English literature, and a passion for books that had a led her to a close - very close it has been suggested - friendship with the controversial novelist Yukio Mishima, who later committed ritual suicide with a samurai sword. Yet her real offence was to represent the prospect of change in a court packed with people who saw no need for it. "After I married," explained Michiko last week, "I experienced difficulties in my new life, amid many demands and expectations. I never expressed it in terms of pressure. I just felt sad and sorry for not living up to people's expectations." Although she spoke from what appeared to be a prepared script, the candour and poignancy of her words was unmissable. At one point, Michiko told of her longing for an invisibility cloak, a common feature in Japanese folk tales, that would free her from the confines of the palace, "and I would walk through the railway station, then go to Kanda-Jimbocho [an area of Tokyo noted for its bookshops], and browse as I did when I was a student."

Touching as all this was, it also hinted at the naivety that has dogged Michiko throughout her time as Empress. Akihito apparently promised her that her role would be brought up to date, but she seems never to have asked herself, or him, how, or even wondered whether her husband was up to taking on the redoubtable IHA and its quasi-spiritual attachment to the past.

Japan's royal family can trace its lineage back 25 centuries through 126 generations, "almost literally," says Kasahara, "into the mists of time". Britain's monarchy is little more than an upstart by comparison, and even in the 900 years since the semblance of a unified throne was established by William the Conqueror, the crown has passed through several different families.

After Japan's defeat in the Second World War, the American occupying authorities were inclined to abolish the monarchy entirely, but were persuaded that to do so would demoralise a beaten and traumatised nation beyond endurance. A compromise was reached whereby, in exchange for the Emperor's renunciation of his claim to divinity and the disbandment of the lesser aristocracy, the Chrysanthemum Throne would be left intact. The IHA accepted the deal reluctantly, amid mutinous mutterings and with a determination that there would be no more concessions to progress. Certainly none to an upstart miller's daughter with no drop of royal blood.

Sadly for Michiko and the other women of the court, the world has changed around them. Modern Japan, taking its cues from the West, has lost much of its deference to the imperial family; the press routinely reports and even criticises the royals' everyday activities, and the days when a photograph of a prince brushing a strand of his wife's hair away from her eyes could be suppressed on the grounds that it was suggestive of intimacy are gone. Yet the refusal to evolve is creating profound stresses within the court, as a new, reformist faction under Akihito's heir, Crown Prince Naruhito - whose own wife, Crown Princess Masako, has been plagued by depression - attempts to break the power of the IHA.

Michiko's life, as she barely began to explain last week, has been a sad one. She has had three children, and is broadly popular with her husband's 127 million subjects, yet the bright, beautiful girl who, on the day of her marriage was bathed by handmaidens in sacred water and wrapped in a 16-layer silk kimono, and showered with petals as she crossed the palace bridge, is now, in the words of a recent biographer, "a stick-thin, grey-haired wraith".

A few years ago she recalled a childhood story of a snail that carried its sorrows in its shell. "It took its tale of woe to a friend," she said, "but the other snail said it was not alone, and its shell, too, was heavy with sadness, and all the other snails it spoke to said the same thing. And so the little snail came to realise that everyone had to bear their own sorrows, and I must bear mine."

The power of the postcode


The power of the postcode
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 13/09/2007

There's no lottery about postcodes. It is a precise ... and revealing ... science, writes Jasper Gerard

It's in the DNA of the British to keep up appearances. Even the Queen patches her carpets.

Meanwhile, the middle class kits itself out from Boden clearance sales and supplements the weekly shop in Waitrose with a crafty whizz round Lidl.

But postcodes, we now learn, strip away our pretence and lay bare just how smart we really are. An Englishman no longer gives away his life story by opening his mouth, but by opening an envelope marked with that telltale code.

How long you are put on hold is now determined by it. Whenever some call centre operative from Bangalore asks for your postcode, he will have "frighteningly accurate" information about your salary, credit rating, property value, hobbies, relationships, holidays, political affiliations, even what TV shows you watch, your interest in current affairs, what newspaper you read, which websites you check.

CCTV cameras may document where you are through the day, but now companies can instantly summon an image of how you live - thanks to your postcode.

And this will not be some generalised punt, such as that if you live in Gloucestershire you are probably gin and Jag, into wife-swapping and with a weakness for flashing the cash. It will be detailed, about you and your most immediate neighbours.

Your friends think you are swanky to strut around in Manolos, but you know they are hand-me-downs from your sister who found they gave her blisters. And guess what? Your new friend from Bangalore knows that, too - my dear, he can tell instantly that anyone down your street could barely afford Russell & Bromley.

Contrary to popular myth, there is no lottery about postcodes: the richer you are, the smarter your area and the more attractive you are to companies desperate to flog you stuff. So far from being a lottery, it is an increasingly precise science.

Professor Roger Burrows, who this week presented a paper on postcode profiling at the British Association Festival of Science in York, says: "In some call centres, a message will flash up 'wealthy customer, handle with care'." And the intelligence is freely available: "Everyone can access information about others in the country based on their postcode."

Employers and dates already scour Facebook for background, but you can edit that information. There is no such protection from other websites that publish what you - poor, naïve soul - might consider "private". I've just had a gander, and I'm reeling from the avalanche of detail cascading down after a few clicks.

Check out peeping toms will be in paradise. Everything you ever wanted to know about your neighbours and much more is there. Are they, it asks, "Sun readers or Guardianistas?" It's like curtain-twitching, just more scientific.

My Kentish village (TN8) is described in detail. I am, apparently a "type 3" - that is, a commuter who lives in a desirable shire village whose income is "very high" (open to debate, I fear). But I am also told my postcode's average wage, how much nearby houses have sold for - and even that three folk nearby claim the Jobseeker's Allowance. Those of us with jobs are, I learn, "highly astute" (don't laugh) senior managers and work-from-homers who shop online and are into fine art, opera, the National Trust and The Daily Telegraph. I learn that my neighbours are charitable, Christian, married (some for the second time), and are also getting on a bit. It doesn't tell me if they are swingers, but I suspect plenty of other websites will.

And then there is, which tempts me to snoop around the postcodes of famous people. The average price of a semi in David Cameron's West Kensington (W10), I discover, is a perky £2,943,752, and his neighbours mostly cycle to work - though it fails to tell me if their chauffeurs also drive behind. Charlotte Church's neighbours in Cardiff, by contrast, read mid-market tabloids, earn between £10,000 and £15,000, and really do shovel muck for a living - which might explain why the language of the "voice of an angel" borders on the agricultural.

Who you happen to live next door to really matters, and not merely because their Leylandii block your light: if one of them has a dodgy credit rating, this will limit your access to loans as financial-service companies calculate risk by the proportion of local households that have defaulted.

Barclaycard has stopped direct delivery to certain postcodes. A mail-order firm has cut fraud losses by 80 per cent through extra checks on orders from just 17 per cent of postcodes. It makes financial sense, but stigmatises people merely according to geography. Very precise geography, it must be said: companies will classify houses differently just yards apart.

Prof Burrows found a street in London's East End that contained five different categories, gradually changing from a smart, gentrified enclave right down to a grimy bit that wouldn't recognise Cath Kidston if it smacked it in its rather common chops.

Postcodes now do far more than help Postman Pat. They dramatically affect property values, with residents of a Birmingham development threatening to sue the builder after finding themselves in the "wrong" postcode; developers in London's Raynes Park (SW20) lobbied furiously to have the area rechristened "West Wimbledon" (SW19).

Just as the capital's telephone designations - 0207 for inner London, 0208 for outer - caused consternation among the many outed as "suburban", so the British have long been snobbish about the code at the end of their address. W1 (Mayfair) was always smart, while W2 meant, oh dear, you lived "north of the park" and, worse, now next door to the Blairs.

Windsor, rather than dropping bombs on Slough, simply requested the town be dropped from the Windsor postcode. An Old Etonian of my acquaintance was perturbed when he discovered the great country pile he had just bought carried the prefix "MK", for Milton Keynes - how non-U. A postcode has long damned not just an area but a way of life: if a Labour luvvy from Hampstead said something silly, he was ridiculed for being "so NW3".

But what has changed is the sheer detail that can be gleaned and how this will be used, determining your chances of gaining that platinum card or the right deal for that holiday to the Maldives.

Postcode data is not all bad: government resources, notably money for health, can be better targeted to where they are most needed, though inevitably this encourages Labour's habit of robbing the suburbs to give to the poorer inner cities. There's nothing you can do about it.

And nor is there any place to hide: ring a call centre - even from your mobile - and the person who answers will immediately ask for your postcode. You can refuse, of course; but then the company may refuse to do business.

Should you be suffering from "postcode cringe", though, stuck in an unfashionable area, don't book the removal van yet. Even the smartest postcodes - such as the Telegraph's SW1 - can be "contaminated" by, say, the number of bedsits around Victoria Station. Horton in Surrey and Grange Park in Northampton are in the highest household incomes bracket, areas not normally associated with Burlington Berties.

And items such as pet insurance might be discounted in unfashionable postcodes as vets will be cheaper. Oh, and live in a crummy area and you could receive a higher pension - because your area's so ghastly you will die quicker.

It's still so terribly complicated, being British. Shaw would recognise all of this. John Major announced "the classless society", but far from abolishing class, we have invented hundreds of new classes. We can go ex-directory; if only we could go ex-postcode.


If you live in Epsom, you're more likely to live in a semi-detached house, have a managerial job, and invest in ISAs. Your household income will be around £59,000pa - the country's highest average. You shop for food at Waitrose, Sainsbury's and M&S, and for clothes in Next or French Connection. You go to the gym, play golf and enjoy skiing breaks. As well eating out, you'll appreciate wine and the odd cigar.


If you live in Everton, chances are you're a single pensioner living in a high-rise block of flats. With an average household income of around £16,000pa, you're unlikely to have much to save. Unemployment is twice the national average and you don't own a car. Your inactive lifestyle is fuelled by a poor diet and nights in the pub, which contributes to the likelihood of long-term illness.

Be a winner in the postcode lottery of life


Be a winner in the postcode lottery of life
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 26/04/2007

It's not variation in provision that is the problem, it's the lack of information, says Roger Taylor, Research Director at Dr Foster Research

Doctors have often been accused of playing God. But the closest you can get to playing God in Britain today is not being a heart surgeon - it is being a primary care trust commissioner.

These are the people who decide how NHS money is spent on your behalf.

And who would envy them the job? If you had to decide where to put an extra £500,000 what would you chose: more services to end the misery of infertility for childless couples; better services to ease lives tormented by mental illness; new cancer drugs that would extend the lives of a few; or 1,000 more varicose vein operations to cut the waiting list?

The last of these may seem frivolous. But the truth is, with national waiting list targets, it could well be the preferred option.

Some primary care trusts (PCTs), faced with this sort of dilemma, have chosen to say that they are not going to pay for varicose vein operations any more.

It's easy to see how they come to that conclusion, but hard to see how they think they are going to be able to justify it to a public who will find out that people in one part of town can have the operation, while those on the other side are not so lucky. Unfair, they cry, it's a postcode lottery.

The postcode lottery is generally regarded as a bad thing, for obvious reasons. But given the choice between having a national bureaucrat decide what the NHS will pay for or a local civil servant, the answer is less obvious.

The current Government policy aims to strike the right balance with the big decisions taken nationally and then individual decisions devolved as far as possible either to the local PCT or to the GP and patient.

The introduction of National Service Frameworks laid down, for the first time, standards of care that all hospitals should meet in provision of basic services.

The establishment of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has put in place a system for deciding nationally whether particular treatments are worth paying for or not. These guidelines should ensure a degree of national uniformity.

Where there are no national guidelines, local decision making takes over. PCTs have overall responsibility for commissioning but within that, in theory, GPs now have the power to determine how money is spent on behalf of their patients, and patients have greater choice over where they are treated.

So what goes wrong? As our survey today shows, one of the first things to go wrong is PCTs and hospitals deciding to ignore national guidelines. So, for example, we find that some PCTs have decided they will not necessarily pay for drug eluting stents despite the advice of Nice.

But this is only a symptom of a larger problem. In the well-used lexicon for damning public service there is only one phrase used more often than "postcode lottery" and that is "faceless bureaucrat". The current commissioning of health services is a powerful example of how these twin horrors can be combined to maximum impact.

The problem with the postcode lottery is not that health spending decisions are taken locally. It is the fact that nobody knows who is making these decisions, why they are making them and on whose behalf they think they are acting.

Whatever decisions your PCT has taken on your behalf, the chances are you don't know anything about it and won't know until the time comes that you find you can't get access to a treatment you need.

At this point you have one of two options - you either give up or you contact your local newspaper and start a publicity campaign to get the decision changed.

If you are lucky enough to be denied a drug produced by a large pharmaceutical company, you will find plenty of cash to support your campaign and will have great success in overturning the decision.

If, however, you are denied an operation or some other form of treatment, your chances of success are much lower.

The problem of the postcode lottery is not that services vary from region to region. It is quite right that the people of Newcastle should be able to have different health services to those provided to the population of Bournemouth. The problem is that the people making the decisions are not gods and cannot be expected or trusted to make the right decisions for the benefit of all of us.

The first step to changing this is making information about what services are available and what is not available in your area clear and accessible to all.

The Queen and I, by Her Majesty's PA 2


Miss Kelly, 55, a divorcée, has two grown-up sons and a grown-up daughter, and four grandchildren aged between 18 months and six years. She was born in Walton, Merseyside, the daughter of a crane driver and a nurse, in a property long since demolished to make way for new developments.

She admits that her close relationship with the Queen has caused occasional jealousies among other members of staff, particularly those who have been in royal service longer than her. "I don't have any more room for knives in my back," she jokes. She also asks for it to be made clear in The Sunday Telegraph that she has not been paid for the interview. "Some people have made up all sorts of stories about me, which is sad, but most people are very supportive. We work as a team and everyone, especially in the Master of the Household's Department, is very professional," she says.

Miss Kelly started working for the Queen by chance. In October 1992, she was housekeeper to Sir Christopher Mallaby, who was British Ambassador to Germany. When the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited his house in Berlin during an official visit, they got chatting to Miss Kelly, who told the Queen of her plans to return to Britain. Months later, Miss Kelly received a call offering her a job as one of the Queen's dressers. She started in 1993.

"I suppose the Queen must have liked me and decided I was trustworthy and discreet," she says. Three years later, she was promoted to senior dresser and six years ago she become the Queen's first personal assistant. Sir Christopher recalled, this weekend: "Angela was in charge of the house when the royal party swept in and she got to know them. Angela is incredibly conscientious and loyal. She is also great fun to be with, and is affectionate, charming and endearing."

Today Miss Kelly lives alone in a grace-and-favour house in Windsor - a gift from the Queen - and drives her own Land Rover Freelander. She accompanies the Queen on foreign visits - she has just returned from Uganda - and travels with her to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral.

Last year, when the Queen turned 80, she made Miss Kelly a member of the Royal Victorian Order. The Queen also entrusted Miss Kelly with the task of organising the Dress for the Occasion exhibition, which saw 80 of the Queen's favourite evening dresses displayed at Buckingham Palace.

Miss Kelly's relationship with the Queen echoes that of a servant in Alan Bennett's new book, The Uncommon Reader. In the witty novella, the Queen becomes so close to Norman Seakins, a kitchen boy - through their shared love of reading - that her senior advisers and Downing Street become concerned by his influence over the monarch. So does Miss Kelly, like the fictitious Norman Seakins, annoy the Palace hierarchy? "No!" she laughs. "I know my place. I would never discuss affairs of state with the Queen. That's for Prince Philip, her private secretary [Christopher Geidt] and her senior advisers. I come from a humble background and I like to think I have stayed humble."

Yet, according to those who see the two women together, the Queen is more at ease when Miss Kelly is around. One of the Queen's favourite designers is Stewart Parvin, who specialises in wedding dresses and ballgowns. "The Queen is utterly charming all of the time, but when Angela is there for a fitting the Queen is noticeably more relaxed," he says. "Angela always has the Queen's best interests at heart, she is fighting the Queen's corner."

Miss Kelly hopes to work for the Queen for many years to come. "My loyalty is to the Queen and the girls I work with. If I died tomorrow, my girls have been trained to make sure that the Queen's life carries on smoothly without me. But I hope the Queen and I grow old together."
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