Richard Ingrams' Week: All this talk of equality is just humbug

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The Independent Online

I've never taken seriously the indignation which some people feel about the news that Ruth Kelly is a signed-up member of the ultra-conservative Catholic organisation Opus Dei.

If that was so she would not be in the Government at all. Because the Catholic Church - not just Opus Dei - has always preached that mothers have a duty to put their children first. And as the mother of four small children herself, Kelly is obviously not prepared to do this.

As for homosexuality, Kelly is by no means the only religiously minded person to regard homosexual acts as sinful. Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews - even quite a few Anglican bishops - feel the same way.

What is much more objectionable is that Kelly should be dubbed the Minister for Equality, something that gives a false impression that the Government is concerned about the question.

As things stand there is a massive amount of inequality in contemporary Britain and it is getting worse.

Rich people, and there are more and more of them, can afford not just to have bigger and better houses but to send their children to better schools and pay for better hospital treatment for themselves.

The Blair/Brown Government has absolutely no intention of altering that situation (just think how much it would upset the Daily Mail) but, by appointing a Minister for Equality, they hope to persuade us into thinking that something will be done.

No. All that happens is that state institutions like the police force are instructed to employ a greater percentage of "members of ethnic communities", disabled people and gays.

And, as for the last, Kelly who quite rightly sees no conflict with her religious views, will be perfectly happy to go along with all this humbug.

This wildlife argument is for the birds

Animal rights "activists" who waged a ruthless campaign against a farmer and his family who bred guinea pigs for scientific research have been given long prison sentences.

The horrible story which involved the exhumation of an old lady's corpse confirms once again the truth of G K Chesterton's dictum that "where there is animal worship there is human sacrifice".

And it is not just the loonies of the animal rights movement who bear this out. There are a great many very respectable law-abiding folk who believe, for example, that the growing populations of Africa threaten the survival of the continent's wildlife.

An Aids epidemic that wipes out millions might not be so bad a thing after all if it helps the lions and the elephants to survive.

What goes for animals goes also for birds, it would seem. This paper reported the other day that the building of thousands of new houses in the South-east of England had been halted because it threatened the future of three small birds - the woodlark, the nightjar and the Dartford warbler.

So the welfare of the Dartford warbler, right, apparently takes precedence over the welfare of people trying to find a reasonably priced house to live in.

This system of priorities would not be so crazy if the birds were wildly popular.

But I would guess that those people who could recognise a Dartford warbler are even thinner on the ground than the birds themselves.

* The reason I have always been reluctant to entrust details of my private transactions - banking etc - to a computer is that I don't trust the system to keep them secure.

My misgivings were confirmed by the case of a young self-confessed nerd Gary McKinnon who for two years hacked into the computer system of the American army from his bed-sitter in Neasden.

This week McKinnon was to be extradited to America for allegedly causing thousands of pounds' worth of damage. McKinnon, however, claims that this was not his intent and says he was just looking for information about UFOs.

So far from causing damage McKinnon has actually done the state some service by showing just how easy it is to hack into the American army's top secrets. Because if this can be done from the North Circular by a UFO anorak, just imagine what a group of determined al-Qa'ida terrorists might do. Thanks to McKinnon the State Department has been put on the spot and will now have to take action to tighten up security.

But the Americans who once again have been made to look foolish, do not see it that way. Hence the demand that the ingenious British nerd should be extradited to the US where he could well face a lengthy prison sentence.

McKinnon's fate now rests in the hands of our new Home Secretary, Dr John Reid. I do not fancy his chances. It would be too much to hope that Reid would make any move, however small, that might upset Mr Rumsfeld or Mr Bush - least of all his immediate boss, Mr Blair.