#G0420* – POLITICAL CORRECTNESS INCREASES RACE HATE
The ‘jungle drums’ zealot: Chilling inside story of how one woman seized on an innocent phrase and sparked a politically correct witch-hunt
By Paul Bracchi
Last updated at 12:21 AM on 12th February 2011Making a fuss: Accuser Sonia Carr has made a habit of making complaints for the most trivial of matters. He claimed the ‘jungle drums’ comment caused her distress and health problemsAnna Farquhar has spent most of her life helping others — first as a nurse, then running a branch of St John Ambulance, a job she performed with distinction for more than 20 years. When she retired, she took up voluntary work with the armed services charity Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).But the latest entry on her CV — and the reason you are reading about her today — is that of chairman of a local health watchdog in her native Wiltshire.If truth be told, it was a job no one really wanted. It involved a mountain of paperwork, as well as endless meetings in draughty halls. But, aged 70 and a grandmother of five, Mrs Farquhar agreed to take on the job last May. The position, it should be stressed, was unpaid.The only ‘perk’, apart from the satisfaction that comes from doing such a valuable, if thankless, task was the free tea and biscuits provided when she and her fellow volunteers met up.But today, the ‘thoroughly decent’ Mrs Farquhar (not our words, but those of her colleagues) is a near-broken woman after being publicly vilified and humiliated.What happened to her is not just a personal tragedy for Mrs Farquhar, but also an indictment of the kind of society we have now become, where the pernicious culture of political correctness holds sway and common sense has all but disappeared.The story begins at a Scout hut in the village of Potterne Wick, near Devizes, where Mrs Farquhar lives with husband, Ian, 68, and where she has been a ‘pillar of the community’ for many years. Could there be a more unlikely setting for controversy?But it was here back in August that Mrs Farquhar’s group, Wiltshire Involvement Network (WIN), convened. Towards the end of the meeting, Mrs Farquhar noted that gossip about NHS changes had been spreading within the health service, remarking: ‘You cannot help the jungle drums.’The phrase, as everyone must know, is a commonly used expression similar to ‘rumour mill’ or ‘grapevine’.Well, not everyone. Almost before Mrs Farquhar had finished her sentence, a voice from the public gallery rang out: ‘You can’t say that.’ The voice belonged to Sonia Carr.Mrs Carr, 50, a veteran equality campaigner, claimed the remark was racist. Mrs Farquhar did not think she had said anything offensive, racially or otherwise, but apologised out of courtesy. That was the end of the matter. Or so it seemed.Mrs Carr even remained behind for refreshments and sandwiches after proceedings had been concluded.One month went by, then two, then three. Finally, on November 17 — some 13 weeks after the meeting in the Scout hut — a ten-page report landed on Mrs Farquhar’s desk with the sinister sounding title ‘Complaint Investigator’s Report’.It had been commissioned by Wiltshire County Council. The authority, it transpired, had received an official complaint from Mrs Carr about the ‘jungle drums’ aside.But, as far as Mrs Farquhar was concerned, the document marked ‘confidential’ might just as well have been produced by a Communist politburo, such were its astonishing findings.‘The comment [jungle drums],’ it informed her, ‘was inappropriate and caused offence.’ Underneath, written in capital letters, were the words: COMPLAINT UPHELD. Indeed, those words seemed to be everywhere.Her colleagues had ‘failed to challenge’ her statement: COMPLAINT UPHELD.There was a ‘clear lack of understanding of equality and diversity issues’ among the group: COMPLAINT UPHELD.Mrs Carr had been interviewed, of course, before the report was published. So, too, had members of other organisations that had dealings with Mrs Farquhar and her team.Scandalously, though, the only person who wasn’t interviewed was Mrs Farquhar herself or anyone on the 20-strong ‘steering committee’ who were present in the Scout hut. Except one, that is. And she was the one colleague who agreed with Sonia Carr. Those with high blood pressure should perhaps turn away now, for this is only half the story.Gossip girls: The trouble began at a gathering of the Wiltshire Involvement Network when Anna Farquhar, 70, noted that gossip about NHS changes had been spreading within the Health Service, remarking: ‘You cannot help the jungle drums’
One revelation, in particular, in the report that left Mrs Farquhar’s good name besmirched — unjustifiably and unfairly in the view of practically everyone apart from Mrs Carr and the politically correct jobsworths over at county hall — leapt off the page.The sentence read: ‘The complainant [Sonia Carr] explained that she suffered real pain and was emotionally upset by the comment made and this has had an impact on her health and her family.’Yes, that’s the same Sonia Carr who stayed behind for sandwiches and mingled happily with Mrs Farquhar and her colleagues after the fateful meeting.Presumably, Mrs Carr, vicechairman of the Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, must have suffered a great deal of ‘pain’ and ‘emotional ‘upset’ in recent years. Why? Because this is not the first time she has she raised race issues. She has made a string of complaints against various public bodies, of which more later.But still the council supported her unreservedly and, in the process, came close to destroying the reputation of a woman with an outstanding record of public service.That in itself is shocking enough. But the authority’s policy of appeasement towards Mrs Carr hasn’t just had disastrous consequences for Mrs Farquhar.Like its counterparts up and down the country, Mrs Farquhar’s organisation worked hand-in-hand with local authorities, monitoring NHS trusts and social care services, carrying out hospital inspections, among other things, and investigating grievances on behalf of patients.Following the ‘jungle drums’ farrago, all volunteers working under Mrs Farquhar — 200 of them across Wiltshire — were banned from council premises and meetings. They were even forbidden from communicating with councillors in any way.Funding to cover the watchdog’s administration costs was punitively withdrawn.So a valuable public service was paralysed and a scandal, which had dragged on for more than six months — at an untold cost to the taxpayer — had now managed to turn an army of well-meaning and selfless individuals into pariahs.All because of an innocuous turn of phrase that has long been part of everyday speech. Wiltshire County Council didn’t want you to find out about this, of course, and has done everything it can to stop information about the ‘jungle drums’ affair getting out.
‘Chinese whispers’, ‘black magic’, ‘brown bread’, and ‘Indian summer’ could soon be on the banned listBut the story was leaked to a local paper, the Salisbury Journal, last week. Cue a swift and embarrassing climb down this week when the ‘ban’ was lifted and funding reinstated. Could there be a more shoddy abuse of power by a supposedly democratically accountable institution?It follows the saga of a black councillor in Bristol who called her Asian rival a ‘coconut’ (slang for someone who is betraying their roots by pandering to ‘white opinion’ because a coconut is white in the middle but brown on the outside) during a political debate.Not a nice expression, certainly. Many might find it offensive. But common sense was the real victim when the councillor was prosecuted and subsequently convicted of racially aggravated harassment.This offence was introduced under laws to deal with the Far Right marching through areas like Southall in Manchester or Islamic fanatics descending on military funeral processions in Wootton Bassett. Not squabbles in the council chamber.The same culture — a kind of politically correct fascism — which resulted in ‘Coconutgate’ and too many other examples to mention, was also at the heart of the ‘jungle drums’ farce.It’s a culture epitomised and exploited by the likes of the wretched Sonia Carr, who has made a career out of causing trouble.A separate complaint from Mrs Carr against Wiltshire Police is still under investigation.‘I can confirm this lady has expressed concern about posters displayed at one of our stations,’ a spokesman revealed yesterday.The nature of the complaint? Mrs Carr, a married mother-of-two from Warminster, was unhappy, it is alleged, about the ‘lack of black officers’ in the posters. Mrs Carr, whose husband is believed to work in the Army, has also complained about two officers at Wiltshire County Council, we have been told, and has targeted Anna Farquhar’s health watchdog on a previous occasion, too.Waste of time and money: Astonishingly Wiltshire County Council held an official investigation into the incident and created a 10-page dossier – which eventually UPHELD the complaintThat gripe arose from a public meeting, organised by the watchdog, at the Corn Exchange in Devizes in April 2009, to discuss how people with dementia can best be supported. One member of the audience pointed out that sufferers sometimes found it hard to eat non-British dishes prepared by volunteers from ethnic minorities.Mrs Carr, who was present, demanded an apology for the observation, which she deemed to be offensive, from the then chairman Phil Matthews.He refused to indulge Mrs Carr after seeking legal advice. ‘I warned the council then about her,’ said Mr Matthews, who, it turns out, is also member of the local Coalition Against Racism.Even so, the row rumbled on for a year before Mrs Carr went away. A few months later she was back, ‘tut-tutting’ from her seat in the Scout hut. Little wonder that Mrs Farquhar was heard to say ‘not this again’ when Sonia Carr protested about her ‘jungle drums’ remark.The man blamed — even by many of his own colleagues on the Tory-run council — for allowing the complaint to escalate is deputy leader John Thomson.‘The law makes it clear that what matters is not the intention of the person who uses the phrase but whether anyone is offended by it,’ he said.By that logic, ‘Chinese whispers’, ‘black magic’, ‘brown bread’, and ‘Indian summer’ could soon be on the banned list in Wiltshire — and elsewhere — along with countless other popular phrases. In fact, Cllr Thomson, like everyone else involved in this politically correct witch-hunt, is hiding behind the law (which includes a clear ‘reasonableness test’) to avoid making sensible decisions.That is evident from the ‘confidential’ correspondence between the council and the health watchdog.In December, after the complaint against the watchdog was upheld, Mrs Farquhar sent a response to the authority ‘rejecting any notion of racism concerning the term “jungle drums”’ and cited ‘its wide usage as a company name’, giving as an example the Jungle Drums marketing consultancy in Dorset, whose previous clients include the Metropolitan Police. The council ignored the evidence.Mrs Farquhar wanted to know what grounds there were for Sonia Carr’s claim that she suffered ‘real pain’, ‘emotional upset’ and adverse effects on her ‘health and family’. The council did not tell her.The report, Mrs Farquhar, pointed out, accused her of making a ‘weak’ apology to Mrs Carr. ‘What does “weak” mean?’ she asked. ‘Whose judgement is this? The Complaint Investigator [council officer Heather Ludlow who was at the meeting in the Scout hut] was not present at that particular point and must, therefore, be accepting the judgement of someone else.’ The council did not respond.Mrs Farquhar said that the procedures followed by the Complaint Investigator were ‘unsound and unjust’, that the findings were ‘all in one direction’ and that she and her colleagues never had an ‘opportunity to defend’ their position, which ‘defies common justice’.‘It is matter of great regret this matter has taken so long to resolve,’ Mrs Farquhar said. ‘It has caused me great personal stress and I will be glad to get back to work serving the community.’Colleagues say Mrs Farquhar has ‘visibly aged’ over the past six months. At her home in Devizes yesterday, her husband Ian, 68, a former local government education official, apologised for his wife being unable to come to the door. ‘She is shattered at the moment,’ he said.At county hall, councillors said they were furious about the way the authority has behaved and would be calling for a public inquiry.One letter in the Salisbury Journal summed up the local mood: ‘How reassuring for taxpayers to know that our representatives, while debating our precious health service, can find the time and money to investigate what can only be described as trivial complaint.‘As for the council being “legally obliged”’ to investigate, this compounds the idiotic with the futile. Why wasn’t this individual taken to one side and informed that the term jungle drums offends no one?’
What a pity the useless Cllr Thomson or one of the highly paid (maybe that should read ‘overpaid’) officials he relied on for advice couldn’t have taken such a view six months ago and spared a ‘thoroughly decent’ woman from a very public and humiliating ordeal.
“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821),
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