Saturday, February 13, 2016

UK Spousal Visas: Recent Developments

I'm researching the PM David Cameron's  recent remarks on the Today Programme about spousal visas. Here's my transcript of the interview, and the Downing Street press release is here, but it refers to an article in The Times which is behind a pay-wall. Fortunately, the text can be found (eventually) on Cameron's Facebook page, here, (Cameron, 2016). 

'Ed Husain put it brilliantly last week when he said that our political correctness stops us from identifying this separatist mentality – terming it “the racism of low expectations”.' (Cameron, 2016). 'Think about the young boy growing up in Bradford. His parents came from a village in Pakistan. His mum can’t speak English and rarely leaves the home, so he finds it hard to communicate with her, and she doesn’t understand what is happening in his life. At the same time, as a teenager he is struggling to identify with Western culture.' (Cameron, 2016). But doesn't he speak Urdu with her? Are we really saying mothers and their children who've lived together all the child's life don't speak the same language? (Incidentally, this brings me back, as so often happens, to Bonfiglio, 2010. The "native" speaking young man, not speaking his "mother tongue". )

'[N]ew figures show that some 190,000 British Muslim women – or 22 per cent – speak little or no English'. Where are these new figures from?  Also, 'sixty per cent of women of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage are economically inactive.' The last two words might be regarded as a indicating an underlying neo-liberal agenda.

'With a new £20m programme, we’ll make sure every woman from isolated communities with no English at all has access to classes.' [Emphasis supplied].  So that's not the A1 spouse visa women. "No English at all" means the 41,000 who 'cannot speak English', (Office for National Statistics, 2016), that is, not the 190,000 he refers to who 'cannot speak English well'.

In '"Passive tolerance" of separate communities must end, says PM', 2016, we are referred to 'Louise Casey’s ongoing review into segregation in England'  Casey is referred to by Mason, 2015. She is the author of a government report, (Casey, 2012).  According to Aitkenhead, 2013, Casey, 'Tony Blair's former Asbo czar was appointed by David Cameron last year to turn around 120,000 of England's most damaged and damaging families'. She is quoted in Aitkenhead: 'The Daily Mail don't like me 'cos I'm female and fat and lefty. Other people on the left think I sleep with the devil.'

Casey speaks at Policy Exchange, 2016. This was after Cameron, 2016. This is likely to be what 'Passive Tolerance' etc, 2016 meant by 'ongoing review'.

Ed Husain, quoted by Cameron, 2016, is the author of Husain, 2007.

Channel 4 Blog, 2016 for points in the direction of this zip (it opens in Excel) from the 2011 Census data, (table 005193 on that page). Here at last the source for Cameron, 2016's 'new figures'. You can make what you want of them. Notice, for example, that almost 27,000 females of 'no religion' 'cannot speak English well', not to mention the 132,000 Christian women who are said to be at the same level. Cameron, 2016 seems to have wrapped up the figures from Office for National Statistics, 2016 with his own views on Muslim patriarchy and made conclusions which are guesswork. 

No doubt there have been school governors' meetings, or at least one, which was all male with the women excluded. And no doubt there are Muslim households where the women aren't allowed out unless escorted by a male relative, (I've spent 5 years living in the Islamic world, mind). But it's a bit much to extrapolate from this as a significant societal problem. And it's verging on the laughable that you could address this problem, should it even exist, by means of language assessment. 

Think of a person who fits in with Cameron's construction. Let's call her Aamal. She's comes to the UK and has therefore already had to get her A1 test. We don't know yet what the new 2 1/2 year test is that's being implemented, let's assume A2. Let's imagine that Aamal is in a conservative religious set up, and not allowed out alone. What are her daily interactions? How does she have them with, and in what language? Let's think of it in terms of consequential validity. Who are the stakeholders? What are the beneficial consequences? A reduction in the numbers of the 'economically inactive'?  

NB This angle is getting more interesting. I need to come back to looking at the actual form of A1 spouse tests, and what (if anything, yet) is to be set up for the 2 1/2 year test. Khalas.


Aitkenhead, D. (2013, November 29). Troubled Families head Louise Casey: 'What's missing is love' Retrieved February 13, 2016, from 
Bonfiglio, T. (2010). Mother tongues and nations. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Cameron, D. (2016, January 18). Facebook. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from 

Casey, L. (2012). Listening to troubled families.

Channel 4 Blog. (2016, January 18). Channel 4 FactCheck goes behind the spin to dig out the truth and separate political fact from fiction. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from

Husain, E. (2007). The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left. London: Penguin.

Mason, R. (2015, June 22). David Cameron's claim of £1.2bn saved via families plan labelled 'pure fiction' Retrieved February 13, 2016, from

'Passive tolerance' of separate communities must end, says PM. (January 18, 2016). Retrieved February 13, 2016, from 

Policy Exchange. (2016, January 25). Launch of the New Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit at Policy Exchange. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from
R (Ali and Bibi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 68

White Clover in the Spring

There'll be beds ready to plant by early March, inshallah. But most plants (tatties excepted) will go out in May after the last frosts. So I want to get ground cover to keep the weeds away, fix some nitrogen, and help my much-shuffled and sodden soil to recover. Also to provide some cover for the frogs to resume their slug hunting duties.

What I want to do is to cover the entire allotment in something to cover the ground whilst I'm planting. Some places just want to be rested until I plant out the hedgerow in autumn, or the winter and spring vegetables later in the summer, so I need something to feed those areas and keep the weeds at bay (somewhat). I'll sow some phacelia, but the default plant is going to be white clover, (Trifolium repens). I remember local authority green spaces in the 60s used to be mostly grass, but there was a lot of white clover, too, and bumblebees loved it. In fact I got my first bee sting from one of them.

By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,
According to, 250g will cover 167m2, so 500g will be more than enough for my plot's 300sq yards. I'm getting that on eBay, a snip at £5.88, which includes the postage.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Transcript of Interview with David Cameron: BBC Today Programme, 18/01/2016. Interviewer Sarah Montague.

This is a transcript I've done of the first part of the interview which relates to language testing of applicants for spousal visas. Please feel free to use this for research, but do tell me you find any proofing/transcription errors.

Whole interview is here:

MONTAGUE: Let’s stort [sic] start on this question of language. How are you proposing that this could work? How do you find out which Muslim women are not fluent and go about, what, forcing them to learn English?
CAMERON: What we’ve been doing is, er, getting-going round communities and trying to look at the level of segregation and the problems that there are, and the statistics are clear, that there are thirty eight thousand Muslim women who really don’t speak hardly any English at all, and perhaps as many as a hundred and ninety thousand who speak it very badly. And this is about building a more integrated, cohesive, one-nation country where there’s genuine opportunity for people because of course, if you don’t speak the language your opportunities are very much reduced. So, finding out, in the communities, where we need to help most, and then both providing the resources to help but also saying to people who come to our country, you know, learning English is essential. You need English in order to come, and you need to improve your English in order to stay.
MONTAGUE So you’re…
CAMERON: It’s about opportunity and I think it’s very, very important. And I..
MONTAGUE: And it’s about testing women? Are you going to test Muslim women, to see if they…?
CAMERON: Well it’s not just Muslim women, it is when people come, under a spousal visa because they’re marrying um someone who’s already here. Er, then after two and a half years they should be improving their English, and we’ll be testing that and I think that’s important.
MONTAGUE: You make the point, though, in this article, you talk about the hundred and ninety thousand British, Muslim women who speak little or no, and you go on to say, er that despite many having lived here for decades, in the next paragraph, you say we’ll now say if you don’t improve your fluency, that could affect your ability to stay in the UK. I mean, presumably that’s only applying to people who have only recently arrived?
CAMERON: Well we’ll bring this in in October of this year, it will apply to people who’ve come in on a spousal visa, er…
MONTAGUE: Recently?
CAMERON: …recently, and they will be tested. Look, I’m not blaming - I think it’s very important, this, - this is not trying, I’m not sort of blaming the people who can’t speak English. Some of these people er have come to our country, quite sort-of patriarchal societies where, er, perhaps the men-folk haven’t wanted them to learning English, haven’t wanted them to integrate. What we’ve found in some of the work we’ve done, looking around our country as I’ve put in the article today, school governors’ meeting where the men sit in the meeting and the women have to sit outside, er women who aren’t allowed to leave their home without a male relative, this is happening in our country and it’s not acceptable. You know we should be…
MONTAGUE: And if a wom…
CAMERON: …very proud of our values, our liberalism, our tolerance, our idea that we want to build a genuine opportunity democracy. And I think in many, ways, we are one of the most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracies anywhere in the world.
CAMERON: But where there is segregation it’s holding people back, it’s not in tune with British values, and it needs to go, and that’s why I say…
MONTAGUE: Okay, so are you…
CAMERON: I think in the past sometimes, people have thought that the progressive thing to do is to allow people that come to our country and leave them to develop separately…
CAMERON: …in their own ways, I think that’s…
MONTAGUE So a British… So a…
CAMERON: …completely wrong and I think that’s why we’re having a big shift in the way that we [inaudible]…
MONTAGUE A Muslim woman who comes here, who has children who are born here, and then fails this test. What happens to them?
CAMERON: Well they can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to stay, because under our rules, we’re gonna change the rules, you have to be able to speak a basic level of English now to come into the country as a husband or a wife, we made that change already and we’re now going to toughen that up so half way through the five year spousal settlement programme, two and a half years, there’ll be another opportunity to make sure that your English is improving and…
MONTAGUE: [inaudible]
CAMERON: you can’t guarantee…
CAMERON: …you’ll be able to stay if you’re not improving your language.
MONTAGUE: The weird th…
CAMERON: Look, it is tough, but at the end of…
MONTAGUE: The weird thing… Okay. But the weird…
CAMERON: It’s not enough just to say that the government’s going to spend more money and it’s our responsibility. People coming to our country, they have responsibilities too.
MONTAGUE: But the strange thing about this, is that it’s only a few years ago, when you became Prime Minister that you cut the money for free language classes, er, for immigrants. Er… July 2011… I’m, I’m looking at a s-story from The Independent, end to free language classes for immigrants, vulnerable women will be particularly affected under the new rules. And it was in July last year that the skills funding agency completely withdrew the funding.
CAMERON: Well, this is more targeted. What we had, yes, budgets did come down in the past, [bec]ause all budgets are under pressure for the reasons we know, the enormous deficit and the need to pay that, er, down, but this is targeted money going after the particular area of problem because of course many people, er, coming to our country, want to learn English, know that they should help themselves to learn English, we’re dealing here with very isolated communities, women who sometimes, you know, as I say, in their own home, aren’t encouraged to learn English…
MONTAGUE: So was it a mistake…
CAMERON: …aren’t encouraged to go out.
MONTAGUE: Do you think it was a mistake to cut that funding?
CAMERON: No I think we had to make difficult decisions. Now what we’re doing is targeting, er, the language money much more accurately…
MONTAGUE: So the twenty million is just for women.
CAMERON: It is just for, er, women. Not necessarily just Muslim women but it is for those who are the great, the dange, the-e greatest danger of of isolation.
MONTAGUE: Alright. Now you talk about um, er changing the culture. Would you like to get rid of the full face veil as well? Which is an example of segregation.
CAMERON I-I think, in our country, people should be free to wear what they like and er, with limits, they can live how they like..

[5.01 6.05- full face veils and integration]

CAMERON: The reason for doing this is to build a more integrated country, to build a one nation Britain, to give people more opportunities. I think there is a connection, er, with combating extremism, and it’s this: that if you have people growing up in a house where no one speaks English then they’re less able to talk to the school, they’re less able to communicate with the local GP, they’re less able, er, perhaps to communicate with others [inaudible]…
MONTAGUE: But the people who’ve been going to Syria and Iraq have been entirely capable of speaking English and often come from very well educated homes, that doesn’t seem to be the problem…
CAMERON: That is absolutely right…
MONTAGUE: There are…
CAMERON: Hang on, just give me a second. I’m not saying there’s some sort of causal connection between not speaking English and becoming an extremist, of course not. That would be a ridiculous thing to say. But if you’re, if you’re not able to speak English, not able to integrate, you may find therefore that you have challenges understanding what your identity is therefore you could be more susceptible, er, to the extremist message…
MONTAGUE: Is there a causal…
CAMERON: …from…
MONTAGUE: …connection?
CAMERON: …from Daesh. So it’s not a causal connection, but if we’re going to try and…
CAMERON: …help young people to be resilient against the appalling messages of Daesh, and can I say again I think Muslim families around the country would’ve held their heads in despair this morning when once again, you just called it “Islamic State”, you didn’t even say…
CAMERON: …“so-called Islamic State”. It’s so important this…
MONTAGUE: Why don’t…
CAMERON: They they really do…
MONTAGUE: Take that up with upper echelons of the BBC. It’s not a [inaudible]…
CAMERON: Well I will but it really is one the things that the women mention…
MONTAGUE: Is there a caus…, you say this is not a causal connection, is there a causal connection between extremism here and money coming from Saudi Arabia?

[7.35 - 10.47: UK relationship with Saudi Arabia and war in Yemen; 10.48 - 15.10: junior doctors’ strikes; 15.11 - 17.36: European negotiations and referendum; 17.37 - 19.06 historical child sex abuse investigations]

Paths' Endings

The Neighbour had worked until late into the gloaming on Wednesday, and dug out a lot of the midden area which adjoins our two plots. I spent some time tidying it into three piles: rubbish, scrap metal, and rotten wood for burning. I got down into the midden and found a double course of bricks, (handy, because I'm running out of bricks). I started to excavate them, when The Neighbour showed up to finish off his side, (rotten timber, bracken and brambles, he'd moved a lot of broken glass yesterday), so I went back to the path.

Hard work, having to travel the length of the path to get rubble (broken bricks and bits of concrete from the midden-border), and by mid-afternoon I realised I wouldn't get finished by reason of the staggering rule, (when I start to stagger, it's time to leave). Only a couple of flags to go to reach the stub of brick path I did last summer at the Northern end. Couple of the flags I laid yesterday are a bit shoogly, and will need attention in due course, but for now I just need the bloody thing laid and more-or-less serviceable so I can get the barrow back and forwards to shift some of that earthly delight across from the NE to the NW bed.

Whilst The Neighbour was working at the midden, and I was halfway down the path, two ladies in dark suits showed up, looking, in the muddy male swearing world The Neighbour and I were in, like visitors from another reality. It was the Predecessor's daughter (not the one I met last year, but another) and a grand-daughter.

He died a few days ago, and they'd been passing, and called in to see if his half of the plot was being tended, not knowing I'd taken it all over in December. The daughter told me the plot meant a great deal to him. In the hospice one day, he was sitting with his hands cupped, and she asked him what he was doing, and he told her he was shelling peas. He would be glad, she said, to see his allotment being worked so hard. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

path & pasty

Spent 4 hours yesterday, and still never finished that path. I've ran out of rubble from the frog's winter palace, (they'll stay hibernated until night time temperature is above 5C, apparently, which is good to know, I'm keeping on eye on the weather stats for that, but just now it's down to zero. So I'm mining rubble from the old greenhouse foundations. This is good, 2o jobs getting done at once, but slow. Good (whole) bricks from the foundations I keep for the path going south, where there was no path at all before. I'm laying that as I go. So that's 3 jobs at once, really. I keep broken bricks and bits of concrete for the path foundation.

The SE boundary, next to my neighbour's greenhouse, and adjoining the old midden, is a bloody eyesore. I mentioned getting it tidied up to the neighbour yesterday, and he agreed we'd do it together this morning. I'm typing quickly to get away and get started now. The nights are cold because of the clear skies, but the days are lovely. I might end up today doing 6 hours heavy labour, but it's possible I can finish the path, take big chunks out of the greenhouse foundations, AND tidy up that boundary, which would all be spendid...

Going via the Co-op to get a pasty for mid-day fuel.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Bricks, Path, a Frog and a Return to the Old Greenhouse Foundations

Yesterday was like a spring day, sunny and fresh in Glasgow. Labour continues on the path. I've got down to the point where it intersects with the French drain, so about 10-12ft left to go before it joins the stub of path I finished in the autumn at the N boundary.

I got near the bottom of what was once a great heap of bricks on the Frogs' Winter Palace.  Lifting a brick, a bleary eyed frog eyed me as if to say, "Oi! It's still February, chum!" And s/he turned around to find a refuge deeper in the muck and rubble.

Well, good news that at least one frog, probably many more, have put it to its intended use, but I had to go elsewhere to get rubble to finish the path, so I went back to the Old Greenhouse foundations, and cleared the earth from a section of them on the East side. There's also a peculiar concrete structure, a leaning-over kind of wall, at the Southern end. I want rid of it so I'll go to that with the big hammer next time I'm there, tomorrow probably.

So, the path should be finished (at last) in the next few days, and the levelling by the beginning of March. Then I really urgently need to fix up the potting shed, so that I can start sowing.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

French Drain(age) & a Bit More Path

I had to dig down a little further in to the boulder clay subsoil to get it on a nice steady SW-NE gradient, and the trench you can see has filled with water since Wednesday, which is a good thing, I hope. This was Saturday afternoon, and it's rained a lot since then.

I made a bit of progress with the path, too, couple of flags further. It's a tedious job, frankly, but it gets easier as the end approaches. It feels like the allotment is getting a new backbone.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Reading around KoLL: Blackledge, 2009

P9: "debates about language are often debates about immigration". This is crucial, if the sub-text of saying "'They' must all speak English" is, "We don't want them", then you bring the text and sub-text together by limiting resources to English language lessons. This is especially so if the test (GESE 5) is framed with regard to classroom English, (ie not the sort of English people can learn in their own communities and by their own efforts). It's analogous to (say) limiting the franchise to those with university degrees, or high school certificates, thereby disenfranchising those outside the imposed criterion, for whatever reasons. 

P11 gives an historical account of KoLL. But it's got me thinking: there's a book to go with the "Life" section of the test. I could like at the criterion validity of the test as regards the content of the book. Quantitative data. Could a person with limited or NO knowledge of "Life in the UK" pass that test if they were able to absorb and process the book's content? How would that correlate with data from born-UK citizens who take the test. In fact, I keep hearing anecdotal evidence about born-UK people taking the test, so get some quantitative data. 

NB per p12, see speech by Blair, Dec 2, 2006 “The Duty to Integrate: Shared British Values.”

NB cf recent (18 Jan 2016) Cameron speech: 



Blackledge, A. (2009). : The Further Extension of Language Testing Regimes in the United Kingdom. Language Assessment Quarterly, 6(1), 6–16.

Constructed False Doxa

 At a seminar a few days ago someone mentioned the fact the Foucault and (especially) Bourdieu are often reference in works in a way which suggests their orthodoxy, though of course orthodoxy, and what makes a line of thought acceptable was one of the things those scholars sought to change. The next paper I have on my reading list just happens to be Blackledge, 2009, and dear old Bourdieu gets a mention... in the abstract! 

Bourdieu references doxa. And there's nothing wrong with doxa per se, it's the framing of a construct as doxa that is problematical. For example, I recently read somewhere, didn't make a note unfortunately) an article on education in the US that began with phrase, "With the failure of the state..." as if it was taken for granted that the state had failed in the provision of education, everyone knew that, and thus we were ALL forced to look at private provision.  

One would need an extremely uncritical mind to be taking in by most (let's call them) Constructed False Doxa. But when I went in search of this concept, almost everything went back to Plato. The only scholar using the phrase "false doxa" in a non-classical sense, (in connexion with racism, as it happens, so not too far away from my own research) is Myers, 2005, (I'm getting a copy from the ILL service). 

What's bugging me is that I've encountered this concept before, probably in Critical Discourse Analysis, but I can't remember the label/terminology. It's really important though. It's a discourse trick in all kinds of contexts, including common speech: "We all know that... Garry is lazy/Geordies are thick/white men can't dance" etc, just insert any dodgy premise you can think of, wrap it up in your auditors' most convincing form of "It is widely accepted that...", hey presto! a fully formed Constructed False Doxa, To Go. 

Anyways, that's my weekend sorted: Bourdieu, 1998. But that tangent is done for today, and I'm getting back to Blackledge, 2009, and my proper reading.


Blackledge, A. (2009). : The Further Extension of Language Testing Regimes in the United Kingdom. Language Assessment Quarterly, 6(1), 6–16.
Bourdieu, P. (1998). On television and journalism. London: Polity Press.

Myers, K. A. (2005). Racetalk: Racism hiding in plain sight. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.