Talking Politics
  • The images keep on coming: from Calais, from the tiny, ramshackle boats crossing the Mediterranean, from Hungary and Serbia, from the Islands of Greece. We are witnessing the greatest movement of people since the end of the Second World War and the single greatest demand for Europe to live up to its rhetoric since it was constructed as a political project.

    Britain’s role has been particularly useless. Our press has been more concerned with highlighting the inconvenience of British tourists having to – gasp – actually see refugees than it has been with the plight of the refugees themselves. Our ministers have shot down any attempt to share the burden of those landing on Europe’s shores. Our prime minister has engaged in the most base, dehumanising language. For weeks, the main topic of debate was whether we should send the army to Calais. This was never accompanied by a serious suggestion about what they would do, so the impression was left that many on the right believed we may need to

    Read More »from Germany's ten-point refugee plan shows how irresponsible Britain has become
  • The shadow cabinet may be tearing their hair out over the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader, but the party’s London mayoral hopefuls are much more excited about the surge in support for the left-winger.

    The reason for this excitement stems from the huge Corbyn-inspired influx of new Labour supporters in London since May. The surge has potentially massive implications, which could overturn what previously looked like an easy win for Tessa Jowell.

    Chief among those seeking to benefit from the surge in Corbyn-supporters is Sadiq Khan. Khan’s backers claim their campaign is already feeling the benefit from the influx. Importantly, Khan has the key support of Corbyn-ally Ken Livingstone who has urged London Labour supporters to back a joint Corbyn-Khan ticket. There have been persistent rumours that the former mayor has been offered a job under a Khan mayoralty. Whatever the truth of this, the endorsement is an important one and Khan’s team were out in force handing out

    Read More »from Labour mayoral hopefuls fight to be Corbyn's London heir
  • As things stand, a charter flight deporting Afghans back to their home country is still scheduled to leave London tomorrow. But its numbers will be much reduced following a successful legal battle in which lawyers managed to save dozens of them.

    Originally there were going to be up to 45 people on that flight. Now anyone who comes from an unsafe province will be taken off. Lawyers are working to ensure anyone with mental or physical disabilities is also taken off.

    But how did it come to this? How did the Home Office think it was OK to deport people with disabilities to parts of a war-torn country which are considered highly dangerous by Afghanistan’s own ministers? The truth is the government knows the legal and moral arguments against the deportations, but it is intent on side-stepping them.

    A judicial review from legal firm Duncan Lewis opposed the deportations on two basis: Firstly that there are only three provinces in the entire country to which people can be safely returned - Kabul,

    Read More »from Home Office presses ahead with Afghan deportations as country unravels
  • By Nazek Ramadan

    Building ever taller fences and sending in dogs to chase desperate people fleeing war, conflicts and human right abuses will not solve the situation in Calais. It will merely push people to use other routes.

    What we are seeing in Calais and the Mediterranean is evidence of Europe’s asylum and migration policies and processes failing. The current crisis has been fuelled by the lack of collaboration and solidarity among European countries and an unfair deal for the southern and eastern European countries.

    The Dublin Convention led to countries like Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain being forced to man the borders on behalf of northern European countries. The convention imposes an unfair and unequal responsibility on the countries at the first point of call for many people seeking asylum.

    Looking at the countries of origins for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, it is very clear that those embarking on the dangerous journey

    Read More »from Higher fences will not solve the Calais migrant crisis
  • By Ben Myring


    No matter what his tabloid critics say, Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies are actually only moderately left-wing. Not so long ago they would have been regarded as centrist. But when it comes to foreign policy, Corbyn is genuinely radical.

    This isn’t about Trident. Retiring the obsolete deterrent, far from being an act of national suicide, would be a moderate de-escalation in line with our treaty commitments.

    It’s Corbyn’s self-harming pacifism which is really troubling.

    His plan to abandon Nato, a key part of the global security architecture, would be extraordinarily dangerous. It amounts to head-in-the-sand isolationism. Some threats to the UK, indeed to Western civilisation, require collective military action and an agreed security framework in which to enact it. Dismantling that framework would put us all at risk.

    A related example can be seen in Corbyn’s resistance to Britain’s role in combating Isis.

    It’s true that Corbyn has a long and honourable record in opposing

    Read More »from Forget economics. It's Corbyn's foreign policy which is really dangerous
  • If today’s Public Health England report on vaping shows anything, it’s that those who oppose it are a threat to public health.

    The report found that “e-cigarette use is around 95% less harmful to health than smoking”. They pose “no risk of nicotine poisoning to user”. Most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and “the chemicals present pose limited danger”.

    It found that vaping is extremely successful at helping smokers quit cigarettes. And they are used almost exclusively by former smokers – dispelling the argument that they will somehow lead non-smokers to cigarettes.

    There is also no harm to anyone around the vaper. As the report found, “e-cigarettes release negligible levels of nicotine into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders”.

    We’re at an early stage on understanding the potential risks of vaping, but then, this is the stage we’re at. We do not base our current decisions on the possibility of future evidence, we base them on what we have

    Read More »from Anti-vaping campaigners are a threat to public health
  • By Andrew Neilson

    A mother who stole three bottles of baby milk from a supermarket. A woman found begging in a car park. A man who kicked a flower pot after being stabbed. These people are among the thousands who have been ordered to pay a controversial new charge which penalises the poor and encourages the innocent to plead guilty. And now it appears the charge is impacting negatively on victims.

    The criminal courts charge was the parting shot of Chris Grayling, the never knowingly popular justice secretary of the coalition government. Having forced through unwieldy probation reforms, interfered with prisoners’ access to books and slashed legal aid, Grayling has many policy crimes on his record. But with the criminal courts charge coming into force just before the general election, he really outdid himself.

    Since April 2015, magistrates and judges have been told they must impose a mandatory criminal courts charge of up to £1,200 on anyone convicted of an offence, whatever their

    Read More »from How Grayling encouraged innocent people to plead guilty
  • By Andrew Smith


    Whoever the new Labour leader is, they’ll have a lot on their plate and one of the first big issues is likely to be Syria. The on-going civil war is only getting worse, and defence secretary Michael Fallon has already announced that a vote on military intervention will take place later in the year.

    In one sense, the question of whether the UK military should be taking part in bombing is a moot one, because it already is. A freedom of information request from Reprieve found UK military personnel have already engaged in air strikes as part of US operations. The admission showed the public and parliament had been misled. MPs voted against bombing Syria in 2013.

    At the moment Labour leadership candidates are distancing themselves from any further action, with left-wing favourite Jeremy Corbyn ruling out any possibility of supporting the government and Andy Burnham striking a cautious note in saying “the tests are quite big” and raising questions about legality. Even Yvette

    Read More »from Bombing Syria plays into Isis' hands
  • All the focus in recent weeks has been on the Labour leadership race.

    However there has been an equally bitterly fought, and in many ways far more interesting battle taking place to select Labour’s London mayoral candidate.

    All the bookies currently have Tessa Jowell as the favourite to win that race. But is she really? Is the same party about to crown the leadership to the hard left Jeremy Corbyn, also about to crown the mayoral nomination to an ardent Blairite?

    There are several reasons to believe not. The main one is the huge influx of new members and supporters who have joined the party since May. Labour sources tell, the size of the London ‘selectorate’ able to choose Labour’s mayoral candidate has roughly tripled since the general election. Of these new members, the overwhelming majority (up to 70%) are Corbyn supporters, according to canvassing returns by Jowell’s rivals.

    Instinctively, this new surge of left-leaning supporters, would appear to benefit Jowell’s rivals

    Read More »from Could the Corbyn surge overturn Labour's mayoral race?
  • Jeremy Corbyn unveils his plans for an integrated, publicly owned railway network at King's Cross StationJeremy Corbyn unveils his plans for an integrated, publicly owned railway network at King's Cross Station

    If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that negativity is an underrated quality in politics. For a long time political commentators have banged on about the value of positivity. A whole film - No, about the referendum on Chilean democracy - was dedicated to the idea that you offer voters something upbeat and positive instead of political complaints and threats.

    But negativity worked in the Scottish independence referendum. And it worked in the general election, despite many commentators banging on at the time that it made the Tory campaign look mean and uninspired. Nigel Farage’s entire career is based on negativity and he does pretty well for himself.

    So Jeremy Corbyn deserves credit for reminding us of the power of big, positive, left-wing ideas, expressed with clarity. While his opponents have focussed relentlessly on apocalyptic prophecies of what will happen if he wins, Corbyn trades exclusively in policy. It is ironic that he is the one criticised for belonging to the

    Read More »from Labour should be learning from Corbyn, not conspiring against him


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