Talking Politics
  • By Jane Fae

    How we laughed, this weekend when Fox News security ‘expert’ Steve Emerson made his ludicrous claim that Birmingham was a “Muslim-only city”. But strip away the laughter and what remains is a deeply dangerous thesis, rapidly gaining purchase in the US as established fact, that Europe is being progressively colonised by Muslims following some Islamic master plan.

    With the repetition of this absurd canard by Nigel Farage yesterday, again on Fox News, it is now clear that this myth is spreading. It has jumped the Atlantic pond and, unless we are very careful, is about to infect our own politics with the same toxic mix of half-truth and downright ignorance.

    Emerson’s central claim, made in a slightly less-publicised interview on Fox on January 7th alongside host and conservative commentator Sean Hannity, is breath-taking in its scope. He told Hannity:

    "Throughout Europe, Sean, you have ‘no-go zones’. When I was in Brussels a year ago when I asked the police to take me to the

    Read More »from The myth of Muslim no-go areas is being used to turn us against one another
  • At some point David Cameron acquired a reputation for being a skilled frontman for the Conservative party.

    Quite how he acquired this reputation has long been a mystery to me. Rather than being a slick operator, Cameron often comes across as evasive, prickly and borderline robotic in his public performances. Despite his reputation for confidence he is apparently terrified of debate and scrutiny. One of Cameron’s first acts as prime minister was to cancel regular Downing Street press conferences, while one of his last acts has been to effectively kill off the general election debates altogether.

    Quick to anger, with a tendency to bark at people rather than talk to them, Cameron is in reality a decidedly weak public face for his party. If he has acquired a different reputation it is because of the even greater paucity of his opponents rather than any actual skill of his own.

    If Cameron was genuinely the political asset he is made out to be, he would have little to fear from debating

    Read More »from PMQs Verdict: Cameron runs scared of the debates
  • No matter what, David Cameron is intent on getting the snoopers’ charter onto the statute book. The prime minister seemingly has only one stock response to any terror attack and that is to demand the government be given access to our online communications.

    Usually, it is unhelpful. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, it is despairingly stupid and counter-productive. 

    The same thing happened following the Woolwich murder. The security industry sparked into life with its usual message. Lord West, former first sea lord and security minister, demanded the return of the snoopers charter. Former reviewer of terror laws Lord Carlile joined him. John Reid, former home secretary and G4S ‘group consultant’, followed them into the TV studios. The same sad game was played over again.

    As security sources made clear, it would not actually have made any difference to the Woolwich killing. That didn’t matter. It was the only response the authorities seemed interested in. It’s quite clear that this is the

    Read More »from Does Cameron have any response to terror which doesn't involve the snoopers' charter?
  • The MoD's nonsensical faith in depleted uranium

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    By General (rtd) Sir Hugh Beach

    A week after US A10 gunships thought to be armed with controversial depleted uranium (DU) ammunition were deployed in Iraq in the fight against Isis, the UK government opposed a fifth United Nations resolution intended to mitigate the risks from past uses of the weapons in the country. Given the international opprobrium attached to the use of depleted uranium weapons, their renewed use in the country may achieve little more than a propaganda coup for the extremists’ cause.

    The UK, together with the United States, France and Israel, has been one of four countries which has consistently opposed the United Nations General Assembly’s resolutions. Last year’s was supported by 150 countries and primarily called for further research on the weapons’ potential health and environmental risks, and measures to facilitate studies - such as the release of targeting data. For the first time, and in response to Iraq’s call this summer, the resolution also called for the

    Read More »from The MoD's nonsensical faith in depleted uranium
  • Britain's betrayal of Syrian refugees

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    By Sarah Teather MP

    There can be no doubt that 2014 took a terrible humanitarian toll on people around the world. The epicentre of this was the ongoing conflict in Syria. More than 70,000 people were killed, whilst Syrians became the largest refugee population in world for the first time.

    2015 is just a week old, but we have already seen two worrying trends for Syrians fleeing the violence of war: first, an increase in restrictions imposed on those seeking to settle in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon; and secondly, even more refugees boarding boats and taking risky journeys in the Mediterranean.

    The UK has a role to play in reversing these trends, but the government’s unwillingness to go beyond tokenistic offers of resettlement is having the opposite effect.

    Our approach to the conflict should be threefold: work with countries which can influence the situation on the ground to find lasting peace in the region; ease the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Syria’s borders through

    Read More »from Britain's betrayal of Syrian refugees
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    Instead of protecting our young from the evils of sexual exploitation, we are blaming them for it. No wonder an MP’s campaign to remove the term ‘child prostitution’ from the statute book is struggling to gain traction.

    Ann Coffey is trying hard. She’s the Labour MP for Stockport whose report on child sexual exploitation, Real Voices, shone a light on the depths of the problem. Removing ‘child prostitution’ from legislation was just one of its many recommendations; she’ll be pushing for it in amendments to the serious crime bill going through parliament this winter.

    "There is no such thing as a child prostitute," she told MPs earlier this week. "Only a sexually abused or exploited child." The term ‘prostitute’ implies an element of complicity, a consensual contract between two equal parties. Coffey doesn’t like it one bit. Neither does the minister, Karen Bradley, who said in her response:

    "I want to be absolutely clear that children who are sexually exploited, whether for commercial

    Read More »from We're all to blame for child sexual exploitation
  • There are plenty of people out there who will use today’s attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdoto to show Islam is incompatible with European values. The 18,000 people protesting against the supposed Islamisation of Europe in Dresden this week will undoubtably feel vindicated. The columnists on right and left who insist Islam is an innately authoritarian religion will cite the attack as further proof that it is a hostile force introduced to Europe by a laissez faire immigration system.

    Today’s attack has nothing to do with Islam. It’s to do with free speech. Everywhere there are lunatics and bastards. It’s said that you can criticise Catholicism without triggering a Catholic terror attack and that is generally true, although it’s worth remembering this remains a relatively recent development. However, we do suffer attacks by right-wing fascists with some regularity and most of these claim to defend the traditional religions and races of Europe.

    The last was by Anders

    Read More »from Charlie Hebdo attack: This is not about Islam - it's about free speech
  • Labour reacted furiously yesterday to documents produced by George Osborne and the Treasury outlining the supposed costs of Ed Miliband’s general election spending commitments.

    Labour spinners spent much of the day tweeting denials both about the costs of these policies and the suggestion that Miliband or his front bench had even promised these policies in the first place.

    "p.44 of Tory dossier says Labour will cancel cuts to the arts budget. We won’t," read one typical tweet.

    So had the Tory attack completely fallen apart? Well not quite. As it soon became clear, Osborne’s claims were based on a “reasonableness test”. According to the test:

    "Any statement by a Labour frontbencher that a voter would believe to be a promise to spend money or raise revenue if Labour are elected is counted as a commitment. So when a Labour frontbencher proposes spending, or opposes a government saving, the implication to a voter would be that Labour would spend the money or cancel the saving if elected

    Read More »from George Osborne has a point about Labour's spending plans
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    Labour’s masterplan to win the 2015 general election through chit-chat rather than cash is riddled with holes – and allows the Conservatives buy their way back into power.

    Ed Miliband’s campaign launch in Salford today contains a bold ambition: a call on his party’s supporters to double the number of conversations they hold with voters in the run-up to polling day on May 7th.

    Four million individual chinwags is a lot, but Labour thinks they can make a real difference. In 2010, constituencies where the party contacted 30% of voters saw an improvement in Labour’s share of the vote of over five per cent. That might not sound like much but it could be enough to take Labour over the line in the most critical marginals.

    Much of the work has already been done, too. Labour was averaging 21% of voters in the autumn and was pushing to reach an average of 25% by the new year. It has 17 weeks to get that proportion up to 30% and make the difference.

    As Douglas Alexander, Labour’s general election

    Read More »from The Tories are buying the 2015 general election - and Labour can't compete
  • By Felicity Hannah

    It started with a single caravan parked on a verge near our house and was quickly followed by a Facebook message from the leader of our residents’ association.

    "Looks like a gypsy has moved in. Clear your cars tonight and lock all sheds/doors/garages," it read.

    I replied politely, explaining that I wasn’t happy with the stereotypes being used.

    "Well, what should we call them then?" came the reply. It was shocking to realise that this person didn’t understand I was objecting to the idea that all travellers and gypsies were thieves. They saw that as such a universal truth that they assumed I must have been merely objecting to the term ‘gypsy’.

    What followed was a typical outpouring of name-calling and nimbyism. It was even implied that I was an outsider myself, who had joined the residents’ Facebook group just to cause trouble. The language was strongly reminiscent of the terms used against black and Irish communities thirty years ago.

    Later that evening one of my

    Read More »from Why is it still socially acceptable to persecute travellers?

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