Monday, 14 September 2009

Their motives should be clear

Labour stand on the edge of a political wilderness. They will certainly lose the next election, that much is clear. They have already been in power for twelve years, and the natural swing of voter tendencies is moving against them.

If Cameron’s government delivers the changes in politics that the public are demanding, if they manage to remain united over Europe, if they remain competent, if Labour divide and squabble over party direction in the wake of a collapsed New Labour project, then they face the prospect of remaining in opposition for anything up to 20 years. Sound unrealistic? It has happened before:

Between 1931 and 1945, Labour were out of power, following the collapse of Ramsey McDonald’s second government and expulsion from the Labour party. They only regained power after a titanic radicalisation of public opinion during the war. During these 13 years out of office, they ran through Arthur Henderson and George Lansbury very quickly as leaders, before settling on Clement Attlee in 1935.

Between 1951 and 1964 Labour were once again in opposition, following Churchill’s re-election. The Conservatives had four Prime Ministers in this period (Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Douglas-Home), changing leadership in order to remain in office. Labour came into power again with Harold Wilson, who took over from the previous leader, George Brown, after an impressive three weeks and six days at the helm.

Final example, and possibly the most obvious. From 1979 until 1997, Labour remain confined to the opposition benches, despite running through Foot, Kinnock, Smith and Beckett (who lasted a little over two months) as leaders. It was not until Blair came and shook up the roots of the party that they once again became electable.

With this slightly inglorious history nagging in the minds of the current Labour ministers, a drastic option has come to mind – electoral reform.

Now would be the perfect time to change the current system, but it also comes at a period that must warn us against such a change.

On the surface, the season is ripe for reform. With the tempestuous expenses scandal still fresh in memories, and the ever-increasing focus on changing the broken political system, the public would welcome a change in the way that the votes work. With the argument presented in the Independent editorial last Friday, saying that many are fed up with the tedium of meaningless votes cast in safe seats, the case may look convincing.

Be warned.

A new voting system would carry endless problem for governance. The European Elections aided the election of representatives from the BNP in the areas of Yorkshire and the Humber, and the Northwest.

The proposed voting system to be introduced instead, the AV system, would allow voters to list candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins an overall majority of first-preferences, the second preferences are counted, and so on. This system can very easily lead to people being elected by mistake. As many put a candidate in second place who they do not want to see in power, they are effectively voting for them without realising it, as AV systems always go through to the second round of voting. The result – an unwanted candidate can gain office without genuine support. For Labour, this would mean a substantially higher election rate with many putting them in second place behind either a Conservative or a Lib Dem first place vote, second place votes that would then count as first place votes in the second round of voting.

The government are not as concerned with democracy as they might like to appear. This new measure will give them a far greater chance of regaining office in four years’ time, and subsequently after that.

Do not be deceived – it is very much a political move.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Only time will kill Gordon now...

What do David Cairns, James Purnell, Hazel Blears, and Eric Joyce all have in common?

Correct; they have all resigned their posts in government within the last six months, and all have called for Gordon Brown to step down or have criticised heavily a disputed government policy as their parting shot.

Blears resigned in early June, saying that the Labour Party (by implication, under the leadership of Brown) had lost connection with the British people. Cairns, of a lower profile but certainly no less scathing, resigned as Scotland Office Minister after comments calling for a leadership contest.

The most famous of these was, of course, Purnell’s resignation in June, with his letter of condemnation being given to his close friend Phillip Webster, the Times Political Editor, and appearing on the front page the following morning. Many, myself included, wondered if that fateful act of camaraderie would finally bring crashing down the premiership of Gordon Brown. Alas no.

There have also been multiple occasions when various members of Brown’s Cabinet have been tipped to make leadership attempts or to stage coups. Several times there have been outright calls from the media from this to happen, such as in the emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on the Monday following the disastrous EU election results. Every time, the names of those who could, potentially stage an uprising has always included that of the elder of the Milibands.

However, I have become increasingly convinced that even a challenge such as this would not be sufficient to topple Gordon.

Eric Joyce’s resignation and open condemnation of the government’s handling of the Afghanistan conflict has once again called into question the suitability of Gordon Brown’s leadership and policies. Despite making the front pages, this new progression will do little to dent Brown’s iron will to remain.

The countdown to the next election is imminent. Only time will kill Gordon Brown now.

Friday, 15 May 2009

What is David Cameron up to?

There are so many things to say about the current MP’s expenses crisis that is systematically undermining the trust that people have in Parliament and the British political process.

With the blogosphere this morning trying to work out whether Labour would come fourth or fifth in the upcoming European elections, a development has occurred this evening that may prove to be crucial, and it comes off the bat of David Cameron. In what can only be described as an exceptionally brave calculated gamble, he decided to abandon the chance to show a party political broadcast in the run-up to the European elections in favour of this:

Sceptical as I am, I cannot help feeling that this is a move in the right direction. It has become something of a get-out-of-jail-free-card for the current Government to pass issues over to review boards, enabling them to wait months for a response, by which time public interest in the matter is negligible. In doing this, Cameron has recognised that people are no longer going to be satisfied with long-drawn out solutions. If MPs are to be respected again, then it will take a large public measure, such as the one Cameron has started tonight, to mend that.

Whether this is brought about by the desire to undo the four-point poll slump in The Times this week remains to be seen, but I will say this – the ability to sense the public mood and produce a politically pitch-perfect speech is something that Cameron has been called an expert at, certainly with regards to conference speeches in the last two years. This time around, he has found exactly what is needed and acted upon it, even at the expense of a conventional party political broadcast (you can’t honestly say that the video is NOT designed to be vote-winning) before a series of elections that will be seen to set the stage for the general election. The move is ballsy. Only time will tell whether it pays off.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Life and Liberty

Just in case I didn’t already have enough to do in my life, I have started up a new blog on human rights and freedoms on the University of York’s ‘Nouse’ website.

There will no doubt be some crossover between this one and that, but I will not be posting everything up on both blogs, so please do go over and check it out. As always, let me know what you think, and if there’s anything you would like me to blog on.

Happy reading,


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I don't believe it!

There are occasions when tolerance of mild, secondary deviations within a particular practice or group are acceptable, and in fact necessary, to aid the unification of the group. When people put aside their differences and come together around the fundamentals of their beliefs and values it is a sign both of the strength of a group and of the humility of those within the group.

There are also occasions when this is taken to extents that are not only damaging to the group itself, say by abandoning a key principle of the group, but also defy every scrap of common sense known to man.

Where am I going with this? Well, I’m not talking about the very thorny issue of homosexuality in the church, although some would see that as a prime example of the above. What I am referring to is something of far more concern, and that, if it leads to more of the same, will be disastrous.

Whether or not you hold to every teaching of the bible, it is probably fair to say that most would accept the need for the existence of God. Klaas Hendrikse, a pastor in the Netherlands believes otherwise. He says that he is an atheist believer, adding “the non-existence of God is for me not an obstacle but a precondition to believing in God.”

This would not be a problem if the Protestant Church of the Netherlands was to discredit him and, if he remains unrelenting in his unbelief, strike him off from the Church. Even to outsiders of the Christian faith looking in, surely this is the only sensible course of action. Not so.

In a letter, the relevant church authorities refused to take any disciplinary action against him, saying that any action taken would lead to "a protracted discussion about the meanings of words that in the end will produce little clarity", adding that people have debated the issue of "God's existence" throughout time. Well of course they have, but not while one of those disbelieving in God has remained an ordained member of the Church, they haven’t.

I’m very much in favour of religious and moral debate, but can they not see how utterly ridiculous this affair is? Those who remain faithful within the wider Dutch protestant church must now decided whether they will object to this farcical heresy and request to leave the church (not individually, but faithful congregations would be well advised to seek independence) or to pressure the senior level authorities within the church to push for some biblical common sense.

Can you seriously imagine a Rabbi who denies the covenant between the Jews and Yahweh? Or an Imam who doubts that Mohammed really did see the Angel Gabriel? The propositions are laughable. So is this episode, and the longer it is allowed to go unchallenged, the more of a laughing stock the Dutch Protestant Church will become. And rightly so.

Monday, 20 April 2009

On waterboarding

It is not normally in the nature of this blog for me to upload a post without any of my own input into the discussion. However, there are several things that have prompted me to make an exception on this occasion.

A piece on the Times Online this morning, saying that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, was waterboarded 183 times has redrawn the debate surrounding this form of “harsh interrogation” to the surface.

I was also slightly concerned by James Delingpole’s blog entry that seems almost to make light of waterboarding in order to emphasise his point.

Many people know remarkably little about waterboarding, and what it entails. I feel therefore that I must upload this video of journalist Christopher Hitchens undergoing waterboarding for a Vanity Fair feature. You can read his written account here. I believe this is a video that should be as widely circulated as possible, made by a man for whom I have the utmost journalistic respect:

Sunday, 19 April 2009

It's in the culture, not the nature.

You can see this morning’s episode of the Big Questions here. Once again, despite having my hand up, I didn’t get a chance to speak.

So here is what I would have said:

The problem is not with the MPs themselves. Taking the example of expenses, we need to look at the other professionals in the UK (let’s not waste time comparing ourselves to other countries and then giving ourselves a pat on the back).

Other professionals, such as lawyers or businessmen, have to fill in their expenses to the penny, accounting for all that they have done and spent. My dad used to come back from business trips armed with wads of receipts for small items, such as cups of coffee, and had to go through all of them meticulously.

Currently, 52% of Conservative MPs are from a legal or business background, and 50% of the Labour MPs who were voted in at the last election have come from a professional background. These are not fundamentally scandalous individuals, whatever Guido Fawkes would have us all believe.

The problem is the culture and the system into which the MPs are integrated – a culture that expects them to claim as much as they can, a culture that remains at the regulatory whim of Parliament, and that until recently allowed MPs to purchase items of up to £250 without a receipt. The public has every right to feel outraged at what it has seen in the last two weeks, but the anger should not be directed at the MPs.

Possibly the most important question – how can this be changed? Given that they are self-regulatory, the only change will be from a party in power who promise to clean up the image of MPs, who promise to make them professional again.

The ball now lies very firmly in David Cameron’s court.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Tune in 11.00 Sunday BBC1

This is just a quick reminder to tune in to BBC's Big Questions tomorrow at 11.00 on BBC1. The panelists this week are:

David Davis, former shadow home secretary,
Christiana Rees, member of the CofE synod, has written for the Guardian,
Father Stephen Maughan, a local Catholic Priest,
Sir Stephen Wall, former Diplomatic heavyweight.

The questions are:

Should MPs be beyond reproach?
Will schools be more disciplined if we re-introduced corporal punishment?
Is the Pope a liability?

I am on the second row and am hoping to raise some point about the MPs question. As usual, I will be posting a response here in the afternoon.

Pleas do tune in.



Monday, 13 April 2009

Some more Big Questions

The BBC's Big Question is once again coming to York on Sunday. I am going, and will again post it here and write about any issues that come up.

It is high exam-cramming season, so apologies for the low posting rate. Once May 4th arrives, I hope to be far more proactive at blogging again.

Just a small point - one big question has been raised about the state of the Labour Party following the smear scandal over the weekend.

Was it huge tactical folly, as Alastair Campbell says in today's Times, or nothing to do with the PM, as Alan Johnson said on Today? Or is it a sign of something deeper; a rotting core of New Labour?

Let me know your thoughts (comment here or email me on peter.campbell @


UPDATE 15.43 - I've been flagged to speak on the question of Independent vs. State schools during the Big Questions. Can't say what exactly on at this stage, but watch out for it!

Sunday, 29 March 2009


From tomorrow morning I will be away at a Christian conference, so alas no updates this week.

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far, I really do appreciate all your contributions, no matter how angry.

I will leave you with Daniel Hannan’s destruction of Gordon Brown in the European Parliament. Whether or not you agree with him, it is well worth watching.



Saturday, 28 March 2009

Not the first clue...

Tens of thousands are marching through London today, protesting at the G20 on poverty, climate change, and jobs. All that they lack now is a clear idea of how to go about achieving these worthy aims.

One mass-produced sign handed out to people said “Jobs not bombs.” Forgive me if I am misunderstanding this, but in what way is that not utterly ludicrous? For a start, the two are not opposite ends of the same scale. No bombs does not, and has never, equated to more jobs. In fact, ironically, the two often go hand in hand. A while ago I wrote a piece saying that the BAE, with whom the University of York have now cut funding ties, are economically beneficial for those who associate with them, and provide thousands of jobs for families in all areas of employment. This fact remains.

In what way, therefore, will cutting bombs increase jobs, (and vice versa)? The sign is ridiculous and incoherent. It will probably fit right in with the thronged masses who are marching, as I type, through London with the united demand to change the world by doing…erm…

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury

Apologies for the limited uploads recently, it is deep into exam cramming season.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by the Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and cover the resulting question and answer session for The Times' Ruth Gledhill. Here is what she said:

After the lecture he did a Q&A, which Peter Campbell, deputy politics editor of York University's Nouse website, reports for us here. The pictures accompanying this post are all also by Peter, former workie at The Times. A journalist to watch, methinks, especially as he did this for us for no financial reward. You will have your reward in heaven Peter!

By Peter Campbell

The religious communities are “failing profoundly in what is expected of us” in energising a response to climate change in society, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Despite the huge potential influence that the church has over the issue of global warming, it fails to harness this effectively, he added, while answering questions following his lecture in York Minster on climate change last night.

One proposal he put forward was for “church commissioners to be more proactive in their own lives” suggesting that those in the role of leadership should be the first to “trade in their cars for eco-friendly or eco-neutral versions.”

The Archbishop said that “we are near a tipping point” of climate change, and that the church, and other religious communities, are not doing their part to lead the world against it.

“People from Westminster are constantly telling me that they need me ‘to keep up the pressure’ on them to do something.” Dr Williams added his support to the sentiment that politicians, if relied upon, will do

He also added that he was “deeply perplexed” by the issue of overpopulation. “The immediate common sense response says that everyone has to consider the limitation of their own fertility,” but was quick to add that “that sounds rather like a Western prescription for other people.” Dr Williams made clear that he was not advocating a China-esque governmental policy “which led to the most appalling results and brutality.”

“It is hugely complicated,” he admitted, adding “I find myself confused by it.” The Archbishop addressed that the human race has a moral responsibility for their actions, and that “the cross [of Jesus] saves us from our self-destructive nature, not from being created in the first place.”

Furthermore, humanity seems not to have a sense of fear about what will happen if we don’t act, he said, stressing “the human race doesn’t seem to know what it’s up against.”

Click here for the full blog entry, and for more of Ruth.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Holiday plans

You may have seen reports of the government’s plans to make all holiday goers, businessmen, and day-trippers from the UK record their trip on a database. The regulations will track up to as many as 250 million journeys from the UK, including light aircraft, fishing vessels, and even channel swimmers.

The plan, brought in by the UK Borders Agency, is being phased in, with the plan to cover 95% of people by the end of 2010, and will carry a hefty 5,000 fine for non-compliance. Why?

According to e-borders; "It allows us to secure the UK's Borders by screening people as they travel in and out of the UK. E-borders helps the police catch criminals attempt to escape justice."
The e-borders website gives the reasons for the scheme’s necessity. There are four of them:
1. in order to keep a comprehensive record of everyone who crosses our border;
2. in order to strengthen the security of those who live in and visit our country;
3. in order to make it easier for those who are travelling and trading legitimately; and
4. in order to maintain tight control of our border.

These four are all worded so as to be vague, and therefore un-quantifiable in terms of success. Obviously they are supposed to keep a comprehensive record – the system would have failed in its most basic practical function if it didn’t record who crosses the borders!

The third point is the most ridiculous of the four. In what possible way will handing over details make travelling out of the country easier? “Make it easier” – make what easier? The act of travelling perhaps, or maybe simply being able to sleep peacefully knowing that your personal and travel details are safe in the government’s hands.

Which brings up the most concerning aspect of the entire venture, aside possibly from the civil liberties/big brother scare that will no doubt be had over the measure. The government will hold these travel details in a database for, mercifully, “no more than 10 years.” Given how much legislation regarding personal information has changed in the last decade, how much more will it have the potential to change in the ten years of holding the information! Any details given will be held across at least two potential changes of government and countless more changes in policy direction.

There is nothing to stop the details being collected, and the five years later being informed that, due to extenuating circumstances, they now need to be kept for 15 years, or 25 years. And you need to provide more details next time as well.

This is, of course, all assuming that they don’t go and lose them in the first place.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The UN is over-reaching its mandate

Last November, the UN passed a resolution against the defamation of religion. While it might appear on the surface that this would create tolerance, many fear that it will encroach on free speech. The resolution, led by Pakistan supported by Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, but opposed by the UK, US, and Israel, could become binding on all UN member states if passed later this year.

What this will mean is that the states will have to pass legislation outlawing anything that could be classified as ‘religious defamation’. Many fear that this legislation will principally apply to Islam, who have a higher track record of taking offence at criticism than most. As put by CNN, this will make “any mention of terrorism linked to Islam a criminal offence.”

Christopher Hitchens, well known for his contempt of all religions, called the measure “totalitarianism defined” and “a rape and butchery of our [America’s] First Amendment.” His argument runs that, if they feel insulted by anything, Muslims will go straight to violence. On the other hand, you can’t call them violent, because that will hurt their feelings. While this is obviously a little bit of a one sided-analysis from a close friend of Salman Rushdie, it holds some alarming truths within it.

This appears to be the UN reaching well outside of its mandate on an issue over which it has already made a stance – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which just happens to include freedom of both expression and religion). What it is doing now would run the risk of fundamentally contravening these values, whether or not the countries signed up to the Declaration – I’m looking at you, Saudi Arabia.

What would actually happen if this passed and the UK was bound to create such legislation? The desired outcome – tolerance and peacefulness, would be completely reversed. Intolerance and suspicion would be nurtured under the surface, and it wouldn’t take a very large event to spark off race riots, hate campaigns, and anti-Islamic protests, which would sink to the levels of the radical Islamists of ­­­­today.

The UN should back off, and keep to restoring member border disputes by peaceful means – that’s why it was created.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Bribing your way to peace?

News tonight that Hillary Clinton is attempting to win the favour of moderate Palestinian group Fatah and to sideline Hamas to the tune of almost $1bn is interesting.

Since being appointed Secretary of State by the new US President Barack Obama, Clinton has not yet strayed into the minefield of the Middle-East. The money is in the form of aid to Gaza for the purpose of re-building, and is conditional on the grounds that Hamas have no involvement in the spending of the money. Gaza saw a serious amount of infrastructural damage in the recent conflict, and the money is no doubt needed, but is essentially trying to bribe your will onto the Middle East either possible or wise?

Washington wants the money to bolster Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, which Hamas evicted from the Gaza Strip in 2007. In this sense, it is possible that the money may well enable Fatah to take control of the region’s reconstruction, but only if Hamas let it.

Who is to say that Hamas, who showed massive disregard for the lives of its citizens, continuing to shell Israel when the Israeli tanks were sitting at their gates, will suddenly undergo a change of heart and will have the best interests of its citizens in mind? Hamas will be perfectly happy to sit there in spite and let other, neutral aid organisations clear up the mess.

While the humanitarian groups will tend to focus on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza more than the reconstruction, with the amount of coverage that the region has had, it is impossible to think that no-one will consider investing in its redevelopment unconditionally. Essentially, if Hamas can function without having to ask for money to rebuild itself in Gaza (we have no idea whether Hezbollah are able to help them out), then the people in Gaza have no chance of seeing the money.

Secondly, is it wise? On the surface, winning the favour of one group of people by helping instil them in power can only be a good thing. But will helping any Palestinians go down well with Israel, especially following the recent election results?

What is potentially more damaging is that this action will send the message to other potential allies of the US in the Middle East that, if they can successfully have a more-evil alternative, then they are likely to get funding to aid them to success. This sets an unhelpful precedent.

Clinton’s first serious move on the international stage is both an unprompted and a reckless one, and runs the risk of being totally ineffectual. Only time will tell whether her boldness pays off.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


This morning's episode of Big Questions is available to watch again on I-player (Thanks to those who pointed this out to me)

Of the three questions raised this morning (see my previous post for the details of the speakers and topics), the most interesting was without a doubt the question of whether or not Islam is intolerant. Despite sitting with my hand up for a large part of the debate, Nicky Campbell chose to ask the relatively attractive girl next to me for her input instead (which, as it turns out, was a very valid and salient point – that she felt welcomed in a Muslim country when she stayed there, so why don’t Muslims feel welcomed here?).

The point I would have made was that I would not have personally thought Islam intolerant until two weeks ago, when I saw an example before my eyes that was hard to believe.

It occurred at a debate on Radical Islam in Britain, at which Douglas Murray (seen on the programme this morning), Guffar Hussein (the other head of the Quilliam Foundation) and Haleh Afshar (Iranian born feminist in the House of Lords) all made their case very well an articulately.

What followed was extraordinary. The Muslim Councillor for Students, Mohamed El-Gomati, stood up to say a few words of response before the question session. In the following moments, all potential for consensus was shattered as he turned to Douglas Murray, and an accusation echoed around the room: “racist”.

Maybe this is a one off. Nevertheless, for the man who many people see as representing Muslim students on campus to stand up and revert to such playground-ish accusations in the face of a considered and professional debate is utterly derogating for the image of Muslims everywhere.

Are they tolerant? I certainly hope, for their sake, that Professor El-Gomati is the exception, not the rule.

Big Questions

Apologies for not uploading anything in the last few days.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to the BBC show The Big Questions. It should throw up some interesting discussions. This week’s panel members are Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley; Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion; Majid Nawaz, Director of the Quilliam Foundation; and paralympic athlete Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson.

The three ‘big questions’ are:

Is Islam an intolerant religion?
Are men's sins worse than women's?
Do benefits encourage sponging?

It’s in BBC One at 10.00, or in I-player afterwards. I will no doubt be posting something coming out of it later on.

Thanks to everyone who has commented or emailed me, your contributions are much appreciated.

Keep reading!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Missing the point

Someone has just brought this to my attention, and I feel that it cannot go un-commented on.

You may or may not have heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. If I said they are the group who proclaim that “God hates gays” and were involved in picketing funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq, then your memory may be jogged.

It seems that their brand of Christianity has made a transatlantic voyage, and they will begin their campaigns and pickets over here. This comes in response to a school theatre in Basingstoke hosting a production of The Laramie Project, a play that is perceived to have anti-homophobic connotations. The language of their group is frightening.

What is fundamentally damaging about the group is not, surprisingly, their opinions. They are, by all means, entitled to them. What is concerning is that they portray themselves in a light that is to Christianity what radical jihadist preachers are to Islam.

If the group gets lots of publicity, it would become very easy to take random verses of the Bible and create a video similar to Geert Wilders’ Fitna, shown in my previous post. The God they refer to hates people, and who commands his followers by a set of strict rules. Who, given the constraints put on the believer in such a God, would ever choose to become what these people understand to be a ‘Christian’?

Taking the Bible in context (something that is very often not done when considering these contentious issues), the God that is portrayed within is a God of immense power and holiness, but primarily is a God of love. What the Westboro Baptists seem to forget (or conveniently ignore) is that God, rather than being a tyrant bent on the destruction of evil humanity, is a God who reached out to us by His son Jesus.

Such is the love of God in the Bible that He sent His son to die so that we might be able to be in a relationship with God – no matter what we have done, God will accept us due to the totally sufficient sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross.

That, in a nutshell, is the message of Christianity. What the Westboro Baptists seem to ignore is the love that covers all evil deeds of man. If they focused a little more on this and a little less on the apocalyptic, then people might start to pay the right kind of attention to them.

Action and reaction

It seems that there is a ream of problems facing the Government over counter-terrorism measures that are all unravelling at the same time.

The Daily Telegraph this morning leads with an interview with Dame Stella Rimington, ex-head of MI5, who warns that the Government have used the fear of terrorism as an excuse to erode civil liberties. What is more concerning is the she believes that “It has achieved the opposite effect: There are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification.” Several other right-wing papers publish the story with the words ‘police state’ in the title.

Secondly, a report published by the International Commission of Jurists has accused the UK and US of undermining international law and “presents alarming findings about the impact of counter-terrorism policies worldwide and calls for remedial action.” The press release regarding the report also states that “the report calls for the rejection of the ‘war on terror’ paradigm and for a full repudiation of the policies grounded in it.”

Thirdly, the interview comes at a time when some potentially embarrassing reports have come out, including those of local councils using anti-terrorism laws of 2002 to catch people fly-tipping.

Finally, BBC’s Panorama programme last night was on the radicalisation of Muslims due to their lack of trust in British people. The investigation more alarmingly unveils concerns that centrally-funded community projects are being used to gather intelligence about potential radicals to ease MI5’s process of following every extremist in the UK.

All these come at a time when the Home Office is preparing to publish plans to further surveillance in a new series of counter-terrorism ideas. Furthermore, a new level of authorities is to be authorised, with powers above police officers, by the Home Office. This measure was slipped into the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. Lack of trust? Who can blame them?

So where does the fault lie? Potentially with several parties.

It is easy to blame the government, as they are the ones in direct control of the increase in surveillance and data control. Regardless of whether or not you support them in the policies, New Labour have presided over the greatest rolling back of basic civil liberties in peace-time Britain, and that’s still with some of the most serious policies – ID cards and 90 day detention – having fallen short.

Similarly, it is easy to blame the neo-conservatives. What do they have to do with anything? Well, the neocons were in power in the American administration that dealt directly with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The US, following a rally-round-the-flag syndrome, created the Department of Homeland Security and passed the Patriot Act. Britain, still seeking to be very much in line with the US, followed suit with a set of policy proposals that increased governmental observation over the lives of its citizens.

You could also try and pin it on the Islamic fundamentalists. If they hadn’t perpetrated the attacks on 9/11, the Madrid bombings, 7/7, and several failed operations including 21/7, Glasgow airport, and the nightclub bombings, then we would not be on the lookout for terrorist potential everywhere.

While all of these are plausible, and do in fact have some truth to them, the main problem is not with the government, or the US neocons who led the world in government control, or even the fundamentalists themselves. The problem is, as with so many things, the state of the media coverage.

The media, particularly the widely-read and little-questioned right wing tabloid media, would lay all of the blame at the feet of Islamists themselves, and actively seeks to make divisions between communities.

The root of the problem then, is what is causing the lack of trust that so alienates young Muslims and leaves a window open for radicalisation. This cannot be the governmental policies alone, and to try and blame America or fundamentalists themselves is ludicrous. The media, who wield their great power often so irresponsibly, are to blame for the greater part of the distrust that has been created.

Maybe a little more tolerance and a little less scare-mongering wouldn’t go amiss.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A deja-vu of closed debate

Last Thursday the Dutch MP Geert Wilders was barred from entering the UK due to his radical views on Islam. He was on his way to present a film documenting the roots of radical Islam in the Koran to the House of Lords when he was held at Heathrow amidst fears that his visit would result in a security threat.

Here is the video, in two parts. It contains very shocking images:

On the surface this may appear a reasonable response to a man who is already facing trial in his own country for inciting hatred. However, there are several things that render the incident completely ridiculous.

The film, while well put together and very resounding, is ludicrously one-sided and verging on propaganda. Showing it in public would not cause outbreaks of violence – it would throw up discussion and ridicule.

If the government want to combat the message of Wilders, the best way is not to cover it up and send it back – it is to invite it in and open it up to debate.

This bares stark similarities to the episode that occurred over a year ago when Nick Griffin was invited to speak at the Oxford Union. Outrage occurred, tempers were roused, and rallies were attended. Griffin spoke, and was intellectually destroyed during the ensuing debate. The end result was that, by allowing the event to go ahead and the highly controversial view to be aired, that view was itself rubbished. This is exactly how a debate should work.

The most ludicrous aspect of the whole Wilders affair is that the film was still shown in the House of Lords, irrespective of the absence of Wilders himself. Furthermore, Wilders was in the country two weeks ago – he said so himself when interviewed by the BBC about it! It seems that the only reason that Wilders was this time prevented from entering (he was actually banned from the UK, but only this time was it enforced) was due to the nature of his visit, and even then the showing went ahead without him.

How many people had heard of Geert Wilders before last week? Substantially less than now do. How many had seen his film? Again, far less than have now seen it as a result of the incident, myself included. The only thing that the government have achieved by this action is free publicity for a biased propaganda film, and emphasising the inconsistency of British policy over free speech.

Maybe now sufficient debate will follow to change this.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


Welcome to POLITICS AND RELIGION, my blog on politics from a Christian viewpoint. This is my first ever blog, so there will no doubt be some teething issues along the way, but I appreciate your comments and your feedback on anything I say.

Equally, if you want to post in response to anything written here, feel free. If there's anything you want me to write about or think that I have missed, please get in touch!

Anyway, here we go...