Thursday, March 31, 2016

The UN and the Falklands: Much Ado about Nothing

A UN commission produced a ruling this week in response to Argentina's claim to extend their territorial waters in the Atlantic from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles.

On Tuesday Argentina said that the Commission had granted this request and therefore had accepted their claim to own the waters around the Falkland Islands.

The first part of this claim appears to be partly true, the second part to be completely incorrect.

The UN commission had previously ruled that it only had jurisdiction to consider claims to extend Argentine territorial waters in areas which were not in dispute. It therefore adjudicated on Argentina's claim to extend it's territorial waters in the blue area indicated by a black arrow in the upper, centre part of the map below.

 
So if the UN panel's ruling had been legally binding, which the UK government says it isn't, it would still not affect the Falklands since the 200 mile zone around the Islands are disputed waters - Argentina claims them but the UK and Falkland Islands dispute that claim.

Also this week Microsoft  set up and in short order had to deactivate "Tay," an automated twitterbot which comprehensively failed the Turing Test, as long as you define the Turing Test as meaning that it had to produce messages which could be mistaken for those which might have come from an intelligent human being, and would not be satisfied with messages which could be mistake for those which might have come from a Donald Trump supporter.

According to the Guardian, "Anyone can now build their own version of Microsoft's racist, sexist chatbot Tay," heaven help us.

Well, to judge by the comments in my Twitter feed from various Argentine sources, I'm tempted to suspect that someone in that country may have done so, as a badly-programmed robot could have produced many of the tweets I have received arguing the Argentine case.

A couple of years ago the people of the Falkland Islands voted 1513 to 3 to stay British. Despite repeated unsuccessful Argentinian attempts to persuade the UN not to recognise the principle of self-determination in this case, that makes the islands British in the eyes of any true democrat.

This is not going to change in the lifetime of anyone who remembers the Falklands War.

And any Argentinian who imagines that a future Jeremy Corbyn government might take a different view would be well advised not to hold their breath while waiting. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn might ignore the wishes of the Falkland Islanders is one of the many reasons why I hope and believe that the British people will never elect him as Prime Minister.

A595 to be blocked North of Whitehaven for a year?


Today's Whitehaven News suggests that a possible landslip near the A595 just north of Whitehaven between the Lowca turnoff and the Howgate roundabout may possibly make it necessary to close this section of the main West Coast route for up to a year while remedial work is done to ensure it is safe.

This could have a significant effect on journeys in the area and be extremely disruptive. It emphasises the need for more work to be done on improving infrastructure in the area.

And it's Goodnight from Him - Ronnie Corbett RIP

Ronnie Corbett, one of the funniest men in Britain either on his own or with his long-term collaborator Ronnie Barker, has died at the age of 85.

His publicist said: "Ronnie Corbett CBE, one of the nation's best-loved entertainers, passed away this morning, surrounded by his loving family.

"They have asked that their privacy is respected at this very sad time."

This is one of the many particularly memorable examples of his comic genius ...




A few months ago after several of the most popular people in the world had already died this year, someone suggested "It's as if the Grim Reaper had delegated this year's deaths to an intern and he's decided to work through a list of the most popular people that everybody likes"

I feel all the more like that tonight.

Farewell to a tiny giant, who will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

A message from the Conservative party: Friday 6th May

An Appeal from Conservative Campaign Headquarters to Conservative supporters.

 
We need your help. And here’s why -

In just a few weeks’ time we face some tight elections right across the UK. In each of these elections the choice could not be clearer: a strong, Conservative team that will stand up for the people they represent or Jeremy Corbyn and his hand-picked candidates.
 
If we fail to take the fight to Corbyn’s Labour Party, the next four years could bring misery to families across Britain.
 
This is what Friday 6th May could look like:
  • Our councils and our local police forces led by a party whose leader wants to abolish our Armed Forces, abandon our nuclear deterrent and make excuses for the terrorists who seek to do us harm.
  • An opposition in Scotland that wants to put up income tax on hardworking families, would bring back secondary strike action and would print money to pay for public services.
  • Labour clinging on to power in Wales for another five years, meaning further cuts to the Welsh NHS, continued failures in the education system and an economy that is falling behind the rest of the UK.
  • Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London. The same man who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader and who said he would do it again.
 
Thank you for your support,
 
Conservative Campaign Headquarters
 
PS: Want the chance to win a Campaign 2016 mug signed by David Cameron? Donate £50 or more and we’ll enter your name into a draw.

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Quote of the day 31st March 2016

"But the law of unintended consequences has had a specific impact on the steel industry: by forcing up energy prices, we helped make it uncompetitive. You can then offset one policy with another, in the case by subsidies for large energy users, as Germany did and we followed."

"But the overall effect has been to damage heavy industry. Tata Steel has done what it can but, had it had Chinese energy prices instead of British prices, it would have been better able to fight off cheap imports."

(Hamish MacRae, writing in the Independent on the steel industry. Full article here)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Learning from the Operation Midland disaster

It is clear that, until comparatively recently, received wisdom in Britain grossly underestimated the scale and incidence of child abuse.

Some like the late Jimmy Savile got away with abusing large numbers of women and girls because they were rich and powerful. Others, members of child abuse rings in Rotherham and too many other towns, got away with similar offences because the authorities were afraid that moving against them might appear racist. Literally thousands of vulnerable people have been victims of abuse because they were not believed, or did not come forward because they did not expect to be believed.

The people who have been convicted of sexual abuse against women and children by British courts over the past few years have ranged from the rich and famous to the poor and unknown. They have included both men and women, priests and atheists, and have had skin of every colour from lily white to dark brown.

In short there is no part of British society which this evil has not touched and the first lesson we must learn from this is that when allegations are made we can never afford to assume that they are false without investigation.

But that point cuts both ways. High and low, rich and poor, people of every skin colour, have also been wrongly accused. Just as we cannot afford to assume that any allegation is false until it has been investigated, neither can we afford to assume that everyone accused is guilty.

We must not lurch between the opposite errors of failing to take seriously the true allegations of genuine victims and of credulously believing the lies and slanders of every fantasist and seeker after compensation for non-existent crimes.

Any allegation of child abuse must be listened to carefully with an open mind, no matter who the accuser is, no matter who the accused, and then investigated as impartially as possible.

We had an early warning of the dangers of failing to check the facts properly in 2012 when a distinguished public servant in the last months of his life was, in his words, consigned to "the lowest circle of hell" when he was wrongly accused of historic child abuse because of an apparent case of mistaken identity.

But this did not stop the pendulum from swinging, as everyone was so driven by a justified wish not to repeat the error of ignoring accusations which might turn out to be true, and a less justified wish to avoid being accused of being part of a cover-up, even if that accusation might be thrown at people who had merely asked questions which ought to be asked.

Successful prosecutions have proved beyond reasonable doubt that we do have a serious problem of child sexual abuse in this country, but some of the investigations of into historic child abuse have become less and less credible. Many people have asked, in the words of an article on Labour Uncut by Rob Marchant, "Operation Midland: time to examine our prejudices which is well worth a read,

"a genuinely well-intentioned campaign to uncover real paedophilia gradually morphed into a mad witch-hunt of perfectly innocent people?"

There are some people who are deeply distrustful of authority and who will have been only too ready to believe the allegations of a "VIP Paedophile ring at the heart of Westminster" which resulted in Operation Midland.

There were plenty of others who, when they heard what the witness known as "Nick" was alleging, will have thought "That's ridiculous - it cannot possibly be true."

But it was not for the police to jump to either conclusion. Their job was to investigate without any preconception of whether the claims were credible and true until the evidence had permitted this to be assessed.

Operation Midland was not a disaster for policing in Britain because the claims made by "Nick" were pursued.

Operation Midland was a disaster for policing in Britain because flaws in the way the case was handled created the impression that police officers were not treating those named in the allegations, who should have had the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty, or their families, fairly or with appropriate sensitivity. Particularly harmful was the completely inexcusable, grossly premature statement by one police officer that the claims made by "Nick" were "credible and true."

No police officer should ever say such a thing about a set of allegations before the point has been reached where there is sufficient evidence backing up those allegations to proceed with a prosecution. Operation Midland has now been abandoned with the police admitting they had not found evidence against any of the accused which would justify a prosecution, and indeed the Metropolitan Police admitted on September 22nd 2015 that the statement that allegations made by "Nick" were "credible and true" should not have been made.

But the biggest disaster of all would be if Operation Midland discredits the principle that all allegations of child sexual abuse should be fearlessly and impartially investigated. We must not go back to the situation where anyone is untouchable by the police or where genuine victims are not believed.

Labour ignoring our veterans - is this turning into a pattern?

A few days ago former Army captain and now MP Johnny Mercer introduced a debate in the House of Commons about the long term care of veterans of our armed forced. He delivered a heartfelt speech about the inadequate care many soldiers receive when they return from the battlefield.

He told the House that Tony Blair had "no plan" for veterans' care when he took Britain into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to a "complete vacuum of provision" which was only filled by ordinary members of the public, who stepped up to found charities such as Help for Heroes.

Every single one of the MPs who turned up to listen to the debate about caring for our veterans was a Conservative. Not a single Labour MP was present.

Tory MP and former Army colonel Tom Tugendhat, who was at the debate, said:

“Veterans care isn’t about party, it’s about caring for those who served.

“Sadly today no opposition MPs came to speak. It shouldn’t be just Conservatives fighting this corner.”

See report on the Express website here.

And then today, as per my previous post, the  Labour's Shadow Defence secretary replied "No, not really." when asked if she wants to reply to the concerns of a Falklands veteran.

If Labour keep this up it will look like they really do not care about the people in the armed services who have risked their lives for us.

Shadow Defence secretary "not really" interested in responding to veteran

Emily Thornberry, Labour's anti-defence shadow defence secretary had another car crash interview today, this time on Talk Radio with Julia Hartley-Brewer and Falklands War veteran Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE.

The interview was about the Falklands and Thornberry was on a sticky wicket from the start because of her party leader's daft comments about shared sovereignty over the Falklands with Argentina.

To continue the cricket analogy and for those who remember the days when Geoff Boycott was playing test cricket, the first few minutes of the interview were a bit like a Boycott-Tavare partnership against 90mph West Indian fast bowling. E.g. faced with a hostile attack that would have had most people screaming and running away in terror, Emily Thornberry managed to hold her ground and block the attack in a manner which provided no entertainment to the ordinary spectator and scored no runs, but won a grudging admiration from the more expert for a dogged defence and at least held off defeat.

That lasted for two or three minutes, but then Hartly-Brewer brought Chris Parry into the discussion. Parry welcomed the fact that Emily Thornberry had said that no change in the status of the Falkland Islands would be agreed without the consent of the Islanders, but given that the Labour party leader had said something different, he said he would like to see Labour confirm that in their defence review and put it in writing.

Julia Hartley-Brewer then asked the Shadow Defence secretary if she would like to respond to this concern expressed by a Falklands veteran, and Thornberry's reply started with the words "No, not really."

There really are no appropriate words to describe the enormity of such a gaffe - for a party spokesperson on defence to so describe a British armed services veteran who had risked his life in a war to defend the very territory she was being interviewed about.

You can listen to the interview on Guido Fawkes' site here.

Quote of the day 30th March 2016


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Defeating Terrorism

I do not expect to se a final end to terrorism in my lifetime.

But I do believe that terrorism and extremism can and will be defeated.

The last few weeks have been marked by some truly horrible events. It started with indiscriminate bombings in Turkey - and although I have some serious differences with President Erdoğan, murdering Turkish citizens is a completely wrong and will not solve any problems anyone has in or with Turkey.

Then in quick succession we had the bombings in Brussels, and the reported crucifixion on Good Friday by DA'ESH of a Catholic priest from India who been kidnapped while helping the less fortunate and had never done the so-called "Islamic State" any harm. Finally and perhaps worst of all, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taleban detonated a bomb in a public park, near a children's play area, in Lahore, Pakistan, which killed at least 72 people, many of them children, and injured more than three hundred. The majority of the dead and injured were women and children and, although the villains responsible said they were targeting "Christians celebrating Easter" the majority of victims were actually Muslim.

I make that last point only to demonstrate that the people responsible made no attempt to make their act of mass murder conform even to the sick and twisted explanation they gave, not because I think there is an iota of moral difference between murdering Christian women and children or murdering  Muslim women and children, or murdering any other group of women and children.

Far too many people, including some who ought to know better, have bent over backwards to try to excuse or explain the actions of terrorist, or to justify them in terms of criticism of the West's Foreign policy. Of course the West has made mistakes, and some of those mistakes may have matters worse. But nothing that Pakistan had done could possibly justify or explain in those terms the murder of all those innocent people who were enjoying a day in the park with their families.

We have to recognise that whether it was America on 11th September 2001, London on 7th June 2005, Mumbai in 2008, Paris last year or Ankara, Brussels and Lahore this year, the people responsible are not acting in support of any rational or attainable objective or to rectify a grievance which any reasonable action will resolve: they are acting from a degree of hate, anger and bloodlust which has gone far past the rational and which no concession or compromise will stop.

We have to target the extremists who pervert a great religion, Islam, to support such crimes without making an enemy of all the millions of decent people who follow that religion.

We need to massively improve the way we use and share intelligence - and incidentally that will be true whether Britain is in or out of the European Union.

And where we are up against an enemy who controls territory, we must take it away from them.

On that front at least, DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State") is more vulnerable than the group it broke away from, Al Queda. That's because DA'ESH has declared an Islamic "Caliphate" which gives it certain theological advantages but to retain them it has to hold territory.

When we took their territory in Afghanistan away from the Taleban and Al Queda they just went underground, but DA'ESH cannot do that. No territory, no caliphate.

And the simple fact is that they are losing that territory. Most recently Palmyra has been recaptured from DA'ESH by Syrian forces. In the last year the territory controlled by the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria has shrunk by about 25%. The Economist magazine records here how DA'ESH is losing ground on their home turf.

As Jim King posted on this blog a short while ago, "Never underestimate a terrorist" must become the maxim of every civilised nation.

But they can, must and will be defeated.

More opinions for and against Boris

To illustrate my point about how some of the narrative of split within political parties has been driven by the press, you need only look at the way the press has treated London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Since former MP Matthew Parris savaged Boris Johnson in the Times on Saturday there have been a plethora of articles both in his defence and agreeing with the criticisms.

In some ways even more damning that Matthew's attack, and nearly as savage, was Nick Cohen's piece in the Guardian, "Boris Johnson - liar conman and Prime Minister?"

On the other side of the fence, apart from Iain Martin's robust defence of Boris Johnson at CapX, was a fairly supportive article here  from the Independent's Chief Political commentator John Rentoul.

Interestingly what all four of these columns have in common is that both the supportive ones and the  hostile ones give Boris Johnson a better chance of becoming Conservative leader than I think is realistic - you can never tell how a Conservative leadership election is going to go.

I think the Screaming Eagles at Political Betting is closer to being right when he points out that Boris has not had a good referendum campaign so far and will need to do better to make the last two candidates who will be put to the ballot of Conservative members. He would not be the first "favourite" to fail to make the final stage, as Michael Portillo could tell him.

But the fairest assessment of Boris's record and chances is the one offered by Paul Goodman at Conservative Home in his piece today "The truth about Boris" which perhaps makes the best attempt to include both the good and the bad.

In particular Paul points out that "If there is a sturdy case against Boris there is also a persuasive case for him.  He has twice been elected Mayor of one of the greatest cities in the world.  He thus has the biggest personal mandate of any British politician.  That he has achieved this double in a Labour-leaning city is a gobsmacking achievement."

"He has not messed up as Mayor, to say the least, and has been rather a good one, to put the point more strongly.  Crime is down.  The tube is being modernised.  A record number of homes is being built.  He beats the drum for London with oomph and makes the case for it with pizzazz.  He twinkled during the Olympics like a star.  He understands how to delegate and some of his appointments have been top-notch."

"The claim that Boris is simply incapable of doing a major political job has been comprehensively debunked.  He has earned a shot at holding a Cabinet post.  It is not at all absurd to claim that, before too long is out, he could earn a shot at the top one.

That’s the point: could.  This man, whose “anchor is firmly secured in a kind of humane and cheerful moderation”; who “has some of the qualities of a great and inspirational leader” and who could even be “a rather brilliant Prime Minister”, is not a contender for the Party leadership at present, if only because no election is taking place, and he may never be one at all.  All those quotes, by the way, are from Matthew Parris (see here and here) – the very same author of last Saturday’s article."

"I see no reason to make up my mind about whether the Mayor of London would be a better prospect.  I will neither worship at the Temple of Boris nor violate its sacred groves.  For all I know, David Cameron will be in place as Prime Minister until 2019 or so – and, despite rising irritation at his tactless handling of his party, believe on balance that he should be."

Paul will make up his mind whether to vote for Boris if and when the time comes. So will I.

Don't let the press make divisions worse

Judging by their actions, it appears to be an article of faith among journalists that stories of splits and rows sell newspapers and get people clicking on websites.

Needless to say the rows within the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and Trident, within UKIP and between the rival "Leave" campaigns, and within the Conservatives over EU membership, have given them a field day.

But although many of the rows in all these cases are genuine - the press didn't invent Corbyn's list of supportive and "hostile" Labour MPs, suspend Suzanne Evans from UKIP or make IDS resign - I have the distinct impression that the press are looking very hard for every "split" story they can find and some of them range from the greatly exaggerated to complete fiction.

As an example, a few weeks ago there was a story in the press that the PM was planning to sack Justice Secretary Michael Gove after the referendum. This was denied by an official Downing Street spokeswoman in the most categorical terms as "complete nonsense."


and I do not believe there was any truth in it.

Today the Mail alleges that the PM had a go at Dr Syed Kamall MEP, the excellent leader of the Conservatives and Reformists ECR group in the European parliament, over the possibility that Syed might support "Leave" (which he since has.)

But if you read the whole article and not just the headline, Syed dismisses the story with the words

'This conversation has been blown out of proportion by Chinese whispers. All of my conversations with the Prime Minister on the UK referendum have been civil.'

I have no special insight into these or any other stories, but I do know that contrary to the proverb there sometimes is smoke without fire, and not every story which appears in the press is true.

It is generally good advice not to assume that every story of splits and infighting or of what people have supposedly said must automatically be Gospel truth and not to let people searching for a story trick you into becoming cross with friends and colleagues.

Beyond 23rd June

I have seen a number of deeply depressing articles suggesting that anger and hostility generated by the present EU referendum debate might continue to poison British politics in general, and relations within the Conservative party in particular, in the same way that anger stirred up by the 2014 Independence referendum has had a continuing effect on politics in Scotland.

I certainly agree that that is a potential danger, but I don't think it is at all inevitable.

An example of the sort of writing which I refer to is a recent article here by the normally very sagacious John Rentoul, chief political correspondent of The Independent, in which he argued that in the event of a win for "Remain" Conservative party members

"the ones who are overwhelmingly opposed to EU membership, would respond to defeat with the same respect for the sovereign wisdom of democracy shown by the Scottish Nationalists eighteen months ago. That is, they would immediately declare a moral victory and start campaigning for another referendum.  More importantly, they would believe that the world owed them compensation, and one of the forms this would take would be the succession to the leadership of one of their own."

I have a couple of reflections on this. First, although the arguments about Brexit have been nastier than David Cameron hoped, (and the press has been talking the splits on the subject up for all they are worth because splits are regarded as a good story) the level of anger is not remotely in the same league as we saw in Scotland in 2014.

Are we anywhere near the level of anger, for instance, at which senior politicians attempting a walkabout could get mobbed, jostled and sworn at over which side they were supporting in the EU referendum, where eggs were thrown, tables of campaignh literature overturned by rivals, and the campaigns accused one another of organising bullying mobs, as threats, intimidation and abuse could be widely seen as serious concerns?

Those things did happen in Scotland in 2014 but we are not yet seeing the same degree of anger in relation to the EU referendum. Please God it will stay that way.

And second, the next Conservative leadership election may not be until 2019 and politics them may look quite different from today.

It is worth remembering that among the ranks of those who have attempted to predict Conservative leadership elections, those who got things horrendously wrong greatly outnumber those who have been right: the favourite never wins. That is why I tend to disagree with those commentators, both among those who have a positive view of him and those who don't, who think Boris Johnson is likely to be the next Prime Minister. He could be, but don't bet your shirt on it.

While it is always wise not to treat polling evidence as Gospel, such evidence is often more accurate than people's gut impressions of what is happening, and the polling information from YouGov, based on a poll of Conservative members in February about how they were likely to decide how to vote in the election of the next Conservative leader is informative.

Asked to pick which two or three criteria they would use to vote in the next Conservative leadership election, far and away the most popular responses were "Someone who would make a good Prime minister" and "Someone who has the best chance of winning the 2020 election."

And put like that, this finding sounds about as controversial as asserting that the Pope is a Catholic or the proverbial saying about the toilet habits of bears. What makes this interesting was that "Someone who would make a good Prime Minister" had the backing of two thirds of respondents and the candidate with the best chance of winning the election more than half, while "Someone who campaigned to leave the EU in the referendum" was only named by 20%.





































If that polling is anywhere near accurate, a reputation for competence and ability to manage things, and a perceived ability to win elections, will be far more important to those who elect the next Conservative leader than which way they voted in a referendum which may be three years in the past.

Of course, if Boris Johnson is perceived in 2019 or whenever the election is held as having those qualities he might well be the next Prime Minister. But a lot of things could happen before then.



Beyond parody

One of the two groups bidding to become the official "Leave" campaign has been accused of "double standards beyond parody" for employing at least four call centre staff from other EU countries to work on their campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

This is despite the fact that the campaign concerned, Leave.EU, has been telling voters that employing workers from other EU countries deprives British citizens of jobs.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the only way to get through the remaining three months of the EU referendum campaign is to make a relentless effort to see the funny side of it. About the one thing that all the campaigns are good at is providing material to laugh at ...

Quote of the day 29th March 2016


Monday, March 28, 2016

The Easter Bunnies come to Whitehaven ...

One of my daughter's pet rabbits chose Easter Sunday to give birth to a litter of baby bunnies. We now have four Easter Bunnies in my household!

An Easter wish

I have an Easter wish for both sides in the EU referendum debate.

And if anyone reading this is a member of either of those campaigns and is thinking, "Yes, the other side should stop doing that but we aren't"  I have to tell you, both sides to differing degrees are failing on all these points.

I would be really pleased if the people involved in and running both campaigns could

1) Pay more attention to putting forward a detailed positive vision.

Both sides have concentrated almost entirely on negative campaigning, some of it justified but all of it incredibly depressing.

The rival "Leave " campaigns have been putting out material based largely on criticisms of the existing EU (many of them justified) and scaremongers about what might happen if Britain remains a member (most of them complete and utter rubbish.)

What they have utterly failed to do is come close to a consensus on what "Leave" looks like which would permit a rational debate on whether that is better or worse than what we have not to start.

The "Remain" campaign has run a campaign based almost entirely on negatives about what might happen if Britain leaves the EU - most of these are legitimate concerns given the failure of the Leave side collectively to put forward a clear and detailed exit plan against which such arguments could be assessed.

What they have almost entirely failed to do is put forward the positive reasons to remain in the EU - there are some and we ought to be hearing them.

Of course, if "Remain" ever do get their act together and put forward an exit strategy, any specific plan, be it a "WTO Plus" strategy like the one advocated by David Campbell-Bannerman or a Norway Plus Flexcit approach like this, will invalidate many of the specific concerns put by Remain but confirm others. The trouble is, until we know what sort of "leave" approach people want we cannot identify which.

2) Employ less negativity, but also less incessant accusing the other side of scaremongering

Since BSE, Vote.Leave, Leave.EU and GO have each and every one of them done a massive amount of negative, fear-based campaigning, it is complete hypocrisy for any of them to accuse the other side of scaremongering. And some of the negative points made on each side have been justified.

Yes, both sides have deployed "Project Fear" tactics, and we'd like to see more positive arguments from both: let's accept that, move on, and try judging each set of arguments on its' merits. It's time to retire the Scaremonger card, and in that I include the view that it's time to stop automatically accusing everything the other side says as being a scaremonger.

3) Play the ball, not the man.

It's possible to have a vigorous, frank exchange of views about someone's position on the EU without attacking him or her personally.

I've heard some people on both sides manage to do this - for example, there was an excellent and very constructive debate at the Cumbria Conservative Conference the other week between Sajjad Karim MEP and Lord Hugh Cavendish.

If you want to challenge someone, far better to model your criticisms on Andrew Tyrie's demolition of Boris Johnson's comments and not on Matthew Parris's character assassination against him.

That is particularly important if you and the person you are disagreeing with are both Conservatives, because the Conservatives will have to work together to run the government until at least 2020, and it would be a good idea not to get on such bad terms that the country becomes ungovernable.

 I emphasise, I am not asking people not to supress honestly-held views about whether we should be in or out of the EU, just put them in a polite, friendly and constructive way and avoid personal attacks. Especially Blue on Blue attacks.

Father Tom Uzhunnalil RIP

There is no depth to which the evil which calls itself "Islamic State" and which many others refer to as DA'ESH will not stoop.

They had threatened to crucify an abducted Indian priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, on Good Friday to make some sick religious point, and the Washington Times and the Times of India report that they have done so.

Whatever the supporters of DA'ESH and those who have fallen into the opposite trap, Islamophobia, may say, this murder is not in accordance with the teaching of Islam. As my North West colleague Sajjad Haider Karim MEP pointed out today in the context of the ghastly Lahore massacre, the Prophet Mohammed wanted his followers to live in peace with christians.


Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a catholic priest and an Indian citizen from Kerala who worked with Mother Teresa's Missionaries Of Charity, had been kidnapped in Yemen in earlier this month during a raid on a nursing home run by Missionaries of Charity. 16 nurses and nuns were also killed in this raid. He was apparently executed by the so-called "Islamic state" on Good Friday using the same method used by the Romans on Jesus.

Rest in Peace.

Music slot for Easter Monday Blessed be the God and Father (Wesley)


Quote of the day 28th March 2016

"I've noticed something odd about the debate over sugar tax.

My left-wing friends are sure that if you put up tax on sugar it will help reduce obesity. Yet they regard it as a myth that if you put up tax on company investment it reduces company investment.

Meanwhile my right-wing friends are certain that if you put up tax on company investment it will discourage company investment, yet see it as plainly ridiculous to argue that putting up tax on sugar discourages consumption of sugar."

(Lord Danny Finkelstein, diary column in The Times on Saturday.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Yet another terrorist atrocity:

It has been reported by AP here that sixty people have been killed and 300 wounded by what appears to have been a bomb blast in a park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Easter Sunday.

The explosion took place near the children's rides in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park — which was crowded with Christians celebrating Easter —local police chief Haider Ashraf said. He said the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bombing, but investigations were ongoing.

Lahore district government official Mohammad Usman said he believed the park was struck because it is a "soft target," and not because of the Christian celebrations. He did not elaborate.
 
Zaeem Qadri, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said the wounded had been taken to six hospitals in Lahore. He added that Punjab's chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has declared three days of mourning and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Whether or not this attack was meant to kill people for being Christians there is no doubt that if,  as appears to be the case, it was a suicide bombing then the perpetrators would have to have intended to kill and maim large numbers of women and children. There really are no adequate words to describe how evil that is.

May all the victims rest in peace.

We do not yet know whether this attack was carried out in the name of any religion, but if it was, the people concerned have perverted that religion and we need to do everything in our power to defeat that kind of perversion.

A second Easter Sunday music piece: Tallis "If ye love me"

When I was picking a suitable piece for today's music slot, I was trying to decide between William Byrd's "Ave Verum Corpus" or "Blessed be the God and Father" by Wesley, and Tallis's "If Ye Love me."



By a strange coincidence, after I had narrowly settled on the first of those, what should come "up next" on YouTube but this Tallis piece, one of the very alternatives I had been considering. So I decided to post this one too.





Easter Sunday music spot: William Byrd's "Ave Verum"


Easter 2016 Prime Minister's message - a message of hope


A Happy Easter to everyone reading this

Today Christians throughout the world celebrate the day when Jesus rose from the dead.

To everyone reading this who believes, may the love of Jesus be with you today.

To those of other faiths or none, peace to you today on this most holy day, and if you live in a country which celebrates this time with a holiday, I hope you have a good holiday.

Happy Easter to everyone.

Quote of the day for Easter Sunday 27th march 2016


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Clocks go forward tonight

Don't forget to put your clocks an hour forward this evening (26th March) if you are reading this in the UK.

Unless you are a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, who should be putting your clocks back to the 1970s, or a Nigel Farage supporter, in which case you can make that the 1950s.

And in the unlikely event that any supporters of DA'ESH (the self-styled "Islamic State") are reading this, set your clock back to about 60,000 BC because by your standards the average Cro-Magnon man was a dangerously progressive liberal.

Boris Johnson: for and against

London Mayor Boris Johnson has twice come under "sustained friendly fire" in the past few days.

On 23rd March he appeared before the Treasury Select Committee giving evidence in favour of a "Leave" vote. Even plenty of his fellow leave supporters would admit that, in response to questions from Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the committee, Boris had a difficult time. Here is an eight minute clip which gives a flavour of the exchange ...



Andrew Tyrie exemplifies certain old-fashioned virtues which are not as common as they should be. Andrew not merely holds, but actually practices, the view that one of the duties of MPs is to hold the executive to account.

His conscientious discharge of that duty has probably caused more anxiety to government ministers from the PM down in this parliament than Jeremy Corbyn and the whole of the Labour front bench put together.

He is a forensic seeker after truth: those who are less careful to be precise might call Andrew Tyrie a bit pedantic but if there is any truth in this charge, it is only by the Ambrose Bierce definition of a pedant as an irritating person who prefers his facts to be correct.

I don't think an intelligent person who was able to watch this interview with any degree of impartiality could draw any conclusion other than that Andrew Tyrie wiped the floor with Boris and made it only too obvious that the Mayor of London had not tried hard enough to ensure that his public statements give a fair and accurate representation of the facts.

Boris didn't get a particularly easy ride from the rest of the committee either.

A complete clip of the three hour interview with the committee, which is not for the squeamish or those who enjoy an equal contest, but is a true classic if you enjoy watching someone's arguments forensically taken apart by questioners whose command of the subject is in a completely different class, can be found on the Hansard site at

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/treasury-committee/news-parliament-2015/eu-referendum-evidence-15-16/

But worse was to come for Boris Johnson. Journalist and former MP Matthew Paris has penned a brilliantly-written character assassination of the London Mayor in today's Times under the title

"Tories have got to end their affair with Boris." (Behind a paywall).

It's devastating, but is it fair?

Some of the attack on Boris relates to his personal life and I have no intention of repeating any of this, but plenty of it relates to his conduct as a campaigner and in office. Matthew accuses Boris of using humour to distract attention from an approach to life and politics which is consistent only in its' inconsistency and reliable only in a pattern of "casual dishonesty" and "betrayal." Let me quote enough to give the flavour of the article:

"Look, this is a joke but this is not a joke. Someone has to call a halt to the gathering pretence that if only you're sufficiently comical in politics you can laugh everything off."

"Incompetence is not funny. Policy vacuum is not funny. Administrative sloth is not funny. Breaking promises is not funny. A careless disregard for the truth is not funny."

Incidentally I doubt very much that those supporters of Brexit who have suggested that Matthew Parris wrote this article at the behest of Number ten are correct. Matthew is very much his own man and attacks the targets he selects, not necessarily the ones which suit the interests of the Conservative party. His article is exactly the sort of "Blue on Blue" attack which David Cameron and those Conservatives who are looking past 23rd June have been keen to discourage.

A completely different view by Iain Martin, Editor of CapX, on that site: in response to Matthew Parris's attack he writes today, "In defence of Boris Johnson."

Iain wearily observes that he thought Britain had got past

"the bogus idea that the state of someone’s private life is always a guide to their suitability for office. Do we really want to go back to all that? To 1995? Some of the cleanest-living leaders made terrible Prime Ministers and Presidents."

He points to Boris' achievements as a two-term Mayor. I agree with Iain and apparently the London electorate rather than Matthew Parris that there certainly are some.

The main thing on which I doubt Iain is right was his inference in phrases like "Cameroons are losing the plot" that Matthew's attack was inspired by the Prime Minister or someone close to him. For the reasons stated above I do not believe that.

Trying to pull the pieces together and produce a fair overall assessment, it seems to me that Andrew Tyrie's demolition of Boris Johnson's specific arguments on Brexit was overwhelmingly justified, but although Matthew Parris does land several fair blows, some of his attack on Boris Johnson the man was uncalled for.

Postscript: The Screaming Eagles, a regular poster on Political Betting, gives his or her verdict on the performance of Boris Johnson in the referendum campaign to date here.

Endangered species?

Out shopping this morning in vile weather in a West Cumbrian shopping centre.

Saw bedraggled campaigners handing out opposing leaflets for and against British membership of the EU.

One group was from Leave.EU while a lady handing out BSE leaflets in the rain turned out to be a Liberal Democrat.

The latter group appear to be very much an endangered species in Copeland and Workington, but I didn't want to say that to her because, as whatever you think of their views, anyone who was willing to brave the rain today handing out leaflets in support of what they consider the right decision for Britain is too dedicated to deserve to be teased for it.

Quote of the day Saturday 26th March 2016


Friday, March 25, 2016

What a difference a day makes!

If there were a Novel Prize for double standards I think "Leave.EU" would have won it this week ...

On March 24th  "Leave.EU" which is of course one the rival "Leave" campaigns for the EU referendum, tweeted their approval for an intervention in the EU debate by the head of government of one of our long-standing allies.

The exact words of the tweet were

"#LEAVE.EU welcome Australian PM's "sober and sensible" intervention in the EU terror debate"

with a link and with this graphic


Then today, March 25th, they tweeted asking people to sign a petition - against the head of government of another long-standing British ally expressing his opinion on the EU referendum debate!



Now, believe it or not, I welcome both Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull expressing their opinion. What on earth are we coming to if our allies can't tell us what they think in a respectful manner without upsetting us?

But what kind of organisation positively welcomes interventions from allied nations one day, and actively supports a petition to gag such interventions the following day?

Obviously they agree with Malcom Turnbull's comments and disagree with what they assume Barack Obama is going to say, but that hardly justifies welcoming on intervention and trying to block the other one.

To a rational and fair-minded person, either you welcome honest expression of advice and opinions from our allies whether you agree with them or not, or alternatively you ask all our allies, whichever side they might support, to "keep their nose out."

I am still trying to make my mind up how to vote in the referendum and, to be quote honest, have been deeply unimpressed by much of what passes for argument on both sides. A significant part of the output of "Britain Stronger in Europe" makes me want to vote to Leave and much of the output of the "Vote Leave" campaign makes me want to vote "Remain."

But "Leave.EU" are in a class by themselves for utterly counterproductive material. Their output may go down well with committed Brexit supporters but to me as a floater most of what they produce  is undiluted nonsense and completely infuriates me. The blatant double standard I have tried to point out in this post is a classic example.

As a believer in democracy I still think calling this referendum to let the British people settle the issue was the right thing to do. But thank God we only have another three months of it.

Whichever side wins, I expect the decision of the British people to be honoured, even if the winning margin is small. And whichever side wins, anyone who then tries to re-open the decision within a generation and put us all through this again can expect a hostile response from me.

Radovan Karadzik sentenced to 40 years in prison for genocide.

After the Nazi holocaust was discovered at the end of World War II most decent people said that nothing of the kind must ever be allowed to happen again.

And sadly that honourable objective has been nowhere near to being realised. Again and again we have seen instances of state sponsored terror and occasionally outright genocide.

And all too often, while the little fish may get caught, the main perpetrators get away with it.

Not this time.

It has not happened many times in my lifetime, but this week an architect of state-sponsored genocide, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzik, was brought to justice before an international court, convicted after a fair trial, and sentenced to forty years in prison, which is likely to be the rest of his natural life.

I live in hope that a few more monsters like him - Bashar Assad and Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi are currently at the top of my list - might meet the same fate.

Each time it happens it sends a signal to the world, both to dictators and their potential victims, that sometimes, justice can prevail.

Each time it happens, even heads of government are that much more likely to think that ordering or allowing an atrocity might have consequences for them personally.

Each time it happens, those who might stand up against such atrocities are given hope that they might actually prevail.

Each time it happens it makes the world just that bit more a better place.

The world is a better place today because Radovan Karadzik has been brought to justice.

Good Friday music slot: Bach's "O Sacred head Sore Wounded"


Quote for the day Good Friday 2016 (March 25th)


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Impeachment Day?

If another 6% of the Scottish electorate who voted in the Independence Referendum had gone for "Yes" rather than "No," then today would have been day the UK was split and Scotland became an independent nation - probably still enmeshed in arguments about what currency it should use and certainly with the largest percentage budget deficit in the developed world.

Professor Adam Tomkins has a great article today here on his "Notes from North Britain" blog in which he argues that rather than independence day it might have been Impeachment day - because the prospectus which the then First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, presented Scots as a case for independence was so flawed that he would deserve to be impeached.

"Never in our history has there been a dodgier dossier than the Scottish Government’s independence white paper," he writes.

"It was a grotesque con—a wilful deception—that Scotland could obtain independent statehood cost-free. The Scottish Government misled us about the woeful condition of the nation’s finances, lied to us about our EU membership, and blustered its way through a hopeless policy—if indeed you can call it that—on the currency an independent Scotland would use."

Alex Bell, the SNP’s former head of policy, has confessed to the truth, even if his former paymasters remain in stubborn denial. “The SNP’s model of independence is broken beyond repair,” he wrote last November. He’s right.

The independence white paper was called Scotland’s Future. It was pointed out at the time that an anagram of Scotland’s Future is “Fraudulent Costs”. Little did we suspect that the fraud was quite so spectacular.

This is not just about oil, although its plunging price is part of the story. It’s really about one hard economic fact: you cannot spend and save the same money at the same time. Scotland spends more than it earns in tax receipts. Upon independence, therefore, Scotland would have no choice but to cut spending, raise taxes or borrow more and, as a new, untested, state, the cost of its borrowing would have been eye-watering."

A similar strong case explaining why Independence would have been the wrong choice for Scotland is made today in the Scottish Herald by Greg Hands, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, here.

You can make (as Adam Tomkins recognises) an honest and intelligent case for Scottish Independence. Unfortunately the SNP failed to make it.

And a very similar point applies to the case for Britain leaving the EU.

At least half a dozen models have been suggested for what sort of relationship Britain might try to negotiate with the EU if "Leave" win on 23rd June. But the ones which do not amount to complete fantasy and might actually be achievable in the real world fall into two or three categories.

Most of the minority of Brexit campaigners who have made a genuine attempt to explain constructively, openly and honestly what they want Britain to do if they win have argued for something close to one of the following approaches: either

1) WTO Plus "Flexcit" - start with the sort of relationship Canada has with the EU and try to negotiate a deal specifically relevant to Britain from there, or

2) EEA "Flexcit" - start with a relationship similar to that which Norway has with the EU but without signing Schengen, and try to  negotiate a deal specifically relevant to Britain from there.

Each of these options would have some significant advantages and some significant disadvantages. I'd be prepared to listen to a case for either. Unfortunately, because although a minority of Brexit supporters are making a constructive and honest case for one or other of these, the people who are making most of the noise for "Brexit" are no more presenting a real choice than the SNP did.

Having seen how "Better together," while their campaign did have many flaws, succeeded in making enough Scots aware of the problems with the SNP's Independence prospectus to win, the main competing "Leave" campaigns in the EU referendum have learned from the specific mistake but not the broader principle. So that have not even attempted to spell out a clear plan.

Instead they have concentrated on suggesting some imaginary "Best of all Independent Worlds" with an impossible and unattainable amalgam of the strengths of each of the above options, attacked any argument for "Remain" as "Project Fear" regardless of whether the argument attacked does in fact have a basis in reality, while simultaneously running their own "Risks of Remain" Project-Fear style scaremongers.

I would like to make up my mind how to vote on the basis of a dispassionate assessment of the advantages and disadvantages for Britain, and for my childrens' futures, of a clear plan for "leave" and a clear plan for "remain." So far I have not been given a chance to do this.

The "Remain" camp have not covered themselves in glory, but at least David Cameron has presented a reasonably clear idea of what his vision of a "Reformed EU" looks like, he has negotiated a deal which, while it falls some way short of the Bloomberg speech objectives does make substantial progress on all the areas in his published negotiating strategy, and I think we have about as much of a clear idea as is possible in an uncertain world of what "Remain" looks like.

A week ago The Leave Alliance was launched which, unlike most of the people who are campaigning to leave the EU, actually does have a plan, which they call Flexcit, with an exit strategy to take Britain out of the EU and towards a reasonably clearly explained future.

The trouble is that they seem to be getting virtually no attention from the press and it is consequently difficult to judge whether their strategy had public support and would be implemented by a post-Brexit government.

Actually, it might well be, because it is almost the only clear strategy on the table - we certainly don't seem to see any sign of one from Boris or Nigel.

I began this article by quoting the suggestion that, had Scotland had voted for Independence, Alex Salmond would have deserved to be impeached. Since this term refers specifically to a form of action brought against erring government ministers, which the most prominent members of the rival "leave" campaigns are not, it would be a malapropism to suggest that they too deserve impeachment. But their failure to put a proper prospectus to the British people is every bit as deserving of censure.

Second quote of the day 24th March 2016

Also from yesterday's Times, from the first leader article about the Brussels attacks, urging tact on both sides of the Brexit debate in making arguments based on those attacks in their immediate aftermath:

"There may be arguments on both sides, but politicians should be wary of making them with blood still wet on Belgian concourses and on trains."

Quote of the day 24th March 2016


(Leader in "The Times" on the Labour leadership's "Loyalty list")

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Keeping a sense of proportion about Europe.

It is possible to discussions about national identity to get very heated and passions to arouse well above what is called for.

We saw this in the 2014 Scottish independence Referendum and we are starting to see it now in respect of the EU membership one.

My first reaction when I saw Alistair Meek's article on Political Betting, "How the eurosceptics are destroying the Conservative party" was that he'd gone completely over the top.

The article starts by saying that

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  By that definition, the Eurosceptic right of the Conservative party is insane."

and goes on from there.

I have Conservative friends who want to leave the EU who base that opinion on evidence-based criticisms of the organisation and are capable of putting forward a civilised and reasonable case, whether I agree with it or not. (I also have friends who are not Conservatives who support Brexit on the basis of opinions which a perfectly sane person could hold.)

But it is possible for opinion to get so heated that it people start down dangerous and destructive paths.

If you have a referendum on something, and make a reasonable attempt to ensure it is fair, most British people will expect the decision of the referendum to stand, and start to get cross with people who try to overturn it.

If the SNP call another referendum on Independence in the next few years without a spectacularly good reason to go back on their view that the 2014 one was a once in a generation event - and I'm not 100% certain Brexit would be good enough - I think even the Nats will notice how cross they have made many Scots, and the margin for "No" will be larger.

Similarly the idea of a second referendum on Europe is an extremely bad one and will not be at all popular, unless it is to refine the direction of travel within an agreed direction.

My view is that if a majority of the British people vote "Leave" on 23rd June, then that is the end of the matter, we implement article 50 and leave, and everyone who believes in democracy should respect the result and try to make the policy of building a successful Britain outside the EU work.

And that goes both ways. Sauce for the "Remain" goose is sauce for the "Leave" gander.

If the British people vote "Remain" on 23rd June that result too should be respected by anyone who believes in democracy. I find the idea that a great political party might be hi-jacked by people who are still fighting for a cause which the British people had just rejected, as this Conservative Home article by Andrew Lillico suggests, to be completely intolerable.

Lillico argues that in the event of a win by less than 20% for Remain the next Conservative leader would probably be someone who had voted to Leave - which I accept is quite possible though I don't think any of us have a reliable crystal ball to predict an election which is probably three years away.

He then suggests that the next leader "will be expected to find some excuse to hold another referendum in the 2020-2025 Parliament.  Indeed, it is likely that there would even be a commitment to hold a referendum in the 2020 manifesto."

Alistair Meeks is right about anyone who supports such a policy. Either they do not believe in democracy, or they are insane.

We need a sense of proportion on the issue. A section of the political class - including myself - cares quite a bit about Britain's relationship with Europe. The vast majority of the electorate is far more interested in issues like jobs, hospitals, and the cost of living, and in a democracy, banging on about issues which they regard as settled is a good way to wreck your influence.

It's a good thing that the electorate will decide this issue. Perhaps it should happen more often. And when they have made their decision, it should be implemented and should stand.

Home secretary Theresa May on keeping our communities safe

The Home secretary writes ...


On Thursday 5th May millions of people across England and Wales have the chance to elect their local Police and Crime Commissioner.
 
Over the last three and a half years, they have hired and fired chief constables, set local policing priorities and overseen budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds. With such an important role, Christopher, it is vital that we elect Conservative PCCs in our communities.
 
Electing a Conservative PCC helps ensure that our streets will be safer, our community will be more secure, and that the money that we pay in taxes will be spent wisely.
 
Overall, PCCs have presided over a reduction in crime of more than a quarter since their introduction. We have seen an increase in the number of neighbourhood police officers and ensured that more police officers are on the front line. And at the same time as reducing the deficit, we are investing more in counter terrorism and tackling cybercrime.
 
Our opponents, on the other hand, cannot be trusted to keep our communities safe. Independent PCCs are more interested in using the role to score political points. And the fact that Labour and the Liberal Democrats wanted to scrap PCCs less than a year ago tells you all you need to know about how seriously they take the role.

Pledge your support on Thursday 5th May by donating to our campaign today.

Best wishes,
Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
Home Secretary

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

David Cameron is most fortunate in his enemies

For a serious party of government, which with all our faults the Conservative party still is, last week has to be considered a bad week.

There was a lot of excellent material in the budget, but having to pull a significant policy within two days and losing a senior cabinet minister, who is also a former party leader, is not the kind of thing a credible government can afford to do too often, especially when party unity is already under pressure because of the referendum.

Frankly, an opposition which was anything other than completely and utterly useless should have had us on the ropes this week, and everyone knows it. As John Rentoul wrote of today's Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron and Osborne simply couldn't believe their luck.

Incredibly, as today's news has demonstrated, the sort of week the Conservatives have just had not merely does not make us the most divided party in Britain.

It does not even make the Conservatives the second worst divided party in Britain.

We'll have to settle for number three after Labour and UKIP, unless the SNP fancy jumping into the game and forming their own circular firing squad to make us fourth.


Labour's circular firing squad ...

I can only assume the reason that Jeremy Corbyn totally failed to lay a glove on David Cameron, or even mention the IDS resignation, is that he considers it completely normal for political parties to be riven with factions who hate one another and are constantly trying to stick knives in the backs of their supposed colleagues.

How else can you interpret the report in The Times of the list drawn up by Team Corbyn of the "Core Group" they trust, the "Core group plus" they get on with, a group of MPs they regard as "Neutral but not hostile" and two groups of enemies - the most hostile of which includes both Labour's candidate for Mayor of London (who nominated Corbyn) and, most bizarre of all, their party's Chief Whip!




Not surprising that one of Cumbria's Labour MPs could not contain his frustration and published a tweet, since deleted, describing his leader's performance at PMQs as an absolute disaster and that this list had made his party as a laughing stock. Except that the adjective used before "disaster" and "list" was rather ruder than "absolute."

And then there's the UK Independence Party.

They've also formed a circular firing squad:


I really cannot believe these guys. Their number one objective in life for years has been to get Britain out of the EU. Because a Conservative government is honouring the promise to hold a referendum on this subject, in three months UKIP have a genuine chance to achieve this. It may well be a once in a lifetime chance.

Those UKIP members who are sane, as some like Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans are, have been working their butts off to build alliances with other people of all parties who share their view and appeal to floating voters, to make arguments attractive to people like me - pragmatists who can see a lot of flaws in the EU but don't want to take risks with the economy, people who are willing to listen to evidence.

But other Kippers would rather appeal to true believers and throw out insults, childish comments and scaremongers of the sort that annoy people like me even more than what has been coming from "Remain" does (and I'm not pleased about some of their stuff either.)

Instead UKIP have spent the past few months fighting like ferrets in a sack, engaging in silly tricks like threatening to withdraw the UKIP whip from Carswell. Which they found they can't do, as it would require a vote of the UKIP parliamentary party, which consists of Douglas Carswell MP.

And now today they have suspended Suzanne Evans, one of the four best known UKIP members and one of their most effective campaigners, from the party for six months for "a number of transgressions" which appears to mean failing to ask "How high?" when Nigel Farage said "Jump."

Evans took UKIP to court over the suspension but failed. Douglas Carswell pointedly praised her today. The splits at the top of UKIP make those in the Conservative party look minor.

But you know what is the saddest thing of all?

None of this is in the best interests of the people of Britain.

Quotes of the day 23rd March 2016 - responding to the Brussels attacks

Britain will "stand together" with European neighbours to defeat terrorism said David Cameron after the Brussels attacks.

The Prime Minister said the UK "will do everything we can to help" Belgium, as security was stepped up at key locations and airports including Heathrow and Gatwick in response to the terrorist attacks. He added that:

"These are difficult times, these are appalling terrorists, but we must stand together to do everything we can to stop them and to make sure that although they attack our way of life and attack us because of who we are, we will never let them win."

After chairing a meeting of the Government's COBRA emergency committee to discuss events in Brussels, Mr Cameron said the UK terror threat level would stay at "severe" for now, but could be raised if necessary, and further commented that:

"We face a very real terrorist threat right across the countries of Europe and we have to meet that with everything we have."

_________________________________________________________________________

"There is no way any community can make itself immune to terror attacks.

"Since they are random, no protection can defend that community from them. No amount of police work or surveillance, no deployment of armies or navies, let alone of missiles or nuclear weapons, can guard against them. Intelligence and surveillance can go so far, but the bombers and killers will get through any net.

Political terror is as old as war. From the Roman legions to Bomber Command, the instilling of horror in civilian populations has been a standard weapon. “Fighting terrorism” is as meaningless as “fighting guns”.

What is not stupid is seeking to alleviate, or not aggravate, the rage that gives rise to acts of terror, and then to diminish the potency of the incident itself. The first requires a wiser foreign policy than most western nations have shown towards the Muslim world over the past decade. The second is even harder to achieve. It demands patience and restraint in publicising terrorist incidents and in responding to them.
           
The blanket media coverage assured for any act of violence is reckless. The media must “report”, but it need not go berserk in revelling in the violence caused, as it manifestly has done to Islamic State brutality. More serious, the intention of the terrorist is clearly to shut down western society, to show liberal democracy to be a sham and to invoke the persecution of Muslims. Yet that is the invariable response of the security industry to these incidents. Convinced of its potency, it dare not admit there are some things against which it cannot protect us. So when incidents occur it jerks the knee and demands ever more money and ever more power. It must not be given them."

(Simon Jenkins writing in the Guardian here.)

_________________________________________________________________________


President François Hollande declared his personal solidarity with the Belgian people, adding that when Brussels was attacked, “it is all of Europe that is hit”.

_________________________________________________________________________

"Aujourd'hui nous sommes tous Belge:
Today we are all Belgians.

A century ago Australian soldiers were about to launch into a series of battles in Belgium and France that would see tens of thousands of them die in the so-called Great War of 1914-1918.

Today our connection with Belgium remains as the latest chapter in the Long War against jihadist extremists unfolds on our screens, with dozens killed and many more wounded in obscene acts of violence at Brussels international airport and in the city's metro system.

The connection is palpable as we feel the issues resonate with those in our own society in Australia.

The scale of the terrorist acts are far greater in Brussels than anything we have experienced in recent times in Australia, to be sure, but the incidents point to shared concerns about what this portends and what it means for our multicultural and fragile societies and the security authorities charged with protecting us.

There are a couple of noteworthy factors we need to keep in mind. First, the terrorist acts have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State terror group - Daesh. This is consistent with their acts in Paris late last year, revealing a determination to persist and a canny awareness of where the key vulnerabilities remain in an open society which admittedly has sought to increase its levels of vigilance. Security screening equipment on the inside of the airport could do nothing to prevent the explosions carried out in the part of the building not subject to such screening.

Second, the terrorists' aims need to be clearly understood to help frame the most appropriate response. On this we must be clear: they seek to goad the West into over-reacting domestically through blanket repression and indiscriminate targeting of those that can all too easily be demonised as untrustworthy outsiders.
 
At the same time they strive for those on the margins of society to be inspired by the thrill of the attention, the violence and the millenarian rhetoric to join the movement and perpetuate the violence.

How to respond? The words of the catchy slogan intended for use during London's wartime blitz has resonance for today: we need to "keep calm and carry on". By responding coolly and rationally, and avoiding emotional responses we avoid giving them what they want."

(John Blaxland, senior fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University in an excellent article which you can read in full here.)

_________________________________________________________________________


"The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium."

"We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people."

"This is yet another reminder that the world must unite. We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism."

(President Obama)

_________________________________________________________________________


“We are shocked to hear about the terror attacks in Brussels, coming as they did only a few days after the horrific atrocities in Istanbul. I hope the killers are brought to justice and face the full force of the law.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and communities affected.

"As we come to terms with yet another attack on European soil, we must redouble our efforts to work together to defeat terrorism wherever it comes from. These mass murderers want to divide our society and pit people against each other. We must deny them this goal at every conceivable opportunity.”

(Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, in a statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemning the attacks in Brussels )