Simple electoral mathematics demand it.
Labour can only have an inquiry into anti-Semitism if it scratches the surface.
The methodology being used by the Jewish Chronicle in its story about Naz Shah MP, and Guido Fawkes in a series of recent cases to break stories of extremism and racism involving prominent British Muslims, is not revolutionary. It is that Conservative Campaign Headquarters and Hope Not Hate used against UKIP candidates in the 2014 European elections and 2015 UK elections. Trawl through an individuals social media accounts, look for anything which could be considered (or actually is) racist and use it to hit the candidate, hard, via a compliant media. Some of the stories proved to be false and led to embarrassing apologies, others were not, but they got the job done.
Anti-Semitism may or may not be a deep-rooted problem within the left. It is deep-rooted however within British Islam, as Medhi Hasan observed in an important article in the New Statesman in 2013. Whilst the British left is at times determined in drawing a distinction between criticism of Zionism as a political ideology, and criticism of Jews as people, examine the posters and messages on any pro-Palestinian demonstration and you will see this distinction rapidly becomes blurred, especially among politically active British Muslims. If Labour's internal inquiry starts examining attitudes to the issue of anti-Semitism among constituency Labour parties in London, Birmingham, West Yorkshire, East Lancashire and Greater Manchester, things are going to get very messy indeed.
I don't think Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party can afford to raise that stone, because we know what is crawling underneath. The problem Shami Chakrabarti faces however, is that if she does not raise the stone others, the Jewish Chronicle and Guido Fawkes to take just two examples, will do it instead.
Turkey is to have its application to join the European Union fast-tracked, despite its pitiful human rights record.
Worse, Turkish pressure is having a negative effect on political freedoms in Europe, where, under pressure from Ankara, the German comedian Jan Böhmermann is being prosecuted for reciting a rude poem about President Erdogan. The best way to respond to such nonsense is of course to join in. I am delighted to read that the Spectator has launched the 'President Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition' with a prize of £1000 to the winner. Here is my entry:
There is a leader with a hairy bum,
his Palace cost quite a sum,
it made him frown,
not to keep the Kurds down,
but Angela said she'd still come
Whoever wins the £1000, I would not advise them to spend it on a holiday to Turkey.....
It is hard to imagine how the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq could be any further delayed. But it seems it might be, in order to assist those arguing to keep Britain in the European Union.
Ben Barry, of the Institute for Strategic Studies comments:
“If Chilcot is doing his job, I suspect many key New Labour figures will be criticised. Whilst many of them are not as active in politics as they once were, they are still figures who could make a positive contribution to Cameron’s campaign to remain in Europe. So delaying a report that might damage or even destroy their reputations might be an understandable judgment call.”
This is most likely to be a reference to former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. A keen supporter of Remain, his son, Will Straw, is the Executive Director of Britain Stronger in Europe.
My Blogging for Leave contribution today concerns the consistent ability of the EU to make us less safe. The EU is far more than a mere trading bloc, but a political player with a completely unnecessary security role.
Whilst the definitive history of the EU's engagement with Syria's 'rebels' is still to be written, this snippet on their relationship is indicative, with the declaration Brussels should arm those in the field:
"The call by the Syrian National Coalition followed EU's decision earlier this week to let the Syrian arms embargo expire, paving way for individual countries in the 27-member union to send weapons to Assad's outgunned opponents."
Manchester Evening News, 30/05/13.
Many of those guns, wherever they eventually came from, are today pointing not at Assad, but at Brussels, Paris and London.
Today's quote in my Blogging for Leave series comes courtesy of Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP for Clacton. Having encouraged sustained borrowing in Greece, the EU abrogated all responsibility:
"In response to the inevitable crash, though, only Greece was expected to pay the price. Instead of making the lenders who made bad investments in Greece bear the full cost of their bad decisions, the EU Troika has forced Greece into a vicious circle of economic contraction and debt expansion that creates a constant crisis."
Brussels may or may not succeed in postponing the next Greek crisis until after the UK's referendum on June 23rd. But that crisis will come - Greece cannot possibly function as a nation state and pay its debts to the troika. Carswell adds:
"But to keep up the absurd pretence that the single currency is a success, the Greeks have been reduced to debt servitude instead. The EU hasn't just failed to save the Greek economy. It has sacrificed the Greek economy to save the European project."
The annual risk analysis by the European Union's border force, Frontex, makes for sober reading. The European Union often does not know who it is letting in, nor who it allows to cross its territory:
"the identification issue concerns the potential threat to internal security. With large numbers of arrivals remaining essentially unclassified for a variety of reasons, there is clearly a risk that persons representing a security threat may be entering the EU." (p.61)
The danger this poses was evidenced last year:
"The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU. Two of the terrorists involved in the attacks had previously irregularly entered through Leros and had been registered by the Greek authorities. They presented fraudulent Syrian documents to speed up their registration process." (p.7)
Britain has a degree of protection against such individuals, as we are not part of the Schengen agreement allowing free movement across the EU. However there is nothing to stop British jihadis mingling and liaising with such individuals once they have entered Europe, and all would be able to enter the UK, unquestioned, as soon as they obtain EU citizenship. Indeed Angela Merkel has guaranteed the right to remain to all Syrians, making Syrian documentation, whether genuine or fraudulent, ever more valuable to those with malign intent.
The European Union is making Britain less safe.
You need to check your paperwork, and speak to your bank.
Back in 2008, one of the ways I sought to finance my PhD was by taking out a career development loan. It was probably not a good decision - I had no face to face advice, and reliant only on what I could find online rather rushed the application. I applied for too small a sum, and did not really take in the fact you had to pay it back after three years - regardless of whether you were still studying or not.
Paying it off was grim - I spent most weekends and all summer in 2011 and 2012 doing security work at various sites across London and the south east. Studying had to wait. In a lot of ways though, I learned as much from that as I did from my own research - about how people act in crowds and groups, when violence starts, how big corporations work and do not work, and the impact of globalisation.
At times it was hard not to laugh out loud - working with a group of Pakistani 'students' from a G4S subcontractor, I casually mentioned that I was not only a mature student but worked at university. Near panic broke out in the ranks as their unofficial foreman began shouting to the others in Urdu - no doubt warning that their cover stories could fall apart if anyone spoke too much to me! Later I received the regular email from Sir Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, where he kept staff informed of his determined lobbying against the Home Secretary's restrictions on student visas. Sir Edward would never see the world that I had, and could not grasp the main reason such employees are low paid is the bottomless pool of workers (some pretending to be students, especially at language schools) entering the country daily. For them, the minimum wage is a fortune.
On Saturday morning I went downstairs to find a letter from my former bank, declaring they had wrongly charged interest on my career development loan, and incorrectly charged me on the occasions I failed to meet monthly payments. A cheque for a four figure sum was enclosed. In some ways I am very lucky - had the bank sent it to my old address, I would never have received it. In others I reflect on how much easier life would have been without the ball and chain of interest charges. I would certainly have finished my PhD sooner, and would be further down the career path I want to get too.
If you used a career development loan to help finance your PhD, do speak to your bank about the interest payments and any charges. You may be due a significant refund.
You might not have seen it debated, and American taxpayers might never have voted for it, but it seems that over the past 13 years, the US government has repeated the Marshall Plan, but in Afghanistan.
It was the Marshall plan which helped to rebuild and reconstruct a battered Europe after WW2. It now emerges that US spending in Afghanistan this century exceeds that spent in Europe from the late 1940s onwards:
"Some $113bn (£79bn) has already been spent by the US government on reconstruction in Afghanistan in 13 years. That's more than the $103bn (in today's money) it spent on helping to rebuild Europe after the Second World War."
So, Afghanistan must be well on its way to enjoying the wealth, stability and prosperity enjoyed by West Germany or the Netherlands, right? Er, not quite.
"For every dollar spent in Afghanistan, at least 29 cents disappears in fraud or wastage, based on figures from the US Commission on War Time Contracting. And even that 29 cents is a conservative estimate".
Both quotes in Jonathan Owen "We have worked with many brave Afghan policemen..but many are no longer there," i, 29/03/2016. The Independent version of the article is online here.
As a result of this, the Americans appointed John Sopko, a former member of the Department of Justice's organised crime force in Cleveland, as Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Since 2012, this organisation estimates it has saved $946 million, and levied dozens of criminal charges.
Whatever the Americans have been doing in Afghanistan since 2001, let no one say it is imperialism. By its very nature, imperialism takes more than it gives - and the Americans have given an enormous amount. Who they have given it to, and whether they had any mandate from their own voters for what is in effect a second Marshall Plan, is another matter entirely.....
I am going to try and post a regular series of quotes, comments and snippets here, over the next few months, in order to try and encourage a leave vote in the EU referendum on Thursday 23 June. I am quite possibly the only academic in the country campaigning for the UK to leave the European Union, so if I am going to commit career suicide, I may as well do it thoroughly. Here's the first of many such examples:
"On the night of the 2005 French referendum on the proposed EU constitution, Jean-Claude Junckner (then Prime Minister of Luxembourg and holder of the rotating EU presidency) was waiting with officials and journalists for the result to be displayed on screens. France had used an electronic ballot, so as soon as the polls closed the results would be displayed. More than half - 55 per cent of the voters - rejected the constitution. What did Junckner do at this stage? Did he feel humbled by the will of the people? No. He turned calmly to the waiting journalists and said: "They will have to vote again".
City AM, Editorial, 18 January 2016.
Students of the European Union will know that the French did not vote again. The constitution was instead placed within the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, and that passed the French parliament without a plebiscite. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of the European project for long. Especially not the people of Europe.
Last night I was able to find an online stream of the WBA Heavyweight title fight from Grozny, where the champion Ruslan Chagaev, an Uzbek now based in Germany, fought Australian Lucas Browne.
To my knowledge, it was the first world class sporting event to be held in Chechnya, certainly in its period as an independent state within Russia. Given where Chechnya was twenty five years ago, that is some achievement. In terms of the fight itself, few gave Browne a prayer. Although Chagaev is clearly past his best at 37, he has always been a class act, and was in his second period as world champion. His only two defeats, to Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin. Browne, a former martial artist, was unbeaten, but had never fought anyone in Chagaev's class. Good quality heavyweight sparring is hard to find in Australia, and Browne has actually spent chunks of his career fighting minor opponents at the bottom end of boxing bills here in the UK.
A curious backdrop to the fight was the towering presence of Chechnya's strongman leader, the pugnacious Ramzan Kadyrov. The former head of a pro-Russian militia who has held power in Grozny since 2007, Kadyrov rather looks like he should be in the ring himself (he is pictured above, pre-fight, with Browne). Indeed during the 2014 terrorist attacks on his territory, Kadyrov raced to the scene himself, armed, in order to help put down any insurgency. It is hard to imagine David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn doing that.
Whilst Kadyrov has broadly ensured Putin's need for stability in the troublesome Muslim south, it has come at a high price. Karima Bennoune's excellent "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here" has a detailed section on Chechnya - the status of women, and political freedom's generally, have worsened under Kardyrov. Indeed his main trick seems to be repeating that practised by a series of Arab dictators - giving ground to Islamist actors in terms of civil law and broader society, but rigidly excluding their armed factions from political influence.
In terms of the fight itself, Chagaev did the classier work, and should really have stopped Browne in the sixth and eight rounds. Ramzan Kadyrov positioned himself at the ring apron, occasionally slapping the ring floor with excitement, and yelling Chagaev forward. If the most famous stories of politicians and boxing focus on the Rumble in the Jungle and Mobutu Sese Soko, Kadyrov seems to have got considerably closer to the action than his African counterpart. And then, it all went wrong. Browne put Chagaev on the seat of his pants. The chance of a lifetime beckoned, and he threw furious haymakers as a dazed Chagaev got himself stuck on the ropes. The referee, correctly in my view, stopped the flight. Mrs Chagaev, who had now moved almost as close to the ring as Ramzan Kadyrov, struggled to decide whether to keep her hair covered with both hands, or to slap the cameraman who was clearly invading her personal space. Kadyrov made his anger at the referee's decision clear, whilst a thousand Chechens booed.
But it was over. The decision was accepted, and one of boxing's greatest upsets had ensued. That at least will ensure that Grozny earns its footnote in boxing history. Whilst the WBA and other authorities probably need to pass a ruling against allowing politicians untrammeled access to the ring area (Kadyrov's presence could easily have intimidated the officials) all was fair on this occasion, in love and war. Chagaev almost certainly heads back to Germany and retirement, and for Browne some huge pay days await. But not, I suspect, in Chechnya.
Don't worry, this blog is hibernating rather than deceased.
It seems timely for me stir from my slumbers at the instigation of a colleague - Larry O'Hara of Notes from the Borderland magazine. Larry has penned a detailed analysis of why he argues Green party members, and indeed greens generally, should Vote Leave in the 23 June referendum.
This is a summary of that more detailed piece, courtesy of the Green Left blog, "Why Greens Should Vote to Leave the EU".
This morning BBC Radio 4's Start the Week was a discussion centering on the Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, and his new work.
What I found remarkable about this was less Al Aswany, or even the panel discussion, but the issues redolent in Tom Sutcliffe's introduction. Sutcliffe stated:
"The greatness of Islamic societies in the past has led Muslims of all kinds to dream about and plan for equally glorious Islamic societies in the future. How can they get past the disappointing compromised and sometimes violent present though? Must an Islamic state necessarily be at odds with modern secular democracy? And can an open pluralistic society come to a working accommodation with a monotheistic faith?"
There is plenty of food for thought here. For Islamists, the gap between theory and reality in Muslim majority societies, and especially in countries which declare themselves Islamic, poses an almost insurmountable challenge. Thus far, the easiest response has been to call for ever more of whatever interpretation of Islam is to hand - hence in part the Islamification of Pakistan under Zia, and later the development of both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. To my mind it also helps explain the prevalence of conspiracy theories in both Muslim communities here and in Muslim majority nations - if life is not ideal, it cannot be due to the beliefs on which life is predicated, but the wiles of those opposed to the faith. Equally, the extent to which a pluralistic society can accommodate Islam is one of the issues of our age - certainly since the Rushdie affair.
But as so often with the BBC, Sutcliffe accidentally tells us as much about his world, as he does anything else. Just read that first line again:
"The greatness of Islamic societies in the past has led Muslims of all kinds to dream about and plan for equally glorious Islamic societies in the future".
I am not sure many Radio 4 listeners felt uncomfortable hearing those words. Substitute the word British, for Islamic and Muslims, and then see how it reads. You could equally do that with the words German, American or French, to similar effect.
"The greatness of British societies in the past has led Britons of all kinds to dream about and plan for equally glorious British societies in the future".
But Sutcliffe, and I suspect many Radio 4 listeners, would feel distinctly uncomfortable if a politician were talking of the glories of Britain's past forming the basis to establish a glorious future. The liberal aversion to Donald Trump talking about the United States in such terms, is marked.
Why then is liberal opinion tolerant of such a vision for Islamic societies?
Significantly, references to glorious Islamic societies of the future tend not to predominate in the discourse of contemporary British Muslim representative organisations. You can certainly find it though in recent decades - old Islamic Foundation pamphlets are a good source for it - and it is certainly present in the current rhetoric of the Islamic State. For now though, we tend to hear much more from the Muslim Council of Britain about pluralism, democracy and accommodation.
Am I the only person who considers that deep down in Tom Sutcliffe's words is a recognition, by his focus on 'glorious Islamic societies in the future' that we don't really buy all this talk of accommodation and pluralism, but, as with many others, he is much too polite to say so?
I am now the proud owner of a Micro-Pro 'hot water bottle with designer cover' - pictured below in all its glory.
There is just one, small snag. According to the label, it seems you can't put any water in it. The 'Care Instructions' state:
"Do not fill using water from the domestic hot water system as this can considerably shorten the life of the hot water bottle".
What exactly are you supposed to put in, Evian? How can they not be filled using domestic water? Inexperienced as I am such matters, filling a hot water bottle has normally involved tap, kettle, bottle.
The whole thing smacks of built-in obsolescence, where goods are designed to last a short period of time, so you have to buy a new one in 12 months time.
On such deliberate ephemera is our society built........
No I am not.
My children's school has decided to take today and tomorrow as an INSET day. Conveniently (for them) they also closed for the Christmas break half a day early, at 1330 on Friday 18th December. That gave my wife and I the choice of taking an unpaid afternoon off work to collect and look after the children, or paying a childminder to do it. Thousands of other parents have that same choice.
I have no idea who schools are run for in England and Wales - the teachers, or the children. Let no one say it is for the parents.
How terrified some have become of causing offence. So terrified that it even precludes the development of a rational argument.
I have been reading the book "Double Jeopardy: Police Abuse of Women in Pakistan" by Dorothy Q Thomas. This was jointly published in 1992 by Women's Rights Project and Asia Watch, divisions of Human Rights Watch. I apologise for using a somewhat obscure title to make a broader political point, but even if the book itself is hard to pick-up now, the text is available online here.
Following the introduction of Islamic law in 1979 by General Zia, the number of women in prison in Pakistan increased from a mere 70 (!) to over 2000. HRW wants to address this, but its own fear and equivocation of articulating what it ostensibly advocates - universal human rights - prevents it from doing so:
"The Hudood Ordinances criminalize, among other things, adultery, fornication and rape, and prescribe punishments for these offenses that include stoning to death, public flogging and amputation. Human Rights Watch has no opposition to Islamic law per se and does not object to laws founded on religion, provided that human rights are respected and the principle of equality before the law is upheld. However, the Hudood laws, as written and applied, clearly conflict with these rights and principles. Not only do they prescribe punishments that are cruel and inhuman under international law, but they clearly discriminate on the basis of gender."
It is worth noting, this is a 'human rights' organisation writing 23 years ago. After an additional two decades of agitation from religious organisations and apologists, and migration from Muslim majority countries to the west, the fence sitting and obsessive desire to avoid causing offence is considerably worse.
Looking at the Human Rights Watch website today, the main article on its home page is a call to illicit financial donations before 2015 closes. Its financial appeal is accompanied by this mission statement:
"Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice."
If so, HRW needs to grow a pair and develop some critique of religiously based legal systems. Sharia seems as good a place as any to start. Until it does, why should anyone donate money to those practising such determined obfuscation?
Following their role in the 1984-5 miners strike, demonstrators took to mocking police officers with the sarcastic song "We're not political, we're only doing our jobs" whenever a group of uniformed police officers appeared anywhere in significant numbers.
In 2015, it seems little has changed. Flicking through the current issue of the Docklands and East London Advertiser, there is a small report on a demonstration held outside East London Mosque on 11 December, following Friday prayers. Its purpose was to condemn US Presidential challenger Donald Trump, who responded to the San Bernadino terrorist attack by calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the United States.
An important centre for the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami (who are accused of massacring hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Bangladesh Independence War of 1971) East London Mosque can certainly rally political leaders to its doorstep - local Labour Mayor John Biggs joined the protest. Among the others, the Advertiser reports:
"The protesters included United East End umbrella organisation of anti-racist groups, trades unions, faith leaders and Met Police Det Sgt Phil Langworthy".
According to the Met Police website, Det Sgt Langworthy is part of the police's Senior Leadership Team in Tower Hamlets, where he is in command of Criminal Investigation. And it seems, going to political demonstrations outside mosques?
Altogether now "We're not political, we're only doing our jobs".
Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the withdrawal of Australian and New Zealand troops from the coast of Ottoman Turkey on 19-20 December 1915. British troops were to follow suit on 8-9 January 1916.
As a resource on WW1, and certainly in terms of suggestions for further reading, I have found the Independent/the i's "A History of the Great War in 100 Moments" - easily the best series I have seen in a British newspaper in years. I have the book version, and the small section on Gallipoli - number 27, pp.80-83, is evocatively written by Kathy Marks. The sheer numbers killed still shakes you - 80,000 defending Turks, 44,000 Allied forces, including 9000 Australians. All in a little over six months. The debacle perhaps feels less distant in terms of time than other WW1 battles when you read that the last veteran died in 2002 (when I was 33) or that the failings of the Allied military were exposed by journalist Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert.
Gallipoli became central to concepts of identity for an Australia emerging from being a British colony, and Marks explains how Australian war correspondent Charles Bean situated Gallipoli in terms of its demonstration of key aspects of Australian character - courage, sacrifice, irreverence and 'mateship'. In the modern era however, such concepts could not be allowed to pass without criticism. Marks observes:
"In a 2010 book, What’s Wrong with Anzac?, the historian Marilyn Lake called it “white Australia’s creation myth”, while another academic, Martin Ball, has written that the myth “suppresses parts of Australian history that are difficult to deal with. Anzac is a means of forgetting the origins of Australia. The Aboriginal population is conveniently absent. The convict stain is wiped clean. Post-war immigration is yet to broaden the cultural identity of the population."
I wonder if those quotes tell us more about the approach and world view of the academics concerned, than they illustrate about contemporary, or past Australia. How strange it would have seemed to the men who fought at Gallipoli, and their families, that they were part of a 'white creation myth' or that they would have to wait for post war immigration before their cultural identity would be 'broadened'.
If men are from Mars, some academics truly are from Venus.